Thursday, March 4, 1999 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Petition No. 9 - response
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to respond to Petition No. 9, tabled last December, on catch-and-release fishing.
I know that people who took the time to sign this petition feel very strongly about recreational fishing and I would like to thank them for taking the time to share their views with us.
Mr. Speaker, the responsible use of fish, game and fur is a vital element of Yukon life. These resources have sustained human life in this territory for centuries.
Hunting, trapping and fishing are the backbone of our traditional economy, and they continue to make an important contribution to our modern economy.
In the case of recreational fishing, for example, no one can deny that the opportunity to fish in the Yukon lakes, rivers and streams is one of the major wilderness attractions that brings visitors to the territory from around the world every year.
The Yukon government and the Yukon people put a great deal of effort and many resources into managing the fishing resources and fishing habitat. We raise and release thousands upon thousands of salmon fry every year and monitor the return rates closely throughout our major watersheds. We stock lakes for recreational fishing. We actively seek public input in important issues such as setting catch limits or designating high-quality waters, and we do extensive work on fish biology and environmental protection in cooperation with other governments, citizens, organizations and industry.
We take our responsibility for the stewardship of the Yukon's environment and wildlife and wildlife resources very seriously.
And we rely on partnership and cooperation of all users of this land to do this. The success of the TIP program in identifying hunters' hunting abuse, for example, demonstrates that all Yukon people want to be directly involved in responsible wildlife management.
As a public government, we work with renewable resource councils, the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, the Yukon Fish and Game Association, recreation and trapping associations, environmental groups, industry and other governments to ensure that the quality of our renewable, natural resources remain high.
Our commitment can be seen in many things that we are doing to make sure we leave the legacy of a healthy and sustainable environment for future generations. It can be seen in large policy initiatives, such as the Yukon protected areas strategy, the Yukon forest strategy, the development assessment process, the Wilderness Tourism Licensing Act, the Environment Act regulations, the Wildlife Act and land use planning.
All these initiatives have had direct input from Yukon people, and will continue to have their involvement as we prepare for full responsibility of managing our lands and resources to be transferred to Yukon hands through devolution.
Our commitment can be seen in the central role that the management and co-management of lands and wildlife play in the settlement and implementation of land claims and self-government agreements. It can be seen in our current budget, and in our support for ongoing efforts to protect critical calving habitat of the Porcupine caribou herd, and in such things as our investment in environmental training and research into climate change.
Our commitment can also be seen in specific management issues, such as the current permit hunt for bison.
In the context of all these things, Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak directly to the subject of this petition.
First, let me state clearly for the record again, that our government considers live release of specific size and species of fish by anglers - which is commonly called "catch-and-release fishing" - as an essential management approach to recreational fishing.
It is a way to ensure that recreational fishing can continue without resorting to what might be seen as drastic, or hard, measures, such as closing lakes, streams and rivers from fishing or imposing reduced or closed seasons.
We realize that some people have a concern for the practice, because there's some mortality associated with live-release fishing. However, when you consider the alternatives, the mortality is low.
The mortality associated with live-release fishing is determined mainly by handling practices, water temperatures, fishing gear and methods used. The Department of Renewable Resources is working to educate anglers through the fishing regulations synopsis and in schools to improve fishing practices and reduce mortality from live-release fishing.
We know that the vast majority of Yukon anglers are responsible and care very much about the resource, and we know they all will demonstrate their respect for the resource as they pursue their recreation angling opportunities.
We are not planning to legislate limits on catch-and-release fishing, but we will continue to encourage responsible catch-and-release practices through education and the information in the annual fishing regulations synopsis.
Mr. Speaker, let it be clear that this government supports the conservation and management tool known as catch-and-release fishing, and remains committed to the practice of live-release fishing.
Contrary to the wording in the petition, we are not planning to limit the live-release of fish by anglers through regulations but will continue to address the issues involved through education.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, I would like to clarify the involvement of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board in this issue. We do not interfere with the board, nor dictate what issues it should review or discuss. If the Fish and Wildlife Management Board makes any recommendations to me on catch-and-release fishing or any other issue, I will respond in the appropriate way and at the appropriate time.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any petitions to be presented?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Phillips: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House censures the Deputy Speaker and the Chair of Committee of the Whole for his unprofessional conduct in carrying out the duties and responsibilities of his office, including: (a) mouthing obscenities to opposition members (b) reading newspapers while performing his duties; (c) turning his back on opposition members while they are addressing him;
THAT this House no longer has confidence in the Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committee of the Whole; and
THAT this House revokes the appointment of Gary McRobb, the Member for Kluane, as the Deputy Speaker and Chair of the Committee of the Whole.
Notice of question of privilege
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to the provisions of Standing Order 7, I am providing notice of a question of privilege which I may raise on Monday, March 8, 1999.
The question of privilege relates to the exchange that took place between the Member for Riverdale North and the Chair of Committee of the Whole. I am now reviewing this matter and wish to delay introducing it until the next sitting day in order to provide a clear and proper description of the question.
This notice is to ensure that my raising the question on Monday will be seen as having been done at the earliest opportunity.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
Speaker: Order please. In the future, questions of privilege should be raised after Question Period.
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: FAS/FAE, identification
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Mr. Speaker, whether it's FAS, FAE, alcohol treatment programs or group homes, this minister and this NDP government are not doing the job. In the words of the Council of Yukon First Nations Grand Chief, "There is a leadership vacuum in dealing with all of these very important issues."
We on this side of the House have been making the point with the minister for the past two and a half years. Now, with the most recent criticism, perhaps the minister and his NDP colleagues will finally listen.
Let me start with FAS/FAE. In view of the minister's lack of leadership on this issue, will the minister now follow the leadership of the previous Yukon Party government, the CYFN, the doctors, the educators, corrections officials and concerned interest groups that the identification of people with FAS/FAE, without labelling them, is a necessary first step in dealing with this most serious Yukon-wide problem?
Will the minister finally agree to undertake this?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: One of the things that we have begun to do is meet with groups around the whole question of making FAS a reportable disease. We've had discussions with groups involved with FAS; we've had discussions with our medical officer of health; we've discussed it with Justice and, as a matter of fact, with the privacy commissioner on some of the issues surrounding that.
It's our intention to move ahead with making FAS a reportable disease. This would give us some indication of the nature of the problem without it becoming a labelling exercise, which we've always been opposed to from the very start.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it's taken two and a half years for the minister to finally wake up - wake up and recognize that there's an issue out there, that there's a problem and one that he can address and he can fix. We're turning the corner. I recognize the minister for finally doing something in that area. Let's see what the outcome is going to be, Mr. Speaker.
Let's look at the issue of alcohol and drug treatment programs. All the minister has accomplished to date in the last two and a half years is to take a troubled service, make it worse, kill the 26-year-old Crossroads service and now I hear very disturbing reports about what is happening with what he's replaced it with. It's to the point, Mr. Speaker, that it almost warrants a public inquiry. Will the minister agree to undertake such an inquiry?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, Mr. Speaker, what I will do instead is, with reference to alcohol and drug programming, just let the member know that we have had increasing levels of participation in detox and treatment programs, that we have put $300,000 into community alcohol and drug treatment centres and that we've supported the Aishihik Treatment Centre last year to the tune of $40,000. We're supporting and have had meetings with the Aishihik board to provide them with not only material support, but also technical support in securing a new director as well as developing a marketing and financial plan. We've supported the Tatl'a Man Lake Treatment Centre and, as well, we've also gone into a whole variety of other services, which I can lead on with the member, if he wishes.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, but if the minister is undertaking all these initiatives, why isn't it working? Why is he being criticized constantly by all factors in these areas? That's the point.
The minister did release the results of the public inquiry into group homes, but he appears to have done very little to address group home problems. Will the minister table a full accounting of what steps he has initiated to address the serious problem identified by that inquiry?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The member is mistaken when he said nothing has been done. There were, I believe, 49 recommendations. Thirty-six have been fully implemented. Just with regard to that, there has been a group established with CYFN participation, with a person chosen by both CYFN and ourselves - a First Nation individual - to report back periodically.
We have, as well, on the whole issue of group homes, taken major steps with regard to the former Northern Network of Services, and brought in the residential youth treatment centre, which has had major developments, in terms of assisting young people.
We've done a tremendous amount in that regard. If the member wishes, there is also a Web site - I can provide the Web site address - which gives an ongoing sort of inventory of how these recommendations have been implemented.
So I am afraid the member's mistaken in that regard.
Question re: Palliative care program
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it's not this member who's mistaken; it's the minister who is derelict in his duties. He's not accomplishing what he's responsible for, Mr. Speaker.
Once again, to the Minister of Health and Social Services, perhaps a friendly amendment to the NDP name is appropriate at this time now, Mr. Speaker - No Direction Party - because there's been no economic leadership by this government, no leadership on health and social service issues.
Another issue is the lack of palliative care. This is a very, very serious issue, Mr. Speaker. The minister is aware of this problem. My colleague of Porter Creek North brought it to his personal attention last year on behalf of one of his constituents. Still nothing has been done to help those who are in the final stages of life, and their families.
I would like to know when the minister is going to finally address this heart-wrenching issue.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, we have begun to address it. We've begun to address it in the development of an extended care facility, which will take care of people, not only with palliative care issues, but also other issues in terms of long-term care. I have committed, at the meeting that I held with seniors just last week, that hospice would be part of this. There was a hospice representative at that meeting.
We will be opening up, once we secure staff, the additional beds at the Thomson Centre. Hopefully, that will provide some opportunities for individuals who are in the last stages, although, quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, I find it somewhat ghoulish that the member is trying to exploit an issue of such human suffering for his own crass, political ends.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Speaker, it's not crass. We are trying to get something accomplished for people who are involved with the system that he is responsible for. It took a previous NDP government seven years to build the Thomson Centre from the day it was first announced to the time it was finally opened. It has taken this government over two years just to add seven more beds to the Thomson Centre, despite repeated requests from this side of the House, and there still aren't enough services available to provide proper palliative care.
But what do we do in the interim while this next big, fantastic $14.5-million building is constructed, Mr. Speaker, and there are virtually no services for rural Yukoners.
So, I'd like the minister to table a strategy on how he is going to deal with this serious problem Yukon-wide.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, when we talk about crassness, when we talk about opportunism, this is the government over here, this is the party that had those seven beds available, and instead, they chose to use them for offices. They chose to sit on them and use them for offices. They did nothing with them, and now they come forward, put on a pious face and say, "Oh, please, open them." That is the crassest, cheapest, most ghoulish approach that I have ever seen. They had the opportunity. They didn't do it. The do-nothing party over there did nothing.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, this looks like the way this government behaves, Mr. Speaker. When they haven't got answers to questions, they just go on the attack - on the offensive - get out there.
What we are looking at are the needs of Yukoners. This government recently announced the $14.2 million extended care facilities - 74 more beds. And that's raised the hopes of many Yukoners who were in dire need of extended care - and really, this is a cruel way of approaching it. Because this won't be built for many, many years to come, Mr. Speaker.
Will the minister advise the House when, in fact, the doors to this new facility will actually be opened, when it will be able to handle patients?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Speaker, if the member would take a look at the budget, the target is that we have put out tenders for architects. They went out earlier this week. We're anticipating that there will probably be a period of about, maybe, an eight-month design stage. We're looking at breaking ground early next year, and we would look for completion in early to mid-2001.
I would just remind the member that we have begun this because we've been watching the demographics. We know what the issues are around extended care.
We're also very cognizant of the whole question of palliative care, and we have taken some steps. The previous government did not. The previous government did nothing in the whole realm of extended care.
The only thing that they did was, by interfering with the original design of the hospital, render impossible an addition on to the Thomson Centre.
Question re: White Pass building
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Minister of Government Services.
Last spring, in the debate on the Government Services supplementary budget - the one where the government outlined a number of additional projects to generate work in the territory - the minister indicated that money would be spent, addressing safety and structural issues at the White Pass building. And I noticed - as many residents have - contractors are at work now, on that particular building.
The work isn't complete - however, does the minister estimate that this project will be on budget? And what is the full amount expected to be spent on the White Pass building?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We do believe that it will be on budget. We changed some of the parameters on the project to allow for a greater use of general contractors. We also had a bit of a delay because some of the original work having to do with the water system and sewer system, which we'd planned on doing in December - we had some representation from the local business community who asked us to hold back for the holiday period so that it wouldn't interfere with parking. So, that put us behind a bit in terms of the actual start of the project.
I can provide the member with some information on the White Pass, if she can bear with me. As a matter of fact, I think it would probably be better if I got it back to her in the form of some kind of return.
Ms. Duncan: We will be watching this project, as the minister has a habit of not bringing projects in on budget - the Taylor House for example.
The other beautiful buildings, the two little ones that were renovated over the summer months - the heritage buildings on the waterfront, one is blue and the other is a yellow building - I'd like to compliment the contractors. The buildings look great.
I'd like to ask the minister: what was the original budget and what was the completed cost on these heritage buildings?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: On the two small waterfront houses, the completed cost was $82,766 in total.
One building has been leased to the Miles Canyon Historical Railway Society, ending September 30, 2000 - over the summer months. Presently, TIA is in there while they have been displaced from their facilities at the White Pass building.
The other building, however, which is Building 1091, was done primarily for cosmetic reasons. There was limited landscaping done but it was felt that, once we got in there and began taking a look at it, the foundation was unsound, so it's not really fit for occupancy. But because the building is a heritage building - it was one of the original homes built for White Pass workers who would come across on the train - we felt that it had a heritage aspect. It's on the heritage walking tour, and we felt a necessity to preserve it even though it can't be used.
Ms. Duncan: So, if I understand what the minister's told me, the yellow building is cosmetically improved and it will remain vacant. The Miles Canyon Historical Railway Society will be in the other building, and the Tourism Industry Association will go back to the White Pass building.
What are the additional future plans for the White Pass building? Is it solely to be Tourism Industry Association and Yukon First Nations Tourism Association or, with the renovations, will there be additional tenants in that building?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It would be our goal with the White Pass building - and I can provide you the contract for the renovations for that building; $499,400, with construction completed for late June of 1999. With regard to that, what is being looked at is making available a number of the offices upstairs - we're anticipating for tourist-related industries, whether it's wilderness tourism, or whatever - making it available for groups, perhaps, who are involved in the tourism industry and would like to sort of get a central place where some of the groups involved in that industry could be.
What we're also doing is looking at trying to restore the lobby - the public area - to as much of a heritage aspect as possible. We would like to take it back to more of a railroad theme, perhaps try to restore it as closely as possible. We're working closely with the heritage branch in that regard.
This is partially in anticipation that the White Pass may come in for their centennial.
Speaker: The minister's time has expired.
Question re: Land information management system
Ms. Duncan: I have some more questions for the Minister of Government Services on another one of his favourite topics, the land information management system, or LIMS.
The minister has spent over a million dollars of taxpayers' money on this project, the vast majority of it going to a Nova Scotia company called NovaLIS. This was by the local-hire NDP.
