Thursday, April 1, 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?
Recognition of the 75th anniversary of the Canadian Air Force
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, today it's my honour to rise and pay tribute to the Canadian Air Force on its 75th anniversary.
The Canadian Air Force has a history that spans from Billy Bishop, "the lone hawk", the premier ace of the First World War, to its present-day involvement in humanitarian and peacekeeping efforts around the world.
Canada's air force began with the Canadian Aviation Corps, founded in 1916, and consisted at that time of two pilots and one Burgess-Dunne biplane. It became the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1924. Along with its military duties, the RCAF's duties included communications in transport work, forest fire patrols, aerial photography, anti-smuggling patrols and experimental crop dusting.
At the outbreak of WW II in Europe, Canada became the training ground for allied air forces. With the Commonwealth training program, over 130,000 allied air crew received their wings in RCAF schools across the country. And on a personal note, my father was a RAF pilot and trained pilots at the base in Trenton, and that was his first association with Canada.
By the war's end, the RCAF had grown to become the fourth largest in the world. Unification of the Canadian Armed Forces in 1966 saw the end of the RCAF as such, but in 1975, air command was formed, providing a central focus for all air force activity.
Today, the Canadian Air Force focuses its efforts on fostering international peace and stability. Its contributions to humanitarian relief have seen the CAF fly missions throughout the world - Rwanda, Florida, Chile, Japan - to northern Ontario, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Manitoba. Even today, Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Air Force is delivering humanitarian and medical aid to the refugees of Kosovo.
The active role that the Canadian Air Force has taken in the United Nations, NATO and NORAD attests to its commitment to contribute to a more secure environment everywhere. In the words of the model, per ardua ad astra - through difficulties, to the stars.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and office of the official opposition, I, too, rise to pay tribute on the 75th anniversary of the Canadian Air Force.
The Canadian Forces are a deeply rooted national institution, representative of all Canadians. The Royal Canadian Air Force came into its own during the Second World War and continues to this day in protecting Canada's sovereignty, securing our global interests and providing humanitarian relief around the world.
During the Korean War and through the Cold War era to the Gulf War, the Canadian Air Force has undergone many changes over these past 75 years. Indeed, the RCAF has quite a history and much to be proud of.
Today, the challenges facing Canada's air force are those of a more complex international environment that, while for the most part they do not appear to be as threatening as once upon a time, they are still very much a challenge.
You only have to look at the Kosovo crisis, and remind ourselves that there are Canadian pilots there participating in that conflict. Conflict is still very much a real and dangerous reality today.
Despite these challenges, not to mention budget pressures incurred over the recent years, the Canadian Air Force continues to place strong emphasis on professionalism through solid training and experience, the end result being a core of extremely professional airmen and airwomen who have served, and are serving, Canada proudly.
While we are familiar with the activities of the Canadian Air Force outside of Canada's borders, one of the most essential roles has been to protect the lives and properties of Canadians in times of crisis. I refer to the recent storms in eastern Canada and the Red River flood that struck Manitoba - all of in which the Canadian Air Force played an integral role assisting those provinces in dealing with the hard times and dealing with the aftermath.
Let us not forget the air force's role in search and rescue, especially in the north. Here at home, the RCAF played an important role in the growth and development of the Yukon. In fact, many of our citizens who reside in the territory today are the children and grandchildren of members of the RCAF who were posted to the Yukon during and after the Second World War.
We salute the role the Canadian Air Force has played in Canada over the years helping to preserve democracy and uphold the freedom and rights that we as Canadians enjoy today.
Once again, congratulations to the Canadian Air Force on its 75th anniversary.
Mr. Cable: I rise also, on behalf of the Liberal caucus, to pay tribute to the Royal Canadian Air Force.
The first Canadian air force, the Canadian Aviation Corps, was formed during the First World War. The Corps consisted of two officers and one ground crewman.
During the First World War, 22,000 Canadians served in the Royal Flying Corps, the Royal Naval Air Service, and then the Royal Air Force. Over 1,500 would die in action.
Reorganization of the force started in 1922 and was completed on April 1, 1924, 75 years ago today. And that's the birthday of the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Canada declared war on Germany on September 19, 1939. The RCAF at the time had a total strength of 4,061, with 20 squadrons and 270 aircraft.
During the war, the strength of the service grew to over 100,000 men and women, and many squadrons. After the war, the strength of the air force was greatly reduced, but the service continued to play a significant role in NATO, both in Canada and abroad. Our air force has played a role in both the Gulf War and the events that are now going on in Kosovo. When we tend to think of the RCAF, we often tend to think of the lone wolves, the Billy Bishops and Buzz Buerlings, our fighter aces from the two wars, but there are many others - men and women - who have served Canada over the years, and we pay tribute to them and the service they belong to, the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Creation of Nunavut
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of all Yukon people to mark a truly historic occasion for Canada, and for the northern circumpolar world.
Today, we welcome Nunavut into the Canadian family. I am confident that all members of this Assembly will join me in wishing Premier Paul Okalik and his government the very best as they embark on the first stage of this historic journey.
The name Nunavut means "Our Land" in Inuktitut. The land it refers to takes in one-fifth of Canada's total land mass. It spans three time zones and stretches from the high Arctic islands in the north to Baffin Island in the east and to the shores of Hudson Bay in the south.
With a total area of two million square kilometers, it is larger than any Canadian province and much larger than many nations.
Nunavut's geography has helped shaped a common sense of purpose among the Inuit people, and the creation of this new territory is evidence of how much a united community can achieve together.
The people of Nunavut can rightly take pride in what they have accomplished. Without their dedication and persistence at so many different levels, we would not be celebrating this day.
Mr. Speaker, today we are gaining an important friend and ally in our efforts to strengthen the bonds that exist among northern circumpolar jurisdictions. Intergovernmental cooperation is vital if northern concerns are to be properly addressed in national and international forums.
The creation of a third northern territory presents an opportunity to strengthen our commitment to pursue an active role in circumpolar affairs. Our government considers it essential to be part of the ongoing dialogue in such areas as sustainable development, environmental protection, research, trade, technology transfer and education.
We have ensured that the Yukon voice is heard by appointing the Yukon's first circumpolar envoy, and by taking part in bodies such as the Arctic Council, the Northern Forum, the Circumpolar Agricultural Association and circumpolar forums of Health and Education ministers.
From last year's conference on sustainable development to next year's Arctic Winter Games, the list of Yukon's positive involvement with our northern neighbours is far too lengthy to recount in detail at this time.
The core message I want to give to the people of Nunavut is that Yukon people salute your achievement in reaching this milestone.
As northerners, we face many challenges. As neighbours, we also share the promise of great opportunities if we work cooperatively to address those challenges.
Mr. Speaker, we look forward to a close and productive relationship with this newest member of the Canadian family. I invite all members of this House to join me in congratulating the people of Nunavut and in welcoming our new northern partner.
Mr. Ostashek: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and the office of the official opposition, I am very pleased to join with other members in this Legislature in recognizing another historic milestone in Canada's development as a country, that being the creation of Nunavut.
This is indeed an exciting time. Nunavut, I understand, is roughly twice the size of the Province of Ontario, a vast piece of real estate with a population of 25,000 scattered throughout the territory's 28 communities.
The new government of Nunavut will now have an opportunity to address the issues that matter the most to its people.
Unlike other parts of Canada, Nunavut is very different from the rest of the country, with a consensus-style government where MLAs pick the premier and cabinet ministers and where most elected officials are Inuit. Nunavut has been attracting the attention of all Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, like other jurisdictions in Canada, there are many challenges ahead but, with the support of its people and some hard work and endurance, I believe that Nunavut will present numerous opportunities to the people of Nunavut and Canadians at large.
Once again, I would like to take this opportunity to extend our congratulations to the Government of Nunavut and its people, and convey our best wishes for years of success ahead.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: I'm pleased to rise on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus to join with the Government Leader and all members of this Legislature in welcoming the newest member of our Canadian family, Nunavut.
Mr. Speaker, it's an honour to be present in this Legislature and to bear witness to a new Canada, a redrawn map of Canada that recognizes the people of the eastern Arctic with their own territory.
There are many who have contributed to this day, a day when the eastern Arctic has its own distinct voice. We recognize people like Rosemary Kuptana, Tagak Curley, Jack Anawak, and we welcome Premier Paul Okalik. These people have worked hard to ensure that Canadians recognized and heard the voice of Nunavut.
Our caucus would also like to recognize that on this special day of celebration, we have loaned some of our Yukon expertise from the clerks' table to our newest northern sibling in the Canadian family. May this be the first gift of a long and special relationship between Canada's easternmost territory and its westernmost territory.
Nunavut, we welcome your presence, and wish you all the best. May your voice always be strong and true, and clearly speak for the people of your land.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Inuvialuit final agreement
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Government Leader on the Inuvialuit final agreement.
Mr. Speaker, it was a federal Liberal government that - without any consultation with any Yukoners - in a secret land claim negotiation proposed to create the Inuvialuit park of at least 5,000 square miles.
They're also prepared to give about 1,000 square miles of fee simple land to the Inuvialuit, along with the possibility of an additional 10,000 square miles, to create a national park all the way down to Old Crow.
This is what the federal Liberal government tried to do to Yukoners, and now we have the leader of the Yukon Liberal Party - the Member for Porter Creek South - instead of fighting on behalf of the rights of Yukoners, defending her Liberal colleagues in Ottawa.
Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Government Leader: could he advise this House if this government accepts the very liberal interpretation of clause 12.43 of the agreement in the Inuvialuit final agreement that would bar Yukon contractors from bidding on environmental cleanup work at Komakuk Beach?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, I've obviously had an opportunity to review, once again, the Inuvialuit final agreement with officials to determine the appropriate interpretation of that agreement. And it is clear - as it was before to me - that the Inuvialuit final agreement provides a preference for Inuvialuit in all economic opportunities associated with the national park, but does not provide exclusive opportunity to the Inuvialuit for all economic benefits.
One interesting element of this, of course, Mr. Speaker, is that the Komakuk site is not part of the park and would not be part of the park until it is cleaned up, and consequently, the references 12.43 in the Inuvialuit final agreement do not apply to the Komakuk site until after the site has been cleaned up by the Department of National Defence.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I thank the Government Leader for that.
I just want to say that when we raised this issue in the Legislature that day, we got calls from Old Crow, and Old Crow people are very upset with what the federal government is doing here. They're incensed that Yukoners wouldn't have a chance to bid or work on that project. I take from the Government Leader then that they will be making strong representation to Ottawa that our Yukon contractors should at least be given a chance to bid on this job. If they can fulfill the obligation of the contract, then they should be in the running. Am I right in that respect?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, yes, the concern quite simply is this: our reading of the land claim agreement does not command the federal government to provide exclusive opportunities to the Inuvialuit. What has happened is that the Department of National Defence, in 1996, signed an exclusive cooperation agreement - what they refer to as a cooperation - which does provide exclusive opportunity for the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation. This, of course, is of great concern to people in the Yukon who want to bid on available work, and we will be making our views known to the federal government in due course.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I believe that the Inuvialuit should be given some preference when it comes to the Northwest Territories. I have no difficulty with that at all, but when this is in the Yukon, and our own Yukon citizens are being precluded from bidding on it, I believe it's wrong.
Mr. Speaker, there is a lot at stake here. This is a $11-million contract at Komakuk Beach this year, and possibly another $10 million or $11 million next year at Shingle Point. That is a lot of jobs for a lot of Yukoners - jobs that our local Liberal leader, the Member for Porter Creek South, does not believe Yukoners have any rights to.
Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Government Leader: if we can't get the attention of National Defence by just presenting an argument, is he prepared to get a legal opinion on whether or not the Inuvialuit should have preferential treatment or should have sole and exclusive rights to the jobs? Would he be prepared to do that on behalf of our contractors?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, I will do that, Mr. Speaker. I would suggest, though, that the language in the agreements is very clear on this point, and the reference in the IFA to preferential treatment refers to jobs associated with economic opportunities associated with the park.
Now, the Komakuk site was separated off until it was cleaned up. So, the terms of the cleanup of the park, in our estimation, do not fall under the provisions, which allow for preferential treatment for the Inuvialuit in this particular case.
There are other sections of the IFA which do refer to economic opportunities for the Inuvialuit in their traditional territory and, in those cases, the language in the Inuvialuit final agreement suggests things like the best bid, having regard to price, quality, delivery and other stipulated conditions, shall be awarded. It speaks to the Inuvialuit receiving a reasonable share of contracts issued. That language suggests, first of all, that there is an open bidding process and secondly, there is a sharing of opportunities. While we would like to see First Nation organizations and governments receive economic opportunities, there is nothing in this land claim agreement, nor in the Yukon land claim agreements, which offers exclusive opportunity to the exclusion of all others.
Question re: Wood pellet industry study, sole-sourced contract
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Economic Development on the issue of sole sourcing.
It appears that the federal Liberal government isn't the only one that likes to sole source large contracts. The Minister of Economic Development sole sourced a prospectus on the Takhini Hot Springs at some $65,000 to an N.W.T. consultant and, besides that, he has now sole sourced a contract to a B.C. company to cost share a feasibility study on the Yukon's wood pellet industry and its suitability and use in district heating projects.
It appears that neither the Liberals nor the NDP believe Yukoners are qualified to do these jobs. Can the minister explain to this House why no Yukon companies were considered to undertake such a feasibility study?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, this particular initiative has to be distinguished, Mr. Speaker, because this is a private/public sector partnership. A company came forward with ideas and put money on the table to move in this particular direction. The main emphasis of this particular initiative is not wood pellets, but rather the district heating concept, and this particular company has alliances with international companies who are well-established, who are in that particular field right now in populations the size of Whitehorse and in communities such as that. Mr. Speaker, that's why we entered into this particular arrangement.
Should we decide, based on the outcome of the study on the district heating, to proceed, then we would ensure that Yukon companies were given some opportunity to participate, either in the provision of fuel of one source or another, or in some other manner so that we can ensure that there was a significant Yukon benefit.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the minister: is he not aware of the waste-wood energy recovery feasibility study that was jointly funded by the Canada/Yukon economic development agreement and the White Spruce Mill Limited of Watson Lake, Yukon project number 4181-192, which was completed in mid-February of 1994? There are some 200 or 300 pages here, Mr. Speaker. This feasibility study includes wood pellets marketing study, plant engineering feasibility study, wood-waste power generation, pellet fuels, as well as other matters.
