Monday, May 5, 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: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I have for tabling today the charter and business plan of the Queen's Printer agency, 1997-98.
Deputy Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Cable: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT the Chief Electoral Officer's Review Committee on election administration be invited by this House to:
(1) consider that provision of the British Columbia Elections Act, brought in by the British Columbia New Democratic Party, relating to fraudulent misrepresentations made during elections; and
(2) at such time as the petition now before the British Columbia courts relating to that provision has been heard, make recommendations to this House on whether the Yukon Elections Act should be amended to include a similar provision.
Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recommends that funding presently allocated for the Yukon Anniversaries Commission in the budget years following 1997-98 continue to be used for the promotion and enhancement of Yukon's tourism industry.
Deputy Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
Anvil Range Mining Company request for government assistance
Hon. Mr. Harding: I rise today to provide the House with an update about the request for government assistance from Anvil Range Mining company.
Our government recognizes the importance of the Faro mine in creating jobs, and that it is the largest single component of the territory's private sector economy. We have always expressed an interest in helping Anvil Range return Yukon people back to work and have already established a training trust fund with the company and workers as represented by the United Steelworkers of America, Local 1051.
However, we must ensure that any assistance from the Yukon government will directly trigger an opening of the mine and a return to work for Yukon people, and not simply be a corporate subsidy.
Anvil Range Mining Corporation has shown potential investors key financial information and its mine plan, but has not provided this material to the Yukon government. At this time, the company is requesting lower bulk haulage rates, reduced electricity costs, training and forgiveness of its debt for road work completed at its Alaska Highway truck terminal.
We are extremely keen to see the mine reopened, but before any help is considered, the government needs to know:
Many people thought the mine would reopen with the adoption of a new labour union contract, but reopening did not occur.
At this time, there are many factors in Anvil Range's favour that should help cause a private sector reopening:
Given all these positive factors, it is unclear why Yukon taxpayers or electrical ratepayers should take a questionable risk in assisting the company financially at this point. We cannot make firm moves to assist until more information is provided, and these decisions must be made carefully as they affect all Yukon people.
Currently, Yukon's bulk haulage fees are eight times lower than the State of Alaska on a per kilometre basis. It is highly suspect that a company that makes hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue in operating, believes that a reopening hinges on these issues when they are relatively small parts of a very large overall operation.
Mr. Speaker, I should also point out that the base rates today are exactly the same as they were in 1995 when Anvil Range began operating, at a time when lead-zinc prices were much lower than they are right now. I want to assure members of the House, as well as Faroites and all other Yukon people, that our government will take every responsible action to protect their interests. We will take a reasonable approach to assist where needed and where effective so that the mine can reopen and workers can return to work as soon as possible.
It is unfortunate that recent statements from the company did not indicate any concern about the impending end of the school year and the implications of that for Faro families who face the decision of whether to leave or stay in the community.
Mr. Speaker, our government will continue to work with Anvil Range, but in order to make the best decision on behalf of all Yukon people, we require a greater cooperation and more information from the company than it has provided to date.
Mr. Ostashek: It's unfortunate that the minister was so vocal when he was in Opposition with regard to the Faro mine. At that time, he is on the public record as stating that a $29 million loan or loan guarantee was a small price to pay to put his constituents back to work. Now that he is in government, he is quickly learning that these types of decisions are not that easy to make when they involve taxpayers' dollars.
His update today is in keeping with the way this government has been governing, and that's saying one thing and doing something else. He starts out by saying that he is supportive and looking to help the mine get back to work, then he lays out two pages of reasons why he doesn't think the government should help the mine. They're being consistent in that respect, anyhow.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, this is a very serious situation. Any time that a private sector company comes to the government for a bail-out, there are a lot of questions that have to be answered. I'm sure that the minister has Yukoners talking to him as they're talking to him now, and as they were talking to me during the last episode four years ago when the Faro mine shut down. I'm sure that he and his colleagues are aware that there is very little support in the general public of the Yukon for a bail-out for this company or any other company. Having said that, the decision is in the hands of this minister and his government.
I would just like to put on the record that, given the short life of the Grum deposit and the millions of dollars that are going to be required for exploration to extend the viability of the Faro mine until some time in the future, if this government is considering giving assistance to put this mine back to work, Yukoners need a strong commitment from Anvil Range that there will be an aggressive exploration program going on and put in place immediately to extend the life of the Faro operation.
I would also like a commitment from this minister and this government that, before they get involved in any substantial bail-out of this company, if the Legislature of the Yukon is not sitting, they will recall the Legislature so that we can have a full public debate on the merits of a bail-out.
Mr. Cable: I think the most significant part of the minister's statement is when he says, "It is highly suspect that a company that makes hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue when operating believes that a reopening hinges on these issues when they are relatively small parts of a very large overall operation." I couldn't agree with the minister more. Now, the amount of the concessions being requested by Anvil Range isn't spelled out with a dollar figure attached, but they must be a tiny fraction of the projected profits from the mining operation, if it gets back up and running. So I have to believe that these two giant corporations that control Anvil Range are trying to nickel-dime the Yukon taxpayers and ratepayers with the town as leverage.
We've had debates in this House on the funding of non-government organizations and how there isn't enough money to go around. So I hope the minister, when he sets his priorities and deals with this giant corporation, remembers his words in the ministerial statement.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I thank the members for those comments. I first want to respond to the Leader of the Official Opposition and his reference to what a difference some time makes, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
I don't have to remind my constituents of the attitude that was taken by the Yukon Party government toward this crisis in 1993 - very slow response to the community, very negative comments, continuously negative comments about the community, very negative comments about the operation - and many of my constituents will remember the minister responsible telling jokes publicly about raising the IQ of the Yukon by having Faro shut down.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, that's not the approach this government has taken. This government knows how important the jobs in Faro and the jobs that are spinoffs of the Faro mine are to this economy. We have taken a more positive approach and we've tried to work with the company to deal with some of these concerns, obviously not to their entire satisfaction, but we are missing some very key information. The Yukon Party government had Burns Fry do a very full due diligence on the entire operation. So far, we've not been given the mine plan by Anvil Range Mining Corporation, so we are not prepared to make decisions in a vacuum. We also don't have any definitive commitment that the mine will reopen.
We don't want anything that this government may do to be corporate gravy. We want to ensure that it actually triggers a return to work for citizens of the Yukon, including all of those people in Faro who are most directly affected.
I was always very interested in seeing the Yukon Party government, in 1993, with Curragh, take some initiative or at least signal they were prepared to do something - they continuously refused to do that.
In this case, this company that we are dealing with today is much, much better off in their position and I've run through the reasons.
Curragh had some $300 million in debt. The government was a last-resort lender. In this case, you have huge multi-national corporations behind them. You have virtually no debt within the company. You've seen the prices go from 46 to some 57 cents per pound for zinc.
So, I would say that the members have never produced a quote yet from this member that said that I wanted a $29 million loan guarantee handed over to Curragh. What I wanted was some indication from the Yukon Party government at that time that they had some concern for the community, some concern for the jobs, and were at least going to try and work through the problems on behalf of Yukon people. We never got that, and the people of Faro certainly never got that. All they got was jokes and rude comments from government Cabinet ministers.
We've been talking to this company for some time discussing - not really negotiating, because we're talking in a vacuum right now without appropriate information about energy options, about exportation, mineral assessments that perhaps the government could help with and with some training - haulage issues and we're prepared to look at ways the company could be put over the top into production but, at this point, we do not have the appropriate information to make those kinds of decisions.
With regard to any expenditures, which may be considered in this case, they would, as the Government Leader knows full well, have to come before the House for some consideration. So, that is a clear commitment of that as well.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I just want to say that the government is prepared to assist with modest measures where we know when people are going to go back to work, when we know for how long people are going to be going back to work, what the company's long-term plan is and when we know that it's actually required and that the private sector and companies like Hyundai and Cominco couldn't provide the necessary funding for this company to be put back into production.
So, I held a community meeting yesterday in Faro to discuss these issues and I think there was tacit acknowledgment from my constituents - even though they're in very tough times right now with major decisions ahead of them given the end of the school year - I think they understand that if we don't have information, it's very tough for us to respond. Thank you.
Deputy Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Medical equipment in nursing stations
Mr. Jenkins: My question today is for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
In 1993, there was the unfortunate death of a Stewart Crossing man, Mr. Wes Buyck. The Buyck family were later instrumental in having a coroner's inquest convened. One of the inquest's recommendations included putting special heart equipment in the Mayo nursing station, but the federal government refused to install defibrillators, arguing that they were too expensive and no one was trained to use them.
Now the Yukon government is in control and is putting two defibrillators in Whitehorse and is only considering whether to put them in any rural areas of Yukon. I would like the minister to explain why.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I think first of all the member is under certain misapprehensions.
There are defibrillators in Dawson City, Faro and Watson Lake. As well, they are in Whitehorse General Hospital and two in the ambulances. The equipment that is being discussed is automatic external defibrillators, AEDs, and we are currently reviewing the feasibility of providing AEDs to rural communities.
Mr. Jenkins: I hate to raise the issue of TROY once again in this House, but I'd like the minister to explain how a coroner's inquest into a death in rural Yukon would lead to the installation of two defibrillators in ambulances in Whitehorse with all of the hospital facilities and all the defibrillating equipment contained therein, and yet nothing is done to address the health needs of rural communities in this regard.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, I would question that this report was 1993, and it appears to me that the previous government had perfect opportunity to act in that case.
However, on this subject, I think the member may be under certain misapprehensions from television shows. The kind of equipment that we're talking about has a response time of about seven to eight minutes. AEDs cannot be used in isolation, and I think to suggest that because you have an AED in place, it's a guarantee of safety.
In reality, there is a whole variety of other issues, such as education of the public with regard to early response for chest pains, early CPR - rapid defibrillation is an issue - and as well, access to advanced cardiac life support. So, I think to merely put these in and say, "That's going to solve the problem," is really creating a false sense of security.
We are taking a look as to whether perhaps placing these in nursing stations might be more practical. I can tell the member opposite that we are going out to do some consultations in the communities on the whole question of community health services, and I imagine the issue will come forward.
Mr. Jenkins: The second phase of the health transfer has only just taken place, so to suggest that this could have been undertaken by the previous government is just pure bunk.
These new defibrillators are now a lot cheaper. They are in place in a lot of other jurisdictions, in ambulance and police vehicles and there is training provided in their use. Even with limited training, people can be instructed on how to use them. It is another measure of comfort provided to those in rural Yukon. So, why isn't the minister keeping up with modern technology, and why does he believe people in Whitehorse can be trained to use this equipment, but people outside of Whitehorse cannot be trained?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Deputy Speaker, we do have them in rural communities. Perhaps it might do the Member for Klondike a world of good to take a wander over to the Dawson City nursing station, because they have one there. They also have one in Faro; they also have one in Watson Lake.
I think we also have to understand that, despite the member's ardent viewing of ER, there are about 12 cardiac cases a year in the City of Whitehorse, only about six of which would be a responded to appropriately by this kind of equipment. I think that, once again, to simply say that we have the technology in place, albeit the technology has come down in price, there are a lot more issues surrounding this. I would suggest that the member do take a look at what's available, and perhaps familiarize himself with some of the medical research behind it.
Question re: Yukon Recreation Advisory Committee appointments
Mr. Jenkins: My question is for the Government Leader. On April 29, 1997, the Yukon government announced the appointment of three individuals to the sports and recreation subcommittee of the Yukon Recreation Advisory Committee. One of the appointees is a Whitehorse city councillor, as well as a defeated NDP candidate in the last territorial election. Irrespective of the fact that this appointment appears to be a partisan political appointment, does the Government Leader believe it is appropriate to appoint a city councillor to this important committee? Is he not concerned about a potential conflict of interest with the appointment of any elected municipal official to YRAC?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I guess the answer is no. I don't see that that is necessarily a significant problem. I'm trying to run my mind back through the appointments of the past and whether or not there were any municipal councillors or community leaders appointed to YRAC. I can't think of any off the top of my head. It doesn't mean it didn't happen.
I don't necessarily see that as a conflict at all. If the member can identify where the conflict lies, then he can say so. I think he is referring to a person who is responsible for soccer in the City of Whitehorse. That person has had a long history of volunteer community work in sports and is very well respected in the sports community in this town.
He thinks that, because a member is a city councillor, necessarily should disqualify his participation in this particular body.
If the member can identify where precisely the conflict occurs, we will take that into consideration.
Mr. Jenkins: There are two motions on the order paper which address the process for making appointments to major Yukon boards and committees, one by the Yukon Party and one by the Liberal Party.
To ensure appointees are not in conflict-of-interest situations or are purely partisan political appointments, will the Government Leader agree to bring in a new process for making appointments to Yukon boards and committees?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, I would point out - and I just recalled this just as I sat down - I recall that, when the member himself was running in, not this last election but the election before, against the incumbent, Mr. Webster, he indicated publicly that he was prepared to stay on as mayor - I think he was the mayor at the time - he wanted to be mayor and MLA at the same time.
So, if he doesn't see any conflict in that particular role, I have still yet to see where the conflict lies in the circumstances that he's just cited.
Now, the NDP government's record in appointments has been very fair, both previously to this and also in our first six months. When we were in government before, we had 10 prominent Conservatives and Liberals chairing decision-making boards of the government of the day. So, I think we have been very good about ensuring that there is a balance of representation so that our boards are representative of the community they serve.
I do believe that that is very much an objective that we have today, and I am aware that the members are going to be meeting tomorrow morning to discuss the board and committee appointment process. Our caucus spokesperson will discuss the procedures for appointments and, if improvements can be made, then we're more than willing to consider them.
Mr. Jenkins: The Government Leader is alluding to a process where people are elected for various roles, and comparing apples to oranges. These appointments are purely appointments. What we're seeking is an arrangement for an all-party agreement on these appointments so that they can be not purely partisan political appointments - that there is more input into the process than just the government of the day.
Will the Government Leader ensure that no more defeated NDP candidates are appointed to major boards and committees until such time as a new non-partisan process is established, Mr. Deputy Speaker?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I'll point out that candidates from all parties from various elections have been appointed by the NDP to boards and committees, and we're proud to have them working - continuing their volunteer service to the people of the territory.
So, I reject the premise of the member's question absolutely. I believe that the process that has been in place in the past, certainly, as practised by the New Democrats, in government, has ensured that there is a good balance in appointments of boards and committees.
I could cite probably at least 10 off the top of my head - prominent Conservatives, prominent Liberals on significant boards and committees, actually chairing those boards and committees. So, I can't buy the member's notion in the first instance, that there is a significant problem that we have to face.
What we are trying to do is not to set up a partisan process, even a multi-partisan process, to bring partisanship to boards and committees. What we're trying to do is ensure that there is a good balance in the appointment of board and committee members, to ensure that the boards and committees have representatives from all over the territory and every walk of life. That's the objective; it's not to bring more partisanship to the process.
Question re: First Nations child welfare conference
Mrs. Edelman: My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
The minister and I had the honour of attending the Yukon First Nations child welfare conference this past week.
There were many recommendations that came out of the conference and I'm going to check with the minister about his willingness to work with Yukon First Nations on this most important issue of child welfare.
One of the recommendations from the conference was an increased number of secondments from the department to First Nations to share expertise and resources, so that First Nations can develop their own culturally relevant programs. Is the minister open to this type of sharing of professional expertise?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can assure the member that we are interested in that. As a matter of fact, I believe the secondments have taken place just very recently in another department. We're certainly willing to support the First Nations in their aspirations in this regard, and I would be open to any suggestions in that regard.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, another recommendation from the conference was that there should be mandatory consultation with the extended family before a child is put into care. Now, Mr. Speaker, traditionally Yukon First Nations do believe that it does take a community to raise a child. Is this view shared by the minister?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, we're certainly very sensitive to many of the issues surrounding matters of First Nation child welfare.
I think Dave Joe said what I thought was a rather interesting kind of concept when he discussed, at the same conference, the idea that child welfare, the current Children's Act - which he described as state-of-the-art, incidentally - he said it does focus in on the term, "best interest of the child," where he suggested that perhaps there needs to be looking at the idea of the collective aspect of the community. I think these are very worthwhile ideas and I would certainly entertain any suggestions that come forward from the First Nations.
I would also emphasize that issues such as child welfare are well within the purview of First Nations if they choose to draw it down.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, one of the concerns of attendees of the Yukon First Nations child welfare conference was that subsidies paid by the YTG to foster parents are inadequate. Will the minister consult with Yukon First Nations to determine how much to pay foster parents in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I can certainly take that back to my department for matters of discussion. I haven't as yet seen the outcome of the conference and I'm hoping to get a series of recommendations and certainly all of them will come forward. Part of our rationale behind sponsoring this conference was to get some ideas, to get some suggestions, in some ways that we could look into the future.
I also made the commitment that what I would be willing to do would be to do a series of consultations in communities where, if individual First Nations had issues that they wanted to bring forward, I would be certainly happy to meet with them. I made that at the conference that morning and certainly will follow through. We do have a series of consultations on health ongoing in communities. So, we probably will be looking a bit later in the year.
Question re: Electrical rates, municipal power distribution
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the energy minister.
On the weekend, the energy commissioner was in Watson Lake speaking to Association of Yukon Communities annual general meeting. Now, if the conversations have been related to me correctly, I understand that he was taking the position that if municipalities had the right to run their own electric utilities or franchise utilities, then the rate relief program wouldn't work and power rates would go up in most of the territory. Is that the minister's position?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I'd like to tell the member opposite that I was not at the AYC meeting in Watson Lake this weekend. I was in Faro, but I cannot speak about what the energy commissioner said. I can have a discussion later with him to talk about it, but I would say to the member opposite that municipal franchising has consistently been rejected by successive governments in this territory, simply because there are many cost implications to it. There is also the problem of rate equalization, where big jurisdictions like Whitehorse or a big community could perhaps achieve some savings, but it would be at the expense of all of the other rural communities who don't have the same rate base. Certainly, one of the principles that we've worked under - as did the Yukon Party government - was that principle of rate equalization and allowing that there be some standard level of rates throughout the territory so that we all share in the benefits when there are reductions in rates, and we also have to share in the pain when there are increases in rates.
Mr. Cable: It sounds like the issue of municipal franchising has been ruled out even before the energy policy consultations begin, and that is somewhat disturbing.
Maybe the minister could in fact confirm for the record: before the energy policy discussions begin, have we completely ruled out the right of municipalities to either run their own electric operations or to franchise other utilities to run the operations?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to respond to that, I will just explain to the member that I'm simply stating the obvious. Nothing has been ruled out, but the principles of rate equalization - as I know the member knows - are something that has been reflected in successive governments in this territory, and the concerns that I've identified have been long-standing concerns, and I'm sure that he's aware of them.
With regard to franchising relationships, there are certain legal rights that have been attained by the corporation - Yukon Electrical - with regard to deemed franchises that do complicate the situation somewhat in the territory. However, the second aspect of the negotiations with regard to APL is related to franchising, and those have to conclude by June 30th if the YECL board of directors approves - I believe on May 9th - the agreement that was just negotiated by the board and the president of the Yukon Energy Corporation.
So, I expect there to be some tough negotiations with regard to those issues and the legal parameters around them as they try to conclude a new agreement. So, the short answer to the member's question is that nothing has been pre-judged.
Mr. Cable: Let's talk about that agreement in principle for a moment. The agreement in principle with Yukon Electrical states that there will be long-term franchise arrangements, as I understand it. Could we get a commitment from the minister that any deal to be negotiated with our public assets does not preclude municipalities in a practical sense - not in a legal sense, but in a practical sense - having the right, at some time in the future, to operate electrical utilities or to franchise those utilities.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the member knows that YECL has a fairly good case for what is called a deemed franchise or de facto franchise in many communities right now.
The agreement in principle pertains not to generation and transmission, as the member also knows, but rather to distribution. They will be the issue or that issue will be discussed quite extensively as they try to reach a new agreement on the issue of franchising. However, I am somewhat surprised that the member appears to be quite substantially in favour of moving away from the principle of rate equalization. I'm not so sure that would be good for rural communities, as Whitehorse might see a benefit, but rural communities outside of Whitehorse would see substantial increases. I wasn't aware that that was the Liberal Party's position.
Question re: Fuel tax collection, B.C./Yukon agreement
Mr. Ostashek: My question is for the Government Leader in his capacity as the Minister of Finance.
