Monday, February 26, 1990 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS OR DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have for tabling a return.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I have for tabling a proposed agricultural policy.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
NOTICES OF MOTION FOR THE PRODUCTION OF PAPERS
Mrs. Firth: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT an order of this Assembly be issued for a copy of the health transfer activities contract signed between the Government of Yukon and John Walsh.
Speaker: Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Draft Agriculture Policy
Hon. Mr. Webster: I am pleased this afternoon to outline, with my honorable colleague, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, the contents of this governments draft agriculture policy.
This draft policy has been developed cooperatively by the Departments of Renewable Resources and Community and Transportation Services, in conjunction with both the Agriculture Planning Advisory Committee and the Yukon Livestock and Agriculture Association.
Concerns with the current policy, which have been expressed by applicants, land users, Yukon first nations and others are addressed in this draft policy.
We are now releasing this draft policy for public comment. A final policy will be prepared once we have heard the views of all Yukoners. To allow for full and careful consideration of the policy by all interested parties, the deadline for public comment will be September 30, 1990.
The draft agriculture policy sets objectives for our agricultural industry, suggests a plan of support for development of this sector, and proposes policies that would govern the sale of land for agricultural purposes.
Government and the agricultural community want to build a strong, self-sufficient agricultural industry in the Yukon, one that will replace imported food by food produced locally, to the greatest extent possible.
In developing a self-sufficient industry, we also want to ensure that it is sustainable. In other words, we want an industry that maintains the primary resource on which it is based - the soil - and makes sound use of other essential resources such as water. We also want an industry which does not threaten plants and animals indigenous to the Yukon.
In regard to a land base for agriculture, the draft policy seeks to establish criteria that will identify land that is capable of supporting agricultural production with the ultimate goal of matching farmers with suitable land. It seeks to ensure the protection of land that provides critical habitat for wildlife.
The policy that we propose is also designed to minimize conflicts with other land uses and land interests, such as Yukon first nations land selections.
Mr. Speaker, the policy also clearly sets out the responsibilities of my departments agriculture branch.
Its primary function is to offer extension services to Yukon farmers and the agricultural industry as a whole. These extension services cover a number of areas of production and development.
It will, for example, support and coordinate innovative developments and demonstration projects that enhance our understanding of agricultural production in the territory. The emphasis will be on practical research designed to overcome problems that limit production or the processing and marketing of Yukon agricultural products.
The agriculture branch will encourage the development of the various sectors - livestock or forage, grain or vegetable crops - that are appropriate for specific regions of the Yukon.
To provide for the sustainable use of resources, it will assist in designing conservation measure for farms.
It will also be available to help the industry market its products.
Assistance in the form of counselling on proper farm management and financing will also be provided, and the branch will establish a data base on agriculture in the territory. This data base will track developments in the industry, such as the values and costs of production, as well as agricultural trends.
The government has also recognized in this policy its role in supporting animal husbandry. This includes support for veterinary services in the Yukon. The branch will be looking for ways to improve these services to farmers. It will promote programs that ensure the health of animal herds and sponsor extension programs and conferences that provide Yukon farmers with practical information on the production, health and management of herds.
Finally, in the area of public health and safety, the agricultural branch will work with the industry on the development of policies, regulations and inspection services to provide safe, healthy products to the Yukon public.
As I indicated at the outset of my remarks, this policy also provides a fair and open process for the sale of agricultural land - a policy that balances the need for agricultural land with the needs of other interests, and one in which all the players and stakeholders know the rules.
My colleague, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, will now elaborate on details of the draft policy dealing with land sales and disposals.
Draft Agriculture Policy: Land Component
Hon. Mr. Byblow: As indicated by my colleague, the Minister of Renewable Resources, I am quite pleased to outline the land component of the draft agriculture policy that was just tabled moments ago.
The policy, as indicated by my colleague, is the result of consultation with various interested groups over the past number of years. I want to repeat and emphasize that it is a draft policy and that we are encouraging people to give us their comments by September 30, 1990.
The draft policy, in essence, will manage public land resources in the best interests of all Yukon people for generations to come. It will put farmers on suitable agricultural land that does not have any other competing interests. It provides a solution to the chaotic problems that have frustrated everyone for many years.
We will make farmland available in designated agricultural areas that will ensure a more rational approach to land management as well as an orderly development of the agriculture industry. This should minimize spot land transfers and reduce the heavy burden that is placed on first nations of having to respond to numerous land applications. It will ensure a fair and open process for obtaining land that gives full consideration to the competing uses and interests of the land.
The draft policy has the flexibility to allow a full range of agricultural opportunities and lifestyle diversities.
Agriculture in the Yukon is diversifying. Today, agriculture means more than just large farms for the production of forage crops. It includes mixed farming, market gardening, hydroponics, game farms, livestock and specialty crops. Our draft policy will keep pace with these changes to help meet agricultural needs of the 1990s.
The policy allows greater flexibility and conditions for land development, non-soil based agriculture and smaller parcel size. Given our discussions on these matters in the House, I am sure all Members welcome these changes. We will also establish clear and appropriate guidelines and criteria for government to determine what lands should be sold or leased for agricultural development.
To protect our precious agricultural land resource, loss of agricultural land through subdivision will not be allowed. Land applications will be limited to a maximum of 65 hectares.
Another significant component of this draft policy is the land application review process. For the first time, applications to buy Yukon public land will be made available for public review and comments. This public review will be in addition to the current practice of consulting Yukon Indian first nations.
In order to ensure an efficient application review process, we propose a 90 day maximum time limit for the completion of application reviews by the Yukon government. The review time may be extended where field work and consultation cannot be completed within that 90-day period. The application review time limit will help alleviate delays and the uncertainty, so that agricultural applicants can get on with their plans.
The land pricing structure will also change under the draft policy. The sale price of farmland will be based on the market value of undeveloped raw land. Where market values cannot be established based on land sales, other generally acceptable appraisal techniques will be used to determine the value of the parcel. An arbitration process will be available for people who disagree with the governments asking price. Further, farmers may use capital expenditures to write down the cost of farmland, but this will not apply to the residential portion of land costs.
As an incentive to encourage agricultural production, the policy proposes a farmland tax rebate for farmers who produce at least $3,000 gross value of farm products in a tax year. The rebate is 100 percent of the tax payable on the farmland and farm buildings, but not the residential buildings.
In the transition from the old agricultural land policy to the new policy, applications currently under review will continue to be processed with no change to the procedure or the priority. However, individuals applying for land after today will be advised that the current agricultural policy is under review and will be provided information regarding the proposed changes. Applicants will be informed of such things as maximum parcel size and that pricing may change.
I trust all Members will agree this is a comprehensive, forward-looking policy.
Mr. Lang: I rise to express our grave disappointment with a number of policy positions taken by the government in this new draft agricultural policy.
Considering it has been over a year in coming, it is especially disappointing that we have only been presented with a draft policy. It is confusing that the announcement is coming from two Ministers. I renew our suggestion that agriculture, in all its aspects, should come under one Minister. This is called the magic and the mystery.
The claim is made that the new policy has been developed in conjunction with the Yukon Livestock and Agricultural Association, among others. I find this statement surprising, given the fact that the Minister of Renewable Resources, who is recognized as the Yukon agriculture Minister, has never met with that association, which is the representative body for agriculture in the Yukon.
By bringing in the policy in draft form, the Minister has simply bought himself more time. Another full crop year will come and go before Yukon farmers know how they will ultimately be affected by the proposed policy.
I believe a number of positions taken by the government in this policy will be unacceptable to the agricultural community and will act as a disincentive for people to become involved in agriculture in the Yukon at a time when we should be doing everything we can to encourage and assist people who want to take up farming.
This new policy reverses the long-standing government practice of making land available for the cost of developing it. The current policy recognizes the substantially higher cost of making a living in the Yukon and acknowledges the farmers sweat equity as payment for the land.
Now we find agriculture being sold on the basis of market value. This is going to price agriculture land out of the reach of many people who would be interested in becoming involved in agricultural ventures.
The Minister also made a references to leases. I have various concerns about this. Except in the case of grazing, we believe that land should be made available on a fee simple as opposed to a lease-hold basis. It is unfortunate that the government is considering implementing a policy of leasing for such ventures as game farming.
I ask who is going to invest $11,000 per mile for fencing on the basis of a lease. Moreover, the lease system will make it more difficult for farmers to receive and benefit from conventional financing.
We are not opposed to seeing a time limit being placed on application reviews. We believe, though, that 60 days would be better than 90. We also support the issues on public health and safety. This side has raised, on numerous occasions, the health and safety risks of bringing animals into the territory. We hope that the side opposite is going to take prompt action, especially in that area.
Up until today, the government led us and the public to believe that the agriculture policy would be tabled in this session. Instead, we have a draft. It is interesting to note in the brochure that has been provided to us on how well the government has planned for the agriculture policy, that on one page it had asked for submissions to be given by April 30, 1990; that is penned out, and September 30 is inserted.
Mr. Webster, the Minister responsible for agriculture, has not meet with the Yukon Livestock and Agriculture Association since he took office one year ago. Mr. Byblow has had one meeting with them, I understand. It is no wonder that this is only a draft policy. The front bench has not been doing its work.
The policy before us will be found to be unacceptable to many people within the agriculture community.
I hope that the government will make the necessary changes to make an agriculture policy that is acceptable.
Speaker: Order please. I would like to remind the Member that he has one minute to conclude.
Mr. Lang: I would like to respond to the statement made in both the ministerial statements, which state, matching farmers with suitable lands. This is a true statement of socialism. When the government tells the people where they can live, with this type of underlying philosophy guiding the government, this policy will not work.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I really do thank the Member opposite for his comments, especially his opening one about how confusing the situation is here. There are two departments involved here. Obviously, the Department of Community and Transportation Services deals with land. Its function is the distribution of lands. In this case, we are looking at land suitable for agricultural purposes.
The Department of Renewable Resources, through the agriculture branch, has responsibilities for promoting and developing the industry. Consequently, we do have two departments working jointly together to bring a proposal forward. It may come as a surprise to Members opposite, but I am sure if we did not do it this way, the accusation would be made that one hand of government did not know what the other hand of government was doing. That is the reason why this proposed policy has been brought forward by two departments.
I admit that I have not attended any meetings of the Yukon Livestock and Agriculture Association. That is true. I have not been invited to a meeting, although I was invited to take a tour of operations of the Whitehorse area last year. I took them up on that opportunity to see the variety of operations that are prevalent in this area.
I am very pleased with that, and I will be glad to accept any invitations they do extend to me in the future to attend such meetings. I do not know how many the Member opposite has attended as the critic of agriculture.
He also mentioned that there are a number of areas in which he is personally disappointed. He thinks perhaps that some Members in the industry are as well. That is why we have a deadline. We are coming out with a draft policy, not the final product, and we are giving until September 30 to hear some responses to it.
They dearly want to hear from people if they have any concerns with the policy as proposed at this time. I know it is a foreign concept for the Member opposite. When he was in government, he did not believe in consulting with the public when he was coming out with draft policies. This is a new approach for him to grasp.
I could go on, but I do not want to use up all the allocated time; I want to allow my colleague, the Minister for Community and Transportation Services, to take a crack at it.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Hendersons Corner power project
Mr. Phelps: That is too bad. We were starting to have fun in the ministerial statement segment of things.
I have some questions for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation regarding the power line extension to Hendersons Corner, which cost $110,000.
In May 1988, the Minister wrote a letter to people at Hendersons Corner, in which he said that Yukon Energy would only prebuild the line to Hendersons Corner once the Yukon Water Board was satisfied the project may proceed. In that letter, he also said, Immediate erection of a major and very costly line appropriate to the transmission of power from North Fork to Dawson would be irresponsible if it is later found that hydro development cannot proceed for economic or environmental reasons.
Will the Minister agree the Yukon Energy Corporation never did place an application for the North Fork hydro development before the Yukon Water Board?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Yes, I agree with that, but not with much else in his preamble.
Mr. Phelps: Can the Minister tell us why the Yukon Energy Corporation, to use his words, acted irresponsibly and erected this expensive power line when it knew the hydro project was not going to proceed on economic grounds?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It did not act irresponsibly. It acted quite responsibly. If it had done what the Members opposite were begging it to do before the election - that was to go ahead and put the line in, no matter what else happens, as we were urged to do by the Member for Porter Creek East in motions, petition and in questions - it would have behaved irresponsibly.
The corporation made an assessment of the developments that will be entertained in that area, now that the North Fork hydro project is not imminent. They decided that, in good conscience, they could prebuild the hydro line along that route as an appropriate investment toward a three-phase line that will eventually go along there. The investment made in the present line will not be lost, because it is a prebuild on a three-phase line that will come at a later date.
Mr. Phelps: I should point out to the Minister he is incorrect when he makes these allegations that we asked them to build this line at cost to the Yukon Energy Corporation. That is not the case. He keeps saying it, but it is not the case. I invite him to show me in Hansard where that was ever said.
The Minister is admitting the obvious, that the power line cannot be justified on the basis of the North Fork hydro project. Is that what he is saying?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Before I respond to that, I want to be clear what the Leader of the Official Opposition is saying. Is he now saying that, before the election when the Members across the floor were trumpeting the demands that this line be put in, they contemplated that the residents would be paying for that main line? They never told the residents that. They were being very duplicitous, if that is what they were doing.
The North Fork hydro project is not going ahead at this moment because it is not economic. We have decisions to make about the disposition or utilization of the power that is now available at the Mayo dam. One of the options that is immediately before the board is to run a line along the Klondike Highway to provide Dawson with hydro power from that Mayo site.
It will be surplus unless there is, in very short order, some kind of an arrangement made with the owners of the mine at Elsa. The decision that the corporation made to prebuild can be justified in terms of the line that will being going down that route.
Question re: Hendersons Corner power project
Mr. Phelps: This is really something. Here we have the reason given, that on February 7, the Yukon Energy Corporation decided to prebuild the power line to Henderson Corner because of the Mayo/Dawson power line. At that time, can the Minister tell us if there was a feasibility study completed with regard to the economics of constructing a power line to supply the power from Mayo to Dawson?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I just finished saying that we had not yet made a decision on that; it is a decision that is before the board. Necessary to the conclusion of that question of the viability of that option are feasibility studies, which I am sure are not yet complete. I go back to the point I made before: it is wonderful that these people are trying to have it both ways; before the election they were petitioning us and even presented petitions in this House - and on the basis of the representations in the House, I asked the board to take another look at its decision and that is what it did. It is amazing that they are now coming here and saying, we did not do that, we did not mean that the power corporation pay for it, we meant that the residents would pay for it. Well that is humbug and everybody in this House knows it.
Mr. Phelps: I guess the Government Leader is busy because he does not take the trouble to look things up. In April of 1988, there were questions asked in this House that urged the government to make a decision about the prebuild. That was what the questions were. The Minister responded in May with a letter, of which we have a copy right here. It is a letter to the people of Hendersons Corner saying that it would be irresponsible to build the line until they were sure that the hydro-development project was going to go ahead. The Minister may not recall it, but we did not sit in the House after that until there was an election; there were no questions after that raised in this House. We did not have the chance. The fact is...
Speaker: Order please. Would the speaker please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Phelps: The fact is that a decision was made in February of 1989, in the middle of election, and I ask the Minister to be consistent and agree with his logic, in his letter of May, 1988, that it is irresponsible to prebuild a line when it is not known whether or not the line from Mayo to Dawson is economically feasible.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The residents of Hendersons Corner asked us to put the power line in. We took the request under advisement and we concluded that we were not going to put the line in at that point because we were contemplating the North Fork hydro development. The corporation subsequently decided, on the basis of economics, that it was not going to proceed with that option. Then, on the basis of representations that I received from the MLA for Klondike, his constituents - and that were iterated again in this House, if the Member checks the record, not just in May but later - that we should go ahead, I asked them to have another look at it. On some date in December that was communicated to the board. The corporation took a look at it and made a decision and that decision was that it could invest a certain sum of money then on a prebuild. The money would not be lost because the line would still be there and in fact it could be upgraded further when developments proceeded along that route.
Mr. Phelps: Why was the Yukon Energy Board asked to make a decision about prebuild before there was a feasibility study done and during the middle of an election campaign?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Once again, the Member is wrong in his facts. They were not asked to do it in the middle of the election campaign. As I indicated, they were requested to do it in December.
Question re: Hendersons Corner power project
Mr. Phelps: That is interesting - I understood it was in December that it was decided that the hydro project was not feasible. Is that not so?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am not sure of the exact dates when that decision was made, but as the Member knows of course, the two issues are not entirely unrelated.
