Wednesday, January 24, 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.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Joe: I have for tabling the response to written questions by the Member for Riverdale South.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills?
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS
Management for Commercial and Domestic Freshwater Fisheries Assumed by Yukon Government
Hon. Mr. Webster: Today, Mr. Speaker, I arise to advise Members that as of January 1, 1990 the Yukon Government formally assumed responsibility for the management of our commercial and domestic freshwater fisheries.
I would like to take this opportunity to inform members of the three major principles that will govern this governments management of this resource, and of the guidelines that we will follow to ensure these principles are honoured.
Sustainability is the first principle governing management of the freshwater fishery. This means that fish should not be harvested at a level that compromises future harvests.
This general principle, and the others that I will mention, have been emphasized in the Yukon economic strategy, underline the Yukon conservation strategy and are a feature of my governments management of any of the Yukons renewable resources for which we have responsibility.
Providing harvest opportunities consistent with chosen lifestyles is the second principle guiding management of the commercial and domestic freshwater fishery.
The third and final principle that the guidelines address is management of the fishery in a way that minimizes the potential for conflict between different resource users.
The guidelines that I will briefly outline are designed to put these three principles into practice.
Given that most fishery users have expressed concerns about apparent declines in lake trout stocks, and given the limited baseline information and harvest data that we have inherited from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, we are proposing quite conservative commercial and domestic harvesting arrangements.
A review of the 20 previously scheduled commercial lake trout harvest lakes has been conducted and their number has been reduced to six of the larger lakes in the territory that we believe can support a commercial harvest with a minimum of conflict with other resource users. We believe that these six lakes can support fish populations able to sustain harvests at the levels that we intend to authorize, pending the collection of more precise resource inventory data.
The six lakes on which commercial lake trout fishing will be permitted are: Lake Laberge; Atlin Lake; Bennett Lake; Teslin Lake; Frances Lake; and, Kluane Lake.
The lakes eliminated from the commercial lake trout schedule accounted for less than 10 percent of commercial effort in the past.
Eliminated from the schedule are: lakes that are readily accessible by road and pose the possibility of significant conflict with recreational users; lakes that have significant tourist lodge use or potential; lakes that have been ignored by the commercial fishery in the past; and, lakes that are too small for commercial use.
To minimize conflicts between commercial and sports fishing on lakes, where there remains some likelihood for conflict, the commercial fishery will be restricted to winter operations. This staggering of seasons, along with the reduction in the number of lakes on the commercial schedule, has the added benefit of allowing our fisheries personnel and conservation officers to better monitor actual levels of harvest.
Harvest quotas are an important management tool as well. Since we lack definitive information on lake trout stocks in most Yukon lakes, the interim guidelines adopted for 1990 will reduce the allowable harvest quota for lake trout by more than half. Lake trout quotas will be reduced from 14,540 kg allowed last year to 6700 kg on the six designated commercial fishing lakes this year.
I would like to point out that the commercial lake trout harvest quota proposed for 1990, the 6700 kgs just mentioned, remains a small proportion of the total lake trout harvest of over 90,000 kg a year. Angling will continue to account for over 95 percent of the Yukons annual total lake trout harvest.
The quotas established for commercial fishing are also being applied differently this year than they have been in the past. Quotas are being assigned by individual and lake rather than simply by lake as they were by Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
This makes harvests more predictable for those holding commercial licences as well as more manageable for the people in our fisheries section.
Those who have recorded commercial harvests in at least one of the last three years will be eligible for commercial licences. Commercial licence holders who have held licences but not reported production will be asked to provide documentation of past production. In the future, new applicants must hold or have held a valid Assistant Licence or Commercial Fishing Licence previously in order to qualify for a commercial licence. Applicants will be assigned licences through the licensing procedure or by providing proof of quota transfer from another licence holder.
I understand that our fisheries section has contacted previous commercial licence holders and is working with them to ensure the smoothest possible transition for the new regime.
I would also like to advise Members of some changes to the domestic fishery guidelines.
As of January 1, new domestic fishing licences will be issued only to those individuals who have a subsistence or land-based lifestyles and live outside of major population centres. As is the case with commercial licence holders, people in the domestic fishery will be issued individual lake quotas. The domestic fishery will not centre on the lakes on the commercial schedule, but will instead focus on lakes in close proximity to the homes of domestic licence holders.
People who held domestic licences last year will be issued licences again in 1990, if they apply.
In conclusion, I believe that the principles and guidelines for the commercial and domestic freshwater fishery, which I have outlined today, will ensure economic opportunities for Yukoners to meet local demands for freshwater fish, enable Yukoners living in the bush to meet their needs and ensure anglers healthy stocks of lake trout. The management guidelines that I have presented will protect the integrity of an important renewable resource and minimize potential conflicts between commercial domestic and sports harvesters of lake trout and other freshwater fish species.
Mr. Phelps: I am somewhat concerned about one aspect of the ministerial statement. I am concerned that Bennett Lake is on the list of such lakes where commercial lake trout fishing will be allowed. This goes against the expressed wishes of virtually every Carcross and Tagish area resident.
Four years ago, a petition was signed by most residents in that area. The petition asked that commercial fishing not be allowed in Bennett Lake. Copies were sent to the Minister in his then capacity as Chairman of the Select Committee, hearing the views of Yukoners about the green paper on renewable resources.
Then again, about one and one-half years ago, there was a controversy about commercial fishing on the Bennett, and another similar petition was circulated by the Carcross-Tagish Indian Band. That petition was signed by most residents in the area. That petition was sent, along with other correspondence, to the Department of Renewable Resources.
I am somewhat dismayed at this turn of events. I hope that residents will be consulted early before this policy is cast in stone. To my knowledge, most residents have not been advised that this is the intention of the department.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to assure the Member opposite who has raised this concern that our department shares his concern. Bennett Lake and Frances Lake are two of six lakes mentioned where we have had a number of complaints from the public as to the health of the lake trout stocks, and demanding some action to reduce the quotas for commercial fishery. For both those lakes for this year of 1990, we have reduced the quota for commercial harvest to less than half of last years levels, recognizing the concern out there. I would suggest to him that these are interim guidelines; there will be some opportunities for input by the public to make comments as to what they feel is a reasonable harvest quota for the commercial fishery, not only on those two lakes but on the other four lakes designated for commercial lake trout fishing. This summer, our departmental fisheries has singled out both Bennett and Frances lakes for some inventory work to get a good idea as to the health of the fish stock in those two lakes.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Yukon Pacific Forest Products
Mr. Phelps: I have some questions of the Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation, once again, regarding the sale of the Watson Lake sawmill to Yukon Pacific. The Minister continues to allege that he was not aware of the key role played by T.F. Properties in the negotiations leading up to the sale and that his officials did not check into the background of T.F. Properties and its principals, Ted Myrah and Mr. Ferguson, before the sale closed last year. I am advised that Jack Sigalet spoke to Mr. Alwarid several months before the sale was completed and, at that time, warned him about Mr. Fergusons dubious business background. Was the Minister advised about this warning by Mr. Alwarid?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am certainly not going to get into commenting on remarks and aspersions cast by one third party to another third party some months ago outside this House. While the Member for Porter Creek East is snickering, the fact of the matter is - as I have said before in this House and I will repeat - Yukon Development Corporation negotiated arrangements with the Shieldings Group - that is who we made our transactions with. Whomever Shieldings chose to bring in as their agents or partners or employees was their private business, not ours.
Mr. Phelps: This deal was put together, let us face it, by T.F. Properties and its principals, and the officials acting on behalf of the Minister and on behalf of the people of Yukon were warned about the dubious business background of those very people who were dealing with Yukon Development. I would like to know why the background of T.F. Properties and its officers were not checked into, in view of the caveat that was received by Mr. Alwarid several months before the sale took place.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I think there is something quite improper about the Member using his situation of privilege in this House to cast aspersions, in fact suggesting criminal behaviour, immoral behaviour, or a dubious record by some people who are not here to defend themselves or explain themselves, under cover of his immunity in the House. Then, he asks me to explain why a third party, a private company, did business with those people.
I repeat: the private company that did business with those people was the Shieldings group. We had a contract with Shieldings. We made arrangements with Shieldings. I previously told the Member, and I will repeat again, we made very thorough checks into Shieldings, including who their owners were, the Bank of Nova Scotia, that they were financially solvent and had investments all over this country. The commitments we were concerned about having met, including the payment to local creditors were, from our point of view, commitments made by Shieldings, and those are the people whom we hold to account.
Mr. Phelps: We have yet another red herring being dragged across the path of those who would like to know more about this business arrangement, on behalf of the taxpayers of the Yukon who, ultimately, are paying for the mistakes made by the Minister and his colleagues.
The business background of Mr. Ferguson has been fully divulged outside this House in the Whitehorse Star. I do not have to add anything to the articles that have been published. In view of what we know, and in view of the fact the officials were told about some of these previous transactions, why was no check made into the background of T.F. Properties: who put the deal together, who signed documents at the closing, and who were responsible for preparing the agreement with regard to the building of the new mill?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I can only repeat what I said before, that our arrangements were with the Shieldings company. I am not quite sure what the point of the Member is here. He is alleging that a certain person has a bad character or a bad reputation. I do not know what his position is. Is it the position that they should not be allowed to invest in the business in the Yukon, that they should not be allowed to be employed in the Yukon, not be allowed to be a resident in the Yukon? What is his position? We have no contract with that person, and I understand his obligation was to build a mill for this company.
If the Member is suggesting that the position of this government should be that someone who has ever had a business fail, or who has ever been involved in some disputes or difficulties or if, in the opinion of the Leader of the Official Opposition, somebody has a bad reputation from somewhere else, they should not be allowed to invest here, live here or work here, I have a little problem with that suggestion on human rights grounds.
We checked very thoroughly into the people ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We checked very thoroughly into the people with whom we made a contract. Whomever they chose to then hire, or have agents or other contracts with, or retain as managers, was their private business. I submit it was not something which ought to be discussed in this House.
Question re: Yukon Pacific Forest Products
Mr. Phelps: There are several issues. First of all, a contract was entered into with T.F. Properties and its principals. The government stood up proudly and told Yukoners that they had checked very thoroughly the Shieldings company. They cannot have it both ways. Why, then, did the government Minister for Yukon Development Corporation, if he is not at all concerned about the business background of anybody that they enter into business with, bother checking out Shieldings?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member is missing the point. We checked out Shieldings because that is who we were doing business with. If Shieldings has an arrangement with a third party, that is its business, not ours.
Mr. Phelps: We do not have all the contracts yet - I am sure we will get them in time - but the government was doing business with T.F. Properties - they are named on the documents. I will move on because I have some questions about the fees received by T.F. Properties over the past year, the fees that they enjoyed, from managing Yukon Pacific.
Mr. Phelps: Can the Minister advise us whether T.F. Properties, or its principals, received a commission for selling lumber on behalf of Yukon Pacific?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: For reasons that I described yesterday, I am going to take the question as notice.
Mr. Phelps: Will the Minister also take as notice, look into and report back to House how much the commission was and how much money was paid by T.F. Properties or its principals?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will take all further questions of this type on this subject as notice, yes.
Mr. Phelps: Can the Minister also advise us as to whether T.F. Properties or its principals have an interest in the trucking company that trucked the lumber from Watson Lake sawmill to various points in B.C.?
Question re: Yukon Pacific Forest Products
Mr. Phelps: Is the Minister then telling us, by his refusal to stand up, that he is going to take this under advisement and respond later?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Forgive me, I was not being rude to the Member. I just indicated an answer to the previous question: that I would take this question as notice and any subsequent questions on the same subject, arising out of the same question, as notice.
Mr. Phelps: Does that mean that he will be reporting back to the House with the answers?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: When I can, I will be reporting back on those questions that have to do with the public business. I may be constrained and I may have to take legal advice as to whether I am inhibited in any way by matters now before the courts, in terms of the timing of my answers. I will take legal advice on that question and we will be providing answers to the matters that pertain to the public business.
Mr. Phelps: Can the Minister advise this House as to why it would not be responsible for him to answer to the people of the Yukon about the matters being raised? To my knowledge, no one is in court right now, and to my knowledge, none of these questions bear on the issue of the appointment of a receiver.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not know whether the final assertion by the Member is the case or not but I can tell him that I have received advice from the lawyers for Yukon Development Corporation, in respect to the care that I should take in answering questions on this subject while the matter is before the courts, and I think the Member should understand that.
Question re: Yukon Pacific Forest Products
Mr. Phelps: Can the Minister advise the House why Yukon Development Corporation decided to launch an action against Carroll-Hatch a day or two before the Public Accounts Committee was supposed to be looking into the operation of Yukon Development Corporation and Hyland Forest Products?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: They did not, Mr. Speaker. They retained legal advice on this question some time ago and made a decision to proceed with legal action upon receipt of that legal advice. The connection the Member is trying to draw between the two events is not there.
Mr. Phelps: When the Minister takes notice of questions, will he advise this House about the trucking company I mentioned earlier that transported the lumber from the Watson Lake sawmill to various points in B.C.? Would the Minister also advise this House as to how much was charged for transporting the lumber by the trucking company in question?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will take notice of that question.
Mr. Phelps: Will the Minister advise this House about how much money has been received by T.F. Properties for managing the Watson Lake sawmill to date?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will take notice of the question.
Question re: Yukon Pacific Forest Products
Mr. Phelps: Will the Minister provide us with the fee structure in place between Yukon Pacific and T.F. Properties for managing the mill?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Again, I will take notice of the question, and I will again repeat that if the information is within the public domain, if it is a matter of private business or information, it may not be accessible to me. Once again, I will take notice of the question.
If the Member is seriously expecting me to have answers to some questions like this, he would have given me notice or questions in writing. The fact that he has not done that indicates that he really does not expect answers today.
Mr. Phelps: Before the Christmas break, I asked many of these questions of the Minister. I am somewhat perturbed that he is surprised by these questions at this late date.
Will the Minister advise us whether T.F. Properties is managing the Watson Lake sawmill to date?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As I told the Member yesterday, he knows the answer to that question. We have applied to the court for a receiver manager. That matter will be disposed of by the courts before there is any change in management.
Question re: Na Dli Youth Centre
Mr. Nordling: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Human Resources with respect to the young offenders facility.
The young offenders facility took this government four years to plan, and it cost well over $3 million to construct. Part of the planning process included the hiring of consultants to determine what services would be provided.
Can the Minister tell us if those consultants reports formed the basis of the young offenders program?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Off the top of my head and without a review of the files, I do not know how many consultant reports there were, what recommendations were made or what were accepted. I can assume in general that the consultants reports did make recommendations and that we followed them, but without a check of the files, as I was not the Minister at the time, I cannot answer the question definitively today.
Mr. Nordling: I would hope the Minister would take a little more depth of interest in the problems at the young offenders facility and what lead up to them and review his file. We asked that these reports be tabled in April of 1986, and that was not done. We know that $55,000 was paid to Audrey McLaughlan for Young Offender Program Planning Service, and another $20,000 for development of a wilderness program.
I would like to know if there were other reports or consultants from outside the territory used in developing the program.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I could check into that. I am sure that a report done by Audrey McLaughlin, was an excellent one. I will take the Members suggestion, and go back and read it myself. We reject the Members suggestion that we have not devoted time and attention to the problems at the young offenders facility. We have moved resolutely to address the problems that we have recently had there, and I hope to be making a report to the House on that shortly.
Mr. Nordling: Has the Minister looked into the history of the problem? Does he know if we have any research or analyses from other jurisdictions that told us that the design, security and programming of the facility that we put in place would work and meet our needs?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The preliminary report from the investigators from the Solicitor Generals Department of the Province of B.C., very senior people in this field, indicated in a preliminary way that the basic design and program of the facility are sound. The department will not be receiving a report from these people for some weeks yet. The general soundness of the design and the program have been confirmed by this third-party examination.
Question re: Na Dli Youth Centre
Mr. Nordling: Can the Minister describe the damage that was done to the facility by the youths who escaped?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I cannot describe the damage in terms of the actual dollar cost to repair it. That is yet to come. We had damage to the furniture and some damage to the facility. That damage was not in the same order of magnitude as the improvements in the security that we have since commissioned. They will, notwithstanding a false allegation made by the Member opposite, be within the total amount that we budgeted for this facility. Even the improvements will be able to be handled within that general budgetary target.
Mr. Nordling: When will we know how much it will cost to repair the damage?
Why were preliminary estimates of the damages not done?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: My instructions, and the instructions of the deputy minister that were given to the people in Government Services, were to repair the damage and make the recommended improvements that were indicated by the staff as soon as possible so that we could restore the facility to its proper use.
Mr. Nordling: What measures have been taken to improve the security at the facility?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The report that we expect in a few weeks will get into some more detail on this. We do have some recommendations to improve physical security and procedures in order to protect and enhance the occupational safety of the staff as well as the people incarcerated there. The department has recommended that I not get into a public discussion of the improvements in the physical security for fear that public discussion would compromise the security of the operation.
Mr. Nordling: It sounds like nonsense to me.
Question re: Meech Lake Accord
Ms. Hayden: The Premier of B.C., Bill Vander Zalm made his proposal public yesterday for the amendments to the Meech Lake Accord. Given the concern of the Yukon people about this issue, could the Premier advise this House as to whether or not his proposal will have an impact on the position the Government of the Yukon has been taking on the Meech Lake Accord?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I thank the Member for the question. There is not anything in Mr. Vander Zalms recommendations, which I have now had to read, which would give any particular comfort to the people of the Yukon, beyond the fact that, in his proposals, he does indicate in future, in passing, that the territories ought to have a voice in the approval process for constitutional change. However, he does not specifically deal with the concerns we have as a jurisdiction, except to suggest they would be dealt with in some later process, and that we would have a stay of execution for about three years.
I think the one point of optimism we may have is that another province has opened up the question, and that may provide us with some opportunities. We intend to explore the matter further with the Premier of that province.
Ms. Hayden: As we approach the targeted date for the passing of the Meech Lake Accord, the lobbying for various positions on the Accord is becoming more intense. Does the Government of Yukon plan to take part in that lobbying?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have previously indicated that, time permitting, Ministers of this government will certainly be part of lobbying their provincial colleagues and the federal government, as I have had occasion recently to do in a meeting with Lowell Murray, and in discussions with the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and other federal Ministers. Given the short time, we are also intending to assign some senior officials in this government to the task of lobbying in the provinces, and I hope to be making further announcements about that during the course of this sitting.
Question re: Na Dli Youth Centre
Mr. Nordling: To go back to the topic we are on, I will make my same remarks so it is in context. To refuse to answer my question because it may jeopardize security at the young offenders facility sounds like nonsense to me. We are not asking for a detailed description or a blueprint of the security system at the facility. We are asking, in general, what measures have been taken to increase the security at the facility. We can see there has been barbed wire put on the top. The Minister has already told the media there were improvements in the locking system.
Would the Minister honour this House with a general description of what has been done?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am sorry the Member did not understand my previous answer to his general question. Yes, the locking systems will be improved. The fencing will be upgraded, with a view to enhance the security in the facility. In terms of staff procedures, we are taking some measures that we hope will improve the situation. We hope the physical improvements in the security, including the locks and fencing, will be concluded in a matter of days. The staff will be oriented to the new physical arrangements and to some new procedural improvements this week. As I have indicated, by the end of this week or early next week, we hope to have the facility in operation again.
There may be some further action arising from the report, which will come in a few weeks, but I cannot indicate anything about that in advance. It is quite likely that if we have a certain number of young people in there, and there is a concern about the population at any moment, I want to give the authority to the staff to bring in ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: ... extra auxiliaries, or whatever is necessary, in order to make sure the safety of the staff is not compromised.
Mr. Nordling: Can the Minister tell us how much, approximately, these improvements to the security are going to cost?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I cannot yet, for reasons I have given, but I will be more than happy to take that question as notice and provide the Member with the actual number once complete. I am sure Government Services will provide us with the information when they have actually completed the work and, of course, it will come out of the capital allocation of the Department of Health and Human Resources.