As the minister is aware, there has been an ongoing controversy and problem with three of our highways, where they duck back and forth across the B.C. border, and the collection of fuel taxes. It has come to our attention that Finance received a letter on October 31st that said that they were looking for legal opinions and that they should be able to update this government a short time after that. That was signed by John Walsh, when he was employed by British Columbia.
Can the minister tell the House if there has been any progress in this area?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, indeed, in this area and in addressing other interjurisdictional issues between the Yukon and B.C., some of the work that the previous government had started, we have continued. We are, at this moment, working out a memorandum of understanding between the two governments to finalize arrangements to our mutual satisfaction.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for that. The minister is fully aware that, every summer, it appears that British Columbia highway enforcement officers take a holiday to the Yukon and write a bunch of tickets to our truckers to justify their trip. I'm looking to the minister for some assurances that he can give this House that this will be resolved before this summer, so he's not bombarded by numerous complaints as I was when I was in his office in the past.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I don't blame the enforcement officers for wanting to come up here to Yukon, any more than I would blame any tourist for wanting to come to this beautiful territory at a nice time of year, but that kind of tourism activity is not necessarily a good thing, I agree, for the transportation industry. We are going to try to ensure that there is an arrangement worked out prior to the beginning of the summer season.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for that. I, too, don't mind them coming, but they ought not to be doing it at taxpayers' expense and writing tickets to truckers while they're up here.
There seems to be a legal issue surrounding the government collecting fuel taxes and sales taxes on behalf of the British Columbia government. Has the minister had our legal people take a look at that and give him any advice that he can share with this House?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As I'm aware, there will be a requirement that a number of OICs be passed by the British Columbia Cabinet and some OICs be passed by our Cabinet in order to effect this new arrangement. I'm told that this can be expeditiously done in British Columbia once the agreements are struck. So I'm not aware of any other difficulty, or any other impediment, to putting together the agreements, other than to get the agreements drafted and signed. Certainly, we have taken the matter in hand and do believe it to be a priority, not only for the collection of fuel taxes, but also for the other issues that have been addressed in terms of law enforcement on both sides of the border - the Yukon border in British Columbia, where the Alaska Highway dips in and out of the Yukon, and also on the south Klondike Highway on the Haines Road.
So we are aware of those issues, and we are trying to get resolution so that it can be resolved once and for all.
Question re: Electrical rates, municipal power distribution
Mr. Cable: I'd just like to continue on with the questions I had for the energy minister on the municipal franchising rights. Now, the energy minister was telling us that if the municipalities were running their own operations, or had the right to franchise their operations, that rate equalization wouldn't work. Could he tell the House why?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I would say to the member that he's probably obviously a little bit burned by the exposure of the Liberal Party's position with regard to wanting to move away from rate equalization in this territory, increasing rates in rural communities. I would say to the member, obviously the issue pertains to rate bases and the amount of ratepayers in many of the jurisdictions, and the way the generation, transmission and distribution systems are set up in this territory. Many successive governments have had problems with regard to municipal franchising. Many of the jurisdictions in the United States that have small municipalities are moving away from municipal franchising. In Alaska, there have been many instances where the state has actually had to pay some fairly substantial subsidies with regard to municipal franchising.
So certainly we are very committed to working with municipalities, as well as First Nations governments, to deal with options about generation and transmission, and also to work with the private sector on distribution issues, to try and ensure that we maintain the principle of rate equalization as a territory, but also that we provide some opportunities for increased role and activity in the generation and workings of our energy systems.
Mr. Cable: The minister seems to be telling us that rate equalization won't work unless there is just one owner of all the generating assets across the territory, which of course is hokey because we know there is more than one right now.
Let me ask him this question, though. Other than the equalization problems - well, I'll wait until he gets his briefing there. Other than the equalization problems, is there any other problem, real or imaginary, why municipalities can't run or franchise their own electrical operations?
Hon. Mr. Harding: One of the principles of this government is to revitalize the whole issue of rate relief and to bring back to life a program that the Yukon Party was going to kill, and in December one of our first acts was to bring rate relief back to life. When you move away from rate equalization, you end up with localized savings, and that makes it really difficult to spread the benefits or the profits of the Yukon-public-owned utility, YEC, to the ratepayers throughout the communities of the Yukon so that we all benefit from some of the profits of the Yukon Energy Corporation.
So, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I didn't know that the Liberal Party was a proponent of moving away from rate equalization and seeing more benefits for Whitehorse rather than the rural communities, but I'll take that as notice and we'll consider his views in developing energy policy.
Mr. Cable: I hope the minister doesn't tell anybody. Oh, dear. Oh, dear.
Now, the government got a letter from the City of Dawson and the mayor was telling the government, "Need I remind you of the government's commitment to consult with Yukon communities on issues that will impact on us?" The mayor was talking about this agreement in principle.
Does the minister or his commissioner intend to consult with the municipalities before they close the door completely on municipal franchising?
Hon. Mr. Harding: As I said to the member, we have not closed the door to anything, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I've simply reiterated some of the long-standing concerns of successive Yukon governments and I can inform the member that I will be telling people of the Yukon Party's position with regard to rate equalization and I'm sure there'll be some interested people out there, once they know the ins and outs of the Liberal Party. I'm not sure if it's the Liberal Party inside the Legislature's position or the one outside the Legislature's position. They have differences on issues like Aishihik Lake and whatnot, but I'll be happy to communicate that to people.
On the other hand, I certainly will be consulting with municipalities and will be consulting with all of the major stakeholders with regard to energy policy and its development. One of the most important principles of developing good policy is allowing for full discussion about these very complicated issues, and municipalities would certainly be one of the parties that would be welcome to be brought into the discussion. I know they were excluded for the last four years by the previous Yukon Party administration. We hope to change that.
Deputy Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed and we will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Deputy Speaker do now leave the Chair and that 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
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the wish of the members to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Chair: We'll now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 1997-98 - continued
Department of Education - continued
Capital Expenditures - continued
Education Support Services - continued
Capital Maintenance and Renovations - continued
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Before I give a few details on the capital maintenance line item, I would like to provide for the two critics and the table a copy of the options paper and survey document prepared by the Department of Education regarding the Yukon excellence awards. There's a copy of the full package for each of the critics and for the table.
The capital maintenance renovations line item totals $565,000. This line item is used to complete replacement or refurbishing of aging and worn building components. I know members have some questions, and I have some detailed information regarding what work is being done on which schools that I can provide if they would like further details.
Ms. Duncan: Yes, I would like those further details from the minister.
While I'm on my feet, I'd like to ask her a question prior to clearing this section. I was going through the debates in a copy of the Blues, and I haven't noticed a commitment from the minister to table a report of the findings of this weekend's school council meetings. I wonder if we could have commitment from the minister to table that information when she receives the briefing from her department.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Certainly, Mr. Chair. When there is written information available, I'd be happy to share the information with the members opposite. I did speak to some of the people who attended the meeting on the weekend, but I haven't got a formal report of any kind yet.
Ms. Duncan: Given that a good portion of the meeting was on capital planning, would the minister be able to provide us with some informal comments at this time? I note, when I was reading the debates, that she was unable to attend the Saturday session. Does she have any sort of informal sense of any conclusions reached - informally, of course?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I can tell the members that it was a very productive meeting that the school council chairs held over Friday and Saturday of last week. Part of the discussion item on capital planning, as I outlined in this House last week, was to provide a quick overview of a number of schools and what they look like. Certainly school council members appreciated seeing the slide show to get a better sense of what some of the schools in rural Yukon look like because they're often out of sight, out of mind.
The school council members looked at the existing criteria that are used by the Department of Education when we're putting together a capital planning calendar and projects. The school council chairs came up with a number of criteria, as well, on their own, and they grouped them under four broad categories: one being community health indicators, a second being facility health indicators, a third being student enrollment figures and a fourth being curriculum requirements.
Having said that, the school council chairs themselves wanted to meet again in October to finalize the criteria, so I think that what they'll be bringing is an interim set of recommendations and a report on their deliberations. They did understand that government can't do everything at once.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Last week, the Member for Riverdale North asked a couple of questions with regard to the Elijah Smith School, and I did some checking just to provide a little more information on the question of Elijah Smith School and the extension.
The cost of the extension - the low bid on that - was $812,000. With regard to where the extension is being put on, that was determined actually to be the most cost-effective option of the others involved. Presumably, if they were to extend out toward the field, there might be some interference with the existing sidewalks, and things of that nature. So, this was seen as the most cost-effective option.
With regard to the site and its impact on how the extension would go, apparently the only thing that they're really sort of feeling would possibly turn into a problem is glacial erratics, but at this point they are not really expecting to find any in that area, so there doesn't seem to be too much that would interfere with the developing of the extension in that regard.
Mr. Phillips: So, what the minister is really telling us then is that, this time, the right thing was done. They are approaching the extension based on the most cost-effective area to expand upon but, in fact, there was a big mistake made the last time, when they decided to build the school. It was sited to go in another area and it was moved to the area it's at now, and that that, in fact, turns out to be a bit of a mistake, because now they've got sidewalks, curbs, gutters, pavement and everything else that they would have to move. In fact, we still do have the problem that all the conduit, piping, plumbing and all the mechanical stuff goes to one wing and we have to sort of reroute it back the other way to actually tie it all in with the school.
In reality, it did cost more. It was a mistake that was made the last time, I guess, that cost us more money this time. I guess what the minister is kind of telling us is that it is the lesser of costs by putting it on the wrong end of the school - that it is the least costly to put it on the wrong end of the school, because if they would have put it on the end where all the pipes were, it would have created more problems, I guess, because of the ground or the soils that were there - I don't know.
Obviously, somebody made a mistake. It's like the minister himself building a house for future expansion and putting all the electrical and the plumbing in the east wall.
Then, when he goes to expand his house, he puts everything on the west wall and has to run everything through the basement and around the corners and back over to the other side of the building to connect it to where he's now decided to build, and I think what has happened here is that they had planned for future expansion and now, when they've gone to future expansion, they just couldn't put it on where they thought they could put it on.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I don't know if there's any right or wrong wings of the school, but I can tell the member that, in this case, it was determined that this was the most cost-efficient place to locate the wing. As I mentioned before, there are some site limitations with regard to the alternate energy building, and there's a parking lot on the other wing. There's the gym located at that end, as well, and to go out the back, one runs into some drainage problems off the higher bench. So I think probably in this case, for both the geologic and cost-effective reasons, this has proved to be the best decision.
Mr. Phillips: Could I ask the minister to table the analysis that was done to determine which end of the school they'd build it on, first of all? I would tell the minister that this is the kind of thing that is a little embarrassing for government. I can tell the minister the way I heard about it. I heard about it through some mechanical contractors. I don't even know if they were successful or not, but they were bidding the project, and they came to me and said, "What the devil's going on here?" They said that the original school was designed for expansion on one wing, and now they're telling us they want the expansion to go on the other wing. It seems to me like we had a ton of foresight a few years ago when we built the school, and we lost it when it came time to build the new addition on.
So all I point out to the minister is, in the public eye - and I'm sure this went around all the coffee shops around town and through the whole contracting industry - they are just shaking their heads at our planning, and who made the decision and how they came to making the decision. People get really frustrated with government when they know they're spending taxpayers' dollars, and they plan a school. I think, at the time, everybody thought they had a lot of foresight, and there was a lot of thought that went into planning future additions to that school. Then when the new contract came out, it said, "Put it on the other end."
All I'm pointing out to the minister is that it makes us look rather foolish, as government, sometimes when we do these kinds of things. It's almost like the project in Swift River under the New Democratic regime. Maybe I'll refresh the member's memory. He wasn't here at the time, but they had a contractor there, and one group started at one end of the multi-housing unit, and the other group started at the other end, and they were both to work to the middle, but when they got there, they found out one was using metric measurements and one was using imperial, and it created a bit of a problem. The buildings didn't quite match up.
It's the kind of thing that goes around the contracting industry about what are we paying these people for, when we go into extensive planning processes, drilling and ground testing, and all this other stuff, and then maybe we make a political decision to change the location of the school, or maybe we make some other kind of decision, and then we pay for it in the long run.
So all I point out to the minister is that this has cost us extra money to do it this way, I believe. So I'd like a copy of any analysis that was done to determine where they would put this particular extension.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We can certainly provide that for the member.
Ms. Duncan: I was just checking my notes and I don't appear to have it with me. Could I ask the minister just to advise on the portables at l'École Emilie Tremblay? Has there been a decision to move the portables or destroy or put them up for auction prior to the start of the school year?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No, that decision has not been made as of yet. What we are attempting to do is to ensure that we have the grade reorganization project well managed and that we have spaces for all the students. The site recovery work associated with the former l'École Emilie Tremblay portables that will become the new Christ the King Elementary School will be dealt with after the next school year starts.
Ms. Duncan: Could I just ask the minister to clarify "after the next school year starts"? Presumably, that's once the enrollment has settled down and we know what the approximate numbers are. Is it possible that we might see the removal of these portables prior to October or November, if the snow is as late as that, prior to the snow?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm not making a commitment for a time frame for removing those portables. As I just said to the member, we want to keep them on the site for the present time. That issue will be dealt with after the next school year begins.
Capital Maintenance Renovations in the amount of $565,000 agreed to
On Property Management
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This is a continuation for a second year of the facilities management agreement with Government Services. This property management line item includes such jobs as snow removal, ground maintenance and general maintenance of buildings.
Ms. Duncan: I received a detailed list of where those funds are being allocated to the schools, and I appreciate that from the department. Unfortunately, there's not a clear preventive maintenance program for our schools or our government buildings and, if the minister wishes, perhaps we can carry on this debate in the Government Services budget.
I am concerned, though, that we seem to repair schools as required rather than having a long-range game plan or systematic approach whereby we go through each school each year and say, "Yes, this is the list of not just the immediate repairs but ensuring the longevity of the schools." I raise this not from having reviewed the list and saying, oh, they're missing such and such an item, but I say this from hearing that concern from parents and school council members - that it's on an as-required basis as opposed to a preventive maintenance type of program.
I'd just like to ask the ministers, if I could, to address that question.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have to say that I don't agree with the member on her proposition that there isn't preventive maintenance work. We just approved capital maintenance renovations of $565,000 in the previous line item, and $625,000 in this line item for property management, which covers operation and maintenance of buildings and grounds maintenance.
There are ongoing repairs such as window and door replacements, floorings, painting - the department doesn't wait until the paint is falling off the school before there's painting taking place. A lot of the work that is being done in these line items is regular, ongoing maintenance work, in order to keep facilities in a state of good repair, and it's in the budget each and every year, so the monies are there every year for ongoing capital maintenance repairs and improvements.
Property Management in the amount of $625,000 agreed to
Mr. Phillips: I wonder if the minister would permit any questions on the student recognition paper that she passed out. I know we're in capital, but we just received this document and I do have some questions about it.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I would submit that we should proceed through the capital budget, which are the line items that we're on and we can certainly return to that subject, perhaps in general debate.
Mr. Phillips: We're finished general debate, but I just want to make sure. I mean I don't mind doing it after we finish the capital, but I do want an opportunity to ask the minister some questions about the document.
Education Support Services in the amount of $2,320,000 agreed to
On Public Schools
Chair: Is there any general debate on public schools?
Mr. Phillips: We just had an opportunity - we just got this about five minutes ago, and I've just been going through it rather quickly. I'd like to ask the minister a couple of questions about it.
It says 500 households randomly selected in the population of Yukon secondary school students will be surveyed by mail and asked to complete the questionnaire. Are all grade 12 students going to get it, or is it just going to be this random selection of 500 students?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, a random selection of 500 students is covering a considerable portion of the Yukon student population.
Mr. Chair, what I'd like to offer to do for the member is to make available a technical briefing where I can be in attendance as well, or he can go over these papers with these officials and raise questions there, and we can ensure that I can respond to them. It seems that some of his questions are going to do with fine details and I might not have those answers with me today. I'd like to proceed with the capital budget.
Mr. Phillips: That's fine, Mr. Chair, but I think when the minister comes into this House and tables a document on the floor of the House, the minister should be prepared to defend it. I mean, that is the minister's job. Is the minister telling us that she's here today with this document but doesn't have the details of the document, because I would hope that isn't the case?
Mr. Chair, I'm prepared to take some more time to read this document myself, because we just received it, and take the minister up on her offer of a more detailed briefing, but I would want it fairly soon.
The only question that I would have for the minister now is: is this survey - I guess it's going out immediately - being distributed right away, and is it in the hands of school councils now? Maybe the minister can fill us in on some of those details.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, as I indicated to the member opposite in response to his questions on this subject last week, the papers were made available to the school council chairs on Saturday at their meeting. The paper is now being made aware to all school principals. There is a survey to parents and students, and there will be an ad in both English and in French in the newspapers inviting people to participate. There is also a list of organizations that are receiving this document, including the Liberal education critic and the Yukon Party education critic, who received it this afternoon at their request that they would receive it as soon as it was made public at the school council chairs meeting. So, I will come back to him with answers to his questions, and I will certainly ensure that a technical briefing is made available to him some time this week.
Chair: Any further general debate?
On Facility Construction and Maintenance
On F.H. Collins School Upgrading
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This is for upgrading multiple projects at F.H. Collins School, including upgrades to change rooms, electrical service and exiting code renovations.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I just have a general question as to how F.H. Collins got to the top of the list. Is this again a result of grade reorganization? I mean, in all of the school facilities studies, there are lists and lists and lists of repairs needed on all the schools and there is an inordinate amount being spent on F.H. Collins. Is this strictly a result of grade reorganization or was there some other method by which F.H. got to the top of the list?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: These are renovations that are needed at F.H. Collins School. The member, just a few moments ago, was encouraging us to make sure that our preventive and ongoing maintenance was done on our schools and that's what part of this upgrading is for F.H. Collins.
As members know, as well, next year F.H. Collins will have an increased population because they're adding two more grades to the school. So, it's a combination of factors that have resulted in this amount of money being spent on multiple projects on F.H. Collins.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it's a large sum of money and my concern is that we are upgrading as opposed to examining options for a new facility. I'm not standing here advocating that F.H. Collins should necessarily be the first among the new facilities to be built; however, it was discussed during the election campaign. My question is that there must have been a conscious effort to repair and renovate as opposed to construct, and I would just like some background as to how that decision came to be.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: F.H. Collins is the largest high school in the territory. They are anticipating as many as 1,100 students will be registered there next year. It's not particularly surprising that the largest public school in the territory would require the largest budget for upgrading.
As the member has said, it's also an older school. We're presently in the midst of an enormously expensive capital construction project at Porter Creek Secondary School as part of the grade reorganization projects. It's simply impossible to look at something as costly as two new high schools in the same time frame. So, consideration for replacement of F.H. Collins, given the very high capital cost of such a facility, was not something that we planned to do in this year or the immediate future.
Ms. Duncan: That is my point. Walking into F.H. Collins School, you can't roll a bowling ball down the hallway and have it accelerate on a steady slope, like you can in the Ross River school. F.H. Collins is not, at first glance, apparently in need of repair, like some of the other schools and, in some cases, like Ross River, it's a reconstruction issue.
All I wanted from the minister is some background as to why this amount, and are all of these repairs absolutely necessary in the immediate future? Is the department, in fact, by this amount of repairs, extending the life of F.H. Collins by 10 or 15 years, until we can afford a new, second high school? I'm just asking for more background information on how this decision was reached.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There's a considerable list of recommended projects, with varying levels of priority, contained in the F.H. Collins facility study. Most of the renovations that are being done this year in this line item relate to the F.H. Collins facility study. That includes the exiting and code renovations, change rooms upgrade, electrical service upgrade, stage electrical panels, stage flooring and PA system upgrade.
