Monday, March 8, 1999 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
International Women's Day
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to recognize March 8 as International Women's Day. On this day, every year, we honour women by acknowledging their strengths and our own commitment to make equality a reality for all women.
The theme of this year's celebration is "going strong: celebrating older women", as it is the United Nations International Year of Older Persons.
In Whitehorse, the annual potluck dinner and entertainment in celebration of International Women's Day was very well-attended on Saturday night. I want to thank the women's organizations coordinated by Victoria Faulkner Women Centre, who planned this event, and the Women's Directorate, who helped with their funding.
Tonight at 7:00, there will be a special celebration of the Yukon segment of the Voices of Vision project, entitled "Freedom from Violence: a Basic Human Right" at the Women's Centre on Hanson Street. This important documentary focuses on a very real problem in our society and presents a community's approach to ensuring that all women are safe.
Mr. Speaker, the older women in all of our lives enrich us with their experience, knowledge and abilities. International Women's Day is a time when we acknowledge those contributions and when women gather in sisterhood and friendship.
Mr. Phillips: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and the office of the official opposition, I am pleased to take this opportunity to join with members to pay tribute to International Women's Day as a time to commemorate women's struggles and reflect on their achievements.
Over the years, women have made tremendous progress toward achieving equality and are making great strides in a number of areas.
Today, more women than ever are furthering their education, are entering the workforce and are rising to the top. A number of women-owned businesses are ever increasing and, consequently, they are changing the face of economics.
Here at home, Yukon women are the cornerstones of families and they are taking on responsibilities in the workplace and in the community.
Whether at home caring for families, whether in the labour force or as a volunteer, women play an integral role in our communities.
Despite these accomplishments, though, Mr. Speaker, discrimination against women still is a widespread problem. Many women, for example, are paid considerably less than their counterparts, and of those living below the poverty line in Canada, the overwhelming majority of them are women. There still is a lot of work to be done.
At this time, I would like to recognize the ongoing work of the Yukon Women's Directorate and the many women's groups in the territory and throughout the country for promoting women's interests and working toward the improvement of women's economic and social well-being.
Women today have a great deal to be proud of and International Women's Day is an appropriate time to celebrate these accomplishments and renew our commitment to equality in the future.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus to pay tribute to International Women's Day.
Now, while we've been officially recognizing International Women's Day in Canada for a relatively short time, its origins go back nearly 140 years. In 1857 and in 1908 there were labour strikes on March 8 in New York City. The strikes were to protest over-crowding and dangerous working conditions, and the low wages paid to women textile workers.
Working conditions weren't the only issue. The right to vote, and women's rights in general, became a focus. In 1910, at the second international conference of socialist women, two German women suggested that March 8 be designated as International Women's Day to recognize women's struggles around the world. The first International Women's Day was celebrated on March 8, 1911.
In some parts of the world, the observance of International Women's Day occurs every year. In North America it was sporadic. But in 1977, Unesco pronounced March 8 as International Women's Day. The Canadian theme for this year's International Women's Day is "going strong: celebrating older women". This theme was chosen to coincide with the International Year of Older Persons, as declared by the United Nations for 1999.
There are some things to keep in mind about women in our country. First of all, women make up about 50 percent of Canada's population, and a large share of the senior population, especially, is in the very oldest age range.
In 1995, 58 percent of all people aged 65 and over were female. Women also made up 70 percent of the population aged 85 and older. Of particular note, Mr. Speaker, is that women in Canada still do the larger share of unpaid work - an estimated 65 percent in 1992, and this included meal preparation, cleaning, child care and volunteer work. In 1992, people aged 65 and over devoted an average of 3.5 hours per day to unpaid work activities, and out of that, senior women spent four hours a day on unpaid work.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is my distinct pleasure today to introduce six Alaska state legislators who are participating in our annual legislative exchange. Members from the two legislatures have been meeting on an annual basis since 1980 to discuss matters of mutual interest to Alaska and Yukon.
Not only do the legislators talk with other legislators, but they are also briefed by senior officials on subjects in which they have been particularly interested.
As well, the delegates often tour both government and private sector facilities.
Over the years, a number of projects have been fostered as a result of these exchanges, and some difficult issues have been resolved because of discussions originating at these annual meetings.
Today in the gallery we have with us Senator Randy Phillips, from Eagle River, who was instrumental in initiating these exchanges; Senator Georgiana Lincoln, from Rampart; Representative Sharon Cissna, from Anchorage; and Representative John Harris, from Valdez.
Also participating in the exchange are Representative Joe Green, from Anchorage, who is the majority leader in the House; and Representative Fred Dyson, from Anchorage.
I would ask all members to welcome them to the Yukon at this time.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the official opposition, we too would like to welcome the Alaskan delegation. Being so far away from our federal government, we have a lot in common with Alaska, and I know in the dealings I've had with the Alaskan elected people that they get very frustrated with their federal government, as we do with our federal government, so it gives us lots to talk about.
This exchange is a good way to get to know each other better and to work on issues that are relevant to both jurisdictions. Once again, welcome to the Alaskan delegation.
Ms. Duncan: On behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus, I would also like to welcome the Alaskan state legislators to our Assembly here today.
Our mutual visits provide rather a unique opportunity for us to meet not only fellow legislators, but fellow northern legislators, and to discuss mutual issues. Our caucus looks forward each year to this exchange, and we're particularly delighted to welcome them today.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the Yukon College 1997-98 annual report and financial statements to June 30, 1998.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I have for tabling the prospectus for the Yukon gold/Yukon immigrant investor fund.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Notices of motion.
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
1) the federal government's intention to take control of the $30-billion surplus in the public service superannuation plan is tantamount to abuse of the public service employees;
2) the federal government's intention to require employers such as the territorial government to assume a much greater percentage of pension costs (while also increasing the employee's contribution) could cost Yukon taxpayers more than $11 million per year, and result in service reductions and staff layoffs;
3) the federal government's decision not to institute a joint management board to oversee the pension fund and its surplus, but to institute an investment board without labour representation, is a gross breach of trust and is a serious attack on the rights and well-being of the public servants; and
THAT this House calls for the federal government to cease all plans to implement their proposed changes to the public service superannuation plan.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Railroad right-of-way, Alaska to B.C.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, the history of the Yukon, and indeed the history of the north, has often been linked to various means of transportation, be it dog sled, paddlewheeler, railroad, motor vehicle or airplane. This year, we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the little railroad that could, the historic White Pass and Yukon Route. Today there is talk of another railroad that, if built, could have a tremendous impact upon the future of the Yukon, and that is the proposal to link Alaska to the Lower 48 by a railroad through the Yukon and British Columbia. Alaska has gone so far as to set aside a right-of-way up to the Yukon border but is now dependent upon the Yukon and British Columbia to do the same thing.
My question to the Government Leader: could he advise the House if he believes that this idea has merit, and would he be prepared to support setting aside a right-of-way in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, of course the member is quite right when he cites the history of the transportation networks that cross over from Alaska to the Yukon, and their importance in the development of the Yukon economy and the Alaskan economy over many years. Certainly, the White Pass railway is one transportation link that has been of significance to this territory. Also, the Alaska Highway and the upgrading of the Alaska Highway is a tremendous joint accomplishment between the two jurisdictions.
The Government of the Yukon has not received, to my knowledge, a formal position from the State of Alaska with respect to the matter. I understand from media reports that the House in the State of Alaska government is of one mind when it comes to setting aside lands for a railway interlink. Once we investigate the proposition further, I'm certain that we'll be in a better position to investigate it and determine its merits.
On the face of it, it sounds as though the idea is certainly worth investigating further, and we will do that upon the Alaskan government transmitting their interest.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that the railroad corridor would utilize Tintina Trench, which runs to Dawson City to Faro, Ross River and Watson Lake. The Tintina Trench is one of the most heavily mineralized regions in the Yukon and has the potential to produce several major mines.
Would the Government Leader not agree that a railroad through the trench would reduce transportation costs and open new markets for Yukon minerals, and would be of a tremendous benefit to the future of the Yukon's economy?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, I certainly am aware that there have been attempts in the past to see the B.C. rail line to Fort Nelson extended to the Yukon. The economics have been such so far that no decision to promote such a possibility has been furthered by either B.C. or the Yukon. However, the economics of a link to Alaska may make it more viable. We'll have to investigate that matter further.
The member suggests that perhaps linking various mineral zones may be wise, and certainly he'll be making that case in the future. I'm more than happy to have the matter investigated further and it will be given serious consideration.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, it's our understanding that the House of Representatives has already passed a bill in their House in Alaska, and from the media reports it appears that the Senate will do likewise.
My question to the Government Leader: if, in fact, the Senate does pass this bill, would the government support a motion in this House setting aside a right-of-way through the Yukon connecting Alaska to the southern United States?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, at this time, Mr. Speaker, I think it would be wise for us to investigate the proposition further. I'm certain that the state legislators have put a lot of information together. I think it is due to us to see this information and to assess it for our own purposes. Once the analysis has been given to us, I'm certain we'll be able to make an informed judgment about such a move. There is no doubt that transportation, as I mentioned in the beginning, is important to the future economies of the north and this may be an opportunity that we will pursue.
Question re: Taylor Highway upgrading
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the acting Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
Mr. Speaker, there's a memorandum of understanding between the Government of the Yukon and the State of Alaska on improvements to Alaska's Taylor Highway and Yukon's Top of the World Highway.
Now, on the Canadian side, the Top of the World Highway has been upgraded. It's almost completely chipsealed from west Dawson through to the U.S. border. On the Alaska side, funding for upgrading of the Taylor Highway has not been appropriated by their state legislators for the last two fiscal periods.
My question for the acting minister: what steps has he taken to ensure that Alaska lives up to the intent and spirit of this agreement?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As the member knows from the question he posed to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services before he left for his travels in Europe on a tourism promotion, the minister has been working with the Alaskans on the subject of the Taylor Highway. The deputy minister has also recently been in contact with the regional director of the transportation department.
Mr. Jenkins: Now we come to the issue of the late opening of the Taylor Highway, possibly not until June 1 of this year. This is as a consequence of further budget cuts in the State of Alaska. This curtailment of the opening of the Taylor Highway will have a significant impact on Dawson's visitor industry and, indeed, on the Yukon's economy, entirely, Mr. Speaker. Visitor industry, mining industry, and the shipping of fuel products from just south of Fairbanks will all be affected.
Could the minister advise the House what steps his government is taking to resolve this very serious situation of the late opening of the Taylor Highway?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, as the Minister of Community and Transportation Services indicated to the member when he posed this question in February, the minister has written to the Alaskan government. In addition, the deputy minister has been in contact with the transportation department in Alaska and has offered to have the Yukon maintenance staff help with opening the highway on the Alaska side. That offer has been made, and the departments on both the Yukon and Alaska sides of the border are working together on resolving the matter.
Mr. Jenkins: Over the last two years, the Klondike's economy has had to contend with a number of devastating blows. The price of gold has dropped; we've had the blockade of the Alaska State ferry in Prince Rupert, which has an impact on our visitor industry, and the extensive lineups for the George Black ferry at Dawson.
These have all lead to cost our business community - and indeed the Yukon business community, as a whole. Now, the minister has control over one of these areas.
What step is the minister taking to address the responsibilities for that area? Or is the minister acting in collusion with the Alaska state officials to keep the Taylor Highway closed for a longer period, thus reducing the demand on the ferry at Dawson and the requirement for a bridge at Dawson?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the member's premise of doom and gloom is poorly founded. Let me remind the member that we've had the best tourism numbers last year, and that we have a lot of people coming through both Yukon and Alaska.
Mr. Speaker, I've indicated to the member that our officials on both the Yukon and Alaska side of the border are developing cross-border solutions in a cooperative manner. We're doing that on the Taylor Highway, and we will continue to work collaboratively with the Alaskans.
Question re: Railroad right-of-way, Alaska to B.C.
Mr. Cable: I have some further questions for the Government Leader on the railway proposal that our friends in Alaska are working on.
If, in fact, the proposition becomes a reality, there are a number of other players who will have to be involved, such as British Columbia and us, of course, and the private rail companies - and the federal government, which at the present time, anyway, would have the land rights.
Has the Government Leader had any discussions with any of these other possible players, in relation to this proposal?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, as far as the latest proposal is concerned, I'll admit to the member that I have not heard about the proposal until today.
However, there have been various suggestions put forward over the last 10 years by different proponents to consider such a transportation link - recognizing, of course, that it requires the cooperation of a number of different governments, and a fairly sizable private investment, as well.
To my knowledge, there has not been any intergovernmental agreement to pursue not only the creation of the right-of-way, but the feasibility study for the project.
If such a proposal were put by the Alaska government to the Yukon government, I'm sure we would participate in such a review to determine the project's feasibility and whether or not further action should be taken by us or by other governments.
Mr. Cable: The minister touched on the role of the government. Is the Government Leader aware whether the proposition being put forward is driven by the government, whether it is a private sector initiative or if it is some mixture of both of those elements?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Firstly, Mr. Speaker, I will point out that, while I have not had meetings with any Alaskan officials on this subject, it does not mean that the Government of Yukon has not. I understand from my colleagues that some have met with Alaskan government representatives - elected people - and have discussed the subject, most recently at a recent trade mission.
So, there are, I suppose, exploratory talks going on. They have not reached my level at this point. I will be taking the situation in hand in earnest. It seems very appropriate that, of course, the Alaskan delegates are here today. Perhaps we will have something to discuss this evening.
Mr. Cable: The news reports are rather skimpy, to date. Does the Government Leader know what dollar sign is attached to this project and where the funding is going to come from?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I know the members opposite have been eyeing the surplus for the last few weeks. I would point out that the surplus that we have is, at this point, dedicated to existing capital works in the Yukon, but I am certain that our surplus would not even be a minor down payment on the costs of constructing such a project. I would suspect it's in the billions of dollars.
