Tuesday, January 23, 1990 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors?
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I have three documents for tabling, legislative returns.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling correspondence between myself and Mr. Cadieux, the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, requested by the Leader of the Opposition. I obtained the consent of the federal Minister before making these documents public, and I now, accordingly, table them.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Petition No. 5
Speaker: Mr. Clerk.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker and hon. Members of the Assembly, I have had the honour to review a petition, being Petition No. 5 of the first session of the Twenty-seventh Legislative Assembly, as presented by the hon. Member for Kluane on January 22, 1990. Subject to the considerations raised in my report on Petition No. 1, I find that this petition meets the requirements as to form of the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Speaker: Pursuant to Standing Order No. 66, Petition No. 5 is deemed to have been read and received.
Introduction of Bills?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 77: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I would move that Bill No. 77, entitled Child Care Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 77, entitled Child Care Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: Are there any Notices of Motion for Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Yukon Pacific Forest Products
Mr. Phelps: I have some questions of the Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation regarding the Watson Lake sawmill, and specifically the sale of the mill to Yukon Pacific.
I asked questions in this House on December 12, 1989, about the sale and specifically about the principals of T.F. Properties, the managers of the mill, and the people who put together the sale on behalf of the purchasers. At that time, the Minister stated he had not met the principals of T.F. Properties, specifically Barry Ferguson and Ted Myrah, prior to the closing of the sale.
Can the Minister tell us when he first met the principals of T.F. Properties, namely Barry Ferguson and Ted Myrah?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: First let me say that I have been advised by legal counsel that given certain matters are before the courts I must be extremely careful in what I say and how I answer questions on this subject. With respect to the specific question of fact as to when I met certain gentlemen, I do not know for certain that I have ever met Mr. Ferguson. I am not exactly sure about the other gentleman either. I do know that on several occasions I met Mr. Willis and some of his vice-presidents, I believe, from the Shieldings group, but I cannot say for certain that I have met either of the two gentlemen named by the Leader of the Official Opposition, or if I have met them, when.
Mr. Phelps: Can the Minister tell us when he was first made aware that T.F. Properties was to manage the mill once the sale was completed?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Without quite a bit of research, I would have no way of knowing that, but I assume that it was after the sale was concluded.
Mr. Phelps: The documents that were signed prior to the actual closing agreement have divulged that T.F. Properties, not Shieldings, was to be responsible for building a new mill for the sum of $5.5 million. When was the Minister first aware that T.F. Properties was not only named in documentation, but responsible for building the new mill?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: With respect, I think the Member may be heading toward matters that may be dealt with by the courts and, therefore, with respect, I will take the question as notice.
Mr. Phelps: The Minister responsible did not conduct the negotiations himself, but his highly placed officers did. When was the Minister first aware that T.F. Properties was really the outfit that was negotiating for the purchase of the mill?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: At no point was he aware of the proposition put forth by the Member opposite. Again, I respectfully decline to elaborate a great deal on these questions given that we have matters before the courts. I will take questions on some of these subjects on notice.
Mr. Phelps: When did the government or its corporation first check out the background of T.F. Properties and its principal, Myrah and Ferguson? Did they do it prior or after the closing sale?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Our dealings were with Shieldings. We did substantial checking, and that is a matter of public record. I cannot elaborate on that.
Mr. Phelps: Is the Minister suggesting that, subsequent to the sale, and more particularly in the last few months, they have not checked into the background of T.F. Properties, the manager of the mill and its principals?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We come into possession of all sorts of information in our capacities of Ministers. Since some of that information has bearing on matters before the courts, I do not intend to elaborate on what information may be available to us at the moment.
Question re: Yukon Pacific Forest Products
Mr. Phelps: We now have a mill sitting there in Watson Lake with people employed, a mill that is deeply in debt, according to the sworn affidavits of the officers from Yukon Development Corporation. Could the Minister tell us if T.F. Properties is still managing the mill at this time?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I now fear that the Leader of the Official Opposition is treading on very dangerous ground. He has just cited court documents. There was an admission by himself that he recognizes the matter is before the courts and that it will be dealt with by the courts imminently; therefore, I think it is entirely improper for him to be asking these kinds of questions, knowing that he is a practicing lawyer. It would certainly be improper for me to be responding.
Mr. Phelps: The Minister responsible would seem to go to any lengths to try to back out of his responsibilities regarding this atrocious state of affairs. Is T.F. Properties still managing the mill at this time?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member knows that there is an application before the courts right now by this government to have a receiver manager put in place. There are certain legal consequences that follow from that application, and the Member opposite knows what they are.
Mr. Phelps: Until there is a court order, who is managing the mill right now?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member knows the answer to that question. He also knows there are severe limitations, which I am not going to get into discussing, or presum to speak on matters about which the court may make some judgments. The fact of the legal processes puts some very strict limitations, or legal restrictions, on the behaviour of all the participants.
Question re: Yukon Pacific Forest Products
Mr. Phelps: Could the Minister advise us as to whether or not T.F. Properties is managing the mill at Watson Lake right now?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member opposite knows who is managing the mill, and he knows we have applied to change the manager.
Mr. Phelps: Am I to take it, then, that the answer is that T.F. Properties is managing the mill?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I can add nothing to my previous answers.
Mr. Phelps: Can the Minister tell the people of the Yukon what is being done to protect the trade creditors of Yukon Pacific at this time?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Yes, we have gone to court to apply for a receiver-manager to be put into place. We believe that is the action that was taken in the best interests of the people of the Yukon to protect our interests and the interests of the trade creditors in the area.
Question re: Yukon Pacific Forest Products
Mr. Devries: I also have a question for the Minister responsible for the YDC. I received several calls this morning regarding the Yukon Pacific Forest Products sawmill. There are reports that the YDC has sold or transferred 15 percent of its shares to the Indian consortium, IDC, which would hold 50 percent ownership if this took place, and that IDC will be assuming management of the mill. I think I already know what the Minister is going to answer.
Has the YDC sold or transferred its 15 percent shares to the IDC that it was retaining for the employees?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As the Member knows, there are legal proceedings now going on that have bearings on the fate of that mill, and there are negotiations arising from those proceedings. Beyond saying that, I have nothing more I can add at this moment.
Mr. Devries: Is the Minister saying he would not be able to tell me if they are contemplating selling the 15 percent ownership in the mill?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member is asking me what we are contemplating. I cannot provide any information to him about that, since we are dealing with matters before the courts. If there is a conclusion to the actions we have precipitated, I will certainly be advising the House at the first opportunity.
Question re: Yukon Conservation Society grant
Mr. Phillips: I have a question for the Minister of Renewable Resources regarding the recent government grant given to the Yukon Conservation Society to allow them to distribute recycled paper. I applaud the Yukon Conservation Society for its efforts in raising the public awareness towards recycling. Unfortunately, this particular grant seems to be misguided. Several local businesses have stressed recently, and in the past, the concern that these grants create unfair competition. The Government Leader has also told us in this House in the past that this type of thing would not happen in the future and he would put proceedings in place to ensure that this would not happen.
Why did this happen? Further to that, what is the government going to do to either cancel or stop the issuance of this grant?
Hon. Mr. Webster: At the time that the Yukon Conservation Society prepared its application to promote the use of, and to wholesale, recycled paper, we were not aware of the potential for competition with private business. In light of the new evidence they have decided to meet with these businesses, as well as the Chamber of Commerce, tomorrow to discuss ways of approaching the situation.
Mr. Phillips: In the application the Yukon Conservation Society made they stated one of their reasons for going ahead with the program was that this paper was not available in local businesses. The fact is that it is available.
Did the Ministers department ever bother to check or verify the information given to it by an applicant applying for a grant?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to emphasize that at the time they came up with the proposal and submitted the application, the research they had done indicated there were no businesses in town offering the same kind of service. This was also verified by officials within the department.
Mr. Phillips: Just so it is very clear on the record, prior to the grant being given out, did the officials of the department check to see if it was available?
I have talked to several businesses who have been able to get this paper for months. In fact, the government has been using it for months. When did his officials check whether the paper was available? Is there a procedure in place to verify all grant applications to ensure the information provided is accurate?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Yes, that is the case. There is a process the department goes through to verify the facts as presented in applications. The fact of the matter is that that application has not been fully approved at this time. That is why the actual $17,000 requested in that application has not been granted to the society. Before it is, the Conservation Society will be sitting down with Chamber of Commerce officials and local businesses tomorrow to discuss the matter more fully.
Question re: Yukon Conservation Society grant
Mr. Phillips: The Minister should communicate better with his department, because I contacted individuals in his department shortly after it was announced that the Conservation Society would receive this grant, and the officials in the department who handled the grant confirmed that they had received the grant; they had not got the cheque, but the grant was approved. Now, the Minister is playing with words. Obviously, the department did not verify the facts in giving out this grant, and I am wondering how many more grants the government has given out without actually checking the facts that are given to it by the various applicants. I think it is a very serious matter. There is a responsibility for the applicant to be upfront and to have done their research, and it is the responsibility of the people reviewing it, like a bank manager who loans money, to ensure that, in fact, if you say you have done something or you say you have the proper credit lined up, that you do have. I am just wondering why the government has not done that, and what is it putting in place now to ensure it will not happen again?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I agree with the Member that there has to be some responsibility taken on behalf of the applicant in presenting the facts, and also the government department responsible for handing out the grant has to ensure that everything is verified correctly. Again, I am stating that that was done in light of some new evidence that has come forward in the last week. Since the premature announcement was made by the Yukon Conservation Society, incidentally, not jointly by our government and the Conservation Society, some new evidence has come to light that suggests that businesses in town are already supplying this paper to the market; consequently, as I said before, this has brought about the meeting tomorrow.
Mr. Phillips: The government recently struck an agreement with the Yukon Chamber of Commerce. In that agreement, they agreed to consult more fully with the Yukon chamber. I am wondering why the Ministers department did not consult with the chamber at all prior to this announcement being made known. The Conservation Society made the announcement a week ago. No one in the chamber, until they heard it on the radio, had heard anything about this announcement. Why did the government not approach the Yukon Chamber of Commerce and consult with them, as it says it is supposed to do in the agreement it has struck with them?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I am not aware if that, indeed, is the case, that our department did not consult directly with the Chamber of Commerce on this application, but I will check for him and report back.
Question re: School bus accident
Mr. Phelps: I have some questions for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services with regard to the accident between a school bus and an ore truck on the Carcross Road last week. I met with the Minister and an official of Yukon Alaska Transport last night. At that time, it was suggested that a meeting be set up between parents, the Yukon Alaska Safety Committee and the bus company to discuss the safety problem. My question is whether or not arrangements are being made for such a meeting?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I can advise the Member that, yes indeed, arrangements are being made to set up that meeting. It is being done in conjunction with the Departments of Education and Community and Transportation Services. As we discussed last night, the meeting is expected to be held later this week between the parties concerned: Diversified Transport, the busing safety committee, the departments involved and Yukon Alaska.
