Wednesday, April 28, 1999 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with silent prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Workers' Day of Mourning
Hon. Mr. Harding: I rise today in recognition of a national day of mourning when we join other compensation boards, governments and workers to remember those killed or injured on the job. I'm proud to note that this day of reckoning and remembrance and resolve to try and do more to prevent deaths in the future is a direct result of efforts by the Canadian Labour Congress and a federal member of the NDP.
Each year, Mr. Speaker, over 1,000 Canadian workers are killed at their place of employment, which translates to over two deaths for each working day. Many more are injured and, more alarmingly, one out of every three compensated accidents involves a young worker between the ages of 15 and 24 years old.
Mr. Speaker, I know from personal experience from working in the mine in Faro and recently having a friend killed on the mine site up at the Loki mine that this type of accident, injury or maiming causes great strife for friends and family - something that should not be forgotten, and the work should never end to continue to improve the system.
We had a ceremony at lunchtime at the Elijah Smith Building. People probably don't think about it a lot as we engage in our daily lives, but Elijah, the namesake for the building, the man, was killed while performing his job out on the road, working on behalf of Yukon First Nations people.
Mr. Speaker, the national day of mourning reminds us to rededicate ourselves to accident prevention through increased workplace safety and by continually educating workers, employers and the general public on good occupational health and safety practices.
Mr. Speaker, the sacrifices of workers should never be forgotten. I would ask members at this time to stand with me and join, as we have done in the past on this day in the House, for a moment of silence to reflect on these men and women, as well as on the families and friends they've left behind.
Moment of silence observed
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and office of the official opposition, I rise to pay tribute to those Yukon workers who have been killed or injured on the job. Each year, thousands of Canadians experience injuries on the job. Many workers become disabled and, in some instances, lose their lives. On this day, it is appropriate that we recognize these individuals and the sacrifices made by workers on a day-to-day basis.
Being injured at work is much more than physical pain. A worker who is injured suddenly faces a loss of income, a loss of self-esteem and, as a consequence, must turn to others for help. Given these challenges, injured workers deserve to be treated in a fair and equitable manner. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Like our justice system, workers' compensation systems throughout the country are in very great danger of losing the confidence of the people.
So very often we tend to take for granted the risks associated with many professions, and the cost to workers and their loved ones, when an injury, disability or death occurs among us. As legislators, as employers, and as Yukoners, we all share responsibility for a safe and healthy workplace, as we should also share responsibility in restoring confidence in a system that is supposed to support labour and business.
Again, our caucus is pleased to join with other members in recognizing the many workers who have been injured on the job, and pay our respects to those who have died during the course of their employment.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cable: I rise on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus to pay respect to all workers killed or injured on the job.
More than 1,000 Canadian workers are killed on the job every year, and to put that in perspective, by the time this House comes together tomorrow at 1:30, more than two workers could have been killed on the job, at that rate.
Thousands more will die as a result of exposure to toxic substances in their workplace; thousands more are permanently disabled; and many more are off the job temporarily because of workplace injuries.
The public is aware of some deaths in the workplace, such as occurred in the Yellowknife Giant Mine, and at the Westray coal mine a few years ago.
Most workplace deaths escape public notice. We must remember those workers and pay respect to their families. We must also realize that there are many who have been injured or disabled and are left to suffer in silence. We must remember the sacrifice that others have made in order to provide for their families. We must also fight for the living by seeking to prevent workplace deaths, illnesses and injuries.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have a legislative return.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Vanier High School gymnasium floor
Mr. Phillips: My question is to the Minister of Education.
On April 22 in this House, I raised the health and safety and legal issues of the Vanier school gym floor. There existed a disproportionately large number of injuries to Vanier school students because of the composition of the main floor in the main gym.
The issue was brought to the attention of the Department of Education in a letter dated February 9, 1999, from the Vanier School Council. This matter was listed, Mr. Speaker, as the number-one issue of priority out of four. The letter states, in part, "High school students have greater coordination, are bigger, stronger and play sports in a more aggressive demeanor than young students. Having these athletes compete on existing floors has resulted in a disproportionately large number of injuries at VCSS. Along with this safety issue, the department must consider possible ensuing litigation if an athlete incurs an injury resulting from a life-long disability or loss of career options, which has already happened."
Can the minister explain why she wasn't aware of this number-one issue of priority of the Vanier School Council, especially after having stated in this House that she's met with the council?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member is incorrect in his assertion that I'm not aware of the concerns of the school council. I have been made aware of the concerns of school councils, and this is not an exception.
What I can say, Mr. Speaker, is that we're working with Vanier School Council on meeting their needs. We cannot always accommodate every request in a current fiscal year. We're aware of their request, but the member opposite is inflating the situation.
Mr. Phillips: The only thing that's inflating in this situation are the injuries that are happening to the young students using that floor.
Mr. Speaker, the minister simply isn't doing her homework. She's playing hooky from her job as the minister. The minister will notice that the date of the Vanier School Council letter is February 9, 13 days before the tabling of the main budget, yet the main budget didn't provide any funding to correct this health and safety and legal issue.
While this might be inexcusable in terms of the budget planning, there is no excuse whatsoever for not addressing the serious problem in the $8.4-million supplementary budget that wasn't tabled until April 15.
Why didn't the minister ensure that this health and safety matter was addressed in the supplementary budget?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite should be aware that the synthetic gym floors are in place in 15 schools in the Yukon and that we do not have reports of the specific injuries being attributed to the synthetic gym floors. We are aware that Vanier has a concern, and we're looking to identify money in the future to replace it. However, that has to be considered along with many other requests for funding for various projects in schools across the territory.
Mr. Phillips: The minister doesn't seem to understand the problem, Mr. Speaker. In fact, she asked the school council to document the number of injuries on the floor. The school council knows there are injuries. The school council has ruled out the gym for some of these activities. The minister asked them to put the kids back in and document the injuries. That's where this minister's coming from.
Mr. Speaker, it's my understanding the gym floor replacement cost is going to be around $150,000. I want the minister to explain to me, and to Vanier School Council and to the parents of the students, why this number-one priority issue - a health and safety issue with potentially serious liability - over all issues in the Department of Education, doesn't rate as an issue with the minister at all.
This is a problem at that school. It may not be a problem at other schools, but there's documented evidence of a problem. Why isn't the minister addressing it?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is incorrect. This is an issue that I am dealing with. The Department of Education is not negligent in allowing children to participate in the activities in the Vanier gym floor. This is coming from the member who was part of a government that didn't build one school in four years in office.
We have made education a priority, both in recreating partnerships with our school councils and in increasing funding for O&M and capital budgets in Education.
Question re: Polarettes Gymnastics Club facility expansion
Mr. Phillips: The minister's wrong in that we didn't build any schools, Mr. Speaker. There's the school up top of the hill, the French school, there are additions to the Porter Creek schools, there are other additions that took place to schools all over the territory, so the minister's wrong.
Last evening, I attended a meeting hosted by the Riverdale Community Association. One of the main issues of discussion was changes to the grounds surrounding the school, including the parking lot relocation, the new basketball courts and the addition to the gymnastics facility.
There were strong concerns expressed, Mr. Speaker, over the consultative process leading up to the proposed changes. The school council was consulted, but it appears that the residents and property owners in the immediate area were not.
Can the minister tell us what the consultation process for property owners who live around the borders of school grounds is, and will they be consulted in the future?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I think the member opposite should get together with his leader. I have with me in the House today a letter of support for the extension of the gymnastics training centre that the Polarettes Gymnastics Club has requested. The Yukon Party is in support of this initiative, which will help to prepare Yukon for the Arctic Winter Games.
The member asked about the facility expansion for the Whitehorse gymnastics centre. I can tell the member that we have a contribution agreement with the Polarettes Gymnastics Club and that, under the conditions of that, they are consulting with the department, school council and administration about the feasibility study for this expansion to support the gymnastics activities and the Arctic Winter Games.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, I wish the minister would listen to the question, and then maybe we could get an answer to this that's relevant to the question. The issue at the meeting last night was the development - the parking lots, the basketball courts and the gymnastics facility at the school - and the consultative process that takes place in making changes to school grounds. That's the question.
The resolution that was passed last night at the Riverdale Community Association was requesting that the Department of Education and the school council advertise and hold a public meeting to answer questions about the project and the processes of consultation. The minister is going to be getting a letter respecting that.
I'd like to ask the minister if she'll tell us here today whether she will instruct her officials to organize and conduct a public meeting that will involve and inform people on what the process is.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This comes from the former Minister of Education, who did not have a good track record of consulting with school councils or with anyone on education matters, Mr. Speaker. The consequences of grade reorganization, which are a factor in this particular instance, as in many others, was not discussed with the Yukon community or the education community at all.
Mr. Speaker, we have asked the Polarettes Gymnastics Club to consult with the school council. School councils are elected, and they are the lead in education matters within their particular school communities. All residents of the attendance area are eligible to run for office on the school council and also to participate in school council meetings.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, again the minister didn't listen to the question. The question was about the basketball courts. The question was about the changes to the parking and the effects it might have on the residents in the area. The community association last night agreed to send the minister a letter to ask the department to come and organize a public meeting and explain how the changes are going to affect people and answer some questions.
Will the minister agree to hold such a public meeting to address the legitimate concerns of residents in Riverdale?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, residents of communities can and do attend school council meetings and school councils may and do consult with residents. Certainly, if I receive a letter, I'll respond to it. We're supportive of having good relations between communities and school councils and supporting school councils and ensuring that residents are aware of what is happening at schools in their communities. But it has to be tough in the caucus meetings for the Yukon Party, given that the leader wrote a letter of support for the project without knowing what consultations took place.
Question re: Workers' Compensation Act, workers' advocate position
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Board.
The minister is carrying out a review of the Workers' Compensation Act. In conjunction with the review, he has issued an issues paper. In the issues paper, there are a number of questions relating to the workers' advocate position.
Why is the discussion for the workers' advocate position part of the act review? Is the minister considering putting the position formally into the act?
Hon. Mr. Harding: There has always been some controversy about what the role of the workers' advocate formally is. It's not described as an advocate in the legislation. If I remember the term correctly, it's written in the act as a workers' advisor, and we felt it would be prudent to have some discussion about the possibility of entrenching it in the act and perhaps describing its role in some more detail.
One of the areas of debate has been, from the get-go - early on before this government created the position - should the person be just an advisor or should they be an unabashed advocate of injured workers?
It's our belief that they should be an unabashed advocate of injured workers and their cases, and the position, in practicality right now, does just that.
Mr. Cable: The workers' advocate position was created nearly two years ago. It was a two-year term position, and it was to be reviewed after one year.
I understand that that review has been carried out. What was the result of the review?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, it should be no surprise to the member opposite - and, hopefully, most people in the Yukon public - that it was determined that the workers' advocate was a necessary position. It was found to give workers greater access, and fairer access, to the system, being able to present their appeals in a much more structured fashion. It reduces intimidation for workers who go into internal review committees or go into appeals, and it gives them a greater sense of comfort.
So I believe it's important that the position be continued, and the review for the most part, I believe, substantiated that.
Mr. Cable: Well, the review is asking questions like, does the workers' advocate position play a useful role in the appeal process, which would seem to indicate that the minister is keeping his options open on not continuing the position.
I know the incumbent's been sitting there for the best part of two years wondering what the future holds. Is the minister having, as one of his options, the fact that the position could be discontinued? Or is he saying now that the position is, in fact, going to be rolled over and continued after the present two-year term has expired?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, this government didn't create the position to just haphazardly end it; I can assure the member of that. I can also assure the member that we believe that it's played a very useful role.
The question is structured like that in the review to solicit the views of employers. There is not unanimity in the system among workers and employers as to how successful the workers advocate actually is. So, I'd like to hear from employers, too.
As a government, our position is that we think it's been a very functional and effective role and it should have been created four or five years ago by the previous administration, not two years ago. Mr. Speaker, we feel that it is also, though, very important because there is a cost to it that we hear from employers about whether they feel that it's been effective, as well as workers, with whom I have had some difference of opinion on the subject, and that's why the question is being asked.
But as a government, based on our experience with the position, we see it as being very successful and very important.
Question re: Architectural design contract for continuing care facility
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have some questions for the Minister of Government Services.
A tender was recently sent out for the architectural design on the new $14-million continuing care facility. This is the largest architectural design contract in recent memory, being around $1 million worth of work. There were 11 proposals received. Can the minister confirm that he has received a recommendation to award this contract to CJP Architects of Vancouver?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: CJP was the highest ranked proponent.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the tendering proposal for this contract was a two-envelope system. The first envelope was for technical evaluation. If the companies met the technical criteria, they moved to the second envelope, where prices were considered. Only three companies had their second envelopes opened. Of the companies that didn't make the second envelope were the company that designed the hospital, the company that designed the Thomson Centre and another local company.
Mr. Speaker, I find it hard to believe that these three companies, and eight of 11 companies, were somehow deemed not technically qualified. Why were these companies rejected?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: There were 11 proposals received. All 11 companies were partnerships between Yukon and outside firms. The system is that the highest ranked technical points is opened along with the others that are within 10 percent on technical points. Those three price envelopes were opened.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, if the government awards this contract to a Vancouver company or to a company that only has a branch office in Whitehorse, the minister has to defend that decision. He has to be able to state the reasons why the other companies, including the Yukon company, were rejected.
Will the minister outline for the eight companies whose price did not even get considered - and for every Yukoner - the reasons why yet another $1-million contract is going outside?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Maybe the member didn't hear me the first time I said it. All 11 companies were either in a partnership between an outside firm and a Yukon firm, or a Yukon firm and an outside firm - 11 companies were all partnerships.
Now, I can tell her that in CJP's case, they are partnered with Sinclair and Associates, Northern Climate Engineering, Inukshuk Planning and Development. Those are local companies, all Yukon companies.
So, the technical evaluation is based on a number of points that the company gets, and after that, then the price envelopes are opened, and in this case, there were three companies that had their price envelopes opened, and that was the decision that was made.
Now, I know that the member is a little bit chastened on this one, because her favourite pet company wasn't in the running, but I can tell her that in this case all 11 companies were partnerships.
Question re: Vanier High School gymnasium floor
Mr. Phillips: My question is to the Minister of Education once again on the Vanier school gym floor.
In response to my question on the issue on April 22, the minister stated, "The safety of our children is of fundamental importance to me, as the Minister of Education, and also to our government."
Mr. Speaker, this is pure hogwash. If what the minister stated was in fact true, I wouldn't have to be asking the minister the questions here today and shouldn't have to ask at all. The problem should have been corrected by the main budget and certainly by the time that the $8.4-million supplementary budget was tabled.
How is it, Mr. Speaker, that this government can find $150,000 at the drop of a hat for the funding of the Council for Yukon First Nations legal aid but has no money, and can't find any money and cries poverty, with respect to the Vanier school gym, which is causing serious injury to some of our children?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I'm pretty used to hearing low blows coming from the member opposite, and today is no exception. I think it's a good thing we're winding up this session, because the member is being both irresponsible and inaccurate.
Mr. Speaker, I've answered the questions. We're working with the Vanier School Council. We want to be able to accommodate their interests, as in the needs of all schools around the territory. We can't always fund every project in a given year.
Mr. Phillips: It's clear, Mr. Speaker, to the people of the Yukon Territory that the $150,000 of legal aid to CYFN was more important to this government than the health and safety of our children in our schools, and that's the issue, Mr. Speaker -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to ask the minister why she was derelict in her duty when it came to the supplementary budget, with a roughly $60-million surplus and $8.4 million that just popped out of the woodwork, why couldn't she find $150,000 to solve a problem that she knew and her department knew existed that caused serious injury to kids in Vanier school? Why couldn't the minister address that issue?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member is bootlegging in another issue that he hasn't had the gumption to ask direct questions about in this House, but I really must respond to the member's comments about funding for legal counsel for the Timmers inquest.
Mr. Speaker, a young aboriginal man was killed, and there has been a death while the man was in the custody of the RCMP and, under our Coroners Act, that requires a coroner. The RCMP have a lawyer who is funded by government. The constable has a lawyer who is funded by the government. The coroner's office has a lawyer who is funded by the government. In the interests of a full and fair hearing for all parties, our government has agreed to provide some funding so that the Council of Yukon First Nations can also represent the family and the First Nations interests at that inquest.
Mr. Speaker, in response to the member's question that he tacked on at the tail end, I have not been derelict in my duty as the Minister of Education.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, it's nice that the minister takes that approach. One thing she did leave out was that CYFN and the 14 First Nations are governments, are well-funded, and didn't need legal aid from the Government of the Yukon. And that's what they received. The issue is priority - priority of this government. They put $2 million in the community development fund for all kinds of their little pet projects, but they won't address the issue of health and safety for our children in our schools - an issue that the minister knew was a problem before the supplementary budget was tabled.
Mr. Speaker, I'll ask the minister again if she would amend her supplementary budget in the line item of "training trust funds, $500,000" - for a training trust fund that we probably don't even know where it's going yet - and apply the money to the health and safety issues of the students in Vanier school. Will she do that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is standing there and saying that the Timmers inquest is a pet project. The member is contradicting himself constantly in this House, including during Question Period today. He has stood up and said that the government should fund CYFN representation at the coroner's inquest, which is required under Yukon law, and now he's just saying that we shouldn't fund it, that First Nation governments have bags of money and they can fund it without help from the government. They have said they can't and we have agreed to help.
Mr. Speaker, on the health and safety of our school children, that is a primary concern of this government. Our education budget shows increased commitments to supporting the needs of students in the Yukon school system.
Question re: Unemployment rate; alcoholism
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Mr. Speaker, the unemployment rate in the Yukon is 16.7 percent - twice what it was last year - and in rural Yukon the unemployment rate is even higher. Studies show that people with the propensity to abuse alcohol tend to increase alcohol consumption when unemployed.
Per capita, alcohol usage in this territory is higher than in most jurisdictions to begin with. Yukoners drink a lot. The social and medical consequences of alcohol abuse are not unknown to Yukoners. All of us know friends or family who have suffered because of alcohol abuse.
With these high levels of unemployment and the subsequent increase in alcohol abuse, we could be heading for a situation that could soon become a crisis. The government has put a small increase in this budget toward alcohol treatment programs, but this is another case of too little, too late. The unemployment rate is twice what it was last year, and alcohol abuse is rising in the territory.
What is this government doing to deal with this crisis, and what extra resources are they allocating?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I was finally glad to get to the question there. I was beginning to wonder if there ever was a question involved in that.
