Thursday, February 22, 1990 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with Prayers.
Tribute to Frank Lacosse
Ms. Kassi: Today I want to speak about a very dear friend of ours, Frank Lacosse, who passed away last night. I knew Frank for many years. He was an active volunteer at Skookum Jim Friendship Centre, a native courtworker and a lifeskills instructor.
He also worked at Indian Affairs. Most recently, he was the executive director at Skookies. More important than all of this, Frank Lacosse was a great spiritual leader. He was always available when anyone needed help. He was there for counselling and spiritual guidance and political guidance.
Frank was an effective cross-cultural coordinator. He was editor of the Yukon Native Voice paper years ago. He was also president of the YANSI local and a spiritual counsellor at Crossroads. Just recently at Skookies, he was working to initiate an AIDS awareness program. Frank lived the way of his people. He was soft-spoken with strength and determination that made everyone sit up and take notice.
He was a sweat master who invited people from all races to experience a sweat lodge. He taught us many skills in the sweat lodge. He also had a great knowledge of traditional Indian medicine. In fact, he was scheduled to lead a workshop on Indian medicine this weekend at the native folklore show.
Frank worked so hard, selflessly putting the needs of others before his own. He was an advisor on issues of heated debate and was very wise. I knew Frank Lacosse for a very long time. His last instructions to me, just last week, and to his colleagues at Skookies, were that we should continue the work he has started. We will follow his lead. We will work to establish an international year of elders; we will work toward getting warning labels on alcohol bottles - of fetal alcohol syndrome and warnings of impaired driving - and we will work together on the upcoming international circumpolar health conference, where Frank directed us to have a significant aboriginal participation of artwork displayed.
We will follow Franks advice that the Indian nations must come together to re-establish strong relationships. Just this week, in a letter to Judy Gingell, president of CYI, Frank wrote, All too often we have a tendency to meet and bypass totally the forming of a relationship. We attempt to identify issues or get immediately into action. The most common outcome is that we are not satisfied with the issue or the action.
Frank advises that we should all take time to form strong relationships with each other - among the aboriginal and the non-aboriginal people - that Roberts Rules of Order will never replace good human relationships.
Franks wife Debbie, his son Stryder and his daughters Jade and Willow Jean, knew him best and we share their loss. From all of the many people he has touched, I want to say to Frank that we wish him well on the rest of his journey and may it be a peaceful one.
Mr. Phelps: I, too, want to pay tribute to Frank Lacosse, who was a constituent of mine. I knew Frank for a good many years, and he was a caring, spiritual person, and he was a great source of strength for his people. He will be missed by a great many Yukoners, and I wish to extend our deepest sympathy to his wife, Debbie, and his children.
Speaker: Introduction of Visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Ms. Kassi: I would like to welcome to the House today people who worked with Frank and people from the CYI social programs. I would like to ask Members to welcome them and Natalia Boland from Alcohol and Drug Services.
Speaker: Returns or Documents for Tabling.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have several returns for tabling.
Speaker: Reports of Committees.
Introduction of Bills.
Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers.
Notices of Motion.
Statements by Ministers.
1992 Alaska Highway Anniversary Community Action Planning Program
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I rise today to inform the House of a major new departmental funding initiative designed to encourage community participation in the Alaska Highway 50th Anniversary in 1992.
The community development fund has approved $257,000 to the Yukon Anniversaries Commission to offer a program for developing community action plans for the 1992 anniversary.
The official opening of the Alaska Highway in 1942 was a milestone in Yukon history. The construction and subsequent access of the highway brought dramatic changes to the territory. These changes affected all Yukon communities and all facets of Yukon life.
In 1992, we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Alaska Highway. I am sure the Members of this House will agree that, if this is to be a Yukon-wide celebration, then all Yukon communities should have an opportunity to participate in this very important event.
This participation can take many forms, as diverse as the people who live in the Yukon. Yukon people, both native and non-native, have a rich heritage to share with visitors and with each other. They have dramatic stories to tell of the construction of the highway and of the changes it brought to their communities.
The 1992 community action planning program will provide the support communities need to develop action plans for sharing this heritage. The program is being assisted under the community development fund and will be delivered by the Yukon Anniversaries Commission. All Yukon communities are eligible to apply for funding, with priority given to Alaska Highway communities. There will be a single, broadly advertised, deadline for applications.
Applications will be reviewed by a selection committee made up of representatives from a wide range of Yukon groups including the Association of Yukon Communities, the City of Whitehorse, the Tourism Industry Association, the Yukon Chamber of Commerce and representatives from Indian bands.
The community action planning program will help all communities, both large and small, plan events and activities for 1992. It will be an exciting year and the various visitor attractions that will be developed for the 50th anniversary of the old Alcan Highway will be around for years to come, for all of us to learn more about this significant event in the history of the Yukon.
In conclusion, I am pleased to inform you of the support we are providing to ensure that all Yukon communities have an opportunity to participate in the Alaska Highway anniversary in 1992.
Mr. Brewster: I am very pleased to see the government has finally got on the bandwagon and provided funds for the Yukon Anniversaries Commission. The communities are far ahead of the government as they have many plans close to being finalized.
I have talked to some of the committee members in various areas, and they are already talking of a trial run this coming summer to iron out any kinks they may find in their plans. Some are becoming very worried they would be left high and dry with no help from the government.
The attitude of the government toward the project is much like their attitude toward the Winter Jungle Safari, which was organized by private businesses and citizens with no help from the government. Maybe this was a blessing in disguise. Government will probably try to jump on the bandwagon as they are now doing with the anniversary of the Alaska Highway.
I am a little concerned about the selection of the committee that will review this project. All sectors of the economy seem to be involved except the lodges along the highway that are not even in a municipality. These are the backbone of the Alaska Highway. I see no spokesman for them. Many groups of independent lodges along the highway are not represented in any way.
I certainly hope the Minister will correct this, as they are part of the Alaska Highway, they keep the traffic moving, and they are the backbone of the whole highway. Without them, we would not have the Alaska Highway.
I am, as I have been for many years, very concerned with the condition of the Alaska Highway. Many tourists coming up for the celebration will go home thoroughly disgusted with parts of the Alaska Highway, namely around Swift River and Rancheria, with all the sharp corners and narrow roads, and the section from Destruction Bay to the Yukon border. The best advertising tourism can get is by word of mouth and I only hope there is no backlash because of the Alaska Highway conditions. It takes years to build up tourism and you can lose all the goodwill in one short summer.
The coming onstream of the Mount Hundere mine, although great for the Yukon, will only compound our traffic problems and make the road between Watson Lake and Jakes Corner hard for tourists to handle.
I hope my thoughts are wrong and, if so, I will be the first to stand up in the Legislature and gladly admit I was off track, but the conditions for a big problem are there. Very little can be done to improve the Alaska Highway in such a short time.
I suppose if tourists coming north for the anniversary want to see and drive on the original Alaska Highway, with its sharp curves, corduroy roads and travel over parts of bare mountains and dust, by the time these tourists cross into Alaska, the project will be a complete success: the tourists will have driven on parts of the original 1942 highway and will have stories to prove it.
I only hope we do not lose many disgruntled tourists over road conditions and that the warm welcome by the Yukon people will compensate for the disastrous conditions of parts of the Alaska Highway. I can only congratulate and wish luck to the centennial commission and all the people along the highway who will do their best to make this a success, regardless of road conditions. I only hope I am wrong on the condition of the Alaska Highway and that my fears expressed over the last eight years are wrong and that this whole thing will be a success. Good luck to the people along the Alaska Highway; I know they will make this project a success.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I thank the Member for Kluane for his somewhat constructive remarks. Clearly, Project 92 is something that it appears all Members of the House support. I would like to point out to the Member, though, that if he is concerned that the government is jumping on the band wagon, I would only like to remind him that the band wagon was set rolling by the government over a year ago.
We are enhancing the considerable efforts that the Yukon Anniversaries Commission has already put into the Project 92 celebrations. The point of the funding is to encourage the participation of communities around the territory to ensure that everyone participates fully. Lodges along the highway, given the important role that they play in supporting the travelling public, will be included in the celebrations. It is not always possible to include everyone on the selection committee, but the lodge owners will be recognized in the process of the Alaska Highway celebration planning. They will ultimately take great benefit from the 50th anniversary when it does come.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Devolution, forestry
Mr. Phelps: On Tuesday, the Minister of Renewable Resources stated on page 1213 of Hansard, I would like to remind the Member opposite of the situation with the NWT; they just have the responsibility for fire suppression, not the whole responsibility for management of forestry in general.
This information simply is not correct. The Government of the Northwest Territories has far more than this. It controls all aspects of forestry management and timber harvesting, as well as being responsible for forest fire suppression.
Why has the Minister not researched the facts regarding the devolution of the forestry program to the Government of the Northwest Territories?
Hon. Mr. Webster: As far as I am aware, that was the status of the responsibilities that the NWT had regarding forestry. I do not know when the new responsibilities for forestry were assumed by the Government of the Northwest Territories. I thank the Member opposite for his information.
Mr. Phelps: I would like to know how the Minister can seriously say to Yukoners that the devolution of the forestry program is a priority of his government when he does not even know the facts surrounding the actual devolution to the Government of the Northwest Territories.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I fail to see how the situation in the Northwest Territories is relevant to the devolution of forestry responsibility here in the Yukon.
Mr. Phelps: Surely, the Minister would acknowledge that studying what financial package was received by the Northwest Territories when it took over forestry would be relevant to negotiations by this government. Would the Minister not agree with that?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Yes. It certainly would be relevant. At this time, in our stage of looking at managing this resource, we are concentrating on putting legislation into effect so that we should have something in place before that responsibility is devolved to us.
Question re: Devolution, forestry
Mr. Phelps: Is the Minister telling us that this is a priority of his government when he does not know what took place in the Northwest Territories a couple of years ago?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I am well aware of what happened in the territories with respect to fire suppression. It was the case that they did not get enough money to properly manage the programs. There are two separate aspects to this devolution process. One is to have the proper legislation and regulations in place. Then there is the whole aspect of the funding situation. We are considering both of those at this time.
Mr. Phelps: Will the Minister assure the House that he, and the experts in his department, will have a look at what is taking place in the Northwest Territories and find out how much responsibility was devolved to that government? Will he find out what kind of funding they received before he proceeds further along this path of preparing the framework for devolution to this territory?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I can assure Members opposite that that would be one exercise this government will be going through, along with looking at the number of arrangements the federal government may come forward with regarding the financing this devolution. We will be looking closely at a number of funding options that the Northwest Territories has agreed to in its acceptance of the responsibility and, also, what the federal government has proposed to offer us.
Mr. Phelps: Has the Minister personally discussed the possible transfer of the forestry program with his counterpart in the federal government?
Hon. Mr. Webster: No, I have not personally discussed this matter with the federal Minister.
Question re: Devolution, forestry
Mr. Phelps: I can only assume the Minister knows which Minister he should be talking to. Has he discussed the matter with his counterpart in the Northwest Territories?
