Monday, March 27, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with silent Prayers.
In Remembrance of Des Duncan
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I would like to acknowledge a long-time Yukoner who died yesterday while participating in the 10-km portion of the Buckwheat Classic cross-country ski race.
Des Duncan was very active in sports, including curling, canoeing, skiing, fishing and hunting. Mr. Duncan was a founding member of the Yukon Voyagers Canoe Club in the early 1960s. His children, who grew up in the Yukon, were also very active in sports, and his company, Duncan's Limited, has been supportive of minor sports and presently sponsors several minor league teams.
Des and his wife Peggy came to Whitehorse about 1955. Des came north to work as a tinsmith for Bill Lunde, who had a sheet metal shop on Cook Street. After Bill Lunde went back to Norway, Des partnered with Jack Chapman, who had come up from Vancouver with him, before starting his own company, which is truly a family business.
His contributions to the Yukon will be remembered, as well as his sense of humour, love of life and patriotism. I am also told that his close friends will miss his participation in their annual potato-growing competition, a friendly contest that has been going on for the last 18 years.
I would like to ask all Members to join me in expressing sympathy to Peggy and the children, Steve, Jim, Laurie and Gordon and their families.
Mr. Cable: A friend called me yesterday and advised me that Des Duncan had died and I was quite shocked. He and I had known each other for many years and we shared many interests. We had canoed together and we had curled together and we had been in the potato-growing contest that the Member just mentioned, which he often won and I often lost.
I have many memories of him and many mental pictures - most recently, his presentation of the tin-man trophy at a curling bonspiel just a couple of Saturdays ago.
Des Duncan was an ardent environmentalist. I can remember canoeing with him and bantering with him about the damming of the creeks that we passed, and their hydroelectric potential. This would lead to many arguments around the campfire. He was also an ardent Canadian nationalist, a view that I shared with him. It is going to take some getting used to, that his input into my life and his advice to me is now over. I give my condolences to his wife Peggy and his children, and his many friends.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time 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. 2
Mr. Millar: I have a petition to present from the citizens of Shallow Bay, respecting the minimum allowable lot sizes.
SPEAKER'S RULING RESPECTING PRIVATE BILLS
Speaker: Before calling Introduction of Bills, I will provide a ruling on the point of order raised by the Leader of the Official Opposition on Thursday, March 23, 1995. The point of order was raised in respect to the introduction of Bill No. 88, entitled the Yukon Foundation Act. The Leader of the Official Opposition concluded by saying, "I would therefore ask the Speaker to rule on whether this measure is essentially a private bill, not public business, and should therefore proceed through the House according to the rules for private bills, and on that basis, rather than as public business."
Standing Order 51 sets out the differences between types of bills. Standing Order 51(2) states: "Government Bills are bills introduced by Ministers relating to matters of administration or public policy of general application within Yukon."
Standing Order 51(4) states: "Private Bills are those relating to private or local matters or for the particular interest or benefit of any person, corporation or municipality."
The Leader of the Official Opposition is correct in asserting that a bill such as the Yukon Foundation Act would appear, pursuant to Standing Order 51, to fall under the category of a private bill. Also, in looking to another jurisdiction, it is found that the Vancouver Foundation Act and the Victoria Foundation Act were both dealt with and passed as private bills in the British Columbia Legislative Assembly. It must be noted that information received from British Columbia indicates that it would have been in order for the foundation acts passed by that Assembly to have been brought to the House as public bills.
In reaching a decision on this matter, the Chair is required to take note of the Interpretation Act, which also provides direction from the House. Section 6 of that act states: "Every act is a public act unless by express provision it is declared to be a private act."
A review of Bill No. 88 reveals that it does not contain a provision declaring the Yukon Foundation Act to be a private act. In making a decision on this matter, the Chair is required to give priority to the direction found in legislation. The Chair, therefore, must find that it is in order for Bill No. 88 to be introduced and dealt with as a public bill.
Are there any Bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 77: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I move that Bill No. 77, entitled Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 77, entitled Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 77 agreed to
Bill No. 5: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I move that Bill No. 5, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1995-96, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 5, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1995-96, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 5 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Yukon Community Aerodrome Radio Station (CARS) program
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Since 1979, the Yukon government has been administering the Yukon Community Aerodrome Radio Station (CARS) program on behalf of Transport Canada. The CARS program is widely recognized for providing accurate and cost efficient weather observations and other aviation support services. Since the program's inception, Transport Canada has determined the requirements for service and established the hours of operation for each site. During the 1980s, CARS services were established to fill the void created by the closure of flight service stations in many communities.
In December 1991, Transport Canada closed the Watson Lake flight service station and did not establish CARS service despite strong opposition from the town, the aviation industry and the Yukon government. For over two years, the Yukon government, the Town of Watson Lake and other concerned parties lobbied Transport Canada to provide CARS service at the Watson Lake airport.
Today, I am pleased to announce that Transport Canada has authorized the Yukon government to better respond to users' criticisms and implement a program that meets the needs of Yukoners. The changes will reflect the seasonality of the Yukon aviation industry and will provide an appropriate level of winter service while meeting the greater traffic and service demands of the summer. The adjusted CARS program will be consistent with our discussions with the communities and the aviation industry.
I am particularly pleased to announce that this realignment will include a year-round CARS service at Watson Lake airport, effective June 1, 1995. The Yukon government is extremely pleased that an appropriate level of service will be returned to aviation users and the community of Watson Lake.
I want to thank all of the concerned Yukon operators and communities, especially the Town of Watson Lake, for their unrelenting support of our efforts to secure the necessary changes to provide a safe level of service for Yukon air travellers.
I would like to give the proposed Yukon CARS program hours of service: Beaver Creek, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in the winter months and 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in the summer months; Burwash, 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in the winter months and 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. in the summer months; Teslin, 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in the winter months and 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. in the summer months; Watson Lake, 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in the winter months and 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. in the summer months; Faro, 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in the winter and 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. in the summer, Mayo, 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in the winter and 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. in the summer; Old Crow, 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the winter and 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. in the summer; and Dawson, 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in the winter and 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. in the summer.
The winter schedules will start on September 16 and go to May 14 - 241 days. The summer schedule will be May 15 to September 15 - 124 days.
The 1994-95 schedule will remain in effect until the new schedules are phased in on the following tentative dates: Old Crow, April 1, 1995; Beaver Creek, Burwash, Teslin and Faro, July 1, 1995; and Mayo, November 1, 1995, to coincide with the proposed AWOS installation. Service will be commissioned in Dawson and Watson Lake on June 1, 1995.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am pleased to have the opportunity to respond to this ministerial statement, which announced two things. The first is that Watson Lake will finally have a year-round community aerodrome radio station service, effective June 1, 1995. I think we all should congratulate your town, Mr. Speaker, because they have done a lot of lobbying and political activity to finally accomplish this.
Second, Transport Canada has authorized the Yukon government to better respond to users' criticisms and implement a program that meets the needs of Yukoners. It certainly sounds good, and I am wondering how we can reconcile that with what the Liberals say in their budget about commercializing the air navigation system. Do we have the same amount of funding from the federal government and how is the Yukon government going to pay for and keep the travelling public safe if there is commercialization?
I am pleased that the Yukon government has involved the communities and the aviation industry in establishing the hours of operation. I know that some communities - for example, Faro - will now have more hours of service.
I do have to ask whether or not the communities have all agreed to the new hours where there will be fewer hours of service, because there is the potential for the loss of some jobs. I would also like to know what costs are involved. Watson Lake was not included in the budget, because it was not on the list when we discussed the budget for the department a couple of months ago.
The safety to the travelling public is very important. The automatic weather system means using machines and we have all heard the debate about the problems that system can cause. From the Minister's statement, it sounds as if the government can implement a program that meets the needs of Yukoners; however, I would like to know what will be done about automatic weather operating system.
I see the proposed automatic weather operation system installation is proceeding in Mayo in November, but I do not see a mention about what is happening in Whitehorse. Where there is an automated system there needs to be a system to back it up with staff on the ground at the airport.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: To provide the Member with a brief answer, this program is still under the control of the federal government. The federal government has given us leeway to adjust the use of the money so that it will be better for people in the Yukon and meet Yukoners' needs better than when the federal government was in control of the program.
This time the federal government is not telling the territorial government what the hours of operation will be; the territorial government can make that decision. The scheduled hours I have just read are proposed hours and they could possibly be changed by a few hours here and there.
The Member is right; the federal government is trying to commercialize its airports and it hopes to have commercial airports in place within two to three years. If the program is in place right now, it is more likely to survive when commercialization occurs.
The operating money still comes from Ottawa and is given to the territory under the proviso that the territory can spend the money where it needs to, rather than having Ottawa directing the money.
The automatic weather operating system program will be installed in Mayo. While it is being tested, the CARS people will remain in place to ensure that the program is successful.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Forestry policy
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Minister of Renewable Resources. The issue of forestry policy development and what is happening in the Yukon forest industry has been a subject of a lot of public discussion lately. Recently, the Yukon government put forward an amended motion dealing with the issue, saying that there is devastation going on in the Yukon forest industry and others feel very strongly that there is no devastation. Needless to say, the issue has been under a lot of public scrutiny lately.
The Minister told us the week before last that the forestry policy development action plan was going to go to Cabinet last Thursday. I would like to ask the Minister what the status of that is and what impact devolution will have upon it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The action plan for the development of a forest policy has not yet gone to Cabinet. I expect to be able to get it in very shortly.
Mr. Harding: We have been calling for some action on this for months now in this legislative session and, under some tough questioning, the Minister told us, at least in a very reassuring manner, that it was going to go to Cabinet last week. I would like to ask him what the holdup is with this forestry policy action plan?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is strictly administrative. We expect it to go to Cabinet very shortly.
Mr. Harding: The Minister told everyone in the Yukon on CBC Radio on February 8 that there was a lot of movement and progress on forestry policy development work with the three departments in the Yukon government. Now, could the Minister give us some insight as to what kind of principles are going to be contained in this action plan that he will be going to Cabinet with this particular Thursday?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I prefer not to speak about a submission that is going to Cabinet, until Cabinet has had the opportunity to review it.
Question re: Caribou enhancement program costs
Mr. Harding: I guess I will have some questions for the Minister on that subject next week. Let us hope it gets to Cabinet.
I have some questions for the Renewable Resources Minister on another subject and that is the wolf kill. I understand that the kill has wrapped up for this year. Certainly it has been the subject of a lot of interest to Yukoners. I would like to ask the Minister what the estimated cost and the effect of the wolf kill was this year in the Aishihik area?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The department will be providing a report and a briefing to me when the program is finalized. To date, I have received neither.
Mr. Harding: I went around this mulberry bush with the previous Minister in the last session when the Minister refused to give me the answer to questions. We have not asked a lot of questions about this particular issue, because we wanted to give the Minister a chance to compile some figures in the hope that when we came in in the spring with some questions the Minister would have answers. Is the Minister telling this House that he is not receiving any briefings on what is happening with the wolf kill since it has been underway, which has been all winter?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is correct.
Mr. Harding: It is obvious that this Minister is miraculously uninformed and the department is totally in charge of what is happening. It was my understanding that policy came from the government, not from the department on up, but it is obvious in this case that it has.
Let me ask the Minister - in the little knowledge that he does have of the wolf kill and what is going on there, could he tell us if there is any method for wolf kill underway other than the use of aerial shooting? Are any snares or is any other method being used to kill the wolves at this time or during the program last winter?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: When we approved the wolf kill portion of the caribou recovery program, we approved some limited snaring techniques that were going to be tried. My understanding is that they were to carry out that snaring.
Question re: Haines Junction weigh scale
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services about the closure of the Haines Junction weigh scales. One of the radio stations this morning tagged an interview with one of the employees of the Haines Junction weigh scales and he seems to be taking a different view of the wisdom of the closure. He stated that the study that was done, which led up to the closure - it was done in 1989 through 1991, but conditions are changing rapidly - indicated that one of the conditions was a likely increase in logging traffic, and another condition that may be changing rapidly is the increase in port costs at Anchorage that will direct traffic toward Haines.
Does the Minister agree with the assertion of the employee that the conditions in relation to the traffic through the Haines Junction weigh scale are likely to change rapidly?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I do not know if they are talking about five or 10 years from now, or tomorrow morning. I check the customs count every month when it comes from the tourism information bureau. Trucking has not increased; it has decreased.
Mr. Cable: The comments made by the employee were directed to the future. The two factors that I pointed out to the Minister indicate that there will be increased traffic.
The Minister indicated that the savings in the budget would be $250,000 per annum. This gentleman thinks that the savings will be more in the order of $120,000. The Minister subsequently gave some costs related to the operation by the single person - the mobile operator - that amounted to $153,000. Is it not fair to say that the savings are considerably less than the $250,000 that was originally quoted?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, I stand by my statement. I would like to read a few figures.
The traffic count in 1990-91 for Haines Junction was 5,605; in 1991-92, 6,275; in 1992-93, 7,680; in 1993-94, 6,990. The operating expense for Haines Junction in 1991 was $255,622; in 1991-92, $289,100; in 1992-93, $296,600; in 1993-94, $235,000. The 1993-94 figure is because we reduced the number of people there.
I could go on for quite a bit, but this pretty well indicates that we are losing money there and in Cassiar, and we have chosen to close them both because of that fact.
Mr. Cable: It would be useful to have that information tabled, so that the operator can have a look at it to see whether or not he agrees with the Minister and his officials. Let me ask this question: if, in fact, the operator of the weigh scale, whom I would suggest is in a better position to draw conclusions on future traffic patterns, turns out to be right, will the Minister consider reopening the weigh scales in Haines Junction?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, not at the present time. I will also table this document. It was signed by the gentleman who was on the radio agreeing with our figures. Apparently he has changed his mind. It has his initials on it; he signed it in three places.
Question re: Yukon Foundation Act
Mr. Penikett: I would like to ask a question of the Minister of Justice, the Minister responsible for the Societies Act. Did the Minister responsible for the Societies Act give any consideration to the appropriateness of his introducing the Yukon Foundation Act, given that he is currently listed as a director of that organization?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No. I am listed as a director, but I have never attended any of their meetings. It has been normal practice in the past that the Minister of the government is represented as a director. As a matter of fact, I just received a letter - the Government Leader did - from the Yukon Foundation, which suggested that the director should be someone other than the Minister, because the Minister can rarely attend any of their meetings.
Mr. Penikett: That is the point. The Minister has chosen to turn the business of a private organization into public business. I would therefore like to ask him, in his capacity as House Leader, if, given that the Administrator of the Yukon Territory is also the chair of the Yukon Foundation, he can give us his assurance that the Administrator will not be asked to give assent to this legislation, if it passes the House?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It seems that the Member opposite has a mad on for the Yukon Foundation. He is trying to find every conceivable way to kill the Yukon Foundation Act. I am disappointed about that. I cannot give the Member that assurance. Something could happen to the now existing Commissioner when we pass the bill. He may be unable, for some reason, to assent the bill, so I cannot give the Member that assurance. I would hope that the regular Commissioner will be here and will be able to give assent to the bill, as he normally does. The reason we have an Administrator is so that we have someone to take over if the Commissioner is away. The Administrator steps into the Commissioner's place.
Mr. Penikett: Let me say that I am appalled by the Minister's answer. I have not indicated any hostility whatsoever to the Yukon Foundation, other than about this government's ignorant manner of proceeding without consultation with anyone about a measure like this. The Member seems to have no understanding about appearances of conflict of interest, or the appropriate role of the Minister of Justice - no understanding at all.
Let me ask the Minister this: since it is the parliamentary tradition of private bills - such as the Vancouver Foundation Act, mentioned by Mr. Speaker a few minutes ago - that all-party examination of the measure be given in the House and a defence of the measure by the proponent, usually a private Member, and if Cabinet has decided to make this public business, Cabinet solidarity is required for a public bill, such as this, is it this government's policy to allow the Legislature to amend this bill should the Legislature find it desirable to do so, even if the Foundation's directors, including himself, object to those amendments?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Member opposite talks about parliamentary tradition, and he heralds parliamentary tradition when it suits him. However, when it does not suit him, he can stand in the House and say and do whatever he wants - like accusing the Table officers and others - but that does not matter. Parliamentary tradition means that you do not do that, as well. That Member seems to ignore that kind of tradition when he rises in the House.
It is the government's prerogative to introduce a bill such as this, as was ruled on by the Speaker. It is also government prerogative to bring in amendments, so I would hope that any amendments to a bill such as this would be in consultation with the Yukon Foundation, as was this act drafted in consultation with the Yukon Foundation.
