Thursday, May 1, 1997 - 1:30 p.m.
Clerk: It is my duty, pursuant to the provisions of section 24 of the Legislative Assembly Act, to inform the Legislative Assembly of the absence of the Speaker.
Deputy Speaker takes the chair
Deputy Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers. I would ask members to bow their heads in a moment of silent reflection.
Deputy Speaker: Please be seated. We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Sexual assault prevention month
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: May is sexual assault prevention month. I rise to pay tribute to the Yukon teenage girls who willingly spoke frankly about their lives, making the A Cappella North report possible. To quote a young woman, "If a guy has sex, he's a stud. If a girl has sex, she's a slut. I figure guys get the sex out of it, and girls want the relationship."
In response to the A Cappella North report, our government is ensuring gender-equity initiatives are a priority in our school system. The safe teen program is returning to Dawson City and Whitehorse this year. Many non-government agencies - the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre, Kaushee's Place, Les Essentielles, the RCMP, the college women's studies program, and several government departments - have helped to plan and are participating in sexual assault prevention month events.
This year, a speakers' roster of local resource people are giving presentations to many public organizations and community groups. It's very encouraging to note that the Yukon Teachers Association, the Army Cadet League, the Yukon Medical Association and service clubs - to name but a few - have agreed to place presentations on their agenda on the subject of freedom from violence, dating violence, law enforcement and sexual assault prevention, and healing through art therapy, as well as other subjects.
The recently formed community policing committee are dealing with the problem of bush parties, which includes date rape. As well, a public awareness campaign in the media will help draw attention to the fact that we all have a responsibility to eradicate sexual violence and the fear of it that is a barrier to women's equality.
Tribute to Porter Creek Beavers, Cubs and Scouts
Ms. Duncan: I rise today to pay tribute to the Porter Creek Beavers, Cubs, Scouts, their parents and their volunteer Scout leaders. This Saturday, the Porter Creek units will perform their 10th annual spring clean-up fundraiser. The units pre-arrange with various businesses to clean up the wind-blown litter on their business sites, sweep driveways, and yes, sometimes they even do the windows.
The Porter Creek Scouts perform this clean-up service by donation. I would like to salute the boys, their parents and the volunteers, as well as the businesses that support this worthwhile initiative. Yukon Electrical Company Ltd., Skookum Asphalt, Finning, Carpet Market, Duncan's Sheet Metal and Midnight Sun Drilling are all regular customers of the Scouts' clean-up.
Our community will be a little cleaner come Monday, and the Scouting units will be able to finance their activities. I invite all members of this House to join me in paying tribute to this fine example of a Yukon partnership for a cleaner community.
Ratification of Little Salmon/Carmacks final agreements
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I rise with pride to note that Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation has taken another major step toward self-government with yesterday's ratification of its self-government and final agreements. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the many people who worked for nearly two decades to make this happen. I would like to also congratulate the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation members who supported the work of their First Nations through their decision to ratify the agreements.
Mr. Speaker, the ratification marks the beginning of a new journey in self-determination for the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation people.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Deputy Speaker, I too would like to congratulate the Little Salmon First Nation on the ratification of their land claims. As all Yukoners are aware, the land claim process has been a long and arduous one, and this puts us a step closer to finalizing land claims of all First Nations in the Yukon. I want to wish the people of the Little Salmon First Nation the best of success in implementing their agreements and look forward to working with them on a government-to-government basis in the future.
Deputy Speaker: Are there any introduction of visitors?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Phillips: I'd like to introduce several visitors to the Legislature today. Anita Cullen and Geri Kitz are from Edmonton, Alberta and Kathy and Rob Bell are from Bellingham, Washington. They are making a special trip to the Yukon at this time to attend the wedding of Elaine Raketti, the daughter of Diana and Ivan Raketti of Watson Lake and of course, Troy Taylor, the son of Bonnie and Frank Taylor of Duncan Creek near Mayo. The wedding takes place on Saturday, May the 3rd, 1997, in Whitehorse.
The Rakettis and the Taylors are lifetime Yukon families. Troy is a third generation Yukon placer miner. His grandfather, Fred Taylor, began mining in the Mayo district in the 1930s. Diane and Ivan Raketti are long-time residents of Watson Lake. I'd like to take this opportunity to welcome our friends and visitors to the Yukon and extend our best wishes to Elaine and Troy in their future together. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Deputy Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Yukon Energy Corporation operating agreement (update)
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'd like to inform members of the Legislature that negotiators for the Yukon Energy Corporation and Alberta Power Limited, the parent company of the Yukon Electrical Company Ltd., have finalized a new operating agreement that will now be submitted to the respective boards for consideration.
Consistent with the March 31st agreement in principle, the new operating agreement would provide for operations and maintenance of the Yukon Energy Corporation's generation transmission and distribution assets. It would also include provisions relating to rationalization, as well as the government undertaking to enter into negotiations to sort out the legal uncertainty with respect to the Yukon Electrical Company Ltd.'s distribution systems in the territory.
I'm advised that the negotiators were unable to complete a definitive and comprehensive formal, written agreement by April 30th as required by the agreement in principle. At a special meeting on Wednesday, April 30th, the board of the Yukon Energy Corporation authorized its negotiator to table a final "take it or leave it" offer, consistent with the agreement in principle. This was done very late yesterday evening.
I am further advised that negotiators for Alberta Power Limited signed a commitment to present this offer to their board of directors for approval by May 9th, 1997. This completes a second step in a step-by-step, decision-by-decision process.
If the operating agreement is approved by the board of Alberta Power Limited by May 9th, it will be delivered to the Yukon Energy Corporation by May 10th. The operating agreement would then be submitted to the board of the Yukon Energy Corporation and to Cabinet thereafter for approval. If approved by May 16th, the Yukon Energy Corporation would sign the operating agreement.
In the event the operating agreement is not approved by one of the parties, the Yukon Energy Corporation will start a transition period to implement direct management of its entire system effective January 1, 1998.
Mr. Ostashek: I'm somewhat bewildered by this ministerial statement, because I'm not sure whether we have an agreement or not.
The statement starts out by saying that we have finalized a new operating agreement. Then the minister goes on, in his third paragraph, to say, "I've been advised by negotiators they've been unable to complete a definitive and comprehensive formal written agreement." Then he goes on to say that the Alberta Power negotiators have been given a "take it or leave it" offer. He goes on further to say that this needs to be approved yet by all parties. I don't think we even have an initialled negotiators' agreement at this point, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
I would like to ask the minister if he could possibly try to clarify, when he is on his feet, as to really do we have an agreement or do we not have an agreement? With the "take it or leave it" offer that was reached last evening and presented to Alberta Power negotiators, with a signed commitment to present this offer to their board of directors for approval May 9th, can the minister inform this House if, in fact, the negotiators are going to be advising their board of directors to accept this agreement or were they forced into this at the last minute? This doesn't appear to me to be an mutual agreement, and I am very concerned about what's happening here. I would sure like the minister to clarify it for me while he's on his feet.
Mr. Cable: The ministerial statement doesn't go into a lot of detail. The minister is a bit of a mystery worker. But it does raise some important questions.
When the minister talks about a "take it or leave it" offer, we have to think that one of the possibilities is that Yukon Electrical will say, "we leave it," and hand over the operation of the utility to Yukon Energy Corporation, so that raises a number of collateral questions. Is there a transition team in place? Is there a transition plan in place? Are the employees that run the Energy Corporation assets going to be encouraged to go on the Yukon Energy Corporation payroll, and what is the likelihood of that happening?
In the event of Yukon Electrical walking away, has Yukon Electrical formally agreed to stay on to manage the system until January 1st, 1998 - the date in the ministerial statement? That is the assumption one would make from the statement.
Lastly, and probably most importantly, is the minister confident that the lights will stay on in the whole system if, in fact, Yukon Electrical walks away?
Hon. Mr. Harding: No, I won't say it. There was a line thrown up for me there that was just too good, but I'll have to pass it up.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I will say to the members opposite that there was a deadline of April 30th for an agreement on the AIP to be reached. Things were happening very quickly. The board was called together for a telephone meeting yesterday at 2:00. They had subsequent telephone conversations. The president was negotiating with Alberta Power. I had a very brief five- to seven-minute meeting with Alberta Power yesterday to tell them that I would support the board's direction.
I got a call last night at about 11:00. The board had authorized the president to give the company a take-it-or-leave-it offer. The board announced to the president this morning that they had indeed agreed that they would take the offer. The negotiator for Yukon Electrical is prepared to recommend it to their board on the dates that I outlined in my ministerial statement. There was a jointly signed extension to the period to allow for the ratification by the Alberta Power Company's board. Subsequent to that, it will go to the Yukon Energy Corporation's board and to Cabinet.
So, there's a process of negotiation right to the final hours as people negotiated in a very tough manner to get the best deal possible, and I think the people on the board of the Yukon Energy Corporation and the people in the administration of the Yukon Energy Corporation, as well as the government, were trying to be very diligent on behalf of Yukoners in ensuring the best possible deal was arrived at.
Now, Mr. Deputy Speaker, it remains for the people from Yukon Electrical, who are recommending the deal to Alberta Power, to take it for ratification to their board. They are going to be recommending it. They have signed off a joint letter: the Yukon Energy Corporation president and the main negotiator for Yukon Electrical. So, that will hopefully culminate in a board meeting on May 9th.
With regard to the issues raised by the Liberal member, the initial, old management agreement has a clause in it that allows for a transition period right through to January 1st of next year. So, even if there's no agreement, they have a transition period. There's a transition plan in place for direct management. That was part of the negotiating strategy with Alberta Power, because the option of direct management had to be pursued very diligently, so that in the event that no good agreement for Yukoners was reached, then there would be a plan in place to take over direct management. So, the answer to the question on the plan and the team is yes. There is a plan and a team that will be assembled, and there is a transition time with Yukon Electrical.
So, the lights will stay on. I can tell the member that. I can also say that I want to congratulate the board members and the negotiators for working, essentially day and night, to come up with this negotiators' agreement. Now it's in the hands of the board of Alberta Power, and then subsequent to that, the board of the Yukon Energy Corporation. I think they've achieved a good deal for Yukoners, that's in the best interest of Yukon ratepayers. It's going to save money for ratepayers in the long term.
Litter campaign - keeping the Yukon beautiful
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Deputy Speaker, it certainly gives me pleasure to rise today at the beginning of anti-litter month to highlight a number of initiatives that this government supports to further our policy of working to keep the Yukon beautiful.
This government recognizes that Yukon people cherish their quality of life and their time spent on the land. The sense of space and wilderness is very important to those of us who make our homes here. For the many visitors from around the world, the Yukon's wild beauty is a key attraction.
In my dual capacity as the Minister of Community and Transportation Services and as Minister of Tourism, I believe that by keeping our highway and river corridors beautiful, we help to maintain the pristine quality of our environment. As members are aware, the Yukon government is responsible for highway rights-of-way. Many Yukoners are interested in the issues of highway aesthetics and the proliferation of highway signs and their environmental effects. This government has taken steps to improve upon the highway billboard sign policy.
In the coming months, I will be making an announcement on the revised private highway and community sign draft regulations. The proposed changes to the regulations will provide for innovative options for highway signs, such as introducing advertising at kiosks located on either side of a community, in a rest area off of the highway.
The proposed options will likely also provide more community control over the proliferation of signs in their area. I encourage Yukoners to participate in this consultation process, once it is announced.
Today is also the start of the annual spring highway litter clean-up. This territory-wide program is sponsored by the transportation maintenance branch. The program has been in operation for seven years and pays groups to collect and recycle litter.
This program encourages Yukon people to work together to keep the territory beautiful. It has proven to be very popular. In 1996, 110 community groups throughout the Yukon participated.
I would like to congratulate my colleague, the Minister of the Yukon Liquor Corporation, on the new Yukon Liquor Corporation paper bags promoting "Boat Safe/Boat Sober", which also feature anti-littering slogans. These will be introduced in the Yukon liquor stores later in May.
Following the annual spring highway clean-up, we will launch an advertising campaign targeted at both Yukon residents and tourists, to promote the benefits of controlling litter and maintaining Yukon's pristine wilderness.
This initiative will promote responsible use of RV sewage dumping stations, feature anti-littering ads in publications such as the hunting regulations synopsis and the highways map, and encourage no-trace camping for backcountry hikers and backpapers.
A no-trace camping checklist is included in a newly published brochure, "Into the Yukon Wilderness". This piece presents information on wilderness safety, bear safety, fishing, hunting, firearms and First Nations lands. It will be available in English, French and German.
Finally, my departments are investigating future initiatives to further enhance the attractiveness of our highway corridors, such as increased buffer zones to provide a wider screen for off-highway activity. We are also working to mitigate damage from graffiti by determining how we can increase our authority under the Highways Act to deal with graffiti on rock faces and public structures.
In closing, I would like today to encourage all Yukon people to take part in this month's annual highway clean-up event, and I'll also invite and challenge my colleagues and Opposition members to participate in this clean-up.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Deputy Speaker, I rise today in support of the minister's initiative surrounding the beginning of anti-litter month.
The minister's accurate recognition of the need for clean highways and river corridors, as well as no-trace camping in our wilderness, is to be applauded. The kiosk approach at the entrance to communities for private highway signs will add organization to the signage issue. It will further beautify our highway corridors as well as provide a one-window approach for travelling motorists.
Publication of information in both our official languages as well as German, the second-most frequently spoken language of our visitors, will prove to be beneficial, and it is a trend started a few years ago that Yukon should continue with in our visitor industry.
Our annual highway clean-up campaign is a process that should continue year-round. I would urge the minister to develop a program for groups, organizations and individuals of adopting a section of highway to assist with litter control along that highway corridor. Human nature being what it is, if an area is found clean, it is more apt to be maintained that way by residents and travellers alike. The Yukon is known for its pristine wilderness, pure air and water.
