Thursday, March 11, 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 at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I have for tabling three documents: the Property Management Agency business plan; the Fleet Vehicle Agency business plan, and the Queen's Printer Agency business plan.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I have some documents for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Tombstone park
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Government Leader on the Tombstone park issue. In the NDP's much tattered and torn A Better Way campaign document, the section on caring for our resources characterizes the Yukon as "an oasis of wilderness in a world of over-developed desert". It states that the Yukon is still small enough a community to allow people to talk, learn together and to reach general consensus for the major and environmental issues that will affect our future.
Well, Mr. Speaker, we now have such an issue in the form of the mining claims in the Cloudy Range of the proposed Tombstone park study area. Since I already know the position of the Minister of Economic Development on these claims, my question is to the Government Leader. I would like to know what his government's position is going to be and what position they are going to take in relationship to the application by Canadian United Minerals for a class-four land use permit for a three-year exploration program to study these claims in the proposed Tombstone park area.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, if the member's copy of A Better Way has been so well read - that it's now tattered and torn - I'd be happy to provide a brand new copy, and the member can enjoy late at night when he's going to bed and he can dream about it in his dreams. It's a wonderful collection of commitments and promises that have largely been fulfilled by the NDP government.
Mr. Speaker, the NDP government, of course, has an aggressive mining promotion agenda. It's also got a very ambitious environmental agenda, both of which are achievable, both of which the government is pursuing.
The mining claim that the member speaks of was, as far as I'm aware, legitimately pursued. It must go through a land use permitting process for determining what kinds of work can happen, and all things, including the future potential uses of the area as a park, will have to be brought up in the context of the process.
Mr. Ostashek: Now, Mr. Speaker, the position that this government takes on these claims will say more about the strength of this government's support for resource investment in the Yukon than all of the incentives that they have put in place to date. If it takes no position, and tries to duck the issue, that will speak even more.
So, I would like to know from the government: what is it going to do? Is it going to support the application? Is it going to oppose the application? Or is it going to say nothing and do nothing? Which option is the government going to choose?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, the option the government's going to choose is to do what all responsible governments do everywhere, and that's to support an appropriate process for reviewing the environmental impacts of any resource developments. That's what we're going to do.
We're not going to prejudge it, as the member wants us to do. We're not going to make this a partisan, political issue, as the members opposite want us to do. We're going to support the process, because good process is what good, professional governments do.
And whether we're managing the resource in waiting, or whether the resource will be managed by the Yukon government in a year's time, the most responsible course of action for this government - for any government - will be to respect the process, and not circumvent it, as the member in the Yukon Party wants me to do.
Mr. Ostashek: That's exactly what I don't want this government to do, to circumvent it, and that's exactly what they are doing.
It already is a political issue because of the actions of this government and it's going to be a bigger political issue unless it's handled in a proper manner.
Mr. Speaker, in A Better Way it states that the parks in areas where land claims are settled can be established intelligently with little effect on future resource development if mineral assessments are one of the criteria for park boundaries.
My question to the Government Leader: can he explain why his government breached this commitment in relationship to the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in settlement by doubling the core area for protection, without a public consultation and without the comprehensive mineral assessment being done? Why did they do that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Firstly, Mr. Speaker, there is a difference between those decisions that are made in the context of a land claims process and those that will be made in the context of the particular areas strategy. The member opposite made all kinds of decisions between the governments with respect to SMAs, with respect to land selections, that were never made public when he was Government Leader. They were done in the context of land claim negotiations.
As far as the proposed Tombstone park is concerned, Mr. Speaker, that was a subject of an election campaign. That was a significant issue in an election campaign, and all the issues were raised, drawn out and discussed in the context of a process where people were competing for public office.
So, to suggest that things are private or secret or kept away from the public eye is nonsense in the context of the Tombstone project.
I'll tell the member this: this government has increased our financial commitment to mineral assessments and outstripped the Yukon Party in this area many times - many times - Mr. Speaker, so we are committed to proper mineral assessments.
Speaker: The Government Leader's time has expired.
Question re: Young Offenders Act, amendments
Mr. Phillips: My question is for the Minister of Justice on the new Young Offenders Act that was tabled in the House of Commons today.
The NDP have left the impression in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker, in the public's mind that they are soft on crime, especially when it comes to young offenders. Now, the new changes to the Young Offenders Act, I think, can be characterized as a small step in the right direction. What I'd like to explore here today with the minister is to raise some of the proposed changes in order to determine whether this government is supportive of them or is lockstep with the Liberals and their small step forward or where the government is going.
So, I'd like to ask the minister if she's in favour of the federal Liberal proposal of lowering the age from 16 to 14 for which young offenders can be given adult sentences, or does she support the position of Ontario and Alberta that are calling for lowering the age even more?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'll respond to this, if I may. I have to say, first of all, we just received some material on this. As a matter of fact, basically what we've received is a fact sheet, which is sort of difficult to work from. We haven't seen the bill itself. It was released today so it's very difficult, at this point, to take a look at the principles and go from there.
My understanding, just working from the fact sheet, is that the age is lowered to 14 for the presumption of adult sentences. We'd have to see really what that implies and we haven't had a chance to examine it in detail. They have extended the presumptive offences to include a pattern of repeat and violent offences.
So, we would really have to take a look and see what's being said. We'll have to take a look and see what the cost implications are for this bill, because it will have some serious costs for us in terms of the administration.
I can tell the member that yesterday - it was only yesterday - that we had an invitation for our officials to travel to Ottawa at the end of March to discuss how the changes -
Speaker: The minister's time has expired.
Mr. Phillips: I am somewhat surprised that the minister is not aware of more details, because we pulled this off the Internet - the House of Commons Web site in Ottawa - first thing this morning. Some of the details are there.
Mr. Speaker, the amendments to the act state that the names of 14- to 17-year-olds given a youth sentence for murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, aggravated assault or repeated violent offences may be published, and publication would also be allowed if the youth is at large and considered by a judge to be dangerous. The position of the Yukon Party is that the word "may" should be changed to "shall" for repeat offenders.
I'd like to ask the minister what his position is about releasing the name of young offenders - or they may release the name of young offenders - who are violent and dangerous. How does the minister feel about that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think in general that we would be in agreement with that, public safety being paramount. As I said, we're working from very sketchy information at this point. Up until just last week, we understood that there were amendments being proposed. The new Youth Criminal Justice Act appears to be substantially different from the Young Offenders Act, and we will have to go through and just assess what it means.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, it's really tough to get an answer from these ministers. You would have thought that they would have a position on it, and they could look at the documents that we looked at this morning and have some kind of an idea of where they were coming from, rather than just give me non-answers here in the House.
Mr. Speaker, from the media reports, I understand that there are some opting-out options from some of the tougher provisions of the act, so I'd like to ask the minister - after he has time to study this - to come back after the spring break with a listing of all the major provisions of the act, and indicate whether his government is supportive of them or not, and ask the minister if he could also tell us which ones he would like to make stronger or weaker, as the case may be. Will he give us that undertaking?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The member seems to be assuming that we're opting out. I understand that this may have been prompted by media reports, once again, that suggest that, perhaps, Quebec may be opting out of some of this.
How can we opt out of something we've just received? How can we opt out of things that we have to examine? How can we opt out of financial implications that, as yet, we don't understand?
Really, Mr. Speaker, the federal minister's idea of consultation was to call up yesterday morning, ask me to be on standby for an hour so she could mention some of these things, and then not call. It's really good consultation, but we think they could probably do it a little bit better and, hopefully, we'll get a chance to look at these and move on from there.
Question re:Young Offenders Act amendments
Mr. Cable: I have some further questions of the same minister on the same subject.
This morning, the Youth Criminal Justice Act was tabled in the House of Commons. This act replaces the Young Offenders Act and, as was mentioned a moment ago, the new act will permit the publication of the names of all youths who receive adult sentences. In addition, it will permit the publication of youths convicted in youth court of violent offences, and also youths who are on the lam and judged to be dangerous.
Now, I notice that the minister and his colleague, the Minister of Justice, when they wrote to the federal minister back in September, said they supported a retention of the general ban on publication. Judging from the answer given a few moments ago, that view has been softened. Is my understanding of the minister's position correct?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would suggest, yes, and we have never said that we would support a ban - a wholesale ban - of names for general young offenders. I don't think, for an example, of a young person who would do, for example, a minor offence, that it would do them any good or do their families any good for that name to be published.
However, I think, in the case of public safety issues, when a person is involved in an offence - where it may be a dangerous offence, or a repeat offence, or the person is at large and deemed to be dangerous - we can support that, or if the judge, for example, determines that publication, you know, is appropriate, we can support that, because public safety is paramount.
Mr. Cable: Okay, well, I gather then the minister has given some thought to the contents of the bill.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: Well, do your best. It's just Question Period.
Does the minister agree with the provision that would permit this government - that's the Yukon government - to require youth or their parents to pay for the legal bills of the youths, if they are fully capable of paying?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, I think one of the things that we would want to do is make sure that parents do offer a degree of responsibility for their children's behaviour. I think this is something that is just an assumption, that we would assume that parents do have a responsibility for taking care of their children - especially children that might cause property damage and so on and so forth.
So I think that's an appropriate clause.
Mr. Cable: There's another clause that permits harsher penalties for adults - and that would include parents, of course - who willfully fail to comply with undertakings made to the court to supervise youth, who have been denied bail, and placed in the care of those adults.
Does the minister agree with that? Can he give us his first reactions?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm somewhat - I'm doing some of these things off the cuff, because we actually haven't seen them, and I don't even know to what degree that implies. I don't know if we would hold parents criminally responsible for the actions of their children, or what the failure to supervise implies. I would have to take a look at it; I'll have my department take a look at it, we'll do a review, and I can answer the member in fullness.
I would suggest that, with the hotline to Ottawa, maybe they could ask Ms. McLennan, when she has another piece of legislation, if we could get a little more consultation in the future.
Question re: Young Offenders Act, amendments
Mr. Cable: On the same topic and for the same minister, it's my position that we can tinker with the Young Offenders Act and this new act until the cows come home, but the act isn't going to work unless there's enough staff in place to make the legislation work.
Does the minister have enough staff on the ground now to make the present Young Offenders Act work? Does he have enough staff to adequately supervise community service work orders, for example?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We believe we have sufficient staff under the present Young Offenders Act. However, one of the things I noticed in here was a sense of mandatory supervision after a child has been in custody. That would imply something akin, I suppose, to a parole system or perhaps a juvenile parole officer - something of that nature. This obviously has implications for us in terms of our staffing, and one of the things that we'll be very interested in is how much this will involve in terms of resources and what the federal portion of resources would be to us.
Mr. Cable: That's an interesting point, because the community service work orders are a joke, unless there's enough staff to follow through to make sure the work is appropriate in the first place and that the work is done. This new legislation, as the minister just pointed out, calls for mandatory probation after jail sentences. So, it's only going to make the workload of the probation officers increase.
And the minister is projecting 112 young offender jail sentences next year, so that, in my view, is going to be a very significant increase in the work of the probation officers.
Has this caught the minister completely by surprise? Has he done nothing to look at the need for the youth probation officers, under both the present situation and the new act?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I don't think it behooves any of us to stand here and speculate on a piece of legislation that was just announced this morning. Yes, our officials have had consultations on this, but I should remind the member that this bill has undergone some considerable change. It's undergone amendments even up to last week.
So, for the member to ask me to speculate on things doesn't do anyone any good. I could speculate until the cows come home on what our resources are going to be. When we get a chance to look at the bill, when we get a chance to see what the implications are, when we get a chance to see how that will mesh with our present system, then we'll have a better sense. But, to receive a fact sheet at about 11:45 or later, and try to make decisions based on that, is just not on.
We had thought that we would get this ahead of time. We thought that we would have had a chance to consult with the -
Speaker: The minister's time has expired.
Mr. Cable: Okay, well let's agree that this may not have been the best piece of cooperative federalism, but let's talk about general principles. One of the general principles behind the act says that the protection of society is the primary objective of the youth justice system. One of the other principles is that young people must be held accountable for their actions.
Now, I know when the minister and his colleague, the Minister of Justice, wrote to the federal Minister of Justice, they said that protection of the public must be identified as a pre-eminent and overarching principle of the act. Is that still this government's position?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That's what my colleague, the Minister of Justice, and I spoke about. I've already made reference to the fact that we see public safety and public protection as being paramount. We haven't changed our position in that regard.
Question re: Circle sentemcing
Mr. Phillips: I have a question for the Minister of Justice. While the federal and provincial governments, through their support of tougher provisions of the Young Offenders Act announced today, appear to heading in one direction, the Yukon's justice system appears to be heading in the opposite direction when it comes to implementing circle sentencing.
How can Yukoners, especially the victims of violent crimes, be expected to have any confidence in the justice system when criminals who have committed violent crimes appear to be running freely at large? The antics and actions of Jason Paquette have made a mockery of our entire justice system, and this whole circus was started by our highly paid judges utilizing circle sentencing for violent crimes, something that it was never intended to be used for.
Mr. Speaker, will the Minister of Justice now admit that she was wrong for supporting this misuse of circle sentencing, and will she meet with the senior judge and let him know that Yukoners do not support the use of circle sentencing for violent crimes?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite knows that a Minister of Justice cannot comment on specific cases that are before the courts.
