Tuesday, December 9, 2003 ó 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.
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Hart:Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the Yukon Motor Transport Board Annual Report from April 2002 to March 2003.
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
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to present to the Legislative Assembly a permanent resolution to the outstanding government loans issue.
Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that a winter road into Old Crow is presently being planned;
THAT this House recognizes that there are a minimum of five large, used, rundown Government of Yukon vehicles and used metal waste, such as stoves and refrigerators, at the Old Crow landfill; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to allocate additional funding to ensure these vehicles and waste metal are removed via the winter road to ensure their proper disposal.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes the following:
(1) the Yukon Party-appointed supervisor for Dawson was recruited from British Columbia, despite the fact there are many competent employees within the Department of Community Services capable of working cooperatively with Dawson in restructuring their finances;
(2) the actions of the supervisor have resulted in the City of Dawson initiating a lawsuit against the Yukon government;
(3) this supervisor is being paid $800 a day;
(4) the Minister of Community Services has stated publicly that he believes it was wrong for the supervisor to stay at the hotel owned by the Member for Klondike; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to immediately terminate the contract of their partisan supervisor and appoint a qualified Yukon public servant to work cooperatively with Dawson officials to restructure their finances.
Mr. Hardy: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House condemns the current governmentís lack of respect for the Legislature as demonstrated by their consistent refusal of ministers to answer questions in a forthright and meaningful manner.
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House directs the government House leader not to change the order of debate in Committee of the Whole once the order has been set and announced without first obtaining unanimous consent from the other House leaders for such a change.
I also give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House directs the government House leader to provide proper notice at the daily House leaders meeting when a minister is expected to be absent from the Legislature, including the reason for the expected absence.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House calls upon the Government of Yukon to introduce practical financial support programs for Yukon trappers this winter that recognize the following:
(a) trapping is an integral part of the traditional lifestyle of many Yukon people;
(b) trapping is one of the only means to preserve this lifestyle and to teach young people to survive on the land;
(c) trapping is an important part of the economic life cycle in rural Yukon communities;
(d) maintaining this way of life should be a priority for any Yukon government.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Cardiff:I would like to rise on a point of order and ask members of the Legislature to help me in welcoming Mark Stephens, chair of the Mount Lorne Hamlet Council.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Answers to questions
Mr. Hardy:I have a very simple question for the Premier. Will the Premier and his ministers actually answer questions put to them during Question Period and Committee debate today?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I would submit that that is actually what takes place. Unfortunately, the answers may not be to the liking of the members opposite, and the option that they have chosen is to present the fact as the leader of the official opposition just has.
We will continue to answer the questions, we will focus on answering questions of substance and questions that are constructive to the debate, but we as a government will not enter into speculative debate whatsoever.
Mr. Hardy: I say that the record stands for itself in this Legislature as to whether there have been questions answered or not. In this sitting we have witnessed one of the worst records ever exhibited by a government in Yukon history in answering questions ó or not answering questions.
This Yukon Party government promised consensus-building, consultation, collaboration and compromise. We have seen none of these things in this first year, and Yukon people are getting very, very concerned. I should remind the Premier that there is no Fifth Amendment in the system.
Will the Premier instruct his ministers to stop their disrespectful games in this House and provide meaningful answers to opposition questions about the publicís business?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: If the members of this side of the House were engaged in anything of the sort, I can tell you that we would act immediately. Given the fact that that is not the case, this is a moot point.
But I would like to point out something else, Mr. Speaker. When it comes to the members on the opposite side, regardless of what we do in consulting with the public, in advancing initiatives like the Kaska bilateral agreement and signing what is a whole new approach to consultation with self-governing First Nations, a consultation protocol that formalizes and commits the government and the First Nation governments on how, where and when we will consult ó and beyond that, we do consult on issues that are not of an obligation to us as a government. We continue to do that today. All these things are facts. Again, I point out that the memberís question is moot and of no substance.
Question re: Dawson City supervisor position
Mr. Cardiff:I have a question for the Minister of Community Services.
Why did the minister replace the supervisor of Dawson Cityís financial affairs without providing any evidence of a need to do so?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I have provided this answer several times in the past and I continue to do so. We are looking for a fresh approach on this particular aspect and we are getting it.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, thatís not the evidence that we were looking for. The minister has become famous for his non-answers in this House. He is only marginally better at answering questions from the media.
The bottom line is that he has provided no good reason whatsoever for dumping the previous supervisor and installing the hand-picked consultant from British Columbia.
Will the minister provide the terms of reference and the workplan for the new administrator of Dawson Cityís affairs?
Hon. Mr. Hart: First, Mr. Speaker, Iíd like to make it very clear, as Minister of Community Services, Iím accountable to all taxpayers, as they would be affected by the financial difficulties of any Yukon municipality. In this case, yes, Dawson City continues to be in financial difficulty ó the situation we inherited when we took office. The last government first addressed this problem by appointing it to a YTG supervisor. The new supervisor is now reviewing the progress made on Dawsonís finances and according to the terms under the Municipal Act. Iím in direct contact with the supervisor on a regular basis. When the supervisor review is complete, Iíll present the details.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, we got a scripted message again, instead of the answer. What I asked for was the terms of reference and the workplan. I didnít ask for the information that heís going to get down the road.
So letís try again. He can answer the question I previously asked, and maybe he can try to answer this one: why is the minister, through his high-priced consultant, taking such draconian measures in Dawson City when he has not demonstrated a need to do so?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I will inform the member opposite that the supervisor is acting under the Municipal Act. He is doing everything in accordance with that particular act, and thatís how heís operating. Heís doing nothing more or less.
Question re: Young offenders facility
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, this government has a very poor record when it comes to consultation. Yesterday in this House we heard that the Premier is receiving letters almost daily from First Nation chiefs who are upset with the governmentís inability to consult. Then thereís the Minister of Environment, who has been such a disaster with First Nations heís no longer allowed to meet with them.
Shortly after becoming the Minister of Health, the MLA for Klondike showed that he, too, has no idea what consultation means, especially on government facilities. His first bright idea was to move a bunch of seniors out of their homes in the middle of winter. His newest idea announced on the floor of the Legislature a couple of days ago is to close the young offenders facility. Before the government makes any changes to the young offenders facility, will the minister commit to involve the people who work there in any discussions?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I donít know where the member gets this information. Itís totally incorrect; itís right off the wall. I donít know what sheís dreaming about at night, Mr. Speaker. Itís not something that weíre even entertaining. What I said on the floor of this Legislature in general debate was that we have a young offenders facility that costs several million dollars a year to run, that has 24 FTEs operating it, and currently there is one young offender that has been sentenced to that facility.
Speaker:Before the leader of the third party asks her next question Iíd just like to discuss the comment of "off the wall". Although not necessarily unparliamentary, it is edging toward unparliamentary. We can only assume that each member of the House is asking and responding to questions to the best of their ability, so Iíd prefer that we not use that terminology.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
This is what the minister said a couple of days ago: "We have a multi-million dollar facility that has about 24 or 25 staff. We have to examine whether itís a good expenditure of the taxpayersí money to continue utilizing that facility. Maybe thereís a way we could change its function." Thatís what the minister said.
Thereís an image that comes to mind immediately ó itís a Disney image of Tinkerbell ó poof ó weíre going to change your function. Thatís what the minister said on the floor of the House. Before the government makes any changes to that facility, will the minister commit, absolutely, to involve the people who work there before the decision is made?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Weíve gone from the wall to the ceiling with Tinkerbell now. I donít understand where this member is coming from.
Speaker:Order. Disney-esque references, going through issues that have already been ruled out of order, are not in order. Iíd ask the member to carry on with his answer.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, as I said, we have a multi-million dollar facility. It costs several million dollars a year to operate. Currently thereís one individual sentenced to serve in that secure-custody facility. The Young Offenders Act has been altered. Of course we will consult with all the parties before any changes, and weíre not contemplating any changes. In fact, if anything, weíre contemplating enhancing what is transpiring there.
Ms. Duncan: The minister just said "Ö weíre not contemplating any changes. In fact, weíre contemplating enhancing Ö" Well, "enhancing" is a change as well. The fact is weíre talking about 25 Yukon government employees and their families who are affected by this. And weíre talking about a minister whose record of consultation, especially on facilities, is not very good.
Many of these people have skills that could be transferred to other parts of the justice system and the health care system. The minister needs to involve these people in any discussions before he makes any decisions ó before the decisions are made, not after.
Will he absolutely commit on the floor of this House that he will meet with and discuss the options with the people who work there ó the people involved ó before the decisions, not after?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Let me apologize to the House. I misspoke myself. What I meant to say is that there is no chance that we are shutting down this facility completely. If anything, we are going to enhance what the facility does. That is being examined at this time with the full consultation of all parties affected.
Under the Young Offenders Act, we have an obligation to ensure that there are secure custody facilities in place. Thatís a given. But there are perhaps ways we can build on this tremendous asset base that we have and utilize it for other purposes that will serve the common good of individuals who may come into incarceration under the Young Offenders Act.
This will be done with full consultation, and perhaps the member opposite has heard some sort of vibes out in the community currently, but itís a given. There is a Young Offenders Act. We have to have a secure custody facility. The secure custody facility that we currently have will remain. It might be enhanced or looked at to serve other purposes. Thatís where we are at, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: YDC/YEC, chair appointment
Mr. McRobb: The Yukon Party governmentís failure to answer questions is appalling. So is its record on providing information. People are disgusted with how those members are not upholding the very same trust they asked of Yukoners just one year ago. People are insulted by this government when its ministers donít answer our questions or fail to provide the information we seek on behalf of Yukon people.
I want to follow up with the Energy minister on his refusal to provide information requested of his officials more than seven months ago. This information has been sitting on his desk for weeks, if not months. Yukoners are tired of that type of political gamesmanship. When will he provide that information so at least we on this side of the House can do our job?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Thank you to the member opposite. That information will be out and in his hands by the end of this sitting.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís disgraceful, Mr. Chair. We should have had that information before this sitting.
The minister has refused to clarify the job description for his $175,000 chair of the Yukon Development Corporation. The only information he has made available to the public was his news release from back in May. It said the chair was hired to develop a governance structure. During questioning last month, the minister revealed the chair was hired to rein in the cost overruns of the Mayo-to-Dawson transmission line. Obviously the minister thinks a $9-million overrun is okay because he has since promoted the gold-plated chair to pursue other major projects, such as the Atlin transmission line.
Letís start afresh. Will the minister provide a legislative return that fully addresses concerns about this chairís job description? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Certainly that information will be available to the member opposite before the end of this sitting. It will be complete and in his hands.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, the minister failed to answer the question. By not providing us with information to our legitimate requests in a timely way, the government members are evading their responsibility to be open and accountable to the people of this territory. This very approach is one that is detested by Yukoners. The citizens of this territory do not condone this kind of conduct from their elected officials.
Everybody Iíve heard from over the years has said that if the ministers have the information requested and itís something that can be provided, then they should do so. Yukoners would like a commitment from the Energy minister. Will he resolve to do his part to improve the information flow in this House? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, I will complete the documentation and I will put it in his hands before the end of this sitting.
Question re: Obsidian Consulting contract
Mr. Hardy:I have a question for the Premier. One of the first actions the Premier took was to give a sole-source contract worth $200,000 a year, plus expenses, to a consultant on an intergovernmental relationship with First Nation governments. Can the Premier explain why relations between his government and many Yukon First Nations have been hitting the rocks, especially on the issue of consultation?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I must point out that this side of the House does not concur nor agree with the memberís assertions whatsoever. There are always issues between two governments that have respective jurisdictions that they must manage. The issue that the member speaks to is more of a political nature being brought forward by the official opposition.
Our relationship with First Nations in this territory is advanced. There are many examples of it, whether it be bilaterals ó arrangements between us and a First Nation where there is no land claim nor a mandate to negotiate one, which has provided results such as bringing Teck Cominco back to the territory; with the signing of consultation protocols; with entering into arrangements with specific First Nations like the Vuntut Gwitchin in addressing their capital plan and their needs; in signing intergovernmental protocols with that First Nation, and others; in engaging the Teslin Tlingit First Nation in their approach to an economic partnership. All these things are happening. They are happening because we took the step to engage a First Nation member of this territory in a contract to open doors for the government of the day with our First Nation brothers to advance this territoryís future. Thatís what this is about. I know the NDP does not like looking into the future.
Mr. Hardy: Nothing unusual there, Mr. Speaker. Once again, the rhetoric pours out of the mouth of the Premier and attacks the opposition for asking questions. Thatís nothing unusual. Weíve already heard today that the $800-a-day man is the hatchet man for the government. Weíve heard of the $175,000 energy bunny thatís running around and doing all kinds of stuff but thereís no accountability on that. Weíve heard of the $200,000-a-day man, the consultant ó
Speaker:Order please. Itís not appropriate to refer to an employee as a caricature. Thatís out of order. I would ask the member not to do that, please.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, I thought you had referenced Disneyland, so I tried to stay away from that one, though there are examples there too.
However, the Premier should remember that we arenít the only ones in this territory who have been raising these concerns about consultation in the first place. Theyíre coming directly from the First Nation governments themselves. Itís interesting that the Premier did not reference the fact that there are letters out there today with very serious concerns in regard to this.
Will the Premier provide the terms of reference, the workplan and the evaluation criteria for his hand-picked consultant, as we have previously requested?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Itís a matter of public record. Itís the contract and itís quite specific and simple. Itís to work on formalizing our relationship, government to government, and to work on full economic partnerships with First Nations. Thatís a broad scope of work.
We were fortunate to be able to engage an individual ó a First Nation individual of this territory ó with the skill sets that this individual has. The list of product and accomplishments here and what has transpired over the last 11 and a half months is significant. I say, Mr. Speaker, that thatís our job as a government.
