Monday, December 8, 2003 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker:We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Speaker, I have a return entitled the Quartz Mining Act, section 147 for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Speaker, Iíd like to table the Fleet Agency Annual Report for 2002-03 and the Property Management Agency Annual Report for 2002-03.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. McRobb:Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House opposes the development of access corridors to non-renewable and timber resources in the Yukon, including the proposed road to resources in southeast Yukon, without a full public consultation process before a formal environmental review is initiated.
I also give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House supports the work of the Energy Solutions Centre and urges the Yukon Development Corporation and the Government of Yukon to begin negotiations with the centreís funding partner, Natural Resources Canada, on an extended funding agreement for this award-winning centre, whose programs deliver cost savings to Yukon consumers and help combat international climate change.
Mr. Cathers: I rise to give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to maintain a level playing field in supporting small business and private sector growth and ensure government funding does not foster unfair competition within the business community.
Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Tourism minister should recall the 2004 Yukon vacation guide in order to correct the following errors contained in the guide:
(1) the omission of Old Crow from the Yukon air access map;
(2) the misspelling of the header "Highways" listing the Yukonís highways; and
(3) the omission of several Yukon communities, including Tagish, Champagne and Johnsons Crossing from the main Yukon map.
Mr. Cardiff: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to develop and implement a comprehensive policy, including financial assistance where necessary, to ensure that all Yukon people have access to a safe and affordable supply of drinking water.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Wildlife Act amendments
Mr. Fairclough:I have a question for the Premier, and itís a constituency question.
Last week the Chief of the Na Cho Nyäk Dun First Nation wrote a strongly worded letter to the Environment minister to protest against any amendments to the Wildlife Act that would allow any species of wildlife to be privately owned. The chief called the ministerís proposed amendments "subversive to the spirit and the letter of the Umbrella Final Agreement." He pointed out that no amendments which have force in Na Cho Nyäk Dun traditional territory could be made without the First Nationís full participation and agreement.
Will the Premier now instruct his minister to drop his misguided plans to amend the Wildlife Act?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Mr. Speaker, Iím pleased to remind the member opposite that that is exactly what weíre doing. Nothing can proceed without full consultation as per the agreement that we signed a couple of weeks ago, and we will be proceeding with that.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister is wrong. Heís carrying on with amendments to the Wildlife Act. He has not consulted First Nations properly, and this governmentís in-boxes are full of concerns and letters from First Nations from my riding. In February, Mr. Speaker, the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation wrote to say it was boycotting a forest policy workshop because it wasnít willing to condone a consultation process that was unilaterally set up by the Yukon government. Last week, the chief wrote to the Premier again to insist that the Yukon government honour its consultation protocol with the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation on the development of a forest policy framework ó two ministers, two departments, two botched consultations.
Why is the Premier allowing his ministers to ignore their legal obligation to consult with First Nations in a respectful and meaningful way?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, I would point out to the Member for Mayo-Tatchun that his assertions are incorrect. We arenít ignoring that whatsoever. In fact, as a government, weíve advanced our ability to consult with First Nations and taken it a step further. We are working on formalized relationships at a government level so that two jurisdictions can work collaboratively in this territory, given their respective responsibilities within those jurisdictions and also forging ahead with partnerships in the growth and the creation of a future economy in this territory. Those are steps that are well advanced from past governments and are very inclusive of a consultation process that is meaningful, respectful and is producing a product.
Mr. Fairclough: The Premier said that I was wrong. Is the First Nation wrong, then, by writing letters to the Premier and stating their concerns that the consultation process is not right and the Premier is not following the process laid out in their agreements?
I asked the Premier to ensure that the ministers are following those agreements.
Now, the Premier promised to make First Nations full partners in the Yukonís economy. He signed protocols, he signed agreements and accords, he had secret deals outside of the land claims process, but he doesnít appear to have the buy-in from his ministers. A year has gone by and thatís long enough.
Will the Premier tell his ministers either to get with the program or, basically, turn in their Cabinet credentials? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The ministers of this government are fully aware of what our commitments are. It was Cabinet that agreed to the consultation protocol, not me on my own. The collective of Cabinet was very much involved here, Mr. Speaker. First Nations, as governments in representing their citizens, are always going to bring forward what they deem to be concerns. Thatís part of this process. But as a government, weíve advanced our ability to consult with, to work with, and to build this territory collaboratively with First Nations. Thatís a very positive step by this government ó one that has never been taken before by past governments.
Nobody on that side, when in government, can say to this House that they had never received concerns from First Nations about consultation. It happens all the time. That is why we are doing what we are doing to formalize that relationship as governments and two jurisdictions in this territory.
Question re: Old Crow airport
Mrs. Peter:I have a question for the Minister of Community Services. The department supplementary budget for 2003-04 includes $200,000 for a winter road to Old Crow. With his Highways and Public Works hat on, the same minister has added nearly a million dollars for airports around the territory, but not one penny to replace the Old Crow terminal.
Given this governmentís huge surplus, Mr. Speaker, why didnít the minister set aside money for the terminal right away, so some of the necessary materials could go up to Old Crow on the winter road this year?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Speaker, that is one of the intents of the road.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, thatís news to me.
Replacing the terminal is a very big priority for my community, but it doesnít seem to be a priority for this government. Now that Iíve seen the new Yukon vacation guide, I think I can understand why. Apparently the Tourism minister doesnít even know we have an airport in Old Crow.
I have a question for the Minister of Tourism. Can the minister explain why Inuvik, Fairbanks, Anchorage and Juneau all appear on the Yukon air access map, but Old Crow does not?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I thank the members opposite for the opportunity to address this issue. Errors do occur from year to year with respect to our vacation guide. The vacation guide is a joint publication. Itís produced jointly between the Department of Tourism and Culture as well as in cooperation with the vacation guide committee of the Yukon Tourism Marketing Partnership.
We strive to improve the vacation guide year after year, and as I mentioned, errors do occur. I would also like to add that fixing the errors on this particular cover would have cost in excess of $50,000, which, I should also add, would add to the delayed distribution of the vacation guide by another four to six weeks as well.
We consulted with the industry association, and it was felt that, indeed, we should make better use of $50,000, and thatís what has happened.
Mrs. Peter: This is an insult to my community. It is especially insulting because the Vuntut Gwitchin is a major partner in Air North, the airline that serves Old Crow.
Question re: Vacation guide information
Mrs. Peter:I have a related question for the Tourism minister. On the same page as the Yukon air access map there is a road access map that only mentions four Yukon communities: Watson Lake, Whitehorse, Haines Junction and Dawson City. Why does the ministerís department even bother to include maps that give such incomplete or misleading information?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I in no way mean to provide any disrespect to the members of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. In fact, I placed a call to the Chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation this morning and apologized on behalf of our department and on the industryís behalf. I should also add that the same mistakes in the air access map were made in the previous year, by the Liberal government. So if youíd like to take a look at that, Iíd be happy to table a copy as well. With that said, I have made the commitment to go back to industry and our department to ensure that these errors are corrected.
I thank the member opposite for the input. In my letter that I distributed to all MLAs and to all mayors and councils and to all chiefs and First Nations in the territory, I welcome their input into how we can improve this vacation guide.
Question re: Mining in parks
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have some questions for the Minister of Environment with respect to the governmentís changing position on mining within parks. Itís a very straightforward question: does the Minister of Environment support mining in parks?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: There are a number of ways to create parks: habitat management, special management areas, territorial parks, federal parks and quite a number of different things in between. It depends very much on what sort of park weíre talking about. There are some that may and some that may not.
Ms. Duncan: As the government noted in the budget speech, mineral claims have been included inside the boundaries of newly created parks. In Tombstone Park, for example, several claims were stuck in the park when it was created. I wrote to the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources this summer and asked about the status of these claims. He responded that the Yukon Party government was happy that most claimholders had allowed their claims to lapse. He also said the Yukon Party government would like to see all remaining claims removed. This situation is going to arise again and again as the government creates new parks under the land claim process. What policy ó and I would ask the minister to be precise in his response ó is our government following when claims are included in new parks?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again it depends a great deal on what sort of park youíre trying to create. There is no firm policy that Iím aware of that encompasses all things for all times.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, this is a fairly straightforward question that the minister is not answering.
Under the land claims process, there are several new parks that are going to be created by the Yukon Party government. There are land claims settlements with Carcross, and White River may have a new park as well. How does the government intend to deal with any mineral claims that are in those parks? Will the minister commit that there wonít be any claims in the parks? If there are claims ó and that has happened in the past ó how does the minister intend to resolve these conflicting land uses? What policy does he intend to use?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Certainly we must always be in a position to respect third party interests. But again, I thank the member opposite for pointing out the terrible flaw in the Yukon protected areas strategy and why we put it on hold, and why we decided it is much better to look at things on an individual basis.
To paraphrase Lewis Carroll, where do I go from here? To which the obvious answer is, it depends a great deal on where you want to get to.
Question re: Ambulance attendant position
Mr. Fairclough:My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services. When will the department be hiring for the position of rural community supervisor and trainer for ambulance attendants?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There is an individual in place. The position that was allocated has been grieved and it has yet to be resolved. So thereís an issue of the bargaining unit taking exception to the individual who was selected from the competition. Itís an issue before the Public Service Commission and it has yet to be resolved.
Mr. Fairclough: The union has agreed to work on the time and conditions. Theyíve made that agreement. Itís all now in the hands of the minister. This position was first posted back in June ó some seven months ago. It is advertised as a .6 position, and that is certainly not enough to travel all across the territory for training.
In last weekendís meetings of the ambulance supervisors, training was made a first priority. Applicants will be short listed in December ó I donít know if the minister knew this ó and interviewed in January. Itís questionable about how many good applicants are still waiting for this job, so will this position be reopened?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There are three issues surrounding this. There is a grievance in the emergency health services branch. This is a personnel matter, and I cannot discuss it on the floor of the Legislature. The second involves the establishment of an averaging hours arrangement for the rural emergency medical services coordinator position ó sometimes referred to as the training coordinator. No agreement has been reached on the flexible schedule that is required for this position, because they would be working flex time, putting on courses after-hours and on weekends. The third issue involves an understanding, an interpretation of the hours of work for ambulance crews. The union is involved. There is an agreement, but again itís an issue before the Public Service Commission, and I canít comment on the floor of the Legislature on that area either, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: I just said to the minister that there are questions about this whole process and the fact that it took so long for the department to fill this position. People are waiting for training to happen right now. Now that seven months have gone by, they would like to perhaps open it up to allow more people to apply for those positions. Qualifications in the posting did not specify adult education experience or training. Thatís one issue that has been raised. The other is that certification as a paramedic is not a requirement in the ad. So the minister does have a lot to do with this, and it can be reopened.
So will the minister consult with the Paramedic Association of the Yukon on the details of this position before proceeding with it? I am sure that the minister could do that.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The fact of the matter is that the position has been posted; arrangements have been made to shortlist. After the individual candidate was selected, grievances were lodged against the selection of the individual, and thatís being dealt with by the Public Service Commission. Thatís an area that I canít comment on. Itís due process.
Question re: Water delivery costs
Mr. Cardiff: I have a question for the Minister of Community Services. The Yukon government is conducting a public consultation process about source-to-tap drinking water, which is about making sure that the Yukonís drinking water supply is safe. In the wake of Walkerton and other public health mishaps involving water, itís important to do everything we can to keep our water supply safe, but the safest water in the world is of little use if people canít afford it.
What is the minister doing to make sure that this basic necessity of life is also affordable for Yukon people?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: What the member opposite has failed to do is read the pamphlet that was sent out in the spring of this year, and early summer, to all municipal governments, to all stakeholders, on the consultation process the Department of Health is engaged in. The preamble was, "We are looking for a process to ensure safe, affordable potable water for all Yukoners". Thatís in there, and Iíll be happy to send over a copy of that water policy and a copy of the brochure that was circulated around the Yukon. Thereís a process underway, Mr. Speaker; itís ongoing, itís continuing, and we are consulting with all stakeholders to ensure that thereís safe, affordable, potable water here in the Yukon.
Mr. Cardiff: It appears weíve already had a Cabinet shuffle.
Earlier this year, with his Highways and Public Works hat on, the minister brought in new restrictions on axle weights that helped drive the cost of water delivery up by one third and, in some cases, 50 percent. For many families thatís a real financial burden, and itís hard to get a handle on this governmentís water policy. In Carcross, for instance, residents pay the territorial government $11 a month for an unlimited supply of water. In some places residents can get water free from a community supply. They have to haul it themselves. In other rural areas, consumers are completely on their own. If they donít have wells, they end up paying a lot more than $11 a month for water delivery.
Is the Minister of Highways and Public Works working on a uniform policy to make safe and affordable drinking water accessible to all Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, we are in that process of designing terms of reference to achieve just that exact goal, which I anticipate will be ready this spring.
Mr. Cardiff: This yearís rapid hike in the cost of water delivery had many people reconsidering their options. For some, a well might be the best option, but that can be quite expensive, as the minister, Iím sure, is aware. Will the minister be announcing a support program for homeowners who want to install wells on their property, and if so, will he also be providing some tangible support to people who are going to have to continue to rely on water delivery?
Hon. Mr. Hart: In reviewing our terms of reference for this particular policy, we will be addressing access to safe potable water throughout the Yukon.
Question re: Farm produce, local purchase policy
Mr. McRobb: Last week, the minister responsible for agriculture in the territory should have received a letter from the winners of the Farmer of the Year Award, who declined the award. Iíll table that letter for the Assembly now. These Yukon farmers cited several reasons to support the need for this government to help Yukon farmers now, not at some distant point in the future.
Itís not enough that farmers are forced to compete in a world with unfair trade subsidies and restrictions. In the Yukon, this business also faces the high cost of doing business north of 60. Like many family farms in the Yukon, this one is unable to sell enough of its farm produce to remain viable. What is this minister prepared to do to resolve this problem?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Iíll just have to take that under advisement.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís not very helpful, Mr. Speaker. Yukon farmers simply cannot compete against highly subsidized U.S. agribusiness. Large food retailers in Whitehorse generally do not buy locally as a policy and, instead, import produce from the south, including the United States. As the letter indicated, both the federal and territorial governments like to trumpet these two up-and-coming farmers as the face of modern agriculture. This lip service is part of the problem, but whereís the solution?