Mr. Nordling: Will the Minister also provide us with the cost to the taxpayer to bring the consultants in from British Columbia to help us straighten out the mess we got ourselves in?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am sorry the Member has to add his snide remark to the question, because it was unnecessary. The procedures in the young offender program for any major incident require a third party investigation. In this territory, that requires going to another jurisdiction. The British Columbia government was very cooperative and willing to send people up and, as I understand it, there is no charge for that other than their expenses.
Question re: Na Dli Youth Centre
Mrs. Firth: My question is also directed to the Minister of Health and Human Resources.
Since the incident at the young offenders facility, a constituent has informed me that the employees of the facility were called aside and told not to talk to the politicians about the incident. Can the Minister tell us if this was being done?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Not on my instructions. Indeed, I met with the employees the day after the incident to talk to them about it and explain the process of the investigation that was going to go on. I understand a number of the employees have talked to the media and, as you know, it is the policy of the government generally that you are not to talk to the media about the operations of your own department unless you are authorized to do so. There is a general rule about that throughout the government, and it was in place when the Member opposite was a Minister. Mr. Speaker, there was no specific instruction given from me.
Mrs. Firth: I am not talking about employees talking to the media; I am asking questions about employees talking to politicians.
The Minister made reference to his presentation to the employees. The question I want to put to the Minister is this: did he go up to the young offenders facility and make a speech to the staff, at which time he told them to keep quiet and not discuss the issue, because he did not want it to become political?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Certainly not. I did not do anything of the kind. I went up to talk to the staff the day after the incident and commiserate with them about the effect on them, particularly those who had been physically attacked. Through Family Services, a counselling session was provided to the employees to deal with that traumatic event; as well, the Occupational Health and Safety people came in to take a look at the operation from the point of view of employee safety. We also had a brief discussion with them about the investigation process, which I have already talked about in this House, and I do not think I did anything that would even, by any characterization, resemble a speech.
Mrs. Firth: People have raised this issue with me directly as their MLA; they are facts that were presented to me by people who feel intimidated and are frightened for their jobs. I would like the Minister to perhaps present us with a written form of exactly what he told the employees at the time of his visit to them.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not believe the Member has constituents who say that. I am going to call her bluff, because I did not say that, and if she has any evidence that I said anything like that, she should present it to the House, because I do not believe her.
Question re: Visitor reception centre
Mr. Phillips: I have a question for the Minister of Tourism.
In May of 1988 I tabled a petition in this House with over 200 signatures of individuals and businesses who wanted the government to consider building the planned Whitehorse tourism information centre on the Alaska Highway. In fact, there were some suggestions made that the centre should be located near the transportation museum. Since that time, several studies have been undertaken by the government, and 1992 is fast approaching. I feel that we should have a centre in place by then.
What is currently happening with the plans for a visitor reception centre? Are we going to have one before 1992?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Before I answer that question I would like some clarification from the Member opposite.
He is referring to a reception centre in downtown Whitehorse or one on the Alaska Highway?
Mr. Phillips: The debate was on where the visitor reception centre would go. Many people questioned whether it should be built downtown. There were several studies done to determine where they would build it. No one on this side has seen those studies. If the Minister has such studies would he table them in the House?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Two studies were done to determine the possible location for the visitor reception centre in downtown Whitehorse. It was also suggested to me at that same time, taking the example of other large communities in western Canada, that there should also be a smaller reception centre located on the highway to entice visitors to come to find out more information about the community so they can be directed to the major centre in the downtown location. Those reports have been provided to the Department of Tourism and I will ensure that the Member receives a copy of that report.
Mr. Phillips: As I said earlier, 1992 is fast approaching and the type of facility we are talking about will take a year or two to construct. When are we going to at least announce the construction process for the building of a new visitor facility in Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Webster: As the Member is aware there is some difficulty acquiring a suitable location for the visitor reception centre. This is what is stalling the construction of a new reception centre for the Whitehorse area. The Member is obviously aware that when he views the capital budget proposed for 1990-91 that there have been no monies allocated for this purpose. I would suggest that we, too, recognize the urgency to have some kind of facility in place in time for the 1992 celebrations. That will hopefully be reflected in next years capital budget.
Question re: Contract bonding requirements
Mr. Devries: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
Small businesses face a lot of obstacles and some of these difficulties are created by the bonding requirements and the manner in which the Department of Highways tenders contracts. I am referring specifically to highway asphalt emulsions and would like to know if the Minister would entertain downsizing the tenders so more small businesses can compete?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Off the top of my head I see no particular problem with the request. I would exercise the qualifier that I would like to seek some advice on why the current contracts are let in large volume quantities. Perhaps if the Member has additional information on the subject he could share it.
Mr. Devries: Other jurisdictions, such as Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, issue several dozen individual tenders for different areas over a period of two months in order to give small businesses a better chance. Would the Yukon highway department consider separate tenders for emulsions issued with closing dates several weeks apart so companies could make three separate bids for possibly the month of June, July and August. If they got the June contract this would also give them the opportunity to borrow more money for the bonding on the tender for July.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I appreciate the Members representation. As he describes it, it does not sound unreasonable. Certainly, through the discussion that I have had with the contracting and constructing community, the business of downsizing contracts and staggering them is not unusual. It is something that is encouraged and we do it. I want to explore the option the Member raises.
Mr. Devries: Would the Minister also examine the issues of bonding to ascertain what can be done to help small businesses?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I can undertake that initiative as well. I take it that the Member is suggesting that the bonding requirements are too rigid or too strict at the moment.
Question re: Workers Compensation Board office building
Mr. Brewster: My question is to the Minister responsible for the Workmans Compensation Board. In May, 1988, it was revealed that that the Workmans Compensation Board was considering building an office building in Whitehorse, to be built to meet a projected growth for approximately 20 years. I asked: Can the Minister advise the House if this project has been approved and is going ahead? The answer to that question was, It is my understanding that the Workmans Compensation Board has proceeded with plans to go ahead with the building. Can the Minister confirm this as a fact?
Hon. Ms. Joe: For the information of the House, it is Workers Compensation and not Workmans Compensation. The response I gave the Member at that time is correct. There have been plans to proceed with the building, in consultation with other organizations in the city.
Mr. Brewster: Thank you. I will have to apologize sometimes for my language. I do not have the education that some of these people have.
I then asked, Can the Minister advise the House if it is still the intention of the Workers Compensation Board to rent extra office space to other government departments and agencies, as well as the private sector? The answer I received then was, The information he is seeking is not before me. I have spoken to them with regard to the building and understand there will be accommodation. I will have to bring this information back.
My question is: when will it be brought back?
Hon. Ms. Joe: My apologies to the Member, Mr. Speaker. I have been assured by Workers Compensation that there would be no added space that would be rented out to other organizations and businesses; it would be used strictly for Workers Compensation.
Mr. Brewster: I asked that on December 12 and I get an answer on January 24. On December 12, the Minister stated, I believe the Workers Compensation Board has developed a plan whereby office space they are planning will be built in a manner that is acceptable to the people involved.
Will the Minister please table the plan?
Hon. Ms. Joe: I not entirely sure whether or not that would be something that I would do. I would have to go back to the Workers Compensation Board to get advice from them and I am not entirely sure whether that is a proper thing to do - to table plans for all buildings that are built. I will seek that advice and I will come back to the House with it.
Question re: Wood bison
Mr. Lang: I have a question to the Minister of Renewable Resources and it is a question about the decision by the government to bring more wood bison to the Yukon. In view of the controversy that is raging over in the Northwest Territories, and the very serious situation that wildlife is facing in that area, is it still the position of the Government of the Yukon that more wood bison would be coming into the Yukon this spring?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Yes, it is still the intention of the government, along with the other groups associated with this project - the Yukon Fish and Game Association, for example - to bring more wood bison into the Yukon. It is part of the management plan strategy, which eventually will see us bring the total number of the herd up to 200.
Mr. Lang: I have to raise the very real concern with respect to the diseases these animals can get, in view of what has happened in the Northwest Territories. Can the Minister guarantee the people of the territory that we will not experience the same disease problems with the wood bison in the Yukon that are presently being experienced in the Northwest Territories?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I do not know if I can give a personal guarantee to that effect, but I can only assume that the department, and the Fish and Game Association, would only accept animals that are healthy and have been proven to be so.
Mr. Lang: Will the Minister of Renewable Resources verify this? That disease can be in an animal for a minimum of seven years before it is detected. Is that not correct?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I understand that is true.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Mr. Phillips: On behalf of the House Leaders, I would request unanimous consent to proceed directly to Motions other than Government Motions, rather than calling Motions for the Production of Papers, and for the motions to be called in the following order: Motion No. 64, Motion No. 51, Motion No. 65 and Motion No. 52.
I would also request unanimous consent that, if we are not then finished debate on the motions, to allow a motion to be moved at 4:30 p.m. for the House to resolve itself into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Motions other than Government Motions?
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Item No. 24, standing in the name of Mr. Lang.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 24?
Mr. Lang: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Motion No. 64
Speaker: It has moved by the hon. Member for Whitehorse Porter Creek East
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon Government should not implement the proposed increases in motor vehicle licence plate fees.
Mr. Lang: The motion before the House is very simple and to the point. As all Members are aware, during the course of the past two months, we have had a very emotional debate over the changes to the plate proposed by the government under the personage of the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. It is unfortunate that it overshadowed another very significant issue, and that was the question of the raising of the registration fees for motor vehicles.
At the outset, prior to getting into the question of the fees, I want to compliment the Minister for finally seeing the light and reinstating the obviously very-much-loved goldpanner and the Klondike back onto our licence plates. I must add that I think it was a needless debate, and I am surprised the government took the initial steps they did take.
I also want to register, as I did the other day, my very major concern about the precedent that was set in announcing the change in policy in a local liquor outlet in Whitehorse. I think it brought politics to an all-time low in trivializing an issue that was so important to the people of the territory, to the point that we had almost 6,000 people sign the petition and put forward their thoughts on the issue that was addressed at that time.
The point before us now is the reality that the people of the territory are going to face up to a 33 percent increase for car registration and up to 44 percent for trucks. The question that we have to ask ourselves is why, at this stage, is the government asking for a tax increase to be borne by the people of the territory?
Let us take a moment and examine the facts. On November 28, the Minister justified, in part, the governments increase of the fees by comparing the territory to the western provinces. He stated that 32 percent of revenues are collected by this method to pay for the operation and maintenance of highways. The Minister pointed out how cheap the people of the territory were because they are only paying 5.4 percent.
The Minister forgot to mention that we are in a much different situation in the financing of our highways, vis-a-vis the Government of Canada. The Alaska Highway and the Haines Highway are paid for by the Government of Canada under a separate operation and maintenance and capital agreement. The territory gets grants for upgrading portions of the Dempster Highway from the federal government under the engineering services agreement.
There is another reality regarding the paying of the O&M costs of the highways in the territory. One of the justifications for our transfer of payments from the Government of Canada is that our highways budget is built in to the base. Therefore, I do not understand the argument put forward by the Minister that he is being forced to increase our motor vehicle registration costs because of our relationship with western Canada. We, as a northern territory, are in a very preferred position because of the transfers we get from the Government of Canada. The argument that the Minister presents has no basis. To compare ourselves to the western provinces is like comparing apples and oranges.
Some very significant points have to be examined to determine how this will be felt by the people of the territory. Except for the City of Whitehorse, which has limited public transportation, there is very little public transportation available in the rural ridings. Subsequently, it is almost mandatory for those people, to be able to carry on a working and social life, to own a minimum of one vehicle. This increase in taxation is going to hit most Yukoners; there is no question about that.
I would also like to point out that in the Yukon, because of the distances, because of our lifestyle, in many cases Yukoners have two vehicles per family. So, in many cases, we are not only being taxed once, but this would be double taxation. The Minister can say that is not really the case, that the people can afford it. The point is, though, why do we need it?
When the budget for 1990-91 was introduced, the Minister of Finance proudly stood in his place and said to the people of the territory that there would be no increase in taxation. Lo and behold, within days of the announcement by the Minister of Finance, a bill is brought forward - fait accompli - hidden under the smoke and mirrors of the goldpanner today, with up to a 40 percent increase on our registration fees. Why?
The Government of Yukon has never ever, never ever experienced the prosperity that we have seen in the past five years, largely because of the transfer payments from the Government of Canada.
We have seen an orgy of spending here that has been unparalleled, not only in the Yukon but in Canada, and even perhaps in North America, when we take a look at some of the wanton spending that took place over the course of the last five years. I just have to take a look: we had an arena that was estimated at $500,000, but we are now over $3 million. There was another project, raised today, the young offenders secure facility; we find out that, for $3 million, we got a building with no locks on it, so we had to bring some experts in from outside, at a cost, to tell us where to put the locks.
Another issue raised today in Question Period was the question of the Watson Lake sawmill. Before the court action was launched last week, the Government Leader could not answer any questions because he did not know anything, and this week he cannot answer any questions because his legal people have said, Oh, be careful. He does not have any problem being careful, because he does not know anything about the issue.
More important, the amount of taxpayers money that has been wasted through mismanagement of that particular project has never been disclosed to the people of the territory. It has been estimated to be $8 million and as high as $15 million.
I see the Government Leader smirking and smiling to himself; he should stand up in his place some day and tell the people of the territory. He has not had guts enough yet. The Government Leader cannot stand up in a public forum and tell the people of the territory what the costs are. No, no, no; he is above that. He is the king now, on his little throne. Mr. Speaker, I cannot give the people of the territory any answers in this House. Why should they even ask? I cannot believe they would have the audacity to ask and bow to the Government Leader to ask him why he spent their money this way. He is above that now; he has changed his title. Things are changing in the territory, and we can blow $15 million - poof. Maybe we can blame the Government of Canada, because they are not going to give us any more money.
I am more than prepared to have the Government Leader stand in his place and tell the people right now, today, exactly how much it cost - if he has got the jam - but maybe he does not have the knowledge. I would give my place to the Member across the floor to stand and tell the people of the territory. He did not take that opportunity. I wonder why? He sits there and smirks to himself and wonders why he cannot stand up in this House and tell the people of the territory how he spent their money. Because he is not answerable to the people of the territory any longer. He is not answerable for the fact that they do not have locks on a young offenders secure facility. Mr. Speaker, I cannot divulge that because the experts have told me that if someone knew where the keys were they might know how to get out.
Mr. Speaker, give your head a shake. The side opposite does not want to talk. The cost of the Yukon College: work started at $25 million, and we are over $50 million. Mr. Speaker, it is just money. I am just trying to remind the Minister of Justice of the wanton spending that we have witnessed in the last five years that the people in the territory are going to have to start paying for. Maybe we should start unwinding a little bit of it. Maybe we should raise, now that we are talking about the Minister of Justice, the matter of $62,000 to go on a holiday.
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get back to the motion?
Mr. Lang: I am, Mr. Speaker; I am talking about increased taxation here and I am talking about how the government spends our money in relation to our taxes. I did not realize I would be out of order.
Speaker: Order please. I would just like to remind you that we are speaking about the licence plates fees increases, Motion No. 64.
Mr. Lang: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I do not understand why we are increasing the motor vehicle taxes to pay for somebody to go on a $62,000 junket. We pay this individual through general taxes and motor vehicle taxes an average of $180,000 for four years. That is over $700,000. I know it is not much money and I recognize that hiring someone with that expertise for that amount plus expenses was a steal.
Here is $62,000 for somebody to go on a holiday, for somebody to learn French, or to write a book, for which it is my understanding that the Government of Canada gave him a grant a couple of years ago to do. He might take a course or two and try to get his feet back on the ground after all that heavy thinking at $180,000 a year, plus expenses. We can always justify that kind of expenditure through the increased fees and taxes on our motor vehicles because the Government Leader told us that the other negotiator was getting paid more.
Through motor vehicles and income tax we have it covered. The Minister of Finance has not even decided when to cut the cake for the grand opening of the new curling rink. It is only $1 million. After the mine closed we still had the same Minister, the same responsible government, spend $35,000 or $40,000 finishing the cabinets. That was a wise, judicious use of money. I would applaud this gentleman, and I would have a lot more confidence in his ability to manage our affairs if it was his own money, but it is the peoples money, so who are we to ask how the publics money should be spent. I honestly believe the side opposite would prefer to have taxation without representation because it would be a lot easier.
The point I am making is that there is an endless list of how money has been misdirected, mismanaged, and in many cases misspent by the side opposite. Now we are faced with the first step in the increase in taxation because of financial mismanagement by the side opposite.
There are people who are very upset with the fact the government is coming in with this increase, especially with the arrogance that has been demonstrated by the government on this issue. The Minister has stated publicly, almost with relief, that the one good thing about the goldpanner debate is that the increase in fees has slipped through unnoticed.
I am here to tell you it has not slipped through unnoticed. People are aware that taxes are increasing, contrary to the comments of the Minister of Finance when he brought forward his budget, and contrary to any of the public statements by the side opposite that everything is balanced and there are no problems.
I want to read into the record a letter to the editor.
I want to read into the record a letter to the editor dated December 20, 1989. It capsulized very well and very succinctly the issue that we are facing here today and how people saw the smokescreen brought forward by the Minister in relation to the goldpanner and, at the same time, making every effort to get his increases through unnoticed. It is entitled Cute Trick, Minister told This is an open letter to the Transportation Services Minister Maurice Byblow.
I have to hand it to you. What a great way to double the motor vehicle licence fees and make the public accept it without a whimper. Terrific sleight of hand. Off the goldpanner, design a new plate, thus creating a huge public outcry, then gracefully bow to public opinion and bring back our dear old miner friend.
That was on December 20. He read the Ministers mind a month before the Minister made up his mind in the Taku bar.
Joe Citizen says, how about that, we won, and then hands over an extra $28 or $30 for the same plate. Cute trick, Maurice.
I do not know if the Minister read that letter, but I think it came pretty close to the mark.
I want to conclude by saying that there is a magic and a mystery to this. The magic, up to this point, has been where the money has been coming from, and now we know where it is going to start coming from with increases to taxes. The mystery is, as I outlined earlier, is where they are spending it.
I want to ask all Members to reconsider this very irrational decision brought forward by the government, and ask them, on behalf of their constituents, to forget party lines, forget being told and whipped into shape by your king. Think for yourself. Stand up for yourself and stand up for the people you represent. I ask all Members to vote for this motion. Say no to increased taxation.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: What I have to say is short and sweet. After I deal with the Member for Porter Creek East, who just spoke, I will get the message across.
I did enjoy the Member for Porter Creek East putting on one of his two performances, this one being his Mr. Macho-Man performance. I have enjoyed it for years. It has been a real pleasure, over the period from 1982 onward, that he has entertained us with basically the same histrionics that he did this afternoon.
The Member clearly does not understand the issue well. He certainly did express his desire to use the motor vehicle licence debate to take a few shots at the governments budget. It is primarily to that I would like to respond this afternoon.
Firstly, just to point out for all Members attention and, also, to help the Member for Porter Creek East understand the budget better and the concern we have with respect to the formula better, the Members statements regarding the Highways budget being built into the base is precisely why we are concerned about the formula arrangement, as the gross expenditure base in the new formula does not mean anything anymore. I realize that this is a complication that is far beyond the Members comprehension but, nevertheless, I would entreat the Member to try his level best to understand some of the issues that are before the House with respect to the financing arrangement, and I will get to that in a moment.
As I indicated to the Member before his rather pathetic attempt to level this attack, the licence plate fee is a fee for a service. It is a fee for a service not only in Yukon, but elsewhere in Canada.
The principle is, in fact - and the Member did indicate this - to pay for a portion of the costs of operating the highway system, and if the service costs go up, the fees go up. The fees, as the Member is I am sure aware, have not been raised since 1981, when he was the Minister responsible and he increased them rather dramatically at that time.
The Member for Community and Transportation Services will provide more detail on this, I am sure, but the obvious point is that costs have gone up; they have more than doubled, and consequently, fees ought to go up, unless we decide to subsidize the cost of this service from general revenue.