Hon. Mr. Webster: No, I have not. At this time, we are concentrating on looking at the situation in the Yukon.
Mr. Phelps: To his knowledge, has the Ministers department, or anyone in the government, discussed the transfer of personnel with the federal government or the union?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As a general devolution question, this has been discussed on a number of occasions, both with the previous Minister and with Mr. Cadieux. The last time we had substantial discussions was around the issue of cutbacks in the federal forestry service. We believed we had an agreement with them not to do any cutbacks until the devolution negotiations were complete. The federal government had violated that agreement, in our opinion, and that was complicating the transfer talks.
Question re: Health services transfer
Mrs. Firth: I requested copies of contracts for John Walsh and Doug Rody with respect to their work with the Health transfer. The Minister of Health and Human Resources sent me a letter and Doug Rodys contract. In the letter, the Minister states I cannot have Mr. Walshs contract because of a three-party agreement of nondisclosure.
Who is the three-party agreement of nondisclosure between?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am assuming it is the parties to the talks, which involves us and the two unions with whom we are talking.
Mrs. Firth: That is not my understanding. Could the Minister tell us what nondisclosure means so we know what the nondisclosure has been about?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It means all three parties agreed not to get into public discussions about the content of the negotiations or the arrangements for the negotiations until they are a fait accompli.
Mrs. Firth: If the three parties have agreed not to get into public discussions about the content of the negotiations, I can understand that. If the Minister has given me Mr. Rodys contract, that is obviously not part of the nondisclosure. Why can I not have Mr. Walshs contract as well?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Members question is not logical. Mr. Rody is no longer part of the process; Mr. Walsh still is. Once he has completed his work, we will make the contract public.
Question re: Health services transfer
Mrs. Firth: We have established we are not asking for the details of the negotiations now. The Minister is aware of that. There is a lawyer in a Vancouver law firm who has been hired to be a paid negotiator with respect to this issue. We paid Mr. Rody over $24,000 to provide some advisory services.
Why is the Yukon taxpayer not privileged to information as to the terms of reference of the contract Mr. Walsh has with this government and how much they are paying him to do whatever service for them?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: First of all, there are a number of things in the preamble to which I must respond.
Mr. Rodys contract was for $24,000. He was not paid $24,000. He was paid something less than that.
We have reached the determination that we are not going to release contracts during negotiations of this kind, nor am I going to release contracts of people who are doing policy work for the government, lest it compromise that work, until it is completed. At the end of the fiscal year we will be routinely be providing information on those contracts but in mid-process we have decided we are not going to do that.
In this particular case there is a decision by the three parties not to get into a discussion on these matters.
Mrs. Firth: I would like the Minister to provide me with some written documentation on that because in the discussions I had there was no understanding that contracts would not be provided should they be asked for. I can understand that I would not be privileged to details of the specific negotiations.
Perhaps the Minister could tell us what Mr. Walsh is doing for us. Is he providing advisory services like Mr. Rody did?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I believe all Members know we are in an extremely complicated situation and essentially involved in formal consultations with two groups of employees of the federal government toward making satisfactory arrangements with them about the terms and conditions of their employment upon transfer to the territory. This is a situation that is quite unusual in labour relations terms and requires people who can devote themselves to these matters when negotiations are on, have a background on labour negotiations and can represent our interests adequately.
Question re: Health services transfer
Mrs. Firth: I recognize this is a politically sensitive issue for the Minister, however, I appeal to him again - he did not answer the question. We would like to know what Mr. Walsh is doing. That is a fair question and the public deserves an answer. What service is he providing to this government? Is it simply the provision of advisory services relating to employer/employee relations, as Mr. Rody did? Can he tell the taxpayer how much they have paid for that service so far?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: At the conclusion of the work we will provide an accounting of what was paid for. The work is not yet complete, as the Member knows. The work is, as I have described, essentially what would be in the nature of negotiations if these people were our employees. These are not technically labour negotiations, they are formal discussions that very much resemble negotiations over contract or negotiations in another context. There is a team of people that includes people from the Department of Health and Human Resources, the Public Service Commission, and the particular individuals named here today, who bring expertise to labour relation negotiations, which was not available to us in the kind of time frame we have in which to complete these negotiations.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister is obviously refusing to answer the question by giving his convoluted answers. The Minister of Justice gave us the details of an active law suit that was going on when it came to the cost to the taxpayer. Why can this Minister not tell us how much the individual is costing the taxpayer? If he will not tell us what he is doing perhaps he can tell us how much it is costing us.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have told the House what the people involved in this exercise are doing. The fact that the Member does not want to hear, listen or know is her problem, not mine. I have already indicated to the House that the public will know. We will provide an accounting of the expenditures of this job when it is complete.
One of the many problems of talking about contracts in progress is that you get into the position of making the kind of mistakes she made earlier today when she said an individual had been paid a certain amount. The government contracted with an individual to perform a certain service up to an amount; I repeat, up to an amount. The fact is that the person earned something considerably less than that.
Mrs. Firth: That is fine; the Minister did not indicate on the contract anywhere that the individual did not receive that full amount. There should have been an adjustment to it.
I would like to ask the Minister if he could provide us with a copy of the nondisclosure agreement that has been signed by all three parties.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No, I am not going to give an undertaking to do that. That is an agreement made at the table. Until we have completed a whole package of an agreement, I do not think I am going to disclose particular agreements made at the table.
Question re: Health services transfer
Mrs. Firth: The Minister says, in his letter, that there has been a three party-agreement of nondisclosure and, during the discussions, he fully intends to honour that agreement. I would like to ask the Minister for a copy of that agreement or the clause. In my discussions, I did not receive any verification that the individuals who are participating in these negotiations are of the opinion that the amount of contracts and the terms of reference of the contracts of the parties cannot be made public.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As far as I know, the Member opposite is not a party to the negotiations. Had she any experience with negotiations, I expect she would know that it is very common for the parties to these kind of negotiations to reach agreements about what can or cannot be communicated about those negotiations while they are in progress. That is very common. I, myself, have been in dozens of such discussions. This agreement is of that kind, and I am sure it is a perfectly common and normal agreement and often may not be documented except in the minutes of the negotiations, and those are not, of course, customarily public documents.
Mrs. Firth: Now we are being told that it might be in the minutes, but it is not customary to make those minutes public, but we do not know whether it is in the minutes or not. Obviously, there was something verbal said; there has been nothing written. I am not asking the Minister to communicate the details of the negotiations with respect to the employees. That would be inappropriate. I am asking the Minister what the taxpayer is paying this person to negotiate on their behalf and what is he supposed to be doing. What is this person supposed to be doing? We have a lawyer hired from a law firm who is responsible for doing those negotiations. What is this other person doing? I think Yukoners have a right to know whether they are getting their moneys worth from this individual.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As to the last point, Yukoners will be able to judge whether they get their moneys worth when and if we get an agreement at the end and whether that agreement is satisfactory. A lawyer is hired to give us legal advice, not necessarily to conduct negotiations, although they are part of a negotiating team. I have already described what the person does; the Member will have to read Hansard if she was not able to understand it. What we are talking about here is conventional arrangements in negotiations. I am not personally at the table. I could not give an accounting of what was said at the table even if I wanted to. If I wanted to, it would be improper. That is not the way negotiations are carried out.
Mrs. Firth: If the Minister is not at the table, where did this non-disclosure business come from? How does the Minister know what was said with respect to non-disclosure if there is nothing in writing?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: In the normal way that Ministers find out things: I was provided with a briefing note by the department, who presumably are advised by the people at the table, as to the progress of the negotiations and exactly what is agreed to from time to time. I get a progress report on the negotiations. I am not actually at the table.
Question re: Health services transfer
Mrs. Firth: In the Ministers briefing note that he received, can he tell us if there was an indication made as to the kind of non-disclosure agreement there was? Was it in writing? Was it in the minutes? Was it verbal? Just what kind of a non-disclosure agreement is there?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have already told the Member what a non-disclosure agreement is. It is one made at the table by the three parties to the negotiations as to what shall be communicated about the negotiations while they are ongoing.
Mrs. Firth: Does it include specific details with respect to contracts and wages of the individuals who are participating in the negotiations?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not know that, nor do I have an interest in knowing it. I am just interested in whether or not the negotiations are proceeding satisfactorily. I have confidence that the people at the table are doing the best job possible. When they have completed the job, there will be an accounting of what it cost us.
Mrs. Firth: I would respectfully submit to the Minister that Yukoners are interested in what this individual has been hired to do for the government and how much he is getting paid.
Because this is a politically-sensitive issue for this government, it is no reason to keep that information from the public. They have a right to know that information. They have a right to know, not after all the money has been spent and we never knew what the individual was hired to do in the first place.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have described the individuals role. I previously described the funding in the House, which comes 100 percent from the Government of Canada to provide for these negotiations. There will be an accounting of what was spent. We understand fully the purpose of the Members questions. We are talking about someone who has been identified as being of the government party.
If there was a scrap of honesty on the other side of the House, we would list the questions every day about the Tory contractors who are associated with the process - former Tory candidates. In the well-known evenhandedness of the Members opposite, they never ask those questions.
It is interesting that they begin babbling and cackling when we even suggest that this government......
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Can I have order while I complete it, please, Mr. Speaker? Thank you.
When we hire talented, able people to do jobs, we hire the beat people for the job. I am proud of the fact that this government has hired people of all political stripes. It is regrettable that there is not enough honesty on the other side of this House to ever ask any questions about some of their friends when they receive appointments from this government.
Question re: Health services transfer
Mr. Nordling: Obviously, the Minister is very sensitive about the wages for Mr. Walsh. Perhaps on Monday, he can ask the Member for Whitehorse South Centre to ask questions in Question Period about contracts that the Conservatives have with the government. He can then take up Question Period explaining it to us
The Minister of Health and Human Resources last updated us on the progress of the transfer of health services on January 24. With respect to a two-stage transfer - firstly being a transfer of the Whitehorse General Hospital and secondly community health services - the Minister said that there was soon to be a meeting with the Government of Yukon, the federal government and CYI to try and reach some agreements about the second stage of the transfer in order to facilitate the first stage.
I would like to know if the meeting has taken place and if any agreements have been reached on the second stage of the transfer.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will take notice of the question from the Member for Porter Creek West to table all contracts, loans and payments to prominent Conservatives. We will table a legislative return on that.
The Member for Riverdale South is intruding, and denouncing us for a $5,000 contract to someone who happened to be a New Democrat, something that is perfectly legal. At the same time, her own campaign workers were getting hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts, and she never asked us a thing about that. There is no sense of fairness whatsoever.
Speaker: Order, please. Would the Member please answer the question.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am sorry. I apologize.
Speaker: Order please.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The difference is that I would like to have the full picture; the Members opposite only want half of it. The Member asked if meetings had occurred with the three parties named in his question. He asked if we could reconcile the impasse on the health transfer negotiations.
