Wednesday, November 14, 2001 - 1:00 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.
In recognition of the DC-3 restoration project
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of all Yukoners and all members of this Legislature to pay tribute to the many volunteers who worked tirelessly on the DC-3 restoration project at the Whitehorse airport.
As many of you are aware, there has been a group of volunteers working hard to restore this DC-3, which is fondly known as "the world's largest weathervane".
The DC-3 itself, which is almost 60 years old, has a remarkable history. It was built in 1942 and has flown missions in India and China as well as flying cargo to Old Crow and Eagle Plains. Dawn and Gordon Bartch attended the ceremony officially reopening the restoration project last Thursday evening and noted to me that the former Yukon Member of Parliament, Erik Nielsen, was the last co-pilot on this DC-3.
The DC-3 flew for many years, and although it retired from flying in 1970, it did not retire altogether. In 1977, the first restoration project began. In 1981, the DC-3 was mounted on a pivot pedestal and became the world's largest weathervane.
The years of service and exposure to the Yukon's harsh weather took their toll. In July of 1998, the second restoration project began. It was an overwhelming task for volunteers. There are too many to name individually here today. You should note that there were almost 50 volunteers who put in over 1,600 hours of labour. The two youngest volunteers, Pete Lommerse and Vicky Stuart, were 11 and 12 at the time they began working on the plane.
Restoration does not only take elbow grease and dedication. It also requires sponsorship. This project was able to attract almost 60 sponsors. These included many individuals and local businesses. It was truly a community-driven project. It is inspiring to see what can be accomplished when someone has a vision that others share and when those people are prepared to work hard to reach that goal.
On behalf of all Yukoners, I would like to thank the volunteers and the sponsors who have made it possible for us to watch this piece of our history turning in the wind, and welcome us home as we land at the Whitehorse Airport.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
In recognition of GIS Day
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, as you know and as most of the members are aware, today is GIS Day around the world, and GIS stands for geographic information systems. Here in the Yukon, these systems are used for everything from mapping to land management. GIS Day is held each year to make people more aware of how technology and geography work together.
Here in the foyer of this building, there has been a lot of activity today to mark this event. Several school classes have come to learn more about this topic. To prepare for today, they recently took part in some geo-caching activities. They used special GPS equipment to find things hidden around their schools, and I understand they had a great time and they learned new skills.
The Mayor of Whitehorse was here earlier to officially declare today as GIS Day in the city. As well, I had the opportunity over the lunch hour to sign a geomatics accord to set out a framework that will help all of us in the Yukon and across Canada to learn more.
It's an agreement signed by all governments in this country to share information about such things as managing land, surveying and mapping. It will help everyone, from those students who are involved in geo-caching activities to someone who is doing mining and exploration, or back-country skiing.
I'd like to pay tribute, on behalf of the Legislative Assembly, to everyone who has worked so hard to make this day a success.
Thank you to the City of Whitehorse, DIAND, Natural Resources Canada, the Department of Renewable Resources, Applied Eco Management Systems, Yukon College and my geomatics Yukon staff. Keep up the good work.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Jim: I have a legislative return for tabling in response to questions raised by the Members for Watson Lake and Klondike regarding the Yukon mining incentives program.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
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
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) Yukon people have a right to know that the water they use is clean and safe, both in urban and rural areas;
(2) the Government of Yukon is legally obligated to protect the public health of Yukon people;
(3) the threat of water contamination through human and animal waste is a concern across Canada in the wake of the tragedy in Walkerton, Ontario, and boil-water advisories in other communities;
(4) at a time when many Canadians are demanding a national drinking water standard, the Yukon Liberal government has done nothing to establish even a territory-wide standard for safe drinking water; and
(5) the current Minister of Health and Social Services has demonstrated a nonchalant attitude toward the monitoring and enforcement of standards regarding the construction and installation of sewage holding facilities; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to honour its responsibilities to Yukon people by immediately consulting with Yukon people, municipalities and First Nation governments to establish a territorial standard for drinking water quality and to develop appropriate legislation to ensure that this standard is met, monitored and enforced throughout the Yukon.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Parks and Land Certainty Act, lack of consultation
Mr. McRobb: Yesterday the Minister of Renewable Resources admitted that his government failed to provide an opportunity for public input into the drafting of the proposed Parks and Land Certainty Act.
The Yukon Protected Areas Strategy Public Advisory Committee worked hard to develop the strategy, but the minister did not even reconvene PAC to help him draft this legislation.
Can the minister tell us why not?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I very much welcome this question from the Member for Kluane, because I believe, after second reading, the NDP voted against parks in Yukon.
So, Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that YPAS process, which is now identified in the preamble to the Parks and Land Certainty Act, was reviewed for a very considerable amount of time, and those concerns and issues were addressed in the preamble.
Now that the Parks and Land Certainty Act has been moved into Committee, I look forward to debating that to show the members opposite how we will be managing our parks.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, the Yukon protected areas strategy was produced as a result of years of hard work and extensive public consultation. But now the minister refuses to make a clear commitment to require public participation under the YPAS process in the creation of parks and protected areas.
Can the minister tell us why not?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I am not quite sure what the question is relative to. I am glad that the member acknowledged that there were extensive years of consultation on YPAS, and the first time they tried using the process of YPAS, the members opposite have already admitted, that they skipped some of the steps, and that in skipping some of those steps, although they were very sensitive and respectful to some of our Yukoners - namely the extraction resource industry or miners - that whole sector was left out when they tried their first attempt to follow the steps. So we had to conduct another 18 months of consultation on it, and now we have it protected within the Parks and Land Certainty Act.
Mr. McRobb: Well, that doesn't answer the question. The act clearly gives the minister and his Cabinet colleagues the ability to ignore YPAS at any time. Nowhere does the act indicate the minister is committed to public input, as set out in the YPAS process. The minister is simply cherry-picking from the YPAS, taking only what he likes and ignoring what he doesn't like. The principle of public consultation under YPAS needs to be put into law. A proper amount of time should be provided to the public to collect their feedback on the legislation. Furthermore, instead of bringing forward stand-alone legislation, he is mixing up YPAS with the old Parks Act. I have a suggestion for the minister. Set aside this legislation until the spring to allow time to satisfy these concerns. Will he consider doing that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, it is quite obvious, not only are the members opposite against parks, they haven't even bothered to read the Parks and Land Certainty Act. Right in the preamble in section (b) it states, "to encourage public participation during the process of selecting boundaries and managing protected areas". So, we have acknowledged that we need public input and that is something that this government is very good at is listening to Yukoners, despite the lauding from the members opposite.
Question re: Protected areas strategy
Mr. McRobb: The Yukon protected areas strategy commits to the protection of 23 ecoregions. That is not only a territorial commitment, it is a national and international commitment as well. All political parties in this Legislature supported that, including the Yukon Party and the Liberal Party.
Why has the minister failed to honour those commitments?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The member is wrong, Mr. Speaker. We are following through on our commitments to those three areas we have identified that are less than 10 percent outside the territory. If the member had studied the map, he would have recognized that there is no way on God's green earth that we could at all represent adequately that ecoregion that barely intrudes on Yukon territory. So if the member had looked at it, we are being responsible, we are following the commitment, we are working in partnership with the provinces and territories where those areas go into, and we are encouraging to make representation of those ecoregions.
Mr. McRobb: Well, we've done more than study the map, Mr. Speaker. We've also studied the legislation, and we see quite a few shortcomings.
Now, earlier this summer, the government quietly announced that it was going to be dropping three ecoregions right off the table. The minister just mentioned that. But can he tell us whom he consulted with in order to come up with that policy decision?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, again, something that we outdo on this side of the House, quite ardently, is our homework. And just looking at the maps, those ecoregions that are less than 10 percent within Yukon could hardly be fairly represented in a protected area within Yukon.
So, we are doing our homework. We're looking at and studying the maps, we're looking at the ecoregions, and we're respecting other jurisdictions and encouraging their participation with Yukon in representing those three areas extensively outside of Yukon in a protected area.
Mr. McRobb: Well, we'll see about that, Mr. Speaker. The minister is trying to offload his responsibilities under the YPAS to other jurisdictions. He should remember that every ecoregion in the Yukon is 100 percent inside the Yukon. Does the minister seriously think that Gordon Campbell is greener than he is? Does he think that Gordon Campbell will do his work for him? Will this minister change his direction, honour his commitment to protect each of the 23 ecoregions in the Yukon? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, again, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is flip-flopping on the parks issue, but yesterday they indicated quite loudly and unanimously that the NDP is against parks. Quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, not all 23 ecoregions are 100 percent in the territory. Then again, Mr. Speaker, that's how the opposite members conducted business with respect to ecoregion representation. They didn't even bother to look at the map, or they would have seen that a good number also straddled the borders into Alaska, into the Northwest Territories and into B.C. Well, Mr. Speaker, we are being responsible and accountable and open in identifying those three ecoregions that are less than 10 percent in the Yukon. We are encouraging other jurisdictions to make representations of protected areas in those ecoregions.
Question re: Parks and Land Certainty Act, creation of parks
Mr. Jenkins: Same minister, same topic. Now, Bill 46, the Parks and Land Certainty Act, should be expanded to say "and economic uncertainty act," but we won't go there.
Parks can be created either through the protected areas strategy process or through a special management area under land claims. Now, under current planning in the Department of Renewable Resources, eight mineral assessment projects are to be completed by March 31, 2001. Seven of the projects are being undertaken under the auspices of Yukon protected areas strategy, while one is being undertaken under land claims. Will the minister confirm that a detailed assessment is being undertaken of the Frances Lake special management area under land claims and that this area is slated to become another park, in addition to the three parks I announced earlier in the Snake River region at Wolf Lake and the LaBiche region.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I do welcome the question from the Member for Klondike. The fact of the matter is, when I was introducing the second reading and said, with respect to SMAs, we'll work cooperatively and closely with First Nations in identifying equal representation and protected areas in any SMA, I had also indicated to the House that we will not duplicate efforts in areas that are unclaimed at this time, don't have agreements - final agreements - but that we would work closely with SMAs that are identified and not duplicate efforts in any ecoregion.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Speaker, reality is something else. What appears to be happening is the mineral assessment is underway and, if it doesn't go into an SMA, it goes into an ecoregion. So, either way, we create parks. The Liard River Basin ecoregion is currently under study, both as a special management area under land claims and under YPAS as well.
Will the minister confirm that a future park is being planned for this region as well?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I explained in detail how the process is working with respect to YPAS, and the member is obviously in dreamland because he's coming up with park situations that haven't yet been respectfully negotiated with First Nations, with other stakeholders, with other interest groups.
So, Mr. Speaker, I'm not going to predispose where protected areas are going to land at this particular time.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Speaker, we know one way we're going to be creating more parks, either under SMAs or under YPAS, under this new act, but they're going to be one and the same.
Now, since assuming office, the Yukon Liberal government has participated in the creation of three new territorial parks under land claims: Tombstone, Fishing Branch and Asi Keyi. Today I have pointed out that two more are being contemplated.
Could the minister confirm to the Yukon public how many more parks are going to be established under land claims and how many more parks are going to be established under the Parks and Land Certainty Act, under YPAS?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The member opposite is incorrect. The Yukon government didn't create three parks, as he is suggesting. The previous government started the parks in Fishing Branch and Tombstone. So, Mr. Speaker, he is wrong, as usual.
The fact of the matter is Asi Keyi was the result of a land claims special management area, and that has been identified under this government's watch; that's true. We have a commitment now to create 13 remaining ecoregion representations, and that's what we're going to do, Mr. Speaker. That's what I said we would do, and we do what we say we'll do.
Question re: Water quality, Carmacks
Mr. Fairclough: My question is to the Minister of Health and Social Services. Recently there have been concerns in the community of Carmacks about water quality.
Those concerns were validated recently when water tests found E. coli in water samples from three wells. This is not the first time that this community has experienced positive tests for E. coli in wells.
A boil-water advisory was issued on November 9, and people may have been drinking this water for a number of years.
Will the minister inform us of what the long-term effects of this contamination may be on community members?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: We, as a government, take this concern very seriously in all of our communities.
The obvious factor, Mr. Speaker, for me to identify what the long-term effects would be would mean that I would have to be some type of researcher or doctor, or something of that nature.
I know that if it's a long-term concern, then there would probably be long-term effects. I couldn't give the member opposite a definitive answer as to what that would be.
I do know that we have, with our Health department, been testing the water.
As we all know, this has been something that has been going on for the last number of years. Waters are tested throughout the territory, and the medical officer of health has issued a boil-water advisory. This is a precautionary method. We know that.
We don't know the cause of the contamination at this point, Mr. Speaker, and of course we are definitely trying to ensure that we have good water security for the future.
When these problems surface, we do our best to ensure that they will not continue to have the same problem, but I can't give any kind of a long-term forecast as to what the long-term results would be. I'm fairly sure that they wouldn't be positive.
Mr. Fairclough: I'm hoping that the minister does not respond to the general public in that manner and that he does work with his departments that are trained in those fields and may have answers to the questions being asked.
We know that there are breaks in the sewage lines in the community of Carmacks, and this is not a problem that just recently arose. I mean, the community has been tested as recently as this year, sending robots down the line to see where the breaks are. This could be the beginning of a much larger problem. We have seen this take place in other communities as well.
So, what plans does this minister have to ensure the safety of the drinking water in Carmacks for the people in Carmacks? What plans does he have in place?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I guess, Mr. Speaker, just to reiterate, these problems, as the member opposite has said, have been there for a long time. This has been brought to our attention for the first time in the last little while that there is a problem with the Carmacks water.
The wells are being tested on a regular basis by the Health department and, of course, this is when the contamination showed up. That's the objective in testing the wells. We will continue doing that. We believe that that is what the response should be - that we will constantly be checking wells and water sources and ensuring that the water is safe to drink.
I guess there is always more that we can do. I'm sure the department is going to be very much aware of the fact that if there has to be more that we should be doing, then they would be bringing those recommendations forward. At this point, we're doing a very vigilant job in checking water supply and quality because we know that it's a major problem throughout Canada, and we want to make sure that we have the best water that we can have at this point, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, the minister is wrong. The government does not do tests on a regular basis in the community of Carmacks. Mr. Speaker, because this problem has arisen, the Department of Health and Social Services, along with the Village of Carmacks, should be doing regular tests in all the wells in the community of Carmacks, particularly where they involve public buildings like our schools and recreational centres and so on.
Mr. Speaker, people in Carmacks have had to buy their water over the last little while, and this is not an inexpensive item at all. It's about three times the cost of gasoline, and it has certainly added a bit of a burden to some of the people there.
I'd like to ask the minister if he can give his assurance that his government will do everything in its power - not so much his department, but his government will do everything in its power - to have clean drinking water in the community of Carmacks.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I'll even go further than that. I think it's important that we have clean water in all communities, and we as a government are committed to ensuring that we have this, and we will do our best in working with Community and Transportation Services and all the departments to ensure that we have the best water quality that we can have. So I think it's very important, and that's fundamental to all communities, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Government renewal process, layoffs
Mr. Fentie: I have a question today for the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission.
Yesterday, both this minister and the Premier refused to tell this House and Yukoners what the target number of employee layoffs through the government renewal process would be, further increasing the anxiety and concern out there.
