Wednesday, April 8, 1998 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
In recognition of Law Day
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I rise to note that today is Law Day across Canada. As most members are aware, the Canadian Bar Association has sponsored this national event since 1983 to commemorate the anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
As it is every year, the general theme of Law Day events is access to justice. That theme is particularly relevant this year as we mark the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Observing Law Day gives us an opportunity to renew our commitment to justice and help to educate the general public about their legal rights and about the various organizations that make up the legal system.
This year, the Law Society of the Yukon has planned school visits, tours of the courthouse, a five-kilometre fun run and radio appearances by various local lawyers to discuss human rights, legal myths and restorative justice.
The Law Day charity fun run and walk will be raising funds for Crime Stoppers. This run will take place next Wednesday, April 15.
I encourage members of this House and all Yukon people to participate in the Law Day events that are being held. I also want to pay tribute to the organizers of these events for their dedication to Law Day.
Having safe, healthy communities requires that government departments, justice and law enforcement officials, women's groups, social agencies and all Yukon people work together to achieve our common goal.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Phillips: First of all, let me say that I applaud the efforts of the individuals who are helping to make the general public more aware of our justice system.
Today, it gives me very little pleasure to rise and acknowledge Law Day. Law Day is supposed to be a day wherein the general public learns how the legal system works. I choose my words carefully, Mr. Speaker; I call it the legal system, rather than the justice system, because Yukoners have come to learn all too well that there is very little justice in the Yukon's legal system.
Yukoners have come to learn the hard way that the legal system does not work. It's a system that costs us millions of dollars and produces little other than heartache and pain for many individuals. It's a system which seems to uphold the rights of murderers and criminals to the utmost, but tramples on the rights of the victims, and often persecutes them more by re-victimizing them. It's a system that finds everyone else to blame for a crime, other than the criminal himself.
The blind system of justice has dropped her scales, Mr. Speaker, and can't find them. There is no balance in our legal system, as recent court decisions in the Yukon have clearly shown.
Ask the family and friends of Susan Klassen if they believe justice has been done. Ask the family and friends and relatives of Maranda Peter if they believe justice has been done. I give a warning here today to all legislators, lawyers, judges and prosecutors that we are dangerously close to losing the public's confidence in the legal system, if we're not there already. Lectures from on high about how the public just doesn't understand the workings of the legal system just don't sell to the public that it's supposed to serve, Mr. Speaker.
Every law-abiding citizen in this country has an innate sense of what is right and what is wrong. When the legal system, in its decisions, offends this basic sense of fairness and decency, it's in danger of losing our confidence. Yukon's legal system, like the legal systems in every jurisdiction in this country, is in need of a major overhaul, and the time to start the overhaul is now, is today.
Mr. Speaker, I look forward to the time that members of this House will be able to rise in this House and pay tribute to our Law Day, a day that commemorates an effective and efficient justice system that is fair to all. It will be a day that the lady of justice will once again have her scales in hand.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cable: I rise on behalf of the Liberal caucus to pay tribute both to the 50th anniversary of the universal Declaration of Human Rights and to Law Day 1998. This year's theme for Law Day is access to justice and, in my view, it is appropriate because it draws attention to the link between human rights legislation and the ability of citizens to make use of that legislation. Much of our rights in law and our protection have been created and explored by members of the law profession incensed over the misuse of power in society, and I am sure that this contribution will continue.
Now, just for the benefit of the House, there are 204 lawyers on our Law Society's rolls, 103 of whom are Yukon residents and 61 of whom are in private practice. I'm sure that within those ranks, there are many who will keep the idealism of law school alive and will continue to act as a buttress against discrimination and other misuses of power.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Capital project funds: Dawson City and Whitehorse
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to outline a few major initiatives that clearly demonstrate our government's commitment to the future of Yukon communities. They also reflect our policy of involving people in the decisions that affect them.
Specifically, I'd like to advise members of how we are planning for community capital needs throughout the 1998-99 budget.
The cities of Dawson and Whitehorse have identified major capital projects that will provide employment and enhance the quality of community life. To help them attain their goals, our government is providing long-term financial support to these projects in these two communities that will amount collectively to $16 million.
Nine million dollars of this funding is targeted to help Dawson City meet the capital costs of a new sewage treatment facility, as required in the town's water licence. We have taken the first steps in this year's capital budget with the announcement of the first of nine annual installments of $1 million each to the Dawson capital fund.
Under the terms of its water licence, the municipality must build a secondary sewage treatment facility by January 29, 2000. According to studies undertaken by municipal officials, the proposed facility would cost approximately $8.5 million to $11 million.
The town has informed our government that it will request an extension of its current licence from the Water Board later this month. If the Water Board grants this extension, the creation of a secondary sewage facility might not be necessary.
In such a case, our government would be willing to make a portion of the capital fund available for another capital project identified as a community priority.
In determining where to make capital expenditures, the Yukon government must balance a number of factors. The first priority of the government is to ensure the protection of the environment. However, we also believe in giving the people of Dawson a choice in making major capital expenditures for their community - a choice is there, Mr. Speaker.
The town has expressed interest in a cost-sharing agreement with the Yukon government for a new community centre. The estimated cost of this centre is $9.5 million. The proposed complex would include an indoor swimming pool, hockey arena and tourist facilities, which would improve year-round recreational opportunities for Dawson residents and visitors alike.
Another example of our government's commitment to meet future challenges with funding and community-based decision making is the Canada Winter Games trust fund. With this year's budget, we will make the first $1 million installment to this $7 million fund.
The impetus from this project stems from the bid by the City of Whitehorse to host the 2007 Canada Winter Games. This exciting opportunity will create many benefits for the City of Whitehorse, and our government is prepared to help the city attain these benefits.
The funds dedicated to this project will be held in a trust account by the Canada Winter Games Host Society. This organization will be formed during this fiscal year, and will consist of representatives of the Government of Yukon, the City of Whitehorse, Sport Yukon, the Yukon Lottery Commission and the general public.
The Yukon government can specify the purposes for which the money will be used, but will not control the funding directly once it is handed over.
Interest that accumulates in the fund will be distributed by the society, along with the fund's principal.
A recent study has shown that hosting the Canada Winter Games would bring many benefits to the city, including tourism, job opportunities and long-term recreation advantages for residents and visitors through improved recreation facilities.
The government is building foundations for the future by working together with Yukon communities to help them achieve their goals and take advantage of opportunities for growth.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party and also the official opposition, I'm responding to the minister's statement today.
Mr. Speaker, the purpose of ministerial statements is to announce a new initiative. This announcement is a re-announcement of an announcement that was announced over two months ago, when the Government Leader gave the budget presentation. I'm pleased, however, to have another opportunity to respond to the minister's statement regarding the Dawson and Whitehorse capital projects.
Mr. Speaker, on a positive note, we applaud this government for following through on an initiative of the previous Yukon Party government to establish a Canada Winter Games trust fund. Back in the fall of 1995, the then Minister of Community and Transportation Services, the hon. Bill Brewster, announced that he proposed to have Yukon added to the hosting cycle for the Canada Winter Games. He'd received the endorsement of provincial and territorial ministers responsible for sports and recreation, providing Yukon with an opportunity to host the Winter Games in the year 2007.
In response, an election commitment was made by the Yukon Party to establish a Canada Winter Games trust fund to assist in the planning and development needed to host the Canada Winter Games in the year 2007. As many of us know, this is a major sports and cultural event that has the potential to benefit all Yukoners in so many different ways.
It is a tremendous opportunity for Yukoners to work together as a community to showcase our northern sports, arts and culture, but to do this properly, we need a long-range planning and development strategy in the Yukon that will include all communities and all levels of government, Mr. Speaker. Not only will this event provide numerous economic opportunities to the Yukon, it will provide an excellent opportunity to develop and modernize our facilities for sports events.
I'd like to pay tribute to Mr. Brewster for starting this initiative and would like to pay thanks to the Government of the Yukon for following through with the work already completed.
The situation with respect to the capital project for Dawson is another issue all together, Mr. Speaker. We, on this side of the House, applaud the efforts of the Government of the Yukon for setting monies aside to help Dawson meet the capital costs of a new sewage treatment facility as well as the possible replacement of Dawson's faltering recreational facilities. I do hope that the government is sincere in following through with its commitments, as these projects are not expected to reach fruition for at least another decade, if not longer.
What we have here is a side-stepping of the government's responsibilities. In the event that secondary sewage treatment is mandated by the regulatory authorities for Dawson City, it will be contingent on the Government of the Yukon to fund that capital infrastructure to the same level as has been done in other areas. About 85 percent of that cost will be borne by the Government of the Yukon. That was the case in Whitehorse, Mr. Speaker, when some $19 million of the secondary sewage treatment was funded.
I'd like to remind the minister that the City of Dawson is the second-largest based community in the Yukon, population-wise. It has the only producing mine in the Yukon, it has a growing population and is in dire need of recreational facilities.
As for the minister's statement regarding the construction of a secondary sewage treatment plant, the Water Board has ruled that the City of Dawson should have one.
Dawson's concentration of all of their municipal officials, for the last several decades, has been that of improving, upgrading and installing a water and sewer system that meets the needs of its residents and the regulatory authorities. The city has required virtually all of its attention, this past while, to meet those obligations. Recreational facilities have been left to languish. This is an obligation of the Government of Yukon for this community, and it should be met.
As for the rest of the Yukon, it looks as if TROY is once again alive, but not very well. One only has to look to the Town of Watson Lake, of which the government's 1998-99 capital budget failed to include anything for the town, at a time when unemployment claims are up by some 21.1 percent from December to January alone.
Perhaps the minister could explain what he and his government intends to do to get our economy back on track and get Yukoners back to work, particularly those in rural communities, where jobs are so badly needed these days.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus to respond to the ministerial statement on Dawson and Whitehorse capital project funds. Mr. Speaker, recreational facilities that allow for and promote physical fitness are always good news. A fit individual is a person who takes fewer sick days, has a happier disposition, looks good and lives longer - and how can you go wrong with that?
Although there is no guarantee that the money being put aside today will go toward a recreational facility for Dawson, there is still money being put aside to address local needs.
Local decision making must always be respected and supported. If this money does eventually fund a recreation centre for Dawson City, the citizens of that town will enjoy year-round swimming, be able to develop an even better hockey team - and they're already awesome - and promote other recreational pursuits. If Dawson's hotels are going to be users of this facility, I can see this as an additional servicing of an emerging tourism market. Travellers want fitness opportunities at their destination. In Dawson, I can imagine how much a traveller who has spent all day on a long bus ride will enjoy swimming out the kinks in the new pool or taking a biathlon approach by adding a run up the Dome to add to those few laps in the pool.
Having the foresight to start putting money away to address the facility needs for the upcoming 2007 Canada Winter Games to be held here in Whitehorse is also good. All Yukoners, in particular the people of Whitehorse, will enjoy the legacy of improved recreational facilities long after the games are over.
Beyond the development of recreational facilities, we have to think about the effect the construction of these facilities will have on our economy. Construction of recreational facilities, if we hire locally, will produce many new jobs at the same time as developing a lasting infrastructure. Opportunities for public and private partnerships in the development of both these recreation facilities will ensure that dollars will circulate and grow in the private sector and in our Yukon economy.
Our caucus supports development of the local project in Dawson and the construction of appropriate recreational facilities so that we can host the 2007 Canada Games here in Whitehorse.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, certainly I know many people over here would like to stand up and provide some rebuttal, but it is certainly indeed my pleasure to have the opportunity to do that.
I would first of all like to thank the critic from the third party for seeing the positiveness within what we're doing and working toward that positiveness with us on a Yukon basis.
As for the other rhetoric that came out, I, too, would also like to pay tribute to Bill Brewster for carrying on the fine work that Maurice Byblow certainly initiated. Much, much ado for Mr. Byblow and also for Mr. Brewster for carrying on that work.
Certainly, I just don't know what to say. I don't where to start. Certainly this government believes in involving people and will continue to involve people within our decision-making process, and certainly the government in the previous administration had the opportunity. Did they take the opportunity? Nope. Absolutely not because they're too - I don't know what they're too. Well, they're obviously over there, so I just don't know what they're up to, actually.
But what are we doing? Let's talk about the economy. Let's talk a little bit about that. The Yukon Party's last budget in the year of their administration was $300,000 for the Town of Watson Lake and this budget is over $5 million. That's positive, my friend. That's very positive.
What else are we doing? In spite of the declining revenues, we're creating jobs by putting more than $70 million back into the economy in capital spending. We're spending more than twice as much of our total budget on capital as any of the provinces and nearly four percent more than the Northwest Territories.
What are we also doing? We're protecting health services. We're protecting Education and we're doing it without increasing taxes. I don't think those folks know what that means over there. We're not imposing health care. So, we're spending less, we're spending smarter and we're building foundations for the future by involving people. Hence, example, the 2007 games building coming up. We're working with the people of Dawson. I mean, they're just good fruitful things - certainly, some things that I don't think will ever be recognized across the floor.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Air traffic control tower
Mr. Jenkins: My question is for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, who also serves as our Minister of Tourism. Mr. Speaker, the minister is well-aware of the fact that if Yukon is to be successful in becoming a tourism destination, it must have an airport that can handle wide-bodied aircraft. This means that the airport must be of sufficient length and have all the facilities, services and infrastructure necessary to meet the needs of these aircraft. As the minister is also aware, many of the air charter companies we are trying to attract will not fly into uncontrolled airports. Can the minister advise the House if he is aware of this problem and if he is working hard to ensure that the Whitehorse International Airport control tower remains operational?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Speaker, we are.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much. We are - no elaboration, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, the Whitehorse International Airport is an economic tool very much like the Alaska Highway that can be utilized to attract tourists to the Yukon. NavCanada, however, operates purely on a cost-recovery basis, which is volume driven. NavCanada does not acknowledge or appear to care about the Yukon's successful tourism marketing initiatives. Yukon needs a strong ally in its corner, and in the past, that ally has been the Hon. Judd Buchanan, the chair of the Board of the Canadian Tourism Commission, who has the ear of the Prime Minister of Canada - one of those Liberals in Ottawa, Mr. Speaker.
Has the minister contacted Mr. Buchanan's office seeking his support for the Yukon's case, and if not, will he do so?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Speaker, there is more than contacting just one person. There are many people that we are willing to contact for this endeavour that the member opposite is talking about. The member opposite also knows that we have put $70,000 into this year's budget for the geotechnical work, and we are certainly looking to proceed with the results of the study so that we might be able to improve our airport. Certainly that is the total thrust of it.
Mr. Jenkins: Earlier this week, the minister and his department were criticized by the Yukon's main carrier, Canadian Airlines International, at the Northern Air Transportation Association annual meeting, for providing ground support equipment to service Air Transat wide-bodied aircraft. The minister knows that if he didn't provide this equipment, it is highly unlikely that these seasonal charter operators would fly to the Yukon, as it wouldn't be cost-effective.
Has the minister assured Canadian Airlines that it could use this equipment, and has he had any discussions with the manager of commercial operations about what the Yukon government can do to encourage Canadian Airlines to market Yukon tourism in the Pacific Rim countries that it flies to?
Would Canadian Airlines be prepared to bring in one of its own wide-bodied aircraft carrying Asian tourists directly to Whitehorse? Has this possibility been discussed with Canadian?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Speaker - absolutely. The deputy minister's comments of yesterday, as reported on the radio today, were that Canadian Airlines is more than welcome to be using it. It's not for one airline. It is for the encouragement of many, many airlines that come here, and certainly the department and I are working with due diligence so that we can certainly encourage the atmosphere as it is. Certainly, that in itself should go a long way to convincing NavCan that the possible service reduction they're speaking about is definitely not warranted here in the Yukon, as we proceed to a world-class destination.
Question re: Film production, tax incentives
Mr. Phillips: My question is for the Minister of Tourism.
Just over a week ago, I attended a going away party for a highly respected Yukon civil servant. I'm speaking, of course, of Yukon's film commissioner, Patti Howlett. Ms. Howlett was a major player in putting Yukon on the film site location map with many production companies in the south. I would personally like to thank Ms. Howlett for her excellent work.
In an interview she gave to local media, she talked about the successes in the future of attracting more production companies north. Ms. Howlett pointed out that the competition is great for these productions, as they can leave millions in our locations. And we know that, from some of the companies that have come here already. Most other jurisdictions are now offering tax incentives to these production companies, to entice them into their area, and it's a common question that Ms. Howlett received at the trade shows.
So, I'd like to ask the minister, Mr. Speaker: is this government prepared to make the necessary changes to any legislation - and any changes we have to make to our tax system - so that we can offer similar incentives to these film site production companies, so that we can compete with our competitors in the south?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Speaker, I was not able to make the going away party for Ms. Howlett. It's unfortunate that I wasn't there, but I certainly would also like to take the time and opportunity right now to applaud the fine work that was done by her.
Yes, many different areas and provinces in Canada have different options. I have taken it up with the Finance minister and we certainly intend to explore initiatives of other provinces and consider options for the future. So, yes, we are working toward that end now.
Mr. Phillips: Since the minister has taken it up with the Finance minister, can he tell this House today what kind of tax incentives other jurisdictions are using and what we are suggesting that we use in the territory?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, there are other examples from Alberta right through to the "movie of the week" television type of productions that are done across Canada. Certainly, there are many options. As I have said, I'm working with the Finance department to look at all options, of which the tax incentive is one, but there might be others. We are certainly looking at it in that manner and in that light.
Mr. Phillips: I didn't really get an answer to my question. Is the minister telling us that all he did was meet with the Finance minister and say, "Look at some options"? Did he provide the Finance minister with some ideas, as I would have thought the Tourism department would have done - some suggested ideas with respect to tax incentives, as other jurisdictions do.
What exactly did he present to the Finance minister? Was it just a casual conversation, discussing that we might do it?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, exactly. A four-year tenure and nothing was done. Certainly, this government is moving. Whether I meet with the Finance minister on a casual basis or a formal basis is not the point here. What is the point is that we are going out and doing something that should have been done long ago. We are intending to explore the initiatives of the other provinces and consider the options. Certainly we have provided information and an exchange of information and ideas.
Certainly, I think the Member for Riverdale North should take comfort in the fact that we are moving in that direction and looking at the different options.
Question re: Kwanlin Dun aboriginal justice program
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Justice on the funding arrangement for the Kwanlin Dun aboriginal justice program. On the radio this morning, representatives of the Kwanlin Dun were complaining about the Yukon government cuts leaving their aboriginal justice program high and dry. Yet on the noon news, I understood the minister to say the deal to fund the program was in place.
Just to clear the air and the confusion, would the minister tell the House whether there is, in fact, a deal, and whether she's prepared to provide a copy to us by legislative return?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The answer I would give to the member is something that he may have heard as well when he was listening to the news earlier today. The Yukon government has been, and remains, supportive of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation community justice project. The Yukon government has also informed the leadership of Kwanlin Dun First Nation that we are not only funding Kwanlin Dun for the 1997-98 program, but that we will fund them for 1998-99.
Mr. Cable: I'll take it, then, that the minister's saying there is, in fact, a deal.
Now, on a related issue, Mr. Speaker, it appears that a gag order was placed on the Justice department staff. According to the media, they were told - this is the Justice department staff were told - they aren't allowed to speak to the media on the issue.
The minister's staff has spoken to the media before on various issues. Could the minister tell us why the gag order and how this sits with the NDP's platform of open and accountable government?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There was, in fact, no gag order. The member is misinformed. Officials in the Department of Justice have not at any time been instructed to refuse to answer questions from the media.
Mr. Cable: The media report is erroneous, I take it, then? We will report this back to the media.
Now, this program money was originally requested before last Christmas, and the government took until now to make up its mind, and the people had to be laid off because of lack of action by the minister. Now that the decision has finally been made - and I take it from the minister's comments that it has in fact been made - would the minister tell the House when the money will actually be flowing so the people can get back to work on this very worthwhile program?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the member's facts, as outlined in his preamble, are simply wrong. The Department of Justice has had an ongoing commitment and has had ongoing discussions with Kwanlin Dun to confirm that their 1997-98 contribution for the community justice program was forthcoming and that the Yukon government will continue to fund the Kwanlin Dun First Nation community justice project in 1998-99.
The cheque for the 1997-98 program will be cut today and discussions to finalize the arrangements for 1998 have not been signed, but the Yukon government confirmed on March 30 that it will match the federal government contribution.
Under the aboriginal justice strategy, the Yukon Department of Justice is contributing $60,000 toward the Kwanlin Dun First Nation community justice project. Health and Social Services are prepared to second a youth probation worker, with a value of $70,000, to fulfill the commitment to match the approved federal funding.
In all, there will be $115,000 available from the aboriginal justice secretariat and $115,000 in direct funding and equivalent services from the Yukon government to support Kwanlin Dun's community-based restorative justice project.
Kwanlin Dun was formally advised of that fact on March 30. There was no need for them to lay off their staff, and officials in my department were not advised that Kwanlin Dun would be closing their offices.
Question re: Regulation updates, professional acts
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, my question is also for the Minister of Justice. The Family Violence Prevention Act was passed last December, four months ago. It was my understanding that the regulations on this act would be developed over the course of one year. I have spoken with quite a few organizations now that have heard nothing from the department about the consultations on these regulations. There are only eight months left in the year, and consultation during the summer months is a difficult process because of staff shortages. Could the minister update this House on the progress of that consultative process?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm very happy to update the members of the House and the public about progress on the implementation of the Family Violence Prevention Act. An implementation advisory committee has been struck to form the process of developing regulations. The membership of that committee includes representation from the RCMP, the Yukon Indian Women's Association, the Watson Lake shelter, the Carmacks safe home, the Dawson shelter, two representatives from Kaushee's Place, a representative nominated by the Yukon Status of Women Council, the Canadian Bar Association family law subsection, as well as representatives from the family violence prevention unit, the Department of Justice and the Women's Directorate.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I still haven't heard about the plan for consultation, although it's a very interesting committee.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I have been corresponding with the Minister of Health about the progress of the review of the Yukon Mental Health Act. Now, it is my understanding that this review includes some internal changes as well as some proposed amendments.
