Tuesday, May 4, 2004 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.
In recognition of Mental Health Week
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:I rise today to pay tribute to national Mental Health Week.
Mr. Speaker, the goal of the Canadian Mental Health Association this week, May 3 to May 9, is to make connections. It is, after all, national Mental Health Week. In their own words, "Good mental health is essential to everyoneís well-being. By making connections and by reaching out to those who can help others find a balance, the journey to good mental health begins."
One in five Canadians ó or 20 percent of the adult population in this country ó is directly affected by mental illness at some point in their lifetimes. Family, friends and colleagues are also affected when someone they care about has a mental health problem. It is not always a visible illness, but it is one with consequences. For people living with a mental illness, they and their support persons need to connect with others. That is what the theme of making connections is all about.
Now, in the past few weeks here in the Yukon, we have seen very clearly a bit of the darker side of mental health problems and how individuals and their community can be impacted by this.
We have been able to make some of those connections that the Canadian Mental Health Association speaks of. We recognize the importance of linking with specialized services, information and support groups, health care providers and many other resources. We recognize the importance of linking different government departments that are involved in an individualís life.
Mental health services branch adapts its services to the needs of a changing population. This includes promoting healthy living, providing opportunities for individuals to develop a social relationship in which they both seek support and support others, involving family and friends in a network of supportive care, and promoting access to the range of leisure, educational, recreation and employment opportunities enjoyed by all Yukoners. Promoting mental health means helping others to fully participate in the benefits from the richness of our communities.
This is the 53rd national Mental Health Week, and we all need to recognize the importance of good mental health and how to achieve that in our daily lives. We also need to be reminded now and again of how to empathize with those who are less fortunate and how we, as a government, can work to make their lives and the lives of their families much easier.
Thank you very much.
Mr. Fairclough: I rise on behalf of the official opposition to pay tribute to national Mental Health Week.
There are many kinds of mental health illnesses, covering a wide range of behaviours and causes. Mental illness can affect a person at any age. It is estimated that one in three individuals in Canada will suffer temporary mental disorder during their lifetime. One in eight Canadians will require professional care. Mental disorders reduce our capacity to cope with daily life so that thereís an effect on our families, our work and our future.
Mental health continues to be one of Canadaís major public health problems but it is a misconception that it is difficult to treat. The two most commonly encountered mental illnesses are depression and anxiety disorders. In most cases, these can be accurately diagnosed and successfully treated. Although there are many drugs available for treatment, mental health illnesses are caused not only by biological, chemical or physical disturbance, social and emotional factors are at least equally important causes.
Because of community stigma against people with mental disorders, only one in five people affected ever seek help. Society as a whole can help the afflicted persons immensely. Attitudes of families, friends and the community toward mental health of an individual are a very important factor. Positive responses can be instrumental in a personís recovery. Reintegration into society is tremendously important for those people who have been hospitalized with a mental illness. We no longer want to hide these patients from view. We no longer are terrified of their behaviour. Recommendations in the Romanow commission report, Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada, strongly endorse using home care support for psychiatric patients.
The next step ó and we in this House need to make it, Mr. Speaker ó is to provide adequate support and services to those with mental illness. That is still needed.
Locally, the Second Opinion Society provides psychiatric survivors with a safe, confidential drop-in centre around people who have gone through psychiatric experiences themselves. A basic philosophy of SOS is to offer support that does not depend on drugs or forced treatment. Among their services are counselling, information and advocacy. They publish a newsletter that features articles on alternatives to psychiatry. We commend the Second Opinion Society for their valuable ongoing assistance to this important field of health.
Ms. Duncan: I rise on behalf of the Liberal caucus to draw Yukonersí attention in tribute to national Mental Health Week, May 3 to 9. The theme for national Mental Health Week is "Making Connections". I was pleased to note, in searching this issue, that the Canadian Mental Health Association Web site has a map that, no matter where youíre located in Canada, you can find the Mental Health Association office or volunteer nearest to you. Yukon has a readily accessible Whitehorse address, e-mail and telephone number on this site.
Iíd like to especially thank the volunteers who support this organization in the Yukon. I encourage Yukoners, one of the most connected and wired places in Canada, to make the connection with our local mental health organization. One in five Canadians is directly affected by mental illness and reaching out will connect all of us with information, education and support.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
In recognition of Fair Trade Week
Hon. Mr. Fentie:It gives me great pleasure to pay tribute to international Fair Trade Week. As we embark upon a new economic direction in the Yukon, one that will enable the territory to achieve its enormous potential, our government looks forward to forging full and fair trade partnerships and new trade opportunities that will benefit the economy and quality of life for Yukoners.
We are dedicated to building sustainable, competitive advantages to encourage an economy that can fully participate at the regional, national and international level. Our government aims to move beyond previous risk-adverse attitudes toward trade, develop new markets for Yukon goods and services and work with our provincial and territorial counterparts to encourage economic diversity and growth for Canada.
A New Direction clearly affirms the Yukon governmentís interest in trade development and contains strategic initiatives related to international trade and international trade policy, marketing strategy, circumpolar trade initiatives, broad-band development and commercialization of innovations.
Recently we hosted a workshop with the Department of International Trade, who provided our business community with information on the general agreement in trade and services and how businesses can trade their services worldwide.
In June, the Yukon government will be welcoming the international trade representatives from all the jurisdictions in Canada and from the federal Department of International Trade to discuss the status of international trade and ways in which we can improve the Yukonís international trade position. Research is a key to removing barriers to trade and ensuring that the Yukon trades fairly.
Presently we are undertaking research surrounding the Yukonís international and internal trade policies, like procurement, labour mobility and incentive policies. The outcome of this research will help us to determine policy and procedure changes that are necessary to address any remaining unfair trade initiatives and then to communicate our serious intent to become a trading partner with the international business community, doing our part to achieve fair trade from source to consumer in the global marketplace.
Mr. Hardy: I rise today on behalf of the official opposition to pay tribute to international Fair Trade Week.
Fair Trade Week is an opportunity for us to reflect on alternatives to conventional trade, and itís a tool for economic justice. This yearís theme is "Small change, big difference". Citizens of rich nations as well as poor nations are united in putting a stop to corporate greed and starting to address human need. The fair trade movement focuses on small-scale operations that use organic sources and solutions and natural methods to produce healthy products while providing income and food source for farmers who work cooperatively. After tobacco, cotton and coffee are the second and third most chemically treated crops in the world.
Martin Luther King said, "Before you finish your breakfast this morning, you will have relied on half the world." The people we rely on for our coffee have been exploited and oppressed by the unfair power balance in world trade.
The livelihoods of small-scale farmers and producers are threatened by low commodity prices and unfair competition from rich countries. This is not beyond our control. Coffee is the leading source of income in the coffee-growing regions. It is a powerful tool to bring about positive change for farmers, the environment and our health. Here in the Yukon we have well-known sources of alternatives. There is the slow food movement. There are bakeries, farms and coffee suppliers offering us organic and fair trade food and beverages that are delicious, healthy and prepared with love for the land, for the customer and for the profession.
Letís do something to make a difference and make a choice today to purchase some of these fair trade products.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Ms. Duncan: It gives me great pleasure today to introduce to the Legislative Assembly Mr. Toews and Mr. Sullivan, who have brought their Porter Creek Secondary School social studies classes to join us for the Daily Routine and Question Period today. I would ask all members to please join me in welcoming them to the Legislature.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
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
Mrs. Peter:I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) historic milestones should be celebrated in a manner that reflects their historical context as fully and as accurately as possible;
(2) construction of the Dempster Highway would not have been possible without the guidance and support of the First Nation people and the traditional knowledge they generously shared;
(3) any public celebration of the Dempster Highway should recognize the vital role played by the people of the four First Nations whose traditional territories are involved, and especially the elders;
(4) such a celebration should also recognize how the current Dempster Highway route reflects the transportation and communication links that existed in that area for many centuries; and
THAT this House urges and encourages the Government of Yukon to work with the Vuntut Gwitchin, the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in, the Na Cho Nyäk Dun and the Tetlit Gwitchin First Nations, as well as the governments of Canada and the Northwest Territories, to ensure that any celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Dempster Highway recognizes the role played by the First Nation people in making this project possible.
Mr. McRobb: According to the Council of Canadians, an overwhelming majority of Canadians ó 83 percent ó support a moratorium imposed on any further releases of genetically modified crops until more health and environmental safety issues have been addressed;
Therefore, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to support Yukon farmers who grow healthy foods reliant on natural methods.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House do issue an order for the return of all documents relating to a 2003 trip to Vancouver by the chair of the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: First Nation education
Mr. Fairclough: My question is for the Minister of Education. First Nations have complained for years about the lack of First Nation participation in the school system. There are dozens of negative reports from education consultants, from First Nations and from the department itself. Those issues need to be dealt with. The minister cannot just throw money at the problem in the hope that the problem would disappear.
He needs to face the deeper issues of First Nation education. The policies keep control of the system in his hands, even though the federal government transfers money each year to the territorial government specifically for First Nation education. Council of Yukon First Nations education representatives said that First Nations are discussing and planning with the department, but itís not going fast enough. Not enough is happening, is what theyíre saying.
What is the minister planning to do about the eventual drawdown of education by First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I thank the member opposite for the question.
Of course, the member opposite must realize that this is not an issue that began yesterday. First Nation involvement in education, and the lack of it, probably started 200 years ago. So, for the member opposite to maybe believe that any government can walk in and revamp the whole education system overnight to please everyone, I think they had better go back to their drawing table.
Mr. Fairclough: I am sure that the government on that side of the House isnít proud of that answer, Mr. Speaker. We are talking about the modern day and the drawdown of education from the federal government. I want the minister to be focused. Letís try to focus him in a bit more.
Four years ago, our NDP government began the process of reviewing the Education Act. It was followed by the Liberal government review panel, which ended in disaster. This government put the review on hold. In December of last year, the minister said, and I quote: "This government put the Education Act on hold until there was some dialogue with First Nations on why they arenít agreeing with the final result."
Will the minister report to the House on where the dialogue is now?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, for the member opposite to insinuate that this government is not doing anything to deal with First Nation education is inaccurate.
For example, this government is the first in several years to take the First Nation language trainee positions very seriously. When this government was approached to get involved with supplying monies for First Nation trainees, this government did. By the time six are trained, this government will have put $500,000 plus into that program, which is very detrimental to the very existence of a language that is quite possibly near extinction. That is the languages in the Yukon Territory.
This government has also designated $500,000 toward First Nation curriculum development for the upcoming year. Again, there is $1 million right there that says that this government is doing something for First Nation curriculum.
Mr. Fairclough: The government side cheers for the minister, but he didnít answer the question. He missed it again. Iím going to try one more time. This is strike three if the minister misses this one. The Education Act itself states that a review must take place in 10 yearsí time. Now itís four years past that due date. This government is dragging its feet when it comes to hard work. The act does not say that a review must take 10 years. It doesnít say that, but it looks like that could happen under this minister. The minister has been in charge of the Education department for a year and a half now. Itís time for the minister to start doing his job. Why is the minister choosing to ignore his legislated responsibility to review the Education Act? Is this not important to him and his government?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I have to correct the member opposite. It appears that the member does not understand that it takes money to make things happen, and this government has increased the O&M budget for Education by $9 million this year. This is the biggest Education budget ever in the history of the Yukon Territory. We have covered all the public schools.
We have covered Yukon College; again I say $1 million that the opposition refused to do over the last 10 years. This government went ahead and did it in that year and a half. This government has not one thing to be ashamed of in its track record over the last 16 months.
Question re: Dawson City interim chief administrative officer
Mr. Hardy:I have a question for the Minister of Community Services to consider, but first Iím going to put out a few facts. Fact: the Dawson City town managerís house was recently painted and new flooring and blinds were installed. Fact: the house was vacant and ready for occupancy on April 13 when the minister announced the appointment of an interim town manager. Fact: there is nothing in Dawsonís 2004-05 budget for further renovations on this house. Fact: there are no renovations currently taking place on this property.
Does the minister disagree with any of those statements?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are working with the trustee on trying to get our CEO into that facility as we speak.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, he didnít answer the question.
Iíd like to present the minister with a few more facts. Fact: last December, the minister said it was not a good idea for the government-appointed financial supervisor to be living in the hotel owned by the Member for Klondike. Fact: the government-appointed interim town manager is living in the hotel owned by the Member for Klondike. Fact: the Member for Klondike owes Yukon taxpayers over $283,000 in outstanding business loans. Fact: Dawson Cityís 2004-05 budget does not include providing hotel accommodations for the town manager in addition to providing a house for the town managerís use.
Does the minister disagree with any of those facts?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I mentioned, weíre working with the trustee and the CEO in trying to make accommodations for that individual, and we will do the best we can. We anticipate he will be in that facility shortly.
Mr. Hardy: Pretty simple question, Mr. Speaker. I would kind of hope that the minister would find it in his heart to answer it. The ministerís position keeps changing from month to month, even day to day. No wonder people are shaking their heads about what to believe from this government.
A recent letter from the Premier said that the town is insolvent. The minister used a simpler word in the House. He said the town is "broke." Yesterday, when I asked if Dawson City is really insolvent or not, the minister gave a remarkable answer about this being under legal consideration.
Still under this ministerís management, Dawson has taken on even more financial obligations that arenít in the annual budget: hotel bills, lawsuits and maybe some renovations; we donít know. We havenít got the answers yet. How much more debt is the minister willing to pile onto Dawsonís taxpayers as part of his politically inspired takeover of the townís municipal affairs?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The expenses for the chief administrative officer are exactly what the previous expenses for the chief administrative officer were, and nothing more. Anything over and above that aspect is covered by our government, and it will be covered by our government in that process, and thatís what weíre dealing with in this particular situation.
Question re: Gambling
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I had some questions today for the Premier. Since coming to office, has the Premier or any of his ministers had any discussions with First Nations regarding new casinos or expanded gambling in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, the concept of gaming or gambling in the Yukon has been a concept discussed at great length for many years. As far as this government is concerned, we have had some discussions with representatives of First Nation development corporations, but nothing beyond very preliminary discussions. In the last number of months we have had no further contact on this matter.
Ms. Duncan: During a November 10, 2003, meeting with the Liard First Nation there was discussion about building a casino. The First Nation is looking for the support of the government to open a casino. Would the Premier tell Yukoners how he responded to that request?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Iím afraid I canít because the request the member is referring to is something Iím not aware of. Sheís also making a point that it was the Kaska First Nation and again, thatís something Iím not aware of, so it would be impossible to respond to it.
Ms. Duncan: This was a November 10, 2003, pre-budget consultation that the Premier and Finance minister had with the Liard First Nation. The answer thatís recorded in the minutes of the meeting says that the Premier said he was aware of the request, and he would give it some thought.
Successive Yukon governments, including one that the Premier was part of, have opposed the expansion of legalized gambling in the territory. What is the Yukon Partyís current position on this issue of expanded gambling and casinos in the Yukon Territory?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think thatís obvious, Mr. Speaker. Nowhere in the budget is there an allocation of one dime toward expanding gaming in this territory. We have had no recent discussions on this matter whatsoever, although I can say that the government will never preclude anyone from coming forward with an idea. We will sit and listen, but given the fact that we are not in any way, shape or form allocating resources toward this issue, it should be obvious that we are not proceeding with expanding gaming in the Yukon.
Question re: Mine site reclamation security release policy
Mr. McRobb:I would like to ask this government about the issue of security for mine site reclamation. Since devolution of federal resources to the territory last year, the Yukon has now assumed from the federal government all responsibility for any costs associated with any licences it issues. A major issue for Yukoners is whether or not the territorial government is living up to its responsibility to collect and retain enough security from large mining companies to pay for such reclamation. If thereís a shortfall between the level of security and the actual cost, the government will have to step in, and of course those costs would be passed on to taxpayers.