The fact is that the second stage is possibly complicated by the current negotiations in land claims, and that meeting has not happened on a formal basis, although there have been informal discussions with the parties about the subject.
It is probably the case that the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, or the federal negotiators, have not been briefed by the Department of National Health and Welfare adequately enough to come to the table on the question, but there are preliminary discussions toward a session on this question.
Mr. Nordling: The Minister also mentioned negotiations for about $44 million in capital for the construction of a new hospital. He said, In the next few weeks, we will be pursuing, as aggressively and as energetically as we know how, a conclusion to these negotiations. He went on to say, We are going to try another alternative method to break the deadlock, which I mentioned earlier. We are doing that this month, within the next 30 days or so.
Has the deadlock been broken? Have we been successful in negotiating this capital for a new hospital?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We are still hoping to do it very soon. It is almost certainly going to be necessary for me to finish the legislative session in order to go to Ottawa to do that. In the meantime, my deputy is in frequent communication with his counterpart in Ottawa. I know there have been several recent meetings between our officials and the federal officials on this subject.
Mr. Nordling: Are there are further meetings specifically scheduled? When will the Minister be in a position to report back to us on the progress?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There have been meetings all the time, but I am not in a position to schedule a meeting myself until such time as I know the House calendar for the next little while.
To my knowledge, there have been at least three meetings on this question in the last month, and there will have to be further meetings. I am hoping there will soon be a meeting between senior officials of both governments.
Question re: Motor vehicle registration
Mr. Brewster: I have a follow-up question on the motor vehicle registration to the Minister of Community Affairs and Transportation Services. In response to my question regarding motor vehicle registration in rural communities, the Minister stated that the department was going to be increasing the frequency of its visits to those communities for the purpose of registering motor vehicles, as well as drivers licence tests.
Can the Minister confirm that, in communities that have no territorial agent, department officials will be visiting these communities at least once a month to enable the residents to register their vehicles in accordance with the new staggered alphabet system?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I can go one step further than the request of the Member and suggest to him that it is our intention to provide motor vehicle licensing testing at least twice a month in those communities that do not have territorial agents.
As the Member is aware, where there are territorial agents, motor vehicle registration will be done by territorial agents. In other communities, it is our intention to use the current driver examiner, who is available to travel to rural communities.
In addition, it is intended that the three driver-training instructors, who are currently with Highways and who go from camp to camp, will go to communities to provide motor vehicle registration as well as drivers licence testing. At the same time, in addition to those four people who will be available to provide that service, I expect the transportation of dangerous goods coordinator will also be available to provide some service in that area.
Mr. Brewster: Just to make sure that I understand the Ministers statement and so that it is very clear to the rural residents and is on the record, the answer was yes, the department will travel to these rural areas at least once a month to sell licence plates in the staggered licensing system. Is this correct? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The short answer is yes; on top of that I have pointed out that it is our intention to visit those communities that do not have territorial agents and provide that service at least twice a month - so, those communities without territorial agents, who will be requiring to have their vehicles registered, who will be required to renew their licences, who will in fact be required to have new driver testing done, will be provided with that service at least twice a month in the small communities. Where there are territorial agents, that service will be available on an ongoing basis as necessary and as available by those territorial agents, who will provide a five day a week service for those communities.
So, the answer to the Member and it is on the record, is that it is our intention to use the driver examiner, to use the driver-training instructors and to use the transportation of dangerous goods coordinator to provide this service. A total of five people will be involved in providing that service during the period of time that the staggered, vehicle licensing is brought fully on strength.
Mr. Brewster: That was a long yes. If the Minister will recall, during the debate on this, I was very insistent that this staggered licensing was going to cost the Yukon people a great deal more money. I was assured this would not happen. Can the Minister advise the House if he has any cost estimate for implementing this new system?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: As I indicated when we announced the staggered, vehicle licensing system, there is an absolute minimum of cost increase from what we have now. The personnel I just described, who would be visiting communities, are personnel who are currently onstream and who would be freed up to visit those communities in addition to the duties they now perform with the highways camps.
The increased cost that may occur is in the initial registry that is taking place between now and the end of March. As I indicated to the Member in previous discussions, we have fewer people registering vehicles and renewing licences at this point in time than in years previous. Clearly, we are going to have a rush in the course of the next six weeks. We are preparing for that by increasing clerical support to provide people the renewed registrations and licensing and the explanation that is required to go along with it for people to fully understand what the staggered licensing system means - that they have some options of when they can choose to renew next. So, any increased costs are going to be incurred as we bring on some auxiliary support for the next six weeks.
Question re: Motor vehicle registration
Mr. Brewster: I did not see any costs. The Minister, as usual, did not bother to answer my question, so I will try to answer it for him. Would the increase in licence plate fees have something to do with paying for this extra cost?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I thought I had explained that there is no anticipated increased cost in respect to the staggered motor vehicle licensing system that is introduced. The increased cost is an ordinary course of doing business between now and the next six weeks to accommodate people who will be lining up to renew before March 31, which is required.
Any costs that may be attributed to the staggered vehicle licensing itself are some computerizing costs related to that function. That was an anticipated cost that has measurable returns and was explained when I announced the policy.
Mr. Brewster: He said it was an anticipated cost. Can the Minister give me the cost?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The details of the cost escape me at the moment. I do not carry with me my usual photographic memory. Over the course of the next three years - and I am working strictly from memory - there will be an approximate $200,000 cost to convert to the computerized licensing data base being provided. That will free up a corresponding saving of dollars in personnel used. There is no anticipated increased cost beyond what is going to be needed to front this, from which will follow the corresponding savings.
Question re: Northwestel phone number and billing address list
Mr. Phillips: I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Bureau of Statistics.
I understand the bureau, which is located in the Executive Council Office of this government, has requested by letter from NorthwesTel a list of all Yukoners phone numbers and billing addresses.
Can the Minister tell us why the Government of Yukon would want this information?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Government of Yukon, i.e. the Cabinet or the political arm, does not want this information. I have no knowledge of this request from the statistics bureau. I do not know if the claim by the Member is correct. Many of his questions are not factually correct, but I will check it out.
Mr. Phillips: On such a significant request for such personal information of Yukoners, I would think the Government Leader, who is responsible for that department, would have known they had requested that information.
Why would they request such information, such as all peoples phone numbers, listed and unlisted, as well as their billing addresses? What possible use would the Bureau of Statistics have for this information?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: First of all, I am appalled by the thought and recommendation by the Member opposite that such requests should be routinely brought to my attention. The statistics bureau operates under very strong guidelines, established in Canada in cooperation with Statistics Canada, about the confidentiality of all sorts of information.
First of all, I will have to establish if the claim made by the Member that they have asked for this information is correct. Often, his questions and assertions in this House are not correct. I will check that out. I will ask the Bureau of Statistics for what purpose they want this information, if they have indeed asked for it, and I will provide a response to the House.
I know about the general work plan of the statistics bureau, but I would never inquire as to the particular questions or demand access to particular information, such as the Member is indicating. I regard that as improper.
Mr. Phillips: Many people are questioning this letter that has arrived at NorthwesTels offices requesting this information from the Bureau of Statistics. Does he support the move by the Bureau of Statistics to request this type of information?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: He says many people. I do not believe that. If NorthwesTel were genuinely concerned, they would have called the Ministers offices and asked us; they would not have called the Member opposite.
He says many people are concerned; I do not know that. I do not even know if the facts are as he alleges in the question.
First of all, given our history with this Member, I will check the facts, and then I will provide a response to the House.
Question re: Campbell Highway upgrade
Mr. Devries: The traffic on the South Campbell Highway, by some estimates, has increased by 100 percent because truckers are realizing that it is a more economical, direct route to Faro and the Ketza Mine.
The highway is so narrow, however, that trucks are actually losing their mirrors when they meet each other. I would like to know if the Minister of Community and Transportation Services would consider establishing some pull-offs at strategic locations to improve the highways safety?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: If the facts as the Member states them are correct, I would be more than pleased to investigate that suggestion. I am quite familiar with that road. I have travelled it on numerous occasions over the last 20 years. I am quite familiar with the level of maintenance on that road through the winter as well.
It is not my understanding that we have a dangerous situation where there is insufficient room for vehicles to pass whereby they lose their mirrors. It would strike me that the cause may not be related entirely to the road.
The Member makes a reasonable suggestion about pull-outs. Prior to making any firm commitment on that, I would like to have his allegation fully investigated.
Mr. Devries: I am basically going by what several truck drivers in Watson Lake told me on the weekend. They brought it up, and I actually saw the mirror on the one truck.
Many of these trucks are hauling diesel fuel and chemicals. With the number of rivers and streams in the area, there could be severe consequences for the environment if one of these trucks should be involved in an accident due to the narrowness of the road. Accordingly, I would like assurance from the Minister that he will review this situation and take some action as soon as possible. I did not see anything come up in the main estimates.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member raises a very serious matter. Again, I want to assure the Member that our current legislation, the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, ensures that adequate permitting and adequate conditions prevail for the transportation of any goods that may be hazardous to the environment. The weigh scales at Watson Lake are the entry point for those coming up the Alaska Highway. There is also a weigh scale at the junction of the Cassiar Road for the Steward/Cassiar Highway. The Member is raising what would be a very serious matter in that he is suggesting there is a potential for environmental damage from the transportation of dangerous goods.
My understanding is that we monitor this extremely closely. Adequate permitting is done only after conditions are met for the safe haulage of those goods. I take the representation seriously and will ensure that we are not permitting goods to travel down that road in a manner that is unsafe to travelers as well as to the environment.
Mr. Devries: I am concerned about the manner in which the goods are hauled, but it seems to be road conditions that worry truckers more than anything, especially in the spring when the shoulders start to get soft.
Can the Minister advise the House if his department has any plans to widen and upgrade the South Campbell Highway, and when such upgrading may take place? The installation of pull-outs would be only an interim measure.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do not believe we had the debate during the Community and Transportation Services budget debate this session, but we did debate it in the spring. A five-year capital plan is currently being developed for that portion of the Campbell between Ross River and Watson Lake.
That analysis is not complete yet, in terms of costing options, and the Member realizes that any capital expenditure on that highway is going to be subject to available funds. We are currently concentrating our capital funds on the portion between Faro and Carmacks. We do have some plans in the immediate future for upgrading the portion between Faro and Ross River. The portion between Ross River and Watson Lake is currently under review and assessment, to determine costs and build into a long term plan.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker: Motions respecting Committee Reports.
MOTIONS RESPECTING COMMITTEE REPORTS
Motion Respecting Committee Reports No. 1
Clerk: Item No. 1, standing in the name of Ms. Hayden, chair of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.
Speaker: It has been moved by the chair of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts
THAT the Interim Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, presented to the House on December 12, 1989, be concurred in.
Ms. Hayden: I am pleased to speak to the Interim Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. As Members know, it is a non-partisan committee made up of five Members of the Legislature: the hon. Mr. Byblow, Member for Faro; Mr. Devries, Member for Watson Lake; Ms. Kassi, Member for Old Crow; Mr. Phillips, Member for Whitehorse Riverdale North, and me, the Member for Whitehorse South Centre.