Mr. Phelps: The other issue has to do with a common complaint I have been hearing from concerned parents along the Carcross Road. That complaint is about the lack of enforcement of rules, including the spacing of the ore trucks, and lack of enforcement of speeding by all vehicles on the Carcross Road. Will the Minister take action to step up surveillance by RCMP and highway department officials on the Carcross Road?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: On the subject the Member raises respecting enforcement, I have already initiated that action. The Member is aware that there has been a series of meetings and considerable effort and energy expended since the occasion of the very serious accident last week between affected and concerned parties. One of the immediate actions the government took, that I precipitated, was to direct the enforcement branch of my highways department to conduct more rigorous patrols of the school bus routes in general, and to extend a request to the RCMP to do the same. I might add for the Member that I have also directed highways personnel to ensure that maintenance of school bus routes was treated on a priority basis.
Question re: Education department budget
Mr. Lang: More and more, as time goes on, a major concern of Members of the House is that the budgetary process of the Legislature is becoming less and less active. That is backed up in the Auditor Generals report where it is stated that there are concerns about how the department manages its budget, development, allocation, monitoring and control.
In respect to the supplementaries presented by the Minister of Education, who proudly stated that, in the budget he dealt with, he only needed $16,000 to balance the budget: I would like to begin by asking the Minister of Education, who is also the Minister of Finance, if he can confirm that his budget is based on all the information provided to him as of August 1989?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member for Porter Creek East asked the same question yesterday as to whether or not we thought we could live with the supplementary budget we tabled, based on the year-end projections we were anticipating through the supplementary we were debating. Whereas there were fluctuations between various branches of the department, the total sum request for the balance of the fiscal year was $16,000. Yesterday, the Member asked me for the record in Committee whether or not the department could live within that amount.
I indicated that, with the exception of the teachers auxiliary settlement, I felt that was the case, even considering the fact the supplementary was based on a projection that was done reasonably early in the current fiscal year.
If the Member is asking me, generally speaking, whether or not the $16,000 is an accurate projection, I am saying, as I indicated yesterday, it is as accurate as we could anticipate in August 1989.
Mr. Lang: Once again, my concern goes to the question of the figures that are being presented to this House. How can the Minister of Education present a budget asking for an additional $16,000 when he was made aware early in August that the Department of Education had projected commitments of over $1 million that had not been identified in the initial budget?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have not got a clue what the Member is talking about. I believe the budget projections that we have presented in the Legislature are accurate. Yesterday, the Member had misunderstood the purpose of the grant to Yukon College, suggesting that the $1 million grant to Yukon College was somehow above and beyond the operation of Yukon College. I indicated to him yesterday that was not the case. I do not have a clue what he is talking about. I hope he does.
Mr. Lang: I am more than prepared to share my information with my colleague. I do have a clue about what I am talking, and it is a real shame that the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Education do not. I would like to table a copy of a memo, as well as give one to the Minister, that was sent to very concerned civil servants about the commitments made by the Department of Education in 1989-90 that was not revealed in this House when we were discussing the supplementaries.
In this memo, written by the Director of Finance and Administration on August 2, 1989, to the deputy minister of the Department of Education, it is indicated that there is a projected shortfall of over $1.1 million that can be partially covered by up to one-half a million dollars. In view of the fact that it was not revealed in the supplementaries when we went through them, could the Minister tell us where he found the other $550,000 to cover the various items outlined in the memo that the Minister now has in his possession, and that he should have had in his possession on August 2, 1989?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There are times during any budget year when various things come up that are not specifically budgeted in any particular budget. There are requests by the public and by Members opposite, quite often, for certain things to be covered that are not specifically budgeted for, whether it be school busing or any other constituency requirements. That is often the case. The purpose of the supplementary process is to be able to account for any outstanding item and any reallocation of funds.
The reallocation of funds that we have just finished debating with respect to all the various commitments that we are undertaking this fiscal year are being covered in that budget, and I will stand by that budget.
Question re: Education department budget
Mr. Lang: This list of August 2, 1989, is obviously the basis of the budget that was before us. There are a number of items in here that this side of the House did not ask for. For example, we did not ask to have approximately $16,000 allocated for a casual salary position for Mrs. Pat Walsh, spouse of the ex-chief of staff of the government. We did not ask for $25,000 to be spend to bring up the new assistant deputy minister for education on a consultants contract. We did not ask that the new Deputy Minister of the Executive Council spend $25,000 on a contract to the Department of Education to get that person up to the Yukon through the back door. The list goes on.
I want to ask the Minister a very serious question, and the people of the territory have the right to know. Where did the Minister find the additional $550,000 to offset budget commitments that had not been identified in the initial budget that we passed in 1989-90?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Firstly, we found the money within the existing budget, and I stand by that budget. If the Members were very concerned about where the offsets were, they had all the opportunity in the world, over the last few days and in December, to discuss those offsets. That budget was on the table and being discussed, and it was available for scrutiny.
Yesterday, the Members spent a great deal of time trying to focus in on the people who they felt were not acceptable because they came from Saskatchewan and Manitoba. They spent no time scrutinizing the people who came from Alberta and B.C. They spent time trying to scrutinizing people who they thought were supporters of the government party. They spent no time discussing the lives and the efforts of good Conservatives who are working for the Department of Education. It was a one-sided perspective entirely focused on trying to make the facts fit allegations, rather than trying to interpret the facts as they were.
I explained the best I could any issue that the Members brought forward. If they were concerned about the Canadian Parents for French camp, about the Dawson city school reunion, I was here to discuss those matters. The commitments in this memo are potential commitments. Some of these have been discussed in this Legislature. The bottom line is that every item that we decided to adopt, as a government - and the reallocation of funds - is in the budget now.
Mr. Lang: All I am asking is where he got the money. We have a partisan list here, there is no question about it. If you do not come from Saskatchewan or Manitoba, you are not classed as a local hire. That is a fact. That is a known fact to the public.
Why is it identified here, and not stated in the House, that there was going to be a potential saving in special education of $152,000? Why did he not tell the people of the territory? The only reason I can ask these questions is because I have the mettle to ask them. The Minister does not stand during Committee of the Whole and tell the people of the Yukon because obviously he has something to hide.
Why did he make a potential saving of $152,000?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member does not know what he is talking about with respect to the special education policy. Not only was it announced, but all extra commitments with respect to the special education policy have been discussed either in this Legislature or in the public on any number of occasions. Quite often, the Members opposite do not even ask about the special education funding. I admit that. The public did and the government responded.
The point is that any monies we required for teacher aides, utilities, or any particular item, are covered within the budget. They are in the budget we had when we were talking about reallocations. The Members were in their places and should have been asking questions, but they did not. The money is in the budget. I was here answering questions and defending that budget. That budget still stands.
The thing that particularly annoys me is the allegation coming from Members that somehow the government cannot hire people who might be sympathetic with the goals of the government, but there is not any discussion whatsoever about the government hiring, or appointing, people, inside or outside of the territory, who are obviously good Conservatives. There is never any discussion about that - not one peep.
Speaker: Order please. Will the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, Mr. Speaker. There are budget reallocations. We have gone through the budget. I defended the budget. I stand by the budget.
Mr. Lang: The Minister did defend the budget. He defended the budget so well he gave very little information. My concern is that we have a memo here that states there will be a minimum of $550,000 in shortfall based on the budget he presented to this House. It logically follows that he had to find over $500,000, maybe even $600,000, to balance his budget. This was not disclosed to the Legislature. We would have thought that the Minister would have outlined succinctly and in detail to the Committee of the Whole, and the people of the territory, how money was being allocated. My concern is that if he had to find that $500,000, he had to find it some other place in the department.
Where was the $500,000 or $600,000 found? Is it based on the fact we may have a mild winter, or did he managed to save $300,000 under miscellaneous program savings for new programs?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The light just went on in the Members head. It is true that any items that are not budgeted for have to be found by departmental offsets after the year is underway. That is obvious.
How did we find the two extra buses for Whitehorse? They were not in the budget. We found the money and we reallocated it within the department. How did we fund the bus for Haines Junction? It was not in the budget. Members still never felt comfortable asking for it, even though they were participating in the main estimates debate. They understood what the budget was all about but, nevertheless, they still came forward and asked for items to proceed in mid-year, knowing that the budget did not account for them. The same was true when I was with Community and Transportation Services. There was a whole string of requests from the Member himself asking for the upgrading of roads to woodlots. That was not in the budget, but it was a reasonable request in mid-year and meant offsets within the budget.
The accounting for that kind of project is taken care of in supplementary debate, when we come in and talk about the reallocations within the department in order to accommodate any mid-year requests. Yes, the budget we have tabled has had those accommodations, and I do defend that budget. I do think the budget is accurate, even with the minor request of $16,000. Yes, I think the allocations we did undertake were reasonable, and not all the ones here ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Nevertheless, I think the budget is accurate, and I think the expenditures were reasonable. The Member should have been asking this yesterday, if he felt so strongly about it.
Question re: Women deputy minister appointments
Mrs. Firth: The Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission has been asked why none of the deputy ministers are women, and she did not know the answer. I am asking the Government Leader, since he does the appointing of deputy ministers. Maybe he can tell her, and the rest of us at the same time, why there are no deputy minister positions occupied by women.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is a regrettable situation that there are no deputy ministers who are women. During my time as Government Leader, I have had the opportunity to appoint three women to deputy, or acting deputy, minister positions. It is a matter of record that all three of those women have left the public service for family reasons, a statement of the reality in our society that women still bear the preponderance of family responsibilities and family duties.
The talent pool, locally, for deputy ministers are the ADMs. We appoint DMs, but we do not appoint ADMs. The necessity for us to get some women into the ADM ranks, when there were new positions created recently, was recognized by Cabinet, which was why we made the position we did, so that, in the senior management group of ADMs and DMs, there will now be a number of women who will be respective candidates for DM positions when those positions open up in the coming months and years. That will give us a better opportunity to appoint women DMs, which is the objective of this government.
Mrs. Firth: The Government Leader did not answer the question, but what he is really saying is that there are no competent women out there to appoint as deputy ministers. He is going to start them off at a patronizing ADM stage first. That is what that man said. That is what he said.
I want an answer to the question. I want to know why there are no women deputy ministers in this government at the present - none. There have just been three deputy ministers appointed, and none of them was a woman. There are presently no women deputy ministers.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: In the recent competitions we had - and a large number of applicants - there were no women certified by the Public Service Commission for either of those two positions. In one of the cases, I believe no women applied. That is a problem that concerns us. In the vast majority of DM positions that have been posted here in the past few years, there have been very few women apply and very few certified by the Commission.
