Tuesday, January 4, 1994 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Speaker: As no one is standing, I would like to bring the attention of all Members to the former Member and Minister of Health and Social Services in the gallery, Joyce Hayden. I would like to welcome her.
Speaker: Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
Reports of Committees.
Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Notices of Motion.
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Whitehorse General Hospital, design changes
Mr. Penikett: I am pleased to see my former colleague in the gallery today, as I rise to ask questions of the Minister of Health.
Before Christmas, the Minister was repeatedly asked to explain his new concepts pertaining to health care and the hospital redesign. So far, we have only heard about a very old concept called service cuts. Will the Minister now concede that it was financial, and not health, considerations that lead him to his decision to make a new design for the hospital.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have been very candid in saying that the new design concept will save money. We have all said that it is money we can use in the provision of health care to Yukoners. Obviously, in these times of government cutbacks, not the least of which are the federal governments cutbacks, it is very important that we get the most efficient use out of our money. That is what this really leads to.
Mr. Penikett: The redesign announcement was wrapped in rhetoric about new concepts and new health philosophies, about which we have heard absolutely nothing. The Minister says that he is going to save money, but he has not told us how much money, or how that will be done or who exactly will be paying for the additional costs of the new design. Can the Minister confirm that, despite the fact that the Minister has implicated the chair of the board in this decision, the board itself did not make the redesign decision and may not have been consulted about it before it was made. Can the Minister essentially confirm that the redesign decision was his, and his alone?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I think we had better make a few things clear. What I have said about the boards concerns is that they indicated concerns with the old design some time ago - as early as last spring or summer. With respect to the decision to change, I made it very clear in my announcement at the press conference, and in this House, that it was a decision made by Cabinet on the Monday morning, subject to consultation with the board.
A consultation with the board was held that same day and the announcement was made in this House the next day.
Mr. Penikett: I would like to pursue that in another set of questions. In my final supplementary on this question, I want to turn to another related issue that has arisen concerning the extended care facility. The Minister has never really concealed his hostility to the extended care program. As he knows, there is already criticism about using the Thomson Centre space for the hospital program. Since, in the past, health care professionals in the department consistently advised against integrating a residential extended care program with an institutional hospital program, could the Minister tell the House what health policy reasons caused him to make the decision he has made about integration, which we heard announced on the radio today, and what health policy would justify the reversal of the previous policy of the department?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I think that to speak of this in terms of a policy of the department is somewhat misleading, and to say that all experts would be opposed to having the hospital in charge of something like the Thomson Centre would also be entirely misleading. In fact, we have had a variety of opinions that would go against what the hon. Member is suggesting.
The so-called integration issue is a very simple one: it is physical space, and we said that part of the building of the new hospital requires the tearing down of two wings of the existing old hospital and those patients have to be moved. The obvious place for them to be moved, in terms of physical space, is to part of the Thomson Centre.
I would suggest, though, that the hon. Member ought to be fairly careful and not confuse the issue of space in certain structures with the issue of combining programs, because that is not what is happening here.
Question re: Whitehorse General Hospital, design changes
Mr. Penikett: The problem with the Ministers position is that all he is doing is designing space. We know there is a complete program vacuum, and that is what concerns us. Most sensible planners plan the program first and the space second.
The original hospital design was developed in accordance with the Yukon Government Services Building Development Projects Procedures Manual, of which the Members opposite were, when they were in Opposition, great fans. This policy, as I am sure the Minister knows, contains four phases in building construction. The government is expected to follow the needs analysis, the planning phase, the design phase and the construction phase.
Will the Minister today give this House his assurance that the hospital redesign is following the requirements outlined in the Building Development Projects Procedures Manual?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No.
Mr. Penikett: The purpose of this manual is to control the scope, timing and costs of any project, and to incorporate the criteria of effectiveness and determine the roles and responsibilities of all of the parties involved in the building development project.
Would the Minister please state his reasons for not following these minimum requirements.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have explained the situation as it exists and certainly the building of the shells will not proceed without the appropriate planning, engineering and working up of the contract documents. The actual finalization and functions of the programs will be carried out as a separate phase. They overlap, but due to time constraints and the vital importance of this project going ahead during this upcoming construction season, it is important that we have a phased approach with respect to the design of the building. As I have said before in these Chambers, it is a shopping centre approach with the interior design being completed after the work on the shells has commenced.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The problem with the shopping centre approach is that it operates contrary to the standards of good public policy; namely, to establish the program functions before the design proceeds.
The Minister knows that the purpose of this manual is to ensure that public building construction projects proceed only after they have been meticulously thought through and planned for, and that it is a process that promotes accountability.
I would like to ask the Minister if he has replaced this process with another process and, if so, would he please describe what this new process is and whether it will be used in any other projects in which he is involved.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I find it somewhat dumbfounding that that particular Member would start lecturing us on this side with respect to how to go about building, in an appropriate way, capital projects. After all, it was under his administration that so much money was utterly wasted on capital projects, and it was under his administration that we ended up with white elephants that led to huge O&M costs, not the least of which is the long-term facility centre of which he has been speaking. I would respectfully suggest to the Member opposite that, if he is opposed to us redesigning the hospital, if he wants to go with the archaic design that was set up under his regime, why does he not just say so.
Question re: Whitehorse General Hospital, design changes
Mr. Penikett: Nothing seems to offend the Member opposite more than a tough question. It always leads to these kinds of pompous lectures from him. Let me ask the question again, since he did not answer it. What process is the Minister substituting for the one established by the government to govern building development projects such as the hospital, which he has just redesigned?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will provide the Member with the process in a legislative return.
Mr. Penikett: I would remind the Minister that he has committed to spending $3 million on the design of this project, without having achieved a single thing. This comes from the expenditure of public money.
Since the Minister is telling us that he is not following this process, but is saying that he will table it, can he tell us if the process and procedure that he is using to substitute for the one established for everyone else has been established yet, or will he be instructing his associates in the next few minutes to start writing it?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The process has generally been endorsed by Cabinet. I will be prepared to provide him with a legislative return on the subject.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister of Health and Social Services says that the process for planning and building the hospital, which will replace the Building Development Projects Procedures Manual, has been generally endorsed by Cabinet. He is telling the House that there is a Cabinet decision to replace this manual with respect to the hospital. He should then be in a position to table that Cabinet decision in the House, and make it a public document. Will he do so now?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Of course not.
I am rather curious about the book the Member has over there. I wonder if he would perhaps, as part of his next question, indicate whether or not that is the process that they used when they built the skating rink in Ross River that cost $3 million, though it was supposed to cost $500,000 when it started. Was it the process they used for Yukon College, which was supposed to cost $25 million but cost well in excess of $50 million? Was it the process they used to build two firehalls that I know of that cost $500,000, when we built one in Tagish for $175,000? I would be interested in hearing the Member touch on these subjects in his next supplementary.
Speaker: Before the next question, I would like to remind Members of the guidelines prepared by them for me to enforce. Supplementary questions should be preceded by a one-sentence preamble, and replies should be as brief as possible and relevant to the question.
Point of Order
Hon. Mr. Phelps: On a point of order, the word yes would fit well within the guidelines for a supplementary.
Mr. Penikett: On the same point of order, if the Minister is seriously interested in an answer to his question, he should ask his colleague, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, who was the project manager for the Ross River arena.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The project manager was not I, as was indicated by the Member opposite. The Member for Mcintyre-Takhini could probably fill us in a little better about the responsibility. There is a letter from me in the file, in which I suggested that the project be scrapped before the project ever had any construction-
Speaker: Order, please. I think I have almost heard enough on the point of order to make my ruling. However, if the Member for McIntyre-Takhini would like about 30 seconds to speak, I will recognize him.
Mr. McDonald: The Member for Laberge will remember that any time there was any briefing done on the Ross River arena, when there were continual concerns being expressed by me about that project, it was that Member, in his previous role, who was asked by the department to respond and to do the point work for that particular project. As far as I was concerned, he was the point person for the project.
Speaker: After careful consideration, I find that there is no point of order.
Question re: Whitehorse General Hospital, design changes
Mr. Cable: Now that we have that all worked out, I have more questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services on the new hospital.
Before we recessed for Christmas, the Minister indicated that he would be filing some time-line charts and some critical-path charts. This has not been done yet. I want to ask one question about the time line. How much time does the Minister expect will be needed to complete the consultation process with the various stakeholders prior to the finalization of the design of the new hospital?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There will be a consultation process, and a contract will be tendered. We will work with those groups with regard to the programs and with regard to the interior of the hospital. I would think that the initial consultation process will take no longer that two months. It will be ongoing and will build upon all the work that has been done to date, with respect to the programming and so on. I would like to emphasize that most of the work that has been done to date is not lost.
Mr. Cable: There has been some to-ing and fro-ing in the media on the role of the Yukon Medical Association. Would the Minister confirm that the medical personnel - that is, the Yukon Medical Association, the Whitehorse hospital medical advisory committee and the nurses association - will be formally consulted in the redesign of the new hospital?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Certainly.
Mr. Cable: In relation to the time line, I believe the Minister has indicated to the House that the people hired to redesign the hospital will be working off their previous experience on what I think were standard modules. Is it the Ministers intention that this new hospital be redesigned from the ground up or will there be standard hospital units brought into the design of the building?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: My understanding is that it will be based on standard hospital units. I cannot be much more technical than that.
Question re: Whitehorse General Hospital, design changes
Mrs. Firth: I, too, have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services regarding the hospital design change.
Right now, there is a great deal of frustration and bewilderment among most of the public, who have expressed concerns to me about the change of the design of the hospital - mainly because people do not understand why and do not have any facts to substantiate the Ministers claim that we are going to save money with this new design. The Minister very clearly stated today that we were going to save money, and I have heard rumours around the hospital that the amount being used is as high as $1 million a year operating expenses.
Since the Minister has not tabled any information for us this afternoon, can he stand up in the House and give us any concrete specific numbers with respect to amounts of money that are going to be saved as a result of this design change?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, I do not think I could possibly do it to the standards demanded by the good Member opposite - and, by the way, Happy New Year to everybody over there. What we have is this situation: the experts from the department in British Columbia, the experts from the department that builds hospitals in Alberta, one of the two acknowledged programming experts of hospitals in western Canada and the project manager who has been engaged on the project for about a month now, all agreeing in principle that this was made necessary - that the old design, the design we are not going to proceed with, would be uneconomic and, in general, that the costs would be at least in the neighbourhood of $1 million per year. That is what we have consensus on from the experts we have consulted. We did not do this for the fun of it, believe me.