I know the official opposition, the New Democrats, do not like this idea. They do not like this government moving into what they traditionally feel is their turf. Well, weíre going to do that, whether it be with First Nations and our relationship, whether it be with our social programming ó and we know the NDP does not like the private sector, but you can add that to this governmentís portfolio.
Mr. Hardy: Things have sure changed since that Premier left this party, and I can tell you it has changed for the better. There is a lot more honesty on this side.
Speaker:Please retract that. You know exactly what I am talking about.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Hardy:Yes, Mr. Speaker, I retract it. I got excited over here. I would like to point out something, Mr. Speaker. I never received an answer to what I requested previously. Instead I just got a bunch of rhetoric.
The Premier had no hesitation about signing deals outside the land claim framework. He has taken the position that this is the way to get the economy going again with full First Nation participation. However, that has given rise to numerous questions regarding other First Nations that havenít completed final agreements, as well as First Nation governments that have. Is the Premierís special consultant negotiating any further resource-related agreements with other First Nations similar to the Kaska agreement and, if not, what is the consultantís current mandate?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: To respond to the memberís rhetoric of his own, I was always very clear in the New Democratic caucus on my beliefs. I believe in capital democracy ó I have said it many times to those very members. That is not a big secret. That is why I left the New Democratic caucus, because they do not believe in those principles of engaging the private sector to build an economy, and we have all seen the results.
When it comes to the contractor, the contractorís job is broad in scope to work on formalizing our relationship as governments, and to work on areas of a full economic partnership. That is not an easy task. That is a very comprehensive and daunting task. I say again that we are very fortunate to have been able to engage this First Nation Yukoner to take on that task, and who has delivered in the method and at the level that individual has. But there is much to do and many challenges up ahead. This government is up to it ó it is obvious that the opposition benches are not.
Question re: Umbrella Final Agreement and trapping
Mrs. Peter:My question today is for the Minister of Environment. Last month the minister responded to an inquiry from the renewable resource councils about implementing section 16.6.13 of the Umbrella Final Agreement regarding bylaw authority for trapping. In his letter outlining his departmentís priorities, he made no commitment to implement this section, although it is clearly his responsibility. In fact, amending the Wildlife Act related to trapping is not even on this ministerís radar screen.
When will implementing the final agreements and supporting people who go out on the land to trap for a living become a priority for this minister?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Certainly trapping and the industry around trapping is a high priority for this government. We have had meetings with the Trappers Association, with some renewable resource councils and with others to engage many of the traplines that remain vacant today for a variety of reasons. We are trying very desperately to work with each First Nation as a self-governing First Nation to get this industry going again.
Mrs. Peter: Finding ways to get the minister out of hot water over game farming and captive wildlife seems to have used up a lot of his departmentís time and attention. Renewable resource councils, First Nations and trappers want to know when the trapping industry will get this ministerís attention.
Is the minister prepared to sit down with the people in the trapping industry and learn their concerns first-hand?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I see no difficulty at all in working with the Trappers Association and others. In fact, Iíd like to publicly commend them on a marvellous store that theyíve opened and that I was in about a week ago.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, trapping is a vital part of the culture and the economy in rural Yukon, for the Gwitchin people in my community and for others. Being out on the land, keeping traditional skills alive and passing those skills on to the next generation are all very important to our people.
Apart from the need for certainty on how trapping will be regulated, people who rely on trapping to support their families also need support from this government for education, promotion, marketing and training. Will the minister recognize the needs of people who pursue this traditional lifestyle by providing some immediate support programs for Yukon trappers this winter?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: These are certainly initiatives that weíve been talking to the Trappers Association about. We had an initiative to have a trapline closer to Whitehorse to use for training purposes, and weíve been working with the Trappers Association on that.
Interestingly, Mr. Speaker, much of what the member opposite says we completely agree with and have been working on diligently.
We have also been on top of the question of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police considering changing their hats from muskrats to acrylic. And without getting into discussion with the Member for Kluane about how many acrylics it takes to make a hat, we have been on top of that and communicating with the Commissioner of the RCMP, with the Solicitor Generalís office, coordinating letters from our Senator, with our Member of Parliament, to reinforce the importance of the trapping industry. I will make the assumption that the member opposite, whose riding is desperately affected, has also done the same.
Question re: Outpatient subsidy
Mr. Fairclough:My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services. When will the minister increase the outpatient subsidy to a standard government rate, or at least a decent level?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Currently the Yukon has one of the best support programs in Canada for individuals who are located in the north. It beats that which is in place for the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, but thatís not to say we arenít examining this area at the present time.
Mr. Fairclough: This minister has been in government for over a year now and nothing has been done. This was supposedly an important issue to the member opposite.
Now, the present policy is that $30 a day is paid for accommodation, meals and transportation. Thatís only on the fourth day. Patients must pay this up front, and Iím hoping that this is not acceptable to the member opposite.
My constituents, the memberís constituents, are asking for help, and this department has all kinds of money in it. He has just announced that heíll be spending $6.5 million.
The payments from this department begin on the fourth day, and thatís not acceptable. So why should people who need to travel for medical purposes be forced to pay all their own costs for three full days? Can the minister explain that logic?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: What I will tell the member opposite is that Yukon currently has some of the best social programs in place for those who are afflicted with an ailment. Currently, we just have to look at the additional money that our government has earmarked: $8.4 million, including revotes; $1.8 million more for the hospital; medical travel up by another $389,000; diagnostic and medical equipment, $500,000; tele-health, $316,000. In addition to that, we just have to look at the Child Development Centre, another $132,000, and the expansion of the chronic disease program, $1,093,000 additional for this fiscal period. That in itself is significant and it clearly identifies our governmentís commitment to look after Yukoners in the best manner we possibly can.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister skirted around that question by saying that we have the best policies in place and that we outdo N.W.T., which doesnít have any payments at all to patients who travel. $30 a day after the fourth day, thatís what this Yukon government pays. Letís compare it to the Northwest Territories. The first night they pay taxis up to five trips without receipts. They pay commercial accommodations of $73.92 or private accommodations of $50 a day. They pay meals, $58.25 ó thatís on the first day.
I can go through the whole list for second and third days. Iím going to ask the minister this: will he adopt the Northwest Territoriesí extended health care benefits, medical travel rates and reimbursement for patients? Will he do that and get his information correct?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The information I gave to the member opposite that we have some of the best programs in place and pay the highest levels of remuneration to individuals inflicted by an ailment or who have to be involved in the medical system, is self-evident; itís there.
Our government has taken the high road on this initiative and has enhanced a number of the programs where it is necessary and is needed. We have clearly identified those, and I enunciated that just previously, Mr. Speaker. There isnít anything to preclude us from looking at this area down the road in the next budget. But the area that the member opposite is confusing is the uninsured health benefit plan that is currently in place through Indian Affairs for First Nation members in the north. That program ó we all know what is happening to it, and there are some serious deficiencies that are becoming evident in the way Indian Affairs is treating First Nations under this program.
I would encourage the member opposite not to confuse the two areas.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of government private membersí business
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7), I would like to inform the House that in order to provide the opposition parties additional time to conduct the publicís business this session, the government private members do not wish to identify any items to be called on Wednesday, December 10, 2003, under the heading "Government Private Membersí Business".
Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee this afternoon is Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2003-04.
I understand weíre going into the Department of Education. Before we begin, do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2003-04. We will continue on with general debate on Vote 3, Education.
Bill No. 7 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2003-04 ó continued
Department of Education ó continued
Hon. Mr. Edzerza:Iíd like to start out by stating that yesterday we were supposed to be in general debate on the supplementary budget. However, I believe we probably went to every mountaintop and to the bottom of every valley in the Yukon on the questions. However, if it filled the opposition with information so that they could understand the big picture, I guess it was worth it.
Yesterday, we left off with the Vuntut Gwitchin member telling this House that the people of Old Crow consider education to be their number one priority. I applaud the Vuntut Gwitchin for this position. In fact, I believe that it would be shared by many First Nations and many Yukoners. They are so adamant about where they are going with education.
I think that it is a good thing. I really appreciate that a First Nation would take the initiative to go ahead and do things that will benefit their people. It is a good thing, and I hope that all First Nations right across Canada would take that same approach to education, economic development and so on.
There is nothing more important to any parent, I donít believe, than the well-being of their children. As parents, we expect a lot from our school system. I share the concerns and desires of many Yukoners toward the well-being of their children in the education system. I believe that the education system should be the best that it could possibly be.
During the needs assessment tour, I have been impressed and thankful for the level of enthusiasm expressed by school council members, principals, First Nations and teachers. They have been pleased with my visits and with this governmentís offer of an additional $1 million for short-term education needs in the schools.
I would also like to state that I also appreciated visiting all the outlying communities Iíve visited. I enjoyed meeting the people there, and the hospitality offered by the different groups was quite heartwarming, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. They have also been pleased that they can identify the needs that their schools have and that someone would be prepared to listen to what those needs are. They have identified short-term items like reading materials, sports equipment, computers, new carpet in some of the classrooms, art supplies ó like moosehide and beads for doing cultural activities ó thickness planers in the industrial workshops.
All of these things, Mr. Chair, are essential needs for education to progress in the education system in the schools.
Not only was $1 million for this tour secured in the supplementary budget, there is more good news, Mr. Chair: $400,000 was set aside as the first steps toward a new school in Carmacks.
Mr. Chair, I took the liberty and time to go to Carmacks within a short time period after being elected and put into the position of Education minister. What I saw was a school that was in dire need of replacement. The hallways were not accessible to wheelchairs. The building was very old and run-down. It was after that tour that, the first chance I had in Cabinet, I made it very clear to my colleagues that the school in Carmacks definitely has to be replaced. This government takes the safety of children very, very seriously. This government will act on the best interest of the children. By replacing that school, itís a clear demonstration of how sincere we are with regard to children and education. My colleagues agreed, and I look forward, as soon as possible, to the grand opening and the excitement of the students in their new school.
In the supplementary budget, there is also $200,000 allocated toward a first phase of the new cafeteria and industrial arts wing at the Porter Creek Secondary School. Again, this was brought to our attention by several different people. I met with the school council, and one initiative that I took upon myself to do as soon as I was appointed minister was visit as many of the school councils as I could before they closed in June. This was identified as a need and this government, again, has stated many times that where there is a demonstrated need, we will do our best to meet that need. The new cafeteria and the industrial arts wing at the Porter Creek Secondary School is a project that is going to be carried out.
A needed improvement for a school with some 700 students ó and I look forward to having lunch with the students. I hear they serve excellent cinnamon buns and tacos at that school, and Iím going to go to try it out someday.
As I promised in the platform, the department has indexed our two student grant programs: the Yukon grant and the Yukon student training allowance. This means that our students going to college, trade schools or university from this year on will have more money to pay the bills.
As I indicated yesterday, we have also provided an additional $456,000 to meet the needs of teachers and EAs in our schools.
As I have mentioned many times before, where there is a need or demonstrated need or hardships, this government will respond. The teacher mentoring agreement of $50,000 each year for four years has been set up with the YTA. This will enable more-experienced teachers to provide much-needed support to their less-experienced colleagues. Mr. Speaker, this is very important. This is an important initiative to the development of staff in the education system.
I am very happy that 21,000 additional dollars will support a native language training initiative. As I said yesterday, this had been requested by First Nations for a number of years.
This is the beginning of monies that have been set aside for the training of six aboriginal language instructors at the Yukon Native Language Centre. I know in my own heart that language is something that is very crucial to First Nation people, and it is to me. I have often stated that for a person without their language ó and I speak about myself when I say this ó it is like going downtown with no clothes on. You are not totally dressed when you donít have your language.
On a much more serious note, our platform commits to a five-step fetal alcohol spectrum disorder plan. Educationís role in the plan involves support and programs for two key groups.
First, students in the public school system who are affected by FASD and adult learners who have the ability to succeed in college programs but who lack the necessary skills and support to do so ó the total cost of starting the two programs will be $198,000 for the current year and is included in the 2003-04 supplementary budget. Ongoing costs are predicted to be about $250,000 per year.
Mr. Chair, all of these things that we bring forward in this supplementary budget are to better education in the Yukon Territory. From the line of questioning that I received yesterday, Iíve come to the conclusion that the opposition is against putting money into education. However, this government is a majority government, and maybe itís a good thing that this budget canít be scuttled. At the end of the day, even though there may be resistance to it, it can still go ahead.
Mr. Chair, I believe that a lot of the education programs in this territory are needed for improvement. This government has said before that they will meet the needs, and we will do our best to do that. When we look at programs in the Yukon College, this government has given some support to the College, again, by putting forward and having them develop programs to deal with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. This program, I believe, is a step in the right direction in addressing this issue in the school system.
Mr. Chair, we talk about retention and recruitment of professional people. Well, this government is looking at ways of being able to train the citizens that are already here, ones who hopefully, once they get the training in this special area, will continue to stay in the Yukon.
We believe that would be the best approach to being able to deal with the shortfall of educators in this territory.
Mr. Chair, I look forward to debating the rest of the supplementary budget, and I certainly hope that, as we do so, the questions will be focused on things that are happening in this supplementary budget. I believe it would be very beneficial to go through everything, line by line, so that the opposition does get a clear understanding of the big picture of where this government wants to go with regard to education.
I also want to state that there were some comments made on the floor of this Legislature with regard to me, and Iíd like to clarify and straighten the record out on them.
There was a comment made, Mr. Chair ó an accusation, I guess ó against me as the individual who is dividing the citizens in the community of Carmacks. Iíd like to set the record straight on that. I am not responsible for any such thing. In fact, quite the contrary; if anything, I have been trying to encourage everyone to work together in a partnership arrangement.