Let me just say this: the statement that it is inappropriate to raise this fee, this standard fee, coming from the Opposition, who say that the general revenues of this government ought to be slashed, is a stinging inditement of the role that the Conservative Members have played in this Legislature over the past 10 months. I have not ever, ever seen anything like it.
Let me tell you this: If the federal government, in the next budget, cuts the established program financing arrangement for the provinces, will there be one opposition party in this country, in any provincial legislature, who will thank the federal government for having cut transfers to the provinces? No, but in this Legislature the Members proudly announce that fact, but they have also, in public, around this city, been bragging about the fact that they were on the telephone to Mr. Wilsons office regularly, encouraging them to cut back the rightful transfer to this territory.
Some Hon. Members: Prove it. Prove it. Prove it.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, Tokyo Rose over there has been bragging that they have been manipulating the federal government to try to encourage them to cut funding to this government, and these Members across the floor have on many occasions been saying that the formula is too rich, that the spending ability of this government is too great and that we should not only expect to be cut back, but to be cut way back. Not only that, but given the relationship with the federal government and given the fact that they have been working on this for some time, making the job of the Department of Finance here in negotiating a new agreement particularly difficult, and given the fact that these people have been betraying the public trust for a very long period of time, it has been very difficult for both the Yukon and the Northwest Territories to get a decent arrangement from the federal government.
All along, the Conservative Members from across the floor have been saying that the formula grant has been too much - all along - from day one when this government first came to power in 1985. At the time they were making silly suggestions back and forth respecting the need to take this funding, not spend it, put it into the bank - do not put into it infrastructure, even though that was the acknowledged reason for having the formula financing in the first place, but put it into the bank so that we can somehow justify to Mr. Wilson that we can fatten our bank account at the expense of the federal government and not...
Speaker: Will the Member please get back to the subject on Motion No. 64 on fees for licence plates?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, the point of the remarks that I am making is that the Member for Porter Creek has made the allegation that this particular debate has everything to do with taxation. He has made the point that the expenditures for licence plates should come from general revenue and that the government itself has plenty of money in order to fulfill its commitment with respect to the service costs of running the highway system.
I am responding by stating the relationship between the government and the fees it charges to the public for the provision of services, as well as the availability of funds to provide this service, should we decide not to provide them for a fee. That is the crux of the issue.
The Member has made allegations that I must respond to with respect to the financial arrangements this government has had with the federal government over the last little while, as well as the formula agreement, which determines how much money we have to fund things like this if we are not going to levy the fee. The Member has made allegations about the kind of budgeting this government has undertaken in the last few years, and the so-called wanton spending. I will get to that in a second.
We did not put the money in the bank. We invested it in infrastructure in the territory. The operation and maintenance budgets of this government have gone up by inflation. The increases in budget expenditures by this government have not been more than the increases in the global economy of the territory, unlike the previous Conservative government. We are less dependent upon the federal government than we were when the Yukon Conservatives were in power in there territory, not more dependent. During this period, the government has not only grown less than the growth in the economy, but has invested in an infrastructure that is acknowledged to be needed by most people in this territory.
The Member is continually dredging up the issue of the college and claiming that, somehow, the cost of Yukon College - announced by Howard Tracey, Minister of the day, in a press release - bears some relation to reality. I have been told by department officials how they were shocked to see the press release come forward that said the college was going to cost $25 million, when they were already telling the government that it was going to cost a minimum of $39 million.
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get back to Motion No. 64.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The available funds in the governments budget are to be used for the purposes we have established in the main estimates. There is a system of fees in the territory for paying for certain services the public expects to be provided. Given the fact the formula agreement we have with the federal government now, which diminishes our ability to make expenditures in areas where, otherwise, fees would cover the expenditures, it would be wrong-headed to redirect funds from the general revenue to this particular service.
It is only so given the fact the formula agreement the federal government has imposed upon us, to transfer funds to the territory, has so dramatically changed the relationship between this government and the federal government. It is interesting to note that the formula transfer from the federal government has had its impact eroded dramatically over the last few years: as a result of federal offloading of its programs; as a result of the rising population and the demand for services associated with that rise; without the commensurate increase in budget transfers; as a result of inflation and, now, as a result of the general sales tax that will be imposed upon the territory.
This incredible largess no longer exists except in the imagination of the Member for Porter Creek East. Not only that, the funds have been cut back in a way that makes it more and more difficult for this territory to bear the cost of standard services that the provinces enjoy. It would be wrong to transfer the cost of services normally covered by licence plate fees to general revenues. The reason the situation has changed so dramatically and why I am so concerned with this wrong-headed motion by the Member is that the impact of the federal arrangement on the Yukon is so unfair and so difficult to bear. The Members seemed to like the new arrangement; they asked for it.
Let me ask rhetorically, why would the Yukon government consider it fair to accept a cut in transfers that is proportionately more than the provinces have faced? Why would that be fair? Now that the Conservatives have thrust this on the territory, why do they think it is fair? Why would anyone think that a formula arrangement which penalized economic activities...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Minister please get back to Motion No. 64 on licence plate fee increases.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The issue here is whether or not general revenue should provide funding for what is otherwise covered by a fee for service. The Member for Porter Creek East is saying yes, it should, and that we should not charge the fee, but we should use general revenue. I am trying to explain it is not right for general revenue to provide for what was otherwise a fee for service.
Our ability to fund through general revenue is so diminished now by the agreement that the Yukon Conservatives have encouraged the federal government to force on us, that it would be wrong to pay for this fee for service. It would be wrong not to raise the licence plate fees.
The reason it would be wrong is because of the diminished ability in our formula agreement to fund from general revenue things that ought to be covered by a fee for service. It is the same anywhere across the country. Given the fact of the formula money provided to the Yukon, that the Yukon Conservatives seem to want to cut, it would be wrong to use those funds to replace a fee.
I forgive the Member for Porter Creek East for his ignorance, because I know he cannot improve himself.
We have a formula now that penalizes economic activity. We have a formula now that is going to be reduced, because the federal government and the Yukon Conservatives think the taxes should be higher in the territory. Because of the Yukon Conservatives supporting the federal government, we have a formula that says Yukon people already pay taxes that are too low by a minimum of 36 percent.
That is why I insist that this issue before us now is relevant to the debate. It is the most relevant element to the whole debate. Why would the Government of Yukon, or anybody, support a formula that penalizes the Yukon unfairly, causing us to pay more than our fair share? Why would anyone consider it fair that a formula would penalize the Yukon for having a healthy economy and good budgeting, according to Mr. Wilson himself? Why would anyone think a formula is fair that says to Yukoners, You are not paying high enough taxes and, if you do not raise your tax rate by 36 percent, we are going to take $1.36 for every dollar you get in economic activity?
Obviously, the Yukon Conservatives support that. They have been bragging about trying to convince Mr. Wilson to inflict this on us.
The Member for Porter Creek East says, why do we not take our responsibilities? I am saying we should take our responsibilities as Canadians, and not more than our fair share of the cut. We offered a cut of $5 million in the formula arrangement, and that was fair. What the Yukon Conservatives are proposing is not fair.
The Yukon Conservatives have been supporting the federal governments transfer arrangement from day one. The federal government has ignored the very significant contributions we have made already, in terms of our expenditures. They have lauded us on our budgetary practices already. It has proved perfect; the facts are on the table; the expenditures we have made have caused the federal governments revenue from the Yukon to climb. Because of this arrangement and, to respond directly to the Member for Porter Creek Easts point about the highways system already being on a base budget, there is already a black cloud over devolution because the base budget does not mean anything anymore.
This is all coming at a time when there have been other cuts coming from the federal government. There have been other things inflicted upon the Yukon government. There have been cuts in everything from training to flow-through shares to Canada Post rates; you name it. We have not even faced the impact of the general sales tax.
The Yukon government has worked under tremendous handicap in this Legislature. The handicap is in the name of the Yukon Conservative Party and MLAs in this Legislature. They have been undermining the interests of Yukoners by lobbying hard to federal politicians to cut the transfer, therefore cutting services.
Yet, here they are now saying to us that we should not raise a licence fee that is common practice across the Canada. It was last raised in 1981, and the Member for Porter Creek East raised it much more that what we are raising it now, in terms of percent. What a hypocrite. What hypocrites.
The bottom line here is that the formula arrangement, which appears to be acceptable to the Yukon Conservative Party and the Conservative Members in this Legislature, has caused the Yukon government, and the Northwest Territories government, to do more than their fair share in terms of fighting the federal deficit problem, has forced on the Yukon a perverse disincentive to economic development. Yes, absolutely. It is going to cost the Yukon $2,700 per capita in the end.
It is not fair, and we have to suffer the likes of the Members opposite, and the Member has yet to speak. We have to suffer this pathetic politicking about a fee for service that is a common practice. It comes out of general revenue - general revenue they think should be cut. This is outrageous. The projects they cite as examples of wanton over spending or wanton misdirected spending amount to probably two percent of total expenditures for the time we have been in office.
Let us hit the curling rink in Elsa head on. The curling rink was being built; an election came along; the Leader of the Opposition was in Elsa. Did the Leader of the Opposition say that the curling rink should not be built? I did not hear it. It did not come from the Conservative who was running for office in that riding. It clearly did not come from anybody I ever heard. Now, it is 20/20 hindsight.
I have sat in this Legislature for at least three years before coming onto the government side, asking, begging, for Members on the Conservative side of the House to do something for that community, because that community had residents who were taxpayers, too, and I am still having to suffer snide jabs from the Member for Porter Creek East about what was their due, not in 1989, not in 1988, but in 1970, 1960, 1950. And I am still getting it in 1990.
The college is acknowledged to be one of the widest expenditures in which this government has ever invested. It was originally conceived at $40 million, not $44 million; that is some fictitious figure in the imagination of some press release writer from the Ministers office. Forty million dollars. Subsequent to that, there was a decision to build a better archives. Did we hear anything from the opposition Members about how wanton and needless that was? Nothing. Did we hear anything about the gym? We heard nothing about the gym and that was in the original design. Nothing. Do we hear anything about the arts centre? Nothing other than positive remarks. Yet this puts the cost up to $50 million total for the whole project. Now the Members come forward and say, listen, compared to the $24 million fantasy land figure we generated because we did not want to tell the public the true cost of the college, compared to $50 million, is a big over run and, holy smokes, look at the wanton spending. But when it is broken down into just a few component parts to explain the expenditures, Oh, we are in favour of the arts centre, oh yes; oh yes; we are in favour of the archives, that is a great expenditure, of course it is; oh yes, we are in favour of the gym, when it is going to open. That is our biggest concern, because we do not want the thing to not be available to the Yukon public. That is the explanation. That is the example of where this ridiculous tack about wanton over expenditure on the Yukon College goes into a tailspin and crashes and burns in flames, because they are too interested in making a political allegation and do not care two hoots whether there is any substantiation for it. They are hoping the only thing people will recall about this debate is what is said, not what is the truth.
Watson Lake sawmill ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get back to Motion No. 64?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member for Porter Creek East wants to know whether I am going to vote for the motion.
If the Member, after listening to what I have been saying, is asking me now whether I am going to vote for this motion, I must admit that an elephant gun could not kill this guy. I will not vote for this motion; it is a ridiculous motion. It is no surprise that the Members have been goaded into this. I understand the ridiculous politics. I also understand their inconsistency. I also understand their basic sense of unfairness. I also understand the hypocritical nature of everything they have been saying all along, given that the Member for Porter Creek East, only a few years ago, was raising it by percentages that is now making the Minister for Community and Transportation Services blush in comparison. But that is then and this is now - right? That is what politics is all about.
The difference between then and now is that there are still people in the Legislature who care about what the Member for Porter Creek East said when he was a Minister. Unfortunately, so much of what I want to respond to are things that the Member has said, but, given what you have been saying during this debate, I am certain I will not be able to respond to them, whether it be the Ross River arena in your constituency, Mr. Speaker, or the community centre, or the young offenders facility, or anything else. I would certainly love to use the vehicle of this debate to respond to the allegations of over spending and consequent unreasonableness, I guess, in the Members opinion, but it is only appropriate that we should cover this fee for service through general revenues.
In summary, given that I am going to be confined to very narrow remarks in this debate, the suggestion by the Members that the fee for service should not be increased does not hold any water when one understands what the fee for service is all about, does not hold any water when one considers what the increased cost has been over the last eight years, when it was last raised dramatically by the Member for Porter Creek East, and does not consider the fact that the general revenues has less ability - thanks to the formula arrangement and the good offices of the Yukon Conservative MLAs - than ever before to make up for the cost of the service.
It would be outrageous and inappropriate, irresponsible for me to support the motion and, consequently, I cannot do that.
Mr. Phillips: I would like to make a couple of brief comments on the remarks made by the Member who just spoke. Several times in this House in the last week, and especially here today, the Minister has made the point that Members of this side have been in contact with Mr. Wilson and have told Mr. Wilson to cut the Yukon back. That is totally untrue, totally false, and if the Minister is serious about his accusations, he will put his seat on the line, and he will seriously stand up and prove that Members of this side have done that. The Minister has not done that at all. He is just throwing out false rumours. Again he is pointing fingers at everybody but himself; it is blame everybody but me in the NDP.
I will be supporting the motion put forward by the Member for Porter Creek East. The Member has covered most of the points, but I would like to express some strong concerns I have about this increase.
The first concern is the way in which the Minister tried to slip this one by the people. The Minister raised an extremely controversial issue on the licence plate and then piggybacked a substantial tax increase to it so Yukoners would not react. This is quite simply a tax increase. Interestingly enough, the Member who spoke last, the minister of Finance, rose in the House two weeks prior to the Ministerial statement announcing that tax increase and told Yukoners - tongue in cheek, I hope - that there would be no tax increases in this budget. That is false. If this is not a tax increase, I do not know what is.
This is not the first time that this has happened. We had the same government tell us we would be free from increased taxes the same year they raised the lottery licence fees. I share the concern of the Member for Porter Creek East for the way the government has mismanaged its money. I have to wonder how many useful programs this government could have carried out if they had not messed up the Watson Lake sawmill situation, or the millions in cost overruns in building the Yukon College. It is going to be interesting to see how much money has been spent on payments to employees of the Department of Education as a result of this governments mistake.
This government is developing a dreadful track record of financial mismanagement. It is in the habit of putting the blame on everyone else but themselves. They love to cut the cakes and eat them, but when trouble brews they run for cover, nowhere to be seen. Everybody but the Minister responsible speaks from the government when there is a problem. They seem to forget one simple thing: when they point their finger at someone else, three of their fingers are pointing back at themselves.
I object to the way in which the Minister tried to hide this increase and I object as a Yukon taxpayer to have to pick up the tab for this governments extremely poor money management.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I rise to provide some continued debate on the subject, and particularly to correct a number of false allegations made by the Members opposite.
It is most inappropriate to suggest that the licence fee increase was, in some fashion, slipped through so no one would notice through the camouflage of a plate design. That is completely and totally inaccurate and I would not want Members opposite to leave that impression.
The design issue was entirely unexpected. I have admitted to Members, to the House and to the public that I miscalculated entirely the reaction of the Yukon public to the proposed new design. I totally miscalculated the public sentiment for the goldpanner. The design that I did put forward was a design that attempted to capture the broad spectrum of representation for all Yukon people. It spoke to a cultural and historical depth that I thought most Yukon people shared.
The questionnaires and discussions I had with people since the release of the design indicated quite a number of things. They indicated the design put forward in December was not a bad design but it had to have the goldpanner on it because the goldpanner was important. I accepted that.
The communications indicated that Yukon people identified with the Klondike and they wanted that retained on the licence plate. At the same time, many Yukon people, and I would dare say the majority of ones who communicated directly with me, said that the design that was put forward was not a bad one - it was a good design, it just had some deficiencies. However, the ability was not there to combine everyones ideas. The design would have become cluttered. It is entirely inappropriate and wrong for Members to suggest that the issue of the design was a deliberate smokescreen to hide the fee increase.
The hypocrisy of the Member for Porter Creek East is revealed when we look at what he did when he was Minister in 1981. At that time, the Member, then the Minister, raised fees in excess of what we have raised those fees this year. The fees that were put forward in 1981 reflected an average of a 30 percent increase across the board for licence plates. Small car fees were increased in 1981 by 67 percent. Utility trailers jumped 230 percent. That is the magnitude of the increase that the Member for Porter Creek East raised fees in 1981. He stands here today and suggests that for some reason we do not have a right to raise the fees. They have not been raised for nine years, since 1981.
Nine years ago, the Member opposite, the one who charges the government with mismanagement and an orgy of spending, says that we should not raise the fees. He forgets that nine years ago he raised the fees 10 percent more on average than we did. That is hypocrisy. That is how ridiculous the motion is, especially when it is being put forward by the Member for Porter Creek East - or perhaps we should call him the Member for Re/Max. Motorcycles and skidoos were raised by 100 percent in 1981. This government has raised them by 12 percent. I am sorry, that is all we were prepared to do.
It is entirely inappropriate for a motion go be put forward that suggests that the fees should not be raised after nine years, that somehow the Members opposite have some divine knowledge about fee structures, but their track record, unfortunately, does not bear out that kind of divine knowledge.
Since the time of the last fee increase in 1981, the consumer price index for all items during that period until now, increased by 47 percent. Our average fee increase is 20 percent. We have not even kept up with the rate of inflation with fees. Those are the facts of the matter. We have raised fees less than inflation has increased during those nine years.
I remind the House that nine years ago the Member who put this motion forward raised fees in excess of what we are raising them now. The Member suggests that the fees should not be raised because we have base financing built into our formula financing, and the Minister of Finance clarified that point.
There is a distinct need for us to reflect an ability to raise revenue more in line with the services we are providing. That is an unfortunate financial reality that is developing. Members opposite who lobby Ottawa to cut us back further and, then, lobby in this House not to raise fees, turn around and ask us for improved programs. I do not understand them. There is a betrayal of the trust given to them by their constituents to do fair and honest representation in this House. You do not lobby the feds to cut back the territory and turn around and ask us for more programs, more roads, better maintenance and, at the same time, not want fees raised. He says, I raised them nine years ago, but you do not raise them. You are not entitled to. You have a better relationship with the feds now.
That is crap, and Members know it. They made a mistake in putting this motion forward. There is no rationale or basis for it. The fees involve a modest fee increase.
In 1981, when the Member for Porter Creek East was a Minister, administrative expenses, including all costs related to the delivery of programs in the motor vehicles branch, cost $250,000. Nine years later, that costs us just over $500,000. Our costs have increased by 100 percent. Inflation has increased.
The Member talks about managing. I remember the Member, when he was a Minister, managing this government. I remember him building the Faro school that collapsed. I remember him building the Dawson sewer and water system that cost the public millions of dollars because of mismanagement. The Member talks to me about mismanagement? I am sorry. I remember. I sat for seven years there and watched his mismanagement, and that is why I am here today, and not him.
We have had a 100 percent increase in our costs related to delivering motor vehicle branch services.
I think the Member for Porter Creek East is trying to raise a point of order.
Mr. Lang: If the Member would entertain a question?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is trying to interrupt proceedings. Perhaps you could call him to order.
Speaker: Order please. Point of order to the Member for Whitehorse Porter Creek East.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is not raising a point of order.
Mr. Lang: I am raising a point of order. I have asked the Minister if he would entertain a question.
Speaker: I find there is no point of order.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I will try to restore the debate to civility.
In the course of nine years, administrative costs have increased by 100 percent. The consumer price index and inflation has increased by 47 percent. Our average increase is about 20 percent. It is a modest fee increase for services. Sure, and the Member pointed it out, in the provincial jurisdictions the fees that are recovered from licences, from registrations, from permits, generally go toward paying for road services. In the provinces, there is a general 30 percent average that is used for recovery. In our case, it is a five percent average.
The Member correctly points out that we have some roads where funding is provided directly for by the feds.