That leads us to conclude that, without an affirmative action program, given the kind of passive hiring processes we have traditionally had that are not adequate for the task of recruiting women, we will have no women DMs. It is interesting that most governments in the country, particularly the federal government, have now chosen to take affirmative action to bring women into the senior ranks of the public service and have had to abandon the traditional, passive approach of putting ads in newspapers and waiting to see who comes to the door. They have had to use affirmative action, as well as aggressive recruitment.
Question re: Women deputy minister appointments
Mrs. Firth: I will take a new question, because the Minister has just about given the public a whole bunch of rubbish, and he knows it.
Deputy ministers are appointed by the Government Leader; they are hired, they are fired by that individual - and he has a good track record with hiring and firing. There was one deputy minister woman appointed to the Executive Council Office. This Government Leader has been in office for five years. There are competent, capable, highly skilled women out in the community - women with their Masters in education, women who have multiple skills and knowledge in the medical field, women who have administrative and personnel experience, who could have handled all three positions: the Executive Council Office, the Health and Human Resources deputy minister position and the Education deputy minister position. It is a responsibility of the Government Leader to go out and encourage these women, reach out to the people in the community with the skills, and he can appoint them at his discretion.
So I would like to ask the Government Leader why, after five years, we have no positions at the deputy minister level occupied by women, and the women out there would like to know the answer to that question.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I think the Member has it wrong in some of her facts, as she usually does, but in the case of the competitions we have had for deputy ministers, the plain fact is that none of these talented, able women who are in the community - and I certainly would enthusiastically endorse the idea that they are present in the community - applied for the jobs. The fact of the matter is that extraordinary demands are made of deputy ministers in our public service now. I am extremely proud of some of the capable people who have come to work in our public service and have been promoted from within. In order to have an opportunity to have a larger talent pool of potential deputy ministers, we took the steps to guarantee that there will be some women ADMs and, Mr. Speaker, I am very proud of that decision because it will enable me to effectively guarantee that there will be more women DMs in this government - many more than there have been in history - and I believe, by the time we finish this term, we will have demonstrated a better track record on this question than we have so far, and certainly better than any government before us.
Mrs. Firth: There are women in the community in the Yukon Territory who can handle the extraordinary demands and who are very capable and, Mr. Speaker, I take exception to the inference the Government Leader leaves that women are not in those jobs because they cannot handle the extraordinary demands or the capabilities. We do not need a training grounds program ....
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mrs. Firth: Yes I will, Mr. Speaker. We do not need a training grounds program of patronizing jobs in order to have women in deputy minister positions. The Minister could go out at any time and find many women ....
Speaker: Order please. I have asked the Member to get to the supplementary question. This is Question Period, not lecture time.
Mrs. Firth: Mr. Speaker, with all due respect, the Minister gets up and he lectures us; he does not answer my question and never once ....
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mrs. Firth: Mr. Speaker, I would like a point of order. I am interrupting my question on a point of order.
Speaker: Question Period is just about right to the tee, now, so I have asked you several times to please get to the supplementary question, so Question Period is now over.
Mrs. Firth: Is Mr. Speaker denying my point of order?
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed.
Point of Order
Mrs. Firth: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order ....
Speaker: Point of order for the Member for Whitehorse Riverdale South.
Mrs. Firth: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order I was raising during Question Period, I wanted to bring to Mr. Speakers attention that, according to Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, the rules governing Question Period, Rule No. 9 states that a reply to a question should be as brief as possible, relative to the question asked and should not provoke debate.
We regularly have our attention called to the fact that we should get to the question. I never hear you call the other Members to order saying get to the answer. The Minister never once answered my question. He continued to provoke debate.
I would like a ruling on that matter because this is happening more and more frequently.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: On the same point of order, and I apologize for wasting the time of the House on this because it is quite obvious you call this side to order perhaps at least as often, perhaps more often than you do the other side, but you are to be commended for your even handedness and fairness.
Let me read into the record Rule No. 2, which the Member opposite is obviously not acquainted with. The question ought to seek information and cannot be based on hypothesis or seek an opinion, legal or otherwise. It must not suggest its answer or be argumentative.
Every single one of the alleged questions put by the Member was argumentative. Bootlegged into the preamble were false statements, misrepresentations of my position, and misrepresentations of the record. The Member, therefore, cannot, having done that, stand on her feet and complain, after a long rambling question, that she has not been provided an answer. She, herself, is in violation of the rules.
Speaker: Order please. I would like to remind the House that I am taking notice of some of the rules in the Standing Orders that you have reminded me of, and find there is no point of order as Question Period was over.
May I have your further pleasure?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: 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 hon. 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: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order and declare a 15 minute recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 13 - Second Appropriation Act, 1989-90- continued
Department of Government Services - continued
Chair: We will continue with general debate on Government Services.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: During the course of yesterdays debate, I committed to provide Members opposite with the service and consulting contracts for Government Services. I would like to circulate these at this time.
I would qualify this with the statement that these have been pulled off the computer without any checking or any certainty that figures are accurate or that contracts are correct for total quantity. I authenticate these with no certainty of accuracy, but that is currently what is registered, unchecked.
At the same time, I will circulate a single copy to the Member opposite of another commitment I made yesterday respecting lease costs. I should have made another copy, because it may have been Mrs. Firth who asked the question. Perhaps Members could share it. Again, I circulate the information for the Member to show a range of standing lease costs for a number of facilities.
I believe that constitutes the commitments I undertook yesterday, and I am available for any further questions.
Mr. Lang: I would like to assure the Minister that we realize it has not been proofed, and I appreciate that. We will deal with the information accordingly. I am assuming it is 99.9 percent accurate, but there may be an inaccuracy and, if there is, we are not going to take the Minister to task, unless something was deleted for some reason that was not advantageous to the government. That, of course, would be a different situation altogether.
I appreciate the spirit of cooperation the Minister has exhibited. Generally, we find he is forthcoming with information. Sometimes he has to be pressed but, generally, the light of day does come on and we do manage to get on with the business.
With respect to the question of space, I had written a letter in respect to the Prospector Building. The Minister indicated to me what the lease fees were, et cetera, but that there was also a contract going out that was going to be called to finish the accommodation to a standard that was acceptable to Health and Human Resources.
What was that amount of money?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The tender has just closed. The bids are currently being reviewed. There is no award, and the low bids are in the $70,000 range.
Mr. Lang: There is a growing concern about the size of the civil service and the requirements for space. I can sympathize with the Minister in many cases. He is not responsible for the initial decision, but he has to find them a place to work. That is a real plus of being the Minister of Government Services. The Minister always gets the political credit.
I would like to caution the government, on behalf of this side, that there are only 30,000 people in the Yukon. I get the impression that the government is starting to think that it is governing three million people, when we take a look at the size of the civil service and that it is spread all over the city. The reason for this administrative building was to centralize the government. Now, if someone from Faro, Old Crow or Watson Lake comes to town, they do not have a clue where to go. There are a lot of people in Porter Creek who do not know where to go if they are dealing with the government. This is called a royal shuffle. They go back and forth among five different buildings to get to the right department so that someone can deal with their problem.
The amount of $70,000 is a lot of money to finish off 6,000 square feet. I am concerned about what we are asking for in our specs, especially in a building that we do not own.
In the supplementaries, we are asking for $296,000. In view of the revelations that came out of Question Period about the Department of Education, can the Minister tell the House if there have been any major swings in the amount of money within the department? Were there projects that the Minister undertook that the Minister had not foreseen when we passed the budget last year? Can the Minister tell us if any new initiatives in any area were taken? Where was that money found, if there were?
I know this is a general question, but I have to start with a general question to see if he can give us an outline.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Just to cover the last question, there were no major shifts or reappropriations in the period of this supplementary that were not identified in the spring debate. Members will recall there was considerable debate surrounding an appropriation under property management respecting old Yukon College where money from one vote was transferred to another. That will show up when we get to line items, and I can identify that reappropriation. That is the only one of any significance, but that was already flagged and debated at some length in the spring.
Money transfer was a program between Supply Services and Systems and Computing. Again, when we get into the respective line items, I can show where a transfer of a program took place between votes. As for major changed initiatives, other than the ordinary course of doing business, procuring leases, dealing with existing requirements respecting space, there were no major changes since the spring discussions reflected in this supplementary.
To comment on the Members opening remarks on the business of government growth and location throughout Whitehorse, more than ever I am sensitive to the space demands being placed on Government Services by other departments. One of the things that has been demonstrated over the past couple of years is that space growth has been held to an absolute minimum. This has created some problems. Through the course of this year, any growth was very critically looked at before any form of expansion took place. The net result is that we have some pressure points developing, and there will have to be an evening out of the demands placed upon Government Services in the next while.
Over the past eight months, we have been addressing what that means in terms of government policy. I indicated yesterday we have been spending considerable time addressing the issue of space. I hope to be coming forward very shortly with details surrounding the approach we will be taking. Members should recognize that part of the issue is the desire to meet the normal requests of devolution growth, and to meet the standard program expansions that have been taking place that have not been allowed additional space. That has created some pressure points. Legislative precincts come to mind. Other departments come to mind. One of the approaches we will be taking is consolidation. I agree with the Member wholeheartedly that government branches are scattered throughout the city, and it often poses a frustration to the public at large in trying to find an appropriate government department to deal with.
Part of the exercise we have attempted to address is some form of consolidation for the government. Beyond that point, I can assure the Member that the budget as presented is meeting the current needs and I guess future budgets will address future needs.
Chair: We will now proceed with line-by-line discussion
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The $82,000 is composed of some minor salary increases costing $9,000, and four term positions that, in part, were offset by other vacancies but nevertheless cost an additional $111,000, for a total of $120,000. There were some savings to offset that in the area of travel and in insurance, for a total of $38,000, reducing the over expenditure to the sum of $82,000.
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister tell us what those term positions were for?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am advised that two of the positions are in contract registry: one position is in Finance, a finance officer; and one is in personnel. The approach of the department in terms of these positions is that the offsets are from all branches within the department but consolidated into administration for accounting purposes.
Mr. Lang: I would like to follow that up; there are at least two contracting positions. Is that in addition to the four who were already there? Are we up to six positions, then? Because, when the value-added principle was introduced by Mr. Kimmerly, he requested, if I recall correctly, four positions to undertake the program. What I do not understand is why we are now paying for an additional two.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: There is some confusion on my part, Madam Chair, because it is my understanding that, with respect to the business incentive policy or the value-added program, only two positions were identified as doing that work and those are the two positions already on staff, at least when I took office. The two additional positions in that contract area relate to contract administration - one in registry, one in administration - administration meaning administering the contracts that are tendered and awarded and monitored. So, there were two positions relating to value added; two additional positions are part of this supplementary. The Member can understand that, with the considerable work we did in the whole area of the business incentive policy, not only were there administrative requirements but there was some policy development work as well.