This government also has stated that the need for government renewal, a.k.a. project downsizing, was to pave the way for the devolution process and the bringing over of federal employees to the Yukon side by replacing Yukon government workers.
Given that that's their reason for government renewal, can the minister tell us: at what stage is the department at in writing job descriptions for federal employees who will be offered jobs with the Yukon government?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I need to immediately advise the member opposite that I, in responding to his questions, did not refuse to provide targets. I stated to the member in three separate responses, as I stated to his leader, that there are no targets. The member is wrong in that respect. There are no targets. The member is right in that part of the reason for the renewal is preparation for devolution. The member, however, stood on his feet and suggested that devolution would replace Government of Yukon workers, and that is absolutely incorrect.
What will happen is that Government of Canada employees will receive an offer of employment with the Yukon government because we are going to be delivering Northern Affairs programming, starting April 1, 2003. They will be offered a job. They will not replace Yukon government workers. The member is wrong in suggesting, Mr. Speaker, that they would and that sort of fear-mongering is incredibly unhelpful to everyone concerned and, most importantly, the public.
Mr. Fentie: Well, it's also incredibly unhelpful when the Premier, or the minister responsible, will not provide the information just requested.
At what stage is the writing of the job descriptions to bring those federal employees over, or is there going to be another delay?
Secondly, it's the Premier's own officials who are quoted as saying there will be up to 175 layoffs.
Let me ask the minister this: what guarantee can the minister give that job cuts won't be targeted at administrative positions while YTG continues to add new positions - an invention by this Liberal government, by the way - called "associate deputy ministers" at the top end? What guarantee?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the only guarantee that we seem to have in this House is that the members opposite will not listen to the answers they're given and not accept the answers they're given. The fact is that there are no targets. The fact is that renewal is not about, as the members have suggested, downsizing. The fact is that devolution will not replace Government of Yukon workers.
The facts are that renewal is about preparing for devolution and the orderly, seamless transfer - the delivery of Northern Affairs programming continuing to Yukoners, under Yukon accountability. It's about providing better service to the public. It's about listening to Yukon government employees and Government of Canada employees, who have said to us, in hundreds of comments - which I have provided to the members opposite, but they have refused to read - that they want to deliver better programming, they want to improve their services, and they want to work with us in doing that. That's what renewal is about, Mr. Speaker.
The members opposite attended their briefing this morning, and I appreciate them having the courtesy to do so - something the Yukon Party did not. The fact is, Mr. Speaker, that that session provided the answers to these questions to the members opposite. The members opposite are simply playing silly games.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the fact is that Yukoners are getting sick and tired of listening to this Premier and her government accuse this side of being wrong, accusing her officials of being wrong, and accusing the public of being wrong. The fact is that government renewal is nothing more than a code word for project downsizing, and it's not about improving services to Yukoners at all. In fact, it's about diminishing the delivery of programs and services to the Yukon public.
Furthermore, it's hampering our already devastated economy because of the anxiety within the public service, who no longer know for certain whether they have a job. Can the minister then confirm, given that anxiety, that since the renewal process began in June, the use of the Yukon government's employee assistance program for stress-related problems has gone up by at least 50 percent? Will the minister at least provide those facts?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I would remind the member opposite, who made yet more disparaging remarks about the economy, that again October's unemployment rate is the lowest it has been since 1996, when the NDP was in power. Yukoners are working. That is a big deal.
It is also very important that such economic indicators as retail sales are up, wholesale sales are up, and residential building permits are up over 35 percent. We are seeing signs of improvement in the Yukon economy.
The fact is that the anxiety and uncertainty is largely created by such irresponsible comments made by the members opposite that renewal, devolution, will replace Yukon workers. Members opposite have said that and it is incorrect. Members opposite have said that if people say something bad about renewal, they would be fired. That is ridiculous and it is wrong. The fact is that there have been no targets set, that renewal is about examining the Yukon government to prepare for devolution, to ensure that Government of Canada employees know that this government is fully prepared to work with them - those of them who choose to come over to us - working with them in delivering Northern Affairs programming, and it's about working with individuals such as those I met in Carmacks this summer who said to me, "Oh, this means we will be better able to access things like purchasing trailer plates", and as the AYC said -
Speaker: Order please. Would the Premier please conclude her answer.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Certainly, Mr. Speaker. Renewal is an exciting development for Yukon's communities. I suggest the member opposite examine that.
Question re: Kwanlin Dun cultural centre
Mr. Fairclough: I am surprised - well, maybe I'm not surprised at how this government is skirting around the questions that are out there. I believe a lot of people are looking at ways to get trailer plates for their move out of the Yukon Territory.
My question is for the Premier. One item in the Premier's capital budget for 2002-03 is $200,000 toward the construction of a Kwanlin Dun cultural centre. The budget speech said it was part of a multiyear commitment. Did the Premier or the Minister of Government Services consult with Kwanlin Dun First Nation about this being a multi-year rather than a one-year commitment?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: That particular issue has been discussed at length and we have worked with, not only the land claims negotiators and the Kwanlin Dun chief and council, it was also part of the discussion in the last election campaign - the 2000 election campaign forum.
Mr. Fairclough: That's not the understanding of Kwanlin Dun. They thought that this money was coming in a lump sum.
It's hard to understand why this item would be listed as part of a settling of outstanding land claims. Certainly the Kwanlin Dun land claims still need to be settled. Part of those claims relates directly to the Whitehorse waterfront area. Can the Premier explain the relationship of this $1.2-million multi-year commitment to Kwanlin Dun's plans in the waterfront area?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: First of all, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite should recognize budgeting and how it is outlined in the budget. It is perfectly conceivable that construction or contributions could be spread over a period of time. That is not unheard of. There are planning processes and so on involved.
Again, this is a result of campaign commitments. During the election campaign, it was a question directly asked and a commitment made. It is something that we have worked closely with Kwanlin Dun on and we are continuing to work with them on it.
It is part of our ongoing efforts in strong government-to-government relationships, as well as working toward a settlement of the Kwanlin Dun land claim.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, one of the reasons why I am asking - it's quite obvious that the Liberal government is walking away from any involvement in the development of the waterfront in Whitehorse.
At a recent public meeting, the Mayor of Whitehorse said that the city had been promised $500,000 for that purpose, but there has been nothing in the Premier's 2002-03 capital budget or the long-range capital plan.
Was this an oversight on the Premier's part or is it her way of slapping the city on the wrist for turning down her demand for $1 million for infrastructure development on the Argus property?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, amazing what the members opposite suggest in their questions. The fact is that this government has good working relationships with not only First Nation governments, but also with municipalities, as well as with individual Yukoners. For the members opposite to suggest - you know, they simply can't make up their minds. We're either accused of working too closely with Whitehorse or we're accused of not working with Whitehorse. Just like the parks, they can't decide if they're for them or against them. They can't decide in their own minds what question they want to ask.
Mr. Speaker, we work closely with the City of Whitehorse, and for the members opposite to suggest that we do not recognize or work with them, what does the commitment to the Canada Winter Games say to the member opposite? It's clearly a commitment to Whitehorse and the entire Yukon.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker: Government bills.
Bill No. 47: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 47, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Eftoda.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 47, entitled Education Staff Relations Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Education that Bill No. 47, entitled Education Staff Relations Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and I am honoured to rise today in this Legislature to introduce Bill No. 47, Education Staff Relations Act.
Before I go into detail on this bill, I want to provide this House with some background on why this bill is being introduced.
When the current Education Act was proclaimed on August 13, 1990, it included parts 9 and 10, which were the labour relations and employment provisions of the predecessor legislation, namely the School Act of 1986, which formed the basis for the current Education Act provisions.
Government commitment and public debate on employment and labour issues were virtually non-existent at that time, with the exception of providing the right to strike for teachers, the collective bargaining provisions contained in the 1986 and earlier school acts continued.
One of the commitments of this government was to review the Education Act because much has changed in education in the context of the relationship between the employer, the Government of Yukon, and the bargaining agent represented by the Yukon Teachers Association.
One of the recommendations of the Education Act Review Steering Committee was to move the labour and employment provisions into a separate act. The fundamental reason for this decision was that the focus of the Education Act should be on educational matters and the operation and administration of schools in Yukon. Labour relations legislation, such as that contained in parts 9 and 10 of the current act, is not related to educational matters and does not fit within the context of education legislation.
The Education Staff Relations Act, or ESRA, is legislation dealing with labour law subject matter and the administration thereof, similar to the Public Service Act and the Public Service Staff Relations Act. The similarity is designed so that labour legislation concerning the employees of the Yukon government can be applied consistently by the parties and the Yukon Teachers Staff Relations Board.
Up until now, only teachers were recognized in the Education Act, and yet we have several other categories of employees who are members of the YTA and technically have no rights in terms of the current legislation. YTA members, who are teachers, educational assistants, tutors and aboriginal language instructors, are subject to different employment terms and working conditions than those employees covered by the Public Service Act.
One of this government's objectives is to ensure that its legislation reflects equally among all public sector employees, including teachers, educational assistants, tutors and aboriginal language teachers. Such an objective is not achieved by the inclusion of parts 9 and 10 in the current Education Act. For example, employees employed under the Public Service Act are subject to limitations with respect to the solicitation of funds for political purposes that are not part of the equivalent sections 182 and 183 of the Education Act.
Mr. Speaker, as a result of our consultations with school councils, the Council of Yukon First Nations and the general public, we do not expect that these institutions will be affected by enacting the Education Staff Relations Act. Those Yukon government employees who are members of the Yukon Teachers Association will benefit from this legislation. For example, clarity is provided for transfers. There are clear processes for grievance resolution, and the new act will mirror the collective agreement regarding discipline of employees.
Mr. Speaker, it will be asked why the government is introducing the Education Staff Relations Act prior to the new Education Act. The reason can be summed up as follows: one, it is necessary to separate the issues of education and labour; two, some sections of parts 9 and 10 are a duplication of procedures, which create unnecessary delays, especially in grievances; and three, the rights of the entire bargaining unit are not recognized. The employer and the YTA have reached agreement on the inclusion of first-year, temporary teachers under the collective agreement. Without the passage of the Education Staff Relations Act, this group would not have YTA collective agreement rights, including the right to be represented on grievances.
Several grievances have been denied on that basis. The Yukon Teachers Association was assured that legislation that confers these rights would be tabled this fall.
Finally, the fall introduction of this legislation will allow the parties to gain experience working under the new act in order that they may incorporate any necessary changes to the collective agreement during the next round of collective bargaining.
As mentioned earlier, we have consulted with all stakeholders and public bodies that may be affected by this bill. Those consulted included the Yukon Teachers Association, where agreement was reached on all issues except one. We met with the Association of School Councils, Boards and Committees. We met on several occasions with 18 of the 29 school councils in the whole of Yukon. Those councils that were not able to attend or teleconference were sent out consultation documents, inviting them to respond in writing. We met with the Council of Yukon First Nations' education committee. We of course consulted and worked with the Department of Education and finally, with the Yukon Teachers Staff Relations Board.
I can say that, out of all these consultations, there was a full understanding of the problems and the need to have employment and labour legislation removed from the Education Act legislation.
I would now like to outline the development of the proposed legislation, known as Bill No. 47, entitled Education Staff Relations Act. The Education Act Review Steering Committee review and subsequent report of August 2001 contained 17 recommendations under parts 9 and 10.
Not all the recommendations were in concordance. Some had diverging recommendations from the Yukon teachers, the school councils and the Department of Education.
In the late fall of 2000, the Public Service Commission submitted extensive recommendations to the review committee, noting the need for specific changes under parts 9 and 10.
The Public Service Commission was tasked by Cabinet to begin preparations for a new act and to consult with all Yukon schools and school councils during the fall of 2001.
Of the 23 recommendations concerning parts 9 and 10, thirteen are incorporated specifically within Bill No. 47. Five were transferred to the Education Act jurisdiction including duties of principals, evaluation of teachers. And five remaining recommendations - two recommendations became redundant after the Yukon Teachers Association and YTG agreed on "for just cause" concepts for discipline.
The remaining three items were not accepted for this act, and included: banning the right to strike, recommendation 142; tenure for vice-principals, recommendation 138; and making substitute teachers eligible for the bargaining unit, part of recommendation 141, as requested by the Yukon Teachers Association.
Mr. Speaker, I would now like to present the highlights of Bill No. 47.
I would again note that Bill No. 47 is not about education, but rather about the governance of the relationship between the employer on behalf of the government, and the bargaining agent on behalf of the Yukon Teachers Association.
Whatever educational governance model is adopted by this Legislature can be accommodated within this act. It is a labour code that governs the employment relationship, not the structure of the educational system.
In part 1, "Definitions", clarity has been provided to ensure all legalities are accounted for.
Part 2 is the governance for the Yukon Teachers Staff Relations Board. This section, with two administrative amendments, has been transposed in its entirety from section 10 of the Education Act.
Part 3, "Acquisition and termination of bargaining rights", is incorporated as contained under part 10 of the Education Act.
Part 4, "Collective bargaining", is transposed in its entirety from part 10 of the Education Act.
Part 5 covers disputes. It is 33 sections in length. It is a carry-over from part 10 of the Education Act, with several amendments and additions that balance the roles between the parties.
Part 6, section 62, is a new part dealing with school operations during a strike or lockout. This essentially mandates the parties to agree on a protocol for the health and safety of students prior to any job action.
Part 7, "Adjudication of grievances", has been extensively amended to accommodate three types of employee grievances that may arise in the education system and to increase the efficiency of the grievance process.
Part 8, "Strikes, lockouts and enforcement", has been modified from part 10 to provide parallel language for the employer to lock out on the same basis that the bargaining agent can call a strike, only after the dispute resolution process has been followed.
Part 9 "General" covers the administrative issues between the Yukon Teachers Staff Relations Board and the parties. There are no changes from the Education Act.
Part 10, "School personnel", has several amendments dealing with probation for principals. Principals will have the same employment security rights as teachers. Transfer of teachers, the resignation provision on notice of transfer, has been clarified. Transfer of principals has been clarified. In addition, principals are granted the same ability to request transfers as teachers. As well, various administrative issues covering resignation and transfers have been clarified.
Political leave is now similar to the provision in the Public Service Act, section 161. Both provisions permit an employee to be nominated prior to the issuance of the writ and not be required to take a leave of absence until issuance of same. In this bill, the office of Grand Chief of the CYFN qualifies for political leave.
The most significant change in part 10 will be the provision of "just cause" to deal with disciplinary matters, which provides a broader scope for dealing with potentially sensitive personnel matters.
Finally, part 11 provides the required transitional language of a new bill.
Mr. Speaker, in closing I would like to sum up the necessity for this bill. The Education Staff Relations Act will develop a legal focus and enable a balanced relationship between the parties. It will ensure all employees, as defined in this act and covered by the collective agreement, are protected by this legislation and it will separate the educational component and the values from the employer/employee relationship.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fentie: First, let me say, Mr. Speaker, that the official opposition will be supporting this bill, although we'll have a number of questions. However, we see enough constructive good in this legislation that to oppose it would simply not be the correct course of action.
I first must refute some of the minister's comments in his reading of his annotated notes in trying to rationalize the decision as to why this act was constructed in such a hurried effort by his government. I might point out, Mr. Speaker, that there is good reason why the government was forced to bring forward this legislation. I think we can all agree that, not too long ago, this same minister, after trying to make a backroom deal with the teachers, was caught with his trousers around his ankles, stumbling headlong into a teachers' strike.