These farmers issued a challenge to this minister. They want a government purchase policy that ensures the government gives first priority to buying locally grown food. Is the minister prepared to accept this challenge and create a government policy that will do that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I believe we are looking at that situation within the department, and once we have ascertained what weíre going to do, weíll advise the member opposite.
Mr. McRobb: The farmerís letter cautioned against the use of platitudes and long-distance policies instead of helping Yukon farmers now. It makes sense to support our local industry whenever possible. What doesnít make sense is subsidizing American farmers and the costs of transportation to the downfall of our local agricultural industry.
The Yukon government can lead the way by buying Yukon first in its agricultural-based spending decisions. The same policy should apply to any government contracts, including food services at highways camps or government institutions and agencies.
We all know that the minister always gets the last word, so will he develop a comprehensive government purchase policy that puts Yukon farmers first?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I believe that, not only this government, but previous governments have taken that particular approach to agriculture business within the Yukon, and it doesnít matter what stripe or colour the political party is. If we go back to the abattoir issue, that was done under the NDP. I think that this issue is something that we are looking at.
There are certain health regulations that impede certain things, and in the Yukon it is difficult to get local big operators to purchase from the local farmers because of those reasons and also because of the fact that purchasing locally is a difficult situation. Itís something that this government and the governments before have been tackling on a regular basis. We will take the memberís recommendation under advisement.
Question re: Occupational health and safety regulations
Mr. Cardiff: My question today is for the minister responsible for the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board.
Workplaces in the Yukon are being regulated by occupational health and safety regulations that are about 20 years old. I asked the minister about the new regulations in the spring, if I am not mistaken ó the new regulations that were sitting on his desk when he arrived in that office a year and a little bit ago. He wasnít too sure what he was going to do with them. They have been sitting there gathering dust for a long time, and we havenít heard much about what he is going to do with the occupational health and safety regulations.
When will the minister do the right thing for Yukon workers and get his Cabinet colleagues to approve the new regulations?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As the member opposite knows, the Workersí Compensation Act is being completely reviewed by a select panel of very distinguished individuals who have a complete understanding of the issues. This review is, for all intents and purposes, going to take longer than what was originally envisioned. That said, at the end of that time that the legislation is reviewed, itís the intention to move forward on a review of the OH&S regulations and then deal with them at that time.
Mr. Cardiff: I donít know if I heard that right, but thatís pretty poor. These regulations, which have been gathering dust, arenít even part of the Workersí Compensation Act. Theyíre part of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and if the minister is going to review the Occupational Health and Safety Act, workersí lives are going to be in jeopardy, and their health and safety is going to be in jeopardy.
Now, I worked in the construction industry, and industry practices in all industries have changed in 20 years. The old regulations were done in the mid-1980s and they donít even provide for oil and gas. The old ones donít, but the new ones do. Why is the minister stalling on putting these important regulations in place when his own government talks about a commitment to pursue oil and gas development in the territory?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There are a number of industries the member opposite refers to that are federally regulated industries. They donít fall under the existing OH&S regulations. Mr. Speaker, Iím very, very concerned that the member opposite is not analyzing the situation and does not have a complete understanding of it. That said, it is our intention to move forward on a review of these proposed amendments to the OH&S regulations after weíve dealt with the existing Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board legislation.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister wants to consult more. The fact is the new OH&S regulations were developed over a four-year process from 1998 to 2002, with extensive consultation and stakeholder participation. When it comes to consultation, this government is a lot of talk and no listen. Perhaps weíre witnessing another Yukon Party secret agenda at work here. Why else wonít the minister approve the new OH&S regulations to replace the ones from 1985?
Will the minister drop his requirement that the WCB act review be completed first and get on with putting new regulations in place to protect Yukon workers on the job sites now?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite knows full well that Yukon workers are well-protected and well-looked-after, Mr. Speaker. That said, we have some of the best inspection services currently. In fact, the amount of business that has been driven out of the Yukon Territory is looking like we donít currently have work for a lot of these inspectors.
So as far as inspections going on and being carried out, they are underway; they are continuous. As far as a review of the legislation for the OH&S regulations, we will conduct that after weíve reviewed the WCB act and will look at the regulations after it. Weíre darned if we do; we donít consult enough; then weíre over consulting. I donít know which way the members in this opposition party want us to go, Mr. Speaker. Do they want us to consult or do they not want us to consult? Set the record straight: which way do you want us to go?
We are going out to consult.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair:Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee today is Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2003-04.
Chair: Before we begin, do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll stand in recess for 15 minutes.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2003-04.
Bill No. 7 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2003-04 ó continued
Chair:Weíll continue on with general debate.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, we have been dealing with general debate on the supplementary budget. This budget, of course, reflects the requirement that we allocate the necessary resources for devolution and the transfer of those programs and services formerly administered by the federal government or, specifically, the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
That required a significant increase in this yearís budget ó the fiscal year 2003-04 ó of almost $45 million to cover that expenditure. It was unfortunate that we did not have the final accounting for devolution when the main budget was passed earlier this spring. However, subsequent to that passage, we concluded the work necessary in the final accounting, and that is why this significant increase in the supplementary is required ó for the devolution costs.
Itís also a fact, Mr. Chair, that we as a government have spent a great deal of the last year increasing the surplus to allow our flexibility that weíve achieved here to date with the supplementary to inject more monies to stimulate the spending power in the Yukon and also to address demonstrated needs where those needs arise. And weíve put considerable funds toward those two areas in this supplementary.
I think itís safe to say that much thought and work has gone into this. The areas of expenditure are targeted. We are intending to not only help stimulate through spending power by job creation, such as auxiliary or casual employment, but weíre also very committed to dealing with our social safety net and the social fabric of this territory. We care about our seniors. We care about children ó for example, daycare and the increase to the direct operating grant to help stabilize what is a very required service. We care about others who are requiring access to the health care system. Much work has gone into that and is reflected throughout this supplementary budget ó our increases in the delivery of health care for Yukon citizens, increases that ensure that our citizens could access a standard level of health care that every Canadian in this country enjoys.
We also focus on other social services. Group homes, group receiving homes ó these things are important to us as a government.
The Womenís Directorate and the authority that it has been provided, and its focus on violence against women in our aboriginal communities, are critical to this governmentís commitments. When it comes to expenditures in areas of job creation and benefits for Yukoners, we cannot ignore the creation of the Department of Economic Development with its strategic focus and its mandate to be the quarterback within government when it comes to responsible development and providing leadership to regulatory departments like Environment and Energy, Mines and Resources, which will result in a more focused approach to growing Yukonís economy.
Itís also necessary that we recognize short-term stimulus requirements. In doing so, community development fund and FireSmart and other initiatives like rural road upgrades and highway maintenance are important to providing jobs and benefits for Yukoners.
All and all, out of a $95.5-million supplementary, much of it is targeted ó as I stated earlier, a huge portion of it is to deal with the devolution costs, but the rest is certainly something that we as a government commend to this House and to the Yukon public. It includes laying some of the groundwork for longer term economic development and infrastructure, which means highway planning and engineering that allow our road building community to focus and plan ahead. In doing so, it is not only creating jobs and benefits but improving existing infrastructure in this territory.
Of course, contrary to the NDP, which opposes roads to resources, this government doesnít and we will be putting resources toward roads to resources where they make sense and where applicable.
All in all, Mr. Chair, a good budget and a good supplementary ó it addresses needs where required.
Mr. Hardy: Itís nice to know the Premier has wrapped up and tried to wrap up on a more positive note and tried to, once again, assure the people of this territory that this is a budget that was designed with them in mind. Yet if you were going to design a budget with the people of this territory in mind, you would consult with the people of this territory to find out whatís in their minds.
This Premier continues to lead ó or attempts to lead, because there are some big questions about the type of leadership thatís happening over there, or whoís actually in charge ó but he continues to try to present a government or a budget that is reflective of the people of this territory, yet we can find, time and time and time again, that this is a government that does not believe in meaningful or constructive consultation but, instead, prefers to develop their budgets in the back room, talk to a very select group of people, cut secret deals, have ó I would guess you could call them ó good-news accords, signed willy-nilly across the country all over the place with anybody who will sign them with Yukon, but with very little substance, and try to pull the wool over the eyes of the people of this territory that theyíre doing a good job.
Well, Iíll tell you right now, Mr. Chair, itís not a good job because all you have to do is go out into the communities and see the high degree of unemployment that exists out there, look at the number of vehicles that continue to leave the territory with families in them, including Watson Lake, where we are now witnessing another shutdown of another mine.
Interestingly enough, on that point, this is a government that has really put all their eggs in one basket.
They have said oil and gas and mining are the only things that will save this territory, and they have said it over and over and over again, Mr. Chair. Well, interestingly enough, once again, we are witnessing another mine shutdown, another 60 to 100, 150 people out of work throughout the territory. It has a huge impact upon the communities, and this government has not put money into diversification over the last year to strengthen communities and give hope to the people. Once again, itís this home-run type of economics that is so devastating to the people of this territory. We witnessed it when the Liberals were in under the pipeline, and weíre witnessing it with the Yukon Party once again, as they put all their eggs in one basket and hope the saviour is going to come from Outside.
Well, I can assure you, Mr. Chair, the saviour is in the Yukon: thatís the people of this Yukon; thatís the phenomenal environment that we live in; thatís the belief that the people have here. Itís about time that the Yukon Party government starts to talk that talk, the talk of the people of this territory, and not this one where they go down to Calgary and come back and sign another accord ó meaningless most of the time, Mr. Chair. And the people of this territory do not deserve this type of government. This is their home. They deserve a government that will listen to them, a government that will be out in the communities, a government that will be at the meetings, a government that will include them in the discussions ó not rhetoric of the worst type. If we continue witnessing the type of budgets that we have witnessed over the last few years ó especially with this government ó I do not predict a great future. This is not the type of budget that puts people to work or keeps them at work during the hard times.
Itís a very self-serving budget, Mr. Chair.
Now, we have to remember where this all came from. What was the message that was painted to the people of this territory? Well, interestingly, itís a little bit different now than it was eight or 10 months ago or a year ago. The economy was in terrible shape. The spending trajectory was going to drive this territory into a deficit, which would drive us into another election. Well, I put it out to the Premier right now: Iíll bet that a lot of people out there would love to see another election, because I can tell you where they would end up.
The Premier laughs. Yes, well, of course he should laugh. The only humorous thing that we can see from the other side is the fact that time is running out for him.
But I will tell you: they created this environment that finances were bad. Now, itís really interesting that you can be so far off on your estimates ó absolutely millions, tens of millions, tens and tens of millions of dollars off, an unbelievable amount ó and still say that there is no problem, everything was running hunky-dory, the figures that you had were perfect, and then come back and say you have a $61-million surplus and itís going to be bigger than that, and you can blame it on the Auditor Generalís report not being in to tell you what you have.
Excuse me, Mr. Chair, do we have a Finance department that reports to a Finance minister, that can keep track of some of the costs? Or are they doing the job, but the political spin that was wanted to be put on this was to create an image that the former government got booted out ó we all know that ó and the Yukon Party government came in and practised the age-old type of politics where you declare that the former government left the finances in a disastrous shape; therefore, you have to be fiscally responsible and you have got to roll back, you have to turn this thing around and you have to bring forward your own secret, hidden right-wing agenda, and it just goes on and on and on.
Eight months later we have a massive surplus ó everything is hunky-dory. Well, guess what? It is not hunky-dory, because I can go into any community in this territory and see 30, 40, 50 percent employment. I can go to almost any construction site ó well, there are very few construction sites right now that are running, and that is the problem.
I can go any of the construction companies, any of their offices and they are telling me that it is the lowest amount of work that they have seen in their history. They have never seen a downturn like they have witnessed in the last year. These are firms that had 20 or 25 people working. Never mind Cantung; we know what is happening up there. We know the problem, the huge impact that is happening in southeast Yukon, and with also a lot of other businesses in the Yukon.
We know the impact it has on families, and that is an immediate one. Broaden the view, Mr. Chair. Go and visit some of these outfits. When you walk in the door, some of the places that normally employ 15 to 20 people year-round, and they will tell you that they have three people on their staff. If you add three or four of these companies together, you have the same impact as Cantung as well ó the exact same impact. Sixty, 70, 80, 100 people unemployed.
This government had the opportunity to invest in the people of this territory, and they did not do it. They created a false sense that the finances in this territory were bad. They destroyed a construction season, and they destroyed all the benefits out of that that people rely on during the year. We come into the fall, and they have cancelled the jail project, which could have put a lot of people to work. They cancelled a multitude of projects in the community. They are not working with the municipalities; they are not working with the First Nations.
We see that because we see some of the highest unemployment levels in Canada here, and there has been no turnaround. We see more people leaving the territory, Mr. Chair, and they have the gall to tell us that this is a good budget, that this is good for the people of this territory.
Next month ó just wait to see the figures now that Cantung is shut down. What are the unemployment figures going to be next month? Is the Yukon Party government going to stand up and say, "Weíre doing a great job"?
Interestingly enough, theyíre not saying, "Weíre the cause of Cantung, weíre a government that totally believed, no matter what, in the free market system and mining, and weíre the ones who have increased the mining opportunities in this territory since weíve come in." Yes, theyíve laid claim to that. Are they going to lay claim to when the mine shuts down now? It works both ways.
All of a sudden, "No, itís not our fault; we have no control over that." But guess what? If thereís a mineral discovery that people have been exploring in areas for the last 10 years, and all of a sudden they find some minerals or something, all of a sudden, we did that, we created that. You canít have it both ways, Mr. Chair ó you canít have it both ways.
Mineral prices control a tremendous amount of activity in the Yukon. Everybody in this territory knows that. It doesnít matter which government is in place. Itís wrong for a government to lay claim to other peopleís work, to things outside their control, without also accepting the responsibility when they turn wrong. You canít have it both ways.
There were a couple of economists who were on the radio a couple of weeks ago and they talked about the economy. They talked about short term, mid-term and long term. I thought that was very good advice ó that you design your budgets, you design your future, using those three areas, and you recognize what is needed in the short term.
