Monday, April 23, 1990 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
INTRODUCTION OF PAGES
Speaker: It gives me great pleasure to inform the House that the following students from Porter Creek Junior Secondary School will be serving as Legislative Pages this session. They are: Jennie Devine, Jess Hall, Emily Harris, Diyet Johnson, Becky Reykdal, Tricia Robutka, Paul Sholz, Becca Whitley and Bjorn Wigen. Today we have Diyet Johnson and Bjorn Wigen with us and I would ask you to welcome them at this time.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: I have for tabling the report of the Chief Electoral Officer for Contribution to Political Parties during 1989.
Are there any further Reports or Documents for tabling?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have for tabling a number of legislative returns.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I have for tabling some legislative returns.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have for tabling the Annual Report of the Department of Community and Transportation Services and a legislative return.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Mr. Lang: I have for tabling a petition to all Members containing 204 signatures. The message that has been conveyed with the petition I have before you has reference to Bill No. 77, the Child Care Act, and it reads as follows:
To whom it may concern.
We would like to express to you our deep concern over the NDPs determination to both table and attempt to pass the above legislation without amendments. We are specifically opposed to the Governments infringement on our right to choice in how we care for our children and at what cost quality care should be valued. The Governments intervention in our personal lives has already reached an intolerable level by Yukon standards and it must be conveyed to them that enough is enough.
For the Government to dictate and enforce on us their vision of child rearing is to condemn democracy. No one should know better than the parents what is best for their children and no one should be more concerned for the childs safety and well-being than the parent.
It is with this in mind we strongly urge you to oppose this Act and force the Government to return our freedom to us. We agree with the amendment put forward by the concerned parents group and have signed the circulated petition which reads as follows: We, the undersigned, support the past proposed amendments to Bill No. 77, the Child Care Act, being tabled by the Government of Yukon. We support the Child Care Act in principle and the child care principles of quality care, parental choice, accessibility, affordability and comprehensive services. It is our opinion that these amendments will improve the act.
Speaker: Introduction of Bills?
Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Notices of Motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Joe: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House congratulate the Council for Yukon Indians, federal and Yukon negotiators for the Yukon Indian Land Claim on their success in achieving a negotiated umbrella final agreement.
Ms. Kassi: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon Government should adopt energy and waste management policies that would bring about a stabilization of the emissions of carbon dioxide by the year 2000, and
THAT the Government of Yukon provide information to Yukoners on how, as consumers and investors, their individual actions can affect the carbon dioxide balance in other parts of the world, and
THAT the Government of Yukon urge the provinces and the Northwest Territories to adopt similar policies and programs, and
THAT the Government of Yukon urge the Government of Canada to effect the stabilization of domestic carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2000 to encourage environmentally responsible international economic development projects through financial assistance and technology transfers, to encourage other developed nations to adopt foreign policies to stabilize carbon dioxide emissions and to encourage all nations to cooperate in efforts to stabilize global carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the century.
Ms. Hayden: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House encourage elementary schools in the Yukon to provide on-site space for before- and after-school child care for school age children up to age 12.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House support the newly established Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment and its mandate to encourage sustainable development.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that federal Finance Minister Michael Wilsons allegations that workers wage demands cause inflation are inaccurate and without substance, and
THAT Mr. Wilson should be encouraged to withdraw his remarks and apologize to Canadian workers.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is a matter of concern to the Yukon Legislative Assembly that, in many areas of the world, farm workers are forced to work with hazardous substances that are damaging to the environment and a danger to human health; and
THAT this House supports farm workers around the world in their efforts to achieve environmentally safe working conditions.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that: one, the tidewater port of Skagway has historically been the principal strategic entry port for the Yukon economy; two, that the present monopoly ownership structure of the port facilities has had the effect of increasing transportation costs for Yukon imports and exports and reducing the share of freight shipped to and from the Canadian northwest through Skagway; and, three, that an opportunity to open the port has been lost with the cancellation of a recent referendum on a new multi-purpose dock facility at Skagway; and
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly affirm its support for future initiatives that will see the development of an open and competitive port that will benefit both the Town of Skagway and the people of the Yukon.
Speaker: Statements by Ministers.
Yukon Indian Land Claim Umbrella Final Agreement Initialled on April 1, 1990
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am pleased today to inform the House of the historic milestone reached in the settlement of aboriginal claims in the Yukon.
In the early hours of April 1, negotiators for the three parties to the Yukon claim - the territorys first peoples, the Yukon and federal governments - initialed an umbrella final agreement.
Under its terms, Yukon Indian people will receive 16,000 square miles of land, a cash settlement worth $232 million in 1988 dollars, and a guaranteed voice in managing the natural resources of the Yukon.
As a comprehensive social contract, the agreement gives Yukon Indian people the ability to determine their own future. It will enable them to participate fully, and on their own terms, in the social and economic development of our communities.
The agreement also makes our first peoples participants in the management of our natural and heritage resources and the Yukons environment.
Indeed, it is an essential element in achieving the goals of a healthier economy and a healthy environment - in other words, the sustainable development of the Yukon.
The agreement affirms and defines aboriginal rights. In doing so, it gives first nations a distinct role in the political development of our territory.
The umbrella final agreement is the foundation for final agreements that will be negotiated over the next two years with individual first nations throughout the Yukon.
More profoundly, it is the foundation for the development and the future well-being of Yukon Indian people and our communities.
Because a settlement will benefit the Yukon and Yukoners as a whole, the umbrella final agreement is also a building block for a stronger territory.
I want to acknowledge in the most positive terms the efforts of the Council for Yukon Indians and first nations in reaching this agreement. The commitment and perseverance they have shown, particularly in the days leading up to the March 31st deadline, cannot be measured.
The balance and the comprehensive scope of the agreement reflects the energy and dedication of the Council for Yukon Indians leadership and its negotiators.
I also want to recognize the efforts of the Yukon and federal negotiating teams. A great many people gave long hours and a strong commitment to the successful conclusion of our negotiations.
It has taken 17 years to reach an umbrella agreement. Over those 17 years many Yukoners - public servants, public groups, and individual people - have supported claims negotiations. They too are owed a measure of thanks.
As I said, we have been working for 17 years toward a settlement. Our work is not yet over, but the umbrella final agreement is an essential step in this process.
This week negotiators travel to Vancouver to complete the legal review of the agreement. Once that is done, we can begin releasing more detailed information on the agreement to the public.
The three parties are working together to produce summaries of the various subagreements, written in plain English. These should be ready by mid-May.
The agreement will also be going to the printers when the legal review is complete. We expect these documents will be available in late May.
In the months ahead, we will begin negotiations on first nation final agreements and on self-government agreements. We will also begin work in implementation and on training, so that Yukon Indian people can benefit fully from this agreement and those to come in the future.
Also, in the next couple of months, Yukon Indians will decide how to proceed on ratification of the agreement.
When negotiations on first nation final agreements are complete, their contents and the contents of the umbrella final agreement will be put in federal legislation that settles the Yukon claim.
The tasks ahead will not be easy, but the spirit and energy that led to the umbrella final agreement give me every confidence that we will achieve our goal - a fair and just settlement of the Yukon claim.
Mr. Phelps: I am pleased to respond to the ministerial statement on land claims. A long awaited and important milestone has indeed been reached with the initialing of the umbrella final agreement. We look forward to receiving a copy of the agreement next month so that we may examine it in some detail. As well, we are following with some interest the issue of ratification by Yukon Indian beneficiaries.
In the meantime, let me say that we are pleased with the recent progress and we hope that a fair and final settlement is now attainable.
Spring Clean-up Campaign
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I would like to advise the House this afternoon of an enhanced spring clean-up campaign, which is scheduled for the week of May 12 to 18. I think it is quite timely to demonstrate this increased commitment, especially in light of the special Earth Day celebrations that took place throughout the world yesterday.
The spring clean-up budget has been increased from $10,000 to $23,000 for this new program. It is being sponsored by the Department of Community and Transportation Services and is receiving the help of the Department of Renewable Resources, as well as the Yukon office of Environment Canada.
The new spring clean-up program will not only clean up the winters accumulation of litter but will, through an aggressive promotion campaign, encourage people to think about the four Rs of waste management: reduction, reuse, recycling and recovery. Yukon people are indeed becoming more and more aware of the environmental impact from the generation of waste. Clean-up week is an ideal time to emphasize sound waste management practices.
This years spring clean-up program will include matching grants of up to $1000 to each municipality, and outright grants of up to $500 to each unincorporated community for the purposes of clean-up projects. Bagged garbage will be picked up by road crews in unincorporated communities, and rural dumps will be cleaned and compacted prior to clean-up week.
Non-profit organizations throughout the Yukon can also benefit through a litter pickup project run by the transportation maintenance branch. Any group of six volunteers will be paid $250 for each five hours they spend cleaning up a highway right-of-way. The litter pickup will run Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from May 1 to May 31. To qualify, groups must make arrangements through the local highways foreman.
An advertising campaign will: emphasize reduce - by generating less waste; emphasize recycle - by returning cans and bottles; and recover - by using organic waste for compost.
It might be of interest to Members that statistics for pop and beer can returns have increased dramatically since rural liquor outlets began accepting can returns. In March alone, over 12,000 pop cans were returned to rural stores, as well as over 107,000 beer cans.
We take pride in our friendly communities, and we have respect for the desire of Yukon people to maintain a clean environment. We want to preserve our natural environment for our own enjoyment and the pleasure that it will bring our visitors. We want to make sure that the same experience will be available for our grandchildren. I submit that we should all pitch in for Clean-up Week in the Yukon, May 12 through to 18.
Mr. Phillips: I am pleased to see that the government is making a stronger financial commitment to the problem of litter, but we have yet to see a year-round, territory-wide effort to solve this problem.
I should remind the Minister responsible that we unanimously supported a motion in this House to that effect.
In his ministerial statement, the Minister stated the Clean-up Week is an ideal time to emphasize sound waste management practices. I would add to that and suggest to the Minister that, if we are going to be consistent with the motions we all agreed to in this House, we should be emphasizing that every week is the ideal time to emphasize sound waste management practices. The Minister should come back to this House shortly and announce some kind of year-round anti-litter program for Yukon.
As I said at the beginning, I am very pleased to see we are, once again, participating in Clean-up Week, but we can still do a lot more. I should also put all Members on notice that I will be issuing my annual challenge to clean up an area of Whitehorse during Clean-up Week. I understand the City of Whitehorse, the Boy Scouts and the NDP caucus scooped my Rotary Park clean-up that I have carried out for the past two years, but I can assure them there are many other areas of Whitehorse that need to be cleaned up, as well as other areas of the territory. We will not have to go far to search for more garbage.
I am looking forward to challenging all Members for a morning out cleaning up, sometime during Clean-up Week or the week after.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I thank the Member for his comments. I must tell him I feel so badly because he was not there with us yesterday.
The Member raises the question about a year-round effort. A year-round effort is taking place. The Department of Renewable Resources has identified funds that are available to any organization or group to take advantage of for clean-up campaigns. My departments of Government Services and Community and Transportation Services have been directed to ensure that government assets, buildings, facilities and yards around the territory are kept in clean and orderly conditions, free of litter and garbage, throughout the year. At the same time, the department is available to assist any municipality or unorganized community or group with the disposition of litter.
It is quite fair to say that we do have considerable initiative toward a year-round program, and people are becoming more aware of the clean-up campaigns and are taking advantage of them.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Education department staff turnover
Mr. Phelps: I have some questions for the Minister of Education with regard to the extremely heavy turnover of officials in the administration branch of his department.
In the past 12 months there has been a turnover of about 39 of the 85 or so positions. I am wondering if the Minister has looked into this, and more particularly, if he can confirm that there is a major morale problem in the department because of what is seen by those who work there as political interference by the managers?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am certainly aware of the great change in personnel in the department. In particular, the public schools branch has been the subject of considerable discussion in the House last fall and this spring.
I am aware of the concerns expressed by members of advanced education with respect to their feelings about their future. I am taking great efforts to reassure persons within the entire department that the future of education is and will be very positive and very constructive, and have worked hard to breed that view.
Certainly in the past number of months, the situation has been of considerable interest to me. I am not sure what the Member means by suggesting that the managers are exerting political influence in the departments in some way. I am sure he will get around to explaining that in stating his allegations this afternoon.
Nevertheless, I am aware of the situation within the department and have been working diligently to ensure that the morale is nothing but positive. I believe within the various significant sections of the department the morale is extremely good, and there are many positive feelings about the future of education within the territory.
Mr. Phelps: There is a very large problem when you have that kind of turnover in just 12 months with such a relatively small administration.
Can the Minister confirm whether or not he has had a number of meetings with staff over the past month or so with regard to the issue of how the department is being managed and about the issue of staff morale?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As I indicated in the answer to the first question, I have had discussion with departmental staff, primarily in advanced education, to discuss the future of their branch. I reassured them that the future of advanced education and training branch is one that is absolutely assured. We have high hopes and great expectations that persons in that branch will be performing a very significant agenda that the government has laid out for advanced education. I am confident those people can meet the challenge and the morale will improve in that area.
Mr. Phelps: Can the Minister confirm that many of these meetings were brought about by the initiative of staff? Can he tell us how many meetings he has had with staff in the last month with regard to problems with management?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The meetings I have had have had to do with the morale of staff. Those meetings probably number in the neighbourhood of two or three times and have been with various staff members. As well, I have had informal discussions with other staff members with respect to the future of the advanced education training.
Question re: Education department staff turnover
Mr. Phelps: Can the Minister first of all confirm that the problem extends beyond just advanced education, because the turnover affects virtually all aspects of administration. Can he also confirm that there have been a number of complaints to the Human Rights Commission, with regard to management of the department and the treatment of personnel by management?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Firstly, the Member will be unable to encourage me to speak about matters that are regarded as confidential, those respecting personnel; however, I can tell him that I will not and cannot confirm that the problems that the Member cites and that exist in advanced education go beyond the bounds of that branch.
Mr. Phelps: I take it that the answer is not to confirm or deny the complaints that have been lodged with the Human Rights Commission. Can the Minister confirm that there have been a number of recent complaints to the union with regard of the management of the department and the treatment of personnel by management?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Human Rights Commission has not communicated with me directly with respect to any complaints that it received - if it has received any or many. I have been told, however, by various staff members, that they would like to and were planning to proceed to the Human Rights Commission, to talk about their own personal situation. I am presuming that they have done so. With respect to union grievances, I am not aware of any increases - dramatic or otherwise - in grievances, emanating out of the advanced education branch. I am aware of the problems that have been expressed and as I have indicated before, I have been working with employees to try to resolve those problems and ensure for them the reality of the situation, which is that we have high hopes for advanced education and training. We have a very large and productive agenda for that branch of the department, and we intend that the personnel in that department meet that challenge.
Mr. Phelps: I am of the view that the problem goes beyond uncertainty about one branch in the department. It is a deeper problem than that: that the treatment of personnel by management is less than desirable.
I am wondering whether or not the Minister then can assure us that the unusually high rate of turnover by staff will be abating in the near future because of steps that have been taken?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Firstly, I think it would be unfair for Members to be left with the impression that anytime a person moves on from the Department of Education or from the advanced education branch that this must necessarily emanate from morale difficulties in the advanced education branch. That would not be true. Secondly, I think, to point out the obvious, I have not received evidence that the issue is widespread throughout the department. In fact, I think that quite the contrary is the case. Nevertheless, I am confident that the localized problems in that branch can be resolved. I have expended effort myself in trying to help them be resolved, and I am sure that the advanced education branch of the Department of Education will rise to the challenge to meet the very significant agenda that the government has devised for that particular branch. Any morale difficulties that have been experienced in the past can be overcome.
Question re: Mental health facility
Mr. Lang: I know there is one place I am glad I am not working.
I would like to ask a question with respect to the lack of facilities for the mentally ill, which has been raised in this House, along with the lack of a mental health act, on an ongoing basis over the past five to seven years.
The previous Minister of Health, Mrs. Joe, strongly supported my letter to the mental health organization that purchasing or building a facility should be done in the near future. On this side, we strongly support that.
Since the present Minister of Health took over the portfolio, the question of the facility has been put on hold, similar to what took place on the question of the mammography unit, which the previous Minister of Health and Human Resources, Mrs. Joe, strongly supported, and who was prepared to get the necessary financing for such a program.
Since the present Minister of Health and Human Resources took over the portfolio, why has he ignored the position taken by his previous Minister of Health and Human Resources and put the project on hold, to the point where we now have to discuss it in the House?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Once again, with this Member, one has to take care of the preamble before one takes care of the question. The preamble was not an accurate statement of the situation at all.
The Government of the Yukon has made what we regard as a very substantial offer, in terms of the provision of facilities for people with mental health problems, especially in view of the fact that we do not yet have jurisdiction or responsibility for mental health services. Those are still the responsibility of the federal government. I believe the Member opposite knows that because that was the position of the Conservative government, of which he was a part.
Jurisdiction for those services has not been transferred to us yet, although we are negotiating on it.
Through the Yukon Housing Corporations offer of seed money, and my offer of matching funds with the federal government, in recognition of the seriousness of the problem and the need that exists in this community, we have made an offer we think is dictated by humanity and by concerns for people with these needs, rather than a strict regard for our responsibilities in the mental health services field.
Mr. Lang: The Minister is wonderful. We did not have responsibility for the extended care facility; that was a federal responsibility. We did not have responsibility for a mammography unit; that was a federal responsibility. We did not have responsibility for the hospital. Where are we? We are on hold.