Question re: Employment Standards Act amendments
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Minister of Justice, having to do with follow-up questions to the Employment Standards Act. Last spring, the former Minister introduced Bill No. 30, entitled An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act. At that time, the Minister said he would be consulting with people regarding the bill. As a result, he said that he sent out 30 or 40 packages containing the bill and its explanation. I would like to ask this Minister if that process was completed, and did that process result in any new changes to the act that he will be dealing with soon?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, the process was completed and, yes, it does result in some minor changes.
Ms. Commodore: I would like to ask the Minister if the report from the consultation process was sent to the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment for its review. Was that done?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can get back to the Member about that. I do not know, but I believe it was done prior to me becoming Minister.
Ms. Commodore: I would have thought that something as important as that would have been known by the Minister.
The Minister said that he would send me a list of people and organizations who were sent the package that I mentioned. It did not happen. I would like to ask the Minister whether or not the list could be made available to me.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, I can make that list available.
Question re: Economic forecast
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development.
We have been waiting for a long time for the economic forecast from the Department of Economic Development. Have the economists from the department completed the forecast and when can we see it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that the draft has been done and Deputy Ministers Review Committee is currently reviewing it. It should be ready for tabling in the House in two or three weeks.
Mr. McDonald: The DMRC is reviewing it.
Given that we were all fully aware of the Yukon Party's politicians' desire to doctor the report the last time in order to put a positive spin on the information, how can we be sure that the changes made by the DMRC, as the deputy ministers advisory group, are unbiased? How will we know that the deputy ministers will resist the pressure from their own Ministers to doctor the forecast?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is a process for adopting the forecast; the previous administration did not have a process. Our information is that it was vetted by Cabinet. I do not have any Cabinet documents to support that, but that is the information I was given.
The reason I would expect that the Ministers will not be able to influence their deputy ministers is that the Ministers have no idea what the document contains at this point in time.
Mr. McDonald: I thought the Minister would answer that the reason the Ministers were not going to be influencing the deputy ministers is because it is the deputy ministers who give direction to the Ministers.
The Minister has indicated that the previous administration had no process. Indeed, there was no process to doctor the information that I am aware of. Has the government considered having an independent body review the forecast developed by the professional economists for accuracy, rather than having the Minister's right-hand advisors provide that service?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, we have not considered having an independent body review the forecast. The people of the territory and others will be reviewing the forecast when it is published.
Question re: Haines Junction weigh scale
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a follow-up question for the Minister of the Department of Community and Transportation Services about the closure of the Haines Junction weigh scale.
Residents of Haines Junction certainly think that it is false economy to close a weigh scale and replace it with two mobile safety officers, who each work 37.5 hours per week. The Minister said that he stands by the decisions made in his department. What about standing behind his constituents who are losing their jobs? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have met with the constituents on three occasions to ensure that they know they will be guaranteed any jobs that come up in that area, and that they will have priority on the jobs, according to the Public Service Commission. In fact, I believe they will be notified within the next week or week and a half that they will be able to apply for a job that is coming up.
Ms. Moorcroft: There is a lot of revenue generated by trucks stopping at the weigh scales and paying fees and fines. I asked the Minister in February how the government can be sure that the territory will not be losing revenue by closing the weigh scale.
Is the Minister confident that the revenue will still be generated, which would have been approximately $100,000 if the weigh scale were open? Will the government still be collecting that $100,000?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The studies conducted showed that 90 percent of the vehicles that go through the Haines Junction weigh scale go through the Whitehorse weigh scale and that the government could possibly lose $10,000.
Ms. Moorcroft: There has also been some debate about whether or not the study that they are basing this decision on was outdated. I am wondering if the government will still be able to get clear information about the commodities that arrive in or leave the territory if they are only doing spot checks. Will that information be available?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Every vehicle that comes into the Yukon from Alaska has to go through customs and be bonded and checked out. We know what is on those trucks.
Question re: Weigh scales, hazardous access road
Mrs. Firth: This must be the Minister's day to answer questions about weigh scales, because I, too, have a question for the Minister responsible for weigh scales.
Two months ago, I asked the Minister a question about the problems at the new government weigh scale. We talked about design changes, and at that time the Minister said that it was a very small deal, and all he had to do was just widen the road a bit.
Since that time, the Minister has admitted that the weigh scale may not be safe and that the government definitely has to do something about it. Much to our surprise, it announced through the media last week that there is a study on weigh-scale safety underway in the department. Could the Minister tell us who is doing this big study that he just forgot to mention to us?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have gone through this quite a few times. We told her we would look at the problem. We are looking at the problem and intend to correct it as soon as the snow leaves.
Mrs. Firth: We would like to know a little bit more about the study on weigh-scale safety that is underway. I would like to ask the Minister if he will tell us who is doing the study on weigh-scale safety?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is a study to see if we can make it better so that the trucks can turn around properly. We think that we can come up with a solution - in fact we spent an hour and a half at it this morning. We think we have come up with a reasonable solution. The department is doing the work, and I have full confidence in the department and with the engineers in the department.
Mrs. Firth: Now it is not a study, it is an hour and a half conversation that he had with department officials. I might add that, in the article about the study on weigh-scale safety, the chief of weigh stations completely contradicted the Minister and said that he did not think there was a safety hazard at the new facility - he thought everything was fine.
He did agree with the Minister on one point. I think he and the Minister take the same position that they both thought Yukon drivers are lousy drivers. They are consistent on that point.
I want to know this from the Minister: is this a study, or is it not a study? Is it an hour and a half conversation? If it is, why did he tell the media there is a big study going on?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I said that we spent an hour and a half looking at different situations to try and do it. It is not finalized by any means and the engineers will come up with a design, which we hope we will be able to put in place as soon as the snow has gone.
Question re: Government employees operating private businesses
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Department of Community and Transportation Services. On February 1, I first asked the Minister about a potential conflict of interest in his department. I would like to know if the department has completed the conflict-of-interest investigation concerning the government employee whose private business cheques were printed with his phone number, giving the phone number of the government grader station as the business contact number.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will not discuss personnel matters in the House, but if the Member would like to talk with the deputy minister on a confidential basis, he assured me he would tell her the results.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am really concerned about the fact that this Minister seems to want to hide from investigating a serious allegation of a potential conflict of interest.
On February 2, the Government Leader was asked about a potential conflict of interest and he had his department report back to him by February 10. He said, "This is serious; we are taking it seriously and we are going to investigate it," and eight days later he tabled in the House the findings from the investigation. Is this Minister telling me that they are just not considering this a serious matter worth investigating, and when is he going to table a decision in this House?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I did not say it was not a serious matter. It was a very serious matter. The matter has been corrected but, as I said, I will not discuss personnel in the Legislature where people are put all through the newspapers and so on. If the Member over there would like to talk to a deputy minister, he will talk to her confidentially and tell her the results.
Ms. Moorcroft: There is a problem here that needs to be addressed. I am not out to trash anybody's reputation, but I am trying to salvage the reputation of the department. I have had numerous calls from people who have complained about this situation and asked what is happening with it. The Minister is not even answering any questions. What are the consequences going to be if it is found that, as the Minister said a couple of weeks ago here, it should not have been going on in the first place? How are they going to deal with that?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is not going on at the present time. The gentleman was approached and talked to. If the Member wants any more confidential information, she will have to talk to the deputy minister.
Question re: Canada-Yukon infrastructure program
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the same Minister about the Canada-Yukon infrastructure program. The upcoming budget allocates approximately $2.5 million for the program to be cost shared among the communities, the territorial government and the federal government. The Minister indicated in February that all the applications were not yet in. Could he indicate to the House if all the applications are in for the amount budgeted for the upcoming fiscal year?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will take that under advisement, because I am not sure if every cent has been taken.
Mr. Cable: When does the Minister expect that all the decisions will be made? Will they be made before the construction season starts, or some time later in the year?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I must point out that this is also a federal program, and it makes the first announcements when the projects are to be given out. It has to come from the federal government first; our ministerial statement follows theirs.
Mr. Cable: That may be, but that was not what I asked. Perhaps the Minister could provide us with a legislative return covering the information I asked for.
Let me ask a final supplementary. The Yukon Party has put out a policy document subtitled, Becoming Self-Sufficient Through Infrastucture-driven Investment in the Yukon and then the title, Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century appears. How have these infrastructure projects, which are being developed under the Canada-Yukon infrastructure program, being integrated through the policy that this government put out in this 12-page document on infrastructure-driven investment for the Yukon future?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We do not have control over the money. The federal government controls that board.
Question re: Weigh scales, hazardous access road
Mrs. Firth: I want to follow up with the Minister responsible for weigh scales. We have established this afternoon that the Minister made a mistake in telling the media that there was a study on weigh-scale safety underway, because we find out now that what he was actually doing was just having an hour and a half conversation within his department. Can he tell the Members of the House today who was involved in the conversation where a solution was reached?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The Member sure has a way of twisting words around. I said that we had a conversation. However, this study has been going on ever since we started, some time ago, to look at the project and find the easiest, cheapest, and most satisfactory way that this can be done. Members of my department sat and talked with me this morning.
Mrs. Firth: It is not I who is confused. It is not I who keeps getting up and giving a different story every time this question is asked. The Minister just got up and gave us another story about what this study is all about. We are just trying to establish the facts here. Is there a study going on, or is there not, and what, exactly, does this study involve?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The study involves simply this: some of the truckers are not satisfied with the turn-in area at the scales. They, and some other people, feel that there is a danger on the highway. We are looking at this to see if we can correct it. It is a study - I do not know what else one would call it. Maybe I am not using the right word. Maybe I should go look in the dictionary. I do not think there is anything wrong with calling it a study. One learns from studies.
Mrs. Firth: It may be time to start looking in the dictionary so that when the Minister gets up and tells us that the department is doing something he can tell us what the department is really doing.
The Minister said that this discussion took place in the department, but he will not say who was involved nor who was present. However, this afternoon he did tell us that he thought the department has a solution. Could the Minister tell us what the solution is that has been arrived at?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Of course I cannot. It is just an idea we are looking at. And the Member said that I would not say who was sitting with me; I said that department officials were sitting with me.
Question re: Chateau Jomini
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Minister of Government Services and the Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation. In both Question Period and Committee of the Whole, I brought up the issue of the sale of ownership of the Chateau Jomini complex in Faro to a private development company or private citizen. The Minister said that he agreed in principle and was looking at plans to do something about the request of the municipality. Could he tell me today precisely what the status of the Chateau Jomini complex is?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, the final details are being worked out in order to offer it to the Town of Faro, free and clear, for the sum of $1.00. I believe that the Mayor of Faro is going to be in Whitehorse on Thursday and I will speak to him about it at that time.
Mr. Harding: I have had some discussions with the mayor - I was home on the weekend - regarding the comments made in Committee of the Whole about the offer to transfer ownership to the municipality for $1.00. The mayor's position to me was pretty clear that the town would rather see the Yukon government handle the bidding process and continue to maintain ownership, and put in the tender documents an agreement that there be a development of the complex once it is sold. Has this representation been made to the government by the municipality? If so, what are the Minister's views about that particular concept?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: That proposal has not been made to me yet. I have tried to reach the mayor on the telephone and he has tried to reach me. We have not yet spoken. If the Member is accurate, I will probably hear about it from the mayor on Thursday. When I do, we will consider it.
Mr. Harding: The Minister can take that as an early representation from the MLA.
The problem of housing is already creeping into the picture in Faro, which was a problem some years ago when the population was growing. That same thing is happening, as the Minister is aware. We lost a number of trailer and housing units recently to another community. The Chateau Jomini complex could provide some relief from that particular problem.
If the Minister looks at this problem, would he be willing to engage in some form of agreement that would look at providing more housing to meet the needs that I think we are going to have in the very near future?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not sure of that. The idea was that we would turn the Chateau Jomini over to the Town of Faro for $1.00. Then the Town of Faro would do what they wanted with it, including increasing the housing availability.
Question re: Faro Real Estate Ltd.
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the same Minister regarding Faro Real Estate Ltd. and the community of Faro. I had a discussion about this with the Minister the other day.
Home ownership, through Faro Real Estate Ltd., used to be possible in the community of Faro. Homes were sold through the rental-purchase option for prices in the $25,000 to $30,000 range. This was certainly consistent with the original housing agreement's intent between Curragh Resources, Faro Real Estate Ltd. and YTG. However, the rental-purchase options have now been priced in the $60,000 range, which puts this out of the reach of a lot of people who wish to become home owners in Faro, as no one is allowed CMHC mortgage financing.
Recently, Faro Real Estate Ltd. imposed a 10-percent rental increase, which YTG has the power to stop. Can the Minister tell me what the status of my request is for him to look at this particular situation?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: At the present time, the Member's request is with Yukon Housing Corporation. I spoke to the corporation about it briefly. I have the Member's letter with me today.
With respect to the issue of the 10-percent rent increase, the government has not received, as a mortgage holder, a letter, request or indication that Faro Real Estate wants to or is going to raise the rent, which it is required to do under the terms of the mortgage.
With respect to housing prices, I cannot tell the Member the status of that right now.
Mr. Harding: This is an important question to many of my constituents and I will look forward to a response in the near future, but as a tenant of Faro Real Estate, I can tell the Minister that Faro Real Estate has already said that it is going to be raising rent. I received a notice myself advising of the rent increase.
It is my understanding that new people in the community are already facing a 10-percent higher rental rate, which, if I understand the agreements correctly, is not allowed without the approval of the Yukon government. The Minister has just told us that the government has not given that approval to Faro Real Estate.
I would like to ask the Minister if Faro Real Estate's practice of raising the rent without the approval of the Yukon government, who is a party to the agreements, will be stopped until these issues are worked out?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, it is this government's position that rents should not be increased except as allowed under the terms of the mortgage, which I believe is equal to the consumer price index.
Mr. Harding: I thank the Minister for that information, but I would like to know, after Question Period is over, specifically what the Minister is going to do to investigate this matter to find out if there are rental increases being proposed to new people moving into Faro and to existing tenants, without the approval of the Yukon government. I would also like to know what specific steps will be taken to ensure this practice of rental increases is stopped?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: After Question Period I will speak to Yukon Housing Corporation and get back to the Member for Faro on that issue.
Question re: Golden Horn community plan
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the Minister responsible for Community and Transportation Services. I have talked to my constituents who live in the Golden Horn area, and they are very interested in the Golden Horn community plan that was done last year. I asked the Minister about this in February and he said, "The plan has been written, but apparently the people did not appear to want it at that time. We are checking again to see if they want it or if they want to see some changes."
Could I ask the Minister who he is checking with about the plan?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The department will be checking with the people out in that area besides the community.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have asked the Minister about it a couple of times in Community and Transportation Services debate, and I was not able to find the people to whom the department has spoken. I do not understand how he can ask questions of residents without being able to say to whom he has talked. Does the Minister know what the plan says about development in the area?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, I do not at the present time because I have not actually seen it. It has not been brought to my attention, but I will bring back a list of the people with whom the department spoke.
Ms. Moorcroft: It has been brought to his attention on February 9 and on February 13 and again today, on March 27. The Minister said they are searching the file and will get what information he can find to the Member. Fifty thousand dollars has been spent on the Golden Horn community plan. Have they found it and could I get a copy of it?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will see if it is available.
Question re: Faro doctor
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Minister responsible for Health and Social Services. The recruitment of a doctor for Faro, as the Minister knows, is of great importance to the community. Some interim arrangements are underway for that recruitment. I understand the Minister and his department have put an ad out in some areas of western Canada to attract a doctor, and my understanding is that there have not been a lot of responses to it. Can he enlighten me a little bit as to how the responses have been to that advertisement?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It seems to me that the ad just went out last week. I have not yet received any word on how many people responded to it.
Mr. Harding: It has actually been out for a couple of weeks now, which is a fair amount of time to at least gauge the level of response to the ad.
If the response does not pick up a little bit, is the Minister prepared to investigate opportunities for increasing the exposure of the advertisement in other areas of eastern Canada, in some other journals that accept that type of advertising for the medical profession?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Of course.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. 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 that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Deputy 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.
Deputy Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 1995-96 - continued
Department of Health and Social Services - continued
Deputy Chair: Is there any further general debate on Health and Social Services?
Ms. Commodore: I would just like to say that I miss the Chair. I had to restrain myself this weekend, knowing that I would have to be speaking in Committee of the Whole - it was a great hockey tournament.