You also recognize where you want to be mid-term and in the long term, what youíre trying to develop down the road. And what I see here is a government that has a fixation on one part of our economic structure ó one part. It has no short-term vision in the immediacy of jobs this winter.
A half a dozen times Iíve heard the Premier on the other side say theyíve created the Economic Development department. No, they didnít create it. I hate to remind him ó maybe he just gets his words mixed up. I donít know. Theyíre re-established the Economic Development department. And theyíve talked about all the good things itís going to do. Look at it and you will see that 90 percent of the initiatives in that department happen to be NDP initiatives. Look at them. Thereís a long list of them, pull them up, and yet this governmentís acting like they are initiating a lot of this. Well, what do we have? The film incentive program, the film industry. It was the NDP that got very involved with that industry, that helped develop it, that put money into it. The microloan program ó a good little program to help people get started on very small projects. There it is in here. The community development fund ó the only thing that this government seems to be able to get a good-news story out of ó the community development fund and FireSmart, the only things. Well, guess what? NDP initiatives. I donít see the trade fund in here, but Iím sure at one point theyíll look at that. They will probably do what the Liberals did ó theyíll change the names and keep running the programs.
The business incentive policy ó guess what? Something thatís designed to stimulate our economy, something thatís designed to give encouragement to hire local people, tradespeople, training, to use manufactured goods here, to build industry ó thatís in the Economic Development department; thatís another NDP initiative.
So Iím looking in there and Iím trying to think, okay, whatís in there that is actually a Yukon Party light bulb or brainwave? I donít see anything ó nothing. Maybe Iím wrong.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Thatís right, it was mentioned earlier: roads to resources. The Premier made a statement that we were opposed to roads to resources. If heís talking about that wonderful little piece of work, that little map that was drawn, yes, we are opposed to that. Thereís no question about it. My granddaughter whoís 15 months old could have drawn a better map and probably at a lot less cost than the $60,000 or $70,000 it cost to produce it, because all it is is a bunch of squiggly lines running all over the Yukon that would cost billions of dollars to build to anything ó absolutely anything ó anybody ever conceived of possibly developing.
If that is what the Premier is building his economic plan on, then weíre in big trouble, because itís not that easy. Iíd like to tell the Premier that himself. Itís not that easy. There are a lot of problems out there. You want to be crossing a lot of land that is going to take a tremendous amount of negotiation. You have to take into account ó something this government has a big problem with ó environmental concerns. You have to consider First Nation lands. You have to consider areas where it is just absolutely too impossible to put a road in. You have to consider the reality of that map.
If thatís what theyíre basing their plans on, then I think we have a big problem in the Yukon.
But this government doesnít seem to really know where itís going and I donít have a great deal of faith in what the future holds over the next couple of years. We are witnessing in many areas a drop in what we call "consultation". The right words are being spoken and the indication is that there is consultation happening out there, but just today we heard questions that, really, when you reduce it down to what my colleague from Mayo-Tatchun was saying, it is about respect, consultation and inclusiveness. That is really what he was bringing it right down to. We are witnessing that it is not happening across the Yukon. Itís not happening with the broad section of people or the people who will be affected in their communities. Itís not happening in their area of work. The only type of consultation that we are witnessing so far with 13 months of this government is consultation with a very small group of people ó the invited ones.
If you get the invitation and you get in the door, you get into that back room and you can shape what direction this Yukon is going in. If you donít have that invitation, youíre not welcome. I can assure you, Mr. Chair, that 99 percent of the Yukon is not welcome with this group of people, otherwise we would know different. But our phones are ringing off the hook with people trying to find out what is going on, where is this government leading us, where are we going, why arenít they talking to us. And itís from every sector ó whether itís the social sector, whether itís the construction sector, whether itís the First Nations and their huge concerns, and their rightful concerns, whether itís the municipalities.
Relationships are falling apart, left, right and centre in this territory. Weíre seeing an erosion of democracy, and I donít say that lightly. Theyíre being criticized in every different direction. And this is after 13 months. So something is going wrong here.
We have a war happening in Dawson City between the municipality and this government, and itís a war of words right now. And itís going to court and there will be big legal fees. We donít know whatís going to happen to a rightfully elected council and mayor in Dawson City. But what theyíve done is created distrust, and theyíre not working toward a resolution. Instead this government is trying to impose its will upon another level of government in a very heavy-handed, aggressive manner.
But there are so many other areas and so many other concerns. But right now weíre looking at over $95 million being spent and very few jobs being created. Weíre looking at $650 million in the total budget of a year and a massive amount of projects cancelled. Weíre looking at communities that are facing 50-percent, 60-percent, 70-percent unemployment rates. Weíre looking at people leaving the territory. Weíre looking at the lack of leadership. And Iím standing here, listening to laughing coming from the far corner again. Mr. Chair, itís amazing that you can talk about situations in this territory, the difficulty these people are living under, the way theyíre shut out, and some members across the way laugh about that.
Well, Iím going to end this. As you say, Iím running out of time. But Iím going to end with a request, a very simple request: will the minister take some of that supplementary money, take some of that surplus, and bring in a second supplementary budget geared directly toward initiating some of these projects sitting on the books to put people to work over the next four or five months? Because we need it, Mr. Chair. We need it now.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Firstly, in listening intently to the leader of the official opposition, I was desperately trying to gain some sort of substance from the comments, beyond the political rhetoric. I can assure you, Mr. Chair, that I tried to the very limits of my mental capacity to find that substance.
Iíll give full marks to the leader of the official opposition in making a political statement for the publicís consumption on camera. Thatís all well and good, but political statements and rhetoric do not a solution bring to the issues this territory faces.
Letís reconsider what weíre dealing with here and why. The dismantling of this territoryís economy didnít happen this year. It has gone on for almost a decade and beyond. The dismantling of the economy is a direct attack on the private sector by past governments. The diminishing of the private sectorís involvement in this territory has lent itself, for the most part, to where we are today economically.
I want to point something out that the New Democrats should be ashamed of. In their zeal to point out that there may have been a construction project that this government could have undertaken ó the jail ó they would relegate this territory to warehousing people, as we are today, with a recidivism rate of well in excess of 80 percent, at a cost to the taxpayer of probably the highest in the country for incarceration, inmate by inmate.
Is that what the NDP is saying, Mr. Chair, that we should, for the purpose of creating a construction project, warehouse people, continue on with this hopeless approach to justice and corrections in this territory? I think not, Mr. Chair. We will build a new facility, but it will be program led. Itís not going to be construction-project led; itís going to be program led.
Correctional reform is not a statement; it is a tangible initiative that is to address the problems that we face because we warehouse people in a jail that is absolutely doing nothing toward rehabilitation but is certainly contributing greatly to a massive recidivism rate. Thatís the position that the NDP take. The NDP would rather warehouse people, contribute to recidivism and forget about correctional reform and justice as it should be.
Now, thatís a great statement for a party that prides itself and states for the public and for all to hear that they are the champions of the social fabric. But I can tell you that the social fabric under this governmentís watch is safe, sound, and our conscience, socially, is quite heightened ó quite heightened indeed. We will continue to ensure that those in need receive the necessary assistance where we can, when we can and to the greatest degree possible.
Mr. Chair, I marvel at the NDPís definition of the economy. Unfortunately, the NDP is the one-dimensional party in this Legislature when it comes to the economy, not this government. This government has a clear understanding of what makes up our economy, piece by piece, brick by brick, engine by engine. We understand what the economy is all about, not the New Democrats. It is the New Democrats who helped to devastate ó regardless of world metal prices ó exploration in this territory, for example, with the much flawed process that we know as YPAS, or the Yukon protected areas strategy.
What the NDP doesnít understand about mining is that regardless of where world metal prices are, exploration is a prerequisite under any price structure so that further development can take place.
Never have world metal prices precluded exploration. Thatís why mines are found. Thatís why mines go into production. Thatís why development takes place in this sector. Exploration is a prerequisite for when the window of opportunity presents itself. To say that this governmentís only focus is mining is not only ridiculous, itís incorrect. All you have to do is look at the budget.
If the members opposite want to move beyond political rhetoric and statements, and get into the budget debate department by department, much of this would be something they could apprise themselves of and understand where the expenditures are going and why they are going there.
For the leader of the official opposition to say that it was the NDP that recognized the film industry is another dramatic statement that is incorrect. The NDP was lobbied to create a film incentive fund. Did they? No. We recognized the merits and how valid a film industry would be in this territory. Who created a real film incentive fund? This supplementary is where that film incentive fund is housed. It was this government that created it.
The official opposition went on about our position in coming into office and the financial situation of the territory. How can the member opposite explain, then, in the last 12 months the increase in surplus; the census undercut ó $23 million ó and the release of $15 million of census contingency monies. That now creates $38 million more in surplus ó dissolving $11.5 million of trust funds. Total it all up, Mr. Chair, and the creation of monies in this surplus is almost $15 million, and it happened in the last number of months.
Therefore, if one follows that logic, we can clearly understand that upon taking office there was a fiscal situation that had to be addressed, and we did address it. We not only gently constrained expenditure by government, we also increased the surplus by almost $50 million.
Now, the member opposite says thereís nothing for construction. How, then, can the member ó and I wish he would stand on the public record, in front of the camera, and relay the facts that building permits have increased considerably, real estate values are up and retail sales are up.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Now, Mr. Chair, that is basically unparliamentary by that member opposite, but Iíll ignore it.
What the NDP has not grasped when it comes to the economy are the many components that make up an economy. They focus on an unemployment rate, which is of great concern in this territory. But I can tell you thereís much more to it. No matter what the unemployment rate may be, without spending power, no economic engine can run. That is the fuel that ensures that any economy will be vibrant and growing. Spending power is critical.
The NDP says we have no plan. Well, letís go over the plan and the vision. It begins with getting a firm grip on the fiscal situation of the territory. Weíve done that. And being sound fiscal managers, we are changing the direction of spending in this territory, because itís obvious over the last decade that all the government expenditures that have taken place here have contributed zero to the economy. Why? Because our economy has shrunk, not grown. We intend to change that with budgeting, as we committed to do. Mr. Chair, we also have really put in place an approach with First Nations that is all about lending itself to growing the economy in the territory.
Not in spite of First Nations; not without them, but with them. This is critical, Mr. Chair, and itís part of the vision and the plan. We increased the surplus. Why? Because the fuel for any economy is cash flow. There is a need to retarget expenditures and increase the spending power in this territory, and weíre going to do it with private sector investment. Thatís the critical element. We as a government recognize the need to involve the private sector in this territory, and thatís exactly what weíre doing.
Thirdly, Mr. Chair, we know that the main assets of this territory are its resources, not just oil and gas, not just minerals and metals, not just forestry, but wilderness, rivers, valleys and mountains. We recognize it all. Those are resources where investment can certainly be garnered, and we intend to carry that out. Thatís a very diverse look and vision of our economy in the Yukon. We understand short term; thatís why we have incorporated programs like the community development fund and FireSmart and rural roads and other expenditures to stimulate in the short term.
We recognize that, in the mid-term, the building of infrastructure and investment toward infrastructure helps to lay the groundwork for the longer term, but in the mid-term those jobs and benefits are created for Yukoners. Weíre going to do that in partnership with not only First Nation governments but with the private sector.
We also recognize that, in the long term, we must build in place the incentives to attract investment to grow this economy in those resources that we are very rich in and have an abundance of. This is certainly not, as the past government was, totally stuck on one item of the economy ó a pipeline. And weíre working on that too, Mr. Chair, by creating options in the Mackenzie Valley, for example ó options that will allow Yukoners to enjoy benefits from an expenditure and investment there, as will the N.W.T. citizens enjoy benefits from the eventuality of an Alaska Highway pipeline.
To say that the Economic Development department is re-created to some degree is correct, but itís totally different. It is half the size of the original department. It is much more focused. Its mandate, its structure and its strategic plan and direction is being done in conjunction with stakeholders, including labour. There is no question that some of the elements of this department, such as regional economic development, are a new and fresh approach to the economy of the Yukon.
In this supplementary, when you look at the millions of dollars that are being expended toward job creation and benefits for Yukoners, it may not fit with a limited constituency that the NDP may have. We will address those things. Massive construction projects are on the immediate horizon for this territory ó in fact, to the point where we are going to have to bring in a skilled workforce just to make do with the massive amount of construction that is going to be underway in this territory ó be it multiplexes, be it waterfront development, be it infrastructure, be it a bridge in Dawson City, be it multilevel care facilities in communities like Watson Lake, and the list goes on. There will be ample construction in this territory for our citizens and others who wish to come to the Yukon, enjoy its lifestyle and, of course, earn a living through gainful employment.
There are millions of dollars toward that, millions of dollars toward education, health and social services, and also, not to forget seniors and the Seniors Games and the money we have put toward the seniors, the decade of sport and culture, the museums and historic aspects of our territory ó and culture, which is receiving investment in this supplementary budget. I for one would challenge the NDP to vote against a budget that covers so many bases in this territory. They keep claiming that what we are doing are NDP initiatives. The challenge for them is how are they going to vote if that is the case? If that is the case, how then can the NDP vote against what they believe in?
Thatís a real challenge. For the Member for Old Crow, $200,000 in a winter road is to do one thing ó to be able to get equipment into that community so that the equipment can provide gainful employment for citizens of Old Crow. We as a government are partnering with that First Nation government through their capital planning process. We are committed to deliver, and thatís one of the steps in this supplementary, because whatís attached to that expenditure is much more and further beyond, to be sure.
Mr. Chair, I could go on here for days, but I think this debate is becoming needless. What the members opposite have to do is delve into the detail and the substance, and letís stand down on the political rhetoric and the posturing. Thereís no need in this territory for that. The time has come for everybody to grab a handle and start pulling in the right direction, and I mean that figuratively ó in the right direction.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Hearing none, we will proceed with line-by-line examination.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, my understanding is that we are now resuming general debate in the Department of Health. That was my understanding. May I suggest we recess for five minutes for officials to return to the House?
Chair: A suggestion has been made that we recess for five minutes.