If the Minister says to this House and to the public we represent that we do not have a responsibility for facilities and provisions for those people in our society who are in very unfortunate situations, why are we going to be debating today a bill called a mental health act, if that is totally a federal responsibility?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: That is a really tough question. We are debating a mental health act for the same reason the Members colleague across the floor brought a mental health act before the House, which is to deal with the rights of patients and the obligations of health care providers and to govern the civil rights of citizens now, whether they are receiving services from private practitioners or from the federal hospital.
We are negotiating for the transfer of those responsibilities, but we are proceeding with an improved mental health act because that is necessary, and for the same reason there was a mental health act prior to our coming into office. Under the previous Conservative government, there was no responsibility for mental health services.
I have to deal with the preamble of the Members question. At no point did this government say mammography was the responsibility of the federal government.
At no point did this government say that extended care is a responsibility of the federal government. We have said, and insist on saying, that the hospital at this moment remains the responsibility of the federal government.
We are dealing with the tough financial realities we now face. I believe we are dealing with them compassionately and well.
Mr. Lang: Here is a government that took office just over four years ago and in the past year has expended, on behalf of the general public, over a billion dollars. Not one million, but over a billion dollars. The Minister now has the audacity to stand in his place and talk about not having enough financial wherewithal to provide for what will basically cost...
Speaker: Order please. Will the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Lang: ...fifty thousand dollars a year for operation and maintenance. I want to ask the Minister: why has he put this facility on hold since he assumed office in view of the position taken by the previous Minister of Health and Human Resources?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: During the time we had the Conservatives in office in this territory, we had hundreds of millions of dollars spent with not even a hint, especially from the Member opposite, that we would ever have such services as mammography or extended care or a new hospital. The position of the party opposite, as articulated again recently - at two conventions in a row - by the Leader of the Official Opposition, is that we are spending too much on social services. I believe that is the statement of the Conservative Party.
We have not changed the position of the previous government. Our position is that the federal government has jurisdiction in this field. Notwithstanding the federal responsibility, we have recognized the need and we have offered to match the federal government, who have billions of dollars more than we do, a contribution they will make in order to see this facility established.
Question re: Mental health facility
Mr. Lang: In the previous administration under the leadership of the then-Minister of Health and Human Resources, there was a commitment made to provide such a facility. Obviously at that time there was such a firm commitment in peoples minds that such a facility would be provided, there was a $22,000 local employment opportunity grant given to an organization to build furniture for such a home.
Why did the government pay $22,000 of the taxpayers money for furniture that is presently now sitting outside being snowed on and rained on? Why did we put out money for such a venture if the government was not committed to providing such a much needed facility?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I want to check the veracity of the Members statement. The commitment of this government to see such a facility established is very clear. We have made offers to contribute to such a facility through my colleague, the Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation, and by myself as the Minister of Health and Human Resources.
I do not believe our position could be more reasonable. All we are asking for is some contribution by the federal government, which has resources far beyond our imagination and which has the strict legal responsibility to provide services in this field.
The reason why this project is delayed at all is because it is the federal Conservative governments position that they do not want to see mental health services expanded in this territory.
Mr. Lang: Hark, hark; the Minister never answered my question. I asked why, in his wisdom, did the Minister allocate $22,000 to build furniture if the government was not committed to providing a facility for the mentally ill? It is a crying shame. The furniture is presently being damaged. There is no place to store it. It has been sitting outside I think for almost two years. The Minister sits on the committee. He approved the money. Why did he approve the money if there was obviously no agreement to build the facility? Does he believe that was a wise disposition of money?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Once again, I will want to check the allegations of fact made by the Member. He has repeated the same allegation again. I do not know if his allegation is true, but in any case, the fact remains we have made a very substantial offer in terms of a financial contribution to see such a facility established. The reason it is not established is because the federal government, which has responsibility in this area, is refusing to meet what we believe to be its responsibilities.
Mr. Lang: I find this unbelievable. Over the past two weeks an issue has been raised by the public. There have been over 30 meetings with the present Minister on the question of a facility. He sits on the committee that allocates LEOP grants. It is clear in an article in the newspaper on March 28,...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary?
Mr. Lang: In 1988, the Yukon government gave the association a $22,000 Local Employment Opportunity Program grant to build furniture through the Challenge Program for the proposed home.
Is the Minister telling this House he does not remember approving such a grant?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Whether or not the association received a grant has nothing to do with the federal responsibility to contribute to, or to undertake, or to see established services in this territory for people with mental health problems.
We have said we think the establishment ... the Member opposite is snickering. I bet the federal government would love to negotiate with the Member opposite. All they have to do is cop out of any of their responsibilities and then they get their friends over here to say, why does the territorial government not pick up these federal responsibilities and spend territorial money on federal responsibilities? The federal government would love to negotiate with the Members opposite; the territory would go broke within a week.
Question re: Yukon arts centre
Mrs. Firth: My question is for the Minister of Government Services. Last October the government rejected the bids they received for the Yukon arts centre because they were too high. I believe at the time they were almost $1 million more than the $6 million that had been committed. The government then had independent cost consultants review the project and reported back a verification of the $6 million cost.
Could we have a copy of the analysis or report that was done by the independent cost consultants?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us who the consultants were and how much we paid for this independent study?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: At this point I cannot say how much the consultants cost; however, BTY was the original cost consultant, then UMA Spantech, a management consulting firm from Vancouver, also submitted cost estimates.
Mrs. Firth: Could we get a commitment to get that report forthwith?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes.
Question re: Yukon arts centre
Mrs. Firth: My question is again for the Minister of Government Services on the same item.
I see the Minister of Government Services prompting the Minister of Education with answers. I do not know if the Minister of Education is going to answer them or the Minister of Government Services will, but I will wait and see.
A lot of time and money has been spent tendering, consulting, and retendering the project for the Yukon arts centre.
Is it going to go ahead? When will people be made knowledgeable about that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have just solved the puzzle for the Member opposite as to who will answer the question. I will answer the question - I am obviously not her first choice.
Nevertheless, as much as I would like to indicate the governments position with respect to this matter at this time, I am unable to do that as we are still evaluating not only the bids but our options with respect to this particular project. As I am sure Members know, we have a 30-day period in which we can evaluate the bids before we either award a contract or decide not to award it at all. Nevertheless, we are taking great pains to evaluate all the options and a final decision will be communicated to the Members - I am hopeful - shortly.
Mrs. Firth: I would not have thought it was an option not to award the contract at all in light of the public comments that the Deputy Minister of Education has made when he got up and said that the project was a definite go-ahead. When the review is done and options are looked at, the government has a new policy with respect to business incentives and the rebate system. I would like to ask the Minister of Government Services if that calculation has been taken into account and what the amount of that calculation is.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have to correct something that the Member has alleged that the Deputy Minister of Education has said. The Deputy Minister of Education has said that if the contract was within our construction price, then definitely the project would go ahead. I think it is obvious that it is not within the construction price that we have made public in the past and so consequently we are now evaluating our options. The answer to the Members other question is no.
Mrs. Firth: If I could just go to the newspaper for a minute, to confirm the comments made by the Ministers deputy minister, on Tuesday, December 19 in the Whitehorse Star, the deputy minister said Obviously we dont want to do that, and the project is definitely a go - its part of the budget, he said in a recent interview. Those were quotes.
I would like to ask the Minister when they are going to do an evaluation with respect to the rebate business incentive policy. I would like to know how much that money is going to be and whether or not that is going to be factored into the decision with respect to the arts centre, and when it is going to be built.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member persists in asking a question of the Minister of Government Services that is appropriately the responsibility of the Minister of Government Services, but prefaces her remarks by making statements that obligate me to respond, as Minister of Education, so I am going to have to do that first.
Firstly, it is completely outside my domain to be able to answer allegations or quotes made in the newspapers. As much as I respect the folks who write the articles in the newspapers, I cannot always verify their accuracy. I am indicating to the Member what the situation was with respect to the deputy ministers remarks with respect to this arts centre. We have always indicated that, should the bids for the arts centre be within the construction budget, we will of course award and proceed with the project. It was our dearest wish that we would and we could. On two occasions, because the bids have come in substantially over the construction price that we had established, it was very difficult for us to simply award. We are evaluating our options to determine whether or not we can award, and if we do award, in what way.
Question re: Mental health facility
Mr. Nordling: I would like to follow up with the Minister of Health and Human Resources on a question of a residential facility for psychiatric patients. This has been going on for the past seven or eight years. The Yukon division of the Canadian Mental Health Association has quietly tried, unsuccessfully, to establish a residential facility in Whitehorse. Last September, the Minister of Health and Human Resources said he had instructed department officials to negotiate a cost-sharing arrangement with the medical services branch, for the provision and operation of a residential facility to serve the needs of psychiatric patients. I would like to know from the Minister what has happened with those negotiations and if they are still ongoing. Has the Minister set a deadline for concluding the negotiations, one way or the other?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No, we have not set a deadline. We would regard the negotiations as complete only at the point where we see such a facility in place. The offer we have made is a matter of public knowledge. Given the federal responsibility in this area, we think it is an extremely generous offer. There have been offers made by both the Yukon Housing Corporation for seed money for a capital proposal and the costs of operating such a facility to be shared with the federal government, under our proposal.
The federal government does not at all dispute the value of such a project, but they have said they are not prepared at this time to expand services provided to the mentally ill in the Yukon.
We have had a working committee struck to complete analysis of the actual cost incurred by the various agencies on psychiatric care in the Yukon. Once the costs are known, I hope both governments will be able to attend further meetings to see if we can meet the needs that exist in the communities and do it more efficiently, in the way that some money could be freed up for this project.
Mr. Nordling: Who is on the working committee? I have a copy of a letter written March 8, 1990, to the Canadian Mental Health Association from Alan Davidson, the director of Health Services Branch, saying they really have no money at all to do any more work on it, and there is no money identified in the 1990-91 budget. Writing on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Resources, he is leaving it up to two people in the medical services branch to do the work.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not have the advantage of having a copy of the letter in the Members possession with me. Tomorrow, I will provide him with the names of the people on the working committee. This has been the subject of some considerable discussion between me and officials of the department, and will continue to be.
We genuinely believe the need for such a facility exists, and we believe we can play a responsible part in seeing it established. We also believe it would be inappropriate to allow the federal government to abandon its responsibility in this area. That is something we think would be unwise and not in the long-term interests of the people of this community.
Mr. Nordling: The Minister is going to have to face reality and be careful he does not end up playing games with this question. The federal government is running a deficit of $30 billion a year that it is trying to get control of. In the Yukon, we are fortunate enough not to be running huge deficits.
It seems clear that the medical services branch has neither the money nor the mandate to participate in this undertaking. Either the Yukon government is going to do it ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Nordling: Yes, Mr. Speaker. Either the Yukon government is going to do it or it will not get done. When will those Yukoners in need be provided for?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Almost every time the federal government refuses to meet a need that is in its area, or every time they cut their budget, as they have done on a number of programs recently, almost the very next day some of those groups are on our doorstep asking us to pick up the slack.
Compared with the federal government, we are a relatively successful government. We do not have an inexhaustible supply of money. The federal government, which has the deficit the Member spoke of, has just cut our transfers, much more than they have any province, and much more than they have cut their own budget.
Those are the facts. That, too, is reality. This government does not have an infinite capacity to respond to all those needs, especially when the responsibility is clearly in the federal jurisdiction.
We have said that we will make a very substantial contribution here because we recognize the need. We have offered to pick up half the costs. My colleague, the Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation, has offered - and I understand the group has not responded to his offer - to provide money to see the project get underway. We think those are very reasonable and fair offers. All we are asking for is that the federal government respond in kind with an amount of money, which in terms of the federal health budget in this territory, is a relatively small amount of money.
Question re: Energy Ministers Conference
Mr. Phillips: I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development. It is regarding the recent energy ministers conference he attended.
At the conference the ministers recognized global warming as a serious environmental concern and agreed to develop regional plans for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The Minister said he would be implementing that recommendation in the Yukon.
When does the Minister expect to begin that process?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I thank the Member for the question because the issue is certainly of national significance and international significance. It is the wish of the government to encourage a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions in the Yukon as much as we would like to see carbon dioxide emissions reduced in the provinces that are the real generators of it, namely Alberta and Ontario. We also feel that as Yukoners, and as Canadians, we must set an example for the rest of the world. I believe Canada has shown some leadership in encouraging the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. The strategies that are referenced by the Member are largely public relations campaigns to encourage individuals to act in such a way that they, as individuals, can reduce carbon dioxide emissions as much as possible, and reduce the production of greenhouse gases as much as possible in the future.
The plan for this government is to initiate a public relations campaign this summer to encourage methods by which individuals can reduce their own production of carbon dioxide, whether it be through a more energy efficient use of home heating fuels, or the use of public transit instead of individual use of cars.
There are a number of things that can be done and we would like to initiate this particular campaign this summer.
Mr. Phillips: Does the government have any information at this time as to how this will affect the average Yukoner? Does the government have any information on how serious the problem is in the Yukon? We are not as industrialized as they are in southern areas. How widespread is the problem in the Yukon, if the Minister plans to address it in a very serious manner?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As I pointed out very clearly, in comparison to the provinces the Yukon is not a major producer of carbon dioxide emissions, in national terms. It is certainly an insignificant producer in international terms. The moral authority by which we enter national and international conferences with respect to the reduction of carbon dioxide, which has an impact on us, after all, requires that we make efforts toward reducing carbon dioxide emissions in our own jurisdiction. It is not good enough to tell others to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and ask them to take measures that would change their lifestyle when we are not prepared to do the same. Clearly, we have an obligation to encourage practices that reduce carbon dioxide emissions and we will do so through public relations campaigns to show people that certain changes in lifestyle can reduce carbon dioxide emissions and will not effect significant economic dislocations on the Yukon Territory.
Mr. Phillips: I cannot agree more with the Minister that we should be doing our part as well to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. What I am trying to get from the Minister is what exactly Yukoners will have to do to reduce those emissions? Will we no longer burn wood in wood stoves that many people have been encouraged to put into their homes? Will we only drive our cars at a certain time? Will we increase use of our transit system? What plans does the government have to change the production of these emissions? What does the government plan to tell us to give up to do our part? I am sure Yukoners will want to contribute, but before we announce it we would also like to know what is involved with it.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As I indicated there are a number of things that individual Yukoners can do to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. We had a debate in this Legislature regarding green house gases. There was a mention made of the waste that every one of us practices at times with respect to related burning of fuels, keeping our cars running for the simple comfort of having a warm car in the winter when it is not that cold.
There are a number of things we can do. We can have greater energy efficiency in our homes so that we can burn less fossil fuels.
Clearly it is not a matter of inflicting an all-or-nothing strategy on Yukon. It is not a matter of saying that we must give up our cars or stop burning wood in order to do our part. What we do have to do is do what we can do and what we know will be effective in controlling the increase in carbon dioxide emissions. Those things that we can do that do not inflict great hardship on Yukoners should be done as a matter of choice as individuals. It is up to the government to encourage people to understand what those ways are and explain to every individual Yukoner the impact of carbon dioxide on our environment.
Having done that, if we do make those changes we will be able to stand tall in national and international forums while we call on others to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and have a greater respect for our environment.
Speaker: The 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 the Speaker do now leave the Chair, and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We will have a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee to order.
Bill No. 20 - Mental Health Act
Chair: We are on general debate.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will be assisted during the course of these deliberations by my deputy, Nick Poushinski, and Rosemary Seaman, both of whom have been involved in the preparation of this legislation.
I will begin by recapping the discussion we have had so far. It has been some time since the second reading debate. I would like to begin by reviewing the purposes of this legislation in broad terms.
I am given to understand that the Yukon Territory is the only jurisdiction left in the Commonwealth that has a court-based system for committal of mental patients. The proposal in this bill to substitute the court-based process with a Mental Health Review Board is consistent with the reforms that have occurred in other jurisdictions in Canada in the last few years.
Rather than focusing just on people who are involuntary patients, this new bill makes treatment services available to all people who are suffering from serious mental illness. It is designed to ensure that civil and human rights of all mentally disordered persons are fully respected. It prohibits medical or psychiatric treatment of any mentally disordered person unless that person has consented to the proposed treatment. Where the person is incapable of giving valid consent for treatment, the consent of an appropriate independent party representing the person must be obtained.
It requires regular, objective, independent reviews of detention and treatment, at which the patient is entitled to appear in person and be represented by legal counsel or an advocate.
It establishes a Mental Health Review Board, which assumes the functions and powers presently exercised by the Supreme Court while preserving the traditional routes for appeal. The bill clarifies the roles and responsibilities of the police, doctors, health facilities and the Mental Health Review Board. It brings together voluntary and involuntary care of the mentally ill in a single, coherent program package formed by the same policies and principles, and establishes the principle of local treatment and community care that requires the least restrictive and intrusive treatment option, and places statutory limitations on controversial or irreversible procedures, including long-term use of medication.
The one exception to that is exception in principle in cases of dangerous involuntary patients. The doctor may apply to the Mental Health Review Board for a treatment order.
Just for the benefit of the Members, I want to compare or contrast this legislation with the present statute, which was last amended, I think, in 1984. That present legislation focuses on the apprehension, detention and control of people who might pose a danger, rather than access to treatment by the mentally ill. That bill does not identify any rights to persons beyond due process and sets no specific obligations upon care givers. That bill fails to recognize that a mentally disordered person may be competent to participate in decisions regarding his or her treatment; in other words, it assumes that all rights to independent decision making are appropriately suspended if a person is deemed to be disordered.