As its first task, this committee did follow-up work on the 1988 report of its predecessor. In 1988, the committee concentrated on capital project management; each year millions of dollars are spent on capital projects undertaken by government and it is up to the legislators to ensure that the taxpayers are receiving value for money spent.
The committee in 1988 looked at the policies and procedures in place to carry out capital project management in an efficient, economical and effective manner. The committee found that the main problem with project delivery was the lack of a systematic and consistent process. The committee presented a report to the Legislature in which it made 17 recommendations that the members hoped would improve the existing system.
The committee concentrated on frontend, or pre-project planning, and on the roles and responsibilities of the key players involved with each project.
In November, 1989, the current committee reviewed the 1988 report and called senior officials from the Department of Government Services, as the performing department for most of the capital building projects, to report on action taken.
The committee was encouraged by the steps taken by the department, especially in that the primary problem seems to have been addressed through the draft Management Board directive. This committee will be monitoring the effectiveness of the process outlined in the directive once a full construction season has been experienced.
While being encouraged by the work done by Government Services, the committee would like to see all departments and branches responsible for project delivery prepare similar guidelines. Further, and perhaps more important, the committee believes it is very important that the government prepare a government-wide policy.
The committee makes the following recommendation in its interim report, and I quote briefly: The government should adopt an umbrella policy clearly outlining the basic principles and standards of capital project management, and each department involved with capital project management should develop a policy to be adopted as a Management Board directive, incorporating those principles, and then prepare a technical manual outlining the steps necessary to ensure efficient and effective delivery.
The committee also did some follow up on other general recommendations outstanding from previous PAC reports. I will not elaborate on those, but I would like to thank the relevant departments for their diligence in taking action on these recommendations.
Before I end these remarks, I would like to thank my colleagues for their commitment and concern that Yukon taxpayers receive value for their money. We tried to live up to the high standards set by previous Public Accounts Committees, and it was not always easy, but Members were always willing to work toward consensus in the best interest of Yukon people.
I also wish to thank the Clerk to the committee and the Clerk of the Assembly, as well as officials from the Auditor Generals department, for their assistance to this very new committee.
With that, I conclude by urging all Members of this House to concur with the interim report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Speaker - I guess I should say Sourdough Sam. I would like to commend you, Sourdough Sam, and the Chair of our committee, Mrs. Hayden, for adding their Rendezvous flavour to our debate here.
This is my first opportunity to sit on the Public Accounts Committee. I found it to be a very valuable experience, one that I would recommend to all of the Members. The Chair of the committee has made most of the points of concern that I have. I would, however, like to take this opportunity to say a few words.
This report on capital project management was brought about because of the increase in capital spending and because of the increase in the formula financing arrangement. I concur with the recommendations laid out in the report, but there are a couple of areas on which I would like to express some concerns.
The first area, of course, is about a government-wide policy and procedure manual. Although I am quite pleased with the work that the Department of Government Services is doing on its own manual, I still believe that the intent of this recommendation was to develop a government-wide policy.
We will be monitoring closely the programs in Government Services with a new directive. I hope that, as a result of this report, other departments will start to develop comprehensive project management directives as well. The directive that Government Services has developed could act as a base or a model for the government as a whole.
It is imperative that all departments follow the same procedure when carrying out project management. That is the only way that the taxpayers are going to get the best value for their money.
I would like to touch on a couple of other areas where I did not feel totally confident that the Government Services management board directive addressed. First, there was the area of elimination of over design. Many government projects seem to be over built. Much of this originates in the early architectural stage. The witnesses of the committee gave us assurances that this process will be changed, contracts will be much tighter, architects will be more closely supervised.
We agreed, as a committee, that we considered this recommendation to be fully implemented. I know that it is one that the committee will be watching closely in the future.
The proof, of course, will be in the pudding.
The other area I had difficulty accepting was the recommendation that addresses reliability of estimates. This, again, was considered by the committee to be fully implemented. This concern was one a previous committee had as well. It was a strong concern that appropriate comparisons be made at the estimating stage with similar structures in both private and public sectors.
The deputy minister who addressed this issue indicated that although this is not always practical or feasible, for a number of reasons it will be a specific requirement contained in the technical manual and be reflected in the project justification reports. I expect the department to make all efforts to acquire this private-sector comparison when planning capital projects in the future because I, for one, will be asking that very question of the Ministers responsible for those projects.
In closing, I would like to thank the Department of Government Services for its efforts in addressing this important area of concern. We now have to place a lot of faith in the directive and the promises made by the department in following up on that directive. I am sure its effectiveness will be monitored very closely by all Members of this House. I would be remiss, though, if I did not reiterate my concern that the first two concerns in the 1988 Public Accounts Committee report have not been addressed by the government. The original intent was that there was to be a government-wide policy and our committee shares that feeling.
In closing, I would like to thank all members of the committee, the chair, Mrs. Hayden, and all members, for their hard work, especially my good friend, ACE-911". As well, a special thank you to Don Young, who provided the very valuable advice to the committee, and to the backbone of our Yukon Public Accounts Committee, Missy Follwell.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I had intended to write and recite a special poem for todays discussion, but I thought better of it, and I hope I could introduce such a dissertation for the next debate of the public accounts report.
I was in the unusual position of being a member of the Public Accounts Committee as well as a Minister of the government for a special area that the Public Accounts Committee examined: capital project management.
The position was often a very difficult one, particularly in the business of questioning witnesses. Nevertheless, I found it a rewarding experience, as other members have indicated. Certainly, I lend my endorsement to the support we got from the Clerks Office, namely Missy Follwell, for the help in pulling this interim report together.
As indicated by Members, this interim report responds to a Public Accounts Committee report earlier in 1988. That report focused on capital projects and, in particular, those capital construction projects that were being performed by Government Services. The recommendations in that report were endorsed by the committee of the day. Today, I would like to respond to some of those recommendations.
As indicated by previous speakers, there were 17 recommendations in the 1988 report. They centred on two principal issues. One was the business of front end planning for construction projects. There was an assessment by the committee that insufficient planning was being done to establish the scope of the projects prior to making commitments to the cost estimates and implementation that was subsequently done.
The second area the 17 recommendations concentrated on dealt with the roles and responsibilities of various departments, personnel and agencies involved in project delivery. The committee report suggested there was no delineation of responsibility between Government Services, which is the performing department, and the client department, for which the facilities were being constructed.
My department officials recognized the value of the committee recommendations and immediately set to work following the presentation of that report to address the problems that were being exposed. Considerable consultation took place, and the policy was developed that this years Public Accounts Committee was able to review.
At the time that the 1988 report was originally tabled, there were some interim steps that were undertaken by the department. Following that, the actual development of a policy began in earnest. The directive was prepared, and it was that directive that was provided to the Public Accounts Committee, and it was that directive that received the energy of analysis and debate by the committee, as well as the cross-examination of witnesses from the department.
The Department of Government Services took advantage of the researcher that the previous Public Accounts Committee had hired to develop the project management analysis on behalf of the committee.
Government Services actually hired Mr. Wawruck to develop a new policy, given the gentlemans expertise in the area and his special knowledge of the concerns of the committee. As Members have outlined, in the report tabled by the Public Accounts Committee Chair, the 17 recommendations originally stated by the 1988 committee received some adjustments. I believe two of the recommendations were replaced with a new one, and it is that one that previous speakers have spoken about. It was a recommendation that called for the government to implement or put in place an umbrella project management directive that would cover all capital projects of the government, in a government-wide approach. That is a recommendation that this government is prepared to address seriously. The government is prepared to review capital project management for other departments where there are capital projects going on. The Department of Government Services, as Members are aware, provides capital construction management for a number of other departments. In the case of Community and Transportation Services, for example, we have road construction projects that are done under the strict rules and regulations established by Community and Transportation Services.
In other words, this government is prepared to address the recommendation of the Public Accounts Committee and determine whether the capital project management of other departments and other projects fall in line with the project management directive that was tabled with the committee in December.
The majority of those 17 recommendations were developed through considerable consultation with various client departments. In December 1989, the directive was put into its final form and presented to Management Board; Management Board approved that policy directive in principle. Management Board took the position that they would not adopt it in final form until the Public Accounts Committee reviewed the directive. Given the extent of effort that the previous Public Accounts Committee extended on the business of capital projects, the Management Board felt that the Public Accounts Committee ought to review the approach being undertaken by Government Services for construction projects prior to a final adoption of this directive.
With the concurrence of this motion today in the House for adoption of the report from the Public Accounts Committee, I expect the directive will resurface at Management Board and receive its final blessing.
This government and the Department of Government Services, which has been addressed in this report, are sincerely committed to improving those management practices that are involved in delivering government capital projects. The officials of my department have taken a very constructive approach to the matter right from the beginning, at the last Public Accounts hearings in 1988.
As outlined to the committee in the hearings, in the private briefings and by statements from the witnesses, we have a very clear framework for project management. We have a very clear picture of the respective roles and responsibilities of client and performing departments in these various projects.
Government Services is actively committed to a teamwork approach in the delivery of capital projects. As outlined in the directive, there is going to be a considerable amount of consultation and considerable planning. Delivery will be structured and costed, and the value for the dollar is going to be met. True to the expectations of Public Accounts Committees across the country, we are committed to delivering capital projects with economy, effectiveness and efficiency.
I am advised the department has seconded a project manager to work full time on the completion of a technical manual that will complement the project management directive the committee reviewed. This will be in effect for the next construction year, and will provide the necessary detail for field inspections and field work that goes on in the delivery of a major capital project.
In summary, the directive that was presented to the committee provides an excellent framework for the project management the previous Public Accounts Committee, and this committee, were very concerned about. As a department and as a government, we are committed to implement this directive and follow it.
The department has benefited considerably from the analysis and scrutiny provided by the Public Accounts Committee, both the previous one and the current one.
It has allowed for a better understanding of the necessary responsibilities in delivering capital projects for the government. This entire exercise has demonstrated that the Public Accounts Committee is a very constructive forum for Members on all sides to explore the public administration of issues and to make a valuable contribution in the process.
I, too, want to express my appreciation for having participated in the committee. At the same time, I am very pleased as a Minister to witness the successful delivery of a set of rules that will see this government deal with its capital projects in a better fashion.
I want to thank the staff for the support provided to the committee. I want to congratulate the Members for their consensus-seeking attitudes that prevailed throughout the committee deliberations, and I look forward to our future rounds of discussion and dealings in public accounts.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am pleased to be able to make some remarks, however brief they may be, on the contents of the Public Accounts Committee interim report. Some of the comments in the interim report refer to the Department of Finance, so I feel obliged to briefly respond to them.
The interim report before us reflects a number of concerns the previous committee and the Legislature have had for some time. These concerns principally related to project management, as the Minister for Government Services has indicated. It is encouraging to see that that department has implemented the vast majority of the committees recommendations, although several remain to be addressed.