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair:Mr. McRobb, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: I want to put on record the fact that this Yukon Party government has changed the order for the lineup this afternoon. We were instructed at this morningís House leaders meeting that we would be dealing with Health and Social Services following general debate on the budget. We were informed five minutes ago that we would be now having to deal with the Department of Education instead.
This is not in keeping with past practices of this House and other processes in order to have all members of this Legislature prepared for debate. This is another sign that this government is not accountable to the people. It is not the first time that this has been brought up, but I wanted to put it on record.
Chair:There is no point of order.
We will now proceed with Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2003-04, and Vote No. 3, Department of Education and general debate.
Department of Education
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Chair, it gives me great pleasure to rise in this House today to talk about our 2003 supplementary budget. I can tell you that I am very excited about the new money for education that is in this budget, and I think it tells you a lot about the value we place on education. And I would like to thank my colleagues for the support they have given me within the Education budget. And make no mistake, education is a top priority for this government.
We believe that education is critical to success in life, in the workforce and in the community. Through education and training we can develop a skilled and educated workforce, something we all know to be an important foundation for education and development. Through lifelong learning, people improve the quality of their lives and participate effectively in their communities. Education helps our communities become very strong and healthy. Our government supports education, training and lifelong learning. We are committed to improving student success, to building stronger partnerships in education, and to building a skilled and educated workforce to meet our needs now and in the future as the economy of the Yukon grows.
If you want evidence of our commitment, you need look no further than our supplementary budget. We are making a significant investment in education this fall. We will be building a new school in Carmacks. Money to begin planning the new school is in this budget. You can rest assured that the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation, the school councils and the community have been involved and will continue to be involved in this planning process.
We are committed to building stronger partnerships in education and we look forward to working with the communities on the new school in order to get planning underway for a new Carmacks school that will reflect the needs and requirements of the people in Carmacks.
Also on the capital side, we will be building a new cafeteria and industrial arts wing at Porter Creek Secondary School. This is a much-needed improvement the school has been asking for and will give our students more opportunity to explore trades and technology as potential future careers.
As we announced several weeks ago, I have recently begun a needs assessment tour. I am meeting with each school council and First Nation in the Yukon in order to find the top priorities and short-term needs of each school. We have allocated up to $1 million in this budget to implement the highest priority ones.
This government realizes that each school and each community has different needs and priorities for education. By working in partnership with school councils and First Nations to identify those needs, we can ensure these dollars will be spent on the most immediate needs and the ones that will have an impact on studentsí success.
We are also very pleased to announce that we have followed through on our platform commitment to index our two student grant programs: the Yukon grant and the Yukon student training allowance. These grants will be indexed to the cost of living. The increase will take effect as of this past September. All of our students can look forward to getting the additional money with this Januaryís payments. Post-secondary education and training are vital to developing a skilled and educated workforce, supporting economic development and building healthier communities. This will ensure that our students continue to receive one of the best financial assistance programs in Canada. Our students are the future of the Yukon and we are investing in our future.
We have also made a commitment to strengthen our partnership with school councils. We have included new money in this budget for school councils to maintain an association in order to ensure that they can continue to be effective and valued partners in education. This budget includes an additional $100,000 to support what is already an exceptional French language education program in the Yukon. As always, we will be working closely with the francophone school board and the francophone community to implement these programs.
We have also invested additional money in support of native languages. Right now, the changing demographics in our schools mean we need more native language instructors. As well, many of our existing instructors are nearing retirement. We realize that there is an important need here. First Nation languages are a vital part of First Nation culture. We will be funding a program to train new language instructors to ensure that future needs are met.
This will encourage diversity in our schools, help our education system to continue to be culturally relevant to First Nations and, ultimately, help preserve our native languages and cultures in the Yukon.
Finally, I am very pleased to announce that this government is taking further action on fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. There are two key components to our strategy. The first will support teachers in the classroom. We will provide specialized training for teachers to recognize and assist students who may be affected by FASD in order to give them the best possible learning opportunities. We will be working closely with Health and Social Services on this. Our efforts will be linked to their programs for early diagnosis and transition strategies for students moving into the education system.
The second part of our FASD strategy is a new program at Yukon College to help those who are academically able to succeed but who are socially unprepared for studies. This program will help them develop the tools to succeed in the Collegeís educational and vocational programs.
Mr. Chair, all these announcements show our commitment to education. We are committed to studentsí success. We are committed to strong partnerships. We are committed to a skilled and educated workforce. Education is, and will continue to be, a top priority of this government.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mahsií cho.
Mr. Fairclough: I do have some questions for the minister. I am disappointed that the government doesnít have it together to have debates take place as laid out by their government House leader. Having to move on to another department shows how much the government House leader is lacking in doing his job properly.
This government has made commitments in their platform; theyíve made commitments publicly to the Yukon public in regard to education. They said that they would be doing certain things, and we havenít seen results of that work yet. It is certainly of a concern to us on this side of the House. I donít know where the minister is going with this budget in front of us, but we asked a number of questions in the spring, and still we have not seen this government make movements in regard to that.
One of the things that I raised with the minister in the past is in regard to curriculum development The minister showed some interest in possibly looking at more local curriculum being developed in communities. We have been following the B.C. model to this point. The communities are asking for the department to look closer into this matter and to come up with something that works for the students. So far that hasnít happened. We would like to see more work take place in regard to curriculum development.
So I guess just before we go on into questioning in the department ó in regard to that matter, curriculum development, what is new that the department is doing that they havenít been doing in the spring or even, say, new from the previous government that theyíre doing in regard to curriculum development? We saw some monies going toward native languages. It would be interesting to see if anything more is created out of that, something that can actually be followed in schools. But maybe the minister can list off a few things that this government is doing that are new.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe the member opposite can well appreciate that curriculum involves a lot more than just snapping oneís fingers and expecting it to be in place. It is something that, in my opinion, will be very time-consuming, will be something that would require a great amount of financial support. And I can assure the member opposite that our department is actively seeking initiatives at this time that we will be forwarding to the Management Board at a later date. Some of the First Nation curriculum that this government is doing at the present time is ó we had a request in quite a few months back about supporting and promoting potlatches, for example. And this is a resource that this government is presently working on with the White River First Nation.
The author of this project is Alice Johnson and it is in the final phase of completion. That, I believe, is a very important cultural activity that could and would make a very good project to be implemented in the school system in different First Nations, keeping in mind that the different First Nations have different processes to perform a potlatch ceremony.
This government is also working on the Kaska project. This is with the aboriginal language and culture curriculum framework to reflect the Kaska language and culture in the Watson Lake-Liard Basin area. This government is also studying the feasibility of a First Nation language immersion at the Elijah Smith School. So, those are just a few of the initiatives that this government has taken on and there are quite a few more and, if the member opposite wishes, we could list them all.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the minister tell us when the discussions took place in regard to trying to develop something in the schools? I asked about curriculum and the minister said they were working on one with potlatches and also with the Kaska project. But the potlatches themselves ó when did this initially start? When did the discussions start? First of all, can he tell us that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I do not have the exact time it started, but the discussions are ongoing at this time.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the minister tell us approximately when? Was it two months ago, three, six months, a year ago? He must know exactly or narrow it down to at least some month.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would just as soon not make a guess at that. I can get the accurate information and get it to the member opposite.
Mr. Fairclough: This was one of the things the minister spoke of at length that they were working on, so he must know when he started it, when he initiated it. Iím sure the member has it in front of him. Was it approximately three months ago? Was it approximately six months ago, or was it nine? The minister must know that at least. Or was it a year ago or longer?
I would like to know. I know the minister has the information. He has to have an approximate time. Would he say it happened in the past year?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Chair, I wasnít prepared to give any approximate dates and Iím not about to change that. I stated to the member opposite that I will get this information for his review, and Iíll do that.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, for a government initiative ó and the minister putting this forward must have known when he has done this. It has to be within a year. It has to be that. Is the minister at least willing to say that itís within a year, or is it over a year that this has been in the works?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This minister did repeat several times that he will bring the information back, and thatís what will be done.
Mr. Fairclough: Isnít that something, Mr. Chair. This minister says education is the highest priority ó the very first question coming out to this minister, and he canít answer it. He must know the direction that he has given down to the department. Thatís why I asked the question.
Okay, Iíll ask the next one: approximately what date was the Kaska project started? The minister said that these are new and that the Yukon Party is bringing them forward. Approximately what date did this Kaska project start?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iím going to have to say to the member opposite again that I will get the exact dates here. It appears that we donít have the exact times, exact months and whatever that these projects were started. All we can say is that they are new initiatives to the best of my knowledge.
Mr. Fairclough: To the best of the ministerís knowledge, these are new initiatives by his government. Isnít that something? No approximate time or anything ó well, strike two.
Okay, feasibility of the immersion of First Nation language into the school ó can the minister tell us approximately when first discussions took place to try to bring this as an immersion of First Nation language into the school? How long ago did this begin?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: To the best of my recollection, I got a letter from the school council in the spring with regard to this request.
Mr. Fairclough: We have proof that the minister can give an approximate time. Is this the only school that has shown an interest in First Nation immersion class?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: It is the only school from which our government has received a direct request.
Mr. Fairclough: Over the past couple of years, can the minister tell us how many other schools have shown an interest in having a First Nation immersion class in their schools?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I couldnít speak for anything past the last year, because we have only been in government for a year; however, this is the only school that has requested it. There are schools throughout the territory that have First Nation language programs in them.
Mr. Fairclough: If there were discussions in the works already with the past government, did the minister just throw those discussions out? He is the minister responsible for the department ó information can go back years into previous governments. He knows that. What happens to those discussions? Do they get thrown out because the minister is only moving his own initiatives forward?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe that this government really respects all governmentsí previous work. I donít believe that this government would throw anybodyís work out. However, when it comes to First Nation immersion, this is the only request that this government has had under my direction.
Mr. Fairclough: I guess we are not going to get anywhere with the minister on this particular issue. I suppose that First Nations are just going to have to write to the department to get some answers. In regard to the Education Act, which falls under the Department of Education, itís three and a half years overdue. Why isnít this government moving anywhere on that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe that this Education Act review ó and our commitment to it was to seek a consensus ó seek a consensus. To date, we have not been able to reach a consensus but we remain committed to bringing a closure to the Education Act review process. We are focusing our energies on engaging First Nations and implementing their self-government agreements. These discussions may very well result in some changes to the Education Act. However, it is too early to tell what these might entail. So for now we will focus on these discussions and on addressing the non-act issues that were raised during the process.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister said he was seeking consensus. On what items did they not reach consensus? Which ones did they reach consensus on? Is he talking about terms of reference? We need to know.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At this point in time I would like to let the member opposite know that when the Education Act review was taking place, I believe at the end there was a need for a consensus, and all the stakeholders were involved with revisions of this act. At the time that this government came into place, the First Nations had not been on-board with what was being recommended. So this government put the Education Act review on hold until there has been some dialogue with the First Nations on why they werenít agreeing to the final result of this report.
Mr. Fairclough: Maybe the minister can give us an update on the discussion as it has taken place so far with First Nations and what he has done to get them on-board.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At this point in time, our government is actively in self-government negotiations with First Nations. Again I will say that we are in the process of trying to arrange some discussions with Council of Yukon First Nations to get a position on where they are right now.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister wasnít clear in his answer to my question. We have gone from the minister saying that they are seeking consensus from First Nations on the Education Act review ó well, seeking consensus not totally from the First Nations ó and he hasnít gotten that. Over a year has now passed and this government has done very little, if nothing, to get the act under review, as it should be, as it was laid out when it was created.
Now he says one of the reasons is that they are in active negotiations on self-government agreements. Can the minister tell us which First Nations agreements they are actively negotiating self-government agreements on, or has he misspoken himself and is talking about the self-government agreements themselves?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The only First Nation government that the department is actively negotiating with is the Tríondëk Hwëchíin on 17.7 of their self-government agreement, which refers to education.
Mr. Fairclough: That doesnít make sense. This could take place regardless. An Education Act review can take place and negotiations for implementing a self-government agreement can take place any time. The minister knows that. There can always be amendments to the Education Act if need be because of First Nation final agreements or them implementing their final agreements. He knows that.
So the minister cannot say that it is because of this that the Education Act review is not taking place. Thatís what it sounds like.
Has only one First Nation come forward to the minister in this regard?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iíd like to remind the member opposite that the previous government spent two and a half years and didnít seek consensus on the Education Act review. Itís a little bit premature to be judging this government on whether or not theyíre going to make any progress with the Education Act.
To continue on with the question about Tríondëk Hwëchíin being the only government that requested negotiations, there are others who are presently talking about adopting that section of the Tríondëk Hwëchíinís final agreement into their own. Once that takes place, then I presume weíll be into discussions with those First Nations.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, weíve sure gone sideways on this one. The minister is saying that because of that, the review of the Education Act is on hold, he has put it on hold, and it has been on hold for over a year under his watch. Is it put on hold because of negotiations of self-government agreements? I wouldnít say theyíre negotiation of self-government agreements like the member said but, in fact, First Nations exercising their rights under those agreements. So is it because of that that the review is on hold?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Quite frankly, yes; we are focusing on that and our progress is more or less geared to what is happening with those discussions at the present time.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, the minister seems to be very well-briefed in this matter. Can he tell us how the Education Act would be altered if, for example, the Tríondëk Hwëchíin drew down education and took over that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I am one who never counts the chickens before the eggs hatch. I donít intend to make any assumptions ó what if, what if, what if? The "what if" question is not somewhere that I am even thinking of going. I believe that until these initiatives take place, such as a drawdown of education from any First Nation, it would be very premature to even try to second guess what would take place.
Mr. Fairclough: I asked the question of the minister whether or not the self-government agreement is what is holding up the process of the review, and he said yes, so I would like to know how. I know that any of the acts can be amended, and they donít have to go through a lengthy process like itís mandated to do. We are three and a half years overdue, and now the minister is saying that because one First Nation is looking at drawing down education under his watch, it is holding up the review process. How is it holding it up?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The member opposite appears to really like to put words in oneís mouth. I donít believe I stated that any First Nation was drawing down on education. I merely stated that there were negotiations going on at this time with the First Nation that wants to have more involvement in education, and itís in their agreement to do so.
