Whitehorse , Yukon
Wednesday, May 10, 2006 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
Returns or documents for tabling.
Reports of committees.
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Mitchell: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Minister of Economic Development to apologize to residents of Carcross for implying that everyone hired to work on a railroad project in Carcross was on social assistance.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the Government of Yukon has paid $440,000 for an asset known as the Red Line train that was intended to provide passenger service to Carcross;
(2) this service has not commenced nor is there any sign that it will;
(3) the Government of Yukon has not found another use for this asset; and
THAT this House urges the Minister of Economic Development to work with the City of Whitehorse , the Miles Canyon Historical Railroad Society and White Pass to provide an appropriate use for the railbus known as the Red Line train on the Whitehorse waterfront.
Mrs. Peter: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) national statistics show that the Yukon is third lowest in Canada for the rate of graduates from high school;
(2) full statistics on completion of grades from the date of enrolment in elementary school throughout a single child's public school career to graduation are not kept by the Department of Education;
(3) these statistics would reveal serious trends that should be addressed; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to implement data gathering systems in the Department of Education that give clear data on completion rates and that the Department of Education be directed to act upon the results.
Mr. Hardy: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) Yukon seniors and elders should have the right to remain in their own homes and in their own communities as long as they are able to do so;
(2) when they are no longer able to maintain their own residence, the Yukon government has an obligation to provide facilities that give seniors and elders the support they need to live in dignity and comfort, close to their friends and loved ones;
(3) seniors and elders who remain in their home communities are able to continue making valuable contributions in terms of their expertise, knowledge and volunteer service;
(4) residents of all Yukon communities have expressed a need for such facilities;
(5) establishing second- and third-stage housing in rural Yukon would provide excellent opportunities for partnerships involving the Government of Yukon, First Nation governments and the federal government; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to direct the Minister of Health and Social Services and the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation to give top priority to providing low-cost options for second- and third-stage housing for seniors and elders in all Yukon communities where the need exists.
Speaker: Any there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
Point of order
Mr. Mitchell: Point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am rising pursuant to Standing Order 28. I am not raising a point of order, but it is the practice of this House that a member may gain the floor for the purposes of Standing Order 28 in this way.
MOTION OF URGENT AND PRESSING NECESSITY (No. 2)
(Standing Order No. 28)
Impending collapse of the Kelowna accord
Mr. Mitchell: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 28, I request the unanimous consent of the House to proceed at this time with a motion due to its urgent and pressing necessity.
Mr. Speaker, the motion for which I request unanimous consent reads as follows:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) it is the right and duty of all Members of the Legislative Assembly to act on behalf of all Yukon people by debating the impending collapse of the Kelowna accord;
(2) the agreement reached by Canada, all provinces and territories, First Nations and aboriginal organizations is of major importance to all Yukon residents and, in fact, all Canadians;
(3) 18 months were spent developing this historic agreement, and if it fails to become a reality, many more years will pass before another accord will be negotiated;
(4) all Canadians, regardless of whether they are First Nations or not, want this matter finalized so all parties can get on with addressing those matters enshrined in the agreement; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to show initiative and take any and all reasonable measures to try to save the accord.
Speaker: Standing Order 28 states “(1) A motion may, in case of urgent and pressing necessity previously explained by the mover, be made by unanimous consent of the Assembly without notice having been given.
“(2) Unanimous consent for a motion for a motion under this Standing Order shall be requested during the Daily Routine in the period following the Ministerial Statements and prior to the beginning of Oral Question Period.”
Unanimous consent re motion of urgent and pressing necessity
Speaker: Does the leader of the official opposition have the unanimous consent of the House to proceed with the motion that he has read to the House?
Some Hon. Member: Agree.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has not been granted.
We will now proceed to Question Period.
Question re: Ministerial conflict of interest
Mr. Mitchell: I have a question for the Minister of Community Services on his latest correspondence with the Yukon Conflicts Commissioner. A few days ago, the MLA for Mayo-Tatchun asked the minister to make public this correspondence, and yesterday the minister provided the response he received from the commissioner. He has not, however, provided the original letter that was sent to the commissioner's office.
The minister has outlined a situation where he is acting on advice from the Conflicts Commissioner. In the interest of full public disclosure, as the Premier likes to say, will the minister provide the letter that he sent to the commissioner on March 30?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Yes.
Mr. Mitchell: I thank the minister for that.
I will direct my supplementary question to the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, who is also in a very similar situation.
The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources has admitted that he has a potential conflict of interest with respect to some land issues because of his investment in an outfitting concession. Unlike the Minister of Community Services, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources has refused to make any of his correspondence public. I wrote to the minister recently asking him to make this information public. I have yet to receive an answer.
I am asking again today - the minister has admitted he has a potential conflict - will he table the information, as the Premier would say, in the interest of full public disclosure, so the public can understand the nature of the potential conflict?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: It's really very interesting and disappointing to see the leader of the official opposition going down this track of seeming to cast aspersions on members on this side of the House. If he has claims to make, he should make them outside the House or direct them to the Conflicts Commissioner.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The Hon. Member for Porter Creek South, on a point of order.
Ms. Duncan: The Minister of Health and Social Services has just suggested that the leader of the official opposition is casting aspersions. That, to me, would be under 19(g), likely to incite disorderly conduct, and I would respectfully request your ruling.
Speaker: From the Chair's perspective, it's a collegial body. The leader of the official opposition had every right to ask the question. But, also from the Chair's perspective, there is no point of order because I don't believe the member was casting aspersions.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I was just pointing out - I would hope the member would respect that members on this side follow the advice of the Conflicts Commissioner and that, in fact, in areas where it is clearly apparent that going down a certain road would create a conflict, they do not go down that road.
Mr. Mitchell: I would like to reiterate that, in fact, I am not casting any aspersions. I am being very careful to ask this in the way that I believe is appropriate, according to section 24 of the conflicts act.
I find it disappointing that the minister refuses to make the information public. It's not being open and accountable. The minister has declared that there is a possible conflict because of his ownership in an outfitting concession. That's public knowledge.
The advice from the commissioner probably lays out what the minister can be involved with and what he cannot. All we are seeking is to see that advice. We want to know what limits the Conflicts Commissioner has set out for the minister. So, I will ask again: will the minister make this correspondence public in the interest of making it clear what ground rules have been laid out by the Conflicts Commissioner?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Again I would point out to the leader of the official opposition that the matter in reference to the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources - it is clearly obvious that, with an interest in an outfitting concession, any matters within his portfolio dealing with issues related to outfitters or outfitter land policy must be deferred to the alternate, which is the Minister of Environment and the Premier.
The member is trying to raise issues where, in fact, none exist. Members here exercise the highest ethical standards and we see the member criticizing ministers for ensuring they do not end up in a conflict-of-interest situation.
It's disappointing to see this type of attitude, much like the motion tabled earlier by the member requesting unanimous consent to debate a motion that was not urgent enough to raise at the House leaders' meeting this morning in the usual collegial fashion for identifying the order of business for the day.
Question re: Children's Act review
Ms. Duncan: Several questions have arisen from the documents the Minister of Health and Social Services released yesterday, which I will refer to as the review of child welfare services. The report recommends the Children's Act provide for the mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse and neglect to family and children's services. I asked the minister on Monday why mandatory reporting of child maltreatment to the director of child welfare is required under the Education Act but not under the Children's Act? He has had time to think about it. We know the Children's Act is under review. The minister has said he hopes to have legislation before the Legislature this fall. Will the minister commit that the revised Children's Act will be in harmony with other Yukon legislation and require the mandatory reporting of child abuse?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I would remind the Member for Porter Creek South that our government has been attempting to move forward on the Children's Act review and, in fact, since my taking this position, we have been making best efforts in moving forward and working with CYFN and First Nations.
As I stated, our government has been attempting to move forward on the Children's Act review for awhile now. If the member wants to know why the Children's Act does not contain a certain provision, perhaps she might ask the previous Premier of the territory and the last government why they didn't change the Children's Act.
Ms. Duncan: The reviewer also recommended the creation and adoption of a child abuse registry. A number of years ago, Premier Ralph Klein lobbied his colleagues and the federal government to establish a national sex offender registry. It took time; it took political will. Yukon supported this initiative and it now exists nationally.
The reviewer specifically recommends that Yukon examine the child abuse registries elsewhere in Canada and create our own registry. The department says they're reviewing other models.
My question for the minister is this: has he contacted his provincial and territorial counterparts on this subject and asked for their experience at the political level? And is he considering asking the Premier to take this matter to the premiers meeting?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I'm actually a little bit puzzled by the request from the Member for Porter Creek South. The recommendation, as she stated, was to examine child abuse registries in place in other jurisdictions, and the department has indicated they are doing exactly that. I fail to see the problem.
I would point out to the member opposite that, in moving forward with any of these changes here, we are committed to acting on the recommendations of the report and taking appropriate actions in the interests of all Yukoners and in protection of Yukon children, but we also have to recognize, as far as the time aspect of when these will be implemented, that we do have a commitment and obligations under the consultation protocol to consult with First Nations on many of these issues in here, and we will fully honour our obligations to consult. It is our desire to move forward as quickly as possible and I am sure First Nation governments feel the same, as this is an area of great concern for them as well.
Ms. Duncan: The report also recommends that family and children's services create the specific position of a child abuse coordinator and specialist. I do realize this has implications for the budget of Health and Social Services. However, I also know that deputy ministers can respond very quickly to ensure independent recommendations of such importance are implemented quickly and reasonably, and that the minister is generally briefed that action has been taken in light of the priority of the issue. The department documents say they will seek funds for this position in the next budget cycle.
Clearly, Mr. Speaker, this issue requires ministerial direction for the department to treat this matter with a greater degree of urgency. Will the minister direct that the department treat this matter as a priority and take steps to ensure this position of a child abuse coordinator specialist is filled forthwith, rather than waiting for the next budget cycle?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I think it is a little bit unfortunate that the language the Member for Porter Creek South has used in this is suggesting that the department should take this with a greater degree of urgency. I would hope that she is not suggesting that the department does not take this matter seriously, because this matter and the issues related to child welfare and child protection are something that the department and departmental officials take with the utmost seriousness, as do I. As far as the priority that we place upon implementing actions based upon the recommendations, certainly it is a matter of very high priority for the department and me. It is a high priority for officials, and I have indicated to them that I personally am also very concerned about this and, as I have previously stated on the floor of the House, for all actions necessary within my purview I will be taking action based upon that.
The majority of these issues are within the operational matters at the departmental level. They are moving forward on that. I am being briefed, but that is within their purview and they are taking action in as expeditious a manner as possible and I, once again, commit that for all areas within my purview we will be working on these as quickly as we can.
Question re: Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act review
Mr. Hardy: The person hired by the Department of Health and Social Services to research the tragic death of the infant girl in Dawson City says that even she had trouble accessing information. Helpful information fell through the cracks in this matter, Mr. Speaker. Information is absolutely vital for a researcher, and also for the public and us in the Legislative Assembly.
This is not the first time we heard of complaints about the difficulty of accessing information from this government. My question for the minister is this: will the minister urge his colleague, the Minister of Highways and Public Works, to reconsider his recent decision to indefinitely postpone reviewing the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act so that people can access proper information?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: With regard to the questions from the member opposite, I recognize his concerns, and I think that he's failing to recognize the significant efforts that have been taken by the Minister of Highways and Public Works and by his officials and, in fact, every department of the government in providing the resources to ensure that the existing process is made as simple as possible. In fact, significant resources have been invested to ensure that information that would be provided through the ATIPP process is simply provided to individuals directly and that we can, through that manner, minimize the need for people to go through the ATIPP process.
We certainly respect the right of people to engage in the ATIPP process and some choose to do so directly.
With regard to the issues within my department related to this very unfortunate matter of the child's death, again I note that we are very concerned about all the issues related to this. The member was referring to operational matters in this area, and I assure him that department officials are considering this very seriously and that I will be working with them to ensure that the necessary action is taken to do the very utmost that we can, in as timely a manner as possible, to ensure that we make every effort to prevent such an unfortunate incident occurring in the future.
Mr. Hardy: This is not the first incident - if you want to call it an incident. This is not the first death either. It's not something that any of us should ever treat lightly. Even when we stand here and ask these questions, it's not easy to put them in a question format when it involves a death.
But there was a promise made to review ATIPP, and that promise is not being kept now. But let's go back to this: the Christianson-Wood report is 111 pages long. Only 17 pages were released. Now, what's wrong with that picture, Mr. Speaker, and why so many omissions?
This makes it very difficult to determine what went wrong. We on this side need this information, yes. Will the minister make the whole report public so that we can see the entire chain of events and can take immediate steps to prevent this from ever happening again?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: In answer to the leader of the third party, certainly we are not minimizing these issues. We treat them with the utmost concern. Matters relating to child welfare and to children within government custody or who are under review and in an active social work file are something we treat with the greatest amount of concern. I would hope that the member recognizes that in any government, in any activities, the social workers, the people who are within the department, do their utmost, and the government needs to, and in this case does, its best to prevent this from happening. We are very committed to reviewing any areas where we can improve, and that is exactly why this report was commissioned. As I stated to the media, the only areas in the report that were not released were areas that contained very confidential and personal information related to the individuals involved, and the member needs to recognize the other part of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act - that being the protection of privacy. It was the decision of the department in this regard, and it was based on their interpretation of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the requirement that government protect the privacy of individuals.
Mr. Hardy: Well, there were 94 pages missing. That's a lot of information that maybe the public, maybe we in here, need to see. I would say if that could go to prevent another death, it supersedes anything else.
Now, changes to the Children's Act are not planned until the fall; and, frankly, from our perspective, that's far too late. By that time, this government's mandate will be over, and it's going to be the next government that has to deal with it. The minister, though he may indicate that he's concerned, from my perspective seems to fail to fully appreciate the seriousness of the situation and how important it is to move quickly on that. He has the power to tell his officials today to start making the needed changes.
So, will the Minister of Health and Social Services stop making the excuses that we've been hearing for the last few days and start implementing some of the very good recommendations contained in the report about the death of Samara Olson?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I appreciate the concern for this subject that the leader of the third party has; however, he does need to recognize that the suggestion that we are dragging our feet is absolutely incorrect. We are moving forward as quickly as we can. The member needs to recognize - and I would suggest that he take the time to read the government-to-government consultation protocol we have with First Nations and to read the Umbrella Final Agreement, or have someone review the stipulations under it for him - that in certain areas we do have a legal obligation as well as commitments to consult with First Nation governments. That does result in delays in the ability to act immediately in certain areas.
We will move forward as quickly as we can, moving through the consultation requirements and processes. The issue of amending the Children's Act is one that we are moving forward on as quickly as we can, in partnership with Council of Yukon First Nations and First Nations in trying to move these amendments forward as quickly as possible. As I have indicated before, in any areas that the department can act before completion of the Children's Act review and any areas that we can expedite, it will be done, but the leader of the third party does need to recognize the legal requirements to consult - including in these areas of grave importance.
Question re: Lewes River Road
Mr. Cardiff: I would like to draw the attention of the Minister of Highways and Public Works to an unsafe situation along the Sawmill Road , also known as Lewes River Road . This road provides access to several titled lots, as well as a Kwanlin Dun R-block. It provides access to a commercial sawmill and lumber yard, and it is also used by a trapper and several fuel woodcutters, but the government isn't maintaining this road. Repeated requests by area residents, and even the MLA for Southern Lakes, to have it upgraded and maintained under the rural roads upgrading program were rejected.
Considering this road poses a serious safety risk to the travelling public, why is the department ignoring these requests?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We have worked with the residents in that area, not only recently but in the past, with regard to the access route to the area that he is discussing. I have also been working with the MLA in that region on this particular subject. We are in the process of doing that. A review was done on this particular roadway; however, it didn't pass the necessary requirement of those on the route to get sufficient numbers to get the road upgraded.
Mr. Cardiff: It is used by trappers; it's used by fuel woodcutters. The government licenses fuel woodcutters. There is a commercial sawmill.
The road used to be maintained by the late Gunnar Nilsson, who operated a sawmill in the area. The government has sold property in this area but it ignores legitimate safety concerns of area residents. Increased traffic is making a dangerous situation even worse now.
This spring, despite residents hiring the government on a third-party contract to clear the road, the road still became impassable for residents and customers of the sawmill. Why did the minister turn down a request as recently as last fall to have a bridge replaced with a culvert after a horse owned by one resident broke through the rotten deck?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I stated, we have been working with the residents in that particular area on that particular situation and a solution was provided in that area.