Mrs. Firth: I hope the Minister is not asking me to lower my standards because he is the Minister of Health and Social Services now. I would not want to have to do that on behalf of the taxpayer. The Minister has said that there is going to be $1 million worth of savings. What is that $1 million worth of savings made up of? He said the experts are predicting this. What did they say that lead him to draw the conclusion that there was going to be $1 million saved?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Our rough estimates, from various quarters, show savings of various kinds from reducing the number of nursing stations required from seven to two and from various logistical operations and savings that result from the layout of everything within the hospital - not going upstairs and downstairs with food or not having two bays to service the hospital when one bay will do. The numbers that I have quoted are, deliberately, numbers that are rough calculations, particularly in view of the fact that we do not have anything beyond the concept designed yet with respect to the new hospital.
Mrs. Firth: That is exactly everyones concern. We are at the design phase and the numbers the Minister is giving are rough numbers. He really has only given us one number - $1 million. He has not given us any other figures to indicate any savings that add up to the $1 million. I would like to ask the Minister if he is prepared to give us the rough estimates to which he referred. I would like him to itemize the savings that will be realized by reducing the number of nursing stations and the logistical operations so that we can have some idea from where the savings are going to come.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, what I am prepared to do, as we have the figures reduced to more accurate components, is to make them available. I am certainly not prepared to be stuck with figures that are rough, but I have complete faith that there will be a savings. The Member is a nurse and I suppose her expertise is better than the four experts we have already consulted. Be that as it may, I will rely on the four experts from whom we sought advice.
Question re: Social assistance for single mothers
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Minister responsible for the Department of Health and Social Services. In November, the Minister was a guest lecturer with the social work program at the college and was reported to say that one of the problems with social assistance was young women getting pregnant for the sole purpose of collecting welfare. I would like to ask the Minister if this is one of the assumptions on which his department is basing the consultations?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, not at all. To clarify the comment, what I said was that that is an issue that has been raised by various people - whether or not it is an inducement.
Ms. Commodore: The comment, of course, did offend many women.
I notice that in the consultation document the department asked the question, should we allow a parent to be on social assistance, to look after a pre-school child without having to seek work for six months, one year or up to two years?.
Will the Minister explain why the department, in its consultations, did not ask people to comment on the existing policy, which allows single parents to stay home until the child reaches kindergarten?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: In the consultations, over and over again, we were asked by women who work why people on social assistance should be given more time off than they, when they have children, too? Thus far, I have not heard a good answer.
Ms. Commodore: Many low-income workers do not earn enough, as the Minister knows, to get by from payday to payday and as a result are subsidized through social assistance.
I would like to ask the Minister if he has given any consideration to increasing the minimum wage to assist low-income earners?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The issue of minimum wage will not resolve that problem, of course, but I can tell the hon. Member that I have asked the board to come forward with recommendations about raising the minimum wage. On receiving the recommendations, we will be taking action.
Question re: Ross River School, special-needs children
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Minister responsible for Education. It was reported in the media today that members of the Ross River community are concerned about the situation at their childrens school. A letter from the Kaska Tribal Council to YTG describes a lack of services for special-needs children and says that the situation is intolerable.
Can the Minister tell us if cutbacks in education have caused this intolerable situation?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, cutbacks in education have not caused that situation. My understanding is there is a meeting this week, I believe, with Education officials, Health officials and others, to discuss this particular problem.
Ms. Commodore: The letter to YTG from the Kaska Tribal Council states that the problem dates back to the last school year and that more support and services from YTG are needed to remedy the situation.
I would like to ask the Minister if he was aware of this serious situation, prior to receiving a letter from the Kaska Tribal Council.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There were a couple of incidents last year of arson at the school, and I know there are some problems in the school. However, it must be known that the student/teacher ratio in Ross River is about nine to one. It is one of the lowest ratios in the territory, and we are having a meeting sometime this week with officials to discuss the situation. When we become aware of the problems, which were not pointed out in the letter, we will act on the situation.
Ms. Commodore: After a suicide in Ross River a couple of years ago, a report was done by the government offering solutions to deal with the problems in the community. The report contained a plan of action with recommendations, and I would like to ask the Minister if he can table that plan of action in this House, and let us know if any of those recommendations in that plan of action were implemented.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will take that under advisement.
Question re: Social assistance for single mothers
Mr. McDonald: I have one quick question for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
I was listening intently to the questions put forward by the Member for Whitehorse Centre and the Minister did not answer a question that I thought was fairly critical.
Does the Minister believe that there are women who have children in order to get on social assistance, and, if so, does he believe that to be a problem?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That is an issue that has been raised by some people. I do not profess to be an expert in that area, and I do not have an opinion about that issue.
Mr. McDonald: Has the government taken any position on this matter, and, if so, can the Minister express the departments position about women having children in order to receive social assistance. Does the department consider this to be a problem?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is not a problem that has been raised in that context.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister indicate to us why he would raise the matter in the social work class, when he has no opinion, the department has no opinion and he has only assigned the criticism to some unnamed persons whom he is not prepared to identify.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The Member opposite must lead a very sheltered life indeed if he has not heard that concern raised by various people. It has been raised by some at the consultations and has been raised by some individuals to me. I acknowledge it as an issue that is out there.
Question re: Wolf control program
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Minister of Renewable Resources regarding the wolf kill.
The wolf kill is now underway, as we all know, and the wolf conservation management plan has now been formally adopted by the government. By way of getting some numbers, I would like to ask the Minister how many wolves have been killed to date this year.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: As I said last year, when the program is finished at the end of this spring, we will provide a full report. We are not going to give a blow-by-blow report at this time.
Mr. Harding: This is a very important issue to many Yukoners. Taxpayers money is involved. I do not think it is as funny as the Members opposite seem to think.
Can the Minister not tell us what has been spent on the wolf kill this year and last year? Can he tell us how many wolves have been taken in the last couple of years?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Last year, there were 60 wolves taken.
Mr. Harding: I can see that I am going to need a few questions to get some of the information I want from the Minister. He has just told us how many wolves were taken last year.
Can he tell us what the costs were for the wolf kill for this year and last year, and how many wolves were taken this year?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am not going to give information on the wolves taken this year. I will take the rest under advisement, because I do not have those figures in my head.
Question re: Abbatoir
Mr. Cable: I also have some questions for the Minister of Renewable Resources on the proposed abbatoir that the Yukon Agricultural Association is promoting.
Would the Minister, on behalf of the government, reconfirm his support of the proposed abbatoir?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will confirm my report that we were interested in looking at one, but not the present one. It has gone completely out of line.
Mr. Cable: Just by way of further information, one of the proposed sites was a portion of the forestry reserve at the corner of the Mayo Road and the Takhini Hot Springs Road.
Could the Minister indicate whether those lands have been turned over to the Yukon government for disposal?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, those lands have not yet been transferred to the Yukon government.
Mr. Cable: It is also my information that the Kwanlin Dun First Nation has some interest in the forestry lands, but is prepared to support a transfer or an exchange of lands on Haeckel Hill. I believe it is site selection C-6 for the Kwanlin Dun Band. Is the Minister prepared to exchange that land selection or the forestry land selection for the proposed abbatoir site, if the Kwanlin Dun First Nation is agreeable?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As we seem to be getting into land claim negotiations on the floor of the Legislature, it is probably better that I answer the question for the Member opposite. I would say to the Member opposite that, as I have said many times in this House, land selections will be dealt with at the land claims negotiating table.
Question re: Wolf control program
Mr. Harding: I have to go back to the Minister of Renewable Resources regarding the wolf kill, the cost of the wolf kill, and the number of wolves that have been taken.
The Minister says that he does not have that information for me and that he will take it under advisement. He also made some comments that he was not prepared to tell the people of the Yukon how many wolves have been taken, even though it is taxpayers money being used to undertake the kill. Why will he not tell Yukoners? What is the single reason why he will not tell Yukoners how many wolves have been taken?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will repeat what I have said before. When the program is finished in the spring, we will report what was done.
Mr. Harding: The Minister continues to treat the people of the Yukon like little children, like we have to be spoon fed information. He has not produced one single reason why that should be. Why will he not tell Yukoners? Why does he want Yukoners to wait to know how many wolves have been taken? It is a simple question.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is quite apparent that he is going to continue this. He says I am treating the people of the Yukon like little children, so I guess I am treating myself that way also. I made it plain last year that I would not ask those in the field what was being done until the program was over, so I would not have to come into this House and start lying.
Mr. Harding: Once again we have gotten an outrageous answer from the Minister. The Minister is responsible for this single, huge priority in his department right now. Has he just told this Legislature that he has no idea what is going on with the wolf kill? Is he saying that at the end of the kill his bureaucrats will come to him and tell him what happened? Is he not getting any briefing? What is going on?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We are certainly getting hard up for questions. Number one, yes, I know what is going on.
Question re: Wolf control program
Mr. Harding: I am glad the Minister answered number one. He said, yes, I know what is going on. I want to ask the Minister this: if he knows what is going on, what is going on? How many wolves have been taken this year?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will not disclose it until this spring.
Mr. Harding: Why?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: For the simple reason that it certainly does not do the program any good to be reporting every day what is going on out there.
Before the Member gets up, at least we had guts enough to do it, which is more than that outfit did over there.
Mr. Harding: What a macho crew. We have the most macho government I have ever seen. They are so proud of the fact that they can shoot wolves out of a helicopter. I do not see what is so great about that. The Minister still has not given us an answer about why it does not help Yukoners to know what the taxpayers money is being spent on in terms of the wolf kill. He has not told us why. Why will he not tell us how many wolves have been taken, right now?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I certainly do not have to and I am not going to.
Question re: Wolf control program
Mr. Harding: This is a Legislature and the Minister has a responsibility to tell the duly elected people what they are doing in terms of policy and the spending of peoples money.
We would like to know what the money is being spent on. How many wolves have been taken this year in the wolf-kill program?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Same answer.
Mr. Harding: Why does the Minister act so arrogantly? Why does the Minister think he has no obligation to tell anybody in the Yukon - any elected representatives or anyone else - except his Cabinet colleagues, what is going on? Why does he feel he does not have to tell anybody?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have not even told my Cabinet colleagues.
Mr. Harding: It is disappointing that his Cabinet colleagues do not have any interest in these important questions, but that is not the point of the question. Let me try this angle on the Minister. The caribou calf survival rate is reported to have gone up. Has this had any impact on the number of wolves that have been taken? Have any changes been planned for the program?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: When we started this program last fall, we said we would report and, at the end of two years, we would know whether it was a success or not. That is the way it is going to stay.