Mr. Fairclough: Maybe the minister ought to go back and read Hansard and look at his words. He talked about self-government agreements and negotiations to that ó I donít know where the member is going with this. At any time discussions can take place with any First Nation regardless of an agreement in place, and he knows that, Mr. Chair, because theyíre duly recognized as a First Nation.
So what does it mean? Tell us on this side of the House what the difference is. The First Nation has the ability to draw down education under their self-government agreements ó their final agreements ó but negotiations are taking place with this minister because of the self-government agreements ó not the final agreements.
Whatís in the negotiations thatís holding up the review of the act?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Those discussions I referred to are round-table discussions between YTG, the federal government and First Nation governments. Heaven forbid, who knows what could come out of that. Those discussions need to take place so thereís more information available before we even start talking about taking over any kind of program such as education.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister is very, very much lost on this whole subject. Iím quite surprised that he doesnít have a clue of what could result out of a round-table discussion on education. Thatís hard to take. So what the ministerís saying is we may not have a review of the Education Act for the next 10 years if there are negotiations taking place with First Nations at different levels at different times. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: In response to comments made by the leader of the official opposition about myself not having a clue, I just consider where it comes from, and Iím not about to stoop to that level in this House.
And I would like to say to the member opposite that reviews are noted to take time. It will take as long as it takes.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I suggest the minister go back and get a briefing from his department on education issues or hand over the responsibilities to somebody who can handle the most basic of questions that we consider.
He didnít answer the question that I just asked: how long will it be held up for? It is three and a half years overdue. Theyíre mandated to have a major review. The member said itís because of consensus. He didnít say how and what they were doing, other than negotiations with Dawson. So in his view, in the ministerís view, does this show respect to, say, the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation, which is working under the present act, or other First Nations or even the general public by having this hold-up while negotiations take place?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: To the best of my knowledge, there is nobody suffering from this issue, except maybe the opposition members.
Mr. Fairclough: Is there someone else asking questions in this House, because it appears that the minister is far from listening to questions? Itís unfortunate, because the way that the minister is presenting himself in this House is exactly the way he presents himself in the general public ó and believe me, the general public is commenting. What is the minister going to do to fix the process to ensure that the Education Act review takes place?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I guess that I can stand up here for the rest of the day and say that it is a work in progress. If the member opposite wants to stay stuck there, so be it.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like the minister to answer the question. What is he afraid of? Obviously the minister doesnít have the answers, and that is unfortunate. I ask him to seek some advice from the person sitting beside him, his staffer. He said that it is a work in progress. What isnít a work in process? Nothing is held up except the review of the Education Act.
Can the minister tell us what he would say to the public if the public is asking him about the review of the Education Act. Are we going to have some clear answers? Is the minister going to skate around this one? Why is answering such a simple, simple question giving the minister such a hard time? Whatís the process? You are three and a half years overdue. This minister has been in government now for a year. What is the process that we are looking at? What am I going to tell the public that the minister has said to me?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: A simple, simple question deserves a simple, simple answer: itís work in progress.
Mr. Fairclough: Define work in progress.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: For the information of the member opposite, 75 percent of the questions that were brought forward in the Education Act review were non-act issues. This government is actively looking at those non-act issues. They are all important. It all came from the communities and, like I said, itís two and a half years of information that has been compiled. It takes an awful lot of continued effort to even continue with all of the recommendations that were put forward.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, the minister again is trying to avoid his definition of work in progress. Instead, he is now focused on the non-act issues, which could be housing, for example, and another department dealing with that issue. All of these will probably continue forever. There are always non-act issues. As a matter of fact, we asked the questions in the House about what the members opposite are doing. There is certainly a need for the Education Act to be reviewed and we havenít seen that yet.
How long can the public wait before this minister gets around to doing a review and completion of the Education Act?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The previous government did table the act, but then they put it on hold for further consultation. Thatís basically where it was stopped. To date this government has been doing some consultation with the different First Nations. Weíre still at the point of trying to determine why it was that they withdrew from the final results of this report.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, is the minister saying he doesnít know why First Nations withdrew? Is that it?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: There could be several reasons, and those are still issues. As I stated before, "Work in progress."
Mr. Fairclough: It sounds like the minister hasnít been paying attention to what his responsibilities are. Thatís what the problem is. The minister knows that. I ask the question: how is the minister going to answer the question about how long before the public sees a review of the act? How long are we to wait? Three years? Five years? Is it even going to happen under the mandate of this government, under this minister? How long is the wait? Itís three and a half years overdue, and weíve waited and watched the minister do very little, if not nothing, on this matter over the last year and a bit. So what is the minister going to say to the public about when he expects to bring forth a review of the Education Act to the floor of this Legislature?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I wouldnít make a firm commitment on what date it will be brought to this Legislature.
Mr. Fairclough: No firm date ó can he give us a year, perhaps? I doubt it.
So I guess that itís just another issue that this minister is not up to speed with. Itís unfortunate. Man, that must be driving the department crazy, just listening to some of these questions and non-answers and avoidance of some commitment that they made in their campaign to the public. Now it has gone.
Can the minister tell us if the general public will be notified and told what is in the completion of the negotiations with First Nations? Can he tell us some of the things that are in negotiations with First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: No, I wonít and canít tell anybody what is in negotiations with First Nations at this point in time.
Mr. Fairclough: Okay, another one for the department ó get the minister briefed and up to speed. Maybe we will hopefully have some answers to some of these things tomorrow.
Once he gets the information, is he able to send it over by legislative return?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I guess the only comment I can make to that is that this is a negotiation process and I will respect the negotiation process.
Mr. Fairclough: Itís not a land claim negotiation that is taking place. The member knows that.
Well, I believe that the reason why we are not getting answers is because the minister just doesnít know.
I have a number of different questions that hopefully we will get some answers to. The Yukon Party promised this so-called alternative path in education. Can the minister elaborate on that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The department is basically interested in finding different pathways where one can achieve oneís goals in education. I believe that our government wants to ensure that those who do not intend to go on to university have an option to go a different route and still obtain an education or trade.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the minister tell us where itís at now? Heís told us a little bit about it, so where is it at now?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The department is looking at the apprenticeship program that is in the schools at the present time and where one can go with those initiatives.
Mr. Fairclough: Okay, the department is looking at what is presently being offered in the schools. Is there anything else? Is this all the department is doing for this initiative the Yukon Party put forward?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At this time, weíre actively looking at, for example, young women in trades initiatives, and we are actively working with the different stakeholders involved with training. We are moving ahead in consultation with these different organizations.
Mr. Fairclough: The department has done a lot of work internally, and the minister just said heís working with stakeholders. Who else is the department working with ó school councils, First Nations, villages? Let us know who else is being talked to on this.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: We have had discussions with school councils and some First Nations in the communities that Iíve visited. Iíve had some discussion regarding the needs assessments. Weíve also raised issues around alternative pathways in education and have had some input from some communities but not all. Some were quite readily able to say that this is a very good move and that they would like us to come back and discuss this some more with us because they believe very highly in it. They felt that it could meet the needs of some of the youth from the community who have dropped out of school. So along with that, there has also been discussion with young women in trades, for example.
Mr. Fairclough: The Yukon Party just did make this promise of an alternative path, and so far the minister said that casually he has had some discussions with school councils and some communities. When are we expected to see a paper produced on this issue, and is he going to table it in the House, or is it going to be released as a public document? How big is this thing? Are we dealing with individual communities or individual schools?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I can assure that it is a work in progress. I will make the commitment to keep the member opposite apprised of the progress that is being made.
Mr. Fairclough: The words "work in progress" come up again. Is there an end date that the minister has in mind for this initiative?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: We certainly take this as a very high priority. We really anticipate that we may have something available for the next school year. This is a target that I certainly would like to make come to a reality.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the minister for that answer. Will this be offered to all schools? Does it alter or change the way in which classes are being taught, especially in the final grades?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At this point in time it is a little bit premature to tell. However, one of the thoughts is developing a pilot project to see if it is going to be a program that can really get into full production in the future.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister must know, then, what itís going to look like in the end. Right now, the minister says theyíre already looking at the apprenticeship program thatís in the schools right now, and theyíre working with the women in trades initiative. Can he be a little clearer as to what the department is really looking at, other than what he just listed?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At this point in time I really donít have an awful lot more to add and I would confirm again to the member opposite that I will keep him in the loop when things are developing here.
Mr. Fairclough: There was one reason why I asked that question ó many reasons, but one that came out ó and thatís because the minister said it was of a very high priority. He just said it about two minutes ago ó a very high priority.
If it is a high priority, why isnít the minister up to speed about exactly what could be offered to the students? Thatís what Iím asking. If the minister can make a commitment and send by legislative return to the official opposition, weíll settle for that for now. Would he do that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: One of the things I want to make quite clear here is the fact that this minister will not make commitments on the floor while work is being developed. Things change, and I donít want to state on the floor of this Legislature something that may change before it actually develops.
I did make the commitment that I will get information back to the member as things develop, and Iíd like to reconfirm that I will do that.
Mr. Fairclough: Is the minister saying that we canít ask questions about plans of the minister in the future? We can only talk about the past and what happened?
Itís unfortunate. Again, to the department, "Brief your minister."
I will move on to something else, because the minister is having a hard time answering this question here. Thatís okay, because next time we are sitting in this House, this minister is going to be briefed on that, and we are going to ask more questions in that area.
The minister said that they are committed to working to put together a First Nation education strategy. Can he brief us where itís at, what has been done and what is left to be done in that area?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At the present time, as members opposite know, I am in the process of doing a needs assessment. While going through this needs assessment, talking about different strategies and defining what partnerships mean and issues like that has been quite beneficial. I believe that the First Nations have recently formed an education committee of chiefs. To this date we have not been successful in arranging a meeting with them ó excuse me, we did meet twice, but they were very general meetings talking about just general things about how we were getting to more or less know each other. So I anticipate more meetings in the future to get down to the more nitty-gritty things of how our strategy and our working relationship would look.
Mr. Fairclough: The Yukon Party made this commitment to the public ó First Nation education strategy. What did the minister have in mind?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: What I had in mind, I believe, is how we can learn from each other and how each otherís knowledge could complement one another.
Mr. Fairclough: So that would be a strategy ó how we can learn from one another and how we can complement one another. Did the minister not have in mind some direction coming out of this strategy, other than how we can complement one another on the kind of things weíre doing? There must be more than that. It is a high priority, the minister said ó again, another high priority. Why would the process of a needs assessment hold up putting together this strategy? People are looking forward to it, and theyíre wondering what the outcome is going to be.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: As I mentioned earlier about the needs assessments tours, part of that tour was also the long-term needs of the First Nations and the school councils. So this is all going to be a tool used in the strategy. I believe that the main goal of the whole strategy would be to ensure that First Nations feel that they are being heard and that they do have an input into whatís going on in the education system, sharing knowledge with each other, developing that working relationship. Itís all part of a strategy, and to date I believe that we are making progress in this area, as far as understanding the issues in the different communities and with different First Nations and school councils.
Mr. Fairclough: The main goal is for First Nations to be heard. It almost appears as if this minister doesnít have a process to hear First Nationsí concerns. This minister also said that First Nations will participate in the Department of Education, and these were some of the non-act concerns that came out. Can the minister elaborate on that one?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: To go back to the strategy, I believe that it is important to put on record that this can include such things as improving success for students, for example. This is a critical part of the strategy. There have been some requests for the department to look at the issue of, for example, dropout, so that is part of the strategy. The department wants to ensure that there is a lifelong learning process available for students who want to further their education and, again, to develop stronger partnerships with First Nations and school councils. At the present time we have two processes in place. One would be the chiefs education committee, and also the meetings of the department and the individual First Nations throughout the territory.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the minister never said there was going to be an end date when he expected the strategy to be put together ó like the forestry strategy or environment strategy ó when this First Nation education strategy is going to be put together and presented to the public. Can he give us an approximate date? He has been the minister for a year now. Surely he has a good grip on this.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iím quite hopeful that we can have something in place over the next several months, keeping in mind the Chiefs Committee on Education is very new, and itís not always an easy task to have all the different chiefsí schedules available to come to a meeting at any point in time. Itís going to be a timely process, I would believe.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister said, "possibly in the next several months". Are we looking at implementing this strategy, and would it be reflected in the next fiscal budget in the spring?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would say to the member opposite that this is a timely endeavour that we are taking on here and, if need be, I certainly will be requesting some funding in the upcoming spring budget. If that demonstrated need is there, I will be requesting it.
Chair: Order please. It has reached 4:00 p.m., our normal time for recess.
Do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will sit in recess for 15 minutes then.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will come to order. Weíll continue on with Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2003-04, and Department of Education, general debate.
Mr. Fairclough: Iím hoping now that the minister has had a few minutes of rest, possibly a coffee, and that we would get some answers from the member opposite. Maybe thatís just wishful thinking, but here we go with the next one.
The minister talked about dealing with the non-act concerns. I would like to know how far he has progressed with the First Nation participation in the Department of Education.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Chair, I have to say that I believed that the purpose of this debate was to deal with the supplementary budget, and I know it must really depress the members opposite to see such a good budget coming forward. I certainly hope that we can get to talk about that. The line of questioning that Iíve been going through here, in my opinion, has nothing to do with the supplementary budget.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister failed to answer the question. Let me remind the minister of this: if the minister is going to make an amendment or a change in the department, or bring forward an amendment to an act, we then open up the whole act and we debate it in general debate. This is called general debate, not necessarily going line by line. Thereís an opportunity for us to do that.
