Thursday, March 25, 1999 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
In remembrance of Jack Hogan
Mr. Cable: I rise to pay tribute to Jack Hogan. Jack was born in Perth, Ontario in 1940 and the Hogan family moved north to Whitehorse in 1956, where Jack went to high school. After high school, he articled in the early 1960s with the chartered accountant firm of Collins & Collins.
Among the many Yukon businesses he audited was a business called General Enterprises, a large Whitehorse business.
And Jack eventually joined the firm and became a partner, and then in 1987, the sole owner. At that time, the business included the Irly Bird Building Supplies stores and the cement batch plant. Jack was also actively involved in mining through Yukon Revenue Mines.
Jack was involved with his community in several areas. He was a charter member of the Lake Laberge Lions Club and was an active member until his recent illness. He was a staunch Progressive Conservative and was active in both federal and territorial politics for close to 30 years. While I didn't share his politics, it was always a pleasure to be invited into his home for supper and a discussion about politics. I can safely say that Jack was always clear on his views, whether it was politics or otherwise.
Jack had a quick mathematical mind, and it was always a pleasure to engage in a friendly game of backgammon after supper. After several hours of playing, one of us wound up having to buy the other supper on the town at some later date.
I had several shared associations with Jack, in groups in town. We started our friendship in Toastmasters, many years ago. We were both active in the curling club; and were also active in the club that caters to the follicly challenged. Jack will be missed.
Jack had kidney transplant surgery in early December, which went well. It was a shock to family and friends when Jack died from complications on December 21, 1998.
Our condolences to Jack's wife, Lois Craig, children Kerry and Tanya, and the other members of Jack's family.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Ostashek: On behalf of the Yukon Party, and the office of the official opposition, I rise today to also pay tribute to a very special Yukoner, and a friend of mine, Mr. Jack Hogan.
A long-time Yukoner, and a prominent member of the Whitehorse community, Jack can be described as a no-nonsense individual with a heart of gold.
Over the years, Jack succeeded in business, played an active role in the community in many ways. Through his association in work, and in community organizations, such as the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, the Lake Laberge Lions Club, Jack was well-known throughout the territory, and was well-respected by those who knew him.
For many of us, Mr. Speaker, Jack will long be remembered for his years of outstanding dedication and active involvement in both federal and territorial politics. It was during the 1960s that Jack first entered the political realm in the territory. He became heavily involved in the Young Progressive Conservatives during this time and later assumed the role of campaign manager for the former federal Conservative MP, Erik Nielsen. As a staunch Conservative, Jack also took an active role in territorial politics, serving as the president of the Yukon Party and contributing to the party's development over the years.
It was during the 1970s that I first became acquainted with Jack and his passion for the Yukon and its well-being. Over the years, Jack and I spent a great deal of time debating issues at large, as well as the pros and cons of Yukon politics.
Jack believed in speaking one's mind and was always quick to offer suggestions on how to make life better for all Yukoners. Some of the suggestions, Mr. Speaker, governments have accepted over the years in the past and they have proved to serve Yukoners well.
He was very generous when it came to offering donations and personal time to different charities and organizations in the territory, and he was incredibly supportive of the community, yet very seldom took any credit for his generosity.
Despite enduring some very tough times over the last couple of years with health problems, Jack maintained a positive disposition and never complained. He was an outstanding individual and a man who stood true to his word, a good person whose contributions to Yukon will not be forgotten for many years to come.
Jack will be missed by his family and friends, and remembered fondly by all of us. As a long-time Yukoner and a very special man, it is very appropriate, Mr. Speaker, that we pay tribute to Jack Hogan here today.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I, too, rise on behalf of the territorial government and the New Democratic Party of the Yukon Territory to pay tribute to the late Mr. Jack Hogan.
I can say sincerely that Mr. Hogan's family and my family were intertwined, I guess, in a peripheral manner many years ago, through Jack's brother, Doug, who married into my family and, since that time, in the early 1970s, I've had opportunity to meet Mr. Hogan on many occasions and grew to enjoy his sense of humour, also, and grew to enjoy his desire for betting and his desire for, maybe, gambling, and for that type of initiative, because he was that type of a person. He lived on, I guess, the edge - an exciting edge - and it's quite fondly that I can think back about him.
Jack was also a very prominent member of the business community. He was a leader within the business community here in the Yukon Territory and, as has been said before, evidence of his history here lies in the makeup of the business community here.
Jack was also very much a family man and a community man, and it is for those issues that I can best remember Jack. It was just before his unfortunate passing that I had the opportunity to run into him in the lobby of one of the hotels and, as other members of the House have expressed, we might not have shared political views but we could surely attempt to share a meal, and it was unfortunate that I never had the opportunity to share that meal with Jack.
But he will certainly be very much missed by the people of the Yukon.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have a document for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Electoral boundary reform
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Government Leader on the issue of electoral boundary reform. Yesterday in this House, the Government Leader chastised the opposition for calling for an electoral boundary reform as a partisan attack on Faro and rural Yukon voters. Mr. Speaker, nothing could be further from the truth.
The Government Leader claims that there is no evidence to show the need for electoral boundary reform. I would suggest to him that all he has to do is look at the 1996 list of electors and he will discover that there were five ridings that exceeded the permissible deviation of voter fair parity as defined by the courts.
My question to the Government Leader: does he not accept the information from the 1996 election, which I will now table, as being valid, and would he not now agree that this is a job for an independent, non-partisan electoral boundaries commission, rather than a lawyer hired by the governing party, to review this information and to make a determination as to what electoral boundaries should be?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, with the greatest respect, the member opposite has clearly made the issue of a boundary review a partisan event and has, on a number of occasions, attempted to play the partisan politics in the Legislature. This is contrary, of course, to the history associated with seeking all-party agreement on such things as electoral reform and boundary review.
The member well knows that we indicated that we wanted to seek legal advice on the subject - a very responsible course of action. A few weeks ago, he said effectively that he wanted to see this review, wanted to see it happen as soon as possible, and that, ultimately, by the end of this session, we would resolve the matter.
Without any notice to me whatsoever, he brings the motion forward without ever having spoken to me or to anybody on the government side, and presses the case without having the legal advice and without having done his homework. So, Mr. Speaker, the motion was adjourned yesterday - postponed - so that the NDP could do the Yukon Party's homework.
Mr. Ostashek: The fact is, Mr. Speaker, the government used their majority to bring in closure on the motion; that's what they did.
Mr. Speaker, the member's fully aware that I presented that motion for discussion in this House on March 1. He's had plenty of time to get a legal opinion, if he required one. It doesn't take that long to get a legal opinion.
Mr. Speaker, that's why it's turned into a partisan issue - or at least that is how the government portrays it. Because the Government Leader didn't do his job; he didn't present the report to the Legislature, didn't deal with it.
The whole issue is about effective representation in this Legislature, Mr. Speaker. It's not about partisan politics.
I want to ask the Government Leader: does he believe that it's fair that, in addition to the voters in Whitehorse West, the voters in Mount Lorne, and the voters in Lake Laberge - all three ridings that are currently held by NDP - are under-represented in this Legislature? Does he believe that's fair?
Two of these ridings are predominantly rural, for whom he stood up as a great defender on the radio this morning.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, if anything the NDP ridings are well and over-represented, because they have very credible, very competent members representing their ridings - and very hard-working members as well.
I'm glad that the member recognizes that he has launched a partisan debate, and has formally said so this afternoon. But I can assure the member that the debate will continue in this Legislature. We did not issue closure. We don't even have rules for closure in this Legislature.
We postponed this debate because the Yukon Party had not done its homework, and we are forced to do its homework for them. So that's what we're up to, Mr. Speaker. It's a responsible course of action.
We want a legal opinion. We want legal advice, to help guide us - not just to determine the question for us, but to help guide us in this complex matter. And we'll get this advice - because I can't depend on the member opposite's - the Member for Porter Creek North - own legal opinion as to whether or not there's a need for a boundary commission.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, the fact is, Mr. Speaker, that the Government Leader's had a report in his hands by the Chief Electoral Officer since December 1997 that he hasn't acted on.
In the Chief Electoral Officer's report, it is recommended that the number of seats in this Legislature remain the same unless the boundary commission has been directed in legislation, before it sits, that the number of electoral districts should change.
An increase in the number of seats lowers the voter average numbers and makes it possible for more rural ridings to achieve voter parity. Since the Government Leader has now raised the concern about rural representation, what does he plan to do about that? Does he accept the recommendation, and does he plan to introduce legislation outlining the number of seats prior to the next electoral boundary commission being established?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Firstly, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite suggests that we have ignored the Chief Electoral Officer's report. We have done no such thing. In fact, we have given instructions that we will be proceeding with changes to the Elections Act, as per the Chief Electoral Officer's report, in the fall of this year. That is something that we've already committed to doing, and any other issues - and I've stated so publicly in this Legislature a number of times, upon questioning from other members.
With respect to the proposal to go forward with a boundaries commission report, we have not made that determination, and we should not make that determination until we've done our homework. Any teacher in this territory would suggest that you do your homework. I think we should do the homework, and then we can have a rational, responsible debate about the conclusions.
Question re: Electoral boundary reform
Mr. Ostashek: I'd suggest to the Government Leader that he should have done his homework a long time ago. It's overdue for legislation to be in here to establish an electoral boundaries commission, as has been set by precedents in the past.
Mr. Speaker, once again to the Government Leader - and this time I want to speak directly to the December 19, 1997, report of the Chief Electoral Officer. Yesterday in debate, the Government Leader made some statements in debate that caused me considerable amount of concern. The Government Leader made statements that implied that he and his party were not in support of some of the recommendations contained in the Chief Electoral Officer's report.
For the record, Mr. Speaker, I did not say that there was all-party consensus for the recommendations in the report, but rather that there was full, all-party participation in preparing the report.
The representatives of the NDP did not take issue with the recommendation that there should be an electoral boundary commission after every second election - as the Government Leader now has. Since the Government Leader doesn't accept this recommendation, which is common to all other jurisdictions in Canada, when does he believe an electoral boundary review should be done?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, that's precisely why we're doing the analysis now, Mr. Speaker - to determine whether or not there is a substantial change of substance to the demographics of this territory since the last electoral boundary review.
I would point out the member that in the last 15 years, the Faro riding has gone up and down in terms of the voter population three times and it has been a seat in this Legislature throughout that period. Now, if history proves correct and we were to proceed with a downsizing or elimination of the Faro riding, as the member is clearly advocating, and the mine was to get back up and running, as it has consistently for the last 15 years, then we would be faced with a severe problem.
So, what we're trying to do is analyze the situation carefully, not in a partisan aggressive way, such as the member opposite is advocating in his lust to get rid of the Faro riding, in his attack on rural Yukon. We're not doing it that way. We're doing it very deliberately and methodically with a view to having the homework done to ensure that not only is the analysis done, but the appropriate conclusions could be drawn, and I'm happy to share all the information that I get with the members opposite, despite the fact that they've made this partisan attack.
Mr. Ostashek: What we have is a Government Leader who's avoiding the issue; that's what we have.
Mr. Speaker, in the past, the electoral boundary commission legislation was entered a year in advance of when it was needed. Now, he's going to shorten the timetable up to about three months in the wintertime.
Mr. Speaker, he says there is no evidence. He keeps trying to turn this debate to Faro. Whitehorse West has 46.56 percent more voters than the average in the Whitehorse area in the last election. It is underrepresented. Mount Lorne has 35 percent more - underrepresented. Lake Laberge has 29.83 percent - underrepresented in this Legislature. He can't provide any arguments against that so he tries to turn this into an attack on Faro, which he is totally wrong about.
I want to go back to the report, Mr. Speaker, and ask the Government Leader what other recommendations in the electoral boundary report does this party not agree with now? Since he doesn't agree with the electoral commission, what other ones doesn't he agree with?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, far from avoiding the issue, we're actually tackling the issue in an intelligent way and not in the partisan way that the members opposite clearly are promoting without doing their homework. We're saying that we need to do a rational analysis of the situation to determine next steps. I think any citizen in this territory would expect nothing less of a government. They may expect something like that from the Yukon Party but not from the government, not from an NDP government.
Mr. Speaker, the member clearly has made this an attack on Faro. He has never hidden his disdain for that community. He seems to be making a case right now for more seats for Whitehorse, fewer seats from rural Yukon. But I can remind the member that, even if one takes the statistics from the 1996 election, the rural-to-urban population split hasn't changed from 1992, substantially.
So, for him to be advocating more seats for urban Yukon, fewer seats for rural Yukon, is not only wrong and premature but it's not good for the governance of this territory either.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, we're not advocating anything. We're just asking this Government Leader to do his job. That's what we're asking him to do, not wait till the last minute and then say, "Oh, well, we don't have time for an electoral boundary commission before the next election. We'll just go with what we've got."
I would like to ask the Government Leader to explain why he's failed to do his duty by implementing the findings of the report, and why he hasn't tabled an electoral boundaries commission act during this current sitting. I can assure him that this side of the House would be very supportive of it.
I would like to ask him, is he going to take this initiative and get it done or is he going to wait until the courts do it for him?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm certain that the member opposite would do anything to support a measure that would rid themselves of the community of Faro, for which they have not even been able to find a candidate to run for the Yukon Party. I'm certain that I would get their support, but if I were to do that, Mr. Speaker, I would not be acting in a responsible manner. I have to act in a responsible manner. The member cannot force me to be irresponsible when it comes to making important decisions like this and, despite the partisan attack, despite the lack of homework done by the Yukon Party, even as much as I'd want to agree with him so often, I cannot do that when it means that I am abrogating my responsibilities and taking irresponsible actions.
Question re: Electoral boundary reform, government adjourning debate
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Government Leader. The Government Leader's, the NDP's A Better Way document, said: "In a real democracy, people should have the opportunity to do more than become informed and have a say. People should be able to participate and be part of the process." He said it, but by his actions yesterday, he doesn't believe it.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberal caucus has been duly elected to participate in this Legislature. Yesterday, we were not given that opportunity. Yesterday, in a move that is without precedent in recent memory, the Government Leader shut down debate on a private member's motion. In a real democracy, members of the Legislature are given a chance to speak, especially on private members' motions, before they are abruptly shut out of the debate by an overbearing government with a large majority. What possible excuse is there for the ends justifying the means this time?