Mr. Phelps: Let me refresh the Members memory. His legislative return filed in this House last week stated that, on December 9, 1988, the Yukon Energy Corporation Board directed that work on the Klondike/North Fork hydro electric project be discontinued. My question of the Minister is: when did he and his MLA from Dawson put the pressure on to make this ridiculous decision to prebuild the line when there was no feasibility study done with regard to the feasibility of bringing power in from Mayo?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Obviously, the pressure, as the Member calls it, the request to the board to take another look at this decision, came from this Minister prior to December 9 following the pressure from the Opposition, which indicated quite clearly they were going to make an issue out of this and were insisting that we proceed, notwithstanding our earlier commitments.
If the Members are now saying that they agreed with the statement I made in May, I find it passing strange that we had no indication of that in the House at the time - in fact, we got quite the opposite indication.
Mr. Phelps: I wonder how the Minister, who likes to interfere with this independent corporation, justifies using Yukon Energy letterhead on which to write to the residents of Hendersons Corner on February 10 to advise them that the Yukon Energy Corporation is going to pay to extend the line to Hendersons Corner?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I find this absolutely fascinating. Here I have been told for the last several months now that I am responsible for everything the corporation does, including what screwdrivers they may buy somewhere in the territory. Now, if I understand the Leader of the Opposition correctly, an interesting note from a parliamentary government, he is saying, as the Minister responsible for the corporation, I am interfering when I communicate a decision on behalf of this Crown-owned agency to citizens of this territory. That is, somehow, interfering. That is a very novel notion and completely at variance with the position he has taken in the last several months in Question Period. Quite schizophrenic.
Question re: Hendersons Corner power project
Mr. Phelps: Speaking of schizophrenia, let me quote from our letter: It was a pleasure for myself and Art Webster to meet with you and the residents of Hendersons Corner on January 8. I wish to confirm our decision to proceed with building a power line extension from Rock Creek to Hendersons Corner in the most expeditious way. I am wondering whether the Minister, in that letter, is confirming what he told the residents of Hendersons Corner on January 8, namely that they intended to proceed with building a power line extension?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am confirming, of course, that it was a pleasure to meet and I am confirming that it was a pleasure to communicate with them about the intentions of the government.
Mr. Phelps: I am interested in why he would say he is confirming our decision when he writes this letter. Did he tell them that it was their decision to prebuild the line when he met with the residents on January 8?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am not sure what the Member is asking. Is the Member asking if I told them something different from the letter when we met? What is the question?
Mr. Phelps: The question is this: if he was confirming a decision that he was advising the residents of Hendersons Corner on January 8, it is strange the decision itself was not made until February 7, according to the legislative return filed by the Minister. That is my point.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Whatever, I am sure I was communicating the intentions of the government on this question, which was subsequently confirmed, as the Member knows.
Question re: Hendersons Corner power project
Mr. Phelps: Is the position of the Minister that the government told the board it wanted the prebuild to proceed no matter what the justification was, or absence thereof?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No. I am indicating that I asked the corporation to have another look at it. I was communicated with by the corporation and the corporation made a formal decision that the Member knows and that was communicated to the residents.
Mr. Phelps: Is it not true that at least on one occasion the corporation turned down the request to prebuild the line to Hendersons Corner at its cost?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not know whether that is true or not, but I know it had considered the question on the earlier date the Member has referred to in Question Period and that information was communicated by way of the previous letter to the residents that the Member has made reference to.
Mr. Phelps: Can the Minister tell us on what economic basis the decision was made to prebuild the line to Hendersons Corner from Rock Creek?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Yes. Given the developments likely to proceed along that route, the corporation made the decision that it was an appropriate investment to do a prebuild of the line for that section of the Klondike Highway.
Question re: Hendersons Corner power project
Mr. Phelps: When will the Yukon Energy Board have any kind of feasibility study that speaks to the issue of whether or not building a power line from Mayo to Dawson City is economically viable?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I cannot answer that off the top of my head. I will take that question as notice. The corporation officers have been rather busy with another issue of late. Some of their plans on that score may have been delayed a little bit.
Mr. Phelps: If the corporation ever does receive such a feasibility study will the Minister undertake to table the report in this House?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: A report of that kind would probably be tabled before the Public Utilities Board first. I have no objection to the report becoming public, but I would want to make sure that we observe the niceties of our relationship with the Public Utilities Board as well.
Mr. Phelps: It is our information that the Yukon Energy Board turned down the prebuild to Hendersons Corner twice before finally being pressured to going along with the government in his election plans.
Can the Minister confirm that it is the case that the prebuild was turned down on two occasions prior to February 9, 1989?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No, I cannot confirm that from memory. I do not know what the source of the information is, but I will check that.
Question re: Health services transfer
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Human Resources.
On Thursday, I asked questions regarding the health transfer activities, specifically regarding nondisclosure with respect to the terms of reference of a contract and salary for John Walsh. The Minister said at that time there was an agreement by three parties. He referred to us and the two unions that we are talking with not being able to get into a discussion on these matters.
Why are the union people he represented in that statement saying publicly they made no such agreement?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not know about any public statements of the kind. If the Member is alleging here that both the unions with which we are negotiating have made no such commitment to disclose information about the negotiations, I would be very surprised at that.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister knows his answer is totally and absolutely incorrect.
The two union representatives are saying they made no such agreement with respect to nondisclosure of, specifically, the terms of reference of the contract and how much money was being paid to Mr. Walsh.
The Minister has stood up in this House and said that that agreement was made. If that agreement was made by these three parties, why are two of the parties saying they never made that agreement?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have not heard public statements by the two other parties, as the Member is alleging. I would be extremely surprised if that were the case, and I would not take the Members word for it.
I have also indicated I do not intend to release the contract until the completion of the work, and I cited two reasons. The Member is laughing. I had to wait six years to see his contract when he was leader of the land claims process as the Tory negotiator. We have a different standard here. I have said I will make the information public. The government has some right to determine when, and I do not want any disclosures that will compromise the negotiations. The fact we have a far higher standard of providing information - The Member is giggling. Trying to get information from him when he was a Minister was like trying to get blood out of a rock.
If you compare... They are cackling now, because they know their record was so abysmal on this score.
This government has tabled thousands of pieces of information, many more than the Members opposite. I have said I will provide this information. I am not going to be dictated to by the Member opposites timetable.
Speaker: Order please.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We know that she is once again involved in ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We know the Member opposite is once again involved in a personal attack on someone simply because they happen to be an ally of this party. She will have some credibility some day when she asks questions about some of her political campaign workers who have had contracts with this government. Until then, we understand exactly what she is doing and why she is doing it.
Mrs. Firth: Until then, we understand exactly what she is doing. I never heard such a bunch of rubbish in my whole life.
It was this Minister who stood up in the House and said the whole reason we could not have the terms of reference of John Walshs contract, or how much money he was making, was because of this three-party nondisclosure agreement. I have spoken to the other two parties. At least one of the other two parties has spoken to the media, and they are not aware of any such agreement.
The issue is ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mrs. Firth: The issue here is the credibility of this Minister and the information he has brought into the Legislature. There are two different sets of information being given.
Again, could we have a copy of this nondisclosure statement, this three-party agreement? The other two parties would like to see it, too.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member has again completely misquoted me and misrepresented the facts. I said there were two reasons why I did not intend to disclose this contract at this time. One was that there were negotiations in progress and, two, I referred to an all-party agreement about not disclosing information surrounding the negotiations.
I am reliably informed that that is an agreement at the table. I doubt such agreements at the table are documented in a separate agreement, but that is a convention of negotiations. If the Member had any experience in negotiations, she would know that.
Question re: Health services transfer
Mrs. Firth: Last week, the Minister told me to read Hansard. I have read Hansard, and you will have to bear with me because my preamble may be lengthy, but it presents the facts. The Minister says I am misrepresenting the facts, and I am going to read the facts out of Hansard, and I am going to do it very briefly.
First of all, I asked specifically about information regarding the terms of reference of the contract and how much money was being paid. The Minister said, In this particular case, there is a decision made by the three parties not to get into discussion.
Then, we went through this round and round the mulberry bush of whether it was in the minutes, whether it was verbal or in some briefing documents. The Minister would never tell us. Eight questions later, I asked the Minister specifically again, Does it include specific detail with respect to contracts and wages of the individuals who are participating in the negotiations?
He said, I do not know that, nor do I have any interest in knowing it. This is just ridiculous. He comes here and gives us the whole basis of not giving us this information because of this nondisclosure policy. We do not even know if it exists.
We just want to get to the bottom of this. Why is the Minister refusing to tell the Yukon taxpayer what this person is doing for them and how much money he is making. That is all we are asking.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Once again, the Member has played fast and loose with the facts. She says, the whole basis. I gave two reasons why I was not going to table this contract at this time. Last week, the Member also asked about the terms of reference. The terms of reference of any contract, especially those of a negotiator, could reveal the governments negotiating position on some questions.
The Members opposite are laughing. This is the party that would not let the Opposition hear about the land claims negotiator contract for the six years that I was in opposition. The fact that they are going to have to wait a few weeks until we complete these negotiations before I will table this contract is a perfectly justified situation.
It is this governments decision to table such information. I said that I would table it. We will be making the decision as to when.
Mrs. Firth: In the letter that the Minister sent to me, the whole basis of not getting the contract from John Walsh was, Unfortunately, I am not able to provide Mr. Walshs contract as there has been a three-party agreement of nondisclocure during our discussions. We intend to fully honour that agreement. That letter was dated February 13, 1990. He said the whole basis.
Why can the Minister not say what this man is doing and how much money we are paying him to do it?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have already explained what the person is doing. Since the Member was not listening, she was too busy talking, I will explain it once again.
This person is leading the formal discussions with two groups of employees who are potentially going to come to work for the government with the hospital transfer. One group of employees is represented by the Professional Institute of Public Service. The other group is represented by the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
There is a negotiating team, which has involved people from the Public Service Commission, from the Department of Health and Human Resources, and Mr. Walsh has led that team. The Member asked me how much he is getting paid. I will tell her what the maximum amount the contract is for. Once again, I will have to caution her that it does not tell the House what the member earns for the simple reason that we have many many contracts where the people earn much less than the total provided for in the contract.
The total in the contract is $24,000. The job that they have is leading the negotiations or the formal discussions with the employees. Since the Member has now said that is all the information she wants, I am sure she will respect our wish to table the contract at the conclusion of the negotiations.
Mrs. Firth: I think we are going to get into further debate on this. The Minister has now told us - and we have had to drag this information out of him through about 16 or 17 questions - that he is going to be leading formal discussions and he is going to make $24,000, the maximum of the contract. I would like to ask the Minister why he cannot table the terms of the contract and the full terms of reference if there is nothing in those terms of reference that reveals the governments negotiating position. Why can he not table that information here in the House?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: A minute ago, the Member stood on the floor of this House and say, All we want to know, Mr. Speaker, is how much they are getting and what are they doing. I have just answered those two questions, but once again, we know that that is not the real game. The real game is something else. I have stated what the person is doing and what he is getting paid. I have also said that when the negotiations are complete I will table the contract.
Anything else, we understand perfectly well, because we have had it from this Member before, is just another personal attack on someone who happens to be politically associated with the government party. One of these days we are going to have our backbenchers start to do the same thing: if we were half as despicable as the Member, we would do the same thing on the floor of the House to those Members. We have not done that and we do not ....
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member conclude his answer?
Question re: Health services transfer
Mrs. Firth: Excuse me for asking questions on behalf of the taxpayer. Let us go back in the history of this person we are talking about. Let us re-examine what happened here. When this individual was hired by this government, we had to fight this Minister tooth and nail for two months with requests for access to information, CBC and the media making requests for access to information - this person got a job that paid $45,000 a year. That job was immediately increased by $7,000 to $52,000, so he started at it. A year later, it went up another $7,000, so it was up to $59,000. In the legislative return ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the question?
Mrs. Firth: I will, Mr. Speaker. I am just finishing my preamble. In the legislative return, that same job is in excess of $70,000 a year now - in three years. The Minister wonders why we ask questions. The taxpayer has a right to know about the expenditures of this government. That is why we are asking the question. Then we find out that another contract ...
Speaker: Order please. I have asked the Member to please get to the question.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Minister what is so secret about this contract that we cannot have access to it? I would like to ask the Minister if he would table the contract in the House?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Yes, I will table the contract in the House - at the end of the negotiations. If the Member had a scrap of honesty, would she stand in this House ...
Speaker: I would like to remind the Member to please use parliamentary language.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Pardon me. If the Member had any integrity, would she stand in this House and table the salaries and benefits of the employees of the Opposition? In the discussions with other Members opposite, they have indicated they did not want to do that. What they wanted to have was the ranges of peoples pay, and that is what we have tabled in this House. The Members cannot have one rule for them and then another rule for us - one rule when they were in government and another rule when they are in opposition. That just is not the way this place works.
Mrs. Firth: Again, attacking me personally will not cover up the information the Minister brings to this House. That will not cover it up; it simply demonstrates a disrespect. The Minister knows very well that we want the contract before it is terminated. What purpose is there to the Yukon taxpayer to have it after the money has been spent? Will he give it to us before the contract has been terminated so that we know whether we are getting our moneys worth from this individual?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I cannot believe this. She complains about personal attacks; all she does is make personal attacks on people for the great crime - what is the great crime? The great crime is happening to be a New Democrat. Half of the people in the territory are New Democrats, but we know where they are coming from. New Democrats are not allowed to work; they are not allowed to hold jobs or have contracts. Only Tories. Quite a McCarthyist position and quite, quite unpleasant.
Some Hon. Member: (inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Well we know what it was like when you were in government.
Question re: Na Dli Youth Centre
Mr. Nordling: I have a question to the Minister of Health and Human Resources, with respect to the young offenders facility. Last week I asked the Minister to give us an update on the damages to the facility and the costs to repair those damages after February 3. The Minister did not have an answer and took notice of that question. Does he now have an answer?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am pretty certain that I tabled a legislative return last week in answer to those questions.
Mr. Nordling: That is not true. The Minister obviously does not have a handle on his department, nor the young offenders facility. I would also like to ask the Minister - we discussed this last Monday in Question Period - if he now knows how many visits the RCMP have made to that facility since the February 3 incident?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I did not know what the Member was talking about in his preamble, but I have previously taken notice of the other question and he will get an answer when I have it.
Mr. Nordling: We debate the main estimates this afternoon and the Minister took great pains to announce that the information we had asked for would be available before we started that debate. Obviously, we will get it in the next hour.
The other question I asked was whether there was new furniture being ordered for the young offenders facility. The Minister took notice of that last Monday and said he would get back to us. Does he now have an answer to that question?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member will have to be more clear about his question. I remember that there were some questions from the Opposition earlier, alleging that certain toys or games had been acquired as a reward for the escapees. They were wrong about that. The fact of the matter is that the games and the programming equipment that arrived recently had been ordered some time ago and only arrived recently. As to whether there is new furniture, I will attempt to answer that question this afternoon.
Question re: Na Dli Youth Centre
Mr. Nordling: I will read my question from last Monday and the Minister can stand up and tell everyone how unclear it was. I said, Is it true that new furniture is being ordered for the facility that the kids up there cannot lift up, throw around and damage?
The answer was, I will take notice of the question and report back about exactly what furniture has been ordered.
Pretty obtuse, Mr. Speaker. I understand how the Minister could get confused. I would like to ask the Minister how many young offenders we have in the young offenders facility, right now?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This may surprise the Member and it may surprise him because, of course, he has never been a Minister. He may be one day. A Minister does not come into their office every morning and say, Oh, can you tell me how many young offenders we have today, especially when they are dealing with large programs, things like land claims, $58 million budgets in health care. That is not the way a Minister does work, unless you are dealing with only the minutia of the department. Ministers are here to deal with large policy questions. I have said I will provide the information; I will provide the information. Forgive me if I have been busy with other things in the last week.
Mr. Nordling: Obviously the Minister is having his problems. I would like to remind him that there have been problems up at the young offenders facility over the last couple of months, and he should take a bit of an interest. The facility was full. Young offenders had to be moved down to the RCMP lockup and were housed there for a considerable length of time. I would like to ask the Minister if the young offenders who escaped are still in that facility?
Let me be more specific. There were two young offenders who were acting up. The Minister thought that was normal. I heard at least one of these young offenders has been moved from this facility. Does the Minister have any knowledge of that?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have to be very careful about how I answer questions on individual cases because we are under prohibition about identifying young offenders.
The Members are either going to be respecting the federal law or not. The Member who rarely introduces any facts in Question Period, the Member for Riverdale North, is ...
I know one inmate of the young offenders facility has been sent south for psychiatric examination as the result of a court order. I know the cases of all the people involved in the escape over the Christmas holiday have been or are being dealt with by the courts, one way or another. I am assuming some of those young people will be facing charges for some time to come as a result of that. For others, we will have to wait and see what the courts decide in terms of their cases.
