Thursday, May 27, 1993 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will begin with Prayers.
Speaker: We will now proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have a legislative return for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have for tabling a legislative return on health.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Job creation
Mr. Penikett: I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development who promised earlier this week to table a detailed list of the governments 700 summer jobs. I wonder if, now that the information will be available to the Minister, he still believes that this years capital budget will create 700 jobs?
Hon. Mr. Devries: It will create in excess of 700.
Mr. Penikett: The 700 jobs estimate was based on a capital program which included $14 million for the hospital and $20 million for land development that we now know will not be spent. Taking into account the delayed hospital and land development, has the Minister revised the job estimate accordingly?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The revisions are almost completed and the preliminary figures show that with the spinoff effect, it will be much more than 700 jobs.
Mr. Penikett: That is interesting as I understood the original 700 estimate was based on direct job creation, not spinoff. So we will look forward to getting that information from the Minister.
With free trade, over time more and more construction jobs will inevitably go to outside contractors. Has the Minister done an estimate of how many of the 700-plus jobs will go to British Columbians and Albertans, rather than Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Devries: We have had free trade in Canada for quite a few years and I believe that last year three large projects went to outside contractors. So far this year only one has gone to an outside contractor that I am aware of.
Question re: Road construction
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
In the main estimates the government plans to spend a record $35 million in road construction activity. I would like to ask the Minister whether the government, as a matter of policy, designed this activity so that the local road building industry could do the work and, if so, does the government believe that the local road builders are competitive enough and large enough to handle the large amount of work this year?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, the department has talked with the contractors. Both the contractors and the department are quite certain that the contracts can be handled locally and that the local contractors can be competitive with outside contractors.
Mr. McDonald: I would like to ask the Minister whether or not, in terms of the construction projects that have been tendered so far, he is satisfied with the number of local road builders who have received the work and whether he projects that local road builders will be doing the bulk of the $35 million worth of work this year?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: With respect to both questions, yes, I am satisfied.
Mr. McDonald: Would the Minister indicate what the policy reasons were for dedicating such a large portion of the capital budget to road construction activity and such a proportionately smaller amount of the budget to building construction - to the point that building construction activity will be quite limited this year.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I guess the main reason for the somewhat large road construction budget this year is because approximately $21 million of it is from the United States government - $16 million for the Shakwak project - and from our federal government - $5 million for the Alaska Highway. There is work on other roads that has to be done. These are smaller projects but ones that really do need to be done very quickly.
Question re: Forestry transfer
Mr. Cable: I have a question for the Minister of Renewable Resources. On March 30, I asked the Minister to confirm that an agreement had been reached on the forestry transfer; that is, the agreement between the federal government and the Government of Yukon. The Minister did confirm that an agreement had been reached. The Minister also advised that he had yet to put the agreement before Cabinet for approval. Can the Minister tell the House if this agreement has as yet been approved by Cabinet?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I believe that I said that there was an agreement in principle. We are now working on the final agreement, which will probably take six months. The agreement in principle has gone before Cabinet.
Mr. Cable: Could the Minister indicate whether the Cabinet has accepted the agreement in principle?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, they have accepted it with several minor changes, which have been accepted by the negotiators.
Mr. Cable: As the Minister knows, a number of the forestry employees are anxious to find out what the future holds for them. Is the Minister prepared to make public the agreement in principle, so the employees will know what is in store for them?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, that is an agreement between the government in Ottawa and this government, and it could not be made public at the present time.
Question re: Contract regulations
Ms. Joe: During the election, the Minister of Government Services party promised to develop fair and realistic contract regulations that give Yukon contractors a preference in bidding on government contracts, something that does not seem to have happened in the case of recent computer purchases.
Can the Minister advise how many jobs will be lost at Northwestel because of computer contracts awarded to outside companies to save a few hundred dollars per contract?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The only contracts that have been let in the last little while, that I am aware of, were sole-source contracts for the IBM mainframe and an agreement we have had with IBM for support for their software, and they are the only people who can do that job.
Ms. Joe: Judging by the desperate attempts of a number of local businesses to keep afloat - Northwestel rate increases are one example - Yukon companies are finding it difficult to do business with this government. Can the Minister advise how many contracts, for which there were competitive Yukon bids, have been given to outside firms since the Yukon Party assumed office?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The only ones I am aware of would be the crushing contract on the north highway and the court reporting contract.
Ms. Joe: We are aware of other contracts that have been let to outside businesses over Yukon bids. I would like to ask the Minister whether he would undertake to find that information and provide it to this House, so we will know how many contracts were given to outside businesses over Yukon businesses.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I will make sure that I have the information available when we get into the Government Services mains next week.
Question re: Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, recommendations
Ms. Joe: My question is for the Minister responsible for Renewable Resources. The cooperative wildlife management structure, called for in the umbrella final agreement, is supposed to give all Yukon people more say in how wildlife will be managed through both the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board and 14 district renewable resource councils. Does the Minister understand and accept the direction that the umbrella final agreement sets? It calls for more public involvement in decisions affecting Yukon wildlife and less say for the Minister.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, I understand that.
Ms. Joe: In Opposition, the Minister seemed to understand the importance of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board and the renewable resource councils, which will be established in each First Nation area. In government, he has given his personal views more weight than almost all of the people who provided advice to the board and were trusted to make sound conservation-based recommendations.
Is the Minister prepared to consider his arrogant attitude toward public management boards and councils and work to try to restore public confidence in their ability to participate in wildlife management?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I thank the Member for her big speech. I will continue, as best as I can, with the renewable resource councils and the Wildlife Management Board. My office is open to them any time they wish to talk or disagree with me.
Ms. Joe: By overriding a boards recommendations to respond to the financial concerns of a special interest group, the Minister has shaken public faith and the boards confidence in his commitment to the wise management of Yukon wildlife. If the Minister does appreciate the consequence of his rejection of board recommendations, could he please outline for the House the specific steps he plans to take to rebuild public confidence in his ability to make fair decisions in the interest of Yukon wildlife?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It was part of the agreement that we would give outfitters one years notice before we closed them down. I have given exactly that notice and stated to them that moose will probably be closed down next year. All I have tried to do is be honest. I guess I am not a good politician because I do not back off from the facts; I know I am going to take a beating and I am prepared to take it, but at least my conscience is clear.
Question re: Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, recommendations
Ms. Moorcroft: Yesterday, the Minister of Renewable Resources seemed disappointed that he was not at the press conference held by the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. However, his disappointment did not answer my question. Perhaps the Minister was not aware that a representative of his department did attend the press conference.
I was disappointed that the Minister did not answer my question so I am going to ask it again. Is the Minister willing to reconsider the recommendations of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board and implement a moose hunting ban in game management zone 5, as was recommended by the Fish and Wildlife Management Board?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The terms of reference says that they will notify me in 30 days if they disagree with my recommendations. They have not notified me. When they do, I would have to see what their arguments are.
Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps the Minister did not read the recommendations that were submitted by the board when he considered them and rejected them. I am asking him to tell me: is he willing to reconsider the recommendations and implement a moose hunting ban in the Aishihik Lake area? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: If they just want a yes or no, no, I am honouring the agreement that was made by this government a long time ago - and the government before this - and which was used by the Minister of Renewable Resources, the Hon. Dave Porter, when he did exactly the same thing I did for exactly the same reasons.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Fish and Wildlife Management Board was established to make recommendations to the Minister based on their assessment of the advice and recommendations received from biologists, hunters, First Nations, outfitters and other interested members of the public. During the election campaign, the Yukon Party promised that they would listen to the recommendations of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. Is the Minister prepared to honour that commitment?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I honoured it. I have listened to them and I have talked with them - I have read all the recommendations that came from them. My department and I have gone through it and the department has gone through them with the board. I have listened.
Question re: Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, recommendations
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Minister of Renewable Resources about that same subject, the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board recommendations.
Could the Minister of Renewable Resources tell this House and the people of this territory why the Yukon Party promised during the election to implement all of the recommendations of the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board and has now decided to take a new direction and disobey and disapprove many of the recommendations of the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have never said that, and I think any government that would put themselves in a position that would do something that is going to hurt the economy, is not reasonable and did not honour an agreement with business people, then there is something wrong. I am not prepared to do that.
Mr. Harding: I happen to have a copy of the four-year plan of the Yukon Party, of which the Minister is a Member and of which the Member ran with during the election and became a Minister.
If I produce a copy of the election promise that said that all of the recommendations proposed by the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board will be implemented, will the Minister resign for not implementing those recommendations as promised?
Speaker: I think we are bordering on the hypothetical, if this is produced. If the Minister wishes to respond, it is perfectly all right with the Speaker.
Perhaps the Member for Faro could rephrase the question.
Mr. Harding: I will try and rephrase the question. I am becoming used to the arrogance from the other side; they do not feel that they have to answer questions in this House or live up to election promises.
The Yukon Party promised to implement the recommendations of the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board and they have come up with lame excuses for not doing so.
Is the Minister aware that in 1991, outfitters - the Government Leader was a member of the delegation - were told about the situation with respect to moose and caribou populations and that they were given notice that there could be closures in the near future?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I do not think that is true. The Minister of Renewable Resources at the time, the Hon. Art Webster, did not write the outfitters a letter or notify them officially at any time. Perhaps the Member could show me a copy of the letter.
Mr. Harding: I have copy of the minutes from a 1991 meeting, where the outfitters made representations to the board and, at that time, there was a further extension giving them the right to hunt, and at that time they were given notice that things could change in the very near future.
Is the Minister aware that this notice was given to three members of the delegation who appeared before the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am not aware of the government ever making that representation, rather it was a Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board representation.
Mr. Harding: I guess I will have to produce the four-year plan and that information for the Minister.
Question re: Campgrounds
Mr. Harding: I have a question about campgrounds. Would the Minister explain the plans for reopening the campgrounds in the territory, and could he also tell us what steps are being taken to open the campgrounds and to provide some sort of security for campers. I understand that many things were stolen from the Fox Lake campground last week.
Speaker: If the Minister of Renewable Resources answers, I will consider that a new question and give the Member two supplementaries, if he wishes.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Vandalism is one of the problems we have with campgrounds, and that is why we supported the former government to get legislation in so that we try to protect this and get some teeth in the laws. I must point out that we opened those campgrounds ahead of time, which we normally do not do, because of the warm weather, and this is a problem we have. If you have the answer for it, I would like to have it.
Mr. Harding: The Minister is the Minister of Renewable Resources, and I am asking the Minister a question. I am asking him if there is anything he will do to try to improve the security in those campgrounds. This is not a trick question, and I am asking the Minister for his plans on the reopening of the campgrounds.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There are two questions there. One is the plan to reopen the campgrounds. They will all be open by June 1, except for the ones on the Dempster Highway, which depend upon the amount of remaining snow. With respect to vandalism, we are doing the best we can, and we will also try to get the RCMP - but it is really not their duty - to cooperate and try to do something about it.
