Wednesday, December 18, 1996 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
In Remembrance of Les Butterworth
Mr. Jenkins: I rise today to pay respects to a long-time Dawson resident who passed away yesterday. Les Butterworth first arrived in Dawson City with his family in the mid-1930s from British Columbia, at which time they built and operated greenhouses on Fifth Avenue in our community. Les left Dawson City to serve in the Second World War with the Canadian Armed Forces. Upon his return to Dawson, Les began employment with the Yukon Consolidated Gold Corporation, the company, and worked his way up to the position of dredgemaster.
Les also worked for White Pass as the Dawson agent and, prior to his retirement, was responsible for the maintenance of Diamond Tooth Gertie's in Dawson City, which he loved very much. Les was also responsible for keeping the Legion alive in Dawson after the end of World War II and for starting it up in Dawson some 10 years ago.
I also remember Les as being a very active member of the Yukon Order of Pioneers, Lodge No. 1, as well as a devoted member and officer of the Klondike Visitors Association.
Les and his wife were Mr. and Mrs. Yukon just a few short years ago. Les is survived by his wife Myrna and their two daughters: Robbie in Fairbanks, Alaska and Lorraine of Dawson City.
I certainly will remember Les for his cheerful personality and his sincere interest in helping others. His contribution to the Yukon was appreciated by all Yukoners. We will miss him very much. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Myrna and to his family.
Speaker: Are there any introductions of visitors?
Returns or documents for tabling.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have a couple of documents for tabling.
Petition No. 2 - received
Clerk: I have had the honour to review Petition No. 2 of the first session of the Twenty-Ninth Legislative Assembly as presented by the Hon. Member for Watson Lake on December 17, 1996.
This petition meets the requirements as to form of the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Speaker: Petition No. 2, accordingly, is deemed to be read and received.
Speaker: Are there any petitions to be presented?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any motions?
Human resource information management system (HRIS)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I am rising today in my capacity as Minister of Government Services.
I am rising in the House today to make a government policy statement about a "good government" initiative, which will improve efficiency and processes, speed up the process of human resource actions and bring about a fundamental change in the way that business is undertaken in the government.
Commonly referred to as HRIS, the human resource information system is a new initiative that is really about change. It changes the way that information is shared in order to manage human resources. It changes the way that we handle data so that it can be information, and it changes responsibilities for managing data so that time is saved.
The foundation of this initiative is a new piece of software which will replace the existing systems. Instead of having several different systems in the central agencies and other systems in departments, this one integrated system will be used.
The software is just the beginning. Reviewing all the payroll-related business processes of the government has taken place over the past six months using internal resources. This exercise has demonstrated how the new software tool can be levered to make significant change in the way business is done within the government. It is clear that fewer resources will be required to accomplish the same work due to the new efficiencies in the redesigned workflows. This means that existing resources will be available for better management in other areas.
A similar review will be undertaken in the new year for non-payroll-related functions. Benefits from streamlined processes are also expected in these areas.
So, what difference will the new software really make? Well, processing will take less time and be more accurate, resulting in fewer resources being used for internal support activities. It will be possible to offer new or improved services within existing resources.
There will be increased ability to respond to questions about resource use, both from the organization and from the public. It will be possible for decision makers to access information about human resources designed for specific actions, including training information, employment equity data, recruitment status and merit increase data.
Standardizing processes and practices will result in a level of consistency and accuracy of data.
Success is not limited to what will come in the future. This project was established as a "turn-key" project, which means that employee training, software and hardware upgrades, and printers were all included in the project plan and have been delivered.
The project was designed to use internal resources for project staff and business experts so that shared learning is retained within the organizations. This is somewhat different from many previous projects where there was involvement by the users, but the project was undertaken more independently, most often by outside resources. This approach will provide a larger, more knowledgeable group of employees with understanding of how business needs have directed the development of the software tool. Departments have contributed business experts to act as advisors and ensure that organizational needs are met.
The benefits of this program will be realized as departments change the way they do business, review employee assignments to eliminate unnecessary steps, and train employees.
I look forward to making future reports in the Legislature about the progress of change in the way the personnel-related business is undertaken within the government.
Mr. Jenkins: The human resource information management system was a Yukon Party initiative last year. It had a budget, approved in this Legislature, of $3.4 million. The HRIS was implemented to address concerns raised by the Auditor General. There were two major problems: firstly, the current available information was no longer adequate to support effective personnel management, either corporate or within the department. Secondly, the current stand-alone systems created a costly duplication of efforts and were unable to support the information needs for effective human resource management.
The upgrading of government computer systems is a necessary part of good government and it is ongoing. Here we have a newly elected government that condemned virtually everything undertaken by the Yukon Party, and now the Minister stands up in this House and has the gall to pat himself on the back and take credit for this Yukon Party initiative.
Mrs. Edelman: I was really pleased to hear about the efficiencies provided to the public and to the department staff through this system. Systems is a department that works behind the scenes in government and so often does not get the credit it deserves in providing client-based, tailored programs for the various government departments. I hope they will be given some public acknowledgment of the role they had to play in developing HRIS.
Although I strongly support the use of technology, I also have a caution for the Minister. I hope he will be very careful with issues around security with this type of sensitive, personnel information in the database. Quite often today we are faced with moral or ethical questions that are not answered before we take on new information-age projects.
A government-wide protocol and information access needs to be developed as soon as possible, if there is not one already, and reviewed constantly as new technologies emerge.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I do not mean to refute the Member for Klondike, but I was not really trying to take credit for this. My goal in bringing this statement forward is to make the House aware of this initiative coming forward.
The system itself has two phase-ins. The first one will be coming in the new year. It will be with regard to the payroll critical functions, dealing with such things as classification, position management, time recording, leave management, benefits management: those kinds of things will be coming forward early in the year. The second component, which is the non-payroll critical functions, will be coming forward in April. They include such things as staffing, labour relations, training development and employment equity kinds of issues.
My goal in bringing this forward now was to make the House aware of where the status of this project is.
With regard to the comments of the Member for Riverdale South, I would like to assure her that security of information is a goal and that, in the supplemental budget, there is a component built in for security of information, as well as a study for security of information management in general.
In addition, what the Member said about people in systems has tremendous relevance: they are sometimes sort of unsung heroes. The one aspect of this project that I think is particularly interesting is the fact that, even though it had a lead from Government Services, it drew on many departments of government. I should commend the group over there led by Janet Mann for the way this project was managed.
It is an interesting model. We could be looking at applying this model to other joint projects throughout the government.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Gambling
Mr. Ostashek: My question is for the Government Leader on the issue of gambling.
When the hon. Member and his colleagues were in Opposition, they were vehemently opposed to any expansion of gambling in the Yukon Territory because of, as they said, the dire costs that were involved in it.
I would like to ask the Government Leader this question: will he be advising the Carcross-Tagish First Nation that his government is adamantly opposed to any further expansion of gambling in the territory? Will he be doing that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I had the opportunity yesterday in Question Period to express our position on the expansion of casino gambling in the territory. I think that was very clearly done. As I was certainly listening to the radio, I could not think of anything that could be more clear. I think that we are going to be talking to the Carcross-Tagish First Nation at this point. They are certainly able to read the law as well as anyone.
I would like to encourage First Nations to get involved in economic enterprises. My first communication with the Carcross-Tagish First Nation on this project will be to encourage them to get into business, to become more self-sufficient and to start up activities that produce jobs and economic benefits for their community, members and for all people in the territory. That will be my first communication with respect to this project.
With respect to the question of gambling, our position is clear. We do not want to promote an expansion of casino gambling in this territory. We have taken that position. That has been a long-held position of the New Democrats.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Member for that. I thought that he would probably be making a stronger statement by relaying it to the Carcross-Tagish First Nation. Nevertheless, I want to continue, because the Government Leader left the impression with the public yesterday that they may be able to go ahead with casino gambling without him being able to have any say in it. That is the wrong impression to be leaving with the public. I want to ask the Government Leader if he is aware of section 8.5 of the model self-government agreement, which states, "A First Nation shall not confer any duties, obligations or responsibilities on government." Surely the construction of a gambling casino, whether on native land or off native land, would confer some responsibilities and obligations on behalf of the territorial government.
Is the Government Leader not aware of that clause?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think the Member may be interpreting the clause very, very broadly indeed. If a First Nation sets up a business that, say, creates 500 jobs, and consequently there are economic spinoff benefits that create a housing shortage and the need for more lot development, I do not think it would be reasonable to interpret that clause in the agreement as giving a right to the Yukon government to shut down that particular economic enterprise. That may be the orientation that the Yukon Party wants us to take, but we do want to encourage realistic business projects to go ahead.
We have expressed ourselves clearly on the subject of casino gambling. We have done a legal analysis of the situation, as we understand it to be. I have asked lawyers in both land claims and Justice to do a review of the situation. They have given me their response, which is as I related it yesterday.
Mr. Ostashek: I am not taking a very broad interpretation of this at all. I think the Government Leader is taking a very narrow interpretation and is trying to sit on the fence now, when it comes to expansion of casino gambling that may or may not take place on First Nation land. His position is not nearly as strong as it was when the NDP were on the Opposition benches.
I draw to the Government Leader's attention that they are one of the negotiating parties to the self-government agreements. They have a tremendous amount of say as to what is in those agreements. If I look at clause 8.5 in the Champagne-Aishihik agreement, it states quite clearly: "Unless otherwise provided in this agreement, the exercise of powers by the Champagne-Aishihik and First Nations pursuant to this agreement shall not confer any duties, obligations or responsibilities to the government." The Government of Yukon, as a signatory to those agreements, has input at the self-government table and if there is going to be a casino included in that self-government agreement, this government and this Government Leader have a tremendous amount of say in it - does he not agree with me?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, I do not know how anyone can take the statement that we are not going to be encouraging expansion of casino gambling as fence-sitting. That is pretty clear. I did not say, "Well, we might consider it under the right circumstances." I did not say, "Depending on the proposal, we might review it in the fullness of time", or anything like that. I was very clear about what our position is with respect to casino gambling.
Yesterday, in Question Period, I was trying to relate an answer on the legal question about what options the Yukon government has to have any say in the matter. I summed up our position, as advised to me by our lawyers, as to what our options included.
The Member across the floor presumably feels that his time in public government has given him some legal skills and he is now interpreting the agreement in a particular way. I can undertake, in the spirit of Christmas, to take his new interpretation - an interpretation that did not come up in all the discussions I had with the legal community already on the subject - present it to them and see whether or not there is any validity whatsoever to the claims he has made.
Question re: Gambling
Mr. Phillips: The government is not clear in this issue at all.
On Monday, the Minister of Justice made a statement saying, "I am going to let him know that I am going to give serious consideration to any ideas of that nature, whether it is to increase legalized gambling or sell tax-free gas."
I asked the Minister of Justice to explain that and the Government Leader jumped to her defence, but did not give me an answer. He just said that I misunderstood what the Minister said. I would like to ask the Minister of Justice to explain to us today what she meant by her statement that she will give serious consideration to the idea of increased legalized gambling or selling tax-free gas. I do not want the Government Leader, but rather the Minister of Justice, to answer the question.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think the time has come already, in a week and a half, where we do not have any substance in Question Period. The questions were asked very clearly over the last couple of days and the answers were given very clearly on this subject over the last couple of days.
Now the second question - which generally means that it is given some importance or significance - is about whether or not the Minister of Justice was saying, "seriously consider", meaning to seriously promote and give credence to a proposal, versus "seriously consider", meaning seriously review the implications of.
The way she interprets and the way we interpret the answer, as evidenced by my answer yesterday, is that we were going to, we are and we did, seriously review the implications of the proposals as we understand them - both the tax implications and the implications with respect to casino gambling. We did seriously consider those in the sense that we did seriously review them. We gave some answers already after giving some serious consideration to the announcement by the Carcross-Tagish First Nation.
Mr. Phillips: All the Government Leader told me yesterday when he jumped to his feet in defence of his Minister was that I misunderstood the response. He did not give me an answer at all. The other answer he gave yesterday was that it may not be this government's call.
Is it or is it not the government's call? That is the answer I wanted from the Minister.
I would like to go back to the Minister of Justice on this, and hopefully we can get her to answer her own questions.
On April 27, 1994, the then Minister of Justice, then the Member for Mount Lorne, rose in this House and said, "It is also significant that the only economic plan for generating revenue that has received the territorial government's serious consideration and study has been forcefully opposed by Yukon First Nations: an expansion of gambling facilities, including video lottery terminals." She went on to say, "Despite overwhelming evidence that the social and economic impact of gambling is especially devastating to the poor and disenfranchised, and that First Nations would suffer disproportionately from increased exposure to gambling, this government has nonetheless been a proponent for this fast and easy way to increase revenues."
I would like to ask the Minister of Justice if she is going to send a strong and clear message to the Carcross First Nation in the same tone that she sent a strong and clear message to us when she was sitting in Opposition?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member opposite did misunderstand the response; the Member opposite did consider the answer and he did interpret the answer wrongly as being an intimation from this government that it was considering supporting casino gambling. Presumably, the tone of his questions is such that he is now implying that the Government of Yukon would support casino gambling because it is being promoted by a First Nation but would not support casino gambling at the time when the Yukon Party was promoting gambling in the territory.
We have been consistent in our response. We have said that we do not support an expansion of gambling. We have said that time and time again.
With respect to the situation in Carcross, the First Nation has made no presentation to us at all, to my knowledge, on the subject of expanded gambling or even the use of a gas station to sell tax-free gas or any of the other quite legitimate proposals that they have put on the table to bring employment to their members. None of that has been presented to us. Our position is very clear. It is consistent with the law.
Mr. Phillips: It appears that the Minister of Justice cannot answer her questions in the House.
I am concerned about the position that this government is taking. The Government Leader says that they will not promote gambling, but I want the Government Leader to take the position he took before - or at least ask him if he still has the same position - when he opposed increased gambling in the territory. Instead of promoting it, is he prepared to tell everyone - First Nations and otherwise - that he does not and will not support gambling in the territory and will oppose it, as he said when he was in Opposition?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The corollary to not wanting to promote an expansion of gambling is also that we do not want to see an expansion of gambling. I point to the word "expansion" so that the people in Dawson, due to the very liberal interpretations the Yukon Party is putting on our answers, will not have to worry. The KVA is not going to be shut down by the Yukon government, but we do not want to promote an expansion of gambling. We do not want to see it.
The point I was making yesterday, which is supported by our legal community and is quite contrary to the point being made by my colleague, the Leader of the Official Opposition - the backroom lawyer in the Opposition ranks - is that this may not be our call. That is the point I made already in the Legislature.
Question re: Ombudsman, process for selection
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the government relating to some appointments that will be made in the near future, as we may just be rising today if we can get our adrenaline levels down. It would be useful to get on record where the government is coming from.
The first question is for the Government Leader. It relates to the appointment of the Ombudsman - the replacement for the interim Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman wrote to the Speaker last month and copied the various Members. He confirmed that he was leaving on March 31, 1997. He recommended that the Members get together at an early date to establish a process to be followed in selecting the next Ombudsman. This would give him - the Ombudsman - time to orient his successor prior to leaving on March 31. When does the Government Leader propose to sit down with the Opposition to work out a process for the selection of the new Ombudsman?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The only reason my adrenaline may be up is because I am excited about Christmas and I really want to enjoy it with my family, as I am sure all of us with families would like to practise our Christmas spirit in the same fashion.
I am more than happy to sit down or to ask representatives of the party caucuses to sit down as soon as possible to talk about the procedure for selecting an Ombudsman.
I have had a brief discussion with the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly indicating that this will probably happen as soon as a Member Services Board is struck. There will be a need to consider some options that the Clerk may like to present so that we have something to work with in our first gathering together.
As soon as possible, we can sit down and talk about the selection process. I would like to see - as is the tradition - the process and the final selection agreed to by all parties.
Mr. Cable: The present Ombudsman was hired from Alberta - with the support of all parties, of course; it is a legislative appointment rather than a government appointment.
I am sure that the Government Leader, when he was the Leader of the Official Opposition, got the same flack that I got about hiring an outsider, particularly from the dreaded Province of Alberta.
Would the Government Leader get on the record and indicate what he is going to bring to the table when he discusses the issue with the Opposition. From the Government Leader's standpoint, are we looking at hiring a Yukoner for the position?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I believe that that was the all-party understanding that we reached last year: that we wanted to see a local person hired as the Ombudsman, but we recognized that we needed to get an experienced office up and running first and that was not possible in the short time frame that we had, and that we could not select an Ombudsman from the territory in time.
Of course, I would point out that this was not unanimously agreed to in the Legislature, but it certainly seemed to be an all-party agreement.
I will be encouraging the hire of a local person, but I do acknowledge that this would be a very difficult challenge for the all-party committee or for whoever does the selection.
Mr. Cable: The next question is for the Minister of Justice and relates to another appointment - the workers' advocate. This is a government appointment, as opposed to a legislative appointment.
In view of the controversies that have surrounded the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, is she prepared to work with the Opposition on making this appointment?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I will be responding as the Minister who is conducting the consultation surrounding the advocate. Thus far, we have simply put out a proposal on the advocate. As it is envisioned in the proposal, it would be selected through the Public Service Commission. It would not be a political process in which there would firstly need to be a buy-in by the three political parties of this Legislature. It is envisioned that the politicians will not be party to the selection of the workers' advocate; however, it is a consultation process, and if ideas are put forward that make some sense and have some utility, they will certainly be considered when the final decision is reached.
Question re: Hospital Corporation Board operations
Mrs. Edelman: My question is for the Minister of Health.
Just after the election, I attended a public meeting of the Hospital Corporation Board. At the meeting, there were approximately 50 people, the vast majority of whom were hospital staff. A series of questions were raised with the board and many more were left unanswered.
Has the Minister met with any of these staff about their concerns about Whitehorse General Hospital and its operations?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The short answer is yes. I have met with representatives from the certified nurses assistants. I have had some contact with the registered nurses. As well, I have met with the Hospital Corporation Board itself. Some discussions were held with the board about how these issues could be resolved.
Mrs. Edelman: It seems that the Minister wants to refer these staffing matters to the Hospital Corporation Board. According to the chair of the board, the Hospital Corporation Board does not want to interfere with the day-to-day operations of the hospital, yet the hospital management takes direction from the board.
When is the Minister going to step in and at least define who is in charge at Whitehorse General Hospital and determine how staff can work as a team with the department, the board and senior management to provide the type of quality health care services that we want to continue to enjoy in the new hospital?
When the NDP was in Opposition, it called for an investigator to be appointed by the Minister, as per the Hospital Act, and it said that such an investigator should investigate the day-to-day operations of the Hospital Corporation.
Is the Minister prepared to honour that commitment to investigate some of the concerns that hospital staff still obviously have about the day-to-day operations of the hospital?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That is a fairly extensive question. Yes, there is a role for the Minister in this regard. However, recognizing that the hospital board is an independent organization, what I proposed to the board - I would prefer not to use the term "investigator" because it does have a pejorative connotation - is that we would be willing to provide assistance in terms of bringing someone in to take a look at the overall systems of operation, the management of the hospital, perhaps provide some suggestions on issues such as staff relations and to give advice to the board itself on how this could be improved. The offer has been made to the board, and we stand by that offer.
Mrs. Edelman: That is good to hear because there is some immediacy about this concern. The Minister may be aware that certified nursing assistants and nurses have the option of not working in what they consider to be an unsafe working environment, either for themselves and/or for their patients. It is their opinion generally that if the staff-to-patient ratio is out of whack - if there is not enough staff for the patient care - then that is not a safe environment.
I know these concerns about safety were relayed to the Minister. It is my hope that there is going to be some immediate work to at least get this staff ratio dealt with by the hospital board or by someone at the hospital before there is a death as a result of the improper ratio of staff to patients. I am very concerned about this, and I think this is something that is going to happen as soon as we go into the new hospital in January. I hope there will be an immediate investigation about what we can do. This is not a new concern. It is a very old concern, and it is one that the NDP previously expressed a great deal of trepidation about. I would like to hear how the government is going to deal with that soon.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: With regard to some of the concerns the Member has raised, some of the things that the hospital is cognizant of and very aware of are some of those safety issues. For example, issues surrounding the question of pediatric and psychiatric spaces have been resolved, to some degree, by physical and staffing arrangements. In Emergency they have made a commitment to keep extra staff on in the interim to see if problems do arise.
In my conversations with the hospital, I think they are committed to keep monitoring the situation. Just today, for example, I received notification that the needle exchange is going to be taken out of the hospital. That is one example of safety that the nurses working in emergency had real concerns about. So, I believe that the hospital is making honest efforts in that regard, and they will be monitoring it.
Question re: Gambling
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Minister of Health and Social Services, following up with some further questions on the issue of gambling in the Yukon. The Minister of Justice is on record having said that serious consideration to any ideas regarding increased legalized gambling would be given. She is.
Given the Minister of Justice's statement and given the Government Leader's flip-flop back to a softer position, they have changed their position regarding this one issue alone - one very important issue.
I would like to ask the Minister of Health and Social Services what position he is taking because there are a number of social implications associated with gambling.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: In the grand old tradition of Diamond Tooth Gertie's, it looks like if one does not win on one table, one tries on another.
Let me just try to respond to the Member for Klondike's rather esoteric question. With regard to the whole question of gambling, we are very cognizant of the social costs. As a matter of fact, it may be of interest to the Member that on Monday, Health Canada did bring out a position paper on gambling in which it suggested, for example, that all VLTs be only in casinos rather than in gas stations, corner stores - as has been the situation in some of the southern provinces, particularly in the maritime provinces - because of the social impact. So, we would be very concerned about the impact expanded gambling, particularly with regard to lower-income people.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the Minister for his response. When in Opposition, many of the hon. Members voiced concern, and serious concern, about the proposed ideas of expanded gambling opportunities in the Yukon and said that increased gambling is associated with increases in substance abuse, social assistance and crime.
Should more gambling casinos be introduced to the Yukon, what measures will the Minister implement to cope with the social problems that would arise?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We still have serious concerns about the whole question of gambling, and certainly the information the Member is bringing forward is not new information. We know the social costs of gambling, where there is considerable empirical and anecdotal evidence that, in places where increased gambling has come into play, there are social costs. There are human costs. And we would be very concerned about that, but once again I have to say that, in this case, the Government Leader's comments with regard to our input into the whole question of expanded gambling, particularly on First Nation land, may be somewhat dubious, so I have some concerns in that regard but, yes, gambling is a concern for us.
Mr. Jenkins: I appreciate the Minister's response, but it seems as if there is somewhat of a fluctuation in the position of the government. It seems to be quite fluid. The hon. Member and formal colleagues stood steadfast against gambling, but now a proposal is being put forward by a First Nation and the Yukon government appears to be changing to a much softer stand. Why is that softer stand being taken?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Is it my understanding that the Member for Klondike wishes a ban on all gambling in the territory? Is that the drift of it? If so, I am certain that many of the people in-
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am sure that many of the individuals in KVA might not be quite as enamoured of his position. I am taken aback that he would want to take this away from a community such as Dawson. However-
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I am getting there.
Speaker: Order please. Let the Minister answer the question.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: There really is no inconsistency here. The Government Leader made a statement about a government-to-government relationship where we have to be cognizant of the fact that the First Nations have certain privileges and rights on their own land. For us to begin to interfere in this really violates the spirit of the umbrella final agreement. Are we concerned about gambling? Yes, we are concerned about gambling. We would have concerns in many regards - social assistance costs, human costs, family costs - and it would be something that we would want to monitor very closely.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Motion No. 27, standing in the name of Mr. Fentie.
Motion No. 27
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Watson Lake
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should be commended for its new approach to resolve important forestry policy issues through the creation of the Forest Cabinet Commission; and
THAT this House commend the government for adopting an approach to resolving difficult policy issues based on the principles of public involvement and consultation, and respect for First Nation governments.
Mr. Fentie: I am very pleased to have the opportunity to present and speak to this motion regarding the forest commission.
During the election campaign, our party committed to conducting government's affairs in a better way and announced at the swearing of the government the creation of four Cabinet commissions to develop comprehensive, long-term policy.
It illustrates that we are a government of innovation and vision and most certainly a government living up to that commitment.
The mandate of the forest commission is to develop a comprehensive, sustainable, made-in-Yukon forest policy.
To achieve this goal and maintain our government's commitment to involve Yukon people in the issues that affect them, the development of forest policy will be completed in partnership with the federal and First Nation governments and in consultation with conservationists, forest users and other stakeholders. We believe that the best policy comes from decisions by consensus by different interests.
As Members can appreciate, government departments have a number of ongoing issues they address and it is not always possible to focus our particular energies on one issue.
Recognizing the importance of the development of a Yukon forest policy and the stringent time lines of devolution on the horizon, our government has formed a forest commission.
The commission will consist of a deputy commissioner and two other people seconded from other departments. Their focus will be to head a Yukon government team in partnership with other governments and stakeholders in developing a single approach to forest policy and management in the Yukon.
The development of a forestry policy will be a challenging task, as Yukon's forests are diverse, and different groups have different ideas about forest management. In order to be effective, it must address tenure, stumpage, inventory, environmental concerns, long-term sustainability and recognize the holistic nature of our forests and their intrinsic values. It must also lead to maximizing the benefits for Yukoners.
The need for a Yukon forest policy was a concern frequently heard before and during the election campaign. In the community I represent, our forests and industry have suffered over the past few years under outdated federal timber regulations and the refusal of the previous government to assist the logging efforts of Watson Lake operators.