Mr. Nordling: My, the Minister has now taken an interest in individual cases. Because he has, where was this individual sent for the psychiatric examination? Was it Willingdon? When is he expected to be returned?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Forgive me, but young people do not get sent to Willingdon for psychiatric examination. Willingdon is a secure custody young offenders facility.
As I explained in the debate we had the other day, there is a difference between facilities that are provided for treatment and those that are provided for incarceration. You do not look for psychiatric assessments or treatment in a facility like Willingdon. It does not happen.
I do not know where they have been sent for psychiatric assessment, but I know it is south of 60.
Question re: Na Dli Youth Centre
Mr. Nordling: Will the Minister come back and let us know where we send our young offenders from the territory for psychiatric assessments? Will we ever be using Willingdon to send young offenders to?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: First of all, on the question of Willingdon, the governments position is fairly clear. The Members of this House who went to visit the facility and the former Minister, spoke quite clearly as to the undesirability of our young people being in such a place, as a general rule.
I do not know whether it is proper or not to indicate exactly what the court, not this government, may have indicated about psychiatric assessments. I will provide what information I can on that subject, as long as it does not indicate the identify of the young person.
Mr. Nordling: I am not looking for the identify of the youth. I want to know whether we send our kids to Alberta or B.C. I would have thought the Minister of Health and Human Resources, who is responsible, would know what province we had an agreement with to do this sort of thing.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We have relationships with professionals in both jurisdictions. As the Member knows from previous debates in this House, we have used the facilities of the B.C. Solicitor Generals department for the inspection of our facilities. I know there are professional psychologists and psychiatrists from both provinces who have been used from time to time. In this particular case, I do not know for a certain fact exactly which psychiatrist has been asked to handle that individual person. It would be extremely unusual for me to know that, any more than I would know what heart surgeon one of the claimants under our health care system had been sent to see in British Columbia or Alberta. At a certain level, it would not be my business to know.
Mr. Nordling: The Minister is being so silly that it is ridiculous. Is the Minister implying that I stood up and asked for the name of the psychiatrist this kid was sent to, or the name of the kid?
The Minister does this steadily. It is not acceptable. Is that what he is saying? If he does not understand the questions and has so much trouble then we may have to write them down and pass them across the floor.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: If the Member had even a slight acquaintanceship with the rules of this House he would know that if you are asking precise information of the kind indicated by the Member, it is customary for Members to be required to put them in writing. It was customary prior to our becoming government. That is for the information of the Member who was not here in the days when those rules were observed.
Secondly, the question is pedantic; if he was asking what province a particular kid was sent to, I am not sure what policy information is contained in it. Where is it relevant? I have told them we dealt with professionals in both jurisdictions. Beyond that, the only question he can ask - the one I was attempting to define the purpose of - was if he was asking which particular psychiatrist or doctor. I do not know whether that is relevant information in the House. I do not know whether it is relevant to any policy discussion. I said I will take the question as notice. The fact that the Member asks his same dull question six or seven different ways does not make it any more interesting the sixth or seventh time he asks.
Speaker: Time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order and declare a brief recess.
Deputy Chair: I will now call the Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 19 - First Appropriation Act, 1990-91 - continued
Deputy Chair: We will start with general debate on the Department of Health and Human Resources.
Health and Human Resources
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am pleased to present today the 1990-91 operation and maintenance budget for the Department of Health and Human Resources. This government believes that a commitment to a broad range of programs and initiatives is necessary if we are to improve and sustain the quality of life for Yukoners wherever they live in the territory.
We believe that it is no longer possible to arbitrarily label some aspects of our lives as social, economic or community and deal with them in isolation. To do so is wasteful and ineffective. It is common these days for people to use words like integration and holistic. We have used those words in the House, and I do not doubt that we will use them many more times. They do capture the kind of approach that we think is increasingly necessary.
This governments shift in emphasis to social and environmental issues was clearly reflected in the last Throne Speech and in this budget that was tabled on November 27.
Since the start of this session, I have spoken many times within this House and outside it, of the vision of this government and of the Department of Health and Human Resources. The vision encompasses what is substantially a new approach, the promotion of preventive rather than curative health measures.
I have discussed before the need to look at the whole person in the socio-economic context in which that person lives rather than simply the disease or the economic hardships they may be suffering.
We have talked about the need to find ways of integrating health and social services in order to create healthier Yukon communities and we have spoken about the emphasis to be placed on a community-based service delivery and on strengthening responses to our social and health needs at the local level.
The old band-aid provision of health and social services, or what used to be called health and welfare, is no longer good enough. While it may be easier for government to provide it in the short run, in the long run we cannot afford it, economically or socially. As we enter this new decade, it becomes increasingly clear that we cannot always rely on yesterdays answers, and the coming century demands some innovative approaches and some new programs and new ideas.
The Legislature has already seen evidence of the direction of this government and of the Department of Health and Human Resources in a number of initiatives we have brought before the House - notably in this session, the new Mental Health Act, the new Child Care Act, the new Hospitals Act, which is now law, and the direction we are giving for a new health act.
Health and Human Resources programs are part of an integrated government response, which include improved child care and education for our children, a clean and healthy environment and improved services for all Yukoners.
The direction we have taken in recent years and the programs and improvements that have followed are more than just ways of meeting the increasing health and human needs of Yukon families and their communities. They are also the foundation for this governments perspective of the 1990s, the vision that we pray will see a healthier Yukon for all of its citizens.
I would like now to indicate some of the changes or expenditure initiatives that are reflected in this budget, and indicate how they will contribute toward the direction we have described. First of all, I will list the major initiatives and financial highlights in the budget.
The area of the policy, planning and administration of this department provides support in a number of departmental-wide initiatives such as the health transfer negotiations; child care strategy; family violence initiatives; the health and social services advisory council, which we hope to be announcing in this sitting of the House; the continued participation in land claims social policy questions; discussions relating to social programs in community-specific agreements; as well as the work the government is now doing in the integration of health and social services.
The department continues to emphasize and promote the delivery of services at the community level in order to ensure the coordination and relevance of services offered.
The financial highlights of the policy, planning and administration program include an increase of $119,000 in the personnel allotment, due to projected merit increases and the reallocation of two positions within the department in recognition of new department organization. The two reallocated positions include the ADM of Health Services and the ADM of Social Services.
There is a decrease of $29,000 in the other allotment, due to an expected change in contract services, and an increase of $200,000 in the transfer payment allotment, due to a $150,000 contribution to the Circumpolar Health Conference, which is being held in Whitehorse the end of May.
There is a $15,000 increase in the contribution to the Yukon Health and Social Services Council, and an increase of $35,000 in the training program contribution agreement with Yukon College.
The increase in the person year establishment is due to the reallocation of the two ADM positions previously mentioned. The ADM of social services was reallocated partway through the 1989-90 fiscal year. The only capital item included in this programs budget is $7,000 for the purchase of microfiche and video equipment for the departments resource centre.
We are experiencing some changes in the focus of the children and family services program. It is clear the demands and needs of children in our care are changing. The reality of the present-day situation is the number of children coming into care with special needs has significantly increased. Our foster care program is having to change to keep step with these developments. We have established a departmental committee that will be making recommendations in the coming months on such things as standards and classification of foster homes, payment structures, recruitment methods and training for foster parents.
In the area of family violence we are continuing with initiatives announced in 1989-90, including the safe places program, child sexual abuse treatment groups, family support services and training for social workers and foster parents.
The child care strategy is now underway. Year 2 will start April 1, and we will build on our first years accomplishments and move forward in creating a strong infrastructure of quality services. The provision increasing the availability of child care services everywhere in the Yukon will be evidenced, as will increasing the number of spaces available in Whitehorse.
The O&M budget for this program has increased by $451,000, due to the following: an expected increase of $122,000 in the personnel allotment, due to merit increases and to the additional of auxiliary workers in the family support program - these auxiliary workers were formerly hired under contract; a decrease in the Other allotment of $164,000 is due to the conversion of home care workers previously hired on a contract basis - they are now employed on an auxiliary basis. An increase in the transfer payment of allotment of $493,000 is mostly attributable to increases in the following contribution agreements: child care subsidy, $100,000; child development services for $100,000; and child credit operating grants and support services of $266,540. The remainder of the increases can be attributed to volume and cost of living increases.
Capital expenditures include $400,000 for the child care capital development program, and this will provide startup grants to enable the establishment of licensed day care centres and family day homes, pre-school programs and school age programs on a territory-wide basis. The funds are also available for the enhancement of existing licensed day care centres and family day homes through this program.
In the social services program area, in this budget the department will be developing a new strategy in this coming year on alcohol and drug services. The strategy will focus increasingly on health prevention and promotion and will address issues such as interagency and interdepartmental coordination, and a better use of resources to address the needs of the community. The department will be working with the ministerial advisory on the substance abuse committee created by my predecessor, the present Minister of Justice.
In the home care area, a very successful initiative, we will be looking closely at what refinements might be needed to improve what is a very solid and well-operating program.
In the Womens Transition Home, we have provided for an increase in the contribution agreement, which recognizes the valuable services and resources that the transition home provides this community.
The O&M budget increases in this field for $168,000. That is reflected by an increase in the personnel allotment of $19,000. Some of the adjustments reflected in this increase are the elimination of a casual worker in one position from the social services program as the caseload no longer warrants the continuation of that staffing level.
There are three auxiliary home care nurses, which have been converted to permanent person years. We expect certain merit increments that will make up the balance of this amount of money. The other allotment increases of $29,000 are due to increases in contract services for residential care both in and out of the territory.
Transfer payment allotment increases amount to $120,000. Some of these increases were at Crossroads - $10,000; the Learning Disabilities Association, the Yukon Territory - $12,000; the Womens Transition Home - $46,000; social assistance - $32,000. Capital expenditures include $2,000 for the planning phase of the construction of a new detoxification centre.
I would like to turn now to the health services program and outline what we are proposing here. In the last supplementary, I requested an additional to the base of $6.4 million to adjust for the health care costs situation. This brings our base, in this area, to $32.7 million. The reasons for the over expenditure and the action taken in response to that problem have been discussed extensively in the House.
In this budget, an additional sum of money is requested. We are sincerely hoping that this is sufficient for our needs, and that we will not have to return for further supplementaries. The increase here is approximately three percent or $860,000, if we account for the health transfer allocation. That is provided for this year but not for next year.
The health services unit will continue to strengthen its service and expenditure prediction tools during the coming fiscal year. The O&M budget for the health services unit increased by $207,000. The personnel allotment increased by $113,000 due to a portion of the health transfer personnel costs not being included until such time as the federal contribution agreement regarding health transfer negotiations is complete.
The transfer payment allotment increased $320,000 primarily due to out-of-territory in-patient and out-patient claims. The major capital project is the first phase for the extended care facility. This phase, including the preparation of architects detailed design drawings, the awarding of the construction contracts, site selection and preparation, will be completed during the 1990-91 fiscal year. Every effort will be made to commence construction in this fiscal year.
This is expected to be a three-year contract with a projected final acceptance date of March 1993. Occupancy is expected to occur during the final acceptance stage. The building should be available for beneficial occupancy during the fall of 1992.
In the juvenile justice program in the next year, there will be a continuing emphasis on the community level programs in our youth justice system. Counselling and support groups are offered through youth probation for anger management, for teen sex offenders and for those experiencing substance abuse.
Work of the community diversion committees will assist in helping our teens before they become part of the formal system. A wilderness program that reflects aboriginal lifestyles is provided with the Kwanlin Dun Indian Band. The Wind River Guiding Camp is contracted in Mayo to take five young offenders in the summer.
The projected O&M expenses are expected to increase by $33,000. Personnel allotment has increased by $9,000. This amount reflects merit increases, the transfer of one position to the policy, planning and administration program and the conversion of two youth service worker auxiliaries, two permanent employees.
The other allotment increased $15,000 due to an increase in contract services for placement, assessment and treatment. The transfer payment allotment increased by $9,000 due to an increase in personnel allowances for youth in custody.
The regional services program is also experiencing some changes in this budget and I would like to just briefly described them, if I could. The services provided in this program were previously included in the family and childrens services budget. As a follow up to the successful Watson Lake pilot project, regional services will increase the counselling services available to Faro, Mayo and Dawson City. These services were provided through a contribution agreement with Yukon Family Services and are available two days a week on a bi-monthly basis. Faro and Watson Lake services have now been implemented and are currently ongoing projects. Dawson City and Mayo services will be implemented shortly, after the beginning of the new fiscal year. Three social work trainers have been hired by the department to provide both on-the-job training and coaching in formal university accreditation courses to three candidates who are locally-hired aboriginal people. These positions are located in Old Crow, Carmacks and Ross River. The successful positive employment position in Mayo was used as a model for these positions.
This brings me to the Mayo pilot project, which is a first step in a broader plan of this government to encourage greater local decision making for, and greater coordination among, human services offered throughout the Yukon. The steering committee for the project, which was jointly selected by the band and the village councils of Mayo, is now preparing a work plan that reflects the priorities of the community. A wide variety of players is involved in this project, including both the Yukon and federal governments, the band and village councils, the people who provide health, judicial, educational and social services in Mayo, and the residents of the Mayo area. I anticipate that other Yukon communities will wish to move in a similar direction and the lessons learned through this pilot project will assist in that process.
The O&M portion of the regional services budget increased by $114,000. There were no increases in total person years. The increase of $124,000 in the personnel allotment is the result of expected merit increases on the addition of the previously-mentioned social work trainers. The decrease of $41,000 in the Other allotment is mainly attributable to the reallocation of contract services to contribution agreements. As you will note, transfer payments increased $63,000. This is partly a reflection of the reallocation of contract services and partly due to an anticipated increase in contributions to community groups such as the Dawson shelter and the Champagne/Aishihik Social Services Society.
The major capital expenditure within the regional services program is the safe homes in rural Yukon. This program was first implemented in the last fiscal year. The capital portion of this program is estimated to be $125,000 in 1990-91, and provides for renovating suitable facilities in rural communities.
During 1989-90 - that is, in the fiscal year we are now in - as I am sure Members know, Watson Lakes application has been approved and Dawson Citys shelter continues to operate in a satisfactory manner. Applications have been received from Old Crow, Teslin, Mayo and Faro. These applications are still under review and agreements are being negotiated.
Finally, I would like to note that there are two typographical errors incorporated into the final version of the 1990-91 main estimates for the Department of Health and Human Resources: $53,000, which should have been included in contract payments, was included in error under contributions to Yukon Family Services; these funds are to be utilized between receiving and assessment contract services. Actually, I will pass out a description of the pages, if it will help, in a second.
Expected recoveries from the health transfer planning should equal expected expenses. Therefore, the annual recovery for health transfer planning should be reduced to $190,000 from $398,000. The correction of the above errors will not result in a change in the total vote of the department. The necessary budget changes resulting from the corrections of the above problems are listed on a page I will be passing around. I would propose that as an appendix to the estimates.
I have a sheet here for all Members that describes the two changes and where they show up in the two lines, and there are some consequences to that.
Secondly, and I apologize I was not able to get this in time for Question Period today, but I had previously been asked by a Member for a copy of the report done by Hector Mackenzie on the wilderness programming for young offenders. I have copies on the table, and I will ask that they be distributed now.
I stand ready to respond to the Members questions.
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Mr. Nordling: I should warn the Minister right off that we will have to ask again for a lot of the figures he gave us in introducing the Department of Health and Human Resources as we do a program-by-program review. I did not get a chance to record all of them.
I may be a skeptic, but I do not see how this budget reflects the new direction, philosophy and approach toward health and health care. I did not hear any real specifics from the Minister on the big changes that would take place. The Minister talked about the Mental Health Act, the Child Care Act and the Hospital Act, which do not indicate any radical shift in direction to me that the government has taken with this budget. The proposed health act that is coming down the road may more accurately reflect that.
When the Minister talked about the new direction and philosophy of the government, he talked about money being wisely spent on prevention now to save money in the future. Looking at this budget, I do not see where there is that much extra money being spent on the prevention that is going to save us in the future. The only area I can see where more money has been allocated is under child care. I will be asking more about the child care statistics, but that was a program introduced a couple of years ago to subsidize care for children. I do not see that the Minister has made a lot of changes.
When I read the departmental objectives, last year they appeared to be more in line with what the Minister is talking about than the ones that are stated in this years budget. For the 1989-90 main estimates, the departmental objectives were, to reduce lack of opportunity due to health or social condition and enhance the potential and well-being of all Yukoners, while recognizing and respecting age, gender, culture, abilities and community differences. The departmental objectives have now been changed to one line, and that is: to improve the health and social condition of individuals and families in Yukon communities.