As regards the Department of Finance, and as noted by the committee, I am pleased the department is now monitoring adherence to all financial agreements on a regular basis. This matter was justifiably of concern to the Public Accounts Committee and the Auditor Generals staff.
The financial administration manual is near completion. This project will be completed later than originally planned. It has been done in-house by the government, even given the limited personnel resources we had available to us.
In the matter of signing authority delegation, it is noted as not being fully implemented in the interim report. It has since been addressed and implemented.
The only remaining item outstanding for the Department of Finance is one relating to the review of contribution agreements. We considered this matter to be a lesser priority than the others. Even though that may not be the case, it will be dealt with in the future, resources permitting.
Committee recommendations on the other departments have been fully implemented, for the most part. I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate the committee on its work and thank them for their continuing efforts.
Ms. Hayden: Briefly, I want to say thank you to my colleagues for their comments and to the Ministers for their responses. Thank you.
Motion Respecting Committee Report No. 1 agreed to
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 4, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. McDonald.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Bill No. 4, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Finance that Bill No. 4, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The income tax collection agreement between the Yukon and the Government of Canada requires that the taxation acts both be identical up to and including the point at which basic federal tax is calculated. This is the same arrangement that most other provincial and territorial governments have with the federal government, with the exception of Quebec.
The federal act is constantly changing as administrative modifications are made to change or clarify - sometimes even to obscure - the meaning and interpretation of the income tax legislation. The amendments contained in the bill reflect the most recent changes and incorporate federal bills C-64, C-72 and C-139.
As I have mentioned, these are administrative amendments that deal at great length with the merger provisions contained in the act, and there is little point at this stage to go into any detail about them. The bill is very complex and difficult for everyone, even experts in the field, to understand. I will be prepared to attempt to answer any questions Members may have in Committee debate.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order and declare a break.
Bill No. 19 - First Appropriation Act, 1990-91 - continued
Finance - continued
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The deputy minister is joining me here. When we left off debate yesterday, the Member for Hootalinqua had asked about where we budgeted for overdue accounts and I misinterpreted that as interest on loan accounts and directed him to the very end of the budget book. I cannot direct him all the way back to the front of Finance because we do not budget for overdue accounts at all. They are the responsibility of the line department to cover this, should they exceed the due deadline, and they are supposed to calculate those accounts and pay them automatically when the overdue date has been reached. There is no formal budget for those overdue accounts. We expect, as a matter of policy, that departments pay their bills on time.
Mr. Phelps: My first question arising from that is: who monitors the situation with regard to late payment of accounts rendered to the government? Do we have any kind of total, department by department, or overall, with regard to the penalty paid in interest to those who received their payments late?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The departmental administrators are responsible for ensuring that the overdue accounts are paid. The Department of Finance does audit those accounts but there are times when payments are missed. It is the departmental administrator who has the responsibility of ensuring that the payments are made on time - and if not on time, then that the overdue account has the interest added to it.
The overdue interest paid by the government for the last fiscal year was $36,000. To February 22, which is today, the figure is $30,762.
Mr. Phelps: That indicates to me that there is still a fairly severe problem in terms of magnitude because those kinds of interest penalties would indicate that very large sums were paid late by the various departments.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I agree with the Member that the problem has to be controlled. I ask the Member to remember that the interest paid here is on $200 million worth of accounts. Although, that is not an excuse for allowing overpayment, it still is a problem that is rather small in comparison to the total amounts paid. We do have to show diligence to try and reduce it in the future.
Mr. Phelps: I do not wish to belabour this. The interest would be for short periods of time over the 30-day period. There are probably quite a few bills that are late getting out. Efforts should be made to remedy or streamline the situation in future. A lot of people getting interest does not solve the problem of having to carry the government for a period of time over 30 days.
It is still a great hardship to many small business people, consultants, et cetera. Maybe Finance should take the lead role in trying to encourage a better performance by the departments.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member has a good point. At this point, we are investigating the issue this year to try and reduce the number of accounts not paid that have reached the 30-day limit. Right now, we pay almost 84 percent of invoices within 30 days. Just over 10 percent are paid between 30 and 60 days, and 3.1 percent of the accounts are paid between 60 and 90 days; 1.3 percent are paid between 90 and 120 days, and 1.2 percent are 120 days over. The vast majority of administrators are doing the job that is required of them. It does fall on Finances shoulders to try to ensure that the overdue accounts are paid on time. We are investigating those areas where we think there may be particular difficulty.
Mr. Phelps: I have a question or two about the investment income that is projected to be slightly down this year - revenue on investments. Why is that projection showing a down trend, given that interest rates seem to be rising?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As I indicated in my opening remarks, and as I believe even the Leader of the Official Opposition indicated in his response to Michael Wilsons budget speech, we do share the view, rightly or wrongly, that interest rates will go down. Because they are expected to drop over the course of the coming year, we expect to have a slight reduction in the amount of income we receive from the investments as a result. That is the primary reason for the reduction here.
Mr. Phelps: I just caution this government against using the same crystal ball that Mr. Wilson has been using because it appears to have some serious flaws in it. He has been proven to be quite wrong in the past about the direction interest rates will take. I suspect, although I take no joy in this prediction, that the revenues will actually exceed the projections that you have written down here.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That is probably good advice. We do share the same view about the crystal ball that the federal Finance Minister is using to anticipate what interest rates will do. We did consider the fact that interest rates now are the highest they have been in several years, and we felt there was a chance they might drop. There are so many factors in determining interest rates that it would probably be very difficult to find any two people in the country who would absolutely agree on those projections with respect to where the end rate is going to be. I do understand the point about not necessarily tying our horse to the federal cart in this particular respect. We are on the same path - by coincidence, not by design.
Mr. Phelps: The insurance premium tax is going up from $550,000 to $600,000 in the projection. Is that the money that was originally earmarked for the replacement of fire equipment in the communities and was a topic of discussion at the Association for Yukon Communities this spring?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do not go back that far and neither does the deputy. We will have to take notice on that question.
I have never considered it to be associated with fire equipment. I never made that connection when I was Minister of Community and Transportation Services and had certain budgets for fire protection. We do not take it into account either, when we develop the fire protection policy for municipalities two or three years ago.
The news from the AYC meeting was news to me. We can do a file search and see if there is any analysis that might make the connection.
Mr. Lang: I asked a question when we were on Education that had to do with the student grants and whether or not they were taxable. The Minister said that he would provide me with an answer.
On one occasion, there were some appeals filed about the Yukon grant. It boils down to the first $500 being tax deductible. Now that I have refreshed the Ministers memory, could the Minister tell us what the position of the Government of the Yukon is?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This matter has been cleared up. It is not considered taxable income. Someone in the taxation office was misreading the information on the information slips that we were providing to their office. They made the judgment that this was taxable income.
It is interesting that it was not evenly applied to everybody who received these notices. That leads one to believe that someone in the taxation office made the judgment themselves. We have cleared that up with Revenue Canada.
We have made sure that our description of what financial resources are being provided to those individuals will not raise any alarm bells in the minds of the officials at Revenue Canada in the future as to whether or not it should be interpreted as taxable income. It has been cleared up.
Mr. Lang: I appreciate the comments of the Minister, but I want to get it clear in my mind. The first $500 is not taxable, and thereafter it is. The balance that is received by students is taxable, is that correct?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As I understand it, all the funds will be taxable income, then you get a deduction of $500.
On Operation and Maintenance
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Basically, this budget can be explained by one of two things: first of all, we have moved one secretarial position from administration down to the Management Board Secretariat and have changed that position to Management Board analyst. Every other change is basically a cost-of-living increase.
Administration in the amount of $314,000 agreed to
On Financial Operations and Revenue Services
Financial Operations and Revenue Services in the amount of $1,654,000 agreed to
On Budgets and Fiscal Relations
Budgets and Fiscal Relations in the amount of $615,000 agreed to
On Management Board Secretariat
Management Board Secretariat in the amount of $298,000 agreed to
On Public Utilities Transfer
Public Utilities Transfer in the amount of $992,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there questions on Allotments, Person Year Establishment, yellow pages, white pages, pink pages or green pages?
On Allotments and Person Year Establishments
Allotments and Person Year Establishments agreed to
On WCB Supplementary Benefits
Treasury in the amount of $3,873,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Perhaps, before the Minister of Government Services speaks in general debate, perhaps he should come to the Legislature. He did not realize that Finance would be dealt with this expeditiously.
WCB benefits are what we pay to the Workers Compensation Board for all amounts owing. We are not insured, as are other employers in the territory, and we base our projections on actuals. That is a very brief but, I believe, accurate description of this item.
Mr. Phelps: Mr. McDonald has just made history: the moment at which the verbose Minister of Finance was at a loss for words.
On Operation and Maintenance
On Supplementary Pensions
Supplementary Pensions in the amount of $371,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance in the total amount of $371,000 agreed to
On Allotments and Person Year Establishment
Allotments and Person Year Establishment agreed to
Clerk: Are there any questions on the pink or green sheets?
On Schedule A
On Department of Finance
On Operation and Maintenance
Operation and Maintenance in the amount of $4,311,000 agreed to
Capital in the amount of nil agreed to
Finance in the amount of $4,311,000 agreed to
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Government Services budget, as presented, reflects a modest increase in overall terms, as reflected in the opening numbers. The preparation of this budget addresses a fairly serious effort in trimming inefficiencies and trying to provide the basic service to government it is expected to do.
By way of general commentary, Government Services is a principal agent to provide services to government. That is the principal role, as outlined in the objectives. Government Services provides the various services for other departments to help them deliver their programs. As in the case of construction, however, it is dependent on the priority and needs of the client department.
Earlier today, the debate reflected one of the initiatives Government Services has been involved with over the past 18 months: the project management system. As we discussed in a previous motion that adopted the Public Accounts report, Government Services are committed to a set of guidelines to govern its delivery of capital projects, from planning through to the construction.
Another significant area in the Government Services overall delivery of services is reflected in what the Minister of Education outlined in his budget discussions: the transfer of $1 million worth of program money to the Department of Education. As explained by the Minister of Education, that is for the maintenance and renovations in the schools.
It should be noted that Government Services will still be carrying out the work, but the direct authority will be from the Department of Education. I believe the Minister of Education outlined the need for us to do that in an effort to streamline and speed up the delivery of repair and maintenance to schools throughout the territory.
The system will work well simply because the authority will be vested with the principal to direct Government Services personnel in the community to immediate action. There will not be a need to go back into the Whitehorse chain of command and back out for direction.
We are currently involved with the various agreements relating to Yukon College. We are involved with quite a broad range of services throughout the government, whether they have to do with transportation, purchasing, controlling of the various assets of the government for providing computer services - the range of activities for Government Services is very broad. Just as the title suggests, it provides those services to the government.
