Wednesday, April 22, 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?
In recognition of Earth Day
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, April 22 is widely observed as Earth Day, an opportunity to recognize our tie to the planet and the importance of looking after our planet. For almost 30 years, many people in grass roots organizations have used the date to reaffirm their commitment to, "A healthy, vibrant planet, a loving, caring world and the noblest endeavour of human spirit," in the words of Earthday Website.
Certainly, the local youth groups and students aware of their world help remind us what we can do to help the planet with their efforts to offer free juice and muffins to people who parked their cars and walked and cycled to work this morning.
With young people caring and reminding us to care for the earth, there is hope for the future.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
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?
Agricultural policy review
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to advise the House of our government's plan for a public review of the Yukon agriculture and grazing policies, consistent with our commitment to involve people in issues that affect them.
Agriculture for the '90s: AYukon Policy, was adopted to guide the development of industry in November 1991. It was split into two sections to deal with agricultural support programs delivered by the agricultural branch of the Department of Renewable Resources and to set out guidelines for the disposition of agricultural land.
The requirement for a review was built into the policy.
In the last year, the department completed an internal assessment of agricultural extension and development programs.
The public stage for the review will focus primarily on agricultural land aspects of the agriculture and grazing policies.
Mr. Speaker, in developing an approach to this review, our government has been keenly aware of both agricultural industry's interest in seeing improvements that meet its needs, as well as widespread public perceptions that agricultural land dispositions have not necessarily led to increased agricultural production.
We will involve both industry and a variety of other interests in an advisory committee to oversee the review from the outset. An interdepartmental work group will work with the committee to develop terms of reference for a contract to establish detailed performance indicators and evaluation criteria prior to the broad public consultation on policies.
The review is expected to look at whether there is enough privately held land to support a viable industry and whether that land is well utilized. It will also consider the environmental impacts of agricultural and grazing land dispositions and the effectiveness of current land use regulations and the advisability of additional measures to keep arable land in production.
Other anticipated subjects for debate are on the length of grazing lease terms, the appropriateness of fencing requirements, whether or not current provisions for offsetting agricultural land prices through development costs are appropriate and what types of operational needs should justify the issuance of grazing leases.
Work on setting terms of reference for the review will begin immediately upon the establishment of an advisory committee. Public consultation will follow the development of a review criteria and preparation for the consultation package.
I look forward to the members' support for this review and the active involvement of interested Yukon people.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Ostashek: I can say, from the outset, that we're pleased to see the minister going out for policy review but, again, we take exception to him making a ministerial statement on it, when it's really stretching the bounds of what is allowed in this Legislature. Ministerial statements are supposed to be a statement of a change of government policy. This government has been notorious for making statement after statement on consultation and very little about actual policy. So, I just want to put that on the record again, Mr. Speaker - that we feel they're abusing the rules of the Legislature for ministerial statements.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: We hear the bright light from Kluane chirping in the background. Once again, he doesn't make much sense, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, policy review is a good thing, and I hope that the minister listens very carefully to the people when he does the review. I don't have much comment on this because there's not much in here, except to say that they are going out to consult with the people, so I don't know what I can add to it at this point.
Ms. Duncan: I rise to respond to this ministerial statement on behalf of the Yukon Liberal Party caucus. The minister has advised the House, not so much of a commitment that's consistent with government policy, but commitment for a requirement for a review that was built into the policy originally, and indicated to the House how that public review will take place. However, the minister hasn't indicated when. There's no real calendar or estimated time frame contained in this ministerial statement, and that's one question I would like the minister to respond to.
The balance of the questions I will leave until the Renewable Resources debate, as we had a bit of a discussion on this subject during the briefing, and they're more technical. So I'll leave the other questions to the Renewable Resources budget debate, but could the minister just indicate what the time frame is for this review.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: There doesn't appear to be much opposition to the statement. It is a requirement, as the member said, under the policy to do a review, and we're doing it in two stages. With this, to add to the review of the agricultural policy, we're including the grazing policies along with it.
We feel that it is so closely related, it's a good opportunity to do a review at the same time as the agricultural review. We are going to be working on the terms of reference with the working group - the advisory committee. The advisory committee would involve a number of people, such as the Yukon Agricultural Association - I'm sure that they'll be doing some of the work in the review - the Fish and Game Association, Ducks Unlimited, the Conservation Society and First Nations - as is our commitment to communities and First Nations, dealing government-to-government. We'll continue to work with First Nations on a consultative basis on the policy.
When we put the terms of references and guidelines in place to do this, we will be much more clear as to when the completion of this review will be done. What we would like is for it to fit in nicely with the other consultation that the government is doing right now. As you know, we have a very heavy consultation package to communities with the different departments in government and we wanted this review to fit in nicely with that.
I guess that once the advisory committee is formed and is up and working, we will have a more clear understanding as to the final date of this review.
Community-based restorative justice strategy
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to inform members of some new initiatives that reflect our government's policy of working with Yukon people to develop community justice models that are truly responsive to the needs and values of Yukon society.
Throughout the Yukon, many communities and First Nations are actively seeking alternatives to the current criminal justice system, to provide for greater public accountability, speedier responses, more support for victims and a wider range of options for dealing with offenders.
Yukon people have expressed a desire for justice alternatives that bring real healing for victims and positive changes in offenders' lives.
As part of our government's overall approach to community-based restorative justice, the Department of Justice has been pursuing ways to allow more federal funds to flow to the Yukon under the federal aboriginal justice strategy, which is in place until April 2001.
Under this strategy, the federal government contributes 50-percent funding toward projects that help build the foundation for justice programs administered by aboriginal people. The Yukon government matches these funds.
I am pleased to inform the House that the department has signed a bilateral protocol with Justice Canada that will help tripartite negotiations of relevant justice proposals. Signing this protocol allows us to proceed with funding a number of community-based restorative justice projects.
More than $600,000 will be available for such projects in the Yukon during the current fiscal year. Our government is prepared to allocate more than $300,000 in cash or in-kind contributions.
Community organizations and First Nations that will receive funding for restorative justice projects include: Southern Lakes Justice Committee, based in Carcross; Carmacks Justice Committee; Dawson City Community Justice; Haines Junction Community Justice; Kwanlin Dun First Nation Justice; Liard First Nation; Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, and Teslin Tlingit Council.
My officials are developing contribution agreements for these projects, which will involve both aboriginal and non-aboriginal offenders.
Mr. Speaker, with these actions our government is building upon our commitment to work together with Yukon people to seek alternatives to the current criminal justice system.
The department is also making plans to begin public consultations later this year to seek the views of Yukon people on ways to reduce crime and to restore the balance of community justice when crimes do occur in a manner that meets the needs of the individuals, families and communities involved.
This dialogue will help all of us identify and support crime prevention and victim services initiatives that will build the foundations for safe and healthy Yukon communities.
Mr. Phillips: We in the official opposition rise in support of the initiative that has been announced by the minister here today.
Mr. Speaker, the public has grown increasingly frustrated and fed up with the inability of our justice system to serve the public.
Mr. Speaker, I noticed in the ministerial statement that we have before us today that this is a project that's being undertaken in conjunction with the federal government, and, in fact, the minister mentioned tripartite negotiations, and I suspect by that that she means First Nations as well. I was wondering why the federal government got so little mention in the press release. It almost looks like a Government of the Yukon program, other than the short mention that 50 percent of the funding was coming from the federal government. I wouldn't think that the federal government would be very happy about that.
If they are tripartite negotiations, and we are talking government to government to government, maybe the minister can tell me how much of a contribution the First Nations will be putting forward in this initiative as a contributing government to a project such as this.
Mr. Speaker, anything such as this that would provide for better accountability, speedier responses and more support for the victims, I'm sure will be welcomed by people in the justice system and by the general public. I think what's most important is that it follows the recommendations out of the Talking About Crime report done under Yukon Party government, where it urges any initiative to be done at the community level. So, I appreciate the fact that the government is following that recommendation in that report.
Mr. Speaker, a couple of questions that I have are about the basic criteria for the Justice projects. Are there any specific criteria set out for the projects? Does the minister have any idea when these agreements will be negotiated and when the projects will actually start? Is there any kind of monitoring or followup that will be done on the projects to determine the effectiveness of the project?
Mr. Speaker, as well, I notice that of projects in some of the other communities, there was one in the Kwanlin Dun First Nation but there was no specific project initiative for the City of Whitehorse. I wonder if that's because they don't qualify for one reason or another. Maybe the minister could let us know in her response.
Mr. Speaker, we're pleased to see that this initiative is getting underway and we're going to look forward to the projects providing more accountability in our Justice system in the future.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cable: I think everyone feels that the community fails when the system does not deal with victims' concerns. Any moves in that direction are to be supported and are supported by the Liberal caucus.
But the community also fails when it does not work out ways of dealing with offenders, particularly repeat offenders. Everyone who goes into the courts or in the sentencing circles and is recycled is a failure to the system and the system is a failure on the part of the offender. Repeat offenders are a social cost, an economic cost, and for the victims they are a psychological cost.
The Yukon public has heard speech after speech about new programs. What the public has not heard is how the government is going to gauge the effectiveness of crime programs. How are we going to figure out the effectiveness of the juvenile offender sentencing options in relation to repeat offences? How are we trying to figure out what works with adult repeat offenders?
Now, there's no shortage of ideas on how to deal with crime and with criminals. There is a shortage of ideas on determining the effectiveness of the various options for dealing with offenders, whether it's the present options or the wider range of options talked about in the statement. It would be useful for the minister to tell us what her department is doing to determine the effectiveness of her various initiatives.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'd like to thank the opposition members for their support.
Mr. Speaker, people throughout the Yukon have told me they want to be involved in reforming the justice system. We all see the need for improvements. We're building and strengthening partnerships, as some of the programs I referred to earlier show, and we need to do more.
We're working on improving public safety, preventing crime and resolving conflict. This restorative justice initiative is broader than just the aboriginal justice strategy, which is funding specific projects, as identified in the ministerial statement. A restorative justice system should give communities a primary role in developing policies and programs.
We gauge the effectiveness of existing programs and new programs by maintaining statistics on recidivism and by supporting other options to see how they work. Part of measuring the effectiveness of programs is having the continued discussion with the public on how to make improvements.
We can also reduce the level of crime through early intervention initiatives, and our government has taken a number of measures in that area, as well, that the Minister of Health has advised us of. But we need to find ways for offenders to repair the harm that they've done to their victims, to the families, the communities and themselves, by their criminal behaviour, and that builds healthier and stronger relationships and leads to a reduction in crime.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Electrical rate increase
Mr. Ostashek: My question's to the Government Leader on the consequences of NDP political interference into the operation of YEC. The Government Leader was part of a previous NDP government that, in 1987, accepted the transfer of assets from the Northern Canada Power Commission to the Yukon Energy Corporation.
Mr. Speaker, during those heady days, the YEC was treated as a cash cow by the NDP government of the day, with some $16 million alone being squandered on the Watson Lake sawmill, millions of dollars being spent on other non-energy-related projects, such as renovations to Yukon College.
Well, Mr. Speaker, the YEC cash cow has gone dry. It has been milked dry by this NDP government, and now Yukon ratepayers and businesses and municipalities are going to have to face the consequences of the NDP financial mismanagement through ever-increasing power rates at a time when they can least afford to pay.
It is time for the people to stand up and say, enough is enough, and that this political interference in the YEC has to stop. Does the Government Leader not agree that a 16-percent increase at this time for municipalities and businesses is totally outrageous?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the member will not find it surprising if I disagree with his basic proposition, virtually all his preamble, and his recounting of history. I know the member wasn't there at the time, and I know that he's reading from the tablets that have been bequeathed to him by his colleagues.
I forgive him for his ignorance on the subject. Nevertheless, I don't agree with virtually anything he said with respect to the actions of the NDP government over a decade ago.
With respect to the point of the question, which I think is a reference to the application before the Yukon Utilities Board by the Yukon Energy Corporation, proposing, ultimately, a 16-percent increase, the member has obviously made it clear that he thinks that's too high.
Now, I'm a little bit surprised. The member will forgive me if I'm a little surprised, because the member had said, only a month ago, that he expected that the utility would likely be filing for an increase of 30 percent - and perhaps up to a 45-percent increase - because the member remembered what happened when he was leading the government and the Energy Corporation asked for a 58-percent increase.
So, I'm certain that the member was expressing some concerns or some flashbacks to his time in government.
Now, the Energy Corporation is putting a proposal before the Yukon Utilities Board. They are trying to make a case to the Yukon Utilities Board that this is desirable. We've obviously also put forward, for public review, some other alternatives for a lower increase. Consequently, we will be monitoring very carefully what the public has to say, as well as what the Yukon Utilities Board decides.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, let me make it quite clear to the Government Leader that I'm not ignorant of the facts of the previous administration, nor are the Yukoners who had to suffer through it.
It is 16 percent in the first year and going up for the next five years - that's what's going in front of the Utilities Board today, and the Energy Corporation Board is trying to put the best possible spin on it they can.
Quite clearly, the board has its back to the wall and it's been put there by this government and previous NDP governments through continual political interference and squandering of Yukon Energy Corporation money.
The Yukon Energy Corporation submission to the Utilities Board says that there's no light at the end of the tunnel. That's what Yukoners are going to read into it. The Yukon Energy Corporation is requesting power increases for the next five years. Businesses and municipalities are going to have to pass these increases on to individual Yukoners.
We've already seen what one municipality thinks of it, Mr. Speaker. And there is going to be more, I'm sure. They have no choice, as this is a time of a depressed economy.
What is this government going to do to build some optimism with Yukoners that, at some time in the future, they're going to be able to enjoy lower power rates?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, first of all, based on the member's stubborn attachment to his recounting of history, I can only say now that not only is he ignorant but he is blissfully ignorant of the past.
There is no doubt, Mr. Speaker, that the Anvil Range mine, when it closed and when it closed in 1993, caused the utility to request an increase, and the member, of course, has his flashbacks, I'm sure, late at night, about why he was expected to somehow respond to or answer for a 58-percent increase being requested by the utility of the day.
Now, after the review that we have done in the last year, we have considered and put forward an option which suggests that we don't need to be thinking about a 58-percent increase, even though there are some hefty mortgages associated with the utility. We can be thinking about something that is very modest by comparison and flatlined in the future.
So, the government feels comfortable that there is that option on the table right now, which achieves better affordability and better stability than ever before, and certainly much moreso than the Yukon Party government offered while they were in power.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, it's quite clear to see that the Government Leader is very ignorant of the rate increases that were brought in last time because there was no such thing as 58 percent, and he full well knows it, but he likes to twist things around to suit himself in this Legislature and hope that Yukoners will buy into it, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, the unemployment rate is running over 15 percent and would be higher except many Yukoners have given up on this government and left the territory. These unacceptably higher power rates are going to force more business closures, they're going to further depress the economy, and will act as a major deterrent to anyone looking to invest in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, this Government Leader and his party promised stable, affordable power rates to Yukoners. Yet, by the submission that was made to the YUB this morning, it's quite clear that he can't deliver on that in his mandate.
When is this Government Leader going to keep his promise to Yukoners to bring in affordable power rates?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to point out that when the member was in office, the utility did request 58 percent. They didn't get 58 percent, but they did request it.
The utility is now asking for eight to 16 percent, spaced out over time. That doesn't say they're going to get it, but that's what they're asking for.
The point of the matter, Mr. Speaker, is that the utility is now asking for substantially less, understanding better the direction of the government. Whether they get it or not will be up to the Utilities Board.
But I want to point out to the member, who is asking the government - presumably me or the minister responsible for the Energy Corporation - to interfere and not even let the public utility even make a statement publicly that's not perfectly consistent with the government proposals, to make the obvious point, that in fact this utility is an independent body in many respects, and this utility does have a mind of its own and it is making a case for slightly higher rates.
The government has a proposal, Mr. Speaker, on the table, which is substantially less. But even though the utility is suggesting that the rate should be higher than even the government thinks it should be, and both these competing propositions are out for public discussion, and ultimately the Yukon Utilities Board is going to at least decide at one stage on the subject of rates, I would point out that in both cases, they are substantially less than what the Yukon Party government was fear-mongering about only a month ago when they were talking about 30 percent, and I think they got it upwards of 45 percent.
So, clearly, the member doesn't have credibility on this subject. A lot of work is going in -
Speaker: Would the member please conclude?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, Mr. Speaker. The government is trying to promote more affordable rates, and certainly stability is very much part of our thinking.
Question re: Electrical rate increase
Mr. Ostashek: Finally, Mr. Speaker, finally we've got an admission from this Government Leader when he talks about the independence. He says the board is independent "in many respects." I suggest to him: not in all respects. That's part of the problem that they're facing.
Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Government Leader, once again, on the NDP's interference and decimation of the Energy Corporation.
Management of our utility by this government and previous NDP governments has been atrocious. Ironically, Yukon is one of the few jurisdictions in Canada that has the potential to become energy self-sufficient and actually have cheaper power. But the vision of a bright and reasonably priced energy future, however, has been basically stomped into the ground by this Government Leader and his administration.
I would like the Government Leader to explain to Yukoners and to the YEC Board how the Yukon is ever going to develop a grid system and other infrastructure to reduce our energy system's current dependence on expensive diesel fuel if NDP governments don't allow YEC to retain enough money to build this infrastructure.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That's a good question, Mr. Speaker. I'll just quickly point out a couple of things first. The member wants us to admit to some sort of atrocious record, when this government is proposing an option which calls for a nine-percent increase and the utility is asking for 16 percent. The member presided over a government where the utility was asking for a 58-percent increase. I will accept our record over his record any day. I'm certain that most people in the public would feel the same way.
Now, I realize the member was reading out all that highfalutin hyperbole there - that rhetoric that he's been given by Mr. Steele to read into the record. But I would point out to the member that what he is suggesting is that the utility be given sufficient money from the ratepayers today, through the rates, in order to build projects, such as the member's coal project that he couldn't stop talking about for four years.
Well, Mr. Speaker, the proposals that we have on the record now clearly put the priority of keeping the money in people's pockets, rather than extracting it, so that the utility can go out and build new projects which, ultimately, will come with new mortgages as well and, ultimately, even greater debt and, ultimately, even greater risk to people in this territory. We can't buy into that vision, Mr. Speaker. The people don't like that vision. That's why the member's in the opposition.
Mr. Ostashek: Yukoners know they can't buy into that vision because they don't have any vision of the future of the Yukon. They've creamed all the money off YEC over the years that they were in power, and that's why Yukoners are faced with the massive increases that they are today.
Mr. Speaker, the only infrastructure that this government developed that I can recall was an election gimmick in the 1980s to provide power free of charge to Henderson's Corner, outside of Dawson City - a power line that was promoted to Yukoners as a pre-build for the Mayo extension, which Yukoners are still waiting for, Mr. Speaker, and which they were told after the election, even if it happens, they couldn't use the power line that went to Henderson's Corner. That's all that we've had from this government.
In the budget address, the government stated that the government's now examining the feasibility of an inter-tie with B.C. Hydro, an idea that they thought was ridiculous when they were in opposition. But no, theirs is a new and improved version, and it's going to work.
Can the Government Leader explain to Yukoners, how are we going to accomplish this thing when we're going to reduce the rate of return for YEC, the NDP government's creamed off all the profits, they have no money to do anything? How are these things going to be accomplished?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, our vision is to keep ratepayers' money in ratepayers' pockets. Our vision is not to put mega-bucks into mega-projects with mega-mortgages ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: ... that will put this territory at risk. That's not our vision. The member wants to talk about vision. The member brought forward, at great length, his idea for a great, big coal-fired electrical generating station. The only debate around the Cabinet table, presumably, in those days was whether it was going to be $75 million or $125 million, or whatever the price was going to be.
The point is it is a huge mortgage. Now where would we be today if we had that huge mortgage? Well, Mr. Speaker, we wouldn't even be talking. While the Yukon Party was in power, the 58 percent that they were asking for when Anvil Range went down would look like peanuts compared to what the utility would have to be asking for now in order to pay for this member's vision. Our vision is to keep ratepayers' money in ratepayers' pockets. That's our vision.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I'm glad he's going to leave the ratepayers a few cents because he's been picking their pockets for years with their policies on power in the Yukon. They've been picked almost dry.
Mr. Speaker, with the size of the current power rate increases for municipalities and businesses being 16 percent the first year - and climbing; that's not the end of it - several communities and businesses will find it considerably cheaper to go it alone and produce their own power. We already have the City of Dawson threatening that. That is going to cost YEC more customers and consequently reduce the profits. I would like to know how this Government Leader...
Speaker: Order please. I would ask the Member for Kluane to stop his heckling, please.
Mr. Ostashek: I would like to ask the Government Leader how he and his government are going to cope with the potential problem of driving customers away from the grid. They've already done it with several private industry customers because they can't provide power at a reasonable cost, and the problem is going to get worse and worse, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'll take the opportunity - rather than respond to all the nonsense in the member's preamble and even the tone of the question - to simply say this: we are proposing, and we've put on the table, some options which talk about more affordable electrical rate increases, nine percent and flatlined over the next four or five years, in order to ensure that the power is as affordable as possible and the rates are stable. That's what we've said we are prepared to do because we've put ratepayers very high on the list of priorities - in fact, at the top of the list.
