Wednesday, April 23, 1997 - 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.
Tribute to House page Amy Klassen
Speaker: Under tributes, I am pleased to recognize the achievements of Amy Klassen, one of our pages who is here today, who won four gold medals and the intermediate trophy at the Rotary Music Festival which took place last week.
Speaker: Are there any other tributes?
Introduction of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I have for tabling today the business plan for the property management agency of Government Services for 1997-98.
Speaker: Are there any reports from committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Youth Works steering committee
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I rise in the House today to outline how this government is honouring its election commitment to provide opportunities for young people to have a direct say in policy development and programs carried out on their behalf.
In the budget speech, the Government Leader announced the Youth Works program. We have budgeted $200,000 to help prepare young people for life and work.
That announcement expressed a vision of young people around the territory designing and administering Youth Works, in association with the Department of Education.
The first step to achieving this vision is to involve young people aged 15 to 24 in the process of designing the program. This will be accomplished by establishing a steering committee comprised of five young people, supported by a facilitator from the Department of Education and the necessary research and secretarial support. There will be broadly based representation reflecting the diversity of Yukon society, including urban and rural high school students, street youth and First Nations youth.
The steering committee is enthusiastic about the opportunity to determine the agenda for Youth Works. Youth have important things to say about their future, and we are listening.
The steering committee will have a two-month life span to develop the mandate, terms of reference and structure for the Youth Works board.
This process allows young people to have an honest dialogue about their community and about how we, as adults, can better support their needs. Based on the steering committee recommendations, the Youth Works board will be established and begin its work of managing the $200,000 trust fund.
I am pleased about Youth Works. This will not be a board that rubber stamps the decisions of adults, but a board that will initiate, create and support the best efforts of our youth.
I look forward to returning to this House and sharing with you the aspirations and recommendations that Yukon youth have developed for themselves.
Mr. Phillips: I rise today to commend the government on this particular initiative. I think that it's a very positive one.
I had an opportunity last fall to attend a conference out at the Cadet Camp, the YES conference.
One of the main recommendations from the youth at the YES conference was that the youth design their own programs, because the youth have the best knowledge and the youth will put together a program that can most benefit the youth, and they wanted to be more involved. So, I applaud that effort.
Having said that, I would hope that they would follow the recommendations of this youth group, because one of the big recommendations from the group the day that we were out at the Cadet Camp was that the YES program be continued and be funded. I know that they have been knocking on the minister's door for some time now, and have had to lay youth off and lay people off in the program.
I would hope that when they get the recommendations from this new group that they're establishing that they will listen to all of the recommendations and they won't just pick and choose. I do applaud the government for this initiative.
The proof will really be in the pudding whether or not they follow the recommendations as put forward by these youth, and I wish these youth well in the deliberations.
Ms. Duncan: We are interested in the minister's initiative as has been outlined today. However, before we comment too much further on it, we would like some more information and details, and perhaps the minister can provide them in her response.
I note that there will be broadly based representation and that this initial committee will reflect the diversity of Yukon society. Presumably, there will be a consultation process for the selection of this group. We are interested in learning more of that, and although there is an indication that there is a two-month lifespan to develop the mandate, there's no indication of when that is going to begin or a more solid time frame for this Youth Works project, and we're looking forward to more information from the minister on the government side on it.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, I thank the Opposition parties for their limited support and interest in this initiative. As a government, we are not predetermining the agenda of what the young people themselves are going to come up with. We're prepared and willing to take risks. We're going to trust young people to make responsible decisions, and that's what we've done. That's why I can't be more definite about what they are going to come up with.
There was some mention of the youth empowerment and success program. The Minister of Health and Social Services met with them most recently. Our government is working with youth empowerment and success; however, we are not going to impose what the Youth Works program does. We're going to allow the youth to come up with their own recommendations.
I think it's important to listen to young people. They have valuable contributions to make, and they are taking the responsibility very seriously. I know that the young people are interested in talking not just to other youth but to adults, and I believe that they will do a very good job with what we have given them to do.
Speaker: Before proceeding to Question Period, the Chair would like to remind members of guideline 7, which states, in part, and I quote, "A brief preamble will be allowed in the case of a main question and a one-sentence preamble will be allowed in the case of each supplementary question" and of guideline 9, which states that, "A reply to a question should be as brief as possible, relevant to the question asked, and should not provoke debate." The Chair would like to emphasize this.
We will now proceed with Question Period.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, Aishihik Lake water
Mr. Ostashek: My question is for the Minister of Renewable Resources.
Yesterday in this House, my colleague, the Member for Riverdale North, questioned the minister about how the government arrived at the decision to direct YEC not to use the licensing range that it was entitled to on Aishihik Lake, and chose instead to dramatically increase the use of diesel to generate Yukon's power needs. I was shocked at the minister's response that he did not know how many CO2 emissions were going to be produced as a result of this decision.
Just for the minister's information, according to our figures, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide emissions from the Aishihik directive amounted to in excess of 8,000 tons for the month of January and 8,000 tons for the month of February - not to even mention the several hundred tons of nitrogen oxides that were put into our atmosphere.
Can the minister explain to this House why, as the minister responsible for protecting the environment, he was not aware of this tremendous negative impact on our environment?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I'm amazed that the member across the way is speaking the way he is. In 1992, their party made a promise to end the devastation at Aishihik Lake, and now it sounds to me that they were all in favour of draining the bottom two feet of the lake.
It was a tough choice that we had to make, and very little time to do it. We consulted with the people that were there, and with the First Nation. Everybody was on side and agreed with the decision that was made by us, including the Conservation Society.
Mr. Ostashek: If the minister would care to check, and not just listen to his advisors there, he'd find out that we were working to get rid of the devastation at Aishihik.
We didn't do it, Mr. Speaker, by knee-jerk reactions, like this government has done.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Mr. Ostashek: If we extrapolate the carbon monoxide and the carbon dioxide emissions resulting from this decision over a three-month period, from January to March, we're looking at over 25,000 tons of carbon monoxide emissions into the atmosphere, along with an excess of 1,000 tons of nitrogen oxides. I'd like the minister to explain how he could support a recommendation to Cabinet not to utilize Aishihik Lake without presenting this information to Cabinet? How could he do that?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: A decision had to be made, Mr. Speaker, on whether or not to draw down the bottom two feet of the lake and that's what we had to look at. It was the environmental impact on the lake, and that was more of a reason to make a decision than looking at the CO2 in the air. We had to make a decision between one of them - which one will have more impact on the environment and on people directly, and that's how we made the decision.
We will stand by it and we have the people behind us on this. It is a people process that we say our government is all about and that's how we're going to continue to do this - with the people's support.
Mr. Ostashek: I would suggest to the minister of environment, Mr. Speaker, that you don't solve an environmental problem if you've got a dump that's polluting one side of town by moving the dump to the other side of town.
This is a very serious matter, as it goes to the very heart of the decision-making process of this government.
How can the minister responsible for protecting the environment support recommendations to Cabinet on a decision of this magnitude by examining only one side of the environmental issue and not the other side. Does not the minister agree that's an irresponsible approach to be taking?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: It's amazing to hear this again from the member across the way who really supports draining the bottom two feet of the lake. People in Champagne-Aishihik sure wouldn't be happy to hear that.
Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling here the technical advisory group's recommendations to us. We took this seriously and it was part of our decision in whether or not we draw down the bottom two feet of Aishihik Lake.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, Aishihik Lake water
Mr. Ostashek: My question is to the same minister.
I don't want to be unfair to this minister, but he has to be aware of the consequences of his decisions. Twenty-five thousand tons of carbon monoxide and dioxide emissions - that's in excess to what we put in the air on a regular basis, along with in excess of 1,000 tons of nitrogen oxides. A very serious situation.
The diesel generators at the Whitehorse dam and elsewhere through the Yukon have been running full bore all winter long. This 25,000 tons of added emissions covers the Whitehorse watershed and affects the majority of Yukon's population - men, women and children.
What is this minister going to do in the short term to mitigate this problem?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The decision that we made was for a short term. It's not something that we're going to stand behind in the long term. We are looking at air emission regs. We are looking at improving policies in regards to energy, and that's why we have an energy commission, Mr. Speaker, and we will continue to work along those bases and make decisions in that manner.
In the future, I know and we all know and all Yukoners know that the direction we're going as the government will certainly be supported by Yukoners and will be a better way of doing things.
Mr. Ostashek: I would suggest to this minister that he must accept his responsibilities under the Environment Act, and he cannot hide and he cannot transfer that responsibility by hiding behind the technical advisory group or the Yukon Conservation Society. He is the minister responsible for the environment in the Yukon.
I would like the minister to assure this House that in the future he will not bow to political pressure put on him by the MLA for Kluane and his vested interests in Aishihik Lake, but will ensure that proper environmental assessments are done before decisions of this magnitude are made. Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: In our commitments, we made a commitment to protect Aishihik Lake.
We made a commitment to work with the people of Yukon, and that's what we're doing and that's what the Yukon Party lacked. That is the way we will continue to operate - with the direction of the people of the Yukon, not without them.
Mr. Ostashek: This minister swore an oath to Cabinet that he would take his job seriously. The MLA for Kluane didn't swear an oath to Cabinet. It's up to that minister to protect the environment and Cabinet decisions, not the Member for Kluane.
Whether this minister realizes it or not, he has sacrificed proper, environmental decision making, on the altar of political expediency by following the advice from the Member for Kluane.
All I'm asking this Cabinet minister to do is fulfill his responsibilities to protect the environment, the oath that he took when he was sworn into Cabinet. Will he do that?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Mr. Ostashek: Point of order, Mr. Speaker. I ask that the member withdraw that comment. It's unparliamentary.
Speaker: A point of order has been called.
Mr. Ostashek: I ask that the member withdraw that comment, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: A point of order has been called. The member was not recognized to be heard, and I would encourage all members not to use strong language when another member is speaking.
Mr. Ostashek: Where were we when I was so rudely interrupted, Mr. Speaker?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I'm certainly going to be working hard in my department, and working hard on the environment. I've always had that position, and I've taken that position from my previous job.
I think what bothers the Opposition most is that we are a people process, and we will continue to do that. When we involve people, and have them part of our decision making and part of the success that we are in, it bothers them a whole lot.
I'm quite surprised that he is concerned about air emissions, in all his proposals in the past about coal-fired plants in the Yukon. It's amazing. Did he bring numbers for the Yukon public to see what CO2 would be in the air - how many tons of CO2 in the air? Wrong. He hasn't done that.
He has no leg to stand on when it comes to this. His party has not shown and has not proven themselves in regard to air emissions and environmental issues.
Question re: Fetal alcohol syndrome/fetal alcohol effects
Mrs. Edelman: My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services. There is still no clear diagnosis of fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol effects. The minister may be aware that some medical practitioners refuse to diagnose a child with FAS or FAE in case the child becomes labeled negatively in the education system.
Refusing to diagnose also does not let that child and their families access the help they may need desperately. So what is the Minister of Health doing to help define this syndrome?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, it's interesting that the member would bring this forward. I spoke this morning to the Kluane First Nation - a conference on FAS/FAE - and some of the issues we talked about there were the whole questions of definition.
I realize that there is a reluctance, sometimes, to diagnose a child as having FAS/FAE because of the potential stigma and because of the potential problems. At the same time, that, in some ways, short circuits the educational system and the assistance. That's something that we will be trying to do, trying to assist in our developing an integrated FAS/FAE prevention approach, trying to get some definitions and trying to wrestle around with some of those issues.
I suppose what I spoke about this morning was some concerns of mine on the whole question of FAS/FAE, in terms of some of the other impacts that I consider equally serious, in terms of justice, in terms of employment opportunities. I've approached my colleague in Justice and I've approached my colleague in Education regarding some of these issues, and we're going to try to integrate it into a more concerted, integrated approach.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, despite numerous years of research, there are still no real numbers of persons in the Yukon with FAS and FAE. Will the minister at least commit to finding out how many persons are affected by FAS and FAE, so that we can plan for the future?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As a matter of fact, we are planning for the future, and we are trying to gain numbers. We are trying to sort of define the magnitude of this problem. This is part of the FAS/FAE prevention approach. We have some models in place. We are gaining some further evidence from a study done by the Bureau of Statistics, and this will form part of the basis for our approach.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, despite years of work, there is still no coordinated approach for the many agencies that deal with FAS and FAE, and the minister is presently reviewing yet another plan. When will the minister commit to some concrete steps that he will take to coordinate the many agencies in the Yukon that deal with FAS and FAE?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Speaker, this is an issue that has plagued this territory for many years. I can recall that the first study done to do an assessment on this was in 1985 by Dr. Asante, and I think prior to that, people in the educational community, for example, realized that we had a problem. Since that time, there has been a great deal of research done into this problem. There has been a tremendous amount of work done within the schools in terms of learning assistance on this problem.
I think what is now beginning to impact on society is the fact that we've had entire generations go through a very supportive environment in the schools, only to find themselves at a loss when they reach young adulthood, and I think that not only in terms of prevention, we also have to take a look at the delivery of services and different approaches to dealing with individuals with FAS/FAE in their adult lives.
Question re: RCMP auxiliary police program
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Justice on the RCMP auxiliary police program.
The RCMP auxiliary police program was set up in December of 1992, and at the time the program was set up, the Minister of Justice at the time said the purpose of the project was to supplement existing RCMP resources in the areas of pro-active policing. According to his ministerial statement at the time, and I quote: "This means participation in the Neighbourhood Watch program, vandalism protection, special event crowd and traffic control, building security, search and rescue, and public education programs."
Now, the minister, in her letter to me of January 8th on the subject, stated that the program has been very successful. Just for the record, is this government and this minister committed to the continuation of the RCMP auxiliary police program?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, as the member pointed out, the auxiliary police officer program has been in place in Whitehorse for over two years. The program has been, for the most part, quite successful, and we support it.
Mr. Cable: I think the minister is aware that the members of the program are looking for some legislative backdrop to their activities. In her letter to me, the minister stated that it is important that legislation be developed to ensure the long-term success of the program. Is this her present view?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Let me assure the member that I wouldn't have signed the letter saying that to him if it wasn't indeed my view. Yes, that is my view.
Mr. Cable: The minister also signed the letter saying she was thinking about bringing legislation forward for the spring session. Of course, you can't do that; this is a budget session.
Could she tell us what she's committed to do in terms of bringing this legislation forward? Is she committed to doing it in the fall session?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, as the member pointed out, this being a budget session, this is the legislation that we're dealing with in this session. We haven't yet completed the legislative calendar for the fall. It is our aim to work toward the development of legislation to address concerns about appointments and indemnification that would provide stability to the program and we will be working on that with the auxiliary police and the RCMP and other interested parties.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, Aishihik Lake water
Mr. Ostashek: My question is again for the minister responsible for the environment. According to CBC Radio, Canadian climate action network reported that global warming could wipe out whole species of animals and destroy the Arctic environment within this century. That is a fairly alarming prognosis.
Since Canada signed the United Nations framework convention on climate change, which compels us, by international law, to achieve stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere to a level that would prevent dangerous interference with the climatic system, can I ask the minister, when his government made this decision on Aishihik Lake, did they take into consideration our legal obligations under that agreement?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The decision on whether or not to lower the bottom two feet of Aishihik Lake needed to be made. That was the issue. The main issue on the table at that time was the environmental impact that would happen.
I am quite surprised that the member across the way will continue to have this line of questioning on air emissions when he, himself, proposed the coal plant in the Braeburn area.
We said that we are a government that is a people process. We will work with the people of the Yukon, and that is the way we will continue.
The coal plant that was proposed in the Braeburn area would have had a tremendous impact on the lakes and waters in and around that area and also on the people of the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation, who were not even consulted at all - no letters, nothing.
The member across the way is trying to make an issue about how he is environmentally conscious about the Yukon and is protective of air quality in the Yukon. He doesn't have a leg to stand on.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I think the minister responsible should quit turning to the Member for Kluane for advice, because he's not getting very good advice.
There was no decision to build a coal plant and the member knows that. He knows that quite clearly. There's going to be one shortly by an NDP government.
My supplementary to the minister: previously, in this House, on April the 3rd, the minister stated that his department was working on emission standards, and that most of the work was done and the standards were ready to go to Cabinet.
I ask the minister, why didn't Cabinet refer to these standards when it made its decision to radically increase the use of diesel fuel to generate electricity?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: As we said, in regard to the air emissions, it will be coming out this year and we will continue to stick to that. It's going to be going out into the public this summer. It's still in the works and it's still being developed, and you can't refer to something that is not completely developed.
Mr. Ostashek: It's quite clear that this minister and this Cabinet didn't consider any of the downside of the decision not draw down Aishihik Lake. They didn't think of the other environmental problems they were creating. That is what I say is a knee-jerk reaction to a problem they were faced with.
My final supplementary: on April the 3rd, the minister stated that the air emission regulations would be in place, at the latest, by January the 1st, 1998.
So, I'd like to know if it is this government's intention to continue to rely on excessive diesel fuel use to generate electricity until that time, and can he assure this House that on that magic day of January 1st, 1998, that they will cease to use so much diesel fuel for their electrical needs, or are they going to be the first ones to break their own standards, if they bring them out.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: My government is aware of the situation that we have been put in by the previous government. We're looking at doing many different things that the Yukon Party did not do. One of them is assigning a political person who would be in charge of energy, and coming up with new initiatives.
We will be continuing to do that, and that's the way our government is going to work. We're not going to be making decisions without people's concerns and interests being put forward.
If there is a tough decision to make, we have to make it. That's the bottom line and that's where the Yukon Party failed in their last term.
Question re: Development assessment process within municipalities
Mrs. Edelman: My question is for the DAP commissioner.
All municipalities in the territory have official community plans and decisions made by DAP could impact on these plans.
Mr. Speaker, would it not be appropriate to ensure that municipal officials are appointed to DAP boards when development will be occurring within municipal boundaries?
Mr. Livingston: The appointments to the development assessment board are outlined within chapter 12 of the umbrella final agreement and it's quite specific in terms of providing for the appointment, for example, of First Nations people as well as representatives of government. And "government", under the definitions section of the umbrella final agreement, refers to Government of Canada and Government of Yukon.
Mrs. Edelman: Actually, YTG can sort of appoint anybody they really want to represent them, but a number of community representatives have approached me and expressed deep reservations about this so-called one-window approach to development.
What I'm hearing is that the commission is making the process more difficult, instead of simpler, merely to justify the work of this commission.
Will DAP finally do away with the duplication of studies that has plagued development in the past, and make this process truly one-window?
Mr. Livingston: I rise to respond to the member's concerns that we do, in fact, arrive at a one-window approach. It's a concern that I, too, share and I can assure her that the Development Assessment Process Commission is working with the other two parties at the core table to ensure that we have a one-window process that will reflect the interests of all Yukoners.
Mrs. Edelman: After receiving recommendations from the development assessment process, the government decision bodies will decide whether a project will proceed. Is there any provision for municipalities to appeal these decisions?
Mr. Livingston: The appeal process provided for under chapter 12 and certainly what's being examined, what our sense of what's going to work, is that once a project has moved through the entry stages, that will ensure that all of the required information is, in fact, on the table and available for all parties to review as it will move through the assessment process that will include the technical advisory group that will examine the information. Once the development assessment board or the designated office makes recommendations about how the project will proceed, it will move to the decision body. So the member is quite correct in that.
At the decision body stage, that really is the opportunity for a municipality or other interested parties to make their appeals, and that's how the process is designed at this point.
Question re: Centennial anniversaries program
Mr. Phillips: My question is for the Minister of Tourism. During the time the Yukon Party held office, the centennial anniversaries program was developed to provide financial assistance to communities to develop tourism infrastructure to provide long-lasting benefits, improve tourism potential and take advantage of the economic benefits offered by the Yukon anniversaries.
The NDP, while in Opposition, criticized the centennial anniversaries program to no end, saying the program was a disaster, responsible for dividing communities and having too many restrictions.
I'd like to ask the Minister of Tourism what vision he sees when he comes to developing Yukon's tourism industry, and if he intends to support programs such as centennial anniversaries program and the centennial events program?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The minister asked the question to the minister responsible for Tourism, but the centennial anniversaries program and centennial events both fall under the jurisdiction of Economic Development. We said that we had some concerns about the centennial anniversaries program. There have been a number of problems identified with it in many of the communities, and there are still some problems that are ongoing. The member just recently wrote me a letter about the Whitehorse centennial anniversaries program publicly, with a lot of concerns about the program that he created.
We have decided and made a commitment that we would honour commitments under the criteria of existing CAP programs and we would try and work through some of the hurdles that exist with regard to that program, pending responsible decisions that meet the criteria being made by the proponents of a particular project.
So we've also supported the centennial events program, as was our commitment to honour the commitments of the previous administration. So we put the money in our budget, and if the proponents can come together to meet the criteria of the programs, then certainly they will continue to have the funding.
Mr. Phillips: I'm disappointed that the Minister of Tourism didn't answer, because the minister that did answer is one in this House that has clearly demonstrated to Yukoners and the industry that he has never supported tourism in the past, and still doesn't today.
One of the first proposals to come forward under the CAP was from the Town of Watson Lake to construct a planetarium with a display of the northern lights. With much hard work attributed to the dedication and commitment of many Watson Lake residents, I'm pleased to see this project become a reality, not to mention a world-class facility.