That is something that is very important to put on record here because the necessity -
Speaker: Order please. Now that that statement is on record, I would like to - just give the Chair a minute here to reflect on that, please.
I find comments like being caught with your trousers down around your legs and so on - I think that that distracts from the professionalism that we're trying to create, or trying to keep, in the Assembly here. It certainly is insulting language, and I would just ask the members to please keep it in mind and try to keep the level up in here a little bit. With that, I would ask the member to continue, please.
Mr. Fentie: I thank you for your ruling, Mr. Speaker. I try very sincerely; however, I am a little rough around the edges. So, I apologize to the minister for my unwarranted comments.
However, I think the facts are that the minister did stumble into a teachers' strike, and that was the necessity for bringing forward this legislation. Secondly, we have to look at some of the content of this legislation, such as "bargaining in good faith". There is good reason why that's in this bill - because when the government of the day cries poverty to the teachers during a strike and negotiations, when they are sitting on a $99-million surplus, that does not constitute bargaining in good faith. And that's another very, very important example of why this government was forced into this stand-alone legislation.
Now, we can go on with how all of this happened, Mr. Speaker. We also have to look at the Education Act review itself, because this particular act has been pulled out of the Education Act review, and the politicizing of the Education Act review, I think, is one of the clearest reasons why this stand-alone legislation has come into being.
The partners in education are now quite confused on what their role is. We've seen this minister agree to now create stand-alone legislation which would outline how the government - the employer - and the employees - the union - will conduct their business, but how does that leave the rest of the partners in education and what is their contribution in the overall process? Because I heard the minister say something that's disturbing. The minister said that this act has nothing to do with education. I would argue that it has everything to do with education. It's our teachers who educate our young, and this act is all about our teachers and how they will relate to and interact with their employer. Of course this has a great deal to do with education.
So I say the minister is mistaken in his comment, which poses that question of where are the rest of the partners in education. We've seen the minister ignore the First Nations in the Education Act review. We've seen the minister ignore school councils, both demanding an extension of this process. Now we see the minister, through this particular legislation and probably more to come given his examples today, of how we're going to piecemeal and pull apart the Education Act review and dismantle what was once a vital and very important partnership in this territory when it comes to our most important resource - our children and their education.
As I said in the beginning, Mr. Speaker, we will support the legislation because of the constructive good it will accomplish. It even now includes paraprofessionals and educational assistants and the remedial tutors as well as temporary teachers, which is something that we in the official opposition were lobbying hard for as early as last sitting. It's a well-known fact that those issues were important not only to the teachers but also to the students and the parents to ensure that certainty was provided so that their children could receive the best possible education.
The one question I would have, Mr. Speaker, is what are we doing with substitute teachers? Although we have defined them now in this act, how does that relate to all the other benefits and agreements involved with the teaching profession in this territory? That seems to be a little bit confusing in the legislation, and I think we'll probably ask a few questions around that.
All in all, I would urge this minister to not get so focused on those annotated notes, because a lot of times they don't bear reality. I think the minister should stand on the floor of this Legislature and explain to this House and Yukoners why it is that his government proceeded in this fashion with this particular piece of stand-alone legislation, and let's not try and confuse it with reasons and rationale that have no bearing on what took place in this territory. The first ever teachers' strike under this minister's watch - that was the driving force behind the development of this legislation.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this Bill No. 47, the Education Staff Relations Act. I do have a number of very serious concerns with some of the statements made by the minister and some of the areas that this bill does not cover.
I guess the first area that I want to recognize in the bill is the area surrounding essential service in the event of strikes and lockouts. Given that this Liberal government's major initiative is the renewal initiative - and we are given to understand by senior officials in the government that there are going to be quite a number of layoffs - I would urge the government, Mr. Speaker, to bring forward, under the Public Service Commission, an essential services act. Because we're heading down a road similar to the one B.C. is currently heading down, in that there are probably going to be quite a number of layoffs in the government in the next little while, and it would probably be in the best interest of all Yukoners if the government brought forward a broad essential services act for the Yukon.
Now, I'm pleased to see that this area has been covered off in this legislation with respect to teachers.
The other area I'm seeing a shortcoming in is with respect to substitute teachers. They are not adequately covered in this area. They are somewhat defined, but are left completely out of the loop, and substitute teachers are a very necessary part of our education system for one reason or another, and they are not given the just due and respect they deserve.
So I would urge the minister to consider broadening the scope of the area surrounding substitute teachers in this bill. I have to disagree vehemently with the minister, Mr. Speaker, when he said that this bill has nothing to do with education. This bill has everything to do with education, because the first line coming forward to greet our students are the teachers, and they are a very necessary part of our whole education system. Let's not lose touch with reality and indicate that this Education Staff Relations Act is not part of the education system. It is very much a part of it.
I will be supporting this bill, Mr. Speaker, but I would urge the minister to have his officials look at the area surrounding substitute teachers. And I would urge the minister to sit down with his caucus and give due consideration to an essential service act covering all of the government's employees, given the layoffs we are going to experience under this government in due course.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I'll keep my closing remarks fairly short.
What this act reflects is this government's respect and support of teachers. It also respects them as employees of the government.
I have been reminded many, many times by the Member for Watson Lake about the labour dispute that occurred with respect to teachers here in the territory.
Well, that was one more issue that we had to deal with as a consequence of the actions of the previous government. But I won't go into details, Mr. Speaker. I won't go into all the details that I am aware of that occurred before we became government.
Suffice to say, Mr. Speaker, that it was the culmination of many years of abuse that were heaped upon our teachers, with the emphasis being on lack of respect.
That's what this act does.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Order please. The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, on a point of order.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
I've been listening to the minister and his words just recently. I've been trying to follow very carefully.
I do believe that under 19(g), he is spurring - putting a cast upon the previous government, saying that we did something that was unavowed and dishonest. That is absolutely incorrect, and I would like the minister to withdraw that.
Speaker: Order please.
The Chair refers to 19(g) under the Rules of Debate, "imputes false or unavowed motives to another member" and the Chair didn't hear these motives being imputed to another member. It was to the previous government. That is a technicality, but I think it has to be another member.
However, in terms of language used in this House, the term, "heaps of abuse" could be offensive to other people and it could lead to disorder. But, what I guess the Chair is trying to say in terms - like how petty are we going to get in here? The Chair would have to interrupt nearly continually where some person could find certain terms used to be offensive. The Chair is not going to rule on this, whether or not it is unparliamentary, but what the Chair is going to ask is all members - all members - if we are going to be so sensitive, please be tempered in their comments because it goes back and forth. The Chair can't rule on one and not on another, and if the Chair were to step in, we would get no work done in here. So, please be temperate with your comments. With that I will ask the minister to continue.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have just one final note. I do respect the Speaker's comments on this, but many times in this House, especially during the labour dispute that we did experience with the teachers, I was accused of being disrespectful to the process of bargaining and that was specifically to me.
You're right, Mr. Speaker, these are sensitive issues. These are very sensitive issues, and I take very seriously my responsibilities with respect to education and to teachers and am working very hard at building the trust and building the respect that I do have with the teachers, Mr. Speaker - going to classrooms, talking to teachers individually, going to teachers meetings. And I believe that this is one more step in bridging that respect between this government and our teachers, Mr. Speaker.
I would disagree with the Member for Watson Lake, as well, that this was hurried legislation. This legislation has been worked on for the past year, as a matter of fact. With respect to the hard work that the steering committee did, again, Mr. Speaker, I have been challenged by the members opposite on how I have attempted to work with the steering review committee. Mr. Speaker, they were an arm's-length committee. They had their own terms of reference. I respected that, and they did an incredible job over two years, out and about in the communities - not only that, but holding extensive meetings here in Whitehorse, as well, inputting over 7,000 bits of information relative to the Education Act. Some of that was applicable to sections 9 and 10 of the Education Act, namely the relations of our teachers.
I do believe, Mr. Speaker, that it is the right thing, the respectful thing, to have the teachers, as employees of the government, in stand-alone legislation. It deals with specific issues on a personnel level with teachers, and that's what we're doing, Mr. Speaker. We're building up that relationship.
The members opposite have also accused me of making backroom deals. Unfortunately - I won't go there.
Mr. Speaker, this government has not made backroom deals - ever. And again, Mr. Speaker, we have, through audits, determined that the previous government operated that way. We're not going to go there. We are open and accountable, and we'll continue to be open and accountable.
So Mr. Speaker, I'm sorry that the members opposite get a little charred when they are reminded of transgressions, but we hear about it every day - Question Period, when we're reviewing bills, when we're reviewing budgets. We are dealing with a lot of things, and I think this is a very positive, proactive way to show how this government feels toward its educators and instilling in them the trust and confidence we have in them to educate our children. As a matter of fact, it's all about respect.
The Member for Klondike again alludes to the fact perpetrating incorrect information with respect to what's happening with renewal. Time and time again, the Premier has told this House about the effects of renewal.
Mr. Speaker, it comes down to respect. The Member for Klondike didn't even have the respect for officials spending their time to brief him on the renewal process this morning - he didn't bother to show. So, what are we concerned about here? We want to be open and accountable, and we want to share information. But we can only share that information if the members opposite are willing to accept the information. They can judge whatever they want with the information after they have it, but I think it's critical that they be there on such an exercise as renewal to show courtesy to those officials who put together briefing notes and briefing packages and took the time to sit down with the members opposite to provide detailed information on renewal.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I don't think that was very respectful.
So, Mr. Speaker, I am encouraged by some of the comments that I have heard opposite that they are in support of this legislation and I do thank them for that. But we will move forward. We will move forward in building bridges of respect with the teachers, and confidence in the competent, difficult job that they have in educating our children.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Agree.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Agree.
Mr. McLachlan: Agree.
Ms. Tucker: Agree.
Mr. McLarnon: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 16 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 47 agreed to
Mr. McLachlan: 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 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
Deputy Chair: Good afternoon. I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Members will take a brief recess for 15 minutes.
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We're in general debate on Bill No. 7, Department of Education.
Bill No. 7 - Second Appropriation Act, 2001-02 - continued
Department of Education - continued
Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Madam Chair. I'll have to get used to that. I haven't had to deal with that in the past.
I asked some questions about the Mayo school yesterday, and the minister will be providing some information to me. I would like to know some things in regard to the school in Pelly Crossing and the school in Carmacks.
Now, there's a commitment to redo the heating system in the school in Pelly Crossing, and to also finish it off, because I believe they're still using trailer units in that school for classrooms, and this has been going on for awhile.
I would like to know from the minister whether or not there are plans to do other work in that school in Pelly Crossing. I am referring to renovations, probably some redesigning of the school, or is it just an add-on and the heating system in that school?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Madam Chair. You're right; it does take a little bit to get used to, and it's a pleasure to say that.
The plans for Eliza Van Bibber School are to replace the modulars and to replace the heating system, and the building advisory committee is being struck to look at other aspects of the building. So we will be working with the building advisory committee on that.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to ask the minister what type of heating system is going to be going into this school? Is this a replacement of what is there, or is there a new system that's going into this school?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: What's there right now, Madam Chair, is inadequate for the purposes of the school, so we will be looking at options available for an adequate heating system for the school. I will provide that information to the member opposite when that has been determined.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to know what the reasons are for looking at the options. Is it for efficiency? Is it just the cost of replacing the unit? What is in that school right now is a wood-chip boiler. I know that it's an old system and that they have had all kinds of problems with the mechanical part of that system. They have done a lot of repairs on that mechanical system.
I'm wondering: as Pelly Crossing has always been in favour of having this type of thing, whether or not it's in other buildings, but in the school - they would like, if possible, to have the same system in place so that the jobs that are created out of this, just with chipping the wood and getting the wood in - one permanent job in a community like that is a big thing.
So you're looking at options. Is the department favouring one system over the other at this point, or are you looking at a replacement of the system? I'm sure that the cost of the system itself has come down dramatically since 15 or 20 years ago, and it's much improved over what was out there in the past.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I do agree with the member opposite. We are looking at options. The current system of course is very old and we have just started the planning process for that. So, we will be looking at all options and efficiencies for adequately heating the school for the children.
Mr. Fairclough: The school in Pelly Crossing I don't believe has been looked at and had any upgrades to a large extent, to have the building really energy efficient. I'm talking about windows and doors and the insulation of that school. They have had a good heating system where you can actually put a lot of heat into the school, and it may or may not be energy efficient right now. I am wondering, while doing renovations to the school, if that is going to be looked at and I would also like to know how much renovating is going to take place throughout the school. I'm talking about the classrooms, furniture, flooring, painting, anything like that - the ventilation system. Maybe the minister can give me a rundown of what they will be looking at as far as renovations of this school are concerned.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: As the member knows, the major improvements to the school we have to look at first are the replacement of the modulars and the heating system. We are just starting the planning for the school, and we'll be working with the building advisory committee.
Mr. Fairclough: I'm giving a heads-up to the minister as to what he might suggest the local planning committee could even look at. One of the things that was suggested - and I know it's supported by the MLA for McIntyre-Takhini - is to look at the gym again. If you compare that gym, say, to the schools in Whitehorse, you'll see that this is inadequate for the community itself. They use it for everything in that community, right down to funerals. They don't have a stage in there, the acoustics are terrible and the floor needs replacing.
One of the suggestions that was made in that community was to perhaps turn that into classrooms, whether it's shop or home economics, or another classroom, and possibly look at a gym that is adequate. I don't know what the cost of doing renovations to the gym versus building another gym would be, but it's something else that the members in that community would like the government to look at.
Is the minister interested in doing that and suggesting that to the planning committee?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: As I have indicated in previous answers, the original scope of this project is to replace the modulars, to build two brand new classrooms, and to replace the existing heating system in the building.
We will be working with the building advisory committee on looking at other options for the school. The planning has just started on this project.
Mr. Fairclough: Is the minister saying that there could be a second phase to the completion of this school?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: No, that's not what the minister is saying.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, the minister said that they're looking at replacing the heating system, expanding the school and getting rid of the trailer units that are presently being used as classrooms for the lower grades - kindergarten and so on.
That's one project.
The minister did say that they would be talking to the committee that is struck in that community to look at what else could be done in that school. It's not a brand new school. I believe that it is probably 15 to 20 years old - getting close to the old one in Mayo.
There's lots of work that needs to be done in that school: furniture, flooring throughout the school, ventilation systems, and the gym itself. So, we've seen no money directed to that school for the other renovations that are needed.
Is the minister going to take this on as a second phase of completion of this school?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Madam Chair, I will take the comments and suggestions by the member opposite under advisement.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the minister for that, and any information that does come forward, I would appreciate it if the minister can forward some of that to me on this side of the House.
Madam Chair, I'd like to ask the minister about the school in Carmacks. No doubt the minister has been through that school, has seen the problems within that school, everything from mould to the ceiling coming down in classrooms. You can look at what the furniture looks like, the heating system. The list can go on and on. I guess it's because it's an old building, like some of the buildings we have here in Whitehorse.
Just driving by the school, just look at what the roof looks like. It's 50 years old and has 50 different shades of roofing shingles on that roof. Maybe it's 100, because they're patching two times a year on that roof. The school itself, I think the structure is sound. It's built on pretty heavy concrete and so on. They made some changes in the school 15 years ago, and even the building design at that time was not, I believe, up to par, right down to the ventilation system.
