Monday, April 27, 1998 - 1:30 p.m.
Clerk: It is my duty, pursuant to the provisions of section 24 of the Legislative Assembly Act, to inform the Legislative Assembly of the absence of the Speaker. In his absence, the Deputy Speaker shall take the chair.
Deputy Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Deputy Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Petition No. 6 - received
Clerk: Mr. Deputy Speaker and hon. members of the Assembly, I have had the honour to review a petition, being Petition No. 6 of the First Session of the Twenty-ninth Legislative Assembly, as presented by the leader of the official opposition on April 23, 1998.
This petition meets the requirements as to form of the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Deputy Speaker: Petition No. 6, accordingly, is deemed to be read and received.
Are there are new petitions to be presented?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Deputy Speaker, I rise today to advise members of an important step our government has taken to enhance our policy of respecting the environment. The Yukon Housing Corporation has finalized arrangements with Natural Resources Canada to become the first deliverer of the energuide for houses program.
This also reinforces the efforts of the Cabinet Commission on Energy to promote awareness of the need of energy efficiency. By using energy more efficiently, each of us can help reduce the production of greenhouse gases and their impact on global climate change.
Energuide for houses is a complete approach to assessing the energy-related features of a house to estimate its annual energy requirements and provide a comparative energy efficiency rating.
The evaluation can be applied to both existing homes and planned housing. It focuses on how energy performance can be improved while maintaining or improving indoor environmental conditions. Since the evaluation produces a comparative rating, a customer could use the respective energy ratings to help make a final decision between two houses with equal appeal.
Over time, we expect the availability of this rating system to have a significant, positive effect on the energy efficiency of the Yukon's housing stock. Energuide assessments will be available through trained and certified private businesses at a cost of approximately $300. This cost is considered an allowable expense if clients later make improvements funded through Yukon Housing Corporation programs.
Representatives of five companies have completed course work coordinated by the corporation. Two have completed their practicums and are now certified. Up-to-date information on certified companies is available from the corporation.
The energuide evaluation will help home owners identify and set priorities for efficiency upgrades, based on solid information.
Mr. Speaker, it is our hope that energuide for houses will raise the consumer awareness about the benefits of energy efficiency, including cost savings, improved home comfort and indoor air quality, as well as increase the durability and resale value of new and existing homes.
Mr. Jenkins: I rise on behalf of the Yukon Party and the office of the official opposition.
While the energuide for houses program will provide Yukoners with an opportunity to assess their home as to how its energy performance can be improved, the program does not address the outstanding and underlying problem at hand, that being the high cost of energy in Yukon.
Over the past year and one-half, Yukoners have experienced massive power rate increases from this government, who promised to inject stability and affordability into Yukoners' electrical bills. With the closure of the Faro mine, Yukoners can expect to receive yet another increase in their power bills: nine percent on top of the 1996 rate that will remain stable for the next three years, regardless if a major commercial customer comes on the grid.
These are not affordable rates in the opinion of most Yukoners. A 16-percent power rate increase for municipalities and business in the first year, and an escalating rate for five years is also not affordable, and it's no laughing matter. In view of the tough economic times being experienced by Yukoners, what is needed are initiatives to reduce the cost of living, such as electrical costs. Contrary to what this government may think, there are many Yukoners who are having a tough time making ends meet, who are having a tough time trying to pay their power bills, let alone trying to come up with $300 to have their home assessed to determine its level of energy performance.
That $300 can go toward groceries. It can go toward a mortgage. It could go toward the heating bill. Even so, if an individual or family is able to find an extra $300 in disposable income to have an evaluation done, the buck doesn't stop there. Depending on the structural condition, age and size of the home, the cost of acting upon the recommendations emerging from the evaluation may wind up being in the thousands of dollars. Needless to say, I can't imagine there being too many Yukoners out there in a financial situation that would allow them to undertake such an assessment and make the necessary changes as determined by this audit.
This is not to say that the energuide program is not deserving of merit, as we on this side of the House believe that there is much potential, particularly for homes that are in the planning stages. The point to make is that this program does nothing to address the high cost of electricity for Yukoners. While Yukoners may be able to use less energy, Yukoners will have to pay a price, not to mention a continuation of high power rates.
So much for promises, Mr. Deputy Speaker. So much for the better way of this NDP government. Perhaps when the minister stands on his feet in rebuttal, could he please outline the cost of the program? Is it cost shared between Natural Resources Canada and the Government of the Yukon, or who bears the biggest share of the cost, the list of the companies that are certified to deliver the program, and when the program will start?
What I'm also concerned with, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is how will this program be delivered in rural Yukon. We mentioned $300 as being the cost of the program. All of these programs that have been delivered in the past outside of Whitehorse, the added cost of transportation, accommodation and everything are added in. So, is this a plus-plus-plus initiative of this government for rural Yukoners, again creating two Yukon's - Whitehorse and TROY, meaning the rest of the Yukon? Or is there going to be one standard fee, all-encompassing?
Thank you very much, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Mrs. Edelman: I rise today on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus to respond to the ministerial statement of Yukon Housing's new program, energuide.
Mr. Speaker, the energuide program is in direct partnership with the private sector where an assessment is done of a home in order to estimate how much energy a home owner is using and how that energy can be utilized more efficiently. In adopting this program, we can move toward our commitment, given in Kyoto, Japan, to help reduce greenhouse gases.
And Mr. Speaker, like the commercial energy management program and the residential energy management program and like HIRS and CHEERS and the home repair program for seniors, energuide is a good program. All of these programs are based on low-interest loans for owners who wish to audit, evaluate and improve their energy use. Some of these programs have been around for a long time and some programs have been so needed by Yukoners that there are waiting lists to get on to these programs.
Of course, Yukoners are interested in energy conservation. Our bills just keep going up and up and up - and up another 16 percent with this NDP government.
The statement says that the Yukon Housing Corporation is working with the Cabinet Commission on Energy to promote awareness of the need for energy efficiency.
Well, Mr. Speaker, speaking of awareness, is the energy commissioner not aware of these long-standing energy conservation programs administered by Yukon Housing?
In the latest energy commissioner's questionnaire, the commissioner asks, "Would you consider applying for a low-interest loan to make your home more energy efficient?" Now, Mr. Speaker, people in the public know about these energy conservation programs through Yukon Housing. That's why there's a waiting list for REMP, the residential energy management program, so why doesn't the energy commissioner know about these programs? Is he somehow out of the loop? Does anyone talk to the energy commissioner?
Mr. Speaker, the energuide program is a good one. It's always good to have a few facts on the table on which to make your decisions. Knowing where and how to improve the energy efficiency of your home is the first step in the process to conserve energy, help the environment and ultimately save money.
I would like to know from the minister this afternoon though, how the Yukon Housing Corporation steers people through the various energy programs administered by the corporation? Is it a one-window approach? Is there one staff person assigned, or is this task a team effort?
Are there some communities that need this program more than others? How is this program being advertised to the public, and how does this program work with the already-existing programs under the Yukon Housing Corporation administration?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: There hasn't been much comment to this program. If the members can recall, last year we said we were going to be entering into a program with Natural Resource Canada - with the CHEERS program. This is basically the same program, except that there were problems with the name, so they used a different name. It's no different a program.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The member says, is this a name change? This is a name change by the federal government. It's not a program that we have existing in the Housing Corporation.
Mr. Speaker, this program has been asked for by the general public, and they are the ones who would like to use a program like this in making informed decisions on either buying houses or selling houses. I think that, by putting a few dollars toward this, this would give them a lot better idea of exactly what their dwelling is all about.
We've had three reductions in power rates this year. Mr. Speaker, the members opposite fail to recognize that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: This is another -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Deputy Speaker: Order please. Let the member speak.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: This is another way that a corporation can help out the consumers by giving them some tools to draw their attention to energy efficiency and the whole question of climate change, global warming and greenhouse gases.
Mr. Speaker, we have programs that the Liberal Party said are in the department, that the energy commissioner had questions in his questionnaire drawing attention to these programs. It's not as if he's not aware of these. He's fully aware of them - of the low-interest loans.
Mr. Speaker, we're hoping that rural communities can access this program by just simply doing scheduling. They don't have to do one house at a time in a community.
We can find easy and efficient ways of making sure that costs are down to approximately $300, as I just listed.
Mr. Speaker, I believe that this is a very good program for those people out there who are in search of houses and want to see exactly what their units look like as far as energy efficiency is concerned.
Also, for those people who are looking at doing repairs to their units, if they went through the Yukon Housing program, as I said in the ministerial statement, that $300 would not be part of the repairs.
Deputy Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Justice system, public confidence in
Mr. Phillips: My question is to the Minister of Justice on the Yukon legal system. On April 8 in this House, the minister rose to pay tribute to Law Day, giving platitudes about access to justice. I, too, rose, and my message to the minister was to forewarn her that the public's confidence in the legal system has been severely shaken as a consequence of some recent judgments in relation to the murders of Susan Klassen and Maranda Peters.
I forewarned the minister, Mr. Speaker, that we, as legislators, lawyers, judges and prosecutors must pay heed to what the public is saying about the legal system and about the lack of justice in the system. Now, in an interview, the minister has admitted that she hasn't even read the Ward judgment and apparently knew very little about the case.
I wonder if the minister could explain to the House why, in a high profile case such as this - a case wherein the Yukon public is understandably upset about the results, even to the point of several public demonstrations - why the minister wouldn't take the time out of her, I suppose, very busy schedule to read a judgment and find out what Yukoners are so upset about. Why didn't the minister take the time to at least read the judgment.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Deputy Speaker, first of all, I want to correct the errors that the member has implied in his preamble. I would caution him not to accept what he hears in the media as being the full picture or an accurate picture of what I may have stated or may have done.
I can tell the member opposite that, in relation to particular judgments, I did ask the deputy minister and, indeed, we're having a look at the judgment that was rendered, across government, to look at the statistical picture of alcohol abuse and its effect on crimes committed in the territory, and also to look at improvements to the existing system.
Mr. Phillips: When the Minister of Justice is recommending to others that they might look into this situation, she might recommend to herself that she have a look at it, and maybe read the judgments, so she understands why the public is so upset.
Two judges have recommended that the Yukon government take new and renewed action against teenage drinking and that the inquiry go beyond alcohol abuse by children and youth, to look at the underlying causes of behaviour, and yet the minister simply didn't get the message because the minister didn't have the time to read the judgments. Yukoners are fed up with waiting and they expect some action by this government, but how can the minister take any action when she doesn't even know what the problems are.
Can the minister advise the House if her Department of Justice is going to be currently conducting a full-blown inquiry, as urged by the judges and recommended by them, into teenage drinking?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: First of all, the member opposite is wrong in his statement that I have not reviewed the judgment and that I have not asked for the officials in all of our departments to look at the issue of teenage alcohol abuse.
As the member opposite will know, we have a number of drug and alcohol awareness programs in the public schools. We have had debates in this House on the effect of alcohol, both on young people and adults, and there are a number of things being done, both in the school system, through Health and Social Services, and through Community and Transportation Services. In the drug awareness programs, there are components of drug awareness in the career and personal planning curriculum throughout the school grades. There is the substance abuse strategies and solutions for Yukon. We also offer the prevention resource information and drug education, where students use drama to convey a drug awareness message. There's a tobacco reduction strategy and an association of school health. In addition, school counsellors deal with substance abuse issues, both by direct counselling and referral to other agencies. Some of these are existing programs in place and others are improvements that we've made as a result of inquests that have been conducted in the Yukon and as a result of decisions that have been rendered from the bench and public discussions on this serious subject.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, maybe the minister can tell us then - what I heard from the minister just now is that she reiterated all of the ongoing programs in the Department of Justice and Department of Health and Social Services for drug and alcohol abuse, but the judgment that I have in my hand is from April 6. On April 6, the judge said that alcohol and drug treatment and counselling programs geared toward young people are scarce, if non-existent.
So, maybe the minister can tell us, since April 6, what new programs is the minister talking about that she's brought into place following the recommendations of the judgments, which she just said she did? What new programs has she brought into place?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, let me tell the member opposite that I have in no way provided an exhaustive list of the programs that are available, that those are only some of the programs that are available in the school system, and that there are other programs available through the Department of Health and Social Services and elsewhere in government. Let me also tell the member that we have asked our officials to look at options to enhance the existing programs and also at what an inquiry might accomplish and whether that exercise might be productive.
Question re: Justice system, public confidence in
Mr. Phillips: Well, I expect the minister to arrive in the House here tomorrow then with a list of all the new alcohol and drug programs that she has put in place since April 6, since this judge looked at the programs we had in place and said that the programs for young people are scarce, if non-existent. So, I'd appreciate receiving that tomorrow - the new programs that were started since April 6.
To the Minister of Justice on the legal system again, the Yukon's legal system will only work if it has the backing of the general public. Whether the minister likes it or not, her statements and her actions play a key role in molding public opinion about whether the justice system is working or is not working. I can tell the minister right now that the majority of Yukoners believe that the current legal system is neither fair nor just, especially in relation to violence against women.
As the Yukon's economic system collapses, there is going to be even more and more violence against women, as some men take out their frustration on those who are closest to them. How many more women are going to be assaulted or have to die, Mr. Speaker, before the minister and this government will take action against violence against women and children?
Deputy Speaker: Order please. Will the member please conclude?
Mr. Phillips: Why is the minister sitting on her hands, Mr. Speaker, with respect to this issue?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Let me first of all point out that the member opposite is completely inaccurate in his allegations, and that this government is doing a number of things to look at improvements to the system. I might mention, in particular in relation to crimes of violence, that we have brought in legislative initiatives, such as the Family Violence Prevention Act and the Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act in the last session of the Legislature to deal with exactly those problems.
We continue to support victim services programs and to take a very serious look at ways that we can improve the justice system in the Yukon.
The member is aware of the Hughes inquiry, and as well with the restorative justice policy work that I announced we were undertaking over the next several months. I made that announcement in this House last week.
Mr. Phillips: Well, I'm afraid that that answer by the minister will give very little comfort to women who are assaulted and friends and families of those women who have been murdered recently by abusive spouses.
Mr. Speaker, alcohol and drug abuse in the Yukon in rampant throughout the territory at all age levels, and that is a major contributing factor in abusive behaviour directed at women and children. Yukon courts are having to deal with the legal ramifications of these social problems on a daily basis.
Can the minister advise the House if she can give a report on the extent of teen alcohol and drug abuse, as reflected through the court records and proceedings, or does the minister even bother to ask for such a record, to know really what the facts are all about in these issues?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member opposite is certainly grandstanding, as someone who was involved in the capacity of being responsible for the justice system in his tenure as minister. Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, we
are doing a lot to improve what is offered in our school systems and in our community as a whole. We know that alcohol and drug problems among youth differ from those among adults. As the member also knows, the Minister of Health and Social Services has been making some changes to the alcohol programming in the territory, particularly in order to be able to
increase the services that may be available for young drinkers.
The member opposite also knows that we have spent time in this House outlining the present programs and additional programs that we're working on offering.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, it's a pretty sad day in this Legislature when a member rises in this House and asks questions about spousal assault, about women who are being murdered, about violence against women and children, and the minister, instead of answering the questions, describes it as grandstanding. It's a pretty sad day in this House. When she was a member on this side of the House, she used to say that something had to be done about it. She's been there a year and a half, and she hasn't done a thing about it.
Mr. Speaker, one program that's helping to combat alcohol and drug abuse is the Youth Empowerment and Success program. Yet, this government has consistently denied any form of stable funding to YES, purely because it started as a federal initiative. The results of the program didn't make any difference to this government. The comments from the kids who were involved in it didn't make any difference to this government.
Can the minister advise the House if she is now prepared to reconsider her opposition to YES and provide the group with some stable funding in order to combat the high rate of alcohol and drug abuse among Yukon teens?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: That member opposite knows that we are doing an awful lot in the way of new programming for youth. We continue to support youth-initiated projects throughout the communities, and we've made a number of increases to that support. This year, we'll be supporting the community youth recreation leadership program again that provides positive employment and recreation for kids in communities throughout the territory.
The YES group has been part of the Yukon youth strategy discussions. I might mention for the member that they do not focus on alcohol problems, but I can also tell the member that many youth groups have been involved in providing information to the government about how to improve the services and programs we offer to youth. We're going to continue to listen to youth and improve the programs we offer, based on youth-identified needs.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre, second fire marshall's report
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Justice on the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. There has been an ongoing public debate on the state of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. There have been interviews on the radio and there have been newspaper articles and there have been exchanges in this House, and I think it's safe to say that the public is not totally informed.
Now, the minister provided a briefing for me last Friday and one of the things that came out of the briefing is that there is a second fire marshall's report - a recent fire marshall's report - and a series of letters between the fire marshall, the City of Whitehorse fire prevention officer and the government. The minister's staff has provided me with three of those letters, the three that don't raise security issues.
So, the question I have for the minister is, just so that the public can be properly informed, will the minister commit to tabling the recent fire marshall's report and all the correspondence with the fire marshall and the city fire prevention officer? This would be subject to deletion of any security concerns that would threaten the safety of the staff.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I certainly hope that the member opposite is not trying to imply that we have been anything less than forthcoming in the information available about the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. I would point out that we provided a copy of the Barr Ryder report to the member opposite - absent the security concerns - and that we continue to provide regular information to him.
We are meeting the fire marshall's concerns and are budgeting monies for renovations and safety upgrades at Whitehorse Correctional Centre in order to respond to the fire marshall's concerns.
Mr. Cable: I think we just heard why we have a problem. The question that was asked was: is the minister prepared to release all the information? She very carefully avoided answering the question.
Let me ask the minister this question. In the budget speech, the Government Leader talked about funding of major capital projects and he said he was opposed to funding through long-term debt. And I quote - this is from the budget speech - "A more creative solution is to set aside money now in special savings accounts that can accumulate funds for major projects that would be too expensive to undertake in any one budget year."
This is the approach taken with the Dawson sewage system, where we are setting aside $1 million a year, for nine years, into a fund.
Is this government prepared to take a similar approach to funding the construction of a new jail?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I think that, first of all, I need to respond to the member's preamble about providing the information in relation to the fire marshall's letters. The answer to the member's question is quite obviously yes, when he has, in fact, already been provided with the information that he's standing here asking for me to provide to him.
Mr. Speaker, that information, minus the security information that we must not provide - that we cannot provide, because we are talking about a correctional facility, and there are security concerns - has been provided, where it is not risking the security concerns.
Mr. Speaker, I also announced in this House last week that we will be doing significant policy work over the next several months on restorative justice. The first principle of corrections is the rehabilitation of offenders. We will be engaging in a broad discussion with the public, including the Whitehorse Correctional Centre workforce and the union, and community groups and First Nations, on correctional reform. Improved programs, sentencing alternatives, facility options and design development, site review, are all important in looking at how we design systems to meet the needs of Yukon people.
Deputy Speaker: Order please. Would the member please conclude.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We want a properly designed facility that meets Yukon needs in response to public demand for updated correctional policy, and that's what we're doing.
Mr. Cable: I wasn't asking the minister to provide me with documents. If she will read the handout from the union, she will see that the union is not fully conversant with all the documents that are floating around.
The final question I have for the minister is - and this is in view of what the union is talking about today - is the minister of the opinion that a new jail is not necessary and that the hundreds of thousands of dollars that we are spending every year over the period of time is sufficient, that these patchwork repairs will do the job?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, let me be clear with the member opposite. I am concerned about the people who work at Whitehorse Correctional Centre and who are incarcerated there. We are beginning a process now that will help us to design a system that meets the needs of Yukon people. We are also responding to the long-standing need that's been publicly stated to reform our correctional policy. There are new ways of thinking about rehabilitating offenders and preventing crime. As we develop our new restorative justice policy and consult with the public about correctional standards and correctional policies, that will lead us to the work on design development for a new facility.
Question re: Hiring agency
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Minister of Government Services, and it concerns the local hire report and the government hiring agency. One of the recommendations of the local hire commission is to develop a hiring agency, which contractors on Yukon government projects would be required to use. The minister said last week that the government would identify a major pilot project that would use the Yukon hiring agency. Can the minister tell the House which industry and which particular project the government will be using as a pilot project?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, I can't, because at this point, a project has not been identified. We have not determined how that should work. I think there are probably a variety of factors going into it - as to whether it should be local or rural or whatever - but at this point, no, a project has not been identified.
Ms. Duncan: The hiring agency has a number of shortcomings, and I'd like to ask about one of them. The final report on the Yukon hire said payroll services on the pilot project would be done by the government agency. This would effectively shut out small businesses who do payroll for contractors and replace them with more bureaucracy. This is another example of the NDP government's anti-small business attitude.
Why is the government taking jobs from small businesses that provide payroll services?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think the member might be somewhat premature in that. The model of a hiring agency, I think, can take a whole variety of forms, from anything such as a full-blown hiring agency - similar to, say, the Island Highway project, for example - or something much more limited, if one wants to take a look at the kinds of services that a hiring agency could indeed do. That is not to suggest, for example, that, say, on a project in which a hiring agency - or a variation of a hiring agency - might be employed, that that agency would not, in turn, subcontract to someone to do payroll services.