Mr. Speaker, why did the Government Leader not even allow all members to fully debate the private member's motion yesterday?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, first of all, Mr. Speaker, let me just make one point for the member. The member says that it's without precedent, and she qualifies it by saying "in recent memory" because her memory of what's going on in this Legislature is very short. But the leader of the official opposition will remember shutting down debate or postponing debate or adjourning debate and, on division, voting with the government with the opposition voting against them, with the exception of the Liberal member, who voted with the government at that time, too. The member for the Yukon Party will remember that.
The debate was not shut down. The debate was postponed so that the primary spokesperson on the government's side could do Yukon Party homework and bring the information back to the table so we would be able to respond in an intelligent way before it being brought to a vote.
That's the reason we did, and we're doing what we're doing. We want the debate to continue. It's important that it continue, but it needs to have the homework done.
We know we're not going to get the homework done by the Yukon Party, so we will do the homework.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, not allowing members to participate in debate is an arrogance that is without precedence. I did do my homework on this issue, and the member only has to go back and review the journals for notices of motion to adjourn. And a Government Leader adjourning debate on private members' day is precedent setting.
The minister's suggesting that the opposition parties will have a chance to debate this motion when the government calls it. This simply reinforces the point, Mr. Speaker.
The government's saying to Yukoners, "Yep, you can talk about this issue, when we decide you can." The idea of private members' day is for opposition parties and private members to speak freely on issues of importance to Yukoners.
The government has sole control over the rest of the agenda - now they want total control. What happened to the campaign commitment to real democracy? Oh, that's right, it changed to "the end justifies the means" after the election results on September 30.
Don't talk about the issue; use the government majority to close down debate.
Speaker: Member, time has expired.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, first of all, the motion doesn't come back when the government calls it. The motion comes back when the opposition calls it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, she says if we decide. Well, yes, the member shouldn't be so arrogant. I'm hoping the member does decide - I'm pleading with the members opposite to decide...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: ...because we want to debate the motion. We're debating the motion right now in this Legislature. The member's saying, "We have no opportunity." We're debating it here - and not only are we debating it here, we'll debate it when we've actually done the homework for the opposition, so that there can be a real decision made, based on real homework done.
I think it'll be great when it happens.
Ms. Duncan: Well, the arrogance speaks for itself. Yesterday, on private members' day, the Government Leader muzzled debate on an issue important to all Yukoners. He muzzled debate. During the election campaign, the same Government Leader promised Yukoners openness and accountability. He promised to put the conscience back into the Yukon government.
The Liberal caucus represents over 4,000 Yukoners. The Government Leader chose to use his majority to adjourn debate on a private member's motion and not allow us to speak for Yukoners we represent. Where was the government's conscience yesterday? Still in the campaign book? Why did the Government Leader not even allow members to fully debate a private member's motion? Why, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, when the member says "the arrogance speaks for itself," I think the member is describing her own actions. Mr. Speaker, we are interested in a full debate. We encourage a full debate. We're in fact debating it today. And not only that, we're going to be debating this if the members bring the motion back themselves. If we had gone through the full motion debate yesterday with members opposite speaking and me sitting down, then the only way that I would have been able to speak again, once I had the homework done, would be for us to amend the motion in some way. That would also have been perceived as arrogant by the members opposite.
What we are doing is that we're ensuring that the spokesman for the government side can speak with the information at hand, and that was apparently good enough for the members opposite only a couple of weeks ago. So clearly the members opposite, both the Liberals and the Yukon Party, are more interested in the partisan nature of this attack than anything else at all.
We're not stifling debate.
Speaker: Order please. Order. I would ask all members, on both sides of the House, to stop their heckling please. I would ask the members to stop their heckling. Will the member continue.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: For the leader of the official opposition, I'm not heckling; I'm speaking.
Mr. Speaker, we are encouraging debate. We want the debate. We want an informed debate, and it will happen in this Legislature once we do the homework to make sure that the debate is informed, because nobody else is offering to do the homework. We've got to do the homework, because that's what the people of the Yukon expect: an informed debate.
Question re: Electoral boundary reform
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Government Leader on the same topic.
Let's try a little different tack - for a couple of seconds anyway. Let's see if we can get to yes. Let's just put the gloves down for a second here so we don't get red in the face.
Can we agree that the last redistribution commission, the Lysyk commission, did its work in 1991? Can we agree that Mr. Lysyk said, at page 60 of his report, "Except for Faro and Mayo-Tatchun, all figures are based on the information from the 1989 voters list"? Can we agree that there have been substantial population changes in the Yukon since 1989, as evidenced from the information from the stats branch - not anecdotal evidence but written evidence from the stats branch? Can we also agree there has been substantial growth in parts of Whitehorse because of new subdivision development?
Can we go that far down the road?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I want to point out to the member that I never put my gloves on and I've never taken a punch. I'm simply responding to members' questions, and the members have put forward questions that they were putting forward yesterday and they put forward a few weeks ago and they'll put forward again.
The member asks whether or not there's been a substantial difference from the time that the Lysyk inquiry took place to now. That is one thing that we are addressing, assessing, and also determining whether or not the changes are sufficient, Mr. Speaker, to justify a boundary review.
So, not only are there changes, but are those changes sufficient to justify a boundary review? That is part of the substance of a legal review, a legal review that I will share with the members when it's completed.
Mr. Cable: Why are we asking lawyers to discover the obvious? We are not saying that boundaries should be changed. What we're saying is that an independent third party should look at the issue to see if boundaries should be changed, to see whether the boundaries as now set up meet the criteria from the Supreme Court for effective representations.
Other jurisdictions in Canada have figured out that periodic reviews are a good idea. We, ourselves, had reviews in 1974 and 1977 and 1984 and 1991. Why are we letting lawyers help us discover the obvious? Why are we bouncing off walls on making the decision as to whether we should have a redistribution commission?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm not one to always praise the legal profession, but I point out to the member that in 1991, lawyers did provide advice to us and we did seek it and it was very important advice to us - long before the commission was established. So, to suggest that, this time, no legal advice is required and that there is no import for us to a legal review to determine whether or not the changes are substantial enough to warrant an electoral boundary review, then I would suggest to the member that the member is misguided because we, in the past, have sought legal review. We have valued the legal opinion and this helped determine next steps.
The leader of the official opposition was making many pseudo-legal arguments yesterday in the Legislation, and I would like to have some verification as to whether or not any of those pseudo-legal arguments have any validity whatsoever. So, that's the reason why we're seeking a legal opinion.
Only a few weeks ago, -
Speaker: The member's time has expired.
Mr. Cable: Okay, just to be clear, what we're asking these lawyers to do then is to determine whether the 25-percent figure has been infringed, whether the figure that you can easily get out of the last election results has been infringed. We're not asking the lawyers to tell us what the mandate should be. We're asking the lawyers to tell us whether we should have a commission appointed. Is that what the Government Leader is saying?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I'm not asking the lawyers to tell us to do anything. I'm asking the lawyers to provide some legal advice, first of all, based on precedent, whether or not there is justification or the necessity to hold a boundary review; whether the changes are substantive enough that they would warrant a boundary review based on Charter principles with respect to due representation. That is what we're helping them to provide advice on and when they do, we will take that advice, consider it and use it however way we wish in determining next steps.
A few weeks ago, that was what the position of the government was. I understood that to be accepted by the members opposite and then, right out of the blue, I was ambushed. There was no discussion and before the review was completed, they wanted to decide the question right then. Well, Mr. Speaker, that's not responsible. We can't buy into that approach.
Question re: Electoral boundary reform
Mr. Phillips: I have a question for the Government Leader as well about the electoral reform. Mr. Speaker, I don't think there is any Yukoner out there today who's going to buy the Government Leader's argument. The Government Leader appears to be just stalling for time.
Mr. Speaker, in 1989, Mr. Lysyk made a recommendation with respect to this issue. As well, we had the last election results that showed a fairly significant deviation, and we all know what the Government Leader said here yesterday in the House. He is suggesting that the claim can't be made with evidence - and then he didn't let anyone else speak to provide the evidence, by the way.
I'd like to ask the Government Leader: does he not believe the results in the 1996 election that show a major deviation in five ridings - does he not believe those results? And does he not understand, as just about every Yukoner does, that there have been significant population shifts in several ridings in the territory since then? Is that not evidence enough for the minister to understand that there have been some significant changes in ridings?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, with greatest respect to this member, he's not asking a single new question. I mean, we have gone through three-quarters of a Question Period, and the member has not put one new thing on the table.
What I've said already to members is this: first of all, the member who was promoting the motion yesterday provided no evidence, put no evidence on the table, but tried to provide some pseudo-legal advice using the court case in the Northwest Territories, using a court case in Saskatchewan - recognizing that legal advice was desirable, provided his own, and suggested we take it.
Well, Mr. Speaker, what I am saying to members opposite is that we should in fact look at the legal advice, look at real legal advice, seek it, get it, as we've sought it - we're going to get it - and when we've got the legal advice, then we determine next steps.
Mr. Phillips: I don't know what we're going to have to do - it seems like we have to rub the Government Leader's nose in it.
Mr. Speaker, there is ample evidence - the courts have ruled, plus or minus 25 percent in several cases. We have evidence in the last election results. We have growth in the Yukon in several jurisdictions; and some jurisdictions have shrunk. Ample evidence.
We have a Chief Electoral Officer who recommended that we do this after every second election. It's after every second election. The Government Leader's had two years since then to get his legal advice - to get his lawyers out there to count the people in the ridings, or whatever they're going to do.
Why won't the Government Leader just do the right thing: bring in the legislation, we'll appoint an independent committee; the independent committee will look at all the ridings in the territory and make a fair decision so that all Yukoners will have equal power and votes and members in this House.
That's what it's all about. Now, why won't the Government Leader do that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, I won't respond to the comment about rubbing noses in it. I know the member likes the bullying tactics, and I can't respond to that, because I don't think it's responsible for me to respond to that.
All I can say to the member is, first of all, he's changing the position of his own party. His own party - which was seeking this elimination of the Faro riding - he is changing the position, because they weren't looking at all the ridings only yesterday. They wanted us to look at only a couple of ridings.
Now, today, the members opposite change it. They want all the ridings reviewed. They can't figure out what they want, Mr. Speaker.
What we are trying to do, and what we will do - despite the cacophony of noise from the opposition, the partisan attacks from both Yukon Party and Liberals, who want to make this attack on rural Yukon - is that we will do the responsible thing. We will do a review of the situation to determine the appropriate rational and responsible next steps.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, no, no, no. The Government Leader's wrong - he's wrong again. Mr. Speaker, setting up an electoral commission does not attack one specific riding.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: And it doesn't eliminate any ridings, or change any ridings. What it does, it sets up an independent commission to look at the numbers - to look at the rulings of the court, to see whether we conform, to see whether there might be a challenge to an election, if we don't make any changes.
That's what it does, and the minister knows that.
He knows that clearly. In fact, his party participated with the Chief Electoral Officer in coming up with the arrangements for the report, and supported it.
Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister: is there enough evidence on the record now, without spending thousands of dollars on another legal interpretation, to bring a bill into this House, debate the bill, strike an electoral commission, and go out there and let them do their work, independently, and do what's right, so Yukoners can feel confident that the members who appear in this House after the next election will be on parity with each other when it comes to voting in this House?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Firstly, Mr. Speaker, the member is completely wrong when he says - well, he's completely wrong most of the time - but he's wrong when he says that the Yukon Party and the Liberals are asking for a review of all the ridings. They were asking for a review of two ridings - two, not all the ridings. Now it's all the ridings.
The members opposite seem to be very concerned about the cost associated with this legal opinion. They have no problems whatsoever advocating an electoral boundary commission which, last time - the Lysyk commission - cost $250,000. They have no concerns about making that expenditure, without having done their homework, but they will begrudge the cost of a legal review, which we did the last time when we were preparing for the decision as to whether or not to proceed with the Lysyk report, and which we did back in 1984.
So, Mr. Speaker, the members opposite are inconsistent; they have not done their homework; they've tried to have this thinly veiled attack on rural Yukon; they want to get rid of Faro in the worst way; and I can only tell the members opposite -
Speaker: The member's time has expired.
The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the members' wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Committee is dealing with the main estimates, general debate on Health and Social Services.
Bill No. 14 - First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000 - continued
Department of Health and Social Services - continued
Chair: Is there further general debate?
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, one of the new initiatives in the department has been the program with Shari Meisel and Vicki Wilson, the Yukon Association of Community Living in the group homes. This is a project that's worth about $13,000 this year, and my question for the minister is, is there going to be continued funding for this project?
I'm a little concerned because we have had other pilot projects - YES funding, for example - that after funding disappeared that was the end of it. This sounds like a very worthwhile endeavour and I'm wondering if there is going to be continued funding and if there is, at least, going to be some sort of study of the program at the end of the time period to see whether or not we want to do that in the future.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Is the member referring to the program that has been developed - the Safer Teens program?
Well, actually that has been a federal program, and I believe there was some money from - it's not from our department. It has been through, I think, the youth strategy, if we're thinking of the same one.
Yes, this is the Sandra Gibbs' YACL co-sponsored program. Is that what you are referring to?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That was funded through the crime prevention fund. It is a pilot project. It may be eligible for future funding if the results prove out. So, that's basically where we are with that. It is a crime prevention initiative.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, then it is very similar to the YES program indeed, because the YES program was started with three years of pilot funding from the federal government, and then that program wasn't taken up by the territorial government at the end of the program.
This looks like a decent project. It's supposed to be over, I think, on August 1, and it's going to be taking place in the group homes that are the responsibility of the territorial government - the Department of Health and Social Services, the group homes for children and for teens - and I'm wondering whether the government is supportive of that program to the point where they may be willing to fund it.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We'll be monitoring this program. We haven't had a tremendous amount to do with it, because it has come out of the crime prevention fund.
But certainly, it may be eligible for future funding, and indeed, in terms of future federal funding. But we basically haven't had any time to evaluate it - we just monitor it, and we'll take a look at the results at the end and work from there.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, on the topic of youth, the number-one concern of the Substance Abuse Prevention Yukon tobacco-reduction strategy group - community solutions - and I know that the minister came and spoke with that group, because I was part of that steering committee, at one point - their number-one concern is alcohol and drug services for youth. One of the figures that they give is that, "25 percent of Yukon youth report feeling predominantly negative feelings of emotional well-being. A negative sense of well-being is associated with injury, binge drinking and tobacco use."
