Thursday, May 5, 2005 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.
In recognition of Speech and Hearing Awareness Month
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I rise today to ask my colleagues to join me in recognizing May as Speech and Hearing Awareness Month. Mr. Speaker, we need to take advantage of this special month to raise awareness of the importance of early detection and prevention of communication disorders, and we need to increase the public sensitivity to the challenges facing individuals facing these disorders. One in 10 Canadians has a speech, language or hearing difficulty. Tens of thousands of individuals are affected, with hearing loss being the third most prevalent chronic disability among older adults after arthritis and hypertension.
The ability to communicate is our most human characteristic. Speaking, understanding and hearing are essential skills in our society. Witness what we do on a daily basis. We take our hearing for granted, but approximately 10 percent of the population has a significant hearing problem. Communication disorders affect all age groups, and early detection of hearing disorders is of vital importance.
Babies learn to talk by listening to voices and sounds; children learn from listening to others. If they are not in an environment that encourages communications, problems can and do occur. Problems among children are often misdiagnosed as learning disabilities or behavioural problems, and these can be very difficult to treat in later years. Children with behavioural problems are 10 times more likely than other children to have language disorders. If not determined early, these children may grow up to have lifelong difficulties communicating.
For adults, hearing loss can begin as early as 30 or 40. We are fortunate here in the Yukon to have a wide variety of supports for individuals with speech and hearing difficulties, for both children and adults.
Mr. McRobb: I rise on behalf of both opposition parties to pay tribute to speech and hearing professionals and volunteers working in the field for their good work in this Speech and Hearing Awareness Month.
Speech and hearing disorders affect a great number of Yukoners. We probably all know someone who is hard of hearing, hearing impaired or even deaf. Apart from speech difficulties caused by a variety of conditions, including stroke, hearing disorders themselves affect speech.
As our population ages, this condition afflicts more and more of us. It is heartening to see public acceptance of these disorders and the response in terms of devices to assist speech and hearing. The 4,500 members of the Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists are marking this month by raising public awareness around many issues involving speech and hearing disorders.
They are focusing on early detection and prevention of communication disorders. They are also increasing the public sensitivity to the challenges faced by individuals with speech and hearing difficulties. Helen Keller said, ďI have always thought it would be a blessing if each person could be blind and deaf for a few days during his early adult life. Darkness would make him appreciate sight; silence would teach him the joys of sound.Ē We take this opportunity to pay respect to the deaf community who, through visual and gestural language, demonstrate the ingenuity of humankind in overcoming obstacles related to speech and hearing. They are a vibrant group of people who share a common language and a common culture.
Today we make a personal commitment to greater sensitivity, acceptance and understanding of people with speech and hearing disorders. Finally, we look forward to the day when our televised proceedings will be closed-captioned.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
†Ms. Duncan: † Mr. Speaker, itís with great pleasure that I invite all members of the Legislature to join me in welcoming Mr. Toewsí and Mr. Sullivanís grade 11 social studies classes from Porter Creek Secondary School. Mr. Speaker, I know that you consider outreach by the Speaker and outreach to students especially important, so I would like to pay particular thanks to Mr. Toews and Mr. Sullivan, who make this visit annually with their students. Thank you very much for coming today.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Speaker, I would also like to welcome Mr. Sullivanís class from the Porter Creek Secondary School, and I would advise them to pay close attention to how well everyone down here behaves themselves, especially the opposition.
Speaker: Are there any other introductions of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
†Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the Transport Canada study entitled Issues Identification Report on the Canada-Alaska Rail Link, final report, August 2, 2001.
Mr. Speaker, I also have for tabling the request for proposal, entitled Development of Rationale Ė Proposed Alaska-Canada Rail Link, dated October 28, 2004.
I also have for tabling the transmittal letter on that request for proposal from Mr. Kevin Neels, senior vice-president of Charles River Associates, dated November 4, 2004.
Speaker: Are there any further documents or returns for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) to be eligible for social assistance under the existing rules, a client must be 19 years of age or older;
(2) this Yukon government policy neglects to take into account teenagers who must leave home for their own safety or because they have children of their own to look after; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to revise the social assistance eligibility policy to include clients under the age of 19.
Speaker: Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re:† Canada Winter Games, athletes village
Mr. Hardy: Yesterday the Minister of Economic Development made some startling comments to the local media. When he was asked about the status of the athletes village for the Canada Winter Games, the minister said this: ďWeíre in so much trouble right now that if we started building in the next couple of days, we may not get it done in time, so weíre having to make some very hard decisions on that.Ē
Does the Acting Premier agree with how the minister characterized the situation?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We on this side of the House are working with all three parties on this subject and on the particular aspect heís talking about.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, they didnít answer the question. Once again, we have a minister of this government making statements that can turn into a black eye for the Yukon across this country. This week both the minister and Premier made critical comments about a proposal by the Grey Mountain Housing Society to manufacture modular units for the athletes village as part of a plan to build affordable housing for First Nations. The minister said there were problems with the Grey Mountain Housing Societyís business plan and referred to deficiencies in the proposal.
If the government was so concerned about these so-called deficiencies, can the Acting Premier explain why the Premier endorsed it so strongly in a letter to the Minister of Indian Affairs in a letter dated January 20, 2005?
I have that letter for tabling, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The technical review committee met with Grey Mountain Housing and has gone through the proposal in great detail. We thoroughly explained the process and the review process, the severing of documents that was involved, appeals and legal opinions, et cetera. They wanted to know more about the remaining $3.5 million, and we have advised that they continue to look at this.
There were some deficiencies in that, and that has been explained to them in great detail. We have had, however, continuing negotiations and discussions and dialogue with Grey Mountain Housing to look at other housing initiatives, particularly the federal government commitment to look at First Nations housing on and off reserve. We are encouraging them to work with that; we will continue to work with them on that. We hope that there is positive product out of that.
Mr. Hardy: Well, Mr. Speaker, weíve got a lot of acting premiers today. Iíd like to indicate to the minister that heís actually talking about the wrong program.
While the Premier also endorsed this manufacturing project in a letter to Grey Mountain Housing Society as recently as April 11ó which is the letter I will be tabling right now, please ó on Monday the Premier referred to 16 conditions the federal government wanted met before funding this project.
According to the Grey Mountain manager, all the conditions had been met, except for a few small areas ó this is their opinion ó which the society believed could have easily been addressed.
Why did the Premier neglect to mention that the main stumbling block remaining was a refusal to pony up the $500,000 it would have taken to get the federal government to come on-board. Why wasnít that mentioned?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again, these projects are very much intertwined. We are very supportive of Grey Mountain Housing getting involved with the programs of the federal government and trying to get them to live up to their commitment with First Nation housing. We certainly hope they do that, and we will work with them on that.
Of a list of 16 different conditions ó unfortunately, the terms of the letters were that all the conditions be met. Cherry-picking a couple of them isnít acceptable.
Question re: Dawson City bridge, tender process
†Mr. Fairclough: The Minister of Economic Development, the Minister of Highways and Public Works and the Premier are still backtracking as fast as they can from public/private partnerships. They spent loads of money hooking up with Partnerships B.C. and churning out one-sided propaganda. How much has this failed experiment in policy development ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Porter Creek North, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I believe ďpropagandaĒ in most dictionaries would imply motives. I ask that the member keep his question a bit more parliamentary.
Speaker: Member for Kluane, on the point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On the point of order, there is no point of order. The word ďpropagandaĒ is in anybodyís dictionary. Itís perfectly acceptable language in this House, and it concurs with the freedom of speech that we as legislators enjoy.
Speaker: There is no point of order. The Member for Mayo-Tatchun has the floor.
Mr. Fairclough: How much has this failed experiment in policy development cost the taxpayers so far, and what will the final cost be before we have a P3 policy?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I had fond hopes yesterday that the member opposite was beginning to understand this process, but unfortunately I think this is a major setback. There are no P3 projects currently in the Yukon. What is happening is that there has been a request for qualifications and companies were identified that could proceed to a request for proposals. Those proposals will be due on the 24th, which has been mutually agreed on by all parties involved ó proponents as well as government ó and at that point we will make the evaluation and take a look at it. Again, the member opposite is asking for speculation on something that hasnít happened as yet.
Mr. Fairclough: Itís not speculation. Itís a commitment of the minister and the Yukon Party government.
The one group that was disqualified from bidding on the P3 bridge is majority-owned by five Yukon First Nations. It includes a major Yukon construction firm, one of the worldís leading engineering company with lots of P3 experience. When the group asked why it was rejected, the department refused to provide the necessary information, even after an ATIPP request. Without this information, the group was effectively denied the means to appeal.
Since this project is supposed to be a trial run for P3s, why did the government throw so many roadblocks in front of this Yukon group, and what is the government willing to pay if it goes to court?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As weíve mentioned in this House many times, we are following the process that has been outlined for this particular aspect. An independent review has been done of the assessments for the RFQ, and that decision has been rendered by that committee. We are going forth based on the results of that.
Mr. Fairclough: They say theyíre following the process but they didnít answer the question again about why theyíre throwing so many roadblocks in front of this Yukon company.
P3s are complex, and we all realize that. The two remaining bidders on the Dawson P3 bridge have spent a lot of money preparing their proposals. Now weíve had four ministers, including the Premier, suggest that there may never be a P3 bridge.
If the government backs away from P3s, Mr. Speaker, which it looks like they are, who is on the hook for the cost of preparing these proposals? Is it the company, or is it once again Yukon taxpayers?
Hon. Mr. Hart: This is an issue, again. He is talking about hypothetical matters. Until such time as we receive those documents, we will not be in a position to make a decision on that.
Question re: Timber permits
Ms. Duncan: I have some questions for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, the minister in charge of our forest industry. Last summer the minister announced that he had issued four timber permits to companies in the southeast Yukon. The permits would allow companies to cut 35,000 cubic metres of timber. Can the minister tell Yukoners how much, if any, of this wood has actually been harvested?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I can report to the House that none of that timber has been harvested to date, understanding the situation in B.C. with the beetle kill and the extensive forest management that theyíre doing down there and the market thatís there today.
Ms. Duncan: Last summer the minister was issuing press releases about how the Yukon Party had revived the forest industry. The minister said he was happy to announce that Yukon forest companies were getting back to work. They had issued the first new permits in three years. Now, 10 months later, no wood has been cut. The Yukon Party forest plan has been all talk and no action. The government has been in office for two and a half years, and the amount of commercial timber cut under the new plan developed by the Yukon Party has been zero. When does the minister anticipate the talk and the press releases to end and the actual cutting of timber to begin?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We are in a free market system. We do put the wood on the market. We have done the engineering. The wood is there. We have committed to put wood on the market, and we are very optimistic that eventually wood will be cut in the southeast Yukon. But again, I remind the member opposite, under her watch, there was no wood. Under our watch, at least there is access to wood.
Ms. Duncan: The Yukon Party election platform promised to develop a sustainable forest industry; instead, the Yukon Party has developed a phantom forest industry. We have press releases about permits being issued; we have meetings; we have shiny brochures and Web sites; the only things missing are trees actually being cut down.
Another essential part of the Yukon Party plan to develop a forestry industry was the so-called roads to resources in southeast Yukon. This is another commitment from the Yukon Party platform. When the Premier was a member of the opposition, he said building the road would be an easy thing to do.
Two and a half years later, there is no news of this essential road. Why has the Yukon Party failed so badly in moving that objective forward?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Iíll remind the member opposite again that itís dictated by market. We have wood out there; weíre putting more wood out there; and weíre looking forward to an uptake on that wood.
As far as a road to resources is concerned, itís a concept weíre looking at. As the wood is harvested, the road access will be available.
Again, I remind the House that three years ago there was no wood on the market in southeast Yukon; today, there is wood available in southeast Yukon for harvesters.
Question re: Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition
Mr. McRobb: Now that the Energy, Mines and Resources minister has returned from his latest sessional sortie, I thought it would be, to use the ministerís own words, a timely time to put a question to him.
Letís first do a history lesson: in the beginning, the Yukon Party campaigned and lobbied for the Alaska Highway pipeline to be built first. During its first year in office, the Yukon Party claimed to be pipeline-ready. Then, when the Mackenzie Valley pipeline took the lead, the Yukon Party gave up on the Alaska Highway pipeline and was willing to settle for pipeline scraps from the Northwest Territories.
Next, the Mackenzie Valley pipeline is stalled indefinitely and the minister scurries to Ottawa to beg for $3.5 million for the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, but comes home empty-handed. How can this government possibly be pipeline-ready?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I appreciate the tirade from the member opposite.
Speaker: Order please. The term ďtiradeĒ is liable to cause discontent in the Legislative Assembly. Iíd ask the member not to use that term in relation to the opposition.
Hon. Mr. Lang: † As far as my trip to Ottawa as Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, I will tell the House that it was a very timely time to be in Ottawa, looking at foundation money for the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition. We had participation from the group itself, and we met with all three departments that have responsibility for this pipeline.
I remind the members in the House that at the end of the day there will be two pipelines: the Mackenzie Valley pipeline and the Alaska Highway pipeline. We are working, in fact, toward filling the questions that are going to be out there when and if the pipeline arrives.
Mr. McRobb: I didnít ask the minister for his trip notes; I asked him how this government can possibly be pipeline-ready, and he refused to answer.
To first understand how the Yukon is not pipeline-ready, we must understand why the Northwest Territories isnít pipeline-ready either. Imperial Oil backed out of the Northwest Territories project until such time as governments take ownership of matters that are beyond the scope and responsibility of the project. Those out-of-scope issues include resolving the needs and demands of First Nations and others whose lands are affected by the proposed pipeline.
How is the Yukon government any more prepared than the Northwest Territories? How is it pipeline-ready now?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Iíd like to remind the member opposite that the nine First Nations that will be directly impacted when the Alaska Highway pipeline comes through the Yukon ó in other words, it directly affects their traditional territory ó are on-board and are working with the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition. Thatís how weíre going to be pipeline-ready, Mr. Speaker. It takes more than talk to make anything a reality. We are working with the First Nations; we are working with the federal government ó very, very productively.
Mr. McRobb: The Yukon Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition has no funding to engage the communities it represents or to even review a proposal. The Aboriginal Pipeline Coalitionís mandate is not clear, nor does it represent all the First Nations along the pipeline route. It doesnít represent all the communities along the pipeline route, nor would it consult all Yukoners. Thatís the responsibility of the Yukon government.