Well, I can explain to the member that what she considers to be inconsequential is certainly not considered to be inconsequential by groups involved in communities. I mean, this question is coming from the Liberals, who were complaining last week that our liquor laws were too tight, and now we seem to be getting a bit of flip-flop on the whole question of alcohol.
We've committed additional funds for community-based treatment services, where we're going to be working with community healing centres in trying to deliver the services. We have four key goals in our strategy to deal with the issue of alcohol: one, to raise the age of the first drink; two, to support communities; three, to implement a community-based FAS/FAE implementation plan; and, four, to reduce the number of drinking occasions and drinks per occasion by Yukoners. So, I can go through some of these in further detail if the member would like me to expand on them.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the issue is the social costs of a high unemployment rate. The unemployment rate in the Yukon is 16.7 percent, and it's the third highest in Canada. Unemployment is also often the root cause of family and individual dysfunction; family violence, crimes against people and property, theft and other criminal activities commonly stem from people feeling disenfranchised, useless and unneeded. There are more women and children using the services of Kaushee's women's shelter this year. Unemployment means increased violence.
Can the minister describe what plans are underway to counsel the victims of violence and to deal with the offenders during this crisis situation?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm a little bit puzzled by the "crisis situation". The crisis seems to have been invented here on the floor.
The member doesn't need to lecture us on the correlation between issues of employment - and not only on the employment, but just general income inequity, and social problems. That's why we've taken a stance on trying to work on the whole issue of harm reduction.
With regard to counselling victims of violence, that is something that is done by Justice and ourselves. We do work, as the member has noted, through our support for shelters. We do have services such as Yukon Family Services, and so on, that we provide to people.
It's a bit of a broad question. The member seems to be trying to draw in kind of an economic/social problem here and invent a "crisis", as she has put it. So I'd be interested if she does have a more specific question on something - perhaps less generic.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, does the minister not think that a 16.7 unemployment rate is a crisis? It is, and there are social costs to high unemployment.
Now, the government's own statistics say that the unemployment rate is going to stay high for at least another year. Suicide among men and women between the ages of 16 and 24 increases dramatically when unemployment is a factor. This problem is exacerbated when other factors are included - factors such as substance abuse, low family income, and a violent home life. The Yukon has one of the highest suicide rates in Canada, particularly for males between the ages of 16 and 24. An increase of psychiatric health care, particularly an increase in youth suicide prevention, is required to deal with these problems as they arise.
Can the minister explain what preventive and treatment programs are planned to deal with the people affected by the high unemployment rate here in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: For the last 34 days we've been talking about a budget that is designed to assist people, that is designed to deliver social services, that is designed to enhance the availability of services, not only in issues such as addictions, but also issues of delivering social services for seniors, increased medical services over at the hospital, hospital-to-home linkages, tax credits, Yukon child benefit, and so on and so on. Thirty-four days we've been in here discussing these particular issues. Now, all of a sudden, there's the discovery of a problem. What have we been doing for 34 days?
We have been addressing issues, and that's what this budget is designed to do. This budget is designed to help people. The members haven't been listening.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, Aishihik Lake water
Mr. Ostashek: My question is to the minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation. Yesterday in Committee debate, I didn't receive an answer from the minister about the government's current position with respect to not drawing down the bottom two feet of YEC's licensing range on Aishihik Lake.
This NDP government, which prides itself on following due process, politically interfered with the Energy Corporation outside of due process, and instructed YEC not to use the bottom two feet of its licensing range. That political decision, Mr. Speaker, cost Yukon ratepayers $4.5 million.
I want to ask the minister if, faced with the same circumstances again, will this NDP government be politically interfering once more and instructing YEC not to use the bottom two feet of its licensing range?
Hon. Mr. Harding: First of all, Mr. Speaker, the member has said some things that are not accurate, as usual. First of all, the decision on Aishihik did not cost ratepayers $4 million. That is not the case at all. It did not affect rates at all.
Secondly, we made a commitment to Yukon people while environmental work was underway that we would take steps to mitigate the environmental devastation, or impact, at Aishihik Lake, and Mr. Speaker, I would point out that the Yukon Party promised the same exact thing to Yukoners in the last election campaign.
I have their campaign commitments here, where they promised to stop the environmental devastation of Aishihik Lake and work toward a stabilization at a level that will not cause environmental damage.
So, Mr. Speaker, the difference between them and us is that we actually acted on our commitments. They obviously had no intention to do so.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, the difference between them and us is that we wouldn't politically interfere with due process. The only time this government follows due process is if it is in their own interest or they want to hide from making a decision. They politically interfered; that's what they did.
Mr. Speaker, my understanding is that YEC in the re-licensing of Aishihik Lake, is asking that the same licensing range that it held previously be implemented.
My question: is it this government's position that, while YEC may be applying for the same licensing change, this government will once again politically interfere and instruct YEC not to use the bottom two feet of that licence range? That's the question I want this minister to answer.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member's preamble where he states that they wouldn't have gone outside the process to live up to their election commitment begs the obvious question of how they intended to live up to their election commitment or if they even intended to in the first place. Obviously, they didn't.
Mr. Speaker, I want to say to the member opposite that we're proud of the fact that we actually lived up to our commitment to take steps, while work was underway, to ensure that Aishihik Lake wasn't further damaged. We have taken the position consistently, since day one. It did not cost ratepayers $4 million. It did not affect rates at all.
And, Mr. Speaker, there is work underway. The Yukon Energy Corporation has sent an environmental impact assessment statement to the federal government for some review. They haven't even applied for their water licence yet, so the member's question is completely hypothetical.
Mr. Ostashek: What's not hypothetical is the fact that this government politically interfered, and now we have the minister standing in this House saying that he's proud of the fact that his government politically interfered in due process. That's the arrogance of this administration. That's the arrogance.
Mr. Speaker, the re-licensing process is going to cost Yukon Energy Corporation hundreds of thousands of dollars - ratepayers' money, not that minister's money, not that government's money - ratepayers' money. And those ratepayers have a right to know where this government stands when it comes to politically interfering in due process.
Once again to the minister: if Yukon Energy Corporation is successful in their re-licensing application for the same rates, is this government once again going to politically interfere and order them not to use that licensing range?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, now we've heard everything. It's now arrogance, according to the leader of the official opposition, to live up to your election commitments. It's arrogance, according to that member.
Mr. Speaker, does he think that it would have happened by accident, by chance, that the lake would have been protected? No, it was the direct action of this government through a well-published order-in-council to take that step, and we're proud of the fact that we lived up to our commitments, even though the members opposite and the Liberal Party both told the Yukon public that they were going to do the same thing, and then they criticized us from the opposition benches when we did it.
Mr. Speaker, the action that we took did not cost ratepayers money, did not affect rates, and that particular bottom level of the lake is still there. There is a process underway through environmental impact assessment. Unfortunately, it's obvious to the Yukon public that the Yukon Party had no intention of living up to their stated commitments in the 1992 and 1996 elections to the Yukon people.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I move the Speaker do now leave the Chair and 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 recess?
Some Hon. Members: Yes.
Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 14 - First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000 - continued
Yukon Liquor Corporation
Chair: Is there general debate?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I'll be brief in my comments. The net liquor sales for the Yukon Liquor Corporation for the past year were approximately $18,500,000. This figure is $175,000 greater than originally projected or, in percentage terms, a mere one percent above the projected sales.
At this time, sales expectations for the current 1999-2000 fiscal year are conservatively estimated slightly lower, at $18,150,000. Factors contributing to this reduction include a combination of lower population, particularly in Faro, and changing consumer demand.
Both the estimated corporate income tax and liquor tax amounts are expected for 1999-2000 to be very close to those forecast in 1998-99.
In the main estimates, the amount of corporate net income is down by an amount of $40,000. This change can be attributed to an effect of the corporation's reduction in its budgeted capital expenditures by $60,000, offset by an increase in salary and benefit costs of approximately $100,000 arising from the recent collective agreement settlement. The net effect of these two items on the corporate net income is to reduce the amount otherwise calculated by $40,000. The estimated liquor tax amount will remain at $2,178,000.
With a continued focus on customer service this year, the Yukon Liquor Corporation will tend to concentrate on ways and means to fulfill its mandate in an increasingly efficient and cost-effective manner. The upcoming implementation of the corporation's enhanced, fully integrated point of sales system and financial information system is one example of an improvement that will enhance services to the corporation's consumers while, at the same time, provide its management with more timely and relevant information to facilitate the required decision-making process.
In the early part of the year, there was a commitment to complete the information exchange tours by the corporation's board and president. That has been initiated this year. Once completed, I'm expecting a comprehensive report that will help guide both the government's and the corporation's course of action for the future to the extent that the recommendations may require change to policies, regulation or legislation and will determine the capacity and the time frame in which these recommendations can be considered for implementation.
The corporation will also be continuing with its zero-tolerance policy in respect to enforcement of the Liquor Act and regulations. There will tend to be little sympathy for those licensees who disregard the requirements or expectations of the law when they violate those provisions which are there to protect individuals and society.
Initiatives, typically through partnership with other governments, departments and non-governmental organizations will continue toward encouraging social responsibility in the sales and consumption of alcoholic beverages in the Yukon.
These partnerships add to both the effectiveness of the initiatives and in savings by encouraging that duplication and overlap are limited, while at the same time closing gaps that have been created in areas where no one authority is prepared to assume sole responsibility.
The corporation will continue to have a significant presence in all Yukon communities through its ongoing inspection and training activities such as the BARS, "Be A Responsible Server", program.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I'd like to start initially by congratulating the Yukon Liquor Corporation for a job well done. It's one of the few corporations in the Yukon today that has maintained its profitability in spite of this NDP government. So, congratulations are due to that organization for its wonderful work.
Mr. Chair, I'd like to explore with the minister the area surrounding the Liquor Act review that was called for a couple of years ago by CYFN.
They raised a number of very interesting points and suggestions to the Liquor Corporation, or to the minister responsible for it, and these have kind of been just in the background, and the minister has indicated that he's not going to be conducting an act review, that it's not something that's really on fire and at the front of the burner. I was just wondering if some of these issues had been dealt with directly with CYFN, or put to bed or addressed, that they had raised with respect to the Liquor Act.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: CYFN did ask and directed possibly to do a review on the Liquor Act. I met with them at the CYFN General Assembly and said that we will not be doing a review of the Liquor Act in our mandate, and they talked about the alcohol problems in the communities and, wanting to combat that, they asked that the revenue generated through the corporation in the sales of liquor be applied directly to try to combat the alcohol abuse that is taking place in the communities.
I have met with CYFN to try to find ways of combatting this whole issue, and at this point we have not made any substantial movements toward that. We have agreed to look at the different departments to try to address this whole situation, and I know Health and Social Services are looking into the matter, along with CYFN and the communities, to try to deal with alcohol and alcohol problems in the communities.
We are hoping to have more direction come out of CYFN to see how we can best tackle this whole issue together.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the suggestion was out there that 10 percent of the Liquor Corporation's net profits or receipts go to combat alcohol abuse in Yukon, and that that sum of money be transferred to CYFN for these respective programs.
Is the minister and his government giving consideration to this avenue, and to this transfer of funds in this respect?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: No, we have not said that we would be doing that. All revenues generated by the Liquor Corporation go into general funds. What we have said, though, if this is still a priority - we know it's a priority with the communities, and if it's run through CYFN, and if there are ways and some direction that they would like to give government - then we would look at it overall and try to tackle it from that, but not to take the revenues generated from the corporation. That goes into general revenues of government.
I would think that, if we're ever to do that, then many other organizations would come forward, wanting a piece of the revenue that's generated by the corporation. So we've taken a different approach to this, and money still goes into general revenues. We want to work with the communities. We've started a few things with Health and Social Services, and we want to tackle it from that point.
Mr. Jenkins: Some of the other issues raised by CYFN with respect to the Liquor Act - could the minister elaborate on whether these areas have been addressed and are being addressed, and whether it will take an opening of the act to deal with these issues, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: A lot of the issues that have been raised at the CYFN General Assembly are being discussed with the board as they do their community tours. So, we haven't completed all the communities in the Yukon yet, but we will be heading up toward Carmacks, Mayo, Faro, Ross River over the summer months.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, some of this information and some of these points were raised over two years ago, Mr. Chair. I'm sure the board is well aware, as is the minister himself, of these issues. I was just wondering if the minister can address any of these issues directly. A lot of them can be dealt with, in my opinion, through other departments of the government. I was just wondering why we need to look at the act itself when, in my opinion, a lot of these areas can be dealt with through other agencies of the government.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, that's the message that we passed on. Overall, if we're dealing government-to-government, we can look at the different departments within government to try to tackle this whole issue. But what I wanted the board to do, because not all of them are familiar with community concerns is, as they go into the communities, they'll get a better sense of what is taking place in communities, and the actual problems and concerns could be raised there and brought forward.
Now, we've done a number of them. I think the four that I've listed - Carmacks, Pelly, Ross River, Faro - are the next communities to be completed - and Mayo.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other areas that has been brought to my attention, that is probably a tough one to address, is that, all over of the United States, the age for consuming liquor has been raised to 21 years of age. In the Yukon, it's still 19; Alberta, 18 - it varies across Canada. Is there a movement afoot to look at increasing the age to 21? If not, why not, because that age group appears to be the age group that has some difficulty with alcohol? I guess the U.S., if you want to use that as an example as to the problems, they have attempted to eliminate by raising the legal age for consuming alcohol.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: No, we have not, and are not looking at raising the age at this point. It hasn't been a major concern in the communities as we travelled as a board to hear what communities had to say. That hasn't been brought up, although I know it has been brought up in the past.
If we were going to be making changes like that, I would say that we make them through a regulation change or do a total review of the Liquor Act, and I know that's going to be a controversial thing. Some people may think it's not that tough a job to do, but there are going to be a lot of concerns raised and a lot of polarization when it comes to a review of the act.
Mr. Jenkins: There certainly has been a general tightening of the regulations by the Liquor Corporation over all of the various licences held in the Yukon, and I applaud this direction, Mr. Chair, but I'm just wondering - the act hasn't changed, the regulation hasn't changed. Where did the direction come from to tighten up and enforce the existing rules and regulations to the extent that they are being enforced?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the direction we gave to the board of directors was to make sure that they knew what was in the act and to enforce the act as it was. I think there is more awareness as to what the act really says and the corporation has been looking in a lot more detail and reviewing casework in a lot more detail, and are being strict to the act. So, the corporation and board of directors have, I guess, been putting more time into the whole review of licencees and violations that are coming forward, and taking direction just making sure that the act is enforced because it is the law and you have to enforce it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, that's exactly what I'm getting at. The act hasn't changed. There haven't been any changes to the regulations. What is driving the tightening up of the enforcement side of the Liquor Act and its regulations? And there has been a notable change, which, I believe, most of us welcome, and I certainly applaud, but was that political direction from the minister and the government itself, or where did this initiative come from?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The public has raised a number of concerns in regard to violations. They thought of the act that took place with licensees and brought their concerns to the corporation board, and the board was the one that went out and, basically, tightened up to make sure that enforcement does take place and really look in more detail at the casework and what the Liquor Act really says.
Mr. Jenkins: So, we have the general public raising the concerns, and the Liquor Board reacting. Now, it's not a trick question. If the minister went to the board and said, "Look, we've got a problem. Tighten up here and start doing the job more efficiently," if that's the case, the minister should stand up and take credit for it. But if it was just an internal review that determined that, it seems to be kind of a stretch, Mr. Chair, that the board would take that initiative on itself without the direction from the government of the day, because it's somewhat without precedent, because everything flowed along in a similar manner for some 25-odd years, to the best of my knowledge, with very, very little change.
But then the last couple of years, there has been a real clamp - well, the rules have been enforced and, like I said earlier, Mr. Chair, I don't have a quarrel with that. In fact, I welcome it.
Is the minister stating, for the record, that that was a board direction and initiative?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I guess, as a correction, it is the corporation that has gone and looked at the details a lot more carefully and are wanting to have the board of directors look at the details a lot more carefully.
We have stated that there are a lot of concerns politically. We've stated that there have been a lot of concerns raised in the communities and we wanted to be able to make sure that procedures were followed properly, and the corporation has responded by having more inspections made by our inspectors and by having the RCMP help out.
They've always helped out in the communities. They've always been in and out of the bars, in Whitehorse particularly, and this past winter have done a lot more inspections in the establishments. So, they've been helping out, in a sense, along with our inspectors, but we've had a marginal increase in inspections into all of the establishments that hold licenses.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, has there been any changes in the Yukon Liquor Corporation's corporate objectives this fiscal period vis-à-vis the last fiscal period? Have the corporate objectives changed?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: No, they remain the same.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I notice on liquor licence renewal applications considerably more information is being requested now than previously. In fact, it's being followed up by the licensing and inspection department with a request for additional information - like, you've listed your managers, how are they being paid; are they salaried, are they contract, are they hourly?
Could the minister advise the House what the purpose of this in-depth detail is all about, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Basically it's a follow-up that should have been ongoing, and now we're just trying to get up to speed in the corporation with this.
Mr. Jenkins: What's the purpose of this information? Why is there a requirement for that additional type of information, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Basically, it's to make sure that the licence is being worked and operated within the parameters that it was issued for.
Mr. Jenkins: But what difference would it make whether your manager is a salaried employee, or an hourly paid employee, with respect to the operation of the establishment and conformity with the existing rules and regulations, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, basically we wanted to see whether or not the licensee - or to make sure that the licensee or the manager was basically the true operator.
Mr. Jenkins: How does it accomplish that aim, Mr. Chair, by requesting whether the manager of that licensed establishment is salaried or hourly paid? How are we achieving the ends that the minister has stated by requesting that type of information?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I guess the short answer to this whole thing is to try to gather information about the establishment to ensure that the licence, basically, is not leased.
Mr. Jenkins: That's another specific question in the renewal application or in the basic first application - are these premises leased, and if they are, yes, and you attach a copy of the lease. But when you get into saying no, it's not leased, then you state your managers' names; furthermore, the Liquor Corporation comes back to the establishment and asks, "Are these employees in that respect salaried or hourly?"
How does this accomplish what the minister has stated he wants the Liquor Corporation to know? It sounds like useless information to anyone who would have an overview of this, Mr. Chair. How does it accomplish this aim? Let's try again.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I guess what we want to do is make sure that we have all the information to make sure that the licence is not leased. You can lease a premise but you cannot lease a licence.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that's understood, Mr. Chair - that you can't lease a licence. But how does the corporation determine from the information they requested with respect to a manager, if the manager is paid by the hour or is on a salary, if that is indeed the case?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I'm not sure of the importance of the question that has been asked on the forms. I'll have to get back to the member to see why that is. I know that what they're trying to do is make sure that everything is operated within the parameters of a licence. Like I said before, it is basically to ensure that the licence is not leased, even though there is a lease on the building - to make sure that the managers are operating within the licence that they have gotten and that the establishment has.