The present law provides no powers to the Mental Health Review Board to undertake meaningful reviews and it requires what we believe are highly emotional, confrontational court hearings to determine whether a person is disordered. These proceedings tend to pitch care givers and family members against lawyers representing the person needing care.
The present bill empowers justices of the peace, territorial court judges and doctors to act without providing any guidance on the proper exercise of their powers, the limitations of those powers, and obligations that must be discharged in the course of the exercise of the powers created. The old law deals only with the involuntary care and detention, in contrast to the treatment and rights to be enjoyed by all mentally disordered people.
Finally, the existing legislation is silent on what principles should form the care of mentally ill people.
Before I resume my place, in order that Members can present questions, I would like to give notice of a couple of amendments that I would like to offer to our own legislation. I will explain why we are going to present them and I will at this time table them and have copies distributed of the amendments that I will be introducing at a later point.
The purposes of the two amendments are as follows: firstly, on the Mental Health Review Board, as Members will know, we have provided for a guaranteed representation by representatives of both the bar and the medical profession. There was a concern identified by the medical profession that in the absence of members there should be alternates, in order that we can make sure that there are sufficient people to hear any matter at any time.
In the drafting of the bill, I think there is an error in the language as it seems to suggest that a member of the Mental Health Review Board can choose their own alternate, which is clearly improper. Cabinet will have to approve the alternate and the nominee coming from those same organizations.
There is a long amendment proposed to replace clause 28 with a new clause 28 and I have circulated that amendment. It is designed to make clear that the member for the Mental Health Review Board and the alternate will be Cabinet appointments.
The second amendment I intend to move at the appropriate time is one dealing with languages of consent. It is a bit complicated, but I ask Members to bear with me as I explain why the amendment is here.
There was a very strong feeling by a number of people, which I share, in the consultation, that one of the problems that has existed everywhere in the country are things like what are known in the provinces as Lieutenant Governors warrants where people could be committed for quite a long time. There was evidence of cases in this country where people have been committed simply because they did not understand the proceedings in which they were involved - not because of the disorder they may have had but inadequate language skills. It is the same problem we talked about elsewhere where people in the courts do not understand English or the nature of the proceedings.
We originally thought that the application of our languages law would be sufficient, especially dealing with the cases of elderly aboriginal people who may not understand the proceedings in which they are involved. But it has been pointed out to us that this has often been a problem in the country with not only people who speak English, French or an aboriginal language, which is covered by a language law, but also people who may be immigrants from other parts of the world. A Hungarian, Czechoslovakian, Sengalese or Chilean might well have sufficient knowledge of English to feed and take care of themselves, but not enough to give informed consent to some procedure under this Mental Health Act.
I am going to be moving an amendment that has been drafted by the Department of Justice that guarantees the right of the person to be informed of their rights in the language in which the person is most proficient.
That is just to clarify that. I am not moving it now, I am just giving notice to the House that I will be moving two amendments. One is to deal with the appointment of alternates to the Mental Health Review Board and one to do with the problem of ensuring that people understand their rights. I want to be clear that this is well beyond the language rights, which provide assistance for all purposes, but in mental health proceedings it is well understood by performers in this field that we must make sure that someone who is about to undergo mental health proceedings does understand what is going on and can give consent in the language they best understand.
There is a typographical error I would to like to draw the attention of the Committee to. Clause 48 reads, A person who contravenes section 42 or section 46 is guilty of an offence and on conviction liable to a fine of not more than $5000. Where it says section 46 should read section 47. I would submit that there is a typo and 46 should read 47.
Chair: I would like to thank the Member for the notice. When we get to that clause we will bring it up at that time.
Mr. Lang: At the outset I would like to point out to the Minister I did pick up on the question of the appointment of the alternate and was questioning how the board members were going to do it. It is an interesting, innovative way of writing legislation.
I want to make a couple of observations. It is obviously an act that is long overdue. I recall that previous to five years ago there were discussions that certain steps had to be taken to change legislation. I recall a previous Member of the side opposite, Mr. Kimmerly, who was very much an advocate of changes to the Mental Health Act and brought it up on a continuous basis, obviously with some justification. On his behalf, I have to say he was very sincere with the representations he was making on the old legislation.
For the record I am disappointed that it took so long to get to where we are. Obviously, the legislation was outdated and it was a question of rewriting it. I recall in the previous government one of the real problems faced by the administration was the financial capabilities and staff. That is one of the reasons it did not get onto the Order Paper as judiciously and quickly as it should have. I was a little dismayed that all the Minister has spoken to is various rights and how it is laid out in the legislation as opposed to talking about programs and how they will affect, help and assist those who are mentally ill.
It is a very difficult area. I appreciate the deference and caution with which the government is becoming involved in such an area. I have been a Member of the House for 16 years now, and I have run across a situation where a person was obviously mentally ill. Also, I have had some conversations with professionals on it. I felt they dealt with it fairly well.
Through that brief exposure to a very real situation of people out on the street, it seemed what we were providing was totally inadequate. I am not an authority in this area, but as a Member representing the public, I felt what was available for that lady and what we could do to help was lacking. Those hired by the administration do their utmost to assist the needs of these people. The very real aspect is that each situation is so different and the needs of those individuals are such that it is very difficult to provide for those needs for any length of time, and to provide quality care unless the Legislature is prepared to decide that it is a higher priority. Maybe some areas of government are going to have to take second place to the allocation of dollars to this particular area.
I am dismayed when the Government Leader gets up and answers our questions with the statement that we just need to add. We are starting a new program and we just need to add from the public treasury.
There are areas that the government can re-evaluate. Maybe there are reasons within the boundaries and priorities of the government to curtail some areas. I can give you an example: $62,500 has been debated in this House on a number of occasions. We paid one individual over $700,000 for land claim negotiator services. Over and above that, we are giving him $62,500 to go away for a year. It seems to me that if we had our priories right, some of these dollars could be allocated to meet some of the very real needs out there on the street.
I had the opportunity of meeting with the executive of the Canadian Mental Health Association, Yukon Division - obviously some very caring people.
These are people who are volunteering their time and efforts. At the same time, they are very frustrated. There have been 30 meetings, and what do they have? They were more than patient. These particular individuals played the game the way it was supposed to be played. They went to the government. They did not go to the Opposition or the public. They went to the government in good faith to work out an arrangement or agreement with YTG to provide certain ongoing facilities and programming for those people who are mentally ill. The sad part about it is that, in their discussions, they were led down the garden path. Every indication was given by the side opposite, through the then-Minister of Health and Human Resources, that everything was going to be put into place.
The Government Leader has tried to stand in his place and say that if you are Conservative and are on this side of the House, you do not care about people. That is nothing, and it is not the reason you are here. He is the only one who does. I would say that this side of the House would support initiatives in this area, within reason, similar to what we did with the mammography question. That was a substantial outlay of money but, at the same time, we stood in this House and said we were prepared to vote that money because we felt it was important. That is similar to the situation we have here.
How many Yukoners have been committed to psychiatric institutions outside for whom we are presently paying? Could the Minister give us an idea of how much money that is costing YTG?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Before we get to the precise questions the Member asked at the end, which I will take as notice as we do not have that kind of detail with us, let me respond to what the Member said before he got to his question.
First of all, it is true that it has taken some time to draft this legislation. I believe the time has been properly spent consulting, sometimes several times, with interested parties. I will give the Member a brief illustration of the difficulty of finding satisfactory principles in this area.
At the time the late Mr. Philipsen was last before the House with legislation in this field, in 1984, we spent some time discussing the difference of opinion between the medical profession and the legal profession. It was a very strong view of civil libertarians in the legal profession that no person should have been held against their will for more than 24 hours, the habeas corpus principle. There was a view articulated by mental health professionals, particularly doctors in the field, that it was necessary to have a person under examination for several days in order to do an accurate assessment.
At the time Mr. Philipsen was before the House with his legislation, there was a compromise represented in the bill. The compromise did not represent any central agreement between the doctors and the lawyers, two groups that had radically different points of view.
This legislation goes a long way toward resolving that question through a series of process measures that are designed to protect the rights of the patient and also recognize the legitimate interests of both the lawyers concerned about the rights of the patients and doctors who are concerned about their care. The fact that both professions are represented on the Mental Health Review Board is an example of the agreement that has been achieved through much discussion.
The services in this field are provided, for the most part, by the medical services branch of the federal government operating here. In some cases, the medical services branch administers territorial laws.
The ability of the territorial government to offer services in this field will depend absolutely on the successful transfer of not just the mental health services but all health services to the Yukon government. Those transfers will of course look to adequate staffing and adequate resource of money for all the programs.
The Member suggests that there are alternatives. I know there are members of the public who would suggest that the hundreds of thousands of dollars the Member opposite has earned during his time in the House or perhaps the money that I earn might have been better spent elsewhere, but I do not think that kind of beggaring thy neighbor would be a very useful method of inquiry or useful search for funds to provide services in this field. At the same time that we are introducing this act and bringing it before the House to replace an act that almost everybody can agree is antiquated, we are also negotiating for the transfer of services in this field.
The Member opposite refers to 30 meetings with this government. I think he wanted to imply that they have gone nowhere. Even if we are not responsible yet for mental health services, I want to get it on the record what they have got. In December, 1988, the Department of Health and Human Resources provided a contribution of $3,725 to the Canadian Mental Health Association for the development of a proposal for a residential mental health facility. That proposal was prepared one year ago.
From the time that I first met with them, the position of the department has been that if the federal government agrees to share the costs on a 50/50 basis, the Government of Yukon would provide half the operating funding for such a project. The position of the federal government is that, although they think this a very valuable project, they are not prepared to expand the services provided to mentally ill patients in the Yukon at this time.
I referred to a working committee today in my answer to the Member for Porter Creek West, and I understand that is a federal working committee that is doing an analysis of actual costs incurred by various agencies on psychiatric care in the Yukon. I also indicated that once those costs are known, both governments will be meeting to talk about more efficient ways to provide services to the patients.
I said before that mental health services fall within the services being negotiated under the health transfer and that is the case. Until such a time as the health transfer agreement is reached, the territorial government cannot, and I am sure the Member would argue the same thing, assume sole responsibility for funding for services in this area.
Further to the question, the Yukon Housing Corporation has offered and approved, in its own internal proceedings, financial support to the Canadian Mental Health Association in the Yukon on two occasions for the development of a residential facility. The Canadian Mental Health Association has not taken advantage of these offers so far.
What they have been offered is the capital to build a facility, 50 percent of the operating costs, and I understand that we have also paid for furniture for the facility. I gather from the Member that we are also to blame for it being out in the rain. I will check to find out if it is in the rain. I do not believe it is our furniture or our job to store it. I hope the Member accepts the point that we have made a very substantial commitment to this project and recognize its importance. All we were asking for is for the federal government to make a reasonable contribution to that end, given that the medical services branch of National Health and Welfare in the Yukon is responsible for providing these services.
Mr. Lang: I just find the action of the government unacceptable. We are talking about an ongoing facility that could cost as low as $50,000, in view of the discussion we had with the Canadian Mental Health Association. Initially it was in the neighbourhood of $73,000 for operation and maintenance but they feel now with what they are proposing and what they could do they could get away with one staff member instead of two. With that taken into account it would make it that much more economical. I find it difficult to believe that in the mandate of the Government of the Yukon Territory we, as legislators and as people who live here, are going to wait for the mandarins in Ottawa to make a decision to 50 percent cost share such a program. That, I think, is unjustified, unfair and totally unfounded. As far as I am concerned, the government is guilty of neglect. Here you have a group of individuals who are more than sincere and are prepared to put their time and effort in. At the same time we have the government saying we shall not move unless we get money from the federal government.
It reminds me of the previous position on the transition home. If that had been the case, the Government of Yukon would have never initiated the transition home because it was totally or in part federally responsible. I do not accept that.
I find it unacceptable that the Minister does not have the answer. Here we have the Mental Health Act that did not appear overnight. It has been discussed at various times in this House and on numerous occasions, between government to government, consultants to government, and all various things that go into writing such legislation. I do not understand why the Minister would not know how many Yukon patients were outside in various institutions. I would have thought they would tell us how many people we are speaking about and how it is going to affect them.
Do we not fund and pay for the expenses of those Yukon residents who require psychiatric care in institutions outside of the Yukon? If so, whose budget is that from?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Let me respond to the Members allegation that we were heartless, cruel, thoughtless, outrageous, mean and inconsiderate because we would not pay the federal governments bills in the area of mental health services.
I invite Members of the House to consider what an absurd proposition that would be if we were to extend that principle to the entire health services of the territory. I am sure the Member would admit the need is no greater in the area of the mental health field than it is in the area of dental health, environmental health, hospital care, or any of the other programs operated by the medical services branch in the territory. These programs involve tens of millions of dollars of capital, and similar amounts in operating costs. The Members opposite are proposing that we absorb those costs. It would be an interesting position in the transfer negotiations. It would be very quick.
The federal government wants to cut its deficit so we say, come and get it, Mr. Wilson, whatever is left in our treasury. Of course, the money would all be gone in about three months - the entire territorial budget and our reserves. We would probably have to raise taxes of thousands of dollars if we did what the Member opposite suggests.
If the Member thinks that not building a curling rink, or selling a curling rink, could pay for this, he is suffering a very unfortunate and dangerous illusion. We are talking about programs that cost tens of millions of dollars annually.
If the Member is seriously proposing, on behalf of the Conservative party of the Yukon, that our position in transferring these services, including mental health services, is that we should just allow the federal government to offload the programs and that we pick up the slack, 100 percent, the health transfer negotiations would go very quickly. With that strategy, the federal government would settle like that. I could also tell you that the territory would be broke in a matter of weeks. It would be highly irresponsible for any government of the territory to accept the position he is proposing.
He complains that we do not have handy to us at this moment the exact number of patients who may be in facilities outside the Yukon Territory. It is probably not reasonable that a Minister would know that at any given moment in the House, even coming before it with a mental health act, and let me explain why.
It is the case that in any week in the Yukon Territory there are people entering such facilities, and there are also people leaving such facilities. The costs, as they do for many other health services, come to our insurance program, which handles something like tens of thousands of billings, or charges, in the course of a year. I do not know about every one of those, and I would not want to. It would be an invasion of privacy.
The Member has asked the question. I will do the reasonable thing and, as soon as possible, I will find out the best estimate we can make of the number of people who are now in institutions outside. The Member will have to understand that some of them are only temporary, for very short periods of time; some of them are for longer. I will also find out approximately what that costs the territory.
Some are in different kinds of facilities, and some are going to treatment in major hospital centres that may have psychiatric units for short periods of time. I am not sure that we can segregate the numbers that quickly, but I will make a serious effort to respond as quickly as I can to the Members question.
Mr. Lang: I am amazed that the Minister would not at least have a general answer, in economic terms, of what the average cost is for supplying services to individuals who unfortunately have to leave the territory for such treatment. I am amazed how the Minister can stand in his place, have a very important piece of legislation and not be able to tell this House what the costs are. My question was going to logically follow: of those dollars being spent by the YTG to provide services we do not have in the territory, could we use them here to help put into place a facility for those who are suffering from mental illness?
Perhaps we are not in the position to start an institution. We do not have the capabilities nor the numbers to warrant such a facility. It is my opinion we should delay coming into the House for another week while the Minister does his homework.
It is my candid opinion that the Minister should have some idea of what our costs are. To hide behind the veiled excuse that it changes week by week is not acceptable. I am not asking for day-to-day expenditures; all I wanted to know in ball park terms is what it costs us on an annual basis?
Is the amount of money we spent for this type of treatment through the health care insurance plan on a separate ledger for accounting purposes so that the department has direct access to what has been spent in this area?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member keeps changing the question. I would remind the Chair we are not here with the budget estimates for the Department of Health and Human Resources. We are talking about the Mental Health Act, which deals with the rights of patients and the procedures and obligations of the institutions and obligations of the carriers in this field. I will try to provide the information as quickly as I can.
The Member asked in passing what savings or displacement in costs we would have by having the residential facility we discussed earlier. The residential facility we talked about earlier would not displace any service now being provided for mental health patients, inside or outside the territory. Nothing the psychiatrist, psychologists, or mental health nurses do here now will be replaced by this facility; neither will anything the hospitals down south, the psychiatric institutions, the psychiatrists or psychologists, or counselors down south are doing be displaced. This is a facility for people who are staying.
There may be some residents outside who will be able to come to live here. That is not an answer that is possible to ascertain from looking at the total expenditures on mental health in the territory. Let me explain. I have knowledge, and privileged information by virtue of my role as Minister under the old act, of knowing in broad terms how many people are committed to institutions on a monthly basis. I have no way of knowing, and have serious questions about a Minister who did know, on a daily or weekly basis, how many people are voluntary patients, either in terms of seeing a psychiatrist here or outside. There is a very important privacy issue there. A billing under medicare for those services amounts to the same thing in terms of the charge against the system. We may well be able to separate out in our accounts for the past year the kind of expenditures we have against different services, but what they are in any month or any week would only be an approximation.
Let me again explain that if he asked me how many people were committed last week, or were in care on a certain date, it is possible to ascertain that information very quickly and I will try to provide it to him, in terms of the charges to this government for mental health services to our insurance program.
I will find out what those costs are and I will do it as expeditiously as I can.
Mr. Lang: I am not asking for names, and I am not asking for an invasion of privacy. I recognize how important that is. I, as a Member of this House, will stand and defend the right of privacy of any individual, and I will stand in my place for hours to do it.