In the fall of 1997, the minister promised, after local companies were cut out of the big contracts, that he would tender some of the work locally. That amount would be $400,000, according to the minister in the House. Eighteen months after that promise, we finally have a $100,000 contract going out locally. What happened to the other $300,000 the minister promised to spend locally?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We will be doing it in a series of contracts, but there is work yet to be determined with regard to this. We will be doing it in stages and, as the member has noted, some of the work has gone out locally. We had some pre-tender meetings for some of the local information systems companies and we will be following up with some further work.
Part of the delay has been that one of our partners in this is DIAND. They lost a key person on their team and are just going through the process of recruiting. I believe it's a digital map technologist, or someone like that. As I have emphasized before, the LIMS is a joint project between ourselves and the federal government.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, future promises from the minister - they're starting to lack credibility. The part of the contract that's gone to Nova Scotia went from $24,000 to over $1 million, and the local crumbs have gone from $400,000 to about $100,000. This NDP government has messed up this project from the start, and it's now making things worse. How long is it going to take for this local work to happen? When will the rest of contracts actually be tendered so that local Yukon companies can bid on them?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We're anticipating that we'll be able to get this out as soon as we can with regard to this. As the member has said, we did the first pre-qualification tender, and that's for the conversion of paper maps to an interim digital format. The estimated amount for the mining claims piece is about $150,000, and there'll be similar contracts roll out of this project as we go along.
The member is asking me to make some predictions on when these tenders are going to be. I simply can't do that at this point. What we have is there'll be map data for the following aspects: unsurveyed agriculture and grazing lease parcels, unsurveyed mining claim parcels, unsurveyed disposition under the control of DIAND, unsurveyed disposition parcels for control of oil and gas resources, as well as various administrative boundaries and parcels under the control of C&TS.
We have put this out. We've had pre-tender meetings on this. We have a list of some 10 local companies that have expressed some interest in this work.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister could predict the $400,000 eighteen months ago. He could predict December and predict spring, and we've finally seen a contract actually tendered. This money flowed quite nicely to Nova Scotia for almost 18 months. It seems to be only the local part that the minister has trouble with, as the $24,000 contract with a Nova Scotia company turned into a $1-million one.
Can the minister update the House on the total cost of the land information management system project and what is the final completion date? Can he predict that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The total project costs for the entire thing is $2.1 million spread over three years. The project is presently within budget.
The implementation aspects that I just referred to are planned for the spring of 1999. If the member wants more detail, I can provide it to her.
Question re: Thomson Centre, new kitchen
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question again for the Minister of Health and Social Services. It's on the current dispute between the Thomson Centre administration and the Hospital Corporation over the establishment of two separate food services.
The minister misspoke himself the other day when he stated that the Thomson Centre and the hospital were two very separate facilities and have to operate independently of each other because of their different roles. I would ask him to check with his Government Leader before he makes any more statements in this regard, because the Government Leader was part of the NDP government that ensured that the two facilities had to be built together. The Thomson Centre was designed under the auspices of the previous NDP government to be dependent upon the facilities and services provided by the hospital, whether the current minister likes it or not. So, I would ask the minister to ensure that the current management of the two institutions be made to match their integrated design in order to provide the best possible services to the patients of both facilities and at the best cost to the Yukon taxpayers.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would suggest he turn to his friends over there and ask them, because there had been some consideration of the amalgamation of the Thomson Centre and the hospital during the previous government. That was dismissed because of several major problems, including the fact that there would be no administrative or overhead cost savings, and I can provide the member with the rationale for that, if he would like.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister please send that information over, Mr. Speaker, because I'm not aware of it and I've researched this matter quite thoroughly. The minister simply isn't doing his job. It was an NDP government that built the two institutions together, and this NDP minister has the responsibility to see to it that there is coordinated management.
Now, given that the food service has gone, the Whitehorse hospital will probably have to recover additional costs through the other services they provide. What's going to happen if they have to raise the cost of their laundry facilities and pharmacy dispensary? Is the minister going to put these facilities in the Thomson Centre also?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: There are no plans to change pharmacy or laundry or custodial or security or even therapy services at this time, but I will tell the member that, when this issue was considered in the previous government, the following problems were identified: transferring YTG employees would have been costly because, one, severance packages would have had to be paid out. Two, the salary levels at the Hospital Corporation were considerably higher than YTG levels and the hospital would have sought the difference in an increased grant. As well, under the current YTG collective agreement, it was the opinion of the union that a transfer would have made a contracting-out situation and required those FTEs to remain within YTG in the form of other positions.
Therefore, there was no saving for YTG.
The member really needs to check with his friends over there because, if he had done his homework, he would have found out it was considered by the previous government and rejected.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Speaker, from the information I have, that was just a position taken by one side or the other.
Now, there has to be a way that both sides can work together.
Mr. Speaker, if the Hospital Corporation isn't receiving any cooperation from this government, why should it continue to provide these additional services to the Thomson Centre? If they can't do it in a cost-effective manner and they don't like it, why do you just cherry-pick those areas that you like from the Hospital Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The question, quite frankly, in short form, is money. As I indicated previously, we had a contract with the Thomson Centre for a particular amount, in terms of food services. Subsequent to that, the hospital came back with a food service bill that was about $472,000, I believe.
On top of that, there were issues around food quality; there were issues of service delivery, and so on. We're not cherry-picking at all. What we have said is that this is simply a service that we cannot afford under our present budget. Nor have certain issues been resolved. Certain issues of food quality, delivery and special needs that we have.
The member clearly forgets that people live at Thomson. People live at Thomson; they don't live at a hospital, they live at Thomson. That's their home. And part of the environment at Thomson is to make that place a home where people can spend perhaps their remaining days.
We have special issues around services for our residents there at Thomson, and that's what they are - they are residents; they are not patients, they are residents.
Perhaps the member doesn't care about that. Perhaps he's waxed eloquent about palliative care. Does he really care about people in extended care? I don't think so.
Question re: Justice of the peace program
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Justice, on justices of the peace.
The Hughes inquiry into the administration and operation of the territorial court resulted in a report that set out a number of recommendations with respect to justices of the peace. Most of those recommendations were incorporated into the Territorial Court Act that we passed last year.
But there was a recommendation made with respect to the senior justice of peace program, and I'm not sure where the minister sits on this particular issue.
Could she tell us what she intends to do with this program?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, the Hughes report, when it was delivered to the government, did make a recommendation in relation to the senior justice of the peace, and that recommendation has been accepted by government. The position of the senior justice of the peace is continuing now while the present incumbent holds the position.
Mr. Cable: The senior justice of the peace gets $62,000 a year, no benefits, no pensions, no sabbaticals. The territorial judges now get $135,000, with an additional $7,000 to the chief judge, pensions and other benefits. A trained JP can do many of the things a judge can do, at less than half the price, and the court submission - that's a territorial court submission - to the Hughes inquiry said that the senior JP program is cost effective, but the department's submission seemed to be arguing in the negative.
What's the reason for wanting to put this program in limbo, instead of establishing it as a full-time program?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, there were a number of different issues that were raised throughout the Hughes inquiry in dealing with judicial matters, including the senior justice of the peace and the appointments of judges. We have accepted many of those recommendations of the Hughes inquiry. There were recommendations that justices of the peace perform non-judicial functions, and I think that is in the best interest, to ensure that people are able to do the job well, and that we have qualified members of the bench, and that we have JPs performing their duties as well.
Mr. Cable: The question I was putting to the minister was that it appears on the surface, and it appears that the territorial court agrees, that you get more bang for the judging buck using JPs to do many of the functions.
Now, it appears from the submissions of the government that the chief justice of the peace program was supposed to have been re-evaluated two years after it was put in place, but there seemed to have been a breakdown between the government and the chief judge on how that evaluation was going to be done.
In view of the now large differences in salary between judges and the senior justice of the peace, is the minister prepared to reconsider the senior justice of the peace program in its evaluation, and make another attempt at evaluating the program with the judges?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, we have three full-time members of the bench who serve their function as justices. We also have justices of the peace and a senior justice of the peace who perform JP functions. These matters have been considered in the Hughes report, and they have been considered in the Territorial Court Act. If the member has further questions, I can take them as notice and bring back information for him.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to 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: Fifteen minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is dealing with the main estimates. We are on the Department of Economic Development. Is there any further general debate?
Bill No. 14 - First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000 - continued
Department of Economic Development - continued
Mr. Ostashek: I'd like to thank the minister for getting me a response this morning that was outstanding on the request that I'd made. Mr. Chair, just for the record, these were in regard to the prospectus for the Takhini Hot Springs sale - I guess that's what it was for.
In the letter that the minister gave me this morning, he addressed the outstanding issues in my letter, and he went on to say that in addition to the Ile Royale Enterprises and the Greg Komaromi contracts, there was a contract to Vanessa McNeil of McNeil and Company and another one to Aasman Design and another one to Jake Kent Stewart.
I wonder if the minister or his assistant would have which contract - when I look in the contract book, there are several contracts to Aasman Design, and I wonder if he could identify which one was pertaining to the hot springs sale?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I just sent a copy of the contract over to the member.
Mr. Ostashek: Has he included the other two contracts, the ones to Kent Stewart and Vanessa McNeil?
Hon. Mr. Harding: They're in the package, yes.
Mr. Ostashek: The reason I'm asking for these contracts is I'm quite alarmed at the amount of money that's been spent on this project. This morning, prior to receiving these contracts here, I'd added up the sum to some $45,000 for a prospectus, and that seems exorbitantly high to me. In addition to that, now we have another $1,400 there, plus another $22,000 there. That's bringing it up to over $66,000, and it looks like another $9,000 contract. That's in the neighbourhood of $75,000 for a prospectus.
I wonder if the minister could elaborate. What did the taxpayers get for $75,000?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, not all the Aasman Design was for that particular project. That's one issue. But the member's quite right, that there were considerable monies put into this initiative, and the reason was that we felt that - judging from the discussions with a lot of Yukoners - this was a major asset with good potential for the Yukon for development.
So we didn't want to do anything that wasn't very professional, very bankable, and when you go for services like that, it costs money.
The purchase of the property was made before the final completion of the project. However, that doesn't mean that the money is not going to be put to good use, because the ideas that were incorporated by the people who produced them still exist today, and that property can still be that kind of an asset for the Yukon Territory.
It is, however, now privately owned but I would argue that if that were properly developed, it would have major spinoff benefits for a lot of Yukon businesses and a lot of Yukon people.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, maybe I'm not getting exactly what the minister's telling me here. When this prospectus was initiated, was it the intention of the government to purchase the hot springs? Is that what we were doing? Tell me what the prospectus was about.
Hon. Mr. Harding: The answer to his question is, no. There was some consideration of that. There was some lobbying by people in the business community who felt that the government should purchase the hot springs. What we wanted was somebody very credible within the tourism field, some people who could put together a very professional package that would identify the opportunity, whether it was a big investor from the inside or a consortium of local Yukoners who wanted to buy it and make it be all that it could be, because we believe it is a very big economic opportunity for the Yukon.
Did we do it because the Yukon government is going to buy it? No. There was some consideration of that. It was put to us by a number of local business people that that should be the case, and then optioned by the Yukon government and then sold - that kind of proposal. But we hadn't gotten that far when it was purchased by the group that now owns it.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, that concerns me more then, because what we have here is $75,000 of taxpayers' money that is gone. Is the minister saying that we're going to get a refund from the owner that sold the property? Is that what he's saying? Is the taxpayer going to be reimbursed for these costs?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, first of all, it wasn't $75,000. That's the first point. The second point is that it's not gone. If this study can be used by somebody in the private sector to develop this property, to make it what it can be, think of the tourism potential for Yukon businesses and Yukon spinoffs that this could create. All around the world, hot springs are an important contributor and an important economic generator.
We've got one sitting right out there, and I don't think it's a bad thing for our government to think about investment-readiness proposals. They cost money. I anticipate that some of them that we do will cost $100,000 or more, because you've got to hire people who have that kind of well-known ability in the industry, and they charge a lot of money, but the value of it is that when you get the product, the product can be used as a bankable item, because it's very believable and very credible, and that can be a combination of internal people utilized to produce this and external.
Mr. Ostashek: May I ask the minister this, Mr. Chair: can the minister provide us with a copy of what we got for $75,000, or can he bring back the price? Because the bulk of what I have identified is laid out in these contracts.
The one to Greg Komaromi is to provide Takhini Hot Springs investment prospectus; research and prepare materials for the development of an investment-ready road map.
We go to the next contract, to Ile Royale, and it's basically for the same thing. Phase 1, to provide investment-readiness road map; exactly the same thing. We go to the next contract - that's an increase of that contract. We go to the $25,000 contract - project management for investment-readiness initiative, consultation with stakeholders. All of those pertain to the hot springs sale. And there may be some in the ones he's given me here today that don't totally pertain to it, but that figure in itself, Mr. Chair, is $45,000.
Now, when I talked to real estate people this morning, they tell me that's an unheard-of amount of money to pay for a prospectus. They tell me very in-depth, detailed prospectuses are done for $7,000, $8,000, $10,000. I want to know what the taxpayer got for an exorbitant amount of money.
Can the minister provide us with what we got?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I'll tell the member opposite something. I don't agree that you can do an investment-ready initiative like we were doing for $7,000. Absolutely not.
And some of the other potential sites, whether it's a long-talked-about resort site around the territory, whether it's White Pass railroad - all of these big-ticket items, high-potential items - if the member thinks you can put together an investment-ready package encompassing all of the potential opportunity, all of the potential pitfalls, all of the things that will be needed by government, in terms of if you're talking about putting together resort areas, the competition around the country - you have governments that are increasingly going out there trying to earn investment dollars by providing different incentives. If you're trying to do that for $7,000 with somebody who's extremely well known throughout the country and the world, I would argue that that is not possible.
So, I'll provide the member opposite with some more details on the issue, but I would argue that that money is not gone. That investment-readiness prospectus and all of the aspects that have been considered in it will be utilized in the future and I think there'll be benefits for Yukon people as a result of it.
Mr. Ostashek: I'd like to know from the minister where they're going to be utilized in the future. And I disagree with the minister when he says "a big-ticket item". We're talking about a couple of million dollars asset. That's not a big-ticket item when it comes to tourism. I mean, if you're talking about the White Pass railroad, you're talking about a big-ticket item.
The problem here is that we've gone to very high-priced consultants - just a minute, Mr. Chair - high-priced consultants, $1,500 a day for one of them - an atrocious amount of money. On top of that, this isn't even a Yukoner. This is a person from Yellowknife. Fifteen hundred dollars a day, and what have we got for it?
Now, the minister says we haven't lost it. Tell me where it can be used.
Hon. Mr. Harding: If there's a problem, that's the problem between the member and myself. I don't see the hot springs as a small ticket item. I see a huge vision there. I see the demand in Asia for hot springs. I see the potential for very high-quality accommodation out there. I think there's some 300 acres there. Can you imagine the winter tourism opportunities in cross-country skiing and dogsledding and snowmobiling, and how we can expand that into the summer season? I see big things there. I don't see small things, regardless of what the owner was selling the place for.