I think the only thing that is being suggested is that might be one of the roles that a hiring agency could take on.
I should emphasize, however, that what we're committed to doing is consulting with the industries before anything such as this type of initiative would be undertaken and, from that, we'd be taking a look at such things as options, costs, variations - a whole variety.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, in the Yukon hire commission final report, it says, with recommendation no. 6, with regard to a hiring agency, as well, and I quote, "By handling payroll directly, the hiring agency would ...". It goes on to state a number of conditions that the Yukon hire agency, by handling payroll directly, would follow.
Well, in the Yellow Pages there are at least 17 Yukon businesses that handle payroll, and that's just those businesses that can afford to advertise in the Yellow Pages. There are a lot more small businesses that handle payroll as their business. These are small businesses.
Now, the minister has said, "Well, we might, we might not". Well, in the summary of government responses, it says that the government should implement a hiring agency and it would implement it soon. Does the government intend that the hiring agency will do payroll or will not do payroll?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think I illustrated earlier that we were committed to doing some consultations with industry in this regard. The member's asking me to identify what this agency would look like and where we're going to be putting it and what project we're going to be putting it on.
I should emphasize to her that this is something that has just come out. It's something that we are committed to looking at. It's something that we're committed to exploring, but it's also something that we're going to be looking at, working with the various industries, be they construction or whatever, on how to implement this. As well, I think one of the things that we think that this particular project could do would be to maybe reduce some of those incremental costs by having them administered centrally.
Question re: Electrical rate increases, passing on to small business
Mr. Phillips: My question is for the Minister of Tourism. Over the weekend I took part in the annual general meeting of the Tourism Industry Association held in Dawson City. Overwhelmingly, Mr. Speaker, there was a concern raised by members about the increased cost of doing business in the Yukon. As the minister is aware, tourism is the fastest growing industry worldwide and the largest private sector employer in the Yukon at the present time. Even so, the majority of our tourism operators, many of whom are ordinary Yukoners making a living in small business ventures, are finding it more and more difficult trying to make ends meets, let alone trying to stay competitive, as a direct result of costs in the territory.
Mr. Speaker, businesses have been burdened now with recent announcements in 1998 of the new projected power rates of 15 percent - the Workers' Compensation Board, Mr. Speaker - 16 percent of the power rates in the Workers' Compensation Board; we have high gas prices in the territory; we have high airline prices; and the people in the industry are extremely concerned that we're pricing ourselves out of the marketplace.
I'd like to ask the minister what will he do to look at some kind of control over the areas that the governments are responsible for?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The question was with regard to gas prices, power rates in the territory, and the overall state of the economy. Clearly, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite should have been addressing the question to me, but let me just say that - I should remind the member opposite, I always love it when he asks these questions because, when the member talks about the ever-increasing cost of doing business, what he's really talking about is the massive tax increases that the Yukon Party brought in when they were in government.
The other thing that the member opposite should be talking about is the massive WCB increases that were brought in under his government. That wasn't our government, Mr. Speaker - that was his government. And I don't know what he was doing as tourism minister at that time, but he obviously wasn't paying much attention to it, and I think the numbers bore that out.
Mr. Speaker, we have brought in a rate stabilization fund proposal that is seeking to end the roller-coaster ride on rates in this territory. It's a long-standing concern for Yukoners. People know that the Faro mine has gone off the grid twice in the last 18 months. It's a very difficult problem because, when the mine is operating, it helps pay the mortgage on the assets that Yukoners own.
So, Mr. Speaker, when we, for example, brought in the rate stabilization fund, we didn't do what the Yukon Party did and ask for a 58-percent rate increase. That's what they did when the Faro mine went off the grid. The members opposite, just a couple of months ago, were running around telling Yukoners rates were going up 45 percent.
Deputy Speaker: Order please. Would the member please conclude?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I know it's painful for the Yukon Party, due to their dismal record, but we will continue to work with small businesses in this territory.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister of economic devastation doesn't get it. Mr. Speaker, my question was directed to the Minister of Tourism, not the minister who doesn't give a hoot about tourism in the territory - not in the past, not in the present, and the industry knows that. They don't want an answer from that member. They don't want him anywhere near tourism.
I would like to ask the Minister of Tourism, tourism contributes to the Yukon's economy in many ways, providing much-needed jobs for Yukoners and stability in an economy that is suffering from the closure of the Yukon's largest producing mine, with few prospective developments in the near future.
Contrary to what this government may think, the burdens placed on Yukon businesses over the past year and a half, with increases to their basic cost of operations, resulting from higher electrical rates and increases in their workers' compensation rates, are taking a toll on our business community and are hurting them badly. These added costs are, in turn, adding to the cost of our Yukon tourism package.
I would like to ask our Minister of Tourism - the minister who's responsible for that area - what his government is going to do to try and ensure that the Yukon doesn't price itself out of the tourism marketplace with higher cost packages. What is the Minister of Tourism going to do about that?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, first of all, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I want to correct some of the bootlegging that was just done by the member opposite in his preamble, as usual. He's been talking about the trends in the Yukon as if they were somehow invented a year and a half ago. That could not be further from the case.
The massive tax increases brought in by the Yukon Party government were, in fact, before the last year and a half. The WCB increases were, in fact, before the last year and a half. That was under the Yukon Party government.
Mr. Speaker, we have been working very hard with all small businesses, including the tourism sector of the economy, to try and deal with the concerns that they have raised about issues such as power rates. A rate stabilization fund is certainly one way to try and do that, particularly in light of the situation where we have seen two Faro mine shutdowns in the last 18 months.
We did not go to the people - the small businesses - and ask for a 58-percent increase in their power rates like the Yukon Party did. That is not the case.
The Minister of Tourism and the Minister of Economic Development and this government has spent $200,000 and more in marketing. They have done the Air Transat deal, they are extending the runway and they are investing in heritage buildings. This is going to be a great year for tourism and they're looking to the future, as well.
Mr. Phillips: Yes, Mr. Speaker, it will be a great year for tourism. That's because all the anniversary marketing has been done in the last five years, and people are going to come up here for the gold rush anniversaries. It's not a result of anything that was done this year by this government or even anything really done last year by this government.
Mr. Speaker, the other thing that the Minister of Economic Development doesn't understand about tourism - it's clear he doesn't understand it - is that he said that the numbers in the last four years when we were in government reflected the lack of action in tourism, except those numbers were the four best years that tourism has ever had in the territory. But he doesn't know that.
Mr. Speaker, what I'd like to say to the Minister of Tourism is, on behalf of businesses in tourism who asked me to represent them and ask questions of this minister, is that many of them have set their prices for the 1998 season - and some for the 1999 season. Now they're going to be hit with power rate increases. They're going to be hit with Workers' Compensation Board increases.
What they're asking the Minister of Tourism is, what will he do to soften the impact on them, Mr. Speaker, so that they won't have to absorb all those extra costs in their bottom lines that may force some of them out of business? What is the Minister of Tourism going to do?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'll answer the question again. The member opposite again bootlegged in some incorrect information. I think it's important that we correct the record when the members opposite engage in filling it up with such incorrect information.
First of all, with regard to workers' compensation, the decisions surrounding workers' compensation increases will be handled by the employer and the employer representatives on that board.
The last major increase was brought in when the Yukon Party was the government. So, there is no huge burgeoning cost in that area, as it was identified by the member opposite. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, my understanding is that the board is looking at staggering the assessment levels so that some of the lower risk industries, such as tourism, might even pay less for WCB.
With regard to the issue of power rates, there will be a further reduction in power rates of some 3.3 percent in the very near range as a result of the diesel rider coming off. And, Mr. Speaker, the government is dealing with the situation - losing the Faro mine twice in the last 18 months - through a rate stabilization fund to try and end the roller-coaster ride on rates in this territory.
Of course, as I mentioned earlier, there are millions being invested by the Government of the Yukon in tourism and many other economic development initiatives, such as the Air Transat deal and the extension of the runway, campground improvements all around this territory, and a new marketing vision for tourism beyond the anniversaries.
A new marketing vision for tourism beyond the anniversaries. All of these things are being done by this government to create jobs and improve the environment for business in this territory. I think it's a formidable record and, Mr. Speaker, we've been handling it in very difficult circumstances with the loss of the Faro mine.
Deputy Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Deputy Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Deputy Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the wish of the members to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: We'll take 15 minutes.
Deputy Chair's notice re absence of Chair and Deputy Chair
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Before proceeding to Committee business today, I wish to advise members that, as the Chair of Committee of the Whole, Mr. McRobb will be presiding as Deputy Speaker this week, due to the illness of the Speaker. I will be presiding most of the time in Committee as its Deputy Chair. However, pursuant to citation 902(3) of Beauchesne, I will be calling upon Mr. Livingston, Member for Lake Laberge, to take the Chair of Committee from time to time.
Committee will now turn to the estimates.
Bill No. 9 - First Appropriation Act, 1998-99 - continued
Deputy Chair: We are on the Department of Health and Social Services.
Department of Health and Social Services - continued
Deputy Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Just before we begin, the member asked me, on April 23, with regard to some actions being taken by the department on the whole question of a hepatitis C look back in the Yukon, and, specifically, would we be doing a look back for people who have received blood transfusions or blood products in the Yukon in the 1980s to inform them that they should go in or get tested for hepatitis C.
B.C. hospitals, together with the Government of B.C., undertook a look back, through which they wrote to everyone who had a record, who had received blood in a B.C. hospital in the 1980s, encouraging them to get tested for hepatitis C. Yukoners who received blood in a B.C. hospital would have been included in that look back, assuming that they could be found based on the information on file at the B.C. hospital. However, the vast majority of blood and blood products used in the Yukon come from B.C. through the Red Cross office in B.C. Since the B.C. look back was done by B.C. hospitals and not the Red Cross, people who have received blood in the Yukon would not have been contacted through the B.C. look back.
In the Yukon, a number of steps have been taken to raise awareness about hepatitis C and encourage people to get tested. For doctors' offices and health centres, current information about hepatitis C and guidelines regarding identification and management are circulated to health professionals by the medical officer of health in the communicable disease control unit, as they become available or as they are updated. It's then up to each health professional to determine how they wish to work with this information.
As well, to inform the public more broadly, the Yukon's medical officer of health undertook a public awareness campaign for hepatitis C during December 1997 and January 1998.
These various actions, along with the high-profile that blood issues have had nationally in the last few years, resulted in people coming in to get tested for hepatitis C in the Yukon. In addition to what we are doing, over the past few months, Health and Social Services has been working with the Whitehorse General Hospital to review the records, and we think that there may be a few more people who can be contacted, using those records who, as yet, have not come in for testing.
Such a look back will require us to link the Whitehorse Hospital records with the Yukon Health Care files in order to track down people we wish to notify. A committee has been formed from Whitehorse General Hospital, the Health and Social Services communicable disease control unit and medical officer of health to complete this work, and we're expecting that we'll be coming forward with some further actions.
With regard to some questions that arose regarding the medical aspect of the detox centre, we have struck a medical committee involving a doctor and nurse to examine the extent that we provide medical attention to people who are detoxifying. We're moving to having a CNA on each shift - currently we have a full-time nurse on staff. The development of standing orders for the contracted positions that cover medications that can be prescribed and administered has been completed, and this is largely due to increasingly complex medical conditions that people who present themselves at detox have been displaying.
We've focused in on trying to provide better medical care. Once the review is completed, we'll still be sending some people to the hospital but, for those who remain in detox, we'll be able to provide better care by virtue of the fact that we're able to respond more readily and more professionally to their medical issues.
Mrs. Edelman: Before we go into some more issues, I think I need to get some more clarification from the minister on the last statement. Is it the minister's position that the medical detox at the Sarah Steele Building will not be replacing the hospital service?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, it would be. We wouldn't be replacing the hospital, but what we feel is that, because of some of the clientele that we have coming in, many of those individuals have minor medical conditions that we can be working with them on, and we're certainly not looking at replacing the hospital in that regard, but we want to provide a better level of medical care, as well as also to be working on some issues that people have been presenting, particularly with regard to problems of injectables, including, quite obviously, the hepatitis problems.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, one of the questions that I didn't get a chance to ask on the last date was about counselling services. Now, there are some counselling services available through Communicable Disease, but people also need information about sources, such as dietary counsellors at the hospital, information about lifestyle implications, et cetera, and that isn't being coordinated. There are some counselling services available on diagnosis, but there's nothing about some of the positive preventive things that people can do once they've been diagnosed with hepatitis C. So, I was wondering what sort of coordination is going on in that field.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, we've been using our local physicians as points of contact on these and providing information to the physicians, and the information passed on by our medical officer of health would include such things as issues surrounding diet, issues surrounding medications, et cetera. What we anticipate is, as the whole question of compensation comes to the fore, we're looking at there being a national campaign to make people aware of the compensation issues and things of that nature.
At that point, our department will be probably providing some support for individuals who are seeking compensation on how to go about accessing it and trying to provide information as to the national scheme.
So, we can see ourselves working on this, particularly on, I suppose, the non-medical aspects in the future.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I think what I just heard was that it's up to the individual physicians to pass that information on to the patients. Now, the numbers here in the Yukon are minute compared to the rest of Canada. We have four cases that will be getting compensation packages through the federal government - 250 people who have been diagnosed with hepatitis C who reside in the Yukon. So, you're talking about very, very tiny numbers. So, it's not difficult to at least get some sort of coordination of counselling services together.
Before we leave this topic, I would just hope that the minister can take a look at the bigger picture here and realize that, when people are diagnosed, it's a relatively new disease out there. People who work very, very hard as general practitioners don't have the time to keep up to date on all the details as they emerge. It might be useful, at the initial diagnosis and the initial counselling session from the government, that that information is given to those patients.
I need to move into the area of elders now. One of the subjects is Macaulay Lodge. Now, Macaulay Lodge has had some interesting repairs recently. I have been given information from people who regularly visit that facility that, while the repairs are going on, the fire doors are being kept closed, so that it's difficult for people to leave in the event of a fire. I'm wondering if the minister can verify that, or if that's one of the details of the construction that maybe I can hear about later on from the administration.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The most recent note I have on this is that Macaulay Lodge has gone through a thorough mechanical, electrical and structural review. The following projects have been undertaken: the elevator upgrade, the architectural upgrade to change the doors and windows to fire-rated quality, the fire alarm system upgrade has begun and was to be completed by March 31, 1998.
The most recent note I have is that Macaulay is up to its full bed complement of 50, as all the architectural upgrades are completed.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, this was a concern that was expressed to me by someone who goes over there quite regularly, and the last time I was over there I did notice that it's hard to get out the fire doors and, of course, the whole point in having fire doors is so that you can get out in the event of a fire. And that was one of the reasons why some of these upgrades took place: to bring it up to fire code.
So, if I could get some information back from the minister's department I would greatly appreciate that.
Also on the topic of Macaulay, the minister said that we were right back up to the full bed complement - that's true, and I have a letter from the minister to that effect - and in particular the minister is referring in this letter to the four beds at the end of the hallway that were beyond the fire escape. The reason it was suggested by the City of Whitehorse fire inspector that those beds be closed was because it would be difficult in the event of a fire for people to come from those beds at the end of the hallway, down the fire escape.
Now, there seems to be a reversal on the decision to close those beds. Now we have the beds open again. Has something changed? Do we now have an outside fire escape from that end?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: There were a couple of things involved there. One was the actual structural changes and fire alarm changes that were requested by the fire marshall. The other thing was to utilize those beds for individuals who are more ambulatory so that they could be able to access the proper exits from the building.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I could see that that could be a problem, because certainly it would be difficult to carry heavy individuals down those stairs if you were the nurse who had to go and get them. And so, if they were able to leave on their own then it would make sense for people in those rooms to be more ambulatory.
But, this also brings us to the issue about what we do on the second floor of the hospital in the event of fire because we have indoor fire escapes there as well. If you have somebody who is up on the second floor and who's heavy and who's hooked up to tubes, and you can't use the elevator, how does anybody get those people out of the building?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I think one thing that has to be recognized is that the hospital is a relatively new building and, as such, has involved a larger number of fire code changes, and those have been incorporated, as well as such things as sprinkler systems and things of that nature.
So, in that regard, the hospital itself would be more compliant with the necessary codes at this point and, as such, they would meet the necessary safety aspect. I would presume that the building would not have been approved had there been some serious reservations regarding the hospital and its design.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I just think we should note at this point that no matter what, anything can burn, including the second floor of the Whitehorse General Hospital. And speaking of the Whitehorse General Hospital, over a year ago I attended the Yukon Hospital Corporation's board meeting - the annual general meeting - and at that time the room was full and it was full of staff for Yukon General Hospital, which at that time had not completely devolved to the territorial government. There were extreme problems with communications, and what happened subsequent to that was the strike at the hospital.
What has this government done to help communications between the hospital board and the staff at Whitehorse General Hospital?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think it's fair to say that the evaluation that was done earlier this spring pointed out a number of problems that existed with the hospital, not the least of which were issues surrounding questions of management style, communications, et cetera. Subsequent to that report, some fairly specific targets were set and, following that, as the member is aware, there were changes within the administration. There were changes with the CEO. There were changes with the board structure.
The present situation right now is that we've got a board that, I think, certainly from my meetings with the chair, is far more conversant with issues surrounding staff, issues surrounding morale, issues surrounding just the entire organization of the hospital. As well, we've had some ongoing meetings with Mr. Brown, the CEO, who has an understanding of where this organization has to go.
Also, I think it's fair to say that the issue around the labour dispute at the hospital involved some long-standing grievances, and we believe that the settlement that was reached by not only the PSAC workers, but later on by the PIPS, indicate that there is a general satisfaction with how the hospital is going and what the overall goals are. We have worked on funding the hospital to a level that we feel is not only adequate, but can meet all their goals. We have assisted the hospital further with trying to defray some of the expenses that they had built up. Over the course of a number of years, they had consistently drawn down their financial reserves as they endeavoured to, I suppose, solve some of the problems by putting more money at them by drawing down the reserves. They claim that there was a difference between the level of funding that they were receiving from government and what it cost to operate.
So, to make the institution work, they were continually drawing down reserves. Those reserves are largely exhausted. They began running a deficit, and we have worked to overcome that deficit. We've recently concluded a three-year agreement in that regard.
Mrs. Edelman: It's interesting that the minister should mention that very topic, because one of the problems under the federal government was that when the Hospital Corporation was running in the black and doing well they would be penalized in their funding agreements for doing well. So, the good work that the hospital board did do didn't do them any good in the long run, and when they were under, they were under and they just paid for it over and over again and got further and further into a deficit position. It also became harder and harder to quantify where that spending was going on.
What I'm wondering about is if there's a change. I will probably give the minister an opportunity, at this point, to wax poetic about the positive changes in a short way - in a very brief way - to discuss some of the changes that have been made in the funding agreement, so that the Yukon Hospital Corporation does have an opportunity to realize the benefits of good management at the hospital.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Basically, I can just go through some of the changes. In 1997-98, the original agreement was for $15,400,000. Subsequent to the report of the review committee, there was an addendum funding of $979,000 to offset the projected $2.6 million. That was our contribution. The hospital undertook to, by virtue of economies, to try and offset some of the additional costs. Some of that they did with staffing reductions; some of it they just did in operationals. But, they still found themselves at a point where they were still operating in a deficit situation and we stepped in with $497,000. So that brought the entire 1997-98 fiscal level to $16,876,000.
Now, the three-year agreement that we have just concluded with them - and this covers 1998-99, 1999-2000, 2001 - will provide funding in the amount of $16,739,000 and an additional $300,000 for the purposes of acquiring routine capital equipment items in each of the fiscal years.
Now, there have been some areas where I think there have been some very positive signs. For example, the CEO of the hospital, in my meetings with him, along with the board chair, have indicated that they have experienced an average of about a 12-percent reduction in operational costs per month, and I think that shows very well.
So, we think that they are making some good efforts and we're trying to support them. We've also provided within the agreement areas where we can reopen this agreement to assist them - say, for example, we ask them to deliver a new program or perhaps the volume would go to what we hadn't counted on in the original agreement.
As well, there would be some additional payments for, for example, weighted cases. Say, for example, the hospital undertook the treatment of someone who had some very extreme needs, we would enter into an agreement to assist in that regard. As well, if the hospital undertook, say, increased specialty clinics or specialty visits, those are all the kinds of things that could go into us opening up that agreement to provide them with further funding.
Mrs. Edelman: It was a very interesting conversation. I really didn't get an answer, though, as hard as that is to believe.
I suppose what I'm wondering is whether the hospital board gets dinged for making a profit. The minister's indicating that they don't ding people, and that's good to hear, because one of the problems that a lot of people in the general public have is this whole notion that government somehow or another has to spend all their money by the end of the year, or else they suffer for it in the following year. Various departments, for example, are quite well-known for going out into the private sector at the end of March, trying to spend their money before March 31, so that the next year they don't get dinged in their budget and have that amount cut back. So it's good to hear that that's not what the policy is with the Yukon Hospital Corporation.
I need to pass on some of the concerns that I've heard from constituents. I know that the government doesn't directly manage the hospital; however, it does fund the hospital to provide a service so, therefore, I need to pass on these concerns.
