Wednesday, March 22, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with silent Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Petition No. 1
Ms. Commodore: I have a petition I would like to table in the House. It reads, "This petition shows that the undersigned are opposed to building a gambling casino in Whitehorse, and therefore ask the Legislature Assembly to oppose any proposal to do so."
Some may feel that this petition is not relevant any more, but I feel that the people who signed it deserve some recognition in this House. This is a petition that just barely got off the ground before the Government Leader cancelled the project. I would like to thank all of the people who signed it and passed it on to me.
Speaker: Are there any Bills to be introduced?
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: Outfitting areas, foreign ownership
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Minister of Renewable Resources. Yesterday, I asked the Minister some information about the share ownership of Devil Hole Outfitters, and I also asked if the gentleman with the California address in the ad I gave the Minister was a Canadian citizen or a landed immigrant.
Under section 106 of the Wildlife Act, the Minister must be notified by the outfitter in writing of the names, addresses and citizenship of all holders of shares in the outfit having voting rights under any circumstances.
Can the Minister who authorized this now tell me the answers?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The concession holder is the only principal in the company who owns Devil Hole Outfitters.
Mr. Harding: I am not quite sure what to make of that answer. It does not really answer the question in detail as to share ownership.
I found the California resident's comments on the radio this morning interesting when he said that he was a simple contact person with no financial involvement in Devil Hole. Two outfitters spoke to me this morning, saying that was a bogus claim.
I know a person who phoned California just last week and spoke to this person. The man said that he was, indeed, a partner and owner of Devil Hole in addition to his B.C. outfit. The Californian then tried to book the caller for a sheep/moose/grizzly combo hunt.
Does the Minister now take this issue a little more seriously and will he act on it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Well, I guess we must live in Salem, because this looks like a witch hunt to me.
David Andrew, the outfitter in question that the Member keeps referring to, is the only shareholder of that concession.
Mr. Harding: I think the Minister is incorrect in the assumption that he is making. I am giving him information that I know to be accurate and that everyone on the planet and the Yukon seems to know, except this particular Minister.
I know a person who phoned this Californian last week. This Californian said that he was a partner and an owner, along with owning another northern British Columbia outfitting area. Will the Minister take that representation and act on it in a serious, investigative manner?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Following Question Period yesterday, the Department of Renewable Resources checked the credentials of this particular outfitter, and he is exactly whom I have indicated.
The Member is going strictly on hearsay.
Question re: Outfitting areas, foreign ownership
Mr. Harding: I know this information to be accurate. I am sure the Minister does not know if a side deal exists regarding the ownership of this concession, because the Minister has not asked that question.
Resident hunters, who cannot even hunt for a moose or caribou any more in places like Whitehorse and Haines Junction, are concerned about what is going here.
They came up with an idea the other day that the Minister called "stupid" and "repugnant". This Californian gentleman was recently at an international hunting convention as an owner of Devil Hole, selling hunts. Is the Minister going to do anything about this, or is he going to continue to deflect the question? Why is he resisting?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We are talking about two different issues entirely. The Government of Yukon, through the Wildlife Act, has absolute management control. Even that Member opposite has said on the radio that we have the best wildlife act in the country. We have absolute management control over these outfitting concessions. What he is trying to do is confuse the issue. The gentleman he is berating right now is the only shareholder in Devil Hole Outfitters.
Mr. Harding: I am not berating anybody. I am asking questions about the law and the Wildlife Act. We do have a great wildlife act. However, the problem is that it is not being followed by everybody. That is a shame for the solid outfitters out there who form the vast majority of outfitters. They have to wade through this bad publicity. This Californian told a person I know just last week that he is a partner and owner. He was just down at the sheep convention selling hunts for Devil Hole. He owns Prophet Muskwa Outfitters in B.C. He is not an agent or a contact person - he is an outfitter. He was not a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant when the certificate licence was given to Devil Hole by this government. Is that not just a little bit suspicious?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: All outfitting is suspicious in the mind of that Member. The Department of Renewable Resources has a copy of the share certificates of that company and Mr. Andrews is the only shareholder of that company. Mr. Olmstead, from California, is a friend of Mr. Andrews. They advertise together. They send people back and forth between the two different territories - between B.C. and the Yukon - but Mr. Andrews is the only shareholder of Devil Hole Outfitters.
Mr. Harding: The government is getting duped. There are side agreements that pertain to this that affect the ownership of this concession. We have given this government evidence of side deals involving foreign ownership. We have given it copies of ads clearly designed to attract foreign buyers, and we have given it today's information, which I am sure is accurate.
What does the Opposition have to do to get this government to call for an inquiry, or at least to give the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board the powers to really look into this and solve the problem of foreign ownership in outfitting?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Members opposite discussed this in Cabinet in April 1992. They discussed it in Cabinet, and they found that everything was in order - they must have. They must have found that, because they did not do anything about it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order. Please allow the Minister to answer the question.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Leader of the Official Opposition said that I am not telling the truth to the House. I think that maybe the Leader of the Opposition may not have told the truth to the House.
Point of Order
Mr. Penikett: I challenge the Member opposite to prove that statement or put his seat on the line. I never, ever discussed this matter in Cabinet, and the Member who has just said I did is deliberately misleading this House.
Speaker: Order. We have the Members both accusing each other of misinforming the House. I would ask them both to withdraw their comments. Are the Members prepared to withdraw the accusations of misinforming the House?
Mr. Penikett: The Member opposite made a charge that I discussed something in Cabinet, which, unless he was bugging the Cabinet room, he could not possibly know. I know it to be a falsehood, and I am prepared to stand in my place and say so. I will not withdraw that. It is a statement about something of which I have knowledge and he does not.
Speaker: Is the Minister prepared to withdraw the accusation that the Leader of the Official Opposition made a misleading statement?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I will, because this may not be the forum to make that accusation.
Speaker: Is the Leader of the Official Opposition prepared to withdraw his accusation that the Minister made a deliberate false statement?
Mr. Penikett: The Minister has withdrawn his charge, although he sounds like he may repeat it on some other occasion. I will, therefore, withdraw my comment and await the further allegation from the Member opposite.
Question re: Shallow Bay questionnaire
Mr. Cable: I have some further questions for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services on his Shallow Bay questionnaire.
Last year, his department distributed a questionnaire to the Shallow Bay residents with the following question: 1) The minimum allowable lot size is currently six hectares, or 15 acres. What do you feel is an acceptable minimum lot size for the Shallow Bay area? The majority of the residents replied that they wanted the minimum allowable lot size left at 15 acres.
In the second questionnaire, there are two options presented to the residents. One is the status quo of six hectares - approximately 15 acres - or a minimum lot size of three hectares with a provision that no second dwelling be permitted.
Why has the Minister put this question to the residents with the second dwelling issue clouding the basic subdivision question?
When he answers the question, the Minister could confirm if the change of minimum lot size, with a provision for no second dwelling, will require a change in the second dwelling policy.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There were about four questions there, and we may as well get them over and done with.
The first time a questionnaire was sent out, 34 were mailed and 29 came back. Of those, 15 wanted 15 acres, one wanted 10 acres, one wanted eight acres, 11 wanted five acres, and one did not vote on the question. It was very close.
At the same meeting, one individual suggested it be 7.5 acres to represent an average of the residents' wishes. This was not agreed to. Both sides have come to me for a decision. The first results were so close that I decided to ask them to settle on a compromise somewhere in the middle. If they did not resolve it that way, I will decide on the side of the majority vote.
Mr. Cable: That was not the question I asked. The question, as it is framed, has a bit of the Parizeau scent about it: one asks the question to get the answer one wants.
Why was an option not put to the Shallow Bay residents that would not require a change in the second dwelling policy?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: One of the arguments was that the residents there did not want more people in the area. If we went to 7.5-acre lots and did not permit second residences, there would be fewer people than if we allowed everyone to build a second dwelling on their property, the way it is now. That was another alternative. According to the Member across the way, it is not.
Mr. Cable: That is not the point. The point is that the people were not given a third option that permitted no change to the second dwelling policy. The Minister would then find out what their thinking is on the subdivision, not this second option that seems to have been cooked up with a bunch of numbers that suggest the answer.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We did not cook up anything at all. We tried to meet all the people half way. It is quite apparent that we cannot. When things like this happen in the Legislature, we can rest assured that we will never get these kinds of issues settled.
Question re: Electrical rates
Mr. Penikett: I have a question for the Government Leader.
In reply to yesterday's questions about rate relief, the Government Leader said that, and I quote, "Cabinet was clear when it announced the policy." Further, he said, "It applies to all consumers of electricity in the Yukon." He then indicated that rate relief only applies to the first 1,000 kilowatt hours. The Utilities Consumers Group letter refers to general rate customers, not only residential customers.
I would like to ask the Government Leader if he knew about this discrepancy in rates before announcing the rate relief program?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There seems to be some misinformation. If the Member opposite would go back to see what the press release of October 28, 1993, said, it said that no one would have an increase of more than eight percent over what they were paying. Ratepayers using diesel generation, in fact, had their rates reduced prior to the rate relief program. It was not necessary to provide rate relief for them. The rate relief was applied to make sure that no one paid more than an eight-percent increase.
Mr. Penikett: The record will show that what was promised was a two-year rate freeze by the government. Indeed, I have seen a document today that indicates that the communication person for the utilities knew about the inequality of rates and the ensuing increases to the communities before the policy was announced.
I will ask the Government Leader if he knew about the discrepancies? If so, why did he not refer to them in the policy statement?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: From the information that I have, and have gathered since the question came up yesterday - and the Utilities Consumers Group did not provide me a copy of the letter before providing it to the Leader of the Official Opposition - my understanding is that the rates being paid in the communities is less than what it was in June of 1993.
Mr. Penikett: The fact that some groups are not communicating with the Government Leader ought to be a message to him, but a rate schedule from the Yukon Electrical Company dated August 2, 1994, shows an increase in diesel-generated power and a change in the rate relief formula after the June 17, 1994, general rate application final decision of the Yukon Utilities Board. Who is setting the policy in this matter? Is it the Minister, the Cabinet, or the utility?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know what the Member opposite is trying to get at, when people in the communities are paying less for power after July 1994 than they were in June 1993. They are paying less.
Question re: Waste oil disposal
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the Minister of Renewable Resources about waste oil. The City of Whitehorse is no longer accepting waste oil for disposal at the landfill site. I asked the Minister questions on this subject in 1993, and although he has a new Cabinet portfolio, this messy problem is following him around.
The Minister is presently chair of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, which agreed also in 1993 to develop an agreement between the four western provinces and the two territories to ensure an effective and coordinated approach to the management of hazardous wastes. It is neither effective, nor coordinated, for people to have nowhere to dump their waste oil because the city will no longer accept it. Given the leadership role that he should be playing as Minister and as chair of the CCME, what is the Minister doing to address this very basic environmental concern in the Whitehorse area?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We have an extension to the City of Whitehorse acceptance at the landfill.
Ms. Moorcroft: I know the Yukon government and the city had a joint funding agreement, which was due to expire next week and has now been extended for two months. The last time this problem came up was two years ago. Service station operators said then, and are saying now, that they may have to return the oil to customers when they change the oil on a vehicle. This invites quite an environmental problem around the territory.
Why is the government only dealing with this problem when there is a crisis? Do they see a long range solution, and what is it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There are about four questions in there. To start with, residential customers can take their used oil to the Raven Recycling facility. We have an agreement with Raven where we provide some funding, and Raven ships that oil outside. The tanks at the landfill will remain, as the Member pointed out, for a two-month period. In the meantime, we are discussing the future disposal of used oil with several private sector operators.
Ms. Moorcroft: Consumers may be able to take their six litres of oil to Raven Recycling, but 160,000 litres of waste oil are generated in a year. The Minister said, in December 1993, that the government was going to imminently bring forward waste regulations. I understand those regulations were signed by the Commissioner last night. Can the Minister tell me how the new regulations are going to provide proper environmental protection in dealing with waste oil?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The waste oil is being dealt with right now and has been for quite some time. The operators, with whom the department is currently in discussions, did not want to move until the regulations were in place. Now that the regulations are in place, we have operators who are interested in taking the waste oil.
Question re: Two Mile Hill reconstruction
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. The Auditor General's report that was recently released makes a number of interesting comments, besides once again criticizing the financial reporting practices of the Yukon Party government.
The Two Mile Hill project, with its cost overruns, gets special billing. The recommendation is made to conduct a post-implementation review. Could the Minister tell us when this review is expected to be completed and what the review will encompass?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I do not know the date that the review will take place, but the review will consist of finding out why the project cost so much, what the reasons for the cost overruns were and who is responsible.
Mr. McDonald: Those are three good questions. I notice the ludicrous claim made by the Government Leader that this project was a legacy of the previous government and, consequently, any problems that were to occur later were someone else's responsibility.
Was it not true that public consultation on the project design was still underway after the Yukon Party took office and before any money was spent constructing the new road?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I cannot remember how many years I have come down that hill, but I certainly believe the project was started long before the Yukon Party was in government.
Mr. McDonald: I went to the public consultation hearings while I was a Member for McIntyre-Takhini, in December/January of 1992-93, when the project design was still being discussed. The Minister had better check his facts.
Did the Yukon Party Cabinet ask to see the original estimates for the project to find out whether or not the project was exceeding what was originally anticipated before it made the decision to spend money and initiate construction on the hill?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: As far as I can recall, the project was already started and I was not the Minister at the time. Of course, I did not ask for that information because I was not the Minister.
Question re: Two Mile Hill reconstruction
Mr. McDonald: I vote against any more Cabinet shuffles. We seem to start over every time the government shuffles the deck.
Could the Minister tell us whether or not the post-implementation review will address the very significant concerns raised by the owners of the recreational vehicle park on the Two Mile Hill, who believe that poor design work has caused flooding on their property, damaged their building and damaged their business?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Here we go again. The Members on the side opposite are running out of questions. We are going over things that we discussed over and over during Committee of the Whole. We are not responsible for what happened to those property owners; the insurance adjusters have made that very plain.
Mr. McDonald: I do not believe that is true either. I really wish the Minister would do his homework. I really need to have him do that. The Minister indicates that the design work on the hill was not to blame for any flooding on the property. Is it not true that the government did some extensive reconstruction work in developing brand-new, large drainage ditches on that hill after the initial construction, and in response to complaints by this business owner, who claimed that flooding from the hill had damaged his business?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The government did change one of the drainage ditches; however, I am not aware that it was done in response to complaints from anybody.
Mr. McDonald: The owner complained that there was drainage from the hill - from this expensive reconstruction project - which damaged his business and his property. After he made those complaints, the engineering branch of this Member's department went out and constructed a channel that could handle half of the Yukon River. If that is not a response to the complaint, if that is not an admission of some problem existing, I do not know what is. Can the Minister tell us why they constructed such a huge drainage ditch, if there was no problem?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I think that the gentleman across the way better do his homework. I do not see anything half as wide as the Yukon River anywhere near the Two Mile Hill.
Question re: Two Mile reconstruction
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister responsible for Community and Transportation Services. In the budget debate of his department, I asked the Minister questions about the huge cost overruns for the Two Mile Hill, the Alaska Highway, and the weigh scale relocation. The Minister told us that the Auditor General had been asked to do an audit on this whole project. Yet, when I got the Auditor General's report, only the Two Mile Hill has been audited. Can the Minister tell us why the auditor did not audit the Alaska Highway cost overruns and the cost overruns of the relocation of the weigh scale?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I suspect the Member will have to ask the Auditor General. I do not know him that well that I could ask him that question.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister told us in the House on the day that he answered that question that the Auditor General has been requested to audit all of the information. Why did the Minister not ask the Auditor General why he did not do a complete audit, as had been requested by the department? That is his job, not mine.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I know now why it took five weeks to get through my budget and now we are going to start all over again in Question Period, because they do not have any questions. I will have the deputy minister contact the Auditor General immediately, and we will bring back the answers for the Member.
Mrs. Firth: If I was not here asking these questions, nothing would be getting done, because the Minister did not ask the Auditor General, or ask his official to do this. Then he sits there and makes fun of me and says, "Blah, blah, blah."
He stands up and accuses us of running out of questions and of asking the same questions, and we point out very publicly, and in a very embarrassing way to the Minister, that he has not done his homework. Why has he not called the Auditor General to find out why the audit was not complete? What is he waiting for? Me, to stand up and ask him to do it? Why has he not?
Question re: Weigh scale, hazardous access road
Mrs. Firth: The Minister is upset. He will not answer the question. I will go on to another question. He has not done his homework with this one. We will find out what he is doing with the next question.
During the budget debate on Community and Transportation Services, I raised a concern with the Minister, not only about the cost overruns of the relocation of the weigh scale, but also concerns about the design and functionality of the entrance to and exit from the weigh scale.