Mr. Jenkins: I would like to explore with the minister the total package that is being undertaken in maintenance. Has the department adopted a standard for uniform lighting throughout the classrooms and has the department adopted a standard for uniform air handling, air movement and air exchanges throughout the schools?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: That is being addressed through the energy management program. We did have debate about some of the energy savings and energy management programs in previous line items.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, but we're back into costs being incurred in these areas, so it is open for discussion once again. There is a great disparity among the schools with respect to a uniform standard for lighting in the classrooms and, with the advent of energy programs and energy-saving programs, lighting standards are being reduced in some of the rural schools. In a lot of cases, they do not conform to the engineered standards for that school. The same goes for air handling and air exchange. There's such a wide disparity among the schools in the Yukon that I'm amazed that the department hasn't addressed this by adopting a uniform standard throughout their schools for lighting and for air handling.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We do encourage all schools to participate in the conservation action plan. Education now has an active energy management plan, which has resulted in significant savings in six pilot schools. An expansion of that plan to all interested Yukon schools has been approved.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, but it still doesn't answer the question, Mr. Chair. Has the department insisted upon adopting a uniform standard, acceptable for lighting in the classrooms and air handling in the respective schools? We are skirting the issue, and the minister is not prepared to answer. It is a technical question, and if she doesn't have the answer to it, she can bring it back by way of legislative return.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Technical information has been provided to schools, according to the energy management plan. I can get a written response for the member's question regarding air handling and lighting.
Ms. Duncan: I just seek some clarification from the minister. I just referred to my technical briefing notes, and I note, under grade reorganization-other schools, which is a further line item, there's $3 million identified, of which there's $365,000, $270,000 and $7,000 that is just F.H. Collins, and there's $650,000 in F.H. Collins upgrading. In fact, we are apparently spending $1.3 million, at quick calculation - that's provided that my math teacher from F.H. Collins did a good job - on F.H. Collins. How much of an extension of the life of this school are we getting for that money?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: First of all, I'd like to indicate the difference between this line item and the budget line item for Whitehorse grade reorganization-renovations-other schools, which is coming up shortly. There is, in fact, money for renovations for 1997 under the grade reorganization line item, and that is for improvements related to the expansion of the school. When we come to that line item, I'll give further details on them.
The upgrading work that is in this line item is related to improvements identified in the F.H. Collins facility study and are aimed at extending the life of the building. I can't give the member an exact number, but I would point out that the amount of money we're spending on F.H. Collins is a tiny fraction of the replacement cost of the building. It's part of that preventive maintenance work that she was offering support for a few moments ago, and something that we think is important in order to keep the school up to code while it's still being used to educate a large number of high school students in the Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: Could I just ask the minister, then, are we looking at, rather than an exact figure, a ballpark of 10, 15, 20 years? Do the department officials have any idea how long we can expect to make use of this facility?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'll bring an answer back to all of the questions that the member has just asked relating to the F.H. Collins expenditures. I don't have an exact number to give her here on my feet at this time.
F.H. Collins School Upgrading in the amount of $650,000 agreed to
On Modular Classrooms
Ms. Duncan: I believe I asked that question in technical briefing and was told that one modular classroom was to be moved from Elijah Smith to Hidden Valley Elementary School. Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: That's correct, Mr. Chair. I can identify the expenditures for the members as we go through the line item and then, if they have any questions, they can ask them.
Modular Classrooms in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Special Needs Infrastructure
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This line item is for special needs washrooms and other improvements at Johnson Elementary School in Watson Lake, and miscellaneous projects.
Special Needs Infrastructure in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Whitehorse Grade Reorganization - Porter Creek Secondary School
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This is the largest expenditure within facility construction and maintenance in the capital budget this year. This line item is for completion of the main building construction project at Porter Creek Secondary School. It also includes monies for completion of the site work, upgrading of parking and bus access, and the purchase of furniture and equipment.
Mr. Phillips: Can the minister tell me - this, I guess, is continuation of work that was ongoing there already. Do they have to re-tender any more of this work or is this one contractor and part of an overall tender package of $3-plus million of a contract? Is there one general contractor doing all of the reconstruction? Who is it, and what's the total cost of the contract?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would have to get my notes on that, but I can tell the member that currently there is one general contractor. I believe there's a second, smaller contract. As the member is aware, this contract was re-tendered during the process because of some difficulties earlier with the previous contractor in terms of being able to fulfill the job requirements. So the second contractor came in. When the second contractor came on, naturally there was a lag in ordering materials. In this case, the primary problem was one of structural steel.
Since he came into the process later, he had to order the steel, and delivery questions and things of that nature. I can provide the same rather convoluted and very detailed chronology of this project for the member that I've offered to the Member for Porter Creek South.
Mr. Phillips: I'd prefer a clear explanation rather than the convoluted one that they gave to the Member for Porter Creek South, Mr. Chair.
What I was really wondering is: has the general contractor the contract for the whole project, including this $3,451,000, or is there going to be a re-tender or a new tender of any of this $3,451,000?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As the member will recognize, the Department of Government Services, property management, is managing the project for the Department of Education. Officials are looking for the tendering information for the Minister of Government Services.
Mr. Phillips: The minister doesn't have to provide that now. What I would like from the minister is just sort of a status report of where we're at now, and if there's any more tendering to be done of the $3,451,000, and what aspect of the project that is. I don't need that right now; if I get that some time this week that's fine.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can provide that on actually fairly short notice. When we have a break, I'll try to go up and grab that.
Ms. Duncan: Could I ask the Minister of Government Services, I don't yet have my convoluted explanation about the tendering. Could I simply have a date when students will be in classes. He may have given this to me in debate on Thursday, and I might have forgotten. But, could I just have that restated for the record.
Also, could I have his assurance a member of the building advisory committee from Porter Creek Secondary School council is still meeting with Education and Government Services.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I apologize for not getting that to the member, but I did ask the department to send a copy of that note over.
I'm just sort of thinking off the top of my head, but I believe the dates for the gym and the administration aspect, I think, are due for school opening, and I believe the full classroom component is by November, and - I'm not sure, I'd have to check the date - I think the 15th springs to mind.
I would assume that since the project is still ongoing that there are regular contacts between the school council and the project manager, but I can also follow up on that.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the minister for that.
With respect to the operation of Porter Creek Secondary School as an education facility while this construction is going on, have the concerns of the administration - if there are any in this respect - been dealt with? I hate to use this word, but do we have a contingency plan?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: My understanding is that of course it will be somewhat constrained, but my understanding is that the school is able to accommodate the situation presently. That was my major concern in this project, and that's the question I kept pushing with our department, because I didn't want us to find ourselves in a situation of being unable to accommodate students. I've been assured, and I presume this comes from the school, that they can accommodate, in the interim, the obvious crowding that is going to on, but given the fact that this school will come on stream in November, I think they are relatively reassured that they can deal with this in the short term.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, then for the record, there is no indication that there would be temporary facilities or portables moved in. They are simply going to juggle around the construction - is that the correct understanding?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There was an update that went out to parents not too long ago that was in the newspapers and it indicated that a number of measures are being put in place to ensure the smooth operation of the school in the event that a delay occurs in the completion of the construction project. All students will be accommodated at the Porter Creek Secondary School site. Sufficient teaching areas have been identified to meet full programming requirements. The two modular classrooms, which were scheduled to be removed from the site this summer, will remain until the construction project is complete. I hope that sufficiently answers the member's questions.
Whitehorse Grade Reorganization - Porter Creek Secondary School in the amount of $3,451,000 agreed to
On Whitehorse Grade Reorganization - Renovations - Other Schools
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This is the balance of renovations associated with Whitehorse grade reorganization. It includes both renovations and furniture and equipment for Christ the King Elementary, Christ the King Secondary and F.H. Collins Secondary.
Earlier, members asked for a breakdown of the renovations for F.H. Collins. This includes a science lab, expansion of the library, conversion of the computer technician labs, conversion of the ACE classroom to grade 8 and 9, and conversion of the industrial art short to a home economics room.
Whitehorse Grade Reorganization - Renovations - Other Schools in the amount of $3,000,000 agreed to
On Various School Facilities Alterations
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The bulk of this money is for school-initiated renovations. This is an ongoing program to improve instructional services and administrative space in all Yukon schools.
Various School Facilities Alteration in the amount of $350,000 agreed to
On Chief Zzeh Gittlit School Replacement
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I almost feel as if we've debated this line item. Even though we haven't come to it before, there has certainly been considerable discussion of the subject of the Chief Zzeh Gittlit School replacement.
As members know, in January the school burned down and at the present time students are being housed in temporary classrooms. The money in the budget for this year is for planning and design for replacement of the school in Old Crow.
Mr. Phillips: I asked this question of the minister earlier and I think the minister was going to bring it back. What amount of insurance are we expecting to get out of the school? Have we heard anything more on the insurance, first of all?
Secondly, could the minister provide us with an update on the temporary classrooms? I know they moved into a couple of them. There were still a couple more they were working on. Does she have any kind of an update on the hauling of the gravel for the new foundation for the school and whether we're going to be proceeding this year with much work on the school?
I know it has only been a couple of weeks since we talked about it, but still, a couple of weeks could make a big difference up there if there's a decision that has been made by the First Nation band council on the approach they want to take. So, maybe the minister could just sort of give us a wrap-up of where we stand, as of this date with the Old Crow school.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Just on the question of the insurance, I spoke with the department this morning to find out a few more details on this.
The school had an insurance value of, I believe, $4.5 million. Now, there's also a deductible on that and whether or not that's what we'll realize out of this project...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I
believe that the deductible is somewhere in the range of $1 million; however, there may be some other factors involved in terms of what kinds of restrictions the insurance policy has on it. We're still waiting to hear from the adjusters again. They've done one trip up there and they're going to be getting back to us.
There are a couple of caveats on how this money can be used in terms of do we proceed with the rebuilding. Does the insured proceed with it? Are there some requirements that we have to begin with in a certain time frame - I believe it is two years - or, at least, commence the procedure. As well, there are, I believe, some outstanding issues with regard to the teacherages - whether the teacherages are considered to be part of the project, or are they separate?
So, there are still some outstanding issues. We're waiting to hear from the insurance adjusters on this. Then I would hope to have something. I had hoped to have something more definitive early this week, but, as yet, we're still waiting.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I was going to answer your other question. Do you want to follow up with that?
Mr. Phillips: I do want to follow up on the insurance issue. I guess I'm a little surprised that we haven't gone a little further along with that, only because of the urgency of replacing the school and the need to see that money flow through to us, if there is any, indeed, as quickly as possible.
My concern is - I was in Old Crow a month or two ago, and there's nothing left, so the insurance adjusters haven't got much to look at, other than a pile of ashes and few pieces of metal sticking out of the ground. Really, the discussion probably just revolves around what the insurance policy says and what the fine print is. We all know what happens with that from time to time, but I would hope that the government would put a lot of resources toward that and come up, in the next month or so, with a pretty firm position on where we stand and whether we do or don't have a case.
If we don't have a case, I guess there are all kinds of questions about why we had insurance in the first place. You insure a place in case it burns down and that's exactly what happened, and there should be some money flowing. Maybe the government can discuss with the insurance company some of the other outstanding issues, but, certainly, a large proportion of the insurance policy could flow now.
The building is gone. If it was insured for fire, then I would think that the discussions wouldn't take that long. If they wanted to talk about the teacherages and those other issues, I guess that could be sorted out, but I think the government could come to some sort of a resolution on the percentage of the insurance now, and that money could flow directly into some construction in Old Crow or some existing work, and it wouldn't necessarily be a drain on our resources in a new supplementary.
I just pass that on to the minister. It burned down a few months ago and there couldn't be much of an assessment for the adjusters to do up there, other than to go up and verify, with their own eyes, that there isn't anything left other than the teacherage, and get on with discussing the fine print. I would hope that they would get on with it and come to a resolution fairly quickly. As soon as they do, I wonder if the minister could provide me with the position that we took and the position that they took and what resolution we ended up with over the matter.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Certainly, I could provide information to the member.
As tempting as it is to dump on insurance companies, I will refrain from that, but I can say that they probably have a number of issues surrounding how they're perceiving it. For example, I think there are probably questions around whether it will be built in the same locale, what kind of materials, et cetera. I think there are a whole variety of issues for them and we are working very diligently to try and get this resolved and, as the member has noted, get the money flowing as soon as possible.
So, I will try to provide, as soon as possible, some kind of information in that regard.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: With regard to the member's other questions on information regarding Old Crow school facilities, three classrooms are now complete. The classrooms in the forestry building, the library and the old post office are being used, and the students are in classrooms there. There is a need for more space, and it has been agreed with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation that we'll prepare a fourth classroom over the summer, which will be available for use, not just as a classroom, but as a meeting area for teachers, and some storage space.
Mr. Phillips: What was the total cost of the three that are rebuilt now and the anticipated cost of the fourth? Was that money all in the budget - in last year's budget and in this year's budget - or are we anticipating the bills to sort of roll in a month or two from now, and then we're going to have to add this into a supplementary at a later date?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We are still getting bills in, and this is also linked to the insurance questions that the member was posing to the Government Services minister, because a portion of the insurance would cover temporary renovations. Because the bills are still coming in, we don't have a final figure yet, but we'll make that available for the member when we have it. Because the school burned down in January, there was no money in the budget for either the temporary classrooms or replacements. We're attempting, as much as possible, to cover expenditures within the Department of Education budget.
Mr. Phillips: I know that they moved very quickly to try and set up temporary classrooms, but I'd like to know from the minister - and probably it would be the Government Services minister - what portion of the temporary classroom cost the insurance policy would pick up. Would it pick up the whole 100 percent of the cost, or 10 percent, or 50 percent? What did our insurance policy say about that? Maybe the minister could provide that information as well.
Also, I understand the contract was sole-sourced to the Old Crow First Nation, and I believe they did it. Could the minister confirm that? The minister told us they're expecting the final one to be done this summer, I believe.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We are keeping a full record of every expenditure related to the temporary classrooms in the Old Crow school. The exact amount of the insurance coverage for temporary classrooms - I'll have the Government Services people prepare and make available when we do have that.
There was an agreement entered into with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation for them to project manage the renovations for temporary classrooms.
Mr. Phillips: What discussions have taken place and what does the government plan with respect to building a new school? What kind of tendering process does the government anticipate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We haven't come to discussing the issue of how the school would be tendered at this stage. We're in preliminary discussions with the community of Old Crow. We're working with the community to ensure that they are involved in the building design phase. Normally, that's done with a building advisory committee.
So, I can't give the member an answer to his question about tendering of schools since this line item is simply for $500,000 for planning and design, and that work is only just beginning now, at the beginning of the fiscal year.
Mr. Phillips: The reason I raised the question is that I have had some contractors contact me with respect to capital projects this summer and they are concerned about capital projects and when they're going to be tendered and the timeliness of the tendering. I pointed out that there is no money in this budget for the replacement of the Old Crow school at the present time, but that may change, depending, I suppose, on whether they gather the gravel this spring and whether they make quite a few decisions with respect to how far they'll go or how far they'll get along this year. I know that local contractors are interested in having an opportunity to bid on the project, so I just pass that on to the minister. The sooner they can let the contracting industry know that there may be some work in Old Crow, the better people can plan and prepare for submitting a bid proposal.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I appreciate the member advising me of those concerns. We've also talked to the members of the contracting community and will be ensuring that their concerns are respected.
In Old Crow, we want to take full advantage of any opportunity for local hire and for training of local residents. That was something that was built into the renovations project, and that we would be attempting to build into construction projects as well.
Ms. Duncan: During the technical briefing, I asked if the plans for Hidden Valley and Holy Family schools had been submitted to the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation for their consideration, and I understood that, yes, those designs were indeed provided to the Vuntut Gwitchin and that members from that First Nation had an opportunity to tour these schools. Does the minister have a sense of whether or not Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation might be considering these designs?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, I believe that they are considering those plans, which they have had copies of. They've also expressed an interest in touring some of the schools in the Whitehorse district when they are able to come to Whitehorse, so that they can take a look at what has been done in the capital city.
Ms. Duncan: So then their tour of Whitehorse facilities has not yet taken place. The minister is confirming that that is the case.
Focusing on the previous member's question with respect to planning by the contracting community, the Minister of Government Services and I touched on this briefly. I understand that a Yellowknife firm by the name of Ferguson, Simek and Clark was in partnership with the Vuntut Gwitchin in Fort McPherson, and they did a design/build for their school. A design/build contract would, in effect, alter the options for the contracting community in Whitehorse.
Could the minister provide us with information on that? Is there a design/build contract being contemplated?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We do not have formal proposals before us for any Old Crow school at the moment. The community is looking at various options. I know that when the school burned down there were people from Fort McPherson who flew into Old Crow the next day and were offering advice on their experience with their school having burned down. So I know that there are close links between Fort McPherson and Old Crow, but there has been no decision of that nature undertaken.
Ms. Duncan: Could I just ask the minister to confirm for the record then that the only consideration, if you will, for the design of the Old Crow school is that we, where possible, maximize local hire, and at this point, there's no other real decisions about that school that have been made in terms of a design, in terms of any plans at all?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member is correct that a primary consideration for both the department and for the community is that local hire opportunities are maximized, and, as well, that training for local residents is an important consideration.
There has also been verbal discussion about a school site, but there has been no formal written agreement.
Chief Zzeh Gittlit School Replacement in the amount of $500,000 agreed to
On Distance Education
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: These are funds for establishing computer, fax and telephone links with rural schools to facilitate the delivery of specialized high school courses in small rural schools.
Mr. Phillips: Does the minister have a list of the schools that they're doing this in, and maybe if they could just bring us - I don't need it right away - a list of the schools that we've carried this project out in in the past, say, four or five years?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I believe that this is a continuation of an initiative that was first taken on in 1996-97, so I'll go back and find what information I can for the member. I know that part of this work is looking at the results of the pathfinder pilot programs being run at F.H. Collins and Del Van Gorder schools.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, it would be useful for this item - and we probably should have asked this in our technical briefing - in the future, that they let us know exactly what they're doing in the various schools and what equipment they're purchasing and how it links up to other schools.
Ms. Duncan: The minister mentioned, when she introduced this item, specialized courses, and I didn't hear her mention which courses those were. Could I ask her to elaborate on that please?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'll bring back written answers to the member's questions on that.
Distance Education in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Instructional Equipment
On School Based Equipment Purchase
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: These funds are provided annually to permit individual schools to purchase new and replacement instructional equipment and furnishings. The school purchases are part of the school plan, which is approved by the school council.
Ms. Duncan: I note that this is a decrease. There's a percentage, a change, and I'm concerned that there may be an increased need for fundraising on the part of school councils. We discussed this earlier - about a policy - in our Education budget debate. Does this line item meet all the needs as expressed - as near as possible, of course?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The decrease in the line item this year is largely to do with the fact that in the previous budget year there were a very large number of one-time purchases to do with grade reorganization.
School Based Equipment Purchase in the amount of $500,000 agreed to
On Special Education
On Special Education Equipment
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This funding is used to provide for specialized equipment for students with special needs, such as limited mobility, sensory impairments and communication disorders.
Special Education Equipment in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
Public Schools in the amount of $8,671,000 agreed to
On Advanced Education
Chair: Is there any general debate?
On Yukon College Capital
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This project represents the capital funding for Yukon College. The College Board of Governors determines allocation of the funds.
Yukon College Capital in the amount of $750,000 agreed to
On Yukon College System Upgrade
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This is for phase one of a two-year systems upgrade for the college to enable them to provide accurate and integrated information for student tracking and cost control.
Mr. Phillips: This is more of a comment than anything else. I had an opportunity to go back to Yukon College this spring, and I signed up for a computer course. After wrestling with my computer for about four or five years and having the computer getting the best of me, I decided I would try and learn something about it.
I have to say that I very much enjoyed the program that was put on - computer fundamentals - by Glenys, our instructor. She has a special way of helping you understand computers. I now have the computer only a little bit ahead of me.
It is an extremely useful tool, and it was a very good program. I spoke to many of the students that were in that course, and I think it's a very good course, and it is certainly helping us keep up with today's technology.
I certainly support the systems upgrade of this kind of equipment in our college. It's one of those things that, if you buy a computer today, it seems to be obsolete tomorrow. I think it's a master plan by the computer industry to keep us all spending our money. Certainly, the technology changes almost as we're on our feet speaking here today, but I do support these kinds of expenditures.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Thank you, Mr. Chair. That's music to my ears.
Yukon College System Upgrade in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
On Training Trust Funds
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The details of the training trust funds were outlined in the budget speech. This money includes $200,000 that's been set aside for a Youth Works trust fund. I gave further details of that in the ministerial statement a couple of weeks ago. As well, there's $300,000 for a mine training trust fund. The balance of the fund will be used to establish training trust funds for emerging needs.