The first one is that, with the loss of CNAs at the hospital who, in a lot of ways, were the heart of that hospital and did most of the direct patient care, there's been a loss of one-on-one with patients when people, particularly seniors, are in the hospital - and they require a great deal of care. There's no one who says hello; there's generally not the friendly sort of atmosphere we used to have.
I know that the NDP, prior to being elected, had a very, very strong support for the CNAs and, despite that, there have been a number of CNA positions that have been eliminated at Whitehorse General Hospital. I'm wondering if there's been a change in the government's thinking on whether or not they want to support CNAs over at Whitehorse General Hospital.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: To my understanding, a number of the CNAs have found different positions within the Hospital Corporation.
The member is quite right in the fact that we don't direct-manage the hospital. We encourage them, of course, to try to provide levels of employment for all of their individuals. It's my understanding that a number of those people have been sort of realigned. I can tell the member that, within some of the changes that we're anticipating in such things as medical detox and things like that, we're looking at opportunities for individuals such as CNAs. We haven't changed our opinion that people who are CNAs - in fact all of our health workers - are valued workers and we try to encourage them and try to encourage the organization. But I think it's fair to say that one of the problems that the hospital had developed over a number of years, particularly in the last couple of years before the new administration, was there had been an increase in staffing at a point where the hospital itself was sending messages to us that they were trying to restrain costs, they were trying to restrain staffing and in fact were actually increasing staffing at a time when they were supposed to be restraining it. So, I think the hospital is now at a reasonable level of staffing and I think they'll continue to try and operate as efficiently as they can.
Mrs. Edelman: So, Mr. Chair, what I'm hearing from the minister is that there is no clear-cut support for the CNAs like there was prior to the election. And, of course, the next complaint that I hear is probably the most universal complaint ever heard about any hospital anywhere in the world and that's about the food, although I didn't note this when I was up at the hospital last. As a matter of fact, I thought the food was quite good, primarily because I didn't have to cook it, but the concern that I've heard is that there is a lot of food that is wasted at Whitehorse General Hospital.
What people do in the private sector - and I'm sure the Member for Klondike is familiar with this - is that with a restaurant service, you look at what people won't eat, and that's how you make your decisions about what you are going to serve in the future. As people are continually throwing away, say, the green Jello at the hospital, then you perhaps try switching to another flavour and see what's going on.
So, I wanted to pass that concern on to the minister, and I wonder if he has heard any similar concerns from his constituents.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, I haven't heard complaints, either about the colour of the Jello or the food in general.
I can tell the member that in some of the maritime jurisdictions, there's a particular term, I think, that sounds something like "thermal reactivated," or whatever, food. To make economies of scale, they've actually gone to ordering bulk meals that are prepared by, I believe, Cara, the company that does the airport food, and then these things are shipped en masse to hospitals and re-heated. It boggles the imagination.
No, we haven't had any direct complaints about food, but certainly we can pass on to the hospital the issue of food and, in particular, food wastage, although I would suggest that the CEO over at the hospital is looking for economies every place, so I'm sure that he will probably be having discussions with the dietary staff over there on how they can reduce wastage.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, what I'm doing now is passing on constituents' concerns, and actually, as I said previously, I actually found the food at Whitehorse General Hospital quite good.
Also on the subject of Whitehorse General Hospital is the issue of the Thomson Centre, which is not part of the hospital but is also on the hospital campus. The Thomson Centre has seven beds that haven't been staffed. They haven't been staffed because of a ministerial decision. This is a political decision; it is not an administrative decision; it is purely a decision of the minister.
Is the minister willing to reconsider that decision not to staff those seven beds at the Thomson Centre?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Chair, I can tell the member that it is something that we are looking at. We are investigating what our possibilities are there.
I should emphasize that those beds were not closed by me. In fact, they were closed by the previous administration. The space was given to the hospital as operational space. During the construction phase of the hospital, we had taken some steps to make sure that those beds could be reactivated on very short order. We've done the necessary cosmetics and the necessary revisions to the spaces in proximity - for example, eating spaces and things of that nature - as well as some changes so that they could be utilized.
The question really comes down to basically securing the funds within our department to be able to open them. The estimate that we have is some $685,000. That is no small feat. Beyond that, there are a whole variety of issues, such as appropriate recruitment of staff. As the member is aware, recruiting nurses is something that is becoming increasingly an issue. As well, the idea of recruiting extended care staff is also an issue. So, there are a couple of things there. We are looking at how we can facilitate steps like this. It's not something that we've set aside. It's something that we are actively thinking about and actively looking at.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, you can spend $600,000 at the Thomson Centre or you can spend over $1 million supporting the same individuals in the Whitehorse General Hospital. Regardless of the fact that one is under the hospital board and the other one is directly under the government's control, it's still taxpayers' dollars which come from the only taxpayer, and there is only one taxpayer, and that's a concern.
The waiting list for respite - we have spoken extensively about the waiting-list for the Thomson Centre and the lack of a waiting-list, supposedly, for McDonald Lodge, and also for Macaulay and home care. What is the waiting-list for respite services?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I just have to break that out and get it back to the member. I will have to get back the respite wait-list on Thomson. What I have is figures surrounding the permanent, but I'll have to find out in terms of respite.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, when we spoke last year at budget time, the minister wasn't committing to, and I realize that, but had spoken about a multi-level care facility similar to the ones in B.C. - I believe he was speaking about.
Those are the ones where you start and it's got primary level care, secondary, and then all the way up to level 5. What a lot of those facilities do, and they're used all over Canada, is enable couples to stay together throughout their lives and their different care needs. That's very laudable and it makes a lot of sense, because it's very, very difficult to stay together as a couple if one is in level 5 and you're only in level 1. And we know, of course, that it's usually men who are in the level 5 - and the women do extremely well and live far longer than men.
I'm wondering, the minister is working with Yukon Housing Corporation looking for options for seniors facilities in the Yukon, right across the Yukon, and there has been the seniors housing audit that recently took place and there are other consultations going forward right now. Is the minister still vaguely interested in the idea of a multi-level care facility?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, I'm never vague about my interest in multi-level care. It's something that I'm very cognizant of. It's something that we're looking at different options on. The member is probably aware that, when we talk about multi-level care, we're very frequently not only talking about the needs of seniors, which are an increasing issue for an ageing population, but we're also looking at questions around extended care, for example for young adults, particularly individuals with neuromuscular diseases, children with very severe developmental issues.
So we're looking at the whole question of appropriate delivery of extended and multi-level care. I think it's often not clearly understood, that people sometimes assume that, as a person ages, they have to go into a facility. I think that's the common misperception that people have. I don't think what they truly realize is that there are different levels of care, even within our facilities. I think what we have to be aware of is that, as the population ages, the number of health care problems often compounds and the level of care increases. So that's something that we have to be aware of. We're looking at various models as to how we can make this work. We've done some consultations, taken a look at B.C. models, things like that. We're trying to get a handle on the kinds of models that would best suit the territory, that would best meet our needs. We have some demographic figures that indicate where those needs are going to be, what those numbers are going to be, and these will be the kinds of issues that I'm bringing forward.
Mrs. Edelman: It's interesting what the minister's saying, because it dovetails quite nicely into my next question. The minister is saying that he still seems to have an interest in a multi-level care facility, and points out - and it's a very good point - that we aren't talking about just needs for seniors, but also those who suffer from degenerative diseases, or from cerebral palsy, or other neuromuscular disorders.
If we are looking at different age groups, even though 50 percent of the population is baby-boomers - the oldest one is 52 years old right now, so obviously seniors are going to be our greatest need - why are we not consulting with pre-seniors? Pre-seniors - baby-boomers, for example - have a far, far different set of expectations. We have more money; we are going to live longer; we want a higher level of service; we have many, many options that we want to keep well into old age - possibilities for the future that weren't the expectation with the age group that's now in their 60s, 70s and 80s. We essentially haven't really had hard lives, like a lot of people who lived through the Depression, who are not up in that age group.
What is the minister doing to talk to pre-seniors, for example, even the people in this Legislature? What are we doing about talking to baby-boomers about what their expectations are for multi-level care facilities in the future?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, to a large degree, we have the experience of other jurisdictions, and we also have some of the statistical data about where the pressures are going to come. We know where the age bulge will occur. We know the kinds of services that people will be seeking. We also know that as members that we're looking at a population with some very different kinds of needs.
The experience has been, up to now, that many people who are now in the seniors areas are people who, as she has noted, have lived some fairly tough lives. In many cases, the only provision that they had for their old age, if you will, were such things as the basic pensions, the basic coverage from the Canadian government.
What we're dealing with now, I think, is a very different population. We're dealing with a population where people are far more cognizant of the financial demands of their senior years. They're also considerably more cognizant of the fact that they're going to live past retirement. The norm used to be that people would hit - particularly men - 65, retire and promptly die within the next three years. Well, that isn't the case. People are becoming aware of it.
They're also looking at the kinds of levels of care, the kinds of services that they want, and those kinds of issues will probably become increasingly important and may also impact, to be very frank, upon what the costs are and what the levels are that people are willing to pay for services.
I can tell the member that right now that we're at the very bottom, the extreme bottom of what the national costs are for our extended care facilities. When I take a look at what the costs are in other parts of the country, I think what we have there is a recognition of the fact that the growing population of seniors is probably more affluent and they want better levels of services.
So, I think, as we move along, I can send out a questionnaire to find out from each member of the House if they prefer a private or semi-private room, and we can start working on that now. We can order in the necessary colours of Jello for those who wish it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That's right. When the member's vision deteriorates, she won't be able to tell the colour of the Jello.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister spoke about how we're using models from other jurisdictions to determine what the extended care facilities and multi-level care facilities should look like here in the Yukon. We aren't like other jurisdictions. People live in the north for a variety of reasons, but the biggest reason we live here is for the lifestyle choices.
Yukoners are not like your typical person who lives in downtown T.O. We are people who are very active. We're very much involved in our community. We live in a very, very small population, and we have a very different way of looking at things. We also have 25 percent of our population which is First Nations, and we have some very strong cultural needs in the Yukon. I can't emphasize to the minister enough about the need to look at facilities for the Yukon that make sense for Yukoners and that aren't modelled upon jurisdictions outside. We already have a hospital that's doing that, and it hasn't been a model that has worked well for us.
The minister's department was very, very helpful to me when I recently did a presentation on elder abuse to the Yukon Council on Ageing. Also, the Minister of Justice offered help through the family violence unit, and that was also helpful in putting together the presentation. One of the things that I found out during my research to put on the presentation was that there is training in elder abuse going on at Macaulay and also at the Thomson Centre, and that's for staff. I'm wondering if this is going to be ongoing training. Are we going to be keeping staff up to date on this issue, and is that training going to be going on in the general public as well?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, we would be committed to doing it, at least, with our staff, on an ongoing manner.
I think that one of the issues that we have to be cognizant of is that we have a number of seniors up here, many of whom do not have families here. I think there are different levels of elder abuse. We're not only just talking about the actual physical abuse, but I think elders can also be abused in other ways, in terms of verbal and psychological intimidation. There are also the issues surrounding seniors - this is something I've heard on a frequent basis - who are somehow robbed or bilked of their pension cheques, and things of that nature. It's incumbent on us to make sure that we're working with seniors and making sure that they are protected in every way we can.
With regard to the larger issue of seniors abuse in the larger sense, I think those would be the kinds of things that would, for example, form the basis of forums that we have on such things as seniors' health issues, and things of that nature. We had one quite recently, and those are the kinds of things we could bring forward.
Mrs. Edelman: Elder abuse is very different than other types of abuse in other age groups. It's physical abuse, certainly, but it's also sexual abuse, psychological abuse, financial abuse and neglect. It's a very different set of ways to abuse a person, basically, and it goes right across sex lines, as well.
In the Yukon, there are about 151 seniors right now who are being abused through some sort of elder abuse. Some communities have been very effective at developing programs to protect their seniors, as the minister was just saying. Particularly in Pelly, there's a bus service that picks up seniors and takes them to town to cash their cheques on cheque day and takes them around to do grocery shopping and whatever else needs to be done. Then people are driven back to their homes in relative safety.
This is an example of a community that has really taken this issue quite seriously and done something about it. I'm wondering if the minister is supportive of this type of programming and if that model, which is very, very good, is being shared with other Yukon communities.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I think the Pelly model that the member has mentioned is an example of where a First Nation and local government have undertaken the needs of seniors as a key issue. Particularly, I know that with regard to the Selkirk First Nation they have, as part of their settlement, undertaken a large number of social issues, and the whole question of seniors I think is key to them.
So, I think that kind of model is an excellent one and I would certainly encourage other local governments, other local municipalities, to take a look and see the kinds of things that they can do for seniors. Because, after all, seniors not only are Yukoners, they're also residents of a First Nation, they're also residents of a community, they're also residents of a municipality, and I think we all have a duty to address some of those needs.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, one of the things that did happen as a result of doing this presentation was that I did manage to get a resource list together on four people who were suffering from elder abuse. It's a fairly exhaustive list and I'd like to share it with the minister and give it to him in the hope that, in some way, somewhere, the minister will publish the list and make it available to other seniors in the Yukon. Certainly, there were almost 100 people at the Yukon Council on Ageing meeting, but that doesn't get to the rest of seniors across the Yukon who weren't able to attend.
The next issue that I'd like to explore with the minister is the positive parenting program, which is a very good program, and there have been programs like this put on by various agencies over the years. This one is being offered by the department.
Is this program being delivered by the private sector?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Assuming we're talking about the Nobody's Perfect program, that is being funded by YFSA through a contribution agreement from us, and I've heard some very positive things regarding that.
As well, in some of my meetings with school councils, they have indicated the positive reception that this program has received.
I think, especially for younger parents, we have a number of sort of younger people who wrestle with, are they doing the right thing by their children, and so on. I recall one meeting I was at where there were a couple of young mothers who actually mentioned how much they appreciated the program, because it gave them points at which they could relate to their own experiences and what was going on in their own families.
So that is being delivered, funded by us, through YFSA.
Mrs. Edelman: Obviously this is a very popular program. I can certainly understand how younger parents would particularly benefit, mainly because we don't have that older generation here, generally speaking, to teach parenting skills, as the minister spoke about earlier. If there is such a need for this program, is the minister willing to increase funding for that program?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, at this point, we haven't had an indication that there is further need of it. It seems to be adequately funded at this point. The YFSA is included in their budget, so we're assuming that the level is available.
Mrs. Edelman: I wonder if I could get the dollar figures from the department. I can take that in written form. I don't need it right now but, at some point in the future, I'd be quite interested in getting the exact dollars on that particular program.
We had spoken earlier about hospitals and the Whitehorse General Hospital. In Watson Lake, patients are delivered to the hospital by ambulance in a somewhat creative way.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Edelman: The Member for Klondike is mentioning that it's difficult to get them in the door, and that's exactly the point.
They're delivered to one end of the hospital - and of course the minister's well-aware of this, because he did live in Watson Lake for an extended period of time. They're delivered to one end of the hospital, which is the end where the patients are, and usually these ambulance calls take place in the middle of the night. If they can get in to the hospital, they are wheeled through the hospital, where the patients are trying to sleep. Then, when they get to the end of the hallway, after two or three turns, they usually have to get off the stretcher so they can get the stretcher around the last corner to get it into the emergency room, which is where the treatment takes place.
This is usually not a quiet procedure and it's often somewhat of a painful procedure, particularly for the patients who have to get off the trolley and then get back on to the trolley when it's in the emergency room. There is an opportunity right now in Watson Lake to look at a different ambulance station because the one that they had previously, of course, burnt down. Is the minister considering changing the ambulance bay at Watson Lake?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Not at this point.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, may I just point out, once again, the ludicrousness of this particular situation.
The anti-poverty strategy - I wonder if I could have a copy of that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We're currently at the point of doing some work on refining that and, as soon as it becomes available, I can direct it on to the member.
Mrs. Edelman: I wait in breathless anticipation once again.
The problem I have heard about is around different types of treatment for patients at extended-care facilities as well as in the hospitals in the Yukon. If there is a patient at Macaulay Lodge, for example, and that patient is female and needs to have a bath, then the CNA who's expected to do that has to be female. That is part of the procedure there. Now, anywhere else in Canada, it's a male or a female. It doesn't really make a difference. A nurse is a nurse is a nurse regardless of the sex of the nurse. And indeed many of the male patients actually prefer a female CNA giving the bath. So, I'm wondering if the minister could speak a little bit more about some of the policies and procedures and maybe there's a reason.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I can't really comment on the bathing procedures at Macaulay or Thomson, but I could probably find out what the procedures are there.
Well, I can understand the preference, I suppose, but I don't think I could really investigate it too much further. I'll have to get back to the member on the whole question of bathing.
Mrs. Edelman: I think there is a much larger issue here, and, of course, this is just an illustration of the issue. The issue is that nurses across Canada are usually female, and the occasional male who becomes a nurse or becomes a CNA has tremendous difficulty trying to perform his duties because of some of these built-in, systemic so-called safeguards.
There is a continual problem with male CNAs. They are trained by the Yukon government. We pay for it. People spend a lot of time investing in becoming male CNAs and becoming male nurses, and then they are not allowed to do their job, and this is the issue that I'm trying to bring forward with the minister. I'm wondering if he is at least aware of this double standard.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It is something that has come to my attention on at least one occasion, and it wasn't so much regarding the individual complaining that they could not do certain tasks. It had more to do with the individual feeling that they weren't being used to their full potential, and it is something that we're aware of. I've raised it with the institution in question, and I'm sure that the organization in this case would try to take that into account.
I'm sure, just on the whole question of nurses and nursing issues, that that's something the nurses association would consider on a professional basis. I mean, they also, as any professional organization, have to deal with systemic issues within their own profession in a very similar way that education did for a long time, even though it was a predominantly female-dominated occupation.
There were very few opportunities, rather, for women to move into administration. I'm sure that the nursing organization wrestles with those issues, as well.
Mrs. Edelman: Actually, I hadn't really heard anything from the YRNA on this particular issue, but I was wondering what the minister's thoughts were on that issue.
On social assistance, there's a program called the Head Start program, which is partially federally funded, where the government pays $7.50 an hour for people who are on social assistance to go on to learn different skills in different programs with private businesses.
One of the problems that I've heard over and over and over again from private business - and the minister knows that I have a few connections in that area - is that the red tape involved in this program makes it so difficult for small businesses to become involved that they don't take advantage of this program. Even though they would like to get people off social assistance and give them those opportunities, they don't have the time - because usually it's one or two people who run the business - to go through all the red tape.
Is the minister making any effort whatsoever to streamline this process?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: To be quite frank, Mr. Chair, that isn't a point that has come to my attention. The only issue that I've heard surrounding Head Start has been primarily with organizations - for example, community groups - in terms of the availability of individuals, through Head Start, to do work within that particular organization. But, I certainly haven't heard it from businesses that it's a deterrent. I do know that there are a number of organizations that use Head Start. If the member has some specific concerns, if she could relay them to me, it would be appreciated.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, the concern is that there's too much red tape; there's too much paperwork involved with this program.
I've spoken to the Second Opinion Society, and they've also told the minister that they would be coming and speaking with our caucus.
There is going to be an increase of two positions at mental health services, and this is for a pilot project, again through mental health services. Part of this is supposedly going to be a day program that's going to be put on through the hospital now.
I'm a little unclear on this issue. What I'm wondering about primarily, though, is whether the Second Opinion Society has been contacted about the day program that's going on at the hospital and whether they have had any input into this process.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Actually, the focus of our program is that it's going to be trying to deal with people, trying to keep them out of the medical model, as much as possible. With regard to that, I would assume that, given their orientation, that would be something that the Second Opinion Society would be supportive of. But with regard to specific consultations in this regard, no, we haven't been involved directly with some discussions, though they have been made aware of what our intentions are in that regard.
Essentially, what the goal of enhancing the program at Whitehorse General Hospital is is to basically see to what degree we can reduce the number of hospital admissions that people require if there are, indeed, some alternative models of delivery, trying to keep people out of, I suppose, the traditional kind of clinical intervention model and trying to provide something somewhat more humane.
The Second Opinion Society's orientation is to provide a drop-in for persons who are experiencing some kind of distress or are seeking peer support, and it's also an advocacy group, drop-in centre, resource centre, that kind of thing. We would assume that, given their orientation, they would be supportive of the direction we're going.
Mrs. Edelman: From years of working at the municipal level, you can assume absolutely nothing about what people are going to support and what they're not going to support. I would strongly recommend that the minister go and speak to the Second Opinion Society. As he's already noted, they do have an interest of staying out of the medical model. If we want something to work, it's best to go to people who may have some expertise in this area and who have an interest in that area.
I hope that the minister can commit to going and at least having one of his officials pick up the phone and talk to the people at the Second Opinion Society.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Our officials have spoken with them.
Mrs. Edelman: I guess I wasn't really aware. The minister just said a minute ago that there was no consultation. Now there has been consultation, and I'm glad to hear that there has been consultation.
