Wednesday, May 7, 1997 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I have for tabling the 1997-98 business plan for the fleet vehicle agency.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Youth leadership project
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I rise today to inform members of a new initiative, entitled "youth leadership project".
The impetus for the youth leadership project arose from recognition that in the Yukon there are many young children and youth expressing their "boredom" and frustrations with life in ways that frequently place them in conflict with the criminal justice system. As well, many families face chronic unemployment, poverty, and alcohol and substance abuse, which make it difficult for them to provide positive role models for their children. In many Yukon communities there is a lack of recreational opportunities.
Research shows that two major factors can help children facing these circumstances. These factors are that the child develop at least one good relationship with someone inside or outside the home who provides a positive role model, and that the child have at least one area in which they do well, such as in arts or sports. Experience suggests that recreational and leadership activities build confidence and self-esteem in youth and deter negative social behaviour such as vandalism and petty crime.
The youth leadership project is a community-based summer leadership and recreational demonstration project intended to help children and youth at risk to develop positive attitudes and behaviours. This project will focus on providing learning and leadership through fun and fitness.
The project will make additional resources available to communities with limited recreational opportunities and high a incidence of youth crime. It will be tailor made for Yukon communities.
The project is a joint initiative between the Departments of Justice, Community and Transportation Services, Health and Social Services and Education, as well as the RCMP and Crime Prevention Yukon.
Crime Prevention Yukon will be the sponsoring agency for this project and will administer the demonstration project with support from an inter-agency steering committee.
Crime Prevention Yukon has received $20,000 from the youth investment fund to establish the youth leadership project in two rural communities.
The RCMP and the Departments of Justice and Community and Transportation Services are allocating a total of $12,000 in start-up funding from existing budgets. Health and Social Services is donating office space for the project coordinator.
As the sponsoring agency, Crime Prevention Yukon will be contacting other potential funding sources and corporate sponsors and community service clubs for additional contributions to meet the estimated $50,000 budget for the project.
The communities participating in the project this year are Watson Lake, Upper Liard and Ross River. The selection of the communities to participate in the demonstration project is based on there being a perceived need for such a program and strong interest and participation from the community.
Volunteer support will be essential to ensure the success of the project. Local youth will be invited to participate in delivering the project in their community. These youth will receive recreation and leadership training and be paid an honorarium. A five-person team will be in each community for one month this summer, and an evaluation will be conducted.
The benefits to a community are that its young people experience positive lifestyle choices and alternatives to self-destructive behaviour. New leadership opportunities are provided for adults and youth, and this expertise stays in the community. Similar projects in other jurisdictions have proven effective in encouraging wide-spread community participation and support for such initiatives.
This project is an example of our government's commitment to effective crime prevention actions. Early intervention and community-based support help children and youth at risk to develop positive attitudes and behaviour. It also meets a commitment made in the issue paper on property-related crime, Creating Safer Communities, to study the feasibility of establishing a wilderness leadership camp pilot project.
I am looking forward to the support of all members of this House.
Mr. Phillips: Before I respond directly to the ministerial statement, I would like to make a couple of comments about something that seems to be occurring more regularly and is of some concern to us on this side.
Last week, there was a ministerial statement given by the minister of the Energy Corporation relating to the operating agreement with the YECL. There is an agreement among all House Leaders that ministerial statements are given to House leaders and embargoed until such a time as they are delivered in the House. Last week, with the energy statement, there was a story that appeared in the Whitehorse Star within an hour or so of the minister giving his statement laying out the details of the agreement. I think that, obviously, the Whitehorse Star had details of an agreement before the minister released it in the House.
Again, today, on the 12:30 p.m. news, there was a report of this particular program being announced. I guess my concern is that it is a courtesy agreement among the House Leaders to respect the fact that we embargo any ministerial statement until it's delivered. We honour that on this side and we hope that the government would do so in the future.
Having said that, ministerial statements are also supposed to be announcing new programs and if the government chooses to announce the initiative prior to announcing it in the House, it is no longer a new program; they are announcing it a second time. I suggest that they should reverse the procedure, as has always been the practice in the past.
With respect to this particular program, we on this side support projects such as this and we're pleased the government is following the good work and information that was gathered by the Creating Safer Communities and Talking About Crime papers.
I'd like to ask the minister a few questions, though, and maybe get a few more details. This year they chose Watson Lake and Ross River as participants. Maybe the minister can elaborate a little bit on the special criteria they used in choosing those two communities. Was there more demonstrated need in those communities?
As well, it's not clear who they talked to in the selection process. They say they talked to individuals, but I'd like the minister to spell that out.
Youth is going to be selected to participate in delivering the project, which I think is a good idea and is a recommendation that the youth themselves had spoken to us about at the YES conference during the election.
I'd like to know from the minister if the youth were involved in developing this concept.
The statement says that the youth are going to be paid an honorarium, and I'm wondering if the minister could let us know how much that honorarium is going to be, and how much time will the youth have to volunteer? Those would be useful issues to know about as well.
Negative peer pressure often results in kids getting into trouble, and I hope that this particular program will develop positive attitudes and behaviour in our youth, and I wish them well in this project. I think it's a positive project and I commend the government for taking this step.
Ms. Duncan: The Liberal caucus has very serious concerns respecting the ministerial statement, not with respect to what the statement says - and I would like to deal with that later - but the way in which this statement has been handled. In effect, the ministerial statement is an elaboration of yesterday's news release and, as pointed out by the Member for Riverdale North, last week a similar situation occurred. Informing the media before informing members is, we believe, inappropriate, and it shows a complete disrespect for this House and its members. We believe that House Leaders should resolve this understanding and resolve it quickly.
That being said, the ministerial statement outlines an initiative that we believe is a good one. I have questions for the minister with respect to the ministerial statement, which she could indicate when she rises in response: the measurements in general terms of success of this project, and community expectations will be raised for an established program, and I would like her to outline the longevity of the program once she responds.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, first of all, I'll respond to the comments that members made regarding a point of order. The government does embargo ministerial statements. The press release associated with this ministerial statement on the youth leadership project was prepared this morning and should have been released this afternoon. It was inadvertently released this morning. That was a mistake. It was not deliberate, and I certainly apologize for that.
The members opposite asked for details on how the communities were selected. It was based on demonstrated need and on participation from communities. I can provide further details regarding the evaluation and the level of honorarium for the members. I appreciate the fact that they are supporting this very helpful initiative. I think it will be good for youth in our communities and it's really good to see the kinds of partnerships that are occurring here with Crime Prevention Yukon working with the RCMP and government departments. Thank you.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Air access to the Yukon
Mr. Phillips: I have some questions for the Minister of Tourism regarding air access to the Yukon. Last year, we had Canadian Airlines and Northwest Territories Air with regular flights every day in and out of Whitehorse. Royal Airlines provided two flights a week - Friday and Tuesday, I believe. Since then, we have lost Northwest Territorial Airways and Canada 3000 has announced that it will provide service to Yukon this summer.
Can the minister advise this House whether or not these changes are going to have any major effect on air arrivals into the Yukon this year?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly it will have an effect. The pull-out by the Northwest Territorial Airways was certainly a blow to all of us here. Certainly, it will have an effect, and certainly we hope it will not be too adverse of an effect.
Mr. Phillips: I wonder if the Minister of Tourism could advise the House, since he's up-to-date on the issues of tourism and air access as a major issue, can he tell the House today, so Yukoners know, the frequency of flights this year? What airlines are flying to the territory and when are they flying to the territory, and when will they begin and end their service?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'd be more than happy to provide that information to the member opposite. Off the top of the head, I do not have that information, but certainly we know that ERA Aviation - the Canada 3000 - is flying, and others, so I will get the information back to the member opposite.
Mr. Phillips: I'm surprised that the minister doesn't have that information - at least in his briefing books at his desk there - because the minister, next week, is going to attend one of the major travel trade shows in Vancouver - Rendezvous Canada - and air access to the Yukon is a very big issue in the travel industry.
The minister will be asked a lot of questions about this, and I'd like to ask the minister why he is not aware now - since he's going in about three days - of what the schedules are and what airlines are going to be flying to the territory next year?
Why is the minister not aware of that information? Is it not important to him?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, certainly nothing surprises me any more on this side of the House for the questions asked. Certainly, if we would take time to speak to the real issues, especially during budget debate and focus on the real issues and certainly, time will be of the essence for this side of the House and we'll be able to do our job properly.
Mr. Speaker, I must say that I quite categorically will state here that I certainly hate the insinuation that I'm not doing my job or anything like as such. I certainly believe strongly in my job, as I've said before and as we'll hear certainly starting tomorrow, with the initiatives of the tourism industry, I think that I am doing a good job.
Mr. Speaker, the Tourism Industry Association certainly feels that they're in the loop, maybe for the first time, but certainly in the loop for tourism initiatives and making tourism initiatives and being there so that we might be able to make decisions together.
So certainly, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite, who was the previous Minister of Tourism, should certainly know those things. As for his style of raising issues in the House, well I'm certain that all Yukoners are very aware of it and certainly the ones who have spoken to me in the street are very aware of it and are appalled.
Question re: Air access to the Yukon
Mr. Phillips: Well, I'm sure the tourism industry is appalled that the minister doesn't even know when the airlines are going to start flying into the territory next year. I can tell the minister when I was the minister last year and going to Rendezvous Canada, I was aware who was coming and going to the territory because I knew that would be a question that would be asked.
Mr. Speaker, in the last four years, we've seen our overseas market, specifically in Germany, increase by almost 100 percent and it's by far our fastest growing market. Recent changes in the airline access and schedules have caused significant disruption in this marketplace. Much of the marketing this past winter was done with Air Canada and Northwest Territorial Airways and this direct access route has now been severed.
Can the minister tell the House if, with this restricted access, we will see a decrease this year in our European visitors, especially our German visitors? I know there were some 6,000 expected seats booked. Are we expecting to see a decrease in that number this year?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Speaker, as I said in the first question to the member opposite, we are going to be working with due diligence so that we might be able to work and to clarify.
As for numbers, no, I cannot give specific answers to numbers, but I can certainly give the direction that the Tourism department is moving in, and that is one of negotiation with various airlines. Certainly, the department has been pro-active in this and is working with due diligence so that we might not have to run through this scenario any more and make it any more adverse than it already is.
Mr. Phillips: The lack of direct access and increased costs will make us less attractive and less competitive to our overseas visitors, who are extremely important to our industry, and it's almost too late to do much this year, Mr. Speaker. I know the minister has made some efforts, and I applaud the efforts he made in Germany for doing that, but the minister is going to probably be making a statement to Rendezvous Canada when he's there next week.
I wonder if the minister will be addressing the area of air access, and can he tell Yukoners today what he'll be telling the visitor industry next week when he's in Vancouver?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, we're certainly not going to inform the member opposite of what I'm going to be saying. I will let the member opposite know, however, that I will be working with the industry at every level - the Canadian Tourism Commission, et cetera - so that we might be able to bring forth better access to the territory.
Mr. Phillips: I wonder if the minister could tell us what is so secret about the message he's going to give the travel industry tomorrow that he can't tell Yukoners today, Mr. Speaker. I'm not going to be making the speech to the travel industry. Surely to goodness, the minister can inform Yukoners what position he is going to take and what he's going to say to the travel trade industry when he stands up and has their ear next week.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Speaker, I think that this government is making moves. We're spending an extra $250,000 on airline marketing this year. That is no secret. Certainly, what I'm going to be saying to the folks next week at Rendezvous Canada will be no secret either. We want to work cooperatively with all segments of the industry within Canada, within Yukon, and that is certainly what we are doing.
I must say, though, that I'm again somewhat appalled with the member opposite. He's asking what my position is, and do I have figures off the top of my head, and can I quote these figures and all these types of things, and can I actually tell when one of the pilots is going to be sick, and we might have to get another pilot. Certainly, Mr. Speaker, I don't think that should be within my knowledge level, and it is certainly not within my knowledge level at this time, but I think this government is doing great moves toward enhancing tourism, and when we get into the Tourism debate, we'll certainly be able to explain to the member opposite exactly what we are doing.
I said that we're spending an extra $250,000. I know it is not the process of this House for me to ask questions of the opposite side, but certainly the member opposite, who was the Tourism Minister, had three months to initiate the promise that he had made with Northwest Territorial Airways and he did not follow through on that.
I have made attempts and I am certainly, at this point in time, making attempts to bring airlines into here, bring service and continuity to the airline industry and, more importantly, to the tourism industry. Certainly, that is the position that this government will stand on and go forth with.
Question re: Old Crow school, consultation
Ms. Duncan: I have some questions for the Minister of Education.
On Monday night, in the Legislature, the minister indicated that there was no formal, written agreement to build a new school in Old Crow. In a spring letter to constituents, the MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin said, "Education officials and our band have signed an agreement for the construction of the new school." Yesterday, the minister indicated that she didn't know what agreement was being referred to and that she would get back to me. Does the minister have an answer on that today?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, I do, and what I would like to do is provide for the member - and have the page deliver to her - a copy of the attached master agreement which sets out the guidelines related to the construction of the temporary school facilities. This agreement includes the burn-site clean-up and testing, the location of new teacher housing, employment and training opportunities in the future site of the new school.
I apologize, Mr. Speaker. I did not rise to table this document at the tabling of returns and documents, but I will do so on a point of order at the end of Question Period.
Ms. Duncan: Would the minister, given that we were unaware of this information during the budget debate, also determine with her officials whether or not there have been any formal proposals received for the construction of a new school and if one of those options for a design/build plan is from a Yellowknife architectural firm?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I will certainly provide that information for the member. The legislative return that the member has does set out some information regarding the building advisory committee and the ongoing work that is being done with the Department of Education working with the Department of Government Services and the Old Crow community on the new school project.
Ms. Duncan: Given that there has been a discrepancy between Hansard and the Vuntut Gwitchin MLA's newsletter, can the minister indicate what steps will be taken to ensure that information provided to the residents of the Old Crow is correct?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I don't believe that there is a discrepancy. I think that the information that I have provided to the member should answer her questions.
The government has not yet called for proposals, so I can tell the member that she has the information regarding the current work being done in Old Crow to build a new school there. As I said in the House during Education debate, the planning is just going ahead now. We have money in the budget this year for design and planning, and that is the work that will be done during the present budget year.
Question re: Copper Ridge subdivision
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
The House recently passed through the Community and Transportation Services budget that identified over $600,000 worth of work to be done in the Copper Ridge subdivision in Whitehorse.
Does the Minister of Community and Transportation Services believe that it is important that, if possible, this work be done by a Yukon company? In effect, does the minister believe in the work of his colleague, the local hire commissioner?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, we believe in the work of my colleague, the local hire commissioner. This government has taken the time to make a commission out of it.
Ms. Duncan: One of the tenders for the Copper Ridge subdivision, for the provision of engineering services, was recently advertised locally, and in addition to that, four companies were given specific invitations to submit proposals on this work.
Would the minister explain why the Department of Community and Transportation Services specifically invited an Edmonton firm to submit a proposal for this work?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: At this point in time, no, I cannot. I will certainly have to do some work and ask the department about that.
Ms. Duncan: Would the minister commit to ensuring that if the government determines that it is necessary to invite out-of-Yukon firms to submit proposals that they include in the tender provisions the requirement for a local office to be established?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, that is the type of work that I think my colleague, the commissioner of local hire, will be making recommendations on, and we will certainly be able to, at that point in time, put those recommendations into policy and into effect.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, rate increase
Mr. Ostashek: My question is for the minister responsible for the Energy Corporation.
As the minister knows, Yukoners, especially those on fixed incomes, are very concerned and alarmed about the increases in their power bills, and we know the Utilities Board will be having a hearing on YEC's application for a 20-percent increase on Monday, May the 12th. I'm not certain whether the Utilities Board intends to rule immediately, or whether they'll defer their decision for some time.
I would like to ask the minister if he could advise this House about what contingency plan is in place to shield the Yukon ratepayers from any increases that may be approved by the Utilities Board?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The issue of how long the Utilities Board will deliberate is not entirely in my hands, but I want to say to the member opposite and to all Yukoners, as I've said many, many times, that this government is already planning and has been planning options for putting out to the public with regard to any potential rate increase that might be agreed to by the Utilities Board, once the Utilities Board holds their meetings and goes through the due process of the hearings.
At that point, during the hearings, the interveners will have the chance to raise their concerns before the board. Cabinet is already preparing options, as I said, and will be able to respond once we get a ruling from the Yukon Utilities Board. The other interesting thing that I would say to the member that it is also a good sign that the weather is warming up and power consumption is dropping dramatically in this territory.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, it might be fine for the minister to say that he's doing some planning, but I know that there are many Yukoners who are very skeptical about what this government will do after the commitments that were made by them in the election campaign to stabilize power rates and make them affordable - and then allow them to go up 10 percent and are now faced with another 20-percent increase.
So, if the Utilities Board doesn't rule, Mr. Speaker, for quite some time, Yukoners are going to be anxiously awaiting what power rates are going to be - what they're going to be facing. So, I would like to ask the minister if he would advise this House that in the event that the decision by the Utilities Board is delayed for several weeks, would he be prepared to announce what contingency plan he has in place to soften the impact of these rates to consumers?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The question is completely hypothetical at this point. We don't know what the Utilities Board is going to rule. With regard to the preamble about the commitments in the election campaign, one of the things we did right away, upon coming into office, was to revitalize the rate relief program which was going to be killed by the Yukon Party. We knew there was a lot of support for rate relief, based on our petition that we did last year, and it was very clear that people wanted rate relief to continue and were not in favour of the Yukon Party's planned elimination of it. We reinstituted rate relief.
With regard to the 10-percent rate increases that he bootlegged in and that we allowed to go ahead, I would remind the member that the 5.5-percent rate rider started under his administration, Mr. Speaker, and with the uncertainty surrounding Anvil, we were unable to direct the Yukon Energy Corporation to write off their part of it, and the other rate rider was with regard to an increase in world diesel prices.
So, I would say to the member that we are very much concerned about increasing costs in power and we are going to be addressing the situation with some options to mitigate the impact of any potential increase the Utilities Board might rule on, once they come up with a ruling.
Mr. Ostashek: The minister of energy knows full well that what he is saying is not true about the Yukon Party killing the rate relief program. We announced long before they put their petition out that the program was going to be continued. He has said it so often now, Mr. Speaker, he is starting to believe it himself.
The reality of it is that the public does not have much faith in this administration when it comes to power rates in the Yukon. They've seen them fumble the ball very badly in this respect.
The minister has also talked pretty tough about the Anvil Range Corporation of late, and I understand that the company still owes about $3 million outstanding in power bills, which the Yukon ratepayers, I presume, will have to pay for through another power increase if Anvil does not pay its bill. If this should happen - and the minister will say it's hypothetical, because they are trying to collect it, but it has been outstanding for over 90 days now - and it isn't paid, will the government protect Yukoners from that increase, as well?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Everybody in the public knows that the Yukon Party was going to kill rate relief. That was the whole reason we did a petition: to ensure that there was a public movement against that move by the Yukon Party.
The members opposite, when the mine shut down in 1993, were the government in power when there was a 58-percent increase in rate applications going before the Yukon Utilities Board. Twenty percent is high, but it's not 58 percent.
The reason that there is any move whatsoever is that we've been faced with the loss of the major customer on the system, and the rates that are in existence today were based on the assumption that that particular customer, which uses more than 40 percent of the power for the Yukon, would be on the system and providing those revenues. However, it is not.
With regard to the bills, Anvil Range only became, with regard to a full month's billing, delinquent on their bill as of the end of April.
With regard to a payment they made just recently of $1.3 million, that puts them just under $3 million in arrears. The Yukon Energy Corporation has taken every action that they can to try and collect and the company has indicated, at least to them, that they intend to pay, although not in as formal a manner as we would like to see.
Question re: Abattoir
Mr. Cable: I have some questions on the abattoir for the Minister of Renewable Resources.
There was a report done in 1991 on meat consumption in the Yukon, and it indicated that there were 4.5 million pounds of red meat used annually in the Yukon and 1.4 million pounds of poultry, which is worth approximately $10 million at the retail level.
There are a few jobs in the abattoir facility, and there are many more downstream in the production end.
Now, the minister's department talked about putting the abattoir out for a proposal call a few months ago. Has the minister actually done so, and if not, when does he anticipate doing so?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, we have, and we will be continuing to be working on it. It is in the process. It has gone through Management Board. The department has been given directions to continue to look into the proposals a bit more closely and work with those that submitted their proposals to us. So, I guess it will take a bit of time before they do get back to us, and what we did instruct the department to do was to do this review and come back to Cabinet with something.
Mr. Cable: I had asked the minister once before about time lines. I don't want to waste another question. Could the minister give me the answer to my first question by way of legislative return?
Now, there are a number of jobs involved, and there is substantial import substitution available by way of use of an abattoir for locally grown meats. Has the minister decided whether the setting up of an abattoir would fit into the proposed diversification strategy of this government?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, the direction that is coming to us is from the industry out there. I mean it's from the people that are directly involved with farms and so on, and this has been in the works for quite a long time, and we would like to support the industry, and this is just a small way of doing it. Certainly, part of our direction as government, I guess, is to support these small industries that have potential to grow.
Mr. Cable: Now, in the original solicitation of interest that was put out to the public, the government agreed to make a contribution to eligible costs - capital assistance. It also agreed to provide inspection services and provide some expertise in the area. Is the minister satisfied that the amount that has been budgeted will adequately cover those items that the government is proposing to provide to the project?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We believe that the amount of dollars that we say that will go into this - $150,000 - is adequate for the equipment part of this. The people that are submitting proposals would have to put a lot into it themselves - a building, and so on. There will be a little bit of cost, I guess, in the future, in regard to inspection, and those will be shown, I guess, in the budget, once we go through that.
Question re: Dump maintenance
Mr. Jenkins: My question today is for the minister responsible for Community and Transportation Services. In the budget debate on Community and Transportation Services, I raised the issue of the government adopting a consistent policy for standards for dump maintenance. The government has 20 dumps that it's responsible for, in and around the Yukon Territory. At that time, the minister waffled in his response.