Mr. Phillips: Maybe the minister could explain a little clearer for us what "emerging needs" are? It's kind of a broad term and it is half a million dollars. When they put this line item in the budget, they didn't just put it in there as a - heaven forbid the words - "slush fund". They had some idea of where they were going to go with it. What is the minister looking at?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Some of the needs that we're considering when we put money aside for training trust funds include, beyond mine training and Youth Works, looking at what has been successful in the past. There have been a number of community trust funds set up as those that were previously set up for Ross River and Watson Lake. In fact, both of those communities have applied for continuation of their trust funds.
As well, it could cover labour market trust funds for areas such as forestry. We are looking at reviewing the Yukon training strategy, working with the Department of Economic Development and the local hire commission, to look at ways that we can diversify the economy, and that might lead to training trusts in other sectors that don't have funds available to them now.
As the members may be aware, previous trust funds include land claims training trust fund, the Northern Carpenters and Allied Workers training trust fund, and there is a Tourism Industry Association training trust fund.
Those are some of the kinds of initiatives that have been supported and that we would be looking at.
Mr. Phillips: The last one the minister mentioned is near and dear to my heart. I would suggest that that is a scenario that the minister look seriously at. I know that there is some tourism training that goes on now at the college, but there is a need in the industry for more tourism training, especially in some of the outlying communities. So, it would be something that I think the industry itself would look very favourably upon if they were to expand the tourism training and upgrading in some of the other communities in the Yukon.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I appreciate the member's support for that. I would just advise him that the current amount for the Tourism Industry Association training trust fund is $300,000, and both the Department of Education and the TIA board are involved.
Mr. Phillips: That's good, and I applaud the minister for that, and those were initiatives that were started under previous governments, but I urge the minister to look at the Yukon's second largest industry, especially an industry that has the highest potential for growth in this territory, and maybe put some more funds into that area to improve the quality of service. That's what the markets are telling us all about. People are now looking for high quality service when they travel on a holiday. We could look at improving our training and improving our service in those areas. I think it would be money well spent.
Ms. Duncan: I would like the minister to elaborate, if she could, on - to borrow my colleague's phrase - the legislative costs for these training trust funds. Under what piece of legislation, if you will, are they administered? I have some more detailed questions on that, but we could start there.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As I indicated to the previous questioner, there are a number of training trust funds presently in effect that have been established by either the previous New Democrat administration or the previous Yukon Party administration.
There is not a piece of enabling legislation needed in order for the Association of Yukon Communities training trust fund, for example, to exist. The trust fund accounts are set up and there is normally a joint governance with the Yukon government and other agencies that are involved, whether it's the Tourism Industry Association or AYC, who administer the funds.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, that's my concern, if I could express it to the minister in that way and that I can see us ending up with different pots of money in all sorts of different places and no real commonality in the way that they're administered or who deals with them, save to say that perhaps one particular department might be involved in several. I'm concerned that we need this sort of a common entry point, if you will, for accessing training trust funds. I raise that as a concern and suggestion for the minister that there should be a common ground.
I'm also concerned about the timeliness with this joint governance. I understand, in my experience with the tourism training trust fund, for example, it's taken some time for industry to be able to access that and use it as fully as it should be. Is the department addressing these sorts of concerns?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, I know the member is referring to the TIA training trust fund, and on November 1st, 1996, both the Yukon government and Canada gave TIA approval to amend its agreements with its trustees to give the executive of TIA more control over this trust. The trust has a new board of directors and they are now ready to proceed with their training program.
I appreciate the member's concerns and we will take them into account. I would, however, like to inform members that the training trust funds that have been established in the past have been largely very well received. As an example, the Watson Lake training trust fund provided a source of revenue for people from Watson Lake and Liard Basin area to receive training for economic opportunities.
When it was first established, there was an initial contribution of $500,000 and, over the period of time that the trust fund expended monies by having a community-directed board, they were able to go out and, in partnership with the college and in partnership with government agencies and with local businesses, lever another over $1 million from other funding sources in order to provide training to meet local needs.
So, we certainly appreciate that there needs to be accurate accounting and some certainty as to how training trust funds are administered, but I also wanted to know that they can be very successful for the communities.
Mr. Phillips: Well, that's true. Some of them have worked very well, but the minister should not forget that there are some that haven't worked that well.
I can remember being the Minister of Education responsible for Yukon College when there was a trust fund set up, as a training program, to finish the residence, I believe it was, at the time. I think the carpenters union handled that and it turned into a real fiasco in the end, and the government had to step in and pick up the pieces.
There wasn't a real clear accounting process all the way through. So I think the minister should realize that they haven't all been a roaring success. I think people like training trust funds, but I think there is merit in making sure there is a true accounting process and accountability by the people who are handling the funds.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, we'll endeavour to ensure that there is sound accounting practices in place for all training trust funds.
Ms. Duncan: I'd just like to follow up some more on that suggestion and follow it through. Has there been any consideration given to centralizing, if you will, the administration of these funds from the Government of Yukon's perspective?
I'm just concerned that we can have five different trust funds with five different criteria, five different boards - which is understandable -administering them, but different criteria, different methods for accounting for them.
For example, I can see a member of the public going in to access funds on behalf of some community group and saying, "Well, no, you don't fit under here, but you might fit under there and you might fit under there," and being sent to half a dozen different government departments.
I would just like to re-emphasize that I think there should be some common point, from the government's perspective - these are taxpayers' dollars we're dealing with - that these trust funds are overseen.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I appreciate the member's comments and will certainly follow her suggestions. The training trust funds are all administered under the one line item and through the Department of Education, so there is a central point for accountability for the expenditures of those funds.
Where other departments are involved, Education makes sure that whoever is working with the training trust fund is represented there as well or that they're aware of the necessary criteria and accounting accountability practices that they need to use.
Training Trust Funds in the amount of $1,000,000 agreed to
Advanced Education in the amount of $1,950,000 agreed to
On Libraries and Archives
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The libraries and archives program provides public library and archival services to all Yukon people. This includes community libraries, and it maintains the preservation of Yukon government records in the archives.
Mr. Phillips: I wonder if the minister could explain the fairly significant decrease this year in the archives development projects. We're entering the centennial of the gold rush in the territory, and I would have thought this would have been a year where there would be all kinds of projects that would take place in the 1997 development and possibly 1998, in having them on display or touring or whatever in the territory, and I know the archives has a wealth of information with respect to the gold rush. I just wonder why there is a significant drop.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: If the member looks at the numbers in the book, the 1995-1996 actual was also considerably lower than the previous year. Last year marks the completion of a very expensive automation project, and you see a decrease reflected in the line item for this year.
There have been a number of anniversaries-related displays prepared that are being used, and there is money in the capital budget this year for further display preparation as well as conversion of film to video.
On Community Library Development Projects
Community Library Development Projects in the amount of $126,000 agreed to
On Archives Development Projects
Archives Development Projects in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
Libraries and Archives in the amount of $226,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the recoveries? Clear?
Are there any questions on the transfer payments? Clear.
Are there any questions on the multi-year capital projects?
Mr. Phillips: Can I get back to the transfer payments for one second? For the training trust funds, has the government issued a cheque for the whole $1 million to Yukon College? How much have we given them so far with respect to the training trust funds?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I do not believe that there has been a cheque issued to Yukon College for those funds yet. I can provide a written answer for the member.
Mr. Phillips: What I'm interested in is, the minister outlined a couple of funds that they've already started and the other $500,000 is for future suggestions of funds. I just want to know whether they've received any money at all and, if so, for what?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The $200,000 for the Youth Works training fund has not been expended. I will check for the member and see whether a cheque has been issued to Yukon College for the $300,000 for mine training. The other $500,000, I know there has not been any cheque issued for that.
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Education in the amount of $1,950,000 agreed to
Department of Education agreed to
Department of Finance
Chair: We will now turn to the Department of Finance. Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Department of Finance is requesting $3,936,000 for O&M purposes and $15,000 for capital.
Regarding the operation and maintenance, this is an increase of $24,000, or just under one percent, over the forecast expenditures for 1996-97, and about $80,000 less than the 1996-97 main estimate figure. The change from the forecast is largely accounted for by increases in printing as a result of the Queen's Printer costs now being carried out in government departments, in professional services, for a contract to examine Yukon's fiscal capacity under the new formula, and in banking costs as the accumulated surplus is drawn down.
These increases are largely offset by decreases in salaries due to the transfer of two individuals to departments as a result of changed procedures associated with the payroll portion of the human resource information system. The workers' compensation supplementary benefits program also declined as a one-time payment increased the 1996-97 forecast.
The department's capital spending is quite low, of course, amounting to $15,000 for several PCs and some sundry equipment.
There is little more that can be said, I guess, Mr. Chair. I know there are a number of significant issues and we can discuss them in general debate.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I thank the member for that overview of the department. I don't have a whole lot of questions on the Department of Finance because I believe that we canvassed most of them during the budget debate and I don't see any use in going back over those questions again.
I do have a few questions of a general nature before we get into line by line and one of them was relating to what the minister said. He said he would be able to come back to the Legislature during the Finance debate with a rough estimate of what the lapses would be for the 1996-97 fiscal year. Does he have that figure today?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, Mr. Chair, we've done an initial year-end variance report. We haven't done a final year-end variance, but the initial shows somewhat fewer lapses on the O&M side than I expected and about the same that I expected in capital.
The lapse, so far, shown with a couple of departments yet to report, is $884,000 in operation and maintenance. The capital lapses are $12,479,000. Of course, some of those will be revoted and some probably won't be, but whether or not they reflect a net change to the surplus for the year is not yet known until we make decisions with respect to revotes.
Mr. Ostashek: Can the minister tell us what departments haven't reported yet?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Department of Education, when I last checked, Mr. Chair, had not reported. They are still showing no variance of any sort, but I can get some up-to-date information for the member.
Mr. Ostashek: Health and Social Services always seems to have - not always - some fairly sizeable lapses in the operation and maintenance side. I guess from the understanding I get from the minister today, Health and Social Services has already reported and is calculated into the $884,000.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It appears that that may be the one department that has overexpended, in fact. I think that's the only department that has overexpended. Those figures aren't final, but I believe it did.
Mr. Ostashek: I know the figures are fairly rough yet, and I don't expect the minister to have every figure, but does he have any idea why they were overexpended in Health and Social Services? If he does, I would ask him to share it with the House.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The information we have right now, of course, is very preliminary. I could perhaps give a better explanation later on. If there is an overexpenditure, of course, it's going to have to come to the House in the fall. At that time, a detailed analysis can be given.
But apparently the hospital deficit from last year has been picked up, and there were some overexpenditures on the social assistance side, and those are two items that contributed to the overexpenditure.
Mr. Ostashek: I appreciate that it's very early yet after the year-end, and we don't have all the figures calculated. I guess I am somewhat surprised that the lapses in O&M were so small this year compared to what they've been in the last four years, but I'll get my head around that, once we get the final figures.
I just have a couple of other questions, and my colleagues have some.
The banking contract - when's it up for renegotiation again? Are we in the third year of it now, or are we in the fourth year?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This is the third year of the contract. It will be completed in another two years, and we'll probably begin preparing the tender call, or preparing our plans, in a year.
Mr. Ostashek: We, up to the time we left government, were fairly satisfied with the arrangement that we had with the Toronto Dominion. It seemed like there were substantial savings flowing to the taxpayers from tendering the contract. Is the minister aware of any problems that have come up, or is the department still happy with the service that's being provided by TD?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The department has expressed satisfaction with the way the contract has been performed by the contractor, the TD Bank, particularly so, of course, because the CIBC has retained its agencies in the communities where it had an interest. There are some flutters now and again as to whether or not the CIBC may be interested in pulling out of one community or another. That, of course, gets the juices flowing, and there are plans to determine what we would do in the event the CIBC did pull out of a particular community, but I think everybody knew that might be the case when the contract was switched from the CIBC to the TD Bank.
Mr. Ostashek: The department was sort of keeping track of the savings on the overall contract vis-ŕ-vis the old contract. Does the minister have a new figure today? I know the revenue-sharing portion of the contract has been fairly beneficial to the taxpayers of the Yukon, and I just wonder if we have an update on what the savings are.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I can get a more precise answer to the member's question. I'll ask Finance people to do the calculation. The savings that were projected are apparently a little more than what was anticipated initially, because there was an assumption that some agencies would have to be taken over as the CIBC pulled out. They have not pulled out, so consequently there is not a need to take over. The suspicion is that the savings are greater than that which was originally announced.
Mr. Ostashek: I have a policy question for the minister on the issue of banking. I know that in my experience as Finance minister, there were demands upon me and my government to expand the banking services into other rural communities, and I was reluctant to make a move in that direction because I just didn't feel that the base of support was there for them, and these are very costly exercises that cut into the government revenues even though we have realized some savings on the banking contract. We are still in a position that if CIBC at some point pulls out of these communities that have already been enjoying banking services, it would be very hard for the government to walk away and not do anything by stepping in, so I was very reluctant to expand the base of banking in rural Yukon.
Has the minister any thoughts about his government's policy? Is he looking to expand this to other communities that don't have it, or what is his feeling on providing banking in communities? I know some of the people in the communities look at it as an essential service, but we don't look at supplying groceries in the communities as an essential service, so I was very reluctant to expand banking. I'd like the minister's thoughts on it.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I was fortunate enough to be around, Mr. Chair, when the government decided to get into the business of encouraging banking service in rural communities and the establishment of the first banking agencies back in the late '80s, and I was very much a strong supporter in the government of those initiatives.
There are limits to what the government and the banking community can do, and there are limits to the costs associated with that. We obviously did encourage banking services in the main communities in rural Yukon and, certainly, I agree with the member that, if the CIBC pulled out of any one or more of those communities it is currently in, we would be hard pressed not to try to step in, through our contractor, to ensure that there were services. Having said that, expanding it to very, very tiny communities like Destruction Bay would be a very expensive proposition and I would be somewhat reluctant to proceed unless there was a full analysis done. I don't want to say no, but it would be a hard sell.
I should point out that we've received no request for expansion of banking services and I'm not going to go out and stir up expectations either.
Mr. Ostashek: I appreciate that and I realize, when the previous administration, of which the minister was a part, made the move in the rural communities, there was a need in some of those communities for banking services at any rate. I believe, by the fact that we went to tender for a contract that had a change of service delivery pointed out to us, the banks themselves felt that some of those communities were an asset to them because they weren't prepared to let them go even though they were no longer going to be paid for by the government. That was quite revealing in and of itself.
I'm glad to hear the minister's position on that because, nowadays, with more and more of the automated services that are happening and being able to do a lot of your banking by telephone and on the Internet now that's going into all communities, I believe there's less and less need for government expense to move into smaller communities.
One other question I have of a general nature right now on my mind is the new negotiation for formula financing, because 1998-99 is the last year of this agreement. My understanding in the past was that we were supposed to start negotiations a year ahead of time. We are now into that year where I believe that this government, with the minister in his capacity as Finance minister playing the lead role, will have to be entering into new negotiations once we have a new government in Ottawa.
Has there been any correspondence with federal Finance in regard to negotiations of the new formula financing agreement?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The has been no formal contact between my office and the federal minister's office on the subject, but there has been a lot of talk between the two northern territories about what might happen the next time around.
The last agreement, as the member may be aware, was not signed until very recently. I made a decision to sign the agreement, even though the Northwest Territories hadn't concluded all the outstanding items that they had identified, before the federal election, because I wasn't certain what was going to happen after the federal election. I would prefer to work with some security so that at least we are covered until the end of, I believe, March 1999.
The anxiety we have, of course - and I'm sure the member is aware of this - is that this formula agreement has been timed to end coincidental with the creation of Nunavut.
The suspicion is that there may be some wrong-headed thinking in federal circles that would cause the federal government to perhaps support the creation and maintenance of Nunavut on the backs of - in part at least, and perhaps a proportionately large part - the other two northern territories out of the so-called northern envelope.
We have taken the position and we are taking the position that that would be very, very unfair to the north and to the Yukon. Certainly, that is a very live concern in a number of circles and I want to ensure that our message is very clearly stated to federal officials that the creation of Nunavut, while perhaps a worthwhile federal objective - I'm not passing judgment on that at all, should not be borne out of expenditures to the north, including ours.
The costs in there - apparently, there are going to be very substantial costs associated with creating a new territorial government - should be borne on a pro-rata basis by the entire country.
Now, we've already seen - and the member has acknowledged when he was Finance minister - how the north can be treated separately and to our detriment when it came to the cuts applied some time ago to the established program financing and the old CAP program. When they were applied to us, they were applied at a higher rate and they were applied to a gross expenditure base as opposed to the formula grant - they were calculated on the basis of the gross expenditure base and then applied to the formula grant.
So, we are experienced in seeing different treatment being applied to the northern territories than that which is applied to the provinces, and we are very concerned that there may be some attempts to extract more resources from the other two northern territories to support Nunavut than would be fair. We're getting ready. That may be a debate. I'm hoping that we can get the new federal Minister of Finance to indicate clearly and strongly that this will not be a concern, but until we get some clear indication to the contrary, we're going to be preparing ourselves for that debate.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for that and the reason I raised it is because I'm very, very concerned for the same reasons the minister opposite is concerned, and that is because in discussions that I have had with federal Finance officials - while they don't come out and openly say it, they certainly allude to that fact that they still believe that northerners are looked upon too favourably financially by the federal government.
My major concern is - and it's the same as that of the minister - that we don't try to divide the financial envelope north of 60 into three pots instead of into the two that it's being divided into now, and that we pick up a portion of the cost of forming Nunavut, because it is going to be a very expensive process.
I, too, am not passing judgment on the constitutional yea or nay of forming another jurisdiction in Canada if that is the desire of the federal government or federal governments, because I realize it has been a combination of both the Conservative government and the Liberal government to make that move. The cost ought to be borne by the Canadian taxpayers and not by the people who are in the north.
So, I would urge the minister: perhaps now that there's an election campaign on, maybe he could get some political commitments from some of the parties running that if, in fact, they are re-elected, that will not happen.
We have to use every vehicle that is at our disposal. We do have a federal campaign on right now, and it may be beneficial for the minister, in his capacity as Finance minister and Government Leader, to be trying to extract some political commitments from the various parties as we go forward in this election.
I will let my colleagues ask more questions. The minister may want to respond to that - I don't know.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I agree with the member that our position should be that our physical proximity to Nunavut should not dictate how much we should be contributing, as Canadians, to the creation of it. I know that there are strong suspicions - and I think our suspicions are probably justified - that there are people in the federal government who feel differently.
We feel, clearly, that we are no different from the Province of Prince Edward Island, or any other province, when it comes to the financing of this territory; we should be treated no differently.
In terms of using the federal campaign, I'm still working on reversing the other issue that was raised, the CHST issue, with the federal government. I am hoping that we can get a letter or some formal statement from federal Finance that expresses very clearly that they are prepared to see that any new resources coming through the Canada health and social services transfer will be realized by the northern territories.
After the concern was raised in the Yukon - and, no surprise, the concern was also raised equally in the Northwest Territories, and well reported - we've heard from political offices that this will all be fixed and that we will see a savings. While I appreciate that gesture, I would like to have a letter from the minister, who is still the minister, that he acknowledges that we will see the savings associated with this promise for changes to their funding plans. When I get the letter, we will be more than happy to say, "Job well done."
Mr. Cable: The minister's deputy gave me a briefing on Friday and touched most bases. I would like to get a few points on the record, though.
On financial statements, which the minister has indicated he would provide the Opposition with on a periodic basis, I gather that period 13 - the end of the year - has a due date of May 6, and then the general ledger will be available May 13 to the departments and it will take a few days to check the information and put it in final form. That would mean that the period 13 statement, or variance report, as I think it's referred to, would be ready about the middle of the month. If, in fact, the House is sitting when it's ready, could we get a commitment from the minister to provide that to the Opposition?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Whether the House is sitting or not, I'll provide the information to the members opposite.
Mr. Cable: Now, one of the other points I raised with the deputy was the proposed, or the possible, amendments to the Financial Administration Act. We have debated this in the House before. It's been noted that the way the act is set up now it could act as an encouragement for year-end spending. I believe the view is that if the provisions for the draconian, in theory anyway, are removed, it will make for a more business-like way of spending over the whole course of the year. Could the minister confirm with the House the status of the Financial Administration Act amendments, or where his thinking is right at the moment? Is he just thinking about it, or is that going to be on the docket, maybe in the fall?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Clearly, to be perfectly honest with the member, I've been thinking about it for 15 years. I'm still thinking about it. I would be happy to sit down with members opposite to talk about what changes might be do-able. I think we all agree that it would be wise to have all-party agreement before we go into the House on any amendments to this fundamental constitutional-like piece of legislation.