Mr. Harding: Are there any specific steps or initiatives being undertaken by the new government to try and improve the security system? Are there any specific steps or any changes from the previous administration to increase the security of those campgrounds?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The best we can do is put patrols on, but they cannot be there day and night. We do not have caretakers who remain at the campsites. The only other system that I could suggest - if the Opposition would like to have that - is to privatize them all, so people can move in and make a living at it.
Question re: Dawson City water and sewer
Mrs. Firth: On May 12 and on May 19, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services stood in this House and told us that the $1.8 million for the Dawson sewer worked out to be approximately one-quarter of one percent of his overall budget, and he would be finding the money for that project within his budget.
Yesterday, on May 26, the Minister stood in this House and said that the Dawson sewer had budgeted a $1.00 line item. Then he went on to say that it looks like we are going to have to come up with $1.8 million, and that will show up in a supplementary budget as new money. I would like to ask the Minister which version of the story he wants everyone to believe.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding, and I could be wrong, is that we will find the money within existing programs, but it will show up in the first supplementary.
Mrs. Firth: If the money is going to come from within his budget, why is he saying that they are going to ask for it in a supplementary as new money? He has already said he was going to find the money within the budget. What is it - one-quarter of one percent?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It will show up in the supplementary. It will be coming out of the budget, but it will show up in the supplementary as an expenditure that was not in the mains. It will show up as an expenditure in the supplementary, and the supplementary will show where it came from.
Mrs. Firth: He cannot tell everyone that they are going to find this money from within this budget then stand up a week later and say it is going to be new money. What version does the Minister want us to believe? Where is the money coming from? Is it coming from his budget, or is it going to be new money? You cannot have both.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know what the Member is getting at. It will show up in the supplementary. It has to show up somewhere, so it will be taken out of existing monies in the main budget. There will be some items that are decreased in the main budget and there will be $1.8 million used for the Dawson water and sewer, which will all up in the first supplementary.
Question re: Tourism, boycott threats
Mr. Cable: As Members will recall, when the Aishihik wolf control program was announced, a number of activists, including Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Society, said they would lead a tourism boycott and find other ways to disrupt the Yukons visitor industry.
Has the Minister of Tourism yet determined what was done to follow up on those threats, and the effect of the boycott attempts?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: As I said at that time last year, when I was interviewed, we set up monitoring in all embassies in the United States and many embassies in Europe. The effect we see so far has been minimal. There is really no way of knowing until the tourist season is over this year, but it appears right now that it had a minimal effect and that Mr. Watson is not doing much about the caribou enhancement program in the Yukon at this time.
Mr. Cable: Has the Minister consulted with the Yukon tourism industry and, in particular, the people who are classified as ecotourists, with respect to whether they have suffered any drop off in tourists?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We were in touch with the Tourism Industry Association. They have certainly not come to us and said there is a problem. I have not specifically spoken to anyone in the ecotourism industry, as such, but I can tell the Member, as I said the other day, that the one program that attracts people to that kind of industry is running about 50 percent above our expectations as a result of inquiries. We are hoping to generate about 30 or 40 percent of those people coming to the territory.
It looks more positive than negative at present, but I have not spoken to the individuals themselves.
Mr. Cable: In view of the fact that tourism appears to be one of the few remaining sectors of the economy that is prospering, would the Minister consider contacting the people in the ecotourism business - those people most likely to be affected by the wolf boycott - and determine whether or not there has been some effect on that portion of the tourist business.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have no problem with contacting them, but I can tell the Member that, in this business, when there is something wrong, one usually hears from them really quickly. We have certainly not heard much from them to date. I will try to get hold of them, but many of them are quite busy getting ready for the season. Some are out in the bush, but I will try to get hold of as many of them as I can, and I will get back to the Member.
Question re: Yukon native teacher education program
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Minister of Education. The Yukon native teacher education program will be graduating its first class this year, on Saturday. The programs purpose is to increase the number of qualified First Nations teachers in Yukon classrooms. Is the Minister satisfied with the number of First Nations graduates in the system and with the number that is graduating from the program?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The answer to the first question is no. I think we can always use more First Nations teachers in our Yukon school system. I am very pleased to be attending the graduation ceremony on Saturday. I am pleased with the number of graduates we have this year. I hope we can increase that number in the future.
Mr. McDonald: It will be quite a momentous ceremony. All Members should attend.
Will the government place all the graduates from the program in teaching programs in the coming year?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We are hoping to. I would hope that every one of them will be teaching in this school year.
I would have to get back to the Member on that. I do not know where the process is at right now. It is my understanding that all of them will be in the school system this year.
Mr. McDonald: I am glad to hear that the Minister has a policy of offering positions to all the graduates. Will the government be maintaining the native teacher education program as it is, or are they planning any significant changes in direction in the coming years?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: At this time, there are no changes being contemplated for the program. If there were any, we would make it better.
Question re: Eliza Van Bibber School, grade 12
Mr. Joe: This year will be the first time that any students will graduate from grade 12 in my community. We are very proud of that. Will there be grade 12 offered next year in Eliza Van Bibber School in Pelly Crossing?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think it is a very significant event that there are going to be graduates of the school in Pelly. The ceremony is tomorrow. I will be attending that particular ceremony. I am very pleased that Pelly Crossing is going to be celebrating that event tomorrow.
Speaker: The question was whether there would be grade 12 in the school next year.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: If there are the qualified number of students, then the school will offer the program. That has been the policy of the previous government and the policy that was there previously. Right now, there are no changes contemplated to that policy.
Mr. Joe: I have one more question for the Minister. Who makes this decision, the Minister or the school council?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I understand that the Member wants to know who makes the decision as to whether or not there will be grade 12 in that school next year - the school council or the Minister. My understanding is that the department sets the parameters and discusses all that with the school councils. I can get back to the Member on exactly what the process is. I understand that it would be the department that would probably determine whether or not there would be grade 12. They certainly would not do that in isolation. They would talk to the school councils.
Mr. Joe: Can the Minister tell me if there are any plans to expand the existing school in Pelly Crossing?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: At this time, I have had no requests from the school council in Pelly Crossing that I know of to expand the school. If the school council made such a request we would have a look at that request.
Question re: Justice of the Peace Council, executive secretary
Ms. Joe: My question is for the Minister of Justice regarding justices of the peace. I understand that the executive secretary to the Justice of the Peace Council, Bill Thompson, has resigned. Will the Minister confirm whether or not this is the case, and if so, who will be replacing him?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is my understanding that Mr. Thompson has retired. I will be making inquiries about his replacement and come back to the Member with that information.
Ms. Joe: The Minister has appointed new JPs - women, aboriginal people and one francophone - and I commend the Minister for that, but I would like to ask the Minister if there will be further training provided to those newly appointed JPs to qualify them to sit on the bench, and if it will be done shortly.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: These are decisions that are made by the Judicial Council and the Chief Judge of the Territorial Court. It is my understanding that there is going to be an intensive program for all the new JPs to bring them up to the appropriate levels as a priority of the program.
Ms. Joe: I understand the responsibility of the council, but the Minister also has had discussions with them about that.
In Whitehorse there is a lack of women and First Nations people sitting as JPs and I would like to ask the Minister if he would consider further appointments of women and First Nations people in Whitehorse to allow for a better gender and racial balance in the Whitehorse courts?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will have to review that issue. I know that the Judicial Council is interested in making appointments, particularly to facilitate the circle court process of the Kwanlin Dun Band.
There is no question that there are many people involved in that process and there many qualified women deeply involved in the process, so I expect that we would at least see a gender balance, if not a tip toward the feminine side.
Question re: Financial year-end printouts
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister of Finance about the document, or information, that was presented to this House yesterday, called Notes to Draft Unconsolidated Financial Statements, dated May 26, 1993".
This information is not a computer printout, which is what we had requested, but a carefully doctored document with selected information in it. The Minister said in this House that he did not want to bring misleading information to the House. I would like to ask him what direction was given to the Department of Finance and why these particular numbers were chosen to be presented in this document.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am utterly amazed by that question. The Member opposite is a Member who has been asking, time and time again, for these figures so she could reconcile the March 31 balance. These are the most recent figures to date. They are not doctored figures; they are the actual figures that will be submitted to the Auditor General, subject to the qualifying statements numbered 1 to 5 that have been included in the document.
Mrs. Firth: I would like the Minister to stop attacking me every time I ask him a question and just answer my questions.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Firth: Mr. Speaker, he is telling me to ask it in a proper manner. I am asking it in a proper manner. I would like to know what direction was given. This is not a computer printout, which is what we had requested.
Since the Minister was very adamant about not wanting to bring misleading information into the House, what direction was given to his Department of Finance officials, and why were these particular numbers chosen to be presented to this Legislature?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The numbers were chosen because they are the numbers that are going to the Auditor General, excluding the qualifying remarks that have been made in this document. It has draft stamped all over it. The figures have been qualified. We did all that in the House yesterday. Those are the actual figures. They are not figures that were picked out of the air.
Mrs. Firth: This information deals mainly with expenditures, not recoveries. If I had more time, and I will in Committee this afternoon, I will show one example of millions of dollars that have not been included on the recovery side.
Therefore, I would like to ask the Minister if they have submitted to the federal government all the requests for recoveries and if they are included in this financial document.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I apologize to the Member opposite. I thought she was listening to the debate last night when it was brought to the attention of the House by the Member for McIntyre-Takhini that there was one page missing out of the submission, and that was the schedule of recoveries that should be attached. If she has that, she has all the information.
Question re: Golden Horn industrial parcel development
Ms. Moorcroft: A constituent of mine was denied his application to subdivide an industrial property in the Golden Horn subdivision because of concerns expressed by local residents. Yet, he was given a road access permit off Duncan Road to the area he was planning to subdivide. It appears the Minister of Community and Transportation Services is playing games with the residents, when he gives with one hand and takes with the other.
My question is: what was the reason for granting the permit, other than the fact that it was asked for?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The access permit was granted because it was asked for.
Ms. Moorcroft: In the process of building the road, a large number of trees in the buffer zone, which separates the salvage yard from the residents in the area, were cut down. This was done at the same time as the Ministers department was surveying local residents about whether they supported re-zoning, subdivision and further development in the industrial parcel.
The Minister and his colleagues may think it is a laughing matter to survey the local residents about that, but my question is why, if his department knew that many residents did not want any more development in the area, did they go ahead and grant a road access permit before the results of the survey were completed?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There was an unfortunate incident, and I would like to point out that I certainly was not laughing at the residents; I was laughing at the question. There is a difference.
