Tuesday, June 27, 2000 - 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.
Introduction of visitors.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: Under tabling of returns and documents, I have for tabling the conflict of interest commission annual report for the period covering July 1999 to June 2000.
Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Ms. Netro: Mr. Speaker, I have a document for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Ms. Netro: I give notice of the following motion, Mr. Speaker:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) during the recent election, the Yukon Liberal Party campaigned on the strength of the budget first introduced on February 21 by the previous NDP government; and
(2) after the election, the Liberal government adopted that budget and reintroduced it in the name of the Premier as Minister of Finance; and
(3) on June 12, 2000, the Premier told this House in no uncertain terms that her government would honour the commitments made in that budget; and
(4) one of the commitments in that budget is to provide funding in the amount of $120,000 in this fiscal year for a community bus for the community of Old Crow; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to do what it said it would do, and to honour its commitments to the people of Old Crow by providing the resources to purchase a community bus in this fiscal year.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Question re: Forest industry, support for South Yukon Forest Corporation
Mr. Fentie: Yesterday in this Legislature I asked the Premier a question about the imminent shutdown and closure of operations of South Yukon Forest Corporation and the seriousness of that issue in the community of Watson Lake. The Premier tried to deflect that issue by making the claim that this was some sort of scheduled hiatus, like it was a scheduled maintenance shutdown. This morning the president of the corporation confirmed clearly that the shutdown of this operation is due entirely to the lack of log inventory - in other words, a shortfall of log inventory. He also confirmed that this shutdown may even be longer than two weeks if that shortfall in log inventory is not addressed immediately.
My question to the Minister of Renewable Resources: will the minister now correct the record by confirming that this imminent shutdown is in fact due to a shortfall in log inventory?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Speaker. I very much appreciate the question. I also listened to the report by Mr. Kerr on the radio this morning. He had indicated that this was an anticipated shutdown and that there was, as reported in the story yesterday, a supply of wood for the summer.
We are also actively pursuing, with the federal government, whose responsibility it is to allocate permits as well as, in the future, THAs, an adequate supply of timber for the mill. So we are working on it and working with due diligence.
Mr. Fentie: Well, we all heard the report. The facts are clear. The shutdown would have happened now, or a week from now. The point is that the shutdown is due entirely to a shortfall in log inventory.
Now, the minister makes the claim that they are working with the industry, working with the federal government and so on and so forth. Well, the president of the corporation today claimed that he was not even sure whom to contact in this Liberal government here in the territory.
Further, Mr. Speaker, last week, the Minister of Renewable Resources stated in this House that he had met recently with industry, yet we find out this morning that a major player like South Yukon doesn't even know whom to make contact with in the Liberal government here in this territory. Will the minister undertake here today to ensure that that contact is made with South Yukon Forest Corporation and address this crisis immediately?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, shortly after the Premier was elected, she did meet with Mr. Brian Kerr and Mr. Allan Kerr. She indicated to them that our government would be pursuing this actively, recognizing that the federal government has a responsibility to issue not only permits, but develop THAs. Our teams within Renewable Resources and Economic Development would be actively participating in the design of THAs and would consistently pursue, with the federal government, the issuing of permits to keep this mill going.
Yes, I did recognize that the representative from the mill did not recognize the Minister of Renewable Resources - who that person was - and I would strongly advise that person to follow up on his inquiries.
Mr. Fentie: Well, at the risk of being mischievous, I would point out to the minister that maybe, given the situation and how serious it is, the minister should make contact immediately with South Yukon Forest Corporation.
Mr. Speaker, back in May, I wrote a letter to the Premier informing her that this shutdown was imminent because of the problem of log supply. I pointed out in my letter, which I will table here today, that there are options available for the Yukon government to ensure that a shutdown does not occur. Options are available within the power of the Minister of Renewable Resources to act and make sure that this operation does not cease.
Mr. Speaker, will the minister, here today, commit to a meeting - before he leaves with the Minister of Economic Development, the MLA for Watson Lake and industry representatives - to discuss those solutions, address this urgent matter and solve the problem, so that the South Yukon Forest Corporation can continue operations and keep those jobs going, which are so needed in Watson Lake?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, as a matter of fact, this weekend there was a great opportunity for the Member for Watson Lake and I to sit down. I made a special trip down to Watson Lake this weekend to, as they so kindly put it on the other side of the House, "grandstand" at the opening of a new facility there, the new town hall and the new library.
With all due respect and credit to the opposition, they did go forward with that building. I thought it would have been a great opportunity for the Member for Watson Lake to take advantage, to stand on the platform with me to congratulate the community on the accomplishment with the previous government. We could also have followed up and met with industry directly, right in Watson Lake. We could have wandered around and competently got the facts and figures. I could have listened; I could have found exactly what the member was talking about. I am also unaware of the letter that he sent to the Premier. I would welcome a review of that letter.
As a matter of fact, today, I have sent off, to Mr. Nault, a letter on behalf of me and this government, encouraging them to have their department to be a little more proactive in getting these THAs and also acting on the permits that are pending on continuing supply of wood for this mill.
Question re: Old Crow community bus
Ms. Netro: Mr. Speaker, on June 12, the Premier made a clear commitment in this House. She said, "We said we wouldn't pull the rug out from under anybody, so if there's a planned expenditure and a commitment made to Yukon in this budget, we intend to follow through with it."
My question is for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. Does the minister agree with the Premier's position?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is referring to the proposed purchase of a school bus for the community, and the Department of Education has recommended against a dedicated school bus for a number of reasons, including that students in Old Crow don't live far enough away from the school. I believe the minimum requirement is 3.2 kilometres to require school bus transportation, and that is according to the student transportation regulations of the Education Act.
Ms. Netro: Mr. Speaker, this Liberal government campaigned on the previous NDP government's budget. They tabled that budget again under the Premier's name, and they have asked this House to pass that budget. As the minister knows, that budget specifically set aside $120,000 for a community bus for Old Crow.
Will the minister honour that commitment made in the budget for a community bus in Old Crow?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, Community and Transportation Services is currently reviewing the issues involved with the proposed bus purchase. Those issues include the school bus regulations, the estimated operating costs associated with the purchase, and other existing services available in the community. As part of this analysis, the department is also looking at other funding priorities identified by the community, such as improvements to the dump facility.
Ms. Netro: Mr. Speaker, this is a very serious problem for my community and for every community in rural Yukon. The Premier clearly said her government would honour the commitments in the budget. Now the minister is saying that they won't. Why did this minister tell the media that if the people in my community want a bus, they will have to buy it themselves?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Community and Transportation Services is not in the business of providing school buses or community buses. To do so would set an unfair precedent for other communities. The school council in Old Crow has indicated to the superintendent of education that a school bus was not a priority for them. The government chose to transfer the project to Community and Transportation Services and define the bus as a community bus, but, as I said, we're reviewing the issues involved with the purchase of that bus and the other community priority of improvements to the dump facility caused by erosion.
Question re: Old Crow community bus
Mr. McRobb: It's really interesting, now that the Liberals are in government, that they're not fulfilling their commitment to table this budget and to pass this budget as it was when we tabled it, Mr. Speaker. They're cherry-picking from this budget. Now we're hearing all kinds of excuses - how it's unfair to other communities to give one community something that's in the budget. Where do they draw the line, Mr. Speaker? It's disgusting.
My question is for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services on this same subject. The Premier said the Liberal government would honour all of the expenditures in this budget. The minister says that they won't. Will the minister tell this House which version of the Liberal truth the people of rural Yukon should believe - hers or the Premier's?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I have indicated that the Department of Education recommended against a dedicated school bus for Old Crow and that Community and Transportation Services is reviewing the issues involved with the proposed purchase of a community bus. I have outlined what those issues are and I can repeat it all again if the member prefers.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, they're cherry-picking from the budget. During the election campaign, our budget was perfectly fine to them and they supported it. Now they're changing their minds. They tell Yukoners one thing to get elected and they do another once they're in. It's disgusting.
This is not a school bus. This is a community bus. There's a big difference. The minister keeps referring to it as a school bus. Well, she's wrong, Mr. Speaker. I'd like to remind the minister of what the people of Old Crow were promised in this budget. This is the same budget the Liberals adopted as their own.
On page 31 of the budget speech, there is $150,000 to combat riverbank erosion. Mr. Speaker, I say that in response to the news story on CHON-FM where the minister is giving that as a reason - an excuse - not to proceed with the community bus. Clearly, there's another line item in the budget. She should review the budget a little more carefully.
On page 35, there's $120,000 for a community bus.
Speaker: Order please. Would the member please get to the question?
Mr. McRobb: Why is the minister letting her department decide which commitments this government will keep and which commitments it will break?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated, we are looking at the issues involved with the proposed purchase. There are competing funding priorities within the community, and the community has identified repairs to the dump facility caused by erosion as a priority.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, we're being treated here to another Liberal contradiction. One minister says one thing and the Premier says another thing. It's really hard on this side of the House to hold them accountable when nobody will claim responsibility for what is being said. There are mixed messages.
Mr. Speaker, the Premier tabled this budget. She assured this House that this government would honour it. So much for certainty. The only certainty we're getting is that the government will not do what it says it will do. Rural Yukon will just have to like it or lump it.
Will the minister tell this House what other commitments this Liberal government intends to abandon to punish rural Yukon for not voting Liberal?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, that is an outrageous comment by the member opposite - that we are punishing rural Yukon for anything. That is an absolutely outrageous comment, and the member should be ashamed of himself for making it.
