Monday, December 14, 1998 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed with prayers at this time.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask members in the Legislature to notice in the gallery the visitors from Yukon College's English-as-a-second-language class, with their instructor Esther Chassé. The students are from around the world - Thailand, Germany, Sri Lanka, Chile, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Switzerland, Mexico, Japan and the Philippines - and they are here to view our proceedings. Wish them welcome, please.
Speaker: Are there any reports or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the report of the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have a legislative return for tabling.
I also have for tabling the Yukon training strategy.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I have for tabling the annual report of the Yukon Housing Corporation, and also the annual report of the Liquor Corporation.
Speaker: 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?
Training strategy (revised)
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am pleased to inform the House of the fulfilment of a major policy commitment our government made in the budget speech of March 1997.
Following extensive consultation, a revised Yukon training strategy is now in place that will help meet the goal of diversifying the economy to create new jobs and economic opportunities.
To prepare Yukon people for a changing workplace, this strategy emphasizes training trust funds, opportunities for youth and a more representative public sector workforce. The training strategy calls for reforms to the apprenticeship system, particularly to include more women and First Nations people.
A recent successful example of this approach involved a partnership between Yukon College and two Yukon road builders, Pelly Construction and Golden Hill Ventures. In August, 10 residents of the Southern Tutchone Tribal Council area took classroom and workshop instruction in industrial and safety subjects in Whitehorse. They then undertook 200 hours of supervised instruction at the Alaska Highway reconstruction site near the Donjek River. By November, all 10 students had completed the required training hours and all 10 were offered jobs with the contractors they had been training with.
The revised training strategy will provide additional opportunities for low-income earners, social assistance recipients, seniors, persons with disabilities and others who require training. This strategy also involves extending our commitment to training trust funds. We know that this approach works. The creation of a training trust fund with the South Yukon Forest Corporation, for example, played a significant role in creating 26 new sawmill jobs in Watson Lake this fall.
In the next two fiscal years, we will use trust funds to meet training needs in various sectors, such as forestry, mining, agriculture and the arts industry. As we demonstrated recently at Carmacks and Watson Lake, communities can also take advantage of training trust funds.
As members are aware from the announcement I made last week about the training trust fund agreement with the three women's transition homes, such funds can also be used to train employees of non-governmental organizations.
Another goal of the revised Yukon training strategy is to focus on training and employment opportunities for young people. This involves many different elements, such as removing cultural and social barriers, developing a skills Yukon program, and developing a mentoring program to put First Nations youth into entry-level positions in the private sector.
A number of initiatives are already being undertaken by the Public Service Commission to address the goal of establishing a representative public sector workforce. These include developing a leadership program, focused particularly on women and First Nations, who are currently under-represented in public service management positions.
The completion of land claims and self-government agreements is also creating new employment opportunities and presenting new challenges. As part of the revised training strategy, all public employees will receive land claims training, and secondment arrangements will be pursued between the Yukon and First Nation governments.
Mr. Speaker, Yukon people are experiencing a high degree of change in the job market, due to both technological change and economic restructuring. Such changes require expanded educational and training opportunities.
This revised Yukon training strategy represents a practical and flexible response to that need. As the result of consultations with a broad base of Yukon groups and individuals, it will be a valuable tool to help Yukon people prepare for the challenges and opportunities of a new millennium.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Phillips: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus, and the office of the official opposition, I'm pleased to take this opportunity to respond to the minister's statement here today.
Last March, the minister announced the release of the draft revision of the Yukon training strategy. At that time, the minister stated that the training strategy will help to ensure that Yukon people have the skills to take advantage of emerging job opportunities.
Well, Mr. Speaker, nine months have passed since then, and in those nine months, Yukoners have continued to watch our economy go down the toilet.
Over the last two years, we've seen record levels of unemployment, and a large exodus of Yukoners who have left the territory, because of this government's inability to create an economic climate that will attract investment to the territory.
With housing starts down some 50 to 60 percent, mining exploration down dramatically, and forestry almost at a standstill, many of our skilled trades people have chosen to leave the territory, with many more on the move as we speak. I hope, Mr. Speaker, that we're not just training Yukoners for Alberta jobs. As I stated last spring, we're in full support of a long-term training strategy that will train Yukoners to put Yukoners back to work in the Yukon.
With changing demands in the workplace, I believe it's important to review and revise training strategies to ensure that our employment opportunities are made available to Yukon people territory wide. But while we welcome every opportunity for Yukon people to develop new skills, I believe it is every bit as important that there are jobs waiting for the Yukoners at the end of the road. I say this, because there are no job opportunities available for Yukoners these days, and becoming fewer and fewer each day. Contrary to what this government believes, Yukoners are having tough times and are choosing to leave as a result of not being able to make ends meet.
So while a training strategy is a good thing and something that we need to build upon, the strategy will not be very relevant if there are no jobs available to Yukoners as is currently the case in the territory.
I'd like to ask the minister, Mr. Speaker, if she could perhaps tell me in more detail how the strategy addresses the issue of accountability. For example, the minister mentioned some past successes of these funds in providing training opportunities, and I'd like to ask the minister if this has led to employment opportunities for Yukoners. Maybe she could give us some specifics on that.
The minister made reference to a couple of success stories with respect to the partnership between Yukon College and two of our road builders, and I understand that some of those people who participated in these programs were concerned about changes that weren't going to be made to the Employment Standards Act to allow one to pay a trainee less than you pay a qualified employee. There were some concerns, Mr. Speaker, expressed by the contractors with respect to training these individuals and having to pay them full wages while they are being trained.
Mr. Speaker, I'd also like to know if there exists a process for monitoring these successes and how these training initiatives might be improved. I'd also like to ask the minister if these newly trained workers will be replacing Yukoners who are already trained and qualified to do the job. If we're just robbing Peter to pay Paul, then what are we accomplishing?
I have to tell the minister that I've heard from several people who tried to get jobs on the road building contracts, who are Yukoners who have been here for some time, and because there were only a limited number of jobs available, they didn't qualify. Yet, we're training more people for those very jobs.
Perhaps the minister could provide more information on how trained workers become eligible for positions?
I was pleased to read the government is committed to continuing the training trust funds, to create a new one or to enhance existing funds, such as the Watson Lake training trust fund, but in reviewing how much money's been spent on the various trust funds, I couldn't help but notice that the fund for Watson Lake only had $1,000 of the original $500,000 remaining. That was back in July and perhaps the minister could tell us if the government intends to replenish this fund or if she could just provide a list of training initiatives that have been undertaken over the past year and any plans for the future.
Again, Mr. Speaker, I would like to offer our support for the training strategy and look forward to reviewing the report in greater detail, but more importantly, I look forward to hearing about this government's plans to create jobs and economic opportunities for the Yukoners who are trained already and those whom they plan to train so that our workforce can remain in the territory ...
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Mr. Phillips: ... and not have to leave, as so many already have.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I'd also like to note that in the spring of 1997, this NDP government promised Yukoners a training strategy. Finally, nine months late, we're seeing the delivery.
I also have a question, which the Member for Riverdale North had started to outline for the minister regarding the applicability of the fair wage schedule to training opportunities, and I'm sure the minister will respond to that in her response today.
I would outline very briefly, rather than get into my detailed questions on the training strategy, a specific situation for the minister.
I had a gentleman in my office this morning who has had a long-standing concern about training offered for oil burner and heating system repair. Forty-five people took a course on this issue from Yukon College this spring. The Dawson City Chamber of Commerce worked with Yukon College, also, to offer this course in Dawson City. The Yukon Housing Corporation apparently has a lot of money to spend on helping Yukoners achieve safe, energy-saving homes.
We have a new school in Old Crow. The custodians need training on a new type of heating system different from previous schools. Our housing stock overall in the Yukon is in dire need of repair and upgrading, including the heating system. Community and Transportation Services inspections say it's not our problem. They don't have an inspector on staff on this issue. Advanced education, because they aren't getting referrals from the inspectors, aren't seeing the need for continuous training. The contracting community does see a need for training in this area.
We have the need. I think that that much should be clear to the minister. We also have the expertise. This gentleman, in particular, has a lifetime of experience and has his ticket or certification in these areas. We've had all kinds of talk and all kinds of documents. How does the message get through to the government? What in this strategy and what in this document the minister gave the House today will enable this gentleman to work toward meeting a real need in the Yukon? Perhaps the minister could answer that specific situation.
I will prepare other detailed questions for the minister and submit them in writing to her on the strategy released today.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The leader of the third party spoke about the training strategy being nine months late. Mr. Speaker, in the last nine months, our government has been speaking to business, to unions, to women's organizations, social service agencies, economic advisory groups and tourism associations about the training strategy. We've received a lot of helpful input and we've been doing a lot and have now brought forward a good, updated training strategy for the House.
This government plans to support Yukon training and the economy.
The members opposite asked for some details. As I spoke about initially, the Watson Lake sawmill has opened up, and we've seen 26 jobs there. That's been supported by a training trust fund.
We have an oil and gas training trust fund, where we're training workers and holding workshops so that people around the Yukon can be ready for industry development in that sector. We're supporting economic diversification through trade and investment and through holding stable budgets, in both operations and maintenance, and in capital.
The Yukon Party critic talked about the Alberta work force. Well, under the Yukon Party government, we saw Alberta jobs at Whitehorse General Hospital. Mr. Speaker, our government has promoted...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: ...local hire, we have promoted the work of the Yukon hire commission. We've seen a substantial increase in Yukon jobs, and the labour force is bigger today than it was in 1993, when the Yukon Party was in government -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order.
I would ask the members of both sides to stop their heckling, please.
The Minister of Education, please continue.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, it's very important that a Yukon training strategy be updated, particularly as we're approaching a new millennium. We have to adapt to a changing workplace.
We have apprenticeship reform; we're promoting modularized training in many areas, and working to support trainees in a whole range of economic sectors.
We also have full accountability in this House, Mr. Speaker, and I would be happy to report back on additional details for information the members opposite may question in budget debate, and in this House.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, grid extension
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister responsible for the Energy Corporation.
Several weeks ago, when the president of the corporation appeared in this House, we learned that the corporation was pursuing a grid extension from the Mayo dam to Dawson City. On December 9, Mr. Speaker, we received a copy of a letter from the City of Dawson to the president of Yukon Energy Corporation that outlines Dawson's understanding of the proposed grid expansion.
One is that Yukon Energy Corporation's rate of return will be lowered, so that ratepayers do not see the increase due to the capital cost of the project. Dawson commercial users would see an immediate decrease in power rates, and residential users who don't benefit from rate relief would also see a decrease.
Diesel generators could be relocated and downsized in about four years, and the City of Dawson would be compensated $80,000 to $100,000 a year for the loss of waste heat from the generators. And, Mr. Speaker, it would be approximately eight years before Yukon ratepayers would see any decrease in rates.
My question to the minister is, is this a fair representation of what Yukon Energy Corporation is proposing to the City of Dawson?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, the member heard the comments of the chair of the board, Mr. Wells, when he was in here. Their outlook as a board is they look toward this particular initiative. Number one, I can just read Hansard back to the member from that testimony on November 16, where he said that their criteria are that number one, it has to be economic, and number two is that it has to reduce costs. It also has to have a positive economic outlook for them, and the board, as he said on that day, will be looking at mitigating any short-term impact on ratepayers. I know that they've had a number of discussions with the community of Dawson City, with the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in, with the Village of Mayo and the Nacho Nyak Dun, and they are still doing due diligence. They have made absolutely no decision on the particular initiative.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, by referring to this letter of December 9 that went to the president, a copy of which we received, it seems to me that they are well on the way to this grid and not still deciding whether it should be going ahead or not. It has been several weeks since the president appeared in the House.
Mr. Speaker, while the power line from Mayo to Dawson may appear to favour Dawson City ratepayers, it doesn't appear to make sense economically for the territory as a whole. The Mayo dam doesn't have sufficient power to be able to energize the line and provide hydro power to Dawson without continuing to run the diesel generators to stabilize the load. Furthermore, Yukon ratepayers will, in effect, be paying $21 million in capital costs to save about $1 million a year in diesel fuel in order that Dawson ratepayers would enjoy cheaper rates than the rest of the Yukon. This would mean rate zones in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker.
Does the minister not agree that that's what this indicates? And is he in favour of separate rate zones for the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party has called the idea that the board of the Energy Corporation is looking at pursuing - and I must reiterate that there has been absolutely no decision made and the chair of the board made that very concrete in this House - "a grid to nowhere". They've called Dawson City and Mayo "nowhere" and insulted the people of those two communities. I think they should think this thing through before they try to heighten issues around this particular issue that's going through due diligence. The board chair told the members opposite themselves that there has been no decision made. So, before they call Mayo and Dawson "nowhere", they should wait until there's a proper due diligence done on the issues. The board chair made it very clear that he would be more than prepared to brief the members opposite on all the issues surrounding this particular conceptual idea at this point.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, what we have here is the minister insulting the intelligence of all Yukoners when he is trying to portray this as economically viable when, in fact, I'm sure he knows that that's not the case.
What we're going to end up with is doing something that we moved away from many years ago and that's creating different rate zones in the Yukon. The rate base in Dawson can't hope to repay the capital that's going to go into this project. If this project is so viable, why does the Energy Corporation have to go out and buy endorsements, like they're trying to buy from the City of Dawson and the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in as well?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I don't know what the member is ranting about. Let me run through it again.
First of all, as a policy matter, this government is committed to rate equalization in the communities. I'm not trying to convince anybody that it's viable. There's a lot of work being done on that particular issue to do due diligence very thoroughly.
For the member opposite to say that consulting and talking with the communities of Mayo and Dawson, which he's already labeled as "nowhere", is, I think, quite insulting to those Yukoners. I think it's prudent for the board chair and the members of the board and the corporation to go out and have extensive discussion even when there are ideas of a conceptual nature being bandied about because the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in, Nacho Nyak Dun, the village and the City of Dawson have all wanted to participate in the thinking around these decisions.
I see nothing wrong with that and I think it's appropriate for the corporation and the board to do that kind of work.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, grid extension
Mr. Ostashek: For the minister to stand there and try to portray that this grid is just in the conceptual stage is utter nonsense. He knows for a fact that all the numbers were crunched back in 1990 by the former NDP government, right down to where they knew what the cost of the grid was and how much it would have to be subsidized to make it economical. That was eight years ago.
The letter from the City of Dawson in reply to the president says, "I apologize for the delay in getting this letter of support to you for the Mayo-Dawson grid connection, and I will, however, caution that that support is based on the current guarantees based in this letter."
As I said, this grid was priced out in 1990 and there was a substantial amount of money that was going to be required to subsidize it to make it economically viable. I would like to ask the minister today if he would relate to this House how much is going to be required in subsidization to make this grid economically viable.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, the chair of the board was in this House, giving testimony to the members opposite as a witness. On November 16, at that evening meeting, he said that this project would not get board approval if it's not an economic project. So you can rest assured of that. He said that to the member opposite. He also said that this project is far from a "go" decision. What he was saying was that he wanted to put the project through an appropriate level of scrutiny from a financial perspective.
I invite the members opposite to discuss this further with the board chair. We, as a government, have said the same thing to the corporation, that we would like to see any conceptual initiative such as this one put through a consultation with the communities and put through rigorous due diligence.
From an economic perspective, the member opposite was also told by the board chair that since this idea was looked at eight years ago, the cost of diesel has gone up dramatically. For the last eight years, the growth in Dawson has been about seven percent, on average, per year. That's what the member opposite was told by the Energy Corporation Board when it was in here.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'd just like to say to the minister that just because he says something on the floor of this House, doesn't make it fact. In fact, it's a long way from it in many, many instances.
Mr. Speaker, the fact remains that the hydro grid extension cannot carry the community of Dawson without running the diesels. And the letter that we received on December 9 shows that it's far past the conceptual stage.
Further to that, Mr. Speaker, we know that it's going to cost between $5 million and $7 million of subsidization from somewhere to make this grid economically viable.
Further to that, Mr. Speaker, the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in were given a paper this weekend with a paragraph in it that outlines the economic opportunities of small contracts in surveying, and small construction jobs on this grid. So, Mr. Speaker, I say to the minister it's gone much further than just a conceptual plan.
I ask the minister again -
Speaker: The member's time has expired.
Hon. Mr. Harding:Mr. Speaker, I can only say to the member again that the member's made his views known about something that's not even been subjected yet to full due diligence.
He said that the grid would be a grid to nowhere. Thus he's determining that Dawson and Mayo are nowhere. I can't share his view.
What I will say, Mr. Speaker, is that we believe, and we've said to the utility, that they've got to do appropriate due diligence. Part of that is consulting with the community about all of the issues - Nacho Nyak Dun, the Village of Mayo, City of Dawson, Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in - about the costs associated with such a project, about the potential risks, as well as the potential economic impacts of a positive nature.
All of this work has got to be done, and the corporation's out there talking to the public that owns the utility. I see nothing wrong with that. It's still got to be subjected to rigorous due diligence.
Speaker: The minister's time has expired.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm not sure whether the minister means they're out there consulting or buying the endorsement of this line. And it seems to be the NDP way: to try and buy endorsements for their programs.
Mr. Speaker, Dawson was against this until the Energy Corporation sweetened the pot with these points that are put in this letter of December 9.
Mr. Speaker, this thing is so far from making economic sense that I'd like to ask the minister: does he believe that they would get Utilities Board approval for this concept?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, the question is completely hypothetical. Appropriate due diligence hasn't even been done yet.
Mr. Speaker, I find it somewhat disconcerting that the member opposite would assume that these fine people, these citizens of the territory, would have such little integrity that they could be, by his own words, "bought off". I think that they have more respect and concern for the Yukon than to simply throw a few bucks on the table and be bought off. I think that it's inappropriate for him to undermine Yukon people who want to participate in decisions that affect them, and I think it belittles the...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Hon. Mr. Harding: ... contributions that they can make.
Now, the Yukon Energy Corporation Board is consulting and discussing with Yukoners in Dawson and Mayo. We as a government don't believe Dawson and Mayo are nowhere, like the member opposite does. We think they have a responsible role to play, and we think it's a welcome approach for the utility to go out and talk to the people who own the utility about conceptual ideas like this one. I can't see the problem with that.
Question re: Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders Act
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Justice on the Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders Act. Last January, a Yukon mother had obtained a maintenance order in our Territorial Court for the support of her child, and the order was obtained against the Austrian father of the child. An application was made under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders Act to register the Yukon order in Austria, but the Austrians wanted the orders translated into German, and the NDP government told the mother that she would have to foot the bill for the translation.
Now, the minister had been made aware of the problem. Did the minister sanction this action by her staff?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As the member opposite knows, the accountability in this House is that ministers of government do answer for the actions of their department. In this case, as in others, I am responsible for the maintenance enforcement. The reciprocal enforcement order, as the member says, was sent over to the Austrian government. They expressed a problem with it, which they then sent back to the Yukon.
Mr. Cable: Well, let's fill in the blanks. Let's say that the minister did, in fact, sanction the action taken by her staff. Now, this woman was barely getting by, and the translation costs were substantial. If there was doubt as to the government's responsibility, why didn't the government pay up front and then hassle it out with the mother after the fact when the maintenance payments were flowing, instead of leaving this woman and her child hanging in the wind for several months?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the legislation requires that the government that is undertaking a reciprocal enforcement order must transmit the documents to that other government. In all the experience of the government with transmitting orders to other governments, we have always transmitted the court documents in English. This has never arisen as a problem before. It was creating a precedent when the Austrian government wrote back and requested that the documents be transmitted in German.
Mr. Cable: Now, during the An Act to Amend the Maintenance and Custody Orders Enforcement Act debate - that act that was before the House a few weeks ago - there was a lot of flowery prose about people who foot drag when they have an obligation to pay. Now, here we have an instance of a deadbeat government doing the same type of foot dragging on a child support order.
Will the minister agree to personally review the file to make sure that this foot dragging doesn't happen again?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite seems to have reached his own conclusions already. We have done a lot to strengthen the maintenance enforcement legislation in the Yukon and we will continue to work on offering one of the best maintenance enforcement programs in the entire country for recovering funds for parents who are raising children.
The member has asked if I will review the file. I will do that. I have also, though, learned that part of the requirements, when the judge ruled that documents would have to be transmitted in German rather than English, was for an internationally accredited translator.
We did not have one available locally, so we had to hire from outside the Yukon and that substantially increased the costs, which are public costs.
Question re: Court-ordered settlements
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have some questions for the Justice minister on a disturbing trend displayed by this NDP government.
Mr. Speaker, this government refuses to pay its court-ordered settlements until they are publicly embarrassed. This minister dragged a single mother and her eight-year old through the courts for close to a year. They dragged their feet on paying a human rights judgment to Har Randhawa for 14 months, and they waited four months to pay Klippert's Transfer Limited after the Yukon Supreme Court ordered them to do so. These people would still be waiting to get paid unless we had brought these issues up in this Legislature.
Mr. Speaker, why does this deadbeat NDP government take so long to pay judgments ordered against them?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the member's assessment is completely inaccurate. In some of the cases that the member has raised, there had been ongoing negotiations between the parties, and the government does not make a final payment when there are ongoing negotiations in relation to the specifics of the case.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, it is the Department of Justice that advises departments to take Yukoners to court. It's the Department of Justice that recommends - or not - settlement. This minister is ultimately responsible for her department. The government won't pay its bills, and now they won't even answer questions about it. It's obvious from that answer why people have trouble collecting money from the government.
Mr. Speaker, the government has a problem admitting when they make a mistake. It's the NDP arrogance, refusing to admit they've done anything wrong. In the Klippert case, the Randhawa case and in this maintenance enforcement case, the NDP have dragged their feet while Yukon families suffer. This government feels no obligation to pay its bills, even when it's ordered to by the courts.
