Wednesday, March 4, 1998 - 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 at this time 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. Harding: I have a document for tabling.
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?
Community development fund: funding increase
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to inform members of an initiative that clearly demonstrates our government's policy of meeting community needs and creating employment opportunities for Yukon people. As members are aware, in the next fiscal year, funding for the community development fund will increase by 75 percent to $3.5 million. This is consistent with our government's central principle of fostering strong and healthy communities.
The short-term economic outlook that I tabled a few moments ago indicates that the Yukon economy is expected to face some difficulties this year, largely due to the downturn in the mining industry. This results from several factors, including the impact of the Asian currency crisis, low gold/base metal prices and the lingering effect of Bre-X on the ability of junior mining companies to raise capital for exploration and development.
The completion of the Shakwak highway reconstruction and the Whitehorse General Hospital have also significantly decreased the resources available to this government for capital projects. These large capital projects have been funded respectively by the U.S. Congress and the Government of Canada.
One way our government is responding to these economic difficulties is by expanding the CDF to create short-term jobs and meet community objectives that have been identified as priorities by local people.
I am pleased to note that the latest round of approvals under tier 2 gave the go-ahead to 12 projects, creating a combined total of 739 weeks of work for people in various communities throughout the Yukon.
Some of the community projects these grants will facilitate include renovations for the Dawson Humane Society, improvements to the swimming pool in Mayo, additions to the water and sewer facilities for the Tagish community hall, and an expansion to the community soup kitchen at the Sacred Heart Cathedral.
Mr. Speaker, when the tier 3 projects are approved in the next few weeks, I am confident that even more jobs and other worthwhile opportunities will be made possible for Yukon people.
Mr. Speaker, besides increasing the funding base for the CDF, our government is also taking steps to improve the administration of this program so that community needs can be met more quickly.
Some of the changes we are making include streamlining the contribution agreement for successful CDF applicants to allow funds to be disbursed quickly, so that projects can be completed in a more timely fashion; a semi-annual workshop for departments responsible for funding programs to share ideas and improve coordination of government support for communities; a tour of the communities by project officers this spring to create awareness and provide information of the program. This will increase the ability of staff to work directly with applicants to facilitate their projects.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud of our government's commitment to creating employment opportunities and meeting the needs of Yukon communities. The expansion of the community development fund is a major reflection of that commitment.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, it's unfortunate for Yukoners - and especially unemployed Yukoners - that the only answer that this government has to creating jobs for Yukoners, who are dearly going to need jobs, is the CDF.
We have heard that fund not only being criticized by us in this House but by people out in the private sector.
While communities love the CDF fund - who wouldn't, when you have a government come and say, "How much money do you want?" - there are major problems we have with the CDF - and that shouldn't come as any surprise to the minister - such as the way it's administered and the ministerial authority for directing funds for certain projects. We think that if we're going to have this type of fund, then it ought to be done at arm's length from the political people.
I also have some concerns with the minister's statement, where he's talking now about project officers. I would hope that he'll expand and tell us if these are new positions within government that we are now creating to administer this fund, or what it pertains to.
Mr. Speaker, I would suggest to the minister that if he wants to do something about fostering healthy communities, they could roll up their sleeves and get very creative about putting Yukoners to work and having some jobs for Yukoners, besides the 700 and some odd weeks that he says are going to come out of this program. I think I can just go back and pull his questions to our Economic Development minister about how he arrived at that figure and see if he's got any more substantive evidence than what he thought our minister had.
Mr. Speaker, I believe that, while these projects will create some short-term work in the communities, what is really required is for this government to get busy and create some long-term opportunities for Yukon, and that would foster much healthier communities than these projects.
Having replied to that ministerial statement, I want to just put on the record and ask, Mr. Speaker, for you to make a ruling as to the legitimacy of such a statement in this Legislature. On May 12, 1997, the minister rose to announce a similar policy that wasn't yet formed, even, and took advantage of ministerial statements to do it. Standing Order 11(3) on ministerial statements says, "a minister may make a short factual statement of government policy." These things could be announced in press releases, as they were in the past.
Mr. Speaker, we heard this member stand yesterday and criticize the opposition about using the time in this House wisely because we're on a 35-day sitting limit. And for him to abuse the Standing Order on making a ministerial statement is wrong and cuts into House time.
I suggest that he ought to use House time wisely, too.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to make a ruling at some point on ministerial statements.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to this ministerial statement on behalf of the Yukon Liberal Party. The Yukon Liberal Party supports spending money with communities to support economic development. We are also supportive of the idea that the initiative should come from the communities. What we are opposed to is three or four Cabinet ministers dispensing the goodies - $3.5 million worth of goodies - to communities all over the Yukon.
The larger scale projects that will be okayed in the future will all carry long-term O&M costs.
The Yukon government has frozen transfer payments to Yukon municipalities again this year. It is clear that they have no intention of helping with the long-term O&M costs of these facilities. I hope the minister will keep that in mind as he continues to sign off on these projects.
What the Yukon Liberal Party has proposed in the past, and what I repeat today, is that there should be legislation to administer this program. There should be a governance; there should be a framework to administer this program. Legislation should include the appointment of an independent board to review projects and disburse dollars. This would eliminate the pork barrel smell that surrounds the fund in the past and continues to linger today.
If the NDP does not see fit to hand over the control of this money to an independent board, then we believe that the money should be used for other purposes.
While it is obvious we need economic development, we need a plan, not an ad hoc creation of a half-million dollar facility with long-term O&M commitments being passed on to cash-strapped towns and cities. Handing out money always makes governments popular in the short term. It is not a substitute for long-term economic planning or long-term economic development in our communities.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'm so pleased to respond to the members opposite. Mr. Speaker, this is not, as the Yukon Party characterized it, the only answer to the economy, but just one element of the plan we've put together to deal with the economic situation in the territory. I think it is something that is very key to our motto, which is that we listen to the communities when we act.
Mr. Speaker, these are people priorities. These are local priorities. This is not the CDF board priorities or applications that are put forward. These are put forward by the local communities. The ministers and the people who work on the decisions surrounding this are accountable to this Legislature and accountable to the people.
How dare the Liberals stand up and talk about frozen block funding in the communities, when their Liberal cousins in Ottawa hacked and slashed the block funding to this territory - seven percent; $20 million in reductions. But did we pass that on to the municipalities? No.
So, Mr. Speaker, how dare they.
I also want to say that, with regard to the issue of whether or not this is within the realm of order in this Legislature, I would say that this government has every right to lay out our public agenda in this House. It is not just about responding to the opposition. We're here to inform the public as to what the agenda of this government is, and it's perfectly consistent with that to lay out government policy and announcements and initiatives surrounding this, and it's perfectly within the jurisprudence of this House.
Mr. Speaker, I want to say to the members opposite, you know, the Liberal Party in particular, one promise they made to the electorate was to not be confrontational. So far, they have been breaking that at a regular rate and, as you see with the direction of the new leader, they are becoming increasingly more chippy and more confrontational in this Legislature.
Mr. Speaker, I want to say that just last December, in 1996, when we announced the predecessor to this project, the CPI, the same member who just criticized the CDF said that she was most pleasantly surprised to see the ministerial statement on the community projects initiative. She said that the minister has done a good thing this Christmas. And the member from Riverside in just May of 1997 said - and I quote - that: "The community development fund has on occasion been instrumental in helping communities develop worthwhile facilities."
Mr. Speaker, just a few months later, in February of 1998, the new Liberal leader, who has been listening to the pied piper on the right here, the leader of the official opposition, waltzing over to that side, reuniting the right and going back home, says, "One step the government could take -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order. Order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: "One step the government could take is to abolish the CDF." So, Mr. Speaker, we've seen that as they struggle to find their identify, they head back home.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: So, Mr. Speaker, a vote against the CDF is a vote against these projects, and I will ensure that the people in Tagish, the people in Dawson, the Signpost Seniors in Watson, the people in Mayo and the people responsible for the soup kitchen renovations know that the Liberals and Tories voted against their projects, because without the CDF, these projects would not exist. They would be lost in some bureaucratic boondoggle within the departments as priorities are fought to be established.
Mr. Speaker, this is a responsive way of dealing with issues that are put forward by the communities. The Liberals and the Tories have voted against these projects and the CDF. I can't see the difference. Can you see the difference?
Canada-Yukon labour market development agreement
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, it is the policy of our government to provide opportunities for Yukon people to develop the skills and knowledge they need to find work and to participate fully in the economy. I am pleased, therefore, to rise and report to this House about a historic agreement our government signed on January 24 with the Government of Canada.
The Canada-Yukon labour market development agreement includes a commitment of more than $16 million to help people who are out of work over the next five years. It also gives the Yukon a new level of control over the design and delivery of employment support programs.
As Minister of Education, I signed this agreement here in Whitehorse with my colleague, the Minister of Health and Social Services and the federal Minister of Human Resources Canada. The federal government will continue to deliver and fund programs and services to help Yukon people get their first jobs or re-enter the workforce if they've been away from it.
Such programs can cover a number of areas. They can include job counselling, help for unemployed people to start their own businesses, loans and grants to enable workers to improve their skills, and partnerships with employers to create jobs or work experiences to improve long-term job prospects for out-of-work Yukoners.
The key element of the Canada-Yukon labour market development agreement is that these programs will now be managed in a partnership between the territorial and federal governments. The labour market management committee held its first joint meeting on February 5. This is the first step in a process that will help local decision makers get more people back to work.
A labour market information subcommittee has been formed, and a labour market plan for 1998-99 will be ready later this spring. In the near future, the committee will determine how it will consult with First Nations, the francophone community, and other groups and organizations. Costs of the committee will be borne by Human Resources Development Canada, from their regional operations budget.
Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the Minister of Economic Development, just spoke about the economic challenges facing the territory at this time and some of the measures our government is taking to provide jobs for Yukon people in the short term. The Canada-Yukon labour market development agreement clearly adds to our ability to address the needs of Yukon workers, both in the present and in the future. It also reinforces our government's long-term commitment to building a stronger, more diversified economy that provides more jobs and economic opportunities for Yukon people.
Mr. Phillips: When I heard this statement today by the minister, I had this strange feeling come over me. Mr. Speaker, I had this feeling - I think the term is déjà vu - like I'd heard it before. So, I checked around, and I have heard it before. As we've heard already today, last April this government announced that it had reinitiated its CDF fund. Today, it reannounced that it's reinitiated its CDF fund. In January of this year - on January 24, the federal Minister of Labour, Pierre Pettigrew, was here, and he announced a $16 million agreement with the Yukon government, and today the minister rose on her feet and reannounced a labour market agreement.
Mr. Speaker, this is a government that is bankrupt of new ideas.
And they're coming into this House, expending valuable time of the House - as the Member for Faro said yesterday, we have to use our time in the House wisely - abusing what I believe, Mr. Speaker, are the rules of this House that talk about making a short statement on policy and not reannouncing old federal initiatives, that were announced well over two months ago.
It appears that this government is already out of new initiatives to announce. The ministerial statement about the historic Canada-Yukon labour market development agreement is nothing new to speak of. In fact, a month ago, two months ago - "The labour market development agreement provides for cooperative management with the federal and territorial governments. Pierre Pettigrew has indicated that they are willing to look at ways to help Faro. First Nations like the agreement, too." Moorcroft - this is the minister that announced it today - was speaking to the media on January 26, a month and one-half ago, when it was already announced, telling us that, "The aboriginal labour force alliance has indicated to us that they are supportive of the Yukon government's direction with this labour market development agreement and certainly it's in the interests of both Yukon government and First Nations that we work collaboratively on training programs. We've an indication that the willingness is there to do that." And they even had the Social Services minister, Dave Sloan, getting in on the announcement.
I guess, Mr. Speaker, they didn't get enough media back then on the announcement and they figured, if they waited till the feds left town, the people who gave them the $16 million, they could reannounce it now and maybe they could take credit for all of it.
But it's kind of a sneaky way to deal with these kinds of agreements.
Mr. Speaker, this is a good agreement, but it's nothing new to report. While we welcome every opportunity for Yukon people to develop the skills and knowledge they need to find work, it's important that there are jobs waiting for Yukoners, rather than these people being trained and leaving for other provinces in this country to find employment. And we know now that many of our truckers, many of our trained people, are now exiting this territory to find jobs elsewhere because our unemployment rate is so high and this government has failed to produce anything that will bring that rate down. And they certainly won't do it with their $3 million community development fund.
In light of these tough times, it is incumbent on the government to establish a climate that's conducive to the growth of our economy, and not one that discourages investment, like they seem to be doing.
There was not a lot of information about the agreement back in January and even less information about the agreement now - the reannouncement of the agreement. Maybe the minister can tell us, then - if she's prepared to blow her horn here today and say this is a great thing - how much per year Yukoners can expect to see from the agreement. What is the makeup of the committee? Are representatives from the mining, forestry and tourism sectors involved in the committee, and if not, why not?
In January, the Minister of Health and Social Services stated that he'd be interested in the agreement to assist with certain equity groups, such as individuals with disabilities, and opportunities for developing some programs in that regard. Now, it's been two months since things have been going, so maybe the minister can provide us with an update on that.
With respect to the closure of the Faro mine that was mentioned a month ago, will funds be made available for the people of Faro to assist them with some retraining opportunities? Will there hopefully be a light at the end of the tunnel and jobs for those people in the Yukon when they're retrained? Will there be any partnerships made with the mining, forestry and tourism industry to provide training opportunities in these sectors?
Those are some questions I have for the minister that were not provided back on January 24, when the minister announced it the first time, and isn't provided here on March 4 ...
Speaker: The member has half a minute.
Mr. Phillips: ... when the minister announced it the second time.
I'm just hoping that maybe when the minister comes back -
Speaker: The member's time has elapsed.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: I am truly pleased to respond to this ministerial statement on behalf of the Yukon Liberal Party caucus. We are extremely pleased to see the Yukon government working in partnership with the federal government to help Yukoners return to work.
When the agreement was originally announced - and I attended that media session and the signing - the Minister of Education described it as a true example of the flexibility and dynamic nature of the Canadian federation. This is one point on which the minister and I see eye to eye.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the federal Liberal Minister of Human Resources, the Hon. Pierre Pettigrew ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
... who made the trip to Yukon in January to make this announcement. The minister had not been to the Yukon before, and when he found out the agreement was ready to be signed, he wanted to be here himself to hear first hand from Yukoners. Under the new agreement, employment programs and services will be designed and managed in partnership with the territorial government to reflect the priorities of Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, it's important to note that the federal Liberal government will continue to fund these made-in-Yukon employment strategies from the employment insurance account. The federal Liberal government will direct over $16 million from that account to support active employment measures in Yukon.
These will include things like targeted wage subsidies, job creation partnerships, employment assistance services and skills, loans and grants. The details that were provided at the media briefing outline how much is coming to the Yukon per year and some of the options available under the program.
I'm pleased and honoured to rise in this House today in what should more appropriately be a tribute, rather than a ministerial statement, to the Canada federal Liberal Yukon partnership.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, the members opposite are the master of the mixed message. They took great exception and said that we were showing disrespect for this House if we did not announce initiatives in the Yukon Legislative Assembly, and they criticized us severely when we did not announce, in their minds, initiatives in this House in a timely fashion.
Now, I guess the official opposition doesn't like it when we have good news to announce, but nonetheless, we are going to bring news to this House and to the people in the territory through the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Mr. Speaker, the official opposition indicated that it was a good agreement, and then he said he didn't know what was in it and he wanted a breakdown of costs and wanted to know what types of programs were involved, and I can tell the member that rather than read the statement again - because they have taken exception to the statement - we will be happy to provide him with a copy of the information that was delivered earlier.
The Liberal Party itself seems to have a bit of a quandary. They want to distance themselves from the federal Liberal government when there is any bad news, when there are cuts to transfer payments or when there is employment insurance legislation that seriously erodes the unemployment insurance scheme that we used to have in this country available for unemployed workers. Nevertheless, they also want to be right on board when they believe there is a tribute due to Human Resources Development Canada.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I believe that the Labour Market Management Committee is going to be an effective partnership between the federal and territorial governments. We will continue to work with the community through the joint management committee on labour market initiatives and look forward to being able to deliver some successful programs to the Yukon public and to the unemployed workforce.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Parks Canada, proposed park for Teslin area
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister responsible for Renewable Resources concerning a proposed new national park in the Teslin area.
Mr. Speaker, I understand that Parks Canada has held some meetings with Teslin residents. One of those meetings was held with the Teslin Renewable Resource Council and I understand that the Minister of Renewable Resources was also present at that meeting. They also had meetings with the Teslin Tlingit First Nation with respect to the proposal.
I find that, Mr. Speaker, somewhat confusing. It seems like we're pitting one group against the other because the Teslin Tlingit First Nation is represented on the renewable resource council and I believe the message that was given to Parks Canada and the minister was: thank you, but we're not interested in another national park in that area, but the Teslin Tlingit First Nation told them they were.
I would like the minister to confirm today, for this House, is, in fact, a national part of 10,000 square kilometres being considered for the Wolf Lake area of the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, it is no secret that our government is pursuing a protected areas strategy and is working in conjunction with the people of the Yukon and all affected people, including industry. We are going to be sticking to those initiatives that are being brought forward by the people.
We are aware of the park proposal and we've been talking to Teslin and the renewable resource council in this regard. There is interest in a national park in the Teslin area. It is consistent with protecting the ecosystem through the protected areas strategy. We feel that a park could be established in that area.
Right now we don't know what the size of the park is, what the real size would be. There have been a couple of boundary lines that have been put forward to us, but none that we have really seen that would tell us what the true numbers really are.
We are continuing to work with Parks Canada on this, and we will be continuing to bring forward our protected areas strategy.
Mr. Ostashek: The minister says he doesn't know the size, but I've been advised that they are going to set aside 10,000 square kilometres as a park reserve. In fact, I understand that a feasibility study is going to start next month. I'm somewhat amazed and somewhat surprised that the minister stands in the House today and says he is supportive of this, yet we didn't hear a ministerial statement from him about it, which we have on other issues. In fact, I would suggest to the minister that the government is very gun shy on this one and was trying to keep it quiet. Can the minister tell me if, in fact, he did tell the renewable resource council that the Yukon territorial government was in favour of a national park in the Wolf Lake area?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: What I've said is that we have been putting together, with the general public, a protected areas strategy, to which renewable resource councils, First Nations, the general public, and so on, are all providing input. I said that we would be looking at all the ecoregions and having a representative of protected areas in those places. I did not say that we were supportive of what was presented by Parks Canada. We will be continuing to work with the protected areas first, and that's our position with that.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for that, and I'll give him the opportunity to clear the record right here and now for some very concerned Yukoners about where this government is going in protecting the environment and all the parks that are being designated in a time of economic downturn in the territory. All of these things, as the members opposite know, do create uncertainty.
I want - the Member for Faro will get his chance. I'm talking to the Minister of Renewable Resources now.
The minister has said that they are going ahead with their protected areas strategy, and we, on this side of the House, have been supportive of that. We are a little concerned with the speed at which they're progressing. As well, this government is seeking a major expansion to the proposed Tombstone Park, which is of much concern to resource developers in the Yukon in the mining and logging industries. I want to ask the minister if he can tell the House and Yukoners today: is the proposed new national park going to be part of the protected areas strategy, or is this going to be more land set aside, on top of the proposal of the territorial government and their protected areas strategy? There's a big difference, and I would like the minister to be very clear with the public. Is this another 10,000 square kilometres that's going to be set aside for the park, over and above the protected areas strategy?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: First of all, to get an understanding of what we're doing with protected areas, we've had advisory committees work on putting together this strategy - the interest groups, mining industry, outfitters, and so on. The strategy is not there to identify pieces of land for parks or areas to be protected. It is a how-to book; how do we go about this process in designating protected areas. There's a big difference in where the member's coming from.
In regard to the 10,000 square miles being over and above, I don't know what the numbers are to what Parks Canada's putting forward, but I've said we would be using the protected areas first through the Yukon government. We're not sponsoring the park. We've said we have an interest in the area. It's an ecosystem that we would like to see some protection for. That's basically the position that we continue to take on it.
Question re: Education, Robert Service School portables
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. On Monday night, my colleague, the Member for Riverdale North, raised the issue of Robert Service School portable classrooms. The minister's response was heard all the way back in Dawson by my constituents. In fact, it still continues to bounce off the walls in Dawson.
The mayor of our community and the Robert Service school council took issue with much of what the minister had to say. I understand the minister is in receipt of an open letter from Mayor Everitt concerning the lease agreement with the government over these portable classrooms.
Can the minister advise the House if she has signed the portable lease with the City of Dawson and has since recanted her statements, or does there still exist a state of open animosity between the minister and many of my constituents over this issue?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is going to have to speak for himself in regard to any animosity he may feel. The practice of this government and the practice of the Department of Education is to take our lead from school councils.
In the matter of the agreement between the department and Dawson City for the lease on the land that the portables sit on, I have signed the lease agreement and I've also spoken with the school council. I must repeat, for the record, as I confirmed in another conversation with the chair of the school council last night, that the Robert Service school council had no opportunity to view the City of Dawson land exchange proposal that the mayor brought down to Whitehorse until I provided it to them with a request for their input, because we take our lead from school councils.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I'm most pleased that the minister has had a spiritual awakening, finally seen the light, signed an agreement, recognizing that she is not above the law and her department is not above the law.
Can the minister advise the House if she will now go to Dawson, sit down with the school council, sit down with mayor and council, and work out an amicable solution that will best serve the students?
Will the minister commit to this undertaking?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I have met with the Robert Service school council. I have been in Dawson and I have also met with school councils from around the territory at the annual gathering of school council chairs, which this government supported when the previous government cut back their funding. And, yes, I will continue to work with the school council chair.
The school councils have made it very clear, and have repeated to me their request, that the Robert Service school council take the lead on education issues in Dawson City. That, in fact, is what the Education Act reads, Mr. Speaker. That is what I, as a Minister of Education, honour and respect.
Mr. Jenkins: I am very pleased to see that the minister is gaining a very much needed understanding of her role and her department's role in this issue. You know, to clear the record, the minister has stonewalled on a meeting between the mayor and the city manager for some many months. A half-an-hour meeting was all it would have taken to resolve this issue. She's refused and refused and refused continuously to me, and the amount of time that the minister has spent on this issue has been very, very minimal, Mr. Speaker.