The demonstrations by Yukon loggers and the concerns expressed by people throughout the Yukon about the federal government's handling also emphasize the need for local control of this resource. Particularly with the devolution of resources on the horizon, a forestry policy is needed shortly to ensure a smooth transfer of responsibilities to the Yukon government. Moreover, the forestry policy will guide the future expansion of the industry and in this way assist in the economic diversification of the territory by promoting the development of secondary and related industries.
The forest commission, like its counterparts, is intended as a temporary entity, and ultimately we will be judged by the public and this Legislature on the outcome of its work.
I accept and approach this challenge with a positive attitude. I assure this House, the people of this territory, and specifically the people of Watson Lake, that I will apply myself to the very limit of my abilities to successfully complete this task.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the remarks of the Member.
I would like to look at the actual wording of the motion in my response to the comments. The motion reads: "THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should be commended . . ." - an interesting choice of words. Offering a commendation is usually done after an act is completed, such as a commendation for bravery. One does not do it while a person is thinking about it or talking about it. It is done after the act has been done.
It may be that the government, upon completion of this work, is deserving of some commendation, but I would suggest to the Member that this motion is somewhat premature, as the work is not complete.
The work itself was of interest to me. I have several books and papers spread out on my desk. Referring to my political science textbook about the development of policy, and looking at the generic mandate work of the commission that was afforded us, I would suggest to the government that the actual ways of work of the commissions are not clicking.
Are they developing white papers that the public will discuss, with options presented in this House? Are we going to see legislation? The ways of work of the commissions are not entirely clear to me. These comments apply to all of the commissions.
I think forestry is an incredibly complex issue, as evidenced not simply during the election campaign, but as it is discussed elsewhere. There are issues about harvesting the resource. Who gets to harvest? I have a sense that the small operator who has been in business for many years in the Yukon is being lost in this whole discussion. I am not talking about the large-scale question of whether or not we should have such and such a project. I am talking about the mom-and-pop operation. I feel that the consideration of those operations does not seem to be paramount in this.
Where harvesting takes place and at what price are critical issues. This is not our resource. I remind all Members in this House of the word "stewardship". This resource is merely entrusted to us by future generations. That is not to say that we should not harvest. I think that we need to look at the forest resources as gardeners and farmers do. Although it takes considerably longer to develop the crop, it is harvesting of a resource. Let us be wise harvesters.
The state of the resource itself is another facet. The spruce beetle kill in Kluane has to be examined carefully. I have not heard a clear consensus from the community on that issue. Nor is there a wide sense in the public domain that all the creative options have been examined.
Forestry is also about how we harvest. Should there be exports of raw logs? Should we insist that all of the processing be done in the Yukon? How are we going to proceed in this area?
The issues are not simple. The Cabinet commissioner definitely has his work cut out for him. I am looking forward to the final product.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I thank the Member for her comments.
She is quite right. The work on the development of forestry policy as we committed to in the campaign is far from complete. As the forestry commissioner has been learning since he hit the ground running in the election campaign, there are many, many different viewpoints in the Yukon surrounding this issue. It is broken down not just by culture; it is broken down by philosophies and by region.
There are also other breakdowns that have to be considered. There are communities that have very strong viewpoints and very strong bents toward development. There are communities that are very, very, very environmentally conscious. All of these factors make consensus tough to build and it is going to be a real challenge.
I think, though, that with a political point person at the helm of the commission, people who have been working on forestry issues for the last couple of years will provide some political leadership, political direction and be able to bring together in the same room some people who have not participated in these initiatives to start to work on some of the nuts and bolts of the forestry issues and tackle some of the tough questions out there.
I was a participant and I attended many of the consultations, one in particular, in Watson Lake by the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment on forestry. It was a process that frustrated me somewhat in the sense that it was good to have everyone together, but it was a bunch of people talking to the YCEE and then the YCEE went away and came back with something and we lost control of the process. What we want to do with this process is try to get buy-in from all of the different stakeholders. We want to involve First Nations governments because they have been expressing significant frustration - as we head, eventually, toward devolution - with not being able to participate in all the facets and the things that are envisioned with devolution.
I believe we have to get to the nuts and bolts of the forestry issue. It has been very helpful for me, as the Economic Development Minister, to have a commission in order to start channelling some of those differing viewpoints so that they are aware and they realize what we hear.
If I had tried to do this myself, it would have been difficult, not insurmountable, but very difficult for me and the Renewable Resources Minister together, because we have departmental responsibilities and they sometimes tend to take a lot of one's attention. One could focus on a project like forestry policy development, and it has been done before, but I think it would be much more difficult.
I think it is practical and I think it is pragmatic to use the talents of someone who knows the players, who knows the industry and who is learning the different issues of the people in the conservation community, whether it is intrinsic values, or learning what their concerns are about protected spaces, to head up a team to deal with this. I think giving it political attention, before it comes to the political level as an issue with our government caucus, is a good thing.
The Member is right; the motion commends for the merit of the initiatives of establishing the commission. There is tons of work still to be done. I think it was a good move on behalf of the government to assign a political point person to it. I believe the cost effectiveness is going to be solid. We are not going to have to hire a mediator. We are not going to have to pay stumpage subsidies, things that were offered to help resolve the situation left by the previous administration.
We feel that there is a lot we can offer on a government-to-government basis in a cost-effective manner to try and bring the different levels of government and the stakeholders together. That is the same sort of process that we want to use with regard to DAP, energy policy development and local hire. It is participatory. It is at a citizen level, not so much directed at the bureaucracy, and it is very, very tough to do, but it does bring the most lasting results. I think experiences such as the Yukon Mining Advisory Committee were also experiences of a process like this one that we would want to use, and I think the results from YMAC were fairly good.
So that is the reason we are doing this. It will keep the Members busy. They are not receiving any more pay for doing it. They are simply doing it beyond their normal MLA duties and I think that is a good thing as well.
It takes more time and more effort but, at the end of the day, people get elected to participate. We invite the Opposition to participate in the process as well and to work with us on this new innovation. We are looking for position papers and for them to participate and join us in trying to develop this process. We want to take the Opposition's input into account as well.
As the Member said, the issues are many, the issues are diverse and the issues are tough. Exporting logs, manufacturing here, value-added, what is our vision for future - that is all going to have to be part of where we want to go with our policy.
That is in a broad philosophical sense. Then we have to look at the nuts and bolts, right down to tenure, and stumpage costs, and how our system is going to work in that respect.
There is a lot to do. It is going to take some time. It is going to take a lot of political work and, in many cases, a lot of political capital, but in the absence of doing it the government would pay a bigger price because it is clear to us that people wanted some action on forest policy development in the Yukon, regardless of who was the steward of the resource at the time. People care about their forests and their jobs, whether the feds or the Yukon have control of them, and I think we have a role to play, heading up to eventual devolution, which is the ultimate goal - to have that happen in a very smooth fashion.
I support the motion.
Mr. Ostashek: It will be no surprise to the Members opposite that I do not support the motion - not for one minute.
There are a lot of fallacies here. We have a government that is being very, very arrogant after only being in office for two months and is using its legislative majority to push through whatever it wants, with no concern for what the Opposition has to say.
They bring forward these four identical motions in order to pat themselves on the back for all of the good stuff they have done when, in fact, they have not done anything. They do not even know what they are going to do yet. They are making up the rules as they go along. That is the sad part of this. These are not well thought out or cost-effective vehicles for putting policy together.
I believe we have already pointed out in the debate and questions in this Legislature that this is a very expensive process.
The government has increased its deputy ministers by 25 percent for these processes. Four new deputy ministers have been hired. That, in itself, is a cost of over $500,000. I do not care how they cut it or what they stand up there and say. It is not hard to figure out what the costs of deputy ministers are.
As my colleague from Porter Creek South said, "Here we are patting ourselves on the back and we have not even started down the road yet."
I would probably be able to support an initiative like this from the government if it were not trying to be so arrogant in trying to bull it through this House and get its own way regardless of what the Opposition has to say.
I only draw to your attention, Mr. Speaker, what has transpired in the last week in this Legislature. We have on the Order Paper a motion to send the idea of these commissions to the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges for full debate and to bring recommendations back to this House. So, what does the House Leader for the government do this morning? He threatens the Opposition House Leaders that if we are still in this Legislature tomorrow, they are going to debate Motion No. 36, which basically means that the motion to send the commissions to SCREP is redundant. He threatened the House Leaders. Is that how they ask for cooperation?
Speaker: Order please.
Mr. Ostashek: I think the Government Leader should remove the Government House Leader for incompetence and for acting in that manner.
This is a very arrogant government and a very short session of the Legislature. Members of the government might say the nice words that the Opposition wants to hear, but they really do not mean them.
This government made up its mind long before this Legislature convened that it is going to go ahead with these commissions no matter what the Opposition says, and now it wants the Opposition to endorse the commissions. Well, I am sorry, I cannot endorse the commissions on these terms.
There are many questions that need to be answered about these commissions before I would even consider endorsing them. The questions have not been answered in this Legislature. The feeble attempt that the Government Leader made by giving us a little two-page document that is supposed to be the terms of reference for these commissions and cover everything they are going to do, simply does not answer the questions that I have about these commissions.
If the Government Leader had come forward and said that he is going to put his caucus to work developing policy on behalf of the Cabinet and make recommendations to Cabinet, then that is a laudable route to take and a route that is worthwhile for backbenchers to be participating in. This method was used effectively by the Pearson administration during the early 1980s when he had a large caucus. They literally reviewed everything the government was going to do. They made recommendations to Cabinet and they were very busy.
My friend and colleague, Mr. Brewster, the previous Member for Kluane, said that they were tremendously busy reviewing regulations, policy development, legislation and helping Cabinet Members do some of their work. However, they did not go out and set up four commissions. They did not hire four more deputy ministers at a tremendous expense to taxpayers, and they accomplished a lot.
Had this approach been taken by the new government, I would endorse it wholeheartedly. As I said, I am not trying to belittle the backbenchers on the government side. I am not trying to stop them from speaking in this Legislature; they have every right to speak in this Legislature. Even our Standing Orders say that if they want to question the government they can ask a question during Question Period. No one is trying to muzzle them.
However, I do have some difficulty when they do not have Cabinet authority when they are standing and answering questions that I am asking of Cabinet Ministers. Ultimately, the Cabinet Ministers have to be responsible for whatever policy is put into place. It is their responsibility as Cabinet Ministers and they cannot slough it off to commissioners.
I am very troubled about what is going to transpire in this House when the commissioners have the right to answer questions. Let us be clear:they are going to have that right, regardless of what I say in this Legislature and regardless of what my colleagues in the Opposition benches say, because the government is going to push the commissions through whether they are a good idea or not.
The government made up its mind a long time ago that it is going to put these commissions through and it does not matter what the Opposition has to say about it.
We keep hearing Members on the opposite side try and defend these commissions by saying that they are going to be cost effective. We have already proven to the public, without any doubt, that the $1 million will be a cheap figure, every year, for these commissions. When there are four deputy commissioners and deputy minister salaries, that takes up $500,000 alone. Aside from that, we will have additional staff - let there be no doubt about that. These people will be seconded from departments.
The government is not being upfront. They are trying to hide the cost of these commissions by hiding them in departmental budgets. Before any of that is relayed to us as legislators, so that we have a chance to comment on it, they put forward four motions patting themselves on the back for what a great job they have done. That is very arrogant.
The Government House Leader says that we wanted to debate. We had an agreement between House Leaders to send this to the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges. We had an agreement. Then he tried to bully and threaten the House Leaders, saying that if we are not out of here today, the government would bring forward Motion No. 36 for debate tomorrow. What a way to conduct themselves.
I have many questions about these commissions.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Mr. Ostashek: Are these commissions going to have the authority to spend money? Who is going to be responsible for that spending? There is no department. Where is that money going to be recorded so that we, as representatives of the people, have the right to say whether or not we agree with the amount of money being spent?
The Government Leader said that people would be seconded from departments. Surely, these people are not just sitting in departments doing this work. He said that there are four people doing forestry work in Renewable Resources and Economic Development. Three will be on the commission. The government will save money. I am sorry, but I do not buy that. These people are doing other work in the departments, as well. They are not working full time just on the development of forestry policy.
Furthermore, if these commissions are as efficient as the government would like us to believe, at least two of them - possibly three - should be finished their tasks before the spring session of the Legislature. There has already been a tremendous amount of work done in the areas of forestry, DAP and energy. What these commissions need to do now is pull it all together.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: The Government Leader is laughing. He does not have any plans of his own, so the government has to steal from what the previous administration did.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Let the Member finish his statement.
Mr. Ostashek: It is just like what the Minister of Health and Social Services did today with his big ministerial statement on the policy of the new government.
It is a sham, and a very poorly disguised one at that. Many people in the public are not buying it, whether the government thinks so or not. The government may think that they are, but they are not. They are watching to see what happens.
I think that it is incumbent upon the government to let Yukoners know exactly what these commissions cost. If they believe this is where their priorities are, then let them be up-front about the cost of these commissions and stop trying to hide them in departmental budgets. That is what the Government Leader said he was going to do. He said that he was going to hide them in departmental budgets. The departments are going to be responsible for the expense; yet, from what I understand, the deputy minister of the department is not going to have control over what the commission spends. Who is going to have control?
There has to be costs associated with this, other than what we can see for the hiring of the four deputy commissioners. There is office space for those commissioners. There has to be support staff. These things all add up.
I see a confusion of responsibility by these commissions. I just do not buy it. There has been nothing said in this House that convinces me that they are a good way to go. I believe that the government would have been wiser to postpone these motions commending themselves and patting themselves on the back for the great job that they have done until the Yukon public has had a chance to see the results of some of the work that is going to be completed by these commissioners.
We heard the commissioner who is going to be responsible for the development assessment process stand up in this House yesterday and say that he is pulling all of the information together on everything that has already been done. They do not want to recreate the wheel. I heard the commissioner on energy say the same thing on energy policy - the commission is going to gather up everything that has been done, and it does not want to spend any money to recreate the wheel. That is fine. That is good. There needs to be more work done in each one of these areas. However, they are trying to leave the impression to the general public that nothing - or precious little - has been done in these areas.
Now they want to come around and solve all the Yukoners' problems in a very short period of time. If they were going to do it in a short period of time, they would not need these commissions.
I say to the Yukon public, "Watch. These commissions will not disappear. Those deputy commissioners will not disappear. They may complete one task; they will be assigned another task. This will be an ongoing cost to the administration of the new government that has been sworn in."
I do not support these motions. I am very disappointed and disturbed at the actions of the government in trying to bull this through the Legislature. I am very disturbed with the tactics of the Government House Leader in trying to threaten the Opposition House Leaders, that if we do not get out of here today, he will bring forward the -
Point of order
Hon. Mr. Harding: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Point of order has been called.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I must take exception. There was no agreement between the House Leaders, and the Yukon Party has consistently opposed this, after days and days of debate in this House. I should not say there was agreement between House Leaders that did not exist. The Liberal Opposition said they supported the commissioners being able to speak.
Mr. Ostashek: On the point of order, there was an agreement that Motion No. 9 would be debated after the supplementary budget debate.
Speaker: I find there is no point of order.
Mr. Ostashek: I will not be much longer on this, because we do not have enough information to critique this in an honest fashion. Until we get that information and have a chance to debate this in the spring session, it is an effort of futility to try to get information from this government. It is going ahead with it. It does not matter what we say. That will be it. It will use its majority, and time will tell if these will be good or not.
Speaker: If the Member for Watson Lake speaks now he will close debate. Is there any further debate?
Mr. Fentie: In regard to the comments of the Member for Porter Creek South, I think this government should be commended for getting involved, and that is something that was not happening with the previous government.
The concerns the Member stated will most certainly be dealt with in the development of policy, including the mom-and-pop operations, which will definitely be addressed. We have to develop policy to be able to address all those concerns. That is why I think we should be commended. We are getting involved.
It is always interesting to listen to the comments from the previous Government Leader. It shows a consistent lack of vision and is certainly one of the reasons the Yukon Party is no longer on this side of the House.
The previous Government Leader has stated that these commissions are a costly farce, and I completely disagree. The commissions are a method of focusing government on one specific issue that is extremely important, and we take the view that it is a very high priority to develop a forest policy for this territory.
The forest commission, like its counterparts, is and will be paid from existing budgets. We stated that over and over and over in this House. No increases are expected. The staff that is needed to develop policy in these areas will be seconded from the departments. I would also remind the Member opposite that the forest commission, like its counterparts, is a temporary entity, not ongoing, and will cease to exist with the completion of a Yukon forest policy.
In listening to this debate, it clearly exemplifies that the previous Government Leader never understood the importance of forests to the Yukon. Time and time again, operators from the Watson Lake area and from the Yukon approached his government for assistance with their efforts in dealing with the federal government. These people were continually turned away because the Yukon Party said it was a federal issue. They blamed the federal government and said there was nothing they could do. It is a funny thing, once the election was called, the previous Government Leader had changed his position entirely and promised $1 million in stumpage subsidy and also promised to hire a facilitator to deal with the federal government. Where was that assistance two years prior to the election?
Considering the expenditures the Member was willing to spend, the fiscal conservative position he now is espousing and his perception that the commission will be of great cost is unfair and misleading. Over the last four years, the Yukon Party government failed miserably in their attempt to develop a long-range plan for Yukon forests. Not only did they refuse to work with the federal government, but they began to develop a parallel process. They alienated everyone who was involved with the policy development. The Liard First Nation, the Council for Yukon First Nations, the Yukon Conservation Society, and the forest coalition all abandoned the Yukon Party's forest policy development.
They rightly believed that the government was not listening to their input. The Yukon Party's process was flawed, and led to a flawed policy.
The goal of this forest commission to develop a forest policy is an objective that will benefit all Yukon people by involving the people of this territory. It will provide a plan to guide the management and sustainable development of this valuable resource.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called. Mr. Clerk, will you please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. Livingston: Agree.
Mr. Ostashek: Disagree.
Mr. Phillips: Disagree.
Mr. Jenkins: Disagree.
Mr. Cable: Disagree.
Ms. Duncan: Disagree.
Mrs. Edelman: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 10 yea, six nay.
Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
Motion No. 27 agreed to
Before proceeding to the next motion on the Order Paper, the Chair wishes to draw Members' attention to the second paragraph of Motion No. 27, which has now passed this House, and Motions No. 28, No. 30 and No. 31. The wording of the second paragraph is the same in each case.
Annotation 558 in Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms states: "An old rule of Parliament reads: 'That a question being once made and carried in the affirmative or negative, cannot be questioned again but must stand as the judgment of the House.' Unless such a rule were in existence, the time of the House might be used in the discussion of a motion of the same nature and contradictory decisions would be sometimes arrived at in the course of the same session."
The House has reached a decision on the question that reads:
"THAT this House commend the government for adopting an approach to resolving difficult policy issues based on the principles of public involvement and consultation, and respect for First Nation governments."
It would, therefore, not be in order to place that question before the House again during this session.
Annotation 566(4) in Beauchesne states that: "The Speaker has the unquestioned authority to modify motions with respect to form."
The Chair, therefore, orders that the second paragraph be dropped from Motions No. 28, No. 30 and No. 31. With that deletion, those motions may be called for debate.
Clerk: Motion No. 28, standing in the name of Mr. Hardy.
Motion No. 28
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Whitehorse Centre
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should be commended for its new approach to resolve important local hire policy issues through the creation of the Cabinet commission on Yukon hire.
Mr. Hardy: I am pleased to finally have the opportunity to speak directly on the importance of the work we will be undertaking through the Yukon hire commission.
As many Yukoners know, and as many of my colleagues across the floor can appreciate, high unemployment, especially in small communities and rural areas, is a major concern in our territory. During the election it was brought to our attention time and time again by all of the communities, and the ridings in the Whitehorse area, that there was a need for the government to do some direct work to increase opportunities for Yukon people - to enable Yukon people to have a future and jobs.
We believe, as do many Yukoners, that this government can play a major role in addressing a very complex issue, and this government is very committed to doing that, and so am I. There is much we can do to ensure ample employment opportunities for Yukoners here at home and to help create sustainable communities.
I would like to give an example of what is driving us to become proactive in local hire, in creating a local hire commission. The example I am going to use is a big project that is ongoing right now and was started a little over a year ago. It involves roughly $30 million. I have been monitoring that job since it began. The first real disgrace I can say about employment on that job was the fact that two local companies never had an opportunity to even bid on the project.
It sent out a warning signal that we were not maximizing our resources to ensure that the people who live here have the opportunity to benefit from them. The two companies were denied the opportunity, local companies that have a very good track record of local employment and spending in this community were denied the opportunity to bid, but firms from outside were given the opportunity based on very weak arguments. That sent an indication throughout the community to the construction industry that maybe they were not wanted here.
I have some figures here that show how many Yukoners are being employed. I will go through some of them just to reinforce the importance of local hire and what we are missing on this one job, as an example, because this job is a large one and it is easy to look at the figures. The figures are available and are current right now. It indicates, throughout the whole Yukon, the need to ensure that people have the opportunity to work, through training and whatnot.
PCL Constructors is doing quite well. It is a union shop, and it has to hire local through a union shop. It has to hire from a hiring board. Some people may not understand how unions work, but that is how they do it in construction. There is a board list with local people on it, and when they want someone they call down and are dispatched out. Their numbers are roughly 93.5 percent local hire. That is really good. It is a small margin of slippage, but understandably in some areas perhaps we did not have the people available, or that could be some of the specialty people for quality control the company ships from job to job, especially on hospitals.
Let us look at another union shop, Shendel Mechanical. It is the same thing: it has to hire from a board. It is not as good. Their work is a little bit more specialized. Interestingly enough, this company made a strong commitment in our negotiations with them to train people. The union was able to place approximately seven apprentices on this job, which is unheard of anywhere. Normally, if one gets one or two apprentices, one is doing well. They were willing to take seven apprentices and train them. They did bring in some people to work with the apprentices. We managed to get, on an average, 18 to 20 plumbers working in that area. They got up to roughly 65 percent.
Then we start to look at other areas. We looked at some of the non-union companies working there. Almost all these companies are from Alberta, interestingly enough.
When we look at some of the other figures, we have figures of 26 percent, 4.2 percent and 27 percent local employment. Then there is 39 percent, 26 percent and zero percent local employment - not a single local person working for one company. What a shame it is for the people up here who need employment. What a lost opportunity. There was no will on the part of the previous government to ensure that local people got employment there.
One other example that I would like to point out on this job is the example of three local companies that were actually allowed to bid and they had to bid as subcontractors so they received a small part of the work.
Just as an example of what happens when the government hires local people, there is 100 percent employment of local people that get the work. When 100 percent of local people get the work, they hire 100 percent of local employees.
Three local companies got work on the project and there was 100 percent local hire, which is very good. It does pay to invest in our local companies and it does pay to put in conditions of local employment. That is what this commission is about. This commission is about going out and looking for ways and means to enhance and strengthen local employment and to give more opportunity to our youth and to trained people who are unemployed.
During the campaign, at almost every doorstep I went to, people mentioned employment. It was impossible to avoid the issue.
We, as a government, are responsible for ensuring that when money is spent, it benefits the people in the Yukon. That is what this commission is about.
What has the government done so far? We have had some preliminary assessments done about possible legal constraints and the good news is that they do allow for a number of specific actions to achieve our commitments. There is margin there for that and we are going to be investigating that further.
We can make changes to existing programs. We are looking at that and at what is already in place - directives and regulations - and further options for putting Yukon people first. As was said earlier, we are not going to try to reinvent the wheel. There was no wheel there in the first place, because there was no desire to invest in benefits for local people and companies. We are going to start with the spokes and build out from that. As for consultation, we will be going out to consult with people. We have already had some consultation with groups.
The business incentive policy review committee is an example. We met with them, and asked them to come along with us and work closely with us. They have agreed. There is an agreement to expand the business incentive policy to bring in more people to get more knowledge and reach out further so that it is not just a very small group of people that has been working very hard on the business development policy, but to bring in some new people just for this project. We are not trying to change the business development policy forever. During this period and on this work, we are going to expand it to allow more contribution and more consultation. We feel that we will get a better product if we do that.
The representatives on the business incentive policy include the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, Building Trades Council, Yukon Federation of Labour, Yukon Contractors Association and a member from the public at large.
The reasons include the fact that 41 percent of all Yukon government contract spending went outside last year. That is a lot. There is a real cost to Yukon taxpayers on that. For every full-time job going outside, it costs the Yukon taxpayer roughly $5,000. It does not count all the losses in sales to local businesses, which also pay taxes. There are a lot of other factors, including the fact that social assistance costs go up. An unemployment rate of 8.4 percent, 9.6 percent and 12 percent is nothing to crow about. To get it down to eight percent is nothing to crow about. It is not a great deal. Eight percent of our working population is unemployed. Is that great? I do not think that it is.
I also think when this commission has completed its work, one of the recommendations I would like to put forward is that the work never stop. I do not mean the fantasy of the Member for Porter Creek North that these commissions will go on forever, and that the lower-class people back here in the backbenches - as he likes to refer to us - want to continually work on commissions. We do have options. We can become real estate salesmen. That is an option.
We can do other work; we can sell items. We have made a commitment to commissions. We have made a commitment to what we feel are four key issues that the Yukon is facing. When my commission is completed, I hope this government and future governments continue working on local employment, always trying to find a way to do it better.
Ms. Duncan: The Cabinet commission on local hire, the motion calls us again to commend a new approach. I have already dealt with the issue of commending. The approach is not new. It is not new at all, as my colleague from Porter Creek North has pointed out. I omitted that from my last remarks; it is not new at all. I would dare to suggest that we have seen far more work accomplished by task forces than we have by royal commissions; however, that is splitting hairs.