There were other comments made like Iím bragging about what this government is doing in education. Mr. Chair, I would also like to straighten that out. I am more or less just overjoyed ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair:Order please. Mr. Fairclough, on a point of order.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister said that we on this side of the House said that he, as a minister, was dividing the citizens in Carmacks. I believe that itís a violation of 19(h) of the Standing Orders. I donít believe that I heard those words in this House yesterday. The minister should retract that statement because it paints the picture of us on this side of the House. In our view, that information that the minister provided is not true.
Chair: Mr. Edzerza, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe that if the members want to go and look in Hansard ó I believe it was on their last opposition motion day ó you will find that those statements were actually made on the floor of this Legislature.
Chair:The Chair finds that there is no point of order here. There is simply a dispute among members. Please continue.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I thought it was important to bring that to the attention of this House because they were inaccurate. Itís not to discredit any member in this House, only to clarify and straighten out the record. I thought it was very important, especially with regard to myself as being an individual who divides communities. I am a traditional believer. I believe in the traditional ways and that is not one of the traditional ways.
We must always show respect to everybody. And with that, I will thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, Iíd like to review a little bit of the debate on this department yesterday. First of all, Iím hoping the minister comes a bit more prepared today in answering questions, because yesterday was pathetic. I would say that perhaps the government House leader put the minister in a bad position, in that there was a changeup and the minister had to come and debate the department unprepared. So weíre hoping the minister can come prepared this time, today, because he did say that education was a top priority for his government. So we asked a couple of different questions in this House. Letís go over a couple of them.
One of them was in regard to curriculum. We asked a number of questions about curriculum development and the Education Act review, which is three and a half years overdue. This minister has been in government and in charge of that portfolio for over a year now, and nothing has happened yet. All of a sudden it was a priority; itís not any more. This is what he had to say about why the Education Act review is not proceeding. First of all, he couldnít seek consensus. He has been trying for a whole year now, and he could not seek consensus in matters in the Education Act review. He also said that because they are negotiating several things under the Tríondëk Hwëchíin self-government agreement ó thatís whatís holding up the review of the Education Act.
Those were the ministerís answers in the House yesterday. He was unprepared, did not know exactly what they were doing in regard to the Education Act and came up with a number of different reasons why they werenít proceeding, including things like non-act issues that came up in debate in communities.
So I went into a couple of them and asked questions about some of the non-act concerns that were raised, like First Nation participation in the Department of Education. It being the number one priority for the minister, he didnít have answers. He skated around that whole issue and didnít present anything to the House and started saying things like itís a personnel matter, what does it have to do with the budget or supplementary budget or even the department. He couldnít answer the questions. I thought that was rather pathetic, myself.
We asked for plans. One of them was the Yukon Partyís commitment to the First Nation education strategy. Nothing happened there; he didnít know where it was, couldnít give us an update, and it was the same with the advanced education strategy. Where is it? The Yukon Party promised it; this minister said he was going to deliver; a year has gone by; nothing ó no work and nothing to present to Yukoners.
We talked about what was new that the minister was doing, and there wasnít a whole lot. There were some projects left over from the previous government. Theyíre trying hard to find ways of cutting back and making things more efficient. We tried to talk about the Na Cho Nyäk Dun report. This minister refused to do it; he said it has nothing to do with his department or the supplementary budget, and he then came back and said maybe the minister does have the responsibility to do something here. He didnít outline where this minister and this government is going to address those issues, which are so important to that community ó and not just to the First Nation either, Mr. Chair.
He had nothing to say about that and skirted away from that question. When asked about the Yukon native teacher education program, he said that there were no commitments from his party, and he failed to read the Yukon Party platform ó their own government commitment. This minister didnít know about that. He didnít even know about his own platform. That was rather shocking that he would continue on that line knowing full well that he and his colleagues have made that commitment.
This minister is going to look at opening the YNTEP to the general public ó even though he committed not to, Mr. Chair, in their platform ó and he is not going to look at the other programs for the general public for a teacher program. He failed to say that there was good rationale for opening this up and the fact that the program mandate was fulfilled. He failed to do that. As a matter of fact, as we went through questioning yesterday, the minister wasnít able to answer very much at all. The $1 million assessment ó where itís going, the fact that this was a big issue brought forward by the minister ó he failed to say which schools did not want to access money. He said it was confidential. I would think that if the school was going well and didnít need this extra help, they should be recognized and complimented for doing a good job and for fulfilling all their needs in that school. But he failed to do that.
I think that the minister was just trying to say some good words and, in my view, it backfired on a number of different fronts.
I have a lot of questions in regard to this department that I havenít asked, and I donít think Iím going to get anywhere asking the questions. But I do want to ask one, and I asked this of the Health minister also. Itís with regard to the clinical psychologist and the school psychologist.
I wanted to know how many assessments have been done in rural Yukon. I also want to know, because the minister ó the minister is tied up right now, not listening to the question. Itís important.
How many assessments have been done in rural Yukon by school psychologists? I want to know ó and he can answer a couple of different questions when he gets up ó if the position of the clinical psychologist is still vacant. I want to know if itís posted. When does the minister expect it to be filled? If he can give some concrete answers to those, we donít need to go back to that question.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iíd like to start out by correcting the member opposite. The member opposite continues to bring what I believe to be misinformation to the floor of this House. There is nothing in the Yukon Party platform that says that we were going to do anything with YNTEP, Mr. Chair.
And with regard to the psychologist, there are currently two psychologists on staff with the Department of Education. The Department of Education is recruiting to fill the recent November 18 request for this leave. This will bring the total number of psychologists to three. Qualified school psychologists are currently being contracted to deliver services until such time as the position is filled. Two schools have qualified school psychologists employed as teachers. These two individuals have had their teaching assignments reduced and been assigned school psychology responsibilities for their schools.
At this time the department is addressing delivery for any critical requests for service with present staff. Additional assessments by consultants such as school psychologists, speech and language pathologists, occupational or psychotherapists, vision or hearing consultants are only needed if the school-based team or the individualized education plan team requests additional information to assist programming.
I believe that there is no emergency in the schools with regard to psychological assessments. This government has stated before that we will meet the needs, and we will continue to do that.
Chair:Order please. At the beginning of the memberís answer, he used the phrase "misinformation". The Chair is quite uncomfortable with that term as it implies that the member knowingly brought incorrect information into the House, which is in contravention of Standing Order 19(h), which is charging another member of uttering a deliberate falsehood. I would ask the member to retract the statement "misinformation".
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Edzerza:If that is the ruling, I will retract it. However, I want to state that I believe that the party platform document is a public document. If they do not see that in the document, I think that it is not proper to say things on the floor that arenít in there.
I would also like to remind members that when making a retraction, the retraction should be unqualified and without editorial comment.
Ms. Duncan: I will give the minister an opportunity to collect his thoughts before we return to the discussion of the YNTEP and the teacher education program.
I would like to ask a very straightforward question. The minister committed to send me information by letter yesterday. Does he have that information available today or will I be receiving a letter after the House rises?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The member opposite will receive that information in due course.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we havenít ruled "in due course" as argumentative or unparliamentary; however, I would suggest that perhaps the Chair would consider "in due course" to be likely to create disorder.
With all due respect to the member opposite, we ask the questions and they provide the answers. When they commit to provide the answers in writing on a timely basis, it is greatly appreciated by members of the opposition and by the public, who are asking us to ask these questions, as the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin noted to the minister yesterday.
I just have a couple of questions before proceeding on into line-by-line.
The student financial assistance that Yukon provides, which ó just for the benefit of the member opposite ó is among the best in the country ó our act. It also was a result of Canadaís centennial gift to the Yukon. When Canada was discussing with the Yukon government of the day what should happen or what we should get to mark the centennial year, it was this student financial grant. Thatís how it came to be.
Now we, as a government ó the Liberals ó for the first time in years and years, put in a 20-percent increase to that grant. It was the first time. The Yukon Party has indexed the grant to inflation, which is about three to four percent per year ó the rate of inflation, as I understand it.
The problem is that the base level of the grant, while the flights have kept pace ó the money thatís given to students for their flights back and forth to home has kept pace with what the cost of the flight is ó the grant for the actual tuition has not kept pace. For example, I think the University of Calgary tuition fees I saw for one year of post-graduate was $10,000 or $12,000 a year. I think the amount weíre allocating in the student grant is about $5,000.
So what Iíd like from the minister is, what is the amount in the student grant that is allocated for tuition? Whatís the difference between the average cost of tuition in the country and the amount of the grant?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would like to congratulate the Liberal government for taking that initiative to look after the students, and I thank our government also for continuing it. I donít have that specific information on hand, but I will get it.
Ms. Duncan: Iím sure the minister will get me the information "in due course" ó sooner rather than later would be appreciated.
Would the minister indicate today ó the Students Financial Assistance Act is a piece of legislation that has been amended in the past, and there are a whole bunch of wrinkles in it. Forgive me the colloquial, but there are a number of anomalies in the legislation; it has been adjusted to meet different, changing situations. For example, it has been changed to allow for children of divorced parents but every year, without exception, there comes a question before the minister where some deserving Yukoner isnít covered by the act.
Itís a problem; itís a problem for every government. My question for the minister: are there any plans in the department to look at the Students Financial Assistance Act as itís written? Are there any plans to review it?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The member opposite is quite accurate in the problems that are arising with that act, and this government, I believe, will look at it and have discussions with the department about looking at that act and maybe making revisions to it.
Ms. Duncan: During the life of the Yukon Party government, then, what I heard the minister say is, "We might look at the Students Financial Assistance Act, but thereís no commitment at this point, and thereís no money in the supplementary budget." Well, next year ó to undertake any kind of a substantive review. Itís just an internal look only, and itís a maybe. Is that what the minister said?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe that itís a task that this government will eventually take on.
Ms. Duncan: Before they seek another mandate from the public?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Again, Iíll just state for the record that itís something that we will take on, and I wonít commit to any specific time. If we get another mandate, that might be a good project. Who knows?
Ms. Duncan: Well, the discussion of another mandate will be really interesting in the ministerís next department ó not.
There are a number of commitments in the Yukon Party platform about which I would just like a straight yes or no from the minister. There was a commitment to provide home-schoolers with more access to program resources and funding. Is there additional money for home-schoolers in the supplementary budget?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Chair, the home-schoolers have been provided additional support.
Ms. Duncan: But there is nothing additional in this supplementary.
The other commitment in the platform ó Iíve asked about the honour roll for teachers ó was again the teacher training program at Yukon College. We went around this yesterday but I didnít get a straightforward answer from the minister. Are we going to see a teacher training program open to all Yukoners, available at Yukon College in September 2004?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I could state today that it is work-in-progress and hopefully there will be something in the near future.
Ms. Duncan: Is that hope in the near future ó is the hope the opening of the Yukon native teacher education program, or is the hope for a separate program? What exactly are we hoping for?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Chair, I will state again that it is a work-in-progress and the member opposite will have that information when it capitalizes.
Ms. Duncan: In other words, weíre not going to be told what weíre working toward.
I would just like to alert the minister to an issue. Both the YNTEP students and those taking their bachelor of education or their degree teaching certification programming by distance have experienced very slow placement by the department. It has been the cause of frustration for some of these students, and I would like to alert the minister to that on the floor and encourage him to look into it.
Student teachers need to know what their placement is, and they need to know in advance. I donít want to blame officials, but there has been a delay in those assignments, and it caused difficulty for students this September. Perhaps the minister could just take note of that and look into it.
I just have a final question with respect to the budget and the supplementary budget. Educational support services has been reduced in the supplementary budget. Itís likely a program that didnít go forward or a position that remains unfulfilled. I would just like the ministerís advice as to exactly why educational support services in O&M expenditures is reduced. Itís only a $4,000 reduction; however, it is a $4,000 reduction.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: That $4,000 was a decrease and reflects a transfer from public schools to the Wood Street Centre to provide funding for grounds maintenance.
Mr. Cardiff: Iím pleased today to get up and be able to, in the ministerís words yesterday, see how we can learn from each other and how our knowledge can complement each other. I think those were his words. Iíd like to explore that a little bit.
I have some questions about the Education department that I think are important. I think that the public would like to know, and I would certainly like to know the answers to some of those questions. The minister announced in the beginning of October the needs assessment money, the $1 million that is supposed to respond to the needs of public schools. It was supposed to be a two-month process: over the next two months he is going to gather information and identify those top needs. The other thing that was said was that there were criteria being developed on how the funds would be allocated.
I guess that I could ask a couple of things. The two months have elapsed; are those consultations complete, and have the criteria been developed and would they be available?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: When we first brought this $1 million forward, we immediately started contacting the schools and visiting the schools to try to get a picture of what would best benefit the school immediately. What has been wanted in your school for a length of time that has never, ever materialized? To date, I have met with the following school committees. This developed into a list of things that have been requested by the schools.
The criteria weíre asking for is just something ó basically, the department will assess each proposal against the following criteria: something that provides positive impact on school attendance, retention and achievement of students; enhances the cultural relevance of current programs and/or facilities in the school; will upgrade existing programs and/or recreation facilities, provided that this investment creates no long-term or ongoing funding obligations; creates a partnership between the school and the community and has measurable benefits in the community and enhances the opportunity in the community for lifelong learning opportunities involving the school ó for example, home tutoring, family literacy ó and enhances the opportunity for high school apprenticeship programs.
Thatís the criteria, and to date we have met with the Destruction Bay school council, Kluane First Nation, Beaver Creek, Old Crow, Carcross Community School, Watson Lake Secondary School, Johnson Elementary School, Christ the King School, Elijah Smith Elementary School, Grey Mountain School, Holy Family Elementary, Jack Hulland Elementary School, Porter Creek Secondary School, Takhini Elementary School and the Selkirk School.