Question re: Millennium fund, job creation
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I guess the truth hurts this new Liberal government.
I have a question for the Minister of Tourism on millennium madness. In the spring of 1999 edition of the Liberal caucus news, there was a section on millennium madness, and I quote: "The NDP is throwing a party at taxpayers' expense. There was $900,000 in the budget for millennium celebrations. What do Yukoners have to celebrate when they would rather have a job." This was the Liberal criticism of the NDP government's third budget.
Now we have this Liberal government passing the NDP's fourth budget, with a further $300,000 being allocated for what the Liberals call "millennium madness". Can the minister explain this latest Liberal flip-flop. If the Liberal government felt that this was a waste of taxpayers' money, why didn't the government delete it and use the money elsewhere to create employment, or at least honour one of their other commitments and buy a bus for Old Crow?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: He's absolutely right. Under the previous government, there was little to celebrate - very little to celebrate. Now there's a Liberal government, and this millennium funding, which is shared with the federal government, has gone out. We've honoured those commitments to millennium funding and there're some very good projects across the Yukon that are taking place - even in rural Yukon - to celebrate the millennium.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, under the NDP there was very little to celebrate. Under the Liberals now there is considerably less to celebrate. The Yukon Liberal caucus news put it very succinctly: "What do Yukoners have to celebrate if they don't have a job?" Job prospects for Yukoners under the previous NDP government looked bleak, but now under this new Liberal government - I guess we can call it the Yukon Liberal-New Democratic government - Yukoners' job prospects are virtually non-existent. Shutdown of the mining exploration; oil and gas is not coming; we can't even get permits to go and cut and timber any longer. It's going to be a mediocre visitor season this year.
Can the minister advise this House how many permanent jobs the millennium fund is expected to create?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: This government has only been in power for two months, but yet we have moved further ahead than the NDP did in four years. We have actively gone out. We're trying to get a pipeline for the Yukon. We've been very proactive on a number of fronts; we have been proactive on timber harvesting agreements as well. We just continue to bring money into the Yukon Territory - mining incentives that the Member for Klondike opposite voted against in the supplementary budget. We do it again and again and again. In only two months, we're bringing jobs, jobs, jobs into the Yukon Territory. We have a lot to celebrate. There's a Yukon Liberal government here in the Yukon Territory, and we're doing a good job.
Mr. Jenkins: If the minister believes that, Mr. Speaker, she can also sell you a bridge in Brooklyn. The Liberals in opposition accused the previous NDP government of throwing a party at taxpayers' expense. Now that they are in government, however, they are adding a further $300,000 to create a bigger and better party.
How can the minister now, in good conscience, justify this additional expense after criticizing it so severely in opposition? Where are all these new, wonderful initiatives that the Liberals are helping to create? How many new jobs will be created by this expenditure under the millennium madness expense, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: It is always interesting when the Member for Klondike brings up the subject of bridges.
The member opposite voted against this budget. He voted against it at first reading. He voted against it in the supplementary budget as well, which this government brought forward. That is money that is going out into the Yukon Territory to create jobs, jobs, jobs.
The millennium projects are also taking place in Dawson City. They're celebrating the millennium in Dawson City. The member opposite now has a problem with that. That's money that went into the city of Dawson, money that went into his riding, money that went into every riding in the Yukon Territory. That's money that will help our economy go ahead. The Yukon Liberal government has only been in power for two months, but we have created jobs, jobs, jobs.
Question re: Group home for young offenders at Bear Creek
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services. There has been a long-standing problem with the manner in which the Department of Health and Social Services goes about establishing group homes for young offenders in neighbourhoods. Such homes have been established in downtown Whitehorse, in Riverdale and in Porter Creek, and each time, invariably, they have been established, without any consultation with the local neighbourhood. The neighbours are totally unaware of them.
Now the problem has come to the Klondike. The residents of Bear Creek held an important and urgent meeting at the Klondike fire hall recently to discuss the youth facility at Bear Creek Bed and Bannock. Now, I raised the issue privately with the minister to give him a heads-up, to see if he could address the problem and do something about it, because authorization had already been issued by the department without any consultation.
Can the minister advise the House why his department had not made him aware of what they were doing? Who is supposed to be running the show anyway? Why is an open-custody group home being established in Bear Creek without any consultation with the local residents? Why was it done when consultation took place after the fact?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I can rest assured, and I hope the member opposite can rest assured, that consultation does take place. What happens in the Yukon, of course, is that rumours become what people tend to think of as consultation.
I can once again assure the member opposite that consultation has taken place and is taking place, and I'm not too sure where he gets the information on private discussions from, because obviously, when this issue became an issue, all the information wasn't given to the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: When I became aware of it, I went to the minister to give him a heads-up and he didn't have a clue about what I was speaking of. The issue was that a licence was issued for Ancient Voices Wilderness for a care facility at their operation upriver from Dawson. It was subsequently extended to include their operations at Bear Creek. That licence was granted. There was no consultation with the local neighbourhood once again, as has taken place time after time after time with the Department of Health and Social Services.
Why did consultation not occur with the residents in the Bear Creek subdivision before this licence was granted to operate a group home in that area?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, regarding this specific incident, the consultation was part of the discussion with the members of the community. No licence has been granted to this particular group home. There has been a licence granted for open custody for Ancient Voices, which is down the river, but no licence has been granted for the home in Bear Creek.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister is wrong. The licence was initially granted for the operation upriver from Dawson at Ancient Voices. It was extended to include the operations in Bear Creek. That licence was made available to the residents and shown to them at this open meeting that was held at the Rock Creek fire hall.
Now, why isn't the minister aware of that situation? It's in his own department and the minister should have access to it. There was no consultation about this licence being granted. If the consultation is going on, it's going on today as we speak, Mr. Speaker.
Now, the issue: why were the residents not made aware of the extension of that licence, and why were they not consulted before the group home was established in Bear Creek?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I am of the impression that your information may not be the appropriate information at this point. It's my understanding that the consultation is in the process of taking place at this moment. The licence has been granted for the Ancient Voices. There has been no talk of the licence being extended, because there are a number of other steps that have to take place before any licence can be extended or even granted, and one of them is a home visit that has to be done by the department. This has not been done so, again, I can only say that the information that I have is that no licence has been granted, at this point, for the Bear Creek open custody. Down the river, a licence has been granted for Ancient Voices. This is new information for me. I basically inquired as to the status of this, and the response I received is that the application for that licence is still being reviewed, still being studied, and all the steps have not been followed. The consultation part is part of the situation that happened last week, where there was an open meeting with the people who want to run the home in Bear Creek. That was part of the process.
Speaker: Order please. Would the minister please conclude his answer.
Question re: Tagish Road upgrade
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, in the document, It's All About the Future, and I'll quote. It says, under Infrastructure Development, "Over the last four years, for example, highway capital spending has been cut in half... This spending pattern has to change. We want our world class construction and engineering companies to be able to find work here at home, instead of travelling outside of the Yukon..." And, then again, we hear "Certainly, certainty for the constituents; we won't pull the plug." Well, Mr. Speaker, my question for the Minister of C&TS: will this Liberal government completely upgrade the Tagish Road as planned by the New Democratic Party?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, in this budget there is some work identified for the Tagish Road. The member is quite correct.
Mr. Keenan: I just love to stand on my feet, the way the Liberal caucus does, and say thank you very much for the answer. I look forward to the day that I might be able to do that, Mr. Speaker.
I know there is money in this year's budget and that it's not going to be pulled out - or maybe it is going to be pulled out, much like the bus for Old Crow.
My question, though, to the minister: does the minister believe in diversification of the economy, the Carcross-Tagish loop? Does the minister believe in the health and safety aspects of the people who live there? It is a bedroom community of Whitehorse. Many seniors live there and they need the certainty of a good highway road. Is the minister going to stand on her feet in the House now and commit to the completion of that road for the people of Tagish and the diversification of the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite is so concerned about the seniors and others who live in his riding, and throughout the Yukon, he would have seen to it, when he was the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, that the highway capital funding was not cut.
I have said it before in this House and I'll say it again: since 1992, the highway capital budget has gone from $20 million to less than $4 million. That is shameful.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, all I can hear from this minister is that it is shameful; we should be ashamed of ourselves. I challenge the minister to be able to prove that. I realize - and I went out and negotiated the Shakwak project, and there's only $20 million to spend in the Yukon from that one project alone this year. We hear again that there is certainty for the Yukon and that's why they'll table the budget. They say, "We will not pull the plug." I'm starting to think that the minister just does not care for the people who live outside of Whitehorse - outside of the Liberal domain.
Are we really punishing rural Yukon? We don't need it, Mr. Speaker. This government showed vision and actually put into place a three-year program, which this government and this minister is now alluding to the point that she is going to cut it. Is that going to happen?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is going down a road that he doesn't want to go on. This government certainly has no intention of punishing the people of rural Yukon.
A comparison of budget figures from 1995-96 to this current budget year, under the NDP government, shows a dramatic decrease in capital funding for highway projects. Factoring out the funding for the Shakwak project, which, as the member opposite well knows, is provided for by the U.S. government for specific work on the Haines Road and the north Alaska Highway, capital funding has decreased from $22,326,000 in 1992-93 to $3,886,000 in the 2000-01 main estimate. The Yukon government is committed to increasing spending on highway capital during our four-year mandate, as outlined in our platform.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of opposition private members' business
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the following item standing in the name of the official opposition to be called on Wednesday, June 28, 2000. It is Motion No. 70, standing in the name of the Member for Watson Lake.