As the minister knows, the AGM, the annual general meeting of the Tourism Industry Association, will be held in the northern lights auroreum this weekend, at which I'll be taking part in proceedings. I'd like to know if the Minister of Tourism will be attending and whether or not he'll be taking part in any ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open this building, despite his government's blatant opposition to the program.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I certainly will be there. I certainly take my responsibilities very seriously, and I will certainly be there. I am certainly heartwarmed - if I might put it in that context - so that I will be there to listen to the people's voices and listen to the direction of the tourism industry and listen to their concerns. As far as cutting the ribbon, no, I have not been asked to cut a ribbon. I do believe that it is a town affair and that the town is going to be working with due diligence toward that, but I'll certainly be there with great pleasure indeed to be able to participate with them.
Mr. Phillips: Last week, they held the first showing of one of the films in the new facility, and over 500 residents of Watson Lake attended. I'd like to ask the minister, in his speech, when he speaks to the Tourism Industry Association and the people of Watson Lake, if he intends to congratulate the Town of Watson Lake for its initiative to develop this aurorium, and whether or not he intends to make a public apology on behalf of his colleagues for the critical approach toward this particular program, and for voting against this program in the budget, and against providing funding for this particular project.
Does the minister intend to come clean and tell the people of Watson Lake that his party never supported this particular project?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, humour is definitely a part of this process, I can see. Inadvertently maybe, but it is certainly a definite part.
The member opposite asking me to come clean, insinuating I'm dirty - really, I don't like that either, but I look at where it's coming from.
As to the actual question from the member opposite, he is certainly going to be there, and I think with his anticipation of my speech and what's going to be delivered with my speech, I think I will just let him hang with the last chapter, biting his nails so that he might be able to be there and listen to my speech, and I certainly look forward to seeing him there and listening to my speech.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed, and we will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Deputy Clerk: Motion No. 47, standing in the name of Mr. Phillips.
Motion No. 47
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Riverdale North
THAT it is the opinion of this House that testing in schools not only evaluates the level of learning attained by the individual student but it also demonstrates the effectiveness of teaching methods and the overall education system; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to maintain standardized testing in Yukon schools and strive for excellence in Yukon's education system by expanding the Yukon excellence awards to include significant achievers.
Mr. Phillips: I'm pleased to rise today to speak to this motion and ask all members to give it very serious consideration for support.
By supporting this motion today, I believe we can send a clear message to all out there that we feel here that we still can make improvements to our education system in Yukon.
Some members of this House, from time to time, have spoken out against testing, which I think is unfortunate.
I do not believe that testing is bad. In fact, I believe that it helps one prepare for the pressures that one will face in the tests of real life after school. As we all know, life is really a series of tests.
I had a chance to look over our record over the past few years, and it becomes more obvious to me where increased testing has actually helped our Yukon students increase their marks. That's important, Mr. Speaker, because the standards that our students have to meet today to get accepted into universities have risen dramatically in the past several years - 65 or 70 percent is not enough any more.
In 1993, the Yukon Party Minister of Education brought in increased testing in math, because our average mark was consistently below the B.C. average, whose curriculum we follow.
Since the implementation, our math marks have slowly risen to where, today, our average is above the B.C. average. That is, I believe, a credit to the increased testing, but as well as to the superb teachers, and last, but not least, the very hard work of our students, supported by their parents and families.
This improvement will eventually benefit all of us. We changed the number of the marks that counted on the final exams from 25 percent to 50 percent, so we made it more important to do well, and we increased the number of tests.
We, on this side, see the value of standardized testing. Testing not only evaluates the student's knowledge of the subject, but it also demonstrates the effectiveness of teaching methods and assists the teacher in improving their methods over the years.
The testing in math has shown great results, so let's look at where we are with our other Yukon subjects. The numbers that I'd like to read into the record do cause reason for concern. It appears that the only subject that we did better in than our B.C. counterparts in the January marks was math.
For the members' information, I'd like to go through some of the numbers. In biology our average was 64.34 percent; the B.C. final exam average was 70.66 percent. We were six percent lower.
In chemistry, the Yukon average was 68.37 percent and the B.C. average was 74.04 percent. Again, we were about six percent lower.
In commerce, the Yukon was 57.27 percent and B.C. was 65.73 percent. We were eight percent lower.
In English, we were 65.36 percent and the B.C. marks were 69.85 percent. We were four percent lower.
In French, we were 72.9 percent and B.C. was 76.32 percent. We were four percent lower.
In geography, we were 65.84 percent, B.C. was 69.66 percent. We were four percent lower.
In history, we were 68 percent, B.C. was 70.05 percent. We were two percent lower.
In physics, we were 66.26 percent and B.C. was 73.12 percent.
In the only subject that we've really increased the testing and worked on other methods for our curriculum since 1993 - math - the Yukon was 75.33 percent and B.C. was 70.28 percent. We were five percent higher in the one subject we concentrated on.
There was an article in the Yukon News a few weeks ago, where the comments were made by officials in the Department of Education that the final marks were not in yet. Well, I suggest to you that the marks that we have now and that were sent out to all the students in our local schools show that, in fact, Yukoners do need to do some more work in some of these other subjects, but if we initiate some new programs and follow some of the initiatives that have been undertaken by the previous government with respect to math, and carry that forward to other subjects, there is the potential for marked improvement.
As you can see, Mr. Speaker, there is some reason to have a harder look at this matter.
Now, I know that some might say that the number of students that we have in our system is low, and so you can't really compare it with British Columbia.
I don't really support this particular idea. First of all, let's look at some of the bonuses - the pluses - that the Yukon has. We have very high quality teachers. We are fortunate for that. We have some of the best facilities in the country to teach in and some of the best tools to teach with. We have, in the Yukon, one of the highest spendings per capita per student in the country - it doesn't always equate to high marks, but we do spend a lot of money in education - and we have something that I think does make a difference: the lowest student/teacher ratio in the country.
So, Mr. Speaker, why are our marks lower and what can we do to improve our students' results? I think the math results are a good example of things we can do. In math, we increased the amount of testing, but that wasn't all we did. We worked more with the students and we involved the parents, guardians and others to help improve their children's marks, and it simply worked.
I might add that when the public became aware by the articles in the paper that the marks had improved, the only negative comment that we heard came from a former defeated NDP candidate, who now has more control over our education system than any other Yukoner, and that's the Deputy Minister of Education, Mr. Riedl.
I'm sure that the students, the parents and the teachers must have been disappointed to hear the deputy minister say, "Anyone can teach the best kids." Well, I'm sorry, Mr. Speaker, I have a problem with that statement, and quite frankly, I believe this individual owes the students, the teachers and their parents an apology.
It took a lot of hard work and dedication and a lot of people in the education system to achieve those improvements, and the deputy minister should have known that. In fact, in one of the articles in the local paper, they talked to other education officials in the system and some of the comments they made were, "This was a real team effort." Other comments made were: "Group work is a big part of the new teaching philosophy at the school, with students helping students." "The classes also have group leaders who attempt to help the students having trouble." "Teachers put in extra time on the weekend."
This wasn't, as Mr. Riedl would like us to believe, just the result of "Anyone can teach bright students".
The deputy minister went on to say that we should not forget the kids that don't traditionally do well in math. Well, Mr. Speaker, I don't think I've heard anybody suggest that these kids should be ignored. At least, I haven't heard anyone say that publicly. In fact, we have many other programs in our school system just for these kids, and so we should.
As a former Minister of Education, I attended several meetings with Education ministers from all over this country, and I can tell this House that there is a move toward more standardized testing in all subjects, and I think the new Education minister must be aware of that by travelling to Education ministers meetings - with a strong emphasis on the basics of math, science and language.
I would hope that this government will work with other jurisdictions in adopting national standards and increased testing. We should not treat this issue as a political football, but the question we should ask is, what is best for our kids? How can we best prepare them for a successful future? I would like to urge this government to keep this as a priority in their decisions.
The second part of the motion deals with the awards of excellence program that was initiated under a Yukon Party government. I know, Mr. Speaker, that the new government did not particularly support that program, and many students and parents are now expressing concerns to us that they're afraid that this NDP government will kill this program.
I'd like to ask the minister to examine closely how this program has benefited Yukon students before they decide to do away with it.
I'd like to ask the minister to survey each and every parent and student who has received benefits from this program and get their opinions on whether or not they feel it has improved their marks in school and helped them in furthering their education.
It's important to consult school councils, as well, but make sure you talk to those who have worked very hard and achieved positive results because of this particular program.
Mr. Speaker, I would also like to suggest to the minister that the awards of excellence program is not perfect, and it does need some fine tuning or some minor changes. There are some students who have shown, over the past year, a great deal of improvement but haven't reached that magic number of 80 percent - that benchmark of 80 percent. I realize that that could be an area in the program where improvement could be made.
I suggested, during the last election campaign, and I'm suggesting here, again, today, that the minister should look at expanding the program, or amending the program to acknowledge the hard work of students who have made marked improvement over the year, but don't quite reach the benchmark.
I'm sure there could be a sliding scale for percentages of improvement, or something of that nature that could be discussed with the school councils, as well as with the parents and students who have benefited from the program. We could come up with some kind of formula that would see students who do make significant achievements over the period of a year recognized in a way that could help benefit them, in the long run, when they decide to go to university.
I believe that both the initiatives that I have talked about here today are very positive in nature. I don't suggest for a moment that testing is the be-all and end-all, and it's the only thing that we should do in our schools. I think there are other programs.
I don't suggest for a moment that it benefits every single student, but testing is something that we are all subject to throughout our lives, and especially once you are out of school. One has to be prepared to deal with the pressures of meeting certain criteria to obtain a job, or to continue with a job, and I think that we should give this very strong consideration.
I would hope that the government would consider this motion in a positive light and encourage the government and members of this House to do what we can to improve our education system.
The marks that I read out here today are from the largest high school in the territory, and the British Columbia marks are an indication. I would think that we have a ways to go, but we have seen some positive results. We have seen it work, and the proof is in the pudding, so to speak, with our math teachers, with our students, with our parents, with students helping students. With a lot of dedication from a lot of people, we can achieve success.
So, with that, I would encourage all members of this House to support this motion that is before us today.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm pleased to rise to speak to the motion before us, and it's interesting to note that the member concluded his remarks by saying that he didn't believe that testing was the only method of gauging success from students, but in fact, that's what his motion is about, and that's one of a number of reasons why we would be unable to support the motion as it has been put forward by the Member for Riverdale North.
The member asserted that New Democrats have spoken against testing. We have not spoken against testing. We spoke against what the Yukon Teachers Association - to name only one interested party - referred to as an ill-designed and ill-planned Yukon excellence awards testing that was done with no consultation with the public or with the partners in education.
The member spoke in some detail about math marks having risen, and he was speaking about that as a demonstration of the success of the Yukon Party approach. I want to make it clear to people that the math marks that have risen have occurred at the same time that the participation rates are much lower. That increase in marks is based on a very small number of students who have done those tests, because the cross bar was set higher. I think we need to be proud of all of our students, and I think we need to work at encouraging all students to do well. We definitely need a harder look at the numbers.
The Yukon Party is singing from a single song sheet, and that is not a team effort, and I think that's a very fundamental difference that we need to point out. The member who just spoke went on in some detail that the only negative comments about the Yukon excellence awards had come from the now Deputy Minister of the Department of Education. Now, I will certainly demonstrate that that is false. There are letters from representatives of the Yukon Teachers Association that appeared in the paper, from the school administrators, from the Council of Yukon First Nations, from representatives of Yukon school councils, from a principal who was a Liberal candidate in the last election. There was lots of criticism about the fact that the Yukon Party brought forward the excellence awards without any consultation with the education community.
And, Mr. Speaker, I'm really troubled about the member's comments. We've come to expect personal attacks from that member on people who cannot defend themselves in this House. That's the member who stood up and referred to residents of a group home as criminals in this House when that is not the fact. That's a member who stands up and lays charges against people without any respect for the notion of fair trial or legal proof of facts and convicts in his own mind and puts it out there that his convictions should stand up. That's shameful. Now, the member spoke about some of the -
Speaker: Order please.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member spoke about the comments made by the president of the Association of Yukon School Administrators and, unfortunately, the president of the Association of Yukon School Administrators, in 1993, when this program was put in, had to write an letter to the editor - an open letter to the Education minister of the time - because the Education minister didn't talk to school administrators. The Education minister didn't talk to school councils. The Education minister of the day did not speak to the Yukon Teachers Association or the Council for Yukon Indians at the time. None of the people that should have been consulted were.
I think it was entirely legitimate for the president of the Association of Yukon School Administrators to express his concerns about the fact that partners in education were not respected, when the Yukon Teachers Association and the Association of Yukon School Administrators, together, represent some 500 people who work most closely with our students and were not consulted by this Yukon Party education initiative.
I think that I should outline, for the benefit of the member, because we are going to be speaking against his motion, just what our vision of education is and just what some of our concerns are that we don't believe the Yukon Party has paid attention to and should pay attention to.
For four years, Yukon people were extensively involved in a widespread consultation and development process that led to the creation of a new Education Act in 1990. A new era began when the act was put into effect, and a true partnership of educators, parents and students was born. That partnership with children disappeared after the election of the Yukon Party government in 1992. It was replaced with a top-down approach that showed disrespect for First Nations, parents, students and educators, which we believe is fundamentally wrong.
We believe that the principles of the Education Act recognize that the goal of the Yukon education system is to work in cooperation with the parents to develop the whole child, including the intellectual, physical, social, emotional, cultural and aesthetic potential of all students to the extent of their abilities. We want students to become productive, responsible and self-reliant members of society.
We must recognize that the Yukon education system should provide, as a right to each individual learner, an education that's based on equality of educational opportunity.
We believe that the Yukon curriculum in the schools must include the cultural and linguistic heritage of Yukon aboriginal people and the multicultural heritage of Canada.
We believe that meaningful partnerships with greater parental and public participation are necessary in order to have an excellent education system.
Today in this House I stood and announced the Youth Works steering committee. We as a government are prepared to listen to young people, to trust them to make responsible decisions about a $200,000 trust fund, and I think it's important that we listen to young people and, as adults, consider how we can better serve their needs.
It's quite valuable that young people will be involved in designing the criteria for the Youth Works board and the kinds of projects that it might support in the future.
I'm absolutely astonished that the Education critic for the Official Opposition wants to introduce, as his first Education motion, something on the subject of what has been a fundamentally flawed process from its very inception.
The Yukon excellence awards were established by the Yukon Party government in January of 1995 without consultation with teachers, school administrators, school councils, parents or students. On February 13th, 1995, the Whitehorse Star published a letter to Education minister Willard Phelps. This letter was signed by the president of the Yukon Teachers Association, the president of the Association of School Administrators, representatives of the Council of Yukon Indians and the Yukon school councils. The letter expresses outrage at the total lack of timely communication to the majority of stakeholders. It describes how the previous government ignored the recommendations of the Education Review Committee.
To quote, "While the review committee certainly heard that the pursuit of excellence is a goal of the education system, at no time was a monetary reward system a topic of discussion. Once again, consultation must be of paramount importance before the introduction of new programs."
The previous government made a hurried and flawed decision. Our government is working in partnership with schools to find an appropriate way to recognize the efforts and successes of Yukon students.
The Yukon excellence awards are currently under review. This review will open up the dialogue to the education community, including educators, parents, school councils, administrators and First Nations. The Department of Education is preparing an options paper to examine the effectiveness and benefits of the Yukon excellence awards.
The department has also developed a survey for partner organizations and interested individuals to gather their opinions concerning the department's role with respect to student recognition programs.
These options and the survey will be presented to school councils at their spring conference on May the 3rd. We hope to have feedback from school councils, teachers, parents and community members by June the 15th of 1997.
Mr. Speaker, even though we have reservations about the Yukon excellence awards program, we're not making a unilateral decision to cancel the program. We're going out and we're talking to the people who have an interest and who need to be involved and asking them for their views before a decision is made about the future of the program and how it might be changed.
We are working together with the Yukon Teachers Association to address the concerns that teachers have raised about assessment and recognition of student achievement. Teachers have important pedagogical and classroom experience that must be taken into account when reviewing any assessment policies.
Teachers and parents have expressed concern that excellence awards may not be the most effective way of spending our education dollars. We are spending money to reach a very small percentage of the student base. This money might well be more effectively spent on more equitable programs to foster student achievement.
Our government wants to strive for excellence in the Yukon educational system. We are not convinced that the Yukon excellence awards promote excellence. Therefore, we are opening up this program for review.
There was no proven link between rewarding excellence with cash awards and promoting excellence in a school community. Territorial exams do little to motivate poor achievers. The Yukon excellence awards have to do with rewarding scholarship, not assessment of student learning. Rewarding the work of our top scholars is important, but we shouldn't over-emphasize their position in the schools. We need to keep clear the distinction between assessing student achievement and rewarding that same achievement. Linking the rewards to a standardized test may not be the most accurate or equitable solution.
It is important to reward our students who achieve high marks. It is also important to recognize the efforts of students who work hard and improve their marks, even if they do not make 80 percent. Students who work hard at learning need recognition too.
Self-esteem is a vital part of a student's ability to learn, and recognition plays a large part in developing self-esteem. We need to have ways of recognizing the achievements of all students, not just those who are successful on exams.
Again, the Yukon Education Act commits us to providing an education appropriate to the individual learner, based on equality of educational opportunity. We must ensure that all three areas of educational opportunity - teaching, assessment and recognition - are carried out in ways that are fair to all students.
The Yukon excellence awards offer a narrow definition of excellence, confining it to students who make 80 percent, or better, on a standardized exam. The program does not recognize other skills and achievements that make an excellent student, such as working hard, critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity and cooperation. Analysis shows that Yukon excellence award winners are most often students who come from middle- or upper-class families, with a high degree of social support.
First Nation students are drastically underrepresented in the Yukon excellence awards; only two percent of winners in 1993-94, and only eight percent of winners in 1994-95.
The students who have won Yukon excellence awards are students who do well in school overall. We have no proof that students who were not getting high marks before the program was established are now attaining higher test scores. The Yukon excellence awards are not reaching a broad base of the student population.
For example, only nine percent of Yukon grade 8 math students won Yukon excellence awards in 1995-96. Only seven percent of Yukon grade 11 biology students won Yukon excellence awards in 1995-96. Only two percent of Yukon Grade 12 English Literature students won Yukon excellence awards in 1995-96. Only four percent of Yukon grade 12 geography students won Yukon excellence awards in 1995-96.
There are very few rural and First Nation students who receive Yukon excellence awards. We believe it's important to recognize all students' achievements, not just students who can earn over 80 percent on a territorial examination.
Now, let's look at the cost of this new program that the Yukon Party blind-sided the community with. For the fiscal year 1994-95, 369 awards were earned, and accruals in the amount of $148,000 were incurred. For 1995-96, 404 awards were earned, and accruals in the amount of $145,300 were incurred. We anticipate spending $179,800 on the awards in 1997 and 1998. Those monies are being expended on a program that the Yukon Party dreamed up and talked to nobody in the education community about.
Some teachers and parents have indicated that this money might be better spent in areas that offer support to students who have mid-range marks, or students that need additional social supports to strengthen their security during their school years. Some of our bright students are unable to concentrate well during school hours because of the demands of their living situations. It is an unfortunate reality that some kids live in poverty and are not eating properly. Others are in abusive environments. It is very difficult to do well in school with those kinds of problems. These students' life and well-being concerns are so critical that school becomes a secondary priority. We want to examine the possibility of offering more support to students who might experience external barriers to their achievement.
The Yukon excellence awards are redeemable within 10 years of leaving secondary school for tuition costs and books. Students must qualify as Yukon students under the Student Financial Assistance Act. Cuts to funding for colleges and universities mean that Yukon students and the Yukon government will be called upon to pay more for higher education. The excellence awards provide some funding to help with higher education. However, the majority of program awards help those students who are more likely to have family financial support for their education. Our government's review of the awards program will address the question of financial equity. We want to ensure the highest possible number of Yukon students is able to benefit from post-secondary education opportunities.
The member's motion also speaks to testing and assessment. Generally speaking, it is true that testing evaluates student learning, demonstrates the effectiveness of teaching methods and provides an overview of the education system.
The Department of Education assessment action plan forms the basis for departmental activities in the area of assessment. As part of the action plan, the Department of Education established a departmental assessment committee. The purpose of the committee is to oversee the orderly development of assessment policies and activities specifically geared to establishing common Yukon standards comparable to the rest of Canada.
The committee members include the assistant deputy minister for the public schools branch, a coordinator of student information and assessment, the superintendent responsible for student information and assessment, a rural school principal, two urban school principals, the coordinator of high school programs and a senior statistician with the Bureau of Statistics.
We do take assessments seriously. We do have a good departmental committee that's working on ensuring that assessments serve our students and our teachers well.
Standardized testing is most often used as a diagnostic indicator rather than an indicator of individual student performance. We must use effective methods to assess student progress. The results on specific tests do not give us a complete picture of a child. They provide only a snapshot of a particular area of learning. Most standardized tests are mainly multiple choice, because the format is cheap and easy to use, but they do not assess what students actually do, as opposed to what they know.
Teaching only to ensure good results on multiple-choice tests takes time away from encouraging students to develop their thinking skills. Teaching to the test can narrow the curriculum, because certain topics must be covered off and there is no time to consider interesting questions that might take you off topic for a period of time.