So, with that, I'll have to get back in more detail to the member as to his specific question on those questions that have been written up.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, just for the record, this request is not asked for in the licence renewal application or in the basic application. They ask the names of the managers and then a whole background of the managers that have the responsibility for that area. But it comes back, usually after the licence is issued, in a number of cases on which I have spoken to various individuals, and a request from the licensing and inspection department for additional information as to the managers about how they are paid and whether they're salaried or paid hourly. The relevance to the licence is immaterial as to whether it's a salaried or an hourly position.
I'm sure the minister and his officials can concur with that statement, so I was just wondering why this information is being collected. What purpose does it serve? Because for anyone that I've spoken with, it serves no purpose whatsoever.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I don't know the answer to that - on these forms - and I will get back to the members opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: I'll look forward to receiving that response.
Could I just explore with the minister the recycling program that's managed by the Liquor Corporation, predominantly in rural areas? Just what percentage of the returns are we actually recycling today? How much is crushed and goes into the landfill sites? And, have we done a cost-benefit analysis of the program as administered in rural Yukon by the Liquor Corporation? Are we taking in enough money to cover the recycling program?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the corporation does send their bottles back. We don't have the numbers in front of us of what percentage end up coming through the Liquor Corporation, but I know that with the recycling through the Renewable Resources' recycling club, it's a very high number. It's around 92 percent that is returned.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm aware of the numbers as to the percentage of returns for recycling. I was just wondering if any cost-benefit analysis has been done on the recycling. Does the Liquor Corporation take in enough revenues to cover the cost of the recycling program?
What I'm getting at, Mr. Chair, is that this minister is responsible for the recycling program through the Liquor Corporation, and he is also responsible for things like the Tetra Pak tax, where mothers purchasing beverage containers of Tetra Paks for their children to go off to school with are paying a deposit well in excess of the refund amount. Such is not the case with the Liquor Corporation. So obviously, it's costing the Liquor Corporation to operate their recycling program.
I just wanted to know what the cost of operating the recycling program is to the Liquor Corporation and then we can contrast that to the food side of it, because we have two different sets of rules: one for liquor, where we absorb some of the cost, and one for food products, where we do not appear to absorb any cost. In fact, this government has chosen to tax the heck out of children's little drink packages that they take to school. So, that's what I'm getting at, Mr. Chair. I'm looking at the contrast and I want to know what it costs the Liquor Corporation to operate the recycling program.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: It's the beer bottles that go through the Liquor Corporation and are sent back to Vancouver, and we do get a refund for them. We have not put any taxes on Tetra Paks. This has been bootlegged in by the members opposite. It's part of recycling.
As a matter of fact, the member could be quite proud of the fact that when we did our little competition down in front of the museum, we actually didn't find one Tetra Pak. So, people are recycling them and keeping the environment clean.
The members know that there is a 10-cent deposit on bottles. Five cents is refundable and five cents goes toward recycling.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister is wrong. There is a tax on Tetra Pak, and he knows darn well that there is, Mr. Chair. The deposit is higher than the refund, and call it what you want, it's a tax - because you even pay GST on that component, which is unprecedented on food products. In fact, they had to go back in all of the tills in the Yukon and program in the GST on the non-refundable part of that deposit. So the minister has, in fact, implemented a tax by not having the deposit equal to the refund.
Now, that's the way it is for most liquor products, but that's not the way it is for food products. So I'll go back to the original question. What is it costing the Liquor Corporation to operate their recycling program?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I don't have those numbers in front of me, Mr. Chair. The member's asking for the total costs of recycling beer bottles through the corporation.
We didn't put any taxes on Tetra Paks. We're recycling, and it's very popular, and the members know that. They just can't accept it, thinking that there is an increase in taxes put on the Tetra Paks.
We feel - as the members from the Liberal Party know- that it does keep the streets and so on clean. And it's been proven, so I can get back to the members with numbers as we go through the corporation on total number of beer bottles that are recycled.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, for the record, I'm not looking at beer bottles alone. I'm looking at the total recycling program operated by the Yukon Liquor Corporation. Now, this has a multitude of facets. The beer bottles, that's one. That's been ongoing for quite some time. They are shipped back to the brewers for washing and refilling. Now, imported beer bottles are not recycled; they are crushed. They usually end up in the garbage dump. Plastic bottles - some of them are recycled. And then we have the cans that are recycled. So, there are a number of different parts to this.
With respect to the Tetra Pak, the minister is wrong once again, for the record. He has instituted another tax. There is a GST tax on the non-refundable part of the deposit. So, despite this government's promise of no new taxes, they have managed to bootleg in a new tax on Tetra Paks, and the minister knows darned well that that is the case. That's not the case with the Liquor Corporation.
What I'm looking for is the net cost to the Liquor Corporation of running the recycling program.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I can provide those numbers to the member opposite but would remind him again that the Yukon government is not the one that's putting the GST on products.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'd like to remind the minister, if he made the deposit equal to the refund, there wouldn't be GST applicable on it, and the minister can do that quite well in his other portfolio. If he can do it for the Liquor Corporation, he certainly can do it for the Tetra Paks, for the food products.
There are some liquor products where, in the past, the deposit has been equal to the refund, so it can be done.
The other area I'd like to ask the minister to bring back the information on is how much of the recycled product that's brought back to the warehouses of the Liquor Corporation ends up in the garbage dumps, because we have the crushed glass that ends up in the garbage dumps, by and large. So, how much of that is ending up in the garbage dumps currently?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, we can bring members back information and try to get as much as we possibly can. The beer bottles, the cans and so on all go over to Raven Recycling, so we can put those numbers together for the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd just like to seek the minister's assurance that we can get that information before we sit this fall, please.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other areas that I explored previously with the minister was the hours of operation of the various liquor outlets in the Yukon Territory. Whitehorse is six days a week. Rural Yukon is five days a week, with extended hours in the summer. Does the minister have an overview of how well these hours of operation have been accepted and whether they are looking at extending the hours of operation to six days in rural Yukon for some of the busier outlets, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We don't plan to extend the hours of the stores in the communities. We have looked, like the member said, at the extension in the summer months in Whitehorse, but should we be extending hours in stores in the communities, it will require increased personnel. We have not made that decision.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what the minister is stating for the record is that there's a change from the previous years of operations, and they're not going to be extending the hours of some of the rural retail outlets. Last summer they were open until 7:00 p.m. Are we going back to a 6:00 p.m. closing, Mr. Chair, now, or what's happening?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, it's basically the same as last year. Both Watson Lake and Dawson could have extended hours, but not six days a week.
Ms. Duncan: First of all, I'd like to express my thanks. I made a request yesterday for the budget summary comparison detailed figures, and the department made sure we had them. I'd like to thank the officials and the minister for providing that information. It's helpful for the debate today.
The minister began his discussions with the concerns and his notes with respect to the review of the operation of the Liquor Corporation and the liquor laws within the territory. The minister has mentioned a community tour. Some communities have been visited and the minister also - if I heard him correctly - indicated that the board of directors have been to some of these communities, will be going to others, and that then a comprehensive report will be prepared for review.
Is that understanding correct? And can the minister tell me which communities they've been to last year, or over the past year, and which communities are intended for this summer and fall?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, it's correct about the report coming back to government once they finish the community tours and compile the information. The communities that we do have left for the board to have meetings in are Carmacks, Pelly, Mayo, Ross River and Faro. There are five communities left.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, I don't recall the meeting being held in Whitehorse. When will that happen and what is the time frame on this report?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The board of directors have been planning these road trips and they went down to Teslin, Watson Lake and back and have gone up to Dawson. They're also doing the two loops, the Carmacks, Mayo and Faro area. Whitehorse, I guess, I just didn't mention. It's part of it. I believe there may be three or four meetings that will take place in Whitehorse.
Ms. Duncan: Can I get the time frame from the minister? When do we expect that the comprehensive report will be completed and given to the government?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The meetings in Whitehorse will take place in June and September. The report, I would think, would come forward in the late fall.
Ms. Duncan: The minister and other members of the House have mentioned CYFN and requests for change, and the minister has indicated he's had meetings with them. They've raised some very legitimate concerns voiced by many Yukoners with respect to the Liquor Act - the regulations and so on.
I've also heard concerns from other groups - not other governments, but other groups - namely, some members of the private sector who are adamantly opposed to the government examining the Liquor Act and opening this up at all and they've certainly made their views known to me. There are other entrepreneurial types who have raised the issue with me of the archaic nature of our liquor laws.
I would just like to urge the minister - he indicated that he's addressed concerns raised by CYFN - if there's any public document, or a letter, that he might provide to us in responding to issues that have been raised by CYFN, or if there's any correspondence, or has the minister had any meetings with, for example, B.C.-Yukon Hotel Association, or if the minister intends to meet with that organization. And also, what about that other group of people, the entrepreneurs, who have also raised the issue, in their view, of outdated liquor laws? Has the minister had any of those representations, or the board?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The corporation does have information sessions on a regular basis with licensees, and I know that the president of the corporation has a meeting next week with some of them.
With regard to other concerns that have been coming forward from entrepreneurs - that type of thing - the corporation board of directors have been dealing with these matters. So, results - I don't know if the member wants to name one of them, I think I know what it is. But I know that the corporation has looked into more detail in trying to make decisions on it, because either they could not get approved for a licence because of the act, I guess, being so old, and not looking at new types of organizations that could require licences, but the board of directors of the corporation have been dealing with matters like these.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, perhaps I'm not making myself clear. What I'm trying to gather from the minister is - there are different views in our community on the Liquor Act and what I'm wondering is where are these views being collected, if you will, so that they make their way into this comprehensive report? Will someone, whoever is writing the final report for government, go through board minutes, or will the various individuals who have spoken with me in Whitehorse, for example, with regard to issues such as neighbourhood pubs and that kind of issue - they may or may not choose to appear before the liquor board meeting in June or September.
How is this information and these views on Yukon's Liquor Act going to be collected into the comprehensive report? I want the minister's assurances that they will be, and I want to know how that's going to happen.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, when the board is doing their community tours and having public meetings in the communities, they document all the information and concerns that are brought forward. Actually, what they're doing is taking the information from that meeting and making sure it comes out in the next community as what was discussed in the previous community, and trying to build, saying, "This is what one community has said. Do you have the same concerns?" Or maybe the same concerns have been raised. They are documented and they will be compiled into this report.
It's not so much on the Liquor Act but on how the corporation may play a role in the community. I know the corporation has met, say, in the community of Carmacks just with the First Nation and with the two establishments that are there, and have just talked about community concerns and what maybe the community can do to volunteer their time, and to volunteer and take some actions to address some of the community concerns.
They've done that. It's much easier, of course, to do it in the winter months, versus the summer months, when the demand is quite high for alcohol in the hot weather.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I will pass this on to the individuals who have made these representations to me and encourage them to attend the meetings in Whitehorse that have been scheduled, and I hope to find their concerns in the final report.
The opening remarks by the minister - not this year, but last year - indicated that, as a corporation, the corporation was reviewing its processes for improving and increasing efficiencies. For example, last year the minister responsible highlighted the reduction in the number of times that beer bottles were handled. This is the way that the corporation went through their ways of work and said, "Here's how we can do this more efficiently." What else have they done in the last year?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: In last year's budget - and we pointed it out this year - was the point of sale system that we brought in. It is year 2000 compliant. We didn't have to put very much money into it this year. I think it was $15,000 to finish it up, but basically what that would do is keep track of inventory. All they needed to do was punch up what has been sold, and so on, so it makes that part a lot more efficient, and, of course again, to make sure that we order what is not in stock - increase that service to the consumer.
Ms. Duncan: I recognize how the point of sale system works. I was curious if there was anything else that had been done in terms of increasing efficiencies. That's a key one.
This corporation does a very good job of tracking where they keep money and where the revenue comes from and where the expenses go. That's very well-tracked by the corporation. Does the minister have any sense of how much revenue is generated from the ability to bottle your own wine at the Whitehorse liquor outlet? Was there a number available on that?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, we do keep track of it. What we've been selling out of the store here is approximately 55 cases a month.
Ms. Duncan: Did the board receive representation from the local, private sector businesses with respect to this particular operation - the ability to bottle your own wine? Did they receive representation from the private sector, who are involved in the bottling locally?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: No, we haven't.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it has been cited by the private sector as competition with them.
The minister has reviewed some representations with respect to the social responsibility program under the Liquor Corporation, and I note that this is a $40,000 expenditure, compared with the income that's generated. Have there been any representations to examine an approach of tying the amount of money for the social responsibility program to a percentage of the sales? Has that been discussed?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: No, we have not talked about that type of ratio.
Ms. Duncan: Perhaps the minister would give that some consideration. Is there anything new in the social responsibility programs? I know that the Liquor Corporation has the messages on the bags, and there is some advertising. The trouble with the same type of advertising is that the public becomes immune to it. They don't see it any more. I'm curious if the corporation is doing anything new with that $40,000?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We do have a bit more of a breakdown on the costs, and we can forward that to the member, rather than reading it out. But we haven't really done anything new this year. The only thing we've done is to basically change the colour of the warning label on the bottle so that it is more visible.
Ms. Duncan: I'm amazed that that is all that is being considered in this area. There are a couple of points from the financial information provided that I'd just like the minister to confirm. There is a reduction shown between 1996-1997. Actual net sales have declined to the 1999-2000 budget forecast. I would assume that that reduction in net sales is due to a loss in population, and not a decrease in consumption necessarily by individual Yukoners. There is also a reduction in professional services and an increase in board honoraria, and I'm assuming that's because of the travel anticipated by the board.
Could I ask the minister to confirm those two points and to outline how the miscellaneous income is generated for the Liquor Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, the reduction is basically largely due to a result of a lessened population in the Yukon. It's reflected in the stores in Faro. The miscellaneous income is put together by looking at things like recycling fees and the increased sales of the Christmas teddy bears, and so on.
Ms. Duncan: That miscellaneous income then just goes into overall; it's not tagged to a specific program. It's not tagged to the social responsibility program, it just goes into the revenue. I see the minister nodding his head.
I have just a last question in regard to some of these figures and I'm sure they're very, very minor, but I was concerned that remittance to the government in budget summary comparisons I received for the 1997-98 actual has a $3,000 difference between that and what's printed in the budget book. Then, based on note 1, in the information provided, the total revenue to government will actually be $7,285,000 instead of $7,263,000. These are just slight differences and I'm sure they are just a result of the timing in terms of preparation. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Okay, it took us a bit of time to see what you were actually getting at on this whole thing, but it's basically a rounding-off, that's all.
Ms. Duncan: Thanks, Mr. Chair. The last point I'd like to make with the minister concerns the Liquor Corporation hat as well as the Renewable Resources hat that the minister wears.
I wrote the minister and asked him for the financial breakdown and financial statements for the recycling fund, and he provided me with that information, which I appreciate.
It never comes up for discussion; it's not provided as a matter of course to members of this Assembly, yet it's very vital; it's a lot of money. It's public money that's being spent. And the minister and other members in the House can go round and round on whether the deposit exceeds the refund on Tetra Paks, and whether this is a tax on juice. The bottom line is it sure makes a difference to every one of my constituents' grocery bills, and they think it's a tax.
And the minister's quite right. When I assisted in judging the challenge, no, I didn't find any Tetra Paks in the litter pick-up. I did find two beer cans. What's the point? The point is that the deposit is equal to the refund on alcohol, and yet the deposit is not equal to the refund on Tetra Paks, and it is an expense to families. That's one point.
The second point is, I would like - as a member, as a matter of course - to see the recycling fund examined, either routinely as part of the Liquor Corporation, or routinely as part of the information provided to members in the Renewable Resources department.
It is a fund. It is public money, in part, and I appreciate having received the information. I'd like to see it as a matter of course.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I'd just like to explore with the minister the issue surrounding homemade wine. There are a number of individuals engaged in producing homemade wine, a number that I'm aware of who have bottled it for a specific occasion like a wedding, yet when they go to obtain a permit to serve it free of charge at the wedding there is no vehicle available where they can pay the Liquor Corporation a corkage fee, as is done in other jurisdictions, to serve that wine. The only way you can serve wine at a reception, even a small family reception such as a wedding, is to purchase the wine from the Liquor Corporation.
Now, a lot of people take a lot of pride in making the product, bottling the product, labelling the product with their own fancy label, and yet there's no way, through the existing regulations, that they can serve it. I'm sure this is one of those situations that arises more and more frequently today.
Is the Liquor Corporation giving consideration to permitting this, after paying a corkage fee or so much per bottle? No one is trying to deprive the Liquor Corporation of their just revenues, but the issue is that there is no vehicle in place or no way that this situation can be addressed.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Again, I guess this is questioning a bit of what is in the act, because the act only controls what is sold by the corporation, and homemade wine, homebrew is basically for home consumption. Should we be making changes to this, it would require a change to the Liquor Act.
Mr. Jenkins: Is the minister absolutely sure that it would require changes to the Liquor Act? Doesn't it just require changes to the regulations? Because the information I have is that it's done in other jurisdictions just through changes to the regulations. Now, why is the Yukon so unique and so different? Probably it's because of our higher consumption per capita than other jurisdictions. What's the reason, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I can check to see whether or not it can just go through regulations, but with wine being made at home, there is no control of how the wine is made and there are no health and safety inspections at this point. And the corporation is basically only there to regulate and to sell through the corporation. But I'll get back and see whether or not this can be changed through regulations, because you don't have to go through an act to change the regulations. So, I'll get back to the member on it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's not hang our hat behind the safety of the product, Mr. Chair, because, even with the excellent product that is sold by the Liquor Corporation, I'm aware of a number of individuals who become ill on it from time to time, so let's not hang our hat behind that.
The other issue is that there are a lot of wine products that are recalled because of impurities in them, and this is way beyond the care and control of the Liquor Corporation. That's a problem originating from source, so there'd probably be just as much of a problem with the product bottled in a home environment - although the risk might be somewhat higher with the sterilization of the containers, but the actual product - and all it would take is a disclaimer by the Liquor Corporation that they have no control over the product itself. They would just require the individuals to pay a specific corkage - so much for every litre bottled - to the Liquor Corporation before they could use it for such an occasion.