And that's from the Preliminary Examination of Selected Health Risk Behaviours of Yukon Youth, University of British Columbia, 1995, which I'm sure is a study that the minister is familiar with.
Now, we've had discussions in the past about youth in alcohol and drug services. How many youth are we dealing with in alcohol and drug services over the course of a year?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: In alcohol and drug services, we have two positions working solely with youth. One is on the treatment; one is on the prevention. They work as a team. The treatment position divides its time between the young offenders, the youth achievement and schools. The caseload being carried is approximately 56 youth and a total of 77 family members are counted. The prevention position has been focused primarily on children in the primary grades, developing a drug and alcohol tool kit for grades 1 through 3. Also, pamphlets have been developed to assist parents in identifying drug abuse and a binder of facts on drug abuse for teachers.
We've also undertaken prevention work at Porter Creek High School and assistance was given in developing a curriculum related to drug and alcohol abuse. We're also entering into a cost-matching agreement with Health Canada. The alcohol and drug treatment rehabilitation program will see an additional $200,000 come to the Yukon in 1999-2000 that will be targeted primarily at youth. This is a cost-matching agreement, which will allow for an increase in resources to be put toward prevention and treatment activities.
As well, we've worked with the Department of Education in doing a survey for Yukon children, to develop the frequency and type of drug use occurring in the Yukon, and ADS is also working with health promotion to develop a holistic school program to coordinate the two programs being offered by the two agencies.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, some programs work for some people, and they don't work for others. How many children are we sending outside? How many youth are we sending out for alcohol and drug services, and what is the approximate cost?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: In general, when we send young people out, it's not solely an alcohol and drug problem. I sign off a number of young people we send out for treatment outside. Very frequently, it's more of a malaise of a variety of problems. Alcohol may be one, but very frequently there's issues of psychological problems, often very severe familial problems. The costs vary according to the length of time, according to the nature of the treatment. We can get the member some statistics, but I can tell the member that it's not solely for alcohol. It's usually something a malaise of a whole variety of problems.
Mrs. Edelman: It doesn't matter whether you're a youth or an adult, there usually are a number of different factors that have led to, and are part of, the alcoholism. I'd like to know what we're spending in dollars here on youth that we're sending outside, and the reason I'm saying that is that we do offer programs here in the Yukon. There is one worker who does work with youth, but that may not work for that person.
The minister and I were out at the Champagne-Aishihik treatment centre. They had two youth in that particular program. I think they had four over the course of the summer. That was last year. That must have cost us a fair amount of dollars. Can we find a way of coming up with alternative treatment programs for youth here in the Yukon, particularly residential programs?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The member has hit on something that I think is worthwhile. In reality, usually when we're sending young people out, I get a rationale for why that young person is going out, and very frequently the problems are legion, and sometimes what I find very startling is the ages of the young people going out and the kinds of family background. They're not identified by name, but they are identified by their problems, and in many cases they are going out for treatment that we cannot provide here, just because of the severity of the problems.
With respect to issues such as alternative treatments, specifically for young people, yes, I think that's an issue. One of the reasons why we've put more money into the idea of community alcohol and drug treatment is to provide some opportunities. I've had meetings with the Champagne-Aishihik board, for example, and what I think we're beginning to see is, if you will, some of the treatment centres looking at specific niches. The Aishihik treatment centre is looking at bringing forward a proposal that would focus primarily on adults, but also with components for youth, which I think is very worthwhile. Other areas - Tatl'a Man Lake - are looking at people who have perhaps had not only alcohol and drug problems, but also perhaps some specific criminal activities. So, I think we're beginning to see some activities on the part of alcohol and drug treatment centres looking at trying to address some of these.
Certainly when we put out tenders for delivery of services, one of them is going to be for providing some opportunities for us to refer young people out to those kinds of centres - centres like Aishihik.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I still really haven't got an answer from the minister as to whether I can get the costs of what we're spending on youth - the minister seems to be indicating positively that he would provide those numbers, and I'm very grateful for that.
The Champagne-Aishihik - as we are on the subject - did an operational audit of their program, and a very good one, very in-depth, and they were quite clear on how well the program was working and in areas where they needed to improve. We don't do that on our own programs, and I think it really makes sense to have someone come out, who is a third party, who has expertise in this area, and do operational audits of our programs. This is our number-one social disease here in the Yukon - alcohol and drugs. It makes sense for us to make sure that our programs are doing a good job and that we're meeting the needs that we need to meet.
I'm wondering if the minister is at all interested in doing that? I mean, if we're expecting that from our service providers like the Champagne-Aishihik and perhaps other groups, then maybe we should put the same standard on ourselves. I think that makes a lot of sense.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We have done some internal auditing in various branches of Health and Social Services.
When the member refers to the Champagne-Aishihik audit, that was an internal audit, and I think what they were looking at was to see some of the problems that they had and some of the pressure points. I think it was a very good audit. It was very frank and they put their finger very clearly on some of the outstanding problems.
When I met with them in February, we sat down and had a very frank discussion about the audit and what it had revealed. One of the things it pointed out and they became aware of was that they had not developed a comprehensive business plan nor a marketing plan for the centre. They needed, for example, to establish standards, they needed to establish methods of recording, doing record keeping, and so on. These were things that were revealed. At the meeting I had with them out in Champagne, the board asked me specifically if we could provide some assistance in that regard, in providing, I guess, a level of expertise in helping develop management plans, helping develop operational plans and helping develop recruitment actions, because one of the things that they clearly identified was the need for an executive director and so on.
They asked for a specific individual, who's working in government. I came back and discussed it with the relevant department. It wasn't ourselves, actually; it was with the Executive Council Office. I discussed it with the Executive Council Office, and we've managed to have this individual signed to Champagne-Aishihik for a period to work with the board on the development of the management plans, the marketing plans, the business plans.
Subsequent to that, I had become a bit concerned - well, I don't think concerned, but one of the things it revealed to me was that they do need to focus in on the idea of getting a good executive director. Subsequent to our meeting, I approached the chair of the Champagne-Aishihik treatment centre board and offered some financial assistance to assist them with the recruitment of a director - such things as advertising, perhaps if they needed assistance in bringing in candidates, and so on.
So we've offered both, I guess, the technical assistance in helping develop the plans, as well as some recruitment assistance.
Mrs. Edelman: It wasn't an audit of the internal workings of that particular program, but it was an independent audit, so it was a third party that came in and did that. Now, the minister is talking about internal audits that we're doing on our own programs, and I wonder about the sense of that, if there's an opportunity for us to periodically - not every year - to look at our own programs and to find out how well we're performing and how much we're meeting the need.
Are we doing that? Is there an interest in doing that in the future? How are we doing over at the Sarah Steele Building in looking at those programs there?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We have done program reviews of family and children's services, for example - some of our services there. We haven't with regard to the Sarah Steele Building. It's only been in operation about a year. It's something that we certainly wouldn't rule out. I think we want to get some more time under our belt with that particular program, and we would certainly look at it for future development.
Just with regard to some of the questions that the member asked earlier about youth being sent out, we can provide that kind of information. One of the things that is necessary to keep in mind is that those youth referred out are not being referred out for alcohol and drugs. Many of them are for very large, psychological issues. So, just keep that in mind, when we provide that.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I'm keenly aware of that.
The issue of secondment from the Executive Council Office to Champagne-Aishihik that we were speaking about earlier - the gentleman, or the female, I don't know, we've been doing a number of secondments. We have two or three people who have been up to the Kwanlin Dun, for example, one of whom has been there for quite some time.
Have we come up with any policies about secondments, about the lengths of time, and whether we fill the backbone positions? What are we doing with secondments to the First Nations and to other levels of government?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The positions at Kwanlin Dun - Tim Brady and Peter Nemeth - are not secondments in the sense of the individual being seconded to the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. They are individuals who are assigned in Kwanlin Dun.
One of the things that we did with Mr. Brady was to assign him up to Kwanlin Dun, because we were very concerned with, I guess, the lack of programming for youth at Kwanlin Dun. He's worked very actively with Kwanlin Dun to develop youth leadership programs, to develop youth recreation programs, and has been remarkably successful at it.
As a result, we've had some very positive feedback.
We had some very substantial reductions in youth crime in Kwanlin Dun. Some of the things that Kwanlin Dun was able to do was to extend its recreation program into the winter. Where some of the youth programming had just gone on in the summer, it's actually being carried on in the winter, which is a very positive sort of sign.
The program was begun in November 1998 and will carry through until March 31. It is a combination of after-school academic and morning support to children and youth in the McIntyre Village, with recreation activities. This is funded in partnership with the First Nation and funding through the CDF.
The Kwanlin Dun First Nation themselves are now planning to deliver a 10-week summer recreation and leadership program, similar to the one that was offered before. The program will consist of two components: a program of aquatics, creative art, outdoor recreation, sport and youth leadership training, and we have been associated with that through Mr. Brady's efforts.
The other position that is up there is Peter Nemeth's, who is with our youth probation, and part of the rationale in having Mr. Nemeth there was to try to be closer to the families, try to be closer to some of the youth who have run into problems. Mr. Nemeth was already handling many of the young people from the McIntyre Village who had trouble with youth justice. We found that locating them there has been more effective.
With respect to the individual who was working with the Champagne-Aishihik treatment centre, it was a request by the board itself for that specific individual to help them on a very specific project, and we were glad to be able to support the person.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, Mr. Nemeth is actually a personal friend of ours so we are very much aware of the fact that he does do really good work.
What I'm not really hearing, though, is what sort of policies we're developing around secondments. I know Community and Transportation Services, for example, sends people out to the federal government, they're seconding down to the municipal level, they're seconding out to First Nations. Do we have any sort of policy in the Department of Health and Social Services on secondments - or maybe not just secondments, but temporary loans - of staff?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Temporary loans of staff - no, we don't have anything in that regard. We don't have any secondments right now in Health and Social Services. The Public Service Commission does have a policy for secondments, in terms of arrangements for salaries and so on, and leave accrual, and things of this nature. So, we have a policy. If, for example, we were to second someone on a longer term basis, we would likely use the Public Service Commission policy.
In this case, because of the temporary nature - and it is only a month that Champagne-Aishihik requested this individual for - it's not a true secondment and, as I referred to earlier, Mr. Brady's placement at Kwanlin Dun is not a secondment as much as a placement in the community to work with youth. In a similar manner, Mr. Nemeth is not seconded to Kwanlin Dun First Nation, but his youth justice work is at Kwanlin Dun.
Mrs. Edelman: One of the programs that was a federal program and that also ran out of money and that the territorial government didn't pick up was the anti-smoking office. It's not so much the anti-smoking office. Probably it was called the tobacco reduction strategy, pardon me. And they had a drop-in office that, for quite a long time, was run by volunteers, and there were some minor administration dollars, and then all of that ran out and they had to close the offices.
Now, we all know that we get quite a bit of money from tobacco taxes, and that money goes into our general revenue here in the Yukon. What is the approximate value of the tobacco taxes that we raise here in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That's not my area. That would be Finance, but I'm sure we can get that for you in very short order. We'd probably have to go to Finance.
Offhand - I just have to look it up, and we'll go to the taxation revenues. The tobacco tax generated is estimated at $5,377,000.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, that's a lot of money. That's a lot of money, and the Yukon tobacco reduction strategy was looking for $30,000. In every other jurisdiction in Canada, that money is allocated in some way toward anti-smoking programs. Now, I know that we have had some programs in the healthy lifestyles that we're working in the high schools, that the Department of Health and Social Services is working in the high schools, that the Department of Education is working in the high schools, working with youth on anti-smoking programs, and that there are programs for adults as well. Doesn't it make sense to use some of that money, those millions of dollars that we raise every year in taxes, to do something about trying to prevent people from starting smoking, or to help them to stop?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, there are several things that we are doing, one of which is that we're developing our own tobacco reduction plans. We've also been working with the federal authorities on trying to get dollars transferred to us on tobacco enforcement. We're working on a program right now with the feds to get the money transferred to us so that we can do the actual tobacco enforcement.
The third aspect we're looking at is from a national point of view. The federal government has announced a fund, and Allan Rock announced a fund in terms of youth tobacco reduction, specifically. We, along with the other federal counterparts, have suggested that 50 percent of that fund be reallocated back to the provinces and territories so that we, in turn, can establish our own offices, or whatever, to combat youth smoking.
So, we're working on those three strategies.
With regard to revenues in general, government revenues aren't divvied up according to what they come from. So, in other words, tobacco revenues don't come to Health.
Alcohol revenues don't come to Health. Gasoline revenues don't come to C&TS, and so on and so forth. They go into general revenues and, from that, budgetary decisions are made.
Mr. Jenkins: I just have a couple of questions of the minister arising out of the, I guess, secondment or not-secondment, or the loaning of individuals to various other agencies in the Yukon. Of the three individuals, could the minister, number one, advise the House who picked up all their wage and benefit packages during the period of time they were working in the respective areas that they were assigned to, and to whom did they report on a day-to-day basis and take direction from?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The individuals are placed; they're not seconded, and the benefits are paid by us, and the reporting is back to the director of family and children's services.
With respect to the individual who is working with the Champagne-Aishihik, that person is being paid through the Executive Council Office, and their role, in that case, is basically to work with the Champagne-Aishihik treatment centre to help them develop a business plan and operational plan, so the centre can get up and going, but we are paying expenses.
Mr. Jenkins: This cost that we incurred for the individual assigned to the Champagne-Aishihik, Mr. Chair, was that cost above and beyond the amounts that this government funded the treatment centre for?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, it would be. That would be approximately a salary for about a month, and then, outside of the contribution that we made to Champagne-Aishihik, I have made a further contribution, a further offer, of $5,000 to assist in the recruitment of an executive director.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, in other jurisdictions they have passed legislation so that the money from tobacco tax - portions of it - can be used in anti-smoking programs - in B.C. most notably. It is quite possible.
In some of our communities - particularly rural communities - the number of people who smoke is absolutely unbelievable. In Dawson City, I think they're three times above the national average. Watson Lake, I'm sure, is equally as high. We have real concerns about the people who smoke in our communities, mainly because it's not a healthy habit. And it costs all of us big dollars, as far as health care dollars, and those are the ones that count the most, because it's money that continues over long periods of time, and it only grows greater as the diseases that come from smoking continue.
Now, it just seems to me that we had a group in the community that was offering this program. They were doing a really good job and they were doing it quite cheaply. It would have made more sense for us to support the groups that already existed.