I want to ask the minister why he hasn't done his homework, and why is he going out and reinventing the wheel when we paid over $100,000 for this study, which addresses all the things that this minister is doing this time for another $100,000, and having it sole sourced to an outside company?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, first of all, the member is comparing apples to grapefruits. What we're talking about with this study is a very specific area, emphasizing the Yukon College, Range Road and downtown area. It is very, very specific. It's not a generic study of the ability to use pellets, Mr. Speaker. It's a very, very specific area that would lead to a very specific project, as opposed to a broad-stroke study like the member opposite just raised.
So, Mr. Speaker, that's a very, very significant difference.
As well, Mr. Speaker, I have to reiterate to the member opposite that, should the Government of the Yukon decide to proceed, it's very clear in the agreement that we would ensure, and we have the ability to ensure, that Yukon companies have the opportunity to participate if there is any movement forward on this project. That is something that we would insist on as a government. The reason this company was involved was because there was a public/private partnership where they had knowledge and expertise and put money on the table.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, this one here that I'm waving around is a public/private partnership, too. The minister hasn't done anything new. He's just gone and tried to reinvent the wheel.
This addresses the very issue the minister is talking about.
My final supplementary to the minister: can you explain to this House why 50 tons of wood pellets were purchased from a local supplier here - Yukon-made pellets - to be test-burned at Elijah Smith school, but the results of that study have never been made public? Why not?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I have to say again to the member opposite the main emphasis of this particular study is on a specific area for district heating.
Mr. Speaker, the issue of the pellets is one potential fuel source. There are other ways that this particular feasibility study will investigate how a district heating concept in a specific area could be initiated and powered.
So, Mr. Speaker, I want to say to the member opposite that we will also ensure that Yukoners have an opportunity to participate should this project move ahead.
Now, I know, Mr. Speaker, the role of the opposition is to criticize everything that government does, after saying time and time again that the government doesn't do anything. But sometimes it gets a bit tedious to the Yukon public when we bring forward over 50 initiatives in the latest budget to try and move the economy forward and the opposition says we're not doing anything. When we take risks and move ahead, the opposition criticizes what we do. It's a significant pattern, but we believe Yukoners want to see their government take this kind of action.
Question re: Wood pellet industry study
Mr. Cable: I have some questions, also, for the Minister of Economic Development, on the same topic. And I've asked the minister several questions on this Autumn Industries contract, which is a cost-shared feasibility study of Yukon's potential for wood pellet manufacturing and wood burning. And I've got some further questions on the deal.
We have this agreement with Autumn Industries setting out that Autumn Industries is going to provide an assessment of existing wood pellet manufacturing plant to meet the expected demand. And if the assessment indicates the existing demand, Autumn shall provide a feasibility study for the expansion of the existing plant or the creation of a new pellet plant.
So here we have a B.C. company coming into this territory, potentially recommending competition for a Yukon manufacturer - all on the taxpayers' nickel.
What protection does our existing Yukon pellet manufacturer have against this government-subsidized competition?
Hon. Mr. Harding: That's patently ridiculous nonsense from the member opposite. Mr. Speaker, it's hard to know even where to begin with the fallacies put forward by the Member for Riverside.
Mr. Speaker, first of all we never know quite what the Liberal position is going to be. One day they stand up and say they're for local hire, the next day they're against local hire and say the government of the Yukon has no ability to try and create more opportunities for Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, this is public/private sector partnership, where a company has come forward with an idea, with a strategic alliance, with major expertise, and with money on the table to try and initiate a study on a specific project to move things ahead in this territory with regard to district heating.
Now, if the member opposite is opposed to that, that's fine. But what I want to say to him is that this government will have the option to proceed or not, based on the outcome of the study. We'll ensure that anybody in the business will get some opportunity to come forward with some alliances with this particular company to try and ensure there are some Yukon benefits, so that people who are already in the business of working with firekilled or residual wood - or pellets, for that matter - will be able to provide some impetus behind this economic initiative.
Mr. Cable: We're not against the proposition at all. What we're wondering is whether some good-talking salesman has drifted into our territory and the minister has jumped out of the water and bit on it like a trout.
Have we got the best deal? That's the question. So, just so we're clear: is it the minister's intention to have Autumn, itself, as a potential pellet manufacturer, in competition with our present manufacturer?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The only way, Mr. Speaker, that we would participate in anything is if it moves ahead on our terms, and those terms would be the enhancement of existing initiatives that are already underway in the Yukon.
So, Mr. Speaker, what we want to do is ensure that there's not competition, but greater markets for the people of the Yukon who are already in business today. I can't understand, for the life of me, why the Liberal Party would be opposed to that.
Mr. Cable: Let's just get the answer to that question clear. Is it the minister's intention that this industry, Autumn Industries, shall be a potential pellet manufacturer in competition with our existing pellet manufacturer; that's either by themselves or in this public/private venture that he's talking about, this public/private partnership?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, what we're trying to do is enhance the market so that there's cooperation and furthered economic growth in this territory. The Liberal Party, I guess, is telling us that that is not a good objective for the government. I would argue that, to have a district heating source that could use fire-killed and residual fibre, Mr. Speaker, might be one that some Yukoners would support. There is also a lot of job-producing opportunity involved with this particular initiative.
I think, as well, Yukoners have come to this government and said, "It's a shame we've had $25 million in fire-killed wood damage and we're not doing anything with it to as great an extent as we could be." There are some people presently working in that business, but we'd like to enhance that.
So, that's what this public/private sector partnership is all about. They came forward with knowledge, with expertise, with an idea and put money on the table.
Question re: Immigrant investment fund
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have some questions for the Minister of Economic Development. The Yukon gold fund allows immigrants to move to Canada if they put up a $250,000 investment. This program expired at midnight last night. Can the minister tell the House how many investors were signed up, and what's the total amount of the investment?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, we're still tabulating the final results. A lot of the applications and forms come in from agents throughout Asia and around the world, but we have, as I announced at a recent Chamber of Commerce luncheon, exceeded our expectations. We exceeded the minimum investment of $3-million subscription, and when I left for the trip to Asia to go and help market this fund, we predicted that we would raise between $4 million and $7 million, and I think that we will be able to do that.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the minister stated that the government has raised at least $3 million in the Yukon gold fund. In B.C., two years after the NDP announced its fund, $11.2 million had been raised, but not a single penny had been invested in B.C. projects.
Now, the NDP here and their friends in Victoria are too close for the comfort of many Yukoners. Does the minister have any idea when some or all of the money that's been collected might be spent here, and what projects it might be spent on?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, the alliance that really scares me between the Yukon and B.C. is the alliance between the B.C. Liberal Party and the Yukon Liberal Party, and the Liberal Party in B.C. is staunch opposition, and we know, of course, that the Liberal leader here has put out news releases about expanding those ties between the Liberal Party in B.C., the one that's opposed to the Nisga'a deal and the land claims arrangement down there, and the Liberal Party up here. That's the alliance that really worries me.
But with regard, Mr. Speaker, to the question, we will be meeting sometime in June with Hong Kong Shanghai Bank of Canada Capital Corporation who are the investment advisors for the fund as it's laid out in the prospectus looking at the potential investments here in the territory.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, there is now a new federal immigrant investor program in place, with new rules, and it's my understanding that the Yukon government, along with all the other provinces except Quebec, have agreed to participate in the new program.
Is the Yukon government planning to start a new fund under the new program, and when would that fund be in place?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, we have asked the federal government for an extension on this fund, and we are not alone. Some of the smaller jurisdictions like Prince Edward Island have a fund and have asked for an extension as well.
Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, we've not had much cooperation on this initiative as of yet from the federal government, and we think that's detrimental to smaller jurisdictions like ours who need the capital. These funds are much more important to a population of our size than they are to bigger provinces like Alberta or B.C. - or Ontario, for that matter.
We're still hopeful the federal minister, whom I met with just a few weeks ago, will accede to that request that we've made.
With regard to the new fund, that's not going to be ready till June. There are still numerous questions and, in the transition to this new fund in June as we develop a marketing plan for it, we would like to see the transition period filled by an extension of the fund that we currently have out in the market for raising capital through the immigrant investor program.
So, there are a lot of ifs and questions still out there with regard to this new federal program that have not been well thought through, and I think it would serve Yukoners well if the federal minister extended the present program and fund we have.
Question re: Wood pellet industry study, sole-sourced contract
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, my question is again to the Minister of Economic Development on his fiasco over the wood pellet industry and the way he's handling it.
The minister didn't answer the question when I asked him why the results of the test burn hadn't been released. Mr. Speaker, that leads me to believe the minister didn't even know anything about it, because he could have answered better than that if he had.
I suggest to the minister that the results have never been released because the test has never been completed. A furnace broke down and they didn't get a small part that they needed. Mr. Speaker, we have in the Yukon a pellet manufacture, we have furnaces that will burn pellets, and we have the government, instead of doing a test burn to compare the benefits of it to other fuels, going out and entering into a sweetheart deal with an outside company, giving them preferential status.
I would like to ask the minister why he would do that when he has all the facilities to do the test himself?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The big fiasco is that question by the member opposite. Mr. Speaker, we don't have all the information about the specific district heating concept. This is a specific area that's being considered, a specific initiative. A company came forward with money on the table, with an idea, with expertise in communities internationally, about roughly the same size and larger than this community of Whitehorse. It allows us to move ahead with regard to enhancing the existing industry in the territory.
There is no district heating system in the Yukon presently, and that's the focus of this study. I plead with the member opposite to understand that.
Mr. Ostashek: I plead with the minister to be upfront with Yukoners and tell them that he goofed, because that's exactly what he's done here. He talks about public/private partnerships, a company coming forward with money. They had the expertise. Mr. Speaker, that's exactly what happened here in 1994, addressing the very issue that the minister is standing up here today and continuing to go on and on about, that's going to give us such great benefits. It's all here. It just needs to be implemented. It's in his own government's department.
I want to ask the minister, if the government is so interested in this as a fuel source, why didn't it at least complete the study of the Elijah Smith Elementary School? Why does this government continue to ignore the capabilities of Yukoners, and continue to go outside for expertise, when they already have it?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, the premise of the member's preamble is completely wrong. In terms of the total value of business contracts in this territory, this NDP government has increased from that member's administration of 59 percent to 89 percent - by 30 percent in terms of local business contracts.
Now, Mr. Speaker, that's an enviable record. I know the member opposite is quite burned by that.
The member's premise is wrong. The study that he holds up speaks nothing about the specific areas of the district heating concept that's being envisioned at the college, the downtown area, as well as the Range Road steam plant.
Mr. Speaker, this is a much different project. This is a specific project, and it's going to be used, if the study is moved forward, to try and enhance existing business opportunities in the Yukon to create opportunities for Yukoners. The Yukon government will not agree to anything that doesn't enhance opportunities for Yukoners and be another piece of the puzzle, in terms of creating economic activity on a more sustainable and diversified economy in this territory. That's the objective of the Government of the Yukon - nothing more, nothing less.
The member opposite is shooting blanks.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, I guess we have to educate the minister. I'm going to table the executive summary of the report that was done - the waste-wood energy recovery energy audit - and I want to read one clause out of the executive summary: "The process includes taking clean, raw, waste-wood, transforming it into densified wood pellets for burning in wood pellet appliances, such as heating systems for homes, commercial and industrial buildings." It covers the same area that the minister's talking about now, Mr. Speaker.
I want to ask the minister: will he take the time to do what he should have done before he went out with that contract, and read the study that's there now, and come back to this House next week prepared to answer some questions in an intelligent manner?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I won't touch that one - that soft lob from the member opposite. But I will say to the member, once again, that that is a generic study. This is a specific area.
This, Mr. Speaker - if the member would listen to what's being envisioned - would result in some activity in a specific part of this community and of this territory this fall.
The study that the member just tabled is generic - about the potential for commercial and industrial buildings, wherever they may be. This is specific. This will result in action - not a study to be buried on a shelf - if it makes sense economically, and that's what the study's about.
And if the Yukon government is satisfied that Yukon companies - Yukon business people, Yukon workers - will benefit from entering into furthering this venture, that is public/private sector partnership. They came forward with ideas, with money on the table, and with expertise on district heating. This is a specific project.
Question re: Wood pellet industry study
Mr. Cable: Thank you, Mr. Speaker - same topic and same minister.
I asked the minister the question twice - whether this outfit, Autumn Industries Inc., could be, when the smoke clears, a potential pellet manufacturer, and I have not yet got a clear answer.
Could this outfit, which is going to come in on the taxpayers' nickel to assess the business and set up the projects - drawing up the specs, presumably - be one of the potential pellet manufacturers in competition with our existing manufacturer?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I will say to the member opposite the same thing I've said all along. We don't envision that this particular initiative will result in competition for existing businesses. We want to try and enhance the existing businesses. So, if this particular initiative makes sense - and we're talking about fire-killed wood and utilization of only residual wood - and they might want to form a partnership with this district heating outfit, then that would be a help to those businesses, not a hindrance, and it would employ more people. It's pretty basic economics.
Mr. Cable: It sure would be a help if we hadn't locked ourselves into a two-year option.
Now, the projects are going to succeed if, in fact, we can get the machinery costs down and if, in fact, we can get the harvesting costs down. This agreement does not deal with an analysis of harvesting and the projects could very well fall on the harvesting costs.
What is the minister and his department and this organization, Autumn Industries Inc, going to do about the harvesting costs? Are they going to look at them at all?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, the Yukon hasn't locked itself into anything because the agreement, in section 8, clearly says, "if the Yukon decides to proceed". That means that is under our terms - what we define, as a government, as being a benefit to Yukon workers, Yukon companies, Yukon people. There is no locking into anything.
The member opposite is putting forward a weak argument. What he's saying is that this government shouldn't take initiative in a public/private sector partnership to deal with a specific project when a company comes forward with knowledge, expertise and money on the table.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the feasibility study will look at different fuel sources. The member is right about one thing, that harvesting costs have been one of the issues raised in regard to the feasibility of utilizing fire-killed wood in the past, and I think that that has be the subject of some of the analysis of the study.