The unfortunate situation was that the highways department had the authority to grant access from Duncan Road - I believe that is the name of the street - which they did, but what they were not aware of is that there is a buffer strip between the road right-of-way and the lot line. By the time it was brought to their attention that there was a buffer strip, which required a land use permit, the person who had requested the permit had already cleared the trees in that sort of no-mans land.
Ms. Moorcroft: Residents in the area close to the Golden Horn School feel that the access off Duncan Road will mean increased traffic in the school zone. They are worried for the safety of school and neighbourhood children who use the playground at the school, both during school hours and after school. They are also concerned about the peace and quiet of the neighbourhood with this increased traffic. Will the Minister respond to these expressed wishes of the community, and rescind the permit, close the road access, and ensure that the buffer zone is re-treed?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have had no representation from the residents there. I am not sure exactly where we would be legally. The person does own the lot and has right of access. If there is representation from those residents, I will certainly look into it.
Speaker: Time for Question Period has now elapsed.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Motion agreed to
Chair: I will now call Committee to order.
We are on Bill No. 6.
Bill No. 6 - First Appropriation Act, 1993-94 - continued
Chair: We are dealing with Health and Social Services, vote 15. Is there any general debate?
Department of Health and Social Services
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am pleased to introduce today the 1993-94 main estimates for the department of Health and Social Services. I am requesting O&M funding of $98,270,000 and capital funding of $20,483,000, prior to changes.
As part of the strategy to reduce taxation for this fiscal year, the budget for this department has been reduced by a total of $507,000. This is made up of a $307,000 reduction in O&M and a $200,000 reduction in capital. The total O&M budget has therefore been decreased to $97,963,000 from the $98,270,000 figure published. The revised capital request is for $20,283,000.
I will be introducing amendments to line items as we debate them and I will provide an overview of the proposed budget changes due to the income tax strategy.
The $307,000 reduction in O&M will include adjustments to three program areas: $30,000 from Policy, Planning and Administration to reduce expenditures in this branch from $2,610,000 to $2,580,000; a reduction of $20,000 from several programs in Social Services branch, to reduce expenditures from $16,483,000 to $16,476,000; Health Services will be reduced by $250,000 from $57,211,000 to $56,961,000.
The capital reduction of $200,000 will affect the following areas: a $10,000 reduction for the young offenders facility renovations; a $100,000 reduction from continuing care facility equipment; $25,000 reduction from continuing care facility building; $45,000 from integrated health and social services and $10,000 from office furniture and operational equipment.
The projected expenditure recoveries, prior to changes that I just mentioned, are estimated $23,038,000 on the operation and maintenance side and $17,666,000 on the capital side for a total projected recovery of $40,704,000. There is $39,000 in revenues also projected.
Revenues and recoveries of $40,743,000 represent nearly 35 percent of the revised total planned expenditure of $118,246,000 through the department. The net request for the department for 1993-94 is therefor $77,503,000.
As I mentioned during supplementary debates, historically my department has not received adequate funds to carry out its mandate. The operation and maintenance budget before you reflects a realistic projection of the funds that are required by my department to adequately fulfill its responsibilities. It also reflects expenditures that can be expected to increase in both the health and social assistance programs.
The reform initiatives underway right now in both of these program areas should slow the growth of expenditures expected; however, change will not occur overnight and the projected increases in this budget are the best possible estimates given that the many reform initiatives are still in the formative stages.
It is misleading to compare the budget before you now with budgets prior to 1992 for this department. Over the past year major budget adjustments have been required to accommodate the hospital transfer, settlement of accounts with the medical service branch of Health and Welfare Canada and bringing onstream the new continuing care rehabilitation facility. These adjustments, along with price and volume increases, insured and extended health benefits and social assistance, account for 85 percent of the increase in the departments budget. Since passage of the 1992-93 main estimates, that is over $26 million. The remaining entire budget of the department has increased only 15 percent from the 1992-93 mains. The social and health services program areas account for nearly 90 percent of the projected expenditure increase over the supplementary amounts.
In the health program, the increase is largely due to the opening of the new continuing care facility - an additional $2,330,000. Price and volume increases related to health insurance programs is an additional $3,118,000.
Phase 2 of health transfer is an additional $500,000. Increases in contribution to Whitehorse General Hospital Corporation net an additional $6,708,000.
In the social services program, the projected increases are primarily due to expected continued increases in social assistance in 1993-94. Based upon historical patterns, the increase in social assistance expenditures for 1993-94 is predicted at 32 percent, or $2,963,000.
In spite of these major cost drivers, I have undertaken in this budget to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of departmental programs and to respond to the priorities of social and health needs of the people of the Yukon, within a climate of responsible fiscal management.
I have already spoken in this Legislature about the high priority I place on social assistance and health reform. Reform initiatives in these two areas will continue to receive substantial attention throughout the year by my department. Substantial work has been done over the last six months since I became Minister, and I am firmly committed to overseeing changes in this program area that will benefit both the users of these programs and the taxpayers, whose desire it is to see these costs kept under control.
This budget speaks to other priorities of this government, priorities that will help benefit our health and social well-being. The alcohol and drug strategy, recently released in this Legislature and which will be discussed more fully in consultations this summer, will see money redirected from within the department in phase 1 to enhance frontline services. A reorganization within the department has combined the seniors and rehabilitation programs into one community support services program. This reorganization has not been correctly reflected in the estimates title, as it still appears as seniors services. However, the money voted is for the combination of the previous seniors and rehabilitation services programs. This reorganization will provide more efficient service delivery targeted at those individuals who are most in need of these programs.
In the area of family and childrens services, expenditures will increase by about $1,068,000. These increases are spread fairly evenly throughout the programs and include such things as increases in child abuse treatment services, increases in the foster care program, increases in child care for operating grant and subsidies, as well as an additional $300,000 for the child care training initiative funded under the federal child care initiatives program.
I should point out at this time that the supplementary just passed in the Legislature for 1992-93 should have reallocated funding between child care subsidies and operating grants to accurately reflect actual spending patterns. The 1993-94 vote in the grant section does reflect expected spending patterns.
Other main initiatives in the family and childrens services program area include increases in contract services for child welfare residential services, including wilderness programs, and increased contributions to the teen parent program and to Skookum Jim for an individual and family counsellor.
With respect to the capital budget for the department, 87 percent or $17,666,000 of the $20,283,000 request is recoverable; $13,781,000 or 68 percent of this capital budget is for the new hospital. This amount does not reflect the information I transmitted to the Legislature recently on adjustments to the construction schedule.
Seven million dollars is now projected to be required for this fiscal year, and the remaining funds will lapse and be revoted next fiscal year.
In addition to the $13.7 million requested for hospital construction, $4,300,000, or 21 percent, of the capital budget will be contributed to the Whitehorse Hospital Corporation. The majority of this amount represents flow-through funding negotiated through the health transfer to maintain the present hospital, the No. 2 and No. 4 Hospital roads, the nurses residence, replace current equipment, and upgrade the administrative system.
Four percent, or $900,000, will be used to purchase furniture and equipment for the new continuing care facility. The remaining seven percent, or $1,302,000, is spread over 23 projects, which will be discussed during line-by-line debate.
The increases in expenditures in this budget have been offset by increased efficiencies in a number of program areas. In the policy and administration program, management salary reductions, auxiliary clerical support, and a reduction in policy contract services will save the department over $90,000. In the family and children services program, $250,000 is saved through contract services, auxiliary staff reductions and minor reductions in grants and contributions.
Nearly $500,000 has been saved in the social services program area through reductions in employee travel, advertising, auxiliary staffing, contract services and grants, and contributions. There will be $300,000 saved through various initiatives on the health side.
I will provide more detail on each of the items I have presented in this overview during line-by-line debate. I now welcome general questions on the budget.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to thank the Minister for that overview and for providing some legislative returns on hospital construction, the extended care facility, the implementation of the Health Act, and so on, so I could do some preparatory work before we got to the main budget.
On the Health Act implementation, I would like to ask about the progress that has been made to set up health and social services community boards. The return here talks about preliminary policy work and developing regulations. This has been ongoing for some time. Can the Minister tell me what progress has been made there?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Thus far, we have not had much uptake from the communities. We expect the interest to build in the course of the phase 2 transfer negotiations. The policy itself is still in a relatively early stage; the regulations and so on have not been developed. We anticipate this to move along at a better speed once we get into the phase 2 negotiations.
Ms. Moorcroft: Last week, the Minister tabled the report on social assistance that was the outcome of an interdepartmental committee that was set up under the previous administration. In the readers guide to the report, there are some areas identified where social assistance costs could be reduced. I would like to ask the Minister some questions relating to that - on page 11. What is his range of options for redefining need and the definitions of special need, basic need, and income?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: What has happened with the various areas on page 11, and the way that things are proceeding is that we have announced three measures that have been taken already: the social assistance recipients agreement, the exchange of information between the jurisdictions and the recovery of money borrowed while waiting for UIC to start by residents here.
The other issues have gone through a process of priorization. We have working groups working on the highest priority areas to this government. It may be the easiest thing for us to obtain a copy of the priorization and give it to you. Perhaps we could do that this afternoon, if you like.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is the Minister saying that he is not able to talk about why they want to redefine the definitions of special need, basic need and income? Does he have that information for me?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Basic need, itself, is defined by the capital assistance program - the federal government. Looking at the definitions of income, for example, will involve looking at a range of options to allow people who are on social assistance to earn income without incurring penalties on the amounts they receive from the departments. This would be an incentive to get into the workforce. That type of option will be explored under this category.
We will simply be reviewing the definition of special needs to see what, if any, options are available there to make the system more efficient.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is the Minister going to reduce and restructure rates within and between the categories?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: These are areas identified by the committee to be looked at. We are not looking at reducing rates in this process. That decision has been made. We will be looking at restructuring rates, which has to do with whether or not there could be savings made there that would make sense, upon review.
Ms. Moorcroft: There is an item identified to modify the single parent policy and require single parents with preschool children of a certain age to seek employment.
If single parents must go back to work, then it will create an additional demand for child care. If the government is going to put single parents back to work, what are they proposing to do about the child care requirements?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The first thing that I would say - and perhaps the Member is aware - single parent is not the policy of single mothers, but is the policy that allows a parent, not necessarily a mother, to remain home with preschool children.
We are looking at various options for reducing the time period downward from six years of age as to when those people would have to seek employment.
We feel that this an important issue, because six years is a long time for a young person to be out of the workforce, and it makes it that much more Idifficult for that person to get back into the workforce.
The Member is quite correct about the issue with regard to child care; we have to look at the impact on child care of this policy change - if that change occurs - and we intend to take steps to try and ensure that these people can leave their home and get to work. This would entail examining what measures will have to be taken - whether it be in the form of more subsidies or encouraging more spaces in the day cares. We are aware of this issue and we will be looking at that issue also.