I'd like to raise the question of the maintenance of a specific dump with the minister. I've heard reports that the dump in Old Crow is currently under water as a result of runoff, and is overflowing, making its way into the lagoon and then down into the river. Is the minister aware of this situation?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I most certainly am.
Mr. Jenkins: This leads to the question as to what is the minister prepared to do? There's garbage flowing all over the place. There's an unhealthy mess. I'd ask the minister to see what action he can take to correct this situation. It's going right into the river, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Speaker, it is not. Mr. Speaker, it was brought to my attention this morning by the MLA for the area that this could be a problem, and I certainly did get my department to look into it. At this point in time, my department is taking corrective measures and actions to correct that.
Mr. Jenkins: What are the corrective measures that his department is taking, Mr. Speaker? What is the minister's department going to do to ensure that the runoff doesn't go through the garbage dump down into the lagoon, and then down into the river? What actions are being taken? Could the minister please be specific?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Speaker, most certainly I can elaborate. I can say that the call went out this morning, and that I have faith in the department and in the Old Crow people that they will be doing the right thing and working toward those ends. Specifically, have they started up and fired up the cat and done something? I cannot say at this point, not specifically, what they have done, but certainly I know that they've been directed to take specific measures to ensure that we do not have a major problem on our hands, other than the problem that is already there with the flooding. Certainly, Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question.
Question re: Driving safety
Mrs. Edelman: My question is also for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
During the budget debate, the minister discussed consultation with the public about drunk driving, as part of the motor vehicle 1996 review questionnaire. Mr. Speaker, the results from the survey done in 1996 still have not been released, but in the meantime, the issue of impaired driving is not going away.
Between the years 1983 and 1991, 17,630 people died in Canada in alcohol-related crashes.
What is the department doing about impaired driving while we wait for the results from the motor vehicle review?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Speaker, I'd be pleased to answer that question.
The department, at this point in time, has been doing its research and consultation in putting it together. The paper has now gone into the Cabinet system and the Cabinet is now looking at which way to work this through the system and how we're going to act on it.
Mrs. Edelman: In British Columbia alone, more than 45 percent of all fatal alcohol-related collisions also involve drivers travelling at unsafe speeds - speed kills.
What is the motor vehicle branch planning to do to address the greater safety issue of speeding drivers?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, the paper that has gone out is not specific just to drunk driving, but - I guess the word might be generic - in its approach. It's also looking at impaired drivers; it's looking at some people being driven in the back of pickups. It's talking about such things as insurance and lack of insurance, impounding of vehicles, and certainly, I'll be more than pleased to share that with the member opposite when it is ready, and I do anticipate that it should be coming shortly.
Mrs. Edelman: Drivers' perceptions of the risks inherent to driving are unrealistically low and this perception is re-enforced by the relative rarity of collisions.
Most drivers' assessments of their ability to drive safely is unrealistically high, and the relative rarity of collisions in the general forgiving design of modern roadway environments tends to reinforce risky behaviours - in other words, people think they are great drivers and they're not. It's easy roads to drive on. They don't have many accidents, so they have this very unrealistic vision of how great they are.
Now, public education is the key to keeping Yukon drivers good drivers. What is the minister doing to promote public education on safe driving throughout the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Speaker, as an ongoing initiative, public education is very much a part of what we're doing. Throughout this paper, we're certainly desirous of and will be talking again with the greater public. I think that the paper that was initiated a number of years ago is certainly a part of the factor of the education system and this type of educational system will be currently ongoing in respect to making our highways safe for all peoples.
Certainly, Mr. Speaker, though not only simply for drivers having an unrealistic view of how greatly our - certainly I think in this House, and typically in this House, that is certainly a factor in many other issues. If I could also add that ad campaigns and stop-check programs on condition of working with the RCMP are certainly always ongoing and will be. Thank you.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Point of order
Speaker: Point of order.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to request unanimous consent to revert to tabling returns and documents.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
Unanimous consent granted
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have a document for tabling.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Motion No. 49, standing in the name of Mr. Cable.
Motion No. 49
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Riverside
THAT this House urge the Government of Yukon to deal immediately with the staff and inmate health and safety concerns relating to the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, raised in the Barr Ryder condition survey report of January 31, 1995.
If the member now speaks ...
Mr. Cable: There are those who would wish that that were so.
If, Mr. Speaker, you'll indulge me ...
The issue that I would like to speak to today is one that is of major concern to many people that have walked into my office, and the concern for people that have called our offices relating to the Whitehorse Correctional Institute and the present condition of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and the ability of that institute to do the things it was set out originally to do - that is, to incarcerate prisoners and rehabilitate them and bring them back into society.
The history of this facility is that it was designed and constructed in the 1960s, when standards for correctional facilities were substantially different from what they are today.
Now, we've had many complaints about the facility, and they started very early on, relating to both the design problems and to structural problems. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence of the problems from conversations that we have had and from newspaper clips and from exchanges in this Legislature. There is a whole litany of complaints, and I'd like to go over a few of them that have been related to me.
I've been told that some of the manual locks in the dormitory areas are difficult to open because a wall is shifting. I have been told that one exit was frozen up and couldn't be opened in the middle of winter. I have been told that there is a floor beam cracked in three places, and that doorjambs are unsafe. I have been told that the Minister of Justice has viewed a video showing that frost has moved 16 feet into the building, and on and on and on. And recently, we've had the request given the occupational health and safety branch to do a health and safety audit, and I gather that request was triggered by the staff at the Correctional Centre.
Fairly recently, there was an article in the April 18th, 1997, Yukon News. It was entitled, Mr. Speaker, "Whitehorse Prison 'Like a Death Sentence,'" and the writer of the article starts off by saying, "Being sentenced to time in the Whitehorse prison is like being delivered a death sentence," according to an inmate who says he has fallen ill at the correctional facility.
The prisoner, who doesn't want his name published, said his teeth and hair are falling out and his body is covered with open sores. He says, " 'Something's wrong and I can't figure out what it is,' he said in a telephone interview from the dilapidated prison last week."
One could make fun of prisoners; I don't think that's a very wise idea. They are there serving sentences and being rehabilitated, so let's not address the incarceration of certain members of our society in a light fashion.
One of the paragraphs in this article says, "One of those dormitories looked like the psych ward from 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest'". This is the reporter who took a tour of the jail. "Standing at the door to the cafeteria-sized sleeping quarters, you couldn't count the number of beds stacked in the room. Another dormitory has eight inmates crammed in a room that is only about eight paces wide by 15 paces long." That is from personal observations by the reporter.
A few years ago, in January of 1988, there was a report prepared by a Doug Borrowman and Don Head. It was entitled, "A Review of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre."
I would just like to draw your attention to page 4 of the report and a comment under the head, "Physical Layout." "This topic is self-explanatory. The building was constructed for a planned capacity of 38 inmates. The centre is now a multi-level facility housing from 35 to 100-plus inmates, and the design does not lend itself to adequate programming for the various groups of offenders."
A little later, on page 17, under suggestion 17, "The physical layout of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre is not conducive to efficient, well-run programs for inmate populations in recent years and, as such, has not had further major capital funds expended on it." A little later, "As part of a long-range plan, the construction of a new facility should be seriously considered." That is back in January of 1988.
The previous NDP administration had commissioned a report done by a group called Advanced Planning and Research for Architecture. That report, entitled "A Strong Corrections Plan", bearing a date of February 22, 1990, has a number of cogent observations in it.
I would refer you firstly, Mr. Speaker, to the executive summary, which outlines the various problems, and the body of the report, which deals with the problems in greater detail.
At page 8 of that report - that's Advanced Planning and Research for Architecture's report - there's a list of what's called major functional issues at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. There are four major issues. The first is that there's no clear delineation between the higher and lower levels of security within the secure perimeter of the centre. The second one, Mr. Speaker, is that units that should be isolated, such as the segregation cells, are located off the main circulation corridor. Then the third one: there are conflicts in the circulation system among the offenders, visitors, staff and materials. I'm not going to read all the comments, but I would refer you also to page 9 of that report, which says, "The 1981 WCC facilities program by Focus Planning Ltd., recommended a total redevelopment of the existing facility."
I'd refer you also to page 14: "Based on the physical and functional evaluation of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, it is apparent that its use as part of a new correctional system would be limited. It should be retained with minimal maintenance until a replacement can be developed." That, I say to you, Mr. Speaker, is back in February of 1990, which is over seven years ago.
At page 24, the writers of the report say that, "The physical and functional obsolescence of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre will continue to seriously constrain the department in its attempt to operate a modern, safe and secure correctional system. The security of both the staff and inmates will continue to be a concern if the major issues identified in this study are not addressed."
There we are, February of 1990. We've identified various problems relating to the physical structure, and we've identified problems that relate to the treatment of prisoners and their rehabilitation back into society - the inadequacy of this facility to do the latter.
Then, five years later there's another consulting firm retained to do a condition survey at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre:that's Barr Ryder Architects and Planners. Eventually, they came forward with a report dated January 31st, 1995.
This report gives much greater detail than the previous reports and is much more definitive, in my view, and it has a very interesting executive summary.
The comments that I would draw your attention to are the comments under the "summary of findings" as they relate to life and safety required upgrades, and those are found at page 2 of the report.
One finding that's underlined says, "Should a major fire occur in the facility, loss of life to inmates and/or staff, is highly probable." Then it goes on to deal with the cost of life and safety required upgrades and that's a little over $2 million.
The report goes on to talk about the structural deficiencies, the shifting of walls and the mechanical system and the building envelope and the electrical system. It says that the correction of those deficiencies and the upgrades that were necessary will cost a little over $3 million.
Then the report goes on to talk about security. It identifies a number of security concerns. In my copy, some of them have been removed and I'll address that a little later on. The total cost to rectify the security problem concerns is identified at $4.3 million, and the total cost of all the upgrades exceeds the value of the facility itself.
Then, in the recommendations - and the most cogent one is the first one - I won't read it all; I'll read you the first sentence: "It is the recommendation of the consulting team that the facility not be considered for substantive renovations, in order to assist in accommodating programs."
The second recommendation relates to, "Consideration should not be given to relocation of inmates to a separate building and utilizing the existing facility for staff, and administration and program considerations. Unless the facility can be brought up to full life, safety and technical standards, there remains a danger that earthquake or fire will cause loss of life or injury to staff, if not inmates, in program areas."
I'd like to emphasize the last recommendation, Mr. Speaker: "Options in future, therefore, should not consider the continuation of this facility but must look toward its replacement as soon as practicable."
Now the report, as it was given to me, was based on an arrangement I had made with the Minister of Justice whereby the security concerns would be blacked out so they would presumably not be telegraphed to future inmates or to existing inmates. If one goes through the copy provided to me, it'll reveal, Mr. Speaker, there're many, many areas that have been blacked out, so one can only make the assumption that there are major security concerns. Those would be concerns not necessarily solely restricted to the staff, but also restricted to some or all of the prisoners.
Now, what has been said on this topic in the past in this House? I'd refer the minister to Hansard of May 16th, 1991, and some comments made by the then Justice minister, Ms. Commodore, in response to questions.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: The Whitehorse Correctional Centre - there's a question in Question Period asked of Ms. Commodore by the then Member for Riverdale South, Mrs. Firth. I won't get into all of the question, but I will relate part of it, and the minister, in her spare time, can take Hansard to bed with her and read it. This is Ms. Commodore speaking: "As I have already told the House in debate on the budget, I have given the member an update in regard to the jail and the problems that we have there. It is a well-known fact that we have problems there, and the member knows it, because she has toured the jail and knows that it is inadequate and that it does not meet the needs of the people who are incarcerated there. I think that it is unfortunate that the jail is in the condition that it is, but because the population of inmates has risen drastically, it is not able to meet their needs. We are going to have to look at an alternative, and we are doing that right now." That's May 16th, 1991, just about six years ago.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: Indeed.
Speaking of the next Minister of Justice, or one of the subsequent ministers of Justice, he was in this House on March 30th, 1995 - or his twin brother was, perhaps - and he says - this is from Hansard, page 1658 - "A condition report on the facility was recently completed, which recommended improvements to deal with some of the immediate health and safety issues. Department officials, who are currently working to identify costs of various options, are responding to the report's long-term recommendations." That minister was right on top of the issue. He was going right at it, after the Barr Ryder report was put in his hands.
Then we have questions that were asked by myself in December of the present Justice minister, in a memo which she gave me, dated January 29th, 1997. She was talking about the Barr Ryder report. She says, "This report identified some immediate life safety issues that have since been addressed through upgrades done by the Department of Government Services. The report identified a variety of other serious, long-term problems with the facility, and it estimates that the cost of satisfactorily addressing the problems through upgrading the existing facility would be greater than the building's replacement value. As such, the report recommends that the facility be replaced with a new structure as soon as practicable."
She finishes off, "The previous government chose not to make a decision on this issue. This government has requested an analysis of options for dealing with WCC and Cabinet will be considering the matter in the near future. If you would like to discuss this further, please contact my office to set up a meeting." And, we took advantage of that offer.
The operative phrase is that Cabinet will be considering the matter in the near future. That's on January 29th, 1997.
Then we have the budget speech, where the Government Leader was telling us about the tightness of money and that there wasn't enough to go around. He says, at page 37 of the budget speech, "Some people would like us to build a new jail or a new administration building or a new school in their community, all in this first year of our mandate, but we can't do that either, not without creating a massive debt that would significantly limit our options in the future."
I have put questions to this minister in the House on the Barr Ryder report, and I asked her about her instructions to the department on the preparation of options available. Her answers were very unclear. I asked her when she had asked for that report. So, we're not in a position to judge either this minister's or this government's priorities.
But I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that throughout all these documents there is a common thread that the Whitehorse Correctional Centre has been viewed as an unsatisfactory institution virtually from the day it was built. It is not designed to assist in the rehabilitation of prisoners. It does not assist in the reduction of recidivism. There are structural problems. There are very real safety problems, which I believe this government would have us believe have been addressed, but these are certainly contradicted by the request for the occupational health and safety audit. There are very real security problems at that jail.
What I would like this minister to do - and I know she is anxious to get on her feet and rebut what I'm saying. What I'd like this minister to tell us is not that she's going to replace this jail tomorrow.
What are this government's priorities? Do they recognize the problems outlined in the Barr Ryder report and outlined in the various reports from the past and outlined in the statements that have been made in this House and outlined in the press comments that have been made by prisoners and by reporters? Do they view the conditions of the jail as serious and do they, at some juncture in the future, have a plan for replacing the jail? If so, when is this jail, which is an unsatisfactory structure on various counts, going to be replaced?
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I'm happy to speak to the motion that the Member for Riverside has put before us in the House this afternoon.
I do have to begin, though, by saying that there is nothing new in this debate. This is a subject that the member has raised in Question Period and that we've talked about in the House before and that we'll certainly be talking about during the Justice debate.
Nevertheless, I do want to assure the member at the very outset that as the Minister of Justice I'm concerned about the safety of inmates. I'm concerned about working conditions for correctional staff and I'm concerned about general prison conditions.
I toured Whitehorse Correctional Centre on January the 10th of 1997, and I have seen first hand the conditions there, as well as a considerable amount of work that has been done by the department in responding to the various studies, and I would just like to respond to the member's comments by going through the various issues that he has raised.
Barr Ryder Architects were retained to perform a physical assessment of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre to determine the measures required to improve the building's functional ability. This centre was built approximately 30 years ago by the federal government and was, in fact, not designed to meet existing standards, and certainly doesn't meet standards today.
The Barr Ryder report was completed in 1995. The previous government did not release the report, although we, as the Opposition of the day, had requested it because it addressed some security concerns. Our government did release a version of the Barr Ryder report earlier this year, which removed sensitive security information.
So, we gave the report to the Liberal caucus. There was no need to provide it in a cloak-and-dagger style to the media. We voluntarily made that information public, because we are committed to resolving the safety concerns that it addresses.
There is money in the current operation and maintenance and capital budgets to deal with safety concerns this year.
At this time, our government is unable to commit to a time line or a work plan for the replacement of the jail. This would be, as the Government Leader said in his budget speech, a major capital project, and it is not one that can be considered until research and consultation have been completed.
Consideration of such a project will have to assess the environmental, social, operational, functional, technical and spatial needs of adult corrections in the coming years.
The member, in his comments, referred to recidivism at Whitehorse Correctional Centre. I have to inform him that many federal studies show that recidivism is a problem in all of Canada.
In response to that, we are monitoring the programs that we have in place at WCC. We're working at improving the programs that are offered to inmates. We're also supporting crime prevention measures, many of which were identified in the Creating Safer Communities documents. We're supporting community justice initiatives. So, correctional services, in and of themselves, are not the entire picture.
To return to the Barr Ryder report and the other reports that have identified problems at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, during 1995-96, the Department of Justice sponsored several projects to correct deficiencies that compromise safety and security at the centre. These included installation of large, mushroom-headed panic buttons for alerting central security, yard lighting improvements, an emergency generator transfer switch replacement, electromagnetic door locks that can be unlocked by central security in situations such as fire or earthquake.
Government Services staff also completed a lot of work that was recommended in the report. That includes cleaning of heating ducts, fans and kitchen equipment, humidifier repair, replacing boilers, reroofing the administration trailer, and replacing old smoke detectors.
The Whitehorse Correctional Centre has maintained an active occupational health and safety committee over the years, which has addressed issues such as upgrading windows in the living areas, immunization clinics for staff and general safety issues in the workplace.
Whitehorse Correctional Centre has a preventive maintenance program in conjunction with the maintenance agreement that exists with Government Services. This preventive program addresses basic repairs that are within the capabilities of facilities staff and is funded within the centre's annual renovations budget.
Whitehorse Correctional Centre staff conducts monthly building evacuation exercises, which allows staff to prepare for evacuation should a major disaster occur. The drills take into account the new emergency unlocking system that was installed last year as a result of the Barr Ryder report and the fire marshall's report.
Policies and procedures at the centre have been updated to ensure that the overall safety and security at the centre is maintained in a manner that is deemed comparable to national correctional standards.
The icing up of the emergency exit was a problem that was brought to the attention of senior officials this past winter. The department has been given capital dollars to address this issue in the coming fiscal year, and will continue to respond to other immediate life safety issues as they are identified.
There are also risk-needs assessments and correctional-programming strategies in place. Inmates participate in correctional programs that address issues related to their cognitive behaviour. Programs dealing with substance abuse problems, anger management and domestic violence. In addition, First Nation-specific programming is offered on a monthly basis at the centre, because of a collaboration between the Yukon government and Council of Yukon First Nations.
This approach to corrections has permitted staff to address the long-standing problems of many offenders, and is necessary because of the changing profile of the inmate population.
Yukon College maintains a campus site at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre that allows inmates to take various courses, including creative writing and art courses. Officials will continue to ensure that the Teslin minimum security centre is used to its fullest potential with inmates that meet a criteria acceptable to the community of Teslin and the Teslin Tlingit Council.
In the event of an emergency, there are contingencies in place for the safe and secure housing of offenders in other locations. These contingencies include sending offenders to other federal and/or provincial/territorial institutions through exchange of service agreements, and making use of RCMP cells or other residential placement facilities, depending on the security risk of the offender.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member bringing this item forward for debate. I do have an amendment to it, because I think that what I've spoken of this afternoon indicates that a lot of work has gone into responding to the Barr Ryder report, that we do have a plan in place, and that we are committed to following through with that.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move
THAT Motion No. 49 be amended by deleting the expression "urges the Government of the Yukon to deal immediately with" and substituting for it the following:
"commends the Government of the Yukon's coordinated response providing life and safety upgrades and preventive maintenance programs responding to".
Speaker: It is moved by the Minister of Justice
THAT Motion No. 49 be amended by deleting the expression "urges the Government of the Yukon to deal immediately with" and substituting for it the following:
"commends the Government of the Yukon's coordinated response providing life and safety upgrades and preventive maintenance programs responding to".
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I believe that the amendment before us addresses the key issues that we're debating today.
There is some very positive programming that is taking place at Whitehorse Correctional Centre. Overcrowding is a problem, and our government is actively looking at practical, effective alternatives to incarceration. We recognize that jail is not the only answer and is not necessarily even the best answer.
We are also working actively on crime prevention initiatives that we hope will help to reduce the need for incarceration.
The Barr Ryder report and others have made findings that have been addressed by this government and the previous government. There are real concerns at the jail, and we are addressing them. I want to thank the staff, who work very hard, for their continued cooperation and professionalism in working at Whitehorse Correctional Centre, and I encourage members to support the motion as amended.
Mr. Cable: Speaking to the amendment, I think it's much too early for any back patting on the part of the government. We have this health and safety audit that's being done by the Workers' Compensation group and it will be interesting to see what that brings out of the woodwork. We also have the Barr Ryder report talking about $2 million to deal with life safety issues, and I have yet to hear of the expenditures of $2 million by either this government or the previous government to deal with those particular issues.
We have, I think as recently as last January, I'm told - I have just received a note of a new emergency lock system failed in a drill last winter. So, I think the minister, if she believes that all the problems are solved, all the immediate problems are solved, I think she is not aware of all that is going on, and I would suggest to her that before she pats herself on the back that she wait for this health and safety audit to determine whether, in fact, more work has to be done in the immediate future. So, I will not be supporting this amendment.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, we on this side are, of course, concerned, as other members are, about the condition of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and the many reports that have been written over the years.
As the Member for Riverside has said, the facility was built in 1960. In fact I think it was 1967. I think it was a centennial project gift from the federal government at the time. I think the NWT and the Yukon both got identical projects, I believe. Their jail is the same design as ours and I think I recall some discussion taking place a few years ago that it was sort of a federal government gift of several million dollars to build us a new jail.
In 1967, the federal government had some insight into where we might all end up, I guess, but it was a gift to the Yukon - a bit of an unusual gift, I might add, but that's what they chose to do.
Mr. Speaker, there are lots of design and growth problems with the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and the many reports, including the Barr Ryder report, point that out. I can understand the Member for Riverside bringing forward this motion and dealing with the concerns of the staff and of the inmates in that particular facility, because we
, as well as the government that is in power today, are concerned about the well-being of the staff and the people who are there.
