Tuesday, March 24, 1998 - 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. In his absence, the Deputy Speaker shall take 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.
Best wishes for a speedy recovery to Billy Germaine
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask Members of the Assembly to direct their thoughts for a moment to a First Nations leader who is currently facing a major health challenge.
Chief Billy Germaine of the Nacho Nyak Dun First Nation was flown by medevac from Mayo to Vancouver late last week after suffering two brain aneurysms, and he remains in hospital there. Billy is just 34 years old and has earned the respect of the entire territory by dedicating much of his adult life to serving his people. I'm sure that members will join me in expressing our concern to his family and the people of Nacho Nyak Dun in wishing Chief Germaine "Godspeed" in his journey of recovery.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Yukon Party caucus, the official opposition, we would like to join with the government in extending our thoughts and heartfelt prayers to Mr. Germaine and to his family upon this most unfortunate situation.
We wish Billy the very best and hope for a full recovery very quickly so that he may return to the Yukon and rejoin his family and friends at home.
Deputy Speaker: Are there any introduction of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Petition No. 5 - received
Clerk: Mr. Deputy Speaker and hon. members of the Assembly, I have had the honour to review a petition being Petition No. 5 of the First Session of the Twenty-ninth Legislative Assembly as presented by the Member for Riverdale South on March 23, 1998.
This petition meets the requirements as to form of the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Deputy Speaker: Petition No. 5 is, accordingly, deemed to be read and received.
Are there any new petitions to be presented?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 10: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Bill No. 10, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1998-99, be introduced and read a first time.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 10, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1998-99, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 10 agreed to
Deputy Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Land claims implementation training
Hon. Mr. Harding: I rise today to announce a major strategy to support implementation of land claims, self-government and employment equity initiatives.
This new strategy helps us meet our commitments to complete land claims and devolution, create employment and economic opportunities and build public trust in government. It also enables us to begin implementing initiatives identified through the representative public service joint planning process under chapter 22 of the Yukon First Nations umbrella final agreement.
The strategy consists of three components. The first involves training to support land claims and self-government implementation. The second encourages temporary assignments between the Yukon and First Nations governments. The third component supports employment equity within the Yukon government.
Today I would like to advise members of the progress being made in the land claims training initiative. This will provide YTG employees with an understanding of the land claims agreements, First Nations culture and the governments that have been established by those agreements.
A joint working group representing Yukon and First Nations governments developed the terms of reference for the project. Employees were contacted to determine their levels of knowledge of the UFA, final and self-government agreements and First Nations culture. First Nations governments provided information specific to their final agreements, constitution and culture.
Three training modules are currently being tested with a group of Yukon and First Nations government personnel. They include Yukon First Nations culture, the history and process of First Nations land claims and cross-cultural communications.
This comprehensive program will provide eight days of in-depth training that is directly relevant to governments in the Yukon. It will include participation from Yukon and First Nations governments and is structured to strengthen people-to-people and government-to-government relationships. Testing will be completed by early April and delivery to Yukon government and First Nations government personnel will begin in earnest in May. The three-module series is expected to be offered 12 times a year to give all government employees an opportunity to complete the training. We have allocated $200,000 to do this project in the 1998-99 fiscal year.
We are also allocating $100,000 toward training to support land claims and self-government implementation. This would included specific professional or technical training required by personnel of both Yukon and First Nations governments to implement the agreements.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, this training is aimed at contributing to a more informed public service, with a greater understanding and appreciation of the new relationship that we want to build between Yukon and First Nations governments. This shared approach to land claims training will benefit all Yukon people and reflect our government's commitment to building foundations for the future.
Mr. Phillips: The ministerial statement that we have here before us today is somewhat similar to one that was given last fall. There's not a lot new in this ministerial statement, other than some of the amounts of dollars that are in this budget, so it really is, more than anything else, rather than an announcement of a new policy, more of an update of an old policy that the minister announced last fall.
Having said that, Mr. Speaker, the provision of the land claims training to Yukon government and First Nations government personnel is a worthy initiative, as we said last fall, and it will contribute to a more informed public service and a greater understanding and appreciation of First Nations governments and the relations between the Yukon and First Nations governments. I believe there is much to learn and much to benefit from increased knowledge.
In the statement, the minister also made reference to a creation of temporary assignments between Yukon and First Nations governments, as well as employment equity within the Yukon government.
I'd like to comment on those briefly.
While we on this side of the House support the initiative for increased representation of First Nations in the Yukon public service, we have expressed some concerns in the past on how it will be achieved.
As I mentioned last fall in the Legislature, there have been many attempts by previous governments to increase First Nations representation in government, some of which have failed and some of which have succeeded. As more First Nations reach self-government and land claim agreements in the territory, there will be increased emphasis to have First Nations working for their own governments versus working for the Government of Yukon and the Government of Canada - and we see that now with some of the First Nation people who have been working for the Government of Yukon moving over to help out their respective First Nations.
The concern that we have is the training received from the Government of the Yukon could be lost in some cases as a result of a decision to work for one's respective First Nation, using the skills and knowledge; and, although it's important to train the First Nations, we have seen in the past that some of these people start out with permanent jobs in the Government of the Yukon and then leave, and as we all know, recruitment becomes very expensive.
There also remains a concern that those individuals who are hired as employees of the Yukon government be fully qualified and able to fulfill the responsibilities associated with the position, and we've heard some criticism in the past with respect to that.
Perhaps the minister could elaborate a bit further as to what kinds of temporary assignments will be encouraged, and also perhaps the minister could shed some light on what he sees in the near future with respect to increasing representation of First Nations in the public service. Does the minister have a target of the numbers that he's looking for? Maybe the minister could also provide us, maybe by way of legislative return when we get into the minister's budget, the current numbers?
For example, will there be new positions created or will internal positions be filled by First Nations and, if so, I caution the minister that there have been complaints in the past of instances where qualified government workers may be bypassed for promotions or other jobs in the government as a result of affirmative action. This has been known to create a sense of frustration, not to mention feelings of animosity amongst employees which has in turn led to poor morale within the department and government at large.
Again, I wish to make it perfectly clear that our caucus is fully supportive of training that will provide a better understanding of the land claims agreements, First Nations cultures, and the governments that have been created by those agreements. I believe we're all on a bit of a learning curve these days with the First Nation final agreements and we should welcome every opportunity to become more acquainted with the land claim process and the implementation of self-government.
I wish the government well on the process and look forward to the initiatives that come out of these projects.
Ms. Duncan: I would like to respond to the statement on behalf of the Yukon Liberal Party caucus. Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Liberal Party caucus was supportive of this initiative when it was first announced on November 19 of last year and we are supportive of it today as it has been elaborated upon further. There is very little new information in this statement. To quote the minister, "These things take time." We appreciate the fact that the minister has made a progress report today.
I believe our generation of Yukoners will be judged by how well we implement the umbrella final agreement that has been negotiated. In order to do something effectively, you have to fully understand the policy or legislation that you are trying to implement, or, in this case, the umbrella final agreement.
I cannot emphasize strongly enough how important I feel understanding the umbrella final agreement is, not simply for governments and elected officials, but for all Yukoners. This training will go a long way toward improving that understanding. It will also, as the minister has indicated, contribute to a more informed public service.
The minister said in his statement that the promise of land claims and self-government can only be fully realized when all Yukon people and their governments have a good, working understanding. I believe that and I feel quite strongly about it.
In his statement, the minister also mentioned that this is part of a three-part plan. What sort of time lines are we looking at for the other two areas: temporary assignments between Yukon and First Nations governments and support for employment equity within the Yukon government? Can the minister provide more information about these aspects of the strategy?
Could the minister also provide, when it becomes available, a copy of the training material that will be used for these eight days of study?
In closing, I would just like to remind the minister that the last time we had this discussion, back in November, I had put forward the suggestion on behalf of our party that the Government of Yukon make overtures to individuals who are not government employees, but whose lives and work touches on countless Yukoners. I was referring to the executive directors of non-government organizations. The minister, at the time, said that overtures had been made and that the government was still consulting and thinking about this option.
Overtures had been made to organizations about the expansion of the training, and he indicated that the government was acting upon it. However, it's not indicated in the statement today, which is a progress report. Could the minister elaborate on that?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I guess in terms of a response, I'll begin with the Yukon Party official opposition and their comment that there's not a lot new in this statement. I have to disagree with that. We put a lot more meat, in terms of the approach we're taking to this particular initiative, in this statement. We've identified the pilot project training modules that we'll be using. We're explaining to Yukoners through this Legislature how we will be evaluating those pilot projects, and we're also announcing that there's going to be a massive training program undertaken to change the entire culture of this government with regard to future government-to-government relations with First Nation governments. So, Mr. Speaker, there is a lot in this statement, as well as elaborating more on how the new monies identified in our budget will be spent to bring this forward.
The critic took some sort of veiled jabs at racial issues, past discrimination and prejudices that are sometimes brought out by members of the Yukon public, but I would remind that member that his government signed, and supposedly supported, the UFA, which has in it a commitment that is constitutionally entrenched to delivering on a more representative public service. And, Mr. Speaker, I think the difference between their former government and ours is that we intend to make good on those commitments.
There will be controversy. There will be some frustration expressed by some people, but we intend to live up to what has been constitutionally entrenched in that UFA. That's why we're investing that money now. That's why we're delivering on this plan.
Mr. Speaker, with regard to temporary assignments, we have established a protocol with First Nation governments. There are some presently underway that seem to be working fairly well. We think it's important to foster that understanding of how the different governments work and function so that it feeds into a better government-to-government relationship on a more equal plane than we have experienced in the past.
We believe this will create and lead to more self-sufficiency for First Nations governments and we think that can only help and enhance our position as a government.
We have quite a list of extensive amounts of information about the training modules, which I will make available to the members opposite and I'll give it to them in advance of the Public Service Commission debate so that perhaps we can get into it in more detail in the estimates debate.
Deputy Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Electrical rate increase
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the minister responsible for the Energy Corporation.
In A Better Way, the Yukon New Democrats promised to stabilize electricity rates to keep them affordable for residents and small businesses. Since this government has been elected to office, we've seen electrical rates escalate and now in the statement given by the minister yesterday, Yukoners and ratepayers in the Yukon can expect to pay another 10 percent increase on their power bills.
Mr. Speaker, one of the areas that is going to cause the rate increase is the outstanding amount of money that Anvil Range owes the Energy Corporation and the government. We've heard all kinds of estimates of that and I would like to ask the minister if he could stand on his feet in the House today and give Yukoners a true accounting of how much is outstanding by Anvil Range to the Energy Corporation and to the territorial government.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, first of all, Mr. Speaker, I have to take issue with the preamble to the member's question. First of all, we have seen two shutdowns of the Faro mine in our term. We've dealt with some very difficult circumstances and we're extremely proud of the plan we put forward to the public of the Yukon with regard to finding a long-term solution to the roller-coaster ride of electrical rates. I think Yukoners are going to appreciate the fact that we have taken this action, particularly in light of the fact that his administration did not.
Mr. Speaker, the member said that they have seen electricity rates escalate. That is completely false. Mr. Speaker, in this year alone there was a 20-percent reduction, a 5.5-percent reduction. In another month or two, there'll be a 3.3-percent reduction in energy rates. Rate riders will be coming off.
So that statement that he made is indeed false.
With regard to the arrears of Anvil Range, the numbers are not entirely entrenched. Some of them have to go before the Yukon Utilities Board, but it's safe to say that Anvil Range owes between $5.5 million to $7 million. Some of the cost of service issues surrounding the amount of the bill have not yet gone before the Yukon Utilities Board.
Mr. Ostashek: I don't find it surprising that the minister would take exception to my preamble, because they're very sensitive that they haven't lived up to the commitment that they made to Yukoners. The fact remains, Mr. Speaker, power rates are higher today than when the Yukon NDP government was elected some 18 months ago.
Mr. Speaker, I'm somewhat surprised by the figure given by the minister in the House today of $5.5 million to $7 million, when in fact I asked him that very same question during debate just prior to Christmas. At that time, I said that they owed somewhere in the neighbourhood of $5 million, and he said that I was exaggerating, and that the total outlay in December would have been $2.5 million to $3 million.