I would again say to the Members opposite that the way the commissions work is not clear. What is the final product? Cabinet commissioners stand up and talk about policies. I would refer you to a Canadian political systems textbook that states, "...most major policy decisions, the actual detailed formulation of specific policies is normally accomplished by the individual departments of the public service."
That is fine. They want a Cabinet commission to develop policy. "Often, through the medium of white (or 'coloured') papers, the departments set out the few policy alternatives which are most feasible in technical, administrative, financial, and even political terms." I have no problem if that is what the Cabinet commissions are going to do - if they are going to set out white papers with options for public discussion, but that is not clear.
The work of the commissions has not been made clear in the generic mandate handed out: "develop interim terms of reference ... develop final terms of reference ... liase and coordinate within the Yukon ... fulfill the mandate...". Well, what is it?
Work procedure: "consulting and involving interested individuals ... researching and bringing together existing information ... refining and integrating the information ... preparing reports and recommendations ...", yet he stands and talks about policy. I would request, again, please make the ways of the work clear. The Minister of Economic Development talked about involving the Opposition. How and where? That has not been spelled out at all to anyone, least of all the Yukon public.
I also would dare to suggest to the Members opposite that the ways that work for each commission may be different. You are dealing with vastly different, complex issues. One generic mandate is not going to cover the way each of the commissions should work. In any event, it is not particularly creative, given the complex issues being dealt with.
What is local hire? Is local hire ensuring all trades people employed on site are registered with Yukon medicare and hold Yukon drivers' licences and are part of a local Yukon union? What is local hire? Is local hire writing government tenders in such a way that Yukon businesses only need apply? Is local hire writing tenders consistently over and over again? I heard at the door that tenders are not released consistently. Some call for Yukon fair wage scale and some do not. Let us be consistent about it. Is local hire, finally - following up on the suggestion made years ago by the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce to the same party who sits opposite - the very simple act of including a suggestion in Government of Yukon pay cheques saying that calling 1-800 costs your Yukon neighbour his or her job? Buying your goods outside is not local hire.
These sorts of suggestions are out there. They have been out in the public for years and the former NDP government had an opportunity to follow up on them, and did not. Instead, we got a lengthy investigation by the former NDP Premier.
Out-of-Yukon companies are used on specific projects; why are they being used? Is there any method for us to evaluate the reason we ended up with them? Why have we got an out-of-Yukon supplier? Why is the Yukon representative for a major company not being used, or why is there not one?
Local hire is not simply a question of ensuring local unions and local union people are used or hired on major projects. It is far, far more than this. The Member opposite is smiling - it is more than that, and it is a very serious subject. It also deals with the issue of training. Why are people coming up from outside? Have we not offered them the training or do we not have a qualified Yukoner able to do the job?
Yukon hire, local hire - this Cabinet commission is about people and it is about doing the job of government right, which involves the departments of Government Services and Education most particularly. It is also about our economy and the way that we, as Yukoners, handle it.
I would commend to Members opposite in particular, a program on television the other night called Mavericks. It talked about three communities in Canada that have turned their economies around incredibly. They did it without a dime of government subsidy. Subsidies are a huge issue and they are not simply grants or loans, they are far more than that. It is a huge issue and it is something that I would caution the Member very strongly about, because they come in many different forms and their ramifications are wide and varied.
The Members opposite may be wondering why we have not supported these motions. In my opinion, the wording is not appropriate for what you have asked this House to do, and you have not made your object clear. The ways of work, again, I would state for Members opposite, of these commissions are not clear.
The issues are incredibly complex, and for that reason the mandates and the ways of work need to be clear, as well as who is involved and how.
That deals with your approach. You have asked us to commend the new approach. It is not new and it is not clear. For that reason, you cannot, at this point in time, have the support of this caucus.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I was just trying to be somewhat courteous to my friend across the floor.
I would like to speak to this motion just a little bit from the perspective of one who has taken an interest in this particular area over the last little while. Shortly after the election, following up on some of our commitments with regard to local hire, I directed Government Services to take a look at some of the issues involved surrounding the question of maximizing local content and maximizing local input into a variety of things, not only local hire but also local business opportunities. What came out was a very interesting sort of cross-departmental approach. As the Member for Porter Creek South has pointed out rather well, it is not just a question of labour market issues; it is also a question that involves economic development, government services and education. It also involves justice, health and social services and community and transportation services, and it opens up a whole variety of complex legal arguments, including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, NAFTA, and the agreement on internal trade. It is not simply something that has to be entered into very lightly. As I reviewed some of the submissions from Government Services, it became apparent that there were a number of options, a number of things that we could be doing to maximize local content and local labour. However, as the Government Services reviewed these, they identified departments that would be involved in this, what some of the options would be, and what some of the initiatives would be that would have to be undertaken. As I reviewed this, the import of a commission on local hire became greater and certainly, in taking a look at this, I can see where this commission will dovetail rather well with initiatives we have in terms of local content and local business.
I tend to agree that when we are talking about local hire we are not just talking about particular trades or businesses. I see the whole question about local hire and local initiatives as being the basis for our future.
Coming from an education background, I became very cognizant of the fact that many of our young people here need opportunities in which to flourish in their own home territory. I feel that unless we can provide those opportunities by support for local labour, by support for local business and by support for local entrepreneurs, we will seriously lose an entire element of what I like to refer to as intellectual capital.
For example, the people who are involved in the artistic or the graphic arts pursuits and people who are involved in engineering and technical pursuits, and the increasing number of information-age types of businesses, I think, need the ability to flourish up here.
I think there are ways in which we can promote this and ways in which we can provide those opportunities. Those opportunities may come in a variety of ways. They may come in terms of training and increased use of apprenticeship programs; it may come in the way of constructing regulations and ways to develop it. For example, it may come by enhancing business incentive programs, which is another way.
What I have come to be aware of is the vast complexity of this whole issue and how many departments it involves. I think this is why the commission is a good way to approach this: to take a look at all of the parameters that are involved and try to propose some options.
One of the things that we have become aware of in taking a look at this is that there are legal arguments involved, and I am sure I do not have to remind the Member for Riverside about some of the issues involved here - for example, agreements on internal trade and things of that nature, some of the landmark court cases. But, by the same token, there are ways in which regulations can be used and can be used effectively, and in some cases modified to perhaps achieve those things where we may be restricted in a legal setting. I am not rejecting legal challenges, but I think there are ways in which we can do it effectively through regulation and through policy. That is why I feel that the idea of a commission is an effective tool to take a look at how we can do this on a whole variety of fronts: how we can approach training, how we can approach contracting, how we can approach labour regulation, how we can approach worksite regulation or worksite management to create a maximum potential.
I am very concerned that we are not giving our young people here the support they need to flourish in their own home area. Toward that end, I believe that the idea of a local hire commission is an idea whose time has come. This is not to say that there are not good initiatives that have been going on. I think there are, and I think people are to be commended and previous governments are to be commended on some of the initiatives that they have taken, but I think we can build, and unless we are in the process of building, why are we here? We have to build on what has gone on before. We have to maximize the potential for our youth and the potential for the future.
For those reasons, I feel that this commission is an effective tool. I look forward to working with it from the point of view of Government Services and I support the motion.
Mr. Phillips: On this side of House, we commend the concept of 100 percent local hire, but we do have some problem with the motion that is before us today.
I think that both times the Member for Porter Creek South spoke about the motion, she laid it out by saying that people do not receive the commendation before they do the work; they receive the commendation after they do the work. I think that spending time here today to pat themselves on the back before they go out and do the job may not be the right way to approach the issue.
Another reason I have a problem with this particular motion is because of what was said during the election campaign. The Leader of the New Democratic Party spoke out about local hire and was very strong on the issue. In fact, he said, "If we have to break the law, if we have to challenge the Charter, we will." The way in which one challenges the Charter is to do something that becomes a case where the law is broken, there is an issue and it has to be decided by the law.
I have a problem with that. My problem is that no Member of a parliament should be recommending that we challenge a law. I do not recommend to people that, if they do not like the speed limit, they should challenge the law. This is a law that is in place now.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: The Member mentioned gun laws. I will tell you what I said about gun laws. I said, "I do not like the law." However, when I was asked by the media if I would obey the law, I said, "Yes, I will obey the law." Will I register my firearms? The answer is yes, I will register my firearms. Will I recommend to anyone else that they should disobey the law? No, I will not recommend to anyone else to disobey the law, but I do not like the law.
The NDP government has come in with this proposal for local hire, yet what we see here is a government that - in fact, the Member for Whitehorse Centre talked about the jobs at the hospital. Well, guess who brought PCL to the Yukon in the first place? It was not the Yukon Party government. It was a New Democratic Party government that brought PCL to the Yukon. There are all kinds of other things that his former colleagues did - and even the Government Leader. I think when he was the Government Leader, they went out to Edmonton and to various shops in the south and promoted outside contractors in Alberta to come to the Yukon and bid on Yukon jobs. That was done under an NDP regime. I do not know if Members recall that, but they went outside with the specifications and plans. I remember the local contractors association was very upset about it and so were the local unions. However, the NDP government did that to encourage competition. Many of the firms that became aware of the jobs in the Yukon are still here today and are coming back and, as the Member for Whitehorse Centre says, taking Yukoners' jobs. So, I guess we can thank some of his colleagues for that particular move.
The other problem I have with this motion - and this is one that causes me a great deal of problems. It does not have so much to do with what the motion says, but more with what we are doing with these motions on the Order Paper today. I guess the problem I have is that a motion was put on the Order Paper when we started, and that was Motion No. 9. Let me go back even further than that.
Even prior to Motion No. 9, the government brought forward a motion on the Order Paper to set up various committees of this government to look at issues. One of the committees we set up in government is a committee called SCREP, the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges, where various issues are discussed. Since that time, Members from both sides of the House have been appointed to the committee. The committee is supposed to take its work very seriously.
One of the first motions that appeared on the Order Paper was Motion No. 9 from the Hon. Mr. Harding. I am sure the Members opposite will agree with me.
The problem I have is that the first clause in Motion No. 9 is " consider the recognition that should be provided to Cabinet commissioners in the Standing Order of the Assembly". That is, to consider how we should put the recognition of these commissioners in the Standing Order. Should they have recognition and how should that recognition be there?
I was quite surprised last night. After motions were tabled, there was a motion tabled by the Hon. Mr. Harding - Motion No. 36. Motion No. 36 states that "the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly be amended by adding . . ." - and it goes on to talk about all the Cabinet commissioners. I thought Motion No. 9 was going to let the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges - the committee that is so important that they thought they would refer it to it - decide in what form it would come back to the House and what standing these commissioners would have. That is unfair. It is unfair to me, to the Liberal Opposition and to the Members on the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges on the government side who were to sit down and supposedly discuss this issue in terms of whether or not they would answer questions or give ministerial statements. It is unfair. I am sure the Members on the side opposite would agree.
What are we here for? The Members are here to work in a democratic process, where we have parliamentary committees that do useful work. There is nothing to discuss in the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges. The motion is here. The majority is there. This is in-your-face stuff. The courteous thing would have been to wait until we had come back after the SCREP meeting, where the majority is there and one could have one's own way anyway, and then present this motion to us - not shove it in our face before we even start to talk about the issue.
The government does not want to hear what I have to say about it. The government is not interested in what I have to say about it, because there is a motion on the Order Paper that the Government House Leader threatened me with today. He said he will deal with it tomorrow if we are not out of here. That is fairness from the side opposite.
That is down-your-throat government - just take it or else. I would recommend - and I will if they do not - that if one wants to be up front with me, with the Liberal Members and with the Members of Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges on that side of the House, then remove the condition in Motion No. 9 that says refer it to the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges, because there is no intention of doing so anyway; they have it in the bloody motion. Pardon my language, Mr. Speaker.
He had no intention of doing it anyway, so quit playing games with us. Quit wasting my time in SCREP. I will talk about the other issues that are referred to SCREP. I have no problem with that.
At the very least I thought we were coming back in here with new Members, a new approach and with a new attitude, and that we were not going to have this strong, adversarial, in-your-face approach any more. Yet, we had this jammed down our throats last night where we had no choice - this is what you are getting, folks.
They could have at least been sly enough to hang on to it until we came back into session in the spring and then spring it on us as a result of the SCREP meetings so that maybe I could get a paragraph in or say a word or two, but they decided that that was not right.
This approach is not right. I hope that it is not the approach that the Government House Leader is going to take, or that the government is going to take, when dealing with other motions, amendments to motions or even recommendations that other committees have in other roles that committees have. It is unfair. It is unfair to me It is unfair to the Liberals and it is unfair to the other SCREP Members.
I want to go back for a moment to the issue of local hire and the concern that I will express to the Member who brought the motion forward.
Is the goal of the commission 100 percent? If so, that is a laudable goal, but I really believe that it is not achievable. It is not achievable in other provinces in this country where many goods and services and companies are available. From time to time, as the Minister of Health said, there are technological things, there are products, there is timing, and there are some things where there is just no way - no matter what we build into it, for one reason or another, there may not be somebody here, and we are finding that now with some things, as the Member will admit, and there has to be more training. We will be a long time trying to achieve the 100 percent.
The matter of agreements on internal trade in other provinces was raised by the Minister of Health as well. I would point out to the Member that I have a son in the construction trade. He is going to school right now, and he is working over the Christmas holiday at a construction job in British Columbia to make money. He is not coming home at Christmas. I hope we do not put something in so that the British Columbia government decides to retaliate so my son or daughter, or another Member's son or daughter, cannot work in British Columbia or Alberta, or cannot move around the country.
The Members laugh at that but I do not think it is so funny.
I have also talked to some companies in the Yukon who export out of the territory. They export to the Northwest Territories, Alaska and British Columbia. They have a manufacturing business here and are worried about limitations that might be put on them if we start retaliating with limitations on companies coming in here to build in the territory. There are window companies, for example, who compete with outside companies; and if we say that products used in Yukon buildings will only be Yukon-made products - well, the local company here exports to the Northwest Territories, to Alaska, to British Columbia, Atlin - there will be a lot of questions. It is just not a simple solution to this problem.
I will give the Member an idea. I do not know if he wants to do anything with it, but it was mentioned to me by local businesspeople that, if one wanted to promote local hire, when one is sitting down negotiating with one's employees over the next few weeks and months, do away with the Yukon bonus. They take it and fly outside to other parts of the country. Perhaps some Yukoners will stay here and spend their dollars here in local businesses. That is an option the government can look at.
There are a lot of issues surrounding local hire. I think the Member mentioned the one job - the hospital - that he was concerned about. Overall, he mentioned zero-percent representation in some firms, but some of those firms had one or two employees, and some of the bigger firms - he said 93 percent - had 30 or 40 employees. It is a little unfair to start quoting percentages if one is not telling the numbers on the other side. The overall numbers were that around 50 percent or 60 percent of the people who worked on the job were local. I would like to see it higher. I am sure other Yukoners would like to see it higher, but sometimes that is hard to achieve.
He also mentioned other jobs. He mentioned some of the other local jobs - the Tourism business centre across the road. There was about 98-percent local hire, local purchase, local product, local everything. Most of the Beringia Centre is all local. I think the exhibits for it are mostly local.
It is easy to pick on one project, and I suppose there will be a day in this House where it will be absolutely beyond the control of the Member for Whitehorse Centre, and even the Minister responsible of Government Services, and a job will go to an outside firm. It will be a big difference of $400,000 to $700,000, and they will agonize over it in Cabinet, but there will be a budget to balance and other things to do.
It is not an easy decision. There will be some tough decisions to make, and I will be able to rise on this side of the House, and say, "What happened to the 100 percent? PCL is back."
However, those of us on this side cannot support the motion. I think that I have laid out several reasons why.
I do have some concerns that I have expressed about the concept of local hire. I think that the Member for Porter Creek South expressed some concerns as well. They are valid ones. What is local hire? It becomes a real problem here.
I will give the Member an example. I will use a personal example. We are from a separated family, and my daughter lived outside for many years. She came back up to work here this summer. She wants to come back next summer. If she wants to get a job on a construction site, can my own daughter work on a construction job or another job in the Yukon?
These are tough questions. They are going to come up. It must be determined who fits into local hire and why these people fit into local hire. It gets as complicated as when you start to jig around with the Students Financial Assistance Act - who is a student, who is eligible and who is not eligible? It is a really complicated issue.
Although I do not support the concept, I hope, overall, that we are successful with getting more Yukoners on Yukon jobs. I think that the approach that the government is taking is a very costly one. There is a much better way to do it. We will not be supporting the motion as presented by the Member.
Speaker: The hon. Member will close debate if he speaks. Is there anyone else wishing to speak?
Mr. Hardy: There are lots of questions. Wonderful. There are lots of questions from both the Members who spoke. That is excellent. Those are the same questions we have and there are a lot of them. I agree with a lot of the questions and some of the suggestions and answers that I have received from the other side. Those are wonderful, but it keeps coming down to the fact that we have too much leakage. There is too much leakage in terms of people not getting an opportunity to work here. It is almost starting to resemble a fly-in zone in some areas of the Yukon, where firms come in with a whole crew, drop the crew down to do the work, unpack and then pack up and fly out again.
I will give Members an example - the Member is shaking his head over there. An example is the White River bridge. There was $7 million or more. I phoned them about employment for people in the Yukon. I was not asking about union employment. I never even mentioned it. I asked what opportunities there would be for local people. Their answer was interesting. "We are going to bring our crews in. We will hire three or four people just to keep the government off our backs. That was all we need, so we are going to bring our crews in. And if we do not bring them down from Calgary, where they are stationed, the headquarters in Western Canada, we will bring them from Alaska because we have guys working on a bridge up there right now, so we will just run them right down into this project."
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: I hope they hired local there, as well.
We are losing, because so many jobs have gone outside. The Member for Riverdale North mentioned a couple of examples of local jobs where there was a large percentage of local hire. That is true. It is excellent. We can talk about the French school. Figures change again.
I have worked in the construction industry as a representative for the last seven and a half years, but I have spent the last 20 years in the trade. I know there is leakage there.
I know local people who are trying to get jobs and the training they want, young people trying to start in the industry and cannot, and the lineups of vehicles from outside, with people coming in and willing to work cheaper because of the difficult situations they may be facing in Alberta, or Manitoba, or Saskatchewan, or whatever. They will work for a lot less. They are in difficult situations and we would like to help them all, but we have to care for our home, as well. We have to start with our community. We have to make it healthy. We have to make it beneficial for the people who live here before we reach even further and help other people. We have to care for the people here, and that has not been happening.
There are lots of questions. The Member for Porter Creek South talked about a white paper, a big document at the end of all this. That is wonderful. Unfortunately, I have seen so many policy documents plunked down, scanned through, and stuck up on a shelf, which is where they sit, collecting dust. We have tons of them here not being used. We hope to have a slightly different approach - more proactive, more involvement of the people, going into the communities to find out what is wrong and what they need, what their concerns are. Consultation is so important.
There are a lot of good suggestions from the Member for Porter Creek South. I wrote a lot of them down. There were lots of questions, and they are ones I had, questions we will be trying to find answers to. People I have talked to are committed to this. Lots of contractors are very committed to this. Some have concerns. I have heard the same concerns the Member for Riverdale North raised. We will have to try to address those and make sure it is not such a situation where there are repercussions.
I can tell the Members right now that in just about every province in Canada there are local hire initiatives. I saw a document on the Porter Creek school, a tender package - our school in the Yukon that was tendered. It was written in there that the only people who could bid on this portion of the project were residents of Alberta. This was for a Yukon job.
I think it was a typographical error. It was written by a firm from Alberta. They wrote it up using some of the language they use down there. What do you call that? I call it local hire.
I do not know about internal trade deals. In a lot of those cases, what is said and what is done are two different things. We have a global market. Everyone is promoting the global market - to stay competitive, we have to reach out. The world is only so big, but we have to keep reaching out. What is it causing?
In Canada, it is causing tremendous unemployment and strain on social programs, a downward spiral in wages and benefits, and a lowering of our society. But that is good. We say that is natural and has to happen. I do not believe it is natural, and I do not believe it has to happen. I do not buy into this globalization as an end to solving our problems, because it has not - it is failing. We have to look at a different way of doing it - a better way.
The International Labour Organization estimates that 30 percent of the world's labour force - about 2.5 billion people - is either unemployed or underemployed, and it is getting worse. Those are 1995 figures. On a global picture, it is not getting better. We have to be proactive and take a hand in this. We have to try different methods to succeed. Perhaps we can do something here that works and that can be an example for other areas that need help.
The Member for Porter Creek mentioned a CTV program. I suspect Eric Malling was the commentator. He did a wonderful report on New Zealand - a completely distorted report. He made a comparison that Canada is like New Zealand. New Zealand was crashing and burning. Even though they have a credit rating of AA - which was not mentioned - he made it sound like it is a Third World country. It was very sordid, but lots of people bought into it. No government money? Fine. Low wages? I bet. Very low wages - people working for less and less. Less gets spent on the economy. Spread the wealth out? Probably not - more to a smaller few.
I would like to see the show and inquire into it. Be very careful about watching a show and thinking that all of the answers are there. I do not believe they are. We have to reach out to the communities. We have to reach out to the people involved - the contractors, businesses, unions - and government has to be involved. That is our role. We should be trying to supply labour, help labour, and help people get started. The Member mentioned training, and she is right. Training is a huge part of this. It has to be done.
The Member for Riverdale mentioned the NDP government going outside to get more prices and more bidding. That was at the request of a former colleague of theirs, and it was in the papers. It was advertised. He was very vocal about the previous government seeking prices outside because he felt that the local contractors were ripping off the government, and it became quite an issue. I do not believe, in the end, that the local contractors were ripping off the government.
However, I do thank the Members across the way for their questions, because those are the questions I have, and they have given me some I had not thought of yet. As long as we keep asking questions about local hire, keep investigating, then we are going to keep trying to improve the conditions for people to be employed here.
Motion No. 28 agreed to
Clerk: Motion No. 31, standing in the name of Mr. McRobb.
Motion No. 31
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Kluane
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should be commended for its new approach to resolve important policy issues through the creation of the Cabinet commission on energy.
Mr. McRobb: Like my colleagues, I am pleased to have the opportunity today to speak in this Legislature and I look forward to future opportunities responding in Question Period.
The Member for Riverdale North referred to Motion No. 9, which will give us that right, and I hope he will support that motion and that we will have the right to respond in Question Period as well as on motion day and in Committee of the Whole.
The motion, as it reads, I support entirely. It is also my opinion that our government should be commended for its new approach to resolving important policy issues through the creation of the Cabinet commission on energy.
The Opposition Members seem to think that this is a little premature, but I invite them to take a second look at the wording of the motion as it refers to the new approach to resolve important policy issues through the creation of the commissions.
Perhaps the time will come when the commissions will fill their mandates and implement their policy areas when there could be another motion before this House to commend us on the significant policy areas we have developed for the benefit of all Yukoners. I think the Opposition could be more constructive by saving their comments for that day.
I would like to talk now a bit about the energy commission to give Yukoners a better understanding of how it will work, in addition to responding to some of the negative comments from the Opposition over the past week or two. My three co-commissioners and I had to sit and bear it during Question Period and during Committee of the Whole because we are not permitted to respond. I hope that will be resolved soon.
The objective of the commission is to develop a comprehensive energy policy. Over the past four or five years, this Legislature has heard that term on numerous occasions, referred to by the Member for Riverside: comprehensive energy policy. Some of the former Members in this House have referred to a comprehensive energy policy. Where is it?
Even the former government, during its first sitting in this Legislature four years ago promised this comprehensive energy policy before year-end. There was no comprehensive energy policy because the previous government did not have the political will to develop the policy and involve Yukoners in a comprehensive energy policy for their benefit, and for the promotion of economic development in the territory, the preservation of our environment and for the benefit of consumers of electricity.
The energy commission, in working toward the comprehensive policy, will be dealing with a number of significant policy issues, and I will speak to those issues in a moment, but first I would like to speak about the team that I will be involved with.
It has a small staff consisting of me and my deputy commissioner, the past president of the Yukon Energy Corporation, who, I might add, was the longest serving president of that corporation. He was in that position for a good three years and he brings that experience to the energy commission.
In addition, there will be three staff members from the energy resources branch that comprise a total of two person years or PYs. These staff are highly qualified, have years of experience and are familiar with most of the issues that the energy commission will be dealing with.
In addition, we can take advantage of my own personal experience over the past six years attending several hearings and several meetings on behalf of consumers of electricity in particular.
All in all, I think that we have a very good team. Like myself, the other members of that team are looking forward to the challenges ahead.
I would like to refer now to some of the issues that we will be dealing with. The first one that I would like to talk about is energy supply. There have been many debates in this Legislature in the past six years about energy supply. When you look at what has actually been accomplished in regard to energy supply, our policy regarding energy supply is embarrassing. There has been virtually nothing accomplished.
This commission will seek to change that. I can promise you that it will change that. We will have a policy about energy supply that will guide the Yukon in future years. This includes what types of energy supply options should be considered. Should the Yukon government give preference to a coal plant or other alternatives such as wind, wood, chip or small hydro. I know that the Member for Riverside has past experience in the development of wind energy. I commend him for his work in that important area and I hope that he can give his input when the opportunity arises to discuss how we will develop policy regarding energy supply in the territory.
Another important component is the question of investment risk. Who should pay for expensive new projects? Should it be the electrical ratepayers, the taxpayers or industry? Who should backstop project financing? This is the ultimate question. Who should pay?