The fact is that, on a per capita basis, we still have the most kilometres of roads anywhere in the country and, on a per capita basis, we spend more on roads than any other jurisdiction in the country. The Member knows that, having been a previous Minister. It is inconceivable for us to try and match the provinces on percentage recovery levels. Nevertheless, as I have pointed out, the fee increase we are proposing is very modest. In fact, I went through all 2,000-plus of the questionnaires, and many people reflected that they did not mind the fees. A number of people made comments relating to the fees as being a modest fee increase. Some people objected; no question about it; most people would. I have spoken to a number of people who have also indicated that they do not mind the fee increase; they do not like it, but they treat it as a fact of life and particularly, as the Minister of Finance has pointed out, there is an urgency for us to deliver on our ability to raise revenue, which will reflect in our formula financing arrangements. The formula financing arrangements that the Members opposite ought not to be running to Ottawa trying to cut back.
Mrs. Firth: Who did it? Substantiate that.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Was it Tokyo Rose?
Point of Order
Mrs. Firth: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Point of order to the Member for Whitehorse Riverdale South.
Mrs. Firth: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I understand this name has been referred to before; unfortunately, I was not in the Legislature at the time so I could not raise it as a point of order. However, being present now and hearing the Minister responsible for licence plates again using the term Tokyo Rose, I would like Mr. Speaker perhaps to give us a ruling on whether or not this is considered parliamentary language. My interpretation of the name, that has been levied at myself I believe, is that it is unparliamentary language and that we, as Members of the Legislature, should not participate in or accept that kind of insulting unparliamentary language from the other side of the Legislature.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Mr. Speaker, speaking to the point of order and to help you with your ruling, I did not intentionally cast any aspersion on the Members opposite. I made a side reference to my colleague that ought not to have been heard on the record.
Speaker: Order please. I find there was some unparliamentary language used, and it is to my satisfaction that the Member has withdrawn this remark. Does the Minister wish to continue?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will bring my remarks to a conclusion in quick summary.
I believe that the motion is not in order. It should not be supported. I believe that the fee increase is modest and reflects a responsible and reasonable approach to trying to balance better the cost of providing services. I believe that the fee increase that we are proposing falls short of what other jurisdictions would ordinarily do in their attempts to meet inflation and administration costs related to motor vehicle branch operations. I believe that the issue of the design plays no part in relation to the fee increase. It was never intended to, and should not be considered as a smokescreen at all.
In conclusion, the fee increase we are introducing in 1990 is by far a more modest and moderate approach to fee increases than was introduced by the previous government in 1981.
Mrs. Firth: I rise to respond to this motion. I will not win the badge for having the loudest voice. I will not be presenting any barn-burner speech. I was debating whether or not to respond to this motion, but after hearing the comments from the other side I feel I have no alternative.
All we are doing is saying that it is the opinion of this House that they should not implement the proposed increase in motor vehicle licence plate fees. I remember the Minister of Finance introducing his budget and telling the public in his sincere way that there were going to be no tax increases this year. That was the message that the public got: no tax increases.
Now the Minister of Community and Transportation Services makes a ministerial statement about some changes to the licence plate and to the fee structure for the licence plate. The increase in the licencing fees can be seen as nothing else but a tax increase by the public. The skepticism and cynicism was expressed by the public when they responded to the whole licence plate issue. I am sure the Minister received letters. We saw letters in the newspaper from people who were accusing the Minister of hiding the increase in fee structure by bringing forward this multi-coloured licence plate. That did not come from this side of the House, it came from letters to the editor in the newspaper. When the Minister says we are doing this, he is not right.
Particularly distressing to me was watching the performance today of the Minister of Education and Finance, the Minister who gives barn-burner speeches.
I have been in this Legislature just as long as the Minister of Finance has. This has probably been one of the most disappointing, embarrassing performances I have ever seen from this Member. I know the Ministers colleagues, the Member for Whitehorse North Centre and the Minister of Justice, would be very concerned if the tone of our speeches was like that Ministers this afternoon. The Minister was so angry and so hostile with his comments that he made references to World War II terms and references to one of the Members on this side not being able to be killed with an elephant gun. If we raised things like that in this Legislature, those two Members would be talking about our violent actions and words.
One of their Members on the front bench stood up and made those angry, bitter and violent charges and accusations. I was embarrassed as a Member of this Legislature. I know that the Member must also feel some embarrassment.
We were debating the issue. We were trying to stick to the relevancy of the issue. You were reminding everyone in the House to stick to the content of the motion. Through that debate, the point was raised about the formula financing agreement and the money we would be getting from the federal government. At that time, the Minister of Finance said that there were Members from this side of the House who had phoned Mr. Wilsons office and had been bragging on the street about phoning him and telling him to cut back the funding to the Yukon Territory.
His colleague, the Minister for Community and Transportation Services, also said that. Never once did they ever confirm or substantiate it with fact. I feel that the comments were directed at me personally. I have had the media ask me to make a comment about a comment that the Minister of Finance made about me. It was a rumour. He heard a rumour that I had phoned Mr. Wilsons office, the federal Minister of Finance, and told him to cut off the money to the Yukon. That is absolutely untrue. That never happened.
For the Minister of Finance to make those allegations and not be able to back them up with any fact, other than some gossip he has heard on some street corner, really makes me wonder what kind of a low we have come to in this Legislative Assembly. The Minister of Finance surely knows better than that. I thought he was more intelligent than to do something like that, to spread that kind of malicious gossip.
Things have not been going well for the government lately. They are under a lot of pressure and stress. They have had issue after issue blow up in their faces. The press coverage is not as good as it may have been right after they were first elected. They are starting to be scrutinized more by the public and by the media. They are starting to be questioned with the letters to the editor about the increase in these fees for the licence plate. People are starting to examine them a little more closely. They are having difficulty coping with that.
Instead of defending why they are doing these things, why does the Minister have the need to increase these licence fees? We have not had one good, sound, logical reason that the public can grab onto and think it was a good, sound logical reason. We have not had one logical reason presented here in the Legislature.
We have had lots of insults thrown at us. We have had lots of accusations thrown at us. We have had lots of ancient history and old NDP rhetoric thrown at us. The same old stuff, the same old terms, and I am waiting for the bootlegging speech to come up. Never once have they defended their own policies and decisions. That is all we are asking them to do. We are not asking to get into a name-calling contest. We are not providing a platform for the Minister of Finance and Education to vent his frustrations because his press coverage is not good these days, because he is being criticized by the media for not putting a gym at the new student residence, and that made him mad. The Legislature is not a platform for him to rave and rant because he did not get good press coverage one day.
We are asking for good solid reasons why the government feels that these proposed increases are necessary and they have not been able to do it. We have more money in the Yukon Territory now, and in the past five years, than we have ever had. This government expounds on its great track record on not increasing taxes. Then, through the back door, and controversially, we have what many people would see as a tax increase.
I would like to hear from the Members opposite why they feel it is so important we have these increases. We have just been through debate with the Minister responsible for issuing fishing licences, the Minister of Tourism and Renewable Resources. He said we had to increase licence fees. That is another form of taxation, another little increase to the user, and another way of generating some extra revenue. The NDP are extremely good at doing that. No tax increases but every government service fee will be increased. Before you know it, all kinds of revenue is coming in. We only have to go to the track record in Manitoba when the NDP started increasing all kinds of licence fees, along with little hidden things that had to be paid for that were considered services from the government. Soon the public is paying for every little service the government gives them. We are supposed to be here to serve the public, not to charge them through the nose for every little service they get.
The Minister of Renewable Resources lost that debate. He had to put the fee structure back as it was before.
I do not know if the Minister of Community and Transportation Services is going to lose this one. He probably feels confident that he is not. The fee increase will go through and people will reluctantly pay it because people have to have licence plates. There is no choice involved like the fishing licences - revenues go down and the government goes oh oh and puts the fee structure back.
People do not have a choice with this fee increase. They have to pay it. They have to go to the government for that service. There is not a lot they can do to make the government change its mind.
I heard the government side talk about us representing the people we were elected to represent. That is what we are doing by raising this issue in the Legislature this afternoon. We have come here and heard concerns and complaints. We brought a motion forward saying it was not necessary. We do not need to increase fees at this time. We are doing that on behalf of the constituents that we represent. We are not doing it to pass the time of day or give the Minister of Finance a platform to vent his anger, frustration and hostility.
We are doing it because people have come to us and made representation and we have a responsibility to bring that representation to the public forum. That is all we are asking. We are asking the government to either defend its policy with some good, sound logic or to agree with the motion and not implement the proposed increase to the licence fee structure. That is all we are asking. No big deal, nothing to jump up and down about, nothing to scream and yell and shout about. It is a very simple request that we have made on behalf of our constituents.
I want to just sum up by cautioning the Members opposite about their accusations and allegations unless the Minister of Finance can in any way prove his allegations - I know he cannot, because I am the individual in question here and as I have said before there were no phone calls made to Mr. Wilsons office so therefore I would have nothing to brag about on the street and I certainly have not been bragging about phoning Mr. Wilsons office and making any representation. So, would the government Members just take this motion in the context in which it was brought forward to the Legislature and perhaps we could finish up with some reasonable debate on the issue and, sometime this afternoon, have a vote on the motion?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am going to begin my speech by responding, as is proper and parliamentary, to the remarks made by the Members opposite in this debate. Mr. Speaker, you have, during the course of this debate, called attention to the fact that Members from time to time have strayed from a very narrow and blinkered discussion of the question of licence plate fees but, Mr. Speaker, nonetheless, in the course of that debate there have been people who have made arguments and accusations about matters that they regard as related to that question, including the Member who just spoke, who chastised my colleague, the Minister of Finance, for his speech. A remarkable intervention by the Member for Riverdale South who - especially since my colleague the Minister of Finance, was responding appropriately and in kind to the speech from the Member for Porter Creek East - addressed the House as if the Member for Porter Creek East did not exist. Perhaps that is her wish, but he gave evidence of his existence earlier today quite voluminously and the Member on this side responded in kind. That happens in parliaments; it has happened in this House one or two times before in the time I have been here.
I would just say to the Member, with respect, because people do lose their cool or lose their tempers, and I have been one of the people who have, that if you provoke it you have to expect it back in kind. If the Member or one of her colleagues dishes it out, they are probably going to have to expect to get it back, especially when I think that part of the debate today has been a reflection of various kinds of frustration. The Member for Riverdale South talked about a certain kind of frustration Members may feel if their points of view are not accurately represented outside this Chamber, or if their knowledge of the facts of the question is at variance with that represented in the House. I very well understand frustrations of that kind. Just today, the Member asked me a question about a speech I supposedly gave at the young offenders facility, which was so so far from the facts that it was either invented by someone, her correspondent, or it was her own purist fantasy - because it had no relation to the facts, whatsoever.
I return it to her. She cannot demonstrate it because I have dozens of people who were there and know what I said. Whatever words she wants to fantasize that I said, or put in my mouth, there is absolutely no evidence to support.
She is muttering something over there, but she has already addressed the House.
She raised the question of relevance and appropriateness to this debate. Relevance and accuracy is something that has been addressed tangentially by all sorts of Members in this House. I will look for an opportunity in the next few days, God willing, to respond to some of the complete falsehoods that have been uttered by Members opposite, particularly the Member for Porter Creek East, about firings, hirings, politicization and all these things. In the course of that, I want to compare the record of this government with the record of his government, a record I am proud of but which he ought to be very ashamed of, in terms of his own government.
I will do that. In the course of that speech, I will rhetorically ask why they never talk about the other side of the story; not only why they do not talk about their record, but why they do not always present a complete statement of the facts. We will come back to that.
The context of the discussion of licence plate fees ...
Pardon me, Mr. Speaker, I will wait patiently until I have the attention of the House.
The context of the discussion about fees is this: we have an entirely new financial arrangement, or situation, in the territory. That is fact one. Fact two is that costs have been going up in the operation of this program. Fact three is that costs have been going up everywhere else in the country, as a result of inflation, and other jurisdictions have responded with fee increases.
I am absolutely astounded at the proposition put by the other side, particularly as it was articulated by the Member who last spoke, which is that governments elsewhere - I think she cited the Government of Manitoba, and I assume she is talking about the present government of Manitoba; perhaps she is talking about the former one - are using fees to cover the costs of their operations, as opposed to taxes. I believe she made the statement that it was disreputable, from her point of view, to use fees to pay for services.
I believe that I am correct in saying that it is one of the tenets of Tory ideology everywhere in the free world that services should be paid for by fees, user charges, rather than funded from general revenue. In fact, I think I have heard variations of that argument on other issues in this House by Members opposite.
I do not want to ask, or plead, for ideological consistency on behalf of the Members opposite. That would be an absurd request, and something that is not to be expected in even our most lurid fantasies.
We are not talking about tax increases. We are talking about increasing the fee for service. We are talking about a service where the costs have gone up, and the government and Minister have made a decision to recover more costs of providing that service through fee increases.
The Member who moved the motion, presented a case when he was talking on the topic which, I admit, was only occasionally. He argued that this should come out of general revenues and that increases for this kind of service should not be funded from the people who use the service. In other words, he was not using the traditional Tory argument. He was arguing that everybody should pay for the service out of general revenues, whether or not they use it.
Someone who has no vehicle should be subsidizing those who have 10. That is a perversion of the traditional Tory argument, but it is logically consistent in this sense. It is an argument of make the poor pay. Therefore, those who have the most vehicles and can afford the most equipment should be subsidized by those who do not. That is essentially what he was saying. It is not a reputable argument. It has not been reputable in this century. No doubt, there were places in parliaments somewhere in the world in the last couple of centuries who have made that argument.
This is interesting because at a time when we are proposing a 20 percent increase, after nine years without one, the motion before us comes from the Member who proposed a 30 percent increase when he was the Minister responsible. The percentage increases that he proposed when he was the Minister are in excess of the one proposed by this government. In the tortured processes of that Members mind, it is quite possible that he could simultaneously be for something and against something. He is against it if someone else does it; he is for it is he does it. In a sense he is arguing, as he often does, against himself. He is arguing against his own record and his own history. That is consistent with his behaviour before in this House. He is making, as he often does, an argument of convenience. In five or 10 years time, God forbid, if he was in government, he would probably be arguing a different case and with just as much venom and just as much hysteria as he did this afternoon. He will be down on his knees, shouting and jumping, threatening to hold his breath if we do not agree with him. He will throwing a little tantrum as he did this afternoon.
The Member will still not be persuading anyone by the logic of his arguments, because there is none. He certainly will not be persuading anyone on the basis of sound government practice. He certainly will not be persuading anyone on the basis of his managerial record. It is well known in the public service here that, although at times he was aggressive, partisan and at time vindictive, he was not a decisive Minister during his time in office.
We have a financial situation now where the transfers from the federal government have been cut dramatically. We have services that the people of the Yukon expect from this government. The rhetoric has come this afternoon about raising taxes.
The only politician I know who is mounting incredible pressure to raise taxes in this territory is a Conservative gentleman by the name of Michael Wilson, who believes that our tax effort is not sufficient in this territory. That is what he said. He wants us to have a provincial sales tax on top of a federal sales tax, which both sides of this House have been against. His belief about our tax effort is that we are going to be punished for every improvement in our economy. Every dollar increase in our revenue will cost us $1.36 in a reduction of the federal grant: a new formula, which is absolutely perverse in its implications - that word was used by the Minister of Finance, was used advisably.
This is not an unintended consequence. This is not an accident, because I have raised this privately with the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, the Minister of the Environment, every senior federal Cabinet Minister. It is an intended consequence. It is a conscious decision of the federal Conservative government that we should have a powerful disincentive to do the kind of economic development that we have done in the past few years. The only way we can bring ourselves into conforming with federal wishes on this hand is by very large tax increases.
We are going to resist that pressure from the Conservatives as long as we are in office and as long as we are able to do so. We believe the tax burden of the people of the territory is already great enough.
Where the costs are rising for certain services we are going to have to be taking steps to recover the cost of those services. I know the Leader of the Official Opposition, who at his best is a person of integrity...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member get back to the motion on motor vehicle licence plate fees.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Yes. I know that if the Leader of the Official Opposition was the Minister of Finance and faced with the identical situation of raising licence fees, he would do exactly the same thing. Unlike some of his colleagues, he understands something about the economy and can read a balance sheet. I know he would do exactly the same thing no matter what his junior partners say. I know he would because he would have no other choices.
Admittedly we are not raising the fees as much as the Member for Porter Creek East when he was in power. We are not doing that.
I want to get into some detail on the nature of the fee increases that are proposed. The proposed increase in registration fees for commercial vehicles has been intentionally held to a moderate level. I think the Minister for Community and Transportation Services told the House earlier that this is done in recognition of the shifts in the industry resulting from reregulation.
The increases bring the commercial vehicle registration fees to a more realistic level that is in line with other western jurisdictions. Those increases may have to be implemented at a later date, once the industry has an opportunity to settle into a new regulatory regime. We should understand we are talking about recovering the cost of providing a service.
The fees for most licence plates, permits and regulations have not increased since 1981. As my colleague, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, said, the administrative expenses have increased from 1981 to the recent fiscal year quite dramatically.
The provinces had to raise the same kind of fees to recover more of the costs of providing the same kind of service. What we are doing is perfectly consistent with what other jurisdictions have done.
The rates will increase for certain kinds of vehicles, trailers, snowmobiles and motorcycles. I believe there are some changes indicated for farm vehicles and private vehicles as well. The licencing fee schedule is a matter of public information.
The Minister has indicated the kind of fee schedules that exist in other jurisdictions. This is a warranted increase in a fee for service, not a tax increase. It is done in the new fiscal context, in a radically changed financial situation in the Yukon Territory, where the transfers from the federal government will be substantially cut. We will be having to adjust to that reality. The ability of this government to finance a service that is not enjoyed equally by all operators, that varies greatly from family to family and business to business, does not exist and it would not be appropriate to provide a total subsidy. The fee increase proposed in the budget before the House is sound and we stand behind the decision to implement it.
Speaker: The hon. Member will close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Mr. Lang: It has been a very enlightening debate in many ways. The thread of the debate thus far on the governments side and the reasoning of why they had to bring this in was the consequence of the formula financing. Of course, it was somebody elses fault; it was the federal governments fault and then it was some Member on this side of the floors fault, and somebody elses fault - none of their own. I have to ask, on November 28, 1989, if the reasoning for this tax increase was the result of the formula financing, why was it never mentioned by the Minister of Community and Transportation? This is the record. Now that they have to confront the public and speak to the public for the reasoning of the tax increase, all of a sudden the red herring of the formula financing is brought in. Never once did they answer some very specific statements that were made from this side of the House with respect to how they were spending their money.
It is interesting; it is very interesting. As my colleague, the Member for Riverdale North, says, The front bench is always there to cut the cake, cut the ribbon, make the nice speeches. But when something goes wrong, there is always somebody else to blame. Just take a look. Quite a few instances come to mind, but I do not want to bore you: having the motor vehicle fees coming into effect, is the federal governments fault. I gave the Government Leader the opportunity to stand up in this House and tell us what the Yukon Development Corporation had over spent and why and to talk about the reasoning for the very disastrous situation it has faced in that particular area of the economy, but he declined because we are blaming somebody else. We have now gone to court, and we cannot talk about that issue either.
Another issue that comes to mind is the formula financing; the reason they did not get the formula financing they wanted was somebody elses fault. It never occurred to the side opposite that maybe they were incompetent in their negotiations. Did that ever come to their minds?
The other area of example that comes to mind is the question of the Ross River arena. Remember when the Government Leader went out to Ross River? He blamed everybody but himself; it was the employees and the civil servants, and he was going to come back and take them to task for the uncontrollable expenditures on that particular project. The Government Leader is obviously very sorry; I will give him a copy of the press clipping so that he can refresh his memory. When he came home from Ross River, he blamed the architect and anybody else involved except for himself.
My point is that somebody has to carry the can. Somebody is responsible. It is fine to be there to cut the cake and especially eat the cake, but you also have to stand up and take responsibility. We saw it earlier today when we were talking about the young offenders facility. What answers did we get? All we found out is that we had to find somebody to come up here from B.C. to tell us where to put the locks.