I would like to hear more from the Minister on what he is making to sound like a new fairly radical change in philosophy and direction. From what he has said, it is the same thing that is going to be carried on in the next year that has been carried on for the last four or five years.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: With respect, I must say to the Member that he is mostly wrong, but partly right.
Let me first deal with the time frame under which the preventive initiatives in both the health and social services area will work themselves out. To start, we are not likely to see the benefits of preventive social services initiatives for some time. We should not expect to see a payoff in a matter of months, or in a short number of years. The studies in the United States and elsewhere that talk about advantages in terms of employment, successful marriages, social adaptability of early childhood education programs like first-class child care will not be evident, for obvious reasons, for a number of years. Certainly some of the studies referred to in the documents released around President Bushs recent State-of-the-Union Speech indicate that the payoff for society of such an investment is very considerable, but it does not become evident until the young people are at least young adults. Likewise in the health field, the health prevention and health promotion initiatives that are carried on now may not be evident in the next year or two in terms of the health status of the Yukon Territory, but we are convinced from evidence elsewhere that they will be over time.
Let me mention the things provided for in this budget that take us in the direction described in the opening statement. Let me deal with the problem of prevention and the problem of departmentalism, which we are trying to get passed, the idea of integration and the idea of increased community responsibility or control, which is the direction that the most progressive health and social services programs are moving in everywhere.
First of all, to facilitate integration and help provide for the increased emphasis on health promotion and prevention, we are talking about a new health act, which has a number of new principles in it that have been discussed, including a greater accountability to people in the communities, a greater integration of health and social services and, what is raised in the documents we have circulated publicly on that act, a statutory requirement to spend a certain amount of the health budget on health promotion and prevention initiatives in each year. This is something that, at present, is very hard for every jurisdiction in the country to do because of the pressures on their health budgets from rising costs. Everybody agrees that unless and until a firm commitment is made to certain prevention and health promotion expenditures, they will not be able to reduce, in the long run, some of the high costs that are coming close to crippling some provincial budgets. Everybody finds it hard to find the resources to devote to this area.
The framework for us to be able to do this, we think, is a new health act and we are, as we have said publicly, contemplating providing in law for a mechanism that will enable us to direct a certain amount of the health budget every year toward that objective.
Secondly, to be able to integrate at the territorial level - in other words to provide both quality planning for a wide range of interests, to provide an integrated approach to all the various health and social services and agencies, both governmental and non-governmental, federal and territorial, community and territorial as well as national - as we have indicated, we are going to set up a health and social services council to advise the Cabinet on this question and to receive high level input from care givers and care giver organizations from around the territory on these fields on a continuing basis. This, we think, will help to avoid duplication - duplication by departments and by different governments and also duplication by private and public sector agencies - and this body will be mandated to make recommendations to the government on the health promotion, prevention and preventive initiatives, both in the health and social services field.
That will be provided for the territorial level. At the community level the Mayo pilot project, which we are engaged in now, as I described in my opening statement and provided for in this budget, is an initiative that enables us to begin to learn some lessons, to experiment in integration and prevention of social development at the community level, bringing all the stakeholders to the same table to begin to talk about that communitys priorities and how our staff and the professionals in the field can respond to those community priorities, meet their needs and those priorities, and also deal in a preventive way with the social problems identified by that community.
In this budget, we have expenditures provided for in terms of family counselling. We are dealing with family violence at a level that enables us to intervene, it is hoped in a constructive way, by allowing a sanctuary for abused women and children to escape from a violent family situation and to allow the family to have the counselling and help they need to restore them to a functional way of living and to bring some peace to that household and to the community, backed up with family support initiatives, which will provide people with assistance to help them get through the tough times that lead to these kinds of violent situations. The anger management programs, the child sexual abuse and support programs are also designed to help, not to prevent problems so much as to help prevent the problems people have at a certain stage in their lives and that are crippling them for the rest of their lives.
In terms of the organization of the department, we have more of our supervisors and departmental staff, as reflected in this budget, in the field on a continuing basis.
We have preventive initiatives, which we have announced in this budget. We are proceeding in terms of giving a new preventive orientation in the alcohol and drug area through a new strategy. All of the child care initiatives, as I mentioned, including the Child Care Act, take us in that direction. As I also mentioned at the beginning of my remarks in answer to the Members question, the health act, as a foundation act, will give us a statutory obligation to spend and take initiatives in that area.
While we have not, in a sense, to use the Members words, made a radical reform in this budget of the health and social services field, what we have done is, through a number of program and policy and legislative initiatives, taken steps that are taking us determinedly in that direction.
Mr. Nordling: Thank you. It is clearer to me now that we will look to this new health act for the foundation and framework to direct the new philosophy and the new approach. The Minister described money being spent on family counselling, family violence, family support initiatives, anger management and child sexual abuse programs. To me, putting money into those things is not a change in direction or approach; it is something we recognized had to be done, and is being done and will continue to be done.
I am looking at page 192 and 193 of the Health and Human Resources department, the overall summary. In the first line, operation and maintenance, policy planning and administration, there are 21 person years. The 1990-91 estimate is $1,716,000. When I look across at page 193, at the box under deputy minister containing policy, planning and administration, there is 21 person years, $1,723,000. That is fairly close but then I look at the next line, family and childrens services, 24 person years for $6,379,000 on page 192 and compare it to the organizational chart. Family and childrens services shows 24 person years and $6,888,000, which is approximately a $500,000 difference. I would like the Minister to explain the discrepancy in these numbers.
Regional services is the same. It shows $3,159,000 on page 192 and $3,326,000 on page 193.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member should refer to the numbers in the main estimates, the dollars, for the reference points. I thank you for calling my attention to the differences in the numbers in the organization chart. The organization chart should reflect the organization of the department. The dollars and cents for each of the programs and activities is reflected in the budget document. I will have the officials check the discrepancies there and report back, but the accurate numbers are in the budget book.
Mr. Nordling: How are we doing with the recruitment of the assistant deputy minister? We have recruited one and there is another position still unfilled.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As yet, the recruitment has not been successfully completed for the ADM of the health side. The ADM for social services has been recruited.
Mr. Nordling: Does the Minister know when the recruitment will conclude? Is there a target date to have that person in place?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is in recruitment now. I cannot tell the Member when it will be completed.
I should explain to the Member the reason for the difference in the dollars and cents on the organization chart, compared to the budget page, is that the dollars and cents, I believe, in the organization chart, reflect the operation and maintenance and capital budgets being added together.
The Member talked about the health act being a foundation for the preventive initiative. That, to some extent, is true. Some of the other things that we are trying to achieve in terms of the community involvement and the preventive initiatives and the rights of citizens are also reflected in the Hospital Act, the Mental Health Act, and the Child Care Act in terms of the makeup of the board and the Mayo pilot project.
The Member referred to programs like family violence and family support, which we have to do. Part of what we are talking about, consistent with a preventive initiative, is an effort to have early intervention with the problem in order to deal with the problem at an early enough stage that it does not become a serious and ongoing problem.
Likewise with child sexual abuse, it is an extraordinarily difficult area. The professionals in the field agree that breaking the cycle of sexual abuse early, which is often transmitted from generation to generation, is extremely important. That is why that is part of the focus of our effort in this field.
Deputy Chair: Is there further general debate? We will now go line-by-line.
On Policy and Planning and Administration
On Operation and Maintenance
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I outlined in general the changes from last years budget to this in terms of the increases in different areas. Does the Member have any questions in addition to that or would he like me to reprise what I said earlier?
Mr. Nordling: I would appreciate it if the Minister would go over those numbers so that I can follow as we go here. I missed a lot of them in the general introduction.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Maybe I could do them in terms of the highlights. Rather than saying everything I said before, I will highlight it and see if that is sufficient information for the Member.
If the Member looks at the O&M allotment increases, in personnel there is an increase of $119,000. There are two ADM positions there. The person years are reallocated from within the department. Merit increases are provided for here.
On the Other line, there is a decrease of $29,000. That is basically a decrease in contract services, which we are anticipating in this year. On transfer payments, we have an increase of $200,000, the largest single item of which is $450,000 for the Circumpolar Health Conference. That is being hosted in Whitehorse, and we are greatly honoured to play host to this important international conference.
It is very much the federal governments project, in the sense it is Canada that is the host, rather than the Yukon. Early on, we agreed, as the host jurisdiction, and as a participant in the planning bodies and so forth, to make a contribution of $150,000 toward that conference.
We have provided $40,000 for the operation of the health and social services council, which I described earlier. There is $75,000 in the transfer payment area for a social services training program, which reflects an increase over last year of $35,000. These provide for payments for training through the Yukon College as the result of agreements we have made with the Department of Education.
In my opening remarks, I indicated some of the program areas this branch is participating in, but I will see if the Member wants me to elaborate on those in questions.
Mr. Nordling: With respect to the Circumpolar Health Conference and the $150,000 we volunteered to contribute, was that requested? Does the Minister know the total cost?
From this side, it sounds like a lot. I know we have been arguing for years over obtaining a mammography unit that costs something over $100,000, and we are then prepared to contribute $150,000 to this conference. I am sure it is worthwhile, but it does sound like a lot of money.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is not an easy comparison to make. A mammography unit is $100,000-plus in terms of capital and probably in the neighbourhood of $240,000 a year to operate. This conference is a cost in the millions of dollars to the federal government. I believe they have had officials working full-time for two years on this conference, some of whom have been based here. I know at least one who was specifically transferred in here by the federal government to organize this conference. There will be between 1,000 and 1,500 delegates at this conference. It will be one of the largest we have seen. There will be national figures from all the Scandinavian countries, the Soviet Union, and senior people from the United States, including representatives from the State of Alaska. The State of Alaska is sending more than 50 delegates to this conference.
It is a major international event. The proceedings of the last several conferences are printed in a bound book and widely circulated among health professionals everywhere. I think we have copies of the proceedings of the last one. There are more than 1,000 pages of presentations, which tend to be fairly scientific and academic, but also, refreshingly for these kinds of things, they include a lot of presentations from a traditional and cultural perspective on healing questions. This year, we are anticipating presentations from aboriginal people in Canada, as well as the Sami from Scandinavia, on questions of diet and health.
The request came from the federal government. Without getting into a lot of discussions, I am pretty certain they asked us for a lot more than what we agreed to give. This amount came as a result of some discussions. When it made this decision, the assessment by Management Board was that the benefits to the Yukon Territory of having this conference here were far in excess of the amount we were contributing, and that it was a very worthwhile expenditure.
Mr. Nordling: With respect to the $40,000 allocated for the health and social services council, when does the Minister expect to appoint that? Is this a partial-year cost, or more of a description?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I intend to make a ministerial statement describing its terms of reference and announcing the appointments in this House. I am not in a position to do that yet because no appointments have been approved by Cabinet, nor has there been approval of the final terms of reference.
In the same way the Council on the Economy and the Environment operates, it is contemplated to be a body that involves both public and private sector people. It will be a body representing a wide range of interests.
There will be an advisory body to the Cabinet on health and social services questions. It will be a mandate to give us advice on some of the questions of economics, preventive dimension, integration of health and social services, community delivery and a whole range of questions we have already discussed, even during this debate. The $40,000 will pay the honorariums for members, provide for travel expenses to meetings within the territory, and will enable it to have meetings or conferences such as it may choose. This $40,000 is the total amount we are contemplating providing in this coming fiscal year. I would expect to see the council announced and in place, if not by April 1, very shortly after that. The announcement will be coming very soon.
Administration in the amount of $1,716,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance in the amount of $1,716,000 agreed to
On Equipment Operational
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As I indicated, that is for the microfiche equipment. That is the only equipment we are contemplating for this $7,000.
Equipment Operational in the amount of $7,000 agreed to
On Facility Construction - Integrated
On Health and Social Services
Mayo in the amount of $1.00 agreed to
On Dawson City
Dawson City in the amount of $1.00 agreed to
Mr. Nordling: Just before we clear the total of $1,723,000 I would like to confirm that the position of CEO for Whitehorse General Hospital is not included here. It is either in health services or not in this budget at all?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No one has been recruited, and will not be until we conclude the health transfer negotiations. I think if it were to happen it would be in the health services budget, were we to start paying money on that, not in policy, planning and administration.
Mr. Nordling: The reason I ask is because we have spent between $13,000 and $14,000 in recruitment and it was my understanding we might have this person in place within the next few months if the deadlock is broken.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: If the health transfer discussions had gone as contemplated, if we had in October signed an agreement, as I thought we were going to do, with Mr. Beatty, we would have provided for the expenditure of recruitment of this person out of the $650,000 that was provided for in the current year budget for the health transfer.
As we know, there is now some question as to exactly where we are with the health transfer negotiations. We are hoping to sort that out very soon. We have not, at this point, got a contribution agreement with the federal government for the health transfer discussions for the coming year and we do not even know yet whether one will be necessary. If the transfer were complete, we would be paying for it out of the transferred dollars; if the transfer were not complete, we would be paying for it out of the money provided by the federal government for transfer negotiations. We will not be reaching any recruitment decision until we have reached an agreement at the table on the health transfer. I am still hoping that in the coming weeks we will be able to make a decision about whether we are going to proceed now or not; if that happens, we will be proceeding with this recruitment action.
Mr. Nordling: I want to confirm with the Minister that there are no salary dollars for the CEO of the Whitehorse General Hospital in this budget. Is that what the Minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Yes, but had we proceeded with health transfer in this fiscal year, we could have provided for it under the $650,000 received from the federal government for that purpose.
Mrs. Firth: I want to ask the Minister a couple of questions about the whole recruitment of the CEO and the timing of it. There are no salary dollars here for the CEO but the Minister says he could have got it out of the $650,000 we had previously. Is that where the $13,000 was for the firm that was hired to look for a CEO for us? Are they still actively pursuing that recruitment?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Yes, the answer to the question is that the money for the recruitment came out of that $650,000 for the past year.
As I said, we are going to be deciding how we proceed with the health transfer in the next little while. I assume we are going to wait until we get to that line to describe this more, but a new ADM has just been appointed in National Health and Welfare to be in charge of these negotiations. We have been in communication with that person. That person is clarifying their mandate with their own Treasury Board and their own Cabinet. If the transfer negotiations are concluded, then we will be in a different arrangement than this last year with respect to the $650,000. If, for some reason, we were close to an agreement but had not reached one, the federal government might provide a further contribution toward the transfer negotiations, like they did last year; if, in that period, we reached an agreement about the transfer, we might be able to proceed with a recruitment on the basis of that transfer funding. Otherwise, if money flows as the result of the transfer agreement rather than this $650,000 arrangement, then we would proceed with the recruitment out of the money provided for under the transfer.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps I could ask the Minister if we got anything for the $13,000. Do we have a list of potential candidates?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The consulting firm provided us, I am told, with a list of six or seven candidates. I do not know their names, as headhunting firms customarily do not give the identity of candidates; what they give is candidate A, B, C, D, tell you what their qualifications and backgrounds are and why they would be recommended for the position. I can only suspect that that is to prevent companies or organizations that are recruiting going round the consulting firm and making side arrangements with the candidates.
So, that is what we know. These are obviously not people in the job market; they are people who are working in positions now. We would still have to seduce them into our employ once we were in a position to make them an offer.
Capital in the amount of $1,723,000 agreed to
On Allotments and Person Year Establishment
Allotments and Person Years Establishments agreed to
Policy and Planning and Administration in the amount of $1,723,000 agreed to
On Family and Childrens Services
Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate?
Mr. Nordling: Just a question in general debate about the statistics that are provided with the family and childrens services area. There was a more complete breakdown of the statistics in the 1989-90 main estimates, and I wondered if the Minister or the deputy minister had instructed the department to cut out some of the statistics that were available last year. Last year, specifically, they were broken down into Whitehorse and regional statistics. The Minister, in his opening remarks, talked about the focus on the regions, and I would think it would be helpful to have the statistics the way they were presented last year.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We had hoped to make it more clear. If the Member looks ahead to regional services, he will find the statistical information for rural Yukon. What we have here, which is largely the activities of the central office here in Whitehorse, the family and childrens services branch, where most of the activities go on in Whitehorse, are the numbers that describe that branchs activities in this field. I think he can look and find separate numbers for family and childrens services.
Some of the changes in the statistics that we are providing here are a reflection of some criticism that we have had - I admit, not in this House, but from citizens about meaningless statistics. I will give you an example of a meaningless statistic: you say so many people in such-and-such a community were on social assistance. That is a raw number that tells nobody anything unless you describe how many people, or for what period of time or for what average length of time, and so forth. Just to say that 60 people were on social assistance does not tell you whether they were on it for one day or a whole year. People have said that that was a meaningless statistic and we agreed. We tried, in fact, over time, to provide the information that is a more accurate description of what is going on.
Deputy Chair: Line-by-line.