I would like to get back to the question of overcrowding at the secure custody facility. We spoke about it last year and the Minister provided some information with regard to the number of individuals at the facility. I am told that areas other than sleeping areas are being used because it has run out of sleeping space. I would like to ask the Minister if that is the case.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There are 17 in the program and 14 in residence, which means that there is some doubling up in some rooms.
Ms. Commodore: The question I asked him was whether or not areas other than designated sleeping areas are being used. Have they had to bring in additional cots to house those young offenders?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do not know. I will have to bring that back for the Member.
Ms. Commodore: I would appreciate it if the Minister would provide me with that information. I am sure that his department is listening right now.
My next question is about a serious matter regarding the number of convicted sex offenders in secure custody - some convicted and some who are awaiting trial. I have been told that those individuals are not segregated from the rest of the population. Can the Minister tell us if that is the case?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do not know. I will bring an answer back for the Member.
Ms. Commodore: A number of people - not just I - feel that this is quite a serious situation. The Minister indicated last week that the population at the secure facility was getting younger all the time. That placement houses children as young as 12 years old. Can the Minister let me know whether or not the convicted sex offenders are mixing with the general population of the secure facility? If that is the case, I would like the Minister to find out for me, before we are finished with this department, what they intend to do about that. This has been brought to my attention by about three people who were aware of the situation. I think that it is quite serious.
Can the Minister tell me how many kids are serving time for sex offences in the secure facility?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will bring that information back for the Member.
Ms. Commodore: I am giving the Minister notice that I will be seeking the answers to these questions because I think they are very important and people are wondering what is going to happen.
Last week, the Minister mentioned that the facility in Teslin may be designated as a facility for young offenders. Was the Minister talking about young offenders sentenced to secure or open custody, or both?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I was saying it was one option under consideration for secure custody, but it is very preliminary and consultation would have to be undertaken with the community and the advisory committee in Teslin before a decision is made.
Ms. Commodore: One of the things said to me recently is that the closure of 501 Taylor as an open custody facility was a very bad move, although it appeared to be a sensible move at the time because there were not a lot of young people there. The possibility of individuals being sentenced to secure custody is happening because there is no 501 Taylor-type of facility, which was in existence a few months ago.
Has the Minister heard that concern? Has it been raised with him?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No. I doubt very much that the facts would substantiate that.
Ms. Commodore: The secure custody facility for young offenders up the hill is overcrowded. I have been told that there are individuals who will come to court very shortly. I intend to sit in on the court session at some point, just to see what is happening, because of all the stories I am hearing.
Does the Minister have any idea how many cases are coming up in young offenders court? Does he know if there is a possibility, or if there is a concern, that the facility may be more than overcrowded, and that it may run into a situation where the court may have to seek other facilities for young people? How many cases will there be in the next month? Is there a possibility that more individuals will be sentenced to secure custody, simply because the foster home situation does not meet the need and there is nothing in between?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: According to my notes, six people at the young offenders facility are pre-adjudication. I do not have any data with me about the volume and how many people may be arrested or have been arrested, or any information about how many individuals are about to go through the court system.
Ms. Commodore: I spoke about an individual involved in the juvenile justice system before who was encouraging secure custody. I would like to know whether or not there was a study done before closing down the 501 Taylor facility?
I know that the government is saying that the facility is not being used any more, and I am not saying that the programs being offered there now are not good programs, because I understand that some of them are good programs. I would like to know if there was a study done and if so, can I see the study?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The facility was not being utilized very well. Currently, the open custody situation is fine. We have foster homes. As has been said to the Member, we are seeking some other foster homes in the event that there is the requirement for additional open custody cases. To our knowledge, there is no correlation between the situation as it presently stands at the secure facility and the proper utilization of 501 Taylor Street.
The notes that we have from the department indicate that it expects a reduction in numbers requiring a secure facility by April.
Ms. Commodore: In the news report at noon today, the Kwanlin Dun justice committee said it is time to pay more attention to young offenders and justice issues. One of the issues identified was that there are more young people getting into trouble and that the young offender facility is fuller than ever before. It felt that it will have to take into consideration the issue of so many kids getting into trouble. The committee is talking about ensuring that it is ready, and in order to be ready it has to have more trained people.
The person in charge of the program, Rosemary Couch, says that this would mean involving new people and getting some training in conflict resolution. I think the Minister understands what has to be done.
I would like to ask the Minister if he has had any discussions with the communities, Council for Yukon Indians or community groups in this regard, because last week I was looking at the contracts and the money being paid to the Woods Home. I think that, if the government is considering spending that amount of money to send people outside for treatment, there is a possibility that some of those individuals can relate better to programs offered to them at home. We have talked to individuals of aboriginal descent who have worked in the system before and who have said that it is much easier for some of the offenders to relate to First Nations people, because they shared the same kind of traditions.
It would seem logical that money would go into treatment for traditional programming, such as wilderness camps. I know the Minister is already doing that, but there is a concern because the crime among young people is on the rise. Has the Minister, or his department, had recent discussions with First Nations groups to talk about why youth crime is on the rise?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: A whole bunch of things are mixed up in the question. The first issue has to do with utilization of the Northern Network of Services here, and the parent company, Woods, outside. The facility used in the Yukon is for an extreme type of case. The previous administration decided it wanted that type of expertise available here, thus we found ourselves, upon assuming office, with this contract that had been tendered to what really is Woods Homes. We have been carrying on with Northern Network of Services, which was recently re-tendered. They were the successful bidder, and that will continue. That type of service is extremely specialized and, in the opinion of the experts who know about these things, it is very unlikely that any of those individuals would go anywhere else but to Northern Network or, in extreme situations, out to Woods. So, that is not money that is transferable to wilderness programs or anything else.
The second issue had to do with the - I believed she raised this in her question - need for more mediators. That is being looked after under the justice system, and she can ask questions of that Minister. I know that the training of JPs and the encouragement of the people to take mediation training is ongoing. It was a priority when I was Minister of Justice, and it probably continues as such.
The next issue has to do with whether I have had meetings with aboriginal groups and First Nations regarding problems surrounding the kids-at-risk program. The answer is yes. It is an ongoing issue; it is a priority of mine. The problem has always been the follow-through by communities and the involvement of parents and people.
The government is not going to do this for anybody. We can assist, and encourage parents and others in communities to take on more and more programming, and work with kids, whether it be in sports, or in teen centres, or anything else that might get off the ground. There has been a singularly noticeable vacuum in all communities, including Whitehorse, of adults coming forward to work with kids at risk.
We have the strange situation in Whitehorse where most of the money that comes from recreation goes to those kids who are well balanced, come from stable families and are involved in the huge variety of recreation activities. Yet, there seems to be little attention paid to kids at risk, which is a large percentage of the kids in town.
There is no teen centre. There was one when I was a kid here, but there is not now. There is very little in the way of activities that appeal to those particular youth. It is something that I have been concerned about and have encouraged community groups to get involved in.
Something to that effect happened in Carcross. That was one model. The department is involved with a youth group in town here. One of the things that that committee did was to get the skateboard project off the ground. That is going ahead with the Lion's Club as a sponsor. The department also supported the youth-at-risk program last summer in the Kwanlin Dun Village and has tried to spur other activities for these large number of youth.
Through the health investment fund, a gathering of youth and adults was funded, and interested individuals from each of the communities across the Yukon came to Carcross to discuss the possibility of setting up activities, such as those that were in place in Carcross at that time. Again, very little has happened as a result, except for the formation of a group in Whitehorse, and those are the activities about which I have already spoken.
There is no question that no one likes to see the upsurge of youth in trouble with the law, but I think it is time that communities understood that the problem is a community one. It is not one the government simply solves for people. If parents are not going to be involved, if adults are not going to be involved in communities, then it is very unlikely that we are going to resolve the problem, or indeed make much headway.
There are various ongoing initiatives in Justice with regard to programming. There are programs in the schools, there is involvement by the RCMP. What is lacking, by and large, in many of our communities, if not all, is appropriate participation by parents, particularly, and by other adults who might be concerned about youth at risk.
The youth at risk in this town are largely ignored. They are a problem that people do not want to deal with. Youth who are well-balanced and not likely to be at risk in becoming involved with the law have a myriad of very expensive programs in place. In fact, many kids have a very difficult time picking and choosing which smorgasbord of activities they would like to choose from each and every semester.
Ms. Commodore: I can certainly agree with some of the things the Minister has said about what we do not have available, but teen centres and skateboard parks are not going to meet the need.
We are talking right now about a number of individuals who have come in conflict with the law. That group is getting younger all the time. They are doing it more often and they are getting caught. We are talking about a secure facility that is overflowing, which is a problem in itself. He is talking about the possibility of designating the Teslin facility as a facility for young offenders and the Minister knows that that is an open-door facility, so I am not exactly sure how kids in secure custody are going to be held there.
I was also told that the correction centre is being used - I do not know if that is a fact or not; I did not ask him but I would like him to respond to that question.
What are we doing about the number of individuals who are in our secure custody now? The Minister has indicated a number of programs that are being offered to them and I am sure that good people are providing services to the youth, but we are looking at a situation where the population is getting younger all the time and we have to deal with the situation as it arises, especially if the department is responsible for it.
We are talking about over $1 million that goes into a program that is provided by the Woods Home in Calgary. Whether or not that is meeting the need, I do not know. I know that an evaluation was done of the existing program last year and there had to be further training. We are told that the whole population of that home went to Calgary for more training.
Also, we continue to hear about problems in the system. I am not saying they only occurred while this Minister has been the Minister. We know they were happening while we were in government and that we tried to look at changing some of the programs that were being offered, but there is a concern by a lot of people who work in the system and a lot of people who have children in the system about what more can be done. I would like to have some assurances that the Minister can come back to me and say, "Yes, we do have young offenders in the facility but they are segregated from the rest of the population." I would like to know that that is taking place, but he does not know it, and it is a big concern with the people who work with those young offenders.
If he can come back and say they have everything in order and that they are being segregated so that younger children are not at risk, I think a lot of people who work with them will feel a bit more secure that those things are being dealt with.
I would like for him to tell me how efficient the ongoing program can be at the secure facility, especially when it is overcrowded. Do they have more people working during this time? What are they doing with the individuals who are temporarily absent? I am told that there was some concern about the kidnapper, who is in open custody right now. A facility such as 501 Taylor might have been more appropriate. I do not know if that is the case; that is only what I am being told. We do have a concern. It is not that often we can get parents involved in the problems we are having.
I went to a meeting last year on young people and crime. There were very few parents there. A lot of people from the department were there, and they want to do something to help these young people, but one cannot force the parents to be there. I do not know what to do, but I am concerned about what is happening in the system right now. What is being offered to these young people in this overcrowded situation?
I know it is hypothetical, but what are we going to do if, for instance, someone is sentenced to secure custody? I just read in the paper last week that someone was sentenced to secure custody, and the list goes on. What is the Minister going to do if, for instance, two weeks down the road, we have five more individuals sentenced to open custody?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: When the previous government took over in 1985, it cancelled the plans for a secure facility and started over. We were two or three years without a young offenders secure facility because of that delay. At that time, putting things into perspective, youths who were sentenced to secure custody were shipped outside. That is the way it was.
The secure facility has since been opened. It was not without some problems in the early years of its opening in the late 1980s, but it has been functioning rather well for the last three or four years. I am confident that it provides good programming, and we do have people checking up on it from time to time. Besides the department, the Advisory Council on Indian Child Welfare, in particular, takes keen interest in what is happening.
In the youth achievement centre at 501 Taylor, we are offering a whole bunch of programming, a list of which I provided to the Member opposite a number of days ago. Many of these are after-care programs that were not available to kids who went into open custody. Once they finished their sentence and were through probation, that was the end of the game.
We are providing after-care outreach programs for kids at risk - a whole bunch of different programs that deal with everything from helping them with self-esteem issues to learning how to obtain and develop basic skills for getting jobs, and assistance to help them to continue with their education, if that is the indicated goal of the individual.
These are all additional programs resulting from our taking an unutilized facility and turning it into a youth achievement centre.
The situation is such that I do not think we should be alarmed with it. I have every confidence in the experts within my department who determine, for example, if a youth is so disturbed that that person ought to be treated at either NNS, or outside at a facility such as Woods. I do not think the money spent on those individuals can be translated into some kind of option, as suggested, for wilderness camps. It is at the very severe end of the spectrum that youths need special professional help. While NNS had an evaluation and additional training was deemed to be necessary, I have not heard of any problems arising with regard to the way that institution functions since the very public issues of over a year ago.
We have a very professional staff with very clear rules of law to which they adhere. There is nothing that would suggest to me that people at the young offenders facility are doing anything that is not in the best interests of the children or that would indicate any kind of breach of the law regarding young offenders. Absolutely nothing has come to my attention, and I have a great deal of faith in the competence of the experts. I do not accept that a politician, such as I, has the same kind of experience and ability to run those programs.
With regard to the possibility that we may have too many young offenders for the facility, that may well be so. With regard to the possibility that it may be dangerous because of the mix, that may well be so. I can only say that various options are under consideration.
The very worst thing we could do would be to put ourselves into the situation we were in for the first two or three years of the previous government's mandate, when we sent those people outside. That is the worst thing that could happen. We are advised by the professional people in the department that they are predicting that the numbers of people using the young offenders secure facility is going to be going down in April. That is their best judgment. Again, I have not tried to out-predict them, or go through all of the stats myself. The Member has asked for all of this type of detailed information, and I have no problem in asking that the department pull it together so that she can have it for whatever use she wishes to put it to. I really feel that the department is aware of the problem, and that there are a number of options out there. Those options are being explored. I have not heard back as to exactly what kind of determinations have been made. I mentioned Teslin, but unfortunately, somehow, it was taken as the solution. It is just one possibility that they are looking into, as an example of some of the things they are going to be talking to the Department of Justice about. I do not feel that we are in any type of crisis with the current situation at all. I really hope that the people of the Yukon understand that.
The other issue has to do with why we are having this rash of offences occurring. I am saying that I really do not know. We have been trying to work with community groups, with parents, through the education system, with the RCMP, and with all of the players, First Nations and otherwise, to try to deal, in a crime prevention mode, with kids at risk.
Clearly, this is an avenue that makes it very difficult to predict how successful one will be, or any given group will be. It certainly does take support from parents and adults in communities. Otherwise, nothing can be done. Government cannot take the place of families.
I think that is a truism that is not fully understood by a lot of people. There are people who think that government can do everything for them, or the school should raise their kids, or whatever. Sorry, that is just not where it is at.
Ms. Commodore: I would just like to set the record straight about the secure facility. The Member spoke about our cancelling a secure facility project. The correct information is that there was a plan in place to construct an $8 million facility for open and secure custody for young people and to have a large fenced-in area. What we did was to scale it down. The Minister knows that we were required by law, under the Young Offenders Act, to have a secure facility, so there would not have been a way to cancel it. It was required by law. We ended up building that facility on a much smaller scale than the $8 million size proposed by the former government.
The Minister said a lot of things in his response, and I appreciate his response. There are qualified people working in the system; there is no doubt about that. I have met a lot of them. However, if I get people coming to me and asking questions or giving me information about things that they see as being a problem, of course I am going to be asking the Minister about them.
Although the Minister will not know the answer to this question - I am sure he will gather the information - I would like to find out from him whether or not he has had any information about children in care at the Woods Home in Calgary. I have been provided with some information that these kids are continuing to go AWOL and ending up on the streets in Calgary. That is a very serious situation if, in fact, it is occurring.
There has been concern in that regard, and I would like to ask him if that is the case. If he does not have that information right now, perhaps he could bring it back to me. It is possible that that is not happening, but I am told that it is.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The facility outside the Yukon is not used very heavily at all, but I will have the department provide a response.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister just provided me with a list of contracts they had for children out there. I note that seven individuals went out last year for treatment, so we do have kids out there with problems. By the time we get into the branch debate, I would like to have the information about the mix of kids in secure custody so that I can discuss it further. I do not know when that is going to take place. It might be tonight, it might be tomorrow, so I will let it go at that, and I thank the Minister for any information he has been able to provide to me.
I am not going to go on much longer; I am almost finished, but I would like him to tell me about the request for a home for street people, street kids. The Minister provided me with a legislative return or a letter - I cannot remember which - that indicated to me all of the things they were doing for street kids in town. Because I spent a lot of time at the hockey tournament this weekend, I had a chance to talk to individuals about a lot of things and, as a result of things they had heard on the radio, they came to me with some concerns. This was one of the things that was brought up again. There is a need for some type of facility for these kids who are out on the street. I think there was something on the radio last week about a street person who was familiar with the issue in Whitehorse.