Will the Minister of Justice commit today to ensure that the policy will be developed and followed that will require court-ordered judgments to be paid promptly?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, again the member is being completely inaccurate. This government does pay its bills. We pay all of our bills. In the Randhawa case, we paid up in a long-standing case where there were outstanding payments due.
We paid the bill, Mr. Speaker. The member opposite may not want to acknowledge it, but that is the case. Certainly where there are court-ordered judgments, we have paid them.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, my questions aren't about whether or not the government has paid; they're about how long it takes the government to pay while families - Yukon families - are suffering.
The government promised a better way. The better way, according to this government, means taking people to court. It means withholding money from people even after being ordered by the courts to hand it over and it means getting in the way when single mothers fight for child support payments.
Mr. Speaker, the Government Leader promised publicly at the recent NDP convention that he and his government wouldn't pick fights with Yukoners. Not paying money owed to Yukoners is a good way to start a fight. These are three examples where the government is delaying, delaying, delaying paying its bills.
What is the Minister of Justice doing to ensure more Yukoners won't have to put up with this heavy-handed treatment from the government?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member is dead wrong. We pay our bills, and our government will continue to pay our bills.
In the case of one instance that she's referring to, all parties - whether it's an individual or a government, when a court assesses court costs - have the right to have a registrar review the bill and determine if the amount is accurate. Accuracy in billing costs is a right and, whether it's a government or an individual, we have a right to establish and determine that.
The member opposite is standing up and talking about people not paying their bills. I hope she's lobbying very hard for the federal government to cover the pay equity costs for millions of Canadian women who, for 14 years, have been waiting. This government recognized pay equity in 1986 and has been supporting equal pay for work of equal value.
Question re: Maintenance and Custody Orders Enforcement Act
Mr. Phillips: My question is to the Minister of Justice as well. The minister is famous for standing up in this House and making public statements inside and outside of the Legislative Chambers about how this government cares.
Her second reading speech on amendments to the Maintenance and Custody Orders Enforcement Act, about this NDP government being committed to the very complex relationship between poverty and social justice for single mothers and their children, would bring a tear to a glass eye. The reality, however, Mr. Speaker, is exactly the opposite.
Can the minister explain why this government wouldn't translate a provisional Yukon court order from English into German, so it would be accepted by the Austrian court, to help a woman and her eight-year-old child receive some payments, Mr. Speaker?
The minister said a few moments ago it was an ongoing court action, Mr. Speaker. Well, all the time individuals in ongoing court actions can sit down privately and come to an agreement. The minister has the authority to do that. I want to know why the minister didn't do that, considering all she said about this issue in the past.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, thank you, Mr. Speaker. Here we have a case of the member who didn't do anything when he was in government to support single women, and to improve the maintenance enforcement program, standing up and criticizing when I have done significant things -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Point of order.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, the minister knows that's inaccurate. We brought in the maintenance enforcement and custody work that was done in the Government of the Yukon, Mr. Speaker.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order please.
Speaker: There is no point of order. Member, continue.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Minister, continue. There is no point of order.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, thank you. I understand it was the minister who was to continue, not the member for Porter Creek North, who will have his chance to come forward for a supplementary question in a minute.
Mr. Speaker, the amendments to the maintenance enforcement program legislation have been substantial in this session, and I'm proud to have done them.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, it's one thing to say something, it's another thing to do something.
Mr. Speaker, the government is on record as saying, in this particular case, that it didn't want to pay, and it told the single mother to get a loan. Why did the minister's department - and the minister - take this single mother and her child all the way to court, Mr. Speaker?
Mr. Speaker, this is the deadbeat government that's supposed to care, and brings forward legislation in this House that's supposed to do something for single mothers. But the first time that it has an opportunity to do something concrete, it takes the mother and the child to court.
I'd like to ask the minister, why did it take the mother and the child to court, if it knew it was the right thing to do to solve the matter in the first place?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has got his facts wrong and is painting a picture that is not the least bit accurate.
Mr. Speaker, the maintenance enforcement reciprocal legislation requires the government to transmit child support orders to other governments. We have provided orders to numerous other governments, as was the practice when that member served as minister. The judge read into the word "transmit" in the legislation that we were required to translate the order - in this case - into German. And, Mr. Speaker, that is what we did. We met the requirements of the court order to translate the maintenance support order into German. We were required to hire a translator who had international accreditation and wasn't available locally. That took some time. The order's been translated and has been communicated.
Mr. Phillips: Yes, Mr. Speaker, but causing the mother and the child a lot of grief in the first place, and costing the Yukon government a great deal of money. Mr. Speaker, the court has ordered the minister to pay for the translation services, plus the court costs, but even here, the minister tried to make the single mother pay by not paying the total court costs. I understand her department didn't want to pay all the costs. Thank goodness, Mr. Speaker, that the court knew what was right and awarded the full costs.
Can the minister explain the discrepancy between her caring words and her mean-spirited, vindictive actions against the single mother and her eight-year old child? The minister should have done the right thing. The minister should have done, Mr. Speaker, what she stands up in this House and talks about, day in and day out: caring for single mothers and children who are trying to recover these kinds of costs. But when it came time, Mr. Speaker, to put her money where her mouth was, the minister took her to court. I'd like to ask the minister why she did that.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, here's a member who's grandstanding when his government's record on supporting women or children, and having any kind of a social services agenda, is just abysmal. This is the member who stands up and slams kids who are in group homes. This is the member who cuts funding to transition homes and who has an abysmal record when it comes to any form of a social conscience.
Mr. Speaker, the government is paying the court costs. I've already responded to that question from other opposition members, and the facts are that the government is paying the court costs.
Question re: Midwifery legislation
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services, and it concerns the postponement of legislation on midwifery.
The childbirth options group is pleased that the government is not proceeding with legislation at this time, mainly because the consultation process was severely flawed. However, they do feel strongly that midwifery needs to become a viable choice for women in the Yukon, and it is their intention to pursue this matter, and, Mr. Speaker, that is also my intention.
The national midwifery discussion on agreements on internal trade is looking at issues pertinent to the development of legislation in this area. The childbirth options group feels that the Yukon needs to be involved in these discussions. Has the government been invited to participate in this process and are they interested in participating in this important national discussion?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Of course we are, Mr. Speaker. I can just sort of reiterate that we have been in discussion with the ad hoc group. I received, on October 6, a letter from them.
I want to emphasize at this point, Mr. Speaker, that these are not my words, so we don't get into a battle of puns again. They have said that they believe that, "moving ahead with regulations at this time is premature."
Yes, we are working. We have a representative on the advisory group, which will report to the working group on the national midwifery discussions. I think that the issue there is that we want to see what is being put in place nationally, so that our discussions and our regulations can be congruent with any national program.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the childbirth options group and our caucus believe that a focus group should be studying midwifery and reproductive issues here in the Yukon. Expert advice on standards, practice, protocol, public protection, training and so on need to be part of the discussion. Midwifery provides the best care for low-risk pregnant women and their families. Yukon women deserve the same excellent care that is available in other jurisdictions. The discussions, just barely started by the ad hoc committee, need to be continued.
This government is supposed to be a big believer in consultation. Will these consultations on midwifery continue?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Of course, Mr. Speaker, discussions will continue and we're committed to working with the ad hoc group and other individuals who are interested in midwifery. We believe, as well, that midwifery does provide an option for women in terms of birthing and we're committed to working with them.
We were proceeding along those lines and we were asked if we could, sort of, particularly on the regulation aspect, curtail some of our discussions in light of some national discussions.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, what steps will be taken in consultation on midwifery to ensure that all primary stakeholders are involved in the development of any future midwifery legislation? What steps will be taken to include nurse midwives, midwives, First Nations midwives and healers and representatives from all Yukon's communities, including rural communities?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That is a question of rather large proportion. We will be consulting with all the individuals and all the groups that have an interest in this. It's going to be key that we work with the First Nations because of traditional practices and also because many of the issues around midwifery, and such things as safety of delivery and things like this, will have an impact on rural communities. We are committed to following through when we begin our discussions again on this with all the groups that are involved.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker:It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Committee of the Whole is dealing with Bill No. 13, Third Appropriation Act, 1998-99. We are on the Department of Education.
Bill No. 13 - Third Appropriation Act, 1998-99 - continued
Department of Education - continued
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Phillips: I want to ask the minister a couple of questions about capital projects. I think the Mayo school is scheduled for construction in the year 2000 or about then. I think that next year, it's Ross River and the year after, it's the Mayo school.
Has the minister or her officials had any meetings with the Mayo school council or any discussions about the type of school they're going to be getting in Mayo?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, the Mayo Building Advisory Committee is well underway. There have been ongoing meetings. There actually is not any supplementary budget funding in this bill, Bill No. 13, in relation to that project, but there is ongoing work with the building advisory committee.
Mr. Phillips: Ongoing work - in what way? Has the department gone to the council and said, "Here's what we'd like to do in Mayo?" My understanding is that officials from her department actually met with the Mayo school council and said, "Here are the plans for the Old Crow school, and this is kind of what we'd like to build in Mayo, and what's your feeling on that?"
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, that doesn't reflect what I have heard, either when I met with folks in Mayo or spoke with the school councils and others. When the department officials met with the building advisory committee, which included representatives from the school council, from Nacho Nyak Dun and the Village of Mayo, and other segments of the community, there was a broad approach taken to setting out the scope of the project for the Mayo school, and hearing from residents what they would like to see there, and how we could come up with project parameters that met the community needs.
Mr. Phillips: One of the things we tried to do when we were in government, in any school construction or plans for new school construction, was to use an existing set of plans. The Catholic school in Porter Creek is the same school, for example, as the Hidden Valley school.
I know that we were trying to utilize and achieve some cost savings by using a similar set of plans and applying the footprint of one school to another area, with minor modifications because, as the minister knows, it costs us about $250,000 to $300,000 to design a school. The thought was that we could save a significant amount of that money if we used existing designs and maybe, in some cases, added a larger gymnasium or added a couple more classrooms on to accommodate the needs of the new school.
So I'd like to ask the minister if we still do that when we do planning for schools, and if any proposal, such as that, has been made to the Mayo School Council. Or are we looking at the whole and total redesign of a brand-new school right from scratch, right from an architectural design right to the construction?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I thank the member for his suggestion. That is a worthwhile suggestion, and one that we have considered in other communities. As an example, when the Old Crow school planning was underway, school council members and other community people from Old Crow who were in Whitehorse had a tour of the Hidden Valley School and were provided with a copy of the plans for the Hidden Valley School, which served, in some measure, to work toward the design of the Old Crow school.
We're not at that stage yet with Mayo. Certainly, we will advise the building advisory committee in Mayo of the plans that we do have available, and see if they're interested in looking at them and whether they may serve their purposes.
There are a number of variables in different communities, as the member knows. There may be a different size of a school, there may be different grade structures. In some cases, there's a request to have the Yukon College community campus incorporated into the school. Or there may be a request to have public library resources integrated in the school. And, there are site characteristics that differ from one community to the other.
Nevertheless, as the member suggests, when the residents of Mayo have embarked on their planning and design process and have it further along, we will certainly make them aware of what plans we do have available, and whether those might be useful to them.
Mr. Phillips: I understand we're very close to going to tender on the Ross River school - we're close to the finalization of it. I just wonder what we are going to do in that case. Is this a whole newly designed school, from scratch, or did we use the footprint from another school for that project? How did the design come about in Ross River and what was the cost of that particular design?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, as I indicated in my opening remarks on the budget, there is the revote in the supplementaries for completion of the architectural design of the Ross River school, which was done by Charles McLaren Architect. I believe that the amount of the revote of $283,262 is for the completion of the design of the new school.
Mr. Phillips: So, I take it from that, then, that we're starting from scratch with Ross River, and that we didn't use a footprint from any other school, that we're sort of having the architect just start from a blank piece of paper and designing a school.
Has this architect designed other schools for us in the past? I think the architect has. I believe the Hidden Valley School and the Catholic school are schools that he designed. I would think that if someone were designing a school of elementary classrooms and the works, there would be some achievement of cost savings because you could use some of the stuff that's on the computer and apply it over to the other one, but we don't seem to see any of these cost savings being passed on to the Government of Yukon.
We're almost paying full price for a set of plans, and I wonder why that's happening when we're actually using the same architects who are designing the same size of classroom, in many cases, with the same size of washrooms, the same size of hallways and the same size of offices, and yet it is costing us the exact same amount of money that it costs us the first time we had a design done.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, to answer the first part of the member's question, Charles A. McLaren Architect Limited has designed other Yukon schools. This is a new design in Ross River, which is a result of the work with the community on what that project required for Ross River. There was a request that the college community campus be included in the Ross River school.
Mr. Phillips: That's fine. I don't have a problem with that. In fact, I think it's a good idea to put the libraries and the colleges in the schools. It saves money in the long run in O&M. But that doesn't cost $285,000.
The architect is designing the school, and what I'm saying to the minister is that the classrooms, the office sizes, the washrooms and maybe even the gymnasium size is probably - and could be - the same size as schools that we have designed in the past, and maybe even have been designed by the same architect. And so, you would think that there would be a cost savings that you could achieve if you were just building a similar-type building and adding on a couple of additions, like a library or Yukon College addition to it.
There would be some modifications, and we'd be expected to do that, but a lot of the design features are already built in to the architect's computer program, and he doesn't have to start from scratch like somebody else might have to if they were bidding a government school-design competition for the first time. So, why are we not seeing a reduction in our costs for design when we're using the same architects with similar designs for the classrooms and home ec rooms and other features in the school? Why are we not seeing a cost savings to the taxpayer?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, I can offer to bring back for the member information on the differences between the Ross River school and some of the schools that have been designed for Whitehorse.
The fact is, however, that there are often significant differences between the needs in Whitehorse and the needs in rural communities. Ross River, as a specific example, had a building advisory committee that met to consider their need to accommodate a community campus. There are specifics to do with the characteristics of the site, and the community isn't necessarily going to agree to a cookie-cutter approach and say, "Here is a design for Hidden Valley School, or Golden Horn School." There may be some cultural needs identified. There may be some rural needs identified that aren't accommodated in an urban school plan.
The Ross River architectural design work is a good expenditure of funds. It does meet what the community has identified as their needs and is not a significant cost when you look at the cost of architectural design work for public buildings.
Mr. Phillips: How would the minister know if it's a good expenditure of money when the minister said here today that she would check to see if we could achieve some cost savings down the road? Obviously, until I asked the question today, the minister herself never asked the question of her department when it came to her with the budget, and they wanted $285,000. Other schools have only cost us $285,000 to design. Now we have the same architect designing the school. I realize that there's a building committee that may configure the school a little differently, but classrooms are classrooms, hallways are hallways and the main office area is the main office area. One would think that there would be some kind of savings if the same individual were designing it. If I were in the private sector, building similar buildings with minor modifications on either side for each community, I would expect that with the architect I was paying, I would see some achievement in cost savings by using the same one, and he was just pulling the plans off his computer.
I would think that there would be some type of cost savings, but we don't see this going down at all. Not even $10,000. We see the costs being similar to what we have seen in the past for designing schools. I would think that a footprint of a school - the basic classroom design and the basic hallway design - could be something that would be on the books and that we could use in many areas of the territory. The library, college additions or cultural room - whatever they are going to add to the school - is a different matter, but it shouldn't cost us $285,000 for those kinds of modifications.
So I'm just asking the minister to maybe take a little more time when the department presents the budget to her and question why the costs haven't gone down, if we're using the same people to design a similar school. Maybe we're just throwing all the work out that we did in the past and starting from scratch, and changing specs, and the whole works, so that fire systems aren't the same, nothing's the same. But I don't know why we'd do that, if we're trying to achieve a standard in our schools in the territory.
I don't know. I guess I'll leave that with the minister, and maybe the minister can check with the department and come back to me with why there isn't a more significant cost savings with respect to the Ross River school.
Mr. Chair, I'll move on to another area for a few moments - the Education Act review. I know that there were some discussions with YTA a few weeks or months back, with respect to an Education Act review, and officials from the department advised YTA that it would possibly be a low-key review. Then I understand there was a change of heart, and they thought it would be a little more involved than that, and the department got back and said that it looked like it would be a more intensive review, government to government, First Nations would be involved, and others would be more involved. Now they've had another change of heart again, and YTA's been told that there'll be a three-year review of the Education Act.
Can the minister, maybe for the record, just tell us what are the plans for the review of the Education Act? It is a requirement under the act. I know there have been some requests for changes made by YTA and some school councils in the past- some minor, some major. What is the plan for the Education Act review?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, as the member is aware, in the Education Act, there is a section that indicates that a process for review of the act will be initiated prior to the act being in force for 10 years, which occurs in the year 2000.
What we have indicated to YTA - as well as to school councils and First Nations and to others - is that we want to take our time to do the project right. At the present time, we are beginning to scope out the parameters of the review process, and how that will be accomplished over a two-year period. We have sent out letters inviting input from the Yukon Teachers Association, from school councils - this subject has been discussed at the school council conferences for two years now - and we are inviting input from our various partners in education about the review process. Then we'll scope out a time frame for how we can complete that review.
Mr. Phillips: When do the letters go out? Has this been recently, that the letters went out to the partners?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The letters are being prepared now, and are in the process of being mailed out. I'm not sure which ones have all been signed off and gone out. It's just been over the last couple of weeks, and there are still some letters that are awaiting signature.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, if we could be provided with copies of the letter that's going out so we have an idea what the minister is requesting from the various groups and organizations, I'd appreciate that.
Mr. Chair, I have one other area that I want to talk about and just make a suggestion to the minister. There is an opportunity, I think, in the Department of Education, to move some people around from time to time.
One suggestion that's been made to me - and I've spoken to various people in the teaching profession about it and they feel it would be constructive - is rotating some teachers in and out of administration, like moving some people from some of the high schools or some of the other schools into the Department of Education to work on specific projects.
We've done that in the past with, I believe, Chris Gonnet, who was the principal of Jack Hulland at the time and moved into the Department of Education on a secondment to do, I think it was, grade reorganization at the time, and there are others who have done that.
I know that it would do a couple of things. First of all, it would allow the teacher who was moved into administration to get a better perspective of what goes on on the administration side, and vice versa. I think some of the people who are in administration now were teachers years ago and have been in administration for a great number of years. A lot of things have changed on both sides, and it would probably be a useful exercise to rotate people in and out. I wonder if the minister could possibly come back in the spring session with some possible plan of attack or a way that she might consider doing this in the future?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, as the member is, I believe, aware, that has been an ongoing activity of the Department of Education over the years and it is continuing.
As opportunities come up, we look at the possibilities of rotating staff from the school system into administration or from administration into the school system. As an example, during the present school year at F.H. Collins, there is a temporary principalship assignment - and in other schools - where the recruitment process for principals, which includes school councils, may be underway and may take a longer period of time, we can assign staff from the department or from other schools to work in administration.
The department has less flexibility for rotation of administration, given the role of school councils in hiring principals. We also have some examples that we can point to in the department with the safe schools coordinator or the career and personal planning coordination, and having a rotation of teaching and administrative assignments.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister may feel it's going on at the present time, but my sense, from the individuals I talked to, is that more of it could go on, that it is something, I think, that would be seen by the teachers as a positive move, and that the government should consider doing that in the future.
I'd like to know what kind of communication lines the minister has open to YTA. Does the minister discuss with the president of YTA, on a monthly basis or a quarterly basis, or is there some kind of a process by which the minister checks in with the president and the president checks in with the minister? What kind of communications does the minister have with YTA?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I don't think the practice is much different from the member's previous experience. Normally, the Minister of Education is invited to the Yukon Teachers Association annual convention. As well, either the minister's office or the Yukon Teachers Association office can, and does, phone and make requests for meetings or more informal conversations.
When negotiations are underway, there tends not to be formal discussions between the employer and the bargaining agent, and so that has meant that there haven't been recent meetings between myself and the current president of YTA.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, maybe the minister could elaborate a little more on recent meetings. Was it one week, two weeks, six months, a year? When was the last time the minister met with the president of YTA?
I don't know if I would buy the bargaining line that the minister used, because I think they've been in bargaining for almost the whole two years that they've been in government with YTA, so it would mean that the minister's sort of using that as a scapegoat, and I don't think the minister should.
The minister said the practice now is the same as when I was the minister. Well, I can tell the minister that it isn't. When I was the minister, I met with YTA several times, not just at the annual meetings, but I spoke to Mr. Taylor, who was the president at that time, on several occasions. Sometimes it was on specific issues, and sometimes we just had discussions of "What do you have on your agenda?" and "What do you have on yours?" kind of thing, and where we just talked about education in general.
My concern now is that I'm hearing that there is very little communication between the minister and the YTA. The minister talks in this House about partners in education and consultation on an ongoing basis, and we seem to be having issue after issue after issue come up in this House, where YTA and some of the school councils say that they never knew anything about it until they hear it from the department or the minister about a specific issue.
So, we're hearing one thing from the minister about consulting with everybody on everything, and another thing from the partners in education, who are saying that they're not hearing from the minister or the minister's department, and they are blindsided by many issues.
I'd like to know from the minister when was the last time they met with the president, and when do they plan to meet again? Maybe the minister could answer that.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I think I should respond by first of all saying that I think the media reports are often inaccurate, and I am assuring the member that I am open to meet with the YTA at any time.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, the last time I looked, the telephone that I've got in my office goes both ways. You know, you can pick it up and call the president of YTA, and most times the secretary or someone on the other end answers. If the minister's idea of consultation and discussion with individuals is to sit in the office and wait until the phone rings, I don't think that's a very positive approach. I think the minister has to be a little more proactive and maybe make a couple of attempts herself to contact the YTA and discuss the matters that the minister says are so important to her.