The Minister indicated in debate at the time that the problem was a small deal. Since then, there has been an accident at the weigh scale where a pickup truck has collided with a tractor-trailer unit. I would like to ask the Minister what he is doing to get rid of this hazard and make conditions safer for the truckers and the travelling public at the weigh scale?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: In the last few days, I told the department I wanted it completely overlooked, to see why the roads are this way, and asked if ore trucks will be handled there when they come in.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister has not really told us what he has done. He said he asked the department to overlook something - I think he meant look over something. I want to know what the Minister is doing. What instruction has he given to remove this hazardous condition? Has he instructed that signs be put up? Has he talked to the truckers? Has he done anything to address this unsafe, hazardous condition?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There was a review of it done last fall, and another will be done in the spring. If there is anything wrong, it will be corrected at that time.
Mrs. Firth: The review last fall did not stop the pickup truck from colliding with the tractor rig. I do not get any feeling of comfort that the Minister has talked to truckers about it, or has sought advice from truckers about it. Are signs going to be posted? Are truckers going to be allowed to change their routing going in there? Has there been no direction from this government with respect to making that a safe area for the travelling Yukon public and for truckers? I do not get the feeling that anything has been done.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The accident occurred because of the blowing snow. We admit that there is a problem there and we are trying to correct it.
Question re: Regional land use planning commission
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Government Leader on the umbrella final agreement. That agreement sets up a provision that provides for the regional land use planning commissions. It is couched in discretionary verbiage. It says, "Government and any affected Yukon First Nation may agree to establish a regional land use planning commission".
The question I have for the Government Leader is this: has there been a regional land use planning commission established with any of these four First Nations that have signed their agreements?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know if any have been established yet. I know that discussions are going on with the Land Claims Secretariat on the implementation of the umbrella final agreement. That is one of the areas that is being talked about.
Mr. Cable: As I mentioned, the language appears to be discretionary. Is it the government's intention to establish regional land use planning commissions in all 14 areas?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not familiar enough with what the government's intention is about that to answer right now. I will get back to the Member with a full briefing on it.
Mr. Cable: I would appreciate that.
With respect to the implementation plan and the master body - the Yukon Land Use Planning Council - the plan indicates this council shall convene a meeting no later than 60 days after its establishment. The council was established on February 14. Has there been, or is there about to be, a meeting of this council?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said to the Member, I will bring a full briefing back. If it was established on February 14, as he says, only a little over 30 days have gone by.
Question re: Whitehorse South Access Road
Ms. Moorcroft: The Yukon government will spend $150,000 this year to resurface the one bad corner of the South Access Road. The Minister said that the government had to work with the city. One of the outstanding issues is the land the Yukon government owns at the top of the South Access Road, which it leases to gravel quarry operators. As the Minister has pointed out, the city has planning and zoning authority, while the Yukon government is responsible for quarry regulations.
Has the government considered transferring the land it owns at the top of the South Access to the city, so that quarry planning and road upgrading can be done?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We are negotiating with the City of Whitehorse for it to take over all the quarry situations. We would also like the city to take over all the roads we maintain for it, which is also under negotiation right now.
Ms. Moorcroft: In January, the Minister promised us a report on the joint planning with the city on the completion of the gravel leases and the cleanup of the pits and the revegetation of the area. Does the Minister know when these concerns will be resolved so that the road can be upgraded?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The South Access Road can be upgraded as soon as it is decided if we are to take over the part the city has to do, or if the city will do it all. It will cost the city about $4 million for its share.
Ms. Moorcroft: This government has been prepared to criticize the city for raising taxes. I am glad to hear the government is now working with the city, so the road can be fixed. The travelling public and the city recognize the need to get on with upgrading the South Access Road.
Will the government be giving money to the city to take over the new road maintenance responsibilities?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The whole thing is under negotiation right now.
Question re: Curragh Inc. employees, payment of lost wages
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Government Leader regarding the wages owed to my constituents from Curragh Inc.
I have had a lot of concern expressed to me by my constituents that they have found the new announcements regarding the $659,000 from Curragh's board of directors somewhat confusing. There is a lot of anxiety that perhaps this might have an impact on the previous commitment of the Yukon government to pay out $2.48 million of back wages once it gets its money from the sale of the Faro mine.
Just to clear the air, could I ask the Minister to make a firm commitment to the people owed money from Curragh that the commitment of $2.48 million is still there and will still be paid out in April.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I sent the Member a letter yesterday with all that information in it.
Mr. Harding: I wanted the Minister to stand up in the Legislature for the benefit of all who are listening, so that it would be 100 percent clear. The Minister did indeed send a letter, but I want some reaffirmation of that publicly. If the Minister is not prepared to do that, I guess I will have to pass that on to my constituents in another way.
I also asked the Minister last week about this issue. I spoke to him about the impact of the severance payout. It is my understanding that severance pay can be issued to former Curragh workers without a huge tax bite, if it does not come to them first, but is put through an administrative fund. The workers are given an option to either put it into an RRSP or take the cash up front, at which time they will be taxed. Will the Government Leader undertake to put this money into administration and look into those options regarding severance pay and income tax laws, so that my constituents can have an option of rolling it into an RRSP or taking the cash, whichever they decide, so that, if they choose, they can avoid the tax bite?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This shows that the Opposition has run out of questions. This question was asked about three weeks or a month ago by the Member. It was exactly the same question. He asked me if I would have Finance look at it; I am having Finance look at it.
Question re: Dental hygienists, licensing
Mr. Penikett: I have a question for the Minister of Justice. On March 6, I asked a question regarding Yukon restrictions on applying to licence British Columbian hygienists of a visiting periodontal team and the Minister gave a commitment to get back to me with some information.
Could I ask the Minister what he has done regarding this issue?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We have looked into the matter. The Department of Justice is now looking at some concerns it has about public liability. We are looking at the qualifications in B.C. I understand that consumer services informed Dr. Wilby of the provisions under the Dental Professions Act enabling dental therapists to administer local anaesthetics and to discuss alternative arrangements. I can get a further update of what took place in the conversation with Dr. Wilby and I can bring that back to the Member if he wishes.
Mr. Penikett: I thank the Minister for that. My constituent's concern is that the visit of Dr. Wilby is imminent, and therefore it is necessary, if the visit is to take place and the specialist to come here, as he has been doing twice a year, for some kind of an arrangements to be concluded fairly soon.
Can the Minister tell me what kind of timetable he is looking at to sort this out, if it can be?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would like to deal with it fairly quickly, because I realize the doctor is coming up here, but, as I said, under the Dental Professions Act, dental therapists can administer the anaesthetic now, so I believe Doctor Wilby could do it himself.
We are looking into it. I really do not have a time frame, but I realize there is some urgency to the matter and the department is dealing with it in that manner.
Mr. Penikett: According to a news release I saw during the last few weeks, British Columbia has established four new colleges to regulate dental hygienists, opticians, massage therapists and physical therapists under something called the B.C. Health Professions Act. In that province, specially qualified hygienists are now permitted to work independently in institutional settings in some cases without the direct supervision of a dentist.
Could I ask the Minister if he is actively examining the possibility that these new standards in British Columbia might also become the new standards in the Yukon, or whether the government might adopt similar standards, given the traffic between the two jurisdictions of dental specialists?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: As the Member knows, there is some risk to the public here, and that has to be one of our concerns, so we are looking at the certification and the training that exists in British Columbia to see if it meets our standards. If we can convince ourselves that it meets our standards, it is certainly something we could look at.
Having not done that yet, I do not want to give the Member a commitment that we are going to move ahead with it, but if it provides for public safety and provides a reasonable service at a reasonable cost, it is something we could look at.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Before we go to Orders of the Day, I would like to congratulate the Member for Mount Lorne on her new appointment as the new Opposition House Leader.
Speaker: We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
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 Hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the wish of the Committee to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95 - continued
Department of Health and Social Services - continued
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Mr. Penikett: Before the break yesterday, the Minister was talking about the changing role of health care professionals and the use of nurse practitioners as a substitute for fee-for-service doctors in some situations. I mentioned a presentation I attended at the Circumpolar Health Conference in Whitehorse, where fairly good evidence was presented that, in terms of the health status or outcomes in communities, nurse practitioners could deliver a quality health product, particularly in small communities. They could not provide all the services a doctor could, but they certainly could provide many of the services of a resident doctor, and they did so efficiently and well.
I do not think there is any disagreement on that point.
However, there is a different problem about changing the focus of professional skills. There are limits to which one can go. I have talked to nurses at the Whitehorse General Hospital who are concerned about specialty nursing areas being done away with and the trend toward general nurses. These nurses are worried about what happens to the operating room nurses, the psychiatric nurses, or other people who may have chosen to specialize in a field and upgraded their education to the point where they can actually equip themselves in that way.
Of course, public concern on this score is heightened considerably when they hear stories such as have recently come out of the United States about cost-cutting hospitals amputating the wrong leg, in one case, or disconnecting a person from an intravenous, causing the patient to die, as a result.
So, there is the question of standards and quality, which I will return to with respect to the hospital, but I also think that it is important in the general question of the changing roles of professionals.
I support an expanded role for nurses. I support a re-definition of technician's roles, and I also believe that the public has to have very strong assurances of quality, safety and health in this area. That is the bottom line for me and that should not be compromised.
Could I invite comments from the Minister about this?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I understand the concern. I can say that we are not trying to lead the way in terms of nurse-practitioners or using people who are not doctors in certain areas of hospital work.
The kind of standards that we are setting in the health field are based on what the provinces are establishing and moving toward. When we get into the discussion about beds in the hospital, we are talking about a higher number of beds per thousand people than seems to be the norm across the country. When we talk about the Thomson Centre, and the beds open per thousand seniors - people 65 and over - again, we are slightly higher than most, which have a 50- to 55-bed ratio. A 50-bed ratio is the goal in Alberta. I believe it is 50 to 55 in the neighbouring jurisdiction of Saskatchewan.
We are cognizant that we have to have a certain level of expertise. On the other hand, as has been pointed out in the report that was mentioned to me by the critic, entitled "Sustainable Health Care for Canada", which surveys in large part what has been taking place across the country, there have been some pretty substantial savings without much sacrifice to health care quality thus far. In fact, it talks in terms of a $7 billion total, which is quite a lot of money.
In the area of health, we are not trying to be the leaders in any of these options. However, we are compelled to be as efficient and cautious with our programs as are the other jurisdictions.
Mr. Penikett: I thank the Minister for his comments. Health care workers in this country have expressed concerns about replacement of skilled, front-line health workers with either low-wage, non-skilled, or casual or on-call workers, all of which I am sure the Minister can recognize my concern to patients, or consumers of health. O
ne thing that seems to be mentioned over and over again is the absolute need, when one is going through these changes - and this is certainly a view that is affirmed by Mr. Decter, in his book - to involve all the health care professionals - not just the senior people, but all of them - in the discussions about these changes, and the absolute necessity of even having the lowest ranking people consulted about what is going to happen, so that they feel part of the process, and part of the changes, and do not see themselves simply as being victims of them. Does the Minister agree in general with that approach?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes. In the Yukon, with regard to some of the changes, we are, I suppose, fortunate to be so small. I guess we would say that there has been that kind of consultation and ongoing discussion at the hospital - although some may disagree. It has certainly been the position of the board to keep an open dialogue going between the professionals who are working on the new programming, and so on, with virtually all the people who work there.
Mr. Penikett: I take it from the comments that the Minister made yesterday that he does not, in the near term, see much prospect of restoring the levels of federal cash transfers into the health system to the level they were, say, 10 years ago. I wonder if the Minister, in any of the intergovernmental forums that he is privileged to attend, has had occasion to make what friends of mine have called "a section 36 argument" about the Constitution of Canada and the commitment, which holds to the idea that Ottawa is responsible for ensuring every province has jurisdiction over the means to deliver comparable levels of health care services. We spoke a little bit about this yesterday, but one of the consequences of funding cuts is that we may get a balkanization of the system in the country, and we may get poor-quality services in poor provinces and better services in more affluent provinces, or worse, we could, over time, have very different kinds of services from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and less predictability.
This is obviously tied to the question of funding, but, without asking to intrude on the confidentiality of discussions, has the argument about the section 36 obligation been made aggressively by health ministers to the federal government?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes, they have, coupled with the feeling or belief that the provinces and Yukon has done, and is doing, a lot in terms of revamping programs and so on and coming up with some considerable efficiencies. The federal government has been spending less and less on established program financing and other things. There is the feeling, as well, that the federal government, for obvious reasons, has a much less powerful voice than it once had. The current Minister seems to spend a lot of time asserting her presence, saying, "We are important; we are important."
The concern we have is that we are seeing, with the diminished expenditures, that the federal government has diminished authority. We also see what I believe is a bit of a strange approach from the federal government. It seems to be saying that it wants to be seen as being important in health because of the political issues, yet it states that it will be backing off from the funding and will even be allowing different standards in different places across the country.
To be perfectly frank, I almost get the feeling that the federal government is more concerned about the politics than the programs.
Mr. Penikett: I might, in passing, ask the Minister to comment on the Prime Minister's health round-table exercise - I cannot remember what it was called, but it was the one for which he refused to have a provincial colleague co-chair, even though it was largely a matter within provincial jurisdiction.
The Minister seems to agree that the federal government's ability to set, or maintain, national standards is compromised by its reductions in transfers in the health field. However, I did not ask the Minister yesterday if he agrees, in principle, that a strong federal role in maintaining standards, and perhaps policy consistency, is necessary for maintaining the system we have come to know as medicare in this country. The real question is, if the federal government gets out of the funding - especially if it goes to block funding - I think it may still have the Canada Health Act, but its moral authority will have evaporated. Who, then, other than some provincial governments - I do not exempt us - is going to maintain the national system we have called medicare?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That is the question and, perhaps, the answer is no one. It is very difficult for the federal government to insist on standards and continue to cut back, when it knows that it is going to result in some provinces, and perhaps some territories, not being able to deliver up to the standards that are desirable. Its moral authority is diminishing rapidly. Its concern seems to me to be - this is a personal observation only - thus far, directed more toward the politics and the political desirability of paying lip service to standards, and so on. At some point, however, the old saying comes about: put your money where your mouth is. That is what the federal government is not going to do.
Mr. Penikett: It was a useful reminder to me that rather than having a system that is continually improving - which was probably the expectation in my youth about medicare -that the opposite may be happening now. What reminded me of that was to again look at Mr. Justice Emmett Hall's Royal Commission recommendations from 1964 on health services. Back then, Emmett Hall recommended that dental, prescription drug, optical, prosthetic, home care, mental health and other services should be included in the health insurance system. Recently, we had the Prime Minister talking very specifically about not covering some of those things any more, where they were covered, and indeed some of them have never been covered.
I guess there will always be a lively debate in provincial and territorial legislatures - that is where it should be - about what the people of a jurisdiction are prepared to pay from time to time, or what they are prepared to cover from time to time. I guess the Minister would probably agree that unless and until we have a New Democratic Party at the national level, we are not likely to get Emmett Hall's agenda implemented.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have to say that given the realities of what has been occurring in the health care field in Ontario, I doubt that we will ever get it.
Mr. Penikett: The interesting thing about the health care field in Ontario is that while Mr. Decter is of the view that there is not a lot more that can be squeezed out of the system, that he was able, for awhile as an economist, to try to perform the very difficult task of maintaining a high level of service while reducing the rate of increase in the cost of those services. I think they would argue in Ontario that elasticity, which the Minister talked about yesterday, has almost completely gone in that province. Faced with aging and increasing populations and other factors, they will, as will everybody, have increasing problems.
One of the things the Minister and I have talked about before - I do not want the Minister to feel that he is particularly being targeted here - I have complained about the use of the language of community health care or the rhetoric of reform largely to describe cuts. Interestingly enough, the kinds of things that we were talking about doing in the Health Act, in terms of community care and citizen participation and the role of not only providers, but consumers, in setting a health care policy and a health care agenda seems to be agreed to by everybody. The rhetoric is agreeable.
The Minister would likely agree, based on his experience at the meetings of provincial health ministers, that we can say that these words seem to mean different things in different parts of the country, that some provinces are moving in very different directions, and that there is not convergence but divergence going on right now.
Would he agree with that?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Somewhat, if I heard the question properly. Generally speaking, there is a move afoot to have the health care programs delivered by community-based or regionally-based boards. In the Yukon situation, we started that trend with the implementation of phase 1 and the creation of the hospital board. It is our position now that what we would like to see occur in the transfer is, rather than the transfer of the responsibilities from the federal government to our department, that the board be increased by two members, which would bring it to 14, and that responsibilities be transferred directly to the board.