So, I want to point out to the member that when the member talks about wanting to build new infrastructure, he's talking about building new mortgages, building new responsibilities, building new costs, increasing the risk and, ultimately, increasing rates. The member's vision does serious damage to ratepayers and serious damage to the potential for this economy. We don't buy that vision.
The Energy Corporation has put forward a proposal. It's different from the government's proposal. People have a chance to weigh all of the proposals and make comment. If they want higher rates, they can ask for higher rates. If they want lower rates, they can ask for lower rates.
The point of the matter is that the government is very much - and even the Energy Corporation to a lesser extent - thinking about more affordable rates and, certainly, stable rates.
Question re: Family Violence Prevention Act, regulations
Mrs. Edelman: My question is for the Minister of Justice.
In November 1997, the minister introduced the family violence legislation. This legislation is not doing anything for families, particularly women, because no regulations have yet been enacted. The minister indicated that she has, at last, struck an implementation committee to, and I quote, "Form the process of developing regulations" on the Family Violence Prevention Act. Why is the first consultation meeting scheduled for the end of April, and is ongoing consultation scheduled for throughout the summer?
Surely, the minister has been in the Yukon long enough to know that summer is not the best time to hold a consultation process. Or, is this a new angle of the NDP - pretend consultation? Hold it when no one is available, so you can pretend you consulted.
If the minister really cared about input into this process, she would have made sure that the consultation took place when people were available. Why is this consultation in the summer?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I guess the member didn't remember the answers that I gave to her question when she asked it a couple of weeks ago, so I'll respond to them again gladly.
As I indicated, Mr. Speaker, when the member first asked that question, the implementation committee was not struck until we had received responses from all the organizations who were invited to send representatives to participate on the implementation committee.
We now have had responses from First Nations, from women's groups, from shelters, from people around the territory who are interested in participating on the implementation advisory committee.
I would also respond to the member that the consultation work is beginning now. It is not summer in April and May and June. We do not write off six months for summer. We are starting the process now, we will continue it through and, if it's not completed before people have gone for summer vacations, it can continue after people return from their summer vacations.
Mrs. Edelman: Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, this is going to be "virtual" consultation, as the minister has not allocated any funding to conduct it.
Will the minister tell the House where she intends to get the money for this consultation process and how much money she has available for this very important legislation affecting Yukoners, particularly Yukon women?
She indicated last November that funds are available within the Justice budget for education purposes. Exactly how much money is available for public awareness, training for the JPs and the RCMP, and the consultation process?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I do not have a specific dollar figure that I can give to the member on my feet. I can look into that. What I can tell the member is that we have staff resources and money in the budget to cover the costs of talking with communities. That's a regular part of how we do business, so there are funds available to do that.
Mrs. Edelman: On November 18, 1997, the minister stated in the House that the implementation may take up to a year to complete. If the minister is sure that she has appropriate time and resources available to complete the consultation, will she commit today that she will meet the one-year time frame she promised in the House last November?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I indicated that it may take up to a year to complete the implementation. What I can make a commitment to to the member is that we will complete the work of talking to communities and having public involvement before we finalize the implementation of the legislation. The member stood there and requested that we have implementation that ensures community input, and that's exactly what we will do.
Question re: Energy issues, questionnaire
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the energy commissioner. The energy commissioner recently sent out a questionnaire to Yukoners on energy issues. I think the questionnaire's a good idea, but I'm having some trouble with the questions. The first question reads, "There is a general direction to encourage Yukoners to reduce their use of energy. Do you feel this would be a good policy for the government to adopt?" Then question 6 reads, "The government is working to reduce energy consumption within their own operations. Do you support this approach?"
The question I have for the commissioner is, does he really think we have to canvass the public on those questions? Does he seriously think somebody is going to reply saying, "Shucks, I think we should be wasting energy"? Why are we wasting paper on determining the obvious?
Mr. McRobb: I'm glad the member has taken me up on the offer to read some of the excellent product the commission has available. I would suggest that he not cherry pick, you know, certain parts of the questions out of the questionnaire, and deal with it in the context for which it is intended.
I think the member is maybe confusing electrical energy with total energy for home heating and so on, and in government buildings. As the member knows, the government has initiatives now underway and is contemplating furthering those initiatives, depending on the feedback from the public. Certainly, these issues probably will elicit a positive response. We want to see what better ideas are out there, and that's part of the consultation process.
Mr. Cable: I think what the public is getting on to is the real reason why we're having energy rate increases. Let me cherry pick another question for the minister.
Let me read question 7(4). "The government could reduce the cost of regulating electricity rates by streamlining the regulatory process while maintaining adequate accountability of the utilities companies. Do you agree with this approach? Yes. Explain", or "No. Explain."
Does the commissioner seriously think that more than one percent of the population would find that question comprehensible?
Mr. McRobb: Obviously, the opposition parties aren't able to comprehend the question. Otherwise, maybe we'd get some constructive feedback from them.
First of all, Mr. Speaker, I want to make it clear that I did not write these questions. These questions came out of this commission, okay? This is a staff -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Mr. McRobb: This is a staff issue. If the member has a problem with it, maybe he can, you know, deliver his concerns to me, and I'll discuss them with the deputy commissioner.
Mr. Cable: In case the commissioner is missing the point, I am delivering the concerns right now.
When will the results be compiled, and will the commissioner be providing the House with the results immediately after he has them?
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, from what I understand, these results are being compiled by the statistics branch, and after that the results will be made public, and I'll ensure the member gets a copy of these results when they are available.
Question re: Finlayson caribou, predator control
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the minister responsible for Renewable Resources. Yesterday in the House, the minister stated that the reason why the Fish and Wildlife Management Board agreed with the recommendation to do a permit hunt in the Finlayson area was to get much more clear numbers on the harvest in the area. Well, this, I believe, is totally absurd, because the minister knows that they've had compulsory reporting by hunters in the area. If they don't fill out the forms, they don't get a licence next year. He knows the number of caribou killed last year was 57.
Mr. Speaker, I also take exception to this talk about helicopter gunships being used for predator control.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
And the Government Leader is laughing; that's how much respect he has for the wildlife managers also. He's sitting there snickering.
Mr. Speaker, this is an insult to the fish and wildlife managers within the department who conduct and implement these wolf control programs. They did so in the Finlayson area, and they did so in the Aishihik area, and the Aishihik one was exemplary and was held up as a model for other jurisdictions to follow.
In light of that, I would like to know if the minister is ready to apologize to these professionals here and now.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, we have a process that we are following. We are working with community people on management of wildlife and we will continue to operate along those lines. We're not going to be going out of bounds and making decisions without them on major issues like this. We have community consultation on predator control and, in particular, the wolf conservation management plan, which has had a lot of public input into it. We use these types of studies as a guide for our decisions. I'm sure that the renewable resource councils and Fish and Wildlife Management Board do the same thing.
Mr. Ostashek: It's quite clear to see that this minister doesn't have any respect for the people who are working on his behalf. He's not even prepared to apologize for a remark that was very rude and crude, Mr. Speaker. He shouldn't listen to advice from the Member for Faro when making those kinds of comments.
Mr. Speaker, I had numerous residents call me this morning. They listened to the minister's comments yesterday, saying that he's consulting with the communities. The question was, "Who in the hell is he talking to? He sure wasn't talking to -"
Mr. McRobb: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Kluane, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: The member has obviously stooped a little too far this time. I would suggest to you that his language is unparliamentary and request a ruling.
Speaker: Leader of the official opposition, on the point of order.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I believe there's been a lot worse language than that used in this Legislature. I'm just relating what was told to me by constituents. They're not my comments.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, if I were to relate to this Legislature what people say about the member opposite, I'd be barred from here for life. Some of us have more class.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, there is no point of order. The Member for Kluane is just a little upset that he got beat up a little -
Speaker: Order please.
Speaker: Would the member withdraw the word "hell", as it is unparliamentary.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Ostashek: No problem, Mr. Speaker. I withdraw it.
Mr. Speaker, I will continue with the question, after I was so rudely interrupted by the Member for Kluane.
In view of the fact that the minister already knows the number of caribou that are being harvested by non-native hunters in the Finlayson area and he has also denied that he is just listening to the green environmentalist wing of the NDP by implementing a permit hunt for non-native hunters, I can only conclude that he has another motive for wanting the permit system. Or, does the minister simply want to restrict non-native hunters in the area?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I just told the member and held up the wolf conservation management plan that had public consultation in its development.
Mr. Speaker, he's asking who we are listening to - Yukoners, obviously. It's something the Yukon Party has never done, so it's really a new concept to them.
We will continue to be working with the First Nations. They have voiced their concerns and their direction on how they can help us with the management of the Finlayson caribou herd and wildlife in that area. It's with the general, local people that we are working with. It's not splitting natives and non-natives up and drawing a line between them.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, you know, Yukoners don't believe that for one minute. I sat at the Fish and Wildlife Management Board meetings. Overwhelmingly, nobody was in favour of the permit hunts. Eighty-seven out of 94 submissions were against the permit hunts, so who is this minister listening to? He certainly isn't consulting with the Yukon public, and I look forward to the next election campaign and the leaders debate when his leader tries to defend that position.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Yes, I will be here, Mr. Speaker. The minister -
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order. Stop the heckling.
Mr. Ostashek: I'm pleased you have so much faith in me.
Mr. Speaker, the minister, as a former chief of a Yukon First Nation, knows full well that the government has no authority to tell First Nation governments what to do or what hunting restrictions it will impose on the citizens in the area. The only control the minister has is over the resident hunters, the non-native hunters.
So, I would ask him one final time if he would clarify his intent regarding the permit system in the area, when in fact it's not going to add to the number of caribou in the area, it's not going to decrease the herd. There are only 57 bulls being taken by non-resident hunters. Why does he want to curtail them further?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, we're trying to get some control of what hunting has taken place within the area, whether it's caribou, moose or what not, and the number of people that are accessing the area.
I know the opposition is advocating ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: ... a position not supported by the wolf conservation management plan, which their government adopted. They've supported the plan in the past, and where's that support now? You're telling the general public that this government should be doing a wolf kill and, Mr. Speaker, we said we will not be doing that. We will be working with the First Nation and the local people in all jurisdictions when it comes to management of wildlife.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Unanimous request requested
Mr. Cable: On a point, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The Member for Riverside on a point of order.
Mr. Speaker, although legislative returns have not been tabled in response to written questions 3 and 4, which are standing on the Order Paper in my name, I have received the information requested in those questions. I would therefore request the unanimous consent of the House to have them dropped from the Order Paper.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted and written question 3 and 4 will dropped from the Order Paper.
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Motion No. 122, standing in the name of Mr. Jenkins.
Motion No. 122
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Klondike
THAT it is the opinion of this House that in view of the current unacceptably high unemployment rate in Watson Lake that the Government of Yukon should undertake some major capital projects in that community in order to create employment opportunities for the many unemployed.
Mr. Jenkins: In light of the very tough economic times being experienced in Yukon, rural Yukon has been especially hard hit, and in particular the Town of Watson Lake. As members are fully aware, Watson Lake's unemployment has reached an all-time high with extremely little relief in sight for both the short term and long term.
In the next while, I intend to outline some of the reasons for the plight facing Watson Lake, remind members what commitments were made in the NDP A Better Way and what could be done to turn this unfortunate situation around in Watson Lake and elsewhere in Yukon.
Let's start by looking at the made-in-Yukon forestry policy. There's a lack of made-in-Yukon forestry policy, according to the NDP. Rather than working toward the development of a comprehensive forestry policy that will put Yukoners back to work, what has the Government of the Yukon done? Upon taking office, this NDP government established four commissions, one of which was headed by the Member for Watson Lake to establish a forestry policy for Yukon. We don't want to even consider discussing the energy commissioner or his commission, as these will probably be recognized for what they're worth - just an exercise in futility and a soap box for the Member for Kluane to spout his rhetoric on the topic.
But let's dwell on the area that will affect Watson Lake - Watson Lake and the forestry commission, headed by the Member for Watson Lake. Since the commission came about, it has done literally nothing to produce a comprehensive forestry policy, and even refused, early on, to participate in forestry meetings being held by the federal government, which still holds overall responsibility for forestry in Yukon. Still to this day, despite the efforts of the previous Yukon Party, forestry in the Yukon is in the hands of the federal government.
Last June, DIAND held a three-day workshop in Watson Lake to discuss forestry regulations. The MLA for Watson Lake, the forestry commissioner, put in a brief appearance and stated that Yukon's government's non-participation in that workshop did not reflect negatively on DIAND's regulation, but showed that the Yukon government was becoming more aware of its rights as a government.
Now, just what does that mean, Mr. Speaker? It probably means that the commissioner of forestry - or the forest commissioner, however he chooses to be known - doesn't have an idea as to where we're heading, doesn't know how to get there, and just offers, as an excuse, that the Yukon government is becoming more aware of its rights as a government and doesn't want to participate.
Mr. Speaker, this is complete nonsense. If the Government of the Yukon doesn't feel it should be doing anything, then why does the forest commission exist? Why does it exist? Because the Government of the Yukon doesn't want to participate. No one can explain it in the forest commission, especially the commissioner.
The NDP was very critical of the previous Yukon Party government's process to develop a made-in-Yukon forest policy, despite all the work that had been completed, including an all-encompassing workshop sponsored by the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, ongoing discussions with DIAND, the forest industry and First Nations, and out of that came the development of a forestry management policy discussion paper.
In fact, at the time that the discussion paper was released, the Member for Faro, in his usual highfalutin, high-tone description, analyzed the paper as being void of any substance and ignored all the tough issues, such as 10-year allowable cuts, distribution of benefits and management of the ecosystem. This was back in November 1995, Mr. Speaker. So, since that time to date, really, what has transpired?
The Member for Faro then went on to say, "Considerable efforts should be made in this area to develop a policy." Well, the NDP government has now been in power for some 18 months. They are just about two years into their mandate.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Just about two years; just about two years.
And, we're still at square one, Mr. Speaker, and hope is fading that this government will ever do anything in this regard.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: As far as my math goes, it's not nearly as inaccurate as the NDP calculators that are known to exist in British Columbia, which I'm sure some members of that caucus have got hold of.
We go to the NDP caucus publication, entitled State of Affairs, dated December 1995. In that publication, the NDP identified four points toward economic health for Yukon, one of which was to develop a comprehensive forestry policy.
Well, Mr. Speaker, we're still at square one in this regard. In that paper, it stated, "The New Democratic caucus believes that forestry is the single biggest economic and environmental issue facing Yukoners. How your government decides to manage this resource will determine whether or not there will be a forest to manage in 100 years."
That's quite an interesting statement. It gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling, Mr. Speaker, but it's not a forest management policy. It's a statement.
It's a statement that does attract attention. Sounds great, Mr. Speaker, but does nothing. And it gives no indication as to what policies this NDP government is going to produce. To date, they have failed to produce any on this issue.
Given the NDP government's track record in managing sawmills in Watson Lake, I would have to say that Yukon's forest industry and economic health is nothing but in an extremely sorry state of affairs.
More recently, Mr. Speaker, in a response from the Government Leader to the opposition leader on August 25, 1997, the statement was made, "The Yukon government believes there is a better way to proceed with the development of a Yukon forest strategy. It begins with listening to Yukon people and dedicating the necessary resources to pursue their thoughtful advice." That's a most interesting statement.
Well, the normal process, when we go through to consult, is that we assemble a group of people and an outline of the issues that we wish to consult the people on. We go out, and we schedule a series of public meetings with all parties affected, advertise them, develop a conclusion to the necessary issues, and bring forward the results of this study. This is a normal consulting process.
On the other hand, we have the NDP way of consulting, where we consult and consult and consult again, and consult until such a time as we receive the answers that we want to hear. Or, take the answers and ignore them and hide behind some board or some committee or some review, and not make a decision whatsoever.
So, the NDP way of consulting is an interesting way but does it really allow the voice of Yukoners to be heard? Ask any minister in this House if they will abide by the decision of the majority, and you can't get a straight answer out of any one of them. They'll waffle and use some of the best weasel words I've ever heard. It's amazing, Mr. Speaker. The wonderful world of political rhetoric.
Back at the time of the letter from the Government Leader to the leader of the official opposition, criticism was also made of the lack of First Nation involvement in the development of forestry policy and the devolution of responsibility from the federal government to the Yukon government. Well, let's look at what has been happening in this regard, Mr. Speaker. Virtually nothing.
Last fall, the MLA for Watson Lake held a sustainable forest economy workshop in Whitehorse. Well, this workshop, Mr. Speaker, was almost identical to what was held by the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment in 1995. And, I might add, the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment is mandated by law to exist and it's required to consult and it's required to report to the government, unlike these Cabinet commissioners who, when you question the conflict commissioner, the conflict commissioner comes back and says that, well, really it's the deputy commissioner who has all of the power. The commissioners themselves are just messenger boys to carry the message from the deputy commissioner to Cabinet.
Well, they are very expensive messenger boys - extremely expensive messenger boys - when you analyze the total cost that these members are incurring to address their chairmanship or their Cabinet commission responsibilities.
So I guess we can refer to the Cabinet commissioners as messenger boys. And I guess, henceforth, this House can acknowledge them as Cabinet commissioners/messenger boys, and we'll have a true recognition of their responsibilities and the way they are looked upon by the conflicts commissioner, who has taken the time to report back and outline, for the benefit of the House, how these commissioners are viewed.
Well, just look at what happened. Going back to the workshop that the MLA Cabinet commissioner/messenger boy from Watson Lake held on sustainable forestry, just prior to the workshop, it was made known, by way of a letter from the Grand Chief of the Yukon First Nations, that they were extremely frustrated with the way the forestry commissioner was developing a forestry management plan - extremely frustrated.
The letter read, "I must express the disappointment and frustration of Yukon First Nations that the government has decided to proceed with the development of forestry management strategies prior to the completion of the forestry letter of understanding between the parties."
It went on to say, "I note that Yukon First Nations have no role or input into the planning and development of the workshop, its agenda, or the community-based forestry paper."
Now, here's a government, Mr. Speaker, that prides itself on its ability to consult with the people, to get all parties into a great big circle, to bring all Yukoners together and allow them their say.
We look at forestry; we look at the position taken by the First Nations in regard to this meeting. My gosh, what happened to this point that the NDP prides itself upon - its consulting ability, its ongoing ability to consult. As soon as they gain power, it's out the window.
We have applied the other way of consulting that we set the rules, set the agenda, give the Member for Kluane and his fellow commissioners a great big soap-box to stand on and allow them to spew forth whatever they wish - gobbledegook, if you start looking at some of the questionnaires sent out. This is the biggest amount of gobbledegook you've ever seen assembled anywhere. This is the better way, we're told. I guess the question is: is this the better way?
If we go back to the letter, following the release of the letter, it was further found out that the Liard First Nation would be boycotting the workshop and further discussions with the Government of Yukon on this very important issue. So much for the better way. So much for the forest commissioner from Watson Lake, and so much for anything happening in the forestry industry in Watson Lake.
I would also be remiss if I didn't make mention of the government's set of walking tours held last year. As members will recall, these guided tours covered everything from shut down sawmills to studying the bugs and the bats in the Yukon wilderness. Contrary to what the government believes, bat outings and sawmill tours do nothing to develop a forestry policy in the territory and do nothing to get Yukoners back to work.
Of course, we could pay them to take these walking tours. We could offer them considerable incentives, pay their transportation costs to Watson Lake, their housing costs and their per diem to go for a walk in the woods with the forestry commissioner and see the bats and the bugs. Oh, what a great idea, Mr. Speaker. This is a better way.
The forestry commissioner went on to say, "Take a walk in the woods with us this summer, and we'll show you there is more to the forests than just the trees." The NDP said that they were going to bring all the parties together. Yukoners did not realize that the NDP commitment to get everyone to work together actually meant traipsing through the woods together. I guess, when it becomes known that if we're going to gather in a circle in the woods, we have to cut down a few trees to create that circle, I wonder how the forestry commission is going to handle that responsibility, Mr. Speaker.
I don't believe that the people of Watson Lake or, indeed, the Yukon are too impressed by their MLA walking through the woods in light of the record high employment in that community.
Now, if that isn't enough, we superimpose on this forestry commission and the issue of forestry the protected areas strategy - not just on the forestry, but on the mining and all Yukon. When we look at what we have in place currently, Mr. Speaker, we have a set of regulations and rules that must be adhered to if we are going to do any development of any sort. We have to take out land use permits. We have to get involved in a whole series and a whole process to get the necessary permits in place to undertake any project of any importance or to extract any of the Yukon's raw materials. We get this protected areas strategy, superimposed on me, to appease the greenies in the NDP. If it isn't enough that the forest industry continues to be in complete turmoil as a result of not having a made-in-Yukon forest policy -
Mr. Fentie: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Watson Lake, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out to this House that environmentalists should not be called "greenies". They are people who have an agenda very important to this territory. I would offer that the member should respect the fact that this people are environmentalists.