Those programs are best delivered - most efficiently - by community groups, and I'm still not clear why we aren't doing everything we can to help develop these programs for quitting smoking at the community level - and why the government seems to be waiting for some federal money in order to do it when we're getting millions every year from tobacco taxes.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, we are doing prevention work, and we've identified our focus primarily on young people. The tobacco reduction centre primarily focused on adults who were interested in quitting smoking. No, we are actively working on tobacco reduction strategies.
I guess this kind of goes to a central point, and the member has made reference to the idea of the federal programs ending. One of the principal issues that was discussed during the social union talks was precisely this kind of problem. And I think one of the major positive things that came out of the social union was an agreement that, in future, programs - such as the Canada drug strategy, or tobacco reduction strategy, or whatever, programs the federal government had developed - needed to be developed in concert with the provinces and needed to be developed in such a way that if the federal government was going to step away from a program like that, there had to be some decent interval at which the provinces and territories were given, basically, the chance to pick up some of these programs with some resources.
I think that's a positive development in Confederation. I think it is a positive development in federal, territorial and provincial relations, and we think that's the way to go.
We have had a policy within the government of not stepping in to pick up federal programs that have been terminated. The member made reference earlier to the programs YES and tobacco reduction. There have been a number of programs that the federal government has ended, and it becomes a very convenient way for the federal government, in a sense, to offload responsibilities. I can tell the member right now that if I had picked up the tobacco-reduction strategy, it was a very considerable amount of money when I was first approached on it.
So, we've taken that policy. We've instead chosen to work on developing our own strategy. We've instead chosen to work with the federal government to secure some of the money that they currently have allocated for tobacco enforcement - enforcement of such things as federal regulations on sales, et cetera, et cetera, and we are working in that regard.
Mrs. Edelman: Once again, I'm still concerned that we're not taking responsibility for something. We're saving ourselves money. It's like the money that you save on prevention programs. For every dollar you spend now, you save $7 in the future. That's what health prevention programs are all about.
Another example of that is the early intervention programs - the one developed in the Dawson City shelter, the one at Watson Lake at the Liard Basin task force that does the early intervention program, the one at Skookum Jim's, and the one at the Teen Parent Centre here in Whitehorse as well. Those programs are also run federally and they do tremendous work. It's the start of that continuum that goes into the Child Development Centre next and then into the education system. Those funds are going to run out in the year 2001 for one of the programs, and the last one is up in the year 2005. Does this mean that the minister is not at all interested in taking up those programs? Because those programs are excellent, and they save us money in the long run, and they save lives.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The member has suggested that we're not interested in early child intervention. We've just developed the healthy family initiative, and that's the entire focus of that initiative. On top of that, we've added further resources to, as the member has suggested, the Child Development Centre. We've added $172,000 to the budget for the healthy family initiative. There's an additional $183,000 for three new family support workers, auxiliary on-call positions. We've developed further assistance to the Whitehorse Health Centre for resource supports. We're also running a pilot project in Carcross on the same basis.
I think we have recognized the importance of early childhood education, or early childhood intervention, and we are continuing to work on that, as the member has suggested.
Total resources in this are, in 1999-2000, $280,000. In 2001, there will be, I believe, an additional $156,000, and as well this program has been set up - well, not actually set up in concert, but the Kwanlin Dun First Nation has received funding for a similar program and we're working in tandem with them. And I'm just advised that Mr. Brady, whom we mentioned before, was instrumental in securing that funding for Kwanlin Dun.
As well, we'll be working with the Juneau healthy families program, and we've been sharing staff, sharing resources, sharing some training with the Department of Maternal and Child Health. We've done our core training and we're getting this program up and running. We think it's a very important area.
As well, as the member noted, we've added additional resources into the Child Development Centre. What this will allow the Child Development Centre to do is, because we want to get greater resources out into the rural area, it will allow us, or allow the Child Development Centre on our behalf, to go into some communities more frequently, maybe not to set up a second team, per se, but to add additional resources that will allow for more frequent visits out to the communities.
It will allow us to get into some communities we haven't been in before, Old Crow being a notable case. Depending on how the Child Development Centre allocates its resources, it may also fund some permanent workers in certain communities. Of course, we're interested in all aspects of early child development, but one of the things we have asked the Child Development Centre to put a particular emphasis on is the whole question of FAS.
Mrs. Edelman: Every time I ask about these prenatal intervention programs, I get the lecture on the healthy family initiative. This is the sixth time - the sixth time - where I've asked about whether this government is willing to take up the funding for these absolutely excellent prenatal intervention programs, like the one in Dawson, the one at the Liard Basin task force, the one at the Teen Parent Centre and the one at Skookum Jim's.
Every time I've asked about it, we get the lecture on the healthy family initiative, which has grown over the last two and half years, I have to admit. It has grown, but it emulates some of the programs that were developed at those four sites on prenatal intervention programs.
Is the government willing to look at taking up funding of these absolutely excellent prenatal intervention programs?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, if the member is referring to programs that are funded under CAPC, I can advise her that CAPC has been extended, as well, in the federal budget. I believe the federal government announced further funding for prenatal nutrition. I don't think it's exclusively restricted to the aspect of prenatal nutrition. I'm not sure what the exact figure is on that. So, I would assume that these programs are going to continue on through the federal government.
As well, the federal government has also announced some initiatives in the area of aboriginal health, and some of that is on prenatal issues. We have worked with the Liard Basin task force. We're just at a point right now of including an agreement with them for some additional support for a youth worker, for example. So, we have been working on this case. We haven't seen any indication that these programs are, in fact, going to close down. It appears that the CAPC funds are going to continue.
Mrs. Edelman: The same answer: never once has the minister stood up and said that, "Yeah, we think those programs are good; we think that they're valuable; and we are going to support them." That, to me, is just absolutely not right.
Now, we're on the area of alcohol and drug services. One of the things that I found most interesting is the fact that we are sending numerous people out under private programs to Henwood, for example, in Alberta, or to - I can't remember what the name of the one in B.C. is. But we send people out of the territory for alcohol and drug programs, and that money is recouped from the private plans. So what I'm wondering about is if there's any economic opportunity for us here in the Yukon to get some sort of treatment programs going, so that we can get some of that money back for those Yukoners who have to go outside to be treated for severe alcohol and drug programs.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I've told the member that we - being Health and Social Services - don't send people out. I have, I believe, in the last two years, only signed off one individual, who was sent out for a very, very specific type of addiction, where there was really only one centre that specialized in that particular treatment, and that was a rare exception.
We, as Health and Social Services, don't. Do private plans? Do other First Nations? Yes, they do. One of the things that we have hoped to do, by adding resources into our community treatment centre program, is, first of all, support them, but also to give them a level of viability that would encourage, say for example, NNADAP to make references here in the territory, to get some of our centres, be it the Aishihik Lake treatment centre, or another centre of that kind, the level of security and credibility that they could attract individuals who require treatment being referred.
That is one of the goals - that's part of our rationale in helping support these. We have always said that we cannot - "we" being YTG - cannot totally support treatment centres. We simply don't have the financial wherewithal to do it.
Also there's a question of fiduciary responsibility on the part of the federal government. That's a very clear responsibility. It's something that I've spoken about and our government has spoken about in all federal-provincial meetings. We have always made that point, that the fiduciary responsibility for First Nation people, First Nation health, lies with the federal government - first and foremost.
Are we willing to support it? Yes, we are willing to support it. Part of our goal in that regard is to help these centres achieve the level of credibility that programs like NNADAP would make reference to. And not only NNADAP - perhaps private health plans might make reference to.
We've had discussions in that regard - when I met with the Aishihik Lake treatment centre board, they were completely adamant - completely adamant - with me, that they did not want to see the treatment centre that they would develop as being exclusively First Nations. They were very clear with me on that. They said, "If you think that we want to enter into an agreement, or we want to contract exclusively for First Nation people, no."
They feel that they can build up their credibility by offering a program that has something for everyone. And I think that's a good way to approach it. I think it's certainly something that we can support, and I look forward to them getting back up on their feet, getting going, so that we can establish a working relationship.
But as far as Health and Social Services, this is often a misnomer. This is often a misapprehension, that we send people out. We really don't, and I can assure the member that I've signed off one person in the last two years. Period.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I was talking about Yukoners. We send people outside, and I did say specifically "private plans", like the federal government and the territorial government. However, that was a very interesting conversation.
At the fall health summit, the topic of alternate and complementary medicine - is that going to be one of the topics that we're going to be discussing at that time?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would imagine that at the health summit there will be a number of issues discussed. I guess the idea of this summit came about as a way to sort of look ahead. Health care is changing. It's changing with population. It's changing with sometimes the nature of treatments.
We've really only begun in a very preliminary stage to plan on this. We've set aside some funding. We're looking at holding something in the late fall. I guess that if we're looking at points we want to raise, I can just tell the member that the key kinds of things are: what's our health status, what are the pressure points, what are the ways that we can improve or change the health care system, and are there better or more effective health-delivery models? Some things that I have alluded to are in terms of rural medical delivery. What responsibility do Yukoners have in regard to their own health, and how can we improve? Quite frankly, how do we manage and control costs? Costs spiral continually. And the last one may be part of what we're looking at here - what services should be part of the health care system?
Nationally, there has been, I guess, a measure of caution on complementary and alternative treatments. Saskatchewan, for example, has authorized payment of such things as acupuncture on a very limited basis. B.C. has brought in the question of oriental medicine, but I should mention that, while B.C. has funded a centre in that regard, they have not incorporated oriental medicine as part of their public health plan.
I think these are things that all jurisdictions are wrestling with. There is a greater interest in alternative treatments, complementary treatments, but I think people also have to be aware that, if we keep adding services on, does this mean a decrease in other services? That's the question that all jurisdictions wrestle with. Health care costs don't - the argument often used is that if you use other treatments, your health care costs will diminish. Well, quite frankly, that hasn't been the experience nationally, and this is something that we want to discuss here at this health summit. The idea of what services should be part of the health care system may lead to some discussions on complementary treatments.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, a lot of times, the discussion around complementary and alternative medicine is not so much should we pay for it but can we use it? If you're sitting in the hospital in Vancouver, are you encouraged to use herbal remedies as well as your treatments?
I know the concern that people had in the past is alternative medicine. For example, there's the case of the 13-year-old boy just recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. The province took over and took that decision-making ability away from the family, about what mode of medical treatment they could have for their child. What happens here?
What happens here, when someone goes outside. Most of us, if we're really, really sick, you get sent outside. So, if we get sent outside and it's something terribly serious with your child or with yourself, and particularly if you're a senior because that becomes an issue again with the family, is it the Department of Health and Social Services here in the Yukon that applies to take over guardianship of the child for medical treatment, or is it the Province of B.C?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm advised that, if the child is a ward of the department, then we would make the decisions on the treatment.
With respect to the member discussing the Dueck case, the Dueck case is a real tragedy. I think it's something that no one wished would emerge.
If we look at, say, a similar case - and there have been some similar cases where people have gone out and conventional treatments have not succeeded and sometimes people will ask us for very radical treatments - what we have done is, we've depended on medical advice and we've actually gone to independent medical authorities and asked. Sometimes these treatments are on the edge - they're very experimental - and we've asked, "Can this treatment be accepted in Canada? Can it add a measure of quality of life for the individual or are we basically just sort of chasing a phantom?"
We have, in some cases, gone - what I think is and I think the department should be commended on it - the extra mile to try and explore all the avenues for people who are in desperate straits. We certainly recognize that people, in sometimes very strange circumstances, are desperate.
At the same, we have been fairly frank with people in terms of what they're exposed to if they, for example, choose to leave the country to pursue a very experimental treatment elsewhere. I mean, when you're outside the country, what we can offer is limited. If, for example, you've heard about a therapy in the United States that is not evidence-based and you chose to go down there, you'd have to be fully aware of the fact that the Canada Health Act only permits payment of what the hospital rate and what the physician services rates are in Canada.
There have been a number of cases in this that have been upheld where the provinces have been supported in that. People need to be aware that if they are going down to, say, the United States and they're taking a treatment, whereas we will cover perhaps a rate of maybe $800 a day, you're going down to a hospital or perhaps a clinic where the rate could be in the neighbourhood of thousands and thousands of dollars. I understand that in the case of the Dueck family, they're looking at a therapy in Tijuana that is $5,200 a day for a therapy that's sort of based on vitamin therapy, and so on.
And people need to be aware that there's a big difference between the $800 Canadian and the $5,200 U.S. that the person's looking at. So, we try to be frank with people; we try to stretch the parameters, wherever we can, to allow legitimate, medically based therapies to be applied. So we do try to assist people wherever we can.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, truly I do know what it's like to be that desperate, but the minister still hasn't answered the question about, what do we do with Yukon kids who are going outside for treatment.
You've said that if the child is a guardian of the territory, then the territorial government makes the decision. What happens if it's - you know, say it's one of us going out with our children for medical treatment. Would it be the Province of B.C. that would take over guardianship, or would it be the territorial government that would take over guardianship - if they were outside getting medical treatment?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, the parent would be the ultimate authority. I suppose - I guess what I'm asking: is the member extrapolating from the Dueck case, if we had a similar case here?
That's something, thankfully, we haven't reached, and I suppose, at some point, it might occur. I think when we get to that point, every case has to be assessed on its own individual merits.
For example, in the Dueck case, I think the Minister of Social Services in Saskatchewan was going on the advice of the medical authorities: that this is something that needed to be done. Subsequent to that, and tragically - and the judge ruled in that case that the province was acting in the best interests of the child - the young lad's cancer has spread. And the decision has been made by the medical authorities that, basically, there is nothing that can be done in that case. He has been returned to the custody of his parents, and I understand that they are planning on going to Mexico.
I think, in a case like that, we would have to evaluate the case on the circumstances. Naturally, our goal would be to be as least intrusive as possible. The department isn't interested in stepping in with a heavy hand and trying to force people into situations. I mean, it's sort of a speculative question in some ways, because we haven't had issues of that kind emerge for us, but if we ever got there, each case would have to be examined individually.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I guess what I'm trying to get at - and I'm not doing a really great job - is that if this were happening in the Yukon, what would be the position of the minister in that case?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, in a way it is a hypothetical and speculative question, but there are provisions in the act that would allow the director of family and children's services to intervene on the behalf. Now, the minister in this case would not, but the family and children's services would if it were a case, say, similar to the Dueck's, and there was evidence to that regard. It hasn't come up. We're always hopeful that situations like this would never occur. I would say that in a case like that, our goal that we would aspire to would be to work with the family, to hopefully guide them in ways that we thought were best, and not to be obtrusive but, I mean, there are always those cases. And I think in some cases, medical authorities have actually gone to the courts in some cases to intervene.