There're also other realities that one has to live by in government, and so, when you receive these reports as we have - I can recall another report on a facility that we received years ago. It was a report of air quality problems in the Whitehorse Elementary School, and there was a recommendation to do hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of upgrading to improve that. The government of the day, the New Democratic Party government, dealt with it the quickest way they could, keeping in mind the fiscal reality and budgets, and they spaced it out over a few years.
When we received the Barr Ryder report, it made some pretty strong recommendations about the facility and, in fact, the bottom line, I suppose, of the Barr Ryder report is that that facility has outgrown its usefulness. There has been a lot of changes in health and safety standards over the years, and the facility hasn't kept up.
I can tell the Member for Riverside that, as the Justice minister at the time, the instructions that I gave to the department were that we would deal immediately, as best we could, with the health and safety concerns.
I know that an awful lot of work was carried out. There is - and there was - a real coordinated effort on behalf of the staff and the Department of Justice and, in particular, the people in corrections who worked very hard to improve the health and safety issues and, as well, in bringing in new programs for the inmates that were in the facility.
Now, it's not all perfect yet, and as the Member for Riverside has pointed out, there was a failure of the door system early this winter when they tested a new system, and I guess, Mr. Speaker, that's why we test them. That's why we carry out those kinds of drills, to make sure that, if there are any problems with the fire bells going off or the doors opening automatically or anything else, that we see how fast we can get people out of the facility and see how fast we can react.
Thank goodness it was just a test, or just a drill, but that's exactly what it was, and that's what they do in many facilities. I'm sure that the problem that came up was dealt with by the officials to make sure that the facility worked properly the next time.
I think there are other questions that have to be dealt with, with respect to building a new Whitehorse correctional facility, and I don't think the minister - or the member who brought forth this motion - has really discussed them here today.
One area I think that has been brought up to us, I think by federal officials, and even by our own officials, is whether we change the status of our facility and go from a two-year-less-a-day, to a four-year-less-a-day, or a five-year-less-a-day facility, because there are problems with correctional facilities in other parts of Canada, as well.
I know the federal government was interested somewhat in discussing with us the future of that facility.
If that happens down the road, I think that is something that any government of the day will have to come back to the people for, and develop a consultative process where Yukoners are involved in keeping people who are incarcerated here. The ones that are over two years and the ones that are four years and less - they'll be a little more serious criminals and in for crimes that are a little more serious than what we see now. I think there has to be some type of a discussion among the public about whether or not we want to see that happen.
I understand that if that does happen, the federal government may be willing to help in providing some funds for a new jail - maybe another centennial gift for us; another new jail. Maybe we could speak to the Liberal candidate in the federal election that's on right now and get a promise of a new jail.
I think the realities are that we do have an old building. We do have some problems in the old building that have been identified, but I think that another reality is that there is some work being done. There is a coordinated response, not only by this government, in dealing with it, but by the previous government.
I think that one of the briefings that the minister would have received when she first took over that portfolio was where is the jail at, what can we do and what has been done? I felt comfortable - not totally satisfied, because I think eventually we are going to need a new jail - that there was genuine effort being made by the officials in the department and the officials in the Whitehorse Correctional Centre to deal with the health and safety issues of the Barr Ryder report.
Now, the member mentions that the health and safety audit that's coming up may address some other issues. I'm sure it will, and I'm sure that there will be some recommendations that might come out of that report.
I think that we, on this side, can support the amendment that's put forward by the government, with a cautionary note. I would like to hear from the minister at some time in the near future about what they plan to do about the facility. I know the minister mentioned last December that they were looking at various options. I know what the minister's options are - I looked at the same options - and every one of them is very expensive.
It's a very complicated issue and, at the same time, the minister is dealing with overall financial constraints with the demands for new schools, new health facilities, other new facilities in the social area, and so I guess it's a matter of trying to balance that with a need for a new correctional facility. We shouldn't do that at the expense of the lives or the health and safety of the employees and of the inmates of the facility. I do have some confidence in the Department of Justice and in the employees of Whitehorse Correctional Centre that they are doing their best to not put at risk the employees of the Correctional Centre and the inmates.
So, Mr. Chair, having said that, we on this side can support the amendment, but, like I said, I would like to hear a little more from the minister in the near future about where we're going with this issue. I think it's one that the previous NDP government put off a bit, and one that we didn't deal with completely, and one that this government in this budget hasn't dealt with completely, and someone very soon is going to have to deal with this issue, and we can all hope that the measures that have been taken to make the place safer will be adequate enough in the interim.
I think that the amendment to the motion, as put together by the minister, really talks about the coordinated response provided and the life and safety upgrades and preventive maintenance, and I think the previous government and this government have made legitimate attempts to provide for the health and safety improvements. There is always more you can do, and I think there is more being done. There is even more money in the budget this year to continue with some of the work in the facility, so it's going to be an ongoing thing, but one day, we're going to have to bite the bullet, I guess, and some decisions are going to have to be made. I don't think anyone is going to get away with building a new facility - even on that site - without a public consultation process.
The site, when it was built in the 1967, was pretty remote in the scheme of things. There was an army camp in that area and there weren't a lot of things around it and now there's the Yukon College at the top of the hill. There is other growth in that area. The government has sold public housing, I think, in the Takhini area now, and so I guess if we're going to look at building a new facility or building a remand facility or building any new facilities, there probably has to be some consultation with people in that area and that's going to take some time. Even if the government started tomorrow, I would imagine it would be a two- or three-year process before one would see a new facility being constructed.
Mr. Speaker, I think, as well, if the government does plan to build a new facility that it look at other options that have been pursued in other jurisdictions and, if there's going to be a new facility, maybe Whitehorse isn't the only place that they would consider building it. I think that's something that could be considered, as well.
When people are employed in jobs as correction officers and that kind of thing, that provides pretty stable employment in any community. If we had difficulty rebuilding on that particular site, then maybe there are some other options there. I'm just throwing out ideas; I'm not suggesting it's the be-all and end-all, the answer to it all. It's a very difficult question to deal with. I think the government is, at the present time, using the resources it has up there in the best manner it can in dealing with the health and safety issues.
So, we on this side can support the amendment that's put forward, but would like a little stronger commitment from the government of where it is going with the issue and maybe an answer from the minister about whether or not they intend to at least start consultations or discussions with people in the general public about the need or when we're going to start a new facility. Are they going to do that in their first mandate?
What I'd like to see is if the government is committed. The minister has said that she is committed to making changes. The minister has said that she understands that there are problems, and I'd like to hear a little clearer from the minister whether or not she intends on taking bigger steps than she has already taken with respect to planning of the eventual new facility.
Speaker: Question has been called on the amendment.
Some Hon. Member: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called. Mr. Clerk, would you kindly poll the House.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. Livingston: Agree.
Mr. Ostashek: Agree.
Mr. Phillips: Agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Mr. Cable: Disagree.
Ms. Duncan: Disagree.
Mrs. Edelman: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 13 yea, three nay.
Speaker: The ayes have it. I declare the amendment carried.
Amendment to Motion No. 49 agreed to
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the motion as amended?
Mrs. Edelman: During the September 1996 territorial election, I was fortunate enough to receive a tour of Whitehorse Correctional Centre. Over the years, I have had a number of friends who have worked up at the jail and I've heard some stories about the conditions up at the Whitehorse Correctional, but nothing could have prepared me for what I saw up at the facility.
The most obvious problem is overcrowding. The jail was built for 39 inmates. Two winters ago, there were over 100 prisoners. You can, if you wish, truly reach out and touch someone from any bed in the place. Viruses run rampant in the facility, and not just cold and flu viruses, but also skin viruses, some of which present as constantly running sores, which are the norm in the place.
I will read to you from an article that appeared in the Yukon News recently: "'There're always line-ups to see the nurse,' said the inmate, noting the overcrowded prison has stagnant air and is a hotbed for germs which, given the cramped conditions, are easily spread. 'One guy caught the flu four times in one month,' he said, and added that there are a lot of sickly guys around. During a tour of the prison, the News found cigarette butts, used kleenex and dustballs the size of a fist littering the floors of some cells of the dormitory.
"The prison has none of the sterile qualities normally associated with a correctional facility. During the tour, a putrid smell was emanating from the nurse's exam room, but once inside, the source could not be traced. Health hazards beyond filth are well-documented in a prison review done by Barr Ryder. Sewer pipe systems within the crawlspace of the building are subject to major leaks, affecting performance of the heating, ventilation and mechanical systems and also creating a health hazard. "
Asbestos insulation appears to be installed throughout the facility and does not appear to be in a stable condition, as a result of air movement across the insulation. Asbestos is a mineral fibre, which was commonly used as a fire retardant insulation in older buildings and disturbed asbestos can release health-threatening fibres too small to be visible. After they are inhaled, they can accumulate in the lungs and cause lung cancer, mesothalomia, which is a cancer of the chest and abdominal linings, and asbestosis, which is an irreversible lung scarring, all of which can be fatal.
Now, for some prisoners, the correctional facility is actually good for their health. Chronic problems, which need to be managed closely, such as type one diabetes, heart and blood pressure problems, are well-monitored in prison, unlike on the street, where many of the inmates end up after their sentences are complete. But I should note here that there is a very good program through the community health nurse, and she does some good work for the people that do come out of that facility. For the staff, though, this is not a good place.
Now, I'm in extremely good health, and I have a very high fitness level, but by the end of my tour of Whitehorse Correctional Centre I was short of breath, starting to wheeze, my eyes were sore and watering, my nose was running, and my skin was itchy, and that wasn't very nice.
The facility was built on sand, and for the ball diamonds across the street that's excellent, but for the jail, you end up having a constantly shifting structure. As the ground freezes and thaws each year, more cracks appear in the building. We have constant small earth tremors, and more cracks appear in the building. The infrastructure for water and sewer service cannot take the strain. Pipes often break. If it is a water or sewer pipe, liquid gushes under the building and causes further instability in the structure. If it is a sewer pipe that breaks, the stench is unbelievable and the hazard to inmate and guard health is high. You can see the cracks in the walls. You can see where the ground has buckled by the linoleum that sticks up in the middle of hallways. It's a type of hell.
One area of the building that was particularly loathsome was the section called "remand". There is no sunlight in remand. Prisoners are made to spend up to a month and a half, in some cases, waiting for trial in this area. Some prisoners are there for up to a year. Remand is lit by bare lightbulbs. It's dark. It smells. It is too warm. It's like something from one of those old war movies where they picture an area for war prisoners who are being tortured, and people have to live and work in that space every day in 1997 just at the top of Two Mile Hill. Staff are sick quite often and so are the inmates.
There is some good work going on up at the prison, despite the appalling working conditions. Job training and literacy programs are well-received and well-delivered, and the only problem is that people are sick all the time. This unhealthy atmosphere does not make for conditions that are conducive to learning. The atmosphere at the jail is actually somewhat more akin to what I envision the work environment was like in the work houses of the 1800s in London, England, under grey, cold, polluted skies. In short, any one of Mr. Charles Dickens' characters could feel quite comfortable at Whitehorse Correctional Centre. This is not a modern facility, nor is this a historic site. The jail should be torn down and replaced.
There have been a number of creative financing plans developed over the years to support the construction of a new correctional facility. The type of inmate at the jail has changed over time. The jail was built for much lower-level security inmates, and the typical prisoner today is more violent and has a much longer record than the type of inmates envisioned in 1967, when the jail was built.
It is possible to get federal funding for a correctional facility if the prisoners have greater than two-year sentences, and if you took that money that we are wasting trying to save this derelict building, plus the federal cost share, you could built a brand-new, safe jail for the Yukon, and if you made the sentence length of the new facility five years or less, then you could also keep 90 percent of the Yukon prisoners here in the territory. Family and community support would be available to those prisoners that normally would have gone to outside jails, and that sounds like a long-term cost-saving solution.
It sounds like a life-saving solution. Prisoners could get the support they need. Staff'll be working in a much healthier environment and we, the taxpayer, would stop wasting our money on an old, unsafe, unhealthy jail.
Now, the type of people that we house in the correctional facility, well, they're not the best people in our population, and that's why we incarcerate them. We want them out of sight, out of mind and away from our families, but here in the Yukon we may be going overboard, because we house our unwanted animals in a facility that is cleaner and safer than the Whitehorse correctional facility.
What is really abominable is that we put these people to work in this facility 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Now, I'm not too sure that I do have a lot of sympathy for the inmates at the Whitehorse jail, especially because some of their crimes I find totally disgusting, but I do feel a great deal of empathy for the really good staff at Whitehorse Correctional Centre, and I think that they deserve a decent work environment. I think that all YTG staff deserve a healthy and safe work environment. It's my hope that this government looks beyond how many votes replacing the jail is going to cost them and think of the well-being of, if no one else, the staff at corrections.
Replacing the jail makes good economic sense. Replacing the jail is just plain practical, and hopefully this government can look beyond political considerations and see the wisdom of following the recommendations of the Barr Ryder report and replace the jail.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm not going to speak overly long on this, but I think there are a number of things that I would like to sort of address with regard to this. The impression, I think, has been left somewhat unfairly that the government - either the previous government or this government - does not care about inmates or staff health at Whitehorse Correctional Centre. I think if we take a look at some of the activities that have gone on in the last period of time, I would be remiss if I did not bring to the Legislature's attention some of the work that has gone on cooperatively between Justice and my own department, Government Services.
No one disputes the fact that WCC could probably use replacement. However, until the previous speaker had addressed the House, I didn't realize that the federal government was poised, so to speak, to dump vast millions into this. I'm sure that sort of undertaking by the Liberal Party is certainly welcome news to the Minister of Justice who has, I'm sure, been wondering up until just a couple of moments ago where the tens of millions of dollars are coming. Now we've been assured, and no doubt we'll receive a missive very, very shortly from Ottawa from Allan Rock, based on this, that $40 million or $50 million will be coming in the form of a cheque, because that's the impression that I got. Perhaps, am I mistaken? Apparently not.
Well, since I'm still waiting for the Prime Minister to come in the door with the some $28 million that is owed to us for the money from Indian Affairs, I guess we'll have to give them an opportunity to get their ducks in a row and make sure that we get the first cheque for the Indian Affairs monies outstanding, and then we can cash the $50-million cheque for WCC.
I am very reassured that the Liberal government and the Liberal Party up here has made a commitment to the necessary cash to replace WCC, and we look forward to that in the very near future.
However, I digress. What I'd like to do is just comment on some of the things that have gone on at WCC, because I really think that my department, the Department of Government Services, has been unnecessarily maligned, because I would like to just note some of the work that has been undertaken by Government Services in attempting to redress some of the shortcomings at WCC.
Between the summer of 1995 and January of 1997, approximately $210,000 worth of work was carried out. This involved large, mushroom-head panic buttons, which were installed in areas throughout the facility to maintain central security control should an incident occur. Additional lighting was installed in certain areas exterior to the building to improve visibility and permit security and control. An emergency generator transfer switch was replaced with a larger switch to match the generator.
All the exit doors were fitted with electromagnetic locks that can be unlocked simultaneously at central security control in case of an emergency, such as a fire or earthquake.
Other maintenance work that was carried out included the cleaning of heating ducts, fans and kitchen equipment to reduce airborne pollutants. Humidifier return repair - of course, we know that humidifiers are often a breeding source for germs, so this was necessary and was done. We replaced the boilers. We converted from oil to propane. We rebalanced the heating, the ventilation and the air conditioning systems at WCC. We reroofed the administration trailer. We replaced the old smoke detectors. We repaired the fuel leaks around the piping. We sealed the boiler room to prevent fumes from escaping. We repaired the leaking sewage pipes. We removed or we are removing or encapsulating the asbestos insulation at pipe joints throughout the entire plumbing system. This was noted as being a threat for asbestosis.
A couple of those health problems mentioned by the previous speaker have been addressed. As well, the ducts, the air fans, the dampers, the kitchen exhaust fans, the laundry dryer vents, have all been cleaned and repaired.
So I'm somewhat concerned that an unfavourable impression of the efforts of Government Services and Justice has been left. However, I'm once again very encouraged by the commitment from the Liberal Party - who no doubt speak on behalf of their colleagues - that the cash to replace WCC is forthcoming. I'm sure we'll all look forward to that. I can tell you that when the funds begin to flow - as they do from the great federal tap - we in Government Services will be standing by, ready to undertake the project management on this. I can assure the Member for Riverdale South we're eagerly awaiting that. If she could get us on this side an indication of when we could expect the cheque, I'm certainly looking forward to it so I can alert my department. Thank you.
Mr. Cable: If I rise, Mr. Speaker, I'll close debate. There may be some other worthies on the opposite side that have a few comments.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Is there any further debate?
Mr. Cable: I was interested in the mental gymnastics of the Member for Whitehorse West, the Health and Social Services Minister. All that was missing was the usual quote from the Bible, "There's a time for nonsense and time for clear thinking."
It is strange how the government can push for devolution on the one hand and then when it comes to doing what it should be doing, it wants to retain the federal umbilical cord. When the monies flow from the federal tap, I think the minister said, he's waiting there anxiously for the weekly 747 to fly in with the one dollar bills, which indicates to me that this government, as I have suspected, is not really, seriously thinking about addressing the problem at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
The position that we are in is that, through our protocols in this House where motions can be substantially amended and actually reverse the thrust of the motion, we will be voting against the amended motion. We do not think this government has seriously addressed the problem. The Barr Ryder report certainly indicates that they are of much greater magnitude than the gum and sticky-tape solutions that have been put on the problem to date.
So I have to say that I am very disappointed that the government has not recognized the problems that the staff are certainly concerned about, that the prisoners are concerned about, and that many people in the street are concerned about. All they've done with the motion is give themselves a rather artificial pat on the back, and we won't be supporting the motion as amended.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Question has been called.
Are you prepared for the question on the motion as amended?
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Are you agreed?
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, would you poll the House.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. Livingston: Agree.
Mr. Ostashek: Agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Mr. Cable: Disagree.
Ms. Duncan: Disagree.
Mrs. Edelman: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 12 yea, three nay.
Speaker: The ayes have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion No. 49 agreed to as amended
Clerk: Motion No. 65, standing in the name of Ms. Duncan.
Motion No. 65
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Porter Creek South
THAT this House recommends that funding presently allocated for the Yukon Anniversaries Commission in the budget years following 1997-98 continue to be used for the promotion and enhancement of the Yukon's tourism industry.
Ms. Duncan: It's an honour to rise today to present for House debate and discussion a positive motion regarding Yukon's tourism industry generally and support for the Yukon Anniversaries Commission most specifically.
The Tourism minister is often fondly described by many Yukoners as the Minister of Fun. Truly, this is the department that gets to party. Of course, it isn't all fun and games, and any minister or industry person who has stood at a Yukon booth at a trade show, like the Seattle Trade Show, the International RV Show at B.C. Place, the Vancouver Sportsmen's B.C. Great Outdoor Show or the Alaska Sportsmen's Show, will tell you that it certainly isn't all fun, and it isn't all a party.
Much as we all love the Yukon and want to share our beautiful home with visitors, it can be hard work convincing the general public that this is the place to spend their tourism dollar.
The tourism dollar - it's a little appreciated industry. I'd like to share with the House some of the recognition by other governments of just how much of an economic generator tourism can be. The tourism sector has a proven track record of creating jobs in all regions of our country. When the Canada Tourism Commission was created in 1995, the federal government tripled its funding for tourism promotion, from $15 million to $50 million per year. The Canadian Tourism Commission has attracted about 1,400 partners who are expected to contribute over $65 million this year, and this surpasses the $50-million challenge that was originally issued when the Canadian Tourism Commission was originally created.
What does the Canadian Tourism Commission do? Its budget is being increased by $15 million a year for the next three years, and the funds are used for the promotion in foreign markets to ensure that Canada's tourism potential is fully realized over the coming years. Partners in the private sector match the federal government, dollar for dollar.
The federal government budget allocates $45 million in new funds over three years for tourism promotion and a further $50 million for the Business Development Bank of Canada to help finance private sector tourism infrastructure.
In support of the tourism industry, the federal government is also proposing a review of the visitors rebate program, which is the rebate of the GST - an important recognition of the importance of the tourism industry.
Despite having many competitive advantages in Canada - we have wide-open spaces, natural resources, First Nations tourism products and a safe, clean environment, all of those items that the Yukon has - Canada's overall share of the international tourism market declined in the early 1990s. This was due in part to inadequate marketing and promotion, a lack of the highest quality tourism products and a low skill level among those working in the industry.
The 1994 report of the Hon. Judd Buchanan, who was the special advisor on tourism to the Prime Minister, noted that Canada's $7.9-billion tourism deficit could be significantly reduced if all tourism stakeholders worked collectively to seize the opportunities before us.
Tourism currently sustains 1.3 million Canadians or 9.7 percent of the workforce. Over the next decade, tourism employment in Canada is projected to enjoy a rate of growth in excess of that of other industrial sectors. Over the next 10 years, 500,000 more workers will be required in Canada's tourism industry. A leading Canadian futurist, Frank Feather, believes that tourism will become Canada's largest employer by the year 2000 - three years away.
Jobs, jobs and more jobs is what the tourism industry is about. How does that apply to the Yukon? Well, according to a 1990 study that was conducted into Yukon tourism training needs, 2,500 people are employed year-round in tourism in the Yukon.
The number of people employed doubles during the visitor season. Those are important statistics. They're important to the Yukon and they're, of course, important to the tourism industry. The tourism industry presents, for all of us, untold opportunities.
Tourism is supported, of course, by an infrastructure. That infrastructure includes many things that Yukoners take for granted - our roads are excellent, as well as the Whitehorse airport facility and other facilities. It's also supported by industry standards for service, and I'd like to single out, for recognition, the Yukon Tourism Education Council's efforts in terms of the tourism training and training for our employees.
With respect to tourism training, the various governments of Yukon have made quite a commitment. In 1994-95, the Tourism Industry Association was responsible for training, and $186,000 was allocated through the tourism economic development agreement for tourism training.
In 1995-96, the Yukon Tourism Education Council received almost $200,000 for education and training. In 1996-97, there's $170,000. The Yukon Tourism Education Council is governed by a council. It has training programs, occupational standards and professional certification for employees, and, most importantly, it works with the tourism industry.