The department must have knowledge of the costs we are incurring now. It is a very innocent question and one that deserves some scrutiny by the House as we debate this bill. This bill is calling upon us to give the authority to an Executive Council Member to do quite a number of things in the mental health field. It is very comprehensive. I would like to know the costs that will be associated with these things so that we have an idea about what parameters we are dealing with.
Maybe I will wait for the Minister to provide the information, but I want to say that I am surprised that the Member is not better versed on this subject in view of the fact that this is an issue that he and his department have been dealing with for well over two years. They have been working with the individuals in question about establishing a facility.
In trying to divert me and avoid my question, the Minister indicated to the House that there would be no savings at all if such a facility were built in Whitehorse or Watson Lake, or wherever. His position was clearly stated that, for those people having to go to a southern jurisdiction for treatment, such a facility would be of no value here. Yet, then he looks down and the deputy minister nods to him and they have a little confab and he stands up and says, Well, there might be some savings, that tells me that the Minister is standing in his place making things up as we go along. After 30 meetings with the Canadian Mental Health Association, Yukon Division, and the staff, and after all the work that has gone into this and the commitments made by the previous Minister of Health and Human Resources, the Minister should know whether some of those Yukoners who have been forced to go outside because we do not have facilities here could move back if we had such a facility.
I realize and appreciate that the Minister could not stand in his place and say that there would be four or there would be eight, but he should have a general idea and be able to say, With what is provided here, we think we can provide a service to maybe two or three people who were born in the Yukon and be able to treat them for the illness with which they are afflicted.
Would the Minister be prepared to go back to the department and find out how many Yukoners could come back if such a facility were made available as outlined by the Canadian Mental Health Association, Yukon Division, and presented to the government quite some time ago?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am sure that some of the people who would be involved in such a group home are already in residence in the communities. Some would be repatriated from outside. The Member says that I do not know what I am talking about, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I know more than he does.
Let me try to explain to the Member what I think he does not understand. When we talk about this group home, we are not talking about a treatment facility. The Member throws around numbers like $50,000. We are certainly not talking about providing any kind of treatment in such a facility. We are talking about a group home situation that provides services for mental health patients with certain needs.
The Member raised a question about costs. I am sure he was talking about clause 2 of the act. Let me explain the situation there. I am sure the Member really does know this; he is probably just wanting to ask a question.
Part two of this act empowers the Executive Council Member to provide certain services, as does the present act. There are no costs that flow from that. This is an enabling legislation, the same as the existing law, which allows the Minister to provide certain services. Few of those services on this list will be provided in advance of a transfer. The services we now provide, in terms of the billings, the insurance system and coverage we provide, will continue.
Nothing in terms of the kind of the services provided changes as a result of the passage of the bill. The procedures, the rights of the patients, and the obligations of the programs are not being expanded in this act. The programs we provide will be provided according to the resources, personnel and finances that come to us as the result of the health transfer.
In subsequent years following that transfer, the government-of-the-day, the Minister-of-the-day, the Cabinet-of-the-day, may decide to commit more money for new programs. I expect that will be the case, given the demands that exist. This act does not provide for new services and new programs coming into the territory, nor is it contemplated as a result of the passage of this act. It is enabling legislation in that respect, but it deals with matters I described in my opening remarks.
Mr. Lang: I fully understand the program that has been proposed by the Canadian Mental Health Association. I understand it would be a residence with a cooperative living style, where these people have somewhere to go. It would have at least one staff member who would help in the home, and perhaps have some expertise to give aid and assistance to those who are having to take part in the program.
My point is that we finally have the Minister saying on the record, yes, maybe there are two or three people outside the Yukon we are presently paying for who could benefit from such a program. From that, it logically follows that those may be some of the offsetting costs we could take into account to justify such a program being implemented. That is the point this side of the House has been making.
I find it difficult to understand how the Minister all of a sudden brings in the total hospital transfer to justify such a treatment facility. If the Minister takes that position, then I am surprised he does not take that position on alcohol and drugs. There is a certain responsibility on the federal government in that particular area, as well.
I resent the Minister inferring that this side is going to take a hospital transfer without any satisfactory conditions being set down between the two levels of government. That is not the inference from this side, at all. It is a total red herring for the man to stand there and infer that.
We feel there is a social need in the community. We have a piece of legislation that, I will bet you, has cost this government probably $150,000 to $200,000 to prepare to bring forward to this House, by the time they take in the consultants and bring in all the staff time and work that has gone into it. The Minister will sit smugly in his place and tell us what a great job he is doing. At the same time, the lady in the situation I referred to earlier is still out there somewhere, walking around the streets, probably alone and probably out there with no one to help.
We have an organization that has put in the time, effort and is also prepared to make the commitment to work and cooperate with this government to implement a startup program to assist people such as the one I referred to.
For us to sit here and smugly say it is the fault of the federal government and not do anything until the federal government assists us is irresponsible. I resent the Government Leader standing and saying that it all goes to the health transfer, and we cannot do anything until the health transfer is done. We are not asking about the health transfer. We have raised a people issue. There is very little help and assistance because we have two bureaucracies fighting over who is responsible and who is not responsible.
The Minister talks about a curling rink. That is $1 million the government blew across the way that is never going to see a rock - it will never be opened. I am talking about the wise and judicious use of money. I am talking about the most defenceless people in our society, bar none. I recognize it is not going to win the Minister lots of votes because there are not a lot of people who have to take part in such a program. I realize it is not a vote getter. We are not talking about large minorities; we are talking about people who in many cases, because of their illness, are in a situation where the family is not there to help; we are talking about people who are on their own for one reason or another, and people, as enumerated in some of the comments made by the Canadian Mental Health Association, are on the street, and even if they get beat up there is somebody to talk to. We are talking about four blocks from this building. We are not talking about the Minister flying to Ottawa to negotiate with the federal government. We are talking about a people situation. Maybe we are talking about four or 10 people who would be involved in such a facility. A guy is not going to win an election on that.
The people who are scared do not know where to go to start a cause celebre. We are talking about a proposal and the Minister pretends he is the next thing to Santa Claus. We are talking about maybe $50,000 to run it. The Minister probably blows that in two days just opening the college.
Let us talk about $50,000. Just to refresh memories here, do they recall the $50,000, one day celebration for the opening of the college? It cost $50,000; $50,000.
And yet the Minister can stand up and talk about the most defenceless people in our society and say it is the federal governments fault, that he does not have any responsibility. I think the Minister had better address the issue and start taking it a lot more seriously, especially in view of the fact that he and his colleagues are on the written record that they supported the program and were prepared to implement it. They did not talk about the federal government and how bad the federal government was in not bringing financial assistance.
At the start of this monologue, I wanted to ask the Minister this: how much did it cost to prepare the legislation and were there consultants involved and, if so, what were the costs of the consultants?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: First of all, let me respond to the Member because I think he has a very strange perspective on this and really is arguing a position that I think his party would not want to advance if they thought about it very carefully at all. He makes the argument in his tirade that there are mentally disordered people walking the streets here because there is no group home as proposed by the Mental Health Association. Let me tell the Member that there are mentally disordered people, people in psychiatric care, people who are under treatment, walking the streets now. There will be people walking the streets even after there is such a group home. The fact that there are people here in the community who are not receiving adequate treatment has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that there is no group home. A group home is not a treatment facility. If there are people here who are suffering from inadequate services, it is because those services are not provided by the people now responsible, the federal government.
If we are talking about whether there is an adequate number of health care professionals, I would support that there is an argument that there is need for many more. There is, at this moment, only one psychiatrist practising in the territory and none working for the federal government. There is one in private practice. There are two psychologists. The mental health services are the responsibility of the federal government: the medical services branch.
The Member alleges that there are two bureaucracies and that there are people suffering as a result. The facts are that toward this project we have supported the concept, offered 100 percent of the capital, offered 50 percent of the operating expenses and, according to the Member opposite, we have even paid for furniture. Now I ask the House what reasonable person would take those facts and say that this government is not supporting the project? Who is not supporting the project? It is the federal Tories who are not supporting the project, the Members friends, who put zero - zip - into it. Nothing. De nada. Not us. It is the Members federal Tory friends who have billions and billions and billions of dollars and who have responsibility in the field and in the distorted, confused mind of the Member opposite, somehow he is arguing that we are to blame because the federal government will not meet its responsibilities.
I am assuming that his grandstanding today is to do with the fact that he has perhaps not read the act and does not know what it proposes to do, so rather than debate the act he is introducing this red herring. The group home we are talking about is something we support. We are prepared to express our financial support to see it get underway. All we are asking, which is very reasonable, is that the federal government do its share, especially as it has the responsibility in the field.
The act before us comes from three major sources. There was a major review of policy and legislation commissioned by the Government of Yukon, and that was done by Vernon Jones and Robert Gordon of Simon Fraser University at a cost of approximately $25,000. Consultation processes continued, largely carried out by staff of the department, which involved the medical association, the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Yukon Law Society, the RCMP, National Health and Welfare, the Crown Attorneys office, the public administrators office, the mental health unit, the Mental Health Review Board, the Federal/Provincial Advisory Committee on Mental Health and a number of provincial departments of health including the Province of Albertas Mental Health Services division and a review of the recommendations of the uniform law office.
I will get back to the Member with the costs of the consulting contract, but the fact of the matter is that most of the work has been done by people in the employ of this government.
Mr. Lang: The Minister knows full well that I have read the act since I was talking about a number of sections earlier.
The Minister talks about saving money and about responsibility. Every time the Minister says the federal government owes us money he always forgets that the federal government gave him multi-millions of dollars over and above what was normal financing prior to 1985. That is reality. There seems to be a gap when he looks in his pocketbook and realizes 80 percent of it comes from the Government of Canada out of the largesse of the taxpayers of Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland, B.C. and the other provinces. I am just asking for some sort of a priority set by the government.
We have just begun this sitting and we have just had tabled this beautiful picture of the Minister of Community and Transportation, Mr. Byblow, and he can send them back to all his in-laws and out-laws down in Saskatchewan and impress them. But here is the annual report and I would be surprised if it did not cost a minimum of $15,000. Just look at the printing and the quality of the paper. I ask the Minister who, other than the people on the front bench there and we on this side of the House, is going to read it? It has some nice pictures here of some equipment. The observation has been made that it is better quality than a lot of tourism brochures, but I guess you do not send tourism brochures back to the family, you send documents like this.
It is a question of priorities for and husbanding of money. We on this side feel there is a priority. I do not understand why the Minister has changed his position on this particular issue when the previous Minister of Health and Human Resources very clearly supported the project in writing. He never asked that there be federal contributions and knew full well there would be costs to this government. To hold this up now is irresponsible.
I am not asking the Minister to take on the health transfer. I am convinced the Minister will never get the health transfer.
We have missed the window of opportunity where we could have gotten terms and conditions very advantageous to us. The Minister in his capacity of Government Leader can take full responsibility for the fact we do have a dilapidated hospital. If the Minister had taken his responsibility seriously when he first got elected, in his first term, I am convinced that we could have negotiated some very good terms with the Government of Canada. There was a window of opportunity then and we had some political friends in very high places, like the Deputy Prime Minister of the country, and people very interested in the Yukon. We let those slide by. We let them slide by and they do not necessarily come back around.
The irony of the situation is that we are really not talking about that much money and it would be a question of husbanding some money from various departments, from such things as this frivolous book, the annual report, that has just been tabled. That is really an insult to the taxpayer. It tells me the department has too much money. That is what it tells me.
I want to go into the cost-sharing arrangement with the provinces. Is it not true that for providing facilities for the mentally ill, dollars are made available through established program forecasts as well as the capital grant work that is in place between the Government of Canada and the provinces?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There are a number of sources, but in the provinces they do have access, as we do, to the established program finances for health and post-secondary education. There is capital money available to offset some of those needs, although that money is being cut for a number of provinces. The basic fact does not change that the federal government still has responsibility in this field. We are looking to transfer it from them.
I am naturally terribly disappointed the Member opposite does not think we will get a health transfer. I am fascinated that he blames the territorial government for the condition of the federal hospital. I see it is not possible to reason with the Member on those types of things. Logically then, the hospital that has been in need of repair for a number of years was also in a mess back in 1984 and that, of course, was the fault then of the Member for Porter Creek East and his friends.
I find that a silly argument. The argument that we could have had a quick and dirty transfer in 1985 is mistaken. Even if it were true it would have been done at the expense of the employees. I do not think we would have had a satisfactory arrangement at all. The Government of the Northwest Territories will tell you they have great second thoughts about the wisdom of the arrangements they made, given what is happening to their costs and obligations.
We are supposed to be talking about the Mental Health Act, not the Community and Transportation Services Annual Report, or the health transfer. I would welcome questions on the act before the House.
Mr. Lang: I would like further clarification on established program financing and the capital program. Are the dollars allocated by the provinces for the mental illness facilities that are available in the provinces? If there are more dollars required, do the provinces pick those up, over and above what is available through the federal programs?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Even in provincial budgets, the part of their health program that is directed to mental health services is a line item in the budget. Some of the established program financing money, which comes directly into the treasuries of the provincial governments and is supposed to be used for post-secondary education in health, finds its way into the mental health services. The reason the provincial governments contribute a lions share of that money is because, under our Constitution, provincial governments are responsible for that. We hope to become responsible for those services, and I am sure we will, once a successful transfer agreement is negotiated.
Mr. Lang: The Minister keeps telling us it is a federal responsibility. I want to know what is happening in the provinces. I thought the Minister would know that and be able to stand up and give some weight to the arguments. For example, if the facility we are talking about for the Yukon, that is proposed by the Canadian Mental Health Association, was recommended in the provinces, would the provinces be taking the position that it is a federal responsibility and they should pay at least a portion of it?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As a matter of fact, no. The debates we have recently heard from the social services and health ministers from the provinces have involved a fair amount of anger at the federal government, for them making announcements and taking initiatives, or offloading programs and cutting back services, which immediately results as a new burden on the provincial governments. In many cases, that was recently done without any consultation, to everybodys regret, and is a source of considerable anger.
Since this is a related issue, let me mention a case. Just before the last federal election, the federal minister got up at a public meeting somewhere and announced it was a policy of the federal government to support the community living concept. This is a very important idea, and a valuable and supportable one, that says people should be deinstitutionalized and brought back and allowed to live in their communities. That was the stand of the federal government.
Where this has happened without adequate support services, whether it has happened to mental patients who have been deinstitutionalized in Ontario, or whether it has happened to people with handicaps in British Columbia, there are quite a few problems. The deinstitutionalization rarely saves money. Providing adequate support services for people in the communities costs a lot of money. The group home situation, which is far preferable in most cases to having people reside in large institutions, costs more per person than the institution arrangements. Governments who imagined they would save money by doing this have been bitterly disappointed. For people to function in communities, if you believe in that concept, it requires a lot of support. There is quite a bit of anger at the federal government for promoting and developing initiatives like this, which incur huge costs to the provinces, without consulting them. I can mention other cases in the health field where they have done the same thing.
Mr. Lang: That was not the question. I wanted to know what the normal way of financing was and where the responsibility lies. My understanding is that, generally in the provinces, unless you get a political commitment as per what the Minister was enumerating, which happens whether we like it or not, the method of financing things in the area of health go through the community assistance program and the EPF program. Anything over and above that, the provinces are expected to pick up if they want to enhance those services.
Is my understanding correct?
The Minister did not hear my question because he was busy being briefed. It is my understanding of the normal, accepted financing procedures between the provinces and the Government of Canada that, under the established program financing and the community assistance program that is in place for the purposes of providing federal dollars for health programs, that that is the vehicle through which the dollars are put to the provinces. It is then up to the provinces to set their own priorities and make their own decisions as to how those dollars are going to be spent.
For anything over and above that, if the province wants to enhance the service, it is up to them to allocate the dollars accordingly from within their own resources. Is that not correct?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The CAP is a different situation. As I think the Member knows, the established program financing was a federal contribution made some years ago. I think it was after the Second World War, although I cannot remember the exact dates. This program recognized the provinces, particularly the poorer ones, had huge needs in trying to educate their populations to participate and be prepared for a recovering economy, or a rapidly expanding economy. There was a public demand for certain kinds of health services that not all provincial governments could finance. Under the equalization arrangements in the country, the rich provinces contribute in and the poorer provinces receive back - not sufficient funds, as we know.
The established program financing originally provided that the federal government would pay 50 percent of whatever the provinces spent in those areas. In recent years, that 50 percent has been shrunk and the percentage has been going down. In the most recent budget, Mr. Wilson put in an extra cap, or an extra cut, for the have provinces - Ontario, Alberta and B.C. - beyond what it is. That did not change at all the fact that in a province, under our constitutional arrangements, the provinces were responsible for these fields.
Technically, the Yukon used to have responsibility for health services. I was recently told of a polio epidemic in 1954 that demonstrated the territory did not have the administrative capacity to carry out these services. The federal government assumed them and in many cases, as I pointed out earlier, administered our legislation.
Once we have a health transfer agreement, the money the federal government will provide us for that purpose will probably be folded into the formula arrangements, as other such agreements are. It will be lost as a discernible or definable, separate amount. However, we have not yet assumed all the provincial responsibilities in the health field, though we wish to. That will come, but we are not at that point yet.
I would like to provide information the Member asked for earlier. In 1988-89, there were a number of detentions. Not all detentions lead to committals. In the court proceeding we had as a result of those, nine committals were made to resident facilities and one to non-resident facilities. In the last fiscal year, we had detentions to six resident facilities. There were six detentions. These were new, and there were hearings as a result, leaving us, in that year, with nine people who were in resident facilities and two in non-resident facilities.