Another area where considerable time was spent in the past year was in the area of our objective or commitment to diversify economically and to stabilize our economy. That was demonstrated in our introduction of the office space strategy and plan. We were committed to addressing the current needs of the government, as well as the long term office space requirements. We developed the strategy, as was announced in the House recently, in consultation with the business and labour community. Those principles that have been established are our effort to work constructively with the private sector and see that the needs of both government and the private sector can be met economically. It is showing evidence of success, and that is as it should be. We had spent considerable time in the last year analyzing our needs for the long term. We had developed a battle plan to address that and are now in the process of delivering.
We are still committed to promoting local manufacture, particularly in the area of furniture development. We are currently in the process of developing specifications for five-year contracts to supply furniture for government needs.
At the same time, we are involved with expanding our systems and computing services throughout the communities. We had some discussion on that in the previous budget and expect to have our network of computer linkage with the communities throughout Yukon and to include Teslin, Ross River, Carmacks, Carcross, Old Crow and Pelly.
Another major initiative was announced recently that took many hours and much effort: the development of the business incentive policy. I believe that was also successfully received by the business and labour community and we are looking forward to full implementation of it. We have every reason to believe it, too, will be a successful effort to ensure we have the best encouragement we can afford for the use of local materials, the use of local labour, and the encouragement of apprenticeships.
At the same time, the department is committed to and involved extensively with the environmental priorities of the government. It is our expectation to reduce the paper usage through government. I have explained to Members in the House our intentions to move to things like double-sided photocopying and acquiring machines that can provide this. We intend to step up our electronic use of mail exchange throughout government.
As Members are aware, we are currently using recycled paper in an experimental effort with the Conservation Society. We also have an involvement with the private sector in that exercise. We are using paper that is recycled from the government, paper that is recycled from a couple of businesses and provided to another business that uses it for packing material in its shredded form.
Once we test the marketplace with that exercise, we hope to expand if it proves to be economical, efficient and cost-saving.
At the same time, we are very committed to the objective of sound fiscal management. Capital project management is going to be one of our priorities in the delivery of construction programs. We are developing an information strategic plan in the area of systems and computer services. That will investigate various options as to how we can address the use of computers in the future.
In the spring debate, Members opposite had some concerns about our direction in the use of computers. We have taken a serious look at that aspect of our commitment.
We recognize that our mainframe computer, on an ongoing basis, reaches maximum capacity. Every time it is expanded, we have to address what the future needs will be. We have to address if what we are doing is cost-effective and efficient and whether or not we are getting the best value for the dollar.
We have reduced the capital person years of the department. This is a reflection of our reduced capital budget. It is also a reflection of our intention to deliver more structured project planning and analysis of our various budgets.
We will continue our energy conservation program. However, on a more reduced basis, the supply services capital budget has been reduced. We are going to make more use of the furniture and equipment that we have in the loan bank, that is, our used furniture. We will, as well, bring on stream that five-year tender call.
That highlights some of the major initiatives of the department for this year. The efforts of the past year have been productive in terms of having brought on the business incentive plan. We have managed to address our space needs. We are dealing with project management constructively. At the same time, we are involved in a number of ongoing initiatives that see streamlined and improved delivery of services to the government.
Mr. Lang: I am not going to belabour this. We had quite an extensive debate on Government Services in the supplementaries, and I think we went through a number of the issues. I want to make a couple of points.
First of all, the government needs to be commended for the work it is doing with the communities on the computerization of the system throughout the territory. It is really an advantage to take the opportunities of modern technology and utilize them in that manner. Over time, the communities are going to find that that is going to become an invaluable conduit of information for them, as well as the ability to contact people in central parts of government to get on with the governments business.
As long as the people know how to use the information and the equipment, it is going to be of great benefit to them and to the territory as a whole. It may also save us some costs.
I would like to comment on one other area. I appreciate the work that has been done, as far as the business incentive program is concerned. I question to what extent we need this program in the territory. Perhaps I have a little more faith in the private sector in the Yukon in tendering documents and projects. As long as they are of a size that our business community can handle, I feel there is no reason they cannot outbid people from outside the territory.
I say that because outside companies have to move up here. There is a cost included in that. They do not know our area, nor do they know some of the situations we face here, whereas the contractors who live here do know and derive benefit from that knowledge. Subsequently, I feel they are in a much better position to bid in an open, competitive marketplace.
I have a concern on the rebate system and what it is going to cost in the final analysis. Every time we add these aspects to our contracts, we have to realize it means they are costing more money. In the context of government, when we do that it means that some of the contractors cannot go ahead, because the money has to come from somewhere to pay for them. That is the aspect we have to consider when we talk about these business incentive programs.
I am very pleased to see it has taken out what is perceived to be a certain amount of politicization within the tendering procedures that were previously in place. It was fraught with problems.
I have one other point to make with respect to contracts. I feel very strongly that, wherever possible, our projects should be tendered out, giving those within Yukon communities the opportunity to tender, and they should be advertised throughout all communities.
There has been concern expressed where major projects had gone to a community or to a band to do. There is some legitimacy to that concern. I understand what the government is trying to do. It is trying to see whether or not we can get people within the community to work. But it must be understood, especially in construction, and about Yukon contractors in particular, that if they contract to do a job in the City of Dawson, for example, it is to their benefit to hire locally if those people are available, except for their key personnel for running and overseeing the projects. I know of what I speak. My background is construction.
I know we have moved into the communities of Carcross, Watson Lake and Dawson City, when I was in construction. We always hired locally. There was never a question that we were going to hire otherwise. As long as they got paid for their 12-hour shift, they worked the 12-hour shift, and everything was fine.
In giving these contracts out the way it has been done in some cases of the water and sewer projects that we talked about last year - the Teslin project comes to mind - it causes hard feelings. I can see some make-work projects developed through the community development fund, but I have problems when we start handing out the major capital projects indiscriminately to whom we think should get them.
I think the Minister has a responsibility to keep an eye on that because he is the central agency and he also handles community and transportation, which has the lions share of the contracts. That is just a point I want to raise. The concern has been brought to my attention - not by one individual but quite a number of individuals. I want to say to the Minister that it is causing hard feelings; I do not think that is the intent of the government and I think they had better analyze it and keep an eye on it. I do not think it is in the best interest of the territory if that is to happen.
The other area I would like to touch on is the question of government space. We have had a fairly lengthy debate here on that subject. I would like to start out with a question: Mr. Hunt had a contract to do strategic planning for government space requirements, and I would like to ask the Minister whether the five page summary handed out was the actual study that cost $17,000 or $18,000? If it was, I would like a copy of it.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I would like to respond briefly to the Members first remarks in the spirit he presented them, because I believe the Member was sincere in the thoughts he was articulating. I should note for the Member, and it will make my deputy feel better, that in respect of the tendering of contracts he is referring to, they do not deal with Government Services as such; those are the Community and Transportation Services contribution agreements we have entered into with communities for, in some cases, water and sewer works and, in other cases, construction of physical structures and buildings. I believe we have had a discussion on that in the past.
It is the governments view that, where there is a community that is undergoing severe unemployment conditions, where there is an opportunity for us to be able to provide some training in the areas of the construction involved, where there is an opportunity for us to assist the general social and economic health of a community, we are quite prepared to enter into those contribution agreements for those communities. I suspect the Member has referred to the Teslin project, and I believe we have done it in Haines Junction and in Mayo. In each of those communities, we did the work on band land and entered into the contribution agreement with the band. The benefits were enormous. I make no apology. The intention there is to provide the greatest benefit possible to that portion of the community on which the projects were being done, and they were successful. There was no money wasted and they were efficient.
The Member just touched on the issue of contracting in the communities at large, and I am not sure if he was referring to a number of discussions I have had with the Yukon Contractors Association, who do not like the way municipalities tender their jobs. I have to tell the Member that we are in the process of working with the municipalities to try and improve and streamline and consolidate and provide consistent contracting guidelines for communities.
The Member has to recognize that neither this government nor I will direct municipalities to contract in a certain fashion. Our staff are working with AYC and with certain communities to develop contract guidelines, and perhaps even the contract documents. The set of guidelines has been produced and we are at a discussion stage at whether we should go further and prepare some standardized documents for municipalities. We think we do not have to do that because there are standard documents that only need slight modification and would work.
I accept the observation that there may be some disagreement with the approach of the government on entering into contribution agreements with community associations, bands or councils, but the net benefit is a greater good to the community. Contractors invariably get involved, local people are employed and training takes place. I believe it is a useful and wise approach to the expenditure of the funds.
The Member raised some comments about the business incentive policy. The value of the rebate system was questioned. We had some discussion in Question Period on that in the past. The previous policy had a number of hidden costs in it that were never really measured and could not be measured. The previous policy was an effort to encourage those things that the government believed in.
I do not begrudge the effort. In the new policy I am pleased that contractors all have an equal opportunity to gain the job in the first instance. If they wish to gain further credit for meeting government goals and objectives, namely employment, apprenticeships, local materials, local manufacture, and they are on the rebate list for incentives, then that is their good fortune. From our calculations on the rebate system for available construction and purchasing dollars that are in the budget, we expect to spend up to $500,000 on rebates, at the maximum. If everybody had 100 percent local labour, and all the things we want to see achieved were on the rebate list, with full rebates generated, we could spent up to $500,000. More likely, it will be half of that because people will not achieve the maximums we anticipate.
It is my expectation, both from talking to the contracting and labour communities and from our own analyses at a staff level, that we could actually achieve savings out of the rebate system because people are going to calculate their anticipated rebate in their bid. It is quite conceivable that it could be a saw-off. At least, in the system we have introduced we are going to be able to measure precisely what our rebates are. We will have an actual cost to the policy that is measurable.
The only thing that will not be determinable is how much did the anticipation of the rebate affect the bid. We will not know. We will have to talk to the contractors to try to do some calculations on that score. We hope we will be able to try to determine whether or not the $200,000 or $300,000 we cough up on rebates to encourage local manufacture, local materials, local labour and local hire is paying off.
I will be the first one to defend the fact that it is worth our while to develop local manufacturing, which encourages employment, which encourages them to stay here, which encourages the recycling of the dollars that are generated. I will defend that policy to the death - at, least, I will defend that policy. It is a good one, and I am looking forward to successful, full implementation as we develop the rebates list.
The Member concluded with a question relating to space. He raised the issue of the study. The several-page strategy document that was tabled in the House was the list of principals that we will subscribe in the development of our space needs.
Some Hon. Member: (inaudible)
Byblow: That is not what we got for our work in that area. Mr. Hunt was employed by contract for a number of purposes. The job entailed, not only reviewing the past studies - the Touche Ross report and its update. He spent time with each department and got the full detail of their next three- to five-year needs. That included the anticipated growth, the anticipated changes in programs, the anticipated federal devolution impact on departments: all of that was part of what was generated by Mr. Hunt.
He also worked closely with the department, analyzing our current needs in light of the anticipated needs of government. The Member talked about the report. I am not prepared to table it for several reasons. It is fairly lengthy, but that would not be a primary reason. The principal reason is that it contains considerable information from departments about their future needs. That information should not be made public in total because it would address various strategic government planning in the area of devolution activities, it would address various plans relating to program growth and changes. The document is a fairly technical one. It contains some very sensitive information that would not serve the public interest if it was circulated.