What is this governmentís plan to consult all Yukoners about the pipeline impacts before the start of our regulatory process to avoid this same type of indefinite stall as the Northwest Territories is experiencing now?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, Iíd like to remind the member opposite that the Yukon government is not managing the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. Our responsibility is to be ready for a pipeline, if and when it comes, through the territory ó border to border.
We are working with the coalition. I would like to remind the member opposite that, in fact, seven of the nine First Nations are signed on to the coalition. The council for the eighth one has agreed to go back to their community to get the blessing to join on. So in fact we have eight of the nine. The one First Nation that isnít a full member is an observer. So at all meetings we have representation from all nine First Nations.
The Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition is one foundation brick to a very big picture. I understand the member oppositeís concern about how the rest of the Yukon will be addressed. We are certainly going to unfold that as we move forward.
Question re: Forest fires
†Mrs. Peter: Last summer, the wildfires in the Yukon reached proportions never seen before. The number of fires and the total hectares burned broke records. This year, we are looking at much the same. The fire season has already begun, both here and in Alaska.
We have been waiting for weeks for the wildfire review to see what we can learn from last year. When can we expect to have the wildfire review tabled in the House?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are in the final stages of drafting the report. The steering committee is finalizing the responses from the First Nations, and we anticipate receiving the final copy by the end of this month.
Mrs. Peter: Last summer, Old Crow was the second largest area of devastation in the Yukon. Many heritage sites and trappersí cabins were destroyed, yet the wildfires in the area were not attended to. Not one drop of water or retardant was used to fight the fires near Old Crow. We understand that peopleís lives and property are first in priority. However, there are other values that need to be considered in the zoning policies.
Once the wildfire review is released, will the minister ensure that heritage values will be included in the priority zoning?
Hon. Mr. Hart: One of the issues being addressed by the steering committee and those going around and doing the fire review is the one that she mentioned, and that is dealing with the special cultural and heritage items. I might reiterate to the member opposite that we are working under the devolution agreement, which states that we can only fight fires within the high priority areas identified in the devolution agreement. Any fires outside of that area are not covered under the expense arrangements we have with Ottawa.
Question re: Carcross footbridge
†Mr. Cardiff: We know how great this government is at building bridges. However, there is a bridge in a Yukon Party riding that is being neglected. Itís a historic 100-year-old footbridge across the Nares River in Carcross and it is falling apart. The community is concerned that someone is going get seriously injured or even killed. The bridge is used constantly by locals and tourists for fishing and for viewing the historic Bennett Lake. The government apparently is talking about tearing it down but not replacing it.
Can the Minister of Community Services tell me what his plans are for the bridge in Carcross?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The Carcross footbridge has been assessed by Highways and Public Works for the value of the bridge itself. It has been determined that it is unsafe and we are in the process of decommissioning the bridge.
At the moment, weíre also in the process of obtaining the appropriate licences for the environmental requirement for the water, et cetera, and are looking at tearing down the entire structure.
Mr. Cardiff: That meets half the need. This government has announced $3 million in Canadian strategic infrastructure money for Carcross waterfront projects. Theyíve also committed to including the Carcross Area Advisory Planning Committee in decisions about projects that would be funded by that money. Theyíve made a big to-do about Destination: Carcross, and theyíre expecting thousands of tourists to flock to Carcross on the quarter-million-dollar train the government bought.
The only problem is that we may have to send out a search-and-rescue team to pick the tourists out of the water if they decide to walk across the bridge ó it wonít be there.
What we want the minister to commit to today is not only dismantling the unsafe bridge but rebuilding the bridge for the benefit of the locals and the tourists.
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are looking at the safety of all the citizens of Carcross, as well as the tourists we plan to bring into Carcross. We are working with the local committee on developing the waterfront in Carcross and we have also sent a letter to the First Nation requesting their input with regard to the bridge itself and looking at replacing it.
Once we have done our consultation with the citizens and the First Nation, we will look at the prospect of rebuilding that bridge.
Question re: Alaska-Yukon railway feasibility study
†Mr. Hardy: It is all coming out now about what a wasteful, reckless spender this government really is. They spent $130,000 to buy a study saying how wonderful a railway to Alaska will be. That is the Yukon Party government opening up all those 34 mines across the territory that are identified in that study. They spent another $3 million for more railway studies to show our Premier can be just as big a spender as the U.S. government. And all of this time, without it costing Yukon taxpayers a single dime, Transport Canada has been saying that a rail link from Alaska to B.C. is a really, really dumb idea. Will the Acting Premier now admit that committing $3 million to this feasibility study without a written guarantee that Ottawa will underwrite it is nothing more than a high-risk gamble on this governmentís part?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I do hope the member opposite will take the time to read the documents I tabled today. Again, in our desire to live up to the secrecy that he seems to expect, we tabled all the documents and made them available to all members of the House. We hope he notices that.
To quote the letter from the senior vice-president, ďWe cannot guarantee any specific result. We offer this proposal with the understanding and on the condition that you are interested in and will accept the results of an objective investigation however the results of that investigation may come out.Ē We accepted those terms from one of the best firms in the world that has done work for Transport Canada, BC Rail, extensive work within Canada and many other countries, and Iím very pleased to say that the report came out indicating that there is a strong ó ďcompellingĒ is the word they used ó case to continue with the study and to examine what we feel is a very viable alternative.
Mr. Hardy: I guess there are no Canadian firms that can draw up a report like this. I guess there are no individuals out there that have 35 yearsí experience to offer an opinion, and I guess Transport Canadaís own report doesnít count.
$3 million ó just because the Government of Alaska wanted it; thatís where weíre going with this government. There is no guarantee that weíll ever see a pennyís worth of benefit out of it ó absolutely no guarantee. Yet, the Premier can sit on his hands and watch a project that would create training, skilled jobs and affordable housing for First Nations slip away, for the sake of less than $500,000.
Now, whatís wrong with this picture? Even worse, the Premierís delay on that project could be at least partly responsible for a major glitch in getting the athletes village built in time for the Canada Winter Games. Itís starting to look that way. All of Canada is watching the Yukon once again, and what theyíre seeing isnít very flattering.
Now that the athletes village is a Yukon government project, can the Acting Premier give his assurance that Yukon taxpayers wonít have to pay another huge premium to get this project completed on time? Which one?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: For the member opposite ó again, to pick a few of his favourite questions out of that list and allow him to say I didnít answer some of the others in the minute and a half allotted ó IBI Group was the one that was commissioned by Transport Canada to do the original study, which had a huge number of insufficiencies, but indicated, in fact, that more study was needed, and it only looked at a very narrow area.
I might point out that IBI Group has offices in Boston, Massachusetts, just down the street from Charles River Associates, which also has an office in Toronto. These are both very reputable firms. IBI Group looked at a very narrow scope, only within the Yukon ó nothing communicating either in or out on either border. It looked only at the mining sector.
Charles River Associates looked at a much broader picture and a much broader recommendation. Again, they concluded there was a compelling reason to proceed with the bilateral commission.
Mr. Hardy: I asked one single question, not even about what the minister was babbling on about ó
Speaker: Order please. For the leader of the official opposition to characterize an answer as a babble is inappropriate. Iíd ask you not to do that. You have the floor.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, Iím still waiting for the answer to the question I asked. The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources goes cap in hand to Ottawa to get support for the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition. What does he come back with? An empty cap. Whatever happened to that pipeline as a great economic engine for the Yukonís future, and whatever happened to the promise of full economic partnerships for First Nations? Then we come to one of our all-time favourites, Mr. Speaker: another attempt by this dream-big government to play in the major leagues, the P3 game ó what one person I know calls a ďpricey pig in a pokeĒ. How much more tax money will fall into that bottomless hole before this government admits it is playing out of its league? Let me ask the Acting Premier this: will the government now back away from all its high-stake poker games and spend the next few months asking Yukoners flat out where they want the territoryís economic priorities to be put?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, letís cut to the chase here. Our party ran on a platform to restore investor confidence here in the Yukon, to rebuild the Yukon economy. Since we took office there have been approximately 2,500 more jobs created here in the Yukon. We have the second lowest unemployment rate in Canada today ó from one of the highest in Canada to now one of the lowest. The member opposite might want to take those factors under consideration. At the same time, we have moved forward with funding for the multiplex in cooperation with Canada and the City of Whitehorse. We have looked at a whole series of initiatives across the board, and we are doing the necessary due diligence and ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. The minister has the floor.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Weíre undertaking the appropriate reviews, due diligence and consultation that is necessary to bring any and perhaps all these programs to fruition. Many of them are under consideration. Many of them may or may not come to fruition, but at the end of the day, the whole economy of the Yukon is moving forward. There are more opportunities for the youth in our society today to move into a system where there is opportunity and optimism.
Question re: Pipeline development
Ms. Duncan: I have some questions for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, the minister in charge of dropping the ball on the Alaska Highway project. Shortly after coming to office, the Yukon Party effectively shut work down on advancing the Alaska Highway pipeline. The Yukon Party focused on pitching the Mackenzie Valley project in the Northwest Territories and did nothing to move the Yukon project forward. At the time, I told the government it was a mistake and that Yukoners did not have to accept the crumbs off the table of the Northwest Territories.
Fast-forward two years and the Mackenzie Valley project is in tatters and the Yukon Party has egg on its face. Weíre now playing catch-up. Is the minister now prepared to admit that the Yukon Party strategy has backfired and that Yukoners and the Alaska Highway pipeline project are the worst off for it?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I appreciate the member opposite, but we have to realize where she speaks from. Mr. Speaker, when we took over two and a half years ago, the Mackenzie Valley pipeline and the Alaska Highway pipeline were competing pipelines, according to the government of the day. We changed that ó cooperation with the Mackenzie Valley pipeline and the Alaska Highway pipeline and working within our two jurisdictions to maximize the benefits.
We are working very positively with cooperation in the north on both those projects. There was no such thing as dropping the ball. We moved ahead. The Mackenzie Valley pipeline is experiencing some bumps, but that doesnít mean the Mackenzie Valley pipeline wonít be built, and that doesnít mean the Alaska Highway pipeline wonít be built. It will be built eventually.
Cooperation ó thatís the key word here, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: I would invite the minister to read seven binders full of speeches and press clippings in which I stated repeatedly that the Mackenzie Valley pipeline project was very necessary for the tar sands in Alberta and the Alaska Highway project is very necessary because they both represent a window of opportunity for the north.
The fact is the members opposite and the Yukon Party wonít admit that theyíve made a mistake. The Premier of the Yukon blindly followed the Northwest Territories, and look where it got us: two and a half years invested in the Mackenzie Valley project, a project that is now on life support. Meanwhile the Alaska Highway project has been badly neglected by the government.
Is the minister finally prepared to stand on the floor of the House and offer his full support to the Alaska Highway pipeline project, something he has yet to do?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I appreciate the member opposite. I find it amazing, when we took over two and a half years ago, my department, Energy, Mines and Resources, was responsible for working very positively on the Alaska Highway pipeline. Are we positive about the Alaska Highway pipeline? Letís get real here. And cooperation across the north: weíve done more in two and a half years north of 60 than other governments have done in the past 20 years ó cooperation, not confrontation. We are going to work within our borders to maximize the benefits of both pipelines.
I would remind the members opposite of one little factor too: Energy, Mines and Resources, two and a half years ago, was used as a political tool in lots of reasons too, so letís not get too deep into Energy, Mines and Resources with the member opposite.
Ms. Duncan: Iím sure the member opposite wasnít casting aspersions or suggesting motives on the part of anyone who has held a position in this House, no matter what side of the floor they stand on.
The Yukon Party has in fact devoted more time and more energy to the Mackenzie Valley project than they have to the Alaska Highway project. The facts are there. The Premier has been badly out-manoeuvred by his colleague in the Northwest Territories, and Yukoners and the Alaska Highway project are worse off for it. There is time for the government to act. There is time for them to take a stand. They could start by taking a position and supporting TransCanada PipeLines in their fight to have this project built under the Northern Pipeline Act.
They could take a position on the Alaska Highway pipeline project and on the NPA, the Northern Pipeline Agency. For two and a half years, the minister has been a bystander and refused to get involved. This has to change. Is the minister finally prepared to become part of the solution instead of staying part of the problem?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the question, we have limited input in the Alaska Highway pipeline outside our borders. We have a question about the NPA, and we have greenfields. Those are two options out there, Mr. Speaker. We will have to work with whatever regulatory certainty comes out of Ottawa. Weíre prepared to work with that, Mr. Speaker. We are preparing, with the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition and with the other things weíre doing in Energy, Mines and Resources, to be prepared for whatever pipeline comes through the Yukon, whether it is greenfield or TransCanada, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
†Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee this afternoon is Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06. I understand the Department of Education will be under debate. Before we begin, do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We will continue with Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06.
Bill No. 15 ó First Appropriation Act, 2005-06 ó continued
Department of Education
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I rise in the House today to introduce the 2005-06 budget for the Department of Education. Iím happy to announce that this year the Department of Education is introducing its biggest budget in the territory to date. The 2005-06 O&M budget for Education comes in at $105.5 million while the capital budget is $19.9 million. Thatís more than $125 million invested in education in the territory this year. This is a $13-million increase from the previous Liberal government, which, I might add, cut the Education budget.
Our budget represents very generous average expenditures of $12,383 per student. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all the educators. Without them, we would not have the excellent education system that we enjoy in the Yukon today.
This government recognizes the importance of education, not only for the well-being of students, but for the future of our territory. Education is the foundation for healthy communities and a vibrant economy ó two things this government has prioritized over its term. The 2005-06 budget demonstrates our commitment to education.
I would also like to thank all the staff in the Department of Education for their help in preparing and supporting this budget.
This government is listening to everyone about their needs. Weíve heard from First Nation leadership, school councils, teachers, the Yukon Teachers Association, the Association of School Councils, students and their parents. Everyone has a vested interest in education because education is a primary building block for the well-being of our communities.
As a government, we acknowledge the value of education and we are also aware that education is a lifelong learning process. One is never too young or too old to learn.
Our government supports providing equal opportunities for every citizen in the Yukon to improve their education and personal growth. That is why this government opened YNTEP to the non-native citizens of the territory, because we feel everyone is important, and everyone deserves to get an education.