So I'm still thinking about it, and I haven't come to a conclusion about what we would propose to do, but it is a problem. I was just mentioning to the Leader of the Official Opposition that we do expect there will be an overexpenditure from this past year - one. I'm hoping only one but, nevertheless, an overexpenditure and a breach of the Financial Administration Act.
I would prefer departments not be breaching the Financial Administration Act in that way, or be being seen, at least, to breach it, even though we are going to be going back into the Legislature, of course, with supplementaries and we'll be respecting the Financial Administration Act in another way. Clearly this continues to be a bit of a problem.
Year-end spending this year is a little bit better than last year. I don't know precisely the reasons for that, frankly. In the last quarter, we spent about a million dollars less in purchases and requisitions than we did last year, but I didn't do anything differently than my predecessor did, which is to send around a note saying, "Don't overspend in the last quarter." So I didn't do anything differently. I think he sent around a note in the same way to the same people.
So, there may have been other reasons why there was a slight decline but, certainly, I think we should be encouraging responsible spending throughout the year and a respect for the limits that are placed upon the departments by the Legislature.
Mr. Cable: The deputy was running over the pros and cons of a possible amendment, and I think a discussion such as was suggested by the minister would be useful.
Now, in the December debates, I believe it was on the supplementary budget, the minister indicated that the estimates would be based on the cautious side, with Faro down. So the question I would ask the minister now is, what does he, with whatever knowledge he has on Faro, think is going to happen in the rest of the year? Is it his considered opinion that Faro will, in fact, come back on stream this year?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is my belief that they will come back on stream within a few months - yes, indeed - and that will have an impact on both our revenues and some expenditures, both to the positive side and to the negative side on the expenditure side.
I expect that there will be some relief to the social assistance budget, but there'll be some expenditures on the Education side of the budget. There will obviously be some improvements on the revenue side of the budget, because we've calculated that this mine's not operating and people aren't paying taxes and are not paying what we'll call commodity fees, et cetera.
I think there'll certainly be a net positive impact on the budget itself if the mine goes back into operation. That's what we strongly suspect. But right now, whether or not the mine will go is an educated guess. I would say that the circumstances seem to be there for a mine opening. I've had meetings with Cominco and Hyundai. We've had analysis done which show that mineral prices are good, the mine is relatively debt free, there are tax pools available to investors which make it a very attractive prospect as an operating entity, the exchange rate for the Canadian dollar is relatively okay, there's a good trained workforce in Faro and there's a good exposed ore body. It seems like a pretty good prospect - better than most - and there's no reason why we shouldn't be anything other than optimistic.
I think the chances are very good that it will open. Precisely when, I don't know, but, as a betting person, I would think it would.
Mr. Cable: I put this question to the deputy, and unfortunately I haven't got a response, so perhaps we could go over that. I gather there would be a best case scenario calculated. Is there some sort of analysis on the order of magnitude of the improvement of the financial situation if all those things happened? You know, if Faro comes back on and the education costs go up and social assistance goes down and the payments from Ottawa work themselves through the transfer agreement, is there some rough estimate as to what the improvement in our financial situation would be - is it half a million or a million or ten million?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: In terms of the revenue side of the ledger, the member will remember that in November we handed out a projection of what the financial implications would be of a closure of the mine. If the member was to reverse those negatives and make them positives, then that would be as accurate an impression of what we think may happen as we can give the member.
On the expenditure side, I'm certain that we could give some indication of that. I don't have the figures here with me but, certainly it would be fairly simple to calculate, I imagine, if one were to canvas departments and get them to give a best case scenario. A lot would depend on precisely when the mine wants to re-start and at what level they are going to re-start. But, we could do a calculation, and if the member wants to see it done, we can try to do such a calculation for him.
Mr. Cable: The Minister of Economic Development had given me some information also. So, maybe that could all be lumped together. What I would like to see is what happens after the smoke clears, when the calculations are run through the transfer agreement a year from now or at the end of the next fiscal year. What would be the situation if the mine comes on in the near future?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We can try to provide a real response to the member and see what, perhaps on the assumption that the mining operation opens up in, say, July and the mill opens up a few months later.
Mr. Cable: I'd like to work through the mechanics of the debate that took place last week on the Canada health and social transfer, and I'll indicate what my notes show - I think they're complete. The Canada health and social transfer role in the Canada assistance plan and the EPF, and that was a result of the 1995 federal budget. Then there was the announcement of the reduction in future years, I believe commencing in 1997-98, if I remember correctly.
These reductions were fail-safe by virtue of the transfer agreement, and then, after that arrangement was put in place, Ottawa, I gather, did a double take because they had reduced the money going to the provinces, and if our arrangement was fail-safe then we would not be treated equally. So, what they did was reduce the gross expenditure base by five percent to make for equality with the provinces but, due to some mechanical problem with that calculation, our real cut was in excess of five percent.
Now what took place the other day during the campaign was the introduction of a rollback of the rollbacks, if I could call it that, and that triggered the opposite effect in the transfer agreement, so that the rollbacks were reduced dollar for dollar under the transfer agreement.
So, if one looks at the rollbacks by themselves, there's no net change, either in the beginning or the other day. But, there is the factor whereby the transfer payments were reduced to make up originally for the inequality in the treatments between the territories and the provinces.
That sounds like quite a mouthful, but have I captured the essence of the calculations?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: In essential terms, I'd say yes. When the federal government announced cuts to the CHST in, I believe, the 1995 budget, it worked out to roughly 4.4 percent for the provinces. They rounded that up to five percent for the Yukon and, unfortunately for us - the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, I believe - the five percent was not calculated on the basis of the transfer agreement to us, but on our gross expenditure base, and then applied to the transfer payment. That meant that we received a cut of around seven percent to the formula transfer. Now, that was sort of round number one and that worked out to about - as we all know - a $20-million cut.
Now recently, of course, the government announced the restoration of the cutback to the CHST, and had it been applied to the Yukon, it would have worked out to about just under $800,000 for the year 1998-1999, $1.5 million for the next year and the year after that, and about $1 million for the two subsequent years.
Now that of course, as the member noted, is fail-safe, which means that, had they restored that CHST payment, they would have deducted it from the formula financing agreement as per the agreement.
Now, when the issue was raised both here and in the Northwest Territories, there seemed to be a flurry of activity, I would say, in record time to point that out. I've never seen the federal government move quite so quickly to indicate that this whole thing could be fixed.
Now, the people who called indicated that, first of all, this was a campaign promise made by a candidate - Martin - but they failed to explain why they, operating out of departmental bureaucracies, were calling us to say that it would all be fixed. So, that's just an aside.
I have indicated to officials that if this is a formal proposal being made by the federal government and there is a need to state that the Yukon is going to be allowed the opportunity to benefit from this proposal, I should get a statement in letter form - as I got in the initial instance from the Prime Minister - either from the Prime Minister or the Minister of Finance saying that our situation will be covered.
In the absence of that statement, all we have at this point is functionaries saying that this can all be fixed, that can all be fixed, so please don't say anything more.
I would presume that, in the name of fairness, they will fix it. Given that we were dinged unreasonably in the first instance, to not even to be able to take advantage of the restoration of the cutbacks would be grossly unfair. So, I'm hoping that we will get a statement from the federal government in writing and, once we do, I will indicate publicly that it has been done and the Yukon will benefit from this federal move, whether it's by a candidate or a political party or by the federal government. I'm not certain who's talking, or who's speaking for whom but, whatever the case is, if there is a commitment made, we expect it to be a commitment honoured.
Mr. Cable: So, assuming that that takes place - that the cutbacks are restored and the transfer agreement is not triggered - if the transfer agreement trigger clause is relieved from the calculation, then that would take us back to the previous reduction, which I gather is seven percent, instead of 4.4 percent.
What we're talking about is an inequality in treatment as between the provinces and the territory of 2.6 percent. Have I got my head around the numbers correctly?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That's correct. If the federal government does, indeed, pass on this savings on the CHST, there will still be that inequity of 2.6 percent. If they don't pass along the savings, of course, then the inequity will be higher.
Chair: Is it members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We're dealing with the budget, Department of Finance. Is there further general debate?
Mr. Cable: Just to finish off the Canada health and social transfer calculation, the minister was making the point that the territory had been treated detrimentally to the extent of 2.6 percent. Now, the total reduction on the transfer payment, I gather, was about $20 million, so the issue then is that the territory was treated detrimentally to something of the order of $8 million or $9 million. Did I get the numbers approximately correct?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That is roughly correct, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Cable: On another topic, the Faro write-offs - with respect to the original $5-million loan - I guess they worked themselves all through the system, but there is some money lying around under the directors' trust fund. Has an analysis being made of how much is available under that directors' trust fund - that would be the Curragh directors - and whether we can anticipate a significant part of that $5-million loan being repaid?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, it's still considered an active file with the lawyers, Mr. Chair. I am unable right now to speculate as to whether or not there is a chance of getting any further funds or how much funds we could get, but certainly, the case is not considered closed by our legal counsel or by us.
Mr. Cable: On another topic, the rate relief financing, has the government got its collective head around where the funds are going to come from to continue the rate relief? Is any new money going to be required?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: To my knowledge, Mr. Chair, all rate relief has been funded through YEC profits. We have no plans to fund rate relief from general revenues or certainly to make them any expenditure through a vote in the House to support rate relief. It would be premature for me to be speculating at this point, given that rate relief public consultation hasn't even begun, as to what might happen in the future. There's certainly nothing in the budget.
Mr. Cable: On another matter relating to the Town of Faro, the money owing by the Town of Faro to the government, I gather, is, at least in part, locked into money borrowed at an interest rate that will permit repayment of money borrowed from the federal government, and that there is no way that the government can see reducing the interest rate on the Faro borrowings without digging into the territorial government pocket. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, Mr. Chair. The loans to Faro were open-market loans and we're not in the position to be able to refinance these loans without penalty. The interest payments are fixed. I've indicated to Faro and to all other municipalities that we would be prepared to consider the prepayment of loans, where there is no penalty and where the Yukon government would not have to pay a penalty, if municipalities, along with Finance, can devise a way to either retire the loans early or to renegotiate interest that does not cost the Yukon government. We would be prepared to play along with that.
I spoke with the Mayor of Faro recently, and I know that he is interested in further discussions with us about what might be done. He's aware of the general policy and he's not in disagreement with it. He would simply like to try to find what he can do to make for a better break for Faro. So, I understand that the mayor and council are trying to negotiate with the TD Bank for some relief. If we can work something out, then we will, but the basic policy of the Yukon government is to help but not to charge the Yukon taxpayer for that help.
Mr. Cable: I gather, then, the federal government has been approached and has indicated they're not prepared to make any concessions on the prepayment penalties?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We have asked, Mr. Chair, whether or not the loans for the Canada Pension Plan could be refinanced. We've not yet heard from the federal minister on the subject, so it would not be fair to say that they have rejected the proposal. They simply haven't responded at this point.
Mr. Cable: Are the mayor and council in Faro aware of the approach by the minister?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I believe so, but the loans to Faro were different from the loans secured through the Canada Pension Plan. These are open-market loans with private lenders. Consequently, presumably the interest rates are fixed, and presumably the private lender would not have much interest in renegotiating those rates if it was of advantage to the private lender and, likewise, would not be interested in prepayment if it's not of some advantage to the private lender.
So, in the case of Faro, we're stuck, but if the mayor and council can come up with some sort of creative solution to this, then we'd be prepared to work with them to try to seek some relief for the town.
Mr. Cable: Okay. On another topic, the Minister of Economic Development has indicated to the House that he expects a number of new mines to come onstream over the next few years. Has the stats branch, in conjunction with the minister's department and the Minister of Economic Development's department, done population increase estimates?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We're in Finance estimates right now, but because the stats bureau is with ECO, I will ask them whether or not they've done any calculations such as this. I'm not aware of such calculations.
Obviously, if some mines start up and Curragh, or Anvil Range - sorry, I sometimes refer to it as Curragh, or even Cypress Anvil; I'm a victim of history - if the Faro mine restarts and other mines start up, then presumably the population will grow further. It would be premature to speculate which mines would start up. I think the minister has indicated that Minto has a good chance of starting up shortly.
Whether other mines start up or whatever kind of operations they run will help determine what the population growth will be. As I say, whether or not anybody has actually done any analysis of - sort of a highly speculative analysis -what might happen, I'm not aware of it. If they have, I can share it with the member.
Mr. Cable: The reason I ask it in the Finance debate is that under the formula financing agreement, of course, there are some population provisions. I take it then, from what the minister has said, in the calculation of the future financial situation, there is no reference made to anticipated population increases - due to the mines, anyway.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think the way the formula financing agreement works is if new mines are going to start up in the next year or two years, it's likely that we won't really see an impact on the formula until after the mandate of this government is over, because the calculation is made, and the benefits are received, after the fact.
For example, if the mine starts up next year, we would probably be seeing benefits associated with an increased population a few years later. So, it will take some time for it to roll into the system.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I have a few more questions that came out of the debate today.
A colleague was asking about the ability to recover any more money on the Curragh situation in Faro. It may be useful if the minister - because this is spread over a period of years, the debt that was incurred, the loans that were defaulted on, the power payments that weren't made and then collected through the courts - could have his department put together a paper on the total outstanding liability that was there to start with, what we've collected back and what it cost us in legal fees over a period of time. I don't need it today. I just believe it would be useful to have that in the next few weeks.
In light of the Minister of Economic Development's statement today, we may be faced with the same scenario again. So, I think it would be important that we have an updated figure as to what we were able to recover and what it cost us to recover it, what's outstanding and is there any hope of collecting. I know it's on the books as a collectable; we haven't written it off, but what if we find out what is outstanding, then we can decide whether or not we'll ever be able to collect any more.
Does the minister believe he could come up with something like that without putting the department through too much work?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the member's suggestion, essentially, to do a post mortem of the Curragh situation, would probably be a wise thing to do. Maybe we could even construct it as a textbook for future MLAs and for anyone who cares to read about that story.
The money due from Curragh - with the exception of legal fees, because I don't have that yet, and the Yukon Energy Corporation, there are some electrical bills apparently still outstanding. Sorry, they were collected. The YEC bills were collected, but the legal fees are not calculated. The money outstanding is calculated at about $6.9 million. That includes $4,999,000 in the stripping loan, the power bills that were purchased from YDC at $1,731,000 and bulk haul fees are still outstanding at $241,000.
I'm aware, as well, Mr. Chair, that from some discussions we've had recently with the federal government there are some fairly significant outstanding bills to that government - one of them being approximately $13 million in unpaid royalties.
It's a fairly sizable sum. It got me thinking about what might happen in post-devolution and how the royalties may be calculated into the devolution-funding arrangements if the federal government did not collect royalties or was not diligent in collecting royalties when the mine was operating and was making profit. The question is: are they going to be insisting that we collect fully, or assume that we are collecting, royalties due and owing? If that's the case, then that will have some impact on the funding arrangement through devolution. So, there are some indications to the fact that at least one mining company that we know of did not pay royalties - and a lot of royalties.
It is actually $6,972,000 still outstanding, with the exception of the legal fees, and we probably should put together, if we can get it, monies outstanding to the federal government and, for the future, we can at least see what the impact of that mine's collapse was.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the member for that, and I think it would be a very useful exercise and very useful information for all members of this House to look at and to analyze and take into consideration if in the future any such other formal requests should come forward for this Legislature to deal with. We would at least have an analysis of what happened in the past and what it cost the taxpayers - if it did cost the taxpayers anything, which in the Curragh case, we know it did - and did the economic benefits outweigh the monies that were advanced to the company? I think that would be a very useful exercise, so, I thank the member for that.
I just want to go back to one other area, and that was on the cost and revenue changes projection if the Faro mine comes back. My understanding is that this budget was based on the Faro mine running, and the expenditure base was also calculated. Was there a reduction made for school teachers? Are savings and costs taken out of this budget in front of us today?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This budget was based on, shall we call it, the pessimistic scenario that the mine would not be operating, so on the expenditures and on the revenue side, we calculated, essentially, the worst case scenario.
Mr. Ostashek: On the revenue side, any revenues that we lost will be offset in the formula financing agreement. If we lose income tax revenues, then our grant goes up.
Because there is a failsafing of the agreement, our overall revenues will not be impacted that much, one way or the other - whether the mine's down or the mine's up. Am I correct in assuming that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That's largely true. The revenue decline this year is largely failsafed. The next year, we expect a population decline if the mine continues to remain down, of course, and if the population does decline, as we expect it probably will, then next year we will see some changes starting to happen in terms of the formula grant.
Mr. Ostashek: Yes, I am aware that if the population declines we are going to get impacted, but, at the same time, there will be fewer Yukoners to provide services to. It doesn't make it up totally, but there are some offsetting factors there.
I don't believe I have anything further in general debate, unless my colleagues have. I am prepared to go line by line.
Chair: We will go now to operation and maintenance expenditures, treasury, page 6-6. Is there general debate?
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There is $408,000 requested, which is $45,000 more than the forecast for 1996-97. This is largely due to the transfer of printing costs to the department from Government Services because of the establishment of the Queen's Printer, and there are a variety of small increases that make up the difference. The printing costs amount to about $25,000.
Mr. Ostashek: I have one question on that. As the departments are being charged for the printing costs - and I know we're trying to make Queen's Printer and those other areas act in a responsible manner and be competitive with the private sector - is the department going out for quotes to be able to gauge whether they're getting a fair deal from Government Services? Have they embarked on that or will they be embarking on that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I guess we've got the Queen's Printer charter right in front of us, don't we? I guess the way it works - and perhaps the Government Services minister might want to wade in at some point because I've never been totally sold on SOAs - is that the departments, or at least this department, do not actually go out and encourage business outside of Government Services, but at some point Government Services will do a test to determine whether or not they are actually providing competitive services at a competitive price. It's not up to the individual departments to test the waters by inviting bids from other printing agencies.
Chair: Seeing no further general debate, we will now go to the line items.
Administration in the amount of $408,000 agreed to
On Financial Operations and Revenue Services
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There's a six-percent decrease in this activity compared to the forecast. This translates into a $103,000 reduction. This can be explained by the transfer of two payroll positions to other departments as a result of the decentralization of payroll functions that will occur with the new uman rsources information system. That's the primary reason for this reduction.
This department virtually has been a pretty static department for the most part throughout the years.
Financial Operations and Revenue Services in the amount of $1,663,000 agreed to
On Fiscal Relations and Management Board Secretariat
Fiscal Relations and Management Board Secretariat in the amount of $1,105,000 agreed to
On Banking Services
Banking Services in the amount of $90,000 agreed to
On Public Utilities Income Tax Transfer
Mr. Ostashek: I just have one question on that. I know that we were negotiating with the federal government on that. Are there any further negotiations going on? Is the federal government going to make any changes to its Income Tax Act on the tax on the utilities?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This is election season, Mr. Chair. Maybe something is happening. We don't know of anything, but just to be careful, we'll check for the member and provide information.
Public Utilities Income Tax Transfer in the amount of $221,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the statistics?
Treasury in the amount of $3,487,000 agreed to
On Workers Compensation Supplementary Benefits
Chair: Is there general debate?
On Supplementary Pensions
Supplementary Pensions in the amount of $374,000 agreed to
Workers Compensation Supplementary Benefits in the amount of $374,000 agreed to
On Bad Debts Expense
Chair: Is there general debate?
On Allowance for Bad Debts
Allowance for Bad Debts in the amount of $75,000 agreed to
Bad Debts Expense in the amount of $75,000 agreed to
On Prior Period Adjustments
Chair: Is there general debate?
On Prior Period Adjustments
Prior Period Adjustments in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Chair: Are there questions on the recoveries and revenues?
Are there questions on the transfer payments?
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Finance in the amount of $3,936,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Chair: Is there general debate?
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Finance in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
Department of Finance agreed to
Chair: We will turn now to page 17-2, loan capital and loan amortization.
Loan Capital and Loan Amortization
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Members, of course, will know the purpose of these items. They are pretty straightforward. The loan capital expenditure line is to provide appropriation authority for the loan of monies by the Yukon government to municipalities. The $5-million sum is an estimate by C&TS - an outside estimate by C&TS - of the amount of money the municipalities might require during the course of the year.