Also, part of our infrastructure is the Tourism Industry Association. This industry association receives approximately $100,000 in funding per year from the Government of Yukon. They are the umbrella organization for tourism. They deal overall, one could say, with the health of the industry. They are a lobby group.
Just a short look at their strategic planning meeting tells you the sort of issues that this industry encounters. There are the political issues: the lobbying of MLAs and ministers. They sell advertising in the vacation guide as part of their fundraiser.
Tourism awareness - part of what we're doing today, making Yukoners aware of the importance of the tourism industry. There are individual member issues, regional tourism development, winter marketing, trade show coordination, networking, liaison with the Tourism Marketing Council, membership drives, coordinating various projects, the ever-present fundraising, participating in the job fare, and, of course, answering visitor inquiries.
We also have the First Nation Tourism Association who have received, or will receive, funding under this year's budget, which is something that the Liberal caucus is very much in support of.
First Nations ecotourism is a growing business and the number of Yukon First Nations getting involved in it is increasing. I note for you the executive director's comments in a news report in early March: "Debbie Parent Delafoss says there is more and more demand from foreign tourists to experience First Nation culture first hand."
This is possible in a number of ways. "Sharing the aboriginal culture or the First Nation culture with low impact on the environment, so it could be through culture camps or guiding, horseback riding, canoeing, boating, or any other area. Other products are the arts, the crafts, the stories, legends and, of course, the culture itself." And, of course, her remarks are supported by the tremendous interest and attendance at the First Nation tourism conference held later in the month of March.
The City of Whitehorse has a tourism coordinator. There's also the convention bureau, which operates under the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce. It's also noted for funding in the Government of Yukon budget, some $25,000, although I would note the organization's overall budget revenue last year was $117,000.
Related to the discussion of conventions, I would refer to a news report in late March, wherein the former Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations, Shirley Adamson, and the current Minister of Tourism attended the Arctic Council and have urged that council to hold their meetings here in 1998. That sort of attraction of conventions and meetings is something that the Convention Bureau has done very, very well.
There's also the Klondike Visitors Association. This organization's record speaks for itself, if anyone travels to Dawson and sees the remarkable work of the organization. I also would note that they must be the only non-profit organization that turns money back to the Yukon government, submitting some $200,000 a year, I believe, although I stand to be corrected on that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: The Member for Klondike is telling me it's almost $300,000 - a sizeable chunk of change.
There's also the Wilderness Tourism Association, and I understand the government is working with them in terms of guidelines for the industry.
There is the Department of Tourism, which works with all of these organizations and, of course, with the government in support of our tourism industry.
The Yukon Anniversaries Commission, specifically, is budgeted to receive $285,000 in funding from the Government of Yukon this fiscal year. If one examines the Yukon Anniversaries Commission budget closely, you'll find that the $285,000 is matched, and indeed exceeded, by private sector contributions.
They showed in their financial documents, contributions from Holland America, White Pass, Norcan, Yukon Electrical, Davis and Company, the Gold Rush Inn, the Yukon News, PR Services, the Downtown Hotel in Dawson City, Inkspirationz Graphix, Integraphics, Canadian Airlines, Air North, Alcan Air and Whitehorse Beverages.
The Yukon Anniversaries has raised annual sponsorships levels and its own cash revenues from the sale of licensing and merchandise. This does not suggest that the Yukon Anniversaries Commission should then stand alone through private sector support - no. The Yukon Anniversaries Commission is very much a living example of Yukoners working together, private sector and government pulling together.
In effect, the $285,000 contributed by the Government of Yukon makes each Yukoner a partner at the table with private sector businesses. And I stress the word "partnership" because that is exactly what it is all about. Without either the private sector contributions or the Government of Yukon, the Yukon Anniversaries Commission's efforts would be lost to the Yukon, and I stress those words, "to the Yukon" because all the Yukon communities are participants.
As legislators we must ask, "Well, is this the best bang for our buck?" The anniversaries idea was one thing, but well, let's move on to other marketing ideas, you might say. Well, in response to that, I have two points. The job isn't done. My second point: let the Yukon Anniversaries Commission be part of their own devolution.
It may be that the Yukon Convention Bureau will cease to exist due to its inability to generate the type of partnerships we've seen with the Yukon Anniversaries Commission. That may happen. Perhaps it would be a natural progression from the special, specific events of the anniversaries to the overall recruitment of conventions. Perhaps there are some other future ideas for this organization.
The board of directors who have worked so closely with the industry and with communities and with community events will likely have their own very constructive suggestions for the future life. I urge the government to listen to what they have to say, not just with their reports and their statistics, but with their hearts and with an open mind. Know that Yukoners have recognized the value and the efforts of commission staff and volunteers.
My motion says that monies presently allocated should be continued to be used for the promotion and enhancement of the Yukon's tourism industry. I would be terribly disappointed if this motion were supported and the monies kept in the Tourism budget and then a turf war erupted over where the money should be allocated.
I've just listed any number of tourism organizations that could certainly make use of additional funding. I believe that the Anniversaries Commission should be allowed to finish the job, with the Government of Yukon as a full partner, as I have noted before.
Secondly, I believe that the board volunteers and staff must be participants in their own devolution.
Now comes the hard part. How then should the monies be used for the promotion of Yukon's tourism industry? I don't have a magic answer for the minister and the government. It isn't magic and it isn't rocket science. I believe that if we listen to what the players, the partners, the staff and the volunteers have to say about the future direction of the tourism industry in the Yukon, if we truly listen and hear with an open mind, open heart and, most importantly, with vision, we will come up with the best allocation of our tourism dollars.
The minister's task is to ensure that everyone comes to the table. That would include all of the organizations: the Government of Yukon, the Tourism Industry Association, the First Nations Tourism Association, the Wilderness Tourism Association operators, the Klondike Visitors Association, the City of Whitehorse, the Convention Bureau, the Yukon Tourism Education Council and, yes, the Yukon Anniversaries Commission. All of these people come to the table with the best interests of Yukon's future tourism industry at heart.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very, very much, Mr. Speaker.
It does indeed give me privilege and honour to be able to stand here today and to talk about the ministry of fun, because it certainly is. I think that many of us here can attest to that; it is a fun thing to do to be able to stand and promote - and I know that not only myself, but everyone else in this room would be able to stand in this room and talk about the uniqueness, goodness and quality of life that tourism could bring, so I certainly thank the member opposite for bringing that and all of the other points that the member opposite has brought forward. I thank the member opposite for bringing those points forward.
Certainly my government does take tourism very seriously. It is not simply fun. People love to be speaking about what tourism has to offer, about the Yukon, about our cultures and our different varieties of cultures, about our anniversaries, about all these wonderful things. I certainly can rise to the occasion with them and agree with them that it is important.
It is also very near and dear to my heart, personally, as a Yukoner, to think that we might be able to sustainably develop the tourism industry and to keep Yukon first and foremost and make it the number one industry. That is something I strongly believe in. I do know that other examples - global experiences from around the world, such as Switzerland and other tiny nations - do make their number one industry tourism, and certainly I will be working in the years to come for that end.
Certainly, in this document A Better Way, we spoke about tourism and the opportunities that tourism brings, and I'd just like to quote from that, if I may, for a few moments please.
We spoke about jobs and the economy. Well, let me say that we are committed to the jobs and economic diversity; the economic diversity that provides opportunities for Yukon people from a wide variety of backgrounds. People want to stay - the move to Brooks Brook or Timber Point, where I live, for a specific purpose. They live at Marsh Lake, they live at Fox Lake. They live all over this beautiful Yukon.
I think it's incumbent upon us to start to develop this and to continue the development of this industry, so that people may be able to stay in their community, because, certainly, tourism won't offer the opportunity of economic diversity to enable people to stay in their own neighbourhood and to show off what they have in the Yukon. There's just so much to see in the Yukon that I do believe it is possible.
We need to work hard to help the rural communities and industry to diversify their economic bases and to capture the benefits of regional developments or tourism developments. That is what we said in one segment of A Better Way.
Certainly, when we spoke about tourism and the growing opportunities in tourism, we spoke of the Yukon's wild beauty, the colourful history and the unique characteristics that attract tourists from around the world.
I did say that on my European tour I spoke to many different people. I spoke to little old ladies on bicycles, I spoke to people that drove taxi-cabs and they all spoke about the beauty and wonder of Yukon. Some had been here and others has certainly wanted to come here.
It's a very important industry for many communities, and it's a big employer. This government certainly believes it deserves continued government support and encouragement, and this government will provide support for the tourism marketing, and it should be directed at the Yukon's strength, our culture, our history and our wildernes
s. These are all saleable. Certainly, they are saleable. We want to increase the number of tourist attractions. We want to streamline the marketing events. We want to work with First Nations to meet tourism commitments under the land claim agreements.
We did say that we are going to actively promote and continue with the promotion of the gold rush centennial.
We want to help with targeting the fast-growing wilderness tourism market for marketing and development. We want to provide the training. We want to work with industry. Those are things that we said.
It's very difficult for me to stand here and rebut any of the member opposite's statements, because, for the most part, they are very true; very absolutely true.
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite spoke about so many different things: the Canadian Tourism Commission, and the monies that the federal government has brought forth and brought up - $50 million - and working with partnerships and that we must realize Canada's potential and we must get our adequate share - and right now it is inadequate - and inadequate marketing and it employs 9.7 percent of the workforce. Certainly, Mr. Speaker, we want to drive those figures up, and I think that we certainly can.
I was quite touched and warmed when the member opposite spoke about it being certainly supported by infrastructure here in the Yukon Territory, and it will be continue to be supported by infrastructure, so that we might be able to develop that diverse opportunity that we have - even if it means that we have to upgrade the Campbell Highway so that we might get tourism operators in that section, too.
So certainly, Mr. Speaker, there are many opportunities, and I thank the member opposite for the comments.
So certainly we'll be working with due diligence.
Mr. Speaker, it's always been my aspiration that - well, for gosh sakes, I'm a socialist. I'm a socialist from the three points, and I've said it in this House before. I come from Tlingit, Irish and Scottish ancestry, and each one of those meant that we'd work toward and for one another. To me, I reflect socialism within my ancestry and with what I am in today.
Certainly that doesn't mean that we just take things and shove things down people's throats. It means that, in my mind, we must provide leadership, of course, but we must provide that leadership through talking to the different peoples and the different segments of the tourism industry. That is why I like to think that I'm working closely with - as the previous minister has - and I'd like to work closer with the Tourism Industry Association. As I think members here know, certainly I think the people of the industry treat the Tourism Industry Association as the umbrella organization in the Yukon. I am now, and will continue to be, working closely with them.
So underneath that umbrella we have the Wilderness Tourism Association, the marketing council, the First Nations Tourism Association, and the list can go on, and the list does go on, and it can expand.
Certainly, Mr. Speaker, in my yearling years - if I could say that - as a minister here in Tourism, the minister of fun, I'm going to still work closely with the industry. I'm going to be working hand in hand with the industry, so that the industry will help direct me.
Certainly, Mr. Speaker, I do not have my thumb on the pulse. That is where the Tourism Industry Association has their thumb. They have it on the pulse of the industry, and certainly, Mr. Speaker, I feel that by working closely with that organization, I will be able to respect the wishes and desires of that association and to move forward.
Mr. Speaker, I'm certainly not throwing out a wish list or a Sears or Eaton's - well certainly not Eaton's - catalogue and creating a wish list. No, Mr. Speaker. We must be acceptable of the fact that leadership has to be shown and will be shown, but it will be taken in the principles of consultation and, certainly, or transparently, so that people will know that I have a desire to move forward with tourism, as my government endorses, and certainly to do it based on partnership.
So we'll certainly be working toward that end.
The member opposite also spoke about the ability to listen and to listen openly with your heart and your ears, and certainly not just to listen without enacting, and certainly I will be working toward that end.
No, there is certainly no magic answer. I certainly don't have a magic answer, but I'm certain that by cooperation and working together we will avoid the turf-war situation that the member opposite had spoken about. I do not want turf wars. I want a good focused direction with tourism and to move toward that focused direction.
Mr. Speaker, I think as many members of this House know, tourism is central to our strategy of diversifying the Yukon's economy. My government's view of tourism is that we need a comprehensive strategy to promote tourism, and this means promoting more than just simply the anniversaries. Now, when I say that, and I've said it in this House before, I'm not looking just to say, "1998 and chuck them out." No, the work that has been done by the Anniversaries Commission and others within the tourism industry has been one of coming together and focusing. Of course, when I say "focus," the Tourism Marketing Council does go out - and I'm not sure if I've provided it, or if the member opposite has the Angus Reid recommendations, and if both critics don't have it -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: You don't have it? I'll certainly be more than happy to provide you with these recommendations and some input as to the Tourism Marketing Council - and to the member opposite, do you have this? I will certainly make these available.
But, this is the focus of how we come together with what people want, and I apologize for not getting that over to you sooner, because certainly I want completely informed decisions when we come to make decisions in this House on this very critical avenue.
But, to this end, we have recently completed some of the focus-group testing, and we determined that while the image of the gold rush is well entrenched in the marketplace and is a very positive image, we can broaden the image of the Yukon to include First Nations culture. People want to see the First Nations, not just the brown faces deep in the forest, but they want to see how they lived and respect their history and our histories.
They want to see the beauty and the scenery of the Yukon with its unspoiled wilderness. Definitely, that's so much a part of the Yukon and why we live here. People want to see the history of human settlement, and the Yukon is the gateway to the settlement of the continent Beringia.
So certainly I'm supportive of all those things, and I guess I should be because that is what the focus group said that people want to see and people want to do.
So, in response to these findings, new images for the Yukon are being developed for further testing, and we will be working cooperatively with the Yukon Tourism and Marketing Council in approving the outcome of these efforts.
Certainly, as my budget speech and our debate on the Tourism budget will show - and I do believe that might be beginning tomorrow or will be beginning tomorrow - it will show that Tourism is one of the few areas of government that shows a net increase in the O&M expenditures. This does reflect our commitment to the arts and heritage components of Tourism and to supporting the development of the First Nations tourism product and to diversify tourism to build on the strengths of this industry - and I must say "the strengths of this industry" once more, so that it can benefit the tourism operators from around the territory.
As you know, Mr. Speaker, we cannot and will not tie the hands of government in its budgetary responsibilities. We certainly will consider continuing the funding levels we currently have in Yukon Tourism in future years, and we will do that through the auspices of the Tourism Marketing Council and the Tourism Industry Association and all the players that make up that association, including the KVA and others. I'm very serious about working with Tourism as the ministry of fun, but certainly again I reiterate that it is not all fun; it is a very serious responsibility that is alive and it is encumbent upon myself to live up to the words that I have just spoken.
For further information, the Yukon Anniversaries Commission funding is contained within the corporate services branch of Tourism and in the allotments, and this line item of $445,000 is made up of the Yukon Anniversaries Commission, $285,000; TIA, $100,000; and the First Nations Tourism Association, $60,000.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, I would like to reiterate that this government does support promoting and enhancing the development of the Tourism Industry Association and I can certainly support this motion, but what I would like to do, though, is amend this motion with one simple gesture.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: To that end, I move
THAT Motion No. 65 be amended by deleting everything after the word "recommends" and substituting the following:
"that the government consider allocating funding presently allocated for the Yukon Anniversaries Commission in the budget years following 1997-98 for the promotion and enhancement of the Yukon's tourism industry."
I have them passed out, and they will be coming to you forthwith.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Tourism
THAT Motion No. 65 be amended by deleting everything after the word "recommends" and substituting the following:
"that the government consider allocating funding presently allocated for the Yukon Anniversaries Commission in the budget years following 1997-98 for the promotion and enhancement of the Yukon's tourism industry."
Mr. Phillips: I rise today to speak in support of the motion put forward by the Member for Porter Creek South. I also can tell the minister that I do support, in principle, as well, his amendment, but I was planning on making a small amendment myself to the motion and I see that the minister's amendment has not included portions of mine, so I'm having our officials work on that to include that in the amendment. I'm sure that, in the context of the friendly amendment put forward by the Minister of Tourism, that when I add my friendlier amendment to his friendly amendment, we'll all be one big happy family.
The Minister of Tourism and the Member for Porter Creek South have talked about the importance of tourism to the Yukon, and there is no doubt about it that, five or six or seven years ago, tourism was there. Many Yukoners that were involved and lived in the territory used to somehow and in some ways dread about the middle of May or the first week of June when the RVs started coming up the road. People used to say they blocked their streets and they were in our way when we were trying to get to our cottages on the weekend. A lot of Yukoners didn't have a real appreciation of the value that was to them in their everyday lives. I think, over the past five or six years, we've become more aware of the value of tourism to us as individuals, even if we're not directly related to the tourism industry.
I was fortunate, Mr. Speaker, and I considered it extremely fortunate to be asked to be the Minister of Tourism in the past government and to be present when we saw the best consistent growth in tourism in the history of the Yukon. I think that the ground work has been laid in many areas and I don't take all the credit for it. I think the credit has to go to what I think is the best marketing department in any Tourism department across this country and the individuals who worked hard and brought forth their expertise and skill and great ideas on how to get our message out there.
So, I think the Minister of Tourism today is rather blessed to be in that department and working with a great staff over there who are absolutely dedicated to the cause - overworked - but certainly doing a fine job.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon, in the past four years, exceeded our growth expectations that we had when we were in government - that growth of tourism. It also exceeded many other jurisdictions. I can remember going to Rendezvous Canada and other events where many of the other jurisdictions kept asking our people how we did it. Like I said, I think a lot of the credit has to go to the staff in the department, not only just the marketing staff, but staff from the heritage branch, the arts branch and Industry Services and everyone who put together their ideas and proposals over there. I think we were fortunate in having a very large group of talented people who have done a very fine job for a very small department, compared to other jurisdictions in this country, in getting our message out.
We had a real opportunity to get our message out in the fact that we had a significant event happen in the Yukon's history 100 years ago, and that was the great Klondike Gold Rush. Many people around the world had heard about it in one fashion or another and, Mr. Speaker, we took advantage of that in utilizing the media all over the world, in different cities in the world, who knew that people who had come to the Klondike of 1898 had either sought their fortune or had just made a journey here. Some of them had left their mark with interesting and fascinating stories. We used those stories to capture the attention of the media in those various cities across the world, and the promotion that we received from that was phenomenal. I think at the time we were looking at a ratio of three or four to one and we ended up with almost a 10-to-one ratio for the dollars we spent on tourism marketing. It is still, to this day, expanding and we're still getting promotion from that.
The Anniversaries Commission was set up under our government in late 1992 or early 1993. It kind of grew out of the highway celebration commission that was set up under the previous government. It was a similar idea. The role and mandate were set out, through which they were to not necessarily market the Yukon, per se, but to work with Yukoners and communities throughout the territory to develop events, things to see, things for people to do, over the anniversary years.
I notice, Mr. Speaker, the two speakers that spoke previous to me have not said a lot about the Anniversaries Commission. In fact, we've talked about it in a way like it's almost gone, and it's not gone. It's still very active. They're still working very hard. I think all members just received, either in the mail or by way of their local newspaper in the last week or two, a schedule of events for 1997, the year of transportation, which the Anniversaries Commission works on and publishes and produces. Many of the events, if not almost all of those events in that particular program, the staff at the Anniversaries Commission had a role in helping, supporting, giving advice and otherwise.
Mr. Speaker, the Anniversaries Commission, I believe, has done a very good job. They have again, like our Tourism department, attracted some pretty talented people. The staff that are there today are very active in all the communities. I know they travel around to all the communities in the territory, giving advice and helping people with their events and tying their events into the overall schedule and helping them find sponsors and helping them find various avenues of funding.
I think the Member for Porter Creek South mentioned the money that they've leveraged. The $285,000 budget has been money really well-spent, because the Anniversaries Commission and the staff have gone out and drawn in major sponsors. They've interested corporate companies and individual businesses out there and convinced them of the value of becoming involved in events around the anniversaries. Many local businesses have committed dollars, resources and assistance in developing, sponsoring and assisting various events.
So, it's really made everybody part of the picture.
Partnerships in tourism are what it's all about. The Yukon simply could not have gotten its message out to the world about what we're all about and what we have to offer without establishing partnerships. Partnerships with major tour companies like Holland America Westours and Princess; partnerships like Canadian Airlines and Air Canada; corporate partnerships, Mr. Speaker, with the Royal Bank and Canada Post, and all of those other agencies and corporations who have had an opportunity to see some value in promoting the territory.
I think one of the things that the Minister of Tourism probably found out in his travels - and will find out next week when he's in Vancouver at Rendezvous Canada - the Yukon, probably at Rendezvous Canada, is very well-known, but when one walks around the streets of Vancouver, or walks around the streets in Frankfurt, Germany, or some other areas of the world, there are still a lot of people out there that need to know more about us.
We sometimes think that because we live here and we have the Klondike Gold Rush and the First Nations history and other aspects of Yukon that we think are attractive, we think everyone else knows about it and, in fact, they don't. In fact, people probably today, on the Internet, or by way of our visitor guide, or by way of some of our promotions with our corporate sponsors, are just learning about the Klondike Gold Rush, and may plan a trip to the Yukon this year or next, or the year after, to look at that history.
The minister spoke earlier about the Klondike Gold Rush being over in 1998, but not abandoning it completely, and I couldn't agree more. I think that there are many aspects of our history which are very important to us and very valuable to us in our marketing.
The Klondike Gold Rush history will always be very important to us and should always be marketed by our government, because it's very much a part of our history
As well, Mr. Speaker, our First Nations history is extremely important to market, especially in today's light with the marketing studies that we've done in understanding how important it is to the visitors to learn more about us. I mean, I think one of the most interesting things about travel these days is that people in the past travelled an awful lot just for leisure - to go somewhere, lie on a beach, sit back and relax, and maybe do nothing - and that's still a major part of travel, but the people that are our age, I guess - the baby boomers, many of the people from age 45 to 65 now who are out there - are educational travellers. They want to learn about the area they travel to. They want to understand more about the history of the area and, in the Yukon's case, from the First Nations history to the history of the gold rush, to the current history today.