Can the minister update this House on the progress of those internal procedural changes as well as the proposed legislative amendments, and will they be coming forward in the fall?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member's supplementary seems to be a new question for the Minister of Health and Social Services, and I would encourage the member to pursue that line of questioning with the Minister of Health as a new question.
However, since in her preamble the member made some comments about not feeling that the Family Violence Prevention Act implementation was proceeding properly, I wanted to provide her with some further information on that.
In response to a keen interest on the part of the Yukon public to be involved in the Family Violence Prevention Act implementation, we have struck a committee. I just gave the member details about who was on that committee.
It did take some time to finalize the membership because a number of the groups that are represented took some time to respond to the letters that were sent out to them after the fall legislative session.
The consultation document was distributed in the early fall of 1997. The committee has now been struck and the implementation plan will proceed with the advice of the implementation committee.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, it's interesting, because when I ask about health legislation like the Pharmacists Act, I am told to speak to the Justice minister. When I ask about consultation, I'm supposed to talk to the Health minister, yet nobody seems to be taking a coordinating role on this type of legislation, one way or another. I've still heard nothing about the Mental Health Act and whoever is doing any sort of consultation.
Now, Mr. Speaker, during the fall sitting last year, the Health minister stated that he was reviewing a number of professional acts. Can the minister indicate whether she or the Minister of Health and Social Services will be conducting consultations on changes to the Nursing Professions Act or the Pharmacists Act in the next year?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'll try to weave my way through the labyrinth here.
First of all, I think we've got a couple of issues going on here. The professional acts, which we do work with - we consult with our friends in Justice - fall really into the realm of Justice for questions such as drafting and things of that nature.
With regard to reviewing the Mental Health Act review, we have undertaken some preliminary steps for the review of the Mental Health Act. We've identified issues, as expressed by key stakeholders, and we've also identified some, but by no means all, of the problems that would require legislative change.
We have worked with the support of the chair of the Mental Health Review Board to undertake some research in identifying clinical, legal and procedural issues that have arisen. We will also be looking at what kinds of legislative amendments and reforms would be needed, such as procedural change, professional development, et cetera.
Any amendments that we would undertake with the Mental Health Act would be undertaken in parallel with some other issues that I've mentioned here before, such as adult guardianship and supported decision making. I think I've indicated before that we are trying to wrap these all together. I don't know if that has addressed all the issues the member has brought up, but if she has further questions in that regard, we can certainly try to address them.
Question re: Drug abuse in the Yukon
Mr. Jenkins: I'm following up with the Minister of Health and Social Services on the same topic that I raised in this House earlier this week - alcohol abuse and drug addiction.
There are also major problems in the non-native community. The minister, in closing down Crossroads after some 26 years of service, gave, as one of his reasons, that Crossroads wasn't culturally sensitive to First Nations and that his department's funding of wilderness camps for both First Nation youth and adults is intended to address this concern.
My question to the minister is what programs and facilities is the minister going to be making available in rural Yukon communities to address the needs of non-native Yukoners suffering from alcohol and drug abuse? First Nation healing camps wouldn't be appropriate for these people, so what is the minister going to be providing in this area?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: First of all, I think I would like to refute an allegation - the statement the member made - when he said that First Nation healing camps would not be appropriate for individuals. I think anyone who is struggling with personal addiction issues could benefit from an appropriate placement. Certainly, in the discussions that I have had with some of the First Nations who have proposed this, none of them have suggested that it should be for First Nation members only. As a matter of fact, a couple of them have suggested that they would be more than amenable to, and in fact would encourage, all people of all backgrounds to take advantage of such a situation. So, first of all, that needs to be refuted.
With regard to the kinds of programs that we are providing, one of the advantages that we see with this particular alcohol and drug program that we're proposing is that it has a measure of portability, that it can be taken into communities, that the training - because it's not necessarily a residentially based program - can be taken out to communities, and we have already taken it into, for example, Kwanlin Dun, and we could take it to other communities that request it. As a matter of fact, I believe that a couple of communities are scheduled for this.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister stood up and refuted my suggestion that there might be difficulties with non-First Nations people attending the wilderness camps. He can't have it both ways. The First Nations were reluctant to attend Crossroads because it wasn't culturally sensitive, and there's going to be the same situation on the other hand, with individuals going to attend First Nations healing camps. There are going to be difficulties there.
The minister is just totally ignoring this area. Let's just explore with the minister how many staff are going to be providing the alcohol and drug abuse treatment programs in Whitehorse that were previously provided by the Crossroads treatment centre? What is going to be the cost of the staffing?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I thought I went over this in some considerable detail before, and certainly when we get into Health and Social Services, I can give the member more detail. Basically we're running our current programs with two counsellors. There is additional support staff in it, but we are able to offer that program with our two counsellors.
So I don't have any concerns that we have an issue of adequate staffing. I think we have the ability to do that, but what I do take serious exception to is the member's contention of trying to drive a wedge between people, people who suffer from personal problems, and the suggestion that one group of people can only be responded to in one way, and another group has to be responded to in another way.
When we said that we looked at some of the concerns around Crossroads, those were reflections of what we were hearing from First Nations people. First Nations people told us about the question of coming into town, of leaving support networks at home, and of moving into a treatment program that had a particular kind of philosophical base. Those were real difficulties for them.
We've tried to create a program which is able to respond to all groups, and not merely by issues surrounding race, but also groups with age concerns, groups that have gender concerns. So, I think what we're trying to do is be more responsive across the board. Quite frankly, I think the member - as does everyone, First Nation or non-First Nation - a serious disservice when he makes those kinds of allegations.
Mr. Jenkins: But, Mr. Speaker, it is the minister who is driving the wedge, setting up two distinctly different systems. That's what's driving the wedge. What we need is to treat the problem, and the problem is growing, and it's alarming in its growth. When we look at the minister's initial statement after Crossroads was shut down by his department, he was going to save some $100,000 a year. That is yet to be proven.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that the minister doesn't have a handle whatsoever on Yukon's alcohol and drug treatment program in relation to what is going to be provided to Yukon's First Nations and what is going to be provided to non-native Yukoners, and the services that are going to be provided here in Whitehorse and in rural Yukon. We've got a mesh of four or five different situations, Mr. Speaker.
If the minister is going to do all the things he claims he is going to do, the alcohol and drug service budget would have to be increased by several millions of dollars, rather than having it reduced. How does the minister account for this financial discrepancy?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: First of all, that member, the Member for Klondike, I think, Mr. Speaker, is making some fairly absurd allegations. Yesterday, he began trying to do some extrapolation from wilderness treatment camps for youth onto the concept of First Nations healing camps. First of all, he didn't even have his facts right. There are five First Nation healing camps. His facts are so weak, they are so faulty, that I can't begin to know where to start.
What I can say is that he makes a - he's beginning with the assumption that we are going to take on the funding of all First Nation healing camps. We never said that. We said what we were willing to do would be to enter into partnerships with our First Nation citizens and our First Nation communities in trying to support some of these First Nation healing camps. We are not suggesting that we take on the full funding of these, nor has it even been suggested by the First Nation communities that we take on full funding of these.
What we have said is that we are interested in working with them, we are interested in finding programs that are appropriate for all citizens that people can access. And we are interested in trying to work out an arrangement, likely through a per diem system.
But for us to suggest that we would take on all the First Nations is absolutely absurd. The member knows it. He doesn't have his facts right, and I do wish he would do some homework.
Question re: Taylor House, occupancy
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Minister of Government Services and it concerns the empty Taylor House.
Mr. Speaker, about this time last year, the government purchased this building with much fanfare. In questions put to the minister last fall, he said he hoped to have a group occupying the building by early spring. Well, it certainly looks like early spring to me. However, when I drove by the Taylor House, it didn't look occupied.
Could the minister tell this House if or when a group is moving into the Taylor House?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm delighted to respond to that question. If the member did more than perhaps drive by - as a matter of fact I could arrange for her to take a tour - she'll see that there's a considerable amount of work that has been done in terms of restoration. I was over there I believe just a bit over a week ago with not one but two groups that are interested in going in there.
As a matter of fact, the one group that has expressed, very recently, an interest in going in there with a great deal of ardor is the -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, as a matter of fact the Member for Riverdale North is wrong. It is not the Girl Guides. It is in fact the Arctic Winter Games organizing committee, an organizing team for the forthcoming games in Whitehorse.
We had a tour. We showed them the facility. We showed them what was in place, what needed yet to be done. We talked about their space requirements and, following that, they had some subsequent discussions with the group that had identified itself as wanting to go in there to see about the idea of shared facilities, shared arrangements and things like that.
There are some very positive discussions going on. I'm encouraging both groups to see if there are ways that we can partner on this to maximize the usage of the building.
I, for example, would be very supportive of the Arctic Winter Games going in. I think it would be a good opportunity for them to find a facility.
So we are proceeding with this, and I'm quite enthused about the use of heritage buildings. That's something I feel very strongly about - the idea that we can maximize our use of heritage buildings.
As a matter of fact, I believe next Tuesday or Wednesday, the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce is having a person speak on how to utilize heritage buildings in a maximum way, and I would encourage the member to join me there.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, if I'm not mistaken, I not only heard the minister offer me a tour but lunch as well. So, I'll consider it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: On his nickel, yes.
The minister has just very appropriately mentioned the use of heritage buildings and a forthcoming speaker at the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon. Can the minister tell this House if he has given any consideration to, or made any plans for, the Mast House, which has been in the news of late?
It now appears that that heritage building is going to be destroyed. Does the Government of the Yukon have any plans to purchase the Mast House?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: To be very frank, no, we have not been approached, and I don't think I would be the appropriate person to approach in that regard. What I was charged with was the responsibility - I'm not the Minister of Heritage, by the way - of trying to undertake the renovations of the building and finding appropriate tenants for the building. So, at this point, no, I have no knowledge of the Mast House.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, the obvious question is, of course, why the Taylor House and why not the Mast House? However, I'll leave that to another day and ask the minister another question.
He's repeatedly mentioned renovations to bring the Taylor House up to code. Would the minister indicate the cost of those renovations, how much has been spent to date and what's the estimate to finish the work?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can get the information back to the member in more detail, particularly as we move into Government Services, but I believe that at one point the overall estimate was around $180,000. Subsequent to that, we've discovered that there is some log work, particularly around the base.
The building has a rather unfortunate configuration on the site. The drainage has actually been into the building. The water has been flowing in there, so we may have a bit more to do on that.
However, just with regard to the Mast House, and I think there's an interesting point. The reason we intervened, in particular, with the Taylor House was because at the time the City of Whitehorse did not have anything in place in terms of heritage bylaws to designate a property and to take any steps toward the preservation and raising public awareness.
So, the City of Whitehorse heritage advisory committee had been established to advise the city on the designation of such issues, and we acted, quite frankly, because the previous government had been so derelict in its duty on enacting the legislation which would provide the ability of the city to take such steps. So, what had happened was - and if I could just cut to the chase here - the previous government had been very, very derelict in enacting this legislation and it really fell on us, because they had been so slow in it, to take a step to save this important historical building.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Point of order has been called. Member for Riverdale North.
Mr. Phillips: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, when he mentions the previous government, I understand he's talking about the previous NDP government, who failed to take the heritage legislation across the street in two weeks when they were in government.
Our government, Mr. Speaker, brought the legislation forward and passed it in this House, so it could be enacted by the City of Whitehorse. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Member for Faro, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Actually, no. In fact, Mr. Speaker, the member's talking about the Yukon Party government, which failed, in a very derelict way, to bring forward the Historic Resources Act after four years, and forced us to step in to save the Taylor House.
Speaker: There is no point of order. The member can continue.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As my colleague has pointed out, it didn't take us four years to cross the road, as it did the previous government.
However, what I can say is that we did act because there was the necessity to save an important building, an important element of the Yukon's heritage. We're pleased that we did. The public response has been very good and what, I think, has been particularly encouraging to me has been the desire of community groups to go into the Taylor House. I think that reflects very well on the importance that people attach to heritage in this territory.
In particular, I would like to say that I'm very pleased to be able to bring this project to fruition in the heritage year - the 1998 year. That's something I find very personally rewarding.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Motion No. 116, standing in the name of Ms. Duncan.
Motion No. 116
Speaker: It is moved by the leader of the third party
THAT this House recognizes that governments everywhere are seeking innovative ways to finance public projects; and
THAT this House strongly recommends that the Government of Yukon actively review the public-private partnership model used extensively throughout Canada for the development of such projects throughout Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: It is a real pleasure to rise today to speak to this motion put forward by me and our party and our caucus regarding the investigation by the Government of Yukon of the public-private partnership model.
Many of us come to this House from a background of service on volunteer boards or professional organizations and, in those models, members of the boards or organizations discuss and evaluate ideas, fine-tune them, explore options, and they end up ultimately reaching the right decision for their particular organization and for Yukoners as a whole.
Although many of us come from a background of arriving at decisions made in this manner, it's not the way, we have discovered, somewhat to our disappointment, in this House that decisions are arrived at. Unfortunately, we aren't all in the room when decisions are made that affect the lives of everyday Yukoners and, in my short experience in this House, I haven't seen many amendments to programs go through - a few but not many.
No, the real opportunity for us as members to discuss good ideas is motion day, and I welcome the opportunity to have a thorough, frank discussion of what I believe is an idea that has merit and is worthy of exploration and discussion - the public-private partnership model.
Burdened by increasing debt levels and rising requests, governments around the globe are focusing on new ways to efficiently deliver services and build and finance infrastructure. Public-private partnerships bring together the strength of both the public and the private sectors.
They are innovative tools of public policy. In addition to maximizing efficiencies and innovations of private enterprise, public-private partnerships can provide much needed capital to finance government programs and projects of a commercial nature, thereby freeing public funds for core economic and social programs.
Public and private interests have already worked together in many cases in Canada to bring us new and important infrastructure development critical to maintaining Canada's competitiveness. The link between the provinces of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island over Northumberland Strait is a perfect example.
Many new projects are expected to be developed in the near future on a partnership basis, including the development of important highways in Canada. Municipal governments are looking closely at cooperative projects with the private sector in areas ranging from municipal recycling to water and waste-water projects.
Public-private partnerships are not entirely new. What is new, however, are the creative ways they are being used by all levels of government and even between levels of government. In short, a minor revolution is occurring.
Public-private partnerships can work in the provision of services, financing and development of infrastructure and administration of government.
The re-thinking of the role of government has also been at the root of the concept of public-private partnerships.
The traditional role of government has been under attack from both the far right, which would promote the downsizing of government, and from the far left, which would promote the increased participation of citizens in their own governance.
From a less ideological perspective, there has been general public pressure for a more efficient government and cost-effective use of taxpayers' money. The public-private partnership, as a mechanism, which, at its best, taps into the unique strengths of the public and private sector, has a potential to address at least some of these concerns.
The private sector is viewed as being more flexible and responsible than the slow-moving governments, a characteristic necessary in a rapidly changing world. On the other hand, it's not clear that all individuals are, in fact, empowered through the marketplace. Government must continue to participate to ensure that services are accessible for all citizens.
What is the public-private partnership model? Well, there has always been some measure of interaction and cooperation between the private sector and government. In the past, government has often provided low interest loans or grants to the private sector, often with the aim of increasing employment.
What is it that differentiates public-private partnerships from these more traditional arrangements? Discussion about public-private partnerships is an area where practice has actually preceded the theory. Consequently, the idea of partnerships has been very loosely defined and can mean different things to different people. It's a word we often hear used in this House and see examples every day of partnerships meaning different things to different people.
In one respect, a loose definition is an asset, since it allows for the full range of creative solutions to a number of problems; however, to undertake any sort of study of public-private partnerships, and to outline the model further, I think it's important that we lay out in our discussion today some basic guidelines.
A partnership is an arrangement in which two or more parties agree to work cooperatively toward a mutual goal that the partners, acting on their own, would be unable to attain. Now, that arrangement can be formalized through legal agreements or memorandums of understanding; however, there doesn't have to be a formalized agreement. It's not a fundamental requirement to moving forward.
Implied in the agreement to work cooperatively is the requirement that all parties be involved, to some degree, in the planning phase of the partnership.
Thirdly, there's a shared commitment of the partners to the mutual goal. This commitment usually manifests itself in the commitment of cash or in-kind resources, such as human capital, information, equipment or physical facilities. As a side-bar to the shared commitment, there's an element of shared risk as well among the partners for the planned result. This might entail the sharing of the financial and the technical risks or the liability.
True partnerships offer mutual benefit to all partners. Public-private partnerships require the additional dimension that they be involved in the delivery of a public good or service.
There are some 20-odd pages that list a variety of public-private partnerships, which are - well, not exhaustive, as this is a growing field - certainly worthy of exploration and discussion.
For example, in Canada, there is the Arctic ice project, which trains Russians in the design of ice and meteorological GIS. There's a broad-band applications lab, for those interested in the communication field, which is testing new broad-band applications. There's a public-private partnership to create a national communication structure. There are partnerships to conduct research to develop Canada's mineral and energy resources, and there is Canadian Coals, a public-private partnership to conduct research on Canadian coal.
Many Yukoners and individuals in this House will be familiar with the Canadian student loans program. There are charter schools, and there are computers for schools, wherein used government computers are donated to a variety of schools.
There are many, many examples, and it's a growing list.
One of the points that I would like to outline for members this afternoon is the best of what public-private partnerships demonstrate and what they have to offer.
Successful public-private partnerships are built on a firm understanding and mutual benefits. They work best when government and the private sector relate to each other on a business-to-business level where there are mutually recognized benefits for all parties.
The public sector cannot expect the private, for-profit, sector to act out of some altruistic motivation. In fact, the private sector is faced with the same need to exercise fiscal restraint as is the public sector. Neither can government compel the private sector to become a partner by means of legislation, because true partnerships are voluntary relationships. All parties must recognize that these arrangements serve their own interests.
It's not enough to acknowledge that one's self-interest is served by a partnership. Without the belief that the partnership serves a vital need, the partnership will fail. All partners must be sincerely committed to the success of the initiative. In other words, partners must be stakeholders, not merely shareholders.
Public-private partnerships can create efficiencies which are beneficial for both government and the private sector. Besides creating efficiencies in the use of budgets, the different capacities which public and private organizations bring to a partnership promote other kinds of efficiencies. The public partner has a unique legislative and planning capacity, which may save the private sector wasted effort in the formulation of proposals for infrastructure development, urban renewal and housing. On the other hand, the private sector may be able to access capital which, because of the regulation of public borrowing, is unavailable to government.
By involving a private sector partner, government may be able to circumvent the inertia of large institutions which interferes with the rapid delivery of goods and services by the public sector.
It's interesting to note that many American states have made use of such arrangements in order to respond quickly to various situations and needs within their communities.
Public-private partnerships can be an appropriate response to a short-term crisis. Because of this potential of public-private partnerships to respond quickly to perceived needs, these arrangements can be an appropriate response to short-term crisis. In fact, when a crisis in service delivery threatens the interest of the private sector, it may itself initiate a formation of public-private partnerships.
I have an American example. The Michigan Chemical Council worked together with the state's Department of Natural Resources to address the backlog of applications for air permits, which was interfering with the flexibility of business and industry.
In cases where the crisis less clearly reflects private sector interests, the public sector can access the flexibility of the private sector through the contracting out of services.
It's important to our discussion today to note that public-private partnerships can be initiated in every sphere of government activity. Conventional types of public-private partnerships may be initiated in service delivery areas where the private sector has traditionally had little involvement - schools and education are one example - and completely new types of relationships are possible.
Traditional types of billed, operate, transfer and other partnerships have been initiated in areas of government activity where typically the private sector has not played a role.
Even more interesting is the evolution of new types of relationships with the private sector. Some of these, I noted in the growing list of partnerships in Canada.
Public-private partnerships need not be confined to conventional relationships. Governments can partner with both for-profit and non-profit organizations - and we've seen examples of this in the Yukon as we go through our budget debate.
Many non-profit organizations share compatible objectives and goals with government. Because the involvement of these organizations is determined by the project goal rather than the "bottom line" considerations, partnerships with the non-profit organizations may be particularly critical in supporting the delivery of services that are not inherently profitable.
Non-profit organizations have access to considerable financial and human resources and may be able to channel the considerable energy of volunteers toward the project.
Non-profit organizations can build general support for these projects among their constituencies, thus lending a special legitimacy to these efforts.
Of course, non-profit organizations can serve as the bridge between public sector and the private, for-profit sector.
Another important point that we are learning from this model is coalition building. It seems a critical step in the formation of public-private partnerships. When we move beyond a discussion of public-private partnerships in infrastructure to one concerning the use of public-private partnerships in the delivery of social services, we move away from the discussion of partnerships in purely economic terms, such as leveraging funds, or sharing risk, to focus on the process itself and the importance of real participation in decision making.
Coalitions are one means by which the relationship with service users can be transformed from one in which they are passively cared or provided for, to one in which they can actively participate in designing the services.
Successful public-private partnerships make explicit the mutual goals of the partners. An initial step in the formation of successful public-private partnerships is the clarification of mutual goals and unity of purpose. The process may be as simple as negotiating and signing a memorandum of understanding, as I noted in the beginning of my remarks, or as complex as initiating a visioning process by which all stakeholders reach a consensus.
Government can play a catalytic role in the formation of partnerships.
As a catalyst, government can facilitate the formation of partnerships among other organizations without becoming directly involved in their specific activities. This catalytic role can take many forms of financial or legislative inducements to encourage others to seek out innovative partnerships. There is an example in Alaska of the allocation of community development quotas to local communities, which provided an incentive for commercial fisheries to partner with communities.
In another case, by assuming some of the risk involved in setting up a trade office through granting an interest-free loan, Industry and Science Canada enabled 12 Canadian environmental engineering firms to create a partnership to promote their services to our neighbours to the south.