But, if there is sufficient economic justification for it, I am certain that any project like this could still be viable. So, we will undertake further investigation.
Question re: Fishing licences, Alaska
Ms. Duncan: I have questions today for the Minister of Renewable Resources. Last year, I raised the issue of fishing licences for Yukoners in Alaska. The minister said almost a year ago, and I quote, "This ... is of interest to Yukoners in spending our big dollars down there on fishing licences ..., and it doesn't seem fair. We have been working with them ..." - the Alaskans, Mr. Speaker - "More than likely, it will not be reflected in this year's fishing season licences."
Mr. Speaker, that was the minister's statement on April 16, 1998.
What discussions have taken place with Alaska with respect to fishing licence fees since then?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We have had some discussions with them. When I was over in Alaska, we did discuss this issue with them to see if they can raise it and, most recently, in our talks today with the department, the issue was raised again. I'm sure that it will be dealt with on their part.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to hear that we're having discussions and that they're ongoing, but I understand from a local sporting outlet this morning that the fishing licences for 1999 are available and they're the same price. It will cost a Yukoner $200 U.S. to fish for a season for king salmon in Alaska.
Is lowering these fees for Yukoners who go fishing in Haines and Skagway going to make any progress? At what point in time can we hope to see some results from the discussions that the minister says have taken place?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Now that we have the Alaskan delegation here, it gives us a better opportunity to speak with them on this, of course. We have had discussions in the past with them. Hopefully, they can resolve it on their side. They understand the issue. It's not a big deal to them, financially, to have this reduced for Yukoners. We don't have a big population that goes there, and I think they would respond favourably to that.
Ms. Duncan: I'd like to provide the minister with another opportunity, since we have one welcome today. The sport fishing guidebook lists fees for Yukon residents, non-resident Canadians and non-resident aliens, which I'm sure means anyone who comes from Europe or is an American visitor. We've had an increase in UFO sightings in the Yukon, but I'm sure E.T. isn't coming to go fishing. Can the minister tell me, for 1999, if there has been any increase in Yukon fees this year for Yukoners or non-resident aliens? Are we maintaining our fees, or are we raising them as the Alaskans did?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, we're not raising any of the fees this year.
Question re: Porcupine caribou herd winter range, contract with Norma Kassi
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Government Leader on the very expensive price of silence. On November 3 last year, the former NDP MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin, Norma Kassi, spoke publicly of this NDP government's conflicting position on development on the winter range of the Porcupine caribou herd. She said at that time, "On one hand, the government is proposing to support us as Gwitchin all the way in respect to protecting our way of life, and yet we have our Government Leader going to Washington and announcing that he is going to open the wintering grounds, and I have real concerns about that."
Mr. Speaker, then on February 1 of this year, the government let a two-month contract for $20,000 to Kassi Consulting to promote the government's message of no development in relationship to the Porcupine caribou herd. It appears that $20,000, or $500 a day, caused the former MLA to forget about her remarks and the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation's position about no development in the wintering range of the Porcupine caribou herd.
My question to the Government Leader: does he believe that this is appropriate use of taxpayers' money - to buy silence on NDP flip-flops?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, I don't know where to begin to disagree with the member on virtually all his propositions. First of all, the member has got it wrong when he suggests that there is any attempt to purchase silence. As far as I'm aware, people who are objecting to the Yukon government's position that responsible development should be permitted in the winter range of the caribou herd are making their views known publicly, constantly, and they are welcome to make those views known.
The ex-Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, Norma Kassi, has a long history of lobbying with officials in Washington and the State of Alaska - lobbying to prevent development in the core calving area of the Porcupine caribou herd. The reality, of course, for this government, Mr. Speaker, is we are opposed to development in the core calving area of the Porcupine caribou herd, either on the Alaska side or the Canadian side, but we are in favour of allowing responsible development - duly permitted - in the winter range of the caribou herd on either side of the border.
Mr. Ostashek: On November 13, 1998, this government gave the Caribou Commons Project $81,000 to carry its no-development message by way of a winter concert tour of western Canada and the United States but, Mr. Speaker, when the spokesman for the tour, on January 21, publicly expressed concern about this NDP government's plans for the winter range, this government upped the ante six days later by another $16,000, raising the total funding to $97,000 to fund the tour and ensure future silence.
Does the Government Leader believe that this is an appropriate use of taxpayers' money?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, if we were attempting to buy silence, we're doing a very poor job of it, because obviously not only are people advocating, willingly, throughout the United States and Canada that there should be no development in the core calving area, but they are also feeling free to criticize the Yukon government for its position on the winter range. That's fine, Mr. Speaker.
Our position has been consistent all along. We are opposed to development in the core calving area of the Porcupine caribou herd on either side of the border. We believe that there is sufficient protection now for the core calving area on the Yukon side of the border with the creation of two parks.
With respect to development in the winter range of the Porcupine caribou herd - or the winter range of any other herd - we are in favour of responsible development - duly permitted - that will allow not only development to take place but also ensure that environmental values are protected.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, on January 22, Juri Peepre of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, in a letter to the local paper, stated that the NDP's A Better Way on this issue was pure hypocrisy. And on January 29, Bob Jickling, a known spokesperson on behalf of the Conservation Society, in a similar letter to papers, went so far as to call the Government Leader and the Minister of Economic Development "the Pinocchio coalition" for selling them out. But, lo and behold, on March 3, the NDP government announces a $150,000 agreement with the Yukon Conservation Society to enhance the skills and employability of environmentalists.
Mr. Speaker, if you add all these contracts, grants and trust funds together, it comes to a startling $267,000.
Does the Government Leader not believe that's a very, very high price to pay to silence his critics?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, that makes absolutely no sense at all. People in the environmental community who disagree with the Yukon government's position not only disagree publicly but are free to do so. They have done so before and after the Yukon government has made contributions to environmental protection.
I would point out, Mr. Speaker, that when we signed a training trust fund with the Tourism Industry Association, we weren't attempting to buy silence. We were attempting to train people. When it comes to a training trust fund for the Conservation Society, that is to train people, not to buy silence or anything else.
The proposition is ludicrous and has no substance whatsoever. It's completely ludicrous.
Question re: FAS/FAE, joint research with Alaska
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I have some questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Now, Mr. Speaker, we have had a number of discussions about fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects in this Legislature, and what this government are doing and what they're not doing.
One issue that we have not touched on is our cooperation with other jurisdictions.
What work have we done with our neighbours to our west in Alaska, and are we sharing any resources with them?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, as a matter of fact, we are. As members are aware, our friends in Alaska share some of the same kinds of difficulties with social issues - particularly FAS - that we do. In particular, in the approach that we have begun to use - the healthy families initiative - we've done cooperatively with Alaska. We have sent over, last year in December, some of our staff to Juneau, Alaska, who will be involved for some consultations on the healthy families initiatives, along with some representatives of Kwanlin Dun, who are initiating something similar.
We have also arranged an information-sharing arrangement with, I believe, the Department of Maternal Health, that will allow us to share some of their tracking systems with the State of Alaska. So, I think we're on the right road to share our resources. We probably have more in common with Alaska than maybe some other jurisdictions, and I think it's a good start to a good working relationship.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, let's hope that that road is opened on time.
Now, Mr. Speaker, FAS has recently been made a reportable condition in Alaska. This means health care providers are required by Alaskan law to report FAS to the Alaska birth defects registry, within the division of public health. Accurate and reliable surveillance data will be available in the future as a result of this decision.
The minister has indicated recently that the NDP are finally considering moving ahead with a similar program in the Yukon. Does the minister have any idea when this project will be completed and fetal alcohol syndrome will be a reportable condition in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, the member is correct when she says that it has been made a reportable condition in Alaska and, as she is aware, we have had some discussions in this regard.
I've met with a number of groups on the question of making fetal alcohol syndrome a reportable condition. I've met with my colleague, the Minister of Justice, and we've asked for some advice from Justice about the kinds of wording changes we would have to do to bring forward legislative changes. We have also met with the privacy commissioner over issues of privacy and so on. Hopefully, we will be able to move this ahead.
I think one of the things that may be a bit of a challenge yet is to develop the correct diagnostic tool for use by our physicians. So, we will continue to work on that, and we will continue to work with the YMA in that regard.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, in October of 1997, our neighbours, the Alaskans, established the Alaska fetal alcohol syndrome surveillance project.
Now, the goal of this project is to develop an ongoing process by identifying and tracking individuals with fetal alcohol syndrome. The information gathered will help determine the extent of the problem in Alaska, and help develop a more adequate approach to consistent and early diagnosis of fetal alcohol syndrome in their communities.
Has the minister given any thought to establishing a similar project here in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Sloan:I would say that the first step would be to make the condition a reportable condition, and following from that, get some accurate baseline information.
As the member's aware, Alaska has begun making it a reportable condition, and they will probably be taking several years to get accurate information.
But I would say our first step would be to make it a reportable condition, to gather accurate information, and then move on from there.
One of the things I should say, however - just in reference to the member's first question - is we have begun some good exchanges, I think, with Alaska on this problem. I've taken a look at some of the Alaskan statistics, and in some cases they mirror ours. But one of the things I think that is quite positive is, not only are we gaining experience from our Alaskan neighbours, but in the case of the healthy family training, we've also had representatives from Alaska join us - which I think is a very positive sort of exchange.
Question re: Takhini Hot Springs prospectus
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Economic Development, on the Takhini Hot Springs prospectus, and this NDP government's involvement in preparing this prospectus, for the private sale of the hot springs.
I would like to ask the minister to explain to this House why the government would use taxpayers' money to pay for a prospectus to help a private company sell its business and whether other Yukon companies will now be able to avail themselves of this service, provided by this minister, or whether this service is limited only to those businesses that are hand picked by this minister, and his government.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, the hot springs was for sale for some time. A number of Yukoners, particularly from the tourism industry, came to the government to say that this particular hot springs had incredible tourism potential to develop the Yukon's economy overall, if properly developed and expanded, given the nature of the property and its large size, and the beautiful hot springs in close proximity to the capital. They had a vision that this hot springs could be a fairly substantial initiative and have major spinoff benefits for all Yukoners.
So, what we attempted to do, through the development of a visioning document - much more than a normal, every day, real estate prospectus - was to try and realize on that potential, get some enthusiasm and credibility behind it, in order to see that developed in an appropriate manner to benefit a large number of Yukoners economically, with jobs and economic activity.
Mr. Ostashek: One thing the Minister of Economic Development said that is right is that it must be something much more than a normal prospectus, when we look at the cost, which I believe exceeds $65,000. One contract to one consultant alone - a non-resident consultant, yet, from Yellowknife - in excess of $40,000, some $1,500 a day - three times more than the going rate for consultants in the Yukon.
Can the minister advise the House who originated this prospectus? Was it the previous owner? Was it the new owner's request, or did the minister request it himself and, if so, why?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, our government's very proud of the fact that, in terms of the total dollar amount of business going out to Yukon companies from the Government of the Yukon - we increased it over 30 percent since his government ended power, and I think that speaks very well to the work of the Member for Whitehorse Centre on the local hire initiative.
A lot of the work on this particular initiative was done by Yukoners, and I know the member opposite has a particularly dark spot for the consultant that he mentioned because, as Yukoners know, that particular consultant was involved in the Taga Ku project, which, unfortunately, saw the Yukon Party kill a major First Nation's business opportunity and cost Yukon taxpayers about $8 million. But I don't think this is the appropriate way for the member opposite to try and get back at that person, who was simply doing a job - because they had quite a bit of experience in this field - to try and realize on something that has major economic potential for Yukoners.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, we all know why we lost the Taga Ku case. It's because the judge didn't believe the Government Leader's testimony.
Mr. Speaker, the whole point of preparing a prospectus is to help sell an asset, so perhaps the minister can explain to the House why, when the media attempted to get a copy of the prospectus on Friday, his office told them it was a confidential document - $65,000, and it's a confidential document, a prospectus. Keeping a prospectus confidential defeats the whole purpose of the prospectus, which gives rise to the question: what is the minister now going to do with the document? Is he going to sell it to the new owners, or is he going to give it away, or is he going to keep it confidential to hide his embarrassment?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member is wrong if he thinks that we're embarrassed about trying to recognize something that has an obvious, major potential for the entire Yukon as a tourism destination, and if he thinks we're embarrassed about it - our government's opportunities to try to develop that particular initiative for the benefit of the Yukon tourism industry and for working people in the territory - he's got it all wrong.
The member opposite talks about the Taga Ku decision. What he said completely illustrates his bitterness, because he continues in the face of a lost court case after they said that they would win that, lost appeal decisions. I think they appealed it twice. The judge's ruling was clear. The Yukon Party showed their true colours when they killed the First Nation's business opportunity and cost taxpayers $8 million. Again he's in denial. That's part of the reason for this particular question.
With regard to the prospectus, we fully intend, Mr. Speaker, to see it be utilized to the best interests of Yukon people to try to see that project become an economic jewel for the Yukon and be something that people can be proud of and use to increase their business, both tourism-wise and in other ways of economic activity.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Question of privilege
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a question of privilege of which I gave notice on Thursday, March 4.
Consistent with section 7(4) of the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, "that the matter be raised at the earliest opportunity," the question of privilege responds to the abuse of our Standing Orders by the Member for Riverdale North during Committee of the Whole debate on Wednesday, March 3. This morning, I reviewed the audio tape and made a copy and the exchange between the Chair of Committee of the Whole and the Member for Riverdale North.
Given the nature of the member's conduct, and further to section 7(4), I request that the Speaker review the audio tape and Hansard and;
(1) determine if there was a prima facie case of breach of privilege, so a motion of censure to the Assembly can be considered.
