April 6, 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 Biodiversity Awareness Month
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, April has been designated as Biodiversity Awareness Month in the Yukon. This initiative, led by the Department of Renewable Resources, is to encourage Yukoners to learn more about their natural environment and to appreciate the diversity of the Yukon's natural communities. A number of activities have been planned by various groups over the month, and the main events are highlighted in the biodiversity awareness calendar, which is now available for everybody to pick up and refer to.
The other partners in the Biodiversity Awareness Month initiative are the Canadian Wildlife Service, Yukon College, Ducks Unlimited, Yukon Conservation Society, Innovators in the Schools, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, and the Yukon Fish and Game Association.
Other activities taking place during April include National Wildlife Week, April 4 to April 10; Earth Day, April 22; and, the Celebration of Swans, April 17 to April 24. I encourage all Yukoners to be involved in the upcoming events.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Ostashek: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and the office of the official opposition, I rise to join with other members of the House in paying tribute to Biodiversity Awareness Month.
Canada's north is often referred to as the last frontier, home to some of the planet's largest intact wildlands and ecosystems. Approximately 80 percent of the Yukon is wilderness, compared to only three percent in Europe and 41 percent in all of North and Central America. Forests cover about half of the Yukon's total land area to make up five percent of the total forested area in Canada.
From east to west, north to south, Yukoners have a deep and abiding feeling for the Yukon environment and its wildlife.
For Yukon First Nations, the environment is an intrinsic part of their culture and lifestyle. For other life-long Yukoners, and Yukoners who have moved here, the environment is one of the major reasons for them choosing to make the Yukon their home.
For visitors, the Yukon environment is one of the major reasons for making Yukon a destination. The challenge to Yukoners is to preserve and protect our environment for our children and future generations, while at the same time giving careful consideration to the Yukon's economic future, and ensuring a balanced outcome that provides a level of security to all interests, and derives the benefits from our land.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, there are many occasions when we rise in tribute to the unique environment in the north. Often it's the cultural environment.
Today, on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus, I rise to pay tribute to Biodiversity Month, and to especially recognize our fragile natural environment.
Biodiversity can best be described as a blanket term surrounding Mother Earth. It is the interconnectedness of every living organism to everything else.
During Biodiversity Month, as Yukoners, we have an opportunity to recognize that our environment is delicate, and we as humans are but a very small part of it. Every small step we make as individuals sharing this planet to preserve and protect ecosystems can make a difference.
The north has not yet experienced a great loss of biodiversity. Especially during Biodiversity Month and throughout the term of this Legislature, I would commend all members, in the words of fellow Yukoner Mr. Dave Mossop, noted in the 1999 calendar of events, "to make informed decisions about our ecosystems and wildlife so that we can preserve our precious biodiversity.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Harding: I have a letter to the Hon. Art Eggleton regarding the Komakuk Beach contract.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House joins with fellow Yukoners
THAT this House recognizes that the community of Faro, with a large supply of vacant homes and sufficient community infrastructure, is ideally situated to provide a secure, clean and healthy environment for in excess of 100 refugees; and
THAT this House urges the Government of the Yukon to make immediate contact with the community of Faro and, with their support and the compassion of all Yukoners, to express this support to the Government of Canada to provide temporary safe haven for refugees from Kosovo.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Shipyard residents, relocation to Hot Springs Road area
Mr. Ostashek: My question is to the minister responsible for Renewable Resources. As the minister is well aware, acquiring a piece of agricultural land is a dream of many Yukoners. It is my understanding that it's a fairly complicated process to obtain agricultural land, and that the application process alone can take some two years.
My question to the minister: can he advise the House how many agriculture applications are currently in the process, and how many titles have been issued since this government took office?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I don't have those numbers offhand here, but I can provide them for the members opposite. I can tell the member, though, that this has been a fairly big issue over the past number of years - the abuse of agricultural lands; or the lack of it - and that is why our department has gone out to do an agricultural policy review, along with a grazing lease policy review.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, I will look forward to receiving those numbers from the minister as soon as he possibly can.
Mr. Speaker, again to the minister, the applicant receives the land under an agreement of sale, which requires a minimum amount of work to be completed, and this is calculated on being twice the difference between the market value of the land and the Yukon government's estimated development costs.
My question to the minister: can he advise the House if there have been any exceptions to the requirements of this agricultural policy in the past that he's aware of?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: No, I'm not aware of any at this point, but I can again check for the member if there were any exceptions to this.
Mr. Ostashek: Well then, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to ask the minister if he could advise this House why then a Shipyard squatter is being exempted from the requirements of the agricultural policy, and will this individual receive immediate title to the agricultural lot on the Hot Springs Road, a lot that others have applied for and have been unsuccessful in getting?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I think that question would be best asked of a different minister. In this regard, the member knows that this particular Hot Springs area has been zoned as agricultural land. There are permitted uses, and I think it falls right in line with what the Minister of Community and Transportation Services has been saying all along.
Question re: RV campsites
Mr. Phillips: I have a question for the Minister of Tourism.
Pretty soon, our visitors will be coming up the highway in their RVs and, once again, Mr. Speaker, some of these vehicles will be camping overnight in our campgrounds and, as well, along the Yukon highway's gravel pits and in some rest areas. Our office has received complaints from campground operators about the extent of the problem. In fact, one day last summer, one of the operators conducted a survey of his own and counted 132 RVs parked overnight along the south Alaska Highway in areas that were not designated for overnight camping.
I know that chain barriers have been put up across gravel pits, entrances and the like; however, the problem still remains unchecked. Can the minister advise the House what measures, if any, his government is taking to combat this problem that seems to arise every year?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Speaker, this problem is a long-standing issue that has been around the Yukon for many, many years. As we continue to market, especially to the rubber-tire market, which is our most lucrative market, the problem becomes even more enhanced.
Mr. Speaker, I just received a letter last week from some folks who are RV-park owners in Watson Lake who have outlined the problem and they are very concerned. We are going to be looking quite seriously at the problem to find solutions.
So, Mr. Speaker, yes, it is under control and we'll be working with the industry and others to find some way that we might be able to continue to have people come into the Yukon, to enjoy the Yukon but also to have suitable parking spots and places for them.
Mr. Phillips: Well, I would have thought that the minister would have thought more about it before, rather than just after receiving the letter last week. I think I raised the matter in the House last year during the Tourism debate and the minister, at that time, indicated that he was going to look at it then.
I understand that in British Columbia and Alberta, they prohibit overnight camping by RVs. Is the minister aware of what measures have been taken by these jurisdictions where the Alaska Highway actually travels to it? Is he contemplating such measures here in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, there are probably many solutions to this problem throughout Canada. What we're going to do, though, is look for a unique solution to the Yukon, one that will recognize the value of the tourism industry, and also recognize the value of the RV-park owners and where they're going with the industry. So, Mr. Speaker, it's definitely something that we have to work gently with the people, but have to continue to do good work with them.
Mr. Phillips: I'm not sure if the minister gave me an answer or not.
Mr. Speaker, this is a pretty tricky problem, actually, because we want to welcome the RVs to the territory and encourage them to spend time here, but we have to also be careful, at the same time, if we're going to force them to move out of some of these areas, that they don't just continue right on through the territory on our great highways, and continue right on to Alaska and not stop.
I know that it is a sensitive issue.
I'd like to ask the minister - he said his department is looking at it - is the minister planning to have something in place for this visitor season, that we can expect an announcement out of this government before May 15, when the first visitors start to arrive, and that we will have some kind of a program, or policy, in place to deal with the situation in the very near future?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: This problem has been around for many years, Mr. Speaker - at least two decades as we know, or maybe even longer. The member, of course, was the Minister of Tourism for four years, and certainly had opportunity during that tenure to look after the problem.
What this government will do, though, is seek solutions to implement this year, if possible, so that we might be able to enjoy a very good tourism season, as we're looking forward to.
Question re: Solid waste regulations/garbage studies
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. It's about a topic that we talk about quite a bit in the House - between the two of us - and that's about garbage.
Now, since 1997 the government has been working on new solid waste regulations. These are new rules to manage garbage in Yukon's towns, communities and outlying areas. We've just completed a 60-day public review of the new rules, and there were a number of submissions received by the government, none of which were being made public.
Can the minister tell the House why these public comments are not available to us?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, the member's right. We completed the 60-day review and the department is compiling the information. There are some comments that were given to the department that had "confidential" written on them, and we're trying to put them together to see how we can best release them to the public.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, there are going to be a number of expensive changes in the new regulations. The most expensive is the plan to phase out burning at the Yukon garbage dumps by the year 2004.
I understand that the Department of Community and Transportation Services has done some calculations on what it will cost the department to make these changes. But the largest dumps in the Yukon are operated by municipalities, and they will have increased costs as well.
Can the minister tell the House how much additional money will be allocated to communities to help make this change?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Speaker, the Member for Riverdale South is quite correct. We're doing solid waste consultation between the two departments, C&TS and Renewable Resources.
Certainly we know that is what the people want. That seems to be what the people want, and what we have to do is continue to do good work with the municipalities and other users of the garbage dumps, et cetera, so that we might find a meaningful way to mitigate the impact to all users.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, I hope that means that municipalities are going to be getting some money, because we're talking about offloading thousands of dollars' worth of responsibilities down to the municipal level without the dollars to do the work.
Will the minister commit today that, if the new regulations add new responsibilities to municipalities, they will receive the money they need to carry out their responsibilities in solid waste disposal for Yukon's towns and cities?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, the situation that we speak of is purely a hypothetical situation at this point in time. We are going to continue to do good, meaningful work with our partners, which are the towns and the cities and the hamlets, or however they are characterized in the Yukon Territory. We're going to do that good work with them, and thank you very much for the direction to continue to do that good work with them.
Question re: Gasoline prices
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Economic Development on gasoline prices. Gasoline prices have taken a jolt in California and Vancouver, and the big oil companies are singing this song about disruptions in supply and refinery fires and OPEC moves. They're softening the people up for price increases. This is despite the fact that when crude prices drop, it takes them many months to have it sift through the system.
What does the minister's department see will happen to gasoline prices in the Yukon? Are we going to get a similar jolt in prices?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite knows this issue has been one that this minister has done considerable work on in terms of trying to deal with some of the complex issues that make up the pricing scheme in the Yukon and the north, but the issue, as the member says, is a difficult one. He mentions the discussions held at OPEC. It's hard to imagine that the Minister of Economic Development in the Yukon would have too much influence with that collection of sheiks and whatnot, but I will write OPEC a very strongly worded letter to say that we are very concerned about the impact of their discussions on the price at the pumps in the Yukon.
Mr. Cable: Just to be clear, I wasn't suggesting the minister had any influence whatsoever, anywhere.
What I'm asking him is, has his department looked at the rationale that's been put out by the oil companies for price increases, and can we expect the same thing to happen up here in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Based on his last comment, it's a wonder that he would like me to do anything at all, when he asks about issues pertaining to gas prices, but I will say to the member opposite that we obviously are concerned about the issue of prices at the pumps. We've done some work here locally to work with the people who provide the fuel to the Yukon - with the local distributors, with the companies themselves - and we've put some public issue and some public pressure to bear. And that will be the single most important - along with the price determinants and the transportation cost, and some of the cost associated with the low volumes that are purchased here - and biggest group of factors that have an impact on the price at the pumps in the Yukon.
Mr. Cable: Yes, I agree with the minister. Information is important, and the minister publishes average gasoline prices on the Internet, which is only marginally useful for comparison shopping.
He told the House back in December that he would look at publishing price ranges as well to help the market work better. Where does he sit on that issue now? Is he prepared to publish, at least on the Internet, the price ranges?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I have a lot of faith in Yukoners. If the average price at the pumps is published, and consumers go out and see a particular distributor or person selling gas as selling way above or way below, they'll make a determination as to where they're going to pull in and fill up their vehicle.
Question re: Yukon excellence awards
Mr. Phillips: My question is for the Minister of Education on the Yukon excellence awards.
It's no big secret, Mr. Speaker, that the NDP government is not a big fan of this program. In fact, the program would have been cancelled after the last election if the NDP hadn't have consulted the public and heard from the general public, who felt that the program was a very good one and wanted it to continue.
This government, though, Mr. Speaker, has effectively chopped the awards by more than half by eliminating the awards in grades 8 and 10, and it appears that we're eliminating any awards for sciences. Can the minister explain why she's cut back the Yukon excellence awards when, in the consultation she had, the general public wanted them to increase the awards of excellence because they thought they were a good program?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, what I can tell the member opposite is that the same systems are in place for looking at assessments as were in place when that member was Minister of Education. There is a departmental assessment committee, which includes representation from school principals, and they make recommendations about assessments.
There is a lot more to student recognition than excellence awards. Excellence awards are one component of them.
We are following the recommendations of the departmental assessment committee on what tests are held and what the assessment program looks like.
Mr. Phillips: Well, it's interesting, Mr. Speaker, that the Yukon Party government brought in the excellence program, which was well-received by the parents. And now, what the minister has said here today is we have a bureaucratic committee of principals and administrators in the Department of Education who have decided to arbitrarily trim the program, despite the consultations that the minister heard.