Can the minister assure the House that now she presently has a clear understanding of the agreement between her department and the City of Dawson, and this time she will honour and abide by the terms of this agreement?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, it's the member opposite who seems to have some misunderstandings here. I can tell the member, and I can tell the people of Dawson, as they know, that I will continue to take the lead from the Robert Service school council, and that we will continue to work with all school councils in looking at meeting the priorities in the territory for all of the educational needs of all of our students.
Question re: Education, mathematics curriculum consultation
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. I asked the minister yesterday if she had met with the Yukon Teachers Association, who have expressed concerns about the new math curriculum introduced at the K to 7 level. The minister said that she has had meetings with the Yukon Teachers Association.
Would the minister tell this House when those meetings took place, who was present and what topics were discussed?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, perhaps in the supplementary questions the member will come to some point. I don't know whether she is asking me to table agendas of meetings that I've held with the Yukon Teachers Association.
I think it's fair to say, Mr. Speaker, that both I and the Yukon Teachers Association are making sincere efforts to maintain an honest and open relationship. I was speaking with the Yukon Teachers Association last week and will continue to meet with them.
Ms. Duncan: Perhaps the minister will provide those details by legislative return. I don't think the meetings have taken place, and I don't believe this minister really holds true to the partnerships in education philosophy.
The facts are that, this year, there's a new math curriculum. It was introduced at the elementary school level - out with the old, in with the new. Fact two: the math consultant for the Department of Education spent the first half of this year in an acting principal capacity, not helping teachers introduce an entirely new curriculum. Fact three: the inservices for teachers to help them with teaching this new curriculum are not taking place in all schools, contrary to what the minister said yesterday. Fact four: the new curriculum has problems that teachers, parents and school councils are expressing grave concerns about. Fact five: the minister has not met first hand with teachers to admit there's a problem with the way the math curriculum has been implemented.
Will the minister schedule a meeting with her professional partners in education - the Yukon Teachers Association - on this specific subject: the new K to 7 math curriculum. Will she do that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member opposite seems to be labouring under some misapprehensions as to what the duties of the Minister of Education entail. It is not, as I see it, my responsibility to help teachers to implement curriculum.
Let me go over some of the facts that the member seems to have ignored. The facts are that, when the math curriculum was brought into place, math inservicing was provided for Yukon teachers. The fact is that superintendents and curriculum consultants continue to meet with the schools to discuss student and teacher assistance, teaching practices and strategies, program organization and assessment practices. The fact is that new resources have been provided for students and teachers for September, in bringing forward new curriculum.
The officials in the Department of Education are doing their job to do their work to support the curriculum and to support the teachers in the schools.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, if the minister truly believes that that's what's happening, then I invite her to table a legislative return and demonstrate and list, by school, the inservices that have been held, the resources that have been supplied and that all schools in the Yukon, in fact, have those resources.
Mr. Speaker, our children at school have a responsibility. They have a responsibility to apply their skills and graduate with an education. The teachers, our professional partners, have a responsibility to do their professional best. The government has a responsibility to provide a learning environment and to work with these partners in education.
The responsibility stops at the minister's desk. She has the responsibility to the children of the Yukon to ensure that this math curriculum in instituted so that they can gain a strong education and graduate, able to solve problems in math, able to learn. She is abandoning children. When is she going to accept her responsibility?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is being -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please, order.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: - not simply confrontational but is being nonsensical.
Mr. Speaker, we take the responsibility for ensuring that there is a good education program available for all students in all Yukon schools very seriously. We will continue to support teachers in implementing curriculum changes. We will continue to work hard, both at the political level and at the departmental level.
If the member believes that she has some evidence to show that we've been lacking, I invite her to bring forward suggestions on how it may be improved, because we do attempt to continue to make improvements.
Question re: Education, mathematics curriculum consultation
Ms. Duncan: The Minister of Education doesn't believe that I'm doing my job as the Education critic. Well, I believe that the Minister of Education is not doing her job.
In one morning - that doesn't speak to the previous 18 months - I've spoken with concerned parents, a school council chair, three separate teachers, and the president of the Yukon Teachers Association. I can do that, and I'm the critic for six different departments. The minister has the responsibility for only three.
When will she quit hiding behind her officials and listen to Yukoners? When will she meet with the Yukon Teachers Association and concerned parents about the brand-new K to 7 math curriculum?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I'm sure that the member opposite is not offering to take over responsibility for scheduling for the Minister of Education.
Now, Mr. Speaker, in all seriousness, I can tell the member that I am available to meet with people, that I make phone calls to parents and to school councils and talk to teachers and talk to the Yukon Teachers Association. I'd like the member to come to the point and to ask her question and indicate just what exactly she feels it is that needs to be done to improve the math inservicing, if that is what she's after.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, we've had a lot of discussion in this House about the school achievement indicators program and the scores. The area the Yukon did not do well in is problem-solving. The new math curriculum at the K-7 level is focused on problem-solving. All the new math curriculums in the world are not going to help Yukon students if the teachers do not get the support they need and if the minister will not listen when the teachers are telling her that there's a problem.
Will the minister meet with the teachers to hear, first hand that there is a problem with the implementation of the new K to 7 math curriculum? Will she schedule that meeting?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is bringing forward her request for meetings that I should have. I make myself available to have meetings with people, both by reaching myself and by responding to requests directly from constituent groups who want to meet with me. I can assure the member that we will continue to offer support to teachers through math inservicing, through the resources that we provide to teachers, and through other measures, such as the information sessions that have been held at some schools for parents.
Ms. Duncan: If the minister would take the time to meet with the math teachers and the teachers who have expressed concern about this curriculum, she would hear first hand that some are using old math curriculum because they haven't had the inservices. Some classes are using new math curriculum, and there's a great concern among parents that there's going to be quite a mixture and that students are going to continue to fail when they reach grade nine.
The new curriculum was introduced quickly, following the B.C. example. Since the minister doesn't want to hear from Yukoners, has she contacted her B.C. counterparts? How well is the program going down there? Has she asked that question, since she doesn't seem to want to meet with Yukoners?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm happy that the member opposite thinks that she is doing her job, and I want to let her know that the department is working hard with other partners to resolve problems. Professional and qualified people are dedicated to the task of doing their jobs well.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I met with the Yukon Teachers Association last week. This was not raised as an issue. On the subject of the curriculum available in B.C. and Alberta, the western Canada consortium has been working together on the new math curriculum, and they continue to work together.
Yes, I've asked for questions and updates from the curriculum consortium and, yes, both as a minister and the department, we're working hard to make the new math curriculum a success.
Question re: Child support payments
Mr. Phillips: Yesterday, I raised the question with the minister responsible for the Housing Corporation about changes to the way child support payments are taxed and whether the minister would commit to changing his department's policy of deducting 25 percent of a tenant's child support payments for rent. The minister replied that this is an issue that has come up over the past year and that he'd take it under advisement.
I would draw the minister's attention to the fact that the changes have been in effect for almost a year, since last April. Surely, one would think that the minister has had more than enough time to review the changes and, in turn, more than enough time to make the change in policy. Again, in the recent Budget Address, the Government Leader himself said, "It's shameful that in a society as privileged as this that Canadian people, including more than three million children, continue to live in conditions of poverty." If the government is so ashamed about the poverty conditions in Canada with respect to children, then why has it taken over a year for them to react to this initiative by the federal government, to make sure that the money that was supposed to be paid for the children ended up in the homes, with the mothers and the children, so that they could spend it as the federal government planned?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I understand where the member is coming from. We do feel the same way. We have been trying to work with the federal government on this. We have, in our social housing, an agreement with CMHC, and they have policies that we are bound to follow. They have not made those changes. It is the federal government that can make those changes down to us. What we've been doing in the past while is to - CMHC has been talking to the rest of the provinces and territories to devolve the program down to the territories. We said we would not do this if there was a cost to Yukoners, and there are some problems with it. We've given the go-ahead to the corporation to go ahead and negotiate, and they have been doing that. We've identified problems, and we will not devolve a program down like that, if it's going to cost Yukoners.
Mr. Phillips: I'm very disappointed that the minister has chosen to blame the federal government. Mr. Speaker, it's his government that has taken the position that child poverty has to be stopped. For a year, this minister has had the ability to make changes to make sure that the money that is paid to his corporation could be returned to the children and women who that money should be returned to. We don't have to wait for the federal government on this; we just have to have the government honour a commitment it made in the budget speech and honour a commitment it's made to Yukon people.
Give the money to the children. The minister has the ability. The rent's paid to the minister's department. The minister can give the money back to the people who deserve it. Why doesn't he do it?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The member wants us to jump out of agreements that we've had and have been in place for many years.
I've said that we were looking into the matter of bringing down CMHC to the local level here, and we're continuing to work on that. We would like to see flexibility in that and we've given direction to the corporation to do just that, but not at the cost of Yukoners. We are bound by the policies that they put in place. If we were to change the policies, we may as well get out of the agreement and that program would no longer be with us then. I don't think that that is in the best interest of Yukoners.
Mr. Phillips: Well, he may not want it to be at the cost of Yukoners, but right now it's at the cost of these children. Those are the people that are not seeing this money right now: the children. This government has made a commitment to change that.
Mr. Speaker, they can do something about it. They don't have to wait for the federal government. It's almost been a year. How long is it going to take? If the federal government doesn't do something in the next five years, are we still going to use the federal government for an excuse?
This government can do something now. It has the wherewithal to do it. It can change the policy with the Yukon Housing Corporation and reimburse those mothers and children the money they were supposed to receive in the first place. When will the minister do it and will he make it retroactive, so that it will go back to the date when the money was first taken away from the mothers - I think it was April 1, 1997?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, the member, I guess, was not listening. We have been working toward this, and we are looking at devolving the program to the Yukon. At such a time, we would be able to have some flexibility to make changes.
The federal government brought in a change like this, and it's inconsistent with the rest of the programs. We recognize it, and if it's in the interest of the Yukon Liberals, maybe they can make a phone call or two to their cousins in the federal government. But we're continuing to work on that, but not at a cost to Yukoners. There are a lot more implications in bringing down this program than this one, but we would like to see that flexibility.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed, and we will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Motion No. 93, standing in the name of Mr. Jenkins.
Motion No. 93
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Klondike
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) alcohol and drug abuse are a major problem for Yukon society; and
(2) that the cancellation of the Government of Yukon's contract with the Crossroads Treatment Centre will have a very serious impact on Yukoners who are trying to recover from alcohol and drug abuse addictions; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to maintain its funding of the Crossroads Treatment Centre.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I was very pleased to introduce this motion for a number of reasons. It's timely to speak to the motion before us, in light of the Minister of Health and Social Services' recent announcement, to inform members about changes being made to the alcohol and drug addictions treatment program provided by the alcohol and drug services branch.
As the minister said, the new program will offer a 14-day medical detoxification process, a 12-day treatment program and an additional 14-day program for clients who require additional supports.
It wasn't that long ago that members of this House spoke to a similar motion recognizing alcohol and drug abuse problems in Yukon. It was at that time that all members put forward their views about the abuse that was taking place and how we should be addressing the problem.
There was, Mr. Speaker, no mention whatsoever of the imminent closure of the Crossroads treatment centre. There were suggestions raised as to how we could be improving our services to those in need, but nothing about the government and its plans to cancel its contract with Crossroads.
As I mentioned the other day in response to the minister's statement, we, on this side of the House, do not profess to know all of the answers, but we are well-aware that it is irresponsible of any government to play politics with such an important problem, its cure and its treatment.
In short, Mr. Speaker, the minister is playing a very dangerous political game which will have a serious impact on Yukoners who are trying to recover from alcohol and drug addiction. Crossroads' proven residential treatment program is being axed for an as yet unnamed and unproved community treatment program with very little, if any, consultation with anyone.
The minister quite simply saw a quick fix in meeting an NDP election commitment to provide a homeless shelter. He knew there were some First Nations concerns about recent changes at Crossroads and he took deliberate advantage of those concerns without even talking to the Crossroads board to hear their side of the story.
The minister saw this as an opportunity to reduce his ever-escalating Health and Social Services budget. By housing the shelter and the treatment centre together, he'd initially hoped he would save over $100,000 annually.
The minister acted as the judge and jury before the Crossroads board even presented their case.
Members of the Yukon public have been speaking out to save a program that has served Yukoners well for some 26 years. A petition calling upon this NDP government to maintain its funding of the Crossroads treatment centre is currently being circulated and is receiving overwhelming support.
Yukoners should be concerned about the new direction the government is taking. The question Yukoners should be asking is if a home treatment program can replace a 28-day intensive residential program that has proven itself to be effective in the past. Can an 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. government program effectively replace a 24-hour service provided by a non-government organization? Who, in government, can someone call after the lights go out in the government offices when they are combatting alcohol and drug abuse? That job is a 24-hour-a-day job, seven days a week, Mr. Speaker.
When you have a program like Crossroads, which has served Yukoners so well for so long, you don't just terminate it arbitrarily. If there are problems, you analyze the problems, you correct the problems, and move forward.
The decision to close Crossroads was undoubtedly politically motivated. Many people in and around Whitehorse and Yukon have offered their opinions, and these are individuals who have been affected by Crossroads.
And, Mr. Speaker, this is what these individuals have to say.
"Crossroads saved my life. You cannot quit drinking when you live in the environment that sent you into the hell of the alcoholic world. No one who has ever been there could understand how the alcoholic thinks. Crossroads worked with me because most of the workers there had been alcoholics who no longer drank the firewater that had been killing them. I wonder if any of Mr. Sloan's new staff will be qualified. If they are not, his program, in my opinion, will fail. No one with real problems will go there, and he will claim he cured the Yukon. The taxpayers will end up picking up the tab for a service that does not exist in reality."
And a second opinion, Mr. Speaker:
"Does the government think that most drinkers are stupid? Most of us are very intelligent. That is why we drink. They are not at home in the world with all the stupidity that goes on around them, frustrating them to the point that they drink to save their sanity. Most of these lost souls are looking for a reason to live. Crossroads gave them acceptance and a key. That key was a belief in God. The belief that only God and yourself can save you from living and dying in hell is what you have to find out. You have to do this yourself; no one else. You need someone to talk to, but if they try to drive your thoughts right out of your head, you head right back to the bottle. The worst thing that can happen to you is to be lectured. You have already lectured yourself enough, and your shame for what you are is only understood by someone who has been in the same shape. Is the government a bunch of ex-drunks? If not, stay out of the dry-out business."
And again another opinion, Mr. Speaker:
"Some people who are on the edge of death hate the socialists. They would not go to the dry-out centre for that reason. A drinker has enough problems getting through a day. Place some political propaganda on his plate and he'll bolt like a spooked horse. An alcoholic or a drug addict is looking for control over his own life. As we all know, socialism seeks to control people. They want everyone to be docile workers, pay taxes, keep their keepers in comfort. Don't pray to God; pray to the mighty Stalin for your bread and butter, then Stalin tells you what to do. You live to serve the almighty government. You think drinkers don't know that and fight it? That is why half of them drink. Someone is trying to control them, and the only way to get away from them is to get lost in a big drunk and forget about it - all of them. Tell Sloan to keep his nose out of Crossroads; keep it going."
And another opinion, Mr. Speaker: "An alcoholic is either a very mature person who can't tolerate his fellow man, or he is a weak child who has refused to grow up - sometimes a combination of the two. Crossroads was staffed by the former, and that was why it worked with me. The only way a man or woman can learn to tolerate the greed, selfishness and meanness of their fellow man is through God. Take God out of Crossroads and you lose the battle. Put some primed-up pups in charge with university degrees, and you lose the last faint hope for drunks. What the hell do those manicured young fools -
Speaker: Order. I would ask the member to refrain from using abusive and insulting language.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I retract that.
Mr. Jenkins: ". . . What do you do to those manicured young fools, and what do they know about real life? They have never lived, and some of them never will. No, I am not in favour of the government running Crossroads. I am glad that I had a chance to heal while they were still operating. I needed a place to think, and they gave that to me. I'm too old to make much difference in the future, but I'm glad I won't be around to see if things like this keep going on. We'd be better off in Russia. At least you'd get rid of the government rulers."
And the opinion of another individual touched by Crossroads: "I don't drink or do drugs, but my husband was a terrible drunk before he went to Crossroads. He doesn't drink any more, but we still have problems - he just doesn't drink any more. It helped him to be around people who have been through the same mill. I would have left him if it had not been that he stopped drinking. It was bankrupting us, and our kids were starting to drink, just like their dad. I have no idea why the government would want to close a place that helps people get rid of their drinking or drug problems. I know that liquor sales make the government a lot of money. Maybe they are afraid of losing some revenue."
The testimonies of these people go on and on. From the opinions expressed above, I hope Mr. Sloan will have the decency and compassion to re-fund Crossroads and scrap his plans for spending more of our money on experiments.
That was the opinion of a number of Yukoners that have been affected by Crossroads. Crossroads touched them, helped them and did something to turn their lives around.
With the recent announcement of the government's new and improved alcohol and drug treatment program, there are a number of questions that arise. What savings and how are the savings going to be realized? The minister has issued a statement saying that doing it this way is going to save some $100,000. We can look at the program advanced by the Government of Yukon in the green book, and I'm most interested in who they give credit to. "We would like to thank CSAT, who have provided this information by way of the Internet. CSAT is the Centre for Substance Abuse Treatment, of the substance abuse and mental health service administration. It was created in Washington, D.C. in October 1992, with the Congressional mandate to expand the availability of effective treatment and recovery services for alcohol and drug problems."
Virtually everything in this book, Mr. Speaker, is available on the Internet, and the Internet is a fine source of information. It's, in fact, better than a fine source; it's an excellent source of information. But when you're playing with the lives of people, you want to be sure that the information you're obtaining is tried and true and that it works. That we do not know.
The other area of concern is the decentralization of the program to the rural communities. It's a much needed decentralization, Mr. Speaker, and in questions raised in the House yesterday, the minister left more unanswered questions in his responses to the questions I raised. We were dealing with the healing camps in Old Crow, the healing camps in Mayo and in the balance of the Yukon, and the number of individuals that are treated at these centres and the cost of the treatment and how the effectiveness of these programs was gauged. With Crossroads, approximately $450,000 a year is the cost to the Government of the Yukon, and it works out to just over $2,000 per person attending Crossroads. The wilderness camps appear to start at about $5,000 per individual per month and go up from there, Mr. Speaker.
We have a way of gauging the success of Crossroads. The wilderness camps - some people you talk to recognize that they are effective, but how are we gauging the effectiveness of those programs and the individuals that go through them? There doesn't appear to be any kind of mechanism in place by the minister or by his department.
A number of the initiatives of this government in this area encompass a great deal of First Nations people, as does Crossroads.
When we look at the recovery from the federal government, who have a fiduciary responsibility for health care for First Nations people, we see a tremendous amount of money outstanding to the Government of Yukon for all sectors of health care delivery for First Nations - some $28 million - that has accumulated over the last few years.
Now it would appear to be reasonable to pose the question: are these programs entered into with the blessing of the federal government on the understanding that they're paying the bills or are these just some initiatives of this government? We have to be prudent with our dollars here in the Yukon, but we have to treat those in the Yukon who need treating, which gets us back to Crossroads, which gets us back to the original motion that alcohol and drug abuse are major problems in Yukon society. We have the highest per capita consumption of alcohol in Canada and the cancellation of the Crossroads program is going to have a very serious impact.
Now I guess the minister will state that the jury is still out with these new programs, but we're in kind of a never-never land in the transition period. I have listened to a number of the officials in the government departments who treat this area and who are responsible for this area and they speak very, very well on their topics.
But, speaking very well and addressing the issue of drug and alcohol abuse are not synonymous. When we look at the results obtained from an existing program, there were difficulties with it, as there are going to be difficulties with any program, but why reinvent the wheel? Why not take an existing program that has proven to work and take those components of it that are archaic and need updating and address those areas, and do something before we throw the whole program completely out, turn the world upside down and reinvent the wheel again? That's what the minister has done by abolishing this program.
Mr. Speaker, I'm urging the Government of the Yukon to maintain its funding for the Crossroads treatment centre, sit down with the board of Crossroads and fix the problem there. Get the program up and working. Get it working so that the program at Crossroads continues to treat those of us in Yukon who are unfortunate enough to have a problem with drug and alcohol abuse.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, the member has cast a very wide net but what I'll try to do is address a number of the concerns that he has raised here.
I'd like to thank the members opposite for giving me an opportunity to discuss this, and I'd also like to thank them for the opportunity to perhaps clear up some misapprehensions surrounding the directions that we're going.
Mr. Speaker, I have no doubt, and there is no doubt in this House, that alcohol and drug abuse are problems in the Yukon. We've had that discussion before, as the member has mentioned. In fact, we had quite a long discussion on it in the fall. I think what we disagree about is how to address the issue in a better way.
I'd like to give this issue some perspective, Mr. Speaker. We need to do a bit of history on this.
The organization known as Crossroads began in 1972 as the Whitehorse halfway house and was largely, at that time, dependent on volunteers. However, since that time, over the number of years, there have been a whole variety of questions raised on the best way to provide alcohol and drug services.
In 1977, there were some issues around management problems, anxiety, unstable management - and I'm quoting this from the Kearns Report, 1981 - followed by gradual program deteriorations and problems. The process of progressive deterioration continued to an eventual closing of the facility in 1979.
Now, that was from the Kearns report in 1981, and there were issues at that point that were identified regarding the program, the nature of the program, and how it was being delivered. It also stated that - and I would like the members to be aware of this little bit - there was a need for a followup and noted widely by many of the persons involved in the study. The followup support would be most viable if it is community based and related to the client in his or her local environment.
It was also apparent that there were several problems presenting themselves: one was a state of communication between YTG - particularly drug and alcohol services - and Crossroads; two, the method of financing; three, program credibility and viability of process. This report suggested that if progress was not made toward those, that the alcohol and drug services should assume full responsibility for Crossroads and terminate any contacts with the board.
That was 1981.
In 1984, the McLaughlin report indicated issues surrounding questions of cultural components and, and I quote here, "Certainly all parties interviewed acknowledged the need for services in the community, which would support the individual after treatment."
So what we're getting back that far were issues such as followup, relapse prevention, et cetera.
The 1988 symposium on drug abuse noted, and I quote again, "Complete recovery requires more than sending someone off to treatment. Adjustments may have to be made to prepare the person who is leaving a small community to cope with the different community where the treatment will take place."
It goes on to note that there are needs in terms of post-treatment transition, so we have this recurring theme. Once again, going back to the MacLaughlin report, it indicated that outpatient after-care was needed, that staff qualifications were questionable and needed to be tightened up, that relapse prevention was needed, and, "A change in treatment paradigm - an exercise in zero-based programming - is needed."