Other related matters include:
(2) disrespect of the Speaker and rules and decorum of the Legislature and;
(3) abusive and personal attacks on members.
Indeed, when I informed the Member for Riverdale North on the morning of Thursday, March 4, that I would review the audio tape and possibly raise this issue, he stated that the government should replace the Chair of the Committee of the Whole or he would, in his word, "have him removed."
He also mentioned that he would, at considerable cost to the taxpayer, have his colleagues continually disrupt and delay debate until he got his way.
It is a parliamentary principle that the Chair of Committee of the Whole, like the Speaker, is a neutral party, whose role is to maintain order and enforce the rules of the House Committee. The Chair cannot enter debate and, therefore, cannot defend himself.
The Chair's authority stems from two places. Under section 42(4) of the Standing Order of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, "The Chair shall maintain order in Committee of the Whole, deciding all questions or order subject to an appeal to the Speaker." and "No debate shall be permitted on any decision of the Chair."
Similarly, Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms state under section 471(1) that "The Chairman maintains order in Committee of the Whole, deciding all questions of order subject to an appeal to the Speaker." And under section 26 it states "It is the duty of all members to uphold at all times the authority of the Chair, reflecting as it does the House itself."
Mr. Speaker, as a long-serving member of this Legislature, and the House leader for the official opposition, the Member for Riverdale North clearly understands the role and legitimacy of the position. In response to a point of order raised this last budget session, he stated, "...the Member for Faro has been in this House long enough that he knows that when the Chair rules he should sit down and follow the rule of the Chair." That was from Hansard, March 31, 1998.
Mr. Speaker, as a witness sitting not 20 feet from the Chair of Committee of the Whole and the Member for Riverdale North, I watched the events that gave cause for this question of privilege, and saw no inappropriate behaviour on the part of the Chair. Indeed, the Member for Riverdale North's disobedient questioning of the Chair became more aggressive, as he was repeatedly being called to order for abusing House rules. The following is an excerpt: Mr. Phillips, "On the point of order, Mr. Chair. You too have a job to do. It's one thing, Mr. Chair -." Mr. Chair responded: "On the point of order, Mr. Livingston." Mr. Phillips jumped in again to say, "I'm speaking, Mr. Chair."
As well, there is nothing to substantiate the claim that the Member for Riverdale North was insulted by the Chair. The audiotape clearly demonstrates the Member for Riverdale North accusing the Chair of bias, challenging his authority, alleging inappropriate conduct and, despite four requests, failing to abide by a ruling despite calm reminders from the Chair.
Excerpts include - this is the comment of the Chair: "On the point of order - Mr. Phillips, please do not speak until you are introduced. Mr. Phillips, on the point of order." Mr. Phillips rises, "Mr. Chair, on the point of order, what I was criticizing is you criticized the opposition leader for what he said -" Chair, "Order please. Order please." Mr. Phillips, "- but you didn't say anything about the -" Chair, "Mr. Phillips. Order please." Mr. Phillips, "- hooting and hollering -" Then the Chair, "Mr. Phillips. Order please." Mr. Phillips, "- of the member opposite." Then the Chair speaks: "The Chair did not criticize anyone. The Chair is trying to maintain order. It does not appreciate being accused of criticizing anyone in the House."
This behaviour by the Member for Riverdale North was immediately called into question by myself and the Member for Lake Laberge. The subsequent allegation against the Chair by the Member for Riverdale North is simply a diversion, since he realized that he had again shown disrespect for the rules and decorum of the Legislature.
This is an excerpt from my comment, "Mr. Harding: "Mr. Chair, I would ask that members of this House respect that it's not appropriate to be addressing the Chair in such a manner. Everybody should just relax, including me, and let us get on with this debate."
Mr. Speaker, continued abuse or disrespectful conduct and spurious accusations by any member disrupts House business, brings the entire Legislature into disrepute, and cannot go uncorrected. It indicates a serious lack of respect for the rules and decorum of this House and the people chosen to sit in neutral positions in the performance of public duties. Most importantly, this type of behaviour causes the public to lose confidence in its elected members.
Unfortunately, the Member for Riverdale North has demonstrated a pattern of abusive behaviour in the Legislature. For example, he previously attacked the Chair of the Committee of the Whole during the evening session of December 15, 1997. This is Mr. Phillips -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Order please. The Member for Porter Creek North, on a point of order.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, we are dealing with specific incidents in Committee of the Whole debate and I don't believe the member has the right to go back in the history of the Legislature.
Hon. Mr. Harding: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Order please. The Member for Faro, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I am in the middle of a question of privilege. I am referring to the conduct of the Member for Riverdale North. I am providing evidence. The evidence is just the public record. It is only the words and actions of the Member for Riverdale North that I am utilizing, and I think it is in keeping, and I would ask the Speaker to give me the room to be able to lay out this particular question of privilege.
Speaker: Pursuant to the provisions of section 7 of the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, the Chair received a letter from the Hon. Trevor Harding, "Pursuant to the provisions of section 7 of the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, I am providing you with a written notice of a question of privilege relating to the exchange that occurred during the evening sitting of March 3 between the Member for Riverdale North and the Chair of Committee of the Whole."
I would ask members to stick to the question of privilege. You may continue.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will obviously respect your ruling.
Mr. Speaker, on April 14, 1998, the Member for Riverdale North was given the stiffest form of rebuke by the Speaker...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: ...for ignoring his ruling ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Speaker: On a point of order.
Point of order
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, you just made a ruling that the member couldn't bring those issues up, that he had to talk specifically to the incident that took place here last Wednesday night. Yet, this minister continues to bring in evidence that is not relevant to this case.
Speaker: Member for Faro on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I would argue that this is germane to the point of order that I'm raising. I'm establishing a pattern of behaviour in the recent conduct of the Member for Riverdale North. I am pointing out that the member has been expelled from this Legislature, just as of April 14 of last year - a very serious rebuke by the Speaker. I think it is germane to evidence to conclude that this member has, indeed, established a breach of privilege and -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: The letter from the government House leader identified the incident that he wished to raise a question of privilege on. All comments must be directly related to that event and to why it should be considered a question of privilege.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, the member opposite obviously wants to use pseudo-legal manoeuvering to try and avoid the public record, so I will speak to those issues in another forum. I respect your ruling, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, we ask that you review the audio tape and Hansard regarding the comments of the Member for Riverdale North - the public record - directed at the Chair of the Committee of the Whole during the evening session on Wednesday, March 3, and rule whether his comments and his behaviour violated the Chair's authority and responsibilities, as contained in the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly and Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms.
I know you'll be fair in your ruling, and if the opposition responds, I'm sure you'll provide them the same level of consistency in your response that you have just given to me in your ruling.
This will clarify whether a motion of censure should be brought forward against the Member for Riverdale North so that he may have an opportunity to apologize to the House, the public and the Chair of Committee of the Whole.
I submit that this matter warrants the attention of the Speaker, as this incident and the pattern of behaviour from the Member for Riverdale North is affecting the ability of this House to conduct the public's business in a proper manner.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Ostashek: I'll keep my points to the issue at hand, and that's the question of privilege that the Member for Faro raised.
Mr. Speaker, for your information, the Chair quite clearly lost control of the House. The whole incident was precipitated by the Member for Laberge, who repeatedly tried to inject himself into debate - where he didn't have the floor - in the debate between me and the Minister of Economic Development. He was not called by the Chair, and when the Chair did call to order after the Member for Laberge jumped up on a point of order after five times trying to inject himself into the debate, my colleague felt that I was being disciplined by the Chair and the Member for Laberge was not.
Mr. Speaker, regardless of what goes on in this House, the Chair cannot refuse, from my interpretation of Beauchesne, the House rules, to recognize a member on a point of order. That is our legitimate right in this Legislature - to raise points of order - even if members opposite may think they are frivolous. But the Chair cannot cut off a member when he or she is trying to raise a point of order. The Chair last Wednesday evening, on numerous occasions, did not allow whomever was speaking to finish their point of order before he let somebody else speak.
Mr. Speaker, if the Chair had a problem, he had some options open to him besides throwing a tantrum, picking up his books and storming out of the House. He had lost total control of the Committee and stomped out when what he should have done, if he couldn't control the House or felt he couldn't control the House, was to call you back to take the Chair and let you make the ruling. It's unheard of, in my belief and in the research that we've done so far, to have a Chair stomping out of the House in a pout because he's lost control of the Committee.
I believe the Member for Riverdale North was within his full rights in trying to get a point of order on the record and he was not being recognized from the Chair and, thus, we ended up in the donnybrook that we did.
Ms. Duncan: I rise to speak to the point of privilege raised by the Member for Faro.
Mr. Speaker, our Standing Orders indicate that we will follow the House of Commons and the rules set out. Beauchesne's talks about privilege.
Privilege is the sum of our rights enjoyed by the House collectively, according to Beauchesne's, as a constituent part of the high court of Parliament and by members of each House individually, without which, we could not, as members of this House, discharge our functions and which exceed those possessed by other bodies or individuals. Basically, parliamentary privilege does not go much beyond the rights of free speech in the House and the right of a member to discharge his or her duties in the House as a member. That's what privilege is.
Mr. Speaker, Beauchesne's also says that a question of privilege ought rarely to come up in Parliament. It should be dealt with by a motion giving the House power to impose reparation or apply a remedy. A genuine question of privilege is most serious and should be taken seriously by everyone in the House. No member who respects the rules of this House would disagree with that, Mr. Speaker.
Beauchesne's goes on at great length to discuss the issue of privilege. Section 50 says that in any case where the propriety of a member's action is brought into question, such as was done today, a specific charge must be made. It says the Speaker will not allow this to be referred to the Standing Committee on Elections Privileges and Procedure to examine the action. The Speaker will not allow that.
The Member for Faro seems to state that the Member for Riverdale North has somehow abused the Chair in the House. Section 62 says, in the context of contempt - which is what the Member for Faro seems to be referring to - it seems to me that, to amount to contempt, representations or statements about our proceedings, or of the participation of members, should not only be erroneous or incorrect but, rather, should be purposely untrue and improper, and import a ring of deceit, Mr. Speaker.
Section 69 of Beauchesne's goes on that the Speaker has reminded the House it is very important to indicate that something can be inflammatory, can be disagreeable, can even be offensive, Mr. Speaker, but it may not be a question of privilege, unless the comment actually impinges upon the ability of members of Parliament to do their job properly.
Mr. Speaker, our caucus does not believe that a point of privilege exists. The issue before us is the quality of debate in this Legislature, and a good starting point is our respect for one another and for your ruling on this issue, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Order please. The Chair will take this question of privilege under advisement. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Mr. Phillips: On a point of order.
Point of order
Mr. Phillips: In light of the very serious nature of the issues found in Motion No. 156 respecting the Deputy Speaker, I would request the unanimous consent of the House to have Motion No. 156 called on Tuesday, March 9.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been denied.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker now leave the Chair and 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.
Before proceeding with Bill No. 14, the Chair puts the following on record:
All members are reminded that the public we serve expects us to conduct ourselves appropriately at all times. Decorum of this Legislature shall be maintained in accordance with the House Rules. Attacks on the Chair shall not be tolerated. To elaborate further, this would include any attack upon the Chair by members, whether they are speaking from their seats or speaking on the record.
It is the responsibility of any member who has a complaint about the Chair to act appropriately and follow the process in place to deal with such matters.
All members shall be cautioned that the Chair is aware of Rule 42(4) of the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, which says, "Disorder in Committee of the Whole can be censured only by the Assembly on receiving a report thereon. No debate shall be permitted on any decision of the Chair."
The Chair recognizes that a firmer hand is required in order to maintain order in this House. Certainly, this will be a challenge in times of heated debate. However, all members should take note of the Chair's options.
Before proceeding with the main estimates, does Committee want to recess?
Some Hon. Members:Agreed.
Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 14 - First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000 - continued
Department of Education - continued
Chair: Is there further general debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I anticipate that there is further general debate. I just wanted to acknowledge that the Education budget, with $82,198,000 in the operation and maintenance budget and $12,459,000 in the capital budget, shows that we continue to place a strong priority on meeting educational needs in the Yukon.
In my opening statement, I outlined some of the highlights of the Education budget for the year. There are new monies available for funding youth programs, and we will continue to make a priority over the next year to implement the youth strategy. I recently attended a youth conference where a number of youth reiterated their support for the actions and goals that we've laid out in the youth strategy, and I look forward to working with youth in offering programs that meet their needs.
I also look forward to questions from members opposite on the budget.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I'd like to move on to the Yukon excellence awards for a few moments.
The department provided us with some information with respect to the Yukon excellence awards, but what I am concerned about is that I have received some letters from some parents who are concerned about changes to the Yukon excellence awards.
I'd just like to ask the minister - there was a questionnaire that went out a year, year and a half ago, I guess, and the minister, I think last year, made a statement about the Yukon excellence awards; in fact, an overwhelming majority of people that responded to the questionnaire were in support of the awards. What changes have been made since the report came out? Are changes contemplated in the very near future that are going to affect the awards or various subjects that the awards are given out on?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member was provided with a response to that question in writing. I can repeat for the member that the Yukon excellence awards are available for students who achieve excellence, which is a grade over 80 percent on all Yukon territorial examinations and for any grade 12 provincial examinations. For the 1998-99 school year, the Yukon territorial examinations included math 9 and 11 and English 9 and 11.
Every year the departmental assessment committee, which is comprised of school principals and departmental administrators, makes recommendations regarding the focus of assessments. The member received the information about the eligible subjects. We are continuing to support the Yukon excellence awards program.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, I believe that one of the areas where they cut one of the awards out is in grade 10 math. The answer that I received from the minister was that in some of those areas they were going to focus more on literacy and numeracy. I wonder, if they're going to focus on that, why did they cut out the math? That's numeracy so why would you reduce the testing in that particular area if you were going to focus on it? If you discontinue the testing, how are you evaluating whether or not you're doing well in that area?