On Operation and Maintenance
On Program Management
Mr. Nordling: What I would ask the Minister to do is, if he has the figures easily available as we go through line-by-line, just describe the dollar amounts of the changes and then we may or may not have questions. I would like to hear the breakdown.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will describe the breakdown to the Member in the following way, which is not broken down exactly as in the budget. If the Member looks at the allotments, the breakdown is $122,000 more in personnel, which I will describe in a second. The other is a decrease of $164,000 due to a decrease in contract services and the service delivered through contribution agreements. The transfer payments show an increase of $493,000. That includes child care strategy, enhancements, et cetera.
I will deal with those. The $122,000 addition in the personnel allotment is mainly due to merit increases and the addition of auxiliary workers in the family support program. These auxiliary workers were formally under contract, so they would have been in the Other line rather than the Personnel line.
There is a decrease in the Other allotment of $164,000. That is due to conversion of the family support workers, who were previously on contract and are now employed on an auxiliary basis.
There is an increase in the transfer payment allotment of $493,000. It is mostly attributable to the increases in the following contribution agreements. The child care subsidy is budgeted for $100,000; child development services, $100,000; and child care operating grants and support services, $266,540. The remainder of the increases are basically volume and cost of living increases. I will go into the capital in a minute.
Mr. Nordling: I did not catch what the Minister said the $266,540 was for. Was it some sort of subsidies or development?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: That is for child care operating grants and support services. That explains the breakdown better than if I just simply break down by-the-line program management. That has three person years and $193,000 in personnel. The rest of it just lists the transfer payments and the supplies and communications. I was breaking it down in terms of the activities of the department.
Mrs. Firth: This reflects the increased amount. The day care capital development grant went up $100,000. Is the Minister saying that child care operating grants and support services went up $266,540? What is the total then, if it has increased by that much in this budget? What is the total cost of that program?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Last year, the operation and maintenance grants and quality enhancements on child care were $488,000. The projected cost for this coming fiscal year is estimated at $754,540. There is a significant increase there of $266,540, the amount I mentioned.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister explain why there is a noticeable increase in this particular program?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Consistent with the objectives of government, this is based on an increased number of spaces in a four year program, mentioned previously, which is designed to increase the number of child care spaces. We are looking at an increase of something like 60 spaces in this coming year over the 653 that were budgeted for last year. We are looking at an increase to over 715, which is what we are projecting. That is in addition to the increased number of family day home spaces. In that area, we are projecting an increase of about 40 spaces from the current fiscal year to the next. The total increase in spaces overall will be 100.
Mrs. Firth: What is this $266,000 for? How many spaces does that represent? For that amount of money, how many extra spaces do we get?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Altogether, as a result of this new expenditure, there is a total of 100 new spaces in the next fiscal year over this fiscal year.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps I could ask the Minister about the requirement for spaces. If I am not mistaken, I seem to see more ads in the newspapers by day cares and family day homes saying they have spaces available than I do for parents requesting spaces. Has the Minister done an update lately on what space requirements there are? We are getting close to spending $750,000 on child care operating grants and support services. At first blush, there does not look to be a tremendous shortage of space. Could the Minister explain that?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The child care consultation that was initiated by the former Minister demonstrated a large demand out there that was unmet. I am certain it is true there are new people offering these facilities. With the capital and operating enhancements that are available from this government, and the training that is being provided, it is a more attractive option. We are doing a better job of meeting the demand than was the case when, in response to market pressures, there were all sorts of illegal family day homes coming into business. For the sake of the safety of children, with the carrot of these programs to see family day homes and child care centres operating that meet the regulations and standards, we have a better situation, both for the operators and for the parents. The demand is still not yet fully met, particularly in a number of rural communities.
Mr. Nordling: This is an area of concern for me, also. Looking at the statistics, it does not seem like we have gone very far from 1987-88. I am looking at the statistics on page 203. Perhaps the Minister could direct me through this.
The 1988-89 actual in child care centre spaces was 12 centres, for 397 spaces. The year before that, from my 1989-90 statistics, in Whitehorse there were 11 day care centres, for 373 spaces. Now, for the 1990-91 estimates, we have gone up to 14 child care centres, for 460 spaces.
We are looking at an increase from 1988-89 of two more day care centres for 60 more kids. We are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars more. At first glance, it looks to me as if we are paying out a heck of a lot more money in subsidies and not getting much for it.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We are increasing quantity, quality and accessibility. I am sure there are a lot of people who would disagree with the Member. Let me put the numbers in context. In Whitehorse it is true that in 1987-88 there were 11 licenced day care centres providing 373 spaces. It is true in this estimate we are talking about 14 centres providing 460 spaces. In the rural area, we are talking about a situation that has gone from the 1987-88 actual of two centres providing 36 spaces to 13 centres providing 255 spaces. I am going back further than the numbers in the estimates but I am providing more context. During 1987-88, we have in Whitehorse and the rural areas, 13 centres with 409 spaces, only two of which were in rural Yukon. For next year, we are forecasting 27 centres with 715 spaces.
In addition, because the Member was only talking about child care centres and not family day homes, we are projecting an increase of doubling family day homes, both urban and rural, from 11 to 22.
There is an increase in the number of spaces from 66 to 132 and an increase in the number of total spaces - family day homes and child care - over the same period of time, that is the 1987-88 fiscal year to 1990 fiscal year, from 475 spaces to 847. We are talking not only about the improvement of availability situation in terms of quantity, but we are also talking about an increase in terms of the standards of safety and quality and so forth. The enhancements we have made in terms of the toys, equipment, furnishings and so forth in child care centres have, we think, improved centres everywhere for the benefit of children. I would point out that, of course, for a child of six, the community makes a very substantial contribution in terms of schooling and education; as to kindergarten and so forth, the kind of investment we are making in terms of quality child care is not only good and necessary for the children but also good for the families, particularly the parents of not only single parent families but also two-income families, because there are many of those in the community who need two people working in order to get by in the current economy.
We think the arguments for this program are well supported, and are well established in the consultation that took place, and we think this is an investment in the children that is going to pay off not only in terms of good care for the children now but also a good investment in the early childhood education of the young people of the territory.
Chair: I now call the Committee to order.
Mr. Nordling: I am all for quality day care and enough quantity to go around, but, as the Minister was saying, people complain about meaningless statistics and no matter what statistics we are looking at there is always some concern about what they represent and what they mean. They can be interpreted to mean almost anything you want. The statistics the Minister has given us, the increase in spaces in the communities and in Whitehorse, are licensed spaces, which does not mean that they did not exist before; all it means is that now they are licensed and qualified for subsidies. I would like to ask the Minister a little about the policy with respect to subsidies - whether it has changed at all. My understanding is that we subsidize day care centres by the space, not necessarily by the number of children who are there; so, child care centres can be receiving money for a space that is open and not filled by a child. My other question about subsidies is that by subsidizing the child care centre, I would like to know if it is possible for a working couple, where the combined salaries of the mother and father are over $100,000, to send their child to a subsidized child care centre and receive the benefit of the subsidy?
What I am really asking is: is it this governments policy to move toward a universal day care system regardless of means?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am not quite sure I understand the point being made by the Member. First of all, the subsidies as such are tied to parental income, and you would have to have an extraordinarily large number of children in order to get a subsidy if you earned $100,000.
Let me finish the point. I will not get into that kind of rhetoric and call the Members question silly if he stops making personal and silly attacks himself.
There are capital and operating grants being provided to all child care centres. Capital space, safety, lighting, heat, insulation and some toys and equipment is provided for all beneficiaries of the child care centres in the same sense that the community provides space for schools, even though not every member of the community has children and not every member of society takes full advantage of the education system.
In the same sense, we provide roads for people, even for those who do not have cars. There is a sense - this gets into the social development, health promotion side of the thing - that some families will make a choice about whether or not they want to have a parent stay home to look after the kids or have the children in some kind of care.
Many families in the Yukon do not have those choices, either because the income from both parents working is barely large enough to meet their needs or they are single parent families who have a tough time getting by. We provide a subsidy to those families, paid to the centre. They are means tested.
The other enhancements that we are making here to the child care centres, both in capital and in terms of operating grants, are based on the same principle as the original meet-the-standards grants that were introduced by the previous government, which means that all clients of the child care centre benefit, regardless of income. So, the subsidies are tied to income; the capital and operating grants are not.
Mr. Nordling: I was asking about the policy direction of this government and whether or not there have been changes to the subsidies and enhancement. The Minister is wasting the time of the Legislature, his time and my time, if he is going to make silly remarks and take things to the absurd, and talk about how many children a couple earning $120,000 would have to have to receive a subsidy. If the Minister wants to do that, we may be here a long time. It is not necessary in discussing the Health and Human Resources budget. Maybe he can do that with another Member, but it is not necessary for it to be done here. I would like to discuss the budget and numbers without the nonsense that seems to take place so often.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Forgive me. What about the pot calling the kettle black. The Member makes personal attacks and insults me and then complains when he gets response in kind. He has to expect that if he is dishing it out he has to take it, too.
The question was asked about a family earning $100,000. We do not pay subsidies to such a family. Okay? The Member already knew that before he asked the question so in terms of wasting time he was wasting the time, not me.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to get something straight about how this child care program is going to work. I understand the explanation about subsidies that there is some form of means test or parental income test before people are eligible for subsidies. Has there been any change in that basic parental income eligibility for subsidies? Can the Minister tell us what it is and whether or not it has changed recently?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The only essential changes I can recall are tied to the social assistance eligibility rights. Those changed in the last fiscal year. The other change that was made was that we no longer pay subsidies directly to the parents; we pay them to the centres. Those are the two changes that I know about.
Mrs. Firth: There has been no change in the minimum income or eligibility. For example, let us say it was $30,000 or $25,000 before parents were eligible for a subsidy. Has that basic rate changed?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Since it is tied to the social assistance rates, it changes with those rates. Perhaps I can provide a grid for the Members by way of a legislative return that indicates the steps at which the subsidies are applied. It is also related to the number of children a parent may have.
Mrs. Firth: I will wait to receive that information.
Now that we have the subsidy out of the way, I have a question about the operating grants. I know the day care centres and family day homes can receive a certain amount of money from the government for operating grants and assistance, based on the number of spaces they have. They get that money regardless of whether those spaces are filled or not. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Basically, the answer is yes. People apply for these operating grants, which are based on the size and number of spaces in the facility. They help to meet some of the operating costs of the facility and allow the facilitys charges to parents to remain within means. To this extent, going back to the question from the Member for Porter Creek West, they allow all parents to have reasonable day care fees, even those parents who are not otherwise subsidized.
Mrs. Firth: First of all, there are a couple of things the Minister said. He said something to the effect that this money was given to the day care or child care centres so they would try to keep the costs down. In fact, that has not happened. The opposite has happened. If I am not mistaken, an infant space used to be somewhere in the neighbourhood of $350. It is now up to about $450 a month. That theory is not really working. I have a feeling that that has something to do with the operating and maintenance grant the government gives to the day cares for those spaces.
They get an additional $40 or $50 for infant space, yet still increase the cost of that space to the person who is getting the space.
Could the Minister address that before I move onto the second point?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There can be no logical connection. It would be hard to argue that because we have increased the grants to the centres, they have been able to increase their charges. I suspect that had we not increased the grants, the fees would have gone up even more.
Even now, as we have provided more operating grants for the facilities to enable them to operate, the fees for many parents are high. The wages for many of the people who work in the centres are very low. They are especially so for people who are quite well educated and highly trained.
Mrs. Firth: As the numbers of spaces increase, the cost should stabilize. Instead they have not. They have gone up for infant space.
If the day care centres receive money from the government in the form of an O&M grant per space even though that space is not filled, how is the government keeping track? If a day care centre has 40 spaces but it runs with 30 of those spaces filled on a continuous basis, the government is continuing to pay for those extra 10 spaces when there are no children in them. The day care centre could be receiving quite a substantial amount of money for those empty spaces. How is the government monitoring that situation, or is it monitoring the situation?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will start with the assumption that no child care centre could continue to operate on the basis of the grants that we provide them and have the spaces unfilled for very long. These are non-profit entities, but they exist to provide a service. The operators, since there is a demand out there, want to fill as many of the spaces as they can.
It would not be economic for any centre to operate only with half its spaces filled. They would not receive enough from us in the way of grants to make that worthwhile. It would not be sufficient to pay its staff, heat, light or other costs that are involved in operating such a facility.
Mrs. Firth: The centres call their staff in on an as-needed basis. They would not need the extra staff if they did not have the extra children. I am not familiar with the current O&M grants that are being paid to the day care centres by the government for the spaces. Can the Minister update us on what the current O&M grants are - I will call them O&M grants so as not to confuse them with subsidies - what the day care centres are being paid per space, and are they monitoring that particular issue so all of the spaces the day cares are being given O&M assistance on are being utilized? If they go for a long period of time without the spaces being filled is the government going to continue to pay that operating grant?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The operating grants we provide are monitored by the department staff who have a pretty good idea of what is going on in each of the centres. Through the licensing provisions in the new act and activities of the board, they have a very good sense of what is going on. The number of infant spaces - and I think she cited a cost of $450 per month for this space - available are determined by the number of staff, which in turn relates to the kind of grant that would be available.
I am absolutely certain that if the numbers the Member cited in terms of monthly fees for the centre she quoted are accurate, the kind of grant level we pay would only be sufficient to keep the centre operating on an empty basis for one month of the year. If the parents are being charged $450 per month for an infant space the grant coming from our department would be in the neighbourhood of $450 a year. Certainly it would not provide any kind of economical basis for keeping that space empty in that centre.
Mrs. Firth: That remains to be seen. Is the government monitoring it at all? I see potential there for possible abuse. I am asking the government if they continue to pay these operating grants or are they monitoring that kind of thing so there are no abuses?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There is an ongoing monitoring, but there is a formal monitoring once per quarter of the operations and the grants.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us whether the day care centres are full to capacity or overflowing? I come back to the newspaper ads where day care centres and family day homes are advertising that they have spaces available. If this kind of activity is being monitored, the government should have a hand on whether there are vacant and available spaces or not on some regular basis.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I can come back with some information on the situation of supply and demand of child care spaces in Whitehorse. We are aware that there are still a significant number of children in unlicensed family day homes. If some of these people are licensed as a result of the provisions of the new act, that will increase the supply, maybe sufficiently to meet the demand in Whitehorse. I cannot say at this point.
From the consultations that were previously carried on, we know the demand at that point for the territory as a whole far exceeded the supply. That led to a policy decision of this government to attempt to see the supply doubled in the life of this government and in the four or five years since the last election. That remains our objective.
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister provide us with background documents that indicated to the government that there was a shortage of day care spaces, specifically in the Whitehorse area, to justify such a decision?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Much of the information around the consultation is already public. If the Member would like to know specific information, I am sure we could pull that out. I am sure the record of consultation is public in respect to every meeting. The tabulation of the results of the consultation was made by the department and published in the strategy paper, but I will take the question as notice in terms of the specific question asked by the Member and respond to that.
Mr. Lang: It concerns me, as well as the Member for Riverdale South. We seem to be hearing contradictory stories. He said in the House there is a shortage of day care spaces. I then go out and talk to people who are involved in the business, and they are telling me there are not enough children taking the spaces that are available.
Is the Minister aware of any day care centres closing down because they do not have enough children?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: In one case I know of, there was a decision made by the operators in Carmacks to go to a family day home rather than a full day care centre. That has happened. I know that, in Dawson City, there is a much higher demand for spaces in the summer than in the winter, so there is some seasonal fluctuation in their demand. I recently met with the child care association, but we did not discuss the actual demands on all the Whitehorse centres. I can take that question as notice and talk to the association about it.
Mr. Lang: I would like a review done of all licenced day care centres to find out if there is a shortage of children to fill the spaces. Would the Minister undertake that and report back to the House? Also, would the Minister check with the child care association to find out if any day cares are closing doors because there are not enough children to participate in the program.
I am speaking specifically about Whitehorse. I am not knowledgeable about the other communities.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have taken the question as notice. In terms of the evidence that comes to the department, there is still significant demand out there. I will see what numbers I can provide for the Member.
Mr. Nordling: I would expect the Minister to have that information available if the department were monitoring the operating grants being paid to the centres. We will wait for the information.
What is happening with the wage-enhancement proposal for child care workers?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is our intention to have the wage enhancement tied to the level of training as a way to provide an incentive of improving the general level of training and certifiability of child care workers. The enhancement provision will be tied both to training and to experience. We have been in discussion with the child care association. I think we are close to an agreement as to how to do that, and once a decision is made I will be communicating that in the House. We have not reached an agreement yet, but a decision should be in place very shortly.
Mr. Nordling: Is there money in this budget for that program?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Yes, in this budget presently before the House, yes.
