Monday, April 22, 1996 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with silent prayers.
Condolences to the family of James H. Whyard
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I rise today to offer condolences on behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and the Yukon Party government to the Whyard family for the loss of Jim Whyard.
Our prayers are with the family during this time Mr. Sloan: We, too, in the Official Opposition would like to extend our condolences to the Whyard family and friends on the passing of James H. Whyard, a long-time Yukoner and a very noted photographer. Our thoughts are with the Whyard family at this time.
Mr. Cable: I first met Jim Whyard about 25 years ago when a group of us went up to the Faro mine to tour the mine. I sat with Mr. Whyard on the bus coming back and it was one of the most interesting five hours I have spent. He was knowledgeable on many topics, from mining to Yukon's history. Jim and his quick wit will be missed. My condolences to his wife, Florence, and their children and many friends.
Earth Day: Canadian biodiversity strategy
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Later on I will be tabling a special poster signed earlier this year by myself and my fellow environment ministers. Canada's Ministers of the Environment have marked this year's Earth Day with the unveiling of our statement of commitment to conserve plant, animal and natural systems. The statement, which we all signed at various times in our respective offices, follows the release of the Canadian biodiversity strategy: Canada's response to the United Nation's convention on biological diversity.
The Canadian biodiversity strategy creates a marriage between conservation and sustainable-use objectives and advocates an ecological approach to management and existing constitutional and legislative responsibilities in Canada while promoting intergovernmental cooperation.
The five goals of the strategy are as follows: to conserve biodiversity and use biological resources sustainably; to move to an ecological approach to resource management through and improved understanding of how ecosystems function; to improve Canadians' understanding of the need to conserve biodiversity; to develop incentives in legislation that promote conservation and sustainable use; and, to work with other countries to conserve biodiversity.
I would like to mark this special day by presenting each of the Members of the House with a copy of the poster when I table it.
Mr. Harding: The Official Opposition would also like to recognize today as Earth Day. It is an opportunity to raise environmental consciousness and to heighten the profile of environmental issues such as those that the Minister spoke about - sustainability and the biodiversity - for the Yukon Territory and Canada as a whole.
I would also like to congratulate the F.H. Collins High School students who organized the "Bike and Walk to Work Day" today. The school had a presentation booth in front of the Elijah Smith Building. It was good to see that there was a good turnout. I think it is part and parcel of raising important environmental issues on Earth Day.
Mr. Cable: As mentioned, there were students under the youth environmental citizenship training program in front of the Elijah Smith building this morning, offering muffins and juice to those who walked or biked to work. This evening, in celebration of Earth Day, there is a climate-change workshop, hosted by Raven Recycling Society at the public library next to the main building here, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
In Haines Junction, the Arctic Institute and the Kluane National Park staff are having a public meeting to discuss current research on grizzlies and snowshoe hares.
It is very encouraging to see that many groups on many fronts are working to heighten information on environmental issues, because knowledge, of course, is the first step toward solving many of our environmental problems.
Speaker: Are there any visitors to be introduced?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have a legislative return for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have a couple of legislative returns and the poster that I referred to earlier.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Venture loan guarantee program
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development.
I was astonished to read through the guidelines of the long-awaited Yukon venture loan guarantee program only to find that the taxpayer seems to be left completely undefended and the small businessperson is left with no guarantee that venture capital will be easier to get.
Can I ask the Minister what prevents the banks from simply passing on the risk for making loans, which it normally assumes, over to the taxpayer under this new program?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: If the Member looks this over, it would be very easily determined by our people if an eligible business would be eligible without the guarantee. We look at all loans before the bank issues them.
Mr. McDonald: The program guidelines, which I have in my hand, say very clearly that the bank will make the assessment and make the basic decisions about who will receive loan guarantees from government as long as the basic guidelines are met - and the guidelines here are very general in their nature.
What information can the Minister give us that will reassure everyone that the banks will be taking on greater risks or doing things that they would not otherwise do in normal business practice as a result of this program. It is clear that the program guidelines will allow the banks to simply pass on 65 percent of the risk to the taxpayer and there is no guarantee that anything will change in the bank's daily life.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: First of all, the bank is going to have a 35-percent investment in this business. If and when there are calls on the loan guarantees, the bank will lose 35 percent. We are guaranteeing 65 percent of the outstanding funds. If a loan is called, the banks will be taking a risk. It is a shared risk, differing from the old business development fund, where the government took all of the risk. The interest rates are higher, and there is an administration fee that goes along with it. By any stretch of the imagination, it is not a give-away program.
Mr. McDonald: That is not correct at all. According to the program guidelines, the bank is allowed to charge a variable interest rate, anywhere from three to 10 percent. The Yukon government's return, for taking 65 percent of the risk, is a flat fee of 1.5 percent one time.
Historically, it is clearly the case that lending institutions recover the costs, not only of their administration, but also of potential losses. The government's return is fixed at a very low rate, but the bank is allowed to charge a variable percentage interest - as high as 10 percent - to protect its interest. How can the Minister tell us that this is a good deal for taxpayers, when the taxpayer absorbs 65 percent of the risk, while the bank absorb 35 percent of the risk, it makes all the decisions, can have an interest rate that is 8.5 percent higher than the government, and the bank is allowed to collect only interest in the first year?
There is no guarantee that anything will change in the bank's daily life.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The other difference between this program and the business development fund program is that each recipient of a loan through this program must put a personal guarantee on the whole program.
If anyone is familiar with the program in Nova Scotia, there is only a 10-percent personal guarantee. Nova Scotia eventually closed its program down, because with only a 10-percent guarantee, if someone owed $50,000, they would only pay off $5,000 if their business failed. Here, there is a full personal guarantee, and the banks are sharing the risk by a minimum of 35 percent.
Question re: Venture loan guarantee program
Mr. McDonald: Banks lend money every day. My concern is that the bank will take a portion of a loan to a small business. The bank will secure what it can fully secure as a separate loan. For the part it cannot secure, it will share the risk with the taxpayer, with the taxpayer picking up 65 percent and the bank picking up 35 percent of the risk.
If we are talking about the only security being a personal guarantee, the only way the government can secure its portion of this debt is to call the personal guarantees. The bank repossesses equipment; the government goes after the person's house, car and personal assets. It does not seem fair to me at all.
Can the Minister tell us how this helps the taxpayers' interest in ensuring there is loan funding available to small business?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member is not completely right about the 65/35 percent split between the government and the bank, because only amounts on the outstanding balance are covered by the 65/35 percentage split.
For instance, if an individual took out a loan in the maximum amount of $100,000, paid off $50,000 and could not pay off the remainder of the loan for whatever reason, the bank would take 35 percent of the $50,000 loss, or approximately $17,000. The government would take 65 percent, or approximately $32,000. As well, there would still be a personal guarantee by the loan holder, and that would include such items as an individual's car, home or other personal items.
Mr. McDonald: I am not misreading this document. If a small business asks for a $200,000 loan, and the bank can find real security for $100,000, it will loan the small business $100,000 for full security. For the other $100,000 that cannot be secured, the bank is asking the taxpayer to take 65 percent of the risk, which is secured against an individual's personal assets.
The bank is able to get a fully secured loan with the business. It starts collecting interest at a high interest rate anywhere between prime plus three percent to prime plus 10 percent. The bank is covered and collects its interest in the first year. However, the taxpayer is stuck with trying to repossess someone's car or house in order to collect 65 percent of a failed business. How does this help the interest of a small business person and how is it going to protect the taxpayers' interests?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member keeps forgetting that the bank shares the risk of any outstanding losses. Therefore, the bank is not going to make high-risk loans, because the bank has as much to lose on a bad loan as the government does.
For instance, in many of the cases with the business development fund there were no personal guarantees or any guarantees whatsoever. People were able to walk away with no personal responsibility for repaying the loan. This program puts personal responsibility upon the people who make the loan and there is responsibility on the part of the bank.
Mr. McDonald: The business development fund did not lose money on its entire portfolio. It had its losses, of course, but it also had charges of interest rate, which allowed it to survive like any responsible, respectable lender. The banks are going to be making loans anyway. What is it that is going to demonstrate here that the bank is not passing over the risk, which it normally assumes, to the taxpayer when it is clear that the taxpayers' position here ought to be lender of last resort, but ought to also be fully secured with sufficient income in order to cover losses?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The business development fund, the previous loan program, was not fully secured at all. There were many loans that had little or virtually no security and several with no personal guarantees whatsoever. This, again, has personal guarantees and if there is any loss, the banks do share in that loss.
Question re: Loki Gold Corporation, housing
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services about Dawson's housing needs. As the Minister will recollect last week, I asked him some questions relating to Loki Gold's housing needs and the housing shortage in Dawson. Some of the answers were not crystal clear, so I will have to ask them again.
The Minister seemed to be saying last week that the Dawson housing problem was basically up to the City of Dawson to sort out, but that his department was working with the city on a number of options. Could the Minister tell the House what those options are?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, I would not at the present time because we have contacted the City of Dawson, but until the city knows about it and until we see what their reaction is, I would not want it public.
Mr. Cable: I would have thought that would have been the public's business. Let me try another Minister - the Minister of Economic Development. In the Loki agreement that we debated last spring, there is an agreement whereby the Loki Gold Corporation adopts its corporate policy. Part of that corporate policy under housing requires Loki Gold Corporation to assist Yukon entrepreneurs in the provision of housing alternatives for its employees in Dawson City and environs. What has Loki Gold done to help solve the housing problem in Dawson? What is it doing to work with Yukon entrepreneurs?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not aware of all its moves, but I am aware that Loki has attempted to enter into some kind of partnership - I believe it is the Dawson First Nation or one of the other groups - to try and establish some kind of a housing program.
Mr. Cable: The clause I referred the Minister to would appear to be an agreement on the part of Loki. Does the Minister intend to approach Loki to determine what it is doing and determine whether or not it is going to live up to that agreement?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe that the Department of Community and Transportation Services has been working with Loki. I am not sure if the Department of Economic Development specifically has, but I believe that Yukon Housing Corporation has also entered into discussion with Loki.
I believe that Loki is trying to live up to its agreement. I believe it is its best intention to get someone interested in forming some sort of partnership to create housing for its employees.
Question re: Child support payments
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the Minister responsible for Justice and the Women's Directorate.
Last spring, the Yukon Party brought in penalties for people who do not pay their parking tickets. The New Democratic caucus convinced the Yukon Party that it should also include people who do not pay their child support payments.
As of December 1995, the motor vehicles branch had suspended 735 drivers' licences for people who had not paid parking tickets. We have discovered that not one driver's licence has been suspended for failure to pay child support, even though the penalties could have been used in at least 40 cases. Why has the Minister not ensured that the law we passed in the House is respected?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is very nice for the New Democrats to try to take credit for bringing in the motor vehicle sanctions with respect to maintenance enforcement, but that was unfortunately not the case. Most of the work - as the Member knows - was done long before the Member even raised it in the House.
One of the reasons we implemented it into that program was that there were 40 cases of what is called "no pays". These were individuals with whom we have tried everything, but they would not pay at all. I understand that eight of them are now making payments and are involved in the working with dads program that we implemented to try to help them work something out and discuss the issue with others. I do not know how successful we are going to be. We have to remember that some of these 40 individuals are people who have tried everything in the world to avoid making payments. Some of these people are very difficult to get to, but we are still working on the issue.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister wants to claim a lot of credit for an act that he has not brought into effect. The motor vehicles branch collected $170,000 in outstanding parking fines by having the ability to suspend drivers' licences and vehicle registrations. The outstanding arrears within the maintenance enforcement program from 1987 to 1994 totalled over $620,000. Considering this staggering amount, why has the Minister not used the removal of drivers' licences as another tool for collecting maintenance support payments?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Member opposite was possibly not listening last year in debate when we discussed this program quite thoroughly. At that time, I pointed out to the Member that these 40 individuals are the people who have done everything they can to avoid paying. We are working with them in the working with dads program. Many of them are involved in that. We are trying to get them to come up with the money. The bottom line is not taking away their motor vehicles licences. The bottom line is getting them to pay their maintenance enforcement payments so that the women and children who are receiving the payments will benefit. We are working very closely with these dads to try to get them to come up with the money so that they can support their families.
Ms. Moorcroft: I heard the Minister say that these amendments were one of the most important bills to deal with the chronic problem. However, the government has not used the bill to deal with the problem. In many cases, families have to turn to social assistance when parents refuse to pay child support. Other provinces have found that removing drivers' licences has resulted in prompt payment so that parents are supporting their children, not the taxpayer.
Will the Minister promise to use the amendments to the Maintenance and Custody Orders Enforcement Act on a regular basis, instead of not at all?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Absolutely, but I think it would be folly for us to rush in without working with these individuals to convince them to pay. It would be folly to rush in and suspend their motor vehicle licence right now without receiving anything at all. We have been very successful with eight of the 40. It has to be realized that these are people who have avoided garnishee of wages and every legal means we have. The department is working with them and, yes, we will use that program if we cannot force them to come up with the money otherwise.
Question re: Child support payments
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister is prepared to tell us about his working with dads program, but we hear nothing about a working-with-parking-meter-delinquents program.
Publishing the names, addresses and tax arrears of delinquent property owners has proven effective in collecting outstanding property taxes. The Yukon Party has also gone on record as wanting to publish the names of young offenders.
Is the Minister prepared to consider publishing the names and arrears of parents who have failed to pay their child support?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That is an interesting concept, but one has to be careful with that. There are some mothers who would be rather reluctant to have us do that, regardless of whether or not the individual paid. They would be very sensitive to our publishing those names, and I think Members opposite know why.
It is interesting that those Members want us to take that approach today, yet I was in the House the other day when we were debating another matter about publishing the names of people who defraud the social assistance system, and the New Democrats said they were against that.
Ms. Moorcroft: I believe mothers and children affected should have the right to protect their privacy if they so choose, but I would also be very interested in what the policy of this government is. Last week it issued a press release with the names of people convicted of welfare fraud.
What is this government's policy on publishing the names of people who have committed offences? How does it decide for what offences it will publish people's names?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I believe all names of people who commit offences are published in the local newspapers now. I read "Before the Courts" and the names are there all the time. That article is in almost every second or third newspaper.
Ms. Moorcroft: Exactly, but the government seems to want to make a public relations event out of some convictions and has gone to the measure of publishing a press release with the names of two recently convicted people. What is this government's position on publishing the names, and how does it decide for what offences it - the government, not the court's report - will publish people's names? How does the government, by way of press releases, decide when to do that?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Minister of Health and Social Services answered many of those questions in debate the other day. I do not have any problem whatsoever in publishing the names of individuals who defraud our social assistance system and take money away from those who really need it. That is where I differ from the side opposite. If that message, from publishing those two names, goes out to those people who are defrauding our system and taking money away from the women and children who really need it in this territory, then so be it. I do not apologize for that one bit.
Question re: Venture loan guarantee program
Mrs. Firth: I would like to get in on this issue, but I think I will ask about a different matter.
I want to go back to the venture partnership program the government announced as the be-all and end-all. I am very sensitive about protecting the taxpayers' interest, particularly after the government in the last four years has just gouged my constituents and the rest of Yukoners for $40 million.
I find it very interesting when I hear about another $3 million that is going to be played with by this government in the loan guarantee program, and I would like to ask the Minister of Economic Development how this program is going to be implemented.
There is a $3 million pot of money to which seven lending institutions have access to provide venture capital loan guarantees. Who is going to keep track of how that money is being distributed? Is it just a free-for-all with all the banks? Do they all just start lending out the money, or is there some control mechanism? Is it divvied up among all of them? What is that process all about?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe I answered that earlier. Before a loan is approved by a bank, it has to be approved by the Department of Economic Development.
Mrs. Firth: That is not exactly what the Minister said this afternoon, nor when this was debated for two or three hours before. What I want to know is how we know when the money is running out. How do we know how much of the money has been expended? Is someone in the department going to be responsible for monitoring it? I guess it is a race - whichever bank gets the most clients, gets the most money from this program. Does the bank then call the Department of Economic Development for authorization, and when the $3 million has been committed, do they then not answer the phone any more? How does it work?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As I said before, the Department of Economic Development will review the actual application before it is approved.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister still has not answered the question. How does the government know when the entire $3 million has been committed? Is someone going to tell the department, or do we just not care? Is the $3 million just for one year, with another $3 million the following year and the year after that? I would just like to get some idea about how much the next tax increase is going to be to cover the government's new schemes and goofy plans.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I guess I should have added that the department will track the loans.
Question re: School facilities study, rural
Mr. Joe: I have a question for the Minister of Education. Recommendations for the capital budget for schools will be decided by June. What is the government's commitment to the recommendations in the rural facilities study?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We have not made any commitments yet with respect to the rural school facilities study. We are looking at the recommendations right now. By August, when we are looking at preparing the 1997-98 capital budget, we will be deciding what the priorities are and what monies are available to implement the priorities.
Mr. Joe: The study for J.V. Clark school is a priority. I asked three different Ministers this question. When will we know for sure about the government's commitment to Mayo?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The Member for Riverdale South says that we do not have a commitment. That is not true at all.
The Yukon Party passed a resolution at its convention urging the government to take action with respect to the J.V. Clark School. We in the Department of Education know the condition of the school and know that it is in desperate -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order. Please allow the Member to answer a question.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I could carry on, Mr. Speaker. I was just interested in the remarks coming from the back bench.
We know that the J.V. Clark School is in desperate need of either substantial work or replacement. We will look at the rural school facilities study and J.V. Clark in relation to the other rural schools and their needs. A decision will be made this fall about exactly what we will do with it.
Mr. Joe: Can the Minister tell me more about rural schools? People in my riding want to know what is going to happen to J.V. Clark School in Mayo, Tantalus School in Carmacks and Eliza Van Bibber School in Pelly Crossing?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Eventually I expect the recommendations made in the rural school facilities study will be carried out. It is just a question of which ones we do first.
I know that the Tantalus School in Carmacks needs a whole wing replaced. I know that the Eliza Van Bibber School in Pelly is in need of substantial work and, as we discussed previously, the J.V. Clark School needs to be replaced.
I think the facilities study recommends that over $20 million of capital work be done on rural schools. I am almost certain that the government will not be undertaking the full $20 million worth of work in the next capital budget. It will have to be decided how much can be done and that will be decided this fall.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker: Government Bills.
Bill No. 98: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 98, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Phillips.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that Bill. No. 98, entitled An Act to Amend the Historic Resources Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Tourism that the Bill No. 98, entitled An Act to Amend the Historic Resources Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am pleased to be able to rise in support of Bill No. 98, An Act to Amend the Historic Resources Act. There are 17 amendments to this bill, and most of them are of a housekeeping nature.
These amendments are necessary to make legislation consistent with land claims legislation and agreements to provide the French text clauses that were passed in English only in 1991.
A number of other amendments address previously identified concerns with the Historic Resources Act, such as the definition of a historic object. There is also a requirement, in some cases, to compensate owners who have to deliver historic objects to the government.
This bill will bring our penalties in line with those of British Columbia, which are currently some of the most severe in the country.
A year ago, I provided an earlier draft of this bill to all the Yukon First Nations, the Council of Yukon First Nations, the Yukon Historical and Museum Association, the Gwitchin Tribal Council and the Yukon Heritage Resources Board, which was established under the umbrella final agreement to advise on heritage matters. Heritage Canada, the national heritage organization, also reviewed the draft.
The time allocated for consultation was extended in recognition of our obligations under the umbrella final agreement. The legislation was put over to this session at the request of several First Nations and the Council of Yukon First Nations.
As a result of this consultation, we have withdrawn two amendments concerning the designation process that appeared in the draft bill. The withdrawal of these amendments was done specifically in response to the recommendations provided to me a month ago by the Yukon Heritage Resources Board. It also addresses concerns expressed by a number of the First Nations and the Yukon Historical and Museum Association.
I would like to acknowledge the substantial contributions of the board, the Yukon Historical and Museum Association, the Yukon First Nations, which assisted us in finalizing this package of amendments now before the House. I believe these amendments will support the implementation of the Yukon's land claim agreements and will enable the creation of a strong legal framework for the protection and management of heritage resources throughout the Yukon.
I welcome Members' debate on these amendments and the opportunity to provide further explanatory details and comments as the bill proceeds through the House.
Mr. Sloan: I am pleased that this bill, which is long overdue, is finally coming to the fore. The Opposition, along with organizations such as Heritage Canada and the Yukon Historical and Museum Association, have been calling for the implementation of this bill for three years.
I am pleased to see that consultations on this bill were done in concert with the museums community and with the First Nations. However, it is unfortunate that, in the time it has taken for this bill to come to this point, we have lost some important historical buildings in the territory.
Most of the amendments in the bill are relatively minor. We have some concerns with regard to the definition provisions designating historic artifacts. It is interesting that, when we speak of heritage, we often think of it as simply an add-on. In reality, we have to begin to look at heritage as a value-added aspect of our society. For example, we know that many people come to this territory to see historic places. Dawson is certainly an example of a community that has preserved its historic nature and, by virtue of it, has received a good deal of economic benefit.
Research on historic preservation in the United States has shown that people who come for the purpose of historic preservation tend to stay longer, they tend to visit twice as many attractions and places, and they spend on average about two-and-a-half times the amount spent by the ordinary visitor.