He indicated that there were a number of kids on the street, and I know that the Minister has said in the past that these youths are away from safe havens when they are away from home and out on the street, but that is not always the case.
What is happening in the Minister's department? I know that he sent the proposal from the Youth Action Society to his department for review. I have not found out from the Minister what is happening. Has the proposal been totally rejected?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes, it has been rejected. The position is that any youth who need help can obtain the help by going to family and children services, and there is absolutely no indication that a facility such as the one envisioned is needed.
Ms. Commodore: I can only say that I am glad winter is almost over, because we do have kids who are sleeping under stairs, sleeping in warm buildings and for some reason are not going home. There has to be a reason for that situation.
I have a follow-up question to the Minister in regard to his fraud squad. The Minister knows that we have had some concerns about the manner in which his group was doing its job last summer. There were a number of innocent people coming to us with complaints about the way they were treated. I would like to know what protection those individuals have.
I know that if I were on social assistance and accused of defrauding the government or if I were being asked humiliating questions, I would certainly be offended, and I know that many of those individuals were offended. What is going to happen to make his new fraud investigator and the people whom he is going to hire different, in order to protect the individuals being investigated? I am certain that the Minister would not want to be humiliated, or charged with something that he was not guilty of doing.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There are several things. First of all, the contracts for employment should be filled by people with RCMP experience. Secondly, as per the report that was tabled in the House, there will be a specific set of guidelines developed and vetted by the Health and Social Services Council. Thirdly, the guidelines will include ensuring that there is very little opportunity for a sole investigator to do anything outside the scope of the guidelines. There will be some tightening up regarding the guidelines.
In fairness, however, it is important to note that, despite the rather shrill criticism from some quarters, it is not necessarily true that all of these objections were valid. We were certainly aware that some people, whose files had gone to the RCMP, raised all kinds of issues about the investigation. We have some doubts about the validity of their claims.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister has indicated that there was some shrill criticism from those individuals. I would like to suggest that some of those criticisms have been very valid.
Is there something in place where official complaints can be made if the individuals feel that their rights have been violated?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: They can certainly bring them to the attention of the Minister or the director of social services. In addition to that, there is a good possibility that there will be an ombudsperson in place before too long.
Ms. Commodore: I would not think that sounds very good for the individuals who may have complaints. If the process is in place to take the complaints to the Minister, or take it to someone in his department, what happens then?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The complaint will be looked into to see whether or not the complaint is valid. The guidelines that will be put into place will be put in place to try to ensure that an investigator carries on his duties in an appropriate fashion. The situation is not unique to people who are being investigated for fraud of social services. The RCMP are investigating people all the time for fraud and criminal activities. I do not really see why there is such a distinction being made - or attempted to be made - by the Member.
Ms. Commodore: I do not think the Minister really understands what it is that I am saying. There were complaints that were made to us in regard to the manner in which people were treated. If the Minister does not give a darn about the rights of individuals then we do have a problem.
It appears to me that if someone chose to complain it would be totally disregarded, based on the Minister's last response. I do not have faith that people can complain about harsh treatment.
Once again, the people who are most in need of the services of this department are suffering, and I think that is a very bad sign.
I only have one more question on health, and it is a follow up from information given to me a couple of years ago with regard to giardiasis. The Minister provided me with information about the number of cases throughout the Yukon and where they were. One of the things the Minister said at that time was that at no point should people drink surface water without boiling it first. The information provided to me was that the giardiasis was coming in through the drinking water in town, and people who had not camped for a number of years were being infected with it.
Does the Minister feel the public should be aware of drinking polluted water that contains giardiasis? Does he feel people should be told about it? Two years ago, a legislative return indicated that 48 people were diagnosed as having beaver fever, and there were ongoing studies that indicated that it was in the drinking water. Has anything been done to deal with that health issue?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes. There is advertising during the summer; there are signs up at the campgrounds. The issue of beaver fever is a well-known one in the Yukon, and the advice still stands, that one should not drink surface water without taking precautions - either boiling it for the full period of time recommended or using an appropriate filter or device to ensure that the water is pure.
Ms. Commodore: The legislative return indicated that winter test levels in the Yukon showed a presence of giardiasis, and that it had been found above and below communities, as well as on the Klondike River. If there are signs up all over during the summer, that is fine for tourists, but I have never seen any warnings in our local newspapers, or anywhere else, that indicates that it is coming through the taps in Whitehorse. Some people are very concerned about that health hazard.
Other than the advertising the Minister has indicated, is there any intention to warn Whitehorse residents that they are drinking polluted water?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not aware of the tap water in Whitehorse placing people at risk. I will have the department look into it and get back to the Member.
Mr. Cable: I just have a couple of questions. The Minister's colleague, the Minister of Justice, has initiated a review of the maintenance enforcement program. There were a number of terms of reference given in a legislative return involving the contract to the lawyer, Monica Leask. Is the Minister's department involved with the Department of Justice in this review in any way?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Not that I am aware of.
Mr. Cable: I mentioned to the Minister during the budget debate last spring the approach that the British are taking to maintenance enforcement. They have worked up an extra judicial means of dealing with enforcement. They have discovered that that very significantly affects the social assistance money that is disbursed, something to the tune of half a billion pounds - it was something with a lot of zeros. It struck me as a very large sum of money. In correspondence with the Liberal Democrats in England, they have indicated they have some reservations about the rather Draconian powers that are given to this group.
Has the Minister or his officials viewed the maintenance enforcement approach taken by the British with a view to determining if the social assistance budget can be reduced because of a different approach to maintenance enforcement?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I understand that about 20 percent of the clients being dealt with by Justice are also on social assistance. We certainly support the Minister of Justice in looking at the various ways of improving the collection of maintenance from any parent that is in arrears, including looking at the issue of administrative sanctions, such as no driver's licence and so on, if one is behind. That is really all that I can say about it.
Mr. Cable: Perhaps I will explore that more with the Minister's colleague when I get to the Justice debate.
I have one more question. Has the Minister and his department considered further the extension of the medicare service to private physiotherapists?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No.
Mr. Cable: Over the years, the Minister's department has been approached by the private physiotherapists in town. Is that a definite no that the Minister is giving, or is the matter open to consideration?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is a definite no, unless some new and unusual circumstances occur. As the Member well knows, we are facing an constantly decreasing supply of funds from Ottawa. For us to expand insured services under those circumstances would be most unwise.
Mr. Joe: I just have a couple of questions for the Minister about the overcrowding in the young offender facility. This is the time when I look at Tatlmain Lake, but there is a problem with funds to go that far. I hear the Minister saying something about sending the people outside. That still is not helping people. Another problem is this idea that nothing can be done about it. I think we should look at it as a community problem, where a community would try to do something for itself. There is a sensitive problem there.
I think the Minister should drive out and meet with the grassroots people in the community so that they can express their problems to government representatives.
There are lots of opportunities for the people at the community level to do something for themselves, but as I said, there is always a problem with funding.
When you send people outside for treatment, what does it cost? It is very expensive. Sending people to jail on the top of the hill is another expense. These funds could be used in the communities.
The problem that we are speaking about is not often mentioned in this House. We all know where the problem comes from. We have created the problem.
I want to say, again, that the problem comes from too much drinking. The Minister's report, sometime last week, talked about social programs. That is not the problem. Again, most of our problems come from drinking. People are drinking too much. That is where the problems come from. The young offenders get right into it. They are drinking too much. Many young people get into drinking and parties. They get right into this kind of problem. How do we solve it?
I will speak more about this issue when we get to the Yukon Liquor Corporation.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I thank the Member for his comments. There is no question that the abuse of alcohol and drugs is certainly one of the more important issues with regard to kids getting into trouble with the law.
It is a tough issue to deal with. In Old Crow, as the Member knows, there is a ban on alcohol in the community. They are doing a little better there, according to what I heard when the policeman from Old Crow was interviewed this morning on CBC, but the First Nation is concerned about the penalty for disobeying the drinking ban in Old Crow. In a couple of communities that still allow public drinking or are trying to change the law - the people have to do this in both Ross River and in Carcross now; they are moving to ban public drinking - that does not ban alcohol from the community. This is a really tough issue that is going to require a lot of work.
With regard to the money that is spent in Justice for sending people outside, certainly I am sympathetic. I support the idea of strengthening the community-based ownership and taking control of people in wilderness camps, or whatever, and that is something the government is working on with communities.
There is not a lot of money available and one of the biggest problems is that very often the number of young offenders in a community, such as Pelly or Carcross, is very small, or not there at all, so getting the funding for community-based solutions is something that has to be worked out with each of the communities. Certainly the alcohol and drug abuse problems are extremely important and, in healing the communities, we have to look at that, we have to look at additional counselling, we have to look at jobs for the young people, we have to look at training chances for young people, and we have to look at problems about the abuse of kids.
Some things have been happening, which I think are going in the right direction, but it is going to take a while to work out with each community the best mix of things that is good for that community, and exactly what it wants.
Different communities like to approach their problems in different ways. What the government is trying to do is talk to the communities to see what direction each community wants to take. There is no quick solution to it. I certainly agree with the Member's main concern regarding drinking, and look forward to the discussion regarding the Yukon Liquor Corporation.
Mr. Joe: I thank the Minister for his response to my question.
I have another question. Can the Minister tell me if any thought has been given to Tatlmain Lake for the treatment of young offenders?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: On the social services side, the Member will recall that - a year ago in May - I went with officials to Pelly Crossing. We met with the chief, the Member, band councillors and advisors, and we talked about making some money available from each department and about trying to work with the First Nation to get a matching amount from the federal government. That is when I was still Minister of Justice.
I am not sure where that has gone, except that there was a follow-up meeting that was not very good. There was a demand from the advisor to the First Nation for a lot more money than we were talking about, so the meeting did not go very far. I understand the department has continued to talk about making money available toward a position on a counselling project. This was for an after-care counselling project for people in the Pelly Crossing area. There was to be $25,000 per year toward that position, and the department was to work with the First Nation to get some money from the federal government to make it a full-time position.
I will have to get up-to-date information on this. This shows that it has been committed by the department. I know the department has been talking with the First Nation in Pelly. However, I am not sure where this has gone with regard to Justice. At the time, we had money from each program. I know social services has gone ahead.
Deputy Chair: Is there any further general debate on Bill No. 3?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I move we report progress on Bill No. 3.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 1995-96 - continued
Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate on Bill No. 4, Health and Social Services?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am prepared to read a speech into the record regarding this particular item. My impression was that there was not a great desire to have the speech done in total. I can be very brief. This is on the operation and maintenance portion.
Mr. Penikett: As previously mentioned to the Minister, I would be quite happy to have this statement tabled so that we could proceed with the lines.
Deputy Chair: It is Mr. Phelps' decision.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would be delighted to simply table the remarks, and we could then proceed with lines. I do not think that there is anything that is not made fairly obvious by not only the previous general debate, but by the information in the budget.
Deputy Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to proceed with line-by-line debate?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Mr. Chair, perhaps we could see if there is any further general debate. If not, then I move progress on Bill No. 4.
Motion agreed to
Chair: We will return to Bill No. 3.
Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95 - continued
Deputy Chair: Bill No. 3 is the supplementaries. We are on page 38.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I move that we report progress on Bill No. 4, since I have already gone into lengthy debate on the O&M and capital budgets.
Deputy Chair: That has already been agreed to. We will now move into line by line of Bill No. 3.
On Operation and Maintenance
On Family and Children's Services
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The open custody supervisor was seconded temporarily to the personnel unit. The additional cost is being absorbed in the policy, planning, and administration branch, and internal accommodations have been made within family and children's services to avoid recruiting for the secondment period.
Family and Children's Services in the amount of an underexpenditure of $28,000 agreed to
On Social Services
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This reflects a reduction in forecasted social assistance payments, following introduction of the social assistance recipients program and the social assistance verification function. The average number of cases per month dropped from 1,097, through period 4 in 1993-94, to 949 through period 4 in 1994-95. The average monthly cost through the first four months fell from $598,000 in 1993-94, to $581,000 in 1994-95. Furthermore, whereas the average caseload in monthly cost figures continued to rise through 1993-94, they have continued the trend downward this year, and are now levelling off as we look forward to 1995-96.
Social Services in the amount of an underexpenditure of $1,424,000 agreed to
On Health Services
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This results in the following changes: a $690,000 decrease to the delay of phase 2 health transfer; a $1,775,000 decrease in out-of-territory hospital costs due to decreased utilization, driven in part by longer wait lists for elective treatment in Alberta and B.C.; a $919,000 decrease in physician costs due to reduced utilization, and an out-of-territory price increase that did not materialize; a $45,000 decrease in medical travel due to reduced costs for in-territory trips and fewer trips out of the territory; a $400,000 decrease in Yukon Hospital Corporation block funding due to operating efficiencies - further efficiencies are anticipated in 1995-96 as the hospital board gains experience and the benefits of operational planning related to the new hospital flow through, and it is desirable to leave some accumulated surplus with the hospital to absorb unexpected costs; a $250,000 decrease due to changes in the chronic disease program, including the introduction of the $250 deductible, partly offset by a $30,000 personnel cost increase to supplement the formulary and deductible - of course, that is a half-year of experience for chronic disease; a $27,000 increase projected for extended health; and an $80,000 increase projected for Pharmacare, due to growth in the client base - the number of seniors registering for these programs is on an upward trend, as a greater number choose to remain in Yukon than was the case a few years ago; a $144,000 increase in ambulance service costs; $80,000 for physician and training contracts and emergency travel; $8,000 for station utilities and $56,000 for additional auxiliary costs; a $70,000 increase in contract assistance for strategic planning; a $10,000 increase for additional auxiliaries in hearing services; and $10,000 to adjust a new incumbent's estimated salary to actual; a $3,000 increase in health promotion initiatives and advertising; $18,000 to the Mental Health Board; $20,000 for Dene Nets'edet'an project in Watson Lake; $10,000 for advertising and travel; $50,000 for community-based health promotion initiatives. There is a $6,000 increase in contributions to the Yukon Medical Association insurance and a $60,000 increase to YMA contributions for education. There is a $722,000 increase in services supported through the medical services branch to meet the terms of agreed funding levels - that is with the MSB. There is $458,000 for community health programs; $257,000 for operation of the Watson Lake Hospital; and $7,000 for community physician services.
Mr. Penikett: As the Minister has experienced what I know every other previous Minister to have experienced, I know that there is a great confusion of factors leading to the final figures in the expenditures on health in any one year. I note such imponderables such as delays, and waiting lists in hospitals in Alberta and British Columbia, combined with decisions made here about the chronic diseases program.
Nonetheless, at the risk of sounding like a nag, the Minister will know I have chronic comments on the erratic pattern of the budgeting line, compared to stable trajectory of the actual expenditures over the last few years.
I would like to ask a very specific, general, two-part question. I would like to know to what extent the almost $3 million lapse in the operation and maintenance here can be attributed, in the Minister's mind, to overbudgeting? The second part of the question is this: given the size of this lapse, why did the Minister not consider increasing the amount of money for the health investment fund, rather than decreasing the amount?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: To answer the second question first, the health investment fund has not been fully taken down. There is a rollover, as well. Whether or not there will need to be any increases to that fund is an open question.
One of the reasons why it is not fully taken down is not for want of some applications, but for applications that meet the criteria that was established on the advice of the Health and Social Services Council.
The areas in which we have seen some decreases that were a pleasant surprise were partly due to increased cooperation from professionals, such as the Joint Management Committee. This has led to a tightening up by physicians of the kinds of recommendations that they make. The chronic disease program, of course, is one we have mentioned, in terms of the $250,000 cost. There is no question, however, that in funding for increased physician fees outside has stopped. In some jurisdictions, the physicians' fees have decreased. The tightening up of hospitals in Alberta and B.C. is something that perhaps should have been expected, but were not by the forecasters in the department.
We have always been very fortunate in terms of being able to get people into treatment in B.C. and Alberta hospitals. We have always been given the red carpet treatment. That is less likely to continue into the future due to the crunch that has occurred in both jurisdictions with the drastic reduction in hospital beds from something like 4.5 beds per 1,000 people down to the stated goal, by most jurisdictions, of 2.5.
Ms. Commodore: I was talking to a couple of individuals this weekend and was told by one of them that she had gone to out-patients to find out what was the matter with her. She was having problems with her stomach and was sent home - I think she said three times - before they finally diagnosed her as having a ruptured appendix. From working in the operating room many years ago I know how serious that can be.
What course of action does a person have under those circumstances? She could have died. This occurred very recently. I think she said she went three times. They gave her something to settle her stomach and after that last visit she was immediately admitted and had surgery.