There was a case - and sometimes on the other side too - recently in Manitoba of the elderly gentleman who had a whole plethora of medical problems, where I believe it was the Manitoba Health Centre that basically concluded that they put a non-resuscitation order on this gentleman.
The physicians in that case concluded that, if this man were to go into cardiac arrest, basically there was nothing that could be done. Now, he went to court - he and his family went to court - and got the Manitoba Health Centre to lift the non-resuscitation order, which would oblige the doctors to intervene even though their feeling was that it probably wouldn't assist in this case.
So, there are always these kinds of medical ethics issues that emerge. It hasn't been an issue up to now and, hopefully, it won't in the future.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, absolutely, we don't want that to be happening in the future, but it actually does happen. It happened in Saskatchewan and it's happened elsewhere in Canada.
So what happens when the kid goes down to B.C. - I still haven't been clear on that message from the minister - to get treatments? Who would step in? Would it be the Yukon government, if it's a Yukon child who's gone down there with her family, or is it going to be the B.C. government?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We would probably have to get some further details from Justice on that one, but speculating - and it is pure speculation - that since the child would be normally resident in the Yukon, the child would have been referred to B.C. under the Yukon health insurance plan, we would have been the payer, in this case, for the child's treatment, and we would be the group that would be intervening.
Now, that's purely speculative, and I would probably have to confirm with Justice on the legalities of that. To be very frank, it's not something that I've ever contemplated. It's not something, quite frankly, I don't particularly want to contemplate, but I can certainly check with Justice. We can get a sense on jurisdiction there, and I can get back to the member. I can ask Justice for an opinion and get back to the member in the form of a letter.
Mrs. Edelman: We talked earlier about how quickly medicine changes, when we had the discussion around complementary medicine. One of the things that I've asked the minister about in the past is the coverage for dental surgery, and I have a letter from the minister to me, after I sent him a letter, of April 7, 1997, about the coverage for dental surgery. This was about surgery that used to take place in hospitals but now you can have it done in specialty dentists' chairs outside. Part of the letter says, "I have instructed departmental staff to review the dental/surgical procedures currently covered by the plan and make recommendations as to what changes are required to make the legislation more reflective of current dental/surgical procedures. The review will include a comparison of coverage provided in other jurisdictions." That was April 7, 1997.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The insured services that we have are governed by the Canada Health Act. The Canada Health Act permits payment for treatment received in physicians' offices and in hospitals. So, our conclusion on this would be that, say, dental surgery taking place outside of a hospital setting would not be subject to our insurance program.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, before we get into our favourite issue here today, I'd like to just correct the record in the Blues, on page 4619. I don't know if I misspoke or if, in fact, there is an error, but I was going over the total payments for medical services on a per capita basis in the three rural communities and I quoted a cost. I'd like to re-quote those figures for the record.
The total payments for medical services going in on the period analyzed for Dawson City was $147.36 per person, for Faro $191.00 per person and for Watson Lake it was $248.20 per person.
In the analysis, the summary concluded that the cost of the physician services in Faro were greater than the average physician fees for service billings in Whitehorse and Dawson City but that they were less than Watson Lake. So, I'd just like to set the record straight with respect to those numbers, Mr. Chair.
I'd like to explore with the minister the issue in rural Yukon as to the level of service that is currently being provided and what drives that level of service and also where we're heading.
Mr. Chair, if we look at the current population statistics for Watson Lake, the population is 1,652. If we look at the current population statistics for Dawson, it's 2,059. There is a difference of 407 individuals. Watson Lake, Mr. Chair, has what's termed to be a cottage hospital. It has 24-hour on-call nurses and it has doctors resident there. Whereas, Dawson City lost its hospital status a few years ago; it lost its cottage hospital status and it was downgraded to a nursing station and it has nurse practitioners in place and it has, the same as Watson Lake, primary-care practice physicians in place.
Now, I want to know from the minister what level we have to achieve in population in order for Dawson City to have a hospital similar to Watson Lake? What's driving this and is there a magic number for population? If we look at the summer population for Dawson City, Mr. Chair, we're looking at a doubling of that number - a doubling of that number. If we look at the area that Watson Lake services, including their summer population, it's about another half, at the most - another 800 to 1,000 individuals.
So, could the minister explain what drives the difference between the two areas? They're similar in a lot of respects. The population has dropped this last year under this NDP, no-development policy for the Yukon, and people are just exiting.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Now we have the Member for Faro spouting off in the House again, heckling from the backbenches, but what drives the issue of medical services?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, the member has quoted some statistics here on population, and I won't get into arguing the statistics except to say that at various times the population in Watson Lake - and I know, because I spent a considerable amount of time there - has fluctuated upward, and I know that Dawson has fluctuated downward and back up, and so on and so forth.
Some of the decisions that took place with regard to the status of the Watson Lake hospital and the Father Judge Clinic up in Dawson took place, I think, under the federal regime. The decisions were made when MSB had it.
What I can tell the member is that we have been working with the Dawson City health facilities and taking a look at the status of the facility. We've completed the first stage of the Dawson City health facility, and that came in in August 1998. The health facility committee was composed of the Dawson physician, the Dawson community nurse practitioner, the McDonald Lodge administrator, Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation staff, the Dawson City manager, Social Services Dawson, and Health and Social Services staff in Whitehorse. Essentially, the review was in two phases: the community needs health assessment, and space planning for the recommended options.
I think what we're looking at is the idea that the current nursing station has a structural-life capacity of about 10 years on the outside.
The McDonald Lodge structural life capacity is shorter, but there was remedial work done in 1997, which has extended it.
What we've suggested is that this will allow time for some future capital planning, and we're looking down the road at what kinds of facilities, et cetera, are required in Dawson. Are we looking at an upgrade to a hospital status? We really don't know at this point. One of the major differences that the member has noted when he was talking about some of the comparative costs were quite revealing.
For example, Dawson City operates with a full nurse practitioner complement. Watson Lake does not. Watson Lake has registered nurses who work in concert with the physician there.
So the scope of practice of the nurse practitioners in Dawson City is considerably greater. That has a lot to do with the needs of the community. But, as I said, we're in the first stage now of planning for health facilities in Dawson, and we will see where that goes.
As we move through the study, as we move through the planning process, there will no doubt be decisions made. I can't predict what those will be. Is there a magic formula? No, there isn't a magic formula. I suppose somebody might have asked if there was a magic formula in why Watson Lake retained its cottage hospital and the Dawson City hospital was downgraded to a nursing station.
In a similar manner, the question might be asked about why Mayo, which had an operational hospital, was downgraded to a nursing station. And I think these are questions that we're going to be wrestling with, as we move toward thinking ahead and planning for Dawson in the future.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, can the minister advise the House what the population number is that is required to support the establishment of a cottage hospital in rural Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: There isn't a magic number. It's determined on what the community needs are, I suppose what the services available are, I suppose issues such as the kinds of delivery of service - are there resident physicians, are there not resident physicians, is there a proximity to major centres, and so on and so forth. I don't think there's any magic number or any magic formula. We base it on needs in the community health plan in the individual community.
Mr. Jenkins: That gives rise to the question, Mr. Chair, of why has a cottage hospital been retained in Watson Lake and why is Dawson City treated to a considerably lower standard of service delivery? There are no 24-hour nurses in Dawson City. They're on call. There are 24-hour nurses in Watson Lake, and it's a whole different set-up.
I see a trend developing here and I'd like the minister to explain why one situation is kept and retained in Watson Lake for less of a population base and less of a service area looked after than in Dawson City. Why the difference, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The member needs to be aware that these decisions were made under the federal government. We've inherited this system and we've only been at it for a period of a year.
We are developing a community health plan in Watson Lake. One of the things that the member has not acknowledged is the fact that in Dawson City, for example, there is a continuing care facility that's separate. Watson Lake doesn't have such a facility.
There have been some suggestions that there are aspects of continual respite care where the hospital in Watson Lake could be used in that regard. The Watson Lake hospital does not work to capacity; it isn't filled on a full-time basis, so we are looking at some alternative usages in developing a community health plan there.
So there isn't a magic number. We've inherited a system that we are going to be working with and looking at over the next number of years.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what I hear the minister suggesting is there's going to be a uniform delivery of service in rural Yukon. Is that what we're aiming for, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, I don't think I've suggested that at all. I've suggested that each individual community will have specific needs and specific things that need to be addressed that we'll have to look at, and develop community health plans based on what the needs are and what the aspirations are.
For example, there may be a desire in a specific community to have a resident physician. There may be a desire to have a resident physician in every community but, quite frankly, would that make sense, given the numbers? Would having a resident physician make sense in a community of, perhaps, 200? That may be a desirable thing, but does it, indeed, make sense?
What we're trying to do is look at individual communities, work with them and work with our First Nation health partners to develop health plans in all communities.
As I've said earlier, there are factors of demographics, factors of distance - a whole variety of things.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that's exactly what I'm getting at - the factors of demographics and the factor of distance. If you look at the second phase of an injury or an illness where a person has to be moved out of the community, that's usually by medevac. If you look at Watson Lake, the Watson Lake airport is available 95 percent of the whole year. It's a full day/night VFR airport. Whereas if you look at Dawson City, it's available less than 60 percent of the time. It's strictly a VFR, day airport. It operates under visual flight rules. So, Dawson is farther away from Whitehorse, which is the main hub that we feed into for medevacs, than Watson Lake.
I understand that the minister has acquired, in the transfer, the Watson Lake medical facilities and the Dawson medical facilities, but I would hope that we could move to an even footing as to how health care is delivered in rural Yukon. It has to be, in my opinion, Mr. Chair, population-driven. And under the feds, that's what the City of Dawson was told. It was driven by the population. And it was kind of interesting that, as soon as Dawson achieved the 2,000 population, the numbers for a cottage hospital were moved up. The issue surrounding the downgrading of the Mayo hospital surrounded Indian Affairs and their requirements to have a hospital in proximity to a number of the First Nation groups in that area, but that requirement left with the land claims settlement in Old Crow and in Mayo. That can be well-documented through Indian Affairs, but that's why the hospital was kept in Mayo.
It was a hospital up until just a few years ago. It is now downgraded. It still brings into question how we can continually justify the facility that we have in Watson Lake, given their population base and given the population base in Dawson City - why we don't have one there.
I'd like the minister to put timelines on when we're going to see something happen. This has been an issue studied and studied and studied and studied, Mr. Chair, and there has been very little forthcoming but more rhetoric. Now, why is Watson Lake treated differently than Dawson City in this regard?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, there are a couple of reasons. For one thing, the facility has existed in Watson Lake for a period of time. It was not downgraded under the federal government. It has evolved in a particular mode of operation with a particular medical practice, if you will, in terms of having registered nurses supported by a resident physician. Conversely, Dawson City, which did have a hospital was moved to a nursing station status, had the type of medical staff change. In other words, the type of staff there are nurse practitioners supported by resident physicians.
Now, I'm not sure what the tenor of the member's question is. Is he asking me to give a time line on downgrading the hospital in Watson Lake or is he asking me to give a time line on looking at the facility planning for Dawson?
There are, I guess, two points here. I can tell the member that when we took over from MSB, we made a commitment to work with our First Nation health partners and to work with communities to develop individual health plans in each community, and that's what we're doing.
Right now, we're developing a plan with Watson Lake. There will be community input. There will be a lot of community opinion. I know that in communities such as Mayo there has always been a level of, I guess, resentment at the idea of having their hospital downgraded to a nursing station. That's something that the people there have noted to me in my visits there. Sometimes things like that stick very hard because institutions such as hospitals and schools are often seen as key to the lifeblood of small communities. That's still something that still sort of rankles in Mayo.
But there is no magic formula. We're working with the communities to develop individual health plans. If, for example, we're working with a community that underwent, say, some huge growth of population or huge growth of economic activity - a major population explosion - we would have to look at the idea of revising our plans in terms of size of nursing station, complement of nursing station, frequency of physician visits, and so on and so forth, and whether or not a resident physician would even be advisable in some cases.
So, there are all kinds of things that go into a community health plan, and I can just assure the member that we are working with Dawson. We've taken a look at the need for facilities. That's been a focus. And we are working with Watson Lake.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's take a snapshot look at another area clearly under the minister's domain that has been for quite a number of years. Let's look at Watson Lake and let's look at the Yukon statistical review. In the over-65 age group, the numbers for Watson Lake are 83 individuals.
The numbers for Dawson City are 84 individuals, in the 65-plus age category. And they're the prime age group that in later years would end up in some of our seniors facilities, like McDonald Lodge in Dawson City.
So Dawson City has a lodge - McDonald Lodge. Why does Dawson City have a lodge? Why does Watson Lake not have a lodge for our seniors?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, that's a question I suppose you could argue on a variety of fronts. The fact of the matter is that the numbers that have come out of Watson Lake have not suggested that this is a demand, in terms of the number of people being referred to Macaulay or the Thomson Centre.
In Watson Lake - I've met with the seniors down there, and we've had discussions in Watson Lake, as to the future of seniors' needs. One of the things that we've heard identified has been the need for seniors housing. That appears to be the issue.
As well, there have also been issues raised on respite and palliative care, and those are aspects that we're working on, utilizing some of the resources in the hospital - and I've indicated there are some surplus resources in the hospital - and developing in that regard.
We've been working closely with the community down there. I went down and met with the director of the hospital; I met with the seniors down there. I know that there have been discussions between the MLA and some of the seniors groups down there, about the future.
There was a somewhat - and I have to characterize this - very speculative plan about the idea of an extended care facility. I don't think it was premised so much as an idea of good planning so much as the idea of an architectural design.
I didn't feel there was a kind of substance behind that. There wasn't the kind of demographics. There wasn't the kind of needs assessment that had been done - a proper needs assessment that was done on this plan. Therefore, I think our preference is to move on the idea of providing issues around adequate seniors housing and issues surrounding respite and palliative care.