The minister is saying two different things: she stands up in the House and says she supports the program, but her department is in the process of gutting it.
Mr. Speaker, under the previous Yukon Party government, students in grades 8 to 11 who received 80 percent or more in Yukon exams and grade 12 students who received 80 percent or higher in B.C. provincial exams received $100 in grade 8, which increased by $100 each year so that in each progressing grade, students could receive about $500 per subject in their final year. A student who excelled from grade 8 to 12 could receive $9,200 in total.
I'd like to ask the minister if she could bring back to this House what the current maximum is now that her department has decided to gut the program.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the Member's premise is wrong. This government, both the Department of Education and all ministers in this government, will continue to work with the public. I have been working with school councils, as has the department, on the issue of student recognition and on ways to recognize the value of student achievement. We will continue to do that.
Mr. Phillips: Pretty hollow words, Mr. Speaker, pretty hollow words.
The minister, over a year ago, held a consultative process in which she asked the school councils and others whether they supported the excellence awards program. Unanimously, in a report tabled in this House, they supported the program and wanted it improved. The minister sat idly by and watched her department gut the program since that time.
I'd like to ask the minister: when is she going to come clean on this issue and come forward with an awards of excellence program that reflects the views of the students and the parents she talked to in her consultative process who said to improve it, not reduce it?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, this government is meeting the public's expectations in education. We have not only maintained but are increasing funding to education. We are rebuilding partnerships with school councils.
On the subject of assessments, we are involved in looking at the common curriculum and resources for the western Canada protocol, which means we use assessment tools in common with other jurisdictions. We have made a focus on numeracy and literacy.
Now, the member opposite has stood in this House many times to talk about the importance of recognizing the value of numeracy and literacy skills. That's where we're focusing our assessment work, and we'll continue to do that.
Question re: Solid waste regulations/garbage studies
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, my question is, once again, for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services about the impact of the cost of the new solid waste regulations on Yukon towns and cities.
Now, the minister knows these changes are going to cost more money to Yukon towns, and I'll read from a letter that was sent from Renewable Resources.
It says, "The engineering branch of C&TS has provided the financial calculations on cost increments due to the proposed phase-out of open burning of garbage."
Now, C&TS does garbage disposal, basically, in the outlying areas, and Yukon towns and cities do it within their municipal boundaries.
Now, the minister's preparing for additional costs, and he's going into his budget to cover those additional costs for the outlying areas, but municipalities will also have additional costs, but no money to cover it. Why is the minister offloading new responsibilities to municipalities without the money to cover it?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Let me say that, for the first time in years, the AYC has received an increase in their funding and, again, for the first time in years, the municipalities have received an increase in their formula funding.
So, Mr. Speaker, certainly, this government is going to continue to do good work with our partners, as we are very much desirous of doing.
I said to the member opposite that we're going to work with our partners and continue to work with our partners to find ways so that the impact will be mitigated. There are all sorts of options that could be out and about. We're just in the beginning of this process to talk to them, and I will definitely keep the Member for Riverdale informed as we go along with the talks.
But certainly we are going to be able to work, and I hope the member takes comfort in the fact that we're going to take work and work with our partners.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, if the minister's correct there was a miniscule increase in municipal block funding, which doesn't cover the cost-of-living increases over the last 12 years.
The minister also said in his letter, "However, it's just a proposal", and he's talking about the solid waste regulations, "and the final regulations may look differently, depending on the comments received during the public review.
Now, Yukon towns and cities are now against the cessation of open burning by the year 2004. Does this mean that municipalities will have impact on the development of these new regulations, so that that aspect of it - the stopping of burning by the year 2004 - will change? Because municipalities don't have a lot of choices. If they can't afford it, they have to raise taxes.
Does this mean that the government is open to the idea of changing that open-burn cessation by the year 2004?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, certainly the Member for Riverdale South may call it a "miniscule" increase but, certainly, the AYC and the people affected are very happy to have had an increase for the first time in over 10 years - very happy. It's not the word that I get from the municipalities - the municipalities are ecstatic about what is happening.
As far as the implementation of the consultation taking place, we are at this point in time still consulting with the people, and will continue to work with the people until we find some type of meaningful solution.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I hope that that means that Yukon towns and cities will be listened to, because they are the ones that have a problem with the open-burn cessation by the year 2004. Now, another big problem that rural towns have is that there's no recycling facilities within their municipal boundaries. Up to one-third of the materials in dumps could potentially be recycled, most notably cardboard.
By recycling these materials we could extend the lifespan of most dumps by at least 10 years. Now, rural municipalities don't have the funding to get these recycled materials like cardboard off to markets in the south, or even to Whitehorse.
The minister is telling municipalities that they can't burn the stuff. What plans does the government have to assist municipalities in disposing of recyclable materials?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, the key words there, Mr. Speaker, are that "we are consulting with the municipalities." We are going to continue to work with the municipalities to find some way to mitigate the impact upon them.
Mr. Speaker, as to the particular question of what we are doing as to the recycling initiatives in the communities, I will have to dig up a little bit of information and get that to the member opposite, but certainly that is going to be one approach. Recycling is always definitely one approach within any of the issues surrounding the garbage dumps.
Question re: Yukon excellence awards
Mr. Phillips: My question is to the Minister of Education again about the excellence awards. Mr. Speaker, the government has made much about partnerships in education. It talks the talk, but it doesn't seem to want to walk the walk.
Mr. Speaker, the most important partners of education are the students and their parents. In surveys done in relation to the Yukon excellence awards, the students and parents were in full support of the continuation and the enhancement of the awards.
I'd like to ask the minister to be specific in her answer to the Yukon excellence awards and tell us why she has made or why her department has made so many dramatic changes to the Yukon excellence awards in reducing them, when the general public - the partners in education - has asked the minister to increase them, not decrease them.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, first of all in responding to the preamble that the member opposite gave, this government does have a firm commitment to working with students and parents as partners in education. We have reinstated the school council conferences to a twice-annual gathering. We regularly meet with students and parents and other partners in education.
Virtually every other jurisdiction in Canada has seen significant cuts to their education funding. We have not only maintained funding for education, we have increased it in spite of federal cuts to post-secondary education and health care.
So, Mr. Speaker, the member's words are ringing hollow when he says that we don't maintain a strong commitment to education. We do, and we work not only with school councils but with the school committees themselves. We're improving our assessment model, and we're developing a common framework that matches our curriculum.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, if I'd asked the Minister of Education what she was doing with respect to education and funding, that might have been a correct answer, but I asked the Minister of Education to be specific about the awards of excellence. The minister, when they were running for government in the last election, said they were against them. They held some public consultations where the partners of education, the parents and the students, said they liked them, they wanted them improved. The minister stood up in the House here, in releasing the report, and stated that they were going to improve them.
Since that date, Mr. Speaker, the minister has reduced them and is gutting the program piece by piece.
I'd like to ask the minister to try and answer the specific question, Mr. Speaker. Why have they reduced the awards of excellence when, in fact, she told the public that she was going to increase it and improve it? Why have they made that change?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, we are improving the assessment model in the Yukon. We are, at the present time, working with our education partners consulting on the assessment model. Generally, there is support from the Yukon Teachers Association and from school councils for the assessment model that we're using. What's important is that we teach our kids well and we provide appropriate tests and assessment of what they have learned.
We are doing that, Mr. Speaker, and we're bringing some planning to this by looking at a long-term assessment model that is matched with our curriculum and that is consistent with the common curriculum that we share with other western jurisdictions.
Mr. Phillips: What's important, Mr. Speaker, is that the students have an opportunity to earn cash for marks, as they were on the awards of excellence program. That's been reduced. The cost of university is rising continually, and losing this amount of money may be the difference of a gifted student making it into university or not.
Mr. Speaker, the minister should honour her word. The minister gave her word, when she released the report, that she would increase and improve the awards of excellence, not spend two or three years doing some assessment model and, in the meantime, cut the dollars.
I'd like to ask the minister if she'd reinstate the dollars for those programs for all those students over the past couple of years, and at least hold the line on any changes in the program until she brings in a new program, so that these students - the gifted students, the students who work so hard to achieve these marks - will receive benefits for them, as they told the minister they wanted to do in the consultations.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: All the students in the Yukon school system work hard, and I'm really offended by the member opposite standing up and implying that only the students who are eligible for an excellence award should be recognized.
Mr. Speaker, we are increasing funding for education and training in our education budgets. We are developing an assessment model that is based on our curriculum and that is supported by the school system and by our partners in education. We are not gutting the program; we are improving our assessment model.
Question re: Whitehorse airport, air traffic control tower
Mrs. Edelman: My question is again for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, and it concerns the future of the air traffic control tower at the Whitehorse Airport.
Last year, a decision was made by Nav Canada, the body that operates the air traffic control at the Whitehorse Airport, to reduce the Whitehorse Airport tower to a seasonal operation. For the record, the Yukon Liberal caucus has opposed that decision.
Now, I understand that the Yukon tower will be open full time this summer. What guarantees does the minister have beyond this summer that the tower will remain in full-time operation?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, the department is working with NavCan, so we might be able to find a solution to the problem that arose.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, it's a little hard to figure out what's being done, but I'll go on. Now, NavCan has presented the argument that reducing the tower to a seasonal basis will save money. Now, has the minister's department done their own analysis to prove otherwise and has Nav Canada provided any information to back up their claim that a seasonal tower will be cheaper?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Let me read into the record some of the things that we are doing with NavCan. We want assurances - and I must say, working with NavCan is a good exercise but certainly they understand where we're coming from and we understand what their values are also - and we do want the employment - that the people who are affected have opportunities elsewhere.
We want also to make sure that the closure will not inhibit airlines, no matter where they come from in the world. As you know, we're making the Yukon a world-class destination. Certainly we want airlines to come. They've given us that assurance that they would.
We've also asked for a reinstatement. If they do close the tower and they go to a seasonal basis, and if the numbers come up at any point in time, would they be able to reinstate tower operation. Yes, we are working on all those issues with NavCan at this time.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the minister can forward to me at some later date the specifics on whether or not NavCan has presented an argument to say that it is going to be cheaper for them to operate a seasonal tower.
Now, there are also a number of safety issues that would have to be addressed if we move to the seasonal tower operation. For example, we have a number of transient planes through here in the summer, piloted by individuals who are unfamiliar with the area. With only one flight service specialist and no regular tower staff there is a higher risk. Has the minister advanced this argument with Nav Canada and how will safety concerns also be addressed?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, we are advancing all arguments with Nav Canada. Let me state for the record here again, though, that we are opposed to the air tower being closed. We are absolutely opposed to that, and we will continue to be. We're going to work with Nav Canada though. There is a process that we're involved in with Nav Canada and will continue to work within that process.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of opposition private members' business
Mr. Phillips: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the official opposition to be called on Wednesday, April 7. They are Motion No. 165, standing in the name of the Member for Porter Creek North, and Motion No. 166, standing in the name of the Member for Klondike.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the third party to be called on Wednesday, April 7, 1999. They are Motion No. 133, standing in the name of the Member for Riverdale South, and Motion No. 100, standing in the name of the leader of the third party.
Speaker: We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Do 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 of the Whole is on Department of Health and Social Services. Is there further general debate?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: With respect to a question asked by the Member for Riverside on programming and evaluations of programming for youth to combat recidivism, we have kept track of recidivism rates for the Youth Achievement Centre.
The most recent recidivism stats for the program indicate that of the 100 individual youths who served in the program between April 1, 1998, and December 31, 1998, 14 re-offended while in the program and 86 did not commit new offences while attending the program.
The Youth Achievement Centre provides day programming for high-risk teens in the young offenders and/or child welfare system. The majority of these youth are not attending school.
We've also been keeping recidivism stats on youths served by the intensive probation supervision program. However, it is too early in the life of this program to compile any meaningful data. The program began operation in November 1998.
The intensive probation supervision program is designed to serve young offenders with a very high risk of re-offending. From November 20 to March 1, 1999, 14 high-risk teens, possessing a total of 85 prior convictions among them, were served by the intensive probation supervision program.
During this program, only three of the 14 youth incurred new criminal charges.
Two of the new sentencing options found in the Youth Criminal Justice Act are intensive probation supervision, which I just referred to, and attendance centre hours. The Youth Achievement Centre operates as an attendance centre. These two new sentencing options were chosen for inclusion in the bill because they have been demonstrated to produce promising results with respect to the prevention of re-offending in high-risk youth.
I thought it might also be worthwhile for me to just include some data on the rate of stayed or dismissed charges in the Yukon. This was reported earlier today on CBC.
The Yukon has, for some time, shown a relatively high rate of dismissed or stayed charges. This is partially because of our post-charge diversion program, alternative measures. Youth are charged, appear before the court, and are referred to alternative measures program, run by the probation unit.