Mrs. Firth: I want to ask the Minister some questions about comments that he made earlier about reducing and restructuring rates on page 11.
The Minister said that the government was not going to reduce the rates, rather, they were going to restructure the rates.
Could the Minister tell us exactly what he means by that, and does that mean the rates are going to stay at the same level they are now?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Our rates right now are the highest in Canada. There is no intention to reduce the rates; we intend to keep them at this level for some time.
Restructuring deals with looking at some of the categories and determining whether or not there ought to be changes in the way in which we handle issues such as special needs people.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister is saying, then, that they are not going to reduce the rates, which are the highest in Canada; we are going to continue to have the highest rates in Canada, but we are going to look at the eligibility criteria so there will be some people who will no longer qualify for social assistance. Can he tell us who is no longer going to be eligible for social assistance?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The main thrust of what we are doing is to get people off welfare and back to the workforce. That is the main issue: the issue of training, the issue of looking at the rate structures, with a view to encouraging people to get back into the workforce and, in some cases, with a very modest penalty or no penalty at all. Right now, a rational person on welfare may think it is not worthwhile to go back to work.
Mrs. Firth: That is an admirable goal but it does take time, and it could take a long time. I maintain that the cost of the delivery of our health care services - and social assistance is included in that - is in a crisis and I think the Minister has to look at doing something now to get those costs down.
The interdepartmental study that was started with the previous government and was done during the time of the change of government indicated that one of the problems that had been created with the increasing costs in social assistance was the increase in rates that had been made by the previous administration and an increase in volume of use. I would like to make some representation to the Minister that he look at the rates and whether we should be having the highest rates in Canada or not. He has already said he is not going to do that but I just want to get on the record my representation that he should look at doing it. I think it would be to the advantage of the Minister to look at the rates and the impact that the increases have had on the budget by using a random sampling of a group of individuals before the increase and after the increase. I think the Minister will find that there is quite an astonishing difference.
I would submit to the Minister that that is something that has to be looked at immediately because it is somewhere where we can gain some immediate relief from the high costs of the delivery of health care service.
The eligibility also has to be examined, as well as the goals of getting people off welfare and retraining. I support those initiatives, but they are long term and they take time.
I do not know if the Minister wants to make any comment about that. That is the representation I want to make to him.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I thank the Member for her representation. We are certainly looking at the rates, but our priority right now is to rationalize the system to see what impact some of the other priorities have on the increasing curve of social assistance. In priorizing what we are examining, and the options we are going to move on first, rates is not one of the top things we feel can, or ought to, dealt with immediately. Right now, I can say that, while we intend to monitor this, we would prefer to be in a position to keep the rates at the current level and allow the other jurisdictions to catch up, at least through inflation.
Ms. Moorcroft: When you talk about restructuring rates, you are usually looking at restructuring, meaning that some would go up and some would go down. I would submit that, although our rates may be the highest in the country, we also have the highest cost of living.
When the Minister talks about restructuring rates, what is going to go up, and what is going to go down? Where are the cuts going to be?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There is a working group examining that issue now. We have not had that group report back yet on the issue of eligibility and rates. The position I would take - and I think that I am in agreement with the Member, to some extent - is that, while our rates are the highest in Canada, except possibly in the NWT, to simply start restructuring, or trying to reduce the rates in any kind of significant fashion, could put families in a crisis and, in the long term, cost us a lot more.
We have a lot of people on social assistance, as I am sure everyone here is aware, who are at the poverty level. We have to be careful that we do not do something on this side of the ledger that causes a lot of problems over there - family breakups, and so on.
Ms. Moorcroft: It would certainly be valuable to increase employment opportunities, economic conditions and learning incentives to ensure that workers make a living wage from available employment. This flies in the face of any economic strategy proposed to date and seems to be a key flaw in the approach identified here. It relies on a stimulated economy, which just is not there. Hence, what is the department going to do to solve this escalating problem?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I guess that the simple answer is that this department is not the Department of Economic Development. It is a goal of this government to increase jobs and turn the economy around. We recognize that any changes that we make will not be a complete answer to this issue and that the health of the economy has a direct bearing on the number of people who require social assistance at any given time.
Perhaps I could ask the page to hand out copies to the people on the other side - I just received a document with regard to the interdepartmental committee on social assistance. When you receive that document you will see that priorities have been set by the Cabinet subcommittee on social issues. Unemployment insurance - that had to deal with the loan issue - was given an A-plus, and we have dealt with that. Welfare services ranks very high. Taking steps to ensure that fraud in the system is reduced is ranked quite high. Appeals and transient policy are matters that will be examined - they are toward the top of the list. Eligibility and single-parent policy are given a high rating.
Lower ratings are given to recoveries, rates, working-poor disabled and lone parents.
The Cabinet committee on social issues will be looking forward to receiving a report fairly soon on some of these issues and then going public with papers for consultation.
Ms. Moorcroft: There seems to be a lot of attention paid to extra policing of social assistance recipients, rather than on programming to get people back to work. Is this part of the governments new philosophy? Can the Minister comment on whether the measure to police reduction of fraud will be cost-effective, or will the cost exceed the recoveries?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We are looking at this issue. We will have to await the report of the working group. My initial thinking on it is that there is some room for more policing. We are not, I do not think, looking at a major effort. In other words, we may be looking at one person year to do several things, operating out of another agency, such as Justice. Part of the responsibilities would be to do some investigating of this issue.
The information exchange we have set up also helps us to police this sort of thing. We are tightening up our questioning of people who come in and get their cheques.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Yukon Party promised to change the social assistance regulations for single parent families to allow single parents to receive a basic, adequate living allowance that would not include any money earned from employment in cottage industries, subject to an overall monetary limit.
Is the Minister going to come forward with an initiative, as a part of the happy coalition that the Minister created by accepting his Cabinet post to prop up this government?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I guess the answer is yes. It is a top priority.
Mrs. Firth: I just want to follow up on something before the critic gets too far into another area. I wanted to follow up on a comment made by the Minister just now about the interdepartmental committee on social assistance and how they were keeping track of abuses and so on.
I would like to ask if the department or the Minister have identified the areas of abuse that they are following up on. Have they identified any measurable cost savings yet, as a result of these particular initiatives?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The department is aware that there is some fraud. It is there in small numbers. What happens is that when they identify abuse, they report it to the police. It gets investigated and often it proceeds to trial. It is not a large percentage - at least it has not been up until now. We still feel that there is the need to look at at least having a part-time investigator to make sure that we are getting a true picture of how much abuse there might be out there.
Mrs. Firth: Having an investigator is going to cost some extra money, too. Since the committee has identified these particular areas, have they done any projections or calculations as to just how much they can reduce the cost of social assistance, if they address these particular issues and priorities?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I guess the simple answer is that as we get the reports back and move on certain recommendations, through time, we will get some sense of what the cost saving is. It is very difficult to predict and very difficult to answer because there are so many factors at play. There are a whole bunch of external things, such as the nature of the economy and that sort of thing. I think we will get a better handle on it as we implement the various recommendations that we see fit to implement after consultation.
Mrs. Firth: I would have expected that perhaps the department would have had a better handle on it because they had been constantly evaluating the program. I think that quite often in Health and Social Services, there is not enough evaluation done. We were certainly made aware of that many times on the Public Accounts Committee. Another recommendation that I have for the Minister is that there be some evaluation. If there has not been any done, these initiatives and identifications that have been made may end up, in the long run, not saving any money. The department may be going off in entirely the wrong direction. Maybe they should have just reduced the rates by so many dollars or a certain percent and could have saved a lot more money in a lot less time and it would not have cost so much. So, I make that recommendation.
I had asked the Minister in Question Period who was on the interdepartmental committee and he had told me that he did not have the peoples names at his fingertips and would bring that back. Perhaps we could get that now.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I was not aware that the Member wanted the names of the people. This particular information shows the departments involved, but if the Member wants the names, we could arrange to have that information delivered to her.
Mrs. Firth: I am sorry - not the interdepartmental committee - I am thinking of the Joint Management Committee. The names of this committee are not relevant but the names of the people on the Joint Management Committee was what I meant to ask.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Dr. Timmermans, Dr. Beaton and Dr. Reddoch, Gay Hanson, Anne Sheffield and Joanne Fairlie.
Ms. Moorcroft: This budget represents a change in philosophy and direction by the government, and the biggest problem appears to be runaway expenditures. Without using the old saw of blaming the previous government, how is this government going to curb the escalating costs in health and social services?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I thank the Member for her question. It reminded me that I had not fully answered the question of the previous speaker. The report on social assistance that we tabled in the House was a major step forward in my view because, for the first time, it gave us a rationale of the programs that are in place. In moving ahead and examining the various factors that we have control over in this department that impact on the number of people using social assistance and the length of time they are on social assistance, we will be, I am convinced, tightening up the social assistance program considerably. Of course, that is what that report was intended to commence - that type of thorough program review.
On the health side, the Joint Management Committee that I have spoken about in this House - I just gave the actual names of the people on that committee in my previous answer - are going through programs as well. I hope to be able to make an announcement - I was rather optimistic; I thought I would be able to by today - but in the next week or so - and put forth more detail of where we are going with that. Essentially, that will be a process that will involve consultation as well, along with the social assistance process, or the departmental process, and the alcohol and drug strategy consultation process. We want to be in a position to do a considerable amount of consultation throughout the summer and travel to the communities in the fall and be in a position to make decisions and implement those recommendations with which we feel we want to proceed.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would think that some of these changes can be introduced without federal consultation.
An example of that is the SARS agreement and the issue of looking at fraud investigation. Another example would be the UIC/automatic-loan-repayment issue with the federal government. There are other programs that we would want to consult on with people in the Yukon before we introduced them.
Ms. Moorcroft: There have been measures taken in other jurisdictions across Canada to curb rising health costs. I would like to ask the Minister if he is aware of any of them and if he is planning to adopt any.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have had discussions with some of the doctors at some length - of course, my officials are cognizant of what is going on in other jurisdictions; the doctors are very active at the national level in their medical association - and they are reviewing all of the cost-saving measures that are being looked at and implemented in other jurisdictions.
We are also going to be tailoring our measures to meet the actual needs and realities of Yukon. Some of the areas that have been examined and are under examination in some other jurisdictions - the number of hospital beds per capita, for example - are not a problem here, but are in some other jurisdictions, such as Alberta. There are lessons to be learned by what has taken place elsewhere in the country.
Mr. Penikett: I wonder if I could just ask one supplementary question to this. As the Minister knows, many years ago, I was briefly Minister of Health and Social Services. I want to ask a question about the structuring of the general management committee. In the days when I was Minister, it was quite clear that there was, in effect, a power struggle between the medical profession and the government as to who was going to control the expenditures. Perhaps that is no longer the case.
