Tuesday, November 23, 1999 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
In remembrance of Pat Callison
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus, I rise to pay tribute to a long-time Yukoner and friend who passed away on November 13, after a short illness. For many of us, Pat Callison will be remembered for his outstanding contribution to the development of aviation in the north. He was born in North Dakota on December 10, 1910, and grew up in the Peace River country, where he began his lifelong career in the transportation industry and learned the meaning of hard work and the rewards of entrepreneurship.
By the age of 15, Pat was using pack dogs to haul supplies and furs to and from his trapline in the rugged Rocky Mountains, and by 1941, he had been engaged in almost every freight and mail-hauling venture in northern B.C. that one could imagine. In fact, much of the equipment and material required for the construction of the Watson Lake airport came up the Stikine River to Telegraph Creek and then overland to Dease Lake on Pat's trucks, then continued down the Dease and Liard rivers to Watson Lake.
Two years prior to this great freight haul through Dease Lake, Pat watched a float plane land in front of Callison's Lodge. By the end of that summer, he was a part owner of the aircraft and Cassiar Airways. By the spring of 1941, Pat had earned his commercial pilot's licence and, for the next year, flew steadily on the wartime Alaska Highway and Canol Road projects. By the fall of 1942, Pat and his family moved to Carcross, where he went to work as a pilot for Northern Airways for the next five years.
With years of experience, and wishing to go on his own, Pat moved to Dawson City and established the first ever air service in the heart of the Klondike. Over the next nine years Callison Flying Service provided charter service out of Dawson serving mineral and early oil exploration in the northern Yukon, as well as the needs of local trappers, prospectors and gold miners.
In 1956, he sold his fixed-wing operation and started Klondike Helicopters, the first Yukon-based helicopter charter service. This he operated from downtown Dawson City until 1960, when he moved the company's head office to Whitehorse. In 1966, Pat sold Klondike Helicopters, and officially retired. Since then, Pat continued to fly partly for pleasure, and partly in conjunction with his many mining activities.
During his 40-year career in aviation, Pat became a licensed aircraft maintenance engineer. He flew a total of 20,000 hours, of which 1,000 was on helicopters.
Pat was made a member of the Order of Canada in 1974 for his outstanding contribution to the development of aviation in the north, and was named Pioneer of the Year by the Yukon Transportation Hall of Fame in 1999.
The Callison industrial subdivision in Dawson City was named after Pat. A great person with a love of the north and a heart of gold, Pat will be remembered for many years to come and will be sadly missed by his friends and family.
On behalf of the Yukon Party, I'd like to take this opportunity to express our heartfelt condolences to Pat's wife Ethel, his daughters Joan and Fay, his brother and sisters, as well as his grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Speaker: Introductions of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the airport development plan and the annual report of the Yukon Arts Centre for the year 1998-99.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I have for tabling, the Yukon economic review for 1998, prepared by Yukon Economic Development and the use of statistics from Stats Canada and Industry Canada, as well as a response and some information regarding the question by the Member for Laberge yesterday, surrounding outside contracts and outside consultants for staff development. In actual fact, the numbers have gone from 61 in 1994-95 under the Yukon Party, to a total of 18 last year, under our local hire policies.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Petition No. 10 - response
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I rise today to respond to the youth centre petition.
Mr. Speaker, I'll begin my comments on this petition by thanking those people who signed the petition. I think they've shown their commitment to youth and their commitment to this community by signing this document, but they've also given me an opportunity to provide some information about this matter in the Legislature. So, once again, thanks to everyone who signed this petition.
Mr. Speaker, those of us who have been in the Yukon for awhile know that Whitehorse has had a number of youth centres. None have been particularly successful, and the reasons for that are diverse. The most recent drop-in centre for youth was funded by the federal government. When the federal Liberal government withdrew the Canada drugs strategy funding, they left the centre in the lurch. They left the youth without the resources to continue.
Mr. Speaker, we don't want to see that happen again. We want to see stable funding to a sustainable youth centre that will be here for years to come, but I'll return to that subject in a moment.
At the end of February 1999, the tenants in the building at 5131 Fifth Avenue, which was owned by the Yukon government and still is, closed their operation and informed us they would be moving out of the building.
Health and Social Services saw this as an opportunity to address the need for a group home for young adults with serious developmental delays. The department immediately began making arrangements to renovate this building to accommodate this use. The building was built as a residence originally, and the renovations have returned this building to its original purpose. Now there are three young adults living in the building in a supported and supervised environment. These are young people in our care as a result of court orders. Each young adult works or goes to school here in Whitehorse. They are supervised 24 hours a day. Their home is now 5131 Fifth Avenue.
So, Mr. Speaker, we have done the renovations to return the building to a residence, and it's now occupied for this program. This new group home is one of the many services we provide to children, families and adults dealing with fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects. These include a variety of other functions, such as the summer day camp that we have provided each summer for eight to 10 boys with FAS, and a second camp for girls in the same age range. This camp has been in operation for three summers.
We also maintain the Mountainridge Residence. This is a contracted, four-bed group home for teenage FAS boys who require a high level of supervision and instruction throughout the day. The individuals at 5131 are actually the older young adults from this group.
All residents of this group home are under the care of the director of family and children's services. We also fund the cost of the Child Development Centre, operated by a non-profit society. This serves preschool children with developmental and behavioural needs. About 20 to 24 percent of the children there have also needs in FAS, and we have increased their funding to CDC for its rural outreach.
Special needs daycare, as well, is another area where we have assisted families and daycares with care for FAS children. We have respite care for families and foster givers who need brief periods of relief.
Childcare support workers, local service providers, is contracted to give one-on-one childcare workers for individual work with children and teens. This is provided on an as-need basis and also addresses the needs of young people with FAS.
And, of course, then there's the FAS family support worker, the healthy families program, and other initiatives that we are trying to undertake to address the needs of young people with this developmental delay. All these programs are on an as-need basis. In addition to the services noted above, we also have family support, parenting groups, foster care support groups, child protection services, et cetera.
We believe that another location will be found for a youth centre in Whitehorse, and I don't have any doubt of it, and I believe firmly that another location can be located. I'm sure about this, because the youth centre task force has been formed, and it is a coalition of interests in this community. It's a coalition including Bringing Youth Toward Equality, the so-called BYTE group, which is a group of rather dynamic young people who have established the Yukon youth Web site, organized the youth plan to take over the world conference, and created a youth newsletter.
It also includes the Teslin Tlingit Council. It includes the Lake Laberge Lions Club, the MAD program, Youth Entrepreneurship Society, City of Whitehorse, Crime Prevention Yukon, Yukon Learn, Yukon government Department of Health and Social Services, Education, Justice and Community Services, and, of course, the RCMP.
This task force was formed to address the need for a youth centre in Whitehorse, and the task force has made every effort to include the Youth of Today Society in their group. The initial meeting on August 1 was the genesis of the task force, and at that meeting, the Youth of Today were invited. A number of youth and adult representatives of that group attended. At the meeting the Youth of Today were asked to participate, and the response from the adult representatives was in the affirmative.
They have been asked on every occasion to attend, they have been contacted frequently, and, from time to time, they have participated. But the fact is, Mr. Speaker, it is clear that there will really only be one sustainable youth centre in Whitehorse. I believe that's why it's important for all parties to work together to make this project reflect the needs of youth in this community, and I would urge the Youth of Today Society to once again participate in this force.
The task force is basing its work on the recommendations of the Whitehorse youth centre Best Practises Study prepared for the City of Whitehorse with the help of the Lake Laberge Lions and the national crime prevention fund. I have been impressed by the efforts and achievements of this task force. They have a vision, and their vision is striving for a sustainable youth centre here in Whitehorse, for youth and with youth.
They have established a plan. Phase 1 involves structuring the task force, recruiting members, gaining public support, and developing communications and consultation plans. Phase 2 involves securing funding for the facility and program development, and phase 3 is the implementation phase.
On November 12, some of the task force members participated in a retreat. They discussed their plans and their activities for the next several months. It was a highly successful event. One of the guests was Tom Patrick, who has operated a youth centre in Ottawa for a number of years. Mr. Patrick's program does reach youth at risk. That is what the petition suggested. It suggested that we reach youth at risk, and that's what this plan for this youth centre is designed to address.
The outcome of the meeting was positive. Fifteen youths and 10 adults participated and created an action plan to proceed to the next steps. They are addressing both short- and long-term facility needs in their plan.
It is my hope that the programming at the youth centre will give youth healthy choices that they may not have had before. I also hope to see that it will include links with existing health and social programs. I see it not only as a place for young people to hang out and have social programs, but also as another way to reach youth on health issues.
What a youth centre cannot be is a flophouse of any kind. It cannot be a place for kids to sleep. We have other arrangements for that, and we have legal obligations and liability issues that limit us. The proposal for an overnight safe house for troubled teens, while well-intentioned, is neither necessary at this point nor does it fit in with the overall plans of government. The Yukon government already provides a number of services to address the shelter needs of kids who cannot live at home.
The Yukon Children's Act protects young people to the age of 18 years. Shelter, care and supervision are provided under this act in three ways. A troubled teen can be admitted to a place of safety for up to seven days, allowing for social work staff to help sort out the teen's home situation. A place of safety can either be a foster home or a receiving home.
There are clear protection issues regarding the care of a teen in his or her family home. The director of family and children's services can take a teen into care without parental consent if necessary. The teen would then be placed in the receiving home, a funded group home or a foster home. Where both parent and teen agree that the teen cannot live at home, and there are no safe alternatives with extended family or friends, the teen can be placed in the care of the director of family and children's services pursuant to a contract. This route is usually used in situations of parent/teen conflict. The Sarah Steele Shelter in Whitehorse also provides overnight shelter for older teens who have no place to stay. Teens who are older than 18 years are also referred to family and children's services for an assessment as to whether the teen should be served under the Children's Act.
All existing services for teens operated by Health and Social Services have house rules and staff supervision to help ensure safety. Government must be careful not to establish programs that undermine legitimate authority of parents. Child protection legislation across the country, including the Yukon Children's Act, sets out clear rules, legal rules and processes for government intervention in a child/parent relationship.
If a teen's family situation meets the test set out in the Children's Act, the teen would be served by services operated by the director of family and children's services, but where the Children's Act test is not met, the government should not provide an alternate living arrangement for the teen.
There are certain legal obligations that oblige the director of family and children's services to investigate every referral if the child may be in need of protection. Where the government operates an overnight shelter, the director would be obliged to investigate the family situation of every teen seeking refuge. If the investigation determined that the teen could return home, it is unlikely that the government could provide overnight shelter.
In additional, federal criminal law and territorial custody and guardianship law both protect the right of children and parents. Parents do have the right to control and direct their children. Any overnight safe house established outside the parameters of the Children's Act would probably infringe on federal and territorial laws. The Criminal Code of Canada makes it an offence to take a young person under the age of 16 "out of the possession of and against the will of the parent or guardian." A further provision of the Criminal Code makes it an offence to harbour a young person under the age of 14, with the intent to deprive the parent of the young person. The Children's Act, in part 2, regarding custody of and access to children, sets out the process where a person has access to a child who is a minor, under 19, and can seek court assistance where the child is being unlawfully withheld from the parent.
So, Mr. Speaker, as you can see, we cannot and will not provide a so-called flop house for youth. What we have done is to provide a $150,000 capital contribution to a project that would come out of the youth centre task force. We have also committed to the operating and maintenance funding of the centre once it is organized, and to that end, I would like to thank my colleagues in Education and Community and Transportation Services who have joined us in this ongoing O&M funding.
It is also worth mentioning at this point that the community mobilization fund, sponsored by the national strategy on crime prevention, has committed $40,000 to this project. This is a vote of confidence in the task force and its progress, plans and goals. And while we await the decision, which I believe will be positive, from the city, we're not sitting idly by.
We're working with youth at risk and we're working on a variety of initiatives, many of which I could go on at some length about but, in light of the time, perhaps I'll just omit that and address some of the things that we are doing with youth in the territory. I can see that my friend from Riverdale North is rapt with excitement.
Some of the things that we are doing is youth exploring trades, computer camp, conservation action teams, youth apprenticeship programs, Recycling Club, youth leadership program, Young Women of Grit, Youth Conservation Corp, youth leadership training, Project Wild, active living strategy, youth health promotion, Arctic Winter Games, kids recreation fund, youth investment fund; these are all things that we're doing with young people, and the list goes on and on.
I can see the excitement from my friend from Riverdale North. As his regard for youth has expanded from the accusatory to the exultant, perhaps he would like to join the community task force in making this youth centre a reality. I think it would be very helpful if he did. I encourage him and other members to get a sense of where we're going with this project. I believe it's a fine project. I believe it's a project that will come to fruition and provide a service for young people in many years to come. I believe that this will make a youth centre a reality in this city. I believe it will be a sustainable and worthwhile project. I have every confidence that this project will go ahead, and I will support it in any way that we can. We've supported it not only materially, but we've also supported it by bringing individuals in to work with them and provide some guidance on this project.
I'd like to once again thank the signatories to the petition. I understand their zeal to bring about a youth centre, and I'd urge each one of them to get involved in the youth centre task force and make this project a sustainable reality.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) A one-tiered health system results in everyone, rich and poor, being in the same queue;
(2) If everyone is in the same queue, then everyone has an incentive to make the system work; and
(3) A two-tiered health system is not in the best interest of all Yukoners.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the current economic statistical information being released by the Yukon Bureau of Statistics, because of the limitation of information being received from Statistics Canada, is not accurately reflecting economic activity in the territory; and
THAT this House urges the Government of the Yukon to take whatever actions are necessary to ensure that the statistical economic information being released by the Yukon Bureau of Statistics is comparable in accuracy to the information being released in the provinces, and to utilize the same economic indicators, such as housing starts, to reflect the economic activity in the territory.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
Whitehorse Airport development plan
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I rise to advise the House of a significant milestone in our government's policy of upgrading the handling capacity of the Whitehorse International Airport to accommodate charter flights from around the world.
Just a few moments ago, I tabled a draft Whitehorse Airport development plan, and this is a joint undertaking by our government and the City of Whitehorse, which will benefit Yukon residents, business people and visitors. This plan demonstrates a collective vision of spotlighting the Yukon as a world-class travel destination. The number of tourists arriving here by air has increased by 40 percent in recent years, and several more direct overseas flights are in the cards for next year.
Since taking over operation of the Whitehorse International Airport, our government has invested almost $9 million in infrastructure improvements to the Whitehorse Airport. This includes the north and south runway extensions, taxiway improvements and better facilities for emergency response services.