In conversations with some departmental staff, I am aware that the previous Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation was advised on several occasions to make a decision. There was no decision. That will change through the work of the energy commission. We will develop a policy on this very important question and bring it to Cabinet for a decision.
Energy conservation is another important component. Demand-side management has been virtually ignored over the past four years. This has come at the cost of extra diesel generation that all electrical consumers in the territory have borne and will have to continue to bear through at least the next year.
The commission will develop a policy that will ensure conservation measures are included, so that consumers have the option of reducing their energy consumption through the use of these conservation measures. This is a very important part of the comprehensive energy policy.
Energy management is another important component. Throughout the election campaign and even previously we heard many Yukoners speak their concerns about the management of the Southern Lakes - Marsh Lake and Tagish Lake - as well as Aishihik Lake. Yukoners want a say in how these resources are managed. They are not satisfied with decisions being made strictly by the utilities. They want an opportunity to give input into that decision-making process. The commission will tackle this question and include input from Yukoners for this important component in developing its policy.
Last week, Yukoners learned about how our government is extending and improving the rate relief program. We heard about built-in incentives for reduced usage - how our government will end the discrimination to the communities and rural Yukon, which do not have the same benefits as consumers on the main hydro grid. We have brought them to the same level in addition to creating built-in incentives for reduced consumption.
The energy commission, within the next year, will consult Yukoners and develop a policy on rate relief that Yukoners want.
I look forward to participating with them on that issue.
The final component I want to identify is the Yukon Utilities Board process. The previous government claimed to have streamlined the process. They streamlined the process, apparently to save costs to consumers. Well, did we see power rates decline? The answer is no. Did we see utility profits increase? The answer is yes. Did we see increased dissatisfaction from intervenors in the Yukon Utilities Board process? The answer is yes.
The previous government's streamlining was, in fact, a streamlining of profits for the two utilities. This government will examine this issue and will bring fairness back into the process to encourage the involvement of Yukoners to help decrease the monies the utilities want from them to operate and run the system. In addition, this will build our local knowledge of energy issues in the territory and reduce the reliance on outside consultants, engineers, experts, and so on. I am sure my fellow commissioner on local hire is pleased to hear what this commission will be doing.
I want to talk now about public consultation. Our government believes in listening to Yukoners. We know that we do not have a monopoly on good ideas. That is why we believe in inviting Yukoners, holding meetings, listening to what they have to say, and acting upon these good ideas. It is called meaningful public consultation. I am not referring to the same meaningful public consultation that was found in the previous government's four-year plan in 1992. I am referring to "meaningful" public consultation. That means allowing sufficient time before the meetings for participants to review the information. It also means first providing relevant information so that they can become informed on the issues.
The energy commission plans to do this by bringing together interested parties to find out who they are, what issues they are interested in, when they want to deal with them, what type of process they want to participate in, and so on. Once we find out these important components, we will be developing a schedule and include everyone on the team as we tackle each one of these issues that are very important to electrical consumers as well as to the future of the Yukon Territory.
I invite the Opposition Members to give this a little more thought than they did on their previous two votes and support this motion because it will benefit all Yukoners. If indeed that is what they are here to do then this could be a unanimous vote. I look forward to hearing what they have to say.
Mr. Jenkins: I, too, have some concerns with the process and the resulting outcome from these commissions. Motion No. 9 dealt with the SCREP committee. That motion was totally usurped by Motion No. 36, amending the Standing Orders, bringing forward to the House today the commissions before they are even dealt with in SCREP. It just de facto creates these commissions and the resulting four new Cabinet Ministers under some sort of quasi-oath, creates four new deputy minister positions who we are told will have a job until the job is completed. So much for cooperation and following reasonableness and fair rules for this House.
With respect to the Yukon and the energy situation, there are really two major issues: the generation and supply of electricity, and its regulatory body, the Yukon Utilities Board.
At the present time, the Yukon has the best of both the private sector and government involvement in the generation and supply of electrical energy. The private sector operates the system and the prime power generation is owned by government. Electricity supply is done in a regulated monopoly where profit is a cost. The only time that a major disruption occurs is when the government gets involved, and the government considers the profits of the Yukon Energy Corporation that flow through to the Yukon Development Corporation as general revenue dollars and spends them outside of the jurisdiction of this House. That is when we have energy problems in the Yukon.
With respect to oil, gas, coal and thermal power generation, these are all very costly undertakings that require large capital dollars. More important, before these projects can be embarked upon, there must be a market for the power that is generated.
May I suggest to the Members opposite that they consider grid extensions. If they would extend the grid from Carmacks to Mayo, they would address a number of issues. They would reduce the dependency on power generation in Pelly Crossing and Stewart Crossing, and more important, they would find a home for some 3.5 to 4.5 megawatts of hydro energy that is now water over the dam. Mayo can be extended from five megawatts to 10 megawatts, with very little additional disruption to the environment in that area.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Yes, this project requires large capital expenditures - more than can be justified in the existing rate base. However, it can be done if there is a political will and a majority of that party in the House. The government of today has these tools. I would hope that more than a cursory overview be done. If the attitude demonstrated by the Member opposite in addressing the capital cost were taken back in the 1950s when the Whitehorse hydro plant was put in place, we probably all would have little Honda generators in our backyards.
As I said earlier, the tripod on which an economy is built is the supply of energy, the supply of transportation and the supply of communications.
Alternate energy sources that have been explored, such as wind generation and power generation, do not work in any area where the temperature and dew point come together. The potential for natural gas and the piping or trucking of it to the respective communities are issues that can be addressed within existing frameworks.
Demand side management, in light of the recent announcement made by the Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation, is out the window with the extension of the rate relief from 1,000 to 1,500 kilowatt hours. That extension does not do anything for demand side management; rather it encourages the consumption of energy.
I cannot support this expansion of the public service by the public sector. The outcome is not going to be what we had hoped for. All that we are going to be creating with these commissions is more government and the resulting costs associated with more government, which are ultimately borne by the taxpayers. Thank God it is not the taxpayers of the Yukon in total; it is the taxpayers of Canada.
I am sure the government will use its majority to ram these commissions through the House.
We talk about forward planning. I suggest to the Members opposite that the approach they are taking is anally myopic. The exercise of good government is to supply the highest consistent level of service at the lowest possible cost to the end consumer. I ask that Members do not lose track of this goal.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I really am pleased to follow that performance on behalf of the Member for Klondike.
The Member, as a new Member of this House, could not be any more negative or any more tunnel-visioned if he tried.
He just made a reference to the fact that these commissions are going to be more government. Actually, what they will be is more efficient government, and we will probably be doing more with less, which is something quite opposite to the approach taken by the previous Yukon Party government, who developed very little in the way of substantive energy policy.
Yukoners do want comprehensive policy development, and that is precisely what these commissions are all about. We want somebody, a political point person, to take this bull by the horns and to try and come up with some answers to the tough problems out there that are facing us, concerning energy supply, encouraging conservation, the way our corporation runs, our relationship with the private utility in the territory - to talk about what the government role is in this whole equation, what the private sector's role is. We want them to talk about what the environmental and rate costs are, associated with certain actions of government. We want them to engage the public in answering these questions.
We have heard significant whining today from the Yukon Party about the issue of whether or not the commissioners are going to be able to speak, and in what manner that would take place. We have debated these commissions in Question Period and in Committee of the Whole for the last two days, and today we are having a full debate on the floor of this Legislature. The issues are all about what they cost and what the terms of reference are, but there is nothing about the substantive work of the commissions, so today we are trying to lay out for the Members precisely what that substantive work is and what that vision is going to be and how we are going to do it. I think the commissioners have been doing a good job of that.
We have answered all the questions of the Members opposite - whether it is about the terms of reference, conflict, the oath of secrecy, the costs, or the time lines - but when we answer them they say, "So what." So we answer them again, and we answer them again, and they say, "So what; time will tell." Exactly - time will tell. It is an artificial debate right now. We are going to have to see. The proof of the pudding is going to be in the eating, and I am confident that the commissioners will be able to deliver some good work for the people of the Yukon. The costs, as I said before, will be borne within existing budgets.
I keep hearing that the four deputy commissioner deputy minister positions have been added. That is poppycock. We inherited a government with three deputy ministers in the Executive Council Office.
There are two commissioners who come from within the civil service, one of them promoted out of Economic Development and one who was formerly the president of the Yukon Energy Corporation. The cost of the others has been borne by existing departments.
We have answered all the questions; we have had the debate on the floor of this Legislature. It is clear to me the Opposition is not interested in answers, only in roadblocks in the way of the government agenda. We cannot be hamstrung. We have to get on with the business of showing the Opposition that it was a good idea. Right now, the debate has all been focused around the idea and parameters of it. That is fine; they are just doing their job, but we have to also do ours.
So tonight we will debate Motion No. 9. If we are ever going to finish the supplementaries, great, let us send it to the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges.
I also want to point out to the Yukon Party that the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges never sat for four years under its administration, and it engaged the biggest abuses of its majority I have ever heard of, namely the Hughes inquiry, where it tried to use the power of government to destroy the reputation of an Opposition Member. It was absolutely disgusting.
Now, we are now defending a supplementary budget with the cost of the Hughes inquiry in it. What an irony of ironies.
Then there is the Member for Klondike, the last of the big-time spenders. We have only been in the House for a few days, and he has already spent $74.5 million of the taxpayers' money and asked this government to make the expenditure decisions on the floor of this Legislature: grid extension, bridges, schools - what else was there - a sewer system, hospitals, child tax credits, mobile-home repair loans, the Mayo grid on the dam, the Canada Winter Games trust.
It is a good thing the election happened when it did or we would not just have inherited a $35 million deficit. If they were still in government, it would be $100 million right now.
Thank goodness for the election. Stop the Yukon Party and their evil spending ways. It is ridiculous. Not just because they want to put the motions there, but they want the Minister to make decisions on the floor of this Legislature for $12 million in expenditures during Question Period. It is not going to happen. It does not mean the concerns are not valid, but it does mean that we have to take a collective approach to this and look at all communities, weighing out the priorities and balances. For goodness' sake, the Member for Klondike talking about the poor taxpayer - if he keeps talking like he is, the Yukon is going to be broke. It is just ridiculous. I have never heard such drivel.
I want to say that I am fully in support of the commission approach. I think we have answered all of the questions. I do not want to rehash too much of the old ground. I just want to stand in defence of the commissioners and the government's approach. I know the Members opposite, and I thank the Liberal Party for their ability to speak out in Committee of the Whole, in ministerial statements and in Question Period. I think that, even though they have not supported the commendation for the government, at least they are not interested in stifling democracy and the Members' ability to speak out.
I might also point out that this is not something that is ultimately, totally new. In the many parliaments around the country, there is an issue, such as parliamentary secretaries, people who do speak out on behalf of policy areas -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: I would like to say that there are initiatives in other parts of the country that do allow people who are not Ministers to speak out. Ministers will ultimately be accountable through the Government Leader for budgetary matters. I look forward to these commission evolving and producing some product, which is the main thing. I look forward to them doing it in an innovative, cost-effective manner. I think they will be able to deliver because they are going to have the political lever and the political will within them, which will help them to direct the process.
I thank the House for allowing me to speak. I thank the Liberals for the gracious grades. I thank the energy commissioner, and I hope he does well. I look forward to working with him.
Mr. Cable: I would agree with the Minister that the proof will be in the pudding. We shall see.
All of these motions on the commissions, as has been stated before - and with which I agree - are premature. I think that commendations or bric-ŕ-bracs will come after the performance and not before, and will be based on the quality of that performance.
These motions, at the risk of digressing for a moment, have raised some curiosity. The subliminal message is that there is a need for validation. I have to say that self-validation may not actually meet the needs, so good luck to the government.
The proof of the usefulness of this approach will be based on what happens: the quality of the product, the quality of the process, the cost of the process and what actually happens to the product, and whether or not it is eventually accepted by Cabinet. I think that putting forward a motion looking for a commendation right now is a bit of a stretch. I am certainly not going to judge this new approach by getting into some sort of abstract commonroom political science debate. I think there is some practical product that I hope will come out of this process. I withhold my judgment until I see that product. I personally am going to wait and see. I am not going to prejudge the work of the commissioners. Perhaps the quality of their work will be such that this type of policy production will be accepted in the future.
The Government Leader confirmed yesterday that the commission concept is going ahead. As I see it, our role now, on this side of the House and at this time, is to hold the government accountable in relation to the process, not to distribute premature accolades or pass judgments before judgments are due.
The motion does not speak to the substantive issues that will be dealt with in the development of energy policy, and I do not intend to get into those issues at any length. However, there is one series of comments I would like to make by way of a suggestion.
There is a saying about computers: garbage in, garbage out. This applies to the developmental policy. Unless the issues are identified properly, the product will not be useful.
I would like to refresh the Members' memories on the ministerial statement on the rate relief program, which did pique my curiosity. There is an investigation that was talked about the other day that is going to take place. One of the desired products from this investigation - as I read the ministerial statement - was the stabilization of rates. What was going to happen, according to the ministerial statement, is, I suggest, going to have the opposite effect. Tinkering with the program is not going to bring about rate stability. In fact, draining the Yukon Energy Corporation's working capital may have the opposite effect. I hope that the new energy commissioner would not have any preconceived notions on that effect, but would keep an open mind.
I would encourage the commissioner to spend the time ensuring that what we have at the end of the exercise is a comprehensive energy policy, not a collection of disjointed initiatives. This will require time to consider issues and to get agreement on the issues and get agreement on the problem.
Accurate problem identification has to precede problem-solving. I do not just mean taking whatever issues fly in the door, adding them all up and saying, "Look, we are going to have some thoughts on all of these issues." Finding out what the underlying problems are has to precede the energy commissioner's work.
In a friendly spirit, I would persuade him to take the time to hear from everyone what the problems are.
We have been around the horn several times on energy policy development since taking over the generating system in 1985. We are not any further ahead than we were in 1985. If this exercise is to be productive, I think that the energy commissioner will have to force himself through the intellectual exercise of, firstly, identifying the problems before he sets out to solve them.
Speaker: When the Member speaks now, he will close debate. Is there further debate?
Mr. McRobb: I thank the Member for Riverside for his constructive comments. I can assure him that the energy commission will be taking the time to hear everyone, and not only hear everyone, but invite them into the meetings, provide them with information and enough time to review that information, listen to what they have to say and act upon what they have to say in developing this comprehensive energy policy that will then be decided on by our Cabinet.
The Member for Klondike, on the other hand, raised a few issues that I simply cannot accept. I would like to comment on them if I can. He believes that we should build a transmission line to Carmacks. Four years ago, we heard about a railroad to Carmacks and now it is a transmission line to Carmacks. What is it going to be next?
This transmission line from Mayo to Carmacks would cost in the neighbourhood of $30 million. That would create millions of dollars of debt. It turns out that had that line been built at the snap of the fingers, as the Leader of the Official Opposition claimed during the election campaign - he was a strong advocate of this line. It is too bad that he and his colleagues are not here to listen to this because I would like to look them in the eye as I say these words - it would have turned out to be completely useless.
That transmission line would be completely useless right now. There would be no benefit of that line with the Faro mine not in operation. There would be no electricity shipped either way on that line, at a cost of $30 million.
In addition, the Member for Klondike talks about an upgrade to the Mayo dam. That would cost $40 million, for a total of $70 million linked to that one transmission line that would provide us little or no benefit.
On the other point, on rate relief, he talks about how our program design for next year is somehow counter-productive to energy conservation. He talks about how it would extend relief in the hydro zone to 1,500 kilowatt hours per month. I beg that Member to research the facts and enlighten himself on what the facts are.
I can tell you what the facts are. Between October 1993 and July 1 of this year, the termination point for rate relief in the hydro zone was approximately 4,000 kilowatt hours per month - an extraordinarily high amount.
By July 1 of this year that was changed, not to reflect conservation practices, but the other way. It did not terminate at 4,000, it went on indefinitely. That means that someone using 20,000 or 30,000 kilowatt hours per month, in those extraordinary cases, would still be eligible for rate relief under this program.
What the Minister of the Yukon Energy Corporation has done is change that to terminate at 1,500 kilowatt hours per month, and I commend him for his efforts that promote conservation and reduce costs to all electrical consumers in the territory.
Over the course of the next year, the energy commission will be undertaking to further improve that program and listen to Yukoners about any further suggestions that they might have about how that program can be improved.
Finally, the other issue raised by the Member for Klondike was the cost issue. He claims that these commissions just cost too much money - bah humbug, he says, "I cannot buy it. No sir."
Well, I tend to agree with the Leader of the Official Opposition. I believe it was yesterday during Committee of the Whole when he quoted what I said last week, and I will repeat that again - no extra cost to the taxpayers resulting from these commissions. I stand by that remark. It is true. Taxpayers will not pay a single extra dime because of these commissions. It is a matter of government spending priorities.
In some cases, spending will be reduced over what it was previously. Not only will spending be reduced, but government will be more efficient. We will actually do something in regard to energy policy, local hire policy, the development assessment process and forestry. Will it not be a pleasant change for Yukoners to look upon their government as actually doing something that is good for them? It is no wonder the former government is so opposed to this, because it will look so bad when these commissions are done, and we will be back here with another motion, as the Member for Riverside suggests, commending ourselves for a job well done.
Yukoners elected us on a platform of taking action in each one of these four important areas, and that is exactly what we are doing - taking action. Each of these areas is a high priority for us, and I am confident we will do very well in each one of them.
I look forward to the vote, and I look forward to seeing the results of the vote. I look forward to the challenges ahead and to hearing any constructive input the Opposition Members may have. They will be invited to participate in the public consultation and, if their suggestions are worthy, I look forward to incorporating them into what will become the Yukon's first comprehensive energy policy.
Motion No. 31 agreed to
Clerk: Motion No. 30, standing in the name of Mr. Livingston.
Motion No. 30
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Lake Laberge
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should be commended for its new approach to resolve important policy issues through the creation of the Cabinet Commission on the Development Assessment Process.
Mr. Livingston: I am pleased to stand and move this motion today. I am pleased that we once again have two Opposition parties represented in this House. I think that is certainly fitting.
I would just like to take a close look at the wording of this motion. The Speaker does not commend this government for a job well done, but rather commends us for the approach we intend to take in addressing, and working to address, these important policy areas. This is not a slap on the back for a job completed, but rather an acknowledgment that this is indeed a better way for government to do business.
During the election campaign, we committed to doing government better, and we are doing that - through a more consultative approach and by ensuring we do long-range planning. This is not just knee-jerk kind of stuff, but rather long-range planning that we want to engage in. That is what this is about. This is about the approach that this government is taking to develop policy. We believe that it is critical to involve people who will be most affected by the work of government and by the effects of the work in these areas. We think it is most important for these people to be involved in helping us to design this process.
The point has been made; the question has been asked. Thirty consultations have taken place on this, and we heard it again today: the work is all done. Well, that is not what I am hearing from the stakeholders, and it is certainly not my perspective. Yes, 30 meetings have been held around this territory - the same meeting 30 times over, with the same questions asked. That information has simply been shared with the public. There has not even been a consultation. It is simply an information sharing. It is not consultation. That is what has taken place in the past.
With all due respect, the plan was, first of all, to share some information, so that is fine. Our idea of consultation is more than simply to do a significant amount of work and then sit the various stakeholders down one day, open the door and say, "Look what we have done," then close the door and say, "Now we would like to know what your comments are about it," and carry on merrily behind closed doors. That is not our idea of consultation.
The way we approach consultation is through active involvement. We want to actively involve people. We have already begun to actively involve the various players. We have involved the commission - in this case, the development assessment process commission, as a team of three. I act as commissioner and, in addition to me, we have a deputy commissioner and two members who support the commission. We work closely with members from other departments. One of our first goals is to focus the efforts of government more clearly and more articulately on the questions at hand.
The second aspect is that we are able to involve members of the other players, such as the Chamber of Mines, the Klondike Placer Miners Association, the Yukon Conservation Society, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Association, the Association of Yukon Communities and the Yukon Chamber of Commerce. All of these groups have expressed a real interest in being involved in the process, not simply seeing what we have done at the end of the day. We have had a number of discussions with them over the previous number of weeks. This morning, I am pleased to announce that we had what I think was quite a successful working-group meeting, where we sat down with them. Very clearly, they want to be involved in the process.
When the Member for Riverside talked about garbage in, garbage out, that can be a problem. That is what we are avoiding by involving a wide range of Yukoners in this process.
The development assessment process commission is our government's tool to be involved in the design and implementation of DAP. We are, of course, involved in it with two other levels of government. We have every intention of continuing to work with them at the core table. That is an arrangement that is well-established and ongoing. It is one that we intend to continue working with. That is the only way that this design and implementation plan can be achieved: at the core table with the three levels of government present.
The involvement of these other stakeholders simply enables the Yukon government's team at that table to better represent the interests of all Yukoners.
A comment has been made today about democracy - where is democracy in all of this? Well, I will say where I think democracy is. Democracy is in not trying to tie up discussion and in not trying to prevent discussion about the work of these commissions. I have heard time and time again about how we cannot find out enough information about these commissions. What is going on with these commissions? I hear it again and again and again.
Had the commissioners been able to stand up and answer questions, we would get the information. We are not afraid. We have nothing to be afraid of here. We have an awful lot of work to do. We have begun that work, and we want to share it with the Opposition Members. For gosh sakes, in the name of democracy, let us have commissioners answering questions in this Legislature, and then there will be a good flow of information, and we will find out what the commissions are doing.
I want to talk just briefly about costs. I can only imagine that the Members opposite must have some sense of the costs involved in not designing an effective development assessment process. The Members opposite must have some sense of the costs that would be involved in not completing an assessment process that will do a number of things - not scare away every developer on this continent because it is too cumbersome; it will not give away all of our protected spaces and so be, if I can use this expression, "too easy". It will be a fair process and a predictable process. It will be predictable in the sense of the kinds of information that are necessary and the kinds of timelines that can be expected - it will be an effective process.
This is an important matter of business for the Yukon government. When I hear the Member for Klondike talk about his $70 million worth of priorities, these Cabinet commissions are like a nickel well spent. We are going to spend a few dimes on it - I talked yesterday about this; it is on the record, if the Members want to review it and ask questions, if that were permitted, about the costs of the development assessment process commission. There are no additional costs here. This is important work, and we intend to proceed. The development assessment process commission really demonstrates our political will to work through this process with all Yukoners to get an effective development assessment process at the end of the day.
Motion No. 30 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the wish of the Committee to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to
order. We are dealing with Bill No. 3, Second Appropriation Act, 1996-97, Department of Education. Is there any general debate?
Bill No. 3 - Second Appropration Act, 1996-97 - continued
Department of Education - continued
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I am pleased to provide details of our supplementary request for the current fiscal year. In total, we are asking for $5,969,000. The increase is mainly in the public schools area. Funding is required to provide services for the 1996-97 increase in enrollment and to accommodate the changes in grade configuration at all Whitehorse schools involved in the grade reorganization project, and it includes revote funds from 1995-96, as well as other initiatives.
The supplementary operation and maintenance request amounts to $2,686,000. Out of this total amount, approximately $1,630,000 pertains to school-based staffing. The remaining funds are associated with program materials required for grade reorganization, pension charge-backs, adjustment to property management standing offer agreement as a result of the new École Emilie Tremblay school, new charges for apprenticeship training outside the Yukon, additional funding for the operation of the French school board and some additional French programs, which are mainly recoverable.
The additional operation and maintenance costs associated with grade reorganization are $607,000. In addition, the transitional job fund, a new job-creation program with the federal government, requires $200,000, which represents the Yukon contribution. This program targets communities throughout the Yukon that have an unemployment rate of 12 percent or higher. Projects must contribute to the creation of permanent full-time jobs that will be available after project funding ends.
On the capital side, our request is $3,283,000. It should be noted that out of this total amount $1,690,000 consists of revotes of funds for projects started in the previous fiscal year.
The additional capital supplementary funding totals $1.593 million. The projects are: learning resource automation project, which is a multi-year project ending in 1999 to provide equal access to resource materials in all Yukon schools, in the amount of $70,000; new French first language school for site development charges in the amount of $504,000 out of the total of $577,000; Whitehorse grade reorganization, additional funding for Porter Creek Secondary School site development in the amount of $164,000; and Porter Creek Secondary School gym expansion in the amount of $480,000 out of a total of $759,000. At F.H. Collins, three modular classrooms total $375,000 out of a total of $425,000.
The projects involving the use of revoted funds include various school facility alterations, capital maintenance repairs, Teen Parent Centre paving and playground, distance education, instructional equipment, Dawson second school design completion and library and archives vault upgrade. I have the breakdown with the exact dollar amounts available for the Members if they require it.
The total cost of grade reorganization contained within this supplementary amounts to $1,791,000.
I look forward to the inquiries.
Mr. Phillips: I have a few questions for the Minister in general debate. The Minister was asked some questions in Question Period about the excellence awards program and made a comment that people would hear when the Minister made the decision on the program. I wonder if the Minister can tell us if she has any plans to consult the teachers, parents and students before she discontinues that particular program.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Thank you for the inquiry. I should point out to the Member that there are no plans to discontinue the program. The only changes that have been made to the program were made as a result of the deliberations of the advisory committee, which includes three representatives of the Association of School Administrators who are members of the Yukon Teachers Association, and were in fact changes that had been made before the election and before the change in government. Certainly, ongoing consultations are planned with school councils and the Yukon Teachers Association, and they will be involved in the review, as has been the practice.