There is more to testing than simplistic multiple-choice answers can address. Students who do well in figuring out math problems may not be able to do well in a multiple-choice test if they do not do well in reading and comprehension of the questions. There is no opportunity, in multiple-choice testing, to account for the thought process involved in answering.
Performing well in a test means that you have learned to perform well in a test. Students who do not perform well on tests are not necessarily ignorant of the classroom material. We want to avoid a situation of too much testing and not enough teaching. Preparation for tests can take away valuable time for class discussions and problem solving.
According to one article, written by Dr. Eric MacPherson, almost one-quarter of grade 12 students in a prairie city spent two years preparing for the grade 12 provincial final examinations. Standardized testing ends up emphasizing the dull, trivial and testworthy subjects, not the results of curiosity, insight or passion. Every item on a multiple choice exam has to pass through many sieves of possible answers, until only the most uniform and bland questions survive. Multiple choice testing has also been criticized for inherent cultural and gender bias. The department employs a number of standardized tests that have practical applications for Yukon teachers and students. Not to alarm the member too much, we will continue to maintain CTPS testing, the year-end tests in literacy and numeracy in all grades, and we have the provincial learning assessment program from British Columbia, which is a good testing system since we teach from the B.C. curriculum.
Standardized tests tend to test memory recall rather than higher level, critical-thinking skills. Standardized tests assess basic knowledge when employers are looking for graduates with the ability to work cooperatively and to solve higher order problems.
The Yukon Education Act expresses a commitment to a Yukon curriculum that includes the cultural and linguistic heritage of Yukon aboriginal people and the multi-cultural heritage of Canada. Standardized testing may jeopardize that commitment. We believe that it's important to work on developing local curriculum and on meeting the goals of the Yukon Education Act.
Standardized tests are developed in conjunction with other jurisdictions. This means that questions are often geared to a southern, urban context. Yukon students, especially those in rural Yukon, need testing that is relevant to their experience. We want to ensure that Yukon students are equipped with skills to help them live as contributing members of their own communities.
Tests set by outside educators can put restrictions on northern curriculum. Our government also supports professional development for teachers that focuses on system-wide goals. We believe that achieving gender equity in our school system is a serious and important concern.
So there is a lot more than testing that needs to be the focus of the Yukon education system.
As we engage in a review of the assessment and recognition issues under the Yukon excellence awards program, the department will consider these general questions about testing: What kinds of tests are being used? What are the purposes of testing? What consequences could testing have beyond these stated purposes? Multiple choice mania in the United States has been proven to affect more than just the students. It can influence school enrollment, teachers' job status, student promotion, and even real estate values, and it can do that in a negative way.
One of my colleagues will be introducing an amendment to this motion to respond to what we believe are some of the flaws with the motion presented by the Member for Riverdale North. In closing, I would like to say that the Yukon Education Act outlines a vision for working in cooperation with the parents to develop the whole child, including the intellectual, physical, social, emotional, cultural and aesthetic potential of all students.
We have a responsibility to identify and employ methods of assessment of student ability that consider achievement in all of these areas. I look forward to the task ahead of us in trying to broaden the education system as it applies to our students, and that will include more than testing.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: It is a pleasure to rise today in this House to speak to this motion and to the topic of education. To me, this is doing what we were elected to do, to engage in a healthy and vigorous debate on a topic that is not without its controversy.
In addressing the motion, I looked at the initial premise that testing in schools evaluates the level of learning attained by the individual students, and it demonstrates the effectiveness of the teaching methods in the overall education system.
Testing is a way to gather information, and that is important. Tests can serve as a valuable marker for teachers, parents and students. They can indicate the knowledge level and skills of individual students - where the students or schools stand in comparison with others. However, I would caution members to bring to mind that expression - and I'm sure that I don't have it correct - something to the effect of "lies, damn lies and statistics." Tests can also measure how well students meet stated curriculum goals - what gaps exist in the content of what students are taught.
Testing, however, does not measure the full spectrum of knowledge and skills. It does not take into account qualitative factors in student success, such as personal motivation and home support. It is not a substitute for teacher observation, and it does not solve the problems identified through student and curriculum evaluation.
In preparing for this, the teachers prepare for a test. They don't necessarily prepare for education if testing is our focus. It's easy to teach to a test. Teaching to a test just doesn't challenge or actually evaluate the skills of a teacher. A good teacher uses his or her skills to teach a child a life-long love of learning - how to ask tough questions, how to perceive bias.
One of the members of a local teaching faculty told me that some of our Yukon kids are like the caribou in the Finlayson Lake caribou herd. They've been tested so much that every time a plane flies overhead, their rear end flinches, waiting for the needle.
With respect to testing, the Member for Riverdale North referred to the math example at F.H. Collins.
I was the only member of this House present at a recent presentation by the math department at F.H. Collins, to interested parents, teachers and school council members, and I must say that I found that presentation absolutely fascinating.
There were points that were raised by the Member for Riverdale South. Indeed, there are scores that show significant achievement, and the F.H. Collins school ranks very high among B.C. schools, and there are kinds of interesting ways to interpret the data. However, there are two very, very important points that I learned as a lay member of society, and as a concerned parent, about the way math is being taught.
One is that in that particular school there is a collegial approach to teaching. I must say that I was very impressed with the presentation in that respect. In this collegial approach, all of the teachers are working together. They're working with students and they're working with the remainder of their faculty. There's a real concerted effort and a common approach. I found that very, very positive.
I walked out of that presentation, after an hour of being lectured to, with a very, very disturbing feeling that there are two types of education in the Yukon. There's education in Whitehorse and there's education in the rest of the Yukon.
I did not leave with the impression that a student in Dawson City, or Old Crow - Old Crow isn't a good example, because they don't have grade 12 there yet - or Haines Junction are getting the same level of instruction as a student at F.H. Collins is receiving. I wonder if this is the right approach? I was left with a tremendous number of questions.
However, I digress; I was discussing the point about testing. I'd like to make the point that, above all, tests are the beginning of a journey. They're not the destination itself.
Today's students must be able to be creative, to work with others in team situations, to problem solve and be understanding of the needs of others. You cannot test all the things that youth must be in order to look after us and our society and our planet in the future. If we over-emphasize testing, the next generation may then decide to test us.
With respect to this motion, specifically the Yukon excellence awards, in coming to this debate I wanted to do my homework and I researched the awards as a member not having been present in this House when the awards were discussed.
In response to questions in this House, the minister at the time, when he introduced the awards, stated that the awards were something that were really driven by the minister and he spoke about the very real concern that in Yukon we spend over $11,000 per student and, "We are getting damn dismal results." And I apologize, those are not my words, "damn dismal". They are a direct quote, Mr. Speaker.
Recommendation 38 of the education review said that when standard testing initiatives are implemented, a representative group of stakeholders be involved in the planning and development process. That consultation did not occur. And other people and other members of this House have noted that the Yukon Teachers Association were not consulted about this program.
The program itself was retroactive to the 1993-94 school year. Close to $85,000 was distributed to 174 students, and it seemed that they were, at that particular award year, evenly split along gender lines. However, two percent of students in rural Yukon qualified - seven out of 332, and 18 percent of Whitehorse students qualified - 167 out of 916 students.
Also in researching to speak to this motion, I spoke with a number of individuals and I would like to share with you some comments I received. One person supported the program initially but now does not believe it's appropriate, that we need to look at the broader picture, that the basic philosophy behind the program is flawed. She related an individual experience that her award winner, as a matter of fact, had. In this award winner's experience, teachers were harassing students about the awards, mentioning them daily in class. The students who were eligible for the awards were named. Previously, your marks, your scholastic standing, was a private issue and now, all of a sudden, it was subject to public discussion.
This other person also made the point that testing does not measure what a child actually knows and that the award program was not appropriate for rural Yukon, and overall that the Yukon excellence awards lost sight of what is best for the children.
Another individual - an educator - felt that the awards were a subtle attack on the teaching community, and that really there was no analysis or evaluation that you could motivate children with money, and that really the whole question of the Yukon excellence awards was a political agenda and not an education agenda.
On the list of the top ten corporate "what North America looks for in new hires", marks are number seven. Corporate North America is looking for individuals who are team workers, who are innovators, who are risk-takers.
The students who receive these awards are students who are going to university anyway, and are eligible for other scholarships.
Another individual not wanting to be strictly negative - wanting to offer positive, constructive suggestions - said, "Why not increase the Yukon grant if we are going to do this?" and also noted that the strugglers in our society - those people, and I count myself among them, in the less-than-80-percent range - are also the people who then go on to university and who then become not necessarily the doctors or lawyers - some become accountants or politicians - or, try, that's true - those who are in the professional and trades professions and the producers, the people we count on in our society, are not necessarily the people who are going to receive the Yukon excellence awards.
All of these individuals noted that once something is in place, it is very, very difficult to take it away. It would take real political courage to say that this is not the best use of taxpayers' dollars.
The minister has indicated in her discussion that there will be a discussion paper coming forward to the community. That's a positive initiative; it is a way to examine the awards, just as much as we are doing here, but this paper will consult with teachers and school councils. However, what options are we presenting in that discussion paper? Are we saying, "Leave it as it is"? Are we saying, "Expand the program"? Are we saying, "Give additional dollars to the schools and let them award it or use it where it should most appropriately be used"? Or, are we having the political courage in this discussion paper to say, "Are you prepared to get rid of this and let the politicians examine better uses for our taxpayers' dollars?"
I believe this discussion is part of a much, much bigger puzzle - the use of education resources, how we spend the sum of $93 million, which will be the subject of debate later on this year in this House. Education, to me, is one of the most important discussions that take place in this Legislature.
I mentioned the $93 million. About $80 million of that is O&M, and $13 million capital. There are 6,426 students - that's in our budget document. If you divide those figures, you end up with $14,500 per student. That's slightly erroneous, because Yukon College is included, and there are all sorts of other different ways of arguing that, so let's go back to another figure that was used in this House, of $11,000 per student. Either way, it's a lot of money.
In the context of $180,000 budgeted for these awards that reward a few, could the money be better spent? At a quick glance, and a quick time period to sit in my office and think about what would be the appropriate things, and having talked with a number of people - and, in particular, I go back to listening to that debate and discussion about the math program at F.H. Collins, when I was left feeling a tremendous sense of concern for children attending school outside of Whitehorse. - could we spend the $180,000 setting up, or participating in, some kind of video conferencing that would allow students at high schools in rural Yukon to participate in a program at F.H. Collins or the other Whitehorse high school? Could we use our resources better?
Could we set up a travelling group of teachers - math teachers or science teachers - that did nothing but go between different schools in rural Yukon and teach those subjects? Right now, as I understand it, if you want to take physics 12 in rural Yukon you may have to take it by correspondence. Perhaps more students would be interested if we were able to use this $180,000 in a better way to meet the other needs that are out there.
In short, there are far bigger education issues - curriculum, assisting our education system in dealing with students affected by FAS and FAE.
Ultimately, when it comes to examining education programs, I think we have to look, at a minimum, at three points. There are others, but these are the three points that immediately came to my mind. What is the right thing to do for the majority of our children? Have we done all that we can to look after those who are outside of the majority - the less fortunate, those who are mentally and physically challenged? We must also answer: does our system challenge the challengers, the innovators? Let's consider that three-point checklist and look at the Yukon excellence awards in comparison with it.
Are the Yukon excellence awards the right thing to do for the majority of our children? I think not when only two percent of rural Yukon students are eligible and less than 20 percent of Whitehorse students are eligible. That's not the majority.
Does this do anything for the less fortunate, for those students whose daily lives and ability to learn is disadvantaged - for students who are coming to school without the proper support at home, who are coming to school from a different set of circumstances than others? It doesn't help them.
Do the Yukon excellence awards challenge the innovators in our society - those who are already at the top, so to speak? Yes, it does assist them. There are, however, resources already in place that do this.
Having looked at the Yukon excellence awards in terms of that three-point checklist, and having examined the premise that testing in the schools not only evaluates the level of learning and so on, it isn't the only method. Testing in schools is one method. It's not the only one. It's one.
For these reasons, I believe that the money that is allocated for the Yukon excellence awards, in short, could be better allocated elsewhere to serve a greater majority of students, to serve those who are in need, and, in short, to serve rural Yukon to a far better degree than the Yukon excellence awards at this point in time.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Livingston: The motion that has been presented by the member opposite, by the Education critic from the Official Opposition, provides this House with an opportunity today, an opportunity for us to clarify the debate, and to clarify the debate around testing, in particular, standardized testing and what our thinking is around educational issues.
I think it also provides us with an opportunity to be communicating to those that are interested, in our community, what kinds of priorities, in fact, this government does have.
I would note as well, that I think probably all of the members in this House have some common interests around education. We want our schools to function well, we want them to serve our students, we want our students to do well and to be able to move on from public schools, and be successful in their after-public-school life.
The issue is not whether there should be testing in schools. There is no question about whether testing plays a role in schools, but rather how much testing, what type of testing and what weight the various kinds of testing will be accorded.
One of the assertions in the motion presented by the member opposite is that testing demonstrates the effectiveness of teaching methods. I just would draw the member's attention to a headline in the Globe and Mail of last week, Friday's paper, April the 18th, "The Poor Fare Worse in Schools". It states that better-off children end up in gifted programs, with low-income ones in remedial classes.
Well, I could just imagine the perspective that one might take - and maybe I'm a little bit jaded - but the poor schools, their performances on these standardized tests are going to be a little lower; the rich schools, their performances are going to be a little higher.
Indeed, we've seen jurisdictions in the United States where merit pay is accorded on what kinds of performances their students will have on tests.
We've seen grants to school divisions, in jurisdictions not very darn far away from here, that have used a similar kind of a model. I think it would be very unfortunate if we went in that kind of a direction.
There's also reference in this motion to promoting excellence in education, and at first blush, I don't think anyone would have objection to that. But, there is an agenda here, and I'm going to talk just a little bit about that.
For this reason I, too, rise in opposition to this motion.
I just want to make reference to a couple of the comments in this article. I would commend the reading of this article to all members of the House and members of the community that would have an interest in this. In fact, I think we all have an interest in our schools.
The findings, it says, speak of what has become almost an unmentionable in Canadian society: an entrenched class system. And they point to the possibility that Canada's large and growing proportion of poverty-stricken children could create an under-class with all the social chaos that that suggests. Mr. Speaker, we can't support moving in that kind of direction.
It goes on with a professor of psychology from the University of Toronto who talks about, "We are in a circle of not allowing people to climb out of a lower echelon in society." This is Joan Grusec from the University of Toronto. "As a psychologist, I say someone has got to worry about those kids. Someone has got to do something for them." Mr. Speaker, the application of standardized testing, as is mentioned in this motion, will do nothing for them.
I think that's what the issue is here. Before I get into talking about standardized tests, I'm going to talk just for a moment about the awards, because the excellence awards, of course, are something that reference has been made to.
We've seen awards to this date offered in both the math and the science areas. Nothing in English and social studies. Indeed, I would suggest it would be pretty darned difficult to come up with a test that would give a student 25 or 50 percent of their mark for the year that would be in multiple choice questions in English and social studies. What are we talking about? Rote memorization? Just memorizing a bunch of facts that are going to be regurgitated on a test. It's not good enough, Mr. Speaker. Further, I think the fact that we've got 10 percent of the students who are receiving encouragement from this kind of award, maybe a few more because there's some that will be just under the mark that will be hopeful, and 85 or 90 percent of the students that are just not in the game. We're helping just a very small group of students in the education system.
Standardized testing is the real agenda here, Mr. Speaker. The multiple choice test is a primary driving force for learning in this territory and that's what was intended, I suggest, by the previous government. These standardized tests are no more than an instrument for sorting students. They certainly are not an indicator in the kind of way that has been suggested by the previous government.
Indeed, we saw, during the last three years or so, almost all of the educational dollars for new initiatives plunged into this testing program, either for the special awards or for the setting up of a testing task force or secretariat or whatever in the Department of Education.
Indeed, this testing program was put forward for political reasons, not for educational ones, and that's very clear if the previous government would have taken the time to talk to educators, would have taken the time to have reviewed the research on testing - and there's a lot of it out there. For me personally, Mr. Speaker, it was one of the straws that broke the camel's back. It's one of the reasons I ran for office. It was a political agenda, rather than an educational agenda and, as an educator, it was not something I could sit idly by and stand for.
The assessments have consumed an incredible amount of instructional time in schools, and the assessments that have been added to the agenda include Strand tests, cumulative tests, the LPI English placement tests, in addition to the B.C. departmental exams, the school achievement indicators program, PLAP - or British Columbia provincial learning assessment program - in addition to all of the tests designed, administered and marked by classroom teachers.
The Canadian Test of Basic Skills is an additional one, and those are some of the tests that are listed in a report that I'm sure was tabled in this Legislature in April of 1995, an assessment submitted by Didactics Research Services.
The real issue here is how do we support quality instruction and quality opportunities for learning in our schools.
I'm going to make reference to one additional article, and it's one that I'm certainly prepared to table in the House. The article's entitled, "What research tells us about good assessment," and it's contained in an educational magazine of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, which is an international organization of educators and those that are responsible for the supervision of education.
It makes reference to some 30 reviews by educational researchers from around the world and the work that they have done in terms of determining what makes a good assessment. I quote, "Does assessment support change? Interestingly, much of the research supporting the power of testing to influence schooling is based on traditional standardized tests and concludes that such tests have a negative impact on program quality."
It goes on and makes reference to a number of different studies that have been done and notes that standardized tests assess only part of the curriculum. Many of these researchers conclude that the time focused on test content has narrowed the curriculum by overemphasizing basic skill subjects and neglecting higher-order-of-thinking skills.
Reference has been made in this House to the importance that employers, parents and the community place on students being able to problem-solve, function effectively with others, make decisions, and all of those kinds of things. Well, Mr. Speaker, the research is very clear. The standardized test, in fact, tends to de-value.
The article goes on to note, cheerier pictures emerge, however, when the assessments model authentic skills in a variety of methods - including methods that are used in the workplace, methods that are used in a variety of settings that actually look at performance, look at performance indicators, look at processes, and so on, and can actually improve instruction and improve the learning outcomes.
The member who opened debate talked about the tests of real life, and, Mr. Speaker, I think that's a valuable model for us to be using as we kind of think about the different types of tests or assessments that we would use in our schools. As he says, the proof is in the pudding, and the educational research is very clear: standardized tests do not improve instruction, and indeed, because of teachers teaching to the tests and focusing so much instructional energy on simply bouncing back specific information for tests. In fact, it devalues instruction.
On that note, I would like to make an amendment to the motion, and I'd like to read that into the record.
Mr. Livingston: I move
THAT Motion No. 47 be amended by deleting all the words after the phrase "THAT it is the opinion of this House that" and substituting for them the following:
"exams are but one of many tools available to educators and the public in assessing student learning; and
THAT this House affirms support for a balanced assessment approach, curriculum leadership, professional development and the use of varied instructional strategies to support quality learning; and
THAT this House urges the government to continue to work closely with partners in education, including parents, educators, students and the community, to promote excellence and equity in Yukon schools as envisioned in the Education Act."
Mr. Livingston: This moves us to a much more positive note.
Speaker: Order. I have an amendment to Motion No. 47 that I will read. It has been moved by the Hon. Member for Lake Laberge
THAT Motion No. 47 be amended by deleting all words after the phrase "THAT it is the opinion of this House that" and substituting for them the following:
"exams are but one of many tools available to educators and public in assessing student learning; and
THAT this House affirms support for a balanced assessment approach, curriculum leadership, professional development and the use of varied instructional strategies to support quality learning; and
THAT this House urges the government to continue to work closely with partners in education, including parents, educators, students and the community, to promote excellence and equity in Yukon schools as envisioned in the Education Act."
Mr. Livingston: I believe that this amendment moves us to a progressive agenda: one that talks about tests and recognizes the value of tests, but recognizes that they are but one type of assessment. The demonstration of skills and knowledge and attitudes through projects, through presentations, through performances of special tasks, of specific tasks, through labs, and so on, are all legitimate forms of assessment and need to be accorded their due weight.
I believe this also helps to move assessment of students out of isolation. Assessment by itself will do very little, I would suggest, to improve the performance of students. What can improve the performance of students is good assessment when it's used in conjunction with professional development for educators, with the expansion and emphasis on good instructional strategies and, as it can follow, good curriculum leadership, both from educational leaders and from the community at large.
I was pleased to hear the critic for the Official Opposition make reference to group work. It is certainly at least a recognition that there are other means, aside from the more traditional and very important lecture format, and so on. The point I am trying to make here is that good assessment is not just testing; it is a variety of methods. Good instruction is not just stand-up lecture; it is a variety of methods. You have to try to fit the right process for the right purpose.
I think that this amendment helps us to do that.
Finally, I think this emphasizes the notion of partnership, and partnership is something that we've committed to. We've committed to it in the A Better Way document; we committed to it, indeed, in 1991, after going through a wide consultative process in designing the Education Act.
The commitment to partnership, I think, is a means for us to develop alternative approaches, to what we saw imposed on education over the last number of years, alternative approaches that will help to ensure that we have a system that offers excellence for students, but one that also offers equity.
I think that we can be moving forward on both of these very important agendas, and helping to prepare students for the 21st century.