Education is nourishment for the spirit.
Before I get into the particulars of this yearís budget, I would like to take a few minutes to reflect on some of the successful education initiatives our government has done over the past few years.
One of our many successful initiatives to date is the Individual Learning Centre in downtown Whitehorse that we opened to help youth between the ages of 15 and 21 who had dropped out of school for one reason or another and are interested in re-engaging in school to achieve the requirements to enter post-secondary training or work.
I have been to the Individual Learning Centre myself, and I can attest that it is a very welcoming, flexible environment. The staff at the school tell me that the feedback they are getting from students and parents is very positive. Some parents have approached me to say the school has given their children a second chance. This brings warm feelings to my heart, which tells me we are on the right track in meeting the needs of Yukoners.
We have also allocated money to support students who wish to take a course at their local Yukon College campus to further expand the range of options available for high school completion. This has expanded the education opportunities for students living in rural Yukon. The home tutor program is currently running in Yukon schools, and Department of Education staff members have been working with school councils and First Nations to implement this program. This program is based on a successful pilot project in Old Crow.
Mr. Chair, now to this yearís budget ó Iím pleased to introduce some very exciting initiatives for the 2005-06 operation and maintenance budget. In partnership with Council of Yukon First Nations, we will be launching an education review process. We have allocated $794,000 for this process, which will follow a similar format to the successful Childrenís Act review process and the more recently announced corrections consultation review. We have to ensure that education in the Yukon meets the needs of all Yukoners, and this education review will help us to ensure a system that meets the needs of all students, especially First Nation students. To that end, education review will involve consultations with partners in education so that we can make the Yukon school system even stronger.
In the meantime, we are working in consultation with First Nations to develop First Nation curriculum resources and materials for a land claim unit to be piloted in grade 5 in September 2005.
The 2004-05 budget provided $500,000 in new funding to support the development of First Nation curriculum materials and resources. Under this yearís budget, the government is continuing its commitment to First Nation material and resources in schools. A grade 12 textbook is currently under development. Weíve begun a pilot of the First Voices aboriginal language achieved this November. We are developing kindergarten curriculum for the Kaska language, and we are developing a Yukon First Nation reading series to encourage reading at the kindergarten and grade 1 level. Currently we have plans for seven of these young-reader booklets.
Iím very pleased to announce the extension of our very successful full-day kindergarten program to the remainder of Yukon schools with $600,000 allocated to deliver this program. The intent of the optional full-day kindergarten program is to provide students with the instruction and developmental time they need so that they can approach grade 1 with a strong set of pre-literacy and group learning skills. The full-day kindergarten program is optional. If parents prefer to send students for only a half day, then they have that choice. Full-day kindergarten has been running throughout Canada and North America with great success. It is not an experiment; this programming is well-tested and the results show that children receive a very strong foundation in literacy.
The Yukon government is committing $400,000 ó almost half a million dollars ó to support literacy in this yearís budget. Our government believes that literacy skills are very important to creating healthy communities and a vibrant economy in the Yukon. Literacy is a fundamental building block in life and an essential component of lifelong learning.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all partners in literacy. We have many committed people and groups who are passionate about literacy. Some of the groups that come to mind are Yukon Learn, the Yukon Literacy Coalition, the Learning Disabilities Association of Yukon and many more, too numerous to list. Thanks to all of them.
†The Department of Education will undertake a significant step to improving literacy in the Yukon this year. In the 2005-06 budget, the government will be designating $100,000 to update and develop a comprehensive multi-year Yukon literacy strategy, focusing specifically on improving adult literacy throughout the territory.
In addition to literacy, language and culture are integral to providing a meaningful and engaging learning environment. To help support language and culture, this government is committing $562,000 in this yearís budget to make new language and culture programs available in our schools and to support ongoing commitments in this area.
To increase support for native language in the classroom, the Yukon government is hiring two more aboriginal instructor-trainees with $72,000 designated in the 2005-06 budget. The new trainees will be hired in September 2005, making a total six who have been hired over the past three years. Currently 20 out of 29 Yukon schools offer native language instruction, employing approximately 39 full-time equivalent instructors.
The government also provides annual funding to Council of Yukon First Nations to operate the Yukon Native Language Centre at Yukon College.
Thank you to all who work to preserve our languages. I can tell you that learning your language is a very important part of knowing who you are.
The Yukon government will be providing $305,000 to enhance cultural programming in schools in the 2005-06 budget. This funding will complement the First Nations curriculum materials and resources currently being developed. This funding will be available to schools, in consultation with First Nations and minority groups in the Yukon.
The primary focus of the cultural enhancement in schools will be on First Nation cultural activities, such as bison hunts, moccasin making, carving and beadwork.
To continue the Yukon governmentís support of late French immersion at Whitehorse Elementary, $185,000 has been allocated in the 2005-06 budget. The Yukon government has taken a leadership role in the creation of the late French immersion program at Whitehorse Elementary School and is committed to supporting French language programs in Yukon schools. French language programs and immersion programs have been running at lí…cole …milie Tremblay, F.H. Collins, Whitehorse Elementary and other schools for many years.
As you can see, there are many, many initiatives around literacy, language and culture in this yearís operation and maintenance budget. This government wants to ensure that Yukoners have the skills they need to participate fully in their community and in the workplace.
Thatís why literacy, as well as language and culture, are at the forefront of our planning for education.
This yearís budget will also provide a total of $15.5 million to Yukon College to support our lifelong learners.
The Yukon excellence awards were expanded last year to include math, science and language arts at the grade 10 level.
This year, the awards will be expanded to include social studies at the grade 11 level. $1.5 million has been committed again to the community training funds. The community training funds provide valuable training opportunities for Yukoners to help them take advantage of local economic opportunities. $100,000 is designated for the cost of student grant indexing to support our students going on to post-secondary studies. The cost of living is always going up, and this governmentís commitment to indexing the Yukon student grant on an annual basis will support students to reach their education goals. As you can see, this governmentís budget for the Department of Education includes some exciting new initiatives and continues this governmentís commitment to quality education in the Yukon.
Our capital budget for 2005-06 will also contribute positively to the lives of Yukon students and their families. This government has committed $5.4 million for the building of a new Tantalus School in Carmacks. Construction is slated to begin in 2005. Porter Creek Secondary School will see an expansion and renovations to the existing building. This government has allocated approximately $2.7 million for the Porter Creek Secondary School project, and the Teslin School will benefit from the building of a gymnasium in 2005, with over $2.4 million budgeted for that project.
The 2005-06 budget clearly demonstrates our commitment to education and to the success of students.
Mr. Chair, to sum up some of the newer initiatives within the 2005-06 budget, we have the community training funds at $1.5 million; education improvements at Whitehorse Correctional Centre, $90,000 to $95,000; youth employment strategy, $200,000; expanding course options for high school students, $50,000; literacy strategy, $100,000; Yukon excellence awards, $166,000; student training and employment program, increased wage to $14.40 per hour; student grant indexing, $100,000; FASD school-based on-site training and support for teachers, $117,000; Yukon College training for FASD students, $133,000; full-day kindergarten, which was $300,000, is now $600,000; there is more than $480,000 for the Individual Learning Centre, and this is for youth between the ages of 15 and 21 who are not in school and who wish to go back and complete their education; aboriginal languages, two more instructors, $72,000; development of First Nations curriculum, $500,000; the late French immersion, $185,000; $794,000 for education reform, and this involves work in consultation with Council of Yukon First Nations and the other two First Nations who are not members of CYFN, and this process is right on the edge of going into full force; $305,000 for cultural program activities, something that was of high demand from the schools in the territory wanting to be able to purchase materials to do cultural activities; Tantalus School construction, $5.4 million ó again, this government saw a need for a new school in Carmacks and made it a priority to build one so that it could improve the education and learning for children in the community.
The Teslin School renovations to the new gym ó again, this was the last phase of a three-year project that was started under the Liberal government, and this government continued on with that initiative. The Porter Creek Secondary School cafeteria expansion was a request of the school council and people in the City of Whitehorse, to make improvements to that high school and build a couple of additional classrooms due to a large enrolment number.
The Jack Hulland Elementary School ventilation system of $400,000 was again a request for improvement in air quality that the government will follow through with. Thereís the Vanier Catholic Secondary School ground-source heat pump of $800,000, and school van replacements at $280,000.
So, as one can see, this government has taken a very serious approach to education.
To continue on with some ó there is approximately $4,143,000 that has been put into First Nation funding in the education system.
Finally, I would like to quote a very important message I recently read. It states that children are always the only future the human race has; teach them well. This government takes that quote very seriously and we will continue to do our very best to ensure that education is of the best quality for Yukon citizens.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Deputy Chair, I do have questions in this department. I have listened to what the minister said in his opening remarks. A lot of it is reflected in the budget under line items and dollar amounts and so on. It is a normal speech that any minister would give in opening up the department or any department. This government has also listed a few things that they are doing differently or are new. We have some interest in some of those areas. The minister also said that education was top priority, that he wants to ensure that education is there for all Yukoners, and they are working with First Nation groups and communities in this matter. It seemed like everything is going well, but what the minister failed to say is that he did upset a lot of people in the education system and in communities. The proof was in demonstrations outside of this House, outside of the Legislature ó not once but twice. And the minister didnít have enough in him to go out and meet with the people and talk with the people at the time. They had education issues that they wanted to talk to the minister about. He refused to talk to them. To not face the people is not good on the part of the Yukon Party government. And it wouldnít have taken very much for the minister to go out and address the issues, state what the governmentís positions were to the people demonstrating outside of this Legislature. It was huge; it was a very, very big crowd. Some of the sign messages that they held up were very powerful. Those images will never go away. They are there in the media. They have been in the paper, and it is on the ministerís mind. I know it is, because it is a huge issue.
That just goes to show how this government dealt with one particular community. That particular community had enough organization to come to Whitehorse and demonstrate and, guess what? They had all kinds of support from around the territory. Many different First Nations came forward and took part in the demonstration. It was too bad, because this minister had an opportunity to face the people. Instead, he ran out the back door of this building and jumped in his vehicle and was gone ó this happened twice, Mr. Chair. Yet he says heís committed to communities.
Another thing he said was that there was no need for him to go back to the community of Carmacks to address this matter. Well, the matter hasnít gone away; itís still a big issue. Every one of the members on that side of the House must hear it over and over again. It was to the point where the Premier had to step in, go to the community of Carmacks and meet with the people. I give him credit for doing that; it was a very tough job to do. He heard what the people had to say about education, about the safety of children and about their new school. I think he heard what people had to say but, when he came back to town, this Yukon Party put their foot down and werenít going to move at all on a self-governing First Nationís position or desires.
I was quite surprised he took the views of a local junior government over a First Nation government. Itís unfortunate, because that has created a lot of anger in the community. The one thing I can say thatís positive about the whole thing is the community is much more together on this education issue than ever before.
There still is a demand out there for governments to answer some questions, and they havenít yet. I left this issue alone. The minister said he would deal with it with the First Nation. The Chief of the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation wrote a letter to the Premier and laid it out quite clearly that he would like to have this whole project reviewed, so that any negotiations in the drawdown of education are not jeopardized ó that is negotiations with the federal government and the territorial government.
What the minister is doing ó he said it twice on the floor here ó is continuing with that project. I would really like a clear explanation from the minister about what steps he will take next when it comes to dealing with the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation, the community of Carmacks and the Tantalus School.
What we donít need to hear from the minister is how the school is going to benefit the community. They all know that. The community knows that. They want a school. They have designed it. I donít know if the minister understands this, but there is a lot of First Nation design in that school. They designed the school. The way it was designed fits in with the community quite well. Then the minister decided he was going to step into a process that was working very well ó and be heavy-handed, in my view with the First Nation, saying, ďIt doesnít matter what they say, this minister knows best and heís going to carry on.Ē Thatís a big issue, and Iím hoping the minister could clear up, for example, what he feels the letter from the First Nation to the Premier really means. Iím hoping he can answer that. And where do we go from here?
Is it the status quo or business as usual, the school is going to go ahead and be built, regardless of what the community has to say? Does the community have to say any more in any of the projects that the minister brings forward, if they were to come out and speak loudly and their views are different from the ministerís? What is the minister going to do, take it seriously or just disregard them like he has with the Carmacks school? It is unfortunate, Mr. Chair, that the community has to face that. The minister says about the First Nation, ďThey have the authority to draw down the education under their final agreement; go ahead and do it. Just go ahead and do it. They can do it. Go ahead and do it.Ē He offers no assistance, even though their program objectives clearly state that they will. He offers no help whatsoever. Even though the minister thinks that everything is fine and dandy out there, it isnít. Iíve asked questions in this House, and the minister skates around them. I think itís an opportunity right now for the minister to address these questions up front ó he has some help beside him ó and bring some clear answers to these questions, because these are questions coming from the communities, and I want to take the answers back and not be stonewalled and go nowhere on this matter.
Throughout the speech, I have heard a lot about the ministerís commitment to First Nation education. I would like him to answer some of the school questions, but before that I would like him to answer this one.
It is in regard to the Budget Address that the Premier made in this House. Itís on the bottom of page 27 of his address, and it says: ďWhile self-governing First Nations have the legislative authority to draw down education and serve their citizens, our government believes that the public government system, through education reform, can be adapted to meet their needs as well as serve the needs of other Yukoners.Ē
Can the minister explain how it can be adapted to meet those needs?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iím not going to go on without first making some comments to statements made by the member opposite. For one thing, this minister did talk to a lot of people in Carmacks, unlike the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, who refused to talk to a lot of the non-native people. Some of them made a trip especially to Whitehorse to have questions answered by this government about this governmentís position. I find that rather unfortunate.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Order please. Mr. Fairclough, on a point of order.
†Mr. Fairclough: The minister is clearly in violation of 19(g). I know that youíre probably going to say this is a dispute between members, but I believe that the minister ó
Chair: Order please. Thank you, you have raised a point of order. You are correct; it is a dispute among members.
Mr. Fairclough: How touchy you are, Mr. Chair. Youíre supposed to be neutral.
Chair: If the member wishes to dispute the Chairís ruling, he is well within his responsibilities and his role to raise it with the Speaker. The member, while raising his point of order, pointed out the likely conclusion that the Chair would reach and the Chair did reach that conclusion. Debate can continue, please.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would like to go on to comments made about the protest.