The seniors case management program - the computer program called Cornerstone - speaks about seniors in all sorts of different areas of Health and Social Services and sort of puts all their interests together into one case electronically. This module, if we develop that case management program, would be extremely useful for children who suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol effects - a Cornerstone program where you could find out what's happening with these kids in Justice, what's happening with these kids in Education, what's happening with them in maybe even C&TS, and what's happening with them in Health and Social Services would be exactly what we need to coordinate some of the services around fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects.
After the pilot project's over with developing the seniors case management program, are we going to consider putting together a program like this for children with fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As the member has noted, we're at the point of developing this particular system. I think what will happen is that an evaluation on it will determine what our sort of next rollout is in applying this sort of module. It is an information system, but it may lend itself to other adaptations. The member's identified one as being individuals with FAS.
As we evaluate the success of this particular application, we can see what further applications there are.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, that makes a lot of sense - a lot of common sense.
There are at least five groups that are working on fetal alcohol syndrome in the Yukon: the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Advisory Committee, the Fetal Alcohol Working Group, the Challenge Residential Project for Adults with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, FASSY, which is a grassroots advocacy group. As well, there is apparently a group over at the Department of Education and there are at lest two groups through the two Whitehorse bands and I know that there are probably groups in other First Nations across the Yukon.
Who's coordinating this?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: There is an FAS working group that was formed in 1996 and, as the member has noted, it includes representation from Health and Social Services, Education and First Nation agencies, the medical community, the Child Development Centre, the Yukon Association for Community Living, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society of the Yukon and youth services, and we've also invited other organizations to join.
They've been meeting on a regular basis and we've been able to, sort of, work on its final objectives, and we're hoping, from this group, to devolve a comprehensive overall plan and model that we can adapt.
I think, as well, we're also interested in trying to work probably closer with the medical community in this regard.
It's my understanding that at the medical convention, which is going to be coming up here in September, they will try to do, as at each one of their conventions, focus in on medical issues of a particular nature. It's my understanding that YMA is looking at inviting in an FAS diagnostician to the convention to do presentations on this subject.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, getting physicians to diagnose fetal alcohol syndrome has always been a problem, and indeed, a working group almost 15 years ago that was very similar to the FAS working group that we have today came up with that very same recommendation. As a matter of fact, when you look at the recommendations that are coming out of the FAS working group today, they are identical to the recommendations of 15 years ago. Nothing has changed.
The people in the FAS working group are very well-meaning people, but they're mid-level bureaucrats. They don't have the ability to make decisions or make policy. There are so many groups out there that are working with fetal alcohol syndrome, not just in NGOs, but also here in the government, and they're all being funded, to a large extent, through our taxpayer dollars, and things haven't changed in 15 years. Nothing has changed.
We heard lots of lip service at our debate on alcohol in the fall but, quite frankly, I have heard nothing that has changed. There is yet another study. Oh yes, persons with FAS who are adults do have some special needs. Well, this is not a revelation.
Mr. Chair, what is this government going to do to coordinate the services around fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: First of all, I think I have to dispute the member's premise. I've been up in this territory for a long time, and I've worked in education for a long time, and I can tell the member that when I began working in education, we knew that, in particular communities, there were very clear developmental problems. We didn't have a handle on it. We didn't have an understanding of it, but due to some ongoing work by the Department of Education in particular - work that was supported by the work of Dr. Asante - we became more and more aware of fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects.
A good deal of the resources, particularly in education, have been directed toward this. We know more about it. We know that it is preventable. We know that there are ways to reduce the incidence of fetal alcohol effects and fetal alcohol syndrome.
We also have a lot more support mechanisms, not only within education but within our own department in terms of support mechanisms for individuals with FAS/FAE. So I think, first of all, the premise that nothing has happened, nothing has changed, is not a clear one. Certainly, if anyone goes into a school nowadays and sees the amount of resources being put into particular special needs and, depending on the school, I can tell the member that a tremendous amount of those special needs are FAS/FAE related. I think the member will see that things are certainly being done.
From our own point of view, what we've done recently is that we've adopted - and I can go on with some exhaustive details - and made adaptations for the FAS prevention planning model, which was developed in British Columbia, which is a comprehensive, multi-level model. This is being presented to other departments and we're encouraging school curricula to provide information to students.
As part of implementing the components of the program, ADS is updating and developing a kit as a tool for primary and secondary FAS prevention. This will also address the role of the community and family of a pregnant woman in alcohol-related birth defects prevention, and will be incorporating a public education component model in the new year.
If I could just go on and take a look at some of the other things. We've recently developed a community-based prevention strategy identifying services for pregnant women and newborns in the community, as well as service gaps. We will be working with the resources of the community to create a comprehensive community model. We're part of the other national programs in this regard. We're also working with the Whitehorse Health Centre in offering individual prenatal classes and home visits to high-risk pregnant women.
We've done work with teens; we've maintained a high-risk register; families receive more frequent home visits; we've extended our hours to better serve drop-in patients; we're doing a lot more outreach health clinics. We're now opening at two Whitehorse hotels, trying to address individuals who would not normally come through the regular system.
I can go on at some considerable detail, but I think one of the things that we are looking at is - and I'll be bringing forward some information on this a bit later - the whole question of the healthy child initiative, which looks at a very early intervention model. Some people have called it the why model, the Oregon model. We're taking a look at some ways that we could bring this in.
As a matter of fact, we're not only looking at ways, we're actively pursuing that option. We hope to bring forward some information very, very shortly.
Mrs. Edelman: All very interesting information, already given in the fall debate. In the area of coordination, in the area of numbers, in the area of prevention, and in the area of services for children who are turning 18, this government still is no different than any previous government.
The Asante studies took place 17 years ago. At that point, there was identification of alcohol as the cause for these series of developmental disabilities. Later, the fetal alcohol effects was identified also by Asante, with less intense learning disabilities being the primary focus of that set of syndromes.
One of the things coming out recently is that marijuana does breach the placental barrier, and there's now some very good factual information available. Is this government at all interested in that information, and what are we doing to talk about marijuana as one of the causative factors for what we now call fetal alcohol syndrome?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: First of all, with regard to the Asante studies, I made reference to the Asante studies to illustrate that, even though they were some 17-some odd years ago, I can recall when Dr. Asante was doing some work in Watson Lake. This was something that was startling to people, particularly in the education community and in the social community.
There was not a clear understanding of that. I notice that now, even in the western provinces, there was an article not too long ago that highlighted some of the problems of FAS/FAE in the western provinces, notably Saskatchewan and Manitoba. What surprised me was, I suppose, the surprise of the media and the public at discovering this brand-new ailment. This is something that we were working with 17 or 18 years ago.
Asante's work even was founded on some earlier studies that had been done in France, in particular among the urban poor. So, what I'm saying is that basically I think we've come a long way in identifying the problem and becoming aware of it, trying to address a number of the issues, and I think in many ways we may be ahead of some other jurisdictions, particularly in western Canada.
With regard to issues surrounding marijuana and the impact on the developing fetus, I think when we take a look at trying to do preventive work with FAS/FAE, we would not only be addressing the issues of alcohol, but would be addressing the other issues, particularly issues surrounding drugs. I know that there has been considerable work done on inhalants and I think those are the kinds of things that we also need to bring forward.
So, those are the issues that I think will be coming forward, particularly in some of our identification procedures with the healthy child program. So, we're not exclusively sticking with alcohol, though alcohol does remain, just statistically, the drug of choice.
I think in the most recent figures I saw - and I passed on a series of studies to my colleague, the Minister of Justice - some information that would pull it together. I think that the drug of choice that most people use in Canada is tobacco, first of all, followed by alcohol and then, in diminishing order, cannabis and other drugs.
But, certainly we're not exclusively looking at alcohol.
Mr. Jenkins: If we could just switch gears here for a moment and explore with the minister another area that we debated in the House last year and that I wrote about to the minister last August. It's concerning the development of a policy to attract and retain physicians and dentists in rural Yukon. Has there been any work on the development of such a policy within the Government of the Yukon, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As a result of our discussions with physicians and in our negotiations with physicians, one of the things we did was that we provided some funding to make the situation in rural Yukon somewhat more attractive. One of our communities just entered into a short-term contract with one of the physicians to ensure that we had a good level of medical coverage during a particularly difficult time in that community.
But, it is a problem. We're very cognizant of the fact that there are challenges in rural Yukon for not only obtaining physicians, but also retaining them, and this is an issue that goes right across Canada.
Mr. Jenkins: So, could the minister elaborate and tell the House what policy his department has developed to attract and retain physicians and dentists in rural Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: To date, we have provided for a number of opportunities with physicians. I think it needs to be understood that we operate under a fee-for-service system here. A physician that comes into the territory can work within the medical establishment, and presumably in an underserviced area, in that they're supported through the funding arrangement that we have with the YMA in terms of their contracts.
With regard to dentists, we have a dentist that is resident in Faro, we have a dentist that is resident in Watson Lake, and it's my understanding we have a dentist who's now going to be establishing a practice in Dawson.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister for his information but I would ask that he check more fully before he advises the House of this type of information.
With respect to the attraction of doctors to rural Yukon, I'm aware of only one that the department has attracted and that individual wasn't on a fee-for-service basis, he's on a salaried basis, and that's the physician in Faro.
So, what is the policy of this government? Are we on a fee-for-service basis? Are we on salary? Have we developed any policy in this regard or is it whatever we have to do to attract someone?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We work with the YMA in this regard. In the case of the physician in Faro, that was an agreement that was entered into, with the support of the YMA, to basically provide a community that did not have a sufficient population base at that time for a fee-for-service environment.
With regard to the current arrangement that we have with the second physician in Faro, as the community changes in composition and we don't know where it's going, we've entered into a short-term agreement with the second physician to carry them over that period of time.
We do not actively recruit physicians, in terms that we don't have an advertising campaign or things of that nature, nor has there been an indication from the YMA that that's the kind of thing we should be doing.
We are currently committed to working with our physicians in a fee-for-service mode; however, as things change and as there are adaptations, there are certainly other options that we can explore. Newfoundland, I might note, has gone largely for a salaried situation with its physicians in the outports.
Whether or not that is something we would want to pursue, I think we would have to discuss that in some considerable detail with the YMA. Although
I am aware that there are a number of younger physicians who have indicated that they would be willing to work in a salaried situation.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what I'm hearing from the minister is that the government has no policy whatsoever in regard to the attraction and recruitment of physicians to rural Yukon - no policy whatsoever.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, this has always been the situation with physicians here. I'm not sure what the member is suggesting. Is he suggesting that we do advertising? Is he suggesting that we bring in a program exclusive of our arrangements with the YMA? Is he suggesting that we do direct hiring and placement in rural communities?
I would suggest that one of the things that he might want to do at this point is consult with the physicians in his home community, because I can tell the member that I know of at least one or two communities where imposing something like a salary would not go over well with the physicians in those rural communities.
Our policy is that we examine the unique needs of the particular community, and we work with the Physician Resource Council, which is our contact with our Physician Resource Planning Committee, and individual physicians to tailor requirements. For example, we have arrangements with individual physicians where we pay them to go into underserved areas. We have arrangements with individual physicians on contract to serve communities up the Alaska Highway, where they hold doctor's clinics. We have arrangements with individual physicians to go into communities, such as Mayo, such as Pelly, where you would not have an adequate population base to maintain a physician. We have contracts with physicians to go into Old Crow and do a series of clinics there.
So, what we try to do is maintain the integrity of the fee-for-service system, but we're also very cognizant of the fact that we have to provide medical services in different places.
As far as attracting and recruiting physicians, that's something that we don't try to impose on an individual community, but we will work with a community and try to overcome impediments that they may have. For example, with regard to the issue in Dawson, we worked very actively with the mayor and town manager there to provide some opportunities for supporting a resident dentist. We also had an arrangement with the dental association to do a series of clinics in that community.
So, we work with individual communities. We're not in the mode of imposing anything, but we continue to try to work with our physicians and the Physician Resource Planning Committee.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'll spell it out for the minister. What I'm looking at is a consistent policy of recruitment, the cost of recruitment of doctors and dentists that are choosing to locate in rural Yukon, relocation costs for these individuals, access to the medical facilities owned and operated by the government, and office space for these individuals - a consistent and uniform policy across the Yukon for the prime communities that have demonstrated a clear need for doctors and dental services. We're probably only looking at three right now. Probably the potential is on the horizon of one in Haines Junction in the not too distant future - for access and a more expansive medical delivery in that community.
There is no policy. There's no policy whatsoever, and there hasn't been one, and this has given rise to concern from rural Yukon on a regular basis. If we look at Faro, the doctor was finally recruited there and he was recruited on a salary basis because one couldn't be recruited otherwise. And shortly after that individual located to Faro, another doctor shows up in town on a fee-for-service basis. He was there previously, so there's clearly a demonstrated need for two doctors.
With respect to Dawson City, all the recruitment, the relocation and the housing costs have been borne by the community, and it was an initiative of the community to obtain these services. The federal government or the Government of the Yukon wouldn't undertake to do this and provide these services, and that cost was borne by the municipal government, and it continues to be borne to this day by the municipal government. At the current time, there are five doctors located in Dawson City. Two of them are on sabbatical, and three of them are rotating the delivery of service, and this government refuses to give the third one a billing number, because they say there is only a need for two.
So, there are three doctors there. There would be enough for three on a part-time basis or on a shared service, but this government refuses to give the third doctor a billing number. Why?
If we look at the issue with the dentist, we've got another issue altogether, and I go back to a letter I wrote to the government last August 25 and the response from the minister. The final paragraph of my letter: "I would also like to know if your department is considering the development of a policy that would seek to attract and retain both dentists and physicians in rural Yukon."
Well, we went on for two pages and the courtesy of your reply to that specific question was denied, because there is no government policy in that regard. And now we're faced with Dawson going out and recruiting a dentist. Up to this time, the dentist was located in the office space in the back of the medical facilities. In order to retain that dentist in that space, the city came up with alternate space to house some of the facilities, Mr. Chair.
Now, that was housed in the waterfront building and the total cost was borne by the city. The dentist was finally told he had to relocate from the office space in the medical building or nursing station or however you wish to refer to it. An alternate office space was built at the OTAB, the Old Territorial Administration Building on Front Street. As soon as the dentist indicated his willingness to start a practice in Dawson, agreed to a rent, you're going to yank all the equipment and relocate it to Old Crow. Why? Why does rural Yukon always get the toe right in the rear end from this government? That is what's happening at this juncture. Now we're faced with the point that the dentist probably won't return to that practice because of the sheer stupidity of someone within the department or the minister himself - I don't where it is.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Deputy Chair: Point of order. The Minister of Economic Development.
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member opposite, who, in his rant is using words like "stupidity", has just become very unparliamentary and unprofessional and wrong about rural Yukon and our tremendous support for rural Yukon. So, I'd ask him to withdraw the comment about stupidity and attacking the public servants.
Deputy Chair's ruling
Deputy Chair: Could I ask all members when they speak to try to respect the rules of the House and use the language that's appropriate for this Legislature. I would like to extend that slightly further to when you heckle also, please.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I will take your advice and refer to the decision of this department as a stupid decision, not apply it to anyone, but the ultimate decision-making authority is vested in the minister.
So, with respect to the issue of doctors and dentists, just what is this government going to do?
With respect to the dentists, Mr. Chair, the department has indicated that they can lease the office space but all of the dental equipment - including the x-ray, lights, chair, drill equipment - was scheduled to be moved to the new school in Old Crow this summer.
Now, if the dentist opts out of not returning to his practice in Dawson City, the government's going to have to replace that equipment and, as a consequence of bureaucratic bungling - let's refer to it as that, Mr. Chair - we, as a government, are spending - if you look at the contract and you look at the specific allocations to Dawson City - approximately $30,000 a year, sending dentists and their assistants to Dawson City to cover that area.
The minister's response was quite specific as to what has been paid. Each trip costs between $4,000 and $5,000. There are six trips a year, for a maximum of 12 nights' visit. The government has the facility, installs all the equipment, pays a dentist from Whitehorse to rotate through Dawson City on a regular basis, pays his accommodation, his transportation - it's going to be between $25,000 and $35,000 a year for this cost for Dawson City along - when the government could save that cost by providing that same facility at the same cost they provide it to a dentist rotating out of Whitehorse. A higher level of service could be obtained and achieved in Dawson City at a lower possible cost.
Now, what excuse does the minister have for not providing it in that manner, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It's always delightful to follow a rant like that. I'm not sure what the member's focus is. On one hand, I'm hearing that he's very supportive of free enterprise; on the other hand, what he seems to be seeking is subsidized services and subsidized support for both physicians and dentists.
I can tell the member, first of all, that he's severely off track when he makes reference to the fact that there is no support for the physicians in Dawson. It's my understanding that the physicians from Dawson operate out of the hospital. Now, is his suggestion that those physicians leave the hospital? We have one rural community where the physicians operate out of their own clinic. We have another community where we have a salary physician operating within the clinic and a non-salary physician operating out of the clinic. Dawson is somewhat unique in the fact that their physicians operate out of the clinic, even though they are fee-for-service and have been supported for a number of years. Is he suggesting that we comprehensively say that physicians can no longer operate out of a clinic? Is that what he is undertaking?
He seems to be suggesting that we have to bring in one policy for every community. I can tell him that in the case of the dentist in Dawson, this is an individual who basically practised for 18 years, and we were very clear in the fact that, over those years, we wanted to expand some of our services out of the health centre, and we told the dentist in that case that we would be utilizing the facility. He chose instead to close his practice. Now, in the absence of a resident dentist, we renovated part of the administration building - his dental clinic - for the use of transient or resident dentists. We did enter into a contract to provide dental service in that community.
The member is completely wrong when he goes on to extol the virtues of the municipality as doing this, because we have a shared arrangement. The original arrangement in the Old Territorial Administration Building was an agreement in which we would have paid two-thirds of the rent.
A recent communication with the City of Dawson manager has indicated that we'll split the rent halfway.
We have provided itinerant dental services, and we set up the clinic with equipment that we had borrowed from the Yukon children's dental program, because we did have itinerant dentists going in there. We're taking that equipment and we're returning it our pool for use in other communities and schools. We do loan the Yukon Dental Association some dental equipment for use on road trips, and this is part of our contract with them.
In Watson Lake, Faro and Whitehorse, there are resident dentists, and we don't supply their clinics. It's my understanding that the dentist in this case did have a chair, an x-ray machine, and other dental equipment where he practised for the past 18 years. We've suggested that we would provide some equipment over the summer to allow the dentist to get his own replacement equipment but, at the end of the summer, we will need it for our school programs.
We've also indicated that any dentist they would bring in, we would be able to contract with that person to deliver some service in Old Crow, Pelly Crossing and Mayo. The dentist in this case, in Dawson, has indicated that he has no interest in that. That means that, basically, we can't provide equipment for his regular practice but, if he chooses to undertake some travelling, we could provide some portable equipment.
So I think, in this case, we have gone the distance in trying to support the community. We have a resident dentist in Watson Lake who has his own equipment, so I fail to see why there should be preferential treatment for another community.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister elaborate on his options, should the contract not be signed for the resident dentist in Dawson, and what the costs will be - the costs that this government will incur - to continue with a rotating dentist through that community?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: If the individual were not to choose to follow up this contract, then we would probably make a similar arrangement with the Yukon Dental Association in this regard. We are willing to support the dentist there with some rent support, and we are willing to offer, for example, some supplements for that dentist's income with regard to if they were willing to undertake contracting services to Old Crow, Pelly Crossing, Mayo - those kinds of communities.
So, we will continue on with our arrangement, I suppose, with the Yukon Dental Association, but the basic position of the Yukon Dental Association is that they've indicated to us that they don't mind giving up those community tours or those road trips to their own members when a dentist moves in to a community, but they've made it very clear, it is as long as that dentist is not subsidized by the government.
So, once again, we're trying to work with the dental community. I think we're being consistent.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what the minister is saying, is that it's all right to support the Whitehorse dentists who rotate through the communities, but it's not all right to support an individual who chooses to set up a practice in the community.
What we have is a situation in Dawson where the government leases the space from the federal government. They've renovated the office space to accommodate a dentist. There's a dental office, there's office space, there's a waiting room. It's quite a large area. It's probably twice the area that the previous dentist occupied in the back of the nursing station.
That is provided to a dentist sent up, rotated out of Whitehorse, free of charge. It includes all the x-ray equipment, the chairs, the lights. There's no charge whatsoever. In fact, the government pays the cost on the government's per diem for the dentist and his assistant or hygienist to travel to Dawson, to pay for their accommodation and their meals. Indeed, the trip from September 1 to September 14 cost the government $4,271.30. The next trip on October 18 to November 2 cost this government $5,037.85, and there are six trips a year of this nature that are slated.
On the other hand, we have a dentist who's saying I'll take over that facility, reside in Dawson City and utilize that equipment and save you that cost and this government isn't interested in doing it that way. Is this some policy position that he has stated somewhere and if so, could the minister please table it?