Another important lesson we've learned from the models and from the examples to date is that, with the increased participation from the private sector in the provision of public goods and services, government then defines its own niche. This evolution of public-private partnerships can be seen as part of a current process to redefine the role of government. Partnerships allow government to do what it does best. The challenge for government is to determine just what it does do best and where government activity is both legitimate and necessary. Defining its special niche within public-private partnerships is one of the important tasks.
The very best public-private partnerships are proactive and innovative. There are a number of examples specific to one of my critic areas, namely education, that have been used in other provinces and perhaps, in my closing remarks today, I could elaborate further on that.
The point that I wanted to make this afternoon, and that I wanted to emphasize to all members, is that it is possible to adopt this model for use in the Yukon.
The opportunity and, I sense, in some quarters, a desire exists to make public-private partnerships work, and by this motion, our caucus wanted to express to the government our strong desire to thoroughly review the public-private partnership model, to examine its effectiveness for Yukon, and to hopefully challenge all Yukoners to seriously consider these ideas and how they might work within the organizations that we volunteer for or are employed by or work with.
The fundamental question is this: can and should the private sector be involved in the delivery of public goods and services? We believe that the answer is yes. It should not be involved merely as a contractor or as a source of capital. The involvement of the private sector does not negate the important role of government in the delivery of services. What there is is a need for comprehensive programs to which all partners can contribute their strengths, and that has to be the key goal of any partnership - to create a whole greater than the sum of its individual actions and decisions. Public-private partnerships can provide a bridge of trust that is based on similar goals but allows for differences in roles.
I welcome the opportunity to discuss this model, and I look forward to hearing what examples other members have researched and what ideas they have on how this model might be used in the Yukon. I look forward to a positive and constructive discussion on this model.
I will leave my remarks at that point, Mr. Speaker, and invite others to share their thoughts on this subject, and I look forward to the debate this afternoon.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'm pleased today to speak to the motion put before us. We, in this government, are prepared to support the notion of investigating so-called public-private sector partnerships. We would never want, as a government, to send the signal that we are not prepared to fully analyze ideas that are put forward from other jurisdictions or within the Yukon.
Having said that, I want to say that the idea behind so-called public-private sector partnerships is one that has been around in an ever-increasing fashion over the last few years as governments have had to make political statements and take practical actions to deal with debts and deficit. That has become a preoccupation in the country. Governments of all stripes have had to deal with it.
However, with that particular direction has come no limitation on the number of requests that are made to governments for infrastructure, for schools, hospitals, roads - all the things that cost money - and for jails. These types of requests have not subsided. In fact, in the Yukon, I would say that they are on the increase, particularly from the Liberal and Yukon Party opposition benches.
We struggle with that, because we said to Yukoners that we are going to be a pay-as-you-go government. That means that we pay as we go. That means that we maintain a steady level of an accumulated surplus bank account and we spend at a sustainable level. That means that there will be times that we have current-year deficits, but, at least in the main estimates, normally at the end of the year, they become a surplus as a result of lapsed funding.
We sometimes budget current year deficits in order to facilitate those expenditures that we need to make in the territory but also to keep a bank account so that the Yukon does not have an accumulated debt. That is a goal that we've stated to the public of the Yukon and we have kept it in our last two budgets. Our main estimates have tabled surpluses or bank accounts of $15 million. We intend to continue on in that vein.
The other fundamental commitment we made was that we were not going to initiate any tax rate increases in this term. We have managed to accomplish that in our last two budgets and we intend to continue on.
So we have a revenue problem and that certainly makes things more challenging. As well, the loss of the Faro mine, although it's not a tax issue as it pertains to revenue, because of the perversity factor and how we're funded, it is a revenue issue in many other ways as it does have a negative impact overall on the ability of the Government of the Yukon to generate monies to spend and invest in Yukon.
So, we have many challenges and there have been many, many requests for funding around the territory, and it has been a difficult juggling act to prioritize these requests. But in the context of tough times, with the loss of the Faro mine and a downturn worldwide in the mining industry and nothing like the Shakwak this year or the hospital to fill in the slack, we have been steadfast in our resolve to continue to keep our commitment to Yukoners to be "pay as we go". There's tremendous pressure on government to succumb to the charming buzzwords or catch-phrases that are often put around an issue that, in many eyes, has been known as a creative way to explain debt financing, a creative way to hide debt financing by governments.
I'll give you an example. In the last provincial election in Nova Scotia just recently, the premier of the province, the Liberal premier, promised 31 schools would be built over the next couple of years through so-called public-private partnerships.
This will be done without adding one penny of accumulated debt to the Nova Scotia budget. That's half true, because there would have been money put forward by the private sector to build schools. They would have built them. The government was prepared to enter into very long-term leases and the students would have used them and it wouldn't have been debt, per supplementary estimate.
However, there is a price to pay. There is a lease every year that has to be paid on 31 schools. There is the cost of borrowing to the private sector - which is usually done at a higher level than the government can get money - which has to be paid. There is the reality that at the end of the projects, in many cases, the actual assets, when the lease is finished, does even revert back to the public sector. It is in the hands of the private sector, so no longer do you own the asset at the end of the day; it's not in public hands. That, in this case, raised a lot of questions in Nova Scotia in the minds of Nova Scotians.
They were making a decision for 31 schools four days before an election campaign to essentially limit the choices of the next generation because the next generation or the next two or three governments would end up having - before they even started their budgeting process - to carve out their lease payments plus the costs of that borrowing to whomever the private sector owners are before they even begin to make their budgetary decisions.
So, there is a cost, and that means fewer choices for future governments and future generations. That has to be considered when people talk about public-private partnerships.
The second, and I think a very salient point is, if you're talking about true public-private sector partnerships, then I think, and I fundamentally believe, that the private sector must share a portion of the risk. Now, in many of the models that I have seen proposed, that is not the case.
The monies borrowed by the private sector - there's a guarantee given, usually with a profit factored in in some way for the private sector. The risk sometimes is that they will give a contract price for whatever the item is to be built, and that's it - that's their risk.
Now, in discussions I've had with some people in the private sector, I've heard things like, "Well, you can't expect the private sector to take much risk, because government establishes policy, and they don't have any control over that." I say that that's not correct. Government does establish policy. The people have a lot of say in the policy development, but a second, more important point is that governments fall victim to the same financial implications of world-wide market forces that a business does.
If you look at the fallout of Bre-X and its impact on exploration in Canada, if you look at the impact of the Asian market crisis on the royalties that governments receive from, say, oil and gas, if you look at what they've received in forestry as a result of this, they too are impacted and suffer from risks that they have no control over, or very little control over.
So I think there must be, in terms of principle, a genuine shared risk. Access to capital for government is not an issue. The government could run out tomorrow and borrow, probably in this jurisdiction, $100 million - no problem. There'd be any number of people prepared to lend that money.
This government, if they wanted to take an easy route, could probably put everybody to work - every carpenter, every person working for any major contractors - this summer, if we wanted to. However, the bill for that work would be due for a very, very, very long time to come, and it would mean fewer choices when you sat down the following year - or for many years to come - to carve out the budget and deal with the request for health care, for education, for social services, for highway maintenance - all those things we deal with. There'd be these huge chunks carved out for payments for this infrastructure or roads or schools, or whatever the case may be, that was put forward through this public-private sector partnership.
Any way you slice it, you are spending money today that has a bill to pay later. It doesn't show up like the traditional methods of going out, as government has done in the past, and getting debentures or issuing bonds - all of those things that have allowed them to deficit finance. But it does still come with a price, whether it's in the form of a lease or some other payment option.
The other thing that makes some people nervous about public-private sector partnerships, as they are often called, is when other elements are put in. I remember the Liberal Party, in the last election campaign in the Yukon, talked about just such a thing with the Dawson bridge, where they would have a toll booth on the bridge. Somehow, this was to self-finance this $20 million or $25 million in debt that would have been borrowed to pay for the infrastructure. Well, there are a couple of issues there. First of all, the level of traffic would have had to have been immense to generate those kinds of revenues. Or, the other option would have been that the toll would have had to have been immense to generate those kinds of revenues.
If you talk to companies that have to pay that toll, they are not all that in favour of those kinds of fees. I don't want to get too specific, but I have talked to some companies about some elements of so-called public-private sector partnerships in this territory that make the companies who see themselves at the end of the toll booth having to utilize the result of this so-called public-private sector partnership and the infrastructure. I have heard them express grave concerns that they, as the end user, will be expected to provide the funding for the infrastructure, and that governments will target them unnecessarily. So, we have to be very careful about that.
One of the major concerns that I also have, when we consider this idea, is how we deal with the question of levels of expectation.
You take the Liberal commitment on the Dawson bridge. You break away as a government in the Yukon from the notion of paying as we go. Money is put up by somebody - it doesn't matter by whom. It's really not that different whether it's the private sector or a bank. It's just finding money through one vehicle or another. That private sector proponent is going to want to make a profit; a bank is going to want to make a return. What you have, in fact, is the money has been procured one way or another, or has been made available; the project is built; one way or another - either government through leasing, or the private sector through use, or government through fees or some way or another - pay it back over time.
The problem is that once you have ascertained a level of expectation for Yukoners that you've established can be met, that becomes somewhat entrenched in the minds of Yukoners. There's a level of limitation as to the request. You break that principle for one project - say the Dawson bridge, in the case of the Liberal election commitment - what happens to all the other projects that people can come up with, because there can be an extremely vociferous debate in the Yukon about what is the priority for this public-private partnership.
There are all kinds of ideas, and I'm sure that if you were to enter down that path, you would have a tough time checking those demands, and there would be campaigns organized by the different proponents to support their particular idea of what the future infrastructure of the Yukon should look like, or who needs a particular school, or whether there should be a new jail built, or all of those various things that have been dealt with in this territory, as ideas that need to be looked at in the minds of many.
So, where do we find the private sector taking the risk? To me, that's the antithesis of the debate.
I think we should look at private-public sector partnerships, but I want to know what the true risk is that the private sector will bear. I have yet to see too many proposals that indicate that level of shared risk with the public sector. That, to me, is what would make it more enticing.
Now, the Yukon Housing Corporation and the Energy Corporation, which are Crown entities, have engaged in deficit financing, as Crown corporations - particularly the Energy Corporation. The Energy Corporation, however, I would argue, is somewhat different than the Government of the Yukon as an entity. It is a Crown corporation. It generates revenue through the operation of a business. It is essentially an arms-length entity from government that has a fairly regimented way of collecting money to pay for debt financing. When they need to pay for the cost of debt, such as the fourth wheel, they essentially go to the ratepayer.
Now, in the Yukon, we don't have that option as a government, because we are not going to go to the taxpayer. The Yukon government has made a commitment not to raise tax rates. In the sense of the Yukon Energy Corporation, they are a regulated utility and they have an ability to go out and generate the monies to cover off the cost of that debt.
Many Yukoners don't quite understand that the reason the Faro mine, when it goes down, can create increases for Yukon ratepayers, is that when Anvil is in operation, there is a commitment or a contribution toward paying the mortgage, lease payment or debt that is due on a monthly basis.
That's why, when the mine goes down, that money is shared among the other ratepayers. That payment is still due, whether or not the mine's up or down. And that is the reason that trouble could arise.
The same thing could happen if you picked an infrastructure area and, if it was built on the basis of a toll of some kind or another and the pressures on the usage were not there and you couldn't raise the revenues, what then would you do? What risk would the private sector share in that scenario? Because, if it all falls on government in that situation, either through tax increases or through some other cutting of service, like health care education, to free up more money for this commitment that was made perhaps five, six, seven, eight, 10 years ago, then I think that is a difficult tying of the hands that you inflict on another government - and I say another government generically.
So, one has to be cautious about breaking away from paying as you go. It's been couched in many clever terms, but the reality is, instead of traditional borrowing, it's borrowing through another vehicle.
Now, Finance has looked at a lot of options and a lot of different numbers surrounding this question. One of the things that they have illustrated is that if, for example, you picked a hypothetical project that was built by the Government of the Yukon for, say, $12.5 million - it could be a school, could be a highway, could be whatever - if there was a lease with no profit built in - i.e. the private sector went out, got the money and they built it and you amortized it over, say, 20 years, the cost of the construction of this infrastructure - the actual cost with no profit would be over $20 million over the life of that project.
If you build in profit, the cost would be around $25 million. So, one can see that nothing in this world is free. There would be a cost of that capital associated with that infrastructure development - a cost of that capital that would be borne by future governments and give them fewer choices.
People are not unable to deal with this question. I think a Nova Scotia example bears that out quite strongly. People realize that it's just too good to be true, when you say you'll build all this stuff and you'll have no more debt - 31 schools. People wondered where the money was going to come from; how it could be that you could build all this infrastructure, put everybody to work building it, and yet have essentially no other implications for your ability to pay for it. I don't think in a lot of cases - although I'm sure the demands were extremely strong for, say, in Nova Scotia, new schools - that people looked twice at the situation.
I think we have to do the same thing here. In the case of the Housing Corporation, I think that, as a Crown corporation that has some interests and generates some revenues, they should be looking at different ways they can participate with the private sector in the economy, but they have to be mindful, as does the rest of government, of the implications on future generations. We have to be careful about mortgaging the futures of our children to solve some immediate problem today.
There will be problems five years from now. Our economy has traditionally been very cyclical. 1993 was a very bad year for the economy. 1994 was not a great year for the economy.
In those years, we had major megaprojects, like the Shakwak and the hospital, to tide us over. Who knows what will be around in five or 10 years? It's very difficult to say, but there will be tough times to face then, I'm sure, for any government that may be in power five or 10 years from now. There will be problems of downturn. There will be areas of downturn, and I think for one government to succumb to that and to try and generate something that will have long-standing implications, they have got to be very careful. They've got to think it through very well. They've got to investigate fully exactly what they are doing and what implications it will have.
The other questions that I think are important are, when you go down this route, the government - because they're not building it - loses any control over certain objectives, or it's more difficult, let me say, to inflict public policy priorities on the project that's being built. So, if you have, for example, a private sector operator building something, and that private sector operator doesn't believe in paying their workers very well or doesn't believe in local hire, if it's not expressly part of any arrangement, it will be very, very difficult to inflict that will upon the private sector operator.
That is a significant and important issue that has to be considered by government. There is also the issue of who we are cutting out of the equation. Obviously, those who can raise good quantities of money in the private sector can participate. Larger companies would have no problem if they were to expand and move into this area in any heavy way. That would not be a difficult thing for the larger companies to do.
There are a lot of smaller companies - contractors, people who work in construction and highway-building - who would have a difficult time getting a piece of the pie if they were not able to raise the kind of money that the larger firms could raise. I think that that's an important consideration that should be looked at.
I have another concern, and that is what are the banks doing in the country and in the territory? Why are governments having to resort to these unique forms of deficit financing to accomplish public objectives? Are the banks indeed investing in communities, in the country, in the territory? Are they helping small business generate opportunities? I would say that part of the reason that they are making incredibly massive returns is that they are much more risk-adverse than perhaps is always good for our economy.
That, I think, is a question that many Canadians are asking. I don't think that they mind, obviously, that banks make a profit. Absolutely, most people accept that that's the nature of the game.
I guess the question is, when I talk to small business people, they find it extremely frustrating to deal with the lack of initiative on the part of the banks to assume risk in business ventures. And I guess, from a banker's point of view, that just makes perfect business sense, but as a society, as people involved in an economy, as a government, we find that very frustrating. Often the residue of their policies ends up in the government's lap, and while we see billion-dollar profits being made, it can pose some difficult challenges for government and can force government, in some cases, to involve itself in arrangements that will yield debt for a considerable time to come.
The leader of the Liberal Party said that public-private partnerships could be called a new revolution. I don't see it as quite a visionary concept, because of the concerns that I have identified. If the questions that are raised can be answered to some more tolerable level, then I think there could be a winner. But so far, in my own mind, I have not been able to be comfortable with binding the children and the governments of tomorrow with deficit financing. I believe strongly in the concept of pay as you go.
Now, that is a commitment that we've made. It would be so easy - and I think people would probably welcome it, particularly those who are unemployed - to go down this road, to put a marvellous spin on this type of initiative. And when people go to work, maybe they're not looking five years down the road or 10 years down the road. Maybe they're just looking at the here and now, and that's perfectly understandable. But I think that governments and people in a leadership position, and legislators, have to be mindful of what the implications are of what they do now for people tomorrow.
There will be, whether we like to say so or not, implications as a result of this kind of approach, and they have not been fully fleshed out in the territory. I would hate to engage in a debate on a plane that is simply rhetoric caught up in buzz words.
I hope that this debate this afternoon actually deals with the substantive issues. I think the substantive issues are the types that we have raised, and the answers that I have put forward are that, if this is truly to be pursued, then we have to have a very firm discussion with the private sector about their risk and what it is they intend to bring to this equation. If it's just money, with a guarantee we'll pay for the cost of borrowing for them in some fashion, then that is not entirely a mutually beneficial proposition, because we can get the money. The government can get the money. That is not the issue.
The issue is the cost of paying for the borrowing, and I would suggest that governments around the country are engaging in a new way of characterizing debt financing. I think that's something that will catch up with us.
Trudeau often used to say that debt financing in building infrastructure was visionary, and he took us down a long, long line of deficit budgets and really started building up the debt in this country. However, what we all learned as Canadians is that we're still paying for that debt. There's something like $860 billion of accumulated debt in this country that was financed through debt from one vehicle or another - private sector, banking industry, directly by government and, in some cases, put forward by the private sector.
The long and short of it is that it's still debt. It still has to be paid for. In many cases, the government used to go out and directly borrow the money and do the work with the private sector. Or, in some cases, the private sector put it up. The end result is the same. Instead of a lease payment to the private sector, or some form of a payment to cover their cost of capital, they were paying bond holders.
One has only to witness the political pressure that bond holders can bring to bear on governments, in terms of public policy making. They exert immense pressure on government, in terms of democratic policy making. I think that that is an issue that has to be of concern.
In Nova Scotia, one of the issues that was raised with regard to the 31 schools was: what level of control over the education system in these private sector schools would the government have? Would the private sector be able to exert more control as a result of the agreements? I'm not familiar with the answers to that question, because I was too distant from the debate, but it was an interesting question and an interesting item for discussion.
So, I guess in closing, I would just say that I think the idea, in many cases, could have some utility, but there are a significant number of cautions and questions that Yukoners have to deal with surrounding what level of debt financing they wish to embrace, what projects they might want to embrace, how they can reconcile their expectations, given the doors are blown off the concept of pay-as-you-go, the cost of capital and the fact that we would be borrowing capital, in most cases, at a rate that is higher than we would pay if we borrowed it directly as a government.
We would have to deal with the fact that there will be fewer choices for future Yukoners, future governments. There will be excess pressures on the budgets of the territory, less choice in the budget-making process, because your payments due to the private sector or your commitments through these arrangements for all the infrastructure of one sort or another that you build have to be paid. Regardless of what your revenue generation is, 10 years from now, that payment will be due, and there will be some profit attached to it that will have to be dealt with.
So, there are also questions around control of the institutions or the things that are created and the fact that the government does not end up owning the asset at the end of it. That could be a concern, and I see the leader of the official opposition shaking her head. I can tell the member opposite that in many cases the asset is not owned but -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member opposite, obviously, thinks that somehow the situation is that in all cases of the public-private partnerships, the asset is owned by the government. That's completely ridiculous. I can give him examples.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Pardon me?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, the Liberal leader is saying that it's up to the partners. Well, what the member is saying then, I guess, is that, in some cases, the governments chose not to own the assets, say, the schools, in some of these so-called models. I would suggest that that's not the case. I would suggest that what you have is a situation where there's immense public pressure to do something about the need for a school, and governments have extremely limited leverage to negotiate the types of arrangements that would ultimately lead them to conclude a deal that would have the asset end up in their hands.
This stuff doesn't just happen because government is a nice person and the private sector are nice people and they sit down and arrange some cordial relationship. This is a business deal and it's all about leverage and what position or what strength you bring to the bargaining table - or the deal that you can cut.
I can't imagine, even though there are so many models where the government doesn't end up owning the asset, any situation where the government wouldn't say, given that they have the leverage that they needed, that they wanted to own that asset at the end of the day. I can't think of any off the top of my head, when I think of schools or the link across the bridge to PEI or any of those things, where you wouldn't want as a government to ultimately have the ability to own that asset, seeing as you paid for it.
So, I think we should be clear and realistic about what we're talking about here. The members opposite are talking about negative vibes. I think there are negative vibes when you're talking about deficit financing and the implications on future generations in this territory, and I have concerns about that.
They may be big, free spenders. It's obvious that they are. The Yukon Party didn't worry about tax increases; they brought in the biggest in Yukon history. Obviously, they would be more than prepared to pay for any of these infrastructure projects that they got some people to work on in the short term by raising people's taxes. That was their philosophy in government. That was the way they approached government. We don't take that approach.
The Yukon Party believes in looking at the world through a 12-month window. If people are out of work now, you do whatever it takes, whether you have to go into debt or raise taxes, to jump up some artificial economy and spend big government money and that solves the economic problem.
What they forget is that you've got to take a longer approach to the economy beyond 12 months. You've got to think about the implications of your spending decisions now, and the fact that those tax increases that they want to bring forward can have some implications on the economy as well.
So, our view is a much longer one for the territory. Our view is one that raises the questions, that examines the issues very carefully, that we think about it very much before we enter down the path. If the opposition feels very strongly that deficit financing is the way to go, then I welcome them to stand up and say that. That's why we're having this debate, and I'm sure it will be a fruitful one.
So, I look forward to hearing from the leader of the official opposition, who has a strong record of major tax increases, and I'm keen to hear how he - as one who used to say he didn't support mortgaging the future of children - reconciles these issues.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, it's unfortunate that I have only 20 minutes to reply to all of that political rhetoric, lack of vision and lack of faith in the Yukon, as has been set out by our Minister of Economic Development. I feel sorry for Yukoners, exceptionally sorry for them, after them listening to the Economic Development minister's view of the future of the Yukon.
We've said time and time again in this House this government doesn't have any vision, and the Economic Development minister has just reinforced that. Hopefully, when his leader gets up, he will provide a more positive outlook on the future of the Yukon than what his Economic Development minister has.