Now, weíve had requests from ó things like a large wall map, for example. One school said theyíve been requesting that and have never, ever received it. So thatís one request.
Some asked for CD players, tanned moosehide, cross-country ski equipment, floor hockey equipment, a safety buzzer with intercom system into the school, soccer goals ó something else that one school said they had been trying to get for years and have never, ever received them ó a digital camera, new stage curtains with a First Nation design on them, new tables and chairs, a thickness planer, signs to be put up that read "kids playing" outside of the school area, and a band saw. So there is a really wide variety of requests here. Actually I think that probably every one of them is a very well-needed thing in the school.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, thanks, Mr. Chair. The minister told us what the criteria were. I am not sure whether he gave us the full list of criteria. I would appreciate it if we could get a copy of his briefing notes on that, and that would encourage the sharing of information.
Unless I missed it, when he talked about the school councils and school committees that he met with, I didnít hear Golden Horn. I donít want to, by any means, speak for the school council at Golden Horn. I am aware ó and I brought some of these issues up in the spring sitting during budget debate, and I would just like to remind the minister of those things that were on the school councilís mind as far as some improvements and things that they were concerned about. I would encourage him to meet with the school council at Golden Horn to get the information from them.
I do know that they are looking for things like soccer field improvements, as well as a solution to the problem of roof access. I do know theyíve been talking with the department about that, and I would encourage the minister to consider their requests in that area.
Another area I could suggest the minister might want to ó yesterday he talked about studentsí success and he talked about the school in Carmacks and the Porter Creek renovation. Another important thing that contributes to studentsí success is students arriving at the school in one piece. I think itís important that they arrive there and are healthy. Maybe the minister could find some money to help the Minister of Highways and Public Works commission a study about traffic safety around the Cowley Creek entrance, because thatís something I havenít necessarily heard from the school council, but Iíve heard from parents and my constituents. I think itís a very important issue, and there have been some near misses. There have been accidents at that entrance to Cowley Creek and the junction at the highway. Iíve asked the Minister of Highways and Public Works to look into doing something about it and Iím hopeful heís going to do something before all the snow melts in the spring and we get to debate the budget. Iíll be asking him to ensure that thereís money there in the budget to address these issues of student safety, so these students can be successful by arriving at school and being prepared to learn.
Maybe the minister can talk with his colleague about that. The other thing the minister said yesterday ó he talked about all the good news in the supplementary budget, and Iíd like to thank the minister. One of the initiatives that the minister and the department have worked on that I brought up in the spring, as well, is the issue of vision screening, which is another thing that is very important, another initiative that was led in large part by Golden Horn School, which excels at a lot of things. They started this idea of vision screening with volunteer participation in the school, and my understanding is that the minister has taken their advice and, in partnership with Health and Social Services, theyíre going to move forward with the program in the Yukon. Iím hopeful that that will come about.
I donít want to miss the opportunity, actually, in the Legislature to congratulate the students. I know that the Department of Education also provides funds for the science fair. I donít have the note in front of me, but I take pride in the fact that a lot of the students who were very successful at the science fair come from Golden Horn School ó many of them come from Golden Horn School.
A question I have for the minister while Iím still talking about the public school system is the funding for the Association of School Councils.
I had the opportunity to attend the school councils fall conference and I found it very informative. It was a very collaborative atmosphere there, and there was a lot of good information sharing and a lot of good ideas about how parents can play a positive role and how the government can play a positive role in educating students.
Around the funding for school councils, the minister addressed the issue of the timeliness of the cheques and the funding being provided to school councils. Around the association funding, itís my understanding that the money has to go to each individual school council first. They, then, in turn have to cut a cheque or say that they support the Association of School Councils and there is a long lapse, and it may be too late to do anything about that this year. But I would ask if the minister would consider seeking early confirmation of that support from school councils about the association so that the association can get the cheque directly from the department. Maybe the minister could tell us whether or not that would be possible.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I want to start by thanking the member opposite for being concerned about students getting to school in one piece. I would certainly be concerned if only half of the student were to arrive at the school.
The department will go over lists of the different schools to ensure that no school is left out of the immediate needs. We will make sure that every school is contacted.
At the present time, I donít believe weíve met with Golden Horn School Council yet, but we will. And I also believe itís important to recognize the Golden Horn School staff, because they really do care about the students. I am pleased that they took the lead on the vision screening, because itís critical for a child whoís sitting in the classroom to be able to see what one is writing on the board, for example.
With regard to the association, I could have the department ensure that there isnít a real slack process in place and I think whatís important to remember here is the change in funding is through the association. By giving the money to the school councils, it sort of shows the support for the school councils also. And if there is a problem with funds being held up, weíll certainly look into it.
Mr. Cardiff: I agree that you want to know that the school councils support the association, because I know that some school councils want to participate in the association and others donít. I guess itís a matter of ó in my view, it could be something for the red tape reduction committee to look at, because it seems like a lot of transfer of paper back and forth to get this money to the association which, in its own right, does a very good job. Theyíre dedicated people, and theyíre members of school councils, as well, and I believe they did a lot of work with the department in order to get the fall conference off the ground.
I hope the minister didnít take my comments about students arriving in one piece as being a humorous comment. Itís a very serious comment in my mind, and itís only through good graces and good luck, I guess, that nobody has been seriously injured at that particular intersection.
I have one more question around the needs assessment and the $1 million. There might be one more after this as well. The $1 million ó the minister has said this ó is to address the immediate needs and the highest priorities in public schools. Iíd like to know if the minister could tell me if thereís any funding or any monies planned for long-term needs in public education ó or post-secondary for that matter.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I want to assure the member opposite that I was not making a joke about the safety of children. Just the way it was presented, it seemed kind of strange to think otherwise.
With regard to the long-term needs in education, that is part of the discussion weíve been having with regard to the immediate needs. Weíve also asked school councils and First Nations to put some thought into long-term needs in education, and thatís going to be part of the education strategy.
Mr. Cardiff: I have some questions around the education strategy as well. Yesterday the minister talked a little bit ó well, that he didnít want to talk a lot about the education strategy, First Nations or advanced education is my recollection.
He did announce it. On March 5 last spring, he said that he had started consultation with the Department of Education ó the deputy minister; the appropriate staff ó to direct them in developing a strategic plan for advanced education. And I guess that it is another work-in-progress, but I would like to find out where exactly that strategic plan is for advanced education and if any work has been done on that.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would like to state that, as a rule, one would not have public discussions while a strategy was even in discussion. I think it would be inappropriate to start advising the public of things that are taking place in a discussion because at the end of the day you would have to keep going back to the public to say that we made this change or we have made an addition. I think that it is more appropriate to present something to the public after there has been something developed to a point where it can be released to the public.
We are looking to develop a strategy for the education system, including advanced education. While talking with the school councils and First Nations and the College, we have asked them to help identify needs and strategies that they could see as beneficial. I believe, in short discussions that I have had, it sounds quite inspiring what some of the principals are talking of. There are still discussions in progress.
Mr. Cardiff: What I heard the minister say about the strategic plan is that he didnít think that the public should be engaged in that discussion. Thatís not what I thought was part of the Yukon Party platform.
In developing a strategic plan for advanced education, will the public be engaged in that discussion? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, the department is working on a plan. You know, when the time comes, people will be consulted.
Mr. Cardiff: At the risk of causing disorder, I suppose that will be in due course, as well.
The other thing that happened on March 5 last year was that I asked the minister to reinstate the training trust funds and to increase the Collegeís budget by $1 million. I donít see that money in the supplementary budget. We did see an increase in the training trust funds. I asked the minister again on November 26 about increasing funding for Yukon College. I am sure that the minister has by now read the report that was done about the College. In the future, will he consider increasing the budget to Yukon College?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Thereís no doubt in this governmentís mind that the Yukon College does play a very important role in the Yukon Territory. It is directly connected to the economic development of the territory. As I stated previously, I did attend a couple of board of governors meetings, and they were very informational. I did make the commitment to the board that I would be going to Cabinet seeking an increase, and that commitment still holds, and I will be bringing it to the Cabinet.
Mr. Cardiff: I would encourage the minister to do that, and Iíd be very happy to do that. There is another area in post-secondary education as well. The federal government recently made a commitment to support the University of the Arctic and the Collegeís specific initiative around the University of the Arctic and the bachelor of circumpolar studies. Iím wondering whether the minister would be looking at encouraging his Cabinet colleagues to make a like commitment to the University of the Arctic and the bachelor of circumpolar studies?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This government is really supportive of the colleges, and I have yet to hear from the College on this issue.
Mr. Cardiff: For the ministerís information, there was a big conference here the beginning of November. It was the Circumpolar Universities Association, and the University of the Arctic group also met. It was in all the newspapers. I would have hoped the minister would have been there showing his support for the University of the Arctic and the initiative and leadership role the College has taken on that.
Iíd like to move on so we can keep things flowing here. The minister also announced his appreciation and the fact that Yukon apprentices excel. He has talked about the needs assessment in promoting trades. In his opening remarks, he talked about the women in trades program. An issue recently came up about Outside seat purchases, where an apprentice was having a hard time being able to attend Outside schooling for his apprenticeship. The matter was resolved by the department, and Iíd like to thank him for that.
What Iíd like to know is if the minister would look at ensuring thereís enough money in that pot of money for apprentices who have to go outside for their training needs, to ensure they donít get caught up with not being able to go because of a lack of money.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe that if the member opposite were to review the agenda of that conference that was held here, I gave the opening remarks at that conference so I did show up at the conference. I will say again: this government does support trades and will continue to do so.
Mr. Cardiff: In response to the part about the circumpolar universities, the minister also stood up and said that he wasnít aware of the University of the Arctic initiative or the bachelor of circumpolar studies. It is pretty amazing that he could have been there and not been aware of it.
I have a concern about the student financial assistance. The previous government increased financial assistance. This government has indexed it to the cost of living or the rate of inflation. I would encourage the minister to ensure that it doesnít fall behind the rate of rise in tuition increases. I would like him to consider that. Would he consider that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would probably advise the member opposite to stick to the supplementary budget, and maybe we wouldnít be getting confused here. With regard to the question, we did index the student grant, and we are interested in ensuring that the students are looked after, and we will continue to do so.
Mr. Cardiff: On the grants, it is part of the supplementary budget ó student financial assistance, for the memberís information. Recoveries are on 5-3 and the capital expenditures are on 5-4. So I am looking at the supplementary budget. And around student financial assistance, it looks to me like theyíre actually recovering more than what theyíre putting back in. So maybe the minister could explain that.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The additional funds have been requested from Canada student loan program to accommodate increased expenditures.
Mr. Cardiff: Maybe weíll explore that further in line-by-line, and then we can get a further explanation.
I think that those are all the questions I have, and I look forward to asking more questions in line-by-line.
Mr. McRobb: I just have one or two quick ones, Mr. Chair. First of all, on the issue of travel subsidies for parents bringing schoolchildren to school in areas outside of school bus routes ó I know the ministerís familiar with this matter. He has seen correspondence on it recently. Iíve introduced a motion into this Legislature and reminded the minister ó I believe it was during an earlier opportunity in this sitting. So heís aware of this issue; he has been asked to address the shortfall that presently exists with this allocation. What has he done about it?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I donít see what that has to do with the supplementary; however, I am working with the department to come up with some options in that area.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, if I may ó when we are dealing with the supplementary budget anything is open for debate. We are in general debate. We can simply ask any question on policy or intentions or whatever to do with the department. It doesnít necessarily have to be a line item in the supplementary budget. So, the minister, when he stands up with his cavalier attitude after only one year of being elected, it speaks rather disrespectfully toward Yukon people. This is an important matter.
So, once again, what has he done to address the inadequate level of this subsidy that would provide enough for parents to transport their children to school when required? What has he done?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, what a speech that was, Mr. Chair. I am shocked, as a matter of fact. I just recently said to the member opposite that the department is going to come up with some options. The part I will add to it is that we will provide that information to the member opposite when itís ready.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, thatís a very poor response from the minister. All he is saying is that the department is looking at it and maybe preparing some options. So what? I asked what this minister has done. He didnít even indicate if he has asked officials to do this, if he has asked his colleagues to start thinking about allocating more funds to his department to address this matter. He hasnít indicated anything that he has done. Itís shameful.
One other question that I want to ask ó itís an issue in my riding ó and that is with regard to the future of a school in the Destruction Bay and Burwash area.
What are this governmentís intentions with respect to a new school in Burwash Landing? Can the minister enlighten us on that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This issue had recently been brought to my attention and I anticipate having more discussions with the First Nation in that community to discuss this issue.
Mr. McRobb: This issue was raised publicly on several previous occasions. I recall during the election campaign a phone-in show on education where a caller specifically addressed this question; it may have even been to the person who is now minister, Mr. Chair.
I asked for the governmentís intention with respect to this matter. Obviously it has had more time to deal with it than what itís willing to admit. What can the minister tell us?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I can tell the member opposite the same thing I just told him: itís in discussion.
Mr. Hardy: I have very quick questions. Is there a policy with this government that all schools have showers?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Thatís a question that came out of nowhere, I guess. I havenít heard of anyone building a structure that didnít have a shower in it, unless itís somewhere out where thereís no water.
Mr. Hardy: So the minister believes all schools should have a shower?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: If there is anything with regard to policy on that issue, I will get it back to the member opposite.
Mr. Hardy: I do know of at least one school, anyway, that has young ó I am not talking elementary school in which there could possibly be a case made, but of students that are, you know, mid-level and higher, and there are no shower facilities in the school. It was raised to me by a constituent; itís a safety concern. If something was splashed on a child, on a student, if they had to wash ó to get water immediately on them ó youíre not going to be able to cram them into a sink. As a safety concern, I would appreciate it if the minister would look into this and correct it if it exists in the schools. I could pass on the knowledge of what school this is as well.