Mr. Lang: I want to make a point here. Here we go again with the increase in the staff of the civil service. I recognize that department is under a lot of pressure on a consistent basis. I am not going to argue that, but I should point out that we were told that the cost of running the business incentive program was going to be very insignificant. Now, all of a sudden, we are looking at a combination of people involved in that, as well as in other areas of contracts.
The other point I would make is that we are now being forced to cut back on our capital budget, so there are going to be fewer contracts going out in the foreseeable future than in the past, because of our financial situation. That should have a bearing as well with respect to the requirements for staff if we have fewer capital dollars.
Some of these are large contracts involving a lot of dollars: the arts centre, the student residence, and various programs like that. I question how many more people we need in the area in question. Maybe one, but I question this increase of $111,000 in salaries.
When the Minister of Finance saw that, I wonder if he asked where we were going to get the money to pay for this. Nobody seems to have asked up to this point.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The short answer to the Members question is that considerable work is involved in contract administration. The Member is familiar, in some measure, with the contracting process and the requirements to ensure that contract regulations are followed to ensure the tendering process is correctly adhered to, that awards are made on the basis of contract regulations. Following the award of the contract, the Member realizes the extent of the work in processing progress payments, to ensure the inspection program is carried out, just the entire series of administrative detail that is required to make sure contracts go smoothly.
I am quite comfortable with the development of progress in this area within the department. Over the course of the year, I believe we have improved relations with the contracting community, with the business community at large, and it is largely due to a concerted effort by staff within Government Services to meet various requests, both for information and direct assistance relating to contracts. I have nothing but respect for the extensive work that goes on in dealing with the contract section. It is paying off.
We have an excellent relationship and a good system to deal with problems and conflicts relating to the awarding of contracts.
Mr. Lang: I have no problem saying this is one area of the government that is very beneficial and they do their fair share of work. Nobody is arguing that. I am questioning how far we go to provide staff in this area. That is the only question I have. I want it clear on the record that I know the people who work in that area are very well thought of by the contracting companies. That is important. Down the road we are going to have less capital money as the crunch comes and it will reflect in the number of contracts.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I should point out that four of the positions are term. Clearly, we are looking at whether those positions should be extended into the next contract year. That will be evaluated on the basis of the amount of work expected to be done. The term positions are created for a finite term and whether we extend them depends on the amount of work left to be done. The Member has recognized an important factor of controlling costs and when positions may no longer be required.
Mrs. Firth: Are there any salary dollars identified in administration for the assistant deputy minister position for a woman within the department?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: It would not be in this supplementary. It would show up in the O&M mains for the coming year.
I do not want to open the can at this moment. The position we are talking about in this supplementary is not created and what is going to show up in next years budget will be an existing position, restructured - so it is not, in fact, even the creation of a new person year.
Mrs. Firth: That is quite interesting because if it is an existing position is it simply going to be a title change, or what is the Minister trying to say?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I would beg the Member to leave the request for detail until we get in to the main estimates. I will provide the detail about an existing person year in a restructured arrangement at that time.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I would like to set the Members minds at rest. There will be no added expenses to any department to fill the positions of the assistant deputy ministers. They have resulted through a reorganization of the different departments with funding found from within. There have been no added expenses. Responsibilities have been added to those assistant deputy minister positions that have been created.
Mrs. Firth: I thank the Minister for her explanation, but it is not I who will be upset with it; it will be the public that will be upset. It is even worse now than it was before. First of all, the public agreed - and I agreed - that we did not need six new assistant deputy ministers within the government.
However, the Minister is saying now that they are just going to reorganize and restructure jobs without spending any more money. Surely, there will be more money involved, because these people will be getting higher salaries. There are jobs that they are presently doing that will be deleted. All the government is doing is giving a different title to these women as well as an increase in salary. It appears that this is being done to enhance the governments statistics when it comes to women in managerial positions.
I do not think that we should get into a great debate about this right now. It is more relevant in the area of the Public Service Commission. The Minister of Government Services does not want to discuss this issue at all. He has stated that. He said that he did not want to open the can. Well, the can is open. Unless we move to have a complete debate on the issue under the Public Service Commission, I will leave any further questions, which I will have when we come to the supplementaries on the Public Service Commission, until then.
However, if I want to make representation on behalf of the people I represent, I have to do it within the budget of the individual department where the position will be created. That is why I asked the Minister of Government Services about the particular position within his department. If I can get assurance that there is no money in this Government Services supplementary that would be required for the assistant deputy minister position for women only, I will take the Ministers word on that. I would then have no further questions on that issue.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I can give the Member that reassurance regarding this supplementary. There is no identification of either the position or the dollars. I could also assure the Member I have no problem debating the issue at any time. The only problem I have is that I do not have the organizational charts and detail with me, because it is in the next budget. That is what I was referring to about details surrounding the ADM position.
I can further undertake to provide to the Member how we have restructured the position without dollars from existing person years. I will provide that for the next budget debate well in advance.
Mrs. Firth: I will take the Minister up on that commitment to present that information.
Chair: For the benefit of Hansard, we are once again clearing administration of $82,000.
Administration in the amount of $82,000 agreed to
On Systems and Computing Services
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The $640,000 is largely comprised of a transfer I flagged earlier with the Member for Porter Creek East. There was a transfer of the record service to Systems and Computing from Supply Services. If Members will just cast their eyes forward to the next vote, they will see a reduction of $556,000. That, for the most part, reflects that $545,000 transfer straight across of one program between votes.
The additional monies are made up of some salary dollars. There is $130,000 savings, also in salaries, where replacement staff did not cost as much as anticipated. Additional costs relate to what is referred to as network charges, the cross systems that exist between communities.
There are some additional costs in the magnitude of $55,000, which was the cost related to new programming in computer service and in communications to outlying communities, hooking more communities into the system, and costs related to improvements in programs. There is an additional $90,000 on program development, that is, computing data bases. There was a saving of $36,000 where special programming provided to departments was paid for by departments. There were some additional dollars in the order of $5,000, $6,000, $20,000 relating to various software systems that were upgraded or cost more than anticipated. There were some operation and maintenance dollars relating to the transfer of the records branch.
The total of all that adds up to $640,000. For the Members benefit, because I anticipate the question relating to the communication expansion to communities, communities that now have mainframe access with the government include Dawson City, Watson Lake, Haines Junction, Mayo and Faro.
Mr. Lang: What other communities are projected to be added?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Part of the dollars I described for upgrading the outlying communities will be spent on some preliminary work for three more communities. I am advised it is not completed, but it will be completed next year. The communities are Teslin, Carcross and Ross River.
Systems and Computing Services in the amount of $640,000 agreed to
On Supply Services
Hon. Mr. Byblow: In part, I have already explained this line item. Five hundred and forty-five dollars was the transfer of the records branch. There are some additional dollars to make up the $556,000 through various offsets and savings. There was $23,000 saved in anticipated casual employment; $50,000 was saved in a number of staff vacancies; $25,000 was saved on the O&M side that ended up being transferred. The cost is a $3,000 figure relating to some salary dollars for staff; $41,000 for a term position; $7,000 for some tender costs that came in higher than anticipated on equipment, and $6,000 relating to some unexpected travel costs within Yukon. All of that balances out to $556,000.
Mr. Lang: What was the term position for $41,000, and if it is going to continue, why was it not budgeted in the main budget?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am advised it is the position of an asset disposal clerk. It is a term position, meaning it has a finite life. I am advised that we were backlogged in identifying assets, and that was the assignment. I am not sure of all the Member asked. I do not believe it will be in next years budget. I am advised that it expires at the end of this fiscal year, so it will be either not renewed or reviewed, depending on what is outstanding in terms of the job that was described.
Supply Services in the amount of an under expenditure of $556,000 agreed to
On Property Management
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Under this item are the three new leases that were initiated this year, which the Member raised in general debate yesterday, and the dollars identified for each are reflected in the shortfall being sought here. There is a $23,000 additional cost for 208B Main Street, which is Community and Transportation Services and Health and Human Resources. There is a lease at Swiftwaters for Health and Human Resources for $59,000. The third one is the Spauhman Building in Watson Lake for Health and Human Resources for $46,000. Those are the three leases.
The additional costs identified at this period variance include: some travel costs for maintenance in the amount of $31,000; $22,000 was required to make up for some vehicle leases that were not anticipated; an additional $23,000 for some custodial services that were not predicted in the original budget; some $5,000 for increased engineering costs; there was a savings of $85,000 in reduced utility charges. That must reflect a warmer year. Also, there were some savings from the French language bureau, totalling the $125,000.
Mrs. Firth: Have we done all the pre-engineering of the capital projects?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I believe the Member is referring to the capital side of the budget. We are dealing with the operation and maintenance side right now. This would clear out the operation and maintenance costs relating to Property Management. We still have to talk about capital.
Property Management in the amount of $125,000 agreed to
On Central Stores Write-off
Central Stores Write-off in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on Operations and Maintenance Expenditures?
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $296,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Chair: Is there any general debate on Capital Expenditures?
Mr. Lang: Although there has been money found, there has been a substantial increase in a number of areas, such as renovations of public buildings and systems development. It is a cause of concern to us in the House. I refer to the Question Period where we talked about the accuracy of the budgets. To all of a sudden have an increase of almost 30 percent for renovations and approximately 25-30 percent for systems development is alarming. This brings into question the integrity of the House and the budgetary process.
The House votes money for certain things. I understand why, in some cases, there are some areas in which we are over. I can accept eight or 10 percent, but 40 percent is high. What would be the purpose in discussing the budget? I think the government should start paying attention to the Auditor General. If the government does not take the budgeting process and the estimates seriously, if the estimates are off as much as some of these are, the respect of civil servants for the House is brought into question.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is correct that there is a reflection in renovations, but by the same token, there is a reduction in construction overhead. The debate we had this spring was about the $750,000 for completing the work on old Yukon College.
The Member is correct about systems and computing services, in identifying the Auditor Generals report. This budget reflects adherence to the Auditor Generals comments and recommendations. The Auditor General suggested that the government ought to do its upgrade of equipment in a single year instead of trying to spread it over two years. That is what, for example, the $400,000 reflects.
I respectfully submit that we are very conscious of the Auditor Generals remarks. We are attempting to meet the guidelines that his office has set. While we are constantly analyzing the program development of our computing system and constantly assessing the capabilities of our mainframe computer, we are aware that it has limitations and that it requires constant attention as to how far can the system be pushed.
Combining that with the Auditor Generals remarks, the decision was to proceed with $400,000 worth of systems improvement for the various programs that departments asked for.
The Member is familiar with the systems priority committee that identifies those priorities and deals with them in budget years as opposed to spreading them over many years. Aside from that, if the Members have any more questions we can deal with them, if not we can go into line-by-line.
Chair: We will proceed with line-by-line.