Speaker: On the point of order raised by the Member for Watson Lake, the Chair has been noticing that many members have been referring to each other and people outside of the House in an insulting way. The Chair would request that this stop and members refer to each other, and to others, in a respectful way.
The Member for Klondike, please continue.
Mr. Jenkins: Before I was so rudely interrupted, Mr. Speaker, I must advise the House that I do like conservationists - affectionately known as greenies. It's an affectionate recognition of this group in our society. I didn't mean it any sort of a derogatory sense whatsoever. I don't look upon it as being a derogatory term.
Before I was so rudely interrupted by the Member for Watson Lake, because he's probably somewhat concerned with his position on this matter and what is happening with the protected areas strategy, I'd like to make reference to a letter that was in the paper recently, from the chairman of the Southeast Yukon Lumberman's Association.
Mr. Speaker, that letter read as follows: "When the forestry commission was first established, perception among the industry was that government was going to work with us and develop a policy that will lead to a stable, working environment. Well, the feds have worked with us but now the perception is that the forestry commission is throwing a new hurdle in our path. We perceive that the protected spaces strategy is spearheaded by the commissions. We feel that it's much more interested in appealing to the environmental lobbying than creating much-needed jobs in the Watson Lake area."
Well, Mr. Speaker, without reading any further, the letter ends in calling upon the government to immediately halt the process and shelve it until such time as the land claims are settled in the Watson Lake area. And that's probably a long way off because, when you start looking at the total areas set aside from existing land claims and proposed land claims, you start superimposing, in the Yukon, the federal parks, proposed federal parks, Yukon parks, and start imposing on areas that are protected areas.
What's left? What's left, Mr. Speaker? It's been suggested that all we will have left are fire-breaks, a make-work project of the forestry commissioner.
Again, this NDP government professes to be caring and responsive to the needs of Yukoners, yet it is unwilling to act upon what is being said by Yukoners.
Needless to say, the fast tracking of the protected areas strategy will do very little, if anything, in establishing a sustainable and viable - not to mention thriving - forestry industry in Yukon, let alone its impact on the mining industry, Mr. Speaker.
Let's look at mining. Since this NDP government took office in 1996, Yukoners have witnessed a downturn in mining investment in the Yukon.
Now, some of this downturn can be attributed to low world base metal prices, as well as low world precious metal prices - as well as the Bre-X scandal that occurred not long ago, and the state of the economy in the far east, right around the other side of the world, Mr. Speaker. The Asian economy is impacting upon us.
Despite these factors, it is incumbent upon the government to create a climate that is conducive to the growth of our economy and that of our strengths, those being mining, tourism and forestry. Well, what we have here is not the Asian flu, Mr. Speaker. It's called the NDP flu in the Yukon and British Columbia, and there's just starting to be a glimmer of hope in British Columbia, but we haven't got much hope here in the Yukon.
What we need is a government to create the environment that sends a clear message to the mining industry and to the forestry industry that we have a defined set of goal posts in the Yukon - and a set of regulations - and if you come up with a proposal here in Yukon and you go through those guidelines and stay within the goal posts, you will be successful in achieving the necessary permitting for your project to go ahead.
What we have, Mr. Speaker, is a whole set of federal regulations and, superimposed upon those federal regulations, we have all of these other areas governed by the Yukon government, this NDP government that's causing the NDP flu here in the Yukon, and that is that the rules are in a constant change of flux from one day to the next. The goal posts keep moving and the message being sent to the mining industry and to the forestry industry is that they'll change. We don't know what the rules are today, we don't know what they're going to be tomorrow, but we're going to consult with you and ask you your opinion and then not do anything that encourages these people to come and explore or log in the Yukon. It's virtually impossible to jump through all the loops today and get a permit to go and cut some logs or to put in place a mining proposal and to jump through the permitting process in a timely fashion, Mr. Speaker.
When we look at it all, what we have from this government is the fast tracking of the protected areas strategy, and that is discouraging any type of investment in the Yukon. This government talks the talk, but it seems not to be prepared to walk the walk.
Let's refer to an incident that occurred in January, Mr. Speaker, in which the Chief of the Liard First Nation announced there was legal uncertainty about staking mining claims in the entire southeast Yukon. Now, that announcement came at the same time that the Government Leader and the Minister of Economic Development were in Vancouver attending the Cordilleran Roundup, along with the Minister of Renewable Resources - and who else was there? There was quite an entourage down there from government, but those were the three ministers that I witnessed there. When we look at the three ministers attending the Cordilleran Roundup, this is the largest mining convention in western North America, Mr. Speaker.
It's trying to attract mining investment in the territory. It's being suggested that I embarrassed the Yukon. I probably embarrassed the NDP governments in British Columbia and the Yukon, and rightly so.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order. Order please.
Mr. Jenkins: The message being sent out by the NDP governments to the mining industry in both British Columbia and the Yukon is one of, basically, "We talk to you nicely, we shake your hands, but we're staying away." It's the no-development party, not the New Democratic Party. No development, nothing going on, and mining exploration and mining activity is probably going to be at an all-time low in the Yukon this year.
In fact, economic activity will probably be at an all-time low in the Yukon this year, especially in Watson Lake, Mr. Speaker, where if you haven't got a government job and if you're not on unemployment, I guess the only other option is the other NDP program plan; that is, "Come and see us for social assistance."
Well, people are loathe to take it upon themselves to access any of these support systems. They want jobs. They want work and this government has a dismal track record in rural Yukon, especially in Watson Lake, for providing jobs and providing work.
Let's go back, Mr. Speaker, to the Cordilleran Roundup, where I stated the truth: that the NDP governments in British Columbia and the Yukon were impediments to mining activity or to economic growth and were an impediment to the growth of economic development in Yukon and British Columbia. In fact, I know a lot of people in the mining industry - probably far greater numbers than the members opposite have access to - and that's not the message I received - as what's being suggested.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Yes, and it was probably NDP people who were embarrassed by what I had to say, I'm sure.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's go back to the Cordilleran Roundup and what was said by the Chief of the Liard First Nation. Rather than have the Government of Yukon approach the Liard First Nation and work toward an immediate resolution of this issue, the Government of Yukon chose to do nothing.
But, that's not unexpected. That's what they usually do: nothing; nothing at all. It's something that did not come as much of a surprise, in view of the government's lack of progress in settling land claims in this area.
Mr. Speaker, any implied threat of legal action will do nothing to attract investment to the Yukon and will only serve to drive mining companies away.
This is a big world we live in. In fact, I know more mining people that I've met in the Yukon that are now involved in mining projects in every other place in the world than Yukon. They are in Africa, they're in Australia, they're in South America and they're in Alaska - our next door neighbour - working for Canadian companies in the mining industry. But, here in the Yukon, the message being sent by this no-development party is not conducive to attracting mining exploration or mining companies into the area.
The mining potential and the oil and gas potential in the Watson Lake region, Mr. Speaker, is somewhat known, but tremendous benefits could accrue to the Yukon if these were put into production, if these areas were logged and if mines were developed. But it's not going to happen.
This implied threat of legal action is not being addressed by this government, Mr. Speaker, and I'm not sure if any approaches have been made to the Liard First Nation to get them on side - to get them working with government - and to partner with government in this regard, so that all Yukoners can benefit, whether they be Yukon First Nations or otherwise. This is just another example of a government that is full of talk, but no action - once again.
Let's go on to explore the issue of the Watson Lake administration building. It's been almost two years since Watson Lake suffered a major tragedy, when fire destroyed its main administration building, which housed its firehall, ambulance services, the post office, the library, the building inspector's office, the office of the Department of Health and Social Services, probation services office branch, the Town of Watson Lake municipal office, the housing association, the court office, the courthouse and the outreach employment centre. These are all important services provided by government to the people of Watson Lake.
Now, the challenge that the previous government faced was to find a temporary home for the various government departments and agencies to enable them to continue to provide services to the people. In conjunction with the town, the assessment was completed, potential office space was analyzed and what other facilities might be made available.
The other challenge was how to best meet not only the short-term needs but the long-term needs of Watson Lake. And it was at that time that work first began with the community and other departments and agencies on how to replace that building. An account of approximately half a million dollars had been established for the loss and damage of its building and the rest would be taken from general revenue.
Since this government took office almost two years, virtually nothing has been done to meet the long-term needs of the community. Instead, the government proposed building a centre - with the Yukon government, the municipality, the Liard First Nation - despite the fact that no First Nations offices were displaced by the fire. But it might have been a good idea if we'd have put it all together.
The feasibility study was completed last May, the Town of Watson Lake have done their own quiet thing for some time, and yet nothing has changed since then.
We hear today from the Member for Watson Lake that there are no projects in Watson Lake that are ready to go - no projects ready to go in Watson Lake; my gosh, Mr. Speaker, how can the Member for Watson Lake even begin to suggest something when this structure was one thing that, if his government had taken the initiative, put some effort into it, would be ready to go. It would be there and it could provide a lot of jobs and a lot of work to individuals in Watson Lake for this forthcoming construction season.
In the meantime, most of the temporary dwellings that are not being rented by the private sector, Yukon Housing Corporation - I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that it's an abuse of the Yukon Housing Corporation's mandate to take this many housing units out of their stock and use them for this other purpose, for office space. They could rent from the private sector, but the Yukon Housing Corporation is providing them.
Now, logically, we don't feel we should simply rush into a decision on this side of the House. There's been ample time for the government to review this situation, engage in discussions, create a dialogue with the town, and make some decisions, rather than engage in yet another study. The construction of a facility, or other facilities, to replace the Watson Lake administration building could be presently providing much-needed jobs for the people of Watson Lake.
You know, here's another example of this NDP government missing the boat in Watson Lake.
Well, Mr. Speaker, this NDP government has presented two budgets to this House. Watson Lake was ignored in the government's first budget and again in the second budget. One only has to read from the most recent issue of the Watson Lake's Town Crier, their newspaper, in which it makes reference to the 1998 YTG budget as having omitted to include anything for Watson Lake at a time when employment claims are up by some 29.1 percent from December to January. U
nemployment is rampant in Watson Lake. It's probably the highest rate of unemployment anywhere in the Yukon.
In response, the Mayor of Watson Lake and the Chief of the Liard First Nation agreed to approach the Government Leader and members of the Cabinet of the lack of capital dollars being spent in Watson Lake. In the newsletter, the Member for Watson Lake claims that the NDP government is spending nearly $6 million in Watson Lake this year, the highest proportion of capital dollars being spent outside of Whitehorse. Boy, that's a stretch, Mr. Speaker. I wonder where Pinocchio is when you need him. If only this were true then the people of Watson Lake wouldn't have to be asked who is getting all the jobs.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The Minister of Health and Social Services, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I believe that the Member for Klondike's reference to Pinocchio is actually an inference that my colleague, the Member for Watson Lake, is indeed telling an untruth, and I would suggest that perhaps he need to withdraw that.
Now, I know there is a somewhat chequered history over there in terms of their veracity, but perhaps we could get a ruling from yourself on this. I understand some time ago, Mr. Speaker, that there was another member who was called out of order on a very similar reference, so perhaps we could get a bit of a clarification.
Speaker: The Member for Riverdale North, on the point of order.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, there is no point of order. I think the Member for Klondike was just pointing out
that the forest industry in Watson Lake is important and he was asking where Pinocchio was, and Pinocchio is still standing as a tree because we don't have a forest policy and we can't cut any trees down in Watson Lake. So, I don't think there's a point of order.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: I am ready to rule.
Speaker: When members rise to speak to a point of order, I would remind them that the Chair would be looking for advice as to which rule has or has not been broken. It does not help the Chair when members simply state that there is no point of order, as the Member for Riverdale North did. When that is done, it sounds like members are giving the Chair direction rather than advice. When the member said, "I wonder where Pinocchio is when you need him," he did not refer to the member as Pinocchio. Please continue.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, when we look at the YTG budget for Watson Lake, when we look at the efforts that are being made by that community to get something done and create jobs in that community, I just take you to the Town Crier of April 22 and a letter received in response to a request from council. The little, short clip reads as follows: "Council received a reply from the Minister of Transportation Services concerning the town's requests that local contractors benefit from the expenditure of $5.7 million in highway construction. YTG has allocated $3.7 for the Alaska Highway and $2 million for the Campbell Highway. It was asked that contracts be divided into smaller components so that local contractors could tender their bids and not be excluded due to high bonding requirements."
The minister's reply indicated that only two $200,000 contracts would be forthcoming from the $5.7 million construction budget. It also goes on to indicate that the Watson Lake MLA has made a commitment to speak to Mr. Keenan.
So, what we're saying here is, so much for work, so much for all these fancy numbers thrown out by the Member for Watson Lake but, as a consequence of those numbers, only two contracts, totalling $200,000 each, are going to be let. What's happening to the rest of the money that was supposedly going into that area? What happens to the request from Watson Lake to break this down into smaller contracts?
Well, when we have the issue of the Mayor of Watson Lake and the Chief of the Liard First Nation approaching the Government Leader and Cabinet for the lack of capital dollars that are being spent in Watson Lake, if that isn't an indication of a very serious problem in that community, I don't know what is. I certainly don't know what it's going to take to awaken this government, Mr. Speaker - that they're putting all of their eggs in the Whitehorse basket and ignoring rural Yukon. Oh, we'll run around in a dog-and-pony show and consult with the people, talk to them nicely, buy them the occasional lunch or cup of coffee, but as for creating jobs and employment in rural Yukon - no.
If we go on and look at the previous Town Crier newsletter from Watson Lake, we see what the Member for Watson Lake said, that nearly $6 million will be spent in Watson Lake this year, the highest proportion of capital dollars being spent outside of Whitehorse. Wow. Then, when we look at the reality of it, Mr. Speaker, we find that there are two $200,000 contracts being let in the area. That's what the Minister of Community and Transportation Services said in a formal letter to the Watson Lake Town Council. No wonder the people of Watson Lake are reacting, through their mayor and their chief, and asking that something happen in Watson Lake.
The newsletter, Mr. Speaker, goes on to show a graph showing Yukon Party government spending compared to NDP government spending. You know, when you look at it and you review it, those comparisons are complete fabrications. Rather than being open and honest in the comparison, this graph compares apples to oranges. Part of the NDP government spending includes the money being spent on the south Alaska Highway reconstruction and the Campbell Highway. That's all being earmarked as going into Watson Lake. As well, there are some other abnormalities from the previous way that the government broke down these costs - that the monies were originally put into a central pool, but now they're being spread all over.
If you wanted to be honest in a comparison, you'd have to include the amount spent by the previous Yukon Party government on the south Alaska Highway and the Campbell Highway as well. If you do that, the figures would change the graph dramatically, because the Yukon Party government spent $7.5 million in 1993-94, another $5.2 million in 1994-95, $7.5 million again in 1995-96, and $8.8 million in 1996-97, on these highways alone.
Now, if we're going to compare apples, let's compare apples to apples. Let's not compare apples to oranges. Now, I realize that the Member for Watson Lake wants to paint a rosy picture of his performance in this House and his ability to convince his caucus to spend dollars in Watson Lake. The reality is that what we have is very few dollars being spent in Watson Lake, very few of the projects that have the potential to come to fruition even being examined or looked at and, as the Member for Watson Lake has stated himself, we don't have any projects ready to go in Watson Lake.
Maybe it's time that he went home for the weekend and consulted with the people of Watson Lake. I'm sure he'd find out that that certainly isn't the case. There are a lot of projects there that could be done and a lot of capital projects that would put Watson Lakers to work.
He's not going to convince anyone in the Yukon, especially the people in Watson Lake, comparing apples to oranges.
If you also look at the capital expenditure, include these highway expenditures under the previous Yukon Party and add to it the capital expenditures for the contribution for such things as the Northern Lights Centre, it would probably put the NDP spending priorities into a proper perspective. Now, that would be a truer comparison, and we would find out very, very quickly that this government's position and the Member for Watson Lake's position, that Watson Lake is receiving the largest number of capital dollars outside of Whitehorse, is erroneous. Completely erroneous.
Let's look at another project that could be undertaken and for which Watson Lake residents are crying. There is a demonstrated need for a multi-level health care facility in that community. There's no seniors complex in Watson Lake and the organization, the overseeing body, the Signpost Seniors, has sent a proposal to the Minister of Health and Social Services regarding the construction of a multi-level health care facility in the community that would include a total of 12 beds. Six of those beds would be for long-term care, two for respite, one for palliative care, as required - it could also be for long-term care - a couple of beds for rehab therapy and one adult's day care.
There's another initiative that could be undertaken by this government. It is another initiative - a much-needed initiative - to put the people of Watson Lake to work and to address a need that's not just evident today but is a growing need in that community - not just a growing need in Watson Lake, but one throughout all Yukon.
Also attached to that would be a common room, dining room and an area to hold clinics. The suggestion was made that this facility and the common areas could be made available to the whole community and not be utilized solely for seniors. What a wonderful idea. What a great idea. We're not suggesting replacing home care services, but we feel that services should be made available to seniors and individuals when family and friends are not able to be with those in need on a 24-hour basis, for those who need 24-hour care.
Now, this facility would be built in such a manner that it could access the acute area of the hospital, either directly or through a corridor. Right now, the Signpost Seniors group is currently seeking to purchase a lot beside the hospital for the construction of such a facility. Now, where are we with this wonderful initiative, Mr. Speaker?
This facility would be built in such a manner that an expansion could be accommodated further down the line, if need be. If we look at the survey done in the spring of 1995, it shows an estimate of up to 200 seniors, if you include the First Nations in Watson Lake, Upper Liard, Two Mile, Two and a Half Mile and Lower Post. If you encompass all of the area there and have a regional centre to address this identified and growing need, this is another project that could come to fruition in Watson Lake.
Now, there have been some suggestions to use the current beds in the hospital and adapt them accordingly. It's well-intentioned, but there are problems with such a suggestion that there are not enough beds and that the proposal to move away from an institutional setting to a community-based setting would be completely defeated. What we're looking at is long-term care versus acute care. In the hospital, seniors and individuals at large are not able to wander around at their leisure, nor would they be allowed to visit their family and friends in an informal and home-based atmosphere.
But then, we look at the Minister of Health and Social Services, and what we have is the Minister of Health and Social Services not addressing his responsibility in Whitehorse and using the Whitehorse General Hospital for long-term care purposes at a price that far exceeds what long-term care centres are costing. The Minister of Health and Social Services freely admitted in debate yesterday that it costs some $300 per day to keep an individual in the Thomson Centre and some two and a half times that price to keep an individual in the Whitehorse General Hospital.
Well, Mr. Speaker, not only in Watson Lake, but in Dawson, we're not asking for a full-blown health care facility -
Some Hon. Member: On a point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: The Minister of Health and Social Services, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I understood that if we are debating a budget at a later date, then discussions or a motion that focuses on exactly the same motion that had been dropped are out of order. Now it appears that the Member for Klondike is trying to bootleg in yet another motion, and I would just suggest that he needs to focus in on the issue at hand.
Speaker: The point of order raised by the Minister of Health and Social Services is that referring at length to the subject of health care facilities in Dawson and Watson Lake anticipates the debate scheduled for tonight.
The Chair agrees that this is a point of order and that the Member for Klondike should not be speaking at length on this subject during debate on Motion No. 122.
Would the Member for Klondike please continue.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
As I was talking about the extended-care facility in Watson Lake, and which Dawson would also like, Mr. Speaker, both these communities are not requesting a full-blown extended-care facility, such as the Thomson Centre in Whitehorse, but a facility to accommodate and meet the needs of our seniors in our respective communities to enable them to reside in their homes and be with their families and friends without having to relocate to Whitehorse, some many, many miles away.
Now, this would be another initiative, Mr. Speaker - this facility in both of these respective communities - that would employ a number of Yukoners, not just in the construction stage but in the long-term operation of these facilities. But instead, individuals from both these communities are being transported to Whitehorse and housed in Whitehorse. That's not fair to these individuals or to their families.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The Minister of Health and Social Services, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I thought your ruling was quite clear on that, and I wonder why the Member for Klondike persists in flouting the ruling of the Speaker in this regard.
Speaker: The Member for Klondike, on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, I was just referring to this one area in the context of the total scheme of things and just elaborating on a small section of it. I'm in no way impeding or getting into the total debate that we will be dealing with in this House tonight. I'm talking about the specific instance of a capital project in Watson Lake and the benefit that would accrue, which is the intent and tone of my motion with respect to Watson Lake.
Speaker: The Chair has ruled that the subject of speaking on the subject of a multi-level health care facility in Watson Lake should be restricted during this debate. The Member for Klondike can briefly support that as a capital project under the wording of Motion No. 122. However, he should not use this debate as an opportunity to make an argument for such a facility.
The Member for Klondike, please proceed.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I'll abide by the Speaker's ruling, but I do refer to the motion that, in view of the current high unemployment rate in Watson Lake, the Government of the Yukon should undertake some major capital projects in that community in order to create employment opportunities for the many unemployed.