Ensuring that our facilities can meet the challenges of the new millennium is essential to keeping Yukoners competitive as their economic activities expand and diversify. The draft development plan represents a vision for further infrastructure development over the next 20 years.
A steering committee of Yukon government and city representatives guided the planning process over the past year with the help of an experienced aviation consultant team and dedicated local advisory committee. To meet the increased demand for wide-body aircraft from Europe, Asia and elsewhere, the plan calls for new and better airside access to the terminal building. A new bridge will allow us to accommodate two jets arriving at the same time. A 1,500-square-metre expansion to the terminal building itself will allow for up to 400 passengers at a time, and that's almost triple the current capacity.
The plan focuses on more than the needs of international air carriers and passengers. It also addresses the service and safety needs of Yukon-based operations. It includes plans for expanded taxiways and building lots for aviation use. Improvements in the water supply to the area are contemplated to support increased development at and near the airport. There are also proposals to improve parking facilities and access to the Alaska Highway.
The plan recognizes opportunities to develop linkages between the terminal building and nearby tourism facilities. It also outlines opportunities to protect and enhance the integrated network of trails surrounding the airport that are popular among the residents.
Development of the Whitehorse International Airport, Mr. Speaker, will play a key role in shaping future tourism and business growth in the territory. In this regard, it stands alongside our government's major investments in telecommunication infrastructure, the steps we are taking to ensure ongoing access to tidewater facilities in Skagway and in Haines, Alaska. It also reinforces our ongoing support for trade, investment and tourism marketing, and reflects our commitment to work with the Yukon community to build a stronger and more stable and diversified economy.
I would encourage all members and other Yukoners to come to an open house at the airport on Wednesday, December 8. This is an opportunity to learn more about the draft plan and to provide input to the future of the Whitehorse Airport.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Edelman: I rise today on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus to respond to this ministerial statement on the expansion of the Whitehorse Airport development.
Let me say from the very beginning, though, that normally when ministerial statements are given out by a minister, the plan or the announced document is usually part of that package. You get the statement as well as the plan. That's given in advance to the opposition, and it's very good practice. That wasn't followed today, and I hope that it will be followed in the future.
Mr. Speaker, generally a plan is a good thing, especially when you're talking about the safety of thousands of passengers who will be landing at the airport and then hurtling off into the atmosphere. We want to make this a safe and happy experience for travellers coming to the Yukon so that, hopefully, they'll come back. First impressions stay with people, and we want to have tourists feel welcome here.
My concerns about this statement - and perhaps it's covered in the draft plan. I don't know. I wasn't given a copy. My concern, Mr. Speaker, is that there is a lack of information about the airport fire and safety plan. If you're going to increase the number of jets coming into Whitehorse next summer, you're going to have to have more than one staff person on shift. Right now, there's only one staff person on shift at the airport in the fire hall. If there's only one person, that person will have to drive the foam truck out to a crash site, if there is one, but he cannot leave the truck to put the foam on the fire. That needs more than one firefighter. So are we going to be hiring more firefighters for the airport?
Now, it's my understanding that if there is a crash at the airport, and if the city is given 10 or 15 minutes' notice, and if they're not fighting another fire elsewhere, then city fire trucks will respond to a fire at the airport. But they need notice. They have to call out volunteers, and they may not be available.
So, what is the contingency plan, and how much work has been done on the fire plan at the Whitehorse Airport for this huge influx of much-appreciated passenger jets next year?
Mr. Speaker, perhaps there are timelines in the draft plan as well. Could the minister tell us when he is planning to build the expansion of the airport terminal building? Also, what is the scope of the improvements to the water supply to the airport area, when is this work expected to start, and how much is all of that expected to cost? I have the same concerns about timelines and cost for the expanded parking facilities and the new access to the Alaska Highway. Perhaps the minister would answer some of these questions either today or before we go into supplementary budget debate.
Mr. Speaker, we are in favour of the government developing a plan to handle the increased traffic at Whitehorse Airport next year.
I am looking forward to examining the report and questioning the minister again during general debate on the budget.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus, I rise to respond to the ministerial statement regarding the Whitehorse airport development plan, even though it was only tabled a few minutes ago.
Perhaps if copies of the plan had been made available to the opposition parties well before the minister's announcement, we would be able to draw an accurate assessment of its findings; nevertheless, I look forward to reviewing the plan and would like to raise a few questions with what the minister has relayed so far.
Aside from improvements to the Whitehorse Airport that have been well underway over the last years, the announcement regarding plans for an expansion of the terminal building and expanded taxiways are new initiatives.
I would like to ask the minister if these plans have actually been adopted by the government, or are they simply proposed plans for further discussion.
Is it the government's intention to proceed with these plans, and what monies are we earmarking to meet these objectives?
The minister stated that the plan presents a vision over the next 20 years. We support the expansion of the airport; we support a visionary plan, but has the government completed a time frame as to when each of the proposed improvements will be completed?
As I speak, since the transfer of the airport facilities, there are a number of issues that still remain outstanding. I refer to the usable runway for landing purposes which is still restricted because of electrical wires, buildings and who knows what else. I refer to the issue on independent aviation companies wishing to purchase property within the periphery of the Whitehorse Airport.
As is currently the case, companies are only able to lease land, which causes tremendous problems when they pledge securities with their lending institutions. What's the government doing about this area? As a result, many companies are looking to locate away from the airport site. And I refer to the Nav Canada equipment that is used at the Whitehorse Airport. Once again, and right as I speak, the VOR is again out of service, and the DME is not being monitored. These are critical pieces of navigational equipment at the Whitehorse Airport and, without these navigational aids, major carriers such as Canadian Airlines, during periods of inclement weather, are not able to land in Whitehorse. Consequently, we have had cancelled flights over the last while.
While I'm pleased to hear about the government's vision for further infrastructure development over the next 20 years, what good will these improvements do if they can't meet the existing obligations that we currently have. How are we supposed to address the future needs of our operations with these expanded facilities? I'd like the minister, in his rebuttal, to address those issues, Mr. Speaker.
Perhaps the minister could also advise as to what action his government is taking to address these issues, as they are of immediate concern. We're looking down the road. We're not doing our day-to-day work, Mr. Speaker.
The minister made reference to the development of linkages between the terminal building and nearby tourism facilities. With the close proximity to the Beringia Centre and the Transportation Museum to the Whitehorse Airport, it makes an abundant amount of sense that every effort should be made to realize the full potential of these attractions, and I would encourage the minister to encompass those into the plan. Without having seen the plan as yet, perhaps the minister could elaborate as to how his government intends to do that.
In closing, I would like to commend members of the steering committee who helped guide the planning process over the past year, including the members of the local advisory committee and those in the aviation industry.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to start by saying that this government started to implement our tourism vision, which includes the development of the infrastructure, three years ago when we became government. Since that time, we've had a 40-percent increase. That tells me that our implementation is working. Our vision is the correct vision, and we'll continue to implement that vision.
As for the questions on the fire and safety - safety is the most paramount issue that we face for our travelling public, for our Yukon people, for our aviators, both local and international. Fire and safety is our first and foremost initiative. We've taken the initiative to make improvements to the airport. We're talking with the city so that we will be able to have a more focused firefighting effort if ever one should occur.
We talked about the timelines for improvement. I'd like to say the plan, as represented, is a 20-year plan. It has increments of short-term, mid-term and long-term, so it is for five-year, 10-year, 20-year implementation visits, and it will certainly be subject to the budget, but it will be used as a guiding document and will continue to further this government's drive to improve the infrastructure of the Yukon Territory and to, of course, increase the tourism traffic, whether it's by air or whether it's by road, or however. That is this government's mandate.
As the Member for Klondike goes on, I'd like to point out that I've been told that behind every storm cloud there's a silver lining, but you can put a silver lining out and the Member for Klondike will look for the storm cloud. It would be nice just once to hear from the Member for Klondike that, yes, he does support what we're doing. I mean, he's voted against every budget, and every budget has had incremental increases to tourism, to improve the airports. And some of the things that we have done are the extensions to runway 31L and 13R. We have done paving on taxiway golf. We have paved crosswind runways. We have done renovations that combine service buildings for emergency responses, as I have said.
So, Mr. Speaker, yes, we are working very, very hard at that. And how are we doing it? We're doing it with the public, with the people, the sister government that we have in the City of Whitehorse, and we're going to continue to involve people. We're looking, yes, to be able to bolster and find some ways to improve the attraction that we have at Beringia. We're looking to include the Transportation Museum. We're looking to protect the trails out there that local people have. So we are listening to people, and we will continue to listen to people. And, yes, we will use this as a guiding document, and we will take the Yukon Territory into the next millennium, and we'll do it with a carefully, concerted, thought-out process so that the benefit is here for all.
So, thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity.
Economic review (1998)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I rise today to update the House on several positive trends that clearly signal that our government's policies to stimulate the economy are beginning to yield results and that the territory is poised for new economic growth.
Mr. Speaker, a few moments ago, I tabled the 1998 economic review. It notes that the economy continued to be heavily impacted by low metal prices. Prices for commodities and raw materials dropped by an average of 15 percent globally, with gold plummeting a further 10.6 percent in 1998, after a 15-percent drop in the previous year.
In addition, zinc decreased by 21.8 percent, and lead dropped by almost 16. This contributed to the closure and caused the closure of the Faro mine, which traditionally contributes between 15 percent and 20 percent of our Yukon's gross domestic product. It also contributed to BYG Natural Resources ceasing operations at its Mount Nansen property and to the decline in placer production.
It is important to note that the Yukon presently has four mines that are fully permitted but cannot operate, due to low metal prices.
The downturn in the mining industry affected many other sectors in 1998 and directly led to a decline in construction, trucking, electricity generation and wholesale trade. Employment levels dropped by slightly less than 100 people, and the territory experienced a population decline, mostly involving people from the community of Faro.
The 1998 economic review does indicate a number of positive trends that bode well for the future. Rather than the two-percent decrease that was forecast in the 1998 short-term economic outlook, the Yukon economy actually grew by 0.5 percent. Consumers continued to express confidence by increasing retail spending by 2.2 percent, or a total of $60.1 million last year.
The tourism industry continued to demonstrate solid growth, with border crossings up 12 percent, and a record number of American and European visitors in 1998. This translated to a rise of 5.2 percent in business to hotels and restaurants.
The operation of the South Yukon Forest Products spurred on the logging industry and increased the volume of wood harvested under commercial permits by 28 percent, to 323,000 cubic metres. This is one of two sawmills now active in the Yukon, along with a number of other smaller mill providers.
Business services expanded by 4.4 percent and home sales helped real-estate insurance operators experience a 7.7-percent increase. With continuing favourable interest rates, the value of mortgage loans held by Yukon banks rose to over $330 million, and Whitehorse continued to enjoy an inflation rate just one percent under the Canadian average.
Mr. Speaker, the trend toward economic recovery and future growth is also confirmed by statistics released in October of this year, 1999. Although population is down, the labour force is up by 200 persons from October of last year. The percentage of the labour force participation has increased from 77.4 to almost 80 percent. There has also been a rise in self-employment from 2,200 people last year to 2,900 this October, and the number of people employed in the private sector expanded by 200 during the same period. Average weekly wages for goods-producing industries rose by $136 to $989.83, and smaller increases occurred in transportation, utilities, public administration and service industries. Retail sales expanded by 9.4 percent from September 1998 to September 1999. Building permits issued in September were up by 19 percent over the previous year, and the value of those permits rose by 43 percent.
The number of non-Yukon residents entering the Yukon through Canada Customs grew by 8.6 percent in July from the previous year, and overall non-resident border crossings from January to July increased 4.7 percent over the same period in 1998.
Mr. Speaker, the export of Yukon products has also dramatically risen by 125 percent in the last year. We're not factoring in lead and zinc concentrates from the Faro mine. Export highlights include lumber, expanding by 600 percent, doors, windows, window frames and door thresholds increasing by 400 percent, and wood furniture rising by 300 percent.
Mr. Speaker, I would also note that $10 million in oil and gas exploration has already occurred, primarily in southeast Yukon, and the dispositions recently issued to Anderson Resources Ltd. will result in over $20 million in investment over the next five years in Eagle Plains.
And there will be major capital construction projects occurring through the Yukon next year, such as the extended care facility, the retail complex, a multiplex recreation centre scheduled for Whitehorse, as well as schools in Ross River and Mayo.
It is clear that our policies to strengthen and diversify the economy in partnership with business, labour, First Nations and Yukon communities are gradually taking hold, and I believe we can look forward to solid economic growth and a more diversified economy in the coming year.
Mr. Cable: I would like to respond to the ministerial statement on the economic review, on behalf of the Liberal caucus. The provincial gross domestic product figures contained in the minister's 1998 economic review were released publicly on November 10, 1999, by Statistics Canada, and the section on the Yukon that's in that release is entitled, "Continued hardship in the Yukon". It says, "The Yukon felt continued hardship in 1998, as the closing of a lead-zinc mine a year earlier restrained growth to half a percent. Resulting job losses triggered an exodus from the territory that rippled through the economy. The situation would have been much worse had it not been for continued strength in tourism, arising from the 1998 centennial of the Klondike Gold Rush. Exports of minerals continued to tumble, on top of a huge decline in 1997. Wholesaling activity dropped in tandem. Construction relating to the mining industry fell, and electricity generation was reduced. Corporation profits continued their downward slide." It finishes by saying that out-migration from the Yukon prompted a 16-percent decline in residential construction, but tourism helps sustain the economy, as restaurants, hotels, air transportation and retail trade all fared well.
Mr. Speaker, last year the Yukon had the second-lowest growth in GDP in Canada, at half a percent. The only place worse was British Columbia, with Glen Clark and the B.C. NDP running the economy into the ground at .2-percent growth.
The national average was 3.1 percent growth. When the Yukon NDP came to power, the unemployment rate was 7.9 percent, and it was simply too high according to the NDP election platform. The current unemployment rate is 10.9 percent, the highest September rate since 1993. The minister also noted that some oil and gas exploration money was coming to the Yukon. The public should also note that mineral exploration has dropped to a low of $7 million this summer. What I've noticed, Mr. Speaker, in this session, is an undercurrent of apology from this minister about the state of the economy. And while we believe, as he believes, that hand wringing about the state of the economy and where it is going has the unfortunate effect of causing a self-fulfilling prophecy, I don't believe that cherry-picking statistics is the answer to people's apprehensions. There are always other statistics around to challenge the cherry-picking. People will loosen their wallets and invest in Yukon when they have confidence in the management of the economy.