In 1991, a report emerged which raised the issue that areas,such as followup are lacking, especially if you come from a remote community, and the need for local treatment, "Communications between communities and Crossroads is lacking and no cultural component." There was also concern raised with the decrease in the number of admissions to Crossroads since 1986, high staff turnover, questions on clinical supervision and it was also noted that there was some resistance in the organization to change. As well, it also raised some issues around staff training.
The point that I am trying to make is that, from these reports and from some detailed reviews in the past, the problems that we have experienced with Crossroads are not new. Over and over again, these problems are emerging. What they've done is they've taken us to a point where we're looking at some substantial changes and we're going to look at doing it on April 1 of this year.
I think, Mr. Speaker, that it is time to make some change and, essentially, that's what we're going to do. After some thoughtful and deliberate planning, we are trying to foster healthy communities by making these changes to alcohol and drug services.
The Member for Klondike gave us a rather detailed and somewhat rambling discourse there on this program, and he's addressed a whole variety of issues. What I would like to do is carry on with some of my comments here and then perhaps address some of these in a separate manner.
In 1993, another issue emerged around Crossroads, and the member made a passing reference to it. That was with regard to federal funding. In 1993, there was a significant change when NNADAP withdrew its funding from Crossroads. Since that time, there have been no funds received for programs of this kind from the federal government.
At that time, the Yukon Party was in office and Mr. Phelps was the Minister of Health. Now, Mr. Phelps and I may disagree philosophically, but I was quite surprised to read some of the comments that he had made at that time - interesting comments - because he said that "the indications we had up until recently, there wasn't much of a demand for more than 10 beds". He was making reference to proposed cutbacks.
Another reason that we are looking at moving - to some extent - away from the kind of programming they're doing and offering more day programming, rather than residential programming, is so that people in the Yukon who live in Whitehorse could go home during the day and return home at night. We are also looking at a broader spectrum of services being offered to the public, and we're looking at the kinds of services that an organization, such as Crossroads, might provide.
Now, here's something that's interesting. I think the former Minister of Health and Social Services - who, as I said, we may not agree philosophically - I think what he's saying in 1993 is that, yes, there are some issues here. Some of the solutions he was proposing at that time, or at least contemplating at that time, are along very similar lines. If I could just follow up a little bit on this, he's beginning to talk about the need for appropriate day programming, services that we envisage, comprehensive strategy, et cetera, et cetera. Many of the same issues that have emerged in our consultations have emerged again at this time.
So, what I'm trying to indicate, Mr. Speaker, is that in this sort of brief history, the programs that we've experienced aren't new. What is new is that up until this time we haven't been addressing them directly. We believe that it is time to address these problems, Mr. Speaker, so that people in the Yukon can benefit.
Mr. Speaker, the member referred to some quotes, and certainly I can acknowledge that people feel a loyalty to an organization, and there are many people over the years that Crossroads at different times has assisted - I don't deny that - but I can also tell the member opposite that I have received a large number of calls and a large number of letters and a number of personal contacts supporting these changes. These contacts have been from First Nations and non-First Nations. They have been from former Crossroads clients. They have been from business people. They have been from individuals. They have been from medical professionals. All of them have told me, and the recurring theme is that we need to look at some changes; we need to change how we are delivering the service.
The member has made some curious kinds of allegations there. He has made some discussions regarding the home treatment versus residential program, and he has tried to portray this as being at odds. I think I'll try to demonstrate a bit later on that that is not the case.
What I can do is that I can talk a little bit about what our relationship with Crossroads has been in the last period of time. As I mentioned the other day in the House, there have been at least 17 meetings held with Crossroads between November 1996 and November 1997 to discuss various aspects of their program. On August 22, 1997, I met with the director and a board member to discuss the proposed closure of Crossroads for the month of September and some of their labour problems.
A number of issues that came to our attention at that point have been referred to by the Member for Klondike in, I might point out, his criticism of Crossroads at the time where he lambasted us and said, "It is important that this facility be available for those who need treatment. It's also important for the Crossroads to provide the type of treatment that the majority of its clientele accept. I believe the situation at the centre demands a full investigation by the minister. Almost half-a-million dollars of taxpayers' money is being provided annually to provide a treatment service. Is Crossroads providing that service?"
At the time, there were issues around there. The member himself acknowledges the issues. The previous Yukon Party health minister had identified some concerns. So, some of the issues that emerged with us, and have been emerging, were issues surrounding dismissal of staff, lawsuits filed against Crossroads by former staff and a former executive director, PSAC lodging a complaint against Crossroads for an unfair labour practice, and I believe describing it as a poisoned work atmosphere, lack of financial accountability - I'll come to that later - and there were also concerns by communities about Crossroads' services and, quite frankly, we had concerns about the closure for the month of September.
Now, I know that people will say, "Well, yes, it was closed for a month. It's always closed for a month." In this case, it was closed for two months and we were essentially left without it for the months of August and September.
I'd also note that there had been a loss of board members over the fall. There were concerns raised about programming. There were concerns raised for the need for continuous uptake, about the resource materials used, about treatment approaches, about staff qualifications, and a variety of issues.
On August 25, 1997, the director of social services wrote to Crossroads asking for a meeting to discuss program delivery, personal issues and community concerns. On August 29, we received a letter from the executive director of Crossroads asking for a meeting on September 4 and announcing, at that time, that they were closing Crossroads for September.
On September 4, the director of social services met with the Crossroads board. On September 5, a letter from the board was sent asking for a restructuring plan. September 26, we received a press release from Crossroads announcing that they would reopen. Also on September 26, we had informed the executive director that we would be visiting communities.
There is one other letter, which I believe is particularly pertinent, and that was on September 17, from our director of social services on the question of outstanding issues. These are some things that I will be talking about in a little while.
Through September and October, our director of ADS visited communities and spoke with alcohol and drug treatment workers. On October 3, ADS staff met with Crossroads regarding the ADS treatment program. On November 17, there was a request to the Crossroads executive director requesting client stats. On November 18, there was a request made for financial statements. On November 19, ADS staff met again with Crossroads regarding the treatment program. On December 2, ADS staff met with Crossroads regarding the treatment program, and then on December 19, the ADM of social services and the director of social services met with the board to inform them we wouldn't be renewing their contract.
We requested, on January 28, audited financial statements. We have requested a meeting on transition plans - a second request on transition plans. I've met with Crossroads employees and union representatives. We have received, finally, some two months after requesting it, a financial statement that is marked, "for discussion purposes only".
So, I guess, Mr. Speaker, when we talk about the kinds of contacts that we have made, this is not for lack of effort. The member over there can say that this was something that we just dreamed up or that we did to address the need for a homeless shelter. I guess he wasn't really listening last fall when I was describing that we had gone through some considerable efforts on trying to secure facilities for a homeless shelter. We had taken a look at various and sundry options. This was not a quick fix, as he likes to refer to it.
I was also interested in his allegations and I would really sort of question them - and I suppose perhaps the YGEU might want to raise this one - he has also alleged in his comments earlier that the ADS staff who designed this program were not qualified.
I believe he made some allegations that these people did not have the background, or they did not know the nature of the problems. A rather curious logic.
He made a rather passing remark to the question of where this came from, what kind of basis is this, where is this research?
Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm not sure. It may be a few years since that member has attended university. It's certainly been a few years since I've attended, but I have been back to university on occasion, and I can tell him that things have progressed a very, very long distance, indeed, from the days when you'd sit there with a card catalogue, and that most of the research base is computerized, and it can be done on a search.
Basically, I guess we can make some reference to what the research tells us. Well, historically, it was believed that the more severe the addiction, the longer the treatment was required. The research that we have right now suggests that is not the case.
Miller and Hester, in 1986, after reviewing 12 controlled evaluations, found not a single study showing that in-patient treatment was superior to non-residential alternatives. A second study concluded that shorter and less intensive approaches are not only more cost effective but, in absolute terms, more effective. The Maudsley Hospital study in London, Edwards and Gauthrie, 1966-67, and again in 1977, concluded that, for male alcoholics, there's no significant difference in outcome between those who'd received out-patient counselling and those who'd received several months of in-patient treatment.
Helen Annis, in 1994, of the Addictions Research Foundation, concluded a study on in-patient versus out-patient treatment. Her treatment, as related, showed that in-patient alcoholism programs of a few months' duration show no higher success rates than period of pre-hospitalization of a few days. Day treatment programs have been found to be equal or superior to in-patient programs, at one-half to one-third the cost.
Martin, in 1990, pointed out that there is an implicit assumption that treatment provided to an individual would be more effective if it were coordinated within and across the services that the client is involved in. The term "continuity of care" reflects this assumption and connotes the importance of coordinating client care over time, as well as a particular moment in time.
So, Mr. Speaker, I know that this probably is the kind of thing that the member is saying those pointy-headed guys over in ADS are dreaming up. But there seems to be a research base here, and a research base that I don't think we can ignore, just because of that member's particular prejudices against any kind of intellectual endeavour.
I'd like to talk a little bit now about what we are proposing, and perhaps the member there would like to make reference. What I indicated in my ministerial statement, which he referred to, is that there is a 14-day detoxification. What we're proposing, as well, is to enhance the medical aspect of this with the addition of some nursing services, followed by a pretreatment program. If clients are from out of town, there will be accommodations provided in the building for up to 42 days. There will be a 12-day program, plus a one-week relapse prevention program, plus an additional 14-day community integration support, if needed. As well, we'll be reviewing recovery as a 24-month process.
Now, what the members are trying to suggest is that there will be no alcohol and drug treatment program available to Yukon people. They are, quite frankly, wrong. The new program, as we outlined, we believe will meet the needs of a greater number of Yukon people in a cost-effective way, and is reflective of our consultations.
Now, there is much being said about the question of consultations. Well, Mr. Speaker, I said it before and I'll say it again, just so the member can get this in his mind. The decision was after consultation, and it was with NNADAP workers, community health workers, social workers, community justice workers, First Nation healing counsellors, RCMP workers, transition home workers, nurses, prevention workers, after-care workers, Yukon College instructors, ministerial representatives, school counsellors, social development coordinators, youth recreation coordinators, and with Crossroads on three occasions. These were held in Carmacks, Pelly, Faro, Mayo, Ross River, Dawson, Watson, Teslin, Beaver Creek, Burwash Landing, Destruction Bay and Haines Junction. They began at the end of September. We went out to get the ideas about how to best serve all Yukon people. It was not us going out with a particular agenda in mind. We went out to get some ideas on where there were gaps, and interestingly enough, many of the same gaps that were identified in 1981, 1984, 1988, 1991 and 1993 reoccurred again and again.
So, the communities told us that they wanted programs based at home, that they need after-care, they need relapse prevention, and community-home integration. I believe that we did a job with consultation, and I believe that we are trying to meet the needs of the communities.
Now, the member there has made a really fascinating kind of comparison when he was trying to kick some holes in what we were suggesting, and part of his logic was, "Well, you're just going to give money out to programs, just wilderness treatment programs. They don't work. Well, look at this. We've got kids there going to them. They don't work. What kind of assessments have you got?" Well, Mr. Speaker, this member here does not understand the difference.
There are two wilderness treatment programs in the Yukon, and I'd just like to give you a bit of an analysis of what they are, because they are not, as the member has implied, the kinds of programs that we are suggesting as possible use of per diems.
There are two wilderness camps, and these are for youth. One is the Wind River camp, which is basically a summer camp, and the other one is the camp in Old Crow, and that offers fall, winter and spring sessions. The children in these camps are coordinated through Social Services or they are coordinated through Whitehorse juvenile offices.
The Wind River one is primarily for adolescent young offenders and the attendance at this camp can be included in a probation order. The Old Crow camp reference is made through a social worker or a probation worker, and they are placed, and priority for attendance is coordinated, through the placement review committee, which is held every week with family and children's services. Children are discussed as to their priority needs: how soon they can get in, when they can be taken, et cetera. The attendance at the Old Crow program, for example, can be included in a probation order if attendance in this program is a condition of probation.
The program assessments that the member has talked about - well, let me just give you a sense of what we've done there. A four-day review of the Old Crow camp was completed by the residential services coordinator in the fall of 1997. Both camps, the base camp and the camp upriver, were visited. All aspects of the camp operations, including camp communications and programming with clients, were discussed. He also met with staff and the clients. The equipment was examined. The meals and the program were reviewed. The camp was observed to be, in his words, "safe, comfortable," and four of the youth graduated from this program successfully.
The previous year, a staff member from Young Offenders had spent a full session at the camp and had looked at the aspects of operations as well working as facilitator in the program.
In terms of effectiveness of the program for high-risk youth, family and children's services have documented that youth have shown positive changes while at the camp. It's not insignificant that some of these children are very, very high-risk and, in some cases, no other option has been effective. And I defy the member, if he really wants to take a look at some comparative statistics, have him take a look at some of the referrals outside that we make for extreme cases.
The camp has been, in particular, valuable for adolescent First Nations females with extreme addiction, suicide or abuse issues, and a number of these young women are now adults and still have a connection with the camp operators. The operators, in the opinion of the department, have shown themselves to be dedicated to the long-term interest of past clients.
So, the member is trying to make a comparison. He is trying to make a comparison between a completely different kind of program in an attempt to cast doubt on the ability of First Nations to make some determinations for themselves as to what kind of programming they are seeking, what kinds of programming they are looking for in their home communities.
As I've said, we've determined that we can provide a program which is responsive to the concerns of communities and we believe we can do it in a more cost-effective manner. I think that if a person really examines - truly examines - the actual cost per client, they will see that the cost per client really comes in around $9,000 at Crossroads, which is a considerable financial difference. We believe that our programming will be somewhat more flexible.
We recognize that no single treatment program will work for everyone and that's why, as I mentioned previously, the new system allows us to empower First Nations communities in some of their own healing programs. I don't know whether the member is suggesting that he knows better than First Nations, but I can tell him that I have met with First Nations and I've heard from them that they are seeking the kinds of programming - and they're looking for support in this regard - that we are suggesting.
Now, he may choose to say, "Well, that doesn't jibe with my idea, so let's just simply dismiss that," but I can tell him, Mr. Speaker, that I have met with people and they've told me some things that they are seeking. They've told me where some of the gaps are in the treatment programs. I am suggesting that I think we have a responsibility to provide the kind of support that people are seeking.
I would like to raise an interesting issue. Someone has said, "Well, nobody knew that this was going to change." Well, I made reference to a letter in September 17, 1997. I would like to say that this does have a certain demonstration. This letter is from our director of social services to the executive director of Crossroads. On September 17, a number of issues are raised in reference to a previous letter that was sent to Crossroads asking for clarification on programs, outlining what those programs will be, what kind of direction they are going and, on that letter of September 17, we make reference to a letter on September 5 and say, "We requested a plan from Crossroads for the restructuring of the treatment program, hiring of new staff, orientation and training. The plan was to contain, at a minimum, such elements. These dates were to be provided where possible: program description, quality assurance, staff orientation, implementation, staff hiring, et cetera. These requests came about" - and I'm reading from the letter - "as a result of Crossroads inability to provide programming at the beginning of September and other issues that have arisen concerning the stability of the organization. We reviewed the material that you've provided and, though you've responded to some of our specific requests, the overall response is not acceptable." We go on to identify where our concerns are. This was in 1997.
Now, at that time, we've expressed concerns that a credible and viable program will not be ready, "Consequently, we are giving Crossroads notice, under Section 15.1 of the agreement, to address and remedy these concerns and, wherein in the opinion of the Yukon, the society failed to comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement, the Yukon should give four weeks' written notice to the society to remedy the non-compliance. If that compliance is not achieved, Yukon may terminate the agreement on further one-week written notice of termination to the society."
So the suggestion that this never emerged is simply false. We have been working with this organization to try and remedy these things. We asked for material and, quite frankly, what we were getting was not adequate. I think to argue that this organization had no warning is simply not true. We gave Crossroads months to comply, and unfortunately they were unable to do so.
Mr. Speaker, we've been given a mandate to provide good, responsive government. I believe that we've found a solution based on solid research about treatment trends. I believe we've found a solution based on needs expressed by communities. I'd like to repeat, once again, my offer to any members of this House for a briefing about the program at their convenience. I urge them to take advantage of that offer.
I think, in taking a look at this overall program, the member felt quite free to make some comments and to point out contentions that he'd heard. I made reference to contentions or issues that I had raised or reports that I'd had from individuals. While he may want to trot out some statements, I'd trot out some statements, too. I don't want to get into a battle of press, but I have things, such as an individual writing saying that they believe the changes are qualified, that they've gone through a 42-day program, two weeks following, which has led to success. They suggested that, perhaps, other interests are being put before the needs of the clients.
I have another here from a First Nations person suggesting that people should be concerned about the need to deliver programs in the communities, and suggesting that this is well-placed.
I think the one that I found, in a way, probably the most encouraging, was in the case of a young woman. She contacted our office, and then she chose to write, of her own volition, about her struggle with alcohol and drugs: "I wish that this help had been out there for me." She writes, "I, too, suffer from alcohol and drug addiction and, although I am no longer practicing my addictions, I have been in recovery for a few years and continue to be grateful for the help I received along the way." She goes on, and she talks about fear in recovery. She talks about her fear of going for the one option that she had - the loss of her children. She goes on and talks about if this program that we are suggesting had been in place, she would have been able to take advantage of it.
Mr. Speaker, we can get into a war of press releases. I'm not interested in a war of press releases; I'm not interested in a war of allegations. What I am interested in is a program that will work for people. I'm interested in a program that meets some of the needs that have been expressed to me, that have been expressed to this government, that have been expressed to our departments along the way. I'm not interested in playing politics with anyone's lives. I'm not interested in playing politics with anyone's addictions. I do not have such little regard for the struggle that people have with addictions to suggest, as the member did rather blasély in one of these debates, that if I thought that this was going to work, then I - meaning me - needed treatment.
The struggle for people with addictions is not an easy one, and I don't dismiss this so cavalierly.
Because of that, Mr. Speaker, I am proposing the following amendment.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I move
THAT Motion No. 93 be amended by deleting the words after "Yukon society; and" and substituting for them the following: "(2) the expansion and revision of the treatment programs will benefit Yukon people who are recovering from alcohol and drug abuse; and THAT this House encourages the Yukon government to proceed with the new programming as planned."
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Government Services
THAT Motion No. 93 be amended by deleting the words after "Yukon society; and" and substituting for them the following: "(2) the expansion and revision of the treatment programs will benefit Yukon people who are recovering from alcohol and drug abuse; and
THAT this House encourages the Yukon government to proceed with the new programming as planned."
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I won't take up too much more time. I think I have conveyed to the members my concerns on this and why I believe that this is the program that we need to begin.
I said earlier that I am not denigrating the work of Crossroads. Crossroads has at times provided service for people, has provided assistance for people, but I believe there are ways we could work better, and I believe there are ways we could work in a more constructive, more concerted manner.
Let's just address some of these facts. What services are we offering by this? Well, for one thing, we are offering the chance to participate in a 10-day medical detox program, followed by a 12-day treatment, 10-day after-care.
Mr. Phillips: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: Point of order has been called.
Mr. Phillips: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
I'm concerned that the amendment that's before us in the House today changes the intent of the motion. In fact, it reverses the whole intent of the motion. The motion that's in front of us today talks about maintaining the funding of the Crossroads treatment centre, and the amendment that's before us by the Minister of Health really talks about doing away with the Crossroads treatment centre and, in fact, proceeding with a new program in its place.
So, Mr. Speaker, this is, in fact, an amendment that is out of order.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker.
I would contend that this amendment is consistent with previous motions of this kind that have been raised in this House with regard to further motions, and I would suggest that it is consistent with past practice and I would ask that the Speaker make a ruling on it.
Speaker: I'm going to take the point of order under consideration. While doing that, I will let the House continue to debate the amendment proposed by the Minister of Government Services.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I would like to take time to talk a little bit about this motion because the nature of the motion itself does make reference to a new treatment direction that we are taking a look at. Basically what we're saying is that we would have, as of April 1, a new addictions treatment service and this will be based upon the concept of an enhanced continuum of addiction service. A continuum would include detoxification, assessment, pretreatment, treatment, relapse prevention, after-care and followup. Through the assessment, clients can enter the continuum at any point. What we're really saying by that is that if an individual wants to come back for relapse prevention or whatever, we'll make that available. Presently, we're providing detox assessment services, in-patient treatment, out-patient treatment counselling and after-care.
So, what will there be in this new program? Well, for one thing, our concept is going to be that we're looking at addictions recovery, viewed as a 24-month process. While battling with addictions is a life-long process, we're looking at the actual continuum of trying to deliver services to an individual over a 24-month period.
We'll be looking at the detoxification, as I made reference to earlier, and continual intake of pretreatment as a component. We'll be looking at a 12-day treatment program following that. If the client is assessed as needing more intensive treatment, then this program has the capability of providing accommodations on site - as I made reference to earlier - for 42 days on site for people who need it.
So, the idea of individuals who might want to come in, stay in for the treatment and participate in the treatment program, but have concerns about going home, for a whole variety of reasons, that service will be there.
Every three months, the treatment program will change its focus and offer a one-week relapse prevention program to clients who have already received treatment. We will also be looking at a 14-day program offered to clients assessed as requiring additional support beyond the treatment, and the program focus will be on community integration.
Community addictions workers will be invited to learn how to deliver this treatment program in their home communities. We've already had interest from a number of communities in this regard. We have one community here in Whitehorse that has accessed that and another community lined up for accessing that program in a short period of time.
We're looking at after-care supports being strengthened and we're also trying to provide links with agencies for basic needs, health and social problems and employment.
One of the difficulties right now is that individuals often go through the program and then - boom - they're right back into their home communities. I can say from experience, having lived in rural communities, I've seen this cycle go round and round. I've seen people come in for treatment only to return to the same environment they were in without a great deal of support or followup. In my experience, particularly from the point of view of education, I've seen families taken away, broken up, disrupted, children put in foster care, go back to their natural parents and get put back into foster care, on an ongoing, revolving door cycle. I think that's something that needs to be changed. We need to support people when they return to their home communities.
I'm surprised that a member who is from a rural community has such a paucity of information in that regard and such a lack of understanding.
In the continuum of care that we are developing, housing and treatment are viewed as separate issues. However, as I said before, a person could have residential support if they need it.