Mr. Speaker, the motion is a very simple motion. It doesn't bind this government to anything; it just asks the government to explore and actively review the public-private partnership model used extensively throughout Canada.
I will have something to say on the model because I believe that may be overstating the case, but I don't have any difficulty supporting the motion, because the motion is just asking the government to explore. What I find very troublesome is the speech by the Economic Development minister that they have no idea how to even approach this outside of deficit financing. That seems to be the only thought that he has in mind.
And he says it wouldn't belong to government in the end. Well, it appears that he isn't able to comprehend two thoughts at the same time: that if it's a private-public partnership it has to automatically revert to the private sector. I think he's wrong on that, totally wrong. It could revert to the private sector, but it could also revert to the government.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, he tells me to tell him where. I'll try to do that in the 20 minutes that I'm allotted here to speak today.
Private-public partnerships are not anything new. We have entered into them in the Yukon - on a very small scale, but we have done it - and it's worked. And it could work on a much larger scale.
But, Mr. Speaker, let me make it very, very clear. I don't believe that we can go out on a public-private partnership just for the sake of building something. We need to build something that is in immediate demand. We need to do that.
Mr. Speaker, I don't believe we need to go into debt to do that. I don't believe we need to mortgage the future of our children. I would not be in favour of that.
Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Economic Development went on and on and on about buildings, as if that was the be-all and end-all of public-private partnerships - putting up buildings.
That's the furthest thought from my mind, even though I believe it also has some merit and could be explored. The fact remains that the majority of the office space this government occupies is leased office space. Are we mortgaging the future of our children because we haven't put all the buildings up ourselves?
The Minister of Economic Development thinks that, if we put a building up ourselves, we pay cash for it up front, that we have saved something for the future of our children. Nothing could be further from the truth. Those buildings do wear out. They do require a substantial amount of upkeep. So there is no free ride, as he said. Even if the government builds it themselves, there's no free ride.
What government needs to do is explore all options that are available to them without mortgaging the future of our children and be able to provide the necessary infrastructure that's going to enhance economic activity in our territory. The other side of the curb, Mr. Speaker, is to provide more revenues to the territorial government, more people paying taxes, more people using services. Nothing in this world is free, and members opposite ought to know that.
When I listen to the Minister of Economic Development talking, it reminded me of a quote I heard last night, when I went to listen to a very prominent Canadian speaking on his philosophy of the NDP. Nothing could have rung truer than the Minister of Economic Development standing up there today, espousing his political rhetoric and being very negative, and not having any thought.
Mr. Speaker, that Canadian's thought of NDP philosophy is that it is where every person waits for a ship to come in, even though they never sent one out, Mr. Speaker.
The Minister of Economic Development just said, "Right on" - that statement's true, from his speech.
He doesn't have any thought of the future - it's "What's in this for me?" not "I'm going to invest in the future of the Yukon because I believe in the future of the Yukon."
Mr. Speaker, I take great exception to the minister saying that the government can't end up with the asset in the end, because that's simply not true. I want to say to the members opposite that we in the Yukon Party entered into one small public-private partnership that has paid off for the Yukon, and the Yukon retains the asset.
That was the loan to Loki under the industrial support policy. It wasn't given to them up front. It was paid out to them over a period of three years - only if they lived up to their commitments. They put the money up front, and the government will end up with the asset.
Now, that's a very small public-private partnership, but the private sector is prepared to go into those kinds of partnerships if they need the asset that's being built. Loki needed it, and they were prepared to do it. And it worked very well, and it's creating jobs for Yukoners now, where little else is going on in the Yukon. I believe that the last payment the government will make to them will be this year, and that will be the end of the government's commitment to it.
That didn't mortgage the future of our children. That created some economic activity in the territory and created some jobs for Yukoners. What the government has to do, Mr. Speaker, is to weigh that all out. They need to see what's going to happen with the investment - in this case, infrastructure. Is it going to bring an economic return to the territory? Is it going to advance the territory?
Those are the kinds of decisions that have to be made. While we can stand here and debate the principles of the public-private partnership, I, for one, don't have the answers, and I don't believe anybody else in this Legislature does.
The leader of the third party is asking the government to investigate it. Each case will be different, and that's where I don't believe that there is a Canadian public-private partnership model that fits everything. I think that what we need is the basic principle that we're prepared to explore this kind of a situation.
Now, I don't believe we should just go out and build it just for the sake of building it for creating short-term jobs because, if there's no use for the asset when it's finished, everyone knows, Mr. Speaker, we just can't afford to spend taxpayers' money that way nowadays. We need to be able to get the return on the investment. But just suppose an industrial development was going to go into an area where there was a required infrastructure, maybe it's a - whatever it is. Be it a mine, be it whatever. But they need to get into an area. They need to be able to get supplies in. They need to be able to get their product out, whatever it is. And the infrastructure is lacking. I believe it's government's role to provide infrastructure for the private sector to be able to create jobs in the territory. We don't believe that the government can create all the jobs.
But also, we have a government that doesn't have that kind of money to make that huge investment. But I believe that if you sat down with the proponents of the project, an accommodation could be made very similar to what we did at Loki. Let them put some of the money up front based on the commitment that they're going to create so many jobs for so many years, and it's paid back to them over a period of time so that at the end of the day, Mr. Speaker, the government would own the asset, and the company would have had the infrastructure supplied by the government. They would have got paid back over a period of time.
I don't think it's an unreasonable position to go into negotiation for the government, to help the private sector move ahead in the Yukon. Will that work in every instance? Probably not, but I think it merits being fully explored, and that would be a way that the government could provide infrastructure that, if we don't build it, our children are going to have to build it anyhow, at some point.
It would be best to have it built when there is an immediate use for it.
This could work not only with highways. This could work with power. This could work with telecommunications, the three basic pieces of infrastructure that are required for the advancement of an economic base in the territory. It could work in the logging industry. It could work in oil and gas. It could work in mining. It could work in various places.
Some of them have shorter paybacks, some of them have longer paybacks.
And, Mr. Speaker, it could work with buildings, too, but I don't believe the need is as great with buildings right now as it is with other infrastructure. But it could work with buildings, and the government could end up with the building at the end of the lease.
We go out and lease vehicles now, but there's a buy-out at the end of the lease. Does it cost more than buying it up front? Well, yes and no. You don't have to put that big chunk of capital up front. You may pay a little more in the end. Some companies believe in leases. That's all they do. Even Government Services leases vehicles from the private sector when they're short of vehicles. It's not unheard of, not unknown.
And, as I said, we lease numerous buildings around this community and we have done so for many, many, many years - the same buildings.
So, what we're looking at on the building side is probably a longer lease, with a buy-out at the end, where the government could retain the asset.
If we needed a building badly enough, it may be something that the government can explore. I'm not saying that it's the answer and the only way of providing the schools or hospitals or office space that the government needs, but it's another option that could be explored.
Any time that we invest in infrastructure, I believe that we're investing in the future of our children. I think that's the biggest difference between a Yukon Party government and an NDP government. A Yukon Party government sees infrastructure as investment, whereas we believe that this NDP government sees infrastructure as an expense and not as an investment.
There is not a province in Canada that would be at the state of development that it is today if their government had not invested in infrastructure, probably at times when there wasn't much demand for it, either. But, they did go into tremendous debt.
And I don't advocate that for one minute, Mr. Speaker, because I believe that there are other ways of doing it without going into debt and without mortgaging the future of our children.
Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Economic Development spoke about the Liberals' idea of the bridge in Dawson. I, for one, will say that I didn't agree with it. I didn't agree with their idea of a toll bridge - not for one minute. But, all infrastructure that we build does not need be built on the basis that it has to be paid back by a toll system. There are other ways of doing it. That's just one way of doing it.
So, I believe that the motion is worth debating in this Legislature, and I would encourage the government not to view the motion so negatively and not to find every reason in the world why they ought not to at least explore it, but to explore it in earnest, and maybe set down and set out some principles about what they would need to do to enter into a private-public partnership arrangement.
If I were in government, one of my principles would be that the government shall not go into debt to enter into a partnership. Another principle could be that it is something that is immediately required, not just something for the sake of doing it and creating some short-term jobs.
Is there such a project on the horizon now? I don't know, but there are many mines going through permitting and, at some point, they're going to want to go into production. So, I think it's probably the opportune time for government to be thinking about how they're going to finance this.
I believe that the Government Leader is just as concerned as I am that if the mine goes ahead on the Campbell Highway, the government will be called upon to upgrade the highway. Whether they can do it or they can't do it, they will be called upon to do it. If we can get creative, and once the development is going to go ahead and the people who are responsible for the development are prepared to get involved, then, I believe, it would be the time to sit down and talk about private-public partnerships and the upgrading of infrastructure.
There are many creative ways that a project of this type could happen, without compromising the financial position of the government and without undue risk to Yukoners and to future Yukoners. What we do need is a government who is enthusiastic and optimistic about exploring such a partnership and not being as negative as their Economic Development minister was in his presentation to this House, trying to find every excuse in the world of why they ought not to go ahead with it.
Mr. Speaker, in closing, let me suggest to the government that they seriously consider this motion and that they seriously consider putting together -
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes to conclude his remarks.
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I knew I was getting close to the end, so I'll wrap it up.
- seriously consider putting together some principles as to what they would negotiate under for such an arrangement and to seriously consider embarking on a pilot project so that they could have something that they could use as a yardstick and be able to measure for future projects in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, I look forward to hearing other members have their say on this motion and I will be supporting the motion.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I found the discussion, so far, to be somewhat stimulating and interesting in some respects and certainly one afternoon's worth of debate will hardly do this particular subject matter justice, given its complexity and given the fact that, in many respects, the Yukon government, in terms of big projects involving so-called public-private partnerships, has very little experience. So, in some ways, even the investigation of this particular arena is new to the territory.
Both the Liberal leader and the opposition leader have laid out, I think, fairly accurately, the general principle behind what the Liberal leader has called the new, minor revolution of public-private partnerships,
While I have perhaps looked at this with a slightly more critical eye than the two members, I will tell the members now what I've told them privately, that this government will investigate public-private partnerships. We will investigate any idea put forward and assess the ideas on their merits.
As much as both the Liberal and the Yukon Party members have miscast the NDP philosophy and have misrepresented the NDP theory and principles, I will not respond in kind, because I don't believe there's much utility in that. I will say, though, that I'm hoping that we share the notion that we will not be burdening future generations with decisions that we are making today - burdening them with unreasonable expenditures. We have to remember that legislatures of 10 years from now will be wrestling with infrastructure needs that are probably quite different from those that exist today, or infrastructure requirements or desires that are quite different from what they are today.
Ten years ago, there was no discussion in this Legislature or anywhere about a Dawson bridge. The Dawson bridge is the flavour of the last couple of years. It was virtually unheard of. Now it happens to be topical.
We have to be careful in developing so-called creative arrangements that we are not solving difficult decisions that we have to make today in terms of allocation of resources simply by passing it to the next generation and limiting options that they may have. For them, the infrastructure project 10 years from now, the big one, may be a replacement for F.H. Collins Secondary School, and the Minister of Finance may stand up and say, "Well, I'd love to be able to do it, but we've got $10 million a year in interest payments for projects that a couple of legislatures ago people decided were good ideas."
We have to pay those, and we'll be paying those for the next 20 years, so everyone should just relax. I make the point that we have to be extremely careful.
Does the government work in partnership with the private sector? Is it willing to work in partnership with the private sector? I can only say that it does so every single day of the year. Some of the members have raised the fact that the Yukon Housing Corporation has a capital program which invests, along with the private sector, in various projects, to see them happen.
The Member for Porter Creek North mentioned the notion that the government leases office space. Indeed, that's true. Now, I make the caveat, of course, that the government doesn't agree to lease office space and pay for the full cost of the project when they agree to lease office space. They generally make a commitment for five years. The risk associated with the project is borne by the private sector developer. If the government were to come along and say to the private sector developer, "You build the project, and we will pay for the full cost of the construction and the cost of borrowing, and give you a profit for the entire project," then I would suspect that that proposition, on its face, would be a very controversial one in this Legislature.
There are issues that we have to deal with. The primary issue for me is the extent to which we are limiting future choices. Now, some of the public-private partnership models that people have identified so far are not showing up on the government books. They don't look like the government is associated with, or has accumulated, any debt obligations.
Well, that doesn't mean that there aren't debt obligations that the public still retains in those situations. If the government makes a deal with a private sector company to build a building, and the private sector company borrows the money and the government promises to essentially pay it back, then, whether the government shows it in its annual accounts or not, it's still a public obligation. So, presumably, the accounting industry would have to get better in touch with the full notion of government obligations, if the government were not to disclose, through its normal accounting process, the obligations that the government may be assuming. A lot of that has to do with how we capitalize public infrastructure. That's also a subject worthy of some discussion.
We have to decide, Mr. Speaker, in reviewing this particular area, when we would entertain a proposal from a private sector proponent. Do we take the first proponent that walks through the door and consider their notion? Or do we tender out the notion and invite people to essentially bid on a proposal? These are questions that we have not yet resolved.
We have to have some discussion around the notion of user-pay. This is not a practice that the territory has embraced fully. There are very few examples where users of facilities and general public infrastructure pay any user fees at all. We have to decide for ourselves if this is something we are going to embark on to ensure that those who take the greatest advantage of a particular public resource pay the most. That may be an option, and certainly the suggestion made by some private sector proponents recently to government and the opposition leaders suggested that that would be a way to help finance a major public expenditure in the construction of the Campbell Highway.
Now, as members know, the notion was leaked, I guess, or was made known to the people who were expected to pay the toll, and to say that their reaction was negative would be an understatement. And they have reiterated that reaction to me on a couple of occasions, even unsolicited by me. So, I think that would be a discussion that we would also have to have.
Not all public-private sector partnerships involve the construction of anything. Sometimes there's a provision of a service, and where that's the case, certainly, there are other issues that we should be addressing. Certainly, we wouldn't want to see any public-private partnership, for example, that compromised workers' wages, that was seen to be just simply a way to take advantage of working people, something that was simply disguised to contract out public services.
Clearly, Mr. Speaker, the notion in terms of building infrastructure, new infrastructure, or if there's a need to build new infrastructure, is something that the government and the people of the territory have to wrestle with regularly. We have, up until now, of course, taken the position that we will build infrastructure as we can afford it, meaning we will build it as the revenues come in and we will not incur debt to build new infrastructure, or we will not partner with people to build debt to develop new core infrastructure for the territory.
It's a matter of some pride to most Yukoners that all the public infrastructure that you see - this building, the street outside, the highways, the rest of the public buildings - these buildings are all paid for. They have been expensed by our predecessors in previous legislatures. One way or another, what you see is pure ownership. To assume debt associated with a public infrastructure is something that we would have to be very careful about, in my view.
Now, there may be some projects that the government cannot undertake in a given year ever that still remain important public infrastructure works. The government may be faced with a project or two such as that in the future. In that case, the government can do one of three things. They can simply live without the infrastructure, they can save up for the infrastructure or they or their partners can incur debt and build the infrastructure. This may be something that the government may have to wrestle with. It certainly would have to be done very carefully.
With respect to the notion - and I've made this suggestion on a couple of occasions - that perhaps the cost of capital could be borne in the first year in the short term, perhaps, and then the future generations are not faced with the additional costs associated with a particular public work is a notion that we can explore as well. Certainly, as I have indicated to the private sector already and to some First Nations who have raised the notion of exploring public-private partnerships, this is something we will explore. We are preparing a draft - for members' information - on a draft discussion paper on public-private partnerships and it's on its way to being completed. When it is finished, I will share with the members.
A lot of work has been done in other jurisdictions to explore public-private partnerships, and I realize the members opposite think the NDP doesn't have any faith in this kind of model. Certainly other NDP governments do. They are practising some public-private sector partnerships in British Columbia, and there's been some interesting work done there in reviewing what is possible.
I would point out to members that one of the reasons why, in my view, other provincial governments are more enamoured with public-private sector partnerships is that a very large portion of their capital works is funded through debt. We don't fund our core public works through debt, generally speaking.
So this would be something new for the Yukon, there's no doubt about that. I don't wish to be critical of other governments. They have their own issues, their own imperatives, and they are certainly entitled to expend the taxpayers' money as they wish and to incur obligations on the future in a manner they feel is suitable.
However, limiting future options in this way will be something new for this territory.
One issue that has been raised in the last few months by some private sector proponents is that they would be able to find access to capital fairly easily if the government were a participant in a particular project. I have indicated to them, with the greatest respect, that that's not an issue for the government. The government, if it put out the call for loan capital, could find the cheapest loan capital in the country, and could find lots of it.
I suppose if we were to put ourselves in a situation similar to that of other governments, we could probably carry a debt load of a couple of hundred million dollars and support that debt load. Access to capital is not an issue. The issue is the cost of that capital, when we are talking about major public works. We're talking about public-private partnerships, or even public works, that will not be expensed in one year, but that will involve borrowed money and will involve paying back the cost of the capital, and perhaps paying for profit, if there's a private sector partner that wants to see a profit. For me, that is a significant issue that has to be addressed in any decision that we may make to build a particular public work.
The leader of the official opposition has indicated that one of the principles could be that the government should not incur debt. Well, if it's a major public work, I think that whether the government or the private sector incur the debt, the debt is incurred, and there is an obligation on the public to pay it back. We shouldn't disguise that fact. We should be honest about it.
The leader of the official opposition has said that one principle should be that it should only involve public works that are in greatest need. Certainly, I would agree with him. That certainly ought to be a guiding principle, but it would be a difficult principle to sustain because I know, even from talking to my own colleagues, that in terms of major public works, there is a wide variety of opinion as to which project ranks the most important. Certainly, there are some big capital projects potentially on the horizon.
Speaker: The member has two minutes to conclude his remarks.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would say this to get the Member for Klondike's juices flowing. I'm certain that he may see public-private partnerships as a real opportunity. I know that he has been extraordinarily creative in putting suggestions on the floor of the Legislature about how government can spend infrastructure money. I think he had a record in putting $70 million worth of projects on the table. I'm certain that they're all desirable to one constituency or another.
We will investigate the public-private partnerships. We've already started investigating the principles behind public-private sector partnerships and we will share with other members the information that we develop. If there is a model that we can adopt that makes sense to the Legislature and to the government, I'm certain we'll explore that model. If it involves unnecessary or unreasonable obligations on future generations, I suspect that there will probably be some strong opposition on both sides of the Legislature.
Mr. Cable: I don't intend to snatch disagreement from the jaws of agreement here, because I think we're on the road to agreeing to this proposition.
I would like the members to not think back, but put their minds back to about a century ago in Canada, when Canadians had few financing tools. If they wanted to build a house, they could save or pay-as-you-go. Or, they could go to their families and engage in family borrowing or, if there was a bank close by - and many Canadians, of course, weren't in that position - they could borrow money or take out a mortgage. But, now, at the present time, we have things like credit cards, which many of us, of course, didn't have as recently as 10 years ago. We have lines of credit. We have chattel mortgages to buy vehicles or we have leasing arrangements in order to obtain vehicles.
So, the first proposition I would like to make to the Legislature is that there is nothing written in stone in financing techniques for Canadians as individuals, and by the same token, there should be nothing written in stone in financing techniques for infrastructure development by our governments.
The second proposition I would like to make is that in Canada public-private partnerships are not breaking new ground. We have, as one of our prime examples, the Prince Edward Island bridge, which was just opened last year.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: That's right. The Justice minister is saying that the P.E.I. bridge doesn't rest on the ground. I suppose it floats over the water.
Part of the proposition is that we in the Yukon are not breaking new ground either. We have entered into partnerships. The Minister of Health and Social Services enters into partnerships all the time with the private sector, albeit primarily with NGOs. There has been money given to the Health and Hope Society in Watson Lake to effect some public goals, and that, in my view, is a public-private partnership. We're relying on private individuals to deliver a service that meets society's goals. We have leasing arrangements where a long-term lease provides the leverage to borrow for the private partner. Of course, if the government enters into that long-term lease and makes a long-term commitment, that makes the financing possible. And, as recently as 10 years ago, of course, the then NDP government entered into an arrangement with the Taga Ku Corporation. It was a long-term lease of an office tower that was to be used as a lever to start the project to get it off the ground.
And the final proposition that I'd like to make - and it has been mentioned once before, and it has been suggested by the Economic Development minister - is that there's no free lunch. I don't think the mover of the motion or anybody in this Legislature is suggesting that there's a something-for-nothing alchemy in public-private partnerships.
Now, there has been considerable concern over fiscal management in government over the last few years, and the Canadian government, our federal government, faces an accumulated debt of over $600 billion. This, together with a sense of tax fatigue among our citizens, has led many people across the political spectrum to conclude that government spending could be carried out in a different manner, and they've started looking at these public-private partnerships, expanding from the smaller ones that we engage in here in the Yukon to much larger ones, of course, across the country.
The concept has been advanced as one way to meet demands for better financial management. Proponents argue that public-private partnerships tap into the unique strengths of both the public and private sectors. The private sector is viewed as flexible and responsive and, on the other hand, the government must continue to participate in the delivery of public programs and services to ensure that those services are accessible for all citizens. That's the underlying thinking behind the proposition.
There are a number of ways that these public-private partnerships can develop, and they're limited only by the imagination. Some of them that have been identified are the type of partnership where there's a build, own and operate sort of arrangement. Another one is the build, operate and transfer arrangement. Another one is the build and transfer and operate arrangement. Then there are various leasing arrangements: capital leases and operating leases. There is the design-build sort of operation. There is the operation and maintenance contract.
In the Yukon, most public-private partnerships are likely to involve some sort of lease arrangements.
These lease arrangements are normally categorized as either operating leases or capital leases, and there's a very important distinction to be made between the two. I don't want to get into some esoteric accounting principles, because I'd rapidly get in over my head if I did. But there are risks involved in both sorts of arrangements, both for the private partner and for the government.