Can someone from across the way tell us whether it has yet developed a security release policy and, if not, when we might expect it?
Hon. Mr. Lang: As we all understand, with devolution we accepted the management of seven existing mine sites in the Yukon: Clinton Creek, Brewery Creek, BYG, Faro, Minto, Ketza and United Keno Hill. We manage the sites. The federal government funds the management. We do it in conjunction with the First Nations whose traditional territories are involved with the mine sites. In turn, with devolution we got the responsibility of our resources and, in turn, we are putting regulations together so that we will have an environmental aspect to all mining done in the Yukon in the future, and those things are in the process at the moment.
Mr. McRobb: Essentially, Mr. Speaker, the minister repeated my question. Who is to answer this question? Well, I guess itís up to me. The answer is no, this government has not yet developed that policy. Shame on it. Last fall, this minister prematurely released millions of dollars of security to the owners of the Brewery Creek mine near Dawson City. There were many questions at the time about whether the government was selling out taxpayers down the road for a short-term good-news announcement. Well, there are still questions about this governmentís approach to security at this mine site ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: Do I have the floor, Mr. Speaker? The interruptions ó
Speaker: Please carry on.
Mr. McRobb: We have recently learned that the current owners are in the process of selling assets from this mine to buyers in Mexico or elsewhere in Central or South America. Well, isnít that a vote of confidence for the mining industry in the territory. My question to the minister is: does the removal of those assets reduce the level of security this government has with the owners of the Brewery Creek mine?
Hon. Mr. Lang: It shows you how little the member opposite knows about the mining industry.
The assets belong to the corporation. They have a responsibility to liquidate the assets in the process of cleaning up the mine.
The member opposite has a limited knowledge of the mining industry. We on this side were elected to manage a government, not to make comments. This government is doing its job. It is managing the sites in a responsible fashion in partnership with the First Nations. Brewery Creek is being closed as we speak, Mr. Speaker. Part of that closure is getting rid of the physical assets on the property. They are doing their job. We are doing our job. Mining is in good hands in the Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: No, no, no, Mr. Speaker. You know, if the minister would just answer the question instead of hurling insults and personal attacks across the floor, maybe we would get what we want.
Now, he may not be aware that there are 70 B-train loads of assets being dismantled at the Brewery Creek site. Very soon they will be rolling down Yukon roads to be barged to Mexico. That raises a question about port access. The minister may know about the initiative to secure port access in Skagway and Haines that was terminated by the short-lived and, one could suggest, the short-sighted Liberal government. He may also recall a promise from his own platform to revive that previous idea.
Can the minister give us a progress report on securing port access in Skagway and Haines with something to be in place in time to receive pipe for the Alaska Highway pipeline?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Speaker, that is without a doubt the most irrational question Iíve ever had in this House. Weíre talking about a mine site south of Dawson ó Brewery Creek. Theyíre selling off the assets. Theyíre doing the job that they have to do to close the mine. Part of the responsibility of the corporation is to sell the assets. Theyíre doing their job; theyíre proceeding down the closure plan. At the end of the day it will be closed, and the potential for opening the mine might happen again but, Mr. Speaker, Brewery Creek is a success story for western Canada, never mind just the Yukon.
Question re: Social assistance rates
Mr. Hardy:I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services, but first Iíd like to read a paragraph from last Fridayís Yukon News. It says, "Many people at the annual general meeting of the Anti-Poverty Coalition on Tuesday night were shocked when the minister suggested a high proportion of SA recipients were lazy and had," ó and this is a quote, Mr. Speaker ó "no aspirations or dreams except to have enough money in the kitty for their cigarettes, for their beer and maybe to pay the cable bill."
Does the minister stand by that statement he made at the public meeting last week?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: That sounds like another yarn spun by the member opposite, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Hardy: Well, it happens that I was actually sitting at that meeting and I heard those words. Also, it happened that there was a tape recorder going by the reporter who reported this and, if this minister is suggesting this is incorrect, then maybe we need to prove it a little bit better.
On March 31, the minister said the social assistance cost went up by $1 million last year. He went on to say this ó maybe heíll agree with this statement ó "About 70 percent of SA payments went to single males, 40 years of age or under, who are employable. When you look at where they originate, theyíre primarily moving from British Columbia."
Does the minister wish to correct that statement for the record?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: If the member opposite is going to quote something that I have said, I would hope that he would quote it verbatim and not exclude certain parts of it.
What I did say, Mr. Speaker, is that our government is going to be increasing social assistance rates for those who require our social safety net who are handicapped. We are going to be increasing our social assistance rates for those who are single parents and two-parent families that require the social safety net. The tax benefit is also going to be increased and has been increased from $16,000 to $25,000 for those on social assistance who have families.
The other area where we have done something is, first, for single parents: if there are support payments going to a single parent and theyíre in Yukon Housingís social assistance housing, thatís no longer part of the calculation of their rent. We donít claw back 25 percent of that. So weíre doing a lot of very positive initiatives ó a lot of very, very positive initiatives for SA recipients.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, this minister makes a lot of statements in this Legislature, but he doesnít table the documents to prove it, and thatís what weíre going to ask for. Now, this minister loves to sidestep the issue by going on and on about how he is planning to increase social assistance for some groups, and he doesnít need to do that. Weíre on record of applauding him for that move. We totally agree with that. What we wonít applaud, Mr. Speaker, and what we wonít vote for in this budget, is discrimination. Social profiling is an unfair attempt to pit one group of society against another. Thatís what this minister is preparing to do. He wonít admit it, but his next big move in social assistance will be to slash rates for single male recipients.
Mr. Speaker, at this present time, Iím not willing to take this minister on his word. So my request will be: will the minister table the documents and statistics supporting those statements that he has made in this House over the last three weeks?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Our government is strengthening the social safety net for those who need it most. We are strengthening it for handicapped people. We are strengthening it for single parents. We are strengthening it for couples. Thatís what weíre doing. Weíre strengthening it for seniors. Weíre addressing the needs where the needs exist, where thereíre bona fide and justifiable reasons, and in those cases there certainly are. What the member opposite is speaking to is the question of the abuses in the system, and we all can agree that there are some abuses taking place in the social system. What we have to identify with is last summer there was a $1-million increase in payout in our social assistance, and that primarily went to single males, 40 years of age or younger, with employable skills, and it was paid out over the summer months.
Question re: Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board, lump sum payments to injured workers
Mr. Cardiff: My question is for the minister responsible for the Yukon Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board. The minister has stated in the House that heís not responsible for setting board policy. He is, however, responsible for answering questions in this Legislature regarding the effects on injured workers of board-developed policy. The board recently adopted a policy on lump sum payments. Does the minister believe that the board had the legal authority to make that policy?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The issue that the member is speaking to is one of lump sum payments for payout of a claim. That is completely the purview of the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board. It is a policy that they have adopted and put out in the public domain. They have a responsibility in this area, and theyíve dealt with their responsibility.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, the minister needs to deal with his responsibility. The boardís policy retroactively affects the administration of the acts that are closed. Only a legislative body such as the Legislature, where we are standing today, has the authority to legislate retroactively.
Can the minister explain what authority the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board had to change the effect of the legislation retroactively? And I will repeat that ó retroactively.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Itís an interesting concept, Mr. Speaker, that we can legislate retroactively. I understand that the member is relatively new to this Legislature but I would encourage the member to grasp the fundamentals of common law and what can be legislated. It goes forward.
Mr. Cardiff: What has been done does retroactively affect the legislation. A policy that requires the applicant to provide medical or legal documentation to substantiate their ability to manage their financial affairs, both prior to and after a disability occurs, is unrealistic for someone who was injured ó it could be 15, 20, 25 or 30 years ago ó under the acts that these workers are under.
The policy denies the basic rights of injured workers, and itís very paternalistic in the way that it treats the injured workers. Will the minister direct the board to revisit the policy and to look for solutions that donít deny injured workers their rights?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, itís coming into focus what is happening over in the official opposition ranks, Mr. Speaker. There is confusion between policy, regulation and legislation. When the member opposite gets it right, we will be happy to entertain his questions.
If he requires a briefing on the difference between legislation, regulation and policy, he could let me know and I would be happy to provide it.
Question re: Alternative schooling
Mrs. Peter: My question today is for the Minister of Education. The minister has announced the establishment of a drop-in school in Whitehorse called "alternative paths for youths". In budget debate recently, he said that he has talked to some of the youth who may be involved in this program. He has also said that all you have to do is walk around downtown to see there is a need for this school, and also that the kids canít wake up early enough in the day to go to school.
We are concerned about the casual methods this minister uses to determine how to spend hundreds of thousands of taxpayersí dollars on a new program. We want this school to work, but it should be researched properly and there should be a professional needs assessment and evaluation process. There are two drop-in programs the department previously undertook that failed. We want to know if the minister has learned anything from those programs. The department and the school councils are apparently in support of this idea.
Will the minister table the resolutions from the school councils, the departmentís proposal for this program and the evaluations done on the two previous programs?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I thank the member opposite for the question. The first response I have is that no, I didnít learn anything from the two programs sheís talking about. I believe those programs were just something that was put together ó and both programs, I might add, only ran for a year.
This government has a different approach. This government is about success. This government is about not doing a band-aid approach to anything. This government is about addressing the concerns of young people having difficult times fitting in with the structure.
Regardless of how the opposition would like to spin this very important initiative, I can only say that Iím very pleased with this governmentís path in trying to deal with the issue that youth are facing today with regard to education.
Mrs. Peter: Iím very surprised at the ministerís response. We usually learn from past experience so we can be successful in the future. Thereís a lot of experience with this kind of program for youth in other jurisdictions. HRDC has published a list of characteristics for successful programs of this kind. Among other recommendations, HRDC says that youth drop-in education programs need to emphasize training, employment preparation and job placements.
They also state that itís very important to have parents actively involved in such programs. How will the Whitehorse alternative paths program integrate these concepts?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would like to state for the record that my comments were not meant to offend anyone or any work that anyone has done in the past. I do recognize that work done by previous governments is always important information, and I do apologize if it was taken in a different context.
However, we have started work on three initiatives that offer alternative paths. First, we are planning an alternative school in downtown Whitehorse to help school-age youth who have dropped out of school. It will be a welcoming, flexible environment designed to encourage capable students to return to school and to continue their education.
We plan to have the school opened by February 2005. In terms of the location, we donít have anything selected yet, but we are not considering using the existing downtown schools.
Mrs. Peter: Once again, this government is planning at the last minute, making hasty decisions without proper knowledge. Mr. Speaker, how will the youth from outside of Whitehorse be able to take part in the alternative paths school?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, that area has also been addressed, and the Yukon College will be the institution that will provide students with flexible courses that they arenít able to obtain in their community. And where it fits, the government will pay for that course.
When we talk about alternative pathways to education, I think itís important to read into the record just what this government is doing with regard to alternative schools. For example, in the 2004-05 budget, there is $250,000 for the alternative school. Tuition to Yukon College is $50,000; trades and technology promotion, another $35,000; totalling, this year, Mr. Speaker, $335,000. This is a continuum on into 2005-06. So at the end of the day, this government has put approximately another $1 million plus into alternative schools over the next three years.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of government private membersí business
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the government private members to be called on Wednesday, May 5, 2004. They are Motion No. 43, standing in the name of the Member for Southern Lakes, and Motion No. 276, standing in the name of the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin.
Speaker: We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair:Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
The matter before Committee this afternoon is Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05.
I believe that we are still in debate on Education.
Before we begin, do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05, Vote 3, the Department of Education, general debate.
Bill No. 10 ó First Appropriation Act, 2004-05 ó continued
Department of Education ó continued
Hon. Mr. Edzerza:Yesterday we had some very interesting debate around Education. I would like to speak to one part of that debate just a little bit today. It has to do with the Yukon native teacher education program and opening up of the YNTEP.
For the record, I would like to say that it started in 1989. Total enrolment to date since the program started is 195. If the classes were all full, it would have been approximately 225 students. The importance of these numbers is the fact that regardless of whether the program was full or not, the government will still pay for those seats.
The total number of grads to date is 75, and the approximate cost to YTG is $7.5 million.
Mr. Chair, that mathematically comes out to about $100,000 per grad.
I believe that the program will only benefit by having the First Nations and non-First Nations learning together.
The other issue I would like to make perfectly clear, Mr. Chair, is that in the event there ó there are 15 seats, and that is what is allotted each year. I have stated publicly that nine of those seats are for First Nations, six are for non-First Nations people.
Then, Mr. Chair, we had some discussions around the Carmacks school. Again, I think itís important that this school be built. It is of the best interest of this government and the citizens in Carmacks to have that school progress in a timely manner and that it is not derailed by different initiatives that may be brought forward.
So today again, I want to talk a little about the chronological events that surround the Carmacks school. In the spring of 1999, members of the community made the Department of Education aware of the possible availability of the Sunset Motel property next to the school. It was generally understood that this land held a strategic importance for the possible expansion of Tantalus School. The school site was quite small by the standards of other communities and expansion to the east of the current school would have been impossible without the Sunset Motel land. On May 13, 1999, the MLA at the time, Eric Fairclough, sent a letter to the minister, Lois Moorcroft ó
Chair:It is inappropriate for members to refer to other members by name in our Assembly.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Does that relate to even historical?
Chair: Yes, it does.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I apologize.
Chair: It relates to historically when a member is currently a member of our Assembly.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
The MLA for Mayo-Tatchun sent a letter to the minister, Lois Moorcroft, asking that she consider the purchase of the land. Ms. Moorcroftís reply indicated that her department was indeed considering the purchase.
In July 1999, an environmental analysis of the site was conducted to ensure that it did not contain any major hidden environmental problems. Other than a few minor issues, such as the area immediately around the motelís fuel tank, the site received a clean bill of health. On August 30, 1999, the school addition project was identified in the departmentís five-year capital plan with design slated to occur in 2000-01.
The name of the project was Tantalus School - Replacement of Old Wing. Mr. Chair, the original plan was to build an addition on to this school.
We go to February 2000, and an agreement was reached to purchase the Sunset Motel property for $330,000. We go to the spring of 2003, when a community-based lobbying firm for various sources put forward the case that the project should involve the complete replacement of the entire school as opposed to just the replacement of the old wing. In September of 2003, as minister, I met with Chief Skookum. During that meeting, as minister, I made a commitment that the school would be completely rebuilt ó a new school. We had an intergovernmental agreement, signed by me as YTG and Chief Skookum as Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation, governing the establishment of a planning advisory committee, an advisory committee and the general planning process that would be followed for the new school project. Among the issues addressed in this agreement was that the advisory committee would make recommendations on the planning of the new school.
In 2003, in the supplementary budget, $700,000 for planning and design was put forward. Then, in the winter of 2003, steps were taken to establish a planning advisory committee. Mr. Chair, that advisory committee took several months to appoint a chair, thus making it very difficult to turn any soil or start the project this building season.
So in that regard there was a meeting held by me, as minister, the chief and council and the mayor and council. The Tantalus School was discussed and, at that meeting, there was an understanding between all three governments that the school will be built on the existing site.
Again today, I do thank the leadership of the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation and the mayor and council for putting the childrenís needs forward first and helping to expedite the progress of this school being built in Carmacks.
Those were just two of the items I felt were important to review.