It's fundamentally based upon the idea that clients deserve the kind of services that are most appropriate. It's based on the concept that treatment needs to be the least intrusive as possible for the clients' needs, that clients need to take responsibility for their recovery from addictions, that the treatment needs to be sensitive to the diverse and changing needs of Yukoners. An addictions treatment program needs to be as holistic as possible, and the basic concept - the recovery from addiction - is a long-term process requiring different supports at different times through the recovery process. We believe, fundamentally, that treatment services have to be flexible.
Because of this, we believe that this plan is a better way of providing alcohol treatment in the territory, and we are going to act by implementing this plan to foster healthier communities. I look forward to reporting back to members in this House about the success of this program in the future.
Mr. Jenkins: On the amendment, Mr. Speaker, I just wish to raise a few points. The minister, in his preamble, mentioned a number of difficulties. I relate them back to the minister: high staff turnover, resistance to change, cross-cultural training. These were identified clearly as some of the areas that Crossroads needed to address.
Those three factors would hold true for any one of a number of NGOs or agencies delivering a service. And they will continue to be a problem whether the programs are run by Crossroads or by this government.
There are a couple of the other areas that the minister and I disagree on. I have to admire the minister. He's put a very, very capable twist on the words that I did say. I wanted to make it abundantly clear that I am not opposed to the wilderness treatment programs such as are in place in Mayo and Old Crow. I believe that there is a lot of benefit derived from these programs being in place. What I am asking the minister to undertake is a review of the effectiveness of these programs, and he's indicated that they have conducted some sort of an analysis.
The minister went back and identified problems with the programs in 1981, 1984, 1988, 1991 and again in 1993. Well, I'd suggest to the minister that if we take these new programs that the minister is envisioning and analyze them with the same criteria as the analysis that was conducted before, we'll still continue to have problems with these new programs.
What I would advocate, Mr. Speaker, are services to augment the Crossroads program, not to replace the Crossroads programs. And it's interesting to note, Mr. Speaker, in tonight's Yukon News in the letters to the editor, it states that: "An interesting letter just crossed our desk. It's dated March 15, 1993, and signed by Tony Pennikett, who was then leader of the official opposition. It's addressed to Bev Buckway, who was then the chair of the board of directors of Crossroads.
"'In respect to your request for our support, I would like you to regard this letter as an endorsement for Crossroads for the entire New Democratic caucus,' he writes. 'We feel that your treatment centre is an important component in helping deal with alcohol and drug problems in the Yukon.'
"At the time the Yukon Party government was weighing whether to continue funding Crossroads, the territory's only residential drug and alcohol treatment centre.
"What has happened since then to change the NDP's mind? Could it simply be it now needs the building to honour a campaign promise?
"We hope not."
Now, that's a letter in tonight's editorial, Mr. Speaker. We're calling for augmenting the service that is -
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
What we're looking at is a situation where Crossroads has a few internal problems.
Now, it would be prudent of the minister to investigate those problems, look at what can be done to fix those problems, and augment the programs that are delivered by Crossroads with some of these new, improved techniques that are coming our way. They
don't necessarily have to be delivered by government, Mr. Speaker - these new programs. They can be delivered by NGOs. They can be delivered by a very, very broad range of people qualified in these areas.
The other area that the minister had the ability to twist, and twist very well, was my statement that the minister should go and seek treatment himself. And that was concerning the minister's statement that he was going to deliver these new programs and he was going to have a resulting saving from what it costs to fund Crossroads of some $100,000 a year.
I say to this House, "That's bunk." There's no way that the minister is going to have a resulting saving amounting to that much and still deliver these programs effectively. There was a high commitment by the people involved in Crossroads - a volunteer board, an NGO. The population at large knows full well that the private sector can deliver programs a lot more effectively and efficiently - let's say more efficiently and cost-effectively than government agencies. Some of the government agencies that have been privatized are coming close, but in this area it is going to be very, very difficult for the government to save money delivering these same programs, and variations of these programs, themselves.
The bottom line is,
Mr. Speaker, that this government is charged with a responsibility to deliver programs - and I'd suggest through NGOs - in the most beneficial manner to the people needing treatment and in the most cost-effective manner. I can't support the motion, as amended. This Motion No. 93, the amendment to my motion, changes the whole context of my original motion.
Thank you very much.
Mrs. Edelman: It's the wasted Wednesday, silly game again. What the party across the way is doing, once again, is they're introducing an amendment to a motion that completely changes the intent of the motion. Apparently, this government doesn't have the intellectual courage to deal with the fact that some people disagree with them.
Why do they always put these motions on every Wednesday and completely change them? I challenge the NDP to use their intellect and engage in some good debate. We're actually quite bright over here. There is a possibility that we might come over to the government's point of view. If it's a good enough argument, hopefully, we'll have the same motivation for being in this House. Hopefully, if it's a good enough argument, we'll look at why we're in this House. We're in this House for good government for Yukoners.
If you have a good argument that contradicts what these motions say, we're quite willing to listen to them. Obviously, we are interested, because we're here.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the motion prior to amendment - and it hasn't been amended yet - that we're discussing today speaks to many issues around alcohol and drug treatment programming here in the Yukon. Specifically, we're talking about continued funding of a Crossroads Society program as delivered out of the Crossroads building here in Whitehorse. Regardless of all the meetings that supposedly took place between the staff at ADS and some representatives of Crossroads in 1996, through to November 1997, the volunteer board members of Crossroads were still shocked to hear about the closure of Crossroads when it was announced by the Minister of Health and Social Services in December 1997, just days after this Legislature rose.
I assume that this is just another example of what being "open and accountable" means to the NDP - making a major announcement days after the Legislature breaks, hoping it will go unnoticed. Well, Yukoners have noticed, Mr. Speaker. Former clients noticed and certainly the staff at Crossroads noticed. After all, 14 of those people have lost their jobs.
Mr. Speaker, the minister has continually alluded to the big problems at Crossroads. Anyone who works in the alcohol and drug treatment field will tell you that there are always problems in this area. Crossroads, for example, has had a series of short-term directors. That's been a normal thing over the last 26 years. Indeed, problems in alcohol and drug treatment programs are normal. It is a burn-out field.
Now in the McLaughlin report, there was a call for more followup, cultural content and staff training - that would be First Nations cultural content and staff training. Mr. Speaker, if that were the case - and this report is quite old - why did not the government work with the board of Crossroads to amend those issues many years ago? Why did this come to a head now?
The chronic problems at Crossroads will still be there, too, when this government takes over that program in that building. According to ADS, it was necessary to update programming in the alcohol and drug treatment field for Whitehorse, and that's fine, because anyone will tell you that the number of hard-core drug users has gone way up over the last few years and it makes sense to change the focus of programming away from merely alcohol treatment programming to the more intensive work necessary to work with hard-core drug users - and that is fine. But it is important for the minister to note that his program isn't any more efficacious than any other.
I know it's been a long time since the minister has been at university - and those are campuses for critical thought - but for every study that the minister has quoted today supporting his program, there are just as many to support residential programs. And here is a dose of reality, too: drug and alcohol treatment programs are not always effective. As a matter of fact, whether they're residential treatment programs, wilderness camps or day programs, treatment programs don't work a lot of the time in this field and that's just the nature of the field. It is a burn-out field for a lot of good reasons.
But regardless of that, did this government go to the Crossroads board and say, "Hey, we have a problem and we're your primary source of referral, so we need this issue addressed. And because we're the government, we have done a lot of research and here are a couple of options, maybe three options, that we want you to look at in order to update your program. And, hey, if you're not interested, we might look at some other NGOs to provide this service."
Did that happen? No. There was a letter that was sent in September saying that if you don't come up with a whole lot of answers quickly, in four weeks we're going to shut you down.
But then they did shut them down. So that didn't make sense. Were they willing to work with the board or not? Why did they suddenly decide in December, after the House rose, that they were going to shut it down?
Non-profit NGOs deliver health care services a lot cheaper than the government can. Non-profit NGOs are eligible for funding from other sources. They can get donations or grants from other levels of government or charities, and non-profit NGOs have access to a lot of community expertise and volunteer labour because they're societies - local societies, non-profit societies. Non-profit NGOs are the venue that government departments across this nation are looking at for health and social services treatment program delivery, because it's cheaper, and because it has greater accountability and connection with the local community.
Here in the Yukon, however, we just took a 26-year step backward in policy. Now we have decided that we are going back to direct service delivery because we don't want to take the time to work with the local service delivery agent - the non-profit NGO - to update their program. We've obviously got money to burn.
There has been a giant shift backward in policy here. I guess we don't value our local volunteer boards or our various NGOs, and we must not value them, because we aren't taking the time to work with Crossroads.
Now, who's next? Are we going back to direct service delivery for literacy? For services at the various women's shelters? For services for seniors? Are we going to turf the Family Services Association and go back to direct service delivery in that area as well? Or is this a very selective type of policy - it only applies to Crossroads?
Yes, there have been problems at Crossroads, and I dare the minister to find an NGO on the planet that hasn't had some sort of problem or another. One of the biggest issues with Crossroads has always been the building. This is a facility built as a teacherage, originally, and all the floors are split-level. There are a number of blind spots, if you will, that exist throughout Crossroads. It is in these selected areas that any number of things can happen, and it's in these areas that you have to worry about intermixing of the sexes; you have to worry about people using and selling drugs and alcohol.
The department has budgeted a mere $40,000 to renovate Crossroads this year. Is that going to be enough to address this issue, plus put in a transient shelter, a new detox, a new medical detox facility and replace a pretty poor roof. I don't think so.
All or most of the furniture in Crossroads, including the beds, belongs to the Crossroads Society. Is the replacement of those furnishings going to come out of the $40,000 as well? Is the department going to buy the society out of the one year left on the lease with this $40,000 as well? I don't think so. There has obviously been a lack of planning, and that's obvious to everyone but the minister.
The minister has continually referred to bringing in a medical detox, but there are only going to be two RNs hired to run this program. How will meds be monitored when these nurses are not available? Are they expected to have no days off and work opposite 12-hour shifts? Is this a safer and better delivered service than the one we have now? Has any medical practitioner taken a look at this program and checked to see whether this detox model will work in Whitehorse, whether it's cheaper, whether it's better? I think not.
Now, on this past Monday, when I questioned the Minister of Health and Social Services about all of these meetings he had had with the board of Crossroads about the closure of Crossroads, he was unable to come up with any minutes of these meetings. Now, Mr. Speaker, the volunteer board members of the Crossroads Society were surprised about the announcement of the closure of Crossroads when it was announced in December of 1997, just days after the House rose, and on this past Monday, when I questioned the minister, he wasn't too sure about what would happen to the 14 laid-off Crossroads workers. Maybe they might get hired by ADS and maybe not.
Mr. Speaker, when questioned about how the department was going to get out of the remaining year left on the lease with the Crossroads Society, the minister had no idea what would happen, other than that the department was going to start programming out of the building starting April 1. That is not a lot of detail. Clearly, this decision was made in haste.
Mr. Speaker, there have been continuous problems with ADS having to pay for basically empty beds at Crossroads. Will the department taking over this service in any way alleviate that problem?
ADS has continually set up Crossroads society for failure. They have allotted a certain number of beds from referrals from ADS and at the very, very last minute, when it was too late to fill those beds with any other referrals, they've decided they don't need them anymore. Then, what they're saying is that they've allotted money in their budget for these unmet needs and that the Crossroads Society, somehow or another, is wasting government tax dollars. What this government has done is treat this society unfairly.
Mr. Speaker, there are still two great unmet needs for drug and alcohol drug treatment. There is virtually nothing for youth and very little programming just for women. There will always be a need for residential treatment, as well. Regardless of the latest and greatest off the Internet, you cannot launch someone out of a day program and then expect them not to hang out in the only places they have friends at night and on the weekends. At night, you'll go back to where you feel comfortable - those slippery places, where you're guaranteed to start taking drugs again or drink.
You know, I can't help but think that this government is endorsing two types of drug treatment services here in the Yukon: day treatment, if you're unlucky enough not to have the funds or the medical plan to get you shipped outside, or the middle class treatment venue, where you hop on a plane and your government plan pays for you to go to residential treatment outside. The NDP has created a two-tiered treatment plan for Yukoners. If you have money or a medical plan, you'll be able to afford to go outside for residential treatment. The new program cuts back on the number of beds available for residential treatment. In the past, there were times when all the beds at Crossroads were full, and it is clear that, with fewer beds, there again will be times when all available beds will be full and even if you request residential treatment, it's just not there for you.
So, what the government is saying is that if you have the money, you can go outside for treatment. If you don't have the money and the beds are full - too bad. You're out of luck, because you're poor. It is extremely disappointing to see the NDP, a party that prides itself on being the friend of the little guy, show so little respect for those most in need of service.
What about self-referrals? I challenge anyone in this room to phone up ADS and speak to a counsellor. It doesn't happen. It doesn't matter if you're a nice, middle-class person with voice mail, a poor kid on a pay phone at the high school or a person without a permanent address, let alone a phone, you're all going to be treated the same. If you get through to the receptionist - and nine times out of 10 times you only get voice mail - then you are told that someone will phone you back eventually. It's a little hard to phone back to someone who doesn't have a phone or to a youth who doesn't want their parents to find out that they have a problem. Or if you're really lucky, it will only take you six bounces before you actually get booked in for an assessment. Of course, people with alcohol and drug addictions are really good at keeping appointments. This contrasts with Crossroads, which is a place where someone here cares. A place well-known in the community where a person can get a chance to talk to a person about the problems they are having and get a chance to help themselves right away.
There have been a lot of concerns voiced by the First Nations over the years about the lack of cultural content in the Crossroads program, and this is a valid concern. So, how does the department expect to address this issue? The minister did not consult with the Kwanlin Dun, the largest First Nation in the Yukon. He's trying to consult now, but, really, that is backwards consultation again: make the decision and then do the consultations later to back you up. Has the department even consulted with the Kwanlin Dun about this program and the possible treatment options?
Sure, there have been problems at Crossroads, but this new program delivery system and this new program have not been well-thought-out.
The general consultations about alcohol and drugs in the territory finished in November 1997. Only one month later, the minister made the decision to shut down the Crossroads program without exploring other options with the volunteer board or any other NGO. Only one month later, in December 1997, the minister decided to take a 26-year giant step backwards in policy and have the department go back to direct service delivery for alcohol and drug treatment programs in Whitehorse, without giving anyone else the chance to deliver that service to Yukoners.
And now it's March 1998, and the minister still has given us no clear indication of how he's going to deliver rural alcohol and drug treatment programs in the communities. It will only take him one month to shut down an NGO with a history of 26 years of service in this community. What is the delay with the rural service plan?
The minister originally said that he was going to bring staff in from the communities to be trained to deliver alcohol and drug treatment programs. Who's he going to bring in? What about program funding? Will there be standards for drug and alcohol treatment programs? Will the government pay for a program in a rural community at the same per diem rate as those available in Whitehorse? Will they have standards that rural service providers will have to meet in order to give continuity to the drug and alcohol treatment continuum across the Yukon? Will program dollars for rural programming be used to top up the NNADAP worker salaries or will money only be made available on a per diem basis? Will there be any O&M dollars available to operate and maintain remote rural treatment facilities? What about ways to measure the effectiveness of these programs? Will we be using recidivism stats? Will these stats all be collected in the same way? What about the followup services for rural communities?
The problem now is that a person - the minister spoke of this earlier - comes out of a wilderness camp or back from a stay at a residential program outside the Yukon, then bang, they're back in the community, right back where they started from, with no network of support for their new, sober lifestyle.
Now, our caucus supports more alcohol and drug treatment options for rural communities. However, these options should not come at the expense of Whitehorse's treatment needs - Whitehorse, where 70 percent of the population and 70 percent of the problem lives.
Mr. Speaker, I hope this is not an attempt by this government to pit rural interests against urban. That is what happened the last time the NDP was in power. We are a small territory with limited resources and only a few people. This government should not be attempting to divide Yukoners' interests for political gain.
The thing that sticks in my throat the most about the whole Crossroads fiasco is that drug and alcohol treatment in Whitehorse is being looked at in isolation. This government has access to action plans, implementation plans, drug and alcohol strategies, studies, committee reports and numerous reports, all of which say the same thing: we have to coordinate services around alcohol abuse.
Should mothers who have previously had FAS babies be given top priority for residential beds at Crossroads? Will any of the liquor profits go toward running the operations of drug and alcohol treatment in the Yukon? There is no plan.
Mr. Speaker, the volunteer board members of the Crossroads Society have been treated quite poorly during this process. I am ashamed of the way these board members - people who have given up their time; time that they could have been spending with their families - I'm ashamed of the way this government has treated the people on the board of Crossroads. They have been treated with the utmost disrespect by this government, and board members, you will remember, were surprised about the closure of the Crossroads treatment program under the Crossroads society.
The people who sit on that board are there because they care about the people who are treated at Crossroads. These volunteer board members care, and because they do, they have committed untold hours and days away from their families to provide alcohol and drug residential treatment to the people of the Yukon. And, Mr. Speaker, this government didn't even have the decency to look at other options to closure with this board.
Speaker: The member has two minutes.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the minister's lack of respect for these volunteer board members is just shameful.
The minister is now in the process of too-little, too-late kind of consultations. I just wish that this government had at least explored other options with the Crossroads Society.
Why did this government decide to go back to direct service delivery when no one else in Canada is doing that? This is not well thought out.
The minister is no doubt going to use the information he gets from his more specific consultation to justify changing the Crossroads program. This has turned into a political football.
I know that the people doing the consultation and the people who came up with the new program are not to blame for this fiasco. Mr. Speaker, drug and alcohol treatment is a life and death issue and, on top of that, 14 people have lost their jobs during this process. I know exactly who is to blame for this.
Mr. Hardy: I'm rising in support of this amendment. I'm a little surprised at the extremely negative rant from the Member for Riverdale South. She says, "The program was refined. There is nothing wrong. The minister shouldn't do anything." Well, I think that comes from selective hearing. Definitely she doesn't listen very closely to the cries of people out there. I think the only true statement she has made and that she makes over and over and over again, and she applied it to herself is the statement, "I think not," because she proves it every time she stands up and speaks. The attack on the minister and what the department is trying to do has no justification and no sound analysis and that seems to be what we get from that member and from that caucus.
It's very difficult to respond to when there is no sense coming from that side. But maybe I should read a few quotes out of the paper that she obviously doesn't want to read and maybe she'll listen.
"A national labour organization has filed an unfair labour practice complaint against the Crossroads treatment centre and painted a picture of a poisoned workplace." What does that say? That's from the representative, Jim Brohman. It goes on; it's a long article. "The union alleges that in the period since the filing of an application, the working environment of the centre has been tainted with threats, intimidation and inappropriate statements and actions by the representative of the employer." That is by Mr. Brohman.
"Insiders say that some of the problems stem from tension between the members and the staff, who believe in the multiple STEP, Alcoholics Anonymous-type program, and others who want a more inclusive, holistic treatment." Well, I contend that the move that we are taking is into a holistic treatment. It's much broader than what Crossroads offers.
There were also complaints about programs being cancelled and people being fired. Now, does this sound like a well-functioning group delivery program? When it's the very people in there who are battling for their lives or for their job lives, when programs are being threatened with cancellation, when delivery is not happening, and you are trying to treat people who so desperately need help, do you think that's going to work, Mr. Speaker? I don't think so, but the members on the opposite side sure do.
They sure believe that we should leave it alone, let it continue floundering around out there, not delivering what it's supposed to deliver. I don't think so, and this government doesn't believe in that either, and change does have to happen in some areas. This is one area where it's been pointed out time and time again. A change had to happen, but what do we get? We get the politically expedient manner of using this to score points and not a true analysis of what's happening over there.
How do you serve people? I think that's what the question is here. How do we best serve people in need? The members opposite want to ignore that. They just want to score political points. That's the whole game going on here. They refuse to analyze the new program. They refuse to look at the past history of Crossroads.
They refuse to recognize that there is a need in this territory for new programs. They just want points, and they think they're getting them.
Now, the Member for Klondike read some letters - they sound very much like letters that he wrote. We have letters too. We have many calls to us, not only to ministers. There have been calls to my office in support of what we're doing, from people I know, from a lot of people I don't know, from people who have gone through Crossroads, from people who have tried to go through Crossroads, from people who have family or friends who have needed help and have not been able to get that help because Crossroads did not fit their needs. That's one of the problems here: Crossroads was too narrow.
We're expanding the delivery system to help people in need who have alcohol problems.
I'm going to quote a few sentences here from a person who wrote in to the papers, just like the Member for Klondike did, but with a different perspective. I'm just going to take bits and pieces out of a letter. It's a long letter, but it really hits home.
"Of course, I knew I had one option. That was to call Social Services and to put my children into child care while I went into treatment. Thanks but no thanks. I had put my children through enough already. They were much too young to understand and much too young to realize how dysfunctional their mom really was. But we knew how much we loved each other and I couldn't bear the thought of leaving them behind."
She's speaking, of course, having the only option of the Crossroads treatment 28-day program, in which she'd have to leave her children behind. It goes on in another paragraph.
"Finally I wasn't able to take it any more. I reached out to Detox, to the AA and the NNA programs. I've managed to stay sober and clean with a few setbacks in between, but I'm doing it. My point is this: I really wish there was something in place for me when I began my recovery, somewhere that I could have received help without having to be separated from my children."
It distresses me to hear the Member for Riverdale South say that any person who goes into a day program, when they leave, is guaranteed to slip back into alcohol abuse. And it is distressing when that's the opinion that a member has - such a low regard for people who are struggling. Day programs do work, treatment centres do work, 28-day programs do work - all to varying degrees and all meeting different needs out there. One program does not fit everybody. We are all individuals. We are all different. We all respond to different types of treatment, different types of people.
So, they criticize this one because it has options. They vote against it because it has options. They don't want the people out there in the Yukon who need help to have options, to have choices. They want them to fit into that square peg hole that they so willingly defend. Times are changing. We have to have the square and the round, the diamond shapes. But no, they'll take the hammer and slam that person into that square hole, whether they're round or not, because that's their belief - one program has to fit them. Why are we messing with it? Well, we're messing with it because there have been problems - because it's not addressing people. It's not helping them.
For the Member for Klondike, well, it's understandable because he has a narrow mind and it's hard for him to understand a broad program. It just doesn't fit there. That's the way he approaches everything, though - slam, bam, smash, bang, condemn everything.
So, what is this? What's this new program? It's a 24-month process by ADS and a 14-day detoxification program that's being offered, with a 10-day continuous intake pre-treatment program as a component.