Mr. Cable: No. What we're saying is that we don't have to drag along this B.C. company on our taxpayers' nickel to discover the obvious. It has already been done; the work has been done.
Let me ask the minister this question: has the minister, or any of his officials, approached our Yukon pellet manufacturer for advice on the agreement, or advice on the feasibility of enlarging the pellet industry?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite, once again, has it all wrong. There is no expert in the Yukon presently on district heating who has alliances with companies, internationally, that are doing this kind of thing in Sweden and around the world, in climates just like ours. This is a district heating concept, a very specific project. Nobody's being dragged along here.
What we're trying to do is form some alliances between existing Yukon companies and companies with knowledge, internally and externally, that can try and work out arrangements that are going to benefit the Yukon. That's the whole point. The member shouldn't be so internalized that he can't see the forest for the trees in terms of this project. It is district heating. That's the primary emphasis.
The issue around pellets, Mr. Speaker, is one that we know there's already existing product being supplied in the local market, but are there ways, in terms of this study, that we could find an opportunity to provide them a bigger market, and to provide a district heating concept, which is something we haven't utilized here in the Yukon very much, which I think has good potential for Yukoners.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed with 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.
Bill No. 14 - First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000 - continued
Department of Health and Social Services - continued
Chair: Committee is dealing with Bill No. 14, First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000. We are on the Department of Health and Social Services. Is there further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: When we left debate yesterday evening, we were dealing with the dental issue in Watson Lake and the initiatives that this government hasn't taken to attract and retain dentists to rural communities.
I do have a bit of good news for the minister since raising the issue of the lease for the dentist in Dawson. His department officials obviously were instructed to do something and the extension of the lease was granted on the government buildings to the city - that just came through yesterday - and the lease with Dr. Schoener is now in place for the five-year term he originally requested.
So, we've put one issue to bed for awhile in rural Yukon with respect to the provision of health care services, but we still have outstanding the issue surrounding the on-call fee for the doctors in rural Yukon. The news reported, and reported correctly, that it is an issue that the YMA is not prepared to discuss - the on-call fee for rural doctors.
The minister, in previous discussions here in the House, Mr. Chair, was putting all his eggs in one basket as to that being the direction that we're taking. Well, the information I have is that the YMA won't discuss it this time, didn't discuss it the last time, and clearly indicated and conveyed that message to the Government of the Yukon - and on the previous occasion. So, we have three occasions where the YMA has refused to deal with that issue and said that it's an issue that has to be dealt with between the rural doctors themselves and the Government of the Yukon.
Is the minister prepared to do something now, or is he going to hide behind some other words? You know, if the minister doesn't come forward with accurate information, the minister is going to trip over his nose very soon.
Chair: I'd like to remind members not to suggest in any other way that members may not be telling the truth.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm afraid that the member's information may be inaccurate. At the negotiation sessions held last night, the government clearly indicated that the request for rural physician compensation was something that we wanted to discuss. We placed our position on the table, and I believe that we're meeting again next Wednesday to pursue this along with other issues.
I should say that we have clearly indicated that this is an issue that we want to have resolved, and we want to have it resolved within the context of the overall negotiations.
Now, it may be that the YMA, in making reference to this, was referring specifically to the Dawson doctors' situation. Beyond that, I can't really say anything more because, as the member's aware, when we get into negotiations, discussions that are going on there are embargoed.
I was briefed this morning on the initial negotiations, and we've instructed our negotiators accordingly.
Mr. Jenkins: But let the record reflect that the total payments for medical services in rural Yukon remain the lowest on a per capita basis for Dawson City.
The minister's department's own figures clearly indicated that the costs per person in Dawson City are $147.36 per person for the last reporting period that they indicated in their correspondence, and for Faro they're $191, and for Watson Lake they're $248.20. So clearly, currently, the provision of health care services to Dawson, to the Dawson residents and the area residents of Dawson, is one of the lowest in rural Yukon.
Now, why this minister is not prepared to sit down and just resolve the issue - because it's been an ongoing issue that has been on the table for an extensive period time - defies the imagination. The minister throws out some figure that the average wage of rural doctors is $180,000 and that's simply not the case - simply not the case, Mr. Chair.
The doctors in Dawson receive considerably less. In fact, the one individual I spoke with clearly indicated that it was 40 to 45 percent less than what is being suggested. So, these averages that the minister uses, he uses them to his own advantage when it suits the occasion.
I guess the reality of the situation is that we have to look at the total payments for medical services made by the Department of Health and Social Services for services to Dawson City residents, and that number is the lowest per capita cost of the three larger rural Yukon communities, Mr. Chair, and that is a fact.
This grandiose figure that the minister has out there is just that - it's an average and it's skewed by the situation in Watson Lake and the minister knows full well that that is the case, but he's not prepared to stand up and clearly identify what skews the numbers.
He has managed to grasp an average number and take that average number and use it to his advantage. What we are dealing with is the provision of health care. It's not a game. It's a reality of the minister's portfolio and a responsibility of it.
Now, why the minister simply doesn't sit down and seek a resolution with the physicians, once and for all, because it would appear that the on-call fee that he's proposing to negotiate through the YMA is probably going to be, once again, rejected by the YMA. What is the minister going to do this time if, once again, the YMA rejects negotiating the on-call fee for rural doctors? What's the minister's next step, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We have always maintained that the resolution of this issue has to be within the overall context of negotiations. We have a global figure that is available to us in terms of compensation and benefits package for physicians. I'm not prepared to cut side deals for one group, and then go back to general, overall negotiations with physicians. We have said, "This is the amount; this issue has to be resolved within the context of that. That's our position."
Presumably, if the YMA decides that they don't want to touch this in any way, then that would clearly indicate to me that negotiations are no longer something that is being sought.
What we have maintained is that we feel that this has to be done in an overall context.
Now, the member is suggesting that I have taken a number and am trying to bandy it around. I haven't taken a number. I've basically said that this is the average.
The member said he's talked with one physician who doesn't get that and, in fact, gets less.
I would suggest that that is probably more a reflection of the individual's time at practise. If a person chooses to work 50 percent of the time, then it's quite clear that their remuneration will reflect that, but that's a personal choice. If a person chooses to work part time, then they obviously can't expect to get the norm. I mean, that's simple reality.
I guess what I'm asking is that - he said that it's the lowest rate in the Yukon. Is he suggesting we double or triple or quadruple it, or whatever?
I should also point out that one of the things that's clearly ignored in this is the fact that, while he seems to be suggesting - and I think he is; I think this is the tenor of his comments - that somehow Watson Lake is dramatically skewed. I think what he's suggesting is that there may be some over-billing there. What he neglects is the fact that there is a unique situation existing in Dawson, which is that the physicians in Dawson operate out of the health clinic at no cost to themselves in terms of rent.
That is not an advantage that the physician in Watson Lake has. That physician there and his colleagues operate a fully-staffed clinic, with all the amenities of a clinic, and he maintains that. That's a major difference and I would suggest, in terms of the physicians in Dawson City, the fact that they do have that space is a positive net benefit for them. Now, he seems to be ignoring that in this entire equation.
If he were to take a look at physician compensations across the country, particularly fee-for-service physicians, he would understand that many physicians give up somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of their income in overhead. In the case of physicians in Dawson, I think that's not a significant issue for them, because they don't have to maintain the space, they don't have to maintain the utilities, and so on.
Moreover, I would suggest that how much a physician makes is a reflection of the amount of time that they spend in practise, the number of weeks in practise. So, it is my understanding that the physicians in Dawson have, in some cases in the past, been absent a good portion of the year, so quite obviously, that's going to impact on someone's income. That makes eminent sense to me. Is he suggesting that a person that works a certain portion of the year should get the entire, full remuneration? I would suggest that's not the case.
When he makes reference to the fact that we have taken this to the YMA, we have asked the YMA to look at this to see what kinds of resolutions they can suggest. We have also identified the whole resolution of the question of on-call compensation as a key element. It takes two to tango, and in this case, we don't go into negotiations and say, "Give us everything you've got. We don't have any issues." This is our issue. These are some of the things that we want resolved. That's what we've done.
The first meeting was last night. Both parties put out their initial position. We're meeting again next Wednesday. I expect that there will be some developments in this regard, and from what I gather, too, one of the physicians in Dawson was a participant in that meeting, at least by conference call. So, the member cannot suggest that the issue would not be brought forward.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the issue is terribly skewed by this minister's use of figures, figures that serve his cause. The $180,000-or-so figure that the minister uses as the average remuneration for a rural doctor is based on a number of factors.
The department says that there's only a requirement for 2.25 or 2.75 doctors in Dawson City, Mr. Chair, and -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Well, now it's three, but prior to that it was two point something - and it's in Hansard; I could find it if I had to, but it was two point something.
But if you take the number of doctors who actually practise there - and Dr. Parsons did take a sabbatical, the first time in 12 years, that I'm aware of, but the rest of the time he's probably been, on average, putting in a 60- plus hour workweek, as has his partner in the practice, Dr. Crocker. Now, that's a fact. And there are currently three doctors there, and you can see the amount of time over the years that these doctors have devoted and dedicated to their practice. And when you extrapolate their income, it is certainly not in the range that the minister suggests.
The other area that really bothers me, Mr. Chair, is the minister constantly throws out, "They get free rent." Well, they don't receive free rent in total. There's an offsetting entry from the City of Dawson to provide space in the waterfront building, so that the doctors and the nurses can be housed together in one building.
This goes back quite a number of years, and I was involved in the negotiation with the federal Department of Health. It precedes Dr. Walker, and Dr. D'Aeth, and it was resolved and put to bed a long time ago. And the only thing that's happened since the original negotiations took place with the federal government is this government and the federal government have been chipping away and removing a whole series of benefits that the doctors in their practice were allowed. They've removed them - taken them away.
The other area that I'd like the minister to give serious consideration to is the impact he is going to have on our visitor industry. One of the reasons that Dawson went to the extent that it did back in 1980 to attract a doctor was because of the tour companies that were coming in to Dawson and the number of seniors on those coaches. The principals in those major tour companies wanted a review done of what medical facilities were offered in Dawson. One of the stipulations was that there be a doctor on call. We had that.
Now, the minister is going to hide behind saying he doesn't have any responsibility there and it's not his area that he should get into because they're only responsible for the health care of Yukoners, and then when they do provide health care to First Nations, they bill the federal government for it - they don't get paid, mind you - but then for any visitors, it's not an issue.
When you have a community of the size of Dawson and you're looking at establishing an economic base, this is one of the necessities, Mr. Chair. The same situation reared its ugly head in Beaver Creek a number of years ago, and a nurse practitioner was stationed there during the summer months to resolve that issue.
So, it was addressed by the government of the day at that time in Beaver Creek but it's not being addressed in Dawson City at this juncture. Again, another double standard is being created by this government. They go on time and time again.
I know the minister is going to take the hard line. He's not going to address his responsibilities. I don't see the issue of on-call fees for rural doctors being resolved because the minister doesn't have the will to resolve it.
Probably he doesn't have the intestinal fortitude to resolve it. I don't know what it's going to take to bring it to a head. I hope it's not someone's untimely death, because that, Mr. Chair, is probably what it will take for this minister to react, and shame on this minister, Mr. Chair - shame.
We look at the dental situation in Watson Lake and the minister's suggestion that it's not going to have an impact of any magnitude. Well, how does he know that? I guess it's the same as the on-call fee for service for rural doctors. Probably the minister's going to suggest that it won't have an impact of any magnitude. I hope he doesn't get a toothache in Watson Lake when he's down there, and it needs immediate attention, because now the residents of Watson Lake will have to travel to Whitehorse, as the residents of Dawson City did just over a year ago, unless they could time their toothache, or their dental problem, with the arrival of the dentist that this government pays to travel the Yukon. I guess we'll have to time our maladies and our toothaches to coincide with the arrival of the dentist.
Is that what the minister's suggesting? Is that what he wants to see happen?
There are many, many issues surrounding the attraction and retention of health care professionals to rural Yukon, and the minister is not doing a good job. He's not doing a good job with respect to the nurse practitioners; he's not doing a good job with respect to doctors; and he's not doing a good job with respect to dentists; and he knows full well.
Now, here's a government that represents, by and large, rural Yukon.
I don't know why they're not addressing this area and their responsibilities in that regard, Mr. Chair, but let's move on. We'll let the minister off the hook. We're on the record for those issues.
Let's look into the issue of the social assistance and where we've gone this last little while. Could the minister indicate what the payments are for social assistance for the various regions of the Yukon? Are they up or down, and what's the current trend?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: First of all, the little diatribe by the member there on every and sundry issue that he could think of is simply that. It's a diatribe. It's not based on anything except his own conceptions. I would suggest, Mr. Chair, that the member take at least some guidance from your ruling before about insulting language, which this member seems to feel is par for the course. He can insult people and then if he, in turn, gets back a little of his own medicine, he begins to weasel and whine around that. However, in this case, I will not rise to his bait. He is merely petty. He is merely bombastic. Schoolyard bullies - I've seen them before.
Let's just go to the topics that the member raised earlier. He has asked in terms of region, and I presume he is seeking region only. In 1996-97 the amount of SA - well, I'll go back to 1995. In 1995-96, it was $1,107,961; 1996-97, $1,147,918; 1997-98, $1,413,487, and computers anticipate it to be about the same.
Mr. Jenkins: Do we have a breakdown as to the trends by community throughout the Yukon, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Does the member wish individual communities? Which individual communities would the member prefer?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can give the member the statistics for these. I don't have them broken out in comparison terms, but the total for 1998-99 for Carcross is $97,479; for Carmacks, $62,526; Dawson City, $147,582; Faro, $370,982; Haines Junction, $101,993; Mayo, $42,080; Old Crow, $2,166; Pelly Crossing, $12,825; Ross River, $18,264; Teslin, $33,267; Watson Lake, $76,600; and Whitehorse, $5,758,809; for a grand total of $6,714,573. That's from April through December.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much. Given the percentage of the population in Old Crow, in Ross River and in Pelly Crossing that are of First Nations, given the amount of money that has gone in there for social assistance, and given the fact that the First Nations and Indian Affairs have their own social assistance programs, are there any issues of First Nations accessing our health and social services in these areas when they have access to another system?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: These, presumably, would be people who are not beneficiaries of that individual First Nation. We do have a charge-back system with DIA, and that is one of areas that they do actually pay on.