Mr. Nordling: Can the Minister point out how much it is, and what line it is under?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is in the family and children services line, $1,156,000.
Mr. Nordling: Does the government have any plans, or is the government going to get involved any further, in the operation of child care spaces, or becoming involved in operating centres, or anything along that line?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We do not plan to operate any centres ourselves, but we receive fairly repeated representations from employees in larger public buildings on the issue of workplace child care. Our view is that were such an initiative to be contemplated anywhere we would not be the operator. It would have to be a parental organization, a society or a cooperative that would operate it. From time to time, the question has come up about the use of public space throughout the territory where there is not private space available. We would obviously have to look at that on a case-by-case basis, but in terms of the narrow question asked by the Member - do we intend to operate as a department any child care facilities - the answer is no.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister said that the money for the wage enhancement program was in the family and childrens services for $1,156,000. Could the Minister give us a specific number for that wage enhancement program when we come to that line item?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I was wrong when I said it was in that line. It is under the O&M transfer payment line. The breakdown of that line, which is $2,457,000, is as follows: $38,000 for adoption subsidies; $637,200 for the child development centre - there are a whole range of programs that it provides.
The child care subsidy program subsidizes parents from low-income families. That is budgeted at $722,000. The day care operating grants are $754,540. We have allowances for families with children in care. We have a $5,000 for community groups providing family and children prevention services. There are contributions for the development of safe places and family violence planning in Whitehorse for $75,000.
There is a contribution agreement with Yukon Family Services of $167,700.
Mrs. Firth: Have not some of those numbers been changed in the correction sheet that the Minister gave us? Was that not what the O&M appendix, 1990-91 main estimates, Health and Human Resources is for?
Current information was presented in the O&M mains, and the recommended change was made. I assume that recommended means that these numbers are new. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member is correct. I will have those numbers updated so I can provide them again.
Mrs. Firth: I have the correct numbers. I recommend that the Minister change them for Hansard with the corrections so that they are consistent. I believe that the $2,510,000 and the Yukon Family Services figure of $221,000 have changed.
I would like to get a handle on how much we are spending on day care.
The subsidy for parents of $720,000 is almost a quarter of a million dollars. The day care grants, which are the operating and maintenance grants, are $754,540. That does not include the $400,000 a year for the day care capital development program. Is it a fair figure to say we are spending almost $2 million on those three programs I have mentioned? Is there anything else the Minister would like to bring to our attention that is spent on child care?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member is approximately correct with the $2 million figure, if you do not take into account the child development services number, which we include in the child care area. If you do not include that, we have a total expenditure in the neighbourhood of $2.1 million or $2.2 million.
Program Management in the amount of $219,000 agreed to
On Family and Childrens Services
Family and Childrens Services in the amount of $1,156,000 agreed to
On Placement and Support Services
Mr. Nordling: Did we have a breakdown of that $5 million figure?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Can I confirm that the Member is asking for a breakdown of the Placement and Support Services $5,004,000?
First of all, there is $265,001 in activity management; adoption services, $100,752; child care, and this is the operating part of the total child care budget, including the Child Development Centre I just described, $2,417,074; other services for children, $369,118, which is for adoption, child protection, and so forth; foster homes, $411,247; group homes, $537,300.
The receiving and assessment home is for $399,064, and the specialized resources for $504,905.
Mrs. Firth: I want to remind the Minister he never did give me a figure for the breakdown of the amount of money in the program for wage enhancement for the day care. Can he bring that back? How much money in this budget is for the wage enhancement program?
On the next line, Placement and Support Services, what is $504,000 for special resources for? The last item.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member will recall we talked about residential treatment centres in Whitehorse, and out of the Yukon, both for people returning here, severely physically and emotionally handicapped, who will be repatriated in the Yukon into a group home situation that has to be staffed. We have people in the Yukon, and Yukoners outside of the Yukon, who are covered in this line. It is contemplated in this budget that most of the money will be spent in the Yukon.
Mr. Nordling: The Minister has covered some of the increase, for example the $500,000 for repatriation, but in looking at the 1988-89 actual figures we were at $3.3 million and now we are at $4.5 million. We have still gone from $3.3 to $4.5 million. Looking at the statistics provided on page 200-202, it does not look like the numbers of children have increased substantially.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am not sure if the Member is asking about the total line or some particular program or activity in the line. If he is asking about children coming into care, as I indicated when we were dealing with the supplementaries, one of the changing realities of the children coming into care is that they are coming into care with greater and greater problems in terms of special needs, either physical or emotional problems. Some of them have been abused and are people who require a greater level of care and are increasingly harder to place in foster homes.
The recruitment of foster homes for these clients is more difficult than it once was.
At this moment, would it be appropriate for me to suggest a recess?
Mr. Nordling: Before we recess until 7:30, I would like to follow that up and ask the Minister if he has any more information. If he does not, perhaps he could make a comment when we get back at 7:30 as to what is happening that has caused this shift to taking more children into care who have special needs. He mentioned physical and emotional. Is there any breakdown? Are we having more children with emotional problems, or are we encountering more physical disabilities now than we were in previous years?
Deputy Chair: We will now recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will call the Committee to order.
Mr. Nordling: Before we adjourned at 5:30, I asked the Minister for a comment on the children with special needs who were brought into care. What sort of special needs are they?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Let me be clear: there is no single kind of problem. There is not one type of problem, but let me just give the Member a list of some of the problems that the people coming into care have, and indicate to the Member that it is quite common for someone presenting themself to have a number of the problems that I am going to list; in other words, they have multiple difficulties. The reasons for referral often include: alcohol or drug abuse as a primary or underlying cause; there may be marital problems in the family; there may be family violence; there may be dysfunctional parents; there may be mental health problems; financial or housing problems; conflict with the law; sexual abuse; physical or emotional abuse; neglect; abandonment. Quite often today we are seeing parent/child conflicts, and we have cases where the children are quite clearly out of the parents control and on the street. There are children who are having serious school problems.
In answer to the question the Member asked about who was in care: about half of the kids coming into care are from single-parent families; about one-quarter of them are self-referrals. In other words, they present themselves as having problems.
Two-thirds of them are referred by professionals and 11 percent are referred by a relative or another person. The vast majority of these children are non-native - or their families are non-native. The parents tend to be young parents between 20 and 39 years of age. About a third of the children coming into care are under five years of age. Almost 30 percent are in the next age group, between six and 11 years of age. Another quarter are between 12 and 18 years of age, and the rest are distributed among a variety of ages.
In the two-year period from April 1987 to the summer of 1989, the number of child protection cases rose by 50 percent, and that is quite a significant indicator of a problem.
Mr. Nordling: I thank the Minister for the information and statistics provided, but what I was more interested in is a comment from the Minister on what has changed over the last three or four years, whereby we seem to be taking more children into care with special needs, both physical and emotional - more than we were several years ago - so it is harder to place them and it is costing a lot more money.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: To summarize what I just told him: they are younger; they have more problems, more severe problems and they are more difficult to place. We are not getting very many cases of problem-free children who simply need fostering care because the parents have died in an automobile accident or the family has broken up and the parent with custody is not able to manage. What we are dealing with are kids who come from dysfunctional families who have complex emotional and, in some cases, physical problems; there are often problems with alcohol and drugs. They may have emotional problems; they may have been subject to abuse of one kind or another. These are kids who are deeply troubled, very unhappy and very difficult to place in foster homes.
Mr. Nordling: Perhaps there is no answer. Is the type of child that the Minister has described the type that has been coming into care over the last few years? I cannot see that there are fewer now whose parents die and come into care then there were before.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The trend line is the number of cases over a comparable period. Over the last two years, the number of cases has increased by 50 percent. I do not want to suggest that this is a phenomenon that is unique to the Yukon. Our checking indicates that this trend emerged later in the Yukon later than it did in the western provinces.
This phenomena is happening everywhere. It just seemed to arrive here later. These are kids who are referred to us, sometimes by professionals, sometimes by the courts and sometimes by themselves.
When the Member was a child, or during my teenage years, the number of cases where a child actually walked away from a family and presented himself to a social service agency looking for protection or care was pretty unusual. We are now seeing cases like that, which would have been pretty uncommon just a few years ago.
Mr. Nordling: I do not want to dwell on this. However, looking at the statistics, the number of children in care in 1987-88 was 139. Now we are forecasting 140 for 1990-91. We are virtually dealing with the same number of kids in care between 1987-88 and 1990-91. Yet, it is costing us a lot more money.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: First of all, the forecast may have been conservative. As of July 1 of last year, the number of families in Whitehorse receiving child protection service was in fact 156.
Placement and Support Services in the amount of $5,004,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance in the amount of $6,379,000 agreed to
On Group Homes:
On Construction and Renovation
Mr. Nordling: I would like to hear from the Minister on the two items of Construction and Renovation, and Equipment Replacement.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As I have spoken about in previous budgets, we have an ongoing program to look at upgrading the group home facilities we have. The $75,000 is project funding are will permit investigation of the options for facility replacement, improvements or renovations to meet the needs identified by Childrens Services.
We have a multi-year initiative to upgrade the group home facilities for children in the care of the Director of Family and Childrens Services, and that has been underway since 1986-87. Projected to be needed are: a family therapy facility for new admissions to care, with a focus on returning children to the home environment within two or three months of them coming into care; a long-term group home for 13 to 18 year olds coming into care as teens and a portion of children who are in care before their thirteenth birthday but who require a placement change during the teen years; a preparation for independence facility, which is a group home for the candidates who would generally be children who, for some reason, require a new placement after their fifteenth birthday and where the need to prepare them for independent living within two years was addressed at that time.
These are people who are virtually young adults whose fostering situation may have broken down. We are basically preparing them to go out on their own.
Right now we have five childrens group home facilities owned and operated through service contracts by Health and Human Resources. They continue to require upgrading in order to meet code requirements to complete internal renovations, improving the suitability of facilities generally. We have to proceed with landscaping and ground improvements in some cases in order to meet neighbourhood standards. This item is to provide for the projected demands on the department that we anticipate.
The second item is $34,000 for equipment replacement. Again, there is an ongoing need to replace equipment in these facilities. The expenditures budgeted for here will follow the replacement schedule guidelines established for one, two, three, four, five, six or seven year cycles depending upon the items. Those include bedroom mattresses, recreation equipment, beds, night tables, dressers, living room furniture, appliances, grounds maintenance equipment, car seats, buckets, cribs, high chairs and other infant equipment. The Members will note there is a decrease of the funding level established on this line of $23,000 from last year.
Construction and Renovation in the amount of $75,000 agreed to
On Equipment Replacement
Equipment Replacement in the amount of $34,000 agreed to
On Child Care Services Development
Mr. Nordling: I would like to hear the plans for this year. I know we have talked about this area, but I would like to hear about this specific amount.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This is part of the child care strategy we talked about earlier. We are looking to design and promote accessible, affordable and quality child care for families all through the Yukon Territory. As I told Members earlier, this is a key component of the strategy and complements the other measures such as the operating grants to centres and family day homes. It is available to non-profit organizations, bands and municipalities and all those eligible for startup assistance. Private centres are eligible for the enhancement grant. This is the fourth year of the day care capital development program, and provision was first made for assistance to licensed family day homes effective December 1, 1987. These grants will enable the establishment of the following kinds of services in community or residential areas not presently served: licensed day care centres and family day homes, pre-school programs, and school-age care programs.
Child Care Services Development in the amount of $400,000 agreed to
On Prior Years Projects
Prior Years Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
Capital in the amount of $509,000 agreed to
On Allotments and Person Year Establishment
Allotments and Person Years Establishment agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the five yellow pages?
Family and Childrens Services in the amount of $6,888,000 agreed to
On Social Services
Chair: Is there general debate?
Mr. Nordling: I would just like to know if the Minister has anything to say in general debate, to give us a general direction about the policy that the government has in this area.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: In my opening statement I indicated a number of things. The department will be developing a new alcohol and drug strategy this year, as I indicated, which will have an emphasis on prevention and health promotion, as well as dealing with interagency and interdepartmental coordination issues, so that we can make better use of our resources and respond better to community needs. The department, as I said, will be working with the ministry advisory committee on substance abuse in this area.
In the home care program, as I indicated, there is a general satisfaction with the way in which this program is working. As you know, in the supplementary we converted a number of the positions to public service positions, which were outside of the public service before. In this area I would just mention that the number of clients for home care has increased from 1988-89 from 77 clients to 168 clients in the current fiscal year. The staff in this area now involves one coordinator, one social worker, four nurses, 31 homemakers and we have one coordinator of that activity.
I mentioned also, in my opening remarks, about the increase in the contribution agreement to the Womens Transition Home; it provides a very valuable service in this community - similar to the safe places that we are now seeing in rural communities. Kaushees Place has been a facility of long standing in the community, recently relocated, and we think it provides a valuable services; the increase in the contribution agreement is a reflection of that.
The O&M budget for the social service program has increased by $168,000. That is made up of a personnel allotment increase of $19,000, as I said earlier, and that is a result of a reduction of the staff in the social services program because we did not think the case load required it there. Three auxiliary home care nurses were converted to permanent positions and there are some merit increases. The other allotment, as I mentioned earlier, increased $29,000 to cover increases in contract services for residential care, both in and out of the territory. A decrease of $29,000 in the other allotment is due to an expected decrease in contract services. I mentioned the transfer payment; the most significant part of that is the $150,000 to the Circumpolar Health Conference - just a minute, have I got the right line here? Pardon me, I am getting my pages mixed up. Transfer payments are up $120,000 here. Some of the increase are for Crossroads, which is an increase of $10,000. The Learning Disabilities Association is $12,000 and the Womens Transition Home is $46,000.
There is also an additional $32,000, which was the increase in social assistance payments.
On Operation and Maintenance
On Program Management
Mr. Lang: With the federal budget that has come down, is our established program financing affected in any way?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Our EPF, which is for post-secondary education, is cut the same as everybody elses but we are protected, at least for now, under the formula financing agreements from those cuts. We suffer them but there is adjustment under formula.
Mr. Lang: I thought part of the EPF financing was also in the health and social affairs area?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The most significant federal transfer in that area is the CAP program, which used to automatically provide 50 percent of the funding for certain kinds of accepted expenditures. It is now less than that in some areas, but it varies from activity to activity.
Mr. Lang: Perhaps the Minister could also indicate to us - maybe not tonight but in the next day or two - how much of an effect the federal budget has had on established program financing, even though it is protected. He has indicated there is obviously going to be some impact. Secondly, could he indicate to us tonight if there will be an effect on the CAP program with the federal budget. Is there going to be affect on that transfer?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Perhaps I could take notice on the effect on the EPF for the Minister of Finance because he would properly answer that question and I am sure that the ever capable Charles Sanderson and his officials have already been working on that number? The CAP program is not directly affected by this budget, although there has been some consistent tightening of the provisions by the federal government over a period of time of these kinds of transfers.
If I could mention one or two issues about CAP that could affect us quite significantly - one I will mention - there is, working its way through the courts now, a Charter challenge against the kind of rules, such as we impose, on social assistance where we decline to give it to transients. There is a case now before the courts arguing that, on Charter grounds, transients should be eligible; otherwise we are in violation of the CAP provisions. Should that case be lost - I mean lost in terms of the position we currently take - we have not calculated the final impact but we think it could be in the millions of dollars, to us.
Program Management in the amount of $120,000 agreed to
On Alcohol and Drug Services
Alcohol and Drug Services in the amount of $1,411,000 agreed to
On Social Assistance Services
Mr. Nordling: I would like to hear from the Minister on this line, because again I have problems with the statistics we have and with the amount of money we are spending. When I look at the 1987-88 actual households assisted and total recipients for Whitehorse, there were 807, for 1496 in total; regional was 287, for 639. The total was 1,087 households and 2,135 individuals assisted in actual numbers. Social assistance services cost us $2,348,000. For 1990, we are forecasting to have 264 households, for 554 people total in regional areas and 775 for 1,395 recipients total in 1991, so we had quite a number more people receiving social assistance in 1987-88 than we do now, yet we have gone from less than two and one-half million to over three and one-half million dollars.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will give the Member some global numbers and some detail. The number of social assistance recipients has gone down. The social rates, those that meet food costs and rent have gone up over the same period. That is the explanation for the numbers. The number of cases has been slowly decreasing on a Yukon-wide basis. In 1986-87, there were 1,275 cases. In 1987-88 fiscal year, there were 1,206 cases. In 1988-89, there were 1,097. In 1989-90, there were 1,055. That is excluding transients.
In 1988-89, of the 833 households in Whitehorse who received assistance, 81 percent were deemed to be employable. Of that number 62 percent were single persons, 23 percent were single-parent families, 15 percent were two-parent family couples. The average length of time on social assistance is now four months.