Question re: Wolf control program
Mr. Harding: I cannot put this aside, as much as I would like to. I would like to get an answer from the Minister for a change. The officials of the department have been on the radio talking about the kill, but when elected people want to ask questions about the kill we are shunned by the Members opposite and it is implied that we are doing something that we should not be doing when we are asking questions. Can the Minister give us the reason? What are they hiding? Why will they not tell people how many wolves have been taken this year? Why will they not give updates about what is going on and what is being spent?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We did not do it last year. They got answers when the program was over in the spring and the same thing will happen this year.
Mr. Harding: We have had officials from the department talking about the wolf kill operation on the radio, so the department is stating its position on the kill and what is going on, to a degree. We are asking about a different element of the kill and the Minister stands up in the Legislature and says that he has no obligation to tell anybody about it. I find that incredible. Why will the Minister not tell the people of this House and the Yukon how many wolves have been taken this year?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Maybe I should send a note over with the big word no on it. Maybe then he would understand it.
Mr. Harding: I am trying to get an answer to a question from the Minister and he continues to stand up and act like a little child and tell us that he does not have an obligation to make any response to the questions we are asking. Why does he feel that he does not have to answer these questions?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: He says that he has been asking questions. He has asked one question for about three different supplementaries and the answer is still no - no.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed.
Notice of Opposition Private Members Business
Mr. McDonald: I am losing weight; you may not have noticed me. Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the items to be called by the Official Opposition tomorrow afternoon, Wednesday, January 5: Motion No. 34, standing the name of Margaret Commodore, and Motion No. 19, standing in the name of Tony Penikett.
Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Phillips: 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. I would like to wish all Members a Happy New Year. We will take a brief recess at this time.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 12, on Government Services.
Bill No. 12 - First Appropriation Act, 1994-95, continued
Government Services- continued
On Information Systems - continued
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
On Information Resources Infrastructure
Mr. Harding: Could I get a breakdown on that from the Minister?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The breakdown is as follows: central facility, $753,000; communications network, $169,000; corporate data administration, $300,000; corporate systems development, $368,000; research and specialized equipment, $76,000; training facilities and equipment, $70,000; records services equipment, $90,000; and department impact, $237,000.
Mr. Harding: We have had quite a few discussions about information systems in the new capital budget. I will refrain from commenting. We have been bandying it around, back and forth, so I have a clear picture of what the government plans to spend this money on.
Information Resources Infrastructure in the amount of $2,063,000 agreed to
Information Systems in the amount of $2,063,000 agreed to
On Supply Services
Chair: Is there any general debate?
We will proceed line by line.
On Office Furniture
Mr. Harding: What is that request for?
Hon. Mr. Devries: This project involves replacement of existing furniture sets with locally manufactured furniture sets, at an expected cost of $135,000. The project was established as a five-year plan to stimulate this industry in the Yukon.
Mr. Harding: Is this done in conjunction with the governments formal policy for local hire or for local purchase? I was under the impression that the government was noncommittal on that issue. Is this one area that the government has identified where the government is going to buy locally?
Hon. Mr. Devries: We have had discussions with the various manufacturers and we hope to have them produce a less costly set. We feel that these prices would be competitive with prices outside of the territory, and that is why we have chosen to go this route.
Mr. Harding: How many people are going to be using this $140,000 worth of furniture, and specifically what will the furniture be used for?
Hon. Mr. Devries: These are furniture sets that were used mostly at the management and ministerial level in the past. The sets are approximately $6,000 each. They include a desk, bookcase, computer stand and chairs that are locally made. It is roughly a 12-piece suite.
Mr. Harding: Are the deputy ministers and all of the Ministers going to get new furniture as a result of this expenditure?
Hon. Mr. Devries: No. Most of those were already replaced under the previous administration. This would be for managers, and others.
Mr. Harding: That does not seem to be what he first explained to me. Who, specifically, is going to receive this furniture?
Hon. Mr. Devries: It is not overly specific. The majority of the furniture will be used in reception areas - areas that the general public tend to visit. The purpose is partially to demonstrate that furniture can be manufactured locally at reasonable prices.
Mr. Penikett: I would just like to go on the record and point out that none of the three former NDP Ministers in this House received any new furniture when we were in office.
Mr. McDonald: I am not clear about the governments policy here. Does the Minister mean that the department talked the furniture makers into a lower cost project and, as that product would be more cost competitive with furniture from outside, that they were going to tender the acquisition of furniture by open tender, to include outside suppliers as well?
Hon. Mr. Devries: No. The discussions that we had with local furniture manufacturers were more of a side issue. Last year, due to severe fiscal restraint, it was not in our budget. This year, we have managed to put a little of the money back - I believe it was about $200,000 before. Also, our feeling is that it is an important industry in the Yukon and we should try to support it.
Mr. McDonald: Perhaps the Minister could close the circle on this one. He is getting very close to answering the question I am asking. How is the government going to acquire this locally made furniture with this $140,000? Presumably, the government will not face more of this fiscal restraint considering that the budgets are increasing exponentially. Can the Minister tell us how the furniture will be acquired?
Hon. Mr. Devries: There was a standing offer agreement, which was a five-year project in 1991. It would be a continuation of that standing offer agreement with the furniture manufacturers.
Also, departmental furniture needs will still go to public tender. They have had limited success in fulfilling some of the departmental needs, so they are definitely becoming more competitive on the lower end, as well.
Mr. McDonald: What proportion of the $140,000 will be dedicated toward the standing offer agreement obligations with local furniture manufacturers?
Hon. Mr. Devries: There is $135,000 exclusively for the replacement of existing furniture sets with locally manufactured ones. There is $5,000 there for the purchase of surplus federal furniture assets, which are deemed to fulfill the needs of YTG at a reduced price. It seems like the federal government gets rid of this stuff faster than we do.
Mr. McDonald: It must come at a good price if the Minister is only allocating $5,000. The Minister indicated that the standing offer agreement was initiated in 1991. When the standing offer agreement is scheduled to finish, does the government intend to pursue further standing offer agreements for the same purpose?
Hon. Mr. Devries: It was a five-year agreement. It will be reviewed in 1995. It would then be subject to funds available and the success of the program. We would do a complete review of the whole program at that time to see how well established the businesses are, and so on.
Mr. McDonald: Could the Minister tell us when the complete review of the program is to begin?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I would say that in March 1995 we would start to review it.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister intends to review the program in March of 1995 - that is the absolute end of the fiscal year - and he is anticipating there may be changes shortly after that. How is he going to accomplish that task in such a short period of time?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I may have to retract that. It would have to be during the tail end of 1994 so that the review is completed when we are developing the 1995-96 budget.
Office Furniture in the amount of $140,000 agreed to
On Queens Printer Equipment
Hon. Mr. Devries: This projects request is for funds necessary to replace two aged Xerox photocopiers in the print room. These were scheduled for replacement last year but were deferred. They are getting very shaky.
Queens Printer Equipment in the amount of $250,000 agreed to
On Central Stores
Mr. Harding: May we have a breakdown, please.
Hon. Mr. Devries: This is to replace a forklift at the central warehouse. Indications are that it could come in slightly lower than that but this was also due for replacement last year and had been deferred. This machine is on its last legs.
Mr. Harding: In terms of the budgeting process, will there be any residual value from the old forklift, and where would that be put in the budgeting process?
Hon. Mr. Devries: It would show up in revenues and it would go through the normal surplus auction process.
Central Stores in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Transportation, Motor Vehicles
Hon. Mr. Devries: This is based on priorized needs and will support the replacement of 27 vehicles, which consist of nine cars, five cargo vans, one cargo van with a lift on the back, one stake truck, three pickups and eight three-ton trucks.
Mr. Harding: What is the governments policy regarding the criteria for the decision on whether or not they will purchase transportation, or motor vehicles? Has there been any change in policy from the previous administration? What is the policy of the government?
Hon. Mr. Devries: There has been no change. For the Members information, a unit, regardless of age, mileage, et cetera, that has been involved in an accident, and where the cost of repairs exceeds 80 percent of its value, is naturally replaced. When age and mechanical condition show the cost of continued use exceeds the value and/or road worthiness, it is replaced. Vehicle replacement is at 145,000 kilometres, or when the age exceeds five years and safety standards are questionable.
Mr. Harding: Is the Minister satisfied with that criteria? Will he continue to use them?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Yes. Naturally, they would be reviewed from time to time but, basically, at this time, we will be continuing with the existing policy.
Transportation, Motor Vehicles in the amount of $566,000 agreed to
Supply Services in the amount of $1,056,000 agreed to
On Property Management
Mr. Cable: I have one question. When would the Minister use a proposal call, as opposed to a tender call, for the supply of rental space?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I have some items here for tabling. This was in response to a question on December 21, from the Member for Riverside. This is the list of program-specific buildings for which departments and corporations have capital maintenance responsibilities.
The other one is in response to a question from the Member for Riverdale South in regard to computers, computer workstations and word processing.
I will have to get back to the Member in writing.
Mr. Harding: It would seem that would be a major plank in the Ministers priorities on property management, especially the objective where it refers to providing technical expertise, advice, assistance in planning, acquiring and operating buildings. That was one of the major planks of the governing party of the day in the election campaign. What has been done in the department with regard to property management? We have seen some areas where commitments made by the administration have not managed to come through. Is there anything under way in this area regarding planning initiatives that the Minister is confident will ensure that better service in assisting and planning will be provided, and will ensure that costs are kept under control so that the original planning estimates will be the final cost when projects are complete?
Hon. Mr. Devries: We are following the building development procedure and are trying to monitor construction more closely to keep track of where we are. We have assigned an additional building inspector. With respect to rentals, any time that a rental is to be renewed and the landlord is asking for more money, we do a review to determine whether we should put it out to public tender or keep the existing lease at the higher price.
It seems like the majority of the buildings, since we have come into office, have been completed within the estimates. The Catholic school that was just completed was pretty well right on budget. Therefore, the procedures that are being used are working well. However, there are ongoing reviews of any procedures in use to see if there are any glitches in them.
Mr. Harding: From what I can ascertain, the only major change is the hiring of a building inspector. Everything else is - to use the word that the Minister used - similar to what was being done by the previous government. I do not know what that building inspector is making, but it obviously is not enough.
The Minister spoke up about the buildings that this government has built since they came into office, as a result of having the new building inspector, all coming in on budget. I have already raised in the Legislature the issue of the unforeseen planning element at the St. Elias School that called for another $200,000 vote in the Legislature. Of course, the governments reason was a change of scope, which is a familiar debate in this Legislature. It is called a change of scope when the Members opposite are in government. When they were in Opposition they used to call them cost overruns.