The recovery line is there simply to indicate that loans to municipalities are not a charge or a surplus, but are rather carried on the balance sheet as an asset.
Loan amortization expenditures are simply expenditures for the principal and interest made by us to third parties for loans we have taken out in the past to re-loan to municipalities. Recovery is the amount of monies we receive from municipalities as payments on loans we've made to them.
The amortization recovery is larger than the expenditure because the loans we've made to municipalities in recent years have been financed out of our own cash reserves rather than by borrowing funds on our part and transferring them through to municipalities.
Typically, Mr. Chair, are questions asked about how much is outstanding to municipalities, and it still remains at three of the municipalities. One is the City of Whitehorse, one is Dawson City and the other is Faro. Whitehorse has $9.8 million, Dawson City has $1.3 million, and Faro has $715,000, for a total is $11.8 million.
The balance of loans owing to third parties by the Yukon government at March 31st, 1997, was the Government of Canada, $588,000; Canada Pension Plan loans, $3.7 million; and the Yukon bonds $529,000. The total of loans outstanding from other sources is $4.8 million.
Mr. Ostashek: I guess if I look at the figures, what the minister is saying is that there's a little over $16 million outstanding in total. Am I reading that correctly? The $4 million isn't part of the $11 million; that's separate.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The $4.8 million is money that we have borrowed from a third party to the municipalities.
On Loan Capital
On Loans to Third Parties
Loans to Third Parties in the amount of $5 million agreed to
On Loan Amortization
Interest in the amount of $439,000 agreed to
Principal in the amount of $381,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the supplementary information? Page 17-3?
Mr. Jenkins: Just a point of interest; is that the total amount outstanding by Whitehorse, Dawson City and Faro?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As far as the Yukon government is concerned. If they've borrowed any money from any other source, then that is their business. But as far as the loans through the Yukon government, that's the total amount outstanding, yes.
Mr. Jenkins: So, you can confirm that Dawson City owes the Yukon territorial government $1.3 million, and that's the total sum owed to the Government of Yukon for loans by the City of Dawson?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We can give the member a list. These are the loans that we have financed. I will check for the member, to be precise.
Mr. Cable: I have just one question that arises from that. It appears that the loan repayment at the Yukon government end is not matched by the loan repayment time at the municipality end. Is there an explanation for that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I didn't understand the question. Sorry, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Cable: Well, the balance is outstanding. I assume those two figures of $11,837,000 and $4,843,000 are the respective principles outstanding, and they don't appear to be matched. We had the previous discussion indicating that these are rollovers of monies that are borrowed on the open market from the Canada Pension Plan, et cetera, and turned over to the municipalities.
So, the minister is nodding to the question. Are we on the same wavelength now? Okay.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Connected, Mr. Chair; we've bonded. I understand the question.
The $11.8 million is the amount of money we've financed. The $4.8 million is the money that we've financed from these three sources and run through our coffers to municipalities. So, the balance, we've financed right out of our own cash reserves.
Loan Capital and Loan Amortization agreed to
Chair: We will turn now to Government Services.
Department of Government Services
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I rise in the House today to introduce the operating and maintenance estimates for the Department of Government Services, for the fiscal year 1997-98.
These estimates total $19,705,000, a three-percent decrease from the 1996-97 forecasted expenditures. This decrease is due primarily to three factors: a decrease in contributions for the risk management self-insurance fund, devolution of the budget for quick-print services to departments as a result of the implementation of the Queen's Printer special operating agency, and a decrease in repairs and maintenance of telecommunication costs for property management.
These decreases are partially offset by increases in the information services program, resulting from additional support for the human resources information system, an increase in in-line charges for the wide-area network, and staffing of several formerly vacant positions.
The net result is a decrease of three percent for the department.
The property management agency and the fleet vehicle agency have completed their first year as special operating agencies. Business plans for the new fiscal year have been tabled.
In 1996-97, the average distance driven per vehicle has been increased by approximately 2,000 kilometres. Operating and maintenance costs have decreased by two cents per kilometre. During 1997-98, the fleet vehicle agency will maintain efforts to further improve efficiency in customer service. The fleet will increase in size primarily as a result of program devolution from the federal government. As older vehicles are sold and replaced by new ones, fuel consumption is expected to decrease.
The property management agency will continue to work with departments to find their individual space requirements and develop long-range plans to meet those needs.
The integrated building information system will become fully operational this year, well ahead of schedule. This system will enable the agency to capture and report financial transactions, matching revenues with expenditures, and allocating costs of services, buildings and customers.
As the SOA model appears to be working well, our government has approved implementation of a third agency which we targeted for special operating agency status: the Queen's Printer.
Again, fee-for-service delivery on April 1st, and consequently funding for quick-print services, are now disbursed to the departments who use this service.
The decrease in operating and maintenance for Government Services reflects the department's commitment of streamlining its operations in a manner to improve efficiency while maintaining delivery of quality service to departments.
Having concluded my opening remarks, I would now be prepared to answer questions from members opposite.
Ms. Duncan: I have a number of questions for the minister in terms of general debate.
I'd like to start with the issue of the special operating agency. What plans do the minister and his departmental officials have for reviewing the assessment of the effectiveness of these agencies? I note that property management as a special agency is one-year old.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Within the chart and within the business plans for all of the agencies there is a review period. As the member has noted, these are now one year into their program. We're hoping to get some initial results back, but there is a review process built in to all of the charters of the operating agencies.
Ms. Duncan: Could I ask the minister to just elaborate a little on that review process? I'm interested in, for example, where - the public, if you will, of the agencies are really the government department - the general public might fit into this sort of review process in terms of their assessment of overall effectiveness. Just let me give the minister a concrete example: how school councils might provide information on how they view the effectiveness of the property management agencies.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: My view on that would be that the school councils would report any concerns that they had or any concerns with shortcomings, or perhaps affirming some of the details to the Department of Education, via the normal channels, which would be their superintendent, if, for example, they had concerns regarding maintenance levels or custodial services or things of that nature. Those, in turn, would be relayed to us, as Government Services, from the client department - in this case, Education. So, I would imagine that the appropriate channel would be through the administration and the school councils via their superintendents.
Ms. Duncan: I had an opportunity, since we seem to be talking about the property management central agency, to have a look at the business plan for fiscal 1997-98. I note that one of the outlines of the plan, if you will, is to continue to work in partnership with each of our clients in order to define their individual space requirements and develop long-range space plans to achieve their needs.
The minister has been witness to many discussions between the Minister of Education and me with respect to the capital planning for Education.
Has Government Services been involved at all in this process?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think when we talk in terms of Education, the Department of Education has its own capital needs and it has its own space requirements in terms of school planning, et cetera. Government Services, with regard to Education, would be restricted to project planning, contract tenders and things of that nature.
When we talk about space requirements, we're thinking primarily of client departments within government that might need, for example, office space or securing additional rental space or doing estimates on spaces for modification or revision. For example, in the pursuit of finding a transition shelter, which is Health and Social Services, Government Services has taken a look at various facilities, done estimates on the costs, estimates on the cost/benefit. We've taken a look at various spaces proposed. We've taken a look at office requirements for different departments if, for example, Health and Social Services changes its structure.
With regard to Education, that is largely a function of Education itself. We can provide assistance, but primarily our role has been just in support.
Mr. Jenkins: While we're on the topic of SOAs, the only component in the business plan that's identified is the surveys that the various users of the product, or users of the agency, are going to be feeding back. How is the cost effectiveness and accountability judged? What's the policy in that area? How's that going to be determined, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I just gave an example here, in terms of efficiencies that have been achieved with regards to fleet vehicles, for example - usage per vehicle, in this case 2,000 more kilometres per year, as well as a saving per kilometre.
So, we will have financial data back in terms of expenditures, particularly for fleet vehicles.
As regards to Queen's Printer, they have been operating on what could be called a virtual SOA for a year to give different government departments sort of a sense of what their costs would be. What we're hoping to do is to discover any kind of economies that we can achieve within the various departments and, hopefully, that would be reported back to us.
Chair: The time being about 5:30, is it the members' wish to take a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will recess until 7:30.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are on general debate, Government Services.
Ms. Duncan: I would just like to continue with the line of questioning with respect to the operation of the special operating agencies. Just before the dinner break, we were talking about the evaluation of these operating agencies. I was just wondering if the minister could elaborate as to whether or not there's an internal government review of the operation of these agencies. For example, at some point in time, does the Deputy Ministers Review Committee or Management Board intend to take a look at the operation of these agencies and to examine what other departments might possibly benefit from having an SOA?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: At this point in time, the SOA concept has not been considered to be an extension to other government departments, that I know of. Within government, if I can refer the member to the various business plans that have been submitted, there is an evaluative process, for example, in terms of property management. This would come back to be reviewed, certainly, by the department. There is a good deal of input into each of these because the concept behind SOAs is essentially to deliver services in the most efficient way possible. Presumably, if government departments felt that it wasn't meeting those objectives, they would have let us know.
Within the Queen's Printer business plan that I submitted today, at the back is an evaluative device, a feedback survey, that gives an indication. These are surveys sent out to all of the government departments that have been using the Queen's Printer. Once again, this is on the basis of a virtual SOA, but there are, for example, different evaluative criteria, depending on the SOA.
For example, property management - some of their objectives are to reduce maintenance costs per square foot and things of this nature.
So, what we would be doing would be evaluating. We'd also be doing such things as customer service, level of satisfaction, so on and so forth.
Ms. Duncan: I can appreciate that there are certain benchmarks that have been put in place, and for a business it would be "Have we improved sales? Have we cut costs?", et cetera, and I understand that.
I'm talking about the government, overall, taking a philosophical look at the operation of these two agencies, in particular, and examining them in light of overall government direction: "Is this something that would work in the Department of Tourism?"
At what point are we going to do that philosophical examination, to say, yes, this is a good idea, it works in government, it doesn't work, or, is that ever even being contemplated because these are still in the initial stages?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would say that actually the latter is true. We've only had a year in the two standing agencies and, of course, the Queen's Printer will be going on full action.
I would say that we need at least two or three years to get a sense of what kind of recoveries - what kind of savings - we have and, at that point, it may be a decision of the government to take work to see if the SOA concept can be applied to other departments.
Just at first blush, I would say that the SOAs lend themselves to Government Services because it is an internal kind of function, and I think they can be seen to work within this concept. Now, that doesn't preclude, for example, certain components of other departments perhaps moving to a SOA concept if they were dealing on the same kind of operational basis as, say, Government Services.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the minister elaborating on that. What I understood him to say is that we would walk before we run, so to speak.
With respect to the business plan for the property management agency, I note that among their objectives is the continued increased contracting to the private sector and local communities as the volume of work increases, to benefit those communities. Where does the property management agency, Government Services, input into the local hire commission? At what point is it? Through the minister?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, there is a fair degree of connection between ourselves and the Yukon Hire Commission, and certainly we have been working with them. They've been out hearing in the communities a number of issues. Some involve such issues as local hire, some involve contracting - many things which impact directly on Government Services.
So, we'll be waiting to hear what they come back with and what kind of suggestions they have before considering how we could involve some of those in our own processes, if indeed they make sense.
I think with regard to some of the issues surrounding contracting services in rural communities, I think it's primarily within rural communities where, say a contracting service, a maintenance service, or whatever, can be delivered on a fairly cost-effective basis. So, I think that's really where that's coming into play.
Ms. Duncan: Also in the overview of the property management agency, there is a discussion and it says, "In all we manage about 400 government leased and owned properties." With respect to the government-owned properties, I had raised the whole discussion about management of our assets and control of our assets and I have a bit of a lengthy response about the IBIS system.
I just would like the minister to elaborate at what point will this system be fully operational so that someone, an individual or a legislator, can go in and say, "Tell me what the status is and what the condition is of all of these buildings."
I'm talking in a simple spreadsheet format versus the... Like, right now, if I wanted to know the conditions of the schools, I read the two very lengthy reports. Are we going to have better control of our assets so we'll be able to go in and say, "Yeah, oh look, we have six government-owned buildings that are going to need new roofs this year," - that sort of an information system. Is that coming?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think eventually it will. It will probably take the form of more - initially at least, in terms of cost, projected life of building, energy costs and things of that nature. I think later on we'll probably be incorporating such things as replacement of particular components, life expectancy, et cetera, for buildings. We do have some information available right now on replacement value and things of that nature, but it's certainly not in the detail that we'd like to see it.
Ms. Duncan: What is the time frame for getting that kind of detail?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As far as an exact date, I couldn't tell the member, but I can tell her that it is coming in this year. I'm just looking right here under our information systems, but I will get that information to the member as specifically as I can if she can just bear with me for a second.
I'm just looking for a projected date. It's looking to become fully functional fairly early in the 1997-98 fiscal year.
Ms. Duncan: With respect to this management of assets, so to speak, then, this would not include the leased properties? That would strictly be the government-owned properties?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: At this point, yes, I presume that it would be the government-owned properties, basically maintaining physical, descriptive, historical and current information in a core database, tracking customer service requests and reporting the response. But at this point I don't see it applying to the leased facilities here.
Ms. Duncan: Could the minister advise where the devolution fits in this discussion, in terms of the number of buildings that are owned by the federal government that house various government departments? For example, there's a Renewable Resources building and a forestry building in Teslin that Renewable Resources' office shares. Is there an assessment going on of these federal government buildings, and will that be included in this IBIS system and is there a game plan in terms of them looking at cost savings and community needs and so on?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would suggest, as devolution proceeds and buildings come into our realm, we will be doing an inventory on them, determining what their physical state is, what the operational costs are, et cetera, and then that information will be inputted into the IBIS system.
Ms. Duncan: In terms, then, of a bargaining position and assessment of our position at the devolution talks, we are not going to the table with this information in hand? We're receiving it?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I just can say that, prior to the transfer of health, for example, we had a fairly good sense of what the conditions of the buildings were, what repairs were necessary, et cetera. As a matter of fact, some of those initiatives had already begun, so we had been quite involved in knowing what was going on and what conditions those buildings are in.
Ms. Duncan: Did you also have the information on the details of the O&M costs?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: At this point, we wouldn't. We would just have to rely on what the costs were, incorporated into the transfer budget. So, for example, in the case of something like the Watson Lake Hospital, there would be an operational cost that we would be privy to and then, with that information, we would have to do an accounting of what our own costs would be in the future.
Chair: Mr. Sloan, I know you're eager to answer, but could you wait until you're announced, please.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Certainly.
Mr. Jenkins: I would just like to explore with the minister a little bit further the SOAs and some of the statements the minister made.
The only areas that I've identified from the information I've read on SOAs are the feedback surveys associated with each of these operating agencies. The minister, throughout the cost savings of the pool vehicle operations, indicates two cents per kilometre. From a layman's standpoint, that sounds very impressive until you operate a fleet of vehicles, and you know full well that the age and type of the vehicles and the number of kilometres on them, when you operate and drive them in a given period, all play into these numbers. The more use they get, the lower your operating costs are, other than your fixed costs. That is the only area identified by the minister. Is he aware of any other area where they've effected cost savings throughout the existing two SOAs? Perhaps he could elaborate on the Queen's Printer, also, which is soon to become a SOA.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: If I could make reference to the business plan for the fleet vehicle, t
here are a number of performance indicators that they have identified, and I refer to page 5 of the business plan. They include the per day, month, year and per kilometre charge to the clients - kilometre operating costs, which we identified earlier - the various actual cost estimates on scheduled maintenance; client trip profiles, the speed and economy of operation - how fast, for example, we can get a turn around; client satisfaction - how satisfied were individuals with the service that they received; and vehicle utilization rates.
I think, with regard to the latter, one of the things that has been an ongoing problem with fleet vehicles - and we're hoping to achieve some betterment of this - has been the tendency of some departments, when vehicles were part of the government pool, to simply take a vehicle and keep it. Rather than factor that in to your overall costs, I think people would just assume that that car is Education or Renewable Resources.
So, now, I think, as departments have become aware of the actual cost, there is a tendency to use the vehicle when needed and not to keep it around merely as kind of a back-up vehicle or to have a vehicle present. So, I think one of the things that we've tried to do is to make departments more sensitive to the actual cost of operating and maintaining vehicles.
Along with that, some of the other performance indicators that we would really take into account would just be such things as the salvage value of vehicles and the life operating costs overall. I think there's a whole variety of operating indicators.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the vehicle pool is probably an easy one to get a handle on, and a very easy one to do a comparison on. Would the minister have a comparison as to the cost-savings achieved in the property management agency, and let's not get into the energy efficiency or the lighting area, because that one is a special one, identified separately.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: If I could refer the member to, I guess, it's 16 in property management, the agency has identified several performance criteria. One is work order response time - how fast is their turnaround on a work order? Utility cost per rentable square foot - I'll refer to that later on. The lease type - the term and the cost of leasing and, as well, the maintenance costs annually per square foot. So, those are some of the indicators.
Some of the ways that the agency has reviewed its internal organization: (1) to hold customer focus groups and actually sit down with the customers who use the service and ask, "How is it working for you?", "Is it to your needs?" or whatever. The other thing that they've tried to do is to train all of the staff in customer relations to get to the idea of customer service as being a key point in delivery of service.
Mr. Jenkins: So, of the 400 properties, what do you expect to realize as a cost savings? Let's not factor in the previous way we've operated. We have to justify this SOA on more than just the turnaround time for work orders and the level of service provided to the client - although that is a very good area to judge an SOA on. But the bottom line is: what is it costing under this system to maintain the properties vis-ŕ-vis under the previous method? What is the effective savings? That is, in my opinion, the true test: what are we saving?
There's probably been one area that I will give the credit to the government for. It used to be that if the government was out leasing properties, it would be one price of $24 a square foot, triple net, and if that wasn't enough, they'd pay more. Now, that seems to have come down. There's competition in the marketplace. So, they have been much more effective in negotiating arrangements for leased space at a lower cost and with better terms and conditions. But, that aside, what is our effective saving over the previous methods we've employed?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Offhand, I couldn't give a figure. I do know that we have such a plethora of arrangements for leased buildings, owned buildings, buildings that we provide to non-governmental agencies, it's very hard to kind of factor out what the overall savings would be. What I can do is get back to the member with some kind of figure in that regard.
Ms. Duncan: I'm glad the minister has raised this whole issue of this plethora of different agreements, because we've had this discussion once before and I'd like to ask him about it again.
With respect to renting or leasing with non-government agencies, does the minister intend to coordinate these agreements? Is there an effort to standardize these agreements to ensure that there is a similar arrangement between agencies? I'm thinking particularly in terms of the T.C. Richards, the White Pass and the Taylor.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: With regards to that, these arrangements shift and change on a very interesting basis. For example, the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce has indicated to us just very recently that they would like to step away from the arrangement that they have, where they have actually managed the building and run it for clients. At the same time, we've received some signals from the tourism community - particularly TIA - that they would like to enter into a T.C. Richard's kind of arrangement.
With regard to the Taylor House, that once again will depend on the nature of the non-governmental agency going in there. There are certain non-governmental agencies who rent for negligible or virtually no rent whatsoever. I'm thinking of groups such as the youth group in Carcross that rents an old garage. In some cases, we provide buildings at very cheap cost.
Is there an attempt to standardize? Well, one of the areas that I think there is some avenue for doing this on would be in terms of perhaps energy costs - at least some kind of legitimate recovery in terms of energy costs. One of the problems that we have, for example, is in the area of just energy consumption. There is very little incentive for a group that's using one of our buildings to save or economize on energy costs, so I think if we were going to move toward some kind of standardized system, that's where I think we would probably move to a standardization.
Recognizing, of course, that there are some very marginal NGOs in terms of resources, and I guess we have to give a break to certain groups, depending on their nature.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would take it that that's a yes.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: The Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce arrangement, Mr. Chair, if I could just loan the minister some expertise, I would dare to suggest that they are stepping away from that arrangement given the time constraints involved and the demands upon a volunteer board in terms of maintaining a building like that. The Tourism Industry Association have expressed some interest because, in ways, it can be lucrative, but it can also be very draining on your volunteer resources. I would put forward the recommendation that I think it is important that we standardize.