We must join together to maintain these standards and our image, for our benefit and the benefit of our successors.
Mrs. Edelman: The Yukon Liberal caucus strongly supports an anti-litter campaign in the Yukon. The continuation of the garbage pickup on highway rights-of-way by non-profit groups who wish to raise funds this way, is also supported by the caucus.
Over the years, I have participated in the clean up of garbage for various non-profit groups, and although this hasn't been my favourite task, I have gathered some expertise in this area in the process.
I have some concerns about the nature of the refuse that is picked up. Over and over again, I have seen broken beer bottles, unsanitary personal waste and I've heard about children finding needles in the areas they are to clean.
It is my hope that the minister does some sort of awareness campaign with the groups who are doing the clean-up. We are all too aware of the risks of dealing with needles in the days of AIDS and other infectious diseases.
Lastly, the greatest anti-litter campaign in the world is the one where we foster pride in the land for the next generation.
The Yukon families whom I admire the most are the ones who quietly clean and take care of their small corner of the territory, without remuneration and without recognition.
I salute those Yukon families who have always taken care of the land that we love.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I thank the members opposite for their positive comments, and I certainly will take into consideration the helpful suggestions that the member opposite has brought forth.
It certainly is nice to see that we can all pull together for a common cause and we can reflect this throughout total Yukon.
It certainly is something that we should all take initiatives in and to clean up our own little corner and to keep our little corner clean.
Certainly, I think that's a good initiative and if we'd all turn this into the old slogan: G-men or G-persons, I think that would be a positive change for Yukon society.
Child support guidelines (federal)
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Deputy Speaker, I rise to inform the House about measures the Yukon government will be taking to implement the federal child support guidelines that come into effect today. These guidelines were developed through many years of national public consultations and constitute a significant change in family law.
The child support guidelines apply to court orders for child support made under the federal Divorce Act. The guidelines change the way child support is set for parents who divorce after May 1, 1997, and may be used by divorced parents to change existing child support orders. The intent of these guidelines is to provide fair and consistent child support awards and to allow enough flexibility to deal equitably with special situations.
The Yukon Department of Justice is putting in place several measures to implement the federal child support guidelines.
A child support guidelines information office has been established as part of the court services branch. It is located on the main floor of the Law Centre. Information will be available from this office, including federal brochures and "how to" sheets on the guidelines, as well as information bulletins dealing specifically with the Yukon situation.
A separate child support guidelines information telephone line has been set up for parents interested in finding out more about the guidelines. A trained staff person is available to answer general questions from the public.
Parents with specific questions on the guidelines or who require assistance with straightforward variation applications can see the child support information officer. This service will be available in the Law Centre two afternoons a week on a drop-in basis. If there is a large public demand, this service can be expanded.
A one-hour mediation information referral will be available to interested parents. Court services will contract with local family mediators to provide this free, one-hour referral.
An advertising campaign to inform the public where they can get information about the guidelines will begin tomorrow.
A mailout will be sent to maintenance enforcement program clients, other interested service agencies, nursing stations, territorial agents, libraries and First Nations offices. We will continue our rural outreach program so that people in the communities outside Whitehorse have access to information on the guidelines.
The guidelines apply only to child support orders made under the federal Divorce Act. Parents who are separated have orders established under territorial or provincial legislation. If a child support order was made in the Yukon, it would be made under our Family Property and Support Act.
As Minister of Justice, I have directed the department to review the Yukon's child support legislation to ensure that the child support guidelines will apply to all child support orders made in the Yukon.
I anticipate that some amendments to this legislation will form part of our fall legislative agenda. In the meantime, the Yukon courts may adopt the federal child support guidelines on an advisory basis for child support orders made under territorial legislation.
Over the next four years, the federal government will provide the Yukon with a total of $500,000 to implement and enforce child support initiatives; $300,000 is to implement the child support guidelines, and $200,000 is designated to improve enforcement mechanisms to collect on child support orders.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, this promotional program comes about as a result of changes to the federal Divorce Act, and it came about with a great deal of controversy. This is a significant change, as the minister said. I know when I attended status of women meetings it was always a hot topic of discussion. In fact, we sent several communiqués to the federal minister responsible for changing this act, expressing the views from all of us who were united in our stand.
We're pleased to see the government is going forth with an information program because this simply won't work without an information program. There are still a lot of uncertainties on how this new program will work. I'd like to get a commitment from the minister that the department will monitor this very closely, because I think there may be some problems down the road with some of the changes they're making.
A couple of questions for the minister: is this enough money - the $500,000 - in the minister's view, to carry out the program? Sometimes the feds will tell us just how much we're getting, and it may not be enough to deliver all the services we wish to deliver. So, I'd like to know that from the minister. Are we doing this with brand new staff, or are we using existing resources within the department? The minister said the campaign will begin tomorrow. Maybe the minister can tell us if the phone line will be staffed tomorrow, and will the brochures and everything be all ready to go out to anyone who wishes more information on it right away?
Those are some of the questions I have, Mr. Speaker. Again, I would encourage the minister to watch this very closely. There were some concerns at the status of women ministers meetings that some of these changes may make it more difficult, in some cases, for women to receive payments from their past spouses. So, I would ask the minister to keep a close eye on this one to see how well it does work.
Mr. Cable: The minister and her department are moving on several fronts on child support and are to be commended. I'm particularly pleased that the free mediation referrals will be available. This may take some of the animosity out of the process and reduce the number of court-made solutions.
We in the Liberal caucus are supportive of the minister's initiative to introduce child support guidelines into local legislation and look forward to the introduction of that legislation in the fall session.
Now I understand it is part of the larger package of initiatives and child support that are going on in the country. It was alluded to a few moments ago that there are child support tax changes being brought in that will put an end to the unfair advantage divorced parents had over parents that actually stayed together to raise their family. This further reinforces the signal that the prime responsibility for children lies with those who bring them into the world.
The anticipated revenue gains from the change in the tax system, I gather, will be reinvested in the support for children. I'm sure we'll learn more about that when we get to the Health and Social Services debate.
In the statement, the minister refers to the $500,000 coming from the federal government. In her reply, it would be useful to hear from the minister on whether there is some contract with the federal government and, if so, what are the terms with the federal government. If that's not readily available, perhaps it could be tabled prior to the Justice debate.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I thank the Opposition members for their comments. It is indeed a significant change, and the department will be monitoring it closely. All provinces and territories expressed some concern at the Justice ministers conference in February, because the federal information package was not available at that time. In fact, although we were assured it would be available by today, May 1st, when the changes were implemented, we are still waiting for the information from Ottawa.
In response to the Official Opposition critic, there are some additional staff, as well as existing staff, working on implementing the new maintenance enforcement mechanisms and the new child support guidelines. The information phone line will be staffed tomorrow.
I'm surprised that the Liberal member raised the issue of the tax changes, since that has been one of the most controversial aspects of the bill. I think we're going to have to wait and see whether it's successful at what it's intending to do, which is making sure that custodial parents have enough money to raise their children and to pay their rent and feed them, and that all parents are taking responsibilities for raising their children, whether they're living with them or not.
This is a priority for me, and I will indeed be keeping a close eye on how the new system is working out.
Deputy Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Ministers promoting private business
Mr. Ostashek: My question is for the Government Leader. He was feeling slighted yesterday - feeling left out - because we haven't been asking him questions for a few days so I thought it might be appropriate to put a question or two to him today. This is a policy question.
Ministers who have responsibility for Economic Development and Tourism, as well as the Government Leader himself, have a very important role to play in acting as ambassadors for Yukon in traveling abroad to promote trade, tourism and investment opportunities in the territory.
In fulfilling this role, there are some very important policy questions that arise, especially, when an individual company asks a minister for support in promoting their efforts.
Can the Government Leader advise this House if they have a policy in place about how to deal with this?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, there is a policy. Before I get to it, I'd like to thank the member for the question - genuinely thank the member for the question.
Yes, there is a policy. I don't believe that it is a written policy, but there is a long-standing practice of the Government of Yukon, which I believe has been respected by previous governments, both Progressive Conservative, New Democrat, and I believe, the Yukon Party government, that encourages ministers, where appropriate - and it's certainly made on a case-by-case basis - to assist the private sector in advertising what the Yukon companies have to offer, and to meet investors that may want to invest in Yukon businesses.
That policy has extended to support for Curragh, support for Anvil Range, other companies that have a significant impact on the territorial economy.
Generally speaking, and in my experience, the ministers who do travel abroad, don't travel with the express intent of supporting a single company, but do wish to either meet with a number of people - to support a number of companies - in the jurisdictions abroad, and to set up generic meetings with government and others, in order to promote the Yukon in a general way.
I think there were a couple of exceptions. Certainly the Curragh lobby back in 1985-86 was probably an exception. Seldom do ministers travel to support a single company with their investors.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the member for that. As the Government Leader is aware, this arises out of the Committee debate in Economic Development the other day, and some questions I have that cause me some great concerns, and I think need to be clarified for the public.
The minister is right. There are occasions when it's appropriate, such as the Curragh situation in 1985 and in 1992, but I think that was a little bit different than what we were talking about in Committee the other day, because we were talking about - in my case anyway in 1992 or 1993, when I went to Korea to clarify for potential investors that were thinking about investing in the mine to get it back up and running again - what role the government was going to play in getting the mine back up and into operation. There were not very many similarities to what I was raising in Committee.
I'd like to get to the second part of my question. Was the Government Leader aware of the trips that were being considered by his Minister of Economic Development to Europe in promotion of a mining company?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I'm aware of the debate that took place the other day, and I was aware of the situation as it was evolving with a particular mining company requesting the minister to meet with its investors in Europe. The minister decided not to take that trip for a number of reasons. Of course, he did not take the trip for a number of reasons. First of all, there were not a number of generic meetings that the minister could take to promote the Yukon at that point. Certainly, the company in question is a significant player in the Yukon now and is trying very hard to not only expand its operations from the mining company it currently runs but wants to engage in other kinds of mineral activity and is even promoting a project here in Whitehorse to create jobs. But, the minister, as I am aware, chose not to take this particular trip, because there was insufficient opportunity to meet other investors to provide support generally for the mining community, and, because of that reason, he chose not to attend this particular trip.
Mr. Ostashek: Okay, I thank the Government Leader for that.
If I could just clarify what the Government Leader is telling me - he and the minister did not believe that this was an appropriate venue for the minister to be going with unless he could get into more generic venues to promote the Yukon. Is that what I'm interpreting from the Government Leader?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: What I'm saying is that the minister determined that there were insufficient justifications to cause the minister to take his time to go to Europe when there were other things to be done here to promote this particular venture on his own. If, however, there were other opportunities to meet others in the investment community and promote other mining activity, that would probably have changed the scenario sufficiently to provide justification for the minister to go.
These decisions have to be made on a case-by-case basis and a lot depends on what's happening here at the time, whether or not there are other things going on that could cause the minister to divert his or her attention to other things. These are going to be judgment calls; they always have been. While we do want to aggressively promote the economic activity in the Yukon, we have to weigh in the balance the benefits of any particular act we take to promote the economy with other things that may be happening from time to time.
So, I think the minister, in this particular circumstance, made the right decision, and I am also wanting to make the strong case that the particular company in question that the member and the minister were referring to the other night is a real player in the Yukon and is deserving of some support from the Yukon government in recognition of the advances it has made to create jobs.
Question re: Ministers promoting private business
Mr. Ostashek: I'm not arguing that the company is not a real player in the Yukon; they most certainly are, but there are hundreds of companies that are real players in the Yukon and spend a lot of money in the Yukon every year.
I would like to direct my next question to the Minister of Economic Development because I am not clear from the debate the other day and I would like for him to clarify. I made the minister aware that there was an advertisement that went out to a select group of investors in Europe for a private luncheon at which he was billed as being the guest of honour.
Can the minister tell me if that was done with his permission, or not?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I had anticipated this question about a non-trip and about a non-commitment, but what I would say to the member is, no, I never made a commitment to the proponents or operators of the Mount Nansen mine that people are talking about here. I had spoken to them about the issue of trying to attract investment as a new government, sending the message that we want responsible mining, investment and activity in this territory to create jobs, and I had some broad discussions with them about assisting them - and other companies, as a matter of fact - with regard to those issues. I also had a conversation with the executive director of the Chamber of Mines at the prospectors and developers meeting - I consulted with them.
I have received a letter from the president and CEO of the company in question. I will just read some excerpts of it with regard to this issue. It says, "While there was some consideration of a joint effort in Europe, which I had hoped would occur, we fully understand there was no commitment made for your attendance." Another quote says, "We have communicated with many of the companies operating in the Yukon with regard to participating in a Yukon-focused investment relations campaign. In Europe, we are having a direct representative of the Yukon government convey this message. It would be beneficial if not indispensable." It closes by saying, "I hope this clarifies the matter and I apologize if our enthusiasm for the Yukon and our projects has caused any problems.
"President and CEO, BYG Natural Resources."
I will table that for the member, to help clarify this a little bit.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the member for that. I have a few documents myself that I will table and I'll let the public decide whether there was a commitment made or not. The minister, in Committee debate yesterday, said he declined the trip for a number of reasons. One was that the Legislature was sitting and he needed to be here for Committee debate. Another was that he didn't feel that this was appropriate because he couldn't make arrangements to meet with other companies while he was there - all very legitimate reasons.
Yet, in the letter that he wrote back to the president of the company on April 9th - ironically the same day that he was being chastised for flying business class from Vancouver to Whitehorse - he didn't relay any of those reasons for not going. He just said, "This is to wish you every success in your upcoming trip to Europe, which I hope to attend." He doesn't give any of the reasons that he gave the Legislature the other day as his reasons for not attending. So, therefore, even though there has been a letter tabled by the company, I believe that there was some sort of a commitment made, because the notice went out -
Chair: Order please. Would the member please get to the question.