The Minister of Education confirms that and says that they were.
Can the Minister table the specifications for the incredible feat of the firehall in Tagish and the specifications for the fire halls that are often used for comparison? We would like to see where the savings are and exactly what was required and asked for in the tender.
Can the Minister table those specifications for the Tagish firehall, as well as Judas Creek at Marsh Lake, to allow us to analyze the work of the building inspector to see where he has made all of the wonderful changes.
Hon. Mr. Devries: It is my understanding, and I may be corrected on this, but we did not manage the Tagish firehall construction. I believe it was done through a community development fund; it is not on our list.
After a building is completed, we have a meeting with the contractor, architects, mechanical subcontractors and others involved to do a post-project review on the building to determine how everything went and if there were any problems, and to see what steps could be taken to prevent those problems from recurring.
More and more, we are trying to encourage departments to begin planning at the earliest possible date to allow adequate time to document the review.
Again, the St. Elias School in Haines Junction was a situation where a proposal had been forwarded, a plan developed and when the school committee reviewed it, they felt there were some changes that they would like to see made. The option was there for the school committee, provided that the money could be found within the overall budget of the building, and it was.
It is sort of an overrun, but by the same token what was happening at the other end of the building is not going to happen, so the overall cost of the building is not an overrun but a change of scope requested by the school committee.
Mr. Harding: Sort of an overrun. Okay, we were close. This other firehall that the Minister of Health and Social Services alluded to in Question Period today was managed by CDF. He is also responsible for CDF. While wearing his other hat, could he provide us with the comparative specifications that I asked him for?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I will do my best.
Mrs. Firth: I have some questions for the Minister regarding the rental of office space by government. I would like to ask the Minister what their policy is regarding the rental of office space for government use.
Hon. Mr. Devries: Every time a request comes in for office space, and even outside of that, the department does an office space report. These reports may be done annually, and one has just recently been completed. It indicates the amount of space available, and departments may be asked if the amount of space is adequate. All of this information is compiled to determine if additional space is required.
Mrs. Firth: Is the Minister saying that there is really no policy in place? Is he saying that it is done as requests come in?
Hon. Mr. Devries: No, I am not saying that. There is a policy in place, and I will table it in the form of a legislative return, if the Member wishes.
Mrs. Firth: I would like the Minister to tell me what the policy is. He says there is one, so what is it?
Hon. Mr. Devries: As I mentioned previously, it is a procedure that has to be completed. When a request comes in for space, we use it to see whether or not we have it available. There is always a small amount of space available here and there. We also check to see if a department can be reorganized in order to use space more wisely, taking into account the cost of a move.
There is a three-year office space plan that is developed. We try and follow that.
As I mentioned earlier, if an office space lease expires and is up for renewal, and the landowner wishes to raise the rent, that is also taken into account. We also consider the cost of a move.
Mrs. Firth: I will wait for a legislative return to be tabled. I am not confident that the Minister has enunciated a policy to us this afternoon.
I will try the question another way. The Minister has said that if a lease expires, his department does something. Can the Minister tell me if the Department of Government Services is responsible for the leases for all government office space?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Yes.
Mrs. Firth: In that case, I know I am asking these questions of the right Minister.
Can the Minister tell us what the departments policy is with respect to the renewal of expired leases?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The first step would be to determine whether or not we have any vacant space in any of our own buildings that would be adequate to serve the departments needs. If not, we would go to the landlord and attempt to renegotiate a three- to five-year lease. If that is not possible, we are obligated by the contract regulations to go to the public tendering process for space. We try to get the best bang for our dollar.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us what the governments policy is regarding the length of leases?
Hon. Mr. Devries: First, we have to determine the length of time the department may need the space - whether it is a short-term project or long-term project. That would determine whether it is a three- to five-year lease. If it is a longer term than five years, then we would have to determine whether it goes more on a proposal basis, or something of that nature.
Mrs. Firth: I am not sure what the Minister means when he says that it goes on the basis of a proposal, or something like that. Can the Minister tell us what their policy is regarding long-term leases?
Hon. Mr. Devries: If the Member remembers, in Public Accounts, I believe the Auditor General seemed to frown on anything that was more than a five-year lease. I believe some of the recommendations were to try to stay within a five-year limit on leases. Basically, we always try to negotiate a three- to five-year contract. I do not really know about anything beyond that.
Mr. Penikett: Given the longstanding policy about five-year leases, which the Minister has mentioned, and which, after some years, we discovered was in practice when we were in government, can the Minister come back with a legislative return on the number of leases that exceeded that period, especially ones that went for 10 or more years, who entered into those leases, and why?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Again, it depends on the interpretation of a lease. If we have a five-year lease, and it expires in 1993, and we then renegotiate with the landlord for another lease from 1993 to 1998, would that mean it is a new lease, or does that mean that, all of a sudden, it becomes a 10-year lease?
Mr. Penikett: When we were in government, we received a petition from some developers one day, who complained that, because YTG only offered five-year leases, and because YTG was one of the few triple-A tenants around, it was very hard for people who wanted to put up office buildings to finance them, there being no trust companies, insurance companies, and so on, here, and that the government ought to enter into long-term leases. They complained to us that the only long-term lease the YTG appeared to have ever given was the one for the liquor store, which was for 15 years.
That was news to us, because we had not made that lease. As Ministers, we did not know anything about it, until the developers told us.
I am curious if the Minister would come back to us, identifying any long-term leases that have been made, and whether they were made to assist in the financing of the development, or for some other reason. I do not mean five-year renewable leases, but I mean 15-, 20- or even 10-year leases.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I will have to provide that information. I do not have it available right now.
Mrs. Firth: I want to follow up with the Minister about the policy matters. The Minister has indicated that, when a lease expires, it is sometimes automatically renewed. The Minister is shaking his head. The difficulty is trying to get the Minister to enunciate a policy, or in trying to find out where the government is going, and how they are running the department.
Could the Minister tell us when a lease is automatically renewed?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Leases are never automatically renewed. Every time a lease expires, we have to sit down with the owner of the building and renegotiate. If it comes in at the same price, that is fine and dandy. If the price comes in substantially higher, then we reserve the option of looking for other space, which would be publicly tendered.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us what triggers a new tender call?
Hon. Mr. Devries: That would be subject to the contract regulations. If it is beyond three years, or $50,000, it has to go to public tender.
Mrs. Firth: What does the Minister mean when he says that?
Hon. Mr. Devries: If the rent per year exceeds $50,000, according to contract regulations, we would have to go to public tender.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister is giving a broad interpretation of one of the contract regulations. I am trying to find out what the process is, so I can determine exactly what the policy is, so that, when someone asks me what process one has to go through to rent space to the government, I am able to tell them.
The Minister has still not been able to answer these questions, but I want to find out what happens when a lease expires and it is time to examine renewal. The Minister said that they sometimes go out to a tender call. I would like to know what would trigger them to go out to a tender call.
The answer the Minister gave about the three years or $50,000 does not apply, because we could be talking about a little office space somewhere to which figure does not apply. I want to find out what the policy is. When the lease expires, it is time to consider renewal. What triggers a new tender call?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Six months to a year prior to a lease expiring, we would go to the landlord and try and determine whether or not he wishes us to remain in the building at the existing price for a further three years. I believe that for anything over three years, we must go to tender.
There is no automatic renewal. If the price is constant, we have the option of leasing for another three years, but it is not automatic. The landlord must agree to lease to us at the same rate.
If we feel the existing tender rate was too high - in the last few years we have seen the price of space come down slightly - we would say to the owner that we are not willing to pay it. We would suggest a lower price. If the landlord does not agree with it, we would go to public tender.
Mrs. Firth: That is the policy I am trying to determine. The Minister has given us an example, but how is the assessment of the rate determined? Someone has to do it. How does the government accomplish that?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The department determines what the fair market price is. There is a different fair market price for street level space and upstairs space, where access is required. Access for handicapped persons is taken into consideration. If it is not available, it is the landlords responsibility to provide it. That is the way I understand it.
Mrs. Firth: Is that written in the policy? Are any of the things the Minister has referred to written in policy somewhere? If someone is renting office space to the government and wants to know what policy requirements they will have to comply with, do they have access to that information so they will know if they are being treated fairly?
Hon. Mr. Devries: That decision would be made according to need. For instance, when this last request for office space went out, I believe it clearly indicated that there had to be handicap access. For a department, there may be certain spaces that do not require handicap access, so we have some options, and it is up to the client department to make that determination.
Mrs. Firth: If it is now up to the client department to determine that, I come back to the question of what the policy is. How do people, who are renting office space to government, know what the playing field is? Where are the rules written down, and what is the policy?
How does an entrepreneur who wants to rent space to the government know if they need to make improvements to their premises to be more eligible to rent space? How can they find that out? Where is it written down for them?
Hon. Mr. Devries: In a sense, it is a matter of people coming to the department to discuss this. By the same token, the contract regulations apply, as far as the limits.
In the departments request, if they want handicap access, then we have to ensure that handicap access is available.
The contract regulations would apply to the dollar amounts. As far as the quality of space, that would be written up in the call for proposal for lease space, or it would be determined by the client departments in their discussions with Government Services, and we would then have to determine whether or not we had adequate, vacant space available. By that, I mean proper access, et cetera.
It would be difficult to write up a rigid policy, as far as exactly what type of space everyone needs. We do not know what the space needs of various departments would be at any given time.
Mrs. Firth: I am not asking for a rigid policy, I am asking for some policy. From the information that the Minister is giving us this afternoon, there does not seem to be any policy.
If I have a constituent who comes to me, as their MLA, and says they have built a new building and would like to rent office space to the government, and could I tell them what the guidelines and rules are, I am supposed to tell that person to go to the department and discuss it with someone? What does that mean? That is the answer the Minister just gave me. I cannot give that as a response; it is not acceptable. I am sure there must be some guidelines, rules or something in place with respect to the rental of office space.
Hon. Mr. Devries: If someone comes to me - as has happened - and says they have some office space they want to rent, I tell them to watch the papers for a tender and then they can bid on it. That is the procedure. Which client departments needs are being served could determine whether it is just storage space, whether it is office space that needs public access or whether it is just office space for office staff, and so on.
By the same token, I appreciate the Members comments and will instruct the department to try to come up with something we could hand to prospective landlords.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister definitely has to examine that whole area because it is not perceived right now that there is a level playing field when it comes to renting office space to the government. The players do not know what the rules are, and the Minister has a responsibility to set some rules. He has given us a commitment that he is going to look into that and I will follow up next session to see what his department has done about it.