Mr. Jenkins: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the third party to be called on Wednesday, June 28, 2000. They are Motion No. 73, standing in the name of the leader of the third party, and Motion No. 15, standing in the name of the leader of the third party.
Speaker: We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the acting 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 take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will recess for 15 minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 2 - First Appropriation Act, 2000-01 - continued
Yukon Housing Corporation - continued
Chair: We will continue with general debate on Yukon Housing.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, yesterday, in general debate on the Yukon Housing budget, I spoke briefly of Yukon Housing's role in assisting companies to enter the Chilean housing market. They have the following competitive advantages in the Chilean housing market: they have market knowledge, contacts and contracts; they have knowledge and experience in construction, wood frame and houses in remote and extreme-cold climates; they have experience with working with First Nations labour forces and in providing on-the-job training to local labour forces, and this is particularly important to the Chilean housing minister.
Mr. Chair, I would like to clarify for the record that Yukon Housing presents initiatives in assisting two Yukon home builders to enter into the Chilean housing market.
Two Yukon home builders are actively involved in pursuing contracts in Chile. These companies are the BLC Group and Neal Letang Construction. The BLC Group's project is intended to demonstrate the use of Canadian wood-frame construction techniques and products as a solution to providing low cost social housing in Chile. BLC Group representatives will be in Chile next week to finalize contractual requirements for the project in order to sign a contract to supply and construct 120 social housing units in San Diego.
Neal Letang Construction has signed contracts to build a custom home in Valdivia and to provide five demonstration units to a developer in Temuco. Letang Construction must conclude final negotiations to provide several hundred mid-level housing units to the same developer.
Yukon Housing has assisted these companies in the following ways: it has facilitated business participation in housing construction, trade shows in Chile in 1998 and 1999; it has facilitated introductions, meetings and presentations at the Chilean housing ministry; it has helped identify contracts and opportunities; and it has provided technical research and administrative assistance to support Yukon businesses pursuing contracts. Yukon Housing has developed training modules, which are available to Yukon homebuilders for use in the export market.
Yukon Housing is providing financial assistance to the BLC Group and to Neal Letang Construction. Yukon Housing has entered into a contribution agreement and loan for a combined total of $25,000 for the BLC Group. This funding will assist the company in making its final presentation in Chile. Yukon Housing has entered into a contribution agreement with Neal Letang Construction, also, for a maximum of $27,800, which will assist the company with its demonstration project.
This is the extent of Yukon Housing Corporation's financial involvement in these businesses. I have encouraged the Yukon Housing Corporation to continue to support these Yukon home builders in completing negotiations and securing contracts. I am satisfied with their initiatives to date to support Yukon businesses in completing negotiations and securing contracts.
Mr. Chair, further to the discussion of the seniors housing in Committee of the Whole debate yesterday, I would like to provide additional comments on the development of a seniors housing action plan. Yesterday, I indicated that the Yukon Housing Corporation has been involved in development initiatives that will provide the future housing needs of Yukon's growing seniors population. Corporation staff have prepared a number of proposals based on the needs identified by seniors at the seniors housing conference and by surveys of seniors housing requirements and developments in seniors housing across the country.
The corporation's board of directors is currently considering the proposal and expects to make recommendations for the seniors housing action plan at the end of July.
I'm looking forward to reviewing the recommendations of the board during the month of August, and I will be subsequently discussing the recommendations with my Cabinet colleagues.
At this time, I'm hoping we will be able to discuss the proposals with seniors and other interested parties during the fall of this year.
Mr. Chair, the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes asked questions regarding renovations to Yukon Housing Corporation's head office in Whitehorse. Funds are identified in this year's budget to convert the heating system to a more energy-efficient system. The corporation offers the commercial energy management program as an incentive to private sector businesses and other levels of government, such as municipal and First Nations, to improve their energy efficiency. The Yukon government does not create incentive programs for itself; therefore, the Housing Corporation will not apply for some of its own programming.
In terms of occupancy of the building, there are presently two spaces rented to the private sector, and it is anticipated that this relationship will continue.
Mr. Chair, during the Committee of the Whole debate yesterday, the Member for Klondike requested information on the process and timing of completion of the community housing studies. The Yukon Housing Corporation requires accurate information on current and future housing needs in the territory in order to continue to serve the housing needs of all Yukoners, both rural and urban - all Yukoners.
The community housing studies are a valuable method of gathering information that will help the corporation to align its program and services to continue to meet those needs. For the member's information, the community housing studies are, collectively, one of the largest research projects that the corporation and the Yukon government have ever undertaken.
Given the magnitude of the project, it was broken into three distinct stages. The first stage was a pilot project conducted for Carmacks in 1997 and 1998. During the second stage, the community housing surveys and data collection were completed over two fiscal years for communities throughout the Yukon. That's all Yukoners. In 1998-99, community housing surveys were completed in Mayo, Teslin, Haines Junction and Watson Lake. In 1999-2000, community housing surveys were completed in Ross River, Dawson City, Carcross, Destruction Bay, Burwash Landing, Beaver Creek, Marsh Lake and Whitehorse.
In the third stage of the project, the Yukon Housing Corporation will be producing reports summarizing the data collected for all communities. A separate report will be prepared for each community, which will also include a Yukon-wide summary of comparable data.
The corporation will also be producing specialized reports, such as seniors housing conditions and trends, energy use and the state of Yukon housing in comparison with housing across Canada. The community housing reports will be completed during the months of July and August 2000. This report will be sent to the communities and made available to members of the Legislature and other parties in September of this year.
Mr. Chair, yesterday, the Member for Klondike was expressing concern, asking a question about the Yukon Housing Corporation's policy in regard to addressing tenants' complaints. I would like to take a moment to respond more fully to the concern. I assure this House that Yukon Housing Corporation does take tenant concerns very seriously. Health and safety issues, raised by tenants, are treated seriously and responded to as quickly as possible. There are times that staff and our maintenance contractors do not always know exactly how to respond to a reported problem, and they need help from experts. In these situations, they do their best to assess the situation and take interim steps, such as relocating the tenant, if need be.
Again, I repeat that the corporation takes health and safety issues and concerns by tenants very seriously. They do their very best to address the concerns as quickly as possible.
The Member for Klondike cited a specific concern regarding a tenant who experienced excessive dirt buildup on her walls. The chronology of events that related to this issue are as follows: on January 5, 2000, the client called the Dawson housing office and advised that her heat was not working. A maintenance contractor responded the same day and found a failed zone valve. The valve was temporarily repaired and a new one ordered.
On January 6, the tenant called again and advised that her unit was too hot. A maintenance contractor was again dispatched and found that the zone valve that controlled the heat was now stuck in the open position, causing the heat to stay on. The maintenance contractor installed a new zone valve. At the same time as this heating problem was occurring in this tenant's apartment, Yukon Housing was experiencing problems with boilers overheating the water temperature in the heating system.
On January 9, the tenant contacted the housing office and advised that she has an excessive amount of black dust buildup on her walls. The tenant and the housing manager agreed to meet the next morning to assess the concern.
On January 10, the housing manager and the maintenance contractor visited the unit. They investigated the source of the dust and they took carbon monoxide tests. They were not able to determine where the dust was coming from.
The client was offered another apartment. The client declined that offer to move to another apartment unit.
On January 11, the Yukon Housing Corporation office in Whitehorse was advised of the problem. On the same day, staff in Whitehorse spoke with the maintenance contractor and worked with him regarding further areas to investigate. As it often is in January, the temperature was extremely cold, dipping to the minus 40s. It is a policy of Yukon Housing Corporation and the Yukon government not to have employees travel in these cold temperatures unless we have an absolute emergency. Obviously, the concern at hand did not warrant sending staff from Whitehorse out in these extreme temperatures. Whitehorse staff continued to work with the maintenance contractor in Dawson. The duct work was checked, filters were checked, and the rest of the building was checked for evidence of the source of the dust.
On January 12, there was a conference call between several senior staff members in Whitehorse, two of whom were engineering professionals, and staff in Dawson, to review the problem and develop a larger action plan. The temperature was still very cold and did not allow staff to travel from Whitehorse to Dawson.
The maintenance contractor was asked to take a sample of dust and send it to Whitehorse for testing. The maintenance contractor was asked to investigate the air-handling units for any signs of similar dust. We investigated the potential of windows being left open because of the overheating problem and to see if the dust was coming in this way.
Mr. Chair, I'm going to go on and finish explaining the chronology of events on this issue. But before I do, I would like to reiterate what I said earlier: Yukon Housing Corporation's policy is to take concerns very seriously, and it applies top priority to addressing them.
What I have on the chronology of this issue and just finished describing supports this policy and paints an entirely different picture of the corporation from what members opposite would like us to believe. I will continue on with the chronology of this issue.
On January 13, we found similar traces of the dust in some of the other units, but to a much lesser degree. A significant amount of dust was found to be building up on the radiating heat fins. At this point, Yukon Housing suspected that the heating fins on the radiator was the source of the problem. When the water temperature in the system was very hot, because of the cold outside air temperature and the fact that the boilers were sometimes overheating the water, this caused the dust that had accumulated on the fins to back off, float up and attach as dust to the walls. This theory, although not conclusive, was consistent with the dust patterns found on the unit. Believing that the problem had been solved, the staff set about having the unit cleaned and made plans to have it repainted. The tenant was compensated for associated cleaning costs.