Mr. Speaker, we're pretty fortunate, because we did have a significant event like the gold rush, and we took advantage of it as a government, as the previous government took advantage of the history of the Alaska Highway, and they capitalized on it, and we capitalized on it and got our message out with respect to the gold rush history, but it's time to look at the future and where we are going to go with respect to that future. I think we have some golden opportunities out there.
Mr. Speaker, we've worked in the last four or five years with the Anniversaries Commission, helping to coordinate anniversaries events. They have a very hard-working board of directors and staff at the Anniversaries Commission who burn the midnight oil. At every single tourism meeting I ever go to, there's a representative from the Anniversaries Commission staff there. They're very involved, not just with the Anniversaries Commission, but with the overall marketing of the territory. They were very much involved with the recent Dawson City Nuggets, who travelled to Ottawa and put on quite a show for the Yukon in Ottawa. Mark Smith, I believe, was the MC for that night in the Ottawa ice arena, and the Yukon put on quite a show. We can be very proud, not only of the Dawson City Nuggets, but the staff of the Anniversaries Commission and many other people from Dawson who worked so hard to make this particular event a very successful reality.
I guess one of the questions we have, Mr. Speaker, is where do we go from the anniversaries, and what is the future role of the Anniversaries Commission?
The Member for Porter Creek South has talked about that a little bit, and I've heard similar suggestions, that maybe the funds should be rolled into the Convention Bureau, or maybe there should be more money put into marketing, but what I've heard more than anything else, Mr. Speaker - and I was pleased to see the amendment put forward by the Minister of Tourism here today - is that the tourism industry was afraid that, because of the huge demands overall on government funding, that when the Anniversaries Commission's role was finished, the funds for the project would be rolled back into the general revenues and that tourism would not see the benefits of it.
It's obvious today, from the amendment put forward by the Minister of Tourism, that that's not going to happen, that that $285,000 is going to go into the Tourism budget, and I think that is a very positive thing for the tourism industry.
In the minister's amendment and when the minister talked in his amendment, he talked about consulting with the industry and working closely with the industry. As the minister knows, when I was the Minister of Tourism, we worked very closely with the industry and consulted with them in many ways. In fact, Mr. Speaker, we opened up things such as the marketing council to the public, which never was done before, and we allowed more people in the industry to come in and listen to where we were going with marketing and make their comments at some point during the meeting about how they feel we were doing and ask questions about why we're doing various things. I think that's been beneficial to the industry overall because I think there was some suspicion, I suppose, in the past where the marketing branch was doing it's thing and there were some things they did that people didn't understand why.
I think now there's a much broader understanding of why we market, where we market and how we market. I think that we've also proven, with the numbers in the last four or five years, that what the Tourism Marketing Council has suggested and what the Department of Tourism marketing branch has done has been very successful and that the Yukon tourism industry and Yukoners in general have benefited from that work.
Mr. Speaker, the one area where I see that the motion, and even the amendment to the motion, could be strengthened is in the area of consultation. The minister has talked about consultation with the industry and the mover of the motion from Porter Creek South has spoken very strongly about involving the Anniversaries Commission, TIA, the First Nations Tourism Association and other groups and organizations with respect to decisions that are going to be made with this funding.
Speaker: The member has two minutes.
Mr. Phillips: The core groups who advise the minister, TIA, the Tourism Association of the territory, and the First Nations Tourism Association, are really the core groups who represent all of the groups that the minister and the critic have talked about.
So, I will be supporting the amendment put forward by the minister, but I would like to move a further amendment to that motion.
Mr. Speaker, I look to you for direction. I believe we have to vote on the amendment first, or can I move an amendment? Okay, Mr. Speaker, I understand I can move an amendment to the amendment, Mr. Speaker.
In keeping with the theme that we want to consult with the industry and what we do with this funding after the Anniversary Commission's job has wound down,
THAT the amendment to the Motion No. 65 be amended by adding the following words after the word "industry":
"subject to consultation with the Yukon Tourism Industry Association and First Nation tourism associations."
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Riverdale North
THAT the amendment to the Motion No. 65 be amended by adding the following words after the word "industry":
"subject to consultation with the Yukon Tourism Industry Association and First Nation tourism associations."
Mr. Phillips: I know I don't have much time left, but all I want to say is that I certainly supported the initial motion by the Member for Porter Creek South. I support the amendment by the Minister of Tourism. I just tabled a very friendly amendment, which I think strengthens the motion overall and ties in with what everyone has been saying in the House here about consulting with the industry on the future expenditure of this money with respect to the Anniversaries Commission.
Mrs. Edelman: I'll be brief.
I suppose the best reason to support the centennial anniversaries program is what it's done for the Yukon, and I think what I'll do is read you what it has done for the Yukon.
In Carcross, the Carcross Development Corporation developed a waterfront park. In Carmacks, there are interpretive centres. In Dawson, the Klondike Centennial Society reclaimed a river heritage program in the Han Cultural Centre. In Faro, there is the Campbell Region Interpretive Centre. In Haines Junction, the Village of Haines Junction built a multi-purpose centre. In Mayo, Na-Cho Ny'ak Dun did a viewing deck and gazebo. In Pelly Crossing, the Selkirk Development Corporation did the Selkirk Heritage Centre. In Ross River, the Ross River Dena Development Corporation did the visitor rest stop. In Teslin, the Teslin Tlingit Council did the Tlingit Heritage Centre. In Watson Lake, we have the northern lights display. In Whitehorse, the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce did the multi-cultural pavilion.
These are the ones that have been approved. There are other ones that are pending approval - in Burwash, in Whitehorse, in Teslin, in Ross River - and there are other projects. There are kiosks in Beaver Creek. There are equipment upgrades in Watson Lake. There are a series of different projects, all of which have come into the Yukon because of CAP, and surely that is just one of the reasons why tourism is important in the Yukon.
Tourism dollars and money, where money goes around comes around. Tourism dollars create an awful lot of reasons for people to come to the Yukon. Some of those created under CAP are just some of the reasons people come to the Yukon and stay for a little while, and the longer you can get people to stay in the Yukon the more money they'll spend and the more money we'll have in our pockets as that money goes around our economy.
It's all good work, and the tourism industry is our second-largest industry, and if we're ever going to get away from being totally dependent on the mining industry, then we have to develop those other types of industries in the Yukon and we need to support the tourism industry here.
We also need to support the education in that area and need to do that in partnership with the First Nations and in partnership with the industry that already exists.
Certainly, this caucus would be supportive of what has been talked about today, and it's good to see the House working in such a productive way.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: On the amendment to the amendment? The subamendment, okay. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, I will speak to the amendment to the amendment and I will qualify it as a subamendment.
I would certainly like to rise to speak to the amendment to the amendment, and throw my support and my caucus' support behind it.
I thank the members opposite for bringing the motion forward. I do believe it was a good motion and it created some debate and, if I could say, some camaraderie, and it gives us a focus where we might be able to come together. This side of the House, or I, will certainly be supporting the amendment to the amendment, and I thank the member opposite for putting that suggestion forward. Thank you.
Subamendment to Motion No. 65 agreed to
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the amendment as amended?
Amendment to Motion No. 65 agreed to
Mr. Jenkins: It is always a pleasure to voice my position and my concerns about our visitor industry and rise in support of the original motion, as amended and as further amended.
The visitor industry, Mr. Speaker, is alive and well in the Yukon and it's growing. Historically, the Yukon enjoyed ,at best, a 100-day season, which we have now managed to stretch to 120 days and are enjoying significant progress in filling in the shoulder seasons and developing our winter visitor industry.
At this juncture, Mr. Speaker, the impediment to further growth is, number one, our transportation system and, number two, the number of attractions in our main communities. The transportation system starts with the airport here in our capital city not being able to allow us to take off with full loads, European-bound, with existing aircraft. Hopefully, that can be worked around with charter lines that are coming from Europe into Anchorage, landing here in Whitehorse, disembarking a number of visitors and taking on the visitors that are presently here, flying from here to Anchorage, disembarking the balance of their passengers and then taking on a new, returning group and flying directly back to Europe.
The other area that we are having difficulties with is our highway system, and if you look at the arterial routes into the Yukon - the Alaska Highway corridor, the Skagway corridor, the Haines corridor, the Top of the World corridor and, to a lesser extent, the Dempster corridor - all of these are enjoying good vehicle counts, but there is room for improvement, especially on two of them, one of them being the Top of the World Highway, but that would necessitate further upgrading on the Alaska side and the removal of the impediment, that wonderful ferry ride at Dawson City, by the government of the day constructing a suitable river crossing that can be used year-round: a bridge, Mr. Speaker.
Then, when we look at the rubber-tire traffic, it's showing a downward trend, but motorcoach traffic is alive and well and fly/drive traffic is showing increases. The major player, Holland America and Princess, are and will continue to play a major role in marketing and promoting this area. Our Yukon government marketing arm is certainly producing results.
We have a diverse number of organizations representing the industry here in the Yukon, the principal ones being the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon, the First Nation Tourism Association, the Klondike Visitors Association and, to a lesser extent, a number of the other groups centred in our major cities and areas.
But, a few years ago, TIA was expanded from what it was to encompass a great number of the diverse bodies representing various sectors of the visitor industry. That appears to be a workable arrangement. It probably does need some attention and I'm sure the new board of directors and their new executive will provide that leadership.
Another area in which our Department of Tourism is producing results is that they are doing an excellent job of writing speeches for our minister, and he is doing more than an adequate job - in fact, we might as well term it an excellent job - at delivering those speeches. My congratulations to our minister for being an excellent presenter, especially at the recent conventions staged here in Watson Lake earlier this year, and from all the remarks that I've heard about his trip to Europe, he was extremely well-received and did Yukon proud with his presentations.
Mr. Speaker, this is one industry that is growing, continues to grow, and employs a vast number of Yukoners. It is an industry that I'm very familiar with, and I want to continue to see its growth. The Yukon is a fantastic destination. By adding any additional amounts of funding into the pot that we can and properly directing those funds into areas that will produce results, we can convert those results, which are dollars in all Yukoners' pockets, to a better standard of living and an enjoyable lifestyle.
So, I have risen in support of that motion and continue to support that motion as amended. Thank you.
Speaker: If the Member for Porter Creek South now speaks she will close debate. Is there any other debate?
Ms. Duncan: I'm pleased to rise to close the debate.
What we have witnessed in the House this afternoon, I believe, is a vigorous agreement on a number of points.
We, on all sides of this House, have agreed that tourism is important to the Yukon; that it's importance is growing, and that it represents an opportunity for everyone.
I believe we have also all recognized that the Yukon Anniversaries Commission has been an important element in the Yukon tourism industry; that the staff and volunteers associated with the Anniversaries Commission have worked hard and that they have done well.
I believe we have also all agreed that the same can be said of all of the other organizations involved in tourism as well and, m
ost importantly, that the department has led the campaign of tourism awareness and led the tourism industry in many ways into the success we enjoy today.
My point in bringing forward this motion today was two-fold. I wanted to, primarily, highlight the very good work done by the partners in tourism, especially the Yukon Anniversaries Commission - because some people believe the job is already done; that we should simply do away with the commission and that all is said and done, and that it's over with.
I would say that that is not the case and, as I have said earlier, I believe we need to listen to the people involved.
My second point was to urge the government, and most especially the Minister of Tourism, not to simply see the funding that has previously been allocated to the Yukon Anniversaries Commission as more of the pot to spread around and, especially, to flag for all of the other ministers that that is not funding that is then available for the schools, bridges and jails, much as we may need them or lobby for them in the House.
I put this motion forward in the good faith that the government would see this as a constructive suggestion and as an opportunity to have discussion about our most important tourism industry. I'm pleased that it has been supported and amended so that it can be supported by all members of this House, and that we have, as I said, experienced a vigorous agreement in the House this afternoon about the importance of Yukon's tourism industry.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the motion as amended?
Motion No. 65 agreed to as amended
Hon. Mr. Harding: 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 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.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 1997-98 - continued
Department of Health and Social Services - continued
Chair: Is there further general debate?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Before we proceed with any further general debate, what I'd like to table for the Member for Klondike is a summary of outstanding invoices to Indian Affairs - outstanding to the Yukon Department of Health and Social Services.
Mr. Jenkins: Perhaps just on a point of clarification, in the Blues from May 6th on page 1041, the abbreviation PSTTA - I'm assuming that to be the program service transfer agreement, PSTA?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Yes, okay.
I'd like to thank the minister for his summary of the outstanding amounts. It shows $28 million being outstanding for a number of initiatives.
These are all invoiced to Indian and Northern Affairs. It is a sizeable sum. For First Nations children in care, invoiced but remaining unpaid, it shows $19,000,449; adjust to full estimate, direct and indirect cost, another $4.6 million; social assistance, for another $383,000; home care, another $122,000; Yukon women's transition home for another $637,000; Dawson women's shelter, another $16,000; Macaulay Lodge, $51,000; McDonald Lodge, $214,000; and Thomson Centre, $2.7 million.
What is our First Nations population that is incurring this cost here in Yukon? We're talking about 6,000 to 7,000 people, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well it's anywhere from 5,000 to 7,000, depending on the numbers that one counts, particularly with regard to certain of these programs. The percentages may be higher or lower.
Mr. Jenkins: Twenty-eight million dollars, Mr. Chair. That's a considerable sum of money to be outstanding from the federal government. The collection of this sum - what steps is the government prepared to take, should they not be successful in negotiating at the table? Are we prepared to go as far as initiating a court action, as the Government of the Northwest Territories did, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, it's a little preliminary right now to take a look at the idea of a court case. Part of this offsetting amount really comes down to what the federal government is prepared to pay of these costs, according to their formula, and I think that that, in particular, has some serious implications for First Nations that might choose to draw down some of these services, because there is a discrepancy between what DIAND pays for particular services and what we will cover for particular services.
In light of some of our conversations yesterday, it would be a bit of a cautionary note for some First Nations that are interested in drawing down these services that the amounts that they might expect could be somewhat less than perhaps what they are currently enjoying now in terms of services delivered, because the federal government has a different calculation.
Mr. Jenkins: Then that gives rise to the question of how would the Auditor General certify these as being correct accounts receivables if they are open to the wide degree of interpretation such as the minister is suggesting?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, apparently our Auditor General is aware of this. There isn't a disagreement between ourselves and the federal government that these monies have been expended. The difficulty comes with the federal government's own formula for paying for certain services. I guess, quite frankly, it's the fact that, while they don't dispute the fact that we paid the money, they just dispute whether they should be paying our amounts.
Mr. Jenkins: When these outstanding amounts appear on our balance sheet as being accounts receivable, any auditor would certainly question the validity of how much you're anticipating collecting and what you're anticipating writing off in that fiscal period. Unless there are some notes to the contrary in the audited financial statement, as completed by the Auditor General, certainly he has confirmed that this is a valid, outstanding receivable. If that is the case, there is more weight to go to the federal government and say, "Look, this is what the Auditor General has said and he has accepted it as being a legitimate outstanding receivable. Pay it."
Would that not be the case, or is there something I'm missing, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Indeed, the Auditor General has agreed with our expenditures - has agreed with the amounts we have expended. There isn't a disagreement there. I guess it really comes down, I suppose, to an unwillingness on the part of DIAND to pay the amounts that we have sought and naturally they will try to dispute that amount. We are pressing continually on this. We are in negotiations. We've discussed it to a fair degree with them and, hopefully, they will come to see the error of their ways and pay the money that's still outstanding.
Mr. Jenkins: So, in just over four years, we've incurred an outstanding receivable of $28 million. At what point do we say, "no more"?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That certainly is, I suppose, the ultimate sanction. However, we've committed in this territory, as a government, to deliver services for all citizens of this territory - First Nation and non-First Nation - and I suppose one ultimately could say that we won't deliver the services but that, from a philosophical point of view, would be very, very difficult to do since we are committed to equality of service for all citizens in this country and, indeed, all Canadians.
Mr. Jenkins: This is an outstanding issue that's in the best interests of the Government of the Yukon and the best interests of the First Nations to resolve, because future funding that could flow directly to the First Nations is dependent on the amounts negotiated in this undertaking. Would it not be advisable for the Government Leader - the Minister of Finance - to be approaching the department, indeed someone higher in the Government of Canada, than where we're at today?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, one of the problems that we have with DIAND is that DIAND essentially treats us the same way that they would treat all jurisdictions delivering services to First Nations people, no matter where they are across the country -
First Nations people living on reserves, in particular - and they have a formula, which they are not willing to deviate from, and they are not willing to acknowledge many of our higher costs here for the delivery of service.
With regard to the First Nations themselves, these amounts have been made clear to the First Nations who are at the table, so they know what we're dealing with. I believe that the Government Leader has made representation to the Minister of Indian Affairs on these, as well as other outstanding issues. But, once again, it comes down to DIAND working from their particular cross-Canada formula and an unwillingness to deviate from that.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we'll leave that one alone for now, but I'm certainly not impressed with the Yukon having to carry that amount on its books as a receivable, with the measure of uncertainty surrounding it. If it's not collected, it will certainly have serious repercussions, initially, on just the cashflow of Yukon, but, shortly thereafter, on our First Nations people and on the balance of Yukon. So, it is a serious concern.
If I could explore with the minister the medevac costs, we now have a dedicated aircraft for that service, at a cost of $330,000, and our medevac increases are looking at around another $50,000. So, we're around $380,000, in addition to what it's costing directly in the course of the year.
What is our total cost for medevacs in the course of a year? It's broken up in about three different areas.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, there are essentially three medevac setups right now. One is the main contract, which is medevac within the territory. There is also medevac out of the territory and as well, there is also a backup medevac -
I'm sorry, Old Crow, yes.
And on this, if the member could just bear with me for a second - we're just trying to break out some of the numbers. If we're unable to break out the numbers, I can certainly get them to you. I'll get them to the member at a further point. Yes, I don't appear to have the numbers within here as to what these contracts are, but what I can do is get a total for the member and get back to him.
Mr. Jenkins: Are there any outstanding receivables resulting or that the government is incurring in write-offs as a result of providing medical medevac services? I understand that has grown alarmingly in the last few years. Could the minister advise, ballpark, where we're at and what steps we're taking to recover those outstanding amounts?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, there are. As a matter of fact, I was just reviewing some of those yesterday and I can get those figures back to the member. I don't have them here, but primarily the medevac expenses that we incur, that we don't recover, are predominantly for U.S. citizens, foreign citizens that will be involved in a car accident and be medevac'd to Whitehorse, and we make every attempt to recover. As a matter of fact, we've gone even as far as credit agencies and things like that.
Unfortunately, many of these citizens, when they leave our country, literally disappear and we have some outstanding fees on that. I believe it's somewhere in about the tens of thousands, just based on yesterday's figures that I saw.
It is a problem and we attempt to track those individuals down. Sometimes we're successful, sometimes we're not. Sometimes we can recover, sometimes we can't.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I recognize that in most of these cases, it is an emergency situation that gives rise to the need for a medevac, but one only has to take ill in a foreign country to see how you are treated in that country with respect to payments, and is the government considering instituting a new policy to tighten up our procedure in this area so we do not incur any losses?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We do have a method whereby we turn over outstanding amounts to Finance, and Finance makes a best effort to recover these, sometimes through a collection agency, as I said before. The only other thing that, I suppose, could be done would be to have people pay up front, and sometimes, in crisis situations, that's very difficult.
Some of our physicians do require a VISA payment or something of that nature for a basic service that is delivered, say, in a hospital or in a doctor's office, but in the case of an emergency or a crisis, I think we tend to err on the side of doing the medical service and then trying to recover later on. As I said, those are then turned over to Finance for collection.
If the member wishes, I do have the figures for medevacs available that I can just give him at this time. Medical travel out of territory - scheduled, $1,052,500; medical travel out of the territory - charter, $772,500; mileage is $77,000; medical travel - ambulance, $30,000; and the final one is contract services for the medical advisor. So, perhaps that is of some assistance to the member.
Mr. Jenkins: What I was trying to get at with the minister was a policy for a collection up front, similar to what they have in the United States if you go into any medical facility or require any services. If they're not satisfied that they're going to get paid, it's usually an upfront payment that is necessary.
I can appreciate that the government is loathe to institute hard policies with respect to our own citizens, but for people from other countries, why do we have to incur costs in those areas when they are normally travelling with insurance policies and things of that nature? Why don't we have a policy similar to a lot of the U.S. institutions where you pay up front and those arrangements are made?
I can understand we're going to have to deviate from those in an emergency, but in most cases arrangements are made and there's adequate time from the time that the plane is required and it moves on when we can institute some sort of a policy where we're not going to be left holding the bag for a $10,000 flight.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think, in general, many physicians and clinics throughout the territory do have a policy of paying up front, generally through a credit card system. The loss record that we have isn't particularly bad and is related primarily to medevacs. I suppose, given some of the circumstances surrounding medevacs and given the kind of crisis situation, plus quite frankly the cost at the time, it can be somewhat daunting for individuals.
We would like to be able to recover every cent. Unfortunately, we're not able to do it but I believe that, in general, our loss record in this area is not that bad.
With regard to foreign citizens, it's always problematic. Can you legitimately withhold medical treatment from someone or can you say we're not going to fly someone out for emergency treatment? I think that would be something that would be opposed generally by people in this territory and, I would imagine, by the medical community who see themselves as having a responsibility to patients, first and foremost, regardless of nationality.
We do make an honest attempt and we believe that the outstanding amounts are not that great.
Mr. Jenkins: The outstanding amounts are not that great, and yet I see accounts receivable of $28 million. Yes, okay. I don't know what we consider to be great. That's in a different area, but when we look at the total accounts receivable for the department, it is very, very sizeable, Mr. Chair, and it requires a lot more attention than it's being granted at the present time.
One of the other areas that I have a concern with - and I would like to know the government policy on - is staffing for the rural ambulances. Is the government anticipating any change in policy in this area to attract and retain - there has been an effort made of late. Is that going to continue and be enhanced, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, there has been improvement in the provision of ambulance service in the last couple of years. Some of this includes upgraded ambulances and equipment, on-site and distance education training, increasing the pay or the honoraria according to levels of training.
Right now there' about 155 ambulance attendants. Last year there were new ambulance stations put in Pelly Crossing. Watson Lake, Haines Junction and Dawson will soon have two ambulances.