So, there's a big difference in terms of my vision and the member opposite's vision, and I would argue, judging by the number of people who have talked to me about what the hot springs could be in the tourism business, there's a big difference between his view and theirs as well.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I don't have any doubt, and I know, hot springs can be a big thing and a big-ticket item in tourism.
My problem here is, the minister told me last night that they've put together a prospectus to sell the hot springs, a $2-million project. What the minister is talking about is the potential of the project, the potential of what it can be expanded to be, but I don't know what the government's doing involved in a private sale. I want to know what the government's doing.
What are they going to do if the game farm comes up for sale? Are they going to do the same thing? What are they going to do if the reindeer farm comes up for sale? That's another tourist attraction. Are they going to do the same thing?
What business has the government got getting involved in this and spending that much taxpayers' money, which, in my opinion, is now lost?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I guess that's the difference between us. The member opposite would, like his government, want us to do nothing, get ourselves caught in the boom-bust cycle again, not do the immigrant investment fund because there might be risks, not get involved in these marketing funds because there might be risk, not do the mineral exploration tax credits because there might be risk, not get involved in these small business investment tax credits because there might be risk.
Mr. Chair, our government has said that we have to take some steps forward. There are certain areas that we believe in talking to Yukoners about, and they are potential gems, economically, for the territory. This particular initiative was one.
Now, maybe the member opposite doesn't understand what the investment-readiness document did, but it didn't just do a basic prospectus. It was a vision of what the hot springs could be. It was more than a basic prospectus of exactly what the asset was. It was what this could be, and the idea would be that, once that was identified, we would go out and try to market to anybody who would be prepared to put forward an appropriate bid to try to get this thing in a very well-advanced state and provide a new, heightened product development for tourism for this territory.
I had a lot of support from people in the tourism business on this. They were actually lobbying me very regularly, talking on the street and wherever, saying, "This thing is a real opportunity. It's not like any other thing in the territory, because of the potential of the hot springs."
Mr. Ostashek: I understand the potential of the hot springs. I could understand the government spending this kind of money if they were going to buy it and lease it back out, resell it, do whatever they are going to do. I can understand spending that kind of money. I can't get my head around spending this kind of money for a private sector sale, and then the taxpayer is on the hook for somewhere in the neighbourhood of $60,000. That is wrong in my opinion, totally wrong.
The minister isn't telling me anything new. There were people after us to purchase the hot springs when we were in government. We were looking at it, too. We didn't go ahead with it, and neither did this government, but I don't know how we can justify spending that amount of money on a prospectus and a marketing plan for something that we don't even own, for a private sector sale. Regardless of the potential, it was a private sector sale.
What projects is the minister going to pick that he's going to get involved in to do these kind of things? Which ones are going to qualify and which ones aren't going to qualify? I think the minister has opened a big door here that is going to get him into a lot of trouble - a lot of trouble. We've just blown $60,000 in taxpayers' money.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I think it'll be the taxpayers' opinion also, Mr. Chair, when they hear about it. I want to ask the minister: before this $1,500-a-day contract was given to a Yellowknife firm, who was contacted in the Yukon to see if they could do the job for the government?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, the member is quite bureaucratic, as I said. Anything that's got any risk to it, he says, "Oh no, don't do that." That was the problem with his government, frankly, they didn't do anything for the economy. I mean, you had a good world situation, thankfully. That was the only thing they had. They had government money coming out of their ears to spend $50 million on a hospital and the money from the U.S. Congress for the Shakwak project and all that stuff. You know, just spend the government money and everybody's happy, everybody's got a job, at least seasonally. But where was the thought about diversifying the economy? Where was the thought about realizing the potential of the territory and developing some of these gems that we have?
Well, we're going to do some of that work and yes, there will be risks and I'm sure the member opposite is going to stand up and criticize us.
Well, Mr. Chair, I can't disagree with him more that that money wasn't well-spent. Besides that fact, the government hadn't ruled out, based on the prospectus and its completion, utilizing it ourselves to take an option on it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: No, the member opposite heckles over " ...changes..." Absolutely not. I told the member opposite that we had been considering it. We had been lobbied to do it and we hadn't made a final decision on that.
Mr. Ostashek: I think when the minister reviews Hansard tomorrow, he'll also say that he ruled out buying it. This, Mr. Chair, is a waste of taxpayers' money and I would like to ask the minister if he could tell me who is the principal behind Ile Royale Enterprises?
Hon. Mr. Harding: David Connelly. I think he was involved in the Taga Ku, and now I know where the member opposite is coming from. He's got a lot of hostility for the Taga Ku. I look forward to this in Question Period.
Mr. Ostashek: Here we've got the arrogant minister again. The fact remains that we've gone to an outside firm, at $1,500 a day for a consultant - sole sourced. This is the government that ran on local hire. This is their local hire. We give a $4,000 contract to a Whitehorse person and then we give an identical contract, to do the same job, of $40,000 to a Yellowknife company, a Mr. David Connelly who, as the minister said, was involved in the Taga Ku project.
Mr. Chair, there are many people in Whitehorse who do prospectuses all the time. Real estate companies in this town are always involved in doing prospectuses on multi-multi-million dollar businesses. I'm sure we have the expertise in Whitehorse to do this job, if the minister had sought it out. Why did we not look for somebody in Whitehorse to do it? What special talents did Mr. Connelly bring to this project?
Hon. Mr. Harding: First of all, our government is very proud of the fact that, from the time of that person's administration, we've taken the amount of business contracts from some 59 percent going to Yukoners to 89 percent - a 30-percent increase as a result of our local hire work.
Now, the members opposite will always be able to point to, "Well, now it's 11 percent. It used to be 41 percent that went outside. Now it's 11 percent." They'll point to contracting the 11 percent, but I'm going to tell them about the 89 percent every time he mentions it.
Secondly, Mr. Chair, this is the member who, in the election campaign, was going to fly up a forestry facilitator at $2,000 a day, or some outrageous sum - probably in American currency, and all the costs associated with bringing that person up from the States - to save him from himself and the debacle he had in terms of dealing with forestry issues in the territory.
Thirdly, Mr. Chair, the member opposite, I know, has a really bad spot and a bad memory for the $8 million of taxpayers' money his government blew in the Taga Ku lawsuit.
Well, Mr. Chair, I urge him to think twice about going too deep down this road. Actually, I hope he does.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I'm not going to stand here and debate the Taga Ku again, but if the minister wants to be honest, it will be because the judge didn't believe the now-Government Leader of the day and his Economic Development minister. That's why we got stuck with the bills, because he didn't believe them, and he said so in his judgment.
This is the typical NDP again. When you don't have an answer and when you can't give an answer, you go on the attack. You go on the attack. He didn't answer my question as to what talents this person brought to this that he couldn't find in Whitehorse. I'd like him to answer that.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Chair, I'll say to the member opposite that I believe the person that was selected by the department here was qualified, had a good reputation in these particular kinds of issues - that we have gone from 59 percent under his administration to 89 percent of contracts going to local businesses. I'm really proud of that. I'm proud of the work that the Member for Whitehorse Centre did as the commissioner for local hire.
It's always easy for the opposition to pick and talk about the 11 percent that doesn't go local, but what about the 41 percent under his administration and the gains that we've made?
With regard to the member opposite - I know that the member is going to go after him, because he was associated with Taga Ku but, you know, I'm not going to be a part of that.
Mr. Ostashek: What I'm going to go after is to do my job and question this minister as to whether he's getting good value for the taxpayers' dollar that he's spending. That's what I'm going after, and this, in my opinion, doesn't look like good value. It looks to me - let's put it this way. Here we have a government that says they're so fiscally responsible with money that they can't put projects out there that put Yukoners to work, but they can go and blow $60,000 on a prospectus for a private sale. That's what this amounts to. And we get nothing for it; the taxpayer gets absolutely nothing for it, and to top it off, we go outside the territory and pay an ungodly rate of $1,500 a day for a consultant, when we have all kinds of expertise - and I would bet money on it - in this town to do prospectuses that are worth millions and millions and millions of dollars, and they do a good job on them.
I don't know why we had to go outside the territory and pay such an ungodly rate to - well, end up with absolutely nothing now, because the project, as the minister said, has been sold locally, and the taxpayers are out this money.
I'm concerned as to what other private sector projects the minister is going to draw up prospectuses for - at $60,000 - to sell. Are there any other projects that this minister is going to be getting into?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I look forward to continuing this debate in Question Period, Mr. Chair. The member's made his point. He thinks it's a waste. I know what his line is going to be, and we'll just prepare for the battle.
But beyond that, I would say to the member opposite that we feel that it's a good initiative by the government to identify areas that we think have major economic potential for the territory. In this particular case, we were going to use this as a bit of a template for looking at other potential areas, once we've learned some lessons from the production of the investment-readiness initiatives.
Because the Yukon government has never been very proactive about preparing an investment arena that's going to be able to compete with some of the things other jurisdictions are doing - whether you're talking about some kind of tax forgiveness, or long-term leases, or any of those things that are offered, even tenure in forestry - all of these things that actually yield investment have never been thoroughly considered.
So that was the objective. Yes, there are some risks. The member's going to criticize us; what is new about that?
Mr. Ostashek: Well, how many more hot springs have we got in the territory that the minister's going to sell? How do we take a template for a hot springs and apply it to something else?
It doesn't make sense to me. Everything relating to these contracts says that it's a prospectus for the hot springs. Everything here. It doesn't say anything about a general approach as to how the government gets involved in selling a private sector business. This is totally related to the hot springs.
I don't know how the minister can call this a template that will apply to other businesses. I don't know how. Can the minister explain that to me?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, there is a whole area that I just said to the member that is associated with this. When you're putting together an investment-ready prospectus, you've got to deal with not just the fact that there's a hot springs there, but what are you going to do with the land? What's the tax regime? Is there potential for a long-term lease? Do you have tax holidays? There are all these policy questions, and yes, Mr. Chair, we will be addressing and have been addressing these policy questions.
So, the member opposite doesn't like it, I assume, or he's worried about. I'd just say to him that, okay, I hear his point. He makes a good one about some of the policy implications, and we're dealing with them.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, it's not so much policy implications. The only policy implication I got is the government getting involved in private sector sales. That's where my concern is.
Drawing up prospectuses usually falls in the domain of real estate agents, I believe. They're the ones who do this kind of stuff. When they take on a project, they charge a percentage of the total sale value as a commission and they go ahead and do this kind of work, put all the bells and whistles on it and do all of the research that the government's just talked about. From what they tell me this morning, it certainly doesn't come in at that those prices - in fact, substantially cheaper.
I have no more to say on this subject now. The minister and I are going to disagree on this and we'll let the public decide whether it was a good investment of taxpayers' dollars or not. I will move on to some other topics because we've beat this one to death, I suspect.
Mr. Chair, this morning on the news there was a media report of a land use application by a mining company that staked some claims in the expanded Tombstone Park, the way I understood it, and from what I heard from the federal official was that it was a legitimate claim. What position does this government take on those mining claims that are in the new boundaries in the study area of Tombstone park?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The position we've taken is that the federal government, in consideration of their land use authorizations, have to consider that this is a study area and it's part of the settlement of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in land claim, which we had to settle. There were major issues left outstanding when we arrived in government, and this was one.
Mr. Ostashek: Has the territorial government intervened in the land use application?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member opposite will have to ask some of those questions of the Renewable Resources minister. Economic Development, to this point, has not formally intervened. We have taken the position, obviously, that now that this is a study area to settle the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in land claim, it should be considered by the federal government.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, when the original boundaries of Tombstone were set by the previous administration, that land was withdrawn from staking. Was the land in the expanded boundaries withdrawn from staking? Did the government make the request and did the federal government agree to withdraw it from staking?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I have some information but, because I've been in meetings all day, I haven't had a chance to study the full briefing note on this particular issue.
The Minister of Renewable Resources is telling me, "In the core area." Only in the core area was there mineral withdrawal.
Mr. Ostashek: What the minister is telling me, then, is that there has been no extension of land withdrawn from staking other than the Tombstone boundaries that were there when this government came to power?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: There's a staking ban with a bigger core area. There was a core area when your government was in power. It was expanded a bit and that area is withdrawn from staking - just from staking. Not the study area, though. That study area's boundaries are yet to be determined.
Mr. Ostashek: What I'm trying to find out from the government, as we're in Economic Development debate: are the claims and the land use application that have been applied for now within the area that was withdrawn from staking, or are they outside of that area? That's what I'm trying to find out.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: It is within the core area.
Mr. Ostashek: Okay, are they within the core area that was in existence when this government came to power?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: No, it is within the expanded core area.
Mr. Ostashek: Okay, what I'm trying to get at: did the territorial government request the federal government to withdraw that expanded area from staking, and was that request agreed to by the federal government?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, we have, and it was, although I'll check on it. From the last I heard, there was staking withdrawal in that area, although this particular claim was staked in 1995, and it was before the ban.
Mr. Ostashek: I'll just leave it at that, and maybe the Economic Development minister could give me a briefing note on it at some point when he's had time to study it and be briefed on it in full detail. If I haven't officially asked him, I would like as much information as he can give me on the prospectus for the Takhini Hot Springs. Whatever he can make public, I would like to have a copy of. If he could do that, I would appreciate it.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes, I can get some more information. We did all of this Tombstone work with the Chamber of Mines and the conservation community. I can provide him some more information on this particular issue. As well, I would also say to the member opposite that on the hot springs, anything we can make public to the member opposite, we will.
Mr. Cable: With respect to the oil and gas sales that the minister's officials are preparing for, I think originally the oil and gas sales were scheduled for the end of last year and then they were bumped up until the beginning of this year. I think the minister, at some juncture, has said he thought the land would be ready for sale at the beginning of this year. Could he confirm, just for the record, when he expects that there will be a public offering or a public bid on the oil and gas lands in the northern Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Harding: No, I don't have the same recollection as the member opposite. We are on schedule. I expected to see land dispositions, or some land dispositions, probably because of the markets, of less magnitude this coming winter. At the Landmen's, I announced in Calgary that we would have those dispositions some time in early March, and we feel we can still accomplish that. I have been having some discussions with the Vuntut Gwitchin. They've been reviewing the maps and the areas and we're working well together on the issue.
Mr. Cable: What sort of acreage are we looking at? How many square kilometres or square miles, or however the minister is going to measure it - what sort of area are we looking at?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I don't have the square miles, but I can get that information. What happens in the process is that we identify an area, and it's an area south of Old Crow and south of the Porcupine River, and it goes down as far as - well, I guess it's hard to determine; it's south of Eagle Plains. It's a fairly large area, but what you do is put that area out and then the companies look at the expanse and, based on their seismic and their information, they'll make a bid on a particular area they want to do work on within that. So, it will depend on what the companies say.
As well, there are a couple of protected areas that we have not made open for land dispositions - a couple of study areas for protected areas.