Mr. Phillips: Before I speak more specifically to the amendment, I want to speak, for a short time, about some of the comments that were made by some of the previous speakers.
I think if one were to read the debate that has gone on here today, and paid attention to what I said - in particular, about this motion - all along - and we've said all along that the testing is not the be-all and end-all. It's not the only method; it's one of the methods.
I'm somewhat puzzled by some of the members opposite, because we bring in programs all the time in our school system that deal with specific topics.
I was surprised a bit by the Liberal approach to this motion where they said that the reason they can't support the excellence awards is because it only deals with a very small percentage - two percent overall in the territory, and 20 percent in Yukon - and, what I was surprised about is, if you take that Liberal philosophy with the awards of excellence program, and you apply it to all of the other programs in the Department of Education, you would be decimating the special needs program, the specialty programs within the department, that deal with a very small percentage of people, too.
There are very few programs in our schools that recognize individual achievement as the awards of excellence program does, and encourage individuals who, if they work hard, and if they improve, could see a reward. That's not a bad thing to teach our kids. I was brought up that way; I'm sure my parents were brought up that way. If you work hard and do a good job, you might see a reward at the end of the tunnel.
It is only one program. It's not the only program. There are other programs in the schools that recognize the achievements of other students, and I also suggested that there is room for expansion of the awards of excellence program to include those students who didn't achieve the 80 percent mark. I'm open to suggestions on how the program could be expanded. It'll be interesting to see what kinds of results the Minister of Education gets from her survey that she's going to conduct and who she's going to conduct it with.
The minister said that the awards of excellence program is only for the rich families. Well, I've got constituents in my riding, Mr. Chair, that quite frankly aren't rich families. They live in apartments, and some single mothers and single fathers are quite happy that their children are doing better and receiving this benefit toward their future university training. In fact, the mother and the father, in some cases, may not, as it stands right now, be able to put their child through university, but this particular program might assist that child in some way to go to university.
There was a lot of talk by the Minister of Education and by the last speaker about standardized testing. Quite frankly, I'm a little surprised at the NDP position on standardized testing because, like I said, I attended Ministers of Education meetings, and everyone there supported standardized testing. There were one or two Ministers of Education from, I think, Saskatchewan or British Columbia who supported it. In fact, we were all working for it. In fact, our biggest complaint as Ministers of Education is that it was going too slowly.
I know that they were bringing in standardized testing for math, for some of the sciences, and for English. They were looking at those particular programs. They had working groups from different jurisdictions working on developing the tests and bringing them forward. The member who spoke last said that some jurisdictions weren't, but I don't recall any jurisdiction saying they were against it. I just don't recall that. I remember them all speaking out in favour of it.
I guess it looks like the Yukon is going to be the only jurisdiction that's probably going to opt out of standardized testing.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: Well, the Minister of Education said she never said that, but read the Hansard tomorrow. The minister severely criticized standardized testing in the House here today, said it didn't serve any purpose at all.
So, you know, Mr. Speaker, they ...
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Mr. Phillips: ... they can't have it both ways. You can't severely criticize it and then stay on board and just quietly do it. You have to take a stand on it.
I have a problem with the amendment that's been put forward by the Member for Lake Laberge. I guess, in general, the amendment is not all that bad but it completely ignores the award of excellence program. There's not a word of mention. It deals with the first half of the motion, which is fair, but then it forgets about the Yukon excellence awards program, as if it wasn't in the motion in the first place. I suggest to the member that that was deliberate, that the side opposite says it's going to go out and consult with Yukoners about this program but it's busy with its Deputy Minister of Education crafting a discussion paper which will effectively kill the program, and they're going to do their best. They're going to bring their best sales people on board to go to the school councils meeting and sell them the idea that this is not a good program. The decision's been made. It's just a matter of time and how they sell it.
I'm disappointed with that because this may have affected 20 percent of the students in Whitehorse. I know there was a comment, I think by the Minister of Education, that there was a lack of participation by aboriginal students in the program, or a lack of aboriginal students who had actually achieved the ability to receive benefits from the program. She said it was two percent in 1993-94. A year later, it's gone up six percent, to eight percent. So, something's working. It's not good enough yet, but something's working, and maybe in three or four more years it'll be 38 percent or 48 percent or 58 percent, but I don't think it's going to get that chance. I think this government took a stand on this issue in the first place and has decided that it's toast.
So, the parents out there and the students who have been receiving these awards and benefits better get ready, because they're coming to an end, because this administration has made up its mind. It's going to receive support from the Liberals, who are driven by others, and it appears that they're going to kill the awards of excellence. They'll have to face the parents and the students who are going to lose this benefit, and I think that's unfortunate.
Mr. Chair, there are all kinds of programs in our schools that recognize excellence of all types, from athletics excellence to others. This is one small program that recognizes academic excellence. The member for Porter Creek South talked about a $93-million budget, and we're talking about over $100,000 for a program respecting excellence - and only if the students who achieve the marks decide to go on to further learning in university. It's the only way to get it. They don't get cash; they have to go back to school to further their education - in a time when university costs are sky-rocketing, when it's getting more difficult all the time for all people to afford to send their children to university. This isn't going to help everybody, but neither are some of the other programs we have in our school system going to help everybody.
The Liberals want to kill the program because it only goes to 15 or 20 percent, but there are dozens of programs in our schools that don't help 20 percent of the students.
Mr. Chair, I'm disappointed that it didn't deal with the award of excellence program, even to say that it would be evaluated and looked at and examined by committees, but just ignores it. It just kills it. It just gets rid of it. Like I said before, the initial amendment is not that bad, except that it only deals with half the motion, and if you're going to make an amendment to a motion, then make an amendment to a motion that deals with all aspects of the motion and not just part of it, unless you have an ulterior motive and you're playing politics with this issue.
Mr. Chair, we on this side are going to be unable to support this amendment because it is only a partial amendment. I ask all members of the House to consider that when voting on the amendment. It should include something that talks about the awards of excellence, if we're going to actually deal with this and deal with it in a responsible manner.
It's interesting that each speaker that spoke before me and on the main motion spoke about both aspects of the motion. They spoke about testing and they spoke about the excellence awards, and that's why I have a problem with the amendment.
If you had a problem with the excellence awards, why wasn't it in the motion? Is there not enough political courage to deal with it in the motion, to kill it outright? Because that's what I think the members are planning to do anyway.
So for that reason, the Yukon Party cannot support this amendment to the motion.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I rise to speak in support of this amendment to the motion. I believe it's very important that we set out in a motion that we do want to recognize not just exams as a method of assessing student learning, but that it's important to have a balanced assessment approach. Curriculum leadership and professional development, and varied instructional strategies, are ways of supporting an excellent learning environment for all of our students, and that is something that we need to do.
It is important that the education that our students get today prepare them for the changes in the workplace and for what society and the workplace will look like when they graduate from school.
Now what we have been saying here today in debate on this motion is something that is also being said by organizations such as the Conference Board of Canada, which looks at employability, skills and profiles of what employers are looking for when they want to hire for the workplace of tomorrow.
The critical skills that are required of the Canadian workforce include academic skills, personal management skills, and teamwork skills. Canadian employers need people who can understand and speak the languages in which business is conducted, listen to understand and learn, write effectively, think critically and act logically to evaluate situations, solve problems and make decisions.
Mr. Speaker, I would submit that multiple choice testing does not adequately assess students' abilities to solve problems and think critically. Personal management skills require positive attitudes and behaviours that include self-esteem and confidence, personal ethics, the responsibility to set goals and priorities. These are not things that can be gauged accurately in multiple choice testing.
Teamwork skills of working with others and understanding and working within the culture of a group, making decisions in collaboration with other people, respecting the thoughts and opinions of others in the group - those are not assessed by multiple choice testings.
The member opposite stood up and said that we don't believe in rewarding students, because we want to opt out of standardized testing. The member is twisting my words. We never said that we would opt out of standardized testing. In fact, what I said was that the Department of Education is going to continue to ensure that there is good testing and assessment in place. We're going to continue with the CTBS, which is a standardized testing that is administered to students all across the country. We're going to participate in year-end tests in literacy and numeracy in all grades. There is no devious motive here to eliminate standardized testing.
The member opposite also alleged that there was an ulterior motive. We do not have predetermined plans. The Yukon Party played politics with the Yukon excellence awards. As the Minister of Education, the Member for Riverdale North ignored partners in education. We are going to go out as a government. We would not be spending the time and resources having people in the department prepare an options paper to take out to the public if we were not prepared to listen to what the public has to say. So, the member is completely wrong in his statements that we have a predetermined agenda.
We took the opportunity to call the Yukon Teachers Association and ask them for their thoughts about the Yukon excellence awards, which they found had been ill-designed and ill-planned, with no consultation. It was a test for test purposes only, without consideration for the purposes of the test.
There is no indication that the award would be effective as an incentive for doing better in school. Recent pedagogical approaches indicate that observing performance is better than testing. The Yukon Teachers Association told us that they believe that public education is supposed to prepare students for more than just employment. It is to prepare them as members of the community. We run the risk of teaching to the test when we put too much emphasis on testing, and not having enough time for other kinds of instruction.
We want to present a program that encourages kids to take courses where they feel more sure of getting the award and making money. We don't want to see less of an incentive to take difficult courses like calculus because students figure that there's no point taking it if they cannot get the dollar reward for them.
The Yukon Teachers Association felt that the program put pressure on teachers to produce high marks in the classroom, and that may influence dropping out of math and science programs, as attention is focused on top-notch students.
I think it's important, given all of the discussions we've had about math results, and the increased math results, that the academic math results only reflect 43.5 percent of the students at F.H. Collins in grade 12 math. Only 84 out of 193 potential graduates took the academic math in grade 12. Again, when you look at the number of students across the Yukon, only 41 percent of the students took academic math. So, the results are skewed by how many students are having their marks counted.
Nonetheless, we are prepared to work with the community. We are going to go out and ask the parents that the member opposite felt we should talk to and the students and the Yukon Teachers Association and school councils and teachers and principals and all members of the education community what their position is on the Yukon excellence awards before any decision is made.
Finally, I would commend this amendment to the House, and I would say that if it gives the Education critic for the Official Opposition any comfort, I'm prepared to sit down and look at a further amendment, when we have finished and voted on this amendment, to speak to the Yukon excellence awards and that this House should encourage the government to continue with its plans to consult the education community on the Yukon excellence awards and how to come up with a good recognition system for all students to do well in our schools.
Ms. Duncan: With respect to the amendment, I'd just like to make a couple of points.
It discusses exams and testing, and I would reiterate the point that I made earlier that testing is but one method.
I'd just like to refute a comment that the support for an alternative approach to the one proposed by the Member for Riverdale North was driven by others.
In making my remarks, I sought the opinion of others, as any responsible member of this Legislature would do - single mothers, and yes, recipients of the awards.
In fact, one recipient of the award lovingly terms them the Kraft Dinner awards, because, yes, they benefited that individual, but that individual also said that it was their opinion that the philosophy driving the program was flawed.
I would remind the member that, in addressing this particular subject today, I do have children, I have been through the system, and I'm looking forward to them going through the system. I used a three-point checklist in evaluating the Yukon excellence awards to reach a conclusion in my own mind, and to speak with my own voice.
The majority. It doesn't help the majority of children. Not all programs do, as the argument was put forward. At that point, I introduced, for debate, the whole idea that I believe that rural Yukon is suffering at this point in time in terms of the education being offered. That, maybe, in the course of constructive debate, there could be suggestions put forward that would be worth looking at.
The second part of my checklist was, have we done all that we could do to look for those who are outside of the majority, the less fortunate, those who are physically and mentally challenged? No, it doesn't. There are already programs that do this and there are many of them. Ultimately, when we evaluate anything in this House, it is our responsibility to say, on behalf of the 1,200 people or however many we represent, is this the best use of taxpayers' dollars? In the case of the motion, the original motion, I don't think so. The amendment does not address the excellence awards specifically. It doesn't address the very constructive suggestion and question about service to rural Yukon directly; however, it does address the need to promote excellence and equity in Yukon schools.
The Member for Riverdale North, in discussing the use of taxpayers' dollars, said, "Well, of a $93 million budget, it's only $100,000." Well, only $100,000 goes an awfully long way to various non-government organizations that have been discussed ad nauseum in this House. It goes a long way to a whole list of projects and it would go a very long way to better serving rural Yukon's education needs a long way if we were to look at innovative, constructive suggestions.
Specifically with respect to the amendment, I would put a caveat on it, if you will, or an understanding for clarification in this House, that this House urges the government to continue to work closely with partners in education, including parents, educators, students and the community.
Somewhere in all of that, we must ensure that we talk to former students, and I'm speaking of those students of the 1993-94 year and the 1994-95 year who may have received the excellence awards in our effort to continue to promote excellence and equity in Yukon schools.
I would re-state that, contrary to opinions put forward in this House, I am speaking from my own mind, my own research and with my own intelligence, and I believe that, ultimately, we all have to be concerned - petty, political partisanship aside - about the education of our children. That's the real issue: the education of our children.
Mr. Jenkins: With respect to the amendment, I don't have any quarrel with what the contents of that amendment are. They are very generic in nature, but it basically neuters the motion put on the Order Paper by the Member for Riverdale North. It very much destroys it, the intent. It skirts around the peripherals. It's there, but it's not there in substance.
What it's omitting is the awards program, and when the Yukon Party government announced the awards program for Yukon public schools, it was intended to not only reward students for their scholastic achievements but to provide substantial encouragement for them to stay in school and to go on to post-secondary studies. Yes, the Yukon awards are given to those students in grade 11 through 12 who score a mark of 80 percent or higher on the B. C. provincial exams, but the reward is in the form of a reimbursement for tuition fees and books payable once this student has officially enrolled in post-secondary studies. The purpose of this program is to encourage scholastic achievement. The amendment to the motion does generically speak about that, but this is one of the added tools that is missing, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, the NDP has been an ongoing critic of that program, referring to it as money earmarked for a select group of gifted students, and elitists. I'd like to inform this House that the previous NDP administration had an excellent awards program, but they rewarded valedictorians and teachers. I would say that the current Yukon excellence awards program benefits far more students than the selective program that the NDP had in place previously.
The motion was put on the Order Paper to address the fears rising in the community that the NDP government is going to scrap the Yukon excellence awards. This amendment to this motion serves notice that that is the intent of this government.
I would encourage this government to be positive about initiatives that have merit. This government fully supports competitions in sports, ensures that athletic excellence is rewarded, but they seem to feel that to reward excellence in academics is somewhat shameful.
I've noted that the Minister of Education seems to base her views on the program of deliberations of school administrators and the Yukon Teachers Association. I'm pleased to see that, eventually, we're going to consult with a broad spectrum and include the students and their parents, and judge the program.
It is essential that our young people be offered an education that is comparable to any jurisdiction in the world. With the competition students are facing in the global market, education is of greater significance than ever before.
The current Yukon government seems to be telling Yukon students that they are aware that students can't achieve excellence, so the government will reduce the standards demanded by learning institutions outside of Yukon to make learning easier for the students here in Yukon. Does this government believe that Yukon is an isolated sphere, where Yukon residents do not have to be competitive? Everywhere in Canada, testing is a form that's accepted. In the Yukon, I guess our Department of Education is going to reinvent the wheel in this area.
If that is the case, this government is terribly naive and is guilty of misleading Yukoners. It would seem evident by the number of outside hires that the government has made, that they prefer -
Point of order
Hon. Mr. Harding: A point of order.
Speaker: Order. A point of order has been called.
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member has accused the government of misleading Yukoners. I would submit to the Speaker that that is quite unparliamentary.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I retract my remark. But they said one thing before and now they are doing something else.
It would seem evident that by the number of hires this government is bringing in from outside Yukon that they prefer people that are educated in jurisdictions other than Yukon.
In Canada, we spend more on education per capita than any country in the world. We spend more on the capital infrastructure of schools, we spend more on O&M costs and we have virtually the highest paid teachers in Canada. Legislators cannot be faulted for not providing funding for education. But, sadly, students going through our system are often not as qualified as graduates in other countries that spend considerably less on education.
It hits home with me. I have two daughters, both born, raised and educated in the Yukon. My eldest daughter was successful in accessing the Yukon excellence awards. In fact, today when she phoned, she had just finished her final exam at the University of Alberta and is on her way home.
During the course of the year, she and her colleagues were interested in figuring out a way that they could come back, take their grade 12 over in the Yukon, do very, very well in it, and acquire some more funds to help them further their studies. This was something that was brought up by the students on their own. It was most, most interesting to hear how successfully this program has been received.
On the other side of the equation, my youngest daughter, who completed her grade 11 at Robert Service School in Dawson City, could not find the course selection and she wasn't really as well motivated to achieve satisfactory grade levels for university entrance. She wanted to move to Whitehorse and attend F.H. Collins. This happened in August. She has enrolled in F.H. Collins this fall. She has gone through, and she's become truly excited and, yes, even inspired, by the instruction she is receiving, especially in mathematics. It's amazing what she comes home and says about her math teacher.
It's essential that our education system stimulates, motivates and challenges our students. If it does not, our young people will become more and more disinterested and their achievements will be mediocre at best.
As an elected official and as a parent, I want to see an education system that prepares all Yukon students to the highest possible level that they can achieve.
Testing and exams are one of the tools used to prepared students for the trials and tribulations of life, indeed, let's call it the test of life. The Yukon excellence awards are an added incentive to encourage students to attain this end.
I cannot support the amendment to the motion. It is, in general terms, acceptable, but it omits the one factor that we have come to acknowledge and respect as an added tool to encourage our students to stay in school, graduate and go on to a higher level of learning. That is the Yukon excellence awards.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'll speak to the amendment in general, but I'd like to talk a little bit about the concept of testing, and there were some interesting terms bandied around here with regard to testing:
tests of real life. Well, I'm not really sure what's meant by "tests of real life". Generally, I've found in life that most people don't shove a multiple choice at you and say, "Please do this." Tests of life generally have to do with such things as your skills to innovate, your skills to follow through on tasks, your skills to be creative, your skills to work with other individuals. I really seriously question if we can measure those by paper and pencil.
There were a couple of interesting points raised in some of these discussions, regarding the whole question of tests.
I'm not against tests. I've used tests in my professional life as a teacher. I've used them in schools. I think there are purposes for tests, but I think that's it: there are purposes for tests, and tests can be used very creatively, they can be used constructively, but, primarily, the use for tests, as I see it in the educational system, is largely as a diagnostic tool.
I think about the most effective tests that I've seen have tended to be at the lower levels - children entering the system - for identification of early possible problems with reading. Standardized tests have been used very successfully to diagnose difficulties in reading or other subjects and I think, subject to proper interpretation, they can be used very, very effectively.
What I am opposed to is using tests as a measurement of individual worth, and unfortunately, rightly or wrongly, this is what tests often become. The Member for Klondike mentioned that he had a couple of daughters in the school system. I have a daughter, of whom I am probably inordinately proud, who is off at school in, I guess, a very select school in Montreal, pursuing a career which she feels is really where she wanted to go. She arrived there by her own dint of hard work. It's an interesting school because it selects kids from across Canada. You know, what was a really interesting kind of thing, the interesting experience for me this year, was the fact that, during the course of the year, she had what I considered to be a far more interesting test. She was invited by the Canadian Writers Union to Toronto to read some of her work at the writers development dinner, and that's an interesting test because the test, in that case, was administered by people like Mavis Gallant and Susan Musgrave, who recommended her work be read and that she come to Toronto. That's a test.
This is the same girl that, when she was working through at F.H. Collins and, incidentally, achieving very good marks, really had some difficulties with math. There was one memorable evening, as you sometimes work with your child on homework, when we were struggling through one rather complicated algebraic equation, when she looked at me and asked me, "Dad, when am I going to use this?" I looked at the algebraic equation and concluded, "When you build a road." She thanked me for that piece of information and promptly concluded that math really wasn't her cup of tea.
Now, is she a failure? I doubt it. I, as a matter of fact, think she's an extraordinarily successful person because she has learned what her skills are, what her potential is. She's maybe not a math person but I think, regardless, she'll be an extraordinarily successful person, and I would be very loathe to see a test evaluate somebody else's worth by means of paper and pencil.
About a month ago, I had the opportunity to go to the association for learning disabilities of the Yukon and to hand out some awards, and I had the opportunity to meet a young man who had excelled in a rather extraordinary fashion in matters concerning computers, computer technology, was actually working with other students on showing them how to do this. But this young fellow confessed to me that he had problems in certain areas of education, primarily reading.
Was he a failure? I doubt it, and I would really be very, very loathe to assess people as to how they score on particular artificial scales as to their worth. I think that when we get into using tests to sort kids, we really move into some very, very dangerous ground. If we suggest that, because certain people achieve certain scores on certain tests, that somehow they are inherently better, I think we've taken a rather dangerous slide down the road to social Darwinism.
In terms of the Yukon excellence awards, that's an interesting sort of experience I've had, because I actually worked in a situation when these awards first came in. The Member for Porter Creek South referred to them as the Kraft Dinner awards. I heard some other things used - "Dollars for scholars," "Bucks for Bs" - and it was quite interesting to see some of the kind of quantitative change that took place in the minds of students when these awards came in. I actually found that there were students shopping for courses, saying, "Well, I won't take that course, because I might not get my money on that one, because it might be a little challenging." I saw students avoiding courses which stretched creativity, which I think would stretch their creative and cognitive abilities in very unusual ways. Some courses had been developed by teachers at F.H. Collins, which I think are very commendable and very positive, and I saw students avoid those. They avoided them because there wasn't a percentage in it.