When we have such excellent things as the walking tours conducted by the Yukon Historical and Museum Association, those are the kinds of things that draw tourists downtown and let them sample our community, and, I think, lead on to some other economic benefits. I would suggest that we should be thinking about the whole aspect of historic preservation in terms of a policy concerning tourism attractions.
Along with this, in many places where they have communities of historic buildings, or they have made an active effort to maintain them, about 73 percent of first-time visitors come for the historic preservation. I think that we have to stop thinking of historic preservation as simply an add-on, but rather we should think of it as a major component of our tourism policy.
It is interesting to note that the government has somewhat changed its position in one year, because last April - I am going through the record - the Minister firmly believed that the provisions in this historic act were too onerous for private property owners. The suggestion was to replace it with an expropriation clause. However, the provisions are now seen as acceptable.
I do have a couple of questions about this. In the past, the Minister did advise that the heritage branch had told him that the act's implementation would cost approximately $400,000. I would be interested in knowing from the Minister if there have been funds set aside for this purpose. I would also be interested in knowing when the act's regulations will be available, and if the next step will be some kind of list of buildings that have been identified for preservation.
In general, we are in support of this act and we welcome its passage.
Mr. Cable: I am pleased to stand up and speak to the bill. The public's right to protect, preserve, enjoy and have access to their common heritage has long been recognized in Canada as desirable, and approval of this bill would support this goal in the Yukon. Although the proposed legislation may not meet all parties' concerns on every issue, as a consensus document, I am told that the act merits support.
The bill sets the stage for municipalities in the Yukon to follow up with heritage bylaws in collaboration with heritage and community groups if they are deemed desirable. Any further delay in passing and proclaiming the An Act to Amend the Historic Resources Act could threaten Yukon's precious heritage resources and could negatively affect the potential of the Yukon's tourism sector.
In supporting this bill, I am working on the assumption that all the appropriate consultation has taken place under chapter 13 of the umbrella final agreement. The Minister has touched on that, and it would be useful to explore it in greater detail when we get to Committee.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 98 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Fisher: 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
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will take a brief recess at this time.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 10 - First Appropriation Act, 1996-97 - continued
Department of Health and Social Services - continued
Chair: We are dealing with Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 1996-97. Is there further general debate on the Department of Health and Social Services?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have responses to the questions that were raised in the House on Thursday, and I would like to circulate them.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Ms. Commodore: I am almost to the end of the matters I wanted to bring up in general debate. I know that some other MLAs want to ask questions of the Minister.
There was a lot of controversy over transients flocking to the Yukon because our rates for social assistance are so much higher than in other jurisdictions. Some information that was given to us indicated the number of transients who were coming here. I would like to ask the Minister if that is still the case. Are we in fact seeing more people coming to the Yukon? I think there was a suggestion that they were being advised by social services offices in the north to come to the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that we did provide some information to the Member about people coming in from other jurisdictions as far as February. We do not have any more recent information on that issue.
Ms. Commodore: The information that was provided to me was in regard to the number of people who were coming. When they were doing the consultation process for Health on the issues that were on the agenda, one of the questions that was brought up, at least at the meeting that I attended, was why are they coming here?
There was a controversy about the former Minister saying they were flocking here to get more money. The response that I got at that time was that a lot of people were coming up here to get jobs because they had heard that the economy in the Yukon was great; they probably heard that in a speech that was made by the Government Leader. Does that seem to be the case?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We really do not have an analysis of why people come here. I cannot say it is due to our welfare rates being higher, or because our economy is experiencing an upturn. I do not know as there has not been an actual analysis conducted on the reasons for it.
Ms. Commodore: Would the Minister look at that issue? When Ministers of this government start making accusations, such as the former Minister did, saying that people were coming to the Yukon because the welfare rates are higher, we would like to know that what he is saying is based on research.
When I look at the numbers that have been provided, for instance for Faro, a large number of people are applying for social assistance. I would assume that these individuals went to Faro looking for work and were not able to find any at that time.
I also see that the largest percentage of people seeking social assistance are transients who live in Dawson during the summer. Somehow or other, the numbers that we have here should be able to provide us with the information that we need, rather than blaming the increase on people who are moving to the territory because of higher welfare rates.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: To do an actual analysis would be very time consuming and would likely be costly. I do not exactly know what value could be placed on it. It is therefore not the intention of the department to do that type of analysis at this time.
Ms. Commodore: I am not encouraging the Minister to put more hard work on some of the hard-working employees in his department, but it is very disturbing to people who do care about the situation of poor people. It is very disturbing when we hear comments made by government Members, giving reasons why these poor people are so desperate. Before those kinds of comments are made, I think that it would be very responsible to at least have some information in hand.
At that time, the Minister was saying that people from northern B.C. were being told by social services offices to come north - "If you want to get rich on social assistance, go north." We contacted some of those offices in the north at that time, and they had not even heard of their social workers telling these individuals to come north. Comments as irresponsible as those coming out of the government's offices makes the general public wonder how well the government is doing its job.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We have actually been told by some social assistance recipients that they were told to come to the Yukon. As a matter of fact, the department phoned to one office that had been accused of passing this kind of information around and asked that office not to do that any more.
We do not know how many, but we have been told that people have been advised to come to the Yukon because our rates are good. Perhaps there are other reasons. Perhaps people felt it is worthwhile coming to the Yukon because there are chances for work.
As I said before, I do not know what percentage that would be. I do not think the benefits would actually warrant the cost and effort to conduct that kind of an analysis.
Ms. Commodore: I do not know how hard a job it would be, but one only has to look at the statistics to determine what is happening and why. For instance, in January of last year, there were 24 people. In the middle of the summer, the number had gone up, then gone down again. We will never know what actually causes these people to come north to take advantage of employment up here who end up receiving social assistance.
If they are after jobs, and are not getting them, we have a problem.
I have a couple of other questions. I was trying to get a copy of the social assistance policy manual from the government. We have had a lot of social assistance recipients in our office wanting to know a lot of different things. If they request information to better understand why decisions are made, we hope to get that information from the government.
I asked for a copy of the social assistance manual, but I was not given one because a new one was being worked on and had not been approved at that time. This was in January. I was told there would be one by March.
Is the new social assistance policy manual completed?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I did sign a letter to the Member indicating that it was very close to being completed. I do not believe it has been printed yet but as soon as it has I will make sure that the Member has a copy.
Ms. Commodore: At the time the department was developing a new manual, it refused to give us the existing one. I would like to ask the Minister why. The department was following a procedure that was under an existing manual so why could we not have had a copy of it at that time?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I did not know that the Member was denied an old manual and I really do not see why she was denied it, other than that the department was updating the manual. Perhaps there was a bit of a misunderstanding about exactly what it was she was requesting. As I said before, the new manual should be available fairly soon and, as soon as it is, I will make sure the Member has a copy.
Ms. Commodore: In a news item in January of this year regarding social assistance, the former Minister, in his mean-spirited way, talked about how he was going to be cutting programs and cutting welfare payments. The department hired a fraud investigator and of course was successful, as was in the headlines last week. At that time, the government stated that it had cut welfare payments to less than $7 million in the current fiscal year and that more cuts are coming.
I would like to ask the Minister if he knows that there will be more cuts coming. I do not know what he was talking about but I know that every time welfare payments were cut he exploded with glee and his war against poor people continued.
I would like to ask the Minister what is in store for poor people under the new Minister.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure exactly what the Member is referring to because there has been no reduction in rates since this government took office, but there has been a reduction in volume. In other words, the number of social assistance cases has decreased. Perhaps that is why.
The whole Health and Social Services budget has increased by somewhat over $1 million this year, so there are no cuts to programs. As a matter of fact, some of the savings that are realized are going into other programs and new programs.
Ms. Commodore: Over the years, politicians, mothers and the general public have been lobbying to improve programs for children affected by fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects. I am not sure how much progress is being made, but what I continue to see daily is that we are starting to deal with more problems that are occurring as a result of so many FAS/FAE children in the Yukon who are now adults. The results of this development are becoming more evident.
I am just wondering how extensive future programming is to try and detect the possible future costs of dealing with the problems that may occur as a result of these children. Can the Minister give me an update on what his department is doing to date? What has happened?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There are many programs, such as the FAS/FAE prevention program, the FAS/FAE federal study and the FAS/FAE adult services program. I can just quickly let the Member know a bit about that one.
These are services provided by Health and Social Services for those with fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects and, in particular, to adults with the problem. During the summer of 1995, a program was established to provide intensive support to women at risk of having FAS/FAE children. The purpose of the program was to help the women give birth to healthy babies. I believe we talked about that on Thursday in quite a bit of detail.
I think I did mention that the advisory committee had been established and it consists of representation from the Kwanlin Dun Health Centre, alcohol and drug services, Whitehorse Public Health, Whitehorse General Hospital and departmental staff. There have been three women referred to the program. I think I did cover most of that.
The department provides a variety of support through a number of program areas. The adoption unit provides child care and worker support in exceptional circumstances and counselling and support services to parents. It also has available an adoption subsidy if required. Staff also provide videos and written materials, as well as support services on how to care for FAS/FAE affected children. Those are mostly programs that work with adults for prevention.
The Department of Health and Social Services has a contribution agreement with the Child Development Centre to provide assessment, support and training for special needs children aged zero to six, often children with FAS/FAE, to all Yukon communities through the Canada Development Corporation outreach teams. As well, the department has undertaken a pilot project with the Child Development Centre to support special-needs children in licensed child care services, and some of those children are FAS/FAE affected.
Family and children's services also sponsored a day camp last summer and will do it again this year for male use aged seven to 10 who are FAS/FAE chronically hyperactive, or have other development or behavioral disorders. For most of these children, this is a first exposure to a camp. Highly skilled staff channel the behaviour and deliver the camp both as a recreational and learning experience.
Ms. Commodore: I look forward to hearing a little bit more about the programs, how they affect the individuals and how they improve the situation as it stands.
I was going over some old press releases from the election campaign in 1992 and found a headline - "Offenders must be nipped in the bud." It was mostly in regard to crime.
At that time there was talk about how rampant vandalism in Whitehorse.
The Yukon Party had outlined a plan to deal with the situation. Dale Stokes, who was the Yukon Party candidate at that time, spoke about young offenders and what she and the party - because it was one of the party's positions - indicated was that offenders' identities be revealed. I would like to ask the Minister whether or not the Yukon Party is still proposing that recommendation. Has it been passed on to the officials in charge who would lobby toward it? If it is still a position of the party, I would like to ask him why.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that several jurisdictions and departments have requested that type of initiative be considered by the federal Department of Justice. I believe that the jury is still out - I do not believe it has been settled. I believe that the Yukon was one of the jurisdictions to request the federal Department of Justice to reveal the names.
Ms. Commodore: I know it is happening across the country. I know that, because of some of the violent and vicious crimes that are happening across the country, individuals are asking that these young offenders be identified. I would like to ask the Minister what his party's rationale is for lobbying for something like this.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe that it could act as a deterrent for other young people, and I think that is the main reason behind it.
Ms. Commodore: So, the Minister would like to see the names of every single young offender, between the ages of 12 and 17, who has broken the law, made public? Is that what the Minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, I am not saying that. I think that it would have to depend, somehow or other, on the severity of the crime. I would certainly like to see some work done on it, to set out some parameters.
The Member for Riverdale South is heckling.
I think it can be a deterrent, but I am not sure at what level it should be handled. I think that I was warned by the Member for Riverdale South about making policy on my feet, so I am not going to make the policy here. In any event, I do believe that it could be a deterrent, but at what level it starts, I am not sure.
Ms. Commodore: It seems that the Yukon Party already has a position on this. As far back as 1992, it wanted the identities of the young offenders to be revealed. How much support does the Minister have for doing that?
Last week the Minister - I do not know which Minister it was - announced that two people had been convicted of fraud. Today, we have another Minister who is defending deadbeat dads by not doing anything about those individuals who refuse to pay maintenance support. We have yet another Minister who is not really sure what names the government would like to reveal. This is a very serious issue and I would like to know what the Yukon Party's policy is on this issue.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member's comments spread across several different departments.
I do not agree that the Minister of Justice said they are doing nothing about deadbeat dads. In fact, if I remember correctly, the Minister said that at least eight of the 40 individuals identified, possibly due to the administrative sanctions, have started making their payments. There has been work done with these people and there is no question that sanctions to take away a privilege such as drivers' licences will be enacted. I would expect that would be the last resort, because it would appear to me that this would take away whatever livelihood they did have, and the chances of collecting any arrears or maintenance would be minimal.
With regard to the information item that was announced involving the two people convicted of welfare fraud - one case is public knowledge and was reported in the papers. It was also reported in the courtroom. I believe, in the Justice building, there are lists of names of people convicted of a crime for the public to see.
In one case, the Yukon government was defrauded out of some $35,000. This case would not have been reported in the Yukon, because the person was actually in British Columbia and the matter was heard in British Columbia.
I do not make any apologies for making those names better known than they are through the court business. I abhor that type of activity; namely, defrauding a welfare system that we know is in trouble all across Canada. For someone to defraud that system is unacceptable in my way of thinking.
On the subject of children, I need to look, in more detail, at the issue of publishing the names of children who commit offences, because I am not sure if one can have classes of crime to determine which names would be published and which would not. I do not know, but I would like to look at the question in more detail before I make a policy.
I recall an incident while I was living in Riverdale when thousands and thousands of dollars' worth of damage was done one evening. The names of the people who were responsible for the damage were not published. I do know that a lot of people sat in the courtroom while these young offenders were being charged. I think that they hoped that their presence would be a deterrent for further activity of that type. If it can be a deterrent, it should certainly be explored in full detail.
Ms. Commodore: The issues of deadbeat dads, welfare fraud and people not paying fines does cut across all of these departments, because if there are deadbeat dads who are not paying maintenance support then it does affect the Minister's department. I was absolutely surprised that the Department of Justice has made special provision for counselling deadbeat dads. It sounds to me like this is a priority for the government. If it is going to be counselling individuals who are breaking the law, is the Minister also looking at doing this in his department? Is he going to be providing counselling to people who defraud the government?
Are they going to be providing counselling to individuals who have fines they have not yet paid? Are they going to be doing a lot of other things? It seems that there is an uneven game being played here for a lot of different things. We believe, on this side of the House, that those deadbeat dads have to pay their maintenance support in order to allow the spouse to live in a half-decent financial situation and, if she is not able to do that, of course she is going to go to the Minister's department to apply for social assistance.
So it does cover both departments and for the Minister of Justice to stand up today to brag about how he is defending the deadbeat dads and that the department is dealing with those mothers who cannot afford to live from payday to payday and who might have to seek some kind of subsidy from the department, sounds a bit off.
I would like the Minister to tell me about the possibility of publicizing young offenders' names when they do certain things, because four years ago that was what they wanted to do. It is almost four years since the last election and it seems that they have no policy in place to tell me, the parents of those individuals and the people who work in the department that is dealing with these young offenders where this party is coming from in regard to how it intends to deal with revealing the identities of young lawbreakers. It seems that they just seem to feel it is a good thing and that it will deter other kids from breaking the law, but that is not good enough.
I would like the Minister to let me know if he has had any conversations with individuals and if he is planning to have it included in some kind of a consultation process? Maybe it should have been included in the last round of consultations he carried out throughout the territory, but I think he is looking at something that is going to be very controversial because there are individuals who work with these children who think completely differently from the way some politicians think.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think the Member does know - or should -that the young offenders are dealt with under federal legislation.
As I said before, we have requested that the federal government look at the legislation with a view to changing it so that young offenders' names can be published.
Ms. Commodore: Yes, I do know that it is federal legislation. In fact, when the legislation was changed under the Young Offenders Act, I made a tour of the territory to every single community to talk about the act and how it was going to affect people in the Yukon. I was well-versed on what the act was supposed to do.
The Minister said that his department has lobbied the federal government to change the act. Among other things that he wants the federal government to do is to permit identities of young offenders to be revealed. The Minister must have known at that time, while his party was lobbying the federal government, exactly what he wanted to do.
I understand that there is provision under the act to allow a young offender to be moved to adult court and thereby have his identity revealed. That is allowed, but I am just wondering if the Minister knows of even one specific incident where he might want young offenders' identities to be revealed.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I cannot recall a particular incident where I felt a young offender's name should be published. However, I do recall the case I was referring to before in Riverdale, where some young people went out and slashed thousands of dollars' worth of tires. The victims were very upset. They lobbied on their own to have the young offenders' names published.
If the Minister is looking for an instance, I would agree with that. I do not know of a lot of cases off the top of my head.
Ms. Commodore: I look forward to this upcoming election to find out what the Yukon Party position is on that. I am sure we will be hearing all sorts of new things from them.
I have a couple more questions, and one is in regard to an announcement made last fall about money to help kids in trouble. This is to help children before they commit crimes. I may have asked this question before in a different manner.
There was $62,000 to help kids who were at risk. This money was to be used through Community and Transportation Services, and it was going to be available to community groups, First Nations and school councils. Some of the things this money could be used for included youth training, sports, counselling, and that sort of thing.
Peter Milner, who is with Community and Transportation Services - I am not sure how he became involved in this - said everyone involved felt it was a very positive approach to addressing an issue that is being faced in most communities.
This $62,000 was somehow going to be used to help kids stay out of trouble. Can the Minister tell me what has happened with that money since October?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that there were many applications from sports and recreation groups and First Nations groups, and there was a good uptake on the program. Community and Transportation Services, Education, Health and Social Services and possibly Justice are involved in this funding. I believe there has been another request for topping up the program right now.
Ms. Commodore: I wonder if the Minister could give me a list of the projects that have been approved, though there is no rush for that. I can wait for it, as long as I do not have to wait until the fall.
I have one question regarding the Yukon Health and Social Services Council. I have a copy of the terms of reference that were developed in May 1990. I had asked the Minister once before if the terms of reference had changed, and I do not think I got an answer. Can the Minister tell me if they are the same as were developed in 1990 or if there have been any changes?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that there has not been a change; however, the Yukon Health and Social Services Council is looking at the terms of reference with a view to making some recommendations about possible changes.
Ms. Commodore: I know that there is one change that should occur. It reads "The council will report to the Premier." Since the Government Leader stepped back into the dark ages after the election, I am sure that will have to be changed.
Can I ask the Minister if he will provide me with a copy of the terms of reference if new ones are developed? The Minister said that he would.
I have one last question now, but will probably have further questions in line-by-line debate, as a result of some of the information that I have been able to gather. My last question is regarding Kaushee's Place. The Minister knows that a lot of problems have faced that transition home over the years. A few months ago, there was some move to close the home because the Minister was angry with the board and, instead, was going to open a group home in Riverdale for these women. It caused an awful lot of disruption in the community, because even people who work in the system were very upset with the threat that was put on the heads of the people who ran the transition home, as well as the battered women who need it.
I think that the Minister made the right decision - at least, in this case - when he chose not to do anything as drastic as to close it down because he was angry with the board members and try to put something else in place to accommodate these women. I would like to ask the Minister what is happening with that now. Is the department working very closely with this group? Are we looking at adequate funding for it? I would appreciate anything else that the Minister might want to tell me, as well.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There was a new board of directors established November 1, 1995. This new board is working very closely with the department. Part of its mandate is to keep open communication between it and the staff in the department. The funding policy - and I think we will get into this in the line-by-line debate - would have resulted in it having a grant of $450,000, but in fact what we have agreed to is an allocation of $482,000 for 1996-97. Because of the need to carry on, it will take the board over a year - or at least until next year - to get everything in order to get along with what the policy says is the amount. This year we have agreed to continue with the full funding of $482,000.
Mr. Cable: The Official Opposition critic has dealt with most of the issues fairly extensively. I have some touch-up questions on a few other matters that I would like to deal with.
What has the government requested from the Yukon Health and Social Services Council in the way of issues that it wants the council to deal with?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think I distributed a copy of the report a week or 10 days ago. The Health and Social Services Council will provide recommendations to us on new policy initiatives. Midwifery, for instance, is one of the things that we asked the council to look at.
Both the Department of Justice and the Department Health and Social Services will make requests for recommendations to the council. On certain issues, we will ask the council to get involved.
The Yukon Health and Social Services Council is mandated by the Health Act. The membership of the board, up to 13 members, are appointed by Cabinet for as much as three-year terms. The Minister of Health and Social Services and the Minister of Justice are ex-officio members of the council.
The council's functions are to consult individuals, groups and the public about health, social and justice issues and report to Cabinet about what it believes the issues are and how it believes the issues should be dealt with.
The council recommends to Cabinet ways to encourage and create effective partnerships of individual groups, communities and governments in the planning and implementation of health, social programs and services, the integration of health programs and services with social programs and services.
The council advises Cabinet about the issues relating to the provision of health and social programs and services, to encourage the development of programs by communities, government and non-government agencies, and aboriginal organizations to provide innovative, integrated and effective ways of addressing social concerns. It makes suggestions to Cabinet regarding new visions about health and social services policy, advises Cabinet on the implementation of the Health Act and the use of the health investment fund.
It recommends to Cabinet such research as the council considers useful and necessary, with the approval of Cabinet, to undertake studies about issues relating to the provision of health, social justice programs and services.