So, that's how the process will work. Once they put the bids in, then we will evaluate them. It's in the hands of the government to make the decision about whether we go ahead or not. And they are work bids. The government doesn't receive any money, but what the companies will do is say they are prepared to spend X amount of money over so many years and we have to evaluate them on that basis.
Mr. Cable: When does the minister anticipate that the discussions with the Vuntut Gwitchin will be completed and that the lands will then be free to be sold off without any aboriginal claims attached to them?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, we're expecting to do that in the second or third week of this month.
Mr. Cable: The reason I ask, and I'm sure the minister saw the Friday paper, the Whitehorse Star. There was a fold-out - well, there was one page, anyway - that was paid for by the Friends of the Porcupine Caribou. They quoted the minister and quoted the Government Leader with respect to the protection of the habitat and statements that had been made by both the minister and the Government Leader during the election, and then most recently.
It appears that there's a substantial argument between the government and this group, called the Friends of the Porcupine Caribou. Can you assert to the House that these areas are going to be free of any aboriginal claims in this period that you just referred to?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, as I said, we're working with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. I've had meetings and phone conversations in the last week or two, and we have a good working relationship. There are some challenging issues for us all to deal with. I think they take the interpretation that they wish of our comments and our commitments. I look at our platform and I look at what we said. I'm very comfortable with our position, and they disagree. They believe - some people - that all land north of Dawson should be protected. We do not take that position.
We have been very supportive of protection of the 10-02 lands, both morally - in our actions as politicians - and financially. We just gave some money to the Porcupine Caribou Management Board on that particular lobby. We've supported the Caribou Commons Project financially. So, we just don't believe that all land north of Dawson can be off limits.
Whether there's aboriginal claim or not, I think the court case surrounding the Northern Cross application was fairly clear in terms of the levels of certainty for industry.
However, that certainly doesn't prevent a First Nation from making a challenge. They can do that any time they wish, but I think that the land claims agreement does provide a fair level of certainty in traditional territory versus settlement land.
Mr. Cable: Who, specifically, is the minister dealing with, and various departments dealing with, in respect to the Vuntut Gwitchin? The reason I ask is, there seems to be a fair number of people referred to in this one page. There is Alfred Charlie, Peter Abel, Joe Binger and Darius Kassi, Louise Frost-Creyke. Where do these people fit into the equation? They are referred to as the Friends of the Porcupine Caribou. Are they funded by the Vuntut Gwitchin? Who are they?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I don't know who funds them. I haven't read that particular article the member's talking about. I know what their position is. I met with CPAWS. The Government Leader's met with the Porcupine Management Board, individuals from the First Nation and former MLAs from the First Nation.
We've all had extensive discussions with YCS on their position. We have a disagreement. Our belief is that we should focus on the 10-02 lands, and our position is very consistent. We are not working on the Yukon side of the border in the calving grounds and nor would we expect the Alaskans to do the same.
So, we believe we have a consistent position. We've protected, for all time, all land north of the Porcupine River, through our land claim settlement agreements. We think we have a very credible international position and that we could have good, solid protection of the caribou, as well as some responsible economic development for the people of Old Crow and the Yukon in that area.
Mr. Cable: Okay, I gather then, from the earlier discussion, that there'll be land sales later in the year. What sort of money are we expecting? What sort of an uptake are we expecting? Has the minister's department given some sort of estimate as to what revenues we'll take in during the present budget year?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, we had the debate the other day in the House about so-called booming provinces. The largest seismic company in Alberta is down 60 percent this year. Alaska, as I said, is going to be instituting an income tax and tapping into their permanent funds. So, the long and the short of it is that the oil revenues are hurting our prospects, there is no doubt. But we still feel that we would probably have four or five bids because of a long-term vision of the area, and some of the companies have managed to keep some cash aside. However, there is no question that oil at between $10 and $12 a barrel is hurting us.
Natural gas is still fairly solidly priced, but there is no infrastructure in the area that we are bidding right now while we try to work out the land claims issues in southeast Yukon.
Mr. Cable: Well, if we get these - what I believe the minister said - 10 or 12 bids -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: Four or five bids, the minister is saying. What sort of money does that translate into? What does he anticipate?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, it would be in the millions, no doubt, but it is difficult to tell. It depends on who bids. I honestly can't tell him what these companies are going to bid, because it depends on the market, and it depends on the prospects. But we're talking about potential for at a minimum of several million dollars of economic activity in the bids.
Mr. Cable: And would that come in in the budget that we're now discussing?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: The minister is saying that it doesn't come to him.
Hon. Mr. Harding: What they are doing is that they are bidding expenditures on the property. Like, you know, when a mining company spends $5 million on an exploration program, that's how these companies will bid. They'll say, "We'll do so-much seismic, and that will cost us so-many dollars. We'll put so-many people to work on the drill program. That will cost so-many dollars..." So, the government doesn't get any royalties. We only get the royalties from the production.
As the oil and gas industry develops in the Yukon, then in the future we may be able, as a government, to get some actual revenues off the exploration.
Mr. Cable: Okay, I appreciate what the minister is saying.
Do we have all the people we need to administer the oil and gas resource?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I know the oil and gas branch work like dogs. They really do a good job. They would probably say they could use a lot more.
As we produce more, and we are, and as we show progress, that will come. I do think we are definitely going to need more people to administer this resource in this territory. There is a lot of really good potential in the territory, and I hear it all the time. We will need a bigger oil and gas branch. As the Finance minister told the former Government Leader the other day, there was a talk about investment. There was a $7-million well upgrade at one of the Kotaneelee wells this year, and they've gone up to 70 million a day in production on these two wells. An average well in Alberta would probably be 2 million to 3 million each, so there's big potential down there. And that has increased their revenues $650,000 a year.
Mr. Cable: The handout that the minister's department provided at the budget briefing shows seven FTEs indeterminate. Is that enough to take us through to the land sales?
Hon. Mr. Harding: As I said, I'm sure they could use some more, but they are working very hard and they're a capable bunch and I think they can deliver.
Mr. Cable: Just so I can have some appreciation of what sort of revenues this government's going to get from oil and gas, say all the issues with the Vuntut Gwitchin are cleared up and the land sales go through this year, when can we expect substantial revenues by way of royalty to start to flow? What's the usual time lag between the exploration stage and the oil wells?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I'd say, at a minimum, three years. In the Northwest Territories, they've had some experiences like that. To be safe, you could say three to five years. It depends on so many factors - how big a find they make. If they make a big find, that justifies infrastructure purchase. If it's in the southeast, they have the infrastructure there. There's a new Alliance pipeline being built.
But just as a ballpark for the member, three to five years would be a reasonable estimation. However, in exploration activity, just like in mining, a lot of it is labour-intensive and can actually have a pretty good economic impact on the territory.
Mr. Cable: Well, that brings up a point. Let's say we're lucky enough to have a substantial find. How are we going to get the oil and gas out of the north? What is the current thinking? You know, we've had these pipe dreams before, if I can use that expression. Where are the pipelines anticipated to run?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Foothills still has a right-of-way through the territory, and the member is right. There was a discussion about this at the chamber luncheon the other day. Northern Cross attended and complimented the Yukon government on its approach to dealing with regulation. It was an excellent meeting we had, and they raised the issue of the pipeline infrastructure.
We have to consider that. However, we don't want to build expectations up and get everybody thinking about, you know, pipelines that could be pipe dreams and years away. So, our current thinking is that there are major speculative plays for exploration in the Peel Plateau and in the Eagle Plains, but they are big enough, potential-wise, to attract aggressive companies.
The southeast, on the other hand, is another kettle of fish, because there is already a pipeline in the area to the Kotaneelee at least, and the potential there is also huge. And Alliance is going to need - the number I was given by people in industry is something like 40,000 new wells drilled a year to feed the Alliance pipeline, and they are really right now only doing 10,000 or 15,000 a year. That may be off some, but that's my recollection of what I was told. So, there is a real hunger, and, of course, people are looking at the north.
Mr. Cable: On the mineral resources, I would assume that when the devolution of minerals takes place, the focus for the mineral resource administration will be in the minister's department. Am I correct in that understanding? The mineral resource administration, the issuing of claims and whatnot and that sort of thing.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes, I think, when we bring it over, we're not going to want to engage in any major restructuring. The Government Leader put it quite well the other day. At some point, there will have to be a look at the whole structure if the whole Yukon government is going to fundamentally change. I think everything probably has to be looked at, but we're not tending to do that certainly in this mandate.
Mr. Cable: I get mixed signals on when devolution is actually going to take place, but I would assume it would have a very good chance of happening before the next election. Assumedly, the minister's thinking has gone that far down the road. For example, is the mining recorder's office and that sort of thing going to wind up with the minister's department? The minister is shaking his head and saying yes.
Now, we have four FTEs dedicated to mineral resources. What sort of complement are we going to be looking at on devolution?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, there are five units there. I'll have to give the member some written information, if he'd like. There is quite a bit of detail, but there are five units coming over. How many are in a unit? I'm not entirely sure.
Mr. Cable: Well, if the minister could do that, I think it would be useful for us just to have a rough idea of what size the minister's department is going to have when all the smoke has cleared and whether he's going to be the king of the Yukon when this is all finished.
On another issue, the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, I haven't seen any directives issued to this organization by the minister and I think he's entitled to do so. Does he anticipate formally charging the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment with any jobs?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member should have addressed that to the Government Leader in ECO. He's the one giving the directives to the YCEE.
Mr. Cable: Well, isn't the YCEE conventionally funded jointly by the Department of Renewable Resources and the minister's department? Isn't that the way it works?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes, we pay for it and the Government Leader gives the direction. That's how it works.
Mr. Cable: Surely the minister has some input. Is there anything on the horizon that he wants to see this council do?
I know the suggestion came out of the official opposition that there be a business summit, which could have been handled by the YCEE, I suppose. But there were thumbs turned down on that.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'll get the list of the activities for the member opposite. They are doing some work now on a series of sustainable development work around the territory.
Mr. Cable: In the handout that the minister's department provided, under mineral and oil and gas resources, it deals with prior year projects. It's not in the budget, but I think it would be interesting to know where this energy supply options planning interconnection of electricity with B.C. sits.
Has there been a report produced on that inter-tie with British Columbia?
Hon. Mr. Harding: No, that has been put into - Because of a lack of desire to participate by the administration, not the board of B.C. Hydro, that money's been shifted to other projects on other areas of potential grid expansion by the utility. So it's been moved to other areas of potential grid expansion by the utility.
Mr. Cable: I'm not following the minister completely. He's saying he's moved the money somewhere else, or does the Energy Corporation have the money and is doing something with it?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes, they're using it for general grid extension, capital options and looking at them, one of which is B.C., one of which would be the extensions that were discussed on the floor of this House with Mayo, Dawson or Carmacks - those kinds of issues.
Mr. Cable: When is that work going to be completed and is there any further money anticipated to flow from government?
Hon. Mr. Harding: They're getting pretty close on some feasibility work, according to the chair. I'm not abreast of all the details. They are running that show, and they would expect to be in a position - they've been working them and they just put out a release today on the new wind generator. They've got a contract. The schedule is to have it installed by October, so they're actually getting crystallized on a number of these issues. And they'll be in a position as a board to make some recommendations to government.
Mr. Cable: On another topic, the Tulsequah mine, there's been a fairly long-running dispute between the environmentalists, of course, and the people promoting the mine. I gather that this government, if they haven't become an active player in the dispute, has taken a position. Is that accurate?
Hon. Mr. Harding: That's an issue that B.C. is going to have to resolve. That's their permitting process. The Alaskans have raised international charges.
Our position has been that we will respect the outcome of that permitting process. If that can be done environmentally responsibly, then we would have no reason other than to work with people to see what we can do to help them create some economic activity. There are issues being raised in the process. I saw a very strong attempt by environmentalists, about a seven- or 12-page thesis attacking the project, when I was in Japan, and the B.C. energy and mines minister was there.
But that's the political route that they're going to take. It's very much like the political route that the Friends of the Porcupine Caribou herd are taking, and I respect that. That's their prerogative to do so, and I respect the people involved. I know many of them myself.
Mr. Cable: Have the proponents of the Tulsequah mine approached this government for support? I know the minister's NDP cohorts in B.C., of course - the B.C. government, I think, actively is supporting this project.
Has the minister been approached, either by the B.C. government, or by the Tulsequah proponents themselves for support?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, we as a government haven't given support per se, because we don't want to engage in the political lobbying campaign any more than we do for the development side, or the environmental side.
What we have said is, let the process work, which is the position we took on Windy Craggy. Let the process work, and we'll respect the outcome of that process. That's the process we took with Northern Cross as well.
Mr. Cable: Has the minister's government been approached with respect to any provision of infrastructure, in particular, say, electricity.
Hon. Mr. Harding: The answer's no. However, I may be stepping out of turn here. The highways minister may have to respond, but they have approached us about what they would like to see done, if everything went according to plan. But that's a long way out.
Mr. Cable: Has there been any estimate - you know, rough or otherwise - of the economic spinoffs that would accrue to the Yukon, should this mine go ahead?
Hon. Mr. Harding:There's been a little bit of preliminary work. The company has certainly provided us with some information in the past, which I've seen. They seem to feel that the Yukon would get quite a bit of the benefit from this project.
Mr. Cable: Is the minister prepared to release that information?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I think it's public information. What I can give the member opposite, I will. I received quite a bit of correspondence from Mr. Chandler, who's involved with the project, in the last couple of years.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I have a couple more questions in general debate. I want to go back to the oil leases for just a minute.
My understanding is that the length of time that these leases are in effect in the Yukon is considerably longer than in the provinces. There are seven years that they are allowed, and they put their bid in by how much money they are going to spend over seven years to keep these leases in good standing. Do they have to spend so much each year, or is it a seven-year period and, at the end of the seven years, they have to spend X number of dollars?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Our leases are actually longer than that. I think they're up to 10, and the reason we did that is because of the high-risk exploration that it is for the companies, and they wanted a longer tenure to the area. That's controversial again, but, you know, we've got to recognize where we are. On the issue about the annual activity, I'm not entirely sure about that. I'll get some more information for the member opposite. I think that the branches - it has a lot of flexibility in determining what the annual expenditure should be or would be or could be.
Mr. Ostashek: I would appreciate that information, because I think it's important for us to know and for Yukoners to know so as, as the minister said, not to build too great expectations, because this is wildcat work. These are not proven fields that we're putting up for sale. I agree with the minister that we could see some immediate benefits, and we may not see some benefits for many years down the road. So, I would like to know just what the criteria are. I probably knew at one time, and I have forgotten. Is there a stipulation that they have to spend so much a year to keep their lease in good standing? What are the terms of reference on the lease and the amount of dollars they have to spend? If the minister could do that for me, I would appreciate it.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes, I would be happy to do that. Just looking at a briefing note here on this particular issue, there are annual rentals of a $1.00 per hectare. Current rental income from the existing oil and gas property is about $13,000 a year. It's not much. There is a typical level of activity companies would expect, but I'll get some more detail for the member opposite on this particular issue.