I want to go back to the policy matter again. The Minister said that when a lease expires they consider certain things before renewing it. I would like to ask him this: does the department survey other vacant space that is available in the community to make cost comparisons before they renegotiate a lease with the person who had the previous lease?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Yes, that is the way we attempt to establish a base price that we feel is acceptable.
Mrs. Firth: I thought the Minister said they had base prices already within the department - that they had determined the office space costs based on something for which the department had figures already in place. Is this a new base rate?
Hon. Mr. Devries: No, but again, naturally, if there turns out to be a huge amount of surplus space in the community it is only natural to assume that the rate would come down. That has to be reviewed on a continuing basis. If there is no vacant space around, more than likely we could anticipate a slight price increase, which would have to be taken into consideration when we determine whether we want a three- or five-year lease.
Mrs. Firth: I just have a couple more questions about this policy matter. Can the Minister tell us what his governments policy is with respect to government-owned buildings that are being rented to other client departments in government as opposed to privately owned buildings?
Hon. Mr. Devries: We are trying, for instance, to get volunteer or non-profit organizations that are renting government space to start paying fair market rent. We have to be cautious, because it would depend on their ability to come up with the necessary funds. This was recommended by the Auditor General as a way to get a better handle on what it actually costs various departments to operate. It seemed that even some of the departments were getting these rents at below market value. We are still in the process of trying to get a handle on that.
Mrs. Firth: I will not dispute the Ministers comment that he is still trying to get a handle on things. Perhaps I could put my question another way. The government acquires buildings and fills them with government employees. I would like to know what the governments policy is with respect to the buildings that they own compared to privately owned buildings that the government rents space in. Do they have a policy for each type of space? Does it differ for each type, or is it the same no matter what?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Space allocation per employee is identical. If the government has vacant space and a request comes from one of the departments that they need additional space, that would be the first space that we would look at. By the same token, we would have to sit down with the department. If a branch or department wanted to move, the space would have to be suitable. I am certain that they would not want to split up a department and have half of it in one piece of our vacant space and another half in another piece. Normally they prefer to stay within the same general area so they can operate more efficiently and effectively.
Mrs. Firth: I have had some contractors in the Yukon bring to my attention the fact that the government is considering changing the policy regarding building government buildings to have the private sector build buildings to rent back to the government on long-term leases, or to have a long-term lease that results in an option to purchase the building. It is then not the government tendering to have new facilities constructed. It is the private sector that is doing it. Is the Ministers department looking at going in that direction? Could he provide an update on the progress made in developing a new policy?
Hon. Mr. Devries: That is one of the options that is being reviewed. We are in the process of developing something along that line, but that has not been completed yet.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us what the governments position is respecting that issue so that we know what concept the Minister and his colleagues support?
Hon. Mr. Devries: If it can be cost effective and we can get the space at a cost equivalent to the other space we are renting then it is one of the options we are willing to look at. That is our policy.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell me when that policy development will be completed?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I believe it is supposed to be completed sometime this fall.
Mrs. Firth: Who is developing the policy?
Hon. Mr. Devries: It is an internal review. It would be developed by Government Services, along with the client departments. It is supposed to start in April and will be completed this fall.
Mrs. Firth: Is the private sector going to be involved in the development of this policy? Are they being consulted?
Hon. Mr. Devries: They will definitely be consulted.
Mrs. Firth: When?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Once we start the process, they will be consulted.
Mrs. Firth: Who will be consulted and how? Will they be asked for written briefs? How will it work?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I could provide the Member with an update on the process. It has not really been determined yet. It will be similar to the process for the contract regulations review.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Minister if he will table it this week. That way, we can follow up with further questions when we get to the supplementary estimates.
Hon. Mr. Devries: As I mentioned, we are not beginning the process until April. Anything done up to the present is very preliminary. It would be difficult to table something we will not have developed until about April.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister said in the House that people will be consulted. I just want to know how. If he can say that, he must know how.
I also asked who would be consulted. He said it would be people in the private sector. I would like to know who and how? People should have the chance to be prepared. There is a busy building season coming. I am sure that people would like to know what their responsibilities will be so they can have some input into this process.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I do not anticipate there is going to be a big rush to construct something for a three- to five-year contract. By the same token, I will give the Member the information as soon as it becomes available. As I mentioned earlier, we use much the same process as we did when reviewing the contract regulations. I am sure that it is the same type of stakeholders who would be concerned with the contract regulations as with being landlords for the government.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Cable: To go back to some questions that were asked by the previous Member about the Auditor Generals report, I believe the Minister was going to provide a list of the non-government organizations that receive rent from the government, and where the government was going to present the rental subsidies in a different fashion.
Hon. Mr. Devries: That information is being prepared, but it has not been completed yet.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
On Capital Maintenance and Upgrade
Hon. Mr. Devries: The major projects planned for 1994-95 include chiller Iupgrades in the administration building and the justice centre; electrical and mechanical upgrades in the Dawson administration building; a complete upgrade of roof emergency lights and fire alarms; repainting of the Dawson main administration building, the Haines Junction administration building, and the Watson Lake administration building and maintenance shops.
The chiller upgrade will cost $300,000; the Dawson administration building electrical and mechanical upgrade is $25,000; repainting of the various administration buildings is $40,000; the Haines Junction administration building retrofit is $35,000; and sprinkler systems testing, repair and upgrade is $25,000.
Mr. Harding: The painting will take place in Dawson, Watson Lake and Haines Junction. Is that correct? What was the cost of that repainting?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The costs are for painting the main administration building, which could be interior or exterior; the Dawson City administration building; the Haines Junction administration building; and the Watson Lake administration building and maintenance shops, and it is $40,000.
Mr. McDonald: On the first two items the Minister mentioned - the administration building in Whitehorse and the justice building - he made some reference to the cost and to the project. Would he repeat that again? I did not hear him.
Hon. Mr. Devries: It is chiller upgrades in the administration building and the justice centre, for $300,000.
Mr. Harding: What are chiller upgrades?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The air handling and cooling systems and things like that. As Members may have noticed, at times all of a sudden the temperature will jump in some of the offices by 10 or 15 degrees Fahrenheit over a period of half an hour.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister give us a more detailed return at some point about this particular project? I was not aware that the project required such a massive effort to rectify - $300,000. I was once informed that it was simply a matter of air balancing in the systems and that, with some fine tuning, at least a minimally positive effect could be achieved. Can the Minister provide us with some detail on what this $300,000 will be specifically dedicated to?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Yes, we will try and bring something back after the break. My understanding is that it has been patched up and patched up and now they have to do some major work on it.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister also bring back some information about the reports of any technical work done that would verify that this is the kind of response that is required for this particular project?
Hon. Mr. Devries: If I have that available, I will do so. I am not sure I would be able to get that at the coffee break.
Capital Maintenance and Upgrade in the amount of $550,000 agreed to
On Energy Conservation Retrofits
Hon. Mr. Devries: This project provides for the replacement or addition of building components to reduce energy consumption and O&M costs. Energy projects with short-term payback are the focus of the expenditure plan. It is done on a priority basis, and there is $35,000 budgeted for it.
Mr. Cable: Comparing the previous capital estimates and the present capital estimates, the 1991-92 actual for this item is $204,000, so the amount spent on this item has been cut by a factor of almost 10. Does this indicate a change in the governments policy toward obtaining return on investment for energy retrofit projects?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Not really. There was an initial front-end load that included such things as timers, car plugs, and various things like that. We are slowly getting caught up with some of that. It is not like our priorities have changed; we are getting caught up on the issue.
Mr. Cable: If I recollect what the Minister said in the spring session, he indicated that these projects do, in fact, have a payback. He indicated this a moment ago when he alluded to short-term paybacks. Are there other projects that would make a return to the government if they were put into operation?
Hon. Mr. Devries: On longer term projects, naturally the priorities would be based on the paybacks. It would depend on the availability of funds at the time and it would be budgeted under department maintenance - under O&M - if it was an ongoing type of thing. That is not correct. It would be capital maintenance or department budgets for specific buildings, so anything major would be in a line item vote.
Mr. Cable: I do not recall any such item, but that does not mean it was not discussed. If there was in fact a payback, long term or short term, why would the government not proceed with it?
Hon. Mr. Devries: If it lead to a deficit financing I do not think that taxpayers would be particularly enthused about it. We would have to determine our priorities and juggle other things around. It would have to be a priority.
Mr. Cable: I am not quite sure what the Minister is saying. If there is a payback, that is to the long-term advantage of the taxpayers, assuming that you do not have to borrow any money - or even assuming you do have to borrow money and the rate of interest is less than the payback. Why would the Minister not put those sort of items on the priority list if they yield some return?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I understand what the Member is getting at. Since we do not believe in deficit financing we would have to repriorize things within government. In the development of the budget next year, if there is a project that can show cost savings in the long term I can attempt to get extra money when I present my budget to my Cabinet colleagues.
Mr. Cable: Was this priority list, if there is one, drawn up before the recent energy rate increases that were brought into effect?
Hon. Mr. Devries: There is a five-year capital plan for upgrading. Perhaps those priorities could change because of the power rate increases. Something that is priority four now could become priority one, and vice versa.
Mr. Cable: Is there a list of possible energy conservation retrofit projects?
Hon. Mr. Devries: That is all taken into consideration in the process of retrofitting buildings.
Mr. Cable: I think the Minister misunderstood my question. I asked him if there was a list of potential projects around on which the Minister would pass judgment regarding priorities.
Hon. Mr. Devries: In the development of the five-year capital maintenance plan, my understanding is that that is all taken into consideration. I do not know if it is a list I can produce. I will take it under advisement.
Mr. Cable: The Minister sounds a little uncertain. If there is a list, will the Minister table it?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I will see what I can do. I do not know if there is a list specific to energy related retrofits or if the list takes everything else into account. Naturally, if one has a building that has paint peeling off, and it needs an energy retrofit, one has to decide if the siding should be pulled off and an energy retrofit done, complete with siding. It is viewed as a package. I do not know if there is a specific list regarding energy retrofits.
Energy Conservation Retrofits in the amount of $35,000 agreed to
On Building Development Overhead
Hon. Mr. Devries: This is the personnel - the project inspectors, project managers and so on. There is $1,236,000 allotted. Other amounts to $274,000.
The building overhead covers personnel and operating costs for resources assigned to assist other government departments in planning and constructing the building accommodations they need to carry out their programs. Eighty-two percent of the budgeted dollars are personnel costs to provide a pool of skilled personnel resources to carry out the planning and management of the project, which are supported and funded by other departments.