At the request of Cabinet, it evaluates the effect of programs or services and the manner in which they are provided.
The council also encourages improvement in the health and well-being of people of the Yukon to undertake such other functions as the Cabinet may assign.
The Members of council are remunerated according to the present boards and committees policy, which is $200 a day, as well as travel, accommodation, meals, et cetera. The council is to provide the Minister no later than June 30 of each year with an annual report, to be tabled at the next legislative session.
The council meets quarterly unless directed otherwise by the Minister. It has an annual budget of $40,000, or approximately $10,000 per meeting. The Executive Council Office provides secretarial support to the council and the Department of Health and Social Services provides the liaison contact with the department through the director of policy and program development.
Mr. Cable: I thank the Minister for that. I do not need extensive answers in the House on some of these questions. I was wondering if the Minister would in fact provide the House, either by way of legislative return or some documents such as were filed earlier today, details about what issues in particular the government is seeking advice on from the council, and what issues in particular the Minister's department anticipates seeking advice on from the council in the near future. Could that be provided by way of a return, unless it is a fairly short response?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Most of that information was tabled when we tabled the report. We will check on it, but it is pretty difficult to second-guess what we are going to be asking for in the future. We may have some issues in the department that we will probably be asking the council to look at, but I cannot really say what all of the issues will be for the next year or the next two years, or whatever. We will provide the Member with whatever information we do have on things that we feel we are going to be asking the council to look at in the next few months.
Mr. Cable: In addition to that and in relation to the document filed, could the Minister indicate what issues were dealt with at the instance of the government and what issues were dealt with at the instance of the council? I know they can deal with issues on their own instance.
I gather that some of the appointments to the council are coming up for review in the near future. Is there a process in place to deal with the replacement of the members whose terms are about to expire?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure that there have been any new appointments. There have been some reappointments of some of the members. There is one - perhaps that is the one the Member is referring to - that I believe will be up for reappointment. That is my understanding.
We do have input from the chair of the board and from the people. There are advertisements going out periodically to ask people who are interested in sitting on certain boards to provide their names to the government and indicate which boards and committees they would like to sit on. We also ask board members to provide recommendations for replacements. We ask people from the hospital to provide names, as well.
If I remember correctly, we have quite a list of names of people who would like to sit on this council.
Mr. Cable: It was my understanding that there is more than one vacancy coming up for review in the near future. Perhaps my information is incorrect.
The Health Act asks for the balancing of appointments, so that the Minister is obliged to consider the racial, cultural, regional and gender balance of the Yukon. How does the Minister go about that? Does he anticipate taking advice from the Council of Yukon First Nations, for example, and from women's groups in the territory?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We do work with the chair to try to achieve a gender and cultural balance. If necessary, we would ask certain groups to provide names of people who may be interested in sitting on the board. However, I think that we currently have a balanced board in terms of culture and gender. It is my intent to try to maintain some sort of equal representation of the various groups and peoples.
Mr. Cable: This council is charged with a number of things under the Health Act. One of them is to consult individuals, groups and the public about health, social and justice issues. That is stated in section 36(a). I know that the government has used the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment as its vehicle for carrying out public consultation. Out of curiosity, why was the Health and Social Services Council not used as a vehicle for the health consultations that took place recently?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As the Member knows, the consultation was extensive and held in several communities. The people on the board are volunteers. There are 12 or 13 of them. For them to be able to devote the time to the full consultation would probably be very difficult; hence, it was conducted by the department. They were given a presentation so that they could also have their own personal input. I believe that we have received their recommendations.
Mr. Cable: Was the input of the council sought on the mechanics of carrying out the consultation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The council never spoke to it at a regular council meeting, but the chair and deputy chair were brought into discussions with the department on how the consultation would be carried out.
Mr. Cable: In response to the questions asked by the Health critic from the Official Opposition, I believe this report will be in final form and distributed to the public some time later this year. Is the Minister in a position to indicate what conclusions were reached in relation to health care devolution to the communities?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Apparently the conclusions with respect to devolution have been generally supportive. The report will be made available toward the end of June, which will go over this in more detail. In general terms, the whole idea of devolution was supported.
Mr. Cable: Is it the objective of this government to achieve financial savings when the devolution process occurs to the communities, or is this driven by some other goal?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No. The idea of devolution is for the provision of service. I do not know that there will be any savings. It is pretty unlikely, because we are devolving existing programs. The idea is to provide better programs and services.
Mr. Cable: We have talked about the issue of suicide in the territory before in the House. The 1994 Yukon Health status report confirmed what I think many people knew, and that was that the male suicide rate in this territory is quite high. Are there any initiatives underway by this government in relation to the issue of suicide?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think we will have to check on that. I am not aware of any specific programs to deal with suicides or people who are at risk of possible suicide by the use of such things as telephone hotlines as are run in some cities. I will have to get back to the Member with that information because I am not aware of anything that we have specifically for that area of concern.
Mr. Cable: I do not require an answer further than that, but I would refer the Minister to Hansard of February 14, 1995, page 942. The comments of the Minister's predecessor were, "We have been very active on numerous fronts regarding the issue of suicide." Then, he went on to explain them. Perhaps in framing the answer, the Minister or his staff could refresh their memory on that.
With respect to the Canada Pension Plan, does the government anticipate making a submission to the committee that will be here at the end of May?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure if we are preparing a governmental presentation. Dave Sloan, the Member for Whitehorse West and the Member for Porter Creek South are members of the committee. Our officials have worked with federal officials and we have named a person to work with the committee, but I am not sure if we are going to prepare a full-blown presentation to the committee.
Mr. Cable: A number of issues are outstanding with respect to the Canada Pension Plan; for example, inter-generational transfers. I gather the plan is underfunded with present contributions. There is also the issue about whether or not disability benefits should be split off. Another issue, which I think Mr. Martin has put to rest - but I am not sure - is the issue of privatization of the Canada Pension Plan.
Has the Yukon government reached a position on any of those issues?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Nothing has come to Cabinet. We will check this out for the Member during the afternoon break, but my impression is that our members were going to travel with the committee, on a consultative basis, and, basically, get a feel from Yukoners exactly what they would like to see, prior to making any firm recommendations.
Mr. Cable: On another issue, the Ministerial Council on Social Policy Reform and Renewal put out a report to the premiers, dated December 19, 1995, which, I believe, the Minister may have tabled in the House. In any event, it sets out a statement of principles. Does the government adhere to the report, as presented to the public?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There was a ministerial statement made on March 28 by the Government Leader.
In that statement the Government of Yukon supported or endorsed the reports to premiers of the ministerial council. If the Member would like, I could review the statement of principles - the Member has indicated that he has them.
Mr. Cable: I assume that the recommendations at page 20 of the report about how the reform should proceed are supported by this government - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not have the report here but the government endorses the report in its entirety.
Mr. Cable: I have a few questions about where we go from here.
The report talks about setting up a national framework to guide the reform process in the areas of provincial and territorial responsibility, and it sets out some key elements.
Have the Minister and his national colleagues set a date for the next meeting? Not too long ago, there was some reference in the media about another meeting being called shortly after the British Columbia election.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thought I had explained that when I gave the ministerial statement. The report is done first for the premiers; now we are waiting for the first premier, the Prime Minister, to call the First Ministers Conference to discuss the recommendations in the report. Until we can get the Prime Minister to move on it, we cannot go any further.
Mr. Cable: This initiative, though, has come up from the bottom. It is the initiative of the premiers who want the federal government, I believe, to have them participate in setting the agenda for social policy reform, so I assume this is partly driven by the premiers. Has there been no suggestion whatsoever as to when the next meeting will be?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will go over it once more. This came up at the premiers conference in St. John's last year, not this year. That was the birth of this committee of ministers who put this report together. It was done in the absence of leadership by the federal government by not including the provinces in its consultations on health and social services issues across this country. We recommended that the Premier of Saskatchewan be our representative, and the Prime Minister refused, so this was done in the absence of any leadership by the federal Liberal party. That is why we put this together. We put together a position that was taken by all premiers across this country - New Democrat, Liberal and Conservative - urging the Prime Minister to get involved with us so that we could set some principles, with the federal government stepping out of funding, and trying to have the big hammer is just not acceptable to any province.
Mr. Cable: I understand what was motivating the initiative but the federal intergovernmental minister, Mr. Dion, had been reported in the press as saying that there was a meeting coming up after the B.C. election. Is the Government Leader not aware of any meeting coming up in the near future?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We are aware that the Prime Minister is seriously thinking about calling a First Ministers Conference, but my understanding is that it will deal with constitution issues and not this issue. This is the issue that we want dealt with, but the Prime Minister has totally ignored it so far.
Mr. Cable: Perhaps I have misunderstood this. What is the timeframe for this initiative? Have there been any discussions with the federal government on when the social policy reform will be completed? Are we working to a six-month deadline or a 10-year deadline, or what?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This was in response to the new Canada Health and Social Transfer that came into effect on April 1, and now the federal government cannot hold the provinces to the terms of reference that were given in the different programs because the money is being transferred in a lump sum. The provinces can direct the money wherever they want, either to post-secondary education, to health, or to social assistance programs. There is no clear policy across this country today on how Canadians are going to be treated in different provinces or territories. That was our concern and that was the concern of the paper that was put together by the ministers. It was an effort to try to have some broad principles across this country so that Canadians would know that they would be dealt with in an equitable manner no matter what part of Canada they resided in or would be residing in. This is where the concern is about the lack of leadership by the federal government. It was quite prepared to pull the funding out and it was quite prepared to abrogate the responsibilities on national standards for social assistance, health and post-secondary education, but it was not prepared to come out with any guiding principles.
That is the basis of the paper. We are still trying to engage the federal government in debate on the issue, but we have not been successful.
Mr. Cable: That is fine. A lot of that is a correct appreciation of what has gone on. In that the Canada Health and Social Transfer gives the premiers a lot of discretion, and the various provincial and territorial governments a lot of discretion, why is this whole initiative not being driven from the bottom? Why are we waiting for the Prime Minister?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It has been driven from the bottom, but we cannot have national principles without the federal government's agreement. It plays the role of guiding principles and standards across this country. It is the central government and we have to involve it in the debate. We have set out what we propose should be the guiding principles. It has not yet accepted those at this time.
Mr. Cable: I do not follow that. I think the Government Leader has spoken on a number of occasions of bottoms-up Confederation. There is nothing stopping the provinces and territories from agreeing on national standards. What are they waiting for? Are they waiting for someone to chair the meeting?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We have agreed on national standards. That is what this report is all about. The federal government has not endorsed it yet. We agree on these national standards. Those are the principles the provinces are trying to work toward, but we do not have the main player, who still contributes some money to these programs and is involved to the extent of saying if it is a good approach. Even Quebec was involved in this and agreed with the position taken by the rest of the provinces. The only player lacking is the federal government.
Mr. Cable: As the premier has indicated, the Canada Health and Social Transfer delegates the responsibility for the allocation of funds. Why is the federal government so necessary in this equation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I guess it is not necessary. I could say the same about a lot of other things in this country that would not be necessary in the equation. If it would get out of the way and let the provinces do their thing, Canada would be a much better place to live.
Mr. Cable: I thought Mr. Martin had done just that. Rather than get into a political debate and waste a lot of Hansard time ...
There was a Globe and Mail comment on February 7, 1996, on this report. It said that an interprovincial council of social policy ministers said that income support programs, such as welfare and unemployment insurance, should be combined under the jurisdiction of the federal government.
It is my understanding that that is exactly what is not wanted. Is this Globe and Mail article correct?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is not correct as far as we are concerned. This may be one reporter's interpretation of what he believes transpired. I do not recall that type of debate going on at all.
Mr. Cable: It struck me as rather strange, because it seems to contradict one of the main thrusts of the report to the premier.
Has this government struck an agenda that it would like to see followed when the Prime Minister meets with the premiers? Are there certain issues that this government would like to deal with, either on the methodology of the reform or on the reform itself?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As the Minister of Health and Social Services said, we are signatory to the report. We endorse it fully. That would be the agenda: to discuss the principles that are laid out in that report by unanimous decision by the provinces across this country. There are very few things in this country that we can get unanimity on. This is one of the things we have, and we fully endorse the principles in the report.
Mr. Cable: The recommendations on page 20 of the report, which I quoted earlier, say that the "provinces and territories develop a national framework to guide the reform process in areas of provincial/territorial responsibility." Key elements of this national framework would be the principles set out in this report and the agenda for reform being developed through the work of the ministerial council and the work of sectoral ministerial committees, including sector-specific policy visions.
Is there something going on now by this government to develop that agenda for reform?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The sectoral review and how we are going to go about it has already started. We have officials working on that on a fairly regular basis.
Mr. Cable: There is another issue that the Government Leader might be interested in. A couple of jurisdictions are viewed as right of centre, such as the Harris administration in Ontario and the Klein administration. I know we are talking about workfare, which seems to be topical in right-wing circles.
Does this government have a position on the workfare idea and, if so, are there any studies underway on the issue?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: In the consultations that we undertook, there was a lot of support, interestingly enough, for a workfare-type system. We need to look at what other jurisdictions are doing. We need to explore all of the options. However, there has not been anything brought forward to Cabinet for policy decision making on this particular item, but when the department went out to consult, there were a lot of comments and discussions about that issue.
Mr. Cable: I have heard some comments from people whose advice I respect. The typical view that many people have about social assistance recipients is that they are sitting around, snapping the cap off a bottle of beer and do not really want to work, but this is a completely erroneous assumption. In fact, the vast majority of social assistance recipients do want to work.
If in fact the Minister is looking at this seriously, I want to encourage him to put the issue out for public consultation - before launching an initiative that may or may not solve any problems - to get some advice on the subject rather than follow some emotive reaction to people's worst instincts.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think the comment the Member made could be attributed to the federal Liberal Leader.
First, I think we want to look at what other jurisdictions are finding - they are doing some fairly major consultations. It is not only right-wing provinces that are introducing this kind of legislation. The Province of Saskatchewan has a program - I am not fully familiar with it - that, I understand, is some kind of a workfare program or, at least, it is being seriously looked at. I think that what we can do is look at what the other provinces are finding and use some of the information that they are coming forward with.
Mr. Cable: Does the Minister's department have any firm plans afoot to review what is going on, or is this simply on the back burner at the moment?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This was certainly addressed as a part of the consultations that were carried out, and it will form part of a document that the department will be producing in the next few months for Cabinet consideration.
Mr. Cable: Is the Minister saying - it is hearkening back to the answers given the other day and today on the release of the report stemming from the health consultations - that the issue of workfare will be in this report and that we will see the government's position by the end of June?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not think the Member will see a position stated, but the matter will be discussed in the report because it was certainly mentioned in the consultation process.
Mr. Cable: I have a question for the Minister on another topic, the Health and Social Services management plan. Last year, the Minister responsible for the department indicated that he would be directing more and more energy into getting a management plan in place with performance indicators. This was to have been in the form of an options paper, which was to be discussed. Could the Minister table a copy of the management options paper that was to be prepared by the department?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure exactly what the Member is referring to, but the department is carrying out a business planning exercise, or strategic management, that it will be bringing forward to Cabinet for consideration. Perhaps the Member is referring to the business plan that is being conducted within the department right now.
Mr. Cable: Perhaps there is a difference in the terminology. Will the business plan have performance indicators built into it to indicate whether or not the goals and objectives are being met?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, it will.
Mr. Cable: I have some follow-up questions about welfare fraud.
The numbers that were bandied about in the media and the Legislature indicated $4 million or $5 million worth of fraud. Yet the numbers that have been provided in the various legislative returns certainly do not support that level of fraud. Where does the number of $5 million come from? Is it a rule of thumb that the provinces have that is unsupported by the outcome of fraud prosecutions?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Although I do not have the report here, I believe the department determined that there was a possibility of up to four percent. If that were the case, it would be a maximum of about $350,000. I am not sure where the numbers the Member is referring to came from.
Mr. Cable: I think the numbers came from media reports. If the report we were looking at the other night is examined, the numbers are substantially higher than the numbers that came from the legislative returns. What goal is achieved by inflating the provable fraud? Is some judgment being used to override the actual numbers that are coming from the fraudulent files?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We have not had a fraud investigator for some eight or nine months, so we do not know what there actually is out there. What was in the report, I guess, was merely a projection.
Mr. Cable: The point I am making is that one can create a lot of political mischief by over-inflating these numbers. It certainly does not serve the purposes of bringing the community together by playing off people on social assistance against the rest of the community. Is there some basis for the percentage, or is that just simply speculation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: In 1994, there was a verification and approximately 500 files were reviewed and approximately 20 files contained elements of fraud in them. They made the assumption that the fraud rate would be approximately four to five percent of the total.
Mr. Cable: I do not think those files were all taken to prosecution and proven. Are we not talking about someone looking at a file and sniffing fraud, rather than the cases being taken to court?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Forty-seven files were investigated; 35 files contained elements of fraud. The actual cost of fraud was $91,000. Additional costs and having the fund detected is approximately $92,000. There were some assumptions made. There is no question about it. I can see where the Member is getting that figure, which is down at the bottom here. There were 110 cases at $5,000 each and the total estimated cost was $550,000. I guess that is where the $500,000 figure came from.
Chair: Is there further general debate on Health and Social Services?
Mr. Sloan: I have just a few questions about young offenders. Last week I had the opportunity to attend a panel discussion conducted by the crime prevention group involving several people from the justice and social services aspects of the community. One of the more interesting presentations was given by Judge Lilles, who gave some statistical data that seemed to indicate that Canada and the Yukon have a higher rate of prosecution of young offenders than other jurisdictions in the western world.
Can the Minister give us a notion about whether we have more young offender prosecutions than other jurisdictions in Canada?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would expect Judge Lilles would have checked his figures. I do not have the statistical information to either confirm or deny that, but I expect he would have done some research before making such a statement.
Mr. Sloan: I will see if I can provide a copy of Judge Lilles' original paper on that subject. It was quite startling. We are apparently second only to the United States in the number of young people whom we prosecute and, I suppose, ultimately incarcerate for young offender-type crimes.
In his analysis of the data, Judge Lilles seemed to suggest that the principal factor in young people running afoul of the law had to do with socio-economic factors.
In the statistics that have been provided here about young offenders, had there been any analysis of young offenders - how many young people have been in care or for whom there had been some referrals in terms of social services?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not think there has been any analysis, but it is probably a fairly good assumption that if they become young offenders, statistically there has been previous care, or something like that, but we have not done any actual analysis of young offenders to determine whether or not that is accurate.
Mr. Sloan: To follow up on that a bit, we are taking a series of actions under the creating safer communities program. Is there a process in place to at least do some analysis of how successful this is? Is the government planning to do some sort of longitudinal study on kids who get into trouble, such as family backgrounds, referrals to social agencies or difficulties in school? It would be good to have some background data in order to evaluate how successful the initiatives are the government plans on pursuing.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Would the Member go to page 3189 of the Hansard from Thursday? It was in response to questions concerning under-12 crime and reducing crimes by 12 and 13 year olds. That was a question by the Member for Whitehorse Centre. There is a response to that question in those documents. It more or less covers what the Member has been asking.
Mr. Sloan: Judge Lilles also brought forward a variety of suggestions about the kinds of things that have been successfully done with young offenders and some of the things that have not worked with young offenders. Interestingly enough, some of those have proved to be counterproductive - for example, more rigourous confinement and the boot-camp types of things. However, one of the most successful initiatives that Judge Lilles noted was the idea of diversion. That seems to have a fair degree of success in cutting down on recidivism. I am wondering if that is going to be a major focus of the government's policy on young offenders.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The diversion and alternative measures program, pursuant to the Young Persons Offences Act, is a program that we are involved in. There is no intent that I am aware of to not continue that program.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to pick up where I left off last week with some questions about Health and Social Services. The first question is the clarification of the funding going to the Hospital Corporation. I asked why the funding was not transferred in a block amount to $15.5 million.
The Minister did not know it was not transferred in one block, but I am sure he has found out now; in fact, there is a transfer payment every two weeks. Why is it being done that way? Why do they not just give them one block transfer like the college gets?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Unfortunately, in my estimation, that has historically been the way it has been handled, and the Department of Finance has advised that is the policy. It just has not been changed to this point in time.
Mrs. Firth: There must be some reason for that policy. One does not just say that is the way we are doing it, and that is all there is to it. There has to be some reason. Perhaps the Minister agrees with me that it should be transferred in a block sum, and perhaps he would like to change it and say it is going to be transferred in a block amount of the whole $15.5 million or $15.4 million, whatever the figure is, at the beginning of the fiscal year.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: To start with, I do not believe the corporation has ever asked for it to be changed to a block fund from the way it is now.
Mrs. Firth: I do not think that is necessarily the fact. I do not know if it has ever made any representation in a formal letter or in writing, but when I discussed it with the chief executive officer and with the chair of the board, they were certainly quite receptive to the idea that it be given all in one block, and I do not see how they could be anything but - if the government offered it to them, I would be very surprised if they said no.
Is the Minister prepared to make that offer to them?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am having a meeting with the corporation on May 1, and I would like to talk to the chair and the members and find out how solid the policy is, because it does seem a little strange to me, as I know there are other organizations within government that are funded either on a semi-annual or annual basis. I find it somewhat odd that we are funding them on a two-week basis. It seems to me it is added administration for everyone concerned.