And that was just one component of the total plan that I was advancing in the House here today, Mr. Speaker. But I appreciate the latitude that you have allowed me, and I thank you.
The extended-care facility for Watson Lake, Mr. Speaker, would not only create many jobs during its construction phase, but the ongoing staffing of that facility would also create more positions on a permanent basis in the community of Watson Lake. Indeed, Mr. Speaker, there would be benefits accruing to Dawson should such a facility be constructed in that area.
Now, I've reviewed the debate in this House previously, and I take you back to April 5, 1989, when there was a motion moved in this House by the Member for Watson Lake, the hon. John Devries: "THAT it is the opinion of this House that there is an urgent need for an extended care facility in Watson Lake."
I would be of the opinion, Mr. Speaker, that some work has already been done on this facility and that the potential benefits that could be realized by the construction of this facility would far outweigh moving individuals to Whitehorse for this type of care.
There was an evaluation report - yeah, another study, Mr. Speaker - that was conducted to review community health institutional services in the Yukon back in 1989. At that time, Watson Lake had a cottage hospital that did not have a long-term care home. The report, at that time, recommended the renovation of part of the existing cottage hospital to provide four to six long-term care beds.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The Minister of Health and Social Services, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I raised this originally. Your ruling was clear. I believe you did give the member some latitude to refer to this issue in passing, but, regretful to say, it looks to me very much like the Member for Klondike is misusing his privilege in that regard, and I would ask that he stick to the point at hand and not use this as a forum to advance something that's going to be in part of the Health debate.
Speaker: Member for Klondike, on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker. I've moved off the topic of a health care facility, and I'm talking about the Watson Lake hospital. It's another capital project in that community.
Speaker: Order please. The Chair must rule that extended reference to the building of any health care facility in the Yukon must only be briefly referred to during this debate. The topic of health care facilities can be debated tonight.
The Member for Klondike, please continue.
Mr. Jenkins: There was another opportunity to start the construction of a facility of this nature in Watson Lake, when the transfer took place between the federal government and the Government of Yukon. Obviously, the Government Leader's negotiating skills were not effective, as Watson Lakers did not receive this much-needed extended-care facility. We're back to the drawing board, Mr. Speaker, on this issue, and it doesn't appear that anything is going to happen for quite some time.
One of the other areas that would be a major initiative for Watson Lake that could be addressed by this government, but has been left untouched, is the issue of energy.
Watson Lake has -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I guess I'm getting a little prompting, Mr. Speaker. It's not left untouched. People in Watson Lake are going to be paying considerably more for electricity in the next little while - stabilized electrical rates that are some 20 or 30 percent higher than they currently are to pay for the soap-box for the Member for Kluane. It's a high cost, but we should start looking at the issue of electrical power generation in Watson Lake. We could look at the potential for recovering waste heat and utilizing it in other structures, when we look at the proximity to the natural gas fields surrounding Watson Lake, and we could look at the potential that could be realized to bring that natural gas into that community and use it for the purpose of power generation. Yes, Mr. Speaker, at the onset, there would be a capital cost that would have to be met by the government. But a pipe distribution system, similar to what has been installed throughout Alberta, could be looked at, could be explored, and natural gas could be brought from the fields east of Watson Lake into that community. Indeed, it could then be trucked on up to Whitehorse and utilized here. At the present time, we're trucking propane all the way from Alberta - or it's railheaded to B.C. and then trucked up from there.
If we look at the potential for natural gas in Yukon, it's an area that has not even been explored, Mr. Speaker, yet the benefits that could be reaped by rural Yukon and Whitehorse are very numerous.
It makes us cognizant that government has to recognize these potentials, has to explore them, evaluate them, and has to make a decision. We look at natural gas and we look at the oil potential up on Eagle Plains, and there's not enough market here to put a pipeline in to utilize the product, but it could be trucked down from those respective areas. It could be trucked down and then it could be utilized, as is being done today.
Right now, in Dawson, there are 15,000 gallons of oil that was trucked from Northern Cross' wells in Eagle Plains. That is going to be used for the generation of power in the forthcoming months by the Energy Corporation. Well, that oil could create jobs for Yukoners - the trucking of it, taking the oil out of the ground and scrubbing it. That oil could be used not just in Dawson, but in power generation throughout the Yukon - in places like Watson Lake.
These are all initiatives that could be utilized by our government to create jobs in rural Yukon. These are initiatives that are being ignored - totally ignored by this government and its various agencies.
I'm somewhat dismayed that this motion will probably be amended somewhat by the Member for Watson Lake, or whomever speaks on that side of the House. The amendment will probably change it to pat the NDP government on the back for doing a very good job in Watson Lake and recognize the tremendous efforts that this NDP government is making to consult with rural Yukoners.
Well, that's about all their doing. They're consulting. They're not creating any jobs for them. In fact, there's a dismal track record by this government in creating jobs in rural Yukon - not just in Watson Lake, but through the whole Yukon.
Watson Lake is probably one of the hardest hit, if not the hardest hit community in rural Yukon, that had a long-term, stable economy that had some bumps from the logging industry, but now the logging industry is devastated.
The issue of a forest, Mr. Speaker, is one of equality. What this government has managed to do is create two Yukoners. There is a Whitehorse Yukoner, and there's a TROY Yukoner - TROY meaning the rest of Yukon - with very little exception. Probably the only exception in rural Yukon is the Speaker's own riding of Old Crow, where they're going to have a lot of stimulation to their economy this year as a consequence of a disastrous fire. There's going to be construction there.
Well, we've had the same type of disastrous fire in Watson Lake, Mr. Speaker. No economic activity has been created there as a consequence of that difficult time. Nothing.
The logging industry is in turmoil, other than a quota assigned where the logs are being cut and transported south immediately - raw logs going south. But I guess the Member for Watson Lake is going to create a little bit of employment with a fire-break. With our luck, I'm sure the fires will have been burnt down, or will have burnt all the trees down, before the Member for Watson Lake gets to construct his fire-break.
We have one other industry in the Yukon that's still alive and well, Mr. Speaker, and that's our visitor industry. There's still a lot of potential in Watson Lake to develop it, add to it, and encourage the travellers to stop there and spend some time in that community. There's been an initial thrust made in providing more attractions in Watson Lake through the Northern Lights initiative, an initiative of the Yukon Party government and the former Minister of Tourism, which provided capital dollars into that community and was very, very beneficial to Watson Lake in retaining visitors in that community.
Other initiatives of that nature should be explored by this government, because it is the attractions that travellers stop for; it is the attractions that visitors will stay there to see or be entertained by.
It's just one of the tools necessary to stop visitors travelling the highway and get them to spend a day or two in our respective communities.
But I am sad to say, Mr. Speaker, that I do not see any initiatives developing in the visitor industry in Watson Lake, either.
So, let us look down the list for Watson Lake. Let's look at all of the initiatives that this government could have undertaken and could have made some headway on and could have created jobs with.
There's the administration building. That's dead in the water. Nothing is going to happen there until after the turn of the century.
If we look at the logging industry, the Member for Watson Lake will probably still be walking in the woods next year looking at the bugs and bat and the birds and the bees. So, very little is going to happen with the forestry commission.
If we look at another facility that could be constructed in Watson Lake, that would be an extended-care facility. Nothing is going to be happening in that regard.
If we look at mining exploration and mines that could come into production in the Watson Lake area, all of these initiatives are dead in the water.
The one bright light is that this year is purported to be a good visitor season. We're going to have quite a number of visitors coming our way and we could realize some benefits from that.
On the issue of electricity and energy, all we're going to see from this government are higher costs. They're going to call it stabilized costs. In their election campaign, they promised us stabilized electrical prices. The one thing they omitted is, stabilized at what level? It's not going to be at any level acceptable to Yukoners. It's going to be at a level considerably higher than what they are at present, Mr. Speaker, which is going to add to the cost of living, add to the cost of Yukoners maintaining their homes, add to the cost of transportation, and add to the cost of basic food items. It will have a ripple effect through our whole economy and it will be felt the harshest in those areas that have a very high unemployment rate, those areas like Watson Lake.
Now, I don't know what it's going to take to get this government to move. I would have thought, with the number of members elected from rural Yukon, that this government would have a feel for, and an appreciation of, what rural Yukon was like to live in. But I guess, when members move back and forth and eventually reside in Whitehorse, they tend to lose touch with their respective communities, they tend to lose touch with what's happening on the home front, and they listen to the political rhetoric that is coming forward out of their spin doctors to spend, spend, spend in this metropolis of Whitehorse.
We have all these projects ready to go in Whitehorse. We don't have any ready to go in rural Yukon. We've canvassed the list of projects, we've canvassed the list of initiatives. Jeez, there isn't anything we can do in rural Yukon; it's all here in Whitehorse. So, as a consequence, equality is out the window. We've created two types of Yukoners, and rural Yukon, especially Watson Lake, suffers, and suffers considerably.
When you look at the total budget of this government and you look at where our funding is derived, we should be sending thank-you cards to virtually all the rest of Canadians. Over 75 percent - almost 80 percent - of the total funding being spent by this government here are federal transfer payments in one form or another - federal transfer payments from Canada.
We live in a very sheltered environment here. I'm not sure that that's going to continue and last forever, this flow of funding from our federal government. So, we'd best be prepared to put in place that infrastructure that is necessary throughout Yukon to continue with the lifestyle we've come to enjoy. I don't mean living on the government payroll. I mean that we have to have initiatives in place that are going to use our raw materials in an environmentally friendly manner for the betterment and enhancement of all Yukoners, and to enhance or at least maintain our existing lifestyles.
But, this NDP government has failed miserably in that approach. I'm extremely disappointed in all the funding being spent in the one area with nothing for rural Yukon, Mr. Speaker. I think that, after all the members on the government benches have reflected on what I have said here today, they'll probably be ashamed of the decisions they've made, but they'll probably, in quiet reflection among themselves, concur with my thoughts.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that as bad as I feel health-wise, after listening to that diatribe from the Member for Klondike, the juices are flowing. Believe me. I've never heard such a bunch of horse pucky in all my life.
And furthermore, Mr. Speaker -
Mr. Phillips: P
oint of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Riverdale North on a point of order.
Mr. Phillips: That comment about horse - and I won't say that terrible word he said - is unparliamentary. He should withdraw it.
Speaker: The Member for Watson Lake on the point of order.
Mr. Fentie: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, that's no worse than "bunk," "rubbish" or any other adjective.
Speaker: Would the Member for Watson Lake withdraw that "horse" word, please.
Mr. Fentie: I've never heard such bunk, Mr. Speaker, in all my life. Furthermore -
Speaker: Order please. Can the member withdraw that word?
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Fentie: Sorry, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw "horse pucky," and I will replace that with, "I've never heard such a bunch of bunk in all my life."
And the motion, Mr. Speaker, before us today, which implies that suddenly, the Yukon Party has become the champion of rural Yukon is the height of hypocrisy. Furthermore -
Speaker: Order please. Withdraw that word "hypocrisy."
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Fentie: Sorry, Mr. Speaker. I withdraw that word and would replace it with "completely ridiculous."
Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, after reading the motion, it comes to mind that it is a good thing that we've got oil and gas legislation, because there is a big pocket of it over there on the Yukon Party side of the House, and I can't wait until we start drilling to expose what a gaseous sham their position really is.
Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, this motion is nothing more than political grandstanding at the expense of my community.
Now, let's look for a moment at the Member for Klondike's lengthy speech today. We begin with forest policy and this government's efforts in forest policy.
Let me remind the members opposite, specifically the Yukon Party, that when they were faced with this extremely important issue, Mr. Speaker, Yukoners from my community came to their government, after investing and creating employment in the forest sector, and asked their government to help them with this issue - help Yukoners work with the federal government to ensure that we can maintain jobs. The Yukon Party government said, "Sorry, there's nothing we can do. It's a federal problem."
Then, they make comments about unemployment in my community of Watson Lake. I can tell you right now, Mr. Speaker, that very act by the Yukon Party government of the day cost us dearly. It cost us in the neighbourhood of 50 jobs in that community, for no reason whatsoever.
I can tell you that since this government has taken office we have vastly improved that, through our efforts with the forest commission and, indeed, the government as a whole. In fact, the improvement can be proven by simply looking at the number of commercial timber permits that were issued during the 1997-98 harvest season. That will explain the facts, Mr. Speaker.
Secondly, Mr. Speaker, the Member for Klondike again made reference to the much-touted meeting in Watson Lake of November 1995 of the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment - all 15 people who attended that meeting.
The recommendations that came from that very meeting - and there were three major recommendations - the first one was to educate the Yukon public, raise awareness, help involve them, help them be better able to make informed decisions in forestry - recommendation 1. I can tell you that since October of 1996, with the creation of the forest commission, that's exactly what we've been doing, and one of the initiatives in that regard was the walk in the woods tour.
The Member for Riverdale North is giggling, and I can tell you, and I'll make you an offer. You should come for a walk in the woods with me, and I'll show you how to look beyond the trees so you can see the forest, and you, too, will become a part of the solution, instead of remaining part of the problem.
The second recommendation, Mr. Speaker, was the creation of a body representative -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: By the way, it would be of no charge, Mr. Speaker, as the Yukon Party's sensitive about the cost of government expenditures.
The second recommendation was the creation of a body representative of Yukon stakeholders. That has also been done. That's the Yukon Forest Advisory Committee, and I can tell you that through their works we have today developed vision and principles for forest management planning in this territory.
Thirdly, Mr. Speaker, the recommendation that came from that very council was research and development of community-based forest management, and that work is also ongoing.
Now, the Member for Klondike went on to list a number of other issues around forestry, such as workshops that we had been attending, so on and so forth, and he made mention about the sustainable forest economy workshop here in Whitehorse.
He read from letters of how the First Nations did not support it and how the Liard First Nation was boycotting it. Let me, just for the record here today, Mr. Speaker, present the facts. The facts are that, in that workshop, 11 of 14 First Nations participated. Secondly, three members of the Liard First Nation participated, including the hereditary chief from the First Nation. In an interview, a respected elder of Yukon First Nations said, "This is too important not to participate in."
Now, the motion speaks specifically of Watson Lake and record-high unemployment. For the moment, I'd like to speak to that and also remind the members that unemployment and the issues we face on unemployment are Yukon-wide. Now, the community of Watson Lake has faced an economic downturn and the issues of unemployment for 12 long years. These begin with the closure of the Canada Tungsten mine, followed by the closure of the Cassiar, two mainstays for the community. The community of Watson Lake was the marshalling point for those two mines; it was the hub for those two mines. With their closure, economic downturn began, unemployment figures rose and, during that time, we had four years of Yukon Party government.
No matter about all the rhetoric brought to the floor of this Legislature by the Member for Klondike; they did absolutely nothing - nothing. Well, I can tell you something right now. The Member for Riverdale North says the NDP did nothing and I'll tell you even though the failure of the Watson Lake sawmill was an issue, they at least tried to do something.
Besides, the mayor and council of the day were screaming for investment in that sawmill. The NDP government of the day was listening and they made an attempt. Unfortunately, market conditions, coupled with equipment that did not suit stand profile resulted in failure. And those are lessons well-learned, Mr. Speaker.
Also, during the time of the Yukon Party tenure, we managed to get a brand new liquor store in Watson Lake. Wasn't that wonderful? And, as they talked this afternoon about all the things we can do with capital dollars to help the unemployment in the community of Watson Lake, the liquor store was built not by a contractor in Watson Lake - not at all - it was built by a contractor from out of the community.
So that's the Yukon Party's approach to capital spending in the community.
Secondly, let's look for a moment at this year's capital budget, and when you look at the main estimates, it's very clear that the Watson Lake constituency has received over $6 million in capital dollars. Now, it's true $5 million of that is going into highway projects on the Alaska Highway and on the south Campbell Highway. But, Mr. Speaker, in the absence of any clear priorities in the community, in the absence of design and projects sitting on the shelf awaiting capital expenditures, those monies were directed toward the highway.
And this government, Mr. Speaker, will wait for that community to decide collectively what they want to see done as far as their administration building, as far as library, as far as other capital projects are concerned.
We will let the people of Watson Lake participate in the decisions that affect them.
Now, the Yukon Party goes on and on and on about rural Yukon and capital expenditures and all those wonderful things. Let's look at some more facts, Mr. Speaker. These are percentages.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: That's right. There weren't many facts coming out of the Member for Klondike at all.
Now, if we look at the percentage of capital monies spent in the Yukon and consider how that reflects with Whitehorse and the total dollars spent, in 1995-96, which was a year of the Yukon Party government, 10.25 percent of capital dollars were directed to rural Yukon. In the 1996-97 budget - the last budget of the Yukon Party - 11.91 percent was directed to rural Yukon.
Now, let's look at the 1997-98 capital expenditures of this government. The percentage of capital expenditures in rural Yukon has risen from 11.9 percent to 23.32 percent. That's hardly ignoring rural Yukon. To go on to the 1998-99 capital budget, we have increased that to 28.13 percent.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: The member from Riverdale says, "Forget about this, that and the other thing." I'm saying that the facts are that we have dramatically increased capital expenditures in rural Yukon. And why? Because we, on this side of the House, care about people.
Now, the members opposite continually make the point that I, the Member for Watson Lake, am right-wing.
While that may be true, I can tell you that I care about my people, and we are going to do everything we can to improve their living -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: Well, let's look at some more facts, Mr. Speaker. Having been involved in the economy of Watson Lake for decades, I know exactly what's going on today. This is a seasonal spike that has put a dramatic increase into unemployment. However, we are about to get into the tourist season. Jobs will increase. The emulsion mixture and haul is going to begin within a month. Jobs will increase.
We have over $100,000 of CDF funding being spent in Watson Lake today. Jobs. Those are real jobs for real people in my community - not to mention every community in this territory.
We also have, outside of the highway expenditures in my community, a number of other capital dollars: Education, for improvements and landscaping, $30,000; communications equipment, capital expenditures, $2,000: Watson Lake industrial area, capital expenditure, $400,000 - that one expenditure alone is higher than the 1995-96 capital estimates for Watson Lake of the former Yukon Party government - higher by $70,000; Tourism upgrades, $20,000; Renewable Resources campground facilities expenditures are another $20,000; Coal River springs is another $15,000;
The Watson Lake hospital - the Member for Klondike went on and on and on about the need for medical facilities in Watson Lake; I tell you, we are lucky to have the hospital we do, and I'm proud of that fact - another $100,000.
Also, in Yukon Housing there is another $30,000. What we have here are the members opposite saying we are doing nothing in rural Yukon - nothing in Watson Lake. For the record, Mr. Speaker, that is patently false.
Let's understand something else about economy for this territory and the need to turn from government expenditures into diversifying our economy. This budget, Mr. Speaker, charts the course for that to happen. This budget begins that process. In expenditures in such things as the trade and investment diversification strategy we are, through intelligent, thoughtful work, expanding and broadening our borders.
Through such initiatives as immigrant investment, through oil and gas legislation and the potential that we will derive from our oil and gas fields in the southeast Yukon and, for that matter, anywhere else where they may be, such as Northern Cross' operation: these are all earmarked to create sustainable long-term jobs in this territory - not the continuous boom-and-bust cycle.
We've also gone and established relations outside this territory with such countries as Taiwan and Japan - again, earmarked for broadening our borders.
Now, Mr. Speaker, let's consider another fact: the seniors of Watson Lake. Now, the Member for Klondike again went on at great length about the health needs, about the ability to create jobs through the construction of a facility, and I want to set the record straight, Mr. Speaker. That very issue was there in Watson Lake, in that community, for four long years of Yukon Party neglect.
They did not even see their way clear to give that society enough dollars to implement a home care program. They gave them chicken feed, Mr. Speaker - nothing. We have taken a completely different approach.
Now, let's consider something else for the moment. When we talk about providing extended care, it's more than a building, Mr. Speaker. It's an ability to provide that care and the need to have that professional quality of person available. I can tell you that, for months, the clinic in Watson Lake has been trying to get another doctor to come to rural Yukon and has not been able to do so. Also, if the Yukon Party members ever take the time to check in on the news, they will see that all across this country in rural Canada, the ability to get and attract medical professionals is a real big problem. So, don't start misleading the people in Watson Lake, or this territory, through some political grandstanding about building facilities. There's a lot more to it, and it takes some thought.
Now, Mr. Speaker, there was some comment from the opposite side of the House about the main estimates and our comparisons, and they discussed apples and oranges and all the rest of it. But I can tell you, every figure that has been put into the public from myself and this side of the House is directly out of the main estimates. They've also made mention, over and over again, that the highway expenditures - the capital dollars going into the Alaska Highway and the Campbell Highway - are not capital expenditures for Watson Lake. But, if you look closely, it's been stated that those dollars are capital expenditures in the constituency of Watson Lake.
Those are facts, Mr. Speaker. So, the comparison the Yukon Party is making does not hold water.
Now, we want to look at the fire that the community had two years ago and the constant comments from the Yukon Party about the administration building. I can tell them we have not panicked. There is no knee-jerk reaction from this side of the House.