Mr. Cardiff: It's really ironic - we just learned today that the Army Beach Road is going to be upgraded and chipsealed under the rural roads program - probably this year. It just so happens that the minister has a cabin on that road. Now, he may be aware -
Speaker: Order. Sit down. The honourable member is implying that the government ministers are using their positions for their personal gain, and that is entirely out of order, and I'd ask you to retract that.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Cardiff: I will, Mr. Speaker.
Now, the previous NDP government established the rural roads upgrading program to meet demonstrated community needs and to create local jobs. Meanwhile, the Yukon Party spent almost $74,000 from that program on a breakwater in Destruction Bay - it doesn't sound like a road.
Before somebody gets seriously injured, or even killed, will the minister instruct his officials to take one more look at funding the necessary improvements to the Sawmill Road under the rural roads upgrading program as soon as possible?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I thank the member opposite for that question. As I stated previously, the department is working with the residents in that area. We are undergoing a review of that particular situation. If it does meet the requirements under the rural roads program, we will go forward with that subject.
Question re: Energy policy
Mr. McRobb: There was a newspaper story the other day about the long-awaited resource plan by the Yukon Energy Corporation. This plan will address how the Crown-owned power company will presumably best meet the territory's increased energy demand into the future. The president of Yukon Energy Corporation said he is anxious to begin discussing the plan, which he says will involve important choices about what kind of power will be developed. He also said it was overdue and added that it has been in the minister's hands for months. Why has the minister kept this plan so secret, and why won't he allow Members of the Legislative Assembly a chance to review it before this sitting ends?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We don't have the plan, and I read the same article. The president of the Energy Corporation says that it will be ready and be in the hands of the government within two to three weeks. That was news to me. I have been working with the corporation to get that done, and I imagine, with the announcement that was made by the president and chairman, I am looking forward to the plan.
Mr. McRobb: Obviously it is a big secret to the minister; he won't let the public see it. Where is the public consultation on that plan? That's like another piece of secret work this minister has not disclosed. I am referring to his comprehensive energy policy. Nobody has seen hide nor hair of that. There has been no public discussion, no meetings, no information papers - nothing.
The minister has kept a veil of secrecy over this policy too. An open and accountable government would have developed such policy in full consultation with the public, but not this Yukon Party. Why has the minister kept this comprehensive energy policy so secret, and why won't he allow members of this Assembly a chance to review it before the sitting ends?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In reply to the member opposite, certainly the 20-year go-forward plan for the Yukon Energy Corporation isn't a done deal when it is presented to this government. Lots of public consultation has to come after it. All the corporation is giving Yukoners is an overview of how they as a board perceive the energy issue going forward, but there will be public consultation and there will be lots of discussions about that plan.
When the member opposite says, “When this plan comes forward, it will be a done deal,” I tell the House here today on the floor that it's not a done deal. There is going to be plenty of public consultation before that plan is finalized and goes forward.
Mr. McRobb: I submit that's rather ridiculous. Just look at where we are in terms of this government's mandate, and summer is coming up. He didn't even talk about the policy. He is still talking about my first question about the plan.
The secrecy doesn't end there. There is another item that he has also kept secret and that is the governance policy that will determine how his office - and all the Yukon government for that matter - would interrelate with the Crown-owned Yukon Energy Corporation. A Cabinet submission on this matter was delivered to the minister's desk last August, yet he hasn't got around to dealing with that one either.
Why has the minister kept this governance policy so secret, and why won't he allow members of this Assembly a chance to review it before this sitting ends?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I'm not bringing anything to the floor of this House that isn't final. Why would I bring a half-done document into this House for debate? The member opposite doesn't understand. That is a Crown corporation. They run independent of government. I am the voice for the Crown corporation in government. I do not run the Crown corporation. According to the press release, we are looking forward to the 20-year plan that is coming forward. I look forward to receiving it as the minister responsible for the Crown corporation. I am saying to all Yukoners, once that plan is put in front of me, that would trigger a process of public consultation before it is finalized, Mr. Speaker. I can say no more or less on the issue.
Question re: Gender equity
Mrs. Peter: I have a question for the minister responsible for Public Service Commission and the Women's Directorate. Last year, Statistics Canada put out a report on incomes and poverty. The report stated that one in six Canadians are in the low-income bracket. Low income is defined as earning $10 or less an hour. They found that 12 percent of men working full-time are getting paid less than $10 an hour. For women working full-time, it was 22 percent. Also, women are only making 70 percent of what men earn, and this is totally unacceptable.
What measures are being taken by the minister responsible for the Women's Directorate to fight this trend?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Speaker, in terms of the Women's Directorate, its mandate is to strive toward women's equality, and that is the legal, social and economic equality of all women in the Yukon, not to mention the rest of the women in the country. Mr. Speaker, the Women's Directorate has been very busy working with respective departments, working to eliminate the barriers to economic success, that which may be impeded, for example, by health factors, indicators, violence prevention, empowering women by promoting women in leadership, working with women's organizations - and there are several here in the territory - to identify those gaps and to work to close those gaps.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, many women work in the territorial government; women in this government are found mainly in the lower paying jobs. We looked at the numbers of women in deputy minister positions in the Yukon Party government and found that, out of 15 deputy minister positions, only three are held by women.
Given these statistics, how can the minister assure women that their concerns and skills are acknowledged when they apply for higher level jobs within their government?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Speaker, we as a government and the Public Service Commission strive to have equitable representation of women within the workforce. I would point out that over half the workforce is represented by women employees.
Through the investing-in-public-service initiative, we work toward succession planning, supervisory development programs, encouraging women - encouraging all individuals - to go to different positions and to provide those employees with the tools and the experience necessary to rise to those different positions. There are a number of tools through employment equity we continue to use and will continue to place resources in investing in our own employees.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, many women who are single parents are working. The children in these families were promised years ago that child poverty would be erased in Canada. Instead, it is getting worse. There are special problems faced by these women. In the Yukon they find it almost impossible to find affordable childcare and affordable housing, especially in rural Yukon.
How is this government helping single parents to house and care for their children?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I'll point out for the member opposite that we have undertaken a number of initiatives to address these very issues the member opposite raised. We have made investments in childcare. Our government is very proud to invest a 30-percent increase toward childcare services delivered by many organizations and different entities. It's important to point out that there are more childcare spaces in the territory today than existed a few years ago - in fact, a 30-percent increase.
There has been an increase in the child tax credit of almost 50 percent, and the income threshold has also been raised. There have been investments in the kids recreation fund and in priority housing. We're working with Yukon Housing Corporation to come up with priority housing to actually ensure there is immediate and speedy housing for victims of abuse, and so forth.
Our government is very much committed to identifying these gaps and working toward closing them.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We'll proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
GOVERNMENT PRIVATE MEMBERS' BILLS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Motion No. 688
Clerk: Motion No. 688, standing in the name of Mr. Rouble.
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Southern Lakes
THAT this House urges Yukon College to consult with industry and First Nations to identify priorities for training that will allow Yukoners to take advantage of current and future employment opportunities.
Mr. Rouble: It's my honour and pleasure to rise today to put this motion forward and ask all members to support it. This motion is about looking toward the future of the Yukon and ensuring that Yukoners take advantage of Yukon opportunities. It's not a motion intended to make a silly political point. Instead, it's to look at a serious issue facing the territory.
Also, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to start out first by saying that this isn't about being critical of Yukon College ; instead, it's about providing direction and expectation, which is our role and responsibility as elected representatives.
I only have the best of things to say about Yukon College . I've taken courses there and graduated from courses there, I've taught a course there, and I've worked with our community campuses. Yukon College is a great institution - good at what it does, fits a need in the community, and does its best to address many of the needs in the community.
Again, this motion is important to me because it's intended to get the college to work with industry and First Nation governments to identify the opportunities and the needs in the community and link them with the training for Yukoners, so that Yukoners can take advantage of Yukon opportunities.
Now, I didn't pretend to walk into this Assembly and know everything about every issue. You've got to take your time to examine things, to learn about the issues, to learn about why they are the way they are, and to take some time to investigate it and look into things a little bit deeper.
Mr. Speaker, I've had the pleasure of working with the Public Accounts Committee. The Public Accounts Committee is a non-partisan group. It's made up of members from the government side and the opposition side, and it is mandated with looking into issues of importance to the government, to ensure that government is efficiently and effectively conducting its business. It doesn't look into the policy side of things; instead, it looks into the implementation side of things and whether or not things are being done efficiently and effectively.
One of the first things that the Public Accounts Committee did was to call in the Crown corporations and other entities and discuss with them their mandate - how they were fulfilling it, how they were measuring to find out if they were doing a good job or not, and other concerns they had about effectively implementing their operations.
When we had Yukon College in here, what we heard was that they were being spread very thin and that there were many different directions that they were being pulled in or going into.
There is an expectation that in our jurisdiction the college can be all things to everybody, but that is a tremendous challenge and a huge expectation to put on an entity with obviously limited resources.
This issue of education and economic development are definitely a passion of mine. You only have to look at my education background, my past work experience - I've taught business planning courses. As I said, I worked at the college and taught a course there. I am committed to education and to ensuring that we have reasonable, sustainable economic development in our community. I see this motion that is calling for Yukon College to consult with industry and First Nations to identify priorities for training that will allow Yukoners to take advantage of current and future employment opportunities as a way of ensuring the link is there, ensuring the college is meeting the needs of the territory and we are going in a good, solid direction.
It's a challenge to talk about the college and the role of the college without talking about education and its role in the community. Education is extremely important for everyone in this community. Education is not simply something for kids in primary school, but it's something we will all go through in our journey through life. It's important for seniors and elders to ensure we have a good education system, to ensure we can continue to maintain the quality of life and the economy in our territory.
We need to take a look at the role of education and think about what it is there for. What does it exist to do? One definition that I've heard is that education is there to help people lead a meaningful life. We learn about different aspects throughout different forms of education, whether they be art, history, culture, language, mathematics or engineering. Education is all encompassing all of that and it helps individuals to lead a meaningful life.
One of the most important elements of leading a meaningful life is - I think we'll all agree to this - having meaningful employment, having an employment situation that not only allows one to earn enough money to lead the lifestyle that one wants or has become accustomed to, but also one that allows people to challenge themselves and to provide meaning in their employment situation. Obviously, the more education one has, the more one learns, the more one is able to identify opportunities, the more one is able to pick and choose between those opportunities for those that are more meaningful to them. I am a big proponent of continuing education, identifying what is important to individuals and progressing down one's own path. Having meaningful employment is a very important aspect to leading a meaningful life.
Now, the college is a very important tool in our community, and it plays a very important role, but it isn't the only tool or the only training facility or the only college that we in the Yukon can access. There are other opportunities out there. Whether by travelling Outside, by correspondence, or by distance education, there are many other institutions and entities in Canada that we can use to gain and further our education.
When the college was first set up and the act creating it was enacted, the objects that we, the Legislative Assembly, set out for the college were that it was to provide educational programs, services and activities to meet the needs of people in the Yukon .
That's fairly straightforward - to provide educational programs, services and activities to meet the needs of people in the Yukon. It's a very broad mandate, a very empowering mandate, and one that allows Yukon College to then design and deliver programs intended to satisfy this object.
Mr. Speaker, Yukon College has done a tremendous job in getting to where they are today. We've all seen, I'm sure, their strategic plan, their vision in the Vision, Journey, Trails, and Ends Statement document. In fact, Mr. Speaker, we even have a past member of the board of governors who is in the Assembly with us now, and I am sure he can speak to this.
We do have a very broad objective - and a very broad mission and vision that the college has established. As I mentioned earlier, the Public Accounts Committee took a look at the issue of the college, and sat down and asked questions: what is your mission, what are your objectives, what is your purpose, what is your role in the community?
What we heard was that it was a very broad, almost unwieldy, almost unattainable, concept out there. The Public Accounts Committee took a look at it and in their report identified an issue that the committee termed as “mandate creep”. If I can just quote from the Public Accounts Committee report, “Each entity has a mandate; this is enumerated in the enabling legislation for the entity as the object of the entity. These objects tend to be worded rather broadly. The legislation establishing these entities also gives them certain powers so that the mandate can be realized. Pursuant to the legislated objects and powers, entities can also develop mission or vision statements that articulate their mandate more specifically. An example of a broad mandate is that of Yukon College. Section 3 of the Yukon College Act says the objects of the college are to provide educational programs, services and activities to meet the needs of the people in the Yukon. Given that the educational needs of Yukoners are constantly changing, such a broad mandate is an asset, but also a liability.
“A broad mandate is an asset where it allows an entity to adapt to changing circumstances. A mandate becomes a liability to an entity where it is so broadly worded that it excludes little. In such cases, an entity may find itself being pulled in various directions by interested parties who can visualize any project complying with the entity's mandate. This can also become a problem for the minister responsible and the Legislative Assembly because it becomes difficult to provide direction where almost nothing is outside an entity's mandate.”
I think that is a situation facing the college right now. What I'm asking members here to do is to give some direction to the college to help them focus so they can work with industry and First Nation governments and others to identify the opportunities that are coming to the Yukon now and in the near future so that Yukoners may be able to best take advantage of these new opportunities. We are not asking Yukon College to change their direction but merely to focus and to stop the mandate creep.
In a jurisdiction the size of ours, Mr. Speaker, it is very difficult to be all things to everybody. But there is that expectation. What I would like to see is that we link the people here with the opportunities here, and focus on preparing Yukoners for Yukon opportunities. That's what this motion is calling for.
We know we've seen a lot of opportunities come to the Yukon recently. Employment figures have shown an increase from 13,200 employed in 2001, to 15,600 people in April 2006. That's 2,400 more people employed in the workforce. We've heard about more opportunities coming. We've heard about mines that are potentially opening up and, according to the mine training association, the mining industry is projected to need a minimum of 1,000 more positions in the near future.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I would expect that the Minister of Economic Development, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources and the Minister of Tourism will have more to say about what is expected in the near future. But I think it is safe to say that there are opportunities coming for those who are prepared to take advantage of them in the Yukon.
What we need to do, Mr. Speaker, is to ensure that Yukoners are prepared to take advantage of those opportunities. Also, we're hearing from the summit that's being held at the Yukon College right now that Yukon First Nations are working with the college to tell them what they see as priorities for post-secondary education here in the Yukon.
So I am glad to see that there are steps already being taken. And by no means do I want to create the misperception that the college operates in a vacuum, that it doesn't consult, because that's far from the reality. We have the President's Committee on Programming, PCOP, which involve industry people who work with the college designing the courses. We have very talented staff and instructors who work on the programs and ensure that the programs are relevant to industry. So there are many steps being taken now, and I'm sure the Minister of Education can talk about some of the other ones. But I would like to, again, formalize that, to give some direction from this Assembly, as that is the responsibility bestowed upon us by our constituents, to further give some direction to the college.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I hope that we can all agree that the vision for the college is to link Yukon people with Yukon opportunities. I trust that all my colleagues in this Assembly on both sides of the House can agree to that. We need to build upon our strengths. We need to build upon the strengths that we have in our jurisdiction: the people here, the opportunities, the climate, the culture, the terrain, the geography - but we have a challenge that we can't be all things to everybody all at the same time.
So, there are other opportunities out there. As I said earlier, there are many other universities, colleges, and learning centres across the country and around the world. Many other places specialize in specific fields but we - simply because of our size and jurisdiction - can't offer a specialty in those types of positions. It would be awfully hard for us as a jurisdiction to, for example, put in a specialty program in thoracic surgery. We're simply too small a jurisdiction to offer such a specific program in such a specific field. But what we can do is to ensure that the opportunities that are coming forward in the territory are being met by Yukoners trained to take advantage of those.
Mr. Speaker, that's what I'm asking for members to support. We, in a non-partisan committee - the Public Accounts Committee - identified “mandate creep” as an issue that was affecting many Yukon Crown corporations and entities. Let's take some action on the report that was created and come together - as members of this Assembly - and send a message: “Let's slow down the creep.”
Let's send a message that we would like the college to focus on the original intention that this Assembly passed, that being of meeting the needs of people in the Yukon, and call upon the college to consult with industry and First Nations to identify priorities for training that will allow Yukoners to take advantage of current and future employment opportunities.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I don't intend to speak much longer on this. I think this is a fairly straightforward motion. I hope it's one that we can all agree to.