Mrs. Firth: From the Minister's comments, it does not appear to me that there has been any explanation about why it has been done this way, let alone an adequate explanation. Is the Minister taking the position that he would like to offer this to the corporation? Is that going to be the Minister's position at the meeting when he meets with them?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I want to talk to the corporation to see what its views are. I am not going to take a position right now, because I want to talk to the corporation first.
Mrs. Firth: If the corporation asks for it, is the Minister prepared to say "yes"?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I want to look at the policy and discuss it with the Department of Finance to find out why it is done in that way. If the corporation wants it done differently, I think I would be ready and willing to support it if it does not cause any cashflow problems.
Also, there may be some other problem in Finance that I am not aware of. If not, I would like to see it done some other way than every two weeks, because it seems to me that it creates an administrative problem that is not really necessary.
Mrs. Firth: I do not think there is a policy; otherwise, the Minister should be able to provide it in writing. I think it is something that Finance has gotten used to. I appreciate the Minister saying that he at least recognizes that it is probably a cumbersome process.
I just want the Minister to know, for whatever it is worth - it is probably not worth an awful lot - that he has my support if he takes the position that he wants to transfer it in one block, as is done with the college. In that way, the Hospital Corporation has the ability to take advantage of having the amount and being able to collect the interest on that amount.
Chair: Is there any further debate?
Mrs. Firth: I thought the Minister might have made some comments, but I guess not.
I have some further questions to ask about the negotiations. The Hospital Corporation is presently in negotiations with the Public Service Alliance of Canada, and I believe it will be entering into negotiations with the Professional Institute of the Public Service. I understand that once these negotiations are completed, the whole responsibility for the staffing can be completely turned over to the Hospital Corporation. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Hospital Corporation already has full responsibility for staffing.
Mrs. Firth: What it has right now is a memorandum of understanding. Is that not correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, that is correct, but it gives the corporation full control. It is a transitional document, pending devolution, but it provides for full responsibility and authority.
Mrs. Firth: It is not the same as having a contract in place. Once the corporation has a contract, starts negotiations and has a contract with PSAC and the Professional Institute of the Public Service, then the contract is in place and the memorandum of understanding becomes defunct. Is this not the case?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes. It is like a contract. It is temporary, but it acts like a contract. That is my understanding.
Mrs. Firth: What happens when it comes to negotiating pay increases?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is up to the corporation board.
Mrs. Firth: They have the same ability to negotiate pay increases under memorandum of understanding as they would with a contract?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: They will be moving out of the memorandum of understanding into collective agreement.
Mrs. Firth: But not until after the contractis signed. They cannot have a collective agreement with the memorandum of understanding.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that the memorandum of understanding remains in effect until the collective agreement has been reached and then the memorandum of understanding becomes redundant and is retired.
Mrs. Firth: The corporation has to have an essential-services agreement prior to this. Can the Minister report on that? Have they got that yet, or are they close to getting it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Apparently, as of last week, they had had only one meeting with the Public Service Alliance of Canada. That was the first item of business. I do not know what has come out of that yet.
Mrs. Firth: This is an outstanding issue that will have to be resolved soon. I am continuing with my theme of all the decisions that have to be made in the whole area of health and the delivery of health services. I want to remind the Minister about the number of board members that have to be reappointed. I recognize that the board gets the chief executive officer and someone to do all these negotiations for them, but it is still important that the current membership of the board be completely filled.
Does the Minister have anything new to report with respect to the six vacancies on the board? Can the Minister report whether or not the chair has been reappointed, or if any of the other positions have been filled?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe there is only the possibility of one position being vacant. I believe they were all reappointed within the last couple of weeks.
Chair: We will take a brief recess at this time.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have the youth investment fund information for circulation. One of the Members asked for it.
To answer the question about hospital appointments that was asked before the break, there have been four appointments. The people may not have received notification yet, but there are still two outstanding appointments to made fairly shortly.
Mrs. Firth: Is one of the four the chair? Could the Minister update us on that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, that is correct. They are all reappointments.
Mrs. Firth: The chair has been appointed for another year. The Minister is nodding his head. That is good. That is one step.
When will the Minister be announcing the other appointments?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The recommendation for appointment is for one position from the hospital itself. It is for staff, but for a non-medical person. We have not received any suggestions yet. The other one is to be from the public. We had one name, but the person asked to be removed from consideration, so we have to work on that one.
Mrs. Firth: Is the staff position the Minister mentioned not the one he said was presently a registered nurse? Was that not the reason why they did not need a guaranteed position for a registered nurse?
Now the Minister is saying that this one is going to be a non-medical person?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, there is a registered nurse on the board. This position is for a non-medical person so it could be anyone who works for the hospital.
Mrs. Firth: I will do this later in the dinner break. I wanted to follow up on that, because I thought the Minister had said something else when we were debating this.
There is a long outstanding issue with respect to the Thomson Centre. The last time we debated this in the House, we were told that the Thomson Centre was going to be devolved to the Hospital Corporation. Nothing has happened with respect to that particular issue. Can the Minister tell me exactly what is going to happen with the Thomson Centre?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Until it finishes its collective bargaining, the Hospital Corporation is not in a position to begin the negotiations and the transfer. Secondly, there is a problem that we have to address, which is with respect to the CMHC funding for the Thomson Centre. That is an issue that will have to be resolved before there is a transfer.
Mrs. Firth: Is it the government's intention to transfer it to the Hospital Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It appears that it is a reasonable move to transfer it, but we do want to look at all the impacts and discuss it in more detail with the corporation and so on.
Mrs. Firth: What I would like to establish is - the Minister has said that it seems reasonable - if the department has a position on this issue yet? It is the position of the department, or the government or whoever to transfer the responsibility for the Thomson Centre to the Hospital Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That has been the government's position.
Mrs. Firth: I now know where we are starting from. Then, if that is the position, all of the negotiations that must take place yet will be focused on transferring the facility as opposed to finding reasons why not to transfer it. At least that would be the hope.
I wonder if I could ask the Minister to provide us with some information. I have had briefings from the Workers' Compensation Board, the Housing Corporation, CMHC and the Hospital Corporation and there is a lot of confusion with respect to the whole financial arrangement of the Thomson Centre.
I have received some briefing notes from Finance about what the arrangement is. I can appreciate the problem with CMHC because that corporation's support is based on residency requirements within the centre. I just heard that the rehabilitation wing has been shut down because of a lack of client use.
There are a lot of outstanding issues surrounding this particular facility and I think it would be very helpful for all of the players involved - the Workers' Compensation Board, the Yukon Housing Corporation and the Yukon Hospital Corporation, as well as Opposition Members - to receive a detailed statement from the Minister's department about the financial arrangements. If that information could be provided in point form so it is understood by everyone, it would be appreciated. I know that the Workers' Compensation Board pays money into the facility for use.
Perhaps we could then get a statement of outstanding issues so that we know what has to be resolved to come to the final conclusion where the facility is transferred to the jurisdiction of the Yukon Hospital Corporation. I could give the Minister a fairly sketchy outline just from what I have been able to collect in all of the briefings. I would like to see the government's official position on this. I think all of these other corporations, such as the Workers' Compensation Board and the Yukon Hospital Corporation, would like to see this in writing so we can make some sense about what is going to happen.
I expect details, such as the labour contract being in place, the financial arrangements, and what happens once it is transferred to the Yukon Hospital Corporation. Does the Workers' Compensation Board still get to have services? Does it pay if it is not taking advantage of rehabilitation services at the hospital?
I would like a fairly detailed report about what is going on at the Thomson Centre and what is anticipated in the near future.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think that we will have to update those figures and some of the other information, but I believe that has been tabled in the past. I think I recall seeing it when I was Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation. There are a lot of agencies involved - there is the Hospital Corporation, the Yukon Housing Corporation, Workers' Compensation Board, as well as Central Mortgage and Housing. I think the Member has asked for a little bit of additional information than what was in previous reports. We will start working on that and provide it to the Member as soon as we are able to.
Mrs. Firth: I think that that report is quite old. I think it could have been asked for as long as two years ago. In the interests of all of the partners, I think it would be a good idea for them to have a clear outline and understanding of everything, as well, because I did get rather conflicting stories from everyone with respect to how they saw the thing operating, who was responsible for what, and what was going to happen. I think that, in the best interests of the centre, it would be great if everyone had the same story, and we all had the same understanding of the government's position and what its intention was for the facility.
There has been some peripheral discussion about the fraud squad position. The Minister has tabled in the House a position description for the fraud investigator, which was done by, I guess, the Public Service Commission, in conjunction with the department. I do not recall the Minister being asked this specific question before, and I would like to ask it now. I have asked him before, but he has not given me an answer, other than to say that the Public Service Commission was involved. I want to know if the position is going to be advertised publicly in the Yukon, so that anyone who is interested in applying for the job can apply for it.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Public Service Commissioner is currently looking at the job to determine if it can go with an appointment without competition. If it is rejected as an appointment without competition, then it would be advertised in the Yukon.
Mrs. Firth: I do not think it should go to an appointment without competition. It is a brand-new position. We raised this as a concern when we heard that the previous Minister practically wrote the job description himself because this person had to have the exact qualifications the Minister wanted. There was a lot of unfairness, or perception of unfairness, with respect to that, because other people may be interested in applying for this job who have these qualifications.
I know this style of hiring is taken advantage of on a fairly regular basis within government. I got the numbers from the Public Service Commission. I believe more than 70 jobs within government are given using that process. I do not entirely agree with that process.
If this is a brand-new position, the fairest way to deal with it is to put it out to open competition so it is not exclusively for retiring RCMP officers through some convoluted arrangement made to get a secondment through the RCMP and happening to find out about someone who was retiring. I am sure that individual will have an opportunity to apply for the job. If they are the best qualified and best suited, then they will get the job. However, I do not think we should rule out the idea that others in the community may like to have the opportunity to compete for the position.
Why is the Minister not putting it out to open competition, instead of trying to find some way to legitimize the process of the previous Minister?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is part of the Public Service Commissioner's task when she determines if it is to be an appointment without competition. If there are people who meet the qualifications laid out in the job description, it is likely that she would rule against an appointment without competition.
Mrs. Firth: How is anyone going to know that if the government does not advertise the job? I have talked to people about this in an effort to speculate who this person is. There was quite a bit of interest in it.
It is a direction that the Minister should be passing on to the Public Service Commission. He should tell the department that he wants the position filled and that he wants it to go to open competition. Surely he will not receive public criticism for doing that. It is the fairest process.
Why is the Minister trying to put the responsibility on the Public Service Commissioner's shoulders? It is not up to her to make that decision. She can advise the government about whether or not it can get away with giving the person a job through an appointment without competition. The Minister should be giving direction to the Public Service Commission to publicly advertise the job - period. Why is he not doing that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The process has been started and is well underway. I am going to let it run its course.
The Public Service Commissioner will be making a determination about whether or not it can go ahead without competition. I will wait for that decision before I do anything else.
Mrs. Firth: I do not understand the Minister's thinking on this. What is the problem with putting the job out to public competition? I see what he is saying as the wrong way to go about it. What he is trying to do is get the Public Service Commissioner to find some way to justify the government giving the job to a specific individual. I do not think that is fair.
Why will the Minister not see that the fair thing to do would be to put it out to public competition? What process is well underway that he has to follow through with?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As I said, the process is underway. That was the method determined to be used at the start of it, and I am going to let it run its course.
Mrs. Firth: That is just not acceptable. I will tell the Minister what it looks like. It looks like the person was given a commitment to be given this job. I believe that the previous Minister had said there was some kind of a verbal commitment.
The Minister is looking puzzled. I read it in Hansard. He said that there was a verbal commitment. Nothing had been signed. I know that because I asked that specific question. It now looks as if this Minister is going to follow through with this process to try to legitimize this process that we Opposition Members claim is unfair. It is unfair if the government is going to make the appointment without competition. It is unfair to all of the other people in the community who may be interested in applying for the job.
If the Minister wants to try to legitimize some other commitment that was made and is not prepared to give the opportunity to all Yukoners who may be qualified for the job, then I think he is doing a real disservice to the credibility of the position.
The Minister is refusing to get up to answer the question. He is refusing to take a position to advertise the job publicly. He is simply sitting there and saying that he is waiting for the Public Service Commissioner to justify giving the position to the person who was chosen by the previous Minister. The whole exercise of having the Public Service Commission draw up a job description and whatever else is just a facade to allow the Minister to act like he is doing something that is perceived to be fair. I think it is a very bad situation. It is a very bad situation for Yukoners and for this Minister.
I want to move to another subject. It is one dealing with the contracts in the Department of Health and Social Services.
The Department of Health and Social Services sole sources some 86.1 percent of its contracts. I would like to ask the Minister why the department has to sole source so many of its contracts. I think it represents some $7.5 million, which is a sizable chunk of money.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know what the reasons are for every one of the contracts. However, they all do fit within the guidelines determined by Government Services for the contract regulations. Each contract fits within the contract regulations.
Mrs. Firth: Somewhere in the neighbourhood of 18 contracts were sole sourced for services that exceed, and in some cases exceed by many, many times, the $25,000 limit for sole sourcing. I will give the Minister a couple of examples.
The Kerr, Wood, Leidal, Gore and Storrie one is an administration contract for a bio-med incinerator at Whitehorse General Hospital. It is a sole-sourced contract for $127,480. It was sole sourced and far exceeds the sole-sourcing limits. What was that contract for and why did the department sole source it and not put it out to tender?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There has been a bit of problem here. That contract to Kerr, Wood, Leidal, Gore and Storrie engineering consultants was actually tendered, but it was tendered by the Hospital Corporation prior to the government taking over hospital construction. When the hospital came over, Government Services entered all of the contracts tendered under the Yukon Hospital Corporation as sole-sourced contracts when in fact it was not accurate to do so. They had gone out to tender but, because it was the Hospital Corporation, it was not a government-sponsored tender.
Mrs. Firth: That raises many other questions.
To start off with, the contract book is wrong - I see the Minister nodding his head, "yes" - so the Government Services contract book is wrong.
Why would the corporation be tendering contracts with respect to the hospital construction when it does not take over responsibility for it until the hospital is finished and turned over to the corporation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Originally, the Yukon Hospital Corporation, under the interim board, was going to take on the construction of the hospital. That is why these original contracts were let by the corporation. As for Government Services being wrong, it may very well have decided that because they were Whitehorse General Hospital Corporation contracts, they would all be deemed to be sole sourced because they had not gone through the Yukon government tendering process.
Mrs. Firth: What the Minister is saying to me right now and what he is telling the House gives me a lot of concern. What contract regulations would the original interim board have been operating under, because it does not have any now. The board does not have a policy manual or its own set of directives and regulations. On what basis would it be tendering contracts? Who on the Hospital Corporation Board would be doing that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not have that information right now. I do not know what contract regulations the hospital was working under at the time, but I can get that information for the Member.
Here is something in addition to the question. There are approximately - and I will pass this over to the Member - 15 sole-sourced contracts that are true sole-sourced contracts. Some of them had to receive Management Board approval and the rest are under the $25,000 limit. I will pass this over to the Member for her information. These are strictly for the hospital construction project.
Mrs. Firth: Does this $3,838,000 contract to Rockliff Pierzchajlo Architects and Planners come under that as well? Who sole sourced the contract for the architectural design of the acute-care hospital?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That was contracted by the interim hospital board. The contract was dated April 22, 1992, between the Yukon Hospital Corporation and the architect.
Mrs. Firth: There is something wrong here. In the contract book I have here - 1995-96 - there is a contract to Rockliff Pierzchajlo Architects and Planners. The contract date was April 1, 1994 to March 1, 1998. It is for $3,838,062. It says it is sole sourced. The current year commitment is $925,773.
I still do not understand the business where the Minister said the interim board was contracting. Who, on the interim board, had the ability to tender contracts? Who was doing it and what contract rules were they following? This is 1994, not 1992.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That particular contract did go out to public tender. The contract is dated April 22, 1992. It was subsequently assigned to Government Services in 1993, and then to Health and Social Services in 1994. It is the same contract the Member sees in the Government Services book. Because they were assigned, for the purposes of the book, Government Services treated them as sole-sourced contracts, but they were publicly tendered.
Mrs. Firth: I understand the Minister's point about the interim board tendering these contracts - I guess it was the interim board. Then they transferred them to Government Services, and Government Services interpreted them all as being sole sourced. I understand all that.
What I want to know is who was doing all the tendering? If these are public tenders, who was doing it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We will have to check that again and get the information to the Member. I believe that the interim board was actually using Government Services contract regulations and so on, and having Government Services doing the actual work. I will confirm that and get back to the Member.
Mrs. Firth: I would like the Minister to do that, because if Government Services was doing the tendering and it was a public tender, why would it be in the book as having been sole sourced. It makes no sense. I am sure that the Minister can see that. It is not like we are talking about just a little bit of money.
The other concern I have with respect to a contract of that size - almost $4 million - is that there were nine change orders to it. I have a lot of concern about change orders, because it changes the scope and value of the original contract. One could raise the concern as to whether or not it was fair to the other bidders if it was publicly tendered.
There are a lot of outstanding issues. There is another contract for Equipment Planning Associates to oversee existing Whitehorse General Hospital equipment planning. This contract is for $456,705.
That is listed as a sole-sourced contract. That is another one that the Minister is saying comes under the interim board, which was publicly tendered by Government Services for the board, but put down as sole sourced by Government Services. That one had seven change orders, and I raised the same concerns about that particular contract. When these are all added up, they total just under $5 million. I do not understand why it was done in this fashion, because millions of dollars were spent. I have Helyar & Associates as a Whitehorse General Hospital quantity surveyor for $202,755, which was supposed to have been sole sourced. These are the ones that are in Health Services: Dr. Kincaid, child psychological services for $34,700, which was sole sourced. So, there are contracts within the Department of Health and Social Services that are being sole sourced over the threshold, as well
Is the Minister confident that all of these contracts, other than the interim board sole-sourced ones that were tendered, have met the requirements, meaning that they received Management Board approval if they were over the $25,000 limit? Otherwise, if they were under that limit, would they all be legal contracts?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have gone over several of them. I do feel confident that the proper approvals have been reached for any sole-sourced contracts.
Mrs. Firth: I am going to have to pursue this further.
I am just looking at the list that the Minister gave me. I thought he gave me a list of all Housing Corporation contracts that were sole sourced but had really been publicly tendered. This is a list of sole-sourced contracts denoting lists of items in the 1995-96 contract registry interim report. Of this list that he gave me, there are only two sole-sourced contracts that are above the limit. One is for the Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. for electrical service relocation for $82,000. There is another one for Western Health Planning Associates for a functional program for $101,000.
All the other contracts are below the $25,000 limit, so they are not the contracts I am interested in. I am interested in the ones that are over the $25,000 limit, because I want to know what kind of approval was given to make them legal. If there was no Management Board approval, they are not legal contracts. None of the ones I have just questioned are on this list.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The list I just provided to the Member contains about 15 items and only two are above the threshold. Those two have received Management Board approval, which is the proper method. The other ones are under the $25,000 limit and the reason for sole sourcing is generally because of certain criteria, such as in the case of the relocation of telephone cable. Northwestel is the only company that does that.
Again, the other ones that are listed in the book as sole-sourced contracts are all hospital construction projects.
Because they came over from the hospital board, they were just listed.
Apparently, Government Services is going to print a correction and will no longer call them sole-sourced contracts, because they in fact were not sole sourced, but had gone out to public tender.
Mrs. Firth: I will give the Minister some more examples. First of all, I want to point out that there is a discrepancy in the Western Health Planning Associates functional program. On the list the Minister gave me, he said that the original value of the contract is $101,000. In the contract book - it is the very same contract number - it states that the contract amount is $82,788. Perhaps the department should find out why these two numbers do not coincide. The Management Board signed a contract for some amount of money and we have two versions of it. Perhaps he can clear that up for us.
I will wait to get the list from Government Services that talks about the $127,480 - almost half a million - on Equipment Planning. There is also one for Helyar and Associates for a quantity surveyor in the amount of $202,000, which will probably be on the hospital list. Let us get to some of the ones that are within the department.
Child psychological services comes to $34,700. Here is another commission planning for Whitehorse General Health for $29,000 that went to Western Health Planning Associates, so that will be on the hospital list, as well.
There is one for medical reference services, for $26,000, which was sole sourced; physicians' services, north highway, $35,000; V.O. Tech services, Whitehorse General Hospital, $51,500, to Payne. Did that one go to public tender?
I will wait to see when the Minister brings me the list of all the hospital contracts that were sole sourced and went to public tender.
There is one for brain injury assessment, for $480,000, over the $25,000 limit, so it was sole sourced; collection information, R.F.S. Case Management, $62,000, which was sole sourced; supervising young offenders, $32,400, sole sourced; assessment assistance and counselling, $43,000, sole sourced.
There are at least 18 of them. I have gone through the whole Health and Social Services budget. Physicians' services, rural communities, for $32,000; treatment needs for child in care, $108,888. These are all sole sourced above the $25,000 limit. Treatment for high risk young offenders, $75,000; treatment needs for youth, $67,000.