There are three different elements where I can tell the Member what mental health costs to this government now are. I will give you an example of the range of costs that we can be involved in. We have two patients, for example. One, in Alberta, is probably not a permanent resident.
The residential costs are $267 a day. We have another patient who is probably permanently in care and the charge is $624 a month. You can see a huge difference in those costs. I think that may be British Columbia.
When we have voluntary commitments ~- and that happens quite a lot, the old act did not provide for that and the new act does - they are costs that are included in the hospital insurance and there is no simple way to determine the associated costs or break them out easily. When a person goes to see a psychiatrist and has a billing under the insurance system, it is kept the same way as a billing for a broken leg or a cold or whatever. It is possible to break out the records but we do not keep the records that way.
We contribute to various contract services - to the mental health board, a contribution agreement to the medical services branch - something in excess of $200,000 annually. We pay something like $210,000 or in that neighbourhood. Those are under agreement with the federal government, or contribution to the Mental Health Review Board honorariums, or for various contract services.
Mr. Lang: The Minister wants to only discuss the specifics of the act, but what flows from the act is the type of services we are going to provide. It gives the Minister quite a wide range of ability to provide services, and does not make any provision that there must be a federal government transfer. That is by policy of the government, not by legislation, and understandably so.
I see that within a half an hour we have gotten the numbers: an estimate of $210,000. Maybe some of those dollars could be better used toward the facility being advocated by the Canadian Mental Health Association. I am not going to argue that there will still be people out on the street. I think a number of people could be helped by such as facility. We have full ability to go into our own contracts as a government, and the government has done it on numerous occasions in this area, so they have assumed some responsibility. It is a shame we are going to be waiting because the provision has been made that the health transfer has to come about prior to dealing with these issues that we raised in the House and in the public domain.
I am pleased to see this has been raised. It is an area we have all ignored to some degree, and it is time it be debated and brought into a public forum that there are people who need some assistance.
Can the Minister make an undertaking to review the $210,000 spent to see how some of that money could be redirected to a very worthwhile cause of making the facility the Canadian Mental Health Association, Yukon Division has been speaking of into a reality?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Let me say this, for the last time. We have not ignored this. We have supported the concept. We have offered 100 percent of the capital. We have offered 50 percent of the operating costs. According to the Member opposite, we have paid for the furniture. The government that is ignoring this is the federal Conservative government, which has jurisdiction and responsibility in this field.
I am getting a little fed up with the suggestion that every time the federal government decides they are going to ignore their responsibilities, we should take them over. This is from a Conservative party that has argued we are spending too much on social services, but we should be spending more. We have the Member for Riverdale North asking for more for seniors; we have the Member for Watson Lake asking for more services in Watson Lake; I will not include the Member for Porter Creek West, who has made representations for more spending in other areas. We have the Member for Porter Creek East. What is their position? Is it their position that if the federal government cops out, abandons its responsibility, dumps a program, says it will not fund it, that immediately the territorial government should pick up the slack? Is that the position of the territorial Conservative party?
If it is, it is a dangerous position. You could not find another government in the country that is responding to a need like this as we have. We have not ignored it. We have made an offer of capital and half the operating costs.
The Member says I have been at 30 meetings. I do not know what 30 meetings the Member talks about. I certainly have not been to 30 meetings, and I doubt if he has been to 30 meetings on this subject.
We have made very substantial offers. We have not ignored the concept. After two hours on this subject, I would respectfully ask that we return to debate on the Mental Health Act.
Mr. Lang: The arrogance of the Minister boggles the mind. We are talking about this act. We are talking about the responsibilities that flow from this act. No wonder the Minister does not want to speak about it. Neither would I, if I were him and knew so little about the issue. He does not even know there is furniture out there in the snow. Excuse me, the snow has melted. It is out in the rain.
There is $22,000 of taxpayers money spent on it, that he happened to authorize and could not remember during Question Period. In my last question, I did not even ask for more money to do this. I am saying to the Minister right now that this particular service is not being provided. The Minister keeps saying it is a federal responsibility. The federal government has never provided that particular type of accommodation.
The Minister says that is not true. Will he stand and tell me when they provided it and where they provided it, and how much they spent?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The federal government is providing the services right now, because there are people with mental health problems who are staying in the federal hospital. The Member is making a ridiculous argument. He is talking about furniture in the snow, as if I owned the furniture and put it there. I did not. I can tell the Member for sure that I did not put the furniture in the snow. You have my guarantee that I did not put the furniture in the snow, and I have no ministerial accountability for furniture in the snow. He can keep saying it, he can keep complaining about, but I did not put the furniture in the snow.
Secondly, I am not the federal Minister of National Health and Welfare. I am not responsible for the federal hospital. The federal hospital is falling apart. When the Member opposite was a Minister, in that lamentable time, he never took responsibility for anything. It was always somebody elses fault. He was the classic blame Ottawa guy around here. Ottawa was responsible for the weather when he was the Minister.
With respect, the facts are as I have outlined them. Once again, the Mental Health Association has proposed establishment of a group home. We have supported the concept. Both the former Minister of Health and Human Resources and I have supported the concept. We have gone so far in support of the concept that the Yukon Housing Corporation has offered to see it underwritten and to see the financing arranged for it to be built. This department, the Department of Health and Human Resources, has offered 50 percent of the operating costs. If the federal government will only meet half of its obligations and meet this need, it can be done. We apparently have also supplied furniture for the place, which the Member opposite says is in the snow. I am very sorry it is in the snow, but I did not put it in the snow. The Member will have to accept my word for that.
Mr. Lang: We are talking about the Minister who helped build a curling rink that has never seen a rock. Why should he be surprised at furniture in the snow or rain? We are talking about the Minister who did not know who his partner in the sawmill business was. He stood up and said he did not know who TF Properties were except that they signed the documents. It was a surprise. It was not his fault. It was the bogeyman in the federal government, it was a Conservative hidden out there in the rain storm. I am telling the Minister right now that the furniture is out in the snow and he is responsible for it because he paid $22,000 to have it built. If he is not responsible for it I would like to know who is - the poor working stiff out there driving a truck and paying income tax worth $22,000 so the Minister could be a wheel and sign the document saying we will pay for that? I humbly submit to the House that the Minister does have a responsibility and if he does want to go out and sit in the sun when the sun is shining on the furniture that is outside, it is there and available for him.
The Minister who blew $1 billion in four years and stands up and yells poverty reminds me of the unfortunate situation where an inheritance is left to the young guy and he goes out and blows $1 million, and then blames his parents for leaving it to him.
All we are asking is for the wise and judicious use of taxpayers money. It is not a question of people not having a heart. We are talking about a government that spends $330 million. We are talking about a government that spent $333,000 having escargot and various libations at conferences - $333,500. The Minister would of course want to be treated in the manner he is accustomed to. We would not want to talk about those people on the street, those people who perhaps he has never met. I have dealt with a situation that was very sad.
Do not talk about heart. Do not talk about this big heart pounding in your chest when you spend $333,000 having a party.
What is the provincial responsibility versus federal responsibility for mentally ill people in these jurisdictions? I have been told that in the provinces what is expected and provided by the federal government in the area of mental illness is that dollars are transferred to the provinces through both the equalization payment funding program and the capital program, or a combination of both; the province makes the decision as to how those dollars are allocated. Is that not true?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: First of all, I apologize for the direction this debate has taken, especially since it is so far away from the bill. I want to say to the Member who began his harangue with the question about the wise use of taxpayers dollars that, in the view of this government, it would be extremely unwise of the territorial government to assume federal spending responsibilities in the absence of negotiated agreements. To do so would be a very painful cost to the Yukon taxpayer. As sure as there is furniture in the snow, according to the Member opposite, as sure as there is snow every winter, they will simply back away and have us pick up the tab for every service in the health field they can. There are provinces in this country who are experiencing that with the federal government right now. That would be an extremely unwise course for any government to follow.
If he wants to compare my ministerial lunch bills with his during the time he was Minister, I will be happy to do that. We do not even have the wine, aspirin and comb expense allowance voted for ourselves. The House will have to decide whether it wants to debate this bill or the furniture in the snow, the Community and Transportation Services annual report or any other red herring or any other exotic species the Member wishes to introduce.
I come now to the Members question. The question asked comes down to this: are provinces responsible for provincial responsibilities in their borders? Yes, they are. Provincial governments budget in the health field according to their priorities. They received, from EPF and other arrangements, some contributions from the federal government but provinces have jurisdiction in this field. They legislate it and they budget it.
As a territory, we have not yet assumed provincial responsibilities in this field. We hope we are negotiating at this moment a process that will go on independent of the passage of this legislation.
Chair: We will take a break at this point.
Chair: Debate is on the mental health act.
Mr. Lang: I just want to give notice to the Committee that we have been discussing the question of a residential facility here and I was pleased to hear the Minister finally admit during the course of the two-hour debate here that there would be some money that could be displaced from facilities used outside and used here, depending on the individuals needs. I think that would help tremendously toward offsetting the costs and justifying the costs of the program that the Canadian Mental Health Association, Yukon Division, is talking about.
I just want to give notice that I am going to be filing a motion for general debate that states, It is the opinion of this House that the government of the Yukon establish a residential care facility for Yukon residents with mental problems.
I hope that over the course of the next week or so the Members on the opposite side of the House can see fit to support what I think is a pretty positive initiative and one that would give a real boost to those people who have committed the time. I talked about the Canadian Mental Health Association. I am just notifying Members that I am not putting it now in Committee, I am just going to give it to the Clerk.
I want to get one thing clear here on the financing. We seem to be going around and around and around. It is the question of the EPF and the capital transfer of dollars from the feds. Is the Minister telling us that with the health transfer, in those areas where the dollars are generally allocated to the provinces, that we will be getting more money from CAP than from the EPF with the health transfer? Is that what he is trying to say?
That is where, I understand, these types of facilities are funded, at least in part, by the feds, and that it is up to the provinces to decide how they are financed.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No, nothing that I know of would indicate any enhancement in the EPF-type funding or capital funding, at least in the programming, in terms of us taking on the responsibilities or taking on the transfer of responsibilities here. The capital agreement is an extremely complicated agreement. It depends on the nature and the services. The law, I think, is very short, as I recall; it is regulations, and so forth, that fall under it.
For the transfer of the health services or the mental health services to the Yukon government, the dollars that would be available for it would be principally the dollars that were part of the transfer agreement, plus whatever other monies the government-of-the-day decided to commit, either from local sources or from the money provided from the formula financing agreement. These would be the principal sources of financing for these services.
Mr. Lang: I do not quite understand this because my understanding is that the services that we are talking about are perhaps being paid for, in some part, to the hospital, because that is where some of these people are being lodged on the weekend. I understand that it costs $600 per day; correct me if I am wrong - or in that neighbourhood. As I understand it, that is the cost that we pay, as YTG, now, as it stands. What I do not understand is why the government is taking the position that they have to wait for the transfer to go into a program of this kind, if we can see our way to save money in areas such as lodgings in the hospitals, in the jails, and all those other types of institutions that we are paying for, and pull those monies that would normally sent in that direction, and direct it toward the community-type facility of which we are speaking. It is a startup facility.
The other thing I do not understand is how we are going to justify, in our negotiations with the feds, that they pay for this if they have taken the position that they are not paying for it now, so therefore they are not going to cost share it with YTG, when this type of program is not available right now. I do not understand how we can expect the feds to say that it is their responsibility if they are not providing the service. I can understand it on the health side and for the hospital, because the feds are providing the services and subsequently there has to be that transfer.
I do not understand, however, regarding the program that we are talking about here, which is presently not in place, nor has it been contemplated by the federal government to put it into place, why we would assume that they are going to pay for even a part of it at this time, in view of their position. I think the Member for Porter Creek West was right. We are looking at a situation where the federal government is in a financial situation that is lnot desirable, I am sure. Perhaps the Minister could clarify it for me. I do not understand, if the program is not in existence and run by the feds, how we can say it is a federal responsibility if no one is doing it.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: First of all, I do not want to repeat myself too often on the subject because I am sure I will annoy Members. There is no necessary correlation between the costs of this facility and the costs that we will bear.
It is more likely, in the experience of the department, when we have new programs and services, that they add to the total cost. It is very rare that you can develop a new program or service and have the net effect on your budget of zero or positive.
The second thing is: mental health services are the responsibility of the federal government. Whether or not the federal government is providing a full range of services, that is their responsibility. If we invite ourselves into the field and incur expenses in the field, I am sure the federal government will not object. There is no doubt that by making the generous offer we have made to help in the construction of such a facility and offering to share the operating costs, that we have weakened our bargaining position somewhat with the federal government. Having supported the concept, recognizing the need for such a facility, all we are doing - and it is a very modest and reasonable position - is asking the federal government to make a contribution as well. That is what we are doing.
Mr. Lang: Obviously there is a disagreement to some degree. In our conversations with representatives from the Canadian Mental Health Association, Yukon Division, it was made very clear that their projected budget is in the neighbourhood of $73,000 on the operation and maintenance side. They felt they could do it for less. They felt they could possibly do it for $50,000. Is the YTG offering to pay the cost of the capital side of the project, and they are asking for a donation of $25,000 from the federal government? If they are going 50/50 and the program costs $50,000, is that correct? I want it clarified for the record.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member is communicating a reduced expenditure level for operating this facility than the one that has been communicated to us by the group with which we have been discussing. The assumption we are making is that the $73,000 operating cost is much more realistic than the $50,000 figure stated by the Member opposite. We are looking for the federal government to contribute 50 percent.
I am sorry for repeating myself.
Mr. Lang: This is new information. He is not repeating himself. I do appreciate information being provided in such an obliging manner by the Member opposite.
The proposed budget was $73,000 with two person years involved. They feel they could perhaps do it with one, and that is why I use the figure of $50,000. Let us assume it is $73,000. We are asking for $36,500 from the federal government as a contribution.
I take it YTG is prepared to pay the total cost on the capital side of the ledger. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Once again, I will say what I think I have said four or five times today. Through the Housing Corporation, an offer has been made, which has not been responded to by the group, to take steps to give them seed money to see their proposal come into fruition. This offer would essentially see the facility built with capital dollars provided through the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Mr. Lang: There are many ways of providing capital dollars. Is that going to be a loan or strictly a capital grant?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is my understanding it would be an arrangement similar to that undertaken to facilitate Kaushees new home.
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister refresh my memory? Would that not be a charge back on a monthly basis, where the Housing Corporation has to be paid back?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am not the Minister responsible for the Housing Corporation. Since the group has not responded to the invitation from the Housing Corporation, made some time ago, I am not going to get into negotiating the arrangements on the floor of the House. If the Community Mental Health Association is interested in pursuing the arrangements with the Housing Corporation, I do not doubt they will communicate directly with the Housing Corporation in respect to that part of the proposal.
Mr. Lang: I am sorry. I just asked a simple question. Was it a grant or a loan? The Minister is supposed to be knowledgeable on the subjects we are debating. It is an ongoing issue. He says the Yukon Housing Corporation is going to provide the capital, but he cannot tell the House whether it is a loan or a capital grant.
Could the Minister of housing tell the House what has been offered to this organization? Is it a grant or a loan?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The arrangements are very much as described by the Premier. Yukon Housing Corporation made an offer on two occasions to begin discussions to pave the way for providing the necessary funds for a housing accommodation for the group. It is premature to say precisely what those arrangements would have been. In the case of Kaushees Place, the capital dollars are advanced on a 75-25 cost sharing basis with CMHC. Operating funds are also provided through a similar program with CMHC.
Those refined final arrangements were never achieved, because the preliminary discussions did not get underway. I do not know why. Between 1988 and 1989, two such offers were made, and they were not responded to by the organization.
Mr. Lang: Would the Minister table tomorrow the detailed offer that was made available to the organization? It seems to me what we are discussing here is not a grant, contrary to the question that has been left to the House, but a funding of capital money, cost shared with the federal government that has to be paid back.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: No, the money does not have to be paid back under the program offering that exists, as in the case of Kaushees Place. The operating funds that are advanced pay the mortgage money that is advanced in the first instance. There is no repayment of the capital money other than through the operating funds that are also provided. It is the same arrangement as all of our social housing programs.
Mr. Lang: So you are saying that 75 percent of the capital will be provided by the terrible federal government and 25 percent by the expensive and expansive territorial government. Then I understand the federal government will make a contribution, cost shared again, on the O&M side for 75 percent from the terrible federal government and 25 again from the territorial government, and that that will pay for the total operation and maintenance of the facility. Is that right? And there will be no capital charge-back?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Yes, the Member has described it accurately except for the percentage of sharing for the operational costs. Those arrangements can be flexible, depending on the organization and the social service involved.
Discussions never reached the point of whether the operational costs would be shared on a 50/50 basis, 75/25 or 90/10 percent basis between the two governments so that the operational side has flexibility. It would be premature to say that it will be 75/25. It could be fifty/fifty. The general description the Member has given about the capital fronting - no capital charge-back and operational cost coverage is correct.
Mr. Lang: Suffice it to say that the federal government is assuming more than 50/50 responsibility on the capital side. If that is correct then should there not be a little different situation on the other side that is basically the O&M costs for the one or two individuals who would be required - probably one - the way it is set out.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am not sure that it follows logically that since the federal government is assuming its responsibilities under the National Housing Act that it should, therefore, not assume its full responsibilities under the Mental Health Act. The position of the federal government is that they are not going to contribute to this mental health services program and that has remained their position so far.
Mr. Nordling: I am pleased that this new Mental Health Act has reached Committee of the Whole stage. I have talked to mental health professionals and they are generally satisfied with the act as it is because it is a major improvement over the existing act.