So, in questioning the ministerís priorities, we talk about the direction in which this government and this minister are going. So I ask the minister again: one of the things he raised that theyíre dealing with outside the act, because the act isnít going to be reviewed now under this government, is non-act concerns. Where is the discussion and how far has it advanced with First Nation participation in the Department of Education?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I want to remind the member opposite that a lot of this line of questioning has to do with personnel issues. I believe, again, that our purpose here is to discuss this supplementary budget and Iím prepared to answer questions with regard to the supplementary budget.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, itís all about the direction in which government is going. This minister has spent a lot of time ó when I asked about the Education Act review ó saying that they are dealing with these non-act concerns. I think that itís only appropriate and itís past practise ó the minister can go and read every session when there was a debate on the department. So, will he answer the question about First Nation participation in the Department of Education? It was one that this minister said is a priority of this government, so where is it at? Give us some details. Maybe he should act on his own and not take the direction from the government House leader.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The member opposite has been going all over the map since we started here this afternoon. I believe that we can stand here for the next week and debate the Education Act, quite frankly. I would appreciate it if the member opposite would stick with the supplementary budget because that is what I am here for and prepared to deal with.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, itís too bad because his colleague is the only one who has experience on the government side ó the Premier. He should have briefed the minister that he could be debating other things in the department. Thatís how it goes in this House. So I guess we can chalk it up to learning experience for the minister. Thatís what happens on the floor of this Legislature. The minister knows that. Go back and read Hansard from years back, and heíll see exactly the kind of debate that takes place in this House. Itís not going to change, either, Mr. Chair, and if the member opposite had followed along, I asked questions that were pointed and followed up on the ministerís comments. I was not all over the place. Iím not talking about the Education Act.
The minister said we can talk for a week on the Education Act. Well, we couldnít even talk for a half hour on it or five minutes because the minister didnít have answers about the Education Act ó none. So how can we have a debate for a month or a week on this? Iíd like to ask the question again: is it not a priority to deal with First Nation education? Is it not? The minister said that these non-act concerns are what theyíre dealing with. So, First Nation participation in the Department of Education ó tell us where itís at and what is the public expected to do to hear from the minister?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The member opposite appears to be having a very difficult time understanding that we are here to debate the supplementary budget. When the Education Act review is presented, then we will debate it.
Mr. Fairclough: Thatís right, Mr. Chair, we are here to debate the supplementary budget, and we are. We are talking about government initiatives and government direction. The minister shouldnít be taking the direction from the government House leader. He is failing in his job miserably. The prime example is how we ended up debating the Department of Education right now with the minister not being prepared to answer questions. So letís move on and letís see if we can get some answers.
First Nations asked me to ask these questions. First Nation participation in the Department of Education ó itís a non-act concern. It has nothing to do with the act. Itís a non-act concern; thereís possibly a reflection of the amount of money in this supplementary budget that could go toward this. Is there any money that is directed to First Nation participation in this budget for the Department of Education?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Again, I will remind the member opposite that there are a lot of good-news items here that we can be talking about in this supplementary budget, and I would encourage the members opposite to go there. If they want to tell something constructive to the general public, then get the good news out to them.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, this is the brightest minister of them all, Mr. Chair.
Chair:Order please. The Chair has become uncomfortable with some of the debate that has occurred today. There have been personal comments, comments that have been insulting, and I would ask all members to raise the level of debate and to speak to each other as respected, honourable people.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I asked the minister a question about the supplementary budget, and he refused to answer. Iíll try it again: what monies are directed toward First Nation participation that he saw as the non-act concerns that were raised? Is there a dollar amount thatís identified in this department for their participation?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I will take the member opposite back to my initial comments that I made when I started my presentation here. I can go over again for the member opposite all of the good things that this government is doing in education with this supplementary budget. We are committed to improving studentsí success, and thatís what this budget is all about. We need to go to places, for instance, like in the member oppositeís own riding, and look at what this government is doing for his particular riding. The school in Carmacks ó Mr. Speaker, thatís in the millions of dollars being put into education, in the member oppositeís own riding. Thatís good news.
We are on the capital side. Again, we are also extending the cafeteria and the industrial arts wing of the Porter Creek Secondary School. Thatís good news for the individuals in that school. They requested it. This government heard them, and we are taking action on it.
We also mention assisting and funding the First Nation instructor language program. That has been denied ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair:Mr. Fairclough, on a point of order.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I asked a straight forward question of the minister. I believe his listing off the kinds of things that he mentioned earlier is a violation of 19(c).
I would like to move on. I want to ask questions and move on and not get held up by the member opposite by him reading again the speech he gave at the beginning of this debate. We donít need that and I think that ó
Chair:Order please. The Chair recognizes that there is no point of order here.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I think that this is valuable information, and it is relevant to the discussion here.
We talk about improvements in education, and thatís what this debate is about. What has this government done? I listed a couple but, you know, this government has also put $649,000 into the Yukon teachersí collective agreement. We have added thousands of dollars to increase the number of teachers and education assistants in the classroom. The list can go on and on here. There are just so many good things in this budget. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder has been a big issue with every community and also in the City of Whitehorse. This government has taken steps to address those issues.
We can talk about all the monies that this government is putting into improving education. I remind the member opposite that this government is responsible for addressing every citizen in the Yukon Territory, and this government is making the moves to do just that. The request for a First Nation language instructor, for example, was a request that was made to previous governments that didnít capitalize on it. This government did.
So I believe the member opposite can get into a lot of good debate about the initiatives this government is putting forward. Iím here to debate the supplementary budget; letís get on with it.
Mr. Fairclough: I agree. Letís get on with it and not go back and read the speech over again. Iím hoping the member can stay focused about the question that has been asked. Iíll ask the question again.
In regard to the supplementary budget, it may or may not be laid out clearly in the details provided ó the First Nation participation in the Department of Education. This was one of the non-act concerns that were raised. Is there any money in this supplementary put toward that? If not, why? Tell us what has been done and how much progress has been made on this.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I remind the member opposite again that there were several non-act-related issues in the Education Act review. We are here to discuss the supplementary budget and thatís where Iím going to stay focused.
Mr. Fairclough: Is there any money directed in this supplementary budget for First Nation participation in the Department of Education?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Any participation by First Nations within the Education department would, in my opinion, be more directed toward administrative and the personnel issue. Again, I say that there are an awful lot of good initiatives that are right in this budget. Maybe the member opposite has that information, and I believe that the figures speak for themselves.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister didnít answer the question, doesnít know the answer. Weíll leave that one alone. I guess weíll have to relay the message to First Nations that the minister doesnít know ó he just doesnít know.
So letís move on. Letís see if we can get some concrete answers. All that government does is make amendments to the department about additional spending. Why government is moving in that direction, the reason for not making decisions ó we could ask questions about anything in the department. It could be leading to a question on the supplementary budget on why it wasnít as much as it is or why it wasnít included. Thatís why we ask the questions on this side of the House. And Iím sure that the member opposite will understand that one.
Right now, the minister said that heís working in negotiations with at least one First Nation on education issues. There are a number of First Nations that are looking at taking over control and drawing down education and control of their new schools. So what is the ministerís position on that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I apologize to the member opposite, but Iíd like him to repeat that question.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister said he has been in discussions with Tríondëk Hwëchíin with respect to education through their self-government agreements. Other First Nations have expressed some interest in drawing down education and even running their own schools. What is the ministerís position on First Nation-controlled schools?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Again I fail to see what this has to do with the supplementary budget. I would remind the member opposite that itís something in the agreement, and I really donít have an opinion on that.
Mr. Fairclough: Thatís shocking. So no opinion from this minister on First Nation-controlled schools. Sad to see.
The First Nation Education Commission ó is there money in the main budget, and are there any increases with the supplementary budget?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe some valuable information for the member opposite would be that, with respect to the Tríondëk Hwëchíin, something that is very important and critical is that a government be in place that recognizes that that 17.7 is there. And this government does recognize that, and it will be honoured when the time comes.
The Council of Yukon First Nations has recently established and created a Chiefs Committee on Education, and I will be working closely with this committee on education issues and concerns.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister didnít answer the question again. The First Nation Education Commission over at Council of Yukon First Nations ó is there money in the main budget that is going to assist the First Nation Education Commission? Is there any increase in this supplementary budget to go toward the First Nation Education Commission?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Again I will just state to the member opposite that there was a newly created Chiefs Committee on Education, and I will be working with them.
Mr. Fairclough: The last question I asked was a yes-or-no question. So the member is saying that there is nothing in the main budget for the First Nation Education Commission.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Again I will state to the member opposite that itís this supplementary budget that we are discussing. I believe they have all that information in front of them, and he should be able to read it.
Mr. Fairclough: The details arenít there, and the minister knows that. He has a big black binder that has all the information about the details about the budget itself. Is there any money in this supplementary budget for the First Nation Education Commission? Where is this debate going? Itís bad enough that we canít be asking questions about things in the department and their initiatives and this Yukon Party commitment. Itís to the point where we canít ask any questions about the supplementary budget. So Iíd like the minister to answer the question. He is the one who is responsible for the department, so he should answer the question.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: My recommendation to the member opposite would be ó if the member opposite doesnít feel comfortable that he doesnít have all the information, I would recommend that you advance into line-by-line and youíll find out every bit thatís in there.
Mr. Fairclough: I doubt that very much, Mr. Chair. We canít even get answers from the member opposite generally about the department, so how would the minister know any details at all?
Thatís the kind of respect First Nations are getting from that minister about the First Nation Education Commission ó refusal to answer the question or make any commitments to them. Is the minister going to commit any monies toward this newly established chiefs committee? Letís put it that way. Thatís an easy enough question.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Again, the member opposite tends to want to put words in oneís mouth. I donít believe that Iím ignoring First Nations, and I donít believe our government is. Again, this line of questioning is expecting one to look into a crystal ball and start determining whatís coming in the future.
I stated to the member opposite that there was a committee recently formed by the chiefs, and I assume the discussions may involve some kind of funding in the future. To date, it hasnít taken place.
Mr. Fairclough: The report that was done in Na Cho Nyäk Dun on the school in Mayo ó can the minister tell us what progress is being made on the recommendations?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I recognize that that report belongs to the First Nation of Na Cho Nyäk Dun, and itís their report. Again, I fail to see where this has anything to do with the supplementary budget debate.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, maybe the minister ought to dig deep and look at the commitments.
So this minister is doing nothing on the recommendations that were put forward on the report. How sad that is.
Well, Iíll just have to take that message back to that First Nation, Mr. Chair. They wanted this to be addressed by the minister who is responsible for education of First Nation children, and yet nothing ó it doesnít matter. The only time this minister would act is if he did his own report or that department did their own report. Nobody elseís reports or evaluation is important.
I would like to ask the minister about another Yukon Party commitment, and itís a strategy on advanced education. He directed his department to put together a strategy on advanced education. Where is it at, and what can the minister report back to us?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iím having difficulties trying to follow the member opposite, as we start out on one question and end up with another. So Iím just going to try to deal with the first question, in conjunction with the report from Na Cho Nyäk Dun.
There was a task force established in conjunction with the First Nation, and even, I believe, next week the superintendent is going to that community for three days of meetings. So the issue is being worked on.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, isnít that interesting, the kind of things that come out of the minister. First of all, itís somebody elseís report and there is nothing being done. Then he caught himself and, hey, maybe the department does have a responsibility here. Then I asked the question about an advanced education strategy and the minister failed to answer or even mention that at all in his answer.
So, where is this strategy that the Yukon Party promised ó this advanced education strategy? Where is it at and what can he report to the House?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe this debate was to be taking place on a supplementary budget and I would ask that the member go back to that.
Mr. Fairclough: Maybe you could clarify for the minister exactly what debate is all about on the floor of this Legislature when it comes to departments. It is general debate. We are not in lines in the supplementary. I know that the member opposite is anxious to get there and we will get there. But I am asking about this governmentís commitment. Advanced education, the strategy ó where is it at and what can he report to us?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I have been in consultation with the school boards, the board of directors from the College, First Nations and, again, I fail to see what this has to do with the supplementary budget, and I guess we will continue this line for the next four days.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister thinks he is going to get out of it in four days. Mr. Chair. The minister fails to see where it connects. I can believe that and I will just leave it at that.
He is really not giving any details on the Na Cho Nyäk Dun report at all, other than this committee. Advanced education strategy ó well, it was a priority, but the minister didnít have much to say about that. Well, thatís nothing new.
Letís go to the needs assessment. I am sure that the minister has all kinds of information on the needs assessment. This minister said ó this was back on October 9 ó that over the next two months he will gather input from First Nations, school councils and local governments to identify their top educational priority needs. Well, we are past two months.
Does he have a list in front of him he can present to the House? This is in the supplementary budget.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Finally, Iím happy to say that a million dollars has been put into this needs assessment. Quite frankly, it has been going very well. I donít have the list in front of me, as we have been to several school councils that had lists. What I could disclose to the member opposite is that weíve had everything from a tanned moose hide to an EA in a classroom.
So the needs assessment is something that is turning out to be very successful, as there were some immediate needs in the schools.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister said he would have this done, and it wasnít. Basically theyíre admitting to the fact that they failed to put together a proper budget in the spring. If only they spoke to people then, Mr. Chair, you would have seen this reflected in this budget.
So two months have gone. How many schools and how many school councils are left for the department to talk with? When will we see the dollars flow from the department to the priorities of the schools?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I donít have the exact number of every school we have visited, but I could possibly send that information to the member opposite ó the number of schools and school councils. The money will be flowing immediately. We intend to advance the funds to some of the requests that have already come in.
Mr. Fairclough: Is the minister saying that itís first come, first served?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iím saying that our department does not see any sense in waiting until next March to have a tanned moosehide available for a cultural project in the school. That moosehide will be bought immediately, so that they can enjoy their crafts with it.
Mr. Fairclough: It would be nice to see the moosehides tanned in the schools.