I think, in some cases, once the awards are established, many of the students look forward to, each consecutive year, improving their marks in certain subjects to guarantee themselves the reward or the award of excellence for that subject. It's pretty frustrating to them for some student in one grade to improve their math mark dramatically in grade 9 and then get into grade 10 and find out that there is no longer a program available in grade 10 and that the focus is on something different.
I just wonder why the change?
When they were first brought out, I think they were offered in all levels and all grades - 8 to 12 I think - except that there were some concerns with the departmentals. But with that as an exception, I think they were offered in all grades. So I wonder why, with the overwhelming support received from the general public with respect to the awards for excellence, the department has chosen to reduce some of the awards in some years.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, the objectives of the Yukon excellence awards are to motivate Yukon students to work hard in school, to recognize academic excellence by our Yukon students and to provide support for post-secondary education based on student achievement.
As I've indicated to the member, the awards are available in the subjects for which there are territorial examinations. The departmental assessment committee of school principals and administrators makes recommendations on the focus of assessments.
The core subject areas for achieving awards are in math and English. There are awards offered in the same years that the Yukon territorial examination provide, which include math 9 and 11 and English 9 and 11.
The member's correct that there is not an award for grade 10; however, the student who wants to continue to do well and to have their performance recognized will know that the awards are available. If they've achieved an award in grade 9, they will be able to achieve an award again in grade 11 when the territorial examinations are offered.
Mr. Phillips: Well, isn't there a way to evaluate the students? I mean, they still take the grade 10 math course, so there must be a way to judge whether or not the students have achieved a certain level or do we not grade them in any level at all?
What I'm hearing from the students, parents and the general public is that they feel that the awards should be in each and every year from grade 8 to graduation and that they should be in all subjects to encourage the students to do well in all the subjects.
Surely the minister must have got that message from the questionnaire she put out because I know it was overwhelmingly in support of the awards. In fact, people were encouraging the minister to even do more; they thought it was a good idea - despite the minister herself, whose party wasn't in favour of them, and I know it might have been difficult for them to implement them, because they weren't in favour of them.
But what I want to know from the minister is, isn't the minister interested in putting some way to measure the students' achievement in grade 10 and those years when they don't have these specific tests, so that the students who maintain a high level of activity and work hard, and achieve over - I believe - a 75- or 80-percent average, would still qualify for an award so these students could help pay for their advanced education? Wouldn't the minister see that as something she would like to see put in the system?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I believe the member opposite is aware that we in the Yukon offer an incredible amount of support for our students who leave school and move on to pursue post-secondary education. Not only do we have the excellence awards, which are a minor expenditure in relation to the post-secondary grants that we support, but we continue to offer those excellence awards for the territorial examination subjects. In the subjects in which Yukon territorial examinations are held, the student is eligible for an excellence award.
The budget contains a student financial assistance line item that supports grants for Yukon students who attend college and university outside of the Yukon or, in fact, at Yukon College.
Our financial support for post-secondary education is second to none other in Canada. I don't have the line item in front of me at the moment, Mr. Chair, for student financial assistance, but it is a considerable sum. 036
The labour market development that includes student financial assistance is $3,115,000.
Mr. Phillips: I don't want to talk about student financial assistance right now. I know the minister is trying to divert it over there. What I want to talk about is that when this program was put in place several years ago, it covered all the subjects in all the grades. Since then, the minister has done a questionnaire.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: Well, the only grades it didn't cover were the departmentals, but it covered all of the other subjects and grades. Since then, the minister has done a questionnaire. The questionnaire came out in full support of the program. In fact, it said to do more of this kind of stuff. The minister has now decided - or this committee, I guess, the principals and the administration - to remove some subjects from the awards program.
My point to the minister is, Mr. Chair, that this government prides itself on working with the partners in education. Well, the partners in education - the parents and the students - in a questionnaire told the minister, "Don't cut it back. Do more." And the minister cut it back, and the minister's excuse is, "Well, we just don't offer a test in that year or that grade." Well, I'm suggesting to the minister: what else can you offer in the way of some kind of an evaluation of the students in the grades where we don't do the tests, so that they can continue to achieve the awards of excellence if they do well in that particular year? I'd like to hear from the minister why she hasn't given that kind of political direction within the department when the people have said clearly to her that they want the awards to continue. They want the awards to be given out in all the grades that we possibly can, and they like them.
Why is the minister just giving me the bureaucratic line that the department and the principals want to do it this way? I mean, they are part of the partners in education, but so are the parents, who clearly told the minister that they wanted to do it a different way. So, maybe the minister can tell me why she didn't step in and give some kind of direction to say, "These programs will continue. Find another way to average or grade the marks of the students so that they can all get their awards of excellence if they qualify from grades 8 to 11 or 12."
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, the fact is that both under the previous administration, when the program was launched in 1994, and under the current administration, the excellence awards have been awarded based on the recommendations of the departmental assessment committee on what subjects should have Yukon territorial examinations. In fact, we have added some subjects. Originally, the English territorial examination was only offered in grade 11. It is now offered in both grades 9 and 11.
The student-recognition options paper was released in May 1997. Over the course of the next six weeks or so, we did get replies from the public. The recommendations that were put together in following up on that questionnaire were to maintain the Yukon excellence program the way it was, based on the Yukon territorial exams and on the grade 12 British Columbia provincial exams. It was also to change the objectives of the excellence awards to include not just a recognition of academic excellence but also motivating Yukon students and providing support for post-secondary education.
We've also publicized the new objectives of the awards and clarified the eligibility criteria. We also have a long-term assessment plan being developed with the department and with the departmental assessment committees.
I have accepted the recommendations that allow individual schools and school councils to prepare student recognition plans for their schools, as well as continuing to fund money in the budget for the Yukon excellence awards. Those Yukon excellence awards are awarded based on the input from the departmental assessment committee, which is the same thing that the previous minister and the previous government did.
Mr. Phillips: In the past, the minister and her party, in speaking about the awards of excellence program, called it an "elitist" program.
Does the minister still feel that way? Or does the minister feel the program has benefited Yukon students, by helping them reach for higher levels, which in fact will bode well for them in future employment opportunities?
Does the minister still feel it's an elitist program, the way she did back when it was first introduced?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, the students who win awards are students who can achieve over 80 percent in their marks on the territorial examinations.
Mr. Chair, what the public said, what the parents and school councils told us when we put out a questionnaire on the excellence awards program, is that we needed to include recognition for all students - not simply providing financial recognition to students who achieved over 80 percent, but recognizing students who work hard at school, and encouraging students to pursue their education beyond high school.
We continue to do that and to work with school councils on that.
Mr. Phillips: The minister didn't answer the question that I asked though. The minister's party, and the minister, I think, herself, has said that they thought that the program was elitist. And I just wonder if the minister still feels that. Maybe she could answer that question.
The minister also mentioned school recognition plans, which various schools are putting in place. Have we received any of those plans as of yet? Have we set a deadline for receiving any of those plans? Where have we gone from the report, when the minister said she accepted recommendations of the plans, and the schools were going to develop this stuff?
We accepted the recommendations of the awards of excellence. Where have we gone now? What exactly is happening out there with the various schools, with respect to the school recognition plans?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, this is a subject that I have discussed with school councils at the meetings that they hold twice a year to consider a number of education activities.
We have invited school councils to take a leadership role in involving the students and the teachers and parents in preparing student recognition plans. We have not dictated that the school councils must have a plan and must submit it to the department by a certain date. It is a subject, though, that schools that have high school students may be working on and we encourage them.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I'm not sure what the minister said. Are any schools working on them now? Do any of the schools have a school recognition plan? Does the department have a deadline for receiving school recognition plans? What exactly is the minister doing with respect to the recommendations?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I just informed the member that we have not provided a deadline for the school councils to submit a student recognition plan. We have invited school councils to take a leadership role in creating student recognition plans. It was school councils and parents who indicated that they thought a student recognition plan that acknowledged the work of all students and that motivated Yukon students to work harder would be beneficial. The school councils have an opportunity to work on that.
School councils undertake a number of activities. We need to give them and allow them the discretion to place their energies on what the priorities are for them.
I can contact school councils and I can ask for an update from school council chairs, when they meet later this year, on development of student recognition plans.
Mr. Phillips: It would be useful to find out how much of a priority it is for the school councils, but maybe the minister could also, Mr. Chair, tell us if she plans to remain status quo, then, with the awards of excellence program for now, until we hear about any further changes. Are there any changes contemplated this year with respect to the program?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As I indicated, there are no changes contemplated for the present year. The recommendations from the departmental assessment committee have come in for the 1998-99 school year, and those will be as I indicated to the member in debate earlier this afternoon. The committee may be bringing forward recommendations for future years later this spring.
Mr. Phillips: I'd like to move on to another area. The Council of Ministers of Education Canada developed the SAIP model to assess the performances of 13- and six-year old students in mathematics, reading, writing and science, and the achievement is described over five levels and measures students in both the elementary and secondary experience.
The minister made a commitment to continue to produce assessment highlights on an annual basis and distribute the results of those assessment highlights on the results of the yearly territorial examinations in English and in math. Do we have those results, or could we have a copy of them if the minister has them?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I will check on the status of the results of the last round of SAIP testing. Normally there is a brochure that's put together with the results, and I'll bring that back for the member.
Mr. Phillips: Last spring, some discussion arose regarding the reliability and the validity of territorial examinations. At that time, the minister mentioned that two test designers from Alberta had been brought into the territory to work with Yukon teachers, and the information that was to be gathered then was to be used in developing an exam for the 1998-99 year. I wonder if the minister could bring us up to date and up to speed with respect to that test design development.
Have we developed a test? Have we tested the students? Have the results improved? How are we measuring our degree of success?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We have approved the use of the Alberta mathematics 9 achievement test for the 1998-99 school year for Yukon students. This decision was based on recommendations from the departmental assessment committee and the Yukon mathematics territorial exam development team.
There has been consultation on the overall assessment program early in the 1998-99 school year. Information sessions took place at the fall school administrators conference as well as the school council chairs conference, the staff meeting that the public schools branch held in the fall, as well as at the primary and intermediate curriculum committee meetings.
These proposals have been discussed with the departmental assessment committee, and we're also working with the western Canada protocol partners about assessments in math and language arts in the elementary grades, and are working on what are the best assessment tools.
Mr. Phillips: A new math curriculum for kindergarten to grade 7 and grades 11 and 12 was introduced last year, and there was a great deal of discussion when it was introduced regarding the language-based program and concerns raised by a number of educators and parents that the curriculum should have been phased in over a longer period of time.
Have we conducted any review of the program and if we haven't, is there any review planned?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, that's part of the assessment work that is being done both by the departmental assessment committee and the mathematics territorial exam development team. The Alberta test for the grade 9 level was adopted because of the input from them. We are considering introduction of the Alberta achievement test in mathematics and language arts, as well as part of our discussions with other jurisdictions on the western Canada curriculum.
There may be implementation of the Alberta achievement tests. There could be some overlap with the testing at grades 3 and 6 of the Canadian tests of basic skills, so this is why we're taking a long time to work with teachers and with administrators on the best assessment model and have the assessment committee considering whether the Alberta achievement test would be a better measure.
Mr. Phillips: I'll move on to another area, and that is an area that I know the minister probably won't be too comfortable with, but I think it's one that has to be addressed. That is the issue of a very well-known educator in the territory, Flo Kitz, and the discussions that have taken place in here with respect to some remuneration that some feel the family was due, and the government, because of a problem with the collective bargaining, chose not to pay the remuneration. I think it's some $24,000 to the family of the deceased.
The question I have for the minister is one that I asked in the House and I didn't get an answer from the minister. That is that article 219.(3) of the Education Act allows for the teachers union to sit down with the government, by mutual consent between the employer and the association, to discuss a matter such as this. I'd like to ask the minister, because she didn't give me an answer the day I asked it in Question Period, why the Department of Education doesn't treat this matter in the way it should be treated, and at least take the opportunity to sit down with YTA. I mean, YTA has made all kinds of indications that it feels that this matter was overlooked, and they have also indicated that it's not going to set precedent and that it's going to only affect one individual, the late Flo Kitz.
It really is something that the government has agreed to now with all other teachers and all other employees of the Government of the Yukon, and it is not a very large sum of money in comparison to what the government spends on other things. So, I just wonder if the minister would be a little more compassionate in her answer and give us some kind of a commitment that at least the minister would, in compliance with that Article 219.(3) of the Education Act, take the opportunity to sit down with the teachers union and discuss the matter. Would the minister give us that commitment?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the benefits that any employee of the government receives, and in this case the benefits that teachers receive, are negotiated between the Yukon Teachers Association, which is the bargaining agent for the teachers, and the employer, the Government of the Yukon as represented by the Public Service Commission.
This issue is one that should be resolved at the bargaining table. I have not received direct communication from the Yukon Teachers Association on this subject. I know that the Public Service Commission of the Government of the Yukon is always willing to meet with and to work with the Yukon Teachers Association on bargaining matters.
Mr. Phillips: Let me ask the minister this, then, Mr. Chair. If the Yukon Teachers Association wrote to the minister and asked the minister to make representation on their behalf to intervene, according to Article 219.(3), would the minister make that representation to the minister of the Public Service Commission on behalf of YTA and out of respect for the family of the late Flo Kitz, which almost every Yukoner I've talked to feels is the right thing to do?