What could she do in a situation like that?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There are two areas: one is to make a complaint to the hospital board, and the second area is to make a complaint to the Yukon Medical Council against the physician concerned.
Ms. Commodore: There was another matter brought to my attention and I would like the Minister to find out if, in fact, it is correct.
Many individuals who have been diagnosed with illnesses have been sent home and asked to come back to the hospital every eight hours for intravenous antibiotics - I know that this happened to me, but this is not a question about me. There was one case where an individual was sent home with oxygen and asked to come back in eight hours for the intravenous. The individual's understanding was that the hospital was short of beds. I do not know if that was the case or not, but could the Minister tell us if this was the case?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There is no shortage of beds at the hospital. The hospital's utilization of beds is not even near 100 percent. I am not certain what the issue may have been at that time, but certainly the hospital has not used all of the beds. I think I provided the most recent figures I had, which were for December, and I believe the figures showed that utilization of hospital beds was quite low.
Mr. Penikett: I have one particular question, which the Minister may have the answer to at his fingertips, and that is about the staff levels at the hospital now, as compared with the staff levels when the hospital was under federal jurisdiction? If that information is handy I would like to have it now, but if not, I would like to receive that information as soon as possible.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We do not have that information here, but I am quite prepared to get that information for the Member.
Health Services in the amount of an underexpenditure of $2,822,000 agreed to
On Regional Services
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This amount reflects a reduction in social assistance payments resulting from a combination of several factors, as follows: the uptake of the Head Start program, particularly in Faro, Haines Junction and Mayo; client departures following visits by verification officers to Dawson, Faro, Ross River and Watson Lake; more intensive case management for chronic clients based on the principle that they must plan for their own self-sufficiency; more intensive management of the special needs and hardship policies and improved procedures for file monitoring and review; improvements in the mining sector in Faro and Carmacks and forestry alternatives for displaced mine workers in Watson Lake.
Regional Services in the amount of an underexpenditure $500,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance in the amount of an underexpenditure of $4,774,000 agreed to
On Policy, Planning and Administration
On Integrated Health and Social Services Facilities
Hon. Mr. Phelps: An $84,000 increase in integrated facilities is due to a revote for Crossroads renovations not completed in the prior year.
Mr. Penikett: This is not money for integrated health and social services facilities, such as we were previously talking about in the community of Mayo, but the money is to be used for a different purpose - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This money is being used to renovate the Crossroads building. As the Member is aware, the plan is to integrate the detox centre into that building, but that has yet to be done.
Mr. Penikett: I am aware of that, and I am not proposing to be a difficult obstructionist. However, I understand that the original purpose of this line was initially to provide money for the pilot project. To use the words "integrated health and social services facilities" to describe the Crossroads facility seems to give it a different complexion and begs the question about why we do not simply describe it as "Crossroads facility" in the budget.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will take the Member's complaint under advisement.
Mr. Penikett: For the record, since there is confusion in terms of identifying the purpose for the funds, for a while the government continued to identify funds for the pilot project around an integrated health and social services facility, such as the group in Mayo that was pushing for a project that has faltered, is there any money identified for that purpose in either the supplementary or main estimates?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Not for the purpose of establishing capital monies for a community-based health and social services council. We had that discussion, and we have no initiatives in that regard. Our immediate concern has to do with getting phase 2 of the health transfer off the ground.
Mr. Penikett: I believed that that was the case, but I had to nail it down because of the particular language used in the budget.
Mrs. Firth: With respect to the alcohol and drug services renovations line for $502,000, how do these two lines relate to one another? Are they both for the same project?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The $84,000 had to do with some work that had to be performed in Crossroads. The $502,000 is the new initiative on which very little money has been spent yet. Most of it will be lapsed into next year. It is for major renovations to the Crossroads building.
Alcohol and drug services is being moved to the Prospectors Building - I think that is what it is called; the building where Social Services is. Once they move out, there will be major renovations to the entire building, placing the detox centre on the bottom floor - it is a multi-level building - and Crossroads in the upper, main portion. The full building will then be utilized by the two programs.
Mrs. Firth: In that project, YTG is responsible for all the renovations, is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes. We are performing all the renovations. The building belongs to the department. It does not belong to Crossroads.
Mrs. Firth: Is that the building that requires an elevator? Is YTG putting the elevator in?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes. However, it is not really an elevator. It is a device for bringing people up and down stairs. It is a very small elevator.
Mrs. Firth: How long has YTG owned that building?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It was owned by Yukon Housing. At one point, Yukon Housing was going to transfer it to Crossroads. That did not occur. At the particular time in question, Crossroads was going through some problems. So it was transferred to the department at its request. It is felt that this major renovation will accommodate the needs of Crossroads as well as those of the detox centre, which, I am sure the Members are aware, is long overdue. It has long needed to be replaced.
Integrated Health and Social Services Facilities in the amount of $84,000 agreed to
On Office Furniture and Operational Equipment
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The amount of $56,000 is for an increase in furniture and equipment due to a revote for projects not completed in the prior year.
Office Furniture and Operational Equipment in the amount of $56,000 agreed to
On Systems Development
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This is for an increase in systems development for formulary chronic disease and medical travel changes. The formulary will be instituted in the very near future.
Mr. Penikett: I would ask the Minister how the $60,000 will improve the health of Yukon citizens, the quality of life of the social assistance clients of the department or the lives of the workers in the department or its clients?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It will have an extremely beneficial impact on some of the people who work in the financial section of the health branch, in that they will have a better knowledge that the money being spent is for appropriate purposes, and they will be able to look to a future in which money is not being wasted on these programs, but instead will be put into better health initiatives.
Mr. Penikett: Would the Minister say that the immediate benefits are internal and not external, then?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes, but we look forward to the healthful situation spreading.
Systems Development in the amount of $60,000 agreed to
On Family and Children's Services
On Young Offenders Facilities - Renovations
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This includes $92,000 revoted for projects not completed in the prior year; $85,000 for winter works projects approved for the current fiscal year, which includes painting, window replacements and other renovations at 305 Lambert Street and the workshop at the secure custody facility.
Young Offenders Facilities - Renovations in the amount of $177,000 agreed to
On Child Welfare Facilities - Renovations
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This includes $10,000 revoted for a project not completed in the prior year and $187,000 for winter works projects approved for the current fiscal year. These include new windows and doors at Klondike and Liard, an addition to the Klondike group home and re-roofing and carpets at the children's receiving home.
Mr. Penikett: Could I ask the Minister a general question that might more properly be directed to the Minister of Government Services, but since the Department of Health and Social Services seems to be doing a fair amount of renovating and fixing up, I feel bound to ask it of this Minister. It arises from an observation I heard recently that there seems to be some tension between city inspectors and territorial inspectors in the building fields, and that there may be some perception of harassment of YTG projects because of some strict interpretations of municipal bylaws - which, of course, in my view, the territory is not bound to observe anyway, but may do so as a courtesy. Could I ask the Minister if any of the projects in his department have experienced any difficulties, in the sense that the municipal inspectors have set standards that were not contemplated in the original contract?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: As I understand it, there have been some incidents whereby the city wanted to implement higher standards than those proposed by YTG, and this has been worked out in conjunction with the city planning.
Mr. Penikett: Because this is a matter of some interest to me, as it may affect other departments in this government as we go through the budget, would it be possible to ask for a return on this question describing the original problem as well as the nature of the resolution, in simple terms? I do not want to ask for infinite detail, but did this matter require ministerial intervention with the Mayor of Whitehorse? Was this a situation that was sorted out between the deputy minister and the city manager, or were sensible people at the lower level able to work things out? I would like to know something about that situation, if the Minister can provide it.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: For the Member's information, Government Services takes the lead role in resolving these issues.
Mr. Penikett: The point is that Government Services is soon to have the delightful experience of spending quality time in Committee of the Whole on this subject, so I would really like to have this information before we come to that discussion.
Child Welfare Facilities - Renovations in the amount of $197,000 agreed to
On Social Services
On Alcohol and Drug Services - Renovations
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This is the winter works program to upgrade the Crossroads building and to also accommodate the detox centre. As I have already stated, the government is moving the alcohol and drug services program to the Prospector Building, and we are locating in-patient and detox services under one roof.
Mrs. Firth: When does the Minister expect the entire renovation and the move to be complete, and when does the Minister expect this branch of the government to be up and running?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The actual work done on the Crossroads building will not be completed until the end of June.
Alcohol and Drug Services - Renovations in the amount of $502,000 agreed to
Deputy Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Deputy Chair: I will now call the Committee to order.
On Health Services
On Whitehorse Hospital Construction
Hon. Mr. Phelps: These are expenditures that were forecast to occur in the current year. The overall cost and schedule remain unchanged.
Mr. Penikett: I am always fascinated to keep hearing about the hospital project being on time and on schedule when we are approaching almost a $5 million lapse in the capital program. What does this lapse indicate? Since the Minister says the project is still on schedule, how may we explain it? Thousands of our constituents will be phoning us and knocking on our doors and wanting to know exactly what is happening.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: One of the major changes was the decision to defer demolition of the emergency wing, which is to be torn down, until the new main building is completed. The main change has to do with the timing of the demolition of the emergency wing.
With regard to the exterior of the building, it is phase 2 of the hospital, which will be coming up for tender. The tender documents should be ready fairly soon. We will be going out to tender for the rest of the hospital. At the current time, the Ketza contract is 91 percent complete. They have been given a month extension to complete; the cold weather slowed down their welding, or whatever they were doing there. The tender documents are about a month or a month and a half late. However, it is not anticipated that this will result in a big delay or additional costs.
Mr. Penikett: I am glad to hear the second part of that answer, because I would have been, as someone once said, shocked and appalled if I had thought that it was going to take $5 million to tear down the old emergency wing. I assume that it is not just tearing it down, but also replacing it - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is tearing it down and doing the necessary changes to the main trunk, and a change in the phase 1 of the construction, which was only the the skeleton and not any covering. The best estimates of the people involved are that everything is within budget. The proof of the pudding will be the actual tendering, when it happens, which will probably be taking place reasonably soon and awarded, it is hoped, in early summer.
Mr. Penikett: One question continues to bother me. It is the question of architects' fees. The last time that I raised this, the Minister's answer was indecisive. He may have thought about it more since then. I wanted to ask him this question, since we paid the same firm to design the original building, and presumably we purchased not just blueprints and drawings, but also certain kinds of expertise about health facilities, since, going way back to the time that I was in the department, we were looking at architects who had designed hospitals before so that they would presumably be au courant with the latest trends in health facility design and trends in the restructuring of hospitals. The Minister, based on advice he got, decided to radically change the design and the profile and go to a new design, but nonetheless he gave the work to the same architectural firm.
I raised the question about paying these architects twice and I think the Minister - I do not want to misquote him - said something like it would be impossible to fairly allocate responsibility for whatever flaw there may have been in the original design; therefore, it was not easy to decide the question of the assumption of any costs for any mistakes or any flaws in the original conceptions project.
Has the Minister had occasion to think about this further? I would be surprised, of course, if the architects have raised the matter. He has beside him a prudent Finance official, who surely must have raised the question of accountability in respect to the original design, and perhaps the risks associated and also if some consideration of the cost of the redesign would have been discussed?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The client, in this case, government officials and so on, and the federal government were quite happy with an old-fashioned design. That was the main problem: the issue surrounded the new thinking in hospital design and programming. The original design was driven partly by the federal government and its designs. Some of the culpability had to do with the lack of any expertise in the program area in our government.
The issues really became evident to us when we called in the department in B.C. to look at the programming of the new hospital, and they were quite upset with the old-fashioned design, which meant duplication of services, and this concern was apparently sufficient for them to raise the issue. We then brought in the architectural services of the B.C. department. They sent someone up and he certainly confirmed our worst fears. We asked for additional advice from program experts, two independent outfits confirmed the situation, and so the design was changed.
How much blame for all this might be attributed to the architect? I am advised that the norm is that the architect is told what is wanted and he will design it.
The genuine opinion of the experts that we spoke to is that the blame, by and large, fell squarely on the shoulders of the two governments that approved the class C estimate.
Mr. Penikett: That is a fascinating answer, but I find it wanting. I am absolutely certain, even though I was not one of the Ministers involved, that no Minister in our government - and I would be surprised if a federal Health Minister actually said to an architect, "Please give us an old-fashioned-type hospital" - stated that the whole purpose of replacing the present building was because it was old-fashioned.
Having spent a considerable sum of money reviewing applications to try to find hospital architects who had recently designed new-age or contemporary hospital designs in Alberta - particularly because Alberta has built more hospitals than most other jurisdictions - and especially if the architect was of the view that there was insufficient expertise in the department to make prudent choices, I would have thought - the Minister is a professional in a different field, I am not - that a prudent professional in that case would say to the client, "I must make you aware of all of the options." I doubt that those options would be stated in terms of whether or not the client wanted an old-fashioned hospital, a 1950s hospital, or 1990s hospital? Surely, in discussions with the professionals, because I know those discussions went on with local doctors and others in the community, there must have been some discussion about needs and options very early in the discussions.
I must say that the Minister's answer makes me feel uncomfortable with the notion that the professionals in this field had no responsibility to make the options clear.
If the Minister is saying that these big questions were not raised until some professionals from British Columbia identified them, to me that seems to raise further questions about the quality of the professional advice that we were retaining at considerable cost.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: My understanding is that they were never retained to give advice with regard to programming for the hospital. The local expertise was entirely wanting, whether it was the professionals in town, people within the department, or anyone who was canvassed, including people from the federal MSB. An architectural firm was engaged, I gather, and one of the things that happened immediately was that it was given a footprint, which was a very constricted L-shape design, in order to avoid demolition of any part, except for, as I recall, a very small portion of one wing of the existing hospital. So the first thing was that the footprint was an L-shape or D-shape.
The second thing was that the programming was assumed, by staff at the hospital and people using the hospital as professionals, to be the same as the old hospital. Those were "givens". I gather a process was then gone through with all the user groups agreeing on what the programming would be and, eventually, they settled on the hospital design, and it came to our attention that the hospital design was such that it just made sense to start over again, and that is what we did.
Mr. Penikett: As I have said before to the Minister, in light of the events, I have taken care not to criticize the decision to start over again, because it may well have been the prudent thing to do.
I must confess to the Minister, however, that I am still personally troubled by the role of the professionals. It is one thing to say that one has been handed a footprint and another to say that one is operating on the assumption that the old program and old hospital should continue. Even as a lay person, who was briefly the Minister of the department, I knew that the design of the hospital had functions that we were not going to need. The design had already had to be adapted to deal with, for example, mental health problems. We did not have the same kind of pediatric profile as previously existed. As far as I knew, everyone - all the doctors, nurses and people in the admittedly small health branch that we had - knew that the concepts that had been widely discussed around the Health Act assumed a certain measure of ambulatory care and different profiling around surgical patients and so on. I do not believe that we had any sophistication about that.
As I understand it, the role of architects is not simply to draw lines on paper. I was taught that they are people who are supposed to deal with the issues of utility and that the form should follow functions. All of these issues that were subsequently identified by the British Columbians, or others, are ones that a client - particularly one spending millions of dollars - might have had reason to expect a professional architect to raise at the beginning.
I am not making a representation here; I am simply making a comment. We had never built or designed a new hospital, so, obviously, we did not have anyone who knew what they were doing. When one hires a professional, one expects them to bring with them a certain amount of expertise. If I could use another example, if I were hiring an architect to build a house, apart from questions of cost, I would get some basic questions, such as whether or not I wanted something that looks like a cabin or a Spanish hacienda or a standard suburban bungalow. The architect gets to those questions by asking me the age of my children, if I expect them to be in the house much longer, if I am anticipating looking after an elderly parent or grandparent for some time, if I have dogs and so on.
Other questions might include what kind of recreational activities there will be - what is going to be done in this place - and it seems to me to be a bit much to suggest that it is the fault of the client for not asking the right questions at the beginning. I am not doubting that there is a shared responsibility here. I am really only raising a concern about the fact that we seem to be eating all the cost of the redesign.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We are going to end up with a facility that is going to come within the original cost guideline. We are going to end up with a facility that is estimated to save us considerable O&M per year with new programming.
I had raised similar questions to those of the Member. All I can say is that the feeling is that, legally, we would not have much of a leg to stand on, unless we could prove some things that we really cannot prove, particularly with regard to the kind of instruction and advice given to all the players. The advice we had was to continue with these architects under very stringent guidelines from the experts who will continue to work with us on the programming and the expert who is playing the main role in terms of bringing the design and programming together. It is working.