On February 2, the tenant accepted the Yukon Housing offer of another apartment. Yukon Housing hired EBA Engineering, a local environmental engineering firm, to assist in analyzing the problem and the indoor air quality of that unit.
Considerable effort was invested by Yukon Housing on this issue. Engineers were hired; scientific and independent professionals did comprehensive testing. Mr. Chair, I have the engineering report on this issue here in front of me. The result is that we cannot find any signs of health concerns. The unit has been repaired and the suspected sources of the problem are being addressed.
What I have just conveyed to the member opposite in this House does not in any way support the member opposite's claim that Yukon Housing responds too slowly to complaints and does not take them seriously. Quite the contrary - the actions of the corporation are of high standard and should be commended on this issue.
Mr. Chair, yesterday I committed to the Member for Klondike to provide him with a copy of the maintenance procedures from the corporation's field services manual. I have instructed Yukon Housing Corporation staff to forward copies of this document to the hon. Member for Klondike.
During yesterday's Committee of the Whole debate, the Member for Klondike asked about security for loans on lands set aside. The Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation transferred management of 51 of its housing units under its rural and native housing program to the Yukon Housing Corporation. The housing consisted of 11 rental properties and 40 home ownership properties. The program was a general application program available to qualified people living in areas with a population under 2,500.
All 51 houses in the program are located on titled property. The Yukon Housing Corporation security is through mortgages registered on the property title. The corporation does not have mortgages for properties on lands set aside. It is noteworthy to say that Yukon Housing Corporation did not accept a transfer of any First Nation housing programs in the transfer agreement with CMHC, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
Mr. Chair, the Member for Klondike asked what the down payments have been for the lots sold in Mountainview. I would like to report that all the lots sold to date have at least a 2.5 percent down payment.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to thank the minister's officials for assembling all that information for the minister, and we'll get back to it after we deal with the appropriate individuals who have raised the questions with me.
Let's go back with respect to the seniors housing issue, Mr. Chair. I was looking at what the Yukon Housing Corporation was going to entertain in the way of provision of self-contained apartments in the Whitehorse area.
There's currently a move afoot by some of the Whitehorse service clubs, Mr. Chair, to provide a structure with self-contained living accommodations for the seniors, and what they need is mortgage money - either very low-priced mortgage money or zero mortgage funds. There used to be funds available previously for entities like this but, to date, this kind of initiative has fallen flat.
Now, should the service clubs come together and approach Yukon Housing Corporation, would they be willing to entertain a mortgage on such a complex - a complex encompassing rental units for seniors, with perhaps a hall adjacent to it with food service that could be used by the service club organization as well as the seniors, should they so wish? Perhaps the mortgage could be split into two components. The rental units would be at a zero mortgage so that we could keep the rents affordable, and the main hall that could be used for multi-purposes would be at conventional lending rates.
Is the Housing Corporation willing to entertain such a mortgage, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Jim: We do have a joint-venture program under Yukon Housing Corporation. Under that program this year, we have a million dollars in the budget. The corporation will review submissions from groups and the private sector. These submissions will go to the board. There is a process that we will go according to. I am very confident that the team from the Yukon Housing Corporation is doing an excellent job, and I look forward to seeing what comes up this fall - the reports for the senior housing action plan
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I would like to thank the minister for his response, but you indicated that, under joint-venture programs, there's a million dollars in this year's budget and a million dollars wouldn't be adequate to fund such a complex. It would probably be in the order of magnitude of $4 million or $5 million, to potentially $6 million. But in order for a program or an initiative like this to proceed, there has to be a political will. I'm asking the minister: what is the political will of his government?
Hon. Mr. Jim: To the member opposite for Klondike, each submission is reviewed on its own merits.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, such an initiative would go to a board, a board constituted under the Yukon Housing Corporation authorization.
What I'm asking the minister is if there is a political will within his government to entertain such an initiative. We're not looking for a board decision. We're not looking to evaluate a situation on its own merits by a board. I'm asking the minister: what is the leaning of his government? Is there a political will within the elected Liberal government to address such a request?
Hon. Mr. Jim: As it states in this government's mandate on seniors, we are committed to providing assistance and help to our seniors and our elders. Again, we say that if there are any proposals, those proposals need to fit into the seniors action plan. Moreover, our commitment to seniors and elders is synonymous to what this action plan will be providing in the fall.
I will be taking this action plan, once it is completed, to the Cabinet colleagues this fall.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I can see that we're getting nowhere very quickly with this minister, so we'll go back over some of the other areas where I have, as yet, failed to receive a response. I asked the minister if he could table the policy that the Yukon Housing Corporation had with respect to how to deal with a client complaint. That's what I was looking for. The minister committed to providing that information. To date, I have had a commitment for some other information that the minister has offered to provide.
When can I receive the information, Mr. Chair, that the minister has committed to providing?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I have already committed to the right document, and that information within that document is already being submitted, as we speak, to the members opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister committed to providing it to me this morning so that I would have it for the debate this afternoon. Now, this morning has come and gone some two hours and 55 minutes ago. Why didn't I receive it within the timelines that the minister committed to?
Hon. Mr. Jim: It was my mistake there. My apologies, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister just send it over so I can have a look at it while we're in general debate?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I don't have a copy of this on hand right now, but I can certainly send it over and get it right to him.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, can we stand this department aside and move on to another department until we receive this documentation so that we can continue with general debate, please?
Chair: Order please. Do the members wish to stand Yukon Housing aside up until that point, or do you wish to continue?
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Chair: The ayes have it. Yukon Housing will be stood aside.
Yukon Housing Corporation stood over
Chair: We will proceed to Education.
Mr. Jenkins: Thanks, Mr. Chair. We will stand Yukon Housing Corporation aside and proceed to Education.
Chair: I will declare a five-minute recess so the Minister of Education can arrive.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. As far as I understand it, documents have been delivered, and we are returning to the debate on Yukon Housing Corporation.
Yukon Housing Corporation - previously stood over
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: We agreed to stand Yukon Housing Corporation aside and go into the Department of Education. Can you explain what happened?
Chair: As far as I understood it, Mr. Jenkins, we were waiting for documents to be delivered. As I understand it, the documents have been delivered. So, the government is asking that we return to general debate on Yukon Housing Corporation.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Fentie, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I believe that it's standard practice that if a department is stood aside in Committee in general debate, it's a foregone conclusion that that department would be recalled at a later date, not at the same time. Secondly, the Department of Education had been called at the moment that Yukon Housing Corporation was stood aside. I believe, in this case, we should be in general debate on the Department of Education.
Chair: Mrs. Edelman, on the point of order.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, on the point of order, to be clear, it's the government that sets the order for debate.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, on the point of order, first of all, it was voted on in this House that we would set aside Yukon Housing Corporation. That was agreed to. That sets aside the department. Those are the rules of this Assembly. To go back into it immediately does not conform to the Standing Orders of this Legislature.
We are in general debate on Department of Education now. That is my understanding of where we were to proceed. I moved that we adjourn debate on Yukon Housing and we set the department aside. It was voted on and agreed. The department is set aside.
Chair: The Chair is ruling that we would like the House leaders to take five minutes and work this out among the parties here. There is confusion. We would like this to be resolved between the parties before the Chair has to make a decision.
The Chair will make a decision after the recess. We will recess for five minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Thank you to the House leaders for their negotiations. We will now proceed with general debate on the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I'm pleased to advise the House that I have asked the corporation to put into place a written procedure that will guide staff in dealing with tenants' complaints. The corporation does treat tenant concerns with priority; however, in reviewing the field service manual, we did not have a written procedure detailing that standard to which the corporation will respond.
I expect that this procedure, under the field service manual, will be completed by this fall.
Mr. Jenkins: I would like to thank the minister for his cooperation.
Mr. Chair, one other area that I would like to cover off and get some concrete conclusions from the minister on is with respect to a mortgage for some of the service clubs in Whitehorse to construct a seniors complex. There has been an initiative from the Elks, in concert with some of the other service clubs - the Legion, I believe, is a part - to build a seniors complex and either strata-title it or whatever. It is an initiative that service clubs have done in other jurisdictions in Canada. There is a group that is very much of the opinion that it is a viable undertaking here in Whitehorse.
The problem will be for them to secure adequate mortgage funds. The venture program that the minister spoke of earlier has a maximum of $1 million. Such an undertaking would be probably four, five or six times that magnitude, and it would require a long-term mortgage at a fixed interest rate or a no-interest rate on the main housing units to make it affordable.
Now, at the end of the day, the cost to the government would be considerably less by pursuing this route, and we would probably have an undertaking where there would be a pride of ownership and a lot of effort by the respective service clubs to ensure that it works. And it's an initiative that I would be very much supportive of, and I was hoping that I could receive an undertaking from the minister that he would explore this with the respective service clubs and look at providing them with the necessary mortgage money to proceed with this undertaking.
As I said earlier, it could be with a very low or no interest on the basic housing structure, and prevailing interest rates on that part of the complex that would house their meeting hall, the kitchen and that common area that would be used by the various service club members jointly.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, the Yukon Housing Corporation, I'm certain, would love to meet with these different groups. We try to encourage any new ideas or initiatives that deal with assisting seniors. That's more than helpful. Hopefully, groups like these will address some of the housing issues for seniors and solve some of the problems that we have in our different housing for seniors. We encourage this type of submission.
Regarding the joint-venture submissions for review by the board, I will forward the member's comments to the board and we look forward to that.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I would just request that both opposition parties receive any information that is forwarded by the minister and the department.