So I'm presuming that these would be people who, for one reason or another, are not beneficiaries of that individual First Nation and, therefore, don't receive social assistance.
With respect to health, people access our generalized health programs, and basically that's reflected in our base with the transfer of phase 2. It carried over money - actually phase 1 - it carried over money that is reflected in our base. So, for example, in medical services, we deliver those.
There are yet a series of services that we do not cover - that are the responsibility of MSB, which includes such things as the so-called non-insured benefits - pharmaceuticals, opticals, dental for First Nation individuals.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister's indicated in Old Crow, Ross River and Pelly there is a charge-back. Just what of the total amount is charged back to Indian Affairs? Does the minister have that - and if it's not broken down by community, certainly there must be an overall figure, because I'm sure this exists in other areas of the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We would have to get the actual charge-back for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: Can I look forward to a legislative return with a breakdown of all these numbers, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We will endeavour as soon as possible.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much. Now, one of the social assistance cases that was discussed extensively, and named in this House, was that famous individual, Mr. Bemis. Could you tell the House how we're doing on the recovery of the outstanding amount that was advanced to Mr. Bemis?
It is a public issue, and it's been on the record for quite some time.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The gentleman in question pays regularly, every month.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's move into another area: hearing assessments. In the Yukon, the seniors have been waiting for as long as six months to have a hearing test performed. Has anything been done by the department to resolve these delays, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes. Actually I had addressed these questions for the Member for Riverdale South earlier but, yes, we are trying to reduce the current workload with the recruitment of an additional audiologist.
As I indicated before, we have sort of set some priorities in terms of preschoolers getting priority, and then children are coming back for reassessments because they've already been seen and we're monitoring them - particularly, those with ear infections. Also, priority is given to cases with current medical conditions, and those folks are generally booked in two to four weeks.
Mr. Jenkins: So, there is some improvement, and we're down to two to four weeks now for a hearing test.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Only for those individuals with current medical conditions. Clients are also referred to the hearing specialist who comes in to the WGH specialist clinic. The effort is made to assess those people prior to that appointment so that they're ready for a complete diagnosis but, as I said earlier, we've been focusing most of our efforts on preschoolers or school-age kids who have ear infections.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess seniors don't count as much as school-age children. I'd suggest to the minister they count equally, and we probably have a reduction in hearing levels by more. It's a situation that's associated with our aging population - the loss of hearing - and it's becoming more and more important to test for it on a continuing basis. I'm still at a loss as to how long it's going to take to get a hearing test performed.
When is it going to be resolved, and when is this new individual going to be hired and in place? When are we going to have a resolution?
The minister continues to tell us, in grandiose detail, what they're doing, but when will something be done?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I indicated that we're in the process of recruiting right now. It's not a question that seniors are any less, but we do have issues of preschoolers going into school. There are questions up here of, particularly, middle ear impedance with many of our children, which has an impact on those children going into the educational system.
When a child goes into kindergarten - and particularly in the primary grades - so much of the educational process that goes on is highly dependent on oral language. For example, some of the standardized tests that we do on children in kindergarten - such things as the Peabody and the Brigance, and tests like this, because the children don't have symbolic language skills at that point, and they are highly dependent upon being able to hear clearly, being able to understand, being able to articulate properly when they're engaged in oral language.
There's a very clear correlation between the amount of oral language available to a child and their likelihood of success in reading.
So we have been cognizant of that and have been trying to concentrate our efforts on children. As I said, we're in the process of recruiting an additional audiologist.
Mr. Jenkins: Now, if we could move into another area with the minister, Mr. Chair, over a year ago the minister gave a ministerial statement in the House about the Yukon being invited to enter into negotiations leading to an agreement on a new employability assistance for people with disabilities initiative. Then, reading further on in the minutes of a meeting of Health and Social Services last June, it was reported that the Yukon and the N.W.T. had decided not to sign the agreement, as the feds - those wonderful Liberals in far off Ottawa - felt that the contribution toward a new agreement would reduce transfer funds to the Yukon.
Well, just where are we at with respect to this agreement? Is it going to be signed? Have we worked out some arrangement? Or is the minister equally adept at negotiating a new agreement with the feds as he is with the rural doctors?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm advised that, basically, Finance is carrying the point on that, because it has to do with the fail-safing aspect of our formula. So they have been doing the communications with regard to the federal government there.
We were concerned about the negative impact on ourselves so, consequently, we have said that we are not willing to go down that route until we get some resolution of this issue. Basically, the agreement hasn't been signed, due to a disagreement regarding the treatment of revenues.
That's what it is, essentially - the treatment of revenues under formula financing.
We have had an exchange of correspondence. I received a letter from Finance Minister Martin in January that reiterated that the federal position to the Yukon has to be treated in the same manner as provinces when it comes to revenues from the EADP agreement. If the federal government agrees to treat revenues received by the Yukon in the same manner as VRDP revenues were treated, the Yukon will proceed with the signing of the agreement.
The Yukon will not suffer any net loss in revenues as a result of not signing this agreement, because there is a failsafe provision in the formula financing.
So, we are continuing to express our disagreement with the way that the federal government has handled this. We essentially see this as being a unilateral action by the federal government in changing the terms and conditions of the formula financing. I have indicated, both to Minister Pettigrew and to Minister Martin, that we are displeased with how they are treating it, and we have had some discussions.
The reason that Finance is involved in it is because there are some concerns about the precedent that this would create for treatment of revenues under formula financing, so therefore they have taken the lead on this.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I recall, when I responded to the ministerial statement, I raised some concerns, because a portion of the funding under the vocational rehabilitation of disabled persons program was for alcohol and drug services, and the minister shared my concern. I was just wondering if we've got all that back into the new program or if it's a wash. Are we going to be transferring equal dollars and equal responsibilities, or are we just going to be enhancing one section of the program and reducing other sections of the program and sawing off the dollars, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Because of the failsafe aspect, we haven't lost anything at this point. Our concern is, in signing this agreement - essentially because the federal government has changed the terms and conditions - if we acceded to this, that would essentially allow the federal government to change the terms and conditions of any agreement, including formula financing, without any consultations.
We aren't losing anything by virtue of not signing, at this point. What we are going to do is to accede to this unilateral action by the federal government. If they could change this, they could change another agreement willy-nilly, and we're not willing to do that.
We've basically expressed our displeasure to the federal government at how they are planning on doing this, and therefore we won't sign it, until we get resolution of this case.
Mr. Jenkins: Perhaps now the minister knows how the doctors feel, in his heavy-handedness of their seniors and heavy-handedness of the federal Liberal government in its dealing with the minister of the day here in the Yukon. I'm sure he can relate to that, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We pay the physicians in Dawson, and I should remind the member that I don't have the great-looking hair that Minister Pettigrew has.
Chair: Mr. Cable.
Mr. Cable: Speaking about good-looking hair.
I have a question for the minister. I asked him last session, I think, what his department was doing on debt counselling. He gave me a return on it, and my recollection is that there's a contract between the government and Nimco & Associates. People are referred to the contractor for general counselling, and then, if thought necessary, they are moved on to debt counselling.
Is that arrangement still in place?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I believe it is, but I'd have to confirm that that is still in effect and that those are still the principles involved but I haven't heard anything to the contrary.
Mr. Cable: Okay, if I can get a return on that, I'd appreciate it. In the return, could the minister indicate the number of instances where the counselling has included debt counselling, because I think the contract with the government, if I understand it rightly, is broader than simply debt counselling? It's family counselling and whatever. Could I get the minister to make that commitment?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, we'll get that for the member.
Chair: Is there further general debate?
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I'm not going to go back over all the ground that the critic for the Yukon Party went over, but I'm a little concerned about the answers the minister gave on the $40 million outstanding from the federal government.
The minister alluded, in his remarks, it really didn't matter because it's offset in the formula anyhow. I think that's a poor attitude to take; that if we didn't collect it, it didn't matter, because it was offset in the failsafe of the agreement. I believe I heard the member say the other day that, as far as the interest went on the thing, it didn't matter, because it was offset, but I think that's a poor attitude to take.
This has been an ongoing problem with the federal government, and I believe the minister should be taking far more dramatic action to try to collect it. It takes a lot to get the federal government's attention. Once you get their attention, you can usually make a deal with them. The minister himself has said, "Well, DIAND's probably got bigger fish to fry." And they probably do, but $40 million is a tremendous amount outstanding to a small jurisdiction like the Yukon.
I just want to inform the minister that this is not the only area where the federal government owes us money. We're still trying to collect for the evacuation of Old Crow seven or eight years ago due to a forest fire. We're still trying to collect for the evacuation of Pelly Crossing during a forest fire in 1994-95. They'll admit they owe us the money, yet they never cut the cheque.
What our critic was trying to do was get a commitment from this minister that he's going to take far more dramatic action - not to the extent of refusing services to First Nations people; that's not the issue at all. The issue here is that at some point the territorial government must be prepared to draw a line in the sand and say, "Enough is enough," and come to some agreement as to what it is that's bothering the federal government, negotiate it and have some schedule of payment that is more conducive to the fiscal management and responsibilities that the government has in dealing with the territory's problems. Forty million dollars could go a long way toward helping us out in a lot of areas, in putting Yukoners to work and providing better health services to Yukoners.
So, I would just like to ask the minister if we couldn't encourage him to take a much stronger stand before we come back to our budget debate next spring. Take the gloves off with the federal government and say, "Enough is enough; we want our money, and if you have some dispute over this money let's get some people together and find out what that dispute is, let's resolve it and let's get our bills cleaned up."
Could we ask the minister to make that commitment?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I've directed the department to put all the effort and resources that they can muster into this over the next couple of months. We do have one positive indication on that, and that is that the regional director general of DIAND has lived up to his commitment to have a person put on this from the B.C. office. That individual is here and has been in contact with our finance officer, trying to resolve some of the outstanding questions.
So, there seems to be some measure of motion on the federal side, but I can tell the member that we are going to commit whatever resources we need in this regard to try to get this situation resolved. Hopefully, with an improved attitude locally - and certainly the regional director seems to be living up to what we've asked him to do - we can get some motion on this.
Mr. Ostashek: I'd appreciate that from the minister. The fact is fine that we've added the regional director's cooperation. That's good. That's a step in the right direction but, again, if we get - this shouldn't be rocket science at all. Either the federal government is going to pay us for those services or they're not and, if they're not, then they have to have a legitimate reason why they're not. Otherwise, we can resort to the courts to do whatever's necessary to collect the money.
What I what - what I know my critic wants, and what I want - is to see this government take a much harder stand with the federal government in trying to collect the monies that are owing to Yukoners. We are now going into devolution. I know this is not the minister's department, but I just want to draw it to his attention. I asked the question on devolution about the outstanding charges for the evacuation of the rural Yukon communities for forest fires - it's never been paid for yet. Are we going to write them off now that devolution's come along? This is what happens - it goes on and on and on, and the federal government pretty soon walks away.
I would like to see this government set a time period, and say, okay, we have the next six months; we're going to negotiate this out. If at the end of six months we haven't got a solution to this, put the Government of Canada on notice that we're going to take a much harder stand.
The fiduciary responsibility for health care, social services and child care for First Nations people is the responsibility of the federal government. We're delivering that service, we're billing the federal government for it, and we need to know what the ground rules are so we don't have this ongoing battle.
I think it's time that this minister drew a line in the sand and said, enough is enough, or pretty soon this is going to be $50 million or $60 million, and they're going to give us $5 million or $6 million. I think, when we were in office over there, there was an outstanding of almost $27 million, and I think we finally had to settle for $7 million.
So, the longer it goes, the less chance we have of collecting the amount that we're keeping on the books as outstanding to the federal government. So I encourage the minister to do that.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We certainly are taking a firmer stand. We've given the federal government a period of - I believe the letter indicates that we expect some positive resolution by the end of May, and if we don't appear to be getting what we consider to be sufficient progress, then we'll have to re-evaluate our other options, possibly including legal options or whatever. This has dragged on too long, and we expect to have this resolved, and we expect to have: (a) a formalized agreement in place to prevent this kind of thing in the future, (b) we expect to have a person assigned to this so we can get greater action, and (c) we expect to start seeing some of the money flowing to us.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I will ask the minister if he can tell us when that letter was written, and could he share a copy of it with us?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That was following a meeting with the director general that occurred on March 6. This letter was written on March 9, and it summarized basically the discussions that had been held between the deputy minister and the staff from DIAND and, basically, what it does is reiterate the agreement that was done at the meeting, including: the status of the agreement; putting a person on the file; payments on the accounts; that the regional director general would seek to get interim payments; and there was also some resolution of outstanding questions on the services that we had delivered, particularly in the Thomson Centre and Macaulay, which the federal government was disputing and suggesting that those were indeed acute care when we were saying that no, that they were continuing care. And I can provide a copy of this letter for the member if he would like.
Mr. Ostashek: I have just one further question. The member may have answered it to the critic. I'll ask it, though, and if he has, that's fine. He can just say he has, and I'll look it up.
Has there been any change in the number of staff in the Department of Health and Social Services between this budget and the last budget, a year ago?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: There are a total of 40 in this regard - 25 were positions that have been added from us assuming responsibility for the former NNS, the Northern Network of Services home. That was under contract, and the recommendation of the group home review suggested that government take it over directly, because of the nature of it.
The other part was us assuming responsibility for the alcohol treatment, and then there were 15 positions that had been funded out of new programs. These programs are programs that were largely driven by the increased revenues from the health accord - CHST.