I think the issue of risk sharing has been brought up by some of the previous speakers, and that has to be, of course, one of the key elements to the success of this arrangement. In the private sector, the proposition, of course, is that no investment opportunity is without some risk. The private-public partnerships involving investment of real equity and borrowed funds, resulting in both business and financial risk for the private sector.
However, the partnership risk is unlike other business risk, in that the market risk is removed, and this should reduce the private partner's expectations concerning rates of return - there's no question about who the customer is, or how often he or she will pay, and at what price. The private-public partnership risk is mainly related to the authorization risk, the fact that the government must approve the expenditures annually, the cost management and control, and, three, ensure that an adequate return on invested capital is put back to the shareholders.
In the public sector - and this is a risk for the private partner - there are also risks. There's a risk of public acceptance - the political risk. There's the risk associated with the constraints of existing statutes and regulations. There's a risk associated with the loss of government control of facilities designed and constructed for public use. There's a risk associated with service quality and service interruptions. There's a risk associated with a lack of transparency. There's a risk associated with job security for public sector employees and the constraints of collective agreements. Of course, finally, there's a risk of abuse or breach of the arrangement. So, there are risks for both parties.
If I could suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, a number of general principles, these have been presented to us as something to talk about as general principles and they have value for public-private partnerships generally. The first is that a partnership is an arrangement in which two or more parties agree to work cooperatively toward a mutual goal that the partners, acting on their own, would be unable to attain or unable to attain easily.
The second is the requirement, implied in this agreement to work cooperatively, that all parties be involved to some degree in the planning phase of the partnership.
The third principle that I would like to put forward is that the partners should share a commitment to a mutual goal. This commitment usually manifests itself in a commitment of cash or in-kind resources, such as human capital, information equipment or physical facilities.
The fourth proposition - and this is the one that has come to the floor from several of the speakers - is that there is an element of shared risk among the partners for the planned result, and this might entail the sharing of financial risk, technical risks or liability.
And the final one is that true partnerships offer mutual benefits to all partners.
So, we put that forward to this House for its consideration. The proposition that we make to the House is that the motion is to examine an idea, not as the way of constructing public projects, but as one way of constructing public projects, and that we not limit our thinking to the way that we've done things all along.
At the risk, as I said, of "yeah-but"-ing unanimous agreement out of this motion, I put this motion forward to the House for consideration, and I recommend that we actively seek ideas that will permit us to examine whether this proposition is useful in the Yukon.
Now, I know the Government Leader has instructed his ministers and departments to identify suitable partnership projects, and this initiative could represent a significant opportunity for Yukon business. Some people are already identifying the Whitehorse Airport as one possibility for a public-private partnership.
In that I've caught the Tourism minister's interest in the topic, I'll sit down, and I encourage you to vote for the motion as presented.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I have a few notes I'd just like to peruse here. I would like to reassure the Member for Riverdale South that I can actually probably finish this decade.
Just a few notes to begin with on the whole question of public-private partnerships - and I would like to perhaps move to P-3s, as an acronym for these, because it gets somewhat laborious talking about public-private partnerships, over and over again.
These were notions that were popularized by the Thatcher regime in Britain, when they first came into currency. I suppose we can understand why. They were a good fit with very right-wing Conservative governments, like Mrs. Thatcher's, and they allowed governments to expound on working relationships with businesses. I suppose the major principle is that they do permit the building of government infrastructure without initial outlay.
I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that there are some potential benefits to P-3s. Most notably, if a private partner is responsible for building the asset and maintaining it, that can be an incentive, as far as such things as design, construction and the ongoing management of the infrastructure to be done in an efficient way. I suppose if a person were interested in building a facility that they wanted to maximize their own profit on, there would be all kinds of issues around energy savings and things like that.
This also allows the public sector to share part of the project risks with the private sector, so I think there are some things that can be done positively with such partnerships that do encourage creativity and innovations, which may eventually lead to reduced costs.
As I said earlier, they can result in needed projects proceeding faster than in the traditional way. We've all acknowledged that. The Government Leader, however, has pointed out some pitfalls.
I think this, in an age where the public governments are struggling with such things as balanced budgets, debt reduction legislation and things of that nature, it becomes a kind of siren song for governments to champion this as a way to do necessary infrastructure without incurring major expenditures up front. However, I think what often happens is that that tends to be sacrificed with regard to other issues.
The private sector may, in fact, be able to proceed in a speedier fashion with a project, rather than the public sector. Public sectors traditionally have fairly lengthy approval and management processes for public facilities. As well, particularly in this territory, there has been an increasing move for consultations with governments and groups of every type when planning public facilities.
I think one only has to take a look at the planning process that follows a new school now. It used to be that, many years ago, a school was decided on, planned, the design would go out and that would be it. Nowadays, there are committees struck, parent advisory committees that guide the process through. There are frequent meetings with architects, frequent meetings to decide on some basic principles behind the school, and this can often make the process somewhat more protracted. However, if one moves to the private sector doing the planning, often that very important and very necessary step is often missed in some of these projects.
I would acknowledge that sometimes public-private partnership projects stimulate more intensive utilization of capital assets. For example, let's say a school can be designed that includes an arrangement for sharing profits from usage of the facility outside of school hours. So, for example, if a private sector were to build a school that they were to lease out to a public board, they might also look at some issues such as providing summer camps, retreat programs and things like that to maximize their profits.
So, I can acknowledge that there are some benefits there, and certainly the Member for Riverdale has pointed out that, in some ways, we do enter into partnerships with various groups. I would characterize it probably more as public-public partnerships rather than public-private partnerships, but there are arrangements where we do work with the private sector as well. Most notable is the leasing of facilities.
I think there are a number of times where arrangements can be made and such partnerships can develop in a way to maximize, probably, social benefits. For example, developing partnerships with an NGO to deliver a service or a facility, to work with, for example, First Nation governments or perhaps a municipal government, or, ideally, a combination of all three that may maximize the benefits for all partners involved. So I can acknowledge that.
However, I think the Government Leader and other speakers have hit on some points that do cause me some concern. The traditional method of building and buying infrastructure results in the immediate reporting of that public expenditure by the public sector. What sometimes happens with public-private partnerships is it can actually provide a mechanism to keep the debt off the balance sheet. For example, instead of building a school, what we could do is lease a school and therefore avoid that debt being reflected. This basically means that, instead of paying 100 percent of the new infrastructure, as the Government Leader I think put it, the financing is distributed to future generations.
And within this country we have just come through a somewhat painful process in terms of trying to reduce the federal deficit. And one of the reasons I believe that Canadians have been willing to endure some of those difficulties has been precisely because there is a belief in this country that we should not pass on debt, that we should not pass on a legacy of debt to our children. I think this is a major concern.
Now, I suppose this wouldn't be considered to be a disadvantage if one doesn't really care about future generations financing these projects, but there's probably a whole group of people out there that we sometimes euphemistically refer to as Gen-Xers who are going to be carrying some of us on the books for - perhaps I have misspoke myself. I see we have one sort of Gen-Xer across from the - oh, he's just an Xer, but we do have one Gen-Xer across the floor from us and I understand that, as of today, she's rapidly moving into the realm of perhaps the more senior members of society like the Member for Riverdale South and I.
But we welcome her and, of course, I'm sure that I speak for all my colleagues here when I say that she certainly wouldn't want to carry on a legacy of debt for those younger folks who follow after her. But I digress.
The whole question of multi-year budgets - I think, unless we prepare multi-year budgets, there's a risk that the unintended upward budget pressures could be created. For example, if we defer the cost of a project to future years, what we're really doing, in many ways, is creating a pre-commitment for future public sector revenues and, at some point, future generations are not going to thank us for passing on this legacy of debt and commitment.
I can see, in the distant future, that some legislators are going to be here probably muttering darkly if we got into such a process, because their financial liberty and their financial abilities would be somewhat more restricted than what we have right now, and certainly we wouldn't want those future legislators to think poorly of us. I imagine that many of them will spend many happy hours perusing our speeches and our sage comments in here, and we wouldn't want to give them a bad impression.
One of the things that we have done is to be a pay-as-you-go government, and I, for one, would not feel comfortable transferring our expenses on to future generations.
Eventually, however, I think something has to be recognized: that public-private partnerships can be somewhat more expensive for the Yukon government than other governments. Most other governments may have an interest cost on asset construction because they have to borrow the funds for the construction purchase, but this is not true for our government, which has a surplus position. That means that for the Yukon government, at least on smaller capital projects, we don't incur the cost of borrowing money. Likely if the private sector undertakes a project, just like the government, there would be an overall increase in the project cost due to financing charges.
Now, I'm reminded of this one because in a very recent comparison that I did of extended continuing care costs in Canada, ours were the lowest in Canada. When I took a look at some of the other jurisdictions in Canada, particularly Newfoundland, the costs are dramatically higher. When I took a look at the components of that cost, it reflects not only the actual cost of the individual in that facility, but also a reflection of the capitalization cost of building that facility. So, these are some things that I think we sometimes ignore, that those capitalization costs can be passed on.
I wonder, as the Government Leader does, about how we sort this out. How do we determine who can benefit and who cannot? Quite clearly, there will be some companies, some larger companies, that will benefit as partners with government, and this may restrict the benefits of government projects to that group and restrict smaller players. I would have to be very frank if I said that I didn't have some concerns that corners could be cut by public-private partners in order to increase profits.
What would be the fees? What would be the tolls? I think it also has to be recognized that there may be a tendency for some people in the private sector to essentially cream off those aspects of government or those operations of government that may be more profitable than others.
Once again, if we make reference to things like continuing care, there is a threshold at which the cost for higher levels of care become either unsustainable in terms of fees, without a government component, or they become unsustainable in terms of cost. My fear would be that, in terms of a public-private partnership to perhaps build and manage an extended care facility, there would be a tendency to only focus on the low cost aspects and still leave some of the higher costs and more difficult components to government.
I would be really concerned about public-private partnerships being essentially able to pick and choose from, kind of, a governmental menu.
Now, one of the more appealing aspects of such arrangements is also in some ways the most disturbing - I've referred to this before - and that is the idea that, in a sense, government is borrowing to pay for infrastructure. In other words, a project that we would enter into - say, for example, if a company were to borrow money to build a project, for which the government would become either a leasor or whatever, that would be reflected in the costs that are passed on. Certainly someone isn't going to borrow money, pay the interest charges and not reflect that in what the government has to pay.
In other words, despite some of our good intentions, what we may end up doing is carrying interest costs into future generations. I think we could, once again, find ourselves cutting the financial line for future generations very, very fine indeed, and I would be very loath to get into that.
One of the things that we often don't recognize is that, in a sense, if a project is paid over a longer period of time, it invariably costs more - more in interest, in particular, and more in terms of tolls, service fees. That is an additional cost to taxpayers who are already paying for a program or a facility through their taxes. So, I guess it may be a good deal for the private partner, but is it really a good deal for the consumer? And, particularly, this can be reflected if we take a look at, for example, lease costs.
Now, we know that a leasing is an efficient way to do things for a government, in that we don't have to have a lot of upfront costs, but analysis by Government Services tends to show that leasing over the same period of time as opposed to purchasing does work out to be more. In some cases, it can be considerably more - up to 60 percent - and that's something that we always have to be very cognizant of.
In some cases, that can be balanced, and we can balance it out if we can, for example, prove that there is a socio-economic value involved, or perhaps there's a value to a particular agency in this regard. So, I think there are some ways that that can be balanced out, but I think we can never, never lose sight of the fact that eventually, over the course of a project, leasing will prove to be more expensive than a build option - the government building it.
We often point to examples that are positive in public-private partnerships, and certainly we can identify some of those. Unfortunately, there are also some negative ones. The one that comes to mind is the jail in the Maritimes that, I believe, was built by Wakenhut for, I believe, the New Brunswick government. They used a design and projected costs on the American experience, which was somewhat -
Speaker: Order. The member has two minutes to conclude his remarks.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: But I'm only on - Okay.
So, what eventually happened from this experience was that the design was not appropriate; it became extremely expensive to operate.
The one that I love, though, I have to say, is the boot camp example in Mike Harris' Ontario. On the very first day of the operation of the boot camp, which they gave to a private contractor, an inmate beat up one of the staff, another youth escaped, and experienced guards from the government's own correctional institute had to be brought in to address the emergency. I think that that sometimes indicates that the private partner was not as well-acquainted with problems for young offenders.
I'm sure that this government, however - and I think the Government Leader reflected this - is willing to entertain ideas from the private sector. But I think, once again, that we have to be very cognizant and we have to be very alert to the idea of placing a burden on children of the future of this territory for projects that should be our responsibility. I don't think we can mortgage our children's future. I think we have to be prudent planners and pay our own way. And debt is not a legacy that I want to pass on to my children and others.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the motion, although I, like a number of other people in this House, have some reservations about certain aspects of the application of what we are referring to.
Mr. Speaker, I sincerely believe, after listening to some of the rhetoric I've heard here today, that a prerequisite for getting involved in this debate is that one must be involved in business somewhere along the line, worked in industry, met a payroll, and have an understanding about how that side of the equation works.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: There is no point of order. Please continue.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: It might be a point of privilege, but a rather moot one, Mr. Chair.
Numerous governments and private reports have outlined the dramatic growth in Canada's infrastructure needs. The new facilities and the repair and placement of existing facilities are all going to be requiring a tremendous financial investment by Canada.
Because of the efforts of previous governments at all levels in Canada, we've exhausted ways of raising capital to build these new facilities or replace existing facilities. We've run out of taxing room in Canada. We can't burden the taxpayers with any more taxes of any sort. So, what we're going into now are user fees for various facilities, and we're exploring ways. Government and industry will always come up with new and innovative ways to build a lot of these structures and to replace a lot of the infrastructure that we need.
Private-public partnerships are not new. They've been going on for quite some time. If we look at Europe, and at Great Britain, and we look at the involvement in the utility business - to the water, sewer, natural gas distribution and electrical distribution - which were once under the domain of the respective governments and operated by either arm's-length corporations or by the governments themselves, we now find that they are all in the private domain.
It would appear that, in most cases, the private sector is delivering the services required by the people in a cost-effective manner.
And yes, they are reaping a profit. And, Mr. Speaker, "profit" isn't a dirty word. That's the message I see coming from the government of today, the NDP government, that that word "profit" is somehow taboo, that we just don't want to entertain any kind of a project or involvement that might have a profit.
But when you just explore one area with this House - office space occupied by the government in Whitehorse, if you look at the total amount of space rented versus the total amount of space owned, I'm sure we would clearly show that the government leases more space than they own. But do we want all of the major office buildings and office space to be owned by the Government of the Yukon here in Whitehorse, or indeed in Yukon? That would be ludicrous, Mr. Speaker. But when you analyze what's happened in Whitehorse, the Lynn Building I'm sure, if you want to look at the original capital cost, the rental of that building has probably paid out the capital many times over since that building was constructed. That's just one small example.
The other risk of government getting involved in the private sector, arm's length - or supposedly arm's length - controlled corporations, such as the Development Corporation and the Energy Corporation, is that the profits of these corporations are spun off and used wherever it's politically expedient. And that is usually done outside of this Legislature, Mr. Speaker, and I have concerns with that.
If we just go back a couple of years and look at what has happened here in Yukon, power generation and distribution was, by and large, the domain of the Northern Canada Power Commission.
Distribution was by an investor-owned utility, and there was a lot of concern that the Northern Canada Power Corporation, a federally incorporated class C Crown corporation, was inadequately meeting our needs. Well, since the Government of Yukon - the previous NDP government - took over the Energy Corporation and divested it, electric rates in Whitehorse alone have risen over 100 percent. It's amazing, Mr. Speaker. We just have to look back to see what has happened. We might try learning from history. The profits from the Energy Corporation were moved up to the Development Corporation, have been invested in sawmills in Watson Lake, and we are told the investiture that was written off was some $11 million, but it's probably closer to $20 million.
Now, before we get involved in any private-sector initiatives, I would have concerns that these kinds of areas don't raise their ugly head again and we do not repeat them. If we start looking at private-public sector involvement, there's probably some opportunity and room for movement in the north, but I'd say, given the risk associated with these investments, we're going to have a hard time attracting investment capital via the public sector, unless guarantees are issued by government or there is a very, very high rate of return. The benefits will then flow not just to companies but to all Yukoners.
You know, if we want to simplify this type of debate, we only have to look at most of us here in the House and look at our own personal financing. How many of us have the liberty of having a home free and clear and are not carrying a mortgage? Very few. Most individuals are carrying a mortgage.
When we look at a new vehicle, it used to be that we went to the bank and borrowed the necessary money to purchase that vehicle. Now, today, the trend is to lease vehicles.
Well, that's exactly what we're looking at here today. It's the same type of initiative, but on a much larger scale. It's on a scale that I'm sure, unless you've had some time in the business world, you might not be able to get a grasp of as to how this can benefit us and how it can work. Simplified, think of it in terms of your own lifestyle, your own home and your own vehicle as to the changes that have transpired in the last little while - the changes in the world of finance and the changes that are going to be coming. We've just started to see changes in the world of finance. They're going to be coming at us at a more rapid rate.
The banks are still making a profit. The governments are still collecting taxes. In fact, they're collecting more taxes than ever for most of Canada. It looks like British Columbia and, I am sure, the Yukon are heading into a recession, from all reports, but that's because of the firm direction given by the governments in these jurisdictions, Mr. Speaker.
If we could look at this type of an initiative - public-private sector partnerships - the benefits that we would be receiving would be very quick. We'd have new, improved or repaired facilities that government could not otherwise afford. If you start looking at some of the examples that we could advance, we could look ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Wow, we're getting a lot of heckling from the Member for Faro, Mr. Speaker, and obviously his understanding of it is very, very mixed. I'm sure what he's spouting are just the party lines. I'm sure his background and understanding of the issues are much wider than he's giving himself credit for here today, Mr. Speaker. So, one only has to ...
Well, I guess I've offended the Member for Faro. He's chosen to leave the House.
Mr. Speaker, if we start looking at the rapid or efficient developments that would come into place with private-public partnerships, the private sector can react a lot faster than government usually can react. From the time that an idea's conceived, or a program is given to them, to the time that that program can be delivered, or that facility built, the private sector is usually much, much faster than the government process.
Then if we look at some of the explanations that we are a go-as-we-pay government, and that our in-house costs for delivering a service are less expensive, you start to look at that and say, well, yeah, they're inexpensive because the capital cost of any of our facilities are expensed in the year that they are acquired.
It's there. It's done. It's fully expensed. But normal accounting procedures would, in most cases, dictate that the capital cost be a component of any costs that we incur for any programs. You start looking at what is happening in the federal government and the changes that the accounting world is envisioning with respect to government, and this appears to be the trend - that we have to recognize the capital costs.
You might look at when Canada Post changed hands and became a Crown corporation. At that time, all of the buildings that they occupied - or a great majority of the buildings that they occupied - were built by Public Works Canada. They were on the books at zero cost, because they are expensed in the year that they are constructed, and they were transferred to Canada Post at no cost.
Now, when Canada Post comes to doing their financial exercise, all they put in the equation is the O&M cost. Now, is that fair? Is that reasonable? Is that a normal accounting procedure? From the government standpoint, from existing government financing standpoints, yes, it is. So that's the other side of the equation that we are debating here today, Mr. Speaker - that we're comparing apples to oranges with accounting procedures. There is no recognition in government accounting for the capital cost of the construction or acquisition of a new facility. That's on the books at zero. All we look at is the O&M cost.
Now, is that realistic? Is that fair? When you start looking at public-private partnerships, the investor is going to amortize his investment in the rates that are charged.
So, we end up looking at what, apparently, would be a much higher cost for that facility or that service. But it is a comparison of apples to oranges, and if we went to a uniform accounting system, I am sure that we could show that, in a lot of cases, it is less expensive for the private sector to construct the facility and operate it and for the government to lease it back than it would be for the government to build that facility for itself and operate it. Not all cases would be that way, Mr. Speaker, but quite a number of them would be.
Many public and private infrastructure partnerships have been successfully employed in the past, and they are being used with increased frequency. I pointed out that in Europe the water systems, the sewage disposal systems - in fact, one of the major acquisitions in Great Britain was done by an Alberta-based company that, currently, also owns the electrical distribution company here in Yukon. It's interesting to get hold of the financial statements of Canadian utilities and their subsidiary companies to see that they've expanded extensively in Great Britain and are producing some very good rates of return on their investment. Water is still flowing out of the taps in England, I'm told, the sewage systems are still working, and the lights are still on. So, what's changed?
The member opposite says, "You might try the telephone systems." May I suggest to the member opposite ...
Speaker: The member has two minutes.
Mr. Jenkins: ... that he try the telephone systems outside of Whitehorse and see how frequently, and how well they work, in a lot of cases.
So, it's an area that deserves exploring. It's an area that I can support, Mr. Speaker: the public-private partnerships. I think we have an opportunity here for a new initiative and I think we should explore fully this area before we offhandedly discard it.
Mr. Speaker, this motion has my support.
Thank you very much.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, it is indeed an issue of interest with me to rise and speak to this motion today. Having been a small businessman and having incurred debt, I understand one fundamental issue here. No matter how you disguise it, how you label it, whatever the case may be, the common denominator is we must pay back the debt, whether it be now in the short term or whether it be deferred for the long term.
I agree that governments have to look for innovative ways of creating jobs and stimulating the economy, but I'm not convinced that this one particular way, public-private partnerships, is the be-all and end-all.
Now, Mr. Speaker, when we speak of innovation, I would like to point out that the budget before us in this Legislature this sitting is a very innovative budget and, without going into debt, we have managed to put money into building schools, we are in the process of more highway construction, we have money set aside for future projects in Dawson City, we have money set aside for future projects in Whitehorse, and we have not had any cuts to health care. We have not cut education, we have not raised taxes, and most importantly, we have not gone into debt to do these things.
The leader of the third party, who moved this motion today and most certainly brought in a lot of detail, did bring forward one point, and that is that to her right, the Yukon Party, we have a group of people at the far right of the political spectrum. On this side of the House, we have a group of people to the far left of the political spectrum, and the member implied that somewhere in the middle are the Liberals, and for some reason they have a more efficient way of governing.