Because it is a major revision I think we will learn a lot as we go along and use the act. We will expect fine tuning, as we witnessed today already with the two amendments that will be proposed by the Minister.
I have had concerns raised by individuals with respect to what is reasonable grounds, and what is meant by recently, and other terms like this. What we will find is that the success of the act will depend a lot on the interpretation as we go down the road. It will depend on who the government appoints to sit on the board.
I would like to go back to clarify something. I hate to do this after two hours of debate but the jurisdiction is still not clear to me. My understanding is that the medical services branch has clearly and unequivocally stated that the provision and operation and maintenance of this residential facility is not within its mandate and they do not have the money to do it. As long as the territorial government holds out for a percentage from them, the territorial government will never have to spend the money it is so generously promising. I am concerned that this is what is happening because we do not have any money. We did not in the 1988-89 budget and as far as I know we do not have any in the 1990-91 budget identified for the provision of this service.
How are the negotiations going? Are they completely solved? How hopeful is the Minister that the federal government will come through? If it is not within the mandate of the medical services branch, perhaps the Minister can tell us if it is within the mandate of some other branch of Health and Welfare Canada.
From my understanding of the situation, we are not going to get anywhere.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: When the Member began his preamble with reference to reasonable grounds and recent questions of interpretation, I thought he was going to get to the matter of decisions of the Mental Health Review Board eventually going to the courts. Perhaps he is setting that aside for later.
In answer to the Members question, I have a couple of things to say. I do not think the federal government is denying that this is within their mandate. There have been a couple of statements in the media by a manager of a program, but I do not believe that they are denying, in the upper reaches of the department, that this is in a federal program area. They have quite precisely said they have no extra money for the program, at this point.
The Member correctly points out that, since there is an impasse in the negotiations, that could leave the program without funds and, therefore, impossible to establish. Let me go back to what I told the Member today. There are two ways in which this question can be resolved.
I mentioned the federal working group is taking a look at their costs and expenditures in this area. Once that work is completed, and I assume that will happen fairly shortly, the two governments will sit down again and talk about whether there are some economies that will enable the federal Department of National Health and Welfare to contribute to this program in some form.
That is one option. The second is that, as a result of health transfer negotiations, we reach a conclusion that allows us to fund this program 100 percent. The Member has raised the problem of the fact that we have no money specifically allocated in our budget for this purpose in the current year. As a general rule, it is a good idea to avoid speculative budgeting, unless we had absolute certainty that a transfer were going to take place, or that we had a successful agreement.
Given the sums available, we can find the resources to meet our commitments in this area under the present budget. If a transfer takes place, we can meet those responsibilities to the total amount of the operating costs.
There will either be a solution in the short term as a result of the federal working group identifying some money that can be made available, or there will be a solution in the slightly longer term, which will be a solution arising from the fact that the program is transferred to this government by the federal government.
Mr. Nordling: Would this Minister see it as short term, as opposed to long term, if this working group is successful in identifying monies that the federal government spends, for example that could be redirected, and what time frame are we looking at?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is conceivable that we could have an agreement in this fiscal year. One has to be concerned that we are already at the outset of a building season and it would depend on how early in the year agreement was reached as to whether any action could follow from that agreement in this building season. That is the best answer I can give.
Mr. Nordling: One of the things the Minister said in second reading is that we have also, through this legislation, made a commitment to increase, where possible, the mental health services offered at the community level. Subject to cost and the availability of qualified staff we will, whenever possible, keep Yukoners in the Yukon in their own communities and in their own homes. To this end we are examining the need for extended community services for people covered by this act.
Will the Minister expand a little on the commitments made and what he sees as being done in this area under the new act?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Two things. The first is that upon transfer we will assume responsibility for services identified in clause 2 of this bill and will provide those services depending on the human and financial resources available.
The second: in preparation for that eventuality, we are working on a mental health strategy with the federal government. It is my understanding that that work will continue over the summer. We will look to having some conclusions on that later in this year. Once that strategy has gone through the normal approvals, perhaps ministerial and Cabinet, as there may be some decisions that flow from that, I expect that will provide the framework for the context over the kind of services we will provide following transfer and hopefully, in the meantime provide some framework or direction for the federal government.
Mr. Nordling: I would like to put my concern on record that so many things we are going to do are contingent and dependent upon the transfer. Can the Minister update us on this sometime? As far as I know, the transfer is not in the immediate offing.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will try and report on the transfer negotiations now. The services that will be provided in the future by this government, or the services that are now provided by the federal government, are not so much directly addressed in this act. This act is in the same legal situation as the act it supersedes. It provides a framework for patients rights; it provides some requirements for care givers and some rules of conduct for institutions. It provides some steps for legal processes around the apprehension of people who are indicating violent behaviour, dangerous to themselves or others. It establishes the Mental Health Review Board to deal with those matters and review the cases of people who have been committed to some treatment facility. In other words, it updates the old legislation, which was almost 100 years old in its foundations. It provides a more contemporary context for the provision of those services that are provided under territorial or federal law at the moment, mainly by the medical services branch of the federal government.
Mr. Nordling: I understand the act updates the old act. In the second reading speech, the Minister talked about this legislation making a commitment to increase mental health services offered at the community level, and keeping people in their own communities and homes. I am reading from February 19, 1990, Hansard. It is in the Blues at page 1193. I thought the Minister may have some more information on what was planned to be done. If it is contingent on the transfer, we are making commitments we may not be able to keep or follow up on for years to come.
On this specific residential facility we are talking about, in my mind, a care facility is akin to extended care, which we have acknowledged responsibility for. Is there any consideration to using a portion of the extended care facility that is planned for these psychiatric patients?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Let me respond to the last question first. In the same way professionals working on the medical ward of the Whitehorse General Hospital do not find the mental patients being there compatible with the other patients, I think it is extremely unlikely that professionals will recommend having mental patients, especially people in institutional settings, in the same facility as an extended care program.
I will ask our people to look at the question. There are people with severe mental impairment but not people who are mentally ill. It is a very different patient need.
The Member has referred to the second reading speech. We do see the attitude which forms the foundation for improved mental health services - not the least of the reasons is that this considerably improves the situation with respect to patients rights. We do have a commitment to improving the services in the communities. We do want to see patients be able to remain here. That is why we are working on a mental health strategy with the federal government and why we are also pursuing the transfer.
I think that the Ministers of Health and Human Resources in this government will always have to make the case that there are some limits on the services we will be able to provide. There will be some need for specialist care and some kinds of mental health needs that will not be able to be met in the Yukon Territory. There will always be certain people who will require special care outside the territory as is the case with physical health needs.
Mr. Lang: I just want to pursue a little further with the Minister a question raised by the Member for Porter Creek West that had to do with the mandate the federal government felt it had in regard to the facility of which we are speaking. It is of interest to the general public as well as the Members of the House.
The Minister indicated to me that he felt that some statements had been made that were not within the mandate of the medical services and were not adequate statements. On what foundation does he make that statement with regard to the statement made by Health and Welfare?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am basing my knowledge of this on reports and information I have received from my officials concerning discussions they have had with officials in the federal department.
Mr. Lang: I am very surprised at this, because the regional director wrote to the president of the Yukon Mental Health Association on March 8. He very clearly and unequivocally stated in that letter; I must also recount that the medical services branch does not have the mandate to fund such a project.
It goes further in the letter saying he is prepared to have his department do research and hopes that the information provided will help the organization get money from other federal agencies.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am aware of that statement and other public statements by the same gentleman. I believe an accurate statement of their position is that they will not fund their mandate.
Mr. Lang: Will he repeat what he just said, I did not hear.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I said I believe a more accurate statement of the federal officials position is that they will not fund their mandate.
Mr. Lang: So the Minister is not making up the story as he goes, in a letter dated March 8, 1990, the regional director stated very specifically, I must also recount that medical services branch does not have the mandate to fund such a project. This goes back to the question raised by the Member for Porter Creek West and me earlier in the day with respect to where the responsibility is going to lie and who is going to assume the responsibility. It is clear what the position of the federal government is. If that is the position, is it the position then that we will not have any facility in the Yukon while this government is in power?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not know whether or not we can conclude we will not have a facility while the present federal government is in power. I think we have indicated far more generosity, flexibility and innovation than has the other government at this point that is party to these discussions. We remain ready to talk to that government about this question and once it has completed the current work it is doing we will be in communication with it again. I believe our position is reasonable. Perhaps the lesson in this is that we should not offer to fund any service outside of our mandate because we then suffer abuse because we are not paying 100 percent of the cost. That is a trap the taxpayers would not forgive any of us for getting into.
Chair: The time being 5:30 p.m. we will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Mr. Lang: Can the Minister table the regulations that accompany the bill?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No. The regulations are not drafted yet.
Mr. Lang: I want to register my concern with legislation in general. I will refer to the Mental Health Act. A number of years ago the government made the political commitment in the House that, along with acts, the regulations would be made available. That way, the whole implication of a legislative action could be seen in its totality. If I recall correctly, the present Minister of Health and Human Resources was a major proponent of that when he was in opposition and also when first in government. Can the Minister tell us what happened to that policy and why it is not of as much value as it used to be?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member is falsely assigning to me credit for this reform he is describing. I believe it was the former Minister of Justice who indicated it would be a good idea to do this whenever we could. What would happen in this case is that if this bill is passed, regulations according to this act will be drafted and referred to the Statutory Instruments Committee. I am assuming the regulations will be reviewed prior to this act being proclaimed and coming into force.
Mr. Lang: When does the Minister expect the bill to come into force?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We do not see the regulations taking a great length of time. Many of the regulations we will be talking about will be the forms for application and review, which will be new procedures contemplated under this act. I assume that that work will proceed and conclude within a few short months after the passage of this act.
Mr. Lang: I thought the intent of the bill was not only to ensure the process under which one was taken into care both voluntarily and involuntarily, but also make provision for reviewing the cases of those who have been taken into care involuntarily. I am thinking of those who have been institutionalized. I did not see a requirement for a review within a designated period of time, say a maximum of six or 10 months.
There should be a clear direction in legislation of the time at which the cases of those individuals who have been taken into care have to be reviewed. I know the statement is made that a case has to be reviewed, but there is no qualifier in there that there is a maximum period of time that can go by before a review is made. I may have missed it but I did not see it after reading through it a number of times. I would like to hear the Minister comment on that.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is specified under the act that the case will have to be reviewed every 21 days.
Mr. Lang: I may be confused but I was under the impression that that was in the case of the person being evaluated. I did not get the impression from the section the Minister is referring to that there is a requirement to review the case of a person being institutionalized by the board every 21 days. Perhaps the Minister could clarify this.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not want to refer to specific clauses as that is not permissible in the general debate. The certificate for a patient is in effect for 21 days, but they may make an appeal to an order to the Mental Health Review Board. The board must review the appeal within seven days.
Part 5, which describes the Mental Health Review Board, makes it clear that their role is expanded so that they are the only authority. They have to review the circumstances of all admissions and detentions as soon as practical after admission, all committals as soon as practical after the committal and the custody, treatment and mental and physical condition of all persons committed at intervals of not more than 60 days after the committal of the person. So, at 60 day intervals, if a person is in an institution, the Mental Health Review Board, in accordance with part 5 of this act, will have to review the case.
Mr. Lang: I am thinking of someone who is put in for long-term care. I am not thinking of anyone who is in the process of being evaluated. Can the Minister tell the House if anyone who is in an institution, who is a Yukon resident, must be reviewed by the board every 60 days?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: That is correct. Unless, through circumstances that have evolved, they are now deemed to be a resident of another jurisdiction, in which case the law of that jurisdiction will apply. It is now the case practically everywhere in Canada where there is periodic review of cases written into legislation. I do not believe, anywhere in Canada, we have the situation that used to pertain, where someone could be locked up on a Lieutenant Governors warrant. In many jurisdictions, such as in several western Canadian jurisdictions, there was no mandatory review provided whatsoever.
Mr. Lang: Following that through, I think both sides of the House share that concern. I want to make it clear how the process worked. It was not clear through reading it.
The Minister raised an interesting point. If someone is sent outside under this act to one of the institutions in Alberta, for example, and the individual in question is in that particular institution for over a year, are they deemed to be a resident of Alberta, or a resident of the Yukon? If they are deemed to be a resident of Alberta, are we therefore liable for the further costs incurred after that period of time?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No, there is no automatic deeming of someone to be a resident of another jurisdiction simply because they have been institutionalized for a period longer than a year. What sometimes happens with people who suffer serious health problems, whether physical or mental, and particularly with children, the families may relocate to the jurisdiction where the person is being looked after and, in essence, establish residency in that jurisdiction. In cases like that, it may be that the family will establish jurisdiction in Alberta. For the sake of argument, let us say it is a child who has a problem and is sent for care to Alberta because the sophisticated form of treatment is not available in the territory, or the psychiatrist here will not treat children, whatever the reason. The family decides to establish residency in the jurisdiction close to where the young family member is. They then will essentially relocate and establish residency in that jurisdiction for the purposes of their law. In that case, I would assume that the periodic reviews that are provided for in Alberta law would apply, not the ones that are provided for here.
Mr. Lang: Then my question is as follows: in this case, does the Province of Alberta assume the financial responsibilities and we are no longer responsible?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: That is correct.
Mr. Nordling: I have one more thing on general debate. I want to go back to the question of jurisdiction. Obviously there are grey areas. We are debating the Mental Health Act and the federal medical services branch provides mental health counselling. I would like to ask the Minister if there is anything he can refer us to or any information or opinions that lead him to be so certain that the provision of a residential facility for psychiatric patients comes under federal jurisdiction.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I cannot cite a legal opinion, other than the advice of my officials, but I will take the question as notice because there may be some document to which I can handily refer the Member. I will seek the advice of officials in the department on that point. It is correct, of course, that there are dozens of areas in intergovernmental jurisdictions that are grey; normally, when there is some disagreement about our interpretation of that point, the matter will either be resolved by negotiation or by some discussions with the other jurisdiction, and that is a line of inquiry we are happy to pursue in this matter.
Mr. Lang: I just want to follow up a little further on legal certainty. The Minister referred to his officials. Is he telling us that he has not had a legal opinion from his department on this matter and is strictly taking the advice of officials at the administrative level?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We have not sought a legal opinion, because our view and the view of the officials in the department is absolutely clear on the question. We do not now provide mental health services. They are provided by the federal government and the medical services branch and, until such time as the health transfer is completed, we will not be providing those services.
Mr. Nordling: If the Minister can show me where it is clearly within the federal jurisdiction then I would be prepared to assist on his side of the argument and go after the federal government to try to get the funding. From what I have seen that is not clear at all.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I was about to thank the Member for his very constructive offer. Given the end of his sentence, I am going to have to provide him evidence before he will offer his political skills to champion this great cause.
On Clause 1
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I might just mention for Members the most important definition here is perhaps the definition of mental disorder. I would like Members of the House to know the definition we have used here is the same as that contained in the uniform Mental Health Act, which comes out of the uniform law process that has been going on in Canada for quite some time.
Mr. Lang: I would like to move to the preamble before we go into the interpretation section, if I could.
Chair: The preamble is not considered until later.
Mr. Lang: Are you talking about the first part of the bill?
Chair: Yes. The bill.
Mr. Lang: I am not talking about the explanatory note. Is the Chair telling me the section beginning with Recognizing that it is just to make special provision ... is the section we will not consider until the end of the bill?
Chair: Yes. That is the preamble.
Mr. Lang: Sorry Madam Chair, I stand corrected.
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Once we have the health transfer completed, this section will give the authority to the Executive Council Member, the Minister, to provide service in this field as we would hope to be able to do.
Mr. Lang: That is probably the most specific statement made on this bill thus far. Talk about apple pie and motherhood coming together in one sentence.
The Minister indicated earlier he had hired a consultant to develop a mental health strategy.
How much are we paying for such a venture?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I did not say we had a consultant working on it, and we do not. This is a project involving public servants of the federal and territorial governments to jointly develop a mental health strategy in this field for the Yukon Territory, taking into account the needs of our community, which are emerging, evolving and being more defined for a whole variety of reasons, and trying to develop a strategy to deal with mental health problems that are appropriate to the 1990s.
Mr. Lang: I must have misheard the Member earlier. The Minister is then telling this House there are no contract consultants involved in this particular exercise?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am not saying there never will be any consultants involved. We do not contemplate any consultants at this stage. We contemplate work involving officials of both governments.
Mr. Lang: Does the Minister have any idea of what kind of expenditures of dollars we are putting toward this? Is it strictly salary dollars, or are there other dollars over and above that?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We are talking mainly about expenditures of time by officials who are already in the employ and salary of both governments.
Mr. Lang: When it says, the Executive Council Member may provide consultation services, what exactly does it mean?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We are talking about professional consultations - consultations between professionals, what will be called second opinions. They may be consulting psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health nurses or others, or people who are highly specialized such as, for example, psychologists such as the person we have dealing with the needs of our young offenders, who is a specialist in that field and may be consulted on some case.
Mr. Lang: In section 1, I am wondering about the ability of the Minister to provide loans, grants or other funding for the promotion, preservation or restoration of mental health. He said earlier that we had expended in the neighbourhood of $210,000. Are we giving grants other than, for example, the grant for the proposal brought forward by the Canadian Mental Health Association? Are we contracting in any other areas?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We gave them a one-time grant for the purpose that I described earlier. We are not giving any grants right now. I believe the area that I described as making contributions of $200,000 now was a contribution agreement with the medical services branch of the federal government and the operating expenses of the Mental Health Review Board as it now operates.