My concern is that the Minister of Finance has stood up and blamed everybody but himself with respect to the financial dilemma the government is facing.
We have seen the results of their negotiations. We missed the window of opportunity when it came to the health transfer. Yellowknife has a $50 million new facility; what have we got? We have a Minister who stands up and says it is somebody elses fault.
What about the Alaska Highway agreement? We have seen significant cutbacks in the Alaska Highway agreement. This side has been constantly and consistently pressing, especially the Member for Kluane. The Minister responsible for highways and the Minister of Finance stand up and blame somebody else, just like the motor vehicle increase. Blame somebody else. The reason we had to increase the fees is because of the formula financing.
For the record, here we have a statement by the Minister on the question of the motor vehicle increase, and I quote. On November 28, 1989, he stated, On average, in provincial jurisdictions across Canada, transportation revenue from driver licences, vehicle registrations and permits account for an average of 32 percent of road maintenance funding. In the Yukon, the equivalent figure is 5.4 percent. This is not surprising, when one considers the Yukon has the longest per capita system of maintained roads in Canada. It is clearly not possible, nor practical, to meet this level of funding from driver licences and vehicle registrations. As a result, we have patterned our new fees for driver licences and private vehicle registrations on the comparable fee charged in other western jurisdictions. We have taken special steps to phase in fee increases for commercial vehicles during this period of economic deregulation, that began under the federal governments freedom to move and the federal Motor Vehicle Transport Act. Nevertheless, these new fees reflect our desire to become more fiscally responsible by bringing revenues to a more realistic level with fees that are consistent with western jurisdictions.
I reiterate: never once was the formula financing, nor the need for these fees for the purpose of general revenue, expressed. It was to bring us into comparable line with western jurisdictions. My point and argument has been that we have the financial wherewithal to conduct our business within government. If we manage our funds properly, we do not have to increase taxes. That is what we are saying from this side.
They bring the red herring out about increases back in 1981. You want to talk about financial restraint; you want to talk about a government that, every time they had to do something, they had to actually ask the question, and this is the question that was asked every day. It is not a startling revelation after five years of being in office, where the Minister of Finance came to this House on January 22. At the end of his statement on formula financing, he came to the realization and said to the people of the territory, Now, we must ask the simple question: where are the funds to come from? What a startling revelation, after five years.
After five years, the lights went on. Where are the funds to come from?
He will stand up and blame somebody else.
My point is, and I am going to conclude with this, that I see no reason for the increase of this tax at this time. I feel the government has the wherewithal, the revenues and the financial capabilities to conduct their business without the people of the territory incurring up to a 44 percent increase in taxation in licence fees.
I think the question is simple, and I think it is a question each Member has to entertain when they vote on this. If they vote for this motion, they are voting for no taxation.
To conclude, that would then be consistent with the Minister of Finances statement when he stood up and presented the budget, and said to the people of the territory that there was going to be no increase in taxation in this budget, contrary to what has been presented to this House since that time.
I ask all Members to vote.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Mr. Clerk, would you kindly poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Disagree.
Hon. Ms. Joe: Disagree.
Mr. Joe: Disagree.
Ms. Kassi: Disagree.
Ms. Hayden: Disagree.
Mr. Phelps: Agree.
Mr. Brewster: Agree.
Mr. Phillips: Agree.
Mr. Lang: Agree.
Mr. Devries: Agree.
Mrs. Firth: Agree.
Mr. Nordling: Agree.
Clerk: The results are 7 yea, 8 nay.
Motion No. 64 negatived
Clerk: Item No. 14, standing in the name of Mr. Phelps.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 14?
Mr. Phelps: Can this be set aside please, until next sitting day?
Clerk: Item No. 25, standing in the name of Mr. Phillips.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 25?
Mr. Phillips: Yes.
Motion No. 65
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Member for Whitehorse Riverdale North
THAT this House urges the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the Hon. Tom Siddon, to assign one of the six new community advisor positions established for the western region to the Yukon in order to support and promote the Salmonid Enhancement Program in Yukon schools and in various communities throughout the territory.
Mr. Phillips: I brought this motion to the House today with some urgency. We are hoping to get unanimous consent on the motion today, and I am not being presumptuous. We can then pass the message on to the Hon. Mr. Siddon as quickly as possible so that something can be done.
Before I get into the history of the motion, I would like to tell the Members of the House what a community advisor does. First of all, they are really a manager, a technical advisor of the Salmonid Enhancement Program. He or she works closely with the community groups, native groups, schools and individuals in carrying out the salmon enhancement projects. They offer technical expertise as well as provide financial advise on project costs. They pick sites for such projects and assist these groups so that the programs are successful.
Both the school and community aspects of the Salmonid Enhancement Program, which has been successful in B.C., is dependent upon community advisors. They provide the needed expertise and technical and educational support for teachers in these community groups. They strive to increase the awareness and the returns of salmon to local streams.
Recently, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the Hon. Mr. Tom Siddon, announced that six new positions would be added to the western region. The western region already has 13 of those positions. I have been informed that out of the six positions, one was contemplated to be given to the Yukon. I understand now that this decision has been changed, and that all six positions will be going to B.C.
There are several programs on salmonid management in the schools in the Yukon in the classroom program, the teaching package for teachers and students. It is fairly important that this type of community advisor be present. The type of advice and expertise that such a person could provide is essential to the continuation of these types of programs.
The various schools and organizations have started, in the last year or two, various projects that can use a community advisor. If we do not get the support we need, if we do not get a community advisor in the territory, these programs will be in great danger of not continuing. There can be an argument made that people have to made aware of the value of the salmon resource. One way to do this is to have someone here who works on a full-time basis. We have been offered 10 percent of the time of the Prince George community advisor, which is just not enough for the programs that we have in the territory.
The Yukon River is one of the longest running rivers in North America and one of the longest salmon runs in North America. Its potential is immense. We were left out on the Pacific Salmon Treaty and I think there is some responsibility on behalf of the federal government to ensure we will do something to protect the resource for future generations.
With that, I will let others speak. I would urge all Members to support this worthwhile motion. I can tell them that I have had many conversations with federal fisheries officials and our best hope now is a direct appeal to the Minister. I hope that all Members will consider this motion very seriously and support the motion for the future of the salmon resource in the territory.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The motion the Member for Riverdale North has brought forward is timely and we commend him for this initiative. We on this side provide our full support for both the intent and the specifics of the motion.
The salmon enhancement program is a good federal program and for full delivery it needs the enhancement of a community adviser. The community adviser does help to educate the public, primarily on the importance of the fishery, the current and future potential of the fishery, and he also helps us understand better the protection of the habitat and the enhancement of stocks so that productivity can be improved.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I have patiently listened to debate on a previous motion and have already forgotten the content. As the Minister responsible for fisheries in the territory I will add a few words on this very real motion where I think we can get some unanimity.
I am obviously pleased to have an opportunity to speak to this enhancement program. It began in 1977 and has been a well-established, joint Yukon and British Columbia federal program aimed at increasing salmon stocks in our corner of the country. The major emphasis of the program is on rehabilitation of the salmon habitat, increasing population and making the public aware of the resource. The major emphasis of the program in the Yukon has been in the development of salmon in the classroom curriculum, funded by the EDA, and an experimental instream, incubator box salmon enhancement project. The project has been developed into a public demonstration project and the school classroom incubator program now involves nine classroom incubators in Whitehorse, Haines Junction, Dawson City and Mayo. This program is jointly funded by the Canada and Yukon Economic Development Agreement and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
I must say that these programs have been very enthusiastically supported by the Yukon Department of Education and the Yukon Fish and Game Association. They also enjoy strong public interest and support. The development has benefited from a Whitehorse-based contact person who has been able to provide technical advice and support to all involved in the initiatives, not to mention the good offices of the local Department of Fisheries and Oceans personnel. Unfortunately, the existing contact person for the program is employed on a contract that expires on March 31 of this year.
An earlier commitment from senior salmon enhancement program staff said a new community advisory position for the western region would be assigned to the Yukon and that this person would assume coordinating responsibilities for the salmonoid enhancement program.
Unfortunately, this has not happened. Six Pacific region community adviser positions have been assigned. Again, unfortunately, a community advisor based in the northern inland B.C. city of Prince George is supposed to be the contact person for Yukon schools.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans, reporting to the federal Minister for British Columbia, has chosen to ignore the Yukon in making the community advisor appointments.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time Yukoners have been ignored by the apparent interests of political expediency by the federal government. I recall, in January 1985, the same federal government ignored the fact that the question of the Yukon River salmon allocation had not been settled, and signed a Canada-U.S. Pacific Salmon Treaty, so that Mulroney and Reagan could have something to sing about at the Shamrock Summit.
The consequence of this political opportunism, and lack of foresight, have also contributed to a serious decline in Yukon River salmon stocks, which makes a salmon enhancement program more important than ever. A similar lack of foresight in this instance threatens the success of the Yukon salmon enhancement program.
I fail to understand the logic of assigning a person from Prince George to act as a contact person for Yukon communities, just as I fail to understand the logic of signing a treaty before negotiations have been completed. I cannot see the sense of having a person fly from Prince George to Vancouver to Whitehorse to act as community adviser for the Yukon.
In conclusion, I regret the spending of hundreds of thousands of taxpayers dollars to finish negotiating a treaty, which should have been settled satisfactorily five years ago when Canada had the bargaining power to insist that Yukon interests be addressed.
As I said when I began, I support this motion and urge the House to send a strong message to the Conservative federal minister, stating that the salmon enhancement program should be preserved by the appointment of a Yukon-based community advisor.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your patience and indulgence.
Speaker: The hon. Member will close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Mr. Phillips: I will be brief in my closing remarks. I want to add a few things to what some of the other speakers have said.
One of the things I believe is lacking in our Yukon River salmon negotiations, which a community advisor could help us with, is the tagging of salmon that are raised in Yukon waters and noting their interception when they reach the high seas and when they come back in four or five years time. The salmon enhancement program through our schools and through various other projects will allow us to gain that data, which will in turn help us to argue our case in the Yukon River salmon negotiations.
In closing, I would like to say, as the popularity of the salmon enhancement program indicates, Yukoners are prepared to go the extra mile in protecting and preserving and enhancing this valued resource. The eventual hope is to be entitled to a fair share of the harvest. To cancel the program now because of the lack of a community advisor position would send a clear, negative message to Yukoners, especially our young people who will inherit the resource.
Motion No. 25 agreed to
Speaker: The time now being 4:30 p.m., pursuant to the direction of the House, the Chair will now entertain a motion to resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Mr. 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
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Ms. Kassi: I would like to remind the Members the last time this particular bill, Bill No. 102, entitled Act to Amend the Workers Compensation Act, was discussed was on December 6, 1989. At that time, Ms. Joe moved the following motion,
THAT the Chair and general manager of the Yukon Workers Compensation Board appear with us in this House to deal with Bill No. 102.
Is there any debate on this motion?
Hon. Ms. Joe: It was my intention to introduce the motion in order for those individuals to appear before this Committee. A lot of questions were being asked of me and other people. I thought the kind of information we would hear today would be of benefit to all the people who will be dealing with this bill.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Could we take a short recess to allow the witnesses to be set up so we can proceed with this matter expeditiously?
Ms. Kassi: We will now take a short recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 102 - Act to Amend the Workers Compensation Act - continued
Chair: We will continue with debate on the motion.
Is there further debate?
Is the motion agreed to?
Motion agreed to
Chair: I would like to welcome the witnesses to the debate on this particular bill: Mr. Booth and Mr. Wright.
Is there any further general debate on Bill No. 102?
Hon. Ms. Joe: I would like to know if it is appropriate to start the round of questions to the witnesses.
Chair: Is the Committee agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Hon. Ms. Joe: The reason we have asked the witnesses here today is to gather more information in regard to the implications there could be if we were to proceed with the amendment to the Workers Compensation Act. I have since been in contact with the board and received information in regard to some of the costs that would occur.
As the Minister responsible for the Workers Compensation Act, I felt I needed a lot more information. In the past, with respect to the amendments I make in this House in regard to my bills, I would try to get the kind of information I would need in order to proceed with it in the House.
In the case of this matter, it is a private Members bill. It was not my responsibility to find out the kind of information I would have needed, and I felt that, in order to deal effectively with this bill, we should receive that kind of information.
I would like to ask one of the witnesses here about the costs that would occur if we were to agree to the proposed amendment in this bill. I believe they have an actuary figure they have put together, and I would like them to let us know the kind of information they can give us in regard to that.
Chair: At this point, I would just like to remind the Members and witnesses that the questions and answers go through the Chair.
Mr. Wright: Mr. Booth will provide the detailed answer to that question.
Mr. Booth: We have had the estimate done by a professional actuary, and it is based on the estimate of 23 claims that may presently come under this amendment. The breakdown is $3,531,236, which will have to be paid for and reflected in the 1991 assessment rates. This will mean the following increases in the rate structures: for the mining industry, which is class 1, there will be a 30 percent increase; for construction, which is class 2, a 20 percent increase; business or public administration, class 3, a 13 percent increase; for the service industries, there is no change; for the trades, there is a 12.5 percent increase in assessment rates.
Mr. Wright: I might add that those rates would be for one year and would go back close to the former levels before the increase. In accordance with the act, we have to fund any additional liabilities in the year that they are incurred. What we would be doing in 1991 would be getting the necessary funds to fund that additional liability. So, barring any other increases, the rates would drop back to this years current rates.
Ms. Hayden: There are many people in my constituency who have disabilities and some of these people qualify for workers compensation payments - most do not. Others in my constituency, as elsewhere in Yukon, qualify for Canada Pension disability payments. From my experience, I would suggest it is not an easy life. It is something I am sure we all recognize.
I also represent a large number of small business people and employees of those businesses. What thought has been given to how increased workers compensation assessments will affect these small businesses?
What are the possible financial implications of this proposed motion for people like those in my constituency, the small business person and the employees of those businesses?
Mr. Wright: One of the industries that would be affected is the trades. Some of the small businesses in the community that are being referred to include trades people. The rates would increase 12.5 percent. Knowing a little bit about the city, it is my assumption that a number of the businesses being referred to are service industry businesses and there would be no increase for a service industry business. Keep in mind that any rate increases would only be for the year 1991.
Ms. Hayden: Since there are so many different interests in a riding like Whitehorse South Centre, and because it is the one that includes the downtown core, my constituents in the downtown core who run small businesses may be seriously affected by increases because there are businesses other than service industry businesses. I am wondering if they will be seriously affected by the increases in workers compensation assessments if the bill before us is passed as it is written. At the same time, I know what it is like to live with a disability and to live on a limited income, such as Canada Pension.
I have tremendous respect and empathy for people who are in that situation. At the same time, I have a commitment to the community and the small-business people trying to make a living, because I have been in their shoes, too. I surely hope this House can reach some accommodation that will be fair to all Yukon people.
My question, then, is: do we know how many Yukon businesses will be financially affected if this bill is passed and the changes it recommends become part of the Workers Compensation Act? How many people?
Mr. Wright: I will respond by saying that, essentially, all employers, save those in the service industry, will be affected. There are five categories and each of those categories will be affected somewhat differently; we have given you those figures, the percentage increase in the premium rate for those various categories. I will say it again: virtually all, save those in the service industry, will be affected.
Ms. Hayden: I wonder if all those figures could be read into the record, by the witness?
Mr. Phelps: With respect, it seems we are a little short of time here, and I would rather like to get to the bottom of the figures themselves and spend a little time dwelling on the real ramifications of the bill. I have a great deal of difficulty with what has been presented here. Perhaps I could ask a few questions about that issue before we put the cart before the horse, so to speak.
We were given a letter that was sent to Mr. Brewster from the Workers Compensation Board, dated January 10. There have been a lot of different reasons given for the reluctance on the part of government to modify the bill in order that deserving people under disability get the benefit of the Canada Pension Plan. I want to get into that to some extent, but I would quote from a letter dated November 22 from the Minister responsible to the Member for Kluane, which implies that the reason the Canada Pension Plan cannot be piggybacked on the disability monies from Workers Compensation is because the recipient may receive in excess of what they were making before the injury took place. This is completely contradicted by the letter that was sent to Mr. Brewster by the Workers Compensation Board; it was signed by one of the witnesses, Brian Booth. I would point out that, in that letter, he states, and I quote: We do not request the net take-home pay from workers when an application for compensation is made, nor when in receipt of compensation. Therefore, we cannot answer the above questions that were posed, Madam Chair, in a letter from Mr. Brewster to the Workers Compensation Board.
I have some questions of the witnesses, of course. My first concern is that, in their letter to Mr. Brewster, they state, At present, we have 23 claimants in receipt of wage-loss payments, and three are now in receipt of CPP disability payments. The remaining claimants have either made application and are awaiting a decision or they are still under active treatment. It can take up to two years to qualify for CPP.
As of right now, how many of the 23 claimants are in receipt of wage-loss payments and in receipt of CPP disability payments?
Mr. Booth: I stated in the letter that out of the 23, there are three of them in receipt of CPP. There are 23 on wage-loss and three of them are in receipt of CPP. The other three will be entitled to apply for CPP at a later date when active treatment has ceased and they have reached a permanent disability stage.
Mr. Phelps: Right now, we are dealing with three people who would benefit from the proposed amendment. They would, in the next month or so, receive the benefit of both the payments from Workers Compensation and the CPP disability payments. Is that correct?
Mr. Booth: Yes, as of this date.
Mr. Phelps: In the letter, we were not given any idea of how many it was expected would be approved by the CPP in the next few months. Do the witnesses have a breakdown of the people, and when they are to receive the benefit of the CPP disability payments, as well as the payments they are receiving under Workers Compensation?
Mr. Booth: We are estimating that, certainly within the two year period, all 23 will be in receipt of CPP. Until the approval is made, we will not know for sure, but we have to estimate those costs.
Mr. Phelps: We have a situation where we have 23 people, and three people are receiving the benefit. Some are still under active treatment. Is it being suggested by the witnesses that those under active treatment will be making applications soon?
Mr. Wright: It is important to understand that if the decision being contemplated - that is being proposed in the bill - is approved, we incur a liability today. We have to estimate that liability as best we can. We estimate the liability and the number of people who potentially could be in receipt of CPP and benefits. That is what is important. We can categorically say that three people are receiving those benefits now. We cannot categorically say how many of the 20 left will or will not be eventually receiving CPP benefits. It is incumbent upon us, under the act, to first of all recognize and identify that liability, and then take steps to make sure that it is funded, so that those workers are never shortchanged in the long run.
Mr. Phelps: I am not disputing that. I am concerned about the way in which these figures are coming forward here today. Such calculations have to be based on realistic assumptions. We have 23 being used as a guideline by the witnesses as a one-shot deal within a one year period. I submit that that is not either realistic or fair. It is outrageous that we have been given these figures in this way. How many of the 23 have made application now to the CPP for disability benefits? Do we have that information?
Mr. Wright: No, we do not.
Mr. Phelps: We do not even know how many people have made application and, yet, we are going to talk in terms of these huge rate increases, based on all 23 receiving them in the next short period of time.
How many of the 23 claimants are still under active treatment?
Mr. Booth: All 23, or basically the 20, are under active treatment. The point is that, initially, once they are aware that they are going to have a permanent disability, they are advised to apply to Canada Pension Plan. We advise them of that.
Mr. Phelps: Surely, if three are in receipt of disability payments, they have made application on the basis that they know they are going to have a permanent disability. Is that not correct?
Mr. Booth: If they know they are, because a permanent disability is their only entitlement to Canada Pension.
Mr. Phelps: How many of the other 23 are in a position now to be able to make application, because they know they are going to have a permanent disability and they know the extent of it?
Mr. Booth: All are because of the fact, as I say, that they remain on temporary total compensation for a period of two years. After two years, they are deemed to have a permanent disability, and they have a loss of earnings; therefore, they go on to the wage-loss system that tells us they have now reached the permanent stage. They are all permanently disabled and, if they apply, they will be entitled to Canada Pension Plan payments.
