Question re: Youth issues - December 5, 2013

Hansard, December 5, 2013

Mr. Silver:   As mentioned earlier, the grade 11 social studies class is here today in the gallery, but they will also be in Hansard, as they wrote this question I’m going to ask today.

The youth of the Yukon are concerned that the Government of Yukon is not doing enough to solve problems of the youth. There are several issues that the government has failed to address, which will directly affect young people in the territory. The youth of our territory want the Government of Yukon to act on problems that youth are facing today to ensure a better tomorrow.

Here’s an example. There is a constant issue for competitive athletes who strive to excel in sports. The issue has to do with a lack of competition in both our communities and our territory. As a result, many of the athletes must travel to other provinces, other territories and other countries to compete. The cost of travel is by no means cheap and, therefore, athletes are not able to compete as much as they would like, which also decreases exposure of our Yukon athletes.

What steps will the government take to assist competitive youth athletes financially, and are there plans to increase this financial aid?

Hon. Ms. Taylor:        I would first like to thank the member opposite for taking this question up and for asking the grade 11 class here with us today to raise these very important questions.

The Yukon government recognizes the importance of healthy and active lifestyles for all Yukoners and has been taking steps for a number of years through the good work of the departments of Community Services, Education, and Health and Social Services with the recent launch of the renewed active living strategy and working on the national front on a renewed Canadian sport policy.

When it comes to specific assistance for elite athletes, I’m very proud of this government’s record when it comes to providing assistance. Housed within our government’s budget, we have almost $3.5 million in support of elite athletes, coaching and officials grants — grants that have really precipitated in some world-class Olympians: Zack Bell, Jeane Lassen, Brittanee Laverdure, Mackenzie Downing, and the list goes on.

We are very proud of our support in terms of funding for sport-governing bodies, in terms of local recreation authorities and support of the recreation facilities that we see around. We recognize that there is always more room for improvement.

Mr. Silver:   Today’s youth are among the highest users of the Internet, according to an article found at, “The Most Expensive Bandwidth in the World: Yukon’s Northwestel”. That’s the name of the title. Yukoners receive little Internet service for very high cost. The author points out that 3 cents is the prime cost for one gigabyte of Internet bandwidth, but at times Northwestel resells to customers for about $10 per gigabyte in some services. Customers in the Yukon also have little choice about their Internet provider.

What will the government do to ensure that youth across the entire Yukon have reasonable Internet prices, better access and more options to satisfy their Internet needs?

Hon. Mr. Dixon:         The member opposite and the youth who have provided this question are quite right that people in the Yukon experience a lower degree of service and a higher degree of cost than our neighbours in southern Canada. There are basically three particular issues that challenge us with regard to telecommunications: a lack of capacity, a lack of redundancy and a lack of affordability. We are taking actions across these three challenges to ensure that we address them.

First of all, we are looking at the opportunity for the development of an alternate fibre optic cable link to the south. As members and the public may be aware, we have a single fibre line to the south, which is prone to interruption for various reasons, so we’re investigating the possibility of developing a second alternate fibre link to the south. As well, the telecommunications are regulated by the Canadian federal regulator, the CRTC, which is currently taking a holistic review of Northwestel and their operations, including their modernization plan. We have engaged with the CRTC, as well, to review that. I don’t have time to explain it all, Mr. Speaker, but I will explain very shortly our position with regard to the CRTC, which is that we want to see Yukoners have access to the level and quality of services available to those in the south and we want to see those services at rates and prices that are comparable to those in the south as well. That’s the input we provided to the CRTC and the —

Speaker:       Order please. The member’s time has elapsed.

Mr. Silver:   Mr. Speaker, another issue that concerns youth in the Yukon — and in the gallery, specifically — is the reconstruction of F.H. Collins school. A letter written by the Minister of Education on March 19, 2013 claims, and I quote: “All of the core functions of a school will be located under one roof.”

The trades wing is important to teens at F.H. Collins to learn the skills that they will use in their future, but the trades wing will not be included under the same roof as the rest of the core functions at F.H. Collins. Therefore, does this government think that the educational value of trades for youth is insignificant and not considered a core function?

Hon. Ms. Taylor:        Unequivocally, no. The Government of Yukon places great importance upon trades and technology and is one of the reasons why the government continues to invest in key Yukon apprenticeship and trades qualification programs throughout the territory, including financial assistance for student training allowances and student grants for them to carry on their education and for them to be able to contribute to Yukon’s future today and tomorrow.

To replace what we already have in terms of the actual facility that the member opposite referred to would have cost millions. We value this specific trades wing. It is incorporated as the overall plan going forward. We certainly view it as in great condition and we are going to take advantage of that with upgrades to the current facility.

We would rather put much-needed dollars into programming and extending programming, such as the dual credit program that we have launched with Yukon College. Back in 2011, the dual credit pilot programs which enable qualified high school students to take college courses for secondary and post-secondary credit.

We value the trades and we continue —

Speaker:       Order please. The member’s time has elapsed.