Mr. Lang: Is the Minister saying that we pay for the Mental Health Review Board ourselves and that there is no contribution by the federal government?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: At the moment it is an advisory body to the Minister. What is contemplated under this act is that it will become, I believe the correct term is a quasi-judicial body or an administrative tribunal with significant new powers it does not enjoy now.
Mr. Lang: In clause 1(g), we are to the point now where we have a consultants organization in the City of Whitehorse. I guess it is a thriving industry. We are even getting to the point in our legislation where we are asking to have a legislative ability to appoint consultants. I would like to ask the Minister why that section is in the legislation and is it going to be the new practice with all legislation coming forward that it will be required by law to appoint a consultant?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: These are not the kind of consultants the Member across the floor abhors. These are professional consultants who may be appointed to a board or committee by the government as a professional advisory body of one kind of another. They are the kind of consultants who are customarily appointed in connection with hospitals or other institutions. They may be someone who advises us, like a psychiatrist, on certain kinds of matters. They may be someone who is a professional consultant with a consulting relationship with the government in an area such as public mental health education.
We may not want to take on a person full time as a salaried employee of the department but we might have a consulting relationship with them so that they could provide us with some kind of ongoing professional advice.
We have in the established health field a number of people who play this role with respect to our insurance plan. We have one consultant, for example, who is concerned with the auditing of claims, for example, just because it requires a professional to look at the issues.
We are not talking about consulting contracts, we are talking about mental health professionals who may be consultants to the government or to the department in respect to the services that they are providing.
Mr. Lang: Is Clause 2(2) the clause that the Executive Council Member would use, for example, to designate the hospital as the facility for the purpose of providing mental health services?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It might be but there might be, in the years to come - I am sure there will be - other facilities in our community that may be designated for other purposes. Yes, that is the power that would be there to designate for that purpose.
Mr. Lang: This is an area that we have not really discussed during the case of the debate thus far and that is the question of the use of the hospital, primarily the medical wing of the hospital, for the purpose of providing psychiatric care and taking care of those who are mentally ill.
I had the opportunity of going to visit a friend of mine in the medical ward here, I guess it was during Christmas. It was a very unsettling experience, believe me. The individual I was going to visit was very, very ill - extremely ill. She was put into the medical ward. What took place there was very hard for me to believe but we had people in there with every type of ailment, including those who were having drug withdrawals and those who were mentally unstable. In fact, I know the patient of whom I am speaking woke up in the middle of night and she found a strange man sitting on her bed. During the second evening that she was there, there was an individual who was running up and down the halls screaming. It was a very unnerving experience for the patient in question. This is the cause of the concern that we have on this side of the House, in respect to how our medical services are being provided.
I am very surprised that we can still get the necessary staff to work in conditions such as this. I am surprised that the government across the way would continue to permit that to take place, or at least not have plans to bring forward, so that these people had something to look forward to, where individuals in this type of situation, primarily through mental illness, have some other place to be treated, other than in what is known as the medical ward.
What plans have the Minister and his department developed, perhaps in conjunction with the federal government, to alleviate a very real situation?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am very interested in the facts presented by the Member and would be very interested in investigating those circumstances. There have, from time to time, been complaints by patients and staff about the situation of mental health patients on the medical ward. Some steps have been taken to deal with that. Ultimately, the situation will not be resolved until we have a new hospital here and some arrangements made in that new hospital for a proper area for the treatment and care of people with mental disorders, especially at the moment when they are in the greatest need.
What happens now is a situation that is not satisfactory from the point of view of the mental health of the patients either. People who may be quite disturbed have been brought into the medical ward, and because of the situation there, there is potential for them to annoy other patients. In the past, they have been sedated to the point where they quiet down. According to some physicians, that may be entirely the wrong treatment for the patients particular need.
There have been newspaper stories in the past few months about nurses suffering assault and abuse on duty. Likely as not, it will be a mental patient who will be the abuser in that case. Perhaps no direct fault is involved because they may not be in control of themselves. Again that will be resolved by the construction of a new hospital. I know the Member opposite will say that it is my fault because we did not take some kind of deal in 1985, although we were not offered one. Believe me, we recognize the seriousness of the situation. We are trying to negotiate an appropriate transfer that does justice to the needs of the employees and has a proper regard for the fiscal realities of the territory, and will see a new physical plant that will meet all the health needs of the people in his community, including mental health needs.
Mr. Lang: It is sweet consolation to those who are working on the medical ward if they are to read the Hansard. The Minister has effectively told us that nothing is going to happen until there is a health transfer. It is the same old chicken-and-egg situation. It seems funny that the Northwest Territories government was able to successfully negotiate a $40 million to $50 million hospital, yet we sit smugly in our Legislature of the Yukon Territory and are still talking about a ward that has turned into a bad situation. The Minister says there have been some steps taken to rectify the situation. Perhaps he could tell us exactly what those steps are.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member may be feeling smug. I am not feeling smug about the situation at all. The situation is not new. It has existed that way for a long time, long before we came into office.
The Member wants to have arguments of convenience, that problems that have existed for years suddenly exist when we are in government, but did not when he was in government. We are not talking about a new problem. The solution to the problem will be, ultimately, a new hospital.
We are doing everything we can to negotiate arrangements to see financing of a new hospital in Whitehorse. The federal government has not made the necessary commitments to see that happen. We are negotiating to see that happen. Some arrangements have been made in the hospital. As I recall, when I was last on the medical ward as a patient, there was a separate, discreet area being built for mental health patients to be cared for during the time they are there, which was physically separated from the rest of the medical ward. It was at the end of the ward; it had a locked door; it had controlled access to the patients. I understand the idea was to provide some segregation between the people on the medical ward and the people who were in there for mental health problems on an emergency situation. Not all mental health patients will be kept at the hospital, just people who have been behaving in ways that look like they may cause damage to themselves or to their friends or family, and have been apprehended or have come themselves to the hospital in a disturbed state.
We have been talking about physical facilities. The physical facilities will not improve a great deal until such time as we have a new hospital. I do not know the national numbers of professionals in proportion to our population here.
I do not know how many psychiatrists there are per capita in Canada. It would be an interesting number to look at. As Members know, we only have one in the Yukon and there have been times when we have had none. I think we have two practicing psychologists in the medical services branch, and a number of mental health nurses. We have a small number of professionals and a great number of people with problems. As I understand it, the pattern is that we have a fairly significant number of young male schizophrenics who are on medication and on the streets in town. They are very rarely in hospital. We have people who may have a manageable disorder but occasionally act up in a way which may harm themselves and have to be apprehended or brought into the hospital. Those are the situations that are most difficult for the staff and the patients in the hospital as it is now constituted.
Mr. Lang: Perhaps the Minister could be more specific and tell us whether or not they know if we are getting a new hospital.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Negotiations continue. The deputy minister was in Ottawa last week in furtherance of these negotiations. There are further meetings early in May and we are going to keep negotiating until we get a satisfactory agreement. I hope it will be soon.
Mr. Lang: Does it look positive as far as coming to a conclusion on these negotiations, or are we going to keep negotiating for the sake of negotiating?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We are not negotiating for the sake of negotiating and I have far better things to do with my time, as does my deputy, than negotiating for the sake of negotiating. We are negotiating for the purpose of trying to get a new hospital and to get a hospital transfer. I am not going to indicate optimism or pessimism at this time because until we get some things nailed down and a commitment from the federal government, I have no reason to be optimistic, other than my hope that everybody concerned will be persuaded that the need is there and has to be addressed.
Mr. Lang: I have to express my disappointment at the obvious lack of communicating that message to the federal government because obviously we are not getting very far and obviously the Minister is not prepared to divulge anything to us with respect to this.
We were told there were a number of cases of assaults and possible assaults taking place in the hospital. What steps have been taken to further ensure the safety of the employees from such things as the Minister described earlier?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Once again, I will have to remind the Member that I am not responsible for administering the hospital. What I know about this I know probably from the same sources that he does: from talking to people. As I understand it, the situation was a serious concern of the staff there and the hospital administration and the staff have talked about ways of reducing the risk to the employees and from what I know, I am sure they have taken appropriate steps, in terms of their procedures, to reduce the risk and improve the working conditions for their employees. If the Member wants me to get any more specific than that, I am afraid I am going to have to take the question as notice and make inquiries of the federal people to give us, if they can, a more complete report.
Mr. Lang: I guess it should be more specific because I think I would like to see the Minister of Health very well informed on the subject and since I am the critic, I would like to have more information on it as well. I would appreciate it if the Minister could inquire.
We talked about the hospital. Would there be any other facilities in the territory planned to be designated for such a service? Are we talking about all the cottage hospitals as well?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We are not, at this point, contemplating certifying any other facility, for the simple reason that there is a minimum of two doctors required at the facility in order to be able to certify as to the mental health of the patient. At this moment this can only be done in Whitehorse.
Mr. Lang: Do I take it, then, for that purpose any individual in that situation would have to be brought to Whitehorse for such a decision to be made? Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Ultimately, yes.
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Essentially, this section allows the Executive Council Member, the Minister, to make agreements with Canada, with the provinces, in terms of the transfer examination and review treatment of persons with mental disorders from the Yukon.
Mr. Lang: I just want to get this clarified for the record. Is it not correct that the YTG has gone into agreements with, say, the Province of Alberta or the Province of British Columbia for the purposes of ensuring that we get proper treatment facilities and treatment for individuals who are suffering from mental disorders once they have been committed? Is that correct? Is that not an agreement between the Government of the Yukon Territory and, say, the Province of Alberta?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: For many years, the Government of Yukon has contracted with facilities in other provinces for the people who are committed under the old act. That is correct.
Mr. Lang: We keep talking about the division of responsibility between ourselves and the federal government. What I do not understand is, if it is the federal governments sole responsibility to provide services in the area of mental health, why are we as the Government of Yukon going into a contract, for example, with an institution in the Province of Alberta? Would it not follow that it should be the Government of Canada, if it is their responsibility?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Let me repeat myself again. This act, as is the existing act, is an act like many acts in the Yukon Territory where services are provided by the federal government. We are talking about, in the health services program offered by the medical services branch, whether it is mental health services or otherwise, a series of provincial-type programs which have been run by the federal government and which we wish to be transferred to us, as they are normally provincial programs. We wish these to be transferred to us as they have provincial-type jurisdictions. Since 1954, the federal government has run those programs in the Yukon Territory. The fact that we contract, as we do under our insurance program, for facilities and hospitals, whether mental or physical health care, mostly in British Columbia and Alberta but sometimes further afield, has nothing to do with the federal jurisdiction question. It does not change that.
Mr. Lang: I find the logic of the Minister very confusing. On the one hand he is saying it is the total responsibility of the federal government yet at the same time he is saying it is fine for the territorial government to pay for the treatment of people going outside. Obviously we are paying for those facilities outside through our health care program. I do not understand the logic of talking about a program that Members of this House have stood up and said they support, yet at the same time the government today is saying to the people of the territory that it is a federal responsibility when the federal government has never provided that type of service in the territory.
I do not understand the logic behind that. It does not follow, if one thinks it out.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am sure I have explained our view on that question at least a dozen times. There is nothing more I can add to it; I am sorry.
Mr. Lang: Why do we have section 3(1)(d) there, the examination of persons for the purpose of the Criminal Code (Canada)... in respect to this section?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As the Member may know, it is quite often in criminal matters that someone will plead insanity. That person may be ordered to have an examination by a psychiatrist. We have to make provision for that to occur. Whether we have a contract with a resident psychiatrist here or in another jurisdiction to provide those examinations, this section provides us with the ability to make those arrangements.
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Section 4(1) is different from the present act. This provides very clear direction on an important point. Under this new act, any mentally disordered person may receive services under the act, where available. Under the previous legislation, only individuals who were committed were authorized to receive treatment. I do not know how serious a problem this is but, in the legal sense, it may have excluded some individuals from necessary help. We want to make it clear that voluntary patients, as well as involuntary patients, can be covered by our law.
All Clause 2 does is provide that a voluntary patient may discharge themselves.
Mr. Lang: Are there quite a number of patients in the Yukon who voluntarily ask permission to go to hospital, and who voluntarily leave as well?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We will do what we can to establish numbers, but I personally know a number. I know of people who are diagnosed as schizophrenic and people who are diagnosed being manic depressive. Some people regard that as a mild form of mental illness but it can be very debilitating. These people have not been committed nor have they done anything violent, but they can, at times in their lives become dysfunctional, or have a great deal of anxiety, and present themselves to psychiatrists for help. I am sure there are quite a few of them.
Mrs. Firth: I want to follow up on that with the Minister. I find it difficult to believe that if someone came to a doctor or to a medical facility looking for help that it would be denied. I gather that is what the Minister is saying, if they are voluntarily seeking assistance. I will let him explain.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am very careful not to say anyone has been denied. What we are saying is that the old legislation did not provide for the voluntary patient, and there may have been someone in the past who did not get treatment in the past because of that, because they were not committed. What we are doing in this act is making quite clear that we are also providing a legal basis for services to voluntary patients, as well as involuntary patients, as well as those people who come through commitment decisions.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister says there may have been people who were not given service, but he does not know if there was or not, but they put the clause in the act anyway? It seems redundant. I cannot see where people would have been refused the medical treatment they felt they needed, or the counselling, medication or advice of a physician, or whatever they needed. The Minister says this may have happened. Is it not extreme to say that because it may have happened we are bringing this clause in? Would it not be better to say we had 100 cases where this did happen? Did it ever happen?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I think the Member is missing the point. Right now, the act only deals with commitments, with involuntary patients.
We want to make clear in the Mental Health Act of the Yukon Territory that services are also available to voluntary patients. That is not now provided for in law. I am not saying patients did not have the service. We want to provide a clear, enabling clause to make sure that voluntary patients can also get services. That is what this clause does.
Mrs. Firth: What is preventing them from getting it if they need it?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Clearly, I am communicating very badly today. Right now, all the law says is that involuntary patients, people who go through commitment procedures, are the people who are provided for under our Mental Health Act. We want to have the law reflect reality, as well as justice, and say that voluntary, as well as involuntary, patients shall have services under this act. That is all the clause says.
If we did not have it, at some point, presumably someone might find fault with the law. Clearly, people have. They have said the present law is inadequate because it does not provide for voluntary patients. In this law, we are clearly providing for voluntary patients. That is all.
Mr. Lang: I do not know what the legal ramifications and implications of that section are. Is this a clause you generally find, for example, in provincial jurisdictions?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will provide copies of the acts from other jurisdictions, if we can find them. I am absolutely certain there is no other jurisdiction in the country where its law limits its mental health services to involuntary patients. That is technically what the previous law did here. We are trying to change that so the law reflects what is the practice.
Clause 4 agreed to
On Clause 5
Mr. Nordling: I would like to hear more from the Minister on this clause, particularly with respect to the wording. I will give the Minister an example. Clause 5(1)(a) talks about reasonable grounds. I think we have sufficient precedent to decide what reasonable grounds are, but it is interesting that, in both clauses 5 and 6, we have added or has recently done so. What was that phrase on the end meant to include? Are there precedents as to what recent is? Is it two days, two weeks, two years? Where did it come from?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I understand the Member is accepting that reasonable grounds has a well-established meaning in law. I will try and explain to him the use of the term recently and describe the situation where the people involved in this matter have to believe that, while someone may not have committed the violent act or the violent behaviour that day, there is evidence they have done so recently - the day before, the day before that - and, as such, they are involved in this process.
Since the Member invited me to, let me describe the purposes of clause 5. It is clearly necessary for us to set down in law that recommendations for involuntary assessment can only be made if certain criteria are satisfied. These criteria are substantially the same for all situations where the individuals are detained against their will. Therefore, the same criteria will be mentioned when a police officer, a justice of the peace, a physician or a nurse requests detention of an individual, and when renewal of certificates of involuntary detention are requested.
If I can, I will list the criteria. They are as follows: as a result of the mental disorder, the witness believes the individual has recently or is now threatening himself or herself with bodily harm and so behaving violently toward another is causing another to fear bodily harm, and there is reason to believe that serious harm will come of these threats.
The second criteria is that of passive harm to himself or herself, through a demonstrated inability to care for himself or herself. In order to be a criteria, this inability to care must likely be the result of serious physical impairment.
There may be cases where someone has violently assaulted their family or done harm to themselves, perhaps the day before, or some time before. We admit the term recently is imprecise, but the use of the term is based on the best legal advice that we could get in drafting the law. Since the evidence of the act of violence might not always be present, or seen, or observed by the police officer, the justice of the peace or the physician requesting the detention of the individual, the Member will note in the legislation that, when we come to the duties in clause 2, there is a requirement to distinguish between what is observed by the physician and what is hearsay in dealing with the matter.
In the legislation, when we come to the duties of the position in clause 5(2), there is a requirement to distinguish between what is observed by the physician and what is hearsay in dealing with the matter.
Mr. Nordling: What I wonder is, if this wording and the term recently is being used in other provinces and if it has been tested so that we know what recently means. It may have been, for example, tested in a court in a province and recently may mean within days rather than two weeks or two months or two years before.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I understand what the Member is saying. Truly we are not talking about an event that is two years or even two months before. I understand the use of the term recently comes from the uniform law recommendation but I cannot say for certain that it has been tested in the courts, but if the Member will accept notice I will find out if there are any reported cases available to us on that question.
Mr. Lang: I guess my question is that once the physician has made all these written recommendations, will they be going to a judge for consideration?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I think the Member is asking about clause 5(2). In this case we are talking about a recommendation that is going before the Mental Health Review Board.