Again, it wasn't brought forward with the intention of playing party politics on an issue. Instead, it's intended to help look out for the future of Yukoners and to ensure that Yukoners are in the best possible position to take advantage of Yukon opportunities. I hope that all members will endorse this direction and support this motion.
Thank you for your attention.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to speak to this motion brought forward by the Member for Southern Lakes. Usually we have motions brought forward by the backbenchers on the government side urging government to do something because they feel that not enough has been done. This one is urging the college to do exactly what they are doing right now. I am surprised the member would bring this forward. I know he has mentioned it a couple of times, but if he would pick up the phone and call the college, Mr. Speaker, he would learn that they are doing exactly that.
As a matter of fact, it says right here in the motion that it urges the college to consult with industry and First Nations. Right now there is a three-day summit that the college is having with the First Nations talking about exactly this. I am sure the member opposite knows about that.
They are talking about how the college could play a bigger role and a better role with First Nations in implementing their final agreements. It would be very interesting to see the results of this three-day summit. If I had a chance I wouldn't mind listening in to this debate because it is of importance to me.
I think the government could be doing its role in talking with industry to see what is needed for training in the territory, over and above what Yukon College is doing. In the past, governments have done this. As a matter of fact, they introduced the training trust funds, which don't necessarily go toward the college or the college campuses; it could go to industry. I recall one that was earmarked for Minto Resources at the time, which is Sherwood now - it was a training trust fund to address exactly what we are talking about.
That is the kind of thing governments could be doing. All across Canada we are faced with this similar problem - it is ensuring we have the skilled workforce that will be needed once we see development take place here in the territory and the rest of Canada . That will happen.
We know that Yukon is not the only place that is looking at increased development in the mining sector and others. Just take a look at Inuvik , for example, over the past few years. They have striven to attract skilled workers. Have a look at the Northwest Territories and the development that has taken place there in regard to the diamond mines and the potential pipeline going through the territories.
We need a large, skilled workforce here in the territory. Part of the problem here - and I will read portions of an article - is that we are lacking a skilled workforce. A lot of it has to do with the fact that many people who have had these skills - say in the mining sector - are older. They have retired, or they have moved on to other jobs. I think this will play a lot on the Yukon, because those people are gone, and we are going to be focusing on the young people. I really believe that the Yukon government can do more - other than urging Yukon College to work with industry in this matter.
I want to read an article, and I have a couple more that I could table. It is about the mining industry across Canada. It says, “The Canadian mining industry will have trouble scaring up badly needed skills unless it turns around young Canadians' views of this sector.” It was a survey that was done. It says, “Almost one-third of Canadians aged 16 to 35 have a poor impression of the mining industry.” I'm just reading sections of it, so I'm not going through the whole article, but I think it is important that we realize this too, and I think most of us in this House do. It says, “Only 17 percent of the 474 people surveyed said that they were familiar with mining.”
That degree of familiarity ranked dead last among the 12 industries, the survey found. So, here in the territory, we see the boom and bust of the mining industry, and we see it coming again. We're going to be asking for skilled people to come back here and work in the mining industry.
I'll just go on. It also says the Canadian minerals and metals industry will need to hire up to 81,000 people over the next 10 years, so getting young people interested in mining is critical to the future sustainability of this industry. They're recognizing it; why aren't we? That's why I point right back to government needing to do more in this sector.
It says that 31 percent of those surveyed had a positive impression of the mining industry, and those holding negative impressions of this industry saw it as dangerous and harmful to the environment. These are people - a higher percentage of them. And if we flip back to what I just read about the 17 percent having very little understanding of the mining industry, people are still thinking that it does have a positive impact on our economy and so on. Here's another interesting one that I want to read, too, because I think this is something the Yukon government can do also.
It says the council is co-hosting the mineral and mining career fair in Vancouver on May 14 to 16 at the city's convention centre in a bid to change people's perception of mining in the country. I think the Yukon could do the same thing. I know it's difficult to attract young people here to get involved in mining. I'll now give you a couple of examples. We had, even in my community, the community of Carmacks, which has had mining in and around the community for a long time - we had the coal mine, we had BYG, or Mt. Nansen at the time. We've had people go from this coal mine to Faro and have always worked either underground or in the mill - something to do with mining. Since the mining fell in the territory, they had difficulty finding work. They did like the money that mining has to offer, but many of them are finding work elsewhere.
If they're getting full-time work, Mr. Speaker, it is going to be difficult for them to say, “I'll leave this job and go back into the mining industry for the money or for the interest in working in the mining industry.” There are going to be a lot of them with that view. That's one - just with the mining industry itself.
We have asked this question of government many times here in this House. One of them was in regard to the possible Alaska Highway pipeline, to get the communities pipeline ready. We have been asking that for the three and a half years that we have been in the Yukon Party mandate now. We are close to the end of it, and that's gone. We are still not at that stage.
Has the Yukon College worked with communities and industry? The answer is yes, they have, and they have done some really good work. I brought this up in the House before where, for example, the community campus in Carmacks has worked with the oil and gas industry to get people trained. They've done some really good training work, not only in that community but in Mayo and Pelly also. People got the training - they went to get on-the-job training and the only place you can go is out of the territory, and they've done that.
Since they have received this on-the-job training and finished their training in the oil and gas industry, they were basically guaranteed a job because the demand was so high. Any one of them who wanted to work had a job offered to them. That was good on the part of the Yukon College community campus, which, I believe, developed these programs to suit the community, and others followed suit. So this is really important too.
We are talking about several things here. I heard about the interest in having a university of the Yukon here in the territory. As you know, the college was developed from a training program we had here before, called the Yukon vocational school, which had training for skilled labour - I guess that is what you would call it now. It was a technical school and we developed Yukon College out of that, focusing a lot on academics.
It's fine to have that institute now, but what I'm hearing from people around the territory is that we do need to bring more skills back to the territory, and focus on trades in the territory is where the interest is now. Yukon College has somewhat focused on that. We've seen a lot of different programs come out of Yukon College with respect to trades, but I think we could do more.
We need to prepare ourselves because those who have some training - whether it's diamond drill operators or those in the mining sector or oil and gas - are still going out of the territory to work. I know they're employed - they're basically labelled as “people who are employed,” but they're going out to Alberta and B.C. to work, and there are many Yukoners who have gone to Cantung to work. Many have gone to Inuvik to work and many are focused on the Northwest Territories to work in the industry. What they're taking with them is their skilled labour and the trades that they developed from working on the job, which the Yukon Territory is going to need.
I remember, years back now, when I went to college - Mount Royal College - I had a friend who wanted to take some training as a heavy equipment mechanic. At the time - years ago - that direction also came from the community. As I was going to school in Calgary, he was on the job training in the oil and gas industry. He got his training as a heavy equipment mechanic and has been in demand ever since. This industry - most of the industries - need people like that, so they call him. So it's good to even have that, Mr. Speaker - being a Yukon resident, having a home in the community of Carmacks, and getting calls like this.
Another example I could use is close to home. I have a brother who works in the mining industry and has done so for 30 years plus. That's what he does. I would say he has done everything you would normally do in many different mining situations. There are a lot of times when a mine shuts down and you're basically off work for awhile. He's getting these calls also, because those skilled people are just not here in the territory and the demand is across Canada.
I read the article, Mr. Speaker. That is what it's like across Canada. The exploration work that's happening in some of the provinces is far ahead of what's happening here in the territory. A lot of money is being spent in some of these provinces in regard to exploration, and everybody is after making money.
The whole territory has felt the decline in mining and it took us back because here we are, dependent on this boom-and-bust industry and, as a territory, we haven't focused enough on diversification to stand up to any of these booms and busts. We could learn a lot from other provinces. There's one province that has focused on diversification, and that's Alberta. They have a strong economy. We know why now. We know one that's really pushing hard and that's the oil and gas industry. The price of gas goes up and that industry is making a lot of money and putting lots of people to work.
I can recall the time when Faro shut down, and I know that people were saying, “Well, it's Faro.” You know, it's that community; it's not going to have as much effect on the rest of the Yukon as we thought. But people in Whitehorse did feel it because of the service industry. Finning, for example, relied heavily on Faro being in operation, and everybody downgraded from there, and we haven't really felt another boost in the mining industry since then. We had some activity with BYG. We've had some activity near Dawson City, but nothing great. Now everybody wants to get involved. Why? Well, the price of metals are up, both base metals and precious metals. We know what's going to happen too, because all of Canada - and elsewhere too - is focusing that way. We're going to have a flood of people developing properties and flood the industry with this demand, and then the price will fall. We all know that, and we can all see it.
When will this happen? Well, it could be years down the road, and I think Yukon could definitely see a good little boom here before we see the crash. So in regard to the mining industry, those skilled workers are definitely going to be needed. The government side will have to ensure that those things take place. There is another example where training trust funds could have been used, Mr. Speaker, which would put people in a real environment for training, whether it's a heavy equipment operator or anything to do with the mining industry - the perfect spot that you would have been able to put these people to work was in Elsa.
All the equipment there, and all the signs of mining and all the mining equipment that they could get experience on - that was one idea that was floated and never materialized the way we thought it would. Mining was down, and so on, but there was still a huge focus on that.
I think we need to go beyond the small training that is out there and that everybody is getting - like the chainsaw operators, for example. It seems that a lot of times the First Nations end up with these jobs, even in regard to surveying, because right now Yukon College has a three-day summit that is taking place to look at how they can best help First Nations in implementing their final agreements. But even before the implementation of the final agreements, there is huge money spent on surveying lands. That is going to go on for awhile, as people question the exact spots and so on.
There are others who still haven't had their land surveyed. It seems to me that First Nations got the line-cutting jobs, packing the equipment, but they were never up to the point of being legal surveyors and doing the big jobs that they were hoping to do. This was one of the areas they were hoping to be able to do themselves.
That has gone by now, and a lot of that work has already taken place and we missed out. What I am hoping is that we don't miss out again, and that perhaps the minister could bring forward another motion urging the Government of Yukon to focus on real consultation with industry and First Nations, looking at developing a more skilled workforce here in the territory - not just Yukon College, because they have certain parameters they work within.
They are definitely good at working with communities, and we've seen that.
We've seen the training trust funds go toward some really good training. I will give examples throughout the whole thing, but there is one, for example, that didn't require a whole lot of money - I think it was $5,000. It was for training that took place in the community of Carmacks for camp cooking. It attracted people from other communities to come down there.
The Minister of Education wants to see some training in gambling - I think you self-train for that.
That was very good, Mr. Speaker, to have that training in that community. It's important to have a well-fed crew. It always helps in getting more work out of them. The better they feel where they are, the more work that gets done.
That was another one that the training trust funds offered. Another one that was a really good one, which most people would have loved to take, I think, was a log-building course. I saw some of the results of that in Minto where Selkirk First Nation got Yukon College involved in having someone teach them how to build log homes, log cabins, in different styles and so on. The one that is really interesting was building cabins out of fire-killed wood. I think you can build cabins up to five years after a fire without having the wood crack too severely to build a cabin with.
This is really interesting - for an individual to go out and build a cabin, this is one they could do themselves: the wood is lighter, you can manoeuvre the logs around and so on with one person, versus green logs, for example. The job they did was excellent. They had several different types of log homes and log cabins they were building. One of them was the Hudson Bay log home. That was interesting to see - just there, on the spot - the difference between the different styles of building log cabins. That went a long way - you know, people can take that learning, develop their own business, or just use it for building their own log cabin. Those are good skills being learned in communities that never go away - they're always with you.
We've seen other areas where we really see an interest. I'll bring up another one; I'll bring up the most familiar, and I always use my community. I think it's good that others recognize it too. In the agricultural industry, there are a lot of people who do not understand it - like, say, big game outfitting. A lot of people don't understand that industry either.
But as far as agriculture goes, there are not a lot of people in that community who had their own gardens. There are not a lot of people who had their own greenhouses or knew how to plant in different ways. The First Nation took this project on. They had a lot of people in their training and it was very successful. It's great to see a community garden in that community.
That sparked a personal interest in many people to develop their own gardens, but this is money being put into training. It's not always about the big industry - that's what I'm trying to get at here.
A lot of it has to do with the day-to-day needs of communities. When you talk to community people and people here in Whitehorse, in the big city, they are always talking about how, even right now, they're looking for carpenters, for example - can't find enough of them and projects get bumped back so they have the time later on to do them. They talk about not having enough plumbers or electricians. That's in Whitehorse, but what about in the communities outside of Whitehorse ? What happens if they need an electrician?
A lot of times they hire them straight out of Whitehorse, pay the mileage for them to go down, plus their daily wage, to do repairs. Others are for furnace repairs and so on. They're hiring them out of Whitehorse . Whitehorse is servicing the communities. The question that people in the communities have is: why can't we do it ourselves?
Why can't the community campus offer these types of courses? They have and they continue to do that. We're starting to see the results now: a lot more people taking an interest in the trades, like electricians, plumbers, mechanics and so on. A lot of the work now is being done in the communities, but we still rely on Whitehorse to provide that service because a lot of the expertise is here in Whitehorse and the supplies are here in Whitehorse. That's one of the reasons for relying on Whitehorse.
I talked a little bit about the need for the college campuses to focus on the First Nations and their implementation of their final agreements. Community campuses all around the territory have worked very well with First Nations and really see them as partners in how they develop programs. Many of them have complemented the First Nations in helping them to design some of these programs. We have a lot of the final agreements in place, but what the First Nations are doing is developing their governments, so they are really in their infancy stage of having their governments operate. Of course, they are running into a capacity problem - like the rest of the Yukon has - of having educated people come in and run programs for them. Right now, they rely on Yukon College to provide a lot of the training and to work with them, or do it themselves. Many times they are seeking skills from outside the territory to come in and help them to give training to their staff people.
They have to respond the best way they can with the resources they have. Right now, they're trying to develop, say, their lands department where - we can go down and review a map or get one from a government service outlet - sometimes in the communities you can also get these with the territorial agents - for them to get up to speed to be able to do that.
Now, some of these people have to be retrained or look at a different method of how they used to do things. One example I could use was the First Nations really focused their mapping department in polar geomatics with PanMap, which was a different system than the Yukon government used, and they weren't compatible, so you can't share information over the computer. It just didn't work, and governments' maps are all - I can't remember the name of it. So what do you do? You invest thousands and thousands of dollars into the software system and you develop maps out of it. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, the community of Carmacks, the First Nation, had beautiful maps developed. You would be impressed to see it. They had their own symbols on them. Like, if there are camp sites, on the map they'll have teepees, and hunting areas have a bow and arrow - their own symbols. The legend on a map is pretty important, and it was really nice to see this map come out at the same time negotiations were happening, because, for one, First Nations are putting all this data into their own computer that government has but it now has to be changed. I think there is a program now developed so that PanMap can be compatible with the government systems.
I think there is a program now developed so that PanMap can be compatible with government, but I'm not sure that it is working all that well. The First Nations took it upon themselves to really train people in this field and, as a matter of fact, they were leaders across Canada with PanMap, for example, where the company would call them up to do problem-solving. Do we have the capability to do this type of work? Of course we do. I am hoping that recognition is continued.
I believe that Yukon College has worked with industry and the communities to focus a lot of their training programs to address community issues. I have listed some and there are others they surveyed the communities about. One of them was this log-building course they put on.
They will survey a community and, if enough people are interested, Yukon College will go out and get the expertise for the community so that this happens. That is a prime example of how well the community campuses work with the community, and that is not just with First Nations - it is with all the communities. If we are looking at diversifying the economy, the community campuses are going to play a key role in developing skilled people who can handle this.
As far as the community goes, there are some big projects that are a bit scary to them. One that I listed was the pipeline, should it happen now. I know that it could be a number of years down the road, but it is scary because it could come and go very quickly. If you are not prepared, you lose out.
And that's how it goes. For those that are off the route, it becomes even more difficult. The railway is another one. People want to work. There are a lot of unemployed people still here in the territory, and they want to work. And they want the community, the college, and government to play a role here. This one is one that's not fully understood either - with respect to the railway.
I have to say, though, that the community campuses have been really successful in some of their training. Again, they have worked with the community and industry to bring about this training. One of the courses was for heavy equipment operators. I remember this well because I was surprised at the type of people taking this training, people I would not normally see as heavy equipment operators. A lot of women took this training, and they were able to operate a lot of these big trucks in the mines, and they were called upon to work. A lot of those who have taken that training showed a lot of role-modelling to some of the younger people.