Mr. Nordling: What was the average length of time back in 1987-88?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not have the exact number here, but the trend line is for a shorter average length of time on social assistance.
Mr. Nordling: The Minister is saying that we have fewer people for a shorter length of time; yet, it is costing a considerable amount more. It is approximately 30 percent more. Is that just made up in the increase in benefits?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We had social assistance rates reviewed in terms of the cost of living, not only in Whitehorse, but in rural Yukon communities. That included the cost of rent, the cost of a basic food basket and such considerations. That review resulted in an increase in rates. That review now goes on annually. That, I suspect, is the principal reason for the increased cost overall.
Mr. Nordling: Could the Minister come back with the average length of time that families have been on social assistance over the last few years so that we can see the trend line?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I hope the Member will understand that I do not have that information here, but, yes, I can come back with it. It may take a little time because it will involve manual work. I do not think that this information is computerized. We cannot just punch a program. Some people will have to do a random sample of some files and do some calculations. Some information was previously tabled, and I will crosscheck it with that.
Social Assistance Services in the amount of $3,565,000 agreed to.
On Seniors Services
Mr. Nordling: Could the Minister tell us about the 48 percent decrease?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Part of the reason is that the pioneer utility grant and the seniors income supplement are no longer in the Seniors Services line but in the previous one, Social Assistance Services. That would partly answer the question. If the Member would be patient, I can give him a breakdown of those numbers.
Mr. Nordling: While we are waiting, we can clear Rehabilitation Services, the capital, allotments and person year establishment.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I did not hear the question.
Chair: The Member was mentioning we might go ahead and clear capital and allotments.
On Alcohol and Drug Services
On Facility Construction
Facility Construction in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
On Equipment Replacement
Equipment Replacement in the amount of $7,000 agreed to
On Home Care - Operational Equipment
Home Care - Operational Equipment in the amount of $7,000 agreed to
Capital in the amount of $214,000 agreed to
On Allotments and Person Year Establishment
Allotments and Person Year Establishment agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the following yellow pages?
On Rehabilitation Services
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member indicated an interest in the Rehabilitation Services line, as I understand it. I can give him an explanation in great detail or slight detail, whichever he prefers.
Mr. Nordling: We were interested in whether the Handy Bus service was in that line or not.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Handy Bus is in the Seniors Services line.
Rehabilitation Services in the amount of $1,744,000 agreed to
Chair: What are we doing with Seniors Services?
Mr. Nordling: We are just waiting for information.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: That will take a few minutes. I will get it to the Member, but we have to do some arithmetic here.
Chair: Do you want to go on to the next one?
Social Services stood over
On Health Services
Chair: Is there any general debate? We are on page 210.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: In broad terms in my opening statement, I described the proposed spending change here. If you take account of the fact we are not budgeting for any contribution agreement from the federal government for health transfer negotiations - in other words we are not budgeting $650,000 for that purpose as we did last year - we have a three percent increase here. Given the substantial adjustment to reflect real costs made in the supplementary during this current year, it is our hope that the three percent amount will be sufficient to meet the needs of the health care consumers in the Yukon Territory in this coming year.
Mr. Nordling: I wanted to express my concern and, as I have previously, ask for assurances the Minister feels he can keep the health insurance costs on budget. We are budgeting very little increase. I am concerned the Minister is being overly optimistic. This has been a concern over the past few years. Every year we talk about getting it under control and we have not done that yet.
What is the Minister going to do differently that will keep us on budget and prevent a huge supplementary on this line?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Let me concede right away we cannot predict with perfect accuracy a program that we cannot cap in law. The costs in this program are entirely driven by patients going to see doctors, doctors sending us bills, doctors referring people to hospitals or specialists outside, and when that happens we get the bill.
Given those facts with the substantial adjustment we made to cover the shortfall this fiscal year, the adjustment to reflect the true costs of this program, we now believe, with the three percent budgeted increase this year, which really describes what covers the effects of inflation, that consistent with the latest reports the Member has read from our own statistics bureau, which indicate a much flatter population growth than we have had in the last four years, it is our intention and hope to do everything we can to see this program comes in on budget. Because it is not a capital program where we have absolute control over costs, we can only make our best efforts. We are working with actuaries and statistical experts of one province to make sure our predictions in this area are improved over time. We did contemplate as a matter of policy some time ago actually putting a cap on the health care budget. I am not quite sure how they were going to manage it, but they were going to say this is X and there shall be no more. Perhaps any physician who billed a certain amount over the year was not going to get paid. I am not quite sure how they would have implemented it. There was such a furor from the public and, not surprisingly the medical profession, that they backed away from that initiative. That capping and other instruments are seen as policy options, but crude options.
We think the budgeting amount here reflects more accurately the kind of pattern of expenditures, and we are going to be doing what we can to see that we stay on target.
Mr. Nordling: I do not know how caps would work. I cannot see us doing that for a program. We are in the same situation with the chronic disease list. Speaking of caps, when we renegotiated the doctors fees for health insurance, I believe we agreed to pay their liability insurance. How long is that for? Is there a cap on that particular item? A few malpractice suits may cause the liability of the doctors to shoot up fairly high.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We did agree as part of the two-year collective agreement with the doctors union to pay for their insurance. It is unlikely that a malpractice suit, or even two malpractice suits here, would affect the insurance rates, because they are nationally calculated, on a national actuarial base. It is possible that the effect of us doing this could give us a predictable number of physicians practicing in the Yukon this year, because it is those who are here now that we are insuring. Someone who arrives in mid-year and sets up practice would have to carry their own insurance costs.
So we are paying for those that are now in practice here, not those that might be here.
Mr. Nordling: How long have we agreed to pay the insurance - how many years?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This is a two-year experiment, which is provided for in this agreement that we now have with the doctors.
Can I answer the previous question the Member asked, Madam Chair? This in fact answers the question in both areas and I apologize for not giving this information in my opening statement.
On Seniors Services - stood over
Two items, pioneer utility grants, an amount of $233,800, and seniors income supplement, of $409,900, were formerly in the Senior Services line and are now in the Social Services Assistance line. That means that if you added them last year, that line would have come to $3.5 million, which is actually very close to what we are budgeting this year. Now, if the Member does the very cruel and thoughtless and heartless thing of asking me why we moved it from one line to the other, I am going to be really in trouble because I do not know why. I assume it is a decision made on the basis of careful and serious thought by officials in the department, as to the wisdom and the appropriateness of the allocation.
Chair: We have gone back to page 204 on the social services branch, and that was a breakdown of Senior Services of $675,000. Does that clear?
Mr. Phillips: In the last budget that the Minister presented, I raised the issue of the Handy Bus and extending the hours of the Handy Bus. I see here that there is quite a reduction in the Seniors Services line. Did the Handy Bus suffer as a result of that? Have we increased any services at all with respect to the Handy Bus?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There is no reduction in the Handy Bus. I just explained to the Member there are two items that have been moved from one line to the other. There has not been a reduction to the service but nor has there been any expansion. I hope the Member will understand that we have had this situation for a whole number of programs where we have had requests for enhancements or expansions. At the time we were putting this budget together, we had some public commitments in a number of areas but there were others where we would have liked to have made improvements but we were waiting on the conclusions of the formula financing negotiations. In the light of those, we were hesitant to make new commitments. I believe the Handy Bus is maintained at approximately the same level of service.
Mr. Phillips: So what the Minister is telling us then is that, with the recent cutbacks, that is one of the areas that is not going to be expanded but that they are going to leave that level of service where it is now and they will not be looking at putting on a couple of extra hours in the daytime or an extra bus in the daytime as well as possibly something on the weekend, to serve some of those people who need the Handy Bus on weekends?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: In spite of the federal cutbacks, there have been no cutbacks in this service. The question of whether there would be any enhancement of the services was something that would be under consideration in any year and we have not given extensive thought to the question as to whether it would be in this budget year. That is a subject that we may well review at the time of the first supplementary, to see what the patterns of expenditures are in this line.
Mr. Phillips: I would ask the government to look at this area because I know I have several constituents in my riding who are involved with that and that was probably one of their biggest concerns: they were virtually prisoners of the hours of the Handy Bus, so to speak, and they could not get downtown on weekends and they were limited to the hours that the Handy Bus was available, which meant that in the mornings, when it was used for school, and in the afternoons when it was used for school, it was not available to them. They only had an hour or two when they could possibly get their child or the handicapped person out of the house and downtown and back again.
They were very limited and restricted in their hours. We now have virtually two Handy Buses - we have the one we have run for many years plus the Macaulay Lodge Handy Bus - so surely some kind of accommodation might be made. I know the Macaulay Lodge bus and this other bus sit around on a lot of weekends, doing nothing, and I do not think it is asking for a great deal and I do not think it is a major expense, but I would like to see if the Minister could give serious consideration to expanding those hours.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member, and I appreciate his sense of fairness in doing this, did make mention of the fact that the bus has been provided for Macaulay, which is a new addition last year in last years budget and which was a substantial improvement in the service for seniors resident of that facility. It improved their mobility considerably and was, to boot, a new vehicle and one that provided a lot of portability for the residents there. So, in the last year, we have made a substantial improvement for seniors resident in that facility and I think that vehicle may well be available for other seniors or other groups for some purposes, but it is, of course, principally dedicated to that lodge. When it comes to enhancements, that was a very significant new expenditure in last years budget, which I am sure the Member recognizes.
Mr. Phillips: I realize that and it was, as the Minister says, a very valuable addition to Macaulay Lodge, but by buying a new vehicle for Macaulay Lodge it freed up a lot of time for the other Handy Bus. The other Handy Bus used to spend a lot of its time going to and from Macaulay Lodge, assisting the seniors to get to and from downtown Whitehorse or wherever they were going. I would say that now, since we have a bus for Macaulay Lodge, the other bus does have some more free time and possibly an arrangement could be made with the transit commission, which I think runs the Handy Bus for us, to look at expanding its hours - possibly a few hours in a weekend or something. I think it is very important to the quality of life for these people who would like to get out other than on weekdays to carry out some of their activities, like most of us do every day.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I appreciate the representation by the Member and I will take it under advisement. He should know that the service is now costing us $91,400 a year in addition to the very substantial contribution this government already makes to the operation of the transit system - which I suspect is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, I forget the exact numbers - but that, of course, is not a reason not to look at it and I will take the Members representation as notice and we will look at it in the course of this next fiscal year.
Mr. Phillips: Another area I pursued with the Minister last year, on which I would like an update, is the suggestion I made that the government consider putting in raised garden plots at Macaulay Lodge. Can the Minister tell me if that is planned for this year? I know it is an activity that many seniors enjoy doing and, once they move into a facility such as Macaulay Lodge, they are unable to do it any longer. Raised garden plots would be very beneficial to them, as some of them have difficulty bending over and carrying on those kinds of activities but still would like to garden, and I think it is something that could be put in for a minimal cost and would offer a great deal of enjoyment to the seniors who are in that lodge.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member said he mentioned it to me last year. My recollection is that he raised it with me at the last supplementary, which was technically covering last year but was, in fact, just a matter of a few weeks ago. That does not necessarily make it a bad suggestion. My understanding was that Macaulay Lodge - and I think the Member concedes this - already has garden plots, a greenhouse and some raised flowerbeds. I believe his point was that there would need to be flowerbeds raised more to, I think, waist height so that people could garden without bending. I think that was his point and since I think the suggestion was made at the time of the last supplementary a few weeks ago, I will take the suggestion under advisement and find out what we can and report back.
Mr. Phillips: That is what I meant. There are some garden plots there now, but they are right on the ground. I have raised it several times, but more specifically in the last supplementaries. I will wait to see if the government does take some action on it. It is something that we can do that will not cost a great deal of money and will provide a much better lifestyle for the people who live in that lodge.
Mr. Nordling: Before we clear the total of $7,515,000, I would like to make a comment. We discussed the social assistance services and talked about a $1 million increase over the last several years. The Minister said that it was largely due to the rates being reviewed.
A couple of minutes later we discovered that of that $1 million, over $600,000 is moved in from Seniors Services and has nothing to do with the rate review at all. I am concerned that the Minister has just given us an estimate or a guess. I accept it if the Minister just does not have the information at his fingertips and can come back with it. I would rather that than him making an estimate that is not accurate.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: These facts do remain the same. The social assistance rates have gone up. The number of people on social assistance has gone down. The period of time that people are on social assistance has gone down. That is correct.
I was wrong in attributing the $600,000 difference between last years total in that line and this years total to that fact alone. The Member is quite correct. The principal reasons were: the department, for good budgeting reasons, had moved to those payment programs - pioneer utility grant and seniors income supplement - from the one line to the other.
Seniors Services in the amount of $675,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance in the amount of $7,515,000 agreed to
Social Services in the amount of $7,729,000 agreed to
Chair: We are on page 210 again, Health Services, Program Management.
Mr. Nordling: Before we finish general debate, I have a question on the statistics. The Minister can either make a note of it or answer it when we get to the appropriate line item.
I am looking at the page 217, the yellow pages. There is a preschool waiting list, a school-age waiting list and an adult waiting list for assessment. The 1989-90 estimates state that the adults were 100, thirty for school-age children and no waiting list for preschool.
There is no waiting list in the statistics for the 1990-91 main estimates. Have the waiting lists been cleared up or have they not been put in the statistics?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I can take the question as notice and provide a more detailed answer, but I anticipated the question and can tell the Member that a new piece of equipment has been requisitioned that will allow us to reduce the waiting list considerably. We are entertaining a proposal to hire an additional audiometric technician. Even though our waiting lists compare with those of other jurisdictions, we are making an effort to reduce the wait. I do recall that in the most recent supplementary there was a capital item provided for additional equipment. When we get to that line I will have a more detailed answer to that question.
Mr. Nordling: Is there a waiting list forecast for 1990-91?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As I indicated before, there is a waiting list and our efforts are directed at reducing it.
Mr. Lang: I do not think we got an answer to the question. Is there a waiting list, and is it consistent with what we had previously? That is one of the major complaints raised in the House. I was the Member who raised the question by transmittal of a letter to him on a constituency basis because of a number of verbal complaints I had received. Since there was a question raised in the House, I have had a number of other people approach me expressing their concerns about the waiting list. Is the waiting list as long as in the previous year? Can he make it available to us? It is not satisfactory just to say there is a waiting list.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: With respect, I just answered the Member. I do not have it yet. I asked for an answer when the Member asked the question. I do not have an answer on exactly how long the waiting list is. I have asked for the information. I anticipated the question. I asked the department for it. They have not got back the information on exactly how long the waiting list is. As soon as I have the information I will provide it to the House.
Chair: The Committee will break for 15 minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with Health Services. Is there further general debate?
Mr. Nordling: I have one other question on the statistics before we start line-by-line. In the statistics of some of the other programs, we have the 1990-91 estimates. Under Health Services, we only go up to the 1989-90 estimates. Why do we not have the estimates for 1990-91, which is what this budget is relevant to?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The short answer is we have no capacity to do computer projections on those numbers now. We actually have some work being done that will enable us to be able to do that in the future. As I have mentioned elsewhere, our long-term objective is to be able to do what every other jurisdiction in Canada, except the Northwest Territories, can now do, which is provide a health status report. This is a really useful benchmark for year-to-year statistical information in order to provide comparisons on a whole range of things: mortality rates, causes of death, and a whole set of indices like that, put in the context of an overall health status. We are some way from being in that position yet, but we are now doing work to take us closer to that goal.
I want to be clear to the Member, in having said that, while it is a long-range objective, it will almost certainly not be in next years estimates. It takes much longer than that to pull all those pieces together.
Mr. Nordling: I am not sure I understand the Ministers explanation. On page 206 of the statistics, we estimate the households to be assisted and the recipients of social assistance for 1990-91, yet page 215 is a good example in that we have not been able to estimate the number of beds set up in Macaulay Lodge for 1990-91, although page 215 shows that it has consistently been 50. Again, on page 214, it is the same thing. Is the Minister saying that we are not able to estimate the number of speech language clients we will be seeing in 1990-91, yet we have budgeted a dollar amount for it?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Obviously, the number of beds in Macaulay Lodge we can predict, I think, with a reasonable degree of accuracy for next year, but some of the more difficult projections in terms of the estimates, the likely incidence of a certain kind of health phenomena, are more difficult to project.
Mr. Nordling: Obviously, I agree with that, but there are a lot of statistics here that I think we can estimate for 1990-91. For example, in mental health hospital services, the detentions at the hospital have been fairly constant and I do not know why it could not have been included. The statistical information for Macaulay Lodge, the statistics for speech and hearing services - it just is not there. Perhaps there was an oversight, but those statistics are not difficult at all to estimate, yet they are not included in this budget.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will have to get back to the Member on this. Where the numbers can be generated, I will provide them. I will give an explanation where they are difficult or where there are problems in doing it.