Mr. Ostashek: I will get to the question. I want to know from the minister why, a month after the notice went out in Europe, in his letter declining he did not state the same reasons that he gave to the Legislature the other day.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, you can tell the Opposition is really drying up with this one.
First of all, I had hoped to attend with this company, and a number of companies, who were interested in creating investment in this territory and creating jobs. A trip to Europe - unfortunately, because I couldn't make it broad based enough, I declined to go. I didn't put all of that in the letter to the company because I knew they were trying to finance their operation. I didn't want to put a bunch of confusing information in the letter.
Mr. Chair, I would also say that April 9th was, I think, the Friday the company was heading to Vancouver on their financing initiative, so I delivered the letter to them on that day.
I think it's really a shame that the Official Opposition would be engaging in this activity, to needlessly try and sully the reputation of a company that's doing mining operating work in this territory and is creating jobs for Yukoners. I don't think it sends a good signal to the industry.
Mr. Ostashek: We're not sullying the company at all. We're talking about the actions of a minister and whether they're appropriate or not. This was a private luncheon. This company was - as the industry puts it - on a share-flogging mission. I just say to the minister that I would like the minister to tell this House how he's going to pick and choose. There are a hundred mining companies that operate and explore in the Yukon every year, and if he's going to go with all of them, he's going to be a very busy minister. How are we going to pick and choose who we're going to go with?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I'll say to the member again: first of all, I didn't go, and second of all, I didn't give a commitment to go. So, I don't even know what the point of the question is. Thirdly, I'll say that this company has an operating mine in this territory - one of only two that are presently in operation - and is active in a number of other properties and just bought the Ketza River property from YGC.
Mr. Speaker, I want to also table a copy - the member talks about a share-flogging mission. Here's a report from Economic Development on a visit to Japan by the former Government Leader on Monday, January 22nd through Thursday, January 25th of 1996. In the report, it says that the former Government Leader was there to, more specifically, promote several individual projects in the Yukon. So, I really don't know what the member is on about.
Question re: Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, rate increase
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board. Earlier this week, there was an exchange between the minister and one of the members of the Opposition about the large increase in the assessments that are coming down the line. I understand from the exchange that, in some instances, these assessment increases might be as high as 60 percent.
The minister seemed disinclined to get directly involved, for obvious reasons. So, I asked our researcher to go over the board's financial statements from 1988 to 1995. What we found was that the number of claims had decreased from 2,000 in 1988 down to 1,751 in 1995, but the salaries and benefits had gone up from $770,000 to $2,620,000, and the general administrative expense had gone up over 300 percent, from $1,261,000 to $4,448,000.
Now, these figures compare quite unfavourably with the respective figures in the Northwest Territories. So, the question I have for the minister is, just for the record: does he share the concern that was expressed earlier this week on these assessment increases?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Most of this took place - most of the numbers that have been identified by the member - under the previous chair of the Workers' Compensation Board. I've been to numerous information sessions of the board. I've heard labour and business raise concerns about administration costs, and I've talked to injured workers about administration costs, of a very significant nature, on an ongoing basis.
I think that the new chair, once that person is selected, has a job to do to investigate this matter. I think also that the employer and the labour reps on the board are analyzing and taking a look at all the costs associated with operating the board, and I urge them to do that. I think that if there's a good review of exactly what money's being spent on in that Workers' Compensation Board and in those offices, I think that that would be a very good thing.
Mr. Cable: Let me make another suggestion to the minister. Injured workers have been blamed, in some circles, quite unfairly, in my view, for the increases in the assessments. The Gladish report touched briefly on the administrative expenses. Is the minister prepared to issue a written order under the act, which he's entitled to do, requiring the board to have an operational audit - not a financial audit - carried out on the administration of the board's operations?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'm not prepared to make that commitment on my feet on the floor of the Legislature, but there was an extensive report done under the previous administration that's still being implemented, although not to the satisfaction of some, that I'm aware of. There's a new chair that will be selected in the near future. I don't want to prejudge every activity that that new chair is going to undertake. I'll certainly make the suggestion to the new chair on behalf of the member opposite and also, I think, explain to them what the history is, if they're not aware of it, with regard to concerns about the Workers' Compensation Board.
As of this point, I'm not prepared to issue that order, but I'll certainly be working on a number of these issues with the new chair to inform them of the concerns that I've heard from injured workers, labour and business about the operations of the board.
Mr. Cable: This board has been under fire for the last three or four years, both from injured workers, employers and from everybody else. In my view, it's in the interest of the employees, the injured workers and the employers that some neutral third party review the operations of the board.
I can understand the minister not wanting to give that commitment on his feet to have an operational audit done, but could he consider that suggestion and get back to us before the House rises as to whether he's prepared to go ahead with that or not?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I would say to the member opposite that I would take this as advisement of a representation from the member. I think it should be given due consideration.
We have a new labour rep on the board. That means that we're fully staffed with two labour reps, two employer reps - I hope to be able to announce a new chair in the near future, and I'd be more than happy to sit down and take the member's representation to the board, as well as discuss some of the issues that I've heard as a concern - one of them as being put to me now by the member opposite - with the new board.
I would say, though, that it's not always as black and white as the member portrays it. Some of the administration costs that were identified were associated with an increase in client support services, so there are some good reasons and there are some questionable reasons for some of those increases. So, I think perhaps the new board might want to undertake a due diligence analysis of the situation.
Question re: Board vacancies
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Government Leader respecting government order-in-council appointments.
The Yukon Utilities Board is about to hold hearings on the critical issue of rate increases. This board has only two Yukoners appointed at the present time. The chair of the Yukon Hospital Corporation and three other board member appointments expired yesterday. This board is facing the critical issues of the hospital commissioning, hiring a new CEO and all of the challenges that are associated with the new facility.
The Government Leader and I had a discussion on April 14th in this House with respect to the process of making these appointments. At that time, he said, "I would suspect if we have a vacancy, we'll fill it." Has the government sought nominations for these specific, urgent and pressing board vacancies, and if so, from whom?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That's, unfortunately, a wrap-up question that's very difficult for me to answer, because the Yukon Hospital Corporation Board appointments are the responsibility of the Minister of Health, and I'm sure he can give the member a rundown of the appointment process for that particular board.
The YUB board appointments are the responsibility of the Minister of Justice, and I'm certain that she can give the member a rundown on those questions. So, if the member would permit, the other ministers can respond, in some detail, to her concerns.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Just for the member opposite's attention, we have considered a number of names. We have brought forward a number of names and right now we're at the rather kind of long, laborious process of consulting with people to see about their willingness, because we've had some people who indicated an initial willingness and then have reconsidered it. There are still a couple of people who are reviewing it to see if they would let their names come forward.
I know that it is a critical issue. We hope to have it settled very soon. We began the process actually quite a while ago and we've talked with a number of people, and they've come back and rejected the idea. So, there are still a couple of candidates that we're waiting for.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The Yukon Utilities Board, under the Public Utilities Act, is an independent board. The chair of the board makes the determination on how many members sit on a hearing review process. As far as vacancies on the board, shortly I'll be sending out letters to First Nations and intervener groups and others to recruit members to the Yukon Utilities Board, but that work has not been done yet.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the ministers for that information.
During the course of the exchange I had with the Government Leader, I indicated, on behalf of the Liberal caucus, that we were prepared to accept the fact that board appointments couldn't be held up while this House discussed the issue of all-party committee appointments. However, we did indicate that an informal process was used with all caucuses with respect to the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board appointments. The Liberal caucus supported this informal process.
Could I ask the Minister of Health and Social Services, as that department seems to be moving forward on appointments to the Yukon Hospital Corporation Board, why they didn't use the same informal process?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I can tell the member opposite that what we were trying to do is to just determine, with a group of people - incidentally from a variety of political stripes and from a variety of different professions and backgrounds - to see if they have an interest, and certainly when we have a group of names, we would move forward in kind of an informal process to get some opinions.
Right now, as the member can well determine, there are a number of issues surrounding the hospital. I think one of the concerns is to get a person who has enough of a public profile to, I suppose, project a sense that this is a position that we take very seriously and we want a person who has a good deal of public confidence.
We have a number of, I think, well worthwhile people, but as you know, many people have other circumstances and other issues in their lives.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Deputy Speaker, what I hear the minister saying is that the Opposition caucuses will be asked to select from a list. That's somewhat backward to the process that was used before where we were asked to submit names.
Could I ask the minister then to give a commitment that he is interested and will give due diligence to names submitted by the Opposition caucuses for these vacant positions?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Certainly, from my point of view, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I would be interested in entertaining any names that the Opposition members might bring forward. I think the only thing that we would ask for in terms of names that would come forward would be that there be consideration given to a person of sufficient public profile, that the Opposition parties consider someone who has perhaps a background or at least a familiarity with some form of medical background or hospital familiarity or perhaps serving on a high capacity board. We are certainly interested in entertaining any names, and I would welcome any names that come forward. Thank you.
Question re: Highways budget
Mr. Jenkins: My question today is for the Minister responsible for Community and Transportation Services.
The minister is constantly bemoaning the fact that money is tight and, consequently, the government must make the best use of its financial resources. This became a constant theme during the budget debate on his department.
Accordingly, I'd like to ask the minister to explain the reasons for spending $4 million combined capital and O&M expenditures on the south Campbell Highway. Why is this highway deemed to be more important than other Yukon highways at this point in time?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Indeed, it does give me great pleasure to be here one more time, listening to the familiar tune of across the street. Mr. Deputy Speaker, I can certainly say that bemoaning the fact was not a theme. It is a reality of this government, and this government was left with fiscal constraints. This government is certainly working around them.
Now, to get to the point: to spend a combination of $4 million on O&M and on capital on a highway. Is the member telling me that if he was in power - if his government, heaven forbid, was in power - that they would not be spending any money on this particular highway? We certainly think that we brought forth a balanced budget and balanced initiatives across the Yukon Territory, and therein lies the answer. It does give me great pleasure to use those buzz words once more.
Mr. Jenkins: As I understand it, it's my position to ask the question and the minister's position to respond. That was a no-answer, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
When money is expended on a highway, it's usually based on something. The parameters are traffic counts or some other economic benefit that will accrue to Yukon. Can the minister advise the House if it was a traffic count on the south Campbell Highway or a production decision by the owners of the Kudz Ze Kayah property to use this route to transport its ore to tidewater that caused the minister to place such a high priority on this highway, or was it purely a political decision to back up the rantings of the Member for Faro?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in answer to that question, "Is it a traffic count, is it an economic factor, is it a political reality, what is it?", I would think, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that it was a combination of all the above. We're certainly looking that with Kudz Ze Kayah we do feel confident, even though they're not at the permitting stage, that they will be coming in. Of course, the member opposite who asked the question asked another question in Question Period on the safety of the bridges, bemoaning the fact, if I can use his language, that the bridges were unsafe. Certainly we are doing that now.
So, I wish certainly that the member opposite would be consistent, and certainly the member has certainly proven that he cannot be consistent, so certainly I rise to the occasion to work with this gentleman.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Deputy Speaker, again, we didn't get a response. What was the decision based on? All of the above. Would the minister not agree that some of this money could be better spent on providing upgrading on a highway that is more heavily used and has a much greater need at this juncture? Would the minister not agree that there are other highways in the Yukon that require attention to a much greater extent than this highway?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as the member opposite is aware ... oh, pardon me, the member opposite is not aware of a budget process and the intricacies of a budget process. I would just certainly like to say that the previous administration certainly - and it is the previous administration that is putting themselves through these decisions - certainly was that decision there when they developed, I think, and maybe spent over a million dollars' worth of work on kilometre 25 on the Campbell Highway? Certainly I'm not sure. Maybe you could turn to your colleagues to your right, and certainly I stress to the right. You can do that.
So certainly there are examples. Again, I stress and reiterate that if the member opposite is talking about the stretch of highway that is between Whitehorse and - what's the name of that creek? Maybe Marshall Creek, or certainly on the way to Haines Junction - that the member opposite's governance had four years in which to do that. So I find it absolutely ludicrous that he would be able to stand here now and state that he would do things differently.
Again, I say that we took into consideration all of the above. Yes we did. Certainly the economic factors of trying to get mines to here, and certainly the political realities. As to the rantings of my colleague, well, I think the only rantings that really come are from the opposite side of the House, and not all of the opposite side of the House, but certainly just to my left on the opposite side of the House.
And in closing, I would just like to say that not one particular highway is important, but all highways are important in the Yukon Territory to me, and I will ensure that, as minister of highways, I will always keep that principle of fairness in mind.
Thank you very much.
Deputy Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Deputy Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Deputy Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the wish of the Committee to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: About six months? No, 15 minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate on the Department of Education.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have a few items in response to some of the members' questions yesterday. There were questions about school councils and about the school council training. I have brought a copy of the booklet about school councils that is available for the public, and I have a copy for each of the critics.
As well, there is a training manual available for new school council members, which talks about the Education Act, cross-cultural awareness, dealing with the media, managing change, policy development, and so on. What I'll do is ask the page to make copies for the critics of just the table of contents for that school council training manual, and if they have further questions, they can certainly come back to me and to the department.
There were also questions regarding grade reorganization and staffing resources within the department. At this time, the need for an additional person to support grade reorganization is no longer required. Grade reorganization has moved to the implementation-in-the-schools stage, and the principals, school staff and superintendents are playing their appropriate roles to complete the process. On occasion, extra secretarial/administrative support is required, and that is provided.
The Member for Porter Creek South asked a question regarding child care subsidies for school council members. Honoraria are provided to school council members to offset any costs they might have in being able to attend meetings; however, in some instances, individual school councils have decided to cover additional costs, such as child care.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, before I get into the questions, I do have a compliment, actually. I would like to compliment an individual, Chris Gonnet, who was the coordinator, I believe, for the grade reorganization and led the work in that group. I want to commend Mr. Gonnet and, as well, the staff of the department who worked with him on grade reorganization.