That board then would be a board in charge of the health delivery for a population of about 32,000 people, which would - in terms of regional boards in jurisdictions such as Saskatchewan, Alberta and the provinces - make it a small board. The smallest regional boards in the provinces I have been looking at might provide delivery on behalf of - in Alberta, for example - 24,000 people. I think Saskatchewan was in the 30,000 range, and so on.
That is stage 1. The advantage of the way the board is set up is that it takes in a very representative group of people, whose names are put forward by various agencies, municipal governments, and so on. It has worked very well thus far with the First Nations and their participation on it, and so on. We would like to start with that board.
The issue in the health area then becomes what input we would be looking at from communities and First Nations, if any, and would we be looking at advisory boards in addition?
In my view, it makes no sense to break it down beyond the one large board structure.
The second issue has to do with individual First Nations and what they see as taking down the powers of self-government. Until that is sorted out, it makes no sense to move much beyond the transfer under this one board. We will have to see what happens - if there are amendments or reconfigurations that make sense. At this point in time, we do not know exactly what the aspirations of individual First Nations are regarding health and social services. I suspect many of them do not either, because they have not yet confronted the stark realities of the financial consequences of separate powers and separate institutions, and so on, in our small communities.
It is our intention to operate in the same manner by having a regional board - in this case, the whole region of the Yukon initially - make the decisions with respect to how it spends money and runs the programs. The initial step will be to have those transferred directly to the board, rather than to the government. There is more certainty and less upheaval, in terms of employees, if there is a transfer to us and later to a board and all the additional expenses and negotiations that have to take place there.
In my view, this is consistent with what is occurring elsewhere. When one gets into different or diverging approaches - such as between Alberta and Saskatchewan, or, whatever may be said about the differences, between Alberta and Ontario - there is an awful lot more that seems to be very consistent. All of those jurisdictions that have worked together have made the same painful cuts in the hospitals, and have revamped many of their programs.
At the last meeting of provincial and territorial ministers and the federal minister that I attended in Halifax, I was quite impressed with the commonality of objectives, the sharing of information and the lack of small "p" political debate. It was my impression that the objectives were very, very similar among the health ministers at the conference.
Mr. Penikett: I would think that what the Minister has just said amounts to an extremely important policy statement. I will have to think about it. I might have wished that he had done it by way of a ministerial statement in the House, because it is an extremely interesting idea. However, if you will permit me to say so, I think that it is highly debatable for a couple of reasons that I will suggest now, but I will want to think about it further.
For a start, the hospital board was constituted for a very specific purpose. The interests that the Legislature decided to put on the board were those that we thought were appropriate to the delivering of a hospital program. Without thinking about it, I am not entirely sure that those same interests are appropriate for delivering a wide range of health programs, especially what we normally call community health programs, or ones that are not acute care programs, but are preventive public health programs, and so forth, which are not normally the business of a hospital. Health economists would argue that there is considerable tension between those different kinds of activities.
Therefore, I think that there is a different role to be played in a health delivery system between a hospital and some of the other providers - the community health services clinics, the public health nurses, the alcohol prevention people; the whole range of health services. I also think that there is a big difference.
What the Minister is talking about is certainly not what I heard the communities wanted when we were consulting about the Health Act. Nor was it what I heard the people in Dawson City, say they wanted in terms of a community board, for example, when I was up there recently, which would allow them to set some direction about not just health services, but health and social services - a more integrated delivery - and the ability to have some community direction over whether they had alcohol counsellors, family services or a different range of options and programs in the community, and given certain kinds of finite or predictable budgets from the territory, whether by grants or whatever, that they would be able to then, in the same way that it is done in the education system, have some options about what programs they would like to have focused on their community. Having one institution do it for the whole territory, especially a Whitehorse-based one, may not give the kind of satisfaction to communities that they are looking for there.
The Minister said that this is an initial step and that he may be contemplating something further, and I would obviously like to hear about that.
The Minister also mentioned First Nations governments. It is clear that they will have authority, if they wish to exercise it, to deliver health programs directly. I do not know how the devolution talks are evolving, but they may have targeted or covered some of the same programs that the territory is planning to have transferred to it.
Devolution in the health field is certainly a two-way street, as it may prove to be in other areas.
What is interesting about the different directions, which goes back to the original question, is that we try to allow, in our Health Act, some kind of democratic option, which would allow communities to petition and be able to take the initiative to have one of these set up. They would have a vote and then enter into negotiations between the community and the government as to what services they wanted to administer locally and so forth.
I think we were mindful of the experience of the Education Act debate, in which it was quite clear that people wanted an option about being a school committee, a school council or a school board. I find it interesting that no one has chosen the school board option, but people very definitely wanted to move from the committee option to the council option.
I will say that I am absolutely certain that, when it comes to these kinds of debates, what Dawson, Mayo and Watson Lake may be interested in would be very different from the way Haines Junction or Teslin want to operate. Indeed, as the Health Act contemplates, we could have had not a community-based system, but a regionally-based one, which may have resembled some territorial constituencies, such as a Kluane region or a Ross River-Southern Lakes region - though the latter would probably not be manageable.
Perhaps I could ask about this, having made those initial comments, as I had not heard this aspect before. The Minister described the transfer to the hospital board as an initial step. I have questioned whether or not it is constituted for this purpose, even with the addition of a couple of members. I do not know, without thinking about it, whether or not all the interests that should be there, are there.
Would the Minister care to share with the Committee some of his thoughts about where things may go from there?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The reason there has not been a ministerial statement on this is that we now have to see whether or not the First Nations are going to take part in the negotiations. We are talking to them about the phase 2 negotiations. There are very mixed messages about who is going to carry the ball, and so on. We have not fixed anything in concrete, or anything, with regard to exactly how we proceed. That is the first point I would make.
The second point I would make is that the regional health boards in most of the provinces run hospitals in the region and run the other health services. They have small towns, like we have small towns. So, I do not see that our problems are all that unique to the Yukon. There may be a few more towns elsewhere, and there may be a few more First Nation groups with different cultures, languages, and so on. However, I still think that the obvious point is that the kind of people we have serving on the hospital board are, I think, well suited to it, and would be as flexible as those that we seen on the representative boards in the provinces.
The third point I would want to make is that in the health delivery systems, as we know them - speaking only of phases 1 and 2; the stuff we are getting back from the federal government - are fairly narrow in scope. If one lives in a place like Carcross, the policy decisions regarding what the public health nurses do are made very seldom. The policy people are almost non-existent in the lives of the nurses, and it seems to me that we are talking about something different when we move from those institutions and those functions that the federal government was actually managing on our behalf, and we were paying for, to some other issues. Some other issues include community-based justice, community-based counselling services and social services. I would include alcohol and drug counselling, and so on. It is arguable that "it should be health, it should be this, or it should be that".
My belief is that we deal with each of the communities in order to find out exactly what kind of community-based programs they want to take on and in what direction they want to go. I think we will find quite a divergence between communities on this score. Some are far more interested, for example, in circle sentencing and community-based justice; others place a far greater priority on alcohol and drug counselling and counselling for FAE/FAS. We are going to have to find out exactly how that should be managed and what the structure should be in each of the communities. I would rather let that build and develop on a step-by-step process whereby we have a pilot project going here; it seems to work well, but who should run it? Should it be the First Nations, should it be a society, or should it be a board under the Health Act? We will figure that out as we go into the mix. There is no sense trying to rush it or pre-cast what the structure should be when the First Nations have the legitimate rights to take down self-government, whatever that means.
I just do not want to prejudge this. My fear with regard to setting up something under the Health Act for health and social services, et cetera, in each community is that it is premature. We are gradually feeling our way. We are getting some communities that are, through experience, determining what they want to do, and I would like to see that evolve and, at some point in time, look at the structure that comes out of it.
Mr. Penikett: First of all, I want to make it very clear to the Minister that I am not indicating immediate and visceral hostility toward his idea. I am just saying that, having just heard this idea a few minutes ago, I have a lot of questions. I think the Minister has put it very well in describing the range of federal health programs to be transferred as being a narrow range, which I contrast with the concept of the Health Act concept, where there are a broad range of services being delivered, but administered locally, which is one difference.
Another difference is that I was frank about this with First Nations at the time. I stated that we do not want to push the agenda; we can go on your time. However, I wanted to create a vehicle where we could work in a common, administrative body, even though we had drawn down the powers. The territorial Legislature still would have legislative powers and so would the First Nation, but if we could agree on a common administrative body and have savings as a result of that and quality services for the community, we should work together. Everyone should be invited to the first meeting in bicultural communities.
I think that, even if this model happened and was successful, you would still have the Dawson City situations. I am not trying to speak for the whole community, but I think I heard people saying there that they would like to have a community board setting some direction, but they did not know how to make it happen. That community is waiting for the First Nation to sort out its agenda. But, without some active help from the department it would not happen anyway, even if some very bright and very capable people wanted it to happen.
If a doctor, a nurse, teachers, probation officers or perhaps a lawyer wanted to make it happen, it might not, by itself, just because they are very busy people and probably not necessarily trained to organize to do those types of things.
The other difference, which is one that I think is a key difference, is the difference between the appointed board that we have always talked about in this territory and the model Saskatchewan has now undertaken, where it is not just a local option, but there must be elections to determine who will sit on the boards.
At the time we made the decision about creating the Yukon Hospital Corporation, it was the right decision to have an appointed board, but as the Minister knows, the Legislature severely limited the ability of the Minister to simply fill vacancies on the board with people of the Minister's choice. The Minister is required to seek nominations from certain interests and certain groups; there was a conscious attempt to have a balance of interests.
I do not argue that we are ready for that now, today. I think that the new hospital is not a mature one yet, but there will come a day when I will probably make the argument that we should move to elected boards. How we would define constituencies would be a nice debate.
That is probably some guarantor of local input, or input by people who care about health issues, if they are professionals or consumers. Maybe I will just end my comments by saying I think this is a pretty interesting topic, and an important one. However the Minister wants to do it, we should have a really serious, or at least a Wednesday afternoon debate on how we are going to do this. Without prejudice, and without partisanship, we should try to take a look at the experience of other jurisdictions and borrow from the best that those other places have to offer.
We got into this by discussing the shift in focus in health care over the last few years. I think the Minister is arguing a different perspective from mine. I worry about divergence, but he thinks, at base, there is, in fact, a lot of common ground between what is happening in the jurisdictions. I believe, in common, we are seeing a shift from the institutional-based doctor, the fee-for-service doctor, illness-focused model, which has been the dominant mode for this country
since medicare was adopted in the early 1960s. We are at least all talking about a movement toward a preventive, holistic community-centred approach. I think there is agreement about that; I think what we were talking about just now is "how", and there will be a lot of time to debate that, I hope.
I have only a few more questions on the national perspective, but I want to get them out. Has the Minister had occasion to express any concern about the fact that Mr. Axworthy's huge exercise deliberately did not involve health and health issues. One of the other realities about the new consciousness in this field, it seems to me, is the recognition that we cannot neatly separate health issues from social issues, or social issues from justice issues. We have to have an integrated approach - and I do not see money as the only integrating factor; I think we have to recognize the human element. Human problems do not present themselves neatly as social or justice or health problems. Has the Minister had any occasion to address the failure of the federal government to include what I think they should have included - the health policy questions in the Axworthy process?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, I have not made that observation to Mr. Axworthy. The main reason is because the promised consultation and negotiation never took place. I briefly met with him in Edmonton, and I had dinner with him and our counterpart from the NWT last June. We thought we and our officials would be meeting with him on a regular basis and that things would happen rather quickly. However, nothing has happened, except that our officials have been working to get an initiative going under the famous $800-million funding for pilot projects in other parts of Canada, and we would like to have a couple going here.
Aside from those discussions between officials, Axworthy more or less went into hiding until he put on a brave face and said some brave things about the report from the parliamentary committee that travelled around, and we have not heard much from him since.
I share the concern. I keep saying to federal people when we meet with them that we are trying to bring the social program areas together under, more or less, a one-window approach. The overlap between education and social services, health and justice, are pretty obvious. The idea of holistic healing also involves economic issues, training and education. That is very much what I believe, but the federal process has been moving in strange and mysterious ways, I am afraid.
Mr. Penikett: I asked about the involvement of health workers in discussions about change to the system. The Minister responded positively to that idea.
With respect to the involvement of users of the system - or patients - if one reads some of the national publications, there are many references these days to patient advocates and issues about access to health records from user groups and watchdog organizations, and so forth. There are also a number of ideas about self-management projects and pilot projects surrounding a more democratic delivery of services.
What has the department done about ensuring that patients who are using the system are consulted? Perhaps I can pick a concrete example to make the case. How are groups such as the Second Opinion Society being involved in discussions about mental health policies?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: SOS was brought into the consultation process. It had complained quite bitterly about not being included in the first group that met. However, my understanding is that they were pleased with their inclusion in a group and that they felt it had equal weight to the first group that met. There was some misunderstanding. They believed that it was because they raised particular hell that it happened, but it is my understanding, from talking to those involved in the department, that the intention was that each of the focus groups would be given equal weight and would be treated as importantly as the next group.
Mr. Penikett: Has the Minister thought about an effective way to involve not just groups like SOS, but the average consumer of health care? As the Minister knows, I hear from a lot of people who have used programs, such as the chronic disease program. I heard from constituents who have been using the Pharmacare program. But, for example, in talking to women's organizations, one finds that there is quite a coherent agenda about women's health issues and a number of groups in the community have wanted to make the case for either a women's health centre, a wellness centre, or some of those other choices.
What has the Minister been able to do to satisfy himself that the views of the patient are adequately canvassed in moving through the kinds of changes that we are experiencing not only here, but in the country?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We did have one consultative process. It was in the fall of 1993. There were numerous meetings in each of the communities and in Whitehorse with the stakeholder groups, and others. That was before the changes we announced in such things as the chronic disease program and other changes to the health system. We are continually lobbied by various stakeholder groups, from seniors to SOS, and all the others, of which I am sure the Member is aware.
I am cognizant, for example, of the desire on the part of some to develop a wellness centre for women's health. The concern I have is that we can only afford one wellness centre that can provide some specialties in women's health, but also should be able to provide service in other areas pertaining to family health, and so on.
Right now, there is no special process that we are embarking upon, partly because we are focusing on phase 2 - on getting the hospital built and dealing with the various initiatives that are underway.
The next round of consultation, I suspect, will have to do with the development of a management plan, not only for health but also for the department. We want to develop a plan that sets up mission statements, goals, objectives and some performance measurements for the department.
One document I received recently had to do with what Alberta has done in that regard. I am not suggesting that it is to the right or left in terms of approach. Performance measurements and that sort of thing had been approached through consultation with stakeholders and patients in the province. It came out with a document. It behooves us to try and get that kind of a handle on where we are and where we are going, overall, in the department.
I have asked that we start directing more and more energies into getting a management plan in place with performance indicators. This will likely be in the form of an option paper and then we will go through discussions surrounding it. All I can say is that I have reviewed what we just received from Alberta, and it makes sense that we develop a similar approach. I would be quite happy to share that document with the Member.
Mr. Penikett: Twice in this general debate the Minister has used the term "pilot projects" - once in reference to a pilot project around a Health Act kind of community board and another time in reference to federal money that might be available for pilot projects.
I know that other communities have been seeking some of that federal pilot project money to do community health delivery experiments and testing. We mentioned a moment ago that there may be people here who are interested in women's wellness centres, even as a pilot project. The Health Act already gives such a group the right to petition the Minister and ask for some kind of vote and then perhaps to negotiate some funding if there was agreement. We also have had the faltering project in Mayo where clearly there was a bicultural group interested in trying to do something - at one time they were even talking about integrating an education facility with a health and social services facility as their hospital closed and as they believed they needed a new school.
I have a two-part question. We have not had an indication of what kind of pilot projects for which the Minister was looking for federal funding. Has the Minister, is the Minister or would the Minister be interested in seeking federal pilot project money either to pursue an experiment in Mayo or a pilot project around a women's wellness program, if not a facility?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: My understanding is that the Women's Directorate and our department have supported a pilot project by the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre to latch on to some money that was available in NSB. I have not been brought up to speed about exactly where we are with that. However, it seems to me that the application was made within the last two months. I will follow up on it and get back to the Member.
We have been trying to access the Axworthy money, which is more in the social services end of things. Our initial areas of interest had to do with, in particular, a concern about what we are doing with fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects people, in terms of what kind of training is available, what kinds of realistic job prospects and training, on-the-job experience, and those kinds of things, can be done.
One of the pilot projects that we are looking at and negotiating on is a cost-shared project for pre-vocational and vocational programs for people with mental handicaps. We are particularly concerned with FAS and FAE. It is certainly my view, and it is shared by many, that the kinds of things that had been provided to those people were more like babysitting services than realistic vocational training. They can sit in classrooms at Yukon College around the territory forever, but if it is not meaningful, and is not going to lead to some useful occupation for them, we should call it what it is.