March ó thatís a new fiscal year, and we have $1 million thatís going to be divvied up and a needs assessment will be done ó hopefully soon. Is the minister going to look at the 29 schools and divide them up equally, or how is he setting priorities when it comes to the needs of schools?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: To date, we have some schools that have said they donít have any immediate needs, and some have three or four. This government is going to meet the immediate needs and also look at the long-term needs. So we intend to deal with all the schools as fairly as we can. Hopefully, if a school does not need something immediately, they wonít mind if there is a less fortunate school. All the schools are at different stages. Some are brand new; some are much older; some are well-equipped with sports equipment, and some are not. So those are the issues weíre dealing with.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the minister for that. Can the minister tell us which schools said no to the needs assessment and not having this as a priority issue? Which of the schools said no to them wanting additional dollars to address their priority needs?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Each community and each school is at their own space and their own place, and Iíll just respect that as confidentiality for some of the issues that we dealt with in these schools. The schools know. The school councils know that some of their needs will be met, and there are some that might not.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister says some will be met, some wonít. He just said that there are some schools that feel everything is going just fine. Whatís so confidential about that? Weíd like to compliment them, on this side of the House, for not having a problem. So which schools said no to the assessment dollars?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iíd advise the member opposite that the commitment I will make is that when there are approvals to the schools, heíll get a copy of that.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, in my riding I will know what the schools are asking for, and they do have some ideas already. Iím hoping the minister can send the information over to us on this side of the House by legislative return about which schools are saying no to that $1 million, or access to some of that $1 million. So if he can do that, Iíd appreciate it.
Iíd like to ask another question of the minister, and itís in regard to the Yukon native teacher education program. I asked this question in the House in Question Period. The minister was not making any commitments but was saying that they are looking at possibly opening it up. Is the minister looking at opening up this program before it has gone through any credible evaluation?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe the member opposite, again, is straying from the supplementary budget discussion. However, I will say that there is a possibility that the YNTEP program may be opened and discussions are taking place at this point in time. I believe that the response I am getting is mainly a positive response.
I would like to state to the member opposite also that at the present time the largest request that the department is getting to open the YNTEP is from non-natives who are living with or are married to First Nation people, who say that they have status children yet they canít get into the program. Then, on the other hand, we have a very large request from the non-native population who really would like to see it opened. So, discussions are actively taking place.
Mr. Fairclough: Is the minister directing his department to do a credible evaluation of YNTEP before any changes are made to the program?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I fail to understand what this has to do with the supplementary budget. I would encourage the member opposite to get on to the supplementary budget.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, itís his department and his responsibility. If there are no monies in the supplementary budget, there are no monies in there. If there is some direction coming out to do an evaluation, then there should be monies in this supplementary budget. So it fully has to do with his department and this supplementary budget and the minister knows that. Why is the minister trying to hide from this one?
Let me give some numbers to the member opposite, if he doesnít know. I did this in Question Period.
The percentage of teachers in the Yukon ó say, the native and non-native population split, when you look at the percentage of teachers in the school, there is only 3.5 percent First Nation teachers in the schools. In rural Alaska it is at 30 percent.
So does the minister feel that this program has reached its mandate, and thatís why he wants to open it up?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I will say again that this doesnít have anything to do with the supplementary budget. I would encourage the members opposite to go back to the supplementary budget and start learning whatís there so they can give some good news to their ridings.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, this is of utmost importance to the students of the YNTEP, first of all, and to the communities. This minister is waffling, he doesnít know exactly where heís going, he doesnít even know if itís reflected in the supplementary budget. Itís about their priorities, and if opening up this department is in fact working at it and it is an expenditure under this department ó so I would like to ask the minister again about the YNTEP.
Itís never had a credible evaluation done on it. There were two of them done ó and it was not accepted by any of the three parties. Two evaluations have been done since it was created in 1989. You would think that an evaluation would take place on a program if government is even thinking about it. And if they were doing an evaluation, it should be reflected in the supplementary budget.
So, is an evaluation going to be done on this program in the next little while, and if so, will it be done before any changes are made to the program?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe the member opposite probably knows that this government funds the YNTEP 100 percent, to the tune of approximately $500,000, and we will continue to do so.
Ms. Duncan: Iíd like to follow up on the questions with regard to YNTEP. The Yukon Party committed during the election campaign that they would not open up the YNTEP. In fact, the Yukon Party candidate in Porter Creek South promised a separate four-year teaching program. Thereís no money, as near as I can see, in this supplementary budget for that four-year program. Thereís no money for an evaluation of YNTEP. So the question for the minister is, which is ending up on the mountains of Yukon Party broken promises: opening up YNTEP ó sounds like thatís what theyíre going to do ó or non-delivery of a four-year teaching program? Thereís no money for either of them in the supplementary budget. Whatís the status?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This member learns well from the other one. Again I will state that this government made no such commitment about a special program in the platform.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, first of all, this member can speak for herself; thank you very much. Secondly, the fact is that the Yukon Party candidate in Porter Creek South promised my constituents a separate, four-year program. He also committed that YNTEP would not be opened up. There are constituents after constituents who have continuously asked me about the Yukon having a bachelor of education after-degree program or a four-year program. A great deal of work was done on this.
Itís a question of the money. A simple question for the minister: show me the money in the supplementary to deliver on ó yes, it was a promise in writing ó the four-year, after-degree program, or the four-year degree program.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: To the best of my knowledge, those commitments were not in the platform, so I fail to understand what the member opposite is alluding to.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the platform says, "Working in conjunction with Yukon College to develop a teacher training program open to all Yukon graduates to obtain their education degree in the Yukon for work in the Yukon." Yukon Party platform, on the Web site. Iíve asked in Question Period. Iíve asked in general debate.
Again, for the minister, the candidate in Porter Creek South said that YNTEP should not be opened up. The Minister of Education says it should. The candidate in Porter Creek South and the Yukon Party platform promised Yukoners the ability for non-native Yukoners to stay in the Yukon and obtain teaching certification. Itís not in this supplementary budget. When does the minister intend that that Yukon Party commitment be delivered?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would say to the member opposite, again, that that is not a Yukon Party platform commitment. Working with the College ó we are working with the College.
Ms. Duncan: Oh, Mr. Chair, it is painful. The minister is not going to answer that question and is not going to live up to the Yukon Party commitment. Again, yet another broken promise, broken commitment from the Yukon Party.
I would like to discuss the Santa Claus, million-dollar tour, since we are getting close to Christmas. The minister has got $1 million in this supplementary budget, and he is travelling around the territory playing Santa Claus asking schools what they want.
The minister had a letter from me and others in July-August of this year ó this summer ó indicating that because of an accident the playground equipment at Grey Mountain Primary School had to be replaced. Now he is saying, "Oh, well, we will deliver on some of the requests, but not others." What is the minister really saying to the people at Grey Mountain Primary School? That school has no future? Or is that playground equipment a low priority? He has $1 million to spend. He knew that he had that money this summer, and he is making those children wait. There was a major accident on the school playground this summer. He had the money available and chose not to replace that equipment. Instead, he is saying, "We will just go around and do a tour and listen to what school councils have to say, and we will wait and see. Maybe we will release some of that money; maybe we wonít."
I have two questions: when is that playground equipment going to be replaced so that it is safe for students? Or is the minister planning to close the school?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I assure the member opposite that I do sympathize with any child who may get hurt on a playground. Accidents happen. As a matter of fact, my granddaughter broke her arm at a different playground one time years ago. Those things do happen. I think that with regard to the question that the member opposite asked about the immediate needs, I could only say that I think these people are going to be very happy that their immediate needs are going to be addressed. What else can you say? Yes, it is going to bring happiness to the schools.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, with all due respect to the members opposite, they have a very strange interpretation of "immediate." We were promised immediate results in the economy. We were promised immediately we would get a teacher education program of some kind. Now thereís not even a recognition of those promises or those commitments. There was an immediate need demonstrated to the minister this summer about that particular playground equipment, and now it has been shuffled, even though the minister has the money to spend. That immediate need can wait, and I find that truly, truly unfortunate, Mr. Chair.
There is also an immediate need in our classrooms. We have higher than most jurisdictions in terms of our number of individual education plans. Teachers are expressing a high need for educational assistants. Will the minister stand on his feet and tell us precisely how much money and how many new educational assistants have been hired since this money was made available in the supplementary budget? How many more EAs are in classrooms?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This is a good-news item in this budget ó something that was dearly needed, and this government rose to the challenge to put that money forward. I fail to let this member opposite try to put a negative spin on a good thing. All I can say to the member opposite is that the schools are very happy with what this government is offering them. As immediate needs are identified, weíll work with them.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, letís go back again. The minister hasnít answered the question. When will the immediate need of new playground equipment at Grey Mountain be addressed, and when will the minister give the constituents of Yukon ó particularly the Whitehorse area, itís not just a Riverdale school ó an answer on the future of that school? There are two questions: when will the immediate need of the playground equipment be addressed? Is it part of the million dollar Santa Claus fund bidding war? Or will it be next springís budget? When will there be an announcement about the future of that school?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The member opposite keeps referring to this as a Santa Claus budget. Well, I donít believe in Santa Claus and I only believe that this is ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair:Mr. McRobb, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: What kind of an Education minister is this to make such an outrageous statement as he doesnít believe in Santa Claus? Hasnít he learned anything since he was a little kid? We all believe in Santa Claus. Thatís the position of our party. We know where the Yukon Party stands, however.
Chair:The Chair must concur, and I will cite Standing Order 19(k) which states, "A member shall be called to order Ö if that member: introduces any matter in debate that Ö offends the practices and precedents of the Assembly", and I would encourage members not to make disparaging remarks about good old Saint Nick.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
However, I will continue to say that weíll bring tidings of great joy to the schools. With regard to Grey Mountain School, I have not met with that school council yet, and I intend to have that meeting with them and have discussions on their immediate needs.
Ms. Duncan: Well, I thank the minister for his tidings of great joy. How about a little bit of comfort to the parents? Will the minister indicate that that playground equipment will be replaced as soon as is practicable and possible, that itís not part of the $1 million, that itís going to be included in this yearís budget or the equipment is on order? Please, would the minister tell us when that playground equipment is going to be replaced and where the money for it is?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I donít know how much more plain I could be for the members opposite. When we said weíll meet the immediate needs, thatís what we intend to do.
Ms. Duncan: I just asked the minister a simple, straightforward question. I asked it as politely and with as much of a sense of humour as I can muster at this point.
Would the minister just please indicate when that playground equipment is going to be replaced, and whether or not itís part of this $1 million? Thatís all Iím asking. If itís not, if itís separate for next yearís budget, then itís on the priority list. He can say that. Iím just asking for the information of those parents who are concerned.
He wrote me a nice letter and said, "I sympathize." He also said that on the floor of the House. How about a little comfort for those parents, knowing that itís going to be replaced? If so, when?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: We appear to be stuck here on something, and Iím not going to divert from my answer. We will meet the needs. I have not talked to the school council yet. That will happen.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, Iím not going to go on and on and on about this point. I would just encourage the minister to go back and read the Blues tomorrow. Heís aware of this need. Heís aware of this need from his department; heís aware of the need because I wrote to him and others have written to him. Heís aware that there was a problem with the equipment. All I asked for was a simple, straightforward answer. Is it part of the million dollars or not, and when is it going to be replaced? He refuses to answer the question. How unfortunate. And he didnít give a clear answer to the Member for Mayo-Tatchun as to when these funds will be dispensed out of this million dollars.
The Finance minister has made much of the collapse of the funds that had been set aside, made much of ignoring the views of Yukoners put forward in that respect. One of those funds was the teacher mentoring endowment fund. Was the fund collapsed? I donít see it in here. Or has it been implemented with the Yukon Teachers Association?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: We did provide the funding through the Yukon teachers, through an agreement.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, perhaps the minister could send me a legislative return that outlines when the money was sent over and a copy of the agreement, please. If he would endeavour to provide that information before the House rises, I would appreciate it.
The Education Act ó I listened with interest to the discussion between the minister and the Member for Mayo-Tatchun. I would just like to make a couple of points for the record and for the member oppositeís information. First of all, the Education Act, as passed by the NDP government, had a mandatory review built into it. The NDP government and the minister of the day refused to move on it, knowing it was an extremely difficult subject.
At the close of their mandate, they put in place an Education Act review process. That process was ó weíve seen better processes laid out. Nevertheless, our government continued with that. There was a lot of very, very good work done. It was chaired by a well-respected teacher, former head of the Yukon Teachers Association ó a very well-respected individual. There are many other well-respected individuals who did a great community service in putting that forward. At the end of the day, there was not consensus.
The mandatory review provision is still in the act. There is still a great deal of information. The minister did not answer the question as to what steps he has taken, what funding might be in the supplementary budget or what steps have been taken to complete and move forward on that. Is there any decision? Has any decision been made? There apparently is no funding in the supplementary budget to continue that work or to review that work.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: With regard to the legislative return, I would only commit to a letter with information on agreement with the Yukon Teachers Association, as requested. I believe that the member opposite stated that she heard the discussion with the MLA for Mayo-Tatchun, so I need not repeat myself.
Ms. Duncan: With all due respect to the minister, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun may not have asked the questions the way that I just did. I would ask the minister again: is there any action intended on the work that has been done to date? I heard him say that there is no funding in the supplementary budget to review that information. Is there any action intended on all that information?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iíd like to confirm to the member opposite that I do appreciate that there was an awful lot of work that went into that Education Act review. Iíll repeat myself again that itís an issue thatís going to be very time-consuming to continue on with.
Ms. Duncan: No kidding, Mr. Chair. Yes, itís very, very time-consuming. Education is very near and dear to peopleís hearts and minds. Itís a very important subject for Yukoners. We all recognize that.
Getting an initial agreement on the Education Act itself when it was passed was a very difficult task. The review was difficult. Thereís a lot of information.
What is the minister going to do with it?
Nothing, itís too time-consuming ó is that what heís saying? Will there be nothing done with that work? Is it going to sit on a shelf? Thatís the question Iím asking: whatís going to happen to the work that has been done?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At this point I would like to ask the member opposite to maybe get back on to the supplementary budget as this discussion has taken place over the last hour and it appears weíre having a repetitious thing going on here.
Ms. Duncan: The minister may find this to be a tedious discussion and may find it repetitious. The fact is that a great deal of work has been done; it has been through two different governments; it has been the commitment of a number of Yukoners, and the minister opposite is not putting any money ó even though a wealth of funding is available ó toward the conclusion of the review that is required by law. He is simply going to put it on the shelf and ignore it. That is an abrogation of his duties under the law, and I have a great deal of concern about that.
Iíve asked the minister about the million-dollar funding and money available for Grey Mountain Primary and the playground equipment. That was an immediate need I identified, and I didnít get an answer on that. He has promised me a letter about the endowment fund, and I would appreciate receiving that letter before the end of the year, if not the end of the sitting. I accept that heíd rather do a letter than a legislative return. Thatís fine. Iíve been asked about the status of that and would like to be able to respond to my constituents.