I do have another question, though. Do all schools right now in the Yukon have principals?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: To the best of my knowledge, every school does.
Mr. Hardy: Could the minister get back with information in regard to sharing information with me that identified all the principals that are in place for each of the schools to ensure that there is that leadership at each of the school levels, please?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I will undertake to provide the information that I can.
Mrs. Peter: I would just like to get on record a few comments the minister made in regard to my comments yesterday before we closed in regard to Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation having education as their highest priority.
The minister agreed with me in that regard. My point in making that statement was that Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation put forward $100,000 into the education system in Old Crow to benefit the students and their programming and help with their learning needs in the school system.
I would like to make a point for the Minister of Education that I believe that Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation was taking on the Yukon territorial governmentís responsibility, because for years we had asked for the governments to become partners with us to better our education system so that we have better resources and programs for our students within our school system in Old Crow. And I would like to hear from the Minister of Education if, in his statement earlier, in agreeing with me, would he agree that thatís a fair statement to make?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I stated that I believe it was a good thing that was happening. This government is always interested in initiatives that will improve the chances for a student to better their education, and I thank the Vuntut Gwitchin people for having that same interest.
Mrs. Peter: I ask the Minister of Education to make very clear his understanding of the statement that I just made. Does he believe that the Vuntut Gwitchin took on responsibilities of the Yukon territorial government by having $100,000 given from VGFN to the education system to improve their resources?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: First and foremost, I recognize that the Vuntut Gwitchin is a self-governing First Nation. This government is not about to tell any government what they can spend their money on.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
We will then proceed with line-by-line. For membersí reference, this is page 5-3.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Education Support Services
Chair: Is there any discussion on the line Education Support Services?
Ms. Duncan: I believe that I have had the discussion on that reduction of $4,000, but I wonder if the minister would offer us a line-by-line explanation please. He usually has one with him.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The $4,000 decrease reflects a transfer from this area to the Wood Street centre in Public Schools to provide funding for grounds maintenance.
Education Support Services underexpenditure of $4,000 cleared
On Public Schools
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, does the minister have a line explanation for this item?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The majority of the $2,502,000 increase for public schools reflects a $1-million increase to meet immediate short-term needs in our schools, and $649,000 is for the new teacher contract signed over the summer. In this budget we have included monies for FASD programming, which we committed to during the last election. There is also $456,000 for more teachers and education assistants required in our schools, due to an unexpected shift in enrolment.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could I have an explanation ó I think there was a figure, but I donít have instant replay on my desk to hear what that figure was ó on what the FASD programming is precisely and how much money is it?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: There is $69,000 in new funding for a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder initiative to initiate new programming activities as part of the governmentís FASD strategy.
Ms. Duncan: What precisely does that mean? Are we putting a person in the department to do what exactly? Are we putting something in place in the curriculum? Is it assistance at the Teen Parent Centre? Exactly what is it?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Our goal is to enable people with FASD to become self-sufficient in their communities and to participate in the workforce. Our plan focuses on two key groups: students in the public school system who are affected by FASD and adult learners who have the ability to succeed in college programs but who lack the necessary skills and support to do so.
Our first strategy involves helping schools develop teaching strategies, resources and plans to make sure these students get the best possible learning opportunities. Under the leadership of a coordinator, Yukon schools will develop, implement and evaluate FASD school plans based on best practices developed here in the Yukon and in other jurisdictions. Teaching strategies will focus on developing literacy and math skills.
Tantalus School in Carmacks will be the first school to participate, beginning this school year. Eliza Van Bibber School in Pelly Crossing and Johnson Elementary are the next schools planned for implementation.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I appreciate that more thorough explanation. Is this a person located in the department or in Tantalus School?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: There will be support from the department in the schools to help the teachers develop the strategies that they need to address this issue.
Ms. Duncan: So for this additional funding, the support is located in the department and the first school to avail themselves of the services of this support is Tantalus School in Carmacks. Is that what I heard the minister say? Can I get the exact amount again, please?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: That is correct, and the exact amount is $69,000.
Chair: Is there any further debate on the line Public Schools?
Public Schools in the amount of $2,502,000 agreed to
On Advanced Education
Advanced Education in the amount of $319,000 agreed to
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for Department of Education in the amount of $2,817,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions regarding operation and maintenance recoveries?
On Operation and Maintenance Recoveries
Mr. Cardiff: I would like to go to Student Financial Assistance ó Canada Study Grants and get an explanation for the $90,000 recoverable. The minister said that they had applied for the $90,000. I am assuming that they are hoping to get it. What initiative is that around, and what would that money be used for?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The expenditures under the Canada study grant have increased; therefore, additional funds have been requested from the Canada student loan program, which has responsibility for the Canada study grants initiatives.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could I just have an explanation as to what that Grass Roots line is all about and the background on that? Thereís a reduction of $15,000.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This is a federal program run by Industry Canada. It has been operating since 1996 and will end March 31, 2004. Our Yukon schools have been participating for about seven years and received in excess of $100,000 for the school projects. An example is butterflies on-line, human rights movies, et cetera.
This project is in a number of schools across Canada about to participate in on-line projects. This program is now complete and the recovery is reduced to zero.
Operation and Maintenance Recoveries cleared
On Capital Expenditures
On Public Schools
On Facility Construction and Maintenance
On Eliza Van Bibber School Addition/Heating System Upgrade
Mr. Fairclough: The repairs to the school and the addition have been completed to a certain point, but thereís still work to be done, and we show a reduction here of $81,000. I believe, from what I heard while in Pelly Crossing, this number of $2,943,000 is actually going to climb. Can I get some clarification on that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iím not aware of the increase; but if thatís the case, Iíll get back to the member on that.
Mr. Fairclough: The school has been completed now. Theyíre getting rid of the trailers. Theyíve done renovations to it, but I know the minister, in touring through that school, saw areas where they can use more improvement. Iím just wondering why the reduction is there? Why not get some new furniture, for example, for the school, the desks and so on, and use that money that has been identified here?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, during 2002-03, construction advanced faster than anticipated. The overexpenditure was partially offset with funds from school-based information technology ó $54,000 ó and capital maintenance ó $27,000 ó thereby reducing the revote request. These funds will be transferred back to the school-based information technology and capital maintenance to allow for the completion of various projects within these line items. The decrease does not affect the overall project funding for the Eliza Van Bibber School.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the department went and did some renovations, and we see the improvements in classrooms, but there could be more, and the money is now going back into the department. And it could have been used in the school.
Was there not a project, improvements that the department has identified that could have used these dollars? Maybe the next question the minister can answer is: what other renovations of this school are needed, and when will we see that reflected in a budget?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: We did have discussions with the school council and I donít believe that we have really identified everything at that meeting, but we will be having more discussions with them on what they feel is needed for improvements in the school.
Mr. Fairclough: I would think that it would make sense to continue making renovations to the school. Work has gone to a certain point. The community appreciates it. The community has also identified some areas of improvements. One of them is the gym floor, the size, and many aspects to it, including lighting throughout the school. Are we going to see that reflected in the spring budget?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The department is in discussion with a lot of schools about upgrades and needs. The Eliza Van Bibber School will be just a part of those discussions. There have been no concrete decisions made to date.
Mr. Fairclough: One quick question in regard to the furniture ó computer desks and so on. They are Yukon-made furniture, made out of Watson Lake. Why didnít the department use the local expertise in the community of Pelly Crossing? They have made furniture in the past and they are very professional. Why werenít they used?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe that projects of this nature do go through a tendering process and I imagine that is where it went through.
Mr. Fairclough: Iím not going to push this any further, but I would think that the minister would capitalize on every opportunity to create employment in that community, and this is one of them. I would like to see this department take this seriously and perhaps have the furniture made locally. If the minister walked through the Selkirk First Nation office, for example, he would see the computer desk, big tables, chairs ó all made locally, made from local materials. And theyíre very, very nice. The community made them. They have pride in making that furniture. They made their own kitchen cabinets and so on, and they do look really nice. So itís a suggestion to the member opposite to ensure that that be included in this next project in Carmacks.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This government is committed to local employment, and that will be all taken under advisement.
Chair: Is there any further discussion regarding the line Eliza Van Bibber School Addition/Heating System Upgrade?
Eliza Van Bibber School Addition/Heating System Upgrade underexpenditure of $81,000 cleared
On Site Improvement and Recreation Development
Site Improvement and Recreation Development in the amount of $22,000 agreed to
On Mayo Community School
Mr. Fairclough: Iíd like a brief explanation on this amount.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This revote from 2002-03 is required to finalize the completion of this project and address the foundation-settling problem.
Mr. Fairclough: And is the minister saying that this problem is now corrected, or do we expect to see this as an ongoing maintenance that the department has to do on this school?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The department is, at this time, continuing to monitor the situation and will do whatís necessary to counteract it.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like it if the minister could send, by legislative return or by letter to us, the problems that have resulted from the settling of the school, the foundation and so on ó if we could see that report and send it to us on this side of the House rather than going through it here on the floor.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At this point in time the department is really not aware of any significant problems but they are monitoring the situation.
Mr. Fairclough: Has there been a report done on the problems in the school in Mayo in regard to the foundation? Has there been a report generated internally by the department or through the inspectors in government, and if so, can we see that report?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At this point in time I am not really aware of any report or such that was done on the situation. However, if there is, I wonít have any problem in sharing that with the member opposite.
Chair: Is there any further debate regarding the line Mayo Community School?
Mayo Community School in the amount of $128,000 agreed to
On Ross River School Replacement
Ross River School Replacement in the amount of $29,000 agreed to
On Tantalus School Replacement
Mr. Fairclough: This amount of money is for the design of the new school. Normally an architect working on a building charges a percentage of the total cost of the building. Does this amount of money reflect that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: As I stated previously, this money has been set aside for the planning and design to begin. I believe thereís no fixed amount on what this school is going to cost. I guess that was the importance of having the committee up and running so that the architect would know how to design this facility.
Mr. Fairclough: Is the minister saying the dollars that are identified ó the $400,000 ó are for this fiscal year to March? The community will design the school but we could see an increase for the design of the school. There could be an increase, if you look at what the outcome could be. Just on the design, so we could see an increase on the design of the school if weíre looking at final architectural design.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Chair, this money is to take this project to the end of this fiscal year.
Mr. Fairclough: I understand maybe the architect will be working around the clock to identify exactly how the school will be built. I believe some of this money will either lapse or weíll see an increase. I know the department must know we could possibly see an increase to the design. Itís a figure that the department has thrown out. Architectural designs are normally around 10 percent of the total cost of the construction, so it looks like weíre at $4 million at this point. I would like the minister to clarify that, to tell us what we should expect in the next fiscal year in regard to the design of the replacement of the Tantalus School.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, you know, we have to sort of keep in line with the committee and whatís going to come out of that committee. I also want to state that it would be very difficult to fix a price on any building in this day and age, anyway. I say that because of the constant fluctuation in the price of materials. What it cost to build the Mayo school is sort of a guide, but today the price of a sheet of plywood has doubled. So unless that goes down or goes up, we just have to go with that initiative.
Mr. Fairclough: I think the community would be very appreciative of the ministerís words, "the skyís the limit," and they will design a school to their needs, and the government will foot the bill for that. At this point, if materials are double, well, weíre looking at $16-million plus for a school in Carmacks. I encourage the community not to hold back and to ensure that what they want is put into this school. When does the minister anticipate construction of this school to start?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iíd like to correct the member opposite for the record. The sky is not the limit. Thereís a limit to everything that one builds, and finances donít grow on trees, so naturally it is going to be built according to the needs of the community. If there are 100 students, thatís the school that will be built.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister failed to answer the question. When does he anticipate construction to start on this school?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, to begin with, there is a planning phase. Until that planning phase gets underway and the architect gets his design of the building ó thatís the first phase that has to be gone through and construction will start immediately upon getting a design that is acceptable.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, itís good to hear the commitments from the minister. Hopefully he will follow through with that. I believe that the committee will come up with a design and have it worked on by the architect over the next several months. In four months or five months, they can come up with a design. So, I would think that the minister should anticipate this and have the monies reflected in the spring supplementary budget so that construction can start in the summer of 2004. It all makes sense. Thatís possibly the earliest that it could start. Thatís what I was getting at with the minister. Does he expect that this school could be under construction as early as the spring or summer of 2004?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, my preference would be sooner rather than later. This department is anxious to replace that school and we want to advance as fast as possible.
Mr. Fairclough: At this point, is the minister also waiting for recommendations from the committee as to what to do with the old school? The building is approximately 20 years old. It has a gym facility; it has a workshop and home economics room and a couple of classrooms. The department must be throwing around thoughts about exactly what could happen with this facility.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I will not put the cart before the horse, and Iím going to be patient and wait for the committee to be structured and let them do their job.
Tantalus School Replacement in the amount of $400,000 agreed to
On Porter Creek Secondary School Shop/Cafeteria Expansion
Ms. Duncan: Could the minister clearly state for the record that this is planning and engineering money only, that no actual reconstruction/renovation work will be undertaken with this funding? Thatís what he said in the House yesterday ó that itís just planning and engineering and there are no actual hammers going to be at work as a result of this money.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: These funds are to begin the planning and design of this project during the current fiscal year to allow for the start-up of construction during the summer of 2004.
Ms. Duncan: So, Mr. Chair, per the suggestion I made in early December 2002 that the government proceed on this, what we have in the supplementary budget is the planning money only. Iím going to have to continue my lobby efforts to make sure the money to actually do the work is in next yearís budget. Iím just clarifying that for the record.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I donít believe there has to be any lobbying whatsoever. It was our plan to do it and weíll do it.