I'm wondering if the minister could elaborate on other Yukon communities. Is there a similar plethora of arrangements in, for example, Dawson City where, I believe the KVA uses the Government of Yukon building - I'm not certain of that - and the Dawson City shelter? I'm not sure if that's a Government of Yukon building. What sort of arrangements exist there?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We have, for the member opposite, the Dawson Museum, the KVA, the Klondike National Historical Association in Dawson that I can identify here right now. Is the member wondering about costs of space, square footage - what kind of information?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, my point is that, I believe, in Whitehorse I could give you three examples of different arrangements. In Dawson City, I suspect there are four. I suspect if we went to Watson Lake there would be another half dozen different varieties.
Is the government, through this minister, intending to standardize these arrangements somehow, bearing in mind, I realize full well the needs and wants and desires and ability to pay of different non-government organization varies, but is there an effort to standardize these arrangements?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As I indicated to the member earlier, recognizing, of course, that different groups have different needs, I wouldn't want to put undue hardship on any group. However, I do think that one of the areas we might want to standardize is in at least the cost of utility recovery. It would be my hope that we could get at least to a point where we're recovering what our basic maintenance costs are, on a standardized basis.
Ms. Duncan: The issue is much bigger than simply recovering energy costs and, while that is a laudable objective, there is far more to this issue than that. For example, in terms of the White Pass building and the T.C. Richards Building and the Taylor House, you're dealing with historic sites, as far as we, the public, are concerned.
There also has to be built into this discussion with these different non-government organizations who manages what and who does the repairs. For example, Tourism Industry Association - pick up the phone and call Government Services. Any nongovernment organization housed in the T.C. Richards Building picks up the phone and calls the chamber manager and says, "Fix the light bulb." There's a big difference between who does what and how it gets done and at what costs. All I'm asking is that there be some kind of standardization for not just who pays the energy bill, but what lease arrangements are entered into.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think the member has a point there. As well, I think it has to be recognized how much usable space there is. For example, the T.C. Richards Building has a fair degree of usable space, whereas, if we take a look at the White Pass building, it really only has the ground floor and then only certain areas of the ground floor.
Their lease arrangement is considerably less. If, for example, they wanted to develop the upper floor - just for sake of argument that was their choice - and they wanted to consolidate more tourism-related businesses in there, the rough estimate would be somewhere around $150,000, just ballpark. Currently, TIA is receiving a very attractive per-square-foot rate - much less than perhaps some other buildings. If we were to invest the money in trying to develop, say, the upper floors and put in the necessary fire code regulations, fire escapes, et cetera, obviously there would be an attempt to modify the lease arrangement to more accurately reflect what the true market costs of that building would be.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister isn't understanding where I'm trying to go with this debate. The problem is that when the T.C. Richards Building was taken over by the Chamber of Commerce, the Whitehorse Chamber applied for EDA funding to essentially renovate and repair and renew that building. When Government Services owned the building, the option, say, for example, to the Tourism Industry Association, to apply under the community projects initiative to restore that building, is taken away because they aren't the sole people responsible for that building. That's the difference in terms of renovating and renewing the building.
I'm not talking about non-government organizations' ability to make repairs and renew the building. That's one issue. The other issue is where we, as a government, if we're going to continue to own these buildings, are going with them? If we're going to enter into a non-government organization relationship, I think we need to standardize it.
Two points. It has to be clear who owns the building and who's responsible. Repairs should be standardized, and the future of the building - what future arrangements are we going to make - needs to be standardized as well.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'll certainly take those issues into consideration when we're looking at the whole situation with regards to building leases and building costs.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm somewhat alarmed at the minister's remarks that they would go to market costs. Market costs in Whitehorse are usually set by government's demands, and that would be a scary precedent to establish for rental space. Recovery of utilities is another scary issue, Mr. Chair, when you look at what government's paying for electricity: 40 percent of the cost of service. They do get a break tendering their heating fuel costs, but then you get into the standardization of buildings, as far as insulating value and windows and what shape they're in, and we're into a real can of worms. The only thing consistent in our rental policy is probably the name at the top of the page, and that's about it.
So, there is a need to aim in that direction, but it's going to be a tedious and arduous process.
If I could just move on to another area, what does the minister anticipate putting into an SOA next? Are the information services heading in that direction? We briefly touched on Tourism, but this appears to be the trend and it seems to be a very workable trend. I'd be interested in the minister's further direction in this area, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: At present, there aren't any plans to expand the SOA beyond Queen's Printer. There were three agencies identified initially: fleet vehicle, property management and Queen's Printer. I certainly didn't want to imply that Tourism was a candidate for SOA, but it just came up as a point of discussion.
At this juncture, I can't anticipate any other branches of government moving toward that.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to just explore another area that the government has taken with respect to tendering the design/build concept, and that is another concept that has recently been adopted by the Government of Yukon; it appears to be working. What is the minister's direction that he is going to take the department with in this regard? Is he going to continue with this trend, or are we going to go back to the old ways?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, the member has been given a rather colourful - "the old ways", indeed.
At this juncture, we are favouring the design/build concept, certainly, within Whitehorse, and I think there are some opportunities in other areas in the territory, for a couple of reasons: one, I think it provides an economic stimulus for communities; two, it certainly saves upfront costs for government; and, three, in many cases, I think it's a rather quick and fairly economical way to address government needs. I think the appetite of the public for government going into building more large structures is, frankly, not there. I think we can work cooperatively with the private sector in this regard, and it seems to have worked out well.
We have several examples here where we've gone on a design/build basis, and it seems to work out quite well.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other areas with respect to construction, where there are a lot of issues out in the public domain, is bonding, for some of the smaller firms.
Can the minister tell us what steps, if any, his department is going to take to address the concerns of smaller Yukon contractors who can't, or who are having difficulty obtaining bonding levels to the satisfaction of the Government of Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I don't want to pre-empt, certainly, the Yukon Hire Commission, but that has been one thing that has been identified, particularly, as the member has said, on the basis of small contractors. So, we'll be interested in seeing what recommendations they come forward with in this regard. As I said, I guess of the first reactions they got on their community tours, that seemed to be an issue that had emerged.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Chair, but this is an area that you're responsible for, Mr. Minister, and I'm asking you: what, specifically, are you prepared to do to address this issue? I'm not prepared to listen to the Yukon Hire. It's an issue that's on the table; it's an issue that you're responsible for. Are you going to do anything, or are you going to defer it to one of your colleagues - or attempt to? I can't buy that, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm not trying to defer anything. I am suggesting that we are trying to work with the Yukon Hire Commission. They will have a number of recommendations, I would presume, on a whole variety of issues. There will probably be issues surrounding not only bonding, but also probably on recommendations having to do with contracts and contract size - I think a whole variety of issues.
I think, at this point, what we'd like to do is we'd like to hear what some of their suggestions are. Some of them we will have to implement, if we choose to go in that direction. I'm interested in working with them and seeing what comes forward. They are the mechanism to get us some feedback from the community in this regard, and we'd certainly like to take in their views.
Mr. Jenkins: But the issue of bonding has been around for a while, Mr. Chair, and it's an issue that the minister could do something with immediately, and it's not something that he is not aware of. So, to wait for a report from the Yukon Hire Commission, that's just postponing decisions that he knows he has to make. What kind of steps is the minister going to take, if any, other than just waiting for the Yukon Hire to report to him? Come on, you can do something now, Mr. Minister. What steps will you be taking?
Chair: Order please. Order please. Can I advise the member to direct comments through the Chair, please?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, there are a number of things I could do. As a matter of fact, our own department has determined a number of things we could do to maximize Yukon content and maximize Yukon hire, I suppose, and, in many ways, to facilitate easier business transactions. But, in that regard, I would suggest that we want to come out with a concerted approach. We don't want to be going off in a variety of directions. For example, what we might think would be sufficient from a Government Services point of view may not in fact work for other aspects of the community. I would like to work with my colleagues and try to develop a concerted and well-thought-out approach to this. We do have some options. Whether or not our options fit in with the overall plan in this regard remains to be seen.
Mr. Jenkins: The other area that the government did spend some time on previously was courses for the private sector enabling them to meet the government standards. Is it the minister's intention to continue offering these courses?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would suggest that, yes, we do. We offer a variety of workshops and a variety of courses for people who are interested in working to government standards. Just offhand, the one that springs to mind, for example, is painting standards for government buildings. I think they have proven valuable, and we would like to continue on with those.
Mr. Jenkins: Just one last question before I turn it over to my colleagues here is with respect to the next big, major construction project in the Yukon - the Old Crow school. Will the government be tendering that through the normal government tendering procedure, or is it going to be sole sourced?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As the member can appreciate, we're still at a very preliminary point here. Education is the lead department in this project. We will be waiting to see what the building advisory committee comes out with. At this point, I don't believe there is any indication to sole source. I would imagine that there will be a variety of options coming forward. Naturally, there is going to be some desire on the part of the people of Old Crow to maximize the amount of local content, local labour, which I think is understandable, but I don't think that necessarily has to mean only fashion. I think there is a variety of imaginative individuals in this territory in the contracting community who could work with the people of Vuntut Gwitchin in that regard so, at this point, there isn't any plan to sole source, to my knowledge.
Mr. Cable: I've got a number of questions which we can deal with when we get to the main body of the debate, but I would like to signal them to the minister.
The air quality in this building - there has been a lot of work done on the building in response to complaints. I'd like to find out - in the property and management part of the debate - just what is going on with the contractor.
The last letter I had from the minister's predecessor indicated the completion date is November 30th, 1996, although I've noticed people wandering around the building quite recently. I'd like to find out what's going on, get an update and also get an update on air quality and if any tests have been done on the air quality.
Chair: One moment.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Oh, I'm sorry.
Mr. Cable: I have a number of questions for the minister and I don't need an answer right now. Some of them may involve a little bit of file searching.
Again, in property management, there was a fairly comprehensive letter given to me by the minister's predecessor, dated April 19th, 1996, on energy savings and retrofits and what not. I'll give him a copy of this later on. I'll make a photocopy so you don't have to search your files for it.
In that letter there was some reference to lighting savings and there was a remarkably short payback period shown for the YTG Administration Building - this building - and also for the Takhini Elementary School and I'd like to find out whether there has been any further extensive investigation in relation to government buildings on payback periods and what sort of megawattage we can expect to be saved when all the smoke clears?
I know the minister has a person or persons working on this area. I'd like to find out those persons' or that person's terms of reference and what other departments are involved and what they are doing.
I know the minister's party, during the election I think, talked energy conservation, and I assume it's his department that's stick-handling this around. I'd like to find out what they are doing, both within the property management rubric and what they're doing with the general public - whether it's his department or Economic Development that's looking at promoting energy conservation.
There was a complaint given to me last year by somebody who had been invited - this is another topic - to give a proposal call on an open-ended contract with a cap on it. It was a printing contract that had certain anticipated volumes. Then when the contract was let and this person started printing for the government, they found out that the volumes were markedly lower than what was anticipated on the proposal call. So, of course, their costs were all out of whack and they weren't making any money on it. I'd like to find out just what is being done in that area. I know I questioned the minister's predecessor on that and I think he scratched his head and said he'd think about it. So, I'd like to find out whether the department has thought about it.
One final issue - the minister's predecessor issued this 1996-98 strategic plan, and when we get through the policy line items, it would be useful to find out whether that plan has been updated at all or whether it's the intention of this present government to adopt it as it sits.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, if the member would indulge me for a few moments, I could probably address some of these issues right now.
Taking the YTG Administration Building - the indoor air quality - this grew out of a study that ranges back to 1993-94. There was an epidemiological study done by Dr. van Netten of the University of British Columbia faculty of medicine. He did a study on the building with regard to specific contaminants and reported to the building safety committee. An expert in indoor air quality and mechanical air handling systems was given the task of assessing the building's air handling systems. This is an individual who was with Auger, Donnini and Nguyen Incorporated, and was working under contract for Government Services.
Out of this, the summary was that, essentially, the air distribution system was in poor condition and not capable of removing the naturally occurring contaminants in certain areas of the building. Predominantly, the contaminants included carbon dioxide from breathing, air-borne substances produced by laser printers and photocopiers, as well as background levels of such materials as radon and volatile organic compounds. A couple of things that were identified as being particularly bad included the liquid process photocopiers, which are now in the process of being replaced, and improper handling of ceiling tiles, which is also being addressed.
There were no specific substances identified, per se, that would make anyone sick, but there were some increased incidences of respiratory irritation, but no specific illnesses identified.
The system was identified as being upgraded. The project was tendered on April 14th, 1996. The contract was awarded to Double SS Mechanical. Work started September 1st and was completed in February 1997.
I think what the member is referring to is that there has been an ongoing process - at least in the last month - of checking the balances of air. So, if we saw people going around removing tiles and testing, that is just a follow up to the completion of this work.
With regard to the plan for energy savings, there are a couple of rationales for this. One of course is just the economics of it, but the other one is that the government has formally committed to the federal government's national action plan for climate change, so we have bought into this, so to speak. One of the things we're trying to do is take decisions in an environmentally sensitive way, as well as bolometation.
In the property management, 1997-98 - if I could refer the member there - there is a line that includes an objective, "the implementation of the corporate-wide energy auditing program," and it also states that, "operating efficiencies and cost-reduction measures are ongoing drivers of our business."
With regards to that, there has been an energy workplan brought forward. It includes a strategic plan for energy management. Part of this involves reducing energy costs to buildings, trying to reduce long-term operating costs by using secondary electricity and local fuels, controlling discharge and polluting substances and reducing water use. So, there's quite an extensive plan in this regard.
The member makes reference to Education and, indeed, Education has been one of the pilot departments and, in some cases, they've made some very substantial savings. The figure we have in this regard is that I think there has been some $74,000 saved in the Department of Education in 1994-95, and in one school only, electricity savings are now over 24 percent. So this program has been extended to other interested schools. There was a pilot of six schools - four Whitehorse and two Watson Lake schools - and it does appear to have paid off. This is forming part of the basis for our own strategic plan throughout the department, and I can give the member some other references if need be.
Now, some place in this pile I've lost the other point that he asked. Proposal call on printing - I would presume that that would refer to the Queen's Printer agency, their capacity to do printing and the impact on the private community? We have given the private printing community an undertaking to do no more than nine million copies, which was the level set last year, to restrict ourselves exclusively to black and white, and to do thermal binding only. We are very sensitive to the issue of local printers getting sufficient volume. This has been told to us on a fairly frequent basis so we are trying to support the local printing community in that regard.
With regards to the strategic plan, I can get the member a further update on that as we go along.
Mr. Cable: Just to clarify, in addition to what the minister just related, I would like - if in fact this has been done - an estimate of the total savings that his department anticipates will come from the electrical-type retrofits. That's lighting, primarily, and outdoor plug-ins for cars and what not. I would just like to see whether this is a significant portion of the reduction in our diesel consumption.
It has been said that the best sort of new capacity for electrical energy is energy saved, and I'd like to see how far the minister has got along on that road.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I can tell the member it may be a little premature to project, in terms of energy savings, but it is our goal to try and make our energy consumption in all government buildings cost effective. Certainly, the children in schools have demonstrated that it can be done, and often, with very, very simple issues. We have a strategic plan for energy management of government buildings and we've developed a training strategy for this.
A couple of courses are being sponsored. One is for May 28th, and then there's a separate course for technical staff for May 26th and 27th. Basically, this course is designed for senior managers of the finance branch to sort of give them - since they'll be the impetus and since obviously, money saved is recovered by that department - the idea is to get the finance managers of each government department to take the lead in this, and we have a whole variety of strategies about how we would like to approach this. We believe that there can be some savings, some considerable savings, if we look at education as having set a good model.
Mr. Cable: I'll just give the minister a copy of this letter from his predecessor at some juncture during the evening. When we get to the property management debate perhaps I could get an update.
Mr. Jenkins: While we're on the topic of energy saving, the one area that was identified was the schools.
I asked the Minister of Education previously today what standard we were providing in the classrooms, because I know the design in a number of classrooms that I'm familiar with the level of lighting has been reduced from the original design standards. Who is setting the standards for lighting? The property management agency was the lead agency to go into the schools and do the survey and reduce the level of lighting.
Now, are we still into full spectrum lighting, and to what level?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, property management has been working with Education here in an advisory role. We have taken the lead with working with the schools. Now, the decision to move to reduced lighting, or diminished fluorescent capacity, or whatever, is taken by the school. The property management comes in, does an assessment, says that this is what you can reasonably get by with, these are some ways where you can reduce energy. It can be as simple as, for example, the de-ballasting of fluorescent tubes, replacement of fixtures in a more energy-efficient manner, controls for hot water temperatures. Those are all things that can be done. So, as far as the lighting standards, does this affect the lights within a school in terms of the quality of the full-spectrum light or whatever? I would have to get that detail back, but I do know that we've taken a lead in working with Education. We don't dictate; we merely suggest to them.
Mr. Jenkins: What I'm looking for is what standard are we conforming to for the provision of classroom lighting? How many lumina of lighting per square foot? There is a design standard, and the schools, when they were designed, had that in place. Now, we've reduced it significantly in a number of areas. Now, what standard are we working to? We can effect a saving in energy by reducing the lights - just the wattage of the fluorescent tubes, or incandescent lightbulbs, or replacing them with lower wattage all the way around - or removing some tubes.
The property management agency was the lead agency. That's explainable and understandable as to how it works, but what level are we conforming to now for classroom lighting, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, that is a question of some technical nature. I will get a response back to the member on that.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would like to ask a few more questions in terms of property management.
Could the minister provide some general information in terms of property management? Is it the policy of the government to attempt to, where possible, centralize departments? For example, the Workers' Compensation Board is housed in one building. Renewable Resources in Whitehorse is, by and large, in one building. The example that immediately comes to mind, which is spread all over everywhere, is Health and Social Services. Is there an overall policy or philosophy that, where possible, we should endeavor to house departments in one building?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think the member is right. It is always desirable if you can consolidate space. That being said, there are sometimes circumstances. The department that springs to mind is my own, which is Health and Social Services. It would be desirable if we could consolidate, for example, the operational or the corporate aspect of Health and Social Services with, for example, the health insurance plan or aspects of that nature. One of the problems that we have, quite frankly, is just constraints of space, and in some very large departments, that becomes quite problematic. For example, we have Government Services over in the Berska Building, for the corporate operations, but then, for example, we have our folks in design and so on and so forth over on Quartz Road. So, I think it really comes down to what space is available, how much can one get reasonably at a reasonable rent. So, yes, the short answer is we'd like to consolidate, but there are some limitations.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, then, is there an effort at some point or is there a review at some point during the year where Government Services meets with departments, evaluates their space requirements and says, "Health and Social Services has grown by x amount; we should be endeavouring to put them in their own building," or whatever. At some point is there a review of who's where in terms of government buildings and space?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, indeed there is and, as a matter of fact, we've just gone through that exercise with regard to, as the member has noted, Health and Social Services. In that case, we picked up extra personnel with the transfer of phase 2. So, we began signaling very early on that we were searching for larger space; it's very cramped down in the far end. So, we looked at that.
We looked at different options of perhaps moving different branches around to try and maximize either within this building or elsewhere. So, Government Services works with departments on space requirements and tries to find the most appropriate space available.
Chair: Is it the members' desire to take a break?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes, please.
Chair: We now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Government Services. Is there further general debate?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, prior to the break, I was asking the minister if there was, at some point, a sober second look at the space that government has and the space that government requires, and he indicated that one of his departments, Health and Social Services, had been through this exercise. The point of my question is: does Government Services at some point evaluate all the space we have and the various requests by departments and attempt, if you will, to broker an arrangement where departments might move around and become more centralized - put the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle in different spots so to speak.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Government Services is a service-oriented department, and what we do is we try to respond - particularly property management tries to respond - to requirements that come forward from various departments. An arrangement that might work well at one time might not work equally well at another time. The example I used was Health and Social Services, which saw their parameters change with the advent of phase 2.
So I think what we try to do in property management is try to secure the best arrangements for a department. If it's the desire of the department to move to a consolidated space, we'll certainly try to expedite that. There are, however, some reasons why departments may choose not to be. The example that springs to mind is with family and children's services. They have their own sort of space, which seems to work very, very well for the kind of operations that they do, and there has been a suggestion, for example, to roll them into one central facility.
So, I guess the short answer would be that we would respond as the departments require, and if it's consolidation that is sought, we would try to accommodate them as best we can.
Ms. Duncan: I see the minister's response as a response-driven exercise as opposed to a pro-active exercise of perhaps seeing where there could be consolidation but, fair enough, I'll accept that answer.