Now, we're seeing some of that same training happening in Pelly Crossing. I think there are about 60 people working out at Sherwood Copper right now - Minto mines. A person I spoke to in Pelly - a woman who was taking the heavy equipment operator course. She was a bit scared of it. They are scary. A lot of the men are scared to drive them. I encouraged her and gave her a few names of those who have taken the course, if ever she wanted to call them to ask what it was like afterwards.
When BYG was in operation - which wasn't all that long - there were a lot of experienced truck drivers in the community of Carmacks who worked in Faro driving those big trucks. They drove trucks at BYG, and a lot of them said they were scared of them, just because of the terrain. They would be going down a narrow road, and it was straight down on one side. Because they're big trucks, it's hard to judge at times how close to the edge you are. There were quite a few of them who got out of truck driving and started working in the mill because of that.
I was also surprised to see the type of people who were involved in working in the mill in BYG. I toured through this mill and saw people who had taken the training. The training is usually set up by the First Nation. They usually pressure Yukon College to bring on this training. They were working in the mill. They were welding, cutting and putting this mill together. Later on, as I toured through the mill as it was in operation, I was surprised that they were watching gauges - they were working with cyanide, which is something that is pretty dangerous. They were involved in the whole process, right down to where they were pouring gold bricks. That was a nice scene for me, because I hadn't seen that.
Again, that was the result of the community campus working with industry, the First Nation and the community, and there was also government input with the First Nation on that.
But if we are going to go down that road, I am hoping that we can have the work for the people who get trained. I want to bring up an example about trying to keep people working, which failed. It is in the community of Mayo. Their priority at the time was to build a school, to build a community centre and to build an administration building for the First Nation. These were projects that governments agreed to - local governments - the municipality, the First Nation and the Yukon government. How does the community best benefit from that? A lot of it is through putting people to work in a community with high unemployment, so the training took place. The plan was that all three projects would not be built at once. Do one and employ the people throughout the year, or for a year and a half. Another would come on stream, and the people would continue to work. Another would come on stream. That didn't happen. We are now in the process - many years later - of looking at only the second project. It is unfortunate. That is why I'm saying that if the Yukon government is moving down this road, we should ensure that we follow up and keep communities working. It is important, Mr. Speaker. If we had done that, we may have seen other people look at other trades they might have been interested in - for example, an electrician.
The community of Mayo is moving dirt around and getting ready to build a community recreation centre. The First Nation is finalizing their finances and looking at building an administration building. I think they are targeting $5 million. They are looking at building on the upper bench in Mayo to avoid all the ground movement we have experienced in building buildings in downtown Mayo - for example, the school.
I really believe that governments can play a role in this. If the minister came forward and had a similar motion urging government to do this, we would support that too. We don't have a problem with this motion as presented by the Member for Southern Lakes because we already feel that's happening. What could complement this direction is the Yukon government working with industry and identifying these types of skills that Yukon College could be working on.
I think those are very important, and I don't want to speak much more on this. I read this article out to members opposite. I know Canada's skilled workforce is going to be in demand. We are going to be competing with the rest of Canada again - like we did, and like we are, with doctors and nurses. If we don't get our act together, Mr. Speaker, then we're going to be losing out and a lot of the development we might like to see is going to be imported and not lasting like we would like to see here in the territory.
So, I'll leave it at that, and I'm interested to hear what others have to say with respect to this motion.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would like to start by thanking the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, who just did a very good job of summarizing the accomplishments of this government over the past three and a half years. It's good that he acknowledges the job opportunities and training this government provided in his home community and his riding.
However, there is always room for improvement, and that is what this motion speaks to: the need to take an interest in future needs. Mr. Speaker, I believe there are a couple untapped labour markets in Canada. The two I refer to are women and First Nation people. Mr. Speaker, it is important that the government of the day does its best to provide employment and training opportunities to every citizen in the Yukon Territory .
Mr. Speaker, it would be ideal to have jobs for every person trained in the Yukon ; however, sometimes this is not possible. So does this mean one should close the trades section of the Yukon College? I say not. We should continue to develop the human resource bank we have in the Yukon Territory and provide training opportunities for all citizens. I believe over the years the lack of appreciation for the tradespeople by governments across Canada - they now realize that it was a grave mistake, because today we do have a shortage of tradespeople across Canada. The time it becomes most obvious and identified as a need is when you no longer have the tradespeople available. Then governments across the country begin to realize just how important tradespeople are.
This motion is very timely and also very appropriate. Today is the second day in a three-day summit being hosted by Yukon College to set priorities for training and education. In the press materials for the summit, Yukon College officials state that they want to hear from First Nation leaders about their communities' priorities for post-secondary education. The college invited First Nation leaders, education officials and land claims implementation staff to this three-day summit that started on Tuesday.
The summit is intended to lay a foundation for a strong partnership between the college and the First Nations. This summit is called “Two Trails – One Future”, and that paints a very visual picture of how the First Nation and non-First Nation cultures in Yukon already live side by side in the Yukon . This conference has the support of the leaders of the Council of Yukon First Nations, the Yukon College Board of Governors and the senior management team of the college.
By way of this summit, the Yukon College Board of Governors has set the development of programs for First Nations as a priority. The summit will enable the college to hear from the First Nations directly and to work with them to produce relevant programs, both for their immediate needs and their long-term development needs. This process is essential for the college to be able to meet the challenges of the land claims and self-government agreements, and the college is fully aware of this need.
Yukon College also operates as a separate entity from Yukon government. The Yukon College Act notes that the college is not an agent of the Yukon government. At the same time, there are very good channels of communication between Yukon College and all its partners, including industry, First Nations and the Department of Education on issues of mutual concern to all.
Yukon College is doing a remarkable job in responding to a wide range of training needs, as defined by both industry and First Nations. The programming now offered at Yukon College currently meets the professional, technical and academic needs across a network of community campuses. I am proud to say that this government fully supports Yukon College , as well as all the other community campuses, in their efforts to meet industry and First Nation training needs and aspirations.
The Yukon government takes very seriously the issue of maintaining quality post-secondary education for Yukoners. During the last three years of this government's mandate we have shown, in many ways, our support and confidence in the college's ability to respond to the needs of Yukoners. Most recently, we have increased the college base grant by $1 million. Also during our term in government, we have indexed the Yukon grant so Yukon College students are better able to attend college while keeping up with inflation.
During the 2005-06 academic year, the Yukon government provided $13.3 million in base funding to support the wide range of programs and administrative work at the college. Over and above this, $370,000 was provided to the bachelor of social work degree program and $540,000 to the Yukon native teacher education program.
This government always has and always will be willing to look at supporting programs and services that improve the lives of Yukoners with respect to post-secondary education. We have demonstrated our commitment to lifelong learning, not only because it makes sense from a human and social perspective in our communities, but also because it makes good economic sense.
We know that Yukon College injects money right back into our economy. We know that a recent economic impact assessment and cost-benefit analysis has calculated that Yukon College injects $21.9 million right back into the Yukon economy every year. We know that the college already employs about 650 full-time and part-time people. This means that Yukon College is currently responsible for 245 person years of employment.
The same economic impact assessment has determined that, in addition to those economic benefits, the overall social rate of return on the investment in Yukon College is approximately 8.5 percent per year. This means that the long-term benefits generated by the college are almost double the total costs. Yukon College has an established tradition of responding to community needs and developing programs. The Yukon native teacher education program and the bachelor of social work program were developed to meet the needs of locally trained professionals. As well, the college's northern studies programs are based on this premise: for the north, in the north, by the north.
I would also like to take a few minutes to update this House on the Department of Education training initiatives, particularly with industry. The training priorities of the Yukon government were established through the 1998 Yukon training strategy. Other training initiatives building on the Yukon training strategy are established through the government's annual budget. We support the apprenticeship program. This year, 313 Yukoners are getting support for their apprenticeship training.
We contributed $1.5 million annually to the Yukon training funds. We have invested $75,000 - both this year and last - to the cultural industries training trust fund. We funded the board of the Yukon Historical and Museums Association to administer $60,000 through the heritage training fund. Finally, Mr. Deputy Speaker, there is a mine training fund administered by the mining association with industry. We support a wide range of mine training initiatives in consultation with industry, First Nations and the federal government. An example is a Yukon College training program, developed in consultation with the Selkirk First Nation for Sherwood Copper. In cooperation with advanced education and other Yukon government departments, Yukon College continually consults with First Nations and industry by following a number of other venues. This includes the campus committee and a wide range of president's committees on programming,
Mr. Deputy Speaker, there are president's committees on programming for the following programs: health trades, information technology, tourism, bachelor of social work, early childhood development and the innovators program. The college consults by way of the community campus coordinators. The college also consults with the advanced education branch of the Yukon government.
Priorities - the college offers a variety of pre-employment, trades training courses and other related training in Whitehorse and in the rural communities.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, in closing, I am very proud of the work that Yukon College does to consult with industry and with First Nations to identify training needs. Yukon College is responding very well to the training needs of industry and First Nations. We as a government are proud of this work and proud of our support to Yukon College over the past three years.
Yukon College has demonstrated over the last three years that they have worked very hard to meet demands. However, as new mines open, there is always room to look at programs that do not exist in Yukon College , which may be a program of interest.
And when we talk about mining, there are a lot of jobs in mining. Yukon College may have to venture out and look into different programs that need to be offered at the college that aren't presently being offered.
I believe this motion that was brought forward today is a good one. It's important that the government of the day really does its utmost to provide the training and job opportunities so that people in the Yukon Territory can continue to live in the territory and to benefit from the natural resources of this territory.
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Mr. Cardiff: In principle, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I can agree with this motion because, to a large degree, it speaks to the facts of what happens on an ongoing basis anyway. In my mind, the motion is a little narrow in its focus, and the conversation today, to some extent, has been a little narrow in some areas.
As we heard today, the mover of the motion, the Minister of Education, and the Member for Mayo-Tatchun all talked about the consultation that the college does. And we all know about the consultation the college does do through community campus committees, the president's committees on programming, the three-day conference that's happening - the consultation process that's going on today, as we speak.
But I think that Yukon College's consultation process is way broader than just industry and First Nations, and I think it should be. I think they need to consult with students both young and old, because the college serves students who are both young and old. Go to the community campuses or up to the campus here and look at the broad cross-section of ages served by Yukon College.
There are other areas - they obviously need to consult with the Department of Education. Advanced education has a couple of divisions - labour market programs and services, which I'm sure would have some input and information around what the demands are out there in the labour market. Also, the apprenticeship trades certification and training programs division would work closely with the college in identifying training priorities.
As well as that, there are other groups out there - organized labour, for instance, has a role in training, and it has played a role in training. They have partnered with the college in many areas.
The government itself - the Public Service Commission has training needs. They do some of their own training, but the college also provides training for the government.
The mover of the motion spoke about meaningful employment leading to a meaningful life. He also spoke about his passion for education and economic development.
Vision, Journey, Trails, and Ends Statement - when you read the ends that have been identified, they talk about how Yukon College will be a centre of community and educational, economic, social and cultural development. So it's not all about the economy; it is about social and cultural development. I think the college was wise to include that, and it was a direction that the government of the day supported. We need to take all those things into consideration. Yes, the college can't be all things to all people, but government and society have to realize that they have a role to play and they have a responsibility.
Look at some of the programs and the work that the college does here locally and in communities. We see upgrading and developmental studies and GED. Why do we have that? Why is it the college's responsibility to do upgrading, developmental studies and GED? What is the school system for in this territory?
I know that people fall through the cracks, but it goes back to a motion that was read into the record today - I don't have a copy of the motion in front of me. But the way I understood the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin's motion and what we had discussed was - look at the dropout rate that occurs kindergarten through grade 12. When we look at the statistics that the minister and department officials quote from, they look at the success rate in grade 12, and that looks pretty good. But we need to look at the longitudinal data. We need to look at who is coming in at the kindergarten and grade 1 stage and where those people go by the time they should be in grade 12, because many of them don't get there.
I think those statistics would lead the Minister of Education and the department down a different path. We have an education reform project currently going on. I hope that is something that they will take into consideration. That is the kind of information that can lead to better education here in the territory for our young people to prepare them to go to the college, not so the college has to prepare them to go to the college.
I don't want to dwell on that for too long. There were some other comments made and a lot of talk about mine training this afternoon and the need for mine training. Members of the Legislature and the public need to understand that the college has been engaged in mine training before - on mine sites. What you need to realize is that those are partnerships and third-party contracts where the government plays a role, communities play a role, training trust funds play a role, and industry plays a role. They deliver training that they are capable of delivering. A lot of that is health and safety training and general skills training around mining. They have had people who work in that area. They delivered programs, to the best of my knowledge, for Viceroy Resources, Anvil Range Mining Corporation, BYG Resources, and probably a few others that I can't remember. They have done that and they have fulfilled that role.
Do we need more mine training? Do we need a mine training centre? I would suggest that if the government and the mover of the motion, or the Member for Mayo-Tatchun or the Minister of Education, think we need a mine training centre to deal with an industry problem that goes across Canada, it is not the college's responsibility to do that consultation.
I think it's the government's responsibility. The government seems to think it's their responsibility to explore a justice institute, another educational facility. I support that and I would support them doing an economic and social analysis, exploring a university in the Yukon. I'm not talking about a university that would replace Yukon College; a university wouldn't replace Yukon College. What Yukon College does is unique here in the territory. I don't think a university could fulfill that role, but they could definitely work in partnership. They've worked in partnership with other universities. They could become a university college.
If the government - or the Member for Mayo-Tatchun or whomever - would like to see more mine training, I suggest they contact the college and make them aware of the desire to have that - and industry as well. It sounds like industry has already contacted them because what I heard today is that there is training going on for Sherwood Copper.
If you want to get into the nitty-gritty, the actual mine training as opposed to the health and safety - there was some talk today about the public perception of the mining industry. Read the newspapers, listen to the news, look at what happened in the State of Virginia, I think it was, and look at what happened in Mexico. Look at what happened the other day in Australia : they rescued two miners who were trapped underground for 13 days. How many men and women have gone into underground mines and not come out? They need to look at their safety record.
You can look at companies around the world. A lot of the safety records have actually gotten better.
That's one place where the college can play an important role in mine training, because they have the expertise to deliver it and they can work in consultation - work together with the initiatives of the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board and occupational health and safety, work that the Federation of Labour is doing around making workplaces safe. I think that would go a long way toward improving the perception of the mining industry.
I was on the Viceroy mine site when a piece of equipment ran away, and the driver died. We need to ensure that these workplaces are safe and the college has a role to play in that. They can deliver that portion of a mine training program if the government wants, and they can probably work together with industry to deliver other parts of that programming.
The government also needs to realize that if it wants the college to respond to these needs, it has to live up its responsibility so the college doesn't have to deliver literacy programming and upgrading and GED courses. The government needs to adequately resource, it needs to look at all the educational needs, not just at what Yukon College can do.
So, yes, the economy is important. Do we need to take advantage of current and future employment opportunities? Of course we do.
Some statistics were quoted today about how many more jobs there are today in the Yukon than there were a year ago. Tied in with that is also a statistic that says that there are fewer full-time jobs than there were a year ago and more part-time jobs. So the government has some work to do on getting those full-time jobs and not those part-time jobs.
While I support the motion, it does have its limitations. I think there are a lot of other things that the government needs to consider. It's a little paternalistic for this Legislature to urge the college to do anything without ensuring that they have the adequate resources. If we're asking them to do more, then we need to ensure that we approve adequate budgets for them to do their job. Do they need to refocus? That's something that may need to be done, and they are doing that work. They regularly do that work on their strategic plan, on their Vision, Journey, Trails, and Ends Statement that they envision for the college. I think it's a good process. I think it's a good exercise for the leaders of this institution to take the time to stand back and look at the whole Yukon, to listen to what's said in the Legislature, to listen to what is being said during this three-day event and to stand back and look at where the college is going and what the needs are of everyone in the Yukon. I'm sure that the people from the college, the board members, the senior management and staff and community campus people who are at the college are hearing a number of things about the needs of communities and First Nation people across this territory, not the least of which was mentioned by the Member for Mayo-Tatchun: capacity building for the implementation of First Nation land claims. But there are other needs out there and other deliverers of education. The ones that come immediately to mind are the ones the college works in partnership with. We need to ensure they are also adequately funded.