I would like to ask the minister: what has changed?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, what has changed is the mine operated in the month of December. Their December bill was due January 21. The CCAA of Anvil Range occurred on January 15, before the December bill was even due. Those monies were not paid out to the Energy Corporation. They were following the normal billing procedure that has been undertaken by the utility under his administration and under ours.
Mr. Speaker, I also want to point out that the Energy Corporation was in the process of filing an application to change the way they billed Anvil Range to allow for more upfront billing and to shorten the collection period. That was a move that was opposed in the local media by the member opposite.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, it appears to me that we have a double standard here because, even if we take the minister's figures that he's talking about today and the outstanding power bills, it shouldn't add up to $7 million. He'd better get a new calculator.
Mr. Speaker, I would like the minister to explain to this House why Anvil Range was allowed this kind of leeway in running up a power bill when the Energy Corporation was threatening to cut the power off from other companies, such as United Keno Hill, if they didn't pay their bill.
I would like the minister to assure this House today that there was no political interference by him or the Energy Corporation in allowing Anvil Range to run up a larger bill than what they should have been able to.
Hon. Mr. Harding: First of all, Mr. Speaker, the collection procedure the Energy Corporation was following was exactly the same as when the member opposite was the minister responsible.
Secondly, Mr. Speaker, the Energy Corporation was moving to file an application before the Yukon Utilities Board to ask for more upfront payment and to shorten the billing period and the amount of time that the company had to pay the bill. That move was opposed by the leader of the official opposition in the media. I can table that for the members of this House.
Mr. Speaker, in December, they ran the mine. Their bill was due January 21, just like every other customer, including residential customers. The CCAA occurred January 15, so they had the month of December and up to January 15 to add on to the arrears. The other issues are related to costs of service, which did not get before the Yukon Utilities Board for a ruling, so it's not clear yet whether they're out or not.
So, Mr. Speaker, those are the issues that are before the Yukon people and I think, given the members' record and their opposition to shortening the billing period, it's a strange question from the member.
Question re: Electrical rate stabilization
Mr. Ostashek: What's strange, Mr. Speaker, is the unkept promises by that minister and his party to the Yukon ratepayers. That's what's strange.
Mr. Speaker, my question is again to the minister responsible for the Energy Corporation concerning the NDP government's betrayal of its election commitment to stabilize electrical rates and to keep them affordable.
Mr. Speaker, Yukoners have learned the hard way, through their wallets, that when the NDP government says it's going to improve something, the reality is that Yukoners end up paying more, and we've seen that with the new and improved NDP rate relief program, where they ended up clawing back -
Deputy Speaker: Order please. Would the member please get to the question.
Mr. Ostashek: Yes, Mr. Speaker, but they clawed back what they gave to the public. Now, we have the NDP government and this minister coming out with great, stabilized ...
Deputy Speaker: Order please. Would the member please get to the question.
Mr. Ostashek: Yes, I am on the question, Mr. Speaker.
... rates at a level that the NDP feels is adequate. It says a nine-percent increase over the existing rate.
My question to the minister is this: if another major commercial customer or industrial user comes on the grid once this new policy is in effect, will the rates go down to the ratepayers?
Hon. Mr. Harding: First of all, we are keeping our promises. We brought in a rate stabilization fund to end the roller-coaster ride on rates for Yukoners. That's what they've been telling us to do. The member opposite was out in the public fear-mongering about a 30- to 45-percent increase, trying to scare everybody. Our rate stabilization plan takes that to nine percent. He's not happy with that. We would like it to be zero. Unfortunately, it can't be that way. We are dealing with a difficult situation.
Mr. Speaker, the member is incorrect about the numbers from which the nine percent is based. We're talking about a situation of the 1996 rates with the mine up and the rate relief program on. And there will be a further 3.3-percent reduction in the next couple of months when the diesel rider comes off.
So, we feel that we are delivering on our commitment to stabilize rates. I think the member opposite has a tough sell to say we're not.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, if the minister wants to sell this to the public, he'd better be very clear with the public and answer the questions. The question to the minister was very simple. If, once this new rate policy comes into effect - the nine-percent increase over 1996 rates that is going to be frozen for four years - and we have a major industrial customer come online that's going to buy a sufficient amount of power from the Yukon Energy Corporation so that people would be entitled to a rate decrease, are they in fact going to get that decrease while this policy is in effect?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Again, Mr. Speaker, I must say that I find this question so ironic from the member opposite, who was the minister in 1995 and 1996 when there was a 30-percent jump in power rates when Curragh went down, and in 1996, when the rates went back to the Yukon Utilities Board, there was no decrease when the mine went back up in residential rates in this territory. So, I can't understand how the member can now stand up and talk about it in terms of some new belief that has overcome him in terms of what should happen to rates.
Mr. Speaker, the YUB will rule on rates, as they always have, if a major industrial customer comes back on. The rate stabilization will be self-funded by that. If there is enough money in the rate stabilization fund, then ultimately customers would receive that break.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, the minister has just stood up on his feet and criticized us by saying that in 1996 when the mine came back on, the rates didn't go down. Now he's going to add another nine percent on top of it. That's what he told the House in the ministerial statement yesterday: that he's adding another nine percent on top of it.
Mr. Speaker, this minister and this government is lost when it comes to rates in the territory. They don't know what to do. They've stabilized the rates at a level so high that they're going to make it unaffordable for most people to be able to afford to use power.
I want to ask the minister this: is there going to be a universal rate relief program or a targeted rate relief program on top of this rate stabilization fund that he put in place yesterday?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, the only member of the Legislature that is lost is the member opposite, who was running around in the public saying that there was going to be a 30- to 45-percent rate increase. We bring in long-term solution - a rate stabilization fund - to lower that to nine percent. The member is obviously confused.
I said to the member opposite that if there is a major industrial customer, the Yukon Utilities Board will rule on what the rates will be for residential, industrial and commercial customers. There will be more money put back into the rate stabilization fund. If the fund is healthy, obviously benefits can go back to residential customers. The rate relief program for targeted relief will be for consideration in the consultations carried out by the energy commission. The matter is still up for discussion.
Question re: Air Transat
Ms. Duncan: Yesterday, I asked the Minister of Tourism questions regarding the sale of seats to Whitehorse on the Air Transat charters from Frankfurt this summer. Now that the minister has had time to review the question I asked, could the minister indicate today, does the Department of Tourism have any idea how many passengers will be deplaning in Whitehorse and beginning their holiday, and how many are journeying straight to Vancouver on the Air Transat charter?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I can answer the question as directed. But, certainly, before I answer the question, it's important that the member opposite understands the difference between a charter airline and a regular scheduled airline, which Air Transat is a charter airline.
Charter airlines prefer to offer their seats in bulk to tour wholesalers, and those are the people who feature the Yukon tourism products under their banners, and they economize the marketing cost by making it the responsibility of the wholesaler. Now, as a result, as the member opposite said yesterday, six hotels - if I can remember correctly off the top of my head - are not feeling an impact immediately and maybe have to look at it a different way. So, certainly, they will receive any advance bookings that they have from Air Transat, not from the company, but through the indirect resources.
Ms. Duncan: I'd like to thank the minister. I was quite well-aware of that information, and that's the reason I'm asking the question. I'm receiving mixed signals from the industry. I've had some people in the industry tell me that, yes, they are seeing an increase in some bookings, and some that are saying they are not receiving any.
If we are, as a community, to prepare for 20 passengers, that's one thing. If we're to prepare for 100 passengers, that's quite another. If we're to prepare for 300, that is quite another.
Would the minister ask his officials - who have been working closely with Air Transat - to give some kind of an indication how well the Frankfurt-to-Whitehorse portion of the Air Transat charters are selling?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, and if I could, Mr. Deputy Speaker, pardon me and thank you. The total number of flights that are going to be coming to Whitehorse is 4,994. As I said yesterday, there are approximately 75 to 80 percent of those seats that have been sold now and Air Transat is quite enthusiastic with the success of their program.
Now, as I said, they are looking to do this through their charter, not through their regular routing, and they expect that people are coming - with all the media and the hype - here to the Yukon Territory. So, they certainly expect that 95 percent of the total visitors will be here. I do believe in my own mind that that is a bit low.
Ms. Duncan: Even with the minister's math, I don't think we're getting 4,000 flights. I think what he meant to say was 4,000 passengers.
Let's say, for the sake of argument, that the 80 or 90 percent figure the minister is using with regard to sales is accurate, and let's say that we're getting 200 and some odd passengers off a plane direct from Germany once a week for 15 weeks beginning May 19. Clearing 200 passengers through Canada Customs reasonably and quickly in the language of their choice isn't going to be easy. Preparations have to be made, and` the first flight arrives in seven weeks.
What arrangements have been made by the Department of Tourism on behalf of Air Transat with Canada Customs?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the department has been working and has been developing a very good working relationship with the Canada Customs official, and I think that is evident by the Fulda airplane when it came here. Things can be done in a very expeditious manner and are being done in a very expeditious manner, and we'll be mirroring that expeditious manner right to the hilt so that we can get people out into the hinterland and out of the City of Whitehorse and into the City of Whitehorse - as they want. That is what they want and that is what we'll do best.
So, we're here working for the tourism people and for Tourism Yukon and will continue to do so.
So, thank you very much for your correction in the math and your endorsement of what a good job we're doing, too.
Question re: Marsh Lake ski trails, land reserve
Mrs. Edelman: Unfortunately, my question is for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
Now, Mr. Speaker, in 1987 the president of the Marsh Lake Community Association sent a letter to the NDP government of the day requesting that the land between the Alaska Highway and the Judas Creek subdivision at Marsh Lake be set aside as a parcel of land for a community recreation reserve. That letter was cc'd to now Government Leader Piers McDonald. The government has never responded to this request from the Marsh Lake residents or to any of their other requests to set this land aside over the past 11 years.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Liberal caucus has sent copies of correspondence and minutes of various meetings to federal Minister Stewart, who is the Minister of Northern Affairs, so that she can have a chronology of requests and information on this issue.
Mr. Speaker, will the minister commit to at least starting the process from his government's end to obtain this parcel of land from the federal government and to set this land aside for recreational use?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It's unfortunate we have to ask each other questions reluctantly because I'm more than enthused to answer the questions that the members opposite ask.
Certainly, Mr. Speaker, this might have been a long and ongoing issue. Certainly, though, we will be working with the folks of Marsh Lake. I've just received a letter that was cc'd to my department, and we'll be working within the department and also, of course, with the Land Claims Secretariat to ensure that the right thing is followed.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, at a meeting in 1995 between approximately 80 Marsh Lake residents and the Department of Community and Transportation Services, it was again identified in the minutes that this land should be set aside for recreational use. Also, in the minutes it was identified that there should be community consultation before YTG goes ahead with projects in this area.
Mr. Speaker, YTG is in the process of getting two agricultural land parcels transferred to the territorial government to sell to applicants. There has been some consultation, at the request of YTG, as mentioned in the minutes from the Federal/Territorial Land Advisory Committee meeting on October 5, 1995. What sort of consultation took place before YTG went ahead with this project?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The two applications are at very different stages. One has been in the process now for approximately eight years and one has just recently come onstream. They have gone through, like you said, FTLAC and ALARC and the different levels of consultation. It's gone through the First Nation of Kwanlin Dun. It's been identified at the table.
I'm not exactly sure how much of an area you're talking about. If it's specifically for a ski trail, that has been taken into consideration in one of the applications and it is not part of the application. It is approximately 100 metres off the boundary lines.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, what's happening is that this quite lovely parcel of land is gradually getting whittled and whittled and whittled way down. At that same 1995 meeting three years ago, it was clearly identified that there should be better communications between Marsh Lake residents and YTG. Virtually no one at Marsh Lake even knows about this latest agricultural lease proposal. Any communication that seems to happen with Marsh Lake is done with the Marsh Lake Community Association, which is purely a recreational association out there. What they do is activities with preschool children and they groom the ski trails.
There has been a request that this government improve the lines of communications with Marsh Lake residents in the Department of Community and Transportation Services. What has this government done to follow up on the consultation meetings that were held three years ago at Marsh Lake? What are you going to do to try and make sure that the people of Marsh Lake know what the heck is going on in their area?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. That question would fall more to myself, in this particular case.