I would like to continue on by saying that education is something that I believe is of the greatest importance. Literacy is a foundation: reading, writing, math and basic skills. K-to-12 education, post-secondary education, training and lifelong learning are the building blocks. Education helps us build stronger, healthier communities and it helps people build a better life for themselves and their families.
If I were to state my vision in one sentence, Mr. Chair, it would be that Yukoners would have the knowledge, skills and abilities to participate effectively in their work and in their communities, and to be lifelong learners, and of course to be mentally, spiritually, physically and emotionally healthy people.
Our challenge in the education system is to provide the best possible learning opportunities for all Yukon people and to help them develop these necessary skills.
Our three main priority areas as a government are: building strong, healthy communities; building a brighter economic future; and developing stronger relationships with First Nations. My government colleagues and I agree on the importance of education when it comes to achieving these goals. Education has a critical role to play in our economy and our communities. Weíve made education a top priority and you can see this in our budget. In fact, the 2004-05 budget is the largest Education budget in Yukon history. Our O&M is almost $100 million with another $14.4 million allocated to capital.
I wonít go into all the details, but I would like to mention some key programs directly related to the work the teachers do. First I would like to talk about our plans for an alternative school. A newly released study by Statistics Canada profiled the reason that kids aged 15 to 17 drop out. It is an interesting study and it confirms a lot of the research we already know about why kids are dropping out of school.
We know there are a number of personal, family and economic factors involved in the decision to drop out. I donít want to downplay the importance of these factors facing many of our school-age youth. These are all important issues that we need to address in our communities. However, the biggest reason cited by 15- to 17-year-olds who dropped out is related to school itself. Simply put, some kids have a hard time in the regular system. For a variety of reasons, these young people have problems with regular schedules and assignment deadlines and donít function well in the regular school environment.
They find themselves dropping out, starting over, then dropping out again. These are things that we can directly address within the education system. One way we plan to do that is through an alternative school. We plan to open the alternative school somewhere in downtown Whitehorse. The opening is targeted for February of 2004. The alternative school will offer school-age dropouts a welcoming, flexible environment to encourage them to continue working toward their high school diploma, finish school and achieve their career goals. The new school will use our normal program of study, but it will allow the students freedom to fit their studies in around their personal schedules. They will be able to pick up a course where they left off, rather than having to continually restart if they decide to drop out.
In addition to teachers, we will also have support staff to provide career and personal counselling for those school-age dropouts to give them the support they need for their life outside of school. The key part of our strategy will be to integrate work experience and career exploration, giving students a concrete reason to want to complete high school and then to continue on to become lifelong learners and ultimately to be successful in the workforce and in their communities.
We know it will take some time to get this off the ground, but we hope that we will be able to pick up the students who have left high school and get them back on track, working toward their diploma. The alternative school is basically focused on urban students.
The next two initiatives are mainly targeted at rural communities, and the first of these involve Yukon College. As you know, our rural schools tend to have very small student populations, particularly when it comes to the secondary grades. Students trying to complete their high school education in their home communities donít get the same selection of courses as students in Whitehorse.
They also have limited access to trades and technology programs. When it is appropriate, we will pay the tuition for high school students to take a course toward their high school diploma at the local College campus. I must stress that we are not taking these students out of school and sending them to college. What we are doing is increasing the range of options for both rural and urban students to stay in school in their home communities and, most importantly, to complete their high school diploma. We already do this by offering distance education programs.
I believe that I could talk all day on the good things this government is doing with the students.
Another important initiative that I might go into in more detail at some time has to do with the approach this government has taken toward FASD. I think that is one area that is a very important area but itís also very difficult. Thereís no real simple approach or solution to that issue.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: Yesterday afternoon I covered a number of issues with the Minister of Education. I am not going to ó as one of my former colleagues used to say Ė re-plow old ground. I would like to just restate for the record some of the questions I had asked and points I had made with the minister. Perhaps he will indicate if thereís any information he has brought with him today.
I raised with the minister concerns of parents regarding the math curriculum, and we concluded in our discussion that a meeting would be made available for me as an MLA with the departmental officials.
I made a suggestion with respect to maintaining and increasing our concern and vigilance with regard to bullying, and a suggestion for enhancing our coverage of that particular issue, for lack of a better term, and for providing an increased resource.
I also noted with the minister that there were increased resources for home-schooling, an initiative that had begun under our government, and requested that if there had been a significant increase in the number of home-schoolers, perhaps the minister would advise.
I noted that an evaluation of the all-day kindergarten program is certainly an important element of introducing this program and I encourage the department to be cognizant of the flexibility required, as not every individual child is able to cope with an all-day kindergarten program and to ensure the flexibility is there for parents and the child in our partnership in education.
The minister did provide additional information on the plans of the department for late French immersion. I appreciate that information.
I caution the minister about the Yukon achievement test statistics, particularly as the participation had significantly decreased as the result of a change in policy.
We talked about teacher demographics, and the minister provided the information that we are seeing some 25 teachers retire this year, and I encouraged the use of the teacher mentoring fund to ensure that the tremendous resource in these retiring teachers is not lost to Yukon educators or, as I mentioned earlier, our partners in education.
One of the issues around ó first of all, Iíd like to know if the minister has brought any additional information on those subjects with him to the House and, secondly, I would ask a concluding question with regard to our professional teachers.
Will the Minister of Education reconsider the snub the Yukon Party gave teachers in their opposition to the teacher tax credit and promote this suggestion with the Minister of Finance?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: To start with, Iíll make some responses about the bullying. The incidents of bullying and extreme school violence in other jurisdictions have been reported frequently in the media in recent months, in the months past, and we all know about those different initiatives raised over probably the last several years. A conference held in Whitehorse in April 2001 drew attention to the subject and attracted significant public discussion and participation in preventing bullying at the community level. I know that even in the First Nation that Iím a member of, the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, there were workshops held in the community with regard to bullying.
In Yukon schools we focus on the prevention of bullying. We help students develop the social and emotional skills to both avoid and resolve conflict. One of our most powerful tools to develop studentsí social skills is the second step violence-prevention curriculum. It is used throughout the Yukon school system from prekindergarten to grade 10.
Despite these efforts, there is bullying in Yukon schools because schools reflect what goes on in the wider communities and in society as a whole. All of society has a responsibility to end violence, especially violence involving children. Again, one of the beliefs is that it takes a whole community to raise a child, and I think this supports it an awful lot ó to teach a child that violence is not acceptable in any way, shape or form, whether itís verbal or otherwise.
On March 25, 2002, a family court judge in British Columbia convicted a teenager of uttering threats and criminal harassment in connection with teens bullying and behaviours aimed at Abbotsford teen Dawn Marie Wesley.
So the courts are now taking an active role in addressing the issues of bullying. The Department of Education took an anti-bullying workshop organized by the RCMP and Crime Prevention Yukon in 2001. Again, Mr. Chair, the department is well aware of bullying and the seriousness of preventing it from happening in the schools.
The other topic that the member opposite asked about was the all-day kindergarten. The kindergarten programs operate in every elementary school in the Whitehorse area. Four schools currently offer all-day programs for the students in their attendance areas. These schools are Elijah Smith, Hidden Valley, Golden Horn, and École Émilie Tremblay. Christ the King, Whitehorse Elementary, Takhini, Jack Hulland and Holy Family, Selkirk and Grey Mountain Primary schools all offer half-day programs. Selkirk and Grey Mountain are the only two schools where students are not bused to their schools.
There is a busing issue around all-day versus half-day kindergarten, and the Department of Education currently contracts for four buses to carry students to their kindergarten programs at noon. These buses take students home at noon if they are in the morning classes and pick up students to take to school if they are in the afternoon classes. Students who are in the morning classes are picked up from their schools shortly after 11:00 and taken home. Students who are in the afternoon classes are picked up when the first group of students have been all taken home and are delivered to their various schools, usually by 12:25 to 12:30.
This means thereís a very short window of time to do this with the four buses we use for kindergarten busing. Because of the large geographic area involved and noon-hour constraints, busing is limited in Whitehorse to the area extending from Lobird to Crestview. Parents who live outside those areas are given a transportation subsidy if they live in the attendance area of the school their child attends. Out-of-area attendance students do not receive this subsidy.
Department of Education staff and school councils and administrators work with the busing contractor to establish the best schedules possible for the majority of the students. If students living in the Elijah Smith attendance area do not wish to attend a full-day program, busing could be provided to Whitehorse Elementary or Christ the King, but not to any other school because of time and budget restraints of busing.
For students who wish to attend out of area, parents are responsible for their transportation. Attendance areas are defined on the Education Web site and parents can call their schools in the Department of Education if they need any clarification. Department staff would be happy to help parents with their questions about attendance areas, programming or busing.
Mr. Chair, the member of the third party made the comment that this government snubbed the teachers. Well, that is very inaccurate. I did open up the YTA conference on Saturday and I was asked about this question by the president of the Canadian Teachers Federation, who is in town from Ottawa.
The comments I made there were very simple ó that this was a very new initiative for me. It has never been brought to my attention by anyone since I have been in this position as minister. It came up very suddenly, and what I stated to the members present at that AGM was that this isnít an open-and-shut case. Nothing ever is. Thereís always a possibility of having discussions around any topic and this is one that the government probably would have discussions around ó no commitments, mind you, but itís open for discussion.
Ms. Duncan: First of all, I greatly appreciate the department and the departmental officials who have prepared those responses for the minister. I appreciate that very much. I know there was a lot of hard work involved and they have been listening and prepared information for the minister, and I appreciate the effort theyíve gone to.
My point with respect to bullying was that what I had asked was if there were any new initiatives. The minister didnít read any. I also asked if the department would examine suggestions to do more. If a school council comes to the department and says, "Look, weíd like to bring up a guest speaker such as Mrs. Colorosso", will they do it? That was my request, and the minister stands on his feet and usually says, "Well, this department, this government is listening", so I hope heís listening to that suggestion.
With regard to all-day kindergarten, I am very, very well aware that itís a busing issue. The minister has only to go back in Hansard to about 1998 when the government tried to save money on the busing and institute all-day kindergarten. Iím very well aware of that issue.
All I was asking and pointing out was that the department needs to be working with parents on this particular issue. The minister said at the conclusion of those remarks that the attendance area is on the Web site and the department will take calls. Parents need that comfort level and I appreciate the minister stating that it is available to them.
With regard to the tax credit, the term "snub" was the one that was used publicly on the radio, and I use the same choice of words. This is not a new initiative. I advised the Minister of Finance about it in January. The motion sat on the Order Paper for a long time. Iím glad to hear the minister say that itís not completely over for the government, that they will examine it. Iím certain that the Yukon Teachers Association and the territoryís teachers will also be pleased to hear that. The minister has had a lengthy discussion with other members about the Education Act review. Could he just briefly for the House tell us what the plans are? The minister has previously said in this Legislature that all information from previous governments is good information. Hundreds of Yukoners put forward their input into the Education Act review; they made some very worthwhile suggestions. Some changes were already made to deal with concerns in the Education Act. The review was mandated by legislation. It was done. What are the plans now? Is that information going to sit on the shelf? Is it going to be publicized? What is going to happen with it? The government has shown a lack of interest in legislative initiatives, so is this one in the "weíre not interested" pile?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I thought I went over this area quite thoroughly over the last couple of days; however, I will state for the record again that what weíre waiting for and what is not finalized is the First Nation report on the Education Act. That is the only outstanding report that needs to come forward. There appears to be an awful lot on the tables of both governments at this point in time, and I would assume that at some point in time this issue will be finalized by the First Nation.
Ms. Duncan: This additional money in the budget for the Yukon excellence awards ó has there been a change or is there a change anticipated in the criteria for these awards?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: There hasnít been any change to the criteria, but there have been extended additions to some different subjects and grades.
Ms. Duncan: Would the minister outline what the changes are then to the Yukon excellence awards? Thereís more money, but are the individual awards not being increased, just the number of awards available? So, as I guess weíd use in other departments, is it a volume or price increase? So could he just be clearer as to why that amount has increased?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: That would be for the number of awards available.
Ms. Duncan: So the change to the excellence awards is that there are going to be more awards made available is what I understand.
Iíd like to move into the capital area, which is a substantial part of the Department of Education budget. Would the minister indicate what the anticipated cost of the Carmacks school construction is and where it will be built? Could he just outline those two points about the Carmacks school?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The plans are to build the school on the existing site. The cost of the school is going to be approximately $9 million, and that includes the $350,000 of purchasing that land where the Sunset Motel used to exist.
Ms. Duncan: Just so I can be clear for the record then, itís my understanding that, in conjunction with the First Nation government and the school council, a planning committee will be struck. Their mandate ó for lack of a better term ó will be to work with an architect and design a school in about the $9- million range, to be built on the existing site. The time frame for them to design and select a design and work with an architect will probably be, what, 18 months? Is that the time frame for this?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The planning and design will occur over the balance of 2003-04 and early 2004-05. Some site work will occur over the balance of 2004-05, and the main building construction contract will occur during 2005-06 and 2006-07. The school will open in September of 2006. Thatís the plan the government is looking at right now.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, Iím going to ask the minister to re-read those years into the record, because what I heard him say is that there will be planning for the rest of 2003-04 ó the 2003-04 fiscal year is over, so how much planning has been done, is the next question.
The minister also said construction would be in 2005-06 and 2006-07, but that the school will be open for the start of the 2006 school year. Would the minister just re-read that information and then state the dates again as precisely as he can ó planning, actual shovel-turning, school opening and completion?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The 2003-04 meetings ó that part of the planning was all the meetings that were taking place between the department and the citizens in Carmacks. They were all preliminary planning that took place. There were discussions around the project manager. I had a discussion with Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation around employment issues. The 2004-05, in this fiscal year, the planning committee is now in place. Their first meeting is about to take place. I believe theyíre going to be looking at some of the newest schools built in the Yukon to see if any of them would fit their liking. So thatís basically where itís at to date.
Ms. Duncan: Two questions then with respect to the planning committee. Has the planning committee confirmed the old site for the school as the site for the new school? Have they confirmed that?
Secondly, this was my question with regard to the tour of the newer schools. When Mayo was in discussion about the design of their school, they visited the Holy Family and Hidden Valley schools built in the Whitehorse area, as some of the newer schools. That footprint, or architectural design, is one that is quite appreciated by these planning committees and has been quite well recognized. When the minister says theyíre going to visit newer schools, are they going to visit the school in Mayo, the one in Old Crow, and these two schools in Whitehorse, or some of the other ones? Which schools are they going to be seeing?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Chair, I think itís important to talk about the planning committee. First and foremost, theyíre an advisory committee. Itís only an advisory committee that is put together. Due to the lack of progress in getting that committee in place, there was a meeting held among all the elected officials of the three different levels of government ó the municipal, the First Nation and the territorial governments. In anticipation of speeding up the process and getting it more on track with being able to build the school, the elected officials determined that the existing site was the site that would be used. Having said that, the planning committee now does not have to sit down and have lengthy debate over where or what location a school could be built in. So I believe that that is what has happened to date with regard to the school in Carmacks. I think it was a very important step to be taken by the individuals. Again, the planning committee is only going to be an advisory committee. Having said that, they will now be able to move forward with selecting and planning the structure of the school. It is going to be up to the planning committee if they so choose to go to Ross River or Mayo or wherever to look at a school. What the department will do is provide them the architectural drawings of those schools to look at and the floor plan and whatever else is involved with it. The choice will be theirs at the end of the day to choose to go to one of these schools to have a look at it or if they even want to have a similar structure in their community.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: I would like to express my support to the minister for having the planning committee have the ability to actually go to see some of these other structures and listen to the teachers, students and parents tell them how well they are or are not working. Thereís considerable feedback from teachers, for example, and parents and students about the Holy Family School, which is in the Member for Porter Creek Northís riding, I believe, or Porter Creek Centre, and that school was considerably less costly than $9 million.