One of the things that we've tried to do in that regard is, formerly, rural ambulance volunteers would come to Whitehorse for training. Now we're trying to deliver it through the college by developing a curriculum in that regard.
As a matter of fact, this week, there's an ambulance training officer in Dawson City teaching the EMA level 1 course. What we've tried to do is encourage people in this regard by increasing the reimbursement and tying it to the level of training, so the higher one goes, the higher the reimbursement, in terms of honorarium.
Mr. Jenkins: The other area that could be addressed to enhance this area, Mr. Chair, is adequate facilities to house the ambulance in rural Yukon and training facilities for these individuals. We're coming to rely on them more and more. They are not paid; they are volunteers. They're paid an honorarium when they serve, and they're a very dedicated group of individuals across the board. Anything we can do to encourage them and enhance their area of operation is certainly going to be to our benefit, so I would encourage the minister to address that area also.
If I could just move on to a couple of other points, and then I'll turn it over to my colleague.
Could the minister just give us the anticipated completion date for the Whitehorse General Hospital and what further costs we are going to incur. When is it going to be 100 percent turned over to government, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We expect to have substantive completion by early fall. However, there will be issues, such as landscaping and things of that nature, going on, but we're hoping to have the bulk of the work done this summer.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister also advise when all the beds in the Thomson Centre will be used for their intended purpose? When is that going to 100 percent up and running, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Our expectation on that one, and the direction I've given in that regard, is for the middle to the end of June. As soon as we have the current phase of the hospital substantively completed, we'll move those up and we will be activating those beds as, I guess, another ward.
There are a couple of modifications that we'll have to do. For example, the Century tub will have to be brought in. There will be some cosmetics on it, but the rooms are essentially patient rooms and they'll require some upgrades, they will require further staffing, and there will also be a modification of kind of a lounge area on that end to be sort of a further common dining area for patients down at that end so that they don't have to travel up the corridor, so to speak.
Mrs. Edelman: To go back to the issue of the monies that are owed from DIAND, this is a very long-standing debt - since 1993, I believe. How long is it that we usually wait for money from DIAND, prior to this stumbling block?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm informed that we did get a partial payment four years ago, but essentially they've refused to pay anything for the last four years. Even up to last week, they refused to pay. We're still trying to collect. As I said, we did get an installment about four years ago, but that's about it.
Mrs. Edelman: What I'm wondering about this is that it is essentially at the bureaucratic level, and it has always been at the bureaucratic level, and those negotiations have been ongoing over a very long period of time. We were speaking earlier about going to court. Are there any other remedies that we can think of at this point to use?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Outside of a collection agency or perhaps a large man called Gino showing up at the Prime Minister's door, I can't think of too much more.
I know that the Government Leader has made representation on our behalf with the federal Minister of Indian Affairs. I suppose, once again, we could count on the good offices of our Liberal friends across the floor to put through a call tonight, but we are attempting to recover it in every way possible.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I'm glad to hear that, because that's your job.
Now, one of the issues that comes up constantly is the issue around child care, and before the minister goes off on his usual federal tangent, I think we need to be clear that it's his job to negotiate with the federal government for any funding that he can get and from any other source that he can get.
Now, the previous NDP did a really good job coordinating some of the activities around child care, and that was a legacy that I think we need to continue. Certainly it stood stagnant for a number of years. Now, we pay more to the people who take care of animals in the Yukon than we do to the people who take care of our children. Are there any new policy changes in the area of child care coming up?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, we haven't changed the level of subsidy. The amounts paid on behalf of eligible parents and income eligibility levels were established in 1991 and haven't changed in that regard. However, what has happened is the amount that we're currently paying out on that has gone up - obviously volume driven. We have been working with the child care board to discuss some possible changes. As recently as last week, I met with a representative of the child care board, and I raised this issue about the whole question of child care subsidies, but essentially they haven't changed from this point on, and once again, the whole question of volume has entered the picture.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Chair, particularly in the pre-school age, there's a real blip of population that went through - particularly the children that were born in 1990 that went through. Now, day care subsidies haven't increased, but I was also speaking about wage-enhancement programs and speaking about coordinated efforts through education.
For example, I know very few people who can make a decent living working as a child care worker, and one of the things that they're required to do if they want to get anywhere is to go and educate themselves. Part of that process is taking a six-week break from where they are working and working in another day care for free for six weeks, and for most of these women - who are by and large single moms - that is absolutely impossible financially for them.
There have been an awful lot of initiatives that were started by the previous NDP, and what I'm wondering about is, are you going to make any changes? Day care subsidies are just a part of that. Day care subsidies have not increased for years, but the cost of day care has gone up.
You started the process. Where are you going, policy-wise? Is this an area where this government is interested? Is this an area where you can see any changes in the future? Are you going to be taking the leadership role in this issue or not?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm going to resist my federal Liberal bashing. I mean, I could hearken to the echoes of a quarter of a million child care spaces that have suddenly disappeared into space. I could perhaps suggest the $600 million that was suddenly there and is then gone in the great federal shell game, but I won't. Far be it for me.
What I can say is that I have been meeting with the child care board, and one of the things that we have talked about is the whole question of levels of training. Certainly, my discussions with them have suggested - they've suggested some things with regards to grants and the level of training, perhaps tying the level of training to the direct operating grants, for example. Those are some things that they've floated with me.
They are very, very cognizant of the whole question of training. They would certainly like to have day care workers have higher levels of training, and I think they are going to be coming back to me with some recommendations in that regard.
So, I'll be interested in seeing what suggestions they have, and we can certainly look at it then.
Mrs. Edelman: Over the course of quite a long time, although we've only been here for about seven months, we have been speaking about changes to the Optometrists Act - proposed amendments to the Optometrists Act - and there seems to be a general feeling across the floor there that this might be a good thing to do, and we might possibly see those amendments in the fall sitting.
Now, one of the things that's come up in this field is something that comes up in a lot of health fields, and that is the changes in the technology. Now, there have been changes in the field in general, and that's one of the reasons why we need the amendments. O
ne of those changes is that now optometrists dispense medicines and that's - or not dispense, pardon me, prescribe medications - and that's very important, particularly when that optometrist is in the rural areas, because you need to treat those diseases of the eye immediately, so that those people don't lose their sight.
One of the new treatments that has come out - and we've talked about new treatments basically, yesterday, as well - is eye exams done through an electronic screening area. I have letters here from an ophthalmologist and optometrist and from the people who are proponents of the new electronic way of finding a person's prescription for eyeglasses. There are some real concerns here.
This new way of doing things electronically has some up sides and it has some down sides. There are some real concerns in the optometry community here in the Yukon. What they are saying is that you could almost take a look at this as having a sort of a similar problem of it being an untested technology that would be similar to Thalidomide.
Now, that might be getting a little carried away, but what they're saying is that you can't have new treatments or new methods out there without looking at reliability and validity. What they're also saying is that these people are giving out eye prescriptions for glasses, having little or no training in that area, and they're saying that optometrists go to school for six years at the university level and even at that point, they still aren't licensed to do that until they go through another licensing requirement in their education.
What I'm worried about is that this is just one example of new technology coming up and new drugs and new treatments. What is the general policy, or the watchdog attitude, that the government takes on these new treatments?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I understand where the member is going with that and I understand the nature of the question, especially with regard to the technology. I assume that what she is alluding to is a current dispute between a company which is interested in introducing vision technology in the territory and some difficulties with the consumer services branch about whether or not that technology is licensed.
With regard to any professional act, that is really a matter for Justice. Strange as it sounds, we don't administer professional acts, even for medical professionals.
With regard to optometry, I would presume that any changes in an optometry act would be subject largely to the self-regulating body of that profession, where they would either suggest that a technology is proven or unproven.
Currently it's my understanding that the consumer services branch in this government, which I believe is based in Justice, has not accepted that technology as being acceptable.
Mrs. Edelman: So I would take it, then, that the professionals who are in this field, who are looking into having to open up that act for amendments - much needed amendments - to update the way that their profession now operates, would not perhaps have to worry about opening the door to everything else under the sun that may or may not be beneficial to the good operating of their profession in this territory? Are we talking about opening up the Optometrists Act in the fall for general consultation, or what are we talking about with that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I guess one of the issues here would be that it is primarily a Justice issue, and how Justice is planning on proceeding with this is, I suppose, really up to them. Perhaps if they were to seek some consultation with Health and Social Services, we might have some input in there.
One of the issues is that, largely, opticals up here - well, with the exception of the new program we brought in - are an uninsured service for residents up here, I think, with the exception of the program we're bringing in and SA recipients. We assume that individuals who go and receive the prescription would be receiving it from a licensed optometrist, and that that optometrist would, I presume, be able to prescribe, would have to be part of a professional organization. I think, from our point of view, I can't see us accepting a prescription from anyone probably other than an optometrist or an ophthalmologist in this regard.
I think any issues surrounding professional acts will be a matter for Justice to decide, because they do have the governance for that.
Chair: The time being 5:30, we will recess until 7:30.
Chair: I will now Committee of the Whole to order.
We are dealing with Health and Social Services. Is there further general debate?
Mrs. Edelman: Before we broke for supper, we were talking about the introduction of a new technology in the health field, particularly in the field of optometry, and I just need to clarify with the minister: is it the minister's opinion that issues like this should be dealt with by the medical profession, perhaps taking that issue to court? Is that the minister's position?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I don't know if I would characterize it as taking them to court. I would suggest that, probably, the ultimate sanction of a society who felt that their standards were being violated would be a legal recourse. But, like any profession, medical or dental or whatever, they have their own method of monitoring and disciplining, so I would suggest that probably the optometrists themselves, in this case, would place any sanctions that they could on anyone who was using technology that, in their opinion, was unproven or perhaps not effective.
Mrs. Edelman: Quite a while ago in the House, during discussions about fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects, there was talk about the 1995 study that suggested that a coordinated approach across departments was probably the best way to go in dealing with this problem, which has many different facets.
At that point, the minister said he would be going and speaking to the Minister of Justice about this issue. I'm wondering if there are any results back now about this way of dealing with FAS, at least with those two departments working together.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As the member will recall in the report done on the proposal for alcohol-related birth defects and prevention model by Gauthier and Armstrong, there is an outline for kind of a coordinated, across-the-board approach.
I met with some of my staff on Friday who deal in vocational rehabilitation, but primarily many, many of their clientele are individuals who have some kind of cognitive impairment due to fetal alcohol effects.
They were expressing their opinions on the whole question of dealing with clients with this problem and the justice system. They have a fairly good working relationship with probations and with the Justice, but they also gave us some ideas on how we could work more closely with Justice.
As well, I have spoken with my colleague in Justice, and I have spoken with staff in Justice, and I think we share it all, particularly with regard to the high incarceration rate and recidivism rate of individuals with FAS/FAE. We would like to move to working more cooperatively with Justice in this regard because we think there's a whole group of people who are falling between the cracks, and that's certainly a goal of ours.
Mrs. Edelman: A coordinated approach to FAS/FAE across departments only makes sense, particularly if you're also dealing with the Department of Education.
The old buildings that are on the hospital campus - particularly the one that houses Mental Health - are not the most attractive buildings in the Yukon, but they've been around for a long time and, you know, there are lots of things that could go on in those buildings.
There's a real need, as the Member for Klondike mentioned earlier in the debate, for a hostel situation for people who are coming in for services from out of town, and I know this is particularly true for seniors who have a great deal of problem, perhaps, if they had been living in isolated circumstances for the large majority of their life and then they're plunked down in Whitehorse and, in particular, if they have vision problems, trying to negotiate their way into the hospital for treatments.
That's one of the possibilities for those old buildings and some of the other possibilities are, of course, we had talked earlier about an NGO building and out-patient clinics for diabetes or any of the other clinics that they had talked about in conjunction with the hospital. Those are some good needs and I know that probably a lot of the planning to do with that hospital campus is under the purview of the hospital board, but I'm wondering if there is anything in the works for those buildings.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: One of the things that we're running out of those buildings are some of the specialist clinics, while the facilities are being finished at the hospital. That's one thing that those buildings are being used for.
As well, there are still a number of staff that we have inherited from MSB who, because of our limitations on space here, we haven't been able to accommodate. Hopefully, when we're able to consolidate Health into a larger complex, we'll be able to bring them over.
There are a variety of things we can do. I think we have done a bit of an estimate on how much it would be to upgrade them. I think it is probably in the neighbourhood of about $150,000 to bring them up to acceptable standards - acceptable by today's standards. But, I think there are probably a variety of issues we could do - as the member has said, perhaps some hosteling space. There are a couple of hostel beds in the hospital included in the bed count. That is one possibility. The other possibility is making it available for an NGO or NGOs. Those are ideas that have been sort of floated around, as well.
Mrs. Edelman: I sincerely hope that those hospital beds become available at the hospital, because they're not available as yet, and that there is some serious consideration to doing that, as far as NGOs offering that opportunity.
Now, one of the other things that has come up - and this is a policy issue, as well. The minister was kind enough to offer a tour of the various facilities to the critics, and I certainly took the minister up on that and went everywhere I possibly could. One of those places was CATS, the child abuse treatment services.
In that facility there was a need identified for toys for the kids to play with, particularly the siblings. A number of requests were made in the budget, and most of them were met. A lot of them had to do with remodeling the facility, but that one was not a high priority, so it wasn't met. One of the things that I did was to go out and talk to some people who are in the service groups in town, and they offered to buy the toys, and they were told that that couldn't happen. So, what I'm wondering about is, why not?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm not sure where the decision not to accept donations would come from. We've just taken delivery of a bus for some $70,000 for the Thomson Centre, so I think a few dollars for toys would certainly be welcomed.
We would have no concern about that. Surely, if a service organization were interested in doing it, we'd be more than happy to. As a matter of fact, we're interested in pursuing relationships of that kind with service organizations because, in some cases, they can provide - and it's one of the things that they see as their mandate - sometimes, specialized equipment for individuals. If it can enhance our programs, we're certainly more than willing to take that in.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, that's good to hear, because certainly we -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Edelman: Okay, and certainly this is a group that has an awful lot of money, and I'm not even too sure that was one of the issues. But it is good to hear, because those sorts of partnerships with the community make a lot of sense.
Handy Bus funding was reduced by $1,000, based on actual volumes. One of the problems with the Handy Bus - and I'm really familiar with this issue - is that it was never run at hours that were useful for seniors. It was always run during the day, and although a lot of seniors' activities take place during the day, there are a number of activities, of course, that also take place in the evening. During the winter months in particular, it is difficult for a senior to walk around in this town at night and when it's dark and when it's slippery. There is a really significant threat to the safety of seniors when they are walking around at night just because the streets aren't cleaned or the sidewalks aren't cleaned.
Now, the Handy Bus funding issue has been around for as long as I can possibly remember, and I actually remember one of the ministers of Health coming to the city and saying, "You know, we've got to do something about that," after she had got out of office, and what I'm wondering about is, what are you going to be doing about Handy Bus funding? It's not so much cutting back the hours during the day. You need to increase the service in the evening, when it's really needed. What is the policy of the government on the Handy Bus?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It's my understanding that we actually have increased the hours, and we have increased the funding in the last six months. Now, the $1,000 reduction may reflect perhaps some changes that are being foreseen over the next little while but, overall, the funding for that has gone up, and part of it was also to extend the hours in that regard.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, that's a little difficult to see from the technical briefing notes that were given to me, especially when you're talking about a reduction of $1,000.
However, we can move along into the capital budget. In talking about new equipment purchases for the hospital, one of the most interesting things that I heard about some of the new equipment that they've been buying for the hospital is that, basically, it's not as practical as some of the older stuff that they already have. For example, the new cribs in the hospital are not as easily accessible as the old cribs, and the old cribs are what the nurses really want. There was no discussion with the staff when a lot of this capital equipment was bought.
Has there been any thought given to talking to staff when you buy these large capital pieces of equipment, not only at the hospital but in other areas?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm not quite sure why there wasn't consultation with the staff on this. The decision on the equipment was made by the Hospital Corporation, not by staff, and, given some of the general situations that have occurred around the hospital and some of the issues surrounding communications at the hospital, my hope would be that future decisions like this would be made in concert, with consultation. It would always be my hope, and I guess an aspiration, that the people who are directly affected by decisions are consulted.
Mrs. Edelman: I was using the hospital as an example. The government is now responsible for all the health stations in the Yukon, and buying capital equipment is certainly something that we're going to be doing quite a bit over the next few years and well into eternity.
What my point was, and what I was hoping the minister would agree with, is that we need to have staff input when we're buying large pieces of capital equipment.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Where we have direct control or direct input, for example with community nursing stations, those would be the kinds of decisions that we would really expect and hope that we could get staffing concerns in.
With regards to the hospital, there is a bit of an intermediary step, in fact, as there is a corporation, an arm's-length board. But one of the things that we would hope would be that, just in general, the board could follow a similar pattern in terms of consultation with the affected people. That is certainly an approach we would encourage.
By way of interest, on the Handy Bus, in 1995-96 it was $120,000. It is now at $184,000. So, there was a substantial increase. It was forecasted at $185,000. The actual was $120,000, so we've maintained it at $184,000.
Mrs. Edelman: I might suggest that with the ever increasing number of seniors in the territory, particularly in Whitehorse, that that number will only go up.
The last issue for general debate that I would like to speak about is foster parents. The rate for foster parents has not gone up significantly over a long period of time, and it is really hard to recruit foster parents in the Yukon, and it always has been. I don't think that foster parents do it for the money - most of them don't - but it sure helps.
What I'm wondering about is, what is your policy? Are you going to be reviewing the issues around foster parents? I know that certainly that issue of foster parents came up over and over and over again at the child welfare conference for First Nations.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Presently, there isn't a review of rates on. Our foster rates are among the highest in Canada. The rate differential is largely driven by the nature of the child that is being taken on, and it ranges anywhere from $35 to $90. Of course, you'd always like to provide more assistance but with some of our economic restraints, obviously we can't make those changes right away.
Mrs. Edelman: What I'm saying, I suppose, is that we might have one of the highest rates - we aren't the highest - in Canada, but we also have the highest cost of living in Canada.
What I'm saying is that what I've heard over and over and over again is that foster parents need support, and it may not be just in per diems. They might need money in other ways, or they might need support as far as equipment. What I'm wondering about is if there's any plan to review this area. I think it's an area that deserves a little bit of investigation.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We do actually provide a number of supports for foster parents, and they include such things as respite. They can include, in some cases, specialized equipment. They can include, as well, babysitting in some cases, where required. So, we do provide some support there and I can tell the member that we are always interested in good, dedicated people coming forward as foster parents. It is a major help to us and we would try and make it as attractive as possible.
Mrs. Edelman: Just as we close on general debate, I suppose that what I would say is that certainly there has been an ever-increasing number of services, but I think that it is really important to go back and talk to the foster parents themselves to check with them constantly to see that this valuable service that they are offering is being properly supported by the department. That's all that I think you can do, and I would strongly support a move to do that.
Chair: We will now go to page 8-6, policy, planning and administration.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Policy, Planning and Administration
Chair: Is there general debate?
Administration in the amount of $3,364,000 agreed to
Policy, Planning and Administration in the amount of $3,364,000 agreed to
Chair: We will now move to page 8-8.
On Family and Children's Services
Chair: Is there general debate?
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, generally speaking, the Evergreen children - and those are children who are severely disabled - their issues as far as respite is concerned are in flux right now, and they will continue to be in flux. One of the things that has happened is that the part-time position that was allocated toward the Evergreen children has now been reallocated somewhere else and the concern of the parents there is who is going to coordinate the respite services for the Evergreen children? What I'm wondering about is who is going to do that?
Also, they are looking for a review of the services that they require and that review is to take place some time at the end of the summer, and I'm wondering what kind of support they can expect from the government on that, as well.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, with regard to the .5 individual, that individual was assigned that basically to get the program up and running, but we basically have one respite home at this point, so that can largely be covered off by existing staff. I'm sorry, I missed the second part of the member's question.
Mrs. Edelman: I think that it would really help if somebody over there was identified as a person who was coordinating those respite activities, because certainly nobody is identified now. And the other thing that I was mentioning before was that there needs to be a review of the respite services. That was always part of that process; after one year there would be a review and that year is up at the end of the summer and what I'm hoping is that the government will be giving some sort of support to that review process.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, we could certainly undertake a review of the process up to now. There generally seems to be a level of satisfaction among parents with this service, but we're certainly committed to doing a review and we can certainly identify an individual to work with parents, in this case.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, also at the conference for Yukon First Nations child welfare there was a concern that there were not enough foster parents being accepted. Suggestions were brought to the department by the band and, in one case, only three out of 25 people were accepted as foster parents and I'm wondering what's going on. Is this normal?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I have to tell you that I'm not familiar with that particular number and it may be a number that has come out for the first time at that meeting. One of the things that we're hoping to do is get recommendations that will come out of there and certainly if those are issues that have come forward, we can certainly take a look into it and find out the reasons.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, well certainly that was an issue that came out in the afternoon, and I assume that the person who was taking notes will bring that to your attention at some point in the future.
Over and over and over again, we hear there seems to be a need for parenting courses. Now, I notice that there was some mention of that in the budget address, and I'm wondering what the plan is as far as developing parenting courses. I know there is already some stuff working in the community and is that going to continue?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yukon Family Services delivers parenting courses on our behalf. Just this evening, there was a small ad, I believe, in the Whitehorse Star or the Yukon News, outlining parenting courses coming up again. So, we are continuing on with that, and we found that an NGO, like Yukon Family Services, is a valuable way to do that. As well, one of the success stories, I think, of Yukon Family Services has been the program "Nobody's Perfect". I've heard some very positive things in regards to that, and particularly from a number of young parents who are fraught with their own insecurities.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, it's good to hear that there will be an ongoing support for those sorts of programs.