Hon. Mr. Jim: No problem.
Chair: We'll proceed to line-by-line debate: Yukon Housing Corporation, page 15-5.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Administration in the amount of $5,018,000 agreed to
On Program Costs
Program Costs in the amount of $7,526,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments?
Are there any questions on rent and recoveries?
Are there any questions on the financial summary?
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $12,544,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Repair and Upgrade
Repair and Upgrade in the amount of $3,710,000 agreed to
On Home Ownership
Home Ownership in the amount of $7,080,000 agreed to
On Industry Partnering
Industry Partnering in the amount of $1,860,000 agreed to
On Non-Profit Housing
Non-Profit Housing in the amount of $923,000 agreed to
On Staff Housing
Staff Housing in the amount of $573,000 agreed to
On Central Services
Mr. Jenkins: Construction acquisition of office space - has this already been concluded or is this some new initiative for $2.3 million?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Yes, it has been concluded. We bought the building.
Central Services in the amount of $2,483,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the recoveries?
Are there any questions on the transfer payments?
Capital Expenditures for Yukon Housing Corporation in the amount of $16,629,000 agreed to
Yukon Housing Corporation agreed to
Chair: We will now proceed to Department of Education.
Department of Education
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I am pleased to give some brief opening comments regarding the budget for the Department of Education for the year 2000-01. The overall department O&M budget of $84,281,000 consists of four expenditure program areas: education support services, public schools, advanced education, and libraries and archives. Education support services provides support in the form of financial administrative systems and legislative support to the three program areas that provide services to the public.
The department has a number of work sites, including 28 schools, the Wood Street centre, Yukon Archives, 12 community libraries, and two volunteer libraries and the central Whitehorse public library, Gadzoosdaa residence and the Teen Parent Centre.
Of the total operating and maintenance budget, the amount of $55,319,000 is for the estimated costs for salaries and benefits. The remainder of the budget, $28,962,000, consists of $12,427,000 in program delivery and costs and $16,535,000 in transfer payments to individuals and organizations. There are 890.64 FTEs included in this budget, with the largest percentage - 81 percent - located in the public school branch. Of the total FTEs in public schools, 87 percent is directly associated with school-based staff.
For YEU positions, the recent collective agreement increases are not included in this budget. In addition, this budget includes a number of new initiatives that I will explain briefly. $300,000 will be provided, commencing this year, for an enhanced program of technology-assisted learning in the public schools. This is related directly to implementation of the Connect Yukon project and will be focused on offering more course offerings to meet gaps in courses available for high school students, especially in rural areas, and in improving integrated technology use in both high school and elementary classes.
Funds will be distributed among teachers training for skill development in integrating information technology into learning and distributed learning seats for students, and teacher and student course material. Consultants in the department have been working with schools in recent months to evaluate skill shortages for teachers related to technology and integrated learning methods, and are presently designing new in-service courses for teachers to address these new skill areas. Consultants in the department are also evaluating distributed learning course materials from various jurisdictions in order to assess suitability for offering in support of the Yukon curriculum.
As the infrastructure will be coming to rural communities in phases, the rollout of the distributed learning model of course delivery will also be implemented in stages over the next few years. The focus of the coming year will be a targeted course offering for senior high school students in rural schools and significant effort toward teacher training in both the lead mentor/teach role and the facilitator/teach role.
Also in public schools, considerable energy has been invested by education partners in the territory in the past year to enhance the funds available from Canada for French language programming and initiatives. The francophone community, the school board and the department have collaborated to consult, evaluate needs and develop proposals that could be presented to Heritage Canada under the new special initiatives funding program.
I am very happy to report that the negotiations undertaken by the department with Heritage Canada have resulted in a long-term, five-year bilateral agreement - a significantly increased commitment over previous agreements.
In addition, as a result of these negotiations, Yukon has been successful in obtaining additional funding for this fiscal year for the following projects: $114,000 for new initiatives supporting programs at l'École Émilie Tremblay, which will be managed by the francophone school board; $110,000 for new adult education services to the French community, to be managed by l'Association des franco-yukonnais.
The reading recovery program for six-year-old students at risk in reading will be expanded in this fiscal year. This expansion will mean the program will be at full implementation across the territory. New programs will be offered in the communities of Carcross, Teslin and Old Crow in the fall of 2000. Expanded programs at Christ the King Elementary School, Takhini Elementary School and Jack Hulland School will also be offered, starting in the fall of 2000.
Turning to advanced education, this budget includes $150,000 in additional support for training allowances for post-secondary students, through the student financial assistance program. This financial support helps support students to pursue post-secondary studies.
In addition to the new initiatives I've mentioned briefly, a number of reallocations have been completed within existing programs to reflect current spending patterns. These will be highlighted as individual program budgets are presented.
Mr. Chair, I would also like to provide at this time some brief comments about the Department of Education capital budget. As members opposite are aware, the amount in the budget for the Department of Education is largely driven by the number of large school replacement building projects that are proceeding in the given fiscal year. This budget is no exception, with 54 percent of the total funds requested being allocated to two rural school construction projects.
In addition, 16 percent of the total budget is requested in advanced education for contributions to others for programs related to adult training education. Specifically, this includes a $750,000 capital grant to Yukon College and $1,500,000 allocated to the training trust funds. Another 26 percent of the budget is requested specifically to support the 28 school facilities throughout the territory. Everything, from replacement of old playground equipment to the replacement of heating systems to upgrading wiring and computer hardware for school computer labs to ground work - all of these activities directly support the learning environment of our students.
Now to highlight a few of these projects: $5.5 million has been requested to begin construction of the new J.V. Clark School in Mayo. After significant planning, the education partners in the community have approved the design of the new kindergarten to grade 12 school, with a targeted occupancy for September 2001.
This facility will feature a collated Yukon community campus and will have an expanded gymnasium and fitness centre. These latter enhancements to the facility are made possible through a first-ever, cost-sharing agreement between the community and the Government of the Yukon relating to a school facility. The community has contributed $480,000 toward this expansion. As a part of the agreement, they will also purchase $20,000 worth of exercise equipment for the fitness centre. Work will be started shortly on the site in order to start the foundation work.
$2 million is requested to complete construction of the Ross River school. This school is scheduled for occupancy in September 2000. The project is expected to be completed on schedule and within budget. This project has been successful in supporting local hire. The average has been three to five persons during the life of this project. The building features a co-located community campus of Yukon College. At this time the official opening is planned for early October.
I am looking forward to the opportunity to celebrate with the school and the community, as a whole, the completion of this beautiful new facility. In our small rural communities it is critically important that the school serve the community as a whole. I believe that this new school will do just that. The members of the community who have participated in the planning of this facility are to be commended. Funds in this budget year are required for completion of the construction, furnishings and equipment for school programs and site development.
In addition to these school replacement projects, $250,000 has been requested to complete the replacement of the floor in the large gymnasium at Vanier Catholic Secondary School. A sophisticated series of tests were completed in the fall to test several specific properties of this floor. While some properties were found to be within acceptable standards, others were not for the use currently required of the facility.
As such, this project was advanced as a priority in this budget. Other budget funds that support a number of or all public schools throughout the territory will be described in the detailed line-by-line presentation.
In advanced education, $1.5 million has been requested for the training trust funds. Projects approved under this initiative support the Yukon training strategy and provide training assistance to community organizations, sectoral industries and cultural industries, just to name a few. Examples of organizations requesting support in this or previous budget years are the Association of Yukon Communities, cultural industries, Yukon Federation of Labour, Yukon Agricultural Association, Yukon forest training board, Yukon mining and exploration, Yukon environmental, women's transition homes, oil and gas skill inventory, and oil and gas training initiatives.
In addition to the above, the department has paid a number of training trust fund dollars to various communities throughout the Yukon, including Carmacks, Faro, Champagne-Aishihik, Haines Junction, the Klondike region, Beaver Creek, Mayo, Teslin, Pelly Crossing, Ross River, Old Crow and Carcross. In addition, $750,000 has been requested to support the Yukon College through capital grant funding. The college has full discretion for the expenditure of these funds.
This budget also includes $272,000 for the required review of the Yukon Education Act, which will begin later this year. A steering committee is already at work defining the terms of the review and how it will take place.
I mentioned the planned opening of the new Ross River school earlier in my comments. I am also pleased to advise this House that the Watson Lake community library, part of the libraries and archives branch services to the public, has relocated to new quarters in the new municipal building in the past several months.
The official opening of this new site happened this past weekend. The community library was located in a very small space in Johnson Elementary School, since the former town building was destroyed by fire. The new location features a very spacious and inviting physical space, with large windows overlooking Wye Lake. This project represents a real community partnership, as there was lots of community input into the location, community donations to the public collection and a lot of volunteer help to get the community library into the new space and to become operational. I invite each member to stop and visit the new library when staying in Watson Lake or when travelling through the community to other locations.
Mr. Chair, with these brief comments, I would be happy to answer any general questions the members may have before proceeding to line-by-line review of the Department of Education budgets.
Mr. Fentie: I thank the minister for his brief overview. I would like to add also that I appreciate his attendance at the opening of the new municipal building and, of course, the library, which is, as he is probably aware now after seeing it, second to none in the Yukon in terms of a facility. I think it speaks to the hard work that some people in our communities continue to put forth to ensure that we can all enjoy such things as our community libraries, not only for our children, but for visitors and others who may choose to use it.