That is one that we understand has produced a great deal of interest on the part of our federal counterparts. There should be some meetings in the very near future that may also involve the Department of Education, as well as our department.
The other area has to do with rural community initiatives. Essentially, the concept there is to have a pilot project for a couple of communities - fairly typical, mid-sized rural communities, such as Teslin, Carmacks, Haines Junction, or Carcross - probably communities with close to a 50/50 population split of First Nation/non-First Nation. The idea is to make a real effort to deal in a holistic way with the problems in the community, and to bring in the expertise to deal with everything from education, to the alcohol and drug counselling, to the family counselling, to the positive parenting programs that might be available, to economic development training. Our proposal is that we introduce a pilot project into two communities. I am not sure that we have determined precisely which communities. At one time, Carcross and Carmacks were suggested. I do not think we have identified and finalized which communities will be chosen.
There seems to be some interest in the expertise and in trying to resolve a whole bunch of problems and see where we go with all of these things in a holistic, healing process - for want of a better word. There seems to be some interest in that, and quite a lot of interest from the federal government because, of course, it has not done very much with regard to aboriginal communities. I think a majority - perhaps not all - of our First Nation communities want to get on with healing, and that is what is heard over and over again. Unlike many of the southern First Nation communities - where there is still a lot of denial about the deep social problems - we are at the stage here of being able to move ahead.
So, that is the pitch we have made to the Axworthy people, and we are hopeful we will hear some positive news from them fairly soon and get down to brass tacks and see what we can get going and get moving on it.
Mr. Penikett: Some of those projects sound very interesting and I hope that we can have an undertaking from the Minister to get progress reports about what is happening with them.
I have one last question on medicare at the national level, and then I would like to move on to some purely local issues.
I noticed in a release from the Council of Canadians a statement that suggests that, rather than accepting the claim that changes in the health care system are happening for financial reasons, the Council of Canadians believes that the changes in the social security and health system are driven as much by a desire to harmonize our social programs with the United States as a consequence of free trade and other integrationist or continentalist approaches. I will not ask the Minister to speak at length on this, but I would ask if he has any comments on that.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do not adhere to that view. I feel that it is demonstrable that there has been a lot of waste in our health care system. Provinces and territories have successfully come to grips in reducing the waste, which illustrates that point quite nicely. I believe that many of our social programs require some review. I think many people recognize that there are some structural problems with some of our federal programs.
As well, it is imperative that we stop spending more than we are bringing in, in terms of income. I believe this is driven by those kinds of factors. I do not think for a minute that it has anything to do with harmonization between Canada and the United States.
Mr. Penikett: I wonder if I could ask a very general question. I will not ask the Minister to answer now, but would ask that he come back to me with further information.
In previous discussions we have talked about changes to the hospital design - numbers of beds and so forth - and I do not want to repeat those discussions, but I would like to get some information for the sake of my constituents, who have asked questions about services that have been in place in the past, but may not be in place in the future.
Would it be possible to have a simple listing tabled in the House, or during Committee, outlining services that were in place at the hospital a few years ago and services that will exist in the new hospital, as a way of comparison - in other words, with a focus on services that will no longer be provided versus those that will? From what the Minister has said, I assume he is indicating there are some services that will be in the new hospital that were not in the old. We already know there will not be a mental health ward. We have had some discussion about respite care. It is issues like that that I would like to receive a response to.
If possible, I would like to receive a plain-English list.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes, I can provide that to the Member.
Mr. Penikett: During the Education debate, I heard the Minister embracing the notion of outcomes, performance indicators and other measures of the quality of the system. I am looking forward with delight to asking about those in the justice system. However, I am not the Justice critic, so perhaps I may confine myself to the health system.
As the Minister mentioned, Alberta has done some work on this. Going back a decade, there was some serious work being attempted in other provinces. Quebec and Ontario were particularly worried about blank cheques to hospitals without really knowing if they were getting value for money. As I remember, there was a big effort to develop quality assurance standards and measurements, and there was a hard effort by analysts to develop performance indicators and some really good measures of health outcomes.
I suspect that the Minister and I would bore the House to death if we had a long debate about this, but I would really like to get a definitive statement from the Minister or see the evidence of what is actually being done here - not just in terms of the hospital, which is one institution that is relevant and important, but also what kind of measures we are using to evaluate the effect of the health insurance program and others. I am not just looking at the budgetary instrument, although I accept that it is relevant. I also want to ask about other things.
I forget when the next health status report for the Yukon Territory is due out, but, of course, that is obviously a fairly global measure. There have been other surveys done. One was done a day or two ago - the national population health survey - a longitudinal study of children and so on. I asked questions about it some time ago and I got it a couple of days ago, which I appreciate.
I would like to see if I can get an answer. It may be more appropriate to get it in writing, but that is up to the Minister.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Firstly, I would like to send to the Member the ministerial direction statement that I have given my deputy minister. It deals with the priorities that I have jointly developed with the deputy minister, which, I guess, would be a more fair way of stating it. Perhaps the other copy could be provided to Mr. Cable. I have another one somewhere for Mrs. Firth.
I think the longitudinal health surveys are extremely important. We have just been alerted that they are going to be cut by the federal government. We are raising particular hell about it, because we feel that it is an extremely important measurement. Now that the time, effort and resources have been put into doing the baseline kind of studies, we really are going to fight to have the federal government continue to fund them. They are cutting them for the territories but not the provinces, which has this Minister particularly irate at this point in time. There are some fairly heavy communications about to be delivered to the federal government.
The health status report can be seen on page 2 of the document under health research. That is being worked on.
It is in draft form. I have not seen the draft yet. I hate to put dates on these things, but it will be prepared within this year, which is dated at the end of September.
Mr. Penikett: I do not want to make this a complaint, but I would only express the wish that it would have been extremely useful to be able to see that before this debate, because, I think it would have been an appropriate focus for it. Regrettably, by the next time we come back to the Health department, some of the information may well be stale dated.
We were told that there was a review of mental health services going on. Can we have a progress report on that?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will have to bring something back to the Member about exactly where it stands. I know we have had meetings with the focus groups. I am not sure if we have met with all of them yet. We have met with at least two focus groups. I will get a briefing note back to the Member.
Mr. Penikett: I have noticed an increase in use of focus groups, and I would be, of course, therefore interested in knowing how they both were constituted. I would express a concern to the Minister, which is that, in my experience in dealing with such incidents, the analysis of the results is far more important than the actual data, or the information received, and analysis is a rare skill. I am not a particularly acute person, but I have read analysis of other focus group work that I have had great doubts about. I think it is a useful tool, but I would urge any Minister not to put excessive dependence on it.
I would like to ask the Minister about cancer programs, cancer specialists, tests and so forth. I have had a number of recent complaints about it taking a lot time to get cancer test results back. As the Minister will know, people who are worried about having cancer or are in fear that they may have cancer will be going through a period of extremely high anxiety. In the case of one constituent, it took five weeks to get results. In the case of another constituent, the results were wrong, and the lady had subsequent tests that proved that she did have cancer, when she had previously been told that she did not - there was a problem with a wrong biopsy.
I do not ask the Minister to address that problem - in a serious case, one could go to the Medical Council - but I do want to ask about the management of the tests and the technical procedures. Has the Minister heard about this? Has he had any complaints or does he know of anything we might be able to do to reduce the turnaround time, because I think it is particularly troubling for someone under the threat of this disease? I understand that a cancer specialist comes here about once every three months. To the Minister's knowledge, is there any action to increase that frequency or to increase the level of treatment in this community?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I had not heard about the turnaround time for the cancer tests or the unfortunate misinformation, but we will certainly have the department look into it. Regarding the cancer specialist and the frequency of that person's visits to the Yukon, we have not had any representations made about that either, but I will have the department take it up, particularly with the departmental Medical Management Committee.
Mr. Penikett: The wrong diagnosis is not a question I want the Minister to pursue. I think the patient is pursuing that case on her own, but delays in test results may be a problem that management should look at.
I have no knowledge of how sophisticated or complicated they are, but it raises a question about whether or not there is a way to have some of these tests done in the new hospital, for example. Again, as a reminder of what I said a few minutes ago, the analysis may be the critical thing here; if we do not have the specialist here, having the lab here may not make much difference. Again, I am interested in that question.
I believe it was the fall of 1993 when the Minister first spoke about setting new priorities for alcohol and drug abuse, along with new priorities in health care and social assistance. Where are we in terms of this process for priorities for alcohol and drug abuse?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The alcohol and drug strategy - the draft plan - was released, as the Member knows, a couple of years ago now. We were somewhat delayed in our implementation plan because of what we saw as some problems that arose from the secondary analysis of the alcohol and drug survey.
Once the secondary analysis was provided to us, we had to go into further consultations with First Nations, because it showed that young people in rural communities using alcohol and drugs were on the increase, which is of great concern to us. I am presently having our alcohol and drug strategy implementation plan go to Cabinet for release. I had hoped to have it before we were debating the budget, but that did not happen.
The Health and Social Services Council met within the last 10 days or so and we had asked them to review it and make their comments, which they have. As a result of their comments, there were some minor changes made to the implementation plan, which deals with, among other things, FAE/FAS prevention. As soon as it gets to Cabinet, I hope to release it by way of a ministerial statement in the House. I would hope that will not take any more than two weeks. We all know how these things happen; it takes at least two weeks to get to Cabinet.
We have increased the number of counsellors. We have added a couple of people as youth workers. We did table some information in the House, and I did have a ministerial statement regarding what we are doing for youth workers. The other thing of interest is that, after several false starts, we have now decided that we will be upgrading the Crossroads building and moving the detox services into the building. It will be shared by Crossroads and the detox services people. Alcohol and Drug Services is going to be moving fairly soon to the Prospector Building. That is long overdue; they have had inadequate space for a long time. All of those things are taking place, as well.
I am eager to release the implementation plan, and I will do that by way of a ministerial statement.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister has piqued our curiosity. He mentioned a problem with increasing alcohol consumption by young people - I think it was in rural communities. Could he tell us in what specific direction he will be moving to address that worsening situation?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: A lot of it is education. I have mentioned the two additional workers in alcohol and drug services. We have got two part-time people in the schools now, dealing with health issues, among which are alcohol and drug abuse - one FTE, between the two of them. We will also be looking at other educational tools, including ad campaigns, and the like.
We also have expressed an interest in working with people in the northern native alcohol and drug abuse program in each community to see where we could best support, or who should take the lead role in each community, and whether more training is required by NNADAP, or whether we can look at something like the pilot project, which is into its second year now, for the Kaska in Watson Lake, Ross River and northern B.C.
Mr. Penikett: I cannot remember where I read this, but I saw somewhere recently some analysis of the educational and ad campaigns designed by adults for young people, which are part of the national campaign to reduce smoking and drugs and alcohol use. This particular critic, who is a communications specialist, I think, felt that they were almost entirely ineffective. So, I will be interested in hearing and seeing what - if I can use the Minister's own words - kind of performance measures, or outcomes, or assessments, he is going to do on those campaigns. I do not want to be mean, but having had some brief experience with young people, many of them seem resistant to these kinds of communications.
Let me move on to another issue. I believe it was December 20, 1994, when there was a press release announcing that the government would help pregnant mothers who drank consider alternate lifestyles. Can the Minister tell us what he has been doing about his alternate lifestyles for pregnant mothers who drink?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Part of the documentation was with the ministerial statement. We are talking about assistance through safe accommodations for pregnant women who want to escape from a dysfunctional situation in the family. We will be talking with some of the First Nations about the possibility of using healing centres, for example, something like Tatlmain Lake or Cultus Lake, and look at even the entire family going for the term and taking counselling.
There will be some money identified for this. We are looking at working with communities to try to give a higher profile to the dangers and consequences of pregnant women drinking.
Mr. Penikett: There was no mention of any of that, but the Minister's original announcement sounded like something much more grand and wonderful. I have not had a chance to read it, but I have glanced at the ministerial directive statement that has just landed on our desks. My questions about outcomes and performance measures could reasonably be directed toward every single one of these initiatives.
Knowing the Minister's great interest in that - I do not want to use Question Period for this purpose, because I think I would be risking what little popularity I have here - I would like to know how the Minister will measure his deputy's performance, or how the deputy will measure the Minister's performance, on these things. I will just table that question. I do not expect the Minister to answer it now, but I would like to receive a legislative return on it.
There was a December 6, 1994, press release about training schedules for ambulance services. I believe the figure mentioned was 170 volunteers who are going to be trained in the next six to eight months. Could we have a progress report on that?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: A training coordinator has been hired and there has been a lot of ongoing training. I could not say how many people from the communities have been trained, but if the Member would like, I could provide him with a progress report; however, the training will be ongoing.
Mr. Penikett: I previously mentioned the concern about the integration of the Thomson Centre and Macaulay Lodge, and my concern about those being different programs and the management problems that situation may present.
We proposed this, so I cannot possibly object to the idea of having common heating, common nutritional menus and a common plant for all sorts of functions, but
I was Minister, briefly, a long, long time ago, when we talked about trying to develop a continuum of care or continuing care - I cannot remember exactly what it was called - particularly for seniors, from their own homes to home care to nursing homes and on to extended care. I recall a strong feeling among the professionals that this should be kept separate from acute care services in the hospital.
The Minister has decided to take a different route and that is fine; that is his decision. However, I do want to have an assessment of what impact that may have had on the Thomson Centre's programming.
I am curious for a number of reasons. We had the representation to us from the Alzheimer's group, which came to me, and I gather it also did to the Minister. I remember being involved in negotiations for the Workers' Compensation Board when they were going to contribute $250,000 per year toward the rehabilitation centre, so that the Yukon would not have to send its injured workers down south. That is how we helped package the extended care facility. The capital costs were significant, but I was far more worried about the operation and maintenance costs of that facility.
What is happening now as a result of the absorption by the hospital?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Those arrangements are all in place, and the transfer arrangements are subject to them remaining in place. We do not see a problem there. I would like to say, though, that one of the changes that was made in the redesign of the hospital was to utilize the rehab facilities there for the hospital, as well as for the WCB and the clients of the Thomson Centre. It is going to be expanded a bit. That is going to be an O&M cost saving, for sure.
Part of the native health centre, a circular room, will actually jut out from the Thomson Centre now, rather than where we had originally planned it in the main trunk of the old hospital, which will be salvaged and used.
On the issue of the continuum and more home care, and that sort of thing, more resources are going into home care. In fact, I think it was in the same submission that we made with regard to the beds. The Management Board also included more money for home care - $300,000 to be precise - in the near future, which is to be absorbed by savings in the department that have been generated from such things as a reduction of costs running the chronic care and chronic disease programs, and so on. We are increasing our commitment to that part of the continuum.
In Watson Lake, the seniors society is just completing a needs survey, and it may run a home care service for us in the Watson Lake area.
In Dawson City, it has come to our attention that we are going to have to have a hard look at the continuum there. It seems that there is nothing for reasonably self-sufficient single elders without families. We have people who are actually using McDonald Lodge, with round-the-clock care, who do not need it.
We are going to seriously look at adding some single units, so that it may only be necessary for a home care person to look in on them from the lodge once a day, or whatever the appropriate time lines would be. The continuum is very important. I am quite concerned in Dawson because we are full right now. Some of those people would be better served if they were in a self-contained suite and just had less expensive attention and care.
Mr. Penikett: It is ironic that they have self-contained suites in Mayo, but they do not have them in Dawson, which is a much larger community.
The problem, as I understand it, in terms of the difference between an extended care facility and a hospital is that it still remains that they are different functions. It is not that they do not both employ Ministers or that they do not have those clients - people who may move from one to another over time. The problem is that, as I understand it, they have different objectives. It is the problem of reconciling those different agendas that I am concerned about. The one way of putting it is that I really do not want to see the extended care program compromised, because it becomes subordinated to the agenda of the hospital. I do not know whether the Minister can give us any assurances on that point, but that is the one way I can synthesize my concern.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I understand the concern; however, it is my view that the somewhat different objectives for continuing care will be met. I have actually received fairly enthusiastic responses among the professionals with which I have had occasion to discuss this. We hope to develop and introduce a continuing care act and bring it forward to the Legislature next session. I think it will codify some of the objectives and make fairly clear some of the distinctions about which the Member is concerned.
Mr. Penikett: That would be very good.
When I asked about the arrangements between WCB, for example, and Yukon Housing Corporation and CMHC and the Thomson Centre, that were talked about in my time as Minister, he said they were still place. Would it be possible to get a copy of the current contracts between the Thomson Centre and WCB, and the Thomson Centre and CMHC, if such exist?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I can provide the CMHC one. It exists. We are operating under a memorandum of understanding with WCB, and it is coming shortly to Cabinet. In other words, the agreement is being finalized and is either going to Management Board or Cabinet, so it is on the verge of completion, I gather.