One of the schools where thereís significant issue around replacement is F.H. Collins. Itís getting to be ó no offence to any of the members present who attended that school ó very old and its age and the wear and tear on the school is really starting to show its significant need for replacement. Are there any plans at all or any money budgeted for planning the replacement of F.H. Collins?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I thank the leader of the third party for supporting looking at the other schools. I also want to thank the member of the third party for bringing up, earlier in the sitting, that the Liberal Party would like to see that school built on the existing site in Carmacks and supporting that it be built on the existing site.
I distinctly remember the leader of the third party making that suggestion at some time in this House.
With regard to F.H. Collins, I would say, as I stated before, that there are a lot of jurisdictions pressing for a new school and wanting a new structure. F.H. Collins is getting on in years, but so is Whitehorse Elementary and others. At the meeting I attended with the school council of F.H. Collins, they requested some discussion around a new high school in Whitehorse.
They have my blessings to do that. There are going to be discussions between the school council and the other high schools in the vicinity of Whitehorse.
Ms. Duncan: The minister may have thought he heard and may like to state that for the record. What he heard was my support for the planning committee for the replacement of the Tantalus School having the ability and the resources from his department to go and make sure they saw the other schools, see them first-hand and listen to what the teachers have. If the planning committee has decided ó and itís not the planning committee, itís the elected officials ó to build on the existing site, so be it. There are also significant issues around that such as what happens to the students, where are they going to have their school year during the construction. There are all kinds of issues to be dealt with.
With respect to F.H. Collins, itís not about wanting a new school, itís about a need for a new school. The minister saying to school councils, "Well, you have my blessing to talk about it" is a minister-knows-best attitude that many Yukoners are finding quite an offensive attitude coming from the government. There is a need to deal with the fact that F.H. Collins is a structure that is showing its age. The department has no money apparently for the replacement of F.H. Collins. My specific, direct question: is there any planning money for the replacement of F.H. Collins?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The direct answer is no. At this time there is no planning money for replacement of F.H. Collins.
I would like to remind the members opposite that they well know that building a new structure such as a high school or an elementary school takes a considerable amount of capital, and I donít believe any government could actually really afford to come out and say that they would build three or four schools in one mandate. I think one school in a mandate is a great accomplishment.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there is additional money, finally, to deal with some of the issues around the overcrowding at Porter Creek ó the cafeteria expansion renovations. There is money in the budget, finally, to deal with those issues. When will the actual work be completed?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: In 2005-06 weíll see the completion of the construction.
Ms. Duncan: So, September of 2006, weíll see all of the renovations, cafeteria expansions ó there are the three renovations I want to speak of. Thereís the shop, mechanical area, that is too small and considered by some to be unsafe; there is a particular structural wing where thereís a bottleneck in the school, in terms of student movement; and thereís the cafeteria expansion. So those three renovations are necessary to that school. Some of them can be done ó the question is as to whether some of them could be completed. So could the minister address each of those particular issues? Thereís about $500,000, as I understood it, for the Porter Creek Secondary School and these issues. And Iíd remind the minister it was a Yukon Party decision to build that school that way. Thatís part of the problem. However, that being said, when is it all going to be done? Is it the start of the September 2006 school year?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The school council of the Porter Creek Secondary School did make some changes. For example, a shop expansion is now going to be a separate issue. But this project will involve the expansion of the cafeteria seating space, expansion of the cafeteria kitchen to allow a commercial foods teaching space, three additional classroom teaching spaces and a small amount of custodial space. The planning and design funding in the amount of $200,000 has been included in the 2003-04 supplementary. 2004-05 will see the completion of design and start of construction, which is estimated at $500,000. And 2005-06, weíll see the completion of the construction. Like I said, the school council has made some changes to the original idea.
Ms. Duncan: I am curious as to why the school council made the changes and I would hope that it wasnít because there was a limited budget and they were told there was only this amount of money. Iíll address that issue with the individuals.
Iíd like to make one other point for the record with regard to all of these school capital renovations, and that is that the minister responsible in the department must be vigilant in ensuring that the contracts and the work is done when school is out. Itís an issue that every single minister and every single Minister of Government Services or Infrastructure has had to wrestle with, and I would encourage the minister in that regard.
My last question on capital in the Department of Education is: would the minister inform the House as to why there is money for every single school in the territory with the exception of Grey Mountain Primary? Capital money can be identified for either renovations, changes or repairs to every single school but one. Would the minister tell the House why?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: With regard to the shop expansion, it has nothing to do with a budget item or the amount of money available. It had to do with the request of the high schools wanting to work together to work out a facilities plan ó thatís where it was going.
With regard to Grey Mountain, there was nothing identified. They have a Big Toy being replaced and that was all that was requested.
Ms. Duncan: How about a $3.2-million new school? Thereís a request for the minister.
Does the minister intend to close Grey Mountain Primary?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I have assured the school council at Grey Mountain that they wonít see that in this mandate of this government.
Mr. Fairclough: I only have a few more questions for the minister in this department. I would like to carry on with some questions in regard to the Carmacks school. The minister said that there was an agreement between the elected officials regarding the location of the Tantalus School. Can he table that agreement and tell us the date of that agreement?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I certainly would have to have permission from the other levels of government before I would commit to tabling that document.
Mr. Fairclough: Is the minister saying that there is such an agreement drafted up on the location? Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: No, Iím not saying that thereís a draft document on the location. All Iím saying is that there was an agreement between the First Nation and YTG mostly to do with ensuring that the citizens of Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation got jobs.
Mr. Fairclough: I wonder if the minister can repeat that answer; I donít believe his microphone was on at that time. I would like that answer recorded.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I said there was a verbal agreement among the three governments on where the site location would be for the school. The accord that was drafted with the First Nation government and the territorial government agreed to strike an advisory committee. A lot of the information in the agreement had to do with ensuring jobs for citizens of Carmacks.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the minister said two things. First of all, he said he would seek permission to table the agreement of the elected members ó the mayor and the Chief of Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation and the minister. Now he says itís a verbal agreement. What is it, a verbal agreement, or is there an agreement that we can see on paper? Why canít the minister table that agreement? If it was just a verbal agreement, would the minister tell us what date that agreement was reached?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: That meeting took place on March 29, and it was agreed at that meeting that the existing site would be used for the new school in Carmacks.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the minister tell us who raised the issue during this meeting? Was it the minister? Was it the First Nations promoting this site? Was this the only issue that was agreed to by the three elected members?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, I believe that this issue has been discussed for some time among the different levels of government in Carmacks. It was decided that we would all sit down and talk about the site location, and that is what took place at the meeting. The advisory committee was discussed a bit to ensure that it got functioning. There were discussions around the importance of being able to get some kind of progress happening on this whole issue with regard to the school, because as I stated at the meeting, I believe that the government has many projects that are being booked, and it was important that the advisory committee get functioning so that we could get some progress happening on this school in Carmacks. I felt that it was important enough to have the discussion so that the construction of the school is not jeopardized.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister said there was an agreement on location. Iím wondering why the minister went around the committee, which is charged with the task of looking at a location for the school, as were other committees in other communities. Why did he go over and above the committee, which is basically who talks to the community about the location? Why did the minister agree to that process?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: It was probably on recommendations made by the member opposite to purchase that land and to use it for building a new school. I believe there has been a drastic improvement on what was recommended by the member opposite with regard to building a wing on to the old structure. That was the intent of the NDP government and was followed through by the Liberals, who were going to expedite that project, Mr. Chair.
In fact, in some of the discussions I had with the citizens of Carmacks, they were totally astounded that there was an addition planned without any consultation with the people in Carmacks. I was thanked by the people of Carmacks for including them in the discussions of a new school.
Mr. Chair, this government went from building a $3-million addition to a $9-million school. Whatís the problem with the member opposite? If the member opposite has a problem with building a new school in Carmacks, I would like to have that member opposite state reasons why.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister is worked up about it. We donít have a problem with that at all. As a matter of fact, it was on the list of schools to be replaced. The member knows that. The New Democrats followed that list. The Yukon Party doesnít have one, Mr. Chair.
Weíve built schools in Old Crow, Ross River and Mayo. Pelly Crossing was next on the list, and so was Carmacks. So the member opposite canít try to throw that in our faces on this side of the House, because it doesnít hold water.
We had one built every year. Obviously things change. Thereís a different leader, a different mayor in the community of Carmacks, and now the department has taken a different position at the time.
The government purchasing the Sunset property was not just about building a new school. The member opposite knows that. When the community met with the New Democrats at the time, it was about getting rid of an establishment that affected the students in the Carmacks school. It was a drinking establishment next to the school. That was the biggest plus in getting rid of that property and buying it off and getting rid of the lounge there. So the members opposite canít say that the government at the time was stuck to that particular site ó not at all. As a matter of fact, the planning committee didnít even meet. There were no monies there for them to even talk about the location of a school. Things have changed. First Nations have a final agreement in place and theyíre exercising their rights. They are certainly moving forward.
That was a simple question about why the minister went above the heads of the planning committee, which is tasked to meet with the community about the schoolís location. Obviously he didnít have an answer to that.
I would like to ask another question in regard to another school. I heard the member being asked about the F.H. Collins Secondary School. There is no planning whatsoever on the Yukon Partyís side to look at replacement of that school.
I would like to ask about a new school in Burwash Landing. Can the minister tell us what his intentions are of replacing that school, and can he give us more information about the Yukon Partyís commitment to replace that school?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, I would like to start out by saying that it is my responsibility as a minister to make the tough decisions. When the time comes, I will make those tough decisions. I felt that the time has come to move on with progress on the Carmacks school. Otherwise, as I stated earlier, it would jeopardize the completion of the school.
Mr. Chair, I want to read for the record a letter that was written on May 13, 1999, to Lois Moorcroft, Minister of Education. It came from the member opposite, the MLA for Mayo-Tatchun, who I believe was a member of the Cabinet at the time.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Chair:Mr. McRobb, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: I believe the House rules provide us to request a copy of any correspondence being cited, which is exactly what this minister happens to be doing.
Further, Mr. Chair, I would also enlighten the minister that there is much more recent correspondence that we are aware of. So heís really reaching into the past.
Chair: Mr. Cathers, on a point of order.
Mr. Cathers: Mr. Chair, there is no point of order. The letter that was being referred to by the Minister of Education is something that was sent by the current Member for Mayo-Tatchun to another member of that party while in government, and they should be in possession of that information.
Chair:Order please. As the letter in question came from a current member of our Assembly, one could reasonably assume that the member has a copy of that letter in his possession. And if additional correspondence is to be referred to, the member is free to introduce those additional pieces of correspondence into our debate.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Thank you, Mr. Chair, for setting the opposition House leader straight on House rules.
This is relevant because the member opposite stated just previously that the community wasnít the decision-making body that recommended this site. This letter, from what I read, links the community to making this decision several years ago. If it changed within the last year, then so be it.
This letter is to Lois Moorcroft, and it says,
"Dear Ms. Moorcroft:
"I understand that some discussions have occurred between the Department of Education and the Carmacks residents regarding the possible purchase of the property presently occupied by the Sunset Motel for the new Tantalus School. I write to let you know that several people have indicated to me that they feel the property would be an excellent location for the school. As well, it would allow for continued use of the present building while the new school is under construction. This would save the department, staff and students the time and money required to move to temporary portable classrooms during the construction period. If the Department of Education has already made a decision about the location of the school, I am wondering if you could please advise on the reasons for that decision.
"Thank you for your consideration of this matter. I look forward to your response."
So, as this letter indicates, back on May 13, 1999, the main purpose for purchasing the old Sunset Motel property was not just because there might have been good friends involved; it was because there was a good reason to buy this property, and it was to ó
Chair:The Chair is very uncomfortable with the statement. The Speaker of the Assembly did make a very significant statement regarding conflict of interest, and if the member wishes to make a charge of that, the member is well aware of the ways and means of going about making that charge. Iíd ask the member to withdraw that statement and continue on with debate.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Edzerza:I withdraw that comment. However, I think this is becoming a dead issue. It has been raised and raised about changing things at the last moment. Itís quite obvious from history that this area was designated for a new public school ó actually, I should rephrase that. It wasnít designated for a new school at the time; it was designated to accommodate an addition to be built on to the old existing school.
This government, upon discussions with the citizens of Carmacks, agreed that a new school will be built on this site. I stress again the importance of putting the childrenís needs first and foremost. I have stated publicly ó and I will state it again for the record ó that I have no intention of using this Carmacks school as a political football. Having sat with the other political representatives of governments in Carmacks, Iím quite confident that they were duly elected to represent the citizens of Carmacks and for that reason I honour that they talk on behalf of citizens of Carmacks. Again I want to applaud them for taking the leadership role and moving forward with this school.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister forgot the question. Isnít that interesting that nothing has changed with the member opposite.
Iíd just like to tell the member opposite ó and I did fill him in about some of the other reasons the community wanted to have this establishment gone. He didnít mention that.
The other thing is that five years have gone by. The community has raised a number of safety concerns in that five years, one of them being what Mayo went through in regard to mould. So of course the community, knowing now better today how the school was constructed, wanted to see a replacement. So the member opposite cannot pin that on me being an MLA at the time of the letter being written.
So the member opposite cannot put that upon us on this side of the House.
Although I do have lots of questions about the proposed Carmacks school, I would like to go back to the question that I asked the minister about other schools. We talked about F.H. Collins, for example. The minister has no plans. We talked about the Burwash Landing school. I asked the minister whether or not they were going to replace the school, whether or not they have any intention of building a new school in Burwash Landing. Can the minister elaborate on what the Yukon Party has for plans for the school in Burwash Landing?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At the present time, there are five students at the Kluane Lake School, which is the school being used by Burwash. The school facility has been in Destruction Bay since shortly after the construction of the Alaska Highway. Destruction Bay has traditionally been a government service centre for the area. This issue, I will admit, has been raised to me by the chief. We have had discussions on it, and this government has made no commitments to build a new school at this point in time. However, the discussions will be ongoing with the Chief and Council of Kluane First Nation.
Mr. Fairclough: So, Mr. Chair, what happens, then, to the children in Burwash? Continue the same process? What is the ministerís intention of working through this problem with the chief of the area, and can he fill us in more? It canít be that the government is doing nothing.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe there were a lot of discussions earlier on, and it was as I stated earlier, that there has been a lot of pressure on this government to build several schools. Thatís only one of them. To date, parents receive a transportation subsidy on request to hire a common driver to deliver students from Burwash Landing to the school in Destruction Bay. Again, I state for the record that this government has made no commitment to build a new school at this point in time, but there will certainly be discussions around this issue.
Mr. Fairclough: I understand there was a teacher who was just hired there. I know the number of students is fairly low. Why didnít they look at hiring a First Nation person? Can he elaborate on that a bit?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would simply state for the record that is an administrative issue and, as a minister, I do not get involved with hiring teachers or principals or anyone in the school system.
Mr. Fairclough: In respect to First Nations being senior governments and having self-government agreements, and so on, and with the intent of the final agreements, doesnít the government have some type of protocol or policy within their department to follow up with First Nations when hiring a teacher? Why didnít they look seriously at a local, for example, and hire locally for this small number of students?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Edzerza:I would like the House to help me welcome the assistant deputy ministerís wife, Lise McDevitt, to the gallery.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: For the record, again I want to state that the school council would have been involved with the hiring of the teacher. Itís done through the administrative process and I believe, to the best of my knowledge, that due process was followed.