On Operation and Maintenance
On Program Management
Mr. Nordling: I would like an explanation of what was moved out to reduce it by 67 percent.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This is the result of not budgeting $650,000 this year that was budgeted last year for the health transfer activity. That was 100 percent contribution from the federal government. We have not budgeted for that this year because we have no such agreement.
Program Management in the amount of $318,000 agreed to
On Health Insurance
Health Insurance in the amount of $28,270,000 agreed to
On Community Health
Mr. Lang: Would this be the area for questioning the hearing assessments? The Minister is nodding his head in assent.
Is it not correct that up to now there is up to a maximum 18 month wait between the initial assessment and the time the hearing aid is received? The Minister said that he would check on that for me.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Since the Member last asked the question, I have not had a chance to get any updated information. When the Member first asked the question in Question Period, I checked and the estimates that the Member made were approximately correct at that time.
I was assured by the department that certain steps were being taken to reduce the waiting list. The Member has subsequently asked what the waiting list is now and what the effect of those steps would be. I said that I would get that information, and I have not received it yet.
I know that part of the reason for the long wait during the period just past was that there was a key vacancy in the operation. That was contributing to the delay. Some initiatives by our department and by the Department of Education helped reduce the waiting list considerably for children.
However, the situation for seniors has not yet improved as much as we would like. We still have to address that problem.
Mr. Lang: I would sure hope so. Did they make provisions for another audiologist position in this department? My understanding is we only have one individual in the department who has this expertise. It is unfair for that individual, he or she, to assume all that responsibility. I understand the individual, who I gather is doing a very good job with what is available, is also doing some of the administrative work. The Minister talked about an audiometrician position, and I do not know how that relates to the other position, but I would like him to explain how it is going to speed things up so we do not have this situation. I described a situation where a guy borrowed a hearing aid so he could take a course.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will respond with a written answer, including a response to the relationship between audiologist and an audiometrician, the technician. I do know that recruitment in some of these fields is difficult and time consuming. To state the obvious, there are usually no local candidates for positions like this.
I have already said we will be looking at additional staff in this area. I also have requests for additional people at Macaulay, additional people in the youth services program and in a whole number of other areas, which we will have to entertain, and they all will be extremely difficult given the financial situation. We will look at this, and I will provide in a legislative return detailed responses to the questions he has asked now and to the ones he asked earlier as soon as I can get the information.
Mr. Lang: I would the departmental people to include forecasting, as well as the steps that are going to be taken. I would like a projection of what would be a maximum wait for someone going in for a hearing assessment until such time he or she receives their hearing aid. That is the important aspect. Some of the senior citizens wait for up to two years. That is unforgivable. There is no reason for that. I do not accept the red herring that is being passed out here that the Opposition is asking for so much to be included in the budget. If you go through Hansard, we are not asking for that much. If the Minister is having trouble reclassifying a position, I would recommend he begin by reclassifying the community liaison position in the Executive Council Office so he could get the $50,000 a year to have this service provided by contract. That is a helpful and friendly suggestion from this side.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will not respond in kind, but we have been keeping track of the requests. There have been at least a dozen requests for new staff. I do not care how many times the Member wants to reallocate that one position in the Executive Council Office, he will not be able to chop up that body to make 12 person years. There is no way you can do that.
I told the Member we will take a look at the recommendation. I also told the Member the money is tighter than it has been in previous years, and it is going to get tighter. We will always have to do that in the context. I recognize the need. We do want to reduce the waiting list, and I will be indicating what I can about the nature of that waiting list in the response I have promised.
Community Health in the amount of $2,426,000 agreed to
On Extended Health
Extended Health in the amount of $1,711,000 agreed to
On Vital Statistics
Vital Statistics in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance in the amount of $32,775,000 agreed to
On Northern Health Services
Mr. Nordling: I would ask the Minister to give us a brief explanation of each line. If there are any questions, I will get up. Otherwise, we will clear them and carry on.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Under Northern Health Services, as the Member may know, for this $209,000 the Yukon is required to provide funding for 70 percent of the eligible cost for capital expenditures by Health and Welfare Canada in the territory to meet our obligations, which were established in a 1954 funding agreement. The federal health expenditure in this area for the coming fiscal year is projected at $298,000. Therefore, the Yukons 70 percent share is $209,000. This is for the following projects and activities: facility renovations, $50,000; minor equipment replacement and acquisition for health facilities, community health, environmental health, mental health, dental health, health education services administered by the Northern Health Services, including medical office electronic data processing equipment and furniture, $75,000; and vehicle replacement for transportation requirement in locations throughout the Yukon, $84,000.
As the Member knows, we get this list from the federal government and, according to the requirements of the agreement, we pay 70 percent of the cost. Members who have been in the House for some time will often notice the federal government does not always purchase exactly what is subscribed in this budget. Sometimes, the expenditures are quite a bit less than what is voted, but it arises out of the nature of that 1954 agreement.
Northern Health Services in the amount of $209,000 agreed to
On Extended Care Facility
Mr. Nordling: I would like to get confirmation on this from the Minister. He did provide us with a legislative return with a flow chart. Reading it, would the Minister read it as in the best case scenario that construction would not start on the extended care facility until April, 1991? If that is the case, how much of this $3,150,000 do we expect to spend in the 1990-91 fiscal year?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The best case scenario is probably a start in the end of February or the beginning of March of next year. With many large capital projects such as this, we had some hesitation in proceeding apace at a time when the formula negotiations were inconclusive. Whatever money is not spent this year on the project will be revoted into the following year, as is often the case with capital projects.
We hope that we can recapture as much lost time as we can. We have indicated an official opening in the spring of 1993. We have also indicated that we can likely occupy the facility as early as the fall of 1992.
Mr. Nordling: Does the Minister have an estimate of the projected costs to go from the invitation to architects through to the awarding of the construction contract? Does the Minister have an estimate of what that portion will cost us?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have to take notice of that question. The flow chart that I promised the Member was only just developed by the health planner since this budget was tabled. I do not have the actual projected expenditure. I can provide an estimate to the Member. Our point of reassessment of that would be the first supplementary during the course of the year. I expect we will know the progress during the early stages of this project.
Mr. Devries: The Help and hope people are happy and I should thank the Minister for addressing that situation. However, people are still getting old, and the Minister had promised to give me an update on the status of the Watson Lake extended care facility proposal.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I know the director of our health branch has been to Watson Lake to meet with people to discuss the possible facility. Discussions are continuing. One proposal was made to renovate the existing hospital to provide long term care. I understand, however, that that is problematic.
We have had other suggestions from other quarters that rather than the extended care proposal, which was originally floated, that what the community might better benefit from is a home care program similar to the one that is operating effectively in Whitehorse.
We will be continuing these discussions with people in the community. No capital is provided for in this budget for a facility in Watson Lake.
Extended Care Facility in the amount of $3,150,000 agreed to
On Communications Disorders Equipment
Communications Disorders Equipment in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
On Extended Health Benefits - Seniors
Extended Health Benefits - Seniors in the amount of $4,000 agreed to
On Chronic Disease Benefits
Mr. Nordling: Would the Minister give us an explanation of what will be purchased in chronic disease benefits for $14,000?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This is to purchase major equipment required for the support of individuals with chronic and debilitating diseases. The aim of this is to minimize hospitalization. It is for the replacement of major medical items such as manually-operated hospital beds, specialized wheelchairs, grab bars, support rails, respiratory equipment, patient lifters and other special aid equipment for patients suffering from chronic disease or serious functional disabilities.
Mr. Nordling: I thank the Minister for that explanation. Why is it going up 40 percent this year from last year?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I know that 40 percent, stated in those terms, looks like a lot. When we moved from $10,000 to $14,000 for this kind of equipment, it is not a surprising amount. It may cover one or two pieces of equipment that have to be replaced that did not need replacing last year. That would indicate that kind of increase.
If the Member would like a more detailed breakdown of the projection, I would be happy to establish that within the department. They do not have it here now, but we can get it.
Mr. Nordling: I would appreciate that, because we have expressed our concern about the chronic disease list and the expense that is being incurred. Again, I am concerned that every year this will grow and grow and grow, and I would like to know if it is for something specific this year or whether we are just increasing the numbers of things we already have, owing to the increase in the numbers of people on the chronic disease list.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member should not confuse the chronic diseases drug list and this chronic diseases list, which is for capital equipment. They are entirely different things. Let me give the Member an indication of the costs of some of the items that can be involved in this program. He will see that it would be fairly easy to add $4,000 to the budget. One oxygen concentrator, which is listed under the respiratory equipment I mentioned earlier, costs $3,000.
Mr. Nordling: The Minister does not have to go through that; we have the whole list in a legislative return, and I know it is very expensive equipment. I just wanted to know if he or his officials had some detail on why it was costing more this year than last year?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There are two things indicated for this year: one manually operated hospital bed - we may have to buy two of these instead of one and they run at $1,000 apiece - and some of the wheelchair equipment we are talking about runs at $1,500 apiece. These are items provided for at over $1,000 and they are ones we have indicated that, on the basis of the clients we have, they have to be replaced this year - hence the $14,000.
Chronic Disease Benefits in the amount of $14,000 agreed to
On Macaulay Lodge Renovations
Mr. Phillips: This is near and dear to my heart: Macaulay Lodge. The question I have here is just a clarification of what this is for.
Excuse me, Madam Chair, I am experiencing the same thing that the Government Leader experiences all the time - a rude interruption from the Member for Porter Creek East, and this time I am not going to let him interrupt me.
I just want to know if the $13,000 here is to upgrade Macaulay Lodge for the interim extended care facility. Is that the reason we are spending these funds?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No, we could not do that. That is covered in the extended care line, which we have previously approved. The $13,000 here is for a much more modest program, which is the replacement of the flooring and some landscaping improvements around the lodge to increase resident mobility, and it is under this line that we will be able to consider the Members previous request about the flowerbeds.
Macaulay Lodge Renovations in the amount of $13,000 agreed to
On Macaulay Lodge Equipment Replacement
Macaulay Lodge Equipment Replacement in the amount of $27,000 agreed to
On Rural Boarding Facility
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As we have talked about in the House before, we are looking at providing quality care to Yukon rural residents while they are waiting to enter hospital, particularly expectant mothers coming to Whitehorse prior to their delivery dates. This is the first year of funds being included in the capital budget for this project, and these funds are intended to be utilized in the planning phase of this project. We have discussed this, I guess, in both of the supplementaries previously this year.
Mr. Nordling: Do we know any more about what our plans are? Are we going to build a building, buy one, lease one? The $100,000 should go a long way in planning.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This will not provide for the final decision in terms of the facility. If we go with the proposal we have been looking at, which is simply to develop a list of people who will offer this boarding service, as it were, such as suggested by the Member for Riverdale North last time we discussed this, then obviously we will not even be spending the total amount of this money. If we get into the acquisition of a fairly sizable house, by which I do not mean a mansion but something like a fourplex downtown or some building that could be renovated to suit this purpose, then we will need this kind of capital allocation, but not the total cost that would be contemplated. I think building is not contemplated, but we have to look at that option among others.
That is what this money will do.
Mr. Nordling: When will all the options be looked at and the government make a decision?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will have to come back with an answer. I have no idea how long it will take to do the necessary work and come back with a conclusion. It is my intention to make a decision in this budget year on how exactly we are going to go and proceed from there.
Mr. Phillips: What is the government doing in the interim? Is it providing a type of service now? I got a letter from the Minister today asking the name of a constituent who was interested in providing this type of service. It is available tomorrow. There are women getting pregnant all the time and coming to Whitehorse, so it is not something that is going to wait until we get a facility. Has the Minister given consideration to using these types of homes on a temporary basis?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: If we have a list, and we have a couple of other suggested places where we can refer people who are requesting such a service. We are a little hesitant to offer that in any formalized way, because we do not have a register of a large number of people who are prepared to offer the service. The model proposed by the Member is one of the options we are looking at. If we do that, the costs involved for the government will be relatively inexpensive. Whether they are adequate to meet all the demands for the service, we do not know yet.
Mr. Phillips: I can assure the Minister he will have the name of the interested person in a letter on his desk tomorrow. The letter is in draft now, and I will make sure the Minister gets it tomorrow. I know the individual is prepared to offer the service tomorrow, and will provide a very good service to the Government of the Yukon. I would suggest to the Minister that this type of service provided by individuals in the territory is much more cost effective than any other service that could be provided.
First of all, I believe it is more personal. Secondly, you do not have to pay the heat and light for the times when there are no people in the facility, like you would have to do if you built a building of your own. Thirdly, you would not have to pay for staff for all those times when no one is in the building. I just think it would be a better all-around atmosphere for people coming in from a community to stay with a fellow Yukoner. It is much more homey, a much better atmosphere, and much better for the people involved.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I appreciate the point made by the Member. I know he is probably right in terms of the cost. We have had differing opinions from different groups. Some people argue that, at this time, people want the maximum amount of privacy for themselves, which they cannot always have in a senior citizens home. We are looking at all those things.
In terms of making commitments to provide this service now, we are extremely cautious. We had one organization come in to see me that indicated they were prepared to offer the service right away. We were beginning to contemplate contingencies on that basis. The next thing we knew, the service was no longer available. They had found another use for the facility they were planning to make available.
If we were going to go with the model the Member is suggesting, we would have to have a significant number of people prepared to offer the service. We would have to be assured they were there on a continuing basis. In other words, for example, as has been suggested to us by a third party, if we were making use of bed and breakfast operations, or people offering that kind of arrangement in town, and such facilities were available in the winter but not in the summer, that might not be adequate. Of course, pregnancies are not planned to accommodate the tourist season. We have to work through some of those things, and we will in this year.
Mr. Lang: I want to strongly endorse the idea we should be looking at renting the service we are speaking of in some capacity. It bothers me a great deal to see $100,000 being set aside for a study. That is a lot of money and could go a long way toward helping people, as opposed to getting one or two consultants to come in with 10 options developed for the government to consider.
I think it is a philosophical question, to begin with. If the government were to decide it wanted to look at renting, then it is a question of developing a very simple game plan to see how we could combine private citizens homes with existing hotel space, and how the government is prepared to offset the costs of individuals to come in.
As opposed to the government getting into the business, or directly paying an individual on a contractual basis to do this kind of service, the best way of doing it may be to provide a stipend or per diem for those people who are coming in to Whitehorse under medical direction. We then identify where the accommodation is and they make their own choice.
That way, it would be simple. As long as we can advertise and let people know this kind of a service is provided through a government agency, we can do it for a minimal cost, and the citizenry accept their responsibility in looking for the accommodation before coming to town, or on arrival, and it is a private deal between the people involved.
We could encompass a lot of things, and that $100,000 would probably cover our costs for the next three years of such a program, if not more.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I appreciate the comments of the Member. I will surprise the hell out of him by saying that I agree with a lot of what he said. What he is suggesting is not what is being proposed by the organizations that have been coming to us about this facility. They have been looking for something else.
We will be looking at all those options, including the cost to the government and the ongoing obligations to us in this phase. I assure the Member that we do not intend to spend $100,000 looking at just the feasibility of the options. My intention is to see the project underway, whether it is on the model proposed by the Member or on other suggestions we have had. I cannot say yet, but we will be looking at the most economic way of providing this service.
Mr. Lang: It was said that a motion was debated at some length and passed in this House a couple of years ago. Once any study has been done, and whatever work is done on it for the options, could the Minister undertake that all Members be provided with a copy of such a document so they can keep themselves up-to-date on the issue?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will provide the Members with the results of the study. I can do that at the time that I make an announcement on our conclusions.
Rural Boarding Facility in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Community Health Facility Review
Community Health Facility Review in the amount of nil agreed to
On Equipment - Operational
Equipment - Operational in the amount of nil agreed to
Capital in the amount of $3,522,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on allotments or person year establishments?
On Allotments and Person Year Establishment
Allotments and Person Year Establishment agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the yellow pages?
Health Services in the amount of $36,297,000 agreed to
Mr. Nordling: I have a quick question for the Minister before we report progress on Bill No. 19. We talked about getting a more up-to-date list of the contracts that have been given by the Department of Health and Human Resources. We have closed commitments as of December 7, 1989. The Minister was looking into providing us with contracts up to the end of January.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: They are just pulling the information together now. I am sorry that it could not be here today. I will give it to the Member as soon as I have it.
It is being done.
On that score, I move you report progress on Bill No. 19.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Mr. Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Ms. Kassi: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 19, First Appropriation Act, 1990-91, 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 that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:29 p.m.
The following Legislative Return was tabled February 26, 1990:
Extended Care Facility: Construction Timetable (Preliminary Estimate) (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 912
The following Sessional Paper was tabled February 26, 1990:
Draft Agriculture Policy (Webster)