While I am prepared to provide the Member with an abridged version of any detail in the study, I prefer not to table the entire report.
Mr. Lang: I find the Ministers reasoning questionable. The Touche Ross report was tabled in the House in its entirety. It contained projections about what various departments thought they needed. It subsequently laid the basis for the report. I do not understand why, if this report contains the same principles, it cannot be made available.
I appreciate the length of the report. Just one copy of the report being tabled would be fine so that any interested Members could see it. Each Member would not need a copy.
It is important in terms of the openness of government. We want to see where we are going in order to justify the strategic plan and what the Minister has indicated they want to do with Yukon College.
I ask the Minister to reconsider his decision, in view of the fact they already tabled documents containing the same kind of information. It is my understanding it is an updated Touche Ross report. The public has the right, and it is in the public interest, to see where the government appears to be going.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The only extent to which I am prepared to reconsider is to try and determine what portions of the report, if any, I could make available to the Member. The report projects some anticipated growths and changes in programs and devolution expectations, many of which have no formal approval for taking place. The Member has to recognize the sensitivity of the thinking on the part of the department.
The Touche Ross report only dealt with program changes and anticipated growths and shifts that were already approved. I stand to be corrected, but that is my understanding of the Touche Ross report. Only those approved changes were included in the Touche Ross report. Fortunately or unfortunately, this report contains a lot of departmental expectation that has had no formal adoption or approval, and that makes it pretty sensitive stuff.
Mr. Lang: The Touche Ross report contained information that had not been approved. It has projections for various departments. If the Minister takes time to go through it, he will find that I am correct, and that some of those things never did take place. It gives a basis to work from and an indication of the direction in which the government is going.
I appreciate the Minister saying he is prepared to reconsider our conversation here and go back and have a look at the report in its entirety. We just need one copy. It is not a question of sending a copy to every Member.
I want to make one other comment on the question of the business incentive program. Nobody here is saying things should not be done locally. I do not think the side opposite should pretend they are the only ones who want something to happen locally, and everyone else who does not own one of their political cards does not believe in that.
We are arguing the question of how you do it and how you get the best value for our dollar. That is the question I am putting on the floor of the House in the spirit of the debate we are having here now. From our point of view, the more money spent locally, the better off we are. It is just a question of how it is done.
It is important that the work be done with those communities, as far as contract regulations are concerned. I recognize that the Minister is saying that he cannot tell them what to do, but the Minister has the ability to say, If we are going to be granting YTG dollars to you, there are certain criteria that go along with how those dollars are going to be allocated. The Minister has a responsibility in that respect. You cannot just expect to be in this House and be Santa Claus, and to hand out money to someone, and not expect them to be accountable for it. I am sure the Minister has been through it a few times all ready, even though he has not been on the front bench for that long. Rightfully so. He should be asked questions.
That is the point we are trying to get across from this side of the House. That is not only in the area of contracts that are publicly tendered. Just as important are those that are not. For example, in Question Period today we were asking about various contracts, and the public has a right to know. I feel the amount of money for these consultants should be reviewed and put down to a lower level, which would force the departments and Ministers to go out for a tender if certain expertise is being sought.
We are talking about in the neighbourhood of $60 million that does not go out for tender. If it does go out for tender, and some of it may go out to invitational tender, that holds the system up for questioning. They ask: why did I not get a chance to have an invitational tender? They did not have me in the phone book; no one happened to know I was in the business. That is my point. The more we can publicly tender for this expertise we need within the government, the more the government is above being questioned about its motives. Everybody gets an equal opportunity for the available government dollars.
I throw that out to the Minister for consideration with his colleagues. It is an area of concern and is becoming more and more talked about within the communities: who is getting these contracts, how is the money being spent and how does one get into the public trough and wallow in it if they get certain access to dollars?
I have one further question for the Minister, and then I am prepared to go on to line-by-line. I understand the next step in the strategic plan for further space for the government will be the advent of the Yukon College, once it is completed?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I will try and start where the Member began, in relation to the communities and the treatment of the funds that are provided by this government in contracting procedures.
I hope the Member is not suggesting that, with respect to something like block funds, we should be directing municipalities how to spend it. The Member assures me he is not. One thing I should point out that we are currently getting under way is a review of the contract regulations, which include those limits of various authorities under which invitational tenders will be done, as opposed to public tendering, as opposed to no tendering. That is something we will be addressing in the course of this next year. I accept the Members comments as constructive and, in consultation with the industry, we will have a review by years end.
The Member raised a question about space. The old Yukon College is going to be the first major step of actual on-the-ground work relating to space. We are just in the process of signing off the documents that will see the facility turned over to Yukon Development Corporation. At the same time, we are in the process of dealing with the client department, Education, for the design specifications for the interior occupation of that facility. That should be concluded by the fall of 1991. The client department, Education, should be in there by the fall of 1991.
In the interim, a number of things are going to be happening. The branch of Health and Human Resources that is currently on the main level of this building, next to Education, will be moving out to Swiftwaters shortly.
That is the space the Member inquired about by letter. That will begin a domino effect of things to come. Legislative precincts have to be determined, and the extent of expansion has to be established. In part, that will fall in behind the vacating of the Health and Human Resources space on the main level.
A number of domino changes will fall in behind that. The big one is when Education moves over to the old college. That should answer the Member s question.
On Operation and Maintenance
On Finance and Administration
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The entire branch of the department consists of those three identified components. The finance and administration unit provides the financial, the administrative and the personnel support to the department. It also involves the purchase of insurance policies. The 12 percent increase reflects the creation of an ADM position to head up the branch. In the process, that was a transfer from another branch. It is not a net increase to the branch.
The ADM person year came from property management along with the dollars, so there is no net increase. An additional $25,000 constitutes some specific training requirements for the department.
Mr. Lang: I am going through the items. We have had a fair amount of debate in the supplementaries on last years budget. As we go through various line items, could the Minister identify if there are new policy initiatives being contemplated by the department, and explain what they are?
That may be a more expeditious way of going through it. I am prepared to go on.
Finance and Administration in the amount of $1,155,000 agreed to
On Policy and Planning
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I will try to speak to the Members request. This next line item is largely responsible for many of the new initiatives the department has brought on. That would include the business incentive policy, the project management development and the space strategy that was developed; this would be the critical body providing the support to bring those policies onstream. At some point, perhaps the Member could clarify what he means by new policy initiatives as we go through line-by-line.
The policy and planning unit would be the driving force of the changes we are undertaking, and I have just cited the major ones.
The 24 percent increase is the result of an additional person year to that branch. With the demands we have placed on the department in the new policy initiatives, there is a requirement for the increased staffing. The position was vacant in 1989-90. This represents the full staffing of it.
Mr. Lang: There is a significant increase of $20,000. It does not look to me like there is an increase in person years. If it is, in government dollars, the way salaries are today, somebody is being paid the normal wage.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: To clarify, the position was put in place in the last budget year. The increase was allocated during the current fiscal year and was not filled until well into the year. This would reflect the actual cost of only a portion of the year for which the person was paid. To reflect the full year now, it is less than a full years cost increase.
Policy and Planning in the amount of $134,000 agreed to
On Contract Administration
Hon. Mr. Byblow: This section provides the contract administration to the department. It is quite a critical section of the department. It is also closely involved with the business incentive policy. It is closely involved with contract administration of the various projects. A lot of work goes on in this unit. I am sometimes amazed at what their small numbers can accomplish with large contracts involving so much detail. The tendering is dealt with, the preparation of tendering documents is dealt with, the processing of payments dealing with holdbacks, disputes that may come up in application of the business incentive policy in the past; that unit has accomplished a considerable bit of work in the short experience I have had with the department. It is also the unit that provides the standard documents for contracts; it is the unit that will be doing the review of the contract regulations I mentioned earlier.
The reduction reflects two term positions used in the past year that we did not budget for this next year because we have accomplished some of the things we wanted to, and do not anticipate the extent of activity in application of the business incentive policy. So we have dropped the two term positions that were in it before. That reflects the reduction.
Mr. Lang: I share the view that this is one area of the department that does a considerable amount of work. Overall I think they do it well. It gets complicated when a politician gets involved and decides they are going to implement some policies that make it very difficult and they complicate the system. As soon as the system starts getting complicated, the more difficult it is for them to do their job and meet the workload that is expected. I am sure it is thought of many times at the administrative level, or two or three levels down, why we are being asked to do this when the other system seemed to work well, and we were capable of doing it, and our clients were quite happy with the system. We feel the people in this area have done a good job, and this is the time it should be recognized.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I think I can endorse the endorsement the Member provides. The unit certainly does provide an invaluable workforce effort to the functioning of the department and, particularly, in the contracts that are let by government and administered.
Part of what has been achieved in the past year is a simplification of things. The Member talked about complicating things. I can tell the Member quite confidently that, in the past year, we simplified not only things relating to the business incentive policy but in documents that are used in contract development. Everything is geared toward simplification and an easing of peoples ability to do their jobs in dealing with the public and delivering the goods on behalf of the government.
I can support the Members assessment that we ought to be simplifying and making things easier; that is what we have done. We have gone a step further, and we have brought that simplification in harmony with government goals and objectives.
Contract Administration in the amount of $331,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance in the amount of $1,620,000 agreed to
On Allotments and Person Year Establishment
Allotments and Person Year Establishment agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the yellow page?
Administration in the amount of $1,620,000 agreed to
Chair: We will take a short recess.
Chair: I will call Committee to order.
On Supply Services
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Overall, I think Members will recognize that this is one of the areas that got cut to the bone in terms of the budgeting process. The overall increases are extremely modest - two percent on the O&M side - but a 34 percent decrease on the capital side. This also speaks to the issue the Member raised with me in debate in the spring about where we are headed in the whole area - no, I am sorry, this is not the issue he raised; he raised computing services.
These breaks are very rough on people. You have to change gears in your thinking from all that has gone on since we left here 15 minutes ago. It is not Friday; I cannot hold a press conference.
In any event, in quick summary, there have been substantial cuts here showing a reduction in the capital side of things. The supply services, as Members are aware, is the branch that provides all the printing services, the purchasing services, the inventory controls and disposal of assets and all the transportation and warehousing needs of the department. The various line items reflect the various priorities. The capital side is indicative of those areas that have been cut back, so this branch is clearly operating at a bare bones capability, and I have every confidence that we will be able to meet the needs of the government at a minimum level, but certainly in this one area we are going to be struggling.
Mr. Lang: We are on Systems and Computers Services.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: All those remarks were in the context of Supply Services. We can replace them in Hansard at a later time if Members wish. If Members are cooperative, I would be pleased to finish it off. It has been a difficult afternoon.
Mr. Lang: Maybe we could move to Supply Services. Then we could deal with it. We just had general debate from the Minister, and I think we could go line-by-line.