The member opposite also knows what our position is. We do support restorative justice. We do think it's important to have crime prevention measures that are effective and that are community based. That's why we have a restorative justice document before the public now and are continuing to work with the public on that.
We also support rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders. We have a youth strategy in place to work with youth and to provide constructive activities for them as a means of crime prevention.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, I suppose that will make a lot of Yukoners out there sleep a little better tonight.
The rest of Canada and our fellow Canadians are looking at restorative justice, while we in the Yukon are looking at revolving-door justice. Perhaps the minister should install a revolving door in our courts so they don't inconvenience the escapees.
Can the minister advise the House what steps she's going to announce in the near future, and if she will sit down with the Chief Judge of the Territorial Court and let the judge know that Yukoners do not support the use of circle sentencing for violent crimes? Will the minister do that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, as the Minister of Health and Social Services has also just said and as I have said in this House, public safety is paramount. It's always been the position of this government that public safety is important for all Yukon residents. We also know that Yukon residents do support good crime prevention measures and support alternative measures for offenders where they are appropriate.
Having discussions with the public on restorative justice means that there will be an opportunity for input by the public to ensure that the system can be more effective.
Mr. Phillips: If the highly paid judges of this territory had done their job a few months ago with this individual, Jason Paquette, Yukoners wouldn't be worried tonight about their safety, with this individual running around the streets, and it wouldn't have cost the Yukon taxpayer thousands and thousands of dollars in legal time, court time, judges' time and everybody else's time if he had been dealt with in the way he should have been dealt with through the proper court system.
I'd like to ask the minister one more time, will she make representation to the chief territorial court judge to urge those judges to not use circle sentencing for violent crimes? It was never intended for that purpose. This has been a total and complete failure. People are laughing at the system. The criminals are laughing at the system, and the people of the Yukon are outraged that every week or every two weeks we hear the story of Jason Paquette costing you and I, the taxpayer, more money as he runs around -
Speaker: The member's time has expired.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is being extremely irresponsible. He is continuing to bring forward specific examples of a specific case to the floor of this Legislature. He knows that he shouldn't be doing that.
Mr. Speaker, public safety is important and we have a justice system where the RCMP and the courts and the entire system recognize the need to preserve public safety.
Question re: Local hire; social union agreement
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Government Leader, and it concerns the social union agreement and local hire.
Section 7.06 of the agreement on internal trade is clear. No party shall require a worker of any other party to be resident in its territory as a condition of access to employment opportunities.
The Government Leader recently signed the social union agreement, and it says governments are committed to ensure, by July 1, 2001, full compliance with the mobility provisions of the agreement on internal trade, including eliminating residency requirements for access to employment opportunities.
Mr. Speaker, the Government of Yukon job opportunities say, "To be eligible to receive an offer on a local competition for a Yukon government job, the applicant may be required to provide proof of Yukon residency."
Is the Government Leader going to live up to what he signed, or are we going to stay outside the law?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, the member seems to be trying to mix apples and oranges here. The social union framework agreement, the provisions of mobility, while they make reference, are primarily designed at residency requirements that restrict access to social programs, educational programs, post-secondary, training, et cetera.
The federal government took a very hard position on this one, primarily because they were interested in trying to impose on Quebec - that is primarily their target - to deal with Quebec's restriction, or adding extra tuition fees for out-of-province students.
We took a position on this that our primary concern with the mobility clause had to do more with programs that we saw in dealing with, for example, aboriginal people, and so on and so forth.
With regard to the agreement on internal trade, we're confident that all the Yukon hire provisions are permitted under the agreement on trade.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the only person who's mixing apples and oranges here is the minister. The agreements are absolutely crystal clear. Section 706 of the agreement on internal trade is clear and the paragraph in the social union agreement is absolutely clear, and it's a very clear reference to access to employment.
Mr. Speaker, the Government of Yukon job applications are equally as clear. There are no attachments with exceptions for the Yukon.
Is the Government of Yukon going to take out the demand for proof of Yukon residency for Yukon jobs by 2001, as was signed by the Government Leader in the social union agreement?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, as part of our ongoing intergovernmental negotiations, we will be ensuring that the Yukon hire provisions continue to be permitted. I would suggest, as well, that the member also take a look at the idea that under the development of such things as labour market provisions there are two sections that permit preferential hiring.
I should also add that we're not alone in this; the Northwest Territories has similar programs. It needs to be recognized that it was developed to allow for regional differences. AIT was designed exactly for that and to allow measures - and we believe that our measures are consistent.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the Government Leader's commitment to the social union is clear. He signed it. Yukoners are leaving by the truckload for work in other Canadian provinces. These people are not being asked to prove that they are residents of those other provinces when they get offered jobs.
Mr. Speaker, what are we going to do when these other provinces start to retaliate and start to say, "You're part of the Yukon. You signed the social union agreement and you're not living up to it. Why should we?" What's going to happen then, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I thank the member for stating the Liberal Party position - that she is opposed to the local hire provisions that we have instituted in the Yukon. I'll point out to the member that the access to employment provisions in both the agreement on internal trade and the very general reference made to it in the social union also make reference to reasonable limitations.
Mr. Speaker, our position is that the provisions that we have employed in the Yukon to encourage local employment for Yukoners are perfectly consistent with the agreement on internal trade and the social union. As a matter of fact, all jurisdictions made note that they have similar provisions in their own jurisdiction, and in some cases they claimed very severe restrictions. The Prime Minister said that the federal government's assessment was that the existing restrictions employed by various jurisdictions around the country would all be acceptable under the social union provisions and felt that the Yukon, among others, would not have to change anything.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Special adjournment motion
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House at its rising do stand adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Monday, March 22, 1999.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House at its rising do stand adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Monday, March 22, 1999.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 16: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 16, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. McDonald.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 16, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 16, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, be now read a third time and do pass.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 16 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 16 has passed this House.
Speaker: We are now prepared to receive the Administrator to grant assent to the bill that has passed this House.
Administrator enters the Chamber, announced by the Sergeant-at-Arms
ASSENT TO BILLS
Speaker: Sir, the Assembly has, at its present session, passed a certain bill to which, in the name and on behalf of the Assembly, I respectfully request your assent.
Clerk: Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1999-2000.
Administrator: I hereby assent to the bill, as enumerated by the Clerk of the Legislature.
Administrator leaves the Chamber
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and 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. Is it the members' wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Committee is dealing with the main estimates, Department of Government Services. Is there further general debate?
Bill No. 14 - First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000 - continued
Department of Government Services - continued
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Just with regard to some questions that were asked before, there were a couple of questions asked in Education which related to Government Services. One came from the Member for Klondike and had to do with lighting standards in Yukon schools, and I can provide him with that information now. The other one had something to do with locally manufactured furniture.
With regard to uniform lighting standards in schools, Government Services has tested - and this involved feedback from both students and teachers - various lighting technologies and reviewed technical lighting information from other studies.
A school lighting design standards and commentary report has been prepared. This report will be reviewed by Education officials in April 1999. When approved, the lighting standards will be included in the Yukon design and standards manual as a standard for all schools in the territory. In April this year, the Government Services staff plans to meet, as I said, with Education officials to review the report and to tour some of the schools where changes have been made, and then this will form part of the design standards. So that's one piece of information.
With regard to our locally manufactured furniture, I will try to provide a comparative chart on this. However, what I have done is take a look at some of the issues around locally manufactured furniture. Although the cost of locally manufactured furniture is sometimes higher than the cost of imported, mass-produced furniture, some of the advantages that are seen are that the locally manufactured furniture is solid wood, as opposed to particle board. It's seen as more durable, and can be refinished. The service and repair is easier when dealing with a local supplier, and items can be custom made to meet special operational requirements.
Last night the Member for Klondike raised the issue of the company Sunspun and its designation as a Yukon business. For the purchase of groceries by the government, Supply Services negotiates standing order agreements with all Yukon wholesalers and retailers. This is based on shelf price, less a discount.
Departments may choose to do business with any of them. Sunspun is one business which operates in Whitehorse as Sunspun Shopping Services, and has designated itself as a Yukon business.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the minister's information with respect to Sunspun is partially correct, but not totally correct. Sunspun Shopping Service is part of the conglomerate, and it will actually shop and pick up an order through their two retail outlets here in Whitehorse, but the wholesale food division that is dealt with operates on the same basis as Cousins. Both Sunspun food service division and Cousins have a representative here in the Yukon that takes orders. The product is shipped out of Alberta and shipped directly to the end user here in the Yukon. All of the billing originates out of Alberta. Accounts receivable and the cheques are ultimately sent to Alberta. But, yet, in the eyes of Government Services, Cousins is not considered to qualify as a Yukon business, and they have been advised that unless they set up a complete billing operation here in the Yukon, they can't qualify.
So, in fact, there is a double standard and there is a different arrangement between these two wholesalers. Now, why is that the case, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, what we can do is we operated with the information we were provided. The member is contending that Sunspun is actually contravening the definition of a Yukon business. We can investigate that and follow up.
I thank the member for bringing this information to my attention and we will endeavour to ensure that this is investigated. Once again, if the member is contending that Sunspun is actually trying to bypass the designation as a Yukon business, we will investigate that thoroughly.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm not suggesting that Sunspun is contravening what a Yukon business is defined as. Sunspun hasn't changed the way they've operated here in the Yukon for quite a number of years. In fact, they haven't changed since Kelly Douglas shut down. As soon as Kelly Douglas shut down, Sunspun wholesale food services opened up and that was quite a number of years ago, Mr. Chair.
They haven't changed. What has changed is the government's policy and the government's determination as to who qualifies as a Yukon business operator. That's all that's changed.
Those changes in government policy are not being uniformly applied by this minister and his department. I want to know why. Why are these two - the same businesses operating in the same fashion - treated differently?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The member has pointed out, clearly, what he perceives as being an incongruity. We will take a look into it. If it's apparent that Sunspun is being treated differently from a company that feels excluded, in this case, we will take the necessary steps, and I thank the member for bringing that to my attention. We will follow up on it in due course and ensure that everyone has complied to the same standard.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, if this comes as a surprise to the minister, I'm amazed, because the fashion in which Cousins has conducted their operation here in the Yukon for a considerable number of years - it's a business that was started by a grandfather, taken over by a father, passed on to a son - and their method of operation hasn't changed, to the best of my knowledge, in that many years, other than that this government is precluding them from doing business in the way that they were.
Now, the same goes for Sunspun. Their way of operating in the Yukon hasn't changed since they set up shop here after the closure of Kelly Douglas. The only part that has changed is this minister's new policy and this minister's interpretation of who qualifies and who does not qualify as a Yukon business.
All we're looking for is a fair and uniform treatment of suppliers. Level the playing field, Mr. Chair. This minister is standing up now and deflecting the heat, saying he doesn't know about it, that he'll investigate and have a look at it. He came back with a partial explanation, which indicates to me, thoroughly, that the minister doesn't understand the wholesale food business here in the Yukon.
Yet, he's a major purchaser of those goods and services.
This will impact on the lives of all Yukoners. Now, why is there such a difference in the treatment of these two firms? Is it because Sunspun is so large, when it was suggested to this minister or his department or his department officials that they threatened to sue the government for not having equal access like they believed they should have? Is that the reason, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, I know nothing of threatened legal or perceived actions. I assume that the member is being somewhat creative in his interpretation. I can tell the member that we looked into it on the basis of the information that he gave last night. I have reported back the information that I have available to me. He has contended that this company is being treated differently from another local company and is somehow bypassing the definition of a Yukon business, a definition that, I might make him aware, was done in consultation and with full understanding of the Chamber of Commerce.
So, the only thing I can perceive from what the member is contending is that there is a double standard in this case. I have given him my assurance that we will investigate this to make sure that Sunspun is either in compliance with what is defined as a Yukon business or that they be removed from the list as a Yukon business.
I thank the member once again for bringing this perceived incongruity to my attention. I can tell him that we will follow up on it and thank him for giving us a path on which to follow an investigation. I'm sure the companies in question will appreciate his efforts as well.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I thank the minister for taking it upon himself to conduct a further investigation into how these businesses are being conducted, but these businesses haven't changed their way and their method of operation since they were established here, to the best of my knowledge. The only thing that has changed, I'll point out, Mr. Chair, is the way that this minister is defining a Yukon business and carrying out government business and contracting services with these various firms.
Now, if it does come to pass that Sunspun doesn't qualify as a Yukon business and we have to go somewhere else, that's going to mean a considerable increase in costs, because Sunspun is one of the lowest cost wholesale food suppliers here in the Yukon Territory, and it's in our best interest to utilize that firm to keep our costs in line and to keep them low.
Now, what steps is the minister going to take? I don't want him to stand up and suggest that he's going to be running a grocery cart around the stores picking up groceries for the various institutions that Government Services purchases for, but there has to be a way that the system will allow these firms to continue in operation and not preclude them or ensure that they have to go through a whole bunch of paperwork or paper chase to comply. That's not reasonable, and it's not fair. I'm sure the minister can agree.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, what I can agree to is the fact that we arrived at our definition of a Yukon business in consultation with our colleagues in business. They approached me in November 1998 for some discussions on what is defined as a Yukon business. They expressed some concerns. We sat down with them, discussing it in November and December. I had a couple of meetings with these folks. We worked with them to address their concerns and changed the definition in order to reflect what their concerns are.