I want the Minister to come back with an explanation for sole sourcing them and if Management Board approved all the contracts.
There was an interesting one here I picked up on. Starkey Labs Canada, lease of the video otoscope, with a contracted amount of $1.00. What is that all about?
Mrs. Firth: What kind of contract is that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We will have to bring the details back. We do not have them here with us.
Mrs. Firth: Is the Minister referring to this contract with Starkey Labs Canada for lease of the video otoscope for $1.00? Is that what he is referring to?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to have the Minister bring that back as soon as he can, because he will recall that this was the controversial hearing aid company, Starkey Labs, that was providing Caribbean cruises and trips to Hawaii for its employees. I understand that practice has stopped and they are not doing that any more.
I find the contract amount of $1.00 a curious amount to lease a video otoscope, and I would like to have a report on that.
Chair: The time being 5:30 p.m., we will now break until 6:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We are dealing with Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 1996-97. Is there any further general debate on the Department of Health and Social Services?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We said that we would obtain more information on the Starkey Labs Canada contract for $1.00. It actually went out to tender. Three tenders were received, and one of them was submitted by Starkey Labs Canada for $1.00. Consequently, it was a legitimate bid, and was the one we accepted.
Mrs. Firth: I have a couple of points. First of all, it says that it was sole sourced. It does not say it went to public tender; it has an "s" behind it for type, meaning sole sourced. I guess it makes me wonder what prices were submitted by the other bidders. Why would a profit-oriented company want to lease an otoscope for $1.00? I find that quite interesting.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not have the prices. We have not actually got the contracts with us, but a company by the name of Siemens was one of the bids, and Aim Instruments Limited was the other company. Three bids came in on the ottoscope instrument.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to know what the other two companies bid. The Minister is nodding his head, so he will have to bring that back to me. I will probably have further questions about it, so I hope I get that information back before we are no longer in the Legislature. Once we leave this House, I am very skeptical about getting information from the government.
Can I also get a copy of the contract with Starkey?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know if that is public information. If so, I will certainly produce it. I will have to check with Government Services.
Mrs. Firth: I do not see any reason why we could not have it. I have asked for other contracts before and all the expenditures of public funds are public information. Unless there is something that the government does not want us to know, the Minister should be able to provide it for me when I get copies of the amounts of the other two bidders.
I want to get some kind of commitment from the Minister about the sole-source contracting practices within the department. This department, of course, does one of the largest amounts of sole sourcing. I would like to ask the Minister if the government will be looking at reviewing that practice and having more of them go out to public tender.
I am a bit concerned if this contract is indicated in the wrong manner, along with all the other contracts the Minister talked about that involve the interim board of the corporation, which he is going to bring back corrections on. Are all of these others correct in the contract book or are there more errors in the printout from Government Services?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Apparently, there are several errors in that contract book and Government Services has been apprised of the errors, and it is currently working on putting together corrected pages.
Mrs. Firth: We will wait to get the corrected pages.
Now, I wanted to ask some questions about the Department of Health and Social Services and the hospital. I think those are all the questions I have about contracts unless some other Members have some specific questions about contracts that they want to ask.
Ms. Commodore: I actually had a whole mess of questions that I was going to ask, which I completely forgot. The Minister should be glad about that, because I had them sitting here, but I do have a question about one. It is on page 80, the second to last one from the bottom.
The vendor's name is No Gold Creek and the description is "supervision of young offenders".
The contracted amount was $32,400. I would like to ask the Minister what that was for?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We do not have the details on it, other than the fact that it was ordered by the judge. We will have to provide a copy, or at least an explanation, of the contract to the Member, because I do not have the information with me.
Ms. Commodore: I would like to have the information within the next day or so. I would like to know the circumstances of the contract. I would also like to know why it was sole sourced, because the amount is over $32,000. I will expect a response from the Minister perhaps by tomorrow. He should be able to give me that information by then.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We should be able to provide the answer of whether or not it is in our department or Government Services. I suspect it should be in our department. We will try to have it for tomorrow.
Mrs. Firth: There was one more question about contracting in the Department of Health and Social Services. I noticed that quite a few of the contracts have a commitment, but none of the money has been spent. Are those contracts automatically cancelled, or do they just carry on? Does the department wait until the full year is passed and then, if none of the money has been spent, it lapses the funds? What kind of notification is given to the contractor if the government is not spending the money on the contract?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We would have to have more specifics, such as the specific contract, to actually look it up and see what the reason was. There could be several reasons. It could be a standing offer that was let some time during the year and was not acted upon or not needed in that particular year, or something like that. We would need more specific information.
Mrs. Firth: All the Minister has to do is go through his list of contracts and for everywhere there is current year expenditure of zero - and there are lots of them, I do not want to start listing all of them because there are quite a few of them - tell us if this is going to happen. Do not forget this is for the past year.
When we look at a contract for neuro-psychological assessments, October 1995 to December 1995, in the amount of $1,000, zero was spent. What happened to that? Why was the contract tendered if the money was not going to be spent?
I can quickly count 16 contracts - I am not going to go any further, but I want to illustrate that there are a considerable number. There is one here for $13,711. This is allocated to development and compilation of Yukon formula, April 1, 1995 to March 31, 1996, which is now expired. The current balance is $13,711. Why is this happening? What explanation can the Minister give us for this large number of tendered contracts for which the money is not spent?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: For at least one that was mentioned, the neurological assessment, there was a contract - a sort of standing offer. However, if no one needed the treatment, the contract would just expire. We are not sure about the $13,000. We would have to go through each one against the actual contract to see exactly why it was not used. There is probably a variety of reasons.
I can have the department list them and put reasons, but it will take some time. We will have to check each one individually.
Mrs. Firth: I am merely making an observation. I am sure the department has all kinds of reasons why it is not following through. I am merely making an observation that there seems to be a lot of them. If they are standing-offer agreements, I can understand it. Does someone monitor that kind of thing?
All this money is identified as committed money, so it is in the budget for these contracts. At the end of the year, however, it is not spent. I would have some concern if a department habitually had these standing-offer agreements, or contracts, yet was not using them. Some people might want to call that a slush fund, but I would never do that.
I hope the Minister can understand my concern. I am being asked to vote money that is not being spent. I want to be assured someone is checking up on that kind of thing to see that it is not running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The financial people in the department do monitor these, but we will have to bring back an explanation of them on an individual basis, because it is pretty difficult to generalize. Some of them may use the money one year, but not the next. I do not know what the reasons are for all of them individually, but we can provide that to the Member, along with an explanation of each.
Mrs. Firth: I will wait to get that information.
I wanted to ask the Minister some questions about the hospital. I have been given quite a good briefing from the hospital board and the chief executive officer regarding staffing and numbers of person years - FTEs as they are called now. I asked for the actual number of employees and have received all of that information.
With the change in the delivery of health care services, I realize that there will be a change in the kind of services Yukoners will receive when they go to the hospital now. I am wondering what kind of information, if any, the Department of Health and Social Services is putting out to the public about the kind of delivery of hospital services it will have.
We have been hearing about the certified nursing assistant controversy, and I think that it is something that should have been anticipated, given the change of the hospital design, and addressed right from the very beginning. That was not done, however, and, of course, we have a semi-crisis situation on our hands now, where people are concerned about their jobs, and so on. I am wondering what other things have not been identified and made public that we will happen to find out about.
One of the concerns that has been brought to my attention is the combining of the wards. I do not know if the general public knows that pediatrics and the medical ward are going to be combined, as are the surgical and maternity wards. Some people may know, but I do not think it is generally well-known, until one goes to the hospital and finds that they are on a medical ward that is combined with a kids' ward. I am not saying that we are going to have adults and kids in the same room, or anything. I do not want to be hysterical about this, but my concern is that the public has good information about the kind of services they are going to receive with the new hospital. What can the Minister tell me his department is doing to ensure that the public is well-informed about the changes to the delivery of health care at the hospital?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That was a very good question by the Member. I think there is likely some concern about how all of this is going to work. I would like to talk to the chair of the Hospital Corporation about the possibility of putting out some kind of informational booklet, pamphlet or something like that, so people will know exactly what they can expect from the new hospital.
Mrs. Firth: That brings me to my next question. The Hospital Corporation presently does not have a communications person in its staffing complement. Is the Minister saying that he would expect the corporation to pick up the price tag for that kind of position, or is the Department of Health and Social Services going to do it? If the Minister launches a public awareness program of some kind, we are going to need an identification of human resources to fulfill that objective. What is the Minister's plan?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is something that we have to talk over with the Yukon Hospital Corporation Board. The department has a communications advisor. I could see that person working with the corporation to help develop the information. I do not think that it would be an onerous or costly exercise. However, I think it would be very worthwhile.
Mrs. Firth: It could be quite a time-consuming task, because this individual is going to have to be completely familiar with the program. I can see that the communications person in Health and Social Services could help facilitate that.
I had two concerns: first, about the public's impression of what kind of hospital it was going to have; second, when we had the issue of the certified nursing assistants, I was looking to see who the lead person was going to be to respond to it. I discussed this a little bit with the chair of the board and the chief executive officer. I think that it requires a public relations person or someone who could have the responsibility for dealing with these kinds of issues. This would mean that the chief executive officer would not have to put out all of the little fires that occur in the public and deal with the media, as well as inform the chair of the board about them, because he has to know about them. There has to be some coordinated effort on the whole public relations aspect of the hospital.
Otherwise, people end up getting the wrong story and the wrong impression, and we have crises where there really are no crises. I wonder if the Minister could tell me if he has discussed this with them at all or if he sees it as a problem.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As I said before, I have a meeting scheduled on May 1. It will be my first meeting with the Hospital Corporation Board.
Getting back to the communications, the Hospital Corporation does have a person in policy and planning who is doing the planning work for the transition. I could see that person working with our communication person, who would help with the writing, and the two of them could put together an informational booklet or some sort of package that would address most of the questions about the new hospital.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister must be referring to the planner who is a term position. That position expires in 1998, I believe. She is the acting chief executive officer while Ms. Willis is on holiday. She, in fact, was the person who gave me the budget briefing on the administrative side of the operations of the corporation and the hospital, so I am sure she will be following this budget debate and be finding out if this may be in her related duties.
I will have to wait and see what happens.
Somehow I feel that I am lobbying for the Hospital Corporation, but that is not my function here in raising these questions. I hope the Minister does not take it that way. The corporation certainly did not ask me to do that or in any way want me to be doing it. I did not even discuss it, but I find I have been asking many questions and making many recommendations to the Minister about changes that I think should be made to make the whole process work smoother. I hope he just takes it in the context that they are my personal opinions, not representations on behalf of the hospital administration of the board or anyone else. They are just in my own interest in the field of the delivery of health.
I think I have just about exhausted the list of questions I had for the Minister. I could think of a lot of other questions to ask, but there will be another day and another time. I may have some more follow up in the line by line, but with the commitments I have received from the Minister to provide me with information - depending upon how promptly I get the information - I am prepared to go into line by line.
Chair: Are we prepared to go line by line at this time? We will go line by line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Policy, Planning and Administration
Chair: Is there any general debate on this program? Are we prepared to go line by line in this program?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The policy, planning and administration branch has 32.6 full-time equivalents. The branch provides corporate services to and on behalf of the department in the areas of planning, policy development, financial and human resource management, and communications.
The highlights of the budget are as follows. The budget is up from $2,426,000 in 1995-96 to $2,490,000 for 1996-97, an increase of $64,000, or three percent, mainly due to $60,000 to fund the position seconded, at our expense, to the Ross River Dena Council as its development officer. The secondment is expected to continue until March 1997, and $4,000 is to reflect transfer of special operating agency cost to departments.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell me how much of this is for merit increases?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We do not have the actual breakdown of the merit increases on that particular expenditure.
Mrs. Firth: During the budget briefing, the department indicated to my researcher that there was $84,000 allocated for merit increases. Is that amount allocated for the whole Department of Health and Social Services - how many employees do we have, or full-time equivalents?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know where the $84,000 came from. There are approximately 400 people in the department so I would expect that the merit increases would be substantially more than that amount.
We can bring back the actual amount of the merit increases for the whole department over the break.
Administration in the amount of $2,490,000 agreed to
Policy, Planning and Administration in the amount of $2,490,000 agreed to
On Family and Children's Services
Chair: Is there any general debate on this program?
Ms. Commodore: I meant to bring up the issue of juvenile justice and youth services. Do these items come under this area?
I want to know a bit more about the diversion program. It was one of the things that was mentioned in the safer communities program under youth crime. I know that we have a diversion committee in place, as we have for a number of years.
I would like to ask the Minister if he can tell me how many diversion committees we have in the communities. I know that we have a diversion committee that was established by the department, consisting of citizens from Whitehorse. I would like to know if that committee is in existence and, if so, what does it do? It used to be a very important part of youth services.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I know that there are diversion committees in several of the communities, but I am not sure about the one that was just mentioned. There was one in Faro that was closed. Since the town is going strong again, it is apparently functioning again.
I will have to bring that information in on a community-by-community basis, because I am not sure which communities have committees.
Ms. Commodore: It is a way of getting the communities involved. In the past some of the committees have been quite active and done a lot of work in the prevention area. I would like to ask the Minister why the department is not promoting the concept more. It is something that could work in many areas.
The department should be promoting it. It should be talking to the communities about it. I would like to know why it is not. Even in Whitehorse, I have not heard much about the diversion committee for a long time.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I thought that the department was working with the committees, because they are good programs and we certainly support them. I will have to bring back details on a community-by-community basis for the Member.
Ms. Commodore: I have another question in regard to the youth investment fund. There was a list here of all the individual organizations that were given the grants and I would like to ask the Minister how these were established. Do they have a committee, struck by the government, to make these decisions?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, for the youth investment fund, there is a committee of officials from Health and Social Services, Justice and Community and Transportation Services who make recommendations to the Ministers. The Ministers give final approval.
Ms. Commodore: Could I have a list of the individuals on that committee?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We do not have the names of all of the people. Tim Brady is the one from our particular area.
Ms. Commodore: Could the Minister provide me with those names? They should be easy to get. I know the Minister has people who are listening to this debate, and I would like him to provide me with those names some time tomorrow.
I have a question about the information that the Minister provided to me. I asked a whole slew of questions last week and he did give me some information. It looked like there were a lot of things happening, but I think whomever put the information together knew how to put it together to make things look very positive.
One of the things I did not find an answer for in here, and I may have missed it, because I skimmed through it very quickly, was about the attendance centre being used as a day care centre, or whatever one might want to call it. The attendance centre was looking after some of the young offenders who were in open custody, because some of the foster parents work during the day. The kids who were in open custody in those homes were sent to the attendance centre during the day. Is that the case? If so, how many of those foster-home parents are working other jobs while caring for young offenders?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I recall the question and I see the answers that were provided to the Member, but I am not sure if the Member specifically asked that question, or perhaps the person who compiled the information overlooked it. Whatever the reason, we should be able to provide the Member with that information fairly easily. I can provide the information to the Member tomorrow.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister has indicated that there were five foster homes in Whitehorse for young offenders. Can the Minister tell me if the foster parents who are looking after these young offenders and working at a job are employed by this government - either the Yukon government, the Department of Education or Yukon College?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We would have to come back with that information. I do not know where the people are employed.
Ms. Commodore: That information is quite easy to get, so I would like to have it by tomorrow.
I would like to ask the Minister if he can tell me about foster homes in general. I know that the department has taken over the administration of the Champagne-Aishihik child welfare program. I would like to know how the department is faring with foster homes for First Nations people. I know that over the years, the department has made an effort to try to find First Nations families to look after First Nations children. I do know that they are still being sent to other homes. I would like to know what the status of that situation is now. I see advertisements in the newspaper all of the time, so the department is actively pursuing homes for these children. I would like to know how this situation is working out.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member has mentioned that we do actively try to get First Nations homes for First Nations people. We do not have the statistics with us to tell us how successful we have been or exactly how many people we have placed in First Nations homes, and so on. We can probably get that, but it might take a little bit of time. I will endeavour to get it for the Member.
Ms. Commodore: I should have looked at it before I asked the question, but there is some information on the following page, 8-9, that tells us how many foster homes of First Nations people there are. My question is with respect to children of First Nations people going to other homes. That is the kind of information I would like. Is there an increase in those foster homes? I can wait for the information from the Minister until whenever he can provide it to me.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Minister for some information regarding the makeup of the committee that decides what projects are to be funded under the youth investment fund. I would like to know on what basis the committee decides who gets the funding and whether or not terms of reference are involved - or whatever criteria is used. I would appreciate seeing that, as well.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The criteria was published with the information that was sent out. I believe that it is on the application form. We will bring it back for the Member.
Ms. Commodore: As I mentioned to the Minister, I had quite forgotten that I had this contract book, with a whole mess of contracts that I was going to ask about. I am not going to ask about all of the contracts, but I do want to note that there are a number of contracts that have gone out regarding treatment for children, in all sorts of areas. I have highlighted them, and there are quite a few.
We are looking at contracts for learning experience for young offenders by Daryn Leas, treatment needs for child-in-care for Maples Adolescent Treatment Centre, and good things, such as musical instruction to young offenders - we may have some musicians coming out of there. We have someone who is co-facilitating a sex offender group. We have things like Poundmakers, and all sorts of other things. There is a whole list of contracts for the Wind River Wilderness Camp. All it says is "youth wilderness camp". I would like to ask the Minister what that is and why so many kids are being sent there.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We will have to bring the details back. I believe it is the camp that is run by Mr. Smith in Mayo. Wind River is up in that part of the Yukon. I do not have the details here. I think we could provide them for the Member.
Ms. Commodore: I have, of course, heard some good things about that camp in the last little while. I just did not realize that the name of it is Wind River Wilderness Camp, if that is in fact what it is.
Where do we find Randall Tetlichi's camp in here? Is that listed in the lists of contracts?
I am sorry. I was speaking out of turn. I was asking Mr. Chair what the name of the camp was, but he does not remember.
I do not know the name of the camp either, but I know there are some kids up there every once in a while, and there is a service provided to them. I was looking through this but really could not find where it might be, so if the Minister has that information, would he please provide it to me at a later time? I would appreciate that.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, we will do that.
Ms. Commodore: Can the Minister tell me if any of the contracts here - because there are quite a few - are contracted by the youth services unit to provide programs for young offenders, both in open custody and secure custody, and which ones those might be? He does not have to let me know right now, but I would certainly like that information.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: A number of them are for that purpose, but we would have to get it broken down, because I do not know which ones are specific to that. We will endeavour to get a list of the relevant ones.
Chair: We will go to line by line.
On Program Management
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This is for eight full-time equivalents in activity, plus one seconded full-time equivalent. There is a four-percent increase in funding for program management. The funding for 1996-97 will be $2,946,000, an increase of $118,000 over the 1995-96 revised total of $2,828,000.
The increase is due generally to the following: a $15,000 personnel reduction resulting from the addition of a new administration secretary and merit adjustments offset by the reallocation of the youth services unit to the position formerly in the safe places program; a $199,000 transfer from Government Services for fleet vehicle and property management services; a $27,000 increase resulting from the consolidation of various janitorial and security contracts and controllable asset budgets within the branch budget.
There is a $3,000 decrease in travel and materials for reallocation of the safe places program; a $60,000 decrease due to the completion of the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre counselling agreement; $30,000 that has been subsequently approved to support a counsellor to work with high-risk families; a $32,000 decrease in funding due to Kaushee's Place. As previously noted, this amount is being deferred and will be covered elsewhere in the budget.
There is a $4,000 increase in the Help and Hope for Families Society shelter because of a higher proportion of Yukon clients; a $14,000 increase at the Dawson shelter because of a full year implementation of new funding policy; a $4,000 increase resulting from re-establishing an agreement with the Foster Parents Association; $20,000, used to fund the 1995 fetal alcohol syndrome summer camp, has been reallocated to special needs contracts under the family and children's services activity and the 1995 camp will be funded from that activity.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister mentioned a program at the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre. I know the centre was going to receive $60,000. Did the Minister say that the funding had been eliminated? I think I heard that at the technical briefing, but I am not sure what the Minister just said about it.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Originally, the $60,000 had been eliminated because of the completion of the agreement, but subsequent to the budget being printed $30,000 has been approved to support a counsellor to work with high-risk families.
Ms. Commodore: Is that $30,000 for the whole year?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, it is, but the centre is trying to access some federal funding and the government is helping.
Ms. Commodore: Why has the government cut back on that? It has been bragging about bigger and better programs and how it is improving all these things. As far as I know, there is a great need for that by First Nations people across the territory. I would like to know the government's excuse for taking half of it away.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Initially, it was a federal program. When the federal government cut the funding for it, we stepped in on a transitional basis. We had an agreement with the federal government, which has now expired. However, we have agreed to fund part of that amount in this upcoming year and then help the organization to re-establish some federal funding.
Ms. Commodore: The $30,000 is just a small amount of money in comparison to the whole of this budget for the whole department for the whole Yukon. A couple of years ago, the government provided expenses to Mike Rawlings for $41,000 to rent a truck and pay for accommodation and food. This was for one community.