The remaining dollars are support costs for those personnel. That would be the $274,000. It is for communications, supplies and travel.
Mr. McDonald: Could the Minister explain the reason for the increase?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The net increase of nine percent in personnel is comprised of the following: the addition of two new project inspectors to increase on-site presence, and this was offset by the deletion of the expediting clerk term position. Then there was another position, project manager, which was half time in 1993-94 but has been established as a full-time position for 1994-95. Other is comprised of the 63-percent increase for travel and communications and is basically contract services for legal advice, drawing, upkeep and protection, leased vehicle rentals due to additional personnel, advertising, out-of-territory travel, program materials, course fees. Some of the out-of-territory travel is quite often due to an architect from out of the territory being hired; for instance, at the hospital where the project manager has to travel down there occasionally to discuss various things.
Mr. McDonald: The reduction from 1992-93 to 1993-94 in the $200,000 range appeared to be the result, I presume, of lesser building construction activity. Is the increase again this year due to a projected increase in building construction activity in the coming year?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Last years reductions were basically due to several positions being vacant for a good part of the year, as well as reduced contracting services.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister just indicated that there are going to be two new project inspectors. Is he saying that those are just filling old positions, or is he saying that these are two brand-new positions?
Hon. Mr. Devries: There is one new position, and the other one was offset by another position that we deleted. I think that answers the Members question, or does it?
Mr. McDonald: Would the Minister mind bringing back to us the number of project inspectors who inspect new building construction. I am not talking about personnel who renovate buildings or the standard staff complement in the department, but the people who inspect new building construction or renovations. Could the Minister provide us with the totals for 1992-93, 1993-94 and projected totals for 1994-95? I would also like to know the number of inspectors and ancillary personnel who deal with new construction and new renovations, and the amount of work that they were responsible for handling, both in dollar terms and in terms of the numbers of projects that each inspector handled over that three-year period.
Hon. Mr. Devries: It will take a few days to provide that information, but we will get it for the Member.
Mr. Penikett: Could I ask one question - this may have several parts - on building overhead before we clear it?
When we left government, the hospital board had been constituted as a small group, or an interim board, according to the Hospital Act, including a couple of senior public servants, one of whom was the Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services and the other was the Deputy Minister of Government Services. The reason that the previous government did that was because of the expertise and knowledge in Government Services, and the legal responsibilities arising from Management Board directives and regulations such as the Building Development Projects Procedures Manual for supervising the construction of major public works, such as the hospital.
I have not been able to track this, but at some point, perhaps when the deputies were shuffled, Government Services was no longer represented on that interim board.
I am curious about whether Government Services expressed any wish at the time the decision was made to continue to carry out its legislated duties by remaining on the board when that decision was made, and I would like to know if Government Services is involved in any way in maintaining the integrity of building procedure regulations, or whether Government Services has been completely cut out of the picture with respect to the hospital.
Can the Minister tell me anything about that?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Yes, we still use the procedures manual. As far as the hospital goes, the Member is correct about the Deputy Minister of Education being on the interim board. I believe the Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services is on the new board, so government still has representation on that board through that deputy minister.
Mr. Penikett: The deputy minister, who is now the Deputy Minister of Education, was on the board - or was put on the board by the previous government because he was the Deputy Minister of Government Services. He was put on the board to make sure that Government Services had some oversight or some access, and to make sure that the expertise of the Department of Government Services, which is the department mandated to do major projects for this government, would be available to the people who are planning the hospital project.
When that deputy shuffle took place, did the Minister not take any steps to maintain or protect the public interest by insisting that Government Services continue to be represented on that body?
Hon. Mr. Devries: There has been some restructuring on the hospital project. A working group has been established, and we have our assistant deputy minister in that group, as well as the Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services and, I believe, the new project manager. Regarding the construction that is going on presently, we have a project manager and an inspector working on the project.
Mr. Penikett: I thank the Minister for that answer. It is very helpful. The interests of the department and the government, in terms of project management, is protected by the presence of this ADM on this body, which is a planning body. The Minister may have given me the name, but I would like to know it precisely. Could the Minister tell me how long that ADM has been represented on that body, how long that body has been in existence, and whether it was created immediately following the deputy minister shuffle, which saw the Deputy Minister of Government Services leave the interim board.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I do not have the chart here that outlines the present structure. If the Member would save those questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services, when we get to Health and Social Services, he could have that information then.
Mr. Penikett: I have lots of questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services, but these are different ones. Let me explain to the Minister what I am getting at so that he will not be puzzled. Some of us believe that Government Services has, according to a number of Management Board directives and policies of the government, certain responsibilities in respect to capital project management, system wide.
I am pleased to see that Government Services is continuing to carry out that role in respect to this project by being represented - at least in a small way - on this particular committee, the name of which the Minister might put onto the record again. However, I want to understand that persons role on that committee because, as I understand it, Government Services is bound to carry out the rules and regulations as established by Management Board in respect to project management, responsibilities that are established in law by way of the estimates and the mandate of the department.
What I am curious about is what that ADM is doing there. Is the ADM ensuring compliance with the Building Development Projects Procedures Manual? Or is that person there to play some other role, consistent with the new procedures being developed by the Minister of Health, about which the House has not heard yet? I do have a lot of questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services, but I am really asking about Government Services here. I would be happy to hear from the Minister.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: These are all questions that lead right into the questions that were being asked this afternoon about the current structure set up for the hospital by Cabinet. The presence of Government Services in that structure is to use as much of their expertise and advice as possible. However, as I have already said, the structure has changed from the procedures manual for the hospital, pursuant to Cabinet decisions. The project is going to be one that receives very close scrutiny from senior officials in the government, and from Management Board itself, simply because of the large scope of the project and the unusual difficulties that have become evident to all.
Mr. Penikett: I thank the Minister of Health and Social Services for his answer, even though he is well known to believe that I take a couple of hate pills at lunchtime and totally abuse parliamentary law when I come here. I am conscious of the fact that I should not really be asking him questions about what Government Services is doing but, if he is happy to answer them, and Mr. Chair is happy to close his ears, then I will continue.
Let me pursue the point. I have a lot of questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services about this. In respect to Government Services role, he has just said that they were on this new body because of their expertise. The former Deputy Minister of Government Services was put on the interim board by our Cabinet, as I remember the decision, not only because of the departments expertise, but because, knowing that we were probably going to be using outside planners and private contractors, and that this was going to be a very big project, Government Services was also to be there as a guarantor for the taxpayer of certain standards and regulations and procedures.
The Minister of Health and Social Services said Government Services was there to bring the expertise. Who, then, in the new structure, will play the role of the guarantor of the standards, rules and regulations since, as I understand the Management Board procedures, guidelines and regulations, it is Government Services that has been mandated to carry out that role on behalf of the territorial government and its agencies?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: With respect, as a general rule, it is one of the roles of Government Services.
First of all, this was a new interim hospital board. It has been replaced entirely by the hospital board, as of April 1 of last year. The issue of Government Services role, in part, is that it was determined, on the advice of various expert groups we solicited advice from, that we acquire someone from outside the Department of Government Services with specific hospital project management experience.
Such a person replaces, or fills in, the role of the actual Department of Government Services. Above and beyond that, the committee to whom that person would report on a daily basis includes someone from Finance, a senior person from Government Services, and from Health, and from the hospital board. As well, Government Services would be utilized in other ways on the project, by way of an arrangement for a senior project manager to work with the person hired about one month ago. We see the utilization of such an officer from Government Services as a contribution to the project, through his understanding of the local scene, regulations, and so on. We also see it as a valuable way in which to have officials from Government Services glean experience in the project management of a building of this nature.
Mr. Penikett: I apologize for pursuing this matter with this Minister since it concerns another department, but I will try and communicate a little more effectively than I have done so far.
It was always intended that outside experts in hospital construction would be brought in, because we have no experience in that. That was never in doubt. Nonetheless, as the Minister has conceded, Government Services has certain experience with the local contracting community here, with the building trades, with the problems of accessing supplies, the availability of certain materials, the tendering procedures, the kind of problems of building in the climactic conditions we experience here, the availability of local skills, et cetera. It also has these legally mandated responsibilities, though, to protect the public interests in respect of certain matters covered in the Building Development Projects Procedures Manual. I am certainly not going to read any of this into the record because it is quite a fat book and does not even have an executive summary - I found that out this morning.
The problem is that, since Members of the House do not know what project procedures are going to be in place, the Minister has made decisions that appear to involve radically contracting the time lines from redesign to construction, while at the same time committing himself to consultation with everybody from professionals in health services to people in the construction community. He admits there is not yet a functional plan, which would normally precede design, and he tells us that it is under private project management and maybe Government Services people can learn from it, which is fine.
Let me put the question this way to make clear my concern. We have had lots of experience in this House with projects that have gone wrong and I know the Minister likes to believe that some things only went wrong when the NDP was in office. I think more objective people will observe that a lot of projects have gone wrong from the beginning of time in YTG and that some of the same engineers were involved whether the NDP or the Conservatives were in power. I think of the $20 million spent on sewer and water in Dawson - Dawson needs sewer and water but a lot of people out there believe that is a very high price.
The point is, after seeing some of these same errors made when other departments tried to build roads, or tried to do public works, the decision was made to have one agency in this government responsible and accountable for the management of major capital works, other than highways, and that is the Department of Government Services. That decision was not made by the New Democratic Party, but was made by the previous Conservative government when they reorganized the department between 1978 and 1982. I do not recall the exact year.
Notwithstanding the fact that we have a private sector project manager who may be an expert, given the contracted time lines, the sequencing of the decisions that have to be made, the difficulty of observing the rules of fair play with respect to contractors and all the other decisions that are going to be made, who is going to be accountable for ensuring that the kind of standards set out in the Building Development Projects Procedures Manual, for example - I do not mean the identical standards, but the kinds of standards - will be enforced?
The Minister referred to the board. Clearly, the board did not make this redesign decision or the construction decision. Because I was the author of the Hospital Act, it was clearly intended that the board have a phase-in period before they had to take on the responsibility of doing something that would be difficult for the whole government; namely, the management of a major capital project - the biggest capital project we have seen in years.