Mr. Phillips: I wonder if I could get an assurance from the Minister that she will contact the students and the parents who have been receiving the awards to get their impression of how they feel about the program - if they feel it has been positive and of assistance to them - in any evaluation done on the program before possibly discontinuing it.
I know it is important to consult the school councils and I think the teachers should be consulted as well, but I think they should be consulting the people who have been receiving the awards to get an opinion from them as well. Will the Minister give us that undertaking?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The Member makes a good point that the few students who have received awards and their parents will probably have comments to make. All members of the public will be provided with an opportunity to make comments about the ongoing review of assessments and any reviews of scholarships or programs available to encourage students to do well.
Mr. Phillips: Does anyone have questions about the awards of excellence? I want to move on to another area in Education.
I want to move on to the area of diagnostic testing. Testing in certain subjects was brought in by the previous government. The overall marks of many of our students have improved over the last couple of years since the testing. I wonder if the Member plans to continue the testing or do an evaluation of the testing, and, in some cases, if she will actually consider increasing it to include other subjects. As a former Minister of Education, I know that testing was high on the agenda of ministers of education from all across the country. It was being implemented by ministers from all across the country as a way to evaluate the effectiveness of the programs.
I wonder if the Minister has any comments about that.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The testing is part of the general assessments branch and the assessment work that is done. There is a committee that reviews assessments, as I have said in the past. Assessment plans will continue to be reviewed by the departmental assessment committee.
Mr. Phillips: I have one other question for the Minister regarding student financial assistance.
There was a review done some years ago on student financial assistance. There are some calls from time to time to look at the student financial assistance programs. Is this government planning to look at that and make any changes to the student financial assistance grants that most Yukon students receive?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: That is a subject that the Member will know from his tenure in the position of Minister of Education. Many people have taken an interest in it and have inquired about possible changes. There are no changes underway at the present time and certainly no changes are reflected in the supplementary budget.
I would suggest to the Member that, in the main estimates in the next fiscal year, I would be prepared to entertain a more lengthy debate on it at that time.
Mr. Phillips: There are some other issues on which I would like the Minister to provide me with information, and one of them is the update on the violence in the schools initiative that is going on. I would like a more current update of all the various programs that are taking place with respect to the talking about crime initiatives. As well, the busing contract - if I could just get details of the busing contract: who bid, how many bidders were there, who got the contract. I understand it went to a different firm than has been doing it in the past. Am I correct on that?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: It went to the same firm? Oh, it was just the assessment for the busing contract - okay, that is fine. If I could just get a copy of the busing review contract, I would like to have a look at it.
The last question I have is about capital projects and schools. There are two studies: a rural study and a Whitehorse study. I just wonder if the Minister has any thoughts on how they are going to prioritize the needs that are out there and if the Minister has any thoughts in her mind as to which school will receive priority with respect to new construction.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: On the subject of violence in the schools, I have quite a lengthy briefing note that I could read out to the Member or I could provide to him. A lot of initiatives are already underway and more initiatives are planned in the new year. There was a partial response in Question Period to questions from Members opposite to that, and I would be happy to provide more information to the Members.
On the subject of the busing contract, there has been a contract for a review of the busing in the Whitehorse area, looking at issues such as costs, regulations, safety and satisfaction with services. There is a steering committee of five members of the Whitehorse busing committee, the ADM of the public schools branch and the Department of Education's transportation officer, who will assist the project consultants, Matrix Consulting of Vancouver, in conjunction with Florian Maurer of Whitehorse, to ensure that the review realizes its objectives and conducts the necessary consultations.
On the subject of priorities for capital expenditures in the coming fiscal year, I am sure we will be debating that at length in the budget session next year. As I have indicated in the past, our priorities will be determined based on the work that has been done with the rural school facilities study and the Whitehorse facilities study. I am sure that the government understands that there is limited funds available for new projects.
I will also, as Minister of Education, be meeting with and working with school councils to obtain their views on how to meet the priorities out there and the many demands for new facilities.
Mr. Phillips: I wish the Member well on the last one: capital projects. As a former Minister of Education, I know what the Minister will go through. No matter what decision they come up with in the end, there will always be more demands than dollars, and the Minister will hear about that.
If the Minister could provide the information about the violence in schools initiatives by way of a letter, it would be fine. I have no further questions in general debate.
Ms. Duncan: I have a number of questions for general debate on a number of issues that I would like to touch on with the Minister.
First of all, the Minister mentions the transitional job fund. It sounded to me as though it is a cost-shared program with the federal government, and I would like details on that by way of a legislative return.
I found the capital projects quite interesting. Of course, there is the Porter Creek Secondary School, and we have assurances from the Minister of Government Services that the project will indeed be on time. I am concerned that there is already $759,000 in a supplementary vote, which the Minister mentioned was for the school gym. I am not certain what the rest is for; part of it is for a school gym. Is this project already over budget? There are nine months to go, and nine months is kind of a magic figure - one can accomplish a lot in that time. How much more over budget will it be? Is there some kind of mechanism in place to make sure that we will not require further money for this specific project?
With respect to the safe schools initiative, the Minister seemed to indicate that any initiatives would be covered in existing funds. However, in a legislative return, she mentions to me there are only two schools in the Yukon that have done a safety audit. As I had said before, I was most impressed by the one done for Porter Creek Secondary School. Would the Minister make additional funds available should rural schools, in particular, or other Whitehorse schools, wish to have safety audits done? Would that money be made available to school councils or to the schools?
My colleague down the way has mentioned the Students Financial Assistance Act and I learned an interesting piece of information about that act, that it was actually Canada's gift to the Yukon in our centennial year in 1967.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: The federal Liberals, as my colleague has mentioned.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Not 20 years ago I am afraid.
As a beneficiary of that program, I think it is very much appreciated by the students who make use of it, however, I also note that there is airfare included in the Students Financial Assistance Act, and of course our airfares have been substantially reduced and that has an impact on the money available for the students to actually use.
I would agree that there are many questions about it and perhaps given its 20-year anniversary, it is time for a full-scale review and some input from the users and non-users of the program. There are a substantial number of people who do not make use of the program who are furthering their learning.
The Minister has mentioned many times, both in and out of this House, that she hopes to achieve a consensus with school councils in terms of the capital projects, yet there is no additional money in these supplementaries for an extension of the spring conference of school councils, should the school councils request that some kind of extraneous materials be presented to them?
For example, rather than reviewing the report, maybe the school councils want pictures of the schools or some other such learning aid. Is money going to be found within this budget or is there a supplementary somewhere that includes this additional expense?
There are three other points that I would like to make with the Minister.
With respect to testing of students, there was a Globe and Mail article about math testing and how the provinces fared. Could the Minister advise me whether or not the Yukon was included in the B.C. and Alberta results. I will forward a copy of that article to the Minister.
I mentioned to the Government Leader that financial planning for four years, or more than one year, is necessary for Yukon College and its future success. I have raised that issue with the Government Leader. I am just reiterating it for the record.
Finally, the issue of school busing, which, as all Members who followed the pre-election and election campaign will know is near and dear to my heart. Again, I have yet to about public consultation and the dates as to when and how it will be done.
I will sit down and let the Minister answer these questions.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: With respect to violence in the schools, would the Member be satisfied if I provided her with the same information I am going to bring back in writing for the Official Opposition critic? Okay, thank you.
On the school busing, as I indicated just a few moments ago in response to the Official Opposition critic, there is a steering committee that includes representatives from the school busing committee, and there will be ongoing public consultation. Those dates will be posted with the help of the school busing committee that is involved, the departmental lead people, and the school council. So, there will be lots of opportunity for the public to have their say. That will be well advertised, as well.
On the Students Financial Assistance Act, it would certainly be very helpful if the Members opposite could ensure some recognition on the part of the federal government again that funding is needed. The cuts to health and education funding from the federal government are a serious concern to us, and we certainly believe that students should have the ability to go to university and to obtain funding for it. So, we will look forward to working with the Opposition on that subject.
The transitional job fund was created as a result of the changes in the employment insurance legislation. I will be happy to bring back further information in writing to the Member for that.
With respect to the costs for the Porter Creek Secondary School, the additional funding in the supplementary budget is not necessarily a cost overrun. There is complete information in the line-by-line breakdown, so I can give that to the Member when we get to that tab. The department is quite large, and there are a number of lines, so I cannot race through and find the information right at the moment, but it is in the line-by-line.
I recently met with the Yukon College Board of Governors at one of their regular meetings. One of the issues we discussed was multi-year funding for the college. As the Member knows, our commitment during the election campaign was to work with non-government organizations for multi-year funding, and we will be doing exactly that with Yukon College.
With regard to the math testing, I will check for the Member on whether or not the B.C. and Alberta results included the Yukon results. The schools councils are meeting in the spring. If it is necessary to find additional money for an extra day for school councils to talk about capital projects, I believe that we would be able to find the money for that.
Mr. Ostashek: I just have one question for the Minister. I heard her talk about some of the players involved in the school busing review: the school busing committee, school councils and others. I did not hear about a representative from the company that is providing the busing being involved.
I do know that when we were in government, in the later stages, the company involved offered to provide some expertise to the committee if they felt it was needed. I know that there is some concern that it may not be appropriate because the company has the contract. I do believe that the company could provide some valuable input into perhaps redesigning routes and where the pick-up spots should be for a more efficient use of the service. Is the Minister going to consider having having any consultation with the busing company that has the contract now in the school busing review?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As the Member may be aware, there is more than one company that provides busing services to the Yukon government. Certainly, in the busing review, we are prepared to work with the company that provides busing in the Whitehorse area, as well as the company that provides busing in the Watson Lake area. It is interested in having input to the busing review and we will certainly make that opportunity open to it.
Ms. Duncan: Perhaps I could just follow up on the review of Whitehorse school busing, which is, as I understand it, limited to Whitehorse.
I have a comment for the Minister. I attended the busing review committee meeting. The meetings have now been opened to the public and I attended the last one. The representative from the company was in attendance and the representatives at that meeting were all school council members and were thinking in terms of using their schools and their school councils as a method for advising the public. I would just emphasize to the Minister that I raised with them, at the time, the issue of ensuring the public at large was consulted.
The other two points that were raised during that busing committee meeting were that there is some delay already because there was a delay in the awarding of the contract. There is going to be some delay in the report. I am wondering if she has an update on that and also whether or not the review will be complete in time to tender the 1997-98 contract, and if that is being kept in mind by those who are conducting the review?
The information that I have at hand shows that the request for proposals for busing services is expected to be developed between the departments of Education and Government Services for March 1997, reviewed in May and June, and awarded in July 1997. The successful busing contractor is expected to be in operation for August 1, 1997.
Ms. Duncan: What completion date do you have for the bus review?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I will have to come back to the Member with that information. I do not have the specific completion date for the review.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Public Schools
Public Schools in the amount of $2,223,000 agreed to
On Advanced Education
Advanced Education in the amount of $463,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the recoveries?
Operations and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $2,686,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Finance and Administration
On Staff Support and Equipment
Staff Support and Equipment in the amount of $70,000 agreed to
On Public Schools
On Facility Construction and Maintenance
On Various School Facilities Alterations
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This is a revote of funds that are part of the site-based management of the schools. There are numerous schools involved, each with a list of projects that were not completed in the last fiscal year.
Ms. Duncan: Can I ask the Minister to provide me with a rural-urban breakdown of that by legislative return?
Various School Facilities Alterations in the amount of $276,000 agreed to
On Capital Maintenance Repairs
Ms. Duncan: Could I have a rural-urban breakdown on that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I will be happy to provide the information for the Member.
Capital Maintenance Repairs in the amount of $125,000 agreed to
On New French First Language School
New French First Language School in the amount of $777,000 agreed to
On Distance Education
Distance Education in the amount of $60,000 agreed to
On Dawson Second School
Mr. Jenkins: Could the Minister provide by legislative return a breakdown of those costs?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Actually, it would not take long to just provide the information to the Member. At the moment, this is a revote to complete the design of the Dawson second school.
Dawson Second School in the amount of $251,000 agreed to
On Whitehorse Grade Reorganization
On Porter Creek Secondary School
Ms. Duncan: Could I have an explanation of these costs?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The funds in this line item consist of additional funds of $164,000 for site development charges of Porter Creek additional lands, $480,000 for the Porter Creek gym expansion and additional funds of a revote of $115,000 for project design phase completion.
The previous Management Board approved $115,000 and the $664,000 in additional funds on June 13, 1996.
Porter Creek Secondary School in the amount of $759,000 agreed to
On Renovations - Other Schools
Renovations - Other Schools in the amount of $425,000 agreed to
On Teen Parent Centre
Teen Parent Centre in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Instructional Equipment
On School Based Equipment Purchase
School Based Equipment Purchase in the amount of $175,000 agreed to
On Instructional Computers
Instructional Computers in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Libraries and Archives
On Archival Facilities
On Vault Upgrade
Vault Upgrade in the amount of $215,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures in the amount of $3,283,000 agreed to
Department of Education agreed to
Department of Government Services
Chair: Is there any general debate? We will come back to the Department of Finance later.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The supplemental funds to Government Services in the 1996-97 fiscal year total $1,562,000. Of that total, $50,000 is required for O&M funding. This additional funding is required to pay for past electrical consumption at the Law Centre as a result of underbilling. This will be the first of three annual payments.
Decreased demand for the corporations for system support reduced the anticipated O&M recoveries by $40,000.
There is $1,512,000 required to complete capital projects. Of this, $1,175,000 represents revotes required to complete the following projects that began in the 1995-96 fiscal year: $770,000 is required to complete the heating, ventilation and air conditioning upgrades in the Whitehorse administration building; $200,000 for a system to monitor network usage and provide necessary security; this was the result of an RCMP review of network security and was a suggestion on their part;
$155,000 for the systems common to all or the majority of government departments, such as the human resource information system, the financial management and land interest management system; this particular project is related to the year 2000 computer crisis.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, the crash.
There is $14,000 to identify information security requirements. This is an ongoing, periodic review of technological security. Finally, there is $10,500 for the analysis of the business continuity needs. In other words, this is planning for contingencies in case of some sort of disaster so that the networked systems can continue. There is $25,000 for a fleet vehicle delivered in the new fiscal year.
New funding requests total $337,000. This funding is required for additional modifications to the human resource information system and preliminary planning for the financial management information system.
These are the highlights of the supplemental requests. I would be pleased to answer any questions that the Members might have about expenditure plans at this time.
Mr. Jenkins: Could I ask the Minister for a further explanation as to the underbilling for the electrical at the Law Centre, what it entails and what the ultimate cost to the government will be?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Certainly. This is actually a rather - I would not say fascinating - interesting project.
Apparently, on a routine metering check at the Law Centre on February 29, 1996, the Yukon Electrical Company discovered that, since the last check of the meter, there had been a coil that was not making proper contact, which resulted in the meter only reading 67 percent of what the actual demand in energy charge was.
Subsequent to that, the meter and all of the pertinent information were sent to Industry Canada for testing and evaluation, as is required in a dispute of this type.
The results showed that the meter was functioning directly and that the error was directly related to a poor connection. This resulted in an underbilling of $151,864.44 for the period.
Under the electric service regulations, the customer - in this case, YTG, us - was required to pay the bill. This bill will be paid in monthly installments of $4,218.46 over a period of three years, with no interest charges attached.
Is that information sufficient?
Mr. Jenkins: I appreciate the explanation, but having gone through the same scenario in my capacity with the City of Dawson, under the act the Yukon Electrical Company is not permitted to go back that far and re-capture those funds. I would request that before those funds are paid out that it be dealt with and an opinion be sought. It sounds like we are getting a hosing.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I am assuming that a legal opinion was probably sought in this case. What I can do is find out if there was some further justification for it and get back to the Member.
Ms. Duncan: In general debate, the Minister did not touch on the implementation of the special operating agencies. I wonder about the assessment of those SOAs. The Minister once threatened me with a briefing by the department, so perhaps he wants to leap up and offer that.
The tendering process review has been talked about briefly by different individuals in this House and the contract regulations review. As I recall, the contract regulations have been reviewed by both an NDP and Yukon Party government, and we still have contractors who are not very happy. Does the Minister have some plans for - not so much a review of the contract regulations because we may be past that - a method to deal just with the problems of the tendering regulations?
The appeal process that has been put in place when an individual business is concerned about the tender should also be examined. There is an appeal process, but it essentially deals with the court costs and does not deal with reissuing or re-awarding the tender. A business does not want its court costs; it wants the work. So, I would advise the Minister that perhaps that should be examined in the department.
There is a very critical issue that the Minister has not touched on - and I am assuming it would be in this department - and that is how the government intends to deal with the increased propane costs. I would have dearly loved to have asked the Minister of Economic Development about propane costs during Question Period. Unfortunately, time did not allow for that. Perhaps the Minister of Government Services would elaborate as to how the government intends to deal with it, because I understand that many of the new schools use propane heat. Perhaps whatever words he has to offer might offer comfort to the general public somehow.
Chair: The time being 5:30 p.m., Committee of the Whole will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 3, supplementary, Government Services.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Just before the break, the Member for Porter Creek South asked a couple of questions. I would like to respond to those now.
The first question dealt with SOAs. There are presently two SOAs: fleet vehicle and property management. Those were brought about on April 1, 1996. The third SOA is Queen's Printer, and that is due to go into full implementation on April 1, 1997. For the last year, it has been operating as what could be called a virtual SOA. Although it has not actually been billing back to the respective departments, it has been giving what the cost would be under an SOA program. It is designed to go into full SOA status on April 1.
With respect to evaluation, basically the evaluations for the two existing SOAs vary according to what that particular SOA is designed to do. For example, fleet vehicles has clearly seen as one of its performance indicators the maximizing of the number of kilometers they can get per vehicle - maximizing the amount of usage, minimizing the amount of down time on vehicles and, in general, what kinds of savings they can accomplish.
In terms of property management, it becomes a little bit more problematic depending on the nature of the facility being contracted for. The central theme there is to maintain life and to minimize maintenance costs, so that performance indicators, which each facility works toward, are built into their business plan.
In response to the second question regarding the item of tendering, I have brought forth to the department some matters about tendering, and in particular the idea of looking at trying to make the tendering process as equitable as possible.
The Member also suggested that there are currently some problems with the bid challenge. I agree with him there, because it sometimes becomes a very costly venture for a company to challenge a bid. The case can be fairly large. The amount that a company might receive for initiating a big challenge comes nowhere near its actual costs. I am aware of that, and I have asked the department to review this case.
On the subject of propane, the propane costs have affected us considerably. Since the increase on December 2, it will cost the government approximately $193,133.57.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I received some creative advice from my colleague down the way.
The propane costs are largely involved with record low inventories in the United States. We produce twice as much propane as we require in Canada. It goes for export. The inventories go down; our price goes up. We are anticipating yet another increase in January.
Ms. Duncan: I would like to ask a follow-up question, if I may, without incurring the wrath of the Government House Leader.
Does the Minister foresee an extension of the SOA philosophy as a program in other areas in Government Services?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The Member will not incur wrath. Believe me, I will incur the wrath.
Actually, the SOA concept has a number of valuable principles that could be applied. We always welcome good ideas. It is basically a business delivery system, and particularly in Government Services we are in the business of trying to deliver good service to government departments. There are probably some other options. I have discussed with the department the possibility of applying, if not the overall fullblown SOA, then at least some of its principles to some other branches of Government Services.
Mr. Ostashek: I have one question. Speaking of the under-reading of the meter at the Justice building, could the Member give me a legislative return on that as to when it took place and over what period of time?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I certainly can. The Member for Klondike brought a couple of interesting points to my attention and I will raise them with the deputy minister and get back with a legislative return, too.
Mr. Jenkins: The Minister made mention of making the bid tender process as equitable as possible. Could he just tell us what he means by those remarks, please?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: With regards to the bid tendering, I think some issues have come forward about what kinds of things are required in tenders. There have been some concerns brought to my attention with regard to certain inconsistencies in terms of, for example, this tender might require this kind of information and that tender might require something else. Basically, I have asked the department to take a look at the whole overall tendering process to make it as equitable as we can so that people do not feel that they have a lot of hoops to jump through.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: I am not impressed with the Member opposite's response to that question, but we will leave it rest. With respect to propane and the areas that have propane and propane distribution systems, such as Hay River, their rates come under the purview of the Utilities Board for that region.
Does the Minister want to give consideration to that kind of a system in Yukon, specifically in Whitehorse, that would work, and bring it under the overall umbrella of the Utilities Board here in Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: To be frank, that is not something that we have considered, certainly not from Government Services' point of view.
I have heard things ventured in that regard. For example, in Hay River the price differential is one of the questions that arose, largely due to the fact that it was under a public utilities board.
To be quite frank, that really has not come forward as a Government Services' issue at all.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Corporate Services
Corporate Services in the amount of $55,000 agreed to
On Information Services
Information Services in the amount of an underexpenditure of $55,000 agreed to
On Property Management
Property Management in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the recoveries?
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Information Services
On Information Resources Infrastructure
Mr. Livingston: Why is the capital spending approximately 20 percent over budget on this line item?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: With regard to this particular issue, there are a variety of costs involved.
There is the network monitoring system that runs at $200,000, which is primarily to monitor and aid in the resolution of problems.
The financial management information system and land interest management system come in at $155,000. The completion of a study on information security requirements comes in at $14,000 and the business contingency plan that deals with contingencies such as disasters and their effect on the systems of the government comes in at $10,500.
There has been an increase of $275,000 for modifications to the human resource information system, which is largely due to the collective agreement requirements. There is an increase of $61,000 that is required for the evaluation of the request to bid for the financial management information system, FMIS.
Information Resources Infrastructure in the amount $717,000 agreed to
On Supply Services
On Special Operating Agency (Fleet Vehicle Agency)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Then there is $25,000, which is for a fleet vehicle, which is because of a delay in the delivery of a truck that was ordered in the 1995-96 fiscal year and has just come in now.
Special Operating Agency (Fleet Vehicle Agency) in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
On Property Management
On Capital Maintenance and Upgrade
Mr. Livingston: In this case, it is 200 percent over budget.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This is to upgrade the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system in the main administration building. This came out of a study by the epidemiologist, Dr. Van Netton. While there were no significant impurities or health problems found in his study, he did make recommendations because of the nature of the building - being an older building, built in the mid-1970s, which had been enclosed in order to create office space. This affected the air quality, in terms of ventilation, and as well the proliferation of liquid copiers, which put particulates in the air. He has recommended the upgrading of the ventilation system, along with removing the liquid process photocopiers.
Capital Maintenance and Upgrade in the amount of $770,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures in the amount of $1,512,000 agreed to
Department of Government Services agreed to
Department of Finance
Chair: We will now go back to Finance. Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Members will see that the supplementary in this department is giving up $104,000 in operation and maintenance and $5,000 in capital. In O&M, the treasury program shows reduced expenditures of $142,000. This results from a number of things. One hundred and fifty-three thousand dollars is projected to be saved as a result of position vacancies, most especially as a result of the secondment of the ADM positions in the department, which have turned out to be permanent. The regular positions of those acting in the vacant ADM slots have not been backfilled.
In addition to the ADM, several other vacancies have also resulted in savings. There is a small saving of $6,000 in projected travel, and there should be a savings of $60,000 in the banking contract where higher than anticipated bank balances used as compensating balances will negate the need to pay for services in cash. These savings will be offset by an estimated $2,000 foreign exchange loss on U.S. dollar transactions in contract work on formula financing, and $50,000 and $25,000 for the proposed UFMIS system, if it goes ahead.
The formula financing contract will delve into StatsCan data in an attempt to increase the Yukon's tax effort in relation to national average tax rates on the basis of the perversity calculation under the formula.
The Workers' Compensation supplementary benefits program is projected to require $3,000 more than was budgeted in the main estimates. This results from a one-time hospital expense, about which we have just learned, for a covered individual. Members may be interested to know that this program tops up the benefits paid to injured workers who are covered by private plans prior to the establishment of our own fund. The top-up brings their benefits to the level they would receive had our fund been in existence when they were injured.
The bad debts expense has been increased by $8,000 to reflect the same level as 1995-96 actual expenditures. This expense is a function of year-end receivable balances, age of those balances, and write-offs, and is subject to wide variations.
The $5,000 decrease in capital is a result of the decision to delay the purchase of several items, notably two small photocopiers and a printer. This saving is offset to some extent by the purchase of a cheque signer and several PCs.
Members will note the increase in various revenue items. None of the revenues shown under Finance have been reduced to reflect the Faro shutdown. It is obvious, of course, that the closure will inevitably have some impact on these revenues, but in this particular fiscal year it should be relatively small. The impact is made even smaller because of the perversity and the failsafe clauses of the formula financing arrangements.
The increases in fuel, tobacco and insurance premium taxes shown here are based on the trend as revealed by actual yields up to the end of October.
The proportionately large upward revision in banking and investment revenue reflects the higher than anticipated accumulated surplus with which we opened the year.
Personal income taxes based on current federal estimates of our tax yield have increased almost four percent. This includes upward revisions of $1.25 million and $250,000 to 1994 and 1995 taxes respectively.
Corporate income tax is much more volatile. Based on figures provided by the federal government, we are now projecting that they will increase by $2.5 million. This figure is comprised of a downward adjustment of $201,000 to 1993 taxes and upward revisions to 1994 and 1995 taxes.
I must caution everyone that the estimates of income tax yields out of the federal government are subject to very wide fluctuations. The estimates for the current year are based largely on national trends that may or may not be appropriate for the Yukon.