After the youth has successfully completed the program, the charges are withdrawn before the court. The remainder of the stayed withdrawn charges are attributable to multiple charges being laid by the police and less serious charges being plea-bargained by the defence counsel and the Crown.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Policy, Planning and Administration
Mr. Jenkins: Perhaps for the line items that show an increase the minister could just provide us with an overview, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Certainly.
On the policy, planning and administration, the budget highlights include policy, planning and administration being up $206,000, or six percent, from the 1998-99 forecast. This is due to the following changes: personnel, an increase of $63,000; a $30,000 increase due to the YEU settlement; a $24,000 decrease to transfer a 0.5 file clerk to Social Services; $57,000 in miscellaneous price increases, offset in contracts and supplies; other, an increase of $143,000 - $200,000 toward the new professional development fund for health professionals, and a $57,000 decrease in contract and supplies.
Administration in the amount of $3,482,000 agreed to
Policy, Planning and Administration in the amount of $3,482,000 agreed to
On Family and Children's Services
On Program Management
Hon. Mr. Sloan: For family and children's services, the program management is up $208,000, or eight percent, from the 1998-99 forecast. This is due to the following: a $4,000 increase due to the YEU settlement; and in other, an increase of $204,000, which is a $200,000 increase in Child Development Centre contracts to support rural services, and a $4,000 increase in facility management.
Program Management in the amount of $2,759,000 agreed to
On Family and Children's Services
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This funding for family and children services is up to $103,000 or 14 percent. This is a result of the following: an increase of $20,000 in personnel; a $12,000 increase due to the YGU settlement; $8,000 in miscellaneous price increases. There is an increase of $183,000 in other due to reallocation of the healthy family initiative YCB funds previously allocated for CDOP, which exceed that which is required in that program.
Mr. Jenkins: Could we have a further explanation of that $183,000 and what programs we've moved around there, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We'd originally allocated a considerable amount of money for the CDOP program, but we found that the uptake on it has not been that great. Therefore, we've transferred over $183,000 to our healthy family initiative, and that is consistent with the intent of NCB funding. We determined that we could do that and we've allocated it in that regard and we'll be adjusting our CDOP allocation. CDOP is the children's drug and optical program and we've adjusted that accordingly.
The uptake on that has not been that great, despite the encouragement that we've made with school councils. We're trying to work with school councils to try and get that message out so that, particularly on the optical side, schools can take advantage of that.
Family and Children's Services in the amount of $1,608,000 agreed to
On Placement and Support Services
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The funding for placement and support services is up $210,000 - seven percent. This increase is the result of $157,000 in personnel, a $15,000 increase due to the YGU settlement, a $142,000 increase for two social workers and a 0.5 foster worker to replace services previously provided by the NNS contract.
Mr. Jenkins: Could we have a further explanation, Mr. Chair, as to the requirement for two additional SA workers?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Those are not social assistance workers. They're social workers who will be replacing workers who had been with the previous NNS program. As the member may recall, the NNS society terminated operation and the recommendation was that the department take this back. It is a program for very high-risk youth and we've since undertaken that. We have been utilizing staff from our juvenile justice area, and now what this reflects is the fact that we're taking it over directly.
Mr. Jenkins: Is there any point or juncture at which we review the change from NGO to government status for these individuals and look at it with a view to providing the services through NGOs again?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I suppose that, at a future point, that may be something that we can look at. However, I should remind the member that the NNS voluntarily ceased operations. They had a number of problems, not the least of which were problems of being able to deliver a program of this degree of demand in the territory, without sufficient staff.
There were also some problems with regard to internal staff matters, and they concluded - because of liability issues - that they were no longer interested in running this program.
Subsequent to that - and actually following their decision - the group home review done by Lorne Weir and Sandra Scarth concluded that, given the nature of this program, the government should be running it. And that was fairly consistent with what we had actually done.
We had looked at trying to interest a private provider to take over the service, but there was very little interest, given the nature of the kids.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, reading Hansard from last Thursday, it looks like the whole department has just over about 500 full-time employees, and we've increased significantly in the last little while.
I don't see any area that the government has looked at handing it over to an NGO. Everything has been flowing into the government, and the government has been taking over more and more responsibility, especially in Health - in this minister's portfolio - for these various areas.
Is there some internal management audit that's going to be conducted at some juncture to ensure that we're on the right track with the provision of these services, and that we're doing it in the most cost-effective manner?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We will be reviewing it - all of our dealings with this particular matter - but I need to remind the member that we did actually seek a private administrator of this program, but they weren't interested, largely given the nature of the type of kids that we're dealing with. There was not a great deal of interest in running this.
We had hoped to work with NNS, but they themselves concluded - and I met with the chair of the board - that, given the difficulties of working with the kind of young individuals that they were dealing with, and given the problems of AWOLs and things of that nature, and liability issues, they were no longer interested in carrying on.
This was purely their decision. We did, as I said, try to interest one of our other operators in taking over the service, but there was no real interest.
Overall, I think that there may be a point at which we look at the whole question of returning this to an NGO, but quite frankly this is not the kind of service that people exactly thunder toward, because you are dealing with some of the more troubled youth. There are some very troubled youth in this area.
As well, it was a clear recommendation of the group home review that the government take over this service directly, and, because the program, in theory, has a therapeutic nature, they felt that that was not being delivered by the previous service, and they felt that we should be doing it to fulfill that obligation.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, what procedures are in place to monitor it now that we've taken this program in-house? How are we going to be monitoring this, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We have been doing some ongoing monitoring on this and, actually, some of the initial results have proved fairly positive in terms of such things as AWOL. Those issues have dropped. Issues of defiance that were serious problems in the previous operation have declined markedly, and I think it has to do with the fact that we were able, as government, to bring in some of our well-trained folks from the young offenders facility who had experience in dealing with young people often with issues of defiance and so on, and we were able to work out a number of those issues. We were able to work out a number of the safety and facility issues as well, since we had direct control over the service.
So, we have been monitoring it, and the general results seem to be proving fairly positive.
Mr. Jenkins: The two FTEs that were recruited for these positions - were they located in the Yukon or did we have to recruit outside of the Yukon, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Those have been recruited locally.
Mr. Jenkins: Were they employees of the previous NNS program?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would have to check on the social workers, but there are some replacement workers that will show up later on in the transfer of this service. Some of those folks have come from the former NNS.
Mr. Jenkins: So, it basically boils down to an issue of money. They couldn't provide the service through NNS but, now that they're government employees, it seems that we're talking about virtually the same employees delivering the service but through the government. What is the difference? Isn't it more cost effective for the government to fund one of these programs and let it be carried out at arm's length, than it is to take the program in-house where we have very little flexibility with the employees, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Generally, I think some of the things that have accrued from the transference of this service have been, one, establishing better levels of training and qualification; two, there have been supervisory issues that we've been able to resolve. The previous NNS had gone through some management problems and we were able to bring in individuals with whom we were able to establish some clear guidelines, some clear goals, for the centre, as well as resolve a number of the outstanding issues.
One of the things I would suggest is that the member take a look at the group home review and read the section on NNS, and then compare it to some of the steps coming out of the group home review that we have taken, and see the kinds of changes that have come about there. It's not only merely a matter of transferring staff. I think it has been to establish some clear parameters, resolve some staffing issues, resolve some staff training.
One of the problems we found, that was characterized by the previous NNS, was often lack of training on the part of the workers themselves. We've been able to resolve some of those issues and, we believe, to offer a better service for comparable cost.
Mr. Jenkins: Certainly all of those issues could have been dealt with in-house by NNS, had the government provided the necessary funding levels to ensure that it occurred. Clear parameters are very easy to define. They could have been defined by a consultant. Adequate staffing and training for the staff - these are all ongoing issues that industry currently deals with, and the NGO sector is dealing with it on an ongoing basis. It's just that this minister's department, Mr. Chair, Health and Social Services, has taken over more NGOs than ever before and ingested them into the government system and staffed them with full-time government employees. It's a trend. I don't know what's dictating it. It probably appears to be just an easy way out for the minister: oh, that program is failing, we'll just bring it in-house; or, that program's not working, well, okay, we've done a study, we've looked at it, and it's suggested that it be taken over by government.
Now, is that ultimately in the best interest of Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The member's extrapolating here. I need to remind him that we did not seek to take NNS into our fold. I had at least two meetings with the chair of the NNS board, and she outlined for me their rationale in why they wanted to get out of it and why they wanted to give up the delivery of this service.
I think, without getting into too many details - because there are some issues there around personnel, and so on and so forth - they felt, quite frankly, that they had undertaken a service, with all good intentions - I mean, it was a well-placed board, but I don't think they had any concept of what they were undertaking.
Subsequent to that, they experienced some problems in dealing with staff, some problems in dealing with supervisory staff that they had not anticipated and they expressed to me very clearly that they were no longer interested in continuing on the service. It was not an issue of money; it was not an issue of funding. They made it very clear to me that that was not the case, that their concerns really revolved around just the scope of the task and the kinds of problems that they were faced with, and there were also issues around liability.
I had at least two meetings with the chair. In one, I tried to dissuade the chair, and basically they said no, they were not interested in continuing this.
Some of these individuals are probably the most troubled young people that we have in the territory, and many of these are young people who would have been, on a previous basis, referred out to Woods Homes. The attempt for NNS was basically to set up a Yukon model of Woods Homes and it was a very different sort of setting. As I said, I don't think they were quite prepared for the challenge.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, given the number of First Nations individuals who are involved in this program, has consultation taken place with Indian Affairs to see if it conforms with any program and funding that would flow from the federal level of government to cover this additional cost? Has that issue been addressed, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, we have been working very closely with CYFN on the whole question of the implementation of group home recreations. As far as the costs go, the service is offered to all young people up here. As I indicated to the member, we are endeavouring in a variety of ways to recover some of those costs from DIAND, but I think, for example, if we were to go to DIAND and suggest that they undertake this service, I don't think there would be any interest whatsoever at all.
Mr. Jenkins: Now, at issue, Mr. Chair, is that before we implement this program Indian Affairs be consulted as to their involvement - the level of involvement and the costs that they're prepared to transfer to YTG for their responsibility under this program. Every time we embark on a new initiative of this nature, more and more frequently, the Government of the Yukon is having to absorb the total cost. There doesn't appear to be any offsetting entry or any discussion with the federal Department of Indian Affairs to address their area of responsibility. Why is that the case, Mr. Chair? Why do we go into these programs without consulting?
Now, I understand that we have to consult with CYFN, but the issue is on behalf of the Council of Yukon First Nations, and Indian Affairs is the paying agency. Why is this issue not taken up with them, discussed with them and agreements reached with them at that point?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: There hasn't been any change, actually, from when NNS delivered the service on our behalf. We billed back then; we bill back now.
We don't consult with DIAND on programs we bring in; we bill them back for direct service costs. That's what we're doing in the case of us assuming the responsibility for this.
We haven't done anything remarkable in terms of bringing in a new program. We had previously contracted with NNS to deliver the service. We billed back to the federal government for delivery of services on behalf of the First Nation young people.
We've assumed the responsibility of the service. We're still continuing to bill the federal government for delivery of those services, so there hasn't been any change in that regard. The only change has been in who is actually delivering the service. In this case we're doing it directly, as opposed to through an agent.
Mr. Jenkins: But, Mr. Chair, certainly there's been an increase in cost to provide this service, vis-à-vis providing it through NNS. Now, rightfully there should be a head office allocation to that program - total management service office space. Or is that just waived for this program? Because under NNS it would be all clearly identified. We're back to the issue of you providing a meal at the hospital, and it's only so many dollars and it's considerably less expensive than providing it by buying it from the Whitehorse General Hospital.
Now, if we look at that, all the costs are not factored into the equation that the minister brought forward in the House. And the same holds true for this program. Under NNS, when they costed out their individual costs, all their costs were involved. Here, all we're looking at is the additional incremental costs of the two new FTEs.
Are all the associated costs clearly identified? Is the program costing more now than it was under NNS? I'm sure the minister has to respond, "Yes". What are we charging back to Indian Affairs? Are we charging the same fee as we previously charged back for NNS now?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The costs for both the NNS program and our own program are approximately the same, and the billing back would be approximately the same. If the member goes through the book, he'll see that there is a reduction in the grants because we're no longer paying that out to the NNS.
As far as new costs, the costs are certainly within government, but that's offset with the reduction in the grant. So our cost - the amount that we're billing back to the federal government - is approximately the same.
Mrs. Edelman: Could the minister perhaps give this to us in writing, because it looks like we may be moving on here quite quickly, and give us the exact different in cost to the government for the NGO delivering the NNS service versus the department delivering the NNS service, please.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We can certainly try to provide that by written form.
Mrs. Edelman: To go back to the issue of the group home review, one of the problems that people had bringing forward complaints about the NNS program, as well as the other programs around group homes, was that they would bring their complaints to the department and the people at the department - I'm not too sure who - would minimize these complaints, ridicule them, and eventually the complaints stopped coming. There was some fear, also - the people felt who were bringing forward the complaints - that perhaps there would be some sort of retaliation for bringing forward the complaints.