The issue of whether or not there would be legal action against the architect for want of putting its foot down or the corporation saying, "Look, you guys are making a terrible mistake. You should look at ripping down part of the hospital and this and that."
I am advised, to my satisfaction, that it is a legal issue that probably would not be cost effective to pursue.
Whitehorse Hospital Construction in the amount of an underexpenditure of $4,688,000 agreed to
On Hospital Road #2 and #4
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This is an increase of $150,000, which included $50,000 revoted for a project not completed in the prior year, and $100,000 under a winter works program to provide backup for the steam-heating systems.
Hospital Road #2 and #4 in the amount of $150,000 agreed to
On Northern Health Services
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This is a reduction to the medical services branch funding as a result of the delay of the Ross River nursing station.
Northern Health Services in the amount of an underexpenditure of $451,000 agreed to
On Ambulance Vehicles
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This is an increase to purchase a four-wheel drive ambulance for the Whitehorse fleet. A total of three ambulances will be purchased this year, of which one will be a four-wheel drive unit to prepare for an off-road emergency eventuality. The unit replaced will be rotated to the communities.
Mrs. Firth: I saw the ambulance parked in the government yard for quite a while. Where will that ambulance be located, and how much did the outfit cost?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The ambulance will be rotated to Ross River, once the new nursing station is built. The cost is $65,000.
Mrs. Firth: That cost of that four-wheel drive ambulance is $65,000, and it will be rotated to Ross River. Did the Minister say it will be rotated or located?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It will be moved there once the new nursing station is built.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us if all the other ambulances will be of this type? Why is Ross River getting this particularly new-concept, four-wheel drive ambulance instead of the traditional van type?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am advised that they are moving in the direction of gradually replacing ambulances in rural communities with four-wheel drive vehicles because of off-road emergencies on some of the roads an ambulance is required to drive on in the Ross River area, including the North and South Canol Road. I gather it is desirable in many of the rural communities to have that capability.
Mrs. Firth: Are these more expensive than the regular van type?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us what the difference in cost is?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would have to bring back that information.
Mrs. Firth: Does the Minister have a rotation schedule planned for the replacement of the other ambulances in the rural areas? If I am not mistaken, a lot of the rural areas have just received new ambulances. Could he tell us if there is a planned rotation, what the goal is, and when they anticipate having them replaced?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The are replaced on the basis of a 12-year life service. I will have to confirm that and give a written response to the Member.
Mrs. Firth: I will wait to receive the written response. I would like to know specifically the difference in cost, and the age of the ambulances presently in communities where the government plans to replace them with the new four-wheel drive ones. If it is going to be based on 12 years, then I would have some idea of when the government is looking at replacing the ambulances.
Ambulance Vehicles in the amount of $65,000 agreed to
On Ambulance Station Renovations
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This line item consists of a $55,000 reduction to reallocate funds to the ambulance purchase that were originally planned for renovations to the Whitehorse station, and a $300,000 increase to retrofit the ambulance stations in three communities as part of our winter works projects.
Mrs. Firth: Are the retrofits to government-owned buildings, or are they owned by the municipality?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I can give the Member a detailed briefing note or have it delivered to her. In some cases, they areowned by the municipality. Retrofits are done in consideration of the lengthy rent-free period for which the community agrees to house the ambulance - I forget the number of years, but they are long-term leases - in exchange for the retrofit.
Mrs. Firth: I would be interested in having that information. I am particularly interested in whether or not the agreements with YTG vary from community to community with respect to housing the ambulance. If they are different, I would also like that information.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is pretty standard where there have been retrofits to community-owned facilities, but I will ensure that the Member gets the briefing note.
Ambulance Station Renovations in the amount of $245,000 agreed to
On Thomson Centre (Continuing Care Facility) - Building
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This consists of $300,000 revoted to complete the dementia ward and the interior renovations required. That was begun in 1993-94. It also includes $75,000 to redesign the nursing station as part of the winter works program.
Mr. Penikett: The other day the Minister indicated to me that he would prefer to bring back either contracts, or descriptions of the funding arrangements with third parties for the operation of the Thomson Centre. Does he have that information with him today?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, I will have the department bring that back this evening.
Mr. Penikett: Would the Minister consider me churlish if I asked him to stand over the line until I had that information?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Not at all.
Thomson Centre - Building stood over
On Thomson Centre - Equipment
Hon. Mr. Phelps: These funds were revoted to provide for equipment approved, but not received in 1993-94.
Thomson Centre - Equipment in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
On Macaulay Lodge - Renovations
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This expenditure consists of $16,000 revoted for a window replacement project not completed in the prior year and $225,000 for projects approved as part of the government's winter works program. These projects include flooring, consulting review, air exchange system, drapes, furniture recovering and painting.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister and I have, on previous occasions, discussed the question of the continuing care program from home care through nursing home to the extended care facility at the Thomson Centre. The Minister has indicated that, notwithstanding the integration of the management of the Thomson Centre and the new hospital, the continuing care, particularly for seniors, will be maintained; indeed, he has indicated that he intends to come to the Legislature with a continuing care act - I believe that is what it was called, but I may have the name wrong.
The Minister will know, as a long time resident, that Macaulay Lodge was not originally built as a nursing home. It was originally built as a senior citizens residence, but, over time, and without any conscious plan by the department, a succession of Ministers added equipment or services to the program to meet the needs of individuals in residence. Lo and behold, by the time I became Minister, it had, for all intents and purposes, become a nursing home, not a seniors citizens residence.
Is it the Minister's view that the proposed expenditure is consistent with Macaulay Lodge's identity as a nursing home, or does the Minister define the facility with these improvements in some other category, class or definition of the care continuum?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, we see it as a level one-and-upward nursing home facility. The more severe cases go to the dementia ward in the Thomson Centre. We will be identifying funds from within our budget to increase the home care aspects of the continuing care program. We have some difficulties with McDonald Lodge in Dawson City. I could speak about those problems in the next line.
Mr. Penikett: I do not know when the Minister is planning to bring his continuing-care legislation, but I am interested in this question. I thought I understood what the department was doing many moons ago when I was the Minister. If the Minister is not planning to bring the legislation forward in this sitting, is there any possibility that he might at some point make a ministerial statement on the department's current thinking about the care continuum and the role of the home care program at Macaulay Lodge and the Thomson Centre within that continuum?
Mrs. Firth: I would like to follow up on that a bit. Is there any plan to change the existing care levels that are provided at Macaulay Lodge, the Thomson Centre and McDonald Lodge with the new legislation that the Minister is planning on bringing forward?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No. McDonald Lodge in Dawson has some specific problems, which I can discuss in the next line. The answer is, generally, no. I can say now that the problem with McDonald Lodge is that the continuum is lacking in Dawson. We are consulting with Dawson. The problem is that we have people in McDonald Lodge who do not require round-the-clock staffing. They require suites, which could be located next door or close to McDonald Lodge, and someone looking in on them every day or every second day. The concern is that, without that part of the continuum available in Dawson for single people who are able to look after themselves quite well, generally speaking, the danger is that it will fill up with people who do not really need round-the-clock care. Then what happens when you have some folks that need level one care?
Mrs. Firth: Macaulay Lodge is level one, two and three care. The Thomson Centre is level four and five, and is the more involved nursing care, where people are more incapacitated. McDonald Lodge is level one and two. From what the Minister is saying, it sounds like McDonald Lodge is becoming more of a senior's residence than a care giving facility.
I think that some of the questions that the previous questioner was asking with respect to Macaulay Lodge are relevant. I know it was intended to be a seniors facility, but I think it has turned into a combination of a seniors facility and people who do require more supervisory care. People go to Macaulay Lodge when they cannot manage on their own any more in their own apartments.
It would be interesting to see. I would not mind a statement of principle, or something, with respect to this legislation, what the purpose of it is and what the objective is going to be. I think it may be a little bit more challenging to the Minister than he may think to try to define all of these specific areas.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The intention is to set out it out in an act and the accompanying regulations that, I guess, codify the policy as it has been developing here. There is no suggestion that we change the policy simply to bring in an act, but it is felt that the act is required and that there is a lack of legislation on the issue for the Yukon.
Regarding Macaulay Lodge, the level of care is as described. The problem with McDonald Lodge is that we have people in there who are less than level one, and the place is full as a result. Right now, we are dealing with Yukon Housing Corporation to see about the possibility of assuming this, in order to allow some of those people to live close to, or next door, or whatever, to McDonald Lodge, so the beds would be available for people who need around-the-clock supervision.
Mrs. Firth: I am just looking at the list of ministerial priorities the Minister gave us, and I see that the continuing care act and regulations development is on the list under territorial initiatives. Does the Minister have a specific time by which he wants to get this done? Is there a specific time line by which he wants to have the act and regulations developed?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Ready for the winter session.
Macaulay Lodge - Renovations in the amount of $241,000 agreed to
On McDonald Lodge - Renovations and Equipment
Hon. Mr. Phelps: These include boiler improvements, a dehumidification system, bathroom renovations and a telephone system.
McDonald Lodge - Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
Deputy Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to carry on with Bill No. 4 now or to take a recess and come back at 7:30 p.m.?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I move we report progress on Bill No. 3.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I move we call it 5:30 p.m.
Deputy Chair: We will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Deputy Chair: I will now call the Committee to order.
Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95 - continued
Department of Health and Social Services - continued
On Health Services - continued
Deputy Chair: We will move on to Bill No. 3. The Minister has advised me that he has the information on the Thomson Centre, for the line that was stood aside.
On Thomson Centre (Continuing Care Facility) - Building - previously stood over
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have a copy of three agreements with Yukon Housing Corporation pertaining to the loan agreement and the operating agreement with the Housing Corporation, and I ask that one set of these be given to the Leader of the Official Opposition and one set be given to the Table.
Those are the agreements that deal with the CMHC mortgage and the non-profit arrangements.
With regard to the agreement with the Workers' Compensation Board, it still has not been finalized.
Mr. Penikett: It is impossible for me to debate documents I have only just been handed. I would have preferred if we could have stood it over long enough for me to get a chance to read them, but could the Minister tell us anything about the arrangements with WCB, even though the arrangements have not been concluded? What is the nature of the transaction at the moment?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The technical issues that have to be resolved by Management Board deal with the technical compliance with the new Workers' Compensation Act. For example, one of the issues is the 10-percent escalation clause in the memorandum of understanding. There are a couple of other technical issues that are similar, but the essence of the contribution agreement remains the same.
Mr. Penikett: The essence remains the same and the contribution is in the order of magnitude of $250,000 per year. Is that what the Minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes, it is probably in excess of that amount because of the escalation.
Mr. Penikett: In excess of $250,000 per year, plus 10 percent - the 10 percent that is in dispute?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes, the $250,000 plus the escalator was the floor price. The usage exceeds the floor price.
Mr. Penikett: I do not want to get into too much detail on this matter, but what has been the pattern of usage? The original basis upon which this was negotiated was to try and reduce the costs of sending workers' compensation rehabilitation patients south, but frankly, to help cover the operation and maintenance costs of the Thomson Centre here. So we had two objectives in mind. Has the pattern of use and the volume, or the number of transactions, been what was expected?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is my understanding that the usage is slightly more than what was anticipated - although not by much - but the arrangement seems to be working.
Mr. Penikett: I am curious about all of this, and we may have to get back to it. Someone told me the other day that the staff at the WCB are supposed to be companions, I guess, to the staff at the Thomson Centre, and that the positions are not filled at WCB, which suggests that there may be gaps in the rehabilitation program. I do not know what the client level is right now, which would suggest that they might be mirrored at the Thomson Centre or there might be extra pressure put on the Thomson Centre - I have no idea what.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I was not aware that there were rehabilitation staff at WCB. My understanding is that the facility is being used to at least the expectations originally contemplated.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister may be right. They may not be called rehab staff, but I understood that they were health workers of some kind - physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and so forth - who were associated with the Thomson Centre program but not based in it - but funded directly by WCB. This may be wrong information, but I have been told that there were shortages - that the positions were not full right now. I will have to check that before we get to the WCB program.
The Minister's information is that the Thomson Centre rehabilitation unit staff - pod, I think it is called - is essentially fully staffed and fully operational, and the demand, if anything, is about what was expected - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The Thomson Centre has been operating almost at full staff; there may be one position vacant.
The lease by WCB is slightly higher than was anticipated when the agreement was originally struck and the memorandum of understanding was entered into. I do not know the staffing situation for Workers' Compensation.
As I advised, the intention is to expand the rehabilitation facilities to also accommodate the hospital to realize the cost-saving measures that come about with larger utilization.
Mr. Penikett: I apologize to the Minister, but it is not possible to debate this item and read these documents at the same time. It is not a practical way to do it.
I wonder if the Minister could briefly summarize the number of contributions covered by the agreements that he has just tabled. Could he tell me, either for the year for which we are dealing with the supplementary or the coming year, the value to the Thomson Centre of the several agreements we have been discussing tonight?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We will have to bring the actual notes back. It is the $4.6 million payment that is covered by CMHC. We will get the actual amounts.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister said it is $4.6 million from CMHC. We have the portion covered by the one agreement, the non-profit housing program, which seems, according to this agreement, to amount to $281,665 for the residential portion, and the non-residential amount is $455,713, which is in connection with the original loan amount of approximately $3.8 million.
Then, the WCB money is in addition to that, as I understand it - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That is right. The WCB money is, in essence, a fee for service. The other money is for use of the rehabilitation services. Yukon Housing Corporation then has a complicated formula by which it obtains the monies in turn from CMHC. We can get a breakdown for the Member.
Mr. Penikett: I would like to ask one final question. With the integration of the management that the Minister is proposing, are we to understand that we will still be able to see, in future budgets, separate lines for the Thomson Centre operation, the extended care facility, and the hospital, as clear and distinct programs?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That was not the intention. I say that because of the absorption of some of the administration functions, and some of the other functions, under one roof. Some administration is attributed to each facility. My understanding is that it would be a simple, one-lump-sum transfer, as it is done for Yukon College. We do not break it into campuses, et cetera.
Mr. Penikett: I did not understand the Minister's answer. I am assuming that, even if there is a single administrative unit, that unit would be able to charge out to either of those accounts whatever portion of the administrative costs were to be allocated. However, if we are going to have a continuing care program in legislation, surely, if there is to be any accountability, we must be able to still see, in separate lines in the budget, a line for the Thomson Centre, and a separate line for the hospital. I was simply seeking the Minister's assurances that we will be able to do that in the future.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am sure it can be done in such a way as to break out the two. However, it is done internally by the hospital. There would be negotiations between the hospital board and the government regarding how much the hospital receives, and that negotiation will be based on whatever factors these things are negotiated upon. How it is broken down for the Thomson Centre, Macaulay Lodge and the hospital, per se, can be arrived at. To view the Thomson Centre alone, as opposed to the amalgamated body, seems to me to be a bit fictitious. I am sure we can get the kind of information that is required.
Mr. Penikett: I hope the Minister understands that I am not concerned about accounting science. I am concerned about the relationship - to use the Minister's analogy of the relationship between the Yukon Arts Centre and Yukon College. There is a separate grant for the Arts Centre, which we can identify, even though the hard services - heat, lights, et cetera - are covered under the college budget.
This may be a minority view, but I think it is an appropriate concern about management accountability between the acute care institution in the hospital and the continuing care facilities, starting with the home care program in Macaulay Lodge and the Thomson Centre. Even though the Thomson Centre and the hospital may be physically linked, even though they may also plan to have common interests - programs, a heating plant, administration, et cetera - for the sake of accountability, in terms of the different programs, this House should still be able to see separate lines and discuss what is happening in the continuing care program based in the Thomson Centre and what is happening in the acute care program based in the hospital.
I have a concern that we are going to muddy the two budgets to the point where we cannot even discuss the very distinct programs, and that concern may be shared by other Members in the House.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do not know that we have a firm answer. I am sure that programs can be broken out and will be broken out, but whether or not they will be separate lines in the budget is something we had not really contemplated. I have some difficulty with the concept, but really have not thought about it until it was just raised.
Mr. Penikett: Rather than have a long debate, let me try to simply state my case and leave the Minister to reflect on it.
I think I understand the benefits the Minister hopes to achieve by some kind of integrated management, by which I mean a common personnel program, a common bookkeeping or accounting program, and so forth. I do not have a particular problem with that. It is the next step I have a problem with because every health policy analyst I have talked to said, "If you start to muddy the programs between acute care programs and continuing care programs, you may end up compromising the integrity of both." I think they are separate and distinct, even if they are delivered in the same physical facility.