I have a letter here that was carbon copied, as I said, to a member of my staff. It is a letter from a Ms. Donna Teboe. The tone of the letter is very nice and very frank. I can quote from the letter. It says, "The residents here have already recognized the need to prepare a land use plan for the area and understand that one is slated to be done by the YTG." Well, that is not absolutely correct, but is certainly something I can work on with the residents. It says, "However, YTG has not followed through on their commitment to provide such a plan, because the residents were not organized in any representative fashion."
Well, I understand that that fashion is now starting to take place, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and my department would be more than willing to work with the people and to continue to work with the people in pursuit of this plan.
Question re: Social assistance costs
Mr. Jenkins: My question today is for the Minister of Health and Social Services, and it's concerning social assistance costs.
Yukon's February unemployment rate came in at 13 percent, and it would have been over 15 percent if 400 individuals hadn't left the labour force. Two of the Yukon's largest unions, the United Steelworkers and the Teamsters, have complained that there are some 700 union members out of work as a result of the closure of the Faro mine, and even those who can find jobs elsewhere can't relocate, because they have no money to move.
In fact, one union leader stated, and I quote, "We have tried to help some of our members relocate, because there's absolutely no work in the Yukon, and governments would rather see them on welfare than help them move out of the territory."
Can the minister advise the House how many social assistance cases the government currently has in the total Yukon, and how many by community, specifically Faro? Does the government have any contingency plan in place to reduce these costs by working with the federal government to relocate unemployed workers who have managed to find a job elsewhere? What is the government's game plan in this area, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, the member has asked for some considerable detail in terms of SA numbers for different communities. I'd have to provide that to him in a different form.
I'm not sure exactly what the specific matter is that the member is seeking. Is he asking are we in the business of providing assistance for people to move out of the territory? Is that the gist of his question? That is not our role in social assistance. However, we do understand that some people have left Faro.
During previous mine shutdowns, there was a program with EI to help people relocate. That program has since been discontinued. So, at this point, we do not have anything within our social assistance to assist in this regard.
Mr. Jenkins: I must say that I'm extremely disappointed with the minister's response. In view of the fact that this government knew well in advance that the Faro mine was closing down, they should have had a game plan, a contingency plan, in place. They haven't. That's obvious, Mr. Speaker.
Many Faro workers are not able to claim EI because the mine wasn't in operation long enough for them to qualify for benefits - consequently, no EI, no relocation programs, through no fault of their own. The only recourse these workers have is social assistance, which is paid for solely by the Yukon government.
Can the minister advise the House what action his government is taking to make the federal government live up to their responsibilities to help relocate the Faro workers, or is he simply going to continue to fund these workers with social assistance to remain in Faro with no imminent prospect for employment? Is that the game plan?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The comprehensive response to Faro is being administered by the Department of Economic Development. The question pertains to issues surrounding what the government is doing in Faro during this very difficult time for people.
Mr. Speaker, the group that I'm heading up has done an extensive lobbying effort. I recently went to Ottawa, met with the parliamentary secretary to the DIAND minister. The issue was raised. The issue has been raised through written correspondence several times on the issue of relocation.
In the 1993 shutdown, the federal government put $1.2 million to $1.8 million into the community of Faro and also to deal with other people in the Yukon affected - in Whitehorse, teamsters, ore truck drivers - to help them do job searches, to go to interviews, to relocate. The federal government, the Liberal government, has since slashed that program and completely eliminated it.
So, Mr. Speaker, this is causing some considerable challenges for us in terms of handling this, but I'm working with my colleague, the Minister of Health and Social Services, on the issue. We've been putting training into the community. We've been working with the community in terms of job search, setting up an industrial adjustment services committee. We've been working with them on identifying recreational work opportunities in the community. I've been trying to get the mine reclamation trust fund access so that people can go to work in that community in the meantime, and to get the mine going again. All of these things are being done through Economic Development in coordination with other departments.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it's interesting that the Minister of Economic Development refers to "the meantime". What's this mean? Are the mine workers going back to work? Is that what he's suggesting to the House?
What I'm looking for, Mr. Speaker, is the Minister of Health and Social Services to indicate, on a regular basis, what the social assistance costs in the Yukon are on a monthly basis, and what they are on a community basis. A total number of cases and total cost - that's what I'm looking for. Those are the questions I had for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Mr. Speaker, when the Faro mine closes down, history tells us that many Yukoners outside of Faro also lose their jobs and social assistance costs rise. I'm requesting of the minister this monthly report giving the Yukon's social assistance costs. If it's too hard for the minister to stand on his feet to respond, a legislative return will do. We want a -
Deputy Speaker: Order please. Would the member please get to the question.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm getting to the question, Mr. Speaker.
We want to relate back the unemployment rate to the social assistance cost. When the union leader puts it, "There's absolutely no work in the Yukon," we want to know what the costs are. Could the minister undertake to do that, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I can see why that member has such a profound interest in gas. I've never seen such a use of fossil fuels in my whole life. I mean I think the CO2 level in the atmosphere just rose by several million tonnes from that one.
With regard to the member's question -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm sorry, the Member for Klondike says, "Answer the question." I'm just trying to figure out which one of the 25 he would like me to answer and in which priority.
If the member does want some details, I can certainly provide him with details. I can tell him right now that, as of the most recent point, we had 37 in the February social assistance case load. We're anticipating that, based on last year's numbers in Faro - and I do assume that, despite that plethora of other questions, he was seeking information on Faro - we are looking at some place in around 50. I think what we can anticipate - I'm not quite sure. Is the member seeking that we ship people out?
Is that what he's doing? Basically, we anticipate that some people will leave. We are trying to work with the folks up there. We've been working with the union. We've been working with Economic Development to try and provide a variety of services to the individuals up there. Unfortunately, HRDC -
Deputy Speaker: Order please. Would the minister please conclude his answer?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It seems that we should have a little quid pro quo here. If he can take half an hour to ask the question, I can take half an hour to answer it.
Unfortunately, HRDC does not have any relocation programs at this point.
Deputy Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of opposition private members' business
Ms. Duncan: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I'd like to identify the items standing in the name of the third party to be called on Wednesday, March 25, 1998. They are Motion No. 98, standing in the name of the Member for Riverside, and Motion No. 99, standing in the name of the Member for Riverside.
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
Deputy 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.
Deputy Chair: Committee will recess for 15 minutes.
Deputy Chair: I will now call the Committee of the Whole to order.
Committee is dealing with the main estimates. We are on the Department of Education.
Bill No. 9 - First Appropriation Act, 1998-99 - continued
Department of Education - continued
Deputy Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have a couple of comments and statements following up on issues that were discussed yesterday, and then we can proceed with further general debate.
In response to questions relating to school council elections, I would like to be clear for the record that school council elections occur every two years. School board elections occur every three years. The next scheduled date for school council elections is October 1998.
At the end of the day yesterday, there was a question in relation to the Wood Street facility, which, at the present time, offers a number of unique courses and services within the Department of Education and is indeed expanding beyond the Department of Education.
At the present time, the music, arts, and drama program is offered out of the gymnasium and one classroom at the Wood Street facility. The ACES program, which is an experiential project - entitled "achievement, challenge, environment and service" - and does academic class work as well as outdoor education, is provided at the Wood Street facility, as is the experiential science program.
The experiential science program is offered in both French and English.
The coordinator for student work placements and entrepreneurial initiatives works out of Wood Street. He works with school-based programs, such as career and personal planning and the work placements associated with that, as well as with the co-op education and high school apprenticeship programs.
At the present time, we have an agreement with the Business Education Council to operate the Yukon Entrepreneurship Centre Society, which teaches entrepreneurial skills to youth at the Wood Street centre for a two-year commitment to provide space. Next year would be the second year of that commitment.
The venture forth program has been offered. It's a program of study toward graduation for students over the ages of 15 who have had difficulty achieving success in school.
There is a shared resource room.
The community youth worker program is also being offered, starting in January 1998. That program is being delivered through a partnership with the Department of Justice, the RCMP, Crime Prevention Yukon, the City of Whitehorse, Kwanlin Dun and Human Resources Development Canada.
The Department of Health and Social Services and Department of Community and Transportation Services, sports and recreation, are also linked to this project through the fostering healthy communities initiative. The coordinator is in place and will run the program from February to the end of June.
Our plans for Wood Street are for the Department of Education to continue to use it by offering these kinds of programs for the balance of this year and for the next school year.
Ms. Duncan: And, could I follow up? At the end of the minister's last comments, she said the intention the department is to use the Wood Street annex for the balance of this school year and for next year. Are there plans beyond that for the Wood Street Annex?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No, there are not at this time.
Ms. Duncan: Could the minister indicate when discussions might be undertaken? Is there another department looking at the building? What happens with that building at the end of the 1999 school year?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, as I've just indicated, we know what use will be made of the facility for the 1998-99 school year. As the member knows, there is a lot of interest in the Wood Street facility, which has eight classrooms, a gymnasium, a library and office space. Many community groups and others have expressed an interest in the use of that space. At the present time, we have made no commitment to anyone over and above the commitment to maintain the facility for the use of educational programming for the current school year and for the 1998-99 school year.
Ms. Duncan: We'll leave that issue for the moment. I don't believe we're going to get any more details from the minister in that regard, so we'll leave it for the moment.
I wonder if the minister could revisit the issue of the five-stage intervention model? As I understand it, my notes on that five-stage intervention model - which I committed to reviewing - indicate that, in the spring of 1997, there were discussions undertaken with Health and Social Services, as well as the Department of Education, to consider the needs of some students for basically a 24-hour plan that encompasses care and appropriate response to their needs for an entire day, not just a school day. There were a number of initiatives that began out of that. Work was undertaken with three departments - Education, Justice and Health and Social Services - recognizing that the problems and some of the difficulties encompass all three departments, and the minister is responsible for two of those.
The five-stage intervention model, as I understand it, in stage 1, has the students basically remaining in the school following a discipline plan. Stage 2 has, again, the student remaining in the school.
Stage 3 can take place in alternate settings, although the majority of the time the student remains in the school. At stage 4, the student is definitely outside of the regular classroom, and the Wood Street Annex and other resources in our community, such as the Kwanlin Dun house of learning, are used at that point in time. At stage 5, the students are removed from the school. Again, they are located in other areas outside of the main school system.
I just wonder if the minister could provide, first of all, an update on the work of these three departments, particularly the two she's responsible for, with regard to this alternative intervention model and model that attempts to provide for the needs in our community - educational as well as others - and where she sees, physically, these students being located.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I thank the member for her questions. The five-stage intervention model is still in the design phase.
The intent behind its development is to create a comprehensive, understandable, student-centred context for academic intervention, for social and emotional intervention, and behavioural intervention that can meet the varying needs of the students while ensuring due process for all children. So, as the member summarized, the first level encompasses interventions needed on a daily basis by all children and are generally handled in the classroom or by supervising teachers.
The second level addresses needs that may be longer term that will require additional supports beyond the classroom, which may include a learning assistant, a program implementation teacher or counselling.
Level 3 would provide special supports for children who cannot always function successfully in the regular classroom setting for a full day without becoming disruptive to the learning environment. These children do require regular classroom programming. Additional staffing is helpful at this stage to provide consistent intervention and possibly preventing the students from becoming at risk later in the school system.
The level 4 intervention is one that more work has been done on this year because there was a need to address some issues in the behavioural resource room. Education has been working closely with personnel from health and family services and the Department of Justice to identify the special needs of the students for whom an alternative classroom is the least restrictive environment. These students are capable of graduating with a grade 12 diploma but would not achieve this if left in the regular classroom setting. With the collaboration of all of the departments, they've been developing a positive and safe learning environment for the special needs children.
Departmental personnel are looking at the possibility of expanding this model. I must emphasize for the member though that it does remain in the design phase, and some work has been done toward implementation. There has been broader implementation at some levels than at others.
There has also been a decision made to move one student to the level 5 programming, which does not occur in a regular school setting. This level addresses primarily safety needs and moves students into alternative programming.
Ms. Duncan: I wonder if the minister could provide the House with some more information regarding the design work. She mentioned design phase and mentioned collaboration between the departments. Is there a working committee that is dealing with this issue on a daily basis? Is there a time frame attached for design and implementation? Are there assessment and evaluation procedures in place? Could the minister provide some more information in that regard?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I can bring back further information for the member. Yes, there is a working group, which consists of the departments that I have mentioned as having been involved in developing the five-stage intervention model. Both the Minister of Health and Social Services and the Justice and Education ministers are in support of the program and its design and delivery. We would be happy to bring back a more complete answer for the member on time frames and design work.