This is one of those things where I just don't understand the stubbornness of the government, because there are a lot of people out there who are very upset about it. I think it's an easy one to solve and it's one that should have been dealt with long before it ever got into this House. It should have never had to come into this House, quite frankly, but because of the way it was pushed off to the side and dealt with in a technical fashion, it ended up here.
If the YTA wrote them a letter and referenced the clause that is in the Education Act, would the minister take that up with the Public Service Commissioner and encourage her or her officials to sit down with YTA and come to some agreement?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I believe very strongly in the principle of collective bargaining and in respecting the process of allowing the parties to fulfill their responsibilities. The Yukon Teachers Association is the bargaining agent for the teachers. Their responsibility is to negotiate a collective agreement with the employer. I do respect the role of the Yukon Teachers Association, as well as the Public Service Commission. I believe that both parties need to meet and hold respectful discussions.
Any time that I receive a letter, whether it's from the Yukon Teachers Association or from individuals or groups, I respond to the letter. If I were to receive letters from the Yukon Teachers Association, I would respond to them.
Mr. Phillips: Well, I respect the collective bargaining process, as well. That's my point here. Section 219.(3) of the Education Act talks about collective bargaining and there's reference to the collective agreement. All I'm asking the minister to do, if she receives a letter requesting a change made by the union - by YTA - is convey that to the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission.
Maybe I'll ask the minister, if the minister feels the way most Yukoners do - that this individual is, and should have been, entitled to this part of the package that they would receive upon one's death.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, that is a subject that I would be prepared to discuss with my colleague, who is the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. I believe that, in the benefits that are negotiated, both the employer and the bargaining agent for the employees have a responsibility to bring their positions to the table and to respect the agreement that is achieved based on those positions.
Mr. Phillips: Well, I was going to leave this, and then the minister drew me back into it again.
That's correct, and they all did respect their views, under the last collective negotiations. It's the union that has said that this was an oversight. They wanted to correct it. They wanted to meet with the ministers, according to the collective agreement, to discuss it. And they haven't been able to get the meeting.
That's what we're trying to get, is the meeting based on clauses in the collective agreement, with respect to PSC and with respect to the Minister of Education.
So, I know they reached an agreement before; that's where the problem came out of. But what I'm trying to get the minister to say is that she also respects the other parts of the agreement, clause 319 and the clauses in the collective agreement itself, 47.01, which allows the agreement to be amended by mutual consent between the employer and the association. That's what the teachers now want to do. They want to sit down with the employer and amend the agreement to include the one-time exception.
I understand where the minister's coming from. I'm just not confident that the minister is following where I'm coming from. What I want to see happen is the union write the minister a letter, the minister convey to the Public Service Commission minister that the union wants to meet - and the Public Service Commission minister at the present time, Mr. Chair, seems to be not interested in even meeting with them.
But I want the Minister of Education, on behalf of the educators in the territory - the teachers - and the parents, and others who have known the hard work of this individual, to lobby on their behalf with her colleague, to ensure that we get some changes, and that what should have been rightfully due will be corrected. That's all I'm asking the minister to do, and I would hope that the minister would take that message to her colleague.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I believe that the member is aware that in the present contract discussions, the parties have reached agreement for future contracts on this subject. This is an issue that is being dealt with by the Public Service Commission. I'm certainly prepared to discuss it with my colleague, the minister responsible.
Mr. Phillips: My point has been that the Public Service Commission and the minister have been rather stubborn on the issue, have refused to move on the issue, and that, in fact, it might take some more intensive lobbying on behalf of the Minister of Education, on behalf of teachers, parents and students, who feel there was an inequity here. That's all I'm asking the minister to do.
Mr. Chair, recently the local doctors decided to introduce an FAS identification program, and I know the Minister of Health talked about it today - about identifying, or having some kind of way to identify, and keep track of FAS youth or children who have FAS, who come into contact with them. I know that several groups have been requesting that, as well, of the Minister of Education and the Minister of Health.
In light of the comments that were made today by the Minister of Health, have we made any changes in the Education department with respect to FAS identification, and how will this new program that the doctors are implementing tie in with the education system, so that we will have a better handle on what exactly we're doing with FAS?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Perhaps I can just sort of elaborate a bit on this. What is being proposed - and the idea being proposed was, I guess, broached by our medical officer of health, Dr. Frank Timmermans.
What Dr. Timmermans' discussions have been, both with the department and with his medical colleagues, as well as other groups, is that currently there's no reporting mechanism for FAS. Doctors may recognize a child as having some related symptoms, but there's no requirement to report that. They may do it informally; they may make a parent aware of it.
What is being proposed is that, by changing the definition of what is called a communicable disease, such as tuberculosis or diseases such as STDs, changing the definition would allow FAS to be listed as a reportable condition.
What that would do is allow a physician who sees a child who is exhibiting some of the physiological symptoms of, perhaps, FAS - and there is an indication of prenatal alcohol abuse - to list that, and we would assist the doctors in developing a diagnostic tool or making a diagnostic tool available, something fairly simple. That information would be compiled for statistical purposes by the Department of Health.
Now, there are some legal issues there about privacy and who gets access to that information. What we're anticipating right now is that there would be some provision for, say, a parent of a child to allow the physician to release that information to people other than the Department of Health. So, for example, a person who has a child who maybe has a formal diagnosis of FAS would request that the doctor release that information to, say, educational authorities, or perhaps to authorities for the purpose of programming and so on.
We have taken a look at this, and there are some privacy issues around that. We've discussed with the privacy commissioner what the implications are, what kinds of language we would have to write into this, what kinds of legal safeguards we would have to do. Hopefully we can bring forward this legislation in a fairly timely way.
The implications of that for education, I think, would be primarily that we would have more accurate baseline information on which to do programming and, in certain cases, there would be an ability, with the parents' permission, to have their child identified for purposes of, say, new programming, or perhaps for more formalized testing.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, don't get me wrong; I agree with what the Minister of Health just said but where I have a problem - and this will be a question for the Minister of Education - is that we already do have a protocol agreement with Health and Social Services, Justice and Education. The type of protocol or information sharing that the Minister of Health just talked about I thought was all part of that protocol agreement and there was a process in place in which - I mean, we didn't have FAS information, but I would think it was related at that time to any information in Health - that would be relevant to a student in school.
If it had an effect on what might happen to the student in school, we would let them know. If it might have an effect on the justice system, we would communicate with them so that everyone would be aware. You know, you've heard the story a hundred times that when students are brought into the school from another jurisdiction or from another area to the Yukon and they are identified with a certain problem, sometimes the schools aren't told. That was the argument we heard several years ago and that's why the protocol agreement.
So, what the Minister of Health just described to me now is that we want to work out the details of that kind of an agreement, and I thought we already had them worked out and that it didn't matter what the new disease was or the new problem was, that it would plug into the protocol agreement. There might be some mild exceptions where parental permission is absolutely necessary. Probably in most cases parental permission would be necessary but, I mean, I would think that all precautions would be taken.
What I think some people think is someone wants to hang a sign over this child's chest that says, "I'm FAS", and that isn't what we want to do at all. What we want to do is develop programs for them, have teachers be aware that these children have special needs, so that when situations arise, the teacher has an idea of why it arose and how we deal with it.
So, I thought we were sort of already there and the Minister of Health just explained that we had to develop some of this stuff. So, maybe the Minister of Education can answer the question I asked in the first place and that is: how will this FAS identification that the doctors are doing tie into the school system?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: It's important to note that prevention should have the highest priority when recognizing that FAS is a problem in our communities, and money should be invested in prevention. That is what my colleague, the Minister of Health and Social Services, has done in increasing funding that's available for the healthy family initiative, where a lot of work is done with expectant mothers, and an assessment of the risk is also done, so that there can be a public health nurse and other supports in place for women who may have FAS children.
In addition, we recognize that medical screening should be done and should be done much earlier than school age. The change that will occur when FAS becomes a reportable condition is that that will generate numbers on the incidence of FAS within the population. Medical doctors in the Yukon, I think, are often ahead of their colleagues in the awareness of the syndrome and the ability to diagnose it. We do presently have an information sharing agreement; the member is correct. We do not presently have FAS recognized as a reportable syndrome, so that would add to the knowledge base on the incidence of FAS.
The departments of Education and Justice also have both supported a recent FAS conference that was held up at the Kwanlin Dun health centre. We have educational programs, such as the reading recovery program and the resource programs, that are available for students who may have FAS. We have an age-four kindergarten program in some rural communities to provide a head start for children before the age of five.
The special education division of the Department of Education also provides a lot of support for teachers and for students throughout the Yukon. In February, they held a two-day inservice for 60 teachers and administrators from across the Yukon.
My colleague, the Minister of Health, advises that the existing protocols relate to such things as the child in care, social circumstances, and sometimes for safety-related problems or epilepsy or allergies.
I've already responded to the member that making FAS a reportable syndrome will increase the knowledge base we have on the incidence of FAS.
Mr. Phillips: How soon will that be plugged into the system? Will it be as soon as the doctors' reportable system is up and running? I would imagine - I mean, doctors will be seeing all kinds of children from birth to school age and will be making diagnoses at any given time, I suppose, on an FAS condition, if there is one. So, will that be plugged in immediately? Are we geared up for that?
The way the Minister of Health explained it to me a little bit is that I got an impression that we had to work out a bit of a protocol about notification of parents and all that stuff, and I thought that at least the framework or the guidelines were already in place for epilepsy and other things, where we could plug in FAS as well as another symptom.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We're working on that now, Mr. Chair. The existing protocols could be used as a model for a new protocol to deal with FAS. The chief medical officer of health has contacted the Minister of Health, as he indicated in Question Period today. He is working with the Department of Justice on potential legislative or regulatory amendments that may be required. We hope to deal with this quickly, but we are taking the time to take a thorough look at it.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, the Wood Street Annex - there was some discussion last spring about the future of the Wood Street Annex, and I'm just wondering if the minister could bring us up to date. I know we're running the programs, I guess, until this fall in the Wood Street Annex, and I'm just wondering whether or not - what's moving, where are they moving to, have any decisions been made on the movement of any of the programs? Maybe the minister could bring us up to speed on what the plans are there to offer the programs, how we're going to deal with the issue of busing, and that kind of thing, once the programs are moved.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, over the last few months, I have met with a number of community groups, as well as the Whitehorse high school councils, and with students about the Wood Street centre. We have indicated that Wood Street will continue to operate as a facility offering the MAD and the ACES and the experiential science programs. In addition, the Yukon Entrepreneurship Centre Society is located in Wood Street. They are also working with youth groups. The youth service Canada project was based at Wood Street in 1998, and it will return to Wood Street in 1999. We also have had a request again from Human Resources Development Canada, which relocated the summer student employment office to Wood Street in the summer of 1998, and are interested in doing that in the summer of 1999. We find that that's a good fit.
There has been a lot of support in the community, both from school councils and from students themselves, and this is why we have made a decision to continue to offer those programs downtown, and also to use the programs that are at Wood Street as a model in other schools, to recognize that experiential learning is effective.
I've met with teachers and parents and kids, and made a number of visits to the school. We do not anticipate any changes, but have indicated our commitment to continue to support Wood Street.
Mr. Phillips: When it was questioned last year, the minister said that it was about costs and, with the new changes and the new grade reorganization and the new high schools, that that was the rationale for moving them back at that time - or at least the thought of moving them back; I don't think the decision had been made, but I think there were discussions about it.
Did the minister's work that they did in the calculations and analysis of the situation show that it wasn't worth it, or is it because of discussions with the partners in education? What was the main reason? Is it because she discussed it with the parents and the students and others that they decided to keep it there, that they felt it was the best location, or did the numbers that the minister was raising, as an issue in the spring, not pan out?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I don't think that the member's assessment of the events of the past is strictly accurate. I was responding to questions that alleged that we were planning to close Wood Street and cancel the programs. That never was our intention.
One of the options was always to continue to offer MAD and ACES, experiential science and the entrepreneurship centre at the Wood Street location. That's an option that I supported. That's also an option that students and parents and school councils have supported.
We're pleased that we're able to continue offering those programs out of Wood Street. It was never on the chopping block, other than in speculation on the part of the opposition and others, perhaps, in the media.
Mr. Phillips: Well, I think the minister's got her facts wrong, Mr. Chair. I didn't say it was on the chopping block. What I said was that the minister had lead discussions in this House, in answers to questions from others, about the programs being moved back into some of the schools, where it used to be.
I think it was in F.H. Collins for quite awhile. And I think the minister indicated that we were looking at all the options. It was there before, and we might move it back.
I didn't suggest to cut it - I think it's a great program. In fact, Mr. Chair, my own son went into the ACES program, and today he's in university taking a related program in wilderness tourism management. And hopefully he's going to work in that field in the future, partly because of the good work of the instructor, Jim Boyd, and others in the program who gave him an insight into an opportunity.
So, I don't think the program should be discontinued. I'm just trying to find out what the minister did last spring and winter, when the minister said, "These are other options we're considering." I just want to know why they didn't choose them.
Did they just decide to go with the students' and the parents' and the teachers' consultations, that they said they wanted to keep it there? The minister's rationale at the time was that it could be more cost effective if it was moved back in some of the schools, and there was a change now with the new high schools, and so there might be an opportunity there.
So, I'm just trying to find out from the minister why she said she was moving them. I'm not suggesting from that that we should cut them. I think there's a good use for them, and I know that some students have benefited extremely from the program. I'm just trying to find out why they made the decision.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Let me be clear for the benefit of the member opposite. I didn't say that I was moving the programs. What I did say is that the original commitment, when those programs moved into Wood Street, was that the programs would be there for three years, ending at the end of the 1998-1999 school year. That was the original three-year commitment.
In looking to the future, the issue was not strictly what the costs were of offering those programs in those schools. We wanted to create an atmosphere where kids could do well in these programs. We would like to see more of these programs developed in other schools.