Clause 5 agreed to
On Clause 6
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This section corresponds to subsection 4(1) to 4(6) in the uniform Mental Health Act. The provisions already exist in current legislation to allow for detention for psychiatric examinations, so in that sense this is not a new provision.
Under clause 5 the act gives a physician or designated health professional the initial power to decide whether a psychiatric assessment should be conducted. A physician could exercise his power, for example, where a person voluntarily comes to a physician for an examination. However, if a person will not voluntarily submit for an examination, a mechanism is required to bring that person before a physician or designated health professional. Clause 6 creates a procedure that would permit a judicial officer to order that a person submit to an examination. The purpose is to bring the individual before a person who has the power to decide whether a psychiatric assessment should be recommended. In other words, the procedure is analogous to the issuance of a warrant.
Before a judge may issue an order for the involuntary examination of a person, clause 6 requires that he or she may have reasonable grounds to believe that criteria similar to the criteria set out in clause 5 has been established.
The Member will recall that I read out the criteria in clause 5. The same criteria would have to be met under clause 6 and the judge would have to be satisfied that those criteria were met.
On Clause 5 - continued
Mr. Phelps: I want to go back to the previous answer of the Minister to the Member for Porter Creek East when he said that under clause 5(2) the prescribed form would go directly to the board. I understand this procedure is simply one that springs the remedies under clause 11, that it has very little to do with the board itself, but simply allows a peace officer to pick a person up, the person would be detained and for two physicians to examine the person. Perhaps I am wrong. I just want some clarification.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is the belief of officials that the situation that would normally pertain in respect to clause 5, particularly 5(1), is that a person presents themselves in a physicians office and the physician may then find evidence of mental disorder as a result of some injury the person is suffering or some behaviour they are indicating. That will trigger the proceedings that follow from there, in this section.
The Member asked how that relates to clause 11.
Mr. Phelps: The Minister gave an answer to the Member for Porter Creek East that clause 5 proceedings are somehow or other related to the board. The way I read the act, it is not. The physician makes a recommendation pursuant to clause 5, and that brings the authority of a recommendation into play under clause 11, but the board has nothing to do with that stage.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: If I understand the question, I think the Member is correct. I thought the question was: where is the ultimate destiny of the matter? In clause 5, we are dealing with what happens in a physicians office, and the matter will eventually end up in the case before the Mental Health Review Board, unless they do not consent to the psychiatric examination, in which case the matter might go before a judge.
Chair: For the record, we have gone back to clause 5. The Committee will now take a short recess.
Chair: The Committee will come to order.
Clause 5 agreed to
On Clause 6 - continued
Chair: We will continue with clause 6.
Mr. Lang: I am pleased to see that the Minister corrected the record on clause 5(2).
I would like to ask under clause 6 about the question of people who can go before the court for the purpose of an involuntary examination. Nowhere do I see, in this particular clause, a requirement for the judge to make every reasonable effort to contact the individual in question for the purposes of coming before the court, to see whether or not he or she should be committed for involuntary examination. What I do not understand is why your neighbour can make an application; if he or she has any credibility the court will hear it. He can call witnesses and various other things. There is no requirement in here, clearly stated, that the judge or the JP, or whomever is hearing this, has to try to contact the individual in question, so that he can be heard before the court and hear the charges before him. I do not understand why that particular section is not in here. I understand what you are trying to cover, but I am thinking of the right of the individual and at least that notice be given to that individual that this is going on.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The situation is essentially analogous, as I explained earlier, to the swearing out of a warrant. There is almost no case where a warrant is sworn out where the person against whom the warrant is going to be served is present in the courtroom or required to be there. It might help, since I think Mr. Phelps question raised the issue of linkage between these clauses. I could try to sketch that out a bit.
Mr. Phelps was quite correct in saying that in clause 5, a physician examining a person makes a judgement that they may be mentally ill, then the matter gets referred to the versions under clause 11, where there would be a psychiatrist or two doctors with the authority in 24 hours, essentially, to assess the person and to make an examination. Clause 12, of course, deals again with the assessment of two physicians in 24 hours, and clause 13 deals with the involuntary admission.
Under clause 6, we have the court recommendation; in clause 10, where a person may be in custody; in clause 8, where they are referred to by a peace officer; clause 7, where they commit some kind of territorial offence: they all lead toward the provisions under clause 11 where essentially the person is then brought before a psychiatrist or two doctors. The procedure by which the justice will decide whether the person should be apprehended for this purpose is analogous to the situation of the issuing of a warrant.
Therefore, that is a very different situation and would almost never happen where the person against whom the warrant is being issued is actually present in court. When we go through the process, we will get into the review, or appeal, which a person will have through the Mental Health Review Board and also an appeal in law from their decisions to the courts and ultimately to a higher court.
Mr. Lang: I have trouble with clause 6(1) where any person who reasonably believes that another person suffers from a mental disorder may make a written statement under oath or affirmation before a judge. What if we find that such an allegation is frivolous, and this process is kicked into gear? What recourse do we have? There is no section in here that I can see dealing with that. Going on memory, there is a section in the Childrens Act that clearly states that if there is frivolous or vexation allegations made and found to be false, there is a penalty for that individual involved in such a thing. I am concerned about the individual here and want to be sure they are protected.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I believe there are legal remedies. Somehow I think it is extremely unlikely that a Justice of the Peace would require an examination without some evidence. The requirements that have to be met here are quite strict. We are talking about persons harming themselves or someone else violently. We are not going to have Mr. Penikett saying I saw Mr. Lang slam some little guy against the boards in a hockey game, he is clearly a violent person and should be locked up. I just do not think you will see that kind of, what might be called frivolous or vexatious, action. We are talking about a procedure that is necessary as a result of someone about to do serious harm to themselves or someone who has done harm to other individuals. It is not, if I can use this unfortunate term, conventional violence or a moment of anger. It is as a result of some serious mental disorder.
Mr. Lang: I will accept the arguments put forward by the Member opposite. I will look forward to someday seeing the Member on a pair of skates. It could prove very interesting.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I would be happy to do some pirouettes or figure eights if he would join me on the squash courts someday for an hour or two.
Mr. Lang: It says under oath or affirmation. Could the Minister explain what he means by affirmation before a judge?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This means that people either swear an oath on the Bible or if they do not believe in God they will affirm that what they are about to do is tell the truth and nothing but the truth, or words to that effect.
Clause 6 agreed to
On Clause 7
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As I indicated a moment ago, the judge has to believe criteria similar to those established in clause 5 exist, that they are a danger to themselves or to others, prior to the issuing of an order for involuntary examination. This subsection corresponds to a similar clause 4(3) of the uniform Mental Health Act.
Clause 7 agreed to
On Clause 8
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This is where a peace officer takes a person into custody and believes there to be an indication of mental disorder. They have to satisfy the same set of requirements in terms of ordering them for an examination. In other words, they have to have reasonable grounds and the evidence of them causing bodily harm to themselves or someone else.
Mr. Lang: There is no definition of a peace officer. When you refer to a peace officer, are we talking about the definition of a peace officer under the Interpretation Act?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am sure that is the case. Any place where we have not defined or created a definition in this act is provided for in the established definitions in the law of the Yukon Territory.
On Clause 8
Mr. Nordling: Clause 8(2) talks about the peace officer providing the physician or person in charge at the health facility with a written statement setting out the circumstances. Is there any provision whereby the person who was taken into custody would get a copy of that written statement?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: If the patient challenges it before the Mental Health Review Board, or if it goes before a judge - patient is defined later on in this act - the patient has access to that information and any materials that may be relevant to the case.
Under clause 41(1)(b), every person who is apprehended or detained under this act and the persons nearest relative or guardian, if available, shall receive a copy of the recommendation or order, where applicable, under which the apprehension or detention is authorized.
Mr. Nordling: I was going to ask about the timing of receiving that copy. Depending upon the person you are dealing with, it might be helpful to provide them with the written statement immediately and they might agree. If they do not have a written copy of that, the person in charge may be a lot more difficult. If we are worried about the rights of that individual, it might be helpful to set a time limit on when the copy would be available to that person, like immediately or forthwith.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am assuming they have a copy of it before any hearing. The Member is suggesting they might receive it immediately after such a statement is prepared. I will have to ask our lawyers about that. There may be some concern that at a moment when a person is still in a disoriented state or disturbed it might not be the appropriate time to deliver that statement. I will take that question as notice if the Member may permit me, so we can answer it by the time we get to clause 41.
Mrs. Firth: If I could just follow up on that, is the Minister saying that a written statement setting out the circumstances that led him or her to take a person into custody is what you are requesting the peace officer to write? To me that does not seem to be the same thing as a copy of the recommendation or order under which the apprehension and detention is authorized. Is the Minister telling us that those are the same things? From what I understand, the statement is simply a record of the facts or circumstances that led the peace officer to believe the person was not mentally stable.
I would interpret the recommendation or order to be something a little more official that would be included in the clients documentation or chart as opposed to the statement setting out the circumstances. Is that an official document to be retained as part of their official records?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There are three things: the doctor is required to fill out a certain form that is a statement of the particulars of the facts. The Member will recall in clause 5 that the doctor is required to distinguish between the evidence before him and hearsay evidence, that being evidence perhaps written by the peace officer in the matter. They will report both: the peace officers statement, which may be appended, and the doctors statement. Those statements are only relevant in respect to the specific criteria by which this person can be subject to involuntary examination. Again, generally, the evidence that they are about to harm themselves or have harmed themselves or others are the facts. There would be forms under this act that they would be required to fill. Clause 41 provides that the matter goes before a hearing and the patients advocate, lawyer or friend would have access to that information.
Mrs. Firth: That is the form that the doctor fills in. What we are asking the peace officer to provide is a written statement setting out the circumstances. To me that seems to be something different. Is it a hand-written note of the incidents that led up to the situation that this person is now in? Could the Minister clarify this? I do not see anything that indicates that the written statement setting out the circumstances is considered an official document and required to be kept. Could the doctor put it in his pocket and then fill out the forms without the statement ever becoming part of the official record?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is an official form. Clause 5 requires the doctor to distinguish between that information, which he received as hearsay, and the evidence the doctor will find for himself - that there is some self-inflicted wound on the persons body, or some other evidence the person is behaving in a way that indicates a disordered state. It will be those two sets of facts - the peace officers statement and the doctors statement - that will be transmitted with the patient for the psychiatric examination.
Mr. Nordling: The Member for Riverdale South makes a good point. I ask the Minister to look into it and come back and let us know. The written statement of the policeman being given to the person being taken in seems important to me. It may be my imagination, but the complaint by people is often that I do not know why the policeman came and got me or took me away. If the policeman is required to do a written statement, then it should be given to the person so they at least have it.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Clause 8(2)(a) provides that the peace officer make a written statement and provides it to the physician. I take it we are going to be looking at clause 41 about when the patient will have that form. That written statement is an official form, as is the written statement by the physician as to the evidence the physician finds. Both of them are evidence, and there will be forms provided, documents established, which will be part of the routine proceedings on such matters.
Mrs. Firth: That is not what the law says.
Mr. Lang: Under clause 8(2)(a), I do not understand why we cannot say the written statement shall be provided to the individual in question. That is the point that is being requested.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: That is a different question entirely. That is the question asked by Mr. Nordling, which revises clause 41(d) of the act, which does provide that the person will provide the information. Following Mr. Nordlings question, we have already agreed to look at when the person would be provided with that information. That is provided for in clause 41 of the act.
The issue that is outstanding in that respect is when. I understand his first question is about the official nature, or status, of the written statements that are provided by the peace officer and physician, in this case, of an involuntary psychiatric examination.
Mrs. Firth: Is that something that is going to be included in the regulations? It does not seem to be clear in the act, as it stands now.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We thought it was quite clear. Yes, one of the things the regulations will do with this act is to prescribe the forms. As in most acts, it is a very common regulatory provision and will prescribe forms for the people identified, the responsible parties under this act.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps it is the term written statement setting out the circumstances. To me that does not mean a form. To me a written statement setting out the circumstances is a statement written out in someones handwriting, and typed later, of what exactly happened when there is an accident and the circumstances surrounding the accident. From what the Minister is saying there is going to be some form developed that the peace officer can fill out and then that becomes part of the official recommendation, order or statement, and is included in the records of the individual.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am taking it as a given that the content is more important than the form. The forms will be provided. The content of the statement made by the peace officer, the statement made by the physician are what are the evidence that justifies the person having an involuntary psychiatric examination.
If there is subsequently a review or appeal of that decision, those are the things that will be examined by the court, the Mental Health Review Board or anybody who hears the matter.
Mr. Nordling: One more comment just to clear up my concern or my position. In section 8(1)(a) the peace officer can take a person into custody if one of the following conditions applies:
(a) The peace officer believes on reasonable grounds that the person as a result of a mental disorder is behaving violently toward another person or has recently done so. If a peace officer believes a person has recently behaved violently toward another person as a result of a mental disorder it does not mean he is in a violent state at the present time and unable to receive and understand a written statement.
In 8(2)(a) I wondered why this section did not read, provide the person taken into custody and the physician or person in charge of the health facility with a written statement setting out the circumstances.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I said to the Member I would take a look at the timing of that but, with respect to the timing of the report or written statement under section 8(2)(a), I think this would become part of the clinical record referred to in sections 5(2) or 10(7). It is felt by our legal advisors that the timing should be left open to allow the person to be in a state of comprehension of the statement.
The Member cited an example of a person in a disordered state who had been seen by the peace officer yesterday and done some serious harm to someone but is perhaps not in that state today. Now they have comprehension. There are two things that flow from that. You would have more difficulty making the argument that the person should be subject to involuntary psychiatric examination if they are now behaving in a way that is normal. A normal criminal prosecution might follow, such as a charge of assault.
If they were appearing to be behaving normally - I hate using expressions like that, but I think people understand what I mean - then presumably they could be given a copy of the notice then. If they were still behaving violently or deranged or the opposite, totally unresponsive, it might be inappropriate to give them the notice then, because it would have no meaning.
Mr. Nordling: I agree with what the Minister is saying now, and I look forward to hearing more from him. I thought my specific concern got lost in the questions and answers that came after.
Clause 8 agreed to
On Clause 9
Mr. Lang: I wonder if the Minister could clarify something for me. I noticed earlier in the section we talked about the peace officer or other person who takes a person into custody. Is it the practice under court orders for people other than peace officers to bring individuals into custody? If that is the case, where would that apply? Could the Minister outline a couple of cases where it has applied?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I hope it does not happen with a peace officer, but it could happen. It has happened that a spouse has essentially apprehended someone and physically brought them in. There may be other circumstances, an employer might for example. I know of a case where a person in a mining camp suddenly became extremely dangerous and very violent and was essentially apprehended by the employer and was taken to a place where there was a police officer.
Mr. Lang: In clause 7(2) it says, An order under subsection (1) shall direct a peace officer or other individual named in the order, and I am talking about the legal documents. Would the court order the employer to do that? I find it hard to believe the court would do that. I understand it in general terms where a spouse may bring another spouse in for examination, but I find it hard to believe that would be issued in a court order.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This clause is mainly about a person being informed of their rights. Whether a nurse, peace officer or anybody else essentially apprehends the person, this creates an obligation on that person, the nurse or police officer, to inform that person of their rights.
Mr. Lang: Are the people involved with this act, for example a nurse, required to read up on the act and be knowledgeable? I am thinking of a small community such as Pelly Crossing, or Mayo. Do you have workshops to make people fully aware of how they have to follow the law?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: When a nurse is operating in a nursing station in rural Yukon or is newly arriving into the area, they will normally be briefed on the legislation that operates in the area and the requirements of the act. Since these kind of cases come up once in awhile in almost every community, the person would be briefed, or counselled, and if not in their orientation when they first come on the job there will be training sessions or orientations that would advise them of what their responsibilities are in such matters. The same as there are under the Public Health Act or any other number of acts they may have to look after.
Mr. Nordling: I want to confirm a point. Clause 9 is affected by the amendment the Minister is going to propose for clause 40. That is with respect to ensuring the person is advised of their rights and receives the service in the language in which the person is most proficient.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: That is correct.
Clause 9 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I move that you report progress on Bill No. 20.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Ms. Kassi: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 20, entitled Mental Health Act, and directed me to report progress on same.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:27 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled April 23, 1990:
Report of the Chief Electoral Officer on Contributions to Political Parties, 1989 (Speaker, Johnston)
Community and Transportation Services Annual Report, 1988-89 (Byblow)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled April 23, 1990:
Health and Human Resources: Meeting in Watson Lake re findings outlined in report entitled Community Institutional Health Services Evaluation (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1330
Health and Human Resources: Amounts allocated in 1990-91 budget for family violence initiatives (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1316
Extended Care: Costing prior to award of contract (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1302/1303
Conferences government is hosting this year and costs thereof (M. Joe)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1375
Public Service Commission re: Devolution-funds allocated and spent over past three years (M. Joe)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1371
Public Service Commission: Management Board Directive re removal costs (M. Joe)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1318
Justice: Organizational chart re Acting Deputy Minister, Legal Services and Deputy Minister (M. Joe)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1318
Moving costs for various Deputy Minister and Assistant Deputy Minister positions in the past year (M. Joe)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1370 and 1371
Public Service Commission re grievances (M. Joe)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1375
Public Service Commission: removal costs - rehiring (M. Joe)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1374
Public Service Commission: grievances designated by department (M. Joe)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1375
PCBs transported by Yukon Energy Corporation (Byblow)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1089