I think that one of the things that we can all agree on, Mr. Chair, is how critical educating our children is. The education of our children transcends all political boundaries. We all have a duty to ensure that we make best efforts and give our children every possible opportunity, so that they can get an education. As they move forward on the road of life, they can use that very important tool to face life's challenges. Without it, life is a lot more difficult; there's no question.
In that line, Mr. Chair, the vehicle that enables education to proceed in our territory is the Education Act. That's the framework from which we teach our children, operate our schools, create our curriculum and all the rest of it, and probably much more. But it is a fact now that that act is under review, and the review is being conducted by what has been termed for many, many years as "the partners in education". And these partners are legislated by the way - but it's the school councils, First Nations, the Yukon Teachers Association and the department itself.
This act review has been ongoing, and I wonder if the minister could tell this House if he expects a final report. Has it been submitted or is there one coming close at hand?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, it's a pleasure to update the member opposite on the review of the Education Act. I'm sure that the member opposite is aware that it has taken a little bit of time to get the committee together because of its composition: two First Nations, two representatives from within the Department of Education, two representatives from the school councils, and two representatives from the Yukon Teachers Association. The chair will be identified from within the group and will rotate. They have met a couple of times last week, and they met again yesterday to really get the project off the ground. It is a massive undertaking. They are taking it very responsibly.
So, over the next couple of weeks they will be working on a consultation plan and developing the consultation plan, and then they will actually go into discussions with communities - probably in the late fall through the winter months.
Mr. Fentie: Just for clarity, does that mean that the final report to the minister will come sometime in the winter of 2000-01?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: With the consultation process, of course they want to get as much input as is reasonable, so the consultation will occur through the fall and winter and, in all probability, the report would be available in May or June 2001.
Mr. Fentie:Can the minister also convey to the House the review itself? Is this a comprehensive, full review, or is it a sectoral review?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: As I just mentioned earlier, the consultation plan is in the works. It will be designed over, as I said, the next two or three weeks. I will be apprised of what the consultation plan is and what the extent of the review will be at that time.
Mr. Fentie: Okay. Mr. Chair, the minister must have some priorities with regard to this portfolio. Obviously, the Education Act review itself is extremely important in terms of how we proceed in the future with educating our children here in this territory.
First of all, could the minister enlighten us as to whether or not he has, in fact, some main priorities that he wants to proceed with in his purview as Minister of Education, and, furthermore, are there other programs that his department is reviewing?
If he could just for a moment go back to the review itself, is it in fact a case that the depth and scope of this review is to be determined by the consultation process, or has the department been mandated in what the extent of this review will be?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The consultation plan is being developed by a group of individuals who have been recognized as having experience and expertise and, after two or three weeks, the recommendations from the steering committee will be provided to me for review. The committee itself has not been provided with, or given, specific direction on what course to review in the Education Act. They are given the mandate to look at the whole thing.
Mr. Fentie: I thank the minister for that. Could the minister then go on with the first part of my request? Does he have any priorities during his mandate as Minister of Education that he would like to bring to the review or to the department itself, and are there any other programs at this time, or projected in the future, to be reviewed within the department itself?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I'm sure the member opposite can appreciate - and I have mentioned this in the past - that having been in government only two months, what I have done within the department is listen so I can really get a sense of what's happening currently within the department. One of the priorities, of course, that we stated during the election was the review of the Education Act.
We heard that from a number of sources, and really, when we sit down a little later this summer and plan our definitive course of action, it will be at that time with the full knowledge of what is currently occurring within the Department of Education that we can assess the needs. There are some incredibly supportive people within the department. I think that we have time and again willingly extolled the virtues of our public civil service, and we will take under advisement what they say - they have been at the job for quite some time - and then we will put our Yukon Liberal stamp on it.
Mr. Fentie: Would that stamp be red and white? Pardon the pun.
Mr. Chair, I understand that the minister has only been in his portfolio for a very short time, but he has been a man of the world for many, many years, and surely he came into this with some priorities in the education field that he may share with us here - just briefly - if he has something that he really wants to see accomplished during his mandate.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, I do believe that our party platform was tabled in the House previously, and I believe that there is a general guiding principle that is contained within the platform and that, over the course of our mandate, will be gradually implemented.
There are other concerns. I know that, as a government, we did inherit some ongoing projects - some of them very, very positive, like the school up in Mayo, the completion of the Ross River school - with further consideration toward rural schools.
The Member for Mayo-Tatchun has indicated that he would like to discuss the Tantalus School in Carmacks. So, there are future plans. I have a definitive responsibility, working cooperatively with the department. So, in brush-broad strokes, without committing specifically to policy aspects, that's probably the best that I can provide the member opposite at this time.
Mr. Fentie: I thank the minister for that.
Moving on, the former NDP government developed a youth strategy. It supports more youth involvement in decisions that affect and impact our youth directly, and also for coordinating services for young people and involvement in increased funding for youth programs. Now, a lot of that is, obviously, in this budget that we are debating here on the floor of the Legislature at this time. It has to be said that not too long ago the Liberals were voting against that expenditure. Today, though, it seems that they have had a change of heart, have seen the light, and have realized how important it is to involve youth in decisions that affect them.
I would submit to the minister that they have made a wise and sound decision in tabling the NDP budget as it relates to the youth in this territory. Can the minister confirm that they are, indeed, in support of the youth strategy and this approach to involving the youth in this type of decision making?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, one of the commitments that we made during the election, of course, was to address the youth. I would hope that we could have the dignity in this House that no party assumes priority over any youth program. Youth are for all Yukoners. The youth are comprised of all sectors within the Yukon. One of the indicators during the election was that we would organize a youth directorate and, as part of that exercise, we do have a caucus member assigned the responsibility to conduct preliminary investigations for youth programs throughout every branch of government. As the member opposite well knows, youth programs are contained within the Department of Justice, within the Department of Education and, I think, within the Department of Health and Social Services. So, it's a matter of really coordinating our efforts toward the youth in the territory and the Department of Education, which has a significant responsibility in that area, not only for educating our youth, but for extended youth initiatives - for instance, youth leadership programs. So it's imperative that we recognize, within all of government, youth programs and initiatives, and coordinate programs to better serve our youngsters, both in and out of school.
Mr. Fentie: I would like to just touch briefly on the youth secretariat - or youth directorate, but we can clear that up in a moment. Can the minister just confirm for this House, now that the Liberals have, in fact, changed their mind and made the decision to support this budget - does the minister support the youth strategy?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes.
Mr. Fentie: Could the minister then confirm that this department, directed by the minister, will then be following the goals of the youth strategy?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, yes, we are. Again it is a recognition that it is not always necessary to reinvent the wheel. Let's take advantage of initiatives by the previous governments, whomever it might be, examine them and make them better. So that's one of the reasons why we are going through all the departments and reviewing youth initiatives within the respective departments, recognizing that some of those youth initiatives have to stay within those respective departments, but also looking at where we can better utilize those dollars, mitigate double-dipping, and better coordinate and provide services to our youngsters.
Yes, the strategy itself is positive. For the 2000-01 fiscal year, the total O&M budget for the youth strategy is going to be $400,000. There is a further $50,000 identified in capital funding. So, these are things that the Department of Education is committed to and will remain committed to.
Mr. Fentie:Well, I agree that $400,000 in O&M and $50,000 in capital certainly isn't petty cash, and I'm quite pleased that the minister has committed here today to continue with that expenditure.
Can the minister inform the House, when it comes to the youth secretariat - and I'm just going back to his comments here. I take it that it is not the minister's plan to find new money or to expend new money on the youth secretariat, but to draw from expenditures that are happening already, and then rechannel those funds to fund the youth secretariat. Am I correct in that assumption?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes.
Mr. Fentie: Just to be clear then, the Liberal government will not be committing any new funding, but will be cutting in other areas and then taking that money and booking it for the youth secretariat. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, during the election, the Liberal Party did agree to adopt the budget proposed by the NDP. That's exactly what we're doing. Previous ministers have spoken eloquently on the issue. We're moving forward on it.
So, what we're doing within the existing budget and within this fiscal year is taking a look at those expenditures that are occurring within the current budget - the one that we're trying to pass here - and looking at ways to more efficiently provide programming, support, care, involvement with Crime Prevention Yukon, the interdepartmental committee on youth initiatives, and youth initiatives in the rural communities. I don't think there's anybody in the House who is not concerned about addressing the youngsters' concerns, both in and out of school, in the communities, and providing community support directed toward youth initiatives.
So we are working within the current budget restraints and we'll be looking at where youth programs exist in other departments.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, the Department of Education, along with other departments, was developing a coordinated list of youth programs I believe for some time - March 31, 2000. Could the minister inform this House whether that list is now available?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I believe that review is ongoing and I can't, at this time, provide a list. I believe the list is still being prepared.
Mr. Fentie: Just briefly then, could the minister give us any indication here today on an approximate completion date of that list of programs and when it would be made available to the House?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I will, during the next gathering of our caucus, request information on this specifically to see if we can determine, within a reasonable time, when we can provide the list to the member opposite.
Mr. Fentie: I thank the minister for that.
Moving along then, Mr. Chair, the Premier of the Liberal government here in the territory was very vocal on the issue of distance education and believed that more financial support should be immediately forthcoming from government for those who are home-schooling their children - parents who have chosen home-schooling.