When I met with the school councils of the four high schools in Whitehorse, as well as with the teachers and with parents and students, there was virtually unanimous support of those programs continuing in Wood Street, as well as some innovative activities to see those kinds of programs offered in other schools.
We supported the continuation of the program at Wood Street because it was the sensible choice.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I'd like to move on for a bit to advanced education, and there has been some debate in the House and in the public with respect to funding for the college. I think there is some confusion, and I don't know who is responsible for it, but if you listen to the people who are in charge of the college, there is a very strong concern from the president and the financial officer at the college that they are in a bit of a financial bind.
Partly as a result of the shortfall last year of some $250,000, the government decided not, for one reason or another, to put it into the college's budget.
Now, the minister's argument is, "Well, we gave the money back this year." Unfortunately, because of the multi-year program, the college had committed the money, there has been a shortfall and the college has had to dip into its surplus. Now, they're at the point where they're considering cutting programs, Mr. Chair. In fact, the quote from the president said, "It's certainly an option that we're looking at. I think that's a fair statement." said Sally Ross. That's in relation to cutting programs.
Mr. Chair, the government talks, time in and time out - and even the minister herself today - about maintaining its funding in Education. Yet, that's not what we hear from teachers and people at the college. They say, at best, the government has maintained the status quo in the public school system and actually cut back in the advanced education area. I'd like to ask the minister if, after having met with the president of the college and listened to the pleas for assistance, is the minister prepared to entertain making up the shortfall for the college in this next fiscal year?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, there's more than one issue here that the member's putting on the table. Let me be clear that I was upfront with the college when I met with them and I've met with the college staff regularly since I got this position of Minister of Education.
When I met with the Yukon College board chair, president and financial administration officer, and we signed a three-year agreement for the O&M funding for the college, I made it very clear that we were supplying a $10 million assurance over the next three years, so that they could do some long-range planning. That's something that the college appreciated, in part because their budget year is based on the school year and ends June 30 and our budget year ends March 30. So, that three-year security of the $10 million funding was beneficial.
At the same time, I explained to the college that we could not guarantee the level of capital funding. Capital funding is something that changes across departments and across government, and is based on where the need might be. Where other departments took major cuts in spending, there were no cuts to Yukon College.
In addition, the college requested $450,000 for support to build the banner system. We funded the banner system for the $450,000 that was requested. We put $250,000 in one year, in 1998, and $200,000 in 1997.
Programs are funded out of the operations and maintenance budget. The O&M budget has been secured at $10 million over a three-year period. In addition, we increased the O&M budget for the college by providing them with some funds for collective agreement increases. In the present budget, there is the $10 million that was secured - long-term commitment of funding to the college - as well as $309,000 to cover collective agreement increases.
In addition, we have put money in the budget for the Yukon College access road. There was $650,000 for that project in the present budget year, and there is another $100,000 to complete that project in the next budget year.
The college has also been the delivery agent for a number of programs in rural communities so that they've seen a benefit of over $900,000 in various contracts, both through the Northern Research Institute conducting studies for advanced education and for administration of the trust fund and offering the Canada-Yukon youth internship program that was valued at $200,000.
We support the bachelor of social work program and the Yukon native teacher education program, which are additions to the $10-million base budget, and the value of those programs is $900,000.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, that's very nice for the minister to read all those programs into the record, but many of them were there before. Many of those programs that they had were in place before, so it's not really new money. And I can see why the college would want to secure a three-year agreement on funding because, shortly after the NDP came into power, they reduced the college budget by $500,000 in the O&M. So I can understand why they would be eager to see that there was some kind of a three-year agreement. And I would fully have expected, as well - because the Yukon territorial government's collective agreement is so closely tied to the college - that there would be some commitment from the government to pick up the costs of the collective agreement in the O&M budget.
But the concern we have now, regardless of where the government is putting its money, is that the college has clearly let the government know that there is a problem. I get the feeling, from the college board and the discussions that have taken place, that the minister is ignoring that concern.
I just wonder what the minister plans to do if the college has to announce next year that it's going to start to cut and reduce programs. Is the minister prepared to accept that? I mean, the college has gone through quite an administrative cut itself in reducing its administrative costs, so, you know, when the college starts to come out with a list of programs that it's going to cut, does the minister have any contingency plan to ensure that these programs will continue in the future, or are we just going to let the college make that decision and just do without those programs?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The college financial records show a $500,000 reduction in the budget when the Yukon Party government was in office. Now, the member opposite is standing up and saying that we have reduced the budget. That's not the case. And, Mr. Chair, the college was quite emphatic that, in fact, although a reduction was shown when the Yukon Party was still in office, it wasn't a reduction because the Yukon Party was helping to cushion the shortfall when HRDC cut over $1 million from the college budget.
Human Resources Development Canada used to contribute between five percent and seven percent of the total revenues when they were purchasing seats for courses that were being offered at the college. That money is gone now. It is down to zero in the present year.
There may be some changes based on the HRDC not funding the purchase of seats as they used to do. We may be able to come to some resolution on that with the federal government.
The college board is an independent board that has the ability to manage their budget and to make programming decisions. They haven't come out yet indicating that they will need to make programming cuts. When I last met with the college board, they requested an increase in their capital base budget. We've responded to that and put an increase to $750,000 in the 1999-2000 budget year, and we've also indicated a commitment to three-year funding at $750,000 for the capital budget for the college, responding to their needs.
Mr. Phillips: Let me read something into the record here. "'The Yukon College may have to cut programs and services due to an unexpected drop in funding from the territorial government,' says the college president.' In the quote I said before, it's certainly an option we're looking at. I think that's a fair statement,' said Sally Ross. It's not clear yet what programs could be cut or when the ax will fall, but the college expects to have finished ranking the most needed programs in about six weeks."
The question I'd like to ask the minister is, if the minister doesn't want to see any programs cut at the college, shouldn't the minister be asking for a meeting with the college president right away, in light of the comments, to save them the whole exercise of priorizing the programs, and sitting down with the college and coming to some kind of an arrangement, or agreement, where they won't have to cut programs?
Because I think Yukoners are going to be rather disturbed if the college starts to cut some of its programs.
So I'd like to ask the minister if she would sit down with the college president and the board, and come to some resolution of this, to save the board the agony of going through the process of cutting out some much-needed Yukon College programs.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I have met with the college board and the college president on an ongoing basis, and as recently as last week. Prioritizing programs is ongoing work that Yukon College does and that any college does. They need to be sure that they're meeting current educational needs. They need to be sure that their programs are effective.
When I met with the college, they were not clear on when and if programs may have to be cut. We have a healthy, ongoing relationship and, as I've indicated in this House in response to the member's line of questioning, we have increased funding to the college. We have made a significant financial and long-term commitment to supporting Yukon College, both in their base budget and in support for other projects, such as their new increased base capital budget, the bachelor of social work and YNTEP programs, as well as a number of other literacy and employment training, and training trust activities, for which the college has received financial support from the Yukon government.
Mr. Phillips: So, can I glean from that that the minister is saying that in the meeting they had with the college last week, the college basically said there were no problems, and that they can get by with what they have, and that they'll maybe call the minister at a later date if they feel they've got a problem?
Is that a fair analysis of what the minister said?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: What the college did was to provide an overview of their expenses for the banner system as well as their ongoing operations and maintenance budgets over the nine years since Yukon College was established by the previous NDP government as an independent entity with a college act and a board of governors to make programming decisions.
We have added to the college budget to support collective agreement increases. We will continue to meet regularly with the college and try to support their ongoing efforts to have the best post-secondary education options available for students in the Yukon.
Mr. Phillips: Well, the minister didn't really answer my question. Did the college basically tell her that everything was okay - that they had a meeting and that they don't need any extra funding at this time, and that they think they can maintain the programs they've got?
Is that what the minister was told at the meeting, or was she told that they have some strong concerns about the ability to maintain the programs they have with the budget they have?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The college board was meeting this past weekend to look at their budgets and to look at a whole range of issues, including programs and capital projects. The college board indicated that they would be coming up with a record of decisions after their meetings, and I haven't heard back from them.
Mr. Phillips: Well, I'll look forward to hearing what their concerns may be, as well.
Mr. Chair, the one area of concern that I have is the coordination of advanced education in the territory. Yukon College has always been the main deliverer, so to speak, of advanced education in this territory, but we're quickly embarking upon a new era of programs called training trust funds.
The concern I have is that there doesn't appear to be a very close relationship between the government departments that are dealing with the training trust funds and Yukon College, which is the main deliverer of advanced education in the territory.
Can the minister tell me if there was any prior consultation with the college with respect to establishing new training trust funds? How do we select the training trust fund and educational training trust fund for a specific field? Who do we talk to before we put such a fund together?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Effective cooperation between advanced education and Yukon College is a goal that's extremely important to me. At the present time, Yukon College serves on an ex officio basis on some of the training trust fund boards. In addition, the college administers some of the training trust funds. The Carmacks training trust fund totalling $150,000 - Yukon College holds the money for this fund in trust.
As well, the South Yukon Forest Corporation training, $100,000 is held by Yukon College and the Watson Lake training trust fund of $200,000 is held by the college.
There have also been a number of activities that have involved Yukon College, advanced education, First Nations and community groups. Those include the Kwanlin Dun airport training project, the Old Crow level 2 carpentry, the Burwash equipment operator training, oil and gas training for Old Crow; there was recently a Ross River pre-trades qualifier course in canvassing for local residents who may be eligible for hire on the new Ross River School construction project, and a White River equipment operator training program.
So, at the local level, advanced education would talk with industry as well as with groups in the community, and that includes the local Yukon College board as in the case of the recent Haines Junction trust fund, the First Nation and others.
We recognize that it's important for the college and advanced education to work well together, and that's a direction that I've given to the department.
Mr. Phillips: Well, that sounds like the minister's version. I'm hearing other versions out there.
I understand they're setting up these training trust fund boards in some of the communities. In most cases, of course, many of the people who sit on the boards are the same people who sit on the college boards in the communities as well. They're people who are concerned about advanced education.
I'm wondering why there isn't a closer relationship between the training trust funds and the minister and the college community campuses. They are advisors, but when you get down to it and you start looking at who sits on the training trust fund board in a small community, for the most part it's almost the same people. So, why would you set up a separate board? Why wouldn't you just utilize the network that the college has spent several years establishing?
The people on the college board would be the main administrators of the program. Why wouldn't you do it that way?
The other issue I'm hearing, Mr. Chair, is that sometimes the college is the last to hear about a training trust fund. In fact, in some cases I'm even hearing that some of the groups and organizations who the training trust funds are for are almost the last to hear. They are called up three hours before there is a ministerial statement in the House and are told that, by the way, there's a training trust fund. They've raised the issues of who asked for it, what does it do and how do we work it out, and they've said, "Don't worry about it, there'll be meetings afterwards and we'll sort all this out later."
I'm just wondering how we come up with these ideas for training trust funds. With whom do we consult? Who requests them? I know that the one from Watson Lake, I think, was requested by the industry in Watson Lake, and that is legitimate. With some of the other ones, the boards and groups themselves, or the individuals and industries concerned, didn't even know they were coming down the pike.
I'm just wondering how we conclude that we need these particular programs, and what involvement does the Yukon College have? They've got a whole list of activities that the college covers. I'm concerned about some overlap with respect to people who might be on the boards and overlap with programs the college might already be delivering.
I would think that, when you're talking advanced education, the main deliverer of advanced education should be fairly paramount in any discussions that go on with future programs, just so that, first of all, the advanced education branch knows what's being done already, and so that the department also knows what support there already is in the communities, like the community campuses, which can deliver some of these programs for them.
And I know that they are doing some of that now, but I'm hearing in some areas that they're almost the last to hear about it, and I wonder if the minister has any comments on that.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, we do want to use the networks that the Yukon College and its campus committees have established throughout the Yukon, and we make an effort to do that. Yukon College is often the training agent of choice when a training trust fund is established.
We also want to respond to specific training needs. That's why we have allocated funds for training trusts in forestry and agriculture and mining and with the Association of Yukon Communities and the Tourism Industry Association to provide some examples for the minister. Advanced education has been active with industry sectors in establishing training trust funds. They've also been active in informing Yukon College of their activities. I discussed this with the college board and made a commitment to ensure that communications are effective between the college board and advanced education. Many of the agreements that are in place in relation to training trust funds do reference Yukon College as a place that offers a lot of training in the territory and may be the best mechanism for delivering training.
The training trust fund boards also, as I've indicated to the member, often have Yukon College representation on them. The new organizations that set up the board to develop a training plan meet the requirements of the Yukon Societies Act and have an administrative structure in place as well.
Mr. Phillips: Administering a trust is fairly involved. I mean, you have to know what you're doing. Is there any training involved at all with any of the groups or organizations with respect to the training trust funds, or do we just appoint people? What kind of administrative support do we supply? You know, you can't just give somebody a couple of hundred thousand dollars and say, "Go ahead and do a forest training trust fund." There have to be some guidelines or some way to administer trust funds.
Is there a training program that we offer through Yukon College or through the government or in any way, so people have an idea of what their responsibilities or liabilities might be with respect to these programs?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, there are guidelines in the agreement that lay out the scope of activities and the standards that the board would have to follow. In addition, there is a staff member from the advanced education branch who works as a liaison with the community and with the community-based training trust fund board.
In some cases, as in the Association of Yukon Communities training trust fund, it may take some time for the board to be up and running and to actually approve programs. However, we have found that those boards are responsible. The ongoing training courses, for instance, that have been offered by the AYC training trust fund include a local government leadership program, a Kwanlin Dun student support worker's training, and negotiation skills and mediation training for various administrators and municipal leaders in a number of communities.