I'm wondering what is in the plans of the Department of Education in the near future? I know it's in the long-term plan, and it has been bumped back a year or two, to do some work on the Carmacks school. But what is there for that community? What is this department going to do to reassure that community that work will be done and completion of the school?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: First and foremost, Madam Chair, I would like to correct the member opposite by saying that, in talking with the facilities manager and the principal, neither have heard any problems with respect to mould. They have identified some ceiling tiles that definitely need replacing, and part of that is due to vandalism, but no mould has been discovered in the school. If the member would look at the capital plan within the capital budget, it does identify that we are going to attach a new wing to the school. Once a new wing is built and occupied, the old wing will be removed.
Mr. Fairclough: That's way down the road. By the look of it, it won't be during the term this Liberal government is in office.
Now, the minister can look through some of the files in regard to that school, and he'll discover that his own department probably has files on mould in that school. I don't want to go into details about it, but I did get this from the Department of Education. It did come out, and there were complaints years ago about it, even before it came out from Mayo. There were attempts to get rid of it at the time, and this is in the new wing, not the old section of the school. It has to do with the ventilation problems that they do have in the new section of the school.
Madam Chair, the community has been asking government to do work on the school. I have heard the interview that was done by the school council, for example, wanting to know when that community is going to see a replacement of the school.
Now, the same issues come up as did with the Pelly Crossing school - the ventilation systems, the school gym itself. I'm sure the minister must have toured through the school and had a good look at what is there. There can be improvements, I think, to the school gym itself. If there is an event that takes place, for example, and your children are there, whether it's a volleyball game or a floor hockey game, the parents can't view it. There's absolutely nowhere to sit and view any of the events that take place in the school.
A previous government has tried to work toward getting rid of a building beside it, to look at completion of that school, and a lot of government money went into that - something like $350,000. For the whole community, that facility was a positive thing. It got rid of a drinking establishment, an eyesore that was beside the school. Now it's flattened out and there is room for expansion. It probably could have been the same cost of bringing trailers in, if you were to build a new school - well, the children are in trailer units. This way, you can build on to the new section of the school that's there and have children still attend their classes in the old wing, just like the minister said, and do some demolition to it in the following year.
But I believe that the community itself is very interested, again like Mayo was, in designing and maybe putting their own monies into what they would like to see the completion of the school look like. But the minister is saying that that's years down the road.
Can the members of that community expect government to do any type of planning in the near future - this coming summer, throughout the following winter or the winter after - on this school? I mean, how long is the government going to say to the community people that we are waiting for a design of the school, to strike a committee to design the school?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I again will refer to the long-range capital plan in the capital budget, which specifies when things are going to be done.
And I do hear the member. And I know the member knows full well what the Minister of Education is challenged with in managing the schools. We do have a repairs and maintenance program as well, but it is based on priorities. We have an item out at Golden Horn Elementary School where the school roof needs replacing. There is some work that will be done out on the Watson Lake school as well. The member opposite knows that there are limited financial resources available to the government, so we are long-range planning, and right now the plan for fiscal year 2003-04 is that planning design work will be done in the amount of $300,000 and then construction will be the year after that. So that is when that school is scheduled. And again, as the member is fully aware, priorities shift based on needs. And, like I say, we do have to replace the heating system in Takhini Elementary School. We also have to do the repair work on the roof at Golden Horn. So we feel that the school in Carmacks can wait just a little longer.
Mr. Fairclough: The long-term planning for that school was bumped back a year. The minister has given us some indication of where government is going with this, but what are the reasons out there. The government is committed to building some schools - replacing, repairing. If you look at the Carmacks school, it needs a roof replacement but it doesn't make sense to do it because that section is going to be torn down. You have committed to doing other work in other schools, whether it is heating systems or not. In the Takhini Elementary School, that is not being done this year.
That heating system is not done, so the monies, I would assume, go back into general revenues if it's not done. Is it going to be done next year, or are there plans for a replacement of that school? Is that one of the reasons why, maybe, the work is not being done on the Takhini Elementary School? Because it could apply to, I guess, many different schools if we are looking at replacements.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Again, as I tried to inform the member opposite, priorities do change as circumstance or opportunities present themselves.
As a matter of fact, in Dawson we did have to reassign the monies for the heating system at Takhini to roof repair up in Dawson. There was also an opportunity to purchase a property adjacent to the school for the potential expansion of the school.
So these opportunities came up and we took advantage of them in cooperation for expanding the site for Robert Service School as well. So that's where the monies from Takhini went.
Mr. Fairclough: The Tantalus School in Carmacks - how does that compare, as far as being up to standard and so on, to some of the schools in Whitehorse? I am wondering why this school is left behind and whether or not the minister has all the information necessary to answer that question.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I could refer the member to the rural schools study that was done, or I could provide information to the member on that subject. It's his choice.
Mr. Fairclough: Was this information used by this Liberal government to determine the priority of what school needs to be replaced or completed or renovated?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: It certainly is one of the pieces of information, Mr. Chair. But, as I have suggested to the member opposite, there are circumstances that change priorities. And I'm sure they're well aware of that, as the school in Old Crow burned and they had to replace that and, therefore, bump their long-range plan, as well. So circumstances change all the time, Mr. Chair, and we're taking advantage, and we're very aware of those circumstances.
Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I guess the community would really like to see this building replaced as soon as government can. They've seen some positive moves take place in that community. Getting rid of the Sunset Motel, for example, which was a drinking establishment, and having people intoxicated at lunch hour and throughout the afternoon, being seen by kids, was a positive thing. The community wants to continue to grow and continue to heal. This was one of the things that excited the community people, in making sure that there are planning monies in place so that the school can be designed with input from the Village of Carmacks and the First Nation to have this school completed. I'm hoping, if at all possible, that this minister can take it upon himself to see if he can't bump up this process a little quicker.
I understand financial matters and how things are done and dealt with in Management Board and how governments put together plans over a number of years.
I'd like to ask the minister about the water testing in the community of Carmacks that took place and the E. coli found in some of the tests in the wells. I think three out of four wells that were tested had E. coli found in the water. The school is not far from the system itself. It is a couple, 300, feet from the main line, but it does have a stem off the main line to the school. Was there any signs or did they find any problem with the water in that school?
Right now, there's the advisory put out to boil the water, and that includes the school itself and the recreational centre. I'm just wondering, over the past couple of years to date, whether there were any negative findings in the water testing that the public should be alerted to within that school?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I believe that the Minister of Health and Social Services would better address those specific issues.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, this is a health matter, of course, but it's also a health and safety issue in that school. I'm hoping the minister can find out soon because all kinds of water samples have been taken in that community, but the test results haven't come back yet. This could be the beginning of a bigger problem, and I'm hoping that the minister can make it a priority to talk with the Minister of Health and Social Services to ensure that the water in that school is good water for the children who are there. Would he do that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the community of Carmacks - I don't think this would change, even with the building of a new school - has had some good work done in the past to build up the grounds around the school. They have a much-improved baseball field, for example, and now that they have a second one in that community, it gets less use. But last year - I'm sure many people around the Yukon experience this - the grass didn't grow, and it needed more maintenance. They have been asking for increased dollars to do the groundwork around that school. I'm wondering if the community will be seeing any additional work put into the grounds around the school.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: One consequence of constructing a new wing on the school and removing the old wing would be some site work that would follow up. Between now and then, I'm not sure. We'll have to check it out and get back to the member.
Mr. Fairclough: I wrote a letter to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services about a streetlight being put up at a school bus stop in Stewart Crossing. That was done, but it was paid for by the parent of that home, which seems kind of unusual. I don't know if that takes place anywhere else in the Yukon. And it's for safety reasons. Nobody wanted to have a bus coming in on a dark corner and having that child blend in with the roadside. It was a safety issue. But the streetlight went in, and that billing goes directly to the home of the parent of that child.
I'm wondering: does the minister think this is the right thing? I mean, this is a safety issue. Whether or not he can change that - it's not a big bill per month. It's something like $8 or whatever, but it shouldn't be at all charged to the parent, I don't believe.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Again, that's an issue with respect to Community and Transportation Services, and I'll certainly discuss that with the minister responsible.
Mr. Fairclough: There's another busing issue in Stewart Crossing. At the beginning of the year, the school bus used to go four kilometres north of Stewart Crossing to a home, stop at the home, and pick up two children and take them to Mayo. Right now, the bus doesn't go to that home. It doesn't go past Stewart Crossing, and the parents are concerned that, with the change in the routing of the bus, their children have to be either driven to Stewart Crossing or driven all the way to Mayo.
Why did this take place, and can it be changed to make sure that the bus does go to that home?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I will certainly look into that situation, Mr. Chair, and get back to the member.
Mr. Fairclough: I'd like to ask a question of the minister in regard to the schools in Whitehorse, and one school in particular, the Selkirk Street Elementary School. What capacity is it at at this moment? Is it 50 percent? Can they handle twice the number of students in that school who are presently going to that school?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I'm sorry, I don't have that detailed information with me here. I could get an answer back to the member later.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, if the minister can give me the same information back on all the schools in Whitehorse - I'm interested in Whitehorse Elementary School and Takhini Elementary School. Are there any plans to shut down any schools here in Whitehorse by this government?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: No, Mr. Chair, not in the foreseeable future.
Mr. Fairclough: Is that a change of plans from what this minister gave six to eight months ago?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I'm sorry, Mr. Chair. Could I have the member opposite repeat the question?
Mr. Fairclough: I was wondering whether this is a change of plans, in not shutting down any schools here in Whitehorse, from what was publicly said by the Liberal government a good eight months ago.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: No, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, it wasn't that long ago that this Liberal government said that they were going to turn Whitehorse Elementary School in downtown Whitehorse into a downtown campus, and that Takhini Elementary School would no long exist. The minister himself said that, so I'm just wondering: is that a change in policies? Did the government have another look at the capacity of the schools here in Whitehorse? People are asking me questions in all the ridings, including the riding of McIntyre-Takhini.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I do believe that the member opposite misspoke himself. It was the press that arrived at certain conclusions that perpetuated some anxiety and speculation on what the department is doing. I don't believe that I have ever said that we would be closing any Whitehorse schools down within the last eight months.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, it could have been slightly longer than that - maybe nine months or eight and a half months. But the minister did say - and it was reported out there - that there were going to be some changes made in the Whitehorse schools, and having a downtown campus in the Whitehorse Elementary School was one of the things that was said by this Liberal government. So is that not going to take place? Is the minister still looking at a downtown campus?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I don't know if it was eight months ago, eight and a half months ago, nine months ago, or 18 months ago - I never said that we were closing down any of the Whitehorse schools, and I never said that we were having a downtown campus at Whitehorse Elementary School.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, that is not what was said in the public and the minister knows that. It was widely talked about, and it brought concerns right to the desk of the minister, particularly with the whole idea that this Liberal government wanted to shut down Takhini Elementary School. As a matter of fact, there were public meetings held and an invitation to government to talk about just that - whether or not Takhini Elementary School was going to be shut down because there was an overall plan that this government had. It may not have been the plan of the department but it was a plan of government, and the MLA for McIntyre-Takhini was at that meeting, as I was. And there was reassurance again from the member opposite about the school not being closed. I think at that point the MLA for McIntyre-Takhini had one up on government because he made a public commitment to the people there that that school would not be closed down, and it is a change from what this Liberal government's plans were with schools, the Whitehorse schools in particular.
Can the minister tell me whether or not there are any changes that will take place?
We have seen a reorganization of schools to areas and students going to schools within their particular region, and so on. We've seen that change take place.
Are we expected to see any more changes happen here in Whitehorse over the next year or two?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, Mr. Chair, I do have to comment on the member opposite's opening comment in his last question.
I have never said, from May 6, 2000, to this moment, that I would be closing down any Whitehorse school. I never said that there would be a downtown campus at Whitehorse Elementary. I have never said that, despite what he has heard in the public himself, or read in the paper - that is pure speculation on the part of the press.
As a matter of fact, somewhere down the road - an indefinite time period - as a result of the draft recommendations from the Education Act Review Steering Committee, there may be some recommendations in there that will impact on programming within our existing schools. I will be looking at that.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the minister tell me - he must know what they are and what the steering committee is looking at - so what kind of programming are we looking at? Is it to reflect the new Education Act?
We have had, in the past, room to move, for example, on curriculum development in school for First Nations. Is that one of them that could take place? Or maybe the minister could give me a little more clear of an idea as to what people in Whitehorse can expect.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I have not yet formally received from the advisory group that is summarizing the comments they heard from the public with respect to the draft recommendations. I have not received that report. I am going to respect the time it is taking them to come forward with the recommendations and comments from the public at large and evaluate them when the advisory group's work is complete. That's one aspect.
There were also additional comments that we received - some 5,000, I believe - that are still being looked at and assessed by the department and which are non-Education Act related. I will also be looking at them and making full and complete decisions in the future.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, it's nice to make informed decisions, Mr. Chair, and I hope that the minister can do that.
Mr. Chair, I would like to know whether or not there will be an increased capacity in the new Grey Mountain School that is scheduled to be built - increased capacity from what is there now.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, we had indicated that we are replacing the existing school. The planning for the school hasn't started yet. Again, that's in our capital plan, down the road. So, I don't want to - we will again be structuring a building advisory committee, and we will be working in partnership with them. But I said that it's a replacement of the existing facility.
Mr. Fairclough: I'm hoping that the minister doesn't replace the trailers with more trailers. I think that he can replace it with a building that's going to last a little longer. Government must be making some and giving some direction to the planning committees that are out there - the standard classroom size, for example, the capacity within that community or surrounding area about who is going to be using that school. I would like to know whether this is going to be a school that can accommodate twice the number of students who are presently going to Grey Mountain School or not. I mean, government has in mind some direction to follow, some standards to follow. That's a given. We use that all the time in planning the schools. I would like to know that. You don't have to wait for a planning committee to say that they would like a smaller school. I don't think that's going to happen.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I do want to thank the member for acknowledging the fact that I make informed decisions. I very much appreciate that. So in this light, as well, we have committed to replacing the existing Grey Mountain School. So I'm not going to presuppose what the planning exercise is going to be on that until I and the department have had the time to structure a building advisory committee and work in partnership with those folks.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, with the enrolment numbers down in the schools in Whitehorse, in Riverdale, with the enrolment numbers down, does the minister still feel that it is good economics to build a new school rather than having the students in Grey Mountain School housed in a school that can handle that number of students, for example, Selkirk Elementary School? I mean, the Liberal government did say they were good fiscal managers. This is one thing that I think this government overlooked when making the decision to build the Grey Mountain School.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, one thing this government does is believe in honouring its promises, and that's what we're doing.
Mr. Fairclough: And the promise was to be good fiscal managers. Is this minister overlooking that promise?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: We promised that we would replace the Grey Mountain School, Mr. Chair, and we're doing that.