On Systems and Computing Services
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The $400,000 I flagged earlier as the increase required for program development. It is an ongoing problem to address. It is fair to say that departments make requests far in excess of available funds to proceed with the development of programs. The $1.6 million total that is identified as a revised vote constitutes the development of 12 or 13 programs through various departments, such as programs that improve data collection - for example the improvement to motor vehicle licensing is included in that. As the previous Minister will recall, the mechanical operations at the central warehouse have been changed from a rather obsolete, time-consuming, manual system into a computerized program this year. That alone cost us $250,000 for all the parts to be developed for highways equipment and machinery. The $400,000 is the increase to program development that we felt legitimately reasonable to proceed with, but it comes nowhere near the number of programs departments are calling for. This is a priorization of a reasonable program development effort for the year.
Mr. Lang: I am unfortunately not in a position to comment on the importance of the information being provided. I note in the O&M budget for the capital side you have $850,000. It is approximately half of what you projected for this year. Obviously, the priority for next year in the O&M is going to be very much less a priority as far as the budget is concerned.
I want to put the Minister on notice that we would like a projection over the next five years of what kind of money we will be spending in this area. We spend millions and there does not seem to be any kind of accounting. I do not seem to get my letters answered any quicker. If I asked my constituents if they got things more readily they would ask me what I was talking about. We have to look to see if we are getting value for our dollar. I would ask the Minister for those projections. I would like that information when we deal with the O&Ms.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member quite accurately reflects a concern expressed in many circles. It is something I certainly share with the Member, and we have taken it to task. If the Member looks at the budget tabled for next year, he will realize that the monies identified for systems development is considerably reduced. The Member should also recognize that the systems priority committee, which comes forward with recommendations regarding programs, calculates those recommendations on the basis of O&M savings through the implementation of that program. That is what has to be proven prior to any authorization for go-ahead. Every program that is developed has to show some reduction in O&M cost to the department; now, that does not mean to say that the money is not reappropriated for other purposes, but it is one of the critical factors upon which program development proceeds. At the same time, of course, any program that is developed has to have the capability of integrating with existing systems and be useful and usable. That is obvious and logical.
The Member raises the issue of future costs, and I recall discussing this in the spring with the Member. In fact, we have spent some time over the past year addressing that issue and will be continuing to address it. I believe, when we come to the main estimates, I will be able to share with the Member some of the analyses we are doing to try and get a firmer handle on future growth and costs of computing services - that is, programs and costs of this data base technology. For someone who is not computer literate to any great extent, it is a scary area. I have taken it as a personal interest to understand and recognize what we may be getting ourselves into without some guidelines, and I will be quite pleased to share the results of those analyses in the main estimates.
Mr. Lang: In view of the fact that each one of these applications that are put on the computer are designed so that they must save the government money, I would ask, when we get to the O&M mains, that the Minister would, in the 1988-89 and 1989-90 sections covered in the systems area, identify how much money was saved with each program being put into place, i.e. the driver records, commitment accounting, court registry, land management. If he could provide that for me in O&M mains, I would be very interested.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I anticipate no problem. In each case that the program moves forward, the operation and maintenance savings are identified, and the operation and maintenance costs are calculated. That information is readily available. I am sure it is just a matter of pulling it together, and we can have some of the more recent program implementation detailed for the Member. With respect to how far back, I am not sure what I want to commit at this point, but a substantial amount, anyway.
Systems Development in the amount of $400,000 agreed to
On Computer Workstations
Hon. Mr. Byblow: It sort of speaks for itself. It is the implementation costs that were not calculated when the budget was set at $250,000 for the various costs related to putting more workstations in place. Earlier in debate, the Member expressed the concern of how, through various program developments, or program expansions in departments, and things like devolution and increase in term positions, that there are more bodies around departments. The onus falls on Government Services to provide desks, computers and telephones. This reflects computer workstation costs largely paid out to BCE.
Mr. Lang: Does it include any other costs?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: No. I am advised the $63,000 is for associated costs for cabling, et cetera, to install workstations, paid out to BCE under the existing contract we have.
Computer Workstations in the amount of $63,000 agreed to
On Central Facility
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am advised this reduction is actually a reflection of a response to the Auditor Generals comments of doing program activity in a single budget year. The $50,000 reduction is actually a reflection of an upgrading that was done by advancing money from the year forward. In other words, in the budget we will be discussing for 1990-91, there will be reflected a $350,000 advance into this year for a program upgrade that is shown in this line item now.
The Member asked what it is going to do for us. It is essentially an upgrade, again back to the general debate of computing technology and whither we are headed. We will shortly be reaching the maximum capacity of our mainframe for all these programs that are plugged in and developed.
That capacity was reaching its peak. Not being a computer expert, when you reach into the 90 percent range of a computing facility, you run a risk of overload and some loss of programming, or potential loss of programming. There was some urgency to address this. With the Auditor General saying you have to do things in one budget year, do not spread your costs of work you do in one year over two years, we moved the money forward from next year into this vote to complete that upgrade this year. Essentially, it increases our capacity to hook up more programming, the kind we are talking about where we are connecting with computers, developing streamlined licence plate programs, developing inventory control systems, like in highways. We can now meet capacity for an additional two to three years. That is what this does.
Central Facility in the amount of an under expenditure of $50,000 agreed to
On Supply Services
On Queens Printer Equipment
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The $32,000 is a savings from a binding and finishing equipment replacement that was simply deferred. The equipment was calculated to be able to hold out for this year, so it is not going to be replaced.
Queens Printer Equipment in the amount of an under expenditure of $32,000 agreed to
On Pooled Vehicles
Hon. Mr. Byblow: This reflects the addition of two vehicles to the fleet. There is nothing more to say than that is another area of problem, if you will. We have far more demand on our vehicles than we are able to provide, and it is something we are addressing. We are trying to maintain, to the best of our ability, the existing fleet with limited dollars. This was thought to be a wise move, and so done.
Pooled Vehicles in the amount of $32,000 agreed to
On Property Management
On Pre-Engineering Capital Projects
Hon. Mr. Byblow: This reflects a reduction of a substantial amount, largely due to the reduced capital budgeting for the subsequent year. This is planning money; this is design money. This is what we would do this year if we were trying to implement our project management system where we try to do our planning in one year and our construction in a subsequent year. When the budget was set, the $550,000 was identified at what we thought we would need to do the planning for projects. It is a difficult thing to assign, because you are not sure of what your budget amounts are going to be, because you are working in reverse over an 18-month period.
By July, it was apparent to us we would not have the kind of money for the subsequent year that we had anticipated so, naturally, the project design money shrunk. There was a substantial savings and it shows up there.
Mr. Lang: I would just like assurance from the Minister that all our contracts called for in the capital budget will be able to go out to early tender this year. We have had substantial problems with late tendering and, actually, added costs - for example, the young offenders facility. The notorious Club Med, if you recall, was tendered in late fall and added significant costs to the taxpayer. Unbeknownst to ourselves, we were not going to have any locks on it. But that is another story, Madam Chair.
I would ask the Minister if he can assure us that, in view of the fact that we have had a substantial decline in this area, overall, the significant tenders that will be called in this forthcoming year will be able to be out at a very advantageous time for the contractors to take full advantage of the summer season?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Actually, I am quite pleased with what we have been able to prepare for this winter, in terms of tendering. As the Member knows, we meet regularly with the Contractors Association and discuss our ongoing projects and a tendering schedule. One of the things the contracting community identified was a desire to see tendering done early. We have taken that initiative. In fact, the student residence is an example, where we are trying to go out to tender next week. While we can go through the tendering process and make the award, we technically cannot spend any money until the fiscal year. But at least, by early tendering, even before the budget year, construction firms can tool up and prepare for and organize.
Another feature we have agreed with the contracting community to work on is staggering the contracts. So it is not just a case of putting them out early, it is a case of putting them out so that a whole group of them do not fall within a week period or something. We had that happen to us last spring and it does cause complications. I certainly have some sympathy for the contracting community that is trying to put tenders together, pressed for time, all falling due within a short time frame. We have undertaken not only to put out tenders early and before the budget is approved and before the fiscal year - we cannot award it before the budget is approved but we can identify to the contracting community which projects will go.
In summary, we have actually got a fairly good arrangement with the contracting community in that we share our schedule for releasing contracts with them and we update it quarterly; we do, indeed, go with early tendering but it is tempered with staggering the contracts. That seems to be working. We hope it will work this year - it is probably the first test year of this refined process.
Pre-Engineering Capital Projects in the amount of an under expenditure of $350,000 agreed to
On Energy Conservation
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The $45,000 savings is because of a vacancy in a position relating to energy conservation. It appears that the work relating to energy conservation is not in progress, but the position should be filled shortly.
Mr. Lang: If the position is there and not filled, what did we spend the $405,000 on?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: In the spring debate we went through a number of projects identified under energy conservation: things like retrofits, upgrades to grader stations, and various buildings around the territory. This savings reflects a person year savings.
Specifically, the $450,000 is spent on various energy projects around the territory for government buildings.
Mr. Lang: We were provided with projected costs in the last budget. When we deal with the O&M, can the department provide me with exactly where this money was spent and how much on each facility?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I will provide that this instant if I can get a copy of this page.
Energy Conservation in the amount of an under expenditure of $45,000 agreed to
On Construction Overhead
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I flagged this earlier. The savings in construction overhead was transferred to renovations, public buildings. That $750,000 reflects the old Yukon College. I can give the Member the reason why we were able to save the $902,000. Originally, there was $1,950,000 budgeted on the basis that certain projects were expected to be done and certain person years were attached to those construction jobs. When the final budget figures came in, the budget was cut back but the allocation for person years was not. That resulted in the ability to find this savings. I believe when the original budget calculation was made, it was on the basis of 38 people to handle the construction of the anticipated capital budget. When the budget was reduced, the required person years were 21. The savings of those 17 person year dollars translated into most of this $902,000.
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister tell us exactly where the $1,048,000 was spent? He can provide that information in the O&M if he does not have it with him.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Perhaps the Member could clarify if he wants more detail after I have finished. The $1,048,000 reflects, principally, the salary dollars of 21 people in the design and construction unit. Those are people who are on the job inspecting, who are working architecturally and people who are monitoring the contracts related to construction overhead. Most of that is for salaries. They are capital person years, but there are no capital costs.
Construction Overhead in the amount of an under expenditure of $902,000 agreed to
On Renovations - Public Buildings
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The $750,000 is essentially for the work to bring old Yukon College to the state where it is now. That includes the work on the child development centre, some venitilation and heating work. That brought to conclusion the work for that facility as it now stands.
Mr. Lang: Is the Minister telling this House that we spent $2.5 million so far on the old Yukon College?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: No. The $2.5 million that the Member sees in the revised vote reflects the renovations to public buildings done throughout the year. Only $750,000 reflects the additional cost to old Yukon College. The $1.7 million is for the renovations done throughout the Yukon for public buildings.