Ms. Duncan: I'm going to leave this issue for the moment. I may come back to that. I would like to review the minister's answers in Hansard.
The five-stage intervention model, in part, deals with some of the issues of violence in our schools. That is the broader issue I'm looking at, as well as counselling and how we're helping and working with children to provide a safe educational environment for them.
I raised the issue of counselling last evening in debate with the minister and with Yukon Family Services - the idea of a hotline for students. I note that in the Porter Creek newsletter, TAP-16, a unit within the school, is raising money toward the national Kids Helpline. Has anyone in the Government of Yukon - the Minister of Education or the Minister of Health and Social Services - tracked the Kids Helpline as to how often it's used by Yukon students?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No, we have not, Mr. Chair, although I will tell the member that I have wondered about the use of the line by Yukon students. I'm not entirely certain that it's accessible from the Yukon and I would have to check into that and bring an answer back for the member.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, obviously the students at Porter Creek support this national initiative, so I think it's encumbent on us to find out what use we're making of it and how we might support and work with that information.
The other national information and its applicability to Yukon that I'd like to discuss with the minister is the increase of violence among girls. There was a major TV program on that, discussing violence among young women, and the statistic quoted in that news report was a 200-percent increase in the last five years, in violence between young women.
I wonder if the minister has some statistics in the Yukon on violence among young women?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I don't believe we have the kinds of statistical analysis that the member is describing.
I've also heard conflicting reports that support what the member is saying that she heard in watching one particular program, but there have been numerous other articles and programs which suggest that those numbers are not accurate. I think the fact remains that the level of violence in society and among young people is one that is of serious concern to all of us, and that is why we are supporting the work of government committees on creating healthy communities and are supporting a number of programs that cross departmental lines to improve programs and services that are offered to try and prevent violence, whether those are at the school intervention stage or whether they're crime prevention initiatives.
Ms. Duncan: I agree with what the minister has said: there's conflicting evidence out there. It would seem to me that in targeting our programs and our program dollars that we should have some information rather than simply media reports or - I'm trying to think of another word for gut instinct - personal experience to base our programming on. So, I wonder if the minister could undertake to find out what information is out there from the school - whether it's anecdotal information or hard statistical information - because certainly the discipline actions are very, very, very well reported among the schools. So, perhaps she and the departmental officials could undertake to gain some information on this and also historical information.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, we can look at what information can be compiled. The superintendents and the school administrations have a good indication of the level of violence because incidents of violence are reported and are dealt with through the discipline plans that are in place at the schools.
Ms. Duncan: Could I also ask the minister to undertake to outline specifically programs that are targeted at reducing violence between young women? I'd like the overall picture of programs to mitigate and eliminate violence in our learning environments, but I wonder if she could also just spell out any programs that are specifically targeted toward young women.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The violence prevention programs - and I did in general debate earlier this week and last week outline them, so I won't go over the lists of some of the programs that are in place - are in place in order to reduce violence in school environments, and whether it's violence between boys, violence between girls or between boys and girls, our goal is to encourage students to have a respectful attitude toward one another so that they're not acting out in violent ways toward other people.
Whether certain programs are targeted for one gender, I can look at and provide information to the member if we have such programs in place. It is important, I think, that the kinds of programs that we offer teach students how to interact with the other people, teach them effective ways of communication that do not involve violence, and deal with all levels of communication, whether it's between one sex and another, or between youth and adults.
Ms. Duncan: In the briefing on supplementary budget responses to questions provided to the opposition in November of last year, the department was kind enough to enclose article 38 for members, which was agreed to in the collective agreement between the Yukon government and the Yukon Teachers Association. Article 38 was a new article, and it was changed to add, among other things, section (c), "The association and the employer agree to continue their efforts in the establishment, implementation and maintenance of effective measures for violence prevention and protection in the school.
Now this is specifically targeted between teachers and students. Is the minister's response that these violence programs that she's outlined in other sections of the debate are the answer, or are there programs specifically targeted to deal with this issue?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As far as I am aware, Mr. Chair, the work, as agreed to in the article of the collective agreement between the association and the employer to continue their efforts toward maintaining effective violence prevention measures in schools, is ongoing. I can provide a written answer for the member on what activities may have been sponsored to implement such programs.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, am I to understand from the minister then that there is no specific initiative that she's aware of at this time specifically geared to fulfilling the requirements of article 38(c)?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm aware of discussions between the parties, and I'm going to have to bring back a written answer in relation to any program activities at the school level.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the minister for that. I look forward to that response. Could the minister also provide an indication of the number of teachers who have taken or who are using, at this point, stress leave allotment?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: That's a personnel-related question, Mr. Chair, and I do not believe that we would normally provide the kind of information that relates to the personnel activities of the various members of the bargaining unit.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm not asking for specific personnel information. I'm asking for the numbers of teachers who have taken leave due to stress in this school year and last school year. It's my understanding that this number is the highest it has ever been in the Yukon, and I'd like the minister to either substantiate that by providing the numbers or to indicate that that is not the case.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I will take that question under advisement. I think if I were to stand here and give an unequivocal yes, I would bring back that information for the member, it could lead to a request for information about how many members of the bargaining unit have taken sick leave or have taken special leave over the course of the current year or the previous year. I am reluctant to commit to providing personnel information. I will take the question under advisement and provide the member with a written response.
Ms. Duncan: I'm looking forward to that written response. I fail to see the minister's hesitation, in that I believe that this number could directly indicate how teachers, as employees, are feeling about their work environment. I think it's incumbent upon us to know that information and to seek answers from the government. It also, of course, directly relates to cost.
I've had quite a discussion with a number of individuals about the line item identified for substitute teacher costs and this directly reflects on it. I believe it's certainly important information for my work as a member, and I'm certain the other opposition critic would be interested in this information, as well.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, as I've said for the member, I will seek advice from the Public Service Commission and I will provide the member with a written response.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Recently, the Elijah Smith school expressed concerns regarding the lengthy waiting period for school psychologist assessments. I've noticed this in a number of different school newsletters, not just that one, though I happened to read it most recently. It mentioned quite a backlog.
Could the minister indicate how many students, at this point in time, are waiting for assessment?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm not sure that I have that answer with me here in the House this afternoon. I know that I have requested an update on that information, and as soon as I have it I will provide it for the member.
Ms. Duncan: Would the minister also provide reasons for the waiting period? If her answer indicates that there are children waiting, I would like an indication of how long a wait and why that's occurring.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, we can bring back a full answer.
Ms. Duncan: I'd like to address the issue of the reading recovery program with the minister. Could she provide a bit of historical information? How was the reading recovery program selected as the program to assist our students with reading issues? I understand it's an early intervention model and I've had the benefit of a presentation on the program itself. I'm wondering how it was selected from the array of programs that are out there.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The reading recovery program is, as the member indicated, a highly specialized reading program focused on six-year-old students who are at risk academically. It's a one-on-one approach that helps children learn how to read and to be independent, problem-solving readers.
This particular program was first implemented in New Zealand with aboriginal students and was found to be very successful there and was implemented in Canada through the Canadian Institute of Reading Recovery in Scarborough, Ontario.
The first training of teachers for the program from the Yukon was conducted in 1995-96. We continued to support the program through subsequent budget years and have expanded it to have intensive training of teachers from both urban and rural schools in the Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I believe the minister just indicated to me that it was selected before her term as minister, 1995, and it was based upon an experience of another jurisdiction.
What assessment models do we have in place for measuring the success of the reading recovery program?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, a number of assessment models are used to assess students' reading ability. The students who participate in the reading recovery program are also part of the regular classroom and so they may have taken the CTBS testing or the regular classroom tests which measure their reading level.
The students who have lower verbal and language skills who go into the reading recovery program do develop better reading skills and it no longer hinders their academic performance when they're able to read well.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, if I am to understand the minister's answer then, there's no separate assessment of the effectiveness of the reading recovery program. There is just general testing of students and work within the schools. There's no specific assessment or review period for the reading recovery program.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I believe that ongoing assessment of the students is part of the work that the reading recovery teachers do with those students throughout the course of the school years as they're participating in the program. I can have an answer prepared for the member by the teacher leader who's working with the training of the reading recovery teachers just to provide some more detail for the member.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I think I need to be clear with the minister on what I'm looking for. It seems to me that we're dedicating resources to a specific program and how are we to examine that and say, yes, dedicating so many thousands of dollars to reading recovery worked because, five years later in our CTBS scores, we have this huge increase.
Is there any specific measurements that the department has instituted? When we adopted this model, did we just say, "Yup, this looks great, we'll spend this much money and have at 'er"? Was there no discussion of how are we going to measure the effectiveness of this, maybe we should have used another program, or maybe we should have done this differently, maybe this was too few dollars, too many dollars?
I find it highly unlikely that somebody would say we spent too much money on something.
I'm just wondering how the minister can stand and say: this is a good program, because in five years we've done this. What measurement do we have in place?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The assessment of students' reading level is a fundamental measure of their ability to perform successfully in the classroom. The students who are at risk, whose reading level is below grade level and not consistent with the performance of their classmates, are the students who are participating in the reading recovery program. We're able to track and measure their reading performance by the simple fact that they continue to participate in the education system and to take the testing that occurs within the school system on an ongoing basis. When students learn how to read, then they're doing well at school, because reading is a fundamental skill to all the subjects, and particularly to the language arts. That is something that we measure within the education system.
As I've said, we can provide further information for the member on the specific measurement models that the reading recovery program uses over and above the regular assessment of the reading skills. We can, and should, be able to identify performance measurements.
Ms. Duncan: I think the minister and I are actually - well, I think the minister understands what I'm trying to get at. In five years, are we going to be able to say, this child succeeded because we put the reading recovery program in place? That's what I want to see. I don't want to know how they measure whether or not a child can read, because I'm sure they're very well qualified to do that, and I'm sure they do a wonderful job. We don't have to have someone spend hours writing a briefing note on it when I'm sure they're doing what they're supposed to do.
I just want to know that, in five years, we will be able to point to students and say that student succeeded because, yes, we put this program in place.
That's what I'm looking for.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, that is the intent of the program, and I will come back, as I've said, with a written response to confirm for the member how the assessment models we have in place track the effectiveness of the reading recovery program.
Ms. Duncan: On another school subject - science - I'd just like to offer congratulations to the grade 6 Christ the King Elementary School students and Johnson Elementary students who are participating with five other cities in a national science project. I'm sure the minister is well-aware of it, but I wonder if she could make a point of flagging this project from two points of view - the educational point of view. I'd like to congratulate everyone involved, and also her colleague, the Minister of Tourism. What this project has done is take Whitehorse students down to Watson Lake, and I think it's important that we encourage that sort of travel. I wonder if the minister could just undertake to make the point to the Minister of Tourism on how important I personally feel that is.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I'm very pleased to pass along the member's commendation to the Department of Education and the Department of Tourism for their support of the program.
We are also supporting a number of activities to maximize the use of the Northern Lights Centre. We have some students from Watson Lake attending the space shuttle launch. We have the dates for that somewhere. It is a program that really is of interest to the students and promotes scientific experimentation. The students from Watson Lake will travel to the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida as the guests of Canadian astronaut David Williams of the space shuttle mission, and the students will also be working with some experiments with the astronauts and with the space centre.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I thank the minister for agreeing to pass on the commendation, but it wasn't so much to the department, although I'm certain everyone appreciates their support, but it's to the staff and students involved in those two schools. It's a tremendous initiative, particularly on the part of Watson Lake, and I'd like to commend them.
Another issue that's come up endlessly in all of the school council minutes that I've reviewed is the school calendar. It seems to be an endless debate and one school has suggested that the calendar be prepared for three years rather than for yearly consideration.
Could the minister outline if there has been progress made on this particular issue?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, as the member states so accurately, the subject of school calendars is one that is near and dear to the hearts of all parents and all school councils across the territory. I know that they have had discussions about a one-year calendar as opposed to a three-year calendar. I don't believe that they have achieved a consensus to resolving the issue and having agreement to fix a three-year calendar. I believe that the school council chairs will be discussing that further.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, t
he school councils will be meeting this spring. Does the minister have a date or an agenda for those meetings, and would she provide a tentative agenda for the opposition parties?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The agenda is in the process of being updated at the moment. The dates that have been set are for Friday, April 17 and Saturday, April 18. I can provide the member with a copy of the agenda when it's updated. It may still be tentative.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the minister for that and I'll look forward to receiving it.