I'm sure it's not a big procedure to put something of this nature in place, but I appreciate the minister advising that he'll explore that. I'm looking at it for reception-type purposes, not for a licensed establishment to serve it on an ongoing basis, and then brewing it in the basement of the establishment and selling it upstairs in the licensed outlet. I'm not looking at that, so let's not construe this to that end.
What I'm looking at is a function, such as a wedding, where the proponents have spent a great deal of time and expense going to the effort - and they have made their own wine in the past - to make their own wine for their wedding day and, when it comes to that day, they find out they can't use it.
So, I would urge the minister to explore this area, and see what can be done because I'm sure that something of this nature can be addressed through regulations that will meet the applicable requirements of the Liquor Corporation, and they can get their tax dollars or revenue dollars out of this product. Now, does the minister understand where I'm coming from? Do I have an undertaking from the minister that that's the area he's going to explore and he will get back to me about what can be done? Will he buy into this proposition, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We can check it out and see where this could apply, Mr. Chair. It seems like the member opposite ran into some good wine on the way in. Maybe he can share some with me and send the bottle over sometime.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the "whine" I hear - the minister whining in the House - is spelled differently from the wine I like to have with my meals, Mr. Chair.
So, while I'm on my feet, one of the other situations that arose in Dawson, that led to the Liquor Corporation taking a position that was quite contrary to what the established practice has been in the past - I'm specifically referring to the Dawson City Music Festival. This organization, in its 21st year of operation, was denied a licence by the Liquor Corporation. Are we going to go through the same hassles again this year, or is everything put to bed? Is this organization going to be granted a licence under the same terms and conditions as it has in the past?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The Dawson City Music Festival was not denied a licence. There was not an application until after the court case. But what we would do, of course, is to respect the court case, and we won't be making any changes.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister is very conveniently splitting hairs, and I admire where he's coming from, but I'm sure the respect for the decision that the Liquor Corporation made is not there, certainly, by the Dawson City Music Festival.
Do I have the minister's assurance, Mr. Chair, that if all things are equal for this forthcoming music festival season, there won't be any one group of lawyers making a great deal of money out of this licence application - that the licence will be granted the same as it was for the previous 20 years?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, we don't know whether or not they want a major change as to how they're going to be operating the whole music festival. We don't anticipate any changes at all. We're going to respect the result of the court case, and so will operate in that manner.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm given to understand there's no change in the way that they're going to be operating. It'll be a longer period of time this year, given it's the 21st anniversary of the Dawson City Music Festival. It is a major attraction, one of those attractions that the Minister of Tourism likes to stand up in the House and blow his whistle and toot his horn about as to the attractions and events that bring visitors to the Yukon that we should be encouraging and assisting, Mr. Chair, not throwing roadblocks in their way.
I'd like to ask the minister if he could advise the House what gave rise to the Liquor Corporation's position with respect to the Dawson City Music Festival last year? What changed internally so that they were not even allowed to make an application for a licence?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: They weren't denied an application. What the corporation heard from the general public was that with the licence that was given out there should not be children in the same areas where adults are when there's alcohol being served. Those were the concerns that came forward to the board of directors. And they dealt with it in that manner, and thought that it could have been separated, where there is a place where alcohol could be consumed away from underage children.
The big issue, I guess, at that time was the fact that there were many young people coming out of there that were intoxicated - drunk - and that was the information that the corporation, in dealing with this matter, had to consider.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. So what the minister is saying, for the record, is that there were incidents of underage drinking at the Dawson City Music Festival and there were reported incidents of this occurring that lead the Liquor Corporation to say that the only way we were going to grant a licence is if underage individuals were not permitted in the same area. Is that what the minister is stating, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, there were concerns raised by the public that underage people were drinking - consuming alcohol in the beer gardens - and this was from previous years and so on. And that's what basically led to the board of directors having to look deeper into this whole issue.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister advise the House how many charges were laid under the Liquor Act for underage drinking in the past 20 years of the operation of the Dawson City Music Festival? Can the minister obtain that information and put it on the record - how many charges arose out of the operation of the Dawson City Music Festival where it was directly translated back to youth drinking in the beer gardens? How many charges were laid?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I said that there were concerns from the general public about underage drinking and consuming alcohol in the beer gardens. This has certainly been voiced in Dawson and in many other communities with beer gardens, and this is why the corporation wants to deal with the issue.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, concerns are one thing, and actual charges are another, and usually when concerns are raised, they are investigated, and then we act. I'd like to ask the minister to put on the record how many charges were laid against the Dawson City Music Festival for serving underage individuals in the past 20 years of operation.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I told the members that again the general public raised this as an issue. It doesn't necessarily mean that, to have the board act on it, people have to be charged. If parents are finding their children going through the beer gardens and coming home drunk, they raise concerns. They don't have to have charges laid. This is not only in Dawson but in a number of different communities that do hold beer gardens, and this has been brought to the attention of the corporation over the past many years.
Mr. Jenkins: Just for the record, how many incidents, violations, have arisen out of the Dawson City Music Festival operation since its inception? How many actual liquor violations have arisen where charges were laid?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: What I have said to the member is that people are coming forth with concerns. It's not about charges being laid. You don't have to ask for direction just because a charge has been laid. It's the concerns that have come forward from the general public and that's what has been the case with the beer gardens.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, concerns are one thing, hearsay is something else, and I suggest to the minister that we're dealing more with hearsay that we are with the reality of the situation because, to the best of my knowledge, since the inception of the music festival, there has been very, very little issue with the sale of beer in their beer gardens.
In fact, it's been a well-run, well-orchestrated and well-disciplined operation, with participation from a great number of members of the community of Dawson. I can't, for the life of me, understand why the government took the action that they did. Perhaps because of this wonderful Liquor Corporation being one of the few profitable corporations in the Yukon under this NDP government, we wanted to make a few more lawyers profitable. That's the only thing I can find to justify this direction.
If we look at the Liquor Act itself, Mr. Chair, there isn't anything to preclude a parent or guardian from taking a child into a licensed restaurant or dining room and serving that child alcohol. How many problems do we have with that area, Mr. Chair? It could happen, yes, and when you look at this part of the Liquor Act, on the surface, it could be abused, but I'm not aware of very many abuses of that section of the act, and there are many jurisdictions in North America where there are licensed lounges where parents or guardians are allowed to take in their underaged children or dependents.
Has this area been looked at by the Liquor Corporation? Why aren't children allowed to accompany their parents into licensed lounges in the Yukon? It goes on all over the State of Alaska, and we have many visitors who just walk into lounges in the Yukon with their children in tow. It takes a little while, on occasion, to convince them that this is not a permitted way of conducting yourself in the Yukon.
Is the minister aware of this discrepancy, or this difference, between jurisdictions that are adjacent to each other, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I'm aware of the differences. I know that this is one part of the act that some members of the public would like to see reviewed. It's a very old part of the act and not many people even know that it exists until a situation like this arises, and then people are more aware of what is really in the act. But I must say that in regard to the action taken by the corporation, it was the corporation that took the action, not the government.
Mr. Jenkins: Can the minister confirm that there was no political direction given to the corporation to take the action it did with respect to denying the Dawson City Music Festival the same operating standards last year until they jumped through all the hoops? At some juncture, they were told they were not allowed to have children in the tent - in the beer garden. The first time that that occurred was last year. Now, where did that decision originate, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: That was a board decision.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other comparisons that has been brought to my attention is the penalties for serving alcohol to an underaged individual and the potential suspension for serving alcohol to an underaged individual vis-à-vis selling cigarettes to an underaged individual. Now, the penalties for selling cigarettes on the third offence are a complete revoking of one's licence. Fines are $5,000 for selling cigarettes to someone under the legal age. Yet, the fines are not keeping pace in the Liquor Act. Is this an area that has to be dealt with through the Liquor Act itself and are changes being considered? Because we're looking at just a Summary Convictions Act for any penalties, in most respects, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We are not making any changes. I don't know where the member is coming from, though. Is he suggesting a change? Is he asking that maybe we revoke licenses for serving underaged persons? Is that what direction the member wants us to take?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it's ironic that if you sell cigarettes to someone under the legal age, the charge for the first offence is quite significant. The second offence, I believe, gets a $5,000 fine. For the third offence, your right to sell cigarettes is revoked entirely. The Liquor Act is not nearly as severe for the sale of alcohol to a minor. I was just wondering if there was an initiative by the corporation to bring penalties in line with the federal tobacco act and its subsequent regulations, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: This has been discussed a bit with the board of directors as they are doing their community tours, but I can actually bring it forward to them again for their consideration when they complete the tour of the rest of the communities - that they look at the suggestions from the member opposite to look at maybe increasing the penalties.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm sure it's not an initiative that's going to receive a great deal of support from the owners and operators of licensed establishments, but when one does a comparison of these two areas, which are very, very similar, and the rules are put in there for the same purpose, there is a considerable disparity between the liquor regulations and the tobacco regulations, and the intent is, Mr. Chair, to not sell either one of these products to anyone under the legal age and to ensure that that doesn't happen. I mean, you can train everyone. You can do whatever you have to do. There are going to be occasions where someone is, by way of false identification or something beyond your control, going to find a way to circumvent the system. That's going to happen, but if you start looking at the comparison between these two respective acts - one a federal one, one a Yukon one - they should be, in my opinion and in the opinion of a number of individuals that I have spoken with who have brought it to my attention, somewhat similar, and that is not the case in the Yukon.
So, it's probably time that a review of that area be conducted, and I'm sure that it's not a suggestion that you're going to find arising from your community tours, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, those concerns have come up - getting tougher with the licensees serving underage people in the communities - but this certainly would be an area that could be reviewed or be part of the review when the Liquor Act is reviewed.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other concerns that has been expressed on a regular basis is our per capita consumption of the product sold by the Liquor Corporation, and it's based on the Yukon stats as to our population. Has any consideration been given, Mr. Chair, to factoring in - because the greatest number of sales occur after the Christmas/New Year's peak. They occur during the summer season.
Given our large visitor influx during that time, has any consideration been given to factor in the influx of visitors to this formula, so that we don't look like we're spending half our lives sitting on barstools in the Yukon? Because that is not the case. Yes, there are abuses, but overall I think there's an injustice being done to Yukoners in portraying us as having the highest per capita consumption of a lot of these products, when these numbers are skewed by the influx to our population in the summer months, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: That hasn't been taken into account in any serious way, when the stats do come out, but I'm informed by my deputy here that they have been discussing this in trying to find a formula that they can use to bring it in as part of the statistics, when they do come out - what alcohol is consumed by Yukoners. So it's being worked on.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the NDP has some excellent spin doctors upstairs; I'm sure we can come up with a formula that'd work pretty quick. So I can't see what is going to take a great deal of time, because the way that the stats come out, Yukoners are portrayed as sitting at a bar stool for an inordinate amount of time, and that, Mr. Chair, is certainly not the case.
And when you start looking at the influx to the population and other regions of Canada - our visitor influx - if you look at British Columbia, you can see a pretty steady pattern, except for a couple of dips in the spring and the fall. So there's not a significant increase in their per capita consumption of alcoholic products.
But up here the number of individuals who visit our area in basically a 100- or 120-day season, boy, that certainly skews the numbers.
Could I ask the minister just how far away we are from factoring in visitors into this formula, and portraying a true picture of what is actually going on, on a per capita consumption, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: It is in the very early stage of being looked at. I'm told that we could have something in place in the fall.
Mr. Jenkins: This is something that has been known for quite some time, and it's always amazed me why it hasn't been addressed before this point, Mr. Chair. I know other jurisdictions do it. They compile these statistics, and I think it would bode well for the Yukon to portray ourselves in a much more favourable light than what we are currently doing. Why it's taken this long is simply amazing, but if we can see some results produced by this fall, I'll look forward to having them presented.
So, I understand that I do have the commitment from the minister that we'll have some results by this fall or some indication as to how it's going to be done, or will we have a definitive response by this fall? The process, the minister explained, is that we'll have something this fall. What will we have this fall?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, hopefully what we would have in the fall is basically what is the real consumption of Yukoners in the current year and in previous years.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other initiatives that appears to have somewhat mixed results, depending on who you speak with, is changes to turn a community dry, such as Old Crow.
Is that being considered in other communities that have an alcohol abuse problem, turning those communities dry? I know it'd be harder to administer when there's very good road access to it, but there are a number of communities where it might be a proper approach to look at this kind of an avenue, to address the alcohol abuse. Has the government given any consideration to a policy change in this regard?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: That's basically up to the community to want that put in place. I know that it is very controversial at times. There's always a split in communities and community people wanting to have this. Even when the community is dry, there's still a high alcohol consumption and problems with alcohol in the communities. Pelly Crossing is also a dry community, and so is Old Crow, and still we have a number of problems arising from that but, basically, it's up to the community to want to have this happen in their community.
Mr. Jenkins: Is the Liquor Corporation looking at any other initiatives in communities such as Old Crow and Pelly, to arrest the amount of alcohol intake by the residents there? I agree with the minister; it's still a problem in both of those communities, and the communities are very much divided as to how they view this area, but it has worked reasonably well in some communities in the State of Alaska, and it has worked - mind you, they've all been isolated communities, and it'd be very, very hard to do with a community such as Pelly Crossing. Old Crow, I think we could probably take additional steps.
Is anything being contemplated or considered by the corporation, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We don't have anything in place to do anything additional to what we're doing now. But we are, of course, prepared to work with communities - and we have, in communities that have brought concerns forward. The one I just laid out basically was in the community of Carmacks, where the corporation did meet with the licensees, the First Nation and the town, and tried to work to resolve some of the problems they were running into with respect to alcohol. There was a response and compliance by the licensee to try and help lessen the problem that arose in the community.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that's very easy to do when there are a couple of outlets right in that community, but such is not the case with Pelly Crossing. There is no licensed outlet in Pelly Crossing. People have to drive back to Carmacks, Whitehorse or Stewart Crossing - I believe that licence is gone now, but they used to go to Stewart Crossing. So, there was quite a bit of highway traffic that gave rise to concern, on occasion.
Is the government contemplating any thrust in stopping the flow of liquor into that community? Old Crow appears to be an easy one to arrest the flow of liquor into, yet it still is there. And it's still, from all accounts - I can't say "readily available", but it's available. That's a given, and that's a known. Here we have two areas that are well-known for not allowing alcohol within their boundaries.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the corporation, basically, works with the licensed establishments, but if a community is wanting to step up action, we can work with the RCMP to do an inspection, road inspections, and that type of thing to increase them. So, there are a number of ways I guess we can look at it, but it's really got to be driven by the community.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the Liquor Corporation recognizes that there is a problem in Old Crow, recognizes that there is a problem in Pelly Crossing. The minister stated previously that they had concerns raised by citizens with respect to the Dawson City Music Festival. They are prepared to take steps in the music festival licensing to preclude children from entering in there. They are taking definitive action there, but yet with respect to Pelly Crossing and Old Crow, they want to wait until the community comes to the Liquor Corporation and suggests that we need more help and assistance. It seems to be a different process. Why is that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We're dealing with all the communities with regard to the different problems that arise from alcohol. The Health and Social Services department has been working with communities and meeting with people to see how we can put programs in place or help in whatever way possible, but it is not a problem just in Old Crow or Pelly Crossing. The problem lies in Dawson City and in every community in the Yukon, with alcohol abuse. It's not just targeting one community or the dry communities, it's communities with licensed establishments that have problems also, and Whitehorse is not out of the picture on this, or Watson Lake or Dawson. Concerns come from every community.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the difference is, Mr. Chair - and I agree with the minister: it's not a problem specific to Old Crow and Pelly Crossing - but the difference is that both these two communities have opted to have dry communities. Now, what additional steps can this government take to help those two communities achieve their stated goals?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We can work with the communities and if the communities are wanting to cut back off-sales, or whatnot, in another community to their members, I don't know how far that's going to go, but we can work with the communities to try to address that if they come forward and want this.
We can work with the RCMP. Again, it's got to be community driven, and if it hasn't come forward as a big concern then we'll continue to enforce our regulations and laws to licensees, and the RCMP can continue to enforce the law.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's try that once again, Mr. Chair, because the minister is walking all around the question and not addressing the issue.
The issue is that we have two communities in the Yukon that have opted - opted, at their choice - to not have alcohol within their boundaries. Now, the minister is taking the direction from the community and voted themselves dry. Yet the minister won't do anything more than what he's currently doing to assist, unless he's called upon by the community. Well, why is that, Mr. Chair? Why should that be the case?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, we're not going to be walking into a community and saying it is going to be a dry community because we feel that there's a lot of alcohol abuse. It's driven by the communities, and we work with them. We're doing our community tours to try to get some feedback from the communities. Whether or not they have an establishment there, the corporation is still going to the communities. We will work with the different departments in government to try to address the concerns that have been brought forward by the people in the community.
Chair: Do members wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is dealing with the Yukon Liquor Corporation. Is there further general debate?
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Chair: Is there general debate?
On Gross Advances
Gross Advances in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for Yukon Liquor Corporation in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Yukon Liquor Corporation agreed to
Loan Capital and Loan Amortization
Chair: Is there general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The expenditures of this vote certainly are fairly predictable, and they appear in the estimates every year. The loan capital expenditure of $5 million is simply the outside limit of the potential for loans we make to municipalities for the year. In most years, these loan requests have not come anywhere near the $5 million we vote. For instance, in the 1998-99 fiscal year, only $890,000 was lent, all of it to Whitehorse.
The recovery of $5 million is there simply to indicate that loans are a receivable on our balance sheet and not a charge to our surplus.
The loan amortization expenditures is the amount required by us to repay loans to third parties that we've taken out to re-loan to municipalities. We have not borrowed any monies for this purpose for a number of years. Instead, we have chosen to finance municipal loans ourselves. On page 17-3 of the budget, the balance left to pay out on old loans is shown.
The loan amortization recovery simply reflects the payments we receive from municipalities on outstanding loans we have made to them. This figure is less the expenditure because we have financed all recent loans from our own reserves, as I mentioned.
On Loan Capital
On Loans to Third Parties
Loans to Third Parties in the amount of $5,000,000 agreed to
On Loan Amortization
Interest in the amount of $397,000 agreed to
Principal in the amount of $123,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the supplementary information?