That issue was dealt with only minimally in the group home review. We had a meeting with the department - the opposition members had a meeting with the department - to talk about the group home review. It was my understanding, at that point, that that issue had never been dealt with.
How are we dealing with complaints about the service that is now provided by the government in NNS and by the private provider for the group homes?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We do have some procedures in place for a number of these issues - the 49 issues that were identified - and, as we work through, we are working with CYFN on this. We have representatives from both CYFN and ourselves discussing each of these points. As well, we have a sort of neutral, if you will, third party who is overseeing things and periodically seeking some resolution of issues.
With respect to individual cases, I think there is still a case before Human Rights and I'm not at liberty to discuss it.
With respect to the issue of dealing with complaints, we do have a procedure in place for people bringing forward complaints in terms of the delivery of service and, as a result of the group home review, we've become fairly sensitive to how these complaints are being dealt with. I can provide the member with more specifics in that regard. I'm just looking to see which recommendation that is and where we stand on it.
I'll provide the member with some further information on dealing with the complaint procedures.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, it's important not only that I receive that information but that the people working within that system and who deal and refer to that system also are aware of that information, so that they will know what is the proper way to admit complaints to the department, and so that they will also know that they aren't going to be ridiculed, their complaints won't be minimized and aren't going to just disappear into that department. I think it's extremely important that that trust be built up again with those NGOs who are referring as well as the staff that work in those areas.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, we'll certainly take that under advisement and pass it on to the appropriate authorities.
Placement and Support Services in the amount of $3,165,000 agreed to
On Child Care Services
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That represents $17,000 or a three-percent increase for child care services. This is due to an increase of $17,000 in personnel; a $3,000 increase due to the YGU settlement and $14,000 for miscellaneous price increases.
Child Care Services in the amount of $5,076,000 agreed to
On Youth Services
Hon. Mr. Sloan: There is a $28,000 or one-percent increase in the youth services unit from the revised budget. This is an increase of $28,000, made up of a $25,000 increase due to YGU settlement and $3,000 in miscellaneous price increases.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I'm sorry I misspoke myself. Going back to the previous line item, if it's okay, the minister talked earlier, during the budget debate on this department, about bringing forward an increase for the direct operating grant for child care services and, at that point, he was looking for another $200,000. Has this materialized and where did it materialized from?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We are looking internally here. We think there may be some shuffling around that we can do. At the time the budget was wrapped up, we had not yet identified the funds. We believe now that we have some $200,000 at our disposal. Of course, we're always seeking to maximize what kind of contribution we can make so we're continuing to search for areas that we can look at identifying for funds. I've made a commitment for at least $200,000, and we believe we'll be able to follow through on that.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, at the time, we also had discussions about maintaining the direct operating grant under the previous formula so that all the new people - the 39 homes that hadn't previously received the direct operating grant - would receive the direct operating grant under the formula, which meant that the government would have needed to find another $200,000 on top of the $200,000 that it had already found in order to fund at the same levels as previously.
Now, the minister said that he was willing to fund at the formula level for all of the day homes that were receiving the direct operating grant. Will the $200,000 cover that? My understanding is that he's going to find more money.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I never committed to funding at the same level. I said that I would aspire to fund at the same level. That was my goal.
Actually, the figure that we had determined would have meant probably an additional $117,000 to $150,000, on top of the $200,000 amount. We have $200,000 in place. I am seeking to squeeze out as much money as I can to get that as close to the formula or, ideally, on formula, as possible.
I have managed to secure enough money to lift the moratorium to provide a level of assistance to the 39 family day homes that are not receiving the grant. What I am trying to do is get enough funding that I can fund them at a level very close to or the same as under the present formula, but I made no commitment to be able to fund them. I said that I would aspire to that.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, perhaps that was just wishful thinking on my part - and I remain ever hopeful.
The 25 day homes that do receive the direct operating grant and have historically received the direct operating grant - will this change affect their funding under the formula? Will their funding go down because of the moratorium being lifted or will it stay the same, under the old formula?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That would depend exclusively on whether or not I can get the additional funds. If I were to, for example, be able to free up enough money to provide a level of funding for the 39 not currently getting it, and the 21 already receiving it at a different level, well, obviously there would still be some inequity in that regard. My goal is to eliminate that inequity that already exists. So, hopefully, if I am successful in securing the funds, we can do away with that particular inequity and move on from there.
Mrs. Edelman: One of the other questions that I asked the minister - and I wouldn't mind asking it again, just to see what sort of answers I'm going to be getting this week - was about the arrival of the first cheque for the homes that now will be receiving the direct operating grant. The minister previously said "in approximately two weeks to a month". That was two weeks ago, and I'm just wondering where we sit right now.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, the next payment period, I believe, is April 12, and I don't believe we'll be able to effect that, because I would have to go back and have a regulatory change. That would mean that the first change that would come about would be probably the next period, which I believe is in July.
So that's what we're aspiring toward. I still have to ensure that I have sufficient funds. Because we would have to change the regulations, in that case, we'd have to look for more time. I'd have to come back to Management Board, and I doubt whether I can make it within the next six days, given the time constraints. That would mean that the next period would be in July.
Mrs. Edelman: How is the minister going to be communicating that information out to the day homes and the day cares, whom this affects most directly?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We'll probably do it in two ways, Mr. Chair. I would meet with the Yukon Child Care Association and ask them to disseminate that information to their members, along with how it would be done. We would probably also be communicating with each family day home that we have that is currently registered with us, letting them know about this change, because, quite clearly, we'll have to get some information from them as well in order to properly calculate what their grant level would be.
So, once we get this through, we'll be communicating with each family day home and, of course, seeking information that would allow us to make our necessary calculations.
Youth Services in the amount of $3,039,000 agreed to
On Residential Services
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the residential services - is it for the transfer of the program of adult services? Is that the change that happened this year?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes. One of the items included here is an $82,000 increase for the transfer of the former CSS supervisor to Social Services. This is also where we find the decrease due to the termination of the NNS contract - the $796,000 decrease - due to the termination of the community support services supervisor.
Residential Services in the amount of $4,496,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the statistics?
Mr. Jenkins: Just a couple of observations on the statistics. We're constantly told - or it's suggested - that what drives the cost up in Health and Social Services is the number of First Nations involved in it. But any of the statistics that I've reviewed would indicate that their percentage of involvement parallels their percentage of the total population, which runs between 25 to 26 percent. In fact, it's probably slightly less than their total percentage of the population.
And that inference is there on a continuing basis, and it would also suggest that Indian and Northern Affairs should be responsible for about 25 percent of the total budget, but that certainly isn't the case, unless it's cumulative.
Does the minister have any opinion on that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I don't believe I've ever implied that the cost drivers have been due to First Nation involvement, with the possible exception of some of the child care. One of the areas of growth in child care centres has been in the number of First Nation day care centres coming on stream in the last few years.
But overall, no, I don't think the costs have been exclusively driven by First Nation costs whatsoever. I think our costs have been just basically ongoing, in terms of the overall population. There have been some cost drivers in certain areas, such as employment stats, in terms of SA - the number of people who basically have exhausted their EI options and are coming on stream with our social assistance costs.
But no, I would say that, with possibly one or two exceptions, that might be in the area of aboriginal child care. I don't think we can associate First Nation numbers with increased costs.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, also on the statistics under child care services, one of the campaign promises of the NDP was to increase the number of after-school programs in day care. That was an issue that was important to the NDP at the time, and it was also a continual recommendation from the Child Care Association board. Now, I don't see any of that information reflected in the statistics. Has there been an increase in the number of after-school care programs?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I don't have that contained in the statistics that I have here. I'd have to go back to child care services and see if indeed there has been an increase in that regard. All I have is just school-age program spaces.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the issue of latchkey kids, of course, is a big one here in the Yukon, and it's a particularly important issue because we live in a very severe climate. Many of us use wood stoves for heating and it becomes a real problem.
I know that the department is paying for or partially funding a program that somebody is putting on right now, which offers a program on how kids can take care of themselves, basically, from the ages of eight to 12. What they're doing, basically, is teaching latchkey kids how to survive and how to function at home by themselves without care. That's one way of dealing with it.
The other way of dealing with it is having appropriate after-school programs that kids might be interested in - and they certainly aren't interested in going to daycare. Speaking from experience, no child I've ever met wants to go to a day care after about the age of eight. You have a lot of trouble trying to get them to go, and that's because there isn't appropriate programming.
Now, what I'm wondering about is, what are we doing working in this area? There has always been a problem, and teaching kids how to be good latchkey kids is not the way of dealing with the problem; developing appropriate programming is a better way to go. What are we doing?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think there are a number of programs that are going on, particularly within Education, because as the member has rightly acknowledged, once kids get to school, it becomes increasingly difficult to direct them toward after-school-care kinds of programs. No child, usually from about grade 3 on, wants to be associated with going to day care after school. Many kids actually choose to stay behind at school and participate in extracurricular activities, and so on and so forth.
With respect to specific programs, I would have to take a look at that. But we do offer subsidies, to some degree, for programming for kids who go to after-school programs, so there is some support there.
With regard to specific programs, I'd have to take a look into it and see what kinds of things actually go on, but we do support children through some measure of subsidy in that regard.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I'd like to suggest that some schools - not all schools, but a good number of the schools in Whitehorse, in particular - are empty. You know, come 3:00 p.m. or 3:30 p.m., they are totally empty. There aren't a lot of after-school programs like there used to be, say, in the minister's day - not too long ago. I don't know if we're depending on the education system to come up with after-school care for those eight- to 12-year olds, but if we are, then we're in big trouble, because it's not happening at a lot of the schools - in Whitehorse in particular - and I have a very grave concern about that issue. If the minister can forward me some fascinating new programs that we have undertaken in the recent past - in particular since the election - in this area, I would be more than happy to receive that.
Now, when we're looking at statistics under youth services, the numbers of occurrences - like, we're talking about probation officers, remanded admissions, sentencing to open custody, et cetera - has gone down considerably, from 874 to 726.
The number of individuals hasn't changed hardly at all, so what's happening? Are youth committing less crime? What is the story?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think I indicated earlier, Mr. Chair, that we do have a relatively high rate of dismissed or stayed charges. As well, we have a number of stayed or withdrawn charges due to multiple charges being laid by police, and then them dropping some of the lesser charges in return for, I guess, in a sense, a bit of a plea bargain, if you will.
There are a number of options available up here that, perhaps, are not available in some other jurisdictions. I think I made reference to them before: the idea of the intensive probation service that we began in November for the most high-risk kids. As well, the programs that we have, like the Youth Achievement Centre - these are programs that are now being looked at as part of the Youth Criminal Justice Act and, in effect, we have been doing many of those for a period of time.
So I think what it reflects is, basically, a couple of things: the relative success of alternative measures, and just how charges are laid in the territory.
Mrs. Edelman: There still is a significant decrease over a one-year period, and I imagine that this plea bargaining, if you will, has been going on for quite some time. Why such a significant change? Obviously there is still the same number of youth committing the crimes, and the plea bargaining has been going on for years. That's part of the process. Are we talking about a change in policy in the department? What's going on there?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: There's no real change, I don't think. We have been attempting to bring in some new measures, such as the intensive probation. I think we've done it. maybe not in anticipation of the new Youth Criminal Justice Act, but we've been looking at how we can deliver services, probably, more effectively.
This happens to be an area where we do have a lot of people who go to jail and I think we've been looking for some ways to perhaps break that cycle a little bit. Things such as youth diversion that may not have been begun in some other areas or perhaps used to the same degree, I think we're using here in an effective manner.
Mrs. Edelman: Are you talking about a more effective manner or a cheaper manner, because for every single charge that's dropped the cost associated with that particular youth goes down. So, are we talking about getting ready for a new piece of federal legislation that we don't have enough resources for, because it talks about a lot of diversionary types of justice programs, or are we talking about cutting costs in the department?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Not at all. As a matter of fact, the indications are that we are going to be receiving further resources for this. We're not quite sure about the amount at this time, but we anticipate that there will be an increase in resources, possibly in the neighbourhood of maybe two percent or more in some areas and further amounts of money in some specific areas.
With regard to this, I think I gave some statistics just a little bit earlier on the recidivism rates, and something that I've noted is that, of the 100 youth from April 1 to December 31, 1998, only about 14 percent of them re-offended while they were in the Youth Achievement Centre, and 86 did not. Then, a little bit farther on, if we take a look at the intensive probation supervision program that I mentioned earlier, which anticipates that, in the federal bill, on that one we had 14 high-risk teens - and we tracked 14 of them because these are the folks who tend to have multiple convictions. In this case, 14 shared 85 prior convictions. During the period from November through March, three out of 14 incurred new criminal charges.
So I think what we're trying to do is anticipate how we can work with this, how we can move ahead. The indication that I've had - at least from the meetings that our officials have been holding in Ottawa - is that we're probably going to be receiving increased funding in this regard.
There is an allocation of funding coming from the federal government that's going to be spread out, I believe, over the next six years. We will be getting an apportionment of the sharing that I think is commensurate with our traditional amounts. But we're also looking at probably about a two-percent increase overall.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, it sounds like the highly supervised probation program is cutting down the number of offences, which is saving the government money. So in the long run, having sufficient supervision during the probation period - and having a lot of supervision during the probation period - is actually going to save the government money.