That is a democratic right for anyone. Anyone can protest anything, whether itís right or wrong. Thatís their right.
The member opposite also made the comment that this would stick in the minds of citizens forever. Well, it might, but I know one image that will stick in my mind forever was on the front page of the Whitehorse Star when there was a picture taken of a group demonstrating in Carmacks and using a garbage can in place of a traditional drum. Iíll remember that picture very well because I thought it was very inappropriate.
As a First Nation person, I didnít feel good about that. But thatís all right. Again, thatís the individualís right and the individualís responsibility, and they are responsible for what they do. So that again is another issue I can do nothing about. Itís a democratic right to do those things, and so be it.
I also want to state for the record that there were two meetings in Whitehorse here with the Chief of Little Salmon-Carmacks ó one with the Premier, where he agreed the plans for the school were acceptable, and one with me where, through the discussion, everything was acceptable and there was a handshake when the chief left.
I also met with the Mayor and Council of Carmacks where there was an agreement that the plans were acceptable. So, having said that and having met with the two governments in the community of Carmacks, this government had all rights to go ahead with the plans. I want to say that, in my opinion, I feel as though, as a minister, Iíve had two years of consultation with Carmacks over this school and itís time to create some action here; otherwise there will be no school built there.
I donít believe that, at the hands of the political people, the children in Carmacks should be jeopardized because of new infrastructure such as their school. There was a lot of input from the citizens in Carmacks on the design of the school, and I believe it is a very immaculate infrastructure. I have seen the schematic drawings of the school, and the design looks very, very modern.
With regard to the comment from the member opposite about whether or not itís business as usual, I can confirm today that it is business as usual and the school will be built. With regard to the Tantalus School building project, this government has committed $5.4 million for the building of a new Tantalus School in Carmacks. Construction of the new Tantalus School in Carmacks is due to begin in 2005, and we are very excited about this project. Extensive planning, consultation and discussion will result in a school design that will meet the needs of both the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation and the Carmacks community. I have seen the existing school in Carmacks, and I can tell you that we definitely need a new school for the children. The children are the centre of education, and that is why it is a priority for this government to provide a new school in Carmacks.
I might add, Mr. Chair, that there were many other communities that have wanted the same opportunity as Carmacks, and thatís to build a new school.
This government is committed to providing safe, quality and culturally relevant education environments for all students. To that effect, we have included a multi-purpose space in the design for the new school in Carmacks. This space will be used for cultural programming and community events, as the school and First Nation see fit. It will only be used as a space to house the local branch of the Yukon College if the First Nation believes it is in the best interests of their membership.
What else is the Yukon government doing to ensure that the new school building reflects the needs of the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation? Looking forward to the commencement of the school building project, the advanced education branch of the Department of Education has provided funding for carpentry introduction and level 1 apprenticeship courses in Carmacks.
This government is committed to providing training opportunities for Yukoners so they can take advantage of local economic opportunities. I see the Tantalus School building project as being an opportunity for locally trained people to gain work experience and earn a good wage in the trades. Regardless of what the member opposite states about how opposed people are in Carmacks, I can tell you quite personally that there were a number of people who have said to me they are very pleased that this project is going to go forward and they fully appreciate the design that has been presented.
Talking about the trades, I see the Tantalus School building project as being an opportunity for locally trained people to gain work experience and earn a good wage in the trades. Thatís another very positive initiative about this project ó that it will create much-needed employment in the community.
I have had some First Nation members from Carmacks ask when they can get a job and start working on the school. These are skills that Carmacks residents will have for the rest of their lives, so they will be able to take advantage of other work opportunities that come their way.
This territory needs more workers in the skilled trades, and thatís why we committed money to Yukon College for trades training programs and the community training funds. In addition to trades training, this government is ensuring that the new Carmacks school will meet the needs of the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation by providing funding for increased First Nation programming in schools. This government is committed to ensuring that the school system in the Yukon is not only engaging for all students, but that it is culturally relevant.
This year we announced $305,000 for cultural programming in Yukon schools. This money will focus on First Nation curricular activities, such as bison hunts, moccasin making and other First Nation initiatives.
We are also undertaking education reform in partnership with First Nations. Again, this is a very important project because it will give every First Nation in the territory an opportunity to be involved in what kind of an education system is needed in the Yukon.
In 2004-05, $500,000 was allocated to develop First Nation curriculum materials and resources. A land claims unit will be piloting the grade 5 social studies in September 2005. A Yukon First Nations history 12 text book is currently under development, and this text book will also be available for piloting in September 2005.
Also, an early reader series of booklets is currently under development. These booklets will feature traditional Yukon First Nation cultural activities.
All these materials are being developed in consultation with First Nations. This government has also invested considerable funds in support of First Nation languages in schools. Last year, two new First Nation language instructor trainees were hired, and two more will be hired this year. By the end of this year, the Department of Education will employ a total of six new First Nation language instructor trainees. We see this as an important step toward preserving and maintaining First Nation culture and language.
The First Voices language archive is also something this government has committed funding to in order to help preserve Yukon First Nation languages. First Voices, which is working with some Yukon schools, is a wonderful opportunity to preserve ancient First Nation languages with modern digital technology. Not only will Yukon First Nation languages be digitally preserved for the benefit of generations to come, these languages will be available to anyone anywhere in the world through the Internet. This is particularly important because it means that First Nation people who have moved away from their community and its language can still connect with their cultural roots. First Nation languages are an important part of First Nations culture, and thatís why this government is supporting the First Voices pilot project.
This government is committed to creating meaningful partnerships with First Nations. We understand that Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation has concerns about the placement of Yukon College within the Tantalus School.
For that reason, we have agreed to change the space previously designed as space for the College into a multi-purpose space, which will be available for Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation cultural programs and community events. Through consultation with Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation, through creating capacity in the trades through training programs in Carmacks and through providing for programming that will engage First Nation students, this government is ensuring that the new Tantalus School meets the needs of the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation.
Mr. Chair, you can well see that this government has done an extensive amount of consultation with the citizens in Carmacks.
A statement made by the member opposite is referring to mayor and council as a lower level of government. Well, Mr. Chair, I tend to believe that everybody is important. I do not put people on different levels and treat somebody with less respect because someone thinks theyíre lesser. I believe that the mayor and council have a very important role that they play in the community. Theyíre responsible for the maintenance and the upkeep of the whole community. Certainly this government will listen to both governments.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister is wrong about the Village of Carmacks. Theyíre not responsible for the maintenance of the whole community. Theyíre not.
At one time, the minister said he believed that they had the authority and responsibility for everything for its citizens. That would include education, health care, justice and so on. That clearly isnít the case. So the minister doesnít understand the responsibilities of junior governments ó and they are junior governments. They donít have law-making abilities. They can pass bylaws, but they donít have law-making abilities like First Nations do.
They are only concentrated in communities. They donít have a big land mass to take care of. So, the minister ought to do his homework there.
Itís unfortunate that the minister also took the opportunity to insult people again about a garbage can and so on. If anything, that would be to try and make noise, to try to get the minister to hear the people. It doesnít work. It doesnít work at all.
He describes an image in the paper. Maybe he could have listed some of the things that were said on the signs out there, like: ďDictator Go, Mahsií Cho.Ē People want to be heard. They donít want to be dictated to, like the Premier and the minister have done in that community. They donít want that. I hope the minister understands that. It takes a lot to try to change the mind of the minister.
The process was going well. The community wants the school. The only reason the Yukon Party is building the school there is because of political pressure and the fact that the chairs of the school councils came up with a list of capital priorities, which ended with the school in Carmacks. There were five schools on that priority list, and the chairs of the school councils came up with that.
The New Democrats followed that list, the Liberals followed it and, to this end, the Yukon Party appears to be following it. I would think that this would be far from what they would want to do, since this will be the very first school the Yukon Party ever built in the territory.
Once again, the minister would like to take shots at the people in Carmacks. He basically says all kinds of false things on the floor of this Legislature. In my view, one of them was that I donít talk to the non-native people in Carmacks.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Edzerza, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I donít believe that I intentionally said false things about anybody.
Chair: Order please. Our Standing Orders state that it is out of order to charge another member with uttering a deliberate falsehood that indicates that the member opposite knowingly misled the House and knowingly uttered a falsehood. I would also caution members to the sensitivity in this House toward using terms such as ďhonestyĒ and ďfalse statementsĒ. The Chair must also accept the situation where different members will have different positions on the facts.
There is no point of order here, but I would caution members to again be cognizant of our Standing Orders and sensitive to the fact that people might have a different opinion of the facts as they are aware of them.
Mr. Fairclough: Thank you for your ruling, Mr. Chair. There was no point of order, and I agree with you on that matter. If anything, maybe it was by accident then that the minister said those words about me not talking to non-native people in Carmacks. I mean, how silly would that be? The member opposite heard the call-ins on the radio. He has seen the articles in the paper. People have come forward to me steadily ó to this day; it doesnít end. These are non-native people in that community. I have lots of consultation and contact with them.
Maybe the very few people the member opposite said came to him ó and I can probably name them ó and the member said they couldnít see me. Thatís totally false. There is nothing the minister can say about them trying to call a meeting with me or even talking with me. Everybody has had a lot of access to me when it comes to consultation and community concerns. I raise them on the floor of this Legislature and, when I do, the Yukon Party government side says only we are raising these issues, but theyíre reinforced by others when they do come forward.
Iím pretty disappointed the minister is so narrow-minded to think I would only bring forward issues that are First Nations related. Thatís totally wrong and false. The member has no grounds to stand on with those comments.
Itís unfortunate, but heís going down that road and, if he would like, Iíll bring up more issues in that regard.
He said he met with the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation, and they said yes to the design, contrary to the facts. There were demonstrations outside this House; they did not want Yukon College attached to the school. He said the village council also said yes. Well, my understanding is he gave them five minutes to say yes or no to the College attachment ó five minutes. ďYou have five minutes; make a decision now. If you donít want it, thereís no school.Ē That was the kind of position they were put in. There wasnít the respect there to ask, ďWhy donít you guys come up with a community decision on this matter?Ē It put them in a very difficult position. I donít think they would ever want to go down that road again.
They would like to work as a community but have fallen into this position because of this minister.
The minister also didnít answer my question. He went on for half an hour and didnít answer my question. I asked him this question ó maybe he can concentrate on it again. It is in regard to the budget speech, on page 27 where they say that self-governing First Nations have the legislative authority to draw down education and serve their citizens: ďÖour government believes that the public government system, through education reform, can be adapted to meet their needs as well as serve the needs of other Yukoners.Ē I want to know how because right now First Nations donít even know what is entailed in drawing down education. If the minister has some insight on it, I would like him to answer the question so that we can move on.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This minister is not interested in talking about any more negative issues with regard to Carmacks. I want to totally focus my attitude and my well-being toward the positive side of things.
With regard to the drawing down of education, that falls under the purview of the Premier as he is the one in charge of dealing with any self-government issues, so maybe the member opposite best wait and ask that question to the Premier.
Mr. Fairclough: I guess there may be an opportunity to ask that question. If I ask it to the Premier, I hope he doesnít bump it back to the Minister of Education.
Letís move on. I would like to ask a question about the interests of school councils around the territory in having a first aid course being provided to all Education staff and employees. I would like to know what the department thinks of that, whether they would approve that. I understand itís already done through YNTEP, but there are teachers who donít have this and there are staff members in the schools who donít have first aid.
What is the position of the Yukon government on this?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I thank the member opposite for that question. Itís one that has been brought to the attention of the department. The Department of Education does recognize that there will be occasions when school-based staff may need to administer first aid. At present, there is no requirement for teachers to have first-aid training, except in specialized situations. However, a number of schools have several staff members trained in first aid, and many schools use professional development funds to train and maintain certification of staff in first aid. The department will continue to pursue this topic and will engage the Yukon Teachers Association in discussions on this matter.
For the record, I might add that not every school council is on-board with this request. Itís an issue that is under advisement right now.
Mr. Fairclough: Maybe the minister could commit a bit more than that. Heís committing to talking to the Yukon Teachers Association. There are school staff ó teacher aides and that type of thing ó who are in the schools and watching over the children. What kind of discussion is going to take place? Can the minister maybe give us some timelines when we can find out, I guess, exactly what the position of government is with respect to having first aid required for all Education staff in our schools?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: To start with, it would be a very big undertaking to have first aid for every teacher in the Yukon. At the present time, there are some highly trained first aid teachers who do exist throughout the territory. Discussions are ongoing right now and, again, I canít stress enough how big of an undertaking this would be to move ahead with. There would have to be discussions in the budget area to determine the cost. If it were mandatory, there would have to be a lot of changes to some of the policies and regulations. So the discussions at this point in time are just ongoing.
Mr. Fairclough: I was hoping the minister could give us a date where we can basically see when a decision can be made. I look forward to seeing the results of the meetings between the department and the Yukon Teachers Association on this matter. I know that first aid is part of YNTEP, so those teachers who are coming out of that program have first aid. It is in our own teaching program. The interest is there. I donít think it is as big an issue as the minister says on this matter. But I will leave it at that, and I look forward to more answers from the minister.
I would like to know what is being done about the liability of outdoor education. Iíve asked this question before. I would like to know what progress has been made and what message I can take back to my communities.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The Government of Yukon is self-insured. Since our schools are part of the government, this coverage also extends to them. However, there are circumstances that Education does have special insurance or recommends that individual schools and parents make use of third-party insurance policies. Education requires insurance on all busing contracts, both the daily school bus contract and for any contractors who are hired to transport students as part of the school curriculum or field trips.
We also require that any school that rents a school van for field trips purchase the third-party insurance offered by the rental agency. Thereís also an option for parents to purchase third-party insurance by an independent carrier to cover their children during the normal school year. Students and parents are also recommended to pick up extra insurance when the student travels out of the territory.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister didnít give me assurance that, say, for outdoor education, like a canoe trip, they have liability coverage. Is that the case or are we jeopardizing our children if they take trips like this?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The department is developing a comprehensive field trip policy that will establish clear guidelines for schools planning field trips and outdoor education programs. The policy will support the departmentís goal of continuing to offer outdoor educational opportunities, field trips, outdoor excursions and travel that is safe for all participants. Clear guidelines will provide support to teachers who plan and lead field trips and outdoor learning opportunities.