I thought the exercise was to deliver the highest level of service at the lowest possible cost and this would be a level of service way above and beyond what is currently being provided by this government and at a lower cost, Mr. Chair. Now, why doesn't the government want to do it that way?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would suggest we have gone some considerable distance to try to facilitate the situation there. I would point out that we do not subsidize the dentist in Faro. I would point out that we do not subsidize the dentist in Watson Lake. I would point out that we do not subsidize dentists in Whitehorse. So, if he is seeking, I suppose, preferential treatment, in this case for the dentist in Dawson, I would suggest that this individual had equipment of his own.
We offered, last year, to provide space. That equipment could have been very readily moved to that space. The individual chose not to. He made a very large production out of deciding that he was going to vacate the territory and that he was going to be done with us all.
Now I understand that he's come back and he's saying, "Well, I want to move in there, but I want the equipment." I guess the question must arise: what happened to the original equipment, and why didn't the individual accept the offer last year? I would suggest that we're being very consistent with our treatment of dentists across the territory.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, a lot of the equipment in the original office was owned by the federal government. Now, where it went, the minister should ask his officials. But very little of it was owned by the dentist. It was owned by the federal government. I don't know if it was transferred to the territorial government or where it went.
So, the minister should be able to answer his own question, but obviously he's not in a position, because he hasn't fully researched the issue, and he doesn't have a full understanding.
So, I'm looking for a commitment from this minister to explore in much more detail this issue than what he's given recognition to here today and previously, because we have an opportunity here, if the minister and his department choose to, to provide a much higher level of service and save the Government of the Yukon money. Now, what's wrong with that equation, or is the minister not interested?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I believe that I've stated our position quite clearly. We are being consistent. My understanding is that this individual practised in Dawson for 18 years and paid an extremely low rent. The equipment that he used - now the member tells me it belonged to the federal government.
So, I would say that this individual had a relatively good deal. We're offering a deal where there would be office space, heat, light, et cetera, provided at no cost to the individual. We're also offering, as the member has noted quite correctly, a much larger space.
So, it seems to me that the dentist in this case is getting a relatively good deal. It seems to me that in other communities dentists are self-supporting, and they manage to get by. I've already indicated that we are willing to lend that equipment over the course of the summer while the dentist gets his practice in place. I would say that we're being extremely consistent with how we treat dentists across the territory and I would suggest that we cannot be giving extreme preference to an individual. I would suggest that we will continue on with this.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I might remind the minister that the facility in Dawson was constructed by Health Canada. It was there for quite a number of years before the dentist chose to locate in Dawson. Dentists were constantly being rotated through the community, paid for by either the federal government or the territorial government, and paid for for a continuing number of years.
Has the minister any idea as to how much this dentist's location in Dawson for that 18 years has saved the Government of Yukon and the Government of Canada? I'm sure the equivalent of some $30,000 a year is probably just the tip of the iceberg. I'm sure it's way, way in excess of that when you look at the individuals who didn't have to travel to Whitehorse for dental services.
So, there's more than just the issue of the dentist and his office space. It's the saving that we can realize as a department. It's the issue of providing a service, and the minister is ignoring that area, ignoring it completely. But here's a way to save money that the minister isn't even interested in exploring - save money and deliver a better package of service. He's not even interested.
And on the issue of the doctors and the space, yes, they're not paying very much for their space, but that is a situation very similar to the dentist and it works, and it works to the betterment and the enhancement of both the people that are being served and the Government of Yukon, because it is saving money.
Why not continue with that same practice in the dental area? Someone has to make a political decision who has the intestinal fortitude to do so, but I don't believe this minister has that.
Now, the issue of attracting and retaining doctors to rural Yukon is an area that's going to have to be explored and a policy is going to have to come forward very, very quickly. Otherwise, we're going to be at a loss in a lot of rural communities as to how to attract and retain these physicians, as well as dentists. I'm asking the minister if he could stand on his feet and give a commitment to this House that he will bring forward a consistent policy in this regard: that's to advertising, attracting, relocating and retaining these doctors and dentists.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, first of all, I'm not quite sure what the member is suggesting. I'm beginning to believe, at this point, that the member is suggesting that we abandon the fee-for-service model and that we go instead to salaried physicians, in which case I think there may be some questions he may want to raise with his physicians in Dawson, and then possibly discuss this on a wider range with the YMA.
We are cognizant of the problems of rural physicians. We are cognizant of the problems of retention of rural physicians. What we cannot do is we cannot dictate to physicians. Nor do we have any desire, at this point, to bring in perhaps some of the more Draconian measures that have been tried in other provinces, such as denying billing numbers to physicians.
What we are interested in doing is working with the Physician Resource Council and trying to overcome some of these problems. We will continue to work with the physicians in dealing with this. They're fully aware of the problems of rural physicians. They're fully aware of some of the issues that are outstanding. I've had several discussions with the YMA on this whole question - the question of trying to make rural practices more attractive - and we will continue to work with them.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the Draconian measures that the minister refers to are alive and well within his department. Billing numbers have been denied to doctors in Dawson. There are only two doctors allowed to have a billing number at a time, three at another time.
So, you might have a way of circumventing it, but the minister and his department have denied a billing number to a doctor. The minister basically says - or the department says - we will only allow so many physicians in that area. So, that is a denial of billing numbers.
I'm not suggesting we go to a salaried position for doctors. The fee-for-service is working quite well. There is an issue of the standby charge for the time they're expected to be resident of that community, and that's going to have to be addressed down the road.
And that is being ignored by this government also. So, there's a whole situation out there, Mr. Chair, that this government is not addressing and it's one, if you stand in Whitehorse and look out, you have a much different view than if you stand in a rural community and look in as to how the treatment is afforded to the respective areas of the Yukon. So, this is an area that's going to have to be addressed, Mr. Chair, and addressed very, very quickly. Otherwise the cost this government is going to incur in this regard is going to be rising.
I have no other items in general debate. We could move on, Mr. Chair.
Deputy Chair: Okay.
One moment please. Is there any more general debate in Health and Social Services? Seeing no general debate, we will go into policy, planning and administration. Is there any general debate there?
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, could we occasionally have detail on the lines as they go through?
Deputy Chair: We are coming close to the break and I know there is a request to have a break. I just want to clear the general debate and then we can go into the line items. Is that acceptable?
So, we'll be going into line items, policy, planning and administration in Health and Social Services.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Policy, Planning and Administration
Deputy Chair: Is it the wish of the members to take a brief, 10-minute recess?
Deputy Chair: I now call Committee back to order.
We are in Health and Social Services, policy, planning and administration, page 8-6.
We have cleared general debate and we are now into line items.
Mr. Jenkins: Perhaps, if there isn't any change in the line item to speak of, or there's no change in the policy of the line item - if there is, could the minister elaborate, and if not, we'll just clear them, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That would be fine, Mr. Chair. The only change in this department is an increase in consolidation of all corporate staff to the Berska Building.
Administration in the amount of $3,223,000 agreed to
Policy, Planning and Administration agreed to
On Family and Children's Services
Deputy Chair: On family and children's services, is there any general debate? Seeing no general debate, we will go into line items.
On Program Management
Program Management in the amount of $2,543,000 agreed to
On Family and Children's Services
Mrs. Edelman: I thought that we had agreed that if there was a change in the line, there would be an explanation.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This is a decrease of $22,000 over the previous year, and it's due to personnel changes and a reduction of staff benefit costs.
Family and Children's Services in the amount of $1,383,000 agreed to
On Placement and Support Services
Hon. Mr. Sloan: There's a 10-percent increase in funding for placement and support services. This is a result of personnel changes, an increase of $47,000, which is a $56,000 increase for the regional CATS worker, and a $9,000 decrease in staff benefit costs. There is an increase of $213,000 - $15,000 increase due to travel for the CATS itinerant workers, and $198,000 in foster payments due to rising child-in-care volumes.
Placement and Support Services in the amount of $2,906,000 agreed to
On Child Care Services
Child Care Services in the amount of $5,055,000 agreed to
On Youth Services
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This is a very modest increase of $15,000, which is basically a transfer of a 0.6 secretary from regional services; a decrease of $56,000 of a position due to a transfer to continuing care; a $58,000 increase from a net .95 FTE increase in custody services, and a $15,000 increase due to personnel changes and projection of benefit costs, and a $1,000 increase in juvenile justice open-custody grants.
Youth Services in the amount of $2,966,000 agreed to
On Child Welfare Residential
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, perhaps because there has been a change in this line, we could get some detail?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This is a decrease of $1,000 in staff benefit costs and an increase of $19,000 in residential treatment contracts.
Child Welfare Residential in the amount of $3,497,000 agreed to
Deputy Chair: Are there any questions on the stats?
Family and Children's Services in the amount of $18,350,000 agreed to
On Social Services
On Program Management
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This is an increase from $475,000 to $538,000, a 13-percent increase, as a result of the transfer of fraud investigation from the social services activities; an increase of $41,000, which is made up of an $88,000 increase in general contracts to provide for additional costs, and a $47,000 decrease in rental and supplies. Most of this represents funds targeted from additional home care space. This expansion has been delayed to 1998-99.
Program Management in the amount of $538,000 agreed to
On Alcohol and Drug Services
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This represents a decrease of eight percent, which is a decrease of $2,000 in personnel; a $50,000 decrease due to reallocating funds from recovery unit attendants to the out-patient program facilitator and detox nurse; a $48,000 increase to restore funding to positions vacant for part of the current year; an increase of $288,000 for contracts and supplies for a new ADS program to replace Crossroads; a decrease of $444,000; a $10,000 increase to provide funding for education prevention projects; a $415,000 decrease due to determination of funding for Crossroads.
Alcohol and Drug Services in the amount of $1,758,000 agreed to
On Social Assistance Services
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This is a three-percent decrease that's made up of an increase of $34,000, which is a $23,000 increase for a .5 FTE receptionist; a $22,000 decrease for the fraud investigator transfer to program management; a $35,000 increase for a .5 FTE social worker to work with vulnerable seniors on assistance, which was transferred from community services; a $59,000 decrease due to replacing an auxiliary social work position by the French language services-funded social work position transferred from region; a $57,000 increase to restore funding for positions vacant in 1997-98; a net decrease of $2,000 in contract to travel; a decrease of $355,000, and $200,000 of this is a decrease in social assistance due to savings generated by the NCB program; a $155,000 decrease in the Pathways program. This program is continuing to contract arrangements, so $100,000 will be contracted to Challenge, and the balance to general contracts.
Social Assistance Services in the amount of $9,314,000 agreed to
On Community Support Services
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This budget will increase $493,000, or 12 percent, from the forecast. This is made up of an increase of $72,000, which is made up further of a $35,000 decrease for a .5 senior social worker transferred from social assistance, $163,000 for a seniors outreach worker to work with vulnerable seniors, and 2.9 FTE home care positions.
There is an increase of $411,000; $105,000 of that increase is for contracts and travel for home care services in anticipation of increased demands of higher care patients.
There is a $360,000 increase in services to persons with disabilities and contracts for clients with disabilities; SPD contracts are up $176,000 in anticipation of severely disabled children graduating from family and children's services and requiring 24-hour residential care and supervision; Challenge is up $130,000, of which $100,000 represents re-profiling the Pathways funding, and $30,000 represents an expansion of services in general areas of assessment; the Association for Community Living is up by $5,000; and general contracts are down $5,000.
Mrs. Edelman: Can we have detail on the severely disabled children? What is the nature of those disabilities?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It is primarily FAS/FAE, and we have one young adult that recently left family and children's services and needed to move into 24-hour supervision - and there is another young adult coming up very soon.
Community Support Services in the amount of $4,664,000 agreed to
On Continuing Care
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This is a decrease of $68,000, or one percent. It is primarily due to a decrease of $148,000, made up of $108,000 due to a 1.43 FTE reduction in relief staffing and a $40,000 decrease due to personnel changes and a reduction of benefit costs.
Continuing Care in the amount of $9,026,000 agreed to
Deputy Chair: Are there any questions on statistics?
Social Services in the amount of $25,300,000 agreed to
On Health Services
Deputy Chair: Page 8-28, we're in health services. Is there any general debate? Seeing no general debate, we'll move to the line items.
On Program Management
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This is an increase of 58 percent. Within personnel, there's an increase of $57,000; $64,000 is for the addition of the First Nations health advisor in response to phase 2 health transfer memorandum. This position will provide advice and support to the ADM of health services in relation to First Nations health programs.
The salary cost for the medical officer of health has increased by $7,000. The medical officer of health was transferred from the federal government with phase 2 and is relocated in the territory. While the position is currently vacant, the local physician with epidemiological training has been contracted to fill this function until the recruitment of a new full-time medical officer of health occurs.
Program Management in the amount of $345,000 agreed to
On Health Insurance
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It is estimated that expenditures for health insurance will decrease by $570,000, compared to the forecast expenditures. The decrease was primarily caused by expected net reduction of $592,000 in out-of-territory hospital costs, offset by increased costs in physician fees and medical travel.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, do out-of-territory costs include out-of-Canada costs as well?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We generally don't refer people out of Canada. We would cover people who found themselves in the United States but we only cover them to the cost of what an acute care bed in Whitehorse General would be. So, if you found yourself in California facing a $3,000-a-day bill, what you'd get would be the cost of our hospital here, in Canadian. But it's primarily due to fewer people being referred out for medical care, which is in a sense, I think, a reflection of more services being delivered here.
Mrs. Edelman: Two questions out of that. What is the policy, then, if there is a problem in the United States when someone is travelling in the United States? Is the policy that we try to medevac that person back here or back to Vancouver? What is the policy?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, they are responsible for getting themselves back to Canada. There have been some jurisdictions, Quebec being notable, in the fact that there are so many Quebeckers who go down to Florida that Quebec has actually gone into a standby air ambulance throughout the winter months to medevac these snowbirds back from Fort Lauderdale, or wherever they've suffered a heart attack. That is just because there are so many of them.
In Canada, what we do is we strongly, strongly encourage people who are travelling out of the country to take out medical insurance. In fact, I was just over at a travel agency today, picking up a ticket for my daughter, and I noticed that they have a very high profile display there, telling people what is covered and what is not. Some of that is from documents from our own department. So, we do encourage people.
Another thing that is misunderstood by many people is medevac costs out of territory. In other words, if a person has an injury, say, on the highway - for example, if someone is driving down Highway 37 and has an accident, say, at Meziadin or something like that - they should not presume that the Yukon will pay the medevac costs to the nearest hospital or the nearest major centre, which may be Vancouver. We pay for medevac costs that originate in the territory.
Mrs. Edelman: How do we determine, if medical treatment is only available in the United States, whether or not a person is entitled to go to another country for that type of treatment?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We have a medical advisor on staff who advises us on particular cases. I'm not saying that we haven't paid in other countries, but we do depend on our medical advisor. In some cases, he might, in turn, consult with other specialists in the area.
So, for example, if there was a medical procedure that was available only in, I don't know, France, or someplace in the United States, and there was an assessment done by our medical advisor and by the people he might consult that this could add to a person's quality of life, then there might be a case for us to provide some assistance there.
We generally don't provide support for people who are involved in medical trials. So, for example, if you heard of a particular procedure that was being tried in, I don't know, Atlanta, and it was a very experimental treatment, and you went to your physician and said you wanted to be referred out, that would go through our medical advisor. They would do an assessment; they would do an assessment with other medical experts to determine if it was. However, if it was an experimental treatment, we wouldn't.
Mrs. Edelman: What if that medical treatment was not available in Canada, and you were turned down by the medical health officer. What is the appeal process?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We do depend on our physicians to give us advice in this regard. I do know that there have been cases where the department has sought further opinion from other people who may be within a field but, generally, we do depend on our physicians in that regard. We're not really prepared to make an assessment on a particular technique, or whatever, so we do have a close association with physicians.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I still haven't had an answer about what the appeal process is.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, there really isn't an appeal process. I mean, it's not a case where one can go to a minister and have it overruled. That doesn't happen. We depend on our medical advisors.
If a person asks us to consider it, we will go back, we'll ask our medical advisor. In some cases, we've asked for further detail and in some cases we've asked for them to do some further consultation and consider if there are treatments that would add to a person's life or well-being and, in some cases, they have given us suggestions of areas that we can fund.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I suppose that we don't have specialists up here to offer advice and, as we all know, the medical field changes constantly at an incredible speed. The minister indicates, through various gestures, that, I gather, we get specialist advice from down south. So, we have a specialist on contract down south, and of course there are a number of different specialty areas. If a person, for example, is having trouble getting funded to go for treatment outside of the nation and they have medical documentation from, say, two specialists outside, would that be considered to be part of an appeal of the decision of the medical officer of health?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Because of the nature of our smaller community, we do have a physician who is our advisor and he's on contract for outside. He, in turn, would make reference. Say, for example, it was a cancer treatment and he might check with an oncologist. If the treatment was of, say, a markedly different nature, he may consult with oncologists who have training or experience in that area. Generally, that physician would check with a couple of sources, and he would give us a report as to what the prognosis is and so on.
We don't try to exclude anyone, but we also have to be very cognizant of the fact that procedures and particular treatments outside Canada can sometimes run to be enormously expensive and sometimes may not really add to the quality of one's life. We have, on some occasions, paid for treatment outside Canada.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I still need to have the question answered. If, for example, a patient did have documentation from two Canadian specialists in the area that said that this treatment was only available, say, in the United States, then the information that that patient has should then be submitted to the specialist outside for their best guess.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It's hardly a case of best guess. If an individual said, "Well, I may benefit," we would go back to those specialists and ask about the particular treatment. We would probably ask other people within the field to get an independent assessment of that and, based on that, our medical consultant would give us advice as to whether that should be covered under our plan.
Mrs. Edelman: So, ultimately under the act, the director is the one that can make those decisions and who has that final authority. So, my understanding is that if there was this sort of situation, then that documentation should go to the director for dissemination to the proper authorities. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, that is indeed the case. I can tell the member that I have found the director of health insurance and, in fact, all of the people in that branch to be extraordinarily considerate in taking a look at all the options that they can. There is certainly no attempt to try and cut people off; however, we have to make assessments based on evidence-based medicine. So, in other words, there may be something that people might think is going to work, and it may be suggested that it's going to work for them.
What we have to do is make an assessment based on the individual patient and what the impact of that procedure would be on them, the prognosis for improvement, et cetera.
Health Insurance in the amount of $24,517,000 agreed to
On Yukon Hospital Services
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This is basically the contribution to the Yukon Hospital Corporation for the operation of the Whitehorse General Hospital. It will increase by a net amount of $360,000. Due to rising wages, utilities, maintenance and supply costs, the operational funding will actually be increased by $530,000, and this will be offset by a reallocation of $170,000 to ambulance services for the provision of medevac escort services.
Yukon Hospital Services in the amount of $17,407,000 agreed to
On Vital Statistics
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This is a decrease of $1,000, or, two percent, due to reduced benefit costs.
Vital Statistics in the amount of $62,000 agreed to
On Community Health
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This is an increase of $310,000, or, six percent. It is made up of an increase of $31,000 in dental services for a .3 FTE increase in hours and to restore funding for a position vacant for the year; a $14,000 increase to fund a .5 FTE increase in youth health promotions; a $20,000 decrease in TB - the transfer funding for this half-time position is not required as a support already exists within the communicable diseases unit; there is a $5,000 increase for summer staffing in ambulance services; there is an increase of $208,000 - $170,000 for medevac costs reallocated from the hospital, which I mentioned earlier, and a $50,000 decrease in the AIDS Yukon contract, a $40,000 dental supplies increase, funded by an increase in the fiscal formula financing funding from Ottawa; and a $36,000 increase in assigned vehicle costs from fleet vehicles.
Mrs. Edelman: Could we have an explanation of some of the acronyms there: TBI, I hope means tuberculosis, and the minister is indicating that it does; and CDU, that's the communicable disease unit.
Community Health in the amount of $5,706,000 agreed to
On Community Nursing
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The budget represents a decrease of $210,000, or three percent, from the forecast of 1997-98. Details are as follows: a decrease of $323,000, which is made up of a $166,000 decrease in overtime funding and a $127,000 decrease in relief costs; a $30,000 decrease in the Faro auxiliary costs attributable to the mine closure, and this is offset by an increase of $143,000, $117,000 of which is for assigned vehicle costs for fleet vehicles, $52,000 increase for travel training on general contracts, a $42,000 decrease in maintenance, heat and utilities, and a $16,000 increase in medical and other supplies.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, as part of the transfer, there were some problems with the nurses being transferred from the federal government to the territorial government without proper job descriptions and, of course, many of the nurses in the outer areas have an extended role in nursing. They were being compared to Macaulay Lodge nurses who are extremely well-supervised and, of course, work under entirely different conditions.
Now, the undertaking of the department at that time was to get complete job descriptions and I'm wondering how that's going.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Those have been relayed on to Public Service Commission for classification.
Mrs. Edelman: Is there a time line on the end of that process?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: They haven't given us a firm date but it is one of the higher priorities that they have.
Mrs. Edelman: Can we assume that that means by the end of this budget year?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm afraid I can't determine what the Public Service Commission is going to be doing, but we can certainly find out what stage they're at and relay it on. I couldn't make a prediction on behalf of PSC. It's not my department. I don't know how long it takes to do these.