There is a 12-day treatment program. If a client is assessed in need of more intensive treatment, this program has the capacity of providing accommodation on site for those requiring it.
Every three months, the treatment program will change its focus and offer a one-week relapse prevention program to clients who have already received treatment.
There'll be a 14-day program offered to clients assessed as requiring additional support beyond treatment. This program will be community integration. Community addiction workers will be invited to learn how to deliver the treatment programs in their home communities.
After-care supports will be strengthened and linked with agencies providing basic needs, health and social problems. And employment and leisure will be fostered.
And, in the continuum of care being developed by ADS, housing and treatment are viewed as separate issues. However, a client at risk could be provided with up to 40 days of residential support if assessed as needing it.
Well, that's not enough. Maybe that's too much. That's what they're saying across there. Maybe that's the message, that we're offering too many options for the people, we're giving too much help. Oh, bad NDP. We want to give the people too much. We should stick with one program, a program that has not been working, has been suffering lately, has been well-documented and there have been many discussions.
Now, there are some legitimate concerns, and I share them as well, about what's happening with Crossroads. I am concerned about the workers there. But as the PSAC rep. here says, people have been fired. There have been allegations of intimidation, abuse. It just goes on and on and on. Well, we have to address those, too. We have to trust him. This is what he says. He's the rep.
But I notice that the opposition doesn't say that. They selectively take what they like and ignore all the other points that are being made.
We've heard a lot of strong testimony from people who are looking forward to this change, looking forward to getting help, whether it's for themselves, their families, people they know, co-workers, or people within their communities. We have tremendous value for the NGOs out there, as by our example of ensuring sound funding for them, something that the other government could never do. But I make the suggestion that this program, Crossroads, is broke and we have to fix it - and we are fixing it.
It's a complicated subject. It's a complicated issue and people get very emotional. I get very emotional about it. A member in my family went through Crossroads and it didn't meet their needs, and maybe some other type of treatment might have helped them. Other people I know, co-workers, have been in Crossroads. It hasn't necessarily met their needs. For some it has; for some it hasn't. Maybe an option would have been appropriate for them.
For single moms, it's almost impossible to attend Crossroads. So, do we just continue along this path, supporting Crossroads and not having anything for them? I don't think so.
Leaving homes, families and supports is not always the acceptable way of dealing with alcohol abuse. For others, it is. They have to get out of that environment, and we recognize that and that's why this program has avenues for all those needs to be addressed.
But there are people who have to go back to their families, have to be with their families and their friends and get support from their families and their friends. Let's not forget that one person may drink in a family but that doesn't mean everybody else is drinking.
That doesn't mean the whole family is corrupt. That family, in many cases, is there to support, and those people with the alcohol problem need that support on a daily basis.
So, we want to remove many of the roadblocks to treatment. We want to look at the problem of accessibility. We don't want to always make it that people have to come to Whitehorse for the treatment to access the services that they want and need. That is not always the best way to help, and I don't think people in the communities always want to have to come to Whitehorse to get the treatment, just the opposite of what the Member for Riverdale South said. This is not pitting communities against Whitehorse, but this is opening doors and allowing communities to be involved.
There has to be a range of treatment options and supports for the communities. The addiction workers have to be properly trained and assisted in development, because they are working in an extremely difficult field. This also helps as well, because that's part of it - recognizing that and supporting those workers.
I'm a firm believer in community-based treatment. I'm a firm believer that the best healing happens in your community, with your family, with your friends, with the support that exists there because, ultimately, that's where you're going to live, and that's where you have to solve the problem. It's not going away somewhere, coming in from the communities to Whitehorse, having a 28-day program, going out and thinking the problem's solved. Not at all. There has to be followup; there has to be help out in those communities, as well.
I think the approach and the program that the department and the minister have brought forward is a great, great start to helping the people who need help, and I stand behind it. It's multi-faceted and it's very flexible for the people, and I think there's a lot of work that's gone into it. I think we should acknowledge the workers who devised this, who brought it forward, who work closely in these areas and have the expertise. We should acknowledge them and thank them instead of condemning them, as the opposition does, for even suggesting this, and I support the minister in delivery of this program.
I believe that in 20 years we could be looking at something different, because societies change. The way we treat people changes. They evolve, and there are different needs, different pressures, and in 20 years, we could be standing here having a debate again about the need for change to help people in the Yukon who have problems in this area. I would hope that the debate is a lot more enlightened than what we're seeing right now.
Speaker: The member has two minutes.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, I support this, and I think that, often, time shows whether you are right or wrong. In this case, time will show that we are reaching more people, we are helping more people, the delivery is more effective, and it covers a wider range and the communities are more involved.
In this case, I support the changes being done and I support the minister totally, and I look forward to the enlightened debate that I am sure is going to follow.
Speaker's ruling on amendment admissibility
Speaker: The Chair has considered the point of order raised by the House leader for the official opposition.
That member suggested that the amendment to Motion No. 99, moved by the Minister of Health and Social Services, is out of order. He said that the amendment changed the intent of the motion.
The Chair has reviewed previous Speakers' decisions. The most recent ruling was given by Speaker Livingston on April 10, 1997. In that ruling, Citations 567 and 572 of Beauchesne were quoted. They state:
"567. The object of an amendment may be either to modify a question in such a way as to increase its acceptability or to present to the House a different proposition as an alternative to the original question.
572. An amendment to alter the main question, by substituting a proposition with the opposite conclusion, is not an expanded negative and may be moved."
Taking into account the direction found in Beauchesne and in the precedents of this Assembly, the Chair must rule that the amendment moved by the Minister of Health and Social Services is in order.
The Chair would note, as Speaker Livingston did, that members from both this and past Legislatures have expressed frustration with substitutional amendments.
I would repeat, for the consideration of the House, the concluding remarks of Speaker Livingston in his ruling:
"The Chair, although understanding the point being made by the official opposition House leader and of past members, must, nevertheless, be guided by the rules and, in the absence of rules, the precedents of the House. If there is a desire on the part of members for a different standard to be applied when determining if amendments are acceptable, it will be necessary for the House to provide direction to the Chair on this matter. Such direction is normally provided through reports of the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges and, possibly, through amendments to the Standing Orders."
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the amendment?
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, I have in the past and will in the future respect your ruling, but you said it all when you said we have to look at changing our rules. It doesn't make a lot of sense in this House for members to put motions forward from any side of this House and, rather than debate the motion, rather than debate whether the motion put forward is right or wrong or whether you agree with it or not, what we seem to do, the approach we seem to take is to present an amendment to it which completely reverses the whole intent of the motion. I think that's wrong. I think that's a chicken way to get out of debating issues.
I know our party would be more than happy to change our rules in this House so that, in future, when we discuss motions, at least the people who present the motion will feel like their motion is getting a fair airing and that all sides of the motion will be debated and it won't just be an intent by the others to destroy the motion completely or to gut the motion completely and change its total intent or switch it around to your way of thought.
After all, Mr. Speaker, every second Wednesday is opposition day and it's an opportunity for the opposition to present motions. The unfortunate thing is that the government amends the motions to present their point of view on the motion and reverse it completely and so, in fact, what it does is take away the motion day from the opposition. Rather than debate the issue on the merits of the issue, they will try and gut the motion and change its intent.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: A point of order has been called.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I think you ruled against the member's point of order and I think it's incumbent upon him to speak to the amendment and to let those sleeping dogs lie.
Speaker: Member for Riverdale North on the point of order.
Mr. Phillips: There is no point of order, Mr. Speaker. I was speaking in general to the motion and I'll continue.
Speaker: I would ask the member to come back to the motion that was just debated.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Well, Mr. Speaker, that's what I was talking about.
The motion in front of us is to deal with the government's move to do away with the Crossroads treatment centre and in fact, the amendment that we have before us is to completely turn the motion around and suggest that the government's approach to close the centre is the proper approach and that's the point I was making.
We, in this House, have to find a better way to deal with these motions and amendments to the motions that reverse the intent here. The intent is to keep the Crossroads centre open and the government's intent is to see it closed and so, they could've just stood up and said that and they could've voted against the motion that's before us - the motion respecting Crossroads. They could've made their statements, as they have, and voted against the motion and they chose not to do that.
Mr. Speaker, since the government's announcement to cancel its contract with the Crossroads treatment centre, Yukoners will witness letters to the editor, there have been advertisements in the paper, a petition and other lobbying efforts in an effort to reverse the government's decision. In turn, the Government of the Yukon has tried to counteract these efforts by doing its own lobbying through ads in the paper and using the wealth and backing of the government to sell its case to the general public, something that, when they were in opposition, they used to criticize us for severely, saying that if the government runs ads, it's unfair. But it seems that the better way is the old way - the way they used to criticize.
Mr. Speaker, the unfortunate thing here is that there doesn't seem to be an appreciation. I know myself, from experience talking to people involved in Crossroads, that it wasn't perfect, but I don't know if there is an alcohol and drug treatment program out there that is. I think there are a number of questions that arise with this government's new and improved alcohol and drug treatment program, and they should be addressed.
Last August, the minister was quoted as having said that if it comes to a point where there's a lack of confidence, we'll have to look at other alternatives. Say we have a whole meltdown of the organization, we could step in. I guess the worst case scenario is that we'd have to look at direct delivery of the programs. Perhaps the minister could explain to the House how he was able to arrive at that decision to close Crossroads between August and September. I don't think he's given a good enough answer.
I think the Member for Riverdale South made some very good points in her speech about Crossroads, about the very poor treatment of the people involved in that program. And you know, Mr. Speaker, that's what bothers me the most, because the members from the other side of the floor herald themselves as having the strongest social conscience of anybody in the world and that they care about people. Yet they seem to hide in their offices and hide behind boards, committees or others and say that it was other people who made all of these decisions and that they had nothing to do with them.
This case, just the way they did it with respect to Crossroads, shows a real lack of caring for these people who are involved in that program - the people who work there.
I'm concerned, as well, as mentioned by others, about the individuals who will partake of the new program and what will happen to them when they come back into society - what support will be there for them. We've got an awful lot of money and funds that will be moving into the effectiveness of these treatment camps. Yet, as we've heard already in this House this session, there is and has been no real evaluation of the effectiveness of these camps.
I know the minister will argue that they're evaluated on an ongoing basis, but he hasn't shown us any figures of the number of people who have gone into these treatment camps. Is it much more successful than others? We've seen no proof of that, and yet the minister is blindly charging down this new road, I think, in support of the wishes of people in some of the other communities.
I think there had to be some changes to the program to support some of the alcohol and drug treatment programs in the communities, but I think that when the smoke clears from this one down the road, we're going to see that it's going to be at the expense of Whitehorse, where most of the people who are involved in alcohol and drug treatment reside. I hope that isn't the case, but my sense is, from people I've talked to in this area is that it may be the case. I guess time will tell and, hopefully, the minister will still be around. Whether he's in government or the opposition might be something that we might have changed, but usually, in these kinds of issues, it takes a few years before we see the results.
If they carry on this program the way they've carried on some of the other wilderness treatment programs, without strong criteria built in in the beginning for evaluation, we may never know how successful this program is. I don't think we're aware now of the strengths and weaknesses of some of the wilderness programs we're running now. We send people to them, and we do these ad hoc-type evaluations. I don't think there's some strict criteria, or anything like that.
It seems to me that we're embarking on some new ground, and not to say that we shouldn't be trying new and innovative things, but it appears in this case that we appear to be going back to a method that every other jurisdiction has abandoned.
So I just wonder if it's the right decision. I mean, we can't answer that question today. We probably won't be able to answer that question a month or two from now, but probably three or four or five years from now, we're going to really know whether we made the right decision. Unfortunately, if this is the wrong decision, it'll be too late for a lot of people. I guess the minister will have to shoulder some of that responsibility for those people he is virtually leaving out in the cold by abandoning the current Crossroads treatment program.
Mr. Speaker, this is not an easy problem to solve, and I'm not sure of the minister's program, or the existing Crossroads program. Obviously none of these programs have all of the answers, but I have strong concerns, as has been expressed by others on this side of the House, that, first of all, the way the government approached it was wrong. The consultative process they used was wrong. The people whom it would most affect, who were left out - that was wrong as well, and the way they treated the employees of Crossroads was wrong, by letting them know that their jobs were going to be terminated very shortly. Many of these people will have, in this economic climate, probably no hope of working in this territory.
You know, I'm sympathetic to those people, but it's unfortunate that this government has chosen to move in this direction, and I will not be supporting the amendment put forward by the minister. I'm not convinced in any way, from any of the arguments the minister has made, that this particular change is good. I am a believer that some change had to take place. Improvements could have been made, but they could have been done on a more consultative basis with the individuals at Crossroads. They could have looked at improving the existing programs, or amending the existing programs, or even reaching an agreement with Crossroads to phase out a portion of what they do for a portion of this new program on a trial basis, to see how it does work. But we're virtually throwing the baby out with the bath water with this one and relying on the minister's wisdom and the minister's approach to things.
But we know what this minister is all about. This is the minister who, when it comes to youth, and when it comes to people with respect to alcohol and drug issues, if it isn't the minister's idea, if it didn't come from the minister's office, then it isn't a good idea. We know that it doesn't matter what they say in their A Better Way, when they talk about consultation with youth and the most important thing is to listen to them, they didn't do that with the YES program. They heard the youth wanted it to continue, and the minister said, "Go out there and develop me another program because I want my name at the bottom of this one. I want to get those federal Liberals out of there. You can put my name at the bottom of it because we'll just call it by some other name, change a few things around, and then I can take the credit for it." In the meantime, the youth suffer.
The minister snickers and laughs about that. He doesn't seem to care about those youth that have been in trouble and having difficulties for the last few months while the minister has fiddled around with the youth programs. Now, the same minister is fiddling around with the alcohol and drug treatment programs, seemingly again not caring about the damage he's doing to the people out there who need these programs, and the people out there, Mr. Speaker, who are working in these programs and are worried about their future, as well.
So, I can't support this amendment as put forward by the minister. It is in total opposition to the motion that was put forward in good faith by the Member for Klondike, so I urge all members of the House to reject the amendment that's been put forward.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise in support of the amendment put forward by the Minister of Health and Social Services to deal with supporting the expansion and revision of treatment programs for Yukon people who are recovering from alcohol and drug abuse.
Mr. Speaker, I simply cannot believe the comments that the previous speaker just stood here and made. He stated that the position of the government was that unless an idea comes from the minister's office we don't accept it. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Let me turn, as an example, to a suggestion from another minister's office, to a statement that was made by a previous Minister of Health and Social Services, a statement that was made by the previous Yukon Party Minister of Health and Social Services, and I quote:
"Another reason is that we're looking at moving, to some extent, away from the kind of program Crossroads is doing and offering more day programming rather than residential programming, so the people in the Yukon that live in Whitehorse could go during the day and return home at night. We're looking at a broader spectrum of services being offered to the public."
Mr. Speaker, we've listened to the public in the Yukon. We've even listened to the former Yukon Party minister, and the difference between this government and previous governments is that we have the courage to act after due consultation with the public.
Alcohol and drug abuse is not an illness that only affects the person with an addiction. Substance abuse affects individuals and their families and the community. That's each and every one of us, Mr. Speaker. I don't believe there is a single member sitting in this House today who doesn't know a person or a family who has suffered a tragedy because of alcoholism.
I talk to parents of children who have died because of alcohol abuse. I have talked to survivors of car accidents caused by impaired drivers. I have talked to concerned professionals who work in the addictions field, and to First Nations members who are working to increase self-government, including developing program proposals for offering community-based addictions treatment. Mr. Speaker, I hear of the need for change.
The problem of alcohol and drug abuse is not one that can be solved by one magic formula. As the Minister of Health and Social Services said earlier this afternoon, treatment programs require flexibility. The opposition seems to believe that there will no longer be any alcohol and drug treatment available to Yukon people. That is wrong. The new program will meet the needs of a greater number of Yukon people, is cost-effective and is reflective of our consultations.
Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health and Social Services outlined in detail the dates, times and places of consultation with the community about how to improve alcohol treatment programs, and I'm not going to go through that whole record of all of those dates, but I can say that these recommendations are not just ones that we're hearing from community members today. We've been hearing them for five years and 10 years and 20 years in the Yukon and elsewhere.
There is no reason not to move forward and try for improved programs. The recommendations of community health representatives, social workers, community justice workers, First Nation healing councils, the RCMP, nurses, Yukon College instructors, youth recreation coordinators and even members of the Crossroads board and Crossroads employees themselves are recommendations that we listen to and that we're acting on.
Mr. Speaker, we've also been hearing from the union. The Public Service Alliance of Canada, in September 1997, only six months ago, called on the Social Services minister to step in and take over the operations of the Crossroads treatment centre in Whitehorse. That's what they wanted to see us do.
The Minister of Health and Social Services has met with the PSAC and is going to continue to meet with the PSAC. We're concerned about the jobs that are available in the field of addictions treatment, and might I point out, Mr. Speaker, that we have some very qualified people working for this government who will continue to deliver addictions treatment programs.
This program is also designed to provide specific programming for youth, for seniors and for women. The issues raised in the consultation to deal with youth programming are being addressed in the new model. As the Member for Whitehorse Centre pointed out, women have raised concerns about child care and their fear of losing their children if they go into residential treatment. In many cases, it will serve their needs to have treatment available on a day basis.
We have shown respect for the people in need of referrals by listening to their concerns and by acting on them. The opposition, in the debate today, missed several salient points. They failed to recognize that Crossroads closed down for a month within the past year, without notice, and has been described as being rocked by trouble. They didn't mention that the PSAC had called for the Yukon government to step in and take over the non-government agency.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberal critic implied that people would have nowhere to go. That is simply not true. The building on Sixth Avenue that people in this community know will continue to offer alcohol treatment service to people in need. We will continue to offer residential treatment and to offer treatment programs to meet a variety of needs. There will be 24-hour staffing in the treatment centre.
I repeat that there is not an easy answer to the difficulties of alcohol abuse. We are making a serious and sincere effort to improve the education programs that are available in the schools. We have put money in our budget this year for youth programming to offer kids healthy alternatives.
Mr. Speaker, we debated a very similar motion in this House in November 1997. At that time, the opposition spoke about what was wrong with existing treatment programs. They were critical that people from rural Yukon were being sent to Whitehorse or outside for alcohol treatment. They recommended that programs be developed at a local level in order to be more responsive to local needs.
It is in a spirit of accommodating exactly those points that we have been designing programs to better meet the needs, rather than relying solely on one model that doesn't meet every need.
There will be a four-day medical detox program. There will be a residential program. There will be after-care support and a continuum of care available for 24 months.
So, these treatments will be more cost effective and more flexible. That's a better way, Mr. Speaker.
I want to respond to some of the comments that were made by the Liberal critic about sending people outside.
We don't send people outside of the Yukon. The northern native drug and alcohol program sends some clients to facilities outside because of First Nations' preference. The NNADAP program will serve to send clients to southern treatment centres because that's what First Nations have asked them to do, and they use the funds from the non-insured benefits programs.
I also want to inform the Liberal critic that the Minister of Health and Social Services has sent letters, twice, to Crossroads in resolution of the transition and notification of the lease cancellation.
This government has corresponded and spoken and communicated with Crossroads and with the public and has made a decision based on what we've heard to respond to the needs.
I'm happy to support the Minister of Health and Social Services in this amendment. The Liberals stood here just a short while ago and said that they were reasonable people, and that they could be convinced by arguments about the value of new treatment models.
Well, Mr. Speaker, they seem only to be interested in criticizing the government. They have not demonstrated that they support increasing the opportunities available for members of the community who need addictions treatment.
This motion is about political criticism. It is not about new and effective treatment programs. The previous speaker from the Yukon Party just stood up and said the government was wrong, wrong, wrong. That's their mantra, Mr. Speaker, and I say it's really unfortunate for the Yukon public that the opposition is not able to go beyond automatically criticizing everything the government does and recognize that what we have had the courage to do is to provide good, responsive government.
The service was not being provided by Crossroads to meet all of the needs. I believe we've found a good solution based on good research about treatment. I would urge members of the House to take advantage of the offer they have to learn more about these treatment programs and to support them because, Mr. Speaker, we all have a serious obligation to work to help people put their lives in order and to recover from addictions.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: I rise to speak to the amendment respecting the treatment programs for individuals recovering from alcohol, drug and substance abuse.
I'd like to speak for a moment about alcohol in particular. As the previous speaker has noted, we had quite a lengthy discussion about alcohol in November of late last year. I stated at the time, and I still believe, that alcohol is the single largest issue affecting Yukoners. No one Yukoner is without effects from alcohol, and no one government department is unaffected by alcohol. There are problems, there are issues, and I said then and I still believe that the opportunities are enormous.
We, as political leaders, must take that first step in the famous 12-step recovery program. We have to admit that there is a problem. I believe that we have to take this first step because without healthy communities, it's not going to matter that we have landmark agreements with First Nations governments, as we have discussed earlier this week. It won't matter that there are forests to enjoy and to harvest, and the opportunities that the Minister of Tourism is presently exploring won't matter. It won't matter if we don't have healthy communities.
I do believe that we have opportunities. I have said before, and I have said in this House and I've said outside this House, "Let's lead the world in solutions." And we could lead the world in treatment. After all, you have to ask yourself, "Why is the Betty Ford Centre located wherever it's located? Why is the Don Mills Centre in Don Mills? Why are these world-class treatment centres located where they are?"
Is there any reason why they couldn't be here? As we've said in debating and talking about every other department, we are special in the Yukon. We have something special. We have something unique, and we have something to offer.
So, the question becomes, if one looks at the amendment, whether or not this House should encourage the Yukon government to proceed with new programming as planned. I can't do that.
The Member for Whitehorse Centre, in an earlier debate on this motion and discussion, said that he hasn't heard anyone in this House speak from personal experience. Well, that certainly made me think about my personal experience and, on this particular issue, like many Yukoners, our family, too, has been touched by alcohol. A sibling of mine is a recovered alcoholic. Fortunately, or unfortunately, their recovery did not occur here in the Yukon - the problem did; the recovery did not.
So, what are the solutions? The previous speaker, the Minister of Justice, has said that there's no one solution. I agree. There is no one, single solution that we can say, "Buy program X and that's going to solve all of our problems." We, in the Liberal Party, have said that the solution should be, needs to be, community based. As my colleague, the Member for Riverdale South, has said, non-government organizations offer health services to government, in most cases, far more effectively and at far less cost to the taxpayer.