Loan Capital and Loan Amortization in the amount of $1,829,000 agreed to
Loan Capital and Loan Amortization agreed to
Office of the Ombudsman
Chair: Is there general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, this budget has been reviewed by the Members' Services Board. It forecasts increased overall spending of $16,000 for the office of the ombudsman during the fiscal year of 1999-2000. This increase could be attributed to two factors. First, the salary of the ombudsman is tied to that of the Chief Territorial Court Judge. It's 40 percent of the Chief Judge's salary. The Judicial Compensation Commission's finding of last fall cited that judicial salaries be increased; therefore, the ombudsman's salary was similarly changed.
Secondly, the ombudsman's office requires additional sums of about $5,000, largely for contract services. This will be for supplementary investigative support on ombudsman casework.
Mr. Cable: I've got some questions on the ombudsman's report, in particular the section relating to information.
The Government Leader will recollect his A Better Way document from the last election and, as part of the government's platform, it was said that the NDP would undertake a full review, by department, of what information is public and what is private and how to make it public or keep it private. Has that full review by department been done yet?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Work has been done, largely through Education, out of which department the management of government's ATIPP response is convened.
We are finalizing both the policy statement and a catalogue, essentially, of information - the kinds of information held by all departments - as we promised. It'll be done shortly.
Mr. Cable: What is the role of the Government Leader's colleagues, the ministers, in the processing of access to information applications? Does the minister actually sign off for the public service, or is the public service left to deal with the archivist on the refusals?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Very rarely, unless the information relates directly to the operations of the minister or the Cabinet, are the requests seen by ministers.
Mr. Cable: I understand that the applicants are more successful than the government in the processing of the reviews for access to information, so, you know, the citizens are winning here. I'm pleased to hear that, but there is some problem that I have experienced. I note that the ombudsman was quoted in one of the news clips yesterday.
And he said, "A reason is given for a decision" and it turns out when an individual argues that particular reason, then another reason emerges, and it certainly causes frustration. And that, in fact, did happen with an application that we had processed. I thought some of the reasons advanced were a mixture of bizarre and - well, they were bizarre, let's leave it that way. And they seemed to be changing as the application was being processed.
So I wonder if the Government Leader would tell us just what is going to happen with the public service, when this review that he is doing is finished? Is there going to be educational forums for public servants, that they know how to efficiently handle these processes - you know, what are fair grounds for rejection, and what are not?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, Mr. Chair, we're not waiting for any catalogue to be produced. We've had workshops on the subject already, and we will continue to have workshops with public servants, to remind them of their obligations and duties, with respect to the release of - well, the protection of public information.
It is difficult to generalize right now as to what the response - how we can characterize responses from the entire public service. I'm certain that the member - or anyone - would feel frustrated if the reasons cited for protecting the information changed from one part of the process to near the end of the process. It leaves the impression, certainly, that people are dreaming up ideas on how to suppress the release of information.
In a more positive light, it may be that they are providing a more complete response to the reasons that they are providing to not release certain information that should be held private.
But we believe that the work we're doing now and are about to complete meets the commitments that we've made. Some governments have taken up the notion of an exhaustive list of all information that the government has in its possession - large, telephone-book sized catalogues of information. Reports are that these are always out of date, and some are never used. It is better to have a more informal process that involves very clear policy guidelines to public servants so that they have a better sense of how to make the judgment call themselves. And ultimately, this is seen by privacy commissions as being a better procedure as long as there is some review body, like, in our case, the ombudsman and privacy commissioner, who can assess the success of the information regime.
Mr. Cable: I notice, in going through the ombudsman's report, that the information commissioner had on the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board that the number of cases went from five to nine between 1997 and 1998, and under the heading of "cases by public body", the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board represents 24 percent of the applications. What does the Government Leader see being done in this area? I know that there are limited powers for the Government Leader to meddle in the affairs of the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, but does the platform promise that was made to the public include these arm's length organizations?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, in 1992 we did pass a brand new Workers' Compensation Act, which dealt with the issue of access to information. I was here. I was the minister promulgating that act, and there was a lot of discussion around what information should be made public and what should remain private. The feeling at the time was that the Workers' Compensation Act itself should define the question, because it is an arm's-length board. That was certainly the feeling of that Legislature, and a lot of discussion was had around the release of information, not only about individual clients' cases but particularly around policies which, up until 1992, as strange as this may seem now, were not public - or 1991-92. One was not allowed to copy them. They could see them, but they couldn't take them away. All that discussion was held, and it was resolved in the compensation legislation.
It certainly was the feeling of that Legislature that all matters of that nature should be contained in the Workers' Compensation Act itself.
Mr. Cable: There is some access, though, for the government to the Workers' Compensation Board. There is a section in the act that permits some communications, and it would appear that the problems, if I could use that word, under the access to information provisions in the act seem to be mounting. I'm sure the Government Leader is not surprised by the fact that there's been some antagonism between certain elements in Yukon society and the Workers' Compensation Board, and knowing that there's something going on might reduce that antagonism.
Is he prepared to communicate in any way with the Workers' Compensation Board to inquire as to why that organization, with about 50 people, represents about 24 percent of the applications?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, that is an interesting statistic, and it certainly has caught my eye as well, Mr. Chair. I think the Workers' Compensation Board may have some justification for this, but I agree with the member - and have even considered myself - that they should be asked the question as to whether or not they are at all alarmed by the fact that they take up so much of everyone's time in trying to secure information. Whether they have a reasonable explanation for that or not, I have not yet determined, but I certainly will, through the minister, be asking the Compensation Board to respond to that particular fact.
Mr. Cable: The full review that's being done by department, which we spoke about a few moments ago - does the Government Leader see the results of that or the procedures that are being set up as applicable to the Workers' Compensation Board? Could the request be given to the Workers' Compensation Board to use those as a reference?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I haven't seen all the results of the work myself, Mr. Chair, so I'm not in the best position to be commenting on how broadly it should be utilized, but the principles of access to information for the public, generally, should be applicable to all public institutions, I would assume. If these are of help to the Compensation Board, the Compensation Board should be encouraged to consider them.
Mr. Ostashek: I just have one question that caught my attention in the debate going on with the Member for Riverside. Is the Government Leader saying that, with the changes to the Access to Information Act, the public servants are still having trouble interpreting what they can release and what they cannot release? Is that what he's saying?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, first of all, the member will also remember that when the Access to Information Act was passed, there were some assumptions that the government was going to take further action internally to ensure that there were appropriate procedures. So, that's the first point. The second point is that we had made a commitment that we would make sure that there was a clearer definition of what is public and what is private, so there was less confusion.
I think the problem sometimes is that people who should get information routinely are sometimes not informed as they should be, because the public servant involved is sometimes intimidated by the person they're speaking to, and they need clearer guidelines to allow them to feel comfortable with making the decision to release the information.
There have been cases where, in the past, an MLA will phone up and say, "I want some information." Then they'll be shunted aside and told that they can't get the information, when that information should be routinely divulged to anybody. MLAs shouldn't have to ask a citizen to phone up. They should be able to receive this information, if it's generally available public information.
So, we want to make sure that there is clear policy for departments to follow so that public servants, at whatever level they are, should feel comfortable doing what is right, based on those policy guidelines, rather than having to clam up when they should be releasing.
Mr. Ostashek: The new act has been in place for some two and a half years now. How long does the minister think it's going to be before he's completed with the education of the civil service that the general public can get access to information that they have every right to be able to get hold of without having to resort to the access to information officer to have their request fulfilled?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I agree, and the work that has been done in Education should be completed in the next couple of months and that will be an additional tool for people to use identify what information is available. Part of the problem that people routinely have is that they don't know what to ask for. They don't know what files are there.
If you were forced to identify a specific thing and you don't know it exists, then it is hard to identify the specific thing. So, the purpose of the catalogue is essentially to show what kinds of information are available so you know what better to ask for.
It's a tool for the citizen, basically. And it should be done in the next couple of months, I would hope.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Ombudsman in the amount of $195,000 agreed to
On Information and Privacy Commissioner
Information and Privacy Commissioner in the amount of $47,000 agreed to
Office of the Ombudsman in the amount of $242,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Office of the Ombudsman in the amount of $242,000 agreed to
Chair: We will proceed to capital.
On Capital Expenditures
Chair: Is there general debate?
On Office of the Ombudsman
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
Office of the Ombudsman in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Office of the Ombudsman in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
Office of the Ombudsman agreed to
Chair: Committee will now proceed to Bill No. 14, First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000.
On Schedule A
Schedule A in the amount of $389,737,000 agreed to
On Schedule B
Schedule B in the amount of $484,051,000 agreed to
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 14, First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: Committee will now proceed to Bill No. 18, Second Appropriation Act, 1999-2000.
Bill No. 18 - Second Appropriation Act, 1999-2000
Chair: Is there general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, by means of the supplementary estimates, we are requesting an addition $8.5 million in spending authority for the 1999-2000 fiscal year. The expenditures contained in these estimates are important to both the quality of life of our citizens and our economic infrastructure.
In addition to these obvious benefits, they'll also provide much-needed employment throughout the entire territory at a time when world economic events have conspired to rob many of our citizens and businesses of employment opportunities.
During my remarks on second reading, I spoke to the principal initiatives for which we are requesting these monies, and as we will be discussing them in detail in a few minutes, I won't go over them again now. It's sufficient to say that the projects chosen were designed to benefit all regions of the Yukon and are, in many cases, simply projects planned for future years being advanced to the current year.
Ministers, of course, will be pleased to provide as much detail as members wish when we get into the lines. We are funding these initiatives out of an increase in our accumulated surplus, as at the 1998-99 fiscal year-end. Data received from StatsCan in March of this year shows several favourable adjustments to the formula financing calculation.
The provincial local escalator under the formula has increased substantially. This probably results, in part at least, from the increased spending we see occurring at the provincial level as the fiscal position of the provinces improves.
In addition to this, the tax effort factor under the formula, what we call the perversity factor, has decreased. For the information of members, the perversity, taking into account the northern reduction and the economic development incentive, now stands at 102 percent. This reduction will be due largely to a greater-than-anticipated impact on national average tax rates of recent provincial tax rate reductions.
StatsCan has recently completed a major revision of methodologies used in the national accounts system, and it is possible that these methodology changes have also played a part in the changes I've mentioned.
In any event, it's apparent we will gain roughly $9 million on the grant for 1998-99. Rather than wait for a small supplementary, which would have been the practice in the past, we've decided to put these monies and our citizens to work, and I'm certain most members of the Assembly would not want to disagree with that course.
I look forward to our discussions.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I'm not going to have a lot of questions on this. I put my comments on the public record in my second reading speech, but I do have a few questions for the Finance minister on this second appropriation act.
The Minister of Finance has just said that, rather than wait until fall, they'll put the supplementary through now. Is the Finance minister giving us a signal that there's going to be no supplementary this fall?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No, Mr. Chair. There will, of course, be a supplementary that will contain revotes for capital projects that have lapsed from last year and any other expenditures that we may desire to make.
What we have expressed the desire to do is- now that we know the funding is available - is essentially give the signals as early as possible in this year to allow activity to take place so that it can take place in the fiscal year.
It's often difficult to make a decision to expend resources quickly, because, generally speaking, planning, discussion and consultation all have to take place no matter what the expenditure is about. So, the idea was, and is, to ensure that the information is on the street as early as possible.
Mr. Ostashek: The Finance minister said that he wasn't aware that this money would be coming until March. I'm having some difficulty with that. I believe that we now have a pretty good handle on what is coming much earlier than March for the next fiscal year. We would have difficulty putting main estimates together if we didn't have a good handle on what was coming for the next fiscal year when we do. What happened this time around that the minister wasn't aware of the additional $9 million until March?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, I know that the member doesn't accept it. He said publicly that he doesn't believe it, and that's all there is to it. However, the reality, from my perspective, is simply this: the information that we've got, first of all, from the Conference Board of Canada - the PL escalator arrived on March 21. It was updated on March 21. On the keep-up factor from federal Finance, it was information that we received on March 17.
This information is routinely provided at that time. It doesn't generally provide substantial or significant changes in our revenues.
This time it did, and this time we made a decision to release the funds because we knew we had the funds, and it was significant. There is some thought in Finance that the methodologies that StatsCan has been using have contributed to a significant change in our revenues. Nevertheless, when the information was received, we acted. If the member doesn't believe us, I can't do anything about that.
Mr. Ostashek: The minister pretty well answered the question by saying that there generally are not significant changes when we get these figures. We know well in advance of getting the official notice from Ottawa what the revenues are going to be - very, very closely.
He's saying that StatsCan has changed the methodology of how they calculate some of the formula. That leaves me to ask the question then: if, in fact, they have calculated it in a different manner, what assurance does the minister have that it's not going to be clawed back next year?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, that's highly unlikely. The Department of Finance officials are quite confident that this will reflect a permanent change in the way the calculation is made. As I said, the calculations are made throughout the year. Generally speaking, they're not significant. They may be $1 million or $2 million - not sufficient to change our budgetary patterns or change anything.
In this particular year, the amount was a change of $9 million. It was my view, and the view of my colleagues, that this is materially significant enough that an expenditure could be made without jeopardizing, in any way, our plans for future years' expenditures or disrupting our sense of what our future year revenues would be about.
So, we've made a decision to proceed with this request for this expenditure, and we believe that it is sound.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, the minister in his presentation both in second reading and in his opening remarks in Committee debate said that a lot of this money was considered one-time money only and it was being treated that way. Can the minister, on his feet, tell us what the changes were and a little bit of an overview of what the changes were in the methodology that StatsCan used? If he can't do it on his feet, I'll be satisfied to get a paper from him in the near future, so that I can have a look at what methodology changes were made to StatsCan. Because if it's a change of methodology, I'm very, very concerned, and it's happened in the past where we've got money and then they've clawed it back in future formulas, for one reason or another. So, I want to be certain in my mind - as certain as the minister is that he's confident - that this is not going to be clawed back in future formula analyses and assessments.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, the reason, I guess, why Finance is confident that this change will be permanent is that this is the result of a project on redefining the national accounts that has been undertaken by StatsCan over the past several years. This has been the result of a lot of discussion. It has been raised at national Finance ministers meetings. There was some concern last year that there could be some reductions in transfers to some of the larger provinces, particularly Quebec, at a very awkward time.
There was a lot of politicking going on prior to the Quebec election about the methodology that was being considered by Statistics Canada, but the feeling is that because this has been such a big event and lasted so long in making, it is very unlikely that this would be changed in the near future.
With respect to the clearer definition of where the changes precisely were, I will provide that in a letter to the member.
Mr. Ostashek: When he is providing that letter, could he just give us what the old methodology was and what the changes are to the new methodology and how they're calculating it so I could have a better understanding.
We had reports in March that there appeared to be a rush by departments to spend their budgets before the end of the year. I know this comes out every year. I know that in the past, it was a practice of mine and I believe this Finance minister did the same thing in the first couple of years in office - he sent a letter around to departments to caution about year-end spending. I want to just ask the minister, though, did, in fact, the Finance minister send a letter out this year?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, generally speaking, Mr. Chair, as has sort of been the case, we do frown on, generally speaking, year-end spending sprees. We've made a change in this particular year, as a result of the local hire commission report, to consider the notion of O&M revotes. We generally have not considered that before. We have sent the signal that we will consider revotes on a project-by-project basis, not just for general operations, but for specific projects that may not have been completed.
While those decisions for any revotes, at this point, have not been made, we have sent a signal that revotes on the O&M side may be possible. The feeling is that, if people aren't pressured to spend, then they'll spend more wisely, so we're experimenting essentially with that notion, and we will see what our experience is when this whole process plays out.
Mr. Ostashek: I understand the minister is going to do that, but did he send a letter around to the departments about year-end spending? He's shaking his head "no". Could I ask the minister, then, at some time, not immediately, but could he give us a calculation on a quarter-by-quarter basis? I want to see if there has been an increase, even compared to the figures we had from the minister last year. Could we get that from his Finance people at some time in the future, as to what the spending was in the last 60 days?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, Mr. Chair, I will provide that.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, we're coming up to the end of April here. The Finance minister ought to have a good idea of what his surplus is in raw figures. I know they're not finalized and won't be until June or July.
In the budget documents that he tabled back in February and this supplementary budget, they were talking about, I believe, $45 million to $49 million plus the lapses at the end of the year.
I believe his budget document said $60 point some million was forecast for the end of March.
Can the Finance minister give us an update on that surplus figure today?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the surplus figure obviously has to change with the new revenue that we have determined exists, as a result of this expenditure. So that will show up in the year-end accounts.
Apart from that, we believe we're on target - exactly as we said we would be. As we showed, we are expecting capital revotes ultimately to be in the $10-million to $11-million range, at this point.
Mr. Ostashek: So I can assume then, from what the Finance minister's telling me, that he's projecting that the surplus will be about $70 million?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think it'll probably be around $67 million, based on - we said it was going to be around $60 million, or $58 million or something close to that area, anyway. This revenue will bump it up to around $67 million, we think.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I just have a background question for the Finance minister. The minister, in his opening remarks yesterday, and again today, referred to examining projects with respect to what would be putting Yukoners to work. Last year, when we had this discussion about the supplementary budget, the minister indicated in a briefing session that they went to departments and asked what capital projects they had that could readily be pulled off the shelf, so to speak, that could be used right away. There wasn't those background conversations - and I'm going by what the minister has said in the House.
How were the decisions arrived at for these capital projects? They weren't specific plans on the shelf, so to speak - or perhaps they were. Why these particular projects?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, a judgment call was made that these were priority projects. Some of them were carry-forwards, and some were the result of requests from communities. We believe them to be priority projects, and a decision was made for that reason.
I don't know how much more the member wants from me. There were choices made. These are the priorities. These are the ones that we feel we can fulfill in this fiscal year. One of the categories of the decision was, of course, that while there is a wide variety of useful projects, the funding had to be identified and the project had to be undertaken in this fiscal year.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, the specific example I was thinking of in reference to the minister's comment respecting consultation is that school councils have identified a number of capital projects that, because of fiscal restraint, were not funded in the last supplementary. And I'm not referring solely to the Vanier school floor. I know there are a number of other projects at different schools that were not funded this year, and the explanation given to school councils was that there was X amount of dollars. These are capital projects, they could be done in the summer, could be putting Yukoners to work and have been identified by the minister's partners in education. Why didn't they make the grade?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, first of all, we have to understand that the government has made a substantial commitment to schools in the main estimates, has made a substantial commitment in the past, and will continue to make a substantial commitment.
It doesn't mean that for us to show our loyalty and faith in a particular sector of our economy every time we put forward a supplementary budget we have to put a little bit of money into every category. We don't have money in the budget here for equipment at the hospital, either - well, we do actually, the mammography unit - but equipment at Yukon College, for example. But it doesn't mean we don't care about equipment at Yukon College; it doesn't mean we don't care about Yukon College.