The working arrangement, I am advised, has been fine.
Mr. Penikett: That was my reason for asking, because in talking to someone from WCB, for example, I asked what happened to the contract we were talking about eons ago; he said it was never signed so I got curious as to what was going on. Why has it taken so long?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: My understanding is that there are a couple of minor issues surrounding the MOU that WCB feels may be in violation of the new act, one of them being the 10-percent escalation clause and that sort of thing. I have not actually seen the agreement that is coming to Cabinet, but I imagine I will be signing something fairly quickly.
Mr. Penikett: If my memory serves me correctly, when I first brought to Management Board the proposal for the O&M of the Thomson Centre, we were asking Management Board to approve a staff of 41.7 person years. I think my successor, Ms. Hayden, added to the staff or probably made a case for adding to the staff of Thomson Centre. Does the Minister know what it is now? I know they use FTEs but, expressed in comparable terms, what is the staff level at Thomson Centre now?
I can go on to another question, if the official is going to check it out.
On January 25, 1994, the Minister and I had a discussion about the problem of controlling out-of-territory physician costs. I notice that he mentioned yesterday something about out-of-territory hospital costs. Could he indicate to me what is happening with the problem of physician costs?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Perhaps I could ask a stand-in for the page to deliver some charts that I have here to the Members opposite and one to the Table.
The third chart down graphically depicts the out-of-territory hospital claims. They are decreasing slightly. The costs of out-of-territory medical claims, as well as the in-territory costs are relatively constant for the last three years - there was a slight increase last year and it was slightly down this year.
The physician utilization has been down somewhat. I think we have just concluded our negotiations with the physicians and we are looking at a two-percent increase in gross fees for this year and next year, with some concessions regarding the use of alternate professionals, such as exploring the use of nurse practitioners, and so on. I do not know if that has been officially announced, but it has been approved.
Mr. Penikett: I appreciate the information from the Minister. Obviously I have not had a chance to study it at all. What I heard the Minister say yesterday was that out-of-territory hospital costs were down. This led me to wonder if we are going to have fewer services at the new hospital than we had at the old one. If so, are we not inevitably talking about some out-of-territory hospital costs rising again with the advent of the new hospital? That is not necessarily the case, but it made me wonder.
What I was actually asking about, though, was a different question concerning the matter we were discussing on January 25, 1994, about controlling out-of-territory physician costs - not the negotiations with the doctors' union or hospital costs, but this problem we were talking about then, which was, I think, a problem indicator. I would like to know if anything has been done about it, or if the Minister has had any success on that front.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Under DMMC, we have instituted the Physician Resource Planning Council. New physicians coming in - who are not buying out a physician or coming in to practice as a locum - will have only 50 percent fees paid, which is the same structure in place in B.C. and some of the other provinces. That is something for which we would like to see a national solution. Certainly, as long as we narrowly try to protect our own turf and lose sight of the importance of having sufficient numbers of physicians in Canada, we are going to be headed toward some trouble as a nation. Health ministers would like to see this resolved on a pan-Canada basis, and we are committed to work with the other jurisdictions to seek solutions.
Mr. Penikett: I thank the Minister for that answer; other Members may wish to pursue it further. I just happened to find in my notes an interesting comment from one management theorist about the problem of merging the hospital and the Thomson Centre. This is a quote from the Atlanta Monthly, November, 1994, "We still have to think through how to balance two apparently contradictory requirements. Organizations must competently perform the one social function for the sake of which they exist: a school to teach the hospital to cure the sick, and the business to produce goods and services, or the capital to provide for the risk of the future."
I will not get into that, but that is a problem a number of people have been addressing.
In the next few minutes, there are a number of small issues I would like to raise. I would like to table my little chart about health and social services trends that our office put together. It does not replicate anything the Minister has, but is about health and social services operation and maintenance trends. I do not want to be a dink about this; however, in terms of the arguments we have had on this department, we see the budget go up and down in a yo-yo fashion. We have had forecasts showing a sharp rise for the 1993-94 year, followed by a reduction for the current year - I guess the results on that will be known soon.
I am looking at the actuals - which is the proof of the pudding - and the trend line is still rising fairly steadily. The actuals may not turn out to be that by the time we get to the end of this year. However, when I was trying to prepare for this session, and looking at the numbers, it looked like the case for capping the costs had not been proven. I want to tell the Minister that I certainly hope they do moderate with no reduction in the service quality or standards. For his amusement, I will make available to him the one graph the ever-wonderful NDP research office put together.
I want to ask a couple of local questions. I notice there is an article in the Second Opinion Society newsletter - Winter 1994 edition - written by a gentleman by the name of Stewart Jamieson.
The article constitutes a fairly full frontal attack on me for my failures as the author of the Mental Health Act, and I think particularly on the provisions that allow a board to commit people to an institution on very restrictive grounds - at least what were restrictive grounds in my view - of people basically being a danger to themselves or to someone else. We had this big tussle between doctors and lawyers for years about which of the habeas corpus rule or the many days assessment rule - which the psychiatrist insisted on - should operate. We tried to find a balance and we tried to protect patient rights. Nonetheless, one spokesperson for the Second Opinion Society still seems to see me as evil incarnate on that question.
Could I ask the Minister about his views on the Mental Health Act and its adequacy? Does he agree with Mr. Jamieson or Mr. Penikett, or does the Minister have a different view?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There is concern on two sides - the doctors also have concerns. That is one reason why some do not get along as well with the Second Opinion Society as others do.
I think that it is a reasonable balance. I guess I would agree with the Penikett view of it, to some extent. I do not think there are any magical answers. Certainly, there will always be tension between the groups.We are looking at introducing a continuing power of attorney, because one of the unfortunate situations that occurs is that when a person is off their medication, they can allow their assets to be lost forever, and these kinds of things are of grave concern.
We will be coming forward during this session with a partial solution, but it certainly is not the be-all or end-all. As a lawyer, I was involved in many of these situations, and they are very emotional and frustrating. I personally think that the present act, because no one is happy with it, is probably the appropriate balance.
Mr. Penikett: What a great success for a politician to claim that he made everyone unhappy.
I noticed the Second Opinion Society is hosting a visit by a Dr. Peter Breggin, M.D., a psychiatrist and the author of Toxic Psychiatry and Talking Back to Prozac. I do not know if the Minister had an invitation to this event on March 30, but I would be curious to know if he will be attending.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No.
Mr. Penikett: I will have to go in his stead. I notice recently that a number of jurisdictions down south have been taking a look at the question of midwifery again. I think Ontario and British Columbia have both recently licensed it. I heard a fairly strongly expressed negative opinion about midwifery here. What, for the record, is the department's position?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I think the short answer is: not outside of institutions. There is a very strong medical opinion that midwifery is fine, but it ought to be provided in a place where there is appropriate backup. I know that there are those who would object strenuously, but that is the very strongly held view, not only of the doctors, but of many of the nurses.
Mr. Penikett: That, of course, would nullify one of the presumed benefits, which is, of course, home births - the Minister nods his dissent.
I have in my hand a copy of the information from the registrar, Elsie Bagan, in respect to the Medical Professions Act, section 24, a notice of suspension of a certain local physician. We did not get a chance to explore this properly in Question Period. I was asking the Minister whether or not the act would be reviewed in light of the very protracted proceedings involving this physician. The Minister indicated that some of those were self-inflicted, because he had chosen to hire lawyers and appeal, consequently.
I must say that the concerns I expressed, when the act was first introduced into this House in the late 1970s, about the small size of the professional community and the problem of having a disinterested body has been partially addressed by having this special council, but it seems to me that it is not a very neat or permanent remedy, given the way our legislation is written.
Is the Minister resolute in his view that the act does not need an overhaul, an update or a review?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: At this time, it is not on our priority list of acts to go through and update. We have one very well-known situation and, as I say, a lot of the public is not fully informed as to the cause of much of the delay. Many of the hearings were on procedural issues and charter issues and not on substantive issues regarding the complaint. That is one of the reasons why this has dragged on and cost so much.
Mr. Penikett: Can I ask the Minister if he would be prepared to table the most recent list of projects funded under the health investment fund? The Minister is nodding his head, so I do not need him to take the time to do it.
I would like to ask, with respect to the health status report that is coming out, if it will be - I do not know who the author is - presented in terms that will make it comparable with the first such work, which was done by Dr. Cappon in January 1991. Although Dr. Cappon used different methodology, essentially what he was doing was plundering the statistics files that Dr. Glenn Grant keeps, and he was actually able to find information and put it together in a way that nobody else around here would have been able to do.
He would have pursued a different methodology this time. Nonetheless, I would like to ask if the reports will be comparable, because obviously their usefulness is considerably reduced if they are not.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is a good point. I will have to bring the answer back for the Member.
Mr. Penikett: I would like to ask a series of short questions of the Minister, and perhaps he could respond to them all at once.
These are the questions. Have you smoked cigarettes daily? At what age did you begin to smoke cigarettes daily? How many cigarettes did you usually smoke each day? At what age did you stop smoking cigarettes daily?
I do not really want the Minister to answer, but there was an earlier question during Question Period about people taking offence at certain questions that were being asked of them by the authorities. I would like to know if there were any complaints about any of the questions in any of the recent surveys, such as the one I have just quoted from - the National Population Health Survey: National Longitudinal Study of Children - and how the department dealt with such complaints?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The complainants were asked to talk to the statistics branch, to Dr Grant. He would then explain to them what the survey was and why it was very important for us to have this information. Almost all of the people were then willing to answer the questionnaire. There were a few who would not, on principle. He told me what that percentage was, and it was very minute. Once they had the opportunity to talk to him about the questionnaire, why the information was important to us, and the particular problems we had in view of the small sample, and after it was explained that everybody needed to do their bit for health care in the Yukon, the response from those who were initially alarmed was overwhelmingly favourable.
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess at this time.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is there further general debate on Health and Social Services?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Just briefly, I understand the FTEs, full-time equivalents, at the Thomson Centre was 54, rehab being 23.5; nursing 24.5, and administration 6.0.
I was just presented with the draft of the health status report. By weight, it is very impressive, indeed. I am advised that they prepared the draft and sent it to the Institute of Health Promotion Research. Larry Green came back, advising that it should be extensively rewritten, and it has been extensively rewritten. We will be pleased to provide a copy to the Member as soon as it has passed through Cabinet, or whatever the process is.
Ms. Commodore: I have a number of things I would like to talk about in general debate regarding the social services section of this department.
I had the opportunity today to review Hansard for the last general debate that we had on these budgets. As I was going through it, I remembered that there were many questions being asked of the Minister in regard to certain things that were happening in the areas of policy and programs.
After I started reading it, I remembered that we got into a bit of what one might call a battle about certain things that I was asking about, because the Minister did not appear to understand some of the questions I asked.
It is not my intention to stand here and ask the Minister questions just to make points. The majority of my questions are in regard to concerns that I have about government programs and some of the concerns that have been brought to me personally by people who had been affected by the Minister's programs. Those are the kinds of questions I will be asking. I am not here to try to make the government look bad; I am here to seek some answers to questions that have been asked of me.
I would like to let the Minister know that I will be asking questions in regard to juvenile justice. I will be asking follow-up questions in regard to some of the information that was provided to me over the last couple of year. I will be asking questions in regard to the fraud investigator program.
I will be asking him questions about some of the programs he has available and some of the ones that have been slashed, and I will be asking him questions with regard to the transition home. Those are just to name a few.
We have spent a lot of time in the House already and I have asked the Minister many questions. In some cases, I have received answers that satisfied those who needed answers, but in most cases that was not the case. I still continue to hear from people who are not satisfied with the way in which they have been treated.
There are some programs, of course, under this department that are very beneficial to the people who take advantage of them. There have also been some improvements, and that is not surprising, because each government will look at improving programs that are already in existence.
Some of the programs that have been slashed have caused problems, and what I am hearing from a lot of people - and this is what they are saying - is that they are becoming very concerned because the government has had programs to do a certain job and they are either being cut completely or are being slashed quite a bit. That does not allow them to do the kind of work they would like to do.
One of the concerns I have, in regard to some of those cuts, is that they fear that if they bring this information forward and make a lot of noise, such as happened with the issue of the transition home in Watson Lake, some of the programs will be slashed even more. They do not want that to happen.
It is my understanding that if the department decides that it is not going to include a certain program that was funded last year in its budget, there does not appear to be any lobbying that would ever bring that program back. They fear that if they make too much noise they will be seen as rabble-rousers, when in fact they really are people who care about the programs they have been delivering.
I would like the Minister to know about some of those concerns. I am not here to criticize good programs, because certainly he does have some. I know that the people who are taking advantage of them are probably quite happy with them.
As I was going over some of the debate from last year, the Minister talked about certain things with regard to what was happening at that time. I would like to follow up on them. I will not keep the Minister in general debate for two or three weeks. I intend to ask the questions and hope to get the answers as soon as possible. I had a problem last year, because a lot of the answers to questions I asked in the House were given to me after the House had adjourned, which did not give me the opportunity to ask further questions. A lot of those questions and that information should have been on record in this House.
The kinds of things that we will be talking about have been mentioned. I would now like to ask some follow-up questions with regard to the things the Minister was talking about last year. The Minister may have given me a legislative return in regard to something I asked even two years ago. I will follow up on some of that information to find out if some of those programs are still in existence and, if not, if we are going to say good-bye to them forever.
Last year, there was a lot of concern about things that were happening in Ross River. I know the Member has a good friend there who keeps him in touch with things that are happening. He has even given him the Indian name for wolverine because he is really good at doing the kinds of things that wolverines do with regard to the Opposition. I thought that was a pretty partisan comment coming from someone who is, I think, on secondment from this government.
He was talking about several agreements the department was negotiating with Ross River, and looking at the kinds of programs and counselling that were needed, such as training positions. He has already announced in the House the agreement made with the mine in Faro.
We are concerned about counselling. We know that the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Social Services - and perhaps the Department of Education - travelled there after a suicide. There were a lot of calls to that department and also to Members on our side of the House about where this government is going to deal with those programs.
I would like to ask the Minister if he could update me on the kinds of agreements that he might have come to since we spoke in the House last year about several agreements that were being negotiated regarding programs in Ross River. I am following up from our debate last year.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: With regard to new agreements, when we were last here we talked about the three-year pilot project on alcohol and drug services being administered by the Kaska Nation, with us as partners - and the Government of Canada and the Government of British Columbia for B.C. residents. As a result of our contribution to that pilot program, which is in its second year, they now have the money that we put in and two FTEs: one alcohol and drug counsellor, and one after-care worker. They are based in Watson Lake, and they travel to Ross River on a regular basis. In fact, I met the new worker when I went to Ross River for the signing of the socioeconomic agreement with the Anvil Range people back in January. That is up and running.
We have a family support worker now. The person who was doing that work was a band member - a beneficiary of the Ross River Dena - and she moved into a job with Cominco on needs and skills assessment, and that sort of thing, in preparation for the socio-economic agreement that they signed more recently with Cominco. We are funding part of that position, so she has been replaced. That is ongoing.
We have an agreement with the Ross River Dena regarding the apprehension and placement of children. I am not sure if that has been renegotiated. I believe that was in place last year. I think that was the first agreement that was ever signed between this government and the Ross River Dena.
We put a full-time social worker for Ross River in place, with special skills in counselling children with psychiatric problems. The first such worker was in Ross River and moved to Dawson when the worker in Dawson took up the new position in Carcross. That position in Ross River has been filled by a lady with similar skills. In talking to the people at the Ross River healing centre, they are quite pleased with her work to date.
The other things we have been involved with have had more to do with education and training initiatives announced more recently in this House. I believe that is what has occurred there.
The social worker for the Teslin area is full time now. The Member will recall that the social worker used to divide his time between Carcross-Tagish and the Teslin area. In Carcross, we have a new full-time worker who specializes in child welfare. He is the person who came from Dawson, and he has been in Carcross for about three months.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister also talked about a protocol agreement. I am not sure if it was put in place, or if they were going to put one in place among Education, Justice and Social Services. With regard to the manner in which they do their work, I would like the Minister to bring me up-to-date on that.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That was signed off between the three departments, and I am sure it was two years ago. It speaks to the protocol of how they work together and the sharing of certain information. It is my observation that the three departments are working together more closely now than they did before. It is a continuous struggle to bring them together, but the Department of Education is now working with the Department of Health and Social Services on a number of initiatives and negotiating some of the Axworthy projects that we have discussed already. In part, these projects have to do with FAS/FAE - we are working toward a common approach to FAS/FAE issues, and those two departments will also be working with the Department of Justice.