Mr. Fairclough: So, it must be at any cost, even to the people here in Whitehorse. It's easy to make a promise. It's good to make a good, informed decision, which this minister just said he was going to do. Now he knows that the numbers are down, and he knows that Selkirk Elementary School could handle the students who are going to Grey Mountain School presently. Being a good fiscal manager, he can take away the costs of running that school, put them into Selkirk Elementary School and everything would be okay. But that's not the case. It's just a promise, and that's it. Is that all the minister has to offer?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: No, that's not all I have to offer, Mr. Chair. During the election last year, there was a commitment. It was open. People knew that, when we became elected, we would follow through on our commitment and our promise. Our commitment and promise was to replace the Grey Mountain School and, unlike previous governments that don't honour their commitments and promises, we are. We're replacing the Grey Mountain School.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, the minister is wrong. The minister promised to be a good fiscal manager and this is not taking place at all. It's a shame they have to go to that step. What they could have done was ensure that the students going to Grey Mountain School have a good facility to go to. Selkirk Elementary School has a facility that can handle that capacity. Is that not correct?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: We promised that we would replace the Grey Mountain School, and I do believe that we are fiscally responsible as a government, as we've indicated in 18 months.
The point is that we follow through on our promises and commitments. We promised we would replace Grey Mountain School - we're replacing the Grey Mountain School.
Mr. Fairclough: That wasn't the question.
Can Selkirk Elementary School handle the number of students who are going to Grey Mountain School?
Can they have those students over in Selkirk Elementary School?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I indicated to the member opposite that I would provide him with the number - the present capacity - in Selkirk School, and I'll do that.
We promised to replace the Grey Mountain School; we're going to do it.
Mr. Fairclough: I am sure that the minister would have known this before making this type of commitment.
If the school can handle that number of students, does it not make sense to have the students go to that school and save the government some money in not having the O&M on two facilities, and even more?
Does that not make sense?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, we promised to replace the Grey Mountain School, and we are going to replace the Grey Mountain School
I wish the member opposite would just accept that answer.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, I would hope that his colleague beside him would give him a little nudge, because his record is stuck.
I'm asking for information.
The minister did say that he'll get back to me on this, but I'm pretty sure that this government knew - before making that decision - about the capacity of the schools in Whitehorse. I am sure they knew. They couldn't make a blind decision like that, to build another school.
I mean, how many more schools are going to be built in Whitehorse because maybe one of the members opposite made a promise? There are a lot of promises that were made by the Liberal government that have been broken in this House by this Liberal government. This is one of them that you want to keep. I would think that a promise would be that the students have a good facility to go to, and Selkirk Elementary School offers that.
And they can handle that number of students. I know the minister knows that because it is not information that is just overlooked. It is not something this minister would leave alone and not give information on. I know the minister has answers to that question. So, can Selkirk Elementary School handle the number of students going to Grey Mountain School?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I am just going to repeat the same answer. The member opposite just said that we are noted for breaking our promises. Well, they continually remind us of that. The fact remains that we promised to replace Grey Mountain School. We did that before the election. We did it after the election. Previous governments have promised to do the same thing. Is the member opposite telling me that they knew when they made that promise that they weren't going to keep the promise? Is that what he is trying to tell me here? Previous governments for years and years and years have promised the folks in Riverdale, the folks whose children go to Grey Mountain School, to replace that Grey Mountain Primary School every time there has been an election.
The member is suggesting to me that I knew all the facts before the election on enrolments in Whitehorse schools and that I shouldn't have made the promise based on that. Well, I didn't.
So, we promised to replace the Grey Mountain School. We are going to replace the Grey Mountain School.
Mr. Fairclough: The replacement of Grey Mountain School is a campaign commitment, but after taking a second look, this Liberal government refused to really look at being informed and making good decisions. They are not good fiscal managers. The member just admitted that by not making informed decisions. On one hand, he wants to look at some details and get back to me; on the other hand, he knows the details and they are just not saying. I know it is right in front of him and he refuses to read those numbers out.
I know I won't get anywhere with the Grey Mountain School. It's going up, and it doesn't matter at what cost or how many people are living around the Grey Mountain School. It's not looking at the seriousness of Selkirk Elementary School. It's unfortunate, but this is the way this Liberal government is going to handle things.
There were also promises by this Liberal government of school replacements throughout the Yukon and more schools in Whitehorse. One of them was Takhini Elementary School. Is that too big a promise now for this Liberal government to fulfill? Well, I think maybe somebody else has a pull on this.
Anyway, Mr. Chair, I have no further questions. I'd like to move on.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? Seeing no further debate, we'll proceed with line-by-line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Education Support Services
Education Support Services in the amount of an underexpenditure of $3,000 agreed to
On Public Schools
Public Schools in the amount of $3,109,000 agreed to
On Advanced Education
Mr. Fairclough: I'd just like a breakdown of the amount of $140,000.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The breakdown is as follows: $65,000 for funding received from Human Resource Development Canada National Literacy Secretariat for the literacy research project - and this is 100-percent recoverable - $49,000 for a retro-payment to Yukon College for fringe benefits payable under their collective agreement; $26,000 for the sponsorship of a second high school student to Lester B. Pearson College for the 2001 school year.
Advanced Education in the amount of $140,000 agreed to
On Libraries and Archives
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to know more from the minister as to why they're cutting the funding now to rural libraries? We've gone through the story with respect to the Whitehorse Library. On the Whitehorse Library, the minister was finally awakened to the realization that it's not realistic to cut funding to the Whitehorse Library, so they have to curtail ours. We're talking such a small amount of money, given the tremendous surplus that the Liberal government had been left with, whether it be $99 million as of the end of the last fiscal period or the projected surplus of $50-odd million in this next fiscal period. But either way, there's a lot of money there, Mr. Chair, and we're going to great expense through Connect Yukon to provide high-speed Internet access to all of the communities. We're even attempting to do something with Faro and Ross River that was missed.
Now, libraries are well utilized. I sent the minister a copy of the letter from the Dawson City Community Library. I'm sure it's still somewhere in the loop before it hits his desk, Mr. Chair. It spells out the problem. The library received an interim report for the new formula, and the Dawson City library loses 15 operating hours per week, and it's a done deal. It was supposed to be a consulting paper, but it's not. Here's what you get, take it or leave it, is basically the way it is.
The other day when I asked the minister the question in this area, Mr. Chair, he said it wasn't his problem, it was the library board's problem. What do we have to do to at least maintain the libraries in the rural communities at the same hours of operation as they had before, given that this line is showing an increase?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The member started off, Mr. Chair, by stating that the budget had been reduced. That is incorrect. The budget has not changed. The amount is $299,700 for our libraries. The fact of the matter is, as well, that some of our libraries aren't fully utilized in the communities, but the member is correct in saying that there are some that are. So, over the past two years, there has been consultation on - library services has been consulted for the past two years. Really, what the negotiations have been based on is - the utilization of the libraries is not only based on population but on other uses, such as computer use, such as other activities that take place in the libraries. So there has been a lot of consultation on this, Mr. Chair, and for the member to suggest otherwise is quite wrong.
We have computer use and reference requests and programs, and population is part of the formula, so what has been negotiated is how that formula would be most equitable for all our public libraries to come up with an estimate base only. And that is what was suggested in the October letter.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, I've never heard so much of a big bunch of bafflegab as we're getting from this minister. It's contrary to the information that I've received from my constituents and from those who were involved in the process.
At the librarians conference this past September, the librarians from rural Yukon were presented with a formula. The librarians were told that the board had unanimously agreed to this formula, and it's stated right in this letter, which was not true.
There was no input from rural librarians and there was no further discussion with the library boards, even though they had been promised such discussion and input at the spring meeting.
It was a done deal.
This is in hard text. I'm prepared to table a copy. I sent over a copy earlier to the minister of this letter. I sent over a copy of this letter to the Premier, and I will table a copy.
The use of the libraries in rural Yukon is quite extensive, and way in excess of the scope that is covered off. In fact, the Dawson Community Library serves both the school and the community.
It used to be that we had two libraries that couldn't meet the demand. Now we have one that may be able to meet the demand with the government's assistance.
There is an increase in the capital funding.
It seems that the only area that this minister wants to cut is in rural Yukon.
If it's a project that was started before, they want to cut it. This minister has made all sorts of commitments in this Legislature about meeting timelines. We know the Mayo school is off the rails. We know that is going to be delayed before its opening. This issue is a very important issue to my community.
Now, what do we have to do to get more money in this line or get a redistribution that is fair and equitable for libraries in rural Yukon, because they are getting the short end of the stick from this minister?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I would be more than willing to send a chronology of events over the past two years on the meetings that have occurred between the libraries. I would be more than willing to provide the member opposite with that. And Yukon's libraries and archives branch has reached consensus with the territory's community library boards to implement changes in the formula for allocating funding to community library boards.
The new formula is based on library usage, in addition to population. The intent is to encourage library use and to promote and to protect community library hours during times of population loss, so the formula has been expanded to take into consideration additional uses of a library. We want our libraries used, despite what the member opposite is suggesting.
I do commend the Mayor of Dawson, when he is actually motivating the use of his library by his current initiative of getting sign-up. And I would also encourage the mayor not only just to have people go and take out a library card, but to actually use the library more.
So the huffing and puffing of the member opposite is just hot air, quite frankly, because we are recognizing the needs of the communities and respecting processes that are in place.
And the change to the funding formula does not reduce overall funding to the community libraries. Rather, it is intended to focus funding support where it is most needed, based on priorities set by community library boards themselves, Mr. Chair.
So we are respecting processes. We are respecting the consultations that have occurred, Mr. Chair, and we will continue to do so.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, if the intent is to encourage library use, how are we accomplishing that? By closing them down for an additional 15 hours a week in our case.
And I'd like to ask the minister the following question: how can the Whitehorse Library, when they were going to have to curtail their operating hours, receive more funds and the community libraries not be put into the same classification? What is the minister's justification, or is it just that this is a Whitehorse initiative and they cater to their own constituents and they're not looking after the interests of all Yukoners, just Whitehorse? Because the statistics are in the Whitehorse area, Mr. Chair, to support the hours that it's open; and the statistics are also there in my community to support the hours that it should be open. And if the intent is to encourage library use, how can the minister say that that is the intent when he is providing less funding all the time, or the same amount of funding, and they have to make it go further? It just doesn't add up, Mr. Chair. Is this the new Liberal fuzzy math?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I want to correct the member opposite, Mr. Chair, with respect to the Whitehorse Library. The Whitehorse Library budget was reduced, and there was a serious, serious concern for safety in the Whitehorse Library, and that's why it was replaced. The member is also correct - and I appreciate his correcting himself - in that funding to community libraries has not been reduced.
I would suggest, quite frankly, Mr. Chair, that the Member for Klondike sit and become more informed on the initiatives of the Mayor of Dawson, how he is motivating the townspeople to use the library more and frequently.
Again, I would suggest that he sit down with the mayor and discuss it, become informed.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the intent is to encourage library use, and the library in Dawson recently received an interim report for the new funding formula. According to this formula, the Dawson City community library will lose 15 open hours per week. Now, what does that say to the minister? It says that they're not serving the purpose or the intent they're there for, and the intent is to encourage library use.
Now, how can we encourage library use, Mr. Chair, when the doors are closed? Can the minister tell me that, please?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Again, I would suggest the member have a heart-to-heart with the Mayor of Dawson, who is being proactive in this initiative and knows his facts. The member opposite doesn't.
I would be absolutely more than willing to have the department provide a detailed briefing on the formula that has been reached by consensus after two years of consultation. I would ask the member opposite, at my invitation, to be briefed by the Department of Education with respect to how this formula works, become fully apprised of the situation, and also encourage him to sit down with the Mayor of Dawson.
Mr. Jenkins: What the minister is saying is that it's not his fault, it's the formula, and it's the committee that was set up to oversee the formula. He doesn't have any responsibility for this. The bottom line, Mr. Chair, is the library in Dawson will be closing more hours than it was operating previously. When the same thing happened in Whitehorse, there was a very significant cry from the community, and I'll give the minister credit. It took a little while for the information to sink in, but the realization was there that, if he didn't do something - provide more funding - the library wouldn't be able to serve the intent that it was there for.
Mr. Chair, the library in Dawson serves a much greater need than the community, and that hasn't been taken into consideration in that formula. Many tourists visit our town throughout the summer and, quite often, they are in the library. A lot of them are in that library for access to the Internet, and a lot of them are in the library for the paperback book exchange, and a lot of them are in the library to research some of the history and to get information about our community and about the Klondike. All of that has not been factored into this equation.
So the library use is quite extensive, Mr. Chair - way above and beyond the factors that are in the formula that determines the amount of money they receive.
Would the minister accept a friendly amendment to this line item to increase it so that we can get on with providing an adequate level of funding to rural Yukon libraries? Would the minister entertain that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I'm going to try and answer all the questions that the member rambled on about in his soliloquy.
I'll start backwards. No, I won't be providing additional funding on this line item. The funding has not changed. It's $299,000.
The member is suggesting that tourists and additional tourist use in the Dawson Library is not taken into account. That is wrong, and the information the member is providing is incorrect.
The member did list off a number of items that libraries do provide, and those are included in the formula, like book circulation, reference questions, library programming and computer use. Those are all taken into the equation, Mr. Chair.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, it is.
The member is hollering across the House, "No, it isn't." Well, this is a dispute between members. I know the facts; the member opposite doesn't. The information that he said was not included in the formula is included in the formula. Those are the facts, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, let me just read another paragraph from this letter that the minister has. I'm sure that if it were wrong in the letter, he would have raised the issue. I take the minister to the second page: "As a rural library board, we feel that one blanket funding agreement does not take into consideration the fact that each community has different needs, and changes to ours should reflect those diverse needs. Dawson City has particular needs. Our population doubles in the summer, as students, miners and summer workers return to the area. In this community, we rely on temporary residents coming to our community to fill the positions that run a lot of our tourist industry. They are a necessary part of our economy. This population extensively uses our library, and yet because of the formula, we must provide for their needs without counting them as patrons."
They are not all counted in the formula, as the minister alleges they are. And the population base that our community looks after in the library is much larger and much more extensive than the minister is giving credit for. That's the whole problem.
I would encourage him to either come to an understanding about the formula, which I see he is getting a thorough briefing on currently, Mr. Chair, as to what it contains and what factors it deals with, because it does not deal with a lot of those areas currently.
Now, can the minister go back, look at the formula and come to the realization that it doesn't encompass all of those areas - there are a lot that are missed - and do something about it? Because rural Yukon libraries appear to be getting shortchanged by this government. Why?
Is there one set of rules for Whitehorse and one set of rules for rural Yukon? That appears to be very much the case, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, I was waiting for that separation of rural and urban. The member is wrong, wrong, wrong.
I would like to ask the member if he would be willing to get a detailed briefing on what goes into the formula and how it is evaluated. I would ask the member if he would be willing to have the department provide that briefing.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, if it's any more than a copy of the formula - I have a copy of the formula that is used, and I don't think it's any more extensive than that kind of a review. Is that not the case, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I am asking the member if he would like to sit down with department staff and be provided with a full, comprehensive, detailed briefing on how the formula works.
Mr. Jenkins: Yes, Mr. Chair, and I'll put a caveat on that: as long as the minister accompanies me so he can come to an equal understanding of the formula. If the minister is there with me, we can both go through this step by step.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: That's a good angle, Mr. Chair, because I guess he does need somebody there to ensure that he goes to briefings. But no. I've extended this specifically for him. If he wants, at his convenience, I will set up my commitment to provide him with a full, detailed, comprehensive briefing. It's simple - yes or no?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the simple answer is yes, as long as the minister's there to become thoroughly familiar with this area of his portfolio, as I hope that he should be.