Ms. Duncan: Iíd just like to thank the government for following up on my suggestions.
Porter Creek Secondary School Shop/Cafeteria Expansion in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
On School Initiated Renovations
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there are a number of items like this in this particular section of the budget, Site Improvement and Recreation Development, which we passed, as well as the School Initiated Renovations, and the next line, Various School Facilities Renovations. Now, Iím sure the minister doesnít necessarily have in front of him each item breakdown on how much per school. I wonder if he would agree to send me a letter outlining on which schools these monies have been spent, when theyíre lumped together like that.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Chair, these are basically funds that are revotes to continue projects. I really wonder if itís necessary to pass that on.
Ms. Duncan: I donít want to get into a long debate on the floor of the House. Iím not asking for all the details on the floor of the House. I would just like the minister to send over the information ó what schools have we done all these renovations on, and what are we continuing with? Which schools got what money? Itís for our information so that we can follow up with our constituency. Would he just send that information over by letter, if not legislative return? Thatís all Iím looking for.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe that could be possible.
Mr. Fairclough: I know weíre getting to the next line, but in regard to school renovations, was any of this money spent on the Tantalus School?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe I just undertook to provide that information, and I will.
Chair: Is there any further debate regarding the line School Initiated Renovations?
School Initiated Renovations in the amount of $98,000 agreed to
On Various School Facilities Renovations
Various School Facilities Renovations in the amount of $29,000 agreed to
On Jack Hulland Heating System Upgrade
Ms. Duncan: Could the minister advise if this project with this additional $30,000 is now considered complete by the department?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe so.
Ms. Duncan: I am not certain that the school agrees with the department on that. There are still some issues around the heat in the primary wing of the school. So perhaps the minister could just undertake to double-check that for me with the department and with the principal.
Jack Hulland Heating System Upgrade in the amount of $30,000 agreed to
On Air Quality/Energy Management Projects
Mr. Fairclough: Could we get a brief explanation of this line item?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This revote from 2002-03 is required to fund the completion of several projects currently underway such as cleanup of the gun range at Whitehorse Elementary School and indoor air quality issues at Porter Creek Secondary School, Jack Hulland Elementary School and the Whitehorse Elementary School.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the minister tell us if they are using ultraviolet light as part of this air quality in the schools? I know that they use it in the two trailer units in Pelly Crossing to get rid of the mould ó they are portable units ó but are they installing these in all school air conditioning systems?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, I donít have that kind of detailed, specific information with me.
Mr. Fairclough: Will he provide it to the members on this side of the House?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I will undertake to provide some information under these projects.
Air Quality/Energy Management Projects in the amount of $19,000 agreed to
On Capital Maintenance Repairs
Capital Maintenance Repairs in the amount of $54,000 agreed to
On Instructional Programs
On School-Based Equipment Purchase
School-Based Equipment Purchase in the amount of $125,000 agreed to
On School-Based Information Technology
School-Based Information Technology in the amount of $54,000 agreed to
On Advanced Education
On Community Training Fund
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, this fall, there was a four-page insert put in the local Yukon papers discussing the community training trusts. Is this where the money came from to pay for that insert, or is it a separate line item?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This funding consists of a revote from literacy commitments that were identified in 2002-03.
Ms. Duncan: Perhaps the minister could just take note of my question and get back to me. The community trust fund, there was a four-page ad on October 10 ó where was that funded from and what was the total cost? Iím not sure if it came under this part of the ministerís responsibilities or not, but perhaps he could just take note of that question and get back to me.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: That wouldnít have come under capital expenditures.
Community Training Fund in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Student Financial Assistance System
Mr. Cardiff: Iíd just like some clarification. I asked about the recovery of the $90,000 and got the explanation. Iím just wondering if thereís a correlation to the student financial assistance system here and get a line explanation for this as well.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This revote from 2002-03 was required to complete the testing phase of the student financial assistance computerized system.
Student Financial Assistance System in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
On Total of Other Capital Expenditures
Total of Other Capital Expenditures in the amount of nil agreed to
Total Capital Expenditures for Department of Education in the amount of $1,167,000 agreed to
On Capital Recoveries
Capital Recoveries for Department of Education in the amount of $10,000 cleared
Department of Education agreed to
Chair: The Chair understands that we are to go into Vote 10, Public Service Commission.
Prior to doing so, do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will rise for a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will come to order. Weíll continue on with Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2003-04, and Vote 10, Public Service Commission, and general debate.
Public Service Commission
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I am pleased to present today the supplementary estimates for the Public Service Commission. The request includes $3,933,000 that is related to the devolution of the Northern Affairs program to the Yukon government. This funding is for five positions that have been transferred to the commission, funding for training and development, workersí compensation premiums, as well as employees leave and termination benefits for all devolved employees. We are also requesting $35,000, which will provide funding to extend two term positions in the workplace harassment prevention office to the end of this fiscal year.
Mr. Hardy: I have a few questions in general debate and I am hoping that we will be able to move through these fairly quickly so that we donít take up a lot of time. There are a lot of issues that need to be discussed in all departments.
The classifications for federal employees who came over ó could the minister please give me the status of that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At the present time, all devolved federal employeesí job descriptions have been rewritten and are at the Public Service Commission for classification.
Mr. Hardy: Could the member repeat that? For some reason, I heard something different. I donít know if it was the amplification or something. I just missed a couple of words.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: All the job descriptions for devolved employees have been rewritten and are at the Public Service Commission for classification review.
Mr. Hardy: Could you give me an idea of when theyíll be completed?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This is a very time-consuming operation and hopefully it will be done within the next several months.
Mr. Hardy: Could you give me an idea what the cost has been and what the estimate is ó how much this is actually costing?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: There was a need for a classifications analyst, so it could probably be in the neighbourhood of $50,000.
Mr. Hardy: On February 1, I wrote a letter. This is a letter I referenced to the minister in the hallway about three weeks ago. I think it was around February 1 or February 4. I received a partial answer to it, with an indication that more information would be coming forward. Itís in regard to vacancies, and I was wondering if the minister followed up on that letter after I talked to him a few weeks ago and when I can get the rest of that information.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This request is still a work-in-progress.
Mr. Hardy: Thatís approximately 10 months. Could the minister tell me why thereís a holdup?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: It is just basically a very time-consuming process, and itís still a work-in-progress.
Mr. Hardy: Could the minister tell me if there is anybody actually working on it?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: To the best of my knowledge, when a report is completed, it is going to have to go to the Management Board and so itís still ó I canít really say a specific time at this moment.
Mr. Hardy: So Iím to assume that the promise made after I made my request hasnít advanced further than at that point back in the early part of February. Is that what Iím to assume ó that since I got a partial answer there has been absolutely no work whatsoever, there has been no initiative by the minister to complete the final amounts that were promised to me? Is that what Iím supposed to assume?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At the present time, the department is bringing this information up to date, and then it has to go to Management Board.
Mr. Hardy: Can the minister assure me that I will get the information as soon as itís complete?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: It has to go to Management Board first.
Mr. Hardy: Could the minister tell me what the status of the pension plan repatriation is? I remember now that the minister had indicated there would be a briefing for all colleagues. When can we expect that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At the present time there has been a delay in this pension plan process because of work that the department has to do with the union. So itís expected to maybe come forward sometime in 2005.
Mr. Hardy: With respect to the briefing around the problems ó or the status of it would be the easiest way to put it. When could we expect a briefing?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I donít believe I made any commitment to a briefing on this issue; however, there is also a briefing that has to go to caucus on this issue before we do briefings elsewhere.
Mr. Hardy: So, is the minister informing me that there is going to be no briefing for all colleagues, all people in the House, all MLAs?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Once caucus is briefed, I donít believe there would be any issue with providing a briefing for other members.
Mr. Hardy: Now, I am going to shift a little bit here. I am going to ask some questions about the computer use investigation.
I am hoping that we will be able to move beyond the "this is a personnel matter" response that weíve had to listen to over and over and over, because many of the questions that have been developed are not personnel questions. However, if the minister wants to take that line, so be it: itís what will be recorded. Could the minister give me a breakdown of all the costs to date on the computer use investigation? This is a financial question.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: There will be no breakdown given on this computer investigation until it is completed. The investigation itself is completed; however, there are ongoing issues. Thatís where it will remain.
Mr. Hardy: Could the minister give me a breakdown on the computer use investigation costs. The minister has indicated that that part is over. Therefore, there is no question about it, this minister should have those figures and should be willing to share them with the rest of this Legislature. Will he do that please?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The process is still ongoing, so the department wonít be releasing any costs until the process is complete.
Mr. Hardy: When does the minister anticipate the process being complete? What does he define as a complete process?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The employees do have the right to put in a grievance over this issue and, until those are all completed, itís ongoing.
Mr. Hardy: Can the minister assure me we will be given the cost once it is complete?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe the department can.
Mr. Hardy: Staying with the costs, I have a few questions I want to ask. How many hours ó actually, Iíll take off the cost part of it. I wrote some of these questions and thought about the cost. How many hours of the DMís time was actually involved? That is slightly separate from the staff ó if he could give me an idea how much involvement the DMs had in this investigation.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: There is no way to determine that.
Mr. Hardy: I suspect thatís the same answer Iím going to get if I asked a question around the director level time ó how many hours were eaten up on this investigation in regard to the director level. Iíll throw in the next one as well: the management level. How much time was involved in that? Whatís the answer for that one?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: There is no way to provide that information.
Mr. Hardy: Actually, Iíd like to register my disagreement with the minister. I believe there is a way to provide that information. I believe itís more a desire not to provide that information, and Iíd like that on the record. Otherwise we have a department out of control, and we have people working who have no responsibilities to anyone else. If you do not keep track of your time, then thereís no accountability.
But there was a contractor cost. There was specific hiring outside the actual internal work. Would the minister give me a breakdown of the contractorís cost?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe Iíve already made the commitment, Mr. Chair, to provide the costs at the end of this process.
Mr. Hardy: That commitment is not good enough for us. If we want to have the cost of the contractor, whatís wrong with that? Thatís a separate item. Why canít the minister give it to us now? Whatís he hiding? This is ridiculous. This is going to come out anyway; itís not a big issue. Weíre not going to bring down the government over a contract that they signed. So Iíll ask again: will he give me the breakdown of the contractorís cost, please.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I state again: I committed to providing this information at the end of the process, and thatís when it will be presented.
Mr. Hardy: Can the minister tell me if there were any travel costs? Iím not asking the number this time, but were there any travel costs to attend hearings that the government had to pay?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: If there was, I imagine, if it was part of the cost, it will be identified when the member receives the costs.
Mr. Hardy: Just so weíre keeping track here, there have been over six questions now, and it has been "no" on every one. So we will continue and see if we can set a record.
Can the minister tell me how many cases so far have been identified for arbitration? Thatís not a cost item at this present time; itís a number.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, itís my opinion that weíre starting to wander into personnel issues, and I do not get involved with the personnel issues.
Mr. Hardy: Well, the minister has shifted into personnel. Iíll make a note of that as well. But Iím going to repeat the question because I donít think the minister really understood what I asked.
There was no naming of anybody, there was no identification, there was no person ó it was a number. The question is: how many cases so far have been identified for arbitration? That is not a personnel issue.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, I would now assume that it may be a difference of opinion here. But the computer investigation was a matter that was dealt with by the Public Service Commission of this government. It was a personnel matter and there was no political involvement in this process.
Mr. Hardy: So I guess weíre supposed to assume that Public Service Commission is a personnel matter and we shouldnít ask questions about it. Is that what weíre supposed to assume? The unbelievable logic thatís being applied to this can be taken through the whole Public Service Commission, because what is the Public Service Commission? Personnel.
So is the minister telling this House that he does not have to answer a single question on the Public Service Commission because he can hide behind the argument that this is a personnel issue? Is this the argument? Is this the accountability of this minister to the people of this territory?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe the member opposite is requesting this minister to start making comments on personnel issues, and I will not go there. This was a specific investigation handled by the Public Service Commission and thatís where it will stay.
Mr. Hardy: Well, Iíd like to beg to differ. I donít think itís going to stay there, Mr. Chair. Itís not going to stay there and this minister is not going to continue to hide, though he is part of this. He has to be part of it; heís the minister. Whether he likes it or not, he has a responsibility. I am not sure if he realized and understood, when he agreed to be a minister of a department, what he was taking on. But there is an accountability factor, and part of it is answering the questions when they are asked by the opposition, whether he likes it or not. Obviously he doesnít like it. The minister doesnít like us asking questions so he gets on his high horse and tells us that itís a personnel issue and there was no political involvement in it whatsoever. Interestingly enough, he can say that but he can also say that it spiralled out of control. How did he know that if there was no political involvement? How did he know anything, frankly, on this matter?
I am going to continue asking these questions because there is a pattern building here. Will the minister tell me: where is the money coming from for arbitration? What part of the finances are we pulling from to pay for the costs of the arbitration that is looming over the heads of this government?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, that was quite a little spiel. I would like to remind the member opposite that comments made about spiralling out of control were directed straight at him. It had nothing to do with the Public Service Commission. The costs for any arbitration are in the Public Service Commission budget.
Mr. Hardy: The minister has a selective memory, because it wasnít that. The comment "spiralling out of control" was an absolute and very clear admission by this minister that the investigation had spiralled out of control. We also remember that this minister blamed the problems of this whole computer use investigation ó he blamed the whole computer use investigation on the opposition, abdicating responsibility like Iíve never seen in this Legislature in my life.
So not only did we cause the computer use investigation ó maybe in a backhanded way heís implying that we sent all the e-mails out there ó I donít know. Maybe we are the ones who directed the Public Service Commission to do this investigation ó I donít know. But now heís also saying that the comment that the investigation did spiral out of control was our fault as well. I believe that the minister had better start accepting some responsibility for his own actions and what he says and for the department that he is the minister of. If he would do that, we could move forward a lot faster, because many of these questions are fairly simple questions.