Mr. Lang: What is the total amount to date that has been spent on old Yukon College? The amount of $750,000 has been identified here. Was there other money from other departments spent as well? I would like a total account of where we are. If the Minister does not have that amount with him, he can provide it to me tomorrow.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Yes. I can easily provide that now. The initial design work done in 1987-88 to CJP was $147,000. In 1988-89, additional design work for $375,000 was done. In 1989, demolition work in the amount of $174,000 was done to Yukon homes - that was for the gutting of the homes.
The amount of $236,000 went to Klondike Enterprises between the years 1988-89 and 1989-90. This was for the ventilation and heating work that was done on the child development centre.
There was a Larwell Construction contract for $200,000, and that should total just over $1.2 million.
That is the cost to date, both for the Child Development Centre, the design work, the gutting and the heating.
Mr. Lang: Is there any money in the main budget for further work to Yukon College? If so, how much?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: He is not referring to this supplementary. I do not believe there is any significant amount.
Mr. Lang: Significant is a fairly large word. Is the Minister saying that the $1.2 million spent on the building is basically the amount of capital money to be spent on the facility?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Yes, I guess I am saying to the Member $1.2 million plus, because I am not sure of the totals I just gave him. The $1.2 million is the amount spent to date on that facility in the last three years for capital upgrading relating to the Child Development Centre, the gutting and the heating renovations. I can also say to him there is no significant amount identified in the mains. I can further say to him, as I indicated yesterday, we are in the eleventh hour of a decision related to the old Yukon College, and I will be announcing that in the House, perhaps within 24 hours.
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister give us an outline, other than for the $750,000, for the balance of the $1,775,000? Could he give us an outline of where that money was spent? If he could provide me with a copy, that would be fine.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am going to ask the page to provide some photocopying services, and I can provide this to the Member. I qualify the provision of this by saying that some of these may not be completed. Some of the projects listed on the sheet I am about to give him may not be completed, in which case they will either show up as revotes or as money under spent.
Renovations - Public Buildings in the amount of $750,000 agreed to
Mrs. Firth: Could we have some explanation of that? Is that just for the old Yukon College?
Chair: We just debated that one. It cleared.
On Office Accommodation Projects
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The $192,000 reflects costs related to the renovation of Swiftwaters and a number of other projects; a number of electrical projects around the territory for $5,000; a number of office move costs of $10,000; some tenant improvements in the Spauhman building for $40,000 - that is in Watson Lake; $20,000 of this is identified for the space study I referred to earlier; $30,000 is for renovations to the space related to family violence; and the pass program office reparations for $30,000. That should deal with the principal amount of $392,000.
Mr. Devries: Regarding the Spauhman building in Watson Lake, I understand that the original request was for some windows but they were not installed. Is the department still planning to install some windows?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The advice I received, Madam Chair, is that yes, indeed, there was a request for windows. The $40,000 identified in the budget of this time, reflected here, which again reflects the period at the end of July, is principally for the move and renovations. The windows would be installed if lapsing money could be found to pay for them. I am advised that that, indeed, is the case - a couple of projects have come in under cost and the windows will be installed in this fiscal year.
Mr. Lang: It is very disjointed, listening to how this money was spent. I am just asking the Minister if he can give us another outline of the projects taken under this office accommodation line so that we know exactly how much money was spent on which projects. I am sure he must have an outline.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I will try to repeat it. It includes: the pass program for Education, $30,000; family violence unit, $30,000; Swiftwaters, $70,000; work on the Burns Road facility, $15,000; space study, $20,000; Spauhman building - I indicated $40,000 as the revised figure but I have an updated figure for it, past this budget period, of $47,000; various and incidental purchases, $15,000; various office moves, $20,000; various electrical projects across the territory, $5,000; a number of minor projects, $20,000. That should total nearly the $400,000 figure.
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister elaborate on the office moves? I gather the Department of Government Services takes responsibility for the cost of moving departments. Can he break that down and give us the cost of moving departments?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do not have that information with me, but I can undertake to provide to the Member where we spent the identified money.
Mr. Lang: I would like a further breakdown of the $20,000 for various projects. I would like to know what those projects are. There was $20,000 spent somewhere after electrical, and it bears more scrutiny than just to say various projects. That can mean anything.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have no problem providing a detailed breakdown, but I do not have it here. I will provide it in writing to the Member between now and the mains.
Mr. Lang: The other one I would like a breakdown on is the miscellaneous $15,000.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do not recall mentioning miscellaneous. There must be another term.
Mr. Lang: There was $47,000 spent in Watson Lake on the Spauhman Building, and I have $15,000 listed under miscellaneous.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Okay, right, minor purchases.
Mr. Lang: Can you provide that?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have no problem providing that in detail.
Mr. Lang: We have apparently put a new roof on the workshop at the Indian Centre for $105,000. Is the workshop area ours? Are we being reimbursed for that work by the federal government or the Council for Yukon Indians? I refer to the property management list 1989-90 capital projects where it indicates $105,000.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am not familiar with the details on it. I would like to provide them to the Member in writing. What number is that in the contract list?
Mr. Lang: It is not in the contracts, it is under information provided for renovations of public buildings under project #503048 - reroofing workshop - Indian Centre. Initially $80,000 was revised to $135,000 and is now revised to $105,000. What responsibility do we have there? Are we using the facility? Are we being reimbursed for the money? What is going on?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I will provide details to the Member.
Mr. Lang: I was not aware we were spending $500,000 on the mechanical upgrading. Is that going to take care of all the work that is being done or are we looking at more dollars over and above the $500,000 allocated here?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am advised that the money is intended, as Members may be aware, to upgrade the heating and ventilation system, part of which is affecting their offices recently. I am advised there is no further anticipated work relating to mechanical heating or ventilation. However, this $500,000 may not be spent entirely in this fiscal year, and may have to be revoted to finish the work.
Office Accommodation Projects in the amount of $192,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any question on the Capital Recoveries?
Capital Expenditures in the amount of $58,000 agreed to
Chair: We will now take a recess and then will go to Health and Human Resources.
Chair: I will now call Committee to order.
We will proceed with general debate on Health and Human Resources.
Department of Health and Human Resources
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The largest single item in this estimate is the base adjustment we are making in the health services program. I had an opportunity in debate on Supplementary No. 2 to outline at some length the reason why health costs for Yukon people exceeded our projections last year. I had an opportunity also to note that in every jurisdiction in Canada, governments are struggling with the reality of escalating health costs.
I also mentioned in debates that circumpolar regions throughout the world are faced with similar factors that affect health costs: relatively young populations working on a seasonal basis and high unemployment. We have higher than national averages of evidence of substance abuse, poverty and illiteracy rates. There is a fair amount of evidence of relationships of poor health status with socio-economic status.
As well, we have the fairly high rate of violent deaths, car accidents and occupational deaths. As the critic from the other side of the House has noted in the task force report, there is a higher rate of suicide, particularly among young men in this region. As well, there is a very high incidence of family violence.
We have this variation from the Canadian norms in common with the Northwest Territories, Alaska and other areas of the circumpolar region. The Canadian dimension to this problem is that rising health care costs have made precise budgeting very, very difficult in every jurisdiction. They have made precise budgeting nearly impossible in the Yukon, as with every other jurisdiction. We have had to adjust our budget so that over the past several years we have to use supplementaries to catch up at year-end. This has been done to ensure that Yukon residents continue to receive the quality of health care that they need.
During the debate on the supplementary last year, I also discussed the difficulties we have had over the last few years in forecasting costs and pointed out problems in our accounting methods, which I think we have made substantial progress in improving. I am pleased to say that with changes we are making in our approach to budgeting, I think we are going to close the gap between the estimates and the ultimate cost of quality health care in the Yukon. I think some of this issue was discussed before the Public Accounts Committee just a few days ago.
We have also talked about improving our forecasting methods, as well as the accounting models that will flag trends and signal changes in the billing patterns, which are very important to us.
These are things we have to do in order to face the reality of international and national trends in health care costs. The one thing we have to do here to bring ourselves into conformity with the reality of this situation is a base increase in the funding for the department, and that is what is proposed in this supplementary.
In this supplementary, we are requesting an amount of $6.25 million in our operation and maintenance budget, and $719,000 capital funds. This is a very substantial increase. I want to point out that health care costs are not out of control. The base funding we are requesting is in line with the experience of other jurisdictions. The health care cost per Yukon registrant is still lower than the national average. That may give us some comfort, but I do not think we should take too much comfort in that. The national average is now $1,300 per registrant, and the Yukon average is around $900 per registrant. I think we would have to do some further analysis as to why we are lower because, in some respects but not all, costs of delivering health care in the Yukon are higher than in the provinces.
The information on the chart and graphs I have distributed in the House, shows that the health care costs, as a percentage of our operation and maintenance in this budget, is approximately 14 percent. The national average is approximately 26 percent. As I think I have mentioned previously, there are some provinces, for example Ontario, where a third of their budget is now spent on health care. Some provinces, such as Saskatchewan, until recently, were actually seriously alarmed at the possibility of health care costs eating up half their provincial budget.
It is important, as we begin this debate, to also keep in mind that both the hospital insurance and the health care insurance programs are statutory programs in the Yukon Territory. In other words, we have statutory requirements that determine the amounts we pay out. This is not an area where we can budget X dollars and say, when we have reached that X point expenditure in a year, that we will spend no more. According to both the pieces of legislation and both the programs I have mentioned, and according to federal law, citizens of the territory have certain rights to health care and certain demands that they make for their health care needs to be met, and we are legally obligated to meet those needs.
As I described, I think in some detail during the debate on Supplementary No. 2 for last years budget, we are currently examining a range of measures that can be implemented in order to have a better handle on costs. We are trying to do this in a way that will not compromise the quality of the health care system at all, and I hope to be announcing later in this sitting of the House the results of our work to control costs. I am determined that we shall complete that work in this fiscal year, but I also wish to repeat our fundamental commitment to Yukon residents that quality health care will not be sacrificed for purely monetary reasons.
Unless my opposite number has some specific questions at this point, I would like to go into some of the detail. If he would prefer otherwise, I will take my seat and await his questions.
Mr. Nordling: I would just like to make a few points in general debate and then I am prepared to go by a line-by-line to discuss the more specific questions and the specific amounts. What I would like to do is explore with the Minister more detail on what specific things have been done since we last talked about the problem of over spending in the Department of Health and Human Resources. I know the Minister is currently examining a range of measures. That is what he said last March 13, when we discussed it. One of the things identified as a specific problem was out-of-territory health costs; the Minister said he had asked the department to provide him with some analysis of the pattern of referrals to outside institutions. I wonder if that has been done.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Some information on that subject was already given to the Public Accounts Committee, Madam Chair, so it is a matter of record, but I would want the Member to also know that we have been looking at the out-of-territory travel program itself in terms of refining the parameters or regulations and rules under which it operates. That is something that will be coming before me for formal consideration very soon.
Mr. Nordling: Thank you, Madam Speaker. I hope that next year at the same time we will not be in the same position where we are still considering these things.