Mr. Ostashek: I rise on behalf of the Yukon Party caucus to respond to this ministerial statement. Mr. Speaker, it's quite clear that this minister and this government are in total denial when it comes to the economy of the Yukon. They're in total denial of how badly they've devastated the economy of the Yukon. The minister has cherry-picked through statistics to try to have his spin doctors spin this into a positive statement when, in fact, 90 percent of the statistical evidence proves quite the opposite.
I believe that that's an affront and a slap in the face to those hardworking Yukoners who can't get a job in this devastated economy caused by the policies of this government, and I think it's a slap in the fact to those businesses that are trying to survive until this government has the political courage to call an election and be turfed out of office. It's an affront to them.
We've got businesses going broke every year, and we have this Economic Development minister standing up and telling people how well off they are. Don't worry, be happy.
Mr. Speaker, let's look at the real statistics put out by this government's department. The school enrollment in the Yukon has dropped by 2.7 percent. The population in the last 12 months - the minister says we've turned a corner. I don't know what we've turned the corner to, except deeper into the pit; 904 individuals gave up on this government and gave up on the Yukon in the last year and left.
We're going into this winter with two percent higher unemployment than we went into last winter, and we all know that in April of last year, unemployment was running at 15 or 16 percent.
Mr. Speaker, in the time I've been in the Yukon, I've never seen Yukoners so demoralized that there's no light at the end of the tunnel. Even in 1982, when the Faro mine shut down, people were optimistic about the future of the Yukon. They certainly aren't now, Mr. Speaker.
Let's look at what's really happening in the economy. Rental units had dropped $25 per month in the last year. The vacancy rate has gone up to 19.7 percent - the highest since records have been kept in the City of Whitehorse.
Now, the minister spins retail sales and says that insurance operators are up 7.7 percent. He's taking great comfort out of Yukoners who have had to sell their homes at a $20,000, $30,000, $40,000 loss and leave this territory because they can't find work.
And the minister is taking comfort in that, and the real estate sales bear that out in his own statistics. In the third quarter of 1999, retail sales dropped $8,353,000 - or 32.6 percent - and the minister is trying to spin retail sales as a positive indicator that his policies have turned the economy in the Yukon.
Let's look at retail and wholesale trade. When you add the two of them together, you find, in fact, that spending is down, not up; it's down 11.9 percent from last year. That's what his own figures say, and he's trying to spin it as a positive, Mr. Speaker. This is a disgrace and a slap in the face to hardworking Yukoners.
There is one thing that is up under this NDP government, and that's the number of employees working for the government. They had another, almost a thousand people - 904 - leave the Yukon in the last year, yet the government, by their own economic review, says they hired another 161 people. Employment has gone up every year under this NDP government to service a smaller population in the Yukon - Yukoners can't understand that; they can't understand that at all.
Let's continue to look at some of the other indicators we have here. The minister said exports are up a whopping 125 percent - that's after you factor out lead and zinc - but if you were to factor out recreational vehicles and car exports, you'd find out that retail sales are down, not up. They're down; they're not up. Durable goods are flat. Supermarkets and grocery stores are flat, the only things that are up are recreational vehicles and motor vehicles, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, the prophets of doom and gloom on the Liberal and Tory caucus benches are in full rant. They used to love talking about stats when we lost the Faro mine and we lost 10 percent of the GDP of this territory and over 1,000 jobs - a significant event that would have an impact on the economic statistics of a province, let alone this territory. We're not claiming that there's an all-clear. What we're saying - and it's counter to the political message and the political purposes of the Liberals and Tories - is that things are slowly, gradually starting to show signs of improvement. And when I talk to Yukoners I'm gently and gradually hearing that people are getting more optimistic after the blow that we took on the Faro mine.
The member opposite is dead wrong about his interpretation of the statistics. The year-to-date retail sales are up 5.5 percent over last year. The member keeps talking about exports and factoring out cars. Apparently he thinks Industry Canada and Statistics Yukon are our spin doctors, because I'm just using the numbers that are provided by them. Industry Canada reports that no consumer-type vehicle sales have been included in the 1999 year-to-date data. They're not in there, so the member's wrong.
I know for their own selfish, political purposes they want to keep a damper on anybody's economic hopes, all those hard-working Yukoners who want to try and work together with government and on their own to improve the economy. The Liberals have even gone so far as to call people working with the government in different organizations on improving the economy "losers". Mr. Speaker, I think that is a slap in the face to Yukoners, and I think what they are doing is so selfish. When we try to debate the economy in this territory, what does the opposition do? Well, first of all, they ran out of this Legislature. That was after telling us, before the legislative session, they were going to scrutinize the economy. The economy was worrying the public; it was the number-one issue. They said that the government should bring forth their supplementary budget to debate. What happened when we did that? The Yukon Party leader got sick. He didn't even come into this House and make a speech.
Then we had the unbelievable prospect of the Liberal leader saying that she didn't want to put any economic ideas forward because the NDP government might steal them. Well, Mr. Speaker, if this government relies on the economic ideas of the Liberal Party, we might as well put a "We're closed" sign on the Executive Council Offices because there's nothing coming from there - absolutely nothing for three years.
Mr. Speaker, in a whole host of areas we've done diversification initiatives on this economy from export trade and investment - and the numbers are true and they are showing a benefit. Those mills that are open in Haines Junction and that we've worked to try and access the fibre questions on - and in Watson Lake - are real mills. And the people who are exporting in lumber - six times the value this year. Gold - 13 times the value for the same period in 1998. Doors, windows, furniture parts and prefabricated buildings are up by 11 times. Wood furniture, over three times.
Mr. Speaker, these are real people, real businesses, doing real work and contributing to this economy, and I think it's a slap in the face to them that these members, for their own political purposes, continue to stand up in this House and claim the Yukon is shut down.
Mr. Speaker, the labour force is growing in this territory. There are more people moving to the Yukon. I just went to a meeting with 120 people, talking about their optimism about the future of the oil and gas industry in this territory. The numbers came in this weekend for mineral exploration. They projected seven. It actually was 9.5. We'd still like to see more, but the facts are that the mineral industry is suffering from one of its worst downturns right across this country - the worst in 30 years.
Mr. Speaker, when you have local control, like you do with oil and gas now, and when you have a reasonable market, things happen. There has been $30 million in investment because this place is a good place to invest. When you have a government that cares, and when you have a Tourism minister who is trying to do things on the tourism front - you have three new, direct flights from Europe, you have visitation numbers increasing. Over and over again, and today at the luncheon on oil and gas, we heard compliments to our government and to the people working in that area to open up new industries in the resource sector and to grow and diversify this economy.
Mr. Speaker, we can't replace Faro and 1,000 jobs overnight. If we had 60-cent zinc right now, Kudz Ze Kayah, Sa Dena Hes, and Faro would be open, and we'd have the best and most diversified economic numbers this territory has seen for a long time.
So our point is clear, Mr. Speaker. We believe that the economy is gently and gradually growing, and we will continue to try and work with Yukoners to make it even better for the future.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Protected areas strategy, process
Ms. Duncan: My question's for the Minister of Renewable Resources, and it concerns the protected areas strategy.
On Sunday, the Minister of Economic Development finally admitted that the NDP government had made some mistakes with its first attempt to establish a protected area. I asked the minister to explain yesterday what those mistakes were, and he refused to answer the questions.
The Minister of Economic Development has also admitted that this government did not follow the process that was agreed to by all stakeholders. This government has betrayed the trust of everyone who worked on that project. The Minister of Renewable Resources said yesterday that the government plans to make changes to the strategy.
Will the minister recall the public committee that put the strategy together, and work out the changes?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I know the member opposite does not support protected areas in the Yukon. She said yesterday to me that it doesn't work, and it hasn't worked, and I asked the member to go and tell the people in Old Crow that it hasn't worked.
What we've accomplished because of the YPAS process will be establishing a protected area at Fishing Branch, and I know the people in Old Crow will be quite happy once this management plan is put in place, and I expect a recommendation to come back from the local planning team soon.
Mr. Speaker, I told the member over and over that we did speed up the process. I told her why. We've worked with the First Nation. We had consensus from the local planning team to go ahead. We had interest in oil and gas, and that's where we came from. We sped up the process. We said, all along, right from adopting the protected areas strategy, that this could be fine-tuned, it could be changed in the future. This is something new to the Yukon. It was our very first project, and the result out of that would be something significant to the Yukon.
So, down the road, can we make changes to improve the system? Of course we can.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, in July 1998, after 18 months of public consultation and collaboration, the Yukon protected areas strategy was unveiled. The Minister of Renewable Resources, in his own words, said that Yukon people working with each other have developed this strategy.
Now the minister has stood on his feet and said that he doesn't want to hear from those people. That's quite a turnaround. The Government Leader went to the Geoscience Forum yesterday on bended knee to beg forgiveness from the mining community over how badly the NDP government has fumbled the protected area strategy. He said all the right things. He said: "We're aware of your concerns. We want to work with you." He also announced major changes to the protected areas strategy, including a plan to develop legislation.
Will the minister recall the public committee, which he said he wants to work with, to help draft the legislation?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is showing no support for this strategy at all. At one time in this House, she said they support it - the Liberal Party supports it. But every time things get tough out there in the general public, it goes the other way, rather than making constructive recommendations to us here in this House. We have heard from the Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Mines, and, Mr. Speaker, the environmental groups. They have spoken to us, and they've asked us to do some changes, and it could be favourable to them, to the industry and to the environmental communities. So, we can work with the public and we will be.
And I told the member yesterday in debate in this House that when Renewable Resources was up, we would be looking at addressing the concerns that have come forward to us.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, it's quite a performance. It's quite an attempt at spin.
The Government Leader made a number of promises yesterday, including a commitment to review the planning process. He also promised to set standards for mineral assessments. He promised to review the process for interim withdrawal of land. He talked about setting a cap on the amount of land set aside in protected areas.
Mr. Speaker, the NDP bungling the protected areas strategy has created a lot of uncertainty for investors. When does the Minister of Renewable Resources plan to implement the changes promised by his Government Leader? And how does he intend to involve the public in this process?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I'm glad that the Government Leader and people on this side of the House are all saying the same things to the members opposite. We had a debate in this House about things like putting guidelines in place for resource assessments and ecological assessments and socio-economic assessments - we told the members that. We said that we would look at finding ways of improving and making implementation of the process a bit smoother. We said all those things, and she's repeating it in this House - she's bringing nothing new.
Question re: Protected areas strategy, process
Ms. Buckway: I have some questions for the Minister of Renewable Resources concerning the protected areas strategy, which the Yukon Liberal caucus continues to support. It has been quite a week for the NDP government on the protected areas strategy. November 15, the Minister of Renewable Resources said in this House, "We followed the process." November 21, the Minister of Economic Development said at the economic forum, "We accelerated the process." November 22, the Government Leader said at the Geoscience Forum, "We didn't follow the process as envisaged." Three different Cabinet ministers, three different audiences, three different messages. The Yukon protected areas strategy is one of the most important initiatives this government has undertaken. Can the minister explain to the Yukon public which door they should look behind to find the correct message?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The members opposite - same questions in this House - they're not agreeing with one another: one supports and the other doesn't. They said in this House that it doesn't work - that's what the Member for Porter Creek South said to us, that it doesn't work, and we'll send those transcripts up to the people in Old Crow. So I say, tell the people in Old Crow that it didn't work, and this is - Fishing Branch being developed because of land claims commitments, and the fact that we had a process put in place, is a good thing. And we've been saying the same thing on this side of the House, that we can work with people. We are working with people and we're taking their concerns forward, and we said we could make changes, and that hasn't changed on our side of the table. The members on the other side want to put a spin on it.
Ms. Buckway: Last week, I asked the minister, during debate on the Renewable Resources budget, are the Department of Renewable Resources and the Department of Economic Development of the same mind on the protected areas strategy? Are they working in concert on this? Can the minister tell us? And the minister replied, "Yes, Mr. Chair." It's obvious from the conflicting statements by the two ministers and the Government Leader that they aren't working in concert on this, and that's why there's such a mess. Does the minister expect us to believe there's no friction between the departments? Can he honestly expect Yukoners to believe it?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I could be telling the members opposite, giving them the same message day after day. They won't believe it. The Government Leader and the Minister of Economic Development say the same thing. They don't believe it. Do they not believe Yukoners and their hard work in putting together the strategy? The process does work. Can we fine tune it in the future? Of course we can, and we've been working with people and we'll do just that.
Ms. Buckway: The Minister of Renewable Resources is up the Fishing Branch without a paddle. The other two ministers have jumped out of the canoe. Their incompetence is sinking the protected areas strategy. In their haste to get this done, has the protection of Fishing Branch been jeopardized? There have been suggestions that the whole process might be subject to legal action. Does the minister have confidence that the protection he put in place for Fishing Branch will remain?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: If the member opposite had been paying attention, I've said over and over that we are waiting for recommendations back from the local planning team. Then we as a government can respond to that and have interim protection and have it stamped as a protected area. That's the process that's in place now. Maybe what she can do is talk to some of the people in Old Crow and learn a little bit about what Fishing Branch is really about.
Question re: Yukon Housing Corporation rent calculation policy
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation.
On November 10 in the House, I asked the minister about Yukon Housing Corporation's policy of deducting 25 percent of child support payments from single parents who are tenants, and the minister said that, at this point in time, there will be no changes. He went on to say he'd talked to people in the communities and there haven't been a whole lot of requests for a change in this policy.
Since the minister made that statement and it was televised, my phone has been ringing off the hook from parents - parents concerned after they spoke personally with this minister and had no assurance. I've spoken with one lady who is required to pay $1,500 out of her child support payments settlement to the Yukon Housing Corporation for back rent. Well, Merry Christmas, Mr. Speaker. We now have a name for the Grinch, and his name is Eric. Will this caring minister and this caring New Democratic Party finally listen to what single parents have been telling him: get in line and change the policy?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, what I told the member opposite is that we did not get a lot of concerns in this regard. I have been working with the Minister of Health and Social Services. A decision to make those changes is government-wide. It's not just focused on Yukon Housing Corporation.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Speaker, I've received calls from single parents in Whitehorse, from Mayo, from Watson Lake and from my own constituents in Dawson City on this issue, some of whom have raised the issue personally with this minister, all to no avail.