For the information of Members, new estimates received after the supplementary was prepared show an increase of $2.5 million in the entitlement for 1996 personal income tax revenues. The net impact of our income is considerably less - perhaps a gain of $125,000 - because of the workings of the formula. In any event, the estimate is still subject to change over the course of the next several years, and the final figure could vary significantly either way.
I will try to answer any questions that the Members have.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Member for that. We covered Finance fairly well in general debate of the supplementaries. I only have one question on the supplementary budget. It is in regard to the statement made by the Minister there.
Did I hear him correctly in saying that personal income tax is up another $2.5 million on top of what is in this supplementary budget? Did I hear the Member correctly?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, the estimates for this year show an increase of $2.5 million, even though the impact on the formula may not be any more than $100,000.
Mr. Cable: I have a couple of issues.
I asked questions in the House about the $2 million award to the utilities. Has the Minister had a chance to figure out how that is going to work itself through the system? Will the rate relief program cause a drain on the taxpayers as opposed to the ratepayers?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do not believe it will. I have not had a chance to get the information on that question, but I am certain I can in the next day or so.
Mr. Cable: With regard to the loan to Faro, I believe the Minister indicated at some juncture there may be some constraints on renegotiating the interest because there is money borrowed from Ottawa. Does the money borrowed from Ottawa have any prepayment rights, any renegotiation rights?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do not believe so, but it does not mean that we cannot try to renegotiate the terms. I have only had preliminary discussions with the Department of Finance on this question, but we have resolved that we would take some proposals to the Association of Yukon Communities to discuss with them what the appropriate position should be. My only major concern is that the Yukon government does not have to pay any extra in order to renegotiate the interest rates. If it can be resolved then whether the loans are funneled through the Yukon government from federal sources or whether the Yukon government is the lending agency, then we are prepared to consider the request as long as we do not have to pay more ourselves.
Mr. Cable: On a point of information, when these loans are originally booked, is there a loan from Ottawa that is balanced out against the loan to Faro, for example, so that there is a specific sum at a certain interest rate balanced out at the amount loaned to Faro at a specific interest rate? Is that the way it works?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I believe so. In fact at the end of every book, loan capital and loan amortization, I think the loans to the third party that we book are almost exclusively to municipalities. It is usually money in and money out.
Mr. Phillips: I have a question of policy for the Minister. An individual has approached me and has concerns about late payments of the departments for, I believe, a child care subsidy for many, many months and now wants to recover the interest on the late payments as per her policy that she has in place. I just wonder what government policy is on late payments. If the government does pay interest on late payments, how does it pay it? If the Minister does not know the answer now, I would appreciate getting a reply.
The Minister is probably aware of the situation. There are quite a few dollars involved. The individual wants to know what the policy is. They seem to be getting about three different answers from three different departments on what the actual policy is with respect to late payments on money owing.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: If the Member wants to give me some more specific details on the specific situation, I would be more than happy to provide the Member with a clearer answer on that question. It may be complicated; I do not know, but I do not feel comfortable shooting from the lip, so to speak.
Mr. Phillips: I can provide more specific information to the Minister regarding the constituent's concerns. I think the Minister of Health is aware of the respective constituents because they have tried to contact his office. So, he will be aware of the situation, as well.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Treasury in the amount of an underexpenditure of $142,000 agreed to
On Workers Compensation Supplementary Benefits
Workers Compensation Supplementary Benefits in the amount of $30,000 agreed to
On Bad Debts Expense
Bad Debts Expense in the amount of $8,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there questions on revenue?
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of an underexpenditure of $104,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems
Office, Furniture, Equipment and Systems in the amount of an underexpenditure of $5,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures in the amount of an underexpenditure of $5,000 agreed to
Department of Finance agreed to
Loan Capital and Loan Amortization
Chair: We will go to page 14-1, Loan Capital and Loan Amortization. Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We are asking for an additional $77,000 in spending authority for the program. Members will note that recoveries are also increasing and doing so by a far larger sum, with the result that there is a net contribution to the accumulated surplus of slightly over $200,000. I will take a moment to briefly explain the nature of this program.
The loan capital expenditure is merely an outside estimate of a sum of money our municipalities may request to borrow from us for the year. The estimate is based upon a canvass of municipalities by the Department of Community and Transportation Services. The loan capital recovery of a similar sum is merely there to indicate that the loan of funds to a municipality does not have any impact upon our surplus/deficit position. This is because a loan by us to a municipality is not expensed in the year it is made, but rather is carried as an asset - a loan receivable - on our balance sheet.
The loan amortization expenditure is the principal and interest we must pay third parties for loans we have taken out in the past from those parties, in order to re-loan the money to municipalities. The third parties in this case are the federal government, the Canada Pension Plan fund and open market bondholders.
The loan amortization recovery is the principal and interest that the government collects on loans that it has made to municipalities.
Members will note that, for loan amortization, the recovery is far larger than the expenditure. This occurs for two reasons. Some of the old terms and amortization tables, when we borrow from the federal government, do not match the terms and amortization tables of the money reloaned by us to the municipality. We do not know why this has occurred.
For a number of years we have financed loans to municipalities ourselves without borrowing the money from third parties.
The $77,000 change in the appropriation we are now seeking is simply as a result of an error in the preparation of the main estimates.
Some loans were not taken into account when preparing the estimate and there was a mix up of numbers between fiscal years. This is a one-time occurrence, and I hope that it will not be repeated.
Mr. Jenkins: With respect to loans to municipalities, there is quite a demand by a number of municipalities to roll over their existing debt and refinance at lower interest rates. I was just curious as to why the government is not receptive to this rollover at this point in time.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do not know where the Member got that information about the government not being receptive to renegotiating interest rates.
As I have already explained in the Legislature on a couple of occasions - in this sitting alone - we are prepared to sit down with the municipalities to discuss this very question about renegotiating interest rates.
As I indicated to the Member for Riverside, my only restriction in these discussions so far has been to ensure that the Yukon government does not suffer any financial penalty as a result of renegotiating interest rates.
As long as that occurs, we have no difficulty in raising the matter with the municipalities, and in particular, the policy matter with the Association of Yukon Communities.
Mr. Jenkins: There were enough weasel words in what the Minister stated to allow him the avenue of escape from not renegotiating at lower interest rates.
If the Minister ties everything back to the borrowing at the time and makes the statement that these loans are tied to that borrowing and that the government cannot renegotiate the loans, because his government will suffer a loss, then he can come forward and say, "We are not prepared to renegotiate it."
In the scope of things, I think it would be more prudent of the government to look at it as a pool of money that is borrowed and not tie it to specific borrowings, and in that manner the Minister could direct his officials to renegotiate at prevailing market rates.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Of course, the Member will not be surprised if I take offence at his suggestion that they were weasel words. There are qualifications, and any prudent public sector manager would provide for qualifications when making grand statements about government policy, particularly in this case.
There are issues that have to be addressed here, and if it is going to cost the Yukon taxpayer to renegotiate the interest rates, then that is not fair to the Yukon taxpayer - and I want to protect the Yukon taxpayer. If we can do something that benefits the municipalities, who have decided to fund their capital works or whatever they are doing through the mechanism of borrowing, then we will. It would not be fair for some municipalities that have not borrowed any money and have only financed their capital through savings, and they have indicated to me that they do not think they should be penalized because they saved up and paid for their capital works in order to give benefit to those municipalities who have borrowed to pay for their capital works.
I am mindful of that particular policy complication.
As I indicated to Members - and the Member has obviously forgotten this already, but it was only last week - there is the problem associated with the fact that some of the monies that have been borrowed were borrowed by us from federal sources to pass through to municipalities with fixed terms. We are not in a position to simply renegotiate those without agreement from people we borrowed money from; otherwise the Yukon taxpayer pays the cost of that renegotiation with the municipalities. So, what we are doing here is very sensitive to the municipalities involved and it is also sensitive to the taxpayers, the rest of the people in the territory.
For Members who are interested in knowing - just in case there is a question on this point, and there usually is - the money that is due to YTG by municipalities at the present time totals $11,319,000. Whitehorse has $10,134,000 in outstanding loans. The City of Dawson has $227,000 in outstanding loans, and the Town of Faro has $958,000 in outstanding loans. The maturity dates vary and extend as far as the year 2015. The interest rates charged range anywhere from 5.5 percent to 13.25 percent.
Mr. Jenkins: I am seeking the Minister's assurance that he is going to explore every avenue to roll over this debt, pay it back and refinance it at a lower rate to give some benefits to the municipalities involved. I did not get that assurance or that comfort from what the Minister had to say.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: I might remind the Member opposite that we are all taxpayers in this House.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: That is just today.
Yes, there is. The repayment schedules of the respective communities are of concern. I am sure that the Minister will recall that the time Anvil Mining shut down in Faro, the block funding to the respective communities was - I am seeking a polite word. We will call it jury rigged to ensure that enough block funding flowed through to that community to address its debt servicing obligations to the Government of Yukon. Faro is still the community with the second highest debt. It would be prudent if we had some sort of a policy governing long-term debt obligations from communities where there is quite a variable condition in the market of the respective communities. They may have - as in Faro's case - a reduction in their number of residents and a shortfall in their ability to raise taxes internally.
Would the Government Leader give some consideration to exploring this and what he can do in this regard?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am not aware of what the Member refers to as jury rigging of the block fund or the payment to Faro. I will check that claim later.
As far as I am aware, the formula is typically negotiated between the government and the Association of Yukon Communities, typically. I am not aware that the block fund payment has been reduced or varied based on the status of the Anvil Range mine over the course of the past 10 or 15 years, or however long it has been. I am not aware of it having been changed as a result of the status of the mine.
I would hope that the Town of Faro will continue as a community and that the mine will continue, as well. I have not sung the death knell of that community yet. I see no reason at this point to change the formula. In any case, the responsibility for these negotiations rests with the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
On Loan Amortization Expenditure
Interest in the amount of $109,000 agreed to
Principal in the amount of an underexpenditure of $32,000 agreed to
Loan Amortization Expenditure in the amount of $77,000 agreed to
Loan Capital and Loan Amortization agreed to
Chair: We will now turn to the Department of Health and Social Services.
Department of Health and Social Services
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I am pleased to introduced today the supplemental budget for the current year 1996-97 for the Department of Health and Social Services.
In this budget, I will be requesting approval of $261,000 in operation and maintenance expenditures. This modest increase in expenditures is accompanied by a request for a substantial increase in O&M recoveries of $1,620,000. I am also requesting today an additional $2,058,000 in capital expenditures and approval of capital recoveries of $1,733,000. These increases revise the vote for the department to a total of $94,033,000 for O&M expenditures and $22,857,000 for capital expenditures.
The request I am making today for an increase in O&M expenditures works out to less than 0.3 percent of the total O&M budget for the department. The department has made substantial efforts in offsetting increasing volume trends in some program areas, with increased efficiencies in others. This responsible fiscal management is being achieved while maintaining or increasing the level of services to the people of the Yukon.
In the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity, since becoming Minister, to meet with colleagues from other jurisdictions in Canada. I have been struck by the realization that we are in an enviable position here in the Yukon when it comes to health and social services. We are fortunate not to have been forced to resort to slash-and-burn policies, like some of the southern jurisdictions. We have amicable relations with our medical community and a positive, constructive relationship there.
In some jurisdictions, when governments resort to an approach that attacks health and social services, people suffer and it is often the most vulnerable in our society who are most adversely affected. I am committed to ensuring that health and social services programs delivered to people in the Yukon are protected. I am also committed to ensuring that our programs are administered and delivered effectively and efficiently and in a fiscally responsible manner. I am also committed to working with the people of the Yukon to find new ways and new approaches to solving social problems.
At this time I would like to point out some of the highlights of the department's supplemental budget. The department is presently experiencing substantial demand in the family and children services program area. More specifically, we are experiencing dramatic increases in children in care, which has resulted in a need to increase foster care payments, special needs payments and wilderness camp placements. This increasing trend is in response to substantial increases in the population of children, ages six through 17, and this is reflected in overall Canadian census data.
The child care subsidy area has also experienced increased demand. This increased demand is attributable, in a large extent, to the social assistance policy initiated by the previous administration where parents of pre-school children are required to pursue efforts to increase their employability or seek employment when their children reach two years of age.
Analysis of the impact of this policy change indicates that while more social assistance clients with pre-school children are involved in earning income are taking advantage of educational opportunities, there has been an increase in the demand for child care. This is one specific policy that I have directed the department to revisit.
In this supplemental budget I will also be requesting an increase to assist certain non-governmental organizations that provide essential community services. Increases are requested for Kaushee's Place, the Help and Hope Women's Shelter in Watson Lake and the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre. That reflects the increase in the volume demand.
In the social services program, I am requesting services for non-governmental organizational funding related to the provision of seniors by Challenge, Crossroads and the Yukon Council on Aging, and an increase of $240,000 for social assistance payments in Whitehorse. The anticipated increase in social assistance expenditures are due to a recent increase in caseload trends observed in Whitehorse. These increases are offset by reductions of almost $300,000 in help from the community health programs paid through Health Canada, and there is a reduction of $685,000 in regional services attributable to substantial savings related to the delivery of child care services by the department to the Champaign-Aishihik First Nation. There is a reduction in rural foster care costs and other miscellaneous savings.
As previously mentioned, the net effect of the increases and offsets has been a modest increase of only $261,000 in this budget.
There is a capital increase request of $2,058,000, which is primarily made up of a carryover from the 1995-96 work related to the hospital construction project, which will be completed in 1996-97.
The overall cost of the project remains unchanged, and the request for expenditures in this area is accompanied by 100 percent recovery of the $1,733,000 amount.
These are the highlights of the 1996-97 departmental supplementary budget, and I would be pleased to respond to any general questions.
Mrs. Edelman: We may get more explanation in the line-by-line debate, but under family and children's services, the Minister talked about child care subsidy demand going up. Is that partially because of the change in legislation under the former government so that you have to go on a job search if your children are two years of age and older, as opposed to what it used to be, which was six years of age? Is there a move to make any change to that? Is that what the Minister was referring to?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, it is primarily due to the policy change that was initiated before. As well, it is also due to the increasing child population trends in the Yukon.
As I stated before, we have a child population blip moving through the Yukon and, along with that, we have increasing demands for after-school care and things of that nature.
Mrs. Edelman: That does seem to be one of the greatest needs. Certainly the issues around latchkey kids right now are at the top of many of our agendas.
The other thing that I need to talk to you about...
Chair: Order please. Please direct your questions through the Chair. "I would like to ask the Minister" would be the proper phrase, not "you".
Mrs. Edelman: Did I say that? I keep saying "Your Worship", too, I think. It is the change in levels of government here.
Where is the phase 2 health transfer reflected in the budget? I would also like to know a little bit more about how negotiations are going with employees in phase 2.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Phase 2 would not be reflected in this budget because it is essentially a supplemental budget.
I can tell the Member that we are making good progress in the phase 2 transfer discussions with the First Nations. We are making very positive moves, very positive steps.
We hope to be able to send out - assuming that all is going well - letters of offer and, as well, most of the personnel related issues have been worked through and we are looking, very optimistically, toward the April 1 deadline.
Mrs. Edelman: This will probably also become clear in the line-by-line debate. Once again, much like with the Department of Community and Transportation Services, I am new to all of this, and if you could give me a lot of detail with each line, we will probably save ourselves a lot of time and grief. With respect to the issues around programming for young offenders, have there been any changes to those programs?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Not directly with regard to young offenders programming. As I indicated before, we have met with the standing committee, and we have brought forward some views on it. We are waiting to hear their recommendations, which are expected to be brought forward for the federal legislation in the spring, and those will have to be reflected in our policies. Overall, however, the standing committee was very supportive of the kinds of initiatives and programming here and - as I have mentioned - most recently, the initiatives with respect to family group conferencing are one attempt in that regard that we can accomplish here outside of the Young Offenders Act provisions.
Mrs. Edelman: I suppose I was not clear enough. I was wondering if there will be any changes to the programming at the young offenders facility. I do not see anything. I see tremendous changes in the capital for the young offenders facility, but I wonder if there is some sort of change reflected in programming, too.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: In the spring, when we get around to the budget coming forward, any particular or new programming to be done would be reflected in the forthcoming budget or in the spring budget. Many of the ongoing programs there will certainly be subject to internal reviews - looking at them, checking their efficacy, and checking to see if there are other programs that have some merit. For example, programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous have been brought in for young people with substance and alcohol abuse problems. So, they are continually trying to bring in new programs, and to modify existing programs, in order to provide the best level of service to the young people up there.
Mr. Jenkins: With respect to phase 2 of the hospital transfer, could the Minister please advise the House as to where the government is with respect to the facility review in rural Yukon, what kind of upgrading or replacement of these facilities is necessary, and what kind of capital dollars the Minister anticipates seeking from the federal government during the course of those negotiations.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The phase 2 agreement we have been talking about does provide for capital money, I believe in the amount of a $4.2 million initial payment, and then there will be an ongoing amount. I will have to just check the actual figure, but I believe it is in the neighbourhood of $285,000. I would have to check the exact amount. This is an ongoing capital replacement/capital upgrading fund. Both of those funds are outside formula financing. For example, they would not affect our overall transfers from Ottawa in regard to transfer payments.
That is what the federal government has proposed to us. We have taken a look at it. We would have the ability, for example, to build up that money, to accumulate it toward, say, doing a major revision or a major project.
Mr. Jenkins: If I could get an answer to the first part of my question, I would appreciate it. Where are we with the facility review in rural Yukon, and when is that review taking place? Has it been completed? What buildings are slated to be upgraded and replaced?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That I cannot enlighten the Member on at this point. I can find that information for the Member and bring it forward. I will find out what stage the review is at and what the outcome and recommendations are.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess that we should get specific. I am looking at the community in which I am involved: Dawson City. What is anticipated there? What is the status report on the medical facility there? What is anticipated for capital upgrading or replacement? Where are we at on the scale of negotiations? What is the probability of something taking place in that regard?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: With regard to Dawson, the one area that has come up for serious concern is the situation of McDonald Lodge. There are some serious physical problems with the foundation apparently. Several suggestions have been proposed about how the situation could be improved or ameliorated. There have also been some suggestions about having some kind of a combined facility. Those suggestions come from some early discussions. One of the things that we want to do is to take a look at the whole situation of the foundation of McDonald Lodge. As I said, there have been a couple of proposals on how to stabilize it and level it out. That is one of the more immediate concerns.
Mr. Jenkins: I have just one more question. Can the Minister advise us of the time lines for this undertaking? A number of the buildings in our community are so occupied that they could probably be flushed down the sewer system, which we could probably also sell to the Minister.
Mr. Phillips: I would like to ask the Minister if I have the policy or procedures straight with regard to child care subsidies. I understand that the day home has to submit its invoice or number of hours by the 15th of each month and the department is required to pay by the first of each month.
Can the Minister confirm that this is in fact the case with all day homes in the territory? Do they have to get the counts by the 15th and the government releases the cheque or has the cheque in the hands of the day homes by the first?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I know the situation that the Member is referring to. I have asked for a financial review of that particular situation to see if, indeed, cheques are late.
My understanding is that a cheque is not considered to be late until it is 30 days after the due date. We have spoken to Finance in this regard. Right now, they are doing an audit of the cheques for that particular day home to see how many have been late or if, indeed, any have been.
I can get back to the Member with that information as soon as I receive it from Finance.
Mr. Phillips: I appreciate that. My understanding is that the individual keeps fairly accurate records of when they receive the cheques.
Perhaps the Minister could also tell me, at the same time, if all other day homes get their cheques at the same time. Are all the cheques mailed at the same time? Do they do every day home at the same time and send them out on the same day - whether the first, the fifth or tenth of the month or whatever? Is it all supposed to be done on the fifth and some get done at a later date? I wonder if the Minister could tell me that.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As far as I know, I think it has been fairly consistent. I do not think there has been any change in policy. I believe that it is all done on the same basis, to the best of my knowledge.
I do know that in the case that the Member is referring to we are attempting to resolve that as quickly as we can.
Mr. Phillips: If the Minister could provide me with a letter with respect to the questions that I have asked, I would appreciate getting it, as well as a copy of the review that they are going to do in Finance in terms of when they were paid. If it is possible to get that, I would appreciate it.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: By all means. Finance has been working fairly extensively on this one particular issue since it was brought to my attention. It has devoted considerable resources to that one particular day home.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Policy, Planning and Administration
Policy, Planning and Administration in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Family and Children's Services
Family and Children's Services in the amount of $1,175,000 agreed to
Mrs. Edelman: Could I have some details on that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: By all means. We risk the wrath of some less patient Members in this Chamber, but we shall proceed. I will provide the information.
Very quickly, they are as follows: $32,000 increase in contribution to Kaushee's Place; $30,000 to Skookum Jim; $6,000 to the Help and Hope Women's Shelter in Watson Lake; $260,000 for foster care rates; $552,000 for special needs placement, primarily for the Mountain Ridge Group Home; and $400,000 for child care subsidies. That is that.
Does the Member require more detail about that?
On Social Services
Mrs. Edelman: Could I get some further details about that expenditure?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This is primarily an expenditure for a $227,000 increase to non-governmental organizations.
The expenditure is broken down for such things as Challenge, Crossroads, Yukon Council on Aging, an increase in the Handy Bus, which is an increase in available hours for seniors.
Most of the programs, like Challenge and the Yukon Council on Aging, are related and have been reflected by an increase in volume. In other words, there are more clients and that is reflected in the increase.
Social Services in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Health Services
Health Services in the amount of an underexpenditure of $299,000 agreed to
On Regional Services
Regional Services in the amount of an underexpenditure of $685,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $261,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Policy, Planning and Administration
On Systems Development
Systems Development in the amount of $398,000 agreed to
On Integrated Health and Social Services Facilities
Mrs. Edelman: May I have some details please?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: There is $50,000 in general planning money that was transferred from health services, which is consistent with the departmental direction to identify unassigned general planning funds. It really does not have an overall net effect on the overall budget, but the general planning includes such projects as exploring, primarily, the feasibility of a new seniors independent living facility that is being considered for Whitehorse.
Integrated Health and Social Services Facilities in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
Family and Children's Services
On Young Offender Facilities - Renovations and Equipment
Hon. Mr. Sloan: There is $166,000 revoted to the young offender and child welfare facilities renovations, identified in the facility review that was contracted to Government Services' property management. All but critical repairs had been put on hold pending the completion of this review, which was completed late in 1995-96.
Young Offender Facilities - Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $105,000 agreed to
On Child Welfare Facilities - Renovations and Equipment
Child Welfare Facilities - Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $61,000 agreed to
Chair: At this time, we will take a short break.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole together. We are on Health and Social Services.
On Health Services
On Whitehorse Hospital Construction
Whitehorse Hospital Construction in the amount of $1,733,000 agreed to
On Northern Health Services
Northern Health Services in the amount of an underexpenditure of $500,000 agreed to
On Support for Independent Living Residence - Planning
Support for Independent Living Residence - Planning in the amount of an underexpenditure of $50,000 agreed to
On Thomson Centre - Building
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This is $174,000 revoted to the Thomson Centre for renovations for a special care unit and respite beds.
Thomson Centre - Building in the amount of $174,000 agreed to
On Macaulay Lodge - Renovations
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The amount of $80,000 is being revoted for Macaulay Lodge for a major overhaul of the elevator.
Macaulay Lodge - Renovations in the amount of $80,000 agreed to
On McDonald Lodge Renovations and Equipment
McDonald Lodge Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $7,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures in the amount of $2,058,000 agreed to
Department of Health and Social Services agreed to
Motion to extend sitting hours
Hon. Mr. Harding: Pursuant to Standing Order 2(7), I move
THAT the Committee of the Whole and the Assembly be empowered to sit beyond 9:30 p.m. if necessary for the purpose of completing consideration of Bill No. 3 in Committee; for permitting the House to consider third reading of that bill and Motion No. 9; and, for receiving the Commissioner to give assent to the bills passed by the House this session.
Motion agreed to
Department of Justice
Chair: Is there any general debate on Justice?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The Department of Justice realized a credit on the RCMP billing for the first quarter of the year in the amount of $300,000. The department has reallocated a total of $246,000 of this credit to other program areas and there is a projected lapse of $21,000 at year-end. I have details of the reallocations available as we proceed through the lines, if any Members wish them.
Mr. Phillips: I would like a couple of things. I think the Minister can provide them to me in writing, if she wishes. I would like an update on the talks about crime and which recommendations in that report the department is going proceed with.
I would also like to know if the Minister could tell me who is going to be presenting the case in the Bill C-68 challenge for the Government of Yukon as an intervenor in Alberta. Are we using our own lawyers? Are we hiring an outside law firm to do it for us? How are we doing it? What are the expected costs?
I also would like the Member to provide me with the information on what the other provinces are doing about implementation. I know that this Minister has agreed, if we lose the court case, to implement Bill C-68, and I would like to know what the other provinces are going to do about that?
The other suggestion I would like to make to the Minister while I am on my feet is that I was reading in one of the local newspapers last night that we still have the $5,000 reward money that was offered for the apprehension of the individuals who accosted the tourists last summer. I would like to suggest to the Minister that the money be either put into Crime Stoppers or go into the crime prevention fund for Crime Prevention Yukon and not just rolled back into the Department of Justice budget. The money is there and was set aside for something like that and maybe Crime Stoppers might be a good place for that $5,000.
A couple of things I would like to ask for information on while I am on my feet is with respect to judges. I would like to know what the workload of our judges is. How many hours a month do our judges work? Currently, what is the backlog, if there is a backlog? Are we caught up in court? How often do we bring in deputy judges from outside the territory? Often judges are brought in from outside the territory.