So I'll leave that with the minister. I hope that in reading the debate tomorrow, the minister will maybe pick up the phone and call the president of YTA - I wish I had a phone book here, I'd give the minister the number, but I don't have it -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: I don't have it handy.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: I'm sure we could get the phone number very quickly. My staff are probably scrambling now through the phone book, and they're going to bring the number in to me so I can pass it on to the minister, so that can't be an excuse.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: It appears, Mr. Chair, that some of the members of the Legislature, from the member's own party, are more aware of the number than the minister is. But I would hope that the minister would listen to her colleagues, jot the number down and hopefully call the president of YTA, see if he's still there, and have a discussion with him about the very important issues that affect their children in education.
Mr. Chair, I want to turn now to an issue that was in the media a bit in the last couple of days. That's the Wood Street Annex. I know the minister and the Liberal critic have been bandying about the use of the Annex. I just want to get on the record - from the minister - what exactly the intentions are of the government.
Mr. Chair, there are several programs that are run out of the Annex at the present time. I would like to ask the minister if the plan is to close any of those programs down or is the plan to continue with all those programs? Are any of those programs - regardless of the future of the Wood Street Annex - in jeopardy?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, as I have been repeating in Question Period for much of last week, in response to questions from both opposition parties, the government does intend to support the continuation of the programs that are presently being offered at Wood Street in the next school year.
I have also indicated, as the member would be aware if he heard the debate during Question Period - and the response, I think, to his own questions, as well as some from other members - when Wood Street was first brought on stream to be used for ACES, the experiential science and the MAD program, the agreement all along was that the programs would be offered there for a two-year period while the construction of Porter Creek Secondary School was being completed, so that they could add a full program of service from grades 8 through 12 at Porter Creek Secondary, as well as F.H. Collins and Vanier.
The grade reorganization initiative in the City of Whitehorse meant a lot of capital construction and a lot of changes to Whitehorse schools. To accommodate those changes, we agreed and identified, over two years ago, Wood Street as a temporary facility to be used for the 1997-98 and 1998-99 school years for those programs.
Mr. Phillips: I don't have a problem with that. I understood when Wood Street was set up that it was set up basically on a temporary basis. I'm just trying to find out where we're going with it now.
Is there any intention of the government to use the building for any other purposes if we move those programs out of Wood Street? I know there was a request at one time for a downtown community centre.
What I'm asking is if the Department of Education is looking at leasing the building to someone else, selling the building or getting out of it if they move the programs back into other schools?
What I would like from the minister - I don't need it right now - is if this will increase the cost of busing students to other schools for the programs.
I understand that the programs that are run there now are very successful. I know that many of those programs were very successful when they were run out of F.H. Collins, as well. The MAD program was run out of the Arts Centre, and it was successful there, as well. But, I'm just trying to get a handle on what the rationale would be. Is it that there's more space available now in the two high schools, so that we can now move the programs back and there will be a cost savings achieved?
If there is a cost savings achieved with respect to busing with respect to the O&M cost of that building, will we see the cost savings remain in the Department of Education's budget to maybe even enhance or improve those programs that were in that building in the first place, because it sounds to me as if the government has made a decision already to move the programs and that officials are working on that process.
So, I'm trying to find out the rationale for moving them. Are we saving any money by moving them? Are the programs going to be more efficient? What happens to the money that we might be saving? Are we going to be rolling it back into education, into new computer labs or to more EAs? What are we doing with the cost savings that we might achieve from doing that?
The last question, one I asked in the beginning: what are the plans for the building? Are we going to sell the building, lease the building or use it for other educational purposes? What are the long-range plans for that facility?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, as I indicated in response to questions in this House last week about Wood Street, we have not made a decision on how that facility will be used beyond the end of the current school year. As I have been indicating to date, the plans all along have been that Wood Street would be used for two years, concluding in the 1998-99 school year, for the MAD, ACES and experiential science programs.
I have not received representations from community groups asking for that building for various facility uses that are current, and we have not, as a government, made any decision about that facility and how it may be used in the upcoming budget year. That will be part of the normal budget process of looking at needs and determining how we will allocate resources.
Mr. Phillips: Is the minister telling the House that, as of next September, there are no plans right now to run the program out of it, that it is a two-year program that runs out this June? Is the minister telling the House, Mr. Chair, that as of December 14, we have no idea what we're going to do with this great big building on Wood Street in September of next year - that no one has thought of what we might do with it?
I mean, that's a big building to start heating all winter next winter, and I know, as the minister knows, that people started work on the budget for next year in September. So, that budget is almost put to bed, if it isn't put to bed now. The final twigging of the budget might happen in January.
What I'm concerned about is what the plan is for this facility for the next fiscal year, and whether or not we're going to achieve some savings. Is the minister saying that there will be some savings achieved? How much does she estimate those savings might be by amalgamating or moving those programs back into the various high schools that now have space as a result of grade reorganization?
I would like to know that in detail, with respect to the busing and other aspects of cost savings. I know that, before, there were some problems with the ACES program, and some youth had to move around quite a bit to get to F.H. Collins, and they had to come from other areas and be bused quite some distance to get there, but I suppose the same youth would have to be bused to Wood Street as well.
I'd just like to know if there are any savings that can be achieved there. Maybe the minister can answer that.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, my understanding is that we are here on budget debate on Bill No. 13, which is the Supplementary Estimates No. 2 for the 1998-99 budget year. During this budget year, we are offering those programs at Wood Street.
Mr. Chair, we have not finalized the 1999-2000 budget. Various options will be considered for future budget years and for future school years. We have not, as I said in Question Period last week and as I've said to the member for the last 20 minutes or so here in the House, made a final decision regarding Wood Street for the next school year. Various options will be considered and, when we finalize the 1999-2000 budget, and bring it into the House next spring, I expect to hear from the members and to be accountable for the decisions that are made for that O&M budget for next year at that time.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, there may be money in the budget for this April, for the next fiscal year, for whatever they are going to do with that building, but they're spending money today making decisions and probably doing some forecasts on whether we'll save money or not save money or how we're moving the programs around. That's money we're talking about in this budget. Employees are getting paid. People are discussing things. There are probably studies being done and various things happening on where we're going with it. I just want to know from the minister, is the minister going to wait until April 1 before they make any decision whatsoever about Wood Street with respect to where it might end up in the next fiscal year, or have there been some discussions within the department already this fiscal year, in this budget, to determine what's going to happen to Wood Street?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, as I've indicated, we have not made a final decision on what use Wood Street will have in the next school year. The member is correct that we have made a long-term commitment for two years to offer programs at Wood Street, which will go through to June of 1999, so there will be a portion of the O&M budget that will cover those program costs at Wood Street in the next fiscal year.
Nonetheless, Mr. Chair, there are no funds being expended in this supplementary budget for major studies in relation to that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: The Member for Watson Lake said, "Clear." Well, Mr. Chair, we're a long way from being clear from the Department of Education budget, so we should just be patient. These are important questions, not only for my constituents but for the Member of Watson Lake's constituents as well, and I think education is an important issue, and we should take the time to discuss these issues.
Mr. Chair, I'd like to turn to another area, and that is of certification of teachers. What is the policy of the Government of the Yukon with respect to rural Yukon and the teachers that are Yukon certified? Are all our teachers in the rural schools Yukon certified?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I believe the member is aware of the standard provision that, in order to obtain a Yukon teaching certificate, there are a couple of mandatory courses to demonstrate a degree of knowledge of Yukon studies, on the part of teachers.
That requirement is the same for both rural teachers and urban teachers.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, are all our teachers in communities like Old Crow, for example, certified? All the teachers that go to Old Crow?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I believe that when a new teacher is hired - who may have taken their teacher training outside of the Yukon, and not have a Yukon teaching certificate - they have two years to receive a Yukon teaching certificate. So, they may not, in their first two years of teaching, have taken those courses. They have a temporary teaching certificate, until such time as they take the various courses that are offered at Yukon College, which allows for Yukon teacher certification.
Mr. Phillips: So, it's clear from the minister that either Yukon certified, or certified from another jurisdiction - they are all certified teachers who go to our remote communities, like Old Crow. We're not sending anyone up there who isn't certified.
Mr. Chair, I'd like to ask the minister a couple of questions about YNTEP. I understand at the present time there are significantly lower than expected numbers in YNTEP. Can the minister maybe provide for me - in the next week or so - a breakdown of the YNTEP numbers with respect to enrolled students this year, and per year - the number of students that are in the program each year, that are currently in the program? And maybe a list of YNTEP since its inception, and how many of these students have been placed in our schools. I know that was done somewhat in the past. I've asked the same question in the past. I just want an update on where we're at with that. If the minister could provide that, I would appreciate that.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I can provide an update on that for the member. I know that, when I sat in opposition, the member, as minister, provided that information to me, and I believe that I've provided some information last year, so we can provide an update for him.
There are 20 Yukon native teacher education program graduates presently employed by the Yukon government in a classroom setting for the 1998-99 school year. Some YNTEP graduates are employed by the Yukon government, or by First Nations governments, not in classrooms and, as I said, I'd be happy to provide a full update for the member.
Mr. Phillips: Maybe the minister could bring back to the House the cost of the program, overall, and whether or not the minister is pleased with the number of graduates we're putting out or the input going into the program. Are there enough students signing up? Is there still a need out there for these teachers?
The minister said 20 had graduated. Did the minister mean that 20 are working in the Yukon system?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: Twenty are working in Yukon classrooms, the minister said.
Out of how many graduates is that? If the minister could bring that forward, I'd be interested in knowing whether they're here, or graduated and left and went to work elsewhere, or not teaching at all. I know some took the program, as teachers do, from time to time, and are not teaching at the present time, and that happens to teachers from all over the place who decide to take a break for awhile.
So I'd just like to know the numbers on that.
Mr. Chair, the Watson Lake School Council wrote the Minister of Education a letter, expressing concern regarding the anticipated reduction in staffing levels at the Johnson Elementary School and the Watson Lake Secondary School. As was relayed in the letter, the students with learning disabilities are not receiving the help that should be provided as the result of resources being diverted to those students with behavioural problems. The minister replied that the levels of staffing would remain the same and, by adding a resource room to the school, the staff would be reorganized, so the demands and needs of the classroom would be less.
Is the minister confident that the concerns of the Watson Lake school council have been adequately met? Has the resource room been added yet? If so, has this addition resulted in greater efficiency in the delivery of the programs that we hoped for?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member, before he left the Yukon native teacher education program, was asking about recruitment. I want to advise him that the program itself and the college that offers the program, which is accredited through the University of Regina, has quite an aggressive recruitment campaign. That's something that we emphasize when we visit rural communities. We encourage First Nation students to contemplate a teaching career and we keep the recruitment efforts ongoing for the YNTEP.
The member also asked about the Watson Lake staffing. The needs of Watson Lake were given careful consideration during the staffing process. The administration is confident that the level of staffing and the programs that are being implemented this year will produce excellent results.
Early intervention, comprehensive counselling and greater involvement by parents and the community are some of the programs and initiatives that are underway in Watson Lake, as well as elsewhere in the Yukon.
Mr. Phillips: The minister also stated in her letter of response that she was examining multiple partnerships with the First Nations and government departments with respect to the council's proposal for a youth counsellor in Watson Lake. Did we hire a youth counsellor in Watson Lake for the school as requested by the school council?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I believe that the member is referring to a proposal that was put forward by the Liard Basin Task Force. There have been discussions with Education and with Health, Social Services, other departments and the Liard First Nation on how best to meet the needs in Watson Lake.
There have been proposals for counsellors to be assigned to deal with youth, either in a school setting or outside of a school setting. I can tell the member that we have a comprehensive counselling program in place and that we do have counselling resources available in the school system. The community is also interested in looking at other alternatives, but we have not, at the present time, funded any initiative as an example between different departments to look at some of the proposals coming forward.
Mr. Phillips: Well, we're half way through the school year, and the minister said in her letter that they were trying to work on these multiple partnerships. When does the minister expect to establish these multiple partnerships with the First Nations and the school council, and deal with the youth counsellor question that the school council raised, because that is something they talked about in the letter. As I said, we're half way through the school year. Are we going to lose another year before we sort of get down to actually doing something?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, as I indicated previously, in response to the member's question, we have a comprehensive guidance and counselling framework that is available through the public schools branch, including in Watson Lake. There are a number of programs like the second-step and the real game and the take-our-kids-to-work programs. We have a violence and child abuse prevention program that is available. We will continue to work with the Watson Lake community.
I can provide an update for the member.
Mr. Phillips: Well, I appreciate the minister reading all of those things to me, but I really want a specific answer to a specific question.
Maybe the minister could try and bring that back. Obviously, she doesn't have it at her fingertips now, so if the minister could just bring back to the House or by letter, prior to the next session, a response to the request by the Watson Lake school council, I would appreciate it sooner rather than later. I don't want to receive it a week before the next session, because the school year will be almost over by then.
I think the school council in Watson Lake deserves a quicker response than that, so I would appreciate it if the minister would deal with her commitment sooner rather than later.
There's been a lot of debate about the future of the Watson Lake library. Has a decision been made with respect to the location of the library? Is it going to be in the new town administration building or the proposed government complex?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There has not been a decision made on that as of yet. I believe the member might more appropriately take up that question with the Minister of Government Services.
Mr. Phillips: Well, it does flow over into Education, as well, with the library in the school.
Another question I have for the minister is that we've talked a lot in this House about FAS and early intervention. What I would like the minister to bring back for me is what new money has been put into early identification in the special needs department. The numbers I have show that, in 1995-96, there was $1,374,000 in the special education area. In fact, in the special education area, there was $1,374,746. In the 1996-97 budget, it was the same amount. It didn't go up. I know that the demands are always increasing, so I'd like to know from the minister, has the minister increased the budget at all in this area, or reallocated some funds in this area to deal with the increase in demand with respect to FAS? It's been quite a topic in this House, and the Minister of Health and Social Services and the Minister of Education both say that they're dealing with it at that level.
And yet, I can't find anywhere in the budget where, other than the existing staff they have, they're dealing with the problem, and I know the problem is getting greater almost every day. So I'm just wondering if the minister feels the existing staff and the existing budget are adequate to deal with the FAS problem that's been discussed in the House for quite some time this session.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: To respond to the specifics, I will be glad to provide for the member a breakdown of the special needs education funding and how that supports families and works with families who have special needs children, including children with FAS. This government has undertaken a number of initiatives in early intervention. In particular, the healthy families initiative supports both prenatal and postnatal care for family members. We have taken the approach, as well, that the fundamental importance needs to go to prevention, as well as to early intervention. There are a number of programs available for youth on prevention of addictions, and also prevention work with adults, to ensure that there is good public education on the hazards of drinking when you're pregnant, and the possibilities of having an FAS child if a mother drinks while she is pregnant.
We have, as educational programs that support students with special needs, the reading recovery program, which has seen increases in resources by this government to train more teachers for offering the reading recovery program in our schools. We have resource programs for students whose needs cannot be met in the regular classroom, as well as offering an age-four kindergarten program in some rural communities, to provide a head start for children by providing a pre-kindergarten educational environment.
So, there are a number of early intervention and prevention mechanisms throughout both Education and Health and Social Services, including the Child Development Centre.
Mr. Phillips: I appreciate the minister reading that out to me, but there are not a lot of new programs. What I'm concerned about are new initiatives to deal with the problem. I think that's what First Nations leaders are asking about - and educators are asking about, and others are asking about - is new initiatives by the government.
The minister doesn't have to read anything into the record, or read a briefing note to me. She could maybe just bring back for me, by way of letter or legislative return, before the spring session, a list of new initiatives that this government is doing with respect to FAS.
Mr. Chair, funding for First Nations Education Commission - it was established in 1991, and it was an advisory body consisting of representation across the Yukon. Funding expired in 1997, and YTG expected CYFN to take it over. Two resolutions were passed at previous assemblies in support of the commission, and Mr. McDonald - the Government Leader - stated that his government would support the commission if there were support for it.
Is the government supporting the commission now? Where are we at with support for the commission?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I think the member needs to recognize that I am responding to his questions, and that I am standing here and giving answers to the questions that the member asks. If he wants to stand up and make critical comments because he thinks I'm just reading notes to him, then I have to insinuate from that that the member is not interested in a response to his questions.
Mr. Chair, I spoke about a number of initiatives - which have been new initiatives - which have been funded by this government for prevention and early intervention. Those include the healthy child initiative; they include the reading recovery training. If the member continues to ask questions about them, I will continue to provide answers to him.
The member also asked about the First Nations Education Commission. My officials have been meeting with the Council of Yukon First Nations on that. In addition, I had a meeting with the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations, and education commissioners from around the territory.
We have indicated that we are prepared to support work of the First Nations Education Commission when they have a mandate from the chiefs, which they are working on now and which we are working on with them in order to ensure that both levels of government are receiving the kinds of information and recommendations that they need from the First Nations education commissioners.
Mr. Phillips: Well, the CYFN evidently has passed two resolutions at previous assemblies supporting the commission. What is it the member is looking for from the chiefs, because when CYFN meets, my understanding is that it is the chiefs who pass resolutions? So, what more is she looking for from CYFN? Do they need a budget from them? What is it exactly that the minister is searching for?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, the issues that we are discussing with Yukon First Nations on the First Nations Education Commission are the budget, certainly, and the scope of their mandate, and the decision making that they will undertake. We have ongoing discussions with the First Nations chiefs and with the education commissioners as they are being mandated to carry out some work in the education arena on behalf of the First Nations leadership and membership.
Mr. Phillips: How is the commission funding itself now, what is its budget and what kind of numbers is the minister looking at in discussions from CYFN with respect to this budget in the future?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, there are no budget items in this supplementary budget for funding two CYFN for the Education Commission, which is being presently re-established by First Nations. We are anticipating receiving from First Nations requests for budget support and a budget, and I do not have that information available to me in the House now.
Mr. Phillips: Maybe the minister could get back to me before the spring sitting in January or February, I hope, so I can hear where we're coming from on that one.
I have a couple more questions, Mr. Chair. The minister has had several letters sent to her from the previous and existing St. Elias School Council with respect to a personnel matter and some other issues surrounding process in Haines Junction with respect to recent changes in the principal there. Can the minister bring us up to date in the House today of where we're at with that?
I know that the minister went to Haines Junction and met with the previous school council and I appreciate the minister's efforts on that. I know that she was reluctant to do so in the beginning and then was persuaded to go up and meet with the individuals. Does she feel confident now that the members of the Haines Junction school council, both previous and present, are happy with the explanation she's given them and that everything is back to normal at Haines Junction?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm going to be somewhat limited in my response since there are a number of personnel issues at stake here. I can tell the member that I have had meetings with school councils and other members of the community. A new acting principal has been hired for the 1998-99 school year and seems to be well received by the community. We have not heard anything recently to indicate to the contrary and the department is continuing to work with the school.
The school council is also working collaboratively with the school administration on implementing the St. Elias Community School improvement plan.
There were a number of issues there that were identified in order to bring improvements to the school climate. That work is underway and seems to be going well.
Mr. Phillips: I don't want to get into the personnel issue either, and I don't think we should on the floor of this House. But, the issue that I heard from the previous school council was one of process. They were concerned about the process and the way in which the department acted and other individuals acted, and the way in which responses were made to individual people and about the appeal process - the way in which the school council could appeal a decision that was made.
That may lead to changes in the Education Act in the future, I suppose.
My concern is whether the minister thinks that the concerned citizens - the 70 or 80 or so who signed the petition with respect to what happened in Haines Junction - are now satisfied that their concerns about process are satisfied, and that the community is well on its way to healing and getting back to the education of the children in Haines Junction?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have listened to school council and other community members about their concerns. The existing procedures have been respected. From all accounts that I have heard recently and, indeed, over the past few months, people are very interested in moving forward and striving to improve education in the St. Elias Community School. That work is now underway, both through the implementation of the school improvement plan and through a collaborative environment with the new acting principal, school staff and community members.
Mr. Phillips: Well, I'm glad the minister feels more comfortable with that, and I wonder if there's any recent correspondence that the minister sent to the school council, previous or existing? Would she forward that on to me so I could have a look at what the minister has said?
I will be in communication with the people I've been talking to in Haines Junction over the past year or so, and I'll certainly be passing on the Hansard to them and getting their comments and questions that they may have.
The last point I have, Mr. Chair, is the Yukon excellence awards. I wonder if the minister could bring us up to date on where we're at with the Yukon excellence awards, where we're at with the contemplated changes to the awards, and how many have been awarded over the past two years.
That I know the minister might have trouble bringing to us on the floor of the House today, but maybe the minister could provide that by way of legislative return tomorrow.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I didn't bring that information down to the floor of the House with me, but I will see what we have available to provide for the member by way of legislative return.
Ms. Duncan: I'd like to begin the discussions with the minister this afternoon with a discussion about the Wood Street Annex.
The minister told me in March of this year that the programs offered at the Wood Street facility - there are a number of unique courses and services, and those included the music, arts and drama program, which is offered out of the gymnasium and one classroom; the ACES program, which stands for achievement, challenge, environment and service, and does academic class work as well as outdoor education, is provided there; as well as the experiential sciences program, and this is offered in both French and English.
The coordinator for student work placements and entrepreneurial initiatives works out of Wood Street, and he works with school-based programs. There's an agreement with the Business Education Council to operate the Yukon Entrepreneurship Centre. The venture forth program has been offered. It's a program of study toward graduation for students over the age of 15 who have difficulty achieving success in school.
There's a shared resource room. There's a community youth worker program, which started in January of this year, and this is delivered through a partnership with Justice, the RCMP, Crime Prevention Yukon, the City of Whitehorse, Kwanlin Dun and Human Resources Development Canada, and the Department of Health and Social Services and Community and Transportation Services are linked to that particular project.
The minister noted that for me in March of this year. The minister also noted the day before that there are not sufficient numbers to offer these programs in three different schools.
Now, we've had quite a discussion in this session so far about the Wood Street Annex and its future. The minister said, in response to a question from the Member for Riverdale North that, "I have not received representations on the use of the Annex - the future use."