We are allowing that community to decide what they want and I can you right now, Mr. Speaker, that there have been considerable requests to move slowly, move thoughtfully and plan this. When the expenditures are made, it must be what that community desires and that's exactly what we're doing, and there's no doubt in my mind that in the very near future there will be further dollars spent in those areas.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I would also like to point out that in rural Yukon there is a definite need for job creation, and one of the logical approaches to job creation in this territory today, given the downturn in the mining industry, is the development of a sustainable forest economy. And that must be done through a comprehensive forest management plan.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: Well, there we go, the Member for Klondike, with another hilarious comment. I want to remind him that in June the Yukon Territory will be 100 years old, and for 98 and a half years, Mr. Speaker, we had access to forests in this territory in the absence of a forest management plan.
In 18 short months, we have come a long way in improving that situation, Mr. Speaker, and we have come a long way toward developing a sustainable forest economy. That will be an economy that does not add to the boom-and-bust cycles but adds to stable, sustainable job creation for this territory.
You know, I think back to the former Yukon Party government and comments made by their leader, and today we have a motion by that party that is meant to champion rural Yukon. The former Government Leader said publicly that there are communities in this territory that will not survive. Is that a champion of rural Yukon? That was the most ridiculous statement I have ever heard.
Secondly, the Yukon Party talks all about jobs, all about the economy, all about those wonderful things. It even makes mention that we need to change, and I ask what did the Yukon Party do in that regard for four long years?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: Seven percent unemployment does not enter into this fact. You did not do anything but spend government funds. You did not do anything to plan, to change and diversify our economy, and we are doing that and this budget and these capital expenditures are charting the course for that very fact.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: Well, now we have to go back a decade, I guess, to help the Member for Riverdale North.
However, I want to make sure that I leave some time for my colleagues to have at this, because it's a goodie, and Mr. Speaker, I do not support this motion one bit.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, there is no question that the Town of Watson Lake is an economically depressed area. The unemployment rate in Watson Lake, like in most rural areas, is unacceptably high, and unless there is a significant project coming up in Watson Lake from either the public or the private sector then this area will continue to be depressed economically. This is an area of chronic unemployment.
The issue today is whether or not to send in capital dollars to Watson Lake to solve this issue of a poor economy and high unemployment in Watson Lake. Now, the MLA for this area claims that his government is spending $5.9 million in capital in Watson Lake, and the town disagrees. The Town of Watson Lake claims that the NDP government is only spending $218,000 in this budget cycle, because the $400,000 earmarked for industrial subdivision development is completely recoverable, and the $5.7 million allocated for the Robert Campbell Highway will not directly benefit the Town of Watson Lake unless they extend their boundaries through to Ross River and there is absolute assurances that there will be local hire.
The NDP claims that Watson Lake is receiving the largest share of capital dollars that go to Yukon communities. The town claims that if you re-examine the figures, the Town of Watson Lake should be ranked twelfth in spending priorities at a time when unemployment claims rose to 21 percent in December and January, ranking Watson Lake with the third highest unemployment rate in the Yukon.
In the meantime, the Yukon Party claims that their party spent far more capital dollars in Watson Lake than the NDP did. So, what does this mean to the people of Watson Lake and the people of the Yukon that share in the economic-taxpayer-dollars pie allocated to the communities?
First of all, the MLA for Watson Lake is a member of the governing party. Normally, this means that there's a better chance of getting money from the government, because your MLA should, theoretically, have some say or extra lobbying ability with the party in power. Now, I don't doubt that the MLA for Watson Lake did lobby quite strenuously to have dollars spent in Watson Lake this budget cycle. The effect of that lobbying is, however, less than obvious to the people of Watson Lake.
The fact that the MLA has now pledged to have regular meetings with the town council will go far to help him get a better gauge of the true priorities for his community.
The Town of Watson Lake had a recent meeting to decide what were the capital priorities of the town, and it came as somewhat of a surprise to some of the officials that the number-one capital priority of the town was not a new municipal building, it was not highway work that may or may not go to Watson Lake people, and it was not new land development. It was the development of a multi-level care facility to serve the people of this region.
Despite the fact that this has been identified as the number-one capital priority for the town, it's not budgeted for in this budget or, apparently, in next year's budget either. There are no funds earmarked for planning, consultation, development or construction of a multi-level care facility for Watson Lake in this budget, despite the fact that this NDP government claims that they respond to the needs that come from the community.
Well, not only has this government refused to respond to this need, they have also consistently failed to even acknowledge that the Town of Watson Lake, the people of Watson Lake, have identified a multi-level care facility as the number-one capital priority in this town. It's actually quite sad.
When I had the honour to serve at the municipal level, government block funding had just been introduced and it was considered to be a wonderful thing. It was considered a great improvement on past practice because previously, whenever a municipality identified a capital need, they had to go, hat in hand, to the government and hope that the government of the day would listen to what the local government had identified as the capital priorities for the area. Hopefully, the territorial government, no matter what political stripe, through some sort of convoluted funding arrangement, would build what the community had identified as the needed project. More often than not, prior to the block funding agreement, the project that was built was not the one that the town had identified as a priority but, rather, the politically sexy project of the day that would apparently win the most votes in the next election.
Block funding was supposed to be a marked improvement on those bad old days of vote buying through capital projects. But, you know, I look back on those bad old days and think nothing's changed. Number one, the block funding levels have not changed in 12 years, but the government is also not listening to what this community is clearly saying is the number-one capital priority.
The letter of request to the territorial government from Watson Lake to build a multi-level care facility - well, those requests date back 12 years. The letters come from the town, the local seniors group, two of the local First Nations and a variety of other local agencies. It's hard to believe that instead of starting the planning for this needed facility, the government has instead decided to do highway work. It's hard to believe that this government has not even acknowledged that priority of the people of Watson Lake.
The issue we are discussing today is whether more capital dollars should be spent in Watson Lake. Capital dollars would apparently solve the unemployment problem and help the economy. And, you know, in the short term that is very true. Ultimately, throwing dollars at an issue usually does solve a lot of problems in the short term. What all of us have to focus on, though, is what is good for Watson Lake, not just in this budget cycle, but well beyond this budget year and even beyond this political term in office.
Mr. Speaker, I've served on a number of volunteer boards over the years. Never once was it difficult to obtain capital dollars for a worthwhile project. What was darned close to impossible was to find a source for ongoing operations and maintenance dollars. O&M dollars sustain jobs, get needed programs off the ground and keep them running, and those dollars sent to pay the rent or clean the office or pay the postage are not the sort of thing that political campaigns are based on, but they're very important. While I can see the point of putting capital dollars into an area to solve some unemployment and, ultimately, social problems in the short term, it's important to a government that they try and maintain O&M dollars as well so at least the present level of employment in a community can be maintained.
Ultimately, the influx of capital dollars in Watson Lake this budget year will solve very little of the town's long-term economic woes. The private sector, and particularly small business, needs to be supported in the town at the current level and there needs to be a climate created that encourages small business investment in Watson Lake but also in the rest of the Yukon. In the long run, the private sector is where the jobs are, and the private sector will support the local sports team, the private sector will pay the property taxes at the higher commercial rate, and the private sector will help to subsidize electrical rates by paying the higher rate, and the private sector will service the needs of tourists, our second-largest industry in the Yukon.
It is important here to note the impact of tourism as a fundamental element of the Watson Lake economy. Watson Lake is the gateway to the Yukon and it has a growing tourism economy, largely as a result of the efforts of the community itself, not the efforts by this government or the previous one. Central Mountain Air has worked with the town on initiatives to bring Taiwanese visitors to the town to see the Northern Lights Centre, a town-initiated and approved attraction and an economic engine for this municipality.
We should also pay tribute at this time to the Northern Lights Centre and their efforts, like Marsville, to provide a fabulous educational opportunity for students throughout the Yukon. Students from Jack Hulland are going to Watson Lake as we speak, Mr. Speaker - Yukoners sharing their part of the Yukon with others and learning at the same time.
Tourism is where we need to focus our attention, particularly in Watson Lake.
Metal prices fluctuate constantly and mining has been the boom and the curse of this territory over the years. Tourism is where we need to spend a lot more of our energy and our capital dollars in the coming years.
As the representatives of the people of the Yukon, we need to spend Yukon taxpayer dollars wisely. We need to think of the long term, beyond our term in office. We need to listen to the communities about what their priorities are. In Watson Lake, the capital priority has been clearly identified by the people as a multi-level care facility.
As legislators, we have to weigh all the needs of Yukoners and make decisions about where to focus our energy in the future. We need to spend dollars or enact legislation that makes for a good climate for private-sector growth. We need to think about not just creating jobs this year with capital projects, but how we maintain the jobs that already exist in the community through O&M dollars. We need to think about the jobs we will create in the future by supporting the businesses that will employ the people of Watson Lake for many years to come.
Lastly, we are not discussing some sort of ethereal issue here today, again. We are talking about the lives of the people who live in Watson Lake. We decide in this Legislature where to spend the money every year. We decide in this Legislature how to spend close to a billion dollars every year. We decide, during budget debate in our Legislature every year when to spend taxpayer dollars.
But, Mr. Speaker, we must never forget why we spend the money we spend. This is the money that improves the lives of Yukoners, including those Yukoners who live in Watson Lake.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I found the afternoon's debate fascinating. I give appropriate tribute to the Member for Klondike for maintaining the fine Yukon Party oratorical tradition of presenting a long, rambling incoherent position this afternoon on a variety of subjects.
The member's thesis, essentially, was that there was no forestry policy, the Yukon protected areas strategy was coming on too fast, there was no land claim and not enough capital dollars for Watson Lake. I thought he was criticizing the Yukon Party record, Mr. Speaker.
I give due acknowledgment to the Liberal member who just spoke and applaud her courage for swimming against the flow of Liberal orthodoxy in suggesting that O&M expenditures would probably be more appropriate to improve job creation and long-term health of the communities, because that's clearly inconsistent with the formal Liberal response to the government's overall budget. They had been mesmerized by Svengali, who had suggested that capital was good, O&M was bad. I applaud the Member for Riverdale South for standing against that position. It shows some courage.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the Member for Klondike said some fascinating things this afternoon when one could actually pick up the strain of a particular argument before he dropped it and moved on to something else before he'd actually made his point. It was interesting to note that a lot of the criticism that he was levelling was, in fact, criticism of his own party's record.
Now, he can't be held responsible for a lot of that, Mr. Speaker. No, he didn't know or he doesn't know any better or he just simply isn't familiar with the record over the last four years. He made an argument that we should be making extraordinary capital commitments to the Town of Watson Lake. That was part of his thesis. But he wasn't aware that only a week ago the leader of the official opposition, his bench mate in the Yukon Party, had been scolding me for providing some extraordinary funding to Dawson City, suggesting that there was already a block fund available for communities to spend. The Member for Porter Creek North was saying, at some length, that because the communities - and in the case of Watson Lake which gets $1.2 million in block funding - already receive substantial funds and that we should not be insisting there are projects of an extraordinary nature that are worthy of further expenditure.
Now, the Member for Klondike wasn't listening at the time, presumably, and didn't realize that the party leader had officially chastised my government for providing some extraordinary funds to Dawson City.
Now, I forgive the member for that. I think there are other issues that the member raised that are worthy of some comment.
The member made some derogatory remarks about - he said they weren't derogatory and that he meant them with the greatest affection - the conservation community and suggested that the government, if it really cared about improving the climate for economic development in the Watson Lake area or any place in the territory, for that matter, we should not be so dogmatic about pursuing the protected areas strategy, that this part of the environmental agenda, which also has economic consequences - and positive ones at that - should be put off to some future time, some future date when there is a better climate.
Of course, the member is unaware that the protected areas strategy itself was signed on to by the Yukon Party, and they insisted over and over again throughout their mandate that they were going to live by the deadline by ensuring that the protected areas strategy would be completed by the year 2000. So, they were interested clearly in jamming the full protected areas strategy into a very short period of time, knowing, presumably, full well what the consequences would be to everyone for doing so. Now, Mr. Speaker, the members refer to the strategy that they signed the territory on to in the most derogatory way.
The member goes on to talk about the concern about the amount of money that the government is putting into the protected areas strategy and suggests that perhaps it might be better spent doing something else.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I can only say to the member that the government is very much interested in doing the protected areas strategy right and doing it sensitively, and working with the industry and the conservation community to ensure that this strategy is not only good for the immediate term, but is also good for the long term. That is why this balanced approach to the government's agenda cannot simply sit on the sidelines and wait while the Yukon Party changes its mind with respect to an issue it initiated in the first place.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the member went on at some length talking about the amount of money that the rural Yukon receives in terms of direct public expenditures for various capital works. Ironically, Mr. Speaker, I point out to the member that the investment in rural Yukon is substantially higher than every year that the Yukon Party was in office. It's ironic, Mr. Speaker, that the Yukon Party can criticize the New Democrats for spending 30 percent of their capital budget exclusively in rural Yukon when they spent less than 10 percent of their much larger capital budget in rural Yukon.
The Member for Klondike can criticize the government for spending relatively little in Watson Lake, and for us it's about nine or 10 percent of the total capital budget, but the Yukon Party's contribution to Watson Lake was one-quarter of one percent in 1995-96, and just under one percent in 1996-97.
So the member expresses concern that, while the NDP government improves the record of the Yukon Party 900 percent, that we on this side of the House should be ashamed of our performance.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I admit fully that, in the fullness of time, I think we will be in a good position to even improve on our record. But listening to the Yukon Party, of all people, talk about investments in rural Yukon is very hard to take. I would point out that the Yukon Party leader, in response to a question about where rural Yukon was going in the next 25 years, quite unashamedly suggested that there were only a few communities in the Yukon that would literally survive, and that the other communities really didn't have any economic standing - they had no economic underpinning, and why should the public artificially prop up these communities?
I can tell the members that the Yukon Party and the New Democrats have a substantially different vision of rural Yukon and a substantially different track record. Now, the Member for Riverdale South has indicated that if you have an MLA in the area, you should expect a little special treatment. Well, Mr. Speaker, I hope that is not what the Liberal Party is actually advocating. If that's a hint about how the Liberal Party would behave in government, then I think we've got a lot to worry about because, clearly, Mr. Speaker, that would be unethical if that was the case.
Nevertheless, Watson Lake is being treated very well. The town the Member for Klondike comes from, Dawson City, is also being treated with great respect, in both word and deed. Consequently, I can say that no one could legitimately level a charge that favouritism is being applied by this government based on who represents a particular riding. Based on the budget presentation we're debating right now, no one would suggest that the New Democrats are doing anything other than investing heavily in rural Yukon.
Now, I'll cast the members' minds back to the period just before the last election. The Yukon Party candidate in Watson Lake was making a long song and dance about how the Yukon Party government hadn't really respected Watson Lake, hadn't really invested enough in Watson Lake, and that he was going to work from within to change things. Once he got elected, he would actually make the Yukon Party do what they should be doing. To illustrate his point, he suggested that if the government really cared about the Town of Watson Lake they would invest in upgrading the Campbell Highway.
Now, I realize that the members opposite have pooh-poohed the Campbell Highway projects that we have brought forward.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Pooh-poohed. Dismissed.
But I want to point out to the members that, even though the candidate for Watson Lake had been pursuing the Campbell Highway as a project, as something that might allow the Yukon Party to reform its unfortunate ways when it came to showing respect for Watson Lake, the very first budget that we brought forward actually incorporated some funding for the Campbell Highway reconstruction. This was criticized by the Member for Klondike, as the Yukon Party's transportation critic, as being nonsensical: "Where was the traffic flow that justified any such expenditure?" I remember listening to that at some length in this Legislature, just as an interested observer, listening to the Member for Klondike go on and on about who is really going to use this particular piece of road and what the heck was the government even thinking of in upgrading it.
Well, only shortly later, Mr. Speaker, only a year later, we have the Yukon Party championing the cause of rebuilding the entire Campbell Highway, and the Yukon Party has, from time to time, been suggesting that perhaps road expenditures, if they're not perfectly targeted to a particular community, are not really of great benefit to a particular town.
The Yukon Party candidates seem to think that the respected past Mayor of Watson Lake suggested that reconstruction of the Campbell Highway was, in fact and in deed, a sound investment in the future of the Watson Lake area.
So, we, on this side of the House, are having some difficulty understanding the incoherent vision - the nonsensical vision - presented by the Yukon Party, not only during the elections campaigns, but also in the long, rambling nonsense that we listened to this afternoon.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party said clearly that they felt very proud of their seven-percent unemployment record; that they, through the sheer force of will and vision, had ensured that the economy of the territory was in good hands and well cared for, and said that the mining was going and that there was big money for capital expenditures, without ever telling anybody that they didn't have anything to do with starting the mine up. In fact, there were news reports from Anvil Range Mining Corporation that complained bitterly, before the startup in 1993, that the Yukon Party government had less interest in starting that mine than did the investors in Toronto.
The Yukon Party didn't mention that the major capital projects that they were undertaking - that were supposedly ensuring that the unemployment rate was kept to a minimum - were, in fact, projects that were negotiated by the much-despised, in their view, NDP government, which negotiated the Shakwak project funding, the hospital construction project, and were responsible for much of the available revenue that the Yukon Party had to spend.
So, the Yukon Party's record which, nominally, had a lower unemployment rate than certainly there is now, was largely not of their making at all.
Now, we heard all kinds of stories from them about their industrial support policy and how they were going to get around to actually getting some things done. And we heard from them that they were going to develop a comprehensive energy policy and start getting things done on that front, too. Yet, nothing ever happened. Nothing in four years ever happened. They talked about developing a forestry policy, too. They talked about devolution of forestry. Nothing ever happened.
I'm sure they have all kinds of excuses why those things didn't happen. Nothing happened.
The energy policy didn't materialize. Energy rates were jacked up - no attempt at stabilizing rates at all.
The forest policy was, at the end of a very long consultation, which we complained about - we complained about the 16 months that the government's been in office. By the time they started to the time that they were announcing results, over two years in the making, they came to the conclusion that we wanted sustainable harvests in the woods. It was a principles statement.
Then when things got really tough, they just threw up their hands and said, "Listen, hey, this is a federal government responsibility. It has nothing to do with us."
So, the economic leadership provided by the Yukon Party was pathetic.
Now the member suggests that the creation of the atmosphere, a suggestion that ensuring that there's a climate for business, was their top priority. So, even if they didn't do anything of consequence or substance, they were at least sending out signals about the atmosphere.
Well, they were the first to send out the signals about the protected areas strategy they're so concerned about. They were the first to send out those signals, that they were going to do it, and they're going to do it by the year 2000. They repeated it over and over again.
They were the ones who said that they signed on to the land claims agreement and that they were going to pursue DAP. But when our government took office, they were claiming that DAP was already done, even though nobody had seen it. If there wasn't a worrying signal to the industry, that was a worrying signal.
And certainly industry, Mr. Speaker, was very quick to tell us, "Don't listen to those guys who just left office. Don't listen to them because we don't want the notion that DAP is completed. We weren't involved with the development of the development assessment process. So, for gosh sakes, pull back - "
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes to conclude his remarks.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I can't tell you how much I want unlimited time on this motion. I just cannot begin to tell you. There is so much to say and so little time to say it.
All I can say to the members opposite is that substantial work is being done to create that climate. Real work is being done. Real expenditures are being made in rural Yukon, not phantom expenditures, and there is a long-term commitment to that community and to other communities in this territory that have been given the worst kind of treatment from our predecessors.
We do care about the communities. We care about the priorities that they deliver, so that when we do talk about the community development fund, it's because we respect what the communities themselves are asking for - not what the gurus sitting around in this Chamber deem appropriate, but what the community organizations themselves are asking for.
I know the members in the opposition don't like the community development fund. People in rural Yukon do, and that's all I need to keep me going and keep supporting that particular project.
Mr. Speaker, I thank you for your indulgence.
It's too bad. I will take the opportunity maybe at some point in another debate to continue on with my remarks, but the Member for Klondike today just provided too much information. He led with his chin too often. It frustrates me no end not to be able to respond to so much of what he said.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, well, well. We had a motion on more capital projects for Watson Lake, and we heard a Government Leader very defensively talking about all the great things the NDP is doing for Yukoners. Well, not too long from now, he's going to have to convince Yukoners that he has done some great things, and the proof will be in the pudding. That's where it'll be; it'll be in the pudding.
Mr. Speaker, we have spoken time and time again in this Legislature of the NDP not having a vision for the future of the Yukon. We don't have to say much on it any more. All we have to do is just keep monitoring their budgets and pointing out to Yukoners that their spending priorities do not provide any vision for the future of the Yukon. This is a government that couldn't sustain itself if it wasn't for living on government handouts from the federal government. They know nothing about developing a private enterprise society in the Yukon and a private enterprise that could create jobs with a little bit of help and leadership from them as a government.