The policy will provide assurances to parents, school councils and department staff who play a role in providing field trips that there has been effective planning and due diligence in planning and approval of field trip activities. The drafting of this policy began last winter in consultation with administrators and we expect this policy to be in place for the 2005-06 school year.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the minister for that. That was my next question ó the 2005-06 fall start-up of the school year. As soon as itís drafted, I would like the minister to provide us with a copy of that because this has been an issue raised many times with us and with government and so on, and people are interested in seeing this. I would like to talk about the teachers and the fact that theyíre still spending a lot of their money for school supplies. Whatís the government going to do about it? Is there a tax break that weíre looking at for teachers on this matter?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Going back to a previous question very briefly, the students at the present time are covered for insurance. With regard to the last question from the member opposite, the answer is no.
Mr. Fairclough: Okay, no tax breaks, but I also asked what the government is going to do to compensate the teachers.
†Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At the present time there is no plan; however, thatís not to say that this government doesnít recognize that teachers, out of the goodness of their hearts, may from time to time put some money into their classroom or toward their students.
Mr. Fairclough: The government is doing nothing. Basically, it has averaged out to $500 a teacher per year.
I would like to know if the government has a policy on school replacements. The last one we had was with the chairs of school councils. They had five schools listed, and Tantalus School was the last one. If they do, I would like the minister to tell us what the schedule is.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: There isnít one currently in place. If we do update the study, we will be asking for the assistance of school councils again to have a say in the capital funding that is being spent on the individual schools.
Mr. Fairclough: The opportunity to do that just went by, and weíll probably have to wait for another year. Can the minister tell us the time frame before we can see such a schedule and replacement policy?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At the present time, the government cannot give a timeline; however, we will take the member oppositeís question under advisement.
Mr. Fairclough: I would appreciate hearing back once the government does develop a list and policy. I would like to ask about one school, F.H. Collins. What is being done to replace that? Are there any plans for that school that the minister can give us an update on? How many years are left in this buildingís useful life and so on?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At the present time, there are no discussions on rebuilding the F.H. Collins Secondary School. At a meeting that I did attend with them, I stated that the capital projects that are being undertaken right now by this government must be completed before we can move on to another infrastructure.
Mr. Fairclough: This goes to show the importance of having a replacement policy in place in the schedule. I thank the minister for that answer.
I would like to ask him about the graduation rates here in the territory of 57.2 percent. Itís the third lowest in Canada. I would like to know what the department intends to do about that and how we can get that number higher.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, this government, as I stated in my opening remarks, is very interested in ensuring that students have the opportunity for advancing in education. I believe that one of the best examples I can give is the opening of the Individual Learning Centre. Already we have two grads who are coming forward out of that program, and that only opened in February. So again, that initiative really increases the possibilities for students to graduate, and even those ones who may have dropped out of school in grade 8 or 9 now have the opportunity to do some catch-up and maybe re-enter the education system back in F.H. Collins or Vanier High School or Porter Creek Secondary.
Another thing that this government is doing is putting a lot of energy into the literacy strategy. This is very important. I believe this is one of the most important ways of ensuring that citizens in the territory have the opportunity to deal with literacy. Thereís $100,000 allocated to update and implement a new literacy strategy. The government recognizes the need is there.
So when we talk about improving the graduation system, I think it basically falls on a number of areas. I just named three of them and, again, I could go into all the training opportunities that a person has with regard to trades. I think graduation is important, and there has been a great improvement in the number of grads over the last 30 years, especially among First Nation people. I donít have the figures right in front of me today, but I did hear of them a couple of weeks ago. It has increased dramatically which, in my opinion, is proof that the education system is advancing students through the high school.
Mr. Fairclough: Thatís part of the problem; weíre advancing students through without fully graduating from grade 12. It is a bit embarrassing for us in the north having only 57 percent of our students graduating.
Before I go on to other questions, Iíd like to ask a question about another school that youíre interested in, Mr. Deputy Chair. It is the Teslin School. I understand the new gym is being built on there. The department says itís partially on First Nation land. I would like to know how much of the school is on First Nation land. I understand that there is a lease on that land that expires in 2013 or 2023 ó Iím not sure what the date is ó and that the building will be given to the First Nation. I would like to know if that is correct, and also how much of the school is on First Nation land.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The Teslin School is on First Nation land and in perpetuity, until the school is no longer serviceable. The First Nation has made that section of land available for the school, and the only part that is going to be expiring is addressed in the Teslin Tlingit Council land claims, and it expires on June 30, 2013.
Mr. Fairclough: That answer was not very clear at all. The minister said that the whole school is on First Nation land. Letís start with that one, and weíll work from there. The whole school is on First Nation land ó is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Thatís true. There is a small portion of the school driveway that is also on First Nation land, and I believe thatís the part the member opposite was talking about that will be expiring. The date will be June 30, 2013.
Mr. Fairclough: The roadway expires. Then when does the other land lease expire? Is it 2023, and at that time, does the building go to the First Nation?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: It will never expire. Itís there forever, until the school is no longer serviceable.
Mr. Fairclough: The government just renewed the lease with the First Nation. Itís my understanding that it expires in 2023, and at that time the building will be given over to the First Nation. Is that correct, or does the minister not have that information?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The government does have access to that land, as long as the desire for the school is to be kept there. If there was any talk of expiring leases, we would have to get back to the member opposite on that, as we donít have that information.
Mr. Fairclough: As long as there is a desire to have a school there ó and thatís at the call of the First Nation. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The information that we have is that as long as there is a serviceable school, it will continue to stay there.
Mr. Fairclough: That could end next year, Mr. Chair. I know there are not many years left in the lifetime of that school; it was built in the 1950s. Can the minister provide us with the agreement between the government and the First Nation? Itís public information, but can he have that sent to us on this side of the House?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: That information can be sent to the member opposite. The department expects the current school to last at least another 15 to 20 years.
Mr. Fairclough: It must have been well built. Itís the same school, the design and so on, as the Carmacks school.
Iíd like to move on, and I thank the minister for those answers to that question. Itís very interesting in dealing with First Nations here in a different way.
I would like to ask about the Na Cho Nyšk Dun report. I asked a question in Question Period about the working group. Is the working group gone? Is the issue dead now? Whatís the government doing about that? Iím very interested because the report, even though it was done by Na Cho Nyšk Dun, is questioning this governmentís education system. It requires and demands attention by the department. Iíd like to get more of an update on that.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The member opposite is right. It is a report of the Na Cho Nyšk Dun First Nation. This government respects that it is their report.
One initiative this government is taking is to implement the education reforms. Mr. Chair, I believe that is a major step toward addressing some of the concerns that First Nation may have had over the years with regard to education. I believe that this will be a very positive undertaking.
This government is committed to reforming education by making changes to the system that will better meet the needs and aspirations of all Yukoners, particularly First Nations. So the Grand Chief and I are proposing a model similar to the Childrenís Act review and the consultation on Justice. And just recently an all chiefs meeting at Council of Yukon First Nations endorsed the education reform process and supported what this government is doing with regard to education reform. We will build on the information already gathered through the Education Act review process of 1999 and 2001 and will confirm those issues with the partners in education.
This process is not specifically about changing legislation. Rather, it is about vision, about what we want the education system to accomplish.
Itís about identifying whatís getting in the way of meeting our goals and removing those barriers. It is about having the system better meet the needs and aspirations of Yukoners, including First Nations. Concrete recommendations for change will be developed. Changes could be programming changes, administrative changes or changes to the Education Act. I believe that that is quite possibly the most proper and important approach this government is making to maybe address some of the concerns that were in the Na Cho Nyšk Dun report.
Mr. Fairclough: The First Nations canít wait, and I know they are taking an interest in drawing down the education, as they have the ability through their land claims agreement.
I would like to know about the education reform. When is the deadline, and when can we see this come before the public?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This whole process is starting to come on track very quickly now. There was discussion around the guidelines of how it was going to happen. We gave First Nations the opportunity to review and be part of the whole process from the start. We did have a bit of a change that slowed the process down a little bit, because the Grand Chief resigned, and we had the all chiefs committee be our main contact for this process.
So at the present time we are doing work behind the scenes to identify an office. The chair and policy analyst are in the process of being appointed by the First Nation, so as soon as they assign their choices of a chair and policy analyst, then weíll be trying to move very quickly on this initiative. In our next mandate, it may be that weíll get to develop what the recommendations may be.
Mr. Fairclough: I guess thatís dead. The Education Act review is dead. Iíd like to know about the First Nation education funding, or the First Nation department in CYFN. How much is this government putting toward funding that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At the present time weíre having some discussions around that issue. We recently received a request from CYFN and we are looking very seriously at their proposal and hope to have something very quickly here.
Mr. Fairclough: Is the minister saying thereís no funding going toward that right now?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: As I previously stated, it was very recent that we had a request from CYFN. In fact, I believe it was within the last two weeks. At this point in time, the government is going to sit down with the First Nation and come to some agreement in that area.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the minister for that answer. Hopefully, we can get an update from the minister once that happens.
I would like to ask about the school psychologists. I have asked this question in the past. It has been needed in the schools. We have always been short. Can the minister give us an update on that? Are we fully up to speed with all the school psychologists we need in the schools around the territory?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At the present time, there are four school psychologist positions that are filled. The clinical psychologist position was converted to educational psychologist, and that is now filled.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the minister for that. Hopefully, all the schools have all the psychologists they need now.
I will ask about the Mayo school in particular, but it could be expanded to any school in the territory. Over the past number of years, we have been experiencing half positions disappearing from that school. I would like the minister to give me an update on that, and which schools are experiencing a loss of these half positions or full-time positions? I understand that some schools in the rural communities have fewer students than they have had in the past and that a lot of them have moved into Whitehorse. If he doesnít have the information, can he provide it for me?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I can state for the record that there will be no reduction for the school named by the member opposite. We can provide some detail regarding the information he was asking for.
Mr. Fairclough: If the minister can go back maybe about four years ó because I have seen a decline in that information ó I would appreciate it.
I would like to talk about the drawdown of First Nation education. I notice that in the program objectives for most departments there is direction to ensure the implementation of final agreements. I would like to know what is being set up within the department to address First Nation issues as they work toward drawing down education.
I know that Mayo is one of them. They are looking at kindergarten to grade 3. In Dawson City, the TríondŽk HwŽchíin is another one looking at drawing down education, and also the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation. How is the government working as a department to help to address some of the issues that should be addressed? How are they working with the First Nation on this matter?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At the present time, we understand that there are a couple of First Nations that have expressed an interest in drawing down education; however, we believe in a single education system that meets the needs of all children. We would prefer to work with the First Nations to ensure that that happens. But as I have said, the First Nation has the right to deliver this program themselves for their own citizens. We will enter into negotiations with Canada and the First Nations, if that is the route they choose to take.
Mr. Fairclough: In other words, the department hasnít prepared in any way to assist the First Nations in the implementation of their final agreements in this way and draw down the education. I think the minister is too late. The First Nations are moving toward that and that should be fully recognized by the department, and the government should be preparing now instead of when itís too late.
I would like to ask a question in regard to YNTEP. There was lots of controversy over the program being opened up. How has this government evaluated how the program has done in the past and what impacts would it have in the future? Did it meet its objective of why it was set up in the first place?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I guess it would depend on whom one talked to, whether it was negative or positive on opening this program. To date, I would say a very high majority of the individuals I talked to were very pleased that it was opened to the non-native people of the territory. The Yukon native teacher education program was opened to non-First Nations for the first time this past September. There are currently seven First Nation students and six non-First Nation students in the program.
I believe there were eight First Nation students to start with and fortunately we still have seven, and thatís a good thing. Iím very pleased for that.
By opening the teacher education program to a maximum of six seats to non-aboriginal students, the department has an opportunity to train more teachers with knowledge of First Nation history, culture and languages. This will help First Nation students to do better in school and will benefit all our students through increased cultural awareness in the classroom.
In addition, the College and the Department of Education conducted a study on the program. The study reported on the perceptions of the individuals who were interviewed. As a result of this study, the Department of Education and the College will be working together to put in place an action plan to help YNTEP students and graduates gain successful employment.
The action plan will focus on pre-graduation preparation, the school-to-employment transition and the first year of teaching. As we can see, the government was committed to having to pay for all seats regardless if there was one student or if there were 15. So to have 14 students in the course now is, I believe, a plus for any government to talk about.
Mr. Fairclough: Did YNTEP meet its original mandate and has there been any evaluation done by the department?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At this time the department does not have any information on an evaluation study on YNTEP.
Mr. Fairclough: Is there any desire of the minister and the department to do an evaluation of this program?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At this point in time there are no steps toward doing an evaluation on YNTEP. The YNTEP program is in constant discussion with the University of Regina, so I believe that the program is proceeding very well.
Mr. Fairclough: How would the minister know that if he hasnít done an evaluation to look at whether or not the program has met its original mandate? This is what weíre trying to get at. Weíre hoping the minister would do something on that matter.
I have many questions here that I wanted to ask the minister, but Iím going to have to pass it over to others who would like to ask questions on this matter. I would like to know, though, about the Yukonís position. There has been much talk about a university of Yukon. I know the College is not in favour of this. I would like to know what the position of the minister is on that matter, whether there will be any movement to it or is it just talk?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At this point in time the government does not have a position on that issue.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I would like to ask a question about the after-degree program with the bachelor of education. Can the give us an update of whatís happening with that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: With regard to the after-degree program, I know this government has an interest there, and discussions will be continued to explore this initiative. At the present time, there is no definite decision with regard to that particular initiative, but we know that there could be something decided on that in the near future.
Mr. Fairclough: Iím hoping that when a decision is made or there is any movement toward this, the information will be sent to us on this side of the House.
I would like to ask the minister about the student training and employment program. Iíve had many people come up to me and ask me about this program and why it isnít offered to those students who have graduated from a post-secondary institute. Are there conditions that they cannot access this program, or is it set up so that post-secondary students who have graduated cannot access this program?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Before I go on to that one, one comment made by the member opposite was how one would know if the YNTEP was a success. To date, there have been 78 grads: 37 are teaching in the Yukon, 21 are teaching in Whitehorse, 16 are teaching outside of Whitehorse, and 15 were teaching outside of the Yukon, while 19 have found other employment due to their years of education. I would have to say that, by having this number graduate, itís quite impressive because they were able to complete four years of College courses. It certainly isnít a failure.