Would the minister advise if anyone in the government has received representations on the use of the Annex, and which minister or member has, and what was the suggested use?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I don't have information available to respond to the member's question, and what I believe that is a reflection of is that we have not made a decision about the use of Wood Street beyond June of 1999. When we agreed to use Wood Street to offer MAD and ACES and experiential science for two school years, it was in response to the space crunch that we were seeing as a result of the grade reorganization initiative by the previous government. There have been a number of capital expenditures in Whitehorse to expand elementary schools to accommodate grade 7, to eliminate junior high schools, and to expand the course offering at some of the high schools so that they could offer grades 8 through 12. Porter Creek Secondary School now has completed their school expansion and will be able to offer grades 8 through 12.
As the member knows, when we initially set aside Wood Street for these alternative programs, they were being offered elsewhere. F.H. Collins was full because the student enrollment increased beyond 1,000 students as a result of the grade reorganization.
The intent all along has been that Wood Street would be used for two years for those programs. Various options will be considered for the future. We have not made any final decisions in relation to the Wood Street facility for the next school year.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, I take issue with a number of the minister's points. I'd like to begin by noting that, although the music, arts and drama program was offered out of the Arts Centre at one point in its life, F.H. Collins has never had a drama room and the experiential sciences program was offered out of the shop. The Wood Street Annex met a need, and the use of that facility has enhanced these programs.
Now, the minister has said that no decision has been made, that the government is examining the options for this facility. Is continuing Wood Street in its present use an option the government is considering?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, that is one of the options that we will consider.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have received representation over the weekend that in fact the downtown community centre is not interested in this facility, given the renovations that would be required. That is one of the groups that some believed had made representations.
I've also been told that the original title to the school, which was given to the Yukon government from the Catholic Church, was given under the condition that it only be used for education purposes, and that deed is contained in the former Christ the King Elementary - now the Wood Street Annex - school files.
Will the minister confirm that that's the case?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I can provide a response to the member's question on that, and I appreciate the member's representation.
Certainly, we have heard from a number of groups who have benefited from the course offerings at Wood Street and have enjoyed having the facility available.
Government must make a responsible decision in looking at the various needs and ways of accommodating different programs and allocating resources. The fact remains, Mr. Chair, that I have been accurately stating in Question Period and in the House this afternoon on what the situation is. We have not made a decision on how Wood Street will be used beyond June 1999.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, I'd like to state again representation to the minister that I heard many times from school councils over the weekend about the success of the Wood Street Annex and yes, I understand the government must examine limited resources. I would remind the minister of her words that there are not sufficient numbers to offer these programs that are presently in the Wood Street Annex at the four different Whitehorse high schools. It's a very successful operation out of the Wood Street Annex. It's a very strong educational use for that building and I would like to commend to the minister that it continue.
I'd also like to indicate to the minister that at the school council chairs meeting, the school councils were asked to develop a three-year capital plan and these are due January 31, 1999. If the minister does not accept the recommendation from me and others - and school councils in particular - that Wood Street Annex continue, then presumably this excellent programming has to be offered out of the high schools. How does the minister anticipate that school councils could make that capital planning decision to accommodate these programs if they don't know what decision is going to be made by the government on them?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: First of all, I thank the member for her representation on Wood Street. To move on to the school councils, I'll clarify for the member that school councils, at their spring conference - as they have been asked in the past couple of years - were requested to provide advice to government both on the priorities for major capital projects throughout the Yukon and for the criteria that they felt the government should use in order to assess which projects proceed at which time.
We have made a commitment to continue to fund a major capital project in education on an annual basis and, initially, we came up with the three-year plan with the advice of school councils for the Old Crow, Ross River and Mayo schools to be constructed. We have developed a three-year plan for that and we've asked school councils to look at the same resources that they had available to them when that initial recommendation was brought forth. There is a rural school facilities plan, as well as a Whitehorse school facilities study that sets out what the needs are. We're interested in receiving input from school councils on that.
The Wood Street facility, regardless of its use, does not need major capital expenditures. It's a good facility in good working order and simply requires maintenance.
The school councils have been asked to consider moving beyond the existing three-year range of major capital planning, looking at the needs across the Yukon and putting forward their recommendations on what criteria should be at the top of the priority list and seeing if they can come to some agreement on which projects should be advanced sooner than others.
Ms. Duncan: I'm obviously not making myself clear on this issue. School council chairs came together at the request of the government. They developed criteria for future projects, determined the three-year plan, and selected Old Crow, Ross River and Mayo as the order. I understand that they also had a list of criteria, such as health and safety of students and education - there was a whole, long list, which I don't have with me in the House.
If school councils are to go back and revisit that and say, "In light of this criteria, where do we go from here," which is what I understand they have been asked to do and, if the minister is also asking Porter Creek, Vanier, École Emilie Tremblay and F.H. Collins -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: If the Member for Watson Lake has finished providing the minister with advice. My point is that if the four schools -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Fentie, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, we're here in Committee to debate the supplementary budget for 1998-99, specifically the Department of Education. The Member for Porter Creek South is now discussing the 1999-2000 budget. That's simply out of order here, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Ms. Duncan, on the point of order.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, my questions are focused on the current capital planning by school councils, as has been requested by the Department of Education. This is entirely within the scope of general debate of the supplementary budget, and had the Member for Watson Lake wanted to raise this point, he had an hour and 10 minutes from the Member for Riverdale North to do so.
Chair: On the point of order, the Chair would like to note that, although discussion can be quite free-ranging on the issues regarding any department's budget, they should pertain to the supplementary budget, so I would ask members to ensure that their discussion is focused on the supplementary budget and to try to keep it within those bounds.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Chair. As I was questioning the minister, the point of the exercise of the capital planning by schools, at this point, is to determine where they want to go in the future and in future budgets, and there are line items, I note, for school alterations in the supplementary budget.
My question for the minister is how are F.H. Collins, Vanier, l'École Emilie Tremblay, and Porter Creek Secondary schools to plan to accommodate the programs that are presently housed at the Wood Street Annex if they don't know if they're getting them or not? If the minister's not making a decision until spring on these programs and where they're going, how are schools planning to accommodate them or not in September?
The capital planning for schools doesn't turn around on a dime. It takes some time.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, as I think the Member for Watson Lake was getting at, there is only one line item for various school alterations, which does not cover alterations to Whitehorse high schools. Nonetheless, I'm happy to respond to the member's question.
We will look at the availability of space in present high schools when we review the options for how we will continue to offer the programs that are presently being offered at Wood Street.
The school councils are involved in the long-range planning and setting up the criteria for determining capital project priorities as well as alterations and renovations. The Department of Education will use those criteria when we're determining how to put together next year's budget.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, perhaps when we get to that line item, the minister can indicate to me whether or not the school alterations will be able to accommodate the shop and mechanics classes that can't be taught right now because of the lack of space at Porter Creek, as well as the beauty and culture program, which can't be taught because of the lack of facilities at Porter Creek. Perhaps when we get to that specific line, the minister can indicate that to me.
Mr. Chair, I have no wish to restate and belabour the issues around education. I have some questions about specific items that have already been raised. These are just additional short, pointed questions.
With respect to the Mayo school, there was a brief discussion in planning with that community about joint facilities, working with the college and the library. Is there any thought to including any recreation facilities? For example, Mayo has an outdoor pool. Are there any questions from that community about including those facilities in the new school?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, that's the kind of discussion that is underway at the building advisory committee level. The joint councils of the Village of Mayo and Nacho Nyak Dun First Nation have been discussing that issue at the building advisory committee table. The scope of the project has not been finalized at this stage.
We are doing some advance work on planning, and we'll continue to do planning over the next year and a half or so, until the anticipated construction start - not in the 1999-2000 budget, but in the 2000-2001 budget.
Ms. Duncan: The Minister of Finance and Government Leader has not embraced the idea of a public-private partnership model. Is there any possibility that it might be used for a school in the Yukon - either Ross River or Mayo?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As I think the member should appreciate, when she talks about the public-private partnership, that's a proposal to mortgage the future and to borrow funds in order to build, in this case, schools, as I understand the member's representation.
What we prefer to do is allocate resources in our capital budget to make some long-term decisions responsibly about building schools in the Yukon to meet the priority needs on a one-school, one-year-at-a-time basis.
We have, as we've been discussing for the last couple of hours in this House, made some long-term decisions over a three-year window, and have not been forced to borrow money in order to accommodate it. We want to continue to put schools in the capital budget.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the short-sighted, narrow view that has been taken in this regard without a full and fair consideration of all of these options is terrible. Can the minister advise when the tenders for the Ross River school will be let?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I understand that the Minister of Government Services has that information available and would be happy to provide it. The funds in the supplementary budget for the Ross River school are for completing the design work and, in addition, as I indicated in my opening statement, we advanced $100,000 to replace the septic system at the Ross River school in order to not have to spend money repairing the existing system and then replacing it within a year.
Ms. Duncan: Is the Minister of Government Services wanting to provide information?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: With delight, Mr. Chair.
The project schedule to completion is as follows: September 1998, the design development stage's completion; October 1998 community presentation of the design development report took place in the community of Ross River with a coloured rendering of the building on October 27; January 1999 construction and tender documents are to be complete. It's anticipated the issue will be in April 1999 with construction complete in the year 2000.
We're also anticipating using some of the same local employment opportunities as we've used in the Old Crow project. We're currently exploring some options right now between construction contractors, Government Services and Education as to cost sharing and cross training opportunities for local construction personnel. The initial parameters of the economic benefit agreement between the community and the general contract for the school are also being developed, and it's my understanding that one of the contractors has already held some preliminary meetings in the community to gauge the temper of the community in the kinds of things that they're looking for in this.
We hope that these will be incorporated into any future design.
Ms. Duncan: I would take it from the Minister of Government Services' response then that, as with the Old Crow school, there is to be a general meeting of a number of interested contractors, and then tender work proceeds from there. I see the minister nodding his head, so I'll take that as an affirmative.
Mr. Chair, can the minister advise if the situation with the lease for the portables at the Robert Service School has been resolved, whether this is still an outstanding issue and if there is budget money in the supplementary budget for it?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, there are no funds in the supplementary budget for that. What I can indicate to the member is that I have had discussions with the Robert Service School Council, who are in agreement with the commitments that have been made by the Department of Education. We have agreed that we will carry out an investigation of the capacity of the Robert Service School in consultation with the school administration and the school council, and will finalize that by August 31, 1999.
We have also agreed that, following the investigation of the capacity of the school, if there is not adequate space to handle the current and projected enrollments, recommendations would be made regarding the future of the school facility.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I apologize. I didn't hear the minister mention the City of Dawson in those consultations. Did I mishear or misunderstand? Is the City of Dawson involved or not involved in these discussions?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, our primary link in communities to do with education matters is with the school councils rather than with municipal councils. The school council has requested that the municipality keep the school council involved. We are keeping both the Robert Service School Council and the municipality informed.
The municipality is aware that we have made a commitment to investigate the capacity of Robert Service School and then to come forward with recommendations if there are difficulties handling the current or the projected enrollment.
We've also agreed that long-term, indefinite, continued use of the modular classrooms is not desirable, but it is certainly the position of the school council that the best interests of the students at that school will be served by continuing to have the portables available for use until some longer term decisions are made.
What we're doing is investigating the capacity. Then we will look at what future recommendations might need to be brought forward to meet enrollment needs.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, still on the subject of capital and education, I noted to the minister that I was looking for some information regarding the capital planning and improvements to schools in the supplementary budget for Porter Creek, with respect to the shop and the beauty and culture programming.
I understand Vanier School has at least two major difficulties, which have been brought to my attention. One is the use of the gym floor, which has a type of flooring that is no longer used elsewhere. It's very, very hard on people's knees. The home ec class has been without water since school started this year.
Now, these are supposedly minor issues, but they certainly take up a lot of time at school council meetings, and they take up a lot of time in debates.
They're issues with regard to the work and capital planning at these schools. Now, can the minister come back with detail in the advanced improvements to schools line, or in the various school facility alterations line? I note there's only $16,000. This is hardly going to cover a new gym floor at Vanier.
Is there a listing of these ongoing issues that the minister and the department are looking at for capital funding in the spring session? Or are these just to be ongoing problems within various schools?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, those are items that do come forward from the schools for funding, with their school-initiated renovations budget. I do have a complete breakdown of the $16,000 in supplementary funding for the various school facility alterations. It's for a whole range of activities.
I will have to come back with a detailed answer on the member's specific question.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could I also ask the minister to come back with the details regarding the proposed extension to Christ the King Elementary School? I understand there's quite an extension planned for that school to accommodate grade 7. So, could the minister come back with the details on that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The Catholic community has come forward with a request for expansion to Christ the King Elementary School, which is now located in Riverdale. There are certainly no budget funds in the supplementary on that.
The Riverdale capacity review will look at the request for expansion to Christ the King Elementary, as well as other initiatives. There has been no decision in the final budget decisions for next year's capital mains, in relation to that particular request.
Ms. Duncan: I've mentioned a number of various, smaller ticket capital items in our debate in the last 10 minutes or so that I've heard from different schools. Now the school council chairs are discussing, in a general way, the larger - which schools get built first.
How do the minister and the department assign priority for these somewhat smaller capital items?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The school councils are involved in prioritizing the smaller budget amounts as well. They meet and provide recommendations so that we can get the work orders or the contracts out in the early spring, for various painting or classroom renovation projects that may not be found in the school-initiated renovations.
Ms. Duncan: Is there a dollar breakdown at what point it becomes not just a school-based decision but part of a larger discussion by school council chairs? At what point does it get to where Porter Creek shop needs are more important than Vanier's gym floor? Obviously, they're both large-ticket items, they're both going to come to school council chairs, and they're going to make their decisions based on the criteria. At what point does it cease to become a school-based renovation and become a discussion for the school council chairs?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Okay. Just to be clear on the public record, ultimately it is the government and the Minister of Education who are responsible in the House for the expenditures in both the operation and the capital budgets. The school councils bring forward recommendations and the department, the government and, ultimately, the minister, make the decisions on how the funds are allocated. In the case of the often-cited long-range capital plans, the recommendation for which order the three schools should be built was accepted.
As far as I'm aware, in the majority of the smaller projects, the recommendations of the school councils have been accommodated.
Nonetheless, to be clear, the school councils have given the government a list of the criteria. They have provided recommendations on priorities for the smaller projects, and the department's and the government's work is to accommodate those requests within the available funds.
Ms. Duncan: I would like to move to the diversion program. I should refer to it as the draft discipline policy. The minister indicated that the department was working on a policy - a five-stage intervention model, as it was referred to - and I don't recall seeing any finalization on that particular project.
I also understand that this is a program that made use of the Wood Street Annex. Can the minister confirm where that five-stage intervention model is at in terms of its development and implementation, and whether or not it makes use of the Wood Street Annex?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There has been a lot of work done at a number of different schools in meeting the new counselling model. As I understand it, the five-stage intervention model is being developed and piloted at the Jack Hulland Elementary School. I can seek further information and provide the member with an update. There are no supplementary budget implications for that program.
Ms. Duncan: I'll look forward to the minister's advice with regard to that, if she could get back to me early in the new year.
In the last budget, we dealt with a $100,000 saving because the minister had looked to save this at the transportation level. As I understand it, the discussions with respect to busing are ongoing, and no decision with respect to kindergarten busing has been made for next year. Is the $100,000 back in the supplementary somewhere, or are we waiting until the decision is made for the 1998-99 year?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There is nothing in the supps in relation to the noon-hour busing for kindergarten. As I've made the member aware, there was never any consideration of kindergarten children not having access to regular morning and afternoon busing services.
It was hoped that funds could be found available for offsets for expansions to other programs that consistently come forward. However, as the member stated in her question, we are in ongoing discussions with the busing committee and with Whitehorse school councils, who are all represented on that busing committee, and there has been no change in the current service for busing.
Ms. Duncan: When does the minister anticipate the busing committee reaching a decision with regard to the continuation or discontinuation of that service?
And, while the minister is on her feet, could she also indicated what happened with discussions with the City of Whitehorse with regard to busing senior high school students?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the busing committee meets monthly and, as I understand it, their next meeting is scheduled for mid-January. As well, in response to the busing report, we held discussions with the City of Whitehorse about the potential of using the city bus service for senior high school students and we were not able to reach an agreement.
Recently, we have reopened discussions with the City of Whitehorse to see if it might be possible to accommodate more senior high school students on the city busing routes. However, the manager who is responsible for the transportation program has recently left the city and so there has been no conclusion reached on that discussion item.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, it's unfortunate where the city is at in those discussions, not having a person with a corporate memory or background, so to speak. I wish the minister luck with those discussions and I would hope that they would come to fruition.
The Member for Riverdale North has raised the issue of the Education Act review and the minister has responded that the process would be over a two-year period. Where does that leave simple Education Act changes, like the school calendar, on the legislative agenda? Are they past the current life of this government and after the Education Act review?
The minister has indicated before that they're not prepared to bring forward slight changes, that any changes are after the Education Act review. So, is that position still the same or has it changed?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, the difficulty that I face in relation to the legislative agenda is that there are probably a half a dozen, or a dozen or more, requests in the community for what are seen as minor adjustments to the Education Act from one particular perspective, but which may be seen as major adjustments from someone else's point of view.
It would be very difficult for me to bring forward one amendment to accommodate one request from one group. For example, the member uses the example of the school calendar, which seems fairly innocuous and easy to accommodate. However, I am aware from my discussions with other members of the community and other education interest groups, that they would not take kindly to seeing any one change accommodated if their own change was not accommodated, and since we have indicated that we will proceed with an education review in advance of the mandatory 10-year review process in the year 2000 - that we hope to start that Education Act review in 1999 - I don't think it very likely that there would be Education Act changes prior to the completion of the full Education Act review.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, if I understand the minister, the review is to begin in 1999. We're looking at a two-year review, so the earliest that we'd be looking at legislative changes would be 2002, or the fall of 2002.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: The minister is saying, "2001."
Mr. Chair, I just want to apologize for a moment. I neglected to ask the minister a question with regard to the busing. One of the school council chairs called me with an issue, with respect to wanting to meet with parents of kindergarten-age children to discuss this issue with them. One of their difficulties has been access to these parents and, of course, we have this access through the health records.
Now, I'm not suggesting - because it's a privacy issue - that the Minister of Health allow these school councils access to these records, but the Minister of Health could certainly, on behalf of school council chairs, send something out to them. They certainly could contact parents, just in an instant almost, with the hepatitis-B updated vaccines, so surely they could contact parents of four year olds to suggest that they meet with their school council.
This was a legitimate concern raised with me this morning by a school council chair.
Would the minister undertake to discuss that with the Minister of Health?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This is something that the busing committee has also discussed and is an issue that has been raised.
We would help in advertising. The Department of Education takes an active part in putting out ads well before the beginning of the school year to encourage parents of new kindergarten students to come forward and register with the school in advance of the September intake.
The busing committee has also indicated an interest in holding a spring meeting with parents of four year olds who would be in kindergarten next year. We would help in advertising such a meeting to ensure that there was full input from parents of kindergarten students for the next school year.
Ms. Duncan: Well, I would suggest that there's a very easy, very direct method. This is nothing against the newspapers and their ability to advertise. They do reach a number of people, but I also believe that the Minister of Health has the ability to reach them very quickly and relatively inexpensively. They certainly were able to do that for the hepatitis B, so we should be able to find out how much it costs and compare them. I would suggest that the minister take that as a constructive suggestion.
The minister will recall that we had a lengthy discussion in the spring about the draft/not-a-draft, secret/not-secret document that was received by opposition offices. One of the key issues in that document was the curriculum delivery issue. Math was an area of particular concern.
What improvements have been made in the department, based on the report, and how are they reflected in the supplementary budget?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, the short answer is that it is not reflected in the supplementary budget. The long answer is that I can review the Blues, take a look at the member's question and come forward with information for her in advance of the spring mains budget.
Ms. Duncan: Could the minister also advise, if she wishes, by legislative return - with regard to the Yukon native teacher education program, the minister indicated that 20 Yukon native teacher education program graduates are currently employed in our system. Would the minister outline how many students are currently in the program and how many are non-Yukon First Nations?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: That is information that I already advised the Member for Riverdale North that I would be happy to provide, and will ensure that the Member for Porter Creek South receives a copy.
Ms. Duncan: Thanks, Mr. Chair. I'd also like to address another personnel, if you like, issue that has been noted by a number of individuals. There are a great number of positions in the Department of Education, in particular, that are acting positions. We have an acting principal at F.H. Collins, an acting principal at Haines Junction, we've had an acting ADM in the department for a long time.
Has the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission or has the Public Service Commission made the department aware of this situation and suggested any potential reviews of the department or its operations based upon this?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm certainly aware of the situation that the member describes. There are some acting assignments as principalships for schools. I believe the member is aware that those are in place as temporary assignments at the request of schools councils that want to take a full amount of time to advertise, interview and recruit a permanent principal.
The temporary assignments are in place for a year, and we anticipate that the staffing will be undertaken prior to the next school year for permanent positions.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, some of those positions I mentioned are actually within the department itself.
Is there any organizational study or operational work ongoing in the Department of Education with regard to examining how positions are staffed and how long we allow them to remain as acting?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the overall responsibility of the deputy minister is to ensure that the departmental organization meets the operational needs of the department.
The acting assignments within the department - as opposed to within schools - are finite positions, where someone is acting where someone has a temporary assignment for a two-year or a three-year term in another position.
When we backfill for someone who has taken a temporary assignment, we're not able to fill the position on a permanent basis, when someone is coming back to their substantive position after they have completed their temporary assignment.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm sure the minister can appreciate that someone filling an acting position for two or three years certainly has an expectation of continuing that position.
I'd like to ask the minister - in relation to our earlier-in-the-day discussions - Advanced Education has additional funds in this budget. The minister talked earlier today - in a ministerial statement - about the Yukon training strategy.