The Government Leader spoke of economic leadership. Well, he says ours was pathetic. Well, if ours was pathetic, Mr. Speaker, I don't know, I'll have to dig pretty deep in the dictionary to find out how we could describe theirs, because what have we seen this government do since the 18 months they've been in power? They've been in power 18 months and they brought forward two budgets; they have one more budget for sure, possibly two, but the last one will be at the end of their mandate. So, they've got one more budget to demonstrate to Yukoners that they are providing some economic leadership. They've failed miserably in the first two.
They don't have any vision for the Yukon. They don't know how to develop an economic society. All they know is to create government jobs, and they're masters at that. Just look at their budgets, and look to see where their money is being spent.
Mr. Speaker, we need only look at a comparison of the budgets and the budget books of the Government Leaders - the budget book that tells you where the money is being spent. It's quite easy to see where their money is being spent when you look at the comparisons between the operation and maintenance and capital budgets. Now, they go on to say, "We ain't going to cut health care." But, in fact, they have cut health care. They don't know how to spend money efficiently.
When we heard, Mr. Speaker - and I won't get on it forever, but I just have to point out - when we have people staying in the hospital that ought to be in an extended-care facility, at twice the cost, that is not wise spending of government money. And we have the Minister of Health and Social Services' favourite topic: blame somebody else - "Don't blame me because I don't know what to do about it. Blame somebody else."
Let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, his constituents are getting sick and tired of hearing that excuse, and he had better find a new one.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Speaker, the Thomson Centre was their design - the previous NDP administration. That was their design where, in Kelowna, they built one that had 10 more beds in it for half the cost.
Mr. Livingston: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Lake Laberge, on a point of order.
Mr. Livingston: Mr. Speaker, I thought the motion related to rural Yukon. It seems to me that we're into a hospital debate. Could I ask the Speaker to make a ruling on that and maybe get us back on topic?
Speaker: Leader of the official opposition, on the point of order.
Mr. Ostashek: I'm not talking about the Health budget at all. I'm talking about the past history of former NDP governments and what they've done to the Yukon - that's perfectly legitimate - and how it relates to them not having any money for capital in Watson Lake now.
Speaker: The Minister of Health and Social Services, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The opposition leader did make reference to the current situation, which is a topic for the Health and Social Services debate. So, he was not confining his remarks to past practices. He was, in fact, making reference to issues current.
Speaker: First, in reference to the intervention by the Minister of Health and Social Services, the Chair would point out that when members are speaking to the point of order, it is not in order to interrupt them.
Second, in regard to the point of order raised by the Member for Lake Laberge, the Chair would ask the leader of the official opposition to respect all the earlier rulings the Chair made today.
Leader of the official opposition, please continue.
Mr. Ostashek: Knowing how sensitive they are, I'll just refrain from that and we'll get onto it at another time, another place, and get our licks in. We understand.
The point I'm trying to make, Mr. Speaker, is that this government has tied their hands in doing any capital works anywhere in the Yukon, and especially in communities like Watson Lake that are experiencing very high unemployment rates. And how have they tied their hands, Mr. Speaker? By their spending priorities, and you need not be a rocket scientist to figure it out. All you need to look at is the historical comparisons in the Minister of Finance's budget address book on the main estimates, and you can see - anybody can see, you don't need to be a mathematician, you don't need to be anything - you can see that the money is going into the operation and maintenance of government.
They condemn our management of funds and our economic leadership but, Mr. Speaker, from 1993-94, there was an operations budget of $352.4 million, in '96-97 it was down to $346,821,000, including taking over responsibilities from Ottawa.
They haven't done anything different. They've taken over the second phase of the health transfer. Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm sorry. We took over the first phase, and we didn't increase the operation and maintenance spending. Today, they are up to $370 million today - in excess of $370 million - from $346 million in 1996-97. That ties their hands. They can rant and rave and scream and holler about us having the Shakwak project, about us having the hosptial project. Sure we did, but we also put a lot of discretionary capital in, too, and we didn't spend our money by increasing the size of government.
Now, Mr. Speaker, they may think that's all right, but I know that the Yukoners who talked to me think that there is plenty of government now. They don't need any more government, yet this party that's in power today thinks that that's the anwer to our economic woes in the territory - create high-paying government jobs.
I guess that's fine for the people who are employed in it, but it makes it very, very difficult for those people who haven't got a government job and who need to operate in the private sector, when this government focuses almost entirely on increasing their operation and maintenance costs, which I call spending money on themselves. We've said it time and time again.
Mr. Speaker, I did find it somewhat surprising that the Member for Watson Lake, in the summation of his speech - which was very short I thought - wasn't able to refute much of what the Member for Kluane said - Member for Klondike said. He didn't have much to say for himself.
Heaven forbid, I don't want to mix you up with the Member for Kluane. I'm sorry Member for Klondike.
I was somewhat surprised, and I am sure his constituents are going to be surprised, Mr. Speaker. Look at the motion that was presented by the Member for Klondike: in view of the current unacceptable high unemployment rate in Watson Lake the government should undertake some major capital projects in the community to create employment opportunities. This would have been jobs for the MLA for Watson Lake's constituents and he stood there and said he's going to vote against the motion. He's going to vote against creating jobs in his own community. He's going to vote against creating jobs for the people he represents.
Mr. Speaker, I find that quite alarming, and I'm sure that his constituents will. I can assure you that, had the Member for Watson Lake put a motion on the Order Paper to fund a bridge in Dawson City, he wouldn't have had the Member for Klondike voting against the motion. All the Member for Klondike was trying to do was help him out in his negotiations with his caucus and Cabinet to get more money for his community - and he's going to vote against it.
I guess he figures that 25- or 30-percent unemployment is good for his community. They don't need any more money - that's what he's telling them. How alarming - and then to stand here and say he's representing his constituents. Well, Mr. Speaker, I'd suggest to you that that's very poor representation. I can assure you that if somebody on the opposite side of the House wants to bring forward a motion to spend some money in Porter Creek North, I'll support it wholeheartedly. I certainly wouldn't be voting against it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: That I would vote against, Mr. Speaker: higher power rates. I said spending more money in the constituency, not taking more money out of the constituency.
But, Mr. Speaker, I'll point out that that's where this government's money is going. It's not that they're short of money. They're not doing anything different in government than we were. They're spending all of the money they've got coming in, and then some.
Their total revenue has dropped a little bit. It has. The transfers from Ottawa are going up, and they're going to continue to go up, but at the same time their operation and maintenance expenses are going up. And they can cut it or spin it any way they want, the fact is that they're going up and going up substantially. They can use whatever excuse they want. It isn't going to wash with the Yukon public.
They repeatedly say, "You want us to cut health care, you want us to cut education." Well, we didn't increase O&M budgets and we didn't cut health care. In fact, we increased it. We didn't cut education. In fact, we increased it.
We were able to do that and, yes, we are proud that we took unemployment to seven percent, and the Government Leader and his colleagues may think that we didn't have anything to do with it but ask any Yukoner and they'll tell you differently. They'll tell you differently - that we had a lot to do with it.
We hear the Member for Whitehorse Centre kibitzing. Is that why they all voted for you? Well, I suggest to the Member for Whitehorse Centre that he ought to treat the Liberals really nicely. Make sure that they stay in good shape, because it's because of them that he's sitting in that chair on the government side of the House, not because of anything the NDP did. That's the only reason they're there with a vast majority, Mr. Speaker. Be nice to him. Your fate depends on them.
Mr. Speaker, we heard the Government Leader, in his debate, talk about energy rates and what a great job they've done of stabilizing energy rates and how they're living up to their election promise. Give me a break - living up to their election promise.
It doesn't take a lot of skill or a lot of finesse to stabilize energy rates at prices that are out of reach for most Yukoners. Any government could do that without even trying, and that's exactly what this NDP government has done.
They come along with this great plan of a rate stabilization fund. Give me a break. We brought that in during our administration with the diesel contingency fund - exactly the same thing with a different name, Mr. Speaker. What they did is spend the money out of that fund, and now they want to get it back from the ratepayers to fill the fund up again and tell them what a great job they're doing for them. How ridiculous.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: So they can burn diesel and not use the licence that was issued to them by the Water Board. Burn up $5 million worth of diesel and then go cry poverty to the people, "Well, we didn't know the Faro mine was going down. We were going to stabilize power rates, but the Faro mine went down."
Unbelievable. And they expect Yukoners to buy that - the whining and snivelling.
Mr. Speaker, the Faro mine goes down on a regular basis. They just didn't think to enter that into the equation when they were going to stand there beating their chests and saying, "We're going to bring power rates to an affordable level and we're going to stabilize them for Yukoners."
That's going to be a very hard sell for them in the next election, Mr. Speaker.
The intent of the motion was, because of the strong representation that we, in the opposition, are getting from the community of Watson Lake, of the devastations being caused there by the inactions of this government. All we're trying to do is help them out and help the MLA for Watson Lake out, to pry a little money out of that bunch over there who are spending it all on operation and maintenance. That's all we were trying to do - and then he's going to vote against the motion. I'm sure that his constituents won't be very pleased when they find out that he said he was going to vote against the motion - he doesn't want any more money for Watson Lake.
The Government Leader went on to talk about all the great things they've done with the DAP. Well, I don't think DAP is any further ahead today than when we left office. The fact is, it's a federal process, and the feds don't want to let go of it, any more than they did when we were in power. We don't hear very much about DAP any more. It's sort of been tried to be swept under the rug. They don't want to talk about that.
Mr. Speaker, I also heard the Member for Watson Lake say that we shouldn't be spending money in a depressed community. What a ridiculous statement, especially when he's sitting with a government that built a curling rink in a community after it closed down - a $1 million one that never had a sheet of ice put in it.
That's the economic vision that the NDP has.
We hear - and my colleague from Klondike touched on it briefly in his presentation today, Mr. Speaker - of all the reasons this government uses why they're in such a sorry state and why they can't do anything to help Yukoners out. Some of the arguments they make all the time are low zinc prices, Bre-X, and the Asian flu. Well, all of those things are having a certain impact on the Yukon, but I would suggest to you they would have far less impact if the Yukon didn't have an NDP flu - a government with no vision, a government that mouths nice words to industry, but doesn't do anything concrete to back them up.
I think the message that Yukoners are getting from debates in this House is a statement that was made by the Member for Kluane in a debate in this House a few weeks ago, and it's a statement that I'm delivering to everybody that I can - a copy of that Blues.
I forget what the motion was we were debating but I was standing here and talking about how they could do something to send a strong signal to the investment community and the mining community if they were really sincere and behind them. And, Mr. Speaker, I used the example of when we went to bat for Archer Cathro and helped them walk a backhoe into Killermun Lake.
Mr. Speaker, when the Member for Kluane got a chance to get up and speak, he had the audacity to say that we just don't get it on this ...
Speaker: The member has two minutes.
Mr. Ostashek: ... we just don't get it on this side of the House.
It wasn't about walking the backhoe in at all, he says. He says, "What would have happened if they would have found something?" My god, the mentality that Yukoners are dealing with when it comes to economic development in the Yukon. Unbelievable. What would have happened if we'd really discovered a mine? We would have had to put it into production. We would have created jobs for Yukoners, Mr. Speaker. What a sin. Unbelievable.
We may have had some economic development in the Kluane area - his riding. He couldn't care less about the people in Kluane. He doesn't care if they're working or unemployed. What a ridiculous statement for a member - any member in this House, whether they're in opposition or in government - to make. What would have happened if they would have found something? We would've had a mine on our hands, folks. What a terrible travesty of justice that would have been. That would have been such a travesty of justice.
That's the fundamental problem with the members opposite. They don't have any idea of how to advance economic development. They don't have any idea of how to create a climate for investment in the Yukon. They don't have any idea how to create optimism for Yukoners and get people from outside the Yukon to invest in this territory and to create the much needed jobs that -
Speaker: Order please. The time being 5:30 p.m., the Speaker will leave the Chair until 7:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the acting government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 9 - First Appropriation Act, 1998-99 - continued
Chair: We are dealing with Health and Social Services.
Department of Health and Social Services - continued
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We were discussing last night a couple of issues surrounding the Young Offenders Act, and some of the comments by the Member for Riverdale South piqued my interest. I refer to the Blues on page 2996, with regard to gazetting the names of young offenders. As well, there were other discussions around young offenders. I thought, so that we don't have any misapprehension on this, the comparison was drawn between ourselves and the Northwest Territories.
When we looked into this today - we were in contact with the Northwest Territories - essentially a Northwest Territories young offender's name is never published.
There are two different methods for designating open custody. The Young Offenders Act, section 24(1), describes how places of open custody are designated. There are two designation options available for jurisdictions. One, the Lieutenant Governor in Council - which would be the Commissioner in Council - can designate an individual. Designations by the Lieutenant Governors are always carried out by an OIC and published in the Gazette. The Northwest Territories has chosen this way of designating all open custody spaces.
The Yukon chose some time ago, in the 1980s, to appoint a delegate of the Commissioner in Council, who has the power to designate places of open custody. The OIC appointing a delegate was revised in 1994, when the director of family and children's services was given the responsibility for designating places of open custody. Designations by the delegate are not made in OIC so that there is no subsequent publication in the Gazette.
Now, with regard to this, there is a fundamental difference between ourselves and the N.W.T., which might probably explain the difference in the policy.
First of all, I think it is important to note that the N.W.T. does not publish the names of young offenders. Second of all, in the Northwest Territories, all young people in open custody spaces have unsupervised free time. So, in other words, they have, at different times - even though they're in open custody - time in which they are not supervised. In our jurisdiction, we are required to have our young offenders supervised and so, that's perhaps one of the reasons for difference there.
With regard to some of the issues surrounding 77 Tamarack, I can report that, as of two weeks ago, this open custody facility ceased to exist and that was a decision by the people who were operating it.
To date, with regard to some of the offences, we don't have any individuals who have been identified as pedophiles. What we do have are three young people who have been convicted of sex offences, one of which was at NNS, another in rural open custody and there was a third at 77 Tamarack.
With regard to this one - this was a decision on open custody that was made by the judge. In all these cases, none of the above offenders have been considered to be violent. So, I hope that clarifies some of the concern in this regard.
We have seven active, approved open custody care giver homes. So, I thought it would be worthwhile to clarify that. The Northwest Territories has 10 open custody care giver homes. They go under the name of "alternative homes" in their system, and they're located in communities across the NWT and Nunavut. As I said, their system differs in the fact that young people in open custody are permitted free time in the community.
With regard to some of the issues that were raised, I told the Member for Klondike that I would try to get some information with regard to continuing care facility wait lists. The Thomson Centre and Macaulay Lodge combined have 26 people on wait lists. Part of the group waiting to go into the Thomson Centre are actually a group of people coming from Macaulay. There are eight people from the community outside and 20 from Macaulay waiting to go into Thomson. Then there are 18 individuals on the Macaulay list, so if we net them we come out with 26.
There is currently no wait list for McDonald Lodge.
In going through the wait list by location, we have two individuals from Burwash Landing - for Macaulay, this is - and two individuals from Dawson City. However, it's interesting to note that both clients from Dawson City have indicated a desire to live in Whitehorse and have requested to be wait listed for Macaulay. One is from Ross River and 13 from Whitehorse.
For the Thomson Centre, there is one on wait list from Watson Lake, seven from Whitehorse and, I guess, of that, then there would be 20 from Macauley.
So, part of the wait list really involves people moving from one level of care onto a higher level of care, and that's certainly one of the things that we'll have to be addressing.
So I thought I'd just provide that information for the members because they seemed to be seeking it.
Mrs. Edelman: I hope that, along with that information that the minister was kind enough to provide, he said last night in the House that he was going to look at other initiatives and classification systems for open custody homes and give people an indication of what was going on in their neighbourhoods. I hope that the minister is still committed to that.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, of course, Mr. Chair. Part of our purpose in contacting the N.W.T. was because of some of the comments that the members had brought to our attention. They piqued our interest and we thought that maybe they were doing something there that we could be borrowing from or looking at - whatever.
So, yes, we're still interested in that. It is something we will be reviewing, but in looking at the Blues, I didn't want the member, in a sense, to be misquoted on that, so, I just thought I would clarify that.
Mrs. Edelman: It's always good when we're all looking out for each other. Sometimes it's actually quite frightening.
We were talking, last date, about alcohol and the extended alcohol debate we had in the House on private members' day in the last session. I've been going through, with the minister, sort of point by point, some of the issues he said he was going to be dealing with, to do with alcohol abuse in the Yukon.
I think we had talked about followup treatment, and now we're on the issue of getting ADS counsellors into F.H. Collins to try and begin a program and directing our youth health promotion officer to work on this as well. How is that going with youth initiatives on alcohol?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: One of the ideas behind moving to the model that we're looking at now is we feel that one of the things that it will allow us to do is do, for example, youth group work that perhaps wasn't as appropriate in the, I guess, more traditional 28-day, if you will, AA-kind of model. While we don't have a youth group gathered yet, that will be one of the areas that we're going to be working on.
As well, part of our health promotion branch - I think I spoke before about how some of our goals were to do such things as to raise the level of first-drink age, if you will, because one of the things that we've concluded as part of our study there is that if we can discourage people - strange as it sounds, I suppose - from drinking until a later date, then what we'll probably do is reduce the likelihood of getting into more serious problem drinking, and that's going to be one of the targets for our youth health promotion.
Mrs. Edelman: I think I need to clarify again. Is the minister saying that they've started a youth group to do something similar to the AA youth group at the school? What is the actual program that the minister has initiated to do with youth and alcohol?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, one of the goals in our switch over to the alcohol and drug strategy that we've gone for is - I suppose for lack of a better term - we found that we needed to create a program that had somewhat more flexibility. So, for example, a program that was not residentially based could be delivered to different groups and could be adapted for a gerontology group; for example, older folks perhaps with some substance abuse problems and also youth.
One of the things we hope to do through our new alcohol and drug program is to set up specific programs that young people can be referred to, either through social services or perhaps through something like school counsellors. Now, there will be a youth group addictions treatment. This is something that really hasn't been present before because the base mode of treatment has been a 28-day residential, 12-step, AA kind of model, which really doesn't lend itself to adolescents. So, this is something we're hoping to get going later on, as we develop the program and make it more flexible.
We're going to be looking at how we can work with both the schools and Social Services in this. For example, we know that some of our young people who end up in our young offenders facility may have substance abuse problems. What this will do now is, by having this kind of an avenue, that might be an alternative for, say, a judge, in terms of youth sentencing. Or, perhaps, through something like Yukon Family Services - that may be another avenue for young people to be referred. What we're looking forward to, I guess, is being able to deliver the program in a somewhat more flexible way.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I think from that I'm going to gather that there is actually no youth program that is started - that there is no actual youth programming going on, and the minister has indicated that hasn't occurred as yet, but that's certainly where we're heading in the future, at some point.
In the issue to do with youth and with alcohol treatment, something that's been brought to my attention by some professionals working in the field, as well as by one youth, is that if you are a youth in Whitehorse - I can't imagine what it's like in the other communities - and, say, you're trying to get help from alcohol and drug services, and you're trying to do it on your own, you phone up alcohol and drug services. Usually you're on a pay phone because you don't want to be doing this from your own home. You're on a pay phone from F.H. Collins or from Vanier, you're phoning over to alcohol and drug services -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Edelman: Or Porter Creek - pardon me - and, if you actually get through to a person - I've heard record numbers of bounces through voice mail - you're told that someone will phone you back.
Now, if you're a youth and someone who doesn't want people to know that you're looking for help, that sort of procedure doesn't help one iota. It also speaks about an additional barrier for someone who has probably taken a long time to make that decision to call for help and is not getting that help immediately.
Now, I actually have tried to get through to ADS on a few occasions and, indeed, it's true. You do. You get bounced around. You go from number to number to number, and I've yet to talk to a human being over at alcohol and drug services. I'd like to know what the minister is doing to help make alcohol and drug services, particularly in cases of self-referral, just an awful lot more accessible.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I've been over there a few times to visit the staff. I've never had any trouble getting a human being, but I can look into the question of referrals that the member has raised, and particularly with young people.
I should maybe just go through some of the things that we are doing in terms of associations with ADS in particular. We have been at work with F.H. Collins, which has contacted ADS, and they have asked about accessing counselling groups, and that was one of the reasons why we are hoping to set up a youth counselling group. We've got some current discussions underway with F.H. on how we can do referrals and how we can release kids from school and so on.
We have also had a number of requests from Education that they would be seeking ADS staff to come to the school and talk about how kids access this kind of service. As well, we've also had some requests from the professional staff at the school, particularly around counsellors, about how they can make this an option for young people to come and disclose a problem.
We've also worked with Education in putting an alcohol and drug education component in the curriculum, particularly in the CAP programs - career and personal planning components - and I know a lot of our ADS staff participate in that, particularly over at F.H. Collins, which I'm most familiar with, but also in other areas.
We have also assigned a counsellor to work full time as a full-time youth worker. Up to now, her primary role has been with youth who have addiction problems at the young offenders facility and with youth at the Youth Achievement Centre. She also provides counselling to community youth who are known to be in town on probation orders. As well, she's also begun to work more with parents of children who have addiction problems.
We've also been working with an out-patient - this is what I was referring to earlier - therapy groups for youth 12 through 18, and we're doing developmental work right now on how we can adapt our program and what kind of a structure we can put in place with this.