This is not main estimates, this is a supplementary. These are projects that the community has indicated generally as being very high priority that we know we can deliver this summer or fall.
That's the reason why we chose these particular projects. There were some projects that we couldn't choose, because this is, after all, only $8 million. It could have been more, but we didn't want to disturb the spending pattern from future years, because we believe that we have an obligation to those years to ensure that there are sufficient resources.
Consequently, we made some decisions to choose these projects, and there will be other projects coming - there will be other opportunities to meet the myriad of community needs in the coming years.
Chair: The time being close to 5:30, Committee will recess till 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Committee is dealing with Bill No. 18, Second Appropriation Act, 1999-2000. Is there further general debate?
Mr. Cable: I had a conversation with a woman just a few minutes ago who said that a number of her friends had been down to legal aid and had been rebuffed. They hadn't met the requirements of the legal aid board, I guess, where certain types of problems couldn't be funded, and I think it was family law problems in particular.
I think it would be safe to say, without laying any blame, that we're having problems here in the economy. With the 16 percent unemployment and our major employer in the private sector having gone down and no immediate prospects, I think it's safe to say that there will be increased stress in families.
I was wondering why, with this $8 million that came from Ottawa, some attempt wasn't made to anticipate this problem and put more money in the legal aid budget. I see there's nothing in the Justice department budget.
The Government Leader has talked about priorities, but one would think that the reduction of stress in the families through some assistance in the legal area would be paramount in times when people are down in the dumps and starting to squabble among themselves.
Could the Government Leader tell us why we haven't seen more money put in the legal aid budget?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I'll give a general answer to the question, Mr. Chair. First of all, the funding that we're receiving from Ottawa, as I indicated earlier on today, is largely one-time. That's what our understanding is. Consequently, putting money into capital suggests a one-time allocation, one-time commitment that can be met. Putting more money into the operating side of the equation, generally speaking, is more difficult because it breeds longer term expectations that that level of funding can be delivered.
We did put a fair amount of thought into the creation of the O&M budget, and the main estimates budget responds in many different ways to many of the needs that the community faces on all kinds of fronts: everything from health care, social assistance to people who may feel stressed and may have alcohol problems. We've addressed many different fronts.
The capital expenditures being proposed here do provide some money to direct job creation. Presumably, one of the ways to handle, or at least to contribute to, better employment levels is to put money into direct job creation. That is what this supplementary wishes to contribute to.
So, as a general proposition, this supplementary is geared to putting people to work on various projects, and, further to that, recognizes that the income that we are receiving, to the best of our knowledge at this point, is largely one-time in nature, and that the ongoing commitments for operations budgeting should be met through the main estimates budget annually, and we believe that we've done what we can in terms of our ongoing O&M expenditures in the main estimates.
Mr. Cable: Well, I think we're all hoping that the economy will turn around, and hopefully that the drawdown for legal services for people in stress will be reduced. So I'm just wondering why an expectation would be there, if the money was brought forward on the basis that it's a temporary stopgap to deal with what, hopefully, is a temporary social problem.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I don't know what point the member is making that's new. I think he's repeating his point. The understanding we have, as I say, is that this is largely a one-time expenditure. I don't believe that the contributions of the O&M budget, outside the main estimates process, should be anything other than the lowest levels that we can sustain in the long term.
The priorities within the Department of Justice - the member will be encouraged, of course, to speak to the Minister of Justice, and presumably already has. But in terms of the general proposition, the general thinking that went into producing a budget that has largely capital expenditures is to seek job creation activities that can be carried out in this fiscal year.
Mr. Cable: Yes, I appreciate that's what the Government Leader said. The Government Leader also said one of his reservations was the raising of expectations, and that's the question I was putting to him. Expectations are only raised if the money is given without any statement accompanying it. There is as much need for assistance in the legal area as there is for capital projects, I would suggest. The capital projects themselves are one-time shots. Now, I know we, on this side - some of the opposition members - have been asking for capital projects, and I think that's desirable. But by the same token, a few tens of thousands of dollars in the legal aid budget would seem to assist people who are in some stress and, hopefully, in some temporary stress, until the economy returns and the people become a little more mellowed out.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, I think the member just said that - now three times he's made the same point. I'm answering the member to the best that I can, as a general proposition, as to what went into the thinking behind this budget. I know members don't support the budget. They've already voted against it. They've rejected these priorities. They said so, and they voted that way.
These are the priorities that we've chosen because these are the priorities that reflect our understanding of general community priorities. They are also projects that can be delivered in this year, which is another criteria. So, we believe that this will contribute to better employment levels. We believe that, while it will certainly not make up for the downturn in the mining economy, it will contribute, in some way, to increasing job creation, which will ultimately help resolve some of the social problems that arise from high unemployment.
So, we believe that this is a reasoned selection of those priorities.
There are many things that we would like to do. There are many things they will do in the context of budgets in the future. There are many things we're planning to do in the context of the budgets in the future. We can't do it all, but these are the things that we think we can do now.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'd just like to complete a couple of points I wanted to make with regard to the supplementary that has been tabled. The minister, in response to my questions before the dinner break when I was asking for background on establishing the priorities in the supplementary budget, indicated that these were projects identified as being very high priority. And yet $2.5 million of the - and I quote the minister - "only" $8 million supplementary is discretionary - $2 million in the community development fund, $500,000 in training trust. There is no specific capital project attached to that; there is no specific priority attached to that, and there is no legislative framework around the $2 million. It's entirely in the hands of Cabinet.
The minister has also said that this supplementary budget speaks to job creation. Now, often when we see government media releases, they often state, "This project..." in reference to a capital project "...will create X amount of jobs. Now, I'm sure that officials have cranked some statistics for the minister with respect to the supplementary budget in job creation. Can he relay those to the House?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the brief answer to the final question is yes, but I'll take issue absolutely with virtually everything that the member said prior to that. The member minimizes, in similar respects, the expenditures for training trust funds and for community development funds, suggesting that these are in the hands of Cabinet. I don't see it that way at all. I see that these funds are in the hands and the priorities are in the hands of communities.
There are many people who have put forward many applications for the community development fund. We know the applications are there. We know that the community priorities have been well-stated and the applications have been put forward for community works that are clearly community priorities, and we feel that we have to set aside some funding while we can to help meet those priorities that are clearly community driven. There are many projects here, of course, which are requests of communities and community groups as well in terms of other capital works, but these funds are essentially to be directed to community hands so that people in the communities, volunteers and others, can undertake works that they feel are important to them that they want to undertake themselves.
So, I don't agree with the member's assessment on that point. Obviously, there will be job creation associated with all of the expenditures, but I do have some information with respect to updating the estimates from Economic Development on private sector employment and I'll pass it out.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister and I will agree to disagree on the CDF and not belabour House time on such issues as the long-term O&M costs of some of these projects and ongoing expectations of some of the projects and the methods for identifying community priorities. The minister and I will agree to disagree on that.
The minister has indicated in his closing comments that there will be other projects coming, that these particular projects were chosen in this supplementary budget, and there will be other projects coming. Would the minister care to elaborate on that at this point in time?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, there'll be other budgets. Other budgets will contain other projects. That's as much as I can elaborate.
Yukon Legislative Assembly
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, my understanding is that this is for some legal work on the drafting of Election Act changes, as per recommendation. Is there a particular reason why we weren't able to do this in-house?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, some thought was put into that. We knew that the Elections Act was coming forward. We wanted to clear the decks as much as we can for anticipated changes to legislation that will be associated with the devolution project, which we anticipate - if it proceeds as planned - to be a fairly major undertaking, particularly in terms of identifying legislative drafting time. Consequently, the decision was made to ensure that the Elections Act was coming forward and that the resources were there that we would set aside some funds for this project and ensure that the justice lawyers are working as hard as they can on the devolution work.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, does the minister anticipate that we'd be able to get this work done locally, or would we have to contract from out of the territory?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think we can get it done locally.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I just have one question on that. Earlier in debate in this session, the Government Leader said he was going to get a legal opinion on the ownership of land for devolution. Has he got that legal opinion yet, or when can we expect it?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the issue arises with the subject of the Yukon Act, and I'm intending to speak to the member who just spoke and to the leader of the Liberal Party on a draft of the Yukon Act, which will incorporate that issue. I will bring legal opinions, legal advice, or the lawyers themselves to the table, and the member can discuss the issue directly with them.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Elections in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for Yukon Legislative Assembly in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
Yukon Legislative Assembly agreed to
Department of Community and Transportation Services
Chair: We'll go to Community and Transportation Services. Is there general debate?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The Department of C&TS is requesting a supplementary budget of $3,015,000 for the 1999-2000 fiscal year. The supplementary funding is capital and will be used in the areas of highways, road construction upgrading, airports and municipal infrastructure.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, we weren't privy to any of the details on this budget, and we were certainly never given, nor offered, a briefing. I wonder if, when the minister goes through this line by line, he could give us some extremely detailed information about the lines.
Mr. Jenkins: Can we just have some specifics with respect to the airport and what the intentions are there, with the number of airports that have been identified, what the department is anticipating? I'm sure that's somewhere in the minister's briefing notes, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair. The $845,000 consists of $695,000 for the Whitehorse Airport. To complete the airport development plan, $55,000; to develop a plan for the commercial air operators lease lots, $150,000; to pave taxiway G, $150,000; to pave runway 01-19, $300,000; and for planning apron improvements, $40,000. There is $150,000 for the Dawson City Airport to construct an access road and to carry out geotechnical work.
Mr. Jenkins: What's the purpose of paving taxiway 19? This was supposed to have been accomplished with the takeover of the airport. The funding was transferred to the Government of the Yukon with the transfer of the airport some years ago. How come we're just getting to it now?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, as the budgetary process permits, that is certainly the reason. It's a project that will provide for the paving of the crosswind runway.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's try that again. When the airport was transferred from the federal government to the Government of the Yukon, funds were identified and transferred to the Yukon government to pave the cross taxiway. Why wasn't it done at that juncture?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, the capital funds were transferred at that point in time. The capital funds were transferred during the devolution process. They were not specifically identified for paving the crosswind runway at this time. The government chooses to do this at this point in time because capital funds are available and it's certainly all part of our direction and our desire to improve and to promote the Yukon Territory.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's go back on that one again, because the minister is not accurate. When the airport was transferred from the federal government to the Government of Yukon, the paving of runway 19 was a specific line item. It was identified and a public announcement was made at that time. There were funds transferred with the transfer of the airport to pave that runway. Why wasn't it done at that time?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It is as I have said in the first instance. There was not a line item that pertained specifically to the paving of runway 01-19. It was certainly done through the devolution process, where there were capital dollars identified. And certainly, at this point, the government of the day does choose to do it.
Mr. Jenkins: It sounds like there was a whole bunch of money transferred back then but the government of the day chose not to do it. They spent it somewhere else and now they're just getting to it. But we'll leave that be, Mr. Chair.
Taxiway G - is that where it's all broken up near Air North? That's getting a lot of extra use these days. Is that being paved with a hard surface? How many lifts are we putting on there? Is it going to be paved to the same standard as the runway or to a different standard?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I don't have that information here but it will be done as to the standards that are required for airports of this type. I'd be more than pleased to provide the standards to the member.
Mr. Jenkins: Taxiway G is constantly breaking up. It would appear that the subsoil is not capable of supporting the weight of the aircraft rolling over that area. Has subsoil and geotechnical testing been undertaken on this area?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As a part of the paving design, that will be taken into consideration and be done at that juncture.
Mr. Jenkins: And the new area that's being developed, is this where Trans North is going to be relocated to?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, that is a part of the work that has been planned at this time.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, $150,000 for an access road to the Dawson City Airport - just what are we anticipating doing there?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, if the member would go with me on this one, it is the end that is closest to the Dempster Cutoff corner. Whether it be the east end, if I could say it in that way - I'm not sure if it lies north and south or - the east end.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It's the east end, and we're looking to build a road on that end so that we might be able to open it up and move - I believe it's the forestry station there, because the member knows that we're having difficulty where it is now, so those dollars will allow for the transfer of that.
Mr. Jenkins: Where are we at with respect to the overview of the Dawson City Airport, the study that was undertaken by the Government of the Yukon in-house to substantiate all this undertaking, Mr. Chair, because it looks like we're going to end up with another $150,000 investment in that airport, plus the - well, we're going to end up not being in a position to relocate it or look at those avenues. Has that avenue been discounted at this juncture?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We had committed to the community that we'd have conceptual designs ready for the townspeople - or townsfolk, if I could - by this fall. We're still committed to that. Transport Canada did confirm in April 1999 that airport sites closer to Dawson and the Klondike Valley are not better suited than the existing airport, and the valley sites also underwent a very thorough review, as the member knows, in 1988 and were rejected at that time.
We're looking to proceed with improvements in planning at this point in time in the location where it's at, and we had promised and we will honour the community so that we would have the conceptual plans there for this fall, as we had said we would.
Mr. Jenkins: Where are we budgeting the geotech for the airport runway? There's probably about 1,200 feet of the existing 5,000-foot runway surface that is capable of supporting the larger aircraft and pavement. The balance would appear to require some extensive soils analysis and perhaps removal and compaction of suitable material to support the paving of that surface, which ultimately I would hope that the government would see its way clear to undertaking.
Just where are we at with the geotech work on the Dawson Airport, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, the geotechnical work will be done through this $150,000.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much. Is that $150,000 also the geotech work for the runway surface - the existing runway surface?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, it is, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Does general debate for C&TS clear? Clear.
On Capital Expenditures
On Transportation Division
On Highway Construction YTG Funded
On Tagish Road
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I wonder if the minister could give us some brief descriptions as we go through these line by line?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair. It's an increase that's been allocated for the clearing of the right-of-way and the crushing and the stockpiling of gravel, to a total of $300,000.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, does that complete the project for the Tagish Road? I know there was a significant amount of money that was also in the main estimates, as well. Is this the end of the major work for the Tagish Road?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, it is not. If you couple this with the main estimates - there's $150,000 in there, I think - the projection is closer to about $8 million.
Tagish Road in the amount of $300,000 agreed to
On Other Roads
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Of that, there is $500,000 for rural roads, $150,000 for River Road, $110,000 for Freegold, and $130,000 for the construction of the Old Crow Airport road.
Mr. Jenkins: Just what are we going to be doing with the Old Crow Airport road and the area that's adjacent to the river, that's sloughing into the river, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We're looking at that right now and we're going to be doing construction of the Old Crow Airport road so, as the member probably knows, if I can say it again, it will be on the east end there if it goes around that end there, and we're looking to build a new road around there. It will open up and go beyond the airport and open up new lands in the back there.
Mr. Jenkins: That was as clear as mud, Mr. Chair. Just what are we going to do with the area that sloughing into the river there?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We're doing that as we do the road upgrading, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: How are we going to protect the area that's right adjacent to the river? Are we going to be putting in rip-rap? Are we going to be putting in pilings? What are we going to be doing to address that area that's sloughing into the river, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It will not be rip-rap, Mr. Chair. We don't have that size of material there. But, certainly, through proven engineering techniques, it will be a gravel blanket that will be moved in.
Mr. Jenkins: A gravel blanket. Now, that's a new term for me. Could the minister just explain that for my benefit, please?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, it does the same thing as rip-rap, only it is slightly smaller.
Mr. Jenkins: Now, how is this gravel blanket supposed to address the issue of the ice build-up and the erosion that is caused on a continuing basis by the river there? Rip-rap has a difficult time of meeting the erosion in all of the areas that I've seen along the Dempster Highway, and there's some significantly sized rip-rap that's been put in place. Now, how is a gravel blanket going to accomplish the same, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, it upholds to the same principle. If the member would like, I will certainly provide an engineering briefing on it. But certainly it's a proven engineering technique, and certainly in this situation it is what's recommended to work.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister point out where gravel blankets have been used where there's ice build-up and ice erosion versus high water? This will be adequate to meet the high water levels, but ice and its corresponding erosion and abrasiveness - I've not heard of this technique being employed in that way.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, it's a technique that's been used in the Old Crow area for approximately 10 to 12 years, but, certainly, I can provide other examples for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, obviously it's not working or the area would not continue to be eroding like it has been. So, has the department explored other ways of stopping this erosion from intruding into that access road?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, in that location it is the best and most economical way to do it. There is no rip-rap to the magnitude that was available in other portions of the area. The member spoke about areas along the Dempster Highway. We do not have the availability of rip-rap in that location. It's been a proven technique in the Old Crow area for the past 10 to 12 years, and it seems that it has to be replaced approximately every six years.
Mr. Jenkins: It sounds like there is some job creation program up in the Old Crow area, Mr. Chair, because obviously the road keeps washing away. I'm sure there are other techniques that could be employed to stabilize that bank permanently. Has the department considered other options, and have they done any sort of review of this? I can understand that this is probably the most economical approach, but is it the most satisfactory approach and most cost-effective approach, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, we do have studies. I'd be more than pleased to provide the member with other studies or the studies that we have. I can say that it's not a major project. It's certainly something that is desired by the community, and the community has asked for it, and the government, in partnership with the First Nation government, will continue to work with and do it. It is economical. It is very practical, and I will provide the other studies to the member.
Other Roads in the amount of $890,000 agreed to
On Aviation/Yukon Airports
Airports in the amount of $845,000 agreed to
On Municipal and Community Affairs Division
On Public Safety
On Fire Protection
Hon. Mr. Keenan: That's to construct the two bays at the existing Marsh Lake fire hall to store the ambulance and other necessities that were provided for them in past budgets - the fire boat purchased and the fire bush car.
Fire Protection in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Recreation Facilities
On Recreation Facilities
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It's for emergency repairs to the sewer and water line in the Ross River community centre.
Recreation Facilities in the amount of $30,000 agreed to
On Pelly Crossing Arena
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It's for a new recreational facility: a skating rink and arena for the community of Pelly.
Mrs. Edelman: Who is paying the long-term O&M cost on this particular facility?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The First Nation.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd just like to explore the O&M cost. Is that being paid through a grant that flows from the Government of Yukon or is this going to be coming from the First Nation's funding? The rule of thumb is 10 percent of the capital cost for O&M, so we'd be looking at some $75,000 to $80,000 a year in ongoing O&M cost. Just what kind of a facility are we looking at for that community? Could the minister elaborate on what it will entail, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I can. The building is going to measure 184 by 88 feet with an ice surface of 171 by 71, which is slightly less than a regular ice standard of 200 by 85 feet.