I actually saw students at the end of the term not talking amongst themselves about how they had done, but measuring up, counting up the dollars. Well, this was a real good term, because I got 1,500 bucks, this one's 1,500 bucks.
So I really sort of question what kind of a message we're sending to young people. What is the message? Avoid certain things? Try for the easy dollar? I hope not. I hope that education in our system is something which stretches people, something which challenges people, something which causes children to rise to their best level.
You know, Mr. Speaker, I've worked in the education system in this territory in a variety of settings for a number of years, and I can tell you, quite frankly, I've worked in some schools where we would work - we being the staff, we being the parents, we being the students - like crazy for a slight increase in our scores on the CTBS in areas such as reading and, indeed, in math. We would consider ourselves fully rewarded if people learned just slightly better.
Many of those students that I have taught and many of those students in that situation will never in their wildest dreams hit these excellence awards, but they are still excellent people, and I believe they have achieved a measure of their own personal excellence.
The Member for Porter Creek South has talked about the need for enhanced programs in rural education, and I think that's really a very commendable notion, because I think we do have to give all of our students - no matter where they live, no matter what their circumstances - the sense that they can achieve, that they can mean something to themselves in life, and I think we can't measure that in whether or not you get $500 for this course or $500 in that course. We have to teach people that there is an intrinsic value in education. Quite frankly, education is not training, and the sooner we begin to move out of that lock-step, industrial, Bleak House model of education that came about with the industrial revolution and begin to move into an education system that takes people's creativity and takes people's better nature into account, the better.
The Member for Lake Laberge gave some interesting comments on, basically, class and education. Following up on that just a little bit, I'd just note that on April 21 in the Globe and Mail, the article, "Better Parents, Better Pupils," tells us something about the stats on poverty and education. Seventeen percent of children born into Canada's poorest families go into remedial education once they hit school age. Stats Canada has reported that only five percent of children from the richest fifth of Canadian households go into the same remedial classes. Forty percent of the richest children were rated in the top bracket of pupils skilled in reading. Only 16 percent of children from the poorest families are rated as top readers. We have to understand that there is a direct correlation between economic background and opportunities and education, and I think that this is something that we have not factored into this whole debate.
I believe that the Minister of Education is taking a measured, careful, concerted approach with regard to the Yukon excellence awards. She has not - I repeat, she has not - called for their abolition. She has not called for the abolition of standardized testing. She has, in fact, reiterated the idea that the Department of Education will use standardized testing where appropriate, where it has value, where it can be part of an overall view of education.
The Minister of Education has indicated that she's going to be gathering information on these awards, their success, how acceptable they are from a variety of sources, including partner organizations and individuals.
Incidentally, by way of information for the Member for Porter Creek South, one of the groups that will be consulted on this are former students, which I think is well worthwhile and very timely.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Members of the community. Thank you.
So, I think the Minister of Education has taken a good, measured approach to this. I must say that, in doing this, she's somewhat reversed the trend that these excellence awards came in with, because they were introduced without the consultation of teachers, without the consultation of school administrators, without consultation with school councils, parents or students.
I realize it's perhaps kind of an unorthodox concept that the Minister of Education is proposing here to actually sit down with those partners in education and consult on an issue such as this.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I realize it's a little bit alien to our friends in the Yukon Party, but it's something that perhaps, since we are speaking about learning, might indeed be a learning experience, and I would urge them to stretch their creativity and their openness in this regard, and perhaps find that education is not quite as restrictive as what they had thought.
I believe that this government does want to strive for excellence in the Yukon education system. Are we convinced that this is the way to do it by using kind of a reward sort of system? We don't know. We don't know, for example, how these awards are viewed in the broader educational community, including parents. Perhaps there are some other ways in which we can encourage academic advancement beyond high school. Perhaps there are ways in which we should be looking at structuring award systems to take into account those students who are achieving in areas other than a rather narrow, academic vein.
For example, there seems to be this mythology, this kind of obsession with the idea that everyone walks out of the education system and goes happily off to the University of Toronto, or whatever, but that is simply not the case. It's not the case here and it's not the case statistically throughout Canada.
The number of people who go to university is not 90 percent of the students graduating. We have to begin to move out of this concept of education as being only university oriented. We have to begin to realize that education is more. Education is good, apprenticeship training programs. It is good programs in various kinds of academic institutions and non-academic settings.
I think we have to realize that students of today - and the students of today, in my experience, have been the ones that are most creative and most open about what their educational options are.
I talked today to students who are looking at moving on in life. They no longer think in terms of professions. They realize the limitations of the job place and of subsequent career moves throughout their lives, and they tend to be much more creative. They look at a variety of training and education. They tend to look more in fields. Is that a failing because they no longer see a profession as being the ultimate goal? No, I would suggest that probably those students who are thinking in those creative lines are probably farther ahead of us, their parents. I would suggest that probably they are somewhat more creative in much of their thinking.
I had the opportunity, last Friday night, to attend the YTEC awards. It was interesting for me, because I saw many young people - a number of young people who had been students of mine - who had completed programs in tourism-related businesses. At that time, I spoke to them. I said that we had to begin to give everyone their due as to where they are in life and where they can go and the kinds of avenues that are open to them. I urged them to think not just of this achievement as being the goal, but of this being the basis on which to build; that education doesn't stop when you go to university or even when you end university. Education continues; education expands; education moves out. Those are the real tests. The real tests in life are how creative a person will be; how much they can realize that they have to change and expand their own views.
In speaking with these young people, I told them that if they chose to make their profession in tourism-related fields, by all means continue to learn; continue to keep going on and taking courses.
Speaker: The member has two minutes
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Perhaps some of these students might not be the recipients of the Yukon excellence awards, but in my way of thinking, Mr. Speaker, they are excellent Yukoners.
Mr. Ostashek: On the amendment, Mr. Speaker, I want to start out by making a statement here that used to be made by my friend and colleague who used to represent Ross River-Southern Lakes: I never heard so much socialist dogma in a long time as what I'm hearing coming from the members opposite. I can't believe it. And when I hear two people speaking, who were in our education system, I really have some difficulties.
We just heard the Member for Whitehorse West speaking and saying that students should excel at whatever they want to take up. We agree with that approach, but the members opposite have this fixation that we ought not to test students. They have this fixation that we ought not to reward excellence. They have this fixation. They want to see a homogenized society. That's what they want to see. That is what they believe in. My God.
Speaker: Order. That is unparliamentary language. You cannot use it. "My God" is unparliamentary.
Mr. Ostashek: I'm sorry, Mr. Speaker, but my emotions are running a little high after listening to that rhetoric from the other side of the House.
The Yukon excellence awards is by no means the be-all and end-all in our education system, but it's another tool that can be used, and it has proven to be successful. I just wonder why the members opposite don't realize that - that this has been a successful program, and it ought not to be thrown out. They ought to be looking at how they can build on it and expand it, and I will give you some figures that prove that it has been a successful program, not only for the top achievers but for the students that were having difficulty making a passing grade in math. It has pulled up all of the students that were involved in the program, and I think that's good.
Certainly all of our students can't be honour students, but if we have something in place that is contributing to raising the overall mark of our students in a certain subject, why do we want to get rid of it? I don't follow the logic of that kind of approach. Why do we want to get rid of it?
We heard the members opposite say, "Well, the teachers union doesn't believe in this; the teachers union doesn't believe in that." Well, let me tell you that there's a lot of teachers that have spoken to me that do believe in it. They do believe in it. It is a very divided issue in our community, and we need to have this type of debate, but when we have an amendment put forward to a motion that was a very innocent motion, not condemning anybody but just asking the government to consider some things, they - and I believe for purely political reasons - passed an amendment that doesn't even address what the main motion addressed, and that's the excellence awards program.
As my colleagues have said, we don't have any difficulty with the three clauses in the amendment, but why did they leave out the Yukon excellence awards issue? I'll tell you why I believe they left it out. It is because they have already made the decision on what's going to happen to it, and they'd made that decision quite a while back.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: I might as well. They are all coming true.
Speaker: Order please.
Mr. Ostashek: My predictions are coming true, so maybe I'm on a roll here.
At any rate, let's look at what has happened since this administration took over. They made a political appointment, the Deputy Minister of Education - a past candidate of their party - a political appointment so that they can get their fingers in there and do what they want to do. That seems to be the rationale of this government. I disagree with that approach, and let me tell the members opposite, many Yukoners disagree with that approach.
As I said, testing may not be the be-all and end-all, but it certainly ought not to be dismissed out of hand. Certainly it is a math program that has proven, in a very short period of time, that it works. The fact is that the Yukon Party reacted when we were in a situation where our students marks were not so good, and we came in with a program that, I believe, has had some impact on raising the overall average of our math students in the Yukon.
I have heard statements made by supporters of the other side that anybody can teach the elite; anybody can teach the top students. Let me tell you, in talking to educators, they tell me that the participation rate of our students in math in the Yukon is higher than in outside jurisdictions, when you look at it with the number of students in the schools. Certainly we have a small student population, so we're not going to have as many people in the math class, but the participation rate is higher and it's working.
We heard the Member for Klondike talking about his own daughters. There are all kinds of good things, and I would like to put some of them on the record.
In 1993, our Yukon students weren't doing that well - not as well as we would like them to do and not as well as was hoped for by the national student indicators achievement program assessment in math. It was at that time that the decision was made by my government to take immediate action to address the problem at hand and to try to make our Yukon students competitive to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
At that time, the Minister of Education, the Hon. Willard Phelps, directed the Department of Education to second a math coordinator and to put into place a departmental assessment plan to pinpoint areas of concern and to assist teachers in improving instruction. That's what the minister did.
Through the diligent work of the teachers, Yukon students were able to meet the challenge in 1996, and at F.H. Collins, the grade 12 students scored six percent higher than their B.C. counterparts, whose curriculum we follow on B.C. departmental math exams. I think it is a remarkable achievement when students, on average, scored six percent higher - not the top students, all of the students.
They did so with an average score of 73 percent, compared to 66 percent for British Columbia grade 12 students. Of those passing, we had eight students who scored over 90 percent, and a further 10 who had marks between 80 and 90 percent.
Now, when we have an average of 73 percent, I think that's remarkable and we must have been doing some things right. I guess that's why parents out there who have seen the benefit of this are now very, very concerned that this administration may just throw it out.
Further to that, not a single student failed the exam. That brought up the whole class average. Now, it's remarkable when you get a class when not a single student fails the exam. You can't tell me that the teachers haven't motivated these students. They have motivated them, and they strive to excel, and I think that's good.
The exam, I understand, accounts for 40 percent of the final mark. These results were particularly gratifying, as the math students had scored poorly in 1992. At that time, close to 17 percent had failed, as did 17 percent of the students in British Columbia in 1992.
That is what our math program did, in a very short period of time. In 1992, we had a 17 percent failure rate and in 1996 they all passed the exam.
Now, something that we did was working. Only two F.H. Collins students qualified for an A and six for a B, and that was in 1992. In 1996, 14 students earned As and 13 students earned Bs, so it wasn't just a few students, the whole class average came up - the whole class average - and I believe that the excellence awards program had something to do with that. It was after the poor results in 1992 that the whole math program was revamped with changes to address the problems.
Common time lines were established so teachers would teach the math consistently from grade 10 to grade 12 to monitor the progress of students. Exhaustive hours were spent trying to bring honest and accurate evaluations throughout math courses, and benchmarks were established for students, parents and teachers, to be used as guidelines.
Mr. Speaker, our students, when they come out of school and go into the world, are going to be tested almost every day of their lives. Should we not be spending some time in the schools to teach them how to deal with testing? I believe we should. Certainly, they're all not going to go on to university, but the education that they get will be of benefit to them no matter what they go into.
As I was saying, the changes that were put in place provided an assessment of student progress and facilitated remediation of their learning problems. Results from the national testing in 1993 in reading and writing demonstrated particular need to more closely monitor our students' progress in these areas and underlined the themes of accountability and consistency. It was at that time that the Yukon Party undertook a comprehensive review of the education system, of which support was shown for movements toward diagnostic assessments in cumulative testing.
Mr. Speaker, there is a lot of support out there, and the Member for Faro can laugh if he likes.
In response to the review, the territory-wide assessments in math 8-11 began in 1994. Assessments in science 8-11 were later added in 1996. These assessments provide educators and parents with valuable information about the progress of students. This is indicative of a trend of a greater accountability in our school system and reflects assessment initiatives across Canada.
Mr. Speaker, my colleagues before me have spoken. This is the direction that every jurisdiction in Canada is moving in. Why do we want to go the other way? What's in it for our students? I haven't heard anybody up there on the side opposite tell me what's going to be better for our students if we get rid of this achievement awards program, this excellence awards program. I haven't heard anybody over there say what's going to be better for our students if we lower the percentage of the final math test that counts toward the final mark. I haven't heard any debate over there that leads me to believe this is going to be an improvement for the people that we're trying to deal with here, the students in our education system.
When we look at the results, the assessments in math have been a true success, there's no doubt about it. Evidence of this success was first reflected in the results of the 1996 math, grade 12, departmental examinations and, more recently, the high marks achieved in 1997, grade 12, departmental math examinations, which have further demonstrated how effective the use of testing in Yukon schools is. For the second time in a row, Yukon students outperformed math students in British Columbia.
Now, is that so bad? Is that bad? I don't think so. I don't think so at all. I think that we should be doing everything we can to build on the successes of the past. If the achievement awards have contributed to that, then why are we going to try and diminish them rather than expand them?
This is a remarkable feat, considering that back in 1993, Yukon math students came in second to last on a national average. The evidence is in front of you. I ask you to look at it seriously. The average mark of Yukon students' grade 12 departmental exams was 75 percent - this is 1997 - almost 10 percent higher than their B.C. counterparts. So it's quite obvious that hard work, the effort from the students and the teachers, has paid off. They have shown Yukon students can compete with the best of Canada and they can excel.
That's not to reflect negatively on the students that don't excel in math. That's not the intent of the excellence awards program. It's to reward the achievers.
As I heard my colleague say here, we give out gold medals in sports. We don't say, everybody competes, and you've done a great job because you competed. We give three awards. We live in a competitive world, Mr. Speaker. Our students, our children, have to grow up to be competitive. Whether members opposite like it or not, they have to be.
If we can give them some self-esteem through their doing well in testing, why not? Why not recognize that through some program?
As I mentioned, I believe the progress that has occurred in how students have performed from 1993 to 1997 can be attributed to the use of testing and also the Yukon excellence awards program.
For grades 10 and 11, tests worth 50 percent of the students' final mark have been used. Term exams for students in grade 12 also count for 50 percent. The use of the 50-percent exams provides students with the practice and the confidence needed to perform under pressure, and when writing the grade 12 departmental examination, students are evaluated through testing. They are required to learn to problem-solve. I heard people over there ridiculing it, saying, "Throw a dart at it. It's all multiple choice." Students have to learn how to problem-solve, and our students have proven that they are capable of doing it with the proper instruction.
Mr. Speaker, as I said, they have to problem-solve and are evaluated through testing. As I said earlier, it's also like training in athletics or anything else, and what is wrong with...
Speaker: The member has two minutes.
Mr. Ostashek: ...a student who has the ability to excel in academics? Is it wrong to recognize those students? I don't think so.
Mr. Speaker, as colleagues before me have said, we are going to be moving in the other direction if we don't continue on the course we're on. Every jurisdiction has recognized that there are shortcomings in our education system. Testing is one way of addressing part of it. It's not the be-all and the end-all, and we never said it was. We never intended it to be, but we believe that through testing and the Yukon excellence awards program, it's a useful tool.
Mr. Speaker, on the amendment, the Yukon Party caucus cannot support the amendment as drafted, but I will say to the members opposite that we know this amendment is going to pass, because they have the majority on the other side of the House. Whether the Liberals support them or not, the amendment is going to pass, but I will serve notice now that I will be bringing a further amendment to the amended motion.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I rise to speak to the amendment.
I thought the Leader of the Official Opposition's comments were quite telling as he led off by quoting the infamous former member of this Legislature - the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, who single-handedly was largely responsible for the destruction of the partners in education. Both he and his other colleague - the Member for Riverdale North, who was Minister of Education for a brief period before he was shuffled on out of there before he could do any more damage - were Ministers of Education for the Yukon Party. He was replaced by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes and, at the time, there was a number of people - political observers - who thought that if there was anybody who could have made the Member for Riverdale North look like he was a good Education minister, it was the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, and I think that was borne out to be quite true.
There were so many false premises in the Leader of the Official Opposition's analysis of our position on this subject.
First of all, we, the Yukon New Democrats, have never been opposed to standardized testing. The Government Leader, when he was the Education minister, brought in some forms of standardized testing, whether they were the CTBS, Canadian Test for Basics Standards, or whether they LPIs, or whether they were the grade 12 B.C. departmentals, and we actually had - when we were previously in government, before 1992 - supported school achievement indicators programs, and we're publicly on the record in doing that.
The problem is that when the Yukon Party came in, they unilaterally decided that standardized testing was the only way to go in the education system, and they used a comparison of statistics, which I don't think is really telling of the situation.
It's kind of like comparing apples to grapefruits when you look at the system in B.C. versus the system in the Yukon, in the sense of trying to draw conclusions from the sample sizes that are reflected in the numbers. It can be very dangerous, because what happens is the politicians, the government party of the day, the Yukon Party, decided to make this one of their right-wing issues - back to the basics in education, it's a bit of a political right-wing movement. The problem was, though, the way it was done was very, very harmful to the education system.
As a former critic, I was quite involved in a lot of the discussions that took place, I remember the great announcement from the Member for Riverdale North when he was the Minister of Education, that they were going to tear down the partners in education model. They announced it, right out of the blue, at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon, which set off a furor in the education community that was quite amazing to watch.
We then got the education review announced and underway, and a blue-chip team was struck to analyze the education system in the territory; we supported the education review and I thought the people who were selected were an excellent bunch of people. I was very glad to see the selection, because I thought the selection of this blue-chip committee was actually going to save us from the Yukon Party government. In effect, their education review was very consistent with a lot of the provisions of the Education Act, and thus, the Yukon Party government hated it and didn't go to implement any of it. They were very disappointed, because it held up that Yukoners still wanted the provisions of the Education Act involved and implemented in their education system.
The Leader of the Official Opposition stood up and said that the education review supported expanded diagnostic and cumulative testing. That is completely false, and actually, there was a scathing letter sent from several members of the Education Review Committee publicly put before this House, and before the people of Yukon criticizing the Member for Ross River Southern Lakes, the former Minister of Education, for completely abandoning their recommendations in the education review - completely - attributing comments to them in support of expanded diagnostic and cumulative testing, that were not reflected in their review at all.
I was just reviewing some Hansard and some of the questions that I put to the former Minister of Education on that. Clearly, he was out to lunch on that subject. He was speaking out of turn, and was completely inconsistent with the findings of the education review.
We believe the Yukon Party has a philosophical bent toward standardized testing. We believe that they, in a harmful way, use that kind of rhetoric to support a right-wing agenda, which we don't think is in the best interest of the public. I think we're supported by parents and by school councils, who are democratically elected parents on that front, as well as by educators. We don't just listen to educators; we listen to parents, as well.
We have reservations about the Yukon excellence awards. We've never hid from that. The Government Leader had made quotes in the past that there's nothing fair or sensible about this special award. We've criticized it because of its emphasis on the Whitehorse community, rather than the rural communities. The numbers clearly bear out that people in rural communities do not share in this award. We believe that it is targeted toward people who, mostly, are already achievers in the sense of the word, and they usually come from the middle- and higher-income families, where it would be reasonably easier for the families, rather than the taxpayers, to support the pursuit of higher education.
We believe that options should be looked at to put funding more toward people who are achieving personal bests. We believe that options for funding should be put toward people who are in the lower income brackets and do not always have access to resources.
The Member for Klondike says on the floor of this House that he thinks it's great that one of his daughters got an excellence award so he doesn't have to pay for advancing her education. That person is a person who has considerable income, not just as a member of this Legislature, but also as a private businessperson. I think that the more affluent of society have some responsibility to the lower income people in our community and the students who are achieving personal bests.
We have many concerns about the excellence awards. We've never been shy about them, but we are not going to act like the Yukon Party. Even though we, as a party, have a lot of concerns about them, we did not make a commitment in A Better Way to killing the awards. That is why we haven't killed the awards.
What we've said we're going to do is consult with the partners in education about the future of the awards. We will have an open mind. If the partners in education can reach some consensus that they want to continue or modify them, then we would support that position. It's indicative of us to work with the partners in education on this subject.
We have a lot of respect for school councils. We have a deep respect for the democratically elected people who are in school councils. They are, for the most part, parents. We also have respect for the YTA - the educators who have to deal often with diagnostic testing and too much standardized testing in the schools.
I had teachers tell me, Mr. Speaker, that they would know almost precisely what the exact marks of everyone in their class - or what would be brought back in terms of marks from everyone in their class - prior to delivering the test. And they felt it was often harmful to the employees to have too much diagnostic testing, too much standardized testing, that it was taking away from other instructional time, and this was a teacher in a rural community. He felt it just didn't fit with the type of educating that he wanted to do or that he should be doing in the classroom.