In fact, to be concise, the Premier demanded that these changes with that expenditure be done within a month. Given the fact that the Liberals have chosen to table the NDP budget in its entirety and have brought in a supplementary that doesn't reflect that demand, does the minister have any idea how the department will be proceeding with that particular issue, as far as the expenditures are concerned? When will that be taking place in order to give more financial support to home-schooling parents?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Chair, I do believe that the - I don't want to misspeak what the Premier had indicated, but I know that the hon. Member for Mayo-Tatchun did ask me a question in the House on this issue. I do believe that I did indicate to him that there is a review with the home-schooler's association underway. I know that there are concerns by the association and that these issues will be discussed directly with them.
I know that the member opposite is going to jump up and ask me what the timeline is on this. At this particular time, I don't have a time frame to give him. It is ongoing. It is the summer, though, and it is sometimes awkward to have ongoing meetings. So, I will get back to the member with tentative dates at a later time.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I marvel at the minister's anticipation, because that's exactly what I was going to ask him: what is the timeline? So, let me throw him a curveball. Does the minister have any idea what the full costs are to the department of this commitment in terms of distance education and home-schooling?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: That's a pretty difficult question to answer. I do appreciate the curve, and maybe, the longer I spend in the House, I'll be able to read your mind all the time, but for the short term, I do think that putting a fixed amount on it is really going to be determined by the number of individuals taking advantage and the final outcome of discussions that we do have with the association, as there may be a realignment of involvement. I mean, it's very hard to say specifically, because I have not yet met with the association, but it certainly is on my agenda down the road.
Mr. Fentie: Again, just for clarity, then: we, in this House, understand the minister to have said that the Liberal government is committed indeed to increasing funding to distance education, home- schooling and, also, to amend the education policy at some time in the very near future.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I don't know where the member opposite got that understanding. I thought what I'd indicated is that we are consulting, we are meeting with the home-schoolers association. We do have to determine the number of students, the course dollars, the source - where we're able to secure the course materials. These are three factors that have significant impact and are variables that are hard to determine at the get-go, so there are really no dollars specified at this particular time. It needs planning, it needs discussion, and that's what we are committed to doing.
Mr. Fentie: Well, let me point out to the minister where I got the idea from. I, for one, believe - as this side of the House also believes - that when somebody on the opposite benches makes demands - whether they are in opposition - or make statements in an election campaign with regard to a specific issue, we take those at face value and believe them to be a position. That's where I got the idea. Let the record show that, again, we have an example of that very situation occurring, and the minister is now deviating from that particular demand and/or position.
Moving on, Mr. Chair, the previous government worked with school councils on reconstructing schools in rural Yukon. Examples of that are Old Crow, Ross River and Mayo. Now, the Liberals, during the election, committed to building a new Grey Mountain Primary School and expanding the three Catholic schools here in the City of Whitehorse.
Given the fact that that's a huge commitment of dollars here in Whitehorse, can the minister tell this House whether or not the Liberal government indeed will continue with commitments to rural Yukon and ensure that planning with school councils for large capital projects, such as new schools in rural Yukon, will in fact continue?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Again, I am pleased with the question, in that, just during the past couple of weeks, I have sent out letters to every school council, apprising them that I would certainly like to get together with them as soon as reasonably possible. I understand, again, that during the summer everybody wants to R&R.
So, this probably wouldn't happen until the fall and winter months. I am committed to that and, again, I'll be working closely with the department so that, when I do visit the school councils, I will be able to discuss various issues that they have.
There is also a fall conference of school councils, so I will be certainly attending that.
With respect to our ongoing review of schools in the communities, again, I refer to the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, who has brought up the issue with respect to the school in Carmacks. He has expressed concern. Of course we're going to be looking at the communities and their individual education needs, and we will take into serious consideration what they have to say.
There is capital prioritized for both physical condition and programming within the schools, so we will continue to monitor their needs and be very attentive to their needs.
Mr. Fentie: In that regard, then, Mr. Chair, can the minister tell this House whether that same methodology was used, in terms of education needs and the condition of schools and so on and so forth, in the Liberals' commitments to the Grey Mountain Primary School and the three Catholic schools in Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, I'm sure we have heard in this House, Mr. Chair, "The little school that could." I know that my colleagues from Riverdale and the Member for Riverside have lobbied hard and long to address the needs and concerns of the little school that could, namely Grey Mountain Primary.
These folks have been promised by not only the most immediate government, but by governments previous to that, to address their needs and concerns. What we did during the election was promise to do the same, and not only do the same, but follow through on our commitment. We looked at the plans to see how adequate they are at this time. Again, there have been planned developments for the Grey Mountain Primary School. We'll see how practical they are for today's needs and wants and the student dynamic in the area. We will look at Grey Mountain Primary on a very comprehensive needs basis.
Mr. Fentie: I'm to take it then that - not to mention an election commitment by the Member for Riverdale South, who has made a litany of commitments and demands in this Legislature, all of them which would result in a tremendous amount of expenditures on the part of the Yukon government - the need to replace Grey Mountain Primary School is greater than the construction of a school in Carmacks?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, no; that's not what I said.
Mr. Fentie: Well, we were determining the methodology and how the choice was made on which schools get built and which do not. In other words, it is a list of priority schools. We have, obviously, a Liberal government that was elected in Whitehorse, not rural Yukon. We have Grey Mountain Primary School and three Catholic schools in Whitehorse, and there is a commitment to them to reconstruct. The minister touched briefly on what the decision-making methodology would be to reconstruct a school in rural Yukon.
I asked earlier whether or not that methodology was the same in Whitehorse. That's all I'm trying to determine. If that is in fact the case - that those very same reasons why you would reconstruct Grey Mountain and three Catholic schools in Whitehorse are indeed the same reasons that you would apply to reconstruct schools in rural Yukon, and that is how you prioritize which schools get constructed.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I don't think at any time did we say we were reconstructing the Catholic schools in the Whitehorse area. I think that we have to understand that the Department of Education takes into consideration a full range of considerations that come in. There are things like changes in enrollment, specifically numbers of students, programming needs and considerations, the overall evaluation of school conditions. And all of these things are considered with direct consultation with school councils, so all these things are evaluated and weighed and then decisions are made as to where we concentrate our efforts.
Mr. Fentie: Okay, then there is a possibility that the commitments of Grey Mountain Primary - and pardon my mistake about reconstruction of three Catholic schools; it is expanding them. There is a possibility that the government still must consult with the school councils related to these particular schools, and the decision would then proceed from that consultation. So, is it true that there's the possibility that Grey Mountain Primary School and expanding the three Catholic schools in Whitehorse may in fact not take place?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: As the member opposite knows well, during the election we committed ourselves to the Grey Mountain Primary School project.
Mr. Fentie: Was there then, in fact, consultation with the school council, so that, as the minister has stated, would be one of the methods that would determine a decision to proceed on constructing the school? Was there, in fact, consultation by this government with the school council that then triggered the decision to proceed with this commitment and expenditure?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, again, I have to reiterate that we are in consultation with the school councils, that we have made a commitment with respect to the Grey Mountain Primary School, that through the consultations we would establish a priority and a timing, and, getting back to a primary factor in this debate: we are discussing the current budget that has been adopted by this government and that I do believe it was made clear that future expenditures beyond this budget were something that we would consider and work on for the future.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I would hope he would consider new budgets, because, if he doesn't, we're all going to go home. There'd be nothing to do.
Anyway, enough of that issue, Mr. Chair. Let's move on to budgeting and how that relates to another very important facet of what we do here in this territory, given our geographic location and the unique needs that people in this territory face and have to deal with. One of the surest ways to make sure that your workforce, your populace, can work is to have people trained so that they can actually do a specific job. The vehicle that has been used for some time now in that regard is the Yukon training strategy, but that also means that there has to be long-term commitment to make it work because subsequent budgeting must include training funds to continue support of the Yukon training strategy. It certainly gives Yukon people a leg up on employment opportunities, especially around the need to diversify our economy and economic development in this territory. A good, trained, solid workforce goes a long way for us to be successful in that regard.
As part of this budget, long-term capital plans were definitely a part of the budgeting process with the budget we're debating here today. That means that we have to somehow inform the public that training will, indeed, continue.
Does the minister, firstly, support the Yukon training strategy and that approach to establishing a workforce that is prepared and ready, and will the minister support training trust funds in the future?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I do believe that I indicated in my opening remarks that there was a commitment to the advanced education program of $1.5 million as our commitment to the training program indicated. Just as the sun will shine tomorrow, I'm sure that there will be a budget to follow this one.
Mr. Fentie: Will it include training trust funds?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I believe that we are getting into the realm of the hypothetical. Again, I believe that was stressed by previous ministers and by the Premier herself that it would be unwise to get into the realm of the hypothetical in discussing this budget.
Mr. Fentie: Well, in that case, I would wonder whether all the training that has gone on for people in the mining sector, the forestry sector, agriculture, social service workers, child care, transition homes, environmental sector workers, and communities like Watson Lake, Carmacks and Dawson City that have established community training trust funds - I hardly consider that hypothetical. That's a fact of life that has been with us for some time and is a proven entity and has definitely given results.
Today, if we wanted to just use a specific example, the training dollars that have been expended in the forest sector have reached communities like Watson Lake, Haines Junction and Teslin, where local people, who, before the training dollars were spent and before they were given that basic training that allowed them to become employees in that sector, would have been overlooked and not got those jobs. So, this is not a hypothetical situation at all.
