No goal is high enough for Yukon students: Rouble

Education Minister Patrick Rouble doesn't want to set hard targets to improve graduation rates. "Whatever goals we set will never be high enough," said Rouble during question period on Thursday.

Education Minister Patrick Rouble doesn’t want to set hard targets to improve graduation rates.

“Whatever goals we set will never be high enough,” said Rouble during question period on Thursday. “It’ll never be high enough until we have 100 per cent literacy at all levels.”

He was responding to Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell, who wanted to know the Education Department’s graduation targets for the next three, five and seven years.

Yukon’s graduation rate is about 63 per cent, according to Canada’s auditor general. That’s well below the national average of 75 per cent.

Only 40 per cent of Yukon First Nation students graduate.

This is unlikely to change unless the department sets graduation targets, said Mitchell.

“If we don’t set goals we’re not likely to achieve them,” he said.

But the department has accepted all of the auditor general’s recommendations, said Rouble.

And he listed a few positive changes.

The department has created a new relationship with First Nations and used their input to make changes to curriculum, said Rouble.

And designs are soon to be prepared to replace FH Collins, Whitehorse’s oldest high school.

This isn’t enough, said Darius Elias, Liberal MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin.

He knows two children who recently moved to Whitehorse from Old Crow. They’re in Grade 5, but read at a Grade 2 level.

“For years this has been a common theme for First Nation students here, particularly those from rural Yukon. I know these kids personally, and they are not just a statistic to me,” he said.

“I want them to succeed and reach their goals and aspirations and dreams, but they need to do well in school. In order to do that, the system has to help them. But right now, the system is failing them. The government is failing them. This minister is failing them.”

The department has introduced programs to help children who struggle with reading, said Rouble. But these programs only work when kids attend class, he said.

Elias dismissed the government’s past seven years of education reform as “fooling around.”

“The minister is very good at producing report after report and attending conference after conference, but it’s the action part he seems to have trouble with,” he said.

Eric Fairclough called for Rouble’s resignation.

“Why is the minister of education still on the job when he has proven he is incapable of doing it?” he asked.

“The short answer is the minister of education is on the job because he is doing a good and effective job,” replied Premier Dennis Fentie.

“That’s why he’s still on the job and that’s why he’s not resigning. The minister will continue on in his exemplary work.”

Keep eyes averted from prison’s price tag

Justice Minister Marian Horne took the prize for the most incomprehensible response to a question on Thursday.

Asked how much the new Whitehorse prison would cost, Horne replied by telling the NDP’s Steve Cardiff to “keep your eyes on the horizon and imagine tomorrow,” prompting loud guffaws from across the legislature floor.

The prison will cost $60 million, according to finance officials. That’s double the cost of a new prison proposed by the Liberals eight years ago.

But the Liberal plan was little more than a “warehouse” for inmates, said Horne.

She talked up how the new prison, to be complete by late 2011, will include a rehab centre to treat the addictions of inmates.

But Horne wouldn’t touch the prison’s cost. She was asked twice, and twice avoided the question.

Legislature streams video to web

Yukon’s legislature is putting video recordings of its proceedings online.

Unlike the legislature’s audio webcasts, video won’t be available live. Instead, video recordings will be available by 11 a.m. the next day.

Both audio and video recordings are being archived.

To find the webcasts, visit www.legassembly.gov.yk.ca/coverage.html.

As usual, the proceedings continue to be broadcast live on 93.1FM, while television broadcasts are played on Channel 9 in Whitehorse at 6 p.m. the same day and 11 a.m. the following day.

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.