I know that there was fear in everybody's minds when it started about how disruptive it could be to scheduling and busing that would happen or could happen in the fall, and whether the right buses would be in the right places, or the right kids in the right place, and some of the changes. So, I think that although there were probably some glitches that happened internally that the department had to sort out, generally, I think, it went fairly well.
So, if the minister would, pass on that to Chris Gonnet and the staff who worked with him on the grade reorganization and commend them for their hard work they put in on that project.
Mr. Chair, I'd like to ask the minister if he could provide us with a couple of other pieces of information: a copy of her speech to the YTA. If I could get a copy of the speech to the YTA, as well as a copy of her speech to the school councils.
Now, I promise the minister I won't leak it before the meeting if she wants to give it to me ahead of time, but I would wait until after the meeting if that was necessary. So, if we could get those two items from the minister, that would be good.
Mr. Chair, the one other item that I had that I wanted to talk about a little bit is the violence in schools initiative, the interdepartmental initiative on violence in schools. I am hearing some positive things from some schools about some of the programs, but I don't have a recent update of the newest programs or the direction they're going in some areas. Could the minister sort of provide us - it doesn't have to be right now - with a list of the various programs that are being carried out in all of our schools in the territory with respect to this initiative?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I am certainly pleased to pass on messages of appreciation to any departmental employees and to Superintendent Chris Gonnet.
The member has asked for a copy of my speaking notes to the Yukon Teachers Association. I did not actually read a prepared speech. I had some notes from which I referred to three principles that I wanted to focus on: the principle of free collective bargaining, the principle of partners in education and the principle of excellence in education. I also had with me copies of the debate that we had in this Legislature on the Member for Riverdale North's motion last week and I had highlighted various sections of the Hansard. So, I think if the member were to review Hansard, he would know basically what I said to the Yukon Teachers Association.
As of yet, I don't have speaking notes for welcoming remarks to the school councils tomorrow morning. So, I guess I'll be getting at that as soon as we're out of the House this afternoon, and I'll be pleased to give the member a copy of my speaking notes; however, they may not be in the normal speech format, because I was just working from rough, personal notes.
The member also asked me to bring back some detailed information on the initiatives relating to reducing violence in the schools. I can certainly bring that back in writing or read into the record an update of activities and initiatives. Since the member has expressed a preference for material to come back, I'll get him that.
Ms. Duncan: I'd like to thank the minister for the information she's brought back today.
I just have a few more questions in terms of general debate. I'd like to return, if I could for a moment, to the discussion of capital planning for education.
At one school council meeting I attended - I believe it was Jack Hulland School - their school council, a subcommittee of their school council of parents and interested members of the faculty, had prepared a school wish list, if you will, in terms of major and not-so-major capital planning, i.e. improvements to the grounds. In particular, one parent has voiced a concern to me about a piece of pipe that's out of the ground.
I'm wondering if the minister can advise: first of all, do all schools prepare this sort of their own needs assessment, over and above, of course, these expensive school facilities studies? Do the schools prepare a wish list of repairs and items they wish to see improved to their school?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Having attended a number of school council meetings around the territory and received correspondence from school councils, both as a critic and now as minister, I can say that, yes, they do. There are a number of line items in this budget that do enable schools to make capital repairs. There's capital maintenance renovation, there's the property management line item, as well as various school facilities alteration. As I'm sure the member knows, school councils do have some discretionary funding, too, that they often apply to projects like playground equipment. That's the school-initiated renovations line item. So, there are both requests from school councils for those kinds of capital items, and there are funds available to them to respond to those requests.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the minister for that. What I'm curious about is whether or not the department necessarily receives these and takes some kind of a coordinated approach. For example, if there are six Whitehorse schools that all have painting requests in that particular year, or if painting is number two and three on some school councils' lists and number one on others' - if there's some kind of a coordinated approach to these "wish lists".
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, painting as an example - there is a painting schedule that the Department of Education works out with the school councils. Certainly, we encourage school councils to make their needs known to the department, but I've never found that they hold back on doing that.
Ms. Duncan: What I hear the minister saying, then, is that there isn't necessarily a planned, coordinated approach; it's more of an ad hoc, coordinated approach to this.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There is a manager of school facilities. There is a planned approach in place.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the minister for that. Also, I note that the department, as I requested, gave me the very detailed capital maintenance renovations breakdown, and I appreciate that information. It is very helpful.
Also with respect, in part, to capital planning as it relates, I suppose, to new schools, there has been quite a discussion in Whitehorse about school zones. This has largely been between school councils and the City of Whitehorse. Has the Minister of Education or her departmental officials taken a position with the City of Whitehorse with respect to school zones?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, I have, and in fact, that question has been raised at a number of school council meetings that I've attended, including a meeting with the Whitehorse school council chairs.
I have written to city council expressing the Department of Education position that we believe school zones are an important safety measure for our children, and that they should be maintained in school areas.
I also made the suggestion to the city council that they might want to consider doing what has been done in other jurisdictions where the speed limit signs are posted about school zones also, say from Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and that they be covered up with a green garbage bag during the summer months when the schools aren't in session.
Ms. Duncan: Well, I thank the minister for that answer, most especially on several fronts, as I couldn't agree with her more, that we need to post the times when the school zones are in effect, is very important - it's a discussion in our car every morning on the way to work. Most people do not know - there's an argument as to whether it ends at 4:30 or 5:00, so it's a most useful suggestion.
She mentioned maintaining school zones though, and I would indicate to her that there is not a school zone in front of the new Porter Creek Secondary School, and that is an issue of discussion. It is, in effect, a request for a new school zone. So, I would ask that she add her voice to others who have requested that a new school zone be established, and also that the one around Jack Hulland - there's some question by parents with respect to establishing a school zone or even a slow-down area on 12th Avenue - so that's an issue as well. Does the minister wish to respond to that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I believe that in Porter Creek the school council and the building advisory committee are addressing that issue with the city, and I would like to hear from them and take the member's representation under advisement.
Ms. Duncan: Yes, I have been in touch with the school council and the building advisory committee as well, and I understand there is some progress being made in that area, and there's talk of an additional lane.
The Education Act itself, in terms of legislation - I had the fortune to work for the Department of Education when the Official Opposition's task force on education toured this territory in 1983, and I had the fortune of being the manager of the Chamber of Commerce when a former minister, a colleague to the right, gave his ill-fated speech to the Chamber of Commerce that was quite roundly criticized, unfortunately.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: It wasn't criticized by the Chamber of Commerce. Let me clarify: it was criticized by others.
Out of that speech, there was an Education Act review. The Education Act itself requires that there be a review in the near future. Has the minister given any thought yet as to how the review might take place?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, I have given some thought to how the review of the Education Act might take place. As the member just stated, in the Education Act, which was enacted in this House in 1990, there was a review provision established whereby the act would be reviewed in the year 2000. What we would hope to do is to open it up for review 12 to 18 months ahead of that, some time in 1998-99, and undertake a targeted consultation with the partners in education who have expressed interest in looking at the Education Act. That would include not only the school councils and the Yukon Teachers Association and the school administrators, but parents and students as well, so there would be a targeted consultation engaged in for a review of the act.
Ms. Duncan: I'd like to express a bit of concern about the minister's use of the term "targeted consultations." One of the concerns that was expressed about the education review under the former administration was that it was too narrowly focused, and the participants in the review wanted to ask some broader questions, and they were somewhat limited. I'm concerned, therefore, about the use of the term "targetted review."
I'd also like to ask the minister if an official in the department is reviewing the education review's work in terms of the Education Act. Is that sitting on a shelf and their report buried somewhere, or is someone reviewing it?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, first of all, I would like to reassure the member about my use of the phrase "targetted consultation". Education affects virtually every member of society, and I believe that when I stated clearly that we would be talking to parents and students, that we will talk to First Nations, that we will talk to the Yukon Teachers Association and to school councils and to school administrators, that that is in fact a very broad review, and people who are interested in the Education Act will have an opportunity to comment.
With regard to the curriculum and education review that the Yukon Party undertook, and then there were a number of very thick documents that were generated - both the review itself and then the response to the review, the response to the review was criticized by a number of people for leaving things out. There was some work undertaken under the previous administration to respond to that. The superintendents have copies of the various review documents. I do have to say that it hasn't been a priority for me to look at following up on what has or has not been dealt with in those documents.
Ms. Duncan: In preparation for the Education Act review, would the minister be taking into account the documents that she has mentioned?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There's an ongoing check of those documents that's done in the department, and I think that we would probably be looking at those documents, as well as other general letters of inquiry or concerns that have been expressed about various sections of the Education Act. We hear all the time from people who are suggesting something might be changed or that they would like to see something new added, and we would be reviewing all of that material that has come in when the Education Act is opened.
Ms. Duncan: Can I take it from the minister's comments with respect to the Education Act that likely some time in late 1998, there might be a discussion paper generated that would facilitate the Education Act review?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm a little reluctant to commit to an exact date. I've indicated to the member that it would likely be some time in late 1998 or 1999, and I just want to leave that open for now, because the work does have a habit of growing on our desks every day. So, the member knows that I'm committed to ensuring we meet our legislative requirement of reviewing the act in the year 2000 and that, in fact, we won't be leaving it until January of the year 2000 to start that process.
Ms. Duncan: It's not so much the date I was looking at - and trying to stress that question - it was more the format. What I'm hoping that the minister will bring forward to facilitate this review is some form of a discussion paper that would help focus the comments from the public and help focus the discussion. I particularly mention this, because in other discussions I have seen undertaken by other governments, the response you get is very much dependent on the questions that are asked. This is why I'm raising the format.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I thank the member for her suggestion and we will endeavour to ensure that the review of the Education Act is a productive exercise.
Ms. Duncan: The public will be very familiar with my representations concerning the school busing in Whitehorse. I'm wondering if the Minister of Education is following the busing review. Is she receiving updates from the school busing committee - I understand their meetings are now open to the public and I have taken the opportunity to attend a few - or is she awaiting the final report from the consultants, Matrix?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have been following the school bus services review, both the tender document and the nature of the review. I have received a number of letters from various parties who have written to make sure that their concerns are taken into account. If the member has more specific questions, I probably have the information with me to respond to them, because I have been making sure to follow the work of the school bus services review.
Ms. Duncan: I have heard, but unfortunately not seen, a written article about - it's called a "moving school bus," in which a parent essentially leads a group who are moving along, like walking to school. As opposed to an actual vehicle, it's a parent overseeing students walking to school. I wonder if this suggestion was put forward by anyone during the busing review committee and if the minister has heard of this exercise.
I understand that it takes place in Saskatchewan.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm not sure if that specific suggestion has been put forward. I know that a few parents have contacted me to talk about the value of having older students as bus monitors on the bus and I appreciate the member's suggestion. If it hasn't been brought to the attention of the school bus services review, then I will ensure that it is.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could the minister advise: will the Matrix consultant's report be submitted on time, and are we on schedule with respect to the school busing review?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The most recent date that I had was that the bus review would be due in from Matrix in late April and early May. I see this is May 1st. We have not received it yet, but we do expect to receive it very soon. If there will be any further delay, I will find out and inform the member.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, perhaps the minister could just verify for me. I understand the Matrix report would be reviewed by the school busing committee, the minister and the government prior to any more public discussions. Is that correct, or what's the process once the consultant's report is submitted?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The plan is that the report will come to the department for the government to review and will also be made available for discussion to the school busing committee prior to public release.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, then one would assume that there would be some public discussion of the specific recommendations and, no doubt, there'll be some representations made to the minister from there.
We discussed, at length, counselling yesterday, last evening in this House. There was no mention of any specific resources assigned to students affected by FAS or FAE in our schools. Is there any coordinated effort between Health and Social Services and the Department of Education in this respect?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There are a number of interdepartmental teams that work on special programming for students, including students who have FAS/FAE. As well, our government has spoken to our deputy ministers about the collaborative model that we want to use, where we can bring together the strengths from the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Social Services, and the Department of Education. We want to make progress in the area of FAS/FAE and come forward with some initiatives that can serve students well.
When we discussed special education and counselling yesterday, I believe that I did speak to the member about the school-based individual education plan teams which are often used with students who have FAS/FAE. So, there are a number of measures within the school system itself to adhere to the principle of placing the student in the most enabling learning environment.
Mr. Phillips: I have probably the last question in general debate.
The Member for Porter Creek South mentioned, as an example, painting, and being an old painter, there's an old problem that keeps cropping up in government contracts, and specifically, school contracts for painting.
It appears that we tried to address this when I was the minister and sometimes we were successful and sometimes we weren't. But for some reason the painting contracts - the outdoor painting contracts and the outdoor work - comes out in late July or August.
It creates quite a bit of a problem, because at the same time they come out late in the year, there's these tight specifications saying that you can't paint below 10 degrees Celsius, and it usually drops below that every night from the day they issue the contract, and it doesn't warm up to above 10 degrees until 11:00 or 12:00 in the afternoon. Then we have these poor painting companies struggling like crazy to get everything done before all the kids get back to school. We've even had cases where the interior painting has been let about the middle of August, and classrooms are upside down the day before they move in and the teachers are trying to prepare and get everything ready.
I just would hope that there would be some kind of a structure put in place where if you didn't get your dibbs in on what you wanted painted by January of this year, you don't get painted this year. Maybe you'll have to move the schedule up some so that we're almost a year ahead of ourselves in how we schedule it, so that we don't run into the problem any more.
It is not just with painting, but I've seen them crawling around the roofs a week before school starts trying to re-tar a roof, or re-shingle a roof. It's not this government's fault that's in there now; it happened when we were in there; it happened when the government before was in there, and before - we can just never seem to get our act together to it in a proper timing.
I went as far, I think, as the minister, to say that if the contract isn't out by June the 15th and closing by the 1st of July, it didn't get painted that year.
That way, it forces everybody to work a little harder on that. Sometimes, because the painting contracts and some of those outdoor contracts were smaller in nature, they got left to the end because the department was busy getting other tenders ready. So, about the 20th of July, we saw this tender coming out with a closing date of the 5th of August. Then, when you picked up the tender, the completion date was the 1st of September on about a four-week job.