Mr. Speaker, I spoke with the minister personally, and he said, "Well, the Yukon Housing Corporation is overlooking this matter." Yet I've got a letter from one of my constituents dated November 18. It says, in part, "It has come to my attention you're receiving child support. This is declarable income for rent calculation purposes. Would you please make an appointment to come into this office?"
They're not overlooking it at all.
I would like the minister to make a commitment here and now that he will sit down with the Yukon Housing Corporation Board to change this policy of taxing child support payments. Will he do that forthwith, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I hope the member opposite understands what child support payments are. Renting, or rents - the payments are for room and board, and, of course, rent is one of them.
Mr. Speaker, for example in Health and Social Services, if you do have an income, how do they expect to make a payment for social assistance, and that type of thing? We have to look at this as a government-wide thing. I said that we were not doing anything at this time. A decision hasn't come out of the Housing Corporation at this time, but they have been looking at it, and we have been working with the Minister of Health and Social Services on this. We have been doing all kinds of things for families out there and building healthier communities, right from working in the schools with lunch programs, to the low-income child tax. Mr. Speaker, we have programs in place in having facilities in the communities, like the community development fund, which has been accessed tremendously by communities, so we're doing a lot in the communities to try and make communities better.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Speaker, I know what child support is all about. Child support is funds to go to the children. It's the minister who doesn't have a clue what child support is to deal with.
Now, the federal government changed their position on child support payments. This government hung its hat and hid behind their closet. The federal government's has changed. Yukon government's policy has not changed. Why?
I want a commitment from this minister here and now that he'll have the policy changed before Christmas, so that the funds paid for child support can go to the kids - the kids who are so deserving of this money. Will the minister stand on his feet and give that commitment? He has the ability to do it, Mr. Speaker, but will he?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, the members opposite have always put a big gloom and doom on the Yukon and Yukon families. They have failed to recognize this kind of thing we're doing on this side of the House. We have done many things for families in the Yukon. We're in no different position than the rest of the territories or provinces. No one has gone that route.
We believe at this point that child maintenance payments are to go toward a shelter, and we haven't made any changes in that. We've been working with Health and Social Services and the corporation to look at this issue more closely.
Question re: Yukon Housing Corporation, rent calculation policy
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, I have another question for the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation - this caring minister.
Mr. Speaker, in addition to taxing child support payments, the Yukon Housing Corporation has a similar policy in place with respect to taxing disability payments: 25 percent of disability payments are also included as income in determining a tenant's rent. I had one individual whose rent went from $400 a month to $1,800 that month, because she had finally received her disability payment in a lump sum. Yukon Housing Corporation's policy was to pay up now, or get out.
What I am seeking from the minister is some compassion in how Yukon Housing Corporation policies are implemented. When situations arise, such as this one I have just described, I would ask the minister to work out an appropriate arrangement with the person being negatively impacted upon by Yukon Housing Corporation policies, to ensure fairness.
Will the minister give that undertaking, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, under the policy of the Yukon Housing Corporation, if there's an income to the household, those are taken into consideration. I don't know the specific case that the member opposite has brought forward. Maybe he can be in touch with me and our staff on this. If it's something unusual, then we can address the situation.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it's too late now to help the individual whose case I have utilized to illustrate the problem. She just packed her bags and moved out of Yukon Housing Corporation. She was forced to.
Will the minister give an undertaking that, in the future, should a Yukon Housing Corporation tenant receive a lump-sum disability pension cheque, Yukon Housing Corporation will work out a graduated payment schedule over time so that Yukon Housing Corporation isn't claiming a large chunk of a person's disability cheque all at once? Will the minister give that undertaking?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I have informed the members in this House in the past that what we wanted to do is work with the communities to try to see how the Housing Corporation can play a role in the communities. We have had community housing studies done, and we continue to try to get every community we possibly can so we can have clearer direction on how we can play a better role in the communities, and we'll continue to do that. I mean, Yukon Housing Corporation policies haven't changed from the Yukon Party to us.
When the Yukon Party was in power, why didn't they do something about it? All of a sudden it appears that they're caring for poor people, which really reflects the opposite of when they were in government.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, under the Yukon Party government, all of these programs were tied into federal programs. All of these programs have now been devolved to the Government of Yukon. They are in your domain, Mr. Speaker. The minister has had three years to deal with them and change them. Why hasn't he changed them?
Caring and common sense are two things that are often absent from government regulatory process, but it is important that we, as politicians who are responsible for the creation of this regulatory burden, help keep it in check. Hopefully, by showing some compassion and using common sense, we can accomplish this.
Can I ask the minister to sit down with the Yukon Housing Corporation Board and address these two important issues of taxing child support payments and disability cheques? Will he undertake to do that?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I can bring these issues back to the board of directors in their meetings. I could tell the members opposite, and I know the general public would agree with me on this, that the Yukon Party is the one that is not caring and doesn't have common sense.
Question re: Smoking cessation programs
Mrs. Edelman: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services, and it's about smoking. Recently, I became very worried about a friend who wanted to quit smoking, so I got on the phone, and I started to make a few calls. My first call was to public health and safety, because they did have a program at one point that helped adults quit smoking, but apparently the program isn't there any more because the government, despite the fact that it makes over $5 million in revenue off tobacco taxes, couldn't find the $30,000 to keep that office open.
So my next call was to public health. Public health told me to phone public health and safety. So then I phoned my doctor, and my doctor told me to phone public health. So then I went to my children's doctor, and they said that there was a breathe-free program, which is a very good program - that's how I quit smoking 14 years ago - but they hadn't seen a poster recently.
So then I phoned the breathe-free number out of the addictions pamphlet here from YTG, and that was quite awhile ago, and no one has gotten back to me.
Mr. Speaker, 33 percent of Yukoners smoke daily, compared to 28 percent of Canadians. This is one of our biggest health problems. What is this government doing right now to help adult Yukoners quit smoking?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, we have been focusing in primarily on children. The member is quite right. The program that focused on adults was the victim of the cruel and, I must say, ill-timed slashes of the federal government, and I'm sure the member joins me in condemning them.
We have, however, focused our energies on trying to address the problem of young people smoking, and we have, for example, added a school tobacco educator position, and that individual's currently working on the issue of a teen, or high school, oriented quit program.
As well, we've also been putting considerable energies into our primary school program, targeted to grades 1 through 3. I think some of the revelations yesterday of the tobacco industry, and some of its rather nefarious ways to addict young people, is evidence that this is where we have to be targeting a good deal of our efforts.
Mrs. Edelman: Once again, no answer other than the mandatory listing of the programs and the blaming the federal government and everybody else for what is plainly a territorial responsibility, a health issue. According to a recent article in the Whitehorse Star, the community of Old Crow may have the highest number of smokers per capita in the Yukon, and close behind Old Crow, of course, is the City of Dawson.
Now, the minister says he's most interested in prevention, and I believe that that's a very responsible approach, but what is this government doing to help adults quit smoking? A local doctor thinks we should be paying the cost of nicotine gums, patches and other quit-smoking plans, if they exist. Will the minister consider covering these items as an incentive to adults to quit smoking?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: First of all, I might remind the member that the regulation of tobacco is indeed a federal responsibility, and as long as the federal Liberal government insists on licensing what is a deadly product, I fail to see where we have too much power in controlling, as she says, tobacco. What we can do is we can work on such things as trying to keep our young people out of that addiction. I felt if the federal government had a little more spine on it, they would do even more in terms of regulating tobacco, in terms of regulating advertising designed to attract young people to it, in terms of restricting access to young people, in terms of tobacco sales, and so on and so on and so on. However, as long as Imperial Tobacco sits in Quebec, and as long as the federal government is terrified of the possible negative reaction of the tobacco lobby, then I don't see where we can be involved in so-called regulation of tobacco.
We have expressed to the federal minister that tobacco reduction monies should be directed at least half to provinces and territories for us to work on our own tobacco reduction programs. We have, and I have made this commitment to the physician who raised the issue on Old Crow - we have a tobacco educator position, and I have made a commitment that we will get that educator up to Old Crow. We have tried to work with the federal government in taking over the regulation of tobacco in terms of monitoring -
Speaker: The minister's time has expired.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, once again, it's not our fault, but you do manage to take that $5 million in revenue every year. And once again, the minister hasn't answered the question. What a surprise.
Whether the minister wants to admit it or not, money spent on helping people quit smoking is a good investment, a very good investment. Every dollar spent on cessation is worth $15 down the line on health care costs. Let's get real here. We've got to help people quit smoking. It costs us millions in health care costs every year - millions.
Last year, the substance abuse prevention and Yukon tobacco reduction strategy sent a letter to the Government Leader, and they said, and I quote, "There is a need for government financial support for comprehensive community-based prevention programs." What happened to that recommendation from a group of over 30 Yukoners who came from all over the territory?
Mr. Speaker, every other jurisdiction in Canada, including the Northwest Territories, puts money into anti-tobacco programs from their millions in tax revenues. What is this government's financial commitment to helping Yukoners, adult Yukoners, quit smoking today?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I outlined already what we're doing in terms of tobacco reduction. However, she seems to be locked in on this apologetic nature for a federal government, a federal Liberal government, that insists on regulating a dangerous product, a federal government that has not shown the commitment to return money under the Canada health and social transfer, a federal Liberal government that has failed to make dollars available to us for such things as tobacco regulation.
She can look away into the distant future all she wants. However, what she's not recognizing is the fact that, as long as the federal Liberal government insists on not returning money to this jurisdiction, insists on beginning programs, their so-called boutique programs, then canning them after two years, then there's very little that provinces and territories can do.
We are increasing - and perhaps she can take this message back to her federal counterparts - the Canada Health Act is in danger primarily because of the absolute, abject poverty that they've left provinces and territories in, in terms of commitment. At one time, a 50/50 program, it's now down, in some jurisdictions, to under 11 percent.
Now, when we get back some of that money that the federal government gouged out of us, then we'll be able to move on.
Question re: Red-tape initiatives, regulatory reform
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Government Services - if he'd stop sort of flopping around there for a minute - on regulatory reform.
Last January, the minister was over at the front door of the Chamber of Commerce getting his picture taken, pointing to the red-tape reduction monitor. This was a thermometer type meter that was set up to monitor progress with the government's red-tape reduction initiative.
I wrote to the minister recently asking him what he thought - or when he thought - we would see some action reflected on the meter. And he wrote back giving me an "Aw shucks, I don't know." Then he went on to say that he had written to the chamber asking them what portion of the thermometer relates to the territorial red tape, and what portion to the federal red tape, and what to the municipal red tape. It was clear from the news report that went with the minister's picture in the paper, that the thermometer was put up in response to the territorial government's red-tape initiative, and to monitor that initiative.
Why the confusion?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, there's no confusion at all. What I can say is that, at one of our round tables that we've held, we actually looked at sectorals in terms of the hotel industry. It was clear that the preponderance of regulations that the hotel industry found to be onerous had to do primarily with municipal kinds of regulations.
There were, in fact, some issues for us - us being YTG. However, there were also issues around both federal and municipal. We have made a commitment to pass those on to our municipal counterparts. For example, one of the things that came out were the number of business licences that were required for food services of various and sundry kinds. We felt an obligation to pass that on to our municipal counterparts, and that's what we've done.
Mr. Cable: The question I asked the minister was why he didn't understand the thermometer related to it. Clearly, it related to the territorial red-tape initiative. He shouldn't have written me this cute letter, which, of course, I passed on to the Chamber of Commerce for comments.
The minister also said in the letter that he was planning some announcements, which may cause the thermometer to move. Could he let us in on what these announcements are going to be?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I can't restrain the Member for Riverside there. He's just absolutely salivating because he knows that these things are coming.
I can tell the member that we're planning an announcement almost imminently. Can he wait? Can he wait?
The fact is that we are eliminating red tape, and we have done it internally. All matters coming before Cabinet now have to pass through a test for regulatory impediments. I have asked departments to identify areas where they can be looking at reduction of red tape. We have begun sectoral tables. We are planning some regional sectoral tables very soon, and we're getting some input. And I can tell the member that if he could be merely patient, just a few moments longer, we will be announcing something about that imminently.
Mr. Cable: Well, I am salivating, and so is the business community. They're just hanging on the minister's every word. The minister also said in his letter that he wasn't sure what the unit of measurement was. This red-tape initiative seems to be getting bogged down in red tape.
Now, I gather the Ontario government uses dollars saved as a unit of measurement. When does the minister intend to evaluate this program here in the Yukon, and what is he going to use as a base measurement unit?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm gratified by the member's Pavlovian response there. I think I'll ring a bell. However, I should remind the member that, one, the thermometer is not ours. It was established by the Chamber of Commerce, and they are the people who determine the increments and they'll determine how much they do it. What we will be doing is - we have begun on processes such as the blue-book process and some others. I've already told the member that we have a number of issues coming forward. I've already told the member that we're planning on making an announcement extremely shortly about some of the initiatives that we're taking.
What I should actually do, however, is remind the member that one of the things we have discovered, as a side issue on this whole red-tape reduction, has been there are clearly some messages for us in terms of service delivery, and I think that's something that we also want to work on, and I'm planning an announcement in that regard as well because, not only is it a matter of reducing regulatory impediments, I think there are also actual, if you will, cultural aspects in government that can be addressed through service improvement.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of government private members' business
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the government private members to be called on Wednesday, November 24, 1999. They are Motion No. 188, standing in the name of the Member for Kluane and Motion No. 178, standing in the name of the Member for Whitehorse Centre.
Speaker: We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Mr. Fentie: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the 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. Do members wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 19 - Third Appropriation Act, 1999-2000 - continued
Chair: Committee is dealing with the supplementary estimates for the Department of Education.
Department of Education - continued
Chair: Is there further general debate?
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I have a few more questions in general debate that I'd like to get on the record. I wonder if I could ask the minister to put on the record for me just a couple of fundamental answers to some questions I have, so I can inform some constituents of what the answers are.
First of all, in our schools we have substitute teachers, educational assistants and others. Could the minister, just for the record, explain the role of an educational assistant?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I'll thank the member for his chair, but we left off debate yesterday afternoon with the member putting on the record a number of other questions that also need to be responded to, and I think I will begin with that.
In particular, the member was speaking about the Yukon native teacher education program and asking some specific questions in relation to that program.
The Yukon native teacher education program grew out of the Kwiya Report, which saw the need for a teaching force to provide aboriginal role models for First Nation students. That need still exists.