Mr. Phelps: Do we know when any of the three people not presently receiving them are going to be receiving Canada Pension Plan payments?
Mr. Booth: No, because I cannot speak on behalf of Canada Pension Plan. As I say, we have had cases where it has taken up to two years before their application has been processed and they become in receipt of Canada Pension.
Mr. Phelps: Can we be advised by the expert witnesses as to whether or not the extent of the disability has an impact on the amount that would be paid to them under the Canada Pension Plan?
In other words, to make myself clear, if the ones under active treatment get somewhat better as a result of the active treatment, does it have a bearing on the amount they will eventually receive under the Canada Pension Plan?
Mr. Booth: No, the amount they are paid under the Canada Disability Plan depends upon the degree of disability.
Mr. Phelps: I admit that I am from Carcross, but I am a bit confused, and I hope it is not because of where I am from. For the life of me, I cannot understand how an actuary could sit down and make calculations without knowing, first of all, how much each of these 23 people would be receiving under the Canada Pension Plan and, secondly, when they would start receiving them. Could I be enlightened on this, and my education furthered?
Mr. Wright: Perhaps part of the difficulty in dealing with this issue for the board is the decision about Canada Pension Plan entitlement is the federal governments decision. It is not a decision made by the board. We cannot determine when they will make a decision. We do not know what their backlog is. We do not know why the decisions take so long. It is simply beyond our control.
We cannot predict how many of those people will receive benefits and how many will not, with any degree of certainty. The responsible fiscal assumption and financial planning assumption we have to make is that they will all receive benefits. In our view, they are permanently disabled to one degree or another, and they will all receive benefits.
Mr. Phelps: Are the witnesses telling us that, in the normal course of practice, all 23 would be assumed to receive the maximum amount payable under the Canada Pension Plan? Is that the assumption upon which the actuary has proceeded?
Mr. Booth: Yes.
Mr. Phelps: Is that the way that Workers Compensation estimates its liabilities in the normal course of events? In other words, I guess what I am asking is: do the witnesses really think that it is a reasonable and rational approach to take the worst possible case scenario and use those figures for the purposes of the exercise here in the Legislature? Do they do that in every case with regard to every possible injury the Workers Compensation Board faces?
Mr. Wright: I have a little difficulty with the question in terms of whether it is rational or not. I wonder if you could be of more help, Mr. Phelps?
Mr. Phelps: The board acts, in many ways, in exactly the same way as an insurance company acts. To do that, the board has to look at the expectations of the future, and those expectations have to be based on reasonable factors, I am submitting. Here we have a situation where, in the Yukon and in recent history with the Workers Compensation Board, we have three claimants who are receiving CPP and we have a total of 23, including them, who might some day get CPP, but we do not know how much. Yet, we are told that, if this motion went through, we would have to assume the worst possible without even knowing what the potential liability would lead to; and that we would have to make provision for each and every one of these potential claimants without even knowing what the extent of their loss is or their CPP benefits are. I just do not know how we can possibly do that.
Mr. Wright: The potential liability, at todays current rates, is in the order of $8,000 per individual. That is the potential liability. If we had some control over the decision making in the federal government side, if we could somehow predict which ones were going to get the maximum benefits, that would be helpful, but we do not. One could, I suppose, argue that we should take other factors into consideration when making the estimate of the total liability. We have an actuary who has done yeoman service for the board for years and has kept the board in excellent shape. We have no reason, at this point, to doubt that these are rational assessments of what the liability is.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Madam Chair, I confess I am probably as puzzled as Mr. Phelps. Let me see if I can make my understanding clear so that the witness can correct me if I am wrong. Is the witness saying that, currently, today, there are three persons who are permanently disabled and entitled to receive CPP benefits because they are receiving them, but, due to some anomaly or something, next year it is expected that 23 people will be in the same position. If he is saying that, it is puzzling because it shows a very dramatic increase in terms of the potential numbers who could be eligible to be receiving both CPP and Workers Compensation benefits, because they are permanently disabled. What I would like to know is whether they can explain that anomaly, if it is an anomaly, or that coincidence, if it is a coincidence - because it seems, on the face of it, that it would be a strange one at best - and if they have any figures on the number of people in past years who might have been entitled to receive CCP benefits because they were and would have been permanently disabled. Surely an actuary would have considered that. Those figures, one would assume, would be more firm because it is history that has taken place, and it is something one could quantify fairly easily. I wonder if the witnesses could help me understand better?
Mr. Booth: We must make it clear that these are assumptions that the actuary must use. The actuary does look into the past history, and the past history has been that the wage-loss system in the Yukon has only been in effect since the start of 1983. It takes two years before they come onto the wage-loss system. So 1985 would actually be the year we commenced it. In the past history there were only three, but we have made assumptions by looking at the every individual files on these 23 people on wage-loss to see if they will qualify.
We cannot determine whether the Canada Pension Plan will rule them 50 percent disabled - in other words they will receive only half of a full pension - or whether they will receive 100 percent. We must assume that it is a possibility that they will receive 100 percent. Also, the actuary must bear in mind that this is the calculation of what he will be paid, including cost of living increases annually, and payable until age 65. We are not talking one year of Canada Pension fund disability payments. This is until he reaches 65. That is why it looks to be such a large amount for one year.
The reason we do that is because we must charge the employers today for costs we are carrying today. We should not save them up for future employers to pay the costs of what employers today should be paying.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have had scant knowledge of actuarial science and have had very little experience with actuaries. I would be fascinated to know the name of the actuary who would predict the worst-case scenario as our liability, the maximum possible potential liability - in other words, that 100 percent of the people on the wage-loss system now would be collecting a pension, and worse, they would be collecting 100 percent pensions. That seems to me to defy everything I learned about how actuaries worked in the insurance system. Nobody here gets insurance on a car in the assumption that everybody will have an accident and everybody will kill someone, and everybody will have the maximum possible payout. Since we are talking about insurance principles, it seems an extraordinarily unlikely scenario. To bank on that, or to have to finance now that worst-case scenario in the future seems highly unlikely.
You will have to call me a skeptic. Who is the actuary who gives that advice?
Mr. Booth: This is not an actuarial assessment. We requested this based on the facts we gave him at the present time. If this motion is passed and goes through then an actual full review will have to take place. These are estimates and assumptions. That is all they are at the present time.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Forgive me, but the witness did not answer the question. He said this was actuarial. Who was the actuary who made the assumption that this maximum possible potential risk is something we would have to carry now?
Mr. Booth: It is Crawford E. Laing Limited in Vancouver, who has been our actuary since 1977.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The witness indicated that we could not show any experience, because of the introduction of the wage-loss system in 1983, until 1985, when people would first start entering the system. What that means for me is that we now have four years of experience. We can determine, within the four year period, who was receiving pension and who would have been entitled to CPP based on the records of the compensation board. This would have allowed us a better understanding of the potential future costs. To take the worse-case scenario would seem to be stretching credulity quite a bit.
If one were to estimate the costs of something like this, one would make assumptions, and one would be careful. There would be assumptions about the cost of living that would be conservative but not ridiculous. If we are taking the absolute worse-case scenario, we might be accused of entering the ridiculous.
Has there been an analysis done, from 1985 onwards, where we do have actual case histories of people who were on the wage-loss system and receiving pension benefits who would have been entitled to CPP if they had been allowed to collect it under the act? We obviously have the records of those people. Have those records been pulled out so that we could know with certainty how many people would be eligible on an annual basis? A jump from three to 23 sounds very high.
Mr. Booth: The 23 are all claimants on the wage-loss system, going back from when the system commenced to the present date. We have been very fortunate, under the wage-loss system, because of the low unemployment rates, to get them back into the work force at the earning capacity that they enjoyed prior to their accident. Therefore, they did not have to go on wage loss. There are 23 who did have to do that, and that is from the start of the wage-loss system.
Mr. Phelps: I would like clarification on an answer given earlier to Mr. Peniketts last question. He was asking about the actuary. The answer was that the actuary did not act as an actuary, in the full sense of the word; he was given the worst-case scenario as assumptions upon which to base his figures. Is that correct or did the actuary determine the entire picture?
Mr. Booth: He was given the age of the worker. We cannot determine the degree of the disability that CPP will pay. Therefore, we have to use a figure. He may use the assumptions that possibly 50 percent of the workers will be on 100 percent disability, 25 percent may be on a 25 percent CPP, to arrive at an overall figure. He does not assume, I presume, that everyone is on 100 disability. I can obtain that answer from him.
Those are the assumptions that are usually used. They also use assumptions depending upon the persons age, whether or not he will live to 55 or 65 - they refer to the mortality tables. He uses a factor for inflation, for the cost of living increases.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I would like to make a comment, rather than finish with a question. It seems to me we had some bad feeling and irritation on the floor of the House at the outset of this debate because we felt we did not have adequate information to make an intelligent decision about the issue before us. We now have witnesses before us, and we will be able to advance our level of knowledge that way.
There was also an issue about consultation, which I want to come to in a moment. We are running out of time today, but I wonder if it is possible to have tabled in the House the numbers - the impact on employers, in terms of rates, and the impact on employees - so that between now and the next time we consider this matter we can look at them, test the assumptions, ask the questions about the impact - so we can have an adequate research base.
The second question is about consultation. It is probably incumbent on all of us, once we have asked questions and established what the impact on employers and employees is, to do what we would normally be criticized for not doing in this House, which we normally do about something like this that has an impact on employers and employees, and that is to find out from them their reaction to the proposal and the impacts of this proposal.
Mr. Brewster: I have no problem with that, but I would also like to get an answer. They have quoted the number as $3,581,000, and they say they are going to raise the premiums for businesses. If you take three people and figure out the interest on $3 million, that is going to keep that $3 million up fairly high for quite a few times.
I would like an answer for one more question, and then I will sit down because of the time. The members were getting $29,500. We moved that up in 1987 to $40,000. Why would anyone getting 75 percent of $40,000 even bother to apply for the Canada Pension and turn around and lose part of that?
I would like to ask the witnesses whether they are forced to apply for federal money to help this scheme go? Number one, we all talk about our cost of living. There is no man who can live on 75 percent of $29,500, but they could live quite comfortably on 75 percent of $40,000. Why would they apply for Canada Pension if they could get 75 percent of $40,000?
Mr. Booth: I am not too sure. I did not quite get the question. You are talking about a maximum amount some years ago?
Mr. Brewster: I am talking about the ones who are now on it and are getting approximately 75 percent of $29,500. Then, in 1987, in Compensation Board Order 1987/03, you raised it to $40,000. Why would anyone bother applying for the CPP disability pension when they are getting 75 percent of $40,000? I am talking about the people who are still living on 75 percent of $29,500, and they cannot live on that.
Mr. Booth: I am sorry, Mr. Brewster. Those people who were injured in 1987 and getting 75 percent have also received in every January since a cost of living increase, the same as everyone else.
Mr. Phelps: It is a shame we are running out of time, because there are so many questions. I have the 1988 annual report of the Workers Compensation Board, which shows the present value of the investment as at December 31, 1988, was some $93,572,000. How much of this money has been set aside to ensure the liabilities of the Workers Compensation Board outstanding pensions?
Mr. Booth: That shows under the pension fund liability account. I do not have those figures off the top of my head. The funds are fully funded, and I am pleased to say we are the only jurisdiction in Canada right now that is fully funded.
Mr. Phelps: I will hand the Minister the document and he can read out the amounts. What amount right now is invested, and what is the present value of that investment to deal with the liability and responsibility for wage lost payments?
Mr. Booth: The pension liability is, at present, close to $17 million. The liability is set aside in future claims costs for wage los is $10,312,000. That is set aside in future claims to pay for future claims costs, which will be paid on accidents that have happened at the end of 1988.
Mr. Phelps: Surely in setting those amounts aside, the actuary would have factored in the reduced liability that was anticipated for these 20 claimants by virtue of them receiving something from the Canada Pension Plan. Was that factored into the needed reserve under the headings just pronounced by the witness?
Mr. Booth: I prefer to answer that question later on. Next month the actuary will be doing an evaluation on all reserves and the fund, and at that time we will be in a position to say we could pay out of there, or no it was not considered. He does the evaluation every three years. It would not have been considered at the time we put away future claims costs, because we did not expect this motion to come through which would have us pay the additional. It is based on the fact that he estimated it on the maximum payable.
Mr. Phelps: My point is very simply made. If this was based on the maximum payables without CPP deductions, why would there be a need to increase the funds? If the actuary made the worst-case scenario in setting aside the funds, that worst-case scenario would be that none of the 20 people would be receiving CPP. It cannot go both ways.
Mr. Booth: I answered the question wrong then. The assumptions would be taken into consideration that a certain amount will be receiving Canada Pension, and it would be deducted off the wage loss.
Mr. Phelps: Why would that be done by the actuary if you do not know? It seems to me you have been saying that you had to take every factor into account. I submit to you that the worst-case scenario from the point of view of the insurance fund would be that none of these people would get any CPP payments. Is that not a fact? Would that not be the worst-case scenario we would have to take under consideration in determining how much money to set aside?
Mr. Booth: I cannot make assumptions on behalf of the actuary, but I am certain that all the costs were taken into consideration when evaluations are being done.
Certainly, we did not forecast that we would be expecting to pay any costs as a result of this amendment.
Mr. Phelps: The point remains: surely, the worst case scenario, which is what we have been given today, on the other side of the coin, would be that no CPP pensions would be paid to the people for whom the fund was built. If that is the case, why should we tempt providence? Why not give them the worst case scenario, which is already built in. Why would there have to be an increase?
Mr. Booth: Again, I cannot make assumptions on behalf of the actuary.
Chair: The time now being five-thirty, the Committee will recess until seven-thirty and the witnesses are excused.
Chair: The Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I would like to take this opportunity to introduce the young people in the audience. We have with us Scout Troop No.4 from Whitehorse. They are here to see the legislators in action. They will be trying to get stars or badges tonight. Welcome to the Legislature.
Mr. Nordling: I would like to welcome the 4th Whitehorse Cub Pack. I spoke to them outside, and they were hoping to hear debate on the licence plate tonight. I told them that unfortunately we had that issue under control, and tonight we would be debating the Health and Human Resources Budget. Welcome.
Bill No. 13 - Second Appropriation Act, 1989-90 - continued
Department of Health and Human Resources - continued
Chair: We will continue with general debate on O&M expenditures for Health and Human Resources. Is there further general debate?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am prepared to move to the lines if that is acceptable to the Members of the House.
Mrs. Firth: Yesterday when we left off debate, we were discussing some of the cost comparisons that the government had been making with other provinces. The Minister told us that they had looked at Alberta and Ontario. He explained that because of the size of Ontario it was very difficult to transpose Yukon health care costs on theirs.
Has the government considered just looking at a small community within the province of Alberta or Ontario? It could be one that is comparable to our population that provides similar kinds of services to see what their health care costs are like. That would be a more realistic and more valid comparison.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The problem with doing that is that a small community very rarely has the same jurisdictional responsibilities as a territory does. Even though we are of a different order of magnitude than a province like Ontario, the territorys responsibilities in this field are more akin to those of a province than they are to any municipality. That is the case even when it is close to us in size.
There are some things that we can learn from Ontario, no matter how large it is. For example, Ontario has looked at the issue of quality assurance. They may even be a world leader in this area.
They are looking at the economy, effectiveness and the performance of hospitals in terms of health outcomes rather than whether they were $5 above or below their budget; in other words, they are looking at what we, in the Legislature, would call performance indicators. That is a whole new trend, and there has been some resistance to it, I think, from some people in some professions who regard it as bringing in a kind of accountant mentality to something, which they regard as perhaps interfering in issues that are exclusively those between professionals and patients.
The point I want to make, particularly in the area of quality assurance, is that probably Ontario is a leader. Ontario is also looking at some areas of funding health care on a different basis in terms of neighbourhoods or regions, but they are still very much experiments and are not something we could borrow or learn from. However, we will be watching those experiments because they may have something to teach us. In simple terms, the Ontario experiments relate very much to a model that has existed in some states in the United States, particularly California, where they have something like health management organizations, and I mentioned something about that when we were talking yesterday.
The thing about Alberta is that I think we can learn a lot from them about hospital construction and hospital administration; also, they have been willing to work with us in dealing with cost-control measures. I think I also mentioned that every jurisdiction in the country, in some ways, had done work in this field. In fact, Nova Scotia, which is a relatively small province although bigger than us, is just concluding a royal commission on the subject, and we are looking forward to studying that report with interest, because there may be something we can learn from it.
I think the short answer to the Members question is that, even though we might have similar sized populations to municipalities in Alberta, our responsibilities are different, because ours are more akin to those of a province than they are to a municipality.
Mrs. Firth: I was thinking more in terms not of legislative responsibility and territorial responsibilities per se; I am more interested in the governments interest in trying to save costs or examine costs for hospital care, doctor visits, out-of-town billings, et cetera, because a small community would experience those same kinds of medical needs. That is what I am looking at. I am not talking about it in an administrative context, but to do a cost comparison of what it costs per person to provide medical care for that individual. From any experiences I have had with some of the communities in some of the provinces, I think we are probably in a much better position here in the Yukon than some small communities in the provinces when it comes to the delivery of medical services and particularly access to larger centres. I am looking at it in the context of the whole administrative sense; I am simply looking at a cost per person comparison and to see where maybe we could get some of our costs down a bit.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: That would be interesting to do on a regional basis and some of the provinces do deliver health care programs on a regional basis. I would be interested in looking at that. One of the things that fascinates me is that the Northwest Territories has the highest cost per capita in the country. We have the lowest. Yet some of the realities of Yukon life also exist there: a relatively young population, a lot of nurse practitioners. Although, I think there are also some infrastructure realities in the Northwest Territories such as no roads and massive costs to almost everything you do.
Several times Members have mentioned there was a new hospital built in Yellowknife as a result of the health care transfer negotiations. Of course, that is not true. The commitment to build the new hospital was made long before the health care negotiations were begun in the Northwest Territories. I think that arrangement had been originally negotiated in advance of formula financing.
I would be interested in regional questions, especially the cost per client, if we can get that information from any jurisdiction. I suspect that in places like Alberta and B.C. the cost per patient would be higher the further north you go because they are remote from most of the diagnostic or high tech centres or the major medical plants, such as Edmonton or Calgary. We do not know this. In Alberta they have some quite good regional hospitals. There are quite a few relatively new hospitals. The problem is that whether you are doing micro economic or macro economic analysis the people who really have the information are the provincial administrations, not local ones. There are some places where they have health districts or hospital boards and if the information is easily available we would be interested in looking at it.
Chair: Shall we proceed with line-by-line?
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Policy and Planning and Administration
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We have a reduction here of $36,000 that is primarily due to savings in the social development work and training program. This is a training program that is offered in conjunction with Yukon College. It is not that there was any reduction in the program, the costs were simply less than originally anticipated.
Mr. Nordling: This is a net figure. Is that attributable solely to the savings in social development and training, or are there off-sets where we spent a little more or less on that program?
Based on past experience, the Minister tends to stand up and rumble through figure after figure, and it is very difficult to understand. I would ask that as we go line-by-line in his original presentation we get all the figures in a slow and organized fashion.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I only have one copy here. If the Member would like more detailed numbers tabled I can do that tomorrow if that would satisfy him. There are not a lot of numbers.
I cited the most significant item that nets out to $36,000. We have in the other line a net of approximately $5,000. There were some under expenditures in the administrative area and sundry matters of $36,000, but that was offset by some policy manuals that we produced in program areas that were approximately $16,000, and some research work that cost $25,000, basically in health cost control analysis, and cost-sharing arrangements with the federal government.
On that line, that nets out, therefore, to about $5,000. On the transfer payment line, as the Members know, we have the savings in the social development work training program, of which the largest single amount is $65,000, which was under spent in that area; that is offset by some $25,000 that we still expect to spend this year in the establishment of the health and social services council, which will be announced shortly.