So, this process under the new federal act is probably going to save us some money in the long run in youth services, because we're going to have to change our policy and the way we deal with things, particularly because we typically haven't had enough probation officers in youth programs to properly supervise the kids when they're doing community work service hours.
Now, in the long run, can the minister see some savings in our costs, not so much because their charges are being dropped, but because they're being well-supervised and the recidivism rate is going down? In the long run, are we going to save money?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I think it may be. That may actually be the ultimate result. Our goal, first and foremost, is protection of the public. Costs, quite frankly, are secondary. I think that if we can keep young people from going on into a pattern of crime, that's what I'd be far more interested in.
I take far more comfort from the fact that 80 percent of the kids that go through diversion programs never end up in the justice system again. That gives me greater comfort than anything else.
If I can keep one or two kids, by means of diversion, from going on into further juvenile crime and perhaps into adult crime, that, for me, is the payoff, because I think the ultimate goal for us all should be to keep young people out of the justice system, which would ultimately reduce crime for the population as a whole, with the protection of the public as the paramount purpose.
Mr. Jenkins: I just have a couple of observations on the statistics, Mr. Chair. When we look through the statistics, there are a couple of trends that are very, very evident, that the number of individuals, by and large, are decreasing, except when you get to family and children services.
One would look at that at page 8-14. It would appear that the number of people in care have increased because it's expressed as a percentage of the Yukon's total population from 3.6 to 3.7. One would clearly feel that there's been an increase in that category but one has to take into consideration that the population of the Yukon is shrinking and it's shrinking quite radically in this last probably six- to eight-month period and indications are that we're decreasing again.
I would be hopeful that, when individuals in the department compile these statistics, they deal with the actual numbers and don't get into something as subjective as those kinds of percentages that are actually meaningless, unless you're trying to make a point in the House to suggest that you're doing more work.
The other area that comes across abundantly clear is that the number of individuals receiving services from the government is on a downward trend and that, by and large, clearly indicates our shrinking population and yet, this minister's budget for this department is increasing at a considerable rate and has done so the last three budgets.
Now, if one extrapolates that - and I guess it's probably a good thing for the minister's department because, had the NDP not destroyed the economy in the Yukon and we had the population increase that we enjoyed a few years ago, just where would the minister's budget be today to service the needs in the manner that he's servicing the population right now?
If it's increasing at this rate, and we have a shrinking population, if we get into a growing population - which hopefully will occur after the next election - this is an alarming trend, and it's very, very difficult to reverse.
Does the minister not see that as kind of a warning bell out there, or is he just going merrily on his way, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I should point out, Mr. Chair, that yes, the services are decreasing in some areas, but we have chosen to increase services in other areas, for example, to seniors. We've expanded our programs, particularly in health, with regard to diabetes, with regard to hospital to home. We've increased the number of beds. We've actually increased the number of services that we're delivering to people. I don't see why I should apologize for trying to increase services to people who need it.
Yes, some services are being reduced but, at the same time, we're also addressing the increased demand for services in other areas and, quite frankly, some of those services, during the previous administration, were let to languish and were not addressed whatsoever.
So we felt that we had to remedy the inaction by the previous government on a number of health fronts, and we've chosen to do that.
Family and Children's Services in the amount of $20,143,000 agreed to
On Social Services
Mrs. Edelman: Generally speaking, Mr. Chair, when can we expect the seven new beds at the Thomson Centre to be opened?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Our target is for sometime in May. It is going to be largely dependent on our recruitment actions. We have put out the recruitment actions for the staff - almost immediately following the budget - and I can probably get a bit of an update where we are with those recruitment actions, but it's exclusively a function of being able to secure the staff and get them in place as soon as we can.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, which waiting list are we going to go from - the Thomson Centre waiting list?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It's something that we'll be working on with our continuing care folks. There are probably some needs there with regard to moving some high-demand individuals off the hospital list, as well as bringing in higher demand folks from the Thomson waiting list. So, it's going to be a function of trying to address both those needs.
I basically haven't got into that level of detail, but I can discuss it with the continuing care as to what sort of steps they're taking in trying to sort of prioritize folks.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, can I assume then that the people who are on the waiting list for Macaulay Lodge are not going to be considered during this process of bringing people into the new beds at the Thomson Centre? The beds will be filled from people who are waiting to come in from the hospital or come up on the waiting list for the Thomson Centre?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: A number will come from the hospital, but I need to point out that many of the people on the Thomson waiting list are in fact people at Macaulay who need to move up to the higher level of care. So, that would consequently free up some space, I suppose, at Macaulay if some of those individuals were to move on. But, at this point, I haven't sat down and gone through that, because, quite frankly, it wouldn't be appropriate for me to begin to sort of pick and choose people. I would have to depend on the ability of our folks in continuing care to make those kinds of assertions. I don't want to get into saying that this individual should go in, and that this individual should not. That's simply not my function, nor is it appropriate.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I never suggested that it was, but I have had a number of inquiries from seniors and people who need high levels of care, who are wondering about where they should place themselves if they want to get into the Thomson Centre - place their relatives, actually, in order to get into the Thomson Centre beds that are going to be reopening. It's a policy decision about where those names are going to come from - not who, but where the names are going to come from. And I suppose that's the sort of information I'm trying to get from the minister now, because it's information that a lot of people want to know.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: There is a continuing care committee, which reviews applications based on certain priorities of need, and they will be making the decisions.
On Program Management
Program Management in the amount of $401,000 agreed to
On Alcohol and Drug Services
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The Member for Riverdale South is gesticulating wildly, which I assume means she wants me to go into some greater detail on this.
The ADS budget has increased by 18 percent, or $313,000. This is due to an increase of $273,093: $19,000 due to the YEU settlement; $195,000 offset from former contracts for 4.9 positions at Sarah Steele, $59,000 transferred from region contracts for an aftercare ADS worker. "Other" increase is $40,000. This is a $200,000 increase to fund ADS treatment centres, a $138,000 decrease in contracts due to reprofiling of Sarah Steele, and a $22,000 decrease in materials and advertising due to reprofiling of Sarah Steele.
Mrs. Edelman: Is the alcohol and drug services going to be moving, or is there going to be an increase in the size of their offices? Is that part of this line item?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The member has mentioned about the moving. That's the relocation of the Social Services staff from the building that's sort of across from the Justice building. I believe it's referred to as the Prospector Building. They will be relocating in a new space that is being constructed on a build-to-suit basis beside the health services group on Black Street, adjacent to the Berska Building.
Alcohol and Drug Services in the amount of $2,093,000 agreed to
On Social Assistance Services
Social Assistance Services in the amount of $9,770,000 agreed to
On Community Support Services
Community Support Services in the amount of $3,693,000 agreed to
On Continuing Care
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The continuing care budget will increase by $842,000, or nine percent. The increase is as follows: personnel, an increase of $754,000; a $71,000 increase due to the YEU settlement; a $530,000 increase for 4.5 nurses and 4.5 attendants to open the beds at the Thomson Centre; a $121,000 increase for 2.39 therapy aids to support the day program for frail, elderly and dementia in the community; $32,000 in miscellaneous price increases, offset from contracts; other includes an increase of $88,000 - a $115,000 increase in support cost to open the seven beds at the Thomson Centre and a $27,000 decrease in facility contracts at the Thomson Centre.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, is this the line that has the outreach worker who works downtown in the old - well, I was going to call it the old New North - the community outreach nurse?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I believe the member's referring to our community outreach nurse. No, that is in community health programs.
Continuing Care in the amount of $10,016,000 agreed to
Social Services in the amount of $25,973,000 agreed to
On Health Services
Chair: Is there general debate? Page 8-29.
On Program Management
Program Management in the amount of $328,000 agreed to
On Health Insurance
Health Insurance in the amount of $24,372,000 agreed to
On Yukon Hospital Services
Yukon Hospital Services in the amount of $17,935,000 agreed to
On Vital Statistics
Vital Statistics in the amount of $64,000 agreed to
On Community Health
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The community health programs were increased by $538,000 or nine percent. The details are as follows: personnel, an increase of $569,000; $69,000 increase due to YEU settlement, $184,000 due to the conversion of the medevac contracts to in-house staff, $131,000 increase to staff ambulance services to cover situations where the second emergency call overlaps the call already being responded to; $80,000 increase for community nutritionist and diabetes educator to provide community nutrition and diabetic education, a $45,000 increase to the Whitehorse Health Centre for nursing support for the healthy families initiative; a $30,000 increase for summer staffing in Dawson, in the EHO unit; a $30,000 recoverable increase to extend hearing assessment services to WCB and other agencies.
Other includes an increase of $11,000; a $100,000 increase to fund the B.C. lab testing services not billed prior to 1998-99; a $64,000 increase due to the transfer of No. 2 and No. 4 hospital maintenance and heating funds from program management; a $42,000 increase in health promotion contracts previously funded through contributions; a $184,000 decrease due to the conversion of medevac contracts to in-house ambulance staff and; an $11,000 net decrease in general contracts and supplies.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, can I get a bit more detail on the increase due to conversion of the medevac contracts to in-house staff and then the subsequent decrease at the other end? Does this mean now that if someone's medevac'd out to Vancouver, rather than the nurse who was sort of on call at the hospital that they're now going to have ambulance staff doing that? And does this at all affect if there is going to be a family person in attendance?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Previously, this had been done through the hospital, so the contract was with the hospital and they were in charge of supplying the staff and having the people on call, and so on and so forth. They no longer wanted to carry that service so it was transferred back to our ambulance programs. There's no change, actually, in the programs, so it will be still the same numbers and still the same teams, but rather than it going through the hospital and the hospital being the agent to coordinate it, our ambulance services are doing it.
Mrs. Edelman: Is there still a problem with having to pay for the ambulance the other end when you get to Vancouver or to Edmonton?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think that issue has been resolved but we can provide further details.
Community Health in the amount of $6,429,000 agreed to
On Community Nursing
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, this is the community health nurse then who is doing the outreach program.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Not exclusively. I believe the community health nurse is in the community health programs. This is the community nursing services that refers to the rural communities, and this is an increase of $226,000, or three percent. This is an increase in personnel of $282,000, which is represented by a $222,000 increase due to the YEU settlement, a $43,000 increase for a .5 FTE float nurse position, a $68,000 increase in miscellaneous price increases, a $51,000 net decrease from miscellaneous small position adjustments across the program. Other includes a decrease of $39,000, primarily due to a decrease in the use of agency nurses. And that's essentially it.
Community Nursing in the amount of $8,586,000 agreed to
On Mental Health Services
Mental Health Services in the amount of $1,514,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there questions on the statistics?
Mr. Jenkins: Just on vital statistics, it would be more meaningful, Mr. Chair, if we get into categories like "age of deceased, 40-plus". Every category is lumped into that. I found out the information that I was seeking, but in future budgets, could the information be broken out into the categories, Mr. Chair?
And the other interesting trend is the drug plan stats. Compared to previous years, it looks like we're on a downward trend. Is that more to do with generic drugs? Is it the requirement for generic drugs, or is it competition in the marketplace? What's driving the change, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Could the member please refer to the line number?
Mr. Jenkins: It's statistics, on page 8-31, drug plan statistics. If you compare it to previous years, go back to the previous budgets -
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would have to get further detail on that. Actually, we're looking at an increase on that in numbers of subscribers, but I believe there is probably a move toward use of more generic drugs just in general. Drug costs represent one of the fastest growing areas in Canadian health care and I believe now - I recently saw a statistic that suggests that drug costs may actually exceed what physician costs are in Canada.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The member has suggested a novel way to reduce our drug consumption in rural Yukon and I'm sure that I'll take that under advisement. He has given us a way by curtailing the prescribing, and certainly it's something that we can look at in the future.
There is a formula in chronic disease, I need to point out as well, which may explain some of these stats.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm not looking at the total number of clients submitting claims or total number of prescriptions paid for. I'm just looking at the average prescription costs and the average ingredient costs, as to what the trend has been over the last few years. I don't know if the minister has those numbers in front of him, but that's what I was referring to, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can certainly ask our folks in insured services to give me some further details in that regard.
Mrs. Edelman: On page 8-38, under community health - Yukon communicable disease control. For testing, screening and counselling for hepatitis C, the number is down considerably. The counselling on diagnosis of hepatitis C, is that the only counselling that's available, or is there ongoing counselling going on, following the cases of hepatitis C in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm advised that we did a look-back in that regard, and that explained the upward blip, and now we're returning to probably a more stabilized number. If the member takes a look in 1997-98, the actual was $1,042; then in 1998-99, with all the attendant concern around hepatitis C - all we need to actually determine numbers, I don't need to actually be in a position to advise people of their status under hepatitis C - it takes a major jump, and now we're returning to what we feel is a more manageable number.