I outlined for the minister a specific situation with regard to the Yukon's ability to train individuals to work with oil burners and home heating systems.
This particular individual has expressed a great deal of frustration in working on this issue with Advanced Education. I would just like to ask the minister to revisit this issue and see if there's a commitment by the department to working with expertise located here in the Yukon to meeting a very clear, concerted need on this issue to train individuals, not only to service oil-fired heating systems but home heating systems, period.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, I will look into that concern that the member has raised about oil burner and home heating systems and ensuring that there is adequate training available, whether within Advanced Education or at Yukon College.
Ms. Duncan: Some of the schools and school council notes have reflected reductions in teaching staff at schools; for example, music is no longer being offered at one of the Whitehorse elementary schools. Can the minister advise what teaching reductions have gone on at schools and if there is funding to perhaps reinstate these teachers after the Christmas break?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I believe that the member is aware that there has been declining enrollment at the schools. I can provide a return for the member with that specific information.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could I also ask the minister to indicate what changes are being suggested by the department? I understand that department officials have suggested changes to schools with regard to testing and evaluation models. I understand that there is a proposal to use a model from Alberta for grades 3 through 9, as opposed to using the Canadian tests of basic standards.
Now, I understand that teachers do ongoing evaluation in their classrooms. I understand that, and I understand what they are doing. I also understand that the department is suggesting an alternative to the school councils. Could the minister outline what alternatives the department is suggesting and what the ramifications are?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, again, this is a subject that is not in relation to our supplementary budget that I can provide by return for the member prior to the main estimates debate in the spring.
Chair: Is it members' wish to have a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We're on the Department of Education. Is there any further general debate?
Ms. Duncan: I just have a couple of questions left for the minister. The increased use of technology, i.e. video conferencing, is something that the minister had committed to look at in terms of servicing, particularly out of Whitehorse schools, and this is a particularly useful option that might be considered when there are specialized teachers required for senior grades and they are not available. I'm wondering if the minister can indicate if the department has examined the increased use of technology in the Chief Zzeh Gittlit School replacement, if this has been accommodated in the construction of the school, if it has been accommodated in the Ross River school design, and if that has been anticipated by the department?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I can tell the member that the ability to accommodate distance education is something that our information technology folks are looking at, and that that is an initiative across government, particularly between Government Services and the Department of Education. We're looking at both Old Crow and Ross River, and elsewhere.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, I appreciate that the minister has said the government's looking at it. It's something that the earlier - not just the better, but the less expensive. That is, if we put in the computer cabling when we're building the school, it's a lot easier to do beforehand, instead of later. I see the minister nodding.
The final question: could the minister indicate if there are any resources dedicated in the supplementary budget to dealing with First Nations concerns regarding education? There were a number of concerns that were raised out of CYFN's General Assembly and specific First Nation General Assemblies this summer. I've received documents that some First Nations are very, very concerned about education in our community and very unhappy with current delivery.
Are there any additional resources in the supplementary budget to specifically deal with concerns expressed by First Nations?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, that's a very broad question that covers a number of budget areas. As an example, the provision of training for new school council members - both guaranteed representatives and other school council members - to work effectively with First Nations. I can't point to a specific dollar amount in the supplementary, but I can indicate to her that we're working collaboratively with First Nations, as one of the major partners in education.
Ms. Duncan: Could I just ask the minister for the documents that have been made available to school council chairs at their fall conference? Could I have copies of those documents? And if the minister could provide me with a list, since there is guaranteed representation on school councils, of what vacancies there are and how long they've been vacant. Could she provide that for me by legislative return?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I can provide that information to the member. I would be happy to get her a package of the information that was provided to school council members at their recent student conference. Any vacancies or guaranteed representations would be as a result of the recent elections. I believe that most of the guaranteed representative positions in school councils across the Yukon have been filled. Where there are vacancies, I will provide her with a list of them.
Mr. Jenkins: I just have a few questions for the minister surrounding the issue of Robert Service School in Dawson City. One of the questions I posed to the minister on April 8 of last year was the occupancy load and the student load of Robert Service School. I asked the minister to table the letter transmission from the architects who designed and built the school - Wood Gardener O'Neill - as to the occupancy load that it was designed for. The minister's response, in her letter to me of July 3, was that the transmission letter from the architect was not readily available for tabling before the end of the last session.
Could the minister please table that information by way of legislative return or letter?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I'll look for that information for the member. As I indicated in response to questions just in the last half hour from the Member for Porter Creek South, we are conducting a capacity study of the Robert Service School and are looking at any possible subsequent recommendations for potential expansion.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, but I'm most interested in pursuing the letter from the original architects who designed the school.
There is currently a contractor sole-sourced to Mauer Kobayashi Architects for a facility utilization study. It was sole-sourced to them back in mid-October and it would appear that the school council has now just been made aware of it in Dawson City this last week. It's kind of interesting when one reads the background. Assuming the consultant found that the current school, minus the portables, was a sufficient size to support those programs, then the study would, for all intents and purposes, be complete. If, however, they found that there was insufficient space then they would proceed with the second phase, which involves a development of recommendations regarding changing program delivery models and/or renovating areas of the school including a possible school addition to improve the capacity of the facility.
School council was told that the decision was going to be made and this study was going to be finalized by mid-December. Is that still the case, because I heard the minister say April?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I will check on the status of that project for the member and provide him with a response. As I understand it, the school council has been involved in the determination of the terms of reference and has been fully involved in the project to undertake a review of the capacity of Robert Service School.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, thank you very much, but there are a number of problems with the plan, as proposed. It does not establish a capacity of the school; it only determines if it's presently able to meet its requirement. And it does not develop a plan for dealing with the future shortfalls of space.
Given that the present school enrollment is only 270, phase 1 of this plan will surely reach the conclusion that the school is sufficiently large, Mr. Chair. The analysis does not deal with space that has been changed now from what it was intended to be, and there's no school council participation, to speak of, in this review. Why?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I understand that the school council has been involved in developing the terms of reference. The department has spoken with the teachers and the school administration, as well - and the facility's manager and Government Services. We will be working with the school council throughout this project.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I hope that is indeed the case, because that is not the information that I have had conveyed to me, Mr. Chair. It has been a very cursory review so that the minister can stand up in the House here and say, "We have consulted. We have consulted. We have consulted." But the timelines placed on the student council and their participation in this project to date have been very, very minimal. I do have grave concerns about it, but we will take that information back, and I am sure that it will lead to extensive debate next spring.
The other concern that I have with respect to Robert Service School is why the minister has not signed the lease for the portables in Dawson City. This will be the second extension, and it has been agreed to by Dawson City's Robert Service School Council and officials from the City of Dawson, and the council has approved it.
Now, it's my understanding in speaking with the minister that she has gone out, and - I guess what we could call it - purchased a legal opinion to hide behind. Now, why is the minister refusing to sign this extension? All it does is establish timelines and trigger something to happen should the population of the school rise above a certain number. Why is the minister refusing to sign this lease?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, again to repeat, the school council in Dawson City has been fully involved in the determination of the terms of reference for the review of the capacity at Robert Service School.
The member has also stated that I have requested a legal opinion on the licence of occupation. That is indeed the case. I cannot commit the Yukon government to signing an agreement with the Dawson City municipal council in relation to the removal of the portables by a specific date. Our government has made a commitment to prioritize major capital projects, which involves consultation with all school councils.
I cannot make a commitment for a potential addition to the Robert Service School without having consulted with all school councils regarding its relative priority on the list of requested expansions and renovations and new construction around the territory.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister knows that that's pure bunk. She can make the decisions, but she makes them for political purposes, in this case.
From the time that the portables were placed in Dawson City, we're looking at six years. This is the second extension that's been requested by the government to extend the life of the portables.
Let's call a spade a spade. These are no longer portables. They're permanent fixtures, and they have been in virtually all parts of the Yukon on a continuing basis.
So, when is the minister going to call something what it should be called, and come right out and say, "We are looking for those portables to remain there permanently, until such time as the school population increases above a certain level."
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, all governments make political decisions. All governments make political decisions. All government make decisions where the needs throughout the territory are balanced in relation to available funds, and in relation - in the case of school construction - to the recommendations that come forward for the prioritization of capital projects, taking into account the needs in various communities.
Dawson City is no exception to this. The needs in Dawson City will be considered - as will the needs in Ross River and Mayo and Old Crow and Teslin and Watson Lake, and all the Yukon communities.
Mr. Jenkins: But what we have here, Mr. Chair, is an issue surrounding the licence-of-occupation for the portables adjacent to Robert Service School.
It is agreed to by the City of Dawson, the Robert Service School Council - and I'm given to understand that it was agreed to by a number of the officials from the Department of Education.
Now, where did this requirement for a legal opinion come from? Why did the minister seek a legal opinion on this matter? Are we just stalling - trying to delay - like she's doing to so many other individuals around the Yukon? Is this the NDP tactic - the NDP better way - find a legal opinion and hide behind it? So, the minister has gone out and purchased a legal opinion. Why?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, as I have indicated to the member, we will work with the Robert Service School Council, as we will with school councils throughout the territory, to identify the needs and to respond to those needs, taking into account that there are competing demands from across the territory and that there are limited financial resources available. We will prioritize major capital projects in view of the recommendations that come forward from school councils to meet the needs in all communities.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister has done that in part. Now, she's not taking the advice that has been provided to her and she is not finalizing the arrangement. The lease, as proposed by the City of Dawson, was agreed to by the school council and was agreed to by a number of officials from the Department of Education. What I want to know from the minister is what triggered the requirement for a legal opinion? Where did that come from?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, the member opposite may or may not be aware that when the agreement came back from Dawson City - and I did sign the agreement some time ago - the municipal council of Dawson City sent back a revised agreement with new clauses that we had not agreed to. I have asked for a legal opinion, because I want to be sure that what this government is doing does meet the legal requirements in all cases.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister knows that that is patently false information she's providing in the House. The lease was driven by the City of Dawson, was signed by the City of Dawson after it was reviewed by the Robert Service School Council, was sent down to the minister for the minister's signature. The minister and her officials or her department changed the lease, signed it and sent it back to the city and they said, "We're sorry, this isn't the lease that was agreed to or signed by the city." It was the minister herself, or her department, that changed the terms and conditions in that lease. Why was that done and why does the minister now hide behind a legal opinion?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, perhaps the member opposite doesn't want to respect the law, but I can assure him that I do.
We're going to have to agree to disagree here. The licence of occupation that the Dawson City municipal council sent down for signature had been revised. I have asked the Department of Justice to provide me with a legal opinion about the sections of the municipal bylaw that are being brought forward for consideration by the municipal council and do not want to effectively pre-empt the consultation process that we have agreed to that involves all school councils collectively making a decision about the priorities for construction of school expansions and new schools.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, just to set the record straight, it was the minister's department or the minister who changed the terms of the agreement and altered it, signed it and sent it back to the City of Dawson. It wasn't the City of Dawson. They had the original version, they developed the original version, and the minister knows that full well, and now she's hiding behind a legal opinion.
I just have one other further question to that, Mr. Chair. There is a new provision under the Yukon Municipal Act that allows for the government to exempt itself from any municipal bylaw. Is it the direction that the Minister of Education will be taking with her colleague, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, to exempt themselves from this provision of Dawson City's bylaws?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I haven't given consideration to that and, as the member knows, the new Municipal Act, which has been debated in this House during this session, has not been proclaimed. I can tell the minister that the decision that I have made is to be responsible and to effectively involve all school councils in determining the priorities for capital construction. I don't think it would be fair to make an exception for Dawson City.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it's certainly not making an exception for Dawson City. What the minister is doing is hiding behind a legal opinion - hiding behind this, stalling, stalling, stalling. There hasn't been an agreement in place for quite some time, until this new Municipal Act is assented to. I have strong suspicions that the government will be exempting itself from this provision under that section of the act where they're allowed and permitted to do so.
I think that's where we're heading, because I couldn't see any other use for that provision in the Municipal Act, other than situations like this. The government has been looking for ways out, and all we have is a situation where the minister is hiding behind this legal opinion and will not sign the agreement, even though it has been agreed to by the City of Dawson, the Robert Service School Council and a number of her officials.
So, something has triggered this legal opinion, and the minister's just hiding behind this as an excuse.
So, we'll leave this, Mr. Chair, but we'll have a lot of questions next spring, when we come back in general debate.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Education Support Services
Ms. Duncan: Could I ask the minister to offer an explanation, please, for these lines - a brief one for each one.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The supplementary request is for collective agreement increases.
Education Support Services in the amount of $24,000 agreed to
On Public Schools
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Again, this amount is for collective agreement increases and for a student information system project.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could I ask the minister to elaborate on the student information project?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This is a transfer of $10,000 from education support services for a special student information system project for training school staff. This will be to train school staff to use the student information system.
Public Schools in the amount of $111,000 agreed to
On Advanced Education
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, this is for collective agreement increases for wages and benefits.
Mr. Phillips: That doesn't seem to jive. Public schools budget is $51 million, and that's for all our teachers. Advanced education has a lot fewer people, and it's about double the money in the collective agreement. It seems to me like there must be another item in here.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, this amount includes the collective agreement effect of $1,492,597 for wages and benefits for 26.36 FTEs, which is the personnel allotment. It also includes transfer payments for the collective bargaining increase to Yukon College, in line with the increase that PSAC members received.
Advanced Education in the amount of $224,000 agreed to
On Libraries and Archives
Libraries and Archives in the amount of $32,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the revenue?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, this is an increase that had not been anticipated. Did the fees increase, or was this an increased enrollment?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This is for enrollment. There is a charge of $110 per participant per course, for the French programs division for the true beginner, intermediate, advanced, exceptional advanced, and extended program. There is a minimum enrollment for 10 students per course, except for the advanced level which we would operate with eight students per class.
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Education in the amount of $391,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Education Support Services
On Staff Support, Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This is for the collective agreement increases for the three staff members in this unit.
Staff Support, Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $3,000 agreed to
On Public Schools
On Facility Construction and Maintenance
On Various School Facility Alterations
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, this is a request for a revote for the school-initiated renovations funding. I have agreed to provide the member with a detailed list, with a breakdown by school.
Various School Facility Alterations in the amount of $16,000 agreed to
On Chief Zzeh Gittlit School Replacement
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, this is for a revote to cover project construction for $969,000. The second request is for the completion of the Chief Zzeh Gittlit School replacement.
Chief Zzeh Gittlit School Replacement in the amount of $1,125,000 agreed to
On Ross River School Design
Ross River School Design in the amount of $339,000 agreed to
On Jack Hulland Fire Repairs
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, this is a request to cover the costs of fire damage to the school, and replacement of materials, and personal effects. Members will note that there is a recovery of $705,000, which we expect to receive from the contractor's insurance. It covers fire-damaged material, miscellaneous personal losses, and building cleanup.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could I ask the Minister of Government Services with respect to the Jack Hulland fire repairs if I could have a detailed breakdown of the filing of the insurance claims through the contractor - when they were filed. I'm not asking for this on his feet. Could I just have it on the record by a legislative return? I would like to know when they were filed, whether progress claims were filed and what the response has been and the turnaround time on this.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, I -
Chair: Order please. Would members wait to be recognized before speaking?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I will endeavour to provide that by way of legislative return, although I must say that the Member for Riverdale South is urgently asking me to respond in an oral form.
Jack Hulland Fire Repairs in the amount of $705,000 agreed to
On Advanced Education
On Training Trust Funds
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This includes a revote of $144,000 for commitments that had not been paid out at year-end, as well as a request for $500,000 for additional funding with training trust funds, which will be developed with communities for private sector or community-specific training initiatives.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, over the course of the summer, the minister supplied me with a list of existing training trusts - how much was contributed by the Government of Canada, how much by the Government of Yukon and how much has been expended to date.
Could I ask her to update the information that she sent me earlier and could I also have the parameters around the expenditures under those trusts? Was there a board appointed? If so, by whom? Where are the vacancies and, in a briefing note size or less, what is the precise mandate of the training trusts?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I have that information available and I would be happy to provide it to the member.
Training Trust Funds in the amount of $644,000 agreed to
On Adult Education Capital Support
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This is a revote for the upgrade of the student financial assistance information system to develop common information systems and to be year 2000 compliant.
Adult Education Capital Support in the amount of $85,000 agreed to
On Student Financial Assistance (Special Investment Fund)
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, this is an amount that is recoverable and is a continuation of the year 2000 projects.
Student Financial Assistance (Special Investment Fund) in the amount of $89,000 agreed to
On Libraries and Archives
On Community Library Development Projects
Community Library Development Projects in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the recoveries?
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Education in the amount of $3,021,000 agreed to
Department of Education agreed to
Department of Finance
Chair: Is there general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, the Department of Finance is seeking $2,360,000 in additional appropriation authority for the 1998-99 fiscal year. Of this total, $60,000 is as a result of the new collective agreement with the Public Service Alliance. This sum is carried in a treasury program. Also in the treasury program is a $100,000 provision for potential costs associated with the tax reform, banking and community investment vehicle initiatives. These monies are required, in some small part, to cover consultation costs, but are principally for expert advice that may be needed to develop legislation for the tax and investment vehicle parts of the initiative.
The $2.2 million shown as an expenditure under bad debts expense is simply the result of us receiving our booking monies due under the current proceedings last year rather than this year.
Members will recall that we originally thought these funds would be received in the current fiscal year and therefore have shown a negative expense under bad debts in the main estimates. A negative expense was shown because the bad debt had been an expense a number of years ago and this transaction merely corrected what has turned out to be an overexpenditure in the past for bad debts.
As it stands now, the banking contract is going well, and we are preparing ourselves for a new tender call, because between the two years, there was no impact on our financial position to the discrete profiling of the receipt of these monies.
There is a very small decline in income tax revenues as a result of the new estimates from Canada under the tax collection agreement, and we're predicting an increase in our investment income of some $280,000. This increase results from interest rates being somewhat higher than expected and a larger accumulated surplus being on hand than that projected in the main estimates.
Other than the items I've mentioned, the department's operations and costs are unchanged from the main estimates.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I won't have any questions in this department at this time. I asked most of the questions I needed to ask in the general debate on the supplementary budget. In order to facilitate the debate of the rest of the supplementary budget, I'll reserve my questions until the main budget in the spring.
Mr. Cable: In general debate, I referred the minister to the memorandum of April 27, 1998, from the minister to the leader of the official opposition and me on a number of projections - worst case and best case scenarios related to the Faro mine closure - and some discussions on the perversity factor - the impact of tax rate changes.
I believe that the minister's deputy has had a chance to refresh his memory on that. Has there been, to date, any significant changes? Or, does the minister anticipate any significant changes in the numbers that are in that handout?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, at this time we do not. We will be updating them thoroughly for the main estimates review, but at this point we don't detect any significant change.
Mr. Cable: I asked the minister in the spring about the two special accounts that he had referred to in his budget speech - the one being the Arctic Winter Games and the other being the account for the Dawson sewage or recreational facility - and I asked how far those agreements were along down the road. The minister had indicated that he didn't anticipate the trust would be formed with the government. There would be outside trust.
He did indicate that there would be agreements. Could he tell us how far we're along in the respective agreements for those two accounts?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I'll have to take notice on the question, Mr. Chair. The discussion between the government and the municipalities is led by the Department of Community and Transportation Services. I'll check on the matter.
Mr. Cable: The minister, in his opening remarks, mentioned consultation fees for the tax review. Is there a breakdown in that number? The gross number for the treasury line item is $160,000. How much of that is due to consultation? Perhaps I missed it in his opening remarks.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The figure that we've laid out for the tax review, overall, along with the other items that I've mentioned, was $100,000. That would be largely, as I pointed out, for tax expertise, both in the development of the proposals and in the legislative changes. The actual public consultation itself will be minimal.
Mr. Cable: The banking services contract with the Toronto Dominion Bank - can we have an update on that? Are there any problems with the contract, or is it running smoothly?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, the contract is running very well. There are three banking agencies, as the member, I'm sure, is aware. I held a round table with the banking community in the last few weeks, where we discussed banking services and got some initial thoughts from the banking community on our proposed tender call for banking services next year. I intend to follow up with more discussions with the banking community.
As it stands right now, the banking contract is going well, and we are preparing ourselves for a new tender call.
Mr. Cable: On forecasting, I would ask some questions of the minister's colleague, the Minister of Economic Development, who indicated that he had hoped that there would be a forecast ready prior to the budget. He didn't give a firm commitment on that.
Does the Minister of Finance anticipate using that forecast if, in fact, it arrives in the formation of the budget?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, in the form of a forecast, the Cabinet has had some discussions with the department personnel respecting what possibly will happen in the future. Those discussions have taken place.
I have to take notice of the question in terms of a published forecast. I'd have to ask the Minister of Economic Development.
Mr. Cable: Okay, just so we're on the same wavelength when we come to the budget session in the spring, what forecasting will the minister be relying on in the preparation of the budget?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, we will be relying on all published forecasts, and discussions that we will have with department personnel, with respect to what they see coming - in the coming year, and years.
We will be forecasting, of course, our revenue and expenditures over a three-year period - at least for major capital works - and, as well, for overall total O&M spending, as we have in the past.
As far as the forecasting is concerned, that's an ongoing process, and we rely on department personnel, as well as the information that we do receive ourselves directly, to give us a sense of where the economy is going.
Mr. Cable: I was thinking more on the revenue side. What will the minister be relying on for that aspect of it? The departments, I assume, will - as he mentioned - give advice on the expenditure side, but what about the revenue side?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, in terms of the local revenue, as I mentioned, we use departmental advice to help us determine what the income - or the receipts - will be from locally generated revenues. We depend on federal Finance for a forecast of income tax receipts.
That totals the revenue we receive.