People who are involved with the Literacy Coalition and Yukon Learn - literacy projects go on across this territory and where they are not happening, they need to happen. That makes the college's job easier and it makes it easier for them to refocus - which is the idea behind this motion by the Member for Southern Lakes. We need to ensure all our education is adequately funded. We need to look at the statistics that are available to us and get the statistics that aren't available to us to see where the K to 12 system is failing and why students are dropping out and then coming back to the college for that upgrading and GED work.
I can support the motion. Like I said, I think it's a little narrow in its focus, but I imagine that's what the mover intended. I hope I've covered off a number of areas. I don't know if I've covered off all the areas. I'm as passionate probably about education, economic development, social development and cultural development as the Member for Southern Lakes is about the economy and education. With a few more notes, I could probably stand here and talk to the end of the day, but I won't do that.
I thank the members for the opportunity to speak to this and for listening to me today. I look forward to listening to others.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the Yukon College training priorities. I guess, listening to the other members, that Yukon College is a very important fabric in our community. I understand the dilemma these infrastructures have in such a small community. Again, can we offer everything to everybody? Again, we've talked over that and certainly we as a small jurisdiction can do what we can to upgrade our citizens to do many jobs in the Yukon.
The job of the college is to further people's education for the trades and for the academics. Our government, which has worked very, very hard with the college to realize that at the end of the day they needed more resources - which we committed to - to open up our trades and get our trades up and running again. We have done that, thanks to the Minister of Education. We put the money in place, and the college has done its job like it has always done and it has moved forward in the trades and in the training.
With Energy, Mines and Resources, we have a daily issue with qualified individuals to work in the upcoming mining possibilities in Yukon. There are many aspects to a mining property: it involves the physical, it involves the manual, it involves administration, and it involves many aspects of demand of individuals to make a property move forward.
The training that the college does - and I think we have to be very clear on this as the Member for Southern Lakes said regarding the college training priorities - I think in any organization, it is not only refreshing for the institution, but it is also mandatory that every once in awhile we take another look at the operation through fresh eyes.
Now, I'm not saying they haven't done that, but this is a good time for Yukon College to take a look at itself internally and see in what direction it can see itself going forward as an education tool in Yukon .
The Member for Mount Lorne was talking about the issue of upgrading. The college is training members of our community to upgrade, so they can go to college. Well, those are some of the issues we have to address, and we are addressing that in the education field in Yukon. We understand the shortcomings of some of our citizens, and the training has to be available, so that the college can get on and do what the college does best. It teaches at a certain level of college entrance and moves forward.
I guess what we're seeing in this motion is that those are some of the questions they have to answer internally. Now, as a government we can fund the demands of the college, which we've done. We can encourage the college, but the college has a role to play in our community and one of the roles is to run the college. They have a board of governors established; they have the funds in place to run the college, and with the workshop that is going forward now - working with First Nations and the college on what direction they proceed to go forward. In other words, what is the business plan and the academic plan for the college for the set period of time - five years? 10 years? Where do we see ourselves in 10 years as a college?
There is all sorts of conversation in the House - pros and cons about becoming a university. I don't think anyone in this House is equipped to stand up and debate the pros and cons of running a university - changing the concept from a college to a university. I don't know what the financial burden would be on the college, to go from that to a university.
What would that mean to the structure of whom we're catering to today? In other words, those are questions that have to be answered by the college. Are we ready for that step? Is that the right step?
As the Minister of Education is always very up front about, any training is better than no training. The argument is that we're training tradesmen here, but there are not 15 jobs the next day for welders, so should we not teach welding? Guess what? At the end of the day, our welders are employed. It might be in Grande Prairie , but those people carry that training where they go to get jobs.
As we grow as a community and an opportunity comes, you will see those people - not all of them; people go away and make a life for themselves, they get married, they get partners, and they make commitments in different locations. There's no guarantee that any of us would come back, if we were to move somewhere else. But I say to you, if they could, a majority would come back home. We're seeing that today.
In the mining end of things, I look at people who have been gone for a long period of time. I've been to Yukon Zinc to look at the underground miners there. There are familiar faces. We have a lot to offer individuals in the territory. The territory has a very sophisticated lifestyle. We're very cosmopolitan in the City of Whitehorse ; there's not much you can't do in Whitehorse . We have a fine arts community; we have a college, which we're debating this afternoon. We have access to education; we have access to medicare. There are opportunities for seniors. There's access to learning, health care and probably one of the finest standards of living of any part of Canada.
Our seniors are very well taken care of in the Yukon. Could we do more? Certainly, we could do more. Are we committed to doing more? Certainly we're committed to doing more. But as we move forward with the college, I think it's very, very important. And as the Member for Mount Lorne said, we could talk about this for three days. But we're looking at the college and saying that the training priorities of the college are very important to Yukon, and we're saying to the college, in essence, this overview will be a benefit not only to the students in the college but also to governments and to the citizens on the street. It will be a benefit to know that the college is keeping up with things.
Things change, as the Member for Mount Lorne said. The situation changes: there are trades; there are opportunities; there are lifestyles that change. But at the end of the day, with the accommodation now that is going to be at the college - and by the way, if anybody hasn't walked through those accommodations on the college site, it's quite an amazing piece of work that they've done in a very short period of time. To see what rose out of the ground in 12 months is quite mind-boggling, Mr. Speaker. All those things are going to put more burden on the college to produce more courses, because individuals in the Yukon from outside of Whitehorse can come in and not only go to college individually, but they can bring their families. So that doesn't have to be as disruptive to the family as it can be in our smaller communities. A lot of the courses that we offer here in Whitehorse aren't available in the communities. We as a college do a very good job, and I have to compliment the college, because I did live in a rural area for many, many years. Yukon College did a fine job outside of Whitehorse. It's a lot of work for individuals in the college to be at college in, let's say, the community of Watson Lake , where you have a limited student body trying to work at a college level with all the issues that a small town creates.
So, hats off to those people in the small communities. I think they do a fabulous job. I think Yukon College, being here in Whitehorse, being the core and the mother college for all those other colleges, creates another demand on Yukon as we move forward, let's say, into the mining community. We have the mining community, we have oil and gas potential here, we have forestry, and with those come construction, surveying, catering. There are all sorts of industries. We talk about the mining industry like it's one item. We are going to train for mining. Well, mining consists of a lot more than the underground worker. I am not belittling his position. He is the one who is creating the ore. Then we go from there to the mill operator. Then we go from the mill operator for lunch. Then we go into the bunkhouse. Then we have an administration and first aid attendants. Then we have a transportation grid - whether trucks leaving the site or whatever it takes to get the ore to its final destination. All those people are trained individuals.
In the mining community alone, if we were just to look at the mine itself - the mines we have on the horizon now include Yukon Zinc, and Minto Exploration is now very well down the trail into production. North American Tungsten is producing at the moment. North American Tungsten, we have to understand, is in the Northwest Territories. It is not very far into the Northwest Territories but in fact it is in the Northwest Territories. All the services come out of the Yukon so, in essence, a lot of the training and the road maintenance and all that is handled by the Yukon government because of the location of the mine.
Tagish Lake Gold is another one that is on the horizon. Red Mountain is a vast, vast mine that is potentially there. There is Dublin Gulch up in the Mayo area.
United Keno Hill has just been sold, and the price of silver went from roughly $4 an ounce to $14.50 yesterday - an incredible growth of wealth for the United Keno Hill mine is there to be had, and the people who have acquired the mine come with very high credentials. Of course, the main individuals were the people who managed and closed the Viceroy property. It is a compliment to our community to have that level of investor in the Yukon, and I look forward to dealing with them in the future on the United Keno Hill property. Carmacks Copper - Western Silver it was called - that is out of Carmacks. Division Mountain is another potential coal operator that is looking at opening up in the territory.
As you can see, these aren't the only ones. There is placer mining. The price of gold has gone up to $700 an ounce. All those things have an effect on our communities and on our society and then puts the pressure to produce the people needed to operate these mines. These mines - whether you are drilling or exploring or you are a field assistant or technician, a tradesperson or a geologist - these all take training.
These few mines that I mentioned have the potential to create a thousand new jobs in Yukon . Those are direct jobs - that is not considering indirect jobs. Again, as I remind the members here, the college will have a place in the training for not only the trades in the vocational section of the college, but they will also be looking at things like they did years ago. They did have a dirt-moving class that I think built Mountainview Drive .
That was part of their test area, where they actually did the physical work. Those kinds of things are very beneficial to the community, and the pressure is on all of us - whether here in government or in the college - to put a focus on where we should go with the college.
We on this side of the House are certainly here to look at any ideas the college comes back with on how we can be of assistance, mostly with resources. We've already assisted by putting $1 million into the trades in the college. That was done, I would say, two budgets ago. Today, that arm of the college is full, and they're working toward a goal, and that goal is to go to work. And the jobs are out there, Mr. Speaker.
These people we are training are not being trained to go anywhere but to a job. By the way, we're in a very, very good position today. The jobs we train the individuals to do are jobs that they can get at the end of the day. For a long period of time, colleges would train individuals and they would come out, and the job they had been trained for - there wasn't an opening, so they had to go into different fields. They had to go to work at a different angle to get into the field they were trained in.
Nowadays, with the Shell expansion in the oilfields, or the oilfields in Fort McMurray , when it is open, they are going to need 20,000 more employees. That's just one part of the Alberta oilfield process - 20,000 employees. We're going to compete with that, Mr. Speaker, but we have a lot to compete with. We have a fabulous territory; we have a fabulous transportation grid; we are only an hour and a half from the ocean; we can drive to the Arctic Ocean from here, and we also have potential.
I would like to thank the member for bringing forward this motion. I think what we're doing is just reminding ourselves, and reminding the college, that we have to take a look at our training priorities. Obviously, the members opposite have responded that that's what they're doing.
I agree that they are doing that, but we as a government have to understand that when they come back to the table or when they come back with an overview of how they picture the college going forward, that there are going to be resources needed, and those resources will come from the government of the day. I hope the government of the day is receptive to that and understands that a college is a very, very big asset to any community. With that asset comes a price, and the price will have to be paid by all Yukoners. But I say that this government has certainly shown that its interest in the college is sincere and that the trades have to be addressed, and we can't sell any part of the college short. You know, we have a vocational concept, and that's great, but there are also academics. There is also the concept of the Member for Mount Lorne, and what are we going to do with the upgrading section of our university? Is there a better place for them? I think, hopefully, through these meetings they can come back to us and say the concept now with the pressure the college has - we can take those students that were going through the upgrading and put them somewhere else to do exactly that, and we can utilize the college for what it was built for and move forward on the next step. The next step for the college is to become a stronger college. I don't want to debate the concept of a university, but the fact is the college is there. The college is fabulous. We've just put a $31-million extension on the accommodation, and I think we're on the right track. We just have to listen to the college and move forward.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I'm very pleased to speak to this motion before us. As has been said on a number of occasions by a number of members today, Yukon College has served a very important role in the development of the Yukon 's economy and it continues to play an integral role in the further growth of the Yukon.
It has been said on a number of occasions by the chair of the Canada Winter Games Host Society that the Yukon has come of age. Over the last number of years, that seems true. Devolution, the transfer of our resources to the Yukon, the administration and responsibility for our resources has come to the Yukon . As a result of that agreement, there have been challenges but also many opportunities.
There has also occurred the further settlement of land claims and the further implementation of self-governance in the Yukon. These two very large factors have spoken volumes to the development of the Yukon in recent years. With changes, there comes a time when we have to take a look at what we're doing, where our goals are, where the challenges are and some of the steps we can take to address some of those challenges.
We also need to identify the opportunities for growth and change. For that very reason, this motion brought forward by the Member for Southern Lakes is timely and appropriate.
As a long-time citizen of the Yukon, there are tremendous opportunities here today. There have been in the past and there will continue to be tremendous opportunities. Our economy has evolved over the years. Yes, we have gone through some bumps and, yes, we're seeing better times these days. As with any economy - and we're certainly seeing it clear across the west these days; across the country, for that matter - things are heating up. The economy is getting much busier; employment is up. In the Yukon , we're seeing a lot more people making the Yukon their home. They're choosing the Yukon as their home, not only for the job opportunities but also for the great place it is to live and to raise a family.
As a result of these economic opportunities, there is a growing demand upon our labour market. The trends are certainly showing across the country, across North America and so forth, that there are areas within our economy that are starting to show pressures. The changes in our population and the trends in our demographics dictate to us that we have to start looking at those trends. We have to address some of the challenges before us.
One only has to look at health care professionals and the growing shortage. That shortage can be attributed to a number of factors. It certainly is not my purpose here today to outline the reasons behind the shortages, but identify that there are some challenges - many challenges - in our health care field. Likewise, there are challenges in the trades, and one only has to see that, here in the Yukon , there is a growing demand for tradespeople. We have to look at other areas. We spoke of childcare earlier today and there is a growing demand for childcare in the Yukon and, as more economic opportunities open up, there will be more demand placed upon childcare services.
Our government and governments of the past have worked to address each of these areas. As the Member for Porter Creek Centre was saying earlier - now that I've lost my train of thought, I'll chalk it up to not being well today so hopefully everyone can forgive me.
It has been mentioned that there are great opportunities ahead of us; therefore, it is very timely for us to take a look at Yukon College, and this motion speaks to urging Yukon College to work with industry and First Nation governments and others to look at the priorities for training - to look at the opportunities and challenges that are before us today and will be here tomorrow. That will enable Yukoners to take advantage of those economic opportunities instead of falling victim to those employment opportunities.
I think that probably many of us in this Legislature have had the opportunity to take courses, to take programs at Yukon College , and I think everyone will agree that they do an incredible job. All the instructors, all of the faculty - they certainly do a great job. There is a whole host of programs that are delivered through the college, and likewise through each of our community campuses, our satellite campuses. They play a very important role in each of our communities. We are very, very grateful for those individuals for all that they have to offer, and that they continue to offer to Yukoners on a day-to-day basis.
I think if you look at the existing programs, you can't say one is better than the other. They all contribute to a great purpose, whether it be in tourism studies, whether it be women's studies, in terms of working with our communities, in terms of apprenticeship programs. The women in trades, for example - there is certainly an area that we can do much better at promoting trades to women. We were really pleased to be able to work with the Department of Education at Yukon College and women exploring trades and technology to actually put forward a full-time, 16-week program for women. It is to expose women to the various trades that are available - and there are many - and also to explore gender issues and workplace culture specific to women working in the trades field.
A combination of these factors has resulted in a full complement of students taking this particular course. In fact, I understand that there are so many people wanting to take this course that there was actually a waiting list. It's great to see because it's the first time a course like this has ever been developed in the Yukon . From there, we will be able to see what has worked, what hasn't worked - take the strengths and strengthen the program even further.
It just shows that there is a clear, articulate demand for training such as this, and it also shows very clearly that women are an integral part of our workforce. They are certainly very keen, very interested and want to enter the trades field. We're really pleased to see the progress in this course, and I look forward to hearing the outcome of the course as it winds up.
We had the privilege of actually having each of those students here in the Legislature. It was great to meet them again. I had the opportunity to meet them earlier at the college in the midst of one of their electives, that being welding. They were really enjoying themselves. They were learning a great deal, and many of them articulated to me how they are very interested in entering the trades - exploring the trades further, entering an apprenticeship program.
I think these are all areas in which we need to build upon our strengths, perhaps take a look at our weaknesses and how we can build upon those, and focus on what Yukon does best. I think this review is a great time because Yukon has come of age for a variety of factors. There are a lot of opportunities: in the mining field, the tourism field, et cetera.
For arts and culture, for example, it really is a delight to see the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture coming together with Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation and the Yukon College, and forging ahead with a formalized partnership to develop the very first school of visual arts for the Yukon. It's another exciting area for the Yukon and we are very proud of our artisans and cultural industries here in the Yukon. This builds upon being able to build capacity as well as build on the community of Dawson, the Klondike and making it a destination for learning travel or earning the first year of their fine arts degree, as well as identifying opportunities where we can find additional accreditation and accredited partnerships with many of our education institutions Outside.
It's great to see. KIAC has done a tremendous job over the years and I've nothing but accolades to pay to them. It's an exciting initiative and an example of what a community can do. Individuals being able to take their first year of the fine arts accredited program toward a fine arts degree will attract a number of individuals to the Yukon and will build upon our capacity and industries here in the territory. It just shows what can be done in each of our communities.