Mr. Phillips: How do we come up with the idea of a training trust fund? I'll give as an example the agricultural training trust fund. There was a comment made by, I think, the president of the Agricultural Association that they heard about the trust fund three hours before it was announced and that nobody had really sat down and said, "we want to do this". I'm not sure if they knew where the idea originated from. They were curious about how it all came about.
I'm not saying it's a bad idea. In fact, I think the Agricultural Association is sort of working on it and trying to come up with some ideas and suggestions.
How do we come up with these training trust funds? Does the minister write a letter to the industry and ask the industry if they're interested or does the industry write a letter to the minister asking the minister to set one up for a certain sector? How does the minister come about developing it?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, there are a number of ways that a training trust fund might be established. In many cases, an industry group, or a community group, will come forward and request support and indicate what their general idea is, and what training they believe they need.
In addition, the advanced education branch has been active in approaching the industry, and working to support training trust funds in a number of sectors. I think that's a good thing, Mr. Chair. We've had support through training trust funds for oil and gas training, for mine training, in forestry, and in agriculture. In some cases, the industry approaches the government; in other cases, the government might see a recognized need, and approach the industry.
Mr. Phillips: Well, you know, the minister said that the college, from time to time, prioritizes programs and looks at the needs out there in the industry, and then bases its planning - or programs it delivers - on the need out there. So, I'm just trying to find out from the minister if the training trust funds take the same approach, or how we do it.
Now, is there anything written into the guidelines? I would, by the way, like a copy of the guidelines the minister set for administering a fund. If she's got a copy of that, I wouldn't mind getting a copy of that.
But the other concern I have is if there's any process by which we evaluate the success of the training trust fund. Is there some kind of way in which we want to measure the success, or do we just set up the fund and the money goes out? Do we do follow-up? I know some of these are relatively new, but do we do follow-up on how many people were trained, whether the industry continued, what happens in the future with it? What kind of an evaluation do we do?
And maybe if the minister could - if there are any that we've set up over a couple of years ago, that have been running, and we've done some evaluations, and the minister has them - if she could provide them to us. It would be interesting to see what the evaluations say, with respect to the fund.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, we do monitor the success of the training trust fund and the various training initiatives that are undertaken. As an example, the Yukon Tourism Industry Association training trust fund, which provides for training in the tourism industry, initially had a Yukon government contribution of $200,000. It pays 50 percent of an individual's training cost to a maximum of $500 a year. Canada has contributed $100,000 to the fund, once it was established. The kinds of courses that offered include: avalanche safety, raft guide training, heritage interpreter training, CPR and first aid.
The Watson Lake training project is one that has the longest history. There was initially $500,000 contributed in 1992 and another $200,000 in 1997-98. The original funds were to provide for training at the Sa Dena Hes mine. Of the original $500,000 contribution that the Yukon government made, the Watson Lake training project was able to bring in other contributions of $1 million from private sector employers and other governments and organizations. That's a very successful initiative.
So, those are some measures that we used to know how the training trust funds are working. There are administrative clauses in each of the individual agreements and I have provided the minister with copies of those agreements in the past and I can provide him with copies of the more recent agreements.
There is a requirement for annual reporting of the boards of the training trust funds, and the advanced education branch touches base with that board at least on an annual basis.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, the minister mentioned a few moments ago the tourism training trust fund, and I go back to my comments awhile ago when I talked about the coordination. There already are some tourism-related programs offered at Yukon College, in training. How much coordination is there between - let's use that example - the tourism training trust fund and the programs offered at the college? So that we're not having any duplication or we're not - I mean, we've already got the tourism program at the college. I know it is somewhat of a different program, but I mean there is some administrative staff there, there are people there, they've got the ability, the communications network out in the communities for delivering the programs that they have now. What I'm concerned about is that we don't have a lot of money in the trust fund, but a great deal of it can be eaten up just in administration or in managing the fund.
Wouldn't it be better to have coordinated the tourism training trust fund with the programs we already run at the college, working closely with the college, and bring in some people from TIA and industry or whatever you have to do? I know TIA was even involved initially in the programs that are running at the college, so they were involved in that.
All I'm saying is that we're far too small to be setting up these programs all over the place that are working in the same sectors, because I'm sure it's got to create some duplication. Maybe there's a better way to do it and deliver the program.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: Yes, I'm sure there's a better way to do it than by duplication. And I have some real concerns that that's not the only one. There are others out there, too. There are some negotiations and programs on that, and mediation, that are involved in some of the training trust funds, and I know the college is offering those programs as well.
Again, I'm wondering about the duplication of people, and maybe we should be working more closely with the college in that, especially in light of these programs that you want to deliver in the communities, and in light, Mr. Chair, that the college has such a good network already set up in the communities. There's no point in duplicating that.
So, I raise that to the minister as a point, because I really get this feeling from people I've talked to at the college and from people I've even talked to in the industry that there is some duplication going on, and we can get a much better bang for our buck and do a lot more training of people if we made sure that these programs were a little more coordinated.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We do encourage boards to work with Yukon College. The member referred to the Tourism Industry Association training trust fund, and I gave an example of some of the courses that they have offered. Many of the courses that they have offered are 12-hour courses or perhaps two-week courses. Yukon College is often the delivery agent that does offer the training.
As I have said to the member, I have made a commitment to the college to work with it to ensure that there is effective coordination on training trust funds. There are a number of training trust funds in existence at the present time where the college is represented on the board or where indeed the college administers those training trust funds. I have provided the college board with a listing of the training trust funds that are in existence and the names of board members so that they can ensure that, if there is not a liaison, one is established.
I thank the member for his representation. I agree that we need to avoid duplication and that we need to be working effectively with the Yukon College, and that is one of our goals.
Chair: Is it the wish of members to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now Committee of the Whole to order.
We are dealing with the Department of Education. Is there further general debate?
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, before I leave the issue of the training trust funds, I do want to make some points. The minister said that she has agreed to work with the college on training trust funds. Is the minister saying that, in the future, there won't be any announcements of training trust funds without some coordinated effort through the college, or is the minister saying that there will be some they'll talk to the college on? I'd just like to get an idea. There's a lot more money in this budget for training trust funds, and I want to know if they're all going to be coordinated through the college.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, as I indicated to the member, I have made a commitment to work with Yukon College on the subject of training trust funds.
I've also indicated that there are a number of training trust funds that the college administers and that, both through informal and formal discussions, we will continue to work with Yukon College on all post-secondary education and training issues.
Mr. Phillips: But there are also a number of training trust funds that the college doesn't administer, that are done separately, and that's my point. They're the main deliverer of advanced education in the territory, and the concern I'm hearing from the college perspective is that the government is moving in another direction now, setting up these other little groups or agencies or training trust fund boards to hand out money for training with respect to the various sectors.
People are concerned about the coordination. In fact, some people are very concerned that, rather than coordinating it with Yukon College, it's being used more as a political tool to play people one against the other, in some cases. People are very concerned that there isn't a coordinated effort between the main deliverer of advanced education and this government.
In many cases, they hear about - in fact, I think the minister, in one of the meetings she had with people of the college, said, "Well, you can get involved in the training trust funds, because you people know how to deliver most of the programs." Well, it was kind of an after-the-fact you can get involved. It wasn't sitting down with the college and looking at what plans they have for new programs in the future, or needs that have been demonstrated by them going out and talking to the industry and finding out what's needed. It's just been the government making an announcement and the college having to follow along afterward, because the government is using these trust funds as a political tool.
I'm very concerned that there isn't the coordinated approach to dealing with the training trust funds in the future, so I would like some kind of a commitment from the minister that there won't be any future announcements of training trust funds unless it's a coordinated effort through the main deliverer of education, the Yukon College, so that they're at least aware of where the government's going, they're on side and there's no duplication, and we can maximize the use of the services we already have in delivering programs which, in some cases, I believe, we are duplicating.
So, can the minister give us the commitment on the floor here today that she won't be - and her government won't be - announcing any new training trust funds without at least first sitting down with Yukon College and discussing with them what is already out there and what involvement the college could have in delivering the program?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I've indicated that I have a good working relationship with the college, as does my department. We meet regularly with them, and we discuss these issues with the college on an ongoing basis.
I've also indicated that I have made a commitment to the college to work with them on training trust funds and on meeting the training needs throughout the territory. The member suggested earlier this afternoon that we have provided funding to groups with only three hours' notice of a training trust fund. That's absolute nonsense, Mr. Chair.
In the case of the Yukon Agricultural Association, the board was working with the advanced education branch for a couple of months about the process of the development of the training trust fund for the agriculture industry before it was announced.
We also are going to continue to work with the college so that we're aware of their work and they're aware of what we're doing. We find that training trust funds are an effective training tool that can be industry-based or community-based. The member opposite, when he was in government, had some training trust fund activities in Ross River and other places. I believe that they're a good tool to use for offering training in the territory, and, yes, I have made a commitment that the department and I will continue to work with Yukon College.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, maybe the minister could tell me what would be wrong with the minister taking the money from the training trust funds and putting it in the college's budget, meeting with the college board and encouraging the college board to work in these specific areas that they're already working in many cases, so that whenever they did work in areas like, for example, tourism, that there is a coordinated approach with what is already being done? What would be wrong with that? I mean, the minister can certainly meet with the college and use them as the main facilitator or the administrator of the fund.
Do you know what it indicates to me? In a way, it indicates that when the minister is setting up these funds separate from the college that the minister doesn't have confidence in the college to deliver some of the programs. I think that's a cause for concern.
I mean, is that case? Is the minister not confident in the work the college does? Is the minister - I mean, it was the NDP government that established the college years ago - losing confidence in the college's ability to establish training programs for the future for Yukoners?
I think the mandate of the college is to anticipate the needs of Yukoners in the future and develop programs to facilitate those needs, but I wonder why the government is choosing to go a separate route where they go more directly to the sector as opposed to offering training at the college, for example. They set up a training trust fund for the Conservation Society. Well, there are dozens of programs at Yukon College about the environment.
And why couldn't that kind of a program be dealt with through Yukon College? I don't understand. I mean, the Yukon College could work with people in the Yukon Conservation Society or other environmental groups like the Fish and Game Association and others to develop training needs. The Conservation Society has one aspect of training needs, but the Fish and Game Association might have another. Is the government going to set up a training trust fund of $150,000 for the Fish and Game Association? Where are we going with this? I'm concerned that we're establishing these training trust funds specific to a group or an industry, and there seems to be more of a political motive than there is a motive to actually achieving some kind of training success. I mean, you've got a multi-million dollar facility sitting up on the hill that has a network that stretches to every community and nook and cranny of this territory, and we're setting up these separate training trust funds. So, it's either that you don't have confidence in the college to deliver the program, or you want to use it for maybe some political purpose.
I mean, I'm trying to find out where the minister is coming from with these training trust funds, because obviously they are popping up all over the place, and there is a bunch more money in this budget. I mean, it's one thing for the minister to rise in the House and say that she's going to work with the college with respect to future training, but if all she does is phone them up or drop them a note saying, "We've set up a new training trust fund and this is the sector it's in", that's not working together with the partners in education.
What I'd like to get from the minister is a commitment that the minister will not set up any future training trust funds in any sector without a coordinated effort with the college, that they don't get broad-sided or surprised or hear about it after it's announced in the House or whatever, and that they are fully involved in working with the government with respect to the needs and working with the industry with respect to the needs, and then developing a program.
Maybe there's a way. There are a lot of empty classrooms up there that could be filled up in some evenings or daytimes, or in the communities that could be filled up from time to time with these programs. There's no need to run a duplicate program.
So, I'd like to know from the minister if she's prepared to give the commitment today that there won't be any future allocation of training trust funds without the full involvement of Yukon College.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the member's speculation is hypothetical and completely inaccurate. We support Yukon College as a primary vehicle for program development and delivery. We have over $10 million in our operations and maintenance budget for Yukon College.
Yukon College has benefited with the Canada-Yukon youth internship program, of a value of $200,000. Yukon College delivered courses in six rural communities. Yukon College also had $53,000 from training trust fund monies for supporting literacy initiatives in a number of communities. There have been arts, business and culture training at Mayo, worth $70,000, that Yukon College is coordinating through its Mayo campus. Yukon College is also holding in trust the money for the Carmacks training trust fund, the South Yukon Forest Corporation and the Watson Lake training trust fund.
Yukon College has been the contractor doing the oil and gas skills inventory for southeast Yukon, for a value of $50,000; the women in apprenticeship program, for $20,000; and the immigration services database, for $56,000.
We've also worked with Yukon College on some trades-related training for the Kwanlin Dun airport, Old Crow carpentry, Old Crow oil and gas training, and equipment operator training in Burwash and in White River.
We've had another $25,000 spent through Yukon College for the Ross River pre-trades qualifier. So, for the member opposite to stand up and say that we're not collaborating and working effectively with Yukon College is patently false. There is a total of $994,000 in initiatives, where the training trust fund monies have flowed through Yukon College. That's something that has occurred in the past. I have stood here now several times this afternoon and made the commitment that I have indicated to the college that we will continue to work with them and ensure that they are involved in training trust funds.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister is right about a couple of things. The college is the primary deliverer of post-secondary education programs in the territory. The minister just listed a bunch of programs and then totalled them up for me, which I thank her for doing - $994,000. Well, that's training trust funds. With $944,000, she is working with the college.
Mr. Chair, the budget last year was $2.144 million. Training trust funds, last year, 1998-99, $2.144 million training trust funds in the budget. My point is that over 50 percent of the training trust fund money isn't coordinated with the college. This year, there's another $1.5 million in training trust funds. The minister may or may not discuss them with the college or involve them with the college.