So for example, when we take a look at that, we're including positions such as the hospital to home, the staff for the seven beds at the Thomson Centre, and so on - and the ambulance.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, this causes me some concern because 40 - what's the overall staff in the department?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Including those, it would come to 550.23 FTEs.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, just off the top of my head, that's about an eight-percent increase in one year. It seems that there's a trend under this administration to move away from having services provided on a fee-for-service basis and the government doing it all themselves. That causes me some concern because, as the minister is aware, in the Yukon, according to the statistics, on a per capita basis, we have twice the percentage of people working in government as we have in the provinces and other jurisdictions in Canada. I believe we are 16 or 18 percent compared to eight percent somewhere else - or 36 percent compared to 18 percent, it is. I don't have that figure in front of me right now. A dramatic increase. And it seems that the shift under this government has exacerbated that a lot more. We have an eight-percent increase. Where's it going to stop? Does the minister believe that this is the goal - I mean, is this the objective that this government is moving to, to get away from service organizations providing these services and the government doing it all themselves? It seems to me a very costly way of providing the services.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No. Actually, for example, if we take a look at the conversion of the former Northern Network of Services over to ourselves, that was a recommendation of the group home review. It was felt that, because of the nature of the program that was being brought in there, it needed greater specialization, greater training, than could be delivered with the group that was there, and the recommendation actually was for us to take it over.
With respect to some of the other positions, these are positions that actually flow out of adding on services, for example, the addition of the continuing care beds, the addition of the expansion of the diabetes program.
I'll give you a breakdown of these. We've added 2.25 in terms of ambulance calls because our ambulance demand is so high. We have one of the highest call-out rates for ambulances and ours has been steadily increasing, so we've had to add on extra staff in terms of ambulance calls.
We've added on 1.5, which was for the diabetes program in terms of community nutritionists and so on. We've added on an additional .7 in nursing staff to work with the healthy families program. We've added a float nurse. We've increased staffing, as the member was indicating before, with the idea of helping with hearing assessments, and so on.
So, some of these positions come out of new programs that were brought in and the other positions come from us assuming responsibility of some services that we had out with groups like the Northern Network of Services before.
Mr. Cable: I have some questions on the Young Offenders Act and the new act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act. I asked our researcher to get me a copy of it and it's entitled, quite coincidentally, Bill C-68. The printer must have been just a-smoking because it turns out it has 197 sections. I'm part way through it and I want, in a few minutes anyway, to ask the minister some questions on where he sits on some of the issues that are raised.
Who's actually leading the analysis? Is it the minister's department or the Department of Justice?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We are, because we have responsibility for family and children's services. However, we have consulted with Justice. As a matter of fact, when we went through it with our officials, I sat down with the Minister of Justice, and we took a look at it, because we had both made recommendations to the parliamentary committee that came around. Both the Minister of Justice and I had made representations there.
Because some of the principles involved in this are, we feel, very consistent with some of the direction that Justice is going in the territory, we both sat together and went through it bit by bit. But the analysis was done primarily by family and children's services. The director of family and children's services is also a member of the bar and has looked at it from a legal aspect as well.
Mr. Cable: Is there anyone other than the director of family and children's services involved? Like, is there a committee struck to look at this rather extensive bill?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, we do have a working group assigned to this under the direction of the director of family and children's services, because there will be issues that flow out of this and we have to be able to see what the implications are for us.
Just initially looking at it, one of the areas where that we think we may be at a bit of an advantage in the interpretation of this bill, where perhaps other jurisdictions are not, is that there is a tremendous emphasis on alternative kinds of measures, and we have been, probably more so than other jurisdictions, engaging in alternative measures - things like family group conferencing, things such as juvenile diversion.
So we feel that, in some ways, we are well-positioned to work with this bill, because in many ways it's consistent with some of the trends that we've been doing anyhow. So, after getting a chance to look at it, we think that there are some positives for us here.
Mr. Cable: I want to get into the bill in some detail. I've got part way through it; I haven't finished it. And I want to ask the minister his position on some of these issues, and I'd also like to go over those recommendations that are found in the minister's letter that he jointly signed with the Minister of Justice - that's the letter of September 24, 1998.
Just before getting into that, though, I wonder if the minister would flip over to page 8-18 - the stats on young offenders. I just need some clarification - page 8-18 of the O&M portion of the budget.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: We'll need some time to get some stats, which is why I want to alert the minister now. I don't want to get into the lines.
We have under the "Number of Occurrences" the "Sentenced to Secure Custody, 112". That, assumedly, would break down either into people who had multiple charges or who did two times around.
Then we have the "Number of Individuals per Category" under "Sentenced to Secure Custody, 55".
I'd like to find out whether the number of people who are circulating around the youth centre are repeat offenders or whether those stats are primarily related to multiple charges.
Does the minister follow me on that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I understand what the member's suggesting. I don't have those stats broken out, but what I can do is find out how many of those young people are actually repeat offenders.
Mr. Cable: The reason it would be useful to find that out is that I'd like to find out what the minister's department is doing to combat recidivism, if in fact those figures are displaying a fairly significant amount of recidivism.
What sort of programming is going on up at the youth custody facility?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Just off the top of my head, we have programs for - we are involved in alcohol and drug programs for young people, we are involved in anger management programs for young people, we are involved in educational programs for young people. Of course, there are programs such as recreation and so on for young people, but we do have a variety of programs that are aimed at helping young people resolve some of their issues, whether they are alcohol or anger or conflict resolution and things of that nature. We have fairly active programming up there, and I can provide the member with a list, if he would like, of some of the types of programs we have at the centre.
Mr. Cable: Is there any sort of evaluation done as to the effect of the programming? I suppose the main evaluation criterion would be what the rate of recidivism is for people who have been subjected to the programs.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would have to get that in further detail, as to whether they're formal evaluations or if it's done, basically as the member has said, by just seeing if that individual has gone through a program and has returned. But I'm sure I could provide that for the member.
Mr. Cable: The Minister of Justice is carrying out, or has carried out, a study at the Correctional Centre with respect to adult offenders in relation to the effect of FAS, I think, on offenders or on offences.
What is the minister's department doing at the youth facility? Are we studying FAS and its effect on criminal activity?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No. At this point, we focus our energies on looking at some diagnostic tools and the mechanism to do some documentation of incidents of FAS. I think I spoke earlier about the idea of making it a reportable condition, and we're proceeding with that. We'll hopefully get it on to the legislative agenda.
I'm not sure if there's a measure of formalized identification of young people having FAS at the youth centre. I suspect, and I would have to suggest that this is speculation, that it probably occurs in terms of educational programming, if anyone is classified in that regard. Young people who go in there are assessed for educational levels, and so on, so I imagine there is a measure of testing and a measure of, probably, educational files following kids through. But at this point, no, we haven't done anything formally.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I'm a little surprised at that, because I know that we've embarked upon identification of FAS in the adult institution. I mean, everything I've heard about FAS and people who are afflicted with it is that a lot of them end up in the justice system at one time or another. I would think that we would not only identify these people in the education system, maybe prior to falling afoul of the law, but we'd also certainly be identifying them once they reached the young offenders facility, and developing programs for treatment, or something, on how we could deal with these youth, so that they don't sort of graduate, so to speak, from the young offenders facility to the adult facility, to another adult facility in southern Canada, because they just keep carrying on.
I just wonder if the minister has thought much about developing an overall comprehensive program that would start right from identification of the children from birth, as the doctors have agreed to work at that type of a program, and tie it into an overall program, so that we can track this all the way through, as opposed to - it seems to be kind of an ad hoc approach right now, where the minister said, "I think we identified them in the Education department."
I would hope that the minister would know more than "I think we would identify them", that he'd know that we either do or we don't, and we treat them or we don't treat them.
Wouldn't the minister agree that it would be a useful exercise to put together a comprehensive program with respect to FAS, tying in with what the doctors are doing, what we're doing in the jails with the adults, with youth and tying it in with the Department of Education and developing something overall? I think everyone here has been talking about a comprehensive program for a long time and it seems that this is crying out for it now. I just wonder if the minister is thinking about that and if he would give some kind of commitment that they would try and develop such a program, at least to track from one to the other.
I mean, we do have a protocol agreement between Education and Justice, but it seems to me that the minister, by saying, "I think they're identified in Education" doesn't appear to me as much of a priority. Because if it were a priority, the minister would know about it and they'd be dealing with it and we'd have a pretty good handle on it.
So, I'm concerned that it isn't a priority and possibly it could be and should be. Does the minister think that that warrants developing a more comprehensive program with respect to FAS?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We certainly would like to have a comprehensive approach to this issue. As I indicated earlier, I think what we need to do is attack this on several fronts, including issues around adult offenders, and so on.
One of the issues that I have raised is on the question of adolescents. We're advised that, increasingly, as young people reach adolescence, it becomes more and more difficult to truly identify someone with FAS. This is what our medical officer of health has said. Many of the sort of physical markers, at that point, are not as evident. So, that's one of the issues.
I would suspect one of the problems around this, as well, would be a variety of privacy issues that would have to be resolved.
We've just looked at the idea of the initial sort of screening and we've discovered that there are privacy issues there - who can have the information, how can the information be accessed by other individuals. It is something that I think we can look at on a longer term. My goal right now is to get the idea of FAS as a reportable condition into the works, get that underway, and then I think move from there.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, I can understand what the minister is saying about it being harder to identify in the adolescence group, but that again points to a real need to identify it at an earlier age and work within the school system.
I mean, when we talk about identifying individuals with FAS, no one in this House is talking about posting the names of the individuals on some kind of a bulletin board or something. I mean, I think the government departments of Education, Health and Justice have overlapping responsibilities, and surely there must be a protocol agreement that is airtight enough that the agencies involved with these children can share information and share it legally.
I mean, I know there are privacy issues, but on the other hand, it's a serious medical issue as well, and I think the minister knows, as we all know in this House, that in some of our communities, FAS is fairly widespread. And governments in the past - and I mean all governments in the past - have said that there's a problem, but everyone has been kind of nervous about going out and identifying how widespread the problem is.
I know First Nations people and others now are crying out a little more for the need to carry out more thorough identification, and not to label people but primarily to treat people. That's where I think we have to put a lot of emphasis in a real hurry, because, I mean, the information that I received when we were in government - and I'm sure if it's not the same, it's probably increased since the minister has been in government - is that there is a real problem out there.
It's a problem that works its way through the school system and then ends up in the court system, inevitably. It may be harder to identify them when they're adolescents, but we can't wait another year or two to start identifying them. We've got to start doing it now. We've got to start getting a handle on how big this problem is going to be, because it's going to take a lot of resources. I mean, these kids are different kinds of kids, no doubt about it, and require a great deal of resources to treat this kind of condition.
So, I just wonder what the minister is doing from his Health portfolio with respect to education. What kind of initiatives are being carried out at the present time to strengthen the protocol, or improve the protocol that was there before, to work with the doctors from the time of birth, or whatever, or from the first time the doctors identify someone, to going through the education system prior to the adolescent period? What are we doing now that we weren't doing before, or what are we planning to do now that we weren't doing before?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That is, indeed, one of the issues that we're wrestling around with, because, in developing the idea of FAS as a reportable condition, one of the things that we have to do is provide - well, there are a couple of things we have to do, but one of them is to provide the doctors with a diagnostic tool, which has been recommended by our medical officer of health. The second thing, and we've consulted with the privacy commissioner on this, is how should the information be available, and to whom should it be available?
So, for example, if a child is brought to a doctor or a doctor suspects, based on physiological science and maybe an understanding of the family background, that this child has FAS and proceeds with the diagnostic tool and can make a good diagnosis that this child is, in fact, FAS - obviously sharing that information with the parent or guardian - what kind of mechanism has to be in place, then, for that information to be shared with, say, for example, educational authorities?
What kind of releases would there have to be for a parent to say, "I'll give you permission to release this information on my child to -" whatever, whether it's the CDC, or whether it's the school system. And then, how would that information in itself be handled internally, within the school system? How would it be handled within the public health system?
I think that these are some of the things that we're wrestling around with right now, and that's why we've gone to the privacy commissioner to ask for some advice, and, as I indicated to the Member for Riverdale South, when I brought this forward to my caucus colleagues to discuss, these were a couple of issues that they asked me in turn to have clarified.
But it's our intention that if we can get those kinds of things resolved, we could bring the legislation forward. That would mean, for example, we have to wait for every child to be born to go through it. That would allow the family physician - or a nursing station or a nurse practitioner or public health nurse - to suggest to the parent that, even for a child who is perhaps school age, they might want to have their child seen by a physician - the physician sees it, and can make that information available.
But I think there are issues here of privacy, or issues of ensuring that the information is protected, and it's safeguarded, and it's exchanged in the appropriate ways. I do know, from my time in Education, that one of things that would sometimes surprise me, and sometimes I'd find a bit disturbing, is that even in Education, even within that one department, sometimes pertinent information on a learning disability would not follow a child.
I can recall many times at a high school level that the first revelation you would get of the learning disability would be when you would sit down with the parent, and you would say, "Well, so-and-so seems to be having problems with this", and the parent would quite blithely say, "Oh, that's because he has some kind of short-term memory impairment", and you would say, "What?" And you're searching through your papers and discover that there's a file out there that was supposed to follow that child through and didn't.
I think what we have to continually work on is a better exchange of information, a better working relationship.
Now, we have had, I think, what I consider to be a fairly good success at Jack Hulland Elementary School, with the resource room up there, where many of those students are, in fact, involved with our social services, and we have a good, ongoing working relationship between Social Services and Education, specifically for those kids. I think it's a very good model, and I noticed him earlier today, but he's no longer here. I have to give credit to the previous principal, Don Roberts, for proposing this, and the present principal at Jack Hulland for working out this particular relationship.
That's the kind of positive thing that we can do, but it's something that I would like to see - a better exchange of information, particularly on the social side, with Education. I think there have been some good ideas ventured by educators, and I think we can work with them.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, what bothers me about this a little bit is that I, at one time in my political life, was the Minister of Education, and this was the very same problem I had. We sat down with the three departments and said, "Work out a protocol agreement," and they did. I had thought for a long period of time that everything was - this free exchange; I mean, that's the direction that was given the departments: work it out - solved, and I learned a few years later that there still are some problems. It's a little more complicated than just exchanging views.
I would have thought, especially with something like FAS, that this would be an extremely high priority, and that there would be some real resources dedicated to all the departments involved - Justice, Health and Education - to get this protocol in place so we can exchange this information as quickly as we can.
Now, I respect the rights of somebody for their privacy, but FAS affects more than just the individual who has FAS.