Also in the process of discussing these items, I raised the issue of individualized education plans, and we have quite a number of them. These are individualized, and I appreciate that the minister doesnít want to talk about individual plans. Can he give a sense of the number ó not by community or by school? Statistics can pose difficulties in smaller communities. How many in total are there ó say, divided by elementary and high school? How many individualized education plans do we have now? And in the supplementary, as a result of the wealth of money available, how many more EAs have been put in classrooms to help teachers deal with these individualized education plans?
Chair:Order please. Before the member answers the question, the Chair just heard the phrase "an abrogation of his duties" in the context of breaking the law. To accuse a member of breaking the law is simply not in order. In our political system this Assembly passes the laws, but it is the courts, not the Assembly, which determine who has broken the law.
Such a charge cannot be entered into debate. Parliamentary practice dictates that a direct charge against a member can only be made by way of substantive motion for which notice is required. Members are free to express their concern that laws are not being adhered to, but they cannot make a direct charge.
I thank members for their cooperation with that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Yes, Ms. Duncan.
Withdrawal of remark
Ms. Duncan:Certainly, Iíll be glad to withdraw that.
Would the minister outline for the House how he intends to uphold the law that requires a mandatory Education Act review?
Is that correct phrasing, Mr. Chair? I seek your guidance on that.
The Education Act required a mandatory review of the Education Act. How does the minister intend to uphold ó
Chair: Yes. The Chair is comfortable with that phrasing.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair:Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Pursuant to Standing Order 19(g), it would still appear that the leader of the third party is imputing unavowed motives that the member may be breaking the law. Thereís a suggestion there thatís more than a suggestion, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: On the point of order, I withdrew that remark, and I asked how he intends to uphold the law and sought guidance from the Chair.
Chair:The Chair is comfortable with the current phrase, "How does the member intend to uphold the law?" I donít rule that out of order.
I believe there was a question.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I was so devastated by that accusation that I forgot the question here. Anyhow, I will try to continue on from where I was.
With regard to individualized education plans, they are in place for a number of reasons. I donít believe that itís appropriate to pass out the number of children who are having complications. As for how this minister intends to fulfill obligations with regard to the Education Act, I will simply state probably with the same process that the member opposite was using when she was trying to find consensus: we will continue to seek consensus.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I realize that individualized education plans are put in place for a variety of reasons. I specifically asked the question for it to be general, not specific. Most importantly, Iíve asked ó this is the third time now ó how many more, as a result of this supplementary budget and the work of the minister ó he wants to talk about good news ó how many more EAs do we have in Yukon classrooms as a result of his work? How many?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: First, I would like to make it perfectly clear that EAs are assigned to a specific student and, in this supplementary budget, there is approximately $456,000 in this budget to increase teachers and EAs in the system. This government has said before that where there is a demonstrated need, we will meet it and we will continue to keep that commitment.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, $456,000 for more teachers and more EAs is what the minister just said. How many? Itís a detail of the budget. He should be able to answer this in general debate.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I could only state to the member opposite that the number of EAs fluctuates from time to time, and it will continue to be a number that is going to be in demand and not in demand. Again Iíll just state for the record that where thereís a demonstrated need, this government will do their best to meet it.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there is a demonstrated need. There are demonstrated needs in classrooms throughout the territory. We ask our teachers to perform a tremendous service. The demands of our society, our education, the demands of teachers keep going up and up and up, and the resources we give them to meet those demands are less and less and less.
In the spring the minister talked about the number of teachers in the education system being reduced by 12. Now in the supplementary he talks about $456,000 being added. Is that entire $456,000 in the supplementary geared toward hiring teachers and EAs, or is it geared toward additional resources in the department? How much more is the government spending in the supplementary budget in hiring teachers and EAs? How much?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The $456,000 is for exactly what I stated earlier, teachers and EAs.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate that answer from the minister opposite.
The Yukon Party platform ó and hopefully the minister now has a copy ó also talks about establishing the honour roll of Yukon teachers. What is it and when is it going to be in place? Is it monetary? Is it in the supplementary budget? What is it?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This issue the member talks about is an issue where our department would have to get into discussions with the Yukon Teachers Association about and it hasnít happened at this time.
Ms. Duncan: Itís not an issue; itís a broken Yukon Party commitment ó an unfulfilled commitment by the Yukon Party ó yet another unfulfilled commitment by the Yukon Party.
The funding for the Carmacks school ó there is $400,000 for planning for the Carmacks school. In the agreement with the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation, the agreement talks about a choice of land selection for the school and indicates that the school may be located on First Nation land. This is a departure; to the best of my knowledge, the Government of Yukon has never built a school on First Nation land. They have been built on Crown land set aside for educational purposes. Is this new, or could the minister indicate where and when it has been done before?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I want to remind the member opposite that, to the best of my knowledge, when a platform is put together to present to the public in an election, I donít recall reading anywhere in that document that you only have one year to produce the platform commitments. So, give us a little leeway. We still have three years left to work on this issue.
With respect to the Carmacks school, I believe an example was set for building the school on settlement land, and that occurred in the community of Old Crow. With respect to the agreement with the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation, itís only one of many items the committee will be discussing.
Ms. Duncan: I realize that itís only one of many items ó the location of the school. However, I would like to ask the minister to also refresh my memory, then: what agreement was reached with the Vuntut Gwitchin with respect to the school? That wasnít built during our administration. So, was it a land swap or was there a fee paid? What is the anticipated arrangement should the committee decide to build the school on First Nation land? Is there a payment that is going to be required for lease or will there be a land swap? What arrangements or preliminary discussions have been held in that regard and what would be the cost in terms of the final cost of the school?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I remind the member opposite that, with regard to the school in Old Crow, it was far before my time, too, and I can get that information on the school and maybe write a letter with regard to that. But, again, I want to state for the record that the committee has not even been formally put together yet in Carmacks. We are still waiting for some names to be submitted. It would be kind of like putting the cart before the horse here if I start saying that Iím going to discuss issues around the Carmacks school. It is obviously a challenge for the committee to get involved with and I look forward to working with them in this area.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would just encourage the minister to go back and look at the school in Old Crow, because the housing around that particular area is Yukon Housing Corporation, near the school. So is it VGFN land, or was it YTG Crown land? Was it land set aside for educational purposes? Exactly what was the land swap negotiation around that?
And the reason Iím asking this is because section 411 of the agreement says that: review of suitable site options for the school, sites on and off settlement lands may be considered. This has a bearing on the cost of the school and will be a point for negotiation. So Iím quite interested in what the ministerís thinking is on this.
And I would just remind the minister that it was well before his time, not mine in the House, when a previous minister actually purchased land for the new school. So other governments have worked toward building a new school for Carmacks, and land has been purchased in the past for this. So what will happen to that? And I appreciate that the minister doesnít want to prejudge anything, but is he aware of that background, and has he any thoughts with respect to that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe Iíve already committed to the member opposite to get some of the required information on the Old Crow school.
With regard to the last statement, I will only say that it will be a contributing factor in the location of the school, and it has to be discussed through the committee. Thatís all I can say on that issue at the present time.
Ms. Duncan: The work has begun on the spring budget and there is $400,000 planning money set aside. Does the minister have any idea of the cost of a new school?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At this point in time I would feel rather uncomfortable in throwing a figure out there, because maybe the member is aware or is not aware that the price of materials has dramatically risen in the last six months here and we are going to have to deal with the figure as it comes to us.
Ms. Duncan: Letís go back a step from the school planning. I would just like the minister to clarify for the record ó the Carmacks school is two sections. There is a somewhat newer rebuild and there is a much older section that is desperately in need of replacement. Is the planning for a completely new school or is the plan to finish the rebuild of the somewhat newer section?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe that the member opposite knows very well that this government has publicly stated that they will be constructing a new school in Carmacks. The $400,000 was put into this budget for planning. I donít know what else a new school means besides a new school.
Ms. Duncan: I just wanted it clearly on the record that weíre talking about a completely brand new school. We wouldnít make use of the gym or any of those facilities that are not in bad shape. I understand their playground equipment isnít any better than Grey Mountainís. But perhaps the minister could clarify that weíre talking about an entirely new school ó from the ground up ó and that weíre not making use of anything from the old school at this point.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: If the committee came back to the department and said, "We want an addition on the old school," we would probably build it for them. We wonít argue if there isnít a need for a new school. However, at this point in time, the Village of Carmacks and the chief and council have all stated that they want a new school. And thatís exactly along the lines of where weíre going with the new school.
Ms. Duncan: That was a reasonable question. No one is denying that there is a need for new educational facilities. But what I was getting at was what use we are going to make of the old facilities ó there are some things that are still usable ó or are we starting from the ground up? I was also asking, quite reasonably, what we were talking about in terms of a ballpark figure for this school.
I can appreciate that the minister doesnít perhaps want to get off a plane or get out of his vehicle and say, "Yup, $10 million," because, lo and behold ó guess what? ó that will be what it costs. I would also remind the minister that we built Hidden Valley and Holy Family schools for about $4.2 million, and the projected costs for Grey Mountain were $3.2 million.
So, the cost of brand new schools, in spite of the cost of materials, can vary quite widely.
The location has a lot to do with it, and the plans of the community have a lot to do with it. So I would encourage the minister to respect the plans of the community but also to have an idea of what is affordable from the government so they can work together and it doesnít end up being acrimonious.
I know other people want to get into the debate here so Iíll just ask the minister to clarify the $200,000 for the renovations for Porter Creek and just remind him it was a Yukon Party government that built that school wrong in the first place ó with a too-small shop and a too-small cafeteria and an engineering problem in the hallway. Thatís the biggest issue: thereís one particular hallway that students all come down and thereís not enough room in it. Thereís not enough room in that cafeteria for the 750 students plus, and the shop is not safe. I had very good reason for strongly recommending to the government that they do this a year ago. Theyíre finally going to do this. Is the $200,000 in the supplementary engineering work alone or is it anticipated that money will also cover the cost of the repairs? Will they all be completed for that amount?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I guess to start with Iíd like to remind the member opposite that this government is very capable of delivering sound fiscal management, so thereís no need to worry about the money.
Also, I want to remind the member opposite that I need not be reminded that the Yukon Party built that school. I didnít know they did so you didnít have to remind me.
By the way, the question on the secondary school and the $200,000 ó these funds are to begin the planning and design of this project during the current fiscal year to allow for a construction start-up during the summer of 2004.
Mrs. Peter: I just wanted to ask the minister a couple of questions. Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation has supported the education system in Old Crow for the last couple of years and they have put $100,000 toward the programming in Old Crow. The minister has just announced a $1 million ó they called it "Santa Clause present" or something earlier. I just wondered if the minister had an opportunity to consult with the people of Old Crow in regard to their education.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I must apologize to the member opposite. I would like to hear the last part of that question again.
Mrs. Peter: I wondered if the Minister of Education had an opportunity to consult with the people of Old Crow in the last few months in regard to this $1-million announcement that he made recently.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I could share with the member opposite that I was scheduled to go on a flight to Old Crow to meet on the immediate needs and future needs of education when my sister passed away and I had to cancel out and attend her funeral. However, the deputy minister and my alternate did go up. Regretfully, we did not get to hold a meeting with the First Nation. It may have been just an honest oversight. However, there was a meeting with the school council and they identified some immediate needs that we will deal with.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Chair, I just want to put on the record that earlier, in case the Minister of Education didnít hear what I was saying, I said VGFN put $100,000 into our education system. That is of our own money ó our own finances because education is of the highest priority for Vuntut Gwitchin. And the $1 million that this minister had announced about two months ago now would really make a difference in my community.
Itís unfortunate that some of his officials went to Old Crow and didnít have the opportunity to meet with the community, because they would have heard first-hand, again, the vision that Old Crow has for our education system. It has always been there. We have always made that message very clear. There are a couple of reports, probably, sitting in the Department of Education that spell out very clearly what our needs are in Old Crow.
And when I mentioned this $1 million in the last public meeting I held in the community in October, someone from the community suggested that we could use at least half of this money that the minister announced because we know what programs we need within our school system in Old Crow.
And for the record, I would just like to say to the Minister of Education that Old Crow has always had a reputation of getting everything they think we need. That statement was made to me in the community ó that the Department of Education says that Old Crow has enough resources. That comment, in itself, does not hold true for the community of Old Crow.
We have struggled for many years with the resources we have. We have always been short of resources. We have, quite by luck, I might say, a clinical psychologist in our community, and it has nothing to do ó I shouldnít say "nothing to do". It has very little to do with this department.
They would never have hired a clinical psychologist alone for the community of Old Crow. This person was able to come to the community because she was married to one of the employees at our school. We are very, very lucky, grateful and fortunate to have her, because those are the kinds of resources that we need. We are dealing with a lot of issues in the community in regard to our students and trying to give them the very best of academic training before they are able to come down to attend high school so that they can be effective and they can be successful when they get here, to address the kind of issues that they have to when they have to come down into this society.
I have listened to this debate over the last couple of hours and I am not very happy with the answers that my colleagues received because we ask these questions on behalf of the Yukon people and on behalf of our constituents, and it is not a laughing matter.
I held this critic area before my colleague did, and I know that Iíve spoken to key resource people in Whitehorse and throughout the communities. Those issues are still there, and they have to be heard. The questions need to be answered. If this minister says his government is open and accountable, then letís start hearing about some of the accountability that he has.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, seeing the time, Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Edzerza that we report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins 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 a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble:Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2003-04, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: Youíve 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. Jenkins: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled December 8, 2003:
Fleet Vehicle Agency 2002-03 Annual Report (Hart)
Property Management Agency 2002-03 Annual Report (Hart)
The following Legislative Return was tabled December 8, 2003:
Quartz Mining Act, section 147: information pertaining to Mine reclamation security (Lang)
Oral, Hansard, p. 290
The following document was filed December 8, 2003:
Farmer of the Year Award, letter re: (dated Dec. 3/03) from Wild Blue Yonder Herbs and Vegetables to Hon. Archie Lang (McRobb)