On Operation and Maintenance
Administration in the amount of $156,000 agreed to
Purchasing in the amount of $426,000 agreed to
On Queens Printer
Queens Printer in the amount of $986,000 agreed to
On Asset Control
Mr. Lang: Can the Minister tell us why there is such a large reduction in this area?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Is the Member talking about the 23 percent reduction in acid control? In the spring, I talked about the need for us to catch up in our inventories of government assets. We, at that time, had shown an increase of a term person for this past year to do that catch up.
We have eliminated that term position for the next year.
We caught up with getting a documented inventory of all government assets in this past year.
Asset Control in the amount of $132,000 agreed to
On Transportation and Communication
Transportation and Communication in the amount of $1,790,000 agreed to
On Central Stores
Central Stores in the amount of $236,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance in the amount of $3,726,000 agreed to
On Office Equipment
Office Equipment in the amount of $235,000 agreed to
On Pooled Vehicles
Hon. Mr. Byblow: There is a minimal increase in Pooled Vehicles that is barely the cost of inflation. We are trying to maintain our pool vehicle fleet at current levels.
Pooled Vehicles in the amount of $349,000 agreed to
On Queens Printer Equipment
Queens Printer Equipment in the amount of $33,000 agreed to
Capital in the amount of $617,000 agreed to
On Allotments and Person Year Establishment
Allotments and Person Year Establishment agreed to
Supply Services in the amount of $4,343,000 agreed to
Chair: We will go back to page 178.
On Systems and Computing Services
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Deja vu.
This is the branch Members raised serious questions about in the spring. I have taken the liberty of circulating two documents to Members that speak to this branch and the issues raised in previous debates about the direction of this government in the area of computer technology.
The first document tabled is essentially an overview of the branch and describes how the branch is constituted in terms of its human resources and technological implementation. The rationale is provided for the technology that is in use in the government.
The second document speaks to actual project selection and is entitled Systems Development Projects. It talks about the criteria used when new systems come onstream and the process by which they do so. The various criteria are listed, and there are samples of programs in place, and analyses of the operation and maintenance savings applied to each of those programs. They go through a fairly rigorous analysis before a recommendation is made to implement.
This is some of the research I have asked for since the spring debate, and I am sharing it with Members.
On the capital side of the budget, there is a reduction of 57 percent in spending for what amounts to computer technology.
There is a six percent increase on the operation and maintenance side to maintain our existing systems.
If Members want to interpret it, we have started putting the brakes on expansion of computer technology while we assess the direction we are taking and our ability to be efficient and economic in our decisions to bring new systems onstream. I hope the two documents will provide some background reading for Members in the future as we proceed with our analysis and assessment of where we are at in our systems.
Mr. Lang: I appreciate the information provided to us by the department. Obviously, a lot of work has been done on it, and I want to let those who did the work know that we appreciate it. It does give us a quick background of what is going on and where the department is heading.
Glancing through this very quickly, one area of concern is the question of personnel and the substantial turnover in order to be able to do whatever work you want to do. We can put as much money into this system as we want, but if we do not have anybody to run it, we are all in trouble. A 64 percent turnover is very high. I would recommend to the Minister that, in conjunction with his colleague the Minister of Education, he should be putting more emphasis and effort into the computer programs we are providing in conjunction with the college and in the work experience that can be provided here. They are well-paid jobs; they can provide a person with a career and the ability to branch out from it later on in life. There is an opportunity for our local people to really become involved in a specialized area of expertise, although it may cost a few more dollars because of the size and the small number of employees required. With a 64 percent turnover, you save that on the question of recruitment cost.
I just want to make that point to the Minister. He can do with it what he may, but I would like to see the turnover decrease.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I appreciate the remarks and have to admit that the turnover figure alarmed me as well. I am advised that it is not uncommon to the computer technology industry. If Members look over that first discussion paper I provided, you will get an idea of how many computing services are provided to government in the various departments. There is a massive amount of technology in use in services provided. Members will have to admit that in budget debates over the past several years the ability to produce information instantaneously during the course of debate is only because we have some of this technology behind us. I am sure Members will recall that six years ago you could not produce a contract listing overnight, albeit perhaps not verified. The kind of information being sought and produced is only possible by the sophisticated technology that we have.
I reiterate the appreciation Members express about this information they see before them. The interesting thing is that it is in layman terms. For some of us who are computer illiterate, it is refreshing to have computer technology described to you by a computer expert in layman terms. That is what Members are looking at. The work is extremely well done and is an excellent compilation of two major aspects of the systems and computing services branch. I am quite pleased with the production.
We have to address the big picture and the big question. We have to address the whole issue of the extent to which we can expand our facilities, the efficiency with which we are delivering our services, the savings that we are incurring as a result of the expenditure so that whole issue of the big picture and future direction is something we are now getting a firm handle on, or at least this Minister is trying to.
The question of turnover is one that is common to the field of computer technology. It is one that clearly requires a high level of expertise. Those people are, indeed, hard to find. They are obviously in high demand, and we seem to have a problem on turnover. We are working with the college to develop programming for training in the area of computer technology. We are using those trainees from the college that we have in our programs, and we use consultants where we are not able to provide the staff. It is an area that is something of a problem, but having put the brakes on with our growth, as you can see from the budget, we are going to have a clear picture of our direction shortly.
The information that I have passed out will help us all in understanding the scope of the issue.
On Operation and Maintenance
On Systems Administration
Systems Administration in the amount of $295,000 agreed to
On Processing Services
Processing Services in the amount of $800,000 agreed to
On Systems Development
Systems Development in the amount of $367,000 agreed to
On Technical Services
Technical Services in the amount of $749,000 agreed to
On Information Centre
Information Centre in the amount of $904,000 agreed to
On Records Management
Records Management in the amount of 549,000 agreed
Operation and Maintenance in the amount of $3,664,000 agreed to
On Systems Development
Systems Development in the amount of $850,000 agreed to
On Computer Workstations
Computer Workstations in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Central Facility
Hon. Mr. Byblow: In the debate in the spring, we talked about the extent to which the central facility could grow. We had originally budgeted more to expand on the central facility. In our analysis of the ability of the central service to be expanded, it was deemed wiser and more cost-effective to do more than what we had planned on in the previous budget year.
We moved $300,000 forward from next years budget into the current fiscal years budget to do that central facility expansion now. That will give us about two to two and one-half years potential growth. This $100,000, while it reflects a very low central facility amount, was $400,000, but we moved it forward.
Central Facility in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Telephone Equipment
Mr. Nordling: We have not had this line item before. I would like to hear what the Ministers plans are.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Again, we had previous debate on this item. The department was engaged in a review of our telephone equipment and service. We were looking at whether or not it would be wiser for us, rather than rent from Northwestel, to provide that equipment through a tendering process or through a procurement process. Then, we would not have to deal exclusively with Northwestel.
That was the status then and it is still taking place. We have not concluded our analysis. It is a major decision that will eventually have to be made when we conclude our analysis. We are doing it in-house; we are dealing with Northwestel in trying to determine precisely the number of lines we have, the capability of our current technology and the telephone system, the current cost to us of renting all of those phones and all of that equipment throughout the building. Until we have a firm handle on that and are able to compare it to what savings may occur through procurement other than through Northwestel, we are not going to make any decisions.
This line item is essentially to provide for any potential decision that may be taken. The point should be made that we are aware that any potential cost savings that may be gained by purchasing or going to other sources for leasing that equipment may, in fact, be offset by an increase in the private business or the residential rates that Northwestel provides, because currently the revenue Northwestel has from this level of business gives a certain guarantee to a rate base for that. There is a major decision involved here and a major policy initiative that would have to be addressed.
That is where it is. We are still reviewing, analyzing and trying to get a comparison of current lease arrangements with Northwestel versus any other approach.
Telephone Equipment in the amount of $1.00 agreed to
Capital in the total amount of $1,050,000 agreed to
On Allotments and Person Year Establishment
Allotments and Person Year Establishment agreed to
Systems and Computing Services in the amount of $4,714,000 agreed to
On Property Management
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Property management, as Members are aware, is the branch that looks after all the office accommodation and space needs of the government. It also looks after the custodial requirements of those facilities, security services, and of course it also provides all the engineering and technical support to the design and construction and operations and maintenance of all the government buildings.
It is the biggest branch of the department. It is the one that looks after all those contracts, building construction projects and services to buildings.
On Operation and Maintenance
Administration in the amount of $360,000 agreed to
On Building Maintenance and Plant Operation
Building Maintenance and Plant Operation in the amount of $3,769,000 agreed to
On Custodial Services
Custodial Services in the amount of $1,082,000 agreed to
On Buildings and Security
Mr. Lang: There is a $200,000 increase in this area. Can the Minister tell us what it entails?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The six percent is reflected by the increase in lease space. That is strictly the cost of it. I may have provided some previous figures on that, Swiftwaters, the Spauhman Building in Watson Lake, Springback, and 208B Main for the communications unit and Health and Human Resources. All of that is six percent.
Mr. Lang: I noticed today a press release that had to do with Health and Human Resources and the organization dealing with family violence. Has the government bought another house on Ogilvie Street? Are they renting? Are they leasing? Or did they purchase another building?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am not personally familiar with this particular lease, but I understand there is new lease space on Ogilvie for the family violence unit for Justice. It does not show up in the figures because it was already budgeted.
Buildings and Security in the amount of $3,837,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance in the amount of $9,048,000 agreed to
On Renovations Public Buildings
Renovations Public Buildings in the amount of $1,128,000 agreed to
On Energy Conservation
Energy Conservation in the amoaunt of $225,000 agreed to
On Pre-Engineering Capital Projects
Pre-Engineering Capital Projeccts in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
On Design and Construction Overhead
Design and Construction Overhead in the amount of $1,125,000 agreed to
On Office Accommodation Projects
Office Accommodation Projects in the amount of $300,000 agreed to
On New Facilities
New Facilities in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
On Prior Years Projects
Prior Years Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
Capital in the amount of $3,003,000 agreed to
On Allotments and Person Year Establishment
Allotments and Person Year Establishment agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the yellow or pink pages?
Propery Management in the amount of $12,051,000 agreed to
On Schedule A
On Government Services
On Operation and Maintenance
Operation and Maintenance in the amount of $18,058,000 agreed to
Capital in the amount of $4,670,000 agreed to
Government Services agreed to
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I move that the Chair report progress on Bill No. 19.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the Speaker do now resume his Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Ms. Kassi: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 19, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1990-91, and directed me to report progress on same.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Mr. Phillips: I move the House do now adjourn, and I wish everyone a happy and safe Rendezvous.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Opposition House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Monday next.
The House adjourned at 5:28 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled February 22, 1990:
Federal contribution toward funding for young offenders facility (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 915
Chronic disease list, and guidelines to medical practitioners (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1175 & 1176
Costs of equipment purchased under Chronic Disease and Disability Benefits Program (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 914
Cost of physical improvements to Na Dli Youth Centre (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1143