Mr. Ostashek: Okay, while we're on Economic Development, I would just put on the record for the member that I would like a copy of another contract that was awarded to Greg Komaromi. It was a sole-sourced contract for $5,000 for developing a Yukon mineral strategy. I would like a copy of that contract and, if there have been any amendments to the contract, I would like those also, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'll get it to him right now.
Ms. Duncan: I'd just like to ask the minister to revisit, for a few moments, this issue around oil and gas development in northern Yukon. We have the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation with a land claim settlement, we have various perspectives being put forward by different groups, and the minister said, if I heard him correctly when he was speaking with my colleague, the Member for Riverside, that the government's position has been absolutely clear on this issue. Could I ask him to just restate that position and what he sees as the points of difference, if you will.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'll do that and then I'll ask for the Liberal position - with much joy.
First of all, our position is that the 10-02 lands should be inviolate from oil and gas exploration and production; that we have a good international position because we have protected our equivalent of those lands on the Canadian side - all lands north of the Porcupine River; and we have a land claim as well as a major park there.
So, we have a good international position. Our position is not that the entire winter range habitat of the herd should be off limits to development. Essentially, that encompasses all land north of Dawson. This year the herd was basically just behind the Klondike Lodge at the cut-off, or within a number of kilometres of it, and that would not be a sustainable position. We believe we should focus our efforts on protecting the 10-02 lands. That's why we've supported initiatives like the Caribou Commons Project. That's why we've supported the Porcupine Caribou Management Board in terms of their lobbying for the calving grounds in Alaska, and we will continue to support them. The Government Leader has supported that position in meetings with Senator Ted Stevens and has supported them in every discussion we've had in Alaska, in Old Crow, in Whitehorse and around the Yukon.
That's our position, and I'm interested in what the Liberal position is in the territory. Is it that the entire habitat of the Porcupine caribou herd should be off limits?
Ms. Duncan: The message just articulated by the minister, is this the promotion of the government message that there's been a consulting contract issued to Kassi Consulting Services to promote?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Maybe the member could tell me, though, before we move on - I'm just curious what the Liberal position is. I haven't heard the Liberal position on the issue of what land should be available for development in the winter range of the Porcupine caribou herd and which land should be off limits.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'll be happy to discuss my position with the Minister of Economic Development when I've had four years in opposition and two years in government and I've had staff briefing me and I've had the opportunity to spend the time talking with the individuals that the minister has. I've had many conversations with some of them. I'd like the opportunity, before I stand here and publicly state what I will or will not do. I'd like to know from these people. I'd like to have had the opportunity of having spoken with all of them, like the minister has.
Right now, I'm trying to clarify the minister's position. We're hearing different positions in the media. We're hearing Yukoners say that there's a difference in the government position. I've asked the government, the Minister of Economic Development, to articulate his position. He's just stated it. I'll ask him again.
Is the contract issued to Kassi Consulting Services to promote the government message - is it the message the minister has just articulated? Is that the message?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The Yukon Party, when they were in government, took the position that they didn't have any position on any drilling in Alaska, and whether it was in 10-02 lands or in ANWR, they didn't care. Now, that was not our position.
So, is the member telling me that the Yukon Liberal Party has no position on the issue of development in the winter range of the Porcupine caribou herd? Is that what she's telling me?
Ms. Duncan: The minister is telling me to answer the question. I can tell you the position that was taken in the last election and the position that I took in my most recent meeting with a member of the Vuntut Gwitchin. My position, on behalf of our party, is that development should not proceed until the Vuntut Gwitchin is prepared for it to proceed. That was our position taken with the member of the Vuntut Gwitchin. I hope that clarifies that for the minister.
I would appreciate the courtesy of a response to my question.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I will respond to the question on the contract. So, the Liberal Party position is that in the entire north Yukon - the winter range of the Porcupine caribou herd - there should be no development unless the Vuntut Gwitchin approves of that development through a veto.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, okay, what is the position? That's what she just said.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please. Is there any further debate?
Ms. Duncan: Yes, Mr. Chair. I'd like to ask the Minister of Economic Development this: the Friends of Yukon River's Caribou Commons Project was approved for $81,000, and I see $20,000 of that has been expended. Is it the minister's expectation that the balance will be spent this fiscal year or next?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'm afraid that I'm not going to give up on this, because this is Committee of the Whole, and this is an opportunity for everybody to talk and to ask questions and have debate and dialogue, and I just want to know, because the member said that development should not take place unless the Vuntut Gwitchin says it should in the entire winter range and habitat of the Porcupine caribou herd - is that her position?
She's saying it's not. Well, then please stand up and tell me what it is.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister's position was that the Yukon New Democrats have a firm position and that they're opposed to this development until the Vuntut Gwitchin people feel that they can feel comfortable with it. That was the minister's position. If they don't feel comfortable with it as a result of their concerns for the habitat, for the caribou that have been there for thousands of years, then we, as a government, would not be in favour of this development. Is that the minister's position?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member hasn't answered the question several times now. I would argue with her - I've already told her what our position is. The Yukon Party has said what their position is. Once again, the Liberal Party refuses to put their position forward. I know what they're doing. They're trying to sweet talk people. "Oh well, we won't take a position until we get briefed and we're open to everything." Yet, she stood up and just said that, in her view, there should be no development in the entire winter range and habitat of the Porcupine caribou herd. Does this mean that she opposed her colleagues in Ottawa, the Liberal government's approval of the land use permit for Northern Cross, for example?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister can try and twist my words and try to reproduce Hansard and try to do what he likes with it. Committee of the Whole is our opportunity to ask questions of the minister about estimates in his department. It is his responsibility and his accountability to the Yukon public. I would appreciate the dignity of a response. I am not going to stand and debate Liberal Party position with that minister on the floor of this House. I will do it at the appropriate time when it's called for.
Hon. Mr. Harding: What's the Liberal position on this? Please, tell me.
Mr. Cable: Let me ask this question of the minister: we were obviously under the mistaken impression that the minister was here to debate his estimates, not engage in some sort of reverse Question Period.
Here's what the minister told the environmental forum during the last election.
September 23, 1996 - "The Yukon New Democrats have a firm position, and we're opposed to this development until the Vuntut Gwitchin people feel that they can feel comfortable with it. If they don't feel comfortable with it, as a result of their concerns for the habitat, for the caribou that have been there for thousands of years, then we as a government and as a party would not be in favour of this development."
What did the minister mean, when he said that, back on September 23, 1996? And let's not get into these funny little games about going back and forth. What did the minister mean?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Absolutely no game. So, maybe the Liberal leader - I know the Member for Riverside is trying to bail her out, and a nice try - but no games. Will the Liberal leader please stand up and tell us her position on development in the winter range and habitat of the Porcupine caribou herd? Just give us a clear position.
I've already said what ours is. We're already working on oil and gas, working with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. I've already said our position; what's theirs?
Mr. Cable: The minister's being cute, very cute. He knows what the rules are. We ask him questions on his department. He knows what the game is.
I will ask him the question again. I quoted to him, from his words, as put in the newspaper last Friday by the Friends of the Porcupine Caribou. What did he mean when he said those words?
Hon. Mr. Harding: What's the Liberal position on this development in the winter range and the habitat of the Porcupine caribou herd?
Mr. Cable: Does the minister say that he's about to resign, that he wants us to take over? Is that what he's saying?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'm not about to resign. I just want to know what the Liberal position - I know Liberals hate giving positions, because they're trying to be cute about this issue. What's their position?
They've got an obligation to be accountable to the Yukon public as well. We're out in the public, we're standing by our words. The member opposite's reading out quotes. I'm telling him what our position is. We're meeting with these people. We're being accountable. Where's the Liberal accountability to the Yukon public? What is their position?
Mr. Cable: I've got some news for the minister. Back on September 30, 1996, he was elected, and his friends, his NDP colleagues, were elected to form the government. We were in the opposition, and when the minister went to the people and told them that quote that he gave at the environmental forum, what did the minister mean?
If he wants to debate our caucus estimates, we can do that. We're debating his department's estimates. We want to know what his policies are.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Nice try, but this is accountability time for the Liberal Party. Tell us what the position is on this particular issue. Tell us.
Ms. Duncan: I'd like to ask the Minister of Economic Development some mining questions.
I'd like to ask the minister specifically about mining royalties. There's quite a discussion around what mineral royalties are - mineral royalties with respect to the diamond mines in the Northwest Territories. We've had some precious gem finds in the Yukon. Can the minister advise what the royalties are on those? And I understand at the moment they're federal revenue. Hopefully one day soon, Yukon revenue. Is there a potential for increase there, and what background work has been done by the minister and the minister's Department of Economic Development in this regard?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Chair, let me just ask the member this question, then. Are they opposed to this government's action to initiate land nominations in the winter range of the Porcupine caribou herd this year? Are they opposed to that?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, has the minister's department done its homework with respect to mining development in the territory? We used to, a number of years ago, see an annual report or a report that was produced by the Department of Economic Development that would state the finds in the Yukon, how close mines were to potential production, and what the - "shelf-life" is the wrong word - life of the mine would be and the number of potential employees. Is that report available and can we have a copy please?
Hon. Mr. Harding: What's the Yukon Liberal Party position on development in the winter range in the habitat of the Porcupine caribou herd? What's their position?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could the minister indicate whether or not that report on mineral development in the territory is available?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Chair, it's pretty clear the Yukon Liberal Party has been talking to people who have pretty strong feelings about this issue and are trying to convince them that they're somehow the happy face in this whole debate, but the reality is that they're not taking a position. They are not able to tell these people, who are opposed to any development north of Dawson in the winter range of the Porcupine caribou herd, their position on the floor of this Legislature - that's what I wanted to know. It's pretty clear to me now. I've asked the question 10, 15 times. Anybody who thinks that they're going to find a different position, that the Yukon Liberal Party is opposed to this, is obviously not getting the real story from the members opposite because they are afraid to take a position, which is not uncommon with the Liberal Party. It's pretty clear to me that we are going to have to get this information from the Yukon Liberal Party because I feel an obligation to tell the Yukon public that they're going to be accountable to people.
We're certainly accountable. The member opposite keeps reading out my quotes, my positions. It's all out there for all to see, but I think the Yukon Liberal Party should come clean on their position on the development in the winter range of the Porcupine caribou herd. Are they opposed to it? Are they opposed to the land dispositions that we're going to be initiating?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister has seen fit to leave that on the record. He doesn't choose to accept the statement I made, that the position of this party, which I have taken privately, is that development should proceed after the Vuntut Gwitchin are ready, and not before. It's similar to the statement that the minister made on September 23, 1996.
The minister chose to put his statement far more eloquently than I did this afternoon. He's also chosen, judging by the statement in the paper and subsequent statements, not to live up to that. Whether I live up to statements I have made to individuals, in private or in public, is a matter of choice for Yukon voters and voters in Porter Creek South.
It's not a matter of decision for that minister, Mr. Chair. I would very much like to proceed with this debate. I'll be happy to debate Liberal positions. This is not the forum for it. This is the forum for debate of the minister's budget. The minister has responsibility for millions of taxpayers' dollars - millions and millions of taxpayers' dollars. I'd like to ask reasonable questions as to how they are being spent.
I'll ask again: is the report that has been produced in the past on mineral development in this territory available? Has the minister done homework with respect to royalties and precious gems, and what is that homework? I've asked a number of other questions.
If the minister wants to flip-flop and go back and debate, endlessly, Liberal positions, I invite him to ask the people I've spoken with. Ask them what position I've taken. Ask them if they are satisfied. Mr. Chair, nobody has questioned my integrity, and it's the voters that will decide upon it. I've stated the position as far as I'm prepared to state it. Publicly and privately, I've said the same thing. The fine details and the weasel-word, ferret spin that the minister wants me to put on it - I'm not going to go there, so he can just forget it. Let's talk about his responsibility. I'm not going to go there with the minister, and he can just accept that.
Now, Mr. Chair, he knows how it feels to sit in this House day after day after day and ask questions and not get any answers. How does he like it so far?
I'd really like an answer to the question about mineral development in this territory. It's the minister's responsibility. I'd like the answer.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Ostashek, on a point of order.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, this debate seems to be going nowhere, and I'd like to draw your attention to section 42 - let me get the right clause here now. Speeches in Committee of the Whole must be strictly relevant to the item or cause under consideration. We're considering the main estimates for the Department of Economic Development, not the position of the Liberal Party.
I think the minister should be keeping his remarks to the main estimates, not to the political argument as to a position of a member in the opposition benches. There'll be plenty of time for debate of that in the next election.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Chair: On the point of order, Mr. Harding.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, this whole issue was introduced by the Liberal Party. They were reading magazine articles and articles in the newspaper, discussing this issue - political positioning around this issue. It was introduced by the Liberal Party.
Now, I make no apologies in Committee of the Whole for asking them for their position - absolutely none - and I don't think it's a point of order.
Chair: On the point of order, while it is possible for peripheral discussion on the budget during debate, Committee is here to discuss the budget, and I would encourage all members to focus, as much as they can, on discussing the budget.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, I certainly accept your ruling.
With regard to the questioning on oil and gas that I've been receiving from the opposition, we're working with the Vuntut Gwitchin on a whole range of fronts - from land use planning to fishing branch to the Yukon protected areas strategy to the oil and gas development - and enjoying a reasonably good working relationship. That's with the government - on a government-to-government basis.
Now, Mr. Chair, the member opposite has stated that she supports a veto by the Vuntut Gwitchin on all land in the north Yukon, the winter range of the Porcupine caribou herd, and I think that that is a - I'm glad she finally stated her position. Obviously that would mean she's opposed to our action on the development of land dispositions in this area, and secondly that she was opposed to her own Liberal government's issuance of a permit to Northern Cross for the work that they undertook.
But I thank her for standing up and having the gumption to put her position forward. It does, somehow, seem contrary to my discussions with her about this particular issue. Two years ago, when the Alaskan legislators were in here, the member opposite took a very different position. She was in favour of opening it up for development, but if she's taken a position now, on behalf of the Liberal Party of opposing the development in the winter range, then I'm glad she finally put forward her position.
With regard to the contract with Ms. Kassi, that was handled - or initiated - again, on the work of lobbying to protect the 10-02 lands.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister has restated what he wanted to hear.
Now, I'm not going to waste House time in correcting the minister. Because if I do that, then he's going to stand up and say, "Well, no, that's not what I heard you say", and it will be an ad nauseum debate for members and for members of the public who would receive the Hansard that will be faxed out. I was not in -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Well, it's a street tactic - I'm just not going to go there.
The minister did not respond to my question as to whether or not he anticipated the balance of the funds to the Caribou Commons Project, under tier two of CDF funding - Friends of Yukon Rivers - would be expended.
Hon. Mr. Harding: By all means, I would ask the member to please correct me if I was wrong. Please correct me. Tell me what her position is if I've got it wrong.
Mr. Cable: This minister has been smelling power like a bad case of smelling salts and it's very unfortunate. We've watched him go through this in the last two and a half years, thus proving that old adage that all power corrupts.