I didn't hear this from one source. I heard this from lots of sources. They all felt - I think all educators, to a person, that I talked to - that there was some room for some forms of standardized testing and that's why the NDP government brought in some standardized testing, but we did not want to overdo it because it can have harmful effects.
Mr. Speaker, it's interesting to note the Liberals' position. They put out a press release in December. It's not really clear. It's kind of a typical Liberal press release - "on the one hand; on the other hand" - but it seems to be leaning toward the Liberal caucus wanting people to know if the NDP government is going to continue on with the excellence awards, thus implying to me that they were quite fond of the excellence awards. Now, we hear today, the education critic is taking a position that's very negative toward the Yukon excellence awards.
The Member for Riverside - I just dug out some Hansard - used to call the program "dollars for scholars". But then, there must be some split in this Liberal caucus because, in a letter to the Yukon News on Friday, February 10th, Mrs. Edelman, the now caucus colleague, praised, in a letter to the editor, the initiative by the then minister, Mr. Willard Phelps. She said, "awarding high school students for good marks is a great way to begin a meaningful awards system in our modern-day educational system. The money for marks program for high school students adopted here recently has been used successfully in B.C. for over a decade." Then she said, "Mr. Phelps, you've got the right idea. Keep going."
There must be some serious battles within the caucus. One can only ascertain that the Liberal Leader, on the outside, is trying to scratch his way in to try and get some consistency in a position that jibes with the education community out there with regard to the excellence awards. He's not in here. He doesn't have a seat in here, but I'm sure he's on the phone on an ongoing basis, trying to bridge the gaps in the Liberal position in the caucus. On the one hand, you've got the Member for Riverdale South, who's obviously deeply in support of the cash for marks or dollars for scholars, and then you've got the Member for Riverside who has called the marks "dollars for scholars" and called them "elitist" in this Legislature.
So, there's a wide chasm of difference of opinion. You've got the press release in December, indicating support for the excellence awards. Now you've got the critic stating that they're not a good thing.
I hope the Liberal Leader from the outside looking in has some success in bridging the gaps within the Liberal Party on the excellence awards. There is some danger that we could get another split position from the Liberals on this. It's very common for them to do that, but I would submit that the Liberal Leader, even though he doesn't have a seat, would have some strong influence on the members opposite. Of course, we're not entirely sure what he would do if he was ever to be a member of this Legislature. He might do a complete turnaround on the excellence awards, as well.
The Member for Klondike talked about the number of hires by the NDP government from outside. I just want to say to the member - and I know it's not his fault, because he wasn't here - but there were a few notable names that always crop up in my mind when comments like that are made by the Yukon Party. There was that B.C. Socred, Dale Drown, who worked upstairs, $93,000 a year. He was brought in by the Yukon Party to salvage their communications. Of course, there was another communications officer from B.C. who came in to replace him, and then there was the pièce de résistance, the person they brought in from Alberta, from Klein country, to teach these here Yukoners how to be a conservative, and how we were going to do it the Klein way up here in the Yukon. What happened once the guy came from Klein country is that the propaganda mills started, and they started up the Yukon Party update, and printed that out on a weekly basis, just pumping out propaganda for all the public to chew upon, then they came up with this here idea from Alberta called the Taxpayer Protection Act. That was going to teach all these Yukoners here to love Conservatives.
Point of order
Mr. Phillips: Point of order
Speaker: Order. Point of order has been called.
Mr. Phillips: Point of order, Mr. Speaker. This has little relevance to a motion dealing with education. If the member would get back to the topic at hand, and that's the amendment to the motion, it would be much appreciated.
Speaker: Will the member speak to the amended motion please.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'd love to, Mr. Speaker.
In the recent election victory in Alberta, I was watching the national TV, and what did I see but that same Mr. Allan Hallman at Ralph Klein's victory party, shaking his hand, back down where he belongs.
I would like to say to the members opposite that we certainly, as a party, have deep reservations about the excellence awards. We've never been fans of them; we've never been shy about our position. We don't have big rifts like the Liberals. We don't have one member saying one thing and one saying another. We never put out press releases saying, on the one hand, on the other hand. We actually took firm positions on these things. So what we've done as a government, though, because we believe in consultation, is we've said we're going to go out and we're going to talk to the education community, the partners, parents and school councils and students and educators and principal associations. We're going to talk to them all and we're going to come up with a position, as a government, as opposed to a party, to respond to the issue.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'd like to table a subamendment. I move
THAT the amendment to Motion No. 47 be amended by:
adding after the phrase "Education Act" the following words:
THAT this House supports the government's plans to consult partners in education and the community with an option paper about the future of the Yukon excellence awards."
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Education
THAT the amendment to Motion No. 47 be amended by:
adding after the phrase "Education Act" the following words:
THAT this House supports the government's plans to consult partners in education and the community with an option paper about the future of the Yukon excellence awards."
Hon. Mr. Harding: Now, Mr. Speaker, I think this motion alleviates the concern that the members of the Yukon Party expressed about the future of the Yukon excellence awards. They can rest assured that we will not act unilaterally like they did with regard to the development of the awards. We will talk to educators about the awards. We will talk to the partners in education. We will try to come up with a position, some consensus surrounding the subject, and then the Education minister will no doubt make the correct decision with regard to the awards.
Mr. Speaker, I hope we will continue to have the latest position support from the Liberal Party in terms of the awards. There is going to be a struggle between the sort of different elements of the Liberal Party, the sort of wine and Brie, higher income, Liberal Party people in the Yukon, and then there are going to be the others with a bit more of a rounded view of the world that are probably going to be at war with each other in terms of positioning on this, but perhaps they can come together to continue to express a position that it does deserve a very solid look, that there are concerns about where we are investing these important education dollars.
This is also a symbolic issue. It's not just a question of money. It's a question of priorities and philosophy and where we should be injecting these important education dollars. Who should we be helping in the system? Who should we give a helping hand to to ensure that they strive and achieve excellence, achieve their personal best? I think excellence is all too often defined by reaching the crescendo of a particular category as opposed to excellence being judged by the ability of someone to strive within themselves and to reach new heights, to reach a personal best. Often athletes refer to good training times as a personal best, because even if they didn't come first, they achieve something. They achieve excellence within their own right, and I think that, in the Yukon, with many of the problems that we have in the education system, we want to be putting resources to the people who demand, who need the resources most and, all too often, those are people who come - as the Member for Lake Laberge said - from lower income families, from people who don't have resources, don't always have the best in health standards.
Well, I think it's an important philosophical debate and one that should not be based solely on statistics that we're not sure represent any positive gains as a result of the program or not.
I think that part of the options paper has to be a look at the stats the Yukon Party is holding up and whether or not they can reasonably attribute it to the development of these Yukon excellence awards.
I don't want to speak too much longer. I know the members opposite are adamantly...
Speaker: Two minutes.
Hon. Mr. Harding: ...egging me on to continue, and I'm sure that they're basking in my words.
I'm hoping that the Liberal Party comes together; that the deep rifts with regard to whether these programs should go ahead, as the Member for Riverdale South wants to see, or whether the Member for Riverside will get his way, or whether the Liberal Leader on the outside looking in, who's well connected with many of the partners in education, would win that struggle. The Yukon Party - whether they will ever realize that New Democrats believe that their assessment is a tool. It's one piece of a puzzle; it is not the be-all end-all. Whether they believe that we will do as we say, which is to not act unilaterally as they did in the development of the awards, but to work in partnership with the education community to try and deliver a decision on the excellence awards that actually meets the desire of the people of the Yukon.
I really welcome the opportunity today to learn the latest Liberal position and to learn the position of the Yukon Party.
Mr. Cable: Speaking to the amendment to the amendment, I was pleased to hear the Member for Faro describe the inner workings of the Liberal caucus. Of course, he wouldn't understand healthy discussions, having to listen to the mind-numbing beat of the socialist drum, like, "boom, boom, boom; boom, boom, boom." They're all walking in unison, crying the same lines.
What we've heard is the reason for the public debate. There are various viewpoints on all of these issues - various valid viewpoints, I might add - and there is no one definitive answer. Nobody has the whole truth on either of these issues: the issue of testing or the issue of the Yukon excellence awards.
It certainly created a debate among the stakeholders: the parents, and the students, and the teachers, and the school councils and the administrators. Since it's been some time since I've parked myself in a classroom, I've spoken to all of these people and I've heard what they've had to say, and I have to say that there is no single voice, there is no single position. Anyone who wants to take a simplistic view of the whole world of education, perhaps should sit back and listen for a little longer.
I have to say that most of the teachers that I have talked to, not all of them, but most of the teachers that I have talked to have considerable reservations, relating not only to the focus on testing, but the reward system set up under the Yukon excellence awards program.
While no one group owns the educational system, one has to respect those reservations, and I do respect those reservations.
I am told by some teachers that there are many students with low self-esteem. Some students who come from dysfunctional families, who have to spend energy on coping from day to day, who would be negatively affected by a system that further classifies and stratifies the classroom.
I was told by some students that the awards will help them get to university. They are very much looking forward to receiving these awards. And I'm told by other students that the awards system will dictate curriculum choices. That's been brought up by one of our members who was in the classroom not too long ago, as a teacher; that the awards will dictate curriculum choices, rather than what choices best prepare the student for career choices.
One student has expressed reservations about the awards system driving teachers to encourage students to study and work toward the awards system rather than the curriculum, and my colleague from Porter Creek has alluded to those conversations earlier.
One parent has questioned me. She has said, "We could increase the student assistance grant, but why not let the kids earn this increase and have some sense of pride and ownership in funding their post-secondary education?'" Clearly, a contrary view to some of the educators.
I have to say, having heard what has gone on in the House today and the many views that I respect, and having heard those many people, the jury is definitely out on the Yukon excellence awards program.
There's no one, definitive opinion that strikes me as gospel in the area.
Now, with respect to tests, tests are a part of life and it's difficult to see how student life would be complete without tests. But, to suggest as the original motion does, before it was amended, and amended further, that tests are the tool to demonstrate the effectiveness of teaching methods and the overall education system is a real stretch.
Education is much too complex to give unqualified support to what appears to be a simplistic proposition.
Now, what I, as a parent, and as a grandparent, and as a taxpayer, and as a voter, and as a legislator, want to know is: is our educational system teaching our students to memorize or are students being taught to think critically.
In a complex world where communication giants manipulate our thinking, are our students being taught to sift through the many messages they receive every day, or are they being educated in a broader sense?
Well, it would take the wisdom of Solomon to vet the system to see if our students are being educated in the broader sense.
I don't think the difficulty of evaluation is any reason for bringing in simplistic benchmarks. I am going to support the amendment, as amended further, and I think it would be useful at this time to clarify this government's position. We heard from the Member for Faro that he wants clarification.
Well, I put this question to him and to his colleagues: during the spring of 1996, the Yukon Teachers Association put out a questionnaire to the various party leaders.
One of the questions that was asked is, what is your party's position on the Yukon excellence awards? Here's what the NDP said. "The NDP caucus raised our concerns vociferously when the government introduced this program. We want to encourage all of our youth to strive for excellence; however, the Yukon excellence awards benefit the very few. There is nothing fair, nor sensible about this special award of money for the top 10 percent of students." They went on to say, "The decision to implement this program was made without any consultation with YTA, school councils or parents." Now, what would you think when you read that? Would you think the NDP was in favour of the Yukon excellence awards? Of course not. You would think that they were going to get into office and, just like their first decisions on the wolf kill and on Aishihik Lake, boom, they would turn the excellence awards off. That's the only reasonable conclusion from that statement. Talk about flip-flops.
I'll tell you what we're for. The jury is out on the Yukon excellence awards, and the minister is to be commended for putting the issue out for further public discussion. Let's hear from everybody. Let's find out whether this thing is a myth or a fantasy or something that really benefits students.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I didn't realize that we were going to explore the inner workings of the Liberal soap opera when it comes to decision making about this subject or any other subject this afternoon. Certainly the issue at hand has been explored in the public for a long time, having been introduced into the public arena a number of years ago by the Yukon Party government. The Leader of the Liberal Party in the House is as animated as I have ever seen him this afternoon.
I'd like to say that I am somewhat bewildered by his aggressive approach, but I'd just like to tell him that I think it is somewhat refreshing to see some passion. Even if I couldn't figure out what his position was on the subject, I appreciated the passion, and it does my heart good to hear something of that nature from that member.
I generally do like the member's analysis when he is thoughtful about things. I like his analysis of any particular issue. He is very careful to always present both sides of an issue as honestly as he can express it. The only difficulty that we've often had is that there is no position coming out at the end of this process. We have been treated to the opportunity to perhaps get a mediator come and resolve our disputes. A few years ago, it was the Auditor General who was the favoured intermediary who would come in and decide tough questions for us. But in this particular case, as I think most of us have agreed, we're going to have to - and ought to - leave the discussion and the debate and, ultimately, the resolution of this matter to the partners in education who all have a significant stake in the outcome and, as well, need to be reassured that we do respect their opinions. They've been living in the desert for the last few years, not respected, not listened to, not called on for advice. The time has come when they should be, once again, brought into the debate and made the prime participants in that debate.
I took note of the Member for Riverdale North's comments this afternoon that he thought that we had the best education system in the world.
Although all the fundamentals were right, we had the best schools, the best equipment and the best teachers, the only concern that a lot of teachers have had is that the government didn't listen to the teachers. The Yukon Party government didn't actually listen to their opinions. On what? On educating children.
Certainly, they have an informed and powerful voice that must be respected every bit as much as parents have a significant voice and the students themselves have a voice that ought to be heard in the debate.
We shouldn't be in the position ever, where we're trotting out the teachers to demonstrate how effective the education system is, and then the moment they open their mouths we clap hands over their mouths, so that they can't speak.
They do have a thoughtful opinion to add to this debate. They have understood that we've had some expressions of that thoughtful opinion even expressed by some ex-teachers in this House this afternoon, that can put some clarity to what happens in a classroom and what education and learning are all about. This is a voice that should not be muted.
I don't want to spend a lot of time talking about the Yukon Party's record, or the Liberal Party's positioning on this. The Yukon Party's record was one of confrontation, not partnership. They made a virtue of the fact that they did speak with partners.
He indicated that they believe that they were doing the right thing, and ultimately, they would be proved correct at the polls. They were proved incorrect at the polls, so that's a chapter that should be closed, and we should return to respect for the citizenry, return to good, healthy debate among the partners in education, and ensure that the education system itself follows the visionary provisions of the Education Act which, itself, while passed in this Legislature, was very much a creature of the debate in the community as a whole.
Now, I would only say one thing to the Leader of the Liberal Party in the House about healthy debate. I think that he called - let me see if I've got it correctly - he called inconsistency on the Liberal Party's part "healthy discussion", and consistency on the government's part "a mind-numbing heartbeat". That's probably the best face you can put on it in terms of characterizing inconsistency and consistency in political messaging. But we do want healthy debate, and we do want some various sides to an equation presented when that political party does express itself ultimately. One would hope that they would get at least somewhat of a consistent message so that they know what they were voting for when they actually voted for people.
I wouldn't necessarily call that a negative trait - to be consistent - and I wouldn't dismiss it as being mind-numbing, but as long as the parties are somewhat consistent and have thought things through themselves and do encourage the debate in the public, then I think that is the best we can do.
Now, the member suggests that perhaps we've been somewhat inconsistent, that we indicated that we were very concerned about the particular program and how it was developed. I would point out to the member that we were also very consistent about the need to involve partners in education who are absolutely committed to that principle.
We have a position that we've discussed in this Legislature even in the last few days: our desire to promote local hire. But we also believe very strongly that that's a decision that should be made in the context of decision making around school administrators. That's a decision that should be made in concert with our partners in education. We are not prepared to offend that principle. As much as I know that the members want us to do and take actions that some people will find offensive, so they'll have something to ask questions about in Question Period, we can't accommodate them if it fundamentally offends our direction.
So, I would just point out to the members that we have been very consistent about expressing our concern for this particular program and the philosophical underpinnings of this program, and that is the reason why we're doing a review and are not simply expanding the program.
But, to simply kill the program or act hastily, act without thought or act arbitrarily, would deny the partners in education, once again, any opportunity to speak on a subject that is of critical importance to them. We need to be sending signals that the partnership will be restored, not that the partnership will be cancelled; or that the partnership will only be respected when it's convenient. We must respect the partnership at all times; otherwise, it's a hollow gesture. I would hope the members would understand that position and understand the direction that we have taken.
I was the Minister of Education some years back, when the Council of Ministers of Education started the discussions in the first place about national standardized testing. I want to tell all members that, even though there were some strong proponents of standardized testing in this country among the ministers, particularly the lead minister from Alberta, who was promoting it most aggressively, even he was very quick to point out that this instrument for determining how successful the education system is, is a very limited tool and should be explained very, very carefully. He was the first to recognize and acknowledge that, when we embark on this course, we should understand the limitations of the information that we're receiving and we should not be overdoing our efforts in this area.
For us to now aggressively embrace all testing, and make it the be-all and end-all of determining how effective our education system is generally, is terribly wrong-headed and terribly misguided and would have shamed the people who initiated the process in the first place.
And that includes people from very conservative jurisdictions in this country, but it only bespeaks the thoughtlessness that went into the decision in the first place in this territory.
So, while we all want good performance, we also want to ensure that all students in the territory have maximum opportunity to excel and to thrive, and to learn how to learn, and to be creative, and to be able to respond to life's challenges, long after the information that they are memorizing today is obsolete. That's what the Education Act speaks to, in terms of its vision statement. That is a vision statement that is still embraced by most of the people in this territory.
We all know by our own experience that much of what we learned in terms of factual information in our childhood - much of it is not considered factual any longer. It's been expanded upon and new information has come about that has changed our perspective on things.
What we have come to learn is that we need to learn how to be creative, learn how to investigate situations, to meet new challenges, to think creatively and imaginatively. That is what, ultimately, a successful learning process is all about. It is not something that is easily measured through a multiple choice test.
I would point out to all members, once again, the need to take a balanced approach to assessing the performance of the system and the performance of individuals within that system.
That's the only way that I think we can accurately measure and fairly measure how well we're doing.
Mr. Speaker, I will also point out that we do have a fairly small system here. No matter what kind of standardized testing we promote, I would point to the fact that even the Canadian test of basic skills, which is the time-honoured and long-standing test, has significant limitations in terms of determining how well a school is doing or how well individuals within a particular classroom are doing. So, we have to take a balanced approach even to our testing instruments and understand their limitations.
Mr. Speaker, I hesitate to enter into another subject matter. I wanted to discuss -
Speaker: Order please. The time being 5:30 p.m., the Speaker will now leave the Chair until 7:30 p.m. tonight.
Debate on Motion No. 47, the amendment and sub-amendment, accordingly adjourned
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Bill No. 6: Second Reading
Deputy Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 6, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. McDonald.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Bill No. 6, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1997-98 (No. 2), be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 6, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1997-98 (No. 2), be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Members will recall that the previous interim supply bill we passed covered just the month of April. The month to which we're referring now is the month of May. And without passage of that bill, of course, we'd have no appropriation authority for the required government expenditures in May.
Members will note that the funds being requested by Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1997-98 (No. 2) are much closer to the one-twelfth of the annual sum being requested in the mains than were those in the first bill. This is due to most of our upfront payments having being made in April. Where May's appropriation differs from a simple one-twelfth calculation is usually in capital where one would expect expenditures to be higher earlier in the year rather than later. I'm more than happy to answer any questions in Committee that members may have about this bill.
Mr. Ostashek: This is one of the few bills of the government that we can support. It's one of the vagaries of our system that we have to have money voted in order for the government to keep operating. We will be supporting the bill.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 6 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. Committee will be dealing with Bill No. 6, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1997-98 (No. 2).
Bill No. 6 - Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1997-98 (No. 2)
Chair: Committee will now continue. Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I don't have very much more to add than what I just said. Most of the large expenditures that were voted in April have been paid out. The amounts that are requested in the interim supply this time, of course, are substantially less and do reflect more accurately something closer to the one-twelfth of the expenditure for the year.
Mr. Cable: Just to get a fix on the government's financial position, does the Government Leader yet have a rough idea of the lapses from the last fiscal year?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I'm hoping that next week we'll have something. Perhaps by the time we get to the Finance estimates we'll be in a better position to give a reading.
On Schedule A
Schedule A agreed to
On Schedule B
Schedule B agreed to
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 6 out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 1997-98 - continued
Community and Transportation Services - continued
Municipal and Community Affairs Division - continued
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Indeed, it does give me pleasure to be here this evening once more to be discussing the intricacies of my department.
Mr. Chair, I also have for tabling a couple of documents for members opposite. There are two copies here for each of the opposite caucuses - one on the Canadian agreement on vehicle registration, questions raised on the sport and recreation, and questions raised on the electrical inspectors, the fire inspectors and the boiler inspectors.
I was asked a question on the implementation stage and the funding and the savings related to the computerization of property assessments. Let me say that the system currently being implemented is one which allows assessors to more easily capture data and update assessment values. It will allow for shorter reassessment cycles, which will decrease assessment value shifts. It is called a computer-assisted mass-appraisal system and, as such, does not include computerization of all program functions in the property assessment and taxation branch.