You have to identify the child for a couple of reasons: one, to provide treatment for the child; but, two, so that a child just doesn't end up getting dropped into a school or a classroom and because the behavioural problems disrupt all the other kids' activities in the classroom and takes a great deal of the teacher or the teacher's assistant's time, simply because they're not identified and, maybe, in some cases, shouldn't be put in that classroom in the first place. There may be other ways to deal with the problem.
This has continued since, I mean, probably before my time as a Minister of Education, and certainly, it's continuing today. I just think that we've got to kind of put a sunset clause on this, where we say to everybody, "Get it done and get it in place." Because I understand that there are more and more of these kids coming into the system all the time, and we know there are more out there. And so I think we've got to move on this as a very, very high priority for the sake of the kids who have FAS, and for the sake of all the other kids in the school, and for the teachers.
I mean, I spoke to some teachers in some of our remote communities who have told me that in some cases it's a disaster, and teaching is almost impossible in some communities on some days because of the problem. You know, they're very dedicated people. First of all, they go into the communities, spend a great deal of their time in school and after school hours working with the community, but the burnout is very high because of problems such as this that they're forced to deal without, in some cases, the adequate resources to deal with them. It happened under the previous government, and I'm sure it's happening now, and even the previous government before that, but it's a problem that I think everyone now, including the current minister, has recognized as a serious problem.
And so I'd just like to see a government - and this minister is the government at the present time, at least for a year and a half - move on getting something going so that we get a protocol agreement allowing us to really share real information.
We can really treat these kids and we can really deal with these kids through the education system and, hopefully, not have to deal with them through the justice system at a later date.
So, I just wonder if the minister has planned to say to the department, "Look, this has gone on long enough. By the end of this year, I want something concrete. I don't care what we have to do. This is a very serious issue. We're going to dedicate some more money to it. We're going to get the legal advice we need. We're going to work as hard as we can to do it, but by December of this year we're going to have a protocol that works." I wonder if the minister would consider something like that.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Of course, we can consider it. The reason I mentioned the Jack Hulland program as being an example of where that protocol can actually translate into practical action is that we can exchange information very readily with Education or Justice, and so on, on children who are in our care. Legally, we have that right. The problem really resides in children who are not in our care for whom we cannot compel the revelation of information.
One of the reasons that we're so interested in the idea of doing FAS as a reportable condition is because we think what that would do would be to provide parents with a measure of assurance that the information is being arrived at in, I suppose, a scientific way, that it'll be treated with discretion, and so on, and perhaps there will be a greater willingness to allow that information to be exchanged.
One of the things I think we would probably use as a positive selling point is that by making this information available there may be an opportunity for your child to get, perhaps, greater attention in certain programs and try to break down some of that resistance. That would be one of our hopes with making it a reportable condition.
We can work effectively, I think, wherever we have that legal right to do it, and that's why, for example, the Jack Hulland program has been an example of the way you can work, but I'm sure the member can appreciate that there are some legal inhibitions in that regard. It's mainly that aspect that restricts us from stretching it out a bit farther, but it is something we would like to be able to enhance and to develop to an even greater degree.
There are also issues, for example, with the transference of a person.
They're held on my every word, Mr. Chair.
One of the issues I think is a young person, who has been in care and who has maybe been a ward of the department, reaching that age of maturity. Where do they go? What happens at that point, particularly when a young adult with FAS, who has been well-known to the department, perhaps through a variety of support mechanisms, reaches that magic age? What happens to them at that point when they then move into the formal adult justice system? We've had some discussions with Justice in that regard. We've had some discussions with non-governmental groups who have that as a principal concern as well. Is there perhaps another mechanism for these young people, some sort of supported living, and things of that nature?
So, those are some issues that we are wrestling around with, and we're determined to try to get this issue resolved to the best effect for all concerned.
I have a measure of constructive criticism here - yes.
So, I hope that's of some assistance to the member.
Mr. Phillips: Well, it is of some assistance, but it doesn't solve the whole problem. And I can understand where the government has the ability to share information about children that it has some control over and has responsibility for. I know there is a privacy issue involved, but there is also a public issue involved. I mean, these aren't children that are just misbehaving as children do from time to time. These are children who have a disease or a sickness, through no fault of their own. Their actions have a profound effect on themselves and a profound effect on others, and so this isn't like my son or the minister's daughter lipping off to the teacher or doing something silly in the classroom or at home, which they do from time to time. These are children who have a medical problem, which affects them and everyone else, sometimes. And so, I mean, surely, the public issue and the medical issues have to override the privacy issue in some of these cases.
I mean, if the parents don't want to do anything about it - I mean, if you think about it, in all cases with FAS, the parents caused part of the problem. And so, if the parent was part of the problem in the first place and then doesn't agree to share some information with others, it really complicates it for us. So surely, there has got to be a way - for the good of the child who is afflicted with FAS, and the other students and the teacher and everybody in the classroom and the justice system - that we can share this information. I mean, if we have to change the law, let's get at it. I mean, I'm sure there has to be some consultation and some discussion with various groups and individuals, but this is an extremely serious problem in the territory, and it's getting worse almost day by day.
My understanding, from what I heard when I was a minister, is that an FAS child could cost the government up to $1 million in their lifetime. That was a figure that I think was thrown around at one time, and that's an enormous cost to society - and that's just the dollar-value cost. It has nothing to do with the ramifications it'll have to others in the classroom, to the teachers, to the school system in general, to the child itself, and where it's going to go when it's all over with, other than incarceration.
So, there's got to be a commonsense solution to this problem. I think that we can be moving a lot faster than we are in getting together a protocol. I mean, if it involves changing some laws, let's find out what laws it involves changing and debate that in the House, or go out in the public and ask the public how they feel about it, and debate that.
I mean, FAS is a problem, and it's like a neon sign that every year gets bigger in the Yukon. We're going to have to deal with it, one way or the other, and the most expensive way to deal with it is to ignore it. I know we're not ignoring it completely, but I think that we can be moving faster and doing more. I mean, I'd like to see us come in here this fall, if we need to change any laws, in the legislative session, and bring something concrete in that really deals with the problem.
Would the minister consider doing that? Maybe he can answer the question. From the advice he's got so far, does he feel there need to be any laws changed? Are they federal laws, territorial laws? What type of laws are we looking at that we might have to change to allow for the free exchange of ideas of people who are ill?
I know there are other diseases out there where there must be some precedent set with sharing information with respect to people who are afflicted with some kind of disease that not only affects the person affected but affects others as well.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, to some degree, the laws that would govern this would be the laws that we've been working with on the idea of making it a reportable disease. The existing laws are our Public Health Act, which allows for exchange of information on certain communicable diseases.
This is an interesting case because, rather than being a communicable disease where there is, as in a communicable disease, a clear public health issue - and even with public health issues there are also, I believe, issues around a certain protection of confidentiality, unless the person is probably willfully negligent in terms of spreading a disease. Then, I think, there are other steps that can be taken in terms of revealing a person's name and alerting the public, and so on and so forth.
We have gone and discussed with Justice how we would have to modify the communicable disease aspect of the Public Health Act, what kinds of protections we would have to put in place and what kinds of disclosure aspects we would have to get in place. We talked it over with officials at Justice and we've got some advice from them and we've got some advice from the privacy commissioner.
In a larger sense, I would imagine - and I'm not a lawyer and I'll resist the temptation to make a pejorative comment - there are constitutional issues involved in this that we would have to examine.
I take the member's point that there are concerns around this and it is something that we can be looking at in, I suppose, a longer term, more comprehensive aspect.
I can certainly raise that with some better legal minds than mine. But I should also emphasize that one of the things that we have done is we've recognized the nature of this problem. We have invested greater resources into prevention, with the healthy family initiative, trying to get at very early stages of prenatal behaviour.
We've also increased our resources to the CDC to try to do some early intervention with young people who may have this condition. The advice that we've got from our medical officer of health suggests that these are the points at which we should be really tackling these issues, and that's what we've chosen to do.
We will continue to work on this problem; continue to put all the resources that we can in it, and I think working on the idea of the reportable disease aspect will give us a better base of information. It will give us a better tracking system.
And hopefully, what it will also allow us to do is - as perhaps new programs in education for this group become available - it may allow us to access these individuals and try to get services to them. And that, ultimately, is the goal.
I should just also say that, just to reiterate, one of the groups that we have become concerned about increasingly is the young adults. What happens to these young people? They may be in the schools system, they may be receiving learning assistance, they may be receiving remedial attention, and they may find themselves in some specialized programs at the high schools, and so on and so forth. But then, at a miraculous age, what happens?
We have to, I think, bridge that gap. And I think that's where we've had some discussions - and, I think, productive discussions - with some of our friends in the disability community, and will continue to do so.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I agree with the minister. I think early intervention is where it's at. As we all know, this is a totally preventable condition if you intervene at an early enough point where people are not consuming alcohol when they're pregnant.
The problem I have is that I didn't hear from the minister. I mean, he talked about working with Justice and with others - seeking better legal minds than himself, I think, was the terminology he used, and I won't touch that one because it's Good Friday, almost. But I would suggest to the minister, or ask the minister, what time frame does he have in mind? You're consulting with Justice officials now on how to make changes, but what are we looking at? Are we looking at this fall for some legislative changes that will allow us to do that? And what is going to be the process? These are changes that will affect a few people. Is there going to be a consultative process? Are we going to draft these this spring and go to some kind of public consultation, or at least let people know what they're about? Or does the minister plan on bringing them in in the fall and letting people look at them for awhile? How does the minister plan on dealing with the issue?
My sense is that there is some urgency to this matter and that there is an opportunity this fall, possibly, to bring something forward publicly, in early fall, and then have some legislation in the fall sitting where we deal with the matter. Is that where the minister's coming from?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes. With regard to it being a reportable condition, I've had some meetings already with the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society Yukon, and they are in support of this. Our medical officer of health is going to be discussing this with the medical community, and I've also had some discussions with other individuals in this regard.
What I would propose would be that, at a point at which we have draft legislation available, I would want to do some targeted consultations with, for example, FASSY again and probably the Council on Disability. We would probably want to give greater assurance to the medical community about the range of demands, and so on.
If we can get some of these impediments out of the way, I would look at probably doing some consultations on the draft legislation in the early summer and then bringing it forward for the fall - that's our target - and, hopefully, passing it by that point. As soon as we pass it, we can begin to enact it. That's what our timeline is right now.
Just on that, when I met with FASSY, and I indicated that this was my intention, they were very supportive of it.
Mr. Phillips: Well, I'm pleased to hear that we might see something this fall.
Who is taking the lead in this? What area of the department is taking the lead with this whole area of FAS? I know that the former Member for Riverdale South, and I think even the current Member for Riverdale South, have talked about a FAS coordinator for many years - a need for somebody like that - because it is a single and a serious issue. Has the government given any thought or more thought to assigning a senior individual that will virtually - maybe without the name of FAS coordinator - do that role and specifically that role to sort of drive this initiative so that it doesn't get lost among the many other things that Health is doing so that it becomes a priority and ends up ready for the fall?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We have a management group, if you will - people from alcohol and drug services, people from family and children's services, people from our community health - that sort of meet to coordinate these overall activities. With respect to this one specific initiative on the reportable condition, we've had a fair degree of interaction between ourselves, the medical officer of health, our family and children's services and, of course, we've gone periodically to Justice and said, "This is what we're suggesting. What kinds of changes would be necessary?"
We've taken those and we've gone to the privacy commissioner saying, "This is what we're proposing. What kinds of safeguards, what kinds of things do we have to put in place?" That has come back, and we've given it to Justice and had the necessary draft changes, which, I should reassure the member, aren't that huge. I think it's basically about two sections. It's not a monumental change, but what it does allow us to do is to put this condition in in a way so it doesn't have to fit the normal definition of a communicable disease.
So, it's not a huge legislative change, but there are some things flowing out of that that we have to be very sensitive to.
Mr. Phillips: It's not a huge monumental change.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: In the legislation itself, the minister says. But is it going to accomplish what I've been talking about here today, where what becomes paramount is the fact that the Department of Education needs to know all the information about a youth who has FAS or who has been diagnosed as FAS, or is it going to be sort of watered down a bit, where we still have to get parental permission or other permission from other agencies to use it? Because if we're still there, I think we still have a problem. My view is that it's a disease or a condition that affects a lot of people - the individual who has it, as well as other people who are in proximity or involved with the individual.
How far does the minister think we're going to go here? Are we talking the same thing? Does the minister feel that the concerns I have are going to be addressed by this change, that there will be the ability of the government to, say, if a parent or parents of a youth who is diagnosed as FAS, and you say, we want to let the school know, we want to let the school know about the condition and the various things they should know for this child to have programs within the system, and the mother says, "No, I don't want you to tell anybody," or the father says, "No, I don't want you to tell anybody." With this change in legislation, are we going to be able to say, "I'm sorry, we would like to work with you; we would like your consent on this; it would be in the best interests of your child and other children." But if they don't agree with us in the long run, can we still do something?
Is that what the minister's looking at doing? If the mother and father say, "No way", then that's where we're left; it's no way. The child gets put into the school system, and we are still left with the same problem we have today.
So, maybe the minister can tell me how far we're going to go with this.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, we can't go that far, I can tell you that. We'd be into some very shaky constitutional ground, I would suspect.
We could not release information to other authorities without the permission of the parent or the guardian - unless of course we, as Health and Social Services, were the guardian in this case.
That's a pretty slippery slope to go down. If, for example, we could reveal information about a person having FAS, that would also imply that we could release information about a person perhaps having a specific mental condition, or a specific medical condition.
I would suggest that it wouldn't go nearly as far as the member might like, but we would be bordering on some very shaky constitutional grounds, I would suspect, in terms of just privacy concerns.
What we're hoping to accomplish by this is to develop a reporting mechanism whereby people can be identified - based on medical evidence, based on parental history - as having FAS, and to have a certainty of diagnosis in that regard that the information on this condition, in terms of frequency, in terms of perhaps different groups, perhaps in terms of geographic distribution, et cetera, et cetera, can be assessed by the department for our own tracking, whether it's increasing, decreasing, whatever, but, at the same time, having that information protected in such a way that it would not be generally available to anyone who sought it.