As well, one of the things that we've been dealing with and a problem that seems to be - well, not exclusively to rural communities - but one of the problems that has posed a problem is inhalant abuse. ADS has been working, for example, with the community of Old Crow on solvent abuse that's been largely targeted at young people.
And ADS has developed an education/prevention plan that's designed to reduce solvent abuse, and has also worked with the community in trying to get information from other centres. The whole question around inhalant abuse has been identified as a training need for the staff at ADS, and particularly we're trying to focus on issues around youth.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I appreciate the fact that the minister has never had a problem going over to alcohol and drug services and being immediately attended to by the staff. That makes sense because, after all, he is the minister. However, I think that although the information about the youth programs that are going to be going on in the future is very interesting, we still haven't really dealt with this issue about self-referral, particularly for youth.
Now, self-referral in the communities is very, very difficult, because if you're in the communities, wherever you go, they know who you are. There's no privacy whatsoever. The other alternative you have is to phone in on the 1-800 number to Whitehorse, and you can't get through. You don't get a person.
Now, under the old Crossroads program, you phoned there or you walked in and you got a person. They had the time of day to talk to you and refer you to the services that you may need. They walked you through the system a good portion of the time. It was a very much of a hands-on entry into the system. That seems to have disappeared. It is a great loss. It is not helpful for people to not be able to get services and not be able to access services.
I know that the minister is doing really good work over in alcohol and drug services, but I would hope that, hearing what I'm saying, he would at least look into the issue and try to make it an awful lot more accessible than it is now.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: To be sure, Mr. Chair, we would want to make it as accessible as possible, particularly for groups that do have issues. I've worked with young people long enough to know that it's very tough to get them to come to governmental, bureaucratic or adult kinds of institutions. It's very difficult. Certainly, that would be a concern of mine: that we try to make things as accessible and user-friendly as possible.
I think the member has made a good point. I will raise it with our social services branch, ask what we can do and what kinds of things we can do to make it more accessible. Perhaps there are some things we can be doing with the school.
A lot of times young people can deal with sort of key teachers or counsellors or something like that. There may be some avenues where we can make some contacts with the schools. Maybe there are some ways we can do it just to make it a lot easier and a lot friendlier. We'll certainly look into it, and I appreciate the member's concern.
Mrs. Edelman: I hope that something does come of that, and I know that the minister has committed so that it will. One of the suggestions that I would make would be that there be a 1-800 number that's well-published in the communities especially and a local line here where there is always a person that picks up that line.
The other issue around youth and alcohol - not just alcohol, pardon me - is the problem in that youth who have some sort of substance abuse problem don't seem to get help until they're charged, until they're into the system. If you have alcohol and drug, or any sort of substance, problems, the world becomes open to you as soon as you get charged, but there are an awful lot of parents out there who need help. The minister referred earlier to staff who are helping parents. There are a lot of parents out there who need help prior to that. They want to avoid the situation where the only way they can get help is when their child is charged.
Has the minister looked at that issue? It's been around for a long time.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, yes, one of the things that we did take a look into was this whole idea of working with families, and that's been a large focus of our contract with Yukon Family Services. One of the reasons that we've gone to providing, I suppose, a worker who is designated for youth is to try and also be a support for parents.
One of the problems, I suppose, with young people and drugs is that, by their very nature, it's not the kind of thing that they share very often with their parents. I've known a number of cases where, just from my own experience, parents are actually startled that their kids have been on drugs.
I mean, it's probably not appropriate to say, but I've busted enough kids at high school and called up their parents and said, "Well, you know, we just got so and so in here and they've been smoking up out back there." The parents are very shocked and often, when you talk with the kid, they'll say, "Oh well, you know, we do this on occasion." And when you talk with the parent, the parent is often, I suppose, blithely unaware that there is a problem.
One of the things that we would hope to do would be to try to get some education out for parents and maybe identify some of the problems. Very often, the problems that students have are compounded by much of that adolescence angst that goes on, conflicts with parents and so on. Very often some of these issues come out when we have our counselling sessions with Yukon Family Services, but it is an area that, with a bit more focus on youth, we can also assist parents.
Mrs. Edelman: I guess I'm still not clear on that one, but I'm not going to go back to it.
Now, Mr. Chair, also during the discussion in the fall, the minister said, "Right now, we're designing a pilot program on the use of alcohol and drugs, and we're looking at targeting the primary schools." How is that program going? Is it developed? Is it being implemented? Which schools is it working at? Do we have a pilot project going, and where are we on that one?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: With regard to the school prevention programs, one of the things that we did was produce a resource manual for teachers in working with children who may be from situations where alcohol and drugs are being abused. We've also been working on helping to develop the curriculum component that goes into schools. We've also been working with health fairs in schools, and we've been doing inservices for staff. I can provide some details in terms of which schools, what kinds of things have been undertaken in some further detail by written form. I just don't have the full list here with me, regrettably, or I'd be happy to share it at this time.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, small miracles.
I wonder if we could just clarify this. Are we looking at making a change at the primary-school level?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, we are trying to get the whole question of addictions prevention down further, and when you get down, certainly into the primary schools, a good deal of the education and the kind of approach focuses more on such things as self-concept of kids. It's less of an issue on talking about specifics and tends to do more in terms of giving kids positive self-concept so that they don't feel the need to engage in negative behaviour.
That's been the approach that has proven probably the most successful with regard to tobacco reduction. That's been a bit of a change from the old don't-smoke kind of thing. So, we are doing some work in that area.
Mrs. Edelman: I'll just assume that there will be a curriculum change somewhere in the primary school level, then.
The minister also referred to a television campaign that he has been working on with the Northwest Territories. I think I've actually seen one of the ads, and it was not bad. I'm wondering if the minister, in developing these television campaigns, had asked for input from YES.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Actually, on that, no, we haven't. Part of the campaign, if the member is familiar, has been more on the idea of family bonding - it's been more targeted toward very young children. The member probably remembers that it was done with a Crosby, Stills, Nash - I don't know if Young was with them at the time - song, "Treat Your Children Well." That was the theme song. It tended to focus more on family solidarity, and that kind of thing.
We haven't really done anything in terms of - I'd sing a few bars, but I'd probably be called out of order. We'll be working with groups like Positive Action for Youth, groups like YES, and things like this - just getting some sort of input as to adolescence, because that would be a very different approach from what we did initially with very young children.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I would strongly recommend that the minister speak with YES. I was really impressed. When YES had its drop-in centre, I went a few times and was absolutely astounded at the depth of knowledge and the more global vision that a lot of the youth who go there had. Youth always amaze me.
I was wondering if the minister would be open to approaching the MAD group to do some of these commercials.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Certainly - sorry, Mr. Chair, but I can tell the member, because of my close connection with MAD, that their film schedule is actually rather full. They're doing ads for virtually everything, including, I guess, the household hazardous waste and things like that - the Committee - and a few other things. So they're actually doing some of these things now and I'm sure they could be approached, but it's funny to think of these young people as actually having a schedule that one now has to sort of get their projects into. It's certainly something we would look at because that would be a target for us in our youth health promotion.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, obviously if MAD's booked, you can't get them and, certainly, I think the minister would have some sort of special knowledge of that particular schedule.
The other thing that I was wondering was if the minister would perhaps look at local talent other than MAD? I'm thinking about some of the groups such as Freezerburn and Undertow - excellent music. Absolutely excellent music, and that might be used rather than the somewhat ancient music that, of course, just about everybody in this House could probably sing word for word. Perhaps music coming from Undertow might be a lot more relevant to the youth of the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I won't engage in any of that but, certainly, yes, some of the high decibel stuff probably would make contact.
My only problem with some of the bands is that, if you're trying to get a message across, I often can't make out what's being said. It does tend to be high decibels, but I'm sure that the young people who are listening to it can actually get the message. So, when we're moving toward doing some of this stuff, we'll probably be using that youth culture to get it across.
In some ways, we could maybe mirror the kinds of things we did with the chlamydia project where we actually met with young people and sort of ran it by them to see about such things as the language, the presentation, that kind of thing. And that proved quite successful.
I think I've seen the posters and the other components of the program all over the place.
Mrs. Edelman: I hope that we are going to use local talent, and it sounds like we're going to be.
In the same discussion, the minister said that he would be working with communities to design community alcohol and drug treatment programs and presenting some options. It's really interesting, because some of the discussions that I've had with the health directors from the Council of Yukon First Nations is that there seems to be a lack of almost like a library of information. I know that Health and Social Services has, over in ADS, an excellent resource library.
In our last budget debate, I gave the minister the example of the tape about delivery of the home care program that was supposed to be shared among five First Nations. Somehow or other, there were two copies of the tape and they both got lost. So, now, there was no home care program because there was no tape.
The minister, at that time, said that he would go to the local First Nations and, obviously, to the communities, and let them know that there was access for people to the resource materials that the department has. It might be a good idea for people to know what that wide breadth of material is.
I've been absolutely astounded at what you can get from the Department of Health and Social Services - everything from telling your young child about sex through to dealing with alcohol abuse with seniors. I'm wondering if the minister is doing that. Is this something that's already been going on since our last discussion? Do the people in the communities know what's available and is that information available to people in the communities?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We have made the information available, and in some of my conversations with some communities, I've made that available. The deputy minister has just advised me here that we're putting some of our, I guess, more research-based information in the form of CD-ROM that we can make available to communities. It would be easily accessible finding out what we have on the list, and if, for example, you were interested in a document on a particular aspect of health, this would be one way to access it. So, it looks like we're doing some things now in terms of trying to make the information more accessible.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, while it's good that we're going to be changing the format for a lot of this material, it still doesn't bring us to the issue of how people out in the communities - even in the City of Whitehorse - find out about this information and what is available. There are a number of different ways to get information out into the communities. There are rolling ads in Watson Lake; there are rolling ads in Faro; there are rolling ads in Dawson City. There are two newspapers now. Well, one's more of a community recreation thing and the other thing is an actual newspaper out of Haines Junction. And in Whitehorse we have the rolling ads. Rolling ads - many of us know from political experience - are tremendously effective and get to an awful lot of people, particularly seniors. I'm wondering if the minister has looked at different ways of disseminating the information about what is available.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: In my tours around to community health stations, this is one of the things that I've asked about people: do they access the materials? Do they come and do they try to get materials? And in all cases, there seems to be a certain willingness to get the information. However, in discussing it with community health people, very often the information tends to be targeted at specifics.
So, for example, in some of the prenatal, there will be a tremendous amount of interest in child-bearing materials and nutrition materials. Similarly, they find that there's a lot of interest around - for example, if they did an arthritis clinic, there would be a lot of information around that. So, it tends to be focused around issues.
One of the things that we are doing in the Department of Health is setting up a web page, and one of the things that people will be able to do from any public library, I suppose, would be to go into the Government of the Yukon web page, call up Health, and the different services that we have would be available there, including such things as addictions information, how do I find out about this, how do I find out about that, how do I get material on this, how do I get material on that.
So, we're going to try to use that as a source, because the libraries in the communities do have access to that, and, in fact, the schools have Internet access. So, this would be one readily accessible method.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I appreciate that that is a great way of getting information out into the communities, but there are others. Not everybody can afford a computer. Not everybody has access to a computer, and not everybody knows how to use a computer. Some areas of the Yukon can't get the net.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Edelman: Yes.
Mr. Chair, I suppose that the issue that we're talking about is getting information out to the communities about what resources are available through the Department of Health and Social Services? And although I appreciate that there has been some really good work done on the home page and various other parts of that, I'm wondering if the minister would look at other ways of getting that information out into the communities.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: By all means. We'd be interested in trying to get out information in any way possible that makes health services and public health information more accessible. There are certainly a number of key kinds of public health concerns that we'd like to be able to get people more aware of and get people, I guess, alerted to possibilities. T
he one that springs to mind, quite frankly, was all the information around hepatitis C, and trying to get people who had blood transfusions at particular times to go and seek testing.
Many of the people here had received treatment outside, and our records weren't as perfect as we would have liked. That was one of the things we were faced with. How do you get that information out? How do you alert people to some possible health hazards, and so on?
Mrs. Edelman: One of the other things that the minister promised us was a report from a multi-departmental senior working level committee on alcohol abuse. It was supposed to have been the departments of Justice, Education, I think, and there might have been C&TS, because it had to do with impaired driving, and the Department of Health and Social Services, of course. This was supposed to be a committee that was made up of the most senior bureaucrats, and a report was to come forward this spring. It's almost summer, and I'm wondering when we're going to be getting that report.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We've had an initial draft of that come forward. We had contracted an individual from Carleton University to do the writing of it. We provided the statistics and the information background, and she was charged with the role of writing it. This is the high-risk alcohol study. I met with her about a month ago. At that time, we, as a department, sat down and took a look at the first cut of the product, and we felt that it needed some further work done on it. The individual - I couldn't recall her name at the time - Flo Andrews, I believe, is the name.
This was funded by the federal government under phase 2 of the Canada drug strategy. What it was designed to do was to get a more complete picture of the at-risk population. Rather than focusing in on the basic quantitative studies - how many people have got this kind of problem, or whatever - it also looked at the idea of looking at information on a more qualitative basis, such as why do people get into this lifestyle? What kinds of things are factors in their lives or their communities?
What it did was it reviewed all of the relevant studies - the 1990 health drug study and the health promotion study - and did a series of interviews with care providers, professionals, administrators and clients. Part of it was taking a look at the whole question of economic costs and benefits of alcohol consumption, relating to issues such as policing, law, the enforcement costs, morbidity, the impact on life expectancy, how much it costs in terms of families, and so on.
What we've asked is for the individual to do some further refinement for the information because, quite frankly, as was presented, some of the information wasn't of that much use to us. So, she's currently working on that. I believe we asked for this for the end of May or the beginning of June. We had hoped to have it earlier, but as I said, the individual was asked to do some further refinement on it.
Mrs. Edelman: It was my understanding when we had the debate that there was some sort of senior committee made up of maybe the ADMs in each of the departments that were meeting regularly, and they were going to be reporting back to the Legislature on where they were going in their working group.
I wonder if the minister could update us on that particular initiative.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That doesn't focus exclusively on alcohol. That's part of the fostering healthy communities. It is between ourselves and Education and the Women's Directorate. The focus is on a variety of health-related issues, of which alcohol is one. But, it also focuses on issues such as youth issues, crime issues, and so on. But, with the rest of the high-risk alcohol study, I think that's what the member may be referring to.
Mrs. Edelman: Actually, I wasn't referring to that particular study, but it's very interesting, and I wonder if the minister could forward a copy of that report when it becomes available.
Is part of the healthy communities initiative that the minister just referred to looking at setting goals as to where we want to be as a territory, what sort of activities we want to be working toward and what sort of positive initiatives we want to undertake so that by the year, say, 2010 we will have halved the alcohol consumption, for example, in the Yukon? Is there any sort of goal setting that goes on in that process?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: One of the roles of the fostering healthy communities project actually is to try to see among ourselves - being Health and Social Services, Education, Women's Directorate and Justice - if there are areas where we can cooperate, if there are areas where we can meld our programs together and try and prevent duplication. For example, if we're doing a program and Education is doing essentially the same program, can we combine our resources? So, that's really what it focuses on - more trying to get interdepartmental cooperation and so on. It hasn't really focused in on the idea of setting long-term goals.
Within the department, certainly, we set targets, we set goals, specific to individual programs, be they alcohol reduction - I've made reference to the idea of some of our strategies which identify the idea of trying to raise the drinking age, trying to reduce the amount of alcohol consumed at a particular time. We've set those as sort of targets, but those are more specific to our programs.
The fostering healthy communities is more to sort of coordinate activities among branches of government that are related and, at the same time, try to prevent duplications.
Mrs. Edelman: I think from the information that I can gather from the minister, there really isn't sort of a coordinated approach among the departments to set goals for where we want to be, say, in 10 years or in 20 years and I think that, in the long run, that's a loss to all of us because that's what we need to do. We need to look at a positive goal and we need to start working toward that and we need to have indicators along the way of how well we're doing and how much energy and resources we need to put toward meeting that goal.
Well, Mr. Chair, I'd like to open the issue of the Children's Act. The Children's Act is quite an elderly act. It's been around for quite awhile and it's also an act that has a lot of counterparts in other jurisdictions in Canada. Children's acts and legislation to do with children across Canada have moved at lightening speed to look at some of the issues around children. And right now in the Yukon - and originally, the Children's Act, of course, was one of the most groundbreaking in Canada, but now it's quite elderly - the Children's Act we have here is the only one in Canada that doesn't talk about mandatory reporting of abuse by any other professionals other than - I think - teachers here, although doctors are not obligated under law to report child abuse, which was quite surprising to me. This is certainly where they've gone in every other jurisdiction in Canada and I'm wondering what the minister's position is on the mandatory reporting of child abuse?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, actually, it's something that we did look into, and I believe I have referred to this in the House before. We don't really have too much of a difficulty in terms of reporting aspects. We have taken a look at the whole question of mandatory reporting, and the predecessor legislation did provide for the reporting of child abuse. However, due to public consultations in 1984, this promoted a change in this provision.
There are people who are provided protection, who choose to report in good faith. While we're not legally required to report, we've had very few problems with reporting. Most of the referrals to family and children's services have been voluntary self-referrals from families seeking help.
As well, when we did a bit of a comparison to other Canadian jurisdictions that have mandatory reporting, very few of them actually have sanctions on ordinary citizens who fail to report, and they have targeted more, reserving sanctions for individuals who work with children. So, just in taking a look at it, we haven't found that, for example, there is a greater compliance or a greater amount of reporting in jurisdictions where there is mandatory reporting. Quite frankly, in some of those jurisdictions that do have mandatory reporting, there are very, very few sanctions. We have very few figures in terms of reporting child abuse.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, it's almost impossible to understand the logic of that particular statement. We don't have problems because we don't know about them. It doesn't make a lot of sense. How would we know? We don't have mandatory reporting. We don't have sanctions. It's all a question of theory and, as far as I've been able to determine, the minister is talking about consultation that occurred over 10 years ago.
I am a little confused. It's my understanding now from the minister that he is not in favour of mandatory reporting of child abuse and that he's not willing to look at this issue - that he's not willing to look at sanctions that may work, and he's not willing to update a very, very old act.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, Mr. Chair, I don't think I said that at all. What I'm saying is that in other jurisdictions with mandatory reporting, there hasn't been a higher incidence of reporting. As a matter of fact, those jurisdictions that do have mandatory reporting - which differs from ours for select groups of people who work with children, such as teachers, et cetera - have very rarely applied sanctions to the ordinary citizen who might report and instead have reserved their sanctions primarily for individuals who do work with children - the same as ours.
With regard to the idea of the Children's Act, I haven't said that the Children's Act doesn't need to be looked at, but I think one of the things we would have to look at with the Children's Act is the whole question around self-government and where that's going to go. We do know, for example, that many of the First Nations are looking at some issues around child welfare on their own.
If we were going to open the act, I would suggest that we open the act in tandem with some of the decisions of First Nations around PSTA tables about drawing down powers on child welfare. What I wouldn't want to do is open it up for one thing, then be opening it up again, and opening it up again. I think, if we're going to look at a review process, well and good. But I think what we'd have to look at is how the self-government discussions proceed there.
Chair: Is it the members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is there further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I'd like to explore with the minister some of the areas surrounding the whole department budget and how he's looking at it, overall.
This minister is responsible for one of the largest departments within government and there appears to be a growing number of overexpenditures within that department. It's notorious for overspending. Whether this is due to the growing demand or the minister's lack of ability to control his department's spending, I don't want to pass judgment on.
What are the overall goals and objectives? I know we have a statement at the beginning of each line item - the departmental objectives. How often are these objectives reviewed by the department?
What I'm heading toward, Mr. Chair, is that every now and then, with the constant change and number of new initiatives that are growing, there has to be a fundamental rethinking as to how all of these programs dovetail and how they are all put together.
We have to constantly be reviewing the function of the department to deliver the best possible services at the lowest possible cost. I think that's the exercise we should be involved in.
So, could the minister outline what kind of initiatives are underway within his department for a constant review of the goals and objectives of the department, and cost-saving measures or initiatives to dovetail things together and work with a view more or less to provide - I think that one goal that should be fundamental is to provide the highest consistent level of service at the lowest possible cost. What initiatives are being taken within the department?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, with each budget call, the individual branches are asked to review their goals and review their priorities and establish those priorities. But, I suppose, on a macro-scale, as we sit down and review changes, or contemplate changes, we sometimes look, as the member has indicated, for economies and efficiencies. One of the cases in point was, for example, mental health services - mental health care - which had traditionally been under social services.
But because of its relation to the delivery of mental health services with the transfer of phase 2 health care, as well as some of the issues around the Whitehorse General Hospital, there was some rethinking around that and the decision to transfer that component within the health care branch as opposed to social services. So, those are some of the issues - the idea of the continuing care being attached with social services, services for seniors and things of that nature. So, we do go back and we do look at our overall priorities.