Mr. Nordling: Before we go any further, perhaps I should ask the Minister if he will provide us with the service and consulting contracts that have been issued in his department for this period to date, as we received from Education and Government Services?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The last list I have here is to December 11. I understand that the other day some Members were asking for lists until December 31. The last listing I have is to December 11. If the Member would be interested in that I can have it; otherwise, it may take me some time, maybe a day to two, to get the one to December 31.
Mr. Nordling: I would be willing to accept the list to December 11. Later on we will be asking for them to date and to the end of the year, of course.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have one copy here if the Member would like it; unfortunately, I only have one other here. Is it his wish that I make copies for everybody or just provide him with one right now?
Mr. Nordling: I think that if we have that copy we can make copies for ourselves here.
Mr. Lang: I would like to ask the Minister to, if possible, provide us with a copy of, I believe he stated, a $25,000 study on the question of health costs and analysis. Perhaps he could tell us who did the consultant work and if it was publicly tendered.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will see what I can provide. A lot of this was research done by Gavin Wood & Associates. Mr. Wood is a gentleman the Member may know; he has been around for awhile and is an expert on the Community Assistance Program, in preparation for negotiations with the federal government about settlements. Community Assistance Program is a program where certain kinds of costs are eligible for 50 percent of reimbursement from the federal government, and there are always negotiations about whether or not a certain cost or certain expenditure is eligible.
To the extent that that is a negotiating document, I am not sure that I want to make that public, but there are some documents that may relate to the analysis that we talked about, and I will see what is available and report back to the Member.
Policy and Planning and Administration in the amount of an under expenditure of $36,000 agreed to
On Community and Family Services
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will go through and break down the total amount here, which is an increased expenditure of $259,000. The most significant expenditures in here relate to the increased costs for foster homes, receiving homes and for childrens care and emergency after-hours care for children in need of protection, particularly in outlying communities.
One of the patterns that we are seeing, and this may be borne out statistically in the main estimates, is a rather disturbing increase in the number of kids coming into care, particularly teenage kids. It is not climbing on a slight trajectory; we are literally seeing an explosion of cases. We may want to talk about that more in the main estimates. It is not entirely clear why it is happening, but it may be related to a more frequent disclosures of child sexual abuse, dysfunctional families and family breakdowns.
I will go through the detailed items, and the Members can ask questions. The first item is the increased cost of foster homes and children in care. I will break this number down further. The total increase in the budget is $177,000. The components of that number are: costs for foster homes, $106,000; receiving homes, $21,000 and children in care, $50,000, for a total of $177,000.
There is an increase in the cost for foster homes and emergency after-hours homes in outlying communities of $45,000. There are some internal administration offsets in the department of a $10,000 reduction. That give us a net total of $212,000.
In the Transfer Payments line, there is a transfer from Health Services concerning the Child Development Centre for the speech pathologist for $37,000. There is a respite services study for $10,000. That is under way now. That totals $47,000. The total of $212,000 and the $47,000 is $259,000.
Mr. Nordling: I have a question about children, especially teenagers coming into care. How do these children get into care? Are they kicked out of their home? Do they run away? How do these teenagers arrive at the department? How are they being taken into care? The Minister can answer that now or in the debate on the main estimates.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I misspoke myself slightly when I talked about it being teenagers. There is an increase in teenagers, but there are actually a lot of very young kids coming into care. A large number of them are court ordered. A disturbing number of them appear to be victims of child sexual abuse, which is something that we are seeing many more reports of than used to be the case. The largest reference is from the courts, court orders under the Childrens Act.
Mr. Devries: Is this the area safe houses would come under, or do we have one in the supplementaries at all?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is under Community and Family Services, yes.
Mr. Devries: I have a few questions regarding the safe houses program. As the Minister is possibly aware, last evening there was a Help and Hope for Families meeting in Watson Lake. They had a turnout of between 45 and 50 people. I understand they have been having a few problems trying to get funding for this facility and, at this point, I believe they are asking the government for a commitment of approximately $55,000 for the O&M for this facility once it is completed, and they are also trying to get a piece of land from the lands branch, which is slowing things down.
My understanding of the situation is that they basically need some kind of commitment by January 31 so that they can present their proposal to the community development board, which I believe meets in very early February - possible February 2. I am quite aware that the governments people have not had the opportunity to talk to Lorraine Stick yet, upon her return to Whitehorse, but they had phoned me and they were hoping they could get some kind of commitment from the government on this $55,000 O&M and, hopefully, the rights to the piece of property.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This particular project, which is very interesting and which I know something about, has not only applied for funding under three separate Yukon government programs, but also assistance under a federal program through Canada Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation, called Project Haven, for capital. They have also applied for money under the Department of Indian Affairs, for operation and maintenance for status Indian clients, and British Columbia social services. In terms of the money they are demanding, and it is interesting the way they do it - here is the application, let us have the money right now - but that is not the way these things work. They are asking for an extraordinary share of the total allocation for this program from this government for one community. I think their expectations may be unrealistic on that score. Also, they are asking for money from all sorts of other government pots - pots of money which are not provided for the safe places program. That is inevitably going to have to lead to some negotiations between that society and this government.
Given that we did not receive the application until November 30, and the safe places review board, which is a committee of senior officials, reviewed the proposal on December 12 and found the application to be incomplete in quite a significant number of respects, in that it did not describe in any substantial detail what services and programs were to be offered and did not identify how the services would be delivered and by whom, and the budget figures on the application did not correspond to the information in the explanatory note, we had to communicate that back to the Help and Homes for Families Society.
I know that was done through my office, and it may have been done through officials of the department, on December 13. I think they sent us back, in late December, a follow-up letter - or a follow-up letter by us was sent. As of last week, some of the information we needed in order to deal expeditiously, and I believe we are dealing extraordinarily expeditiously, given the nature of the matter - I know the federal government will not be responding in anything like the time frame we will be - we had not - I think we may have received it by the end of last week but we certainly had not in the middle of last week when I was talking about it - received the information we needed.
Once we have all the information we need from the Help and Homes for Families Society, the safe places review board will do an assessment of the proposal and a decision regarding the operation and maintenance and capital support for it will be made. We support, and I have said so publicly, multi-purpose facilities for safe places. This has been communicated to the society on many occasions. I understand from a meeting last night in Watson Lake there may have been some concern on that score, but I want to reiterate it. The needs assessment prepared by the consultants recommended that the society start with a single-purpose shelter, and the department told the society that we did not necessarily agree with this recommendation but were willing to look at a multi-purpose facility.
We also indicated to them the kind of O&M they were asking for may well be unrealistic, given the amount of money that is available to this government, given that they are not only asking for capital and O&M from this department, but they are also applying for money from Economic Development, CMHC, the B.C. government and DIAND. We have finite resources; look at what happened to formula financing. I cannot promise that there will be a lot more money in this program next year than there is now. We cannot give the lions share of the money that is available in this program to one community; that would not be fair. There will have to be some discussion and negotiation about this. I hope the good people in Watson Lake involved in this organization will understand that.
I understand the concern is that we have not been able to make any guarantees on O&M funding yet for the Watson Lake shelter, because the specific proposal has not been assessed for all its O&M implications. No decision will be made until we have received all the budget information we have asked for from the society and that information has been properly assessed. Then we will begin the discussions we need to have with them. The capital application for funding was to be reviewed by the community development fund technical board during the week of January 8. They will be contemplating that there be no recommendation on any of the capital until the O&M question is sorted out. They are obviously related.
I want the Member to know that the safe places program is something we are very proud of as an initiative this government. We do not have infinite resources available to it. The program offered by communities has to be within the framework of the program we are operating and within the budgetary allocations this government has. With formula financing cuts coming, we do not have any prospect that the kind of money we have now will be radically expanded in future years. We are going to have to deal with that reality.
We said last summer that part of the commitment from this government would be dependent upon the ability of the organization to raise money from other sources. As the Member knows, many community groups like this in other parts of the country have had a commitment of substantial financial contributions from local organizations and local government. That tends to indicate a lot of community support, and not just attendance at public meetings, which I respect, but local financial commitment is also important. We want to do our part to see this thing happen. I hope the Members do not imagine that simply by putting an application in we will be mailing back a cheque. It is not going to work that way. We will have to have a lot of discussion about the program, and are going to have to be satisfied that it will meet the needs defined and meet the parameters of the program that has been established by the department.
We want to see it happen. The people of Watson Lake are going to have to talk to us. We want to have more dialogue before we actually get there.
Mr. Devries: I understand that $125,000 was budgeted for this program; they were asking for $55,000 of that $125,000, which is a considerable amount. As I am sure the Minister is aware, they understand the success of the safe house in Dawson City, which is a multi-purpose facility. That is my understanding of the situation. They would like to use that as sort of a model for the Watson Lake facility, and that is why they were aiming for the multi-purpose aspect. Also, having lived in Watson Lake, I would never say that the Minister has not been free to pour a few dollars into Watson Lake. I am not sure whether they were all spent wisely or not, but I do not think we want to get into that argument at this time.
I understand the first application was incomplete, and yet when they filled in the second application, the government did not seem to be able to give them a clear outline of the criteria that it wanted on these applications. They were kind of puzzled over what exactly the government was asking for. It seemed as if at times the government could not say what it really wanted.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We have documentation, which I am pretty sure has been provided to them, about what we expect in terms of what requirements have to be met by the program. There can be some misunderstandings on that point, and we will obviously be doing our best to resolve those in the next few days. I want to be clear to the Member again: these kinds of programs are not ones where you just fill out an application and get a cheque in the mail. The group is not just asking for $55,000. As I saw the budget, I think it was $57,000; plus they wanted land from us, which has value; plus they wanted a capital grant from the community development fund; plus they wanted operating money from Indian Affairs, which is on top of the $57,000. What they were proposing was a program not akin to the one in Dawson but far more expensive than that. Now, as admirable as the arrangement is in Dawson, we could not sustain a program of that level for every community in the territory that may be asking for it; there is not that much money in the budget. We could not do that in Faro and in Haines Junction and in Watson Lake and in the other communities and have any money left over for the smaller communities that will have more modest proposals. So, just in terms of fairness among communities, we cannot be talking about a program that is non sustainable, given the funding that is available.
Mr. Devries: Well, I realize that the money is hard to come by, but then again, I think we have to look at the fact that these announcements are made. The rural communities may have a slightly different idea about that than what Whitehorse has in mind as being adequate for their needs. When they hear announcements made about safe houses, they take these announcements as being exactly that; yet, every time they go after one of these programs, at times it seems like they are banging their heads against the wall. I still have the feeling that this is going to come up fine, that possibly they are fast tracking a little bit too much, but they would like to be able to build something this summer, because there is definitely a need. Watson Lake has, I believe, the heaviest caseload of any community in the Yukon, except Whitehorse.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Let me say again that I am not questioning the need. In fact this is a new program that this government created. It is $125,000 for the rural communities, operating for those communities. But I say to the Member that if his community is asking for $57,000, plus land, plus capital - and it does matter if it comes out of different departmental budgets - they are asking for more than half of all the money available for all of the rural communities. There are other rural communities that may have something to say about that. We realize the need. We understand the objective of trying to get it open in the next construction season. We will try to help them reach those objectives, but we still have some talking to do about the kind of program that is going to be in operation there and the kind of operating budget they are contemplating.
We will have to talk to the group.
Mr. Devries: Another area had some vagueness. It was understood that job descriptions were needed for the people who would work there. They felt that the government possibly has more of an expertise on developing these job descriptions than would the people in the communities. They were hoping that they could get some help in that area.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We would be delighted to see this project in operation and make it work. If the organization wants some help writing job descriptions, that is fine. The organization has to have thought through what it is they contemplate each of the people doing that they want us to pay for. If it is a question of technically writing job descriptions, we can help them do that. However, if it is a question of them getting their own thinking clear about what the jobs of the staff are going to be, they have to do that themselves. If we can help them sort that out, that is fine. They have to be very clear about that themselves.
Chair: Can we move to the next line?
Mr. Nordling: I have no problem going on to the next line. However, what we have received from the Minister are contracts, as of December 7, 1989. The only ones listed are the closed commitments. Would the Minister be willing to provide the contracts that have been issued to date, those that are not closed? We will have to wait a few days, I know, but it does not look like it took too long to pull this out. I would appreciate receiving a listing of the contracts to date, including the ones that have not been listed as closed commitments.
I would like something similar to what we received for Education. In looking at some of the contracts, in the health transfer area, I am aware of contracts that the Minister has mentioned that are not listed on the document we received.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will take a look at what the contracts are. The Member talks about the list the Minister issued. The Member knows that the Minister probably did not issue any of these. These are issued by the administration, and I doubt if the Minister signed more than one or two of them. I will take a look at what contracts are ongoing and see if they are of the kind the Member talks about or if they are ongoing contracts for research, of whatever kind.
Community and Family Services in the amount of $259,000 agreed to
On Social Services Program
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The $407,000 is broken down between Other and the transfer payment. The Other line is a $358,000 under expenditure. The transfer payment is a $49,000 under expenditure. The most significant item in this line is the under expenditure on the Woodlands program, due to slower progress than was anticipated, $313,000. The substantial problem was that we were anticipating the transfer of some status Indian people under this program. Instead, one of the First Nations bands expressed an interest in assuming responsibility in this area rather than the Government of Yukon. This led to a delay in the discussions about whether or not we would assume this responsibility. That might still be up in the air.
Therefore, we have not assumed the responsibility; those young people have not been patriated to our care.
There is an under expenditure in the departmental office of $45,000. In addition to that, in transfer payments we have: grants through contributions to the hospice society of $10,000; the handybus $9,000; Ibex Treatment Centre, $20,000; an increase in Kaushees Place funding for core services of $13,000; Vocational Rehabilitation and Learning Disabilities Association, $6,000; and we seem to be spending less than is budgeted on the seniors income supplement, $75000 less than we expected; and, the vocational rehabilitation basic subsidy is less than expected, to the tune of $32,000. Those numbers net out to an under expenditure on the transfer payment line of $49,000 - the $358,000 and the $49,000 come to $407,000.
Mr. Nordling: I did not really understand the Ministers explanation of the Woodlands under expenditure of $313,000. If he has more detail, I would like to hear it. Which band are we dealing with and what timing do we expect? Do we expect that this money will be spent in the next budget year or has it been a saving? If it has been a saving, it seems amazing, because I think in the past we have had over expenditures with respect to Woodlands.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not want to get into a discussion of what band may be contemplating this, because it may never happen. I think the basic facts are that, when we were originally budgeting for the patriation of seven residents - I believe I mentioned this last summer - from Woodlands, the department expected all seven of them to become our responsibility. Four of the seven are status Indians, for whom the Department of Indian Affairs assumes responsibility. Since Health and Human Resources was now directly responsible for only three of these people, the expected costs were considerably reduced, which is why we have a $313,000 reduction attributed to this factor in this line. I do not know that we would expect this expenditure to occur next year. I am not expecting that. If, however, Indian Affairs came to us and said, we want you, YTG, to deliver the program to these people, then we might then again show it as an expenditure in our budget, with an offsetting recovery from the federal government. But I do not believe we expect that to happen.
Mr. Nordling: That clears it up a bit for me. I am prepared to clear the line.
Social Services Program in the amount of an under expenditure of $407,000 agreed to
On Health Services
Mr. Nordling: Would the Minster break this down into hundreds of dollars?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Is the Member asking me to break this down into hundreds of dollars? Let me start with the big numbers and then we can go into more detail as the Member wishes.
First of all, to cover expenses related to the health transfer negotiations, we have an item of $650,000. This item also occurs in recoveries since it is covered 100 percent by the federal government.
The second item and the most significant number in this list is in the health insurance program with a base adjustment of $4,867,000. This is primarily caused by increases in physician billings and out-of-territory hospital billings, or at least 85 percent of this money is for that reason.
I can break down the $4,867,000. Physician billings and out-of-territory hospital billings account for $4,098,000 of that. We are also anticipating increases in the following program areas, and are budgeting some increases, medical travel, chronic diseases, pharmacare, extended health, hearing aid demand and AIDS support to the tune of $769,000, for a total of $4,867,000.
We were talking about some accounting changes, and $1 million of the requested increase is directly attributable to changes in the accounting practices. This allows for separate recording of the expenditures regarding interprovincial reciprocal billings. Members will note that the recoveries have increased by the same amount, so we have $1 million booked here and also in the recoveries, so we can show this as a separate line. I think Members know this was requested by the Auditor General and discussed by the Public Accounts Committee. We have been happy to comply with this.
There are some minor under expenditures offsetting the requests. These involve interdepartmental transfer funds: community and family services for the purpose of providing a speech pathologist in the amount of $57,000, which showed up in the previous program as an over expenditure. That nets to $6,460,000.
Mr. Nordling: Do you have the breakdown on the $4,098,000 between physicians and out-of-territory over expenditures?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I cannot break it down much more than that. I can probably obtain it. Between those two, the physician billings represent $1,221,400 and the out-of-territory hospital billings amount to $2,877,000.
Mr. Nordling: Wow. Our out-of-territory travel budget is not quite as accurate as we hoped. I expect we will get a handle on it in the next year.
Can the Minister break the $769,000 down to give us an idea of how close we are coming with pharmacare, for example?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: First let me comment on what the Member had to say about out-of-territory hospital travel.
The Member is quite right; it is an extraordinary amount. What I find remarkable, given the public discussion to date, is every day I receive, and the department receives, requests for further enhancement of this program. One of the cost-control problems is that every time we have said no to someone, this being a small territory, they phone or write or come into the Ministers office. I am pretty sure that does not happen in Ontario. It is one of the realities of trying to exercise cost control here.
The $769,000 is broken down as follows: medical travel, $137,000; chronic diseases program, $502,000; pharmacare program, $50,000; extended health program, $30,000; and we have some special projects, including the examination of the feasibility of medical boarding, for which we have budgeted the $37,000.
Mr. Nordling: I have those figures. I would just like to comment on the out-of-territory travel. I am certainly not advocating that the program be cut or that we are spending too much on it. All that I am saying is that we should budget more accurately.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am sorry; I was not trying to put words in the Members mouth. I was just trying to point out that the situation that we are in, as expensive as it is, and as fast as it is climbing - and it is climbing quite rapidly - that there is a continuing demand for more.
Sorry, I guess that was just a comment by the Member and not an objection, so I will just sit down.
Mr. Nordling: That was just to clarify my position on that $2.9 million.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask a question about the out-of-territory travel. Have the Minister and his officials, or even the officials, examined the reasons for the out-of-territory travel, and is there any pattern? Is it for any particular reason? Does one reason come up more than another? I would be kind of interested to know what it is for, particularly.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Two things. One: what we are doing here is having, it is hoped, the budget catch up with reality. The Member asks if there is a trend line. For example, last year the per diem charges that the hospitals made to us went up 12.4 percent. That is obviously something over which we have absolutely no control. When people are sent to a hospital in Vancouver or Edmonton, and those hospitals raise their charges, because they are also caught in a cost squeeze, they pass them on to us. That 12.4 percent increase was way beyond the amount of increase that we had budgeted for.
Mrs. Firth: I appreciate the example that the Minister gives; however, I was looking for more specific illness-related examples. Why are people having to go out? Is it for specialized surgery? What is it that seems to be rising? Is it the requirement for specialized surgery? Is it the requirement for post-cancer diagnosis checkups? What can the Minister demonstrate as some of the reasons for the increases?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The department tabled a list for the Public Accounts Committee of the ailments for which people were referred out. At first glance, there are not obvious trends in terms of there being certain types of things that stand out, but I would invite the Member to have a look. It is a matter of record in the Public Accounts Committee proceedings. As a professional, she may see some things in there that would escape me.
It seems to be a pattern of referrals, basically, of procedures and services that are just not available in the Yukon Territory. One of the things is that the members of the public are much more aware of things now than they used to be. I do not mean because of the doctor shows, but because of the general educational level of people. People hear from friends and relatives; they read in magazines about a procedure being available somewhere, and if they have a problem they want to have access to that procedure. That is increased demand, too.