All three departments contributed money toward a feasibility study for the expansion of Challenge for a residential position for FAS/FAE upstairs. It is a modest amount, but it shows that all three departments are interested in the problem. It has been said many times that we ought to have someone look at those who are repeat offenders to find out whether or not there are some reasons for them re-offending. Many of these problems have an impact on all three departments.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister said last year that at the same time his department was monitoring and determining what other kinds of assistance might be required from his department for the community of Ross River, other than the things he is already doing or has implemented in the last year. Does he see any further programs that might be available to Ross River, or are they asking for further programs for that community?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, there has not been a demand for any other programs, although they have a keen interest in what we are doing about the pilot projects on the prevention of FAS/FAE. That is of great interest to the residents in Ross River, particularly regarding the school. One other counsellor in Ross River is associated with the school. There is an individual there who is a professional counsellor as well and deals with family issues. He works with the families and spends much of his time working out of the community centre itself.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister has spoken about healing centres ever since he has been the Minister, and so did we when we were in government. I would like to ask him if he could let me know exactly which communities have those centres and how are they being funded, if they are.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The government, over time, has put capital money into some of the healing centres. For example, we paid part of the capital cost of the one in Ross River, part of the capital cost of the one in Teslin, and the previous government made contributions to the one at Aishihik Lake. We put capital funding into Cultus Lake and Tatlmain Lake - actually, I think it was the previous government that put the capital money into that one.
Most of that money came from the community development fund. The money was provided with the understanding that we would not be providing core funding, but would look at fee-for-service options and that sort of thing. There is a policy regarding healing centre funding; I may have tabled it, as it is a public document. I can certainly have it delivered to the Member.
The healing centre in Ross River is staffed and it is a fairly busy place. Other situations are more often seeking funding from the federal government or other institutions.
I think that they have a critical role to play as we move into the delivery of alcohol and drug services in partnership with NNADAP, and as we move into some of the justice services required, and so on. It is very much up to individual communities to determine how they want to proceed and what their priorities are. We try to assist them to go with the flow.
We have not had a lot of active dialogue and requests from some of the First Nations that have healing centres.
I travelled to Pelly Crossing and had discussions there about possibly funding some positions, in partnership with the federal government and the First Nation, to do with Tatlmain. I am not sure where those discussions about funding have gone; I think they are still ongoing. We have various facilities at various stages, in terms of how and what they want to deliver.
Ms. Commodore: Is it fair to say that not a whole lot has happened since last year at this time? I am looking at finding out what the rate is of people who might have used some of those centres over the past year. It might be too soon to find out whether or not some of the people who have entered some of the healing centres have had some successes.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I really do not have any kind of global answer. I know that the one in Ross River is busy because it has really become a focal point for the community. That is where the inter-agency meetings, and that sort of thing, are held. People are working out of that building, and it is used constantly. I am not really aware of the extent of the usage of, say, Tatlmain Lake at this point in time.
We are looking at having discussions with the wilderness healing centres with regard to such things as finding a suitable place for pregnant women who want to get away from a dysfunctional drinking situation, and that kind of thing. We will be discussing other kinds of programs with some of the communities once we have a fix on where we are going with the programs we are negotiating for with Axworthy. I would think the healing centre and whichever two towns are chosen for pilot projects would be a fairly important place from which to operate with a group of professionals on a holistic healing attempt.
Ms. Commodore: Prior to this response, the Minister indicated that some of the healing centres have been built with capital funding from both governments, and that they were built with the understanding that they would not get core funding. Can the Minister tell me if any consideration has been given to making available other kinds of funding, such as fee-for-service or contracts? If that is the case, will the Minister let me know which of those communities are getting that kind of funding?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not aware of any such fee-for-service contracts being in place. I will check on that. We had discussions - when I say "we", I mean the general kind of we. I know that Justice has had discussions, and it is all part of this community justice initiative with a view to providing services to people who have been sentenced by the courts - that sort of thing. It is just in a very formative kind of stage. I will see if there is anything in existence in terms of long-term funding arrangements; off the top of my head, I am not aware of any specifically being included.
Ms. Commodore: I would like to ask the Minister if he could tell me whether or not we are sending our young offenders to some of these wilderness camps and, if we are sending them there, if it has been ordered by the court. If so, how are the services that are provided to them paid for? The Minister had written me a letter saying that they did not have to break the law to take advantage of some of his programs. I do not think all of them have.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That is an example of where I am wrong, because we have sent people to Old Crow - I will have to bring back some written information on that. I know that we sent some young offenders last year to the Jack Smith operation north of Mayo, and I will also have to bring back a written answer on that. I am not certain if we have used any other facility on a fee-for-service basis, but I know there is a camp out of Carcross.
Ms. Commodore: That kind of information is really important to me, because those are some of the concerns that have been brought to my attention. The Minister provided me with information last year about contracts that had been signed with Woods Home, where some of our children had to go for treatment, and the contracts alone for one individual could reach as much as $60,000.
I hear from people who are using the system, and even from people who are working in the system - and I have mentioned this in the House before - that cultural programs in juvenile justice are not that important any more because there is an individual there who does not believe in them. I know that in some cases programs are not being used as much as they could be.
If we are looking at treatment that aboriginal kids can relate to and they feel that traditional healing can be effective, is there provision in the Minister's department for contracts such as the contracts the department signs with the Woods Home? I have some figures available and I will find it so I can provide some costs for people who have taken advantage of the training at a cost as high as $60,000. Is that kind of money available for contracts for young offenders who may need to go to the wilderness treatment centre in Old Crow, in Mayo, or the healing camps at Cultus Lake or other locations, because they are crying for money.
I know that small contracts used to be signed with individuals to work with young people, not on a regular basis, but the method appeared to be working.
I guess the question is this: if we have money to pay for extensive treatment for an individual at Woods Home, could we also look at the possibility of traditional healing through contracts?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The Woods Home situation is somewhat unique, in that they are dealing with children who are in really bad psychological and emotional shape; it is kind of one extreme. It is quite true that it costs a lot of money to send someone there for treatment.
Regarding traditional healing, aboriginal content and so on, it is something that we strive to provide in our programming. There certainly is a continual attempt to make provisions to ensure that we have First Nations and aboriginal cultural content in the programming available at such places as 501 Taylor. The young offenders facility has had an ever-increasing proportion of First Nations people working there. We have been working on it. I have been asking the Advisory Council on Indian Child Welfare to monitor the young offenders facility, and to monitor what is happening at the Northern Native Treatment Centre.
Concerns regarding the available funding and the available clients for wilderness camps and so on is a tough one. We just do not have the clients to send. There has been a lot of discussion with some of the operators of the camps. I think there is, at the very least, an understanding of the problems in having the people available to send to those camps and what the issues are. That communication and dialogue is ongoing between the advisory council and the department.
Ms. Commodore: The information that was provided to me last year by the Minister indicates that in the fiscal year 1993-94 the department sent 10 children to Woods. Child 1 was sent there for one year, for $61,000; child 2 was sent there, for $14,300, for part of a year; child 3 was sent, for almost $27,000, for part of a year; child 4 was sent to Edmonton for one year, for $59,000, and child 5 was sent also to Edmonton for part of a year, for $48,000; child 6 was sent to Vancouver, for $28,000; child 7, for $25,400, was sent to Woods for part of a year; child 8 was sent for almost the same amount for part of a year at Woods; child 9 was sent to Woods, for $41,000, for part of a year; and child 10 was sent, for almost $12,000, for part of a year. The last four were under the Young Offenders Act.
So 10 children in one year were sent outside for treatment and the Minister has indicated that in some cases there are very serious problems, but that is in addition to $796,000 that goes to Woods on a contract basis.
I know that we have a number of children in our secure facility. The last count I heard was 14. It might be lower. I did get a legislative return from the Minister indicating that that was the average amount of children going there.
I would like to ask the Minister whether or not there have been ongoing discussions with people - maybe not to that extent, because if it costs $61,000 for one year for one child, a wilderness camp can provide a lot of services for that amount. Could he let me know if he has had discussions in regard to looking at the possibility of sending more of our young people to some of these wilderness camps?
I know that he cannot tell the judge what to do when the judge is sentencing the young offender, but at least there is a process in place where some of that kind of treatment can be recommended by the courts, or even recommended in his department. We are looking at a lot of dollars here. I appreciate that we have treatment for some of these children who need it.
I was at the adult jail yesterday for their solstice feast, and I could see that the programs provided to them - at not a lot of cost - appear to be meaningful to them and probably have value to the way they live their lives.
I am sure that the Minister of Justice knows that the jail population is decreasing. We are told that this is due to one certain judge who does not send everybody to jail, but I do not know if that is the case.
Through a process in the Minister's department, could the government utilize more wilderness camps in our communities where we have elders and wise individuals who can provide treatment that is not taught by universities? I think the Member has indicated that that kind of traditional healing could be very effective, but it seems to be disappearing in juvenile justice.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There is an ongoing dialogue. We used to sent extremely disturbed children out to Woods Home, but then the previous administration wanted to repatriate some of those services and that is why we have the contract they entered into with Northern Network of Services, which is Woods located here. There is a board of directors. Involved in it are Indian elders, members of the Advisory Council on Indian Child Welfare. That was an attempt to repatriate some of that treatment and to try to get these people into stable home situations in the Yukon.
Regarding the issue surrounding other kids in trouble with the law, we do not have that many at any given time who go out to camps, but I know that we have sent some to the Tetlichi Camp in Old Crow and to the Jack Smith wilderness camp north of Mayo.
As I say, I will have to come back with that. The issue of the utilization of some of the wilderness camps for other children in care is one that is under discussion between the Advisory Council on Indian Child Welfare and the department on an ongoing basis. In fact, some of the people who run the camps are on that council, so it certainly is not something that has been lost sight of.
I have a great deal of sympathy and support for community-based justice programming, including looking after kids who have gone through circle sentencing in places like Pelly Crossing and other communities.
Chair: The time being 5:30 p.m., we will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We are dealing with Bill No. 3, Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95. Is there any further general debate on Health and Social Services?
Ms. Commodore: Before the break, we were talking about healing centres, healing programs and young offenders, and the amount of money that was given to Woods Home for treatment. I read a list of numbers for the Minister. He provided me with some information. It appears that the young people are not being sent on a regular basis to wilderness camps run by First Nations.
Can the Minister tell me what kind of programs are offered in the young offenders closed custody facility?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will have to come back with a written response to that.
Ms. Commodore: The Member read a list of things his department was doing with regard to treatment for substance abuse and I think that some of it applied to individuals in custody, whether it was open custody or closed custody.
I have already talked about this, but one of the concerns is the decrease in cultural programs that are being offered by the department. There appears to be a problem with that. I would like to ask the Member if he can tell me whether or not he has checked my allegations and can let me know if some of the programs have been eliminated.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am really not aware of which programs the Member is referring to. At the policy level, we strive to offer culturally relevant programs to young offenders and to clients. Unfortunately, a large number of the clients in the young offenders program are First Nations persons. The policy is that the programming be culturally relevant, and I have only heard complaints from the Member opposite. I have not heard complaints from anyone else about the reduction or the cancellation of any program. We have all kinds of initiatives that are culturally relevant and, again, I can bring back the details and specifics to the Member.
Ms. Commodore: We have had an experience in the House where one Minister stated, "No one has told me that they are opposed to gambling, except those people on the other side of the House". In fact, there are many people out there who are opposed to it. So, just because the Minister is not being told about these things does not mean that they are not happening.
I asked for information from the Minister a number of months ago, in regard to the kind of programs that were being run in juvenile justice. One of the things the Minister stated in a legislative return - and this is dated a long time ago, almost two years ago, May 27, 1993, about six months after he became Minister - that there is a dedicated, full-time, cross-cultural coordinator who develops and implements cross-cultural and youth services. I have been told that position has been eliminated.
I guess my questions have to be specific. I would like to ask the Minister if that is the case. Has that position been eliminated?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Not to my knowledge, but I will get further information about that position for the Member.
Ms. Commodore: The legislative return also says that the secure facility has recently established a First Nations cultural programming committee. I know from the article in the paper that there were some programs run at 501 Taylor by Rolly Williams, whom I know to be a good artist, and he has a lot of valuable information.
Other than that, does the government have other programs and is this First Nation programming committee still in existence?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There is a variety of programs being implemented and ongoing at 501 Taylor, under the programming for young offenders and kids at risk. I guess we do not have the briefing note on them all, but I will bring that back for the Member.
Ms. Commodore: The committee that I just asked the Member about was composed of two communities elders and staff from the facility. That is the committee he told me was operating at that time. It is that specific committee about which I would like him to bring me information. He also spoke about talking circles that were held and lifeskills programs that were being provided at the facility. I would like to ask him if the talking circles are still held.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We will bring back information on this type of thing for the Member.
Ms. Commodore: This Minister stands up in the House day after day and talks about how wonderful his programs are, and how he is doing more for less. He talks about how he supports the First Nations programs that are available in his department. If he is so knowledgeable that he can stand up in the House during Question Period and brag about all of the things that he is doing, I do not know why he cannot stand up in Committee of the Whole and tell us whether or not these programs are in existence.
He said that he is going to bring me back information, but I am trying to get answers right now. He has said in this House that he is doing wonderful things with programs and First Nation traditional ways of doing things. However, he does not know the answers. He cannot answer these questions, and it appears that his deputy minister cannot either.
The other thing mentioned in this legislative return was a medicine wheel program that was based on native spirituality with a strong First Nation cultural component. If he does not know if that is still in existence, I would like him to bring that information back, or maybe he could tell me now.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I think it is important for the Member to understand that the Minister's job has to do with policy. She is making allegations that things have changed and wants to know all kinds of minute details. I have no way of suspecting there has been a diminishing of culturally relevant programming in the young offenders area of the department. There has certainly been no policy decision made in that regard.
Some of these initiatives change from time to time, or are held at different times of the year, or are sometimes held at different quarters. These things are ongoing, but they are not as a result of policy change. If she wants those kinds of details, we can get them for her, but they are not the kinds of things that I, as Minister, am involved with.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister has a really big responsibility. That responsibility is to the departments for which he is responsible.
When we were in government, we were required to come into this House with all kinds of information to provide to the Opposition.
I am asking the Minister these questions for a reason. In the past, I have talked about individuals in the department who came to the Yukon with ideas on how they would change the system. If I am told that an individual in a high management position in juvenile justice is not in favour of cultural programs, then I want to know if the cultural programs in juvenile justice listed on this legislative return, dated May 27, 1993, are still in existence and, if not, I would like to know what is replacing them.
If we are told about different individuals who are not in favour of certain programs, it would follow that they might want to get rid of them. We are told that a lot of the programs, at least in juvenile justice, are going. After this legislative return came out, we heard that the department was starting to get rid of some of the programs. We also heard that new individuals in that department were opposed to open custody and favoured closed custody, and that they are working toward changing the whole system.
I am not saying that closing down 501 Taylor was wrong. I do not know if it has proven to be a good move. However, we on this side of the House become concerned when we are told about changes that will be made because some young, bright-eyed person moves up here from outside and wants to change the whole system in accordance with what he has been taught in some university in Ontario.
When the Minister brings back that information, could he look at his legislative return and compare it to his legislative return of May 27, 1993, almost two years ago? If there is a decrease in the programs, I would like to know why.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There are an awful lot of hypotheticals here. If, if, if, and it is alleged that somebody has a bias because they come from down south.
I do not know of another jurisdiction where ministers are expected to come into the House and bring forward all the bureaucratic details and administrative statistics of their department. It is just unimaginable. Normally these are things that officials are asked, and they provide that kind of detail.
I know what the policy is and I know what direction has been given. I have not been made aware of any desire on the part of the department to reduce the First Nation culturally relevant programming. We have a lot more programming for young offenders using 501 Taylor Street, which was not being used very much at all. Some of the people who complained about changes did so because they were expected to do some work and not babysit an empty house. They are doing a lot; there have been all kinds of initiatives taken for youth at risk. There is a lengthy list of things that are being tried, implemented and introduced, much of it based on First Nation culture. There is certainly no withering away of support for that approach.
Unless there are some factual allegations that we have cancelled the program and not replaced it with another similar program, then all I can do is say, "Okay, there was a return prepared by my department and filed two years ago, and we will have somebody update that and file the comparison the Member wishes." We can do that, but do not expect me to memorize all these things. That is not what I am here for.
Ms. Commodore: The whole point of it is that I have the right and the responsibility to ask these questions in the House, and the individuals who bring these concerns to me have a right to know the answers to the questions I ask. I am not making these questions up. Some questions I ask are for my own information; some questions are because the concerns have been brought to my attention, and that is the reason I ask them.
I do not expect the Minister to know every little detail of the whole department, but certainly when he stands up in the House and talks about his dedication to First Nation programs and we hear that they are flying out the window, then I would certainly like to know why.