On Program Management
Program Management in the amount of $3,374,000 agreed to
On Family and Children's Services
Family and Children's Services in the amount of $1,397,000 agreed to
On Placement and Support Services
Placement and Support Services in the amount of $2,613,000 agreed to
On Child Care Services
Child Care Services in the amount of $4,187,000 agreed to
On Youth Services
Mrs. Edelman: One of the issues that comes up over and over again if you're speaking to youth is that they seem to be lumped in with young offenders, and anyone who is a teenager is seen to be a young offender. It's like youth-bashing that goes on out there in the community. What sort of positive things is the department doing to help prevent youth-bashing out there?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think, just by way of general things, Mr. Chair, one of the things is the youth investment fund, on which today there are a number of issues announced. Those are some positive things, where we're trying to direct young people into some positive ventures. The program announced by my colleague, the Minister of Justice, was one that was co-sponsored by ourselves, as well, in terms of recreational programs, leadership programs. So I think there are a number of things we can do. For example, through the youth investment fund, we've sponsored conferences, newsletters, and things of that nature. So I think there is a variety of things we're doing in that regard.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, with all due respect, programs to keep kids from doing self-destructive behaviour is one thing; promoting children who excel and who are just very special out there in our community, and recognizing that and showing people in our community that there are children out there that aren't young offenders and do add to our society is probably a more positive approach. Is there any move to add recognition to those youth who are out there doing really exceptional things?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, one of the problems we have is that it is always easier to tag kids doing negative things than tag kids who are doing positive things, and I think probably, as parents, we are sometimes guilty of that as well. We generally seize on things that the kids do wrong rather than probably the things they do right.
But, certainly, within Education, through recreation, there are a number of ways that children are sort of recognized for efforts, be they in arts or personal accomplishments. Certainly, in my experience, schools in particular have been very pro-active in trying to get out the kinds of positive things that they do, and I suppose, maybe because their clientele is primarily children, I think Education does a fairly good job across the board. We try to support them wherever we can, and certainly some of the programs that we've sponsored through the youth investment, I think, really do lead to sort of a positive self-concept with kids.
Mrs. Edelman: And I suppose that that is true, and I know that, in Education in particular, the parents know that the kids aren't all bad, and they don't go absolutely ballistic when the committee comes up to have hearings on the Young Offenders Act, but what I'm wondering about is for the people who don't have children in the high schools or in the junior highs, those people really aren't aware, and I think that it probably wouldn't hurt to promote, outside of those areas, a little bit of positive stuff about youth.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, in principle I would agree, and I think it's a commendable idea. However, with youth services, we often tend to work with kids who are in a kind of negative experience with Justice, so probably we could be doing more of it in terms of promoting perhaps a more positive image of young people, but unfortunately, we find ourselves sometimes dealing with the more negative aspects of young people.
Mr. Jenkins: Judging by what the minister has just expounded on in this area, it sounds as if he's a very firm supporter of the elite athletes awards as well as the excellence awards in education, and I'd like to commend him for supporting these two initiatives and their resulting benefits to the community.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We are always supportive of young people succeeding, not only in athletics and academics, but also I think we have to recognize a number of our young people and their accomplishments in the arts, which too often gets a short shrift.
But, yes, we're always interested in promoting young people, promoting young people doing positive things. Sometimes it's not always in terms of excellence in academics or excellence in sports. Sometimes it's excellence in just community service. For example, I can think of a number of programs over at F.H. Collins where there is effort by young people and their teachers to raise awareness of global economic and global environmental issues.
There is a whole variety of young people out there doing very positive things, and sometimes we don't always give them the recognition that they deserve.
Youth Services in the amount of $2,944,000 agreed to
On Child Welfare Residential
Child Welfare Residential in the amount of $2,736,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there questions on the statistics?
Mr. Jenkins: If I could refer the minister to page 8-19 and the profile of young offenders, in general debate I questioned the minister about making the names of young offenders public information when they're subsequently involved in some sort of issues or altercations. The minister kind of circumvented the question in his answer and, looking at all the other jurisdictions in Canada, I was hoping that the minister could review what he said and come out in a manner similar to what has been emanating from other jurisdictions in Canada, recognizing the number of young offenders that we have in the Whitehorse area, specifically, and the total number of young offenders that we have. I think it would certainly act as a deterrent, as it has in other jurisdictions.
Has the minister given some thought to that area, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, there's a variety of issues involved there. For one thing, the Young Offenders Act is a national act, and as such, we are obliged to follow the basic principles of it.
The question of young offenders and revealing their names - our general sense is that it would have very little deterrent effect, and, in fact, the standing committee that came through here seemed to agree with that, and that was one of the recommendations that they came out with.
With regard to the incarceration rates of young people up here, I think that's a very interesting point, and I would refer the member to a study done by Judge Heino Lilles, who referred to the extraordinarily high incarceration rate that we have here. It's not a reflection of criminality, but it has, I think, reflected some of our attitudes here.
It also, I think reflects the fact that we have a number of young people who go through the system who perhaps don't have the same access to alternative sentencing options that there may be elsewhere in Canada. Judge Lilles' report on the Young Offenders Act and the Yukon was a very revealing one and I would certainly recommend it.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm sure, as the minister stated, this review - the Lilles review - and what is happening in other jurisdictions in Canada, is that there is a more open dialogue. There's more openness about revealing the names of repeat youth offenders. There's probably less of an access to alternative sentencing in other areas of Canada, vis-à-vis the Yukon.
There's probably more help for young offenders in Yukon than in any other jurisdiction in Canada, and yet we continue to have a higher rate of incarceration for young offenders on a per capita basis than any other place in Canada. There has to be some changes made in our system to recognize this.
I think we could begin by having some of these young offenders not laugh at the system, because they know their names are not going to be published, but, by knowing that they are going to be treated fairly, but firmly, by the court system, and that they could be moved up to adult court at a certain juncture depending on the type of offence, but we tend to be very, very lenient, Mr. Chair, in a lot of respects.
Yet, statistics would tend to lean the other way, that we tend to be very, very harsh. So, we're going to have to find a compromise here somewhere. Perhaps, the minister would consider that approach.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think that, once again, I would refer the member to the fact that the Young Offenders Act is a national act and we are obliged to follow the principles of that act.
With regard to revealing young offenders' names, I think our policy is pretty standard with what it is in Canada. With regard to referring young offenders to adult court, there have been some recommendations in that regard that have come out of the standing committee, but, as I recall, they tended to have to do with crimes of great violence and also in regard to perhaps gang-related crimes. So, those were the two main exceptions. But the standing committee was fairly firm on the idea of not revealing names.
With young offenders in the territory, I found in my discussions with the standing committee that they largely identified, in a very positive way, our programs as being very effective. The one area that they did caution both the Minister of Justice and me on was that they were concerned about the disproportionate number of aboriginal young people in the system. That's been the subject of some discussion, in particular around the problem of recidivism for aboriginal youth. I've had some discussions with the Skookum Jim Centre, which has been doing some counselling in that regard, as well as some issues that I've brought up in other aspects.
One of the feelings that some people working with aboriginal youth feel is that perhaps some of the support network that might be present in the larger community is not always present in terms of, for example, an alternative sentencing mode. That has been one of the suggestions, that perhaps some aboriginal young people don't have access to the same services that the general population does.
Family and Children's Services in the amount of $17,251,000 agreed to
Chair: We will now go to page 8-20, social services.
On Social Services
Chair: Is there general debate?
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, generally speaking, most of us in this House agree that respite is a necessary part of health services. Anyone can see, if you look at statistics, that the number of seniors who are staying in the Yukon is going up, and we've got the baby boomers who were born between the war and 1960 coming into that same age group. I notice in Macaulay Lodge, in particular, the number of respite beds hasn't gone up for a long time and I don't see the numbers going up at the Thomson Centre very quickly either, and I'm wondering what is the commitment to respite?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, right now we do have respite beds available at both Macaulay and Thomson, and at the present time there is no waiting list. It's certainly an issue that we're going to... For example, in the Thomson Centre, four of the 37 beds are seen as respite, and three are used at Macaulay for respite care.
Yes, it is. It's an issue that we're trying to address. As I mentioned to the member earlier, we're activating some more beds at Thomson, and what we hope this will to do is that this will in turn sort of have a, I guess, domino effect, where it will take some heavier care seniors from Macaulay, which is built for a lower level of care, and perhaps free up some space there.
It is an issue and it's part of the whole strategy that we're looking at in that regard and certainly we'll be hearing some future things on that from the paper that is being done in that regard.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Chair, this is good news, and I suppose that one of the reasons that there may not be a waiting list any more for Macaulay or for Thomson is that there was one for quite a long time and people, after a while, give up.
And the other thing is that I wonder if the people are aware of that service being out there. Certainly, with the seniors that I know - and there are quite a few of them, mostly in Whitehorse - there's very little awareness if that service is available, et cetera. I know there is a seniors' handbook. I actually helped write that for about the first three years that it was out, and I'm wondering what you're doing to make sure that people out there know that that service is available.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: One of the things that has been done very recently by the Yukon Council on Aging - and we provided some funds for them in this regard - was to do this survey of seniors' needs. Among these issues identified - I mean, there's a whole variety of health-related issues - there are also questions on housing and the kinds of personal needs that people have and major issues that are involved.
I met with the Council on Aging last Friday, and they certainly brought some of these issues forward. Their concerns with regard to beds tended to focus more on the convalescent aspect, which I think is understandable. Just to take a look at the lists - apparently, one of the issues is that, in both the Thomson Centre and Macaulay Lodge, none of the individuals who have been identified as looking for a bed in the future is presently interested in taking a bed. So, I think there's probably a measure of independence that people still want to retain, but we are trying to get out the information. I would imagine, certainly, the Council on Aging's survey will raise public awareness, as well as, when we get into the paper that's coming forward, I hope to have some discussions with some groups working with seniors. I imagine that the whole, sort of, public interest in this will come up, as well as, naturally, as people age and as people are bringing up aging parents, there is a greater interest in this whole field.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, it's good to hear that the very, very short term is being dealt with and that the Yukon Council on Aging is, once again, being very vocal in expressing their concerns. One of the things that's really different about the seniors that are coming up - and that means us, basically - is that we have a very different attitude toward services and taking services. The seniors who are in there right now are - well, we're independent, as well, but certainly, they have come from a time when there were no government services, and therefore they never took advantage of them. And, for some reason, they feel that it's difficult to take government services. With our generation - no problem. I suspect that that's going to be the biggest change. It's not so much the fact that the numbers are going to be so overwhelming - and they are going to be overwhelming for the system that we have now. But it's going to be the nature of the senior that goes through the system, and you're going to have a very educated senior who knows what services are available and will certainly use everything that's available to them.
All I'm saying is that, you know, these three beds are going to work for a while, but they're not going to work much longer.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Interestingly enough, the report that's coming forward, of which I've seen very, very preliminary drafts, takes a much longer view. It's looking 10 or 15 years into the future and trying to project what our needs are in terms of seniors population and the kind of care that we're going to need or perhaps the kind of housing. As the member so rightly noted, there is going to be a different generation of seniors.
One of the things that I think will also be interesting is that this group of seniors will also probably be one of the better-off generations of seniors, because they will have access to many of the things that previous generations didn't, in terms of universal pensions, universal Medicare. So, I think, as the member has noted, they will not only probably be more educated and perhaps somewhat more vocal in their demands, but I also think they'll also be somewhat better off as well.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, of course, it is my hope that we're going to be better off, and it's good to hear, but certainly any long-term thinking based on surveys taken today is based on the seniors that are in that system today, and I suspect - and you know - that things are going to be very different when we're through that system.
On Program Management
Program Management in the amount of $1,789,000 agreed to
On Alcohol and Drug Services
Alcohol and Drug Services in the amount of $1,528,000 agreed to
On Social Assistance Services
Social Assistance Services in the amount of $8,132,000 agreed to
On Community Support Services
Community Support Services in the amount of $3,252,000 agreed to
On Continuing Care
Continuing Care in the amount of $9,098,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there questions on the statistics? Clear.
Social Services in the amount of $23,799,000 agreed to
On Health Services
Chair: Is there general debate?
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, one of the issues that comes up in all of these areas is the issue of staff safety, and I'm wondering if there has been any move to increase staff safety. What are the protocols for someone who is working along with someone? For example, the public health nurse downtown deals with needle exchange. Is there any particular protocol that's being developed or has been developed to look at the issues of staff safety?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm informed that, basically, each unit, be it, for example, if they're dealing with a person with dementia or whatever, there is an assessment done on the individual in terms of risk factors. The unit, in dealing with that individual, has its own set of protocols and alerts and things like that where they work within a unit to determine what are acceptable risk factors and what are not.
With regards to the nurse working alone, I am not sure what the procedure is in that case, but I can find out what kind of safety protocols are in place for that individual and get back to the member.
Mrs. Edelman: That's an issue with her downtown. It's also an issue out in the communities. You are talking about people who are in health centres in very isolated areas, by themselves often. Generally speaking, I don't know if it would really hurt to do some sort of general overview of what staff safety issues are around the territory, especially now that we've got the new centres out with the phase 2 transfer.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We can follow up on that. I imagine that groups, over the years, and particularly the MSB employees, probably have their own procedures that they've worked out over the years, and many of them have radios and things like that, but it is sometimes very challenging. Sometimes, if you're dealing with individuals who have alcohol or perhaps drug problems, it can become quite problematic, but we can certainly find out.
I'll have an opportunity in June to visit some of the nursing stations and that's an issue I'll bring up just in terms of how people feel about their own personal safety.
Mr. Jenkins: It's not only an issue in the health centres. It's also an issue in the lodges providing care, especially on the afternoon and evening shift when you only have one attendant on duty and a full occupancy load. It is an issue in these areas when something comes up dealing with any one of the residents. I know it's an ongoing concern at McDonald Lodge, and I would urge the minister to consider addressing this issue, combining McDonald Lodge with a new medical facility, encompassing everything in one and moving ahead forthwith, and I'll look forward to approving it in the next capital budget that he's going to present next year.
On Program Management
Program Management in the amount of $70,000 agreed to
On Health Insurance
Mrs. Edelman: During the campaign of 1996, there was an assurance given by the NDP that were running that there would be no health premiums. Is that still the case?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That is the case.
Health Insurance in the amount of $23,021,000 agreed to
On Yukon Hospital Services
Yukon Hospital Services in the amount of $16,068,000 agreed to
On Vital Statistics
Vital Statistics in the amount of $63,000 agreed to
On Community Health
Community Health in the amount of $5,343,000 agreed to
On Community Nursing
Community Nursing in the amount of $8,637,000 agreed to
On Mental Health Services
Mental Health Services in the amount of $1,351,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the statistics? Clear.
Are there questions on the supplementary information? Clear.
Health Services in the amount of $54,553,000 agreed to
Chair: We will now go to page 3-39, regional services.
On Regional Services
Chair: Is there any general debate?
On Program Management
Program Management in the amount of $2,015,000 agreed to
On Family and Children's Services
Family and Children's Services in the amount of $651,000 agreed to
On Social Services
Social Services in the amount of $1,210,000 agreed to
On Juvenile Justice Services
Mrs. Edelman: Will there continue to be funding for the sex offender program for juveniles?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, indeed there will be.
Mr. Jenkins: Perhaps the minister could provide an explanation for the dramatic increase in juvenile justice services. I don't recall that from the briefing we had with the department.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That is primarily due to an increase in assessment services for young people.
Juvenile Justice Services in the amount of $17,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there questions on recoveries and revenue? Clear.
Are there questions on the transfer payments? Clear.
Regional Services in the amount of $3,893,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Health and Social Services in the amount of $102,860,000 agreed to
Chair: We will now go to capital.
On Capital Expenditures
Chair: Page 8-2, policy, planning and administration.
On Policy, Planning and Administration
Chair: Is there general debate?
On Office Furniture and Operational Equipment
Office Furniture and Operational Equipment in the amount of $300,000 agreed to
On Systems Development
Mrs. Edelman: Why is this down so considerably from the previous year?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This is actually a third component of a phase-in program and we'll probably be seeking revotes for some of the money that was previously committed in this regard and was not expended.
Systems Development in the amount of $350,000 agreed to
On Integrated Health and Social Services Facilities
Integrated Health and Social Services Facilities in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
Policy, Planning and Administration in the amount of $700,000 agreed to
On Family and Children's Services
Chair: Is there general debate? Clear.
On Foster Home Equipment
Mrs. Edelman: I just note that there is no change from the previous year, and that was the sort of stuff that's needed in foster homes. It's just part of that.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Just by way of information, I'm informed that this basically hasn't increased because we haven't had any sort of request in that regard, and that's generally seen as an adequate amount in this area.
Foster Home Equipment in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
On Child Care Services Development
Child Care Services Development in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Young Offender Facilities - Renovations and Equipment
Mrs. Edelman: Are there indications of how much it's going to cost to upgrade the young offender facility so they don't get out again?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: In that case, that would be a relatively minor expense. What the main problem there - and I don't think it's a problem. I guess the problem is a matter of perception, but the reason the young offenders got out is basically because of the safety system, that the doors are coordinated with the fire alarm system, and after an interval of two minutes, the doors automatically spring. What had happened in this case was that the young people were being assembled for purposes of a count and making sure that everyone was there. In the sort of the flurry, the doors did pop and the three individuals got out and they managed to find the one spot where there was access to the roof, and that has since been corrected that very afternoon. We had the company in who handles the alarms there. The company came in that week and worked with the staff there, and what we're looking at is kind of a manual override switch so that there'll really only be one door and that door will be through the main control area. So, we think we've got the problem licked in that regard.
Young Offender Facilities - Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $118,000 agreed
On Child Welfare Facilities - Renovations and Equipment
Child Welfare Facilities - Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $99,000 agreed to
Family and Children's Services in the amount of $277,000 agreed to
On Social Services
Chair: Is there general debate?
On Social Services Operational Equipment and Renovations
Social Services Operational Equipment and Renovations in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
On Alcohol and Drug Services - Renovations and Equipment
Alcohol and Drug Services - Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $115,000 agreed to
On Home Care - Operational Equipment
Home Care - Operational Equipment in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Thomson Centre - Renovations
Thomson Centre - Renovations in the amount of $342,000 agreed to
On Thomson Centre - Equipment
Thomson Centre - Equipment in the amount of $44,000 agreed to
On Macaulay Lodge - Renovations
Macaulay Lodge - Renovations in the amount of $150,000 agreed to
On Macaulay Lodge - Equipment
Macaulay Lodge - Equipment in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On McDonald Lodge - Renovations and Equipment
McDonald Lodge - Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $57,000 agreed to
Social Services in the amount of $803,000 agreed to
On Health Services
Chair: Is there any general debate?
On Chronic Disease Benefits - Equipment
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
Whitehorse Hospital Construction in the amount of $2,116,000 agreed to
On Yukon Hospital Corporation - Equipment
Yukon Hospital Corporation - Equipment in the amount of $250,000 agreed to
On Hospital Road #2 and #4
Hospital Road #2 and #4 in the amount of $46,000 agreed to
On Community Health Programs
Community Health Programs in the amount of $823,000 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 $25,000 agreed to
On Ambulance Vehicle Replacement
Ambulance Vehicle Replacement in the amount of $82,000 agreed to
On Ambulance Station Renovations
Mrs. Edelman: Is there detail on that line item?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: On the ambulance station renovations, these funds are to commit a minimal amount of ongoing maintenance, as required. No major undertakings are planned for 1997-98. The roof on the Whitehorse ambulance station was recently replaced, and upgraded facilities have been provided over the past few years in Faro, Teslin, Carmacks and Mayo.
Mr. Jenkins: Perhaps just before we leave capital, Mr. Chair, if I could ask the minister to advise how much capital we will be lapsing from the last fiscal period and what he anticipates revoting this and next period.
Chair: Can we clear this line item first?
Mr. Jenkins: Yes.
Ambulance Station Renovations in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
Health Services in the amount of $3,397,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there questions on the recoveries? Clear.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Just for the information of the member opposite, we are projecting that there will be a lapse of $5,741,000, but some of that is expected to be revoted on issues surrounding the hospital, I believe - re-profiling.
Mr. Jenkins: Would the minister have kind of a ball park number as to what will be revoted of that $5 million that's going to lapse?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We've just received the call now, so we're not too sure what it will be, but certainly we can determine that in the future and get back to the member.
Chair: Are there questions on the transfer payments? Clear.
Are there questions on the multi-year capital projects? Clear.
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Health and Social Services in the amount of $5,177,000 agreed to
Department of Health and Social Services agreed to
Chair: Is it the members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will go to the Tourism department. Is there general debate?
Department of Tourism
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair. Let me say that I'm certainly pleased to be here and to introduce the 1997-98 operation and maintenance and capital budgets for the Department of Tourism.
The budget of $8.7 million for the O&M is seven percent over the prior year, with the most significant changes including the operating costs of the Tourism Business Centre/Visitor Reception Centre, as transferred from the Department of Government Services and the operating costs of the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre.
Within corporate services, this branch provides leadership and management support to the department in the attainment of its goals. Changes from the past year include funding support of $60,000 to the First Nations Tourism Association and $158,000 as operating costs for the Tourism Business Centre/Visitor Reception Centre for utilities, custodial, security, general maintenance and groundskeeping.
Within the heritage branch, this branch's budget has two significant changes from the past year. Funding has been increased by $1,500 to each of the seven community museums, to the Yukon Historical and Museum Association and to the Yukon Science Institute. The Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre will be opening at the end of May and this budget includes $358,000 for the operating costs of this facility, which includes the staffing costs.
The industry services - this branch's budget has decreased because the funding to the Whitehorse fish ladder has been transferred to the Department of Renewable Resources and, in past years, both departments had funded this organization.
Within the marketing branch, the base budget has been increased by $250,000 to acknowledge the ongoing need for cooperative marketing promotions with the air carriers to the Yukon. For this year, $60,000 has been assigned to the Rendezvous Canada Marketplace in Vancouver and I am confident that the department, along with the tourism operators attending this marketplace, will again, like last year in Edmonton, steal the show.
The branch will increase its marketing efforts this year in the Australia and New Zealand markets, and has reallocated an additional $20,000 to these activities.
Within the arts branch, the one change to this budget is the five-percent increase to the operating grant to the Yukon Arts Centre, bringing the funding to $349,000.
During my recent trip to Europe, I was fortunate enough to visit the Indian museum in Zurich, Switzerland, and the curator of the museum showed great interest in Yukon First Nation history, culture and the possibility of holding an exhibition featuring arts and crafts of our Yukon First Nations. Officials from the Department of Tourism are currently exploring this initiative.