So, in other words, a school could not come to us and say, "Well, we suspect that Billy so-and-so is FAS. Can you tell us if he is FAS?" Well, we couldn't do that. We couldn't reveal that information without the permission of the parent. Now, it may come that they say, "We suspect that this child is FAS." There are a number of indicators that people in Education may suggest. If they came to us and suggested that they'd like to put the child in a particular program of a certain kind, we couldn't either confirm the suspicion, even if we had the diagnosis. What we'd have to do is go to the individual's parents and say, "Look, we would like to let the school, in this case, know because there is an opportunity for your child to get into this." or, "We think that they might prosper in this particular kind of program. Are you willing to allow this?"
What we're hoping to do is, by getting the diagnosis, by actually working with the parent on achieving the diagnosis - because it will involve the parent doing at least a measure of revelation of what their prenatal drinking history was and from that point on - perhaps working with the parent in that aspect to move the process ahead, to make them aware that their child has this condition but there are things that can be done.
Maybe, when the diagnosis is achieved, the doctor or the physician at that point can say, "Do you know that there are services available, that there are services at the Child Development Centre, and here's how you go about accessing them," or, "We would recommend that you take the child to public health or the clinic on a regular basis and have them monitored." There are some clear physiological problems that a child with FAS has in terms of issues around cardiac problems and so on. Those are things that a parent needs to be aware of and needs to be monitoring at given times.
We can't compel the release of information. We can't give that information out either to educational authorities or justice authorities without having some kind of a release. We are not looking at that because, quite frankly, I think for us to do that we wouldn't have a hope of winning it on constitutional grounds. All it would really take would be for somebody to challenge that, and we'd be toast. It just simply wouldn't work.
There's no way, unless there was a major - and I think it would have to be very substantial - compelling reason for information of a private nature to be released about an individual without their permission, or certainly without their parent's permission if they were a minor. I couldn't see, for example, that the courts would support that, even if the state, represented by the Department of Education or Health and Social Services, was acting in the best interests of the child - what they felt would be an opportunity for this child to access services in a better way.
I would seriously doubt that the courts would support us in that contention. There would probably be a different interpretation of it if, for example, the information was of a nature that would imperil public health. I guess in a Typhoid Mary kind of a case where you've got a person who would be a major vector of a very highly contagious disease, and that person refused to enter treatment or that person refused to inhibit activities, I think the courts would probably support a person in that case, but this would be a very, very different legal issue, and I doubt if we could win on it.
Mr. Phillips: Well, I'm not suggesting that we release intricate details of a child's diagnosis or anything like that. The minister said a few moments ago that if you could determine that it would imperil the public's health, there might be an issue. Ten years ago, FAS wasn't mentioned very much by anybody. Probably even five years ago, it wasn't mentioned by a lot of people, and there were not a lot of real ways to diagnose it or people felt that they could diagnose it more accurately, and this has just happened in the last few years.
We have become better at diagnosing the problem, and so to say that the courts would just throw it out because it was a constitutional issue - I mean, I think, in some cases, it does imperil the public. And some people will make that argument, that it has created real problems.
Maybe we don't have to identify them specifically, but I would think that, as the minister said, if the Department of Education said, "We think this child has a problem. We'd like to put this child in a program," I would hope that, if the Department of Health knew the child had a problem in the first place, the Department of Education would never have to raise the idea that we'd put them in a program.
Because if the doctors or somebody had identified the child as having FAS, then when the child went to a public school, the necessary resources would follow the child through the system. And the teachers wouldn't have to worry about they themselves pointing it out, because it would be identified at an earlier age. And resources would be there, if they needed two or three learning assistants in the classroom, or whatever - because there was more than one FAS child in the room, or if they had to develop special programs. That would all be done ahead of time, and there wouldn't have to be the suggestion from the Department of Education that they think there's a behavioural problem, and this child might want to go into such and such a program.
I really think that a lot has changed in the last 10 years with respect to FAS and identifying children with FAS, and the effects that FAS children have on their own lives and on the lives of others. There could be some strong arguments made, I believe, that this is affecting other people and affecting their lives, and that that has to be more paramount than just turning a blind eye and watching this child go through the school system and, eventually, ending up in the court system, and eventually ending up in disrupting other lives as well.
I'll leave it there. I know we're close to a break. We can come back after the break and continue this interesting discussion.
Chair: Do the members wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
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: Since the Member for Riverdale North just made some comments on the question of FAS and parents and so on, I just thought I'd pass on some of my observations in this regard.
Over my years in education, I discovered that the most effective advocates for children were their parents. As a principal and as a teacher, frequently parents would come to me seeking help for their children, seeking support for their children, and my opinion, quite frankly, is that if we can provide parents with information on their children, if we can provide them with accurate diagnoses, I don't think it would be so much an inhibitor for parents but, rather, give them a useful tool with which they can then begin to lobby for the necessary assistance from Education or whatever.
I guess one of the advantages that I see with regard to early diagnosis, early identification, is that, if we can work with parents at a very early stage, that would give those parents some information, it will give those parents some tools with which they could begin to advocate for their children. Because, quite frankly, I think the key, particularly for FAS children, is to provide some early stimulation and early educational assistance. Sometimes, by the time a child gets to school, it may be, in effect, somewhat late, because issues such as language development and so on have taken place.
If, for example, a parent knew that their child had FAS and they knew what kind of support mechanisms were available to them, what kind of supports in the community, what support there may be from such things as supported day care, and so on, that, in effect, could allow that child to have some early educational stimulation, so when the child comes into school, they may be in a better position to do such things as oral language development and so on.
My experience has been that most parents want to advocate for their children. Most parents want to do the best for their children, and I think if we can provide parents that kind of information and those kinds of tools, that's precisely what we'll do.
Mrs. Edelman: I do agree that obviously parents make the best advocates, but they are the ones most tired because of what they are dealing with, as well, and there isn't a lot of energy left over at the end of the day to advocate on the larger issues. That is a constant problem, no matter what the medical or social problem is that parents are expected to advocate for.
The Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society of the Yukon sent a letter to the minister talking about guardianship legislation and he referred it over to Justice, and then it was answered. Basically, the answer was that it wasn't on the legislative agenda right now, it probably did merit some consideration in the future, but it wouldn't, because it hadn't made the initial list of legislation that was to be developed, probably by the very beginning of this term of the government, then it's not likely that it's going to happen.
Now, the previous NDP government, prior to the previous government's reign, did prepare legislation on guardianship, and that was probably around 1990, but it was never brought forward, and there was only minor consultation that happened at that time. Now, there's going to be a health summit this fall and there are a number of different topics that we have talked about in the House that might come up at that time.
This guardianship legislation is not only an issue with fetal alcohol syndrome families but also with families of seniors. Now, with fetal alcohol syndrome, the greatest problem is that an FAS person will go through and basically have their affairs managed up until the age of 18 and then, suddenly, on their birthday, they are considered to be competent and able to manage their own affairs when, in fact, this is not always true. The only recourse that a family has is to go through the Mental Health Act, and that doesn't work for FAS.
The other problem, of course, with seniors is that, particularly in the Thomson Centre, staff have terrific problems if there is no family, for example, trying to deal with issues around Alzheimer's and people not being competent. Once again, the Mental Health Act doesn't work well on day-to-day decisions that need to be made quickly.
So, the issue of guardianship legislation in relation to both of those groups - and it's sort of an odd pairing - is an important one in our society. I've heard it come at Yukon Council on Aging meetings and I've certainly heard it discussed at a number of FASSY meetings that I've attended.
Would the minister consider bringing this up for discussion at the health summit?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, we're still in a very formative stage of the agenda. I'm not sure if this would meet the goals of that because I think some of the things that we're looking at are some overall issues in health, in terms of health delivery, where we're going to be going and the future models of health delivery. We haven't really formed an agenda yet. I guess when we take a look at some of the principal points on this health agenda, we have identified about six that we think would be key points and I'll just run through them.
What is our health status and pressure points? Now, we'll be getting the health status report, and there are some other issues coming out, so that's clearly going to identify some areas that we need to look at.
What are the pressure points? Pressure points such as increasing demands, declining population, or shifting population - shifting demographics. Are there ways to improve or change the Yukon health system? Are we looking at addressing more resources in this aspect of health, and less in this?
Are there better and more effective health care delivery methods? For example, contract positions - is that a more efficient or more effective way? I can say that now that that issue seems to have diminished momentarily.
What responsibility do Yukoners have for their own health care, and how can we improve it? I've heard discussions around - one of the things that's come frequently to me is the idea of having some sort of statement of services used.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The Member for Riverdale North has called me, he's said that I'm actually kind of a prophet of health, and I take that in a very complimentary manner.
So in that sort of prophetic mode, perhaps I'll go on with some other predictors here. So, for example, should we be doing - one of the things being mentioned to me - should we be doing a health report card for everyone, of services used, how much those services have been, so people can actually see what the health care system has delivered?
And I'm just giving this out as an example, but when we talk about some of these other points, how do we manage cost controls? I think that's something we all have to look at, as the cost pressures rise.
What services should be part of the health care system? Should, for example, complementary or alternative programs be part of the health care system and, if so, to what degree? These are some of the issues that we've heard over the past while, and so these are some of the things that we're talking around.
Where guardianship would fit in that, I don't know, because I think it's almost crossing that quasi-judicial aspect. I can tell the member that we've looked at the whole question of guardianship, basically because we feel the period of consultation would have to be so extensive and probably so exhaustive that we couldn't reasonably get it within the legislative calendar at this point, but it is something that will have to be addressed at some future date.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, that's a new one. I haven't heard about the long consultation process. That's absolutely new. I have heard the football thing going back and forth from Justice to Health and Social Services, back and forth and back and forth. Clearly, I think issues around fetal alcohol syndrome are pressure points in the system. That is a huge pressure point in our system - fetal alcohol syndrome - and tremendous costs are incurred. It's definitely an issue around what health should be in our territory. It probably affects, in some communities, up to 10 percent of the children in some of the areas, perhaps more. That's a conservative estimate - a small-c conservative estimate.
I also hear that the agenda that's being set by the minister, number one, is being set by the minister instead of the people it most affects, which concerns me, and that, number two, we're not going to be talking about some of the more topical issues - midwifery, privacy codes, smoking, seniors health, fetal alcohol syndrome. All those are very specific topics and, you know, they come up over and over again because we don't deal with them very well, and they will continue to come up until we come up with some decent strategies.
I am concerned that this health summit is going to be an effort to go out and hear what we wanted to hear in the first place and confirm what we've already set as an agenda for this government, and that's a real concern of mine. Are we wasting our time with this health summit? Is it just one of those things that came out in the budget that we're all supposed to feel good about?
I don't feel good about that.
I'd like to hear from the minister a little bit more about how he's setting the agenda for this.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Good heavens, Mr. Speaker, I never suggested those points as being an agenda. If anything, what I was suggesting was that these are some things that we've heard. These are some issues that we've heard on a recurring theme and these are some things that we would like to have as part of the entire discussion.
No, I think the agenda - we will be looking at issues such as services that should be part of our health care system. I think we should be looking at some issues around medical ethics, for example. We should be looking at issues around maybe some things that the federal government suggested - the idea of quality reports on health care - some things that probably aren't that incompatible, maybe, with some of Mr. Rock's intentions. I've never suggested that those are fixed items or that those are the only items. Not at all. But what I have suggested is that these are points that I've heard.
The question, for example, that the member raised about services - I'm continually being approached by people who feel that this service or that service should be part of the medical system, whether it's naturopathic medicine or alternative therapies. Those are things that I want to hear from them, and I would like to get their opinion or at least a bit of a discussion around them. Should these be things that we discuss in general?
I'm not particularly interested in restricting this, but I also have to be very frank and suggest that I think one of the things that we have to work really hard against is the idea of this kind of summit becoming basically a forum for a group or an individual who may have a particular health soapbox that they want to dominate. I think we have to open up the whole discussion on health, and where the future of health is going, and what we can reasonably do as a health care system as we move into the future, what kinds of things should we be looking at, where should we be putting our energies.
I'm not interested in setting the agenda at all, but I do think that this is a chance for us to begin some real discussion, and discussion in a way that be futuristic. It should be, in a sense, a bit of visioning. We are moving into a new age. I suppose the people in this room represent the tail end of a generation when the emphasis has been so much on acute-care models, and now we're moving into an age where there are issues around longevity and quality of life, and so on.
At the same time, there are emerging issues. There are emerging issues of global health issues, and I think what I would hope would come out of this would be a good discussion on where health is going in the future, what kinds of things do we see in the future as being stressors, how we can be looking ahead, how we can be anticipating what some of those things are, and taking steps to meet those challenges.
I would like to have people really begin to think about this because, in many ways, up to now the health care system has been, in a lot of case, somewhat passive for many of us. We've been part of the health care system, but I don't think we've been part of the health care system. I don't think we, as citizens sometimes, have thought enough about what the health care system means to us. I think Canadians, increasingly, are concerned about issues around health. We know that it dominates the political agenda in virtually every part of Canada. We know that it's the number one concern - 74 percent of people in Ontario in the most recent poll identified health care as their major concern.
I think people are beginning to think about it more, they're beginning to look at what the system means to them and they're beginning to look at what the system means to them. There have been issues in the south, particularly, where we're getting into curtailing, sometimes, those services, and people don't like it.
Up till now, people have never really thought about it. People have taken, in many cases, our health care system for granted, and now they're beginning to face some of these pressures and they don't like it. People, I think, are becoming more aware.
At the same time, people are beginning, I believe, quite frankly, to take a greater responsibility for their own health and be concerned about issues such as nutrition and lifestyle changes. People are much more aware of the impact of lifestyle on health.
So, I'm not trying to restrict this at all. What I am saying is that these are some things that we have thought about because of increasing discussions. Those are some things that I think we could be working with, but if people have other issues that they want to bring forward - the members mentioned issues around midwifery or other aspects, smoking - these are issues that we can talk about.
I would hope, actually, to be able to bring in individuals who could really make us think about some of these things. I think there are a number of people, not only locally but, I think, on a national level, who I think it would be worthwhile bringing in and perhaps sparking some debate. We know that when we begin to kick around some of these issues good things can happen.