The member has suggested that some companies are bypassing the definition of a Yukon business. I have given him my assurance that we will look into this. He obviously - I guess the issue is that on one hand he's suggesting that a company is somehow being given preferential treatment, and on the other hand he is hustling to suggest that he doesn't want to see them excluded. He can't have it both ways. What he is really suggesting is that there's a company here that is doing something deliberate to bypass the definition of a Yukon business. We're going to look into that. I'll give him my assurance that we will.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, for the record, Mr. Chair, let me state categorically that I'm not suggesting that any company is doing anything to contravene the definition of a Yukon business. What I stated - and stated categorically, Mr. Chair - is that these firms, since they've been in operation haven't changed the way they've conducted themselves. They haven't changed whatsoever the way they've supplied the Yukon; they haven't changed whatsoever the way they've invoiced or collected their accounts receivable. They've all gone to the same location, and the products all originated from Alberta. That has not changed.
So let me straighten the record here, Mr. Chair, and state categorically that these firms are not changing the way they're doing business, and are not trying to circumvent the definition of a Yukon business.
The only thing that has changed is the definition of a Yukon business established by this government.
Let's go on to another case, Mr. Chair. Yesterday we had the minister go on at great lengths about established Yukon businesses - how he'd like to do business with them, perhaps pay even a little bit of a premium, because these businesses have warehouses or offices or showrooms here in the Yukon.
They have the cost of construction of their respective facilities; they're taxpayers in the Yukon; they hire Yukoners; they pay for electricity and heat; they pay their insurance costs up here and they're respectable citizens, by and large, and add to the economic well-being of the territory.
Yet, if we cite one of the recent examples that came to light, we have the purchase of a piece of commercial kitchen equipment, approximately $1,000. The one firm had it in stock here in the Yukon and yet, the purchase order went to a firm outside the Yukon, and we're talking something like $3.00 difference. It was less than $3.00. I believe it was $2.00 - and we're talking about Peacock Sales.
Now, how does such a thing happen when we're talking about Yukon hire; we're talking about conducting business between government and Yukon businesses, when Government Services goes out and purchases a small item like this from outside of the Yukon because of a couple of dollars' difference, Mr. Chair. Does the minister have some explanation for this?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: When the member raises this particular issue, he ignores a couple of salient points. Yes, in this case, the contract was for a food processor that was awarded to Russell Foods of Edmonton, who was the low bidder with $923. Peacock Sales' bid was $925. However, in the same tender, Peacock Sales was awarded a contract to provide a mixer by bidding $3.00 less than the price quoted by Russell Foods.
I should also point out that in another item, which is a spar mixer, SP100, the price differential for Peacock Sales, which I believe was the successful bidder on this one, was somewhere around $413. No, I'm sorry, they lost that one by $413.
In this particular case, when determining if there was local competition, only Peacock Sales emerged as a local supplier.
Russell Foods was invited to bid on the three tendered items. To maintain the integrity of the competitive bidding system, once the outsider had submitted a valid bid, the government did not discard the lower outside bid, even for a small difference in favour of the local contractor.
I should point out that, presently, we have 89 percent of the value of all government contracts going to Yukon businesses.
I'm not sure where the member is going with these questions. Is he suggesting that, on all these cases - he seems to be arguing on a couple of different points. In one case, he's saying outside companies, and in the other case, he's saying restrict outside companies.
I'd really like to see what his opinion is on the whole idea of Yukon businesses.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it's this government that's put Yukon hire in place. It's this government that's put local purchasing preferences in place, and it's this government that insists on purchasing as much as they possibly can locally, and stands up and claims that's what they're doing - they're doing 80 percent or 70 percent of their purchasing locally.
But when you start analyzing what is going on, there appears to be no rationale for a lot of the decisions on a lot of the items purchased. If you want to just cite the Peacock Sales situation, why wasn't the item purchased from Peacock Sales because of that $2.00 difference? Two dollars more. The economic spinoffs to the Yukon would have compounded themselves considerably as a result of just that additional $2.00 in price on that one item of less than $1,000. Yet this government can't see, in their wisdom, to undertake such a purchase.
Now, when we get to $300 and $400 and $500 difference on a $1,000 item, yes, the minister can make a case, but not for a $2.00 difference, Mr. Chair. Certainly, I don't believe the minister can make a case for that. It's in the best interests of Yukon; it's in the best interest of the taxpayers of the Yukon; if the item can be purchased locally and if it's $2.00 more than Edmonton prices, that's the way we should be proceeding.
Now, we have policies with respect to major purchases over $5,000 - we have the incentive program.
For those low-end items, I guess common sense has to prevail, and that appears to be lacking in the minister's department and his determination of where to go and how to purchase. I'm sure the minister would agree with that statement.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, what I will contend and what I will stick to is the fact that, when the Yukon Party was in power, 59 percent of the value of all the government contracts went to local companies. Two and a half years later, it's 89 percent, and we're still striving. That says it all.
Mr. Jenkins: Again, the minister takes numbers, throws out percentages; the reality is something else. The one big factor that skews the numbers under the Yukon Party's administration was the contract for the Whitehorse General Hospital. The minister knows full well that that was the case. That really skews the numbers - that major contract during that period. It was awarded to an Edmonton-based firm, yes, but as a consequence many Yukoners were employed on that project.
So, the 59 to 89 percent, I guess, when we add in all the giveaway programs to the friends of the NDP for consulting work - sole sourced - and we start looking at $1,500 a day for a friend of the NDP to come from Yellowknife to undertake a prospectus contract, we start looking at $150,000 to the Yukon Conservation Society - all these contracts, if you add them all up, it certainly inflates the 89 percent going locally.
I don't know if the minister can stand on that, because, really, when you start analyzing the total dollars spent previously and spent currently and break it down, there's not a lot of common sense applied to a good deal of the funds that are spent locally versus outside the Yukon. The minister knows that full well.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: What the member knows is that it was 59 percent with the Yukon Party. It's 89 percent now. We have seen, over the years that we have been in place, that it has risen from 59 percent to 77 to 89 percent. We see the sole-sourced contracts going from 65 percent with the Yukon Party to 84 percent. We see invitational tenders going from 74 percent to 85 percent. We see public tenders going from 54 percent to 93 percent.
Now, the member is suggesting and implying that somehow there is something wrong, something improper about the contracting policy. I would suggest that if he has a difficulty there, then he should make his allegations clear.
There is an appeal process, I might point out, in all government contracting, and I would suggest that this is an avenue that's open for anyone who contends that there is something the matter with the contract, but I haven't seen allegations of this sort come from the member. So, if he has a specific example of where he feels the contract has gone, for political reasons, then I would suggest he make his case on this floor, and I would suggest that, if he has the political courage, he make the case outside the House. I doubt that he will.
Mr. Jenkins: For the record, could the minister put in writing the percentage breakdown that he just put into the House, and beside it, put the total dollar figures for each of those respective categories, and then break it down further as to what was sole sourced and what went where?
It's kind of an interesting exercise when you look at the contracts registry and see where the funds are flowing out of this government. The funds are flowing out of this government, not to create additional jobs, not to create infrastructure, but to create more government, to advise the government. All we are doing today, Mr. Chair, is making a bigger government, a larger government. We're not building a bigger and better Yukon.
We're not building a bigger and better Yukon. We're just serving the cause of this NDP government, Mr. Chair. That's what's happening under this government. Now, if the minister is truthful, and accepts honesty - that statement is as honest as one can make - today, under this NDP government, we're not creating infrastructure, we're not creating wealth, we're just creating bigger government here in the Yukon.
That's what we're doing with a great deal of these contracts. And the spin that the minister is putting on them is not a spin that I would believe he would find acceptable in a great many areas of this tremendous territory of ours, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, now I think we're coming to the core of the issue. Infrastructure that serves people is not infrastructure. So, in other words, schools aren't infrastructure. Facilities to take care of our seniors are not infrastructure. They don't add value to a society, if I follow the member's logic.
So, he's contending that all of the steps we've taken at Old Crow - to develop a school, to try and incorporate as much local content, to try and incorporate as much local training - is nothing. That is not worth anything. That's not worth anything to the people of Vuntut Gwitchin, that's not worth anything to the business community as a whole. It's encouraging for me to understand that, Mr. Speaker.
I guess it's also encouraging that, as we build the nursing station in Teslin, the efforts that we make with the Teslin Tlingit people down there and the business that will be generated for contractors - that's not worth anything.
I guess the third example is the work that we're doing, for example, in Ross River, where we're trying to involve the community and trying to inject some economic activity into that community - that has no value.
Okay. So, we're settled on that.
I suspect that he would also see the financial efforts that this government has made - just deviating from that contracting aspect - for example, in Watson Lake, to support the community recreation facility, the efforts that we've made with the city to help develop such things as the start on the Canada Games infrastructure - that has no value.
So, in other words, all those people who have benefited - all those companies that have benefited - whether it's TSL up in Old Crow - all that has no value; that is entirely worthless. That's how he sees it.
So, I'm a bit at a loss to understand what the member's suggesting. He has suggested that all of our economic activity, all of our contracting, has borne no fruit whatsoever for the people of the Yukon. That's his contention - that it is all part of a great political pork barrel.
Now, perhaps he would like to suggest that to, perhaps, his friend, the Mayor of Dawson - where the community is receiving economic support from this government to help develop municipal infrastructure - that that isn't worth anything in the community of Klondike and Dawson City.
So, I'm certainly appreciative that he's made his views clear to us. We will certainly take that into account in our future development.
I can tell the member that if he is contending, or if he has the political courage to tackle any of these issues having to do with contracts to suggest some impropriety, that he do it, and I suggest that, since he's so convinced of his own rightness, he do it outside this Chamber.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister had better go back to the basics, and the basics are that government does not create wealth; government spends wealth. I guess the way the analogy that was used to explain it back when I was in school was that government is not a cow that you can constantly milk. Look upon it as a horse that you have to feed.
Now, I can't reduce it to any lower a common denominator than that, Mr. Chair, and I hope the minister can understand it. I hope the minister can understand it on that basis.
Now, I don't disagree with all of the contracts that have been let by this government. I don't disagree with a lot of the initiatives that have been made by this government, but this government is not creating a bigger and better Yukon. It is not putting in place the necessary tools that we can build upon for a bigger and better society.
We're catering to a real niche group of individuals who would prefer to see the whole Yukon one big massive park from the border with British Columbia to the border with Alaska, in spite of our tremendous wealth in raw materials, in minerals, in oil and gas, in forestry. About the only industry that's left here in the Yukon, Mr. Chair, that has not been taken apart or dismantled by this government, is our visitor industry.
That's where I'm coming from, Mr. Chair, and the rules are constantly being altered and changed by this government so that, one day, a firm that's been here for 50 years or 100 years, no longer qualifies as a Yukon business because of the way they were established and set up. This is in spite of this recently signed social union agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of the Yukon. The internal trade section does have some safety valves but, by and large, are we serving the best interests of Yukoners by taking the course of action of letting a lot of these contracts the way we are?
There seems to be a lot of emphasis on redefining a lot of categories of businesses and individuals so that they conform to a style and mode that this government wants. And that is really not fair, Mr. Chair. It's really not fair.
But I'll eagerly await the minister's explanation, going back to the beginning of the debates yesterday on this department, with respect to the departmental objective and, flowing from there, the minister's view with respect to these various firms that we've mentioned. I was hoping that the minister could provide that information before - I guess, if we can have it early next week, we should be able to clear the department on March 22 or 23. If not, I guess we'll have to stay in this department for awhile until we receive the information. But I was hoping the minister could get that information by those dates.
Can we get some assurances from the minister, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, thank you, Mr. Chair, for that lecture in voodoo economics. If I'm not mistaken, this is the party that, when the budget came down, said, "Spend more. Spend more. Let's get money out there." And now we're being told, "Don't spent more. Don't spend more. You're spending too much." We're being told that infrastructure that we invest in, programs that we invest in, Yukon people that we invest in, Yukon companies that we invest in, and Yukon contractors we invest in aren't worth the paper they are printed on, and that somehow that contract registry that I brought in, the contract registry that's on the Web, is a scam, that it's merely just a paper exercise and that all the money is going to our friends.
If he's got a case, let him say it. He doesn't have a case. All he has got is empty rhetoric, and he knows it. He's just posturing here.
What is his position? Does he feel that we should not have any contracts going out to companies? Does he not feel that building schools adds value? Is that a waste? Does he see government as a cow that can be milked? I would suggest that his party sees government as a cow that can be slaughtered. I mean, good heavens, Mr. Speaker.
He's talking about cutting it up - "Just take the money and just throw it out. Throw it out. Don't give any thought to where it's going to come from in the future. Just get it out there." Here he's got his voodoo Reaganomics. He's lock-stepped into this Milton Friedman, University of Chicago, trickle-down nonsense that he just can't get out of his mind, because he doesn't have a conception that government can be thoughtful, that government can plan and that government can move ahead. So what we've got is that we've got an empty, hollow lecture from the king of voodoo economics there, and I guess we just have to agree to disagree on that principle.
I've said that our contracting policies here have resulted in greater economic benefit for Yukon companies. I haven't had anything that's come forward to suggest otherwise. Our statistics show that we are making progress in this regard. There will be, along the way, perhaps, things that don't go as well as what we have expected, but each process, Mr. Chair, improves what we can do. It helps refine what we can do. It helps give us some future development where we can go, and I stand by that. We are working hard to improve the business climate in this territory.