Mrs. Edelman: Can the minister update the House on where we sit with hepatitis C funding from the federal government?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Actually, that was a subject of some discussion at a recent conference call. The federal government has still not resolved that issue of the 1986-90 folks, and there has been some discussion around the people who are outside of the 1986-90 window. This was also a matter of some discussion.
The federal government had been approached by a group representing hepatitis C victims of this period to take the money that they had allocated for services for individuals in this area and put them into some kind of compensation package.
I think it's fair to say that that is a non-starter with the federal government. The federal government was approached by our representatives of the, I believe it was, hepatitis C who were siding up to the hemophiliacs to see if they would consider taking that money that had been allocated as some kind of compensation package, and I would say, in my understanding, Mr. Rock's opinion is that that's a non-starter. He has always taken the position to provide care, not compensation, in regard to this.
The 1986-90, however, because of the outfall of the Krever report and the whole question of liability, is a somewhat different case. This, I believe, is going to be discussed in early May to some further degree at a meeting in Edmonton. I would say that I wouldn't hold out too much hope that the federal government plans to change its course with regard to pre-1986.
Mrs. Edelman: I'm still not clear. If a person was diagnosed between the years 1986 and 1990 - they're within the window - when is the compensation package going to kick in?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It's my understanding that they're still negotiating and they're quite close on reaching an agreement there as to how much it will actually be and the manner in which the cheques will flow. It'll be based, I believe, on the severity of the case, the impact on a person's life, the loss of future enjoyment of life and issues of this nature. So, I understand that they're still negotiating in that regard.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, this seems to be moving very slowly, and I wonder how many people are being lost in the process. I would assume that the money is going to be going to family if a person predeceases the negotiation. The minister seems to be pointing out that that's true.
Are we talking about an end of negotiation and the beginning of a compensation package by the end of this calendar year, by the end of 1999, prior to the millennium?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm advised that the lawyer who is working on this is the same lawyer who is working on peppergate, and so his energies may be somewhat diverted on to that particular case. So, it may flow that we don't have the same amount of energy put forward on that, but we would hope that it would be by the end of the year.
Incidentally, it just may be of interest that the co-council on the peppergate case is a former prosecutor from the Yukon, Simon Fothergill, and local boy makes good. So, I hope we can hope for some future episodes of this kind where our local lawyers can get a chance to practise their skills, so perhaps the red telephone is in order to call through to Ottawa.
Mrs. Edelman: Would that I had that red telephone, or that anybody would answer at the other end - even better.
Having had some knowledge of some persons in the Yukon who are dealing with hepatitis C, I wonder if the minister could write yet another letter - I'm sure he's written others in the past - saying that this is an issue for Yukoners and that it's important that we move forward on this issue, and the minister is our representative in Ottawa. And I'm hoping that if he does write such a letter, he would copy that to this side of the House as well.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It's my intention to raise the issue at the meeting in Edmonton on the 4th and 5th because I have had some representation from a couple of folks here in the Yukon who fall into that sort of window and who have been asking when can they expect some measure of compensation. So, I intend to raise it again - yet again - in May.
Mr. Jenkins: While we're on communicable diseases, could the minister advise the House the number of HIV cases there currently are in the Yukon and the number of full-blown AIDS cases there are currently in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I need to determine the statistics. I believe the last number that I saw was around 21, but that was close to a year ago. I'd have to sort of go back. That was people testing positive for HIV. I would have to actually go back and take a look at the statistics and see how many people were in full-blown AIDS and how many would have tested positive for HIV.
Mr. Jenkins: Given the number of cases of STDs we have in the Yukon, what we don't see is a breakdown as to the age category for STDs. When one does explore that area, Mr. Chair, one finds a tremendous number of our youth in that category.
Is there any initiative or drive in that area for more public awareness? I know we kind of ran up the gamut and then we peaked and it sort of just tapered off, and you really don't hear that much about it any more. What initiatives is this government taking in that area, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think one of the things that we have found and we have been quite successful in is the whole chlamydia campaign, and the member can see that there's actually been a rather huge increase in chlamydia testing. That was, I think, due to public awareness and a very active - as a matter of fact I might say an award-winning - campaign. The Canadian gynecologists and obstetricians gave our folks in the communicable disease unit an award in that regard, because of the nature of the chlamydia campaign, and that's reflected in the amount of testing.
That may look particularly disproportionate, but chlamydia, as an STD, is one of those diseases that was not well-reported, not well-known. In many ways it's a silent disease, particularly for women - especially young women. The Member for Riverdale South again is gesticulating with wild enthusiasm, because she realizes the importance of this, and has asked me to go on with some further detail.
With men it's a little more noticeable, particularly - well, I don't want to put anyone off, but certainly there are very appreciable signs in men that may lead them to be diagnosed at an earlier rate. However, the problem really lies with young women, where it may, in fact, be silent and produce some serious problems in the reproductive system in later years.
We've been quite proud of the strides we've made in terms of chlamydia diagnosis, and we're hoping, actually, to take some of the things that we learned by developing that very successful campaign and apply them to other areas of youth health promotion. So we're going to try to take some of the ideas, some of the focus testing that we did, and apply those to future programs.
Mr. Jenkins: I am agreeing with the minister. We've had some very successful campaigns in this area. What I'm asking the minister is, keep up the initiative, and keep it moving ahead, don't back off. That's all I'm encouraging the minister to do, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can assure the member that we won't back off in this area. We've had some successes. Youth health promotion is something we take very seriously, and we'll continue to forge ahead.
Health Services in the amount of $59,228,000 agreed to
On Regional Services
On Program Management
Program Management in the amount of $2,032,000 agreed to
On Family and Children's Services
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This is an increase of $25,000, or four percent. This is due to an increase of $6,000 - a $9,000 increase in the family service costs and a $3,000 decrease in foster costs. Yes, that covers it.
Mrs. Edelman: Are we talking about fewer children in care, or are we talking about some other savings to do with the decrease in foster cost?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would suggest that there are probably fewer children in foster homes. The member is aware that we're continually striving to get more foster care services, and it's an ongoing struggle. We're just trying to make people aware of this being a need. We've run a number of ads in that regard, to try to encourage people, because we need to really provide a home atmosphere for these young people and try to provide some stability in sometimes some very difficult young lives.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the department has a policy - and it's a reasonable policy - that they try not to pay, apparently, their foster parents too much money so that they can weed out those people that want to do it solely for the money and, hopefully, keep people who want to be foster parents for better reasons. But the amount of money that the foster parent gets for taking care of a child in care is less than $1 an hour when you go over the 24-hour period, and foster parents do a lot with these kids. And, as the minister has already indicated, some of these children are very high-need children, and they are high-risk children as well.
If the department - and I think reasonably - doesn't want to pay more for foster parents to provide foster care - and obviously there are real problems trying to get foster parents, and historically there has been, and lately it has gotten quite a bit worse - what other non-monetary types of things is the minister thinking of in order to attract people into this particular very caring and very important field?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, first of all, there is a fluctuating rate. It can range from $24 a day right up to $90 a day, depending on the level of need of the child. As well, within the foster care system, there are avenues for providing some respite care and things of this nature for people who have particularly high-demand children. And we do try to provide some incentives for parents in that regard, recognizing that these parents often have their own children as well - their own families to deal with. We do provide some opportunities like respite care, like the ability of the child to occasionally return to their home-family situation, if that's possible.
One of the things that, I guess, I find quite discouraging in this job is to go to some of our very heavy-needs child care or child placement facilities, and find out from some of these young people that, in many cases they haven't been home - to their natural home - in five, six, seven years, because the family situation is just not stable.
I think that's a real tragedy. So we do recognize that the folks in our foster care do provide a tremendous service. We recognize that. We recognize that in virtually all cases people don't do it for the money. They do it because they love children; they do it because they feel that they want to try to provide something to children, and we try to recognize the differential demands of these children by a scale that permits that.
Mrs. Edelman: Obviously, the greatest attraction and the greatest incentive is the ability to work with children who are in need, and that's why foster parents do it. Offering respite is not an incentive. What other programs is the minister looking at in order to attract people to the field of foster care?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We actually do try to provide some opportunities for people to interact, to socialize, to discuss some of their frustrations and some of their needs. We do some, sort of, informal recognition of the efforts that people put forward. I'm just advised by the deputy minister here that, actually, our last sort of go-around of advertising produced a fairly good result, so perhaps what we need to do is emphasize some of the positive benefits for people who are willing to foster - the sort of intrinsic benefits for people, getting a chance to work with children, getting a chance to provide children a warm, stable home environment.
So, maybe we're turning the corner a bit here. Maybe we're getting more people coming on - hopefully.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I certainly hope so but, quite frankly, I doubt it. I think we're going to end up with the same problem about a year from now. The number of people who come in to be foster families and leave is quite large.
Has the minister's department looked at going directly to people in the churches or talked about making presentations to people in the churches? These are people who already give to the community to a large extent. What about doing presentations at the various service clubs around town? These are reasonable ways of attracting people who already serve their community in other ways.
Would the minister be willing to look at those things?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It's certainly an idea that I'll recommend to our folks in family and children's services. They may have tried things of this nature before, but I'll certainly encourage them in that regard.
Family and Children's Services in the amount of $596,000 agreed to
On Social Services
Social Services in the amount of $1,605,000 agreed to
On Juvenile Justice Services
Juvenile Justice Services in the amount of $17,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there questions on the recoveries and revenue?
Regional Services in the amount of $4,250,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Health and Social Services in the amount of $113,076,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Chair: Is there general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Just on the capital side of it, the recoveries - we show $7.3 recoverable from DIAND. Just how do we know that, given the situation currently with Indian Affairs, and given the tremendous number of issues that are outstanding, and given the copy of the last letter, dated March 9, addressed to the regional director general, signed by the deputy minister, if you add up all of the recoveries - child welfare, DIAND, $5.3 million, then go down to transient home, the Dawson shelter, social services, home care, Macaulay Lodge and MacDonald Lodge, it comes to a grand total of $7.385 million.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That represents the billings that we've made to DIAND and, of course, we're extremely hopeful in that regard. I know that our friends across the floor in the Liberal Party have been using their good offices to encourage Mr. Martin to pay up on this, so we expect the cheque imminently - and I know that if we don't get the cheque by the end of the month there'll be yet another frenzied round of phone calls going.
I think the Member for Riverdale South has a statement on showing the close relationship that she has with her federal counterparts, and I'm sure that she'll exercise her offices in that regard.
Mr. Jenkins: Given the tremendous amount that is outstanding in many of these areas, Mr. Chair, it is a concern of mine and my colleagues, and quite a number of Yukoners, because it'll ultimately impact on the provisions of all services provided by the Government of Yukon, if we don't recover what we say we're going to recover - that's an awful amount of money.
Then, the letter that I have a copy of that was sent over - I'm sure that the minister has a copy of it - if you look at some of the wording of that letter, it would appear that there are quite a number of areas where we're not totally in agreement with Indian Affairs as to whether this is a service that is justifiably for their account.
Now, that is my reading of this letter, Mr. Chair, and I'm sure I will be proved correct. So, how can we come out and categorically state that these are the recoveries? It looks good on the balance sheet, but the reality of it is something else. Is that not the case, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, that's where we are billing. The area of dispute has actually been on the question of the Thomson Centre and did that constitute an acute care facility or a continuing care facility, and we believe we have put that to rest, and two other federal departments have echoed that.
So, this is what we are projecting that we would be billing. This is what we would hope to receive. We are continuing on in this. We are continuing to put this forward, but if we weren't able to put a figure on this, at least projecting what we should be recovering, it would do very little for our case.
So we've identified this as the amount that we're going to be billing and, of course, we wait to see whether or not the federal government will fulfill its obligations in that regard. But we do have an obligation to continue to bill them for services that we deliver.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's carry this a little bit further, Mr. Chair. The Auditor General has a team of accountants currently here auditing the various departments of the Government of the Yukon. Is the department going to be making representation to the Auditor General's officials who are currently here now in the Yukon to review this area and get a handle on it?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The Auditor General - and I think the member can see it within the report; I don't have my copy of the report here today - has been very clear in saying that these amounts are justified and that they are owing to us. There's no dispute with the Auditor General in that regard.
I think the federal government has agreed that these amounts are outstanding. We've agreed that these amounts are outstanding. The Auditor General has agreed that these amounts are outstanding. So the question now really comes down to, if we're all in agreement that this money is outstanding and that this money was paid on behalf of individuals who are a fiduciary responsibility of the federal government, what's holding up the payment? That's why we've made efforts with our regional director general in that regard.
There are some positive signs, in terms of the federal government being willing to assign staff to this and take a look at the idea of making some interim payments, but it is something we are continuing to pursue. We will continue to pursue it and hopefully bring this to a resolution.
We're not happy about this, but I suppose the ultimate result is that we're also not in a position to withdraw services, nor do we have any intention to withdraw services, nor would it be responsible for us to withdraw services because of a dispute that we have with the federal government.
I think there are other avenues that we can pursue if we fail to get action in this regard, and that's what we intend to do.