I will make a pitch for saying that unless we can see the allocations for those programs in separate lines in the budget, unless we can debate them as distinct programs, we are going to waste a lot of time on the floor of this House trying to winkle out how much money is spent for this and how much money is spent for that. It seems to me that, in this day and age, it ought to not be hard to do.
If an accountant has two clients, one of whom takes 60 percent and another that takes up 40 percent of his time, it is fairly easy to report that financial reality.
My preference is separate programs, but I fully understand the Minister may decide he wants the integration he is pursuing. The issue for me is the one of accountability to the funding agent, the Legislature, for what is, in every bit of health policy I have seen, separate and distinct kinds of programs for different client groups, different purposes, and I understand well that the rehabilitation portion in the Thomson Centre may be used to serve rehabilitation clients from the hospital. That does not bother me at all.
I think that it is not hard, in this day and age of computers, to separate each hospital program, each acute care program and each extended care program. It should not be hard - I suspect and without having to display the separate lines - if the House asks, how much money is being spent in the psycho-geriatric area or in the rehabilitation area, and how much money is being spent in the other program modules of the Thomson Centre; it ought to be able to account for that.
All I am asking for is some assurance that we will not be lumping all the money into one line so that the Legislature, if it wishes to debate the integrity of the continuing care program as a separate item, does not have to waste a lot of time trying to dissect the Hospital Corporation's budget in a way so that it knows which money is going where.
This is not a question; it is a representation.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We will take that under advisement. I am sure that we can break out the components during budget debate. However, I am not sure, with two or three separate lines broken out in the budget, what kind of extra costs that might lead to in terms of one board of governors using personnel between two programs. Whether or not that means the necessary supplementaries or reporting functions, I am not sure. In any event, I will take it under advisement. I am sure that the basic components can be broken out during budget debate very easily. The issue of maintaining separate lines may not be a problem, but I will inquire into this.
Thomson Centre - Building in the amount of $375,000 agreed to
Capital in the amount of an underexpenditure of $2,922,000 agreed to
Department of Health and Social Services agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Mr. Deputy Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 3.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 1995-96 -
Department of Health and Social Services
On Policy, Planning and Administration
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Policy, planning and administration is up from $2,277,000 in 1994-95. The $2,426,000 for 1995-96 reflects an increase of $149,000, or seven percent. This is due to the following changes: an increase in personnel costs of $23,000, due to a .3 increase in the librarian position to establish this person as the departmental records officer; an increase in Other costs of $126,000, which is due largely to planned increases in program audits and additional support and contract requirements in the area of systems support, training, program planning and communications as we extend our computer support systems, review our program delivery systems and develop a departmental business plan with performance measurements and move closer to self-government implementation.
Mr. Penikett: I will try this once again.
Can the Minister tell us how these expenditures on systems will be improving life for the clients of the department?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is better to expand upon it in the capital budget, as it is there that the money is going into the system for case management, information sharing and to get a much quicker handle on how much money is spent on such things as outside medical care. The information on which government will be basing decisions will simply be much better.
Mr. Penikett: I assume that the Minister is talking about something more than simply a commitment control system, a device much loved by the Department of Finance, where the Minister's deputy was formerly resident.
What, for example, is the system to which he is referring going to do about the implementation of self-government - a fascinating link if ever I have heard one.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will just read out a list of things. I have not even really thought about the implications for self-government.
There will be faster service delivery and payments, prompt verification of medical claims, fewer late payments caused by recording or processing areas, capability to respond promptly to information queries, ability to produce health benefit statements quickly and accurately and improved accuracy of client data.
Clients only need to provide or change basic information, such as their address once and it is updated for all programs. Case workers can easily share information and thus provide better overall service.
There will be assistance to bands facing decisions about the feasibility of assuming responsibility for governing a variety of programs, prompt and accurate cost data to aid the implementation of self-government program responsibility transfers.
Deputy Chair: If we are finished with general debate on the policy, planning and administration branch, we will go to the activity of administration.
Administration in the amount of $2,426,000 agreed to
Policy, Planning and Administration in the amount of $2,426,000 agreed to
Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate on the family and children's services branch?
On Family and Children's Services
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Family and children's services is down by one percent to $120,000 from the 1994-95 revised budget. Increases are forecast in program management, family and children's services and placement and support. These increases are more than offset by reductions in child care and youth services.
During the 1995-96 fiscal year, this government will undertake the following initiatives: funding for family support workers will be increased by a .8 full-time equivalent; family support workers provide intensive in-home assistance to at-risk families and children served by the child welfare program.
An additional auxiliary foster home support worker will be added to provide intensive support for foster parents. We will continue work already begun to test the use of mediation in selected child protection disputes. We will develop standards for the work of private social work practitioners who conduct private adoption home studies and custody access reports.
We will implement changes to the formulae used to calculate the direct operating grant for child care centres and family day homes. 1995-96 will be the first full year of operation for the newly established youth achievement centre.
During the fiscal year, we will consolidate and fine-tune the program, which is aimed at young people at risk of breaking the law. Changes will be introduced to the alternative measures program established pursuant to the Young Offenders Act. The changes will be designed to ensure that the program is more effective in reaching a greater number of Yukon youth.
We will ensure that the victim-centred approach is reflected in each one of the services delivered by the program. In particular, we will implement the risk management recommendations set out in the Yukon report, Keeping Kids Safe.
For the allotment of personnel, there is a $114,000 increase. There is a $67,000 increase, resulting from an additional family support; a $33,000 increase, resulting from an additional foster home support worker; a $14,000 increase, resulting from the Yukon bonus change and performance increments. In Other, there is a $283,000 decrease. There is a $274,000 decrease from termination of the federally funded child care training project; a $39,000 increase in foster care subsidies; and a $48,000 decrease in travel material and contracts. In transfer payments, there is a $49,000 increase; a $115,000 increase resulting from inclusion in our budget of the Child Development Centre funding previously budgeted by Government Services and Education; a $39,000 increase resulting from funding increases to the Child Development Centre, Yukon Family Services Association, Teen Parent Centre and Yukon Advisory Council on Indian Child Welfare. There is a $200,000 decrease, resulting from termination of the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre counselling service contribution, and a $3,000 decrease in youth allowance grants.
Ms. Commodore: I had asked the Minister if he could provide me with the information regarding the overcrowding at the secure custody facility, and also whether or not there were sex offenders being housed in the same area as the other young offenders.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Regarding the question about whether we are using rooms not designated as bedrooms for sleeping accommodation, the answer is: not at this time. The resource room - the library study, that is - was used for three nights for one youth, because of a need to segregate him from others.
Regarding the question about whether we segregate sex offenders, we do not segregate any youth in the daily program. We do place youth who pose a risk to other youth, for this reason or for other assaultative behaviour, in separate bedrooms. We do not segregate based upon specific offences, but rather based upon our assessment of risk to other youth in the program. I am advised that the rooms are checked every 30 minutes; if there is a problem, they are checked every 15 minutes.
Ms. Commodore: I would think that if anything was going to occur, it could possibly occur at any time during those 30 minutes that the rooms are not being monitored. It is a very serious problem. I am a little bit concerned about it. Individuals who I have spoken to are concerned about it. We heard the information about the resource centre being used. Whether or not it is used more often than the Minister has indicated, I do not know. However, time will tell.
I had asked the Minister about programs, and how they were able to accommodate the number of children who were there to take advantage of the programs. Is there a problem right now with overcrowding and the delivery of some of the programs that the Minister says are ongoing? Does that appear to be a problem? The news release dated March 16 indicates that the daily count has increased by approximately two young people per day, so they are averaging approximately eight kids over there.
In the last couple of months, they are averaging 12 kids. The Minister has indicated there are 17 kids there. The overcrowding is a real concern. The integration of sex offenders with other children is a concern. I hope there is a plan in place. I would hate to hear that there have been occurrences there that should not happen because these youths are not segregated.
Does the Minister really believe that is a good situation for the young children to be in? Some are as young as 12 and 13 years old. Is he not concerned that some of those youths may be at risk? He is part of the keeping-kids-safe program, and that should still apply within the secure facility.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am at a bit of a loss. We segregate youth with regard to their rooms, based on risk. They are not segregated with regard to daily programming. If there is any chance of a problem, they are checked every 15 minutes when they are in their rooms, instead of every 30 minutes. I am not sure what the issue is here.
Ms. Commodore: I can understand the situation and the problems that could arise with the large number of children there. There are parents who could be deeply concerned about their young, 12- or 13-year-old child hanging out with sex offenders. I go back to the long report that was done, and how the Minister's department - and the Department of Justice - talked about how they were actually going to monitor sex offenders 24 hours a day once they were released from jail. However, there was nothing in that report that said they would be monitored while in custody.
Despite the fact the Minister does not appear to think this is a problem, I would certainly be concerned. I would like him to give some assurance to those young children, and their parents, that no harm will come to them. Can he do that?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have every faith in the staff at the facility. These kids are under the care and attention of the staff when they are not segregated during the daily programming. As far as I am concerned, I am comfortable with the professionalism of the staff. I have heard nothing yet that would make me think otherwise.
Ms. Commodore: Every time I ask him these questions, he always brings in the professionalism of the staff. It is not the staff I am questioning, it is the programs they have available there; so it is not for him to try to suggest that I might be blaming it on the staff.
I am talking about a situation that could be very dangerous, and the Minister, once again, is making light of a situation that everyone knows could be a problem. I think that he is being irresponsible in his responses.
Whether or not the individuals are professional is not the question here. The question is the safety of the children. We are looking at four convicted sex offenders, or however many there are. Some of these people have done some pretty indecent things and I would certainly be concerned if, for instance, some little 12-year-old kid was in there and was at risk with some of the sex offenders there.
What kind of sex offender treatment do they have for these individuals? Is it ongoing? Who provides it? What kind of programming do they have for sex offenders?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Last week I offered to have the department give her a briefing on that issue, and that offer stands.
Ms. Commodore: I would like to be able to have that as soon as possible. It would certainly provide me with the information I need, but there are individuals out there who also want to know what kind of treatment there is and are looking for the Minister to put that information on the record. If he does not know it now, he might table a legislative return in this House with that information.
Last year, when there was talk about 501 Taylor being closed and the Minister talked about the development for high-risk kids from the street, there was a letter written to the Whitehorse Star about the changes being made. I would like to read parts of it into the record and ask him to respond to them. He now has his programs in place, and whether or not it satisfied the person who wrote the letter and other people who felt the same way, I would like him to respond to it. The letter was written by Devon Taylor, who I think may be working in the department. I do not know this individual, but I have seen her name in the government phone book.
She says, "I was interested to read in the April 28 edition that Justice Minister Willard Phelps wants to get high-risk kids off the street and into constructive programs that interest them. Just what is the high risk being discussed? Is it the risk of the community in terms of criminal activity or is it the risk of the development of physical and emotional well-being in our youth that he and his group are discussing? If Mr. Phelps is concerned only with risk to the community, then he may well be on track with his ideas for increasing community policing programs and young offenders prevention. However, if it is the latter issue that the term "high risk" is referencing, then policing and prevention strategies will have little impact on so-called disaffected teens.
"Is Mr. Phelps concerned about the risk that exposure to family violence poses to kids? Is he worried about the risk inherent in the aftermath of physical, sexual and emotional abuse? Is he aware of the high incidence of depression in youth and the risk of suicidal behaviour? What about the risk of substance abuse or sexually transmitted disease? What about the risk presented by peer violence, poverty and pregnancy?
"Service provision for youth requires long-term commitment to program development that includes recreation information and counselling services and ongoing professional development for staff. The needs of adolescents who have been beaten, sexually assaulted or are depressed, suicidal or abusing substances will not be met with vague, short-sighted, reactive policy plans.
"Youth at risk need a place to go where information and counselling are available as needed. They need to be able to count on able adults who will listen to and support them. Kids need adults who are unafraid to tackle big issues, adults who will go the distance with them, adults with whom they can develop trusting relationships over time. Teens have a right to services that are designed to do more than get them off the street. Look at successful programs. Typically they are based where kids have easy access and offer comprehensive services. Look at the Eagle's Nest program. Wait a minute, I think the staff have been redeployed and the program shut down.
"Mr. Phelps, I sure hope you and your group are thinking about these issues. If not, there are a lot of traumatized kids out there who are at high risk of chronic neglect by the systems that are charged with their care."
That is only one professional's opinion of where the Minister was going a year ago. I would like to say that the concerns that were written in this letter were some of the concerns that were given to me by individuals who had either worked with kids, or were working with kids, or who were parents of kids.
It is now almost a year later and the Minister has, in the past few months, implemented new programs. I was wondering if he could tell me whether or not he felt that the new programs that have been put in place meet the needs as described in this letter to him that was in the paper dated May 11, 1994?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I certainly go in that direction. There are more resources in child abuse treatment services than there ever were before. CATS was in an outreach mode to rural communities - we have gone over and over this. We have the youth achievement centre staff at 501 Taylor, which previously did not exist. There are two additional youth workers in the alcohol and drug services branch; there are new programs for alcohol and drug services; there is ongoing work in all fields. There are more resources now than there ever were before.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister has spoken about getting parents involved in the prevention of youth crime activity and other things. How involved are the parents in the programs being offered to young people?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do not know if there is an kind of answer with regard to such things as counselling services or additional services. Parents are welcome to be involved, and there are more counselling services available in the child abuse treatment centre, in alcohol and drug strategy areas and at 501 Taylor. We have people who are working with youth and parents wherever possible, but I really do not have a pat answer to that question.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister had a pat answer prior to the break at 5:30 p.m. about how we should deal with young children, and now he does not have a pat answer. We are talking about a lot of programming that I am sure is valuable and does work, but I know that parents are not that involved in the programming that is in place for the children and somehow or other the Minister must believe that if you have the parents involved prior to them getting into trouble and ending up in his system, why would they not be more involved once they are in the system? Parents play a very major part in a young person's life.
I know that visiting hours at the facilities were not sufficient and that individuals who went to visit their children were not allowed to do so, without someone watching them every minute they were at the facility. It seemed like there was not sufficient time to spend time talking with the children to find out how they were doing.
The programs he has in place are run by professional people, as he mentioned, but are the parents really aware of the programs the young people are taking? How involved are the parents? It appears they are not. Is there any intention to have them involved in the treatment of their children?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not sure what the question was. If the Member is suggesting that parent involvement is important, I have consistently said it is. If she is asking if we are somehow trying to coerce the parents to become involved, no, we are not. The parents are encouraged to become involved in the programs. Unfortunately, one of the problems is that many of the parents are not involved.
Ms. Commodore: How are they encouraged? If they were to sit down and talk about substance abuse, would there be discussions with the parents to find out if they are interested in taking part in anything that might happen to that young individual? How are they invited to become involved?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I can offer a briefing with the staff, or have them give a written response to that question.
Ms. Commodore: I wish I could be a bit more satisfied with the responses I am receiving from the Minister. We are dealing with young people about whom the Minister does not appear to know a lot. He talks about crime prevention, and I agree with a lot of the things he has said. However, there is a concern, and I will continue to ask questions about it.
I have some questions about children in foster homes. For the last few years - a decade or more - there has been a move to involve aboriginal families as foster parents. I know the Minister has an Advisory Council on Indian Child Welfare. Are we looking at more foster parents with First Nations ancestry?
I believe I heard the Minister mention that there were other First Nations in the Yukon that were interested in taking over their own child welfare programs. I believe he mentioned the Kaska, and I know Haines Junction is also doing it. Can the Minister provide me with a bit more information about that?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not aware of any First Nation that is actively trying to take over self-government responsibilities regarding child welfare. I mentioned that we did have an agreement with the Kaska in Ross River, which is simply a protocol agreement regarding how we, in partnership with the Ross River First Nation, deal with kids who are being apprehended. What the process is is set out in the agreement; it is a protocol. But, to my knowledge, there is no specific situation where there is a movement, at this time, for active negotiations to take on self-government powers in that area. There are different relationships with different First Nations. Kwanlin Dun, for example, has a rather unique relationship with the department, and it is an ongoing kind of relationship. On the issue regarding foster parents, yes, we are trying to get as many First Nation families as possible to deal with First Nation kids who need foster parents.
Ms. Commodore: I guess I wanted the Minister to be a little bit more specific about Indian child welfare. When the agreement was signed with the Champagne-Aishihik Band, a long time ago, and it was found to be a lot cheaper for the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation to do the work that it was doing, and there was more work toward building up security in the family - that a child did not have to be apprehended before work was done with the family - I, as the Minister at that time, sent a letter to all of the First Nations groups asking if they were interested in a similar agreement. I did not get a response from any the first time, so I wrote another letter and asked if they interested in talking about this. If they were, I asked them to please call me. Still, individuals did not respond because, I guess, they were not ready.