So, all I'm suggesting to the minister is that if they haven't got something in place now, maybe they should look at some kind of a pretty firm set of rules that say it has to be done in a timely fashion for any outdoor work, because I think it would help.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I would certainly not call the member opposite old. I would like to say, in response to his comments regarding the timing for awarding of tenders and painting being done late in the summer and into the fall when kids are back at school, that he's right. That's a very unfortunate practice, which shouldn't happen.
The department is looking right now at working with Government Services to amend the process. We would like to see tenders being put out in February, so that contracts can be awarded and tendered for April. The painting should be done when the students are out of the school during the months of July and August. We'd like to see whatever is needed to change the government process put into place. The money can be made available through interim supply bills. We know what the budget will be in time to have those tenders out and in the papers so that they can be awarded in time to have the work done during the summer.
We should see a change. I'm sure that the member will be coming back to me if we don't.
Mr. Phillips: The minister just made my day twice. Once by saying I'm not very old and, secondly, by giving a commitment that they're going to change the process. But I have to tell the minister why her saying I'm not very old made me feel real good. I went to pick up my mail a couple of days ago at the post office, and there was a paper for sale. When I went to buy the paper - I paid a dollar for it - this really old guy said, "What did you pay for that? Why did you pay for the paper?" And I said, "Well, what do you mean?" And he said, "Anybody over 60 gets it free, you know." Well, I don't think he's in my constituency - at least, he better not be, Mr. Chair. But I had to inform him that I was not 60 yet. I still had 10 more good years to go. But, this is what politics does to you.
Ms. Duncan: Before I get any older, I'd just like to ask the minister a question. There was an innovative process used for determining the colour of the paint at F.H. Collins, it seems to me, when it was painted last year. Is she aware of that? It was quite an innovative process, in terms of there was an actual person asked to deal with staff. I'm not sure if there was student input on it or not. I'm curious if she's aware of the process, first of all.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I am not, and neither is the official who is with me, but we can certainly find out. I'm as fond of interior decorating as the next person - or exterior decorating, as the case may be - but I didn't really think that choosing the colour of paint was one of the duties on the list of other related duties for a minister.
Ms. Duncan: No, it's not, but it is an issue in my riding, and I see Jack Hulland is being painted this year. That's why I'm asking if the same process - and I believe the minister further down is aware of what the process was - could be elaborated on. I'm just suggesting, or asking, that the similar process be used, if and when Jack Hulland gets painted on time this summer.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, we don't, Mr. Chair.
Yes, I am familiar with the process. It brings to mind the expression that a giraffe is an animal designed by committee, because when I was part of it, I saw some of the most interesting colour combinations, everything from people wanting, "why can't we go back to the nice industrial grey," to a lot of kind of new-age colours - teals and hunter greens. It was an interesting process.
I think it needs a little further refinement, if you don't mind me saying so.
Chair: We will now go to Education Support Services.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Education Support Services
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The administration branch consists of the deputy minister's office and general administration. The members have the program objectives for this branch in front of them, and I do have information relating to the various line items. I would ask whether there is general debate on education support services or whether we can move into the administration line item.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There is a slight increase due mainly to staffing increases, specifically the addition of a senior planner and the transfer of a clerk from the Department of Finance. This is combined with a decrease in the printing services.
Mr. Phillips: Can the minister tell us if there were any vacancies in this area at the present time or any people on secondment? Who makes up this particular branch?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The total O&M budget of $11,488,000 represents an increase that is accounted for by the reorganization of various services under this branch. There are now 105.27 FTEs budgeted in this area. The largest group of employees is under property management, which has a total of 72.27 FTEs. The other units are finance, information technology, communication policy and legislative support, as well as personnel and administration.
I will have to come back to the member with information about whether there are any vacancies at the present time.
Mr. Phillips: Could the minister also let us know who is acting and if there are any acting positions in that particular area?
Administration in the amount of $358,000 agreed to
On Support Services
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Support services shows a decrease in property management services. This area has changed because of a series of reorganization activities to change the role of the branch to include all activities that provide support services to the students in both public schools and advanced education. The largest in terms of FTEs and dollars was the facilities and transportation unit. This includes the funding for property management, which is school repairs, maintenance, renovations, grounds, custodians, transportation and Queen's Printer.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could I just ask the minister to refresh my memory. Was the custodial staff transferred this year? There was an issue with this, wasn't there?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The transfer didn't occur this year. The custodial staff were transferred over to Government Services. However, the Department of Education has, in their budget, the money, which is journal-vouchered over to Government Services.
As well, to respond to the Official Opposition critic on the administration area, that covers the deputy minister and secretary, the assistant deputy minister and secretar, and there are no vacancies.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, can the minister advise: does this not create a rather confusing situation for the custodial staff? It's paid for by the department, but they report through Government Services. Has there not been some concern raised in this area?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Government Services and Education are discussing that issue under the property management agreement and special operating agencies.
Support Services in the amount of $11,130,000 agreed to
Education Support Services in the amount of $11,488,000 agreed to
Chair: We are on public schools, page 5-9. Is there general debate?
On Public Schools
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The public schools branch consists of five separate activity areas. These include administration, program delivery, program support and development, special programs and French language programs. This is the largest expenditure area in the budget.
The total budget is $50,210,000. There are a couple of factors that should be noted in this area. There was an increase approved in the 1996-97 supplementary for school staff of $1.3 million. The activity known as facilities management has been moved to education support services, which is $8,909,000. That was discussed in the previous line items.
The total FTEs budgeted in this branch equals 754.51. This includes all categories of public school employees. All school-based employees, except custodians - the teachers, the educational assistants, remedial tutors, native language instructors, school secretaries - are budgeted in the line item program delivery. The wage component of this branch, $43,660,000, amounts to 86.9 percent of the entire branch budget.
The level of school-based staff, except for secretaries and custodial personnel, is determined by the staffing entitlement formula. This formula was originally passed by Management Board and Cabinet in 1997 and was last revised in 1992. We continue to meet the formula.
Ms. Duncan: The other day, the minister announced the reading recovery program. In my response, I had requested that she identify whether those funds were new funds to the Department of Education or reallocated funds. I would assume that they are contained within this budget. Are they part of the six-percent increase in program support? Could she elaborate for me, please?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm just looking for the note on that. I know it's somewhere in this budget book, and I can ensure that the member gets it before we clear the department.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the minister for that. I note that there is an increase in terms of administration, program support and French language programs, although the overall budget appears to be the same. Could she just elaborate a little on those increases, as to where the greater resources have been directed, please?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The projected student population for September 1997 is 6,426. The level of staffing deployed in the schools will meet or exceed the staffing entitlement policy. Because of the implementation of grade reorganization and our commitment to ensure that both elementary schools that have added grade 7 and the high school levels that have added new grades do not result in any lack of education resources for the students, w e have additional staffing resources in the schools. That is a large part of the increase.
Ms. Duncan: The formula that the minister referred to in her comments and in her general discussion of this section is very much discussed at school council meetings. It seems to be a bit of a mystery to some people, and it's always the principal that gets asked for guidance on this.
I'm wondering if the minister has any thoughts, or if there are any discussions about possible changes to that formula, i.e. the way it's set up, not necessarily the ratios. As I understand the way the formula works, if you have so many students, you get so much secretarial staff and so on, but are there any changes planned?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I can appreciate that the staffing entitlement formula might be a little complex for people to review at first reading of it, because I do recall reading it when I first became an Education critic.
There are no plans to change the staffing entitlement formula. The numbers themselves and the allocation of the resources are fairly straightforward and, as I was saying in general debate, we do have here in Yukon one of the best student/teacher ratios in the country, as well as large numbers of educational services for support to special education, special programs in the high schools and many good initiatives.
Mr. Phillips: I wonder if the minister could tell us, because the formula is based on the number of students and other things, if there has been much change in Faro? They made an announcement early this year, and so we're going to be going into a few months of the fiscal year - did it affect the number of staffing? Was there a mass exodus, or did a lot of people stick around until the end of the school year? What exactly happened in Faro?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No teachers have left Faro yet, and in fact we are keeping all of the teachers on staff in Faro until the end of the school year, even though there have been 56 students who have left the school.
The budget allows for a decrease in the teaching staff in Faro. There was a survey conducted in the town indicating that the enrollment would be down in September. If there is an announcement from the mine, the situation could change and we will respond to that.
I'd like to inform the member that reading recovery is in the program support line item and forms part of the six-percent increase.
Mr. Phillips: With the changes in Faro, if the mine does not reopen, there'll be several teachers there, I guess, without jobs, and we budgeted for that. Is there some kind of priority so that if there are jobs related to grade reorganization or growth in other parts of the Yukon that the Faro teachers will be given first crack at those jobs?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, I did just say to the member that the school enrollment has been decreasing since December 1996. A survey went to all parents in the first week of April to help determine the anticipated enrollment for the 1997-98 school year, the school program delivery and core staff requirements to meet programming levels. The initial survey results indicate that approximately 133 students can be expected to attend Del Van Gorder School in September 1997. This will require a teaching staff of approximately 11.5 FTEs.
The staff in Faro were advised that they would have until May 9th - just a little over a week from now - to elect to transfer. Those staff who elect to transfer will be given priority in staffing. Those who do not elect to transfer by May 9th and who are surplus to the needs of the school will receive an employer-initiating transfer. However, we don't anticipate that becoming a problem, because there are a couple of teachers who are scheduled for leave this year already, so we have made it clear that staff who do elect to transfer will be given priority in staffing.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, maybe I can ask the minister what would happen in the worst case scenario - Faro doesn't go back to work and, in fact, many of the families that indicated in the spring that they were going to stay changed their minds because of maybe some announcements this summer about Faro going back, and they left as well. It puts the teachers that agreed to stay in an awkward position if the numbers change dramatically between the 9th of May and the 1st of September, if there's no job for them. Will they have an opportunity to be placed somewhere if in fact that happen? Instead of there being, I think the minister said, 115 students, if there ends up being, say, 65 or 70 students, will those other teachers still be given an opportunity to fit somewhere into the system?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'm just trying to help the member opposite, Mr. Chair. I guess I have a question of the minister, too, and it relates to the transfer issue. The minister just mentioned May 9th. It was my understanding there was some discussion around May 20th - the first, a May 15 date, then an extension date to May 20th on the transfer issue.
The second thing I would say is just to help give some history here in the community. We never went below 110 kids in 1993, when the mine was down. It was down, essentially, from January of 1993 to November of 1994. In all that time, in essentially two school years, we never went to below 110 kids, so there was still a significant teaching complement needed and desired.
Secondly, I don't anticipate a mass exodus. However, the study has shown in the community, as the minister has said, somewhere around the same numbers. I would say that that would be an exodus that is a worst case scenario. I don't think there'll be that many people leave, particularly if there is some good news on the horizon, which appears to be. That may help the member opposite in terms of the response.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I hope I can give a satisfactory response to both members' questions. Yes, the Member for Faro is right. The staff in Faro have been given until May the 20th to elect to transfer. We pushed that date back by a couple of weeks in order to allow some time to see if there might be a change in the situation in Faro. I do want to correct the numbers that the member opposite was using on the student enrollment. The initial projections indicate that approximately 133 students can be expected to attend Del Van Gorder School in September.
The member's questions are quite hypothetical, and I think that we should consider not only what if the enrolment drops lower than anticipated, because the numbers are, as the Member for Faro said, fairly firm, in that there's a core group that does remain in the community of Faro, even when the mine is not operating. It is a town, as well as a mining community. We will respond to whatever eventuality we face in Faro as regards the numbers of students and the numbers of teachers that are needed.
Mr. Phillips: I thank both members for their comments, but I guess the reason I raised it, Mr. Chair, is that, although the numbers haven't dropped to that level before, I just wanted to make sure that the minister would give, say, a level of comfort to those teachers who did stay, regardless of where the numbers ended up being in September. They didn't go below - the Member for Faro said 115-120, last time around. But you know, Mr. Chair, this has been up and down, up and down, like a rollercoaster, as the Member for Faro has said in the past. Sometimes, people just say, "I've had enough of this, and I need a little more security," and they make a decision. They may not have made it now, but they might make it a little later on, if there's still some uncertainty in August.
All I raised the question for is that, if it did happen - I know that is a bit hypothetical, and the minister doesn't really have to answer a hypothetical question. I was just hoping to get the minister on record to say that, if we were in a position where there was a surplus of two, three or four teachers in Faro, that the government would make all efforts to find those teachers employment within the Yukon, rather than them being out of a job so late in the year that it would be too late to get a job anywhere else. That's all I asked the question for.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Speaker, the department's priority will be to make all efforts to ensure that any Faro teaching staff who would become redundant after September would be placed in jobs in the Yukon. I would also like to assure the member that, in the event that the enrollment is higher than anticipated and that we need more teachers in Faro, that we will certainly be hiring local candidates to teach in Faro, if they're interested in doing so.
Mr. Phillips: That's exactly the answer I was looking for, and I'm sure the staff in Faro would be pleased to read it in Hansard.