Another issue that's particularly important in the City of Whitehorse is the user agreement between the Department of Education and the city and the issues between the two. Has there been any increase in user fees levied to the city, or discussion of them? For example, nonprofit groups, it seems to me, used to pay a deposit to the City of Whitehorse and get a key and work with the city in terms of using the schools. Has there been any increase in the user fees or any discussion of an increase?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Departmental officials will be starting negotiations with the City of Whitehorse for a new user agreement later this week or next week. The current agreement expires at, I believe, the end of this school year.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I raise this issue because I've noticed an increasing number of requests from the City of Whitehorse in terms of new construction. This was particularly evident with the Porter Creek school. The City of Whitehorse requested a number of things before the occupancy permit was granted. I just wonder if that is playing any sort of role in the discussions that are coming up or if it's on the table for discussion. Just how is that relationship evolving?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I don't think it's ever helpful to anyone's cause to conduct negotiations here on the floor of the Legislature.
Certainly, as the member knows, there is a competing interest for the availability of school facilities. The school communities themselves have a keen interest in being able to use their classrooms and gymnasiums and activity areas after school hours. I can reiterate for the member that we are beginning negotiations and that we want to ensure the best use of the school facilities, which are both an education resource and a community resource. We do want to ensure that the interests of the students and the school community are well-serviced as well as supporting recreation programs for the community at large.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I wasn't endeavouring to suggest we conduct negotiations on the floor of this House. I certainly don't intend to do that. I was just curious as to the department's position with regard to use of the schools. I would anticipate from the Minister of Government Services' reactions to this question that it's quite a thorny issue and I wonder if perhaps the minister could elaborate. Given that the custodial staff report to Government Services, is there any sort of departmental coordination to the discussions with the city, or is that simply left with the Department of Education?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I can assure the member that we are talking to the Department of Government Services and that issues related to custodial work and security are an important part of the agreement. We'd be happy to set up a meeting to brief the member if she would like an update further down the road. I must emphasize that we have only just scheduled an initial meeting, so there isn't really a lot to report.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the minister's offer for an update when the talks progress in that particular area.
I'd like to deal with the issue of the famous - or infamous - document that was referred to in yesterday's debate. There are a few points that I think need to be clarified.
For the record, first of all, the document on any page, and all pages, is not marked "draft," and it is not marked "confidential." The document, contrary to what other members in this House stated, was not released to the public by me. The report was discussed in general terms, and an offer was made to meet with the minister to discuss serious concerns.
The somewhat sanctimonious air that pervaded this discussion is without basis, to say the least. I do respect the confidentiality of public servants. I of course respect that. I have respected the confidentiality of every individual who has spoken to me. I also respect the professional opinions and the truths that were outlined.
I also believe that these truths deserve to be publicly discussed in this Legislature. One of those truths outlined is the issue of curriculum, and it's being followed by the individual schools, and I'd like to deal specifically with the math curriculum.
We have had endless discussions in this House about math. The new curriculum that has been instituted this year for K to 7 has been, to say the least, very poorly implemented, and that's not to say it's one specific individual or one specific event that has caused that poor implementation. There are a number of problems with it and in the way that this particular curriculum was implemented.
I wonder if the department and the minister could respond. Has an assessment been done of this particular issue, namely the implementation of the new math curriculum? How does the department intend to learn from it?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, first of all, Mr. Chair, the document that was brown-enveloped to the member opposite was certainly not made available to the media by our offices, and the document is a draft document. Whether someone took white-out or used a yellow, sticky note and had the word "draft" removed from the cover pages of the copy that the member got is, I guess, as much of a mystery as where the document came from.
Now, the member wants to focus the discussion on the implementation of the math curriculum, and I think that would be a good move to just move beyond discussing this document, because I know that employees do not appreciate being politicized by being the subject of discussion in this Legislature. So, we'll discuss, instead, the implementation of the math curriculum.
How are we assessing how the math curriculum has been implemented? As with any other implementation of new curriculum, the model that we have in place is to be implemented over an extended time period. The curriculum is being introduced this year. If you are going to bring in a new curriculum, you must start with bringing that new curriculum in and teaching it in the classroom in any given year. The first year that the curriculum is offered, the old textbooks and the curriculum materials that were used in previous years remain available for the teachers to use with their students.
The students are also assessed on how they're doing with the curriculum, by the assessment models we have in place for all subjects.
The departmental assessment committee is also currently reviewing the assessment process in order to improve the test instruments that are used, without reducing the standards, for student performance.
We also offer a number of levels of support for the instructors who are implementing the new curriculum. As I've indicated previously for the member, there are small group in-services, we provide materials and inservicing to teachers; there has been support offered by the superintendents and curriculum consultants to the schools to discuss program organization, student and teacher assistance, the teaching practices and strategies that can be used in implementing the new curriculum, and assessment practices.
The department, as it regularly does, intends to monitor the implementation of the new math curriculum as they monitor the implementation of any curriculum. Consultants and superintendents are available to support teachers. Inservices are provided, integrated resource program materials are made available. We are aware of and listen to the concerns that are raised by classroom teachers and by parents and respond to them as I've described and we'll always work to learn from our experiences.
Ms. Duncan: I've always said - in relation to this document and anything else - "Let's focus on the issues." One of the issues in this report is curriculum delivery.
The minister, in her response to me, said that there's a department assessment committee, and went on at great length about testing and monitoring progress and so on. My concern is the very clear recommendation arising, which I have heard from parents and educators from both within and outside the system, that the new K to 7 math curriculum should have been piloted. It would have saved a whole lot of grief for a whole lot of students and a whole lot of teachers. It wasn't piloted.
Where does that recommendation sit? Who sits down as a group in the department with the partners in education and says, "Let's assess this. We didn't implement this new math curriculum that well." Where does that assessment happen? Where does that meeting of minds and meeting with the partners occur so that we don't make the same mistakes with the new English curriculum and all the other new curriculum changes that are coming on stream?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, as I've indicated to the member, we look at implementing curriculum through a three-stage process of providing the information to the schools and to the teachers in advance of introducing the new curriculum. We then proceed to introduce the curriculum and provide support to the teachers and to the school community.
That support is offered by superintendents. It's offered by the special programs division within the Department of Education. It's also offered by the departmental assessment committee and by the professionals within the education system.
The member is of the view that the math curriculum was implemented too quickly, and that it should have been phased in over a longer period of time. The department will look at the experience we had with implementing the new math curriculum and consider whether it may have worked better to have phased it in on a more gradual basis.
Ms. Duncan: The minister has just committed in this House, to me and to the people who have asked me to raise this issue, that the department will look at phasing in curriculum over a longer period of time. Is the minister also indicating that the department will find some method for reaching, or hearing from, the partners in education - the teachers, the school councils and First Nations governments - on this particular issue?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: That dialogue is part of our ongoing effort to maintain good relations with school councils and to support their participation in the education system by providing for them two meetings a year, where school council members are funded to attend a spring and a fall conference. We will continue to make decisions based on school council input, and will be discussing curriculum implementation, as well as other subjects, with school councils.
I know that when a subject such as this is of concern to parents, that it is raised with school council members, and they have regular opportunities for dialogue with the Department of Education.
Ms. Duncan: Some initiatives have been taken to deal with this particular issue. There were math contact sessions scheduled for March and April by the department. The minister tabled a schedule in the House of those math contact sessions for teachers. Unfortunately, she tabled that in March.
The school year is getting close to over and I'm very concerned that students have lost a year. They've had a hybrid version of math, between old and new curriculum. Teachers are only just now getting the manipulatives that they should have had to implement the new program. There are a number of issues with the new program, and language-based learning is but one of them.
How are we going to specifically ensure that students who have lost this year of math or have only gotten a partial year of math - in the sense that they aren't where they should be - how are we going to deal with those students? Are we going to target extra resources?
And while the minister is thinking about answering that question, perhaps she could tell me - this was the new K to 7 math curriculum - when is the new grade 8 to 12 curriculum being introduced?
The minister has said that the first step is providing information, then it's introducing curriculum and providing support. When is all of that going to happen with the grade 8 to 12 students? Are we going to make sure this implementation goes a whole lot better than the K to 7?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The math curriculum has been introduced in K to 7 and in grades 11 and 12. It is grades 8 to 10 where the math curriculum will be introduced next year. There are plans in place for professional development and inservicing for the teachers for the grades 8, 9 and 10 classes where the new curriculum will be implemented next year.
This process was started at F.H. Collins Secondary School, and the superintendent has met with the school administration to discuss the math results. A number of issues have been identified, and the administration has met with the math teachers, and a plan has been developed to begin making changes in the math program there.
The new grade 9 curriculum to be introduced next year flows from the involvement of many jurisdictions, including the Yukon in the western consortium protocol. Alberta took the lead in the western Canadian protocol with respect to the new math curriculum framework, and we are continuing to work with other jurisdictions who have developed and implemented this program to make the implementation of the new curriculum effective for Yukon students. I will have to take advice from the professionals within the department who do work with curriculum implementation and come back with a written answer to the member's other questions that I haven't responded to just now.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, at the outset of her answer, the minister indicated that there were plans in place for professional development and inservicing for grades 8, 9 and 10 teachers of math. When is that inservicing scheduled? Does she have that, or will it be part of the detailed package? The minister is nodding and saying it will be part of the detailed package that will come in the answer.
I am particularly interested in knowing how the department intends to provide rural math teachers with this information, as I know that they weren't included on that list of math contact sessions scheduled for March and April. It seems to me that they were all from Whitehorse. When are rural school teachers going to be able to deal with this inservicing?
I don't believe the minister has yet addressed the issue of the students who have lost a year.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, as I've indicated to the member, we have a plan developed with the school administration and the math teachers at F.H. Collins. I'll have to come back with a written answer for the member. It may be possible to implement some recommended changes before the end of the school year. Other changes may be put in place at the start of the next school year. So, as I've said, I will have to come back with a written answer for the member.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we had a discussion last night that there are four high schools in Whitehorse. Why has this just occurred with F.H. Collins?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Again, I'll have to bring back a written answer to that question for the member. I know that there have been a number of questions previously raised in relation to the math testing at F.H. Collins, and there were some discrepancies between the goals that the department set for the relationship between the school mark and the territorial examinations mark at that one particular high school. I'm not aware if that same problem exists at the other high schools and that may be why I don't have the information in front of me. So I will come back with a written answer for the member.
Ms. Duncan: I'm sure that's not the last discussion we're going to have on math in this House.
One of the other comments made in the report is that an old boys' network is at work in the department. The minister has, previously in this House, made comments regarding the gender equity policy and her efforts, as minister, toward ensuring that there's a gender equitable climate in our schools.
Could the minister elaborate on progress and implementation of the gender equity policy, both within the department and within the schools?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I don't think it should be any surprise to members that decision making, whether it's in government or in the professions or in most of society, remains male-dominated. The fact is that this government has a strong commitment to employment equity and has done some work within the Public Service Commission to further our goals of employment equity within the public service.
The principles of gender equity are also objectives in education in the Education Act. The gender equity policy for public schools, which has been approved, is being implemented, and there have been a number of advances made toward that. Some of them the member has heard about because there have been ministerial statements or discussions in this House previously on what they have been.
The integration of gender equity into all aspects of the education system includes curriculum, learning resources, classroom practices, the school environment, hiring and advancement practices, professional development and evaluation. A resource manual has been made available to all schools on gender equity materials that are available.
A number of teachers and school counsellors attended a gender equity workshop in the spring. The Gender Equity Implementation Committee, which represents various departments of government, as well as school councils, Yukon College and the Yukon Teachers Association, continues to meet. There's been a strategic plan developed for gender equity implementation. There have been inservices for school personnel this spring. There has been training of people for the Red Cross abuse prevention program being implemented in Whitehorse schools. That program is presently being expanded to be offered into rural schools.
We haven't achieved complete gender equity yet, but we continue to put attention into achieving it, both within the education system and the public service.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the minister for that rather detailed answer. I would summarize it by saying that there has been some progress made, and that there is work ongoing within the department and with school councils and with the YTA.