Now, I find that very interesting because is efficient government a government, in their desire to address the deficit, that cuts massively into health care and education? Is that a government that offloads onto junior governments - the provinces, the territories - some of their responsibilities? Is an efficient government one that would promise the Canadian public that they would never ever sign a free trade agreement and then upon taking power, sign it immediately. Let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, one of our major problems in this end of the country is the free trade agreement.
Also, they promised to abolish the GST. Is that an efficient government that gets into power and doesn't abolish the GST? Let's not forget Bill C-68, the gun control law. Is that an efficient government, Mr. Speaker? I think not. I think the member's implication has no place in this Legislature.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Point of order. The Member for Whitehorse Porter Creek South.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I did not make reference to people in this House; I talked about the political spectrum, and the member is off the topic of the motion.
Speaker: Will the member please get back to the motion.
Mr. Fentie: Now, when we look at public-private partnerships, there are a number of issues that we have to seriously consider, should we get to the stage of actually moving forward with such an initiative. Some of these are in the way of building assets or infrastructure, and so on. We must look at the concept of design-build and how that factors in for the needs of jobs in the Yukon Territory, and how it improves our economy. Design-build and operate: again, we must look at this part of the process and how it helps create jobs in the territory. Design-build, operate and transfer: another very important point. The contribution contract: another major issue to review in the context of partnerships. Operation and maintenance contracts; lease, develop and operate - very important points in this concept. Then there's the build-lease, operate and transfer of any facility, asset or infrastructure. These are all issues that must assuredly be looked into, so that if we entertain any idea of a private-public partnership, that we are doing the right thing.
I think another consideration that we must look at are critical issues when we address initiatives like this. Some of these are public attitude, public interest, value for money, finance, labour, systematic barriers, knowledge barriers and, of course, the all-important risk factor. The risk factor is the critical one, Mr. Speaker, because if we were to proceed with a project, and should that project get into a situation where it is not solvent, for whatever reason, in this type of partnership, the public - the taxpayer - would have to absorb that risk. I think that is a very important consideration.
When we look at risks, there are a number of issues around this particular issue with partnerships. Project financing becomes very important because, ultimately, it means dollars must be put into play. Force majeure, workers' compensation, demand, insurance, design and construction approval, commissioning, environmental compliance, the residual value, strikes and lockouts, legislation implications, public policy issues, changes to user fees, regulatory framework, the competitive environment, and the impact on the public sector: all major components of the risk factor, Mr. Speaker.
To be successful, there are a number of conditions involved, and some of these are the evidence of government support and commitment, receptive environment - most importantly, out there in the public - proposal selection, demonstrated success, open process, public confidence, the goal of the effective partnership, the competition around any project, and be prepared to accept changes on how things are done.
Now, Mr. Speaker, this government is committed to a pay-as-you-go regime, and that's important because we believe, on this side of the House, that we should not compromise the future. We must do things to set in place foundations, cornerstones, building blocks, if you will, for the future.
There are a number of issues to look at when we consider debt, and a very important one, Mr. Speaker, is, as governments enter into some of these initiatives, like these partnerships, we've got to be conscious of the fact that, right now in this country, including the federal government and provincial governments' debt, we sit at $815 billion. I'll tell you why that's important: because that relates to 95.2 percent of our GDP, and I don't believe going into debt today is the answer.
Now, the leader of the official opposition talked long and hard about the former Yukon Party government, the fact that they entered - in a small way - into these types of things. He mentioned one specific project - Loki Gold - and so on. I wonder a great deal, Mr. Speaker, how he comes up with this type of thought. Nothing in public-private partnerships is going to solve the problem of the world economy. The world economy very much impacts what we do in the Yukon Territory in the mining industry, in the forest industry and probably, to some degree, in the tourism industry, and this type of economic partnership does not solve those problems. We must be conscious of the fact that spending the money is easy. Paying it back is the hard part - the ability to pay it back.
Although I agree that looking at innovative ways is a very good step for governments to take, within this particular concept there are most certainly disadvantages.
The disadvantages are looking at long-term budget implications. When we discuss long-term budget implications, we also must be conscious of the fact, Mr. Speaker, that today we are in a situation of declining revenues, as far as government is concerned, and also in a situation of an economic downturn that is directly tied to world market conditions and world economic conditions.
I believe it's a dangerous game to play to pre-commit future public sector revenues. We must not compromise the future in any way, Mr. Speaker. We must create an environment where the future can flourish in the Yukon Territory.
When we look at capital projects, we have to consider another fact. In this arrangement, if the private sector undertakes the project, instead of the government, there would likely be an overall increase to project cost due to financing charges. And that's an important fact, Mr. Speaker, because no matter how you get the money, if it's borrowed, there is a cost to that.
Let me give one example of a project, and I believe it's a highway. This project is a highway in eastern Canada, and the total cost was somewhere in the neighbourhood of $877 million, but with the involvement of the provincial government and the private sector and the annual payments, this cost, amortized over 26 years, goes from $877 million to approximately $1.5 billion.
These are all things that we must consider when we decide to undertake initiatives such as this.
So, in closing, Mr. Speaker, I support government searching and coming up with innovative ways but I don't necessarily agree that public-private partnerships are one of them.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, it's already a confusing debate. On one hand, one of the ministers has said that they would support looking at this as a possibility. On the other hand, we have other members from the NDP standing up and saying that they don't support it. So, it's confusing. It's very, very confusing. And it's confusing, too, because, on the one hand, the Minister of Economic Development talks about supporting the motion and looking at innovative ways of dealing with what at times are diminishing dollars, and on the other hand he spends 40 minutes decrying the idea.
It's a question of lip service and not really having your mind open to the possibilities of our future. And those futures are very important for all of us here in the Yukon. And a good idea, no matter where it comes from, is a good idea. And I'll tell you something: I don't think I know everything, and nobody here knows everything. And to completely bring down an idea before you even look at it is a form of closed-mindedness. It's something that people did many, many years ago, but surely I thought that, in the age of communication, we would have moved beyond that.
Now, Mr. Speaker, it does make sense for this government to look toward more creative options to deal with increasing needs for infrastructure and the diminishing dollars. There is no question that there is a need in this territory, right now, for some housing options for seniors that lie somewhere between the family home, which is difficult to maintain, and a top-level seniors care facility like the Thomson Centre.
There needs to be some personal care options in the community. Home care is great, but it's usually only available between nine to five during the day and during the week. There is subsidized seniors housing available but not everyone wants to take that option, nor can they get into that option.
There is a terrific opportunity for this government to work with the private sector to supply this market. Demographics prove that there is an ever-growing housing market for seniors. If we fail to supply that market, the opportunity will be lost and seniors above the poverty line may well seek creative seniors housing options outside the territory, and that would be a loss for all of us.
On the municipal level, we have to look at ways to build needed projects and help support local business. It is business, after all, that pays the big taxes to support the municipality. It is also on the municipal level that we find the services to support tourism, the industry that supposedly is going to save our economy in times of low metal prices and mine closures. We need good roads to bring tourists through the Yukon. We need bridges and highways that are well-maintained and well-built.
Why not look at the Dawson bridge again and why not fix up that scary stretch of road by Champagne or bring the south Campbell up to a decent standard? The private sector is crying for projects, and the territory needs to get people working. The social costs of unemployment are high. Kaushee's Place is filled to the brim. The numbers on social assistance are way up and drug and alcohol abuse is escalating. It's time to do something. Costs are going to be lower at a time when the economy is suffering. Now is the time to take up that opportunity and that challenge.
It's not like we're going to be reinventing the wheel here.
There are a number of examples of successful public-private partnerships across Canada, and I'd like to list some of those for the House today.
In Furry Creek, B.C., the Transportation Financing Authority and Tanac Development Canada Corp. built a new road; Mission Interchange, in 1997, an agreement for construction for a new interchange on Highway 11 near Mission, B.C. - many of us here know that area; Mt. Washington Road, Vancouver Island - there's a new 18-kilometre access road to Mt. Washington, which is the province's third busiest resort area; in Quinsam Mine, B.C., there was a $9-million investment for a new access road and barge-loading facility near Campbell River; Finlay Navigation - a new ferry-freight service on Williston Lake in northern B.C.; for the Lion's Gate Bridge, which many of us are familiar with, the B.C. government announced in 1997 that it wants to construct a new bridge across the Burrard Narrows and is inviting public-private partnership proposals; the upgrade to Highway 407, the highway near Toronto, Ontario; the Confederation Bridge, the bridge linking P.E.I. with the mainland, which was constructed on a public-private partnership; and Tele Education, partners including Canada, the Province of New Brunswick and the province's information and telecommunications industry.
Tele Education New Brunswick is a province-wide bilingual distance education network. Tele Education and Tele Medicine in the north partners include Northwestel, the Aboriginal Development Corporation, the Government of the N.W.T., and this partnership involves the construction and maintenance of an advanced digital communications network in the Northwest Territories.
There are many, many opportunities here and in the rest of Canada. I think I'd like to talk to you a bit about some of health opportunities in the Northwest Territories because these are the opportunities that we need to be exploring. We have some very strong needs to be filled here.
In the Northwest Territories, the Department of Health and Social Services has a stated vision and that's to have healthy children and families based in safe community environments which support in leading long, productive and happy lives.
Further to this, a number of strategic goals have been developed by the department which are founded in the principles of primary health care and focus broadly on the determinants of health, and more specifically, on preventive activities, community involvement and accountability in outcomes - and that sounds awfully familiar to me.
Now, not all illnesses are caused by infections or even unknown agents, such as cancer. Many illnesses are self-inflicted, although often unknowingly. FAS is a good example.
The profound impact that education, prevention and economic security or employment can have on these individuals in communities is just unbelievable. The most effective approach to good health on every level is an integrated one involving educators, health providers and economists. Determining the manner in which this group of professionals can be brought together cohesively is an ongoing challenge. Studies have shown that health education issues are amenable to positive change through community-based programming, delivered using a team model rather than through institutional programming.
Major improvements in health status will require major investments in health promotion and illness prevention.
Private-public partnering for the development of needed education, health and community facilities offers a unique opportunity to harness private sector innovation to achieve these objectives. This approach can result in the design and construction of integrated facilities that reflect integrated programming and functional requirements necessary to optimize the continuum of care.
It also means that we can offer significant opportunities for improved efficiencies and annual operating and administrative costs. In this regard, P-3s could assist any reallocation of resources, from institutional to community-based services that the Yukon or the Northwest Territories, in this case, may desire to make. A private partner could also support the Yukon or the Northwest Territories by financing, installing and maintaining the technology needed to implement an aggressive program of utilization management, which would facilitate desired advances in the effective and efficient use of available resources.
The allocation and distribution of health resources to communities or regions should be based on well-established community needs assessments, as part of the community development process, to complement the appropriate allocation of resources. A review of not only what services are delivered, but how and where they're delivered, should be considered. Here, in the Yukon, we have to look at multi-level care facilities in Watson Lake and in Whitehorse. We also have to look at family supports in Whitehorse, to deal with ongoing chronic health problems.
P-3s can provide benefits for public and private sector partners that would normally be unavailable to either party. Governments able to leverage additional capital amortize the cost of capital projects over their real economic life, rather than the year in which the money is spent. The private partner is able to secure a stable, long-term investment. And P-3s are not new. They are being used across the country and in the Northwest Territories. They have a limited history in the Yukon, where they have been used in the design and construction of government office space.
The Yukon government Air Transat joint-marketing effort is also such an example.
To the question of can and should the private sector be involved in the delivery of public goods and services, well, the answer is yes. However, it should not be involved merely as a contractor or as a source of capital. Conversely, the involvement of the private sector does not negate the important role of government in the delivery of services. There is a need for comprehensive programs to which all partners can contribute their strengths.
The Yukon government appears willing to explore and enter into P-3 agreements. Expansion of the Whitehorse Airport, the wrap-around addition, is one example. P-3s could be used in the Yukon for many purposes, including new schools and other facilities.
A summary of eligible projects is now being put together by the government, and I think that we need to examine all of those. Should the government proceed with P-3s, there will be an intense competition from the business community arising from current economic conditions and the simple fact that P-3s can be excellent long-term investments.
The implementation and success of P-3 agreements in the Yukon may be limited because few partnerships are likely to result in new revenues or economic opportunities, and as a result there is a risk that P-3s in the Yukon may simply become a substitute for government debt. At the very least, P-3 projects should be subject to a rigorous financial analysis to ensure leasing is not more expensive than outright borrowing.
The Yukon faces an uncertain economic future brought on by volatile mineral prices, uncertainty in the Asian markets, federal funding reductions, uncertainty about the level of funding that may or may not be available for Alaska Highway improvements, and a host of other factors.
Public-private partnerships could be used to help sustain Yukon employment in the territory's private sector while building much-needed infrastructure. However, in the absence of new and readily identifiable revenues, these partnerships will result in an increasing government O&M cost and less direct capital spending.
And I suppose that's where we need to talk about the need for transparency. Jurisdictions elsewhere have provided valuable lessons regarding the implementation of P-3s. In particular, there is a public need for transparency at least equal to, if not greater than, that which attends the overall governance of the community.
Private firms often tend to shy away from public scrutiny. However, to be a successful partner with the public sector, they not only have to be prepared to open the books but to submit to the often harsh scrutiny of a public which has a right to know how its tax dollars are being spent.
Public and private interests, which create an open atmosphere and actively disseminate facts and information regarding the partnership, fare much better than those who do not.
In a democratic society, a public-private partnership has to be seen and to be transparent. The initial acceptance of the P-3 concept often hinges on the public knowledge of how P-3s fit into a government's overall approach to funding a public infrastructure and/or service delivery. During times of public debate and controversy, often the public will see past emotional opposition, such as that we heard today, and extend strong support for the concept of P-3 when presented with the facts, when alternatives are thoroughly explained, and when a transparent, ongoing and informative process is established.
Changes brought about by reductions in public sector funding of capital infrastructure and the quest for more effective public sector service delivery models are the main drivers of the movement to establish public-private sector partnerships. These relationships have been initiated in more than 100 countries and within many Canadian provinces. They tend to be unique because of the unique approaches taken by the individual private proponents to often different public sector needs.
There are many different examples of public-private partnerships, and I think that that's something that we have to remember. Sure, there've been problems in the past, but there are many, many more examples of ones that have worked. Public-private partnerships are definitely not the cure-all for fiscal difficulties confronting public sector entities in the 1990s and beyond.
However, employed wisely, P3s can be added to the instruments that the public sector has at its disposal. As part of a full array of tools, P3s can enhance the delivery of facilities and services and better benefit the one public that both the public and private sectors serve.
Successfully confronting these issues in any humane manner will require either obtaining significant additional revenues from Ottawa or borrowing the equivalent funds through bond issues. The prospects of obtaining the additional funds from Ottawa are dim. Funds borrowed from southern institutions in and of themselves do not come with entrepreneurs attached. Apart from the leveraging of capital that holds significant attraction for public-private partnerships, it is the presence of a successful entrepreneur attached to his or her equity capital that will end in having the greatest impact on the northern business climate and in achieving a sustainable economic future.
It may be said that the good and successful entrepreneurs would find their way to the Yukon sooner or later, and that may be true, but a proactive P-3 policy will ensure that the timetable for their arrival is sooner and the prospects for job creation are more immediate.
In the end, public-private partnerships are about risk and reward sharing, innovation, creativity, trust and most importantly, shared responsibilities and accountabilities to a single public that both partners serve. Whether or not to initiate public-private partnerships is ultimately up to the public partner, as it determines in its wisdom what best serves its citizens.
During a November 1997 speech to the Canadian Council on Public-Private Partnerships in Toronto, the Minister of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs and Development outlined her strong support for innovative approaches that would include partnerships with aboriginal groups for the delivery of public infrastructure and services. Her public support creates a climate of opportunity for partnerships to form.
The creation of successful partnerships will be determined by the risks and rewards that each opportunity presents, the strength of relationships that evolve and the dedication of the partners to a long-term success.
For this reason, ongoing solid support of the local communities' private sector players in the north is critical in order to minimize the perceived risk of investing in the Yukon.
I suppose that's the thing. If we believe in the Yukon, then we have to take some risks, because that's what the Yukon's all about - boom and bust. We take a risk just being here. We don't know if the whole Yukon's going to pack up and leave in another 10 years when the cycle comes round again. And that's what we are here. But, as government, we have to remember that the dollars that we have are taxpayers' dollars, so that if we are looking at public-private partnerships, they'll obviously be as safe as we can possibly make them.
All the Yukon Liberal caucus is asking this government to do is look, with an open mind, at this possibility.
Mr. Hardy: I'd like to make it very clear that we do have an open mind over here, and we are looking at this possibility, just so they don't get too confused.
I'd also like to point out that we are investing in our social services; we are investing in the roads, if you look at the budget. We are not in a crisis situation. Members across seem to want to scream "wolf" here, as if we're dying over here and we're in huge debt - we're not.
This is an option they presented. We're not opposed to it. We have begun looking at it already, but what surprises me most of all is the attitude over there. I believe the member who just spoke - the Member for Riverdale South - has recommended that we privatize medicare. I believe that she's just spoken about privatizing schools. I believe that she's talking about privatizing our roads, so that we can have tolls on our roads, and that's the way to serve the people.
I'm glad it's on record, that it's finally come out. Nowhere in it do they talk about private-public partnerships or the partnerships that exist between governments. The fact is that we have a federal government that has reneged on their deal to the people of Canada; that is, to supply universal programs for all people in Canada, and not go into private enterprise, which they've been forcing the provinces to do.
Nowhere do they recognize their responsibility, and this is, once again, the same old story from the Liberals on the other side, who refuse to recognize the responsibility of the federal government, whether it's Liberals or Conservatives - whether it's either one of them - and recognize that they've reneged on their deal to the people of Canada, and have been forcing the provincial and territorial governments throughout Canada to have to find other ways for revenue.
Now, I don't think people in Canada want a U.S. system, which is being recommended. It is being recommended by the Liberal caucus over there. Like I said earlier, I'm really glad it's on record because this is something that the people of the Yukon need to know. It's been said very clearly, and it will be brought back. But there were some allegations made regarding the Member for Watson Lake not supporting this - well, wrong. He had concerns about it, and that's the way you should approach a deal such as this - with concerns, Mr. Speaker, because you just don't go, willy-nilly, into public-private partnerships when it's not necessary.
Are we in a crisis situation in the Yukon in financing? I don't think so. Do we have a huge debt? I don't think so. So, what are they trying to say here? What's the picture that I'm trying to paint here? Should we give more money to private business? As the Member for Riverdale South said, "The only people that carry the Yukon is business." Pardon me? There are a lot of taxpayers out there. Wake up.
There is a group out there that's called the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnership. They are pushing privatization in health care. They're pushing partnerships in privatization in schools, with school boards. They're pushing that they should build the schools, they should supply the services. We, the government, would take our taxpayers' money and give it to these businesses and get very little return, not even the building back in return, and they feel that's better business? They feel it would be better to indebt this government now, for our children to carry the burden later? It baffles me that this is the proposal.
We have a responsibility as a government, and all I can say is, thank God that it's the NDP over here and not the Liberals, with what they're proposing, because obviously they're proposing privatization of everything that we do. But we have to get value for our dollar, value for our money, and we have to protect and safeguard the public interest.
There are more bills than just private and public. It takes a lot more people to build this country than just those two partners.
Speaker: Order please. The time being 5:30 p.m., the Speaker will now leave the Chair until 7:30 p.m. tonight.
Debate on Motion No. 116 accordingly adjourned
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Government Services that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 9 - First Appropriation Act, 1998-99 - continued
Department of Education - continued
Chair: We are on general debate, Department of Education. Is there further general debate?
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I don't have a lot of questions in general debate but I have a couple of small points I want to go over.
When we were here on March 24 discussing the Education budget, there were some questions asked about Grey Mountain Primary, and in response to the questions, just so I have it correct, the minister was asked the question: why are we not building or considering building a new school at Grey Mountain? Is it correct to assume that the minister's argument is that the numbers at the present time don't warrant it, and that it will be looked at, I believe she said, in three years?
Is that the minister's position, that the numbers at the present time don't warrant it?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, the total enrollment numbers make it difficult to justify a replacement facility.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, in debate in Education, I have - as I will continue to do - made a point of positions that seem to have changed with this minister, and I guess this is another one that has changed from when the minister was in opposition.
The arguments that the minister has made in the last few days, specifically on the March 24, with respect to Grey Mountain Primary, I accept, Mr. Chair, primarily because they're the same arguments that I made back in January 17, 1994, when I was asked about Grey Mountain Primary.
I made similar arguments to the minister that the numbers didn't warrant it, and I believe the numbers are similar, or even less in some cases, than the numbers were at that time. My numbers that I quoted the member at that time were less than the numbers that are in Grey Mountain at the present time.
But unfortunately the member didn't accept that, and I just want to remind the member of that. In fact, not only did the member not accept it, but the member was part of a political move at that time to remove some $5.5 million from the highways budget and urge us to build Grey Mountain Primary, regardless of the numbers.
And so, my point is, Mr. Chair, that I guess the position the minister took at that time, when she said, "I have no hesitation in supporting this amendment in the motion. It goes a little way to making this capital budget more balanced. With this amendment the government would have spent $4.5 million less on roads in order to build two new schools and needed schools." At that time, she called Grey Mountain Primary a needed school.
And I just want to remind the minister that sometimes Hansard can come back and bite you, and this is a case where the minister has used the exact same arguments I used. And I support those arguments, because they are sound arguments, but I get a little upset when, just for crass political points at the time, this minister and other members on that side make statements and then do a major 180-degree turn just because it suits their purpose.
So, I'll leave that with the minister. I'm not going to pursue it, unless the minister wants to. I just want the record to clearly show that the minister, on March 24, took the same position that I took on January 7, 1994. In fact, the minister didn't agree with that position back in 1994, but it seems to suit her purposes now, so that's the argument she's going to take. I'll leave it at that, unless the minister wants to pursue it. Then we can maybe discuss it a little further.