The First Nation is apprised of the terms and conditions and assure us that they're going to, through an agreement, be able to comply with the O&M of the facility.
Mr. Jenkins: Will it have natural or artificial ice?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I suspect that when it is done, it will be natural ice and it might even have a centre line.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to thank the minister for that sarcastic answer, but what I'm asking is, is the ice in there going to be natural ice or will there be an artificial ice surface?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It's natural, Mr. Chair. It's designed so that artificial ice will be installed later, if needed.
Pelly Crossing Arena in the amount of $720,000 agreed to
On Community Services
On Community Planning
Mrs. Edelman: Just once again, Mr. Chair, detail on the line, please.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly. The money is being provided to respond to various rural area communities throughout the Yukon where requirements arise and to deal with existing needs, to consider land use reviews, re-zoning regulations other than those specifically provided for elsewhere.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I wonder if the minister could provide a copy to the opposition side on the details of that expenditure.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly.
Community Planning in the amount of $130,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures in the amount of $3,015,000 agreed to
Department of Community and Transportation Services agreed to
Department of Economic Development
Chair: Is there general debate?
On Capital Expenditures
On Corporate Services
On Community Development Fund
Mr. Cable: Could the minister tell us what he wants this $2 million for?
Hon. Mr. Harding: For the community development fund.
Mr. Cable: You just heard the problem: "Give me $2 million and that's it." How many applications are there sitting out there that are unfunded?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, there are actually quite a few. The last round, you will remember, we had I think - in an answer to a question from the Liberal leader who wanted a ball field built in her riding - she was attacking the commitment of a year or so ago in Faro to build a ball field there and was very jealous of the fact that Dawson had received some funding for a ball field. At that time, we had about $8 million in applications for some $2 million in funding. But that's not all that outside of the norm for this particular program. It's very successful, very popular in the communities; it's community priorities and it's a quick response to the people of the Yukon who want to provide some funding for their key projects.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, is the minister suggesting that projects that were turned down are being re-examined?
Hon. Mr. Harding: You know, Mr. Chair, when the member opposite raised the issue of her ball field on behalf of somebody, I guess, who was putting it forward, Baseball Yukon, I told her at that time that there were recreational commitments made in that round to the Broomball Association, to the summer youth basketball league, and all applications that were not accepted for reason of lack of funding are always available to be resubmitted for consideration.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'd just like to correct the record that the application was submitted by Baseball Yukon, and in fact it's not in my riding. It's in the riding of the Member for Porter Creek North.
Mr. Cable: I asked the minister how many applications there were outstanding. How many does he have that he wants this $2 million for? Are there 10 or 20 or 40 or 50? Just what are lined up looking for money?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'll provide the exact amount for the member opposite. I don't have those details at my fingertips, but I would suggest that there are dozens of projects.
The other interesting point about this is that we intend to earmark another $200,000 of this amount to add to the $500,000 we've already put forward for the fire smart program in the communities.
So, I believe we'll have $700,000 this fiscal year, as opposed to $500,000 last year for fire smart programs, which benefited a significant number of communities in the Yukon last year.
Community Development Fund in the amount of $2,000,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Economic Development in the amount of $2,000,000 agreed to
Department of Economic Development agreed to
Department of Education
Chair: Department of Education. Is there general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, I will be speaking for the Minister of Education. She's not here at the present time, but I can try my best to answer the questions the members opposite may have with respect to training trust funds.
On Advanced Education
On Training Trust Funds
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister, in response to the second reading speeches yesterday, indicated that the Government Leader and the Cabinet ministers had been listening very carefully to the opposition benches in the previous 30-some odd days of debate. One of the comments that was made, very strongly, by me and by the other Education critic was the preference to see training trust funds handled through Yukon College using, in particular, community Yukon College boards. The minister has indicated that he's listened carefully to those suggestions. Was that suggestion considered at all in the dispensation or allocation of these funds?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Those opinions expressed - I say with the greatest respect - are not shared by many people in the communities. They would like to have more control, more direction on the training activities that they identify, and they would like to ensure that the funds they receive are targeted quickly and adeptly to their priorities. Now, in many cases, of course, they choose to work with Yukon College because, in the communities, particularly where Yukon College has a good reputation in those communities, because Yukon College can provide a service that they need and that they feel is competitive. But many organizations would also like to be able to have a greater hands-on say on some training and would like to make the choice as to whether or not they work with Yukon College and not be forced into it.
So, while the members opposite have taken the view that it should be funneled through Yukon College, this is not shared by many community organizations. While we do encourage them to use Yukon College, when, I think, it's appropriate - and many, of course, do - they do. But the people I've spoken to - and I know the Minister of Education feels the same way - feel that the system, as it's structured right now is just fine.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, with the greatest respect to the member opposite, that's not the message that was delivered very clearly to me when meeting with the Yukon College Board of Governors, as well as with community representatives. It's the message that I took away from that meeting with them and it was made particularly eloquent by the community representatives appointed to the Yukon College Board.
I took those representations back to this House and made them as best I knew how to the minister. Now, if this $500,000 has not been earmarked for a specific training trust, is there any reason why a portion of this money could not at least be considered as allocated through the college?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, I think we'll have to agree to disagree as to what the greatest community priorities are. I've been around the territory many times and I've spoken to college boards, community campus committees and also many community organizations. While I think everyone wants us to fund Yukon College adequately, and we are - in fact, there are increases for Yukon College in the main estimates - they also feel that there should be a greater community say in terms of how training funds are directed, and they want to be able to make a choice themselves without being forced into it as to whether or not they establish a partnership with a community campus or with the college generally. That is the preference of the vast majority of people I have spoken to.
So, while I'm certain the member has somebody who agrees with her position entirely, the reality for us is that the community people generally have indicated very clearly that they want the choice to work with Yukon College and not be forced into it.
Yukon College does many good things in many creative ways and should be supported, and where appropriate they will use Yukon College but they don't want this Legislature to make that choice for them. They want to make a choice for themselves, and we say that that is a reasonable proposition and that we will support their needs as well as support Yukon College's needs.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, the minister said that this extra $500,000 going in here is making a total amount of $2 million, that it's not allocated for anything at the present time, that they'll be looking for ideas and suggestions for training trust funds for down the road.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, as I understand it, there are ongoing discussions with community organizations at all times, and there are many requests being made. There are discussions being held right around the territory about the possibility of accessing training trust monies for training trust purposes. To my knowledge, there has been no specific training trust fund earmarked for the $500,000.
Mr. Phillips: I'll get back to that in a bit, Mr. Chair, but I want to join in the comments made by the Liberal critic. I'm hearing the same thing - that Yukon College and people in the community are concerned about the training trust funds. Some of the training trust funds are being set up without the involvement of the college, and some of it may involve input from the college somewhere down the road, and they're forced to be involved in it.
It is causing some confusion in some of the communities, because, as the minister knows, in many of the communities, the people that would administer a certain trust fund are the very people, because there's such a small population, that are on the college community campus. They're wondering why it didn't come through the college community campus.
In fact, it has even created confusion, I think, in the Town of Faro, where the individual that's on the college community campus helped work out some training efforts that were going on with some forestry programs and the college didn't know about it until after they had organized it. She just thought it was all part of her job in the community campus. So, there was some confusion simply because there is so much overlap.
As the minister knows, there is usually a handful of people in each community that are involved in lots of these boards and committees, and we set something up for a training trust fund and we find out that the network is already there. The community campuses are a pretty well-organized network, and that's why the college was concerned. Why duplicate? Why use up a bunch more administration and do it in a different way when you've got the very same people who end up delivering the program in the first place?
And so that's the concern I want to raise with the minister. It's a matter of being more efficient, I guess, because you're using the same people, and I just wonder what the minister's thoughts are on that.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I agree with the member that many of the same people in some communities - not in every case, of course, but in some communities, are involved in training projects - whether it be the sponsorship of a training trust fund, or the carrying out of a training program sponsored directly by the college.
That's testimony to the fact that many community campus committees and the co-ordinators are very respected people in those communities, and respected for the work they do in training. That's not the case in every case and, in any case, each training trust fund comes with an agreement. The agreement clearly lays out who is responsible for the disposition of the funds, what the funds are to be used for, and the role of all players, including the campus - if the campus is a player - or a local business; for example, the training trust fund associated with the sawmill in Watson Lake, a private company. Or it could be the Tourism Industry Associaton, with no involvement of the college.
But the point is, community people themselves are put in the driver's seat, and they make the decisions as to whether they want to use the college services or not. And, in some communities, of course, it's a natural thing for them to use the college services, in which case the programs can be funded with the help of the campus committee, and the college, as an institution, doesn't have to contribute any funding to the project.
The identification of the training that must be funded and the control mechanism is very clearly laid out in all training agreements, so the issue here is who we are putting in the driver's seat. Many communities want to see training priorities pursued in unique ways and efficient ways that meet community priorities. They can't always be in a position where they have to work through the community college system. It's not always set up to meet their needs precisely, so they want to have the ability to respond quickly.
The idea actually came to set up trust funds of this nature back in 1989 from the B.C.-Yukon Hotels Association and the Tourism Industry Association in the Yukon, who said that they respect what the college does but they want to be able to define absolutely the objectives and the priorities for which they are going to be undertaking training activity. They realize that, whenever they want to do something slightly new, it causes disruption in the college organization and it sometimes takes time to get their priorities met.
Consequently, while they respect what the college does, and it always does what it does very well, they also wanted to be in the driver's seat. Hence, training trust funds do put community people in the driver's seat and allow them to meet their needs. The college does what it does, and the college, as an institution, should be funded as well, because it also meets training needs in the territory - sometimes different kinds of training needs, but training needs nevertheless, and we're funding both.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, it's rather a coincidence, but I'm pretty happy and pretty pleased that the chief actor is in the position of acting Education minister tonight, because I would really like to take the Hansard from tonight and the comments the former Minister of Education has said about Yukon College and their role in the communities and people wanting to go a different way than Yukon College in the communities and compare that to a time when he was the Minister of Education and he was setting up the community campuses. I think he was telling us then that they were the be-all and end-all and they would deliver programs to all kinds of people in the communities and this was the best way to deliver the programs.
He was making exactly the opposite argument then as he is now that the Yukon College campuses were a great network to set up. He was so proud of it; he spoke about it and I think he went around and cut the ribbons on a bunch of the Yukon College campuses at the time.
I think the campuses have done a wonderful job, but what it sounds like to me is that the Government of Yukon - at least this minister - has had a falling out with Yukon College and is not happy with the programs that they are delivering or is getting complaints from individuals that they're not happy with what programs they're delivering. I'm not sure what the reason is, but the minister's making an argument contrary to one he made a few years ago as the Minister of Education.
I mean, in fact, he made exactly the opposite argument, and made the argument that I'm making - that it would be more efficient to deliver all the education and training programs through one venue: Yukon College and the training programs they had. That was the argument he made then. I'm going to go through Hansard and dig some of this stuff out because I know that's what the minister was saying in those days. So, it just seems to me to be a bit inconsistent.
The Member for Faro is a little upset with the questioning, but the Member for Faro is the one who doesn't like Hansard at all because there's all kinds of quotes in there from him.
What I'm saying to the acting Minister of Education is that the argument he made back then is exactly the opposite of the argument he's made now. He said back then that the training in the communities could be done by the college campus committees. That's the argument he made back then. Now we seem to be moving away from that. Maybe there are other reasons for that, but it appears, on the surface, that the minister's argument is rather weak and that it's more a case that he's not happy with the performance of the college. I wonder if that's the case. Is he not happy with the performance of the college in delivering training programs? Is that's why we're moving to another venue to deliver these programs?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I'll make the obvious point that what the member is saying is completely at variance with the truth. It's completely wrong. It can't be sustained. It is non-factual. I don't know how many ways I can put it.
He was right in one respect. I was the minister who was responsible for setting up the college under an independent board, and I was happy to establish at least half a dozen community campuses around the territory. I was also the minister who established training trust funds, and in those days, training trust funds were created for exactly the purpose they are created for today.
Now, when the Yukon Party established a training trust fund for mine training in Ross River, why didn't they give the money to the college and run it through the community campus in Ross River? Well, the reason was, Mr. Chair - well, I don't know what the reason was. But the point is that the -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I invite the Member for Riverdale to join in the debate when she's got her turn.
Mr. Chair, the point of having a college is that the college does many good things, and they do them very, very well.
They can't be everything to everybody, and they've made that point over and over again. That's one point to make.
The second point to make - and the Member for Klondike can get into the debate when he's got his turn. Mr. Chair, the Member for Klondike insists on getting into the debate now. But he's got all evening.
Mr. Chair, the opportunity for the college to meet a wide variety of needs is there. They're well-funded, we give them funding - we gave them an extra $500,000 this year alone. They cannot meet all needs of all people in all ways, and as efficiently as community people want them to meet those needs.
Not all training is most efficiently done through that mechanism. In some communities it can be efficiently done, but not in all cases. And so - if the member remembers, there were training trust funds created prior to 1992. There were training trust funds created in the late 1980s. I was a Minister of Education then, too, and I was defending them as I'm defending them now. Because I think they're good things, and I know the community supports them. I know the community supports them.
And so no matter what happens here, no matter what the members say, I know that I'm going - between sittings - to be going into community meetings throughout this territory and I know the people are going to support them. So I draw my strength in this debate from the communities, because I know they support them. They've told me time and time and time again.
I know the college has a certain mandate. They've said to me on many occasions that they want to maintain a certain mandate and do it well. They don't want to be going off in all directions, trying to meet everybody's needs throughout the territory.
So, we provide sufficient funding for them to meet their priorities, meet their needs, meet their mandate as they define it. So, we fund them and we fund other training needs.
Now, there have been lots of programs in the past, through the EDA and other mechanisms, that provided training funding for people throughout this territory. There is no EDA now but there is the trust fund mechanism.
Those EDA programs were providing training funding direct to businesses and to communities and community organizations and didn't go through the college in those days. Nobody complained. Nobody thought it was a bad thing. It was a good thing.
What we're doing here is ensuring that people have the ability to take a greater hands-on role in the training activities in their community than ever before. They have a role to play. In many cases, the training trust funds were supplemented by contributions from businesses that also want to take advantage of the training. So, it is a mechanism that works and is supported in the communities.
In fact, the furthest from showing any sign of disrespect for Yukon College, they support the Yukon College. In many cases, they use the Yukon College. But they want also to be able to provide greater direction and to contribute more themselves.
Chair: Do members wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is dealing with Bill No. 18, Second Appropriation Act, 1999-2000. We are on the Department of Education. Is there further general debate?
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I enjoyed the rewrite of history by the Government Leader of what he said then and what he's saying now, but we're getting used to that rhetoric from the Government Leader.
Mr. Chair, the concern I have, as I said earlier, is that the Yukon College campuses were intended initially to deliver programs such as this to be involved in training trust funds, and have been in the past. The complaint that I heard from the Yukon College itself was that - you know, the minister may be somewhat right if he says that there are other ways to deliver training trust funds. I don't dispute that.
What I have a concern with is that the Yukon College told us that they were getting broadsided by some of the training trust funds, didn't even know that they were being developed, and felt as the advanced learning institution in the territory and having community campuses and being asked to deliver programs that they should at least have the courtesy, in some cases, of being involved in at least preliminary discussions.
If the government wants to deliver them another way, that's a different matter. But in some cases, they told that they heard, as the public did, about an announcement of a training trust fund.
I think that's a bit unfair when we're asking the college, on an annual basis, to look into the future and try to figure out what the training needs are in the territory. Then, if the government is sort of going off on its own tangent somewhere and there's no coordination, I think that can be a problem and it speaks to the efficiency of delivering the programs.
Mr. Chair, the acting Education minister mentioned that this $500,000 is not spoken for but is going in the budget to increase the training trust funds, so I understand from what the minister is saying that this money won't be expended immediately. It's not an immediate thing that's going to happen. It will be something like what's happened to training trust funds in the past year where, over a period of eight or 10 months, discussions and consultations will take place where people will say, "This is what we want to do, this is the type of training trust fund" and the government will make announcements through the year.
In fact, I think we even got announcements of training trust funds in the last session - November and December - from the budget before. I think they made some announcements of an agricultural training trust fund and some other ones that were done later on in the year, six months after the beginning of the year.
Mr. Chair, earlier today, I raised an issue of some urgency with respect to a health and safety issue at Vanier school. I was concerned, as I have said earlier, about the fact that there was a letter on February 9 by the chair of the school council to the Department of Education pointing out this very serious problem. Unfortunately, there wasn't anything in the main budget to deal with it and there was nothing in the supplementary budget to deal with it.
My concern is that this is a problem today. It's not one that is developing in the future; it's a problem today. Some of the coaching staff and, I think, the principal and others at the school have already pulled some of the more active or heavier activities out of that gym because of the problem and the injuries occurring to the students. So, there's no doubt about it.
Even doctors have looked at some of these kids and recommended the kids don't go on that floor anymore. One child was refused entry into the armed forces, and the injury, I understand, was sort of traced to the problems the individual could have incurred on that floor - the knee problems that have been occurring to all of the other students and there's a liability issue faced by the government.
My concern is that with no money in the supplementary budget for fixing up that gym floor and dealing with the health and safety issue, we're going to have to wait until next summer - next year - because the only time you can really fix a gym floor is in the summer months, otherwise you're going to be ruling out any activities whatsoever in the gym.
This is really the time to fix it. We know it's a problem. It's a clear health-and-safety issue. It has been spelled out by the school council and spelled out by physicians and parents and others who have spoken out on this issue, and it's something that has to be dealt with fairly quickly.
Keeping that in mind, Mr. Chair, I think that it would be appropriate in this budget or in a supplementary budget, which we'll probably deal with in the fall, the way we normally deal with supplementaries - this is a rather unusual experience here dealing with a supplementary now - when the work is carried out during either the summer months prior to the fall and approval is given to projects to go ahead when there is a reason to carry out certain projects. I think the replacement of the gym floor meets that criteria.
As the member knows, the estimated value of replacing the gym floor was $150,000. That's not a lot of money in the context of this budget and it's not even a lot of money in the context of the $67 million estimated surplus that the Government Leader said that he sort of has in his pocket today, and probably it will be even larger down the road. We should replace it, especially in light of the fact that this is a health and safety issue. This is about kids who are getting injured using our facilities.
This is a liability issue, and this is about us knowing about it now, and having to do something about it, to fix the floor. So what I would like to do, Mr. Chair, is ask the government to bring in a supplementary budget in the fall, and if the minister is having trouble at the present time finding funds for the supplementary budget, I want to help the minister in locating some funds to fix the floor.