I think if the member had even taken the opportunity to go out to the Chamber of Commerce meeting the other day, he would have seen the kinds of economic activities that are bearing fruit in this territory. If he'd even taken the opportunity to join us today, when we talked about the technology innovation centre with our friends up at the Northern Research Institute, it would have been an opportunity for him to see where we can move with our friends in the information technology industry.
So I would suggest that the member is really trying to make an issue where one does not exist. If he believes - and I guess he can posture all he wants that, somehow, he's going to bully us by threatening to hold us in this department - well come on, bring it on. I'm here for awhile; he's here for awhile; let's have a healthy debate. I'm not going anywhere. I've got time here; I've got my books; I'm ready to go. So, let's go.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the only one I can think of today who has less credibility than the minister who represents Government Services is probably Glen Clark, the Premier of British Columbia. Credibility is going downhill at a very rapid rate for both of these NDP individuals.
Be that as it may, the minister does have some responsibilities to address here in the House today, and I guess we can move on.
I'm still looking for the minister's assurances that he'll bring back an evaluation of the three firms that we've recently mentioned - two firms specifically - with respect to their ability to conform to the NDP definition - the present and current - of a Yukon business.
Could the minister provide that undertaking?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, I indicated before that I would undertake to take a look at the member's contention that Sunspun is somehow bypassing the definition of a Yukon business. We will look into it in the future. I'm sure that Sunspun will be appreciative of the Member for Klondike's efforts on their behalf.
I can say that I think the member, in trying to somehow imply some kind of connection with Mr. Clark - is he purporting that I have done something illegal? Is that his contention? Does he have that - or is he trying to draw a comparison, and suggest that I've been somehow accused, or involved in something illegal? Is that his inference? Is that the suggestion that the Member for Klondike is making?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I don't think the minister wants to go there. I guess the inference being made is that there's a credibility gap that's developing in NDP governments in Yukon, and in British Columbia. And I guess the minister's going to wear it. That's the inference being made.
There's just a credibility gap of changing the rules on a continuing basis, redefining everything, and then trying to get everybody to conform. That's the issue.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, I should suggest to the member that he is suggesting - I think he is suggesting, quite frankly - some kind of criminality on my part or some kind of impropriety on my part. Much as he's trying to weasel out of it, I really feel that's the suggestion that he's making. By questioning my credibility and the credibility of the Premier of British Columbia, who is currently involved in some problems down there, he is trying to draw a comparison somehow between my actions and the actions of the Premier of British Columbia.
Now, I understand that there is some inference, as yet unsubstantiated, that the Premier may have been involved in some sort of impropriety in a gaming licence. I guess we can extrapolate from that that the Member for Klondike is inferring somehow that I've been involved in some kind of impropriety in contracting.
I would ask him to put that on the record or to clarify his remarks.
Chair: The Chair would like to remind members to keep their comments within parliamentary bounds. Is there further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Yes, there's lots of general debate, Mr. Chair. Let's move on to some of the issues that the minister is responsible for.
Let's move on to the issue of the insurance program. It was three years - started and entered into a contract April 1, 1996, with Marsh & McLennan. Could the minister advise the House where the government insurance program is today? I would be of the opinion that bids should have been received back by now. Has the evaluation process taken place, and when will we be awarding this contract?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I notice that the member did not withdraw his remarks as previously asked, so I will just infer that that's just a matter of bad taste and his usual gymnastics.
With regards to that, yes, the contract has been let and the contract has gone to Reed Stenhouse and I can just give the member some details on that.
Bear with me here, while I find it in my book. The request for proposal for insurance broker services will be awarded on April 1, and the successful company is Reed Stenhouse.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister advise the House, Mr. Chair, if there has been any significant changes of the terms and conditions in the contract with Reed Stenhouse vis-à-vis Marsh & McLennan, and if we're still at the same limits for the various types and forms of insurance?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: There has been no change.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister advise the House of the total contract price, because I understand Marsh & McLennan was about $111,000 for the three-year term? Those numbers, if we're going to be awarding it, we must have the numbers there also. So, Mr. Chair, could the minister advise the House what their total contract price is?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I don't have the numbers at my fingertips, but I will get back to him as soon as I can with the figure.
Mr. Jenkins: If the minister could also table a copy of the contract for this insurance coverage, I'd appreciate receiving same. Could the minister give the House that undertaking?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We can do that.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's move into some of the other programs that Government Services has care and control over. HRIS implementation was to take place early in 1998. Can the minister provide an overview as to whether we're on target, on budget? Are there any problems or any situations that have arisen with HRIS that are going to cost us more or delay anything, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, I'm pleased to report that the human resource information system was implemented, starting with the first pay period in January 1999. Employees received their first pay advises from the new system on Wednesday, January 13, 1999. With the system successfully installed, the implementation phase is now wrapping up and, over the next couple of months, the system will be stabilized, and plans to introduce new functions will be developed.
With regard to the project cost, it is projected that the total cost for consultants, software licences and computer hardware over the period beginning in 1995 until the present is $2,057,097. As well, there are HRIS project team costs, using existing government staff, that totalled $941,408.
The next phases of HRIS will involve additional functionality programs from PeopleSoft. These include lead management staffing, labour relations training and development, employment equity reporting, and health and safety modules.
Mr. Jenkins: Some of the software used in this undertaking, or implementation, was PeopleSoft. There were no support services provided with it, I'm given to understand, and we had to utilize a lot of in-house expertise. Was there any additional cost associated with that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I've already indicated that there were HRIS project team costs, and the amount. During the period of time, there were staff who were working on the HRIS project who did travel to the headquarters of PeopleSoft and work with them in that regard. Those would be contained in such things as, probably, travel and airfares, and things of that nature, which we haven't really broken out in this regard. I suppose it could be done. I suppose we could go back and take a look at that.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if everything is hunky dory and working so well, why are the T-4 slips issued so late in the season? By law, they are required to be out by the last day of February, and this year and last year they were issued right at the very end of the month of February, or very close to the end of February.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I should remind the member that the HRIS system was undertaken by Government Services in response to such things as the needs of the Public Service Commission. I would suggest that if the member has a question regarding such things as T-4 slips, that would be better taken up in the Public Service Commission debate. I haven't really followed up on who got their cheque when. I admit that I have been remiss in going out and calling each government employee to make sure that they received their T-4 slip. I even suppose that I have been a bit remiss in checking to see that they all got their pay slip at the right time, so what can I say? I would say that that is more properly a public service function.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, this minister is the lead minister in the implementation of this system, and I guess what goes in has ultimately got to come out, and that's part of the minister's responsibilities, Mr. Chair. There is an issue surrounding the timing of the issue of the T-4 slips for government employees. Why they were as late as they are this year is an issue, I guess, that we can take up with Public Service Commission.
I'd like to also ask the minister if he could have his officials inquire internally if there was a problem that originated within the department that gave rise to the late issue of T-4 slips, and if there is anything he can do to ensure that these are issued as early as possible - probably as early as the beginning of February like a good deal of businesses do.
Could the minister undertake that little exercise, please?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, did I understand the T-4s were received in the legal time that was required? I should remind the member that the HRIS system was undertaken by Public Service Commission, Finance and Government Services. I don't issue the T-4 slips. Government Services doesn't issue the T-4 slips.
I would suggest that that is more properly an issue to take up with either Finance or the Public Service Commission, and I would suggest that would be the most appropriate route. What I will do is certainly take note of this and direct it to our friends in the appropriate department and have them respond to the member. But we have basically worked on this project from an information technology point of view, and that's what we will continue to do.
Mr. Jenkins: As usual, the minister has deflected the question, or passed the buck. But let's move on to LIMS - land interest management system - and that wonderful Nova Scotian company, NovaLIS. Could the minister provide us with an overview of where we are there, and if any western companies or Yukon companies have actually got any business arising out of this, as was promised by the minister previously?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can go through the entire project, if you would like. If he's seeking some information on the current status of it, the first component of the project, land titles, was completed and made operational in March 1998. Contracts were awarded for the second and third phase, land disposition and graphics, in May 1998. For a portion of this work, the company engaged a local partner. Sorrento Systems performed consulting and development work.
The land titles applications and production employee workstation used to support business operations in the land titles office has been set up at the front counter to allow queries by clients. Land titles personnel have made significant progress in converting old paper titles to the new system. A shortage of personnel, and an increasingly busy workload, have extended the targeted completion date for conversion.
Initial user training and testing for the land disposition component will begin on February 1. Cut over to production is planned for mid-April.
The implementation will follow a phased approach, bringing each agency on line at different time intervals. This will allow the project team to better support the application users. Manual conversion of active files will occur upon implementation, and planning is underway to address resourcing for that activity. The development of data sharing, service level and annual maintenance agreements are underway.
Along with this is the development of strategy supporting the LIMS application infrastructure in a production environment.
With regard to some of the local work, as soon as a qualified source list for the digital map conversion has been established in mid-April, the first of the contracts will be tendered. In addition, a $15,000 contract has already been extended to a Yukon contractor for land title manual conversion.
If the member can just bear with me for a second on this.
I have some additional notes here that may assist the member.
The contract has been issued already to a Yukon contractor, Cassandra Heiland, for land title manual conversion. The government expects to issue seven more mapping and data conversion contracts during the next 12 to 15 months, with the total estimated value of up to $210,000.
The federal government, which is also another partner on this, has already spent $110,000 locally on conversion work in supporting the LIMS project. The timelines have been longer than originally anticipated, because the local vendors have requested that each contract be tendered, awarded and completed before the next request for proposals is issued.
This will give all vendors an opportunity to respond to every map conversion tender issued for the LIMS project. So, in other words, what the local companies have suggested, and we have followed their suggestion, is that, as a stage goes through and it's tendered, awarded, that task is completed so that the vendors will be able to better bid on a variety of things, so that you don't have one company working on one project and another one flow and so forth.
Because, basically, we're working in a different area here, and there are no similar local initiatives in the past, estimating the cost of the data conversion for the LIMS has been fairly difficult. The cost of the first tender will give us a better idea of what the costs for the remainder of the map conversion contracts will be.
An information meeting was held on February 18, 1999 with local businesses to discuss the overall approach for converting maps as well as general specifications relating to the request for a qualified source list. Nine local businesses attended this meeting, and I can provide a list of the companies for the member if he wishes.
I'm sorry - would you like me to read them into the record? The member has indicated that he would, so from these we have: Geological Drafting Services, Miles & Associates, Yukon Engineering Services, Aucoin and Lewis Surveys, Underhill Geomatics, Applied Eco Management Systems, Lamerton & Associates, Todd Parsons Geoservices, and Integraphics Ltd.
At this meeting, an agreement was reached to provide further information to local businesses and I will comment on the breakdown of categories for evaluation and associated weighting factors. As well, agreement was reached to extend the time frame, as I mentioned earlier, for responding to the request for a qualified source list and set up an additional information session once the request has been issued.
The LIMS graphic component has been delayed pending the hiring of an experienced geographic information system person. The local GIS person was hired by DIAND in August 1998 and assigned to the LIMS project. This person has since left. The project in DIAND has been processed to repost the position.
To keep this component of the LIMS project moving forward, efforts will be concentrated in converting information from paper maps to an interim digital format. This approach allows data to be structured in a more suitable format, making final conversion of the LIMS data less complex.
The project will continue to move forward until a GIS resource is found without losing too much momentum and too much time. Cartographers are to use tools that they are familiar with to maintain the converted data. The opportunity for LIMS cartographers to become familiar with and test the proposed map data specification ...
I guess we can go on and on and on, but essentially that is where the project stands at this point.
I can, if the member wishes, go into some further detail on some of our projections for the different components of this and the projected dates, but I would have to stress that it's somewhat preliminary at this point.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, NovaLIS was supposed to train or provide some training for software support locally. Could the minister advise the House just where we're at there?
The other area that I asked the minister to address, if we could look at it, is that the first-year warranty period has expired. I believe that it's expiring - it was either last fall or this fall, according to the information that the minister sent over. What additional obligations have we assumed or are we incurring as a consequence of the expiry of the warranty period?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: With regard to the first question, Mr. Chair, the company, NovaLIS, worked with a local partner, and that was Sorrento Systems, in doing training for consulting and development support work. That was their participation with a local company.
With regard to warranty, we could follow up on that, and I can get the information back. If it does involve us in incurring any future liabilities or whatever, we can follow up on that.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the information the minister sent over last fall said, "On the expiration of the first year warranty period, which will occur this fall" - so I would assume that to be last fall - "NovaLIS' standard annual renewable software support and maintenance agreement will come into effect. The agreement covers hotline support for problem resolution, routine maintenance and consultation and periodic upgrades to the software. The annual cost is expected to be approximately $19,000." Is that all the costs we have incurred, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I imagine that what this is equivalent to is basically the same kind of licensing support services that we have with other information technology companies that supply us with services. I can follow up further to see if there have been any costs above that, but I would assume that that is the standard cost. I will bring back further information in that regard.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I might be going backwards in time a bit, Mr. Chair, but I'd really like to know how the process worked that selected NovaLIS at the onset. We really never got to crux of the decision that was made by this government. It was a small contract initially, and it exploded into a million-odd dollar contract. Now, the initial amount appeared to be reasonable, but how did we get to where we are today with this firm?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I guess I can go through the whole list, and go through the details.
The LIMS project was originally funded by the territorial and federal governments. The total budget was $2.1 million, to be spent over three years.