It's a fact of life here in the Yukon. Therefore, I ask again of the minister - I know the Liberals' concern about tipping their hand and what may happen in future budgets. I want to try and determine here in this House whether, in fact, training trust funds will continue. And if there are not training trust funds, does the minister have an alternate approach to ensure that examples such as those I just brought up regarding the positive aspects of training our local people here so that they can go to work - so that we achieve that goal?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Chair. Personally, I would like to achieve that goal.
Mr. Fentie: Could the minister enlighten us as to how that will be done? Is it by magic, or do we have another mechanism if the Liberal government chooses to cease the training trust funding?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I can see where we're going. I guess every minister - ministers before me and ministers that go after me - will have to go through the same line of questioning. It seems that the members opposite just won't take the answers provided as an answer.
It really isn't in anybody's best interest to speculate on future budgets. I think we've used analogies with respect to speculation in the House already. I don't think it really does us any good to get on to the speculation issue at all.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I don't consider this being speculative at all. Training Yukon people - there's no speculation in that - we're either going to do it or we're not. I'm merely trying to find out, not that I want information on what a future budget may hold; I'm trying to find out whether the minister supports a training strategy in this territory. If training trust funds are not going to be the vehicle that the Liberal government uses, does the minister and his government have an alternative approach to ensure that Yukon people are trained and are given the best possible chance to be employed in sectors of the Yukon economy that we require a workforce in?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Of course we're committed to the training programs and the training budget component of this budget. We want to see those individuals forward and better themselves. Just as I've indicated earlier, as surely as they'll be a budget tomorrow, I'm sure that if the member opposite wishes to speculate himself. I'm sure that he could probably see that, through his eyes, there will be a consideration for the needs of Yukoners in the next budget.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I have some questions concerning the Education Act review, but they seem to be well covered. One of the areas I'd like to explore with the minister is the apparent teacher shortage. It would appear that there is a looming shortage of teachers. It's estimated that in the Yukon within the next eight years, half of our teachers will reach retirement age and, within the next two years, half of the administration will be retiring.
Can the minister just outline the steps that his department is taking to address this shortfall in teaching staff and administrative staff?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Chair. I don't really believe that there is a substantive shortage of teachers in Yukon. Where there is an indication that there could be a shortage is in speciality teachers, and, also during the election, we had indicated concern about the care and welfare of our rural teachers and we had indicated that we would look at options to provide additional support through a teacher mentoring program and other options that I would encourage all members of the House to add to, as these are concerns that are real and have to be addressed.
Mr. Jenkins: So, if I understand the minister correctly, there doesn't appear to be a teacher shortage, but it has been acknowledged that within the next eight years, half of our teachers will have reached retirement age, and within the next two years, half of our administration will be retiring. Now, what steps is the department taking to address these issues? The minister might not believe that there is a shortfall of teachers, but those are the statistics that are being produced so just where are we at and what's the game plan with respect to teachers and administrative staff?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Chair, as I indicated in my previous answer, there is no current teacher shortage, except in those areas that I identified, and we are looking into those situations. In consideration of future needs, we are certainly looking into those concerns and will be addressing them appropriately in the short term, as the member opposite knows. What is under review by Yukon teachers at the very moment is the negotiated settlement that was agreed to by their executive.
We talked about methods to mitigate and encourage teachers to return to their classes in the spring, by way of a retention allowance. I would wonder why the members opposite did not, in previous negotiations with the Teachers Association and Yukon teachers, address these concerns at the time, given that I don't think that, on the day that the Yukon Liberal government was elected, all of a sudden we had a teacher-shortage issue or problem. But, with all due respect to the member opposite, this is something that we're constantly looking at and are concerned about.
Mr. Jenkins: So, if I read the minister correctly, there's no teacher shortage, we're not going to have a problem, and the Liberal government has addressed it by throwing a million dollars in as a signing bonus or a retention bonus or return bonus. That's how that's been resolved.
Let's look at the administrative side of the equation. Half of the administration will be retiring in the next two years. Given that the department has 890 FTEs and that only 453.63 FTEs are actually teachers - about half are in another category, Mr. Chair - what are we doing on the administration side of the Department of Education to address the shortfall?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The member's concern is appreciated. He has pointed out that the administration within the Department of Education is getting on. Naturally there will be a reduction in number due to attrition and various other actions. We will be recruiting appropriately to look to fill those positions, but that, basically, is all that I can tell the member opposite at this particular time. I would hope that, at a later date, I could provide a more substantive and qualitative answer for him.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's look at the order of magnitude of what we're facing. Let's just deal with the administration. If we have 890 FTEs in the department and 453.63 FTEs are teachers, we probably have 400 or so in the administrative staff, and in two years, half of the administration staff are slated to retire - on the administration side of the government.
Now, just how is that shortfall going to be addressed, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: There is a slight clarification for the member opposite's question. Within the administration number that he is touting, there are special support staff and there are education assistants, principals and vice-principals of schools, remedial tutors, aboriginal secretaries, aboriginal language instructors, secretaries and librarians included. So, that's a bit of a breakdown on the administrative side. Those individuals are included in that number. The other number, yes, is attributed directly to teachers.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, perhaps it's time to enlighten the minister. There are 890 FTEs in the department. Teachers are 453.64 FTEs, educational assistants are 73.96 FTEs, remedial tutors are 27.10 FTEs, and native language instructors are 32.41 FTEs, for a total of 587.11 FTEs. So, if you take that away from the department total, we still have 300 odd in the administration wing of the Department of Education. Now, there might be a breakdown of some additional ones, but if you look at half of the administration retiring, we still have between 100 and 150 in a position to retire in the next year or two. So, those are the department's own statistics.
Where are we headed? How are going to recruit and fill these voids?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I would certainly appreciate clarification from the member opposite on how he figures that half the administration is retiring within the year. I'm sorry, I don't understand the question.
Mr. Jenkins: That is extrapolated from previous debates in this Legislature. Research that has taken place here indicates that half the administration of the Department of Education would be in a position to retire in the next two years - within the next two years. So, at the end of this year, we still have two years, and if you subtract from the total FTEs in the department, which may or may not be accurate, we still come up with a very, very large number of the administrative arm of the Department of Education that would be in a position to retire.
What is taking place within the department to recruit or, as the minister suggested, the positions are not going to be backfilled, they are just going to be set aside. What's happening?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I don't believe I said anything of that nature: that they are going to just be backfilled. I don't think I indicated that at all, but I do have a better understanding now of this question on the administrative side.
The fact is that the administration includes four superintendent positions and it includes vice-principals and principals to about 45 positions. I don't think that I had indicated to the member opposite that there was a 50-percent retirement possibility within the next year. I see the member is shaking his head. Maybe I still don't understand the question, so if I could ask the member opposite to just further clarify the question, hopefully I can provide a satisfactory answer.
Mr. Jenkins: These are from previous debates in the Legislature, where it was pointed out that, within the next eight years, half of Yukon teachers will have reached retirement age and that, within the next two years, half of the administration will be in a position to retire. Half of the administration within the next two years will be in a position to retire. The minister has indicated that there is no problem with teachers; there's no teacher shortage. The Liberals will address the problem with this nice signing bonus, but what are we going to do on the administrative side of the equation?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I am getting a little clearer on the question, and I do hope the member opposite will be a little patient with me in my attempting to adequately answer it. I'm not quite sure of the previous debate that the member is referring to but, that aside, I believe that the indicator was that there would be an eligibility. I'm not sure where the member opposite gets the eight-year figure with respect to teachers, but I will research it. On the administration side, again, there is an eligibility for early retirement and we will be looking to fill those positions at the appropriate time, I'm sure.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, does the minister have any idea or estimates as to where these shortages will be most prevalent and what steps his government is taking to address these shortages?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, the shortgages, in all probability, are going to be in the specialty fields again, such as music and auto mechanics. We're looking at options of partnerships in the communities, and, if necessary, we'll get into the standard recruitment exercise of looking outside. But let's look inward first and see what qualified and capable individuals we have right here in the territory.
So, hopefully I'm getting closer to a satisfactory answer for the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister for his response. Yes, we are coming closer, Mr. Chair.
There are quite a number of issues surrounding the recent announcement that the Premier made at the Yukon Teachers Association - that the Liberal government would be introducing a teacher training program and that it would be similar to YNTEP. I don't know if the Premier has apprised her ministers as to what's going on in that area, but that was her recent announcement in her speech.
I was wondering if the minister could perhaps outline what kind of program the minister, department or Premier had in mind. Would this be a program for university graduates wishing to earn a degree? Would it be a program open to Yukon high school graduates who wanted to obtain their educational degree in the Yukon? Where would it flow, Mr. Chair? How does this dovetail into the existing programs that we have? How would it dovetail into YNTEP? How would it dovetail into the First Nations educational initiative and their teacher training program?
What I was hoping that the minister could do was to outline the whole gamut as to how the teacher training programs were going to dovetail and how this new initiative that was announced by the Premier at the Yukon Teachers Association meeting would fit into the program.
Mr. Chair, given the time, I move that we report progress on Bill No. 2.
Motion agreed to
Mr. Kent: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has asked me to report progress on Bill No. 2, entitled First Appropriation Act, 2000-01, and instructed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the acting government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:29 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled June 27, 2000:
Conflict of Interest Commission Annual Report July 1999-June 2000 (dated June 22, 2000)
The following Documents were filed June 27, 2000:
Community and Transportation Services technical budget briefing note prepared for opposition caucuses (June 12, 2000)
Forest industry: letter dated May 12, 2000 to Hon. Pat Duncan, Minister of Economic Development, from Dennis Fentie, MLA for Watson Lake