I understood that, but some of the bands said yes, they would like to do that some time, but they wanted to look at land claims first. Of course, the land claims settlement for four First Nations is only a recent thing. Are there any other programs similar to the agreement they have with Champagne-Aishihik - anything to that extent? That is what I was asking.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No. I am not really sure the experience of Champagne-Aishihik is all that great all the time; it has been pretty uneven. One of the biggest issues has to do with the issue of apprehension and the issue of enforcement. There have been some pretty tough individual situations over the last couple of years. There are those within the First Nation communities who are not sure they want to take on all of those responsibilities, so it is a matter of waiting to see exactly what kind of arrangements the individual First Nations want to create with the department regarding some of these issues.
Sometimes, when one is a member of a First Nation, there are situations that involve families where there might be problems with the kids. The enforcement and apprehension obligations under the law are not exactly the greatest powers that one might wish to exercise.
Ms. Commodore: I would like to ask the Minister if he can let me know what kind of support services he has available to work with those families whose children have been apprehended. What does the government have that is ongoing, to try and help in a situation where a child has been taken out of a family? Is there something in place where someone in the department works with the family to try to help them get their family life in place, so that their children can be returned to them?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This is a large part of what is done in the family and children services branch, and is a large part of what the workers in the department do and this has always been the case.
Ms. Commodore: I am not sure what he was trying to tell me. He just said it was a large part of what they were trying to do. Do they have counselling available to those families? Do they look at the family situations to find out whether or not there could be some kind of ongoing abuse in those families?
They are apprehended for a reason and the reasons are many. Who works with them to try to deal with a family that is suffering from alcohol abuse, or physical abuse or sexual abuse?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Again, that is the kind of thing that the workers within the family and children services branch do and always have been doing. I am not sure what the question is.
Nothing has changed. That is what these people do. They apprehend and there is counselling. They work with the families. They work with the court. They take the steps that are appropriate. I am just not sure what the question is.
Mr. Penikett: I would like to ask a different question of fact about fostering. Years ago, I recall we were going through great hand-wringing about the fact that we were having trouble attracting foster parents. Someone then innocently asked how our rates compared with those of other jurisdictions, and we had about the lowest rates in the country. I would therefore be interested in knowing how the payments to foster parents compare in this jurisdiction with those in other jurisdictions at the moment.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do recall that there was an increase, but I would have to get that information back to the Member.
Mr. Penikett: I did not assume that the Minister would have that number at his fingertips and I am no rush for it, but I would be interested in a legislative return outlining those comparisons.
Mrs. Firth: In the statistics pages of the operation and maintenance budget, on family and children's services placement and support services, profile on children in care, I notice that there are 299 children in care. That number consists of 146 First Nations and 153 other, so it is almost an even split. Yet, when I look at the statistics page that tells us that there are 55 approved foster homes in Whitehorse, only nine are First Nations. Of 23 in the regions, nine are First Nations.
Has the Minister's department done anything special? Have there been any special meetings with any of the First Nations or the Council for Yukon Indians as to how more First Nation foster homes can be encouraged?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The department is continually trying to encourage more First Nations foster homes. We have had numerous meetings with Kwanlin Dun. It has numerous meetings with other First Nations in some of the rural communities. Arrangements are made to utilize, first of all, the people from within the same family and then, failing that, people from the same First Nation, to look after the children.
Quite often, there are no situations that are permanent in nature. For example, when I was in Ross River, four or five months ago, there were no permanent situations in the community where children were taken from their parents and placed in care. There were temporary things happening. In a place like Ross River, it happens quite often for very short periods of time, such as cases where the mother and father are going into the bush, trapping or whatever. There is a great degree of flexibility for the care of specific children.
There is ongoing work to get more First Nation foster parents.
Mrs. Firth: Have the Minister's officials, who have been having ongoing discussions, found any predominant reason why we do not have more First Nation foster homes, or is there something we could do to encourage more First Nation foster homes? The need far exceeds the service. Has anything been identified as a problem the department could address to help meet that need?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There is nothing that stands out in my mind from discussions I have had with people within the department and with the Advisory Council on Indian Child Welfare. It is an identified need. There are generally problems getting enough foster parents to meet the demand. The Members have probably seen some of the ads that have been run, looking for foster parents for children - not necessarily First Nation kids.
It is an area of grave concern to the social workers and others involved. However, I know of no particular problems or solutions.
Deputy Chair: Is it the wish of Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: We will take a brief recess at this time.
Deputy Chair: I will now call the Committee to order. Is there any further general debate on family and children's services branch?
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Minister a question about young offenders. The other day, we were discussing the increase in the numbers of young offenders. I am looking at the statistics page 8-17, and there has been an increase everywhere - young offenders in Whitehorse and the regions. On-probation orders have increased, secure custody and open custody has also increased. Does the Minister know of any reason why this is on the increase? Have his department's officials had an opportunity to have a look at it?
Some of the increases are quite high, as well. For example, a sentence to secure custody is up 11 percent, and a sentence to open custody is up 25 percent, which are fairly high.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do not really have any rationale to explain why more kids are being charged for offences.
Mrs. Firth: The concern that I have is that we are fairly reactionary, and we are reacting to increases in numbers. I want to know if the department is doing anything to find out why the numbers are increasing, and if we could, perhaps, approach this in a more preventive way. It was a promise of the Yukon Party during the election campaign to look at the whole concern about young offenders. It was going to look at getting it under control, and just the opposite seems to be happening. I would like to know if the Minister's department, or the Minister, is looking at any preventive approaches, as opposed to just being reactionary.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have gone through a lot of the programs that are in place - education, utilization of the RCMP, the teen centre - to try to get some of those kinds of things off the ground. I think that we discussed at some length some of the issues - the skateboard park that will be built in Whitehorse, it is hoped, in time for the summer. There have been a lot of things like that underway. There is programming for kids, such as after care for kids who have been in trouble with the law. These are programs that extend beyond the probation period. With regard to what else might be done in a preventive mode, I do not have anything more than all of the various initiatives that we have been putting in place.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell me where the young offenders who have court-ordered education get their education? Where do they go to school?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: They attend public facilities if they are under court order to attend school.
Mrs. Firth: Did there not used to be a separate program for young offenders who had court-ordered education? They did not used to go to a public school, such as F.H. Collins, with the rest of the kids; they attended the program called the Ravens program or something.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The Ravens program is no longer there. F.H. Collins has several schools within a school, and there are programs within F.H. Collins that are geared toward kids who have problems of various sorts. The children who are under a probation order go to the public facilities and take whatever programs are appropriate to them.
Mrs. Firth: Instead of the young offenders going to their own special classes, they are, in fact, going to F.H. Collins with the rest of the young adults in the community?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: They are going to Yukon College or to some programs at the closed facility. For the most part, they attend Yukon College or F.H. Collins, if they are in town and, depending on what is offered, attend programs within the community.
Mrs. Firth: I want to ask a question about child care services with respect to the average child care subsidies. Perhaps I can wait until I get to that line item. It is a general question about child care services. I will wait until we get to the line item in the budget and ask the question then.
Deputy Chair: Is there any further general debate on the family and children services branch?
Ms. Commodore: I only have one question left and it is in regard to the Advisory Council on Indian Child Welfare.
I would like to ask the Minister if he could tell me how often this council meets and what kinds of things it deals with? For instance, if it meets and has an agenda, what kinds of things would it be talking about?
It is an advisory council from which he says he takes a lot of advice. I would like to know, for instance, if he could tell me the kind of things about which it advises him and how often it meets.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I believe the funding provides for four times a year. It is the same number of meetings as the Health and Social Services Council. They have their own agenda. They generally have a work program for the year. Currently, they delve into such things as the kind of programming available for sexual offenders. A couple of years ago, they checked into the child abuse treatment services program. They had workshops with Cathy Deacon. They provided a training course, bringing in a person from the United States, where Ms. Deacon took her training, and they provided a course to community people throughout the Yukon. That took place a couple of years ago.
They were involved in developing the positive parenting program and conducting workshops for people to take to their communities. They are examining the problems related to FAS/FAE, and they will be looking at some of the initiatives we in the department are looking at. They have been keenly interested in such things as wilderness camps, the young offenders programs and the young offenders closed custody facility. They set their own agenda. Normally, I attend and discuss issues of mutual concern with them. People from the department are invited.
They are currently concerned with delays in the juvenile justice system. They have written to the judicial council about their concerns, particularly the tardiness in dealing with FAS kids. By the time they get to court, they do not know why they are there. Delays in the juvenile justice system are common complaints, I might add. Several three-month delays can seem like an eternity to a kid. By the time they get there, it may not even be worthwhile.
A typical agenda would probably cover eight or nine topics and may involve bringing people in from the department to speak about how to handle the various aspects of child care.
Ms. Commodore: Sometimes when you get such a thorough answer as that, it calls for more questions. However, I have only one question that has to do with FAS/FAE children who are sentenced to custody. Is there programming of any kind for any of those individuals who have been identified as FAS/FAE?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The whole issue of identification of FAS children - and FAE is a really tough one - has not been done. That is the first thing that I wanted to get going on with regard to attacking the problem. I feel that the diagnosis of FAS should be performed for people within the criminal system.
There just are not any good statistics in existence, that I am aware of. Education does not believe in labeling they say, so they claim they do not know how many kids are FAS. FAE is a more difficult problem. Mind you, a lot of those, I would think, are pretty tough calls. However, FAS is pretty clear - at least it ought to be to a medical expert.
Since the Asante report, I am not aware of any statistical work having been done, and I really think it is long overdue. I am not aware of particular programs for FAS/FAE youths within the justice system itself. We are trying to address that problem. We have had some discussions with outfits like Challenge and Learning and Disabilities Association of Yukon, but we are just in the process of trying to develop some programs to deal with youths who have FAS/FAE. I recognize that FAE is a lot more difficult to determine.
On Program Management
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This is a two-percent increase, an increase of $42,000 over the 1994-95 total of $2,665,000, due to the following: a $10,000 reduction in material costs; a $52,000 increase in contributions, which consist of a $115,000 increase due to the inclusion of the Child Development Centre funding, which was previously budgeted by Government Services in the amount of $90,000 and Education in the amount of $25,000. The Child Development Centre received a three-percent increase of $25,000. The Yukon Family Services Association received three percent more, which is $10,000. The Teen Parent Centre received a $3,000 increase. The Yukon Advisory Council on Indian Child Welfare received a $1,000 increase, and there is an end to the $102,000 for the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre counselling service contribution. That, as the Member knows, is the subject matter of some controversy. We are currently entering into discussions with the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre in that regard, which will probably result in a supplementary.
Program Management in the amount $2,707,000 agreed to
On Family and Children's Services
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This funding is up by four percent, or $54,000, over the 1994-95 fiscal year. The increase includes an increase in funding for family support workers in the amount of $33,000; an increase in benefits and overtime for social workers and family support workers, because of the increased demand for service, $34,000; and a decrease of $13,000 in contract services, client and employee travel in Yukon and program materials.
and Children's Services in the amount of $1,331,000 agreed to
On Placement and Support Services
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The funding here is up by three percent, or $72,000. It is the result of an additional auxiliary foster care support worker, who will provide intensive support to foster parents - that is $33,000 - and an increased allotment for foster care subsidies of $39,000.
Placement and Support Services in the amount of $2,185,000 agreed to
On Child Care Services
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This is a decrease of seven percent in funding for the unit. Funding for the year is down $286,000 from the previous fiscal year. The decrease is attributable to discontinuation of the federally funded child care training project, which reduces it $274,000.
There is a modest increase in net personnel costs, due to the Yukon bonus change of $3,000 and a reduction in the allocation for child care contracts of $15,000. Child care subsidy and direct operating grants are estimated to remain at the 1994-95 levels. The subsidy is forecast to be $2.3 million, and the direct operating grant is forecast to be $1,019,000.
Mrs. Firth: That is interesting. When I look at the statistics on page 8-16, the Minister has just indicated that the child care subsidy recipients are going to remain the same, yet all of his figures show quite a large increase.
Shown on the statistics page, average child care subsidy recipients per month, child care centres, and regional services are going up by seven percent; family day homes in Whitehorse are up by 15 percent, and regional is up by eight percent; the average children claimed per month in Whitehorse is a 10-percent increase, with a regional increase of 13 percent.
I am interested in knowing how this line could show a seven percent decrease when the statistics are showing an increase in usage.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will bring back a written response to that. As the Member is aware, the moratorium on the direct operating grant was lifted last November 1. I notice that there is a decrease of four percent per month on the average child care subsidy recipients, from 234 to 225. I will have to have that reconciled.
Mrs. Firth: Does the Minister know when he can get that information back to us? Probably tomorrow?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We will try for tomorrow.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister mentioned child care contracts. Are we talking about contracts such as the home on Klondike? Is that what he is talking about?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will have to get back with that.
Ms. Commodore: Is this the section that group homes come under, or is it under another section? I thought that was what he was talking about when he mentioned child care contracts. Can he tell me that?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The group homes are not under child care services. It would be under family and children's services, I believe.
Child Care Services in the amount of $3,635,000 agreed to
On Youth Services
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There is a $2,000 decrease in funding for the youth services unit. Funding for the 1995-96 fiscal year will be $6,010,000, which is down from $6,012,000 in 1994-95. The modest decrease reflects the net impact of a small increase in personnel costs of $11,000, due mainly to normal performance increments. There is a modest reduction in travel materials, and contracts are down $10,000. There is a $3,000 reduction in youth allowance grants.
Ms. Commodore: Is this the line item where the cost for the Woods Home treatments contract is covered? Is this the section?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The answer is yes.
Ms. Commodore: Last year, the Minister provided me with a list of contracts for Woods Home, and I described some of those contracts. I wonder if he might provide me with more up-to-date information. This one is dated June 7, 1994 and, in it he listed all of the contracts that they had signed with Woods Home, including individual ones with young people. Also included in that was information regarding contracts for other children who were sent to other places, such as Edmonton and Vancouver. Can he provide with me an update on that?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes.
Deputy Chair: Is there any further general debate on this line item?
Youth Services in the amount of $6,010,000 agreed to
Family and Children's Services in the amount of $15,868,000 agreed to
On Social Services
Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate on the social services branch?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There is an increase of $757,000. This is due to the following: an increase of $156,000 due to the transfer of home care workers from Community Health Services; an increase of $200,000 in the budget for SAR, from $300,000 last year to $500,000 this year, in recognition of the success of the program -
I might add that that is still not cast in stone, since we do not have word yet from the federal government that it will match the increase -
a $30,000 increase in social assistance verifications; an increase of $347,000 in placements for persons with disabilities, as a result of an expected increase in demand; a $24,000 increase due to full year's staffing and expanded alcohol and drug services program. Social assistance expenditures are expected to remain at 1994-95 levels, which are forecast to be down from the 1993-94 actuals.
The recommendations of the social assistance review, initiated in 1992-93, will be fully implemented during this coming year. A secondary analysis of caseload composition trends and projections will be undertaken as stage two of the review. This is part of an ongoing process designed to ensure that there is survival of the safety net for those in need.
I have spoken about the SAR increase being based on the understanding that Ottawa will match the increase, which would mean a total of $1 million to assist social assistance clients to gain entry into the labour force. By allotment, there is an increase in personnel in the amount of $219,000 - $9,000 is due to full year alcohol and drug services staffing - and expansion in the program approved for 1994-95.
There is a $54,000 increase due to the expansion of social assistance verifications and the transfer of funding from contracts to auxiliaries. There is a $156,000 increase due to the transfer of home care workers from the community health program. In Other, there is a $338,000 increase due to the following: $15,000 increase in support costs for an expanded alcohol and drug services program; and a $24,000 decrease due to the transfer of social assistance verifications from contracts to auxiliaries. There is a $347,000 increase in funding for placements for severally disabled persons reflecting an increase in the number of clients requiring residential support. In the area of grants, the $200,000 increase is due to SAR if we get matching funds from Ottawa.
In view of the time, I move we report progress on Bill No. 4.
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 Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Millar: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 3, Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95, and Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 1995-96, and directed me to report progress on them.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: I has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:24 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled March 27, 1995:
Weigh station statistics by station for the years 1990/91 to 1993/94: traffic count, operating expenses, highway permit revenue, other revenues (Brewster)