Mr. Chair, we're not going anywhere. This doesn't address the issue. The issue is that there is a shortfall of money necessary to run the library in our community. And there is a double standard that this minister is amplifying: there's a standard for Whitehorse, and there's a standard for rural Yukon. Now, why is he treating rural Yukoners as second-class citizens? This minister is responsible for all libraries. There seem to be two sets of rules: one that we can amend and alter for the Whitehorse Library, but we're not even prepared to look at for rural Yukon. Why?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: First and foremost, Mr. Chair, there has been no cut in funding - no cut to funding. And the situation at the Whitehorse Library was premised on safety.
So I have answered the member's question several times now. If he wants to change the question to something else, I'd be more than willing to answer, but I am not answering any more questions with respect to the safety issue at the Whitehorse Library - announcing that there has been no cut to community library funding. I have made it very clear, and I am not being badgered by the member opposite to repeat the same answer every time.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess what we are seeing here is a Liberal government representative who is setting in place two standards and continuing to widen that gap between the respective standards. There is one standard for Whitehorse and another standard for rural Yukon. I am very, very disappointed - very disappointed. This minister has, at his disposal, a huge surplus - a huge surplus - the largest it has ever been in the Government of Yukon and yet rural Yukon is asked to maintain the status quo or reduce the operating hours of a number of its facilities. Why? I don't know. I guess all the minister is looking at is his re-election and the re-election of his colleagues in the Whitehorse area with no consideration for rural Yukon. This issue of libraries will not go away and the minister can say all he wants but he can't hide behind the board. Could the minister indicate whether he is going to be prepared to attend this briefing with me or whether he feels he is above and beyond the requirement for a briefing in this very important area?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I am very pleased that the member opposite has agreed to the briefing and I will arrange that for him at his convenience.
Mr. Jenkins: The caveat on me attending the briefing was that the minister also attend with me so that he can come to a full understanding and be fully versed in this matter. I didn't hear that the minister was going to be there. Is he refusing to attend? He wants to stay in the backwash of misinformation and inaccurate information on this area. Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I heard distinctly that the Member for Klondike will attend a briefing that I will arrange at his convenience on this issue.
Mr. Jenkins: And as I said prior, Mr. Chair, I will attend the briefing as long as the minister himself is there.
But, Mr. Chair, the issue is that the minister himself is hiding behind a board because he doesn't appear to want to do anything for rural Yukon, and I'd really like to know why. It's becoming more widespread across the Department of Education and, correspondingly, across the Department of Health, that there is a double standard created in many, many areas.
Why is the minister attempting to create a double standard in the libraries here in the Yukon? Why does the minister want to do that? What's the political motive? Is it as we suspect - they have no real representative from rural Yukon, other than the Member for Faro, and they don't really give a darn? If that's the case, the minister can stand up and say so.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Again, Mr. Chair, this member shows his respect for rural Yukon by decrying a member on this side of the House as not representing rural Yukon. I think that's shameful. But then he - okay.
The fact of the matter is, Mr. Chair, that there isn't a double standard. It's in the mind of the beholder, and we know the beholder on the other side beholds all kinds of things. So, if he wants the facts, I have offered. He has said that he is willing to do it, and I'll provide a time for him any time he wants, to provide the briefing.
So I disagree with the member on the double-standard issue, and we'll just have to - it's a dispute among members, I guess, and we'll have to move on.
Mr. Jenkins: There is no dispute among members. There is a set of facts that the minister is presenting as the reason for his department not improving or enhancing funding for rural Yukon. There is a body there that he's hiding behind. He is refusing to take the initiative, as he did with respect to the Whitehorse situation, and increase the funding. He is just ignoring rural Yukon.
And Mr. Chair, there is also a safety issue in rural Yukon, given the hours of operation, and there is never more than one individual on duty in the evenings. Contrary to the minister's suggestion that I have not been in the library in Dawson, he knows full well that I have spent some time there. I would encourage him, Mr. Chair - what is the shortcoming in the libraries budget that would be necessary to maintain full-time operating hours throughout all of the Yukon, as they currently are? What is anticipated to be the shortcoming under this new formula? How many hours of reductions? What is the difference in cost?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I'm glad that the member asked that question. I will reinforce that I will set up a briefing, at any time, as the member has committed to, to provide details on the formula in total. He has committed to it. All he has to do is let me know the time and place, and I'll have staff there.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, all the briefing, should the minister and I take it, is going to do is show that the minister is very, very irresponsible with respect to addressing his responsibility in rural Yukon. He's not doing so. He has one set of rules and one set of guidelines for Whitehorse, and another for rural Yukon.
What I'd like to ask the minister is: how many rural libraries will have to curtail hours under this new formula?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I won't be able to have an answer for the member until sometime in February, because the statistics are being accrued now and won't be submitted to me until December.
So I won't be able to provide an answer for him on that aspect until 2002.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, once again, it shows how far-reaching and understanding this minister is with respect to libraries, in that he doesn't even ask for the consequences of the decisions that he is making.
It is most important, when you're assembling a budget, to find out what the impact is going to be, whether it is a positive or negative impact, and what impact it's going to have on the communities involved.
The minister has failed to recognize the important role that the community libraries play and what his decisions are doing to community library operations in rural Yukon.
He hasn't even asked the question. He can provide the information after the fact. He didn't even spend the time to analyze it up front; he just went ahead and did it, Mr. Chair.
Shame on this minister.
I can see that we're not going to get anywhere further on this subject. He won't even entertain a friendly amendment.
The record will reflect that this minister does not support libraries in rural Yukon.
Chair: Is there any further debate?
Libraries and Archives in the amount of $57,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the recoveries?
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Education in the amount of $3,303,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Education Support Services
On Education Act Review
Education Act Review in the amount of $93,000 agreed to
On Public Schools
On Facility Construction and Maintenance
On Mayo Community School
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I take the minister back to Hansard on October 25, 2000, when the Minister of Education was speaking in the House with respect to the Mayo school, "Come this spring, there will be a brand new building there, and in January 2002, there will be a school."
Going back to Mr. Eftoda in Hansard on November 8, 2000, "The fact is, Mr. Speaker, that it is $1 million, that the school will be built, beginning this spring, and in just over a year I will be gladly opening that school in Mayo."
And Hansard November 9, Minister Eftoda speaking again, "The school is going to be delayed a matter of a few months before it's opened."
Now we are hearing that there are delays in material. We're going to blame it on September 11. We couldn't spec different material that's readily available like we have in other schools - material for flooring. I don't want to prolong the debate on the Mayo school. The Member for Tatchun spent quite some time with the minister, but there are all sorts of issues with the floor in that building, the separation of the plywood and delays, and we're going to be lucky to see that new school opening this spring, Mr. Chair.
Does the minister want to change his mind now and say that he did make a mistake with respect to delaying the funding for the Mayo school - because really, hindsight is always 20-20, and a mistake was made by this government because they delayed construction because they said they didn't have any money. We know that that certainly was not the case. Does the minister want to go on record as saying that we made a mistake and that we should have continued with the school?
I see by the tone and appearance of the minister that the minister doesn't even want to stand on his feet and answer that. But this Liberal government did make a mistake. They slighted the residents of that community, and they certainly have a very, very poor lack of judgement. But, once again, it's for rural Yukon, and rural Yukon is not given the same consideration by this minister as Whitehorse.
Mayo Community School in the amount of $3,893,000 agreed to
On Site Improvement and Recreation Development
Site Improvement and Recreation Development in the amount of $33,000 agreed to
On Various School Facilities Renovations
Various School Facilities Renovations in the amount of $30,000 agreed to
On Air Quality/Energy Management Projects
Mr. Jenkins: Across the Yukon, we have a number of ways of heating our schools. In Old Crow, it used to be wood-fired boilers, and the cost of labour there got to be too expensive and, now, the new school has oil-fired boilers in it. The Department of Education is paying, I am advised, $1.50 a litre for heating oil there, and Community and Transportation Services is paying $1.19 a litre for fuel that they use, and Yukon Electrical is paying something less for the fuel they use.
Why isn't there any consistency across the board as to the cost of energy consumed by the various facilities? If we look at Pelly, the school there has a wood-chip boiler, which provides some employment for individuals. It has been very, very troublesome over the years. It had propane backup, which got to be more and more used than the wood chip or the pellets. In Whitehorse, it flows between propane and oil.
Why can't we standardize on a system that provides employment and provides services that we need at a reasonable price? It seems like the minister must sit in his office with a dartboard with respect to the provision of energy, and throw a dart to see what comes up, because it's really "anything goes". There's no consistency across the board in the provision of energy for schools. Why not?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, Mr. Chair, the fact of the matter is that there are many circumstances and many situations that affect each and every school in Yukon. The school in Old Crow, for instance, really can only be heated by oil. There are other opportunities in other communities that allow different types of heating systems in their schools. Some in Whitehorse are heated by propane.
The fact of the matter is that there are economics that vary in the world market, and there are times where you do have to shift from, say, electrical heat to oil heat to propane heat. So, we take advantage of what can provide the best heating capability for the design of the school as well, and the most efficient use for the heating system as well.
So that's why there are variances within our schools. As well, there are some - I'll just stop there, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, there are a lot of other issues surrounding this subject that the minister probably isn't even aware of - like electric boilers installed in schools, and there not being a rate sanctioned by the Yukon Utilities Board for secondary power. Now, why would you install an electric boiler in the school in Mayo, or in the Whitehorse schools, when there isn't a rate for secondary power? Is there some sweetheart deal? Why would you pay the full rate?
Government pays a rate far higher than the cost of service. And the cost of service, if it's a dollar - the government rate for electricity is considerably higher than that. Government rates subsidize the electrical rate base here in the Yukon, and the Department of Education is one of the biggest contributors. Now, if there are secondary rates that are available for electricity, I do not have any quarrel with the government using electricity to fire their boilers. But there isn't anything in the electrical rate base that establishes a rate for secondary power. So, given that the government is probably paying the primary power rate, who is looking after this area? The minister obviously doesn't care. This is a big issue. Can the minister let the House know how we can get a sweetheart deal with the Department of Education to supply energy at some of the exorbitant rates they are currently paying?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I don't think it's very respectful or that the member opposite suggesting that we make sweetheart deals is going to produce any results, but that's his deliberate tack when he's asking questions of this side of the House, because, quite frankly, Mr. Chair, he really doesn't want to know the details. I will get back to him.
I don't have that minutiae right here in front of me. I have some competent and very responsible staff within the Department of Education who do look after that.
I will certainly get the information for him and provide it.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the highest cost ways of producing heat in the Yukon, after electricity at the government rate, is with propane.
What is the rationale for the schools utilizing propane?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I just admitted to the member opposite that I don't have that fine, fine detail he is asking for here. I said that I would get back to him and provide him details on those aspects.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's go back to the Old Crow school. Does the minister have the order of magnitude of what it costs for heating for that school for a year? It's $630,000, from my recollection.
Now, that's a significant sum of money, Mr. Chair, and rule of thumb for government buildings is that it's about 10 percent of the capital cost per year for O&M.
If you've got a $1-million school, it's going to cost you $1 million just to put the lights on, heat it, keep the floors clean, and a few other sundry areas.
Now, given that they're paying $1.50 per litre, when Community and Transportation Services is paying $1.19, there's a considerable gap there, Mr. Chair.
Is the minister not aware of this kind of background? The same thing holds for propane versus oil as to the number of BTUs that can be generated by both.
This minister, Mr. Chair, is asleep at the switch. He's there to provide our students with an education in a cost-effective manner, not to spend willy-nilly on these kinds of areas when there are ways of effecting cost-savings by standardizing, and to start saving money, cut back the funding to the libraries in rural Yukon. That's not fair.
Now, I'd urge the minister to put a task force together within his department and analyze this area, because there are certain savings of a significant nature that can be made with standardization of equipment, standardization of fuel, and contracts for fuel supply that are combined with other government agencies.
Does the minister not see the light of day in this area, or is money no object on this matter? Kind of like the Whitehorse Library - just give them the money.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: It really is hard, Mr. Chair, to provide a qualified answer to the member opposite in a respectful manner when he is suggesting that officials in my department form a task force to put together information solely for his use. That's not respectful. We have very competent employees in all our government departments who would, at any time, provide detailed briefings to the members opposite, who will provide detailed information that we couldn't possibly provide here in the House for the member opposite. I will get him his information on heating costs for our schools.
And we're not willy-nilly. I think we're very responsible on this side of the House, Mr. Chair.
So, despite his kind of attacks on our civil service, I will respectfully ask them to provide competent, complete and detailed information for the member opposite on the costs of heating our schools.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, no one is attacking the government employees. What I'm saying is the minister is responsible, the minister is at the helm, and the minister is not doing his job, Mr. Chair, because it's just so easy to hide behind a committee or "I don't know, so I'll provide you with a briefing," or "I don't know, so I'll provide you with another briefing."
The minister is charged with the responsibility of running the department, Mr. Chair. That's where it starts; that's where it ends. The manner in which he does so, we have very little control over, but I'm sure the next Minister of Education will probably spend more time on the system than this current Minister of Education does.
But the bottom line is, by standardizing equipment, by standardizing fuels, by looking at ways of maximizing employment in rural communities, we can provide economic benefits to the communities as well as cost-savings to the government. That's what I'm urging the minister to take a task force and put it together to look at, because I know that there are a number of initiatives underway at various schools that seem to be out of sync with what current methods are used for heating, and I'd urge the minister to examine secondary power rates. There's a potential for great savings there, too, given the utilization of the hydro power in the Whitehorse area. But, unless someone takes the bull by the horns, Mr. Chair, and gets on with these initiatives, that's why I'm urging the minister to convene a few people within his department to examine this area.
And he won't have to go to the teachers and cry poverty. He'll have a savings resulting from energy savings.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to know whether or not the energy management projects are energy efficiency programs that have been put in place with all of the departments across government. Is this the same one?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, that might be better answered by the Minister of Government Services.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, there is a program in every department for looking at energy efficiencies in government buildings. Yukon Housing Corporation does its own buildings. Education - identify areas for improvements for energy efficiency. I'm wondering if this is the line item that looks at this type of a program and looks at schools to make them more energy efficient.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, the Department of Education does that with respect to schools - I mean, such things as energy savings and utilizing timed outlets for winter use. Efficiencies for lighting systems are also looked at. A specific line item here is to increase an air supply in Golden Horn. It's primarily relative to air quality, for one thing. It was to complete the increase of air supply in the Golden Horn computer lab. That is really what that line item was for.
But yes, the Department of Education looks at efficiencies and encourages efficiencies in all our schools.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, where would that be reflected in a line item in this budget?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Could I clarify the question with the member opposite? Are you asking for specific savings as a result of energy efficiencies?
Mr. Fairclough: No, I am asking - every department, as in the past, has identified projects within their departments - buildings and so on - for energy efficiency, and I would assume it would fall under this line item but maybe not. I am just wondering if that is the one - if maybe government is continuing on with the energy efficiency initiative?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The member is correct. That is identified in this line item.