Mr. Cable: In the tax review that's going on at the moment, one of the programs that's being looked at is the investment tax credit type of program, which was brought in in the Northwest Territories early this year. From the minister's public comments, I gather that he seems in favour of that approach to job creation. Has his thinking advanced to the point where he's prepared to say that yes, that's the way we're going to go, and it will be in the spring budget?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the precise nature of the vehicle we use to encourage locally generated investment monies through the tax system has not been determined in its final form at this point, so I'm unable to give the member a more definitive answer than that. We are interested, of course, as I've mentioned, in using the tax system to generate economic activity, or to encourage economic activity, and the member is aware of the letter from the tax table to me, which outlines their recommendations, and we are doing the analysis of those recommendations now and discussing what we can do to reform the tax regime to encourage activity.
Mr. Cable: Is the research far enough along that we can give some rough idea of the estimated revenue pool for these programs, if in fact they're brought in, and the amount of jobs that they're likely to create?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, there's analysis done for each proposal as to what its impact will be. Outside expertise is often sought to do modeling for us, so when determining the potential impact of a particular tax measure, I know that some services have been purchased from various people in the tax field. That's one of the reasons for the expenditure that we're requesting now. We will be able to determine - at least as far as the best information in the country can provide - some notion of what the precise economic consequence will be of certain tax measures, at least as far as forecasting can determine.
Mr. Cable: Will the results of that research be available prior to the budget session in the spring?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, given that these are tax measures, I will undertake to make the information available to members after the tax measures are announced.
Chair: Is there further debate? Seeing none, we will proceed to operation and maintenance expenditures.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Treasury in the amount of $160,000 agreed to
On Bad Debts Expense
Bad Debts Expense in the amount of $2,200,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Finance in the amount of $2,360,000 agreed to
Chair: Any questions on revenue?
Some Hon. Members: Clear.
Department of Finance agreed to
Chair: Committee will proceed to the Department of Government Services.
Department of Government Services
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, I am very aware of the time constraints, not only at this time, but also in general. So, what I would suggest is if the members can endeavour to keep their questions relatively short, I will endeavour, with great perseverance, to keep my responses short.
The combined operation and maintenance and capital supplementary budget for funding for Government Services totals $4,025,000.
O&M funding has increased by $474,000. Of this amount, $66,000 will be offset by additional recoveries. An amount of $81,000 consists of revotes approved to complete projects started in 1997-98. The balance of the increase of $327,000 is accounted for by $277,000 for the collective agreement impact and $50,000 for various departmental costs to develop innovative material methods of providing high quality telecommunication services to Yukon communities.
Capital funding has increased by $3,551,000. Of this amount, $1,100,000 will be offset by additional recoveries due to agreements signed with the federal government. These agreements include $100,000 for the community access program, which provides improved Internet access to communities and $1,000,000 for the provision of project management services to Public Works Canada for managing the construction of forestry infrastructure facilities.
Revotes in the amount of $1,971,000 have been approved to continue projects for previous years. New funding includes collective agreement impacts on capital programs to the amount of $32,000. An additional $148,000 is required for rebates payable under the business incentive program. Property management projects have increased by $300,000. Details of the projects can be provided in the line-by-line debate.
These are the highlights of the supplementary requests. I'd be pleased to answer any questions from members at this time.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we do have some questions. We have some questions surrounding the issue of project management, because more and more we're heading down this road, Mr. Chair. I refer to the Taylor House that came in, I'm given to understand, at over $1 million in the final cost.
What I'm more concerned with under project management is that we go out and have the mechanical design by various firms, the engineer's seal is on it, and the project manager steps in and makes changes that, despite assurances given to the engineering firm, negates their seal and they are still on the hook.
When this happens, how does the government, through project management, assume the liability for any occurrence that could result as a result of a change? Could the minister expand on project management as to who is ultimately assuming the liability for the multitude of trades and subtrades that are on the job? Because when you have a general, your recourse is right to the general. If there is a problem, that's where you go.
Now, what do we do with respect to warranty and liability?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, first of all, I'd like to disabuse the member of the notion that the Taylor House came in at over $1 million. The project itself - in terms of the renovations - came in at $351,000. It was more than we had planned, but then what we discovered as we began doing renovations is that there was extensive work with regard to such things as log replacement. We had to replace some of the ceiling joists, some of the floor supports, and so on.
So, I just wanted to clear up that spec right now, because we wouldn't want to have the member to have a - oh, I'm sorry, it was not $351,000, it was $315,000, excuse me.
With regard to project management, we've only had one incident that's come to my attention where there's been a question of concern between the engineer who designed the project, and the department, and that was with regard to the Taylor House - it was with regard to the heating system. That was eventually resolved between the parties.
With regard to project management, we assume that the liability for a project that's done by a sub - we would assume that if it's done in compliance with the design requirements, then the sub would assume the liability.
In the same way a general contract would assume the liability for an overall project. But if the member wants some further detail on this, I could provide it to him by way of legislative return.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'd be most interested in receiving a legislative return on the liability arising out of project management, because it is an issue.
With respect to the Taylor House, the total contract the minister is alleging was $315,000. What about the cost to the government for project management on this building?
Chair: Order please. The time being 5:30, Committee will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is dealing with the Department of Government Services. Is there any further general debate?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Before we broke for supper, the Member for Klondike asked about some of the costs for the Taylor House. I have a very, very extensive breakdown of the various costs that I can provide to the member in the form of a list, for such things as the demolition of things, roofing replacement and so on, but it would be quite exhaustive, if the member wanted me to go through it.
With regard to the project management costs, those were done in house by one of our own project managers. So, it would be difficult to hive those out, but I suppose I could find an estimate for the approximate amount of time that the person worked on this project, because they would also be working on other projects at the same time.
Mr. Jenkins: It would be excellent if the minister could send that over by way of letter. What I'm looking at is a total cost. I'm sure that by the time the minister adds up the cost of acquisition and demolition at $315,000, which was readily found, and the project manager, we're looking at a million dollar building on that site.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: With regard to the cost of the building, I was merely referring to the renovation costs; I wasn't referring to the acquisition costs. Those were borne, I believe, out of the CDF.
I do know what our costs were in terms of renovations, and so on - that came to $315,000 - and those are hard figures.
So I can provide that for the member by means of some kind of return or letter.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm also looking at the project management costs; we're budgeting at an additional $1 million in this supp for project management services. There must be an allocation internally, as to the various projects undertaken by Government Services, in this regard.
So what I'm looking at is a break-out of the costs for project management, specifically the Taylor House. I'm sure that cost has to be readily available.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As I indicated before, we could probably do an estimate on that - just in terms of how much time was spent by the individual.
Mr. Jenkins: I am quite concerned, though, with the minister's statement, that "we can do an estimate of that." I would be of the opinion that project management costs are directly associated to the specific projects that the project management team is engaged to undertake, and that their internal cost accounting would be much more detailed than an estimate.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, in this case, the project manager would not only be working on this, but on several other projects, as well. So, I guess we could do a breakdown of the amount of time that was spent on this versus other projects. Each project manager within property management would carry several projects at any given time. As a matter of fact, I know that the project manager assigned to this project has several other projects on the go.
Mr. Jenkins: What I'm looking for the minister to provide is a list of the projects being done by project management. I'd like the minister to detail, with that list, their budgets and, if the project is completed before the next session, I'd like to know the final cost of the project. I'd also like to know the cost breakdown of project management assigned to each project, and then whether or not the government assigns any internal exposure or liability costs for deficiencies arising out of their project management.
Normally when you go to a general contractor he has a small component that he saves in there for deficiencies after the project is completed. That's what I'm looking for: that cost that you're budgeting internally for such an eventuality.
By going to project management instead of a general contractor, there is an exposure and there is a resulting liability arising out of that undertaking that is directly on the back of government. I'd like to know what the dollar figure is that government has budgeted for that liability or exposure or, are they saying it's zero and if something arises, we'll deal with it during the course of business.
Can the minister provide that undertaking? I'm not looking at that information being tabled now. Could he bring it back in a subsequent letter or a legislative return, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I have been copying notes here. What I will try to do is review the Blues, send them over to the department and try to provide as much detail for the member as I can.
Mr. Jenkins: Before we went to a number of project management situations - if you want to get specific, Mr. Chair, along the Whitehorse waterfront, the old fire hall, the White Pass building - were any reviews conducted as to the effect that it would have on general contractors? Because virtually all those that previously relied on government business are out of work in the Yukon, has any review been conducted as to what effects it would have on the general contracting business?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No. Specifically on the building on the waterfront, those were managed by us with an aim to distribute as much work as we possibly could among a variety of small contractors. The goal there was to provide as many, I guess, subs or small contractors as possible with work. As well, there were some other aims in terms of some modifications, for example, on BIP to try to encourage some youth employment, as well. But specifically with regard to generals, no.
Mr. Jenkins: What other aims were we trying to achieve by going to project management, and did we achieve those goals, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can tell the member that if we take the Taylor House as an example - with regard to, say, the small railway buildings and the work that's forthcoming on the White Pass, some of which has not been tendered yet - we had a local company design tender packages. A local contractor, Versatile, to perform selective demolition; a local contractor to do roof replacement; a local contractor, Yukon River Timber, to remove old, deteriorated log chinking; a company for electrical, a company for plumbing and heating and so on, such as flooring. So, a large number of small contractors worked on this. That was the aim, to try and provide some of these smaller contractors with as much work as possible.
Mr. Jenkins: What I'm looking for is to assemble that information, Mr. Chair, and deal with it next spring, when we deal with the budget and the effects it's having on a lot of these projects.
I'd like to take the minister to the government contracting summary report by departments for the period April 1, 1998, to September 30, 1998. I'm asking the minister to provide copies of some of the details surrounding the following contracts: SS98-09315500973, for $6,718 to install a sign - not supply and install; just to install a sign. The other one I'm curious to find some more details about is SS98-09307500547. It's an open house that was provided by Government Services for $7,112. That was quite a party, from all reports, for that kind of expenditure, Mr. Chair.
Another contract I'm curious about how it works is contract number SS97-03311701680. Again, this is a sole-sourced contract to supply heating fuel. I'd just like to know why it was done that way and on that basis, Mr. Chair.
So, if the minister could undertake to provide that information by way of letter or legislative return, I'd like to deal with it next year.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We've taken note of those; however, my official has indicated that the first two are actually C&TS contracts, and the third one referenced by the member is actually an Education contract. So, the member is just seeking information as to, say, quantity of fuel and who the contractor was, for example, at the open house, like a caterer, or whatever - that type of detail?
Mr. Jenkins: That's correct, Mr. Chair. We seem to be spending a heck of a good sum of money on an open house - $7,000 for a party. That's a pretty good party, by any stretch of the imagination.
Some of the other costs - I'll have more requests as we proceed, Mr. Chair, but those are some of the initial ones we'd like to look at and explore in detail.
We have copies of some of the major contracts that we're just breaking down and looking at, but these stick out very much like a sore thumb, as being sole-sourced, and they seem to be somewhat high in cost, given the resulting purpose of the contract.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can't comment on other departments, but I can tell you that in Government Services we get by with a two-litre bottle of pop, a bag of chips and - if we're really going wild - one of those little tubs of dip.
But I'll check, certainly, on other people's party habits.
Ms. Duncan: I just have three key issues I'd like to discuss with the minister. I have already written to him and asked for specific contracts by department, so I won't be asking for specific details on any one contract.
I'd like to ask the minister to cast his mind back to one of our favourite subjects - NovaLIS. In the spring debate, the minister indicated to me that there was about $400,000 worth of work related to converting maps and documents into electronic form. The minister was hoping that the local companies would be undertaking this.
Can the minister advise what happened? I didn't notice that contract tendered over the summer.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, actually, what we're looking at, quite frankly, is a series of contracts that will flow out - we're expecting the first, I believe, in December. The majority of the work is scheduled for completion in spring of 1999. So there will actually be a series of contracts flowing out of that.
Ms. Duncan: I'm sorry, Mr. Chair, I missed that initial part of the minister's response. Is the minister saying that the balance of that work will be tendered locally in December?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The conversion of map work to digital form will be done. It won't be one contract; it'll be a series of contracts. We're expecting the first, I believe, to be tendered this month and then subsequent contracts to be flowing in the spring of 1999.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister and I spoke about having meetings with local contractors much in the way the Old Crow school operated in that the minister had a meeting with the general contractors available in that particular field prior to tendering the contract. Is that the anticipation with this work as well?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, that is the plan, and I believe a meeting has already been held with some of the people involved in information technology.
Ms. Duncan: I would expect, then, that we're looking at information technology types as opposed to geomatics companies.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would imagine it would be both. Yes, Mr. Chair, we would be looking primarily at the information technology people because that's basically the project: to have it converted to digital form.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, a moment ago I mentioned the Old Crow school, and the minister and I had a discussion about learning from some of the questions that arose around the construction of the Old Crow school and if we could benefit from some of the experience we'd learned. The minister indicated that he felt they already had gained some experience in dealing with this particular school construction. Is there any specific thoughts or recommendations that came forward from the department that have been implemented with respect to school construction? I note that we're hopeful to build another two schools in the near future. What did we learn from the Old Crow experience and are we implementing those recommendations?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: In a way, the Old Crow project was new ground for us, because we were working on the concept of trying to interpret chapter 22, so the idea of setting up meetings prior to letting out contracts, the idea of getting the partners together, having the First Nation, in this case, do an inventory of the kinds of skills and the kinds of services that they had available - we sort of felt our way through it. We set up a process. Some of those lessons that we've learned from that process are now applied in the Ross River project, and we'll be following through, and hopefully we'll learn some things out of that experience that we can apply to, say for example, Mayo and some other projects.
It will be a different scale of project, because one of the things that we won't have is the tremendous transportation cost, the logistics of the road and so on. The other interesting thing, I think, that may come out of perhaps Ross River and Mayo will be, given the fact that both communities are accessible to Whitehorse, that there will be greater interest from companies from Whitehorse in getting in on that project. So, we're going to have to clearly set out some parameters in terms of local hire - "local" being, in this case, Ross River people - whereas maybe just by virtue of the fact of where Old Crow is, some of those factors didn't come into play.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister had many discussions in this House with various members regarding the Old Crow school and the tendering and the contracting and so on, and some of the valuable lessons that I hope we learned from the experience are with respect to things like the material supply - i.e. the trusses and the insulation - and I would hope that the minister and the minister's department now have a greater awareness of the local abilities and local suppliers. I don't want to get into this same rehash with the minister with regard to "he said"-"she said" as to how much of that material was local. Suffice to say, I hope we learned more than just how well we can implement chapter 22 of the UFA.
I'd like to also ask the minister about another item discussed in Question Period, the human resource information system. I'm still waiting for the minister to supply numbers, and the minister is still waiting for me to accept the invitation for a tour.
The invitation for a tour I will cheerfully accept any day after Tuesday. If the minister could supply me with the numbers on that project, I would appreciate it.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: By all means, Mr. Chair. I will try to provide those as soon as possible for the member. Our offer still stands on the HRIS. It's a wonderful project. She will be highly impressed. Why, she'll just be wanting to whiz around that computer, it's just so fascinating. I can assure her that it will be an exciting, fun-filled six hours. I know that she's looking forward to it with great anticipation.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would also like to ask the minister my final question, which is with respect to the Yukon hire implementation. Could I ask the minister, by way of legislative return, to have his officials go through the Yukon hire recommendations - 40 recommendations, if memory serves me correctly - and indicate where we are with respect to implementing those recommendations.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can certainly provide that, and I can provide them in the form of, sort of a, if you will, spreadsheet of where we are. Basically, nine of the Yukon hire recommendations were recently fully implemented. That brings to 17 the total of fully implemented recommendations.
We have also begun or partially implemented another 18 of the recommendations. On five cases, we're exploring some options and will consult with the appropriate stakeholders before these five are implemented. And, of course, we're continuing to work on some of these.
We are continuing to go back and continuing to refine. I've had meetings with the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce. They've raised some points for clarification. We've gone back and tried to simplify the language, if we can.
We're committed to doing ongoing work with, in particular, business organizations, to try and refine those as much as we can.
Ms. Duncan: Perhaps the minister, in his response - the spreadsheet and the rough form is fine - could also indicate that time frame for those recommendations that they're working on.
One of the recommendations was to have a look at a hiring agency model for a specific project. Is it still the minister's and government's intention to implement this recommendation and do they have a sense of what project or what sort of project they would like to use this model on?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We're committed to doing all the recommendations. What we've said on the idea of a hiring agency is that we think it could take a variety of forms. I've had some discussions with people in the construction industry about the form it could take and the variance it could take. I don't think we're looking at any specific model. I know people have said, "Well, the Island Highway." We haven't looked at that as a specific model. What we're committed to doing is working with both labour and business on trying to create a model that people are comfortable with and that they can work with.
We've also said that we would do it on a pilot basis - try to get some feedback, try to see where the pitfalls are, and so on, and so forth. As far as identifying a project at this point - no. There are a couple of projects that might lend themselves to it, and that we're sort of looking at. But, at this point, no, we haven't identified a specific project.
Ms. Duncan: Could the minister identify those sorts of projects that they considered? The minister has said there were a couple of ideas. What were those ideas - if the minister is at liberty to discuss them?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We'd likely be looking at, for example, a construction-type of project, as opposed to an information systems project, or something of that nature. We'd probably be looking at a project of manageable size because we want to make sure that we could apply all the basic principles of a hiring agency to it. We would have to have something that would be manageable, both for business and for labour. We've committed to discussing fully with people in the industry before we would embark on any project and try to identify what some of the specific parameters would be. I've had some meetings with people involved in industry on this. I've had some meetings with individuals from labour on it and, most recently, I had a meeting with the Yukon Chamber on this particular idea.
Interestingly enough, I don't think there is perhaps as much resistance to the concept. I think there is more resistance to maybe choosing a particular model that people don't feel comfortable with and just saying, "This is what we're going to do," without discussion back and forth about can it work, can't it work and so on.
So, I think we're committed to working with the folks in industry. We know what the present economic climate is like and we're not interested in putting a damper on anyone. If we're going to make this thing work, then let's make it work and let's make it work cooperatively.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, is it this minister's department that is tracking the cost and implementation of the local hire recommendations or is it the department that the recommendations specifically relates to; for example, the Public Service Commission is now asking applicants for their Yukon health care card. We see that in advertisements. So, the cost, if you will, of implementing that recommendation - if there are any in terms of staff time and the numbers if it is generating more Yukon hires, more resident applications, that sort of information - is it the individual department that's tracking that or is it Government Services that's tracking that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It tends to work within individual departments. We're sort of monitoring and trying to ensure compliance across the board. So in other words, if we say, "This is the Yukon hire recommendation, and what we are asking for is periodic updates from various departments." What we have done is we've taken a look in terms of contracting from the point of view of government contracting - so in other words, sole sourcing and so on. I believe the Minister of Economic Development handed out something on that, a bar chart that I provided for him some time ago. If not, I can provide a copy. But no, we're more or less just monitoring compliance and so on.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, this summer there was an announcement about business incentive policy changes made by this government to ensure that, on government construction projects, youth aged 24 or younger were hired. There was an additional rebate offered on wages and benefits and the apprenticeship rebate was increased. What was the uptake on that program? Can the minister provide that information?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: At this point, we don't have all the claims in. What we did do is we increased it from 10 percent to 15 percent, to try and encourage some hiring of youth, and so on. But to date, we don't have all the full claims in. Once we get the claims in, then we can calculate out what the comparative cost is.
One of the things contained in this supplemental budget is some additional money for BIP, for some of those changes.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I noticed some time ago the recruitment for the deputy minister for this particular department, but I note that it's been filled in an acting capacity.
Does the minister have an explanation for that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, quite frankly, Mr. Chair, we've been looking to carry on with our present acting deputy for the next period of time. We had put it out, seeking some interest, and there were a number of applicants - qualified applicants. There were also a number of people who probably did not have the range of skills that we had hoped for. So, consequently, the acting deputy is doing a very good job at this point, and we're quite happy to continue on like that.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, what are the intentions of the department in the future in this regard? Is there any sort of departmental reorganization happening here or is this just simply a situation that's occurred?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It's just simply a situation that's occurred. It's not an uncommon situation; people have served in acting capacities often for extended periods of time.
There's no anticipated reorganization within Government Services. I'll be frank and say that some people have suggested certain things to us not so much on the reorganization end, but perhaps in reallocation of personnel within the department. But at this point there's no major reorganization planned.
Mr. Phillips: I have a few questions for the minister. Mr. Chair, the minister's comments were kind of interesting. He talked a few moments ago about the present economic climate of the territory, which unfortunately is not as good as our winter's been so far. The economic climate, from the people I've talked to, is not that great.
The minister also made the comment that he's not interested in putting a damper on anyone in the construction field or in the business field. My concern, Mr. Chair, is that I listened to the minister talk about project management earlier this evening, and he talked about the government going to project management. I imagine that this is one of the recommendations out of the local hire report to go more this route, but is the minister aware that there are several medium-sized general contractors in the Yukon who have been here for 10 to 15 years, who hire the same individuals, in many cases, that the minister is now project managing, and these general contractors are individuals who have families, who pay taxes, who have acquired a bunch of assets in the territory over the years, and with today's economic climate and very few jobs coming out, these people are in dire straits.
So I'd like to know from the minister how they are accommodating this. I mean, it looks like the Government Services' project manager has taken over the role of the medium-sized contractors, and, in fact, I've talked to a few of them who are saying that they're just about finished. They're upset because they've spent 10 or 15 years building their companies to the point where they have half a dozen permanent employees, they use many of the subcontractors that are involved in these projects, and they're being put out of business by the approach that the government has taken, because there is no other work.
What is the government doing with respect to the concerns of these medium-sized general contractors who would do jobs like the Taylor house or do jobs like the White Pass depot? I believe that both of these jobs were recommended by the architects to go to a general contractor because it just seemed to be more cost-effective.
My concern is that the government, in its haste to go this route of using individual contractors, is putting some other Yukoners out of work.