Ms. Duncan: The discussion of anticipated enrollment figures has been just raised, and this is an area that concerns me greatly. The minister outlined that there was a procedure in place for establishing the best guess, if you will, for Faro for September 1997. Generally, the department seems to be pretty close when they are best guessing anticipated enrollment figures. But, every once in a while, every few years, they're right off, and there's a mad scramble in September. Could, (a), I have an outline as to how they determine these best guesses - I'm assuming taking an actual door-to-door survey in Faro was the exception? And then I would ask her if she anticipates any policy change in the way the department does this.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, the area superintendents do tours of their schools toward the end of the school year. School principals and teachers do have an idea about future enrollment in the schools. They do a survey at the end of the year and try and get a general idea of which students are coming back and which students have younger brothers and sisters that might be coming into the school. As well, there are past trends that we can look at. Advertisements go out in the paper encouraging parents to come and register their children for kindergarten so that the elementary schools know how many students to expect coming into the kindergartens.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the second part of that question was: does the minister anticipate any change in the way the department gathers this information, or any policy change as a result of the odd time that the department is off?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the information is gathered at the school level and in the community, which is the front line. There's been no discussion on policy change. If the member has a suggestion that there's some specific measure that she can think of that would be helpful, we'd be more than grateful to receive it and to act on it, but as I said, we have no changes anticipated to the practice.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I raise that as a result of a number of representations being made to me that the enrollment in Christ the King Elementary School and Holy Family School, for example, in Whitehorse are generally higher than anticipated and sometimes I believe that to be a result of a particular style in that school, if you will, or an administrator. Does the minister have any response to that representation by the public?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I'm not sure I understand exactly what the member's representation is. She has indicated that the two Catholic elementary schools in Whitehorse have higher than anticipated enrollment. I will be speaking to Christ the King Elementary School council this evening and I can certainly ask them what their concerns are. The schools have attendance areas and we do have information related to population and we act on the best information that we have available to us.
Ms. Duncan: Could I ask the minister to advise me if she is aware of any schools, most especially in the Whitehorse area - I don't believe this would happen in the communities - which schools have "waiting lists" and which schools do not?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have heard something about waiting lists, but I will have to bring back the specific information for the member, rather than give her inaccurate information on my feet.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Chair. It is indeed Thursday afternoon.
The minister raised the issue of catchment areas - for lack of a better word, attendance areas. There have been instances where students and parents have obtained permission to attend schools outside of their attendance area, and this is granted, I believe, on a case-by-case and an exceptional basis. Does the minister anticipate any policy changes in this regard?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I believe that that is set out in the Education Act, that the superintendent can make decisions regarding changes to attendance area - there is some reference to attendance area in section 58 of the act. So, not all of the member's requests could be changed, if they are, in fact, enshrined in the attendance area.
Given that the grade reorganization is going to mean a very major shift in the school population in Whitehorse in the coming years, we're going to make every effort to ensure that students are attending in their own attendance area, so that the transition to the expanded schools can be as smooth as possible.
Ms. Duncan: I believe this came up frequently, in terms of attendance at either of the two junior high schools.
Now, with grade reorganization, is there any sense at the departmental or superintendent or ministerial level of any undue number of requests by Porter Creek residents to attend F.H. Collins Secondary School, as opposed to the new secondary school?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Not that I am aware of, other than the requests that relate to the access to special programs. The MAD program, the ACES program and the FEAST program, experiential science, those are all very popular with students and what we plan to do in order to accommodate the bulge at F.H. Collins next year, because Porter Creek is only adding to grade 11 in the fall, is to locate the special programs in what is presently the Christ the King Elementary School facility on Wood Street.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The administration line item of $1,986,365 covers the assistant deputy minister of public schools and support staff operation costs as well as such things as student accommodation at the Gadzoosdaa residence, teacher recruitment and relocation.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, would the minister then clarify or state for the record that she indicated teacher relocation is included in that. I would estimate then that teacher relocation from Faro has been included in this figure.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, and I would draw the member's attention to the fact that the $122,000 increase can be accounted for through the implementation of the safe schools and school improvement plan coordinator.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, with respect to relocation, have there been any changes in policy from the previous government in the amounts for relocation?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No.
Mr. Phillips: Is the new government contemplating any changes in that policy?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Not at this time.
Administration in the amount of $1,986,000 agreed to
On Program Delivery
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This line item in the budget is the largest single component in the Department of Education budget. Ninety-one percent is for wages and benefits. Money is also allocated for superintendent offices, including wages, benefits, support staff and travel. The $3,000 net change is a result of numerous increases and decreases throughout the program delivery area, personnel allotment, other allotment and transfer payment allotment. I do have available a salaries and benefits breakdown, if members would like further information.
Ms. Duncan: Can the minister indicate whether or not she anticipates any changes in the superintendent structure at this point in terms of which superintendents are responsible for which areas? Are there any anticipated changes in that regard?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No, Mr. Chair, that is not something that I am considering this year.
Ms. Duncan: Could the minister indicate if there are any changes in terms of actual personnel staffing these positions, or if there is any anticipated change in that area?
If I could just elaborate, the reason I am asking the question is that sometimes a change in terms of supervisory capacity can be a good thing for the schools and for the teachers involved. I am just asking if they rotate on an annual basis or if there are any changes planned.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There is a superintendent who is going to be on a sabbatical this year, and presently there is advertising for a six-month position.
Program Delivery in the amount of $43,785,000 agreed to
On Program Support
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Of the program support area, $1,008,061 of the program support area is budgeted for salaries and benefits. The different elements of this activity include administration, operation of the learning resource centre, diagnostic assessment, purchase of textbooks and library books for the schools, curriculum support and development, and school council funding.
Mr. Phillips: I don't know if this is the right place to ask this question, but there was an individual - Mr. Janusaitis - who was working in the Department of Education and was seconded, I believe, to one of the commissions - local hire commission. I looked at the job description and the work that Mr. Janusaitis was doing and there was an awful lot of work in several different areas. I wonder if the minister - I don't expect her to provide it today - could provide me with an idea of who is doing the various jobs that Mr. Janusaitis was doing. I think he's been seconded, with his salary, over to the commission. He was doing a lot of other work in F.H. Collins and some other schools on various projects. Maybe I could get a list of all of the projects he was working on and who is now doing those projects, or if the projects were completed when he moved. I don't think they were, because I think he had just taken over the position not too long ago.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There has been another vice-principal hired at F.H. Collins, so there is someone in the position there. I would also like to respond to some earlier questions from the Official Opposition critic. New funding of $316,000 was put into the reading recovery program in program support. This is the area that includes early intervention measures and has a total budget of $400,000.
Ms. Duncan: This is the line item in the budget that the minister has just stated includes the school council funding. I understand there have been a number of requests by different school councils for an increase in their membership. The minister's response has been that, certainly after consultation with the First Nation affected, yes, the school council could go ahead. However, the funding for the honorarium for the person must come from the existing school council budgets. Given that there seems to be an increase for more members, why was there no increase allotted for school council budgets this year?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The school council committee budget, along with property management and remuneration for school councils, for a total of $152,000, has been moved to CPLS in the Education support services budget.
The member raised the question of additional school council members. Those requests for increases to school councils have been trickling in over the last few months, both shortly before and after the budget was prepared. As the member has stated, and as we discussed in general debate, the letter that I sent out to school councils was to ensure that they had support from First Nations for increasing the size of their school councils. Some school councils only wanted to increase by one member for one term; others wanted to enlarge the size of their council. The issue of the size of school councils is something that will be discussed at the school council chairs meeting this weekend.
Program Support in the amount of $2,367,000 agreed to
On French Language Programs
French Language Programs in the amount of $819,000 agreed to
On Special Programs
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The special program division line item consists of funding for school support and psychological services, speech language programs, occupational therapy and sensory impairments. There are 13 full-time equivalencies budgeted for in this area. The staff include coordinator of support services, school psychologists, speech language pathologists and physiotherapists.
Mr. Phillips: When the New Democratic Party was in Opposition, it raised several questions about the special programs and felt that they were understaffed. I'm just wondering if the minister could outline for us - although her budget shows no increase this year - what areas the minister is thinking about increasing in the future.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The budget preparation work for the next fiscal year hasn't started yet, I have to tell the member. I would also like to put on the record that the decrease in the funding area for this line item over the previous year was for a psychologist position that the department has attempted to fill with very little success over the past years. There's also a reduction in the administrative support of one FTE.
Mr. Phillips: I realize that. When in Opposition, they spoke in very strong terms about putting more effort into this line item and I was surprised when I saw the budget that there was no increase this year, because they went after a couple of our ministers on that side for not increasing special programs. And so, I just would like to know from the minister - I don't need to know in real detail - does the minister still feel there needs to be a significant improvement in numbers in this area? Can we expect to see this area having some growth in the next budget?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Looking at the information available in the budget on this line item, the member will note that this is, in fact, an increase over the actual expenditures for 1995-96. As well, the decrease this year over last year is for the same reason, that there is a vacant position that has not been filled. We will be beginning the budget work for next year in August of this year.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could I ask the minister to clarify for me the educational assistants that are present in the schools. Are they included in this line item?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The educational assistants are contained in the previous line item, program delivery, Mr. Chair. They are part of the $43,785,000.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, my apologies. I should have brought this up at that time in that event. Could the minister advise if there is an anticipated increase in the number of EAs available to schools and to classrooms in the next year?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The statistics page in the budget, on page 5-14, has a breakdown of the program delivery line item, and so there are amounts there from 1995-96, through to 1997-98, that show the exact budget amount for educational assistants.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, as I refer to this then, I would anticipate a 10-percent increase in the dollars - therefore, likely, people - available to the schools. Is that what I'm seeing?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: That's hard to say with increments that are awarded to educational assistants who have gained another year of experience, but yes, there is an increase in the budget. The increases that are shown in the budget all relate to salaries for both regular pay, Yukon bonus and fringe benefits.
Special Programs in the amount of $1,253,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the statistics? Pages 5-10 to 5-14? Clear.
Public Schools in the amount of $50,210,000 agreed to
On Advanced Education
Chair: Advanced education, is there general debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The advanced education branch in the Department of Education is composed of three separate areas: administration, labour market development and training programs. The largest portion of this budget is the $10 million to support Yukon College, including Ayamdigut campus and all community campuses.
As well, the branch works on labour force initiatives, including labour market planning and training initiatives. This branch also supports apprenticeship and training initiatives, working with business, labour and the general public.
Ms. Duncan: Could I ask the minister to elaborate on any discussions that have been held with Yukon College with respect to long-term funding? This was an issue that was raised during the election campaign.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As we discussed in general debate, I attended a college board meeting shortly after becoming minister and indicated to the board that we would be talking to them about long-term funding. We have since then determined that Yukon College will be one of the organizations that the Department of Education proceeds with a three-year funding agreement for, and those discussions have not been scheduled, but I have indicated to the college board that, as a government, we are prepared to do that.
Ms. Duncan: Could I ask the minister just to advise me by legislative return if there are vacancies or anticipated vacancies on the Yukon College Board of Governors?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, I'll make sure that the member gets that information.
Mr. Phillips: Along that same line, I wonder if the minister could provide us with the list of the existing members on the board, and when they were appointed and the length of their term, and then we can see as well who is leaving and who is still on there for another year or two.
My other question is about the college endowment lands, and maybe the minister could give us a breakdown of how the college endowment lands work, where they are at, if they are still tied up in land claims, and where we're going with that.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Certainly I can provide members opposite with a list of the members of the College Board of Governors with the expiry dates of their terms. As the members know, the college board composition is determined in the College Act.
The college endowment lands is another issue that has not had any work done on it by this government. As the member who asked the questions indicated, because we do not have land claims agreements with First Nations in the Whitehorse area, we are not proceeding with any initiatives related to college endowment lands.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could I just leap in and clarify in this discussion, because the college endowment lands back on to my riding, as well as the Government Leader's, and there have been a number of representations that constituents of mine and I have made to this government with respect to that issue.
During the Community and Transportation Services debate, the minister of that department committed to me that there would be a resolution of this matter, pending anything unforeseen, within a six-month time frame. I would just like to flag that information for the minister and, once the session has adjourned, perhaps she and her colleague could work with other members of this House with respect to that issue.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have received the letters from the Member for Porter Creek South and from her constituents. As has been indicated, we do not intend to proceed with initiatives on the college endowment lands in the absence of public discussion. We will ensure that, firstly, land claims agreements are finalized and in place and secondly, that the college community and the public at large will have an opportunity to comment on any proceedings on college endowment lands.
Chair: If there is no further general debate, we will go to O&M expenditures.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The administration line item shows a slight decrease, which is $4,000 in lower costs for administration support. The major component of this line item is the base grant to Yukon College of $10 million. The other major components in this activity are support for the bachelor of social work program and the Yukon native teacher education program.
Administration in the amount of $11,090,000 agreed to
On Labour Market Development
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The labour market development activities include work on employer needs surveys, skills inventories, market adjustment programs, literacy initiatives and federal initiatives on human resource development.
Mr. Phillips: This is the program where we work jointly with the federal government, I understand, on many projects. Have we received any recent notices of the federal government cutting back on some of these programs, and are we picking up the slack, so to speak, or are we just not delivering the programs? Are there any cutbacks in that area?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There are changes. The federal labour market programming changes will have an impact in the Yukon. There are two stages of the Human Resources Development Canada reforms. I'm sure the member is aware, because these initiatives got underway prior to our territorial election, that the established program fund, which covered the post-secondary and social assistance programs, has been combined under the Canada health and social transfer, and reduced by $5.46 million in 1996-97, with further reductions expected in the future. I do not have an exact number for the member.
Labour Market Development in the amount of $3,074,000 agreed to
On Training Programs
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The training programs line item includes student training and employment program - the summer student jobs program called Challenge '97 and the operation of the very popular summer computer camp. That also includes the youth exploring technology program and apprenticeships.
Mr. Phillips: Challenge '97 - that again is another co-op program with the territorial government and the federal government, I believe. That program, in the past four or five years, has seen gradual cuts to it. I'm wondering if it's funded the same as last year, in the federal government's share, or is it a victim of the one of the cutbacks, as well?
I ask that because it is a program that is near and dear to my heart, because it is the one that operates the Whitehorse fish ladder every year, with the students under the Challenge program. I just wonder whether or not we've received any cutbacks this year.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The student career placement program, which was formerly Challenge, is co-funded. In 1997, the federal government is providing $200,000 and the Yukon government is providing $114,000. The Yukon government and federal departments are not eligible employers under this program. It does still remain a program for employers outside of government.
Ms. Duncan: Could I ask the minister to elaborate on these two programs, the STEP program with the Government of Yukon, and the other career planning program that she just mentioned.