However, I am interested in an arrangement whereby half of the people on the committee are doctors. I was always of the opinion, during my brief time as Minister, that there were other interests in the health field besides doctors who ought to be represented in management or policy decisions.
I was also, perhaps wrongly, of the view that, while cooperation with the medical profession and all healing professions is a good idea, the professional skills, influence and authority of the profession, while it should be respected, sometimes dominated the allocation decisions. I wonder if the Minister might make a comment on that.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am well aware of the problems of the past. I will assure the Member that I have every faith in my officials with respect to their not being dominated by the doctors in those meetings.
I met with members from the Yukon Medical Association early on - in November and December, actually - and I strongly feel that this is a cooperative model and that there is a lot that they will do voluntarily to curb costs, including costs that they would otherwise feel torn about. A random example of the kind of thing I mean is a situation in which a patient wants a brain scan or another fancy test and it is not absolutely necessary under the circumstances. Without some kind of a code or understanding that the profession has agreed to, the doctor might feel that he has to be an advocate for his patient. It is much better for the doctor to participate in setting some rules that make sense with government on how the medical profession should treat these kinds of situations. That is just one example. They are willing to cooperate in a lot of areas. The obvious issue we get into is their fees and associated benefits. It will be interesting when we begin discussing that.
In the meantime, I think we will be taking some very important steps, with their assistance; I think it is an important way to go.
Mr. Penikett: Perhaps things have changed enormously since the time I was Minister. In the days I was Minister, if the patient did not get encouragement from their doctor to get the CAT scan, they simply went to other doctors until such time as someone did it, and we got a bill for every doctor they visited. Perhaps that has changed since the Minister has come into office.
The more generic question I want to ask arises out of some discussions I was part of during my brief time as Minister, during which time a strong consensus had emerged that three of the largest contributors to the cost balloon of the health insurance budget were, if you like, inappropriate technology - or sometimes drug therapies and technology - a disproportionate allocation to people who were, essentially, in the last months of their lives and, finally, the fee-for-service system, to which the doctors are deeply committed.
Has the Minister joined with his professional opposites in discussion of some of these questions, as they might, in the future, contribute to health cost problems in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The committee is looking into some of these issues, but they have not addressed some of them yet. They are fairly young, in terms of the time they have been structured. They had their first meeting in January, and they have had one meeting a month since that time. They will be looking at information that has been gathered in other jurisdictions on technology, and so on. The issue of how we deal with the high cost of doctors is another issue. I do not have any particular solution in mind, at this point in time.
Mr. Penikett: I do not want to embroach on the time of my colleague, the critic; I would just indicate to the Minister that, if he is contemplating any substantive reforms in the areas I have mentioned, I would be delighted to hear about them, particularly if he is looking toward negotiating a collective agreement with the doctors union that envisions something other than the present method of payment.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I understand that he would love to see that. Were that to be an initiative that we were contemplating, I would be the first to tell him but, right now, it is not.
Mrs. Firth: I just want to make a few comments about all the issues that we are discussing and ask the Minister some policy questions.
It has been my experience that it is not whether one particular group or aspect of the delivery of health care services is the problem or the cause of the problem, but the whole delivery of health care services is driven by the doctors, because that is what the policy of the delivery of health care services is. An example of that is that if I feel like I am sick or I cut my finger, or something, and I go to the out-patient department at the hospital, I have to be seen by a doctor. That is what the law is. Therefore, the doctor bills and the system gets billed, and so on.
Because we know that the whole system is driven by the law and by doctors, I want to ask the Minister if there is going to be any direction given by him and his Cabinet to examine whether or not we should be considering using more nurse practitioners. This is done now in the communities and in the field. It is an initiative that I strongly support, having been a nurse. I know that we could effect some cost savings if the government moved in that direction. Perhaps the Minister could tell us if they are examining that and whether he supports that principle, and whether the Joint Management Committee has considered that yet.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is an area that we will be looking at. I think that it is a good suggestion. The nurse practitioner is a major feature of medicine outside of Whitehorse now. One of the issues that we will have to look at in implementing some of these measures in Whitehorse is to try to be sure that it is not an add-on, where a person goes to one and then the other. I am assured by my officials that they are going to be examining options in that regard. I have, of course, had meetings with groups such as Nursing Options, the private nursing group in town, and look forward to meeting with the Yukon Registered Nurses Association.
Mrs. Firth: That brings me to the second part of my concern with respect to the whole delivery of health care. There is a problem about defining and setting rules or guidelines and this is what the problem is. I will use the chronic disease program as an example. When the chronic disease program was expanded, my concern was that there were not enough guidelines defined. So what happens is that the doctors do not want to be the ones to say no, so they say yes. If the government does not set guidelines, the system becomes wide open.
When I have spoken to doctors about this particular concern and said to them, if you do not want to be the bad people by saying no to people, thereby making the decisions, then you are going to leave it up to the politicians to do that - how do you feel about that?
The doctors do not feel very comfortable about that idea, either. So we continue to go on and on and nobody sets any guidelines or rules. I do not think the system can be allowed to carry on like that. I use the chronic disease program as one example.
The aspect of nurse practitioners is going to also face the same problem, because someone is going to have to define and set out the terms and the guidelines for what nurse practitioners can do, where they can go, and so on.
What I would like to ask the Minister is this: how does he anticipate dealing with the problem of who is going to set the guidelines, or is the Joint Management Committee going to set those guidelines - are they going to look at it? Again we are going to run into the same problem because the Joint Management Committee is made up predominately of doctors. There has to be some direction at the political level, as well.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The reason that I adopted the Joint Management Committee model and negotiated that with the medical profession was because I am convinced that the doctors with whom I discussed the issue truly believed that it is in their interest to be in a position to make recommendations for sensible guidelines in such cases as the chronic disease program. They realize that with these guidelines we would be the tough guys in the implementation process. We will go through a consultation process on those issues before we implement them. I am quite prepared to go through a consultation process and then implement what I believe is reasonable and will bring some discipline into some of these programs.
With respect to the nurse practitioner issue, I would envisage a similar type of process - involving nurses and inviting them to go through the guidelines that ought to imposed upon their profession. Cabinet would then, upon my recommendation, look at imposing those guidelines.
We intend to impose guidelines. It is very important to have the medical profession involved with the Joint Management Committee because they can warn us of things that they would see as grave errors in some of the matters that we might think are sensible.
I have been convinced when talking to people, such as the president of the Yukon Medical Association, that they believe it is in their self-interest to make the system more efficient, because, in the long run, if the system is going bust they are going to suffer, too.
Mrs. Firth: I could have some great debate with the Minister about that, but I will save that for another day.
I have made a representation to the Minister during Question Period to have field nurses appointed to the Joint Management Committee.
The Minister has indicated to me that he was not prepared to do that because two of the members on the committee have nursing backgrounds. That is all well and good, and when I make the suggestion, I do not intend in any way to take away from the contributions that those two individuals may be making, but when it comes time to discuss guidelines and setting parameters for nurse practitioners and people involved in that field, I think that it would be in the best interest of the Minister to have representation from nurses working in the field on the committee at that time.
I do not think it would be advisable to have doctors and nurses who are now in administration only, setting those guidelines without active representation at the Joint Management Committee level, without having the representation of field nurses there. I would like to ask the Minister if he will put someone on the committee who can give some direct grassroots input.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I thank the Member for her representation. I can make the commitment when we get into the area of regulations regarding nurse practitioners. We will definitely make sure that we have working nurses heavily involved.
Mrs. Firth: I am not asking that nurses be involved after regulations have been made, but during the grassroots level where they are starting to discuss what direction the regulations are going to take. I am asking that nurses be on the Joint Management Committee in initial discussion stages.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes - full membership from the beginning of those discussions.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister has talked about the guidelines he wants to give to the review committee. He also talked about the doctors setting rules that make sense. Could the Minister just outline what the mandate is of the Joint Management Committee?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Their mandate is to review the programs, starting with extended health programs, and going through the operations of programs within government. They are to look at steps that make sense to reduce cost and provide recommendations with regard to guidelines, as we have been discussing this afternoon. They will make those recommendations to the Minister. We will then go through a consultation exercise on those recommendations we feel the public should be involved in. Following that process, I will be recommending guidelines and changes to programs to Cabinet.
Ms. Moorcroft: Earlier this session, the government released the Yukon alcohol and drug strategy. It was a public discussion paper. It certainly is a bare bones discussion paper, as I said at the time. I was wondering if the Minister could elaborate on how they are going to flesh out that strategy.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We are involved, right now, in the consultation process. As I have already said, we will be travelling to the communities over the summer and, particularly, in the fall. I just went to Ross River Tuesday night and flew back Wednesday morning. They have community mobilization meetings in Ross River. There are about 80 delegates from communities throughout the Yukon and some from Northern B.C. I, and my officials, discussed the paper in that process on Wednesday morning with the players and answered questions to the best of our ability.
We will be consulting with all the major players. We are trying to find out exactly who should provide certain programs, where and when. In this consultation process, we will be developing the flesh that will be put on the bones of the skeletal document that I have tabled. The purpose of the document was really to commence that process and obtain the sanction of Cabinet to do so.
I can tell the Member that, in the discussions we have had thus far with members from the Liard Basin task force - who, with federal funding, have been looking at the alcohol and drug strategies in the Watson Lake area - and in discussions with the Kaska Tribal Council and others, there is a great deal of optimism for the potential of this important document that has been tabled here.
It does dovetail, certainly, with what the Kaska Tribal Council is looking at in their document. It seems to dovetail, according to the spokesperson for the Liard Basin task force, with what they want to see. So there is a fair amount of excitement about the potential of us finally getting a strategy that will do a lot more good in Yukon.
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Minister explain what those initiatives were that people were excited about and that they wanted to see here in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: My impression is that, first of all, the working document covers the entire continuum that they see in terms of a strategy, and secondly, that the document provides flexibility so that we can meet community needs according to their priorities - so that our role in a place like Ross River might be quite different from our role in a place like Dawson City or Whitehorse. That flexibility seems to be well received. As the Member I am sure knows, there is a very significant movement in the communities toward healing centres, and we are very committed to playing a supporting role in the development of healing centres in those communities that are anxious to develop such centres. Virtually every community is interested in developing a healing centre and several already exist but require more programming.
We feel we will be able to work, in the outlying communities, with the other players and develop perhaps some pilot projects at first to see what works. We are not going to suddenly come down and say, okay, this is it. We will be working with the community, with the healing centre, and building, through pilot projects, something that will accommodate the needs and aspirations of the people in that community.