The member made reference to overspending. I think if the member really wants to take a look probably at the administration component of the health care budget as opposed to the delivery aspect, he will see that health care tends to have a very low, extremely low, sort of, administration-to-service delivery ratio.
Many of the pressures that we face are similar to pressures throughout Canada. I think, in some cases, we've managed to respond quite well. For example, if we take a look at physician costs, the primary driver behind physician costs has been volume. Some of that is a reflection of population.
In a similar way, if we take a look at such things as child care, the number of child care spaces being opened, the number of people applying for child care subsidies, these are all drivers. I think, as the member is aware, we asked for a fairly substantial supplemental budget last fall. That was largely driven by volume and we're no different in that from other jurisdictions in Canada.
As a matter of fact, in some jurisdictions in Canada where there's been a very serious attempt to restrict access, the consequences that have flowed out of that have sometimes been disastrous. Witness Ontario, which is now struggling with the impact of cutting back on acute-care services. Now, they're having to go back and the Minister had to pump in, I believe, an additional $275 million to $285 million yesterday.
We're fairly fortunate here in the fact that we don't have many of those same problems. But, we do have volume pressures. Very clearly, we have volume pressures, and that's merely a reflection of how things are changing. It's also a reflection of the kinds of services that people are seeking - people are demanding.
Mr. Jenkins: I would just like to explore another kind of concept in the area of service delivery. It is a generally accepted premise that NGOs are more cost effective in service delivery than government agencies. Yet, the minister's department tends to be moving back from NGOs and delivering services more frequently on their own. I'm referring to Crossroads.
The minister has indicated in the House that there's going to be a substantial saving - some $100,000 saving - in the provision of the same type of service by government vis-a-vis an NGO. Has this cost-benefit analysis been undertaken by the department? Where does this type of number come from, and is it realistic?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm afraid the member is somewhat mistaken when he said that we're looking for savings. The nature of the changes there were never in terms of savings. What the changes were to do was to deliver a program better. I have never said that we would be saving money. I always said that what we would be doing was freeing up money that we could be redirecting, and that's still our intention.
It's not my intention, either in alcohol and drug services or in any other jurisdiction - any other aspect of health - to save money. If we gain economies, if we gain money, it is fully my intention to return those monies to the delivery of health care or social services. It is not our aim to save money for the sake of saving money. We have a responsibility to deliver services - the best range of services - to people, and I believe that that's a responsibility that we have to be very serious about.
We're looking at a health care system that is going to be facing some not inconsiderable changes as our population changes, as our population ages. One of the aspects of an ageing population is that about 80 percent of an individual's health care consumption will occur in the last five years of their life. That means, with our growing seniors population, we're going to have a greater need for services of this nature. We're going to have a greater need for probably different kinds of services. And we're not looking at trying to save money.
As a matter of fact, the member has referred to this budget as growing, and this budget is growing because we have a role to protect people and to take care of people, and that's what our intention is. If we feel that, within this budget, this $108 million some-odd that we have, there are economies or ways in which we can better spend that money and better deliver that money, then that's what we will seek to do.
Mr. Jenkins: The saving resulting from the closure of Crossroads and taking on the program in house - I'm using the minister's own words, Mr. Chair: "... that we are going to save some $100,000 by undertaking the delivery in this manner." Now, the $100,000 is right in the forefront of my understanding of what the minister said, but I'll review the previous statements that the minister has made and provide him with a copy of his own words in that regard. But that was a definite statement of this minister.
The other area, just in general terms, is that NDP governments are notorious for being much more generous in the welfare department and for giving out welfare more freely. Has there been a significant, or any, change in policy direction given to officials in this regard?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We have not made any policy changes. We have not increased rates. We have not increased accessibility. I think that within the social assistance area there are probably aspects we could be looking at to make things perhaps a little more accessible for some groups.
Our problem right now has been on the whole question of volume. We have had to meet rising volumes, so that has substantially reduced our capability of maybe making some changes we would have liked to have made.
I don't think the changes we would contemplate are because we are necessarily more open-handed or, I suppose, careless with public money. I just see areas of need. I think we all see areas of need, particularly dealing with people who find themselves in some desperate straits.
But, to date, we haven't made any policy changes. We haven't made any rate changes. All of the programs remain the same and likely will remain not particularly changed until we get at least a moderating of some of the volume increases. We then will have a bit more latitude to look at some possibilities.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, could the minister elaborate on what provisions are in place to oversee and monitor the SA payouts to see if there is no potential for, let's say, underhandedness or, I guess, a full-blown fraud case as has occurred in other parts of Canada and could possibly occur here. How is this area being monitored within the department, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, one of the things we do have is that we still have retained the, I suppose, fraud investigator, although that individual has also been given some other duties, but we're also working with the statistics branch and reviewing files and things of that nature.
There is a perception, I think - perhaps an unfortunate perception - that people on SA are somehow there because they're seeking to scam the system or perhaps misuse the system. In reality, fraud represents about one percent of expenditures, and we do an active intervention for early detection of any kind of anomalies that we would have there. Probably, if we didn't do the kind of monitoring of files and the kind of checking that we do, it could possibly run higher. We basically keep an early detection program, early verification. I mean, there are some issues probably where people may be paid an overpayment, and we do try to collect if that is indeed the case. But as far as the criminal definition of fraud, I think that actual amount is probably much lower than what is in the public mind, and we do work on this very diligently.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, given the transient nature of our population, especially in the summer, I know in our community we've had a number of occasions where we've had an influx of individuals seeking employment that didn't materialize and they end up on the door of the minister's department and they're given a voucher to buy a tent and a sleeping bag and a measure of food.
Is this area being monitored? How is this being controlled? These individuals just move on from area to area, and I'm quite aware of a number of cases of this nature that have cost the government a considerable sum of money. Mind you, they've been good for a number of businesses that provide all these materials, but at quite a cost to our social assistance system.
I'm not suggesting, Mr. Chair, that I don't believe or agree with the principles of social assistance. There are times there are individuals who need the assistance that is envisioned by this agency, and I stand firmly behind it. I just don't want to see the system abused. That's what I'm looking at.
So, how is this area for transient type individuals controlled, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: One of the things that we do is we're part of an interprovincial information sharing so we work with other jurisdictions to make sure that individuals aren't, if you will, double dipping, that they're not claiming here while they're receiving social assistance in another jurisdiction.
As well, the amount that an individual receives is less. They have to be here for a three-month period before they would qualify, so the amount that they would receive is considerably less.
As well, I suppose, in some ways, what we're trying to do is - if the member is referring to young people who sometimes drift through - I suppose, dissuade in some cases. We offer such things as camping out in some of the campgrounds here. We set up some wall tents, and things like that.
An individual who would suddenly assume that they're going to get quite a bit of money and they're going to live perhaps in more luxurious digs - that isn't the case. The amount received for a person who is not here three months tends to be somewhat less than attractive for people to stay here, especially in areas where the cost might be somewhat higher.
We do have certain protocols, and I think the member is probably aware of some of the difficulties that we're experiencing about the Province of British Columbia when they attempted to put a restriction on people coming to British Columbia and having to be resident for a period of time before they could be eligible to collect SA. It's those kinds of issues - the accessibility and the portability of SA and other social services - that are being discussed now.
As a matter of fact, the federal government challenged that with B.C. and eventually they reached some kind of accord. We, on the other hand, have had a reduced rate for individuals, to date - and certainly we want to hope that none of our federal counterparts are listening in - the federal government has not challenged that, and we would hope that they wouldn't. But we are trying to sort of discourage people from coming here with the idea of going on full SA.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm not looking at the individuals who relocate permanently to the Yukon because of the added payouts in SA. I'm looking at the transient individuals who come here seasonally and are well-aware of the system and move from Watson Lake to Whitehorse to Dawson and draw on the system in all areas, and receive their tent and their sleeping bag and their food voucher and their dog food, whatever it takes. But this is a growing trend, and the system is well-outlined and it's quite a telegraph system that gets the message out as to how to work within the hoops and how to get the most advantageous treatment from SA.
Now, what steps is the minister taking in this regard? I'm not looking at the SA payments to an individual who is a known resident of Yukon, who's been here for a long time and falls on hard times. That individual, I believe, should be treated with the utmost respect, with the full implementation of SA that's possible to help them get through their period of hardship and get back on their feet.
The transients who come up here in the summer - a lot of them with no intention of working and a lot of them just on a holiday - are abusing our system. What steps is the minister taking to address this area?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think I'll outline some of the things we've done, in terms of rates, and things like that, to sort of dissuade people. I suppose if an individual was, say, registering in Dawson and then tried to go and pull the same thing in Watson Lake, or whatever, one of the things we have now is that our SA offices are connected, so we can do a cross-check of files. As well, we have a person in place who checks through files and takes a look at cases to make sure that they're not unfounded, and checks on such things as possible overpayments.
What we're doing right now is that that individual is also part of our operational review of social assistance. One of the things he has been charged with is to take a look at the checks and balances in the system and the audit capabilities within the system. In other words, how can we improve that aspect?
As well, I'm advised that the actual transient numbers represent a very low proportion of our overall SA. The predominant growth in SA has largely been in the Whitehorse area, and it tends to be with longer term individuals. The transients themselves, I think, are probably less of an issue than just the overall growth pattern.
We do try to dissuade people, as I've said before, from coming here with the idea of getting SA, and we'll continue to try to refine and improve the system. One of the ways we're doing it is an operational review of our whole social assistance system.
Mr. Jenkins: With respect to SA and First Nations, the First Nations have their own system in place. For the balance, there is a system in place for SA through the Government of Yukon. How are cross-checks made in this area with respect to a First Nations individual?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We do have reciprocal agreements with First Nations on individuals. We do maintain those links. There will occasionally be individuals who sort of fall between the cracks - First Nations people who don't belong to one of our individual First Nations. At that point, if an individual falls in there, we will cover them and then that is, in turn, billed back to DIA. That's a pretty rare occurrence. Most of the people here do belong to one First Nation or another.
I can tell the member that we have had some cases of an individual who's, say, part of the Liard First Nation, and will come to Whitehorse, apply for SA very often with the Kwanlin Dun Band, be told "You're not part of our First Nation", will go to DIA, seek assistance from DIA and DIA will say, "No, you're a member of the Liard First Nation; you have to go there." That occurs occasionally.
We've taken the stand that if you are covered, as a First Nations person by an individual First Nation, that's their responsibility. The individuals we tend to cover tend to be people who are from First Nations from outside.
Mr. Jenkins: That's what I was getting at - First Nations individuals who relocate to the Yukon from Alberta, Ontario and the Northwest Territories. How are these individuals treated before they're allowed into our SA system here. Is there an agreement made with Indian Affairs to recover that cost before SA is handed out or do we just bill the Department of Indian Affairs and let it accumulate as this big amount that's due to the Government of Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We do contact DIA, make the arrangements to do the payments and then it's covered back. Surprisingly, that's one of the few areas where they do pay on a pretty rapid basis. We wish we could get maybe the same results on some other aspects, but that is one area in which we've been reasonably successful.
Mr. Jenkins: While we're on the topic of recovery from our federal government, that fine Liberal government in Ottawa that sends all the money this way, Mr. Chair, I was wondering how we were doing with what used to be some $28 million of outstanding billing from the Government of the Yukon. Just where are we at with regard to the collection of this amount?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We are continuing to negotiate for the outstanding invoices for services. This has come down somewhat. We have $21.3 million, which are actual total claims invoiced. In September, we received a $3 million payment. They have also agreed on the undisputed portion of child welfare, which would be about $14 million. We're reaching agreement on some of the outstanding claims.
My deputy minister has just handed me a memorandum of understanding that we reached today. It's not formalized, but it would lay out the funding for child welfare services for Indian children and states the issues such as eligibility. Basically, the bottom line is that under section 4.1, Canada agrees that it should be financially responsible for every eligible child to the extent set out in this memorandum.
So, we are making some progress in this regard. There is obviously some obligation on us to present the invoices and so on, but we are making some progress in this regard - slowly, but we are continuing to press them.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, will this new memorandum of understanding that is just about signed off between DIAND and the Government of the Yukon be implemented? Will funds not flow? Are we going to continue to provide services within the confines of that agreement? How are we going to deliver the services? Because there is an expectation out there, Mr. Chair, by First Nations individuals to continue to receive the same level of health care services that they've received in the past, and the federal government has cut or reduced a lot of these areas. Now, how are those areas being treated by this government?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, this particular memorandum of understanding deals with child welfare issues.
I think the member has hit upon something which is, I think, a matter of concern when he makes reference to health care services. This is an issue, particularly with what are called the non-insured programs that flow to First Nation people as what they have traditionally seen as the fiduciary responsibilities of the federal government. This is an area of major concern for the provinces and territories. We have signs, and certainly in my discussions with CYI then, they had signs that indicated that the federal government is looking at stepping away from certain things.
We have a major divergence of opinion on that particular aspect with the federal government. The federal government has been seeking, I think, particularly with regard to a recent document coming out of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People have been seeking to offload, if you will, some of these responsibilities on to provinces. We have made it very clear, and as recently as Friday I made it very clear on behalf of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. I was asked by the hon. Lyle Oberg from Alberta and the hon. Bonnie Mitchelson from Manitoba to raise this issue with the federal minister, Anne McLellan. I'm sorry...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I guess they just respect somebody who has the power to engage the interest of the federal minister with short and succinct answers.
But anyhow, we did raise this, and I brought that forward, particularly with respect to what the impact of the federal government stepping away from some of these things would have on our programs. In particular, if the federal government were to step away from something such as medical travel, that could have a major impact on us.
We have made it very clear to the federal minister that this is a major area of concern, particularly in the west. The federal government, by a simple stroke of the pen, literally doubled Saskatchewan's welfare rolls. They added 30,000 individuals to the SA rolls of the City of Winnipeg by the same action, by simply saying that First Nations people living off-reserve were no longer the responsibility of DIA. A simple stroke of the pen has a tremendous impact. It would be the same thing if the federal government were to step away from any of these non-insured programs. For many of those programs, the cost would be astronomical.
We've made it very clear to the federal government we're not willing to tolerate that; the west is not willing to tolerate that, and that we believe, if the federal government has any plans in that regard, they're going to meet acute resistance from the western provinces. And we believe, quite frankly, that that approach is counter to the concept of cooperative federalism.
Mr. Jenkins: That's an issue of concern to all of us, Mr. Chair, because I do believe that the federal government has a judicial responsibility to address their responsibilities in this area, and it's certainly something that the First Nation members of our society have come to expect and rely upon. There is no way I would like to see any sort of a reduction in the provision of these services to the First Nation members of our society, nor would I want to see any sort of a downloading and the Government of the Yukon caught in the middle. And we will be if we don't watch how we approach this very costly area.
I was wondering if the minister could elaborate on what kind of a plan the Government of the Yukon has, and I'm sure this plan must be coming through the system in concert with the Yukon First Nations. Is there a game plan that's being envisioned to approach this very important issue?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, this has been a subject of ongoing contact between myself and CYFN. I should also mention that the Government Leader has raised this issue at first ministers meetings, and this is something he is very keenly aware of.
A little over two weeks ago, I met with Grand Chief Shirley Adamson and some of her staff to discuss these particular issues and to discuss how we could create a common approach. CYFN is very clear as to what they see as the fiduciary responsibilities of the federal government. They are also very clear, and were very frank with us, that if the federal government were to step away, this would impact in a major way on our system.
We've agreed to work cooperatively on these, particularly in the area of social programming. That is a real area of concern. There is a general feeling that that's an area of real fear, particularly around social programming, but certainly health programming. We have agreed to work cooperatively. We've agreed to set up a series of meetings to share information, to share areas where we think we could work cooperatively, and I've sought advice from the Council of Yukon First Nations as to what they see as key issues here and what kinds of points I should be carrying forward to our federal counterparts.
We're going to continue to work very closely with CYFN. This is a major, major impact on First Nations people.
Mr. Jenkins: Just before I leave this area, to date we've negotiated certain payments from DIAND on behalf of the First Nations for the delivery of services. There is obviously some outstanding amount that we're going to have to take a write-off on - on what is uncollectable. I'm not looking down the road as to what we might envision not collecting. I don't want to tip our hand in negotiations with the feds, but what is the write-off to date on what we've collected?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We haven't written anything off. There are some areas of dispute - some things we would classify as maybe direct or indirect costs that may be some issues of dispute and that may eventually come down to us giving and taking on them if it comes to the crunch. But to date, we haven't said that we're going to take, you know, $16 million on $21 million outstanding. We feel that we're owed the money, and we should be trying to attempt to collect it all.
Now, as I said, there may be some issues where we might get into a couple of crunch points over particular things with the feds, but we're not willing at this point to concede that any of this should be written off.
Mrs. Edelman: In keeping with this discussion, can the minister tell us how he is working with Yukon First Nations to bring this issue forward to Ottawa?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Does the member mean the actual question of payment or the question of fiduciary responsibilities?
Mrs. Edelman: It is my understanding that the department is working with the CYFN to bring forward the issue of the non-insured benefits to the federal government. How is that process happening?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, we've been working with the CYFN. They've been participating with the Assembly of First Nations in bringing this issue forward with the federal government. What we've been doing, from our point of view, is working with the CYFN and their representative to provide information, background costs, and so on - the impact of what, for example, child welfare costs are for us and so on - so that they can then use this in their political negotiations, through the Assembly of First Nations, with the federal government.
At the same time, we have been working with CYFN on trying to bring their point of view forward at federal-provincial meetings. For example, prior to going to a first ministers meeting, the Government Leader would have meetings with Grand Chief Adamson and the leadership of CYFN. Quite clearly, the whole question of fiduciary responsibility is something that CYFN is seeking to take forward. That's something that the Government Leader has brought forward at first ministers' meetings. I have met on some of these issues, like the whole question of social policy renewal. There were four central themes at that meeting, one of which was the policy toward aboriginals and aboriginal costs. I met with CYFN to make sure that our views were congruent with their views and that there were some areas where we could actually share, I guess, our joint lobbying efforts.
Mr. Cable: I've had discussions with a couple of local people on a very public issue, and that's the fluoridation of water. As the minister knows, the issue is very public here in Whitehorse and in Calgary and in some other North American centres.
What has this government done to independently review the issue in relation to the merits of the proponents' and the opponents' arguments?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It isn't an issue that's come forward to us. However, we would be available, through our medical officer of health, for example, to present to city council, if that were their wish, some background medical information on fluoridation and its effects, possible hazards, and things like that. It hasn't really emerged as an issue for us because it has been at the municipal level. So, we haven't really been drawn into the fluoridation controversy at this point because we don't have responsibility for municipal water supplies.
Mr. Cable: It is my understanding that some of the smaller communities are supplied by C&TS. Is that not accurate?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm afraid I don't have that information at this point.
Chair: Is there further general debate?
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, can we return to the issue of the Children's Act? Earlier, the minister said that it didn't make sense to open the Children's Act until after all the claims were settled in the Yukon and there was a greater awareness of which First Nations were going to draw down which powers, in particularly social services for children.
It's interesting because in the Yukon First Nations child welfare conference on April 30, May 1 and 2 of 1997, there were repeated requests from Yukon First Nations to deal with the Children's Act and changes to the Children's Act now.
I'm looking at the report that came from that conference. I can read some of the many, many, many requests in this report where there is a request made to look at issues in updating the Children's Act: "When we take control of the system and change it, when we talk about changes to the Children's Act, more authority must go to the communities."
And again: "The second option is for the Yukon to amend the Children's Act to reflect what the First Nations want."
And again: "The Yukon is the only place where citizens are not required to report child abuse. This is often looked at as a negative feature."
And again, from the same conference: "There should be mandatory consultation with the extended family members prior to placing the child in a foster home. If the parents are not available, the grandparents should have a say. What recourse is there for extended family? A grandmother requested respite care, and during it, the child was placed in a foster home. Section 105 of the Children's Act about family unity should reflect the First Nations family unity too, in taking into consideration the extended family."
And then again: "Funds should be set aside for groups to come together and work on amending the Children's Act. Another meeting should be set up to develop protocols and one set of policies that everyone can use."
And again: "We should find another way to deal with the problem instead of having the kids taken away. Young children need to bond with their mothers. Who decides what's in the best interest of the child? This section of the Children's Act has to be rephrased."
Clearly, there is a very strong interest on behalf of the Yukon First Nations to look at the Children's Act, and in a number of different areas.
We spoke earlier about the mandatory reporting of child abuse, but there is also the issue of grandparents' rights and there is the issue of foster homes and extended family, and I would like to explore this a little bit further with the minister tomorrow, during debate, and I hope that we can have a very exciting conversation in this particular field.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Excitement is our middle name, Mr. Chair. We look forward to it. I can tell from my supporters back there that they're probably looking forward to it as eagerly as I'm sure the clerks' table is and the Chair himself.
We're certainly willing to deal with some of these issues. The excitement is building up into a frenzy here, and we will pursue some of these issues tomorrow.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that you report progress on Bill No. 9.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: 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 Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: The time being 9:30, this House now stand adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:30 p.m.