We are very pleased to see the community training trust funds, and we are very pleased to be able to reinstate those funds to their current level of service, $1.5 million each year. I know that the Member for Mount Lorne spoke earlier to opportunities that he had identified in communities he had visited or in his own community. That's exactly what those training funds are there for. It's great to see them being well utilized.
The Silver Trail training trust fund was a new fund that was recently established by our government. Again, it's great to see that applied to tourism-related initiatives and so forth. We are also pleased to provide new dollars to the heritage training fund. We have extended the cultural industries training fund for another year.
These are all initiatives that build upon our strengths, and I have to say, again, we are very blessed to have the resources we have here in the Yukon . Can we do more? Of course. There is always room for improvement.
In terms of other items that could possibly be explored, like expansion of distance learning opportunities, there are a number of programs that are already currently delivered courtesy of other jurisdictions and institutions in partnering with the Yukon College. Just the very fact that there are courses being led here in the City of Whitehorse able to be communicated via distance learning to our respective communities is a great thing as well. Again, you'll see that there is great growth in that particular sector of education: distance learning. I think we can build upon those partnerships as well.
The northern justice institute - I know that a feasibility study is underway right now. There is another opportunity for the north. Whether it be in the field of training for victim services workers, corrections officers, et cetera, there are so many opportunities.
So again, I would just like to extend my support for this motion. It is a timely one, and we certainly look forward to seeing the further evolution of Yukon and Yukon College as we continue to grow and meet our needs, both current and future.
Mr. Hassard: I will be brief in my comments. In listening to the debate today, I hope we are not underestimating the importance of what our college should be doing. I think they are doing a lot of good work now - there is no doubt about that - but when I am travelling around the territory, a lot of people are coming to me and expressing concern over the lack of trained workers that they can find in the territory right now.
I know from personal experience - I'm still involved somewhat with a construction company and we - I'm not sure “struggle” is the word to use but we do have some difficulty in finding the staff that we want. There are a number of reasons for that, and certainly the college can't solve all my problems.
As recently as last week at a meeting in Teslin, which the Health and Social Services minister and I attended, we were questioned on what the government is doing to help with this problem. Several people raised it. We were there to talk about health concerns, but the debate quickly got into other issues and that was one of the more frequently talked about ones.
We know that the mining industry is growing in the territory, and it is an obvious one to talk about, but there are other places where we know we need more workers. One that I don't think was touched on too much today was what I hear quite often from First Nation communities and when we have meetings with the First Nation leadership - they talk about building capacity.
Again, maybe that's not in line with some of the other comments that were heard today about mining and all of that but, again, it's training that the college could provide.
Quite often, in these discussions with First Nations, it's the first thing they refer to. They don't feel they have the capacity within their own communities and they need to somehow get their own people trained to work in their communities. I guess my concern is that I was hoping today to hear more people get on this bandwagon, so to speak, and talk about those issues.
Not too long after we were elected, I was appointed to the PNWER group. One of the topics talked a lot about there was workforce development. I wish I had dug some of that stuff up for my notes because this is a North America-wide issue. It's not just the Yukon or Canada ; people in the United States are also dealing with these issues. I think a lot of what has happened here in the Yukon is that we've lost our workforce over the past years to other provinces and, in fact, to as far away as other countries.
I had an interesting discussion on the street with an individual who is part owner of a construction company here in Whitehorse - a drilling company - and his brother, as recently as last week, had gone to somewhere in South America - I forget where he said - to try to recruit diamond drillers because he had heard about two mining companies amalgamating and he felt there may be a possibility of getting some staff. He went down there on the advice of a former employee who is now working down there. What he found was that a lot of these former Yukoners, or people who used to work in the Yukon, have found other homes and other places to work. Some of them like the warmer climates, and it's not easy to get them back, even with increasing wages and all of this.
I mean, the fact is that most of us enjoy living here more than anywhere else, but there are still some people who choose not to live here. So, I don't want to go on at length and keep everyone -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hassard: Yes, glued to their seats. Besides, we know there's another motion to get to.
I just hope we're not underestimating the magnitude of the issue because I think the territory is - and I'm sure all of us know that - really short of help. I hope that we can somehow get that issue resolved.
One of the comments I did hear today is that people were worrying about training for jobs that aren't here right now. I understand that at certain times or certain cycles going on - I'll use welders as an example - maybe there isn't a need for 20 welders in Whitehorse. But those people, if they get trained, can go to some other community, or some other province, and work and come back here when it's required.
I think it's unfortunate that we haven't maintained some of those programs in the school to get more people trained, I guess is what I'm trying to say.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I will take my seat and listen to the other comments.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I am encouraged by the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin, who had expressed his disappointment that not a lot of members had risen to speak to this important issue. I would just like to make a few comments for the record. There are many of us who remember the old Yukon Vocational and Technical Training Centre, which is where the Department of Education is now, and I was actually working in the Department of Education when there was a Cabinet submission drafted for the development of Yukon College.
Yes, I'm that old, in response to some of the members opposite.
It was a good idea then that Yukon College be founded, and it still remains a strong innovation and an institution in our territory that has been of tremendous benefit to the Yukon, not solely through Ayamdigut campus here in Whitehorse, but also through all of the satellite campuses, as mentioned by the Member for Porter Creek Centre.
If I might, my personal opinion in regard to the college is that some of the difficulties are that it is both a degree-granting institution - in terms of being able to achieve your Yukon native teacher education program, a degree in education and teaching certification - and you can also obtain your BSW, a bachelor of social work, through Yukon College. There are a number of degrees you can obtain also through the University of Alaska, linked through the college. I am enrolled in one of the programs through the college, with the University of Alaska Southeast.
That being said, you can also do your first year of your apprenticeship. I have former constituents that are registered in the - and I may have the trade designation wrong, Mr. Speaker - plumbers and pipefitters program. There are other trades that you can take the first year. But the individuals that I've encountered have to then subsequently go Outside, as we say, to finish that trade certification for carpentry, electricians, and plumbers and pipefitters.
Now, if that certification can be completed at Yukon College, I stand to be corrected and would appreciate knowing that. However, my point is that you can do all of this at one institution in the Yukon and throughout the Yukon - because we shouldn't underestimate that the territory, as a wired territory, offers us incredible educational opportunities in that respect, and we should capitalize on them.
We have the opportunity to work, as per the motion, with industry and with government to crystal ball gaze and see if the college should continue to try to meet both the trades and technical training as well as the academic, degree-oriented training that is available through the college.
Of course there is also the entire issue of medical training, and I see that recently in the papers we are looking for radiologists and technologists. I note that for NAIT and SAIT - Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and Southern Alberta Institute of Technology - in order to enter the programs that they offer to be a technologist working in a hospital - I have been told by someone trying to get into the program that there are only 10 spaces open. Yet we are crying for these people in hospitals all over the country. Should we be offering that opportunity at Yukon College ?
These sorts of questions need to be asked. Is the college primarily academic, or is it trades and technology, or should it continue to try to be a blend of both, and isn't that unique in this country and shouldn't we be marketing and emphasizing that? Why aren't we becoming the best place in the country to become a welder or a plumber or a pipefitter and, at the same time, earn your master's degree in administration?
Those are all things that Yukon College is entirely capable of. I encourage them, through support of this motion, to consult with industry, First Nations and Yukoners to determine these priorities and continue to work toward the future. This is not only with regard to employment opportunities. All of us have, in the past, expressed our commitment to lifelong learning. It's something that Yukon College gives us all the opportunity to - I hate to use the words “take advantage of” - participate in. I would encourage all Yukoners to do so.
I thank you for the opportunity to put a few points on the record and for the attention of my colleagues this afternoon. With that, I will cede the floor to others.
Speaker: If the Member for Southern Lakes speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by thanking all the members today for their positive comments and their support of this motion. I think we can all agree that Yukon College is a very important and valuable institution in our community. This motion isn't meant as a criticism of the institution, but merely as another mechanism by which we, as elected people, can nudge and encourage them to move in a direction we feel would be beneficial for all Yukoners.
I share a lot of the opinions offered by members. I agree with a lot of the comments; specifically with the Member for Mount Lorne . I, too, would like to see the day when Yukon College can focus on post-secondary education and we could leave the secondary education to our secondary school system.
I think that would give the college a lot of strength and flexibility and the ability to address the issues that it is necessarily responsible for.
I have gone through the strategic plan of the college, dated 2002-07. It is not going to expire. A strategic plan doesn't work in that manner, as you always build upon the goals you have and the direction you are going. I would hope that, at this new point where we do have a new president coming on board - we have an interim president coming on now, if he hasn't already started work, but there will then be another president coming in. I would like to offer some words of encouragement to the board and ask them to pursue some additional new directions.
When I look at their goals, one of the things that really was, to me, glaring in its absence was that it wasn't preparing students for employment situations. It does have a very good set of goals and direction. It's very holistic in nature and I respect that. But I also think that one of the things that a college education does is prepare you for an employment situation. Ideally, I'd like to see them prepare people for employment situations here in the territory so we can match our Yukoners with Yukon opportunities.
I think we will be successful if we see some amendments to their goals. For example, in their current strategic plan, goal 2 is a comprehensive program and service model with a defined core capability. I will quote from their plan: “Although Yukon College is a comprehensive community college, it cannot be all things to all people. As resources tighten and demands increase, we must focus our efforts in ways consistent with the college's Vision, Journey, Trails, and Ends Statement, and our learners' needs and aspirations.”
Mr. Speaker, I think I'll be successful in this motion when this is reviewed and revised. It's amended by including the statement “and the needs of industry and First Nations” after that.
I think it's important for the college to be responsive to learners' needs, to their own reality - who they are as an institution - and also responsive to the needs of community, which I think is most easily defined as “industry and First Nations” - the potential employers out there.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all members for their comments on this and, again, ask for their support on this motion.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Mr. Cardiff: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 14 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion No. 688 agreed to
Motion No. 640
Clerk: Motion No. 640, standing in the name of Mr. Hassard.
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to examine the establishment of a dogs for drug-free schools program, similar to the program currently being used in Medicine Hat, Alberta .
Mr. Hassard: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today to ask all the members for their support on this motion. I know there are millions of people listening. They're not listening to the hockey game, wherever they are. They are tuning in to the debate today.
This issue of dogs for drug-free schools was raised recently by some concerned parents here in Whitehorse . Last motion day there was some discussion about whether or not we should be bringing forward motions that are relevant specifically to our riding. Even though the issue was raised in Whitehorse , I think that this issue is relevant to all of our ridings, given the fact that many of us have schools in our ridings - I'm sure actually most of us do. I think it is an issue that affects all members in the sense that many of us are parents or grandparents of children attending school. As members of the Assembly, we represent all Yukoners, and it is our responsibility to ensure that we do what we can to make our schools as safe as we possibly can.
For those of us fortunate enough to have had time to meet with the dog handler and the dog that was up here from southern Alberta, we got a bit of a briefing on what is being done in that province. It was quite interesting and informative. Is it the best thing for Yukon schools? Is the dogs for drug-free schools initiative the best we can do for our schools? I'm not sure, but I think it is worth looking at. There appears to be a lot of merit - and I know the media has picked up on this and there has been quite a bit of discussion already on what it is and what it can do for us.
To start, I should go over some of what was done in Alberta. The dogs for drug-free schools program was created for the purpose of maintaining the safety of our students and schools as well as assisting in keeping the schools drug-free.
It is designed to support, as well as promote, educational initiatives within the schools. It's a project that will educate our youth about the consequences of drug use, as well as the possession of narcotics in our schools and in our community. This is a proactive and preventive approach to make students more aware of drug issues, as well as change behaviour in others. Drug dogs will promote a passive working relationship between the police service and our school communities.
Its purpose is to educate students on the negative impacts that drugs have and the consequences of the use and abuse of illegal drugs, and also to maintain and promote safety with students and staff by reducing the presence of drugs and the negative impact they have on our schools. It is also to deter students from bringing illegal drugs into our schools, to provide a non-threatening police and police dog presence in the school environment and locate illegal drugs that are brought to schools.
There are many benefits apart from the obvious one of finding the drugs. It provides a non-discriminatory therapy for students who do not socialize or relate well to others in the school. There is also a sense of ownership that the student body would take in the dog, which would in turn assist with school spirit. The presence of a drug-detecting dog in the school provides a proactive educational tool that assists in our goal of keeping drugs out of our schools. We know from what went on in Alberta - and I'm sure it's happening here as well - that our communities are experiencing the negative impacts methamphetamines bring. This is a proactive approach to educate students and deter illegal drugs such as these from entering our school communities.
In Alberta , the proposal was that three school resource officers would work with a dog in their respective schools. The purpose of these dogs would be to provide a non-threatening police and police dog presence in the schools. The school resource officer would bring the dog to all the schools that he or she visits during the day. As well, at the beginning of the year, a presentation would be done to all schools on the purpose of the dog, as well as a demonstration for all students at all schools in that city.
The purpose is not to search every student and every locker. The dog is not intended to do random searches of the school lockers or the students. Instead, if the school administrator suspected drug use or dealings in identified areas, the dog could then be used to conduct a directed search. This search would only be conducted after the education component of the program has been presented. If the dog showed an indication of drugs being in the identified location, that information would then be passed on to the school administration.
After talking with the dog handler in the members' lounge a couple weeks ago, it changed my mind on what this was all about. I know, at first, there was some discussion about the dogs and searching for drugs and putting people through rigorous testing with the concern of what that might do to the students. It was very much determined to be at the request of a school.
The school administration could then determine the next course of action on whether to search the locker or not. If drugs are found and passed on to the resource officer, it would be handled in the same way it is now.
The student would be referred to AADAC, the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission , and parents would be notified and appropriate community supports put in place. The purpose is not to use the dog as an enforcement tool but to change behaviour and provide the student with help from proper agencies.
I found quite a bit of information on it, going so far as to getting into the cost of having the dog - a breakdown of veterinary costs, the purchase of the dog itself, some interesting stuff on how much it would cost to feed the dog - stuff that we probably don't need to go into today. It's all interesting stuff, and it was good to read over. It helps a person make a decision.
Now, Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that this is not going to be an easy thing to get everybody to buy into. There are a lot of questions out there. I know that the briefing we had helped to answer some of the questions I had, so I know that other people will want to get that information as well. I think that our human nature is to reject change, and I can appreciate that. It's going to take some time for people to get used to this.
However, I do think that it's something worth debating. In light of our safer communities legislation, I think this just goes along with that. And I think all of us want to make sure that our schools are as safe as they can be.
Given the short amount of time, Mr. Speaker, I'm going to turn this over to allow other members the opportunity to speak and see if we can get a vote on this today.
Ms. Duncan: I'm very pleased to rise to discuss this particular initiative and I thank the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin for providing a great deal of the background on this initiative from Medicine Hat.
Just a word about the origin of the idea coming to the Yukon - a former constituent of mine was looking into this for quite some time and had expressed some concern to me about the ability of the school to deal with drugs and enforcement. There was some public debate in the newspaper about two years or so ago about the RCMP dog and whether or not the dog had access to school lockers or could or should be allowed in the school.
This individual did her homework and went the extra mile and found out about the program in Medicine Hat. She educated me and others and went even further and brought up the dog and the dog handler to brief members in the members' lounge as well as to participate in a public meeting and meet with officials.
This idea - dogs for drug-free schools - like any idea, it's not just resistance to change but it met with some resistance. First of all, there's the question of how it's different from the RCMP drug dog. Our current dog is Justice. He's very good at his task; however, the law, Supreme Court rulings and matters from the court have indicated when and how the dog might be used. Of course, Justice is also engaged in any number of activities and can't necessarily be in the schools.
There is also the question of - when I refer to Supreme Court rulings, I am talking about the rulings regarding random search and seizure - whether Justice or any RCMP dog can be in the schools, and can they do a random search and seizure and whose property is it and who is in authority? Is it the principal? There are always questions when a new idea comes up or an innovative idea is brought forward. Another question that came up was about allergies. What about the student who has allergies if there is a dog in the school?
These questions are answered in the program with respect to the RCMP and Justice - who have other responsibilities. This program is designed to work with the law enforcement agencies - not necessarily to be the law enforcement, but to work with them, and also to work with the principal, who has authority over the lockers and over the school and the school grounds.