With regard to the student training and employment program, this is to help students earn money while theyíre in school and go back to school. It provides training on the job so that, by the time the student is finished high school, itís believed they would go on to seek full-time employment and not be competing with STEP students for those positions.
I guess the bottom line is that, when they finish high school, they are expected to go into the workforce.
Mr. Fairclough: Itís not clear to me. My understanding is that post-secondary graduates who are attending school can access this program, but not after they graduate. Thatís what I was hoping to get from the member opposite.
I did ask about YNTEP and the evaluation ó to evaluate its mandate ó and whether or not it reached its original mandate. Thatís what I was getting at with the minister.
At this point in time, I would like to turn it over to my colleague from Vuntut Gwitchin who has a question. I thank the minister for his answers.
Mrs. Peter: I would just like to get some information from the minister on record. Itís regarding my riding of Vuntut Gwitchin.
Every year, at the Chief Zzeh Gittlit School in Old Crow, the CELC at the school there ó the cultural education liaison coordinator ó offers and organizes, along with the teachers, with assistance from VGFN and the North Yukon RRC, a cultural camp for the students, so that the students can have this experience. We feel itís very, very important for them. Not only do they learn the responsibilities of living out on the land, but they learn the most important traits, such as respect. They learn a lot about their personal history. Whether it is because they come from a single parent family, or for whatever reason are not able to have much experience out on the land, this gives the students who donít have this chance at other times a great opportunity.
There have been long-term plans that we have been talking about at the local level for years, and weíd like to look forward to the day when we can implement those plans with the Department of Education. I know when they had the trade fair in Old Crow within the last two or three weeks, there was participation by people who came from, I believe, the Department of Education. They had the wonderful experience of travelling out to the culture camp and experiencing exactly what the students are doing out there. I believe this was very valuable for them.
I attended that culture camp myself two weeks ago when I went home for the weekend. I definitely am in full support of such an initiative and would like to hear from the minister if they have addressed such an initiative with any other schools across the territory, or is Old Crow the first school that has such an idea in place, and how they might go about addressing this kind of very valuable experience for our school.
I believe one of the main and most important parts of this initiative is that we would like to implement this type of cultural experience into our curriculum and have the students be credited for that experience at the end of the school year so they are not docked for the time theyíre absent from the school.
I believe while they are out on the land, theyíre able to work along with their parents or guardian to address their academic studies.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I can assure the member opposite that Iím well aware of the fact that any outdoor activities are very important and are educational. Iím also aware of the fact that a lot of the activities that First Nations consider education are in a cultural clash with the conventional system of education and sometimes, according to the parameters that are set out in the education process, are valued differently from other initiatives.
At this point in time, there are discussions being held with the Vuntut Gwitchin education group, and the camp is part of that discussion. So there are discussions in progress right now to look at some of the requests the member has made.
With regard to culture camps, I know that in the City of Whitehorse there are culture camps, like at Fish Lake, for example. I know of a couple of different schools in the Whitehorse area that go to Fish Lake and attend a cultural camp held by elders of Kwanlin Dun. They have done such initiatives as learning how to set a fish net, hiking in the mountains and identifying plants that First Nations use for medicine. They have also gone out on berry-picking excursions to learn where the different berries grow ó what kind grow above the treeline, which ones are along the treeline.
So there are culture camps that happen throughout the territory, and I want to say to the member opposite that Iím going to try very hard next spring to go to Old Crow Flats at this time of year, because I have heard many good things that take place at Old Crow Flats. Members of the department did go there this year and found it very educational.
As I stated earlier, there are discussions taking place with the department on how they can be involved in a culture camp.
Mrs. Peter: I would also just like to state for the record that the minister is referring to other culture camps. I just want to state very clearly that Iím asking this question specifically for Vuntut Gwitchin. I know there are culture camps around the territory, and I donít want to confuse anything here for the minister. I just want to state for the record that we do have some long-term plans for Old Crow, and I just wanted to hear the ministerís input.
Also, I heard earlier during his debate with my colleague from Mayo-Tatchun about the education reform and how that is, I believe, right now at a standstill. That whole process, Mr. Chair, is costing, I believe, the taxpayers money. Iím not sure what the amount is right now. However, in order to move forward with these initiatives and if there are changes at the leadership level that are going to impact these processes, wouldnít it be wise for the minister to have other ways to address that? It seems that we move forward two steps and then we have to take four back. At the end of the day, we donít get anywhere. The education reform has been trumpeted by the Premier and this Yukon Party government, and I believe others might see it replacing the Education Act review process.
So which of the two is more important? I believe that any initiatives we undertake for the betterment of the students and trying address the issues at the community level ó such as crediting students who are having an experience of their lifetime out on the land and learning part of their culture, learning a value system that maybe theyíre missing ó will give them the full self-esteem and the foundation that theyíre looking for so that they can have a more solid foundation when they have to come to school in Whitehorse. Those kinds of initiatives should be addressed.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I can assure the member opposite that the education reform process is not going to interfere with working with her community of Old Crow. I will also state that the member is entitled to an opinion on where the member sees the education reform process, but itís not at a standstill; thatís for sure. I think itís fair to say that there have been concerns with education and First Nations since mission school days. This goes back to the 1800s. I believe that whether itís this government or any other government that might be in power, this is not a process that will be fixed in one mandate. Itís impossible. I believe it will be an ongoing process. The education reform is a vehicle to initiate discussions on a different process.
Even that will probably be ongoing. Things may be put in place today that might address some of the major issues; however, another 15 or 30 years down the road, things will probably change again.
Ms. Duncan: Iím pleased to enter into debate with the Minister of Education and welcome back the officials who are providing support information. Iím not sure if itís the first time for some of the officials, but welcome. This is an interesting place to be.
Iíd just like to follow up briefly on this idea of outdoor education, cultural camps and some of the field trips for a moment with the minister, if I might. Itís anecdotal, but Iíll try to be very succinct.
Weíre all products of our background when we come here. We come with information. As the minister and his officials know, I was very, very involved with the Girl Guides organization, both locally and nationally. First of all, it is an organization that has a very strong outdoor program and a very strong set of policy organization rules and a set of safety standards. A terrible tragedy occurred a couple of years ago at one of their camp facilities in Ontario. As a result of that, the guiding organization had to seriously go through all their safety plans, procedures for how field trips are reviewed, and all the processes by which a guider will take out a unit. Itís called ďThe Safe GuideĒ instead of the policy organization and rules.
I know, having grown up here, having been educated here and raising children here, we have tremendous opportunities for outdoor education opportunities, including the cultural camps. I know of a grade 5 class thatís going out to Fish Lake. Iím not sure if theyíre going to be attending the camp the minister mentioned or not. I certainly hope so, and I hope thereís an integration of the camps, that there is that opportunity. Thatís point 1.
Point 2 ó I raise this story with the minister, not because I want to wrap our children in Saran Wrap and protect them from everything, but Iím concerned, having read that, that one of the most well-respected organizations in the world can have things go wrong.
I would not want to see us, as Yukoners and as the Yukon government, not keep abreast with safety procedures with respect to our outdoor education. I am not suggesting in any way, shape or form that we limit the opportunities; I just want to be sure that weíve done everything we can and should do in terms of our policies and procedures.
I have a couple of suggestions for the minister. I am happy to share the information with the officials. I can send over the articles and the information that Iíve gathered. I apologize for not sharing it with my local school principal first; neither of us has had time to do that. Or he can perhaps advise me that the department is already undergoing these reviews on an ongoing basis. I just wanted to flag that issue for the minister and ask if he is aware of it, and if there is anything I can do to help. Or, if he just wants me to share that information in greater detail with officials, I would be pleased to do so.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I think probably everyone on the floor of this Legislature would be very concerned that field trips are very safe and that there is good supervision. If the member opposite would like to share some of that information, I believe that the department is in the process of developing a policy. It may be something very valuable. But we are personally reviewing the field trip policy and we would welcome any input.
Ms. Duncan: I stress that Iím not suggesting that we curtail field trips or attendance by students outside of the classroom; I just want to ensure that we are doing everything we can do and should do in this regard.
The Member for Vuntut Gwitchin was asking about the educational reform project undertaken by the department. I would like the minister to just provide greater detail on what the terms of reference are, who will be serving on this project, how is the budget amount of $726,000 intended to be spent and what product will we have at the end of it?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: To start with, the budget for this process is $794,000. The department has appointed its chair and a policy analyst person and, at the present time, weíre waiting to have the chair and policy person from CYFN appointed.
There will be an independent office space rented for this particular process on education reform. A lot of the dollars will be spent on travelling to the different communities and gathering information. However, until the committee is identified ó the terms of reference will be drafted by those individuals.
Thereís also an executive committee comprised of me, as minister, the chair of the Chiefs Committee on Education, an individual from Kwanlin Dun who has been appointed and one from Liard First Nation who will be appointed.
Scheduled meetings will happen between the executive committee to be updated on where things are with the chairs of the working committees. It is still in progress right now, and I am hoping that within the very near future the Council of Yukon First Nations will identify their individuals, and we will be able to move on with this process.
Ms. Duncan: Who is the chair of the educational reform?† The minister said that the government side has named theirs, and theyíre waiting to hear from the Council of Yukon First Nations. A committee has been identified and independent office space. Who serves on the executive committee? Thatís question 1.
Question 2: who is the chair named by the government? Did I hear the minister correctly that weíre going to name the chairs and name the executive committee, and theyíre going to decide the terms of reference? That seems a bit backwards to me. Clearly you know what you want the committee to do before you name the committee. It seems a bit odd. And perhaps when the minister elaborates on it, he could tell how the educational reform ties in with the Education Act review?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I guess Iíll clarify for the member opposite that terms of reference have been established and agreed to by the government and the Council of Yukon First Nations. What is happening now is that the government and the Council of Yukon First Nations have to appoint the chairs and the policy people. So once that is in place, the government will be able to provide the member with the terms of reference.
Ms. Duncan: I do not understand why we canít have the terms of reference if they have been agreed to by the Government of Yukon and CYFN. We donít need to wait until the chairs are named. Thereís no reason we shouldnít be able to get the terms of reference. Will the minister supply us with the terms of reference and then we can wait with bated breath for the announcement as to who the chairs are?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At this point in time, I can let the member opposite know that I will take her request under advisement.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate that by the minister and, hopefully, weíll see those terms of reference sooner rather than later. When does the minister anticipate CYFN naming the co-chair?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I can advise the member that weíre hopeful itís going to be in the very near future.
Ms. Duncan: That sounds a lot like weíll get the information in due course. Is there a time frame when itís anticipated the report will be concluded? Weíve got terms of reference. Do we have a time frame? We have a budget. Hopefully, weíll have co-chairs soon.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I can say with great confidence that itís probably going to take approximately two years, so it will be part of our next mandate.
Ms. Duncan: Well, thereís an expression about the best of British luck, but I wonít use it.
I canít see getting a great deal more information about the educational reform project. Where does it tie in with the Education Act review? The Education Act review, like it or not, was required by law. There was a great deal of information available to the minister. There was a dissenting report. There was information. There are issues in the Education Act. Some minor ones were addressed; we were able to address those during our term in government, but there were some others that need to be addressed and arenít being touched because of this broader Education Act review requirement. Where does education reform tie in with the Education Act review and where is the Education Act review?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: With regard to the Education Act review, the education reform process will build on information that has already been gathered through the Education Act review process. That information will be used. Itís not just going to be discarded and thrown away.
†There were grave concerns by First Nations about the Education Act review. I believe that is one of the main reasons why the Education Act review wasnít pushed through this government.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the Education Act review is required by law. So, is there a legal opinion? Has the department sought a legal opinion that says that the work done on the Education Act review is compliant with the Education Act, as it stands now, or that more work is required?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The member opposite is right; it is law to review the Education Act. To the best of my knowledge, it doesnít state that you have to implement any changes. The Education Act was reviewed.
With respect to education reform, as I stated earlier, this government is committed to reforming education by making changes to the system that will better meet the needs and aspirations of all Yukoners, particularly First Nations, because they were the ones who really had major concerns about what was recommended in the Education Act review.
Chair: Order please. Weíve reached our normal time for an afternoon recess. Do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will break for 15 minutes.
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
We will continue with general debate on Vote 3, Department of Education.
Ms. Duncan: I would just like to ask the minister about the all-day kindergarten program. The difficulty that I have with the all-day kindergarten program was the lack of consultation. I had the opportunity to review Hansard. The minister and I have talked about this before, before the program was implemented, and I flagged this as a concern. All-day kindergarten is definitely an option for some children. Itís not necessarily going to be the answer for everyone. One of the problems I have is that the all-day kindergarten program, for example, was announced without consultation. There was no consultation with school councils; there was no consultation with the Yukon Teachers Association, and there was no consultation with parents or childcare providers. All those individuals are very concerned about the program. I understand it has its strong points; it has its merits; it has its other side as well. The issue for me was the lack of consultation.
I would just like to highlight for the minister that phase 1 of all-day kindergarten, beginning September 2005, is at both Jack Hulland and Holy Family Elementary. So by insisting that both Jack Hulland and Holy Family have all-day kindergarten, the minister removed the options for parents in Porter Creek. It is not an option ó itís either all-day kindergarten or no kindergarten.
It is not an option to go for half the day. I have it from the teachers. The Minister of Education is looking very surprised. Itís not an option. Kindergarten is an option, but what parent doesnít want their child to succeed? We all do. We want the best for them. Of course weíre going to enrol them in kindergarten. But all-day kindergarten without consultation was a misstep by the minister. There should have been some consultation, and there hasnít been.
I would strongly encourage the minister to step up the efforts to work with the parents and childcare providers. They are very concerned about this initiative. I know that the schools have gone the extra mile and hosted information nights for parents, but it was after the decision was made.
I am expressing the frustration as it was expressed to me by parents. I certainly know when enrolling children in kindergarten that every child is different. There needed to be some consultation and there wasnít. I would like the minister to outline for the House precisely the amount of additional resources dedicated to schools to provide this programming. What additional education assistance will there be? There are certainly additional capital resources being provided to one of the schools, but what additional resources in terms of teaching and supplies for the classroom is the department going to ensure will be provided?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe we did have this discussion a few times, and my position hasnít changed any. The member opposite appears to have people who can go and talk to that member. However, I have not heard any rejection of full-day kindergarten. As a matter of fact, when I attended the Yukon Teachers Association meeting on the weekend, there was quite a roar of approval when I announced that we will implement full-day kindergarten in every school this September.