The Minister of Health and Social Services has a bit of a problem, because it seems to me that, while Government Services has legal responsibilities, and has had them given to them by YTG as a whole, I think the Minister of Government Services is going to be a little bit irritated if things go wrong - because of this contraction of time frames and this rush to get the job done - and he is held accountable in this House some months from now, when, in fact, he and his officials really have no jurisdiction, if you like, because the rules that they would normally operate under have been changed, and the Minister has made someone else accountable. What we do not know is who that someone else is.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Management Board Directive No. 21/92 requires the client department to follow procedures to ensure accountability to Management Board, unless it is assigned to, and accepted by, Government Services. In this case, Health and Social Services is maintaining accountability directly. It is not assigned to Government Services.
There was a decision to hire a project manager who would report daily to a board that included four people from the four departments and then up, through myself, to Management Board on a regular basis, because of the urgency of what we had been told about the hospital. The accountability requirements were placed squarely on the shoulders of Health and Social Services. I might say that we are going to be utilizing some senior people from Government Services, and the procedure is going to follow, as closely as possible, the procedures manual and the other policies of Government Services.
We have no intention of suddenly changing the ground rules. What has to be understood is that concept is somewhat different than contemplated in the ground book and, unfortunately, the upfront timing where one normally plans and ties down the details of tender documents before they go out for contract is being abridged to some extent. There is some overlap.
To talk in terms of dry pages of the procedures manual - which, I agree, is a rather thick one - there is going to be some interpretation. We will follow it as closely as possible for each phase. At a preliminary stage, when the programming and so on of the hospital is completed to a certain stage, we will have the final size of the buildings with which we can proceed with the shell.
That consultation process with the client groups will continue beyond that, as the final design of the inside stuff is completed - and that is another contract, in effect. I do not know if I am answering the Members question as directly as he would like, but the point is simply that Health and Social Services is the accountable department in this case, but we are using senior people from Government Services on whatever that committee is called that the project manager reports to on a daily basis. I will get the name of that committee for the Member.
We will be engaging, on a secondment - the arrangements are to be finalized as I gather they are not yet - some senior people from Government Services to work for or with the department and the project manager.
The issue of the construction manager, which the Member correctly said contributed additional expertise that would be retained, is still another issue. The project manager really comes in to fulfill part of the responsibilities of Government Services, as I understand it.
Mr. Penikett: I would like to ask one quick question before the break.
It seems to me that the Minister has made a very tall order. He has not only redesigned the hospital, but he is also planning a program and writing a new procedural manual for doing it, all in the same very short time frame.
Can I ask this precise question: when the Minister refers to we, who actually has written or is writing these new procedures for the hospital?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We do not have new project procedures to the specificity of the booklet of the current regulations. What we are saying is that the reporting procedure is set. The phasing in of certain aspects of what normally would be a one-, two- and three-stage deal contemplated by the Building Development Projects Procedures Manual has to be somewhat changed. Otherwise, we will be following the policies as set out. By necessity, there will be some changes to the manual, requiring some flexibility.
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will have a short recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is there any further debate on building development overhead?
Mr. Penikett: Yes, I have a few more questions on the topic that I was speaking to the Minister of Health and Social Services about on the break. This may also concern the Minister of Government Services; I hope that it does. Perhaps the Minister did not mean to, but in his final answer he left the impression with a number of us on this side of the House - we were talking about it during the break - that rather than having a new, revised, truncated, minimal, streamlined substitute for these procedures with respect to the hospital, that there will not be anything resembling a procedures document at all. Could the Minister put our mind to rest on that question? If we are not going to have this, what would be the nature of the document or the policy that the Cabinet adopted that will substitute for this?
The Minister talked about reporting relationships, which is fine, but this, of course, deals with more than reporting relationships.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We will be following those procedures and the policies in place with regard to Government Services to the extent that is feasible.
Whether or not there will be some need for some flexibility about the exact wording of the policy manual is something that will have to be looked at. I am not now in a position to say that there will be any big problems. We are not going to be looking at a bunch of red tape and trying to follow it. What we are going to be doing is ensuring that what is done is done in accordance with policy and with the law.
Whether or not we have to suddenly start developing - I do not know how long it took to develop the Building Development Projects Procedures Manual. I shudder to think about it. I do not think it is necessary, and I think that the principles at stake here are principles that will be followed with the necessary amendments or changes, for the flexibility about which I speak. I do not see it as a big problem.
Mr. Penikett: I beg to differ. As a lawyer, surely the Member opposite must understand that, if he were stopped for speeding some morning he could not just say to the officer that he was sorry, but it just was not feasible to obey the speed limit because, if he did not get to Cabinet on time, Mr. Ostashek would fire him, and that surely the officer should be flexible.
The problem is that the Minister says that he wants to observe the principles of the policy, but make whatever amendments are necessary. That statement, in itself, implies some policy statement, even if it were a precis of the Building Development Projects Procedures Manual.
I understand the Ministers problem in terms of following the letter of this law, as it is written. I think the House would want to have some comfort that there is something resembling a regulation, or some rule that we could see or understand, that would be in operation during the construction of what will be the biggest public work to go up in Whitehorse in quite a few years.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Management Board Minute No. 21/92 permits approval authority for a project to approve each step of the project. Here, we have a large project in excess of $1 million in project costs. The Management Board is the approval authority. If we require any changes to the guidelines that are in that book, they will be forthcoming very quickly from Management Board. The approval authority here, in his analogy about the law, is that we will be ensuring that laws are laid down and clear before we do something.
So, if there is a requirement to change the speed limit opposite a school zone for one hour, and only one hour, because of this one important project, then that law will be changed before it is done. If it is required to get approval - and that is done every day in law - to move a large building down the highway, under certain conditions, that can be done. The approval is given by the government before it happens. You see this happen every day.
I remember when they moved the S.S. Klondike from the old shipyards up to the present site. Approval was granted before they put the Klondike on the street and starting cutting power lines down to allow it pass through. That is what is going to be happening here. The approval authority, under each step, is Management Board. The streamlined process is to ensure access on an emergency basis, almost an immediate basis, to Management Board. If there is a need for changes in the guidelines, those changes will be forthcoming before the use of the guidelines in that phase is required.
Mr. Penikett: I thank the Minister for his answer, and I compliment the person who has been sending him the expeditious notes that he seems to be referring to. The Minister will understand my problem, because in Question Period today he appeared to tell me something quite different. If I understand, what he is now saying is that this procedures manual will operate, but, if necessary, there will be changes in order to expedite the hospital project. When I asked him a similar question in Question Period, he told me that this procedures manual would not be in effect for this project, which has given rise to all of the questions that I have asked since. If the Minister checks the record, and unless my hearing is particularly bad today, I think he will find that that is the source of the problem.
If I have correctly summarized the situation, it is that the Building Development Projects Procedures Manual will be in effect, except that Management Board may make regulation changes for this project, as necessary, as it proceeds. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I regret very much if, in my answer, I have led us to all of this extra debate, but perhaps it is just as well that we are engaged in it at this time. Although, in my opinion, it would be better if we could move on to Health and Social Services.
Yes, the procedures manual will be used as a guideline. If it is deemed that approval authority is needed, or if the guidelines have to be changed for the specific project, Management Board will be forthcoming with those changes and approvals.
Mr. Penikett: We have come full circle. I am not too sure if the Minister said the Building Development Projects Procedures Manual was a guideline. If it is, then I must still ask what the policy operation is. If it is the guideline, or the rule or, to use the motoring analogy we used earlier, if it is the basic law, does Government Services, which is responsible for this law, have any role in terms of policing the application of it, or of any other rules that may apply that normally govern capital projects procedures during the construction of the hospital, or will that be done by someone in the Department of Health and Social Services and, in that case, who will that person be?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There will be a high-ranking official from the Department of Government Services on the project management board. That persons role will be largely to give advice with respect to the procedures, and whether or not we have to give something to Management Board before we proceed.
The manual will be the guideline and will be followed. Approval authority remains with Management Board.
The difficulty we are getting into here may largely be semantics, but I do not want to get bound into a situation where I am saying we are going to be following every step of the Building Development Projects Procedures Manual when I know that what is contemplated in the procedures is a project where the upfront planning is done, and you proceed from there, and there is a difference in the way this project is going to proceed. There will be one project that is the shell, and another project that is the interior of the first two buildings to be built.
Mr. Penikett: I have tried to be understanding of the Ministers problem, and I do understand the time crunch. He will also remember, because he was one of the people hammering us about it, that the Auditor General was quite insistent - and it is at the core of these procedures - that you should not, if you are going to be managing public money well, plan and build in the same season. That was one of the first rules the Auditor General stated. If you want to get into trouble, do that.
For that reason, I am pressing on this point now, because I do not want to do it six months or a year from now.
The Minister uses the word guidelines. We have had some fun recently talking about the difference between using the wolf plan as a guideline, rather than adopting it as a policy. I do not want to use that analogy, but the Minister will understand, as a lawyer used to the precision of this language, that if the procedures manual is the guideline, I am still forced to ask what the rules are?
It does seem to me that we have grown comfortable in this House in the understanding that there are some rules governing government departments. If there is going to be an extract of the procedures manual, a precis of the procedures manual, a restated set of principles or conventional project management rules - whatever they are in the private sector - is there a way for the Minister to give comfort to the House by stating them in a page or two of a legislative return or in some other document that will satisfy us that the long-established conventions, rules, procedures and standards that have been developed over time here to protect the public interest - the taxpayer - will be enforced on this job? That is all I am asking. I am not asking for something extraordinary.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: All I can give the Member at this point is the assurance that there is a certain procedural set of guidelines set out by Cabinet that the department, as the responsible department, will be following. They are set out in the procedures manual. There are also the other Government Services policies. If there is a need for changes, that will be taken to Management Board. Management Board will be determining the changes necessary as things proceed.
Mr. Penikett: I am not trying to be unhelpful, but in my universe, I grew up understanding that there were certain inviolate rules, such as the 10 commandments. If there is a government policy manual, that is almost right up there with them. These would have the standing of regulations. Management Board, as the subcommittee of Cabinet, has adopted them. They have the force of law. They are rules that almost have the status of the commandments, in that they state that Thou shalt do... this or that - actually, the 10 commandments usually state Thou shalt not..., except in the case of honouring thy father and mother and having no other God than me.
Anyway, the problem we have with guidelines, especially if we say that the guidelines are the procedures manual, is that, for anyone else they are not just guidelines but are the rules - the law - is that we are into a situation where not only is accountability mushy, but also the question of standards is in doubt, and the matter that the rules - which, on a big project, everyone should understand - are unknown.
That seems to be a problem not only for us as legislators, but also for contractors, suppliers or others down the road. That is why I am asking if, at some point, there is not going to be some text with respect to the hospital project that contractors, suppliers, workers, people doing detailed design work, facility planners and others will know and understand.