With regard to the question about those students who may have an allergic reaction, my understanding is that in our schools - their design and such and the proximity of the dog - it's no different than if I happen to own a dog and members who sit with me might be allergic - it's no different. There is dander on your clothes, but it is an issue that can be overcome - is what I am saying.
There is the question of who pays the vet bills, the price of the dog, the dog training and the dog handler. In this regard, I understand that in presenting this idea, the veterinary community in Whitehorse has responded very quickly with, “How can we help?” There was no resistance to the idea or, “This is the size your bill is going to be over the lifetime of the dog,” but “How can we help do this?”
With regard to the actual application for the dog and the handler, recently I had the very good fortune to attend a meeting with the Porter Creek Secondary School Council, along with other members from the government side. The school council has prepared the application. As I understand it, they are seeking funding from the money that has been set aside in the Executive Council Office under the safer communities legislation. That is where they are seeking the money. Support for this motion will, in turn, hopefully be seen by the government as support for the application. I would encourage all members to support the idea and to support the motion.
I would just like to put another couple of comments on the record with regard to this program. As I said, there were questions about the program. I believe that those questions have been fully addressed in working through the program and learning how it works from the dog handler from Medicine Hat. I would like to applaud the constituents who seized upon this idea and followed it through with admirable determination. It shows the difference a private citizen can make in their community when they are steadfast in their beliefs and are willing to go the extra mile to present the idea and re-present it over and over in the face of opposition and questions, knowing it is the right thing for the community. To those who have supported them, my hat is off to them. This is a good program.
I believe very strongly it would be a wonderful addition to our school. I can't help but hear that when I'm in discussions with teachers, parents, and staff at the Porter Creek school. I'm not as often in conversation with staff from the other high schools in Whitehorse like F.H. Collins, Vanier and l'École Émilie Tremblay. However, I frequently meet with students, staff and parents at Porter Creek Secondary. The first question in the last few months has been, when is our dog coming? They are very, very enthusiastic about this particular initiative. I would truly like to see it happen.
I also would be remiss if I didn't use the time allotted to me to say that this is something like the safer communities legislation: it can't happen in isolation. It doesn't end with Porter Creek 's application this money that has been set aside. There must be conversations with other Whitehorse area high schools, should they choose to do the same initiative or embark upon this program, and outside of Whitehorse . If there can be a way this program could work in rural Yukon, that would also be a good thing, because the issue of drugs is not restricted to one community in the Yukon alone. Everywhere that we could help would be a good thing.
I also believe that the principals of our schools have a tremendous responsibility. They have authority in our schools, and they must have our support. The Education Act allows for in-school suspensions, but if you want to suspend a child for drugs and do an in-school suspension, it won't work if you don't have the classroom space or the resources.
The Member for Pelly-Nisutlin said that, with the drug dog being at the school, a student caught with drugs is referred to AADAC - that's the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission. The point is, there is a referral to a professional. What are we going to do in the Yukon? What is that principal going to do? The drug dog does his or her job. The principal does his or her job. What happens to that child? Where is the counselling? Where is the help? If it is an in-school suspension, where are we going to put the student? Where are we going to get the counselling? Right now there is counselling one day a week at Porter Creek - one day a week, that's it - and there is no space to have an in-school suspension. There is nowhere to put a student or group of students.
I speak of Porter Creek. Perhaps other members will speak about the high schools in their ridings. My point is that we can't see this particular initiative as the end. It has to be part of a large picture of how we are going - it's already part of the larger picture of the safer communities legislation and the monies that have been set aside, and I hope the government will see their way clear to fund it. It has to now be the follow-through of providing counselling and providing help to young people who are dealing with drug issues, and I believe very, very strongly that our schools must be drug-free. We must help young people who are dealing with drugs. I think they are more prevalent in our Yukon society than any of us would like to believe.
I refer back to the last time we were having this discussion, and I pointed out to the members the number of articles I've read in southeast Alaska papers about the shutdown of crystal meth labs in Alaska. That is very frightening. That's our neighbour. We are very close to Alaska. And crystal meth is a very frightening drug. We're hearing a lot about it and its effects on young people in the media.
There have been many interesting and very well-done documentaries about a small town in Alberta - essentially, the small community stood up and said no to drugs through a variety of methods. But again, that started as one mom speaking out, and that's how this dogs for drug-free schools started out. Again, it was one mom speaking out and wanting to ensure that her sons had a drug-free environment in which to attend school.
It's a good initiative. As I said, it has been well explained by the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin about Medicine Hat and so on. I've talked about some of the resistance, and some of the concerns have been met and overcome. I would hope the resistance to this program has been countered with education. Again, I would encourage the government to support the application for funding with the funds that are available through the safer communities legislation.
Most especially, I would like to encourage all members not to allow it to end with this. Like all programs, we should ensure, when they're particularly effective, that we can facilitate their use in other communities.
How do we ensure we provide the counselling that is the follow-up to this particular program? With that, I will thank the members for the opportunity to speak and for listening to me this afternoon. I would encourage their support for this motion.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I will just speak for a moment on this. I think we're probably all very aware if we have children in the system - and people who don't have children in the system now may have in the past - that drugs have become a very big concern to the educators and the families. As well, of course, they are a burden on the individuals who go to school, because of the peer pressure and things that go along with growing up and adolescence. They are all things our young children go through.
I think this project, as a pilot program - and I have to thank the group who got together and did the homework to bring it forward - inspired a lot of questions about dogs, civil rights and the invasion of privacy. These are all things that come with the invasion of an individual's space. Is it appropriate to have a dog go through the school attached to an RCMP officer and, on the basis of rumour, go through your locker? Those are the kinds of questions that had to be answered.
The group did their homework. They got involved with the individual from Medicine Hat - the dog handler who had been part of the Medicine Hat police force. They came forward as a group with this idea on how to curb drug use in one of the high schools in Medicine Hat.
I think a lot of questions can be answered by education. There is concern - and we can't make light of the concern of the fact that individuals who have allergies have to be addressed in a way that they feel comfortable. When you have a kid who has an allergy - and I didn't, so I can't really speak from experience. But I understand the pressure on the individuals, the parents and, of course, the children who have to go to a public school system when they have these allergies - that they can go to school in a comfortable zone and feel safe.
As the Member for Porter Creek South said, education is important - and again we have to thank the group that got together to put the presentation together for us as novices in how we involve this dog in our community.
I think that with the buddy system that has grown between that group and Medicine Hat , we'll learn a lot from the experience that Medicine Hat had. I think if I were working with that group on a daily basis on how we can address some of the questions about allergies, I would recommend that we bring someone from Medicine Hat - somebody with some experience with these kinds of allergies that could be a question in our schools - and address them at a public meeting and also spend a period of time counselling the families and the individuals with the allergies. Again, it is important that this works and we answer the people's questions before the dog arrives.
I think, as a government, we are aware of the urgency of a pilot project like this. I think the Member for Porter Creek South was clear that this might, if successful, become something that every high school would have. I would say to the members here that if it shows success at Porter Creek Secondary School, I am sure there won't be a question that other schools will be interested in this form of addressing the drug situation in our schools - the perceived drug situation or the factual drug situation. This will not address all the drug situations that our children are exposed to. This will certainly police what happens inside the walls of the school. Anywhere we can address that issue is, in my mind, a positive thing.
I went to the presentation at the school and also, of course, the one here in the lounge. It was quite a presentation. I was very impressed with the dog, but you've got to think about the dog because we have to purchase a dog. Who is going to purchase the dog? Well, people have come out of the woodwork in support of this. I mean, we have the veterinarian saying, “Well, we will take a look at the veterinarian costs.” We have had service clubs come up and say, “Well, how many dogs will this take?” Of course, they are interested in being part of this because it has a success to it that I think we can't ignore.
So, the community is getting together to address some of the costs. We, as a government, have to understand that we can't put any more on the administration of these schools. In this case, we're taking a look at Porter Creek Secondary School. They have their hands full with X amount of students. They have other issues besides drugs and, at the end of the day, as people in the House have been saying today, we want quality students to graduate from those institutions. We can't take away any more time from those individuals than we already do, so there are going to be staffing issues.
Who's going to be in charge of the staff? In other words, are we going to hire a staff person to go in there and work with this dog? You understand that the dog is going to be part of the school. It's going to come in as a puppy. That's what they do in Medicine Hat. They bring a dog in as a puppy to grow up in the school. They come every day. They come with a handler. The handler becomes part of the learning community. He doesn't continually walk up and down the hall like a guard. He's part of the faculty.
Well, what will his obligations be? What else will he do besides buddy up with this dog? Now, this guy has to be a special sort of a guy. He's got to take the dog home. He's got to work with the dog on a 24-hour-a-day basis to have the dog trained properly so that it becomes part and parcel of the learning community. What happens when this individual goes on holidays? What happens if he decides to move to Chilliwack?
So, all of those things will have to be addressed. Again, these are challenges, but I think the challenges are very easily remedied. I think the resources have to be committed from the government for a period of time. The dog is going to live for 10 to 13 years. So it's not something that at the end, if the pilot project doesn't work, what are we going to do with the dog? Another issue, which I asked the policeman from Medicine Hat about, is if there is any guarantee the dog will work. Well, there is no guarantee. You have to wait 12 or 13 months to get this dog through the training process to see if he is the right dog for the job. That's why a CNIB dog - they take these dogs, and out of a group of 10 or 12, they get maybe three or four dogs that are receptive to doing the job. So those are chances we're going to have to take.
I can't see any downside to this. What we're looking for is some discipline in the drug field; in other words, being able to smell drugs or point out drugs in our school and then the department can do the appropriate things to address that issue. They're also finding out that dogs are very helpful in a seniors complex - cats, pets, all of those are becoming more and more part of these communal living areas where we have seniors. So this dog is going to be a huge plus for the school. Basically, I think having a dog as part of your learning community is a positive thing.
Now, the dog will be trained to address these other issues, which is a plus, but I think we'll look back on this, as we move forward with it. And as the Member for Porter Creek South is talking about, other schools will want this. I think what we have to do is move forward with this group in Porter Creek, get the pilot project up and running, address all these other issues and then, at the end of the day, we'll find what they did in Medicine Hat : they started in one school, and now they have three schools doing it.
So, I hope that we get support for this. I have to thank the member who brought it forward. It's a very important issue. It's quite a lively debate in Porter Creek - a lively and very positive debate. So, I look forward to voting on this and working on this to make it a reality at the end of the day.
Mr. Hardy: A few years ago, I was picking up my son after school. It just so happened that my schedule worked out quite well to do it, and it was a nice time to get together with him. He was in high school. I'd pick him up, and we'd head off and do some stuff or go home. I would park in the parking lot and, after about the second or third day, I noticed that a car would pull into the parking lot every time. It would sit there, and the bell would ring, and the kids would come out. Some kids would wander over to this car - the windows were dark - and the window would unwind, there would be a very short discussion and it looked like something was handed into the car. And then the students would head on off down the road.
The car sat there for 10 or 15 minutes and left. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that there was some kind of transaction happening outside the school. I watched this for three or four days. I asked my son about it. He said that they were selling drugs. So, I pulled into the parking lot. The car was there. I got out of my car and walked over to the car. As soon as I got close to it, they started up and took off. The next day I did the same thing and they started up and took off. By that time, I decided to go into the school and talk to the principal. The principal informed me that they knew about it. This had been going on for quite awhile. They would get rid of one and there would be another there.
The police knew about it. They had been called in. It continued. They couldn't do anything about it. Why? What's the missing piece here? The missing piece is that they weren't carrying drugs. What they were doing was telling them where the drugs were. No dog is going to deal with that. No dog is going to deal with drugs deposited in certain places around town - drops. There is nothing illegal about the transfer of money. They can do that in the open. Frankly, the people who were selling the drugs weren't doing anything illegal. They weren't handing drugs over. The school's hands were tied. The RCMP's hands were tied. There was no evidence or proof and it's all done in the open.
No dog is going to deal with that. I'm not opposed to trying the dog idea. I don't think it takes much to figure out how to get around it at all.
The dog idea - people will feel better. They will think they have dealt with the problem, and they may have dealt with it to a certain degree or certain level, but the problem just does a slight shift and we've been fooled again. That becomes the game that keeps getting played. How much money do we put into efforts to deal with this problem?
I know there are other methods as well. When I went to school there were drugs in the lockers and the backpacks. Teachers used to be able to spot who was selling drugs or who had drugs. They had more time to patrol the hallways. They had more ability to interact with students. They had a better handle on them - it wasn't such a big group. Schools were a little bit smaller and they knew the kids a little bit better.
Now we are at the stage where having a dog may or may not have any effect. I say, sure, let's try it, but let's not kid ourselves - let's not kid ourselves at all. They will find another way. The way I described it is the way it happens, and it is happening right now in Whitehorse. That is not going to deter anything. The only thing it prevents, possibly, is the kids actually having the drugs inside the building or within the perimeter where the dog would be able to walk around.
The kids know it all of a sudden. If they are inclined to do drugs, they will find a way. They already have. I just gave you one example, but I am sure we can come up with a few more quite easily. What is the problem? What stimulates a young person and takes them down the path of trying drugs and then using them? What is going on in our schools that we are doing wrong in this regard? Should we not have more interaction between the schools, community, family, parents, volunteers, sports groups and arts groups? Should there not be more activities that stimulate a child other than drugs? Shouldn't there be more activities that catch their interest?
Has the school itself become so sterile that the children are bored and are looking for something to stimulate them? I hope not. There are a lot of great teachers out there. Is the model itself wrong? Are the schools getting too big? Have we gone away from the small schools where there is more of a family atmosphere and more controls in place, where the kids feel more at home? We have gone more into the institutional style. Is that a problem? Possibly. Do we not use enough of the tremendous amount of expertise out there in the volunteer groups, whether within the sports groups, such as boxing, martial arts, or people who teach after-school basketball or volleyball?
Whatever it is, the kids may be interested. Why aren't they in the schools? Why aren't they interacting with the schools and working together to catch those kids who need a different stimulus to stay in the school environment and away from the drugs? How about the yards?
We have made cuts in our schools in the sports field and in the arts. We have seen an increase in the use of drugs. All the studies show that a child learns better when they have that kind of stimulation - whether it's music, arts, drama, or sports, they all learn better. Yet, our school system at one point shifted, and we said it has to be academics and this other stuff is not as important. Yet every single study points to the fact that the child progresses faster and better and understands more if they have that kind of stimulation. So, have we gone in a slightly different direction and are drugs the stimulation that they now fill that hole with?
Is it possible to have an interaction with parents, elders and seniors in the schools? Get them back into school and have them walk up and down the hallways, sitting and talking and telling stories, being engaged? I will tell you right now, they would find out where the drugs are pretty darned fast too. It's not hard to find out which kids have drugs in the school because drugs do not stay in a locker. They are not an ornament; they are being used.
You have people who are interacting with the school, who are able to be in the school and learn who these children are, what their problems and interests are. Teachers already have so much on their plates. It was mentioned by the former speaker how much we can keep putting on the plate of the people who are working in there. How do we make the school more personal? How do we shrink the school down into more of a setting of learning and love, a space of welcoming, not of fear or rejection, or a place where you are bored or one you want to get out of or whatever. A lot of kids feel that way.
We have some examples of some of the programs. The Wood Street Annex, of course, is doing a different approach and they are taking kids there. We have the school that was recently created - the Individual Learning Centre - many good ideas.
But about our schools that we have right now - what other ideas do we have out there? We can't take kids and force them into a box and say, “This is what you have to fit.” Children are different. They have different needs. Some work very well in a very organized and developed curriculum; others don't. I can assure you that I didn't. What about role models? We don't use our role models enough in schools. We don't bring them back into the schools and have them interact with the students and give them something to look forward to, or give them some guidance or direction.
It's always: “We've got to get them up to this curriculum level” or “We've got to get them up to this measurement” - we've got to, we've got to, we've got to. But we sometimes forget that we're losing a lot of kids through this single-minded direction of getting them to a certain level so they can be accepted at a higher learning institute. Of course we know we have to strive for that, but what about their needs?
A child often goes through drugs for a reason. We can never forget that. It could be for many reasons. It could be home life, that they've been bullied, that they're isolated in their school environment - they don't have friends and are ostracized. That's practised in our schools. Anybody who doesn't think it is happening is wearing blinders. It is practised in our schools by kids - ostracizing and targeting other kids. These things do happen, and teachers have only so much ability to deal with it.