We all know now that 501 Taylor has been closed and that a number of programs were available there. I think he mentioned at one time that there was a possibility that, from time to time, it may be used as an open custody facility to house certain individuals. I read that somewhere; I do not have it right in front of me right now, but I would like to ask him if that has in fact happened.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, that has not happened. A lot of programs are being implemented and are ongoing at the centre, and this has been the case for some time. We are quite prepared to provide the Member with a complete history of the programming and the scheduling of the various programs that are ongoing.
Ms. Commodore: I asked the Minister about the secure custody facility and the population, because we have heard it has been booked quite heavily in the last little while. I received some information back giving me a count of how many young people they have there, on average. The figure was about eight, or something like that, but we heard that the facility was overcrowded.
The information given to me stated that the facility was built to house 12 children. The information that was provided to me recently was that it could house 16. I would like to ask him why the discrepancy, because it was built to house 12. What happened to make it able to accommodate, reasonably well, 16 young people?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Recently there has been an influx of clients to the closed custody facility in Whitehorse. We are up in the range of 16 people being housed there. It is definitely jam-packed. The department is trying to figure out where else they can house young offenders adequately. This is something that is under discussion right now. They have looked at, for example, the potential of using the correctional facility, because it has a segregated upstairs capacity of, I think, five.
There has been, just recently, a marked increase in the number of people who have been sent to the facility. With regard to the facility being adequate to house 16, I will have to get back to the Member.
Ms. Commodore: We have a very serious problem here. The Minister has just confirmed that it is a problem. We have a large number of young people being sentenced to secure custody.
The Minister will not be able to provide me with this information right now, but I am told that these young people are much younger than they have been in the past. There are now, for example, 12 and 13 year olds being sentenced to secure custody. That is a pretty harsh sentencing for some of these young people.
Can the Minister tell me if he is aware that the age of these individuals in custody is getting younger all the time?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I think there are a larger proportion of younger children lodged there. We can bring back the statistics for the Member.
Ms. Commodore: I know that one of the election promises of the Yukon Party, before the election, was that it would lobby for harsher sentences for young people. Can the Minister tell me whether or not the government has made representation to the powers that be that that occur?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We did support the interim changes to the Young Offenders Act, which is proceeding through Parliament - those having to do with a longer sentence for young offenders convicted of murder and the issues dealing with violent offenders. The full-blown review of the complete Young Offenders Act is a second-stage review. With regard to the issues being dealt with there, we certainly remain highly concerned about how violent young offenders are dealt with. Fortunately, in the Yukon, that is a small proportion of the youth who are at risk and become involved with the law. We do support the measures that have been taken regarding the interim changes to the Young Offenders Act.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister has already confirmed that the closed custody facility has been crowded, but we have also been told that some of the young people are being sent outside, on temporary absences, to open custody. Is the Minister aware of that situation? If he is not, could he bring information back to me about whether or not the facility is overcrowded and why these young people cannot be accommodated? We have been told that the government has sent some of the young people outside to open custody facilities.
Could the Minister let me know whether or not that information is correct? It may not be, but that is what we are told.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not aware of young people being sent outside of the Yukon, because of overcrowding, but I will get back to the Member on that.
Ms. Commodore: If that is happening, I would consider that a very serious situation and would want to know why it is happening.
Would the Minister provide me with that information tomorrow? I know that he can, because it is a matter of picking up the phone and asking someone in juvenile justice for it. If the Minister could bring me back the information about the population of the facility right now, could he indicate if, in fact, the government is sending young people outside to open custody and provide us with the number who have been sent outside of the territory and why the government is sending them out?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I can provide that information for the Member after the break.
Ms. Commodore: If a young person is sentenced to closed custody by the courts and the government then ships the individuals outside of the territory to open custody, the government is not accommodating the sentence imposed by the courts. How can this be done?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not aware of anyone having been sent outside to open custody. I know that before the current facility was built, the government of the day was sending people outside to closed custody because we did not have a closed custody facility here. This is the first I have heard of this allegation. I will find out exactly what has happened before we speculate about whether it is legal or illegal. I am sure that whatever is being done is legal.
Ms. Commodore: It seems that we do have a problem with a lot of our young people being sentenced to these facilities. The Minister has indicated that he had a number of programs for children at risk. I would like to know from him when the government plans to do a review or an evaluation of the programs to find out whether or not they are effective. I know that they are new, and there has to be time to determine whether or not they are successful. Can the Minister tell me right now whether charges against young offenders are on the rise? He should know how it compares to this time last year.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The statistics show a predicted increase, as has been alluded to by the Member for Riverdale South. The obvious problem is that there are two categories of kids in a place like Whitehorse. There are those who have come from functional backgrounds and families and who get involved in sports and recreation - there are all sorts of cadillac services available to those kids. Then there is a large percentage - I do not know what the percentage is, but it is probably as much as 40 or 50 percent - who do not get involved in those activities. Some of them are from reasonably functional families, some are from dysfunctional backgrounds, and there is very little for those young people. We have tried to get more parents and organizations involved through efforts like the teen centre. We have started the ball rolling and have been working on the creation, for example, of a skateboard park. We have worked with the Kwanlin Dun and provided some funding for summer activities for youth in the Kwanlin Dun Village.
I was hoping that we would get something going with a teen centre, similar to what was started in Carcross. We have encouraged other communities as well, but the fact remains that there is very little for about half of the kids, and the others have a hard time determining what activities they want to take up. There is virtually everything available at very little cost to those kids. Whitehorse is a remarkable town, compared to other centres of similar size. We have tremendous facilities for some, and zip for others. We have very high wages for one category of people and less-than-poverty-line wages for service-industry people. There are grave dichotomies here, and I suspect that that has some bearing on the number of kids who get involved with the law.
Ms. Commodore: The allegation that I made a little while ago about one of the managers favouring closed custody, when he first arrived in the Yukon, appeared to be true. I should not say it appeared to be true, but if that allegation was true, then it seems that there has been some success there.
What I wonder about is the move to close down 501 Taylor, which eliminated an open custody facility completely and turned it into a foster parents home, or whatever they are called. They opened, I think, four foster homes for these young offenders. I am wondering whether or not that has a bearing on how these individuals are sentenced. For instance, they may not be suitable for a foster home, but they might have been suitable for an open custody facility and now there is none, as 501 Taylor was. I wonder if the Minister is aware of anything that has come from the courts identifying that as a problem, and why so many kids are being sentenced to secure custody?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, there is absolutely no evidence of that, to my knowledge. We feel the open custody arrangements that we made with the family home situation were providing better care than the open custody program at 501 Taylor did.
In addition, we have been able to beef up the support programs for kids at risk, not simply dump them out with very little follow-up once they have finished their term.
Ms. Commodore: There appears to be something happening there, and we have to wonder why so many young kids are being sentenced to secure custody. Can the Minister provide me with information about his foster homes for young offenders? Are they being utilized? Has there ever been a time when they ran out of spaces in foster homes?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: They are being utilized, and I can come back with some statistics for the Member. One of the more well-known cases has been splashed all over the pages of the Whitehorse Star, as I see again tonight.
Ms. Commodore: Because the Minister made this change last year, he should have some indication of whether or not the homes are full. I am asking the Minister for statistics, but can he tell me right now if four of them are being used all the time, or if two of them are full once in a while, and how many kids are being sentenced to open custody?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not aware of any problems with regard to overcrowding or the need for more homes. I can come back with the statistics.
Ms. Commodore: At about the same time as the Minister provided me with the legislative return - May 1993 - there was also one with regard to a review of the young offenders facility. It identified a lot of changes they felt had to take place.
He was the Minister then and he is the Minister now, so he should be able to provide me with information about whether or not the review and the recommendations that came out of the review were successful. The recommendations for the young offenders facility were made under a review conducted by a person by the name of Fitzmorris, who was the executive consultant, Human Rights Consulting Incorporated. It was a review that we talked about at great length at one time in this House.
Can the Minister tell me whether or not the recommendations were followed through on, and whether or not things appear to be working better inside the facilities?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The recommendations were followed through on. The situation seemed to be improving greatly. There were some initial staff morale problems that were overcome. The last report I had was from the Advisory Council on Indian Child Welfare when I last met with it, which was about three weeks ago.
I am not exactly sure what the situation is now that the place is jam-packed full, but I will be talking with the department to see exactly what kinds of options we have to alleviate the pressure, should the judges sentence more young offenders to the facility.
The only situation that I am aware of that probably has merit is the use of the Teslin correctional facility on an interim basis, because it is segregated, with the upstairs available for female inmates, of which, the last time I checked, there were none.
Ms. Commodore: Can I ask the Minister if that facility has been designated as a facility for open custody or secure custody for young offenders?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, it has not been, but that is not insurmountable either. We could do thatt if there is the need. It is a matter simply of finding some place that is suitable to house those kids.
Ms. Commodore: Could the Minister tell me about the diversion committee? It is a committee that I was on many, many years ago, and I know the work that was done at that time. I know there are a number of people on that committee. Can I ask him whether or not it is very active in dealing with the young people who choose to go that route?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not really very clear about how active it is at this point in time. I know that a lot of what is now called circle sentencing is, in essence, diversion, and circle sentencing has really taken the place of diversion in many of the communities around the Yukon. If the Member could tell me exactly what information she requires, I will get it for her.
Ms. Commodore: I would like to know who is on the committee, because that would let me know how many dedicated people there are and who they are, as it takes an awful lot of time to work with a program like that.
I would also like to know if he could provide me with the number of cases that have been brought before them, and the kind of sentencing or agreements that were made. The Minister said he would do that.
I would also like to ask him about circle sentencing for young offenders. Are they doing that for young people as well as adults and, if they are, how often?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: They are doing it for young people as well as adults. As to how often it happens, that varies from community to community. The experience in Carcross has been that they have had a high percentage of the young people go through circle sentencing and be under the wing of the justice committee in Carcross. This is an accepted practice in other rural communities, as well.
As to the statistics, I have no idea what they would be.
Ms. Commodore: When the Minister was the Minister of Justice, he made some comments on the radio about circle sentencing. There appeared to be some individuals in his home town of Carcross who had some problems with it. He made statements about whether or not it was the right thing to do; if it did not work, they may go back to the regular system. Did he say that or give that indication to the reporter? It was a pretty harsh statement at the time, just when people were trying to proceed with circle sentencing, which was a process in which they felt more comfortable. One of the reasons they chose to try something else was because the existing system was not working. I think the Minister agrees that that was the case.
Can he explain to me whether or not he continues to support that, despite the fact that some individuals in his home town are opposing it?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Without getting into this at any great length, which I very easily could, I expressed my concern about the way in which community-based justice was proceeding in some of the communities. My concern was that community-based justice mean just that; it is important that the majority of people understand what the system is about and how it works and be invited to participate. I expressed some concerns, at the time, about Carcross and about the importance of laying the groundwork before things could proceed in a meaningful way. To proceed in a haphazard fashion would turn a lot of people away if they did not understand it or support it, because one needs community support in order to take on community programming.
This led to renewed efforts by various officials, and at least one judge, to explain community-based justice to as many people in that community as possible and to get more people involved. It has led to a new broadly based justice community, which is now being established. It is working toward an agreement, similar to the one that is being achieved in Champagne-Aishihik, where they started by having a lot of people from the village involved, including councillors as well as First Nations persons. It has led to a fairly sound and good foundation for the building of a community-based justice program.
I am convinced that a lot more people in Carcross now understand what it is about and support it. At the meeting I attended, near the end of January, there was a good cross-section of people who are involved with the justice committee now, who were not involved before, because they had great reservations about what was going on, and they did not understand what the whole process was supposed to be about. I think that has turned around, and I have a great deal of faith that they will move ahead and establish the priorities that they want to see established.
That is what they are working on now.
They are working on some components of an agreement that they will strike with the Department of Justice, and they will move on from there. I would expect that more training for JPs will be provided there. There will also be training provided to courtworkers. There has been a change in the way probation officers go out and work with the community. It would be good to have someone trained to work in the community - or more than one - in order to follow through on the sentences that are agreed upon by the circle justice group.
I think there have been a good many changes to the very issues that I was concerned about; namely, that one has to start with broad community support and get lots of people involved. Without that support the program was in danger of failing.
Ms. Commodore: I have heard about the changes that are taking place in the communities in regard to programming and circle sentencing. I have also heard some concerns from individuals who really do not understand community-based justice. When the Minister of the Department of Health and Social Services was the Minister of Justice he made the announcement about community-based justice, and it sounded as if it was going to be a really popular program. In some communities, to a certain extent, it has been something with which people can work.
I have also heard that some First Nations groups have been quite discouraged when seeking information about community-based justice programs. One of the concerns that they have had is that the department will not support the program unless the whole community is involved.
For instance, if a First Nations person goes to the department to discuss community-based programming, and if the programming is specifically in regard to their First Nation, the department will tell that First Nation to forget it and that it can come back after it has gained the support of the rest of the community. Is that the case?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I think that is an oversimplification, but if the desire is to have an aboriginal-only, community-based justice system in a bicultural community, then we are really talking about the First Nation proceeding on a self-government basis. If the First Nation is proceeding on this basis, it is the role of the federal government to provide the support system.
Under the land claims agreement, it is very clear as to what the obligations of the Yukon territorial government are. That has to be explained to the First Nations. The obligations with regard to funding are set out in the self-government agreements.
Of course, the territorial government is not going to provide funding when the federal government has the responsibility.
Ms. Commodore: Can the Minister give me an example of what he thinks would not be acceptable for funding through the territorial government? He talks about self-government and federal responsibility; I would like him to give me an example.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Using a small community that has a fairly equal makeup of population as an example, and supposing the First Nation wants to have its own justice system that will not involve non-First Nation people, the direction in which they are then heading is self-government.
In general terms, the responsibility of the Yukon government is simply to provide the savings of self-government to the federal government, which is funding the self-government arrangement. If one has a small community that has traditionally been serviced as a whole by the Department of Justice, which has circuits going there, it is very unlikely that there will be much savings if one ends up with two systems.
As soon as the request is for something that is not for the whole community, one gets into this area. I presume that is why the message has been that if one is going to strive for a separate system, one has that right. It is all laid out under the self-government agreement. This government is not going to happily give money to the federal government to cover the federal government's responsibilities. That is the rationale.
Ms. Commodore: Can I ask the Minister if he can tell me how many programs are in existence for juvenile justice in respect to community-based justice? What is in existence right now?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would really have to give a written response to that. The distinction between the adult component and the juvenile component in a community such as Carcross or Haines Junction is not a great one. Not a lot is provided solely for juvenile justice. The government is trying to approach these things and train people to cover broad areas. In probation, for example, the average probation officer - the last time I asked - in Whitehorse had a caseload of something like 63 cases at a given time.
In Carcross the load might be six, and in Teslin it might be equivalent. It might fluctuate somewhat. So, we are really talking about it being very difficult, if local people are trying to deal with some of these things, to break it down even further into categories of only dealing with young offenders or dealing only with adults.
Ms. Commodore: I have not had the opportunity to travel around the communities since I was a Minister. At that time, I used to travel to different communities very often, if the court circuit was on, and they were in that specific community, so that I could just drop in on the court to see what was happening.
Could the Minister tell me how the system works now with the circle sentencing? Do they still have the regular court, in the traditional sense? Do they have two different kinds of systems at once? For instance, I know that some non-aboriginal people have made a decision to go into a circle and be heard by the circle, but there are people who will not do that. What happens there?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: My understanding is - and it is more in Justice than it is with the other system - they are actively negotiating community-based justice from the Justice end. We are not. We just support it. It varies from community to community. There are certain elements, and it is a matter of pick-and-choose. What they do in Pelly Crossing is quite different from what the process is in, say, Carcross. Again, it is different in Teslin.
The first point I would make is that the accused has to consent to be dealt with under the system. I think that is a fundamental principle. Yes, there still needs to be other options.
I know that in Pelly they have been fairly strict about not taking on situations where they think they will not have success in rehabilitating the individual. They have also been, as I understand it, quite strict about breaching them back into the other court, if they do not live up to the standards set by the elders council. It varies.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister has just indicated that there is ongoing training, and he mentioned justices of the peace. Can he tell me how many justices of the peace hear cases in the young offenders court?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: At this point in time, I am not aware of JPs hearing those cases, but I will check into it. There may be some cases that I am not aware of, but I will have to check it out. There have been a lot of JPs trained and put in place in the last two years. I am just not up to speed on exactly what has transpired.
Ms. Commodore: We had much discussion last year about a lot of our young people who end up in treatment homes. There was an incident last year that reached the media, where four young people, some who were in one of the treatment homes and some who were former clients, spoke to the media. I understood that the interview took almost two hours, but as a result of that interview a lot of information came out in the paper.