Now, I'm not sure how Dawson has evolved, but I can tell the member that in my experience at various points the seniors housing in Watson Lake simply wasn't used. As a matter of fact, some of that seniors housing went over to social housing, because there weren't adequate numbers of people to fill them. Now, as the numbers have crept up, as all community demographics have changed, there appears to be a growing number of people in Watson Lake who are requiring seniors housing and are requiring services such as respite and palliative care, and that's what we're moving on.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the bottom line, no matter what kind of a spin the minister puts on it, is that the needs of the seniors in Watson Lake are not being addressed by the minister's department and the minister's officials. That's the bottom line. The seniors in Dawson, whose numbers virtually parallel those in Watson Lake, are being met to a higher standard.
Then we look at the cottage hospital, vis-à-vis a nursing station, and there is a different standard in the delivery of health care in Watson Lake than there is in Dawson.
One would come to the conclusion, Mr. Chair, that we should treat rural Yukoners virtually all the same, but why is this minister and his department not doing that? Given the population centres, I believe it is imperative that we have different levels of care in our nursing stations and cottage hospitals. Nursing stations - probably Teslin, as their population grows. When they approach 2,500 or 3,000, which could happen, there should be some mechanism that triggers that centre becoming a cottage hospital.
Now, I don't see any indication from the minister, from his officials, that there is any population-growth trigger that jumps an area to the next stage, and that concerns me, and I don't see anything that triggers the need for a seniors complex. You know, if you can justify the existing one in Dawson and the maintenance of it, why can't the department justify and construct one in Watson Lake, where there is the same number of seniors and the need is growing? Can the minister answer those questions, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The minister can answer this: when the Yukon Party had the opportunity to act on seniors issues, whether they were in Whitehorse or whether they were in Watson Lake or whether they were in Dawson, they chose not to do so. They sat on their hands. We are moving ahead to create an extended care facility for our seniors, because we've recognized the need to take care of the people who have built this territory.
The member stands there, sanctimoniously, and tries to preach to us. Is he suggesting that, in two years, the demographics of this territory have changed so dramatically?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: He is. Well, he's a miracle worker, because when I came into this position, the first group that I met with was the stats branch, which outlined for us what the needs are. Is he suggesting that there were no waiting periods at the Thomson Centre? Is he suggesting there were no waiting periods at Macaulay?
We've taken a look at this problem. We've developed a strategy to work on it. We've made commitments. We didn't let those beds sit over there and turn them into offices at the Thomson Centre. We've moved ahead on that, not like the member's party. So, please, don't preach to me and weep the crocodile tears - "Oh, we care. We care." They didn't care. They didn't care. They didn't act. They did nothing. He knows it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, after that little tirade by the minister, the minister who cannot address his responsibilities blames what's gone on on the federal government and blames what's gone on on the Yukon Party government that preceded him.
When the Yukon Party came to power, there was a deficit position of this government of some $60-odd million. Now, Mr. Chair, the minister and his government are sitting with some $60 million in the bank - $60 million in the bank. You know, there is a $124-million difference there, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Order please. I'd like to remind visitors to the gallery that any vocal outbursts are not allowed.
Mr. Jenkins: As I was saying, Mr. Chair, the current position of this government is $124 million better off than when the Yukon Party came into power. The previous NDP government, like the government in British Columbia, created a massive deficit and that took some time to overcome.
Now, the minister is in the driver's seat, I would hope. I don't know who has got the hands on the wheel and I don't know who's laying out the road for the minister, but obviously the issues that he's surrounded with that he must address are not being addressed.
I'd just like to know what is going to trigger the construction of these facilities in rural Yukon. Let's not deal specifically with Whitehorse; we were on rural Yukon and let's stick to that focus.
We have the issue surrounding a seniors complex in Watson Lake and we have the issue surrounding a cottage hospital in Dawson. Now, the minister is going to stand up and we're going to hear some more bafflegab, but the bottom line is: there is a need out there in both of these respective communities, Mr. Chair, for these facilities. What is the minister doing about them?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We've committed funds to developing facilities. The major need, and the need that came out very dramatically, was the expansion of extended care needs in Whitehorse. Like it or not, that's what the community consultation on home care and continuing care needs has indicated to us. That's clearly what they've done. Other needs in other jurisdictions? Yes. Where's the huge waiting list? I'll tell you, it's right here. We have major problems in accommodating our extended care needs.
Are there needs for health care facilities? Yes, there are. One of the communities that has a marked need for a health care facility is Teslin. Are we acting on that? Yes, we are.
Are we moving toward addressing some of the short-term needs in extended care? Yes, we are. Have we activated the beds in the Thomson Centre? Yes, we have. We're in the process of doing that now. Are we addressing issues around trying to keep people out of hospital? Are we trying to address mental health needs? Yes, we are.
I can point to the activities undertaken by the department and by this government and hold them up against the activities taken by the poor, cash-strapped, destitute, stumbling, bumbling Yukon Party, and I know where we've acted. I know where we've put our money. We've acted on issues.
The member can plead poverty all he wants. He can say, "Oh, we were really hard done by." The fact is that they had a window of opportunity to act, but they chose not to. They chose not to. They chose to cut back. They chose not to act, and that's the inescapable truth. That's the inescapable truth. The member can't admit it. Instead, now, he's going to plead the great poverty card. We have committed additional resources. We've committed over $14 million to the building of an extended care facility. Is that not needed?
Is he suggesting that people who are in their last stages of life don't require care? Is he suggesting that people - young adults - who suffer from debilitating diseases, or children with major disabilities, do not deserve care? Is he suggesting that elderly individuals who cannot be accommodated in some of our lower level facilities do not deserve care? Is this what he's suggesting?
I hope not. The member has said, "Well, what have you done in rural Yukon?" Well, we've done an assessment review of all the facilities. In a similar manner, we know where the areas of growth are going to be; we know where the areas that we're going to have to replace are going to be, and that's what we're going to move on. We're going to move on a systematic plan.
Is the member suggesting that we try to undertake everything in one year, that we build facilities willy-nilly, without any regard to the future, or future costs? Is this what he's suggesting? Is this the kind of brilliant, long-term planning that the Yukon Party is suggesting - boom or bust?
Because I can tell you, the previous four years were a bust. They were a bust in health care; they were a bust in social issues.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: A bust in the economy. The Yukon Party ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: ... the Yukon Party postures, "Oh, we did such wonderful things. We just raked in the money. The money was just flowing in." If the money was just flowing in, Mr. Chair, why didn't they spend it?
If the money was just flowing in, where's the extended care facility? If the money was just flowing in, where were the extra beds at Thomson Centre?
If the money was just flowing in, why wasn't there an increase in mental health services? Why wasn't there a diabetes education program? If the money was just flowing in, why didn't they do anything about child care? If the money was just flowing in, why didn't they do anything about social assistance? If the money was just flowing in, why didn't they support poor children?
The reason that they didn't is not a matter of resources; it's a matter of will. They chose not to do it. They consciously chose not to do it because, quite frankly, Mr. Chair, they didn't have a priority of people.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, let the record reflect that the minister cannot offer an explanation - a reasonable explanation - as to what is going to be occurring, and when it's going to be occurring, in rural Yukon, so he deflects all of his efforts on to other areas, and bounces all over the wall around his padded little office, and comes out with all kinds of rhetoric that doesn't even relate to the issue that we have on the table here that we're discussing today.
We'll get to the Whitehorse situation; we'll get to the comparison there, Mr. Chair, but let's deal with what we have in rural Yukon.
Now, what is occurring in rural Yukon, and what the trend is today - and I believe it's a trend that won't be accepted - is that this government wants to downgrade the doctors from operating a primary-care practice in rural Yukon. It's been done in Faro, and the minister is holding that one up as the model, that where an individual goes in, they see a nurse practitioner first and, if there's a need, that individual is referred to the doctor.
That's not the case in Watson Lake. That's not the case currently in Dawson. What you have is a primary-care practice. You can walk in and you can see the doctor. You can make an appointment to see the doctor. The minister is proposing - or wants to see happen, and what he's throwing out there as the big bouquet to the rural doctors in Dawson - that they just become salaried doctors under the Government of Yukon, become widgets in his department, work their 40 hours a week, like Dr. Fast in Faro, with 10 hours a day, four days a week and get seven weeks off a year.
Oh yeah, it sounds good on the surface, but what it does, Mr. Chair, and what the minister is failing to tell the public, is that the practice in Faro is no longer a primary-care practice, such as is being operated currently in Watson Lake and being operated currently in Dawson City. There is a change. There is a change in the way the medical services are delivered.
Then we look at the biggest issue, which is the availability of the doctors. Anyone who is injured or takes ill, after a certain point, wants to see a doctor, rightly or wrongly. In Whitehorse, you can go into the hospital 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and you'll end up seeing a doctor. In Watson Lake, you pretty well see a doctor, and during the hours that the practice is in operation in Dawson City, you can see a doctor. The issue is the delivery of health care on a consistent and continuing basis.
Why the minister won't sit down with the doctors and see what his officials can do to negotiate an on-call service or an on-call fee to provide for that availability defies the imagination, Mr. Chair.
Here you have Dawson City as the lowest cost per capita for health care in the Yukon, on a per capita basis, and the minister fails to address the need.
Mr. Chair, yesterday the minister spewed out some figures, and I've had a chance to do some research on them. In rural Ontario, the on-call fee for a doctor there is $70 per hour. That's one of the highest in Canada. I believe it is the highest in Canada. The minister said the average for on-call across Canada is $20,000. Now, I don't have a breakdown of that or what the minister throws into the formula to come up with that average, but no matter what area I looked at and analyzed, I couldn't find an area that has on-call service for the doctors and has an arrangement where it is that low.
The other area the minister has failed to tell the House about is the fee-for-service billing, where the fee for service, if the doctor does see a patient, is subtracted from the on-call fee, in a lot of cases. In a lot of cases, it is. In a lot of cases, it is. In a lot of other jurisdictions, it is.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that's something that's on the table that could be negotiated. If we're going to be comparing apples to apples, the minister is comparing apples to oranges and grapefruits.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: We're not trying to weasel out of anything. The minister brought forward some information. When you look at that information and analyze it, it doesn't hold any water. It's truthful as far as it goes but it doesn't fully provide a comparison to what is going on in other regions. And I've asked the minister to table that information with respect to the on-call fees that are assessed and paid in other jurisdictions in Canada. Perhaps the minister can stand up on his feet and read it into the record, because it does vary widely. How the minister arrived at this $20,000 figure defies me.
I've looked at a lot of the other under-serviced regions of Canada, Mr. Chair, where their governments - especially the Government of Ontario - have addressed the needs, but then that's a Conservative government there. In B.C. the doctors had to go out on strike to get something to happen in that place. I guess that's indicative of the elected officials in both areas.
So we look, Mr. Chair, at where the Yukon is heading with the provision of medical services in rural Yukon, and I'd suggest to the minister that what he's attempting to do is downgrade the level, downgrade the provision of these services to have nurse practitioners throughout the Yukon and salaried doctors.
Is that the direction that this minister and his officials are taking with respect to the provision of health care services in rural Yukon? Is that where we're going to end up, because that's the only offer that the minister has put out on the table. It's the only way that he's indicated that he wishes to proceed.
Doesn't he see the independence of these doctors being jeopardized? These are professional people who have chosen a lifestyle in rural Yukon and they operate their practice there, and this minister and his officials want to turn them into government salaried doctors. Why would the minister want to take that course of action? Why would he want to do that?
Why does the minister not want to refer this matter to mediation where it could be resolved to the mutual benefit of everyone in rural Yukon? Why can't we look at mediation, Mr. Chair? That's an option that the minister hasn't even mentioned.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, we've got the old Captain Queeg act here again, so I guess we might as well keep going, since the member is so devoid of anything new.
First of all, the member's suggesting that we have a desire to turn people into salaried positions. That is not the case. What we've offered is the idea of a contract-type arrangement.
Now, the contract-type arrangement is not that unusual in Canada, despite the member's contention otherwise. He's also suggesting that somehow we want to downgrade.
We have no desire to downgrade the facilities at all. What we have suggested is that this is a viable option. Now, in the case of Faro, the Faro option was arrived at because at the time there was not a resident physician in Faro.
We chose to bring in a physician on contract; the arrangement has worked well. I have not experienced - I have not had any complaints. I have visited Faro and I talked with people. I haven't had anybody complain to say that they felt that they were denied a service whatsoever.
Now, subsequent to having a physician on contract in Faro, a second fee-for-service physician came, but what happened was, the community began sort of economically gearing down at that point and the fee-for-service physician left and we had the ongoing contract with our permanent physician there that we've continued on.
Incidentally, that physician also serves the community of Ross River, and during my last visit to Ross River, I was told that the relationship worked quite well.
Now, if we take a look at emergency on-call coverage throughout Canada - let's just take a look at some of the jurisdictions that the member quoted.
British Columbia has an out-call premium, which we have here. Our out-call premium, by the way, is as follows: during the daytime, a premium is charged if one has to leave home, office or hospital to render urgent or emergency care. The amount is $31. This is from 8:00 a.m. to 5:59 p.m., Monday through Friday, plus the visit or procedure fee, which, dare I say it again for sake of repetition, ranges somewhere between 40 and 60 percent higher than the Canadian average. For the evening - 6:00 p.m. to 10:59 p.m. - and 8:00 a.m. to 10:59 p.m. for Saturdays, Sundays and stat holidays - our premium during that period is $92.90, plus the visit or procedure fee. The night fee, which is 11:00 p.m. to 7:59 p.m., is $107.80, plus the procedure fee. Now, the member has inferred that we somehow deduct the fee from that premium. That is not the case.
Now, if we take a look at British Columbia, which he noted here and he postured about the doctors going on strike, out of that came the Dobbin report. Interestingly enough, what the member has forgotten is that the Dobbin report suggested a greater utilization of nurse practitioners and physicians.
Now, let's take a look to see what British Columbia offers. British Columbia offers a $30,000 bonus for practising in underserved or remote areas, and this is with one or two physicians and no hospital. And they have fee-for-service for visitor procedure.
Manitoba has a usual visit for service or procedure, and there doesn't appear to be a premium in Manitoba. In smaller rural communities, there is no change. Negotiations have to be made with the rural health agencies.
In Saskatchewan, there's a usual fee for service or visit, for procedure, plus a premium, if billed between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. So it appears that we have a premium that's offered at two other times.
Also, while we're in Saskatchewan, physicians providing services in smaller facilities receive an annual stipend of $20,000. Then there's a weekend on-call relief program to physicians, to provide weekend relief to rural physicians of $1,500.