Mr. Jenkins: Just for the record, once again, Mr. Chair, no one is suggesting that we withdraw services. Let's not go there again. Let's not use that. Let's deal with this. It's an issue. It's outstanding monies due to the Government of the Yukon from the federal Government of Canada for the provision of services, and let's address it in a right, straight-up manner.
Now, for the life of me, I can't see why we're not making more of an initiative of this. I did hear the minister on the radio today explaining, but the numbers that come across do not reflect current billing for the last fiscal year, and I think it would probably be more accurate if we reflected the true figure as to what is currently due for the last fiscal period, as well as outstanding for prior periods, rather than this $25 million or so. The minister has defended this position in the House now for the last three budgets, and this amount increases in each budget, so we're actually going backward, as far as our ability to collect.
So, I would ask the minister to get out the true figure, not just the arrears from several years ago, and deal with the issue for what it amounts to. And it's approaching some $40 million, if it's not there already. Does the minister not concur with that amount?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We believe that it's somewhat less than that - around $36 million. I didn't hear the report today, but I was asked on a couple of occasions what the pre-existing amount was and what the current amount was. I didn't have an exact figure for the current amount, so I gave the figure earlier. I'm not sure which number they went with. I'm not sure how they interpreted it, but I did emphasize that we were interested in pursuing this and pursuing it in a very active way. I think I have indicated that that is one of our items.
There is a very extensive chronology that has been built up on this and a very extensive file in terms of paperwork that has gone back and forth on this, and it's interesting to actually see just how far back it goes. I believe one of our letters actually has the signature of Pierre Trudeau on it, so we are dealing with some interesting history here - and I'm sure we'll have an opportunity tomorrow to debate this in even further detail.
We are pursuing it; we will continue to pursue it, we will continue to pursue it actively. It is a concern of ours, and it's a concern that's shared by all parties in this Legislature.
On Policy, Planning and Administration
On Office Furniture and Operational Equipment
Office Furniture and Operational Equipment in the amount of $210,000 agreed to
On Systems Development
Hon. Mr. Sloan: These funds are required to continue replacement and expansion of the department's information systems and to deal with our year 2000 problem. The focus in 1999-2000 would include all necessary revisions to continue using our system beyond 2000 to complete the pilot phase of the CMAS application, which we expect to become the basis for case management in the department and, in concert with information services branch, begin the upgrading network access from Yukon communities.
Along with this, healthy communities and equitable access to this service is a priority of the government and is being pursued through a variety of avenues, such as the telemedicine pilot and general improvements in electronic communications.
In 1999-2000, information services will begin a wide area network pilot in Dawson City, and we will be upgrading all our network services accordingly. If the pilot is successful, these improvements will be extended to some other communities during 1999-2000.
Systems Development in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
On Integrated Health and Social Services Facilities
Hon. Mr. Sloan: These funds are requested to pay for facility planning across the department. Minor renovations that have become necessary to ensure that suitable health and social services facilities are available in all communities, to reduce inefficiencies and to assure the most effective combinations and levels of service.
Major facility costs are budgeted under the related programs area, but initial planning costs prior to the actual project decision or plan are charged to this budget. Several areas are under review at this time. These have potential to lead to some projects, and they include such examples as: the idea of a rural group home, replacement consolidation/consolidation in Dawson, and the Whitehorse storefront services consolidation. These are some things that we're currently looking at.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the renovation dollars to move the health station in Beaver Creek from the present location into the old forestry building, is that part of this line item?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, that would be within the nursing area, and we're not sure how much that will actually be at this point. We've had project management in Government Services take a look at it and it appears it's unfolding as it should. We are hopeful that we can get something in place by the summer but, overall, the signals are pretty positive in that regard.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, beyond the desideratum philosophy, is there sort of a ballpark figure then, that we could look at? Are we talking about $5 million; are we talking about half a million dollars? How much are we looking at?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Specifically for the Beaver Creek centre?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, it certainly will not be $5 million. If it was $5 million, we'd be off building something.
The facility planner was up last week looking at the facility and will be turning in a report to us as to what is needed in terms of renovations, what's needed from his point of view - from a health facilities point of view - what's needed to be done in terms of cosmetics, placement of equipment and so on and so forth. So, we're expecting that we'll have the report sometime this week that will give us an indication of where we need to go next.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, if there are significant problems with that building, are we going to be looking at building a new facility in that location?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I don't think that there will be any problems with that building. It's a relatively new building. It's actually in excellent shape. There is a lot of space within the building. It has some advantages, certainly in terms of location. It has advantages in terms of vehicle bays that can be converted to ambulance bays. We wouldn't anticipate that there would be major problems with it, and that's probably what makes it so attractive for us.
It has the ideal location. It's a relatively new structure - certainly much newer than what we're already dealing with, and newer than some of the facilities that we have, and certainly much larger than some of the facilities that we are currently working with.
So, I can't anticipate that we would have problems with the building, and we're quite hopeful that the actual amount of physical renovation would not be that great, not so much in terms of cost, but in terms of facilitating that conversion in a relatively quick manner. That's really what our goal is - to get this done and to get it in place.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I wonder if the minister could share with us the amount of dollars that he's looking at to renovate this building when he gets closer to that figure.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I can certainly do that, once we get the report in from our facility planner. As I said, the facility planner was up last week, and will probably be giving us some estimate of what needs to be done. It may be such things as putting in partitions, taking out partitions, doorways, things of that nature.
As I said, it's a very considerable space, and I think would certainly lend itself a lot easier to a nursing station. I think one of the things that I saw in the centre in Ross River, which I liked very much, was the idea of being able to bring the ambulance directly into a bay and then having a set of doors where there was sort of an airlock, where you could actually transfer the patient directly from the ambulance into an emergency room setting without having to wheel the person all the way through.
One of the things that I would hope with this would be that there might be some ability to do a similar kind of access. I think with having the bays the way they are, there may be an ability for us to make that kind of modification, and that's certainly something we would like to accomplish.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, can I once again implore the minister that he look at something like that for the Watson Lake hospital, so that people don't have to go right through, open up the big huge doors, create a nice big draft right through the hospital, drag people through in the middle of the night and make them get off the stretcher so that they can go around the corner into the emergency room? That might something he wants to look at for Watson Lake.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm advised that we have looked at that and the initial cost is somewhere around half a million dollars to make that necessary conversion.
With respect to the idea of having the bay accessible to an emergency room, we've copied that idea and it will be part of the design in the Teslin facility. I think, as we develop facilities throughout the territory, we'll probably be taking some of the design features that we find work well and try to apply them in the next one.
For example, the Ross River station has a very nice configuration. There is one wing that is sort of administrative, where there's an office and supplies and things like that. There's one wing that's exclusively patient care. There's a central sort of receiving area as one comes in, and then there's a wing that's primarily teaching rooms, things such as the well-baby clinic, the visiting optometrist and so on, which are more or less community health. It's a kind of community health wing.
That seems to work very well, and from my discussions with the nursing staff, they kind of like that model. So, hopefully, as we move into developing these facilities, as we will throughout the territory, we'll be able to copy and modify some of these design features. Certainly, one of them is the idea of quick access to emergency rooms.
Integrated Health and Social Services Facilities in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
Policy, Planning and Administration in the amount of $450,000 agreed to
Chair: Do members wish to recess?
We'll proceed to family and children's services.
On Family and Children's Services
On Foster Home Equipment
Foster Home Equipment in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Child Care Services Development
Child Care Services Development in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Young Offender Facilities - Renovations and Equipment
Mrs. Edelman: We do an awful lot of work on the young offenders facility. Sometimes we keep people in there, and sometimes we don't. Are these new security measures that we're going to be putting into the young offenders facility again?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It's not exclusively for the young offenders facility, Mr. Chair. Thirty-six thousand dollars is required for the ongoing maintenance and equipment at the young offenders facility; $5,000 will be spent on renovations for the youth probation centre at Lambert Street, to accommodate the healthy family staff moving from the Royal Bank; $9,000 will be used for ongoing maintenance and equipment at the youth achievement centre, which is 501 Taylor. That's the program that I referred to earlier, the non-residential programs for young offenders and at-risk youth.
So there's about $36,000 that's actually designed for sort of ongoing maintenance at the young offenders facility.
Mrs. Edelman: Can the minister give us, at some point in the future, a breakdown of what we paid in O&M funding in this line item, say for the last five years, under young offenders facility only?
It's referred to here as "ongoing maintenance and equipment", but it's in under capital, so it would be under that line.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Certainly, we can provide that. The principal project that's being planned this year is the completion of the segregation unit as part of the ongoing efforts to improve security at the facility.
Young Offender Facilities - Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Child Welfare Facilities - Renovations and Equipment
Child Welfare Facilities - Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
Family and Children's Services in the amount of $220,000 agreed to
On Social Services
On Social Services Operational Equipment and Renovations
Social Services Operational Equipment and Renovations in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Alcohol and Drug Services - Renovations and Equipment
Alcohol and Drug Services - Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
On Home Care - Operational Equipment
Home Care - Operational Equipment in the amount of $12,000 agreed to
On Thomson Centre - Renovations
Thomson Centre - Renovations in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Thomson Centre - Equipment
Thomson Centre - Equipment in the amount of $125,000 agreed to
On Continuing Care - New Facility
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, can the minister update us as progress is made on this facility this year?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, Mr. Chair. I'll maybe just give the member a bit of an update on this. We've received, I believe, 10 architectural designs. They are being evaluated on a technical basis, and then, of course, the price envelope will be opened, and so we're hoping to have an architect in place some time in the very near future, and then we'll be going through the next steps. But I can keep the members sort of updated as we go along with this.
This $2 million is actually for the actual design phase and the land acquisition, and so on and so forth.
Continuing Care - New Facility in the amount of $2 million agreed to
On Macaulay Lodge - Equipment
Mr. Jenkins: If I could just ask the minister to send over a list breakdown of the various centres and to what renovations and equipment we're purchasing. I don't need it. I just need it for my records.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Surely we could do that. With respect to Macaulay Lodge, this includes beds and wheelchairs only, and all equipment will be relocated when the residents move to new quarters.
With respect to the $150,000 amount for McDonald Lodge, $114,000 is to be used for a new emergency generator and the second phase alarm system. The balance is to be used for painting, renovations to the medication room, the porch and the kitchen.
Macaulay Lodge - Equipment in the amount of $30,000 agreed to
On McDonald Lodge - Renovations and Equipment
McDonald Lodge - Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $150,000 agreed to
Chair: Any questions on prior years' projects?
Social Services in the amount of $2,507,000 agreed to
On Health Services
On Hospital Road #2 and #4
Hospital Road #2 and #4 in the amount of $24,000 agreed to
On Chronic Disease Benefits - Equipment
Chronic Disease Benefits - Equipment in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
On Extended Health Benefits - Equipment
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, is this the new pay management equipment that the Thomson Centre is buying?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Actually, no, this is similar to the chronic disease benefits equipment, which includes things like wheelchairs, walkers, respirators, bathtub supports. They are similar in nature to the above and these are for use by seniors. This equipment is sort of kept in a loan bank when it's no longer required by the client for one reason or another. So, this is basically to purchase major medical equipment.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, how do we work with the Red Cross loan equipment service that's run privately out of the basement of the ambulance station in Whitehorse, because that is the same equipment? It's wheelchairs and walkers and commodes, and the whole bit.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would have to get some further details on that, but I do know that we provide a lot of these activities through our own extended health and chronic disease benefits. I can see how we dovetail with the Red Cross in terms of shared equipment and such other things.
Extended Health Benefits - Equipment in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
On Yukon Hospital Corporation - Equipment
Yukon Hospital Corporation - Equipment in the amount of $300,000 agreed to
On Dental Health Services - Equipment
Dental Health Services - Equipment in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
On Communicable Disease Unit - Equipment
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, can we get detail on that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, I'm delighted to because I was looking for an opportunity to say that this is required for minor capital items such as examination tables and, my personal favourite, blood-drawing chairs. That has such an ominous ring I wanted to be able to read it into the record.
Communicable Disease Unit - Equipment in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
On Hearing Services Equipment
Mrs. Edelman: Detail, please, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: These are funds required for the replacement, as required, of equipment used within the program.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I wonder if the minister, at some later date, can give us a bit more of a breakdown.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I believe I can, yes, at a future date.
Hearing Services Equipment in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
On Ambulance Unit Equipment
Mr. Jenkins: Just for the record, Mr. Chair, what are we paying now for a new ambulance fully equipped with all the bells and whistles?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The average cost on this one - the next item being the ambulance vehicle replacement - is about $80,000. This ambulance unit equipment includes things like vital sign monitors, head immobilizers, backboard splints and that kind of thing - the kind of equipment that goes into, I guess, furnishing an ambulance, beyond all the bells and whistles and other things.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, given the price reduction of the defibrillators lately, is the minister reconsidering his position on that, or are his officials still advising him that they are hardly ever used, they're not necessary, and they're too costly an item to maintain in our ambulances?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It's not a question of cost at all. It's a question of effectiveness, and it's actually an interesting discussion I've had as I've toured around nursing stations, because some of the rural nurses are somewhat apprehensive about the idea of defibrillators being expected to be the sort of be-all and end-all. I have some interesting statistics here, which I can just find in a moment, on the whole question of defibrillators. The actual amount of success with defibrillators has not been that great. We've had them in place in the Whitehorse ambulance station. We decided to at least try them, and the results have not been particularly encouraging.