Some ask the doctor to be referred or to see a specialist, perhaps in the way that our parents generation might not have done.
Mr. Devries: If someone is having a baby in Watson Lake, things do not go right and they are flown to Whitehorse. Would they normally just fly the one person up or the person and her spouse?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is not quite as simple as that. There are procedures when a medical escort is allowed - a nurse, doctor or family member. Those are set down in regulations - where there is a child or if someone needs the escort to manage. Those are laid down in regulations. There is a protocol, which I think is a public document. I could make it available to the Member. It is there in an attempt to set down clear rules.
Mr. Devries: If a nurse flies down from Whitehorse to accompany the patient back, would that be considered the escort? Would a mother or a spouse not be considered an escort?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There may be circumstances where the parent or a spouse may also be allowed. If a child is going to Vancouver for an operation, a family member will often go with them. Unless there is need for a nurse, attendant or physician, I do not think that the program would automatically provide for that. It would depend upon the circumstances.
Mr. Brewster: A number of people have complained to me that when they are sent out they do not have a hospital bed, which they were told they would. It did not cause a great deal of trouble because they paid for a hotel. When they come back here, though, they cannot get their money back. Yet, if the government looked at that realistically, they could have provided them with a hotel in the first place and saved themselves $300 or $400 in hospital expenses. Is this happening a great deal?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: If we are paying $592 a day for hospital fees, I can understand the point about the $75 hotel room. Because these situations vary from circumstance to circumstance, I would have to hear the particulars of the case to know if there were grounds for complaint. Recently, someone was referred by a doctor for a series of visits with a number of specialists in Vancouver. When they were getting on the plane, there was a last minute change in who they were supposed to see, and when. There was some confusion about this, which probably ended up costing us money. That happens.
There are other cases where people complained to me because they, on their own hook, went to a hospital when on holidays and then wanted us to pick up the cost of shipping kids back. This is not a program where a person can come after the fact and claim expenses. We have rules because this is a very expensive program. We do not want to see it abused, but we do not want to see kids sent out alone to strange cities, or old people who may not be able to see or who need other assistance, or people who are in need of a nurse. We want to make sure these things happen properly.
Mr. Brewster: I am not criticizing. It is a very good system. However, in one of the two cases that I do know of, the man was told to go to a certain hospital and he would have a bed there. When he got there, no one seemed to know anything about it. He was not so ill that he needed to be in the hospital so he went to a hotel. When he presented his bill here, although his plane ticket was paid, they would not pay the hotel cost. Being a senior citizen, not like the rest of us in this Legislature, he was very upset about this. I do not, quite frankly, blame him.
I also dealt recently with a case of a senior who was sent out with their instructions to get off the plane, take a taxi and go to the hospital, but he decided instead to go to a hotel room and spent the night; he then came back to us and complained that we had set an inconvenient time for him to be scheduled at the hospital. It can work both ways.
I want to say, though, with respect to seniors, that there used to be a program with the senior citizens group, which involved a sort of volunteer escort arrangement for people to be met at the airport in Vancouver by a group - I cannot remember who it was, but it was a volunteer group that helped people find their way to the hospital and get settled in, and so forth - but I understand this has stopped happening because the volunteers at this end found it difficult to arrange. Recently, we have had people talk to us about re-establishing that service. If we could do that, it would be very helpful because the cost of us putting someone on the plane and sending them all the way to Vancouver or Edmonton and then paying for them while they are there is, of course, much greater than if we can find a volunteer group, or even a society, that will help do this. We could put people on the plane and have them met at the other end. It may not only be good for the patients, but would actually save us some money.
Mr. Brewster: I agree with you about that, and I agree some people may go to a hotel rather than go to the hospital when they are supposed to, but if they go there and get their operation or whatever they had to have - for instance, the last case I mentioned had to do with eyes and his hotel bill was $75 and he did not go to the hospital, whether you told him to go or not, and you did not pay for the hospital, you are still up $300-$400. I just do not understand why there cannot be a balance there where, if the person is able to stay in a hotel, that should be the first question asked, and then go and get whatever minor operation - it was not minor, it was very serious but he can still walk along and is still capable of feeding himself - you are actually saving money if you look at this.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We avoided any particular case. I think the Member knows, having been in the accommodation business, that it is not much different to the hospital. If you book your bed and you have reserved it, even if you are a no show, the same as at a hotel, they will probably bill you for it. So it may not be a real saving for us, but I understand the point the Member is making.
Mr. Nordling: It is not mentioned in this amount, but I would just like to ask a question about the medical travel within the territory - our medivac system where people are brought from the outlying areas to Whitehorse. Has there been any problem with that budget? How do we make out with predicting in that area?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We do not have the same problem with order of magnitude here, but we are budgeting an extra $130,000 to catch up with what we expect the cost to be. This is a base adjustment here, to bring it into line with what we think the new threshold of costs are.
Chair: We will take a break now.
Chair: I will now call Committee to order.
Mr. Nordling: Is there a policy or guidelines on medical travel within the territory for doctors and nurses in the outlying areas?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Yes, there are.
Mr. Nordling: Can the Minister provide me with a copy of those policies and guidelines?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I can provide the Member with the policy. There are protocols that establish when the plane or ambulance can be ordered. Yes, I can do that.
Mr. Devries: When I dislocated my elbow this year, I was medivaced to Whitehorse and was very impressed with the service. Mind you, it took 11 hours from the time I broke my elbow until I got to Whitehorse, but it was professional service all along the line.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Believe me, if we had known when the Member set out on his hunting trip he was going to have the problem where he did, we could have handled it earlier and quicker.
Mrs. Firth: I have a question on a long-outstanding issue with respect to a bit of money that the federal and territorial government keep discussing. According to the public accounts of 1988-89, the amount stands at $5,841,000. It is payable to Canada for hospital services. Has there been any headway made with that amount of money? Are they going to pay it to get it off the books? Would it be to our advantage if they did? Would it expedite the health care transfer at all? Can the Minister fill us in on with what their intentions are for that large amount of money?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As the Member knows, we have the money in reserve and have acknowledged liability. The intention now is that we would wind up the matter as a feature of the hospital transfer. We would do the transaction as part of the health transfer negotiations. That was the intention the last time we had discussions on the subject.
Mr. Nordling: That was a good lead in for my next question. I would like an update on the health transfer. We have $650,000 in this line, and it is recovered, but I would like to hear how we are progressing.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We have had a number of discussions since the question last came up. Most significantly, there was a meeting between the federal deputy and the deputy of this department in Ottawa over the Christmas holiday. Shortly before Mr. Beattys visit here, there was a change in the federal position. We have communicated with them energetically our view of the soundness of our position, namely that there should be two stages to the transfer; the first stage is the hospital and that should be accompanied by a commitment of capital to a new hospital. The second stage, the community health services, cannot be completely separated from the self-government issues we are dealing with at the land claims table.
I think there is now a far better understanding of the issue, from the federal governments point of view, and I know there have been discussions that we asked to have happen between DIAND and national Health and Welfare on this point. There is to be a discussion shortly between the federal government and us, and the Council for Yukon Indians, to see if some way can be found to facilitate an arrangement respecting the second stage of the transfer or reach some agreements about the second stage of the transfer, in order to facilitate the first stage. We are going to try that route, but we are not optimistic that there will be a simple answer found. We are at the point now of waiting to hear from the federal government as to whether, having considered representations, they have some more flexibility in their position than they appeared to have had in November.
Mr. Lang: The Minister said that the federal government changed its position. Could he tell us exactly what the federal governments initial position was and then how it changed, from his perspective.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Forgive me, but I have already covered this ground with Members: the Member for Porter Creek East and the Member for Riverdale South, before Christmas, I think. I will summarize briefly. We have, for some considerable months, the better part of two years, been negotiating on the basis of a two-stage transfer, the first stage being the hospital, the second stage being the community and health services, with the assumption being that the hospital would be transferred, a capital commitment would be made for a new hospital with the transfer, and that would proceed, and that we would then deal with community and health services as a second stage. Both governments have been negotiating on that basis. We believe that we have been moving close to an agreement on dollars; that was not the only issue but was the most substantial issue that was between us.
Just before Mr. Beattys arrival here, we had a new position communicated to us, a new Treasury Board perspective, and I do not know if it was related to federal financial considerations; that was added to it. The new federal position was that, rather than dealing with it in two stages, both stages had to be complete before the federal government would make the financial commitments to a new hospital. Our view was that we were not prepared to take responsibility for the hospital unless there was a financial commitment to a new one. We are now at the stage of dealing with the federal government to find out if there is a way around this problem, whether there is any flexibility in the federal position or whether we can find a way of dealing satisfactorily, from our point of view, with their position.
Our hope is, of course, that we can work this out and still achieve a transfer agreement in this calendar year.
Mr. Lang: In view of the fact that we have not had a transfer, and in view of the fact that there have been long-outstanding discussions going on, how did we spend $650,000?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We have had, as the Member will know from discussions in this House, very long, complicated - I do not want to call them negotiations because they are not our employees - formal discussions with the federal health employees about the job classifications, the employment and benefits package that would be associated with them working for us. We have worked on the administration of the hospital and health service. We have already had, as the Member knows, an act come before this House. We have had various costs of negotiating. We have done costing work. We have had an operational review of the hospital, job descriptions done for every position under the transfer of employees and the organizational review of the health services branch as it would operate the system with the new hospital and with the community health services.
That work has been going on in preparation to a transfer.
Mr. Lang: Is the Minister telling us that what we are charging back is the time that the public service employees spent on this? Is it over and above the $650,000?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We have discussed this before. It was not possible in the time frame that we had for the Public Service Commission, given their work load, to do the job descriptions for dozens of jobs. We had to hire consultants to do the job descriptions. That work has been going on, and the $650,000 here was provided by the federal government to facilitate the negotiations.
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister give me a breakdown of the $650,000, and who the money was allocated to?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Yes.
Mrs. Firth: Did the federal government only supply $650,000 to assist with the job descriptions? I thought it was closer to $800,000 that the former deputy minister and Dr. Brian Wheatley were able to get to fund the transfer.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member is quite right. In the line of the budget, we have something like $800,000. However, only $650,000 comes from the federal government. The other is a Government of Yukon direct expenditure.
Mrs. Firth: The federal government only gave us $650,000 then, is that correct? Why was Dr. Brian Wheatleys contract terminated early? He was due to be with us until July, 1990. He was given the three months notice as was required in his contract either at the end of September or at the beginning of October. As of December 31, 1989, he was no longer with us.
It is rather unusual that the government would terminate a federal secondment. I understand the individual was instrumental in helping get that financial assistance for the health transfer. Could the Minister explain why that contract was terminated early?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am not going to get into personnel discussions before the House. The arrangement by which the person named returns to the federal system is in accordance with the contract. The work that he was doing for us was complete. Beyond that, the negotiations are proceeding in a different manner than they were before.
Mrs. Firth: With all due respect, from what the Minister said earlier, it does not seem that the negotiations are proceeding. He has indicated that the federal government has changed its position. I would like to get into some debate with the Minister at some future time because I do not share his conclusion that it was totally the federal government that changed its position. The territorial government was probably asking for some changes and expressing some different opinions. I will however leave that debate for another time.
I am not asking the Minister to go into great detail, but it is only fair that we know why this contract was terminated early. It was a secondment. The federal government was very cooperative in providing us with this secondment. The individual was obviously doing his job. Negotiations were still at the negotiating phase, and he was partially responsible for getting some additional funding for the health transfers.
I think it is only fair that the feds as well as the rest of Yukoners know why we terminated it, why we no longer required his services. Was there a policy change, or what happened?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I accept the Members invitation to discuss, at a future time, her perspective on the negotiations, but as the Member knows, we appreciated the contribution by Dr. Wheatley; he contracted in the department when the negotiations moved to a stage where we were conducting the negotiations on behalf of the territory with the federal government. I cannot elaborate any more than that.
Mr. Lang: I am a little confused on the question of this transfer and just want to raise a question, because the Minister gives the indication that there are still negotiations going on. I happened to have the misfortune of going over to the hospital the other day, and I want to say for the record that the building is becoming a disgrace; it is something no one can be proud of. I have to take exception with the government, because I think we missed the window of opportunity when we could have got a new hospital. I think maybe time has passed us by, unfortunately. I hope the government bears its fair share of the responsibility for that.
I was told that there was a meeting during the past few weeks between some members of the staff and the new Deputy Minister of Health and Human Resources. Effectively, the message conveyed was that the feeling was that there was not going to be a health transfer in the foreseeable future. I would like to find out what is correct, because that is the impression that has been left with the employees. If that is what is being said there, then maybe we should be informed of the same position that the government is taking?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have to say that, very recently, I have been assured by the person named by the Member opposite that that is just not true. We have, I think, been doing a good job over the last few months in keeping the staff apprised of the nature of the discussions we have been having about the transfer. It is true that, following Mr. Beattys visit, our optimism about the pace of the transfer evaporated somewhat. We still believe, and have said to the staff, that it is possible to get a satisfactory transfer arrangement, but I believe the deputy minister has indicated that to the federal staff, but of course we do not want to leave them in limbo. We told them what we think about the condition of the hospital. We have made that point, both my predecessor and I, and I know the unions representing the employees have made that point of view energetically to the federal Minister, and we want to see the transfer happen.
I want to say, though, that our view is that we do not want to see negotiations going on and on and on. If at some point the federal position is that they are not going to provide the money for a new hospital until such time as the land claims are complete and the community health services negotiations that would follow that are complete, then we should not leave the employees waiting. We should tell them that a transfer is just not imminent.
I also have to tell the Member - the red herring that we missed the opportunity, which has been again dragged across the trail several times - there was never a moment in the negotiations yet when the federal government ever offered the Yukon Territory the dollars to see the hospital built or, in fact, made the commitment themselves - either at Treasury Board level or from anywhere else - to see the hospital built. We have not reached that moment when that federal financial commitment has been made. That is the critical junction. It has never been made. They did not offer the money for a new hospital. We have never had a firm federal commitment to all the money for a new hospital.
Until that happens, there is not much point in taking over that old plant, that old equipment, and an under-funded program with a great deal of unhappiness in the staff, with permanent positions being turned into casual, all sorts of overtime, and now the situation of a labour contractor getting involved there rather than federal jobs. There is a lot of unhappiness. We would make a very poor decision on behalf of the people of the Yukon to make a transfer of the existing hospital with that situation without the capital commitment for a new hospital.
Mr. Lang: I want to reiterate that a copy of this debate will go to the individual from the hospital who talked to me and gave me the observations I just put forward to the House. The impression conveyed was that there was not much hope for a transfer. If that was not the message that was to be conveyed, perhaps it should be corrected. The impression was definitely left. I did not raise the issue. The individual is a long-time employee in good standing who is very concerned obout the health care in the territory and where it is going, not just his own employment. I get sick and tired of talking about a facility that is in deplorable shape and then we find out it is the fault of the federal government. What happened to us as party to those negotiations? I would submit we have not been pushing hard enough. Obviously we have not because we have a situation where morale is very low. I have recently had a friend as a patient and the situation on one ward is absolutely dismal. There is one ward with a combination of senior citizens, people with mental problems and people with drug problems. My friend wound up with a person sitting on her bed in the middle of the night. That is totally unacceptable in this day and age.
All we find out is that we have spent $650,000 for negotiations. That is as far as we got - a bunch of paper that has not gone anywhere. All we have heard is that Ottawa is to blame.
Why are we spending money for the Ministers to go to Ottawa if they are not being successful? Obviously, there is a reason to negotiate these things. My understanding is when Mr. Beatty came he was prepared to offer something, I do not know what it was. Through the story on the street, I understand that YTG changed its position. We have a Minister here saying the feds changed their position and the feds say YTG changed its. It is a nice, cozy relationship we have with the Government of Canada other than the fact one Minister might describe it as sleazy and perverted.
I have constituents who have gone into that hospital and I feel so badly for the employees in some of those wards. I do not know how we keep staff on one particular ward. We have good staff and I wonder why they stay there. All we seem to be doing is spending a lot of money shuffling paper and nothing is being done. All parties have to bear some responsibility; there is not just one side to these discussions. It is time to sit down and start talking turkey to see what can come out of this thing. As the days go by and the dollars become shorter we have less and less chance of getting a new facility.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Talk is cheap, as the Member knows, who spent several years trying to get an economic development agreement for the Yukon - and this was the last jurisdiction in Canada to get one. Negotiations with the federal government are sometimes protracted and not easy.
I want to emphasize that we are pursuing this matter very aggressively. I have met with not just one, but several federal Ministers on this subject. I am not fed bashing or casting blame. We are talking about negotiations.
The bottom line in the negotiations is that if the federal government will not contribute the money to build a new hospital to replace the inadequate old facility that the Member has just been criticizing, we are not going to take the transfer. Maybe he would. That would be a debate between us, but we are not going to. I believe that that is the right decision for the territory. If the government was to accept that health transfer without a financial commitment for a new hospital, the federal government position would be for us to find the money out of our resources, and we cannot do that.
We are talking about $44 million in capital. In the next few weeks, we will be pursuing, as aggressively and with as much energy as we know how, a conclusion to these negotiations. We are going to make the point to the federal government, as effectively as we can, that delaying a decision on this point is penny wise and a pound foolish. It is bad for the public health of the Yukon Territory, which they are still responsible for at this point. It is an unwise decision from all sorts of points of view. We are making that point as effectively as we can.
The Member wants to use adjectives in his description of another situation. I have never called Mr. Perrin Beatty sleazy. It would be fair to say that in our personal communications we get along quite well. We are also big boys, and we can negotiate with each other frankly and sincerely. We can recognize, at this point, that we have a fundamental difference of opinion. As a result of the work of my deputy and his officials, the federal government is taking a very serious second look at their change in position. I am hoping that we can persuade them to revert to the former position in negotiations.
Meanwhile, we are going to try another alternative method to break the deadlock, which I mentioned earlier. We are doing that this month, within the next 30 days or so. Negotiations of this kind are never easy. I know from having talked to Flo Whyard about these things. Negotiations broke down in 1977, I believe, because of an issue about the arrangements not being satisfactory to the employees or to the aboriginal community in this territory.
This is not a new issue but we are hoping to bring it to a conclusion. I do not want anybody on the other side to have any illusions about the vigour or the energy or the intelligence with which we are pursuing discussions. It is not a paper discussion. We have been preparing ourselves for some tough bargaining. We have also been spending an appropriate amount of money trying to find satisfactory arrangements for those same employees - they are not our employees, they are federal employees right now - to come to work for the Yukon Territory - satisfactory terms and conditions of employment, job descriptions with which they are content and we are content - a whole number of complicated personnel questions, a whole number of tricky financial questions, a whole number of operational questions, and a very substantial capital question, namely a $44 million capital question, of a new hospital.
Mr. Lang: I just want to correct the record. I did not mean to imply that the Minister referred to Mr. Beatty as sleazy or perverted. I was referring to the comments made by his colleague, the Minister of Finance, to the Government of Canada. That is the reference I was making, Madam Chair. Comments like that do not put us in a good position for negotiations with the Government of Canada, if the front bench continues with public statements of those kinds, because I do not think it is in anybodys best interest - especially considering the stakes. If we are on one hand asking for $44 million and on the other hand making statements of those kinds, I do not think it is in anybodys best interest.
Madam Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 13.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Madam Chair, I move that Mr. Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I now call the House to order. May the House have the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole.
Chair: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole passed the following motion:
THAT the Chair and General Manager of the Yukon Workers Compensation Board appear with us in this House to deal with Bill No. 102; further
THAT the Committee of the Whole considered Bill No. 102, Act to Amend the Workers Compensation Act, and Bill No. 13, Second Appropriation Act, 1989-90, and directed me to report progress on same.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move 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 9:25 p.m.
The following Legislative Return was tabled January 24, 1990:
Managerial level employees hired, by department, by Government of Yukon in 1988/89 and 1989/90 (year to date) (M. Joe)
W.Q. No. 1