There was some concern raised last summer with respect to a discrepancy between what positions were available - and this was particularly true with STEP - in contrast to what students were studying. For example, prior to some last-minute adjustments in the STEP program, there were no student nursing positions available. Then, thanks to representation made to the department, there was a STEP position created. I note this year that we have nine nursing students.
I'm just curious to ensure that officials are indeed monitoring what students are registered in which programs with what summer jobs we're making available through these programs. It's a long-winded way of getting through the question.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There are two very different programs, as the member has said. The student training and employment program is wholly Yukon funded, and for 1997 there is $189,000 in the budget. The STEP program matches employment experience with the student's field of study. The eligibility is limited to Yukon resident, post-secondary undergraduate students. Yukon government departments are eligible employers under the program. We do attempt to ensure that there is a range of employment opportunities available, given the various programs that our students are enrolled in in post-secondary institutions. There is a wage subsidy to the employers and a minimum wage to the student of $11.50 per hour and with a minimum work period of 12 weeks. That's the student training and employment program.
Secondly, the student career placement program, which is jointly shared in its funding between the federal and Yukon governments, is eligible to any secondary or post-secondary student who is entitled to work in Canada. An unemployed youth who is not a student between 16 and 24 can also be funded through the Yukon portion of the funding. The wage subsidy to employers is available. There is a higher wage subsidy available to non-profit employers than for-profit and municipal employers. As well, there is a minimum work period of six weeks and a minimum wage for the students.
Ms. Duncan: Could I ask the minister if the department officials have any sense of the number of positions that each of these create? Perhaps it was filed, and I've missed it in the documents. Could she just provide me with that information? Then I'll have another question for her.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Under the student training and employment program, 79 jobs have been approved for the summer of 1997. Those are 31 for the Yukon government and 48 in the private sector.
Ms. Duncan: And is that under the STEP program? And what about the student career placement program, or is that both programs?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: That's the STEP program. The exact number of jobs for 1997 for the summer career placement program I don't have here. I will get that for the member.
Ms. Duncan: Can I ask the minister if she has received any representations from the private sector with respect to the discrepancy in wages? I understand that these government programs try to augment wages and subsidize non-profit groups and other organizations so that they can create jobs for the students. There can be a real discrepancy between what a student would earn under the STEP program and what they might earn if they aren't a participant in the STEP program. I've noticed this several times when I managed the chamber, and I've noticed it in other organizations. I'm just asking the minister if she has received any representations in this regard.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No, I have not received any representations from private sector employers on that subject. It is true that the Yukon-funded STEP program does have a higher minimum wage available to the students.
I think it's important to pay a good wage to the students. They do need to earn money in the summer to enable them to cover their increasingly rising costs of post-secondary education.
The STEP program is also limited to post-secondary undergraduate students where the career placement program is a broader program, so not necessarily the same education level is required for summer employment for those students.
Training Programs in the amount of $1,845,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the statistics, pages 5-17 to 5-20?
Advanced Education in the amount of $16,009,000 agreed to
Chair: Is it the members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 10-minute recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are in general debate on libraries and archives.
On Libraries and Archives
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The library and archives branch includes four separate activities: administration, technical services, public library services and the Yukon Archives.
The program activities are to support the public libraries and to fund community library boards to hire community librarians; the coordination of collections access with Yukon College, government and school libraries; administration of the Access to Information Act; preservation of our archivable records; as well as working with First Nations to preserve documentary heritage.
Ms. Duncan: Could I ask the minister - and I apologize if she's stated this before - but, I thought there was some change in the staffing of Yukon archives- if they went from part time to full time? Could she just refresh the public collective memory on that, please?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The reduction for staffing change that the member is referring to occurred when temporary staff were made permanent and the resignation of one administration staff position that was .5 in libraries administration and .5 in public libraries administration occurred.
Ms. Duncan: To clarify then, this position that was .5, a permanent position, was it re-staffed as a full-time equivalent? Sorry, I'm just confused on that.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I believe I read that information in the technical briefing response that was provided to the members, and I don't have that with me right now. So, what I will do is make sure that the information gets to the member, if she doesn't already have it.
Chair: If there's no further general debate, we'll move to the line items.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The administration section administers public libraries, archives and access to information acts.
Administration in the amount of $261,000 agreed to
On Technical Services
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The technical services section provides for centralized processing and distribution of books and other materials to the 18 public libraries in the Yukon.
Technical Services in the amount of $164,000 agreed to
On Public Library Services
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The public library services section coordinates programs for the entire Yukon library system, which consists of 10 community libraries, seven volunteer libraries and the central library in Whitehorse. The budget includes staff, as well as contribution funds to community libraries, and funding for books and periodicals.
Public Library Services in the amount of $1,079,000 agreed to
On Yukon Archives
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yukon Arhives acquires, preserves and makes available to the public documentary sources related to Yukon's history, cultures and development. The budget item includes staffing and funding for Yukon-related books, periodicals, photographs and supplies.
Yukon Archives in the amount of $628,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the supplementary info?
Ms. Duncan: Could I just ask the minister for a sense from the department about the use of the archives? I had an opportunity early this year to make use of the new archives facilities, and I just wonder if there's an overall sense. I see a general increase in the use of the archives. I'd just like a sense from the minister on the general usage of the archives, if it has increased tremendously, if they're forecasting continued increased usage, and the sense of that area, please.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The Yukon archives is a well-used facility, because it's an excellent archives and has some very interesting collections relating to the history of the Yukon. Recently there have been increases in the First Nations collections in the archives. As well, I believe that having the archives located at the college site ensures that there's a lot of use from both the students and the faculty at Yukon College, and from visiting academics and researchers who might be affiliated with the Northern Research Institute or the college.
Ms. Duncan: Could I ask the minister whether or not she is aware if the archival staff are participating in any specific anniversary events? I'm thinking of a conference that is to be held in Scotland next year or later this year. Are archives staff participating in that? Does she know or is she aware of it?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm not aware of a member of the archives staff participating in the conference in Scotland that the member spoke about, although I have talked to a Yukon researcher who is away at that event.
The archives has done a number of special displays relating to anniversaries projects. That work is a regular part of their program.
Libraries and Archives in the amount of $2,132,000 agreed to
Chair: Is there any discussion on recoveries? Clear.
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Education in the amount of $79,839,000 agreed to
Chair: We will now move to capital.
On Capital Expenditures
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The capital budget covers the education support services for public schools, advanced education, libraries and archives. The total capital vote is $13,167,000. There are significant details available in the various program areas in the capital budget.
Chair: We will proceed to the line-by-line items.
On Education Support Services
On Staff Support, Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The 1997-98 budget for staff support includes computers, HRIS site-based management computer maintenance and small office equipment, and it's a total of $300,000.
There are capital salaries charged to this account, which cover the facilities manager, the land technician and the capital cost clerk. There is no change from the previous year.
Staff Support, Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $300,000 agreed to
On Computer Labs Upgrading
Computer Labs Upgrading in the amount of $30,000 agreed to
Ms. Duncan: The computer labs upgrading. I take it that there is a similar amount of resources being spent to last year. There is no increase in resources and there's no real significant decrease?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I thank the member for her question because I believe she'll be interested in having the details on this line item. The funding is used for computer labs in schools. For the fiscal year 1997-98, the funds are allocated to Porter Creek Secondary for the upgrading of the wiring to Internet standard for compatibility with other school renovations.
On Instructional Computer Enhancements
Ms. Duncan: Excuse me, Mr. Chair, could I just ask a question? There was some concern raised about the availability of a computer for libraries for the Wiggle Works program. Instructional computer enhancements - I would assume that these are enhancements to existing computers. Is there some waiting list or allocation method? What is the allocation method for computers?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Just to clarify, we have cleared computer labs upgrading and the member's question relates to instructional computer enhancements of $200,000.
The instructional computer enhancements for 1997-98 include work replacing computers in computer labs at Haines Junction, Christ the King Secondary, F.H. Collins Secondary and Porter Creek Junior Secondary.
The Yukon school system currently uses 1,403 computers. This ratio exceeds the original policy expectation of one computer to eight students. The computers include Macintosh, Apple IIes and IBM-compatible computers for direct instruction of students, giving us a ratio of one computer to every 4.3 students. Some of those computers are technologically outdated and there is an active program in place to replace them.
The member's question related to the Porter Creek school library computer, I will get an answer for her.
Ms. Duncan: Just to clarify for the minister, actually it was a question about obtaining a computer for the Grey Mountain Primary School; it wasn't Porter Creek. It was Grey Mountain that wanted it to make use of the Wiggle Works program in their library, and when I also attended the Holy Family school council meeting, there was a question about obtaining an additional computer for them as well, and again, I believe it was for the Wiggle Works program.
Instructional Computer Enhancements in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
On Capital Project Planning and Pre-Engineering
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This budget line item is intended to cover planning and design work required for future years' projects. This line item will be used to initiate planning and design for one of the major rural school replacement projects. Likely candidates include either Mayo or Ross River schools. The decision on which project will proceed will be made in the coming months after consultation with school councils.
Mr. Phillips: In the past, we usually see the line items such as this where the project itself is spelled out - the Old Crow school pre-plan or Golden Horn pre-planning. It's spelled out as a school. This is sort of wide open, so that they can pre-plan, I guess, for any school or one that they might choose down the road.
Could I ask the minister if this is going to be a new change in the budget? Are we any longer going to see the school-specific planning, because we do see both in this budget? We see a general one here for pre-planning, and then we see one, later on, for Old Crow specifically. I'm just wondering if this is a new line that we're going to see in the budget all the time; it's going to be half a million dollars each year, and it will just be a sort of extra pot of money that they can use for extra planning. Are there FTEs involved in this at all? Is there any new staff being brought on to do this extra planning?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Certainly I appreciate the member's concern on this subject; however, it is important, I think, to undertake capital project planning.
This line item is put in to meet our commitment during the election campaign to ensure that we're working with school councils on capital planning of projects, and I would like to reassure the member that when a project is identified - for example, the Old Crow school, which we'll be debating shortly - as a specific construction project, and the normal budget planning is put in place.
We've had a lot of discussion during general debate about the school council involvement in establishing criteria, for prioritizing construction of facilities and using the existing studies that we have that highlight the various needs around the communities. This planning money will likely end up being allocated to one school, and then it will be appearing in the budget as a regular, budgeted school construction project.
Mr. Phillips: Just so I'm clear on this, the minister is telling us that if they decide to go ahead with some construction of the Old Crow school this year, they'll just be using the $500,000 that they have for planning, and if they decide to go ahead and need more, they'll be asking for it in a supplementary - they won't be borrowing it out of this particular pot and using some of this money to do some of the actual construction work. This line is going to be reserved strictly for capital project planning.
I guess the next question to the minister is: does the minister anticipate this same line item being in next year's budget? Because if you're going to keep doing advanced capital project planning then I guess it will be there again the next year, and there will be another $500,000 or $200,000, or whatever hundreds of thousands of dollars, for whatever schools you've decided in your budget that you're actually going to start drafting for, and that kind of thing.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: In response to the member's first question, it is not intended that this money would be allocated to the Old Crow school. There is $500,000 in place for the design work in the Old Crow school.
The member should also be aware that we do anticipate some monies coming from the insurance company for the Old Crow school, and that could help, potentially, with renovations of temporary classrooms as well as with any construction that we might be able to undertake this year in Old Crow, if that project goes ahead quicker than anticipated.
With regard to the member's question about whether there will be capital project planning money in next year's budget, that's going to depend on available funding. That's going to depend on how much money we're putting into the construction of new schools and whether we can afford to have more capital project planning occurring in next year's budget cycle. So, I'm sure I'll be debating it with the member again next year.
Mr. Phillips: That's what I kind of wanted to know from the minister. Is this an election promise, and a one-year promise, or was it a promise that there will now be this line item in every single budget, for pre-planning or pre-engineering for our schools?
While I'm on my feet, and I know we're not on the line item, but maybe the minister could tell us what their expectation is for the amount of money that they'll receive from the insurance from the Old Crow school.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I think what I'll do with regard to his question on the Old Crow school is give the officials some time to find the notes that we have on that and respond to his question in the Old Crow line item.
The member's question about election commitments I'm also happy to respond to. We did make a commitment that we felt that capital construction of schools should be a priority for this government. We have made it a priority in that we have funds set aside for replacing the school in Old Crow, and we have funds set aside for planning for another major rural school replacement in this line item.
Ms. Duncan: With respect to the planning for capital expenditures, this line item is going to be largely spent as a result of the discussions on Saturday between school council chairs and a facilitator. What I'm saying is that this capital project planning and pre-engineering, $500,000 - and I may have missed your last comment but, as I understand it - it will largely be spent as a result of the discussions on Saturday by school councils. That's going to determine it - right? I see the member nodding.
So, I just have a couple of questions about the process on Saturday, then. First of all, I was going through the group organization, and it seems the department has taken to heart the minister's desire to have this process work, and they've done a very good job of organizing the schools into a mix of old and new, and who needs new facilities, and who has the biggest complaint as to who may have the least complaint. I'm just curious as to why Riverdale and Christ the King Secondary School are both still listed in these groups? Is there a particular reasoning behind that? Riverdale school isn't going to exist next year.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm just looking for the information I need to respond to the member's question. The group discussion on setting the criteria for planning capital expenditures does give an opportunity for all 29 school councils to participate. So, the listing that the member is referring to when she looks at group one, group two, group three and group four is simply a listing of all 29 school councils, so that they're all participating in the discussion.
Ms. Duncan: Could I ask the minister for a sense of how she anticipates the discussion flowing on Saturday morning? Surely there would have been some discussions with the facilitator, the deputy minister and the school facilities manager as to the format for these discussions. I just wonder if she could outline that for this House.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'd be happy to outline it as well as I am able for the member. I certainly hope and expect that it will be a productive discussion, and that people are attending the session because they are interested. They wouldn't have run for school council position if they didn't want the involvement and participation in priorities for multi-year capital planning, as well as for a number of other education-related issues.