So, how do we look at this in the bigger picture? And how much money are we going to put toward it? And how much money are we going to put toward one little thing and not recognize that the problem we have goes even beyond that?
So, kudos to the people who worked on this and who really want the dog. Hopefully, it does have a significant impact.
I recognize the Member for Porter Creek South and her contributions to it. I thank the mover of the motion for bringing it forward. It's something we can try. I know there was a question asked that if it works in one school, are we going to do it in 10 schools, 12 schools? Maybe, I don't know. I guess we'll see where we go, but I am a realist when it comes to drugs and a very big realist when it comes to them getting to the targeted people. There are many ways that this can happen, and we have to find the root cause here.
We have to involve far more people in the education and the well-being of our children as they grow up - especially when they hit certain ages, when they are most vulnerable. I can assure you that anybody who has had children and gone through the whole period from birth to, say, age 21 - it never ends, but there is a period in there in which the child is extremely vulnerable to this kind of stuff. Sometimes it doesn't matter what kind of family life they have - it could be a great family life, but some things we just missed the mark on and they went down this path. So the more people involved, the more ideas we bring forward, the more things we try are good things, but let us really concentrate also on trying to integrate the school into the community and the community into the school and have no breaks in that link. It would help a lot.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would like to say how grateful I am that so many parents of students at Porter Creek Secondary School are concerned about the use of drugs at school. I thank them for bringing this issue to the forefront. I also thank the presenter from Medicine Hat, Alberta, who shared with us their program, which they feel is quite effective.
There are many more parents across the territory who also share these concerns. This is an important first step when considering the implementation of any program, because parents are an important element of any education initiative that we undertake in the schools. While schools have a role to play in creating and maintaining a healthy and productive learning environment, we cannot do this without the help of the community at large. Education about drugs and alcohol starts at home. School staff need families to reinforce positive messages about personal responsibility. This will ultimately help students to make the right choices.
In the same breath, I believe as parents and grandparents we must also be active in ensuring that our children and grandchildren are safe in school. They must be safe from the pressures to use drugs. We all know that peer pressure can be overwhelming and is sometimes difficult to deal with. If drugs are undetected in the school, I believe that the chance of a student being introduced to drugs would be much higher.
The Department of Education is committed to providing a safe and healthy learning environment in our schools. We do not condone students using or possessing drugs. While we can't control what happens outside of the school, the Department of Education is taking steps to reduce the amount of drugs in our schools and to help ensure a safe and healthy learning environment. The Department of Education has a number of materials and resources available to teachers to help them continue their students' education about substance abuse.
Substance abuse prevention is part of the education curriculum, from kindergarten to grade 12. Yukon schools use a variety of substance abuse prevention materials and personal planning courses that run from kindergarten to grade 7, as well as in career and personal planning, which runs from grades 8 to 12.
There was some question about funding today by different members. I believe a more appropriate question would be: what is one willing to pay to ensure their children do not become drug addicts? What price can one put on a young person being addicted to crystal methamphetamine and all the hardships that come with that? Is there a price that you can put on that? I don't believe so.
The motion presented in the House to adopt a drug dog program in Yukon schools references a new early intervention technique that has been championed by many concerned parents in the Porter Creek Secondary School community. Presentations about the drug dog program have been made to school council, Department of Education staff and to the interested public. This is a very positive thing, because drugs affect everyone in our community, and any solution we present has to involve everyone.
Why do we need a program like this? The answer is simple: to minimize or completely keep drugs out of the schools, it is also important to keep the drug dealers out. We do not need them to be recruiting our children and grandchildren as potential clients in the future.
Will it totally eliminate this problem? I think it will have a great, positive effect as a deterrent. If nothing else, it will deter people from bringing drugs to school or the drug dealer actively trying to recruit on the premises.
A parent or grandparent's worst nightmare would be to find out their child or grandchild has become addicted to crystal meth or other harsh drugs while at school. Society must resist and deter those in our schools from bringing drugs into the schools.
Man considered the dog as man's best friend. I believe we never really appreciated just how true this is. In this case, he may even be referred to as a saviour. I am committed to reviewing the proposal we received from the Porter Creek Secondary School Council. I can assure members of this House that the government will make a decision based on the careful consideration of the needs and rights of all individuals involved. The government realizes a lot of detail will have to be addressed throughout this whole process. It's not a case of throwing out a cheque and adopting a program. There has to be some discussion around it. I can assure you it will take place.
I would like to assure the members of this House that the Department of Education will continue to work with the school council, the school administration and the greater school community to continue to develop the safest learning environment possible for all students. Our future really depends on healthy youth, and I sincerely hope that all the youth who may be listening to this debate today will take note that all of the members of this Legislative Assembly are concerned about them. We need to do everything we possibly can to ensure that they have every opportunity to grow up to be healthy young adults.
I would encourage every young person to look at the progress of a crystal meth user to see how healthy they look when they first start this drug and to see what they look like 10 years later. Every young person must believe what they see. These pictures are not fabricated - they are fact. These drugs will destroy a young person; they will minimize their chances of ever becoming a parent or grandparent.
I thank you for giving me this opportunity to talk to this very important issue, and I do support the government moving forward and looking at implementing this program.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Mitchell: I have heard a lot of things said here this afternoon, and I think the discussion is an important one. Part of what is encouraging is that most of what I've heard has been people speaking from the heart, as opposed to simply speaking intellectually about a problem. I think that's a positive sign for what we hope to accomplish here.
Some good points have been raised and some good questions asked. Everyone has spoken in favour of this motion, and I am certainly speaking in support of it as well. I know that the Member for Porter Creek Centre raised some good questions. He asked some questions about the costs and who would look after the dog. I think he also raised questions about the possible effects if there should be allergies present in students in the school. These are good questions, but they're not unsolvable.
The handler who came up from Medicine Hat said they had faced similar questions and concerns, and they had found ways to address them. I'm sure we will too, but as has been said, the questions have to be asked.
The Member for Whitehorse Centre, the leader of the third party, pointed out that there are ways around these methods - if people are determined to be drug dealers, they will persevere. I know he's right. We know that there are always people who will be determined to commit wrong, but the fact that they will persevere doesn't mean that they have to prevail.
Like the discussions we had on the safer communities legislation, I think the metaphor that several of us used was that “it was another tool in the toolbox”. It wouldn't solve all problems, but it would help make a difference. We are elected here - we're asked to serve by people, to be leaders. We're all leaders. It's not just the Premier or a minister. Every one of us has been chosen as a leader within a community to try to make a difference.
I think the public expects no less of us - that we shouldn't throw our hands up and say, well, the drug dealers will have their way at the end of the day, but rather to say, well, let's make it tougher and let's try to make a difference.
You know, our kids come from all different kinds of backgrounds and neighbourhoods. As the Member for Whitehorse Centre has said, despite how good a family environment we try to provide, things don't always work out the way we'd like. We've all seen that in our families. Sometimes things happen and kids go in directions that we wish they wouldn't have taken. But we still can do everything in our power to try to point them in the right direction and point out the pitfalls and create a safer environment for them. And if they can't be safe in our schools, where they spend such a large portion of their day for so many years, then I don't know where they can be safe.
I think some of the things that should be looked at is that drug dealers don't necessarily have to have the drugs on them, as was pointed out. But part of what we learned with this program is that the dogs will respond not just to the immediate presence of drugs but also to the fact that somebody has recently handled drugs or has been in an environment where one of these substances has been.
You know, peer pressure works in many ways. We talk about the negative peer pressure, but we also have to look at the positive peer pressure, such as the “It's not cool to be smoking” campaigns that we've seen to try to convince kids not to get addicted to tobacco, to not even start the habit - that it isn't cool to do. If a dog who has been seen as a member of the school community, not a police dog, but a friend and a companion - if that dog is reacting to the fact that on someone's clothing or in their locker there may have been some indication of drugs, the other kids will see that, and they'll point it out and say, if it was Fiddler, “Oh look, here's Fiddler; look where Fiddler's sitting.” And that can be a positive thing, too, for kids to look at other kids and not want to be singled out as having done something that maybe is illegal or is not very intelligent.
It can make a difference. It won't solve all the problems but it will solve some.
If we are going to talk about what difference we can make in the schools - my wife has been an educator for 35 years. I know she has spent a great number of those years dealing with special needs kids and working in early-reading intervention and in learning assistance. She comes home some nights and tells the stories of students and their successes and lacks of success and I ask her, “Well, do you get frustrated? You can't save all these kids. Some aren't going to succeed. Is that frustrating?” She says that every time you can make a difference, it is worthwhile. You can't necessarily make every difference you would like to make, and you can't necessarily get every kid to the stage of reading or learning that you would like to, but with every difference we make, it's one more kid who has a chance to succeed, to do better in school, to have a better work life and hopefully a better family life.
I think we have to look at the glass-half-full scenario - what we can do as opposed to saying, well, we can't solve it all, so why try at all?
I think the Minister of Education has spoken movingly about what price you put on the value of a child's life. I know this program is asking for $250,000 over three years. We can all do the math. If we are going to do it in 10 schools, it is $2.5 million. These are significant sums of money. I can't think of any more valuable resource to spend the money on than our children and their welfare. That's our job: to look after people's welfare.
We talk about economic development in this Legislature and all kinds of different programs but nothing is more basic than looking after our children.
Probably most if not all of us have known, by the time we get to be the age we are in here, a parent who has lost a child, whether it be through an accident or whether it be through substance abuse, drinking and driving - any number of things. There is nothing more tragic than the loss of a child. We come to expect that the people who come before us may pass on before us, but it is not the natural order of things for children to pass away before their parents.
I know from the people I've known who have lost children, and I am sure from the people my colleagues in this House have known, when that happens there isn't any price or any amount of money that those parents wouldn't pay if they could have undone that moment - that one, unfortunate moment that happens when a boat flips on a lake or when someone gets into a car when they shouldn't, like with a driver who shouldn't be driving, or perhaps has had their first opportunity to get involved with substance abuse. Perhaps that opportunity did occur in a school. I think absolutely the most important thing we can do is to look for solutions like this, and I think it is what the public expects of us and it is what our children deserve from us. I think it is one of the things that perhaps all of us, when our time in this House has expired and we have moved on to other things, will look back at and think there was a day when we made a difference.
I would like to thank the parents from Porter Creek Secondary School who first brought this program to everyone's attention, who went out and made the arrangements to bring up the retired police officer from Medicine Hat, and Fiddler, whose name we all seem to remember. I thank the school for hosting the meetings that were held, and I do thank the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin for bringing this motion forward. I certainly support it, although if the vote is counted and division is called, I can't vote today because I am paired with the Premier. I support it, as I know he would if he were here. I commend all members for supporting this, and I look forward to us passing it and I look forward to the minister, who has already indicated he will move forward with his colleagues - moving forward as soon as practicable to see this program go into place. If, as the Member for Whitehorse Centre has said, there are other programs and other ways we have to address it, then we should bring those forward too and pursue those avenues as well.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: It gives me pleasure to rise today in support of this motion. I would like to thank the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin for bringing it forward and for the support that has been expressed by members on all sides of the House.
The issue of substance abuse is of grave concern within society, nowhere more so than in the minds of parents who are concerned about their children falling in with a rough crowd or having an unfortunate experience at a party, if something is slipped into their drink. That type of thing could, quite frankly, happen during the daytime in the cafeteria. These are concerns that prey on the minds of parents today. It is a subject I think we all recognize has no simple or easy solution. Dealing with drug abuse and substance abuse is something we must tackle, but the question always comes down to how.
This proposed program, based on the one in place in Medicine Hat, Alberta, is an excellent concept. It is one that addresses the concerns that have arisen about many issues, such as locker searches and police going in with dogs to conduct these searches. These are, of course, civil rights concerns that arise when there is a need for a search warrant.
The fact is that this program is based on the dogs simply trained to sit when they smell drugs. This allows a principal to investigate a locker through the principal's rights, based on reasonable belief, to investigate a locker or anything else on school premises, as upheld by the Supreme Court.
The other element of this, of course, is the deterrent factor that it poses - that drug dealers and users within schools may simply be deterred from entering school premises and using or selling drugs in that location. While that doesn't eliminate the problem, as was noted by the Member for Whitehorse Centre, there is certainly the possibility that drug abuse can take place in other areas. The fact that, for a significant number of students, they are no longer as likely to be faced with the possibility of having drugs pushed on them during school hours does eliminate a very significant number of hours of the day during which that opportunity could occur. Preventing substance abuse is, in many ways, about eliminating the opportunities and eliminating conditions under which people can be induced or sucked into experimenting with them in the first place.
It also creates the aspect that some students may not engage in drug use off school property due to concerns that the dog may smell it on them, as indeed the dog might. So, while we are not creating a magic wand solution if we proceed down this road of having dogs in the schools, it is an important step and can have a significant impact. It is but one step toward addressing substance abuse, but I believe that it is an important one. It has certainly been shown in Medicine Hat that tremendous promise is related to this initiative.
Another element that I personally believe can have a significant impact is the fact that, for many children of high school age, dealing with the teenage years can be a difficult time. There are those who experience feelings of isolation, feelings of not belonging - particularly those who do not fit well within a social group. Those are children who are especially vulnerable to being drawn into hanging out with a bad crowd or experimenting with drugs due to peer pressure because they are desperately looking for someone to accept them and they are looking for perhaps something - even if that is a substance - that provides them with release or relief from a life they are finding difficult to deal with.
As I know and probably most members of the House know from personal experience, dogs are very important to many people. Without getting into the whole debate of whether you are a dog person or a cat person, pets do have a significant impact in the lives of many people. Particularly for children, having a dog to grow up with can be a very positive influence. The connection with a dog in the school, in my opinion, for many children - or even if it's just one or two children - could make a difference, for those children to have the opportunity to have a nice, furry, warm, loving animal to wrap their arms around when the world is seeming like a pretty cruel and cold place. I would suspect that is an area of the program that is very hard to quantify or measure, but it would be a very real area where children, perhaps only one or two children, would be benefited and saved from experimenting with drugs because of that.
But at some point, that impact would probably be significant enough to make a difference in the lives of one or two or perhaps 20 or hundreds of individuals. It's an element that is likely to be hard to measure but I do believe would be an area that would be somewhat of a peripheral benefit to this program, but a significant peripheral benefit.
Mr. Speaker, our time is indeed short this afternoon, and I would like to give other members the opportunity to address this issue. I would just simply like to commend the members of the Porter Creek school council and the staff at Porter Creek who have looked into this and for their involvement and their support, and the parents who have worked hard on this, the community members such as a local vet who has indicated that they will provide spaying or neutering, vaccination and examinations for a dog if one is purchased, and a local service club that indicated they are prepared to put the money forward to pay for purchasing three dogs - they, in fact, offered to buy - and a local feed company that has offered to provide the food for that dog. This is similar to what has been done in Medicine Hat. I think the community support and involvement will give a greater sense of ownership and is valuable to the long-term success of this program - that it can engender more of a connection among the community, ensuring that the program continues to operate and continues to function.
So the motion, as moved by my colleague, the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin, is to urge the Government of Yukon to examine the establishment of a dogs for drug-free school program. I certainly recognize that there is work that needs to be done before such a program can be implemented. I would simply like to express my strong appreciation for those who have been involved in this and their support for the concept. I believe that any of the challenges that have to be met prior to implementing such a program are challenges that can and should be addressed.
I look forward to standing here in the future debating how successful this program has been and perhaps there may be some expansion of it down the road. I hope that this initiative will come to fruition and I believe that it has tremendous potential for success.
With that, I will recommend this to the House and I thank members for their attention.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
If the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Mr. Hassard: I thank all members who have spoken today for their support on this motion. Some of the comments we heard today are very informative. Ultimately, the responsibility for ensuring that our children avoid falling into the traps and pitfalls of substance abuse is ours as parents. We can't expect school teachers to do that for us. We can't expect programming to do that for us. We can't expect the RCMP to do that for us. Those are tools that we certainly count on to help us but, ultimately, it is our responsibility as parents and as a society to ensure that that happens.
Again, I would like to thank the school council, concerned parents and community members for doing the work on this and helping to inform us so we can make our decisions. I thank the Minister of Education for his support and I look forward to the day when this all takes place.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, would you poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Agree
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Mr. Cardiff: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 12 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion No. 640 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Pursuant to an agreement among House leaders, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:41 p.m.