Let me ask the minister this question on the CDF, the community development fund. In the handout that was given to us, four tiers are shown. Could he explain what the terms of reference are for those four tiers?
Hon. Mr. Harding: When the members opposite have no substance, no accountability and no ability to put their position forward when challenged, then they attack my character. They call it arrogance. And I would argue with the members opposite that that is lower than the Member for Riverside usually goes but, when they're cornered, it's pretty obvious that the Liberal Party will attack character.
Mr. Chair, I have asked for substance and it's got nothing to do with power. What it has to do with is the fact that the Liberal Party has an obligation to the people of the Yukon, like everybody else, to be clear about their positions, and if they don't like getting smoked out on them, that is too bad. I will continue to do that. The member opposite should realize that.
We believe, on this side of the House, that we involve people in decisions that affect them. We are working with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, and for him to say that this is a power play is an attack on my character and it shows just how deep we're striking in terms of them not being able to stand up and communicate a clear position on this issue.
Mr. Cable: The minister is totally and absolutely lost in the game - totally lost in the game. You can see that day after day in this House. The Chair has made a ruling and the ruling, as I understand it, is that we're here to debate the minister's budget, his estimates, and I've asked him a question on the community development fund. Does he intend to answer it or are we just going to go round and round and round till five-thirty?
Hon. Mr. Harding: If the member opposite feels he can start to attack a person's personal character in the House and there shouldn't be anything said about it, I disagree with that. I'm not lost in a game. This is no game. This is serious business, and the people out there have serious questions. They've questioned me, there's no question about it. My comments are out there. People can criticize them, they can put arguments in the newspaper, they can take whatever direct political action they want.
But, do you know, I find it interesting that, when I ask the Liberal Party, just as the Government Leader did the other day on the issue of the current year deficit budgets, that they cannot stand up and communicate a position. That says something about their lack of ability to communicate directly. And there, Mr. Chair, I believe we have a fundamental job - I do as a legislator - to smoke them out on those issues, so that they tell the people of the Yukon what the reality is of their positions.
Deputy Chair: Order please.
I would just like to remind, once again, that there is a duty by all members in this House to debate the budget, and I would like to remind both sides that, at this present time, we are debating the budget. That's on the government side, and that's on the opposition side. The opposition side does have a right to ask questions, and it is, I believe, the responsibility of the government side to respond to the questions.
Can we continue with this?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes. Clarification: is it the Chair's ruling that the government cannot ask the opposition questions in Committee of the Whole? Is that the ruling?
Deputy Chair: I think the primary function here is that the opposition has an opportunity to question the budget as it is laid out by the government.
Hon. Mr. Harding: With respect, I would ask the Chair to seek some advice on that. However, I will accept his ruling because, when the Chair is setting precedents, I would ask him to gain some historical knowledge of the question and do a little survey. Because Committee of the Whole, as I understand it, is somewhat different from the Chair's ruling, but I will accept it, obviously, and I will engage in further debate on any issue the members want.
However, I will say that it is important that we are able to freely discuss issues in this House surrounding the budget, particularly when introduced by the opposition. And I would like to ask the member opposite, if he has concerns or questions about the community development fund, that he should feel free to ask them. I will do my best to answer them, but I want to also say that it is important that we have a full and honest debate here.
And that means that everybody states their position.
Mr. Cable: The minister just had a ruling. It was clear to this side of the House what it meant, and hopefully it sunk in for the minister.
The question I asked was: in the budget briefing, in the book that was given to officials, there was a rundown of community development fund projected expenditures and they're listed under four headings: tier 1, tier 2, tier 3, tier 4. Would he explain to us what those four tiers mean?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Tier 1 is under $20,000, tier 2 is $20,000 to $100,000, tier 3 is over $100,000 and tier 4 is fire smart.
Mr. Cable: Okay, with respect to those four tiers, who are the ultimate decision makers? Is it the minister in each case? Does he have the final say on who gets the money?
Hon. Mr. Harding: No, we've gone over this before in budget debates. There is a process for each of the tiers. Tier 3 has a board and there's a technical review committee. We've gone over this before. Nothing has changed since the last time.
Mr. Cable: The last time we went over it, the minister said, after the leader of the official opposition extracted it from him, that there were in fact two different tiers. That's my recollection of the debate, and we can check Hansard to see if it's accurate or not. Could he supply, to the House, the decision-making process with respect to each of the four tiers or could he relate it to the House right now, if he knows that?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'll provide that information in writing to the member again.
Mr. Ostashek: While the member is getting that for the Liberal Party, I'd appreciate a copy of it also.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Sure.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I'd like to ask the minister a question about a project that was talked about for a number of years now and that is the downtown community centre. We haven't heard much more about it. I think the Franco-Yukonnais Society and a few other groups were interested in it and I would just like the minister to give us an update on what's happening with it. Is it still on the books and is the territorial government still committed to the project if others are? What's the updated status of that particular idea?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The position hasn't changed since the last time we talked about this. We have made a long-standing commitment to this organization. They are still trying to access federal funding.
Mr. Phillips: Is that commitment of $1.5 million, the same as it was in the CAP? I think that was what was in the CAP at the time. Maybe the minister can also elaborate if he's heard any update at all from the group, and whether or not they feel they're closer.
I heard, I think it was earlier this fall, that it was imminent; an announcement was going to be made, and we never did hear anything. I think the holdup is from Ottawa, but I just wonder if the minister has any more information on where we're going with it.
Hon. Mr. Harding: It's very difficult to tell. The Liberal government has made all kinds of warm and fuzzy, huggy overtures toward people, but they've never put any money on the table. So, it's very difficult for us to tell. We have engaged in a lobby of the federal government for the proponents, but to no avail. Our commitment is the same as it was under the CAP amount. We don't have it budgeted, obviously, but we would have to come up with the money if the project was ever to go ahead.
Mr. Phillips: So, if the federal government made a decision in the next six months, then we would probably see the $1.5 million. I believe that was the figure. Maybe the minister can get back to me on that, but I think that was the figure that was there. So, we would see that in a supplementary, and we would be proceeding with that project. That's the first question.
The second question is, when was the last time that the minister had communications with the federal minister, and does he have any correspondence with respect to that? In what way did we communicate with him? Did we phone the minister? Did we write a letter to the minister? Have we got a response?
I'm just trying to find out if it's just kind of on a shelf gathering dust somewhere in the federal office, or in the minister's office, or is it a priority? Where is it going?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, our commitment's been there. It's been raised right up from our Government Leader to the Prime Minister himself. It's been raised on numerous occasions. We can remember Hedy Fry coming up to the Yukon, all the Liberal ministers coming up, with warm feelings about how much they liked the project but, so far, we haven't seen any cash on the barrelhead.
So, our commitment is there, as the Yukon government, and we've aided and assisted the proponents, in terms of trying to help to make this project a reality, but we've got a Liberal government that talks nice about it but isn't prepared to make the financial commitment.
Mr. Phillips: From what I'm getting from the minister then is that it's just verbal discussions that have taken place. The government hasn't written any letters to the federal government requesting it and saying they are committed, and maybe what was done. I'm just trying to find out, other than, you know, conversations at functions and these kinds of things, what has taken place with respect to the Yukon government's involvement?
It seemed to me to be a fairly high priority a year ago or a year and a half ago with this government, and I think there was even money in the budget at one time, and discussions were taking place, and there was very active lobbying on behalf of the groups to all parties about support for it. I haven't heard much about it, so I'm just wondering if it's still a priority of this government to pursue it, and when was the last time - maybe the minister can tell us the last time he or anybody from the government wrote a letter to the minister responsible saying, "Is anything happening here? Are we going to do anything about this?" What's the score with it?
More than just verbal conversations, did anything else take place? Is there anything in writing from this government saying we want to proceed with this, and we've committed X amount of dollars, and we want you to kick in, and it's a priority to do it? I guess if they are going to go ahead with it, it's something that would create jobs, but it seems to me that it was a hot topic a year ago but seems to be not on the books or not very hot today, and I don't know who dropped the ball.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I can assure the member opposite that we haven't dropped the ball, because our commitment is there. The issue has been raised by our Cabinet members with federal ministers, both in writing and verbally, at every opportunity that we do get to speak to people who have some say about the finances involved in this project. It's a priority for our government in the sense that we've made a commitment, so if we've made a commitment, it's obviously a priority.
Mr. Phillips: I wonder if the minister could provide me with the latest correspondence that's gone from the Government of the Yukon to the federal government stating that it's a priority or that it's something that the government is committed to and wants to hear where the federal government is coming from. Send me maybe the last letter that went out, or the last couple of letters that went out, to the federal government so I can get an idea of how eager we are for this thing to go ahead.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, he should realize that we're eager because we kept our commitment. Is the member saying that when we raised the issue with federal ministers that's not an active lobby?
Mr. Phillips: Well, I guess the issue is, is the government - it's the same old talk the talk, but not walk the walk. The minister said, "We're committed", but there's nothing in this budget to show we're committed. There's no money in the budget, other than just the minister saying, "We're committed". And I just want to know what's on the record.
I mean, he's blaming the federal government for holding it up. And I just want to know what the minister has done? If he feels the federal government is holding it up, then give me the last piece of correspondence and we'll see how eager the minister was and how long ago he wrote them, and whether it is the federal government.
I just kind of want to know where it's going. I mean, there are probably all kinds of ideas in ministers' minds about things they would like to see, or support, down the road, but they're not in the budget here right now. And that's kind of where this thing is - it's a million dollars plus that the minister has in his mind, but there's not a penny in the budget committed to it.
I mean, there are some issues with respect to health, where there isn't money in the budget with health, with respect to money that the federal government owes us, but there are all kinds of letters on record to the federal government saying, "We want you to pay" - and some very recent. So, I'm saying, is there anything like that with this project?
Let me ask the minister this question: after we met with Hedy Fry, and after we met with some of the federal ministers, did we follow it up after that with a letter saying, "Further to our discussions when you were in Whitehorse - or when we were in Ottawa - here's our commitment to the project, and when can we expect yours?" Was there anything like that done, or was there any correspondence available at all?
Surely if the minister, if it's a priority or a project that's important - and he's told us it is - there has to be something in writing somewhere that says, "We want this thing to go ahead".
Could the minister give me a commitment that he'll bring that back to the House in the next couple of days? It should be easy to find.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Chair, I'll tell you, the project was made more difficult by the actions of the member opposite - the letters that he wrote against the project. We know the Yukon Party has wanted to kill this, sometimes secretly, since day one. That's why our government made a commitment. I know this is a sensitive subject for the member opposite, but the people out there know that the Yukon Party wanted to kill this project.
We have made a financial commitment to this project, subsequent to federal financing of it. We have engaged in active lobbying, both verbally and in writing to numerous federal ministers. I think our commitment is very strong and I think it correlates very well when stacked up against the letters, which I suppose I could dig out if I want to, from the member opposite who attacked it quite savagely publicly when it was first envisioned by the proponents.
Mr. Phillips: Well, here we go again, Mr. Chair. The minister's turning around back on us. I'll tell the member that he knows that I wasn't supportive of the project as a tourism project. It didn't have a tourism component in it. That was the problem I had and I stated it publicly.
But the question I'm asking the minister is not about tabling the letters that I wrote raising concerns about the project, I want to know what letters the minister wrote in support of it. He said he supports it.
Maybe I'll ask the minister this question: did he write any letters to the federal ministers in support of this project saying that he had the money available and that he was going to go ahead with the project? Did he write any letters to the minister about that?
Hon. Mr. Harding: How many times do I have to tell the member opposite yes?
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, that's what I've been trying to get the minister to do for the past five or 10 minutes, and that is to give me a commitment that he will table all correspondence - and certainly the most recent correspondence - with respect to eagerness to see this project go ahead.
So, I'm just trying to determine where the minister just talks about support for this to these groups and then actually follows through with something or whether or not the minister just sort of, like we said before, gives a different speech for different people. I mean, it seems that this might be the case here. It looks like the minister said he really supports it. I've got $1.5 million to go tomorrow - it's not in the budget; you can't find it anywhere here, by the way - and I haven't written any recent letters on it.
Surely, the minister understands where I'm coming from.
If he's committed to the project, then let's see his commitment, in black and white, and maybe the minister can bring that into the House tomorrow. I'm sure it's easy to find. He said he thought he could find my letters really fast, so I suppose he could find some of his own - where he's lobbying strenuously to the federal ministers to come forward with this money.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, with regard to the money not being in the budget, that could be said about the entire CAP project the member opposite announced when he was a minister. He announced a five-year, $9-million project and had no money in the budget to cover it. It hasn't changed with this particular project, so that's a criticism of the way the Yukon Party approached this particular initiative, by not carving out $9 million - not of our government's - because they initially came up with the program.
Secondly, the member opposite's trying to turn this around on me, because it's well known that the Yukon Party was opposed to this project and tried to kill it. Now he's trying to chip away at the fact that we have made a financial commitment of $1.5 million to this particular project and have engaged in solid lobbying efforts, both verbally and in writing, with the people from the federal government.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I know the minister's had a rough day, and I know he's a sensitive guy, but I'm not trying to chip away at the minister. What I'm trying to find out from the minister is how strong his commitment is - not what we did with CAP, not what we did with this project, not what somebody else did with something else.
The question to the minister is, he's told everybody that he supports this project. He's told everybody that he's got money to throw into the project when the federal government does. He's told us in the House here that he's been lobbying the federal ministers. I just want to know what kind of lobbying he has done to the federal ministers, other than schmoozing at cocktail parties or at functions with these ministers. Has he written them any letters as followup for the meetings? And will he table the letters in the House?
I don't think we need to go on much longer. Just give me a commitment that you will table tomorrow in the House all of the letters that the minister has written with respect to the downtown community centre project in lobbying the federal government, and we'll just see, when we get the letters, how active the minister's been in trying to get this project back on the rails. I'd like to find out where we're going with it.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, I have had a rough day. I've had a great day. It's been a pleasure to be in this House discussing economic development with the members opposite and trying to get positions out of them, and having a good debate. I love it. It's not a rough day. It's a great day. I love the Legislature. I love the spirited debate, and I think it's good.
So, I will say to the member opposite that we've engaged in some very serious efforts financially with this particular project, and the member opposite has asked me if I've written letters. I've told him yes. I'll try to dig out a couple of the letters, and I'll send them to him, and that will make him happy.