If you want to know what the needs are, ask the people who have expressed the needs. There are far too many questions and differences of opinion around the way that the non-government organization, Crossroads, has been dealt with most recently. There are far too many questions for any member of this House to feel entirely comfortable with the way that this situation has evolved.
There are other options and the minister has said to proceed as planned in his amendment. However, he neglects to provide all the information. We have no clear indication of how the government is going to deliver rural alcohol and drug treatment in the communities. The minister is asking that we support the government in programming his plan. Well, what are those plans? In all good conscience, we have to know what they are before we can say, "Yes, we'll support them. "
The minister originally said that he was going to bring staff in from the communities to be trained to deliver drug and alcohol treatment programs. Well, who's he going to bring in? How's he going to do this? What about program funding? Will there be standards for drug and alcohol treatment programs? How were these new plans of the minister's arrived at? Where did they come from? What consultation process was followed? Will the government pay for a program in a rural community at the same per diem rate as those available in Whitehorse? There are different costs throughout the Yukon.
Will they have standards that rural service providers will have to meet in order to give continuity to the drug and alcohol treatment continuum across the Yukon? Will program dollars for rural programming be used to top up NNADAP workers' salaries, or will money only be made available on a per diem basis? What O&M dollars are available to operate and maintain remote rural treatment facilities? How will facilities and workers throughout Yukon work together on this issue? How will this new programming work? These questions are not answered - certainly not adequately in this House.
If we're going to do any programming, we have to measure the effectiveness of that programming. We have to put in place the measurements of our success, so that we can, when necessary, make further improvements. Will we use the recidivism stats? How will statistics be collected? What about followup services?
There is too little information about this new programming. There is too little detail. There's far too much debate and question in the minds of some as to how the new programming options were arrived at, to blindly agree that one should simply encourage the Yukon government to proceed with new programming as planned.
I cannot support this motion that, in effect, simply seems to be asking for a blank cheque. It's forgetting to listen, to talk with and hear from people themselves who have faced these addictions and recovered. There's far too little information to simply support new programming that's ill-defined and would appear to be ill-conceived.
For that reason, Mr. Speaker, I cannot support the amendment.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I can't support the motion, either, but I can support the amended motion, and what I can say is I don't really blame the Liberals in their critique on this particular issue because they are an opposition party and they feel it's their job, and it is the role in our system to oppose decisions of government. However, it's not in keeping with their commitment to be non-confrontational. They've refused to acknowledge the merits of the government's decision and take a strict confrontational and opposition approach to the issue.
That, Mr. Speaker, is not inconsistent with what opposition parties do. However, don't tell me that they're non-confrontational.
Mr. Cable: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Riverside on a point of order.
Mr. Cable: We had the member rise on a point of order not too long ago, saying we should stick to the amendment. I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, that he stick to the amendment, too, rather than running off on a long tirade about things that have happened in the past.
Hon. Mr. Harding: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Government House leader, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I am speaking to the amendment. I am speaking precisely to the role of the opposition and the position of the opposition and how it relates to the motion in question as well as the amended motion in question, and I think it's completely relevant and within the realm of this debate and specific to this debate and consistent with this debate.
Speaker: Would the minister continue the debate, but get on to the amendment to the motion, please.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I certainly will.
Mr. Speaker, the opposition's position - the Liberal Party, specifically - is quite confrontational, and that's fine. I think that for them to carry on in that manner is consistent with the roles of many opposition parties in our system, and I don't fault them for doing it. It's certainly done for political reasons moreso than for any reason ...
Mr. Cable: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: Point of order has been called.
Mr. Cable: The Speaker has just ruled on the point of order, and he told the member to stick to the amendment. Now, is there something wrong with the ventilation system here that the minister didn't hear?
Speaker: Government House leader, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: On the point of order, I can't believe that the member will not allow me to address their position, that his view is that I cannot address their position and whether or not we, as a government, are free to express our view that what they are saying is motivated by political consequences. Mr. Speaker, it is unbelievable that they would try and shut down my right as a member, and that within the confines of this amendment to this particular motion, would try and restrict me from doing that. I find that incredible and, Mr. Speaker, I find it incredulous.
Speaker: I would ask the member to stick to the amendment, to speak to the amendment directly, please.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
As I was saying, the position of the Liberal Party on the motion, I think, is completely and absolutely and fundamentally motivated by political reasons. Now, Mr. Speaker, I would argue that they have not acknowledged the position of the minister in terms of his good and well-thought-out and reasoned approach to changing alcohol and drug services in this territory.
Mr. Speaker, they do that in a confrontational fashion, and that's fine. That's their political position, and they're doing it it for what they feel is political gain.
Mr. Speaker, I do have a tremendous problem with the position of the Yukon Party. That is because, as pointed out by the minister initially, if you read the comments of the Health and Social Services minister for the Yukon Party, he was completely in agreement with the views of problems with the Crossroads treatment centre and completely, consistently, in agreement with the views of how to better deliver a service surrounding this issue with the now Minister of Health and Social Services. Now that doesn't happen very often, Mr. Speaker, but in this case I find it ironic, given the caterwauling of the Member for Klondike.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the Member for Klondike's position I find particularly hilarious, really, as he tries to create this facade of someone who really cares about alcohol and drug services in this territory and walks around with his button on now. This is the person who, just a few short months ago, was calling for a Spanish inquisition into the Crossroads approach and accusing them of wasting and blowing taxpayers' money. Now, he rises today to put forward some ceremonial argument for nothing other than political expediency. Unbelievable, Mr. Speaker, that he would attempt to do that at the expense of those who need treatment and who need a forward-looking government that's prepared to make the necessary changes to move ahead. I might also add that they made those changes with extensive consultation.
Mr. Speaker, the specific changes that are indicated were necessary, and one has only to read the words of the representative of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, who talked in a Whitehorse Star article of Tuesday, September 9, about the poisoned workplace at the Crossroads treatment centre, who talked about the working environment being tainted with threats, intimidation, inappropriate statements and actions of representatives of the employer. Mr. Speaker, they felt there were problems. There were citizens who felt there were problems. There were citizen First Nations who felt there were problems. There was a wide range of problems identified.
So, for the opposition to take confrontational, opposing approaches to this decision that was made in consultation with a lot of Yukoners is expected. And for the Yukon Party and the Liberals to team up on it is even more expected. As we watch this session unfold, and the political landscape in this territory unveil itself as to how it's going to look over the next couple of years, we see more and more the Yukon Party and the Liberals coming together to oppose initiatives of government. I think that speaks to the bankruptcy of ideas and the lack of vision of the opposition. But it also speaks to the congruity of their particular points of view.
Mr. Speaker, I think that, without question, the minister has handled a difficult issue very well, and he hasn't received a lot of credit from editorial writers; he hasn't received a lot of credit from the opposition. And the opposition, particularly the Liberals, who carry out a facade of non-confrontational politics, who are doing this for political reasons and political expediency, and the Yukon Party, are going to take the opposing approach. There's no doubt about it. We've watched them, in one year, shift from calling the CDF a Christmas present and a good thing to asking for its abolition.
As they drift to the right -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: I know it must be painful for the members opposite to hear the truth, but we have got to speak the truth on this side. We will continue to do so, and no amount of heckling will stop us from speaking the truth.
The minister has made some very difficult decisions, and they've been handled very well.
The Member for Klondike has raised some concerns from people in the Yukon about the changes. I freely admit that I've heard those changes. I've had them raised with me, as well, by some people. We have also had an inordinate number of people tell us that it is the right thing to do, that it is the appropriate thing to do, and it was the well-thought-out thing to do, it was the thing that had a little bit of futuristic vision.
I think that that took courage on the part of the minister and this government. We know that there is some controversy from the union.
Now, the union that, incidentally, back in September, had been calling on the minister to step in and take over the non-governmental agency - I would say that is to be expected when difficult decisions are made. The point that is fundamental here is that we have to have vision for the future. We have to change the way we provide service to people, because that's what this is all about. Aside from the political expediency that the opposition wants, besides them trying to score obvious attempts at political points by the opposition, we have to look to the future. We have to have some vision. We have to think things through carefully and we have to get back to what is right for the people of the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, for the opposition to take any other position, particularly the Yukon Party, after their call for an inquisition and the accusations that Crossroads was not accountable for the money they were spending just a few short months ago, and with the stated commitments of the Yukon Party Health and Social Services minister, we think it is ironic. I would go even a little further. I would argue that it is completely inappropriate and it sickens me somewhat that for such naked political gain, the Member for Klondike would now don the button that he is wearing when, just so short a time span ago, he was actually on the attack of Crossroads.
But, of course, Mr. Speaker, the government's made a decision in consultation with a lot of Yukoners. Now he feels he must oppose. He must completely do an end-run on the positions they've taken in the past and he must oppose. The Liberal Party, for their part, for political expediency, is doing the same. This is a familiar pattern. We are well-accustomed to this.
Mr. Speaker, the minister has detailed in great length the number of meetings that he held and that officials held, and it is completely appropriate to talk about the problems. He has indicated the concerns that were there, concerns that had been long-standing, and there was actually a litany of them laid out. I think, without question, the case was made very well for the foundation that led to the changes that were invoked.
We are concerned about the people whose lives and whose jobs are affected. There is no doubt about that, but this is a decision that had to be made. It is a difficult one and, as government, sometimes difficult decisions have to be made. But we're thinking about the future of Yukoners. We're thinking about providing service the way Yukoners want to see service provided, and that comes with a price sometimes, politically, Mr. Speaker, but you've got to have the intestinal fortitude to see the future, to have courage in your convictions and to move ahead. That won't get you any rewards in the interim with the opposition and with some editorial writers but, at the end of the day, it's the people that we're concerned about, and we believe the people will respect courage of conviction.
We're hoping and we're confident that, given the extensive changes made by the Minister of Health and Social Services, that will be the case in the Yukon public. Once they know and have seen and have witnessed the evidence of the benefit of those changes, Mr. Speaker, we believe that will result in positive responses from the Yukon public. We do know it is controversial. We knew that going into this decision. It was something that we felt was appropriate.
You know, Mr. Speaker, the argument the Yukon Party makes about how this decision was made to accommodate an election campaign commitment is, again, ironic.
On the one hand, they were criticizing us for not delivering on commitments. On the other hand, this is a commitment we delivered on that they opposed. So, they've had to wrap this mantra around that the decision around Crossroads was made for political reasons. Well, Mr. Speaker, I would say that the changes surrounding Crossroads were something that had to be done. It is something that has been a problem for the territory for a long time and, Mr. Speaker, we've made efficient use of public funds and public interests to provide the shelter service that we committed to providing in this territory. We are proud of that. We make no apologies. It certainly wasn't the impetus for the decision with Crossroads.
However, Mr. Speaker, I will say that that is particularly galling, coming from the Member for Klondike, who was calling, long before the decision was ever made on the shelter, to assail Crossroads. He was on the attack. Had the decision not been made, I'm sure this legislative session would have been filled with attacks by the Member for Klondike on Crossroads.
He would have continued to say that they are blowing money. Now, in his role of opposing the government, he has donned a button, undergoing a miraculous change - there must be a phone booth around here somewhere - that has made him the great defender. We don't buy it. The public doesn't buy it. If there's one thing that the member doesn't stand for in the public's mind, it's sincerity. I hear that all of the time.
That is, I think, a reflection, on the understanding - I think the public knows that there were problems, that the government did consult, that our government is trying to make the best of what is a difficult situation and a difficult decision.
So, Mr. Speaker, I think that the litany of meetings that the minister had, the outlining of the agenda in terms of the change, the rationalization and the changes that have been made to provide for what we believe will be more responsive programming will ultimately help the Yukon people. That's what this is all about, not this artificial debate where the government makes a decision that, for political reasons, the opposition opposes. That is not the reality. The reality is that difficult decisions were made to benefit Yukoners. In the long run, we believe we can do that.
We knew and know that the decision is controversial. It is not without its opposers, and it's not without its supporters. Some of them live in my riding. People who are affected by alcoholism, drug problems and need treatment feel very passionate about things that have worked for them or things that haven't worked for them, and they invoke very strong feelings.
Mr. Speaker, as the son of an alcoholic, I went through the gamut in terms of treatment options with my father from local programs to programs very far away aimed at professionals - the whole nine yards - and our lives were deeply affected by that.
I can understand, because I know from personal experience, how that invokes very strong feelings from people. I don't discount the concerns of the employees affected. I don't discount the concerns of the union -
Speaker: The member has two minutes.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I don't discount the concerns of the people who have been helped by Crossroads. Crossroads did a lot of good for people over the years. They had experiences with people who have spoken out in support of Crossroads, and that should not be discounted - and it was not discounted, in terms of this decision. However, we feel that we have a better way of providing this important service to Yukoners.
We are proud that we had the courage and the conviction to move ahead. The Yukon Party asked for an inquisition of Crossroads. They talked about how it needed change, but they didn't change it. We made the changes, we are trying to deal with the issues that have arisen as best as we can, and we hope that in the future, the public - as I know for a fact many of them now do - will see what we were doing, will respect that, and will say that we did a good thing for the benefit of Yukoners, and not for political expediency, such as the opposition would have us do, in terms of catering to their agenda.
Thank you very much. I will be supporting this amendment.
Mr. Cable: Speaking to the amendment -
Hon. Mr. Harding: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: Point of order has been called.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Would the member please get to the amendment?
Mr. Cable: Yes, there really have been various members on the road to Damascus. I can remember, Mr. Speaker, during the last mandate, the Yukon Party's mandate, there was noise and sputum just flowing over the back benches here, across the way.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: The Member for Riverdale North is talking about the chipmunk from Faro, and if the chipmunk from Faro would just settle down, I'd like to get a few words in edgewise here.
The amendment really brings up a topic that is dear to my heart, and I'd like to quote a section of A Better Way.
Let's take a look at this document we've all grown to love, on page 14. Here's what it says about people and the Member for Faro had talked about people. Let me remind him what his platform documents said: "New Democrats believe that people will only be able to thrive and prosper in strong communities where we all have responsibilities to one another and we all work cooperatively to achieve our goals."
And here's what an NDP government led by Piers McDonald will do: "Initiate discussions with the non-governmental organizations that provide contracted social services to develop a multi-year budget process which will ensure a degree of financial stability."
Now, what does that say? It's a clear recognition of volunteerism, a clear recognition that people have a role to play in the care giving function - not just government, but people who want to volunteer their time and want to volunteer their hours and their social and recreational time. They want to look after people. They want the fulfillment that comes of being involved in organizations that look after people.
Now the Liberals put out a questionnaire to a number of people - and I talked about this the other day - and one of the areas that we canvassed was the attitudes of various people toward volunteer organizations. One of the questions we asked was, "No matter what your income, I believe we have a large responsibility -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Mr. Cable: - to donate to charitable organizations," and there was a very strong response. The vast majority of people either strongly agreed or somewhat agreed.
Another question was, "Helping the community is in some way very important to me." The vast majority of people either strongly agreed or somewhat agreed.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: The government backbenchers are just gyrating around.
Speaker: Order. Order.
Mr. Cable: I know, Mr. Speaker. They don't have much of a chance to talk. They're not allowed to talk very often, but if they want to go in the members' lounge later on, I'll carefully listen to them. I'll do my bit; I'll sit there and listen.
Here's the next question: "Helping the community is in some way very important to me." That was the one where the vast majority of people strongly agreed.
Another question was: "I undertake volunteer work on a regular basis." A vast majority of people agreed.
Here's the last question: "Taking care of the underprivileged should primarily be the responsibility of government, rather than the individual." And most people thought government should be the primary care giver, but a very large number of people thought that the individual should be the primary care giver.
So, what does a government do, in giving out this signal? The better way clearly suggests -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order. Let the member finish his statement.
Mr. Cable: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The government clearly suggested in A Better Way that it saw the individual performing part of the care giver function. So, what do we have the Minister of Health and Social Services do? He gets on his costume, with a big, broad sword, and he pulls the broad sword out and swoops down out of the sun and offs the heads of the people of this volunteer organization. What does that distinct lack of courtesy demonstrate to the volunteer community?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order. Order please.
Mr. Cable: Now, the minister - I know he has been treated perhaps, in his mind, unfairly by the media.
Could I encourage the minister to look at this evening's Yukon News? He's going to do that? That's good.
There was a comment by the Member for Riverdale South, and she pointed to letters written by MLA Lois Moorcroft to the then-Yukon Party government -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Point of order's been called.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite just raised a point of order when I was speaking about dragging up the past, I believe was his quote. I think it's important to be consistent with your ruling. In this respect, I think the member is debating an amendment to a motion that speaks to a way of providing care in the communities and, for political reasons, he's dragging up the past, as he put it in his point of order.
Speaker: Member for Riverside on the point of order.
Mr. Cable: I'm speaking to the issue of volunteerism, and that's what the amendment speaks to. It speaks to the change in the delivery of the function from a volunteer board to government.
Speaker: The Member for Riverside can continue.
Mr. Cable: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Here's what the quote says in the newspaper. She pointed to letters written by MLA Lois Moorcroft to the then-Yukon Party government, in which Moorcroft stressed the importance of consulting with Crossroads.
"Since November 1996 and September 1997, there have been at least 17 meetings between department staff and some members of the Crossroads board," said Sloan. But Carvill challenged that statement. "I have talked to him one time on the phone back in the fall. Since last May, he came to our annual general meeting as a guest speaker and that's the last time we've seen him."
Now, whatever the facts are, what are the signals that are going out to our volunteer organizations, our non-governmental organizations, if the Government Leader swoops in out of the sun and offs these people? I have to say to the Minister of Health and Social Services if, in fact, he wants to encourage people - individuals as care givers - then he should spend a little more time looking after the personal relationships with these non-governmental organizations.
They've talked about consultation ad nauseum on everything, yet I think it's undisputed that the ministry yanked this contract without the benefit of any lengthy consultations. We've had the minister tell us that there were consultations, but not on that subject. There were consultations on the delivery, not the conclusion of the delivery.
So, Mr. Speaker, I cannot support this amendment. The motion as presented under "Opposition Motions Emasculated by the Government", that section of the rules I think should stand, and I'm really ashamed that the government has taken this attitude toward Crossroads, one of our long-standing NGOs, one of our long-standing individual care giver organizations. I'm deeply disappointed.
Speaker: Order please. The time being 5:30, the Speaker will now leave the Chair until 7:30 tonight.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I move the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee will continue with general debate on the budget bill.
Bill No. 9 - First Appropriation Act, 1998-99 - continued
Mr. Jenkins: When we left debate on March 3, I was asking the Government Leader to explain the rationale that drives the justification for a new school.
The Government Leader, in true fashion, with his great ability in this area, skirted the whole issue completely. I probably should just put the question in a simple "yes or no" type answer for the Government Leader.
The question: is the number of students the main factor that drives the justification for the addition of new classrooms? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Did the member stay up late last night to prepare for this question? Is this the knockout punch that we were all waiting for?
Mr. Chair, I didn't skirt the question at all yesterday. The member asked the same question yesterday. I will give him the same answer today. The projected number of students in the school will be a contributing factor. It will be a factor, along with others.
I think in Old Crow, one of the factors was - not the only factor - that the school burned down. That's one factor. Is it the main factor? Is the growth in the student population the main factor in determining whether Old Crow should be first? In Old Crow's case, it wasn't the main factor. It may have been a factor. But, I would think that the fact that the old school went up in smoke was probably, for them, the main factor.
But in any case, Mr. Chair, the point is that the capital priorities are determined through consultation with parent representatives, with the stakeholders in education, using analysis provided by the consultant that was hired by our predecessors to assess school needs. We have committed ourselves to building a new school a year. We have indicated very clearly what those priorities are as recommended by the school chairs committee that was seized of this issue and provided recommendations.
Mr. Jenkins: So the Government Leader is saying the number of students is a factor, and it's a factor taken into account by school chairs. The rhetoric surrounding the issue is quite interesting, when you go back and read the Blues about what has been said. For anyone that I have spoken to, the main justification for the construction of a school is that there are students there and there are students that are required to be educated.
Now, the mandate of this government is to provide that education to those students, Mr. Chair, but the minister has managed to carefully avoid it and defer the question as to what determines how a school is going to be constructed to the school councils and to the school chairs, and we've gone all around. So we might as well leave that because we're not going to get any more concrete answers out of the Government Leader than what we presently have.
Let's go on to another area where the minister has said one thing at one time and now purports that another amount is justified. I refer to the amount of government surplus that is required to run and operate the government.
In opposition, the present Government Leader indicated that $40 million, or one month's operating funds, were necessary and prudent, and now, based on this budget, previous budgets and projected operating budgets, $15 million appears to be the magic number.
What's the basis for the justification of this $15 million, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, with respect to school construction, I'll point out to the member that the member asked very direct questions. I was unable to provide him the answers that he wanted because the world is a little more complicated than he wants to paint it. So, I gave him precisely the situation as it is and as I know it.
On this question of the surplus, Mr. Chair, the issue was raised by the leader of the official opposition last night and I provided all the answers. Is there something about the answer that I provided for the member last night that the Member for Dawson doesn't like or is there some further information he requires?
I would only point out to him that no surplus is required to run the government. The member says you have to have a surplus in order to run the government. You don't need a surplus to run the government. You would like a surplus so that you could handle emergencies if you needed to, but you don't need the surplus to run the government.
With respect to the response that I gave last night, if there's something about the response the member finds inadequate or incomplete, please ask.
Mr. Jenkins: I'll just point out to the Government Leader that, when in opposition, he was adamant that a one-month surplus was required. Yes, I recognize that you don't need any surplus. In fact, NDP governments are notorious for running governments at a deficit and digging themselves deeper and deeper into the hole. But the magic number that seems to prevail at this juncture, Mr. Chair, is some $15 million. How did we get from $40 million in opposition to $15 million? How does the minister justify his $40 million when he's in opposition - that it's prudent to have one month's operating surplus - whereas now, it's okay to have just $15 million?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I'll repeat the answer. What is it about the response I gave last night that the member doesn't like or finds inadequate? I provided a response last night - yesterday afternoon. What is it that the member finds inadequate. Was he not aware? Was he not awake? What was the problem?
I will take issue with the comment the member made with respect to the habit of the NDP running governments into the ground.
I would ask the member, if he has the time in his busy schedule, to look back to the public accounts of the years 1985 through to 1992 for every year that the NDP government not only tabled a budget but controlled the budget process until year-end, and he will note that there was always a surplus, even a surplus as high as $70 million. So, I can only guess that the member speaks out of ignorance. I forgive him. He is now corrected.