The minister mentioned a strategic plan and a resource manual. I just wonder if she could indicate what the uptake has been on the resource manual. Have schools been very receptive of the resource manual, and then made a number of requests to the department, or is it yet another piece of documentation from the department that's propping up coffee tables? Would she provide me with a copy of that strategic plan, which presumably has time frames in it?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I believe that information may have been already provided to the members of the House. The resource manual was provided to schools at the time that a workshop was held, and a number of participants came from several schools. I would have to have the Learning Resource Centre look at their statistics and provide an answer for the member on what the uptake has been in using some of those resources in classrooms and in schools.
Certainly, if the member has not already been provided with the documents I referred to, I'll get them for her.
Ms. Duncan: I don't mean to create a make-work project for anyone in the department, but I'm curious as to the uptake on the use of that resource manual.
The Education Act was proclaimed in 1990 and, of course, as the minister and I have previously discussed in this House, on or before 10 years from the proclamation, the minister is to establish a process for a review of the act. Could the minister indicate the process that is to be followed regarding the review of the Education Act if she has yet undertaken the consultations required with CYFN, YTA and school council chairs, or if this is further on her agenda after the House rises?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, that is further on my agenda after the House rises. We have begun preliminary work identifying the procedure that will be followed. I don't have a schedule available to provide for the member at this time. I can assure the member that we will initiate the review of the Education Act next year, during 1999, so that we will have a period of time in which to engage in the consultation with the communities and with the partners on education on reviewing that Education Act prior to the 10-year mandatory review that is enshrined in the legislation itself.
Ms. Duncan: Could I ask the minister to provide me, or have her department provide me, with statistics regarding home schooling. I note that the last statistics the minister provided, this year's, 1997-98, were preliminary statistics at the time and there was a decrease in the number of registrants. Is this, in fact, still the case and has the department attributed that to any particular reason?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm not aware of a significant variance in the number of parents who are home schooling. I can provide an update for the member on what the current numbers are.
Ms. Duncan: Could the minister also provide an indication as to where the discussions are with respect to the Yukon excellence awards? I note that when last we discussed this issue the school councils were being asked for their input and had been presented with, I believe, an options paper. I don't have it with me, but could the minister provide me with a status report as to where those discussions are? I note they're in the budget again this year.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The school councils, as I have indicated previously to the member, received copies of the student recognitions option papers for consideration in May of last year. They have been asked to respond. I note that the school councils have on their agenda for the spring conference a discussion on the Yukon excellence awards and I look forward to hearing from them what their recommendations are after they've had an opportunity to discuss it as a group.
I expect that the school councils have been discussing this option paper amongst themselves since they received it almost a year ago - about 10 months ago - and look forward to their feedback.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, is there, then, a time frame for reaching a decision on this subject? Does the minister hope to have a decision after meeting with the school council chairs on April 17 and 18, or is there a time frame at all for reaching a decision on this subject?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We will make a decision after we have received a formal response from the school councils. We've also been receiving correspondence from the Yukon Teachers Association. It may be possible that a decision would be in place by September of 1998, but I don't want to limit it to that time period. It may take longer than that. Certainly it won't be before September of 1998.
Ms. Duncan: I just have a few subject areas I'd like some information on from the minister. There was a discussion in the Finance debate regarding the use of public/private partnerships between the Minister of Finance and the leader of the official opposition. Has the Department of Education collected any information on these financing models with respect to schools? Did the Department of Education collect any?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, Finance has taken the lead on that issue. Certainly, all Cabinet ministers have been provided with the information, but it is a lead of the Department of Finance.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, I'd just like to state for the record that if there is background information regarding the use of this model, if it has been collected from the Province of Nova Scotia, I would like to review it as well.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member can request that information from the Minister of Finance in the Finance estimates. I believe he may have some that he would be happy to make available.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you. The math SAIP tests were discussed at great length in this House and the results were - I think the minister used the words - "less than expected." The SAIP assessment to be conducted this May is on reading, and we will have the results next fall. I certainly wouldn't want to prejudge the results. They could be, let's hope, excellent and above the national average.
Could the minister elaborate on any plans or any thoughts with regard to this testing that's to be undertaken this spring?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I can repeat for the record for the member that the Council of Ministers of Education Canada developed the SAIP model to assess the performance of 13 and 16 year old students in mathematics, reading and writing and science. The achievement is described over five levels. It measures students in both the elementary and secondary experience. Students write the same assessments. They are an indicator of how students are doing, based on a Canada-wide report on performance for those subjects and at those age levels.
I am not sure if the member has a more specific, followup question or if that answer is what she was looking for.
Ms. Duncan: I was looking for some more information about this testing program. We've done math and, as I said, English, as I understand it, is to be done in May this year. What additional subjects will be tested, and what's the time frame?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I don't have the scheduling for which testing will be administered on which dates. I can provide that for the member.
Ms. Duncan: Perhaps the minister, off the top of her head, can remember the subjects? Are we just doing math and English, or are we carrying on in future years with science? History? What other subjects are to be tested?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Sorry, Mr. Chair, I did respond to that question when the member asked her initial question. The SAIP testing is done to assess mathematics, reading and writing, and science.
Ms. Duncan: Presumably, then, if we're doing those four subjects, we would be done shortly after the year 2000.
Prior to my entering into the general debate, there was a lengthy discussion about professional development, and the funding. This is an important aspect of our education system, in terms of how our professional workforce is trained and where we target our resources. For example, if there was a sense that the Yukon teachers could do with some additional professional development regarding math, or English, or any of these subjects, does the department sit down with the YTA and plan this professional development money? Is there a target that says we're going to focus, this year, our professional development funds on math, next year it's English, the next year it's science? Is there a plan in place? How is that developed, and how is it monitored?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, as I indicated when we discussed the professional development fund earlier, this is a subject that is negotiated between the employer and the Yukon Teachers Association. The professional development fund is administered by a joint committee, with participation of the Yukon Teachers Association and the Department of Education. The joint committee does approve the professional development leaves and enters into discussions on the scope and the focus of professional development activities that are supported by the fund.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, in the minister's answer, I heard that there's a committee at work but I didn't hear how a plan is developed for the dollars - a long-range plan. It sounds like it's a year-to-year assessment. It doesn't sound like the committee sits down and does any sort of long-term thinking with regard to the professional development funds.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, as I understand it, the YTA submits a plan to the Department of Education. I would have to bring back a written response as to whether they look strictly at a year at a time or whether they have longer range plans in place for the uptake on the PD fund.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you. I would appreciate that information, although from the minister's response it sounds strictly YTA driven rather than - and, as she mentioned, it's an issue at the negotiating table, so I'll look further into that.
Could I ask the minister to provide me with a job description for the superintendents? The minister's referred to the superintendents a number of times throughout the debate. It's the superintendent's responsibility to look after this and to look after that. Could I have a detailed job description sent when the minister does her written response to the questions asked in general debate?
And I just have one final item I'd like to raise with the minister, and that is, in terms of working with partners and partnerships, there are expectations on both sides - on all sides - and the expectations for parents, especially focusing on parents whose children are just entering the system, are not clear. I have felt this myself and I have felt this from a number of parents. In fact, I had an individual stop me and indicate that she had been advised that her child had to be at a certain level prior to entering the school system. Wherever parents gather and preschoolers are in the same room, it's quite a topic of discussion.
When I asked the department for information regarding the choices available to parents - French immersion, the Catholic school system and French first language - it wasn't particularly user friendly, or something that a parent of a preschooler could pick up, look at as brochure and say, "Oh, okay, this is the choice of school and this is why I'm choosing it and this is what the expectations of that school are and of the education system when my child enters kindergarten."
That information doesn't appear to be available. At least, I haven't seen it and I haven't talked to anyone who has seen it in a simple, easy-to-read format. I'd like to raise that as an issue with the minister. Perhaps she'd agree to take it under advisement and discuss it with the department and see it as an issue as to how the department works with new parents.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, it's a few years since my own children entered the school system, although I have frequent conversations with parents with younger children, both not yet in the school system and just entering the school system. I understand that there is still in place a pre-registration for kindergarten students, and when parents come to the elementary schools in their attendance areas, they are provided with information about programs that are offered, whether it's French immersion or an English stream.
For example, as the member referred to, most parents who have an interest in their children being part of the Catholic school system have that interest because they're members of the Catholic church, and they're normally aware of the existence of the system. I certainly will be happy to take the member's comments under advisement, as she says, and look at whether there could be more readily available plain language brochures or information for parents of students who are just entering the school system.
Generally, I think, schools make a sincere effort to inform parents of what happens at the schools. There are regular newsletters that come home from most schools and school councils. We can look at whether some improvements can be made or if there can be some brochure developed that might meet the needs that the member has just identified.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'd just like to emphasize this need to the minister. The school letters go home when there's a child within that school, and parents visit the school when they're aware of the school in their neighbourhood or, if they just moved here, they're certainly aware of the schools. And if you're already in a specific school, they're not necessarily going to be as quick to recommend that you search out other schools.
It's quite a topic of conversation among parents. They want information in a collected manner and from an objective perspective - this is what each area and each system offers, and this is what happens if you want to attend outside your catchment area, and so on and so forth. I'm not talking about a $1-million brochure. Just very simple, more readily accessible information than what is out there would be helpful to parents, and it would be helpful if it was available.
For example, the Department of Health and Social Services has managed to contact every parent of every preschooler regarding hepatitis B vaccine. That information is there. If the Department of Education worked with the Department of Health and Social Services, maybe we could provide some information to parents that is - I don't want to use the word target-marketing, but that's almost what it is; it's getting the information to those people who need it, and it outlines the options that are available to them. I think that's an important undertaking for the department to do, and it's not an expensive undertaking.
Deputy Chair: Is there any more general debate?
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I have a couple more days of general debate we can go through here.
I want to take the minister back up to Old Crow for a moment and talk about grade 10, 11 and 12 again. I was just looking at the statistics that we received from the minister and I just have a few questions about the policy of the government.
What's going to determine whether or not grade 10, 11 and 12 go into Old Crow? Is it going to be determined by discussion with the school council and the band? Is that what's going to determine whether or not grade 10, 11 and 12 go in there or has it already been predetermined that grade 10, 11 and 12 will go in?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: That decision will be made among the interested parties - the Department of Education, Government of Yukon, the Chief Zzeh Gittlit School council and the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation all have an interest in how we can provide the best education for the youth of Old Crow. There has not been a predetermined decision, although, as I indicated yesterday when we were discussing the new Old Crow school facility, which is presently under construction, the school will contain a gymnasium and stage, a school community library, a multi-purpose room, an additional general classroom, a native language room, a computer lab, offices and support space, storage and, of course, the corridors and main lobby.
The school has been constructed so that it can accommodate an enrollment of the senior grades.
As I also indicated yesterday, we are beginning some work at looking at how we could phase in senior grades to add grade levels to the Old Crow school after the completion of the school replacement project.
Mr. Phillips: I think the minister sort of hit the nail on the head when the minister said that the highest priority will be quality education for the students in Old Crow. That's number one that everyone has got to keep in mind. If we're going to put grade 12 in Old Crow, we'd better be prepared to deliver a grade 12 equivalent program, so that when the students leave Old Crow in the future to seek employment elsewhere, their grade 12 diploma will be accepted as an equivalent to any other grade 12 diploma in the country.
Mr. Chair, what is the policy now with respect to putting grades 10, 11 and 12 in the communities? I think there's grade 12 in Haines Junction, Dawson City, Watson Lake and Faro. What is the policy with respect to the other communities that don't have grade 12, like Carmacks, Pelly, Ross River, Mayo, Teslin? What's the policy?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As the member has indicated, there is a need to put a lot of thought into the concept of grade expansion and future programs in rural communities that have very small enrollments, and where there may only be a class of half a dozen or fewer students in the senior grades.
I've indicated previously that we have money in the budget to begin the development of a rural programming model that could meet the unique needs of Old Crow. Generally, the decision on providing the senior grades is one that is made looking at what the enrollment is and what level of programming could be offered based on that enrollment and the teaching staff in place.