The member asked how the program was doing and what the graduates of the program are doing. The placements of the 47 graduates of the Yukon native teacher education program who have a bachelor of education degree, as of October 1999, are as follows: 20 are employed in elementary grades in Yukon; three are employed in secondary grades in Yukon; 10 have returned to their communities outside Yukon; 11 are working in an educational setting in the Yukon; one is seeking employment; one is currently not seeking employment; and one is working in a non-educational setting in the Yukon.
The member also spoke of the possible need for a bachelor of education program for non-native students and for working with the YNTEP advisory committee on allowing for an intake of non-aboriginal students into the Yukon native teacher education program. I think the comment that he made was that he hoped someday I might be in the position of having a child of my own wanting to go into an education program and having to leave the Yukon.
Mr. Chair, I want that member to know that I am not doing this job for the benefit of what my children may or may not be able to have access to. I'm doing this job for the good of all Yukon students and for them being best able to meet their potential and for offering the best education that we can throughout our Yukon school system.
At the present time, as we discussed in questions with the Liberal critic, Yukon College is seeking expressions of interest from adult students who may want a bachelor of education program.
They have had a good turnout to those information sessions, and they're considering whether they may in future be able to offer it.
On an entirely spurious point of order, I would like to draw members' attention to the presence in the gallery of our Member of Parliament, Louise Hardy, our former Member of Parliament, Audrey McLaughlin, and I'm sure all members would want to join with me in welcoming them.
Mr. Phillips: I think the minister missed my point yesterday when I suggested that I would like to see the opportunity of her children being able to receive an educational degree in the Yukon. The point I was trying to make is that I want all Yukon children to have equal opportunity to receive an education degree in the territory; at the present time, that's not possible. There are some children who can obtain an education degree in the territory by not having to leave the territory, and all I was asking the minister, and the point I was trying to make, is that we in this Legislature represent all Yukoners, and we should try and ensure that there's equal opportunity for all Yukoners to obtain an education degree here. That was my point.
The other area that I'd like to ask the minister to clarify - she said there were 47 graduates from YNTEP, and 23 or 24 appear to be teaching, but she said there were some in educational settings. I'm trying to figure out how many are actually in a classroom. What is an educational setting? Is that sort of working in administration in the school, or is it maybe working for the First Nation developing educational programs? I'm not sure what an educational setting would be. Is there a clearer description of what the minister means?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I don't have a description of how they are employed in an educational setting in the Yukon. They may be a classroom assistant. They may be working with a First Nation. I can ask if there is further information available and whether there is any consideration of the privacy of personal information before I bring back a further response for the member.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, the reason I am asking is because the minister used the figures in her opening remarks of something like there being only three percent of First Nation teachers teaching in our schools, compared to the population. It was a very low number, anyway. And the minister uses that figure with regard to teaching, but she doesn't use it in the context of these being First Nation graduates in the educational setting being counted as teachers? Or are we just talking strictly about the number of teachers, in the description of a teacher teaching a class?
I mean, my understanding of the YNTEP program was that it was to put more First Nation teachers in the classrooms.
And the minister uses her figure of the ratio of the population vis-ŕ-vis the number of First Nation people teaching, and I'm not sure whether the minister's three percent is 23 or 47, or whatever the total number was. What are the minister's figures? Can she explain what she meant when she said there's only a small portion teaching? Does this small portion teaching include these educational-setting people, whatever they do? And I would like a further explanation and a breakdown of what they're doing. I mean, educational setting might mean just working on an educational project for the Department of Education, or advising somebody, or doing a contract, or working on their own. I'm just not sure, and I know that the whole purpose of the YNTEP initially was to raise the number of First Nation teachers in ratio to other teachers in the classrooms in Yukon schools. So I'm just trying to get a handle on the numbers, on where we're at.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, where we're at is that there is still a need for more First Nation teachers in the classroom. There's still a need for the Yukon native teacher education program.
Some of the graduates of YNTEP are working as classroom assistants. One is working with the YNTEP up at Yukon College. One is employed in an education-related field at the Council of Yukon First Nations.
Nonetheless, I think where we differ is that our government supports the program, believes that it needs to continue, is still supporting it financially, and that member continues to question the validity of the program.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, I was the Minister of Education at one time, and I supported the program in four successive budgets. I support the program.
All I'm trying to find out from the minister - and the minister shouldn't get too offended about this - is how successful the program has been. Now, the minister says that we're running the program to put First Nation teachers in our schools. Today she tells us that out of 47 graduates, only 23 are teaching our kids in the schools. And so I'm just trying to get some facts and figures from the minister. I'm not trying to be difficult. I just want to kind of get an idea of how successful we are with the program. Is the program good enough and the opportunities good enough that people are going into this program, graduating and staying in Yukon schools? I'm sure if we had 47 and all 47 stayed in Yukon schools, the number would be higher than the three percent or four percent or whatever the minister quoted earlier. Does it concern the minister that fewer than half of the number of students who have graduated from the program are actually teaching, or have there just not been opportunities for them to get teaching jobs?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The fact is that while 10 of the graduates have moved to communities outside of the Yukon - and we may prefer that they stay and teach in the Yukon - we have to respect people's individual choices. The numbers could be higher. We would like to see more recruitment of students into the program. We would like to see graduates of the program being hired to work in our schools. That is why, under our hiring protocol, we give a priority to graduates of the Yukon native teacher education program to employ them in the school system in the Yukon. Many of the graduates do choose to seek employment in Yukon schools and are employed there.
We will continue to support the work of YNTEP. They have an aggressive recruitment program, and they're working with individual First Nations around the Yukon to encourage students to consider teaching as a future career. Having First Nation teachers in the classroom is a very effective way, I think, of encouraging students to consider teaching as a future career.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I couldn't agree more.
The minister said that 10 of them have gone back to their communities and they're not teaching, and that happens with everyone in almost any university career. They may choose to go into another field or do something different and it's their prerogative to do that. All I wanted to know from the minister is how many graduates we had and how many are teaching. The minister was going to bring back also how many have left the territory and are teaching in schools outside of the territory. Could she bring that back for me as well? Of those ones who have left the territory, are they Yukon First Nations people who got trained here and went outside the territory to work, or are they First Nations people from other First Nations who came here, got their degree and then left and went outside to teach and didn't teach here at all? If that were the case, I'd be a little concerned that maybe we're not benefiting as much as we should from this program, if all we're doing is training somebody with, in this case, Yukon tax dollars, and they're leaving there and maybe taking a space that someone else could have.
I'd like to ask the minister how many of those people there are and if she could bring those figures back. I don't need the minister to read them into the record today. I think the minister can provide a letter or a legislative return to us with this information on it. I don't think we need to go through the whole thing all over again. I asked most of the questions yesterday that I wanted answers to, and if the minister would just either table the piece of paper she's got so that we can look at it and analyze it a little better, or just send it over by way of letter or legislative return, that would suffice.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I have read into the record the information that I have on the 47 students who have graduated with a bachelor of education degree and what their placements presently are. It may be very difficult to track the 10 students who have moved outside the Yukon and to ascertain what their current employment is. I will undertake to have officials look and see what further information they can provide, and I will be happy to bring it back for the member.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, I don't want to put the department to a whole pile of work in trying to track those students. What I want to know is, of those 10 students - or any of the students who have left the territory - are they all from outside of the territory in the first place or are some of them First Nation students? Can she give me the number of First Nation students there might be? I'm just trying to get a handle on it. I have no problem with Yukon First Nation students being trained here, working here, and carrying on in Yukon schools. That's the purpose of the program. And I don't have a major problem with First Nation students from other jurisdictions coming here, getting the training, and teaching in Yukon schools. But I have more of a problem when First Nation students come up here to a program that's set up specifically to increase the number of First Nation teachers in our schools, and being trained - because the program is a very expensive program - and then leaving the territory and either teaching or not teaching. But it doesn't help what we're trying to accomplish by offering this program. And those students would probably stay in the dormitories. They would probably occupy rooms in the dorms and that kind of thing. They would take up room for other students, and I just know that the goal of the program, initially, was to try and get more First Nation teachers in our classrooms. And, if we're not successful, if the majority - maybe the minister could tell me that too. How many people from outside the territory have taken the program and stayed here? Has every one of the people who have come from outside the territory been trained and then left, or have a couple stayed, or have half of them stayed, or whatever? Maybe the minister could give me some idea of those numbers as well, and I don't need the numbers today but I would like to know how successful we are in attracting First Nation people from wherever and retaining them as teachers when it's over with, because that's the purpose of the program.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I appreciate the member being clear about the information that he is seeking. I will meet with the officials of the Department of Education and request what additional information we may be able to provide. I do know some teachers who have come to the Yukon to take the program from other jurisdictions and have since made Yukon their permanent home and are teaching here and raising families here and doing very well. That is a success, and we're proud of it, and we'll continue to support the program.
Mr. Phillips: That's fine, if the minister could get that information back, and I wonder if the minister could give me a commitment that I could get the information very early in the new year, say January some time. That gives the department two and a half months to come up with the information. I just want to have it for the spring of the year, and certainly for the spring sitting, so there's an opportunity to look over it, and I may have some other questions. I may want to write another letter to the minister and try to get an answer. But since my mail has been rather slow from the department and from the minister, I would appreciate some commitment from the minister that she will make all efforts to get this for me within the next 60 days.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, it's November 23, so early in the new year would be closer to six weeks than to two and a half months.
Nevertheless, we will endeavour to do our best to provide the information back to the member within the next two months. I've already indicated to the member that, in some cases, it may be difficult to track people who have moved out of the Yukon and found employment, whether in the teaching field or elsewhere. We will do our best to answer all of the member's questions.
Mr. Phillips: Now, Mr. Chair, I'll go back to my original question. Maybe the minister can tell us what the role of an educational assistant is.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, is the member seeking a legislative return that sets out the job descriptions of teachers and of education assistants? I would think that, as the former minister, he should have some understanding of the role of classroom teachers and support that is provided to them through the use of education assistants and remedial tutors and other professionals in the school system.
What is the member's point?
Mr. Phillips: As the minister says, I should have some knowledge of this, and I do. But my question was to the minister. She's the minister; she should have some knowledge of it, too. I want to know from the minister what the role is of an educational assistant.
Maybe the minister could tell us what she knows about it.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, education assistants are engaged to help the teacher in a classroom. They're often engaged when there are students with special needs and the classroom teacher needs some support in the classroom to work with the student with special needs.
Mr. Phillips:What's the role - I'm going to go through these step by step - of the substitute teacher, and do substitute teachers perform the duties that fall within the range of activities performed by a teacher?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: When a teacher is away, a substitute teacher will be called in to act in the place of the classroom teacher. There are differences in what the substitute teacher may engage in. In some cases, a teacher knows they will be away and have left lesson plans for a teacher to use. In other cases, the substitute teacher may have a teaching degree and may be able to fill in and take over the classroom duties of the teacher who is absent.
Mr. Phillips: Do we use the substitute teachers for any purposes other than just substituting for a teacher who is absent?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As far as I'm aware, substitute teachers are called in to substitute for teachers when teachers are absent from the classroom.
Mr. Phillips: The minister said she could provide me job descriptions, and I wonder if she would for the job description of an educational assistant and a substitute teacher. I'd appreciate getting that.
The minister mentioned students with special educational needs. Once the determination has been made that a student has special educational needs, what steps does the department take to determine what individual educational plan is appropriate to meet the student's needs? What steps do they take?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, it seems to me that we had a lengthy discussion of this in the spring main budget session in relation to accommodating the needs of students with special needs in Yukon classrooms. As the member may or may not be aware, when a student has special needs, the school works with the parents, with the administration of the school, with the classroom teacher and with the special education division within the Department of Education, which provides some professional assistance to develop an individualized education plan. The individualized education plan is based on assessments of the students. It's drawn up with the parents' involvement and with the involvement of the school administration. The individualized education plan for a Yukon student is drawn up and agreed to with the input of all of those.
In some cases, Health and Social Services may also be involved, and the services that are provided to the student are based on the individualized education plan, which is reviewed periodically, and the performance of the student is monitored regularly.
Mr. Phillips: The minister said that we sometimes bring in Health and Social Services. Do we ever bring in other professionals to assist in overseeing the implementation plan, and who would they be if we bring them in?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: That may depend on the individual circumstance of the individual student. The name "individualized education plan" means that the education plan is individualized to meet the needs of the student.
Mr. Phillips: Who is asked to oversee and assist in the implementation of the individualized education plan for a student? Are substitute teachers ever asked to do that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I believe it's rare that a substitute teacher would be called to assist with an individualized education plan, but it is possible.
Mr. Phillips: So it has happened that a substitute teacher has been called in to do it. Is the minister saying it has, or the minister doesn't know? The minister is shaking her head up and down and sideways, so I'm not sure.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: What I indicated to the member is that a substitute teacher may have been requested to assist with a student who has an individualized education plan. I would have to check. I am not aware of every student's classroom circumstance on a daily basis.
Mr. Phillips: Once a student's educational needs have been identified, are the results of the assessment provided to and shared with the parent, or parents? Is the parent involved in that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I don't believe that the member opposite is listening to the answers that I am providing him with. I've indicated that, in developing an individualized education plan, the teacher and the administration and the school team, which often includes resource people from the department, do work with the parents. Every effort is made to involve the parents in the education of the student, particularly of those students who have special needs.
Mr. Phillips: I want to move into another area for a moment with respect to time records of substitute teachers or educational assistants. Are time records processed within the Department of Education? Is that where they're processed? How are time records processed?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I will bring back a written answer for the member on how time records are processed. I believe now that the member is asking questions in relation to correspondence from a constituent that involves a personnel matter between a constituent of the minister and the Department of Education. I will bring a written answer to that member.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, if the minister's aware of the concerns I have with time records, the minister should also be aware of the answers and shouldn't have to bring back answers later on.
I'd like to ask the minister some questions, and I'd like the minister to answer the questions. How does the department keep track of what hours an employee has accumulated?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The department has the responsibility for the administration of personnel records. I do not have the information in front of me on how the time records are handled. I will bring the member a written response to that question.
Mr. Phillips: This isn't a question about an individual's records; it's a question about all time records. I'm just asking the minister some questions, and I'm expecting the minister to be able to answer the questions.
I'd like the minister to try and answer that question if she could, and I'd like to ask the minister if it's the responsibility of the employee to post his or her hours on a timesheet, or is it the responsibility of the department to maintain the record? Who is responsible for the number of hours that the employee works?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the time records of an employee are filled out by the employee, who provides them to the school secretary. The school secretary faxes the time records to the department. The department then forwards them to payroll in the Department of Finance. There is normally a two-week turnaround because of the payroll system that we use.