Mr. McRobb: I have a couple of questions I want to follow up with this minister at a constituency level. Iíve been asked questions by constituents about the government purchase policy for books in the education system, specifically with respect to First Nation educators. I have a constituent who last year produced some childrenís books and I understand that the support was somewhat limited by the minister. Will he commit to revisiting that policy and give proper support to First Nation educators who do the work necessary to develop such a product that is much needed in our school systems?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I donít believe there would be any problem whatsoever to look at that policy and to ensure that the member oppositeís concerns will be discussed and reviewed.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. Iíll be looking for a progress report and following up with the minister in the fall sitting.
On a similar question, Iíd like to ask him what types of programs exist to encourage educators in the territory to develop material for use in our curriculum, especially to First Nation educators. Can he indicate what programs are available and if he has any plans to enhance such programs?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, in this budget, this government has allocated $500,000 for the development of First Nation curriculum materials and curriculum development in 2004-05. This money will be invested in developing and implementing resource materials for use in grades 4, 7 and 11 social studies to explain both land claim and First Nation governance process in the Yukon. Locally designed and culturally relevant resources such as these will expose all Yukon students, First Nation and non-First Nation, to these important aspects of life in the Yukon. So the government has intentions of using locally designed curriculum.
Mr. McRobb: Well, itís my understanding, Mr. Chair, the government spent only $5,000 per First Nation community to develop such curriculum. So is the minister saying that amount has been increased?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Last year there was $100,000. This year there is an additional $500,000 that is going toward First Nation curriculum.
Mr. McRobb: The minister didnít answer the specific question, and I wonder why. When the minister stands up and identifies a total amount, we have no idea whether those funds, or how much of any funds identified, actually make their way to the communities. It could be swallowed up by extra staff people based in Whitehorse, for instance ó we donít know. So the minister didnít specifically answer that question.
Iíd like to ask him if the government is interested in developing a reading series that could be used in the schools.
Back on the idea of the governmentís policy, does it feel like thereís a need to develop a holistic approach to First Nation curriculum that could be used across the Yukon rather than a piecemeal approach used in communities?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Unlike the NDP, this party is willing to look at anything that someone is able to produce.
With regard to curriculum, a steering committee composed of First Nation elders and representatives, interested groups, teachers and other department staff will be consulted on the accuracy, applicability and student suitability level for all products. This committee will be convened in the fall of 2004.
Mr. Hardy: Downtown Whitehorse is very fortunate to have two extremely good schools quite unique in their approach to education ó of course, the Wood Street school, which has experiential programs within there. It has ACES and other programs that have been tremendously successful in using different models to teach core curriculum. I think most people recognize the benefits of whatís offered through that. Thereís also Whitehorse Elementary, which was a leader in the lunch programs and morning programs they have to ensure children get proper nutrition.
As well as their Thursday evening program ó in which they open up their school and have all kinds of curriculum ó as far as Iím concerned these two schools, the people, the staff and the teachers in them are doing tremendous work for education. I would like to ask the minister if there are any changes planned for these two schools. I know previously the Liberal government had wanted to make changes to the Wood Street school. That was stopped and I would like to have the opinion of the minister in regard to the future of the Wood Street school. Are there plans to either expand, put some more programs in there, alternative ways of teaching, or do they plan to change it as the Liberals had proposed?
In regard to Whitehorse Elementary, the staffing and teaching, are there any changes there?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I can relate to what the member opposite is stating about these facilities because they do good work. No, there are no plans to make any changes to either one of those schools.
Mr. Hardy: Is there going to be the same amount of teachers at Whitehorse Elementary as there were last year?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The number of teachers in any school facility is based on the number of students, and if the number of students stays the same, then I would assume that the teachers are going to be the same.
Mr. Hardy: Has the number of students stayed the same?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: In response to the member opposite, yes, the numbers are relatively the same, a difference of maybe three students. I believe last year there were 66 in English and this year there are 69. French was 273 and 278 in the two different years, so theyíre staying relatively flat-lined.
Mr. Hardy: It has been brought to my attention that there are no shower facilities in the Wood Street school, and if there was ever an accident and a student got sprayed with something, there would be no way to immediately get water on them. There are only toilets and basins. Is there a requirement that each school has some type of body wash facility, like a shower? And if not, are there any plans to remedy that situation in the Wood Street school?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I donít believe there is such a policy in place; however, this government is willing to take that under advisement and look into it.
Chair: Are there any further questions?
Mr. Fairclough: I do have a few more questions for the member opposite.
I asked about the governmentís plans for a new school in Burwash Landing. There doesnít seem to be any. There is none for F.H. Collins. I would like to ask the minister if there are any plans for replacement of the school in Teslin.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: As I stated to the member opposite, one school being completely constructed is a big project, and Iíd be very pleased to see that one school completed totally. With regard to the Teslin School, there was already an initiative in progress that was undertaken by the previous Liberal government, and this government is following through with those plans, and that was to replace the gym and to do some renovations to the existing gym.
Mr. Fairclough: So, Mr. Chair, is the minister saying that, under the Yukon Party government, thereís nothing new, theyíre following up from the Liberal government to replace the gym, and the school itself would remain as is? There are no plans at all? This hasnít been raised by the First Nation or by the village council?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: It would probably be unproductive to not respect a project the previous government had undertaken, and to complete that project makes good governance sense. Plus, I did have a meeting with the chief in this building with regard to the Teslin School and it was agreed to, yes, complete the second phase of the project that was already underway. I have had no meeting with the mayor and council with regard to any projects. I have not met them since the election.
Mr. Fairclough: Maybe the minister could make a point of meeting with the mayor and council. This Yukon Party government doesnít really believe that initiatives by other governments are carried out by their government. Just take a look at the jail, for example.
If this government does not have a plan for replacement of schools such as the one in Teslin, does the department have a list of schools that includes Teslin ó a replacement list, the life of a school? Is the Teslin School beyond the original anticipated life of the school when it was built? I believe it is and should have been replaced.
If the minister can answer that question and whether or not there was a second phase on the Teslin School ó theyíre replacing the gym, but was there a second phase of completion of a new school in that community?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: In response to the comment made by the member opposite about this minister making an attempt to meet with the new council, that will take place in due time. I got to have breakfast and meet with the previous mayor and council, but since the election took place I have not met the new mayor and council. Again, I want to stress that building a new infrastructure like a school, I donít see much difference from oneís home. You donít build a new home every time you get a crack in the floor; you fix it. You do renovations. You keep up the renovations so that the life expectancy of the infrastructure will last. To the best of my knowledge, the last assessment of the Teslin School determined that there were still several years of use in that facility.
Mr. Fairclough: Okay, thatís the philosophy of this Yukon Party government ó treating it like their own home. I can see that when it comes to even the school in Carmacks. Theyíre still doing repairs, but they could be replacing the school in a year from now, or even less. It all depends on the will of the government at the time.
I would like to ask more about the Carmacks school. How much renovation is going into that school this year? Iím particularly interested in the roof of the school, which I believe needs replacing or is in desperate need of major repairs. Also, the construction of ó and Iím not sure what it is ó a ramp. Thereís construction thatís taking place on the old wing ó not even the new section of the school but the old section ó to accommodate some of the students with MS.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This government does recognize the importance of building a new school at Carmacks. That is part and parcel of why some decisions were made like they were. It is critical that there be a very safe and healthy building for the children of Carmacks. We agree with that 100 percent.
The roof is being repaired, because health and safety is of high importance to this government. We recognize also that access for wheelchairs and handicapped people is also important and work is also being done in that area.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the minister tell us what the total cost will be for repairs to the Tantalus School this year? That is the repair to the roof, and maybe the minister can tell us what they are building. Is it a ramp? It seems to be about 75 feet going both ways. It seemed like major construction. What is being built on to the school that is going to be torn down a year from now?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The estimates to repair the roof and to build the access ramp are approximately $200,000. Because of the location and the design of the school, the access ramps are presenting some problem to build. Thatís why the length is needed, to be able to get the grade. Regardless of how difficult it is, itís important enough for this government to ensure that that access is available.
Mr. Fairclough: I believe the minister did say $200,000. Mr. Chair, that seems to be an awful lot, when this government could have had a design in place, if it really pushed it. In the last budget, there was $400,000 for design of the school. The government has done nothing to ensure that a committee is up and running, and now we have another $700,000 designated to the design of that school. The community really wants to see it go forward, and Iím hoping that this government does not delay the process ó because it is being delayed right now ó so that the school does get built in a timely manner.
In regard to grade 12, are there plans to have grade 12 in the schools in Old Crow and Teslin, those two that donít have grade 12 presently? I know that has been a discussion in the department. Fill us in on that issue.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iíll state for the record again that itís a priority for this government to get on with it and get that school built in Carmacks. I canít stress it enough. I canít stress enough to everyone involved how important it is to get moving on that facility. I certainly want to see it built immediately.
With regard to grade 12 in Old Crow, I know thereís sort of an undecided community at this point in time as to whether they want grade 12 there. Some prefer to have it there; some are saying no, they want to have it remain as is. So basically itís going to be up to the community of Old Crow as to whether or not they want to go that route. Again, Mr. Chair, Iíll state for the record that if, in the event that at this point in time if the decision were to have grade 12 in Old Crow, then the department would no longer be responsible for any financial responsibilities to the students who want to come to Whitehorse. If they have grade 12 in the community, then thatís where they would have to stay for school.
With regard to the Teslin School, I have had no discussions with anyone yet with regard to having grade 12 in Teslin.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, the minister knows that the school in Old Crow has the capacity to handle all the high school students and much more. The minister is going on the wishes of the community, and I can see that.
Is the minister saying that for every school that offers grade 12, government does not pay for accommodations for any students who want to have a grade 12 education outside of their community in Whitehorse? Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe the policy of the government is that if grade 12 is provided in the community, it would be expected they go to school in their community. However, if thereís a specialty program thatís not offered, then I believe the department does make concessions for that.
Mr. Fairclough: Iíd like to give an example for the minister. If two students who were in grade 12 ó the only two students in, say, grade 11 or 12 in the community of Carmacks at the Tantalus School ó wanted to come to school here and it was informed ahead of time, does this government provide housing and pay for the schooling here in Whitehorse? It would mean there would be no teachers teaching those grades in that community. Is the government on the hook for those expenses?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: If there were no teachers in the community, I believe it would be addressed on an individual basis. For example, I would not understand why the principal, for example, may not be able to teach grade 11. But if there were absolutely an issue, Iím quite positive the department would accommodate those students.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the minister provide us with that information ó the departmentís policy on that? And I did not mean that there would be no teachers in the school at all. I would think the department would go out of its way to find the teachers to ensure the communities are well-staffed. Iím just thinking about students who may want to pursue an education here in Whitehorse and, in the prior year, give a heads-up to the department that they want to do that. If the member opposite can send me that information, I would appreciate it.
Mr. Chair, there were 12 teacher positions that were eliminated ó 12 fewer teachers in the last budget. I would like to know why that was and what happened to the numbers? Was it strictly as a result of the number of students, or is it a change in curriculum or the way the schools have been moved around and the grade reorganization here in Whitehorse? Why do we have 12 fewer teachers in the last budget?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: We donít have 12 fewer teachers. In fact, the Yukon has the highest ratio, the best student-to-teacher ratio across the country. There are no problems in the school system at this point in time with teachers.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, maybe not to the member opposite, but I know that it has been raised a number of times in the communities about having more teachers ó science teachers and so on ó and teacher aides. But there were 12 teachers that were eliminated in the last budget. I would like to know where that was. Was it in the communities or is it here in Whitehorse, and are we basically carrying on with those numbers this year ó 12 fewer than there were two years ago?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe this government has stated from day one that where there is a demonstrated need, this government will address that need. This government has not diverted from that. To the best of my knowledge, where there were EAs needed, this government put them in. The teachers ó there is no shortage of teachers.
Mr. Fairclough: There is an issue that was raised in the community of Mayo with Na Cho Nyäk Dun that I would say demonstrated a need for those issues to be addressed. This Yukon Party government has done nothing about that yet. There was a committee formed. Can the minister give us an update as to how they are going to be addressing the issues raised by Na Cho Nyäk Dun?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe that it is important to note that demographics are changing and this means a number of students in specific schools may change. Again I state for the record that where thereís a demonstrated need, this government has complied with it.
With regard to the concerns of the Na Cho Nyäk Dun, this government will be meeting with Na Cho Nyäk Dun and all the community in a very short period of time. As minister, I have already met with the school council, the mayor and council. The chief and council werenít available, but I will be meeting with them and from there we will have a community meeting to discuss the issues in Mayo.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister just said that if there were a demonstrated need, they would act upon that. This minister has not done that. This is not a new issue. This has been going on and was raised to the member opposite when they were first elected a year and a half ago, and the minister hasnít done anything. So I would like to know: when does the minister foresee his department addressing these issues raised by Na Cho Nyäk Dun and giving some answers to them? Are we going to go by another year saying weíre trying to set up a meeting? That just doesnít wash.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Itís not like this government has been sitting idle on this issue. A task force was developed; the First Nation withdrew from it. We understand the department has a responsibility to address issues within the education system and due process has been taken in regard to Mayo.
Again, this government is interested in seeing things move ahead and, at this point in time, we are actively engaged in talking with the citizens of Mayo to address the issues.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister is not actively engaged in talking to the First Nation. If they want to see this process move ahead, itís definitely no faster than a snailís pace. I know the First Nation has met and talked with the minister about this problem. They want these issues resolved. Itís huge; itís not a small one. They are not small issues at all. As a matter of fact, the superintendent has a lot of problems dealing with the issues that have been raised. Itís very serious. Itís more serious than many of the issues that have been raised in other communities in this territory. This government decided not to move ahead.
Iím interested in when they would be available to address these issues. Itís not something difficult. The First Nation leaders come to town, and I know the minister could request an hour of the chiefís time to meet on these issues. He brought this to our attention, and they want some action.
It is the lack of government action that is really pushing First Nations to look at alternatives in education, and one they have looked at is drawing down education. If they continue to get nowhere with this government, thatís the route theyíre going to take. Itís not their first option. I say to the minister that it is not, but it is one they do have.
So I would like to ask the minister to seriously look at these issues that Na Cho Nyäk Dun have raised and commit some of his time and the departmentís time to address this ó not that weíll wait for a meeting. I would like to see internally with the department a committee or a task force put together to address this right away. We have a committee that was formed in the community, and that hasnít gone anywhere. So if the minister can somehow address it internally in his department, then I think we can move ahead, make some suggestions and meet with the chief.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I want to remind the member opposite ó I strongly believe in the old phrase that one can take a horse to water, but one cannot necessarily make him drink. We have done very extensive consultations with the Mayo residents, and itís not from a lack of this government wanting to do anything. Itís more an issue of having people willing to participate in doing something.
As a minister, Iím not 100-percent sure that this is totally an education issue. I believe that there are other dynamics at play with this issue. This government has no fear of going and dealing with those issues. Iím looking forward to the meeting in Mayo. I have no fear of going to Mayo. I know the people. Iíve known citizens from Mayo for 40 years. They are not new people to me. Yes, weíll go and sit down, and weíll have discussions around the issues that they want to discuss. Mr. Chair, the school council has expressed its support for the school staff and has voiced their appreciation of the quality of education offered at J.V. Clark School under the current administration.
So when I have reports coming to my office about the good things that are happening in the school, it only makes me happy; it doesnít make me concerned that people are doing well in school.
I support the principal and the school staff in the Mayo school. They have been doing a good job.