Mr. Phillips: Maybe the minister can tell us what she would tell the parents in Carmacks, Pelly, Ross River, Mayo and Teslin and these other communities that don't have grade 12. What would she tell the parents the difference is between the need to put grade 12 in Old Crow and not putting grade 12 in their communities? Is there a reason for the difference in not doing something like that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, first of all, Mr. Chair, the member should be aware that Carmacks and Pelly Crossing do have grade 12, in effect. I remember attending the first grade 12 graduation in Carmacks in 1993, I believe it was, so there has been grade 12 offered in two of those communities that he referred to.
As the member will be aware, parents of students in, for example, Ross River where the school only offers kindergarten to grade 10 programming, students who want to continue through grade 11 and grade 12 can come to Whitehorse. We support the residence so that those students can stay in residence in Whitehorse, and there are various support measures in place to help ease the transition for students who are coming from a rural community to attend high school in Whitehorse.
Mr. Phillips: Is the minister telling me then that if, for example, we put grade 12 in Old Crow that two or three of the students who are currently attending F.H. Collins and wanted to continue - they're in grade 10 or 11, for example and going to school at F.H. Collins - there is support for them to continue at F.H. Collins and stay at the Gadzoosdaa residence? Or, for example, if we offer grade 12 in a community, do we then cut off the subsidy for the people who want to continue, say, with maybe the more comprehensive programs that might be offered in a larger centre?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, that's precisely why we're taking a thoughtful approach to the concept of grade expansion and future programming. If additional grades are added to the Old Crow school, they will be phased in so that you might add grade 10 one year and add grade 11 the following year or a couple of years later. We will work with the community in how we approach any grade expansion.
We also take special circumstances into account for rural students at present and would continue to do so. If a student was in grade 12 in a rural community where there was a grade 12 program, but they wanted to take courses that may not be available at their school, we would support those students moving to Whitehorse and applying to stay in a residence in order to graduate from a high school in Whitehorse that may have specialty courses that were not being offered in a small, rural community.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm not sure that many parents are aware of that at the present time, because I think there are a lot of parents - for example, I spoke to the Member for Klondike, and there are parents there who send their children to Whitehorse to continue in programs where, for example, there may be biology and chemistry labs or certain athletic programs that aren't offered in the school in Dawson or other schools.
Is the minister telling us that any student that is going into those programs that weren't offered in other areas would be entitled to all of the subsidy or a portion of the subsidy that the government pays for students who are coming from rural Yukon to stay in Whitehorse?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I might have to bring back a written answer for the member, but I'll tell him what I can to respond on my feet. The subsidy available to come and reside in Whitehorse would not be available to a student simply because there was one course that they weren't able to take in Dawson City or Haines Junction. The subsidy would be available if the student wanted to register in a program of study that was not available in Dawson City.
Mr. Phillips: Maybe the minister could provide a legislative return on that, so we could see what the minister is actually talking about, and maybe give an example or two.
My concern would be that a student would be in a certain advanced program in biology, chemistry, math or whatever. It may not be offered in their community and they would have one more year left to get the full credits in that program - and not just entering. I think, as the minister said if they are entering the program it might make a difference.
My concern would be that somebody from Old Crow, for example, whose parents didn't have a lot of extra cash, and their student was coming down here to finish one or two more years of their program, might be put in quite an awkward position if, in fact, the program was offered in Old Crow and they had to finish up in Old Crow and they couldn't get their credits to finish the program, and they would have to start all over.
My concern would be for that, so I would ask the minister to bring back a legislative return and maybe give us an explanation as to how that would be dealt with for all Yukon rural communities. I think it would be important to include not just Old Crow, as there are students that come from all Yukon communities to the high schools in Whitehorse to continue or complete their education.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We'll bring back for the member a summary of how the whole process works throughout the territory.
Mr. Phillips: While we're talking a little bit about Old Crow, yesterday I raised an issue of a letter that was sent to the minister from concerned parents in Old Crow. The minister told me that officials were going up to Old Crow to meet with the school council and the band. I asked the minister if they would be meeting, or trying to meet, with the concerned parents, who are listed as co-authors of this letter.
Since that, we've learned that there is no signature on the letter, and some people in Old Crow who were on the letter and listed are claiming they had nothing to do with it. In fact, they're coming to the defence of the teachers and the principal and others in Old Crow.
So I think it's even more important now that the officials who go to Old Crow take the time to meet with the teachers, the principal and individuals who were listed in this circle to confirm that. Has the minister heard the same concerns that - I can't call them signatories, but - the names listed on the bottom of this letter, called "very concerned parents of Old Crow," in fact, many of them weren't even contacted when the letter was sent, and many of them weren't aware of the contents of the letter that was sent to the minister and other MLAs and the local media.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I must inform the member that I have received a letter about the letter the member asked questions on yesterday, concerning the Old Crow school, dated March 22. There are 30 signatures on this letter, which says that "I, the undersigned, am shocked and horrified that my family name was used without my authorization on a most libelous letter concerning the Old Crow school, which was sent to various individuals by fax on Sunday, March 22. I never at any time authorized my name to be used on this, and I totally reject the letter's contents."
As well, the member may have received a copy of the press release signed by the chair of the Chief Zzeh Gittlit School council reiterating that "The teachers and principal have the full and absolute support of the school council at this most difficult and challenging time when we are without a school and the problems we have had with housing." The school council chair indicates that they have full confidence in their dedicated and committed staff.
Mr. Chair, I am aware of a number of concerns in Old Crow relating to education, which is understandable when the school burned down last January and classes are being conducted in temporary classrooms. We are working as quickly as we can to build the new school. The building is underway. Many of the materials have already been brought into Old Crow by the winter road. The community also took advantage of the existence of the winter road to bring out a number of items that they wanted to have removed from the community, such as old, leaky fuel tanks.
So, I think that there have been some benefits to the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and the community at large to stock up on some much-needed building materials for their own use, as well as gasoline, heating fuel and aviation gas, because of the existence of the road.
As many as 50 truckloads of goods were acquired for the community. The VGFN also purchased and shipped in three double-wide mobile homes. These will be rented to the contractor for housing construction crews working on the new school.
Parks Canada also shipped in materials for constructing its own new buildings, so it's clear that it's going to be a very busy summer and fall in Old Crow.
The Department of Education and the school superintendent are doing everything they can to support education in Old Crow throughout this difficult year, when they are teaching in temporary classrooms. As I indicated yesterday, the superintendent and the assistant deputy minister will be in the community this week to meet with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation chief and council and to meet with the school administration and the school teaching staff.
We will continue to monitor and support all education issues in that community. The teaching staff has our support, as do the school council and the school administration. We want to work cooperatively with all members of the community to ease any pains that they're experiencing as a result of the difficult conditions while the construction of the new school is underway.
Deputy Chair: Is it the members' wish to take a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I would like to call Committee of the Whole to order.
Committee is on the estimates for the Department of Education. Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Phillips: When we left off, Mr. Chair, I was talking about the letter that was sent to us yesterday by someone from Old Crow, with the signatures of many other parents. I would appreciate it if the minister could also provide a copy of the letter that she received from the 30 residents of Old Crow, that she talked about earlier, if she's got that letter, and, as well, a copy of the press release from the school council as I'm not aware that we have received it in our offices yet. So, could we get a copy of that as well?
Mr. Chair, I'm very, very pleased to see that the minister has stood up in the House today and said she supports the principal and the staff of the school in Old Crow, because I've had several calls from Old Crow today and every one of them has indicated strong support for the current staff at the school.
And I know the staff was quite worried about this letter and the concerns that it raised.
Because they felt that they were unfounded and, in fact, many of the people, as the minister has said, have indicated that they weren't even contacted with respect to some of the contents in the letter.
So, I guess that takes us to the next stage. What happens now? It's one thing to meet with the staff and the teachers and possibly some of the individuals who have said that they are not supporters of this letter even though their names are mentioned. What happens? Is the Department of Education trying to determine who wrote the letter and is there any kind of legal action that can be taken with respect to some of the comments that have been made in the letter?
I know some of them are probably libelous - could possibly be libelous - and I'm not sure what the law would say about someone sending a letter claiming several other people supported a viewpoint when they weren't even contacted for the viewpoint. It's similar to something that happened when I was the Minister of Education a few years ago when an employee of the Department of Education, on a Friday afternoon, was sent a dismissal notice with my forged signature on it.
I had to phone the individual up in the middle of the weekend. In fact, I went over to his house and assured him that I had nothing to do with it and knew nothing about it. Some malicious person slipped a note onto his desk late Friday afternoon, letting the individual know that he was terminated. It was a very nasty thing that happened.
This is not quite as bad as that, but it's similar in the vein that someone has written a letter making some pretty strong statements about the education system in Old Crow and even stronger statements about the teachers and the principal in Old Crow - and then gone about and typed in the names of several families in Old Crow without their permission.
Is there anything that can be done? Has the minister contacted the RCMP to see whether or not something like this can be investigated and find out whether there was any wrongdoing in providing this kind of a document to MLAs and, in particular, the media, and in sort of promoting this information that turns out, in many cases, to be not very accurate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I think that the best thing that we can do here is to maintain a calm and a rational approach and to try and help as best as we can with any decision making that needs to occur surrounding both the problem that has been identified and the request from the community of Old Crow for assistance.
What I have here are copies of the press release and the letter that I have made for circulation to both the opposition critics and to the Clerk's table, and my official is just collating that information now and will take it over to the members.
In relation to how we will respond to the various letters and press releases that have gone out, the departmental officials, as I indicated, will be in Old Crow this week. They will meet with the school staff and administration to offer support to them. They will also meet with the chief and council to respond to concerns that they have in relation to the school and the education system.
The officials are also prepared to meet with and respond to all requests for assistance to help resolve this difficult situation. I have not received any legal advice to date on whether we may pursue an action. I think that the individuals in Old Crow who are directly affected are taking steps to ensure that their position is clear and also to make sure that they are doing what they can to support the students and the teachers in the school system.
Mr. Phillips: That's fine. I'm glad the minister is doing what they can to support the individuals in Old Crow. My concern is, is the minister planning, on her own or the Department of Education, on determining whether or not there were any laws broken with respect to someone conjuring up a letter like this, which the school council and others say is to refute the anonymous letter. Obviously the people who signed the letter refuting it are named in the letter that was written by someone in Old Crow and faxed from the chair of the Porcupine caribou management board in Old Crow.
Does the minister feel it warrants an investigation, or at least an inquiry, from the legal side of whether or not there were any laws broken? I mean, I think this is a fairly damaging thing when it's out in the media before anyone has the chance to respond, and some of the accusations here are fairly strong accusations. The accusations aside, they went ahead and signed a whole bunch of people's names to it who aren't involved.
What I'd like to know from the minister is, does she plan to ask the Department of Justice for a legal opinion, or else turn this information over to the RCMP and ask the RCMP to get the Crown prosecutor's office to at least look at it and see whether or not it warrants any further investigation.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, as I indicated when the member was pursuing this line of questioning earlier, I think that the people who are most directly affected by the initial letter are the people whose names are listed under the typed block "very concerned parents in Old Crow". They are already taking steps to make their position clear and put it on the record.
I will speak with our departmental officials when they return from Old Crow and get their assessment of the situation. I am not planning, at this stage, to initiate further criminal investigations on my own behalf as Minister of Education. What I do intend to do, as I've previously made clear for the member, is to offer support for all concerned residents of Old Crow and, in particular, to offer support for maintaining a high standard of education in the community.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, I'd certainly support those comments by the minister, but I think we have to realize as well, aside from the people named in the letter and the contents of the letter, the accusations in the letter also reflect upon the reputation of the Department of Education officials here, who are working with the teachers and parents and school councils in Old Crow.
So, this kind of thing is fairly widespread. It's not just a criticism of the people named in the letter and shouldn't just be a concern of the individuals who have claimed not to have had anything to do with the letter, yet they're named in the letter as signatories.
It does reflect on her own department.
So, I guess what the minister is telling us today is that she feels it's in good hands then with the people of Old Crow and that the minister is not going to do anything more about it other than just listening to what they have to say in Old Crow and leave it at that.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, as I've tried to indicate to the member, I think that this is a serious matter. We have senior officials from the Department of Education working with and meeting with residents of Old Crow to look to resolve problems in the community. I am taking under advisement whether there will be any need to pursue further action, whether it's legal action or followup plans for improving education within the community.