Mr. Phillips: So, it's the employee who is responsible to keep track of his or her time, and then they pass it on to the department or the principal or whatever, and then it's processed through that way. Is it standard policy for an employee to have an opportunity to review his or her time sheets before they are processed, before they're signed off?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, casting my mind back in history to when I was employed by the Department of Education and filled out time sheets, the employee signs the time record, so the employee does review the time record. They sign the time record that they fill out, which is then provided to the administration and to the department and to payroll.
Mr. Phillips: So, there's a spot on the time sheet for the employee to sign it. Can anyone else sign it for the employee, or has it always got to be the employee who verifies that those are the hours and the employee signs it?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the normal practice is for the employee to sign the time record.
Mr. Phillips: Would anyone else sign the time record, and, if they would, why would they sign it? Would they have authority to sign it?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I don't believe I can provide the member with an answer for that. It may be the case that if an employee were unavailable, and I can think of circumstances where an employee may have been unavailable on the date when the time record was due to go in in order to issue the cheque from payroll, and the supervisor or the school secretary or someone else may sign on the employee's behalf if they know that those are the hours that were worked.
Mr. Phillips: Is it the employee that always fills in the hours that are worked, and so what we'd get is a time sheet that would be in the employee's handwriting, and normally then the employee would sign the time sheet at the end? Is that the normal procedure? Or can someone in the department just fill in the hours and then sign the sheet for the employee? Can they do that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, it's normally done at the school level by the school secretary if it is not completed by the employee.
Mr. Phillips:If the employee didn't sign the time records, if someone else did, is there any requirement to at least show the employee that this is a record of his or her time for that period of time? I mean, it seems to me like it wouldn't be really fair to the employee if someone filled it out, and someone else signed it, and then it went through to get paid, and the employee never even saw it until it came time to get paid, and then they maybe disputed the hours or whatever. Isn't there a check system involved where the employee would have an opportunity to review the time sheets before they went through?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The pay stub that is issued to the employee with their cheque indicates the number of hours that have been worked. If the employee feels that the pay stub is not an accurate reflection of the number of hours that they have worked, they can take that up with the employer and they can work with the school administration or with the department.
Mr. Phillips: When an employee has a time sheet and someone other than the employee signs it - and the minister said that's a rare occasion, but when that happens, is it always the secretary who signs it, or is there someone else who is authorized to sign it on behalf of the employee? Is there some rule that only certain people can sign time sheets, other than the employee?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I will have to respond in writing to that question. I did not get all the details of the member's question.
Mr. Phillips: Just so I'm clear, I want to know from the minister that if someone other than the employee signs the time sheet, who is authorized to do that, other than the employee? Is it the principal, the secretary, the superintendent? Who?
The second part of my question is a new question, and that is, maybe the minister could bring back how many times that actually happens. Is it a common occurrence? Is it a very uncommon occurrence? I know the former principal, the Minister of Health, said it's a very uncommon occurrence. So maybe the minister can come back and tell us how uncommon it is. If it is, in fact, a unique occurrence, then it certainly shouldn't happen more than once or twice, if it happened at all. So could the minister bring that back to me? Would the minister give that commitment?
Chair: Order please. At this time the Chair would like to remind members to wait until they are recognized by the Chair before they speak.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft:Mr. Chair, I'll review the Blues in order to prepare a response to the member. The member has written letters in relation to a particular circumstance and a particular employee. That is being dealt with by the department through the normal procedures that are used. I will, as I have said, review the Blues to provide more complete answers for the member. I have indicated that it is unlikely that someone else signs a time record on behalf of an employee. I'm aware that there is a dispute. The member has asked questions, and I have provided him with written answers to the extent possible, given the confidentiality of personnel information.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I don't buy the minister's excuse for a second - not a second. I'm not asking about an individual. Read my questions tomorrow in Hansard. My questions are about the policy, the policy about whether or not it is the responsibility of the employee to post his or her hours on a time sheet. Is it standard policy for an employee to have opportunity to review his or her time sheet?
These are general policy questions about employees in general - all employees. So, I would appreciate the minister just trying to deal with the general issue of what the normal practice is for hiring, what the job descriptions are, what these other things are. The minister will deal with that other matter, I suppose, in her own time.
I'd like to move on to another area, and that is the area of teacher certification. I'd like to ask the minister this: when a person submits an application to the department for a Yukon teacher certification, what length of time does it usually take to process the application? We get all kinds of them every year, and we process them. What's an average length of time for processing an application?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, just on the time sheets, it is a multiple form, with several copies with a perforated strip across the top, and there is a copy of the time sheet that is normally provided back to the employee. In addition, the employee receives their pay stub, and if they have any questions about the validity of the record keeping, they can pursue that with the school.
The member has also asked about the processing of teacher certification. I know that when teachers come to the Yukon who want to teach in the Yukon and bring a teaching certificate from outside of the territory, they initially receive an interim teaching certificate and we encourage teachers to take local courses and to have some understanding of the Yukon and to qualify for a Yukon teaching certificate by completing some course work at Yukon College. I'll have to bring back an answer tomorrow on the average time that it would normally take to process that certificate.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, the minister mentioned that there are several copies of the time sheets. One is torn off and goes to the employee. Maybe the minister can also tell me whether or not it always goes to the employee or if sometimes it doesn't. Is it the practice that the thing goes in, it gets processed, once it's processed, the copy to the employee is torn out and put in the mailbox or given to the employee right away, or does the employee get it with their pay stub? How does that work?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Normally the employee would get a copy of the time sheet when they sign it.
Mr. Phillips: What happens when the time sheet is signed by somebody else? That was my question earlier. If the time sheet is signed by someone else, how else is it verified then by the employee that it's a true and accurate time sheet if someone else signs it?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: A copy of the time sheet should go back to the employee. It may be put in a mailbox with the employee's name on it for them to pick up at the school. In any case, if the employee inadvertently does not receive a copy of the time sheet, they do receive a pay stub that indicates the number of hours of work that they are being paid for. If there is any question, duplicate copies of the time sheet are on record elsewhere in government and can be looked at by the employee.
Mr. Phillips: But as was said earlier, it's not at all a normal practice for someone else to sign a time sheet, like a superintendent or a principal or a secretary or anybody other than the employee the time sheet is referencing. Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As far as I am aware, the normal practice is for the employee to sign the time sheet themselves.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I want to go back now to the teacher certification. The minister is going to bring back some information for me as I need some more information there. If, in processing the teacher's certification, the department discovers the application is incomplete, what's the policy of the government? Does it contact the applicant right away and say, "Jane Doe, we need some more information on this, or we need more information on that," or does it just sit there and they process other applications? Is it sort of pushed to the side if it's incomplete or is it dealt with, or do we actually get back to the people and say that we need more information?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As far as I'm aware, the normal practice would be for the department to send a letter to the applicant to indicate that further information was required in order to process the teacher certificate.
Mr. Phillips: What would be the normal length of time for that to go out? Would it be a week or two weeks after somebody was looking at it, or would someone go through it and say, "Application number 294 is incomplete," and then put a note on it, and somebody would do it fairly quickly? Like I asked in my earlier question - how long does it take for somebody to receive a certification? - and I would think that the person would be waiting anxiously to be certified so that they could apply for, or receive, a job teaching in the territory.
So, how long a time would the government wait before it made sure that it sent a notice out, and would it send more than one notice, or would it just send one notice, and then not bother?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I think I need to repeat for the member's benefit that this government, this administration and this minister do not engage in the personnel activities of the Department of Education. I don't process application number 294 or application number 23 or any of the applications directly. I will have to seek information from the department on their normal practices.
As I understand it, the applications come in. If they're incomplete, a letter is sent requesting further information. The member has already asked me what the average amount of time is for that, and I have indicated to him that I will seek an answer and bring him back an answer to the question.
Mr. Phillips: Well, I think the minister should have some of this information at her fingertips. She has officials with her. She has been the minister for three years, and the minister should be able to answer some questions.
All I'm asking is, what is the normal length of time that it would take before the department would respond to an applicant and say that we need more information? Would it be a couple of days after we reviewed it, would it be a week? Would we wait six weeks? Would we wait until the next fiscal year, or would we just not ever respond at all?
When would we decide that it was time to respond? I mean, we have the applicant's information with probably phone numbers, addresses, mailing addresses, e-mail and whatever.
I would think that it would be easy enough to contact the applicants and I'm just trying to find out if people who are applying are receiving notification, one way or the other, of certification or lack of information, on their certification application in a timely fashion. That's all I'm trying to determine.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have indicated to the member that I do not know what the average length of time is. I have also stated for the member that I will get him an answer.
Mr. Phillips: Well, I'll look forward to the answers to those questions from the minister. I don't have any more questions in general debate; I know that other members do and I may reserve some more questions for line-by-line debate.
Ms. Duncan: I have a couple more questions for the Minister of Education with respect to some capital planning and our school facilities. There was an article this summer - and I apologize for not bringing it into the House; I will forward it to the minister - dealing with mould in schools throughout Canada, and a number of schools had been reviewed for this. Now, I understand that some Whitehorse schools have been but a thorough review has not been conducted. I'm wondering if the minister can advise just what steps have been taken to review the incidence of mould in Yukon schools.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There has been considerable work done in Yukon schools - and considerable discussion in this House - on the subject of air quality in schools. There have been tests; there have been upgrades to systems. I would have to bring back a written response to the member on that question. I have some detail on some of the schools, but I'm sure the member doesn't want me to read it into the record now.
Ms. Duncan: I have already received the detail on the air quality in the schools, and I have asked that question before. This was a specific incidence of a particular type of mold that had not been noticed previously in schools in southern Canada, and it was particularly noticeable in portables of the vintage we have at Grey Mountain Primary.
What I will do, Mr. Chair, is forward the article to the minister if I can get my hands on it - I believe I still have a copy of it - and ask that her officials review it and get back to me.
The Wood Street Annex has also been an item of some discussion between the minister and me. What is the future planning for the Wood Street Annex at this point?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The plan for Wood Street is to continue to offer the programs that are there that provide services to students from Vanier Catholic Secondary, from École Émilie Tremblay, F.H. Collins and Porter Creek Secondary. The member is aware that we have a number of specialized secondary-level programs there, including music, art, drama, the ACES program, the experiential science and the outdoor pursuits and experiential science. In addition, the Yukon Entrepreneurship Centre Society is located in Wood Street, and both the business and the education communities are cooperating to teach entrepreneurship skills to youth. The Bringing Youth Toward Equality group, which is a youth group working on organizing the next youth conference early next year - the youth plan to take over the world conference - are also active at Wood Street. The centre is heavily booked by community organizations after school, during the week and on weekends. The department intends to continue offering the school programming at the Wood Street centre and work with community groups that want to use the facility.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm well aware of the number of wonderful programs that are operated out of that facility. I've spoken at length on them in the House.
The question I asked the minister is, how long is the government's commitment to the Wood Street Annex to continue to offer those programs? Is that commitment for the 1999-2000 school year and the 2000-2001 school year? How long is that commitment?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, as I just indicated, the department intends to continue offering the school programming at the Wood Street centre, and work with community groups that want to use the facility. We have no plans to change the offering of programs and the mix of education programs and community activities at Wood Street.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, has that been conveyed in writing to anyone? There isn't a school council per se for the Wood Street Annex that I'm aware of. Who speaks on behalf of that particular facility and those programs? Is there any written commitment by the minister, other than comments in this House?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I've had meetings with the students of the programs at Wood Street and with the teachers and departmental staff who work there. I've also had meetings with the Yukon Entrepreneurship Centre Society, and indicated that we will continue to support the activities that are offered at Wood Street. For the summers of 1998 and 1999, Human Resources Development Canada based their summer student employment office at the Wood Street centre as well.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister and I had quite a discussion yesterday regarding the major capital projects, and I was endeavouring to determine where the department's five-year capital plan was headed with the completion of the Chief Zzeh Gittlit School and the Mayo, Ross River and Tantalus schools on the books. I happened to pull out the 1997 document, which was provided to school council chairs. The Department of Education major capital projects at that time included Chief Zzeh Gittlit, and it has been done, the Dawson elementary school, the Eliza Van Bibber School addition, the Mayo community school, the Ross River School and the Tantalus School. Of those six schools, then, half of them are currently on the books or completed. Where is the department's capital planning for the Dawson elementary school and the Eliza Van Bibber School addition?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the Robert Service School enrollment has declined. The use of space at Robert Service School is under discussion between department personnel and the school council. An addition to the Eliza Van Bibber School in Pelly Crossing is still a need. We will continue to work with school councils and seek their input on major capital projects when they meet twice a year. The school councils are aware of the needs. They've been provided with copies of the rural schools facilities study and have looked generally at what the needs are around the Yukon. We'll continue to work with them and to seek their input on meeting those needs.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, this document says, almost word for word, the minister's answers, saying that, with respect to the Dawson elementary school, reductions in enrollment have left the future of the project in doubt. It also says that the design is complete and that the department remains in a position to build the facility should enrollment levels rebound.
The question I have is this: is there an anticipation in the budget that the enrollment has rebounded, and is it still on the books? For the Eliza Van Bibber School addition, it says that the formal planning process has not yet begun. Is that still the current status? Has there been any planning at all on the Eliza Van Bibber School addition?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft:What I can tell the member is that the supplementary budget does not contain funds for an addition to the Eliza Van Bibber School.
Ms. Duncan: The Whitehorse school projects are noted as a Copper Ridge elementary school, and it says that the formal planning process for this project has not yet begun. This is from two years ago. Has there been any planning process for a Copper Ridge elementary school?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No, Mr. Chair, as I believe we discussed yesterday in general debate, the school enrollment is declining, and we have not engaged in planning for a Copper Ridge school.
Ms. Duncan: The department was in a position at this point in time, in 1997, to proceed with the tendering for a project for a Hidden Valley School addition. I take it that the minister's answer is going to be that school enrollment has dropped there as well and that there's no need for it.
The Elijah Smith Elementary School addition was to be completed and done in February 1997, and I don't recall that in a budget debate. Did that get shelved?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The enrollment at Hidden Valley Elementary School for 1998-99 was 161, the enrollment for 1999-2000 is 145, so there is a decline of 16 students in the enrollment figures that I have. In Elijah Smith Elementary School, the enrollment for 1998-99 was 236, present enrollment for 1999-2000 is 222 - again there is a reduction in the numbers of students at Elijah Smith Elementary; nonetheless, as the member is aware, there was some work done on Elijah Smith Elementary School in previous budget years.