Air Quality/Energy Management Projects in the amount of $34,000 agreed to
On Capital Maintenance Repairs
Capital Maintenance Repairs in the amount of an underexpenditure of $54,000 agreed to
On Ross River School Replacement
Mr. Fairclough: Is this the completion of the school now? This is the last part of the school that is completed?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fairclough: Thanks.
Ross River School Replacement in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
On Vanier Catholic Secondary School
Vanier Catholic Secondary School in the amount of $52,000 agreed to
On School Initiated Renovations
School Initiated Renovations in the amount of $114,000 agreed to
On Connect Yukon
Connect Yukon in the amount of $756,000 agreed to
On Catholic Elementary School Expansions
Catholic Elementary School Expansions in the amount of $258,000 agreed to
On Takhini School Heating System Replacement
Takhini School Heating System Replacement in the amount of an underexpenditure of $370,000 agreed to
On Dawson Land Purchase
Mrs. Peter: I would like to ask the minister why they are purchasing land in Dawson and what for.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: These funds are going to enable the department to take advantage of an opportunity to purchase the Beaver Lumber lot in Dawson and allow for demolition of the existing building that was there - the old Beaver Lumber building. And these lots will permit future site development of the existing playground and allow for a classroom addition, if required, to deal with future enrolment increases. These funds were transferred as a result of the postponement of the Takhini heating system.
Dawson Land Purchase in the amount of $250,000 agreed to
On Robert Service School Roof Repair
Robert Service School Roof Repair in the amount of $165,000 agreed to
On Instructional Programs
On School-Based Equipment Purchase
Mr. Fairclough: A breakdown on that, please.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: There were $91,000 in revotes requested less $5,000 transferred to school-initiated renovations.
Mr. Fairclough: That doesn't make sense, $86,000. And I know that you're talking about. What equipment was purchased with this amount of money?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, these are school-based equipment purchases, so they are purchased individually by the schools. It's upon their initiatives, so I don't have a detailed breakdown of exactly what schools have bought.
School-Based Equipment Purchase in the amount of $86,000 agreed to
On Teacher Mentoring Endowment Fund
Teacher Mentoring Endowment Fund in the amount of $750,000 agreed to
On Advanced Education
On Community Training Fund
Community Training Fund in the amount of $139,000 agreed to
On Special Investment Fund
Mrs. Peter: What is the special investment fund and how will it be used?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The special investment fund, Mr. Chair, was developed in 1995-96 to assist the provinces and territories in developing a common system to improve student services and information data. One hundred percent of the funds for this project have been provided by the Government of Canada. The system is expected to be in use by October 2002, and I could provide a detail on that item, if you wish.
The funding consists of $171,000 as a revote for the development of the final phase of the student financial assistance system and $115,000 in funds received from the Government of Canada for completion of the final phase.
Special Investment Fund in the amount of $286,000 agreed to
On Endowment Fund - Youth Directorate
Endowment Fund - Youth Directorate in the amount of $250,000 agreed to
On Libraries and Archives
On Archives Development Project
Archives Development Project in the amount of $1,000 agreed to
On Gates Foundation Gift
Gates Foundation Gift in the amount of $49,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the capital recoveries?
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Education in the amount of $7,015,000 agreed to
Department of Education agreed to
Chair: The time being 4:35 p.m., we'll have a brief recess until 4:50 p.m. and then continue on with the Department of Government Services.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Department of Government Services
Chair: We will continue with debate on Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2001-02. We will continue on with the Department of Government Services. Is there any general debate on the Department of Government Services?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I'll try to be as brief as possible here, I guess.
I'm pleased to provide an overview of the Government Services supplementary estimates. Overall, the department is forecasting an increase of $318,000 in O&M expenditures. Increases include revote requests totalling $175,000 for building-related maintenance and fuel oil costs. New funding includes $252,000 for personnel to monitor three buildings' heating systems until design changes are implemented. Government Services recoverable expenditures have decreased by a total of $109,000. These decreases are as a result of a reduction of agreements with other governments and outside agencies. Specific reductions include the French language services auxiliary agreement for special projects, $152,000, and information services agreements, $42,000. These decreases are partially offset by new agreements that include funding for service access sites, $80,000, and $5,000 for additional training for the reservation desk clerks.
Capital expenditures are increased by $940,000. Approximately two-thirds of this figure represents revotes, or carry-forward funding for projects budgeted but not completed last fiscal year. This total is $600,000.
Revotes include $266,000 for building maintenance and upgrade projects, $163,000 for land interest management system mapping, $118,000 for life cycle replacements and maintenance of existing IT infrastructure, and $53,000 in federal projects application support for technology and telecommunications.
Other capital increases include $109,000 for the community access program, $8,000 for capital equipment for French language services, and $5,000 for external IT service agreements with outside agencies. These amounts are recoverable.
New capital funding consists of $218,000 for the design and upgrade of the heating system at three government buildings.
At this time, I would be pleased to answer any questions that members may have.
Mr. Keenan: Did I hear the minister say that there is an overall O&M increase?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Yes, we just said that overall the department is forecasting an increase of $318,000 in O&M expenditures.
Mr. Keenan: Well, with a savings of $53,000 from the new fuel policy, it means that O&M has gone up so much more than just what the minister said, $318,000. Or am I correct in that assumption?
Hon. Mr. Jim: This increase includes revote requests totalling $175,000 for building-related maintenance and fuel oil costs.
Mr. Keenan: The fuel oil costs, specifically - can the member be more specific?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Fuel tanks in the buildings for Government Services were topped up last year because money lapsed from the year before.
Mr. Keenan: I'm sorry. I didn't quite understand that answer. I heard the minister say there was an O&M increase of $318,000 - it's because of revotes, et cetera, et cetera - but the member specifically mentioned oil prices and cost. Could we stick to just the oil portion of that, if we could, or the gas portion.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, the member opposite, the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, does he want the specific dollar amount to the oil costs?
Mr. Keenan: Yes. Maybe I'm approaching this through the back door and whatnot, but it was certainly with interest that I listened to the minister saying that there was an increase in operation and maintenance cost, and I have a question I had asked the minister on October 31 of this year, and the minister spoke of a savings of $53,000 from the new process. Now, I'm trying to wonder, it was going up and we're saving here. Well, in between, where are the buckos going?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I am looking at two different costs. One is the building fuel oil costs and the other one, I presume, is the vehicle oil fuel costs. I can answer the question that our building fuel costs went in the vicinity of $95,000 and that is basically it, in terms of fuel oil costs, anyway.
Mr. Keenan: On October 31, I did ask the minister if the minister was satisfied that the minister had been saving the taxpayers' money, and the minister had come back with - not that he was satisfied or anything, like or such, he didn't answer the question, but spoke of the process that he had established. And maybe that is what I should do is speak of the process that was established because, within the Question Period on October 31, and if I may quote from Question Period of that day, the hon. Mr. Jim states: "When we changed the fuel policy back in July 2000," - now please listen - "we negotiated rates with the oil companies", and now the minister went on to say, "and sought bids from the independent retailers interested in selling fuel to the government."
There are two processes in this statement - "The oil companies' discounts to the Government of Yukon are kept confidential, as are oil companies' discounts to other governments and other corporate customers."
I found confusion in that answer, and that's why I wish to take the time to clear this up right now, if we may. So, the minister is satisfied with the process as it comes. Many in rural Yukon - mom-and-pop operators, even here in Whitehorse town - are not satisfied with the government's process at this point in time.
Now, I guess I could ask the minister if he has had any repercussions or negative feedback. Has it all been positive? We're saving $53,000 in taxpayers' bucks, and away we go? Is that the case, or have other issues been brought to the minister's attention?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, for the most part, it has been positive. We have individual retailers who are interested in being on the list for fuel purchases. We have invited them, and they are being put on the list.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I have just talked to a constituent in the Ross River-Southern Lakes area who has the cheapest fuel in my riding. That operator - that's a mom-and-pop operator - has not seen a Community and Transportation Services government vehicle, whether it's moving snow or a grader or anything, in a year - in well over a year.
I talked to this gentlemen this past weekend and again today, and I have asked, "Well, where did you get your information?" He says, "That's the point - I can't get information. They're creating red tape, and I don't know where it's going. Can you please help me? The question I want you to ask the minister, Dave, is: is the minister satisfied with the process as it's laid out?"
What the operator has heard from the Community and Transportation Services division - who used to have it at some point in time - is that the policy is geared to the cheapest operator and the discretion lies with the operator.
To the minister's knowledge, is that the case?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, Government Services provides a list of fuel purchase locations that have agreed to give the government discounts on fuel purchased by employees for government fleet vehicles. The list is of suggested retailers only. Individual government employees may use any fuel retailer - for example, in a time of emergency. Independent retailers are automatically added to the preferred list if they express an interest. I would invite the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes' constituent to please feel free to contact the department and we'll gladly put him on the list.
Mr. Keenan: I appreciate that, but I guess what I have been saying is that he has tried. He has tried, and he has an answer from the grader foreman in one situation. He has all sorts of answers from different people. Now, I'm not trying to beat the minister up in this. I am trying to point out where the minister could tighten up to make it easier. Okay? That's what I'm trying to do here, and I suggest that the minister has to look at this a little deeper.
If the minister is going to change the system, then it has to create an equal, level playing field for all and it has to be a very transparent playing field, as it used to be. Every three months, the bids came through. Was it perfect? No. I was the minister of C&TS once upon a time in my life and I know that it wasn't perfect, but it was the fairest at that point in time at the community level. Now it's not the fairest at all, and it certainly looks - and I'll try to give the minister the benefit of the doubt - like the minister is kowtowing to big companies at the expense of mom-and-pop operations.
I surely hope that was not the minister's intention but, based upon the answer the minister gave on October 31 of this year - that they negotiated rates with the oil companies and sought bids from the independent operators - does the minister feel that is a fair, transparent process? If it is, could the minister describe it to me?
Hon. Mr. Jim: There are two processes here. One process is sitting down and negotiating rates with oil companies, and the other process is providing an avenue for independent retailers. When these independent retailers do come up and express an interest, they're automatically added to the preferred list.
Mr. Keenan: That confuses the bejabbers out of me. We negotiate with an oil company. Some of these oil companies might be providing the oil and the fuel to the mom-and-pop operator and, if you're selling 10 million litres - and this is a fictitious number; it could be smaller, it could be more. I don't know - I'm not in the oil business.
But if you're selling 10 million litres and you have buying power over somebody who sells, say, a million litres in this scenario, I can't see how that would be fair. For one thing, the independent oil company will be able to offer a substantial amount per litre - 10 cents, maybe - if he has enough volume. I saw that happen in the Yukon Territory just three or four years ago. I saw it happen, so it does happen.
If the minister will check with the departments, the minister will understand that it can happen. How do we automatically put somebody, if they wish to be on - yet the fuel would be 73 cents a litre, say - if the oil company is going to sell it to you for 63 cents a litre, where the heck is the fairness? Where is the business sense in that decision?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, once again, all independents are on the list as preferred vendors, and all local retailers were contacted via registered mail and invited to participate in the system. All retailers who responded are included on the list, and new retailers are added as requests are received.
Mr. Keenan: Okay. Well, I have some suggestions for the minister. I would suggest that the minister go back and talk this through, because, for one thing, it sounds like an incredible increase of red tape. And we had taken time as a government to reduce red tape. Did we get credit for it? No. Will the minister get credit for it? Likely not. But what we've done is increase instead of decrease.
And I hear government of the day bragging practically every day about how things are so much nicer, how they're so much smoother. Well, it's easy to be smooth if you're going to cut out people.
I have talked to these independent retailers, not only in this one area that I'm speaking of, but within the four or five communities that I represent. None of them have been contacted. Now, if one out of four missed it, then I would say, well, by golly, you know, that happens because maybe they went off on a moose hunt or something like as such. But none of them have been.
So I would ask the minister if the minister would immediately - and this is the second time. I will point this out. This is the second time that I'm making this request to this very same minister in a different session. I want the minister to understand that I'm very serious about this, and I'm going to check back on it to make sure that it's done.
So, will the minister make the process very transparent to all independents so that they might have a chance to bid on it? I would seek that. I would also seek maybe that the minister should look and maybe the minister could negotiate with those companies, those independents - the same as the minister negotiates with the parent company of many of these mom-and-pop operations. Would the minister be able to look at that type of a scenario to make it more fair to - I see the minister shaking his head no. Please, let's get it on the record.
Hon. Mr. Jim: We will, again, send out these invitations to all independent retailers by registered mail. We will invite them to participate in the system, and all retailers who respond will be included on the list. The new retailers are added as these requests are received.
We look at efficiencies. We've done a number of efficiencies with fuel purchasing in this department. One is the electronic fuel purchasing system that we set up, which is the credit card account.
We also look at negotiating rates with oil companies and bids with independent retailers interested in selling fuel to the government.
In all hindsight, we have managed to have a savings of $53,000 in fuel costs alone.
So, in terms of efficiencies, I think that we're on the right track, but it may take some ironing out as to how we go about in all fairness in getting the information out to the independent retailers.
Mr. Keenan: I have no objection to the minister making electronically - through Interac or whatever way the minister does it - to get the bucks into the hands of the people selling the service. That's not the issue at this point in time.
I appreciate and commend the minister for doing that. It's a wonderful thing to do. I would appreciate the minister continuing to work in that manner.
I've heard the minister say that we have had a savings of $53,000 here in this. Can the minister point out where the line item is in the supplementary where that's reflected?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, the savings are through the fleet vehicle agency.
Mr. Keenan: I would appreciate it if the minister would point out the line item that is on.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, it's through the legislative revolving fund, through the special operating agency.
Mr. Keenan: So, what the minister is saying is, "Trust me." The minister is saying, "Trust me that I have made a buck here. I have saved it for government." If we have operation and maintenance costs going up by $318,000 and we have a savings of $53,000 on one side, something's a little wonky here and I think even the minister has to recognize that something's out of tilt here.
Why would the minister be so interested in protecting the bottom line of a multinational company versus putting some dollars into a mom-and-pop type of operation in rural Yukon? Why would the minister look at that, to be able to negotiate with a multinational that has the ultimate buying power or the biggest buying power - maybe not the ultimate but the biggest buying power - in the Yukon Territory versus a mom-and-pop operation? Why is the minister protecting the bottom line of a multinational at the expense of working-class people?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, there is no question that I am comparing the prices between multinational oil companies and independent retailers. That is, again, for the member opposite's behalf.
I am merely looking at efficiencies as to where we can save monies. This government believes in the free enterprise system. This government is not a socialist government. We believe in a free, competitive environment. We also believe in the responsible use of taxpayers' money.
As I have already told the member opposite, every independent operator automatically goes on the preferred list if they so request.
Mr. Keenan: Some day, I'd like to take the minister on. If the minister would have the strength to bring a motion to the table, to the floor of the House, on Wednesday, to debate the difference between democracy Yukon-style, socialism, capitalism - please do that. Doggone, I'd like to have you with a couple of hours on that. I would be most appreciative.
What I am pointing out here are deficiencies. The minister says he has efficiencies. I'm pointing out that there are deficiencies. If you have a multinational on one side, which has a secretly negotiated, still-hidden price per litre versus a bid submitted by a mom-and-pop type of operator and the discretion to lie with the driver, well by golly, that should tell us something right now. That should tell us that there is a deficiency in the system, because people are going - I will wait until the minister gets briefed.