Mr. Phillips: I thank the minister for his eager cooperation to provide us some letters, but I don't want just a couple of hand-picked letters. I want all the correspondence to federal ministers in maybe the last year with respect to this. If he could provide that, that would be useful, and that would give us an idea of how active he's been in the last year to proceed with this project, and I think those should be very easy to find. They are in recent files and should be easy to just pull out and photocopy and send down to us.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'll see what I can do.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I don't believe I got a commitment from the minister - perhaps he mentioned this, and I missed it - to provide the mineral update and mineral development update. I have forgotten the exact title that's put at the top. There's a report that's produced that outlines where specific properties are at, what the finds are, what the potential is, where they are at in the permitting process, what the production life is of such a mine, and so on. I've seen it produced by the department before. Has it been produced recently? Is it available? Could he provide it to us, and could he also outline what research work has been done with respect to mineral royalties?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, we have one produced and we can make a copy available to the member opposite.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the second part of that question was with respect to mineral royalties. I'm sure, in all of the devolution work that's been done, that someone has prepared a paper on the amount of the mineral royalties and potentials and so on, and the Member for Porter Creek North kibitzes that it's next to nothing. I'd like to know what it is, and I recognize that this money flows, at the moment, to federal coffers. I'd also like to know what the royalty is on gems, such as emeralds or diamonds, and I understand that there is a bit of a dispute around this in the Northwest Territories. I'd just like a backgrounder, if there has been one prepared for the minister that he is prepared to share.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I can provide the member with some information on the royalties the feds are now getting from the mining in the Yukon. As well, I can provide her with some information, I don't know how detailed, on the issue of precious gems.
Deputy Chair: Seeing no further general debate, we'll move to corporate services.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Corporate Services
Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate in corporate services? Seeing none, we will move to the line items.
Administration in the amount of $930,000 agreed to
Corporate Services in the amount of $930,000 agreed to
On Mineral and Oil and Gas Resources
Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate?
Mr. Ostashek: Could the minister explain the reduction?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, the difference is the legal and consulting contracts relating to the Anvil Range bankruptcy, which was $270,000.
Deputy Chair: Seeing no further general debate, we'll move to the line items.
On Mineral Resources
Mineral Resources in the amount of $396,000 agreed to
On Oil and Gas Resources
Oil and Gas Resources in the amount of $1,518,000 agreed to
Mineral and Oil and Gas Resources in the amount of $1,914,000 agreed to
On Corporate Policy
Deputy Chair: Seeing no general debate, we'll move to the line items.
On Strategic Management
Mr. Ostashek: Could the minister just give us a quick explanation of the 21-percent increase?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'd be happy to. Personnel - the increase is $326,000. That includes a new position for manager, policy and planning, senior planner, communications officer, increases in classifications and also due to vacancies that needed filling. There was a transfer-in of a local development officer from trade and investment and a communications officer from trade and investment, and the collective agreement increase. The offsets were contracts - a decrease in contracts of $80,000, a new membership in the Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada, at $10,000. There was an increase of $5,000 in travel and an increase in advertising to cover CDF and departmental needs of $13,000, resulting in the change.
Strategic Management in the amount of $1,586,000 agreed to
Corporate Policy in the amount of $1,586,000 agreed to
On Trade and Investment
Deputy Chair: Any general debate?
Mr. Ostashek: There was a term appointment - I believe Michael Brandt was appointed for a two-year term. When does his term expire, and what's going to happen to that position?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'm informed it's been made indeterminate.
Mr. Ostashek: Does that mean it'll be terminated and nobody will be replacing him? Is that what I get from that?
Hon. Mr. Harding: No, it's moved from term to indeterminate, and with the stress of the success of the strategy, I would not anticipate eliminating that position.
Trade and Investment in the amount of $1,597,000 agreed to
Deputy Chair: Are there any questions on recoveries and revenues?
Operations and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Education in the amount of $6,027,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate?
Mr. Ostashek: I just have one question. I should have brought it up on the trade and investment in O&M, but we have trade and investment capital in here, too.
What's happened to this representative that the minister had on standby, or on - I don't know what kind of contract he had - Danny Cheng, who was doing work on behalf of the government?
Hon. Mr. Harding: He still is. He's doing some good work for the Yukon, working on trade issues. He's got some contacts on the immigrant investment fund, and he's been - at no cost, I think he might have gotten one contract on one initiative specific to a trade mission in China. He's doing some good work, and opening up some doors for us.
Deputy Chair: Seeing no more general debate, we'll go to Corporate Services.
On Corporate Services
On Community Development Fund
Community Development Fund in the amount of $3,000,000 agreed to
On Loan Guarantee Contingency
Loan Guarantee Contingency in the amount of $250,000 agreed to
On Yukon Unity Foundation
Yukon Unity Foundation in the amount of one dollar agreed to
On Bad Debts Expense (Capital Loans)
Bad Debts Expense (Capital Loans) in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Corporate Services in the amount of $3,250,000 agreed to
On Mineral and Oil and Gas Resources
On Yukon Mining Incentives Program (YMIP)
Yukon Mining Incentives Program (YMIP) in the amount of $506,000 agreed to
On Geological Surveys
Geological Surveys in the amount of $1,471,000 agreed to
On Oil and Gas Management - Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Oil and Gas Management - Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $150,000 agreed to
On Resource Assessments
Resource Assessments in the amount of $520,000 agreed to
On Infrastructure Support Programs:
On Yukon Industrial Support Policy - VLB Resource Corporation
Mr. Cable: There's a contract with VLB Resource Corporation, which has been in place for several years, and they have a number of obligations under it. Are they up to date? Are they complying with the contract? I think there were some job creation obligations that were in the contract.
Hon. Mr. Harding: My information is that they are in compliance.
Yukon Industrial Support Policy - VLB Resource Corporation in the amount of $413,000 agreed to
On Energy Infrastructure Loans for Resource Development
Energy Infrastructure Loans for Resource Development in the amount of one dollar agreed to
On Mining Environment Research Group
Mr. Cable: Just for the record, could we have an explanation of that line item?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I gave the member a terms of reference, I believe, but it's a research group made up of government agencies, mining companies, Yukon First Nations, and NGOs, for the promotion of research into mining environmental issues and projects.
Mining Environment Research Group in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
Mineral and Oil and Gas Resources in the amount of $3,085,000 agreed to
On Corporate Policy
On Centennial Anniversaries Program
Mr. Ostashek: Can the minister just give us an explanation of where the money is earmarked for, or what it's earmarked for?
Hon. Mr. Harding: It's to complete the Teslin project.
Centennial Anniversaries Program in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
Corporate Policy in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
On Trade and Investment
On Trade and Investment Fund
Trade and Investment Fund in the amount of $750,000 agreed to
Trade and Investment in the amount of $750,000 agreed to
Deputy Chair: Are there any questions on recoveries?
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Economic Development in the amount of $7,285,000 agreed to
Department of Economic Development agreed to
Deputy Chair: It is 4:30 p.m. now. We will recess for 10 minutes.
Deputy Chair: We'll now go to the Department of Education.
Department of Education
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm pleased to give some opening comments regarding the Department of Education budget for the 1999-2000 fiscal year.
The overall department's operations and maintenance budget of $82,198,000 will support four program areas: education support services, public schools, advanced education, and libraries and archives.
The department has a number of work sites, including 28 schools and the Wood Street Centre, Yukon Archives, Whitehorse Public Library, Gadzoosdaa Residence and the Teen Parent Centre.
Of the total departmental budget of $82,198,000, an amount of $53,830,000 - or approximately 65.5 percent - is the estimated cost for salaries and benefits. The remaining $28,368,000 - or 34.5 percent - is made up of other program costs and transfer payments to individuals and organizations.
The total full-time equivalents - or FTEs - covered by this budget includes 887.84 positions, with the largest percentage of 81.9 percent being the 726.8 positions located in the public school branch.
Of the total FTEs in the Department of Education, 89.9 percent are directly related to school-based staff, including secretarial, custodial and Gadzoosdaa residence.
This O&M budget represents a one-percent increase over the forecast for 1998-99. If this main estimate is compared to the main estimates for 1998-99, the increase is 1.4 percent.
I would like to highlight a few of the initiatives that are supported for 1999-2000.
In this O&M budget, funds have been allocated for a new First Nations education liaison position, who will work with First Nations and school councils on education issues, and review community-level delivery of services, to improve the benefit for all school participants.
A significant increase has been allocated for school program materials for the continued implementation of the integrated resource programs component of the B.C. curriculum.
Funds have been set aside to help school councils in making the driver education program more accessible in all communities. Twenty thousand dollars has been allocated for this support.
The First Nations elder program, started in 1998-99, will continue in 1999-2000; $10,000 has been allocated for this program.
Youth in the Yukon and across Canada will be supported through a funding allocation for the Interchange on Canadian Studies. This annual event will be hosted in the Yukon again in May of this year. Originally, 1999 was scheduled for the conference in the Northwest Territories. However, when they were unable to hold the event, we agreed to host it in the Yukon. The 1999-2000 contribution of $38,000 will complement the 1998-99 contribution and bring total departmental funds for this worthwhile project to $75,000. Not only will youth from other parts of Canada enjoy the hospitality of the Yukon and learn about our heritage, but Yukon youth will be hosted reciprocally in other provinces.
As the Government Leader mentioned in his opening budget speech, $200,000 in new funds have been allocated for youth recreation programming in the Department of Education in 1999-2000. These funds will supplement monies available for other youth programs, which have proven very successful in recent years.
The capital budget of $12,459,000 represents a two-percent increase over the 1998-99 main estimates. There are three FTEs supported in this capital budget under the education support services line. Two of these positions support the public schools branch building development and maintenance program, and the third supports the information technology network for both schools and the department.
This remains the same as in 1998-99.
As in previous years, over 75 percent of the total capital budget for the Department of Education is allocated to supporting public school branch program delivery. In this fiscal year, the new school in Old Crow will be completed and open for classes in September 1999.
Construction for the new school in Ross River will commence this summer, with a planned opening in September 2000. Detailed design work for the new school in Mayo will continue through 1999-2000, bringing the total funds allocated to this part of the project to $300,000.
Site improvement and recreational development work will continue in 1999-2000 with an estimated $300,000 allocated for this purpose. Soft landscaping and lighting for the student parking lot at Porter Creek Secondary School will be completed. Phase 1 of the necessary site upgrading will commence at Vanier Secondary School.
In total, 17 schools will receive funds for grounds improvements, mainly focused on lawn and playing field repairs; fence repairs; and concrete or paving finishing to areas within the school compound.
An increase of $150,000 has been included for school-based equipment purchases, bringing available funds to $500,000. This helps with replacement of such items as photocopiers, AV equipment, and vans that directly support school-based program delivery.
The funds allocated for school-based information technology have been increased according to a planned schedule of computer lab and network upgrades. These equipment and infrastructure upgrades are needed to deal with outdated equipment that no longer supports the type of programming undertaken in the schools, and to support expanded initiatives such as the distributed learning model for course delivery.
The capital funds allocated for advanced education represent continued support for both adult education and youth programming. Training trust funds will again be supported through this budget. Numerous very good projects were completed or planned during 1998-99 and the success in 1999-2000 is expected to continue.
The Yukon College access road project will be completed this year. The funds allocated will see installation of the street lighting and some soft landscaping on the graded pitches along the roadway.
The special investment funds of $55,000 are 100-percent recoverable from Canada and are provided for the upgrading of the student financial assistance information system to meet year 2000 compliance requirements. This is the second year of two years for this project.
Opposition members have received a briefing on the education budget and have been provided with some detailed notes in response to some of their questions. With those brief comments, I'd like to close and answer any questions the members have in general debate.
Mr. Phillips: I have no questions in general debate, Mr. Chair. I'm ready to move line by line.
On second thought, I maybe have a couple that I'd like to deal with.
Mr. Chair, I thank the minister for her preamble and the information she provided. I'd also like to thank the minister's officials for the budget briefing we had the other day. The fact that they got the information required to us ahead of time was appreciated, and I think it will help expedite the debate in a more constructive manner.
Mr. Chair, the first area that I want to talk to the minister about is something that I've dealt with in Question Period, and it is with respect to teachers and the teacher shortage that's looming out there. The minister, in her response the other day, didn't seem to be too concerned about our staffing in Yukon schools and, in fact, when she talked about it, she said that because of our higher pay and our benefits and just the Yukon itself, we weren't anticipating any major problems.
I'd like the minister to elaborate on that a little more, because most of the teachers we hire for our schools in the Yukon are usually hired from outside of the territory, and the information I'm getting from many of the local newspapers and teachers, the periodicals and that kind of thing, is that there is a major shortage of teachers looming on the horizon. In fact, they say in one article that the potential is what they see as the biggest issue facing the profession in the new millennium.
As I expressed in the House the other day, there is a strong concern by other jurisdictions that because of the shortage of teachers and the fact that we can't shut down our classrooms, what we'll be doing is we may be forced in some cases to hire individuals for our classrooms who are not completely or totally trained in the way that we would hope to provide an excellent education system in the future.
Maybe the minister can tell us how confident she feels with respect to our teacher recruitment, how many positions we are looking for this year - have you got notice of how many people we need for this year - and how many applications we have - not just inquiries, because inquiries are just like that. In the tourism field, we have all kinds of inquiries, but many people are just doing that. They're curious and they want to know what the benefits are, what other things are happening. But how much real interest have we been shown by applications for this year? I know that the department appears to be going out on a recruitment drive that is a little more aggressive than other years.
So obviously, they must feel a little stronger than the minister has said in the House that there may be a looming shortage. So, maybe the minister could give us a bit more information on the possible shortage of teachers in the future.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member is correct that we have launched an aggressive and an early recruitment this year to ensure that we have candidates for vacancies. We don't know yet how many vacancies there will be at the end of this school year. The deadline for notice is not for some time. I believe it's sometime in May that teachers have to give their notice on whether they'll be leaving at the end of the school year.
I can respond to the member's question about his concerns for vacancies by indicating that we presently have, at the department, 235 applications on file, both from local applicants and from applicants outside of the Yukon.
Last year, there were over 200 applications received. We had 70 positions: 59 of those were filled by local candidates and 11 were filled by outside candidates. So, it's not correct, as the member asserted, that most of the hiring done is of outside candidates. There are, in fact, many local candidates who are qualified.
There are sometimes difficulties in recruiting for positions that require special skills, such as special education instruction, or some of the higher grades in various categories -- math or science or French or other subjects -- but, in general, we do still receive a lot of applications.
We know that there will be growth in the labour force for teachers. We have to continue to encourage people to consider teaching as a profession. We hire Yukon grads who go out to post-secondary education to get a teaching degree. We have the Yukon native teacher education program. We've had discussions with Yukon College about doing an indication of what interest there may be in offering teacher education in the Yukon again to see if there are Yukon residents who are interested in obtaining a teaching certificate to meet future vacancies but, in general, we are still receiving a number of applications for the vacancies. We have a Web site under development for this year to also post vacancies for people who are interested in hearing what the Yukon has to offer for people who want to teach.
Mr. Phillips: The minister said they have 235 applications on file, and we had some 200 on file - is that 35 more than last year, or is this 235 new ones? How active are the 235? Are these all people who are - someone could apply here, I suppose, for a teaching job, and apply two or three other places as well, trying to get a job, and end up being hired in British Columbia or Alberta or Saskatchewan, and their application could still be on file here. So, what I'm trying to find out from the minister is how many of the 235 that the minister has on file are actually active people - in the last six or eight months - who are very serious about trying to come to the Yukon?