Since the member has such a fascination with history, I can elaborate for him on this.
The federal and territorial agencies that made up this LIMS project team selected NovaLIS because they felt the new system was the best solution to meet the needs of the project. The project and resources provided by NovaLIS have met the expectations.
The contracts were awarded to NovaLIS within 10 percent of dollar amounts contained in NovaLIS' original proposal in April of '97. The whole project was not awarded as a single contract, basically because of the project management practice. The contracts were supply and installation of package software. There wasn't any survey, mapping or engineering work coming out of those.
The major part of the work related to converting maps and documents to a new electronic form are the aspects that we're talking about tendering. It's assumed that the local companies will be capable of doing this work.
The first component of the NovaLIS proposal, which was the land titles office, was completed and became operational in March '98. This proportion of the overall contract with NovaLIS was completed with the contracted amount of $402,188. The land titles office also included a contract for $32,500, with the vendor for the conversion of existing data from the various electronic formats - their database for the new LTO system.
In parallel with the land titles office implementation, the project was undertaken to familiarize LIMS cartographers with the GIS maintenance process.
Based on the analysis, the contracts were finalized for the second and third components of the NovaLIS proposal and disposition in May 1998. This portion was estimated at $373,238. Contracts were issued for a fixed price of $484,650, based on the revised scope and experience gained from the first phase. The current phase also includes a contract for $44,850 with the vendor for the conversion of existing data from the electronic format to a data base.
Under the terms of the contract, NovaLIS was required to engage a local partner in order to provide long-term local support, and it was provided with a list of local information systems vendors. They subsequently, as I indicated, subcontracted with Sorrento Systems. Sorrento has received training on the products and is active on the project for performing consulting and development support work.
To support the operational LPO component, software maintenance contracts were entered into with NovaLIS in the amount of $46,815, and this provides support for the 24-month period to March 31, 2001.
The basic background on it was that the federal and territorial agencies felt that they examined all reasonable alternatives before selecting NovaLIS technologies to provide the packaged software for this system. This was done through three public tenders, as well as a separate, close examination of the City of Whitehorse's claim system.
During this examination, local interests were given the opportunity to express how they could meet the needs of the LIMS project. They did not respond to public tender and did not provide any of the information requested by subsequent invitations directed expressly to them. The LIMS team, working within the terms of the agreement between the federal and territorial government, made a legitimate decision that NovaLIS was the provider that could respond to the project requirements.
The total LIMS project budget is $1.9 million, over three years, and subsequent to that I can go on and on and on. Does the member want any further information?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, at that juncture when that decision was made to sole source that contract from NovaLIS, was there any order of magnitude estimate made as to the ultimate end cost of dealing with this software program?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: At the time, the budget proposal was estimated at $1.9 million over three years. The NovaLIS proposal accounts was for $900,000 of that.
Mr. Jenkins: Of the various components that are left to implement, is there any order of magnitude estimate of the cost for these various components that have to be plugged in and the various mapping programs? What are we looking at and is there a final number as to, after it's all said and done, what it's going to cost?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I think I indicated that there already has been some work in this regard. There is $15,000 already for a local contractor. We were projecting that, over the next 12 to 15 months, there'll be work in terms of mapping and data conversion of probably up to about $210,000. An amount of $110,000 has already been spent by our federal partners on conversion work for the LIMS project. I can tell the member that all that work went out locally in that regard, and we have worked very closely with the local industry - the companies I mentioned before - in trying to stage out this project in such a way that they get maximum benefit.
Quite obviously, we're hoping to get up to about $400,000 on this when we can roll together the federal and our own contracts, and $400,000 is basically a preliminary estimate, because this is something that we haven't done before, so we didn't have any cost estimates to base it on.
I think there's a fair degree of potential in this project.
Mr. Jenkins: Does the minister have an idea, from start to finish of this project, what the total cost will be to the Government of the Yukon? We're looking at $400,000 for just this last component. I've added up another $339,000 just in maintenance and additional mapping initiatives, plus another $110,000 from the feds, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Our projection is $2,083,000.
Mr. Jenkins: What class of an estimate is that, Mr. Chair? Is that a best guess, is it an order-of-magnitude estimate, or has it got some substance to it? It seems that any of these programs we commence, especially in this field, we start off with one number and, by the time we're finished, it's substantially more.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, these are the best estimates that we can project, based on the source of funds, but I think it's also important to note that this doesn't include the federal government's contribution, which has been about $650,000 in kind, in the form of project manager, GIS analyst - which I've made reference to before - and maps.
Mr. Jenkins: Did the minister say that $2.8 million includes $650,000 of federal government money, or $600,000 in addition to the $2.8 million?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The $650,000 is in addition to this amount, and that's the federal government's in-kind contribution.
Ms. Duncan: It's a pleasure to enter into this debate with the minister. I'm going to take an opportunity to review the printed version of the minister's comments before I expand upon questions with respect to the land information management system. I'll reserve the opportunity to come back to that.
I would like to start with another issue - and I'd like to correct the record. The minister suggested that at least some members of the opposition had not taken the opportunity to attend the technology innovations centre opening. I would like to advise the minister that certainly this party was not invited.
Otherwise, had we been, we certainly would have availed ourselves of the opportunity. But the message has been very clearly delivered to this caucus that we are not welcome to attend media conferences of the government.
I'd like to talk in very general terms about the communications aspect of the department. I've noticed, in going through the debates, the departmental estimates and the budget briefing over the past number of years, that there's been quite a debate between the Member for Klondike and the Minister of Government Services, with regard to Northwestel and living up to their commitments.
I notice that it's this department that is funding - at least this year - representation to the CRTC. I notice changes in staffing - there's some communications expertise that is now within the department.
There was quite a discussion between the minister and me with regard to partnership with Internet providers. We have the announcement today of the technology innovation centre, and we have this department responsible for a number of systems and, of course, the purchasing for the government as well. I'm wondering where the government is going, and is it this department that's taking the lead role overall in terms of systems and communications for the government?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Chair, I think the member has noticed that there is probably some trend, particularly in regard to information technology. As we have been the primary department in information systems, I think that some of the issues around information systems have sort of naturally evolved to us.
With regard to the CRTC hearing, we participated in that proposal with Community and Transportation Services. Community and Transportation Services naturally had interest in telephone systems and land lines. Our involvement in that was because we have found that, particularly in the CRTC high-cost serving area proposal that we made, we had real concerns - less on the sort of rate side and more on the information technology - with the need for infrastructure upgrade, and so on and so forth.
So, I think that we and Community and Transportation Services have worked together on that. They may naturally have one area of interest. Ours is primarily on the information systems and information technology upgrading of infrastructure. So, for example, when Northwestel made its presentation at the CRTC hearings, their focus was primarily on the idea of setting up a high-cost serving area fund to drive down rates, to make them more competitive. Our take on that was, yes, we'd like to see lower rates, but we also feel that that fund should be also used to upgrade the infrastructure system, because, quite frankly, without it, some of the information systems that we'd like to work with, we can't.
We have begun, I suppose, particularly in that regard, to take on more and more responsibility. With regard to the technology and innovation centre, we saw a real benefit in that regard with trying to promote an environment where ideas would come forward in concert with business, in concert with education - ideas that we could use from a governmental point of view. That's why we chose to work with both the private sector, Yukon College and the Northern Research Institute to set up - if you will - I guess, a technology think-tank - would be the best sort of example - as well as a fund. Our hope is that that fund will provide seed money and leverage money for private companies and organizations that maybe want to explore different technologies, satellite technology, or whatever, to bring forward ideas that government can hopefully benefit from and certainly, not least, that business can develop on.
So I think the member is probably somewhat right in her interpretation that we are taking on more of a role in that regard.
Ms. Duncan: I notice that the minister carefully avoided any reference or notation that I had corrected the record with respect to invitations.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, I stand corrected. I had not meant to exclude the members of the opposition in this regard. We will certainly aspire that, in future sorts of things of that nature, we try to extend an invitation to them and make sure that, when they want to see us launch something like -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm sorry?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: - when they want to see us launch something like the telemedicine project, they do get an invitation to it. That's my error. I stand corrected on that.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the minister's efforts. I'm not criticizing anyone of these particular expenditures by the Department of Government Services, but I certainly am witnessing - in reviewing notes and looking at the direction and work of this department - a trend. As the minister has stated, there is a trend because the technology is proceeding at such a pace and the demands and needs and so on are proceeding at such a pace that there's a natural link there, and I'd like a sense of the government's future direction in this regard. Are we looking at consolidating the efforts? Is there any sort of sense of where this is going to go? I'm not advocating one position or another; I'm asking for a sense from the minister of where the government's going in this regard.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think particularly in the area of information technology, probably Government Services and especially ISB will be taking more and more of a leadership role. There will be, I think, issues around education, for example, in developing their systems but I think that we can provide some of the technological forward thinking, maybe some suggestions as to how we can best advise respective departments in the kind of systems they might want to get into to.
I think the member is right when she concludes that increasing the ISB is drawing more of this into that branch, and I think probably that's logical because we have the trained people, we have the expertise and we have been involved in such things as our mainframe system and our maintenance of our systems in general, such things as the help desk and so on and so forth.
I think there'll probably always be branches such as the Department of Education, which maintains their own sort of computer folks, if you will, because they have a very different sort of delivery system and a very different sort of imperative. Theirs is mainly from an educational point of view, but I think, as an overall government system, we will probably continue to take the lead in that regard.
Ms. Duncan: So, the minister has dealt with the issue of Education and computer systems and so on. What about communications?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Probably, C&TS will continue to take the lead in terms of community systems and in terms of community infrastructure. Where we see ourselves going is probably in the realm of support services for government facilities, such as libraries and health stations and things of that nature, but quite obviously there will be spinoffs that we think will probably apply to the communications systems of communities. C&TS will still take the lead on such issues as provision of telephone service and things of that nature. Ours, I think, will be more in the data area.
Ms. Duncan: So, what the minister is saying, then, is that he still foresees the split even though we're looking at this funding of CRTC and information systems and everything else sort of consolidating itself under Government Services - the minister still sees that as a split in a C&TS role over government services.
The minister is nodding, so we'll leave it at that.
I'd like to talk briefly about a couple of other issues that we've discussed in the past. One of the items that I made representation to with the minister - I, myself, and others made quite strong representation - was to have the government switch its billing system for travel, and the Diner's Club card was finally, after a long effort by everyone, instituted.
We've had it for a while now. How well is it working?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The general feedback we've had has been quite successful in that regard, particularly, I think, from the point of view of the business community, which is getting fairly timely payout and is not having to wait for the usual period of time. What I can do is probably get the member some comparative costs on what it's cost us to do that.
I can say that it's worked successfully from the point of view of assisting the travel agent community, and that was first and foremost the reason why we did it. We realized that there was a problem and we decided that this would assist them.
Ms. Duncan: Well, we could argue about, first and foremost, they did it because of a problem, or because they had representations, but we're not going to spend the afternoon arguing; we're going to spend the afternoon discussing the minister's department.
The maintenance for this building - the last time we discussed this, we were dealing with the air exchange handling system, and that was where the government's resources and efforts were being dedicated. And now we see there's some reconstruction, and I've noticed some contracting-type individuals looking at the entryway.
Can the minister outline what the maintenance plans and upgrading plans are for this building?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: There have recently been some modifications in the ECO offices, and that has been primarily to create sound-proofed translator offices. The translators were working in a room which had in it a variety of equipment and, not only that, it had, I believe, six doors. How one gets six doors in a single room is a bit beyond me.
But part of what they were doing was converting over that room to a sound-proofed room. Because as the member can appreciate, you've got translators working there, there's a certain amount of silence needed.
With regard to the gyproc that I saw coming in today, I'll have to follow up on that, and find out where that came from. It may be that there's some conversion in this regard.
This has been an interesting building, though, since we're on the subject, because one of the problems - and I'm sure the Member for Riverside knows this, probably better than anyone - one of the problems with this building is that when it was built, it was built as an open-concept kind of building, and over the years, offices evolved; all kinds of equipment came in, which really strained the resource of the air handling. As changes always go on within government, in terms of moving various departments, and expanding and contracting, those things are going to occur. Certainly moving Health out to a stand-alone building affected the internal space.
I can imagine that there will always be sort of bits and pieces going on in this building.
Ms. Duncan: I don't want to rewind all of the tapes on our discussions on this building. I have asked the minister in the past about safety issues around some of the entryways and if there was a safety audit. The entrance to the Rotary Park entrance, for a lack of a better term, is extremely dark and relatively unsafe in my view. I've raised this issue with the minister before, and I've never heard if there has been a safety audit done on this building and if there is any attempt to address any of these issues.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I will check with that to see if there has been a safety audit, particularly with the issue of lighting, and I appreciate the member's concerns. This is something that I think is a matter of concern and should be a matter of concern for not only all public buildings, but for business dwellings. The RCMP did a presentation last year for government and business in town about reducing crime by improving things like lighting and sight lines and things like that. We can take a look and see if anything has been done in that regard with this building.
Ms. Duncan:It sounds like the minister has attended that workshop by the RCMP. I've seen several of them. There were a number of very good safety audits done on our schools, which is very important. Porter Creek in particular had an excellent report done, and the modifications made a great deal of difference. I would encourage the minister to continue his encouragement that all Government of the Yukon buildings have a safety audit, as well as encouraging business to conduct safety audits of their buildings.