Ms. Moorcroft: The community interest in healing centres is exactly why the community health board should be up and running as soon as possible. I know there was a lot of interest from the community members who were able to participate in the community mobilization workshop. Being able to get together, share ideas and discuss whether an initiative that worked in one community might work in another is very valuable.
Is it the intention of the Minister to continue holding community mobilization workshops to enable this process to happen?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am sure the Member is aware that those workshops have been funded by the feds. We are interested in participating, and we do participate, and we intend to carry on in that vein.
We are open to suggestions from the communities on the issue of the implementation of boards within the community. Right now, we are in a consulting mode. It is very important to be listening to what they want - they being the people in the community who are interested in the healing centre concept - to just be flexible, and to be developing, step by step, the kind of programs they feel they need in their individual community.
Ms. Moorcroft: When he released the alcohol and drug strategy, the Minister announced that there were two additional counsellors doing counselling in the field of alcohol treatment and abuse. Can the Minister confirm whether there is an additional number of counsellors today than there was a year ago?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We are engaged in a staffing process to fill the two additional positions. There was one vacant for several months, and it has been filled but, as of now, they are unable to attract successful candidates for the two new positions. They are engaged in that process now and are fairly optimistic they will be able to fill them.
Mr. Cable: On a different topic, I have been glancing through the report on social assistance and the readers guide. The term, increasing labour force attachment is used on a fairly regular basis, which I assume is a euphemism for an incentive to get people to work. The readers guide refers to earnings exemptions. Could the Minister describe, in a nutshell for somebody who is walking into this fairly cold, just what is the present earnings exemption policy of the government?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am advised that at the present time, if you work up to 20 hours a week, only part of that is taken off your social assistance income. The magic number is 20 hours. If you go beyond that, it pretty well all gets taken off. There is a disincentive to work beyond 20 hours a week. Of course, the amount that is deducted up to the first 20 hours a week is something that we would be looking at as well.
We would like to see a system that would be encouraging people to work full-time, if the job is available.
Mr. Cable: How does our present policy compare with policies in the provinces, with respect to earnings exemptions?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We have to give you some kind of written report on that, as it varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. There is a great amount of change going on, and all jurisdictions in Canada are facing the same problems that we are, in both social assistance and health.
One of the reasons that we are in this exercise today instead of next week is because my deputy is going to a Ministers meeting on social assistance in Regina. I decided that I had better not go knowing that we would not be out of the House. However, I did want her to represent us at that meeting, because this is something that is taking place, and there is a lot of momentum behind social assistance review and behind the health Ministers, when they meet, in looking at ways to slow down this growth in health costs.
Mr. Cable: Has the Ministers government conducted any studies, and are there any reports available, about the effects of earnings exemptions on increasing this labour force attachment?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: These kinds of issues are being studied by the working group.
Certainly, I could tell the Member, when we get the report in this area of reform completed, I would be quite happy to send him any of the backup material that we have.
Mr. Cable: Is there any backup material available from the provinces that could be given to your average MLA to read, so that he or she could become informed on the subject?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There is a lot of information available, and we would be quite pleased to see what we could find that would be of assistance to the Member?
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess at this time.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order. Is there further general debate on Health and Social Services?
Mr. Penikett: I thought it was the custom not to proceed with the debate until the Official Opposition critic was here. Could we wait a moment for her to arrive?
Ms. Joe: I have a couple of questions with regard to the information I asked for on the young offenders programs. During debate in the supplementary estimates, I asked questions about new things that might be happening at the secure facility.
I received information that was about security and other things. I thought that I was going to receive information about programs that might be related to individuals in the facility, with regard to rehabilitation. I thought that there might have been something new and innovative that might have been implemented under the direction of the Minister to put something in place other than security; security serves its purpose, but by far the most important thing is to provide the programs to the people who are in the facility to help them toward rehabilitation.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I apologize to the Member. I gather she made this representation to one of our Members, and it finally got back to me, so they will be giving her the appropriate material on the programming up there.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am ready to move into the line-by-line debate.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Policy, Planning and Administration
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This policy, planning and administrative branch provides leadership to the department through the deputy ministers office and supports the various departmental programs for the provision of corporate personnel, finance and policy services. The recent adjustments will reduce total expenditures for this branch to $2,580,000 from $2,610,000 - a $30,000 reduction.
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Minister outline his overall policy objective or goal that he plans to work on over the course of the life of this budget under the policy, planning and administration line?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The major initiatives that we discussed at some length, in general debate, were the reform of social assistance and health policies, and the alcohol and drug strategy. Another major area that we will be moving into, that we are in the process of developing policies on and examining the situation, is the issue of youth at risk. Yet another major area is consultation with communities, one-on-one, with respect to the healing centre concept. This is programming that makes sense, generally, but some of the major interests in this department are in the areas of youth at risk, and alcohol and drug treatment and prevention.
Those are the main ones.
Ms. Moorcroft: In what ways does the Minister intend to work to cut the cost of Health and Social Services administration, which has risen by eight percent this year?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We described some of the cost-cutting measures that were taken in the supplementary period. We intend to keep this branch lean and mean. There is a need to have enough personnel here to work on the numerous initiatives that are going forward in tandem. I really feel that it does not make sense to starve this program, when what we are doing is directed at policy review and cutting costs in the two major areas. As well, working on all these major initiatives will provide, in the long term, cost savings. If the alcohol and drug strategy works, that will save us untold millions of dollars in the long run. Working on youth at risk is another area that has long-term savings. We feel that this department is staffed adequately. We do not see much reduction in this program.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I move
THAT the estimates pertaining to Bill No. 6, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1993-94, be amended in vote 15, Health and Social Services, by reducing the line item Administration on page 139 in the operation and maintenance estimates by $30,000; and
THAT the clauses and schedules of the bill be amended accordingly.
Amendment agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Administration will now increase by $171,000, or seven percent, in 1993-94 over 1992-93. The increase is a result of $107,000 for two additional positions being added to the policy, planning and administration branch and an accounts payable clerk position being transferred from the medical services branch as a direct result of the health transfer agreement.
There is $145,000 for recruitment costs expected to be incurred at the new continuing care facility when the facility is being staffed. As many of the positions require special qualifications and experience, it is expected that some of the positions will be recruited from outside of the territory.
Administration in the amount of $2,580,000 agreed to as amended
Policy, Planning and Administration in the amount of $2,580,000 agreed to
On Family and Childrens Services
Ms. Moorcroft: Under allotments in policy, planning and administration, I thought that we were going to go through the lines for Personnel, Other and Transfer Payments. If we are not, could I have consent to go back and ask a question on that line?
Under allotments, what does other refer to and why has it been increased by 32 percent?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The Other was $688,000 and has been reduced by $30,000, with the amendment, to $658,000. So it is now increased by $138,000 for 1993-94. The increase of $145,000 is the recruitment costs expected to arise with respect to the continuing care facility.
The costs are offset by a reduction of $7,000 in policy development and contract services. More of this work is expected to be conducted in house.
Ms. Moorcroft: The $50,000 transfer payment is to the Yukon Health and Social Services Council. Why has this cost increased by 25 percent?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Last years mains showed $60,000, so it is actually a reduction from mains to mains. This year they postponed one set of meetings until early April, so it fell into the next year and the $10,000 is simply to pick up the additional meetings of this council. Of course, they will be involved in advising on the initiatives we have been discussing, particularly the alcohol and drug strategy and some of the other initiatives.
Ms. Moorcroft: What is the most recent report from the Yukon Health and Social Services Council? What date have they tabled a report up to?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We anticipate receiving it - or we may have received a report just recently - but we anticipate it in any event and we will certainly provide the Member with a copy should we not be sitting in the House at that time.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The total expenditures are $15,632,000, resulting in increased expenditures of $1,068,000 for family and childrens services over 1992-93. Increases in expenditures are spread fairly evenly throughout the programs provided by the family and childrens services branch. Examples of increased expenditures include $132,000 added to the child abuse treatment program for a coordinator position and supporting auxiliary staff, and $53,000 has also been added to personnel costs for foster home social worker positions previously funded out of the surplus.
The foster care program has been increased by $140,000 for increases in foster care special rates and $58,000 for program materials, such as childrens clothing. An increase of $93,000 is reflected in the subsidies and operating grants provided through the child care program. This is offset by a $34,000 reduction to the Child Development Centre.
Child protection program materials, client travel and contract services are expected to increase by $24,000. There is a $156,000 increase in contract services for child welfare residential services, including wilderness programs.
The child care initiative flow-through funding will increase by $300,000 this year. This is a federal program that will provide in excess of $7,000 to the territory for child care training and will continue into 1994-95.
Ms. Moorcroft: Despite much talk about the lack of counselling services and the long waiting lists for counselling, the government froze the transfer payment to the Yukon Family Services Association, which provides the bulk of this kind of service. Can the Minister please explain this discrepancy? How does he intend to improve the waiting list for counselling?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That is correct. The transfer payment was frozen for this year. It was not reduced, as was the case with our policy, which was a break even, with a two-percent decrease for some of the other transfer payments. We will be entering into discussions with the Yukon Family Services counsellors, with a view to seeing what we can do in the future, as we have some money to spare.
We did add a counselling position to Skookum Jims. That is reflected in this budget.
Ms. Moorcroft: This seems an appropriate time to once again bring up the issue of a psychiatrist, which can be an important support for families and children. I know that recruitment of a psychiatrist is a difficult process. What is the Minister doing to speed up the recruitment?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do not have an awful lot to add to the discussion that we had earlier in Question Period. There is a piece that will be aired on national television, as I mentioned. In the fall, we will be taking a hard look again to try to find somebody who would come up here. There is a national shortage.
Ms. Moorcroft: What has become of the idea of mandatory reporting of child abuse? It is something that the Minister plans to pursue?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This is an issue that will be dealt with when we deal with changes to the Child Welfare Act, which is some time off. It is something that Cabinet will have to deal with and review. In view of all the other things going on in the department, it does not have as high a priority as some of the other things that are happening.
Ms. Moorcroft: What is the Ministers position on whether mandatory reporting of child abuse should be implemented in legislation?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is a difficult issue. The problem is that there really is not a consensus out there. Certainly the view of First Nations probably does not square with many of the people in Whitehorse. I personally would have to consult a fair amount more with the communities before I came up with any firm position on it.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would expect that there is a diversity of opinion on that issue, both within the First Nations community and in the non-aboriginal population. In the Ministers opinion, has the incidence of child abuse increased or is the increased caseload due to improved reporting of abuse, and what measures are being taken to prevent abuse?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We have been entering into agreements on family support services and child welfare with some of the communities. The child abuse treatment services program is now established and my understanding is that it, among other things, is preventive in nature - it is one of the qualities of the program.