I am concerned that we have Yukon College and then we have this other thing right underneath Yukon College - capital, on page 5-6 - that talks about the training trust funds. It's being used without coordinating the efforts with Yukon College, for the most part - for over 50 percent of it.
The minister is shaking her head, but I mean, the minister just gave me the facts and figures here - $994,000 - and her budget number is $2.144 million. So there's over a million - almost $1.2 million - that is unaccounted for. That's a lot of money in education. And it's even more money when it's not a coordinated approach, when it's just the minister and her political cronies deciding on where it goes without a coordinated effort with the people who deliver post-secondary education. As the minister says, "The primary deliverer of post-secondary education in the territory is Yukon College."
And so what I want from the minister this afternoon is a commitment that in this $1.5 million that we're talking about in training trust funds, the college will be fully involved in any future training trust fund as the primary deliverer of advanced education in the territory - that it won't be done in the Cabinet room; that it won't be done in the political offices of the members opposite; that it will be done in coordination with Yukon College and the industries involved so that we're not duplicating services we already have. I understand that in some cases, some of the programs they've worked with with the college, they've come in as an afterthought. The college wasn't brought in initially, but the college was brought in later on, and the college has had to make some adjustments to programs they deliver to help out in these areas.
And so it's just a matter of coordination. I'm trying to find out from the minister whether the minister is using this training trust fund line - and "trust" I think is a misnomer - as an educational training fund, or is using it as some kind of a political fund to score some political points in some areas.
We do need training. What we need more than training right now is jobs, Mr. Chair, because many Yukoners have left. There are very few people left to train. What I'm concerned about is we need to certainly look at where the college is at with their training and what they're doing, and take a coordinated approach to our training, so that we're not causing overlap and duplication.
So, I'd like to get a commitment from the minister that she won't hand out any more of this $1.5 million without full consultation with the college board with respect to the advanced education programs and the training that they offer. Will the minister do that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the member's premise is wrong; just because we don't flow the dollars directly to Yukon College doesn't mean that we don't coordinate with them. We do coordinate with Yukon College.
The member's also wrong when he says that we are sitting around in political circles making the decisions. We have a lot of work to do in making the political decisions. We're not making the decisions when it comes to the expenditures of training trust funds. There are community-based boards that are put in effect when a training trust fund is created. The decision making belongs with the citizens who are in the community. We do not direct the community when, for example, they came up with the Association of Yukon Communities training trust fund, that they must engage Yukon College to offer the training. We encourage them to engage Yukon College. We encourage Yukon College and the AYC to be aware of each other's needs and interests and, where the college could offer the training, the college does.
I've outlined a number of examples where the college has provided the training for various projects that have been undertaken by a training trust fund.
The board of a training trust fund registers with the registrar of societies, under the terms of the Societies Act. They establish a training plan that meets the needs of the forestry industry, the mining industry, the agricultural industry, to name some examples, before they offer the training.
We work with Yukon College; we encourage the boards to work with Yukon College. There is a training trust fund for youth that we created. We provided them with $200,000 to sponsor projects that help youth develop lifeskills and work skills. That training trust fund has a board that is responsible for administering the fund. They have a plan that's based on the work that was done with youth when we sat down and met with youth, and said we wanted to establish a training trust fund for youth, and wanted them to be able to make decisions on how to spend that money.
They recently allocated $22,500 for a youth conference. That's not training that was offered through Yukon College. The youth conference actually was held at Yukon College, and Yukon College was involved, but we did not dictate to the youth training trust fund board that they couldn't fund anything that wasn't being offered at Yukon College. We want to continue to support community-based initiatives that deliver training to meet the needs.
We also - and I have made the commitment to the member opposite several times this afternoon, and I am making it again now - will continue to work collaboratively with Yukon College. They are administering many of the training trust funds at the present time. They are aware of all of the training trust funds in existence. They've been provided with current, updated information on the training trust funds and the board members who are working on them.
We will continue to work collaboratively with Yukon College, both on existing training trust funds and on future ones.
Mr. Phillips: Well, if you listen to the minister, Mr. Chair, you'd think that there was nothing wrong, that everything is fine, that the college is happy. I'm just telling the minister that I'm hearing that they're not happy. I'm hearing that there isn't a lot of coordination. I'm hearing that there is very little training, if any at all, offered to individuals in the communities who are put on these boards administering the funds. I'm hearing that there is overlap. I'm hearing that the college has an extensive network in place to deliver programs in the communities, and in some cases it's not being used at all by the government with the training trust funds. I'm hearing that the college is sometimes almost the last to hear about some of the announcements with respect to training trust funds, and I hope what I'm hearing from the minister today is that in the future there will be much more coordination with this $1.5 million.
I'll put the minister on notice that in the next budget in the fall when we come back here I'll be asking some very serious questions about how much we did coordinate with the college, and I would hope that the college will also be reading this debate to see that the minister's words really mean what they mean, and that there will be coordination and cooperation and that they will not just be sort of told after the fact what they're going to do and not be involved in it. I think that there are many dollars available for this kind of effort - training - and that we should be doing everything we can to coordinate it through an agency that has been well set-up and established and has delivered programs successfully for years in this territory, and we should be utilizing them and not setting up duplicate boards and committees in the territory, which, in many cases - and especially in the communities - are composed for the most part by the same people who are on the college board.
That's the concern that I'm hearing out there.
Mr. Chair, I have a few more questions. I'm going to go back to public schools for a bit. There was an article in one of the local newspapers on January 27 with respect to Whitehorse Elementary students. The article said that many students of Whitehorse Elementary fall well below the national average for math and reading skills. I just wonder if, as a result of the article, what steps the minister has taken to respond to that. I know that the deputy - one of the officials in Education - said that it was more related to social issues than it was to other things. He talked about a high degree of absenteeism and that kind of thing. I am just wondering if they are aware of these problems. What is the government doing with respect to dealing with them?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Staff from the Department of Education are meeting with the administration of the school, as well as with the school council and the staff to discuss what educational strategies can help the students at Whitehorse Elementary to achieve better results.
The staff from Health and Social Services and Education will also be meeting to discuss the needs of the school and possible changes for programs or strategies that can affect the education of the students in the school.
Mr. Phillips: Other than the comments made by Pat Berrel, has there been any other evaluation done with respect to Whitehorse Elementary or any performance indicators, or are we just looking at the math and reading skills? Has there been anything else done other than that? Is the department concerned? Has it received any concerns or complaints from parents with respect to any problems at the school? Are we making any changes or doing anything about it?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There were several questions there, Mr. Chair.
No, I haven't received letters from parents or students or the school council. The test results, the CTBS test results, were one of the factors that were looked at.
The member asked about what programs and initiatives we have underway. We support early intervention programs such as the reading recovery program. We have in-servicing available to staff to look at ways to improve literacy and numeracy. Those are items that we are discussing with the school council. We endeavour to ensure that all our staff in the schools are offering the best education that they can for the students, and to meet the needs in Whitehorse Elementary as well as in every other school.
Mr. Phillips: There was a report prepared by Mr. Berrel, and is there any intention to make that report public, or what kind of public distribution does the report get? It says he wants to make education more effective for his students and he's prepared a report on the problem and has recommended solutions. That was going to be discussed at the next school council meeting on February 8. Is that report available to others, to the general public, other than the school council to see what was recommended?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I understand that Mr. Berrel wrote the report and provided it to the school council, and it has also been provided to the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Social Services. The school council will be looking at the report and the departments of Education and Health have made a commitment to work with the school.
Mr. Phillips: Is it possible that the minister could provide a copy of the report to the opposition members so we could have a look at what it says, as well?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I can have someone phone and see if there are copies of the report that can be provided for the members opposite.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I don't think the minister has to phone anybody. The minister has a copy of the report in the Department of Education; they could photocopy it for us, and provide copies to us. So I don't know if they have to phone anybody to see if they could get it copied. I think the minister could do it within her own department.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: Well, the minister just said, "... if there are copies ... ." Well, the minister just stood on her feet and told us that her department did have it. So, if the minister could take the report, photocopy it and make it available to us, I'd appreciate getting copies of that.
Are there any other schools in the territory that didn't score well on that particular set of tests, and is there any action being taken in any other schools in the territory at this time?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member opposite asked that question a couple of hours ago. I indicated to him that, as is the normal practice, we were preparing the results of the CTBS test, that those results have not been collated and printed yet, and that when they are we'll provide them to the members.
Ms. Duncan: I'd like to start the discussions this afternoon with respect to the Old Crow school. I'm sure she's updated regularly on the new school in Old Crow and I would like an update as to progress on, not simply the construction of the school, but also progress on the discussions with the school council. There was a special team of the Department of Education working with the Vuntut Gwitchin and the Chief Zzeh Gittlit School Council. How is their work progressing? Could we have an update from the minister?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I understand that the consultant who was working with the community of Old Crow on the rural secondary program of developing a new strategic plan was scheduled to be in the community in February for discussions, and that those discussions were deferred because of the extreme cold weather - I believe there was some problem getting planes into Old Crow - so I don't have a report on that for the member. The work was to be done this spring and when the report comes in, I will be happy to provide it to the member.
Over the past two years, the Government of Yukon and the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation have been working to plan, design and build a new school to replace the one that was destroyed by fire in January 1997. The project has seen good coordination and cooperation between governments. The people of Old Crow were very closely involved in developing the design. They provided input on the location of the school and the layout of the building, and this is a project that has greatly benefited from the local knowledge of the community and the guidance that has been provided.
The construction of the school is ahead of schedule. There has been no change in the official completion date of July 15, 1999. We do anticipate that we will be able to start moving furniture and equipment into the building prior to that date. We remain on target for a September 1999 school start-up.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate that students in Old Crow will be in their new school in September of this year, and I also can appreciate the minister's comment that the work with the consultant with respect to the school council has been delayed by weather. I'm sure it won't be the first or the last time that that situation has happened.
What are students looking at for September 1999 in the school in Old Crow? Will they see any changes at that point, or will the work of the consultant be still ongoing at that point? Will there be an additional grade offered? Will there be new distance learning opportunities available in the school, starting in September, or will all of those options still be under discussion?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The work of the consultant is an initial step in developing a new strategic plan. The implementation of that will be developed with the school council and with the community of Old Crow. The plan is that in September the new Chief Zzeh Gittlit School will be open and will offer kindergarten to grade 9. Any addition to the grade structure would be phased in as we continue discussions with the community on how they may want to make changes for secondary programs.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, what I understand the minister to have said to me is that, for grades 10, 11 and 12, in September 1999, it's still status quo. Those students will still be coming to Whitehorse. The minister is nodding her head, yes.
What sort of a phase-in time period are we looking at to possibly - if that's what the community decides - have the additional grades offered?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I don't want to stand here today and prejudge the outcome of the discussions that haven't yet been held between the consultant and the community. I know that the people of Old Crow are interested in working to expand the grade offerings at the community. I also know that they want to take some time to do it right, to look at curriculum and to consider the cultural environment in Old Crow.
I've indicated that it would be a phased-in approach to expanding the grade offerings in the community. I expect that a two- to three-year window would be realistic. I am, however, speculating, which I don't want to do. We will see what the community says in their discussions with the consultant and as the school council and First Nation consider implementation. And, what could also be offered through distance education.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I appreciate that the minister didn't want to speculate; however, if I could ask her to entertain just one more question on this specific subject, could the minister outline if the school council or the consultant is presenting innovative learning options? I'm thinking of video conferencing, computer hookups - sort of different learning opportunities. Have those kinds of things been presented as options for the new school? I'm asking this in terms of not simply Chief Zzeh Gittlit School, but also some of the other schools - for example, where there may only be two or three students in another rural K to 12 school that are taking chemistry. Are there any innovative options that the department is looking at for Chief Zzeh Gittlit School in that regard and for other Yukon rural schools?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, we already are, in the Department of Education, considering how we can improve and expand the range of course offerings by distance education. That applies not simply to Old Crow, but to other rural communities where the population is such that there may not be a grade 11 or grade 12 course offered in specific subjects. There may be only four grade 11 students in a community.
We do want to continue to build on what we can deliver by distance education. I know that in Old Crow there is a strong interest in distance education and in finding ways for continuing to offer an education to their students in their home community. We are working with the community on that.
Ms. Duncan: I just want to confirm for the record - the minister indicated that the anticipated completion date for the Chief Zzeh Gittlit School, the new one, is July 15, 1999. This is after the original date. The Minister of Government Services had hoped for completion to be in December 1998, so we've missed the deadline along the way.
Can the minister give the final, total cost for the school and also is July 15 a firm deadline or is there another one that we're looking at?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I understood that the completion date of July 15, 1999, has been in effect for quite some time. We remain on target for a September school start-up. The actual total costs for the project, as approved by Management Board, is $9.5 million, which is split into two projects, one being the construction and maintenance of the winter road to Old Crow, which was covered in last year's budget, and the design and construction of the new school, which is a total of $8.76 million.
Ms. Duncan: Could I ask the minister to give the House an update on the current student and staffing levels at Faro? What condition is this particular school in? The rural school facility study is rather old, at this point. What shape is that school facility in? Also, when the minister's discussing Faro, where are the Yukon College facilities in Faro located? Do they make use of the school?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: At the present time, the enrollment at the Del Van Gorder School in Faro is 121 students. I'll have to bring back an answer for the member on the location of the community campus and where they're offering various programs. I know that the college and the community campus committee have offered courses in various locations, and I'll have to get an update for the member on that.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, I move you report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I move the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Committee has considered Bill No. 14, First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, and has 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. Ms. Moorcroft: I move the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice 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 5:27 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled March 8, 1999:
Yukon College 1997-98 Annual Report (Moorcroft)
Yukon College financial statements (dated June 30, 1998) (Moorcroft)
Yukon Gold - Yukon Government Fund Limited: marketing summary (Harding)