Mr. Jenkins: I have reviewed the operating budgets of previous NDP governments, both here in the Yukon and other jurisdictions in Western Canada, and as the Government Leader is very much aware, NDP governments are known for big government, big budgets, and their abilities to kind of distort the financial reality from time to time, and I guess the Government Leader is taking lessons from his friend to the south, the Premier of British Columbia.
If we could just go back to the issue, the $40-million versus the $15-million operating surplus, and if the Government Leader would kindly provide an explanation and justification for why, in opposition, he indicated a $40-million, one-month operating surplus was necessary, whereas today, $15 million is okay. I'd appreciate hearing his explanation, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: If the member cared to look into the recording of the session yesterday, he will understand that the issue was explored then. I provided a thorough answer yesterday. Is the member saying that I have to repeat every answer to other members in the opposition benches just for his own benefit?
If there's something about the answer yesterday that he doesn't like, tell me. That would be quite appreciated. That way, we could focus the discussion a little better. But, he is taking us back to where we were at the beginning of yesterday. It doesn't seem that we are making any progress.
I see he's reading yesterday's Hansard now, so perhaps he will be catching up.
Mr. Chair, the member has made some comments about NDP government budgeting practices and, once again, has suggested that not only does he know the situation of the NDP government in the Yukon from 1985 to 1992, but he seems to have been able to draw the conclusions that the NDP government, during that period, ran the finances of the territory into the ground. Nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing could be further from the truth.
There were surpluses every year - big surpluses. So, to suggest otherwise is pure fabrication on the member's part. Absolute fabrication.
Now, the member seems to think that NDP governments around the country, or perhaps in Western Canada, have a poor record of financial management. Presumably, the Conservatives have a good record of financial management. Well, the NDP government in Saskatchewan, for example, for the very first time in many years, has just run a surplus budget after having had a huge accumulated debt, racked up by the Devine Conservatives. So, for the member to suggest that somehow there is a pattern here is patently false. And experience proves it, Mr. Chair.
The federal Conservative government was also similarly prone in the late '80s and early '90s to be racking up huge, giant debts. Is that the responsibility of the NDP or was it the responsibility of the party that actually formed the Cabinet at the time? I would suspect that the Conservatives, the sister party to the member's own, had a lot to do with that. So I'm not certain I understand the member's blanket, bold statements that he puts on the record, because he hasn't been able to demonstrate that there is this pattern that is somehow uniquely NDP, or a pattern that's uniquely the purview of the Conservatives.
I just pointed out two Conservative governments that have run huge debts and an NDP government that has balanced its books and has got a surplus and is busily paying off a debt built up by the Conservatives.
So, where does that put us, Mr. Chair?
Mr. Jenkins: If the Government Leader would care to look back at the last year that the NDP were in their mandate and the resulting Auditor General report for that period, he could clearly find out that the surplus that was projected by the government was $60 million and they ended up considerably in debt as a consequence of the spending practices of the NDP government.
And the Government Leader was very, very selective in the years that he amplified here in the House this evening as to what years there was a surplus, and he was extremely careful to point out those years when there was a surplus. I guess, when you're looking at the amount of money rolling in from Ottawa to the extent that it was, and the gains that were being made financially, it's quite interesting. Even in times of adverse economic conditions here in Yukon, with the perversity factor and the formula financing, the government of the day stands to realize more funds from Ottawa than it does when the economic climate here is very, very buoyant.
So, it just leads back to the question as to the one-month surplus versus the $15 million. It's just a subjective amount that the Government Leader has pulled out of a hat. That's where it appears to have come from. So, the Government Leader really hasn't answered the question as to the justification for the $15 million versus the $40 million. There's no answer to it; it's a just a subjective amount. It's just a subjective amount and therein lies the answer to the question.
I guess we could go on and explore another area that is constantly enunciated by this government - the tax increases that were, I guess, imposed or brought forward during the previous Yukon Party administration. Now that the NDP is in power and were adamantly and vehemently opposed, in most cases, to a lot of these tax increases, what is his justification for not rolling them back, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Lord help us, Mr. Chair. The member made the fact known that he realized that there was a sitting on March 3 at the beginning of the evening. He made reference to, on March 3, something happening. Well, on March 3, a lot happened. On March 3, the question with respect to the $15 million accumulated surplus was put to the government's side and to which the government responded and on March 3, the same question the member just put forth now was also put to the government side. A lot has happened. It may have passed the member's consciousness. It may be that the member didn't understand the issue. The point is, the question was answered and if there's anything about the answer the member doesn't like, ask and I'll respond to him. No, the member didn't acknowledge that he had even heard that there was an answer yesterday. He asked exactly the same question that was put at the beginning of the debate yesterday.
The member brought up a few other issues that were also raised yesterday from first principles. If people didn't know better, the listening audience would think that the member hadn't been paying any attention and that yesterday was a black spot in the member's memory.
The one question that the member asked last night that I promised I would provide further information about was the impact of tax rate changes, and I will ensure that that information is passed over to members now. So, that is new information on the table, Mr. Chair, and if the appropriate questions are asked, they'll get even more information.
Mr. Jenkins: The two areas that weren't budgeted for, or anticipated, in this budget are public sector wage increases and electrical rate increases. Is the Government Leader satisfied that the contingency fund will be sufficient to cover these two areas?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes. What is with this guy, Mr. Chair? All these questions were put yesterday, exactly the same way, by the fellow who is sitting to his right.
Mr. Jenkins: If we could just go back to the Government Leader and explore with the Government Leader the area that appears to be advanced and forward planned in the Department of Education, and that's the future schools throughout the Yukon and the construction of the same, why is the government not capable of putting forward the capital projections and outlining them in some of the other departments, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, the government has not accomplished yet the long-term objective of developing capital plans that have been approved by the Management Board in their detail over a long period time in year one.
In that respect, as I understand it, we are no further advanced than is the federal government or any other government in this country. But I am interested in trying to provide some long-term advance notice of capital spending and some capital works, and I am exploring ways to send signals or to make it clear what the priorities are if we can make those decisions credibly. So, if the member has some suggestions on how that might be done, I'm more than happy to hear them.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the current Government Leader had all the answers to the questions when he was in opposition like the member beside him from Faro, and now that he has come to be empowered with running and operating the government, the answers are not so forthcoming. I'd just point out to the Government Leader that he has the answers with respect to the Department of Education -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Let the member speak.
Mr. Jenkins: The Government Leader has the answers with respect to the forward planning and the capital planning of the Department of Education, and I'd like to hear from the Government Leader as to how he envisions implementing this process into the balance of his budget, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I can forgive the member for not knowing this - or perhaps not remembering. The members opposite seem to think that it is a shock for me to come from the opposition benches into government. Nothing could be further from the truth. The leader of the official opposition feels that he has put in a lifetime of work on the government side. I can assure him that even before he arrived in this Legislature, I had already spent almost eight years in government, before the leader of the official opposition even arrived here. So, I am very aware of what the imperatives are for the government side and what the challenges are for the government side. So, the members should not be left to think otherwise.
Mr. Chair, I've already provided to the members the long-term financial projections, on both the revenue and the capital side. We have also made it clear that, on the capital side, as far as building construction is concerned, we are committed to building three schools - one this year, one next year and one the year after. That is certainly an innovation. It is, in my view, a better situation than we had before. If there are other ways of making it even better, I am certainly interested in exploring them. Whether I receive advice from the member or not, I will certainly be exploring them and hopefully making it even better next year.
So, I think that these are innovations. If the member has some thoughts or something constructive to add, I would be happy to hear it.
Mr. Jenkins: The point I'm wishing to make with the Government Leader is that he's managed to do it for the Education budget. What steps is he proposing to implement so that this process could be forthcoming in some of the other departments that he oversees? How much road is he going to build? Where is he going to build the next bridges or are we just going to paint the old ones? Things of that nature. What is the five-year capital forecast? We could even go beyond that. When is that going to be part of this government's policy?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, it's already government policy to try to provide more long-term information. More information is being put on the table now. As I indicated already to the member in the previous answer, we are interested in improving that in terms of perhaps providing more long-term projections once the planning work has taken place and, if we can, we will in future years.
If the member has some constructive suggestions on how that might be accomplished, I'd be happy to hear them.
Mr. Cable: The Government Leader and I have had exchanges in the House on the five-year financial plan, and he had indicated earlier in his mandate that he was going to provide it this spring session. Going over Hansard from last night, it's not clear whether this three-page document that was provided was provided as a forecast or as the three-year financial plan.
I wonder if the Government Leader could actually clarify that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is a forecast, a worst case/best case forecast, particularly of the territorial income side of the ledger. It makes some predictions as to what the government is likely to request in terms of expenditures on both the O&M and capital side in the case of best case/worst case. So, that is what we're putting on the table as a forecast or an understanding of what would happen in certain circumstances.
Mr. Cable: Yes, the phraseology used last night was "forecast" rather than "plan," but the Government Leader had indicated that he would be providing a plan. Is the document I have in my hands, the three pages that were given to us last night, what is presented as a plan or is there something more coming?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This is it, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Cable: Actually, after having read A Better Way, I thought there would be something more. I thought there would be a script attached to it. I think a plan usually has some script attached to it.
There are a number of questions that really aren't answered by the forecasts. I appreciate receiving the forecasts. They're useful information, but it doesn't tell us everything we wanted to know - everything we thought we'd be given under the rubric of a plan.
The revenue increases take place in both the best case and worst case scenarios. I have a number of questions, and I'll just go over them, if the minister wants, and then he can answer them as a group.
The revenue increases are population-driven, in part, if I'm reading the footnotes properly. The Yukon population growth appears to be based on a YTG forecast. Now, I haven't seen that. If that's available or circulating out in the public, I'd like to see that. I'd like that tabled.
What is it based on? Is the forecast simply based on the extension of some graph of previous population, or is it based on some particular estimation of economic growth that's going to take place because of projects that are in the wings that are going to result in a certain amount of population growth?
Now, I'm assume, from looking at the way the forecast is presented, that the minister and his officials started on the revenue side because that, I assume, would be easier to determine. They made their projections of the anticipated revenue, and they looked at the O&M, linked it up to the population forecast and ratcheted the O&M up with the population growth, and what was left over was for capital. Further to the questions asked by the Member for Klondike, capital expenditures were then picked up as the difference between the revenue and the O&M; they weren't built up from projections that were given to the Government Leader from the various departments on what they anticipated they needed over the years.
Perhaps I could stop at that point and the minister could go over those questions.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I only determined one question, Mr. Chair. The question was whether or not we could provide population numbers and projections. We can, and I'll provide them to the member tomorrow.
With respect to the rest of the member's remarks, I got the impression that they were a bit of a ramble about what he assumed might have been our thinking in terms of how we came about reaching the size of the capital budget. I don't recall that being my thinking, but I'm not sure I understand the question. I'm not sure I detected a question. Perhaps the member could give us a hand.
With respect to the remarks he made at the beginning with respect to the forecast of the plan, what we have tabled for the member is, as I've indicated, our revenue and our expenditures projected over this year and the following three years. We've also made public the government's action plan or the government's planned activities, and if one takes both, one will understand very well what we're up to in general terms.
If the member is asking for something that is very detailed, such as this year we plan to spend so much on Health and Social Services and next year we're going to spend the same plus we're going to add a term PY in one branch and something else on another branch, and that sort of thing, or if he's thinking that the plan is going to be that detailed, then I can tell him that we have not gone to the extent of trying to provide that detailed a long-term plan. As a corporate government, departments certainly have longer plans, as they always have, but in terms of our overall plan, this is what was promised and this was what was delivered.
Mr. Cable: Well, let's go at this just a little slower then if the minister isn't detecting questions.
Both the best case scenario and the worst case scenario show the O&M expenditures increasing over the five-year forecasted period. What was used to determine the increase in those O&M expenditures? What were the underlying assumptions? Where did they come from? What documents?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, first of all, Mr. Chair, I'm hurt that the member thinks I'm trying to deflect questions. I can assure him that I'm doing no such thing.
With respect to the precise question at hand, the member has asked what was the thinking behind - is it the best case or worst case that he's referring to?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Both? Okay, in the case of the worst case scenario, in order to ensure that we have stable spending on both the operating side and on the capital side - recognizing the impact of the capital budget - and there are only the two budgets. We wanted to send stable, long-term messages to people who, even in the worst case scenario, are in need of the services of either the O&M budget or the expenditures on the capital side. So, even though we require discipline, we have indicated that we want to, in the worst case scenario, send a message of stability.
In the case of the best case scenario, there is an acknowledgment that there are O&M needs that should be met around the territory, that in a best case scenario there would be population increases assumed, and so consequently the O&M budget rises. There is also a recognition that, in the best case scenario, more money is available for some capital works, and we are therefore sending signals that, in the best case situation, we would be putting more money in that particular area.
Mr. Cable: The transfers from Canada and the O&M expenditures go up in both the best case and the worst case scenarios, which would suggest that population growth is anticipated in both cases. When we have the footnotes referred to - the population growth based on YTG forecast - was a population growth anticipated in the worst case scenario - if the Faro mine stays down permanently?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the short answer is yes, but, again, as I have indicated to the member, the population forecasts can be provided tomorrow. I'm not skirting the question. I am promising the information. The information will be given to the member.
Mr. Cable: I'm not suggesting that the member is trying to skirt the question.
Just to be clear, though, it was the same population projection used for both the worst case and the best case?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes.
Mr. Cable: Okay. From what I've heard the Government Leader say, then, what he has done is that he's built up the capital envelope by looking at the revenues and subtracting the O&M. Then, what was left over was for capital. This is what I went around the first time, and he suggested I was rambling - I believe that was the verbiage he used. Was that the mechanics for determining the capital expenditures? Did he start with the revenues that he anticipated, using the referenced sources that he has at the bottom of the pages, figure out what the O&M expenditures would be based on a certain population and population growth, and then determine that what was left over was for capital? Or, did he go to the various departments and build up what he thought would be the desired capital expenditures and then work the other way?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No, actually, it was a combination of both. As I indicated already, in the case of the worst case scenario, even though there may be increasing O&M demands, it is our desire to show some budgetary discipline on the O&M side. So, we didn't just simply determine what the O&M needs could possibly be and then determine the capital budget. We disciplined on the O&M side so that we could maintain a certain level of capital spending in order to send the message of stability both to the people who were depending on the O&M side of the budget and, also, to those people who are depending on the capital side of the budget. There is a need for both expenditure levels.
So, the signal that is being sent is one of stable spending on both sides of the equation.
Mr. Cable: Okay, I think we have connected on that one.
Is the effect of devolution incorporated into these projections? Have the royalty regimes on devolution, which assumedly is going to happen in the not-too-distant future, been changed at all from what the federal royalty regimes are? Is the devolution money anticipated - is the O&M for devolution going to be revenue-neutral? Is that what's programmed into the five-year forecast?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No, Mr. Chair. We've not calculated in devolution receipts. Obviously, the O&M budget, if devolution were to take place, would jump by $30 million on the expenditure side and on the revenue side. We have not calculated that in, but that would be another factor. We've not made any assumptions about increased revenues on the resource-royalties side, with a view to being cautious and prudent.
Mr. Cable: Okay. The Canada health and social transfer item, which appears to be constant in both the worst case and best case scenario - does it have incorporated into it the 1997 federal election promise, which was that the failsafe agreement, of course, worked both ways and was protecting the territory against drops in the transfer through Health and Social Services? When the money was restored to the provinces, of course there was quite a brouhaha here in the territory, and I believe the federal government said, "Well, okay, we'll give you the same as the provinces." Is that money incorporated into the budget? And if not, how much is that money? How much is it anticipated would be received in each of the four latter years, where the health and social transfer is shown as dropping half a million dollars?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We have not factored that in, either, because the legislation, at this point, has not been passed. But the impact for next year could be around $1 million.
Mr. Cable: Are wage increases factored into the O&M expenditures over the years, as well as population growth?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There is an assumption that a fair portion of our forecast - the contingency - will be dedicated, in part, to wages. It would not be fair, necessarily, though, to assume that the O&M budget overall would rise if wages rise. As was the case last year, for example, we cut O&M budgets for departments, anticipating that there could be some increased costs. That could happen again, as well. But, as the member can see, there is a slight jump between 1998-99 and 1999-2000 on the operation side, and that, in part, would be a result of the wage settlement.
Mr. Ostashek: The debate is fairly interesting tonight, and I'm glad to be able to get into it. We started out with the Minister of Finance chastising the Member for Klondike for repeating questions that were asked in an earlier session. It seems like he has a very short memory from when he was in opposition and used the tag-team approach to keep the government in this Legislature for 76 days. Now, he seems to be perplexed and annoyed when some of the questions are asked again and seems to be very, very defensive.
Mr. Chair, I want to thank the Finance minister for giving us the numbers I asked for yesterday on the impact of the tax changes and what it meant in revenue to Yukon. I'll get into that shortly. I do want to continue the line of questioning that was started by my colleague on these so-called projections.
The best case/worse case scenario is, in my opinion, a long way from what was promised by the Finance minister, a long way from what he demanded when he was on the opposition benches for long-range financial planning. I think that this document is sadly lacking and creates a lot more questions for me than it gives comfort or, I'm sure, any other Yukoner who'll look at it as being the financial plan for the Government of Yukon for five years, let alone even to the end of the mandate of this government.
We have heard already in a very short period of time where all kinds of things are not projected in here, and I'm somewhat disheartened by it because the Government Leader made the comment, something to the effect that he's very aware of what it's like to move from the opposition benches to government and back and forth and that he's been in this House for a long time. I don't think anybody's disputing that. He's the oldest sitting member in this Legislature.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: I'll withdraw "oldest", Mr. Chair - the longest sitting member in this Legislature. Nevertheless, when that member was in opposition, he was very, very vocal and very critical of my administration for lack of long-term planning. He made a commitment that he would bring in long-term planning. This is not long-term planning by any means and I'm going to have numerous questions on this document in order to explore it with the Minister of Finance.
I hope you don't chastise me for asking the same question, but I didn't catch his answer when he spoke to the Liberal critic as to whether this was it. Is this what we're going to get for long-term planning from this Finance minister?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, Mr. Chair, I want to assure you that I was not chastising you at all, as the Member for Kluane, for anything. I was chastising the Member for Klondike. Certainly, I do know that a tag-team approach is often employed to ensure that the debate is advanced and I applaud opposition members for employing that tactic as long as the debate is advanced.
The tag-team approach seems to lose some of its lustre when one member stands up and asks a question, the answer is given and then another member stands up and asks precisely the same question. It doesn't seem to be quite the startling tactic that oppositions generally do employ.
The only reason why I made the comment about longevity in the Legislature, Mr. Chair, was that the members opposite, particularly the members in the Yukon Party, seem to think that going from government to opposition, where you go from a place where you're being criticized - sometimes you think unfairly, sometimes at great length - and then back into government is something that people on this side of the House are only now experiencing. For the Yukon Party, it's somehow joyful, payback time. I want to assure the member that I've been back and forth, more time in government than out, and I've seen it. I know what it's like on both sides. He doesn't have to impress me by these gestures that, somehow, this is a strange, new world that I'm going to have to get used to. I've been here and I've been there. That was the only purpose of making the comment.
With respect to the question, yes, the member is quite right. The question was put in exactly the same way by the Member for Riverside. The answer was yes.
I think this is an improvement. It is definitely an improvement. The nature of the criticism in the past has been this roller-coaster that we seem to be on - this roller-coaster chaos of not seeming to have any money and then seeming to have lots of money and then not seeming to have money then seeming to have lots of money. Each time, the general public was treated to the claim that we had lots of money. Big expenditures were made. Big decisions were made about wanting to support road construction.
Then there was a crisis again - usually the bogeyman of the NDP, the history of the NDP, was raised - crisis again, and suddenly we were told that NGOs had to be restrained, public service wages had to be restrained, we had to raise taxes, any number of things. We seemed to go back and forth during that member's mandate, and I think what the public was craving was a little more stability.
So, the expenditure patterns, the members may note, are more stable in their nature, and that's the practice that I would like to try to adopt in this Legislature for this government for the next couple of years. The expenditure patterns are being identified in the forecast as being target expenditures in a worst case and best case scenario.
Thought was put into it by the Finance officials with respect to the revenue side of the picture as to what the available revenue might be, whether it would be going up or going down. That's obviously useful information.
On the capital side, there was a desire to try to send stabilizing signals to the community with respect to the size of the operations and the capital budgets, depending on certain scenarios being considered.
So, that was the point of the exercise. That is the point of the exercise, and that does respond very much to the nature of the criticism that he received at the hands of the opposition in past years.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I can only say one thing: pretty thin soup.
If this is what the Government Leader and his party promised Yukoners, they're going to be very disappointed, because they expected some long-range financial planning. This is not long-range financial planning by any means. This is a fantasy in the mind of the Finance minister that doesn't tell Yukoners anything.
He has not said how closely he is going to adhere to these figures. He has not said anything in here.
I would like to ask the Finance minister: how much effort went into putting this document together?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Plenty, Mr. Chair. The answer to the member's allegation is that, depending on the circumstances - and there has to be some sense of circumstances - the signals we want to send and the expenditures we want to make are about stabilizing the expenditure side of the ledger, and we've also made commitments with respect to the taxation side of the ledger that that, too, will be stabilized.
So, we are sending long-term signals, whether the member likes it or not, and NGOs, for one, know it.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, it's not a matter of whether I like it or not. It's what the Government Leader promised Yukoners. He promised them more than this, and we'll go back and pull the debates. If I had brought these three sheets of paper into the Legislature when he was the man of long-range planning - and I could have done it. I know the Finance officials are very capable. They could have done this in a matter of weeks - put forward projections that are based on a lot of assumptions that the Finance minister can't even explain on the floor of this Legislature today. If I had done this, we would have been in this House for weeks and weeks and weeks. I think it's a real disappointment that this is what we got, and even these figures leave a lot of room for interpretation.
Mr. Chair, we have in this document in front of us today, which was tabled yesterday, a best case/worst case scenario, and in both cases they are estimating the O&M lapses for this 1997-98 year at $6.5 million. Next year, they drop to $2.5 million. Can I have an explanation from the Finance minister?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, first of all, there was an explanation, and it was given yesterday, Mr. Chair, and I'll repeat it. Secondly, I think it would have been appreciated. Perhaps I would have wanted a lot more, and perhaps there will be more in the future, but it would have been very much appreciated, not only by the opposition, but by the public who were put through agony by that member even though he was putting record-sized budgets through this Legislature. That member had so much money to spend, it was incredible, and yet the public and public servants and NGOs were put through agony by the messages coming out of that member.