So Iím assuming that the minister is not going to tell me where the money for the arbitration is coming from, because ó actually, I couldnít even begin to understand his rationale on that one. So Iím going to put that one down as a no, heís not going to answer that. Could the minister tell me the costs of the legal fees to date?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Chair, I have stated before, and Iíll state it again for the record that I do not get personally involved with personnel issues, and thatís where it will stay.
Mr. Hardy: Iíd say that this minister doesnít get involved in anything in this department ó personnel or whatever, he hasnít got a clue whatís going on if these are the kinds of answers weíre getting, Mr. Chair.
Chair:Order please. Iíd ask the member to refrain from making insulting or unparliamentary comments.
Mr. Hardy: I hope weíre going to listen very closely to the responses I get to the questions I ask and maybe we can have some rulings on those as well.
Can the minister tell me what the costs of any buy-outs or severance packages have been to date?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I donít know how Iím going to manage to get my message across; however, I will continue to say that this is a personnel issue, and I will not make comments on anything to do with the personnel side of this debate.
Mr. Hardy: Thereís another non-answer to another question. Weíll rack that one up as another no, with an absolutely ridiculous excuse.
Can the minister tell me what the costs of recruiting and training replacements for workers who have lost their jobs are?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, you know, I canít really go there. Thatís handled by the personnel department, and thatís where itís going to stay.
Mr. Hardy: Of course the minister can go there. Heís refusing to go there.
Can the minister tell me what the additional costs of the employment assistance programs are, borne since this very ill-advised computer use investigation started?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: That would be very hard to determine, as there was a restructuring process before this. So there are a whole bunch of things mixed up in this issue.
Mr. Hardy: Iím glad the minister admitted there is an additional cost to the employee assistance program. At least we got that out of this minister.
Can the minister tell me how many Yukon territorial government employees have taken stress leave as a result of the investigation?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Again the member opposite is having a very difficult time understanding personnel issues and political issues. I say again that this is handled by the personnel department and itís not something Iím going to answer.
Mr. Hardy: I would say that this minister has information available he could share. He has information; he has the assistance of the deputy minister sitting beside him, who could give him that information so he could share it with the opposition on this side. So itís a political choice he is making; itís a political choice that heís interfering in the distribution of the information to the general public. Itís a political interference in the flow of legitimate information with legitimate questions.
So this minister has interfered politically, and heís doing it right at this moment on the floor of this House, without a doubt, and people are listening to it.
Hereís another question: how many person-days of absenteeism can be attributed to this process?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: To set the record straight, I did make the commitment to the member opposite that he will get the information that he has been requesting when the process is completed. The question he just asked is, I mean ó who knows?
Mr. Hardy: This government was very proud of the moment they could stand up and announce that the investigation had ended and that it had been completed. Many of the questions we are asking are on the investigation, as I said earlier. What happens after it in regard to the appeals, arbitrations ó itís a separate issue from the actual investigation because that is exactly what I heard from the mouth of this government.
So the questions we are asking are around that. The investigation ó the minister has said that itís complete. We would like to know some answers to these questions in regard to the investigation.
How about another one? I will try another one. What are the additional costs to the health care system that this investigation has caused?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I want to state for the record that this government has the utmost respect for its staff and employees who work for this government. Confidentiality is something that is very crucial and critical to the whole investigation. The question that the member opposite just asked is almost an impossible question to ask. I wonder how many people go in to the doctor ó or anyone ó and say: "Oh, I got a thought in my mind. I want you to fix it." Nobody is going to go in there and be such a person to walk in and say: "I had a computer thing. Iím sick." I donít know. The question is not even ó itís right out.
Mr. Hardy: Well, interestingly enough, the minister definitely hasnít been talking to any workers, because they are the ones who have been informing us about the stress and health concerns. So, if this minister dismisses it that easily and figures that the employees have no relevance in this investigation, then this minister really does not know what itís like to be underneath an investigation of this nature that was conducted against them.
What are the costs of community-based programs? Thatís another question I could ask, and I know I wonít get any answers around it, so I wonít even force the minister to stand up, because Iím sure heíll dismiss employees that feel ill, employees that feel stressed out, employees who use the health system to assist them, through no fault of their own in many cases.
Were all people who showed up on the e-mail trail investigated?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Again, thatís with the personnel department and thatís where it will stay.
Mr. Hardy: Itís a policy issue; itís not a personnel issue. Will the minister ever understand the difference? I donít think so.
Were all people who showed up on the e-mail trail investigated? Well, guess what? That was a question that was asked to the deputy minister. She answered it. Why canít the minister?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite just stated he had an answer, why is he asking?
Mr. Hardy: Well, maybe the minister should realize that he is actually in charge and we need an answer from him because he is ultimately the one who is accountable. I canít believe, Mr. Chair, that this minister cannot understand a basic duty of being a minister.
The question we asked in this Legislature has as much relevance as any other question. Iíll repeat it one more time so I can hear the minister refuse to answer it, although his department will and not say itís a personnel issue ó which is the excuse he used. Were all people who showed up on the e-mail trail investigated?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The question was asked and answered.
Mr. Hardy: The question was asked and wasnít answered. I would like the minister to correct that statement. It wasnít answered in the Legislature, so the question is asked again.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, I stated before that that issue is with the personnel department of the Public Service Commission, and thatís where it will stay.
Mr. Hardy: Glad to know that the minister did not answer that question, even though he indicated that he had. It just kind of shows the behaviour weíre facing in this Legislature.
I ask the minister: why was the Ontario model chosen when they decided to do this investigation?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I will not comment on the investigation.
Mr. Hardy: Can the minister comment on what other options were presented in considering which direction the government should take in investigating?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: No, I canít comment on it.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Chair, I would like to make sure that itís on the record that the minister can comment on it, but is refusing to comment on it. There is quite a difference between "canít" and "refusing to."
Can the minister tell me who gave the go-ahead? Who determined the costs and the process, and who was ultimately the one to say, "Letís go forward with this computer use investigation"? Who was actually in charge, in other words?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The Public Service Commission was required by law to investigate.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Chair, the minister is wrong again. The question that was asked was: who gave the go-ahead? Who was the final authority? Who said, "This is the model weíre using and this is the investigation weíre doing. Go for it"?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Again, Iíll state for the record that there was a breach of the government harassment policy here. There was a violation of the Human Rights Act, so there was an obligation to investigate.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Chair, thatís not the answer. Thatís incorrect. The question was: who gave the go-ahead? Itís not that hard. Who is the one? Was it the Premier who said, "Letís go forward"? Was it the minister who said to go forward? Or did the political people say, "We canít even make a decision. We canít even think of this one. This has to be totally non-political; therefore, whatever you do is fine, just donít tell us?"
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: There was an obligation here to investigate, and thatís the extent of it.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Chair, who gave the go-ahead?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I guess weíre going to play puppets here for awhile. Iím going to keep saying there was a violation; there was a breach of the government harassment policy; there was a violation of the Human Rights Act, so due process was followed.
Mr. Hardy: Well, in that regard, the minister is correct. There is a puppet over there and we do wonder who is pulling the strings.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair:Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: On a point of order, pursuant to Standing Order 19(g), the member opposite is imputing false or unavowed motives to the Member for McIntyre-Takhini. Now, this is totally out of the question. The line of questions that is being posed by the Member for Whitehorse Centre is totally unreasonable.
Chair:There is no point of order here.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This investigation was required by law and the due process was followed.
Mr. Hardy: Well, we are reaching new lows in the Legislature, Mr. Chair. The refusal to even acknowledge the fact that somebody elected has to give a go-ahead is probably a first in this Legislature.
Who did the DMs report to during this process? I think this is a pretty easy question.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, the deputies and their responsibilities are underlined under the Public Service Act. They did their responsibilities.
Mr. Hardy: My understanding is, of course, this is without the ministerís approval because the minister hasnít accepted any responsibility for anything whatsoever. So can we assume that the deputy ministers are basically running the show and doing everything as they see fit and without any type of responsibility back to the elected minister?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe the member opposite has the authority to assume anything he wants. There was no political interference in this investigation, and thatís probably why it ran so smoothly.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Chair, there was no political direction, as well, and there was no sense of accountability, it seems, from the political level. They want to pretend that it didnít exist and didnít happen. Even when they do slip up and admit that it had spiralled out of control, they want to now deny that. It just goes on and on and on, Mr. Chair.
Who did the Public Service Commissioner report to then?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iíll state for the member opposite again that there was no political interference with this investigation.
Mr. Hardy: So, Mr. Chair, am I supposed to assume that the Public Service Commissioner, who happens to be sitting on the left-hand side of the minister whom Iím asking questions of right now, the deputy minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, who turned and advised him on this, did not report to him at all during this whole time, even though she is now talking in his ear on how to respond to these questions? Is that what Iím supposed to assume?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Again I will state for the member opposite that there was no political interference with this investigation. It was conducted by the deputies.
Mr. Hardy: I believe there was political interference in this investigation. I believe there was a lot of it ó at different levels. I think weíve proven that on a few occasions, whether it was the unionís meeting with the Premier and then finding out that information handed in confidence to the Premier ended up in the hands of the Public Service Commission ó that is considered political interference. Whether itís the denial of this minister to even acknowledge the fact that he existed during this investigation is also political interference because right at this moment, when weíre asking questions, we have the Public Service Commissioner advising the minister on this investigation. That is political involvement, whether this minister recognizes it or not. That is political involvement.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Hardy:Before I go on, Iíd like to introduce a member in the gallery. Please help me welcome Mark Bowers, president of Local Y010 of YEU.
Mr. Hardy: What political direction did the minister give the commissioner? What weíre obviously witnessing here today is the Public Service Commissioner giving direction to the minister. There must have been something coming back the other way.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe I have stated more than once to the member opposite that this was a personnel issue and there was no political interference with this investigation.
Mr. Hardy: What political direction did the Premier give the DMs?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The member opposite is having a very difficult time understanding that there was no political interference here.
Mr. Hardy: What direction did the Premier give to the minister? Is this the direction that was given to him, to continually repeat like a trained person that there was no political involvement, although sitting right here, right now, itís obvious that there was?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I guess I can stand up for another three days and say to the member opposite that I donít deal with personnel issues and Iím not involved with personnel decisions and that there was no political interference in this investigation.
Mr. Hardy: Well, once again, we disagree. Many of these questions have nothing to do with personnel. The minister just canít seem to grasp the fact that he has to be accountable at some point in his life. In this matter, when you get elected, you are accountable to the people of this territory, youíre accountable to your departments, and youíre accountable to the employees who are under you. At some point, you have to speak on their behalf. This minister is having an extremely hard time speaking on behalf of the employees he targeted in his computer use investigation. He continually denies that he has anything to do whatsoever with this investigation. It begs the question: what role does he play in the structure of the Public Service Commission?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, I believe that Iím capable of doing this job, and I think Iíve proven it.
Mr. Hardy: Well, we are witnessing what kind of job this minister can do and itís one of denial, refusal to answer questions. Itís a person who refuses to accept responsibility for problems that have evolved within his own department, one who refuses to accept any form of responsibility of an investigation that he happens to be the minister of.
Who investigated the investigators, including deputy ministers ó our officials at Public Service Commission itself?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, itís just unreal ó what kind of questions are being asked here. But I have to say, Mr. Chair, that I was not part of the investigating team. It was a personnel issue and there is nothing more to add to it, really.
Mr. Hardy: It has become very obvious to many people that there is no leadership at the ministerial level. I am glad that the minister just admitted it on the floor today.
Why wasnít a clear policy put in place before beginning the investigation ó a very clear policy to the employees about what was happening and what would be acceptable or not?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, the member opposite, I believe, knows quite well that there are guidelines and they are sent out to employees on a regular basis. We can send them a copy of those guidelines if need be.
Mr. Hardy: Thatís the first answer that I have received in probably over 35 questions.
Letís just see if we can build on this. Did the government, or Public Service Commission, give any consideration whatsoever to the model used by the Yukon Development Corporation/Yukon Energy Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iíll state again for the record that there was an obligation to investigate under the Human Rights Act.
Mr. Hardy: A non-answer again ó totally avoids that one.
Now, there was a lot of unacceptable material that was in existence, and that has been recognized through the many words that have been spoken. There were what was called blue binders of materials. How many are there exactly of what they call blue binders of unacceptable material out there? My question really is: what will be done with them? I hope, at some point, they would be destroyed.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: All those binders would have to be held until after the investigation is completed, until the whole process is complete.
Mr. Hardy: One of the concerns I have is, of course, the measures that would be in place to protect the privacy of Yukoners who donít work for YTG, whose names might be on record because, from my understanding, the list of names that has cropped up isnít just of employees of YTG, but also people who correspond with people who may have been using, sharing or distributing this unacceptable material.
So what measures are in place to protect that privacy, if any?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The files must remain accessible to the Public Service Commission as long as appeals are underway. Then the files will be sealed and secured under the supervision of the Yukon Department of Justice. When any legal reason for storing the files has passed, the records will be archived or destroyed, according to the Yukon legislation.
Mr. Hardy: I thank the minister for that response. Will this information become public in the appeal process or arbitrations? My worry is if it will become public when we go into that.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: That information could be public, but I believe it would have to be a call by the adjudicator. He can request that it not be public.
Mr. Hardy: My understanding is normally it does become public, and that raises some very, very serious concerns on the scope and breadth of this investigation and where it can spiral to next, because we may find that itís not going to end, and many, many peopleís lives are going to be very severely impacted, just even outside the government employment.