Maybe, while the Minister is bringing the information about how many hours our judges work, he could bring me some information on how many hours judges in other provinces work. My understanding is that we could achieve some savings here, because it seems to me that some of the information I had before indicated that in some other jurisdictions judges put in quite a bit more time than our judges are putting in on the bench, and I just want to see the comparison if I could.
The other thing that has come to my attention with respect to the judges concerns sabbaticals. We offer a sabbatical to the judges in the Yukon. I think they work five years and then they get 50 percent of their wages for one year. In most other jurisdictions, they have a similar sabbatical-type program but the judges get 90 percent of their wages for the five years. Here they get the full wages, I believe, for the whole five years and then they get 50 percent of their wages for the year that they are on a sabbatical. It seems to me that we could achieve a bit of savings there and be comparable with other jurisdictions in what they offer their judiciaries.
Maybe the Minister could check that out and get back to me on it. I think we could achieve some savings there, and again maybe the savings could be rolled, as we were doing before in the Justice department as we achieved savings like that, right back into crime prevention programs and the talkie about crime initiatives. So it might be helpful to the Minister in finding some extra funds there when she comes in with her budget in the spring.
Those are just some of the concerns I have, and one last one is land claims. Has the Minister given any thought to the lawyers who are seconded over at land claims? I know that from time to time it has been a concern that the liaison between the lawyers in the land claims office who work more independently - the communication - is not as good as it could be if they were still connected to the Department of Justice and working through the Department of Justice. I wonder what the Minister's thoughts are on that, and if she has any intention of moving those lawyers back and possibly looking at utilizing lawyers on a rotating basis over there, or familiarizing other lawyers with those issues. I know now we are going to be stepping up work at the land claims table and they are going to be needing more legal advice, so they may be talking to the Justice department more often than in the past, so maybe the Minister could bring back some of those answers for me.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I certainly thank the Member for his questions, and I hope that he will be somewhat generous with me if I have not done in two months some of the things he has brought forward that were not accomplished over the previous four years when he was in the position as Minister.
If the Member would like me to go over his list in detail and respond, I can do that, or I can bring answers back to him, if he is willing to wait for some answers.
Just to touch on some of the issues, there are lawyers working in land claims, who are located in the Land Claims Secretariat. With 10 outstanding claims waiting to be resolved, there is a need for lawyers to be available to the Land Claims Secretariat. There is also, as the Minister is aware, quite a benefit in having all of the lawyers in government - and indeed all of the public - fully aware of the land claims agreements and initiatives happening there as more claims are settled.
The Member's suggestion of reallocating the $5,000 reward money into the crime prevention trust fund or a Crime Stoppers program is a good one. I will get back to him with an answer on that.
On the talking about crime initiatives, reports are still being implemented, and I will be happy to come back with a complete list for the Member about what work is underway and what kinds of schedules will be achieved there.
Mr. Phillips: I think the Minister should be aware that some of the initiatives I mentioned, such as the judges' sabbaticals, were only raised in the last month or two of our mandate, when another judge asked to go on a sabbatical. It was raised as an issue. So, rather than do something immediately, I felt it was more important to ask the new Minister, once the Minister was in place. I just want to know what the Minister wants to do with that particular issue and if she could get back to me on that.
The other question I have concerns the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. A facility study was done, and I am just wondering if the Minister has had an opportunity to tour it and what her thoughts are on its replacement.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As the Minister is aware, the study of the facility that was done has indicated that there are both health and safety concerns at the facility. It is not in good condition. One of the largest expenditures in the supplementary budget is for repairs that have been made to the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. I have a tour scheduled for a visit to that facility. I have not been up there as of yet, but I will be there next month.
Mr. Cable: On that topic, the Minister has seen the study and the Minister's predecessor has seen the study, but I have not seen the study. Is the Minister prepared to release that study?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I am not aware of any reason why the Barr Ryder Architects physical assessment of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre would be an embargoed document. If it is not confidential, I am certainly prepared to provide it to the Member.
Mr. Cable: Would that include an analysis of the health and safety concerns, which I believe are expressed in the study? Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, I believe that the recommendations are part of the assessment report.
Mr. Cable: On a related issue, I wonder if the Minister would prepare a legislative return on the ratio of auxiliary versus full-time staff at the correctional institute, together with an indication about how many of the auxiliaries are working full time.
It is my information that the ratio is roughly 50/50. I would like that confirmed if, in fact, that is the ratio and if the majority of the auxiliaries are working full time.
Let me go back and explain this so the Minister understands exactly what I am after.
I understand that the ratio of auxiliaries to full-time staff is roughly 50/50 and that most of the auxiliaries are working full time, which suggests to me that there should be a look at the establishment and how it is handled.
Early on, the previous government gave me a legislative return on similar information and I would like that information updated. Is that possible?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, I can bring information back for the Member, at his request.
Mr. Cable: I wrote to the Minister on November 20 about the RCMP volunteer auxiliary. I had indicated that there was a person who had talked to one of the Liberal caucus Members about a number of concerns. This person understood that there was draft legislation underway that would deal with these concerns. Could the Minister confirm whether or not that is accurate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The development of legislation to address concerns about appointments and indemnification would provide some civility to the auxiliary police officer program. At the present time, our Cabinet has not prepared a legislative calendar, so I cannot give the Member an indication as to whether or not such legislation would be forthcoming in the present year. It is an issue that I am aware of and paying attention to.
Mr. Cable: Is it the intention of the Minister to table legislation at some juncture in the future, if not in the spring session, then perhaps in the fall legislative session?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps I can bring back an answer for the Member on that.
Mr. Cable: I will also ask the Minister for the terms of reference for the RCMP auxiliaries, which, I am told, are set out in a draft document - or in the document drafted early in 1992. First, is my information correct that there was such a document and, if so, is the Minister prepared to provide those terms of reference?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: If the terms of reference are available to me, I will certainly provide them to the Member.
Mr. Cable: As the Minister will recollect, one of her colleagues, when in Opposition, asked a series of questions on the Har Randhawa case. This was the gentleman who had launched a racial discrimination complaint many years ago. It eventually wound itself through the courts. The previous administration, a couple of months ago, withdrew an appeal that was outstanding. Could the Minister indicate where that case stands?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I believe that the case is no longer before the courts. I will bring back a response for the Member as to exactly where it is.
Mr. Cable: I will just signal another issue for the spring session. There is an experiment going on in New Brunswick on penal reform. Apparently, they have - or are about to - empty out about 25 percent of the adult jail spaces. This was in response to an analysis of recidivism, which showed that 86 percent of the people sent to jail reoffended.
Has the Minister's department kept a watching brief on that reform action that is going on in New Brunswick?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, the department does keep a watching brief on activities in other jurisdictions. If the Member would like to identify the information that he is seeking, we can bring it back for him.
Mr. Cable: I will give the Minister a letter on that.
I have just one last question. There is a movement across the country to harmonize security law and to set up a Canadian securities commission.
Has this government adopted a position on both of those issues: setting up a Canadian securities commission and harmonizing the securities law?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I will assure the Member opposite that he will be the first to know. I will certainly write to him when I have a response.
Mr. Cable: I have this vague feeling that we are not connecting.
The Securities Act sets up a commission. It also sets up the law with which securities are issued to the public. All of the provincial jurisdictions and the two territories have their commission, and they have separate laws. This, of course, poses problems for people who are issuing securities across the country. I believe that at the federal government's initiative there is an attempt to harmonize the laws and to set up a national commission, if I understand the initiative correctly.
I do not want to belabour this. I wonder if the Minister could just advise as to what her department's position is on both of those issues.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I certainly hope that the federal government's attempts for harmonization are not another case of it looking to save some money at the expense of other jurisdictions, and particularly at the expense of the Yukon jurisdiction. I will be pleased to provide an answer to the Member's questions.
Mr. Cable: That causes one more question about the crime committee that toured the territory and eventually produced a crime report. It is much the same as the education review committee produced a report. The education review committee elicited a formal response from the previous government. It went through all of the recommendations one after another and it issued its intentions with respect to those recommendations.
Is it the intention of the Minister's department to review the crime committee report and to issue a formal response?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have seen a review of the report just summarizing some of the work that was done, and I have also looked at the report. I will get back to the Member with a full response on the follow-up.
Mr. Phillips: I would like to go back for a moment to the auxiliary police officers. As I understand it, the problem with the auxiliary police officers is that, although they have been very useful to us and have provided a great service to the community, in the past few months they have not been utilized as much as I think they would like to be utilized. Part of the problem arose when there became some concern over their authority. I think the problem we found we have is designating them as peace officers. My understanding is that that is not something that would be very difficult for the Government of the Yukon to do, and I wonder if the Minister would be prepared to put that as a high priority on her agenda, because the longer these people sit in limbo, not being used to the full extent that they can be used - and they save an awful lot of money in not using regular police officers in many of the services - it would be useful to us, especially with the new initiatives with community policing and the initiatives in the various neighbourhoods in the territory.
I wonder if the Minister would give an undertaking to make it a priority to solve the problem with the auxiliary police officers, if it is just a matter of designation, and look at doing that quickly. The Yukon Party on this side would have no difficulty with them being designated as police officers, but I would like to hear what the Minister has to say about that.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I agree with the Member that the auxiliary police officer program has, for the most part, been a tremendous success since it brings the community and the police closer together. The Department of Justice is seeking further information from the RCMP about some of the concerns. I can assure the Member that I will make it a priority to get a response to his concerns and to the auxiliary police program's concerns.
Mr. Phillips: This all came about in early to mid-September, when I heard about the concerns that were happening. My understanding is that the Department of Justice and the RCMP know what the problem is. A meeting was held with the auxiliary police officers in the RCMP where it was discussed, and everyone pretty well knows what needs to be done. I do not think it is a difficult problem nor one that is going to create a problem for anyone. I would like to get an undertaking from the Minister that they will move with some haste to get it done, so that these individuals who want to contribute to our community, and have done a great job so far, can be more involved.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: A recent meeting that was scheduled, that I had been invited to attend, was postponed, but I can give the Member an assurance that I will make it a priority to respond.
Mr. Phillips: The New Democratic Party made an announcement during the election campaign about establishing a police commission. My legal advice, as the Minister, when that was raised by the New Democratic Party at the time, was that the RCMP is a federal police force and that a police commission in the territory, as we see a police commission in some other jurisdictions, would have very little or no authority if the RCMP is a federal police force. I just wonder if the Minister has now had an opportunity to receive the same legal opinion, or has she sought another legal opinion? What are the plans for establishing a police commission in the Yukon that would have teeth, as was described in the campaign promise?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I would just describe the campaign promise, which was to start a public process to explore options such as a Yukon police commission, where Yukon people could be involved in issues about policing and justice priorities and work with police and Justice officials to make the system more open and accountable to the public. It is indeed our intention to work with police and Justice officials to make the system more open and accountable to the public and to establish a public process for input from the community on that. At the present time, the Department of Justice is canvassing other jurisdictions and will come forward in the spring with recommendations on how to proceed.
Mr. Phillips: That is the word that was in their campaign plan, but that is not what was said by Ministers when they spoke publicly. They talked about police commissions; it was reported as police commissions in the media, and the general public had the sense that they were talking about setting up a police commission.
I think that the Minister is probably correct when she starts to look at exploring what other jurisdictions are doing, because I think the Minister will soon find that the type of commission they wanted to set up is not possible under the regime we have in the territory, but there may be some other avenues. I will look forward to what kind of regime the Minister will set up, but I am sure it will not be the police commission that the public thought it was going to get. It will be a police commission of some type or a group of individuals who may have some ability to look at what the police do, but it certainly will not have the teeth to do the kinds of things that I think the Member wanted it to do initially.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: It is very clear to me that the public wants to be involved in issues to do with policing and with Justice priorities, and we will make that opportunity available to them.
Ms. Duncan: I would like to ask a question of the Minister of Justice. Last night the Minister of Community and Transportation Services said that the Logan subdivision required $11 million to cover the outstanding commitment awaiting resolution of a court case. Would the Minister please advise, and if she wishes by legislative return, the number of court cases and the total estimated exposure currently facing the Government of Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I can bring the Member back a response on that.
Ms. Duncan: I wrote to the Minister and asked that she review one of these court cases, as has been done in the past. My colleague mentioned the Har Randhawa case. I have not yet received a response. I wonder if the Minister could just advise - given there is a change in government and a change in attitude - if all of these court cases are currently being reviewed by her?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I believe that I signed a response to the Member about her inquiry a couple of days ago, and I regret it if she has not seen it yet. As the Member may know, it is inappropriate for a Minister of Justice to comment about cases that are before the courts.
Ms. Duncan: I understand that commitment. My question was to ask the Minister whether or not she was reviewing the cases.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I will ask the Member to accept a deferral on my answer and advise that she will receive a letter from me, which should be in her office very shortly.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Management Services
Management Services in the amount of $70,000 agreed to
On Court Services
Court Services in the amount of $90,000 agreed to
On Legal Services
Legal Services in the amount of $16,000 agreed to
On Community Development and Policing
Community Development and Policing in the amount of an underexpenditure of $267,000 agreed to
On Human Rights
Mr. Phillips: What is the reason for the increase in Human Rights? Could the Minister provide us with some detail about that line item please?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Additional funds are requested for the Human Rights Commission to cover the cost incurred by the commission on the Madeline Gould case.
Human Rights in the amount of $70,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the recoveries?
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of an underexpenditure of $21,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Management Services
On Business Infrastructure (Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space)
Business Infrastructure (Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space) in the amount of $137,000 agreed to
On Court Services
On Community JP/Court Support Offices
Mr. Phillips: On the JP support offices, can the Minister tell me what their plans are with the senior JP? There was, I believe, a three-month extension given to the senior JP. There was some concern over an evaluation of the program, and I just wonder if the Minister could let us know what the status is of that at the present time?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This is a line item on a revote for replacement of chairs in the courtrooms; however, I will be pleased to bring an answer back to the Member's question by way of letter.
Community JP/Court Support Offices in the amount of $3,000 agreed to
On Community and Correctional Services
On Replacement Equipment
Replacement Equipment in the amount of $8,000 agreed to
On Correctional Facility Construction/Renovation - Whitehorse
Correctional Facility Construction/Renovation - Whitehorse in the amount of $341,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures in the amount of $489,000 agreed to
Department of Justice agreed to
Public Service Commission
Hon. Mr. Harding: I will be pleased to answer any questions. Most of the expenditures, with the exception, I believe, of a leave accrual account write-off, were incurred prior to our taking office, but I will be pleased to answer any questions.
Ms. Duncan: I would like to ask the Minister a question. All the MLAs received a letter from a constituent in one of the Riverdale ridings regarding staffing by the Public Service Commission. In general, I would just like to ask the Minister to set out what sort of appeal process exists, other than through the Public Service Commissioner. Is there any sort of independent appeal board, and is there any thought to setting one up?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Could the Member be more specific? Is she referring to job applications or competitions? I am not sure what the issue is.
Ms. Duncan: I apologize to the Minister. The issue that I am trying to get at is this: once a position is filled, occasionally there is some disagreement among applicants that one was more qualified than the other, or about the way a competition was handled or the way in which positions were advertised. As I understand it right now, if people have a disagreement, they can appeal to the Public Service Commissioner or to the Minister.
Is there some sort of independent appeal process when there are concerns about filling a position within the Government of Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Right now, the appeal is to the Public Service Commissioner. There is no other body composed for that. That is something that I could look at. I do not know if it is something that has been tried before, but I am willing to look into it to see if there is any utility in it. However, the Public Service Commissioner is seen as a pretty independent person, as the position is independent for 10 years. There may be some utility in the Member's suggestion.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate that the Public Service Commissioner is independent. However, I would also state, for the Minister's information, that I believe there should be some method of tracking complaints, discussions or disagreements. Perhaps there should be some sort of independent method for resolution in these situations.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I am willing to look at that. I often got complaints in Opposition about that. I was frustrated sometimes by the responses I got. I have no opposition to that.
Mr. Phillips: I would like to follow up on that a little bit.
There was a travel consultant position in the Department of Tourism. As the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission at the time, there were some complaints and concerns regarding that particular position.
I instituted an independent investigation by the Public Service Commissioner. I wonder if the investigation is complete. If the investigation is complete, have the individuals who raised the complaint with me and spoke to the Public Service Commissioner been given a copy of the report or been informed of the results of the investigation?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I asked the Public Service Commissioner about the matter in question. She conducted an investigation, and there was some dispute about the facts surrounding it. I am not sure if the person has been responded to with a full report. I know that the person was contacted. The issue surrounded the question of how long the government would wait for the person to leave the employ of another business when offering the position. I was instructed that, according to the policy, it was generally two weeks but was very often extended up to a month and even beyond that in some circumstances.
I will endeavour to get some more information about the conclusion of this for the Member.
Mr. Phillips: I do not want to go into the details of the complaint, but it was not just the one that the Minister just mentioned. I did give a commitment to at least two of the individuals who applied for the job and were going to speak to the Public Service Commissioner that they would get some kind of a document, such as report, on the investigation and what the Public Service Commissioner found. I wonder if the Minister would follow through on the commitment that I made.
I think it is only fair in the context of people who apply for jobs and are concerned about the process. If we do investigate and we find something, fine, and if not, fine. At least the people should be informed. I gave them the commitment that we would inform them afterwards. I wonder if the Minister could follow through with that.
Hon. Mr. Harding: The Member says he is not asking about an individual case. Who am I to respond to - the individual we are talking about? Who should I send the report to?
Mr. Phillips: The position of travel counsellor in the Department of Tourism was applied for by several people. There were some problems with the interview process that some people identified. As a result of the problems that were raised by them to me, I asked for an independent investigation. I asked the Public Service Commissioner to contact these people personally, interview them and come to a finding. What I am asking is that the Public Service Commissioner get back to the people we contacted and provide them with the findings.
They are personal findings. If the people want to give them to me, that is fine. I am asking the Minister to ensure that these people get the results of the investigation.
Hon. Mr. Harding: That is not a problem. However, I did inform the Member that the Public Service Commissioner did speak directly to the people involved in the investigation, but I will get the findings out.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Finance and Administration
Finance and Administration in the amount of $35,000 agreed to
On Corporate Human Resource Services
Corporate Human Resource Services in the amount of $69,000 agreed to
On Leave Accruals
Leave Accruals in the amount of $1,492,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $1,596,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Finance and Administration
On Office Facilities and Equipment
Office Facilities and Equipment in the amount of an underexpenditure of $35,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures in the amount of an underexpenditure of $35,000 agreed to
Public Service Commission agreed to
Department of Renewable Resources
Chair: We will turn to Renewable Resources. Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The 1996-97 supplementary reflects the total additional expenditures of $458,000, comprised of $316,00 for operation and maintenance and $142,000 for capital projects. The O&M requirements consist of $107,000 in administration; $90,000 in policy and planning; $38,000 in environment, parks and regional services; $52,000 in resource management, and $29,000 in land claims.
Of the additional expenditures, $197,000 relates to the transition of government to cover such items as incremental personnel costs, costs associated with increased public participation and a variety of priority issues and accelerated work in priority areas, such as protected areas initiatives.
The capital requirements of $142,000 are entirely the result of a revote of lapsed funds from 1995-96 and are outlined in the estimates.
Also included in the first supplementary are additional O&M recoveries of $10,000 related to the Inuvialuit final agreement and additional O&M revenue of $19,000 from higher than anticipated hunting, fishing and campground permit sales.
I would just note that we are speeding up this process. Those who want to go over this more carefully with me another day are able to do so.
Mr. Ostashek: I just have one question for the Minister. He stated that $197,000 of the request was for transition costs for the new government. By legislative return or letter, I wonder if he could give me an itemized list of what those costs were.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, I will do that.
Ms. Duncan: I have a few questions for the Minister and perhaps he could get back to me by way of a legislative return. I would add that we would be interested in receiving a copy of the return that he is providing to the Official Opposition.
I have a few comments about this. During the election campaign I was faced with the question about increases in fishing licence fees and I wonder if the Minister could provide me with some background information about that.
It is my understanding that a portion of the fishing licence fees were usually used for restocking programs, and I would like to receive a breakdown on that expenditure and the increase. I note that there is a substantial amount of additional revenue.
Also, the big game harvest statistics were recently published in the newspaper. Unfortunately, I do not have those figures in front of me, but there was a 50/50 split between local harvest and out-of-territory harvest. I would like to know if the Minister sees this increasing or decreasing.
In the newspaper recently there was also some discussion about an increase in campground security. Does the Minister anticipate that increase in the spring budget? Also, will the Minister be taking into account requests for an earlier opening date for Yukon campgrounds? I notice that this was an issue for debate in other legislative sessions and I would like to have the Minister's thoughts in that respect.
Finally, the Teslin renewable resource officer shares office space with the department of forestry. This was instituted some years ago with the belief that forestry devolution was imminent. I wonder if this option has been examined in other communities, because apparently it is an arrangement that works very well. I wonder if the Minister is examining that option in other Yukon communities.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: In regard to the big game harvest, I have not seen any of that myself, but I could get back to the Member. In regard to the fishing and hunting licences and so on, there has been an increase in sales, but if there is an increase in the cost for licences, I do not know about it. I will get back on that too.
With regard to looking into the matter of increased security in the campgrounds, it has been mentioned by the Minister for Community and Transportation Services. There have been several attempts to try to increase security over the years and many of them have failed. We see that public education is probably the most effective method of having security - having the public be the eyes and ears for us in reporting unusual incidences that seem to be taking place. An increase in signs and available material will allow tourists to check into where more of the private campgrounds are located.
In regard to the opening date, I have not had any information on that come to me at all. I will get back to the Member on that and the same with the Renewable Resource Council sharing of office space. If there is a situation where cost savings can be achieved then I would certainly encourage all areas in all departments to do that.
Ms. Duncan: If I could just offer a correction - it is the renewable resource officer who actually shares the space with forestry, as opposed to the council.
Mr. Phillips: I have one question about fishing licences. I understand there is a proposal for a joint fishing licence for boundary lakes - Teslin Lake is a good example, and Tagish Lake is a good example. Many of us have to buy two licences to go fishing in those areas, and when I am down the lake I hear it from lots of Yukoners all the time, "Why do we not get our act together and sell one licence?" I know the department is working toward that aim. Is it going to be possible next year to buy a joint licence?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I will have to look into that. The area of fishing licences certainly has not been a big issue with me over the years. I have never had to purchase one, but I will look into it.
Mr. Bruce: I would like to take this time on behalf of my constituency to read a couple of documents to all Members of this House.
First of all, I want to thank my constituents of Vuntut Gwitchin for their support in the past few months. I also would like to thank Sam Johnston for his advice on the Speaker's position. The elders in my community talked to me about the importance of working together at all levels of government, especially for the settling of land claims. Now, as MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin, I see that it is important to listen to our elders' advice in all of the communities in the Yukon.
I want to talk about the importance of settling land claims. It is important that all governments must work together toward a positive solution for all Yukon people.
I was Chief of Vuntut Gwitchin and one of the first four to settle land claims and self-government agreements. There are other First Nations that want to settle their land claims, as well. It is a top priority for Yukon First Nations.
Together, all of us must work together for land claims and self-government. It is a number one priority. Devolution and the implementation of land claims is another important process. Again, we all have to work together to achieve this goal.
As Speaker, I talk to many different people from all governments. They all want to work together to settle land claims.
That is my statement on behalf of the land claims. The reason why I am speaking to land claims is because I have been involved in politics for nine years. I covered quite a bit of ground across Canada, and I never had any opposition. I always talk to people in a fair way to work together. That is one of the experiences I learned from the elders of the Yukon.
Another topic that each elected Member for Vuntut Gwitchin always raised is the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We would like the support from all Members of this Legislative Assembly on that matter on behalf of my constituency.
I would like the support of all Members of this House to protect the range of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for the Porcupine caribou. Their calving ground is in an area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
I would also like all the habitat area protected, all the way from Blackstone to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. I would also like further support for the Vuntut Gwitchin to have control over all development that happens in the habitat and range of the Porcupine caribou herd from just south of the Blackstone area all the way to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for protection.
The reason why I want protection is that this is the lifeline for food and our community values on which we depend for our future generations.
With that statement, I would like government support and ask all Members of the Legislative Assembly for their support in this area, as well.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I would just like to respond to Mr. Bruce.
Certainly, a lot of what he had said is of much interest to me and my department. I will certainly be taking a lot of his comments and concerns and give serious consideration of them into a lot of the Renewable Resources decisions, since renewable resources are a big part of implementing the claims.
On the comment about the protecting of caribou, this being one of our biggest resources here, we should be proud of what we have and do what we can in the area of protecting the caribou. I will certainly be putting a lot of effort into this, and I thank the Member for his comments.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Administration in the amount of $107,000 agreed to
On Policy and Planning
Policy and Planning in the amount of $90,000 agreed to
On Environment, Parks and Regional Services
Environment, Parks and Regional Services in the amount of $38,000 agreed to
On Resource Management
Resource Management in the amount of $52,000 agreed to
On Land Claims
Land Claims in the amount of $29,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $316,000 agreed to
Chair: Were there any questions on the recoveries and revenues?