Ms. Duncan: On December 11, 1996, there was a consolidation study released for the - it was called the Golden Horn five-year student enrollment projection - for the Golden Horn attendance area. Now, this was a consolidation study undertaken by the department in response to a sense that Golden Horn would be requiring an additional school.
The minister started out with a Riverdale consolidation capacity study, and the boundaries and catchment areas for schools changed and the minister is saying enrollment is dropping and we're delaying any decisions on Grey Mountain, and the minister said to me yesterday, well, the department's aware of capacity and we're looking at this, and we're always aware of it.
Why isn't the minister doing a consolidation study and an enrollment projection for, number one, Grey Mountain, and other school attendance areas in the Whitehorse area?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I believe that I indicated to the member yesterday that we recognized the need for that information and have asked the department to obtain it.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, in other words, am I going to be able to receive a document from the minister, just like the Golden Horn document, that goes through and says, "Here's what the projected enrollment is for the Golden Horn attendance area"? I will get a report that states the enrollment projection for Grey Mountain attendance area, Selkirk attendance area, and possibly the Catholic school attendance area, and other Whitehorse schools? Will I get that report from the minister?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I have indicated to the member opposite that student enrollments are down at some schools in both rural and urban areas.
I've also indicated to the member that the enrollment decline seems to agree with the data on population that the Yukon Bureau of Statistics issues. I've indicated to the member that the Department of Education has a responsibility to be aware of the general trends in the demographics of the capacity of our school system, and of our enrollment trends.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, is there going to be a report issued or not?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I have not commissioned a report. I have asked the department to analyze the trends and the factors affecting school enrollments. The department overall has a responsibility to manage school facilities in an efficient and fiscally responsible manner, and to accommodate the programming choices that parents are making.
Ms. Duncan: Will the minister consider commissioning such a report?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I believe that I have indicated to the member opposite that I have, in fact, asked the department to review the enrollment trends in Whitehorse schools and to look at the issue on a system-wide basis.
Mr. Jenkins: I have a few questions of the minister regarding their policies on accredited courses in schools in rural Yukon. There is a request currently for a metalworking course in Robert Service School. Facilities exist currently within the school. What is the policy? What steps would a parent or the student have to take to ensure that that course is provided?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: If a parent or a student have a request for a course that is not offered in their school, they can speak with the school administration. They could also speak with the school council.
Mr. Jenkins: So after they've been to the school administration and been to the school council and spoken to deaf ears, and still there is a need - a number of individuals who are requesting that type of accredited course - what is their next step in the policy procedure?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, there are a number of avenues available to students, and I'm sure the member appreciates that we cannot always deliver every course in every community. The Yukon school improvement plan is the school evaluation and accreditation process that is required by the Yukon Education Act. The school improvement plan addresses accountability and improvement.
All Yukon schools participate in the school improvement plans. If there is a particular course that students would like to see offered, as I indicated to the member previously, they can seek the support of the school administration and the school council in offering that course. It may depend on a number of variables, such as the number of students who are interested in the course, the availability of an instructor, and the obligation to meet the basic requirements and provide the essential credits required for graduation.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what I hear the minister saying is that it doesn't matter if there's the correct number of students or if there's an adequate number of students interested in taking this course. If they can't convince the administration and they can't convince the school council, then they're speaking to deaf ears. Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No, Mr. Chair, that's not what I'm saying. If the parents or students want a course offered and they haven't been able to make a convincing case to the school administration or the school council, they can speak with the superintendent who is responsible for the district. And if the member's speaking about Robert Service School, then the superintendent for that area resides in Dawson City. They could also speak with the deputy minister, or the member could write a letter and make a representation to me.
If he's speaking of a particular case, I would be pleased to look into it for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I am speaking of a specific case, and it's at Robert Service School, and there has been a request for a metalworking course - an accredited metalworking course. And that request has gone through all of the steps, right up to the superintendent. I'm not sure if it has gone as far as the deputy minister, but I know it has gone as far as the superintendent for that area. To date, nothing has transpired.
I'm given to understand, Mr. Chair, that there are a number of students who have requested this accredited metalworking course. The facilities currently exist in Robert Service School, and they have been utilized to that end previously. The question seems to be the issue of an instructor and the availability of an instructor, but this has been ongoing for - I'm given to understand - a couple of years now. This is the second year for the same request.
So, if I heard the minister correctly, she's prepared to take up this request and look at it personally?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, I'll request my officials to provide some background information on that and, if the member would like to provide further information, then I can look at that as well.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister.
Mrs. Edelman: I copied a letter to the minister recently about the issue of an emergency plan for the Riverdale schools, and this is a very personal example of course. My children, for some reason - first of all, our family - let's go to the very beginning.
The power was out on Hallowe'en night in Riverdale, and it was out in some areas of Riverdale - Riverdale North, in particular. It was out from about 6:00 the night previous, and then, for the rest of Riverdale, it was out from about 3:00 in the morning, on. We're sitting there in the dark, at 7:00 in the morning, and after we finally found our batteries for our radio - which is part of our family emergency plan now - we did put on the radio and we heard an announcement from the disc jockey, if you will, at the radio station, saying if there's anybody out there from the Department of Education who knows whether the schools are open or not in Riverdale, could they please give us a call. So, this is 7:00 in the morning on CKRW. Then we keep listening to the news, and we're switching back and forth between CBC and CHON and CKRW, of course, and finally, around 8:00, we hear on CKRW again that it's OK to take the kids to school - that there is power on at the schools - and it's time to take them to school.
So, the kids jump in the truck, and they're driven to school. When we drop them off at school, we're feeling a little strange about it because there are trees on the power lines in the schoolyard. And we're thinking, well, surely the people at the Department of Education wouldn't have said to let the kids go to school if there was a problem. But there was a problem. There was a series of problems. Number one, at Selkirk in particular, where my children attend, the generator only went on for an hour. Then, to top it all off, it didn't run the fan, which was the boiler system or the heat system, for Selkirk, so all the heat went up to very top, but the kids were freezing on the main floor. The second thing that didn't operate was a switchboard, so all these parents wondering what the heck was going on couldn't phone in, and that was the case also for the Catholic school.
So this is what happened. Our vice-principal finally jumped in his car and drove over to the Department of Education, because he couldn't use the phone, and said, "This is unsafe. We can't have the kids here at the school." So, off he went to the Department of Education, and the Department of Education said, "No, I think you have to have these kids go home." So, that's fine, so apparently all the children were rounded up in the school, and they were told that they were going to have to go home.
Well, of course, by this time there were a lot of parents who had gone to work and no one could get hold of them. Some people work in professions where you just can't get hold of them during the day. They're in operating rooms or a series of other things. You just can't get hold of them.
What happened was that there was also a cell phone that one of the teachers owned, and there was a pay phone, so the kids theoretically were lined up at the two phones to phone their parents, and then off they went home.
Now, my kids some way or another got out of the school, along with a friend of theirs. They hadn't phoned home, and my kids took the greenbelt walk home to our house, a few blocks away, but they went right through the greenbelt, right through the power lines that were down with the trees hanging on the power lines. This is really dangerous, and nobody knew they were there, because they hadn't phoned home, because they had gotten some strange message that they of course had misunderstood, which children are often wont to do, as the minister really knows.
They had misunderstood that it costs 65 cents for a cell phone call, and they didn't have 65 cents on them; I'd only given them 50 cents. So they thought they couldn't use the cell phone for some reason, and the minister is indicating that it may have been my fault. We've certainly had numerous discussions about this issue since, around the Edelman home.
But the point was, here's all these kids, and not just my two kids but also a friend of theirs and other children, I've found out since, who had wandered home through the greenbelt, through all the downed power lines and the fires in that area, and nobody knew they were going home. I happened to be at home because I got stuck on the phone with a reporter, so I knew that my children were home. But I would have gone off to work not knowing, and they would have had a wonderful time at home all morning, I'm sure. But it wouldn't have been terribly safe.
I know at Christ the King around the corner, there were parents and teachers who went out into the greenbelt and blocked, physically blocked, the path so kids couldn't do that; they couldn't go down the greenbelt and go home. And they all, apparently, did phone their parents, theoretically, before they went home. But it sure didn't happen in Riverdale, not at poor old Selkirk. So, you know, literally, this was a disaster. There were so many things that could have happened that fortunately didn't. But just about everything else did happen, as far as downed power lines, communications were kaput, and there was a lack of communications from the department. There was a lack of communications to the media. It went on and on and on, one thing after another. I know that the minister has hopefully reviewed the situation since and, hopefully, after the break, she can get back to me and talk about what the department has done about that issue. Thank you.
Chair: Do members wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Committee is dealing with the Department of Education. Is there further general debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to respond to the comments from the member about the work that's being done for emergency preparedness within the Department of Education and, specifically, the school system. I want to mention, though, at the outset that the Department of Education participated in the two recent City of Whitehorse emergency measures organization's exercises and is represented on the interdepartmental emergency planning team.
Unfortunately, there was some confusion in response to the wind storm and the power lines being out in early November, and the member has described the situation. The department staff and superintendents were up very early in the morning, checking out the schools individually. The department called Diversified at 10 minutes to 7:00 in the morning, and the buses were already in motion, so they announced that care would be provided at the school for students who were already on a bus.
The power was off in Riverdale. Some of the generators were working. Some were working and then later failed. Announcements were made on the radio at about 7:45 a.m. to encourage parents to keep their children home in the morning and that regular announcements would be continued through the local radio stations to keep the public apprised. Later in the morning, an announcement was made that classes would be in session for the afternoon.
To follow up on the concerns that the member has raised and that were covered by other parents and in other schools, the superintendents are working with each school to review the individual emergency plans that each school has in place. The department is also working on updating a departmental emergency response plan to deal with safety issues within the Education building, resuming business in the event of a disaster and providing support for schools during emergencies. One of the main concerns that was raised was communications difficulties, and the department is working with school administrations to improve that for future such events.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, specifically, one of the problems that they had as well as the other schools in Riverdale was the fact that the switchboard doesn't work. That's a real problem with communications. The switchboard doesn't work off the emergency generator, so that's the specific problem I'm wondering if the minister could get back to me about, and the other one was the boiler. All these schools are on - some of them very ancient - boiler systems, but they have to have a fan in order for the heat to go back and forth.
This was a lovely day. It was a lovely day that day. It was only about two degrees or something like that. It was just gorgeous. But what if it had been minus-40 degrees? That's what my concern is. I mean, it could have been really devastating. And, to be clear, there was an announcement at 7:50 a.m., which is when we normally leave our house to go to school. There was an announcement at 7:50 a.m. saying, "Take your kids to school." Otherwise our family - and we're very responsible parents - would never have taken our child to that school. So, it wasn't a question of only the announcement at 6:45 a.m. saying, "Don't take your kids to school." There were conflicting announcements, because apparently at 8:10 a.m., on CKRW again, they were told not to bring the kids to school. By that time everybody had left the house.
Anyway, I'm most interested if the minister could get back to me, specifically about the issues of the switchboard and the boiler.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The Selkirk Elementary School Council has provided me with a copy of their response letter to the member. The department, as I have indicated, is working with schools individually on their emergency plans, and we'll do our best to ensure that any emergencies of this nature are well handled in the future.
Mrs. Edelman: I'll take that as a commitment from the minister, because she knows this is very serious.
The other issue is that there used to be emergency training programs through EMO for school council members. Is that training still being offered?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As far as I'm aware, Mr. Chair.
Mrs. Edelman: Speaking of school councils, there has been a number of vacancies on school councils throughout the city, and there has been quite a delay, it would seem, in appointing new council members. Are there new announcements coming very, very shortly? Can we expect that to be happening quickly?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I will have to look into that and provide the member with an answer.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, from my one term on school council, I do remember that it was very difficult to conduct business when you didn't have enough members. There didn't seem to be a really true reflection of the parents' concerns or needs at the meetings, so I would ask the minister if she could try to deal with that as expeditiously as possible.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We do normally try to support the school councils in filling any vacancies as quickly as possible, and I appreciate the member's representation. I'll get back to her on any unanswered questions.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, the minister talked a little earlier in general debate about the Vanier Catholic Secondary School gym floor. Has the minister got any kind of an update of where we're at with the study that's supposed to be taking place? Is somebody doing it now? And who is doing it? How much is the study costing, and when are we expecting to hear the results from it?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As I have indicated to the member in response to questions in Question Period, the department has looked at the synthetic gym floor and has examined it. For certainty, we have requested the assistance of someone from the University of Calgary human performance laboratory to also conduct an evaluation. I have indicated to the member that our original research indicated that synthetic floors are safe and do not pose unnecessary risks. Synthetic gym floors are recommended floors for multi-use school gyms and are present in numerous schools in the Yukon, including schools that have been constructed by the administration of the member opposite as well as of the government.
We anticipate that Doctor Nigg will be visiting Whitehorse this month and providing a final report shortly thereafter.
Mr. Phillips: So, hopefully by the end of this calendar year, we should have some kind of information or data with respect to the condition of the floor. And if, in fact, there needs to be something done to it, and if the floor is in poor shape and there is a diagnosis, so to speak, that the floor is causing problems, is the minister prepared to address that in the upcoming budget?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I've already indicated to the school council of Vanier Catholic Secondary School that I am aware that they've indicated that the synthetic gym floor is their first priority and that I will take that into consideration when we prepare our budget estimates for the main budget in the spring.
Mr. Phillips: Can the minister assure the House and the school council that, if the floor is a problem and it isn't addressed in the budget, there will be some contingency plan to make sure that more youth aren't injured on that floor in the next fiscal year if the floor isn't changed, if it isn't repaired?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Any time that a student is injured during school activities, whether it's on a gym floor or elsewhere, there is a requirement for a report of an injury to be filled out. The department does not have reports of any injuries that are attributed to synthetic gym floors at Vanier or at any of the schools across the territory.
Nonetheless, Mr. Chair, I want to be clear that I will continue to respond to the facts and to the needs of the school community. Vanier has indicated to me that the gym floor is their first priority, and we are working on that with them now.
Mr. Phillips: The minister just said that there weren't any reports of any injuries to any student as a result of the Vanier gym floor. That's what she said?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The information that I have is that the department has not received any reports of injuries that are attributed to the synthetic gym floor.