I don't have a lot of other questions. There are some other members that have questions about schools in their area. I'm going to leave it to them, so that they can pursue some other areas. I still may have some more questions as we get into line by line, with respect to some of the answers that the minister gave us last night.
Ms. Duncan: I have a couple of questions remaining from the general debate discussion we've had to date. First of all, I would like to remind the minister that there was a unanimous resolution from school councils regarding changing the dates for the elections. Unfortunately, to put action to this unanimous resolution is going to require an amendment to the Education Act.
Is the minister prepared to entertain such an amendment, or is she going to advise the school council chairs at their meeting later this month that she's not prepared to entertain that idea?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have already responded to school councils on that subject, some time ago, when they wrote to me about it. I am prepared to consider amending the Education Act to change the dates of school council elections; however, we are planning to open the Education Act for review for the year 2000. We are going to begin that process next year, in 1999, and what I have indicated to school councils is that there are a number of what will be considered minor amendments that various parties may want to see in the Education Act. Rather than do a piecemeal amendment, here and there, when we receive representations, whether they're from school councils or the Yukon Teachers Association or others, amendments to the Education Act will be considered when we're looking at the amendments as a whole.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I understood from the minister that there was to be a review process, and perhaps I had assumed incorrectly that this would be a rather exhaustive and extensive review of the Education Act as was perhaps first envisioned because this is the first 10 years with this act. So, there might be some more substantial amendments.
So, is what the minister saying is that we won't be looking at amendments to the Education Act until the fall of 1999 at the earliest then, and then we might do a minor amendment package and do the full-scale review of the act? Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, just to be clear for the member, we propose to look at amendments to the Education Act as an entire package. During the process of reviewing the Education Act, we will consider the recommendations that have already come forward from various parties for amendment, such as the request from school councils to change the dates for school council elections.
Ms. Duncan: As my colleague from Riverside would say, okay, let's try this another way. When might that package of amendments come forward?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I'll repeat for the member the answer that I've given in the past: we will open the Education Act for review in 1999 and look to conclude that process in the year 2000.
Ms. Duncan: There is some confusion in the minds of some members of the public and some discussion among parents regarding the location of the grade 7s currently attending the Catholic schools in the Whitehorse area. Could the minister clarify where grade 7s will be attending school? Will they attend Holy Family School or Christ the King Elementary School, or are they going on to Vanier? Has the decision been made where the grade 7s will attend next year?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, there has been some discussion about the Catholic schools moving toward the grade configuration model that we now have in place with grade reorganization. The Holy Family School does not have room for adding grade 7, and has a small school site for looking at renovations or expansions. There is currently space at Vanier Secondary for grade 7 but, as the secondary programs expand, space may need to be added.
There is mixed reaction by parents on whether or not they want Holy Family School to grow any larger. There has not been a decision made to change the present organization in the Catholic school system. For now, the Catholic elementary schools will offer K to 6 and grades 7 to 12 will be offered at Vanier Secondary.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister just indicated there was a mixed reaction to this discussion and indicated a decision hadn't been taken, for example, to have grade 7s attend Holy Family School. When might parents be involved in that discussion and when might a decision be taken on this matter?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There are ongoing discussions with the school councils. I don't have a date to provide the member as to when a decision may be made. We're not anticipating making a decision for the next school year.
Ms. Duncan: The Big Toy at Golden Horn was quite a subject for discussion at school council at the end of last year, and there was a suggestion by the school council that they take over the maintenance of the Big Toy. However, this was denied because of liability issues. The minister had indicated to the school council that appropriate steps will be taken to maintain it. Could she reassure the parents and me and this House that the steps have been taken and that the Big Toy is maintained and available for use this spring?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, I can, and I can also inform the member that I've attended Golden Horn Elementary School council meetings and given them that assurance in person. The Golden Horn school council is satisfied that the Big Toy is safe for students to use.
Ms. Duncan: One of my constituents raised an interesting question with me, and I'd like to ask the minister in general debate rather than on this specific line item. And the issue was raised because, at this particular school, they've been told to cut back on their photocopying and laminating and pasting because of budget cuts. Can the minister advise me if each school in the Yukon receives the same amount of funding, or if it varies by school population?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The funding is formula funded by school population.
Ms. Duncan: Could the minister, by legislative return, provide that formula to me? How many thousands or hundreds of dollars per student, or how the formula is structured?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I will take a look and see what we can provide for the member.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you.
Mr. Chair, in the Auditor General's report for 1996, there was a suggestion that Yukon College would make some steps to recover a greater amount of fees from students as they were being subsidized by almost $1,000 per student. These notes are from the Auditor General's report for that year, and these comments came from the discussion where we believe - we being the Auditor General - there is potential for increased cost recovery.
Did the minister have any discussions with Yukon College in this regard or is she aware of any steps on the part of Yukon College in response to the Auditor General's report?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm not able to provide the member with a detailed response to that question. Yes, at meetings between me and the college board of governors, we discussed the funding that they receive, including the Auditor General's report and how they're responding to it, but I cannot recall what discussion may have taken place around that specific subject.
Ms. Duncan: Perhaps the minister could provide that additional information to me.
I just have one last subject in general debate that I would like the minister to address. Could the minister give a progress report on the monies allocated to the youth investment fund? Has the vision for this fund been clarified and the intent for the use of the money been established with the group? What expenditures have been made and what reviews have been conducted to assess overlap between this fund and initiatives under the health investment fund?
Could the minister provide an update on that youth investment fund?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Is the member inquiring about the youth investment fund or is she asking about Youth Works, the Association of Community Youth Initiatives board?
Ms. Duncan: The latter, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I thought that she meant the latter. I think what I would like to do is provide a legislative return for the member on that. I know that the Youth Works board held a meeting again this past Sunday. They have approved some expenditures and I will bring back a written response for the member.
Ms. Duncan: Could I just ask the minister if, in her legislative response to me, she could indicate if there has been an assessment done of the various funds available under the government and if there's been an assessment done of where projects might overlap, say between the health investment fund, the youth investment fund and this particular youth fund. Is there any ongoing assessment to coordinate projects and assess their effectiveness?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: In some cases, the various funds that are available to support youth initiatives complement one another. I can tell the member that the work of better integrating and coordinating government response to the needs of youth is ongoing. We have a Cabinet committee on social policy, as well as an internal working group of the social policy departments that work on fostering healthy communities. We are certainly endeavouring to have good integration of programs and to avoid overlap and duplication.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, if I could just explore with the minister a couple of the questions and answers I received from the minister on March 24. We were looking at the issue of this school counsellor - the minister came back and called it the "student support worker." It would appear that the student support worker was initially jointly funded by the federal government and the Government of Yukon, through the Dawson First Nation. After that funding dried up, it was subsequently funded by the Government of Yukon in an agreement, and then the First Nation in Dawson indicated they were going to take the program in house, and the funding was cancelled from the Government of Yukon. The counsellor has subsequently left Dawson and has taken a contract position in Old Crow, Mr. Speaker.
The minister went on at great lengths to expand on the issue - she spoke about the discipline plan at the Robert Service School, forming a community justice committee, looking at supporting some alternate models, that they're going to respond to the issue of discipline by holding parent-student meetings of people involved, and an intervention discipline policy, and they're going to track students and ensure that there are appropriate disciplinary measures in place.
When we look at all of these wonderful words that surround the issue, Mr. Speaker, we miss the point completely. What we had in place previously was an individual who dealt with these problems, kept them in check, and did an extremely good job of not only dealing with First Nation students with difficulties but all of the students in Robert Service School who encountered difficulties in that area in the senior high school grades.
So, what steps is the minister going to take after we review all these wonderful policies? We still need some guidance from some individual, and it still requires an individual there to address this need. What is the minister's position in this regard, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, let me tell the member opposite that what we have in place at Robert Service School is a very competent administration and staff that includes 22.5 teachers, three education assistants, two remedial tutors as well as two aboriginal language teachers. What we have in place is a school administration and a school council who work to meet the needs of the students. There is also, as I've indicated, a position funded by the Tr'ondek Hwech'in for similar duties to the former student support worker at the school.
We are providing support for students. We also have a comprehensive counselling model in place to ensure that there are adequate counselling services for students.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if we're doing all of these things and doing them as well as we are, as the minister would like to point out and believe, why is it that vandalism in our community is at an all-time high, specifically directed at the principal of the school, specifically directed at a number of teachers, and the school itself? I have not seen the problem in Dawson of that magnitude for some decade and one-half, Mr. Chair.
So, if we have all these wonderful systems in place, why are we having that many problems? And don't just blame it on the community, because they started to really escalate after this counsellor left and they are at an all-time high right now, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I would suggest to the member that that is an ongoing problem that concerns us, that concerns the school community and that concerns the community as a whole.
There are a number of initiatives underway to deal with the problem. We maintain a school system. We have an interest in Dawson City in community justice initiatives.
The municipality is also working cooperatively with the community as a whole. I don't believe it's rational to say that any one person makes the complete difference to what happens in a community.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I certainly have to take exception to the minister's remarks, Mr. Chair. She's missing the point completely. This individual did have a tremendous impact on the students at Robert Service School, did have an effective way of dealing with them and did resolve a lot of conflict issues and did reduce vandalism specifically directed at the school. Now, I certainly would have to concur with the minister if the vandalism was rampant throughout the whole community dealing with a whole series of buildings or structures, but the majority of the vandalism recently has been directed specifically at the school dwelling units occupied by the principal and vehicles owned by teachers and the principal of the school. So, there is an issue there, Mr. Chair, that is not being addressed and the minister could do a great service to the community by ensuring that there is someone there to implement the policies.
It's great to have all these wonderful policies, all this fantastic rhetoric and consult with everybody, but someone has to be there to deal with the issues and that someone has been pulled out of the community and we are having problems. Help.
Can the minister undertake to provide someone for this area in the future?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, as I've been telling the member in general debate, we have increased the resources available to the Robert Service School. The number of support staff is increased; counselling services are in place; the school community is doing its best to meet the needs of the students in the school.
Mr. Jenkins: So that's fine. So why are we having the problems we are?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, as the member knows, there are a number of reasons for problems in communities and there are a number of reasons for problems in schools. That's why we have staff available in the school to work with the students. That's why we have people running for offices to serve on school council - to work with the school community.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess the minister is prepared to admit she's failed in this regard, failed in providing adequate services that are going to protect the principal and the teachers that are working in this community. We have a serious problem, Mr. Chair, and that serious problem was kept in check by this counsellor previously. Although we haven't made the papers in too many cases, we have a problem that is not being addressed by the Department of Education, and the minister is ultimately responsible because the minister is in charge of that department. When is the minister prepared to take some action in this regard?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the member is not making his point very well and is not doing the community of Dawson City a service in the badgering that he is persisting in at the moment.
I have met with the Robert Service school council. The staff of Robert Service School are working with the students in the school. We have counselling systems in place, and I think the member is painting a black picture, attempting to say that it is solely my responsibility for - I think he's alleging that we're not meeting our responsibilities. The fact is, Mr. Chair, that we are doing our best to meet our responsibilities for Robert Service School students and for all of the students in the Yukon public school system.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I know a lot of people in Dawson are very unhappy with the problems that are occurring with a number of students, and it's specifically a number of students. We know the names of these students, but there isn't anyone there who can deal with them or cope with them.
So, we'll move on, but I want to make it abundantly clear, Mr. Chair, that the minister is not addressing her responsibilities in this regard. The matter was in check previously by previous officials in the department, but it is not being done now.
If I could just explore another area that is quite controversial in Dawson City with the minister, and ask her if she would be prepared to put to rest this issue. It's the design guidelines for the occupancy load of the Robert Service School.
When the school was originally designed, there was an occupancy load that it was designed to. All of that documentation is archived with the Government of the Yukon. The school was designed by Wood Gardener O'Neill, out of Edmonton. Would the minister kindly table, by way of legislative return, the original occupancy load of the Robert Service School - what it was designed to when it was originally constructed? - and further to that, any changes to the school that would change the occupancy load.
This issue is very controversial in our community. It's very controversial within her department. We seem to have numbers bouncing all over the wall. So, let's grab the bull by the horns and come up with the exact numbers this school was designed for, table the original documents and put the issue to bed once and for all. Will the minister undertake to do that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I think that what might be more helpful for the member opposite is if I provide him with a copy of the space analysis that the Department of Education is presently undertaking in cooperation with the Robert Service School council. I met with the school council recently, and we're sitting down to look not just at the initial design of the school, because the school has changed. And we're preparing a space analysis. I will be happy to provide that for the member when it's completed.
Mr. Jenkins: Not good enough, Madam Minister. We want to see the original design that that school was constructed to. Those are the documents that the department sent over - Government Services sent over - and the school was designed. Now, we know the occupancy load of portables and we are aware of what changes were made internally.
Now, we can come up with any figure with some study after the fact, but let's put on the table the original design of that school - what the student occupancy load was. In fact, the total load including all of the teachers - it was designed for 250. Now, will the minister please table those documents?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, when we do the space analysis, we'll be looking at the original design of the school as well as at the rural school facilities study and at the present use and capacity of the school. I cannot promise to table those documents. They're large and bulky and archived. I can find the information and provide a legislative return for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, for the minister's information, Mr. Chair, they are not large and bulky. They are very, very small. They are in the archives and they are there. Now, I'm looking for the original transmission letters from the architects after the school was designed and that were signed off by the Government of the Yukon indicating the total load. Now, those documents are there and I'm asking the minister to table them. Will she kindly table them? It's not a tough question. It's a very simple question. Will the minister undertake to do so, please?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I believe that the original school capacity in those documents was set at 300 students. I will provide a legislative return for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd very much like to see, Mr. Chair, a copy of the letter attached to the legislative return, because the occupancy load includes all of the teachers in that number, and that is quite specific in that letter. I was one of the individuals that sat in on the original school design. I am aware of these numbers, but I just want to settle the issue once and for all as to the capacity of Robert Service School.
So, with the legislative return, as long as the minister attaches the letter as to the occupancy load, I'd be quite prepared to accept that explanation, Mr. Chair. Is that the minister's undertaking?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I will provide what information is available for the member.
Ms. Duncan: I just had a couple of questions I'd like to return to for a moment, if I could. I was just going through my notes and realized that I had omitted to ask them earlier. When I asked the minister about the funding for the - I'm using the wrong term. It's not "youth investment fund", but the other one - Youth Works. For the projects that were discussed on Sunday, is the minister aware of any funding proposal similar to or from YES?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No, Mr. Chair. I'll have to provide information by way of legislative return for the member.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the gender equity policy implementation - where is that at? Could the minister advise, please?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There have been, and continue to be, gender equity in-services for school personnel, and there is, at present, implementation. There's been a contract let and, at three or four schools, the implementation of gender equity is proceeding. I can provide more complete details, either when we get into a line item or in debate tomorrow.
Ms. Duncan: The minister, I know, is anxious to proceed to line by line. I just would like to touch on one final subject. The minister may not have had an opportunity over the break to have a look at today's editorial in one of our local papers; however, there are a number of questions about the education system and its work within the community and with other parts of the government regarding how well we are serving our community.
The headline on the editorial is "Judge Lilles' candor is right on the money." The judge has made remarks that there was no evidence of any effective intervention by the school system, among others, and that a critic of the judge has expressed resentment.
However, in fact, the individual mentioned in the editorial is referred to as a "product" - and that word is emphasized - of his immediate community. It also goes on to say, "The horrors of this case have delivered a sobering message to the parents who are raising tomorrow's teenagers, the educators who are instructing them." Now, I realize this has only come out today, however, it's a strong and very powerful message. Is the minister prepared to deal with this issue of the failure of the school system to help people like this and why students are still falling through the cracks? Are there any changes planned to improve coordination of the department's efforts? Is the minister planning to respond to this - to the frank remarks from the judge and the frank remarks made in the public arena by this editor?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, our ongoing efforts as part of the government's action agenda to build healthy communities is to better coordinate the provision of social services in our communities. We are working on anti-poverty initiatives and youth strategy. We're working to better coordinate the work among Health and Social Services, Education, Justice, the Women's Directorate, the RCMP, as well as with community groups and with First Nations.
The complete transcript of the judge's remarks have only been made available to us today and we are reviewing them. We are, as I've just indicated, also continuing to have government departments strive to work better with one another as well as with organizations external to government.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, I listened to the minister's response and it was a suggestion of ongoing work and phrases and words we've heard before in this House. I don't hear mention of any real or concrete answers or suggestions that the public can point to and say, yes, the government has heard from the public and from the communities and is planning to respond to this. Perhaps the minister, once she's had an opportunity to review this issue in more detail, will be able to come back to the House with more concrete evidence of an effort to deal with these issues.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, the minister said she has transcripts of the judge's remarks, and I'd appreciate it if she could make those available to us in the opposition.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, I will do that.
Chair: Is there further general debate?
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Education Support Services
Chair: Is there general debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The education support services branch consists of the deputy minister's office, finance and systems unit, the human resources unit, communications policy and legislative support - all of whom are working extremely hard as we speak, Mr. Chair - information technology support services, and facilities and transportation. The branch provides administrative, financial, personnel support, communications, policy and legislative support, and facilities and transportation services to the department.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister just mentioned the facilities and transportation section. Has the school busing contract been awarded for this year?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, the letter went out today and the Whitehorse school busing contract has been awarded to Diversified Transportation Limited.
Mr. Phillips: Did we save any money within the projected amount of the budget? Could the minister give us an idea of what the projected amount was and the savings?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The amount of money saved was slightly over $100,000.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm sorry, did you just refer to the public schools line?
Chair: This is page 5-6, activities, administration, $362,000.
Administration in the amount of $362,000 agreed to
On Support Services
Support Services in the amount of $10,996,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there questions on the statistics?
Education Support Services in the amount of $11,358,000 agreed to
On Public Schools
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As members will see in the budget book, the public schools branch consists of five separate activity areas. These include: administration, program delivery, program support, special programs and French language programs. This branch forms the largest expenditure area in the budget. The total is $51,241,000.
The wage component of this branch is $45,154,000, which amounts to 88 percent of the entire branch budget. These are school-based employees, including teachers, education assistants, remedial tutors, native language instructors and school secretaries, which are budgeted in the program delivery line item.
Mr. Phillips: I know we've just concluded a contract with our teachers, but it's almost expired as of now. When will we go back to negotiations again with our teachers?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, we discussed that in general debate. I believe the expiry date for the contract is June 30, 1998, so notice to bargain could be served any time soon.
Adminstration in the amount of $1,953,000 agreed to
On Program Delivery
Program Delivery in the amount of $45,341,000 agreed to
On Program Support
Program Support in the amount of $2,064,000 agreed to
On French Language Programs
French Language Programs in the amount of $766,000 agreed to
On Special Programs
Mr. Phillips: This is one I would like to bring notice to the minister on. There's a seven-percent decrease and, in opposition, the minister said that although it didn't decrease, it wasn't funded enough under the Yukon Party government. So, I just want to put the minister on notice that we'll be following this one closely, because this trend is contrary to what the minister said when she was in opposition.
I will just put her on notice and we'll see if the minister will put her money where her mouth was - note I said "was", Mr. Chair. We'll see if this changes in the future.
Special Programs in the amount of $1,117,000 agreed to
Public Schools in the amount of $51,241,000 agreed to
On Advanced Education
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This branch is composed of three separate areas: administration, labour market development and training programs. The total branch budget of $16,375,000 is listed on page 5-16 of the main estimates.
There are a total of 26.36 full-time equivalents in this branch. This includes 10 apprentice positions, of which all are filled, and the use of summer staff associated with summer employment programs and a new instructor of youth exploring trades.
Mr. Phillips: A couple of questions here. One is the Yukon College concern about their budget. Does the minister have any future meetings with the college with respect to actions they might be taking to come in on budget?
The second one was a question that I asked in general debate, and I don't believe we received an answer to it yet, and that was the numbers for the YNTEP program. The minister was going to provide me with the breakdown of all the people who have entered YNTEP, where they are, how successful they are, who is in the program now and that kind of thing. I think I mentioned it, as well, in the technical debate, and the minister was going to provide that information for us.
My final question was - I still believe that a program like YNTEP, because it is such a critical program in our schools, deserves to be reviewed. It's been in place for several years, and I'd like to encourage the minister to conduct an independent review of the YNTEP program, to see how successful it's been in our Yukon schools. Is the minister prepared to do that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I have some responses for the member on that. Advanced education is currently negotiating a five-year YNTEP agreement with Yukon College and the University of Regina. Formal consultations regarding the program have taken place with CYFN and the Kaska First Nation. There is concurrence among all parties to extend the program. The constitution and role of the advisory committee is being reviewed as part of these discussions. The issues raised in the First Nations educational program review will be addressed by the new advisory committee.
The member also asked questions about the number of students in the program and what those students are doing now. At present, there are 10 first-year students, seven second-year students, eight third-year students, and seven fourth-year students in the program. Of the graduates of the program, there are now 21 graduates teaching in a classroom as of April 1998, and four graduates are working in a Yukon First Nation educational setting. The total numbers are 40 students having completed the YNTEP program, including the June 1998 graduates.
Another breakdown of the YNTEP graduates is as follows: 19 of them are employed in the elementary grades in seven different Yukon communities; two are employed in the secondary grades; five have returned to their home communities outside the Yukon, some after teaching in the Yukon for a period of time; four are working in an educational setting in the Yukon, and one has returned to Yukon College to enter another program.
Mr. Phillips: The minister said that after they looked at the review, there were going to be consultations with CYFN and one other group, but I didn't hear mention of school councils and schools that have the YNTEP teachers. Are they going to be included in the discussions of the effectiveness of the YNTEP program? Because I think that it is important to not just talk to the CYFN but to talk to the principals and the teachers and possibly the parents of students in the various schools, meaning the school councils.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, as the member may know, since I believe he was the Minister of Education when the First Nations educational review was undertaken, part of the work in reviewing the First Nations education program was to include looking at the Yukon native teacher education program. They did talk to school administrators and to school councils.