On Capital Expenditures
On Information Systems
On Computer Equipment
Computer Equipment in the amount of $18,000 agreed to
On Environment, Parks and Regional Services
On Territorial Parks
On Park System Plan
Park System Plan in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
On Kusawa Lake Management Plan
Kusawa Lake Management Plan in the amount of $31,000 agreed to
On Territorial Campgrounds and Day Use Areas
On Capital Works - Campground Facilities
Capital Works - Campground Facilities in the amount of $66,000 agreed to
On Outdoor Recreation Sites and Corridors
On Outdoor Recreation System Plan
Outdoor Recreation System Plan in the amount of $22,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures in the amount of $142,000 agreed to
Department of Renewable Resources agreed to
Department of Tourism
Chair: Is there any general debate on Tourism?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The Department of Tourism has requested funding in the amount of $244,000 in operation and maintenance and $449,000 in capital.
The operation and maintenance increase was required for the marketing branch to respond to changes in air access from Europe to Yukon. New cooperative marketing programs totalling $350,000 are being negotiated with other airlines in order to offset the potential loss of 8,000 seats to the Yukon. The program received $244,000 in new funding with a balance of $106,000 being reallocated within the department.
The capital budget revotes total $424,000 for projects continued in this fiscal year. In addition, the City of Whitehorse contributed $25,000 toward the exhibit development within the new Yukon Visitor Reception Centre.
I will be very pleased to elaborate on these initiatives and take questions if desired.
Mr. Phillips: I have a few questions. First of all, I want to thank the Minister and the government for seeing the merits in the Beringia project and continuing with the project. I know that there were fears from the industry and others out there that this government would cancel the project, because there was not much support over the years. I know that the critic got very involved in the tourism industry in the short time that he was the critic. He had the opportunity to meet with the industry, talk to individuals and learn what our marketing is all about, where the Yukon is going and what we need to do to improve this as a destination. I am pleased to see that the government has made the decision to continue the course.
I can remember being at a debate in Haines, Alaska, with the critic, Mr. Sloan, and the Member for Porter Creek South. We were all asked if we would continue with the Beringia project and if we would continue with the Historic Resources Centre. We all said yes, we would. I know that there is money in this particular budget for both. I am hoping that in the next capital budget of this government we will see funds to continue the building of the Yukon Historic Resources Centre.
I know that the Member opposite, Mr. Sloan, spoke about the importance of heritage and how valuable our heritage is to us. I know that his party was committed to the Historic Resources Centre. I will look forward to that particular facility. It will help Yukoners a great deal and will lead to a lot of positive things to protect our historic resources in the future - training and other things we need to do to bring some of the Yukon's history to life.
I will just leave a couple of questions with the Minister and he can either answer them now or get back to me. I want to know if all the contracts are now let on Beringia. I have seen some in the newspaper and I wonder if they have all closed. I am not sure of the closing date. Maybe when they do close, the Minister could provide me with the list of who got the contracts. I would like to know what the status of the film is for Beringia. I know that it was almost completed and there were some test showings of it here recently. I would not mind seeing it if there is an opportunity to do that, if the Minister could arrange that for me.
With the new visitor reception centre downtown, I would like to know from the Minister what the department is going to do about encouraging people to come downtown in light of the one problem we have and that is the South Access Road being closed this year. It is going to be a little more difficult to get people to come downtown on that route so there will have to be some extra effort put into signage to encourage people to stop at Beringia and then come downtown or vice versa, if they are coming from the other way.
I would also like to have an update on the visitor reception centre downtown. Is it still open weekdays? Has there been any change in the hours? I know we made a commitment to the City of Whitehorse and the Chamber of Commerce to keep it open in the winter months. Is it still open in the winter months as the commitment was made? There were also interactive computer programs being put together for the new visitor centre and contracts were going to be let this winter in order for the programs to be put together. It was felt at the time that we could do all this locally and I cannot recall seeing anything in the local newspapers advertising this type of work. I just want to know where that stands. Is it going to be ready for the opening in the spring?
There was some controversy over the film for the visitor centre and that was going to be retendered. I have not seen anything about that. As well, when the centre opened, in the design there was a special specific banner hung in the centre. We had to use old banners because the silkscreening did not work on the new ones. We were told the banners would be here next week and that was early September. I looked in there the other day and the old banners were still there. The old banners look fine and maybe we do not need new banners because the old ones do a good job and maybe we can save a few dollars. The new ones look fancy, too, and they were part of the design. Perhaps the Minister could just bring that information back to me.
I have a couple more questions.
I would like to know if there are any new marketing initiatives that this government has embarked upon since they have taken power and, if so, what are those initiatives? The Minister does not have to give me that information now; he can provide it to me later.
I would also like to know if the Minister has met with the TIA board to sit down and exchange priorities. A few weeks ago, the board was interested in meeting with the Minister, but I do not know if they have had an opportunity to meet yet. Also, if the Minister could let me know, either in the House or by way of a letter, what the priorities of the Minister are with respect to tourism.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I appreciate the questions from the Member opposite and I will endeavor to get answers to those questions back to him. As Members can hear, my throat is getting a little raw and sore, as is everyone's, I guess. I will provide answers and, as a courtesy, send them over to the Member.
I will talk a little bit about what is happening at the Historic Resources Centre. It is there and I concur with the Member that it does have a great advantage for training and economic opportunities and cultural opportunities to display our unique culture.
As to the status of the film - I was reading very quickly so I hope I captured most of the items - is that it is a go and I certainly will get the Member the opportunity to see it. It is looking quite nice, actually. I will definitely get together with the Member on that.
As to how we can encourage people to come downtown and get them to come to the Visitor Reception Centre, that is a very good question and is something that we have to think about.
As to the change in the hours, again, I can get back with the answer, but I believe things are as they were. We are encouraging people to stay there. They are committed to keeping it open during the winter hours.
Are the new computer programs ready for the spring opening? I will get that back to the Member.
The controversy over the film - I believe there was somewhat of a controversy but I believe all parties have worked it out and are working with due diligence toward the completion. Again, I will follow up with the Member.
On banners - I will get back to the Member on that and on his request for new marketing initiatives. What I can say is that, yes, I have met with the Tourism Industry Association board and, as I have said before, I am very willing and most desirous of working hand in hand with the boards that are there, not only the TIA board but also with the First Nations' Tourism Industry Association and the wilderness industry association. We have started meetings with them and we are going to continue meeting with them right up to preparing for the next budget year.
I thank the Member very much for his questions, and I will be diligent in getting back to him.
Ms. Duncan: I just have a couple of comments for the Minister in general debate.
First of all, I would like to congratulate him. He is the new Minister of fun, as they call it. It seems to be the most coveted portfolio. I appreciate the commitment that the Liberal caucus would also be offered briefings and a viewing of the film that the Minister has offered to our colleagues down the aisle.
I have a couple of questions for the Minister. I had a meeting with the TIA executive and I was told that they were concerned that the homecoming program had been cancelled. I wonder if the Minister could advise me on the status of that.
With respect to the Department of Tourism publications, there were some concerns raised to me by the industry about proof-reading those publications. It has not been done for a long time and when they were given the opportunity to do the proof-reading, the document was already in print. That is something for next year's documents that the Minister might take under advisement.
As a final comment, a long-time senior employee of this government has offered the suggestion to me - this applies to all the Ministers - that in budget debate we always go through the departments in alphabetical order. As a result, given the hour, Tourism seems to always get very short shrift. My suggestion is a constructive, non-confrontational suggestion to the government that, if it is possible, perhaps we could look at doing things differently in the spring.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Concerning the meeting that the Member had with the Tourism Industry Association with regard to the cancellation of the homecoming, there seems to be mixed messages coming from the industry concerning the program. At this point in time, it has not been cancelled. We are going to be consulting and working with the industry to clarify exactly what it is. As I say, I do wish to work cooperatively and build a unique tourism plan with the industry.
I apologize that I did not hear the second question. As to the third, it is in consideration as to this change. It is perhaps out of my hands, but I will certainly work to do that.
I would appreciate it if the Member could repeat her second question.
Ms. Duncan: My point was with respect to publications. There was some concern that the publications had not been proof-read or updated in some years - the vacation guide, in particular. So, when industry was asked for comment and offered those comments back, (a) the time line was too short; and (b) the document was already in print by the time the comments were forwarded. So, that is a concern. In reading the document closely myself, I think it is sadly in need of updating. I think that was all the questions I had with respect to the department.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I thank you for that. There have been some oversights in the vacation guide. The MacBride Museum was totally overlooked and we are now looking for a way to insert it. I take the Member's comments and thank her for them. We will be working with due diligence to make sure that we do have ample time. As the Member knows, it is an industry that, when it gets going, it just rolls, and you have to keep up to it. But certainly, it should be representative of all people. I thank the Member for her comments, and I will be working to ensure that a suitable time frame for all folks to have their input will be built in.
Mr. Phillips: I want to go back to the issue of the homecoming for a moment. The concern I have about it is that that money is for a specific program in the budget. I believe it was $150,000. Some money has been expended, but I believe there is about $135,000 left in the budget. It is now the middle of December, and we have January, February and March to spend that money on marketing for next year. We are getting past the time where the money is going to be really effective. In fact, it should have been into the marketplace a few weeks ago.
The commitment I would like from the Minister is, if the industry, in conjunction with the Minister, considers to not go with the homecoming program, as it was described to the industry, would the Minister give me a commitment that they will not lose the money - because it was a one-shot $150,000 - and that that money will be rolled into next year's budget into a comparable program to encourage Canadians, and others, to come to the Yukon? I think the concern from the industry is that it was a one-shot deal. If it does not happen in 1996, the $150,000 is lost in the A-base budget, and they will never see it again. I would like the Minister's assurance that the $150,000 is there for marketing and - depending on what agreements the industry reaches with the Minister - the process will be used for marketing.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I thank the Member very much for the question.
On the question of the time frame, I am led to believe that we have the latitude to take it to approximately the end of January or early February. We will still not have lost out on the whole program and the benefits that it could bring to the Yukon and to the industry itself.
I share the same concern as the Member opposite. I do not want to lose any money either. I want to make this money work. There will be consultation with the industry, and now that we know when the House will rise I can start to do more scheduling with those folks in the industry to come up with a bang-up proposal with their input.
I can give my commitment that we are going to use those dollars. They may not be used for what they were originally intended, but they will be used to market the Yukon and to keep the Yukon in the spot that it is, and it will be with the concurrence of the industry. All players within the industry will be represented.
Mr. Jenkins: I just have one question for the Minister.
The two jewels in the crown of the Yukon that are recognized internationally for visitor promotion and attractions are the Klondike and Kluane National Park. The main stumbling block to the development of Kluane is access.
What initiatives will the Minister undertake to develop this attraction in the next term?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: If I heard the Member correctly, he was asking me about what I am going to do to market Kluane Park.
Some Hon. Member: To develop access.
Hon. Mr. Keenan:
I just had a quick briefing about that the other day and I understand that it is quite a complicated process and that there are a lot of complicated players involved. When I do receive some further information about this I will be pleased to provide that information to both the Official Opposition and the Liberal caucus about the direction this government will be taking.
Mr. Livingston: I rise to speak to the discussion about the supplementary budget for the Department of Tourism for 1996-97.
I note that in the Department of Tourism - frankly, this comment could be made about a number of departments - is another budget where the capital side in particular was overspent by quite a number of dollars.
I do not want to pick apart the Visitor Reception Centre, where we are over about 25 percent on the budget that was outlined at the beginning of the year. Overall, it is about seven percent and I note that a similar pattern exists in Economic Development, Renewable Resources and Education. We see overspending department after department on the capital side.
I want to make this one simple point. I am disturbed by this type of a pattern, because clearly this pattern of overspending of the capital dollars in department after department is the kind of thing that would lead to the financial ruin of this territory.
Mr. Phillips: I have to come to the defence of the budget because, in fact, I was the Minister responsible for that budget. I will not get into it in detail tonight, but what I suggest to the Member opposite is that he sit down with the Tourism people and Finance. He will find out that the building across the street was on time. In fact, it was done ahead of time, was under budget, and even with the banners and everything else, it is still under budget. What happens when one builds buildings is that, in some case, issues arise through the building where changes are made and some projects go over more than one year.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: The Member for Faro says they are cost overruns. The Member for Faro should sit in on the same briefing, because they are not a cost overrun. All I am telling the Member is that he should sit down with the Minister of Tourism - and make sure he takes his colleague with him - and go through the budget of the Department of Tourism. He will find out that there was not a cost overrun in the Visitor Reception Centre.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, they used to be called cost overruns when the Member was in Opposition before. When he was in government they became changes, and now they are still changes when he is defending his project, but if we have these changes when we are in government, I am sure it will not be long before he will call them cost overruns. Time will tell.
Mr. Livingston: The point still remains that we have half a million dollars over in Tourism. In fact it works out that roughly one out of every seven dollars spent on the capital side was a dollar that was overspent in the first half of this fiscal year by the previous government, and it is a pattern that simply cannot continue.
Mr. Ostashek: I understand that the Member is new to the Legislature, but he is absolutely, totally wrong. There is nothing that was overspent. A supplementary budget is just that: a supplementary budget. The new requests that come forward are only approved if the government has the money. It does not mean that it was overspent.
I urge the Member to get a briefing from Finance and from the departments, and he will find out that he is off base on this one - totally wrong. If he does that, he will understand the budgetary process of government much better.
Mr. Livingston: The fact of the matter is that we have spent $20 million in capital this year over what was originally budgeted. We have spent $30 million over in terms of our total budget, and that is leaving us with still a few million in surplus - roughly $25 million. I will grant that. We cannot do that year after year after year. That is my simple point: by hook or by crook, we have to live within the budget. That is all.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I thank everyone for their comments. I do realize that it is a very touchy issue and a deeply ingrained issue on both sides of the House. I ask for calmness at this point in time. I would like to go through and work toward these supplementary budgets, get direction, get the budgets passed and move on. I ask all Members of the House to be calm.
Mr. Ostashek: I appreciate what the Minister of Tourism is saying, but I cannot sit here and not respond when people are making statements and they do not know what they are talking about. The main budget estimate came out with a $7.5 million surplus. This incoming government is going to end up with a $25 million surplus, rather than a $7.5 million surplus. For him to make those kinds of allegations is just simply unfounded and untrue.
Mr. Cable: I would like to draw the Chair's attention to Standing Order 42(2), which says "Speeches in Committee of the Whole must be strictly relevant to the item or clause under consideration." Back in general debate on the budget, my suggestion was completely out of order and just a waste of our precious time this evening.
Chair: I thank the Member for pointing that out, and I ask all Members to take heed of that.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Heritage in the amount of an underexpenditure of $2,000 agreed to
On Industry Services
Industry Services in the amount of an underexpenditure of $48,000 agreed to
Marketing in the amount of $311,000 agreed to
Arts in the amount of an underexpenditure of $17,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $244,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On General Administration Support
On Visitor Reception Centre/Tourism Business Centre - Construction
Visitor Reception Centre/Tourism Business Centre - Construction in the amount of $144,000 agreed to
On Historic Resources
On Yukon Historic Resources Centre
Yukon Historic Resources Centre in the amount of $137,000 agreed to
On Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre
Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre in the amount of $63,000 agreed to
On Museums Assistance
Museums Assistance in the amount of $18,000 agreed to
On Industry Services
On Industry and Regional Services
On Industry Research and Strategic Planning
Industry Research and Strategic Planning in the amount of $30,000 agreed to
On Visitor Reception Centres
On Multi-media Equipment
Multi-media Equipment in the amount of $57,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures in the amount of $449,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the recoveries?
Department of Tourism agreed to
Yukon Housing Corporation
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: As Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation, I rise to present the corporation's supplementary budget.
With respect to the operation and management budget, the Yukon Housing Corporation projects a reduction of $9,000 because of changes to projected expenditure patterns for the rent supplement program. This program enables the Yukon Housing Corporation to enter into agreements with private sector landlords for the rental of units that will be utilized for social housing tenants. These clients pay 25 percent of their household income for rent. The Yukon Housing Corporation pays the difference between this amount and the agreed market rent with the landlord. This year, the rent paid to the landlords is slightly higher than originally projected. Therefore, the corporation's payments to the landlord has declined slightly in this account for the reduction of the corporation's operations and management budget.
With respect to the capital budget, the corporation has not experienced client demand that will expend all of the funds approved in the existing budget. As such, there are reductions in the home repair, owner-build and rental suite programs.
There has been additional demands for the corporation's joint venture program. This includes funds for projects with the Yukon Development Corporation and the Ross River Development Corporation for three housing units originally intended for Faro. With the recent changes in Faro's housing situation, it is unlikely that this full amount will be utilized.
The Yukon Housing Corporation offers an extended mortgage guarantee program for residents of rural Yukon who cannot obtain sufficient mortgage insurance for new home construction. For the first time in the five-year history of the program, a client went into default and the Yukon Housing Corporation was required to honour the mortgage guarantee commitments.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Gross Expenditures
Gross Expenditures in the amount of an underexpenditure of $9,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of an underexpenditure of $9,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Home Repair
Home Repair in the amount of an underexpenditure of $500,000 agreed to
On Owner Build
Owner Build in the amount of an underexpenditure of $300,000 agreed to
On Rental Suites
Rental Suites in the amount of an underexpenditure of $275,000 agreed to
On Joint Venture
Joint Venture in the amount of $575,000 agreed to
On Extended Mortgage Guarantee
Extended Mortgage Guarantee in the amount of $32,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures in the amount of an underexpenditure of $468,000 agreed to
Yukon Housing Corporation agreed to
Chair: We will now move on to Office of the Ombudsman.
Office of the Ombudsman
On Capital Expenditures
On Office of the Ombudsman
On Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems
Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
Office of the Ombudsman agreed to
Chair: We will now move on to the bill.
On Schedule A
Schedula A agreed to
On Schedule B
Schedule B agreed to
On Schedule C
Schedule C agreed to
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 3, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1996-97, out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It is moved by Mr. Harding that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call this House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: At 8:45 p.m. the Committee of the Whole passed the following motion pursuant to Standing Order 2(7):
THAT the Committee of the Whole and the Assembly be empowered to sit beyond 9:30 p.m. if necessary for the purpose of completing consideration of Bill No. 3 in Committee; for permitting the House to consider third reading of that bill and Motion No. 9; and for receiving the Commissioner to give assent to the bills passed by the House this session.
Further, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 3, Second Appropriation Act, 1996-97, and directed me report it without amendment.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Bill No. 3: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 3, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. McDonald.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Bill No. 3, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1996-97, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 3, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1996-97, be now read a third time and do pass.
I think the ayes have it.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 3 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 3 has passed this House.
Clerk: Motion No. 9, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Harding.
Motion No. 9
Speaker: It is moved by the Government House Leader
THAT the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges:
(1) consider the recognition that should be provided to Cabinet commissioners in the Standing Orders of the Assembly;
(2) report to the House any recommended amendments to the Standing Orders in reference to Cabinet commissioners;
(3) review the current use of gender-inclusive language in the Legislative Assembly, and
(4) make recommendations to the House that reflect the wishes of Yukoners who want their elected Members to use inclusive, non-sexist language.
Hon. Mr. Harding: This is a fairly simple motion. It is self-explanatory. I understand that the Liberal caucus may propose a couple of amendments on the Standing Order review with regard to the Speaker looking at recommendations to deal with the unique situation whereby we have three Members in each party in Opposition, as well as an amendment on the use of non-violent language in this Legislature. So our caucus stands ready to support those amendments.
Mr. Phillips: We on this side of this House, the Yukon Party, will not be supporting the motion that is before us today.
There is one main reason for this and that is the fact that there is a clause in the motion, clause 1, which says "consider the recognition that should be provided to Cabinet commissioners in the Standing Orders of the Assembly", and asking our Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges to look at that particular direction.
Yet, on the same Order Paper, a couple of pages later, there is a motion from the governing party usurping the work of SCREP. It is a slap in the face to the Members who are on SCREP, because it is obvious that the discussions that are going to take place in SCREP about the commission are going to be meaningless.
Members on the government side said that, in four years, we did not use SCREP. I can tell the Members that we certainly would have never abused SCREP the way it is being abused here by putting a motion on the Order Paper that pre-empts any discussion, any thought or any opportunity to have input into what these commissions should do. I think that is unfair and undemocratic.
I have been in this House for 11 years and I can tell all the Members on the side opposite that there have been a lot of motions, a lot of jobs referred to committees, but never has there been a motion on the Order Paper saying what is going to come out of a committee and this is what the government is going to do anyway. Why would I waste my time going to the committee meetings if the government has already predetermined that anything I say will not mean anything - in fact, even anything some of the government Members say. Even if they agree with us about some of the conditions, it is not going to mean anything, because the government has already made up its mind and it has a motion on the Order Paper.
It is unfortunate that the government chose this tactic. For that reason, we will be unable to support this motion.
Ms. Duncan: I would like to move a friendly amendment to Motion No. 9 as follows:
THAT Motion No. 9 be amended by adding after the words "inclusive, non-sexist" the words "and non-violent" and by adding the following new paragraph:
"(5) review Standing Orders 14.2, 38(2) and 44.1 and make recommendations for any amendments it considers necessary."
The Clerk has copies of that friendly amendment to circulate.
May I speak to that amendment now?
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Porter Creek South
THAT Motion No. 9 be amended by adding after the words "inclusive, non-sexist" the words "and non-violent" and by adding the following new paragraph:
"(5) review Standing Orders 14.2, 38(2) and 44.1 and make recommendations for any amendments it considers necessary."
Ms. Duncan: If I may speak very briefly to the amendments, given the lateness of the hour.
Perhaps the motion that the Member for Riverdale North referred to could be considered for withdrawal at some point in time.
Speaking directly to the amendment, I would just like to remind Members that with respect to non-violence, I have added this as part of our efforts to make use of non-sexist language. We often use violent language without realizing it. Rather than continually call attention to it, perhaps if it were included in our Standing Orders, it would continually be in Members' minds and we would make an effort to temper our language, given the kinder, gentler nature of this new Legislature.
I have obtained some readings on language and violence from the Women's Directorate. I would be happy to share them with the Members who are interested.
With respect to these specific Standing Orders, section 5 of the amendment, I would like to refresh the memories of Members with the words of our Speaker. He indicated that the Chair wishes to recognize that although the Yukon Party caucus is now recognized as the Official Opposition, it still must be kept in mind that there are two caucuses in Opposition with three Members apiece. The Chair will ensure that both Opposition caucuses and all Members in both Opposition caucuses are treated appropriately in such matters as order of speaking. The Chair further urged us to give consideration to certain Standing Orders which clearly do not reflect the current makeup of the House. These are the Standing Orders that I have noted in this amendment.
For Members who do not have their Standing Orders in front of them, they concern private Members' business, the tabling of documents, the supply of copies to the Leaders opposite and deferral of count of Members. This is really housekeeping, and it updates our Standing Orders. I would ask all Members to give it the due consideration that I believe it deserves.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I will call question.
Amendment to Motion No. 9 agreed to
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the motion as amended? If the Member speaks now, he will close debate. Is there any further debate?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I just want to thank the Members for this.
The Yukon Party Opposition told us they were against commissioners being able to speak, whether it was in SCREP or outside of SCREP, and they made their intentions very clear on that. To say now that they are not voting on it because there has been a usurping of the work of SCREP is hollow at best.
The Yukon Party government abused SCREP by not holding any meetings for the previous four years. We had a motion for gender equity to be considered by SCREP for the last couple of years. It was not brought forward because the government did not call the committee to meet.
When the former government talks about abuse of government power, I think, shame on them, as the architects of the Hughes inquiry, which I saw as the ultimate abuse of government authority and power.
We make no apologies for sending this to SCREP.
Motion No. 9 agreed to as amended
Speaker: We are now prepared to receive the Commissioner, acting in her capacity as Lieutenant Governor, to grant assent to the bills which have passed this House.
Commissioner Judy Gingell enters the Chamber announced by the Sergeant-at-Arms
ASSENT TO BILLS
Commissioner: Please be seated.
Speaker: The Assembly has, at this present session, passed certain bills to which, in the name and on behalf of the Assembly, I respectfully request your asset.
Clerk: An Act to Repeal the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994; Fourth Appropriation Act, 1995-96; Second Appropriation Act, 1996-97.
Commissioner: I hereby assent to the bills as enumerated by the Clerk.
Commissioner leaves the Chamber
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Before I move a motion, I would like to take this time, in the midst of some often heated debate, to wish all Members and their families a very merry Christmas. I hope everyone enjoys their Christmas break to relax after a long election and probably the first opportunity everyone will have.
Special adjournment motion
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move
THAT the House, at its rising, do stand adjourned until it appears to the satisfaction of the Speaker, after consultation with the Government Leader, that the public interest requires that the House shall meet;
THAT the Speaker give notice that he is so satisfied and thereupon the House shall meet at the time stated in such notice and shall transact its business as if it had been duly adjourned to that time; and
THAT, if the Speaker is unable to act owing to illness or other causes, the Deputy Speaker shall act in his stead for the purpose of this order.
Speaker: It is moved by the Government House Leader
THAT the House, at its rising, do stand adjourned until it appears to the satisfaction of the Speaker, after consultation with the Government Leader, that the public interest requires that the House shall meet;
THAT the Speaker give notice that he is so satisfied, and thereupon the House shall meet at the time stated in such notice and shall transact its business as if it had been duly adjourned to that time; and
THAT, if the Speaker is unable to act owing to illness or other causes, the Deputy Speaker shall act in his stead for the purpose of this order.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned.
The House adjourned at 10:32 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled December 18, 1996:
Safety audits in schools: Porter Creek Secondary School and Whitehorse Elementary School; many recommendations being implemented (Moorcroft)
Oral, Hansard, p. 155
Security at Porter Creek Secondary School: status of initiatives (Moorcroft)
Oral, Hansard, p. 156