What measures were in place to protect the privacy, and did the minister or the commissioner or any of the DMs consult with the Privacy Commissioner about how to protect privacy of individuals? Has the Privacy Commissioner been consulted in this regard?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, confidentiality and privacy were very high, high priorities for the investigation, and they were maintained.
Mr. Hardy: If that was such a high concern, why isnít it now ó if the potential is to have a lot of this exposed in the public now?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: There is no intention of that whatsoever. The parties can request to have closed hearings.
Mr. Hardy: Has that request been made?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The adjudication hearings have not started yet.
Mr. Hardy: Well, I donít have a great deal of faith in whatís being conveyed to me. I think we might be sliding down a very, very dangerous path here. And the damage that has already been done to the employees of this government will spread even further.
Have any breaches of privacy come to the ministerís attention?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: No.
Mr. Hardy: Is the minister considering a mediated solution to this boondoggle? If so, when, how and how much?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: That option was offered to the president of PSAC when she was here, and we havenít heard back from them yet.
Mr. Hardy: Could the minister convey to me what was actually offered in trying to resolve this solution without having to go any further, especially with the concern of the public involved?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: We did offer to mediate a resolution to the investigation process.
Mr. Hardy: How was that offer made?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: That offer was made in a meeting with Nycole Turmel, who was the president of PSAC.
Mr. Hardy: Just to get some clarification, could the minister tell me who else was in the meeting and who actually made the offer?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: That information will not be provided.
Mr. Hardy: Could the minister tell me why that information wonít be provided?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: That information was without prejudice and confidential.
Mr. Hardy: Could the minister tell me who actually made the offer then ó never mind who was in the room, but who actually made the offer to the president of PSAC.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The offer was made by the Public Service Commission.
Mr. Hardy: So youíre saying the Public Service Commissioner?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe I stated the Public Service Commission.
Mr. Hardy: I am not sure, again, if my hearing has mistaken this. Did he say "commission" or "commissioner"?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Chair, I believe that Iíve repeated this enough times. The member opposite can check Hansard and find that out.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Chair, I think the minister is trying to avoid something here. Itís a very simple question: who made the offer? The answer I think Iím getting back is the Public Service Commission. Who made the offer to the PSAC president, who has already been identified in this House by this minister. He was quite happy to name the president ó very eager to name the president. If heís going to do that to one side, he should have the decency to name the other person, the person who made the offer. I donít need to check Hansard. He can correct me if Iím wrong. He can state exactly who made that offer.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe the question was asked and answered. Thank you.
Mr. Hardy: The question was not answered, Mr. Chair. The minister seems to be avoiding something here. He was very eager to name the Public Service Alliance of Canada president. He should also be willing, if he believes in equality here, to name the other side ó who was engaged in that offer. Why wonít he do it? Why wonít he do that? He has already named one party. Why not the other?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iím beginning to believe that the member opposite probably knows the answers to all the questions that heís asking, and continues to ask them. I believe that I stated several times that the Public Service Commission made the offer. Thank you.
Mr. Hardy: The people want to know what the answer is. That minister can stand on the other side and think, "I know the answer already" but itís not just me heís answering to. Heís answering to every single employee who has been targeted by this investigation. Heís answering to all the other people who may become involved when the adjudicatorís report is written up, which will probably be a public document.
He is so willing to name the Public Service Alliance of Canadaís president, and name her name in this House, then why wonít he name the person who made that offer? Is there letterhead this was written on? If there is a hard copy, will the minister provide that hard copy to this House ó to me?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I will apologize to the House for naming someone I shouldnít have, maybe. I canít produce something that doesnít exist, as the member is requesting.
Mr. Hardy: So we can assume that there was no offer made ó no hard copy, no letter written, no offer? It was just a verbal offer to go to mediation?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe the member opposite probably realizes that I canít go into such detail on the floor of this House with respect to the investigation.
Mr. Hardy: But Iíd like to remind the minister that he already went into detail on this. I asked him a question about whether an offer was made ó if this was an option that had been considered and offered. All I asked was if it had been considered, and the minister started naming people and saying, "Yes, there was." So why doesnít he just finish it and tell us the rest of it?
It would be very simple. He has already gone into it; now heís saying he canít. So what is he trying to hide? Thatís what itís really coming down to ó heís hiding. Just clear the air, and we can move on.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, I believe the question asked was: were there any other options, and I answered the question.
Mr. Hardy: So sometimes we can find an answer, sometimes we canít. Sometimes this ministerís willing to name public people quite happily in this Legislature, but heís not willing to own up to his own responsibilities or take any responsibilities whatsoever, but, my gosh, if itís a public person, heíll go out there and bark their name out right now. I can see here that itís a double standard.
Will the minister admit that this whole thing was a mess? Will he take the disciplinary information off peopleís records and refund them for the days that have been lost? Will he admit that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Chair, the member opposite knows I canít do any such thing.
Mr. Hardy: Why didnít the minister stop this? When the minister realized it was spiralling out of control, as he admitted in this Legislature in Question Period, why didnít he stop it at that time?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Chair, I believe Iíve taken about enough of the questions on this issue, and I think itís just time that the member opposite moved on.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Chair, itís not the ministerís position to tell the opposition when they should move on or not. Thatís the minister over there; that minister has responsibility. One of the biggest responsibilities that minister has is owning up to the actions of a department and answering the questions. But if the minister wants to display a certain degree of disregard for the opposition, thatís his choice.
What is the Public Service Commission doing to repair the damage to employee morale resulting from both the renewal that they had lived through as well as the computer use investigation that theyíve experienced over the last eight months?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Itís part of the process ó a democratic process ó that when we ask a question, the minister does give a response. So I will repeat this question again. Itís a very simple question. What is the PSC doing to repair the damage to employee morale?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Who stopped the investigation?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Well, itís going on record that this minister refuses to even acknowledge the questions on this side. As a matter of fact, when we ask the questions, he yells out "Clear". This is a degree ó as I said earlier ó of disregard and disrespect and contempt for the Legislature, for the right of people of this territory to know what their government is doing.
So, will the minister agree to table all personnel documents in regard to the computer-use investigation ó all the correspondence ó so that the opposition will have a chance to look at it?
Chair:Order please. The Chair listened to a member use the word "contempt" earlier, which is a very strong word to use in this Assembly. The charge of contempt is one that this Assembly must make. I would ask the member to retract it. If the member refuses to retract the use of the word "contempt", a remedy is for the member to put forward a substantive motion charging the member with that.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Chair, I do refuse to remove the word "contempt," and I will take a look at putting forward a substantive motion in that regard. When a member on the opposite side refuses to acknowledge questions asked, even when we vary the questions, even when we move along, that is a very serious, serious behaviour and action within the legislative process, within the democratic rights of each member in this Legislature.
Chair:Order please. Contempt of the Legislature is a very severe charge. It is not one that can be entered into lightly or just used in general debate. Again, Iíll ask the member to withdraw the comment. Iíve made the member aware of his recourse, should he choose to pursue any actions. However, I will once again ask the member to withdraw the comment.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Hardy:I hear the Chairís decision and the direction that the Chair has given, and Iíll withdraw the comment. I will take it up at a later date. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Let it be known that actions from this minister to refuse to respond or recognize any questions that we have in regard to an extremely serious matter that has been undertaken by the department that he is supposed to be in charge of is indicative of an attitude that makes it very difficult for people in this Legislature to work together.
We on the opposition side do have the authority and right to ask these questions, and there is a responsibility on the government side to respond. They respond according to their own wishes and beliefs, but to actually refuse to participate, though these questions are very legitimate, is extremely serious as well.
Saying that, what assurances can this minister give this Legislature and the people of this territory that the information in this investigation will not ó the names of the people involved, whether theyíre public servants or not, will not become common knowledge through the adjudicatorís report or any other part of the mediation, if the mediation happens, or any appeals?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: For the record, I want the public at large to know that I do have the utmost respect for this Legislature. The Public Service Commission had a job to do, and they did it. I cannot go into details about the investigation on the floor of this House. The member opposite knows that I cannot get into details on personnel issues. The member opposite knows that. He has been in politics long enough to know that there is a personnel department and that politicians donít go in there and run it, and make decisions on personnel issues.
Iíll continue to do the best possible job that I can to ensure that this investigation and the confidentiality issues ó the Public Service Commission has a job to do with respect to personnel issues. I have the utmost confidence that they will handle them in the best fashion.
Mr. Hardy: Who did the Public Service Commission report to?
Once again, the minister refuses to answer. Itís a very simple question: who did the Public Service Commissioner ultimately report to in this investigation?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, the roles of the Public Service Commission and the deputies are in the Public Service Act.
Mr. Hardy: Hereís an easier one: who do the deputy ministers report to?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Again, Iíll state that the Public Service Commission and the deputies have an act to follow.
Mr. Hardy: The minister is refusing to answer this question. Who does a deputy minister ó it doesnít matter who ó ultimately report to?
Once again, the minister refuses to answer. Does the minister agree that the deputy ministers report to ministers?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The roles and responsibilities of the deputy ministers are in the act.
Mr. Hardy: Iím sorry, Mr. Chair, I missed that answer ó if it was an answer. Could he repeat it, please?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, the roles and responsibilities of the DMs are in the Public Service Act. Thank you.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Chair, does the minister understand, or has the minister read, the Public Service Act and, if so, could he inform me what it says?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I could provide the member opposite with a copy of that, if he wants to read it himself.
Mr. Hardy: Does the minister have any deputy ministers report to him?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, Mr. Chair, I believe that the member oppositeís line of questioning is just totally irrelevant to the supplementary budget.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Chair, my line of questioning is very relevant because what weíve been trying to understand today is: is there absolutely any responsibility whatsoever, any recognition that the minister had a role to play in the investigation and still has a role to play in the direction and what direction it goes in. When we talk about mediated settlements, for instance, obviously there was an offer made to the PSAC president. We have tried to find out who made that offer. The minister refuses to say who made that offer, so Iíll ask point blank: did the minister make that offer to the PSAC president?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe that question was already asked, and it was answered.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Chair, thatís a very simple yes-or-no question. Whatís the matter with the minister in this matter? The question wasnít answered. We can look at the Blues. It definitely wasnít answered.
All weíre trying to find out is: if this minister was so happy to name the person who received the offer, what level was that offer made at? Itís very important for us, for everybody, to understand at what level of government ó who made that offer? If it was a worker who made the offer to this person, of course you canít place a great deal of reliability in that, in the sense that that might not be what the minister wanted. Who had the authorization to make that offer, which obviously was made? The minister has admitted this. Who had the authorization, who gave the authorization, or who made the offer? Even if the minister would tell us who made the offer, it would probably clear up a lot of this. We canít understand right at this present time who actually put that on the table. Could the minister try to explain that to us? Iíd appreciate it.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe that question was asked and answered, and I would suggest the member review the Blues tomorrow.
Mr. Hardy: No, it wasnít answered. The minister is totally incorrect in that matter. Is that being considered at this present time then? Is the mediated settlement being considered at this present time?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I have to say to the member opposite that the details of what the Public Service Commission is involved in are not going to be discussed on the floor of this Legislature.
Mr. Hardy: Iím not actually sure whom Iím asking the question of any more. I donít think this is the Minister of the Public Service Commission. It seems that the majority of this conversation has been ongoing, and sitting in the back there is the Minister of Health and Social Services, who seems to be conducting it.
Now, the minister responsible for the PSAC had referenced this "puppet" image earlier on. When he referenced it, I had to really wonder about where it was coming from. I think I understand it now that I recognize the Minister of Health and Social Services behind there. I think heís behind there at the moment, feeding all this information.
So, if thatís the case, maybe I should ask the Minister of Health and Social Services if he was involved in any decisions around the decision to instigate a very oppressive investigation?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe the member opposite may have misspoken. He referred to me as the minister of PSAC, and Iím not. I will state for the record again that this investigation was conducted by the Public Service Commission. It had to be conducted because it was required by law. There was a breach of the harassment policy within government. There was a violation of the Human Rights Act. There was an investigation conducted and it was done with confidentiality.
Mr. Hardy: Could the minister supply me with the decisions in regard to it being required by law? Could the minister do that, please?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I made some comments some time back, and maybe the member opposite needs a refresher, so I will give a refresher here.
There are five major points that I will make about the computer misuse investigation. First of all, I acknowledge the effects of the investigation on employees who have been most directly affected by it. This doesnít just include employees who were investigated; it also includes the people who had the job of conducting the investigation, sorting and reviewing the materials and doing the interviews.
Second, I want to emphasize the point that I have had faith in the Public Service Commission and the process developed by deputy ministers to follow this investigation through to its conclusion.
Third, I want to make it clear that I personally do not condone the actions of people who choose to abuse the position of trust that the employer placed in them, but neither will I judge them.
My experience is that we have to take the bad with the good. I believe that before we can heal relationships, we must seek to understand them. Thatís the traditional way. And to understand, we must first realize that everything we do affects the lives of many others in some way. We also have to be open to the idea that a lot of what we hear and read is not based in fact.
My fourth point is this: the computer investigation was a matter dealt with by the public service administration of this government. It was a personnel matter. There was no political involvement in the process. I will repeat this message because it is true.
Finally, I want to thank all of the people who work for the Yukon government for the professional way in which they deliver services and programs to the people of this territory. Letís not forget that 96 people were disciplined as a result of this investigation.
Thatís a small portion of over 4,000 Yukoners who work for the government. I cannot say it strongly enough: Yukon public servants are hardworking and willing to serve the taxpayer. I thank them for their efforts.
Seeing the time, Mr. Chair, I move that we report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Edzerza that we report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins 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 Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble:Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2003-04, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: Youíve heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: 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 stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled December 9, 2003:
Motor Transport Board (Yukon) 2002-03 Annual Report (Hart)