This news release is dated February 10, so it was over a year ago. The teens mentioned that they were concerned about the problems in a Whitehorse home for emotionally troubled kids. They talked about staff from the home looking for some of the children who were AWOL and one said, "A car stopped and three staff jumped out and got them by the hair and threw them all over the place, and then they threw me against the car" - this is by a child named Brent and I think the Minister may know this person. Then the girl said, "They were throwing them around and everything and were screaming 'help' and I just really got scared. Me and so and so had to hold him up because he was, like, falling. They threw this kid on the ground and just left him there like he was nothing." Then the girl says, "I started getting mad at her and saying, 'Was it best for him to get hurt, was it best for him and so and so to get hurt that night' and she told me that it was best for him because the only way they can take him away is hurting him."
Then they went on and on and on about the treatment. They talk about rug burns they have incurred because of being thrown on the floor.
These were very heavy accusations made by these kids to the media, but they were willing to say those things at the possible expense of getting into trouble.
The response from the home was, "if the one incident was so bad, why did the children not complain to the police?"
I asked the Minister questions about that the last time we dealt with the budget. We went over and over the issue, but nothing was ever resolved. I am not saying that the things said by these children are facts - they may or may not be, I do not know. However, in the case where young individuals feel they have a complaint, the Minister and I know that complaints are not made because of the consequences.
I am not saying there are not good and dedicated people working in these homes. However, if one hears things like this on the radio, it makes people wonder if those accusations are true.
Since the news release almost two years ago have there been any complaints made by young individuals, or anyone else?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Not that I am aware of.
The treatment home in question has a number of directors on its advisory board. To my knowledge, it still has an elder. Some members of the advisory council are involved, although I am not up to speed on exactly who at this time. I am not aware of any allegations or any problems, such as arose then.
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is there further general debate on the Department of Health and Social Services?
Ms. Commodore: The Minister, in his response to my last question, mentioned something about an advisory board that was established by the Northern Network of Services with an elder as a board member. Could the Minister tell me what the committee does?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is my understanding that the board acted in the same manner as a board of directors would, except that they were not handling the finances. The board acts in an advisory capacity assisting the people who work at the facility with issues relating to the native content and trying to find homes for the children. It is very difficult to find people to care for these children because they are at one extreme end of the spectrum with regard to emotional and psychological disorders. I know that the advisory body was in place; however, I am not sure about its current status and who is on it.
Ms. Commodore: I am trying to figure out what the Minister just told me and I do not think it was an awful lot. I know that we have different advisory boards for different things, but does the advisory board advise about the treatment of individuals? Does it provide advice on programming? Those are the kinds of questions I was asking about.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is my understanding that that is the kind of advice they are called upon to give to the people who are running the operation. The whole thing has gone out for tender again. I understand that the tenders are back, and that the same outfit is the successful tenderer. However, I have not yet seen the documentation.
Ms. Commodore: We know that we have deeply troubled children in our system, and that we have deeply troubled children at that facility. The Minister said that there had not been any youths who had come forward with charges or complaints. Can I ask him if there have been any instances in regard to charges against individuals in the facility?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There has been nothing since the incident the Member mentioned was in the press.
Ms. Commodore: At the time this ruckus happened, we understood that charges were being laid against the kids. Is that what the Minister is talking about, a charge laid against the kid as a result of that? Is that what he said?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, I am saying that I am not aware of any issues arising by way of charges or complaints against staff. I thought that was the question.
Ms. Commodore: I guess I did not ask the question clearly.
We have been made aware in the last little while of charges that were laid against a kid. We understood that the kid was 12 years old and had allegedly assaulted one of the individuals who worked there, and that that individual laid charges against the 12 year old. Is the Minister aware of that?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, but I can look into it and get back to the Member.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister has just indicated that he is not aware of this. This has been told to us from someone who has that information. We understood that a complaint had been laid against the children involved in the ruckus. The Minister indicated that nothing happened, but there was information given to us that that did happen.
What happens in the case where people working in these facilities lay charges against the children? These children are already deeply disturbed. They have practices in place to restrain kids in certain ways to try to avoid any kind of assaults from those individuals. But if we have heard of one child who has had complaints laid against her - it was a 12-year-old girl - and the Minister is not aware of it, is it possible that he may not be aware of other charges that might have been laid against kids in that facility?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes, it is possible.
Ms. Commodore: Could he provide that information to me - whether or not there have been charges laid and, if there have, how many? I would like to know the process for that. I understand that complaints are different from charges. If a complaint is made, it would be treated in a different manner from a charge. A charge of assault would go through the courts. Could the Minister let me know how it is dealt with if that happens?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not aware of the distinction. To me, laying a complaint means laying a charge, but that can be part of the information provided.
Mr. Joe: I spend a lot of time sitting back here listening. I am concerned about this, too. It is very important. I have a concern for a constituent in Carmacks, who just flew to Vancouver for medical treatment. He was told by the nurse in Carmacks that his girlfriend could go with him.
Medical services said she could not go with him because he could travel on his own and he could read and write, but she went anyway. When he became very sick, he was taken straight to a hospital. On the question of covering her expenses while in Vancouver, she came to the meeting on Sunday between band members and medical services people. Someone said nothing could be done about this situation until land claims was settled.
It does not make sense to me.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not exactly sure of what happened. Did the medical services branch refuse to pay the girlfriend's airfare out? It is a federal department. We can try to find out what its policy is in that regard, but I am not clear on whether or not there is a difference in policy between First Nations travel out for treatment and other Yukon resident travel. We can look into that.
Mr. Joe: We are talking about a very sick person - cancer. He was sent home to Carmacks from Whitehorse. He got pretty sick, so a nurse took him back to the hospital in Whitehorse, and then they shipped him straight out to Vancouver.
He needed someone with him. I am pretty sure everyone is like this. When a person is sick, he needs someone with him. His girlfriend was so upset, she went along with him. When they got to Vancouver, she was told that they were not going to cover her expenses.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will have to get back to the Member with the actual policy. Unless the person, as I recall it, is under 18, they do not provide very much for an escort or for a family member to accompany the sick member of the family. I can get back with the policy on the provisions and send a letter to the Member.
Mr. Penikett: I think the second part of the policy issue that the Member for Tatchun raises here is the question of medical escorts. The Minister has given the general rule about minor children, but there are cases where there are people who are sufficiently incapacitated or sufficiently ill that they require escorts, and sometimes those are professional escorts, in the way of a nurse, but you would not want to take a community nurse away from the community just to escort someone.
There are also situations, and I have been on planes where I have seen this, where someone's condition deteriorates en route, especially if they have a complicated journey from a small Yukon community to Whitehorse and then have to go further. This is not the first time it has come up, but there seems to be a little bit of a problem, I think, with people understanding who makes the decisions in these cases and who has the discretion to exercise a decision when someone, let us say an elder, may actually be quite intimidated by the prospect of going to Vancouver. They may have never been there alone before. Or someone may be sufficiently wobbly or uncertain on their feet and need, perhaps not professional help, but just a friend to go with them.
If we are now talking about taking over some of these programs in the near future, I think one of the things that has always happened when we have taken over programs is we are much more accessible and available authorities, and we will get much more pressure to make programs sensitive to the realities here. I am almost certain we will get lobbies to have some point person readily accessible, either at the hospital or some place else, who will be able to make decisions quickly when an elder, or someone whose condition is serious but not a stretcher case, is serious enough to warrant an escort.
I would just like to recommend that, beyond what information the Member may provide for our colleague, he may also want to look at this as a policy matter some time between now and the next budget.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes, I agree. I will certainly look into it. There seems to be a distinction, as well, with the issue of the escort out and the issue of a person staying near or at the institution. I am pretty sure that that is not covered in the case of someone who is the age of majority.
Ms. Commodore: Getting back to open custody, the Minister provided me with information last year with regard to the open custody home. He indicated that, ideally, two homes would be located in Whitehorse and two would be located in the communities. This letter was dated May 4. The other was dated May 6. He also said that there was the possibility of a standby home.
Can I ask him how many homes we are talking about and how many beds there are in those homes?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We have four very good homes. With regard to the beds, I would have to get back to the Member.
Ms. Commodore: In the letter, he indicated that two of the homes were in Whitehorse and two were in the communities. Is that the case?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That is my understanding, but I will get back to the Member on that.
Ms. Commodore: I would appreciate that tomorrow. I do not think it would require a lot of work to get that. In the Minister's letter to me dated June 6, he talked about the kind of training that was going to be required of the foster parents, and stated, "Prior to placement of young offenders in the home, at least one of the care giver parents will have to complete a general orientation to the program, a first aid course and a course in CPR." Why just one parent?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not really sure. I suspect it was felt that that was a minimum requirement, to have at least one of the parents with those basic skills.
Ms. Commodore: Is it a requirement for the workers in the secure custody facility to have this kind of training?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There are a significant number who have that training. I am not sure which category of workers have what training, but there is quite a high degree of training provided to the people in those fields. I know that on two occasions when I have been there, training was going on at the time.
Ms. Commodore: In the same letter, the Minister mentioned that within the first few months after replacement, "Care givers will need to complete an overview of the Young Offenders Act policies and procedures of the open custody care giver network and the role of the care giver/youth services. Care givers will also be expected to complete training modules in individual case planning, basic counselling skills, parenting skills, recognizing the symptoms of emotional disturbance and non-violent management of behaviour." Can I ask the Minister if that has been done with the parents of these homes?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes, it is my understanding that it has been done.
Ms. Commodore: It is also required that ongoing professional development in subjects, such as alcohol and drug abuse, sexuality, adolescent suicide and self-harming behaviour, will all be made available to care givers if they are available to other professionals in the Yukon. Could I ask him how all of this is done? Who provides all of this training to these individuals?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Some of it is provided through the Public Service Commission. Some of the training regarding first aid procedures and so on is provided by non-government organizations. If the Member has specific issues or questions, she can advise me and I can have her briefed.
Ms. Commodore: I understood the Minister when he was talking about this last year about how they were going to do it. I remember him saying that the school of hard knocks was what was require and in some cases I agree with him, but some requires a high degree of skill. I would like to ask him if he could provide me - not tomorrow; it could be a week or two down the road - with detail about what and how long that training is, what courses are involved, and whether all of these individuals have had that training.
Also, he did not answer one other of my questions, which is in regard to standby homes. He did say in this letter that they hope to have one standby parent home for young offenders in open custody.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We will get back to the Member with those answers.
Ms. Commodore: I asked the Minister for information in Question Period regarding an individual who was told that he had to break the law to get treatment for his substance-abuse problem. He was told that by different people, and I know for a fact that there have been individuals who have sought treatment at Poundmakers Adolescent Treatment Centre - I think that is where this individual is going, but I am not sure - because Poundmakers is culturally relevant, or whatever, and very often have been refused because there are ongoing programs in the Yukon. Like this person, people were told that the only the government could pay for them attending this program was if they did break the law and were ordered by the court to attend Poundmakers.
In his letter, the Minister stated that it is neither the policy nor the practice of the government to require the commission of an offence and subsequent court order prior to providing substance-abuse treatment for Yukon youth. What we were talking about, as I mentioned, was treatment at Poundmakers. Is there funding available for an individual to undergo treatment at Poundmakers without breaking the law?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes there is. There has to be good justification for going to that expense, and not having the person take advantage of the treatment offered here.
Ms. Commodore: I know that a lot of adults take advantage of the treatment at Poundmakers. A lot of them are very successful, and try to pass on that learning to other individuals. Can the Minister tell me whether or not Indian Affairs has medical funding available to pay for that under NNADAP or something else?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes. That funding is administered by NNADAP.
Ms. Commodore: Can the Minister tell me how many young people have been able to take advantage of the treatment at Poundmakers?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will have to bring that back.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister announced in the House a number of new programs for young people that are available and have either started or will start, under alcohol and drug services. I have no objection to any program that is going to be provided that will help these young people.
One of the questions that I asked him during the response to his ministerial statement was in regard to a concern that was expressed to me about a program offered only one day a week - one comes in one day a week to take the treatment or training, and then does not come back until the next week.
The parent who spoke to me did not think it would be successful for individuals who needed it, because she felt the training should be ongoing, rather than one day a week. A lot of things can happen from one Monday to the next.
Why is there a restriction of one week? Why is there not a program that would last each day for two weeks, or something like that? It is a six-week program - one day a week for six weeks.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The program the Member is speaking of is a therapy program for groups, and it is a pilot project. There is ongoing counselling available. We have two counsellors who do one-on-one counselling.
However, this is simply a pilot project for group therapy, and several are being tried at this time. My understanding is that therapy groups are normally scheduled on a periodic basis, and once a week is what they are doing here.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister just described the program I had asked him about, but I would like him to tell me how these individuals get into the programs. He mentioned that they had some walk-in programs where counsellors were available to them for a certain period of time. If a person wanted to take advantage of this "one day a week" program, how would they get there and how would they get into some of the other programs, other than by just walking in?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is simply a matter of going to alcohol and drug services, which is presently behind Crossroads. It will be moved within a month to the same building as social assistance - the Prospectors Building. That is where the two youth workers will operate from. Interested people can go in there, get all the information and they will be slotted into the appropriate counselling or therapy sessions.
Ms. Commodore: Is there any criteria in order for these individuals to get in? If a young person walks in and says he or she has a problem and wants some help, the counsellors must be able to somehow determine which one of those programs that individual should take advantage of.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: They do an assessment in the same manner as other similar counselling services, such as Yukon Family Services. A person comes in; they do an assessment of what they feel would be the most beneficial therapy or counselling for the individual, and proceed on that basis. As to the details, I have no idea.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister knows the individual about whom I asked questions - a 14-year old drug addict, as described in the paper. He has been asking for help since he was 11.
Did the Minister check into this information to find out if, in fact, he had been told by someone that he had to break the law, because it appears that everyone believed that was what he was told? Did he find out from his department whether or not the information that had been given to the media by the individual's mother was good information? For instance, who gave him that information? Why did he feel that was the case?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes. Our department did not give out that information. It was my understanding that it had come from an RCMP officer. It was simply a misunderstanding as to the facts.
Ms. Commodore: It was a misunderstanding that lasted for three whole years. I think that is a very serious situation. We have found out, three years later, that some young person was asking for help and was told by the RCMP that he had to break the law first. How could that happen? What did the Minister do? Did the Minister approach the RCMP? We pay most of their costs. Did he find out from them why this young individual had to go through three years of misery before he was finally able to get help from the Minister's department?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, I did not. My department did not give out that information. We are assuming it was the RCMP.
We have made the information public and put forward a ministerial statement about the services being offered. I think that is all we have to do.
Ms. Commodore: That is all he has to do. I think that when information like this gets out to the public, the public wants to know the reasons for it. In this day and age, why would this situation have to occur? Why was this young kid seeking help for three years and breaking the law in the hope that one day he would be able to get the treatment he thought was needed? Did the Minister not consider that there should have been some investigation into this information that was provided to the media, to him, to me, and to a lot of other people? I would have thought that some 11-year-old kid who was suffering, and had suffered for three years, trying to get the help that he needed, is a very serious situation. The Minister should have, at least, considered that an investigation was necessary to make sure that it does not happen again. Was that a discussion he had with his department?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Firstly, the Member is making a representation that I do not think is entirely correct with regard to the individual in question; that is the first point. Secondly, it was not misinformation from my department. Thirdly, we have made public what the policy is and all the new policies that the government is providing.
My answer is no, I do not believe it is something that we are going to spend a great deal of time investigating. Perhaps the Member could make her representation to the Minister of Justice when Justice comes up for discussion, as that Minister is the one responsible for the RCMP.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister is right. I am making a representation because I do not understand all of the circumstances with regard to this situation. There are hundreds of Yukoners out there who have heard this story but do not understand it either. This is a young individual who comes under the responsibility of the Minister responsible for juvenile justice. If the Minister felt that there might be a problem out there, would he not ask the Minister of Justice to try and find out, through the RCMP, who gave the young person this information?
I certainly would not want this situation to happen again. We may all be wrong in regard to the information that has been given to us, but the public does not know that.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: All I can say is that I am not about to stand here and go on and on about an individual case involving a juvenile whose identity is supposedly protected by the Young Offenders Act. I can only say that there is a lot more to the story than what is in the paper or what has been told to the Member opposite.
The assumption that this one piece of misinformation led to all the problems that the Member is suggesting, over the course of three years, is not based on fact.
Ms. Commodore: I think the Minister does have a responsibility to the public to clarify any information.
I am not saying that we should release the person's name, nor should we give out information that should not be available to the public. I do not say that at all. I can only hope that we do not run into a situation like this again, because people believe what they hear on the radio. We all get into a lot of trouble for that - not legally.
I have a number of other questions that I would like to ask the Minister. I do not know if we should be reporting progress, or if I should carry on, because I am going to ask a number of questions.
I move that you report progress, Mr. Chair.
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 from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Abel: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 3, Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95, 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.
Ms. Moorcroft: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Opposition House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:26 p.m.