There is ongoing work whereby departmental officials do work with the school councils and the school administration. The member is quite correct that graduates of the program, school staff where graduates of the program are employed, and school councils need to be part of the dialogue in examining how the program can be enhanced.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I asked the minister earlier - I included a few questions and one of them was about the financial status of the college. I asked the minister if there were any other meetings that she's had with the college as a consequence of their statements about their budget problems. Have they had any meetings at all or any discussions about that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, and just to provide some further details on the line item before us, the funding to the college from the Department of Education consists of a $10-million base contribution as well as $320,000 for the bachelor of social work program and the YNTEP contributions. No reduction in funding has been reflected in these areas.
The college also receives services from other government departments in data processing and financial systems, mail processing and postage, investment services, building maintenance and utilities.
I do meet with the college and have ongoing discussions with them about their budgeting.
The Department of Community and Transportation Services also pays a grant-in-lieu of taxes to the City of Whitehorse on behalf of Yukon Place, which is the college compound as a whole, including the Yukon Archives and the Yukon Arts Centre, in the amount of $640,069.
Chair: Is it the members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We are on activities, administration.
Administration in the amount of $11,136,000 agreed to
On Labour Market Development
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could I just ask the minister if there are any new initiatives under this line item that we need to be aware of? I see there's no increase in funding but are there new initiatives, in light of Yukon's high unemployment rate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, in the labour market development activities, that includes a number of ongoing programs as well as employer needs surveys and skills inventories. The member is also aware that we are participating, as are all jurisdictions in Canada, in the youth employment strategy, which is part of both labour market development and training.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I was thinking that there's a growing number of displaced workers who do not fall in the youth category - those who are over the age of 50 and redundant for one reason or another - and I'm just wondering if there are any initiatives in this line item that might meet the needs of this strata, if you will, of our workforce?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, as the member is aware, because she was present at the press conference on January 24 when Canada and Yukon signed the labour market development agreement, there are a number of measures available for displaced workers. I see the member nodding her head, and I take it she doesn't want me to read into the record again the kinds of programs that are available under that, such as targeted wage subsidies, job creation partnerships, self-employment help and skills, loans and grants.
Labour Market Development in the amount of $3,062,000 agreed to
On Training Programs
Training Programs in the amount of $2,177,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there questions on the statistics?
Advanced Education in the amount of $16,375,000 agreed to
On Libraries and Archives
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There are four separate activities in this program area; they are administration, technical services, public library services and the Yukon Archives. Program activities in this program budget include such things as the provision of public library services, funding community library board to hire community librarians, the coordination of collections access with Yukon College, government and school libraries, administration of the Access to Information Act, preservation of Yukon government archival records and other Yukon documentary heritage, as well as working with First Nations to preserve documentary heritage.
I would also note for the members, although this might be more appropriate in the Yukon Archives line item, that there are some special displays and programs being prepared this year to commemorate the centennial anniversaries.
Ms. Duncan: I note in this section of line items that there is about a three-percent difference in public library services and Yukon Archives. Could the minister just explain how the general public will see the effect of that reduction? Will it be in the size of the collections or the stress level of staff who are doing more with less? How will the public see the effect of that reduction in spending?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The decrease of $23,000 that shows here was a base transfer of the lease costs for Teslin, in the amount of $12,000, and for Ross River, in the amount of $11,000, for those libraries. That amount is transferred to Government Services.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the minister for that explanation. The $5,000 reduction in Yukon Archives - is that one less computer, is it cataloguing a collection? How is that reduction being undertaken by the Archives?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, I just flipped to the line item there, Mr. Chair. The decrease of $5,020 is a reduction in staff costs at the archives, due to salary changes in permanent staff.
Administration in the amount of $264,000 agreed to
On Technical Services
Technical Services in the amount of $165,000 agreed to
On Public Library Services
Public Library Services in the amount of $1,057,000 agreed to
On Yukon Archives
Yukon Archives in the amount of $623,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there questions on the stats?
Are there questions on recoveries and revenue?
Libraries and Archives in the amount of $2,109,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Education in the amount of $81,083,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Chair: Is there general debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: On the total capital budget, I have some speaking notes which break it down by the four program areas. I can entertain questions now in general debate and then give that information as we approach the program areas.
Mr. Phillips: I have a question in general debate, then, regarding the tendering for the Old Crow school. We were assured that it would be a public tendering process for a contractor to do the work. It was sometime in April when they thought things would be happening and so, maybe if we could just have an update on when the tender will be showing up in the local newspapers and when we might expect to see the closing of the tender.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We had a meeting last Friday with a number of the contractors. It was quite well attended by a whole variety of contractors. At that meeting, we explained the basic principles that we were seeking to incorporate, particularly issues around local hire and chapter 22 provisions. We had some fairly frank discussion about what needed to be done. We are looking now, basically, probably on the 15th, to put out the tender, and that was because of the Easter long weekend; the decision was made that if we put it out tomorrow as we had projected, basically, people would have lost a number of days. As well, we want to do some refinement of the tender. Given a four-week kind of period, that would put it at sometime in early May for the closing of the tender.
There was quite a bit of interest. We had 20-some-odd contractors attend, and there was some fairly frank discussion about how the tendering would proceed.
We've had a lot of discussions with the Vuntut Gwitchin on ways to maximize local input, local participation in the construction process.
Mr. Phillips: Is it the intent still, then, to go to a tendering process by which there will be a main contractor who will receive the job, as opposed to project management?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, we would be seeking a general contractor, and part of the overall principle of the contract would be to have some kind of agreement in place with the Vuntut Gwitchin on labour issues and things of that nature.
Mr. Phillips: Can the minister confirm that many of the pilings were put in the wrong place and are going to have to be redone? Can the minister confirm that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: To the best of my knowledge, all the pilings were put in the right place - we certainly haven't had any indication of that. If the member has information in that regard, I'd certainly appreciate it, because the information that we've had has been that the pilings have been put in correctly and in a timely manner.
Mr. Phillips: No, I have no information about that at all. I was just testing the minister to see whether or not - maybe I might stumble upon something. There might have been an accident. It was just a test, Mr. Chair, and the minister, fortunately for him, passed it; unfortunately for me, he passed it as well.
Chair: We will see on April 30 if everybody is still in this good a spirit.
On Education Support Services
On Staff Support, Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The total capital budget of $2,030,000 in the education support services provides for the salary of three staff associated with capital project management, the provision of funding for support services to the other branches, such as computer maintenance, renovations, repairs and property management.
Staff Support, Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $300,000 agreed to
On Computer Labs Upgrading
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, several parents from two different schools have expressed concern to me regarding computer labs in the schools. In one school, the issue is a well-equipped computer lab but no appropriate instructor. In the second is an extraordinary expense on the computer lab with the choice of - I don't want to get into naming specific programs - but a choice of a Mercedes Benz type of computer program when what the school needed and required was more the Volkswagen model. The computer labs upgrading expenditure has decreased. Is there any sort of assessment undertaken by the department as to what's in place in which schools and how the computer technology that we have in place in schools might be better utilized?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The computer lab upgrading is part of an ongoing five-year capital plan, which exists to accommodate computer curriculum teaching, including workstation areas and data wiring.
There are staff who help with the computer curriculum, as well as maintaining and upgrading the computer labs in the schools. The 1998-99 work includes computer lab upgrades in Holy Family and Hidden Valley schools, as well as enhancement in various schools. So, this is an ongoing function to maintain computer labs within all schools.
Ms. Duncan: The minister, in her response, made reference to a five-year capital plan. Well, computer technology and computer programs and the cost of computers themselves have changed a great deal in five years and will, presumably, also in the next five years. What I specifically asked of the minister is if there is an assessment done? At any point in time, does the Department of Education sit down and say, "Okay, what have we got in what schools? What programs are we using? Does our instruction level match the programs that we've got in the schools and the facilities we have got in the schools? Are we spending this money appropriately or could it be better spent?"
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: First of all, this line item is specifically for the computer labs. There is ongoing work and ongoing evaluation of the computer program. The department maintains a program of phasing in, replacing and upgrading of computer systems for all areas, because, as the member indicates, computer technology is something that changes from year to year.
Mr. Phillips: This is about computers, so I'm going to throw this question in here, and it is about the year 2000 in the schools and in the Education department. Are we prepared for the year 2000 and the problems that it's going to bring to our computer systems, and is there a document within the government that lays out the problems or the things that we have to do to be ready for the year 2000? Is there such a document and, if there is, could the minister provide a copy to us in the opposition?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The Department of Education is addressing the necessary upgrades for converting to the year 2000 and, at the risk of having the Minister of Government Services provide detailed information from his extensive Government Services briefing notes, I will say to the member that I know there is further information available, and I'm sure he can follow up with the Minister of Government Services in the Government Services debate.
Mr. Phillips: To save us a lot of time, and keep us on our 35-day schedule, would it be possible that the Minister of Education provide us with that document? Then, we could bypass that part of the discussions with the Minister of Government Services because, as the Minister of Education has admitted, the discussions sometimes get prolonged, and we do have a time limit on our session. So, if we could possibly get that information from the Minister of Education in the next day or two, that would be most appreciated.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, in our true collegial fashion, I will endeavour to provide further information to the member opposite.
Computer Labs Upgrading in the amount of $30,000 agreed to
On Instructional Computer Enhancements
Instructional Computer Enhancements in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Air Quality/Energy Management Projects
Mr. Phillips: I wonder if the minister could just read into the record what these line items are for the benefit of the members in the House.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair. The air quality line item for this budget year includes the Whitehorse Elementary School upgrade.
Mr. Phillips: What's left to be done? When I was the Minister of Education, we were doing an extensive upgrade at that school, and I think we spent about $50,000 a year. My understanding is that we completed that upgrade. I think in a two- or three-year period, it had been completed. So, what are we doing now? Are we upgrading the air control units that we put in a few years ago, or what are we doing?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I do have a history of that project, which, as the member indicates, did begin prior to 1996. I believe that this amount will complete the work on the Whitehorse Elementary School's ventilation upgrade.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I'll have to go back in Hansard to check it. I don't begrudge the people in Whitehorse Elementary School making sure they have good quality air, but I kind of remember reading into the record sometime in the past that this $100,000, or whatever it was at that time, was the final amount and completed the upgrade. Now we're being told that this completes the upgrade.
I thought it was done. In fact, I'm almost certain that it was a year or two after the upgrade was completed that there was no money in the line item for Whitehorse Elementary. It went into other schools because Whitehorse Elementary was complete. Are we maybe refurbishing or replacing some units that we might have had problems with that we put in in the first place, or am I mistaken that I had at some time in the past said that I thought this was all finished?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I believe that the problems at Whitehorse Elementary School with relation to the ventilation were not completely resolved and further complaints were made, so an investigation of the indoor air quality problems was undertaken at the school. The most significant problem involved the lack of proper exhaust venting from the north wing. The remaining concerns involved the maintenance procedures, such as duct cleaning, and changes to operational procedures, such as vehicles parked near air intakes leaving their motors running. Steps have been taken to address these problems.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, when we enjoyed our technical briefing from the department, there was discussion about energy management projects. The schools that were able to extract savings by instituting these energy management programs were able to retain those funds within their schools and spend them on various programs. Does the minister or the department have an accounting that they could send us of what the savings were by school? I'm not questioning how the school then spent the money; I'm just interested in how much each school was individually able to save.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We do have that information available. I don't have it present with me in the House this evening, and I'll provide it for the member.
Air Quality/Energy Management Projects in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Grounds Improvement and Landscaping
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we had a ministerial statement a few weeks ago and it was the Minister of Education who made the announcement about working with, I believe it was Challenge Yukon, on allowing individuals to work in a landscaping program, and it was an enhancement to the boxes that Challenge has done in Whitehorse.
Is there an effort to also make use of the talent and skill base that we are working with in Challenge Yukon to work as part of this program as well, to tie the two together? Is there any effort made to do that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, we have not looked at involving Challenge in the work that's done under the grounds improvement and landscaping. This work is done in coordination with Government Services and includes playground upgrades and such things as fence repairs and new miscellaneous grounds and landscaping projects.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I raised this before and I'm just following up. In Riverdale, there's an organization called Riverdale Blooms and they're working on beautifying Riverdale, the boulevard and near the school, and they wanted to work with the Department of Education on this project. I just want to make sure I get my dibs in here again with respect to any work that might take place on the boulevard, that it be coordinated with the Riverdale Blooms committee so that it can be a coordinated approach to beautifying one of the most beautiful places in the City of Whitehorse, Riverdale.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, and the Department of Education wants to work with Riverdale Blooms. I can tell the member that officials from the department have been in contact with that organization and will continue to work with them.
Grounds Improvement and Landscaping in the amount of $150,000 agreed to
On Capital Maintenance Renovations
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: These renovations include various projects, such as flooring, interior and exterior painting and upgrades in various schools.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could I just ask the minister to send us over a detailed breakdown of those expenditures by school? We may have had some of it in the technical briefing, but could she just send us over the detailed listing at some point?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'll just provide the information now. In Carcross, flooring for $10,000; Del Van Gorder interior painting for $45,000; Eliza Van Bibber exterior painting for $32,000 and intercom replacement for $20,000; Golden Horn flooring corridors for $25,000; Grey Mountain exit stair upgrades for $15,000; J.V. Clark boilers upgrade for $20,000; Jack Hulland roof upgrade phase 2 for $250,000; Robert Service interior painting is $10,000; Selkirk Elementary exterior painting for $10,000; Takhini Elementary exterior painting for $40,000; Takhini Elementary gym floor refinishing for $18,000; Tantalus exterior painting the old wing for $22,000; and Vanier school, flooring for classrooms for $30,000, small gym floor refinishing for $10,000, and window replacement for $15,000; and at Whitehorse Elementary, flooring for various classrooms for $5,000; for a total of $597,000.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, last year during the Education debate, we had a lengthy discussion about letting these tenders out for these projects as soon as possible in order that the work could be completed over the summer, and that may have happened with some schools. Unfortunately, Jack Hulland School was not a good example of this. There were a lot of problems in September. Students were filing into school and people were pouring hot tar on the roof, and I notice that the minister indicated that the phase 2 of the roofing of Jack Hulland School was going to be undertaken. Do we have assurances that this work and all of the projects will be completed during the summer months when students are not in school?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have been assured by my officials that the tendering work is well underway. The Department of Education is working with Government Services and we will have those contracts out shortly with the hope of having all the work completed prior to the beginning of the school year.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the minister for that. Just let it be on the record that I will be driving by Jack Hulland School all summer watching for this roof work, because I don't want to see it done in September, when little children are going back into school. It should be done by then.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Does it clear?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the note should be also with respect to flooring, in terms of how that flooring is laid - in reference to air quality and so on. I thank the minister for the assurance that the projects will be completed this summer, well before students return, and I look forward to that.
Capital Maintenance Renovations in the amount of $600,000 agreed to
On Property Management
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The facilities management agreement with Government Services will continue for a third year. In the 1998 fiscal year the capital vote of $800,000 provides for approximately 600 weeks of work in the private sector. This line item includes such work as snow removal, grounds maintenance and general maintenance of buildings.
Ms. Duncan: The minister didn't indicate why there was a particular increase in this line item. Could I also ask her, before the Minister of Government Services attempts to respond, to indicate which department is responsible for doing an assessment of how the service agreement with Government Services is working?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The jobs are assigned to Government Services by a client-generated work order. Government Services then determines what resource they have to accomplish the jobs, and, based on that data, determines what task should be put out to tender.
This line item and the property management that it includes is all for school buildings.
Ms. Duncan: I understand the minister's response, however, I don't think it answered the two questions. Why has there been an increase in this particular line item? Are we spending more money? Was there an increase in costs? Why was there an increase in this line item?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The amount was increased because of the increasing needs and to cover the facility maintenance. It includes not just grounds maintenance, but custodial services and building operations.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, custodial services through Government Services is a relatively new arrangement, and I was wondering who was going to do an assessment of that arrangement. The minister, in her opening remarks, said that the service agreement would be renewed. I'm just wondering when it's going to be assessed and by which department.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The Department of Education and the Department of Government Services will be going over that agreement to assess how it's been working this month. So, the two departments will be working collaboratively on that.
Property Management in the amount of $800,000 agreed to
Education Support Services in the amount of $2,030,000 agreed to
On Public Schools
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The public schools branch is the bulk of the capital budget for the Department of Education. Some of the capital projects budgeted are $300,000 for the upgrading of F.H. Collins School; the Old Crow School replacement, which this year is a $5,210,000 project, site improvement and recreational development.
Various school facilities alterations includes the school-initiated renovations, and there is design work for the Mayo school.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could the minister indicate when the design work for the Mayo school is going to be tendered? Is there a date set for that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The design process will commence in September 1998. The funding in the line item will cover planning and design for the Mayo school. The project planning and consultation phase of the project has not yet started. This is only the first week of the budget that we're debating, and will include planning design and working with the community on assessing needs and doing the design development phase.
On Facility Construction and Maintenance
On F.H. Collins School Upgrading
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The planned projects in this line item include boiler and sprinkler system upgrade as well as flooring replacement in the library corridor.
F.H. Collins School Upgrading in the amount of $300,000 agreed to
On Mayo Community School
Mayo Community School in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
On Modular Classrooms
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The modular classroom line item includes the old Teen Parent Centre. The department is looking at disposal of the portable complex and the relocation, as well, of the riverfront program, which may require portables.
Modular Classrooms in the amount of $150,000 agreed to
On Special Needs Infrastructure
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: These projects are typically identified on short notice. We don't have a list available, but they typically address renovations, such as creating special needs washrooms or resource rooms and other projects.
Special Needs Infrastructure in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Whitehorse Grade Reorganization - Christ the King Elementary School
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The line item for Christ the King Elementary School is associated with the Whitehorse grade reorganization project and includes renovation of the industrial arts area to create two classrooms.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, just for the sake of brevity, I would ask the minister to re-read my remarks regarding the fact that Whitehorse grade reorganization is not complete at Porter Creek Secondary.
I still believe that it will be more appropriate to put the $400,000 that's allocated for the finishing of Porter Creek Secondary School - and completing its rebirth as a secondary school would have been more appropriate as another line item under the Whitehorse grade reorganization.
Whitehorse Grade Reorganization - Christ the King Elementary School in the amount of $250,000 agreed to
On Site Improvement and Recreation Development
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This capital project line item will be used to construct necessary site improvements at various schools. It will include such things as bus drop-off areas, public and staff parking and paved play areas. The work associated with this line item for the 1998-99 budget is $400,000 for student, public and staff parking at Porter Creek Secondary School, the bus drop-off, pedestrian-control sidewalks and paved basketball courts. As well, $200,000 has been allocated for parking and bus drop-off, parent drop-off and a paved play area for Christ the King Elementary School.
Site Improvement and Recreation Development in the amount of $600,000 agreed to
On Various School Facilities Alterations
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The line item includes various school-initiated renovations, upgrades and miscellaneous small projects.
Various School Facilities Alterations in the amount of $450,000 agreed to
On Chief Zzeh Gittlit School Replacement
Chief Zzeh Gittlit School Replacement in the amount of $5,210,000 agreed to
On Distance Education
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The distance education line item includes establishing infrastructure within rural schools to facilitate the delivery of specialized high school courses in small rural schools.
Distance Education in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Instructional Equipment
On School Based Equipment Purchase
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: These funds are provided annually to permit individual schools to purchase new and replacement instructional equipment and furnishings. The type of equipment purchased would include audiovisual, technology, education, science lab and classroom equipment, kindergarten equipment, physical education equipment and classroom furniture.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, that's quite a decrease. I wonder if the minister could elaborate on why that has decreased.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Essentially it is due to grade reorganization, Mr. Chair. The capital budget does contain a lot of variables in it and isn't necessarily going to remain the same from year to year. Last year, there was a considerable sum of money spent because of the grade reorganization project to upgrade a number of learning resource centres.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, are these funds dispensed by the superintendents, based upon applications from schools? Or how are they disbursed? Who decides which school gets what money?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps it would help if I inform the member that this line item covers expenditures for learning resource centre equipment, superintendents' contingency, the technology in all schools and school purchases.
Ms. Duncan: So, Mr. Chair, what the minister has just indicated is that this is the sole purview of the superintendents then, based upon applications from individual schools. The superintendents of education make the decisions about which schools, which learning resource centres, get these funds. They're not based on so much per school or a formula arrangement, as is other funding. This is solely the purview of the superintendents.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I take some exception to the member characterizing the superintendents' expenditures of funds as a slush fund, as I heard some of the comments coming from members opposite.
The school purchases of equipment is $240,000 of the total $350,000; the technology in all schools is $70,000; the superintendent's contingency is $30,000, and the learning resource centre is $10,000.
Ms. Duncan: Then, $30,000 is at the discretion of the superintendents; $10,000 is for the learning resource centre, and for the other figures the minister has mentioned, she still hasn't indicated who makes the decision. Do schools apply on an individual basis for these funds? How is the money spent?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The funds for school purchases, which is in the amount of $240,000, as I indicated earlier, are allocated directly to the schools, and are intended to be spent at the discretion of the principal, as part of the school plan, approved by the school council.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I just have one question. The minister said "allocated to the schools." By whom? Who makes the decision which schools will receive how much money? I realize the principals and the school councils spend the money. Who makes the decision as to how much they're spending?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the funding for school-based equipment purchases is allocated to schools based on the student population and a funding formula, according to need.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister has just indicated that there is a funding formula - that there's a formula used, that it's not a decision made by a committee or an individual. Will the minister then provide the opposition with that funding formula?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I'll be happy to make information available on that.
School Based Equipment Purchase in the amount of $350,000 agreed to
On Special Education
On Special Education Equipment
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This funding is used to provide for specialized equipment for students with special needs, limited mobility, impairments and communication disorders.
Special Education Equipment in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
Public Schools in the amount of $7,680,000 agreed to
Chair: Order please. The time being 9:30 p.m., the Chair will now leave the Chair and report to the House.
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 9, First Appropriation Act, 1998-99, and I now report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole? Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
The time being 9:31, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:31 p.m.