The value of the floor repair is $150,000, and the minister's told us today that this training trust fund is $500,000, and this is a sort of a wish-list trust fund. There isn't even a fund set up yet. This money isn't allocated for anything. But we do have an urgent and pressing need - an emergency health and safety issue at Vanier school.
So what I would like to do, Mr. Chair, is move an amendment to Bill No. 18.
Mr. Phillips: I move
THAT the estimates pertaining to Bill No. 18, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, be amended in Vote 03, the Department of Education, by reducing the line item "Training Trust Funds", on page 4-2 in capital expenditures, by $150,000; and
THAT the clauses and schedules of the bill be amended accordingly.
Chair: It has been moved by Doug Phillips, Member for Riverdale North
THAT the estimates pertaining to Bill No. 18, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, be amended in Vote 03, the Department of Education, by reducing the line item "Training Trust Funds", on page 4-2 in capital expenditures, by $150,000; and
THAT the clauses and schedules of the bill be amended accordingly.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I was saying earlier that the reason for this amendment is primarily to allow the government -safety issue at Vanier school, and I would class this as a friendly amendment and an emergency amendment to deal with an urgent and pressing situation that deals with the health and safety of our youth.
The minister rose in the House today and told us that this $500,000 and even some part of the $1.5 million is not even spoken for yet. There isn't even any criteria to hand it out. This won't affect a training trust fund in the next four months or five months.
But what it will do is give the government an opportunity to bring in a supplementary in the fall and spend the $150,000 this spring because of this health-and-safety issue and put out to tender the replacement of the gym floor so that the students, when they return to school in the fall, will have a gymnasium floor that is actually safe for them to play on.
It is a serious matter, and it's one I think that the government should give consideration to. I think that, by taking it out of this line item, we're going to have little or no effect on any other government program. It won't affect the training trust fund because, as the minister knows, it takes several months to develop these funds and we know that, last year, most of the trust funds weren't even announced until almost November-December. So, it will give the government an opportunity to replace the $150,000 in the training trust fund in the same supplementary as they are covering off the gym floor, and bring it forward in the fall.
I would hope that the acting Minister of Education would consider this as a measure that will improve the health and safety of the students in that school and would give it due consideration, and that I would receive support from all members of the House who, I know, care about the health and safety of the kids at Vanier school.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, there are a number of things about the amendment. First of all, the member began his remarks by suggesting that I was rewriting history when I was referring to the fact that, when I was Minister of Education some years back, not only did I expand the community campus network in the territory but I also promulgated training trust funds, and lots of them.
I suspect that the member is, through bluff, trying to indicate that somehow that history is not true. Of course it is entirely true and what the member is suggesting is that either I did not have anything to do with expanding the community campus network, which of course is a matter of record, or I did not initiate training funds, which is also a matter of record. And I defended those training trust funds as well, Mr. Chair, which is a matter of record.
So, I challenge the member to indicate where, in my recounting of those events, I was not telling the truth, I was not being accurate. I was being entirely accurate. What I am saying, Mr. Chair, is that the member himself was inaccurate and, in fact, his accounting of events was truly a fantastical picture bearing no relationship whatsoever to reality.
Now, Mr. Chair, the one area where I would agree with the member with respect to training trust funds is that the training trust fund development should be undertaken with communities, and the college should be informed and consulted on various training needs throughout the territory so that everyone knows what everyone else is doing and they can provide a hand to each other.
That's reasonable, and I even believe that the Minister of Education has given that commitment or has indicated that that's already underway. So, for whatever reason the member decides to bring it up once again, if the member is wanting to check whether or not I agree with the Minister of Education, I can assure him that I do.
Now, with respect to the friendly amendment that the member is bringing forward, the friendly amendment has everything to do with reducing training trust fund monies, Mr. Chair, and we can't support that. We believe that training trust fund monies - one of the reasons why we're providing more funding is because we know there's a great demand in the territory for training trust funds - a demand that exceeds, by some measure, the available funding. So, we know that this territory and the communities take training needs very, very seriously, and they want to see more training activity, and they would like to see the government putting more of an investment in training trust funds.
So, the friendly amendment, I submit, coming from, in my view, the biggest games player in the House, is not a friendly amendment at all. In fact, it challenges our ability to deliver training trust funds.
We believe that we do need to invest more in training trust funds because people have been saying we should be investing more in training trust funds. Consequently, we are putting more of our resources on the table for purposes of the training trust funds.
Mr. Chair, the member also makes the case that he would like to see, in the fall, some supplementary monies to deal with the gym floor in Vanier. I've listened carefully to the member and the member's exchange in Question Period and the minister's responses, and I agree with the minister that the member is overstating the case for political reasons.
While we will be dealing with all communities' interests and the priorities of the school councils, as we have been through many initiatives that we've taken, in millions of dollars' worth of investment, there will be further substantial investment in the school system. I can't agree with the member's notion that the situation at this moment is in crisis. In any case, Mr. Chair, I can't agree that this attack on the training trust fund is the appropriate approach to dealing with the issue in any case.
I believe that the people in the communities want training trust funds and training money, and the member's suggestion to cut the availability of funds for training I don't think will be supported by the communities. I think that the suggestion he made in Question Period today to find the money was even abhorrent.
Nevertheless, Mr. Chair, the Minister of Education will be dealing with all communities, with all schools, will deal with the priority issues, whether it be gym floors or other matters that are of significance to the schools and we will be investing, of course, as we have already, substantial funds to improve our school facilities.
Mr. Phillips: I want to assure the member that - he said this is all about reducing the training trust fund money - it's not about that at all.
I asked the member questions earlier about the allocation of the training trust funds. The member said clearly that this $500,000 we're adding to the already $1.5 million is not allocated to anything yet. And we all know that even by November or December next year, there will be at least $150,000 that isn't allocated to training trust funds. It's been that way ever since we had training trust funds.
So there's opportunity for the minister to bring in a supplementary in the fall to replace this $150,000, and I fully expect the minister would do that, and I would support replacing the funds. What I'm suggesting here is this is $150,000 that should be spent now.
The minister says that I overstated it today in the House. But let me read something to the member - and I'll give him a copy of this letter, Mr. Chair. This is a letter to Mr. Fred Smith from the chair of the school council of Vanier school, and I'll read the part that says, "Major Capital Project Priority List. Priority number one: replacement of the gym floor in the large gymnasium. School council and administration are -"
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: I was interrupted by the Member for Watson Lake, who obviously doesn't want to hear the truth here.
I want to quote out of the letter, if the minister doesn't think this is an urgent matter. "Priority number one: replacement of the gym floor in the large gymnasium. School council and administration are united in our decision that this project warrants greatest urgency. Using the priorization criteria for capital projects for Yukon schools, this is clearly a health, safety, and legal requirements issue. Presently, the physical education staff is compiling data from local physicians and physiotherapists with respect to the greater incidence of injury at VCSS. A search has recently been initiated for a study that clearly indicates the increase of the injuries as a result of this floor composure. We hope to provide this data to the department shortly.
"High school students have greater co-ordination, are bigger, stronger, and play sports in a more aggressive demeanour than young students.
"Having these athletes compete on the existing floor has resulted in a disproportionately large number of injuries at VCSS. Along with this safety issue, the department must consider possible ensuing litigation if an athlete incurs an injury resulting in a lifelong disability or loss of career options. It is the opinion of VCSS Council that the $50,000 budgeted in 1999-2000 for cafeteria facility design be used toward the gym floor replacement."
Mr. Chair, it's clear by this letter that the school council feels that it's a matter of health, safety and legal requirements, and it's a matter of urgency. That's all I'm saying to the minister. Kids are getting hurt, and we do have the ability to move some money around to deal with this issue. We don't have to be stubborn. I'm not trying to damage the minister's budget or anything else here. I'm just trying to use common sense, Mr. Chair, and use some funds that are not even going to be spent until six or eight months from now, and put out a contract to fix the floor so the kids won't continue to be injured, and do it in the summer when they're not there so we don't have to close the gym all next winter or part of next winter. That's all I'm asking the minister to do.
It's not an unusual request. I think it's a request that merits a response from the government, and not just another rejection and saying that I'm trying to cut out the trust funds. I said to the minister that the minister can put the money back in the budget by way of a supplementary. The minister is currently sitting on a $67-million surplus - a $67-million surplus - and this school council wants $150,000 so the kids won't continue to be injured using the gym floor.
Now, this is something that wasn't anticipated by anybody with grade reorganization or such. I mean, no one suspected that the use of this floor by the larger kids could cause these incidents of injury, but they are. The facts are there.
I mean, surely the acting Minister of Education cares about the injuries that are happening to these kids.
The Member for Laberge says is that the same floor as when you were there as the minister? I believe it probably was but there weren't injuries reported from the floor at that time because they were younger kids. Right here it says, and I'll read it back to the Member for Laberge so he understands it, and he should understand it because he actually used to work in the school system.
Mr. Chair, it says, "High school students ...", now maybe he never dealt with high school students, but "High school students have greater coordination, are bigger, are stronger and play sports in a more aggressive demeanor than young students. Having these athletes compete on the existing floor has resulted in a disproportionately large number of injuries at VCSS." That's not me. That's the chair of the school council.
Now, the Member for Laberge might disagree with the chair of the school council. He might disagree with the parents who are taking their kids to the doctor to get their knees fixed. He might disagree with a student who can no longer get into the Armed Forces because his knees were damaged in the school. But the facts are the facts. And the facts are that kids are getting hurt. And the facts are that the government has a lot of money. And the facts are that we can move some money around in this budget without affecting a soul other than the kids in that school.
Those are the facts, and that's all I'm asking the government to do: shift $150,000 around so we can get a contract out this summer, repair the floor so that it can be used as a high school gym for the older and bigger kids, and they can get back in the gym. Goodness sakes, the principal and the coach and everybody have moved the heavy activities out of the gym, Mr. Chair, because they say it's hurting the kids. It's not me. They say it's hurting the kids. The chair of the school council says the same thing.
All this is about is - like I said, this is not against the - I mean, I'm not doing what they did before. The previous government wanted to remove money years ago, I think, out of the highways budget completely to build a school. All I'm asking here, all I'm suggesting here, Mr. Chair, is that we move some money out of this line item on a temporary basis to fix a serious problem for these kids. That's all I'm asking. That's not an unusual request, especially in light that summer holidays are coming up and this is the time to fix those floors.
The minister knows full well that he can come back in the fall with a supplementary, and he can boost his training trust funds budget back up to that level. He can add the $150,000 back in. He won't get an argument from this side for doing that. And he can add $150,000 in the supplementary, which would have covered the repairing of the school this summer, because it is an urgent and pressing issue. Then we could have the kids at Vanier school back in their gym, using it as they're supposed to be using it.
That's all I'm asking the minister to do. I'm not trying to gut the budget, Mr. Chair, or remove something out of training trust funds because I don't like them. I've told the minister, we had training trust funds under our government. But the minister himself said it wasn't needed at the present time, and I'm saying that by August or September - and, in fact, the minister knows that, under the budget process, he can put the money back in a training trust fund whenever he wants. He can put it back in there, I guess, by Management Board decision. So, they have the ability to do this.
What it might affect, in a very minor way, is the $67-million surplus. But I guess you have to weigh the fact that it might affect a $67-million surplus against the fact that we might have a few more kids who have permanent damage to their knees and their legs resulting from use of the floor.
So, Mr. Chair, I hope that the minister understands where I'm coming from here. This is an amendment to solve a serious problem. As the chair of the school council said, "This project warrants the greatest urgency. It's a problem of health, safety and legal requirements." Those aren't my words. They're the words of the chair of the school council. So, I urge the minister to consider that and act very quickly to fix that gym floor.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, I want to assure the member that I know exactly where the member is coming from. Let's just get this straight for a minute. The member is saying that we should, in the first instance, cut the vote authority for the Department of Education by $150,000 so there won't be vote authority for $150,000 worth of training. Now, he says that we can come back in the fall and do two things: vote $150,000 back and vote $150,000 for the floor. So, in fact, what the member is saying is that he doesn't want the government to have the vote authority all summer long but to try to acquire the vote authority in the fall.
This, Mr. Chair, I would suggest, is, in fact, an attack on the training trust funds. It's an attack on available funding for training because he's suggesting that even if we're to accept his argument, he is suggesting that the funds are required for capital works in the particular school that he's raised should be achieved through a supplementary in the fall.
So, all he wants to do is cut out the vote authority for training trust funds because he says you just add it in the fall and you could add the money for gym floors in the fall. Basically, he wants to cut out training trust fund money for the period between now and the fall. So, what that constitutes, Mr. Chair, is a challenge and a cut to training. That's what it is and everything else is all pure games playing. It's all games playing. There is no doubt about it. I am more convinced now - having heard the member out - than ever that it's complete gamesmanship on his part.
It doesn't help any other project to cut the vote authority for the Department of Education by $150,000. He's suggesting himself that this thing should be reviewed, that we should be looking for supplementary in the fall for both the training trust fund and his pet project at this point now. He's suggesting that these both go forward in the fall.
So all that's being accomplished by this games playing, of course, is that the Department of Education, for the period between now and the end of November or December, has $150,000 less vote authority. That's all it's accomplished - and the vote authority for training. So Mr. Chair, this is about games playing. There is no doubt that it's about games playing.
Let's talk a little bit about the surplus for a moment. I know the members opposite have made as loud a case as they can to spend all the money that can be spent in this year - as they say that over and over again. Now, when we do put some money into capital, they vote against it; they vote against all of it. They vote against all the capital in this particular budget.
Yesterday, the member for the Liberal Party said, "Well, this is really a question of confidence, voting for a budget." And I listened to the Member for Riverside who, a few years ago, gave us some kind of history lesson, quoting extensively from Eugene Forsey, or somebody, saying that simply voting for a budget didn't constitute a vote of confidence. He was looking for an excuse to vote for the Yukon Party budgets. Voting for the budget was just about putting people to work. Now when we put people to work in a simple supplementary budget, it is suddenly a vote of confidence, because they have to find a reason for the Liberals and Yukon Party to vote against the NDP, and they have to vote together. They have to find a new excuse on how they can vote together.
This is all about games playing, Mr. Chair. Cut the vote authority for the Department of Education by $150,000 so they can't do anything, and then put all the money into supplementaries in the fall, and don't worry about the surplus, because the surplus is big.
Well, I'll remind the members that if we were to simply do as they say, then the $27-million annual deficit that we're running this year and the $20-million deficit that we have to run next year in order to keep the balanced spending would all be in jeopardy, because the members would be thinking about new ways of spending money every day.
I know that the Yukon Party has made a strong case for spending the wad now, spend the whole wad right now, don't think about tomorrow. I mean, have a big, blockbuster spending spree. Well, Mr. Chair, that would be completely irresponsible. I said time and time again that this Legislature and any responsible government should be thinking further ahead than this year, and if we expect our revenues to dip in future years, then we should plan for it.
And we are planning for it. The comments made this evening by the member opposite about the particular vinyl floor at Vanier Secondary School is an issue for the school council, it's an issue that should be addressed, and it's an issue for 11 schools in the school system because 11 schools have poured vinyl floors.
Mr. Chair, the member says they're not causing injury. Presumably, that must be because the Catholic school children are physically different from other school children.
No, the reality is that the position the members opposite have put forward is overstated. The members in the opposition overstate their case constantly. There's a crisis every day. There's a crisis every day brought before this Legislature for the funding of some organization or other. Every single day we see the opposition manufacture one crisis after another, and most of the time the hyperbole from the opposition benches means that we can't trust anything they say. At some point, we can't believe anything they say because everything is a crisis. They can't be credible with us at all because everything is a crisis and everything should be funded.
Well, Mr. Chair, the members opposite constantly overstate the case. They constantly try to make a case that whatever we're doing now, we should drop all our tools and go and look at their latest project.
Look at the latest concern. Mr. Speaker, even if the members opposite brought forward a legitimate concern, they would have no credibility here on this floor at all - absolutely none. We wouldn't know when there's a real crisis and when there's not because everything is a life-threatening crisis.
Tomorrow it's going to be some curve in the road, and if we don't fix this curve in the road immediately, we're going to be responsible for whatever injuries are caused on that curve - then, somebody almost went off the road on that curve, and we better get down to it right away. We better cut this budget and cut that budget in order to solve the latest crisis the members manufacture.
We can't trust what the members say anymore. We can't, because they want us to spend, spend, spend. They have conflicting advice when it comes to long-term planning, short-term planning; long-term economic activity, short-term economic activity - it's all a big jumble. I don't even know where to begin.
I'm just sitting down here listening to some of the questioning coming from the members opposite, and I can hardly believe it. It's completely outrageous. The members have no credibility, and this member particularly - no credibility. Listen to this member come forward and generate one emergency after another.
Well, Mr. Speaker, if we had done what the Member for Klondike wants us to do - if we had done that in the first couple of years - we would be laying people off in this government. We wouldn't have any money because we'd be too busy building all the capital works the Member for Klondike wanted us to build. The biggest spender of the taxpayers' money - virtual spender; thank God he's not an actual spender.
He's the biggest spender of the taxpayers' money on the floor of this Legislature, second only, maybe, to the Member for Riverdale South. So quite frankly, Mr. Chair, that member definitely deserves the honours for incredibly generous spending practises.
Mr. Chair, it is obvious that we have to get all independent confirmation of everything the members say. We simply can't accept whatever they put on the floor of this Legislature, because it's just not credible.
The member comes forward this evening and starts off his remarks just a couple of minutes ago saying that I had nothing to do with training trust funds. Mr. Chair, I was the minister who introduced training trust funds to the Legislature eight or nine years ago. There's no question about that. And he says it with a straight face. He says it with all the bluff and bluster, hoping that somehow I won't challenge him.
But Mr. Chair, I was here. I was here. I was sitting right there, where the Member for Faro is now. And Mr. Chair, I know who was introducing and defending budgets with training trust funds in them.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, the Member for Riverside wants me to settle down. Mr. Chair, well, I'm certain we'll -
Mr. Chair, I think that's probably wise advice. I move that you report progress on this bill.
Motion agreed to
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I move 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 Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 14, First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, and directed me to report it without amendment.
Further, Committee has considered Bill No. 18, Second Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
The time being 9:30 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:30 p. m.
The following Legislative Return was tabled April 28, 1999:
Small claims: current limits across Canada (Moorcroft)
Oral, Hansard, p. 5015