Mrs. Edelman: I certainly don't want Swami Sloan to make predictions that he's not comfortable with, but if I could have that information in written form, I would appreciate it.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, we can do that for the member.
Community Nursing in the amount of $8,127,000 agreed to
On Mental Health Services
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This is an increase of 15 percent, and the increase is made up of $128,000 for two additional mental health workers, $31,000 to fund a position vacant for 1997-98; $30,000 to replace the intake services contract with a half-time position; a $54,000 projected savings from the retirement of the seconded director of Yukon Family Services Association; and separation costs and $5,000 in personnel rate increases.
Mental Health Services in the amount of $1,493,000 agreed to
Deputy Chair: Are there any questions on stats?
Health Services in the amount of $57,657,000 agreed to
On Regional Services
Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate?
On Program Management
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This is a four-percent decrease in program management. This is made up of a $75,000 decrease due to funds transferred from family and children's services and reduced benefit costs and a decrease in general contracts and supplies.
Mr. Jenkins: It's interesting to note that, throughout all the various areas of the budget, this is the only one that has a program management or administration cost decrease. One is zero, and they range up to as high as 58 percent. Why is regional services getting the axe, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That's primarily for the transfer of money to family and children's services, and I believe that it's for contracts.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I'm not too sure I understand. If there is someone transferred out of the department, then that's why there is a decrease?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It is a position. We will just have to identify which position it is within our list of personnel.
We can check on what that exact position is, but it is due to personnel costs transferred to Family and Children's Services.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, what I'm to understand then is that there is a staff person from the territorial government who is now going to be working for Family and Children Services, which is an NGO?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, Family and Children's Services is within our own department - Anne Sheffield's branch.
Mrs. Edelman: So, Mr. Chair, he's talking about moving staff from one branch to another.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Program Management in the amount of $1,963,000 agreed to
On Family and Children's Services
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This is a 22-percent increase, which is made up of an increase of $95,000, which is $133,000 for children-in-care costs, offset by a $38,000 decrease in child protection costs, for an increase of $95,000.
Family and Children's Services in the amount of $571,000 agreed to
On Social Services
Social Services in the amount of $1,684,000 agreed to
On Juvenile Justice Services
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This is a $1,000, or six-percent decrease, and this is due to a decrease in assessment contracts.
Mr. Jenkins: I thought there was quite an increase within that department as to the workload. How could we have a subsequent reduction in the caseloads, or the assessment process?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It's only a very minor amount, and it's in terms of assessment contracts - those contracts with individuals who do assessments for us. So that one is a decrease.
Juvenile Justice Services in the amount of $17,000 agreed to
Regional Services in the amount of $4,235,000 agreed to
Deputy Chair: Are there any questions on recoveries and revenue?
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister send over - probably when he has a chance to compile it - the exact financial position with respect to DIAND and our recoveries, where we're at? I know we explored it in general debate, but I'd like a hard copy of exact numbers, any write-offs in previous fiscal periods, or any anticipated write-offs in previous fiscal periods. I know, in general debate, we confirmed that it was carried as an account receivable, and that the Auditor General had confirmed the amounts, so that would give some credence to the ability of the Government of Yukon to recover it.
Is that statement carried anywhere - the Auditor's statement with respect to receivables - or is it just a general statement on the financial situation?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, we can provide information for the member. I'm advised that the Auditor General has attested to the amounts of accounts receivable flowing to the government, so that would be the fact. We can provide what information we have to the member.
Mr. Jenkins: I know on something like accounts receivable, the Auditor General goes through it department by department and spends a little bit of time. I'm not sure how they sign it off in the Government of the Yukon. Is it signed off as a line item or is it just covered in the general auditor's statement on the financial statement?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I am advised that even though they do look at it they don't reference this specifically, but it's covered off in the general accounts receivable.
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Health and Social Services in the amount of $108,765,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate?
If not, we will move on to line items.
On Policy, Planning and Administration
On Office Furniture and Operational Equipment
Office Furniture and Operational Equipment in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
On Systems Development
Mr. Jenkins: Y2K - is that plugged in here? I would be of the opinion that we should see a substantial increase in that line item, not a significant decrease, in light of the burden the department has with respect to the millennium computer situation.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, we have funds required to continue replacement and expansion of the department's information system to deal with year 2000.
The pilot installation of our case management will be operating for community support services this fall and a contract is in place to upgrade our social assistance software to year 2000.
Compliance: the planning is in process for all the required systems upgrades and the establishment across health programs. All legacy systems will be replaced or upgraded for the year 2000.
And that's it. I think we've already done a fair amount of work in this area in last year's budget, but it's not finished. We have already done a substantial amount of work and it is not quite completed. That was contained in last year's budget.
Mr. Jenkins: So, the minister is extremely comfortable that we're going to meet our target within his department of being ready for the year 2000.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, we are. One system will be done this fall and the other one will be done next spring. We had a revote on this of $398,000. This provides all funds to implement appropriate systems and bring all systems into year 2000 compliance.
Systems Development in the amount of $500,000 agreed to
On Integrated Health and Social Services Facilities
Integrated Health and Social Services Facilities in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
Policy, Planning and Administration in the amount of $740,000 agreed to
On Family and Children's Services
Deputy Chair: Seeing no general debate, we'll go into line items.
On Foster Home Equipment
Foster Home Equipment in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Child Care Services Development
Child Care Services Development in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Young Offender Facilities - Renovations and Equipment
Young Offender Facilities - Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Child Welfare Facilities - Renovations and Equipment
Child Welfare Facilities - Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
Family and Children's Services in the amount of $220,000 agreed to
On Social Services
On Social Services Operational Equipment and Renovations
Social Services Operational Equipment and Renovations in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Alcohol and Drug Services - Renovations and Equipment
Alcohol and Drug Services - Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
On Home Care - Operational Equipment
Home Care - Operational Equipment in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Thomson Centre - Renovations
Thomson Centre - Renovations in the amount of $87,000 agreed to
On Thomson Centre - Equipment
Thomson Centre - Equipment in the amount of $125,000 agreed to
On Macaulay Lodge - Renovations
Macaulay Lodge - Renovations in the amount of $300,000 agreed to
On Macaulay Lodge - Equipment
Macaulay Lodge - Equipment in the amount of $37,000 agreed to
On McDonald Lodge - Renovations and Equipment
McDonald Lodge - Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $160,000 agreed to
Social Services in the amount of $819,000 agreed to
On Health Services
On Hospital Road #2 and #4
Hospital Road #2 and #4 in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Chronic Disease Benefits - Equipment
Chronic Disease Benefits - Equipment in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
On Extended Health Benefits - Equipment
Extended Health Benefits - Equipment in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
On Yukon Hospital Corporation - Equipment
Yukon Hospital Corporation - Equipment in the amount of $300,000 agreed to
On Dental Health Services - Equipment
Mr. Jenkins: Is this the new equipment to go into Dawson City?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: A good try, Mr. Chair, but it includes a dental chair in Mayo, a compressor in Watson Lake for the dental program, and a dental unit for loan to therapists while theirs is being serviced.
Dental Health Services - Equipment in the amount of $13,000 agreed to
On Communicable Disease Unit - Equipment
Communicable Disease Unit - Equipment in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
On Hearing Services Equipment
Mr. Jenkins: Is this going to bring us in line with the necessary equipment to speed up the testing that's fallen behind?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Sorry, Mr. Chair, I didn't hear that but, no, it's a middle ear analyzer.
Hearing Services Equipment in the amount of $7,000 agreed to
On Ambulance Unit Equipment
Ambulance Unit Equipment in the amount of $66,000 agreed to
On Ambulance Vehicle Replacement
Ambulance Vehicle Replacement in the amount of $80,000 agreed to
On Ambulance Station Renovations
Ambulance Station Renovations in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
On Community Nursing - Equipment and Facilities
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister just provide a brief breakdown of where those funds are going to be spent, Mr. Chair, please?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: An amount of $117,000 is planned for the upgrading of equipment in community facilities, used to replace medical items and nursing station furniture as required. This includes x-ray units, microscopes, aspirators and stretchers, office equipment, appliances and furniture, as well as the packaging for the transport of dangerous goods. An amount of $647,000 is planned for the renovations, upgrading and maintenance of community facilities. This includes funds for miscellaneous small renovations and capital maintenance, as recommended by the property management unit.
Mr. Jenkins: The $647,000 - is there a breakdown by community within the briefing notes that the minister has, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes.
Does the member have any specific community, or does he just want me to run through the list?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Okay. In Beaver Creek: patch and paint interior walls, ceilings and wood trim, and do an exterior retrofit, including windows. Carcross involves the painting of the interior of the building, painting the exterior of the building, repairs to flooring in the kitchen area, transient suite and the washroom adjacent to the nursing station.
I'm giving the member just the renovations for this year.
In Carmacks, this includes the replacement of concrete walkways. In Dawson City, it is to replace the outdated exit lighting; re-level the building if necessary - that sounds ominous - install two-way intercom system between the front lobby and main nursing station; landscaping; repaint the interior of the facility; repaint the exterior of the building, including the rails and ducts; upgrade the humidification system; upgrade the patient bathroom to make it barrier-free, and upgrade the HVAC system with air conditioning; and renovate the exterior siding for a total in this year of $122,000.
In Destruction Bay, install a security system monitoring front and back doors, and then there are some small projects for future years.
In Faro, implement recommendations to address problems with HVAC system, review condition of the heating system, upgrade lighting levels in patient exam rooms, upgrade electrical main service and distribution system, and to provide photocells on the exterior lights.
In Haines Junction, painting inside, insulate and drywall the basement.
In Mayo, patch and repair of walls and various areas of the basement, replace and update exit lighting system, connect to the emergency generator, repair, replace, upgrade lighting throughout the facility, complete review of overhaul of existing wiring system, review requirements for air handling system, review requirements for humidification system.
In Old Crow, install the siding on the nursing station, purchase and install a new generator, and complete replacement of the windows.
In Pelly Crossing, purchase and install four awning windows with egress hardware.
In Ross River, miscellaneous repairs to the facility. I know it's brand new, but it's also on some fairly, no pun intended, shaky ground.
Teslin, the projects in that area have been postponed because of future planning in that facility.
Watson Lake, new flooring for downstairs and other parts of the hospital, lighting upgrade, repair and replace the HVAC system, replace stained ceiling tiles throughout, and there are future projects including boilers and things of that nature.
And that's it.
Community Nursing - Equipment and Facilities in the amount of $764,000 agreed to
Health Services in the amount of $1,375,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Health and Social Services in the amount of $3,154,000 agreed to
Department of Health and Social Services agreed to
Deputy Chair: The time being 5:30 p.m., we will now recess until 7:30 p.m.
Deputy Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is dealing with the main estimates.
Department of Renewable Resources
Deputy Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, we will go through the 1998-99 budget highlights. The proposed expenditures for the Department of Renewable Resources reflect a marginal increase of less than one percent from the 1997-98 forecast. In O&M, the increase is $620,000 - five percent offset by a 27-percent decrease in capital.
In the O&M budget, $575,000, or the bulk of the increase, is dedicated to the Yukon protected areas strategy. Seventy-five thousand dollars of this amount will be recovered from the federal government.
We have made good progress over the past year in the protected areas strategy. In keeping with our government's commitment to public consultation, the strategy has been developed with active involvement with many participants. Yukon people have contributed to public and stakeholders' workshops, a discussion paper, open houses, public meetings, stakeholder meetings and community consultation.
The public advisory committee continues to be involved with the development of the draft that we expect to release this spring. The final strategy will respond to the concerns and issues that were raised by Yukon people throughout this process. Our government intends to involve Yukon people through the final stages of preparing the strategy and in the actions necessary to turn the process into products.
The protected areas strategy will help maintain a sustainable environment, preserve diversity, protect spiritual and cultural places, maintain the central ecological processes and create job and economic opportunities. In partnership with the Department of Economic Development, my department is supporting the Yukon Council on the Environment and the Economy's efforts to encourage cooperative approaches to sustainable development.
The Yukon government recognizes that a healthy and sustainable economy is not possible without a healthy environment. We believe that forward-looking government policies will pay off in significant environmental benefits and economic gains.
The council will play an important role in helping to achieve this goal, and $50,000 has been identified for funding the council.
In keeping with my government's policies of providing NGOs with some assurance of stability and funding, $35,000 has been budgeted for a contribution agreement to the Yukon Conservation Society. This will assist this public interest organization to contribute to a number of consultative initiatives committed to in our government's action agenda of 1997 to 2000, including the forest policy and legislative development, review of DAP legislation and regulations and consequential amendments to other acts, energy policy development, review of development proposals for mining, forestry and other natural resource management responsibilities, and continued development and implementation of the Yukon protected areas strategy.
Other organizations will continue to receive funding for services to or on behalf of the government. There is $61,000 for the Whitehorse fish hatchery to the Yukon Fish and Game Association; $48,000 to the Porcupine Caribou Management Board and $48,000 to the Yukon Trappers Association.
Some internal reallocations have been made possible now that we have completed our obligations to contribute to the funding of the fish and wildlife enhancement trust fund. Some of this has been allocated to operate the assistant deputy minister's office, which has been re-establishing this year to assume direct responsibility to do overall operations of program delivery branches. This will help the department to prepare for and effectively manage and coordinate a large number of new and changing initiatives such as devolution, land claims and various public consultation processes.
An additional $80,000 has been identified in the budget for environmental protection. This will allow us to create an additional position to effectively manage the increasing number of permits issued under the Yukon Environment Act while continuing work on the various regulations, in particular solid waste regulations.
The draft wilderness tourism licensing act and regulations being prepared by my department in partnership with the Department of Tourism have undergone extensive consultation with First Nations and key stakeholders, including the wilderness tourism industry. This stage of consultation was concluded last month and indicated general positive support.
Suggested changes have been constructive and are being considered in the draft as refined and revised in preparation for final rounds of consultation.
Twenty-five thousand dollars has been allocated in recognition of the additional demands and will be placed in my department to implement the act and regulations both in terms of administrative costs as well as the monitoring and enforcement work. Our government believes that the act and regulations are necessary to enhance the quality and long-term viability of our wilderness and tourism sector. It will do this by ensuring operators meet reasonable safety, insurance and skill requirements while also protecting and enhancing local opportunities and helping to sustain Yukon's wilderness resources.
Another legislative initiative underway is a stand-alone amendment to the Wildlife Act, which recognizes the management regime established in north Yukon by the Inuvialuit final agreement.
In consultation with the Inuvialuit Game Council and the Wildlife Management Advisory Council on the North Slope, we're following through with our commitment to ensure that the act reflects the management regime established for the North Slope. Proposed changes will be put through a consultative process with the public and affected interests.
In anticipation of a new federal endangered species act, we are continuing to develop our development of an endangered species management strategy, which will consist of legislation, policy and programs that will complement the proposed federal legislation. We are working with the federal government and provinces and the Northwest Territories to ensure that the new act, when it comes forward, provides a strong federal framework that recognizes the need for a shared approach for the protection of species at risk.
In the national accord for the protection of species at risk, the provincial and territorial wildlife ministers committed themselves to develop relevant legislation and programs. In turn, the federal minister has committed herself to amend the Endangered Species Act by addressing territorial and provincial concerns raised before introducing it into the House this summer.
In the last year, the Department of Renewable Resources and Yukon College have concluded a contribution agreement to develop an ecosystem monitoring program. We believe that effective ecosystem monitoring is critically important during a period of time when our climate appears to be changing. An effective monitoring program should detect changes in our environment and the functioning of our ecosystem. It will help us determine what changes are taking place and why they might be happening, and this should lead to better management decisions. It would take changes into account or, in some cases, allow us to avoid or prevent detrimental changes.
The implementation of an ecosystem monitoring program is a long-term undertaking. It requires the involvement of skilled personnel, the integration of communities, information gathering and analysis, and the development of data systems. This project will contribute to the Yukon's support for the UN Convention on Biological Diversity of 1992 and the Canadian biodiversity strategy of 1996.
As members familiar with the Yukon final agreements will know, the co-management amendments of the agreements are moving the Yukon to a more regionalized approach to wildlife management. My department has just recently opened a regional fish and wildlife office in Mayo for the northern Tutchone area. This office will be staffed with a biologist and a technician to provide fish and wildlife management support services to the First Nations, the renewable resources council and the communities of Mayo, Pelly Crossing and Carmacks.
The initial priorities for this office will be to implement the Mayo integrated wildlife management plan and develop regional fish and wildlife plans jointly with the new renewable resources councils and First Nation governments in the Pelly Crossing and Carmacks areas. With the funds provided through this budget, the department will continue to provide critical support to key governmental initiatives, such as land claims, devolution, the development of forest policy and the development assessment process.
In recognition and anticipation of the change in responsibilities of the department, as well as the financial limitations of government as a whole, we have to take a tough look at the positions within the department. As I mentioned earlier, we have formalized the previous assistant deputy minister's position in order to provide some much-needed assistance at the senior level, particularly with an emphasis on devolution, land claims and the protected areas strategy.
Three full-time equivalent positions to support implementation of the protected areas strategy have been established in the parks and protected areas branch. An additional position has been created in environmental protection to assist the department to meet the obligations under the Environment Act. And, as noted above, we have also added a wildlife technician position to support the regional biologist position in Mayo.
These increases have been offset by a reduction in a non-game biologist position, a conservation officer training position previously funded under the northern Native Training Corps, a seasonal conservation officer position in Haines Junction and the elimination of a part-time clerical position in Carcross. This means a net increase of 3.07 full-time equivalent positions.
I would like to make a few comments about the capital budget, where we have a number of new initiatives.
Eighteen thousand dollars has been budgeted to enable my department to participate with other Yukon government departments and the federal government in the corporate land interest management system, more commonly known as LIMS. This is a multi-year, multi-government, corporate information management system, which will include all forms of information relating to the description and registration of land parcels and the rights associated with those parcels. This would include application and data related to land titles, land disposition and mining disposition and mapping.
Twenty-thousand dollars has been identified for a new energy management project. This is a one-year pilot project aimed at making our parks workshop facility more energy efficient. It will enable us to replace the existing electrical heaters with a high-efficiency waste oil heater and replace existing workshop lights with new, more efficient units.
Fifty thousand dollars has been identified for global warming climate change analysis. This will allow us to begin to assess and develop an action plan to respond to environmental and economic implications of climate change. This is the start of an ongoing effort to increase public stakeholders' awareness of the issues to develop public industry and government-wide greenhouse gas emission reduction measures and to develop contingencies to deal with the effects of global warming and climate change in the Yukon.
Our capital upgrade work in territorial campgrounds is continuing this year. As members will know, work provided for in this budget will be complemented by additional capital dollars that will be advanced by a supplementary budget. We will be dealing with this before the end of the session.
Mr. Chairman, that pretty well covers the major and new, changing initiatives of my department. We look forward to a busy and exciting year. I'll be happy to answer any questions the members might have in general debate.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I thank the minister for the overview of his budget for his department. I'm going to have many, many questions on Renewable Resources this session that I'm going to want to explore, but this evening, as the minister can see by looking at the gallery, we have quite a few Yukon residents who are concerned about the specifics of wildlife management in the territory and where this government is going with it.
I asked some questions in Question Period and I would like to get more detail on those while we're in Committee debate, and hopefully the minister can alleviate some of the fears of the Yukoners who've been talking to us with their concerns about where this government is going.
Before I get into the recommendations that were put forward by the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, I want to go back with the minister and explore with him as to how we came about to going to the Fish and Wildlife Management Board to review the recommendations. But, there was something of interest to me that the minister said in his general comments. I'd like to start with one general comment before we move into those areas, and that was that this government has embarked on a new direction of NGO funding through the departments and I noticed with interest that we have the Renewable Resources department now funding the Yukon Conservation Society for $35,000 in this budget.
I just would ask a question of a general nature to the minister at this point. Is that $35,000 going to be an annual contribution to the Yukon Conservation Society, and what other NGO groups are eligible for this type of funding by the minister's department?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, we are committed, like we said, as a government to give some assurance to NGOs that we will be providing funding. We will be providing funding for the Yukon Conservation Society over the next couple of years. I know it says $35,000 in this budget. The numbers that you will see in the future will be $40,000, not $35,000.
In regard to other NGOs, we have the Fish and Game Association and the Trappers Association - the ones that I have listed out in the opening remarks and they are to be getting $48,000 for the both of them.
At this point, we have made a commitment to fund the Fish and Game Association - the $40,000 for the trappers is for a one-year training - I know the numbers are a bit different from what I originally said, but it's $58,000 and this includes the fish hatchery. So, the numbers are $61,000. Is there a particular NGO that the member has in question?
Mr. Ostashek: I guess, Mr. Chair, my concern is this: we're funding the Yukon Conservation Society, I believe, for policy advice to this government for $35,000. The incidence of funding for the Fish and Game Association I think is project specific.
My question to the minister is this: how does the minister decide which NGOs are going to be funded for policy advice? Would the minister consider an application from the Fish and Game Association to provide policy advice on hunting regulations and such, with which they are familiar, as is the Conservation Society on conservation matters?
How does the minister's department pick who they're going to fund and who they're not going to fund?