If the member had sent even the mildest long-term signal, it would have been very much appreciated by the public.
With respect to the issue of the projections of lapsed funding, what we're suggesting here is that because the O&M budgets have in fact been curtailed and have in fact been cut, the amount of lapsed funding would be less than historically expected. That's what we've been saying.
There's no way of knowing how much lapsed funding there will be, but we know it's been down as low as $2.5 million, largely because of squeezed O&M budgets. Of course, this current year, in the fall, we did squeeze most O&M budgets by one and a half percent.
So, clearly, there should not be an expectation that the amount of lapses, which had been as high as $15 million on the operation side - and a member will remember a figure of $20 million - will not be realized in the future. So, this is a best estimate. It is not known because we have not experienced the future years yet.
Mr. Ostashek: I know the Finance minister and Government Leader is very sensitive to a question on this because this isn't what they promised Yukoners at all. He can scream and holler all he wants, but that isn't going to stop us from asking the questions that we have to ask of this Finance minister. He can lose his temper all he wants. I couldn't care less.
He just got up here and made a statement that they've squeezed the budget, yet for 1997-98 he's forecasting a $6.5 million lapse, after just standing there on his feet and telling us that he's squeezed the budgets. Then, he turns around and tells us there's going to be $4 million less next year.
I find it hard to follow that line of thinking. Maybe the Finance minister could enlighten me, without me having to go back through the records here, or maybe his deputy minister has it: what were the operation and maintenance lapses in the 1996-97 fiscal year?
If he doesn't have them right now, I can continue on another line of questioning.
I want to explore the projections of the territorial revenues, because I would like to know what the rationale is for the projections. Whether I agree with them or not, I would still like to know where the rationale comes from.
We have a worst case scenario. I would just like to go over this very slowly, a line at a time, so we can try to get our head wrapped around what the Finance minister is trying to project to Yukoners.
The territorial revenue for the 1998-99 year is $80.5 million. I believe that's probably under the budget books. For 1999-2000, it's projected to increase by $1.5 million. This is the worst case scenario, where the mine shuts down. We are, on the other hand, saying that we're going to have a smaller Canada health and social services transfer because, my assumption is, there are going to be fewer people in the Yukon. If there're going to be fewer people in the Yukon, I believe there are going to be fewer people paying taxes. So, I can't see how the overall territorial revenue is going to go up.
The transfer from Canada is going to go up because of the failsafe arrangement, I believe. If we don't have the territorial revenues, we are going to get more from Canada. Can the Finance minister give us some explanation on that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes. The projections about territorial revenue or income are received by information we get from the federal government. This is, at this time, their projection.
Chair: Order please. The time being 8:30 p.m., is it the members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I want to get back to this document that we were on before the break, but I just wanted to look in the budget book here at some comments that the Government Leader was making just prior to the break, in that he's doing a lot different from what the Yukon Party government was doing because we had the biggest budgets ever.
The way I look at it, the revenues are down somewhat this year, but not that dramatically. I think overall it's a four-percent drop, but the Yukon Party was spending every - not every dollar we had; we did manage to build a fairly substantial surplus over the four years we were in office. I don't see this government doing anything different. They're spending all the money they're getting. So I really don't know what the argument is or what position the Finance minister is putting forward on that.
I do want to get back to this because, as I said earlier, I don't know how the Finance minister can expect Yukoners to have any faith in this document. Even in the short time my colleague and I have been at it here, there are so many assumptions that there's nothing here that could give me any level of comfort or any Yukoners any level of comfort as to what's going to happen.
The government is saying that they're going to be working on assumptions of revenue from this year forward. We just heard the Finance minister tell the House that the $1.5 million in the projected increase in territorial revenues next year is because of the fact that he's used StatsCan population figures in this. Yet it appears to me from the Canada health and social transfer being down, and the transfer from Canada being up, that we didn't use StatsCan population figures for those assumptions. Can the minister enlighten us on that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, there are a number of factors that go into the CHST calculation, not simply population, so there are a number of things that would be taken into account. The members seem to be under the impression that all the numbers here are drawn from a hat, perhaps my hat, and that somehow they therefore lack credibility.
Well, the members will know that these figures were determined through calculations made by the Department of Finance. If the members want to have a greater degree of understanding of what those calculations were, I'd be happy to encourage them to spend some time tomorrow morning and talk about the assumptions and the nature of the calculations, and they can determine for themselves whether or not they feel that sufficient analysis has gone in through the Department of Finance toward creating these numbers on the revenue side.
The member asked the question with respect to the O&M lapse for 1996-97. The gross lapse was $2,237,000.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the member for that. Mr. Chair, I want to make it very clear to the Finance minister that I'm not criticizing or thinking that the Finance department has pulled these numbers out of a hat. What I'm trying to point out to the Finance minister is the weakness of his argument, when he was in opposition, that we could accurately project into the future with any amount of certainty as to what was going to happen.
That's the debate that's going on tonight and I don't need a technical briefing from the Finance department. I know they do a masterful job. I know they're working on the best figures possible. I'm in this debate with the Finance minister because he proposed to Yukoners that he was going to bring forward, I believe, a three- or a five-year plan that was going to give some accurate budgeting forecasts, which I disagreed with at the time and that's why I never brought them forward and I still disagree today and that's why I'm investigating this document with the Finance minister.
Just to get back to the part about the lapses last year and then the projection of the $6.5 million for this year, what's the change that gives the Finance minister the confidence that there's going to be $6.5 million? I know he can't project it accurately, but that seems to be a substantial increase over the O&M lapses of last year. What's in the budget that is going to give him that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This is based on the $6.5 million. The portion that is O&M lapses is based on the best knowledge that we have now from departments. Tomorrow, I understand we're going to get the period 10 variance, and we'll get an even more accurate picture. That's our understanding. Quite clearly, we have set up suggestions that the estimated lapse would be $2.5 million, and it is a conservative estimate. That's not to say it's the lowest because, as I just mentioned, 1996-97 was even lower than our conservative estimate. It's substantially lower than what we feel is going to take place for this current fiscal year, but it is an estimate.
With respect to the whole notion of forecasting, governments forecast expenditures and revenues all the time. The fact that we don't know doesn't mean that the forecasting exercise is worthless. So, I think there the member and I disagree. I do think there is some purpose to it.
However, the most important element of this is to be sending signals to the public about what they can expect - as much as you can - to send messages of stability to the public. My estimation of public opinion is they don't want to ride a roller-coaster. With different messages getting around - we have money, we have no money - they want to get some sense of stability and predictability over time.
It's not a perfect measure on the revenue side. Clearly, it's not. The member is quite correct. It never is, but I guess it's a best guess, and that's the point.
Mr. Ostashek: That's exactly the point I'm trying to make and that's exactly the reason that I wouldn't bow to the pressure from the now-minister when he was in opposition. I don't think it's worth anything to make a best guess.
The other difficulty that I have with this document - he says that there is going to be no up and down. Well, I'm sorry, we're talking about net capital expenditures. My interpretation of that term is that that's the money the territorial government is going to spend on capital. That's not counting if the Shakwak project comes along or some other big project comes along.
Is the Finance minister telling me that, by putting out this document, if a Shakwak project comes along and puts $20 million into highways, it will not be included in the budget and it isn't going to cause a dramatic upsurge in the amount of money that's being spent? I think not. I'm sure that the Finance minister and the Government Leader would want to see that money spent to put Yukoners to work.
So, we don't have a document here that we can establish any faith in. I still have not got the revenue side clear from the Finance minister, and I'm just in the first year. I've got some more questions on the following years yet, too, because I think that the further out we get, the more difficult it is to forecast.
Are the same population figures being used in the transfer from Canada and the health and social transfer as are on the revenue side? That's the thing I'm trying to get at.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The assumptions about population are the same, but there are different weights given to population, depending on what it is you're talking about - the grant or the CHST.
Mr. Chair, the member is quite right in one respect. If the Shakwak project is approved - and we expect it will be - we certainly will take the money and we'll spend it on the Shakwak project, and that will create a balloon in activity. But, in a sense, that is something over which we have very little control. We could refuse the money, but that's not realistic, particularly given that we're trying to get the money.
For those expenditures over which we do have some control, we would like to send some clearer signals. There is no precision to this process, and I'm certain the federal Finance minister would be the first to agree that there is no precision. But, it does no harm, in my view, to do a best guess based on the technical advice we have from Finance. The member is quite right, Finance has put a lot of thought into the figures behind this and there are all kinds of calculations behind these figures.
If the members want to have those calculations, they can have the calculations. I don't have any problem with that.
With respect to the fact that we know it's artificial, as I say, in my view that does not mean we should not do it. The member says that he wasn't going to bend to pressure. Okay. But my view is that this is a worthwhile exercise and it does provide some measure of internal discipline in our government, and in any government, to try to meet those expenditure targets, on the expenditure side particularly. Those are targets we are going to attempt to meet, based on the best information we have now.
It is difficult - and the member I am certain knows this - without a lot more public discussion about capital priorities, to predict thoroughly what the detail of the budgets are going to be, because those budgets will change. But in terms of overall spending and its impact on the territorial economy, in general terms, this is what we anticipate, and I'd be the first to admit - and the words are going into Hansard right now - that these projections may not be realized in two or three years' time. But they are a good target and, on the expenditure side, something that the government is going to work toward.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, one thing I will say is that, while I don't agree with the document, because I don't believe it's what the Finance minister promised Yukoners - I don't believe that's what he asked me to produce when I was in government - this is a projection and projections are not long-term budgeting by any means. One thing that I'm sure both I and the other opposition members will be watching very, very closely is his forecasts of net expenditures, over which he does have a lot of control, and we'll see how close he comes to his projections in the next couple of budgets.
But I do want to go back to the revenue side of this document, because I'm having a lot of difficulty with this document. I'll just ask the Finance minister to bear with me.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: We may be here for a couple of days on this.
We may be, because I think Yukoners need to have a better understanding of how much faith they can put in this document, how much they can't put in it. When we move from 1999-2000 to 2000-01, on the worst case scenario, we have a dramatic jump in territorial revenues. Now, this document says that the worst case scenario is a permanent closure of the Faro mine, yet we have a projection here of a $4.5-million increase in territorial revenue over the next fiscal year, 1998-99.
Now, we have the Canada health and social transfer staying at the same level as projected for next year. We have the transfer from Canada up another $5.5 million. I need some rationale as to how we're going to achieve those - or even come close to achieving those. What does the Government Leader see happening in the Yukon that's going to increase territorial revenues by $5 million if the Faro mine stays down? Is there something he sees out there that I, my colleagues and other Yukoners don't see? Why is the transfer from Canada going to go up? Is it because of an increase in population, and if so, what is going to cause that increase in population? I'd like to know what their rationale is and what some of the things are that have been taken into consideration for putting the projections for the year 2000-01.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, first of all, I would point out to the member that he is having trouble understanding calculations that were put forward not by me but by the department. He does feel that they are important, and I would suggest to him, contrary to his previous assertion, that he do sit down with Finance and talk it over with them, because they would be able to provide the information. They have the charts there so that he can see, in the first instance, that the calculation has been made, and he can see the detail of that calculation and understand that there is rationale to each one.
As I say again, the calculations are based on statistical projections by various federal agencies. For example, the Conference Board of Canada's projection on PL escalator does show a jump and a very significant jump and it's the most significant factor in that calculation in that year, 1999-2000/2000-01. So there are reasons for those changes being suggested. They're not just drawn out of a hat.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, if the Finance minister is selling this document to the public as projections for what he believes is going to happen in the next five years, then he ought to be able to stand in this House and explain them. I shouldn't have to go to the Finance department for a technical briefing on projections. He is the one who said in opposition that he was going to do some long-range budgeting. He is the one who has presented these figures in the Legislature and I want answers from him. I want to know what he knows about these figures and how much we could depend on these figures being accurate.
Let me point out to the member opposite that StatsCan doesn't know as well as the Finance minister himself, officials in the Yukon, the opposition members about what's happening in the Yukon. They're working a numbers game - strictly a numbers game. I have great difficulty accepting that we're going to have enough of an increase in population unless there's something that the Government Leader knows that I don't know about some economic activity that's going to happen in the Yukon in the years 2000 and 2001 to give us that increased revenue, to give us that increased transfer payment from Ottawa. Then the opposite side of the coin that I look at - if, in fact, this is going to happen on the revenue side - we see a very meagre increase in the operation and maintenance expenditures of government. So, if we're going to accept that we're going to have those kinds of increases in figures in population, then we have to expect that it's going to cost more money to service that population.
That's the difficulty that I'm having with it.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The member has a short memory, Mr. Chair. If we were to look back in Hansard over the four years that the member was the Finance minister, I can't tell him how many times he suggested that if I wanted technical information that I should be going to the Finance department, and he would be setting up a briefing - which I always accepted and didn't dispute. But I find it to be a remarkable change of mind, change of heart on the member's part; nevertheless, we can go through it here, piece by piece, if the member wants to. That's fine by me. They know they have 35 days. That's fine by me. They can spend it any way they want.
With respect to the projections, we've always used projections by various federal agencies because we don't have, to the same extent - other than our own anecdotal understanding - the analytical process here to provide the figures. In any case, the federal government, with respect to the amount they will give Yukon in any particular area, will use their own statistical analysis, and not ours, to determine what it might be.
But, we project that this, based on our best knowledge, with the best statistical analysis that we have, is the best information we can provide. If there were another statistical analyses that we could rely on that would be credible with the general public, we would use them.
The federal government uses the Conference Board of Canada. Therefore, we use the Conference Board of Canada when it comes to projecting, for example, revenues coming from the federal government. If we had something equivalent to the Conference Board, we could use that, if it were focused on the Yukon, but we don't. We don't have anything like that that the member or, perhaps, the general public, would find to be reliable prognosticators.
Mr. Ostashek: Let me make it very clear to the Finance minister. I appreciate the technical briefings by the Finance people on the budgets. Those are hard numbers. I don't need to ask those questions on the floor of the Legislature where politics get into it, based on technical information in the budget.
This, in my opinion, may have been drafted by the Finance department using their best estimates.
What I'm trying to find out from the Finance minister - and I think we've poked a lot of holes in it tonight; we even got him to admit that none of this is carved in stone and it could change - that this is not the whole capital budget; it is the net expenditures that he's going to have, and if he gets another $20 million that's being funded by someone else, he's going to spend it. I don't know how he projects that to give stability to the Yukon public. That's why I want him to answer the questions, and I don't want to go to the Finance department for a technical briefing on this.
Mr. Chair, I want to say to the Finance minister, let's use his scenario on the population side and on the revenue side. That's the best information they have. They're going to use StatsCan figures. Let's accept that, just for the sake of the debate here now. Let's turn to the expenditure side of the ledger. Well, we have that increase in revenues, which suggests to me an increase in population. Now, the Finance minister can correct me if I'm wrong. It suggests to me an increase in population. Is the Finance minister asking me to accept that he's going to be able to service that increasing population for $2.5 million, because that's all he's placed on the expenditure side of the ledger?
He's raised the revenue side substantially, from $379 million to $386.5 million. Yet, he's saying that he's only going to use $2.5 million to service that increased population.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, Mr. Chair, I have no problem answering political questions in the Legislature. The moment the member asks technical questions, such as, "Where did you get that figure from? Is that a reliable figure? What various factors were taken into account to determine that figure?" those are technical questions, and I am more than happy to relay it from the technicians. I am even happier if the member wants to take the time outside the Legislature to get the information from the horse's mouth and to also get a fuller understanding and perhaps even be given more information that he asked for.
That's the reason for the technical briefings, and the member opposite, himself, offered those technical briefings constantly.
With respect to the expenditure side of the equation, holding the O&M to a certain level at any time is going to take some discipline; there's no question about that. And what we're saying here, for example in the worst case scenario, meaning the economy is down, is that we're going to try our best - this is our plan - to hold the operation side to the levels that are seen here, based on the revenue that we think we'll get. That's what we're saying.
We are saying that for next year - the year, obviously, that we've got the main budget estimates for - and also for the year after that and the year after that and the year after that.
So, certainly there'll be a certain measure of discipline to be able to keep those overall estimates in that basic framework. It doesn't mean that some departments may not go up or that departments may go down, but we're going to try to hold, as much as we can, to these estimates, because we think that this does help send those stabilizing signals that we talked about tonight, in the election, prior to the election, and while we were in opposition, b
ecause we thought and we think and we do believe now - in fact know - that the public wants the government to be a more stabilizing force and send signals about being a more stabilizing force and to try to discipline itself to send predictable signals, because that helps them overcome what is otherwise a boom-and-bust economy.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, we go on with this in the worst case scenario, and we see again in the year 2001-02 another dramatic increase in the amount of revenue that the Yukon is going to get. We see a slight increase - another $1.5 million - in operation and maintenance.
The Finance minister stood here and told me that they're using StatsCan figures for the revenue side. I don't know what figures he's using for the operation and maintenance side. I have no idea what figures he's using. He's saying they are going to try to curtail operation and maintenance expenditures. I think that, even for what little faith anybody could put in this document, one of the things they're going to point out to the Finance minister is that he is running a deficit budget. He's projecting a balanced budget in the year 2000-01 and the year 2001-02. He's going to achieve that balanced budget only by an increase in revenues, not by cutting government expenses. I think that's going to be a concern to a lot of Yukoners.
I want to turn to the best case scenario. We have spent a substantial amount of time going over the revenue side of this document, saying that we're using StatsCan population figures. Now, if I remember correctly, StatsCan only has one set of population figures. Where do the figures come from for the projections of revenue for a best case scenario? What are they based on?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, the population estimates are our estimates.
With respect to the member's concern about the growth in O&M budgets in the worst case scenario, I'm not certain that I understand what the member is saying. Is he saying that Yukoners will not like to see the O&M budget remaining static, that they'll expect to see the O&M budget increase? Is that what he's advocating? What's the point of the remark? I'd like to know that, if he wouldn't mind telling me.
Just to help me out a little bit there, on the revenue side, this is not something over which we have a great deal of control, other than our pledge not to raise tax rates. In that respect, we do have some control over the revenues, but we've pledged not to raise further revenues ourselves. With respect to the expenditures side, we want to send stabilizing signals. So, we don't have control over the revenue. We do have control over the expenditures, and we are proposing to send stabilizing signals and try to discipline ourselves to live by those signals. That's why the document is, in fact, important.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, I don't know what the Finance minister is hearing from the public, but I heard it when I was in government and I'm still hearing it in opposition. Many Yukoners perceive government as being too big. They are not looking for more government; they are looking for less government. I said this in my budget reply speech. I said this in Question Period when we talked about First Nation governments coming on board and all other different levels of government. It's getting to the point where we pretty soon won't have enough tax dollars to cover it all.
I want to let my colleague ask a few questions, but I just want to make one point on here, and we'll get back to this tomorrow. Why are we using StatsCan population projections for a worst case scenario and why are we using territorial projections on population for best case scenario?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The population estimates are ours in both cases. They are our population estimates, but StatsCan is being used for certain elements of the - not for population, but there are a number of things that are being factored into the projections here. If the member wants to know in detail, then there are people who are willing to tell him the details.
I apologize. I didn't realize he was expressing concern about the O&M budget being static by suggesting that he thought that people would be concerned that the O&M budget wasn't going up. I take it from him that he is suggesting that people will be concerned because the O&M budget is not going down. Well, I don't think that's realistic. I'm certain that some people will want to see the O&M budget of the government going down, but I certainly don't understand the impact of that any more than they would have a few years back when the member himself was Finance minister.
The member himself, when he was the Finance minister, was saying he didn't know where else in this budget he could cut the operations side of the equation for fear there would be layoffs. He didn't think layoffs were appropriate. I don't disagree with him. Certainly, I don't think it would be appropriate, either.
I don't think our messages of stable spending and people's reliance on the operations side of the budget - and there are lots of Yukoners who rely on the operations side; everything from people who depend on a job grading our highways and providing a necessary service for us, to those people who provide services for which we have already committed ourselves to maintaining some stability.
I point out to the member, once again, that the growth recently in the health and social services and the education side was not for government. I mean, why do people always assume that the O&M budget is somehow a bunch of - they conjure up this picture of a bunch of public servants with absolutely enormous salaries looking at ways to house themselves, build themselves bigger computers and insulate themselves from the public without any particular utility.
When I think of the O&M side of the equation, I think of - yes, the Member for Klondike. I mean I just struck a chord with him. It must have been precisely what he thinks, but when I think of the operation side of the budget, I think of teachers in the schools teaching my children every day. I think of physicians taking care of people who are sick and suffering and who, without their help, might die. I think of people who grade the roads and make sure they're safe when people travel up and down the highways. I think of child care operators. I think of all kinds of people, even building inspectors, who provide a necessary service to the public.
That's what I think of when I think of the operating side of the budget. I think of useful services that should be maintained. There should be some sense of balance and some sense of predictability - stability - when it comes to providing those services.
I would contend that the public of the Yukon wants to see that stability. I would predict that the public of the Yukon would be upset if, on top of everything else that was happening in their lives, they couldn't even count on basic services that they've come to enjoy over the last 15 or 20 years.
I don't think that would be realistic and I don't think it would be right, and I don't think that's what people have been asking for.
So, when we project operation and maintenance expenditures to stay the same way or to go up a little bit, I think that's realistic and that would be what the general public would want.
I don't have philosophical, negative feelings toward the public services that this territory enjoys, and I have nothing but respect for the people who provide those services. If anything, there's going to be some discipline required in a worst case scenario in order to maintain stability for all, to flatline the operation and maintenance side of the ledger. That's the signal we want to send: some stability, but no growth. That will be a challenge. It certainly will be a challenge to ensure that those people who are living and using the capital budget that we're spending now will still, in overall terms, be able to expect that that same level of activity will be generated next year and the year after, et cetera.
So I think it is a balancing act. It is important that we do send those signals, but I've not campaigned on cutting O&M budgets. I've not campaigned on cutting services to people. I've campaigned on precisely the opposite.
Clearly, that's the message that people want to hear.
Mr. Chair, I would move that you report progress.
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: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 9, First Appropriation Act, 1998-99, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of the 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 9:25 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled March 4, 1998:
Yukon short-term economic outlook, 1998 (dated February 1998) (Harding)
The following Filed Document was tabled March 4, 1998:
Tax rate changes: impact of (McDonald)