With regard to that, we've had discussions in the past about - I think the code name for this information system is IBIS, the integrated building management information system. We were doing a tally of the buildings and spreadsheet on the buildings that would tell us, you know, what condition they are in and where we're at.
Could the minister update me? Has that system been put in place? Is it up and running? Can we go and access it and say, "Tell me what shape the administration building is in in Mayo," and "What shape is the administration building in in Haines Junction?"
Can we do that now?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The IBIS is in place. I imagine that, right now, it's accessible only for the folks in our property management branch, but I can find out if it's available for other individuals and get back to the member with information in that regard - how to access it, or whatever.
Ms. Duncan: I apologize. I wasn't trying to obtain this information for the general public, per se. I was wondering if the government was doing this and then following up on it.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, it is, and information is continually being added as buildings age and building systems have to be revised, and so on and so forth. One of the things that's obviously going to impact on that is when we inherit buildings from the federal government. We have done a bit of a preliminary cut on the condition of the buildings, and we have a fairly good idea of what's usable and what isn't, and so on and so forth.
But naturally all the federal buildings that we inherit will have to be rolled into that. Any buildings we do inherit - but I want to emphasize that the one building they won't give us is the Elijah Smith Building.
Ms. Duncan: The minister must be part of the psychic hotline, because that was my next question - the federal buildings. The minister has said there's been some assessment. Has this been inputted into the IBIS system? Is there a sense of space requirement studies after devolution, or are we waiting until devolution has occurred to do any sort of assessment of what space is going to be required in the future?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, Mr. Chair, we have been part of the government's devolution steering committee, and basically what we've been doing in the devolution negotiations is to assess and evaluate all the physical assets that will transfer with Northern Affairs, including buildings, vehicles and other equipment.
We're also working with the Yukon Housing Corporation and the local Northern Affairs to ensure that housing concerns for federal government employees to be transferred are addressed.
We've undertaken a comprehensive evaluation of all the federal buildings to be devolved to the Yukon government. Proposed for transfer in the Northern Affairs program are nine office buildings, four heated storage buildings, nine heated workshops, 83 cold storage buildings, 38 residences and 11 fire outlook buildings. Some of the residences could be sold to federal employees occupying the housing if the employees are of indeterminate status and if they accept employment.
We've also identified physical building deficiencies and costed that out. To date, most of the building deficiencies have been corrected.
Another assessment and review will be conducted prior to the transfer and the cost of any deficiencies not yet completed or new deficiencies noted will be transferred to the Yukon government as a one-time transition cost. I can go on talking about computers and cars, if you like.
Ms. Duncan: On the standards for buildings, does the Government of Yukon have standards? Now, the minister opened his comments this afternoon, I believe, by talking about having standards for lighting in schools. Assumedly then, we have standards for entryways, handicap accesses and signage and all of those things.
In the assessment of the federal buildings, were Yukon standards applied and deficiencies have been met? Is that the minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, that has been because the buildings would have to comply to Yukon government standards, and that would include such things as accessibility levels, and so on. Presumably, as our building standards are continually sort of upgraded, you know, we'll make the necessary modifications.
Ms. Duncan: And I understood the minister to say that upgrading these federal buildings to Government of Yukon standards was a cost of the federal government.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That will be rolled in. The assessed costs will be rolled in as a one-time amount over to Yukon government.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, does the minister have an estimate of what that cost is, has been, or will be?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can provide that for the member. I don't have it with me right here as part of my note, but I can certainly find out. It may actually be contained in some of our overall devolution costs. I just don't recall seeing it in the note here.
Mr. Cable: I've asked the minister's predecessor, Mr. Nordling, and I've also asked the minister, for the energy efficiency initiatives that the minister and his predecessor were involved in, and the payback periods for each of the initiatives. Both the minister's predecessor and this minister had responded over the past, and I was wondering if I could get a written update of those initiatives at some juncture?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: What I could do with regard to some of the very extensive things here on energy management plan for government buildings - but I could just touch on some of the highlights here: the Department of Education energy-saving project; the re-tubing of buildings, in terms of fluorescent tubes; replacement of ballasts, replacement of fixtures; variable-speed drive controllers and energy efficient motors, indoor-outdoor controllers, water use monitors, heating and ventilation upgrade in leased buildings, replacement of incandescent bulbs with light-emitting diodes. These are agreements that we've amended to make the Yukon government responsible for heating costs.
The total estimated savings from all of the measures, including these ones listed above, exceed about $200,000 a year.
I could probably give the member just a kind of a breakdown that might be of some use to him.
Mr. Cable: I think that previously the payback periods had been calculated too, so if those could be listed, I would appreciate it.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, we can do that. The payback periods really vary. For example, the Department of Education, when they brought in the energy savings, has saved on the participating schools about a quarter million dollars over the first three years. In terms of just disconnecting the ballasts in six buildings, that has saved $5,000 annually, and the payback has been in about six months. The variable-speed drive controllers have been five years, and so on.
So we do have that kind of information contained in here. I think it will be of some use to the member.
Mr. Jenkins: I'll take the minister back to the IBIS and the second phase of the transfer of the medical buildings to the Government of the Yukon. Now, we went through all of those buildings, did a complete evaluation of them, and plugged all of the numbers and all of the information into the system. Are we on track as to what we're anticipating spending on these medical buildings that we assumed in the second phase, or is it above or below the recognized level of expenditure that we envision, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm advised that the costs have been as were originally estimated, in terms of those buildings.
Ms. Duncan: The contract that the government signed - the somewhat colourful Xerox deal - when is that over with?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I imagine that the member is referring to the ever-popular DocuTech contract. I'm just looking in here and the details of that contract aren't listed. What I have, basically, is information on volumes of systems and such things as additions to the system in terms of on line.
I can find out when the DocuTech contract is due for renewal and get back to the member.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, that was an interesting choice of words by the minister: "due for renewal". Is it automatically renewed, or is it retendered? Could I ask the minister to provide me with some details on that?
I'd also like to know if we've done an assessment since this DocuTech contract was signed, if we've gone back and - certainly there's lots of debate to look at. Has any assessment at all been done of whether or not, in hindsight, this was a good idea?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can see what information we have in that regard. I can tell the member that we have made certain commitments to the local business community, because we're very cognizant of the fact that probably were we to use the DocuTech system to its full degree, we would effectively knock out a number of the smaller printing businesses, and we have commitments in that regard to the printing community.
Basically, what we have said is that we'll stick to black and white and that we'll maintain a certain level of volume.
We'll try to make sure that we don't sort of put people out of business. The DocuTech system really has the capability to do massive volumes, to do colour printing, it has all kinds of bells and whistles, and we have to be very cognizant that, just by sheer volume, we don't really put many of the small companies out of business. We've given that undertaking that we'll try to maintain it at a certain number of copies, in black and white only.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the business community was given that assurance when the debate arose around this contract originally, and the minister is nodding in agreement with that.
Then, I would like an assessment of - if there have been subsequent discussions with the business community, has there been any sort of report or anything that the government, or a collation of statistics where the government has said, "Look, we've lived up to our end of the bargain and we've done this. We've only produced X amount, even though I'm sure there are wonderful capabilities of a variety of machines."
But I would like an assessment of where this contract is at, and any assurances the minister has given the business community that they have, indeed, lived up to their commitments.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: One of the commitments we made was that we would stick to nine million impressions, and black and white only, and we have maintained that.
One of the areas that the local printing industry has been most concerned about is the proliferation of convenience copiers within government, and they've brought that to our attention.
Actually, with regard to government print work to the end of December 1998, it is actually down from the corresponding period in 1997-98. Queen's Printer impressions were at 8.5 million, and we had agreed not to exceed nine million. In 1997-98 it was down to 8.5 million and in 1998-99 our estimation is that it will be at 7.5 million, so actually we're keeping it down.
In a similar fashion, in 1997-1998, the number of convenience copier impressions has actually dropped from a high of 27 million in 1995-1996. We've taken it down to about 15 million now, so basically, we are trying to help the private sector printers in this regard by keeping down what we can do. As well, we've adapted forms to remove sort of artificial barriers to companies producing the forms that the government uses locally. We've also helped them to develop marketing strategies to grab the sort of intermediate-sized printing jobs that are currently on convenience copiers.
So, we're trying to work with the printing community. We're sensitive to the fact that government, just by sheer volume, could knock an industry like this out of the ballpark, so we don't want to do that. We've made that commitment, and we're actually living up to it.
Ms. Duncan: I'm sure the business community appreciates the minister's reassurances in that regard.
On the special operating agencies, the minister has only just today tabled these reports. I'm sure they were tabled as soon as they were available. We haven't had a chance to go through them. These special operating agencies have been in effect for awhile now, and these annual reports that the minister provides give us a reasonable evaluation. I'm wondering if there is anything else that the government is doing with respect to evaluating the success or failure of this special operating agency model, and if there is any intention to pursue it on any other initiatives.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: With regard to the idea of expanding this particular concept, we had sort of toyed with the idea of supply services, and we looked at it in a preliminary fashion, and the suggestion was that it wasn't very practical in that regard.
I think for the period that we're involved in here, it will be confined to property management, fleet vehicle and Queen's Printer.
Ms. Duncan: Thanks, Mr. Chair, I'll reserve any questions on those specific agencies until we've had a chance to go through their reports.
The bid challenge committee - can the minister advise how many challenges have been brought forward since we last had this discussion and the number of recommendations from that committee?
One of the suggestions I made to the minister during our last debate on the bid challenge committee was that they examine greater use of mediation with regard to challenges that come before the committee. One of the biggest problems, quite frankly, with the way the committee's set up is that they can't overturn a contract; all they can do is make recommendations. That's been an issue.
If the minister will go back through the debates and see the last time we had this discussion, I mentioned the startling fact to him that when there are problems with bids sometimes people will talk to their politicians, which the minister found quite amazing.
I'd like the minister to review the effectiveness of the bid challenge committee and an assessment of how many challenges there have been, how many recommendations and have they made use of the suggestions around mediation?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, to date, the bid challenge has reviewed 15 complaints, of which compensation to the complainant was recommended in eight. Compensation was agreed to and paid by the department in six cases.
With regard to this, compensation for reasonable costs to participants in hearings were recommended and paid in three cases. In another case, compensation was recommended and paid for bid proposal preparation costs. In four other cases, compensation was recommended for bid proposal preparation and hearing costs, and the compensation was paid in two cases.
The member is right about the bid challenge committee, and I should just sort of let the member know that it's not only a committee made up of government types. We have representation from C&TS, Health and Social Services, PSAC, Justice, Yukon Liquor Commission, but we also have representatives from the business community, including contractors, Building Construction Trades Council, Chamber of Commerce, consulting engineers. So it's quite a fair cross-section.
I can go on with regard to the parameters of it. The panel can recommend changes to a government policy or procedure, and it can recommend that the contracting authority pay redress to the complainant for the reasonable costs in preparing a bid or proposal and/or the complainant's reasonable costs for participating in the inquiry.
With regard to the idea of mediation, I don't think we've really moved on that one. My official advises me that Yukon hire recommendation number 33 makes a recommendation in that regard, and we will be looking at it as we're considering all the aspects of Yukon hire.
Ms. Duncan: The minister stood on his feet and said that there were 15 cases that went before bid challenge and compensation was recommended in eight of them, then outlined in six cases where it was actually paid.
What happened to the two where compensation was recommended and then subsequently not paid? And what costs are we dealing with here? What dollar amount?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can go through a summary of the complaints heard to February 5, 1999. I don't have the actual amounts but I can tell the member the total. They range from - my official advises me - anywhere from $200 up to a couple of thousand dollars. It really depends on the nature of the proposal, the time involved and perhaps the amount of costs involved in the bid itself.
I can certainly determine an overall number. What I've got is, largely, a summary of the individual cases, what the recommendation was and so on, but I can certainly find an overall kind of global cost that has been filed in that regard.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I think the summary is also of interest, if the minister would like to provide that, if that's within the parameters of privacy, et cetera. I'm not looking for specific names. I'm looking for an overall sense of what some of the issues have been and what the resolution has been to these issues, and a sense from the government if they feel this bid challenge committee is working adequately.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can just give the member a sense of some of the issues that sometimes come up, and I can provide a summary of some of the key issues, and they do go back a-ways. For example, there are things such as the criteria not being clear, timely advice, and it also varies with a whole variety of departments, so it's not exclusively Government Services. It's everything from Health and Social Services, C&TS shows up, even Justice, and so on. Sometimes they take the form that there are contentions that, in some cases, the complainant felt that his proposal had been unfairly eliminated because they hadn't looked at the previous experience he'd had, and in some cases they felt that the specifications were unclear. We can give a summary of what the key issues are.
Ms. Duncan: That's fine. I'd also like, when the minister provides that - and I'm sure he'll do it in written form -him to indicate what follow-up happened then. Was the next tender written to reflect that, or how was the department advised to follow up?
The minister said that compensation was recommended in eight but followed up in six. That leaves two in a bit of a grey area. What happened with those cases?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, the recommendation might be to pay, but the department itself, in the final analysis, can make that decision whether to pay or not, and they may, for their own reasons, decide that they feel that their case is strong and that they're not going to pay. And then we could probably go, I suppose, to the next step, which is legal action, if that's what they choose.