I'm not trying to restrict it at all. We're trying to get a handle right now, I think, on how this is being done. We're looking at the Alberta experience. We're trying to get a bit of sense from them how that went, and what some of the problems were.
Quite frankly, one of the problems that we've heard about the Alberta event was that it became essentially a very localized struggle on a couple of fronts, that it became, essentially, a struggle between those people in the medical profession against the government who had been, in Alberta, restricting services for a period of time and, really, instead of getting a true forum going what you really got was a bit of a head blocking.
So we'd like to learn from the Alberta experience and move on from there.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the minister said he was concerned about some of these groups using it as a soapbox for their particular issues. Well, the Yukon Council on Disability has suggested that we need to have an open discussion on fetal alcohol syndrome diagnosis. FASSY has suggested on a number of occasions that it is certainly a topic that warrants discussion.
We have talked for endless millions of words in this Legislature about fetal alcohol syndrome in the past two and a half years. That issue alone merits some consideration at the health summit.
Another issue - and this will be the last issue that I bring up with the minister this afternoon - is the issue around the crematorium. I wonder if we can get an update on that. Where are we sitting with that? Do we have sufficient legislation in order for some business person, perhaps, to develop a crematorium?
I wonder if the minister could update us on that.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, actually, on the crematorium - I don't think we've had any further action on that. It was primarily Justice. But it was an issue that was raised at the Council on Aging meeting. But there hasn't been any further progress on the issue of the crematorium.
I'm sure, though, that there are some individuals for whom it is a major issue. We haven't really gone too much further on that, but we can look and see if there has been any further communication in that regard.
Mr. Cable: I want to get back into this Youth Criminal Justice Act, but before going there, I want to get some thoughts from the minister.
There have been a number of new initiatives in the criminal area generally, restorative justice and whatnot, and they've gone under a number of buzzwords. There have been a number of new initiatives in the young offender area, a lot of them in the nature of experiments. The circle sentencing thing is moving out of the experimental stage but, nonetheless, I think we could view it as a social experiment.
Now, if you lined up 10 economists on the street and asked them what is wrong with the economy and what their solutions are, you could probably get 10 different opinions. And if you lined up 10 criminologists or 10 psychologists on the street and asked them, "What should we be doing in crime prevention, and what should we be doing with criminals" you'd get a number of different answers.
So, what we're setting ourselves into in the next few years is looking at the methods of treatment of criminals and methods of crime prevention and community involvement, all of which are probably good ideas but many of which are experiments. What we need is some empirical evidence as to whether they're working or not.
I've asked questions in this House before as to what sort of information we are collecting or are going to be collecting on the efficiency of the new initiatives, and in particular the after-offence initiatives. The new Youth Criminal Justice Act enlarges the judiciary's discretion in a number of areas.
They are only going to work, (a) if we have sufficient human resources attached, and (b) if we get some feedback to determine how they should be fine-tuned in the future. What is the minister intending to do once we get these initiatives underway? What is he intending to do to see whether they work?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, one of the things that, as I indicated a bit earlier, we have been relatively well-positioned on is that we have been using some alternative sentencing methods with a measure of success. For example, diversion has been used up here to a greater degree, I feel, than in other areas in Canada. We have just some received statistical data that suggests that young people who go through that diversion process are far less likely to ever show up again in the formal justice system. I think it's about 80 percent of children who go through there.
We've also begun to utilize some suggested methods, like family group conferencing, and so on.
What we would be wanting to do is to follow some of the things being proposed in the federal youth justice legislation to try to implement, probably in a greater degree, some of these things. For example, there are issues in there, such as allowing for advisory groups, allowing for such things as cautioning, and so on, and giving some of these liberties to police - for example, the idea that police have some greater latitude in what they can do with young people. They may issue a caution or something of that nature - and see if, in fact, once these are in place, they actually reduce the number of young people who actually do find themselves formally in the system.
We tend to have more kids convicted up here. We tend to have more criminals convicted, and that just may be a reflection of the fact that we have probably very diligent police, but we also have a small population base.
Whereas, probably in metro Toronto or Edmonton, the police might not focus in on the same kinds of things that we do here, so we have a greater conviction rate and, I think consequently because of that, we have a greater incarceration rate.
I guess what I'm suggesting is that we're going to be seeing how some of these work out over the next few years, as I imagine they will be on a national basis as well. I think there are some avenues in here. There are issues such as involving parents and community agencies to a greater degree, conferences that can advise on appropriate informal measures, conditions for release for pretrial disposition, appropriate sentences, reintegration plans.
The reintegration is going to be an interesting one, because we've been, in a sense, sort of following young people, if you will. It probably isn't correct to call it youth parole, but we have been following young people on a regular basis, making sure that there is a plan for them to reintegrate into society, but this appears now to be formalized in this process.
The whole idea of youth serving a period of supervision, under the Young Offenders Act, the kid finished his sentence, and that was it. There was nothing really to support that kid going back to the community and making sure that they tried to follow through. For example, if a young person is released from custody and they committed another offence, they would have to go back through the whole formalized justice system again with new charges.
As we read the custody aspects of this, there appears to be a clause where young people can be returned to custody through misbehaviour, not go through the formalized system. So, in a sense, a young person could be released with certain conditions, and if they failed to meet those conditions, they could be returned.
So, we think there are going to be some positive things here. Certainly, there appears to be a greater focus on the idea of protecting public safety, but by the same token, I think, there is an explicit recognition in the federal bill of the fact that we do incarcerate young people at a very high rate in this country - and in the Yukon, we incarcerate them at an even higher rate.
I think this is an attempt to say, "Are there other ways that you can deal with this problem?" We've gone through this. We've looked at it in the context of some of things we have been doing, some of the things that we are already following through on and we think that because of that we're probably one of the jurisdictions that is a little better placed to work with this bill.
Mr. Cable: I appreciate that, but the question I'm putting to the minister is that a lot of the new approaches, particularly in court - like, after conviction - are, in fact, new. I mean, they're experiments. I mean, there is a psychologist and criminologist who can say, "Yes, this is likely to work, but we can't guarantee it." We need some feedback.
The minister mentioned there is some statistical data that he's collecting, but is there a formalized approach or has there been a formalized approach to seeing what has worked under the present Young Offenders Act? I mean, there is community work services, personal work service order, there are fines and whatever.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, we have compiled some of our stats, as we're obliged to, under the Young Offenders Act, and fed those to the federal government. I'm sure that when they were developing this legislation, they probably took a look at the experiences from across Canada, and probably some of our statistics worked their way through into this bill. At least we're hopeful that it is, because there appears to be - on initial review, at least - a bit of a recognition of some of the things up here that seem to have worked. Now, not all things have worked but, quite clearly, some of the ideas, such as the greater use of alternative sentencing, greater use of community conferences - things of that nature - seem to be there.
As far as statistics, we would probably have to go back and crunch through statistics. I would imagine that they've been gathered on the relative success or failure of certain aspects. For example, family group conferencing - which is relatively new, so there may not be many statistics. But diversion has been used since - oh, I would suggest - 1984 with the introduction of the YOA. Diversion at least has been in the process up here. That's why we have a better sense of the number of young people.
There are other aspects where we probably don't have as adequate an information base as we might like, but there probably are some statistical data I could get out for the member, and pass it on.
Mr. Cable: The reason I ask is, what might work in Toronto may not work here. In Toronto, some kid might come out of an area where there are large apartment buildings, and they're transient, and there's no sense of community. Whereas, here, you may have that community involvement, and community involvement in sentencing may work here, but not work in Toronto.
So I think it's important that we get our own data.
In this new Youth Criminal Justice Act, the copy we peeled off the Internet, the sentencing provisions go on for page after page. The judges, first of all, are going to have to spend a long time reading it, but, secondly, they're going to have a large area of discretion as to how to deal with young offenders.
Let me encourage the minister to emphasize not only the pre-sentence sort of examination of what's going on, but also the examination of what works - like after-the-fact examinations, the linkage of certain treatments or certain sentences to recidivism. Is the minister in that frame of mind?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Oh, yes, we are. I need to remind the member that it is a Liberal bill.
In general, many of the principles that we brought forward to the parliamentary committee, we were sort of reassured by the act itself. For example, when the Minister of Justice and I spoke with the parliamentary committee that was here under the late Shaughnessy Cohen, we talked about the idea of greater use of alternative sentence options. So, when it came here, we were pleased to see that.
There were certainly issues around dropping the age, and we had some real concerns about that because that would have meant us expanding out. For us, say they dropped the age down to 10, well, that would have had implications on the Yukon in terms of what kinds of facilities we put in place. Quite clearly, a young offenders facility might not be appropriate for a 10-year-old so maybe we need to look at another model. So, we were relieved on some of those.
Quite frankly, there are still areas of question. We're discussing with our federal counterparts, and we are making representation there, and our director of family and children's services is involved in some of these discussions, particularly around the idea of the compulsory supervision aspect following custody - is going to mean that we need to hire more people to develop plans and so on for these young people and to monitor them - if you will, a sort of youth parole officer. When I raised this with our director of family and children's services, one of the things that she mentioned to me was that, because we have been sort of doing that, in a sense, already, that the actual implications in terms of resources may not be as great on us, but it's still something that's sort of up in the air - what is this going to mean?
But we are interested in sort of monitoring some of these and seeing how well they work, and seeing if indeed certain things that we have here that work for us may need to be distinguished from things that work elsewhere.
The member mentioned the idea of children coming from a projects neighbourhood in Toronto, where there is perhaps a relative degree of anonymity, there may not be this sort of support mechanism. We have many of those here, in terms of, in a smaller community, often people are known.
I guess one of the concerns that I have is that I think what we'll have to do is to adapt many of these for some of our aboriginal young people, particularly some of the support mechanisms. And I see that as being a challenge for us, because some of our aboriginal youth may be in some of the communities and don't have access to the same kinds of things like diversion that may occur in Whitehorse and large communities.
These are some challenges that we're going to have to deal with over the next few years, but I think the bill is on the right track. I think it's consistent with what we're looking at. I think we have a good opportunity to make some of these elements work, but there are some intangibles. The idea of cautioning - as near as I can determine, the only place where cautioning has been going on to any great extent has been Alberta, and I don't know what their experience has been with that particular aspect. So, there are some things that we're going to follow through on and monitor as we go through this process.
Mr. Cable: The minister has said the director had contacted some federal officials. Who was she talking to?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Our director of family and children services is in Ottawa now, along with representatives from other provincial jurisdictions, being briefed on the aspects of the bill, what the implications are and how it's going to actually translate into action or resources.
As the member is aware, the federal government has put some financial resources to this bill and we'll probably have to see what the financial implications are for us. I mentioned before the idea of perhaps greater personnel for supervision of young people after - It's a possibility. It may not actually translate to that for us, but that is a possibility. That's one area where we can see we might need more resources.
So, the director of family and children services is in Ottawa working on these particular points.
Mr. Cable: Just before we join the Easter Bunny for the weekend, the minister and his colleague, the Minister of Justice, wrote a letter September 24, 1998, to the federal minister. Does the minister have a copy of that on his file there in front of him?
Okay. The minister is saying he doesn't, but let me ask him a question. There are a number of points raised in the letter, 13 altogether, with the exception of cost sharing, which I gather is still up in the air - there is $216 million I guess that has to be divided up. Does the bill, as presented, meet the comments and recommendations that were put forward by the minister?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would say that, in general, it does. It meets most of our comments. There are some things there that, perhaps, we may differ a bit on but, in general, it meets the aims that we had. We had a very strong concern that we keep issues of youth justice within the welfare system.
The idea of the principle, the principle that we had was that the protection of the public we identified as key. That's very clearly articulated in this bill. The idea of sentencing for violent offenders - well, there are some discussions there about could people be bumped up to adult courts. That was the debate. Should young people be bumped up to adult courts?
This bill hasn't taken the idea of bumping people up to adult courts, but it does allow for adult sentences to be applied. So that's something that probably meets our goals in that aspect.
Issues such as the access to adult sentences, sentencing principles, conferencing - conferencing is clearly identified here as to advise on sentencing as part of the predisposition.
Alternatives to custody - we've identified that as being key for us.
All of a sudden letters are beginning to appear.
Admissibility of statements - the idea of statements there. The Youth Criminal Justice Act actually goes a bit farther and allows for greater concern of victims to be recognized, and that victims have the right to access to youth records, and so on.
There appears to be many of the same things involved in there. In general, I'd say that we're on track - and, of course, cost sharing is the big issue.
We have looked at this bill in detail, both the Minister of Justice and I, along with our officials, and we're satisfied that it has moved in the direction that we generally felt comfortable with in making our presentation to the parliamentary committee.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: My colleague from Riverside has one more question, so I think we should indulge him in that in deference to his senior nature.
Mr. Cable: In deference to something, anyway.
I asked the minister some questions the other week on the bill, and in particular on the publication of names. I note in his letter to the federal justice minister that there seemed to be a blanket rejection of publication, yet he seemed to have softened his position so that he now accepts the publication of the names of violent offenders, which I think is what's in the new Youth Criminal Justice Act, subject to some qualifier.
What caused the change in thinking there?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I don't think it's that much of a change. I think what happened was, because there's been so much discussion around this whole question, we were concerned that, given perhaps some of the more, shall we say, radical opinions on this we thought that there might be an intention to lift the entire ban. It's too bad that the member wasn't here for my scintillating comments yesterday when I did talk about the previous Juvenile Delinquents Act. It actually had a complete ban on names, and hearings had to be held in private, and so on and so forth.
But we think that with regard to the publication, issues such as the idea of publishing the name of an adult sentence, if an adult sentence is imposed, would be very consistent because an adult sentence would, by its very nature, be a more serious offence.
The idea of a youth as dangerous or at large, those are things that I think we can live with and certainly are consistent with the idea of the need to protect the public.
So, I think what's happened is that the bill, in a sense, has given some comfort that the issues around the publication of names are in fact what we accept as being very reasonable exceptions to the idea of publication. So, we're comfortable with it. It meets our needs. It meets the needs of the protection of the public.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 14, First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 6, 1999.
The House adjourned at 5:29 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled April 1, 1999:
Waste Wood Energy Recovery Feasibility Study: executive summary (dated February 17, 1994) (Harding)