The budget for implementing this system was $45,000 in 1996-97 and $35,000 in 1997-98. Implementation of the system will be completed in the current fiscal year. It will take a few more years to complete conversion of data information from the current manual records into the computerized data base, applying the new system.
In the short term, the effort required to carry out the conversion over the next few assessment cycles will absorb resource savings from the use of the automated system during those periods. The short-term as well as long-term real benefit is that the system will provide better access, more accurate and timely information, by reducing the assessment cycle to two to three years. Property owners, municipal and First Nation governments, as well as the Yukon government, will benefit from such more current and readily accessible information. Given the scope of the project and resource requirement to carry out the conversion, there will not be savings that can translate into a reduction of assessment fees in the short term.
Another question on the number of people to be hired by the transportation division. We just took it a step further and we're going to give the hiring quantity numbers for all the departments. The approximate number of auxiliary and casual hirings and recalls expected is as follows: O&M in highway maintenance, 66 auxiliary (recall), five casual (summer students), 12 casual, approximately three to four weeks - total, 83; garage operations, one auxiliary (recall); airports, one auxiliary, vacant, one casual (summer student) - total of two; transport services, one auxiliary, vacant, one casual, two months - total of two; capital, transportation engineering, 10 auxiliary.
On the vehicle rental to the Help and Hope Society, the question is: can we re-lease at a low cost per unit from the road equipment replacement fund? The RERF is primarily heavy equipment for the maintenance of roads and airports. There is a very small number of automobiles in the C&TS fleet. The vehicles are utilized for ongoing departmental operations. When the units reach the end of their useful life, they are surplused and sold and the proceeds are returned to the RERF to be used as a part of the replacement cost.
I could just carry on, if you like. In this particular case, the best the department could do to assist in this matter is to seek approval to transfer a vehicle that is about to be replaced in return for receipt of the salvage value of the vehicle into the RERF. This would have to be accomplished within the NGO policy framework.
A question on the bells and whistles. I am certain everyone is waiting with anticipation for this one. Along with speeches on the weekend, it's getting to be quite exciting, isn't it?
As already stated, the government multi-departmental mobile radio system is standard in C&TS fleet vehicles. The cost is approximately $1,300 per unit, but is, in fact, part of the MDMRS system and is paid for on the basis of a monthly rental. When additional radios are required to communicate with truck drivers on the highway, they have an installed cost of: CB radio, approximately $200 per unit; and, radio phone, approximately $800 per unit. Radar units are used for monitoring the speed limits for commercial vehicles and have an installed unit cost of approximately $3,300.
If you look at the purchase with the light bars, radios and radar, the price would come out to $30,600.
If I may carry on regarding electrical inspections, the question, verbatim, "So, what we have are two contractors, both of them having journeyman electricians on staff, fully licensed, and if they both apply, someone has to make a judgment call. Who is making that judgment call, and what's the basis of making that judgment call? Because, I know in our area there are quite a number of electrical contractors, and some are using the system and some are not permitted to use the system. What's the difference? They're both journeyman electricians. They're both electrical contractors. Could the minister also bring back to me the number of contractors and licensed electricians that are permitted to carry on this inspection under the system, the declaration system?"
In response: the electrical contractors are allowed to declare electrical installations when they satisfy the electrical inspection unit and they complete the work to a standard acceptable to the inspector, on a continuous basis. Every new contractor has to prove themself. Contractors who are doing solely residential wiring are easier to evaluate than those doing commercial or industrial work. Contractors declare that installations are being monitored to ensure the standard is maintained.
Under section 5.6 of the Electrical Protection Act regulations, on inspections and declarations, no contractor shall be authorized to declare electrical inspections unless they meet the following conditions: a) they have experience in the class of work involved; b) they have proven knowledge of the code; c) they have worked actively in the Yukon as a contractor for at least 12 months immediately before their application for the authorization; and, d) they have a contractor's licence for the class of work involved.
Electrical contractors who are approved to declare installations must declare the work as done in compliance with the act and regulations. The declaration must only be made through an inspector after the work is completed and ready for inspection. Once the declaration is made, the inspector may require an inspection, in which case the contractor must wait for the inspection before proceeding to the next stage of work. If proceeding to the next stage makes it impractical to inspect the work already completed, the inspector can give the contractor an approval number and a cover-up date, which must be at least three days after the declaration is made.
If the inspector does not inspect the work before the expiration of the cover-up date, the contractor may move on to the next stage of work. If the work is found not to be in compliance with the act and regulations, the inspector can order that it be brought into compliance. The act and regulations do not require inspections on declarations. When electrical installations are declared by contractors, the policy of the electrical inspection branch is to ensure at least a final inspection is carried out. The inspectors do two inspections on a random basis as a way of policing the declaration system. Should a contractor have declared an installation that is not in compliance, the privilege of being able to declare installations may be revoked. Seventy-five electrical contractors throughout the Yukon are permitted to declare electrical inspections. Only registered electrical contractors are authorized to declare the electrical inspections, and journeyman electricians who are not registered contractors are not authorized to make declarations. That is the information I have for the hon. members opposite.
In response to a question raised on dollar value for each component that makes up the other road savings of $322,000, the other road reductions are the surface repairs $148,528; road openings, $56,314; BST work, $183,890; culvert repairs, $122,418; road repairs, $57,152; overhead, $29,932, for a subtotal of $598,234. Offsetting the increases: clean and reshape the ditches, $29,147; crushing requirements, $97,000; gravel resurfacing, $119,087; ditching, $31,000; for the subtotal of $276,234, which leaves a total of $322,000.
Chair: Are there any questions on the information just given?
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to go back to LIMS, Mr. Chair. The assessment cycles will be shortened, better access to the files and there'll be no dollar savings. Could the minister explain why the cost of assessment per property could not be reduced as a consequence of all this computerizing of the files? We're going from a manual card system, which requires a great deal of upkeep, especially on reassessment, to probably an Autocad database, as well as a computerized database for all of the properties so assessed. Could the minister explain why there won't be a resulting saving?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, the member opposite was referring to LIMS, but did you mean the computer-assisted mass appraisal system?
Mr. Jenkins: That's part of it, yes.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, okay, thank you. As I said, it will just take a few more years to complete the conversion of the data information from the current manual records and, given the scope of the project and the resource requirement to carry out the conversion, the savings that can be translated into reduction of assessment fees in the short term will not be there, but, by the time we get through with everything, it will certainly be a saving. As I said, that'll result into shorter time frames, et cetera. Thank you very much.
Mr. Jenkins: What kind of savings can we expect to realize? Surely these savings have been projected by the department. They're the basis for the justification of the implementation of such a capital expenditure.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, as I had said earlier, when the system is fully up and operational and running - I anticipate that to be two to three years - there will be a possible reduction of approximately 10 to 15 percent, and of course, at that time, it will be passed on.
Mr. Jenkins: If we could just explore the additional employees that are coming on stream for the summer - one auxiliary and one summer for airports. Could the minister advise the House as to where these two individuals will be deployed within airports given that the operations of airports are virtually all contracted out through CARS, and the maintenance is pretty well accomplished through C&TS? I'd be interested to know where the two additional people will be deployed within the airports department.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, we do believe that there will be one in Haines and one in Whitehorse, but we'll certainly confirm that for the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: It's very interesting to note that one has to dig for just basic information. With the units that enforce the highway rigs, we went from $22,000 per vehicle plus the $3,000 light bar up to $30,600 just overnight, and I'm sure there are still other costs that the minister has omitted.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: No, no, no. Mr. Minister, you are responsible for the department, and what you say in the House, you are answering for the government and that department. So, those numbers you've given -
Chair: Order please. Would members please try to remember to address their comments through the Chair?
Mr. Jenkins: The minister must remember that the numbers that he gives in this House are binding upon the government. The numbers he gave yesterday for this one area were inaccurate, and today he brings back another sum of money that more accurately reflects - although, in my opinion, it doesn't totally accurately reflect - the costs of that area.
If I could ask the minister to move into the savings within highways and road openings. The minister indicated that there is a saving of $56,000. Well, in light of the tremendous benefits accruing to the placer mining industry by having roads opened in the Klondike and Mayo area by May 15th, and the savings to the government of $56,000 by not undertaking those road openings, is the minister not of the opinion that he is jeopardizing the employment of a lot of miners by not proceeding in a rapid manner in the spring and opening these roads as early as possible? Does the minister not see this as advantageous to employment in the Yukon?
Such a small saving on a massive department, and yet we're keeping quite an extensive group of miners from going to work at an appropriate time. What does the minister have to say about the savings of $56,000?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Firstly, let me respond to the very first accusation that the member opposite had spoken about.
No, there's no way that I would inadvertently lie, or fib, or whatever, to this House. I take this job very seriously, but I certainly have to put up with some - well, I guess people would characterize it in many different ways.
When I was asked a direct question, I gave a direct answer. I was asked a question about the cars and the light bars, and I came back with an answer about the cars and the light bars, and the member opposite comes back with a question about the prices for bells and whistles. We don't have bells and whistles on the police cars. These are not cars that the member pulls out of his Cracker Jack box and says, "Oh, goody, look what I found here. Oh my God, it's got bells and whistles and I wonder how much these cost?"
That is not the level we are at here. We answer the questions that the member came across with and we certainly did. I guess I'm through feeling slighted or insulted by the member opposite, because I certainly look at the mentality with which the questions are brought forward, Mr. Chair. So, I thank you very much for the time to clarify that.
Am I hampering miners getting back to work? Again, it is how you characterize these things. If you characterize it in that sense, then you're very fear-mongering. You can start to pump up the volume and get the people frothing. Well, let me say that that is absolutely not true. There was maybe a forecast difference here, but let me just say that in 1994-95, the actuals were $98,579. The actuals in 1995-96 were $99,384. The actuals in 1996-97 are $77,718. The budget for 1997-98 is $106,819. There is certainly a $56,000 difference in the forecast. I do not see that that is impeding miners or getting them back to work. I see that as absolutely following through with the commitment that my government has given.
Thank you very much, and I certainly do enjoy and eagerly anticipate the next question.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, thank you very much. If the minister cares to refresh his memory, which is obviously very good, but very short, then go back into Hansard and look at the question with respect to the vehicles that are operated by his highways department for enforcement purposes.
The question was asked as to what was the cost of the vehicles with all the equipment on them. It was referred to as "bells and whistles". The next day the minister brought back the capital cost of the acquisition of each vehicle as being $22,000 and the additions of $3,000, for a total of $25,000.
After I said to the minister that there are a lot of costs that are omitted in what he brought back to the House, and that it was not accurate information, the minister subsequently brings back information that shows it as being $30,600 today. I'm sure that if we pursued this further with the minister, we could come up with some additional costs that have been overlooked.
What I am asking of the minister is to bring forth accurate information.
Mr. Chair, somebody's gas tank is half-empty, and it's got to be the minister's.
If we could go back to the area of opening of highways, what I am seeking from the minister are his assurances that the mining roads will be opened by May 15th in the Klondike and Mayo districts, and the budget reduction will be sadly felt in that area. Now, if the minister can give the House his assurance here this evening that they will undertake to open the mining roads in the Klondike and Mayo areas, I will not pursue the matter any further. I'm looking for that assurance to have those roads started and opened by the 15th. It's a simple request, Mr. Chair, and it's a request that the minister can probably have his department undertake at very little cost and keep Yukoners working.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair. I can certainly give the commitment to the member opposite that the policy will be the same as last year and that we'll be working to open the roads as last year. Again, it's certainly disappointing that the member opposite would hold me responsible for getting the miners back to work. That is simply not true. We are simply following along with the policy that existed last year. And, of course, we know who was in power last year - or maybe I should spell it out. It was the Yukon Party, sir. Pardon me, Mr. Chair, it was the Yukon Party.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess we can pursue this matter a little bit further with the minister. During the last couple of years, the Department of Community and Transportation Services has been very efficient in opening the mining roads in the Klondike and Mayo areas so that the miners can get in there and go to work. I don't need to get into naming the roads. I'm sure that they're all well-known. The only way that the current government would pursue any action this spring was after it was raised here in the House. Now, I'm very, very hopeful that we will not have to pursue that avenue again - that the minister can give his undertaking here tonight that the mining roads in the Klondike and Mayo districts will be opened by March 15th this next spring and in subsequent years - that there is a policy direction given to the Department of Community and Transportation Services to open them on a timely basis. Can the minister give that undertaking, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Would the member opposite clarify it for me? The member opposite said May and then he went into March, and I'm just wondering if that is a slip of the tongue, because I'm certainly used to that, but was that just a slip of the tongue?
Mr. Jenkins: I'm pleased to qualify the date for the minister that the date of opening the mining roads in the Klondike and Mayo mining districts is that they would be open by March 15th of each year. Can the minister give his undertaking, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, I can't.
Mr. Jenkins: Now, is there some reason why the minister is not prepared to put Yukon miners back to work in a timely fashion in the spring of each year? Why does the minister refuse to give his undertaking in this area?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Let me reiterate again once more my deep pleasure that, when you can expose a slip of the tongue, it seems to become the benchmark and the base of knowledge, if I may - how we went from May and we backed up two months, so we're certainly trying to make ourselves look like heroes in the mining community.
Let me, first of all, say one more time - did I say "first of all?" Let me reiterate one more time for the member opposite that we will be following the policy that was established last year, that was in force last year, and we will be continuing with that policy.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm sure someone reading Hansard will be simply amazed at the exchange here this evening, Mr. Chair.
So, what I did hear from the minister is that he will be following the policy that was in place this spring, which means that we will have to come back to the House and we will probably have to ask and plead and beg for the minister to instruct his department to open those roads so that Yukon miners can go back to work.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Nobody has to beg, strive, grovel or anything as such. Certainly what I said is that we'll be following the policy. Maybe it's not set right in the policy, but we'll certainly be following the directive that was established last year.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what the minister is saying is that he'll be opening the highways in the Klondike and Mayo area at the same time as they did last year - next spring.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: What we will do for next year is what we did for this year - the bill being certainly $56,000 less, though.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the Minister is dancing all around the issue, and how he's going to accomplish what he accomplished last year with $56,000 less, given that the expenditure amounts to about $100,000 in this area, is going to be most interesting to see. I don't know if he's going to do the opposite of a rain dance and have a no-snow dance. So, maybe we can move the dance over so that we build up the reservoir in Aishihik and have no snow in the Klondike so that there isn't any to remove come the spring.
Mr. Chair, with respect to the information brought back, I still could have some comments with respect to the electrical inspections, the fire inspections, the boiler and pressure vessel inspections and the executive summary of the Canadian agreement on vehicle registration after it has received my perusal, so we could move on to the line item, Mr. Chair, unless my colleagues have something.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I presume that we've moved past the returns of information from last night and we're still on sports and rec?
Chair: I understand we're still on public safety.
On Public Safety - continued
Public Safety in the amount of $1,512,000 agreed to
On Sports and Recreation
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The 1997-98 O&M budget of $1,845,000 consists of $330,000 for personnel, which includes the salary and benefits for one administration staff, two community recreation staff, one sport staff and the director; $137,000 for other, which includes $34,000 for travel, $20,000 in Yukon, and $14,000 outside of Yukon, $18,000 for contract services, $37,000 for repair and maintenance, $10,000 for program materials, $12,000 for communication, $10,000 for internal charges, and $16,000 for various other program requirements; $1,378,000 for transfer payments for contributions to various recreational and sports; Yukon recreation groups, $110,000; contributions to local authorities, $227,000; Yukon sport governing bodies, $430,000; Sport Yukon core funding, $115,000; Arctic Winter Games, $325,000; the elite athlete, coaching and officials grant of $45,000; the Canada Summer Games $25,000; the North American Indigenous Games, $29,000; and $72,000 for various other, smaller, contributions.
In the comparison with the previous years, it's an increase of $402,000, and this is resulting from $10,000 from the Queen's Printer costs devolved to the department; $391,000 in transfer payments covering the Arctic Winter Games, $300,000; for the Canada Summer Games, $25,000; for the North American Indigenous Games, $29,000; for the Yukon recreation groups, $20,000; contribution to local authorities, $10,000; in various smaller contributions, $7,000; net $1,000, in other smaller program increases/decreases. Thank you.
Mrs. Edelman: I'm reading to you from the sports and recreation Towards 2000 report. This is a draft report. In this, we talk about how the sport and recreation branch has a mandate to help facilitate the development of recreation in Yukon communities and to ensure that all Yukon communities have access to recreational arts development services and programs and facilities.
My question to the minister is: how extensive is that O&M support, in particular for facilities in the communities?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Would it be possible to get the member opposite to clarify that for me? Did she ask how extensive is the support to O&M? Was that the question?
Mrs. Edelman: Particularly for O&M support for recreational facilities.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The contribution to the local authorities, which might be Mount Lorne, Burwash, Pelly Crossing, Carcross - folks like that - is $226,449.
Mrs. Edelman: Having a fairly lengthy background in the fitness industry, I know that any private business that is trying to run a facility has a very high O&M cost, and for that reason I am wondering if there is a policy that ensures that there is no competition between taxpayer-supported sports and recreational facilities and private sports facilities.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, if I can understand the member opposite's question correctly, there was no competition between taxpayer-based recreation and private enterprise. The only location I can think where that would be would be in the Whitehorse area. I can't think of any smaller communities where we fund the local authorities to be in competition.
Mrs. Edelman: Is it clear in the department that if somebody is interested in carrying out a private sector initiative in any of those facilities that that is a possibility and that it can be leased out to the private sector? Certainly, that is what's happened in larger facilities, particularly in Whitehorse. One very good example would be Mt. McIntyre, which is now being run privately.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: To the best of my knowledge, that question could be or should be directed to the municipalities. It is totally within their mandate and their policy decision-making processes.
Mrs. Edelman: What about unincorporated municipalities?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Just to help clarify the answer, I could go through the papers and tell you the names of the communities and then you can help me.
Beaver Creek, is one community. Burwash Landing, Carcross, Mount Lorne, Destruction Bay, Keno City, Old Crow, Pelly Crossing, Ross River, Tagish and Upper Liard.
Mrs. Edelman: Very few of those places just mentioned are incorporated municipalities. What I'm wondering about is, is there a general policy on O&M of recreational facilities that allows for some opportunity for the private sector?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, the short answer, on general policy, is no, but I can qualify that by saying that we do give grants to the local authorities, and then the local authorities would make their policies and their decisions at that level.
Mrs. Edelman: And so, Mr. Chair, leaning from that, another type of recreational facility is the waterfront areas - perhaps and hopefully soon to be developed - in Carcross and in Whitehorse. Is there any O&M funding that's going to be going into either one of those locations as far as recreational opportunities?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The question is on the two waterfront areas, one being Carcross and the other being Whitehorse. Within the City of Whitehorse, it is the City of Whitehorse's jurisdiction. Regarding the Carcross area - you're asking specifically about the centennial anniversaries project and the funding for that project?
Mrs. Edelman: First of all, YTG owns a very large portion of the waterfront in Whitehorse. Secondly, in Carcross there is going to be, I understand - and this is all in the development stage, I understand as well - some recreational opportunities, and what I'm wondering about is whether there will be O&M costs borne by this department in the long run after, say, the CAP funding runs out.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: On the territorial-owned land in Whitehorse, on the city waterfront specifically, the member opposite is asking for the recreation dollars that we're talking about, and, no, there is no plan for any of these recreational dollars.
Of course, everything is up for negotiation as we proceed to the development of the waterfront, and certainly those things will be taken into consideration.
On the example of Carcross, for their project there, no, at this point in time, but we're still to see what is going to be happening with that and we'll be working with the local authority within that district.
Mrs. Edelman: So, to clarify then, if there is development that goes forward in Carcross and in Whitehorse, a portion of that is going to be on YTG land. Then, when the funding runs out for the capital, YTG will not be taking on recreational O&M costs?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, we will not be, but, again, I say that we'll certainly have to let that evolve and be talking with the city on those types of issues.
Mr. Jenkins: The $1.8 million total budget - the minister indicated a staffing complement of five FTEs and an allocation of $330,000 for staffing costs. Has there been any change since the last fiscal period?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I could read out the actuals and the dollars to the member opposite. In 1995-96, there was $326,523; in 1996-97, it was $334,255; and in the 1997-98 budget, of course, there is $330,310.
Mr. Jenkins: So, there is a trend of steady, rising costs. I would make the assumption that the staffing people will receive the additional benefits accruing to their staffing level, and yet we're showing a reduction this year in staffing costs. Has there been a change in the staff complement, Mr. Chair? How are we achieving this saving and reversing the constantly growing cost of staff?
Chair: Is it the members' wish to have a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is there further debate?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: With respect to the salaries and wages in sport and recreation, as has been indicated before, there are slight differences resulting from percentage calculation for fringe benefits from year to year. From the 1996-97 forecast to the 1997-98 budget, there's a reduction of about one percent in fringe benefit percentages, and this is shown throughout the department.
On the question of the airport hires: where are the two airport positions being hired and what are they? One casual STEP summer student will be hired to provide administrative support in Haines Junction and one auxiliary administrative assistant will be hired to provide on-call office support at the Whitehorse airport. The auxiliary is required due to illness of an indeterminate employee.
Mr. Phillips: I have a couple of questions about the elite athletes funding. First of all, this program, I guess, has been in the budget for a number of years. Can the minister tell me if it's the intention of his government to continue funding this program?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, we certainly do support the program and its continuation.