Mr. Jenkins: If I could just explore with the minister the breakdown of the actual number of teachers in the various components. If we look at the total expenditure on salaries, it's some 66 percent of your budget, or $53.5 million. Could the minister provide the actual number of teachers. I have a figure of 657.56. Could that be broken down by school and could that be further broken out as to the number of teachers assistants, if they are in that category? Are they included in that category of the 657.56?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We don't have that detailed breakdown available. It's a considerable amount of work that the departmental officials could do and could provide for the member opposite. Is there a particular interest that he has that could be accommodated by something simpler than a statistical breakdown of the numbers of teachers and remedial tutors and education assistants in each school? What is the member looking for?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, what the member is looking for is the actual number of people who are teaching - doing the actual teaching in the schools. One looks at the total number of FTEs in the department and looks at who is employed in what capacity and looks for some rationale to explain why some schools, in spite of an increase in their school population, have a decrease in the number of teachers and a decrease in the overall staffing level. I'm referring specifically to Robert Service School in Dawson, which has an increase in the school enrollment this last year and a decrease in the number of employees in the department there actually teaching in one form or another. But when one starts to question it and zero in, Mr. Chair, it's very, very hard to find out the actual number of teachers in each school and the actual number of teaching assistants and other sundry individuals employed in various roles. So, what I'm looking for is a breakdown and some rationale to equate it back to the actual number of student enrollment.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We do have that information here; however, we would have to flip through a number of books to pull out various numbers from various pages. What I can do is bring back a return providing that information for the member. I can, however, indicate to him that $53,452,000, which is approximately 66 percent of the total budget, covers all departmental employees. That's the entire personnel figure.
However, we have a further breakdown within the public schools branch. The public schools branch has 794.17 full-time equivalent positions.
There is a total of 882.36 for the Department of Education, so the majority of the positions are within the public schools branch, which are teaching staff. We can bring back for the member a breakdown of how many are teachers and how many are education assistants or remedial tutors or other program implementation teachers and other educational support staff.
Now, just to confirm, the member does want that also broken down by school - is that correct? Yes? Okay.
Mr. Jenkins: I hope the minister can appreciate where I'm heading. A lot of numbers that we are given in the technical briefing were specific in a couple of areas, but when one looks at the overall schools and goes into the schools and physically counts up the numbers of teachers that one finds around, there appears to be a consistent outcry of "we are shy teachers" in some of the rural schools that I've had the opportunity to visit. Yet, when one looks at the numbers, there appears to be no change. I would appreciate that by way of legislative return. Is that what the minister has agreed to?
Okay. The minister has nodded her agreement. I thank the minister.
Also, if the special education component could be outlined in addition, I would appreciate that information also. Can the minister agree to provide that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, if I could just explore with the minister another position that is filled and sometimes not filled, and that is the position of counsellors in the rural schools. Last year, I know that the school in my riding had a counsellor. He has now been relocated to Old Crow and that position remains unfilled.
What is the status and why was this position not filled?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: What I will do is provide a legislative return for the member in relation to that position. I seem to recall that the stay-in-school counsellor position was part of a federal program initiative that was cancelled, and the funding was no longer available for that, but I can check into it and provide an update for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm sure the minister's aware that, since this individual has left our area, that we've had quite a number of difficulties and a lot of discipline problems and a lot of vandalism that appear to have occurred shortly after his departure. It's common knowledge who the individuals are who have created a lot of this havoc in our community. They appear to be individuals who were under the guidance of this previous counsellor.
Could the minister indicate what steps she's going to take to fill this apparently much-needed position?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I recently had discussions with the Robert Service School council about the discipline plan in their school, and about the vandalism in the community. As the member is aware, this is not strictly a school problem, but a community problem as well. As the member knows, there is considerable interest in Dawson City in forming a community justice committee, and looking at supporting some alternative models.
And, having some effective crime prevention measures in place in that community, as in other communities, the school is responding to the issue of discipline by holding parent-student-school meetings of people involved. The school council has also undertaken a review of the school intervention discipline policy and is conducting a telephone survey of all parents. So, I know that, at the local level, the school council and the community are working to improve the situation and also to track students and ensure that there are appropriate disciplinary measures in place.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, what we had was an individual in place who was all things to all people, if you want to put it that way. He kept this area in check in our community and did a very good job of it. You take that individual out of the scenario and now we've got a whole series of problems, the whole range from vandalism to truancy to discipline problems within the school. It started to occur after this individual left.
Now I hear the minister saying we're going to go out and reinvent the wheel. We had someone in place who was handling this situation. Wouldn't it be advantageous to go back at this juncture and look at what that individual was doing to keep the situation in check and provide a balance within the community? Now we're going off on all of these other tangents that might work or might not work. We had something that was working. It was taken away; it no longer works.
I'm sure the minister can agree with that, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, as I have indicated, I hear the member's representations. I will provide him with a written response in relation to the position which he feels was the most effective way of dealing with certain discipline problems on the part of certain students. I have to say, as well, that I believe that the work of the school council in reviewing the school intervention discipline policy and involving parents in a survey of how to ensure that there are appropriate disciplinary measures in place is something that I certainly support as minister and would expect that the MLA for the area would support as well.
Mr. Jenkins: A little earlier in the debate my colleague from Riverdale North was exploring with the minister the individuals who are attending high school in rural Yukon and wish to come to Whitehorse. The minister went on to say that if there were just one or two courses, they wouldn't avail themselves; the government wouldn't pick up the cost of moving these students to Whitehorse and letting them attend high school in Whitehorse.
Could the minister provide a copy of the specific policy in this area as to what courses and to what extent a student has to be in need of additional courses to be able to be funded by the Government of Yukon and attend, let's say, F.H. Collins here in Whitehorse?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, that is the undertaking that I gave to his colleague, the official opposition critic for Education, and I will ensure that the Member for Klondike receives a copy of that legislative return, as well.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister. Is the minister aware of anyone in the last five years that has subscribed to this policy and benefited from this policy and attended high school at F.H. Collins in Whitehorse that was originally from a rural school that had those high school grades?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No, I'm not aware of that offhand, which is why I indicated that I would bring back a written response that can be accurate as to the details the member is requesting.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, I thank the minister, but I was a parent of one of these students that wanted to pursue this course and, like a number of parents in this same area, I couldn't find a way through the system and couldn't find anyone else in the Yukon that had accessed this. So, if the minister could provide details of some parents who have managed to get their children into high school in Whitehorse, while they are attending a rural high school that has the courses, because I'm not aware of any. I couldn't find any, and I don't think that you can fall through the cracks or get through the cracks to avail yourself of these programs that the minister is speaking about.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Neither am I. I am not aware of any cases where students who want to come into Whitehorse in order to take advantage of - I believe, the Member for Riverdale North referred to chemistry 12 or physics 12 - where those rural students have been able to come to high school in Whitehorse and receive the living subsidy that is available for rural students.
As I have indicated, I will have that investigated and provide a written response for the members outlining what the policy is and what procedures are in place across the Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: Could I just ask the minister to, in her response, address the issue of, say, if parents have applied and cited extenuating circumstances, not just for attendance in school in Whitehorse, but out of the territory, as well.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Certainly.
Ms. Duncan: In the material that was presented with regard to Education, I noticed roughly a five-percent increase in the number of kindergarten students that had taken place in the last year. Certainly, we have heard of an increase in the birth rate in some specific Yukon communities. I guess we're beginning where I left off my bit of general debate - with those who are entering the school system. How is the department planning for what appears to be a coming baby boom?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, we are watching the demographics. I don't believe there's quite as much of a baby boom as the member indicates. I know that we have statistical data through Health and Social Services.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Sorry, Mr. Chair. I'm half-hearing some of the heckling over there and I'm not going to respond to any of it.
To answer the member's question, we are monitoring it. We are aware of the birth rate. We know how many people there are in the Yukon within the birth to age five range, and age five through to graduation level.
Ms. Duncan: I'm sure the minister will agree that there was a five-percent increase in the statistics in the number of kindergarten students that took place between the last two years. This is something that bears careful monitoring.
In regard to this, we've managed to let the general debate on Education escape to this point without mentioning Grey Mountain Primary, and I'm sure the minister would be disappointed if I didn't ask her what commitments the government is making to this particular school, and the concept of this primary school as a neighbourhood school.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I was disappointed, Mr. Chair, but I'm disappointed no longer.
I have a fairly brief answer for the member. There is presently no discussion around the issue of replacement of Grey Mountain Primary. The decision was made to postpone the construction project a number of years ago due to declining enrollments. The total enrollment numbers in Riverdale make it difficult for the department to justify replacement of the facility. A number of changes were made to the school through an upgrading program that was conducted, and this is all information that we discussed in previous Education debates, so I'll stop there.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister's right. We've discussed this previously and I still keep asking the minister and not receiving an answer. Is the department committed to seeing that school remain in existence? Part of it is definitely the capital plan and she's indicated that school council chairs were going to discuss the whole idea of capital planning and where Grey Mountain fit and so on and so forth. I'm still asking the minister to indicate whether or not the Department of Education is committed to seeing Grey Mountain Primary School remain as a school within the lifetime of this government?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The department is committed to ensuring that the existing structure and programs will continue to be maintained for three years. After that, we will have a chance to examine the full impact of grade reorganization and make long-term decisions.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the Grey Mountain Primary School is currently a K-3 school and the plans that were previously put together by a previous NDP government have that school going from K-6. Now, in view of grade reorganization, is there still a commitment to K-6, or are you thinking K-7?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, as I indicated in response to the previous questions from the member's colleague, there is presently no discussion around the issue of school replacement. At the time that the decision was made to postpone construction of a new facility of Grey Mountain Primary it was because of declining enrollments. The total enrollment numbers in Riverdale make it difficult to justify replacement of the facility. We have, as I indicated, made a commitment to ensure that the existing structure and programs continue to be maintained over the next three years. After that, we will have the opportunity to look at the full impact of grade reorganization and make long-term decisions.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, currently at Grey Mountain Primary School there is a waiting list to get in so there is obviously not declining enrollment at that particular school. What I'm wondering about is whether the minister or her department at any point has had any discussions with the school council talking about if there was to be a replacement whether it would go K to 6, like it is in the plan that they've already developed, or go K to 7.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No, Mr. Chair, as I have been stating, there is presently no discussion occurring about school replacement.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, may I strongly suggest that perhaps this issue is better dealt with sooner than later.
The issue around playing fields - this is a huge lot that Grey Mountain Primary School is located on. It's an absolutely huge, pie-shaped lot that goes right back to the green belt. There are no playing fields at Grey Mountain Primary School. Are there any plans at all to develop playing fields at that school?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No, Mr. Chair. When the renovations of the facility were done, the request to have a playing field could not be accommodated within the existing school site.
Mrs. Edelman: In the same vein, Mr. Chair, is there any indication that there'll be some sort of fencing put around that school? It's the only elementary school in Whitehorse that doesn't have a fence.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'll have to check and provide an answer for the member on that.
Mr. Jenkins: If I could explore with the minister all of the issues surrounding Dawson and why it's being neglected, I'd -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: The original Robert Service School was designed for 250 students. The design has been stretched with a reconfiguration of a number of rooms, and now we have portables. In my opinion, what drives the need for a new school - and I'm sure, in the opinion of most everyone that you would speak with, Mr. Chair - is the number of students. The student population in our community certainly warrants additional classrooms. When is the minister going to be providing additional classrooms in Dawson City, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, the capacity of the Robert Service School, as is set out under the Yukon rural school facility study, is 345 students. We believe that without the portables, the school can accommodate 300 students, and 350 students with the portables.
What I can tell the member is that, at the present time, Education officials, including the superintendent for the area, are conducting a space survey to try and resolve the inconsistency between the numbers that the school council feels the school will accommodate and the numbers in the rural school facility study, because there is some difference there. This will be a subject of ongoing discussion with the school council.
As the member is also aware, we have committed to a long-range planning process, where we are embarking on construction of rural school facilities to meet the most urgent needs first. There is a school under construction in Old Crow at the present time, and we plan to build a school in Ross River next year, and a school in Mayo the year following.
Mr. Chair, in view of the time, I move that you report progress on Bill No. -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I could sit down and let the member ask another question.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Deputy Chair, I move that you report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Deputy Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker resumes the Chair
Deputy Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 9, First Appropriation Act, 1998-99, and directed me to report progress on it.
Deputy Speaker: You have heard the report of the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:28 p.m.