Using an analogy, if we tell people that we have no law governing gambling or poker parties in the Yukon, but there is a good law in Alaska so use it as a guideline, there are people, especially in a high stakes game, who would feel a bit uncomfortable about that. Does the Minister not understand the problem here?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I forget the exact text but I recall one of Platos works - through Socrates, of course - about an argument with one of the other renowned Greek philosophers at the time. The question that was posed by Socrates to the other gentleman was whether something is morally right because God decrees it to be morally right, or did God decree it to be morally right because it was morally right. In this case, we do not have quite the same conundrum. What we have are sensible rules that are set down by God - in this case, God being the Management Board, to use the Member opposites analogy about the 10 commandments - which has set down certain rules, and the Management Board has every right to change them, as required and on the advice of the chosen experts. In this case, the rules that will be followed will be the rules in the procedures manual. That is the general principle, but Management Board can change those rules at any time. After all, those rules are Management Boards rules and, for the purposes of the hospital, they have every right to do so.
If one were an official down the ladder doing something, that person ought not to do anything that is against the existing rules until he has the appropriate authority. That authority would come from Management Board in the normal way, because Management Board can, having made the rules, change them.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister said a number of fascinating things. I do not want to try and replicate some discussion that will sound like a debate about Platos analogy of the caves, or the shadows on the wall, or even to use a contemporary analogy - shadow boxing.
The Minister has talked about the flexibility in Management Board changing the rules, which we all concede Management Board can do; however, I do not think that Management Board is God on this question. There is a higher power. For our purposes, it is the Legislature, and the people who are ultimately God in our universe - the taxpayers, the electors.
It is quite right that the rules can be changed, but if the Minister is suggesting that there is such a state of fluidity, or flux, to use a good platonic expression, about the rules, how can anybody - the people we mentioned who are involved or interested in the project - know what the rules are?
If the Minister is saying that Management Board is going to make the rules or change the rules, when will we be able to see these rules? If we cannot see them soon, how will we know what those rules are?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: As I understand it, like any project that proceeds, the approval authority for each step of a project is Management Board. This is a large project and Management Board will be approving each step of the project. There may be necessitated changes to the procedures as set out in the manual. The Member is now asking me to become very specific and go through the exact procedures that may be changed by Management Board. I can honestly tell the Member that I do not know at this time what the changes will be; it will be something that we will be examining as we proceed.
Mr. Penikett: We understand what the Minister has said about Management Board approving each step of the project; that is fine, but that is a very different thing from saying to the contracting community for example, Stay tuned. You should not assume that the rules about tendering or whatever, as laid out by Management Board for all other projects, are going to apply here; they may change.
Perhaps tendering is a bad example to use. Let us use some other example: design procedures and the rules about how you achieve quality results, the administration of codes, standards, regulations applicable to building development projects.
I would really like to move on to another subject, but I would like to be content to know that there is not just going to be a guideline on the biggest capital project we have seen in years, but that there will be rules that people will know and understand in advance. That is really all on which I am asking for some assurance.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have been saying over and over again that we will be following the rules in place, and the policies of Government Services, except that there are some unique circumstances here, and Management Board has the authority to make changes where necessary. That gets into the whole issue of how things proceed in a project that is somewhat unique. I do not know what else I can tell the Member, except that the intention is to follow the same rules, procedures, guidelines and contracting blah-blah that are now the rules for the Department of Government Services.
Mr. Penikett: Now the Minister has said a third thing that is different. If the Minister is saying that this manual contains the rules, but they may, of necessity, have to change because of the accelerated track on which we are going to try and design and build this building, I do not think that we have a huge problem with that - as long as we have some timely information. If the Minister is saying what he said a few minutes ago - that this is only a guideline, and there may be some other rules coming down the road later that we cannot predict - then we have a whole bunch of other questions. Which is it? Is this a guideline, or are these the rules that will be - serve notice now - amended according to the requirements of completing this big project in a very short time frame?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The Member can put it the latter way, but anything that is amended will be amended by Management Board. I do not want to be at all misleading. We intend to follow the rules that he has set forth, plus the other rules that pertain to contracting and so on within government. We intend to follow those, except where it is necessary because of obvious circumstances to deviate. Right now, I have no idea of anything that would be at all far reaching in terms of any changes that might be necessary. I do not want to fall into the trap where the government or the department is bound by that book entirely and that Management Board cannot, or does not, foresee the need for some changes. We fully recognize that this project, because of the need to start construction in the summer, is somewhat different from the normal situation of building a large capital project.
Mr. Penikett: Perhaps we can close this question with one more question. Is the Minister saying, having said that these will be the rules, that when changes are necessary because of the short time frame for designing and constructing this building, they will be changed by way of Management Board directive or order-in-council?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister of Health and Social Services made reference to unique, or obvious, circumstances that they might anticipate. Can the Minister give me an example of what he is anticipating?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I can give the hon. Member one, but I think we should be moving into Health and Social Services to discuss this. That is a concern. We are next, and I am quite happy to discuss my budget.
Let me say that, in terms of the planning of the building, we are talking about the shell being one contract and the interior being another. We will not complete the entire plan for the entire building, inside and out, at the same time, and then get a contract. We will be going to contract on the basis of the shells, and then to contract on the basis of the interior stuff, just to break it down into that simple analogy. We are really talking in terms of two out of three of the buildings, because the other one is the main wing.
How does that differ from that which is contemplated in the procedures manual? I am not exactly sure of the details of this right now. I suspect that this is somewhat unusual. That is what I see the difference being.
In order to do this, we have to have Management Board agree that we proceed this way, and that is what we intend to do. That is the direction that we are taking. I do not want to be stuck by saying we are going to follow something that we are not obliged to follow under all circumstances, when I know of at least one difference in circumstances, which is the one that led me to the announcement just before we broke for Christmas.
The longer down the road we are, and the more detailed the plans are, the more I will be comfortable about saying whether or not there is any need to make specific changes.
Mr. Penikett: I was tempted to ask if the Minister of Government Services agreed with what his colleague has just said, or with all the positions he has taken, because they have been evolving - in a good direction, let me hasten to add.
Could I ask the Minister of Government Services, if he knows, what instructions have been given by the department to their representative on this body, the name of which I would still like to get onto the record because I cannot remember what it is - is it the project management board supervising the hospital - whatever it is called. Could the Minister give me those two pieces of information: the name of the body and the instructions to the official on the body?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I believe the name was changed recently and I do not have the new name at my fingertips. It is some kind of overall management committee - project management committee, I believe is what it is called. The instructions, as far as Government Services people have been given, are to work with this committee to ensure that the project comes in on budget, that the proper guidelines are followed, and things like that.
Mr. Penikett: So, from the Ministers point of view, the official, the ADM, does have some project monitoring role or some monitoring role consistent with the normal mandate of the Department of Government Services, even though Management Board has clearly assigned responsibility for the project to the Department of Health and Social Services.
Hon. Mr. Devries: Yes, but my understanding is that he reports to the overall project manager, who reports to the DM of Health and Social Services. Our Government Services project manager reports to the project manager who reports to the DM of Health and Social Services.
Mr. Penikett: He is making it sound as if the official has been seconded.
Hon. Mr. Devries: This is the person sitting on the board. I was referring to the project manager who actually works on the project now, along with our building inspector.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have said this several times, but I will attempt to clarify my answer.
There is an assistant deputy minister who sits on the project management team. There is an equivalent assistant deputy minister from the Department of Health and Social Services, and there is the chair, or her designate, from the Hospital Board - I am not sure which person - and there is a senior official from Finance on that board. The project manager from Government Services, reports to this board. That board, through the deputy minister, reports to me and I report to the Management Board.
The confusion arises from the fact that we also have a senior person from Government Services who will be working on the project with the senior project manager - a project manager who will be working with him on the numerous contracts that are being let and supervised. There is a lot of work being done that does not require the expertise of the project manager, and I am thinking of things like off-site water and sewer and other projects where that kind of help will be very good.
I also feel that, at that level, he will be valuable in assisting the senior project manager with regard to traditions and customs of the Yukon. That knowledge will be valuable, but in return we are getting someone who will be getting a lot of training in a highly technical type of building.
Mr. Penikett: I will give notice to the Minister of Health and Social Services the question I want to ask about the complete project management team with respect to the hospital. I will want to know who the players are and who is accountable to whom. The Minister partly answered the question, but I think there are some other people involved and I will get back to that later.
My question to the Minister of Government Services was about instructions to the ADM whom he mentioned was on this body, and I do not think that the Minister answered that question. He was answering with respect to the other senior official who is actually involved in project management, or at least he sounded like he was.
Hon. Mr. Devries: The assistant deputy minister would work very closely with the project management team to ensure that all of the rules and procedures are followed during construction. This would include legal implications that arise during construction, such as deficiencies and so on. This person, as would the project manager, would provide advice when a problem in the architectural plan arises - all the things he would normally do on any project.
Mr. Penikett: Part of the normal stuff would, of course, be monitoring the compliance with the Building Development Projects Procedures Manual, which we now understand is in effect, but may be amended during the course of the other project. The Department of Health and Social Services is the project department, not the Department of Government Services.
Since there was reference today in Question Period to Cabinet having adopted, in general, some other procedure or process, is the manual we are talking about here in effect for other major building projects that the Department of Government Services is presently engaged in?
Hon. Mr. Devries: It has been used on all government projects that we have been working on since coming to office.
Mr. Penikett: Does the Minister know of any project that has been developed since they came into office, for which the Department of Government Services had responsibility and for which this manual was not used?
Hon. Mr. Devries: We do not have to use it for any project under $50,000, but we always have.
Building Development Overhead in the amount of $1,510,000 agreed to
On Common Facilities
Hon. Mr. Devries: This project provides for construction and renovation of government facilities that are common to several departments, such as community administration buildings. Expenditures are focused on providing more efficient space, use of common areas, circulation areas, partitions and washrooms. As well, safe economic facilities are required for which Government Services personnel can provide prompt and efficient service to client departments. The decrease of $20,000, or 17 percent, from the 1993-94 forecast is the result of a one-time project to complete the renovations of the Executive Council Office in 1993-94.
Common Facilities in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Property Management Equipment
Hon. Mr. Devries: This project provides for the purchase of tools and equipment for building trades workers and custodial workers.
Property Management Equipment in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
On Prior Years Projects
Prior Years Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
Property Management in the amount of $2,210,000 agreed to
Department of Government Services agreed to
Hon. Mr. Devries: Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 12.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
The Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Abel: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 12, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1994-95, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:22 p.m.