Nova Scotia has a premium plus usual fee for service. GPs in small communities more than 45 kilometres away from a funded emergency room receive $20,000 a year to be on call.
Ontario - no fee for service when providing primary care, when receiving other on-call compensation. In communities without hospitals, $30,000 annually for providing 24-hour emergency coverage.
Alberta - premium plus usual fee for service. They have a premium that adds up to $27,565 a year.
Prince Edward Island has no on-call remuneration, shadow billing only, sessional hourly rates for weekends, and it varies by size and location of hospital. And that's perfectly understandable in Prince Edward Island.
Quebec - usual premium and fee for visit for service and procedure. There's a rate that varies between urban centres and rural areas. I don't have the northern aspect here.
Newfoundland has no physician on-call remuneration. What they have is that the physician submits the names and identification numbers of the patients.
Fourteen rural centres receive a stipend and, basically, there's a limit of $30,000 on that.
So, when we talk about $20,000 to $30,000 a year, we're talking in the neighbourhood of something that we think is doable. Now, $20,000 to $30,000 a year is a long way - a tremendously long way - from $220,000 to $400,000. That seems evident.
We have tried to negotiate this with the physicians. Obviously the only thing we've gotten back is this same thing. We've offered, for example, if the issue is time off, on-call time, guaranteed time away - we're willing to move to a contract, which seems to me to be a reasonably positive way to resolve this. We wouldn't ask the physicians at that time to do anything overly dramatic. They'd still be available to see patients. There would still be some care by nurse practitioners.
One of the things it would probably do is simplify their billing, for example. It would probably reduce their cost in that regard. We've offered this as an alternative. We've offered to fund three physicians at a rate that we think is very fair to provide some other supports in that regard, and that one has been turned down.
In turn, the physicians have offered us a situation that, quite frankly, is extremely expensive and, extrapolated out, would be enormously expensive. We've said, okay, we can't resolve this, perhaps the most appropriate place for us to do this is within the YMA negotiations, which are beginning next week.
We signalled to the YMA that the resolution of the whole question of rural physician compensation is something we want to discuss. That seems eminently fair. That seems eminently doable.
So, I have to disabuse the member of his notion that we're somehow trying to make everyone into YTG employees. I have no desire to have more YTG employees. What I do have is a desire to provide a good level of medical care and medical service to communities and recognizing the legitimate economic needs and personal needs of physicians in terms of time off, locum support, et cetera, et cetera. We've offered something like that.
The member likes to go back to the idea of talking about widgets. I don't think of people as widgets. I think of people - whether they're physicians or in other professions - as people who serve an important role for us. The very fact that we pay teachers - does that make them widgets? Is this some great NDP massive social engineering scheme? Does the fact that we employ engineers, the fact that we maybe do a contract with some members of the legal profession to deliver services for us - does that make them widgets? Are they our widgets?
The assumption seems to be that anyone who receives any kind of remuneration from YTG is some kind of cog in some great automatic machine, where we direct their efforts. We're not suggesting that that needs to be done at all, particularly with physicians.
Dr. Fast, for example, is a physician who is not only an excellent practitioner, but is also an individual who's not reticent at all about expressing opinions on a whole variety of medical issues. And I don't think that makes him a widget. I think that makes him a dedicated professional, who has chosen to practise in a way that he feels meets his personal needs, and we feel meets our needs for the delivery of service.
And I can tell the member that if, for example, the physicians in Dawson were to say, "Well, maybe we want to look at perhaps a different approach," say, on something like a particular stipend - an annual stipend, if it were in a reasonable range, and not somewhere in the stratospheric range - that would certainly be an issue that we could entertain.
But I think we have a couple of bottom lines, and I'll tell you one of the bottom lines that we would have, would be we want to have a good level of medical coverage. That would be one of our bases. Any offer that we would make would be premised on the idea of having three full-time resident physicians.
That is what Dawson City argued for at the physician resource council, and that is what we supported. And when I say that we want three full-time resident physicians, we are prepared to support the resident full-time positions. If those three resident full-time physicians chose to be on contract, we could do that. That's not a problem. There's the offer. I'll make it now. I'll make it here. There it is.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, no. But that offer has been rejected, so now what we'll do is we'll go back to the YMA and say, "Okay, we can't resolve this, so now let's talk turkey."
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Chair, what the entire Health and Social Services debate has become - and I am somewhat concerned about this - is that the member there apparently is the bargaining agent for the Dawson City physicians, and he has a new role, a role that I think he needs a few lessons on. I understand that Daryl Bean is coming up from the Public Service Alliance of Canada this weekend. I'll perhaps arrange for a tutorial for the Member for Klondike.
This appears to be the only question that this member is prepared to discuss. It's the only question he's prepared to deal with. So, I can only suggest that we have tried for quite awhile to resolve this issue. We have been unable to resolve the issue. We have, in turn, signalled that we are prepared to go back to the YMA negotiations, that we are prepared to put this forward as our primary negotiating point, and that we are prepared to deal with it at that table.
Chair: Is it the members' wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Yes.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is there further debate on the Department of Health and Social Services?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I just have some information for the Member for Riverdale South. She asked some questions with regard to Yukon youth in out-of-territory programs. I have to emphasize once again that I am trying to get a breakout for if any of these were exclusively for alcohol or drugs. In my recollection in signing these off, they were for multiple problems.
In 1997-98, there were eight Yukon youth sent to out-of-territory programs. There was $139,760 spent. In 1998-99, there was $217,474 spent for eight Yukon youth in out-of-territory programming. A total of 12 youth have received out-of-territory treatment since April 1, 1997. So, hopefully that's a bit of an assistance. It was since April 1 - like in 1997, 1998 and so on. So, we've added four, basically, since last year.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the minister went on at great length in an attempt to explain himself, and I would ask the minister to table the overview of the on-call service fees in all of the other provinces of Canada. There is one section that appears to be missing and that is northern Quebec. There are three different policies in Quebec, as I understand it.
I would ask the minister if he could table a copy of that review and that analysis that was conducted by his department. Could the minister undertake to do so?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: What we'll do is get a copy to the member, and we'll also look into the situation in northern Quebec. The Member for Riverdale South has also indicated that she would like a copy.
We'll get our folks trying to find out what the situation is in northern Quebec.
Just as we speak, on northern Quebec, as the members are probably aware, some of the nurse practitioners have struck in northern Quebec, and we are actively recruiting - and I'm almost ashamed to say so because today, in one of our discussions, we had a conference call on health matters and the ministers of health in Saskatchewan - the last item on the agenda was an item from Saskatchewan concerned about raiding nurses, so we didn't raise that in discussion.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, there is going to be an issue of raiding nurses and making offers across Canada, and it's going to grow bigger and bigger, given the demand in Ontario recently for nurses in that area. So I'd suggest to the minister that Ontario might even attract a lot of nurses away from the Yukon, unless the minister develops a policy to attract and retain nurse practitioners, nurses, doctors and dentists - not so much to Whitehorse, but to rural Yukon. All of these individuals are in the same gamut.
I did send over to the minister what the Northwest Territories has embarked on, and I am aware of what Ontario's gone through, and what northern Quebec has done to attract individuals into their remote areas. So, those cases I'm very much aware of, but I was amazed to see that the minister hadn't fully explored northern Quebec and what they have done in the way of incentives to keep doctors in the rural and remote areas.
Mr. Chair, when we look at what the minister has said just recently in the House, and kind of extrapolate the one or two sentences of substance out of the 10 minutes of diatribe, we find out that the issue is one of money.
The issue is that we're between a $20,000 and a $200,000 gap.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Four hundred thousand.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister is saying $400,000. I'd suggest to him that that's not the case. The figures were given, you know, under duress to Mr. Maxwell after he insisted that figures be put forward. Now, the only option...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: The minister is laughing. The minister is sitting in Whitehorse laughing.
Chair: Order please. Order please.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
What we're looking at is a resolution of the outstanding issue with the Dawson doctors and we want to look at them continuing to provide the excellent level of coverage that they currently have been providing to our community. I've given the cost to the government to date for the service they've provided, which is the lowest of all the rural communities. That should send a clear message to the minister that the service is being provided by these doctors.
I'd like to know why the minister only has put forward one option. He's gone down one path and there appear to be roadblocks all around it and it's a dead-end. This is the only option that the minister has put forward that he is willing to entertain or explore. Why, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, there's a couple of interesting points there, that the member has suggested. Maybe I could just suggest the first one.
With reference to the health professionals shortage, today in our meeting of Health ministers we brought forward that we wanted to discuss this in greater detail at a forthcoming Health ministers meeting because we do have concerns, as other jurisdictions do, and we were supported in that.
With regard to that, one of our staff - Ms. Jan Horton - is chairing the task force on nurse recruitment and retention - on national discussions.
So this is a very real issue for us; we're very concerned about it. We've brought it forward; we want to discuss how we can do this. We are interested in trying to build up our nursing force once again, as with all of our health professions.
Now, the member has suggested that the dollar figures that were put forward by the doctors in Dawson were somehow done under duress. I can't see where that was under duress. We asked for a proposal - we had been discussing back and forth. We asked for a proposal from the doctors in Dawson. We got a proposal which, when we examined it, I was quite astonished at the range.
Quite frankly, I thought there must be some mistake in this. I couldn't believe that, basically, we were being asked to add this much amount of money.
I asked our assistant deputy minister to confirm those figures. We didn't come up with the figures. We didn't sit down and magically invent this particular solution that the doctors came forward with. Those were their own figures.
Is he suggesting that somehow these were figures that the doctors just sort of floated out there, threw them out, and said, "Oh heck, let's pick a figure out of the air"? These were the figures that we received from the physicians. We queried them. We asked for confirmation to make sure that we were being accurate, and those are the figures that we got back.
So, what's he suggesting, now - "Well, those are just kind of joke figures. Those are maybe just kind of let's-chat figures." Those are the figures that came forward.
Now, have we closed other doors? No, we haven't closed any other doors, Mr. Chair. What we've said is that, well, clearly we don't think the proposal that came forward is viable. To be very frank, as well, the proposal that the physicians brought forward at the time did not address the entire issue of a third physician in Dawson. That wasn't contained in there. I asked in the proposal. I said, "Where is the third physician?" It wasn't in there, and we have always argued the idea of having a third resident physician in Dawson, because that goes back to last April, and that was agreed on. Now it has only been in the last month that we've heard anything of a third resident physician, and there seems to be some uncertainty around there.
I can just tell the member that we didn't invent these numbers. We didn't invent this proposal. This was something that came forward from the physicians.
Now, we have suggested an alternative. There is obviously no interest in that. We've suggested perhaps an alternative with the trial period. There is obviously no interest in that. What we've got is the same proposal back. We haven't heard a counter proposal. We haven't heard something like perhaps a combination of a stipend plus some fee for service that would be within the range. We haven't heard that, so we've suggested that, well, perhaps what we should do is go to the YMA negotiations and bring this forward and put it forward to physicians, to suggest some alternatives, some things we could be doing.
One of the things, quite clearly, that is floating around is the idea of a rural stipend. I've given the member a kind of a range of what a rural stipend is in Canada. That apparently hasn't received any consideration, so we've said, okay, well, let's go back and talk it over with the YMA and see what we can work out.
But I can tell the member that we're not interested in getting into a bun fight with anyone. What we're interested in doing is ensuring that there's good medical coverage in Dawson, as in all Yukon communities, and we're willing to go to the YMA and ask them to assist us on this, keeping in mind, of course, the overall financial range that the government can work in. I mean, I'm sure that the member, who argues so vociferously for financial responsibility, doesn't want us giving away the store - unless, perhaps he does want us to give away the store. Perhaps he feels that financial restraint should only be applied to the lesser classes, that there's somehow a different class of people who should be immune from that. I hope he's not suggesting that.
We have said that we're willing to look at options. We've said that we're willing to sit down with the YMA and try to sort this out. I'll repeat, once again, that one of the physicians in Dawson is on that YMA negotiating committee, though, however, it appears that the physician may be away on holidays during that period of time, which is unfortunate. Maybe they want to nominate their chief negotiator over there as their proxy.
I sense a measure of eagerness to bring this to resolution. I'll just repeat that we are willing to go to the YMA, we are willing to negotiate, we're willing to talk about this, and hopefully we can achieve it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister appears to be taking the credit for the third doctor in Dawson City when, in fact, that was a heck of a lobby effort and it was very much of an uphill battle to get a third billing number for a Dawson doctor. It took over a year to convince the government to agree to allowing three doctors to work in Dawson, Mr. Chair, and the government agreed, in the spring of 1998, to permit a third doctor to be granted a billing number.
Dawson's had the same third physician since that time but Dawson, like a lot of Yukon, requires the services of three doctors and can support them in the summer months, and in the winter months there's enough work for two doctors. But what I'm hearing from the minister is that the only road that he's travelling to with respect to a resolution of it has road blocks on both sides and it's a dead-end road. The only offer he's willing to entertain or listen to at this juncture is "salary the doctors". They'd become a salaried-type position, a contract-type doctor.
What I'm looking for is a resolution to continue to provide for the health care needs of our community. Can the minister give me one reason why he would not refer this to mediation?
YMA isn't mediation. It's a negotiation process. We've been through the negotiation process once before with respect to the rural doctors and what they get paid. We've been there several times, Mr. Chair. It's not a big, burning issue at the YMA table. The majority of the doctors who practise, practise in Whitehorse.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I must remind the member that as far as the YMA goes, the YMA is the governing body for physicians in this territory, the same way that the Yukon Teachers Association is the governing body for teachers in this territory.
When the Yukon Teachers Association goes to negotiations, they are going representing not only their urban members but the rural members. In the case of the YMA, there are three individuals at the table. There are two urban physicians and a rural physician. Now, I would suggest that that's a pretty good ratio. I would suggest that at least one-third of the negotiating force should be speaking vociferously on rural health issues, and we've suggested that this is the route to go and I haven't ruled out anything. Quite frankly, I haven't ruled out anything.
I'm hopeful that at the YMA there may be some creative ideas come forward. There may be some options that might come forward in terms of a rural stipend. If that comes forward and that is reflected within the overall physician fee mandate, and so on, those are things that we can discuss. But we remain convinced that this is the route to go and we are quite prepared to deal on that basis. I would suggest that one out of three being a rural member on the negotiating team for the YMA is a pretty good percentage.