The member has the agenda before her. The Saturday morning session - first of all, the minister will not be attending. It's not a political discussion. It's just school councils, and they'll be working with a facilitator who's not from the Department of Education, as well as having presentations from the school facilities manager and from a Finance official on the planning process that is in place for determining school capital expenditures now. School councils will then be given the opportunity to break into small groups and engage in group discussions about setting criteria and planning for capital projects, and developing recommendations to bring back to me on what changes they might like to see or what they think are the most important issues for the minister and the government to take into account.
Ms. Duncan: Does the minister have any sense of how the facilitator, who is from outside the department, is going to deal with the discussions, so that they're not in a situation of these eight or nine to a group, saying, "my need's not as great as your need," and how the facilitator might be going about that discussion?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I understand that the facilitator was discussing that subject with the liaison officer. I am sure that Dr. Ardy Smith can do a competent job. I know that she has a lot of experience and that there are some good people involved in the process.
Ms. Duncan: We'll leave that, then, and trust that the process will work. I'd like to ask how the process will be reporting. I note that there's a facilitator and there's one reporter per group. One would assume, then, that this reporter is also from outside, so that a person with a vested interest - for example, they won't ask the Golden Horn person to be the reporter; it will be a person from outside of the group, one would assume.
I'm asking how the reporting will take place. Will this person then - there'll be a discussion, and the group is going to come back together? Are we going to see a formal report that school council chairs can also take back to their school councils? Will they just report verbally?
My concern is that sometimes things get lost in the translation, and the written word is a far better record of what has actually taken place.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I certainly expect that the school council members who participate in the discussions will be reporting back to their school councils with their own impressions of the meeting.
As well, as the member has stated, there is an intention to have a reporter for each group, and they'll be collectively developing a set of recommendations for the minister. Certainly the people there are going to be encouraging school council members to identify interests rather than take positions. I think that that process could work very well.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I take it, then, that there will a written report from each session and that that written report will assist in formulating the final recommendations to the minister.
When the minister says, "identify interests," it just piqued my interest. Is it her intention that these interests would identify in terms of a holistic view of the community, for example, that the Dawson City Robert Service school council might be coming forward saying, in terms of interest in planning for a new facility, we would want it to include the community as a whole, recreation facilities - that sort of a plan?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, when I spoke about identifying interests rather than taking positions, what I was referring to was that school council members are going to be encouraged to identify their common interests and what they all believe are good initiatives to take in order to improve how we set criteria and plan for capital projects.
Obviously, every person there will have a range of interest depending on what community they're from or what their particular educational philosophy might be, but I think that we're going to have a professional facilitator there who can help people to be productive in their discussions.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have just one last item I'd like to identify with respect to this capital planning process, and that is the voices that aren't being heard in this instance: the parents of children who are not yet in school who may not have taken an interest in the recent school council actions, thinking, oh, it's four years away. Well, in terms of capital planning, four years isn't that far away.
For example, there was discussion at one school council I was at in the minister's own riding about a K to 3 school in Golden Horn, and I'm just wondering how anybody who might want to have their children attend that school, at first glance their interests aren't really represented in this agenda. I would just like to ask the minister how she envisions that those interests are represented in this discussion to take place on Saturday?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I think that the member should be aware - and this might give her some reassurance on her question - that it's very well publicized that school council elections are open to any citizen eligible to vote who lives in a school attendance area, and I'm aware that parents who don't have any children left in school and, indeed, parents who have no children left at home have run for school council elections. In some cases, there have been very hotly contested elections with a number of people seeking election, and I think there is a broad range of interests represented on school councils. I also know that all of the school councils that I have met with have made it very clear that their meetings are open to the public, that parents who have children who are not yet in school can talk to school council members and can attend and, for the most part, participate in school council meetings.
I can appreciate the member's concerns, but I do believe that the school council elections process allows a voice for the parents she's talking about.
Mr. Phillips: I wonder if the minister could clarify something for me in this line item. Earlier, I asked the minister a question about what it would be used for, and the minister said it would be used for another rural school, I think was her comment. Then, in an answer to a question from the member for Porter Creek South, the minister said that the use of this line item would come out of the discussions this weekend, and I'm just wondering, which is it? Has the department and the minister made up their minds that half or part or all of this money is going to be for another rural school, or is the other answer the minister gave that they'll try to develop a long-term capital plan, or work on criteria for such, and whatever they come up with there for their priorities will be where this money will be used? So, maybe the minister could clarify what she said.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'd be happy to. It is expected that this line item will be used to initiate planning and design for one of the major rural school replacement projects identified in the rural school facilities study. Likely candidates include either Mayo or Ross River school replacement projects. The decision on which project will proceed will be made in the coming months, after consultation with school councils.
As my discussions with the Member for Porter Creek South have just covered, the planning for the capital expenditures business agenda on Saturday morning will include a slide presentation, an explanation on the rural and Whitehorse facility studies, an outline of the existing planning process for determining school capital expenditures, and an opportunity for school council members to have discussions about their recommendations on potential changes or improvements to setting the criteria and planning for capital projects. I hope that clarifies it for the member.
Mr. Phillips: So, just so we're clear, the $500,000 in this line item is pre-planning and pre-engineering for a rural school.
Any discussions that take place with the school councils and any priorities they come up with, there is no money in the budget - if those groups decide that some addition or something to do with the Whitehorse school is a priority, there is no money in this budget for that; we'd have to look for that elsewhere.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Just so that it's clear for the member, rural schools are likely candidates for the capital project planning and pre-engineering line item of $500,000.
Mr. Phillips: Likely candidates - it sounds to me that that means then the Whitehorse schools are unlikely candidates for the money. So, what the minister is really saying is that this should have said rural capital project planning and pre-engineering. It would've been more accurate, because it's not included for Whitehorse schools. There is no pre-capital project planning and pre-engineering for Whitehorse schools.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, this line item does not preclude the possibility of planning for Whitehorse schools. It does depend on the recommendations that come out of the discussions of school councils at their annual conference over the next couple of days.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, it's fine for the minister to say that, but the minister, when she spoke about it initially, pretty well laid out the minister's preference - that the minister's preference is that this money will go to rural schools. Otherwise, it would have just said pre-planning and pre-engineering for any schools based on the consultations that take place next week. But the minister has already sort of told us that this money is going to be used for rural schools, or they have a lot better chance than urban schools to get any of these dollars for planning, that's all.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Based on the department's knowledge of the school replacement projects that were needed as a result of both the Whitehorse and rural school facilities studies, it seemed likely that candidates for the pre-engineering and planning would include Mayo or Ross River school. I would point out to the member that we have over $3.4 million in Whitehorse school renovations in the capital budget.
So, I would not accept the member's proposition, if that's what he's arguing, that there is an unfair allocation between rural and urban schools.
Mr. Phillips: One more shot at this. The problem I have with it is that the minister has called a meeting with all the school councils to discuss the capital building projects for schools in the future. But she has indicated today, by way of a line item in her budget and in a statement she made about rural schools that, regardless of what the school councils come up with in the way of priorities, in any agreements they may reach, the minister's priority is rural schools and they will be considered over the others. That's all I'm saying. They're the minister's own words. I did not put those words in the minister's mouth. I did not write them down.
The minister stood up here and said that this particular $500,000 - I would have accepted it completely if the minister had just left it as it was written in here, that it is for pre-engineering for schools based on the discussions that are going to take place this weekend. Maybe it's true that there maybe should be a higher priority on those rural schools, but I thought the whole purpose of the meeting this weekend was that everyone was on the same fair, level playing field, and they were all going to come in there and have discussions about future capital projects, and they were going to come to some kind of a consensus and an approach to deal with that in the future. The minister said that she gives rural schools a higher priority coming to the meeting. That's all.
The minister said it herself, so the urban school councils should be aware of that.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member seems to be misinterpreting my remarks. I would remind the member of his government's capital expenditures over the last four years. The capital work that was done on schools was for l'École Emilie Tremblay, Golden Horn, Hidden Valley and Holy Family, all of which are in the Whitehorse area.
There are, in the rural school facilities study, five rural schools that need either complete replacement or major renovations.
Now acknowledging that fact - and that is a fact that was made public by the Yukon Party's rural school facility study, for which I give them credit - is something that I do not shy away from. I acknowledge that that's a fact, that there are a number of rural schools that need replacement. That does not mean that I am not providing an opportunity for every school council in this territory to have a productive discussion about setting criteria for planning capital expenditures.
That is, in fact, what school councils will have an opportunity to do at the school council meeting this weekend, and I would like to encourage the member to be supportive of that, rather than to try and derail it by criticizing it.
Mr. Phillips: I'm totally supportive of the process the minister is going into - completely supportive. But it was indicated to us, Mr. Chair, that everyone would be on the same playing field. They would take the rural study and the urban study, they would all go into the room, they would sit down with a facilitator, and they would come up with some kind of a long-term plan.
All I'm saying is that the minister has done an end-run around that discussion and said that her preference is that $500,000 that's in this budget, which I thought might go to the school or the area with the highest priority, the minister's decided it's going to an urban school before the meeting starts.
It's a bit unfair to the people who are going to the meeting. They may very well come up and agree 100 percent with the minister. That's probably a pretty good possibility. All I'm saying to the minister is that the minister should have left the line item just the way it was, as capital project planning and engineering, and said that these school councils were going to discuss this matter this weekend and come up with a long-term plan, and that this money would be for starting some planning of the initiatives that come out of that long-term plan. I would have accepted that 100 percent, but the minister said that, regardless of what they come up with, she's going to weigh the rural schools with a heavier weight than she is the urban ones. I think it's contradictory, to say the least, when the minister has said that this is going to be an open and fair meeting for everyone.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I don't agree that I've done an end-run around school councils. I think the member is completely wrong in his statements. This budget contains $3.4 million for urban schools. Now, the member is standing there, and he is saying that I'm being irresponsible by indicating that it is likely that one of the rural schools that needs replacement is going to be a candidate for the $500,000. School councils have every opportunity to make recommendations about setting criteria and planning for capital projects. Their recommendations will be taken seriously by this minister and by this government.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We know full well there's money in this budget for schools in Whitehorse. This is capital project planning and pre-engineering for the future. This is the purpose of the meeting: to sit down with all the school councils and discuss future capital project planning. All I'm saying to the minister is that she has pre-empted that by saying that this particular line item is for rural schools and not urban.
Ms. Duncan: Could I just ask the minister to clarify for the record. Capital - is she also referring to the grounds of the schools, as that can be a rather expensive investment, or is she strictly referring to the physical structure?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This is planning and pre-engineering. Normally, planning monies are allotted to design work and selecting a site. They're not related to the playground, or the associated soccer fields, and so on.
Ms. Duncan: Then, from what I understand from the minister, the discussion will focus on the buildings themselves, and not on fences.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, we want to break down the barriers and get those fences out of the way.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Capital Project Planning and Pre-Engineering in the amount of $500,000 agreed to
On Air Quality/Energy Management Projects
Mr. Cable: Who's supervising the energy management projects? Is that some person in Government Services?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, it is a person in Government Services. This line item covers small air quality projects at various schools and small energy saving projects at various schools.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the information that I have from the technical briefing is that the air quality energy management programs - the minor upgrades at various schools are the Mayo, Selkirk and Takhini schools. I understand there was some concern about an air quality issue at Grey Mountain Primary. Has this already been dealt with, or is it listed somewhere else?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: In 1994-95, three major ventilation projects were undertaken. One of them was Grey Mountain Primary. This is a reinvestment of energy savings into retrofits and upgrading to ensure there are future energy savings.
Mrs. Edelman: One of the permanent concerns with Grey Mountain School is that there are problems with wood smoke coming into the school. There has always been a problem in that area. Probably the reason that there has always been a problem in that area is that the methylometer, which measures wood smoke in Riverdale, is right down the river where there is a constant breeze and so there's not really a clear indication, at any point, of just how high the wood smoke level is close to that school.
There have been consistent problems with irritation to children going to that school. Has there been any talk about dealing with that at some point in the future?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I will certainly discuss the member's problem with the department. As well, I would submit that the City of Whitehorse and Renewable Resources would need to be included in those discussions about wood smoke. As the member knows, wood smoke in Riverdale is an ongoing concern to all of those agencies, and others besides.
Air Quality/Energy Management Projects in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Capital Maintenance Renovations
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This line item is used to complete replacement or refurbishing of aging and worn building components.
Ms. Duncan: I asked the department for a detailed breakdown of capital maintenance renovations for each of the schools, and they have provided that to me.
I'm just concerned, because I don't see Golden Horn addressed, and there's a need at Golden Horn for students who are housed in the portables - the grade 7 students, I believe - who have to troop inside to use washrooms, and they also have no lockers in that portable.
Have those concerns been addressed? This was the subject of quite a lengthy discussion at the school council meeting.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'll bring back an answer for the member.
In view of the time, Mr. Deputy Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 4.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Deputy Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker resumes the Chair
Deputy Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Hardy: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 1997-98, and directed me to report progress on it.
Deputy Speaker: You have heard the report from the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. next Monday.
The House adjourned at 5:29 p.m.
The following Documents were filed May 1, 1997:
Letter dated April 30, 1997, to Hon. Mr. Harding, Minister of Economic Development, from Mr. Slack, president and CEO, BYG Natural Resources Inc., re promoting, in Europe, investment in Yukon (Harding)
(a) BYG Group of Companies invitation to presentation and explanation of Group and (b) letter dated April 3, 1997, to Mr. Slack, president and CEO, BYG Natural Resources Inc., from Hon. Mr. Harding, Minister of Economic Development, re meeting to be held in Europe to seek investment (Ostashek)
Summary and report of visit of former Yukon Government Leader, John Ostashek, to Japan, January 22 to 25, 1996 (Harding)