Like I said, the meeting is on, I believe, May 12, and weíre going to talk about things we can do to improve the situation in Mayo. The department had identified an individual to work with the school council and the chief and council, and itís very far from this government not having an interest or not trying because this government has been trying very aggressively to assist the people in Mayo, and weíll continue to work with the people in Mayo. I believe that weíll make headway with the chief and council and the mayor and council because we have the will to do it.
Mr. Fairclough: Then the minister should have addressed this if they have the will. We on this side of the House will continue to pressure the minister to deal with this issue. He can go on trying to delay this matter as long as he can, but we on this side of the House will be pressuring the minister, along with the First Nation leadership, to have the minister address these problems. There must be reasons for the First Nation withdrawing from the committee. The minister didnít address that ó just skirted around it. He said that he believes and supports the principal and the teachers. Well, why wouldnít the minister not support them? What about the First Nations? Why didnít the minister support them?
Perhaps there are lots of issues the minister doesnít know about, and thatís why Iím asking him to go to the community. I can give him an example of one student who was told they would not succeed and was doing very poorly in school. That student went out to Alberta and is getting straight As. Why is that student getting straight As but couldnít do that in that community?
There is an issue there. Another school year has gone by, and this minister has done nothing, or very little. We understand thereís a meeting on May 12. I would like the minister to treat this with a higher priority than he has been putting on it. Obviously the minister has put it on a back burner and has not given it the attention it deserves. Thatís what Iíve been asking the minister to do.
We can hear the whole thing about the meetings with mayor and council and so on again, but that doesnít take care of the issues that have been raised.
So thatís what Iím urging the member opposite to do.
I have many questions in regard to the needs assessment the minister proposed in the last budget but failed to do in this budget, but we certainly donít have time. I know the minister will not be answering the questions at all in regard to that, so Iíll just leave that for another time and perhaps even Question Period.
I do have one quick question in regard to YNTEP. Actually, I have lots of questions in regard to YNTEP, but Iíll ask one.
In the last two years there was one YNTEP student hired. I would like to know why.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Chair, well, with regard to the issues in the Mayo area, my sincere belief is that the member opposite as the MLA has some obligations to also go in and see what he can do as an MLA for the people in Mayo. Itís not always the case where a government is the one that is going to do it. He has a good relationship with them. Maybe he needs to mediate in some of the meetings for the people.
Again, Mr. Chair, the member opposite is insinuating that this government has a lack of interest in working with the Mayo people, which is totally untrue. I want to put on the record that Mayo has concerns, but so does Old Crow, so does Teslin, so does Carcross, so does Watson Lake. This government has been making trips to Old Crow, repeatedly making trips to Teslin and Dawson City. So there are an awful lot of communities that are requesting immediate attention from this government.
Iím going to say for the record ó I want to put on record the number of trips and meetings that this government did attend in Mayo. On April 16, 2004, Minister Edzerzaís deputy minister was meeting with the school council and mayor and council. On February 3 and 4, 2004, the superintendent of schools was meeting with the task force. On November 25, 2003, the superintendent attended a community meeting. On November 14, the superintendent met with the chief and council. On September 8, 2003, the superintendent met with the community. On August 25, 2003, the superintendent met with the community. On August 5 and 6 of 2003, the superintendent met with the education task force. On June 16, 2003, the superintendent met with chief and council. On January 24, the superintendent of schools met with chief and council.
So, Mr. Chair, we have one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine ó nine trips to Mayo.
That hardly supports what the member opposite is accusing this government of ó not meeting with the people in Mayo. So I think this speaks for itself. This government has demonstrated that we are meeting and will continue to meet with the people in Mayo. Even though we have this extensive record of numerous meetings, we are going to continue to see if we can accomplish some really good, positive things for the people in Mayo. We donít give up. Weíre going to continue to do our best. Iím really anticipating that there will be some good things happening here.
When we talk about YNTEP, again this government and I donít believe any previous governments have ever guaranteed anyone in the College that if you come and take a mechanics course, weíre putting you to work tomorrow as soon as you graduate. No one could make that commitment totally. I believe that the department has followed due process and has attempted to put more YNTEP students to work. However, I know that there have been some opportunities in the communities, for example, that were refused because the student didnít want to teach in the community. And thatís fine. Thatís the individualís choice. Again, I want to stress the importance of ó four years of college is not a waste of time. In fact, I know some YNTEP students who prefer not to work as teachers but to work in a First Nation government. I know some YNTEP students who said to me that they like their job at the College or in the federal government, so itís not a point that, because you took a YNTEP teaching course, everyone has to get a job as a teacher.
We know that as of 2003 there have been 75 YNTEP graduates; 34 graduates have been employed and are teaching in the Yukon. Thatís a fairly substantial number.
There are 23 teaching in Whitehorse; 11 are teaching in the communities; 23 are gainfully employed in other occupations; the remaining 18 are unaccounted for, although we do believe that some are teaching in other jurisdictions. Many of those YNTEP graduates who are not teaching are employed in education-related fields such as Yukon College, First Nation governments, daycare centres, territorial or federal governments. It is anticipated that 11 YNTEP students will graduate this spring.
As a minister, I would not go out and say to all those grads, "Yes, you all have a job tomorrow morning," because I donít know what the needs are throughout the territory, and I would never make a commitment like that.
I also want to state with regard to YNTEP that there are a fair number of students from other jurisdictions, such as Ontario. I know two YNTEP students from Ontario who went back to Ontario to teach. I know students from the Northwest Territories, for example, who came and took the course here but are now back in the Northwest Territories.
So I would anticipate similar cases from B.C., and I know of one from Saskatchewan. I know two people from Saskatchewan who took the YNTEP course and who now have moved back to their home province.
You know, Mr. Chair, the government will do its best to employ as many YNTEP students as we can. Thatís the process. Iím positive the department has no other motives or whatever in mind. Itís important that, if we can put the YNTEP students to work, we do that.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, in the last two years, there was only one YNTEP student hired in the school system ó one. And if the minister wants to carry on and give that same direction to the department as far as hiring, then this year, when there are 11 graduates, only one will be hired. That doesnít make sense to the mandate of why YNTEP was originally put together. Obviously, this government is doing nothing new to attract more First Nation teachers into the system at all, hoping that other governments would employ these teachers. It wasnít a good answer from the minister about why only one was hired this year, over the past two years.
So Iíd like to leave that alone, but I would like to state for the member opposite that those meetings that took place in the community of Mayo by the superintendent ó some of them have been on the request of the First Nation, the request of me to meet with individuals because of problems occurring, and all that time this government did not address those issues. So just for the member oppositeís knowledge on that, Mr. Chair ó I donít need a further explanation on that at all.
I would like to ask the minister, though: there was a motion on the floor in regard to teachers and teachers putting money out of their pocket to purchase everything from school supplies in science labs and so on, and theyíre making that decision on their own. It is because of the schools not being equipped properly, I suppose, that teachers are forced to do this.
How is the minister going to address this? Iím hoping heís not saying itís because we pay the teachers so well that they could afford it.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would never talk about the teachers like that. I know the member opposite likes to make comments and then request no responses; however, I feel obligated to talk a little more about the YNTEP and the issues in Mayo. The issues in Mayo are not new. Theyíre very historical. If anyone would be able to walk into a community and repair a hundred years of historical issues within a month or two, I take off my hat to them.
Again, with regard to the YNTEP, for example, the member opposite knows that theyíre only capable of teaching elementary school grades when they complete YNTEP. A lot of the teachers who are needed are specialized teachers in high school, for example, for math or chemistry, and it would be unrealistic for anyone to believe or even think that a government can walk in and say, "Well, there are five YNTEP students; weíre going to lay off five teachers and make room for YNTEP students." This government has a collective agreement that they have to honour. The union is involved there. When jobs are offered and refused, no one brings it to the floor of the House and says, "Well, you know, jobs were offered and nobody wanted them."
But we are aware of that and, again, itís an individual choice. Iíll state again for the record that this government appreciates the YNTEP teachers and they do add to a school. This government will continue to try to accommodate them with work. However, there are only a certain number of elementary schools in the Yukon, there are only a certain number of elementary school teachers needed, and the government will try their best to do this and keep up with ensuring that YNTEP students are considered for the jobs.
Chair: Order please. Weíve reached our ó Mr. Fairclough?
Mr. Fairclough: I know we have a couple of minutes left until the break and I would like to ask the minister whether it is government policy or department policy that YNTEP students work in communities and are hired in communities and why theyíre not hiring them right out of graduation class into the schools here in Whitehorse. Is that a policy that they go to the communities first?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I donít believe thereís a policy of any such sort. I believe where the demonstrated need is, is where teachers would go. If thereís a need for a teacher in Mayo, you send one to Mayo.
The previous question asked by the member opposite with regard to the tax credit ó I stated earlier in the House that is still open for discussion; itís not a closed door.
Chair: Do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We will continue on with general debate on Vote 03, Department of Education.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Chair, I have a few comments and a couple of questions for the Minister of Education. Can the Minister of Education tell this House what he has done to encourage First Nation participation in the Education Act review process?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iíve invited them to continue on with the process.
Mrs. Peter: Iíll just leave that as that.
I have much concern and many issues regarding the alternative paths project that this minister is proposing. A decision has been made, and the minister is allocating dollars toward a project where it would seem that without proper needs assessment being done or speaking to some of the people throughout the territory ó the comments that the minister made in this House last week in that regard were disturbing in regard to addressing the needs of the teenagers, whom the alternative paths project was supposed to affect and impact. The minister said that this alternative paths project is to keep kids in school, and one of the reasons he stated was because they canít get up in the morning. Mr. Chair, where I come from, getting up in the morning for school before 9:00 and being there on time was part of our daily routine, no matter how difficult it was for us as children or young people.
In my case, it taught me responsibility for hopefully the rest of my life, and thatís how I view things today. So when I hear a minister standing on his feet on the floor of this House, making those kinds of comments and coming up with a decision to enable those kinds of behaviour, I get very concerned. I believe our responsibilities today as adults in this society are that itís up to each one of us to role-model those types of behaviour for young people, and more especially in our communities because we are always being watched.
This project that this Yukon Party government is throwing money at will affect the education system for the whole territory, Mr. Chair. There are many other needs at the community level that can be addressed with this money theyíre using.
Time and time again, Iíve stood on the floor of this House saying that we need extra money for our education system in our communities to address special needs, in conjunction with the Department of Health and Social Services. Yet the government can make these types of decisions without talking to people and seeing exactly where the needs are.
Yes, weíve had people from the Department of Education come to the community of Old Crow, and I went to the first public meeting theyíve held there. And yes, many concerns that we have were brought out. The parents in the community are very passionate about their childrenís education ó the adjustments they have to make when they come to Whitehorse. We have to allow them those choices.
I believe this alternative path is another choice thatís going to be available again in Whitehorse. But what about our communities? We need to give the communities more choices for the students there because not everybody can make it in this society out here. Our children are more educated in a traditional style of living. They donít want to be sitting in a classroom for six or seven hours a day when theyíre used to being outside.
What I would like to hear from the minister is what consultation process he used before he made this decision, or did he just take a walk around downtown, like he suggested my colleague do? Is there a paper trail and perhaps he can table some of the documents that helped him come to this decision? Those are my questions for the minister.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: If the members opposite donít believe itís a good idea to support these children, they should stand up and say it and Iíll respect that.
And disturbing to whom?
Again, itís a difference of opinion. As a matter of fact, members from the opposition memberís own community have talked to me about this initiative, saying how good it was to see somebody doing something with the youth on the streets in Whitehorse ó now whatís that, Mr. Chair? The youth in Whitehorse are not only from the homes in Whitehorse but are from every community.
I want to say that, had this program been in place, one of my children might have done a lot better. I wished it had been in place. My son probably would have done a lot better in school because he was and still is one of those individuals who have a difficult time getting up in the morning, but heís functioning pretty well by the afternoon. Thatís quite common among a lot of teenagers nowadays.
Mr. Chair, I can speak to this because I have not been idle in this area. I have worked, hands on, as an advocate for 20 years plus in this field and Iím still actively doing it today.
Even in this capacity, I still work with youth who are having trouble in todayís world. I want to state for the record that some of these youth I work with come right from the member oppositeís community, and theyíre good people, young people who need to have a little bit of help and direction, and they can do wonders. So I fully support this alternative school. And it has been requested by several different groups, it certainly isnít what the member opposite would like the public listening to this believe ó it wasnít a walk about town and saying ó
Chair:Order. The previous phrase was completely out of order, in contravention of our Standing Orders. Iíd ask the member to retract the statement.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Edzerza:Thank you, Mr. Chair. I withdraw the comment. However, I will state for the record that this government didnít just walk about town and look for clients. This initiative was brought to the government by school councils, by the post-secondary high schools, by entrepreneurs throughout the Yukon Territory, by First Nations. So this is an initiative that has a lot of support, and I believe that this school would be a real asset to the young people of the territory.
When we talk about consultation, I believe that there was extensive consultation in the fact that the proposal was to school administrations, teachers, specialized education. Consultants and First Nations all provided input into the framework and direction of a proposal.
With the budget approval for the project, we will now begin the implementation phase. During implementation, the following will form the steering committee group to guide the implementation planning: Whitehorse secondary school principals, Whitehorse secondary school council representatives, Department of Education special program consultants, Department of Education First Nation curriculum and programs consultant, the Department of Education secondary curriculum consultant and the director of learning for secondary programs. Other groups will be consulted during the implementation on an as-needed basis for specific topics or areas of programming. Some of these groups may include staff from the Department of Health and Social Services, family and childrenís services branch, staff from the Yukon family services, staff from the Youth Directorate and two Whitehorse youth centre societies, staff from Yukon College development studies program, Kwanlin Dun First Nation and the Taían Kwachían Council.
So this is not a program that is just being thrown out by this government. Itís a program that has been requested for several years.
As a matter of fact, I believe I made comments several years ago to the government of the day. I believe Piers McDonald was the Premier at that time. I made requests to the NDP government to look at getting some kind of a facility such as this to enable students who were having difficult times to continue on, and it didnít go anywhere.
Anyhow, I believe that the whole process is going to be well orchestrated and well put together. Itís not going to be a case of just going out and throwing something together. My sincere hope is that at the end of the day a number of students who would normally have never considered going back to school will complete their education.
Mrs. Peter: I thank the minister for that response, but I find it amazing how such a spin could be put on the information that we put forward on the floor of this House.
However, moving on, Iíd like to hear from the minister the number of dollars that the Yukon government gets from the federal government to address First Nation education in the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Chair, there is no specific formula given to the Yukon government on what money is available for First Nation education specifically. I will share with the member opposite, though, what this government is putting forward in First Nation funding. As you know, First Nations benefit from all the programming offered by the department. At the same time, there are some specific funding initiatives for First Nation programs, such as aboriginal language teachers, $2,280,000; YNTEP, $540,000; First Nation curriculum materials and resources, $500,000; Native Language Centre, $352,000; department staff who work directly on First Nation curriculum and programming, $200,000; aboriginal language teacher trainee, $111,000. By the time the six trainees are trained, it will be $500,000 plus; curriculum development with individual First Nations, $100,000; First Nation elders in the school, $30,000; WNCP, western and northern Canada protocol, and First Nation language, $20,000; stay-in-school initiatives, school counselling and support, $10,000, for a total of $4,143,000.
So this government is putting money into the First Nation curriculum and these numbers speak for themselves.
Chair: Any further general debate?
Some Hon. Member: Clear.
Chair: Hearing none, we will proceed with line-by-line debate.
Mr. Fairclough: If itís agreed to by the members of this House, I request unanimous consent to deem all lines in Vote 3, Department of Education, cleared or carried as required.