The other area the Minister was going to be exploring was new health care expenditure projection techniques, which he just mentioned. I wonder if anything specific has been done in that regard that the Minister can share with us. It is fine to make general remarks about working with other jurisdictions doing it, but do we have something concrete we can use that will help us?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As I mentioned, every other jurisdiction in the country has, in the last few years, gone through the exercise of reviewing their health care expenditures and looking for methods of achieving greater control. There is, on Monday next, in Victoria, a meeting of health Ministers to talk specifically about this topic and receive some progress reports from some of the jurisdictions on their work in this area. That is an essential item on the agenda for that meeting.
The two jurisdictions we have taken a great interest in are Ontario and Alberta. We looked at Ontario because their health budget is now at 33 percent of the provincial budget, and they have probably done the most comprehensive and sophisticated analysis of the problem from all sorts of different directions. They have the Premiers Council on Health Care Issues and a large number of sectoral and community and advisory bodies advising the Minister of Health. They have some very very expensive consultants reports that were done by very prominent people, the former president of the University of Toronto being one. Those studies have all been made available to us.
The problem with Ontario is that it is so much larger than we are with many millions of people. The range of health care services being delivered in Ontario is so much more complex that their experience is not easily translatable into the Yukon.
More applicable for us has been the experience of Alberta. In some cases Alberta has some problems. Alberta has, in many ways, excellent health care programs. Their former premier, Premier Lougheed, was very committed to trying to make Alberta a world leader in certain kinds of health care programs. They had been accused of having an edifice complex in that they put a lot of money into bricks and mortar, big facilities, and then had problems recruiting staff and technicians to be able to operate them. In some cases they did not even have the patient demand. Some of those provinces are concerned about having too many physicians creating expenditures for the health department. That is not the kind of problem we have in the north. No province has exactly identical information to us, but some of the studies done by Alberta, and some of the things they are doing to get tighter controls are of interest to us even though the government has a different philosophical approach. We have had a lot of meetings with their people at conferences, and I think there are some things we can learn from them.
The problem of scale is fundamental. We are a much smaller jurisdiction. We do not offer the same range of services, specialty services in particular, or high-tech medicine that is available in most jurisdictions.
Nonetheless, I should say we are paying for a lot of it, because many of our patients are going to Vancouver or Edmonton for procedures that are not available here.
Mr. Nordling: I think the Minister was talking more generally about health costs. I would like to specifically hear about projection techniques. Now that we have looked at Ontario and Alberta - which I agree are probably not directly applicable but will help - I would like to know if we have developed a more accurate or better projection technique in the Yukon than we have used in the past.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am sorry I lost my way in that answer to the Member. The point is we have been having discussions with Alberta in particular who have, within their staff, health care economists and actuaries, the type of people who are not available to us. We are looking at their techniques and methods to do more accurate projections, and are trying to borrow from their experience. We are looking to have some professional exchanges and meetings with their people in order to be able to borrow some of their techniques to do better forecasting and better projecting.
In a long roundabout way, I was coming to the question of Alberta, which is to build or borrow from Albertas experience, who have the professional resources, both actuaries and economists, to be able to advise us on how best we can do better projections.
Mr. Nordling: The Minister virtually said the same thing last March. How long is it going to take before we have something we can use?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am assuming that by the next budget cycle we will have things in place. Last March, I was not talking about actuaries and economists. Our level of understanding about the nature of the problem we were dealing with here was not that advanced. We had talked to the other jurisdictions in a preliminary way then. The discussions have gone a lot further, and we are now getting down to where we have defined the problem sufficiently well that we know the kind of advice we need, and we know where to get it. As I say, we have begun some discussions with Alberta, and the professional dialogue will be continuing from here, with a view that, by the time we present the next budget, we will have a much higher degree of confidence about the projections than we have had in the past.
Mr. Nordling: The other area the Minister talked about working with Alberta on was billing procedures. What progress are we making with respect to our billing procedures?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member will recall that in the past we have had the experience of some provinces having late billings of up to one year or more after the procedure was performed. In negotiations with Alberta and B.C., we have substantially improved the turnaround time, the delay between the treatment and the billing. Negotiations with Alberta have seen a reduction of the turnaround time to two months. In B.C., it is now reduced to three months.
Mr. Nordling: The Minister mentioned last March that he had asked the department to do some specific analysis on the relationship between out-of-territory medical travel and the local physician and hospital services in the Yukon. Has there been any analysis, such as a chart or a form, done that the Minister can share with us, and that has been helpful at all?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There is no such thing as a form, report or chart. Some physicians believe that there is some potential here for local substitution of outside procedures. A lot of that does hinge on capital investments and technology here. It is more likely that we would achieve those kinds of savings with a brand new hospital than we would with the present plant.
However, I am warned by people who know that it is not a straight line relationship. It is not a simple relationship. In other words, just because we have certain procedures or equipment here does not mean that all the referrals to southern institutions are eliminated. Many medical problems do not present themselves as a simple problem. Often they are more complex, and while we may be able to deal with part of the problem here, we cannot deal with all the requirements of the patient.
Mr. Nordling: Another area that we talked about in early April of last year was the possibility that there may be excessive utilization by patients of conventional medical services. At that time, the Minister said that the department was already gathering numbers and endeavoring to do a first cut of the analysis, to enable us to begin to be able to have some discussions in the next few months about that question. How are we making out with that question?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We have had some discussions with the Yukon Medical Association about that. Frankly, there are some very strong differences in opinion about this. Some physicians believe that this is not a problem in the Yukon Territory. Other do believe that it is. There are people who see doctors more than they need to or go doctor shopping if they want to get referred outside. Some may want certain kinds of procedures or certain kinds of drugs. This is not perceived by the YMA to be a major problem.
It is interesting that we received a representation recently from a representative of a senior citizens organization who does believe that there is a problem with over-prescribing. To help facilitate a cooperative venture between YMA and the senior citizens organization, we are offering something that has been tried in a number of communities in B.C., notably Victoria. We would bring in some outside pharmacists or pharmacological experts and some physicians with experience in these areas and invite seniors to attend a workshop. They could bring all the bottles, pills and tablets in their medicine chests and discuss when they got the prescriptions, what they got them for and why they are still using them.
The experience in B.C. was that a lot of seniors were using medications that were not well advised. They were sometimes using non-prescription drugs with prescription drugs, which had a bad effect on them. They did not know or understand the effect on them. Many people were self-prescribing. People were borrowing their friends, husbands or spouses pills, all things that are not advisable.
I think the view of the Yukon Medical Association, and I do not want to misrepresent their view, is that, given the home care situation and the situation in our senior citizen homes where there are good visits by public health nurses and by physicians, this is not the kind of problem in those facilities that it might be elsewhere. The senior citizen organization, at least the president of the organization, in speaking to us certainly believe it is a problem, nonetheless, so we are pursuing the idea of doing that kind of thing to try to discourage excessive or improper use of medicines. The last report we had from the audit - I think it was on the out-of-territory referrals - indicated it was 99 percent okay. That was the report by Dr. Buchan. We have reason to want to examine this question further because, when we met last year with a large number of the physicians, there was a view held by some of them that there was excessive use. My guess is that we would have to develop some method of analysis or monitoring that we are not equipped to do right now. I think we would have to go through billings manually in order to do the analysis, which we cannot yet do, and in order to really make a convincing case. We do not have the kind of numbers that operate in a large province, and therefore the statistical validity of certain kinds of conclusions is not so easy to establish.
This is the subject of ongoing discussions with YMA, and because there is a substantial difference of opinion about it, I cannot tell the Member when I expect we shall reach a conclusion. However, it is enough of a concern that we are going to continue our discussions on it.
Mr. Nordling: I guess the difficulty is that when we have problems that we cannot identify specific solutions to, we spend so much time going over and over possible solutions and analyzing and consulting that we do not seem to get anything specific done. I would suggest to the Minister that I think it is time to take the bull by the horns and experiment in a few areas. Perhaps the seniors have given us something specific that we can actually look at and do something about.
The other area is the billing procedures. Some physicians say there is not excessive utilization of conventional services; others say there is. One of the suggestions that has come from the public is that, when people go to see the doctor, they have to sign the bill. For example, it may be a running annual total so every time they see their doctor, or their family does, they have to initial a bill that shows the amount that that visit cost the government, along with a running total for the year. Even if there is not excessive utilization, this technique may not hurt. I think we should look at the difficulty in administration of that process, the extra cost, and we may find it would slow a few people down or make them think about visiting the doctor as often as they may do otherwise.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We are improving the systems we have in place and will, I think, by this time next year, be in a better position to do the kind of analyses we need to do on these questions. We do do audits of the question, consistent with audit practices; we do a sample and check.
As for taking the bull by the horns, we are pursuing the idea that the seniors came to us with a problem, and the idea of what to do with it was ours. We came up with an idea from somewhere else.
Let me explain the problem of trying to borrow the experience from somewhere else. One province was concerned about excessive use of pharmaceuticals by seniors and put in a smart-card computer system that meant that when you went to a pharmacist there was a triplicate billing and one copy went to the province and one to the college of physicians and surgeons who did some kind of monitoring. It was able to give a computer record, or shout alarm bells, on certain physicians in the province who were prescribing much more than the average certain kinds of prescriptions. It gave reason for the college of physicians and surgeons to have a look at the question. If there was evidence that a patient was going to several doctors to get the same prescriptions, or more than they needed of some drug, the computer program was able to pick that up very quickly. That computer program worked so effectively that that province was able to save, I think, $55 million on the pharmacare program alone. That was Saskatchewan. The problem is, with the number of drug stores we have here it would be pretty hard to justify setting up a computer system to do that. You have to talk about computer systems that are appropriate to the scale of our operation.
Something more modest that would give a similar kind of ability to audit or check those kinds of things would probably be very appropriate, but at this point I do not feel it would be justified for the four drug stores we have in the territory, one of which does not have a pharmacist, to have anything like that kind of program. We might be able to find a modest version of it.
The Member talks about getting people to think twice. One simple and cheap suggestion was having a poster in physicians offices that talked about the fee schedule for the kind of procedures they were going to do. If you were coming back for the second time with your cold you would have some sense of what it was costing the insurance plan of the territory. That would be very cheap. Quebec experimented with mailing bills to people and ran into a real problem because someone went to court under the civil rights grounds because it was the case of teenagers going to doctors for birth control pills and the duplicate of the billing going to the parent of that young person violated the privacy of that person. They were forced to abandon that.
I want the Member to know we are looking at these things but we have to find versions of these cost control measures that work here and are justifiable here in terms of the size of our population.
Mr. Nordling: I accept what the Minister is saying, although I would like to add that it is pretty easy to find excuses not to do anything, to find problems and excuses for not acting. It is time we do try a few things and, if they are not working, try something else. The cost of services in the doctors office, for the price of posters, may save us some money. It is time to start doing something like that, just to see if it works.