You know, if we had 200 last year and we have 235 this year, some people may be well-established in other schools and careers and may not be interested in coming here any longer.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, that's a fair question, and it's impossible to know of the 235 applications that we now have on file in the Yukon whether 200 of them have, in fact, applied for 10 other positions, or expressed interest in teaching in other areas.
What I can tell the member is that, to date, on February 16, we had received 100 applications from people seeking teaching positions in the Yukon. I received an update today from my officials that indicated that there were now 235 applications that had been received, and so my understanding is that those are current applications. We have until May for teachers to give notice of vacancies, and so we're not certain exactly how many staffing actions we'll be dealing with for the next school year. But, as last year, we do have a number of applications on file and anticipate being able to fill the positions.
Mr. Phillips: I've heard some fairly high numbers being bandied around by YTA and others about early retirement or retirement that's approaching for many of our teachers. We're not unlike any other jurisdiction that I've been reading about, where maybe the baby-boomers are starting to think about retirement.
I just wonder if we've done any projections over the next five to 10 years on how that's going to affect our system and how many teachers we're going to expect to leave. I know we have been working toward repatriation of superannuation and more control over our employees, and I'm told that, if that happened, it might be similar to Ontario. In Ontario, when they allowed for early retirement, there was a fairly significant number of teachers who opted for the early retirement, and it created a real teacher crunch in Ontario. So, I wonder if the minister can tell us if they've done some longer range planning and actually worked on some forecasts of who might retire over the next five or 10 years, and what effect having the opportunity for early retirement would have on our teaching.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The short answer, Mr. Chair, is that yes, we have looked at the teaching force and have a general idea of how many people are approaching retirement. We do not have mandatory retirement, so we don't know for certain when a teacher might or might not retire. We do use as a guideline what the workforce looks like, and we're aware of the demographics.
Mr. Phillips: Does the department have any contingency plans in place? I mean, they must be looking at what's happening in other jurisdictions, with the alarm bells that are just starting to go off in other jurisdictions. Do we have any kind of a contingency plan on how we might deal with a teacher shortage? Because I have some suggestions for the minister, which I'm going to make in a few minutes, but I want to know if the minister has looked at any ideas of how we could possibly have more teachers available in the territory in the future.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, as I've stated, we are aware that labour-market trends show that the teaching profession will continue to allow for new opportunities for people to work. There are Yukon students who graduate from teachers college or from universities with an education degree. There are recruitment activities underway, both within the Yukon and outside the territory. We have the Yukon native teacher education program in place and are discussing with Yukon College whether there might be interest in offering teacher education here in the Yukon.
We have an aggressive advertising campaign underway. We have a lot to offer members of the teaching profession who might want to teach in the Yukon, including an attractive wage and benefits package, as well as good support for special education.
We have also launched a Web site for posting vacancies, and I look forward to hearing some of the member's suggestions to see if there are things that we haven't done or might do more of when he chooses to tell us what they might be.
Mr. Phillips: I never thought the minister would ask.
One of the things that the minister just said sort of piqued my interest immensely, and that was about discussions with the college to offer teacher education programs in the Yukon. In what kind of context are those discussions taking place? Have there actually been discussions so far, or does the minister want to initiate discussions? Are we looking at setting up a teacher education program similar to the Regina program or some other university program for teacher education? What are we looking at doing?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, we've initiated discussions with the college. It's no secret that people in the Yukon are interested in furthering their education. We have a very high interest in post-secondary education among territorial residents. The college will do a survey of interest to see whether they could fill the program if a teacher education program were offered here. The college is the expert in post-secondary education and training. It has an independent board that governs the college operations, so they'll do some work and then come back for further discussion with the government on what might transpire in the future.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I'm getting the impression from the minister that we're talking about a new teacher education program at Yukon College, and I imagine it would be the same as other three- or four-year teacher education programs.
What I'm concerned about is that we already have a teacher education program at Yukon College, and that is YNTEP. Is the minister telling me that we're looking at setting up a parallel program to YNTEP, or are we looking at working out some arrangement with the Council of First Nations and the University of Regina? I know the YNTEP program isn't fully subscribed; there are a lot of empty seats in those classrooms, and it seems to me that it would make a lot of sense if there would be some kind of an arrangement that could be made where other Yukoners wouldn't have to go outside to other universities to gain their teaching certificate. When they leave here, they get outside and, in some cases, they get job offers out there, and that's more handy, so they don't come back. We don't get them back up here. So, it would be a real opportunity to have a teaching program that we could offer right here.
So, I'm wondering if the minister has had any discussions with the First Nations with respect to tapping into, or making some arrangement with, the University of Regina and the First Nations to tap into the YNTEP program and take advantage of it?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, that's not what I'm telling the member. The member is speculating.
Let me see if I can be more clear. We are at the stage of early discussions only with Yukon College about the possibility of offering teacher education in the Yukon. There are a number of people who have indicated to me, either formally or informally, that they have a bachelor's degree and would be interested in taking a teacher education program where they can achieve a teaching certificate with one year of post-secondary education. We have offered a program similar to that in the past here in the Yukon with the teacher education Yukon program.
Yukon College, which offers the Yukon native teacher education program through the University of Regina, is in a position to look at exactly the kinds of questions that the member has raised and will do so and come forward with their thoughts on how we might proceed in the future.
Mr. Phillips: I think my views are pretty well known on this, but I want to express to the minister my concerns that we don't set up a dual program. If we've got six or seven or eight students in a class that can handle 20 in the last two years of the teaching program, I would hope that if we had some interest generated from people wanting to upgrade and get their teaching certificate, we don't start a whole new program, to start with, or, secondly, say that we only had interest from eight or 10 people and it wasn't enough to start a program, because I think you could meld the two for the last year or two of the program and, since you're offering the same program and the same course, you could use one instructor and one classroom and get the same result, or better result, at about half the cost to the taxpayer.
So, I would suggest to the minister that they strongly consider that. My advice to the minister is: be careful. I mean, although it sounds like it's a real commonsense approach, it can be a rocky road and I speak from experience. I know that there are a lot of people nervous about losing a program, the integrity of the program or the scope changing or whatever. I think with commonsense people can sit down, come to an arrangement where everybody benefits and that First Nations certainly don't lose in it because I strongly support the concept of getting more First Nation graduates into our schools as teachers.
And I think it's a good program that way. What I have frustrations with - and I've expressed those in the past - is when my daughter, or the minister's daughter, or some other Yukoner's daughter, has to leave home and go several thousand miles away to take the same program that's offered a mile away. That's the problem I have.
And I think that we should be working toward coming to some kind of a mutual agreement, where everybody's children who live in the Yukon can benefit from those kinds of programs that we offer here, especially in light of a potential teacher shortage, and the need to keep these kids at home - keep these teachers at home - and hopefully build a stronger Yukon. Because, as the minister knows, when extra generations of the family stay here, and take up professions, and raise families, then it's good for the whole society of Yukon. It just builds a stronger community. I think it would be something that would be worthwhile in the long run, and I would hope that the minister would consider that strongly in any discussions she's had.
Is the minister leaving the discussions of any cooperation with YNTEP strictly up to the college? Or is the minister leading the discussions with the college, or is it a co-leadership? How is that working?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I appreciate the member's comments, and I hope he's not feeling too bruised from having been down a rocky road in the past.
As the member knows, the Yukon native teacher education program is offered with the advice of an advisory committee that includes representation from all of the partners - the college, the University of Regina, and Yukon First Nations. We respect their input and welcome their advice on these subjects.
I'll be happy to keep the member posted. As I've said, we're at an early discussion stage, and when there is progress to report, I'll be happy to come back and let the member know what it is.
Mr. Phillips: I'm still not clear. "Early discussion" - does that mean that the minister has written a letter to the college and said that we're interested in discussing this, or has the minister met with the board and said that we're interested in this. Have any meetings taken place between officials of the department, or have we met with the advisory committee? Where are we at with it? Is it extremely preliminary, where it's just a concept and they're just starting to talk about it, or are we kind of down the road a ways?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have indicated to the college that there is an interest among some members of the Yukon public in taking teacher education aside from the YNTEP. Officials have also had some preliminary discussions and, at this stage, there has been no reporting back on any gathering of information.
Mr. Phillips: If the minister could provide me with any correspondence with respect to the initiation of this program, I would appreciate that, and if there is some in the future, if she could keep me posted on how it's going, we'll look forward to that. I wish the minister success in it. She certainly will have my support in ensuring that all Yukoners have equal access to the types of good quality programs that we put on in the territory, and I will be supporting the minister in any of those initiatives.
Mr. Chair, the next question kind of ties into that. I asked the minister the other day about local hire of teachers, and I was told that we had asked for an expression of interest locally with respect to principals. I think there were four or five principals. There was an ad in the paper the other day. I'm told that we may possibly be losing seven principals this year. We don't know for sure yet, but I think there have been some principals that have given indications that they are going to let them know shortly. Is the minister concerned that we're losing so many principals in one year? I don't know if we've had a year when we've lost four, and possibly seven, principals in one given year.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The principal positions at F.H. Collins in Whitehorse, Robert Service School in Dawson, Eliza Van Bibber School in Pelly Crossing and Chief Zzeh Gittlit School in Old Crow are vacant for the 1999-2000 year due to temporary assignments, retirements and resignations of the staff who are currently in the positions. So, for one of those three reasons those four positions are vacant. Other administrative vacancies may occur as we progress with staffing for the next school year.
There have been internal ads posted in schools earlier in this month as well as ads in local newspapers and newspapers outside the territory.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, the information I have was that we posted an expression of interest in outside newspapers prior to our local newspapers. Maybe the minister could come back to me with the dates that we published ads in our local newspapers and, I believe, the Vancouver, Edmonton and Regina newspapers. I think we published ads in several outside newspapers and the information I had was that we did that before we advertised here. If the minister could provide me with that information, I'd be happy to see it.
A complaint I get all the time from Yukoners is that they are qualified to teach but can't seem to get an interview. They apply and they just don't seem to get a job. I just wonder: how does the local hire provision that the government's now adopted going to pertain to teachers in the future in the Yukon? I know we had kind of a priority of hire before that respected Yukoners. I think they were pretty high up on the list, if they weren't first.
So, maybe the minister can tell me how they will be considered in the future? I see we're now advertising for almost everything - primary grades 1 to 3, reading recovery, special education, counselling, senior English, science and math, French immersion, French as a second language, French as a first language, and experiential education.
We're advertising for virtually all the teaching positions in the Department of Education, so I'd like to ask the minister what kind of priority we're putting on local hire for Yukoners for this next year.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As I believe the member is aware, we have a staffing protocol in effect in the Department of Education that has been developed together with the Yukon Teachers Association. We do hire locals first. Where there are qualified local applicants, they are the first to be hired. As I indicated earlier this afternoon to the member, of 70 hires last year for the present school year, 59 were local candidates, and 11 were candidates from outside of the Yukon.
The member also asked about advertisements for the anticipatory staffing ads that have been placed. The information I have is that internal ads were posted Wednesday, February 3, and Friday, February 5, and that outside ads were placed in the Winnipeg Free Press, the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, the Edmonton Journal, and the Halifax Star Chronicle on Saturday, February 6.
Mr. Phillips: Just so I have the numbers right, last year we hired 59 local and 11 people from outside?
Just out of curiosity, what do we class as local hire? Is that somebody who has a box number in Whitehorse? I mean, you could come to the Yukon, you had a mailing address, or somebody in Whitehorse had sent your application in from my house, or someone else's house in the Yukon. Are they considered a local applicant, or do they have to be a bona fide resident of the Yukon, here for three months or a year, or whatever the requirements are? What is the definition of a local hire?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Deputy Chair, you can help me out if I don't get this exactly right.
The Yukon government has adopted the Yukon hire definition of a "local resident". In order to be considered a local resident for hiring by the Department of Education, or for any position in the Yukon government, the applicant must have a Yukon health care card, which means that they've been resident in the territory for three months.
Mr. Phillips: Okay, I can leave that area there now. I may have some questions on that in the future - no, maybe I'll ask a couple more now on this area.
One of the things that seems to be happening in the teacher recruitment world is that some jurisdictions are starting to get pretty innovative in offering incentives for teachers to come to their areas. I think we see a similar thing happening with nurses. With nurses now, there are very active recruitment drives going on, with very active - or very interesting - incentives for them to come to certain jurisdictions. It's almost, in some cases, getting to be a bit of a bidding war, where one can offer more than the other. I hope we don't have to get into that.
But I'm just wondering if we've thought about that at all, and if we're considering that kind of program in the future to attract quality teachers to the Yukon.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, as I've indicated to the member this afternoon, at the present time we have 235 applicants on file for vacancies that may occur during the next school year.
The Yukon Department of Education already offers very good wages and benefits to members of the teaching profession. We have good working conditions. We have the lowest pupil-teacher ratio. We have individualized education plans available for students with special needs. We have not considered offering bonuses to teachers, other than that. We do have a number of applicants on file and are continuing to fill vacancies as they occur in the Yukon.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I asked this question earlier and I don't think the minister answered it. I know we have four principals that we're looking at losing this year for one reason or another, and I've been told that there are possibly three others who are highly probable. Does it concern the minister that we could be losing seven principals in the one year?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I mean, to a certain extent the member is speculating here. The vacancy with F.H. Collins School in Whitehorse is because there is a temporary teacher. The actual resignation of the principal occurred a year ago. The decision that was made between the department and the school council was that an interim administrator - for a one-year period - would allow some time to do a recruitment and bring in a new principal for F.H. Collins in Whitehorse who would be starting at the beginning of the next school year, in September 1999.
The reasons for leaving is not just that one temporary assignment, but teachers may retire or may choose to leave a rural community after many years and seek employment elsewhere. Of course, we want to recruit qualified candidates for any vacancies, but I haven't heard any cause for alarm for administrators choosing to leave the positions that they presently hold.
Mr. Phillips: Do we have any arrangement with YTA through the professional development fund or through any other means where we train or offer training programs for teachers who want to move into administration, like local teachers who maybe work at a school for so many years and then can become the vice-principal or principal, or that kind of thing? Or do we mostly recruit those kinds of people from outside the territory?
What I'm hearing from some teachers is that they may want to move up that level and move into the vice-principal, principal or administration-type level. Do we have any plans in place now or are we planning to do anything with respect to offering training or further education so these people can maybe take night classes, or whatever, to upgrade their skills so that they can apply for these jobs and be successful?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Just to respond briefly - and we can come back to this next week in addition - as the member knows, school councils are involved in the recruitment process for principals and administrators. Often, teachers are interested in professional development. We have, in the collective agreement with the Yukon Teachers Association, a professional development fund. That is often used by teachers who go out and take further education in order to be qualified for principalships.
In addition, there have been teachers and administrators locally who have taken masters of education programs and gained credentials and accepted positions as administrators in the Yukon.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 14.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, 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 a report from the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 14, First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
The time being 5:30 p.m., this House stands adjourned until Monday at 1:30 p.m.
The House adjourned at 5:30 p.m.