I'm pointing out deficiencies to the minister. If the minister feels that the minister is saving the government money - we shouldn't be saving government money; we should be saving taxpayers' bucks, because that's what government operates from. We should be thinking about the taxpayer first, not government itself - which I point out is a problem with this government.
We negotiate on this side - multinational. We submit bids and take the bids and leave the discretion to the driver. Where is the business sense in that? Can the minister clearly point out the business sense, and would he consider identifying a line item in the fleet vehicle agency that would prove there is a pure drop? I would like to eat my words from the minister but, so far, I can't see it.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, these line items will show up in the business plans.
Mr. Keenan: And for the other part of the question?
Well, there certainly is, Mr. Chair. If we don't get some answers from this minister it is going to go a little longer than the projected hour that I thought would take to get out of this debate. I have asked the minister a couple of questions and the minister doesn't seem to be answering. Would the minister please answer the last question?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I am not really clear on what question this member opposite is talking about right now. Would he please reiterate his question?
Mr. Keenan: I think the minister will have to think on this, but I think he has proven to himself now that he has to pay a bit more attention to his responsibilities in this House and to listen to the questions asked. I am not asking hard questions here, and I am trying to put the questions to the minister so that the minister can answer the questions because I want to be able to go back to my constituency and say, "This is the process; it is a clear, transparent process." I have pointed out deficiencies and the minister's efficiencies. Will the minister consider the deficiencies that I have pointed out to the minister?
Hon. Mr. Jim: It sounds like it is just going to go back to the same way as in the last sitting. If it is, so be it. I mentioned before that we will be sending out, by registered mail to the local retailers, an invitation to participate in the system. That is fairly clear I presume. I hope it is fairly clear.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, what I pointed out is that, if the minister is going to develop a system - and I appreciate that, because I am a hard-of-hearing person, and I like the minister's attention as I try to give the minister my attention when I'm listening to him talk. I appreciate that we do that.
I would ask the minister to do either/or protect the bottom lines of the multinationals through a secretly negotiated process that people are shut out from. If that's what the minister wishes to do, the minister should just do that and say that. Because what the minister has done is the minister has created a playing field that is tilted, and all you can do is barely hang on. If you just relax for a second, you're going to slide off. In these tough economic times in the mid-winter when graders are running by the cheapest price for fuel, that does not make the clear-cut business sense, and that's what I'm pointing out to the minister, and I want the minister to listen to that.
So if we're going to protect multinational bottom lines, let's do it and say it's done. I'll ask the minister a question in Question Period, get it on the record, and then we're out of here, because I do not have the power to change. I am pointing out a deficiency, and that's what I wish the minister to understand. Make it a fair and transparent process for all, and negotiate the same as you would with a multinational as with a mom-and-pop operator. Because if you leave the discretion within the driver's hands and there's a personality conflict of any sort - it could be a perceived personality conflict between the operator and the driver or something that did happen at the dance last Saturday night. We're leaving it to a personality decision basis when we're trying to save a buck. Does the minister understand what I'm saying now?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I understand very clearly that the member wants me to micromanage the Government Services department. I say again that we are looking at efficiencies in this department and that there is a process in play in which we negotiate rates with the oil companies and that we can given invites to the independent retailers, local retailers, and we've contacted them by registered mail and invited them to participate in the system.
If he says that there's a deficiency in it, I can say that we have a $53,000 savings of fuel costs in our fleet vehicle agency as of May 2001.
I'm just saying that we are looking at efficiencies and if there are deficiencies, then I certainly am apprised of it now. If there are additional things that the member needs me to do, and actually go out there and talk to the individual retailers myself, then I can't do that. I cannot do that; I can only do the macro aspects of Government Services and not the micro.
Mr. Keenan: Macro, micro - all I'm saying - these are all quotes. I'm not asking the minister to micromanage the department. Heaven forbid that we have a politician entering in to micromanage a department - heaven forbid.
I'm asking the minister a policy-related question - a policy-related question of which I am pointing out a deficiency.
Whether the minister likes it or not, I am an elected representative, duly elected, as the minister is. I have the mandate to be in this House and ask these questions. I am not attempting to cause disarray in this House. I am attempting to get something that I can send back to my constituents who have this problem. Indeed, not only in my riding, but in all ridings of the Yukon Territory, this problem is there.
That's what I started off with in the beginning: has the minister heard these things? Because if the minister has, I can assist.
I'm asking the minister if he wants assistance, not in macromanaging, not in micromanaging, but in getting the word out. That's exactly what I want to say.
Now the minister loves to say "what I'm saying", well, what I am saying is that I would like the minister just to listen to that - to listen to it, and to find a way through policy to alleviate or clear up the problem that is out there.
Is the minister understanding what I'm saying now?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, once again, this government believes in a free enterprise system. This government is not a socialist government. We believe in a free-competition environment. We also believe in the responsible use of taxpayers' money, and as I have already told the member opposite, every independent operator automatically goes on the preferred list if they request it.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, could the minister answer a policy-related question without asking the technical people as to how often these letters go out, how often we seek information?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, it only went out once this year - to see if that would be an annual thing, because my understanding is that it's once every two years that we take this list out. So, if there's a request out there, yes, we can grant that.
Mr. Keenan: I think we're getting someplace here. I won't bother getting it now, but maybe at some other time. And I'll put the minister on notice. I'd like the minister's description of "socialist" and a "free enterprise system". But, of course, we can do that on a Wednesday when the minister brings that debate to the floor. I'd very much appreciate it if that could happen.
I'd like to point out for the record that the minister could not answer the question. It was a policy-related question.
Does the minister absolutely feel it's fair that, if we put something into place, we shouldn't be critiquing it, especially if it's the second or third time that it has been brought to the minister's attention that there's a problem? Do we have to drag this minister kicking and screaming?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, the member opposite can kick and scream all he wants, but there is no problem.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I have just spent 45 minutes trying to get the point across that there is a problem. There is a problem in the Yukon. If the minister would go to rural Yukon and spend some time - I'll be kind in my words now. Arriving late in a community, after 7:00 p.m., and the community waits, and then boogying out the next day, after staying up half the night, is that community consultation? I just have a letter on my desk from my home town talking about this Liberal government's attitude toward consultation. Mr. Chair, I have to point out that it's reflective in the House this afternoon - absolutely reflective.
I appreciate that the minister would give me some bad news, I guess - no, I don't appreciate the bad news - to take to the people of rural Yukon, the mom-and-pop operators, to show that this government's direction is to support the bottom line of the multinationals. They do not recognize that there is a problem with that. I'm appalled.
Now, I see the minister just a-shuckin' and a-grinnin' over there, and thinking this is just fun and, "God, I can hardly wait to get out and maybe do another pub crawl." But I'll tell you, this is not right -
Chair: Order please. I will remind members to ensure that they do not impute motives or create language to cause uproar in the House. I would ask Mr. Keenan to remember that. We have been doing a very good job throughout the day sticking to issues, and we'd like to stick strictly to issues and policy.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I guess I'd love to see that description of Liberal consultation because - what more can I say? It's so very obvious to the people in the community, so terribly obvious to the people outside of the community that they can't get what they need, that the government feels there isn't a problem. All's red in la-la land, and I guess it's going to remain red until the next election, and then certainly there will be a change.
But it's going to be a shock to the minister opposite to be standing unemployed because the minister would not answer questions. But I will close up on this one debate, or lack of debate, and would ask the minister to please provide the line item to the fleet vehicle agency where the $53,000 savings is reflected. Can I get a commitment from the minister to do that?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Earlier on the member mentioned the consultation process that the Liberal Party has. Well, this government has gone out, and because of the slippery conditions of the road going there, we have managed to be a little bit late. And I presume that the member opposite was talking about the trip to Ross River in the fall. We managed to be there a little bit late, but we went there and in turn had the meeting, and we stayed at the meeting that evening until at least 10:00 at night. The bottom line is that we came to that community at a late hour and we made a decision. We came out of there with a plan. We left that community with a plan with that community. Unlike the members opposite who are indecisive in their nature - they don't know if they're flip-flopping from one decision to another - we came back with a plan. The issue was the blue building, the recreational centre. We came back with contact people, what the plans were, how much money was going to be invested in it, and they were happy. They were happy that we did come there and they were glad that we did come and at least meet with the community. The member opposite was sitting there too, and he is saying that it is really nice to see that the ministers actually come to our communities and talk about our issues and listen to our issues in the community. We were there. We went out there and we listened to the people, and we listened to what was being said and we came out of there with a very clear plan in the end.
So in terms of consultation processes, that's just a little taste of what this government is doing.
The other point is that the member opposite talked a little bit about the independent operators versus the national oil and gas regime. We're not pitting one organization against another. That's not the intent here. The intent here is to make sure that we save dollars through our fleet vehicle agencies, we save dollars through fuel purchases, through building maintenance so that we can spend taxpayers' dollars toward other things like education systems, building schools.
I would like to say as a last point that the $53,000 savings is in a line item of the business plan of the fleet vehicle agency.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I certainly appreciate hearing the minister stand and speak somewhat elegantly, I can say, when he gets his dander up a little bit there, and I appreciate that. Maybe you have to ruffle the feathers to get the true spirit of the minister up here a little bit. And believe you me, I will until I get some answers in here.
I guess it's called planning. The community has an expectation that you're going to be there at 6:00 and cooks you a supper so that you could be there at 6:00. We know that Community and Transportation Services has road conditions reports and it's just as easy as moseying down the hall to ask the Minister of Community and Transportation Services what the roads are like, I reckon. And if I can travel that route and get there on time for a doggone dinner, well then I can't see why the minister couldn't. What I think here is we just have a bit of disrespect for a community, and it's becoming very, very apparent.
Now, this minister stood on his feet and said that we didn't listen to the community. Well, Mr. Chair, every day I talk to someone from Ross River and they thank me and I say, "No, that's what government is supposed to be doing." And is this government doing it? And they say, "Well, Dave, certainly not to the calibre that you did it, because you believed in us. When we asked for $200,000 for the blue building or whatever the project was in the initiative, it was there. And when we asked for X amount of dollars, the government comes back and says take it or leave it; that's what you're getting." Well, by golly, I don't know if that's consultation. That's dictation.
We established a round table of empowerment. We have put in recreational facilities. We have put in recreational directors, which I understand that this government is trying to find every way and means of taking out of the community. We have built roads under the community direction, which this government has not done. This government has even had the audacity to build a road in the Faro section and claim that it's in the Ross River section. Is that based on consultation or is that just bafflegab?
And that's not meant to be insulting. That's the truth.
Work with the community on infrastructure. Work to bring a community together so that there was not a this side and that side, but people could work together. Is it happening? It's happening right now. Right now people are working together. I see it. I cheer for them playing hockey, broomball, whatever. It's the community coming together and that's the type of planning that government has to take responsibility for, to work with the people, to show the people that there is a better way, that the problems of the communities can be alleviated and we can have positive lives by following these directions.
Now, the minister is standing there saying the minister has done that. Well, Mr. Chair, the minister has not done that. The minister hasn't done that at all.
I think I have pointed out that the minister refuses to work on the fuel problem. The minister says that, if I get in touch, we'll make a half-hearted attempt to send out a registered letter again to these folks out there, and if they get in touch, well, good enough. If they don't, good enough, because we have saved $53,000.
I think this minister is much like most of the ministers on that side, if not all of the ministers, in that they know the price of things but they know the value of nothing. There is a big difference between knowing the price and the value of community development.
I'll leave it at that.
The minister is wise and the minister will ponder on those thoughts. Maybe the minister will make the minister a better person to serve the people, which we, of course, are here for.
Is the minister working with other jurisdictions or other departments - the federal government, or anybody, in light of September 11, for the movement of goods?
Hon. Mr. Jim: In terms of September 11, you know, the Community and Transportation Services has looked after that fairly diligently.
We have been involved in communication systems, I imagine, with the emergency team. In terms of the movement of goods, I can say that we haven't been involved in the movement of goods - not that I know of.
Mr. Keenan: Well, I feel that the department may be - maybe the minister should get briefed from the department on this. I understand that communications systems and whatnot are within the bailiwick of the department.
But I guess what I'm wanting to hear - and confer with the minister right behind you, if you like - is that we're working toward a governmental plan that if something like that happened, that there would be a continual flow of goods.
I understand that the Mayo school is at the flooring, I believe. Was it the flooring at the Mayo school that was held behind for three weeks to four weeks, or something like as such? That showed that there was a problem there, and I guess I could ask the Education minister at some point. Was there an addendum put under the contract so that it wasn't at a cost to the contractor, and how did government handle that?
What I am asking this minister: is the minister a part of a team that would be looking overall at the movement of goods so that there would not be an interrupted flow, if something would happen of that magnitude again?
Is the minister clear about what I'm asking now?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, Government Services is part of the emergency measures planning team. Basically, that's as much involvement as we have with the September 11 issue. I believe that the minister may be referring to a delivery of the floor at the Mayo school - is that not correct?
Mr. Keenan: I'd like to point out I'm not a minister at this point in time, but I will be in two years. I'd also like to point out that I can ask the questions. The minister should be supplying the answers, and certainly, the Member for Porter Creek North is going to have the shortest political career of any retired teacher I have ever heard of. I understand that, and I know that to be a certainty, based on the consultation practices of this government - that's what it's based on.
Do people have memories? Oh, you bet. People have good memories, and I guess I'm here to check the memory of the minister. I asked the minister, on the floor of this House, if he would stop in and visit a constituent in Ross River, and the minister said he would. Just before the minister departed the business portion of the evening in Ross River, which was very short, I had to remind the minister - "Oh, yes, by golly, I shall do that." Can the minister report back on that meeting now, please?
Hon. Mr. Jim: In terms of the member opposite saying that he is going to become a minister within two years, I must commend him on his high hopes because I imagine that within 10 years may be more realistic. So he must be patient.
In the meeting that I had in Ross River with a gentleman whom I know fairly well, he said that he was going off to a hunting trip and that, as soon as he got back from his hunting trip, he would be more than pleased to give me a call and talk to me or go for a coffee or something. To this date, there hasn't been a meeting.
Mr. Keenan: Well, that must be one heck of a hunting trip. Now, I am sure that the man the member is speaking of is a good friend of the minister's. If you think that the minister was that close of a friend that the minister would be able to pick up and say, "How was the moose hunt? Hope you got a fat one. I'm there for a rib the next time I am in town. But, by golly, I need to talk to you about this because you want to talk to me about this." You mean the minister didn't do that? The minister has not picked up the telephone since hunting season - two months later? My good God, that is reminiscent of the Health department and their purchase of CAT scans or trying to resource diagnostic teams. It's a lot of talk, but we need a little bit of walk. Does the minister agree with me?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I have to say absolutely not. Mr. Chair. I would like to say that I've known this gentleman in Ross River for quite some time, and I've asked him to give me a call, to call me when he gets back from his hunting trip. I certainly don't want to invade his privacy or his time. If the gentleman feels free, I'd be more than willing to call him of my own volition.
Mr. Chair, I move that we report progress at this time.
Motion agreed to
Mr. McLachlan: 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 considered Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2001-02, and directed 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. McLachlan: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:58 p.m.
The following Legislative Return was tabled November 14, 2001:
Yukon Mining Incentives Program: responses to questions asked on Ministerial Statement given on October 23, 2001 (Kent)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2260-2261