The other area that was talked about by the deputy minister on November 7 at the Public Accounts Committee meetings was the rethinking of the organizational design of the department with a view to constructing and crafting an organization that reflects the new needs of health and social services delivery in the Yukon. Has that organizational design been completed yet, and is it available?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I believe that new organizational direction is substantially represented in the main estimates, which we will be getting to at some point later in this year. The location of the new ADMs, and so forth, is indicated in the supplementary information in the main estimates. I do not mind talking about it now, but I think that is when we have it indicated in the estimates.
Mr. Nordling: I hope we do have a chart available. Maybe it is reflected in the mains so we can discuss that and what effect it will have. As the Minister mentioned earlier, he hopes to have some more information very soon on some of these other analyses that are being done.
The other area I would like to get into is the report on other matters from the Auditor General. He has some definite concerns about how the Department of Health and Human Resources manages its budget development, allocation, monitoring and control. The Minister has promised to do something about it over and over again. The Auditor General has recognized that and brings it to the attention of the Legislature, talking about the problem and, not being just a historical problem, that it will continue in 1989-90, where the budget for the main estimates he has for Health is $26.1 million. It is a very small increase.
I have the concern that, despite all these things the Minister has said that the department and himself have been doing since last March, it seems we will have the same problem again in the 1990-91 budget. The Minister has budgeted virtually the same amount, just over $32 million for health services. For 1989-90, the forecast is $32.5 million; for 1991, the forecast is just slightly higher.
Despite the fact the Minister has been doing all these analyses - he has talked to Alberta, Quebec, Ontario and B.C. - he knows very well that we are not going to get health costs under such tight control that they are not going to rise in the next year.
My fear is that we will be back next year with the same sort of thing happening - either over spending or millions of dollars in supplementaries in this area. Perhaps the Minister would like to comment on what appears to me a lack of action or specific direction, a lack of recognition of the problem or a lack of recognition that something has to be done about the problem. It seems ridiculous that year after year we get up and say the same things over and over again.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Forgive me, Madam Chair, but I have not even been in this ministry a year yet so I cannot be talking year after year saying the same thing. We have, in the past year, not only analyzed the historical source of the rising costs, we have analyzed the reasons why we have had difficulty in forecasting historically, and we have gone through, and are going through now, every one of the programs in terms of procedures we can take to get a better handle on costs. We are not only doing reviews in that area but we are already, as I indicated to the Member, taking action in these areas. I want to also say to the Member that we are not ready to discuss next years mains yet, but we are here making a substantial base address within the budget in order to bring the budget closer to what we believe the expenditures will be.
As the Member will know, a reading of the statistical reports will indicate that after years of quite remarkable population growth - something in the order of five percent a year - we are looking at a much more modest or almost no growth for the period of the next budget. There is a percentage increase provided for, consistent with the overall estimates in the budget, that is, on top of the basic estimate that is being made this year. In the meantime, before we get to the mains, I am hoping to have some of the cost control measures in place, as well as a more accurate forecasting system.
I want the Member to understand that, even though one does not get overnight success in this area, and there is not a single jurisdiction in the country that has, we are talking about a long-term problem with long term solutions, but I think we are moving decisively in the right direction. I am hoping that the framework for a better system of financing and managing the health care system, with a real commitment to the investment in prevention and health promotion, which, as we talked about before, is the long term solution to this problem, will be done in a new health act. I have also talked about that previously in the House; that work is under way.
I do not want the Member to think for a second that we are sitting doing nothing. In the few months I have been with the department I think we have made substantial progress on this question. If the answers were easy, we would have done them in the first few days. Obviously, they are not. They are not easy for any jurisdiction in the country and, just because we are a small jurisdiction, it does not make it any easier than it is for a big one. Because we are so small, in fact, we have to develop our own versions of solutions that have worked elsewhere, or in some cases develop entirely original ones.
The Member began his comments by talking about the Auditor General, and I understand the Auditor Generals report has been discussed in the Public Accounts Committee. I want to say that it is my understanding from reading everything connected with this matter that the Auditor General has talked about historical problems and has also recognized we made substantial progress in improving it. In fact, the new estimates for next year are a reflection of that.
We are not there yet, but I think we have made real progress and are moving in the right direction.
Mrs. Firth: I found some of the information quite interesting and would like to pursue it with the Minister.
I believe he said health care costs were 14 percent of the total budget here compared to 26 percent of the national health care cost being directed to health care costs and 33 percent of the operating budget in Ontario being spent on health care costs.
I was not surprised to find that. I believe we have been lucky in the Yukon that our health care costs have not been higher than they are. It is probably attributed to the fact we have a very young population. We do not have to support those high-tech systems we benefit from in Edmonton and Vancouver. We do not have to support the continuing O&M capital and costs on that high-tech medicine. Generally, our population is a very fit, healthy, active, and outdoor kind of population. That all contributes to that 14 percent. I think that is high, but I do not think it is totally reflective of the general health of our population here in the Yukon. In general terms, the health of our population is probably very good.
When they did this analysis or comparison of the health care costs at $900 per person, and $1,300 per person at the national level, what was that based on? Was it just based on hospital billings, surgical procedures, doctors fees, medicare or pharmacare services, or was it based on some overall costs within the Department of Health and Human Resources?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: First of all let me explain that the information I have provided to Members comes from Stats Canada data that makes sure it is comparable. We are not comparing apples and oranges; we are comparing the medicare program, the health insurance system and the hospital costs that are the two basic elements for the jurisdictions compared.
The Member is quite right about the demographic reality of the Yukon. The population is younger here. In Canada the leading causes of death are still heart disease and cancer. That is not the case in Yukon. The leading cause of death here is violent death. There is some evidence that alcohol is a primary, secondary or tertiary cause. That is typical of populations with a lot of young people and young male populations.
The Member is also quite correct about high-tech medicine. I was pleased, in some meetings I had with physicians, to find out how skeptical some of the physicians are about the benefits of certain kinds of high-tech innovations. In other words, they have argued that for the massive increase in costs you get only marginal benefits. If you go from one kind of scanning machine to the next level, you do not get much improvement in the health status of the community for a very large investment; therefore, only very large communities can afford those things.
The fundamental point was made by our deputy minister before the Public Accounts Committee. It is also true in Canada, as I think it is in most places in North America, that 80 percent of health care costs are normally attributed to people in the last two years of their life. In other words it is people who are near death who produce most of the health care costs.
That means that, as our population ages, as we have excellent programs like Pharmacare, home care, and as we get into extended health care, we should assume that, over time, the percentage of our budget going to health care will more closely relate to the national averages, as our population comes to resemble the national average population more.
I wrote down the last point made by the Member and, now, I cannot read my own writing.
I am sorry, I will have to resume my seat.
Mrs. Firth: Maybe the population here in the Yukon will stabilize. There are people living here longer, but we still have a very transient population. I think that is probably going to carry on for many years to come. People who have been here for any length of time would probably say their numbers are becoming less and that there are more new people in the Yukon. As long as we continue to have young, healthy people coming to the Yukon, I think we will continue to benefit from those particular advantages.
The Minister talked about potential abuses, and I am not basing this on any scientific fact, but simply on my term of being in the Yukon and having worked at the hospital. My immediate reaction would be that I did not think there would be any major abuses of the medical system in the Yukon. There must be some kind of system of checks and balances, because of our size, so that that would become obvious to someone. I know medical people do not go around talking to other medical people about particular individuals; however, as the Minister said, we only have four pharmacies in town; we have 20-some doctors; we have one hospital, so there is a restricted number of times a person can go to doctors without all the doctors soon knowing that one individual is coming to them and getting prescriptions, and so on, unlike a large centre where they can assume different names and continue to get prescriptions, because there are 500 pharmacies all over the city, and so on.
I do not know if there is any fact, or if the Minister has found any evidence of abuses, but I would be surprised. I would be interested to hear if there were. Perhaps the Minister is indicating he would like to make some comment about that.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I know the Member will remember this from her days at the hospital but, all the time, I would hear hospital workers complaining about people who abused the emergency system by turning up there in the middle of the night with a problem that, in the opinion of the professionals there, would quite well wait to the next morning when they could get an appointment with their own physician. There was that kind of thing, which I hear a lot of grumbling about.
One could understand why parents are worried in the middle of the night when the kid has a cough or is feeling sick, but there are people who may go to emergency for less serious reasons than that.
When we had a meeting with most of the doctors in town and a large number of the nurses some months ago, there was a lively discussion on exactly this point. I do not claim it was a majority view at all, but it was certainly the opinion of doctors there that there were people in this town who may, from time to time, want a trip outside for some purpose so went to see a doctor. That doctor would not refer them outside, so they kept shopping for a doctor until they found one who would.
That allegation, without naming names or cases, was made by a practicing physician or two at a meeting in this town. It was not shared by all the doctors, and I could see that there was a difference of opinion. There is, however, a belief by some people that there is abuse. With a small professional community and a small patient population, the prospects of the kind of abuse that one would see in a large city down south does not exist. That does not eliminate it completely, but it does reduce it somewhat.
There is some analysis, which I have done plenty of reading on, that I would like to share with the Member on another occasion, that indicates that the fee for service system tends to encourage utilization of doctors and tends to increase the use of prescriptions by practicing physicians, versus some of the alternatives that exist in the U.S. There is the health management system where the doctors have financially decided to keep people healthy and reduce the number of visits rather than see them a lot.
There is some economic analysis there that would tend to indicate that a fee for service system tends to lead to more physician-patient visits than other models of delivery. We only have one model in the Yukon so I am not talking about that. We cannot make a comparison.
One comparison that is valid about the method of delivering health services here is that in the north generally, there is a much greater use of public health nurses and nursing practitioners as front line care givers. They are usually on salary. Therefore the costs association with them are fixed. That may contribute to the fact that we have lower costs than in jurisdictions where the first person a patient sees is the physician.
Given the hour, I move that we report progress on Bill No. 13.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House now have the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Ms. Kassi: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 13, Second Appropriation Act, 1989-90, and directed me to report progress on same.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:29 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled January 23, 1990:
Economic Development Agreement: (1) how many projects are still operating; (2) how many have failed; (3) has EDA money been used for purpose intended (McDonald)
Windy Craggy Mine Development Project: Planned hearings in B.C., and Yukons interest (McDonald)
Lack of supervision by Journeyman of Apprentice employed by Yukon Pacific Forest Products (McDonald)
Background correspondence and information on Intergovernmental Agreements Act including letter of instruction from Pierre Cadieux, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to the Commissioner. Aug. 1989 to Oct. 1989 (Penikett)
The following Filed Document was tabled January 23, 1990:
8. Memo to Shakir Alwarid, Deputy Minister, from Margaret Noble, Director, Finance and Administration, dated Aug. 2, 1989, re Commitments against 89-90 O&M not included in Budget (Lang)