Ms. Duncan: Does the minister have a sense of the 15 cases that went before the bid challenge committee? Are there any statistics kept as to how many of those went on to further legal action?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I don't have a sense from this about how many would go on, but generally, it's probably proportional to the size of the contract. The one that springs to mind as being sort of a long-standing one was some dispute with - was Carlson the company, the builder of the Elijah Smith School?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Carlberg, I'm sorry. That one was one that actually did go into legal action, but I couldn't say how many of these actually went further. I suspect that we might be able to find out on that.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister also send the official opposition copies of the correspondence that has been requested by the leader of the third party?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Certainly, Mr. Chair. We'll try to compile the figures of what the payouts have been, as well as sort of a summary of what some of the issues and what some of the departments have been. I would be loathe at this point to actually specifically name companies, because there may be -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Okay. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: Yes, Mr. Chair, we're not looking for information as to the names of the companies, just an overview and a comparison as to prior years and, historically, what number of disputes have been resolved through this process and what it currently is. That would probably be appreciated also.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We can do that. The one thing I would probably suggest is that actually we've seen an increase in this regard because people, I think, are becoming more aware of the bid challenge. Just as the awareness arises on any procedure, I think people tend to use it, and they often see this as an avenue to go to.
Quite frankly, I think it's a very legitimate avenue to use. It's certainly replaces the idea of going to the minister of the day, which is fraught with all kinds of political implications. I mean, if you're suddenly asked to overturn - and people have sometimes done that - for one reason or another, I think that's a very dangerous precedent, so I think the bid challenge is the avenue to go. Whenever we have complaints about a particular issue, we suggest bid challenge is the route to go.
Ms. Duncan: I have a couple of questions on the building systems - the IBIS we've dealt with. I'd like to talk about the HRIS. What was the original budget for the HRIS? Does the minister have that figure?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, the original budget was originally approved in November 1995, and it was estimated at the time that the project would cost $1.4 million for hardware, software and consulting services. To date, as I mentioned before, it went to $2,057,097 and it was originally projected that the system would be completed by 1997. In reality, it became available January 1999. I can go into a whole variety of reasons as to why this occurred, but I think probably the original estimate for this whole project was likely very underestimated, and I think it was probably fairly aggressive. I think, as well, there was probably an underestimation of the scope of the project and the length of time it takes people to learn and to make the information transfers.
One thing we have to recognize is that the system went from - basically, we're overcoming a 15-year gap in terms of technology, too. So, there are those reasons. I think there were issues around collective agreements and things like that that changed the kind of inputting data and so on.
Ms. Duncan: Of the close to $3 million - $2-something -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: So, it's $2,057,097.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I apologize, Mr. Chair. Yes, it is $2,057,097, and those are HRIS direct project costs involving consultant software licences, and computer hardware. In addition, there was also HRIS project team costs, utilizing government staff - people who would have been on the government payroll anyhow, but they were assigned to the HRIS team - and that was an additional $941,408.
Ms. Duncan: I have a couple of follow-up questions from that. The HRIS team - do we have the same team in place from November 1995 to the final completion, which was January 1999? Was it the same team?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, it wasn't, and that's part of the issue. Sometimes people would come and go in government, and I just know, in the case of when I came onto it, we had a very accomplished and very talented individual heading our team from Government Services, who was offered a position with the Department of Education and went there. The department's gain was our loss, in a way. So, people moved in and out during the course of the project, but there was an attempt to keep a team together to try to make sure that we got this project going.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, of the $2 million that was spent on consultants, software and hardware, does the minister have that further broken down? Was any hardware purchased locally? I know the software was PeopleSoft, I believe. The consultants, were any of them local, or were they PeopleSoft consultants from out of the territory?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can give some global costs on this, and I can break it down. I don't know if I could break it down in terms of local but, for example, on the consultants, there was $1,165,000, and software licences was $743,143; on computer hardware - and I have no way of knowing what the breakout on that was - the purchases were made in 1995-96 and 1996-97, and there was $148,080 in that regard.
With regard to the HRIS project team costs, there was $760,000 in salaries for the existing government staff, and there were support costs, in terms of such things as, probably, rental space, lease space, and other additional costs for $180,747. For a long period of time, the HRIS team was actually housed in a building separate from government. They were over in what is now the space occupied by the territorial paleontologist in the Chocolate Claim building. So, they were in there, and then they vacated.
Since that time, the majority of the individuals have gone back to their respective departments. There are just a few individuals who are still monitoring aspects as they are introduced, primarily from our ISB services.
Chair: Do the members want to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is there any further general debate?
Ms. Duncan: Sorry, Mr. Chair, I wasn't sure if I was in the middle of a question or an answer here.
We were talking about HRIS before we adjourned for a recess, and the minister advised me of some figures with respect to hardware consultants and salaries and so on, and support costs and retail costs. Does that figure include all of the incredible amounts of overtime put in by these people from December to January? Every time I came in this building, there were pages of individuals from HRIS who had signed in and were working overtime at Christmas.
Hon. Mr. Sloan:Yes, there were people in here working on HRIS. However, I should sort of caution the member that we shouldn't look at all the people from the Public Service Commission as working exclusively on this. There was a lot of work that was also having to do with collective agreement going on at that time. Not everyone who was here from Public Service Commission was involved in HRIS. Unfortunately, it was happening at the same time. There was concurrent work on collective agreement adjustments and so on and so forth.
Yes, the $760,661 includes all of the salary costs.
Ms. Duncan: When I was researching this issue, there are other universities, municipalities, governments, looking at different HRIS systems, and they're quite the projects.
Have we been asked, or have we offered our expertise - now that our systems up and running - to anyone?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We haven't been asked specifically, and I would imagine that probably - once we shake out the system itself, and once we begin to add on the additional functions - I think probably, at that point, other groups may look to us to see how our implementation went, and perhaps learn from our experience.
I do know that on a lot of these human resource information systems - not only here but in other areas - it has been much more costly, and I think far more demanding, than what people had originally assumed. Just taking a look, as the member has said, at universities, for example. Some of the universities that have developed these systems, and added these systems, have often involved huge amounts of money.
I think the University of Alberta had a very high cost, and theirs was also fraught with all kinds of delays and so on. So, hopefully, as people have gone on, we'll learn from experience, and I hope people will learn from our experience, as well.
Ms. Duncan: I have two follow-up questions, and I'm just going to roll them into one, if I could, for the minister. The minister said, "as we begin to add on the additional functions". Are we looking at additional costs on this system?
The second part of my question was with regard to reviewing the whole start-to-finish implementation of the HRIS system for the Government of Yukon. Obviously, at some point, I would think someone would sit down and say, "Well, in hindsight, we could have done, for example, an assignment of individuals - a team leader to this project; it might have gone faster" - that sort of suggestion. Has an evaluation like that been conducted, or is it going to be conducted?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: With regard to the latter one, I think we're still pretty new on this. I can tell the member that, when the system was designed, it was designed to roll in several functions. There were several stand-alone systems previously in use: the employee information system, the position control system, the MSA payroll system. What we've tried to do is to roll it into one overall system and to increase the ability to access data consistently across the organization.
There are plans to introduce additional functions of the PeopleSoft system in the government. As I mentioned before, these are such things as leave management, staffing, labour relations, training development, et cetera.
With regard to additional cost, I imagine that the cost would be probably borne internally. Since the system is now in place and the main functions are there, these are add-ons of the original system, and I think they could probably be done with not a great deal of extra work.
Project teams will be put in place. We use the project team method to in house. We have permanent positions in place in PSC to support the ongoing work needed to maintain the environment and introduce the annual upgrades of the product.
PSC is the principal sponsor of the system, working in partnership with ourselves and other departments.
The PeopleSoft product is maintained on an annual basis through the incorporation of tax updates, version upgrades, and each upgrade will require assessment for the impact and how it fits with the uses of the system.
There may be some expectation for external resources, and there have been some funds identified in the 1999-2000 budget for that purpose.
Ms. Duncan: Can the minister tell me the amount of the funds identified for the HRIS in this budget?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: My apologies, Mr. Chair. The amount is $100,000.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, is that human resources, and do I understand the minister to have said that there will be no additional resources spent on, for example, the minister mentioned upgrades. Those aren't computer upgrades? Those are technical upgrades?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the system is now up and running. We've seen it in our payroll slips, and the minister has mentioned add-ons and identified a $100,000 line item in this year's budget. How exactly is that going to be spent? Is it a warranty to PeopleSoft, and have we done the same thing we did with NovaLIS? Have we required local people to be trained to service a warranty?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: If the member could just bear with us for a second, we're looking in the numbers here.
All it's identified as is a version upgrade and, essentially, I would imagine that this would be comparable to, say, when new systems come in, like the operating system Windows 98 with Outlook and things of that nature on it.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It's very similar to that. There are also tax updates on this, probably to adjust for different tax calculations, and so on and so forth. We know that the federal government has changed the basic deductions, so that will reflect in that.
Ms. Duncan: When will the system be done? The minister is still talking about add-ons, and I know we've got new payroll slips, but when will they look at it and say, you know, "Other than the annual tax updates, yes, we've done as much as we're going to do with this system." At what point is that going to happen?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I think probably the bulk of the work has been done now, but like any system, there will always be updates and changes and so on, so I would imagine this is a system that's going to evolve over the years. I don't know if you can really put a finite point on a system. One of the things, I think, that we've learned from this experience is that by probably leaving systems in place too long without doing upgrades, is that you end up bearing, sometimes, huge costs, not only in terms of financial costs, but in terms of human costs.
We've replaced a system that was in place for almost 15 years and, hopefully, by keeping this system upgraded and continually sort of evolving to meet the needs of government, we can avoid this kind of issue many years from now when we are all not merely drawing our salaries but, indeed, our superannuation. So, we would seek that and I know that many of us, as we move into our twilight years, will truly appreciate the foresight that we had with the HRIS.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, you can tell it's Thursday afternoon. Someone's going to be coming here in this House in two minutes and singing, "It's Twilight Time Again", I'm sure.
We had the pension discussion yesterday. We're on this today.
It wasn't the same auditor general's report, but it was an auditor general's report that prompted the Government of the Yukon to look at the system in the first place, and recently I reviewed a report that said that of all the systems that are put in in various governments and all over the place, only 16 percent of those systems ever come in on time and on budget. Perhaps we should have taken that advice from the auditor as well.
I'd like to rewind the tape slightly for the minister and talk about another system - the NovaLIS. Now, on December 15, 1997, the minister said, with respect to this particular project, the 1997-1998 revote, there was $292,000 for data conversion and maps, and other, some $277,000. I asked the minister if the minister anticipated that all of this work would be able to at least be able to be bid on by Yukon companies or Yukon-based companies, and the minister said that they were anticipating that the remaining contracts that would be available for the local community will be somewhere in the range of $300,000 to $400,000. That was on December 15, 1997, and the minister anticipated them coming out that spring.
Now we fast-forward to April of last year, almost a year ago, and the minister said that he couldn't be more specific, but he thought that the government was looking at about $400,000 worth of work related to converting maps and documents into electronic form and that they were hoping that the bids would be out last spring.
Well, it's now February - March, pardon me. Time flies. It's March. In February, we finally had the meeting of the interested contractors. We finally start talking about how much money is going to be spent locally, and I heard the minister say $210,000 this afternoon plus $110,000 from the Government of Canada - was that $110,000 all spent locally?
The bottom line, Mr. Chair, the $400,000 that the minister keeps committing to spend locally seems to be (a) diminishing and (b) extending in time frame, and I'm very concerned that, when all is said and done, we're going to end up with far less than the crumbs of this project.
The minister said to me the other day in the House that the total cost was $2.1 million for this project, and I'm concerned that the crumbs for the local folks won't even be crumbs by the time they're finally tendered and out.
I'd like the minister to revisit that issue and to tell me how much is going to be spent locally and when it's going to be done. And I'd like something different than the message I've had for the last two years, which is "this spring".
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, $335,000 estimated right now is a heck of a lot of crumbs. It's the kind of crumbs I wouldn't mind.
With regard to it, $110,000 has gone out in conversion work from the federal government, and this has all gone locally. I can provide to the member a list of some of the companies that have received that.
I think I explained why we had chosen to extend the length of the period of time. That was a decision that we made in consultation with the folks that we consulted with. They asked for it to flow this specific way, for very specific reasons. They felt that they wanted different stages to go, to be tendered, completed, then move on to the next one, and they obviously wanted that so that as many companies as possible could take advantage of that.
We estimated up to $400,000. I mean, that was a preliminary estimate. We've never done this before. This is something that's new for us. We suspect that there will be other issues that come out along the way in the future. We don't know what this project will lead to. I certainly hope that we don't find ourselves paying substantial amounts more than what we had estimated.
But I can tell you there is a series of RFPs. The first one - RFP number one, the mineral claims conversion. There are 25 maps to an interim format, and that is scheduled to go April 21; RFP number two, mineral claim map conversion, 30 maps to interim format, that is mid-July 1999; RFP number three, mineral claims map conversion, 32 maps to interim format, that is estimated at September 1999; RFPs numbers four and five, mineral claim conversion to final format - those are estimated December 1999, after the first three RFPs have been completed.
The administrative area map conversion - which is the conversion of trapping concessions, municipal zoning, forestry boundaries, regional management areas - is looked at for 2000, after the previous mineral claims have been completed. Then there's an agricultural data contract, which is also listed as April 1, 1999.
So, that's some of the time frame at this point, and I guess we can take a look at where some of this stuff is going to go in the future, but I hope that's of some use to the member.