Unanimous consent re deeming all lines in Vote 3, Education, cleared or carried
Chair:Mr. Fairclough has requested the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all lines in Vote 3, Department of Education, cleared or carried as required. Are you agreed?
All Hon. Members: Agree.
Chair: There is unanimous consent.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Education in the amount of $99,987,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Total Capital Expenditures for the Department of Education in the amount of $11,369,000 agreed to
Department of Education agreed to
Chair: We will now move on to Vote 53, Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.
Department of Energy, Mines and Resources
Hon. Mr. Lang: I will do my introduction. Iím sure my officials will arrive in due time with the time the way it looks. So Iím pleased to introduce the 2004-05 main budget for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.
Energy, Mines and Resources is responsible for managing and developing Yukonís land-based natural resources and our budget for 2004-05 is focused on fulfilling this mandate. The departmentís efforts support this governmentís commitment to rejuvenate Yukonís resource economy.
Over the coming year, the priority of Energy, Mines and Resources will be the following: continue to implement the devolution of DIANDís resource management programs, including adopting appropriate policies and administrative structures to manage Crown land; streamline land application processes and make land available for community, residential, recreational and resource use; develop and manage Yukonís resource sectors, including forestry, agriculture, oil and gas, minerals and energy; help create regulatory certainty; promote investment in Yukonís resource sector by providing competent regulatory regimes; ensure that benefits from resource development, including northern pipeline projects, are available for all Yukoners; work with Yukon First Nations to make them full partners in the development of Yukonís resource economy; work with Canada to secure funding for the care and maintenance of orphaned and abandoned mines while maximizing local benefits; promote energy self-conservation initiatives and ensure Yukon energy resources are developed and managed in an economically and environmentally responsible manner; and conclude a satisfactory agreement on shared offshore administration and legislative responsibilities for oil and gas management in the Canadian part of the Beaufort Sea.
The Department of Energy, Mines and Resources remains focused on responsive client service and a growing Yukon resource-based economy as we enter our second year of management and administration of forestry, lands and mineral resources transferred from DIAND.
The department received a total increase of $2,843,000 in its operation and maintenance budget. O&M recoveries increased by $2,665,000.
The departmentís capital budget has decreased by $361,000, and capital recoveries decreased by $96,000.
Revenues ó there was also an increase of $830,000. These changes reflect the new and expanded role and mandate of the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, following devolution on April 1 of last year.
Iíd like to outline some of the highlights of Energy, Mines and Resourcesí 2004-05 main budget. In the oil and gas and mineral resources, we are working to ensure that Yukon natural gas will have access to pipeline via all routes, including the Mackenzie Valley route.
We are also working with partners, including First Nations, other jurisdictions and regulatory bodies to develop a clear and effective regulatory process for the Alaska Highway pipeline in the Yukon.
Our government has allocated $950,000 ó an increase of $100,000 over the 2003-04 main estimates ó for the continued support of the Yukon mining incentive program. This funding helps to promote and enhance mineral prospecting, exploration and development activities in Yukon. The program provides a portion of the risk capital required to locate and explore mineral deposits.
We are implementing improvements to our mineral regime by streamlining the permitting process and other initiatives to support the industry. The government is also continuing its support of the Yukon mineral exploration tax credit. This tax credit helps companies raise capital and leverage funds for Yukon-based programs.
Overall, there is an increase of $433,000 in mineral management as a result of budgeting the full staffing of positions and a decrease of $298,000 in funding to mineral development primarily due to the 2003-04 forecasting northern geoscienceís program funding, not budgeted in the 2004-05 mains.
We have enhanced the Yukon geological survey program to provide baseline geoscience information in support of oil and gas exploration and development to a wide variety of user groups.
We are directing and overseeing the orderly planning and abandonment of type II mine sites and are working to secure a suitable funding arrangement with the federal government for agreed-upon work. Total Government of Canadaís funding of $7,805,000 is being secured for activities such as the care and maintenance of Mount Nansen, Clinton Creek and United Keno Hill mine sites. At United Keno Hill Mines, the Yukon government will continue to administrate the care and maintenance of the property pursuant to its authority under the Waters Act and the Quartz Mining Act. Work continues to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of treatment and the defined alternative approaches to addressing liability at this site. At BYG, Mount Nansen, Yukon and Canada are aiming to have the final reclamation and closure plan ready for environmental assessment and permitting by late 2004.
The Yukon government will manage reclamation work on contracts to ensure Yukon contractors and communities benefit from this work.
The department continues to support the work of the Klondike Placer Miners Association and will invest additional dollars if demand warrants further support. We continue to support the placer authorization by working with the Grand Chief and Council of Yukon First Nations and federal government, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Klondike Placer Miners Association to update the Yukon placer authorization and continue the work to update field information.
We have undertaken a Yukon mineral exploration training initiative through a $500,000 contribution to the Yukon mining exploration training trust fund. Funding for this project was provided through lapsing funds in the 2003-04 fiscal year and will be reflected in the next supplementary in 2004-05. This Yukon mineral exploration training program is another way that this government shows their support for Yukoners in the education of our citizens to work better and safer in the industries that are created in the Yukon.
The decrease in oil and gas development and pipeline and oil and gas management is due to extra funding transferred in 2003-04 using vacant salary dollars in other branches to handle growing demands in the two branches. A total increase of $55,000 in funding: $25,000 for oil and gas resource assessment and $30,000 for the oil and gas information system. This funding is being made to continue to develop this regime.
In sustainable resources, we continue to implement devolution commitments, including making sure that legislation, systems and people are in place and ensuring that land is available for all Yukoners and development projects.
We will continue to enhance client service by working to streamline access to programs and regulatory information on Yukonís land and natural resources. The consolidation of our lands and agricultural branches in one location, on the third floor of the Elijah Smith Building, to serve clients is a very good example.
We continue to develop a forest policy framework to guide management of forestry and undertake policy work to prepare for the development of new forestry legislation. $200,000 will be provided for the Yukon Kaska forest agreement to establish a Kaska-Yukon forest authority to help build a strong industry and healthy forest. These funds were incorporated in the 2003-04 budget and will be revoted in the 2004-05 budget and will be reflected in the next supplementary. We are providing $271,000 to the Kaska Forest Resources Stewardship Council to continue their work. This money is provided by Canada, as part of their Tough commitment.
It is our intent to make timber available to restart the Yukon forest industry. To assist in this, we are continuing the forest engineering program, with funding of $500,000, and 100 percent of this figure is recoverable. This program works with industry and First Nations to develop timber lots for harvesting.
We will continue the forest renewal program, first introduced in the 2003-04 supplementary, to manage the renewed areas infested by spruce beetle and to manage other areas where the economic value of the forest is not able to recover the cost of the activities required to sufficiently recover the affected sites.
This was a $250,000 program, and lapsed funding from this program in 2003-04 will be revoted and reflected in the next supplementary. Continued funding of up to $321,000 will be provided by the federal government for the federal agricultural policy framework agreement. This five-year agricultural policy framework focuses on sector, profitability and competitiveness. This agreement will help the agricultural industry develop in the areas of economic viability, health and safety, environmental sustainability, business development and science innovation.
Mr. Chair, we are treating regional land use planning as a priority and are working to put plans in place to help coordinate and balance economic development and conservation on Yukon lands.
This concludes the introductory comments for the main estimates for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.
Mr. McRobb: That was quite the speech, Mr. Chair. My congratulations to his speech writers, whomever they may be.
After listening to that, it makes me want to go out and buy a Yukon Party card and vote for this government, but I know that common sense will prevail, and weíll get back to reality and put that wonderful speech in the context of the overall government performance, which we know is rather abysmal.
Weíll move on.
We do have some questions about this department. It is a department that covers a lot of very important areas: lands, agriculture, mining, energy, forestry, minerals, oil and gas and other resources. It would probably be possible to spend the entire 30-day sitting just talking about this department and asking the minister questions and, hopefully by the end of it, we might get some answers.
Because weíre dealing with the questions in a much more constrained time period, weíre hoping the minister can answer some important questions for us. I would like to turn to a very topical issue and deal with it first, and that is the proposed Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline. We understand there is some important announcement coming soon. Can the minister give us an idea whether he knows what it might be?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Thank you to the member opposite; heís always so Christian in his remarks. But every time I make an announcement itís an important announcement. We donít make announcements unless theyíre issues that Yukoners have to take into consideration. So as far as the Alaska Highway pipeline is concerned, we have been working with the First Nations and we of course have been working with industry and weíve been working with the producers, so weíve been doing our homework on the Alaska Highway pipeline.
The motto of our government has always been that the Alaska Highway pipeline is a very important project that will one day, I imagine, come down the Alaska Highway. Of course those decisions will be made in other places besides the Yukon. They will be made either by the producers or the pipeline people. And it depends on the other end ó the customer base. Have the producers got enough of a customer base in the United States to cover the cost of building the pipeline? So what we committed to do for the Yukon public was to become pipeline-ready. Pipeline-ready means that we prioritize what is happening in the Yukon, and are we in fact going to work ourselves into a pipeline so that we are all prepared for the change that will come with building that pipeline.
Certainly our First Nations have a stake in what happens in the pipeline, the building of the pipeline, participating in that aspect. We in the House all know that there are nine First Nations that will be involved with that pipeline going across their traditional territory, and we all know that there are 14 First Nations in the Yukon and, of course, the other Yukoners.
At the end of the day, we have to take everybody in the Yukon into consideration, and we have to make sure that we are working toward a common goal. For that reason, we have been working with the Aboriginal Pipeline Group, and that group is being put together by the nine affected First Nations. Seven of them are participating. Three of the First Nations are just observers. The Aboriginal Pipeline Group is working with those three to get them into a position of participation, understanding some of these situations are brought on by the situation that some of them have other issues. Theyíre working on their final land claims. So they have other issues that they have to address and prioritize their time for.
Mr. Speaker, this is an aboriginal pipeline group. It is being monitored; itís being managed by the Aboriginal Pipeline Group. Theyíre showing a very high regard for that group. There are a couple of questions that have to be addressed internally. First of all, the observers have to be addressed, and then, of course, how will the other 14 or the other group of First Nations be involved? The Council of Yukon First Nations has to be brought in, so there is work in progress on the Aboriginal Pipeline Group. According to the group, they are going to set up an office in Whitehorse, so they have a coordinator. They have a person on the ground to work with the project. Iím very optimistic that this thing will eventually unfold, and we will have a very strong aboriginal pipeline component, so when the producers come or when they have questions to ask the aboriginal community, they will have a place to go. Our government, again, Mr. Chair, has been very active in working with the Mackenzie route so that Yukoners can participate in the construction of that pipeline.
We are very conscious of the fact that there are going to be two pipelines and those two pipelines will benefit north of 60. Weíve been very adamant about that. We are also very conscious of north Yukon and we have a resource in north Yukon that, as a government, we donít want to see without access to a pipeline. Our Premier has taken a very proactive look at this, has led the government in a direction of cooperation to work with the Northwest Territories to make sure Yukoners have access to the pipeline and also access to work in that field.
The benefits of that are that, according to the oil producers and the pipeline, the Mackenzie pipeline is to go before the Alaska Highway pipeline. So it would be very much of a plus on our side of the border to have a workforce ready and capable of going to work when the pipeline comes down the Alaska Highway.
Mr. Chair, we are working very constructively to get pipeline-ready in the Yukon. In our short time in office, which has been 16 months, we have been aggressively looking at this. We have spent the resources that needed to be spent to make sure that, at the end of the day, we are pipeline ready.
Now the issue about announcements: the announcements will come, I guess, from our government or from the producers and, of course, TransCanada Pipelines. We have an issue in the Yukon where there are two proposals put forward by the pipeline groups. One is the existing TransCanada and Foothills perception of where the pipeline would be, and we have a green route out there.
Again, those are some questions that have to be answered by the producers and the pipeline group. We have to come to realize there are some questions out there that have to be answered by outside parties and, when they are answered and the questions are brought to us and we get a heads-up on whatís going to happen, we have an obligation to send the information out to the Yukon and make sure Yukoners are up front and know exactly whatís happening.
We are working with the pipeline groups. We are working with Northwest Territories. We are working with the producers. Weíre working with the TransCanada Pipelines group. Weíre working with the Enbridge group thatís looking at the green route. So we are working on a daily basis with the interested parties that will be involved in building this pipeline when it comes through our borders from the north to the south. So Iím very confident that we will be pipeline-ready when in fact it is announced and we have to move ahead with an actual pipeline.
Mr. McRobb: Well, that was quite the display. I asked a simple question and the minister stood up and rambled on for probably 15 minutes telling us everything he thinks he knows about the pipeline. He mentions a green route. First of all, what I think he means is the Greenfield project. Is that right, Mr. Chair?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: Yes, well, anybody following this discussion wouldnít understand that, so I would encourage the minister to try to be more comprehensible in his responses.
I would also encourage him to stay away from the shotgun approach to his responses and maybe concentrate more on a laser-type approach, and we would be able to increase our productivity rate in this House. We realize that we are going to have to consider doing that, given the limited number of days in this sitting. The Yukon Party government has not obliged our request to re-examine the issue of limited sitting days. Obviously it has re-engaged in the strategy of giving very lengthy responses in order to wind down the hands of time and limit the number of questions and opportunities the opposition can ask in the remaining time in this spring sitting.
Now that Iíve pointed that out, maybe the members can be more cooperative in their responses instead of wasting time and filling Hansard with a bunch of words that are of no use to anybody.
In the fall, I recall, Mr. Chair ó I believe it was on the last day ó that you reined in this particular minister from reading from the Blues. He was repeating what he had said the previous day ad nauseum, and going on for his typical 20-minute type of responses.
We want to make this clear from the outset that weíre aware of that strategy and itís not conducive to the public interest. We would encourage the minister and his colleagues to try to be more relevant and pertinent in their replies.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Deputy Chair.
Point of order
Deputy Chair:The hon. Member for Lake Laberge, on a point of order.
Mr. Cathers: I believe the Member for Kluane is imputing false or unavowed motive, as prohibited by clause 19(g) of the Standing Orders in suggesting that members on this side of the floor are speaking for a reason other than debate. He is imputing the unavowed motive of delaying time.
Deputy Chair:There is no point of order. Continue, Mr. McRobb.
Mr. McRobb: Well, there goes the perfect record for today for the Member for Lake Laberge. Obviously, when you step up to the plate one time too often, you risk striking out.
Itís nice to have a moment of levity now and then.
Back to this major announcement, the minister seems awfully guarded on what this might be, but if you read between the lines, heís sort of suggesting the Yukon government has something to do with it, and the producers may be involved, and it might also involve the First Nations along the proposed route.
It may also involve Alaska. Weíre not narrowing down the options here; itís still pretty well an open field. I donít sense re-asking the question will do any good, so Iíll just suggest that, if he does want to be more concise, he can include it in his next response.
Mr. Chair, I want to continue along this line of questioning about the pipeline. Itís my understanding that a feasibility study was recently done by the gas producers who were interested in participating in the line. I recall something about this maybe a year or so back. I would have to revisit the files to firm up that recollection. It seemed to me the amount of the study was in the neighbourhood of $100 million.
Out of that study came some scoping out, some due diligence of how this massive project would unfold. Itís my understanding that a firm based out of Texas by the name of Fluor Daniels was involved in examining the logistics in detail on the ground in the Yukon. As part of that examination, it was contacting various businesses for estimates on transportation cost of the pipe and so on.