We are not really clear on whether there is more abuse or if there is more reporting. We suspect that there is more reporting, given the fact our support measures are established and in place.
Ms. Moorcroft: I know that the child abuse treatment service is operating with some auxiliary staff and with a very limited staff. Is the Minister committed to continuing that program for counselling child victims of abuse?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes, we are committed. As I mentioned in general debate, this is an area that I and the department are starting to take a hard look at. The whole issue of the child abuse treatment centre and the area of kids-at-risk are areas that we are going to be looking at next, now that we have the alcohol and drug strategy moving along.
Ms. Moorcroft: A related issue is family violence prevention and treatment. I note that the safe places program is cut, the transition home funding has been cut in Whitehorse, Dawson City and Watson Lake. This, to me, shows no commitment to women and children in crisis, and the safe homes in the communities are being forced to operate on less, as in Whitehorse. What is the Ministers commitment to this program and to these agencies?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We discussed this at some length in Question Period a month ago, and I went through the vast increase in the budget of transfer payments to Kaushees Place and to the Dawson home and the one in Watson Lake. The two-percent cut is really, in our view, simply treading water at this point. It is certainly not a lack of commitment to these services.
We are looking at the whole area. There are a lot of things that we do in the area of dealing with issues related to family violence, and I am sure the Member is aware of all those various things we do - from CATS, to child welfare services, to professional and para-professional training, Outreach, crisis support, child abuse protocol that we have signed with Ross River and now with the Kaska Tribal Council, counselling supports, information advocacy program development, and the safe places. So, it is an area we are looking at and we are devoting as much of the scarce money we have to as we can, at this point in time.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question about fostering and I note that there is a slight increase to the Foster Parent Association. Is respite available to families who foster?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am advised that there are some respite services available from the department now.
Ms. Moorcroft: Despite the Yukon Party rhetoric during the election about crime prevention, the community crime prevention program was cut by more than half. Can the Minister please explain this?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There was a feeling that the program was not being fully utilized; that was the departments sense of things. In this new initiative dealing with kids that have been arrested, we will be revisiting that program and looking at various ways to deal with preventative measures for youth.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Child Development Centre budget has been cut by $34,000, why is this?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I cannot remember the answer that I gave the Member previously, but it was felt, and admitted by people who met with me, that there was a surplus last year and that they could afford a slight decrease this year. It is simply a matter of trying to reallocate some money. We certainly are supportive of the centre and the decision was a tough one that had to be made.
Ms. Moorcroft: This decrease will not in any way affect the level of services that they are able to provide?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That is my belief.
On Program Management
Program Management in the amount of $1,687,000 agreed to
On Family and Childrens Services
Family and Childrens Services in the amount of $1,052,000 agreed to
On Placement and Support Services
Placement and Support Services in the amount of $2,010,000 agreed to
On Child Care
Ms. Moorcroft: Previously, the Minister indicated that there had been a typo in the supplementary budget on child care. Now, I just want to ask him about this line item in child care. Can he explain this increase in this line and what it will be allotted to?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Is the Member looking at the increase of nine percent and asking how it is allotted?
The collective agreement merit increases will increase the expected personnel costs by $13,000. The child care initiative fund will increase contract costs by $300,000 to a total of $400,000. This is essentially a flow-through funding arrangement with the federal government for training.
The child care scholarship fund has been reduced by $5,000. Child care grants reflect a net increase of $93,000, primarily as a result of volume. The contribution to the Child Development Centre is reduced by the $34,000, as the Member mentioned.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister explain the child care scholarship item and tell me why it has been reduced?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The primary reason was simply because of the major initiative through the funding arrangement with the federal government. We felt that this item was not needed as much as it had been in the past.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister explain what the child care scholarship fund is for? What did it do?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It was for people who wanted to study early child development at Yukon College.
Ms. Moorcroft: In the contract that has been awarded through the federal child care initiative fund, are the courses that will be offered through that training program going to be offered at no cost to the students?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That is our understanding, but I will check. If I am incorrect, I will get back to the Member.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like clarification on whether there are tuition costs associated with the training under CCIF and, if there are, I would like to know why the child care scholarship fund has been reduced.
Child Care in the amount of $4,561,000 agreed to
On Youth Services
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Minister provide a breakdown of this item, please?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It has increased by $226,000, or four percent, over 1992-93. Personnel costs for the youth development program are expected to increase by $39,000. A full years salary was not incurred in 1992-93. This amount will be required to provide a full year for this year.
Contract services, program materials, food and clothing and other operating costs, supplies, utilities and communications, are expected to increase in several program areas: an $8,000 increase in diversion programs; $31,000 for probation assessment services; $31,000 for various open custody costs; $16,000 for fuel, supplies, utilities, honoraria and communications in the youth development program; $32,000 for fuel, supplies, utilities, communications, et cetera, in the youth day program; and $150,000 increase in contract services for child welfare residential services, including wilderness programs.
This reflects increases expected to be incurred in the group home operating contracts and the wilderness program client volume, offset by reductions in other program areas. There is a $56,000 reduction in contract services for the secure custody facility. Youth services contributions and grants will be decreased by $25,000; there is a $15,000 reduction in community crime prevention contributions; and a $12,000 reduction in contributions for the youth services programs. Those contributions are provided to groups that provide community youth service programs. There is a $2,000 increase in youth allowance, which offsets the $27,000 total decreases, to result in a net decrease of $25,000 for grants and contributions.
This $2,000 increase in youth allowances will be used in the day program area.
Ms. Joe: I will be expecting information back from the Minister in regard to questions about programming, but I also have a set of questions here. I know he is not going to be able to provide me with all of the answers so, in order to save time, I will ask the questions but I would like a commitment from the Minister that he will give me the information in a legislative return, possibly next week.
My first question is in regard to the number of First Nations people working in both the secure and open custody facilities. I would like to know how many there are - either auxiliaries or full-time. I would also like to know, in regard to the programming, how many programs they have in existence that are cultural to the First Nations people of the Yukon - well, to First Nations people, period - because sometimes they are very similar.
I know that, in the past, when I was the Minister of Justice, people very often thought I was in charge of young offenders so I got a lot of enquiries from different people, specifically from family members who felt that they were treated very badly just because they were family members of someone who might have been in there - and not just First Nations people, but other families as well. I speak from experience knowing that that was the case sometimes, and I just wondered whether or not that attitude had changed at all, because attitudes make a big difference for the person who is in the facility and the family members who go to see them.
There was often criticism in regard to how much time a young offender had to spend in the room where they were not allowed to participate in activities. I do not know whether or not there has been any improvement in that. From time to time, I still get concerns from people who have complaints about their child and I just tell them to go to Mr. Phelps, because he is the Minister. I really would like to know whether or not those individuals are able to spend more time out of the room. I understand at one time they were only allowed out for about 20 minutes, if they were in there for some reason.
I hope that that is not the case any more. I would like to know that there has been an improvement. The other criticism was the amount of time that family members could visit - I think it was only 20 minutes. If you are only allowed 20 minutes and there can only be two families or children who have visitors at a time, that does not give a family member or the kid enough time, especially if you are getting into a serious discussion regarding concerns, problems and stuff like that. The family members and the child should be allowed the time to have discussions in regard to problems. Sometimes it takes a good hour to get a kid to start talking. If you are only allowed 20 minutes, it is really not fair to the individual child or the parents.
I understand that there must be someone watching a visit take place; I am not sure why that is. Very often, those discussions are of a very personal nature among the family members and I do not know if there has been an improvement in that. I certainly hope there has because that was not in the best interest of either the family or the child in care. I would appreciate some written information on that. I know the Minister has to listen to the deputy minister provide answers, but I would prefer it in writing.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will undertake to provide the information in writing and I take her representation seriously.
Ms. Moorcroft: As well as addressing the issue of how the family is integrated with the facility, I would appreciate it if that legislative return talks about whether the youths are receiving counselling and describes the counselling services that they do receive. I would also like to know how the Minister is working to keep other young victims out of the secure facility.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Certainly, with respect to the facility, we will provide a written return.
The other question is quite general, and I have discussed the policy that we will be reviewing and that we have just commenced. I am treating that issue as the second program priority after the alcohol and drug strategy.
Youth Services in the amount of $6,322,000 agreed to
Family and Childrens Services in the amount of $15,632,000 agreed to
On Social Services
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Ms. Moorcroft: The greatest increase is in social assistance, which is due to a lack of leadership on economic issues. The Minister has said that he is not the Minister of Economic Development, but I would again like to ask him - considering that the unemployment rate has risen from eight percent to over 16 percent and that, when you have no jobs, you have increased social assistance costs - what does the government intend to do to get people working again?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do not propose to stand here and discuss another department at length, but I would simply state to the Member that most of the horrendous increase in costs occurred during the administration of the previous government.
Year after year, the costs have been increasing by leaps and bounds; it has gone from just under $3 million to $9 million, by the end of the fiscal year just passed.
I am not going to accept the blame as the Member is presupposing in her question.
Ms. Moorcroft: The pioneer utility grant has been cut by almost $50,000, and that grant helps to pay for seniors utilities to help keep them in their homes and living independent lives. Will social assistance replace this grant?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That particular line item is under review. We also discussed this issue in Question Period, but perhaps it was with the Member for Whitehorse Centre. We are examining the issue of the people who are collecting this grant but not living here for the winter.
In our view, that is an inequity in the system, and we are looking at means of trying to ensure that people are not drawing this money who do not need it. Whether or not we will be successful in coming up with a solution remains to be seen.
We have been examining this situation since we put this into the budget, and it may be one of the items that we cannot carry through on this year.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Crossroads treatment has been cut by more than $100,000. How does the Minister match that with his commitment to the alcohol problem?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Crossroads was cut. Subsequently, there was an additional $50,000 given to their budget. The department has taken over renovating and running the building they are in, at an additional cost, as well. They are not really cut by much from last year.
I can tell the Member that I have had discussions with the board of directors. I attended their annual general meeting. We are committed to working with them in the development of the alcohol and drug strategy. We hope that they will play an expanded role in the continuation of the services that are contemplated in the strategy.
Ms. Moorcroft: I see, too, that the Whitehorse Transit Handybus has been cut. Can the Minister tell me if that will reduce the level of service that is available?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That was a two-percent cut, which was a break even. We are discussing the issue with the city. I do not think it will mean a reduction of services. We are certainly open to hearing representations to the contrary.
Ms. Joe: I asked questions during Question Period about the reduction in the pioneer utility grant. The Minister explained the reasons for that. My question is with regard to how we know who these seniors are who are spending only the summers in the Yukon. I know that when the Member for Whitehorse West was the Minister, he identified a lot of individuals who were under our health care plan and he dealt with that in the proper manner. I am not sure how he identified them, either.