We have established the fact that, over the years, First Nations people are suffering as a result of something that happened to them decades ago. Each generation after that has suffered the same kind of problems. These problems are evident today. The Minister was doing a good thing by providing $60,000 to Skookum Jim's in order to provide this program. Just at the stroke of a pencil, the government has taken half of it away. I think it is absolutely disgusting that it would do something like that, especially when it states every now and then how it is doing everything better and more often than the previous government. This is one thing the government could really have been proud of and bragged about. For the government to just tell Skookum Jim's that it will try and help that organization to access money from somewhere else does not do a heck of a lot when the need is far greater there than in a lot of other areas.
I want to put it on record that I believe the government has made a major mistake here.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The $60,000 was part of an agreement. There was a termination time on the agreement that both Skookun Jim's and the Government of Yukon agreed upon. It was for a transition period. It was the federal government that cut the funding to Skookum Jim's in the first place. The agreement has terminated. The previous Minister has met with the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre. The centre agrees that this is a good way to go. My understanding is that it was quite pleased that we were willing to extend the agreement for another year, even though it is at a lower level of funding. We are helping the friendship centre to obtain additional funding.
Ms. Commodore: When an organization has been providing a service, such as Skookies has, over the years and it is getting funding in bits and pieces, of course it is going to be satisfied that something will continue. I really think that the department could have been a lot more helpful by providing the additional funding that the centre needed, but I guess that is not going to be the case.
I would like to say that I do not think that this government has made its case about that. We can look through this whole department and find all kinds of money here and there. We could look at some of the contracts and the kinds of things that money has been given out for, and know that there are better ways to spend this money. In this case, despite what the Minister says, I think that the department blew it. It was a much-needed service. The centre will now have to try to find money somewhere else, because the government just decided that since it was being good for one year because of funding cutbacks by the federal government, it does not have to do anything more. As I said, $30,000 out of this whole budget is just a small amount that could have benefited a whole community that probably needed a service. I am sorry to say that the government blew it this time.
Program Management in the amount of $2,946,000 agreed to
On Family and Children's Services
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That includes 16.7 full-time equivalents. This unit is responsible for family services and child protection. Some of the highlights are as follows: funding for the family and children's service unit is up by four percent, or $54,000, over the 1995-96 fiscal year. The total funding for the unit will be $1,358,000 for the 1996-97 fiscal year. The increase is a result of the following: $45,000 to add a family support worker to work with women at risk of having FAS/FAE children and a $27,000 increase in expected spending for respite for medically fragile and special-needs children. This includes the funds transferred from program management for the 1996 FAS camp. There was a $29,000 decrease resulting from the assignment of .5 youth health promotion workers to health programs and $11,000 for merit increases after offsets for administrative items.
Mrs. Firth: Was the Minister's department doing some evaluations on the non-governmental organizations? I know a lot of them come under this particular line, but there was talk about doing evaluations and working with the statistics branch to develop some methodology. Is that currently going on in the Minister's department?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think that information is in the responses we provided. This comes later on under social services. I am not sure if we are working with the statistics branch people. Perhaps we are in FAS/FAE. There is some work going on in the evaluation of the non-governmental organizations.
Family and Children's Services in the amount of $1,358,000 agreed to
On Placement and Support Services
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This is for 11 full-time equivalents. This unit is responsible for adoptions, child abuse treatment services, services to children in care, foster care custody and access. Some of the highlights are a three-percent increase in funding for the placement and support services unit. Funding for the 1996-97 fiscal year will be $2,274,000 - up $63,000 from the previous year as a result of $57,000 to add a child abuse treatment services social worker to work with regional communities. We talked about that in general debate. There is a $4,000 increase in allotments for adoption subsidies to permit placement of two additional special-needs children in permanent family homes and $2,000 for merit increases after offsets from administrative items.
Ms. Commodore: I have a couple of questions with regard to adoptions. I believe that there was something in place a long time ago to allow Yukoners to try to locate children they might have put up for adoption. I was talking to the Minister of Education quite a while ago and he said something about introducing some kind of legislation that would allow that to occur, but do we not have something in place already?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We do have adoption legislation but I am not exactly sure what its constraints are. I was briefed on a case the other day that really bothered me because it seemed, if anything, more bureaucratic than anything else.
I do not know if the Member is making a representation to look at the legislation, but we do have legislation currently in place.
Ms. Commodore: I thought I remembered this legislation being introduced in the House when I was the Minister and that was why I was a bit confused when I was talking to the Minister of Justice. Some time during the session, he mentioned that the government was going to be introducing legislation that would allow either children or mothers to find either one of the two, but there is something lacking in the legislation right now that does not allow certain things to happen.
There appears to have been no discussion between the two Ministers - or at least this Minister - because I had a discussion with him and he thought he might do it during this session. I never heard anything more about it.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, apparently it has proven to have some glitches in it. We are currently looking at it to determine whether or not some changes should be made. The one that I was looking at - I cannot remember exactly how this worked - was the case of a person who lived in a different jurisdiction and who wanted to find out about their natural mother. We need permission before divulging that information and, in this case, the natural mother had died. Even so, we were unable to tell the person who their natural mother was because the mother was unable to give us her permission to do so. It seems pretty convoluted to me. So, there may very well be those kinds of glitches, and it may take some minor amendments to the legislation in order to make it more workable.
Placement and Support Services in the amount of $2,274,000 agreed to
On Child Care Services
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This unit has four full-time equivalents and is responsible for the enforcement of child care legislation and standards, the provision of support and consultation to the Yukon Child Care Board, the distribution of child care subsidies to low-income families, the distribution of direct operating grants to licensed child care facilities, the distribution of child care capital grants, and the provision of consultation, education, training, promotion and support activities in the child care field throughout the Yukon.
There is an increase of two-percent funding for the child care services unit. Funding for the 1996-97 fiscal year will be $4,029,000, which is up $98,000 from the previous fiscal year. The increase is attributable to an $89,000 increase to child care subsidies and grants, and an $8,000 increase to support licensing of regional spaces opened in August 1995, which included Ross River and Carmacks, and $1,000 in merit increases.
Ms. Commodore: While the Minister was explaining the amount of money and where it was going, I thought back to many years ago when we formed the government in the Yukon. I think the budget for child care was $132,000. As a result of the child care strategy, many things were put in place and have improved over the years.
I would like to ask the Minister if he is satisfied that we have adequate child care spaces in the Yukon right now. Has he heard of anyone not being able to find licensed child care spaces?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure about whether or not we are lacking spaces. I have not heard that we are.
The deputy minister just reminded me of an article in the Globe and Mail, which stated that the Yukon, on a per capita basis, has the very best child care funding in the country.
Due to an increase in the number of children accessing the child care subsidy program and an increased number of unused spaces, the child care program budget has increased $311,000 this past fiscal year. The number of children accessing the child care subsidy program has increased 15 percent over last year. This increase may be, in part, due to changes in the social assistance regulations.
Ms. Commodore: I want to put it on record that this government is not totally responsible for all of the good things that are being said about child care services in the Yukon, because the NDP does have a very good history in that area. The history is also on record about the improvements that have been done in the area of child care. While the government is saying all of these nice things, I just wanted that on record as well.
Mr. Sloan: On the question of child care, does the Minister feel that the territory's position with regard to child care is being compromised by the federal Liberal government's abrogation of its child care promise?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Apparently it has, and the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre is a good example of the federal government abrogating its responsibility. It has made it more difficult. This government has to step in on some of the programs that the federal government has abandoned.
Mr. Sloan: Will any federal government decisions in the field of child care negatively impact First Nation communities and their ability to deliver child care spaces?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe that there is a federal government-funded program for First Nations. Apparently that program is still going to go ahead.
Child Care Services in the amount of $4,029,000 agreed to
On Youth Services
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This unit has 41.75 full-time equivalents. It is responsible for diversion and alternative measures pursuant to the Young Offenders Act and the Young Persons Offences Act: youth probation services, youth offender custody services, community programs, adolescent sex-offender treatment and residential child welfare programs.
Some of the highlights include a $22,000 decrease in funding for the youth services unit. Funding for 1996-97 will be $6,168,000, which is down from $6,190,000 in 1995-96. The modest decrease reflects the net impact of a $20,000 increase due to the following: the reallocation of the safe places position from program management; increases to secure custody auxiliary staffing, offset by the elimination of one aftercare position; and the transfer of $15,000 from the youth diversion activity to the youth investment fund, which is a component of the health investment fund in our health services program. The $27,000 decrease is due to centralizing certain cost centers in the program management activity.
Ms. Commodore: I would like to ask the Minister if he could provide me with the numbers of First Nations people employed by the department in this area. Is it in proportion to the number of First Nations people who go through the system? I know that at one time the numbers had increased. There were more First Nations people working with these First Nations kids. I know that there are some, but I am wondering if the number is adequate to serve the needs of the kids with whom the Minister and the department have to deal.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We do have several First Nations people. I do not know how the ratio works with respect to the question asked by the Member. We should be able to get that information tomorrow but, if not, I will provide it to the Member as soon as possible.
Ms. Commodore: The Public Service Commission has - I do not know if it still has, but it may or may not have - a native training corps, where people are hired and trained in different departments. I wonder if the Minister can tell me if they have any in his department. I know we used to have a number at one time. I have heard that that number has decreased in all departments.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know what the numbers are and if the program still exists. I would probably have to get the information from the Public Service Commission.
Mrs. Firth: I am looking at the statistics pages on youth services, on pages 8-16 and 8-17. The budget itself, on page 8-6, indicates a zero-percent increase - mind you, that is for the total youth services budget - on the young offenders statistics in particular.
According to the budget document, the cost of dealing with young offenders has increased by 15 percent, from $2.69 million to over $3 million, yet on the page opposite - the profile of young offenders - shows that the largest increase in young offenders is from the 12 to 15 age group. The statistics page on 8-16 also shows that there is a seven-percent increase of young offenders sentenced to secure custody, a six-percent increase in the number of remand admissions, a 39-percent increase in sentences in open custody and for those accepted for alternative measures, there is a 17-percent increase.
The increases in numbers do not seem to be substantiated by the profile of young offenders. Can the Minister tell me why? Obviously, there are more young offenders and the offences are on the increase. Am I interpreting that correctly?
We keep hearing that it is not. We keep hearing that crime is down.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know if the Member is pointing out that there may be an inconsistency. I do not think there is, but there is no question that the numbers are going up. As for whether there has been an actual analysis of all of the reasons for it, I do not believe one has been made.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps I did not explain myself clearly enough. On page 8-16, it is very obvious that the numbers are increasing. The numbers of young offenders sentenced to open custody and closed custody are increasing by quite alarming figures. The 39 percent of young offenders sentenced to open custody is quite a large number. The dollar figure has also increased.
When I read the profile on page 8-17, the total young offenders for the last three years has stayed virtually the same: from 1992-93 it was 123; 1993-94 it was 122; and in 1994-95 it was 122. Some of the categories are even decreasing. The only one that has really increased is the 12 to 15 year old group, which has gone from 22 to 32; 16 year- olds and plus have declined, and First Nations have gone down, so how does the department substantiate the high increase in light of the profile of young offenders statistics not changing very much?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As the Member can see, the profile is only up to 1994-95. The forecast for 1995-96 and the estimate for 1996-97 have increased quite a bit. If the Member will notice, the 1994-95 actual, shown on page 8-16, shows that the total population has gone from 1,958 in 1994-95 to 2,327, which is an increase of nearly 300.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As the Member for Riverdale South said, as the population increases, so the young offenders would increase. That is the assumption we are going on, because there is no doubt that the numbers are increasing.
Ms. Commodore: Again, I go back to the four-year plan of the Yukon Party. In 1992, it talked about all the things it was going to do to deal with young offenders, but there does not appear to be anything in place to deal with young offenders. I know that a number of things have happened - the government closed down 501 Taylor Street, and it opened up foster homes for young offenders, but the numbers have increased. I have mentioned in general debate that this was the case.
Is the Minister or the department looking at the situation down the road, and what could happen in the future? Are any plans in place that would allow the government to make some kind of decision based on the population increase? What is the government going to do if there are not enough foster homes for open custody? I know this is all hypothetical, but governments do plan for the future. I know the secure facility has been overcrowded at times, and it is overcrowded right now. Is the government doing anything in preparation for this?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The department is very aware of the increase in numbers. There is planning being conducted right now within the department. If the Member would like to look at the response to the question on page 3186 in Hansard, it does address it. We are aware of the situation. The department is planning.
Ms. Commodore: I am sorry, I am not sure what the Minister is talking about. Is he talking about Hansard?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It was a response to a question on page 3186 of Hansard.
Ms. Commodore: I just have one more question. On page 18-7, there are some missing birth date statistics. If there are missing birth dates, how do we know when the kids are no longer young offenders?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I looked at that and did not understand it either. I have not had a chance to check with the department to find out exactly what it means. I suspect it means that, for whatever reason, those dates are not in the computer system.
Youth Services in the amount of $6,168,000 agreed to
Chair: Before we carry the total, are there any questions on the statistics pages?
Family and Children's Services in the amount of $16,775,000 agreed to
On Social Services
Chair: As there is no general debate, we will go line by line at this time.
On Program Management
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There are three full-time equivalents in this unit, and its function is to provide program leadership, contribute to corporate direction setting and ensure participatory and accountable management in the coordinated development and implementation of a cohesive continuum of policies and services for the social services branch.
Some of the highlights are as follows: program management is up from $1,268,000 in 1995-96 to $1,466,000 in 1996-97, or an increase of $198,000, which is 16 percent, due to a $9,000 increase for merit and benefits; $156,000 transferred from alcohol and drug services for facility management contracts; a $25,000 increase to initiate regular non-government organization evaluations; and an $8,000 increase to maintain a direct connection to Canada Employment Centre files.
Mr. McDonald: I have a quick question for the Minister about the social assistance recipients agreement. Can the Minister tell us whether or not First Nations people are provided services under this agreement?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: They would not be covered by the Yukon government because we do not provide that service for First Nations. It is a federal responsibility to First Nations.
Mr. McDonald: So, the federal government provides the equivalent of the social assistance recipients agreement to First Nations people in the Yukon? Is there an equivalent program here?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure if it is an equivalent program. The Department of Indian and Northern Affairs actually provides the funding to First Nations. I am not sure how it works and whether or not it is equivalent to, or better than, ours. I do not know.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister provide us with some information? I am interested in the particulars, because some First Nations people have asked me why they were rejected under the program because they were First Nations members. They told me that, at least to their knowledge, there was no equivalent program through the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs.
I would appreciate it if the Minister could provide us with some information with respect to what is provided for these people, and particularly with respect to training for people who are on social assistance and want to get back to work.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We will try to find out what the Department of Indian and Northern Affair's policy is. I am not sure, because I believe that each individual First Nation has the ability to establish its own programs. We can try to get the overall policy from the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs and provide that, but I am not sure if we can get each band's particular policy.
Chair: We will take a brief recess at this time.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 10, Department of Health and Social Services, on the program social services, line item program management.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Before I go into that particular program, I have some responses I would like to pass on to the Member for Mount Lorne on the youth investment fund and the application.
For the Member for Riverdale South, on the merit changes, the department has just done a very quick calculation of the increase in merit pay for the department, and it comes to $318,000 - the $84,000 may have been under health services. This is not absolutely accurate, but it is as close as they could get.
Program Management in the amount of $1,466,000 agreed to
On Alcohol and Drug Services
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There are 21.9 full-time equivalents. The unit is responsible for assessment, counselling, detox services, education and promotion, and residential treatment. The budget highlights include the following: the alcohol and drug services budget is down from $1,683,000 to $1,544,000, or by a decrease of $139,000, or eight percent, generally due to the $19,000 increase to add a .4 auxiliary secretary to allow for evening coverage; a $19,000 increase for merit and benefits; $156,000 transferred to program management for facility management contracts; and a $21,000 decrease in food, material and service costs primarily as a result in savings and supply arrangements following the relocation of drug and alcohol services and the detox centre.
Ms. Commodore: This must be one of the examples where the department talks about doing more for less. If we look over at the next page, the statistics tell us that the percentages have increased drastically in regard to caseloads. If we look at 1994-95, we have 150, and then an increase of 29 percent to 425 in 1995-96. That is a forecast, but I am sure the government has the figures in by now. The estimate for this fiscal year is 550.
On the two charts below, there is an estimated increase that is quite drastic as compared to the years before, yet we are looking at a cut in the budget.
I would like to ask the Minister how we are going to be effective if we are cutting back funding, but looking at larger caseloads?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Actually, there is no decrease, because $156,000 was transferred to program management for facilities management contracts. It has been transferred out. There has been an addition of one-half of an FTE.
The other decreases for food, materials and service costs are primarily the result of savings and supply arrangements. These are just efficiencies. It has really remained pretty much the same.
Mr. McDonald: Could the Minister give us the department's view of the independence of Crossroads and what the future is for that organization?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is no intent to make any changes. I believe the amount budgeted is the same as in previous years. There is no intent to change the structure, the method of funding or the amount of funding.
Mr. Joe: I want to know more about alcohol and drug services. There are a lot of drugs in the communities that I have visited. How can we educate our young students in the schools about how bad drugs are? I hear many different stories about drugs coming into the Yukon.
Another thing I want to find out about is the AIDS program. Students should be educated about AIDS and drugs.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Under the education and promotion - I think that is what the Member is getting at - we develop and implement communication strategies, including radio, television, print media advertising and articles, public workshops, poster campaigns and pamphlets based on the objectives identified in the alcohol and drug strategy. We develop, organize and deliver workshops, seminars and conferences for human resource workers, or make them available to other parties for delivery. We maintain a comprehensive collection of resource materials and provide access to national resources; we provide and contribute financially, and encourage or participate in the development of community organizations, resources and alternative activities in the Whitehorse area or in territory-relevant issues in other communities. That is under education and promotion.
We then have assessments and counselling, where we do assessments of client problem areas, utilizing a standardized assessment model in order to recommend an appropriate residential or non-residential service; we do counselling of groups, individuals and family clients; provide training for professionals and para-professionals in assessment and counselling techniques; provide consultation services to individuals, community, public sector and private agencies, and expand the service availability into the evening. That was the .4 full-time equivalent we were talking about earlier.
Mr. Joe: This is my last question. I want to know how drugs are coming in. I see that myself and a lot of them fool around with them in every community.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I fully understand where the Member is coming from. Actually, that is an issue that has been discussed a lot in the Yukon, I believe, by many people. It is very difficult to deal with people coming into the territory with drugs. It is a Justice issue. The RCMP are certainly aware of it and are doing whatever they can, but it is more of a Justice issue than it is ours. We are aware of it and we are on the prevention and treatment side of it, whereas Justice tries to stop drugs from coming in.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister has just indicated that some of the drug side is something that Justice has to deal with and that he is in charge of the prevention part of it. Can he tell me what programs are in place?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think I covered that. There are several initiatives under education and promotion that will, we hope, help to prevent drug use. Assessment and counselling - I read information about that into the record previously -covers the prevention side of it.
Ms. Commodore: What kind of programs do they have in the schools and in the jails?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know the specifics of the programs. I do know that the schoolchildren certainly take drug awareness types of programs. The RCMP gives talks and various other people from various agencies do that as well, but I am not sure what the programs are called or how often they are actually run. They are likely run through the Department of Education. We provide some of the promotional material but essentially it is an Education program.
Alcohol and Drug Services in the amount of $1,544,000 agreed to
On Social Assistance Services
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There are 15.9 full-time equivalents and this unit is responsible for social assistance services and employment counselling. The social assistance budget is down from $8,245,000 to $7,924,000, a decrease of $319,000 or four percent due to the following changes: $186,000 in personnel increases, including $24,000 for a 0.5 auxiliary receptionist to ensure adequate vacation coverage; $59,000 for a social assistance fraud investigator; $30,000 for a summer verification worker to review and update all files, which is a regulated requirement; $45,000 for an auxiliary verification position; $28,000 for merit and benefits; a $7,000 decrease in other expenses as a result of completion of the policy manual in 1995-96; and a $498,000 decrease in social assistance grants is due to declining caseloads.
Mr. McDonald: I asked the Minister in general debate if he could provide us with a report on the activities of the welfare fraud contractor. I got some information from the Minister today, but it does not include a report on the activities of the private contract pilot project. Can the Minister tell us if he has the information? Can he provide us with the information? He did commit it before.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is the report on the incidence of fraud and social assistance, and recommendations on future actions. I thought I had previously tabled this. It was tabled on March 16, 1995. I will pass this one over to the Member.
Social Assistance Services in the amount of 7,924,000 agreed to
On Community Support Services
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This is for 26.1 full-time equivalents. The unit is responsible for senior services, home care and vocational rehabilitation services. Some of the highlights include the following: the amount for community support services is up from $2,905,000 to $3,501,000, an increase of $596,000 due mainly to $263,000 in personnel increases, including $60,000 for a previously unfunded position in vocational rehabilitation services, which was previously covered by generated surpluses; $146,000 to add 2.4 positions to the home care program in order for it to expand its services; $57,000 for merit and benefit increases; a $351,000 volume increase in vocational rehabilitation services in-territory placements; a $32,000 volume decrease in vocational rehabilitation services out-of-territory placements - there are no anticipated out-of-territory placements in 1996-97.