Further to that, Mr. Chair, there's another incident that we've become aware of where the Agricultural Association has asked for $15,000, and seems to be making no headway at all with the minister's department, to go out and do some policy review on their behalf for the information of the minister, and yet the minister doesn't appear to be willing to match federal funds in this area.
How does the minister's department pick who is going to be funded and who isn't going to be funded?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: One of the reasons for giving this commitment to the Conservation Society is that they're a much broader organization than some of the other NGOs and, like I said, they will be involved with a number of different things on forestry policy and legislation development assessment - mostly things that basically involve the environment - and the energy policy development, like I said, in the review of the devolution proposals for mining and forest industry and other natural resources.
There wasn't a system that we used in selecting NGOs for ongoing funding.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I'll get back to that tomorrow. I'm not satisfied with that answer, because I believe the Fish and Game Association is a fairly broad-based organization that reaches across all areas of the Yukon.
I do want to get to the recommendations from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board on the permit hunt in the Finlayson caribou herd. The minister said in this House earlier in response to my question that the permit hunt was a recommendation of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board and that he was going to follow those recommendations and implement a permit hunt after he had spoken with the Ross River Dena Council. Is it not the fact that it was the minister that sent this proposal to the Fish and Wildlife Management Board for their review, that the recommendation for the permit hunt came from within his department originally and not from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, we have asked them to bounce that around as a topic to be discussed. We never, at any point, brought up any numbers as far as permits or what not, and we asked if this was a direction that we could possibly go in and for them to go out and do some consultation on that. At this point, the recommendation did come back for a registration hunt, and with that, we were to be discussing this with the Ross River Dena Council. That's the point we're at right now. There are no numbers or what not associated with the permit. We're still in discussion with the Ross River Dena Council.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, there were numbers thrown around at the meeting that I was at - the Fish and Wildlife Management Board - and what the preference of the department was, but I'll get to that later.
What I would like to know from the minister is what caused his department to ask the Fish and Wildlife Management Board to go out for this type of regulation of a permit hunt for the Finlayson caribou herd. As the minister knows, we spent millions of dollars there for predator control to build up that herd, and now all of a sudden, we get a request from the minister's department to go out for a policy review and to look at bringing in permits. I must say, Mr. Chair, for the record that these permits are for the non-aboriginal hunters.
They're not for the native hunters, who will be asked to go into voluntary compliance, from my understanding of what I heard of the debate.
I would like to ask the minister what the department's concern was that they had to go to management board and ask for permits in this area?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Basically, it was a couple of things: first of all, concerns from local people that have been brought to the department and the unusual calf/cow ratio. This has basically prompted us to have another look at this and see if we should be turning the heat up, I guess, on the management plan that we've been working on with the Ross River Dena Council and looking at different ways of maybe doing preventive measures, or what not, to make sure that the caribou numbers are at a safe number and not declining any further than they should, to where it's getting into basically conservation mode. The Ross River Dena Council have volunteered not to hunt cow moose. They have cut their harvest down basically in half from last year. They are already making a move, because they feel that they need to be doing something.
We cannot underestimate what First Nations can do. Basically, if you go back and look in history, we still had animals here. They have been successful managers of wildlife in the past. If you look at the First Nations who have agreements, a couple of them have already basically volunteered to cut back on hunting or did not hunt in certain areas, so that the numbers of caribou and moose could build up. I'm referring to the Champagne-Aishihik and the Mayo areas.
So, I have confidence in the Ross River Dena Council that the importance of the herd is a fairly large priority for them to basically survive and live off the caribou herd within that area. It's not just them and they recognize that. They know that there are non-First Nation people who hunt in that area.
Just to point out, too, that, over the past year they have not only asked their own members to cut back in hunting, they have also asked other First Nation people to come through and ask for permission for hunting in that area.
Because the land claims agreements are in place, there seems to be a lot of confusion as to what First Nations people can and cannot do. I think it's just a matter of time before all people get up to speed with these agreements and make sure we implement them properly.
Mr. Ostashek: I don't want to talk about cow moose tonight. I want to talk about the Finlayson caribou herd tonight. That's what I want to talk about.
I've just heard the minister say that First Nations are going to voluntarily comply, but it appears that the minister and his department don't have the same faith in the resident hunter - that they would voluntarily comply - because he didn't give them that opportunity - at all. He just came along and said, "We're going to put you on a permit." Does the minister not believe that the resident hunter is responsible enough to be asked to voluntarily comply and they would go along with it?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, the member is wrong. We did not exclude them from this at all. We're still continuing to talk about this matter. We have not made a decision on permit hunts at all. You can say whatever you want to on this matter, but the fact is that you're trying to make this into a bigger matter than it is. I know for a fact that the people in Ross River have looked at all options, and they have not ruled out this option that you have brought up.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, it's not the opposition that's ruled it out. It's the minister himself who's ruled it out, and he's now changing his mind. I asked him a question in this Legislature, on April 20, as to whether he was going to follow the recommendation of the Fish and Wildlife Board and meet with the Ross River Dena Council prior to setting the number of permits that would be available for the hunt. The minister replied to me, and I quote from Hansard, "Yes, we are going to be implementing the recommendations that came from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board in regard to permits." The minister said it - not me.
So, we now have the minister on record as having said that they're going to permit hunt. He's not even waiting for the 60-day review of the regulations. I'm confused that the minister is so adamant, and has made the decision, yet we have a 60-day period for a review of the recommendations before they're going to be implemented.
What the minister has said is that he doesn't care what comes back in the review, he's going to implement the recommendations of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. Is that the position the minister is taking?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, we said that we will be implementing the recommendations from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board with what they've said in their recommendations and that was to talk this over with the Ross River Dena Council and that's what we're doing. I mean, what part of that does he not understand? The member has said it goes out to a 60-day public review. I mean, there are a lot of changes that could happen at that point. We don't even know at this point.
We're going to be doing a count this coming fall of the numbers of caribou that are out there, and it would be a sad thing if we were to be doing permit hunts with a herd that's healthy. On the other hand, it would be a good thing if we addressed this properly and worked with the Ross River people. They are key people. They know the area better than we do. I'm not just talking about First Nation people; I'm talking about all hunters in the area. They've made some suggestions on how we could possibly alleviate the pressures on that particular herd. They asked that possibly they go out and do their hunting on the nearby caribou herds that are in and around that area.
We're continuing to work on the management plan and it's ongoing work.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister is not being very consistent in his answers or about what he's doing here. On one hand, he's saying we don't want to be having a permit hunt if the herd's healthy. I would think that the minister would know, before he brings in such a rash regulation as a permit hunt, about the health of the herd, not do it backwards: let's just restrict the resident hunters and then we'll go do an assessment of the herd and see whether we should restrict them further.
Mr. Chair, the minister said in his opening comments on this issue that it was a cow/calf problem that they have there. I believe there were 57 bulls taken in there last year. Residents can only harvest bulls; they can't harvest cows or calves. Does he honestly believe that reducing that harvest to 20 or 30 permits is going to have any impact on the cow/calf ratio in that herd? Does the minister believe that?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: If there was a reduction in hunting in any of the areas, common sense would say that there'd be an increase in numbers. But we don't know that this herd is in trouble. We've said that we know that the cow/calf ratio is down. We all know that, and it means a little fewer numbers the following year. We can't just jump to conclusions, as the member has pointed out a couple of times in this House, to go out and do predator control. That's not the approach we want to take to wildlife management. We want to be able to work with local people and that's the approach we're taking.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister's getting off on predator control. We'll get to that in a minute. I need some more answers to where he's going with this.
On the one hand he's saying the herd's in trouble; on the other hand he's saying the herd's not in trouble. Yet he's bringing in some very severe restrictions to one segment of the hunting population - not the entire hunting population, just one segment of it, and a segment of it that's only allowed to harvest bulls.
I think the minister should reconsider his statement that if you reduce the number of bulls that are killed you're going to have more cows and calves because that's certainly not what his biologist said at the Fish and Wildlife Management Board meeting that I sat through all one night and listened to the presentations. He didn't believe it would have any dramatic effect on the cow/calf ratio at all, and that other things would have to be done.
I'm asking the minister, does the minister not believe that this is a very harsh move in light of the fact that we don't even know if there's a problem? He said he's been talking to local people. Maybe we could find out from the minister what local people has he been talking to?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, once again, Mr. Chair, the member is jumping ahead a bit and expecting that we will be breaking and going to court if we were to implement - with a First Nation having aboriginal rights on them.
We've been working with them and they have made suggestions that make sense to me of things that they would do and would like to do. How else do you go about it without cooperation from the First Nation - just to lay a no hunting on the First Nation and they ignore it because they have aboriginal rights?
Mr. Chair, we are not about to go along those lines. We will continue to work with them and, like I said, some First Nations, for example, the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation who now have an agreement, must go through the Ross River Dena Council to hunt in their territory or otherwise buy a Yukon hunting licence.
So, there's a number of things that we could be doing. We still need the ongoing discussion with the Ross River people. That's basically who we've been working with and where we've been going over the last while.
We have a lot of work to do on the Ross River wildlife management plan. We'd like to focus the beginning part of it on looking at the matter of the Finlayson caribou herd. Ross River people would like us to focus on a bigger picture and include other areas around Ross River and the issue of moose and other animals. So, we're trying to focus it to really addressing the Finlayson caribou herd first.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, the minister has very selective hearing. I'm not asking him to do anything with the First Nations at all. I haven't asked him to do anything different than what he's doing. I'm asking for some fairness and equality between the people who are utilizing the herd. That includes the resident hunter as well as the First Nations.
There was a proposition made to the minister in a meeting on Friday to go to a one-year voluntary compliance for resident hunters to try to reduce the kill and see if it works. The minister seems to have dismissed that out of hand, yet we have part of the harvest that is made up of - and legitimately so - cows and calves. First Nations have every right in the world to hunt that.
All I'm asking the minister for is to consider some equality between the different sectors in the population and not pit one sector against the other. That's what I'm asking the minister to do, and I think that the request made to him by the Fish and Game Association for a one-year moratorium on it and to go to a voluntary compliance makes a lot of sense to me when the minister himself says that he doesn't even know if the herd is in trouble.
Would the minister consider that?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: In meeting with the Fish and Game Association, yes, they did raise this. We did not say that we won't be looking at it. We said that we will again raise this with the Ross River Dena Council and ask if they would consider this, too.
Mr. Chair, we haven't ruled this out. We are basically going back and having discussions with local people on this again. So, those suggestions made by the Fish and Game Association are good ones, and it's something I think that possibly the Ross River people would accept, also.
Mr. Ostashek: Okay, so then what the minister is saying to the people sitting in the gallery and all Yukoners, through this Legislature, is that they should ignore his statement that he made in reply to a question by me in this House on April 20. He said, "Yes, we are going to implement the recommendations that came from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board in regard to permits." Is the minister saying now that that statement is not valid?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: If we were to ignore the recommendations, if we didn't like them, if we thought that this is possibly something to consider, then we would carry on forward. If not, we would take it back to the Fish and Wildlife Management Board.
Again, with the permits came the condition - well, not a condition - that we would also be speaking with the Ross River Dena Council. They've suggested things that sound good to us. We don't want to be, at all, looking at the difference in splitting hunters up - that's licensed hunters, not native and non-native. If I were to go over to hunt in the Ross River area, I would have to purchase a licence, too, even though I'm First Nations. Or, I could ask for permission to hunt in their territory. It's small rules like this that we will have to get used to in the future. If you look at the Teslin First Nation, for example, the same thing applies. If you want to hunt in their territory, you go and ask for permission or you go through and get a Yukon hunting licence.
We've got lots of time to deal with this. The Ross River people have made good suggestions to us. We will continue to meet with them on this matter.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, the minister hasn't said whether or not the statement he made in this House is valid. He hasn't said it was wrong and that he's now considering a voluntary compliance of residents. I would like the minister to be very clear on that.
While I'm on my feet, I'm very, very concerned. In the half an hour or so that I've been questioning this minister, he has constantly referred to First Nations and the position of First Nations. The minister ought to remember that he's a minister of the Yukon Legislative Assembly. As a minister, he is to represent all Yukoners - all of Yukon.
Deputy Deputy Chair's statement to the gallery
Deputy Deputy Chair: Order. Order please. I must remind visitors that you are to respect the rules. That means no comments, no applause, and you are not to participate in the exchange within the Legislature.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I wasn't going to move into the Fish and Wildlife Management Board and how they arrived at this decision, but I want the minister to clarify this. Does the statement stand that he's going to implement the recommendations of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board in regard to permits, or has he had a change of heart and is looking at voluntary compliance for resident hunters? Clarify that for the record, please.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: One thing the member fails to understand is that permit hunt doesn't mean that there's going to be a reduction in numbers. What we wanted to be able to do - this permit hunt could also apply to the First Nations, should they volunteer to comply with that and we would be better able to keep track of the number of people going into the area to hunt. Whether or not they get an animal is a different thing, but there's also the issue of keeping track of the number of people who are using the area.
In regard to his comment earlier, in drawing the line between First Nation and non-First Nation people, the member knows that's not true. I speak to a lot of First Nation people, and the fact is that they are governments like us, they are organizations like us, fully recognized and entrenched under the Constitution of Canada. The member knows; he signed off the agreements; he knows what the First Nations' abilities are. We can't ignore them. Even though the Ross River people have not signed an agreement at this point, they have signed the umbrella final agreement and agreed to that approach to negotiate a final agreement. We're not going to draw lines between people.
Mr. Chair, I know full well how that member opposite me thinks in regard to aboriginal people. I had to deal with it for the four years that he was in power.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, the minister's argument that he needs to know how many people are using the area is very, very weak - very weak. It has absolutely no substance to it.
Mr. Chair, I have here a copy of a report that's called 1997 Mandatory Hunter Report. This has to be filed by a hunter whether he or she is successful or not. The minister's department knows now what the numbers are. A hunter could be refused a licence if he doesn't comply with this regulation. So for the minister to be waffling around saying we have to get better numbers of the people who are using the area doesn't hold much water and is a very weak argument. The fact remains that this is in effect.
Is the minister saying that he doesn't believe that hunters are filling this out accurately? Is that what he's saying that his department suspects, that hunters are not being accurate in their statements in this? Is that what he's saying?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The member is far from what I've been saying. These reports are filled out basically after the hunting season. We wanted to be able to make decisions in regard to the number of people who are going in the area at the time, and should the herd be in trouble, we can make a decision by knowing who is going in the area during the hunting season, not afterwards.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, if the department ever acts that fast, it'll be a total miracle, because I don't believe they can react that fast.
The other thing is the minister himself has said the herd's not in trouble. The minister's always said that limiting the number of bulls killed reduced them by 57, which is not a lot of bulls for a population of 4,000 caribou, is not going to do anything to increase the cow/calf ratio in the area.
So, Mr. Chair, those arguments are all weak and they don't hold much water. I may be a little bit encouraged by what the minister has said and that is that maybe Ross River will fall under the permit system also. As long as whatever the minister brought in applied equally to all people, I wouldn't have much difficulty supporting it.
If the herd was in trouble, I wouldn't have much problem supporting a permit hunt, and neither would the resident hunter.
Mr. Chair, on this mandatory reporting thing, it has to be turned in by December 15.
Well, Mr. Chair, our time is limited and people are listening to what's going on in this House. I want to talk about how the recommendation by the Fish and Wildlife Management Board was made, and I don't need any kibitzing from the Member for Faro. This is not his department and he knows very little about hunting. Very little.
Mr. Chair, is the minister not concerned, from what's transpired in the newspapers and the messages he's been getting from the Fish and Game Association, from me in this Legislature, that the recommendations that were made to the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, from my understanding, were overwhelmingly against a permit hunt?
I sat through an evening of hearings at the Regina Hotel and, outside of the Conservation Society and the conservationists who wanted to see this go ahead, every other presentation was to not go to a permit hunt, and asked the Fish and Wildlife Management Board to consider some type of removal of more wolves from the area. Nobody was in favour of a helicopter hunt for wolves. Nobody was, but they wanted to see some expanded hunting opportunities for wolves in the area because the biologist said that this was part of the problem.
I don't know how, as managers of wildlife, we're going to be responsible managers if we don't address the problem.
The problem is not the resident hunter in this instance. It's wolves.
But my concern, Mr. Chair, is the fact that all the presentations that night were overwhelmingly against the permit hunt and for some sort of expanded opportunity to remove wolves from the area. I understand that there were 94 or 95 written submissions to the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, of which, I understand, between 85 and 90 were against the permit hunt, yet the Fish and Wildlife Management Board recommended to the minister that he proceed with a permit hunt.
Now, my understanding of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board is that it's supposed to go out and consult with Yukoners and listen to what Yukoners are saying. There is ample evidence that what they heard was that almost everyone that made presentations to them was against a permit hunt, yet they made this recommendation.
Now, does the minister have some other information that I or the general public does not have on how this board arrived at this decision? Is the minister not concerned that the board doesn't seem to go along with the public opinion or the briefs that were submitted to the Fish and Wildlife Management Board?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the process that we have in place is, of course, using the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, which looks for and seeks suggestions and direction from local people. I cannot tell the member what discussions took place within that board. I would assume that they had a lot of discussions on this particular matter.
Their recommendation is to do a permanent registration hunt in the Finlayson caribou herd area.
There were some other suggestions they made along with that. One was to provide technical support for the Ross River people in looking at doing some training in trapping of wolves. Our department has committed to having people in Ross River to have these workshops done. The dates we had scheduled these workshops for was not good timing, and we will continue to work and make sure that the technical people we have in the department continue to offer this workshop to them.
Mr. Ostashek: It appears to me, and to many Yukoners, that the minister had made a decision prior to going to the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. In fact, he stated publicly in an interview that predator control was out of the question, before the Management Board ever made a recommendation back to him.
And, we now have a Fish and Wildlife Management Board, based on all the evidence that's been presented to me, that made a decision that was totally against the submissions that were given to them. I would think that that should cause some concern to the minister. These boards, if they are to function in public and have any credibility in the public, have to listen to what the public is telling them. That doesn't appear to be the case now. That's why I've asked the minister if he has some further information that the public's not aware of. Right now, the public - the hunting public in the Yukon - is not happy with the fact that there was a presentation made to this board overwhelmingly against the permit hunt.
The minister is not coming forward with any evidence that they had any other information. He says he doesn't know - or doesn't care, I don't know which. But, I would certainly be concerned, if I were the minister and getting recommendations made to me that were not what my board had heard when we held public hearings. People get very frustrated when they go out and make presentations and spend valuable time, if they are not going to be listened to.
I would ask the minister this: will he take that up with the board? Could he provide, by way of a letter to me, since the House will be out sometime this week, what other evidence the board considered to come up with a decision of supporting the minister's desire to bring in a permit hunt for the Finlayson caribou herd.
Will the minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I said to the member that we'll be taking the recommendations that have come forward from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. We'll continue to work with the Ross River people. I know the member would like us just to make the decisions without proper consultation with the local people, but we're not going to do that. We're continuing to work with the local people and I know the member says, well, it's not the resident hunters that are affecting the herd; it's other things, like wolves and so on.
The member knows full well about the wolf conservation management plan, which he signed on to. Should we be taking that route, we'll be going basically two years without any hunting at all in the area, and is that what the member would like us to do?
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm not saying it. It's not I who is saying it. Mr. Chair, we have a gallery full of local people that the minister is not consulting with. These are local people as well. Don't they have a voice with the minister? Don't they have the minister's ear at all? All they're asking for is a fair break. They've offered the minister some alternatives, if he's concerned. They've offered voluntary compliance. They've also asked the minister if he would consider a 500-metre no-hunting corridor along the Campbell Highway.
Is the minister going to consider that, or is that out of the question also? Would the minister consider, rather than bringing in permits, to bring in a no-hunting corridor along the highway? This seems to be where the bulk of the Finlayson caribou herd is being harvested by all Yukoners, not just for one sector of the hunting population.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, the member is wrong again. We're not taking any of these suggestions and just throwing them out. We're considering all suggestions that have come forward to us, and we've not said that we will not be putting in a 500-metre corridor. We've not said that we would not be looking at voluntary compliance, Mr. Chair.
All of these suggestions are being taken by the department and are being discussed with the people in Ross River and the local people in that area. Those people in the area are the most affected when it comes to hunting, hunting for food, and so on.
I don't know where the member is coming from when he says that we're not taking those suggestions into consideration at all. We said that many times on this floor tonight, and he keeps bringing it up. Maybe he would like to create an issue out of this that's bigger than what's on the floor, and if he is, he should just say it.
Deputy Deputy Chair: Order please. The time being 8:30, is it the wish of the members to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Deputy Chair: Committee will recess for 10 minutes.
Deputy Deputy Chair: We will continue with general debate on Renewable Resources.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, the minister had just made a statement prior to the bell and I got cut off and didn't get a chance to reply. I would like to take the opportunity to reply to his comments first and then get a few clarifications.
I have a few more questions for the minister on this issue, and then my colleague from the Liberal Party would like to enter into the debate, so I'll allow her to get in.