I did explain that we have been trying to work with the local business community in this regard, and that's why we've chosen to stage it out as we have.
Ms. Duncan: The minister's response will be added to the file - our story on this - and we'll follow it up, and see if it indeed unfolds as the minister predicts at this point in time, as best he's able.
The minister told me last year that there was an agreement with NovaLIS to cover support, which was to cost $19,000 a year. That was subject to a renewal. Did it, in fact, cost $19,000, and have we renewed it?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'll get back to the member with that when we next meet again.
Ms. Duncan: Okay, the minister said he'd get back with that response.
The NovaLIS partnership with someone locally, in terms of long-term technical support - is that working well and is the system functioning as it is right now?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The member refers to the subcontract with Sorrento Systems, and that appears to be working well at this point. I did have an earlier sort of status that I did go through before about the land title component and when it was implemented. I indicated that one of the problems that we had was the staffing of the GIS person from DIAND.
The first component became operational in March 1998, and then contracts for the second and third components went out in May 1998 - the local partner who came in place. The land titles application is in production and has been used to support business operations at the land titles office, and, as I said, the workstation has been set up at the counter to allow inquiries by clients.
Even though it's not totally complete, it has made significant progress in converting old paper titles into the new system. The initial user training and testing for the land disposition component will begin on February 1, 1999.
The cutover to production is planned for mid-April. The implementation will be in a phased approach, bringing each agency on line at different time intervals, and this will allow the project team to better support the application users.
And then the manual conversion of active files will occur on implementation, and planning is underway to address resourcing for that activity.
The development of data sharing service and annual maintenance agreements is underway.
So, it seems to be flowing out, following along as it should. As I indicated, we did have a bit of a glitch with the loss of the GIS person with the feds, but they seem to be at the point of recruiting for that now.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, if I heard the minister's time frame correctly, there's a lot of work still being done and implementation work still being done this year. Is that not behind schedule? I had understood that we expected LIMS to be up and running at an earlier date than September 1999.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, there will be components that come in at different points, and obviously the idea of converting over maps is going to impact on that. But on the land disposition aspect, we've got the user training and testing at the beginning of February, production in mid-April, and so on and so forth. This will flow out in different stages, so, as best as my notes report, we are on track with this project.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, were the continual trips back and forth to Nova Scotia for the people involved with NovaLIS part of NovaLIS' bid price, or has that been a payment over and above the contract price?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I have a report that anything that NovaLIS staff does would be part of their original bid. I suppose if we had to consult, send some of our staff back there, that would just be part of our share on this, in the same way as we have in the past sent folks out on the HRIS to consult with the PeopleSoft individuals, and as I imagine we'd probably send staff out to occasionally meet with IBM on upgrades on our mainframe and so on.
Ms. Duncan: Have we sent staff out to NovaLIS for training? Now, NovaLIS is headquartered in Nova Scotia. They don't have a lot of these systems, according to their Web site, up and running. I think they were working on some in Bermuda or the Bahamas, and I am certain that if we had sent someone there, it would have hit the floor of this Legislature. I'm wondering if we've sent anybody to Nova Scotia for training on this system.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can get some details on that. I can assure the member that I have not been to Bermuda or the Bahamas recently, although I suppose it's an attractive kind of concept. We can see how many of our staff did travel to Nova Scotia.
I'm just trying to recall, because I signed off travel forms about that, and it's difficult to sort of recall the travel forms that one signs off, but I don't recall any to Nova Scotia, but I will go back and check.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, this has been quite an ongoing saga in this particular session of the Legislature, and the minister and I can agree or disagree on whether it's crumbs that have gone locally or not, and we'll certainly see how much money is spent locally. Nevertheless, it has been quite a story and a source of disagreement between the government and other members, and there have been various views expressed on this particular project.
From start to finish - I'm not asking the minister to review the history. It has been, as I said, quite a story. Has there been any thought to asking the Bureau of Internal Audit to look at this whole story from start to finish? We've asked the Minister of Finance and the minister responsible for the Executive Council Office to provide us, with the Bureau of Internal Audit management practices, their work plan for the year. Has there been any thought to giving this project to them to have a look at and say, "Okay, here's what we did right, and here's where we could have done it better"?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We haven't done anything in terms of an internal audit, but I can tell the member that, throughout the whole process - I mean, this has been subject to considerable review and considerable discussion, and considerable soul-searching in some ways as to how things were done and so on.
I can also tell the member that, as we became aware of some of the issues surrounding this, we did respond to what we felt were some things that we had to provide, in terms of support for local businesses, and we've made those kinds of adjustments along the way.
I think any process - when one goes through a major change like this, you learn things that you did right, you learn things that you did wrong, and we have learned from this experience, hopefully. We have learned from some of our experiences with other projects.
I think that's part of the development in government - that you're continually striving to do things better and continually striving to make sure that you're covering off all of the bases. Sometimes it's very minor things that you become aware of, and sometimes it's very major things that you become aware of.
What continually surprises me, I guess, is that it's often the things that seem not particularly significant in a process that kind of jump up and bite you, and you go, "Where the heck did that one come from?"
I think it was the minister of Social Services in British Columbia, Dennis Streifel, who once commented to me that he literally moved $30 million around in the social services budget in British Columbia without a peep. And a small centre in Kamloops was impacted to the tune of $2,000 and he said that caused more distress than $20 million ever did.
So I think, hopefully, in going through this process we will learn how to adjust and how to anticipate some of the issues that may emerge.
I think, as well, some of the impact around local hire, local contracting - as we become more familiar with the process, as we become more attuned to the process - and I think, quite frankly, as other departments become more attuned to the process, we will be able, and hopefully government in general will be able, to anticipate some of the issues that might come up on projects of this kind.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister is certainly well-intentioned in saying that, you know, there's been some soul searching going on and so on. In referring this to internal audit, I'm not suggesting there's some new information that would come to light that already hasn't but that there is a separate set of eyes there and it doesn't become so much "he said/she said" in the Legislature. There is a separate set of eyes; there's a report somewhere so that the corporate history and all the well-intentioned statements by the minister opposite aren't lost. I know they're not lost because all sorts of people read Hansard, but I'd like to see that corporate memory collected somewhere to ensure that we don't lose the experience that we've gained from the errors that have occurred, as well as the good things that have occurred. That was the reason for my suggestion and I would like the minister to at least perhaps consider it.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'll take that in the spirit that it was offered as a constructive suggestion, and I'll certainly discuss it with the department as a possibility. I can tell the member that one of the things that will occur - I don't see any major system sort of lurking on the horizon, but - if we ever get into another major system issue, you can bet your bottom dollar that some people are going to go over this particular project with a fine-toothed comb. We learn from experiences but I will take the member's suggestion under advisement and in the spirit that it was offered. We'll probably be discussing this with the department internally, as we discuss future priorities and so on.
Mr. Jenkins: While we're on the subject of computers and computer systems, Mr. Chair, I, too, have a very serious concern as to what the end costs are for the implementation of some of these systems and what they were originally envisioned to cost.
Not only that, the time frame from the conception of the new system to its implementation and through to its final utilization, we seem to have the ability in government to virtually double the cost, if not more, and the implementation time frame is usually at least two or three times what it was originally perceived to be by the various agencies and departments.
Mr. Chair, there just has to be a better way - and I'm not referring to that document that the members opposite like to tout. There's got to be a better way to formulate the business plan, and there's got to be a way, after it's all said and done, to review what we've done, so that we know, if we have made an error, how we can stop that from occurring again, because we seem to go through these system implementations and computer change-outs on a regular basis.
Technology is changing at a rapid pace, but the only thing that we see here in this House are the tremendous sums of expenditures that government incurs on these projects.
You know, the leader of the third party suggested a review audit. Now, that's a serious request, and I would view it as a necessary, at the conclusion of the project, to perform this kind of review, Mr. Chair. Unless the minister can offer an alternate suggestion, rather than just "learning from our mistakes", I don't believe we can, nor can we afford that cost to the taxpayers.
I know from my own experience, I personally have been involved in computerizing a couple of smaller operations, and it was probably the most anguishing of the expenditures I've ever been involved with or incurred.
It was done with a tremendous amount of planning and an eye to cost and timely implementation, and at the end, we came in on budget, but it took us longer to implement it than we had originally targeted. So, I know the private sector can do it, Mr. Chair, and I'm aware of one Crown corporation that was computerized, that I had an overview of, and some other large operations that were computerized. So, there has to be a way that we can get a handle on this area.
Has the minister got any plans afoot to review these situations and analyze them?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, I can tell the member that we do continually analyze and examine what we are doing, and I can tell the member that every time people come in with changes in time frames or changes in costs, they are scrutinized quite well.
All I can say is that, when the HRIS program was originally approved in November 1995, I think it was an overly optimistic time frame and an overly optimistic costing. People suspected that they could accomplish the job in a shorter period of time, and I don't think that they realized the kind of time that it takes for people to adjust to systems and to learn systems and to jump through all the hoops. I mean, along the way, a number of things change, circumstances change. The only thing you can really do, I think, with many of these is to try to plan as best you can, try to estimate your costs as closely as you can, but things will always change. Standards will change. And I think we would be remiss if we didn't go back and take a look at how a particular project flowed in, what the points were, which stresses occurred, where did expenses go, and I'm sure that we will do this as these programs reach completion and become more fully implemented.
As I said, the HRIS has a few components yet to go, and we'll have to see how they flow. We'll have to see what kinds of experiences we run into, but these are major, major systems. They are huge systems, and not only in terms of cost but in terms of scope. I think we operate on the best information we have and try to work accordingly.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, hindsight is 20/20 and, given what we know now about the system, have there been discussions within the department at this juncture whether we would have selected this system for the purpose that we presently have it? Have there been any discussions surrounding that issue, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Could the member clarify which system he is referring to in this case?
Mr. Jenkins: The HRIS.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, with regard to the HRIS, the selection of the PeopleSoft was done, I think, on the basis of the ability of this company to deliver the kind of product that we needed. We did an examination of our needs. As the leader of the third party has correctly identified, this came out of an auditor general's report.
We shopped around for the system that we thought could fulfill our needs, and that was the system that seemed to be the best sort of fit at the time. I think you can only go on what you have at any given time. I'm sure that there are lots of people right now who are probably operating with systems that are - wondering why the heck they went with that system, when there are always new developments in terms of technology.
At the time, we looked at this as being the system that best met the needs of the project.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we'll leave that. I have a couple of other questions on a few other areas, Mr. Chair. If I can ask the minister just to go over the Internet program - the community access program - as to just where we are with that. I understand that most of the funds are recoverable from the federal government, but it was one of the initiatives that I certainly concur with. It's done a lot for our community.
What steps are being taken currently to upgrade, or to encourage Northwestel to upgrade, specifically, the transmission speed to our area, from analog to digital? Has there been any move in that direction? Because that would certainly enhance this whole program, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The member is right. The major restriction that we have now on expanding our services is really the bandwidth restrictions as well as the type of technology.
I made reference earlier to our representation before the CRTC. Northwestel's interpretation of the high-cost serving area fund was somewhat different from ours. They saw it as a way to bring down rates, to make themselves more competitive because other servers will be able to enter the market in a very short period of time. We saw the need, not exclusively in terms of rates - though everyone would like lower phone rates - we felt that the fund should concentrate funds in the development of infrastructure upgrade. We feel that is a necessary element if we are ever to be able to expand out our Internet and information technology services.
So, we have been pushing. We have taken sort of a leadership role in that regard and we still maintain that funds have to be directed into this area.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I certainly agree with the minister, Mr. Chair, but it's an issue that, unless some pressure is exerted by this government on the telephone company, we're not going to get anywhere, because, currently, the use of the telephone lines for voice is going down, and the use of the telephone lines for data transmission is increasing, and we're more and more into that domain. That is the area that has to be addressed, and we're not going to go anywhere without this government pushing and leaning very heavily on our local telephone company. So, other than presentations to CRTC, what initiatives is this government taking with respect to ensuring that the upgrades to the system, from at least analog to digital, occur in a continuing fashion?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: One of the things that we've tried to do is work with Northwestel and incorporate them into our plans for the future. To be quite blunt, Mr. Chair, we do have a certain amount of economic clout. We are a major user, and I would suspect that if Northwestel hopes to maintain its market position in this area, they are going to have to realize that we, as government, have certain needs.
That extends to the outlying communities, particularly in terms of information technology. So, I think we've tried to keep them plugged into all of our plans. We've made it very clear that we have expectations in that regard. We had a meeting prior to the CRTC hearing with Northwestel. They came, they did their presentation, and we said, "Sounds good, but understand that we're going there and we have a different focus." So, I think with a combination of persuasion and a certain amount of economic influence, if they hope to maintain their market share, they're going to have to respond to our needs.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Committee of the Whole 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 from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Monday, March 22, 1999.
The House adjourned at 5:28 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled March 11, 1999:
Property Management Agency: 1999-2000 business plan (Sloan)
Fleet Vehicle Agency: 1999-2000 business plan (Sloan)
Queen's Printer Agency: 1999-2000 business plan (Sloan)
Takhini Hot Springs: resort development opportunity (a Yukon project model) (Harding)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled on March 11, 1999:
Local hire: number of indeterminate and term appointments from 1994-95 to March 4, 1999; information on Yukon hire policy (Harding)
Written Question No. 10, dated March 2, 1999, by Ms. Duncan