There is a $15,000 increase in program materials and travelling expense due to expanded home care services; a $9,000 increase in pioneer utility grants based on projections for 1996-97; a $10,000 decrease in Yukon seniors income supplement based on projected usage.
Mrs. Firth: On page 8-22, the department's statistics indicate that there is a quite an increase of home care services required. Has the department made any observations about why there has been increase, or what has caused the increase for home care services?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There are probably several reasons. Some of the reasons can be attributed, to some extent, to an aging population. Second, many people would prefer to be at home, and the hospital is not discouraging that; in fact it is encouraging it. The hospital is providing more services at home for home care. Consequently, people will stay home if they can get the actual service they can get at the hospital, because many people prefer to stay at home.
Mrs. Firth: The whole concept of the new hospital is shorter hospital stays. I think it is going to encourage shorter hospital stays. I know a woman who recently underwent surgery and was told she would be going home the next day. As it was, the doctor intervened and said she would have to spend another day in the hospital.
Has the department conducted a cost comparison between home care versus hospital stay, and how much of the 21-percent budget increase is for increased home care costs? Would that translate into any savings due to patients not being in the hospital?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We have looked at other jurisdictions that have done a lot of analysis of that, and there is definitely a cost savings. However, we have not actually done it here, but in the Yukon there has been a recent - within the last few years, at least - move to do so. We have not actually tracked it to see what the cost benefit is, but there is definitely a savings. The problem with it - if it is, in fact, a problem - is that the people who do stay in the hospital are likely to be sicker than they were previously, on a general basis. So, the length of time one stays in a hospital, on a per capita basis, will probably be increased. The other thing is, people are not forced to leave the hospital. If they need to stay there for medical reasons, they can certainly stay. They are not forced to go home.
Mrs. Firth: With the whole change of the hospital design, I would have anticipated that some initial cost savings would have been done because the whole design, of course, was moving away from long-term patient care to shorter turn-over for patients. I would be interested to know whether or not the government is going to do any cost analysis. I keep hearing that it will be cheaper to operate and maintain the new hospital - that the O&M costs are not going to be as great as the old one. I can probably understand, in the mechanical sort of sense, where there might be some cost savings, but in the whole delivery of health care, when it comes to hospital stays, if they keep having to beef up the home care program, I would be interested in having some indication about when the department is going to look at a comparison of these costs, so that we can get a true picture of what the savings are.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We need some time with the new hospital being in operation before we actually do a cost-benefit analysis, but other jurisdictions have done that and there is certainly an indication of cost savings. We are making the assumption that there will be, but we do need some time with the operation of the new hospital before we can actually do a full analysis.
Mrs. Firth: Just out of curiosity, what is the current cost per day for a hospital bed?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is about $750 a day, but I always have a problem when someone actually quotes that figure. It is based on the cost of operating the hospital and the number of patient days in the hospital. If someone goes to the hospital, it certainly does not cost another $750 per day while that person is in the hospital. It is based on occupancy.
Mr. McDonald: I have discovered from experience that for all the expense it is cheaper than listening to one's lawyer for half a day so, by comparison, it is probably a good deal - although listening to a lawyer for half a day can sometimes put a person in hospital for a full day.
Has the government catalogued the changes to various health services in the hospital that result from the move from the old hospital to the new hospital? Has it done an analysis on what the changes might mean in terms of health care and variety of services?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The actual programming will not change from when there was a functional plan done for the hospital when it was still in the conceptual stages. I do not know because I do not believe that there is anything saying that this service will be enhanced or that one will be reduced. All of the program services will be there and some additional programs will be added as a result of savings. We believe that some services will, in fact, be enhanced. I guess the proof will be seen after it is in operation.
Mr. McDonald: Is the government not conscious of any reduction in service or planned curtailment of service as a result of the new hospital design?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We are certainly trying to achieve some efficiencies, but not at the expense of services or programs.
Ms. Commodore: I have a question in regard to home care required by someone who has been discharged from the hospital probably very early on, where they might need after care once they get home. I would like to know if that service is paid for by our hospital insurance?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is not an actual insured service, but we pay for the program through this line item in the budget.
Ms. Commodore: If dressing changes and medication were required, would that also be covered under that program?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Currently, medication is not covered. I think we put that information in one of the notes that was tabled today for the Member. It is something that is being considered right now. One of the problems is that medication is not covered under home care.
Ms. Commodore: I guess that explains why, when I ended up at outpatients once and found out I had pneumonia, they gave me intravenous antibiotics, sent me home and told me to come back in eight hours. Although I was sicker than a dog, I did it. I did not ask any questions. It was not something that I enjoyed, but I wondered about the after care and whether or not a nurse could have come in and administered the anti-biotics while I was laying in bed. Is it a common practice to do this to people who are suffering from pneumonia?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I really do not know. If a doctor recommends that a patient spend time in the hospital, that is exactly what will happen.
Although the hospital encourages a home care-type situation for people to go home, if there is a medical reason why someone should not go home and the doctor recommends a patient be admitted to the hospital, the patient will be admitted.
Mrs. Firth: If someone is sent home and requires after care when they are discharged from the hospital, are patients afforded the option to have a private nursing company like Nursing Options Ltd. come in and provide care? If so, will the government pay for it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Essentially, no. If someone wants full-time nursing at home, it would be at their own cost. I believe that the Government of Yukon's insurance plan would cover it for members of the public service. Generally speaking, if a person does not have an insurance program, the cost would not be covered.
Mrs. Firth: What does it cover? If, for example, a person has some surgery done, goes home, is required to have an intravenous running and take an antibiotic medication and some other kind of medication introduced four times a day, would the home care program accommodate this individual? Would the nurse do that?
I saw the note about the medication. Would the person be required to pay for their own medication in that instance? That cannot be right. I think the Minister should look at changing that, because if the person was in the hospital, the medication would be paid for because they were getting it in the hospital. Do they have to pay for the intravenous as well? What does the home care program pay for?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Essentially, we would cover the cost of the nurse attending to that person on a periodic basis. However, medication is not currently covered. That is something that is being discussed because it is really not fair not to if the hospital is encouraging people to go home. Many people prefer to go home. If they were in the hospital - even if we used the $750 a day - they are covered for all medication; however, if they go home, even if the nurse is administering that medication, they are not covered for it. It is a very serious flaw, and it is something that we are currently examining to figure out a solution.
Mrs. Firth: Will everything else be covered, for example intravenouses, dressings, the nursing care and everything else, but not the medication. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, dressings apparently are covered. I am not sure of intravenouses. I am not even sure if they would give an intravenous unless there was a nurse there. Dressings, change of dressings and so on are covered because I believe the nurse brings them with her, but the medication apparently is not.
Mrs. Firth: If someone was on intravenous, they would have it running all the time at home, so the nurse would come in every two hours or every four hours or whatever to check and see that everything was okay and to change the intravenous, unless they had instructed the individual to do it themselves.
A lot of people could do it if they were not critically ill, yet they need the intravenous and the antibiotic or whatever medication they might be getting, for pain or whatever. They could be taught to change the intravenous themselves - just changing the bag of solution - but I have some concern about the whole concept that they overlooked the fact that the medications are not being paid for. If someone was in the hospital and found out they had to pay for some fairly expensive medications if they go home, they are not going to want to go home. I do not know how much discussion the Minister is going to have on this. When does he anticipate having a solution to this? Obviously the solution is to provide the medication as well and the nurse can take it, just as she is taking dressing materials, et cetera.
Can he tell us when they might have a solution to this?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The hospital apparently is doing a report on it now and we should have a solution fairly quickly. One of the problems is when does the medication end. If someone was in the hospital, the medication would be paid for, but when they left the hospital and went home, they would be responsible for the medication. There are programs for that, but they would be responsible for it. When they are taking home care, when does the paid medication end? That is the problem they are grappling with right now, but I am hoping for a solution, and there should be one fairly quickly.
Mr. Sloan: I would like to follow up on what the Member for Riverdale South was inquiring about. What about things, such as specialized equipment for use at home - oxygen and things of that nature. Would those be covered under home care?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure about oxygen. I know that seniors are covered under the Pharmacare program. I am not sure if someone who requires oxygen on a continual basis is covered now or if that is one of the things that they will be discussing.
Mr. Sloan: What about the specialized equipment, such as wheelchairs, hospital beds, et cetera? Would those be covered?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure about those specifics. There is a program - we are trying to find a line item in our budget right now. I do know that crutches, for instance, are not covered. Generally, one has to rent crutches. I am not sure if wheelchairs, special beds, and other such things, are covered.
In the capital budget, there is a chronic disease equipment line item for $15,000. These funds are required for the support of individuals with chronic, debilitating diseases and disabilities in order to minimize hospitalization. Examples include wheelchairs, walkers, respiratory equipment and bathtub supports.
Community Support Services in the amount of $3,501,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the statistical pages?
Social Services in the amount of $14,435,000 agreed to
On Health Services
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Ms. Commodore: In the legislative return that was tabled in the House today, the Minister talked about the new hospital and the decrease in the certified nursing assistant positions. The Minister also mentioned there will be a reduction in registered nursing positions. What does the hospital intend to do? There is talk of the registered nurses taking over more of the responsibilities by taking them away from the certified nursing assistants. The Minister also said there would be a reduction in registered nurses, which I had not heard before.
Can the Minister tell me what that is about?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I see what the Member is looking at. It says that discussions have taken place with certified nursing assistants and registered nurses whose jobs may be affected by the reorganization of the nursing units.
I do not believe that means there is going to be a reduction in registered nurses, because we have been told that there will be no reduction in the number of registered nurses.
Ms. Commodore: The other day we were talking about additional training for certified nursing assistants and expanding their roles in the kinds of things that they do, but there is no mention of that in this legislative return. The Minister talks about certified nursing assistants taking training to upgrade their skills to a registered nursing level, but there is nothing like that in the Yukon, but there is no mention of the possibility of further training to allow certified nursing assistants to provide other services that they are unable to now.
The Minister said that he would look at the possibility and I am wondering if he will be exploring that further.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I believe I said that I would make a representation to the hospital chair when I meet with them on May 1 to discuss the possibility of certified nursing assistants receiving upgrading for other programs. I think I said that I would speak to the chair at the hospital about pursuing this.
Ms. Commodore: This goes back a long time ago - the Member for Riverdale South may remember this - but when I was working at the hospital as a certified nursing assistant, I was working on the medical ward. I was later transferred to the operating room and took additional training that allowed me to work as a scrub nurse on certain days of the week and to be on-call every second week. There is a precedent set where training can happen in the hospital. I do not know if this is still happening, but that is quite a jump in responsibility from what a person is trained for as a certified nursing assistant to acting as a scrub nurse for doctors performing operations. While this is just one example, other training could be provided.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Hospital Corporation has a training budget. I believe that that type of training is available. I do not know how much is in the budget, but I do know there is some for training and it is, I believe, for that kind of training that the Member has referred to.
Chair: Are we prepared to go line by line at this time?
On Program Management
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This includes funding for initiatives developed by the assistant deputy minister of health services. It has decreased from $362,000 due mainly to a $162,000 reduction in personnel costs and $120,000 in administrative support costs due to the completion of the health transfer planning. Health transfer is responsible for the planning, coordination and implementation of transfer of health programs, such as community hospitals, nursing stations, dental health, environmental health and mental health from the federal government to the territorial government.
Program Management in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
On Health Insurance
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This includes 15 full-time employees, the director of health insurance, financial analysts, a supervisor of physician claims and registration, a chronic disease clerk, a seniors program clerk and a medical travel officer. Some of the highlights of this line item is an increase of $515,000 or two percent due to the following items: $33,000 increase due to the addition of .5 term position to support the development of a formulary for the Pharmacare program; $519,000 increase in physician costs due to two-percent increase in physician fees and increased utilization of physician services; $375,000 increase in medical travel cost due to both volume and price increases; $20,000 increase to Pharmacare and a $23,000 to extended health benefits reflecting growth in our over-65 population.
There is a $500,000 reduction in out-of-territory hospital costs caused by reduced hospital stays; a $27,000 increase in supplies, maintenance, registration, advertising and physician support contracts; a $20,000 increase in medical travel subsidies, reflecting higher volumes of requests for assistance, and a $2,000 reduction in contribution to rural physicians for administrative support due to a reduction in the number of physicians in full-time practice in the communities. There is currently one fewer physician practicing in Watson Lake and in Dawson.
Ms. Commodore: I would like to ask the Minister about escorts for medical travel outside. I know that some people are permitted an escort and some are not. I am just wondering if there is a policy in place that determines who gets an escort and who does not. In the past, I have asked questions about certain situations, and I have never seen anything - at least, in writing - that described to me how it is determined who gets an escort and who does not.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is covered in the travel regulations. One that comes readily to mind is that anyone under 16 years of age can have an escort. If a physician determined that someone required an escort for medical reasons, it would be covered.
Ms. Commodore: Quite a few years ago, the former Minister had cancelled health insurance for a lot of individuals who were not actually living in the Yukon. They were individuals who probably came back in the summer for a month or two and stayed on our medical program for a number of years. Those people's insurance was cancelled, because they did not really meet the requirements to be a resident of the Yukon. Can I ask the Minister if that has been monitored very closely?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, it is monitored very closely as a matter of fact. If someone comes from another province, they have to be a resident of the territory for three months before they are covered by our medicare. In the meantime, the province that they came from covers their costs. This service is reciprocal. If someone from the Yukon moves to Quebec, Nova Scotia or elsewhere, they are covered by medicare for three months. They have to be in the Yukon for six months, or 185 days, to continue to qualify for Yukon health insurance.
Mr. Sloan: We operate on a similar ideological front, because the Member for Whitehorse Centre anticipated the next question that I was going to ask.
Some jurisdictions have gone to what is called a "smart card" as a way to monitor expenses and to keep track of the use or degree of use of physicians' and pharmaceutical services, and things of that nature. Has that ever been anticipated in this jurisdiction?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Apparently we have looked at the card. To purchase the technology is apparently very expensive. We are looking at other jurisdictions that have it - New Brunswick and Alberta are two - to see what the costs are. It apparently works very well, but it can be very costly. We do not know what the cost benefit is, but we are studying it.
Ms. Commodore: How does the residency clause affect placer miners? I do not know when the placer mining season starts - of course the Chair would know - and I do not know when it ends. All I know is it happens in the summer. Does the six-month residency requirement apply to placer miners?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It applies to everyone. If a placer miner comes up from British Columbia and works here for three months, he would be covered by B.C. for the three months. Perhaps the Chair knows more about how long placer miners stay here.
I know a lot of seniors go south in the winter. I have heard a lot of them in the department talking about exactly when they have to come back or how long they have and how they go about it.
As for placer miners, I am not sure. The coverage is for everyone. Either they are residents or not, and residency is 185 days.
Ms. Commodore: So if it is monitored very closely, are we also monitoring people like placer miners or people who come back for the summer to do other jobs? If, for instance, we had a placer miner who came up in June and left in September, that would not be long enough to remain a resident of the Yukon. So are we monitoring placer miners as well as senior citizens and other people?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We monitor everyone but I cannot say that we catch people who defraud the system. We catch some but I do not know if there are a lot that we miss. I really do not know, but it is monitored quite closely.
Mr. Sloan: I would assume that there would be certain exemptions to that rule. I am thinking in particular of students or people who might work outside on different projects. Is that the case?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Students, naturally, are covered. Apparently they have to apply for it - I just now found that out and had not known it. I have a daughter going to university in Red Deer, so I will have her talk to Mr. McLellan.
If someone is going out of the country - right now we have a few Yukoners working in Russia, for instance - they can apply to the director of health insurance to be covered while they are temporarily in another country.
The director makes the determination about whether or not a person will remain covered.
Mr. Sloan: That revelation is interesting for both the Minister and I, in that students have to apply. Has this been conveyed to the Department of Education, because this is something that should be included in post-secondary grants?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe that it may be covered in the post-secondary grants handbook that is given to the students. I believe that my daughter did not read that section, because I just became aware of it at the same time as the Member opposite did.
Mr. Sloan: Being the parent of a teenage daughter, I can certainly understand that teenagers do not always read, nor do they always listen.
To follow up on people travelling outside of the territory for health care, in the last year or two we have heard a great deal about waiting times for elective surgery and other treatments. Have waiting times posed any problem for people from the territory travelling outside, in terms of delays for surgery or specialized treatments?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: For our people using other hospitals, we do know that there are delays, but we do not know how serious some of them can be. The length of delay is dependent upon the situation in the province they are going to.
Mr. Sloan: Is there any sort of understanding with provincial systems that, given the size of our population and the fact that we may not have as wide a range of medical services, people from the territory get preferential treatment?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I really do not know if any preferential treatment is given. There is a referral system in the Province of British Columbia and our physicians apparently do have a rapport going with the hospitals in British Columbia. We have never been refused. If there are any delays, it is because of a shortage of bed space or other people who are getting the same kind of operation, or whatever it may be - there may not be room for our people at some particular time.
Mr. Sloan: One concern that has come to my attention is the question of high-risk pregnancies and the need to send women out who have a history of pregnancy problems, or where there are genetic concerns involved. Do we have some assurance that this kind of service will still be available, given some of the cutbacks in British Columbia?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know about the specifics of that particular question, but we have not encountered any problems. With respect to people referred to hospitals, there is no preferential treatment given to either B.C. or Yukon residents. It will depend upon medical need. We do not get bumped, whatever the medical emergency is. Our people are not bumped for someone from British Columbia. It is based upon medical need.
Mr. Sloan: I guess my concern really involves - and the reason it was brought to my attention was Grace Hospital in Vancouver has traditionally been the place where women who are experiencing difficulties with pregnancies have gone and, as we know, Grace Hospital has cut back substantially in this area. I was wondering if there are any problems anticipated in that regard. The Minister has assured us that there do not appear to be.
Health Insurance in the amount of $23,488,000 agreed to
On Yukon Hospital Services
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Health services provides block funding to the Yukon Hospital Corporation, which operates the Whitehorse General Hospital independently under the direction of the board of directors appointed by the Minister. Health services advises the Minister as to whether or not the funding levels requested by the corporation are appropriate, as well as providing a regulatory rule.
The Yukon Hospital services will increase from $16,055,000 to $16,068,000, an increase of $13,000. There are two major components to this budget: funding for the operation of the Whitehorse General Hospital and funding for the First Nations health program. The transfer payment for the operation of Whitehorse General Hospital will remain at the same level, which is $15.4 million. The transfer payment for the First Nations health program will increase by $13,000, from $650,000 to $663,000. Under the terms of the transfer agreement, this funding is adjusted annually by the PAGE escalator.
Yukon Hospital Services in the amount of $16,068,000 agreed to
On Community Health
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Community health has 20.2 full-time equivalents. The highlights include the following: community health programs, an increase from $7,137,000 to $7,241,000, an increase of $141,000 or one percent. The details are as follows: a $16,000 decrease in personnel costs due to reallocation of funds for a training officer for ambulance services, which is partially offset by increasing the youth health promotion position to full-time by transferring in the .5 portion previously in the family and children services program; a $49,000 increase in other expenses, including $21,000 in special operating agencies for pool vehicles and ambulance station maintenance; $12,000 for increased ambulance training; $8,000 in general contract costs; and $8,000 for contract services related to mental health review and board hearings; and $56,000 as a new contribution to Yukon College to provide community-based ambulance service training and volunteers. It is more effective to use the college's expertise in existing community network to deliver this training than to reinvent the wheel by hiring our own instructor.
Fifteen thousand dollars was transferred from family and children's services as this department's share of the $62,000 annual funding to the youth investment fund.
Community Health in the amount of $7,241,000 agreed to
On Continuing Care
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This is for 109.5 full-time equivalents. Continuing care will increase from $8,344,000 to $8,572,000, or $238,000, which represents seven percent, due to the following: a $124,000 increase in personnel costs for a full-year operation of the Thomson Centre following the provision of seven additional beds in the special care unit; an $84,000 increase for merit and the employers' portion of benefit costs - much of this has been offset from other cost areas; $89,000 was transferred from Government Services for the new special operating agencies to provide vehicle and building maintenance service; and there is $59,000 in offsetting decreases in supplies, program materials and contracts for janitorial and other services.
Continuing Care in the amount of $8,572,000 agreed to
On Vital Statistics
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This is for 1.5 full-time equivalents. The deputy registrar of vital statistics is responsible for the administration of the vital statistics office under the general direction of the registrar director of health insurance programs.
The health services information agent is a term of a .5 full-time equivalent French language position fully funded by the federal government. This position provides back-up services to the deputy registrar of vital statistics, as well as providing information on health services to the francophone community.
Vital Statistics in the amount of $63,000 agreed to
Chair: Before we clear the department, are there any questions about the information contained in the statistical pages?
Health Services in the amount of $55,472,000 agreed to
Chair: We will take a brief recess at this time.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 10, Health and Social Services. We are on the regional services program. Is there any general debate on this program?
On Regional Services
Chair: Are we prepared to go line by line? We will go line by line at this time.
On Program Management
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Program management is up four percent, for an increase of approximately $70,000. It includes the following: a 39-percent increase in personnel cost due to merit and benefit increases; a $31,000 increase in travel and office support costs, due to office expansions in Pelly Crossing and Old Crow. The enhancement of services to Old Crow, Pelly Crossing and Haines Junction will be achieved through the redeployment of existing positions.