The minister made a statement saying that I was trying to make this a bigger issue than it is. That simply is not the case. The issue is out there; the issue is out there. The minister knows it is. The minister knows that it's enough of an issue that after I raised it in the Legislature, he took it upon himself to call the president of the Fish and Game Association in for a meeting. So, for him to say that I am making it an issue is wrong.
What members of the public have been asking is for some fairness in this. They don't see it as a crisis situation. None of the evidence presented by the minister's department indicates that it's a crisis situation. They could hunt with absolutely no restrictions for another year and not hurt the integrity of the population of the herd. A government biologist as much as said that at the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, when he was giving his presentation on this issue.
The minister said, prior to the break, that he's not dismissing any of the issues that I raised with him tonight. He's not dismissing voluntary compliance for the resident hunter. He's not dismissing a corridor along the highway. He said that he is also looking at doing something about the wolves. But it appears to me, and a lot of Yukon residents, that nothing will be done about the wolves this year.
The minister may be aware - if he's not aware, I'll make him aware. I sat through the Fish and Wildlife Management Board meeting. Almost all of the presentations that wanted to see more opportunities for wolves felt the government would have to come up with some type of incentive program to be able to harvest a few more wolves in this area. All we've seen the minister's department come up with so far is a restriction on the wolf harvest. So, I think the minister has his work cut out for him there.
What I would like the minister to clarify, very simply, is this: he says that all of the suggestions I made to him tonight are still open. Are they open for the hunting season this year? Can these Yukoners go away tonight, thinking the minister is going to be open-minded on this, and that they're not faced with what the minister said on April 20, that they are going to have permits imposed on them - regardless of the number, it is going to be a permit hunt? I don't think the minister can have it both ways. He can't say, on the one hand, he's going to have a permit hunt, as he said on April 20, and then stand in this Legislature tonight and say that all of these items are open for discussion. Are these items open for discussion for the hunting season this year? Or, are Yukon residents going to be faced with a permit hunt this season? That's the question I would like the minister to answer, quite simply - not to get into a long spiel about it, just to clarify the record.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: First of all, the comments that were given to the member came from the Fish and Game Association and directly to me in the meeting, and it's been brought up again by the leader of the official opposition. With regard to permit hunts, it doesn't mean that there's a number there, and I mentioned this a number of times. It doesn't mean that there's going to be a lesser number in regard to the number of bulls that have been taken out over the past year. It doesn't mean that.
The suggestions that were made to us to consider are not thrown out. We will take those and work with the local people and come up with a solution to this problem or potential problems that we may have.
It's not a decision that can be easily made. There are a lot of little things to consider in regard to coming up with a good management plan, and as I said again and I'll say over and over again, there are a number of good suggestions that the Ross River people have come up with in trying to address the issue that has been raised by the general public. It could very well be, in the end, that they are looking at the following year for possibly a tighter or stricter hunting of the caribou. That could be the result of these discussions with the Ross River people.
We don't know that; we're still saying that we're committed to taking the recommendations from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board and working with the Ross River people on this. It doesn't mean, even though the permit hunt comes up over and over again - and the member keeps bringing it up - that there are numbers tied to it. If we allow the process to take place and look at realistic options that we have out there and deal with this issue in a fair manner, then I believe that we will come out with a solution that all people can live with in recognition of all who use the area for whatever purpose.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, it's not I who is putting the numbers on it. Let me make that very clear to the minister. When I sat in at the Fish and Wildlife Board meeting last December, the number suggested was 20 permits. Fifty-seven caribou were harvested in that area last year. The minister, I understand, when he met with the Fish and Game Association said it was somewhere in the neighbourhood of 30 permits. Now the minister is saying tonight there may not be a reduction in the harvest. What are we going through all this gyration of putting permits in place for if it's not the intention of the minister to reduce the harvest?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, some numbers have been thrown around in the discussions we've had with different people, and we all recognize the fact that there is a limited harvest on the herd. What we need to do, we feel, is to have a reduction in hunting.
Now, I just told the member what commitments the Ross River Dena Council had, and they committed in a serious way to having their people not hunt the cows. They have committed to reducing their harvest, and it has been shown in the numbers that they have taken. If we can demonstrate and if they can demonstrate, for example, a 50-percent reduction, I think the licensed hunters can do the same. If there is trust on each side that we go with a voluntary compliance, then that could very well come out in the end. We don't know that yet. We're still in discussions.
The member asked whether or not we would take the recommendations that he brought forward here, the same ones that the Fish and Game Association brought up with us. We will continue to have those issues and recommendations brought up in discussions with the Ross River Dena Council.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, we're getting a little bit closer. I still need a little further clarification from the minister. He is saying that all of the recommendations the Fish and Game Association brought with them are good recommendations, and I've reiterated tonight for the public record - the minister was at a closed meeting with them - and he's saying that they might implement some of them. But, is he saying to us tonight that they may implement some of these along with a permit hunt or instead of a permit hunt? That's the question for the minister.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, we have to have some type of permit or registration. We have asked, and had some good suggestions made by, the Ross River people of how they could alleviate the hunting pressures on this particular caribou herd. We cannot just ignore those suggestions. There are a number of things that have been thrown out and put on the table.
They're all issues, I think, that can be put together to come up with a system or a number or some sort of direction that both the First Nation and licensed hunters can live with. Until we have those in-depth discussions with the Ross River Dena Council, as recommended by the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, at that point in time, we will have a much better view of what's going to be needed for the upcoming season.
Mr. Ostashek: Okay, I'm going to wrap this up, because what I've heard from the minister is that, yes, there's going to be a permit hunt this year. That's what I've heard from the minister. He's tried to waffle all around it, but he won't come out and say that the recommendations that were made by the Fish and Game Association and myself in this Legislature tonight are going to replace the permit hunt.
So, I'm going away from this debate tonight saying, yes, you're going to be faced with a permit hunt for this season. Some of these other recommendations may come into play and they may not. So, that's what I'm taking away from this.
Mr. Chair, I have just a couple more questions. One question is: I asked the minister, prior to the break - he didn't answer it, so I'm going to ask him to answer it again, because I'm very, very concerned - that, with the recommendations that are being brought forward by a public body, the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, and which appear to me and many Yukoners to go against the submissions that were presented to them on the issue, will the minister meet with the Fish and Wildlife Management Board and ask, on my behalf and on behalf of all resident hunters, if there was some other evidence or some other submissions that the public's not aware of that caused them to make the decision to go with the permit hunt that the minister requested?
And will the minister relay that to me by letter since the House will not be in session?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We seem to be taking some steps backwards.
Mr. Chair, I said that we would be taking these recommendations and going out and talking with people on exactly what we can be doing. Now, Fish and Wildlife Management Board, in their process, have dealt with the issue and these are the recommendations that they have come up with.
In regard to a permit hunt, if you walk away from this Legislature today and say that the government will be implementing the permit hunt, well, that won't surprise me because I would expect that view. That's the answer you wanted to hear. That's what you wanted to hear all night long, and you weren't getting that answer. You were trying to dig it out but you weren't getting that answer.
I said, again, that we would be taking the recommendations of the Fish and Game Association, from the Ross River Dena Council, and dealing with those issues with them to come up with a system that we feel is good for management of the Finlayson caribou herd and look down the long road of ways of doing better management and not come into a crisis situation of having no hunting at all. I think that if we plan carefully we can have hunting for aboriginal people and licensed hunters in the Finlayson area on the Finlayson herd for a long time. It's just a matter of putting good management in place, and that's management of animals and management of people on this herd in the area.
I know the member would like us to just go out and make these decisions right away. We have a process that has been laid out to us by the Fish and Wildlife Management Board and we want to carry that out. We want to be able to have these good discussions with Ross River. We've had one over the last couple of weeks, very briefly, on this issue with them.
In their minds, they would like to see a good wildlife management plan for all of the area - not just the Finlayson herd. They would like to look at the moose and sheep population, and so on, in the area. We would like to address the issue of the Finlayson caribou herd first and work with them to continue putting together a good wildlife management plan for the area.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I have two short questions for the minister, and he could clear the record very quickly. Is there any possibility that resident hunters will not be faced with a permit hunt in the Finlayson area this year? That's a very simple question. Is there any possibility at all? The minister says it's open to consultation. That's not what he said in this House on April 20. He said it was a done deal - that he was bringing in permits. I just want to know from the minister, for the Yukon public: is there a possibility that Yukon residents will not be faced with a permit hunt this year?
I have one other question I'd like the minister to answer when he's on his feet, Mr. Chair. He has spoken numerous times about consulting with the Ross River Dena Council. Is there going to be any further consultation with the resident hunters through the Fish and Game Association or some other body? Are they going to have any further input into this decision? Two questions.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Of course resident hunters are, and always will be, involved when it comes to local decision making. In regard to a permit hunt, the member keeps referring back to if there's a possibility of not having a permit hunt. What the department did recognize is that, with the total allowable harvest of the Finlayson caribou herd, there needs to be some reduction. It could very well be that even if a permit hunt is put in place, the concept would apply to the First Nation, in that they could take this issue and do a voluntary reduction in hunting in that area.
We cannot go and say - we can work with the numbers, and I think it's in their best interest to see a healthy caribou herd in that area. So, it's not in their interest to increase hunting, for example.
They have made commitments to us already not to hunt cows. They have made commitments to reduce their harvest, and they're doing that already. I think that we need to continue to work closely with them to resolve this matter and bring the issue of the health of the Finlayson caribou herd first and foremost.
Ms. Duncan: I'd like to enter into this discussion regarding the Finlayson caribou herd and recommendations of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. Not being a hunter, I have entered into this debate having done some homework on it and some reading and getting some background information. I would just like to ask the minister a few questions.
In an older document that we have on file, there's a comment about the approach of the department. I'd just like to raise that with the minister. The document says: "In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the need to develop plans for the conservation and management of renewable resources. This is due to the managers realizing that past ways of management have usually been reacting to problems. At the same time, it has also been recognized that management decisions which are directed at one species can often cause serious problems for many other species. This has made biologists and wildlife managers begin to look at nature as a whole through what is known as an ecosystem approach." Does the minister support this approach to wildlife management in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: As we have discussions with the public in regard to the protected areas strategy, we have always said that the approach we wanted to take is an ecosystem management approach. It has been said again and again by the public to us in the creation of policies and to the forest commission in the creation of a made-in-the-Yukon forest policy. This is also the approach that we are taking for ecosystem management.
How do we put that in place and how do we step that up is a big question that is out there right now. And how do we combine all the activities that we have and that we do in development into a ecosystem management approach? That's the challenge we have in front of us. This type of system has not really been worked on too hard in the past years and we really would like to concentrate our efforts in years to come to make management and protection of areas and habitat protection and development that's out there, whether it's mining or forestry, to also take this same concept and same type of approach when dealing with wildlife management.
Ms. Duncan: Well, elsewhere in that same document, it indicates that there are many things that can be responsible for limiting moose, caribou and other ungulate populations. Along with wolves, habitat quantity and quality, bear predation, weather and hunting can be important factors which create a complicated system where it is difficult to tell the impact of any single one of them. It also says in this document that it's important to note that changes in the calf survival and population growth be monitored closely.
Now that document, Mr. Chair, is the Yukon wolf conservation and management plan. It was prepared by the wolf management planning team and prepared at the request of an NDP government, and adopted by a subsequent Yukon Party government, on August 31, 1992. Now that document goes on to say that if a wolf program is being considered that data must be collected over a period spanning two hunting seasons and during that period a hunting closure will be placed on the area.
Now, the minister has said that he supports the idea of ecosystem-based management. He's also indicated that this has not been prevalent in recent years in the department, except that this report by the department was finished in 1991-92, six years ago. Now, is what the minister saying tonight - and having said previously in debate regarding the Finlayson caribou herd - is that he is not prepared to re-examine this report or look at any other recommendations or principles with regard to management of the Finlayson caribou herd?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The wolf conservation management plan, which the member was looking at under section 9, deals with should the caribou herd be in trouble and if we were going to be doing a predator control we would be looking first at a two-year hunting ban on that herd. And this is a fairly big decision. I would think that we would have to really know our numbers well when we consider this type of drastic action. It's not our government's position to take any type of wolf control, predator control, if possible. If we can go out and, in these two years - or even before that - come up with a good management system that can bring numbers and that can satisfy all the users of caribou, for example, then I think we would have been successful in not targeting one species - wolves, for example - which we feel plays a big part in the ecosystem and is very much a big part of having other animals survive in and around them.
In regard to the wolf conservation management plan, it's one tool that we are using in an approach to ecosystem management. We had looked at the plan and did not say publicly that we were going make any major changes or suggestions to it, but that's not to say that that cannot be done in the future.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'd ask the minister to clarify that. This wolf conservation and management plan lays out clearly the principles for a management plan. It also states clearly the non-consumptive use of wolves, the management of ungulate species in the Yukon.
It lays out clearly the conditions required before a wolf reduction program can be considered. It states clearly what the conditions are. It also talks about collection of numbers, as the minister started out his discussion saying. It talks about these numbers that should be collected. It also says, "If a wolf control program is being considered, biological information, which can include local knowledge, must be collected.
Now, in response to the questions I raised on April 16 in this House, the minister said, "until we do another count of the herd." That was a quote from Hansard. The minister has talked about the availability of numbers. At what point does the minister or the department intend to have another count of that herd conducted?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: There is going to be a rack count this coming fall and a full census next year. So, basically, within this calendar year, we would have a lot clearer numbers.
Ms. Duncan: Well, can the minister clarify this. We've had a great deal of discussion tonight and on the 16th and earlier in Question Period regarding options and discussions and time frames for recommendations from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. If a direct count is taking place this fall, including a census, what's the time frame for decision making then? Is the minister intending that decisions will be made once we know the numbers, or is he intending that decisions be made before the numbers are known?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: In regard to the low cow/calf ratio this year, we wanted to take a precautionary approach this year and really look at something, should the herd be in trouble after a count is done, to have a better management plan and a better system in place for the next coming season.
Ms. Duncan: I'm not certain I got an answer to that question, Mr. Chair. There's a little bit of noise over on this side of the House.
I'd like to go back to another quote from the minister in Hansard. He talked about the results of the management team in Ross River. Would the minister clarify what options are on the table? The minister appears to have ruled out any recommendations or review of the wolf conservation and management plan, so what options are on the table in discussions with the management team, as he referred to it, in Ross River?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: First of all, the full census would be done as of next March. I said this calendar year, but it will be in March that the full census will be done. Ross River Dena Council made suggestions to have the department bring in technical people to do workshops on the different trapping methods that are being used for the trapping of wolves. They were quite interested in that. There were some suggestions that, if the interest wasn't there for the people to trap wolves, then can other people come in and do the trapping for them? There doesn't seem to be a lot of favour for that by them, simply because they would like to do this themselves. But the issue was not thrown out.
They suggested for themselves not to hunt the cows. They've made a commitment to reduce their harvest and to focus their harvest in other areas. There are three other herds close by. It takes a bit more effort for them to get there. They have to go off the road to go into the other caribou ranges and do their hunting there.
That, in itself, would alleviate a lot of the pressures in regard to hunting alone. If they were successful in having their trapping workshops up and going, and having people out there on their group traplines, trapping wolves and doing more trapline management, then I think this would, of course, be a big help in increasing the numbers of the Finlayson caribou herd.
Those were some of the suggestions that they had made. They have made others. They had talked about the possibility of permit hunts, and this was in regard to them volunteering that they would cut back on their own hunting.
Now, in regard to the concept of the permit hunt, it doesn't mean that they were looking at implementing or wanting an implementation of permit hunts. They wanted to see a reduction in licensed hunters if they were going to reduce their hunting on that herd.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could I ask the minister then to state clearly for the record, have the department officials rejected the principles and the guiding points contained in the Yukon wolf conservation and management plan? Has the department rejected this as an option for the Finlayson caribou herd?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: No, the department has not rejected this at all. Again, what I have said is that, this year, we would like to take some precautionary measures and continue to work on a wildlife management plan with the Ross River people and focus particularly on the Finlayson caribou herd this year and next year and look at the management of wildlife on a broader basis for the upcoming years. This is the approach that they would like to take, and at this point in time, we feel the area that needs to be focused on is the Finlayson caribou herd.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, in the list of suggestions that the minister indicated were under discussion with the management team in Ross River, he stated that these were just some of the suggestions. What about the hunting corridor? He didn't indicate that as an option. Has that been discussed with the Ross River management team?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, this is one of the suggestions they made - to have a corridor on the north Canol - and the Fish and Game Association made the suggestion also of having a corridor on the north Campbell. So, this was another area that they had made suggestions on, trying to bring this issue under some type of control.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I've stated many times that the challenge for us as a society is going to be not simply the settlement of First Nations' claims under the umbrella final agreement, but it's going to be their implementation.
The minister earlier, in his discussion with the leader of the official opposition, talked about the learning curve and the challenges for implementing the claims and dealing with the licensing between First Nations, and this certainly has been an issue in Teslin, as the minister has mentioned, over fishing. There has been quite an issue over who needs a licence and when they need a licence.
Another part of this discussion is the whole issue around renewable resource councils and how they are working with the Department of Renewable Resources in terms of resource management.
Now, is there going to be an opportunity, in the absence of a renewable resource council in this area, for the Ross River Dena Council to meet directly with groups such as the Yukon Fish and Game Association to discuss these issues of mutual concern?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: As a result of the land claims agreements, those First Nations that have signed off, of course, are working with the renewable resource council as a process for having advice come forward through them. Now this doesn't mean that First Nations without agreements don't have an ability to have any influence on what takes place within their traditional territory. The Ross River people, as you know, still have not given up any aboriginal rights and they still hold aboriginal rights to all of their traditional territory until such time as they have a final agreement, which would basically limit them to settlement lands. But they would still be able to hunt and have that portion of aboriginal rights in regard to hunting within their traditional territory.
They do have the ability to go and meet with the Fish and Game Association or with government or whomever they please, at this point. And they have been suggesting meetings. I know they have scheduled meetings for the Fish and Game Association. They have met with the Fish and Wildlife Management Board and they've met with the department in making suggestions. As I've said, we have been working quite closely with them to put together this wildlife management plan.
It's been a while in the works, but they would like to see things happen as soon as possible. They would like to see things happen on a bigger scale than we feel that we could presently address at this point. We feel that there's one burning issue that is out there, and it's the health of the Finlayson caribou herd. We would like, in putting together this management plan, to focus our efforts first on this issue and then concentrate on the bigger issue. But, right back to the question the member has, they have full rights, like any type of organization. They still are a First Nation and one that's fairly recognized out there, keeping their culture and their traditions. When issues come up about the health of the herd, there is nobody, I don't believe, that could be put in their way from having discussions in regard to management of something they hold so dear and close to them.
It's a matter, I believe, of organizing meetings together and making sure that everybody attends. I know that they have suggested meetings with the Fish and Game Association, as well as ongoing dialogue with our department. They have requested a meeting of the renewable resource council to happen in their home town very shortly.
And we said that we would make efforts to attend and to make sure the meeting happens once the Legislature is finished.
So, again, we would like for them and for the management plan to really be set up and put in place.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister has made reference to an overall management plan for the area and indicated that he would like meetings to take place between the parties that are interested in the wildlife management in this particular area and, most notably, the Finlayson caribou herd. He "would like these meetings to take place," were the minister's words.
What has the minister's department done to ensure these meetings take place and to help build consensus on this issue as the best way to manage not simply the Finlayson caribou herd but all the wildlife in this area, or to take the ecosystem-based approach, which the minister said he supported.
What steps have been taken to bring the interested parties into the same room to discuss these issues?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The department has had several meetings with the Ross River people and we have been making suggestions of how we would like to see the management of wildlife. We're taking the approach that we're continuing to use in regard to protected areas and the protected areas strategy, and other developments that do happen, whether it's forestry or what not, and they are of the same mind.
They would like to make decisions on wildlife and wildlife management with a holistic approach and take everything into consideration, even their suggestions of moving hunting around and not just focusing on one area, and including absolutely everything into the equation when it comes to management, whether it's waterfowl or water itself or certain plant life. You cannot disregard what's out there on the land, and that's the approach they have taken.
Having some of the elders on this management team has helped a lot in regard to saving time. They know things that would otherwise take a bit of time for even our biologists to work out, and, of course, the biologists now know that. Having this type of approach has not really always been the case with biologists, but more and more they are working with local people and using local and traditional knowledge.
That doesn't just mean First Nations people. There are a lot of local people that are not First Nations who have a tremendous amount of knowledge of a local area.
Recommendations and suggestions have been made to people on what exactly is out there and what things could be done, just implementing some restrictions or putting some type of management plans in place.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress.
Deputy Deputy Chair: It has been moved that we report progress. Are you agreed?
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Deputy Speaker now resume the Chair.
Deputy Deputy Chair: It has been moved that the Deputy Speaker now resume the Chair. Are you agreed?
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker resumes the Chair
Deputy Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Acting Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Livingston: Mr. Deputy Chair, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 9, First Appropriation Act, 1998-99, and directed me to report progress on it.
Deputy Speaker: You have heard the report of the Acting Deputy Chair. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:29 p.m.