Mr. Phillips: That's certainly contrary to what I've heard from gym teachers, soccer coaches and basketball coaches, and others who have had kids on that floor. Maybe they're not reporting to the Department of Education but they're certainly reporting them to me and talking to others, and kids are going to doctors - I think it's Osgood-Schlatter disease, a disease of the knees, and all kinds of kids are being treated for that, so I would have thought somebody might have reported it to the Department of Education, but what I'll do -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: How many kids have been treated for that, the Member for Watson Lake asks. Well, I know there are probably at least a dozen kids who have been treated in the school, and probably more than that, maybe as many as 20 in the one school, and there are more kids with more serious injuries than that. And so I'm going to pass this information on to the basketball coaches, the soccer coaches and some officials at the school and the school council, that no one's reported anything, and that's why the Department of Education has sort of been reluctant. So I'll make sure that these people realize that it has to be reported before the department will do anything about it.
The other issue that I wanted to talk about is another priority of Vanier Catholic Secondary School and that is the cafeteria, and I know it's something that they've talked about, being a high school. and because of the catchment area being so large for Vanier Catholic Secondary School, most of the students, evidently, stay for lunch at that school, and they have very inadequate facilities presently for a cafeteria. It's sort of a makeshift thing, and I just wonder - I know that's one of the priorities as well - now that we're sort of winding down on our major capital projects, if that's something that's going to be dealt with in the next capital budget.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: First of all let me say that the member is being inaccurate when he states that the department is not doing anything about it. The department is doing something about it, and I've spent considerable time in this House outlining what we are doing.
I have also met with the school council and assured them that I understand that the gymnasium floor is their first priority. In regard to a cafeteria for Vanier Catholic Secondary School, the present-year capital budget includes $50,000 for cafeteria design, and, as with capital budgets, we have numerous projects that are put forward for consideration. We recognize the needs and will continue to work with the school council on what the capital budget will contain in the next fiscal year.
Mr. Phillips: I'm pleased to see there's some design money in the budget, and I would make a strong representation to the minister to give serious consideration to the concerns of the Vanier School Council with respect to a cafeteria and a gym floor. I look forward to seeing both of those in the spring budget.
Mrs. Edelman: I just wanted to say at this point that the food services they do already have at Vanier are very, very good, despite the fact that they're delivered out of what actually is a closet at Vanier. It's my hope that there will also be a cafeteria at some point.
If there is going to be an addition on to the school for a cafeteria, what sort of consultation is going to happen with the community? The last time there was an addition on to that school, or a change in the school plan for the area, there was no consultation whatsoever with the community, and there was quite a bit of ill feeling, shall we say, with the Riverdale Community Association because there had been no effort whatsoever to consult with area residents.
If there is going to be an extension on that school or changes to the current plan for the site, what sort of consultation is going to take place with the local area residents and with the people in Riverdale in general who use the recreational facilities - for example, who use the tennis courts? And they are not just the people who are immediately adjacent on Van Gorda and Bonanza but all the people in Riverdale who use that wonderful facility.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the department is working with the school council on all of their requests for capital infrastructure. The school council does have representation from the broader community. In relation to constructing a proper cafeteria, those options will be discussed at the upcoming building advisory committee, and efforts have been made to ensure that area residents are informed of projects that may have an impact on the community at large.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Education Support Services
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'd appreciate, throughout this line-by-line debate, if the minister would provide the line explanation and the details.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, this line item covers community workshops, meetings with school councils, and activities to do with the Conversations in Education.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, the figure that the minister had given me for the Conversations in Education was $219,000. So this is additional money?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, this is the amount of the net increase. There was a revote applied to the project.
Education Support Services in the amount of $166,000 agreed to
On Public Schools
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, this is largely the collective agreement impact for wage increases.
Public Schools in the amount of $1,209,000 agreed to
On Libraries and Archives
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This is a transfer of funding for operations of the archives building and part of the property management agreement.
Libraries and Archives in the amount of $153,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the recoveries?
Ms. Duncan:There are two reductions in here and one increase. What are those attributed to?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This is in relation to staff accommodation rental and to the Council of Ministers of Education Canada realignment of French programs and transfer of dollars to the monitor program.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I read that. I was looking for more information from the minister. For example, are we not renting as many units? Did we increase fees?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The staff accommodation rental reduction of $15,000 is due to the loss of the teacherage in Old Crow. When the original units burned down, the teachers were relocated to temporary housing at no charge. The new units are now part of the Yukon Housing Corporation inventory.
I do not have further information on the French monitor program. It is realignment of the French programs and transfer dollars to the monitor program.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, is this an increase in fees that we have collected? Can the minister elaborate? Perhaps when she responds to the other questions, she could provide more detail on that particular line.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, there was an increase in funding for the French monitor program, and this amount is recoverable from the Secretary of State under the bilateral agreement. What the recovery shows is the recovery side of the increase in funding to the monitor program.
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Education in the amount of $1,528,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Public Schools
On Facility Construction and Maintenance
On F.H. Collins School Upgrading
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: All these line items are revotes. The F.H. Collins Secondary School upgrading is for completing the sprinkler system upgrades, flooring upgrade and painting the gym interior.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we've had many discussions in this House about tendering contracts so that work is done prior to school going in, and the minister has stood on her feet and said these are revotes.
Is this a case of not being able to get the work done on time? Is it a problem with not tendering on time? Or exactly why are we being called upon for these revotes?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: It is not uncommon for a revote to be requested where a project may not have been done in one summer vacation and is carried forward to the next budget year for the work to be done.
Ms. Duncan: It's also not unheard of in some departments, or some situations, where contracts are not tendered in an appropriate time frame for the work to be completed. I'm trying to determine if the minister has asked if there are any problems here. Are we tendering these in time? Are we not providing enough time for work to be completed? Has the minister, or the minister's colleague, the Minister of Government Services, asked these questions?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have requested the department officials to ensure that tenders go out early so that work can be done during the summer vacation when the students are not in the school system.
Sometimes it's not possible for work to be completed as scheduled but, in general, I understand that the contracts are being tendered early and that work is being done in the summer.
F.H. Collins School Upgrading in the amount of $32,000 agreed to
On Mayo Community School
Mayo Community School in the amount of $197,000 agreed to
On Site Improvement and Recreation Development
Ms. Duncan: In this particular line item, the various school facility alterations, the capital maintenance renovations and school-initiated renovations, would the minister undertake to provide to both opposition parties the details of which projects were not completed and which projects are being done under these revotes, which schools?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Certainly, Mr. Chair. I believe that we are on the site improvement and recreational development line item, and this was to complete site lighting and soft landscaping at Porter Creek Secondary, and a $15,000 transfer to various school facilities for the sound system and stage curtains.
Site Improvement and Recreation Development in the amount of $37,000 agreed to
On Various School Facilities Alterations
Various School Facilities Alterations in the amount of $59,000 agreed to
On Capital Maintenance Renovations
Capital Maintenance Renovations in the amount of $33,000 agreed to
On Chief Zzeh Gittlit School Replacement
Chief Zzeh Gittlit School Replacement in the amount of $1,501,000 agreed to
On Ross River School Replacement
Ross River School Replacement in the amount of $130,000 agreed to
On Jack Hulland Roof Upgrade
Jack Hulland Roof Upgrade in the amount of $48,000 agreed to
On School Initiated Renovations
School Initiated Renovations in the amount of $135,000 agreed to
On Tantalus School
Tantalus School in the amount of $330,000 agreed to
On Instructional Programs
On Distance Education
Ms. Duncan: Could I ask the minister for the details on these lines please.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: These are revotes. They cover investment in infrastructure items, such as routers, switches and access lines, plus in-school hardware for course delivery. The funds cover wide-area network enhancements as well, and apply to Del Van Gorder, Eliza Van Bibber and J.V. Clark schools.
Distance Education in the amount of $57,000 agreed to
On School-Based Equipment Purchase
School-Based Equipment Purchase in the amount of $63,000 agreed to
On School-Based Information Technology
School-Based Equipment Purchase in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Advanced Education
On Training Trust Funds
Training Trust Funds in the amount of $432,000 agreed to
On Special Investment Fund
Special Investment Fund in the amount of $134,000 agreed to
On Libraries and Archives
On Community Library Development Projects
Community Library Development Projects in the amount of $28,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Education in the amount of $3,316,000 agreed to
Department of Education agreed to
Chair: Committee will now proceed to the Department of Justice. Committee will break for two minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Department of Justice
Chair: Committee is now dealing with the Department of Justice. Is there general debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The supplementary budget adds a total of $1,202,000 to the operations and maintenance budget for the Department of Justice and revises the O&M vote to $32,206,000 for the 1999-2000 fiscal year. These additional expenditures are partially offset by a recovery of $65,000.
On the capital side, the supplementary budget adds a total of $86,000 to the capital budget for the department. Capital recoveries are reduced to zero by a $105,000 reduction under the capital budget.
The operations and maintenance increase in the supplementary budget covers the following items: an increase in the management services branch of $215,000 due to an increase in the cost of the workers' advocate office and a contribution to the Council of Yukon First Nations to participate in the Timmers inquiry. There was an increase in the legal services branch of $210,000 to cover the cost of retaining outside counsel in the Curragh Resources lawsuit and settlement costs associated with a Human Rights Act complaint. There is an increase in the consumer and commercial services branch of $325,000 to cover expenses incurred by the coroner's office in relation to the Timmers inquest. There is an increase in the crime prevention and policing branch of $315,000 to cover the cost of the RCMP collective agreement increases in salaries and benefits. An increase to the Human Rights Commission grant of $137,000 covers the cost of legal fees associated with an increase in the number of hearings and appeals being conducted this fiscal year.
The $65,000 increase in the cost of the workers' advocate office is 100 percent recoverable from the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.
On the capital side, a revote of $226,000 under the management services branch is to complete the integrated case management system and corporate affairs registry system projects. There was a reduction of $210,000 under the management services branch to account for the cancellation of the law library renovation project, and a corresponding reduction of $105,000 in capital recoveries.
There is a revote of $5,000 to cover the cost of coroner equipment purchases that were delayed. There's a revote of $65,000 to purchase equipment associated with renovations to the Whitehorse Correctional Centre that was deferred during the last fiscal year.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Cable: I'd like to ask some questions on the minister's restorative justice initiative.
Going into the report that was circulated not too long ago - the community consultation report - it appears that we're toward the end of phase 3, which says, "Targeted consultations concerning the issues raised during the community tours will occur in the fall." Have those been completed? And if not, what's the timetable for completion?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, those haven't been completed. They are underway at the present time. We hope to complete them over the next few months. At the present time, being in the Legislative Assembly, that does require a large amount of my time, but some meetings are taking place at the present time and will continue over the next few months.
Mr. Cable: Have the officials been given a target date for completion of phase 3?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I didn't bring down all of the detailed information with me on restorative justice because there are not line items in the supplementary budget related to that.
Our target date is to try to complete those consultations before the end of this fiscal year.
Mr. Cable: We're then going to go on to phase 4, which is the recommendations that come out of phase 3 will go to the government, and a restorative justice strategy will be developed. When is this whole process going to be completed? When are we going to see this restorative justice strategy?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I think it's important to note that, while the government restorative justice strategy draft document, which was issued in December of 1997, signals that the government is looking to support a restorative justice approach throughout the Yukon, that many of the communities have had in effect various activities in support of restorative justice - in some cases, for many years. As an example, the Southern Lakes Community Justice Committee has been active for approximately six or seven years, and we're continuing to support those activities.
I would hope that we would be able to hear back from various people who want to provide us with further information and recommendations, and to finalize a restorative justice strategy near the beginning of the next fiscal year. I've indicated to the member opposite that we anticipate concluding the consultations before the end of this fiscal year.
Mr. Cable: The minister and I had an exchange - yesterday, I believe it was - on restorative justice, and I was putting the proposition to her that personnel requirements will likely increase in the probation area. This is because we're keeping people out of jail, but we need to engage in a lot more after-care to make the restorative justice initiative work.
Now, the minister didn't seem to want to come to that conclusion necessarily, which kind of surprised me. She said she wanted some facts. Is she not prepared to accept, at the present time, that there will be a greater need for probation officers, or counselling persons, to make the restorative justice initiative work?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I think it's rather simplistic to assume that it will be an increase in probation officers that is the end result of restorative justice. There are a number of connecting factors. An increase in probation officers would also be linked to whether, in fact, there is a reduction or an increase in the number of crimes that are committed. I can't stand here and predict what the level of crime will be and what the sentences will be and whether, in fact, more people are sentenced to probation. There are other community alternatives that may be used in sentencing.
In addition, I am seeing the efforts in crime prevention, and the support of early intervention methods that our government has advanced, as being effective in reducing the level of crime. We're also supporting community empowerment. In many cases, people at the community level are taking on responsibilities that are resulting in a reduction in crime, so I wouldn't necessarily accept the assumption that there will be more probation officers needed in communities.
There have been discussions in virtually every community about the need for better integration of services across government departments. This is a direction that our administration and all ministers have given to deputies, and we are encouraging people in the communities to work better with one another. Another example of this might be that offering a reading recovery program and having students active in youth recreation activities in the summertime might contribute to, and in fact has contributed to, a reduction in crime. Where there's a reduction in crime, there might actually be less of a workload for probation officers.
Mr. Cable: Well, let's look at that for a moment. I know it's getting close to 5:30, but the minister indicated that, as a result of some of her programs, there's a reduction in crime. Is there some documented evidence of that? Where is she drawing that conclusion from?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, we have seen reports on the crime statistics in various communities and have looked at a comparison of a period of time before particular programs have been offered. We have then looked at the crime rate when youth leadership and recreation programs were offered, and we have seen that in fact there has been a reduction in the crime level.
Mr. Chair, what I'm seeing is that crime prevention depends on people in communities taking personal responsibility and also making a commitment to their communities; and that's working. That's very effective. I'd be happy to bring back further information for the member on that to show him where the crime rates have been reduced, and it has been at a time where we've supported activities for youth that have not only been popular and well-received in the community at the time, but have also resulted in better dynamics in the community in the coming school year. We've had anecdotal information, for example, from teachers who find that students are getting along better at the beginning of a school year because they have had an opportunity to engage in recreational opportunities together over the course of the summer.
Mr. Chair, in view of the time I move that you report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: 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 the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 19, Third Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole? Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: The House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:28 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled November 23, 1999:
Whitehorse International Airport Development Plan (draft dated October 1999) (Keenan)
Yukon Arts Centre 1998-99 Annual Report (Keenan)
Yukon Economic Review 1998 (Harding)
The following Legislative Return was tabled November 23, 1999:
Consultants contracted by staff development branch (PSC): local and outside consultants from 1994 to date (Harding)
Oral, Hansard, p. 5650