Program Management in the amount of $1,962,000 agreed to
On Family and Children's Services
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Family and children's services is down from $1.4 million to $1,352,000, a decrease of $48,000, or three percent, due mainly to the following: a reduction of $3,000 in direct costs for children in care due to fewer children being in care days; a reduction of $30,000 in family support contract costs due to enhanced services delivered from Whitehorse; a $1,000 increase in family allowance grants; a $15,000 increase in Yukon family service counselling due to the first year of itinerant counselling delivered to the communities of Teslin, Haines Junction and Carmacks; a $19,000 increase in funding to the Kaska Tribal Council due to the program beginning its first full year of service; and a $50,000 decrease in the Champagne-Aishihik social service support due to fewer children requiring substitute care.
Family and Children's Services in the amount of $1,352,000 agreed to
On Social Services
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This is down $56,000, or four percent, due to the following changes: a $13,000 decrease in direct alcohol and drug services program costs, which are offset by increased service through non-government organizations; a $22,000 increase to the Kaska Tribal Council alcohol and drug services program, due to beginning the first full year of this service; and a $65,000 decrease due to the expiration of the Signpost Senior Society project - negotiations have subsequently begun, which may lead to a new program.
Social Services in the amount of $1,261,000 agreed to
On Juvenile Justice Services
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Juvenile justice is down, from $70,000 in 1995-96 to $25,000 in 1996-97, for a decrease of $45,000, due to termination of a young offenders placement contract in Teslin.
Ms. Commodore: Could the Minister explain that to me? I do not know what the placement program is.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The decrease was due to the termination of the young offenders placement contract in Teslin. Future placement contracts will be paid by family and children's services.
Ms. Commodore: I still do not understand what that program is all about. The Minister is saying placement services, but I do not know what he is talking about. We are talking about juvenile justice. Is the Minister talking about a foster home for young offenders?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not have the details about that particular home in Teslin, but it is to provide and support the development of services and resources in Yukon communities for the rehabilitation of young offenders in a way that encourages community development in, and responsibility for, youth crime prevention. It is to develop support or carry out the functions of community alternative measure committees or organizations responsible for pre-judicial options as mandated by the Yukon Diversion Council, pursuant to the federal Young Offenders Act and the Children's Act.
Under youth probation, it provides supervision and counselling for young offenders on probation as directed by the court's probation order. It prepares pre-disposition reports to assist the youth court in determining suitable dispositions arranged for required assessments and treatment, so this could be for a court-ordered placement.
Ms. Commodore: Could the Minister give me some specific information on that? Did somebody have a contract? Was somebody placed in someone's home for a while? I do not understand what it is, so could he let me know what the situation is there? Then he talks about placement services in other areas, so I am curious about that program and would like to know more about it.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, we can provide a briefing note for the Member.
Juvenile Justice Services in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
Regional Services in the amount of $4,600,000 agreed to
Ms. Commodore: I would like to ask a question about transfer payments, on page 8-40.
On page 8-40, under transfer payments, the contribution to Kaushee's Place is $450,000 and that is down seven percent from $482,000, and I would like to ask the Minister why that is. When one looks at the statistics under Justice, on page 9-26, there is an actual number of 138 individuals who have been assaulted and that rose to a forecast of 215 this fiscal year and we are looking at an estimate of 250 for next year.
If the Minister would look at those statistics, he will see that there is an increase in wife assaults but a decrease in funding to, for instance, Kaushee's Place. I would ask if he could tell me why that is?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think I did mention this when we were discussing those lines. We have agreed to fund the full $482,000 for Kaushee's Place for this particular year. There is a formula in place that depends on the number of clients. Even though the $482,000 is the amount agreed to - I realize the budget says $450,000, but we have found monies to fund up to $482,000 - if there were more placements, it could even increase beyond that.
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Health and Social Services in the amount of 93,772,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Policy, Planning and Administration
On Office Furniture and Operational Equipment
Hon. Mr. Fisher: These funds are being requested to provide new or replacement desks, filing cabinets, photocopiers, computer workstations and such other office furniture and operational equipment as may be required from time to time by the various branches of the Department of Health and Social Services.
Office Furniture and Operational Equipment in the amount of $390,000 agreed to
On Systems Development
Hon. Mr. Fisher: These funds are required to continue the overhaul and expansion of the department's information system that began in 1995-96. In many of our service areas, there currently are no supporting computer systems, and those systems that do exist are old, non-integrated and have a very awkward or non-existent interface to other government systems.
Systems Development in the amount of $530,000 agreed to
Integrated Health and Social Services Facilities
Hon. Mr. Fisher: These funds are requested to pay for facility reviews and minor renovations that become necessary to ensure suitable health and social service facilities in all Yukon communities and to reduce inefficiencies and ensure the most effective combination and levels of service.
Integrated Health and Social Services Facilities in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
Policy, Planning and Administration in the amount of $945,000 agreed to
On Family and Children's Services
Chair: Is there any general debate? Are we prepared to go line by line at this time?
On Foster Home Equipment
Hon. Mr. Fisher: These funds are used to provide appropriate furniture and equipment to assist foster parents to provide a safe, healthy living environment for the foster children who have been placed in their care. By providing these items, we are able to increase the number of Yukon families that can open their homes to care for children under the care of the director of child welfare.
Foster Home Equipment in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
On Child Care Services Development
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As part of the child care strategy, this program is designed to promote accessible, affordable quality child care for families throughout the Yukon. While Yukon has a healthy child-care sector, some stimulus is still required to encourage additional infants space, after-school care and 24-hour programs, as well as spaces in rural areas.
Child Care Services Development in the amount of $30,000 agreed to
On Young Offender Facilities - Renovations and Equipment
Hon. Mr. Fisher: These funds are used to maintain young offender facilities, both secure and open custody, to the standards required by the National Building Code and program operations and to provide such equipment in these facilities as is necessary to provide a level of care consistent with required service and safety standards. Our staff worked closely with the property management branch to identify work that must be done.
Ms. Commodore: What kind of things would we be looking at for open custody in the model foster homes?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Out of the $179,000, there are no funds for open custody homes.
Young Offender Facilities - Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $179,000 agreed to
On Child Welfare Facilities - Renovations and Equipment
Hon. Mr. Fisher: These funds are required to provide necessary maintenance and renovations for five Whitehorse child welfare facilities and such equipment in these facilities as is necessary to provide a level of care consistent with required services and safety standards. As with young offender items, these projects have been planned based upon advice from the property management branch on the work that is required.
Child Welfare Facilities - Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $61,000 agreed to
Family and Children's Services in the amount of $280,000 agreed to
On Social Services
Chair: Is there any general debate? We will proceed with line-by-line debate at this time.
On Social Services Operational Equipment and Renovations
Hon. Mr. Fisher: These funds are used to supply specialized administrative equipment as required by the social assistance and community services programs.
Social Services Operational Equipment and Renovations in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
On Alcohol and Drug Services - Renovations and Equipment
Hon. Mr. Fisher: These funds are used for renovations and equipment required by the alcohol and drug prevention outpatient, inpatient and detox services to provide a level of care consistent with required service and safety standards.
Alcohol and Drug Services - Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $64,000 agreed to
On Home Care - Operational Equipment
Hon. Mr. Fisher: These funds are used to provide such equipment as required by the home care program in order to provide a level of care consistent with required service and safety standards. This program provides needed services to Yukoners recovering from illness or requiring attendant care in their own home, and allows Yukoners to remain in their homes rather than going into more expensive institutional care.
Home Care - Operational Equipment in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
Social Services in the amount of $94,000 agreed to
On Health Services
Chair: Is there any general debate? We will proceed with line-by-line debate.
On Chronic Disease Benefits - Equipment
Hon. Mr. Fisher: These funds are required for the support of individuals with chronic, debilitating diseases and disabilities in order to minimize hospitalization. Examples include wheelchairs, walkers, respiratory equipment and bathtub supports.
Chronic Disease Benefits - Equipment in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
On Extended Health Benefits - Equipment
Extended Health Benefits - Equipment in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
On Whitehorse Hospital Construction
Hon. Mr. Fisher: These funds are required for the 1996-97 portion of the cost of this new facility. At this time, the main hospital foundation and frame are complete, and work has begun on the skin and fit-out. The new portion of the hospital is expected to be substantially completed by September 1996. Renovations to the portion of the old hospital that will become part of the new facility are expected to be completed by September 1997.
Although some work was lost during the January cold spell, the work will be caught up and the project will be completed on schedule. The cost for this project remains within budget. Costs for infrastructure and ancillary building renovations that have occurred in association with, but are not actually part of, the hospital project have been reallocated and are shown segregated from the actual hospital project.
Ms. Commodore: We hear from time to time about problems that are occurring with the construction of the hospital. The latest one concerned the manner in which the windows were being installed, the fact that there was a lack of insulation around the windows, and that heaters were being installed in front of the windows to compensate for that lack. In fact, someone was drawing a picture to show us how this was being done, and this person felt that it was a situation that could cause some problems some time down the road. One of the other things that was mentioned to us was that cabinets had been purchased for the hospital, and the cabinets had been rejected because they were of inferior quality.
I do not know whether or not the Minister is being made aware of these situations as they occur. If he is, what does he do about them? I know that building hospitals is not in his area of expertise, but he is responsible for that project.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Cabinet was over to the hospital two Fridays ago and had a tour of it, conducted by Mr. Graham. He pointed out the cabinets to us. There are a couple of knock-up rooms there and he was not pleased with the cabinets. I am not sure exactly what is being done but the department is fully aware of it.
I have not heard this particular case about the heaters that are installed. There are some patient areas where there are heaters. It is not because there was a lack of insulation or anything else, but because there is an outside wall and there are windows in the wall and, for some reason I do not understand, they have to have exact humidity and the temperature has to be controlled very, very rigidly. So heaters are installed in the ceiling that convey heat down on to the outside wall, but that is a deliberate special installation that has been known about. It is not an extra; it was deliberately built that way.
Ms. Commodore: It is not my area of expertise, either. I know some people who know about construction were concerned enough to sit down and describe it to us.
I would like to mention a couple of other things, then we should be able to finally get through this department. There is a concern because all the non-union companies are from outside the territory. There are a lot of our own people we would like to see working somewhere. There is still the concern that a lot of people who come in to work are from outside the territory, and our own carpenters and other workers are not getting the jobs they feel they are entitled to.
There is also a concern that local workers are not receiving equal levels of overtime as outside workers, and the outside companies are paying their workers straight time for overtime hours.
Those problems happen any time we have competition from outside the territory. It is a situation we do not like, and one the workers do not like. I thought I would just make those concerns known to the Minister. I know he has heard them before, but while we are in debate on the construction of the hospital, I had to make sure I included those concerns.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: PCL, the general contractor, has something like 89 percent of its personnel as local Yukoners. Some of the smaller contractors are very bad, where a small company will only have two or three employees. Generally speaking, those are very specialized, which makes a bit of a difference. The overall average is fairly good.
With respect to complaints, I personally heard of a complaint and had to go through Government Services. Government Services does audits on a regular basis to determine if the type of things the Member is referring do occur.
Whitehorse Hospital Construction in the amount of $17,659,000 agreed to
On Hospital Road #2 and #4
Hospital Road #2 and #4 in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Northern Health Services
Hon. Mr. Fisher: These funds are required to support YTG's share of capital expenditures by medical services branch to provide community health services outside of Whitehorse.
Northern Health Services in the amount of $1,302,000 agreed to
On Support for Independent Living Residence - Planning
Hon. Mr. Fisher: These funds are requested to allow for planning and evaluation of options toward the possible creation of a support-for-independent-living residence. There has been no commitment at this stage to actually fund the construction of such a facility. A decision on the extent of our support for such a project must await completion of the study.
Support for Independent Living Residence - Planning in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Hearing Equipment
Hearing Equipment in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
On Ambulance Unit Equipment
Ambulance Unit Equipment in the amount of $65,000 agreed to
On Ambulance Vehicle Replacement
Ambulance Vehicle Replacement in the amount of $78,000 agreed to
On Ambulance Station Renovations
Ambulance Station Renovations in the amount of $3,000 agreed to
On Thomson Centre - Building
Thomson Centre - Building in the amount of $35,000 agreed to
On Thomson Centre - Equipment
Thomson Centre - Equipment in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
On Macaulay Lodge - Renovations
Macaulay Lodge - Renovations in the amount of $93,000 agreed to
On Macaulay Lodge - Equipment
Macaulay Lodge - Equipment in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On McDonald Lodge Renovations and Equipment
Mr. Cable: I note that McDonald Lodge provides levels 1 and 2 continuing care services. This is set out at page 8-30 of the operation and maintenance budget. Is there any plan to increase the level of service that is provided at McDonald Lodge?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Macaulay Lodge provides levels 1 and 2 care and anyone who is at level 3, or 4 or 5 would actually go into the Thomson Centre. There are some cases where there is a question about whether or not they are at level 2 or level 3 care and whether or not they should be moved to the Thomson Centre. Right now, it is not the intention to necessarily increase the level of care at Macaulay Lodge, because that type of care is available at the Thomson Centre.
Mr. Cable: I think the Minister misunderstood. I was talking about McDonald Lodge. I assume we are on that item. For the record, could the Minister indicate what his position is?
Hon. Mr. Fisher:
The same applies to McDonald Lodge as applies to Macaulay Lodge. There is really no intention to upgrade that level of service now because of cost and need. That level of service is supplied in Whitehorse because there are facilities to handle the level of service that is required for patients at a higher level.
Mr. Cable: The reason I ask the question is that I was talking to a person in Dawson who has children and grandchildren in Dawson and is not looking forward to coming to Whitehorse and being away from the family. The question came up about whether or not the hospital services could be combined with the McDonald Lodge continuing care services. Is there anything of that nature that is open for review at some time in the future?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Apparently for the long-term planning, we know that at some point in time the hospital in Dawson will have to be replaced. When that happens, we will look at integrated care, but in the meantime the transfer has not even happened yet, so for the short term there is no plan to upgrade that level of service.
Mr. Cable: Just so I can accurately translate this to the person who asked the question, what does the Minister see as the short-term and the long-term one? Could he be a little more precise?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I suspected the Member might ask that question. I really cannot answer it, because it will depend upon the negotiations of the transfer, if we get money with it for replacement, or if we have to budget it ourselves when all of that happens, and so on. There are too many variables there for me to give any sort of definitive answer.
Ms. Commodore: Is there a hospital in Dawson? I did not think there was.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is called a hospital, but I believe that the functions are more of a nursing station.
McDonald Lodge Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
Health Services in the amount of $19,480,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Health and Social Services in the amount of $20,799,000 agreed to
Department of Health and Social Services agreed to
Department of Justice
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am pleased to present the Justice department's operations and maintenance estimates and capital estimates for the 1996-97 fiscal year.
Our operation and maintenance budget for 1996-97 will total $29,135,000, representing a reduction of $238,000, or close to one percent from our 1995-96 forecast. The capital budget will be $440,000, a substantial reduction from the $1,015,000 of 1995-96, or 70 percent.
I first want to comment on the government's Creating Safer Communities crime prevention strategy. This strategy sets out priorities for coordinated action on key issues by the Department of Justice, Health and Social Services, Education, Community and Transportation Services, the Women's Directorate and the RCMP.
This crime prevention strategy is one of the major influences affecting the budget of the Department of Justice. Following through with the commitments we made, this strategy will involve re-thinking how the Department of Justice fulfills its mandate and it will mean a shift from traditional, standard crime-control measures to finding innovative ways to encourage increased community involvement in crime prevention.
The traditional way of organizing the department's expenditures makes it difficult to identify specific expenditures for crime prevention. Often, what one might consider crime prevention expenditures are intricately tied into broader, ongoing activities and functions. As well, there is not a universal agreement as to what should be identified as crime prevention and how much of the activities that are undertaken by the courts and the RCMP should be considered as crime prevention.
In the coming year, the Department of Justice will be working with the RCMP and other government departments to identify activities that could fit into a focused definition of crime prevention.
During this fiscal year, the department will realign its activities to reflect an increased emphasis in crime prevention and public safety issues. This realignment is being conducted within the existing budgetary levels. I have asked the department to work toward allocating five percent of the budget to crime prevention. As part of the process, the department is asking tough questions to determine the current activities that are most productive, the activities that should be strengthened, promoted and expanded, and the activities that no longer fit the department's mission.
I want to briefly restate some of the major crime prevention initiatives announced in the Creating Safer Communities issue papers. These are the initiatives that the Department of Justice will be taking the lead responsibility for in cooperation with other departments and the RCMP as appropriate for ensuring follow up.
With respect to property-related crime, these initiatives involve determining the level of community support for establishing the citizens on patrol pilot project and examining the feasibility of having auxiliary police services in rural communities.
The department is also exploring the possibility of establishing a wilderness leadership camp pilot project and continuing discussions with Yukon communities on the implementation of community-based justice policy.
With respect to youth crime, the Department of Justice will continue to participate in the implementation of the youth investment fund and the other joint initiatives noted in this issue paper.
In the family violence paper, major initiatives identified for the department involve increasing community support for women who have been in domestic violence situations, offering groups for batterers in the communities, providing expanded victim services in the communities, and continuing support for the Keeping Kids Safe strategy.
Several Department of Justice initiatives are identified in the offender management issue paper. These include developing a process for community notification of high-risk dangerous offenders and lobbying the federal government for changes to the Criminal Code of Canada to create the option of lifetime probation supervision for high-risk offenders, as well as implementing a rigorous confinement policy at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and implementing a standardized risk needs assessment process and an integrated correctional programming strategy for all offenders entering the Yukon criminal justice system.
Also related to crime prevention, the department will continue its efforts to negotiate the devolution of the Crown prosecution function to the territory from the federal government. As Members are aware, unlike our provincial counterparts, the Yukon Justice department does not have the jurisdiction to prosecute criminal matters. We find ourselves in a position where rarely a week goes by that a question is not raised in the media or by a member of the public about how a particular criminal case is handled.
There is no accountability for criminal prosecutors. We also want the Crown function devolved, so that prosecution policies can be directed in the Yukon by Yukoners, and local circumstances can be taken into account. Accordingly, this will have to be done in such a way that it maintains the independence of the prosecution function from political interference. We believe that local accountability for prosecutors is a critical link toward having an effective and comprehensive crime prevention program.
For the new fiscal year, we have also taken a new approach to police planning. Through a joint planning exercise involving Yukon Justice and the RCMP, called "Shared Leadership," we have examined our shared priorities and re-profiled the budget accordingly.
This has allowed us to identify $284,000 that can be transferred away from the central administration to support and expand front-line police services. One result will be the addition of a fourth member in the Faro detachment.
We will also be able to create part-time clerical positions in other detachments where the need is identified. The creation of clerical positions will assist members by allowing them to spend less time on administrative duties and more time in the community doing real police work.
Another highlight is the significant reduction of the $400,000 in the outside counsel budget of the legal services branch.
This reduction can be made, in part, because a new director has been hired for the branch who specializes in litigation and constitutional law. Traditionally, this expertise was obtained from outside counsel.
We have also conducted a rigorous assessment and screening of the branch's current activities and caseload. A client survey of the branch undertaken last fall and an inventory of outstanding litigation also helped determine primary demands being placed on the branch.
Another result from the client survey will be the establishment of service standards to ensure that client expectations are met.
Reductions in federal support for legal aid are also reflected in the legal services branch budget. Block tendering to ensure legal services are provided as cost effectively as possible has been undertaken.
In addition to improving service, the department will continue to seek efficiencies and savings where it can to improve the cost effectiveness of the justice system.
Following the recommendations from the utility regulation review, which took place last year, a new method has been in place for funding general rate application hearings that will see hearing costs charged back to the rate base. Therefore, while an amount does appear in our budget for these costs, if they are incurred, they will be 100-percent recoverable.
As I stated earlier, the 1996-97 operation and maintenance budget will be reduced by $238,000, a reduction of a little under one percent. Of the total budget of $29,135,000, forty-three percent, or $12,572,000, is spent on salaries and related costs. Another 32 percent, or $9,537,000, represents the costs of the police services agreement with the RCMP. Of the remaining $7,026,000, just over $2.1 million represents transfer payments to groups and individuals charged with program delivery on behalf of the department. The remaining funds of $4,909,000, less than 17 percent of the budget, are utilized for program costs. These have been reduced by approximately $620,000 from the forecast costs in 1995-96.
Perhaps I could report progress on Bill No. 10 and carry on tomorrow, in light of the time.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Millar: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 1996-97, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Mr. Sloan: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Whitehorse West 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 10:28 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled April 22, 1996:
Biodiversity: poster respecting Canadian biodiversity strategy, signed by Ministers of the Environment (Fisher)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled April 22, 1996:
Explanation of covenants and caveats on certain lots made on July 5, 1978, and on July 12, 1978 (Brewster)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2965
Social assistance fraud: fraud investigator's job description; review of overpayment files for potential fraud (Fisher)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2573
Certified Nursing Assistants at Whitehorse General Hospital: status (Fisher)
Discussion, Hansard, p. 2980 to 2981