Again, this government does listen to the public at large. We heard the request that they would like to see full-day kindergarten implemented in every school this year and not to do it in two phases. So I took it back to my colleagues, and we agreed that we will listen to the public and open it in every school.
Contrary to what the member opposite is stating about full-day kindergarten not being optional, it is. You can send your child for half-days or you donít even have to send them. Thatís your choice. Thatís the way it was set up, and thatís the way it will remain.
Ms. Duncan: I encourage the minister to go back and check that with the principals because that is specifically not what was stated at the Jack Hulland school council meeting. It is not an option to go for half a day. Itís an option whether or not to attend kindergarten, but itís not an option to go for half a day.
Itís a full-day program, and the announcement was, bang, made. There was no opportunity for parents. School council was advised that itís coming up for discussion, and then they read it in the newspaper. There was no ďletís have a couple of meetingsĒ with the opportunity for parents to talk about it, for parents to kick around the idea of phasing it in over time. The minister has a certain set of results and thatís it.
The concern for me, and the concern for everybody in this House, is the children. Whatís the right thing to do for the children? Not every child is able to cope with a full-day kindergarten program. The minister says that he doesnít hear from the parents. I know for a fact that some parents in my riding phoned the ministerís office on this and they are not happy. They perhaps could be persuaded that all-day kindergarten is a good idea, but they want to feel that theyíve been heard, that there has been some consultation, and there wasnít on this issue. I am not in any way, shape or form suggesting that that was the departmentís responsibility; it was the ministerís, and it is the minister who is to blame for this. Speed up, weíre going to make an announcement. Itís all about the big splash as opposed to doing their homework.
I would like to ask the minister about the teaching levels in our current education system, Yukon-wide. How many retirees do we have this year? Whatís the current status of the hiring protocol? Is it on the backburner? Is it changed as suggested? Itís the cause of a great deal of controversy and concern among the teaching community. Whatís its current status? Could the minister indicate what increased level of educational assistance will be in place in our Yukon schools as a result of the increased funding in the budget?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: To start with, there has been no change to the hiring protocol. Itís still as is.
With regard to the full-day kindergarten, again I must state for the record that, when I did tours of all the schools, there were several requests for kindergarten to be provided in different schools. The constituents in my riding of McIntyre-Takhini they were all very pleased that the kindergarten took place at Elijah Smith.
So I guess itís more or less a question of the individual as to whether or not kindergarten is valuable; however, this government feels it is. With full-day kindergarten, students will have a balance of teacher-directed instruction and child-focused activities. Full-day kindergarten programs have been running throughout Canada, and they have all proved to be very beneficial.
As I stated before, and Iíll say it again, full-day kindergarten is a completely optional program. Parents can choose to send their child for only a half-day or not at all.
With respect to the question asked by the member opposite about the number of teachers this will involve, that would be 7.4 additional teachers.
Ms. Duncan: Iím just going to ask the minister, when we adjourn debate today and over the next while, if he would just reflect upon the comments in Hansard of May 3, 2004, a year and two days ago. I raised this issue of all-day kindergarten with the minister then, and I said Iíd like the parents to know they have the flexibility of a half-day program at another school in the Whitehorse area, because an all-day program might be offered in their catchment area and half-day at another.
It varies with the child. The minister said, at that time, if a child is having difficulty attending full-time kindergarten, there must be avenues to look at to accommodate the child. The minister closed the avenue by insisting on a full-day kindergarten program without consultation for both the Porter Creek elementary schools.
We are going to agree to disagree. Of course kindergarten is optional. I use the word lightly, because itís not truly optional.
The minister said there would be an additional 7.3 teachers. Is that strictly with respect to the kindergarten programming or is that an overall increase in the Yukon education system of seven teachers?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, that number of teachers is for kindergarten only.
Ms. Duncan: How many retirees are we anticipating this year? The department knows already. The staffing is usually done by March 31. Like the school calendars, that could be on the ministerís desk. How many retirees and how many new hires are we anticipating? Whatís the end result at the end of the spring staffing action?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: We can provide the member opposite with that information.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you. If I could get that information sooner rather than later, I would appreciate it.
Could the minister also indicate ó Iím looking for all the numbers. How many EAs do we have? How many retirees are there? How many teachers are anticipated in the fall of this year?
I would like to go on record, Mr. Chair, of recommending to the department that education and the teaching profession be included at our job fairs. At Porter Creek and F. H. Collins, we have seen a number of job fairs. We go Outside ó Outside with a capital ďOĒ ó to recruit teachers. We also need, I think, to do some more recruiting within the Yukon.
I was quite surprised to hear the numbers for YNTEP ó 78 graduates but only 37 teaching currently in the Yukon. Is there any anticipation to any further changes to YNTEP, or is there any consideration by the department to offer a bachelor of education after-degree program through Yukon College?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: It appears that every time the member opposite stands up to confirm the list, a few more things are added on to it. If it continues, I may have to take all of it under advisement. However, weíll do our best to get the information we agreed to.
With regard to the teacher degree program, at this point in time the government feels that YNTEP is really sufficient.
Ms. Duncan: We havenít seen ó and itís probably not due until the fall. But last year we had the annual schools education branch, public schools report.† Iím not sure when itís tabled. In the last one, four out of 29 Yukon schools were designated as active living schools ó only four out of 29. Thatís from our debate in 2004, I believe. What is the current figure? Given the increase in childhood obesity and initiatives, including a motion by the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, I believe, on limiting the availability of junk food in schools, whatís the current status on the number of active living schools in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: All Whitehorse schools, both secondary and elementary, have been trained to deliver the active life skills physical education curriculum. In rural communities, all schools have at least one staff member who has been trained to deliver the active life skills physical education curriculum.
As of November 2004, 11 of our schools have been designated active living schools. In addition, the experiential programs promote primarily outdoor activities and support active living. This includes the ACES program ó Achievement, Challenge, Environment, Service ó and the OPES program ó Outdoor Pursuit/Experiential Science. Yukon food for learning program provides funds to support healthy snacks and breakfasts in 23 out of 28 schools.
Ms. Duncan: Buried in the answer that the minister gave, yes, the training is one thing, and having professional educators trained is one thing. Having the school subcribe to an active living philosophy is different than necessarily having the trained staff available. Itís a philosophy of the school where, regardless of what is happening or what the weather or what the facilities, we are all going to be physically active for an hour, or whatever it is, a day. It might be a 45-minute period, Iím not sure.
And what I heard the minister say is that weíve gone from four out of 29 to 11 out of 29. Thatís progress. Is the department actively encouraging all 29 schools and providing them the resources to do that? I understand the training. And the food for learning is another important element of our efforts for a healthy lifestyle, and a hot lunch program that was discussed yesterday is another option.
Given that there are, according to the Premier, 784 million reasons why we should all be supporting this budget, what are the millions of reasons in the Department of Education with respect to active living, healthy lifestyle and food for learning ó what are the dollar figures of initiatives in that particular area?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The short answer is yes, this is encouraged in the schools. There is no specific amount attached to this initiative. I would say that the responsibility lies an awful lot with the parents also. How many of us stop and buy our children junk food? How many really do? How many send it to school? I think weíre all guilty of that.
Ms. Duncan: Iím going to plead not guilty to that, because I follow the garbage-free lunch and the healthy snacks. And yes, my children are physically active, and they also attend one of the active living schools, Iím proud to say.
A couple of comments with respect to capital planning and capital expenditures by the department ó this may be in O&M as well: next year, it seems to me that we have a very large conference of teachers ó the annual YTA conference is next school year. What resources has the department dedicated to assisting with that conference? Is there any discussion of bringing up a guest speaker, such as we did a few years ago ó a speaker such as Barbara Colorosso, who has done some landmark work on bullying, or some other speaker?
The reason Iím suggesting that is because that particular individual was made available to the community as a whole. I donít know what the theme of the conference is next year, but in light of initiatives ó all-party initiatives with respect to substance abuse ó is there perhaps the thought of bringing up a speaker who could be of benefit, not only to the YTA conference, but to the greater community as a whole?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The answer to whether there is a conference here next year is yes.
With regard to guest speakers, we will take that under advisement.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it seems like Iíve provided a lot of advice to the minister this afternoon.
Regarding the capital budget, I have noticed with great interest that there has been great fanfare about the Porter Creek cafeteria upgrade. However, I was quite surprised when I learned from the tendering forecast that was issued that, in fact, the government has no intention of doing anything for the Porter Creek cafeteria until 2006. Itís not even going to be tendered until 2006. Now, I double-checked and Iím told that my information is correct. So, weíre going to wait until the very tail end of this budget, March 31, and if the money is actually left, the tender will be let. Is the school council aware of that information? Is the minister aware that that is the intention ó not actually expending the money or making the additions over the summer, which is required? They have talked about it for three years. It has been two years that we have debated this budget item. The Porter Creek cafeteria expansion has been promised and committed to, but in fact itís not going to happen this year.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I can relate to the member opposite that there have been delays in going forward with this project; however, that money is earmarked for the project and it will get done.
Ms. Duncan: Will the minister confirm for the record that this tendering forecast is correct and that the Porter Creek school cafeteria addition tender will not be released until April 2006? Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I donít have that information right now, but I will get that information and verbally let the member opposite know about it.
Ms. Duncan: Perhaps he could just ask his colleague behind him there. Government of Yukon tendering forecast, April 2005 ó I happened to read this document as Iím frequently asked by contractors about it, and this is dated April 19, 2005, Highways and Public Works, Property Management Agency, Porter Creek Secondary School cafeteria addition, Whitehorse, estimated tender date: April 2006. I have a little handwritten note: ďIs this a typo? Please check.Ē The government crows about it in this budget but they donít intend to even tender the project until after theyíve called the election.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: As I stated earlier, I will check that information out.
Ms. Duncan: I would just like to follow up on one final question with regard to the capital planning for the balance of the Yukon schools. Weíve had the rural schools study. Thereís poor Grey Mountain with its approaching 40-year-old portables. And I apologize to those who are approaching 40 or who may have hit 40.
The problem is that these studies are old and there are several schools, particularly in the Whitehorse area, that are badly in need of replacement. There is no capital planning money allocated for F.H. Collins replacement. Thereís no capital planning money allocated for replacement of Whitehorse Elementary School.
There is no capital planning money for the replacement of Takhini. All of those are very old structures. Whitehorse Elementary is the oldest in the Yukon, I believe, or one of the oldest schools. Weíve spent capital money on these schools, but they are in need of replacement. What are the ministerís plans? What is on the books now for planning money for replacing these schools and even for study money to have a look at it?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The simple answer to that is those are some of the issues within Education that we are certainly going to look at in our next mandate.
Mr. Fairclough: I have a final question for the minister in regard to the hiring of principals. I know I have asked this question of the department before, and I havenít really got a straight answer, so I would like perhaps the minister to answer this question. Iíve had people raise concerns about the policies and procedures and guidelines in hiring principals. There seemed to be nothing there in the department to guide them through this. What I have been referred back to is the guidelines and so on that have been used for hiring teachers. I would like to know whether the government is developing guidelines for the hiring of principals; and what are they to fall back on, for example, if they were rejected or shortlisted in the hiring procedures, because there is nothing there so far?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Chair, it is actually the school councils that are involved with the hiring of the principal, and that is right in the Education Act.
Mr. Fairclough: Part of the problem is, if I ask the department the question, because ultimately theyíre involved with the principal and the superintendent or the director, they fall back to the policies and procedures and so on that they follow when hiring teachers. There is nothing for the principals. If they were to appeal a process for being shortlisted or whatnot, there is nothing for them to follow properly. What I am asking is for the minister to look into this matter, talk to the department about it, and get back to me about what changes can take place and how we can improve this portion for those who are interested in the position of principal.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I thank the member opposite for his concerns. I will take his recommendations under advisement.
Mr. Fairclough: We donít have any more questions in general debate. We do have some questions in capital. I would request the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all lines in the Department of Education under operation and maintenance expenditures cleared or carried.
Unanimous consent re deeming all lines in Vote 3, Department of Education, operation and maintenance expenditures, cleared or carried
Chair: Mr. Fairclough has requested the unanimous consent of Committee of the Whole to deem all lines in Vote 3, Department of Education, operation and maintenance expenditures, cleared or carried, as required. Are you agreed?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: There is unanimous consent. That concludes the operation and maintenance portion.
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Education in the amount of $105,464,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Chair: For membersí convenience, we are now referencing page 7-4. Do members wish to proceed with line-by-line debate of the capital budget?
Mr. Fairclough: Yes, Mr. Chair, we will proceed in that manner.
On Education Support Services
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $117,000 agreed to
On Prior Yearsí Projects
Prior Yearsí Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
Total Education Support Services in the amount of $117,000 agreed to
On Public Schools
On Facility Construction and Maintenance
On Vanier Catholic Secondary School Ė Ground Source Heat Pump
Mr. Fairclough: I just have one question. All these lines are to do with upgrades and replacements in schools and so on. What I donít see in here is a question Iíd like to ask: what steps is the minister taking toward planning the proposed new school in Burwash Landing?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At the present time, there are no immediate plans to construct a new school in Burwash. Students in the Burwash Landing-Destruction Bay area currently attend school at Kluane Lake School in Destruction Bay. I would put on the record that I am having discussions with my colleagues about this very issue, and talks are still continuing.
Mr. Cardiff: I just have a couple of questions, basically to do with public schools in this area.
I raised this issue with the minister previously about access to the roof at Golden Horn Elementary School. I understand that the department has put cameras on the roof to monitor what goes on up there, and I canít remember what the figure was that they spent on that roof. It was in the neighbourhood of a couple of hundred thousand dollars I think. The issue is that itís my belief that itís still possible for people to get up on the roof, and what was happening before was that they were skateboarding and riding their bicycles, so thereís an issue of, one, damage to the roof and, two, itís about public safety and the safety of the children or teenagers who are getting up there. Iím wondering whether or not that concern has been addressed. I asked the minister about this two years ago, April 7, 2003.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: About all I can add to what Iíve said to the member ever since the questions started on this is that the department is still searching for ways to keep the children off the roof. I can say to the member opposite that we all know children. If thereís a way to get up on something, theyíll find it. Other than putting barbed wire or high-voltage fences up, I think weíre always going to have a concern here. The cameras are there and that is one way of at least being able to identify which children are getting on the roof.