I had one the other day who was in the hallway, and the Liberal member was with me, and the individual was desperate, and said, "I've got all this investment. I've got equipment. I've got half a dozen trucks that I've built up over the years because the government has used me." And he said, "Now I can't get used any more." It's a serious question. It's a serious issue for these people who have built their companies up, and many of these individuals, I might point out, started out -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: Well, you know, the Member for Watson Lake says that I have 30 seconds.
Well, let me tell the Member for Watson Lake that I have a lot more than 30 seconds to explain this issue here. I'll tell you what, I'll give the member the phone number of this contractor - one of them - and maybe some others, and if the Member for Watson Lake has a bit of spare time, he can call the individual up and ask him how he's doing. But, I will call him first and let him know that the Member for Watson Lake is interested.
This is important.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: He wants to debate the supplementary budget. Well, guess what? We're debating the supplementary budget right here on the floor of the House, because some of the jobs that this individual would normally have a chance to even bid on - he doesn't now - are being paid for out of this supplementary budget.
The Member for Watson Lake should do his homework and understand what we're talking about before he spouts off in the House about some of these people. These people are desperate - absolutely desperate. And changes that this government - his government - has made has dramatically affected their lifestyle. Many of them have lost workers that they've had working for them for 10 or 15 years, because they can't get any jobs any more.
If the Member for Watson Lake has anything constructive to add to the debate, he should jump in and talk about it, or call some of these contractors who are calling us on a daily basis, and are so upset about what's going on here in the territory. Some of the very contractors I'm talking about are in the Member for Watson Lake's riding. They are starving to death because of the actions of the government - general contractors, who normally have a chance to bid and who normally hire the same people that the government is hiring. The government has taken over the project management of these projects. It could be done a different way. You could ensure, in different ways, I suppose, that people would hire local. I think, if you check the records in most parts, they always have on these types of mid-range, mid-priced jobs. They always have hired local contractors, because it is to their benefit to hire local contractors.
I would like the minister to respond and tell me what he's going to do for these general contractors who are in the mid-range - don't bid the great big schools, but bid the mid-range jobs - and are now being sort of squeezed out because the government has taken this new approach to contracting out.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: First of all, this didn't arise out of the Yukon hire report, and there is no recommendation in the Yukon hire report for us to go to a project management basis - what, I presume, the member wants me to answer.
The projects that were underway - we have some 27 contracts, totalling $338,000, that have been awarded to Yukon companies. The attempt was to distribute as much of this work across the board as possible. Certainly, I understand the dilemma of the general contractors, but we're also very concerned about the very small contractors in this case - the one- or two-person, or perhaps somewhat larger, small contractors. That was the attempt with these specific projects. Because of the nature of the projects and because of the scale, we wanted to distribute the work as much as possible. There were 27 contracts for $338,000. There will be another 10 contracts, primarily for the White Pass depot, that we're expecting to award.
So, the whole aim of this was to try and get as much work out to small contractors as possible. That doesn't mean that this is going to be an approach that's adopted across the board. I think, in this case, because, for example, the White Pass, the waterfront building and the Taylor House were brought in, if you will, for economic stimulus, we wanted to, I guess, spread out the wealth as much as we could on those particular projects. But the idea of us undertaking project management, say, for example, on a major project, isn't something we're anticipating doing on a regular basis.
Mr. Phillips: I just want to remind the minister, Mr. Chair, that many of these mid-size general contractors started out as small contractors. That's how you build your business. You start out as a carpenter, you work your way into hiring a couple more carpenters, and then you take a bigger job and contract out the electrical and contract out the plumbing, and you buy a bit more equipment - trucks, hydraulic lifts and other equipment. These people are now idle because the government is going this other route - and there is no other work coming out. That's the problem. There is not much else happening.
If the economy was booming, and the private sector was building as well, these people wouldn't have a problem. But as it has been in the past in the Yukon, the bulk of the work in the Yukon for these types of contractors has been government work. And now we're seeing the government do it in a different manner.
My point is that some of the very people the minister is hiring now, with a project manager, this contractor used to hire. But now he's sitting idle, and it's the government project manager who's running the job, instead of him. And I'll bet you they're not doing it as cost-efficiently as the general contractor did.
It's a concern I have. I mean, these are Yukoners too. You know, I just talked to a contractor the other day, with respect to the 15,000 square feet of space for Health and Social Services - the job that the union dropped. And I know one of the other individuals that bid the job was ecstatic, because that individual had no other work. All of a sudden that individual's 11 employees - who are all Yukoners - are going to have some work.
That's an individual who could have done the job over here at the Taylor House, and could have done the White Pass depot - and probably done it more efficiently than we're doing it by breaking it up. I don't see - you know, we're sort of robbing Peter to pay Paul again.
I mean, there are people out there that are skilled in project management, who have built companies from scratch, and now have something that is their retirement plan. When they finally finish, this is all their income; this is what they're all about. And now it's just been pulled out from under them, and they're concerned. They have families too.
This person the other day that we talked to was desperate, saying, "What the heck am I going to do, if I can't bid any more jobs. I've got to let all my people go", - people he's had for 10 to 15 years, that are highly qualified, and Yukoners - qualified completely as local hire - are going to Alberta, going somewhere else. Or quitting his company and going to work for the government in the building over there under the project manager.
So you're dismantling this guy's company, which he's spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years - and hundreds of thousands of hours - building to where it is today. So all I'm asking the minister is to give this very serious thought. I mean, it's nice to say he's got $373,000 worth of jobs that are going this route. These people are still going to hire the same number of people to do the jobs, unless the government's doubling up and tripling up on the people that are doing the jobs - I mean, two sets of painting companies in to do the one job or something, but that's only got to cost the taxpayer more money.
That's a poor way of trying to improve the economy - getting half the value for your dollar. I mean, we could save the money and do another job, do a second or third job. That's all I'm saying to the minister. I'm hearing from several of these companies that have been built from scratch and have anywhere from two to 10 or 11 employees. These aren't people who just drop in, do a job and leave the territory; these are people who have raised their families here, been here, some of them, for generations, and they're being forced to leave. Like I said, it's always been that probably 30 or 40 percent of their work has come from the government, and that's been sort of the thing that keeps the wolves away.
Some years are good years; it depends on how you bid. That's the thing that's kept the wolves away and this year, they've been shut out. So, I just ask the minister to give serious consideration to that because these people are desperate. They're just as desperate as the single contractors who are out there or the unemployed guy who's out there. They're desperate and they've got a huge investment that they're going to lose. These are the type of people who have made their home here, their expertise is here and they're losing that as well.
I mean, it takes away any incentive in the future for anyone out there to build their company, because the bigger you get, the more you'll get excluded from government contracts. So, I just ask the minister to give that consideration.
I told the individual and a couple of other people who I spoke to that I'd raise it in the House because it's a serious issue. It's something that doesn't seem to be addressed and I think the minister understands what I'm talking about. I mean, I'm not talking about a company that comes in from Edmonton; I'm talking about these people who have been here for a long time and have built their livelihood here and they're crying out as much as anybody else for a job, and much of their work in the past has been as a result of the government. The changes that this government has made are shutting some of those people out, so I ask the government to reconsider where they're going with this kind of contracting and project management scheme.
I would like, by the way - I think the Member from Dawson asked for this - the minister to give me an estimate of every building that we do plan to contract out and the cost of project management. Then, when the project is complete, I would like a report on what the actual costs came in at afterwards, because I'm convinced that we can't do it as efficiently as a private sector contractor can do it, especially one who has been operating for several years in the territory and who can get in and out of these small jobs very quickly.
Right now, as a matter of fact, with the economy the way it is, the bid prices are extremely competitive, and I think the government would get a very good value for its dollar and it would still keep the same people that he's talking about here working and wouldn't shut out these mid-sized contractors. So, I'd like to hear that from the minister.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I don't want to get into the debate of one group being more needy than the other. I mean, that certainly isn't the intention. Some of the rationale around it this summer was that there were a couple of major projects going, such as the runway development and so on and so forth. So, there was some thought given on, I guess, the smaller range projects - the Taylor House, et cetera - to try to get that out as much as possible.
But no, we're not looking at dealing general contractors out of the situation at all. This was a situation where we realized, not only as the member has quite rightly alluded to, the dilemma of the general contractors, but also the small guys, the people who are doing cabinet work or millwork or something like that. We wanted to get as much work out to them as possible.
No, we're still planning on using general contractors. As I said, this partially was done this summer to respond to an economic situation, and we are certainly going to be looking and when we come forward with the spring budget, there will be projects there that will be able to be undertaken. Just thinking ahead to some of the projects that are coming forward, they lend themselves to general contractors, and not necessarily a large general contractor, but as the member has said, a medium-range general contractor.
So, we think there will be some opportunities for people in that range, and I understand the point that the member is making, and we'll certainly take it into consideration in future projects.
Mr. Phillips: One final comment is that the minister said that, in the spring project, there may be some stuff coming forward. Many of these general contractors haven't had much work since August or September, and they've got to go through this winter.
So, I'm appealing to the minister that if he's got projects on the books, then they should consider accelerating some of these projects this winter, especially the inside projects like the White Pass building or other projects, and consider it for this type of work, because these guys haven't got anything right now. Almost every single one of them has got nothing, and they're desperate, and some of them may not make it until next spring. That's what they've been telling me, so I'm telling the minister that there is a crisis here now, and waiting until April won't help these folks, because, if the project starts in April, it's usually May or June before any money starts flowing to the contractor, and they can't last that long. They're losing their employees now.
They're losing their businesses now and they need help now. I ask the minister to consider what he has on the books, consider some of these small or medium contracts and do something now, between now and April, because some of them won't last that long.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Well, we'll certainly take that into consideration if there's any ability to accelerate projects or whatever. I understand the point that the member is making and we will take it into consideration.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Corporate Services
Corporate Services in the amount of $222,000 agreed to
On Information Services
Information Services in the amount of $93,000 agreed to
On Supply Services
Supply Services in the amount of $7,000 agreed to
On Property Management
Property Management in the amount of $152,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the recoveries?
Some Hon. Members: Clear.
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Government Services in the amount of $474,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Corporate Services
On Business Incentive Policy
Business Incentive Policy in the amount of $148,000 agreed to
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $58,000 agreed to
On Community Access Program
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could I have the line explanation for that item, please?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This is $100,000 to improve Internet services to communities. This will be offset by a recovery from the federal government.
Community Access Program in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Information Services
On Corporate Computer Equipment and Systems
Ms. Duncan: Could the minister advise how much of this is NovaLIS and how much is HRIS?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This is a revote, totalling $1,435,000, consisting of the following: $838,000 for land interest management project for disposition and graph phase; $230,000 for human resource information system for report customizing and completion of the user system manual; $180,000 for financial management information system for consulting resources and upgrading to ensure year 2000 compliance; $80,000 for the health and education network - HAN - to be cost shared with the federal government to deliver community clinical health applications; $67,000 to improve existing network resources in communities resulting from increased usage; $10,000 to test high-speed Internet access using TV cable modem in the Whitehorse Public Library and; $30,000 to provide additional shelving in the records centre.
Corporate Computer Equipment and Systems in the amount of $1,443,000 agreed to
On Supply Services
On Queen's Printer Equipment
Queen's Printer Equipment in the amount of an underexpenditure of $25,000 agreed to
On Property Management
On Building Development Overhead
Building Development Overhead in the amount of $24,000 agreed to
On Capital Maintenance and Upgrade
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister just provide a breakdown of what additional work was undertaken under capital maintenance and energy retrofits? How do we distinguish between the two? Who makes that determination?
A lot of times, some of these energy retrofits should be capitalized. Are we having two different capitalization programs now, or what's the score there, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Perhaps I could just provide a breakdown. That might be self-explanatory. The sum of $418,000 was requested to complete the following projects: $2,000 for the skylight at the Queen's Printer; $5,000 to hire a specialist to complete the final inspection on the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system in the administration building; $10,000 for heat trace inspections to decrease fire and safety risks to result in lower overall insurance costs; $17,000 to clean up an oil spill at the Carcross housing unit; $50,000 to replace the carpeting and aggregate at the Law Centre; $80,000 to replace the roof at 201 Range Road, as required per inspection reports; $100,000 for flooring and interior painting at various government buildings; $154,000 for inspection and replacement of fuel tanks identified as a potential risk of contaminating the environment through seepage leaks, et cetera.
Capital Maintenance and Upgrade in the amount of $418,000 agreed to
On Energy Conservation Retrofits
Mr. Cable: Could we get a list of those retrofits, please?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The $185,000 consists of the following: energy conservation lighting retrofits and upgrades for $56,000 in the main administration building; $60,000 in Yukon College; $59,000 in the building maintenance workshop, and $10,000 in the Law Centre.
Energy Conservation Retrofits in the amount of $185,000 agreed to
On Project Management Services
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, earlier in the opening of this department, the minister indicated that this $1 million was recoverable from Public Works Canada for forestry infrastructure. Does he have more detail than that for us?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This is the upgrading of the air tanker base, the aircraft parking and bulk storage areas at Whitehorse; the reconstructing of the air tanker base, and initial fire attack facilities at the Dawson Airport; and the reconstructing of seasonal initial attack base at the Haines Junction Airport.
Management of these projects will extend over at least four years, with an estimated annual expenditure and offsetting recoveries from Public Works Services Canada, of $1 million a year subject to the federal budgeting proposal.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Those evil Liberals again.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister reeled off a list of communities and indicated that this was $1 million a year for four years, subject to federal budgeting. Is it always the same communities? Or are we going to be looking at upgrading different tanker bases - or different bases in different communities? Is there a plan for this?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Once again - regrettably - we're at the mercy of our federal masters, and as they crack the financial whip, we will jump. So perhaps if they want a tanker base in Mayo, or an upgraded facility in Mayo, that's what we will undertake on their behalf.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: These are the initial attacks - Whitehorse, Dawson, and Haines Junction.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Once again, as our federal masters dictate, we will tug our forelocks dutifully, and shuffle away to perform our tasks.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Yes, right, yes. The minister said that we were looking at another three years of this funding at $1 million a year. What is the plan for it?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I've been advised that these three projects will be over four years, and I presume that if they add something else, we'll follow along with them.
Project Management Services in the amount of $1 million agreed to
On Chateau Jomini
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister provide some information on this project? What appears in C&TS, we've already written off a sizable sum with respect to Chateau Jomini. Now what are we doing?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: What we did was that we included $200,000 in the Government Services' supplementary budget to deal with the question of Chateau Jomini. As the member can probably appreciate, the building has been unoccupied for a number of years, and it's in deteriorating condition. As a matter of fact, of the complex, some buildings are completely sort of inactivated, and there have been a number of issues surrounding security liability. Young people have been getting in there, and as young people sometimes do, they set fires.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No. Cheap shot. Cheap shot.
What we have done is, at various times, we've offered the complex to the Town of Faro. We actually had an initial amount of interest from the Ross River Dena Council. It was offered to the Town of Faro for a dollar, way back when. And in 1996, it was offered again, and in January 1996, it was offered to the Ross River Dena Development Corporation.
It is surplus. We were looking at the possibility of demolition, or the possibility of perhaps even activating some component. What we've decided to do is, basically, secure the building, in terms of security, in terms of boarding it up and possibly removing some of the inventory. There is a sizable inventory there in terms of furniture, kitchen equipment and things of that nature. We had originally looked at demolition, but there are some concerns within the town, so what we'll do is take the necessary steps, which will probably be considerably less, somewhere around $40,000, to secure the building, clean up the grounds, and remove some of the hazards at this point.
Mr. Jenkins: Is consideration being given to moving this building somewhere else, like Ross River?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: You know, the minister might laugh, but I can recall when Clinton Creek shut down we moved some major, major buildings. In fact, my personal home was the mine manager's in Clinton Creek. I purchased that for $5,000 and moved it to Dawson. The bank in Dawson and quite a number of the other structures - two-storied and several hundred feet long can be cut in pieces and relocated. Is that being anticipated?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, it's certainly not the supplementary budget, my colleague has said, but certainly if, for example, a commercial entity or perhaps a municipality had some interest in the buildings and they had a feasible or practical way to remove them or take them apart bit by bit, it's certainly something that we would consider. At this point, what we had really looked at doing was try to secure and salvage as much as possible. There is some surplus furniture and things like that we could probably bring here and either give to worthy organizations - I've already had some interest from a couple of charitable groups interested in some of the stock out of Chateau Jomini - or just for salvage value.
Chateau Jomini in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
Chair: Any questions on the recoveries?
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Government Services in the amount of $3,551,000 agreed to
Department of Government Services agreed to
Chair: Is it the members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We'll take a 10-minute recess.
Department of Health and Social Services
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is dealing with the Department of Health and Social Services. Is there general debate?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I have been cautioned.
Mr. Chair, I am pleased today to introduce the supplementary requests for the Department of Health and Social Services for 1998-99. Through the supplementary estimate, I am requesting an additional $1,508,000 in operating and maintenance and an additional $2,243,000 in capital expenditures.
With respect to the O&M request, $1,044,000, or nearly 70 percent of the increase, is requested as a result of the collective agreement. This includes a $247,000 flow-through increase to the Yukon Hospital Corporation related to their collective agreement. The remaining $464,000 represents modest increases in cost-recoverable programs in family and children's services and health services, and an increase in social assistance expenditures.
Of the $464,000 increase in program areas, the major item where the increased expenditures are expected to be needed is in the social assistance program. We are estimating that this program will require an additional $404,000 to respond to increased caseloads in Whitehorse. This increase also reflects adjustments to our expenditures and our recoveries related to reciprocal billings, with the federal Department of Indian Affairs, social assistance program.
I would like to draw your attention to the O&M recoveries contained in this supplementary estimate, the termination of vocational rehabilitation for disabled persons agreement - the VRDP - which results in reductions and recoveries to the department to the tune of $1,201,000. However, these funds are fail-safed under the fiscal formula, and so were not lost from overall government expenditures.
If we factor out the reduction of the VRDP recoveries, the overall effect is an increase in recoveries to the department of $618,000. This net increase in recoveries more than offsets the additional programming cost increases that are projected to be needed to year-end on the expenditure side.
With respect to the projected capital expenditures of $2,243,000 in this fiscal year, the majority of the funds needed are revotes. Nearly 70 percent of the requested increases relate to revotes in the health area.
The sum of $904,000 represents a revote of possible construction dollars that will be released on final certification and funds required to construct and equip the healing room at the hospital.
In addition, $303,000 voted for the hospital surplus funds will be used this year to begin work on the Teslin health centre project. An additional $113,000 is also requested to complete work at various nursing stations in rural communities.
In other areas, the department is requesting a $447,000 increase in systems development, which represents $464,000 for outstanding and actual commitments, less a $17,000 reallocation to health services regarding our participation in a national review of medical equipment and facilities for embedded-chip issues related to Y2K problems.
These are the highlights for the Department of Health and Social Services for O&M and capital supplementary estimates for this fiscal year. I welcome any questions at this time.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I'll be quite brief but to the point on this department. Here we have a department that's spending some $110 million a year on O&M and an additional $5.4 million in capital. Yet we can't address the issues surrounding the nurse reclassification; we can't attract and retain doctors in rural Yukon, nor can we attract and retain dentists in rural Yukon.
We appear to have a shortage of beds on a regular basis at the Whitehorse hospital; there are questions about the quality of hospital care - and it's not because there isn't a very dedicated and capable staff there. There appears to be a lack of direction by this minister.
We have the Thomson Centre, the Macaulay Lodge, and the McDonald Lodge - all full. And we're studying it. We're studying these respective centres that will provide care to various Yukoners - and their needs are growing. Our population is ageing, but what are we doing? Studying it, Mr. Chair.
Then we have the ongoing issues surrounding FAS. What's happening there? We have another study that's some three years old, by the time it gets to be dealt with and we have the opportunity to have a briefing. And most of the major issues seem to be well-buried, or well-hidden.
We have the ever-rising costs of social assistance here in the Yukon, Mr. Chair.
They seem to be very peculiar to Whitehorse, though. In rural Yukon, which has the same number of hardships, the same downturn and, in many respects, a more acute downturn in their respective economies, social assistance costs are dropping. We have the ever-increasing costs associated with the provision of services through wilderness camps, and our management of group homes is certainly called into question.
There are many, many issues here, so many that one would have a hard time prioritizing them, because in many respects, Mr. Chair, they are all of equal importance. They all address the needs of Yukoners, and yet this government, which prides itself on being a caring government, on being a government that has a better way, has demonstrated very minute changes in policy and direction - other than they have the capability, and they are spending a lot more money on a multitude of programs that we don't know if they're functioning; we don't know if they're working. The results coming out certainly do not demonstrate that the programs by and large are working, Mr. Chair.
We've got a morale problem in a number of areas, in a number of departments that this government has failed to address and it's a morale problem stemming from growing ineptness in addressing issues like reclassification and addressing issues like proper job descriptions and in addressing issues like just capable management. There is a void; there is a vacuum at the top.
Mr. Chair, we recognize there is a need for a lot of these expenditures. We recognize there is a justification for a lot of these expenditures. But as to the benefits accruing to Yukoners and to the people afflicted with a range of diseases or medical problems, I'm not sure that we are being very effective and realistic in our approach to these expenditures.
We'll look forward to going through this line by line, and we'll be asking some questions and getting into very detailed requests for the budget in the spring.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, it's really interesting. The previous speaker spoke about the increases in social assistance and the lack of sort of success indicators on the programs that are delivered by the government. There is a group in the Yukon called the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition and it's made up of a number of different representatives from a number of different groups and they've come across very interesting pieces of information about this ever-increasing number of people who are on social assistance, some of whom have been on that social assistance for a great amount of time.
One of the things that they have found is that basically the people who are getting the services out of that particular department don't get an opportunity to give input into that process. And indeed, very recently there has been a complete reorganization of that department and a reorganization without speaking to the clients and without speaking to the staff. So, now we have specialty social workers, like seniors social workers or people who deal with permanent disabilities, who are becoming generalists. So all the education that's gone into those staff members and all the years and years and years of experience is now being wasted.