Mr. Phillips: Just so I get an idea of how the program works, I suppose it would be athletes who have over-achieved or are high achievers and would be athletes who, I suppose, have excelled at their sport, and so it's sort of a program available for these athletes so they can go on to further their excellence in their sport.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, it indeed is my pleasure to report to the member opposite that it is based on competition levels - examples at the regional and national level - and it is certainly done by a jury.
Mr. Phillips: So, what it is is a government-funded program for individual athletes who have reached a certain level - say the upper 80 percent of their achievement level in a certain sport - and they would qualify to have their names submitted to the jury, and then it would be decided by the jury that they would receive some funding to continue their athletic practice in that sport so they can improve themselves in the field that they are moving toward.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, the funding does come from YRAC. Again, it is judged by a jury.
Mr. Phillips: I am just trying to get the principles of the program. The principles of the program are that if you work hard and reach a certain level - say, the 80-percent level in your field as an athlete - then the Government of Yukon will consider allowing your name to be submitted to this jury, and if you happen to be successful, you can continue your athletic education, so to speak, in the athletic field.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We've heard words from back here, such as "bootleg" and words such as "stretch". Let me say here that the funding does come from YRAC and the principles that are derived from the jury are certainly probably as the member has said.
Mr. Phillips: I am just trying to see where this government's coming from. If we can cast our minds back for a moment, today we debated a motion with respect to high achievers in education reaching a certain level of achievement and then qualifying for some extra funding. I just want to know if the principles are the same for the athletes. If you are a high achiever as an athlete, then this would apply to you, so you could go on in your athletic education in the sport.
What I want to know from the minister is if he agrees that, in fact, this is sort of a scholarship program or an advanced program for a very small number of athletes. I would suspect that it wouldn't be a very large number in comparison to all the athletes in the Yukon. Maybe the minister could tell us what the percentage is of athletes who might qualify for such a athletic education award as this.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, if the member opposite is asking for a comparison of the number of athletes that are in the different athletic programs, that may just be a jogger out on the back 40, or the south 60, or something like the such, then it's very difficult to factor any numbers to that.
As to the numbers of athletes that participate in the various sports, anywhere from the winter sports to rollerblading to snowshoeing to cross-country skiing, to maybe the member opposite would even find in some communities there is challenge, in sporting endeavours, to see how many squirrel snare or rabbit snares can be set in one particular trail within a time limit.
Now, if that is the type of question that is being asked by the member opposite, then I find it very, very difficult to be able to answer that question, and to actually capture the number of athletes that are existing within the Yukon Territory and then to find the magic number of a few basic ones that will go on to become champion squirrel snare setters, or like the such, is a very difficult question to answer.
Mr. Phillips: Snare setters? How is that anywhere near relevant to what I asked? I'll have to ask the minister to come back out of the bush for a moment - get back on the main trail.
I asked the minister if he could possibly provide me with a... Oh, help me, please. I ask the minister if he could provide me with what percentage of the athletes in the Yukon qualify for this elite award to improve their athletic abilities in certain sports, because it seems to me that tonight we've heard that the Minister responsible for Community and Transportation Services is in full support of the Government of the Yukon having a funding process for students or people in the territory who have athletic ability - elite athletic ability. But, when it comes to students who we want to see improve academically, they believe it's wrong to have a program like that.
It's interesting how, when the minister is on the spot, he resorts to wandering down back trails in the bush and setting snares for squirrels.
It's unfortunate that the minister chose that because I'm sure if anyone reads it in the morning, they won't believe what they heard. If they read the question, and see the answer, they'll be asking the same thing I asked when I started here a moment ago, about where the relevance is to the question.
I just think there is a comparison, and it's a clear comparison: when you have the Government of Yukon providing funding in one case for people who achieve more than others, and they provide that funding for them to go on in their education, or go on in their training, or go on in whatever, to improve themselves in that field, then that compares fairly well with the awards of excellence, where if someone gets above 80 percent academically in school, they also qualify for some funding which will help them in their chosen field in the future.
Mr. Chair, I can see that the minister is in a bit of trouble because the troops are rallying around the minister. No one's sitting in their chair now; they're all gathered around the minister. I'll just warn them not to get too close because there are snares all around that minister, and they're liable to get tangled up in one of them.
I'd like to know if the minister feels there is a comparison, or a similarity, between the two. If he feels there isn't, maybe he could explain to us why there isn't.
Mr. Livingston: As an educator, I'd just like to make one brief comment, as we're discussing elite awards and so on, and we did have the discussion earlier this afternoon.
The suggestion is being made that somehow supporting athletes, supporting soccer teams that would go and connect with soccer teams in other jurisdictions through elite athlete awards and so on, is somehow a wrong thing to do. The support for other students, students from our schools - what did we call it? - the Yukon excellence awards, the member opposite is trying to tie these two together. The fact of the matter is that if a student is ready to head off to university, or whatever, there are all kinds of student support that is offered to them. So, the suggestion is somehow that we're not supporting students who would choose to go off and further their education to become doctors, architects, lawyers, teachers, and who knows what, that somehow that opportunity is not there. Being an educator, I thought I'd just jump into the discussion.
Mr. Phillips: I'm glad the educator jumped into the discussion because, in fact, the same athletes who qualify for the elite athlete award also qualify for the Yukon grant when they go to a school of their choice which may have that particular sport in it. So this is over and above the Yukon grant. The award of excellence is over and above the Yukon grant. Both of them are over and above the Yukon grant. All I'm suggesting to the minister is that I think there is a comparison. I support the elite athletes program and we have for several years - for four years when we were in power and we supported it when we were in Opposition.
All I'm asking the minister is, can he explain to us today on his feet - and I want the minister to explain, because he's responsible for this program - how does this program differ from the discussion we had this afternoon? The fact of the matter is that we talked this afternoon about the government providing funding for academics who achieve above a certain level. This deals with the same principle, so I'd like to know if the minister can explain to me what the difference is.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, it might be very, very difficult to explain to the member opposite about cultural differences, about philosophical differences, whether the philosophical differences are indeed only skin deep or if they are very deep. I do not see that there is much point in even trying to debate it, but what the heck, why not?
Mr. Chair, first of all let me say that, as I moved through my life and, as the member opposite, when he was bashing poor people the other day, was talking about the poor people and whatnot - and that's the way I interpret what is a nice philosophical discussion - he certainly didn't have the understanding that I did. I was a person that was born and raised in the bush, deep in the bush behind the spruce curtains. The member opposite certainly made fun of that. For myself, I find great pride in that. He told me to come out of the bush. Well, what I do is bring my principles from the bush that have been integrated through two wonderful parents that have taught me how to stand on my feet wherever I am, and consequently here I am standing deep in the forest with the member opposite again.
As I was growing up and doing those things, it was wonderful because my brother and I were athletic as we were doing these things. We were running through the bushes, we were setting squirrel snares, we were setting rabbit snares, we were setting lynx snares. Is this part of a sport? For us it was. It was a way of living, but it was also a part of our sport. So, for him to laugh and think that was ludicrous, I think is absolutely ludicrous.
Athletes are there because they choose to be there in that one specific goal. If it's for the principles that are contained within one initiative that appeals to myself but does not appeal to my colleague, there is certainly no difference in standards or whatnot. It should be all one and the same. It's the same principle because you're achieving for something higher.
It is coming from within because you wish to do that, whether it's running through the bush and setting trail snares or whether it's running a triathlon or doing whatever it might be, whether it's an indigenous sport or a modern, contemporary sport or certainly a sport that comes from ancient Greece, I do find that they are comparable.
Now, Mr. Chair, the member here is asking me to, at this point in time - and I do believe that my colleague next to me here characterizes it right - bootleg. Well, the member opposite got put in his place today maybe. He certainly got spoken to about his motion, and for him to bring that hurt - I do believe that is what it is - from the motion into this debate is certainly mixing apples and oranges, or maybe go so far as celery and carrots. That's how much I think it is different.
So, within that context, Mr. Chair, I do believe that I have answered the member opposite's question.
Mr. Phillips: We're in the vegetable bin anyway with this minister.
Mr. Chair, I think it's very nice that the minister was brought up in the bush behind a tree.
The problem I have is that the minister came into this House with a budget, and in the budget, there is an item that talks about elite athletes. It is the minister's responsibility to stand and defend his budget and point out the principles of the budget and why those items are there. All I asked the minister is if he does not see a similarity between the two programs. I don't want a speech about him hopping through the woods. I don't want a speech about how he was raised when he was a kid. I want him to defend his budget. I want him to do his job, and the minister hasn't done his job. He's done a lousy job this week, and I think all the members on the other side are embarrassed to see the job the minister has been doing.
I asked the question of the minister with respect to the elite athletes program. This is funding over and above, Mr. Chair, any other funding that any other athletes get. It's for the people who achieve higher than others, the people who reach for the top. A very small percentage of Yukoners achieve this. All I'm asking is, does the minister see the similarity between people in sports in the athletic field and youth in the Yukon in the academic field who want to look to the government for funding over and above the existing programs?
Now, I know the Minister of Economic Development ran over and said I'll answer this next question, because I can get up there and give a big, long spiel about absolutely nothing. This is not his budget. It's not his debate. It's got nothing to do with him. It's got everything to do with this minister. I want to ask the minister if he can see the similarities between the two.
I don't want to see the minister hide behind somebody else. I want to see the minister stand up on his own two feet and use his own words and really deal with the question. Answer the question; that's all I want.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, it indeed does give me privilege and pleasure to stand here. Well, it gives me pleasure and it is a privilege to stand here and represent the many people who have put me into this position. Certainly, the people who put me in this position had faith in me and I will continue to strive for higher excellence for the people of my riding.
Again, I reiterate that I think that the question that the member opposite is asking me, when he says, "do not hide behind the Minister of Economic Development or the Minister of Government Services or the Minister of Health and Social Services." He asked me to stand on my own two feet and tread forth; to be brave, to be strong, to be true. It sounded quite patriotic when I listened to him.
No, I am not the Minister of Education, so I will certainly say to the member opposite that I will not answer any of the questions like that. But, let me say to the member opposite, and I am sure that if he reads through his book - and I'm sure it's in front of him - that the objective is to encourage and support the growth of Yukon people and communities through the promotion and development of recreation and sport. The sport and recreation branch encourages and supports the development of community sport and recreation and fitness. Those are certainly the objectives that we work from when we're putting this budget together and speaking to this budget. Thank you very much for your time, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Another useless answer from the minister.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the question was not answered. It was not answered in an appropriate manner. The minister's song, "Waltzing Matilda," is very appropriate. Let's get back into a budget line item and let's deal with a couple of the other areas that are most important and get the minister to defend his budget.
Under other, there was $137,000, of which $30,000-odd was travel inside Yukon and $14,000 outside Yukon, which leaves a balance of about $85,000. Would the minister please provide a breakdown of those costs and a comparison with the last fiscal period?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Again, it does give me pleasure and privilege to be standing here.
In employee travel in Yukon, in 1997-98, there is $7,700; in 1996-97, there was $11,588; employee travel outside of Yukon in 1997-98, $9,000; 1996-97, there was $5,500. For other travel in Yukon, $12,450 for 1997-98; in 1996-97, there was $12,450; in other travel outside of Yukon for 1997-98, there is $4,700; and in 1996-97, there is $4,700.
For the honoria, for 1997-98, it is $5,760; in 1996-97, it was $3,760; in contract services, for 1997-98, there is $17,550; in 1996-97, comparison dollars, of course, $15,550.
For repairs and maintenance, in 1997-98, there is $37,485; in 1996-97, $37,485; rental expenses, $3,600 for both years; supplies are $6,000 for both years; postage and freight is $400, for 1997-98; in 1996-97 there is $400 in postage and freight; in advertising in 1996-97, there was $500, and in 1997-98 there is $500.
In program materials, for 1996-97, it was $8,700; in 1997-98, it is $9,700; in communications for 1997-98, there is $12,000; in 1996-97, $12,000.
For internal charges, for 1997-98, there is $10,200; in 1996-97, there was zero.
Total, 1997-98, is $137,045; and in 1996-97, it was $122,233.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister please provide a breakdown as to the contracts and the honoraria. There has been an increase from $3,000 odd to $5,760. What additional honoraria are we paying out, for what reason, and a breakdown of the anticipated contracts for the fiscal period?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, regarding the breakdown of the honoraria, it is the YRAC, and it is six members, at eight days, at $120 per day, for a total of $5,760. And if I may, on the contract services, it's community training workshops for recreation fitness leadership. We have five trainers, at $400 a course, for $2,000. We have research and program development assessment at $3,000, and we have brochures, manuals and promotional materials; for Arctic sports funding manual of $4,000. We also have under contract services a national coaching certification program.
With national coaching certification program, level I, six courses at $300 equals $1,800; level II, five courses at $450 equals $2,250, and level IIIs three courses at $1,500 equals $4,500, for a total of $8,550.
I would just like to say, though, that we've been accused of wasting time injecting humour and having a little bit of fun with what we're elected to do. I would just like to reiterate at this time, again, that it is certainly awful - I think it is absolutely awful - that a party that preaches fiscal restraint, such as the party opposite when it was the previous administration, would be stooping to this level. I guess there's nothing wrong with asking this level of detail in this debate, but as some members of the opposite party and the third party took advantage of the technical briefings, it's certainly sad - it's too bad - that the member opposite turned down a technical briefing. Because if the member had gone to the technical briefing, then he could have certainly sped this up.
Now, Mr. Chair, please do not get me wrong. I can stay here till the cows come home and have this debate with the member opposite, because I do have four years to represent my constituents. But, again, let me say that this is not the way they expected to be represented but, unfortunately, it's a situation that I have no control over.
If you look at the accumulated members of this House, if you look at what the Hansard costs, I would say that we are spending approximately $2,000 per hour, and when you look at this hourly rate being spent, well, I think that we could have sped it up a little bit. We could have worked a little bit more cooperatively. We should not be back into that age-old machismo of butting heads, et cetera. But let me point out once again that this is a waste of the taxpayers' money for the questions as they come forth, and I'd like to say that there are examples of good questions in this House, and I certainly encourage others to follow that example.
Mr. Jenkins: As the minister pointed out, there were technical briefings available, and probably if anyone in this House needs and requires a technical briefing, it's the minister himself.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: No, the deputy minister is eminently qualified and understands the various areas. It is the minister himself who needs a technical briefing and an understanding. He needs an understanding of the policy, and he needs to relate those policies in a straightforward and succinct manner in this House, rather than the rhetoric that we're hearing and have heard over the past week, and it's very interesting that the members opposite come to the minister's defense. You know, it's getting to be an insult to the department - being represented by a minister that has so little understanding of his departmental responsibilities, and I would urge the minister to take it upon himself over the course of the weekend, among his other duties, to take a briefing so that he understands the various areas of his department.
Now, let's get into another question with respect-
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, over the years, I have had the privilege of working closely with probably 11 different ministers of Community and Transportation Services in various governments from all sides. One of the ones that best grasped his department's responsibilities and understanding of it is now the Government Leader, and I'm sorry to say that the worst minister I've ever had to deal with, with a total lack of understanding of all his responsibilities and certainly the policy areas and the fiscal areas, is the current Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
So, if we're going to do anything by way of briefing, I would urge the minister to take it upon himself to come to an understanding of his responsibilities and come to an understanding of his responsibilities very, very quickly.
If we could deal with the budget - the item - the question I raised was the honoraria. There is a difference between last year and this year. It is $5,760. There is an explanation provided for this year. Would the minister please provide an explanation why it differs between this year and last year?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I've heard about enough of the bullying from the member opposite with regard to this budget process. The member opposite is a rookie in this House and, quite frankly, doesn't have a clue about what he's supposed to be asking the minister about in Committee of the Whole debate.
He has quite the wrong impression. This member, who so arrogantly defied the invitation to take a technical briefing, has not been talking about policy. What he's been talking about is the most minute technical detail. Then he's been standing up and berating the minister, as if he should know what the offsite levy base calculation is, or whatever the heck it's called.
We are politicians. We are in charge of policy. The minister has a budget. He is in this House defending it.
I want to refresh the member's memory on what his colleagues responded like when they had been in government for seven months. This is almost the same time of year. They were sworn in on November 7, 1992. I want to read from Hansard of May 31, 1993. This is the Member for Riverdale North, Mr. Phillips, who had been in Opposition for eight years previous to this.
This is the answer to a question in Committee estimates on a policy item. This is what he was saying when he was accusing Mr. McDonald of beating him up in this House. He said, and I'll read it -
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: What's this got to do with the budget?
Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Point of order, Mr. Jenkins.
Mr. Jenkins: We're in Committee of the Whole debate with Department of Community and Transportation Services. We're in a line item. What is the minister bringing forward right now?
Chair: On the point of order, Mr. Harding.
Hon. Mr. Harding: On the point of order, I'm simply responding to the questions of the member opposite, who has raised a number of allegations in the House, and who has spoken to matters contained in the budget, and I'm illustrating to him how the minister should appropriately be answering the questions on policy as opposed to a technical nature that the member continues to ask for - the member who refused to take a technical briefing.
Chair: At this point, I would like to remind all members to refrain from using abusive or insulting language and get back to the line item.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, what that member said on that day was, "I want to apologize to the member opposite. He has had seven years of experience in this particular department..."
Mr. Jenkins: The member is on a topic totally unrelated to the line item we're dealing with, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'm on the same topic that the member just was raising, and I'm responding to that, and I was simply pointing out to the member what the history of this House is.
Chair: Mr. Ostashek, on the point of order.
Mr. Ostashek: This is ridiculous.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Yes.
When the members were in Opposition over here, they expected the ministers to know every minute detail of their departments, and now they can't take it when they are on the other side of the House. They can't take it.
Let's get back to the budget item, or we'll be here for a long time until we get the answers we're looking for.
Chair: Order please. Everybody has had an opportunity to speak to this matter, and I would like members to return to the line item. We are dealing with sport and recreation - $1,845,000. Is there further debate?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Again, Mr. Chair, I must say that it does give me pleasure here.
It was spoken with some anger and hesitation in the member opposite's voice a few moments ago when I asked the member if he would like to again take advantage of a technical briefing. Well, maybe I didn't again offer it to him. But I certainly will at this point in time again offer the member opposite a technical briefing, if he would so much like it, on the budget, and I certainly would encourage the member opposite to take it.
He certainly is backing up from his position of just bashing the bureaucracy and bashing me, but certainly he's saying that the bureaucracy is doing the right thing and that the minister is, well, all sorts of things actually, and I sometimes wonder how I got to this level of faith by the people. Certainly, even my deputy, who is sitting with me here, reminds me that I have to take back the past question, because certainly we do not have that level of detail in front of us.
As far as getting back to the line item, I certainly encourage the members opposite to ask pertinent questions if you'd like. It's certainly disgusting, to my line of thinking, that the members opposite would be acting in this manner. I mean, it does again remind me of the schoolyard bully when he gets beaten up, and when the schoolyard bully finally gets beat up, what does he do? They just go back to the intimidating tactics. Thank you.
Chair: Order please. I would like to remind all members not to use abusive or insulting language. We are dealing with the budget, line item sport and recreation.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, just as a point to add to the debate, I feel that I am doing my job. I am one of the members opposite and I am asking relevant policy questions about this budget, and I'd appreciate some respect for that.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Absolutely. I think the member should be afforded the appropriate respect for asking policy questions of the minister. I concede fully that the member opposite has not been asking the minister how to calculate offsite base levies, base calculations or whatever they are, and I also assume that the member probably took advantage of a technical briefing where a lot of the questions that have been raised at $900 an hour on the floor of the Legislature could have been raised.
Chair: Mrs. Edelman, on the line item.
Mrs. Edelman: Just for information, offsite levies are an extremely important policy issue in this department.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Absolutely; it probably is, and it's also a very technical question if you want specifics about the calculation itself. Policy? Yes.
Ms. Duncan: With respect to sport and recreation, I raised an important issue in the House the other day with respect to protection for our volunteers working in this area and protection of our children. At that time, I mentioned a document, "The Child Protection Statement and Protocol of the Girl Guides of Canada". I'd like to table that, please, at this time, and provide this information to all members of the House, and I would ask that members read it and review it. I think this is an important issue, an important matter facing the department. I appreciate that the minister has got back to me with some answers with respect to this matter and I would ask that he give this consideration. Thank you.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, I will have to apologize to certain members on the opposite side. I certainly meant no disrespect to the third party on the opposite side. I certainly wish to put on record at this point in time that I appreciate it that the members took the opportunity to ask the questions, and I appreciate the tone.
I certainly would appreciate that others in the Official Opposition would take that into context also.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, report progress.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that you report progress on Bill No. 4.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 6, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1997-98 (No. 2), and directed me to report it without amendment.
Further, Committee has considered Bill No. 4, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1997-98, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, 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: The House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:28 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled April 23, 1997:
Property Management Agency: 1997-98 business plan (Sloan)
The following Documents were filed April 23, 1997:
Aishihik Lake water level: letter dated December 10, 1996, from Lindsay Staples, Chair, Aishihik Relicensing Project Technical Group to John Murray, Project Manager, Aishihik Relicensing Project, Yukon Electrical Company Limited (Fairclough)
The Child Protection Statement and Protocol of the Girl Guides of Canada (Duncan)