In capital estimates of 1997-98 for Tourism Yukon, this year the department will be spending $3.2 million. Within the heritage branch, the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre construction completion and exhibit development will cost three-quarters of a million dollars. Beringia marketing development of $94,000 will include a media kit, the development of image materials and enhancing the market Internet program.
A commitment of $50,000 has been made for joint planning and preservation of Rampart House on the Porcupine River with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation of Old Crow. The site will be designated as a territorial historic site under the Historic Resources Act after a cooperative management plan has been completed. This year the department will evaluate the archaeological resources of the site and do background research required to support the planning and preservation work. The new project is a signal of government commitment to fully implement the heritage provisions of the UFA and First Nation final agreements in cooperation with First Nation governments.
Within the industry services, in addition to its ongoing activities, the branch will work toward regulation of the wilderness tourism sector and will undertake the preliminary planning for the 1999 visitor exit survey.
Within the marketing branch, planning and design for the replacement of the Beaver Creek Visitor Reception Centre will be completed this year.
Within the arts branch, $70,000 has been assigned for capital maintenance at the Arts Centre to upgrade the production and rehearsal room and to upgrade the humidification system and to add UV protection to window coverings.
This certainly concludes the new projects contained in the Tourism O&M and capital estimates, and I will be very happy to take any questions or to elaborate on specific activities.
Mr. Phillips: I have a few questions in general debate with respect to the Tourism budget.
First of all, I do want to say that, when the budget was tabled, I was somewhat pleased by the numbers in the budget and an indication of a commitment to tourism by the government.
I was a little worried, because in Opposition the Leader of the New Democratic Party was not very supportive of tourism in general, and quite critical of many of the programs that I see the minister is continuing on and, in fact, enhancing in this budget. So I'm pleased to see that he spoke loud and clear in Cabinet, and has convinced his colleagues that we were on the right track with tourism in the territory, and that the numbers were proving that.
I think one of the things that I'd also commend the minister on is his consultation with the industry. Again, before, some members of the side opposite were critical of the industry in some of the things they said and did, and I know there was a bit of a light at the end of the tunnel when the member from Whitehorse West was the critic and he brought a new perspective to tourism from his colleagues. I was pleased with that, and I know that that member met as the critic with the tourism industry several times prior to the election and had a much better understanding I think, after those meetings, of what we were doing in the marketplace, what the industry was doing, the concerns and the issues that the industry had, and I think that this minister is carrying on that tradition with keeping in touch with the industry.
I felt that that was extremely important.
When I was the Minister for Tourism and we opened up, like I said this afternoon, the Tourism Marketing Council and other initiatives to the general industry, we involved them more in our programs, we encouraged them more to go to the various marketing initiatives like Rendezvous Canada and other initiatives, and I think, overall, it's helped the industry understand what the Tourism department was doing, and also helped the Tourism department understand what the industry was doing, so I think it worked both ways.
I have a few questions about Beringia. The minister mentioned that in his opening remarks. I guess I could just ask a few questions about the Beringia Interpretive Centre. The minister said it's going to open before the end of May. I drive by it every day, and I see them scurrying around, and the flagpoles went up a few days ago, and the ground is looking better all the time - actually, the building is actually looking better now than it did a few years ago. Once the landscaping is done and the mammoth family is out in front, I think it will be a very good attraction.
I can tell the minister that I stopped by there the other day, uninvited, and walked through the facility, and was very impressed by the workmanship of the artists and others. Some of the work is there now. It's covered up somewhat, but you can see the displays and what they look like. Believe me, I took a lot of heat for saying it was going to be a world-class exhibit. But, guess what? It's going to be, and it is going to make people want to stay here a little longer. I'll look forward to hearing the world-class comments from some of the members on the other side at the official opening, too. It will be interesting to hear that, and especially from the minister. I'd like to hear the minister say that.
I'd like to ask the minister if the centre will open, as he has said, at the end of May, and what day are they planning the official opening?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, for the opening of the Beringia Centre, which is a world-class exhibit, we will be looking to have that opened on May the 28th.
Mr. Phillips: A couple of questions that people have been asking me about the Beringia Centre and one that keeps cropping up is that there hasn't been a lot more said about the gift shop and the small cafe or the coffee shop that's going to be there. What has happened with that? I know they called for suggestions and proposals from people in the industry and they received some comments from some individuals. Have they made a decision on exactly what's going to take place up there?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, that has come across my plate just today. I can assure the member opposite that we are in the process of awarding the contract at this very moment. So, the awarding of the contract will certainly not be holding up the opening of the centre and it will certainly be, in fact, in time open the centre. Details certainly have to be worked out on the contract and certainly that is what the department is doing at this time.
Mr. Phillips: Can the minister tell us who the individual is that was successful and, as soon as they can, let us know of the arrangements of how it's going to work? I'd appreciate receiving that.
I recalled seeing a request for proposals, but I didn't see a request for final tender, or whatever. I just saw the first request, which must've been about a month ago or a couple of months ago that asked for suggestions about how it should operate, and I haven't seen much since then. So, I just wonder, was there another tender call or some kind of a call or an expression of interest, or what?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, we will bring back the information that the member opposite has asked for. The first time around was an expression of interest. The next time we're out and about with it, we will be making the decision. As I say, I will get that information to the member opposite as soon as it has been brought forward. I expect a decision will be made in the next couple or three days.
Mr. Phillips: Just so I am clear, did they arrive at a decision on who might operate the facility based on the expression of interest, or was there another call after the expression of interest? An expression of interest is usually just a call if people are interested in doing something there and they make suggestions one way or the other. Usually, you don't submit firm prices and that kind of thing. That is usually done at a later date or maybe after you've decided on the type of structure you want this particular facility to take.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, it went from the expression of interest and into a call. It was tendered and at this point in time we're now looking at the proposals that are contained in it. I reiterate that I will get the information to both the critics as soon as a decision has been made.
Mr. Phillips: I look forward to getting that.
The member mentioned in his opening remarks that, in the budget, there are going to be funds for a Beringia media kit and enhancement of the Internet program. An issue that I raised with the minister a few days ago as a result of some meetings that I had in Watson Lake at the TIA convention was that some people want the government to consider marketing their CAP projects as aggressively as they are marketing the Beringia Interpretive Centre. I know the Northern Lights people in Watson Lake were very interested in having their project marketed by the Department of Tourism as aggressively as Beringia. The minister said in the House that he would sit down and discuss the matter with them and would come up with something.
The difficulty we have is that there are funds in this budget to enhance the marketing of Beringia, but I don't see anywhere in the budget where there are other funds to enhance the marketing of the other CAP proposals as they come on stream.
Does the minister plan to bring in a supplementary later in the year as these CAP projects come on stream, to include them in the 1998 marketing?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, as I stated the other day - on whatever day it was, I'm sorry I can't remember, but when the question was asked - the department will be making exploratory talks as to how we might be able to assist. Certainly the member opposite is aware that the CAP projects were not to have O&M dollars or marketing dollars given to them, but in the advent of cooperation, certainly with bringing forth new attractions or new sites, we'll certainly be sitting down to look at how we can. I can say to the member opposite, though, that as these projects do come on stream the Department of Tourism will certainly be looking to follow through and to let the world be aware of what we have here in Yukon.
Specifically, for marketing dollars on some things such as the Northern Lights Centre or any of the other CAP projects that are going on at this point in time, no, I guess I have no direction. We're not going to be bringing forth the supps on it at this time. We're certainly going to be talking with proponents, though, to see how best we can assist and work together on this.
Mr. Phillips: Let me help the minister out, then with his colleagues. I will ask all the members of the House - and especially members on the government side - to cast their minds back only a few hours ago to a debate in the House about tourism, where the government side, and all sides of this House, talked about how many jobs the tourism industry creates, how important the tourism industry is to the territory, and how bright our future in tourism could be in this territory. So, I'll make a strong plea to the members opposite and the minister to take the next logical step. The first step was to build attractions that people want to see and develop a product that people all over the world will want to see, and the next logical step is to tell people that it's here.
I would hope that the side opposite would look at that this summer in planning their budget sessions for next year and will look at how enhancing the marketing budget with respect to the CAP projects will benefit the communities that have CAP projects that have come on stream. Watson Lake will be on stream by then; Dawson City, I believe, will have theirs up and running, and Pelly will have theirs going. By plugging that into the overall marketing plan, it will benefit those communities, and create jobs in those communities, and more and more of our visitors will want to stop and visit them.
So, I would encourage the government to think of that when they're putting their budgets together next year and put their money, so to speak, where their mouths are with respect to their comments today on tourism and possibly enhance the marketing budget in those areas to let people know that there are different attractions in different places of the Yukon, and people can make Yukon a destination. So, I'd put that plug in for the minister to urge his colleagues to support him in that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: We had a comment from the Member for Faro and I guess we're going to get these little peanut gallery comments from the member who is probably the only member on that side who has never supported tourism in this territory and has stood up and clearly said that.
He said there's no O&M. I'm not talking about operation and maintenance of the facility.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Order. Point of order. Mr. Harding.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I would just say to the member opposite that he is not speaking correctly about my position on tourism, and not speaking correctly about anything that I've said in this Legislature in the past, as usual.
Chair: The Chair sees no point of order. I see a dispute. Please continue.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: Thank you Mr. Chair. He tried it again, there he goes, and he'll continue to do that. That's the way he operates in this House.
I can tell you that there was sure a lot of relief out there when the Government Leader appointed the Member for Carcross-Southern Lakes as the Tourism minister, as opposed to the Member for Faro. There was a lot of fear in the minds of people in the tourism industry that that member would have anything at all to do with the tourism business in this territory.
To get back to the Beringia Centre again for a few moments, the question that I had for the minister with respect to tying in costs of attending the Beringia Centre with the other attractions in Whitehorse, w
e had initiated some discussions, about a year ago almost, with the museums and other non-government attractions in the City of Whitehorse. I know it's been expressed to me since then, and just a couple of weeks ago in Watson Lake. I don't believe there's an agreement, as yet, or some kind of overall price that may include three or four attractions in the City of Whitehorse.
I had asked the department at that time to work with the SS Klondike, the Transportation Museum, the MacBride Museum and others, and try to come up with some kind of an overall pass - maybe $9.95, or whatever the price would be - they would have to reach an agreement with others - but it would make it kind of an attractive thing for people to go to more than one thing when they were in the City of Whitehorse, and hopefully keep them here longer.
Is the department working on anything like that? Have they tried to work something out with the non-profit organizations and have they had any success at all?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, the suggestion from the member opposite is certainly one that can be taken into context and worked with. The short answer is no, nothing has been happening on it so far, but certainly the suggestion will be taken into consideration.
Mr. Chair, as to the member's suggestion on the marketing and the clarification of O&M, I certainly realize that - being one in my past life - as a chief and working with the CAP project, certainly that was one of the stumbling blocks. I'm certainly within my government's way of doing things, a better way, we believe. We had said quite candidly within our growing opportunities in tourism, which we did debate this afternoon, is that we would be looking to increase the number of tourism attractions that are available in all parts of the territory. Well, certainly the CAP projects are, in part, some of that and we'll certainly be looking to, in light of the next budget exercise and of course it's going to be always a difficult issue and you cannot please everybody, I've been told and it's certainly been proven true, but we'll certainly be looking at how to do we do things in a better way and how are we going to be able to market them. Certainly, all folks on this side of the House, especially and including the Minister of Economic Development in his endeavours to work toward diversifying the economy, is certainly on stream with me in this endeavour. So, we will be looking at them, and I thank the member opposite very much for bringing this forward.
Mr. Phillips: I'm pleased to see that at least one minister on that side is supportive of marketing the CAP projects and feels that, once they're built and once they're in the communities, they are a part of the Yukon product and that there is an obligation to market them.
The O&M costs are the heat and light costs of the building and those were to be covered by the groups that put the CAP project forward, but surely to goodness there's an obligation on behalf of the Department of Tourism to go out and market any new attraction that's in the territory if it enhances the product we have here and encourages people to come and stay longer.
So, I'm glad there's at least one minister over there who sees that and has a bit of a vision.
Mr. Chair, can the minister give me some assurances that they will meet very quickly with the local museums and the local non-profit attractions in town to try and come to some agreement this year so that maybe we can get some kind of a combined ticket in place? I know the City of Whitehorse has put on a bus this year, which is going to travel around all the attractions in Whitehorse and, if we work with the City of Whitehorse in having a one price for four or five of the non-government attractions, it might be something that our visitors might take advantage of and it might make them stay here a day or two longer.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'm sorry, I didn't hear the member opposite. I guess it wasn't my turn to hear him, so I'll answer the question of the critic of the party opposite.
Certainly, we will move to meet with the respective agencies, museums and attractions within the Yukon. I do believe that the idea of the member opposite does have credibility with it. I do know that my department will be meeting shortly with them to see what we can do.
As to the time frame and the implementation of such, it would be best left in the hands of the department, but we will certainly be moving on it. Thank you very much for the question.
Mr. Phillips: The reason I suggested a meeting fairly quickly is that we're probably about three weeks away from the first visitors arriving in larger numbers, so there isn't a lot of time left. I know the department is pretty busy right now with final marketing initiatives - for next year, actually - but I would like if they can meet with them, for them to do it as quickly as possible.
There was a meeting last spring again with all the players in the Yukon passport program, and I wonder if the minister could bring us up to date on any changes with respect to the passport program. There were some concerns expressed at one time as to whether or not people should actually have to go into an exhibit before they got their passport stamped and there was some discussion on that.
We've had some bus tour guides run up to the door of the Transportation Museum or the Teslin Museum with 40 books in their hands, wanting to get them all stamped, and then drive away. No one sees any of the exhibits and they don't spend any time there. There was some thought, in the past, to saying that you have to pay to get in before you get a stamp, and that would encourage people to spend a little more time. I just wonder if those discussions took place and whether or not they've come to any resolution with respect to passports.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, the member is correct in the success of the passport program. It is a very successful program, and certainly from the previous administration, it has not changed, and it is certainly going to be moving forward.
I've just been advised by the Deputy Minister of Tourism that the department has been meeting and working toward resolving the problem that the member opposite had spoken to, but at this point in time there has been nothing resolved on that issue.
Mr. Phillips: Well, if we do come to some resolution and if they come to some agreement or some changes, I wonder if they could forward those changes to me.
Another issue that came up in Watson Lake was the Canadian Tourism Commission. In Watson Lake the Canadian Tourism Commission gave several presentations to the members of TIA, and they were, for the most part, well-received, but I did hear some comments from some of the people about some of the presentations.
I think the most common comment I heard was that some of the presentations that were given at that particular meeting were not as relevant as they could have been to the Yukon. They were maybe more for a larger market in a larger area, and there was the feeling that we should work more with CTC in letting them know where we're at as an industry. I mean we're not as developed as we are down south.
We know that we complained about CTC in the beginning because they didn't appoint anybody from the Yukon, and I spoke to Judd Buchanan about it several times and wrote a few nasty letters, and Judd was a very nice man, as he is. He was very polite about it, but he still told me that we couldn't have a member, and we were fortunate enough to have a couple of members of our administration in Tourism - I think the deputy minister as well as the director of marketing - on strategic committees, and the Yukon has accessed some programs through that.
Let me give you an example. There was a presentation of what CTC does - a film they showed. Maybe we're just a little sensitive to this because of the way CTC developed, but in the whole presentation, which was about 15 minutes long, it talked about all the things that CTC did, and all the time it did that, it showed shots of tourism products across the country. Unfortunately, there were no shots of the Yukon in that CTC presentation. So, if anyone else was getting a presentation from CTC and what they did, they would see Banff and Jasper, Vancouver, Toronto, the east coast and all those other places, but no shots of the Yukon - and very little mention of the Yukon.
So, I think there was a sense that since we're not in the main loop all the time, we're missing out on some of the initiatives of CTC.
I don't knock CTC. I think any promotion that tells people about Canada is good, because we had very little presence in the marketplace a few years ago. In comparison to Australia and what they're spending on marketing themselves, we were just a drop in the bucket. You know, I commend the government for starting up CTC. I wasn't too happy about the makeup.
I just make the suggestion to the minister that maybe we could, in the future, invite more of the CTC officials to come here to - maybe on a fam tour, courtesy, of course, of the CTC buck. I mean, we shouldn't have to pay for it. But maybe we could get them up here a little more often. I think they really enjoyed their Watson Lake visit, but I think we should take some time to have them spend a little more time in the Yukon and get a little more familiar with the product, with our industry and with our marketplace.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The member opposite's comments are certainly on target. Let me say that next week, when we go to Rendezvous Canada, those comments will be brought up and put into context to let them know that we're serious.
Certainly we have been doing some work, and the industry enhancement committee is coming here in June. Instead of just meeting and visiting in our meeting room, we will be taking the committee out on a fam tour to meet with some of our operators here in the Yukon. We've also been suggesting that the CTC plan on attending a future TIA annual general meeting so that they can get a really true feeling of the Yukon and will not inadvertently leave us out of the loop as they have been doing in the presentation of Canada. I, myself, personally believe that Yukon is the heart of Canada, so I will certainly be taking that forward.
Mr. Phillips: I'm glad to hear that.
Mr. Chair, a few more questions in general debate. I understand that, as recently as this spring, there was some discussion in the Alaskan Legislature about reduction of the Department of Tourism and cutting back the budget in Alaska. Can the minister bring us up to date on where that is and how that's going to affect Tourism North, the joint marketing program we have with Alaska - I know we used to work very closely with the Department of Tourism in Alaska on that particular program - and any other promotional programs we have with the State of Alaska?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I know, it is as the member opposite has stated. I have been of the understanding that that is actually what is going on.
As to the actual dollars that they have within their budget, I just don't know. I will have to get that information and I will get that information.
Let me say, though, that there is going to be a meeting in June of the Alaska Tourism Marketing Council, and we're going to have a representative at that marketing council and certainly, when that member gets back I will - well, if we're still in the Legislature, I'll provide it by legislative return, but, hopefully, we won't be here and I'll forward that information to both the respective critics of both the Official Opposition and the third party.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I think it is a concern that could have very serious consequences for the Yukon because we, in fact, have benefited from Alaska's marketing over the years. I think 75 percent of the rubber-tire traffic that comes up the Alaska Highway is bound for Alaska, and if they cut back significantly on their marketing with respect to that, it could have quite an impact on the highway lodges along the Alaska Highway and the roads in the territory. So, it would be very serious if Alaska decides to back out of their marketing initiatives.
I know the Alaska Department of Tourism, the Alaska Visitors Association and the Tourism Marketing Council have been fighting for years to try and maintain their budgets and have sort of been fighting a losing battle. I fail to understand why because tourism is such a major contributor to the Alaskan economy, but there seems to be a lack of support in some areas, which is unfortunate. I would hope that the cuts that they've made would be in areas that wouldn't affect as greatly as it possibly could.
One of the areas that I had a concern in when I saw the overall budget of the Government of Yukon was an area in the department of highways, which is another department that the minister is responsible for. One of the reasons I have a concern about it was that there was a fairly significant cutback, aside from the Shakwak project, of capital works on our major highways.
I just want to get a feel from the minister about how he feels about that as the Minister of Tourism. In the 1994 visitor exit survey, one of the most significant things that people commented on that they really didn't like about their visit to the territory was transportation, meaning the condition of the roads. Most of these people were from the southern 48, or from areas where they have hardtop or blacktop everywhere, so when they ran into a bit of gravel road, it made a big difference to them.
Just the same, for instance, in the Kluane area, the most negative - let me just give you an idea, Mr. Chair. It says in the visitor exit survey, "How did they enjoy their stay while in nine Yukon regions?" In Whitehorse, the most negative thing was nothing; 37.2 percent said that there was nothing that was negative about Whitehorse. This was the majority of the people who commented on it. In Kluane, transportation - the highways - was a concern; 43.3 percent talked about that. Carcross-Southern Lakes: nothing, 44 percent. In Teslin, the minister's own home riding: transportation, 34.4 percent.
Watson Lake, transportation, 38.1 percent; the Campbell riding - again, that's the other side of the riding - nothing, 23.1 percent; the Klondike riding, transportation, 22.3 percent; Silver Trail, transportation, 23.8 percent; and north Yukon, of course there are no highways up there, so there was nothing. It certainly wasn't highways that was a problem in that area.
But, just to show the minister that in five regions of the territory, the visitors who were here were used to driving on pretty good roads, and so I ask the minister to keep that in mind in future planning as the minister responsible for highways but also the minister responsible for tourism, because that is something that will keep them driving around on our roads, and we're fortunate in the Yukon. We have probably some of the best loop roads in the territory, and if anyone has lived here for any length of time, like the minister and I have, we think they are superhighways from what we used to drive on, but our visitors are used to highways that are maybe 12 lanes wide with guard rails and lines and lights and cloverleaves and all that kind of thing. So, we have to sort of keep that in mind and know that our marketing has to be market driven, and we have to do what we can to make sure our highways are kept in the very best of condition and are improved on an annual basis.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The member opposite asked for my feelings, and my feelings are that we must have a commitment in all sectors.
As the Minister of Tourism and as the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, I understand that there is a connection - there is a dovetailing - between the two.
As was reiterated and stated before in this House by most members who have spoken, we did acknowledge the fact that this was a tough budget year and we are certainly hoping that next year will be a little easier and we might be able to move forward with our planning exercises in the next budget debate, which will encompass again what I like to think is a well-balanced budget in terms of development and initiative for all.
On another question that the member opposite has asked, I've been advised by my Tourism department - who I must commend for getting to work this evening, because we didn't expect to be in to work this evening, so I commend them for doing that - that the Tourism North joint Yukon and Alaska marketing are safe from any Alaska budget cuts.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that you report progress on Bill No. 4.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: 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. McRobb: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 1997-98, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:29 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled May 7, 1997:
Fleet Vehicle Agency: 1997-98 business plan (Sloan)
The following Legislative Return was tabled May 7, 1997:
Old Crow school: master agreement for construction of temporary facilities and other matters; members of Building Advisory Committee (Moorcroft)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1017