Mr. Jenkins: We're hearing from the back benches from Watson Lake, but what we have now with an offer from the minister that, again, is only one offer. It's one offer that goes down that same road and it's got a roadblock on both sides of it and it terminates with a roadblock at the end.
So what we are going to see is an impasse. The doctors that I'm aware of are very much content working on a fee-for-service basis and they want to continue in that manner. They don't want to be contract doctors; they don't want to become salaried doctors to the Government of the Yukon Territory. They want to remain, and have their independence, and have versatility, not be beholden to the minister and some other officials.
These are professional individuals, Mr. Chair, and I would urge the minister to seek a dispute resolution mechanism that would resolve this outstanding issue. But the minister just bounced it back to the YMA.
Let me just ask the minister this. If a resolution isn't obtained at the YMA table, would the minister consider referring to mediation the issue of the on-call fee for rural doctors?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, that's absurd. That would be suggesting that, okay, let's just take this one right off the table and not even talk about it. But I mean, in fact, that's what the member's saying. He's saying, "Well, if we can't negotiate it - let's just presume right off the bat that we can't negotiate it, so let's just kill it right there and move it to another stage."
That's isn't how negotiations work. He knows that's not how negotiations work. We're going to go into negotiations. We have our priorities, presumably the YMA has priorities, and we will move toward a resolution of that.
The member's asking us to speculate. The member's asking us to disregard the entire notion of negotiations even before we start. That's absurd - it's absolutely absurd.
I mean, that would be like me going into negotiations with a group of employees and saying, "Okay, well, if we can't reach a resolution on this particular aspect, we'll move it to another table." What that's doing is undermining the bargaining process.
I have indicated that our interest is in the realm of working out something for rural physicians. Now, when I mention the idea of a stipend, the member is assuming that what we're talking about is a contract-type thing. That may not be an option. The YMA may propose something different. The YMA could come forward and say, okay, for rural physicians, as a recognition of compensation, they could suggest, perhaps, a differential rate - a differential fee schedule for rural physicians. That's one option they could come forward with.
They could suggest, perhaps, a combination of the existing fee schedule plus perhaps a stipend, you know, of a certain amount in recognition for rural on-calls. That's something that they could bring forward.
The member here is basically saying there's only two options. We haven't said there's only two options. We've said that we're willing to go into negotiations and to look at a variety of options.
Now, he seems to be presuming that this is a closed deal. We haven't closed anything. We have suggested something that we think would be a resolution for the situation. We think that it would be a way for physicians to maintain their practice mode and, in the same way, guarantee an income level that is commensurate with the service that they deliver and also provide things such as vacation time, locums, et cetera, et cetera.
We have made those proposals. We think it's a model that we've looked at. It's a model that we've arrived at through discussions with the YMA, in terms of alternative payment schedules. It's a model that was developed for a very specific case, but we think that something could be extrapolated out.
I think we're being eminently reasonable on this one, and the member is absolutely convinced that he has to get a deal right here in this Chamber at this time. And we're willing to move on with that.
I should remind the member that the third physician in Dawson was approved a year ago.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, here we go. Now we're down to - okay, yesterday we were on $14; now we're on 10 months. Last April - allow me to correct - this position was approved, so therefore we have urged the physicians to recruit the third physician. We have said that whatever arrangement we've made with them we would certainly make with the third physician. We want coverage in Dawson, as we want coverage in all Yukon communities. We're willing to discuss this. We're willing to go to the YMA negotiations. We have said that we want a resolution to this. This is our primary goal, and that's what we're going to do.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, over the next few days, I'll have a chance to review the Blues and Hansard and see where we're going to go from here.
I just have one further question for the minister, dealing with another issue that I'd like the minister to come back with a response as to where his department is going to be going with it. It's concerning the Line of Life and the increase in their costs, Mr. Chair. That's undergoing a 25-percent hike, effective in May. Have the minister's officials reviewed this tremendous increase in costs to these individuals? I'm not looking for an answer here today, but if he could bring back an overview as to the recommendations his department has with respect to the tremendous increase in costs - the 25-percent increase in costs - for Line of Life. It's an excellent service. It has proven to save lives, and it's probably one of the better programs.
But the increase in cost to a lot of these individuals is just ridiculous. The federal government increases monthly seniors pensions by a dollar-something a month, and these costs increase by five dollars. It makes a lot of sense.
I was just hoping I could leave that with the minister. Perhaps on Monday he can bring back a full overview on that issue, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The Line of Life is actually a private society. It's a registered society. They were registered in 1989. They are a non-profit society. They have one part-time paid position. The rest are volunteers. Their offices are open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Thursday. The service currently costs $22.50 a month, but it will go up in May to $25. There is a one-time set-up fee of $1,000. There are 55 machines. There are presently 42 clients.
We cooperate with them in the following manner. First of all, for individuals who cannot afford the monthly charge, social services is covering the cost.
The alert rings directly into our ambulance station. At the ambulance station there is a card for each client. There's a duplicate kept at the hospital. The card contains pertinent information, such as address, age and allergies, so that the ambulance crew, at the time when they receive the signal, pull the card. It registers automatically. They call up the client, because it could be that the alarm is being set off accidentally. They call up the client to determine if, indeed, there is an ambulance required. If there's no response, the ambulance is dispatched. In some cases, at the ambulance station they keep a key for the residence.
The society itself is supported by the Lake Laberge Lions, who give them proceeds from their annual Rubber Duck race.
They did receive some federal funding initially. The issue has been brought up to me about, will this impose an extra hardship on individuals? As I said before, for individuals who do have a problem with the charge, we do cover the charge, if a person requires it and their means don't cover it through SA. So, it is something we're aware of. We'll have to take a look at it in greater detail, but we are aware of the issue. We think it's a valuable program and we're willing to continue offering it space through the ambulance station.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the minister, earlier today, talked about Watson Lake and the needs assessment for continuing care in that community. He said, at the time, that there was not an adequate needs assessment done in Watson Lake. Now, I know that there had been an informal needs assessment done by the community on what the needs were in that community. Now, the minister must have a real grasp on what's going on there. Perhaps he has done an adequate needs assessment for continuing care in that community, because he has said in the House today that he is convinced that the real need in Watson Lake is for seniors housing, and palliative and respite care, which can be delivered at the hospital. Has the minister done a needs assessment in the community and, if so, I'd love a copy? If he hasn't done a needs assessment, is he going to do one?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, as a matter of fact, we have done a needs assessment: community consultations on home care and continuing care needs in rural communities. We have the population 55 years and older. Currently, there are nine home care clients. There is one current resident at Thomson Centre and no current residents at Macaulay. There are no people on the waiting list for Thomson or Macaulay. There has been one admission to the Thomson Centre since 1993 and three admissions to Macaulay Lodge since 1975.
Home care nursing is done through the Sign Post Seniors through a contract with Health and Social Services. The First Nation has eight adult care workers, who also provide some personal care for the Upper Liard folks.
Services generally meet expectations. There's strong support for keeping people in the community and providing all services in the community. A suggestion that have been discussed - and I discussed this when I was down there - was the idea of increased physiotherapy services, and that's something we're looking into. That's one of the things that people there felt.
There was a suggestion for a facility. However, what they were looking at was a supported independent living facility, not an extended care facility. So, in other words supported independent living. That was clearly what they wanted.
When I went down and met with the folks there, I asked, "What are we talking about? What kind of facility are you talking about? Are you talking about a non-ambulatory clientele? Are you talking about, for example, dementia? Are you talking about people who are bedridden?"
I asked those questions, and they were very specific. "No, no, no." They were giving me the message that what they were looking at is something like a facility where there would be options for meal preparation - options for independent living with, perhaps, some meal preparation. And we've taken a look at perhaps utilizing the kitchen facilities at the hospital to do these kinds of things.
There's been talk about the idea of a day program - some day programming similar to what we've been doing over in the Thomson Centre and hope to expand - and also with disabled children.
The mayor has made some suggestions in that regard and has suggested that it would service people from Watson Lake, Good Hope Lake, Lower Post, Ross River and Liard.
One of the things that I've asked is, do you have guarantees? Do you have guarantees of funding from the federal government? Do you have guarantees of ongoing support from DIAND?
Not to put too fine a point on it, the one thing I would caution is contained in here, and that is the fact that we have astounding difficulty, as noted by the Auditor General, in trying to collect from DIAND. So I've urged the folks from Watson Lake not to put too much stock in that one particular avenue.
There are various estimates of the number of people who would benefit from such a facility, anywhere from six to 30. That's kind of a wide range. The issue of palliative care came up. We have looked at the idea of palliative care in the hospital. There is a large room, with a bed, for the family. In home care, nurses provide care; home support workers are involved in some cases; the hospital is used as a backup, often for last days of care. It's suggested that two rooms could be made available for palliative and respite care. That was one of the things that was suggested there.
What they see as needs in the community, training for workers, Line of Life, an optometrist, a speech and hearing worker, better access to the diabetic clinic in Whitehorse. One of the things that we've done with the diabetes program over at the hospital is increase their funding so that one of the things they can do is get some more community outreach.
Some of the services that they've identified as working well: the van for wheelchairs, donated by the Lake Laberge Lions; some of the programs for the Signpost Seniors; the home care Meals on Wheels; lending equipment. They feel that there's good communication between the Signpost Seniors and the First Nation, community nursing and hospital.
They feel that occupational therapy and PT is working well, but they would obviously like to see an increase.
One of the things that they did identify as other positives was the fact that they have good communication between service providers. They are very happy with the fact of their physician doing home visits.
One of the comments that they've suggested - and I think these are issues that I've brought to my colleague there - is that the Yukon Housing four-plex. They feel it is not being used appropriately because of issues around accessibility, and I've brought that to his attention.
There is a whole variety of issues here that don't relate to seniors, but such things as the new recreation complex that's being built in the town should better meet the needs of seniors. That's one of the things that they've identified.
So, we have done an assessment. We have got a sense. Some of that is contained in our document on growing older in the Yukon - if I just might refer to it.
With regard to Watson Lake, there's a reference here, to Signpost Seniors, the relationship between Health and Social Services, long-term care, issues around continuing care, and so on. So, we have done some work in the community, and we continue to do some work. I've been down to Watson Lake. I've met with the Signpost Seniors and I've discussed with them the prospect of this extended care facility. If they do it, they're proposing that they would build it. Now, I'm not sure where they would get the capital. Presumably, it would come from the town or from the federal government or whatever. They didn't talk to us in terms of capital.
They talked to us in terms of daily stipends. If, for example, they would build it and there was a need for people there to be in it, would we pay the daily stipend? We have said that we would be willing to look at that. However, I did raise some cautions. I raised some cautions on the DIAND funding, which I said they should be cautious about and make sure that things were written in stone, and I also suggested that they would really need to look at the level of care they were offering.
There are also issues around staffing and some other things.
But I was quite clear on the idea that if they wanted to get into that, it would basically be on their nickel because right now we're focusing our attention in some other areas. And the report that I just quoted seems to be suggesting the real need being in doing some modifications with the hospital in terms of respite and palliative.
We've already taken some steps in there, in terms of modifying a tub. I've been down; we've taken a look at some rooms. We've had some discussions with the director of the hospital. She's very amenable to those kinds of changes; we're willing to undertake them and to accomplish them.
It may involve some modifications of staffing at the hospital. We're willing to do that. So we've said that we're willing to work with the community down there.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, there are a few interesting things that the minister has said over the course of the afternoon.
One of the things that he says is that they would build it. And he's saying now that that's what the community has suggested. I'm wondering where that came from?
Now, we are responsible for health care in the Yukon, and if people are so desperate that they are trying to find some other way to deliver the services that they feel that they need, it shows to me that we're not meeting the requirements of that community.
The other thing that the minister talked about was DIAND guarantees and how they should be leery of DIAND guarantees, and certainly we have problems getting money out of DIAND, that's true. We also just had an agreement with B.C. Why would the community or the Town of Watson Lake be negotiating with DIAND? That is the responsibility of the Minister of Health and Social Services.
And the last thing that really concerned me was that the minister seems to feel that he can measure the fact that people may or may not need continuing or extended care by the fact that they haven't been on the waiting list for Whitehorse facilities, while the minister's own assessment says that people don't want to come to Whitehorse. I know that there was one person in Watson Lake that didn't want to go to Whitehorse to such an extent that he went to Dawson City instead.
It really disturbs me if the way that we're measuring needs in that community is by Whitehorse waiting lists.
I have some real concerns about the minister abrogating his responsibilities in this community and letting the Town of Watson Lake wander around, developing deals in health care in other jurisdictions with other levels of government. What's going on?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, we didn't abrogate our responsibility at all. It appears that somebody has convinced the community that they could make this a go: don't worry about it; go; you can get money from the feds; there's money out here from DIAND; there's money all over the place.
I went down there and they presented me with this, "Oh, we've got it. Don't worry; we've got it." I said, "Where? Where are you getting this?" They said, "Oh well, we know that if we built this, we could get money from DIAND." And, "Oh yeah, there's money that's going to come from here and there."
If we were going to approach this project, we would certainly approach the project much differently. We would do an accurate needs assessment. We would take a look at the kind of facility that's truly needed there. We would make sure that, if we were going to be supporting it through contributions from the federal government, we would have that in place. This was presented to us. Very frankly, I think that what has happened there is that the idea was driven more by an architectural design than by an actual project. We know that we've gone down and taken a look and done consultations; our staff has been down there, and we've taken a look at what resources are available, and we've talked with the folks down there, and our report reflects that.
I've gone down, I've met with the community, I've talked to them about their needs, I've asked them very frankly, "What kinds of services do you think you need here?"
Then we get this idea that appears to have been developed more from an architectural point of view, and I have to say that I'm very cautious about the whole idea of a project being driven by the design. I don't think that's a responsible way to do it.
With respect to are we measuring the demand based on the number of people coming into the Thomson Centre or Macaulay, no. No, that was basically anecdotal. What we were saying was, in terms of levels of need, this is more of a reflection. It was a good evaluation, I think. We're pleased with it.
Mr. Chair, I move, given the time, that you report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 14, First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Monday.
The House adjourned at 5:28 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled March 25, 1999:
Deviation by electoral district in Yukon, 1996 (Ostashek)
The following Legislative Return was tabled March 25, 1999:
Whitehorse Correctional Centre: compliance with orders from various reports (Moorcroft)
Written Question No. 8, dated November 30, 1998, by Mr. Cable