In terms of the overall management of the Government of Yukon buildings, particularly the Government of Yukon-owned buildings, could the minister advise me - and if a legislative return is the easiest, that's fine - which of these buildings have had safety audits conducted?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Off the top of my head, I couldn't respond on that at this time. What I can do is get back to the member in terms of some kind of written reply, indicating which buildings have had safety audits and what the nature of those audits has been.
Ms. Duncan: I'm looking for an overall government commitment from this minister to the theory in essence of safety audits and the desire to create a safe workplace for individuals, not simply in terms of broken stairwells, but I'm thinking in terms of lighting; for example, the entrance to this building by the Opposition caucus offices is particularly dark.
That's my line of questioning. Is the minister aware of safety audits and, if so, is there ongoing work in this area?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I will avoid the temptation to say that keeping the Opposition in the dark is an intention.
With regard to that, Government Services has been involved in some exercises with regard to - I believe the member is probably familiar with it - the idea of ways to, I guess, make buildings less attractive for vandalism and break-ins. We participated in that exercise last year. I think that certainly those are some directions that we should be pursuing in terms of better lighting, removing obstacles and removing areas where people lurk. I think there are some areas where we could be doing that, and I think there would be a payoff for government ultimately. So, that would be an area that I think is well worth pursuing, especially with regard to safety to public and government staff.
Ms. Duncan: Could I ask the minister to provide some general remarks in terms of the risk management self-insurance fund? This was a relatively recent innovation in terms of Government Services, and I am curious as to its evaluation. I note that there is a reduction in contributions in the department overview. I am looking for some general comments on this initiative.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The whole question of the risk management fund was set up with regards to recommendations on that particular issue. What we have right now is exclusive of outstanding claims - some $329,000 still left in this year's fund. There was a suggestion of putting a certain amount, I believe, $500,000 per year. We feel that, given the financial constraints of the government and given the amount that was left within the risk management, that the $329,000 was sufficient for our needs and so that will be the subject of a revote.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could the minister give an indication as to what buildings would come under this insurance and which ones would not? For example, obviously the Old Crow school was insured. Was the Watson Lake facility insured?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No. Just for a matter of interest, with the exception of schools, virtually all government buildings are self-insured. The reason being that the replacement costs of such buildings, if we were to take that as a benchmark for insurance purposes, would be so high as to sort of preclude insurance. For example, if we take a look at just the main administration building, the replacement value on this building is about $36 million and that would be a tremendous amount.
Well, the main building, I'm sorry, is insured, but there are a number of buildings that aren't. For example, the Watson Lake building was not insured.
Ms. Duncan: Could the minister clarify what are the criteria? What determines whether or not a building is insured?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The basic benchmark - and if I can just take a look at what we've got here in the list - seems to be the higher value of the buildings. So, for example, some of our buildings are not insured, or if they are insured, they are insured for a lesser value. Basically, it appears to be largely on the basis of replacement cost.
Ms. Duncan: At what point does the department intend to review this insurance policy? Is there a benchmark at which point the government will make a decision as to whether or not to continue with this program?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We have a risk management branch and I think that would be a function of risk management: to do an assessment on whether or not self-insurance is the route to go, or if indeed the risk management fund seems to be able to accommodate the losses as we have them.
Hopefully, we wouldn't experience too many losses, but I think it's something that we probably would be doing an assessment on at a future point.
Ms. Duncan: If I could speak generally, or in terms of another area of this government department's initiatives - t
he review of the contracting regulations - it seems to be that every government reviews the contract regulations. Could the minister provide a time frame as to when this government intends to do the contract regulation review?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As the member has so appropriately commented, the contract regulations are virtually seasonal in their review. There have been a number of issues emerge over the last few years in terms of contract regulations and, in particular, such things as sole sourcing, sole-sourcing limits - issues around that. We are looking at, and we will be working with, various industries on some of these issues that emerged. Sometimes what may appear to be fairly simplistic, in terms of just looking at - I'm thinking in terms of sole-sourced limits - going to, say, a $10,000 limit on sole-sourced contracts, may initially seem fairly do-able. But then when one sits down with the industry, which is what we're currently doing, they have their own view on this. For example, it may actually cost more for a particular company to submit an application.
As well, there have been various suggestions that have come out of the bid challenge committee on how we could be making contracts more equitable. I've certainly heard from contractors and from small business some suggestions in terms of the publication of source lists - even such very, very fundamental matters as posting tenders outside, which appears to be fairly simplistic in nature, but these are some of the things that have come up in terms of just making the business community more aware of the whole contracting policy.
So, I think we're continually - I guess is the term - undergoing looking at how we can revise and make contract regs more equitable and more available.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the overview in the technical briefing indicates that there are honoraria and travel for the contract regulations review committee members. What the minister just indicated to the House was that there's an ongoing review, and the way I read the budget document, it sounds like there's a specific review planned, with a time frame for consultation and a time frame for reporting. Which is it? If it's an ongoing review, what's the time frame when we might anticipate changes? If it's a step-by-step review, could he outline when that would begin?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: When I say ongoing, that means that we're often in contact with businesses. For example, I guess the most recent thing was on the tourism film. A number of recommendations came out of the bid challenge, which we thought were valuable suggestions and should be incorporated. So when I talk about ongoing, I met just about two weeks ago with many of the contractors bidding on government tenders and we heard some suggestions there in terms of timing.
That's what I mean by ongoing. We're in continual dialogue with industry. As well, there have been some suggestions coming out of, once again, the local hire which I think we would want to incorporate in, and we would be looking, I suppose, toward the fall at doing a revision based probably on some of the suggestions of things we could do within contracting regulations and maybe expedite the process.
Ms. Duncan: Did I understand the minister to say that likely in the fall we would have a public consultation document with revisions to the contract regulations?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can't say for sure when the local hire folks will bring down their recommendations, but certainly that will form part of the consultation. If they come out with some suggestions in the fall, we would then go to consultation with industry.
Along with this, we have one of our staff working on the question of a regulatory code of conduct, which will have some real implications for dealing with industries, the idea of setting forth a future consultation mechanism with industries on changes in regulations or whatever that have to do with their industry, trying to expedite relations with businesses, trying to reduce red tape, things of that nature.
It's an ongoing process on a whole variety of different fronts, some having to do with local hire, some having to do with a regulatory code of conduct, and some just looking at internal things that we can do ourselves: sole-source limits, sourcing lists, things of that nature. There are many things that we can do in this regard.
Ms. Duncan: With respect to the sole-source limits, I understand there was a campaign commitment made by the now government to reduce the sole-source limit. Is the minister intending to fulfill that campaign commitment or is he finding that there is more to this issue than meets the campaign promise?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, I'm not planning on backing off this one at all. I think there are areas where we can drop down the sole-source limits. At the same time, I think we have to do it in consultation with the industries. For example, there are a number of industries, I suppose, in the creative media aspect that would like to see the source limits drop, primarily because many of the jobs in that area are below the $10,000 threshold.
At the same time, there are some industries - particularly technical or engineering - which have made a fairly cogent argument for keeping them as they are or perhaps even increasing them. So, I think in principle, we're interested in reducing them to make as competitive a business atmosphere as possible, but at the same time I think we have to be sensitive that there are some people that will be able to make an argument for other issues.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the minister putting on the record that he understands that, in particular, the engineering profession feels very strongly that the sole-source limits should not be lowered and, in fact, they should be increased, and I wanted to state that that is my understanding for the record as well, and I certainly appreciate, as the minister has stated, that they have made a worthwhile argument for this.
I'd just like to rewind for a moment to the issue of the regulatory code of conduct. In the Government Leader's speech to the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, shortly after being elected, and in the odd government document, I've seen reference to it but no clear explanation as to where the government is going with this. Are they intending it to be a code by which government operates, or are they intending it to be a code by which they expect the business community to operate?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, I suppose the shorthand, really, for the whole question of regulatory code of conduct - and this has been tried in both Ontario and Saskatchewan - is really to take a look at some of the impediments that exist for business, particularly in their dealings with government, and see if there is anything that we can do, for example, to reduce the impediments, reduce the costs. One of the fundamental principles of regulatory code of conduct suggests that any regulations coming in which might affect an industry in their dealings with the government - and particularly in areas such as contracting - before those regulations are brought in, they are a subject of discussion between both the industry and government.
So, in other words, if we were talking about bringing in particular standards having to do with height restrictions or weight restrictions on vehicles, or whatever, rather than us bringing them in in an arbitrary way, we would commit us to sitting down with the industry and saying, "What can we reasonably do? How will this impact on you? What kinds of costs, et cetera?"
Just on a very simple basis is the whole question of business licences. Right now, any business dealing with the government has to have a Yukon business licence, whereas in fact they may already have a business licence with the city. So, are we creating, actually, an impediment that we could expedite?
So, what we're trying to do and what we're really seeking is to make the business atmosphere, I suppose, friendlier and make it more simple to deal with government and hopefully reduce some of those impediments. So, we have one of our departmental officials working on this and we'll be bringing forward, hopefully in September, some recommendations in that regard, which we could later incorporate in designing our own regulatory code of conduct.
There is a great deal out there in this regard. I've actually been surprised at the amount of information that there is in this regard. I think it's a trend in government and I think it's something that's well worth pursuing.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could I ask the minister to indicate if this departmental official working in this area has shared this information - this initiative - with municipal governments, particularly in light of what the minister has mentioned; the issue of business licences.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: At this rate, it's in a very, very preliminary stage. What the individual has done is basically some research in this and found out jurisdictions. I would suggest that this is something that I would like to pursue with not only municipalities, but I think I would also like to get some input from various chambers of commerce on this. I would like to bring it forward to a future Chamber of Commerce meeting and inform them of our initiatives in this regard and hopefully get some insight from them. I think anything we can do to help the business community up here, particularly small business, I think is well worthwhile. It generates jobs. So, why don't we do it?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have a final question in this area. Where is the crossover point with the local hire commission? Is it through the minister?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I suppose it would be through me. This is something that we've pursued. There are crossovers and there are obvious - although I hate to that term - interfaces between this, local hire and Yukon Hire initiatives.
I suppose the obvious crossover point is me. We had begun this because it was something that we were interested in doing to expedite ease of business, and I'll be sharing that with my colleagues in Yukon Hire and hopefully getting some feedback from them.
On Finance and Administration
Chair: Before we enter that line item, is there any general debate on corporate services? Clear. We will proceed with the line item.
Finance and Administration in the amount of $1,493,000 agreed to
On Policy and Planning
Policy and Planning in the amount of $267,000 agreed to
On Contract Administration
Contract Administration in the amount of $273,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the statistics?
Ms. Duncan: At the Government Services briefing, there was a note that the business incentive estimates were lower and perhaps the minister wants me to wait to this line, but the decrease is due to fewer eligible projects. Has there been thought given to widening the eligibility?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm assuming the member means the BIP grant.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Basically, that is a reflection of fewer capital projects. When we say eligibility, it just reflects fewer capital projects, so therefore, the BIP grant would be decreased accordingly.
Corporate Services in the amount of $2,033,000 agreed to
On Information Services
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Ms. Duncan: In terms of general debate, could I ask the minister, with respect to the routing of telephone calls and the use of the 1-800 number, there has been some discussion between my caucus colleagues and the minister in this respect. Is there an effort to see some improvements for the public in the use of this line?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I took the member's advice and passed this on to our department to take a look at the concept of doing a routing kind of system. I believe they're investigating that possibility now and discussing with Northwestel what can be done in that regard.
Ms. Duncan: Does the minister have any kind of time frame of when he expects a response on this? Six months?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, Government Services always attempts to do this as quickly as possible. I will follow up on it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I am assuming that was just someone clearing their throat.
I will follow up on that as soon as possible and find out where we are with that.
Mr. Jenkins: With respect to communications, are departments internally working on a review to see what cost savings we could incur if we had a second carrier for long distance in Yukon. Has that been explored or is it going to be explored? Could that be public information? All indications are that if the monopoly that Northwestel presently holds in the north was removed, we all could have tremendous savings.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm sure that the member is probably familiar with the fact that the CRTC has put off the idea of a second long-distance carrier in the foreseeable future. We haven't really investigated that possibility because, quite frankly, it hasn't emerged as an issue at this point. I have had some discussions with Northwestel, in terms of letting them know that, if they were interested in expanding their services for government, that we would be looking at a couple of assurances, in terms of costs. They certainly seem cognizant of the fact that the second carrier, particularly a second long-distance carrier, could have a major impact on them, and I think they're quite interested in trying to provide some cost-effective services for government, particularly with regards to information technology. At this point, we don't have any information on what the impact would be of a second carrier in this regard but, certainly, upon its advent, it would have some significance.
Mr. Jenkins: But the advent of a second carrier will never occur until there is total deregulation, and the government can certainly assist in being the lead player in this area. I would ask the minister to undertake this type of review because I'm sure that once those numbers become public knowledge, there will be more demands placed on the telephone company to address this issue. It is a big issue for all Yukoners and, indeed, all people north of 60.
It was kind of interesting - over the weekend at AYC, one of the comments made by the utility was that we have the cheapest power north of 60. I guess the same comment could be made about the telephones: we have the cheapest telephones north of 60. But there's only one company to deal with, Mr. Chair. I would urge the government to get on with exploring this area. Can I ask for the minister's assurances, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can certainly give the member the assurance that we could certainly pursue this. I suppose what one could do would be basically take some of our communication costs and, say, extrapolate from that, on a perhaps comparative cost from a carrier like Sprint, just to see how much impact this would be. If we look at Northwestel, I believe the cost is, in some cases, 95 cents a minute, as compared to 15 cents a minute. It could mean a considerable amount, so, certainly, we would be one of the major beneficiaries in this regard.
I can ask the department to pursue that and see what kind of material savings we could realize with the advent of a second carrier.
On Communications and Administration
Communications and Administration in the amount of $655,000 agreed to
On Production and Network Services
Ms. Duncan: The briefing information provided by the department indicates that this increase is required as a result of additional support for the human resource information system, increased operating impacts as a result of the increase in work stations, and increased line charges for the wide-area network.
It would appear that, with the advent of these systems, we are increasing our costs. Is the minister anticipating an increase in costs each year as we gain greater use of these systems?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: While these are ongoing costs, we do believe that we are going to make some realizations in terms of savings in other areas. Just with regards to that, taking a look at the HRIS system, we are looking at approximately $2.5 million over a five-year period, broken out into $518,360 in direct cost savings and an additional $2,051,000 in so-called softer costs - efficiency savings in terms of staff time.
And this is estimated on a savings period of about five years. Direct-cost savings will start to accrue commencing in 1997.
Production and Network Services in the amount of $3,174,000 agreed to
On Client Services
Client Services in the amount of $408,000 agreed to
Planning in the amount of $367,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the statistics?
Information Services in the amount of $4,604,000 agreed to
Chair: We'll now go to supply services, page 7-10.
On Supply Services
Chair: Is there general debate?
Administration in the amount of $246,000 agreed to
Purchasing in the amount of $376,000 agreed to
On Queen's Printer
Queen's Printer in the amount of $356,000 agreed to
On Asset Control
Ms. Duncan: On asset control, according to my information, records and tracks government assets valued at more than $1,000 and manages the sale of surplus assets.
Could the minister advise if the government also tracks these assets by location? For example, what I'm asking is if they are logged into a computer program, so that an individual could go and check on the number of assets by community, or are they simply in a great big list?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, to the best of my knowledge, it is on a computer data base, and I have seen the list and they often go into fairly fine detail, in this regard.
Ms. Duncan: We could then ask it to sort, and we could find out at any given point in time how many snowmobiles the government owns.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, yes, I suppose we could track down the number of snowmobiles. Snowmobiles, however, are one of those assets that often tend to go missing sometimes. That's yet another story.
Ms. Duncan: I'm interested in that story and the tracking of these assets, and about the shrinkage and the loss by the government on a yearly basis for assets that find another home.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I was being somewhat facetious. I recall when I was on the Lottery Commission, we appeared to be replacing snowmobiles at a rather alarming rate. I'm not suggesting that is indeed the case in government, but it's just that snowmobiles always spring to mind as that disappearing asset.
What I could do is find, for the member, the so-called shrinkage, or unwarranted shrinkage if that is a matter of interest to her, but I would imagine that it doesn't represent a significant portion of government assets.
Asset Control in the amount of $174,000 agreed to
On Transportation and Communication
Transportation and Communication in the amount of $901,000 agreed to
On Central Stores
Central Stores in the amount of $191,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the statistics?
Supply Services in the amount of $2,244,000 agreed to
Ms. Duncan: I want to just ask the minister a question before we sign off on this if in the use of the travel card that I have been dealing with him on and requesting there is any anticipated cost savings or if it's simply an administrative ease?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Right now, I would venture that the cost savings would probably be more in terms of just administrative time. It would just make things somewhat easier for tracking. I think there will be some utility, however, though, because it would probably provide some central registry for travel for various departments in a similar way that perhaps some of the SOA operations did, giving a truer reflection of what their actual costs are, but our general goal in this was to expedite the situation for the travel agents whom we deal with.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, is there going to be any tracking of cost savings, even if it is simply ease of administration or time? Once this travel card is instituted, is there going to be an effort to track these costs?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, there will be. One of the things that is obviously a selling point for whatever credit company we would deal with is their ability to provide that kind of information to us. I think that would certainly be something from our point of view, the same way that it is for corporate customers, in giving a better reflection of what the true travel costs are.
On Property Management
Chair: Is there general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: There's a slight decrease in what our estimates are over the actuals from a few years ago and the forecasts from last year. In this area, one of the major costs are the cost of heating oil and electricity. Heating oil has gone up about 27 percent over the last year and electricity, depending on who you talk to, could be anywhere from 10 percent to 30 percent.
It is interesting that the Chair is in the Chair, and we'll leave him there.
Have these costs been recognized, Mr. Chair, with respect to the operating of the number of properties that we have? We also have an increase in the leased space, so there is an increase in the area that we're responsible for. Have these two costs - heating costs and electrical costs - and the subsequent increases been addressed in this budget?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The short answer is that, in this budget, we were not privy at that time to what the forecast costs were when we were pulling the budget together.
There were two increases: a six-percent increase on January 1st, 1997 and a further two-percent increase on February 1st, 1997. We absorbed these ones into our budget in the last quarter of 1996-97.
The utility cost are primarily electrical costs. Electrical costs represent about 69 percent of all utility projections for the property management branch. We haven't budgeted it in as a component for recent electrical increases or projected electrical increases. What we are trying to do is accommodate some of these increases with regard to a variety of energy conservation methods that I mentioned before.
Mr. Jenkins: And the heating oil - I notice you mentioned an increase - did you budget for an increase in those costs?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No. In that regard, we did not. Once again, we are going to try to make some of our savings in terms of conservation in that regard.
On Realty Services
Realty Services in the amount of $10,824,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the statistics?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I apologize, but I would just like to ask the minister a question, and we passed over it before I realized it.
The government-wide postage cost under transportation and communication provides internal mail delivery and funds for government-wide postage costs. Are those broken down by department? It's back a page - it's under asset control and transportation and communications on page 7-10. It was a question I had with respect to this branch that provides internal mail delivery and funds government-wide postage costs, and I'm just wondering if those are broken down by department and tracked?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This is under supply services, transportation and communication - the reduction? The three-percent reduction? Is that what the member is referring to?
Ms. Duncan: It's not the reduction. It's just that I was advised in the briefing that this is where the government tracks government-wide postage costs and I'm just wondering if those are broken down by department.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I am advised that we can provide that kind of detail, if necessary.
Mr. Jenkins: With respect to the stats on property management, could the minister advise if the increase in leased space is for Renewable Resources, or what are we doing with the Renewable Resources building? There were some plans to replace it, at an estimated cost of around $7 million, or to continue the lease. Where are we at with that building? Is that allowed for in the commercial space leases and owned estimate, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'll have to get back to the member on that particular point.
Deputy Chair: Are there any questions on the transfer payments? Clear.
Property Management in the amount of $10,824,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Government Services in the amount of $19,705,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Deputy Chair report progress on Bill No. 4.
Deputy Chair: Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Deputy Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker assumes 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: Mr. Deputy Speaker, 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 Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:28 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled May 5, 1997:
Queen's Printer Agency: Charter (Sloan)
Queen's Printer Agency: Business plan 1997-98 (Sloan)