Mr. Cardiff: The problem is that thatís a little late. You go in and you check the tapes the next morning, and oh, there was somebody up there. Maybe they put their coats over the camera, I donít know. It is a safety issue and I think that if the department looked into it, they could find somebody who was creative enough to find a way.
Heís right. Thatís how I found out about how people were getting on the roof, the methods of how they were getting on the roof. I went and asked the kid, ďHow do you do it?Ē Iím sure if the department went and found the right young person that they would show them how they do it and they could come up with a way to address that.
One other concern that was raised with me just in the last couple of weeks by a couple of parents at Golden Horn Elementary School is the condition of the driveway at Golden Horn Elementary School, and I checked with people at the school and they apparently have made this concern known to the Department of Highways and Public Works, but they were also told that it would probably be a month before anything is done. School is out in five weeks. It would be nice if something could be done to improve the driveway for the last five weeks of school for the staff and the parents who are accessing the school.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: To confirm for the member opposite, he is right with regard to the school in Golden Horn that getting on the roof is a safety issue. There is damage done occasionally. The cameras are not the only initiative that the department is looking at, but they are also actively trying to find ways to correct this issue.
With regard to the driveway, the department will look into that.
Vanier Catholic Secondary School - Ground Source Heat Pump in the amount of $800,000 agreed to
On Teslin School Renovations/New Gymnasium
Teslin School Renovations/New Gymnasium in the amount of $2,415,000 agreed to
On Porter Creek Secondary School - Cafeteria Expansion/Renovations
Porter Creek Secondary School - Cafeteria Expansions/Renovations in the amount of $2,650,000 agreed to
On Site Improvement and Recreation Development
Site Improvement and Recreation Development in the amount of $400,000 agreed to
On Soccer Field Replacements/Upgrades
Soccer Field Replacements/Upgrades in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Tantalus School Replacement
Tantalus School Replacement in the amount of $5,400,000 agreed to
On School Initiated Renovations
School Initiated Renovations in the amount of $150,000 agreed to
On Whitehorse Elementary School Upgrade
Whitehorse Elementary School Upgrade in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
On Special Needs Infrastructure
Special Needs Infrastructure in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Various School Facilities Renovations
Various School Facilities Renovations in the amount of $175,000 agreed to
On Jack Hulland Ventilation System Upgrade
Jack Hulland Ventilation System Upgrade in the amount of $400,000 agreed to
On Indoor Air Quality
Indoor Air Quality in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Capital Maintenance Repairs
Capital Maintenance Repairs in the amount of $700,000 agreed to
On Facility Management Agreement
Facility Management Agreement in the amount of $1,370,000 agreed to
On School Painting Program
Mr. Fairclough: Could I just ask for a breakdown on that line item?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The projects planned for 2005-06 are: Christ the King Elementary interior painting, $10,000; Jack Hulland Elementary interior painting, $30,000; Porter Creek Secondary exterior painting, $60,000; Porter Creek Secondary interior painting of the gym, $15,000; St. Elias exterior painting, $35,000; Takhini Elementary exterior painting, $45,000; Vanier School interior painting of corridors, $15,000; Watson Lake Secondary exterior painting, $40,000; Whitehorse Elementary exterior painting, $30,000; Wood Street Centre exterior painting, $20,000; for a total of $300,000.
School Painting Program in the amount of $300,000 agreed to
On Prior Yearsí Projects
Prior Yearsí Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
††††††† On Instructional Programs
††††††† On Distance Education
††††††† Distance Education in the amount of $224,000 agreed to
††††††† On School-Based Equipment Purchase
††††††† Mr. Fairclough: Maybe we can ask the minister for a breakdown on this. Iím interested in any furniture. It does say ďschool-based equipment,Ē but sometimes furniture is part of that. Iím more interested in that than whether computers or whatnot are being purchased.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The funds distributed to the school level of $315,000 will be left up to the schools to decide on. There is: school photocopier replacements of $75,000; experiential programming equipment, $20,000; industrial arts equipment safety upgrade of $15,000; totalling $425,000.
School-Based Equipment Purchase in the amount of $425,000 agreed to
On School-Based Information Technology
School-Based Information Technology in the amount of $589,000 agreed to
On School Van Replacement
School Van Replacement in the amount of $280,000 agreed to
On Special Education Equipment
Special Education Equipment in the amount of $75,000 agreed to
On School Replacement Furniture - Local Manufacture
School Replacement Furniture - Local Manufacture in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On School Support - Facilities and Information Technology
School Support - Facilities and Information Technology in the amount of $435,000 agreed to
On Prior Yearsí Projects
Prior Yearsí Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
Total Public Schools in the amount of $17,288,000 agreed to
On Advanced Education
On Yukon College Capital
Yukon College Capital in the amount of $750,000 agreed to
On Community Training Fund
Mr. Fairclough: May I ask for a breakdown on that, please?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: These agreements are all funding: Bringing Youth Toward Equality; Carmacks Employment Training Society, a two-year agreement; Challenge, two-year agreement; Child Development Centre, childcare training; Faro, Ross River, Campbell region training fund; Health and Social Services; PITS training for SA clients; Haines Junction; Klondike Institute of Art and Culture in Dawson; Klondike region and the Dawson City; Learning Disabilities Association of Yukon; Liard First Nation; Watson Lake log building.
Community Training Fund in the amount of $1,500,000 agreed to
On Student Financial Assistance System
Student Financial Assistance System in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Canada-Yukon Youth Internship Program
Canada-Yukon Youth Internship Program in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
On Yukon Work Information Network
Yukon Work Information Network in the amount of $35,000 agreed to
Total Advanced Education in the amount of $2,535,000 agreed to
On Transfer Payments
Transfer Payments cleared
Total Capital Expenditures for the Department of Education in the amount of $19,940,000 agreed to
Department of Education agreed to
Chair: That concludes Vote 3, Department of Education.
Order please. We will continue on with debate on Vote 55, Department of Highways and Public Works.
Department of Highways and Public Works ó continued
Mr. Fairclough: We just started general debate on Tuesday and did not get into asking any real questions. I do have some questions regarding the information the members opposite provided. I thank the support staff for clarifying one issue with the information on a pamphlet that I had with regard to the Campbell Highway.
I would like to ask about the heavy equipment rental. It is something new that the Yukon government is getting into. Basically, it has been a pilot project in Watson Lake. We do have some questions with regard to that. I heard the minister say that this HERC ó highway equipment rental contract ó is being used in other sections of the highway across the territory now, and not just near Watson Lake, although there was a stretch of highway that was reconstructed on the Campbell Highway near Watson Lake. As I understand it, the local people who have local businesses in the community are looked to for equipment rental. One, for example, has a business there, but his equipment is rented out of Whitehorse. I would like the minister to address some of those areas.
Also, has the department done an evaluation on last yearís project with HERC on whether they find it feasible to go this route in renting private equipment versus going through the normal contract tendering? Letís start at that one and move from there.
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I indicated earlier, the HERC program was a pilot project taking place in Watson Lake. The intent of the program was to utilize a program similar to one thatís being done in British Columbia. Itís to emphasize utilization of local equipment in the area, wherever possible. This government was able to issue 75 contracts under the highway equipment rental system for the Campbell Highway to upgrade a portion of highway of approximately 6.5 kilometres.
We utilized much of the local equipment. The idea behind the HERC program is to engage smaller equipment operators who may have difficulty in obtaining bonding, or similar items like that, but who have equipment that can do the job on a smaller basis.
Weíre also looking at that program to assist in generating employment within a small community, such as Watson Lake. We also looked at trying to make the project close to town, so that a camp would not have to be developed and so that people could drive to the jobsite on a daily basis on that particular entity.
Last year was the first year of the program. We had some difficulties in some areas. All the contracts were tendered out locally, with the emphasis being on trying to use as much local equipment as possible to get the job done, and still get it done effectively.
The member opposite made an indication that possibly we rented equipment from Whitehorse. We utilized all qualified Watson Lake business people in our equipment rental and we tried to stick to that wherever possible.
Mr. Fairclough: I asked the minister whether theyíve done an evaluation, an internal review, of this pilot project year for HERC. I havenít heard the minister mention that. Perhaps the minister can give us an answer if there is one, and the information that the department does have ó perhaps they can send it over to us on this side of the House.
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are doing some internal evaluation, but as the project is not totally complete, we are still in the process of doing an evaluation of that particular project. We are concentrating right now on the cost factors.
Mr. Fairclough: Weíre interested in how well this program is working, and the minister just said that theyíre waiting for the project to be complete. I would like to know what project he is talking about. Is he talking about the 6.5-kilometre pilot project that was used? Is it all of the Campbell Highway that weíre looking at? When are we going to get an evaluation?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The pilot project weíre talking about is the Watson Lake project. It is the six kilometres that I previously stated. We have some surface work to complete this year, and the installation of a couple of culverts also.
Mr. Fairclough: It seems like there is some finish-up work, although the major part of the road reconstruction was done last year. I would think that perhaps the department would have done some internal review of how well that has worked during the last construction season, for them to be prepared for this upcoming construction season. We could be very much in the middle of a new construction season with this pilot project going ahead in several different areas in the Yukon before we even complete a review. It doesnít make sense. It was a pilot project for a year. I would like to know how quickly we could have a review done so we could see where we could make improvements before we go into the next construction season and start renting local equipment.
Hon. Mr. Hart: The value of the work was approximately $1.6 million, and that included engineering and all construction costs. The project was not totally completed due to the inclement weather last fall. Surface materials must be placed this year, along with some insulation, as I indicated, of a couple of culverts, and so weíre in the process of doing it. We have, however, completed internally a good majority of our cost figures with relationship to this particular job, and early indications provide us with the fact that, after we got over some of the early goings of the program, we feel that we are in a position now to promote this program in other areas and to move on. When our investigation is complete Iíll be more than pleased to offer the member opposite a copy of our evaluation.
Mr. Fairclough: If there are things to be learned from last year, I would think we would have reviewed that and tried to implement it in this yearís upcoming season. Thatís what Iím trying to get at with the member opposite.
The minister said that itís $1.6 million for the six kilometres of road. What does he have to compare to that? Can he compare that to, say, a contract for a reconstruction of road, for this length of road, this type of road, terrain and so on? Can he compare that and give us a comparison of dollar value? Are we seeing, going through this program, increased costs in reconstruction of roads?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Every piece of road has its own unique challenges, its own unique processes, and you canít really compare apples and pumpkins in this particular case, if you want to get into that stage. I will state, though, that we did pick this particular area to have it so that we would be dealing with, basically, simple road-building construction with that entity.
Again, this was a pilot project last year that we tried to do. For the member opposite, we did learn from what we did last year. We learned, for example, how to speed up and get the season started. We learned what is needed to do that. We learned about issues regarding contracts. We learned what is required or available within the community. We didnít have, for example, the specifics on all the equipment, but we did learn how to piece out.
So, yes, for the member opposite, we did learn lots from last yearís project. We implemented procedures that will enhance it for this year, and hopefully speed it up and keep it streamlined. That includes everything from engineering to supplies to equipment, as well as the contracting process for the tendering out of that equipment.
Mr. Fairclough: If itís public information, then perhaps the minister could flow what heís learned, I guess, from last yearís pilot project. He also mentioned that they had a number of difficulties last year with this pilot project. Perhaps the minister has listed a couple of them in the things he has learned. Iíd like him to tell us what the difficulties were and also to address some of the concerns Iíve heard. Iíll try to be real quick with this.
One of the concerns is with respect to the project itself.
Of course, rumours are always difficult to prove but people do talk about these types of pilot projects. One of the things that has been said to us was that the project could have been done at half the price if it was contracted out. That was one issue and thatís why I asked the question earlier.
The other one was that there was a lot of old equipment rented and they had a lot of downtime and, because youíre paid by the hour with equipment, you donít have the hustle to do the job like you would under a contract. Perhaps the minister could list a couple of those and also talk about the difficulties that he said he had with the contract.
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, I would like to dwell on the positive side of this particular program. As I indicated, we had some difficulties. It was the first year of the program. I think we have implemented changes to amend those particular aspects.
I would also like to emphasize that the main mandate for this program was to enhance the ability to hire local people and local equipment ó to get that local base in this particular area. If we were to contract this job out under the regular processes, it would have been eaten up by one of the three Whitehorse companies and there would probably have been very limited input from the Town of Watson Lake business people in that area.
The whole emphasis of this program is to generate some employment for the locals and some local rental, as I indicated. I think thatís one of the main aspects of the program. Yes, it could have an increased cost.
I think you have to look at the benefits of hiring local and using local. As I mentioned, last year was our first year. I think we have most of the wrinkles ironed out, and I hope to have a very successful program this year. I look forward to continuing on. Weíre looking at other aspects of this particular aspect. We anticipate using it in other areas, i.e., the Dempster Highway, as well as work on other areas in the Yukon ó in and around Dawson, for example.
Anyway, Mr. Chair, seeing the time, I move that we report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Hart that we report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins has moved 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 we have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
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 now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. Monday.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled May 5, 2005:
Alaska-Canada Rail Link, proposed: Issues Identification Report on the Canada-Alaska Rail Link (Transport Canada), Final Report (dated August 2, 2001)† (Kenyon)
Alaska-Canada Rail Link, proposed: Request for Proposals (dated October 28, 2004) from the Department of Economic Development, Development of Rationale: Alaska-Canada Rail Link†† (Kenyon)
Alaska-Canada Rail Link, proposed: Transmittal letter (dated November 4, 2004) re proposal in response to Yukon Governmentís Request for Proposals Ė Development of Rationale: Alaska-Canada Rail Link† (Kenyon)
The following documents were filed May 5, 2005:
Housing Manufacturing Joint Venture Corp. (letter dated January 20, 2005) from Hon. Dennis Fentie, Premier of Yukon, to Hon. Andy Scott, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Government of Canada† (Hardy)
Housing Manufacturing Proposal (letter dated April 11, 2005) from Hon. Dennis Fentie, Premier of Yukon, to Darla Lindstrom, Grey Mountain Housing Society† (Hardy)