I am asking the Minister how the department identifies who those people are and how many there may be, out of the number of people who have been collecting this grant over the years.
When I was the Minister, I used to sign all of the letters that went out to them with their cheques. I knew some of them, but some of them I did not know.
I was surprised to learn that some of these people were collecting $600 a month, or whatever, when in fact they were in the Yukon for just the two or three summer months.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I thought I had a solution at one point - at about the time we put this line item in. I am still examining the situation; I do not have the answer right now. Certainly, if the Members colleague came up with a solution with respect to the same problem, I would be delighted and I will be enquiring of the department as to exactly what that solution was.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Minister to explain the cuts to the health investment fund. The health investment fund promotes health and prevention, which is a direction I thought this government was encouraging.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: What has happened here is that the fund does not lapse each year; there is a carryover of the surplus. We have a substantial carryover of surplus and that surplus, taken with the amount in the mains, means that there will be something like $214,000 available for this year. Given the fact that there was money that was not taken up, we had some slack we could deal with here, and use the balance of the money for other priorities.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister is aware that National Access Awareness Week is from May 31 to June 6 and I believe the Minister is participating in a fishing derby during that week, but I was just enquiring about the cuts to the Handybus, which is a means that Whitehorse Transit has of enabling people who are confined to wheelchairs to get around and to have transport within the City of Whitehorse. Recently, Jon Breen, who is now a Human Rights Commissioner, had a tour of the Legislature and found that both the gallery and the floor of the Legislature were not particularly accessible. Although the Chambers are in an accessible building, there are problems for the public who might wish to observe the proceedings of the House from the gallery in a wheelchair, and the design of this Chamber would be a barrier to an MLA who was carrying out his or her duties, should the MLA be a wheelchair user.
More and more governments, agencies, businesses and communities are realizing that accessibility means much more than having a ramp at the front door. We do need to increase the level of awareness and sensitivity to the needs of persons with disabilities. I have received a letter from the chair of the Yukon National Access Awareness Week committee, inquiring whether or not I would be willing to conduct regular business in this House from a wheelchair for a period of time during the National Access Awareness Week. The Member could record the number of times that they had to get out of their chair, whether the seat was accessible, and how much assistance would be required.
The National Access Awareness Week committee feels that this would be an excellent contribution to their weeks activities, as it helps to illustrate the difficulties faced by people with disabilities. Would the Minister also accept the invitation to conduct the business of an MLA for a day from a wheelchair?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would have to take that under advisement. I appreciate the need to increase public awareness over the issue. I believe that, were a disabled person to become a Member of the Legislature, I am certain that we would provide appropriate facilities for that person. This did occur with the last Minister in this position. The Member Services Board agreed to provide certain amenities to help that Minister with her disabilities.
Ms. Moorcroft: Certainly, the representation of the Yukon committee, and my representation today, is that, by actually agreeing to be confined to a wheelchair for a period of time in this Legislature, you would truly have more of an awareness of what difficulties people with a disability face. I would encourage the Minister to accept that challenge.
Chair: Is there further general debate?
On Program Management
Ms. Moorcroft: There has been a significant cut to program management. The cut is 18 percent, while the costs continue to rise. Where have the cuts been made and how is the social services program affected by this?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: First, I would like to move an amendment to this line. I move
THAT the estimates pertaining to Bill No. 6, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1993-94, be amended in vote 15, Health and Social Services, by reducing the line item Program Management on page 152 in operation and maintenance estimates by $5,000; and
THAT the clauses and schedules of the bill be amended accordingly.
Amendment agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phelps: After adjusting for the budget reduction this program decreased by $333,000 or 18 percent.
Teegathaa Oh Zheh is being reduced by $243,000; this does not represent a real decrease in funding; $253,000 for Teegathaa Oh Zheh second resident presently appears under the contract services in the community support services program. This funding split was unintentional and will be corrected in the first financial position report. Overall, their funding increases from $470,000 to $480,000.
Crossroads funding was $108,000, but it does not reflect the $50,000 that I have already mentioned and the fact that the government is taking over the maintenance and running of the building.
Learning disabilities was cut by $1,000 or two percent. Association for Community Living was cut by $1,000 or two percent. We have talked about the Handybus and the two-percent reduction.
Offsetting these reductions are some increases; there is a $12,000 increase in the contribution for the Challenge program and job placement wage subsidies. There is a $13,000 increase in operating expenditures for the social assistance appeal committee and $3,000 for collective agreement and employee merit increases.
Program Management in the amount of $1,486,000 agreed to as amended
On Alcohol and Drug Services
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I move
THAT the estimates pertaining to Bill No. 6, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1993-94, be amended in vote 15, Health and Social Services, by reducing the line item Alcohol and Drug Services on page 152 in the operation and maintenance estimates by $13,000; and
THAT the clauses and schedules of the bill be amended accordingly.
Chair: Is there any debate on the amendment?
Amendment agreed to
Chair: Is there any debate on the line, as amended?
Alcohol and Drug Services in the amount of $1,446,000 agreed to as amended
On Social Assistance Services
Mr. Cable: The Minister has gone over these figures ad nauseum but, just for the record, could we get back to them?
When did it become apparent that the social assistance budget was going to be increased and that social services demand had increased markedly over what it was earlier in 1992?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This is a trend that has been going on for four years. It has gone from under $3 million four years ago to $9 million last year. This is a projected increase of 31 percent.
The department advises me that their projections have been pretty close for all four years, but the base budget in the mains each year has been far less than their projections. This had to do, somewhat, with the timing of the supplementaries in the past.
Mr. Cable: Is there, in the Ministers view, any identification with what now appears to be an extended shutdown of Curragh?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Thus far, it has been rather limited. There has been a fairly quick move onto UIC, and we are into the payback of loans at the front end from the Government of Canada and, of course, a lot of the unemployed people have moved.
Mr. Cable: There appears to be an increase considerably greater than the population increase. What are the basic causes? I am sure the Minister has gone over these before but, just for the record, what is the reason, or reasons, for this very significant increase?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It would be a fairly lengthy explanation. It is all outlined in the report on social assistance that has been tabled. I commend the large volume to the Member, because it explains there are a whole bunch of factors involved - everything from the fact that we have, in the Yukon, an unusually large percentage of working poor. We have high income earners, and an awful lot of working poor, who have to have assistance to survive, with families in the service industries, from people moving up here with the expectation of lots of jobs when there really were none available, to all the other elements that are identified in that document.
Mr. Cable: Rather than getting into the document in detail, are these factors, in the Ministers view, controllable?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This is what the entire exercise to be discussed in general debate is about. We have a committee made up of numerous departments that are going through each element and making recommendations about changes.
Social Assistance Services in the amount of $11,883,000 agreed to
On Seniors Services
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I move
THAT the estimates pertaining to Bill No. 6, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1993-94, be amended in vote 15, Health and Social Services, by reducing the line item Seniors Services on page 152 in the operation and maintenance estimates by $9,000; and
THAT the clauses and schedules of the bill be amended accordingly.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister tell me where they are going to take the additional $9,000 reduction for Seniors Services from?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The two reductions are a $4,000 reduction in employee out-of-the-territory travel and a $5,000 reduction in contract services, a general contract fund available to project management for identified projects.
Mr. Cable: If I have done my math right, on the statistics set out at page 158, there appears to be, in persons over 65, an increase of 180 from 1,299 to 1,480. If one factors that into the seven percent decrease in the seniors budget, it would appear that the per capita allocation for seniors has dropped very markedly. Is this in response to budgetary pressures, or is it due to a lessened demand?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The basic answer is that we are doing a lot of other things for seniors that are not reflected here. In health, we have the continuing care facility that provides a host of services, some of them support services, assisting independent living, and things like that, so that the slack is taken up there. It is anticipated that these other initiatives will make up the difference here.
Mr. Cable: I am not reading what the Minister is saying. Are these new programs that are replacing old programs? When he says taking up the slack, what does the Minister mean?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Rather than provide the Member with a lengthy explanation, I will undertake to provide the Member with a written answer.
The continuing care facility provides a whole spectrum of services to seniors, not only seniors who are staying there, but rehabilitation and respite care.
Amendment agreed to
Seniors Services in the amount of $1,641,000 agreed to as amended
Social Services in the amount of $16,456,000 agreed to as amended
On Health Services
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Ms. Moorcroft: I note that the program management within health services is up 107 percent.
Last year it was reduced by 77 percent. Could the Minister tell us what changes in policy are happening?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It increased by 107 percent; the doubling up of expenditures is a direct result of staffing up for phase 2 of the health transfer negotiations. Phase 2 involves a transfer of the community health programs and nursing stations. Because of the number and complexity of the programs being negotiated, it is going to require additional support.
There are two term positions that will be added to the health transfer negotiating term at a cost of $101,000. A third position is presently staffed. Operational costs for the team will increase by $400,000, primarily for contract services. Both of this costs are fully recoverable from MSV. The other increases are rather small: $5,000 in contributions available to community health and social services boards; $50,000 in reallocation of the community health contract service funds to program management from the community health program. These funds will be used for projects related to community initiatives and the offsets are a reallocation of $94,000 in salary costs from the program management line item to the community health line item, and a $22,000 reduction in one-time contributions made in 1992-93.
There was $7,000 to CPR Yukon and $15,000 to the community of Mayo for health assessments.
Ms. Moorcroft: There is a new line of Yukon hospital services, which accounts for $17,696,000 of the $57,211,000 O&M budget. That is quite a significant amount. Can the Minister tell me what that will be for?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Are we going into line-by-line debate at this point? No?
This is Yukon hospital services, which is a new program, so there is no comparison possible to previous years. The contributions to the Whitehorse General Hospital did not exceed the amount included in the formula financing contribution for the operation of the hospital. Contributions in previous years did not reflect actual expenditures.
There is the running of the hospital. There is $119,000 flow-through funding for First Nations health programs. This is part of the First Nations health program. It is the trilateral agreement between CYI, Health and Social Services and the medical services branch. There is $75,000 as a one-time flow-through funding. Provided in the transfer agreement for the upgrade of hospital administrative systems is $101,000. There is also a one-time flow-through funding provided for startup costs associated with First Nations health programs. There is $40,000 for an operation review, $5,000 for supplies and $1,000 for computer line charges.
Operating and financial information will be transmitted directly from the hospital to the department.
I move that we report progress on Bill No. 6.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: 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 a report form the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Abel: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 6, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1993-94, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Monday next.
The House adjourned at 5:29 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled May 27, 1993:
Safety aspects of school buses: protocol being developed because of Carcross van complaint in 1991 (Fisher)
Discussion, Hansard, p. 937
Extended care facility: electrical costs per month; security measures; per diem rate for Macaulay Lodge residents (Phelps)
Discussion, Hansard, p. 984