Apparently they had looked at the two ports of Skagway and Haines and concluded that Skagway was too congested to use as a receiving port for all the pipe and apparently they concluded that Haines, Alaska, was to be the main incoming port used to haul the pipe. Further, Haines Junction was to be used as the main distribution centre for the pipe. In fact, there is an agreement with the First Nation to use a large piece of land as a marshalling yard for that pipe.
Now, Mr. Chair, in terms of sections of pipe, weíre talking about somewhere in the neighbourhood of 38,000 truckloads of pipe. Itís my understanding that each truckload would include two pieces of 40-foot pipe. I think weíre talking about 48-inch pipe in this example. So, Mr. Chair, there were quotes that were gathered to reflect the costs of distributing about 38,000 loads of pipe from Haines Junction to various points in the Yukon between Watson Lake and Beaver Creek, all out of Haines Junction. Thatís a lot of pipe. In total, weíre talking almost 80,000 sections of pipe.
So what Iíd like to do is ask the minister, first of all, if this feasibility study is available publicly and, secondly, if the information that Iíve just put on the record reflects his understanding.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again the member opposite is running on half full. The study was done two or three years ago. Things have changed. The members on this side, having the extra obligation of being government, canít run on rumours; we have to run on facts. The facts are out there for the member opposite to read. For us to stand in the House and debate at great length what harbour is going to be used ó whether itís going to be Haines or Skagway ó what the size of the pipe is going to be ó those are all decisions that are going to be made outside our borders.
We are responsible government. We fight the battles we can win. We cannot get into a long discussion with the producers on the merits of size of pipe. That is not our job. Our job, again ó to remind the member opposite, we do not run on rumour, we do not run on misinformation, we run on the facts that are presented to us. We work with the cards we are dealt. The cards we are dealt are factual. We have a Yukon border at the north end of the Yukon and one at the south end, and both of them are going to be crossed by a pipeline eventually if in fact the producers and the governments make up their mind to build this pipeline. Now, we are going to be involved in regulatory things within our borders, which weíre working on now with our First Nation partners. We certainly are not going to back out of our responsibility. Are we going to sit on our hands?
No, we are moving forward in a very positive fashion to answer the questions that are going to be asked of us as a responsible government when the pipeline comes through our borders. Are we going to tie up all our resources on the pretence that a pipeline might come? No, Mr. Chair. We, again, cannot run on half-full like the member opposite. We were not elected to do that. We were elected to run a government that is responsible to all Yukoners. So what did we do? Well, we certainly do not ignore the future of the Alaska Highway pipeline. We as a government certainly do not condone running around on half-full answering questions that we will never be asked. We will never be asked about the size of the pipe thatís going to come down the Alaska Highway. We will not be part of those discussions. Weíre not going to be part of that, and I am not going to waste a minute of my time on that discussion.
Now, we can debate how much gas is going to come out in Prudhoe Bay.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Lang: What is the volume there, Mr. Chair? Well, Iím not going to waste a minute on that. The member opposite makes light of the Alaska Highway pipeline. Shame on him, Mr. Chair. Shame on him. His constituency ó representing his constituents ó will be affected by a pipeline. And the man makes light of it. That is very disappointing for his constituents, Mr. Chair. Very disappointing. And it should be brought up with his constituents. I think that ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Lang: I just might. Thank you for the offer.
Mr. Chair, again, I remind the member opposite, this is a very serious debate, and this room is to debate the Energy, Mines and Resources budget. Iíd like to put on the record the fact that he is stating to the House that somehow we did not want to extend the days of the sitting. I would remind the member opposite that he had all sorts of time to decide how long we could sit.
The decision was 30 days. He wanted a shorter period of time; he didnít want a longer period of time. The largest budget in the Yukon and that member brought to those meetings a 24-day sitting. Mr. Chair, shame on him. The largest budget in Yukon history and the member opposite wants to short-circuit the meeting so he doesnít have to ask us questions ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Deputy Chair:Mr. McRobb, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: As much as I would like to let the member go on, it reminds me of the old saying, "If you give them enough rope." I would like to ask you to rein in the member. He has gone too far. Heís alleging motives for anything but acting in the public trust here. There are many other things that might be in the House rules. If theyíre not, the House rules should be changed, but letís just leave it at that for now.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Deputy Chair: Order please. The member has not been recognized.
Deputy Chair:There is no point of order, and I would ask the minister to continue.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Chair, that is an example of how we have frittered our time away in this House over the last period of time on points of order and other statements from the member opposite.
Again, I have my concerns about the sincerity of our discussions because I think itís very important. Energy, Mines and Resources is a very important department because itís the economic wheel of a government.
With devolution and taking it over, we as Yukoners ó we didnít take it over, Yukoners got that ó and with our philosophy of working in full partnership with the First Nations, I think, at the end of the road, weíre going to see a very prosperous Yukon.
I think the Alaska Highway pipeline is something in the future. I wouldnít hang my hat on it. I remember in 1974 when we had the Alaska Highway pipeline. The announcement was made, we were all geared up for the Alaska Highway pipeline, and we didnít get a pipeline.
So I think what we have to do is keep this on our radar screen, work actively within our borders to produce product, and get ourselves, in partnership with our First Nations, ready for a pipeline when it comes.
Now, in north Yukon and the access to the Mackenzie pipeline ó again, another future thing, another future pipeline that will be taking advantage of the Mackenzie Delta gas and will be shipping it to Alberta. Certainly, itís a smaller pipeline, but we, of course, could be a big part of that because we have resources in north Yukon.
So I say to the member opposite that the pipeline is one of the issues we have in our department. Itís not a major issue at the moment. We are certainly taking it seriously. Weíre working in a positive fashion to get the work done. But we have a huge department here with a lot of responsibilities that are out there now.
We have forestry, as the member mentioned; we have mining, which is coming back to life; we have agriculture, which is a growing industry in the Yukon; we have lands ó how do we get land in the hands of Yukoners? ó and of course in our portfolio we have the Energy Corporation.
Energy, Mines and Resources is a very large department and is working very hard with Yukoners to rejuvenate the economy, get our forestry back up and running, get oil and gas up there, and all the other issues that weíre going to depend on in the future to feed our children. This is a very rich piece of real estate, and Energy, Mines and Resources is the engine of the government that is going to make this become a very productive part of Canada.
Mr. McRobb: Well, where do we go from here? If I were to take issue, as somebody should, with many of the comments put on the record by the minister, we would probably need a hundred-day sitting to straighten that out, but we donít have that kind of time.
The minister was all over the map with his comments. He didnít take the laser approach as we requested. Again he is out duck hunting with his shotgun, and his numbers are way off. I would just like to touch on a few very quickly.
He mentioned 1974, the pipeline. Well, I recollect that it was more like 1978, so the minister is a few eggs short of a full carton on that one. He also mentioned a 24-day sitting; it was a 28-day sitting ó off again on those numbers. Finally, he mentioned that Yukon Energy Corporation was part of this department. I ask him to revisit the credentials of the department and heíll discover that the Energy Corporation is a stand-alone Crown agency, not part of this department at all. We would have expected in the year and a half this member has been the minister that he would have learned that, so we would invite him to maybe look at those briefing notes a little closer in the future because we might want to follow up on this question in the fall.
I want to get back to the pipeline because it is incumbent upon this government to know whatís going on. Sure it wonít make the ultimate decision to proceed with the pipeline; that will be the responsibility of the producers presumably, but the government must know what is going on in order to be proactive and to quickly be reactive. The minister likes to claim heís pipeline-ready. We hear that buzzword very frequently these days, but weíll test that hypothesis and I think weíll find lots of reasons to question whether this government really is pipeline-ready or if those words are merely rhetoric, which is what it looks like.
I want to ask the minister ó aside from acknowledging that this government doesnít make the decision whether or not the pipeline should proceed ó will he at least acknowledge or admit that the government has no interest in this area either way, that itís watching the developments closely in order to respond in the public interest according to the events as it expects them to happen.
For one thing, an issue very relevant to Yukoners is the traffic on our highways. If this pipeline green button is pushed in the next few years, Mr. Chair, Yukoners are going to want to know what the traffic flow patterns are going to be like, which highways are going to be used, whether those highways have been upgraded accordingly or whether this government has been off in the boondocks updating the Campbell Highway somewhere that is not even close to the pipeline route.
There are going to be lots of questions asked of this government, and the minister should take this seriously. So I want to ask him: what is he doing to be pipeline-ready, and is this government watching closely the developments in order to be proactive, or isnít it?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Are we pipeline-ready? Yes, weíre pipeline-ready. Weíre working internally in the government. He mentions the highway and the traffic flow. Are we ready for the traffic flow? No, but we have an intergovernmental relationship here that works like a Swiss watch. We are certainly concerned about the traffic flow. We will keep that in mind when weíre going through his constituency so everyone will understand what lane they should be in so they wonít run into a problem when theyíre passing through his communities.
Mr. Chair, I find it amazing that the comments on this very important department would bog down on one issue: the pipeline. I understand itís an issue; I understand itís a big issue; I understand itís important to all Yukoners. Weíre not irresponsible on this side of the House.
We work very positively with Yukoners to make sure that we maximize the benefit we get from the pipeline. We certainly are conscious of the other agencies, the other challenges that will come with a pipeline. If this Alaska Highway pipeline comes through the Yukon, we will never see the end of what that pipeline will do to our communities ó some of it good and some of it bad. So we have to address all those issues.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Chair, Iím speaking.
Deputy Chair: Continue.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I appreciate the banter from the member opposite. We all have to remember in the House that the empty drum makes all the noise, and weíre moving ahead with Energy, Mines and Resources bogged down with a pipeline that might come and might not come. This department, the people who work in Energy, Mines and Resources, are conscious that the pipeline will come. We have an oil and gas department. We are working on it on a daily basis. We have people who work on it. The member opposite insinuates in front of this House that we as a government are ignoring the pipeline issue. That could not be further from the truth. The member opposite talks about highway flow, talks about ó
Deputy Chair:Order please. The member knows that that is not the appropriate language and I would ask him to withdraw his remarks.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Lang:Further from the truth is not acceptable? I apologize, Mr. Chair. It got away on me.
But, Mr. Chair, the member opposite, who goes on and on and on about these issues instead of talking about the existing budget today, all this paperwork ó we have tons of paperwork to lay out the information for these members, to lay it out so that they can discuss pertinent information for this yearís budget. Weíre talking about the flow of traffic in Haines Junction when the pipeline comes through. Is it not a waste of time for us to discuss at length how weíre going to handle the bottleneck in Haines Junction when the pipeline comes? We might never live long enough to be part of that bottleneck. And for us to sit here in a very important time for the Yukon ó the largest budget in Yukon history, Mr. Chair, and weíre talking about a bottleneck in Haines Junction because he insinuates that we donít the plan in place to handle the traffic flow through his constituency.
The constituents of Haines Junction have to be represented by someone. We have taken that on, on this side of the House, overseen that poor constituency and, hopefully in the next four years, bring them up to the mark. Mr. Chair, are we worried about a bottleneck in Haines Junction? I think all of us canít sleep at night worried about the traffic that is going to materialize overnight with the pipeline.
Anyway, Mr. Chair, as we move along and we talk about other issues that donít pertain to this budget for Energy, Mines and Resources, it disappoints me because, with my able-bodied assistant, we were going to answer pertinent questions on next yearís budget. And it seems to me ó now, it might not seem to everybody in the room ó that this is a dead-end street.
The member opposite has his head in the sand. Can I say that, Mr. Chair? Are those proper debating words in the House here, Mr. Chair?
Anyway, Iím disappointed, as the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, because it gives me great honour to present this budget, plus itís a great honour to be the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources and work with the solid group this government has put together to run that department. We have worked very hard to put a budget together that will jumpstart our forest industry, answer the questions in the oil and gas industry, work with the mining community, work with the placer community, work with First Nations and work to make the Yukon a better place for our children.
Now, for us to spend hours debating on the bottleneck in the Haines Junction area thatís going to be created by a pipeline is a waste of this Houseís time. Iím sure that the minister responsible for the Department of Highways and Public Works ó if we can ever get to his department ó will have expert advice on how we will handle the traffic flow through that community. If he canít answer that, then heís not doing his job.
But Energy, Mines and Resources is not going to be meddling in the Department of Highways and Public Worksí planning of traffic flow. For the member opposite ó and obviously, Mr. Chair, they brought their big guns out today, with the kind of questions the member has been firing across the floor. I respect that. I respect ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Deputy Chair:Ms. Duncan, on a point of order.
Ms. Duncan: On a point of order, we do try to refrain from violent language in the Legislature. So perhaps the minister would like to take a moment to catch his breath and rephrase the use of guns and firing and so on in the Legislature.
Deputy Chair: Order please.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Lang:I have to apologize for using violent language in describing the member opposite. I donít know whatever came over me. I respect the member opposite; I respect the opposition, because thatís why a democratic government works. I would appreciate the seriousness of the moment. I think our budget here is well presented; I think our budget is a balanced budget and I would like to debate the merits of that budget.
As far as the pipeline is concerned, I think Iíve described what weíre doing. We certainly have funded it, we certainly have worked with different groups and we certainly have answered what we can out there in the Yukon population to make ourselves, as we grow into a pipeline, pipeline-ready.
Some of the issues the member opposite talks about are issues that happened in the past. When he talks about dates, I certainly am out by a few years on when the last pipeline was announced. I said that just to throw it out with respect to weíve had more than one pipeline announced here and Iíve never seen a pipeline.
So we are going to work toward a pipeline but, as far as running on rumours or running on announcements, we canít. Weíre busy running a department, Mr. Chair. We can keep an overview outlook on whatís happening, but if we were to spend any time on second-guessing the Senate in Washington, the producers in Alaska or the pipeline people in Calgary, we could have people working on this full-time.
We look at it, we work with it, we are very optimistic that a pipeline will come. We arenít going to announce the pipeline before somebody else announces it. Iím sure that would be irresponsible because, then, guess what? We would have to build a pipeline and we wouldnít have any gas in the pipeline or anywhere to go with it so weíre not going to commit to building a pipeline between our borders until somebody wants to hook on to it at one end or the other.
I think it would be irresponsible of me to stand in the House and say to the member opposite that we are going to commit to building a pipeline when we donít have those kinds of issues solved.
So as we look at this budget, Energy, Mines and Resources has really gone very progressively into all of these industries that we have available to us in the Yukon. We certainly are looking at a partnership with First Nations, and that means throughout the Yukon.
The other day there was some comment about who owns what and who owns this and 100 percent of that and 20 percent of that and, in answering that to Yukoners, I say that itís not about ownership, itís about partnership. How are all Yukoners going to benefit at the end of the day from the productivity thatís created by our territory? At the end of the day, we all live here, we all make our homes here, we raise our families, and certainly the concept of the First Nation land claims was a partnership.
Recognizing that we as Yukoners have to get together, and we have to form partnerships and we have to share in the wealth of the territory. We did that with the Kaska agreement, Mr. Chair. We did that by entering into a partnership on how we were going to manage the forests in southeast Yukon. This template is out there. We did the same thing with Champagne-Aishihik. How are we going to address the forests? We were not looking at 100 percent/20 percent. We were looking at a partnership with First Nations so at the end of the day we can all benefit from being Yukoners.
Mr. Chair, seeing the time is 5:55 p.m., I would move that we would report progress on Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair:Mr. McRobb, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, Mr. Chair, as the minister pointed out, itís five minutes to six. The public pays good money to have us in here and do its business, and it does not serve the public trust to pack up our gear and head home early. There are still five minutes to go.
Deputy Chair:There is no point of order, as the motion is in order.
It has been moved by Mr. Lang that the Committee report progress on Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Deputy 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 Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Hassard:Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Deputy 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: The House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:59 p.m.