The clients are not getting the type of service that they deserve.
The thing that I didn't see anywhere in the supplementary budget was the cost for that reorganization. I would like the minister to tell us how much it cost, what was the point of the reorganization and when the department is going to start talking to the clients and to the staff about the reorganization.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I won't bother going on at length about the Member for Klondike's catalogue of inaccuracies, but I can say that we can go through these bit by bit as we go through the debate.
With regard to the reorganization within the social services department, that actually was driven by the requests of a number of our clients, over the past couple of years, who felt that they were popped into individual programs. This is an attempt to move toward a more client-centred basis, where, in effect, what you would have is a lead through a social worker who will then put the person in contact with, if you will, an individual who delivers services to them, whether they're support independent living, whether they're disability, or whatever.
We were finding that people were being directed to one service and not always accessing other services, so this was an attempt to move toward a more client-centred approach, to do an assessment of what the client's needs are and draw together the people with the expertise, whether they are seniors social workers, or whatever, into a more client-centred approach. That is the direction in which we've gone.
As far as the cost goes, it's not really a cost, because what we're really doing is reorganizing within the department, internally.
Mrs. Edelman: I suppose that the great thing about being in this particular debate is that we get to get some answers from the minister.
The reorganization that occurred was not done in consultation. This is a government that prides itself on consultation. It was not done in consultation with the clients, and it wasn't even done in consultation with the staff.
A consultant came up from outside, who was actually quite surprised by that. She couldn't figure out why she wasn't talking to the clients and she wasn't talking to the staff. This is a phenomenal change in the way we deliver these services, and it's a service that's increasing daily because the economy is so poor.
I'll read to you some of the learnings from the Yukon anti-poverty survey. It's pretty indicative of the way people are feeling right now. It says that people feel that they cannot criticize service providers without repercussions.
The access to an analogous service is limited and is often treated as a closely guarded secret. Rights and information on advocacy services for low-income Yukoners are definitely needed. There is no contingency allowed for emergencies. It talks about the need for flexible and proactive services. Nowhere in here do they say that they want to have their social workers becoming generalists and wasting that type of information.
I'll give you the example of a senior. Here is a senior, someone who is proud and comes from a generation that's not like ours. They don't have the expectations that we have. That person finally gets the energy and the courage to go down to the Department of Health and Social Services to get some help. Instead of speaking to the senior social worker, they get to talk to someone who's never dealt with seniors - ever. That person goes in, has a not very productive interview, and doesn't go back. They'll starve to death - and seriously, they will starve to death before they go back to that department.
This restructuring of health and social services - what was the point? Whose brain child was that? There was never any incentive or impetus from the community. The community was totally surprised. I'd like to know where this idea came from.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I mean, our issue has always been that, up to now, our programs have been largely program-centred, and we did have people falling between the cracks in those programs. The attempt was to move to a more client-centred approach, with the idea of being able to access services.
Now, the member has used an example of a senior. I would suggest that perhaps a person who might come to social services might not have merely concerns in regard to specific senior services, but may have issues around housing and may have issues around a whole variety of things.
The idea of having a client-centred approach was that we could examine what the individual's needs are and address the program accordingly. That has been our attempt to try and move to a more client-centred approach.
I can tell the member that this is something I have been approached on by various people within the social services - or, I guess, community or social services environment.
As recently as Saturday, I had a person - a person who's involved with delivery of services, from an NGO point of view - venture this idea to me, and when I outlined what we were doing, had said, "Well, it's about time we moved away from a program-centered approach, to something more based on the person." That's what we're attempting to do in this regard, and we're hoping that it will mean that fewer people fall between the cracks.
Mrs. Edelman: I suppose that's the point, Mr. Chair. This was a group that I'd sat down around a table with. Approximately 10 NGOs were represented. Not one of them had been consulted about the restructuring.
So if the point in the restructuring is to include those groups, then why didn't anyone speak to them? Why didn't anyone check with the clients? If this is such a wonderful thing, then what sort of indicator do we have that it's being successful? Certainly the staff aren't pleased; certainly the clients aren't pleased, the NGOs never even got a chance to have any input into it.
I suppose that I'm a little unclear. This is a government that supposedly has an economic agenda - poor as it is. It supposedly has an environmental agenda, that everything's going to be a protected area.
But we went around without any idea about what's happening in Health and Social Services. The best way of dealing with that is to go back to the people, and ask them what they need. And we hear constantly from some departments about "going back and talking to the folks". Well, these folks will tell you what they need, if you ask them. Those NGOs will tell you what they need, if you ask them. The staff will tell you, as well. And I am horrified, I could say, by the fact that this total reorganization happened without anybody knowing, except for the directors whose brainchild it was.
I'd like the minister to give me a really clear indication of which NGOs he spoke to. I'd like to know which clients he spoke to; which staff he spoke to; how long it took; how much it took -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Edelman: I'm going to be here forever. And as a matter of fact, if that takes until midnight tomorrow night, I'd be quite pleased with that. But there is no reason for this reorganization to occur. We have very limited dollars; those dollars would have been best served by getting those to the people who really need them.
If the minister can give me that detail, it will be greatly appreciated.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, first of all, the member may be somewhat jumping the gun. There hasn't been a complete reorganization. What we're looking at doing is moving from a so-called silo system, where every service is very distinct and separate, and what we're concerned about was the inaccessibility of services to clients. Let's take an example. Unless you received social assistance, you couldn't access employment training. Unless you were a person with disabilities, you couldn't access supported independent living. So, this was an attempt to move to a more client-centred approach.
With regard to a consultant's report, I haven't seen a consultant's report in that regard. We're attempting to remove some barriers. We're attempting to create a new program unit called "adult services," and trying to amalgamate social assistance, service to seniors, services to persons with disabilities. It's more a nature of the kind of work that people do in terms of trying to direct people to the most appropriate service required, and that's what we're hoping to do, and we're hoping to improve the service.
We're not spending huge amounts of money. It's a reorganization of the services within Social Services. I don't think there will be a dilution of the abilities of individuals. As a matter of fact, I think that probably there will be some more appropriate utilization of their services.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I'm not getting anywhere. The minister is convinced that this is the only way to go. He didn't ask anybody. He did not consult with anyone, and he didn't go to the people whom this affects most directly, the clients.
One of the other issues around poverty is the welfare rights pamphlet that has been in the works for the last two years. Can the minister be a little bit clear about where that is?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We expect to have that in the printing stage in the next two weeks.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, that makes eight promises that it's going to be in the printing stage this year?
It's important that people who are accessing the programs know what their rights are, although apparently one of their rights is not to be consulted about the services that affect them most directly.
Mr. Chair, the Anti-Poverty Coalition - remember the anti-poverty strategy? The Anti-Poverty Coalition met with a number of other groups. There were three meetings, and of course as the meetings went on the numbers who attended went down, down, down, down. There were some concerns. The reference group report was very negative about the process in SA but not about the amounts. The reference group said that anti-poverty coalition groups need to be at arm's length, otherwise they get sucked into these reorganizations and they become less effective, for example. They need to be at arm's length because otherwise the government doesn't seem to listen.
The reference group report also said that there was a concern because the report was going to Cabinet ministers, but what was going to happen after that. There was no guarantee that anything, including the absolute need for consultation, which is totally lacking, and that that concern would not be addressed.
Now obviously, the minister is not interested in consulting with the poor, the people who these services affect most directly, but of this report from the reference group, what is going to happen to it at the Cabinet level and who is going to address the many recommendations that were made by the group?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, first of all, Mr. Chair, I suppose if I wasn't consulting, I wouldn't have sent it out to the group. I mean, that's just a supreme error in logic. When we received back the recommendations, they will go to Cabinet. The member is asking me to prejudge what's going to happen in Cabinet. I can't do that. Coming out of that, we'll be examining what the options are, what the recommendations are and we'll be looking at, in a sense, the priorities that have been established.
I was very frank with the group when I met with them, prior to the start of their first meeting, saying that - and I said - I'd be seeking some direction from them in where we should be prioritizing, where we should be putting our emphasis in the future, and that's what I asked them to do. That's why I asked them to consult with us and the recommendations will be forthcoming.
Mrs. Edelman: I suppose what the concern was is what are the next steps? It goes to Cabinet. Does it disappear into a black hole or what is going to be happening after that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, it will come to Cabinet. It will be considered and there will probably be some discussions there and some recommendations coming out of that for the directions in which we should be going. The member is asking me to anticipate a Cabinet decision and I can't do that. When we get it and we have the chance to discuss it, we'll have a clearer sense of where we will be taking these recommendations.
Mrs. Edelman: One of the groups that the minister hasn't been listening to is the Child Development Centre. The Child Development Centre is the only real early intervention program for children with special needs in the Yukon, and it goes to just about every rural community. It's a tremendously effective program and one that we've been proud of here in the Yukon. It's been a really good example for other jurisdictions.
The Child Development Centre has been telling the minister, ever since he was elected and became the Health minister, that they had a surplus, but it was going down. It's going down now to the point that they will be $90,000 in the hole.
What a jerk.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Harding, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, I clearly heard a very unparliamentary reference from the member opposite, the critic. I believe she, on the floor, into the microphone, said, "What a jerk." I think she should withdraw that reference.
Chair: Would the member please withdraw the remark?
Withdrawal of remark
Mrs. Edelman: I will withdraw it. Mr. Chair, I was just thinking of a song. I'm sorry.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the Child Development Centre is going to be $90,000 in the hole. They will not be able to deliver early intervention services across the Yukon. I understand that there are some conversations going on with the department. Part of that conversation needs to happen quickly, because we are talking about almost immediate layoffs. People are going to want to know, prior to Christmas, how many people are going to be laid off and the extent of the layoffs. I know that a number of First Nations have approached the minister. They are very concerned, as are many of the rural communities. This is a very good service that we have here in the Yukon, and I'm wondering how we are progressing on those talks.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No one questions the value of the CDC. As the member has indicated, they are currently drawing down their surplus, and it's my understanding that they will have drawn that down to some $38,000 by June.
Our department has had discussions with CDC. I've had discussions as recently as, I believe, Thursday with the chair of CDC, and we are planning on meeting in January to take a look at their situation. I've been fairly clear about some of the limitations that we have, in terms of budget and what my expectations would be of the organization, and so on. We haven't written anything off; we haven't closed any doors; we're still continuing to talk and discuss but, as I said, I've asked the chair to arrange a meeting for January, and that's what we're planning on doing.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, one of the issues that our caucus has continually brought to the floor of this Legislature is the fetal alcohol syndrome. That's an issue that we pay for. We pay for it now, and we pay a little bit, or we pay for it later, and we pay a lot. It's one of those syndromes - and there are many syndromes, of course - that, if dealt with early in life, a person can have quite a productive and happy life and be a contributing member of our society.
Now, the child development centre does use early assessments. It allows children to come from a very protective environment into the education system, complete with an education plan and socialized to work within that plan. This is something that's very, very effective.
The people at the Child Development Centre are not government employees. They work on a shoestring budget. They need to know soon, so that they can budget. They need to know how many people they're going to lay off. To be respectful to that group, we need to be very honest and very clear about what we are willing to do in the way of early intervention here in the Yukon, because that service is delivered through the Child Development Centre.
In talking to the Child Development Centre, you have to talk not only about how many people have to be laid off, but what sort of early intervention programs we need here in the Yukon. If the government is not going to be going with the Child Development Centre - and plainly, it's not showing any indication that it wants to fund the Child Development Centre - are there plans to have some other type of early intervention program?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, at the last count, the non-funding to the Child Development Centre from the Yukon government represented $950,989. We have not indicated that we're ceasing to work with the Child Development Centre at all - far from it. We look upon the Child Development Centre as one of our partners in helping to deliver services to children.
The question, I think, is the present economic situation of the Child Development Centre and where they see themselves going, and where they fit into our overall plan, and I've indicated to the member that I met with the chair last week. I'm planning on meeting with the Child Development Centre in January, and we're going to be discussing where we can go from there and what kinds of participation, what kinds of partnerships we're going to have with them.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I suppose the reason that I'm concerned is that when we brought this issue to the floor of the Legislature during Question Period, the minister seemed to indicate in one of the questions that he was looking at other ways of delivering this service, and the people at the Child Development Centre were very much attuned to that. So, what I'm wondering about is what other early intervention programs is the minister going to be funding, or are we going off in another direction? Is that why this discussion is happening?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think there may be some confusion. What I was talking about at that time was the healthy family initiative that we've launched, based on the so-called Hawaii model. If I was talking about early intervention, what I was really talking about was almost, well, quite frankly, prenatal kinds of intervention. We see the Child Development Centre as being not only a logical component of our early intervention, but very complementary to what we hope to do. Where we're focusing our efforts around family support workers is to redirect out to try to address some of the prenatal problems, but when children are born who have developmental difficulties, we want services like the Child Development Centre to be there. So, if there was any sort of sense taken that perhaps we were looking at excluding the Child Development Centre or perhaps not working with them, that's certainly a misapprehension, and it's certainly something that I would want to correct right away.
We have never said that we're not going to use the services of the Child Development Centre. As a matter of fact, we see them as being very congruent with what we're hoping to do.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I'm glad to hear that cleared up. But the minister talks about an interesting thing in his response. He talked about prenatal programs, and going in a different direction in prenatal programs.
We have some very good prenatal programs that are funded by the federal Liberal government, two of them in Whitehorse - one at Skookum Jim's, one at the Teen Parent Centre - one in Dawson at the women's shelter, and one in Watson Lake through the Liard Basin Task Force.
Now, those programs are very intensive prenatal programs, and they also go slightly postnatal as well. They deal with high-risk mothers. In addition to that, there was a program that was delivered - but now has stopped - by Health and Social Services, dealing with eight very high-risk mothers, mothers who'd had previous FAS children. That program doesn't seem to exist any longer. Certainly, the staff person who was on that has been reassigned, through the healthy family initiative, to other programs.
So, I guess I'm really not clear. What's the direction that the government's going in? Here is the federal government delivering this service through four NGOs, and the government's talking about taking over prenatal intervention programs. I guess I'm getting a really mixed message, because I don't see why Health and Social Services would be taking it over from the NGOs, and going to direct service delivery.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Chair, we're not suggesting we're taking over anything. What we've suggested doing is - and what we're planning on doing - is redirecting some of our services in terms of family support workers in a different way. We're looking at trying to deliver it in a more proactive way.
We're not suggesting that we're interested in interfering with any programs that are being offered at all. What we're actually suggesting is something that we think is a very practical program. The Kwanlin Dun has adopted a very similar approach, and is working with us to make sure that their program matches ours. We established a working group in March to take a look at implementing this program within the current delivery structure - public health and family support.
The working group includes representation from Health and Social Services, Education, Kwanlin Dun Centre, Women's Directorate, and the Child Development Centre. So these have all been partners in this approach, and we don't see anything that is interfering with anyone else. We're not trying to take away services from anyone else; we're not trying to step on other people's toes. What we're really saying is we're interested in trying to deliver this service in a better way.
Mrs. Edelman: This brings us right up to the issue of consultation, because the Child Development Centre thought we were talking about the healthy child initiative, which has only had one meeting, and that was in September. Now, we're talking about different prenatal programs throughout the territory, and it sounds like the government is going to be delivering instead of NGOs.
I suppose that that is the problem. We're not consulting, and people are getting little bits and pieces of information from various different workers, and that is a real problem. Perhaps the minister could be a little bit clearer about what his consultation process is going to be.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I know that when change comes about, people who have certain interests in particular things always see that as impacting on them, and perhaps negatively. It has never been our intention to take away services from anyone. As a matter of fact, I just read out a list of some of the groups that are partners with this project.
Basically, what we're doing is realigning some of our services. We do have, right now - just to make some reference to an earlier comment by the member - one family support worker who is dedicated to working with families at high risk of bearing FAS children. As the member has indicated, these are families who have already delivered at least one FAS child and have a demonstrated history of alcohol abuse. The current family support worker is working with four to five families at one time and doing what is necessary to prevent the birth of other FAS children.
Mrs. Edelman: The minister needs to get some more information in that area. Once again, we have the government not doing consultation with the people who are most directly affected by this program. Here are NGOs who have been delivering these services for many, many years, and they don't know what's going on, let alone the people who are getting the service.
I'm very, very concerned about what's happening in Health and Social Services. I'm concerned because the government delivers services to people. That is why they are there. They are not there to create kingdoms and to reorganize themselves. Their sole purpose is to deliver services.
They do that with a lot of money from the federal Liberal government and they do that with money from the Yukon taxpayers, and the government has to be accountable for the services that they deliver. And, most importantly, those programs need to have some measurement of success in order to justify the spending of dollars and in order to make sure that the people who get those services are benefiting from the services, and there doesn't seem to be any indicators in any of these programs on how well the programs are doing, how efficiently they're being run and how well they're benefiting the people that they're supposed to be servicing.
Certainly with the past government, that was very much the case. You had to prove how well your program was working. You had to prove that the people who were getting the service were getting the service and they were getting the service that they needed, and I don't see any sort of measurements for that in any of Health and Social Services programs today.
That sort of indicator seems to have disappeared since the last government. And, I'm not saying that the last government was the be-all and end-all. As a matter of fact, I'm absolutely not saying that, and actually most of the Yukon said that. However, what I am concerned about is that we're losing out on those measurements and those measurements are very, very important.
A lot of people think that Health and Social Services is all about hugs and kisses and warm soft areas, but this is how people live in the Yukon. And more and more of them are living this way under SA because the economy is in the toilet.
That's why we particularly have to be careful about the dollars that we do have to make sure that they're going out to the people who need it most and that there are measurements, and I don't see that.
Now, for example, one day we were talking about the day program at alcohol and drug services.
What was the success of that program? The person who is delivering the service said at a local workshop that he didn't know, but thought it was probably about 40 percent. That's not good enough. There are millions and millions and millions of taxpayer dollars being spent in this area - in this particular supplementary budget, as well as in the larger budget - and we have no indicators of how things are working. I'd like the minister to get up and give us an idea of how he's consulting with people to see if the services work. I'd like the minister to get up and tell us what sort of measurements he has to see how these programs are running and how efficiently they're running.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, I've heard of technological Luddites, but I don't think I've ever heard of a social Luddite before, so this is an education for me. I'm also somewhat taken aback by the member's apparent belief that all of these people labouring away in Health and Social Services are labouring for naught; that they don't know what they're doing and that they have absolutely no concept of why they're there, and they're obviously blundering around in the dark. That seems to be the take that we're getting here.
With regards to the program that we're bringing in - the healthy family initiative - we have done extensive consultation with some of the people involved in the delivery of services. We've taken a look at models elsewhere. As a matter of fact, the member herself, I think, quoted to me extolling the virtues of the so-called Hawaii model.
This was something that we began looking at. What we're attempting to do is a different delivery system. There are going to be indicators in there taking a look at the success of the program and, built into it, there is an extensive process for review and a look taken at where the successes are and where the changes are. So, we are doing that, and we will continue to do that.
Mrs. Edelman: I think the minister is confused. Asking him for accountability for taxpayers' dollars is not a personal attack on the staff of a department.
Some of the issues to follow up on from previous budgets and ongoing programs that have been going on this year are issues around nurses, of course. One of the things that's happening in mental health is that, across Canada, we're becoming more and more dependent on mental health nurses. Now, it's my understanding that the department is talking to the YRNA about regulating psychiatric nurses here in the Yukon. How are those talks going?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I met not too long ago with the YRNA, and that issue did not come up.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, it's interesting, because right here in the newsletter from the YRNA, it says that it did. What I'll do is that I'll make sure that the minister gets this newsletter. Apparently, you've had some initial discussions with the YRNA. So, I will give the minister this update on his current discussions with the YRNA.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I have met with the YRNA and, despite the member's tone, the issue of regulation of psychiatric nurses did not emerge. The question of psychiatric nurses and our efforts in terms of recruitment did emerge. There was a large discussion on the whole question of the issue of nurses in terms of supply across the country. Perhaps the member is making reference to some discussions that have been held with the department, but, specifically with me, that issue did not emerge.
Mrs. Edelman: Sorry, Mr. Chair. Obviously, I erred, and I'm willing to admit that. The conversations did happen with the department and they are about psychiatric nurse regulation, which is going to be a money saver in the long run for the department. What I'll do is make sure the minister gets a copy of this newsletter from the YRNA.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I do have a copy of that and I have reviewed it.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, maybe at some point, if the minister gets a chance, he can look at page 3 then, under "psychiatric nurse regulation".
One of the issues that's come up over and over again in the House and, indeed, I didn't get a chance to ask about it this session, was the school dental program. In Watson Lake, there were a number of concerns brought forward by the school council around the school dental program. I just wondered how those negotiations were going.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think the member can clearly understand that there are not any changes being anticipated with regard to that. As a matter of fact, if anything, what we're looking at is probably more services for preschool, and we're also looking at working with the high school to expand dental examinations for high school students in Whitehorse, Dawson City and Watson Lake. These are communities that have resident dentists. So, we are looking at expanding services, as well, to rural high school students with no resident dentists, and we're extending the treatment and restorative component of the program, expanding it to include full service of all students, grades 8 through 12, where there is no resident dentist.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move you report progress, Mr. Chair.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 13, Third Appropriation Act, 1998-99, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Speaker: The time being 9:30 p.m., this House stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:30 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled December 14, 1998:
Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment report (April 1995 to March 1998) (McDonald)
Yukon training strategy (dated December 1998) (Moorcroft)
Yukon Housing Corporation 1997-98 Annual Report (Fairclough)
Yukon Liquor Corporation 1997-98 Annual Report (Fairclough)
The following Legislative Return was tabled December 14, 1998:
Auxiliary Police Act re settling with injured plaintiff (Moorcroft)
Oral, Hansard, p 3708