I believe in the period of time when we've actually had defibrillators in place we haven't really managed to save anyone as a result of them. The response time for defibrillators is very short. The response time is basically about seven minutes, on the outside, and that's from the initial heart attack. What often happens is an individual will have the heart attack, they'll probably say, "Well, it's not a heart attack", because everyone wants to be in a denial situation, and by the time they really get in distress it's probably too late to resuscitate anyone by means of defibrillators.
The scientific evidence - and it's too bad I don't have it here, because there was a journal called Emergency, which has done an evaluation of the use of defibrillators in the United States on a large number of patients, which has proved - oh, here it is. Thank you.
Yes, this is from the journal Emergency, and it's July 1996. On a study of 627 cardiac arrest patients between 1992 and 1995, it was concluded that adding automatic defibrillators to EMS response failed to improve survival from cardiac death. There are defibrillators existing where there are resident physicians in Yukon communities, such as Dawson City, Watson Lake and Faro.
The decision not to extend that out is based on an internal Health Canada document, March 1996, as well as literature review of the limitations of defibrillators in rural communities. Response time in excess of anywhere from six to eight minutes is rare.
It is really associated with survival. It's felt that all links in the chain of survival are crucial for a patient, which include early access, early CPR, early defibrillation, early advanced care such as provided in the hospital setting. For all the studies reviewed, the time from response time to advanced care was short - less than one hour after defibrillation. Our transport time is longer. It's felt that one of the problems with defibrillators is, because they've been so hyped within the media - we all see the examples of people being wheeled in and being charged-up, so to speak - that people do have the expectation that this is actually how it works. In effect, there's a lot more that goes into successful survival. Our experience in this case has not been particularly positive in Whitehorse, and I believe we haven't had anyone who has managed to survive due to automatic defibrillation.
Mr. Jenkins: So, if we take what the minister has said and shake it all out, what he's basically said is, "Don't buy a defibrillator because they're probably dead before you get there." That's really what the minister has said, in essence, if we take what he said and take all of the bells and whistles away from it. That's what we end up with - "Don't bother."
We are bucking a trend, I might remind the minister, Mr. Chair, and that trend is that defibrillators are now being placed in a lot of the major airlines; they're now being placed in a lot of the major sports facilities and in a lot of areas where large numbers of people congregate. They are readily available on the cruise ships. I've been on both Holland-America and Princess and they're readily available on both of those lines.
I don't know where the minister is getting his information, but this attitude of "don't bother with the defibrillator because they're probably dead" just doesn't wash with me, Mr. Chair, and I'd really urge the minister to reconsider his position in that regard. I don't think we need a response, I just ask him to sit down and take in what has been said with respect to defibrillators and what is happening in and around North America in that regard because there is a trend. We might not follow the trend, but then, I guess, we don't in a lot of ways. Most of the areas in North America that I look at are booming economically. We're the reverse here, but I guess that's a factor of government, also. With defibrillators, I think the minister is off base on this one, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would suggest that I'm not off base. The member has identified some places where it is being used and it's interesting when he mentions aircraft and cruise ships. Now, I don't have the same sort of maritime history that the Member for Klondike has. I rarely have time to go cruising off to the Caribbean and other southern climes. Oh, how quickly we try to justify our travels around the world.
The interesting thing is that those are places in which the person is directly there. I mean, if you're in an aircraft, nobody has to come and get you with the defibrillator; you're right there.
The other place that large numbers of people congregate, as he's mentioned, are casinos. I imagine if I ever actually won in a casino, I would probably need defibrillation. These are places at which people do use them, and I think probably there is also an aspect, since many of these are used in an United States setting, with the threat of litigation if one doesn't have that available.
What we're talking about is nursing stations that may be a considerable distance from primary health care.
I've already indicated that wherever we have resident physicians where we can do the full range of things, such as the necessary drugs for thrombosis and others, we could probably employ them with some effect. We decided to try them here because of the response time - having the ambulances available, having a relatively quick response time, to a major primary care facility, such as the Whitehorse hospital. But, quite frankly, our success rate has not been great in that.
It's not a question of money. It's a question that some of our health professionals out in the communities feel that, in some cases, it becomes an unrealistic expectation that having this machine there is going to save people, when it really involves a full range of medical treatment.
So we have looked at this. We've done an extensive literature review. We've been guided by, as I indicated earlier, some suggestions of some U.S. reviews, and we've also been guided by an internal Health Canada document of March 1996, which suggests that probably in some of our cases they would not be available without further provision of advanced care.
Mr. Jenkins: The issue, Mr. Chair, is that we're looking at saving lives and what is the cost of one life, not to balance the probabilities, and the balance of probabilities being in favour of not having them because if you're not there and your response time is beyond a certain level of time, they're ineffective.
I'm given to understand from the health care professionals I've spoken with that the ultimate treatment for a heart attack victim is the IV bag with the necessary drugs, but only a doctor can administer that type of medication, and nurse practitioners can't.
So, again, I'm suggesting to the minister that we have another situation on our hands and, by and large, heart attacks affect the senior ages of our population. You hear them more frequently occurring in the 40-plus age group, so the minister might be right for something of that nature. He might need a defibrillator right beside his chair in the near future, Mr. Chair. But these are the avenues open to us, and I can't see why the minister doesn't fully explore all these areas and look at the trends - not just nationally, but internationally, before he discounts them.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, we are looking at it, and I can assure the member that I am taking some steps to improve my cardiac capacity. I walked down to work today, the idea being that I knew that if anything happened to me, it would be such a tremendous blow to the Member for Klondike that he might not recover. So, I feel that I have a responsibility to maintain my own health in such a way as to maintain this strong working relationship that we have for many, many years to come, and I will endeavour to maintain my health accordingly.
And just in the spirit of that, I just should mention to the Member for Klondike that it is my intention to sign him up on the ridge race in Dawson City this year so that we can all share that good, cardiac health that is so necessary.
Ambulance Unit Equipment in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Ambulance Vehicle Replacement
Ambulance Vehicle Replacement in the amount of $80,000 agreed to
On Community Nursing - Equipment and Facilities
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Seventy-five thousand dollars is planned for the upgrading of equipment in community facilities. This will be used to replace medical items in nursing stations. Furniture is required, including X-ray units, microscopes, aspirators, stretchers, office equipment, appliances and furniture, and packaging for the transport of dangerous goods; $325,000 is planned for the renovation, upgrade, and maintenance of community facilities. This is exclusive of the major replacement project for Teslin, identified as a separate project.
Community Nursing - Equipment and Facilities in the amount of $400,000 agreed to
On Teslin Health Centre
Teslin Health Centre in the amount of $1,500,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on prior years' projects?
Any questions on the recoveries?
Health Services in the amount of $2,434,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Health and Social Services in the amount of $5,611,000 agreed to
Department of Health and Social Services agreed to
Chair: Do members wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: 10 minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Committee will turn to the Department of Community and Transportation Services. Is there general debate?
Department of Community and Transportation Services
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, the 1999-2000 main estimates of Community and Transportation Services consists of $63,873,000 in operation and maintenance and $41,253,000 in capital.
The department plans to recover $2,761,000 of its operation and maintenance expenditure and $23,770,000 of its capital.
The net combined operation and maintenance and capital expenditure requested is, therefore, $78,600,000.
We also plan to collect revenues of about $6,546,000.
Compared to the 1998-99 forecast, the operation and maintenance expenditure required in 1999-2000 is higher by about $772,000, and this increase mainly resulted from the obligations under the new collective agreement.
There is a one-percent increase to the comprehensive municipal grant, some increase to other transfer payments and a fully recoverable expenditure increase in our agreement with NavCanada.
In 1999-2000, the gross capital expenditure for transportation infrastructure has been increased by $2,189,000, and that's including the recoverable funding for the Shakwak project.
The main estimate reflects the government's commitment to support all the departmental programs that continue to provide services that are vital for the social and economic well-being of Yukoners and, of course, the safety of the travelling public.
Continuing to ensure safe and efficient movement of people and goods in the territory, the department has allocated $37,337,000 toward highway maintenance, airport operations and management of regulatory responsibility.
Improvements to the CARS operation have been negotiated for Watson Lake, and they'll be going from the current 14-hour day to a 24-hour day service in the summer and an eight-hour day to a 24-hour day service in the winter.
To meet commitments under the responsibility of municipal and community affairs division in the areas of public health and safety, support to the Yukon communities, land availability and support of land claim-related initiatives, an operation and maintenance total of about $24 million is provided.
Now to mention just a few of the undertakings covered by this total funding, to demonstrate recognition of increasing operation and maintenance cost to municipalities, the comprehensive municipal grant has been increased by $115,000 to a total of $11,585,000.
Our grant to the Association of Yukon Communities has been increased by $25,000 to a total of $75,000; $61,000 is provided for community and hamlet operation and maintenance grant. This includes new funding of $3,000 each for the local advisory councils of the Tagish, Marsh Lake and the Deep Creek communities.
The homeowner grant has been increased by $79,000 to a total of $2,276,000, and grants-in-lieu of taxes will increase by $60,000 to a total of about $3,868,000.
To assist the community of Ross River through the difficult challenges and in support of their efforts in community and social planning, $80,000 has been provided in this main estimate.
A total of about $1,340,000 is allocated for contributions toward sports and recreation activities. Included in this is an increase of $10,000 for the North American Indigenous Games that will be competed in Hobbema, Alberta this summer.
Emergency measures, communications and public safety programs will receive required levels of operation and maintenance funding. The government also continues to recognize and support these programs as well.
With respect to the department's capital main estimates, I would like to say that sufficient funding has been allocated for transportation and community infrastructure. As I stated earlier, to continue with our commitment to invest in transportation infrastructure, we've allocated $9,240,000 for highways and airports, in addition to the Shakwak funding of $19,050,000.
About $1,100,000 is allocated for reconstruction at Grew Creek, as a part of a multi-year program to upgrade the Campbell Highway. We have $1,000,000, reflecting a 100 percent increase for the 1998-98 level, and that's provided for the successful rural roads upgrading project. This is planned to be an ongoing program within the department; $150,000 is allocated for work to upgrade the section of the Tagish Road, and that's a part of a multi-year project also for the Tagish Road; $50,000 is allocated for the next phase of the Freegold truck bypass at Carmacks, and the Willow Creek bridge is planned for replacement, at about $600,000.
Work on phase 2 of the Whitehorse Airport runway extension will be carried out at a cost of $3,400,000, and $530,000 is also allocated for the acquisition of additional equipment and runway lighting at the airport.
Plans are being made to begin design work for upgrading or replacing the Old Crow airport terminal building in fiscal year 2000-01.
These capital projects support the government's efforts toward stimulating economic activities, for providing employment opportunities to local contractors, and the labour force will help enhance tourism, and benefit the rural residents.
Continuing with our commitment to invest in community infrastructure, to support the development of healthy communities, and to make affordable land available, we've included funding for capital in these areas in the tabled main estimate.
Two million dollars has been allocated in the main estimates, in addition to a $2-million contribution in 1998-99 for the Whitehorse recreation facility, to start construction of the swimming pool. The total planned contribution toward this project is estimated at $9 million, with a balance of $5 million to be budgeted for in subsequent fiscal years.
Two million, five hundred thousand dollars is provided, in addition to a $2,500,000 contribution in 1998-99, for the reconstruction and upgrade of the existing Watson Lake recreation facility. The total estimated cost is $5,500,000, making YTG's contribution about 90 percent.
Another $1 million is allocated toward the fund for the Dawson City sewage treatment, pending a Water Board decision on this project.
Funding of $200,000 is allocated for replacing a two-sheet curling rink for the community of Beaver Creek. It is also expected that this amount will be matched by another $200,000 through the CDF.
Fifty-five thousand dollars is provided for initial work on the firehall for the Lake Laberge area.
Three million, seven hundred and sixty thousand dollars will be used for the development of industrial, commercial, recreational and residential lots at various locations.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I'm now prepared to take questions.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to thank the minister for his overview of his department, and let's start at the beginning. Let's start with airports.
There's a lot of controversy currently surrounding the airport extension - I'm referring to runway 13-right and the approach to that runway. There's currently a NOTAM in place by Transport Canada. Just where are we at resolving the issue with Transport Canada?
The department officials were on the radio some time ago explaining that they were surveying the trees and the power lines and the hillsides. I did drive up there, expecting to see the minister on the top of a stepladder, but unfortunately he wasn't there.
I am just wondering where we're at. When will 13-right be fully operational? When will the PAPI lights be moved to the end, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As the Member for Klondike says, an obstacle survey is close to completion, and it does confirm that man-made natural features exist that penetrate the area protected by the airport zoning regulations, and that these have the potential to affect the airport's certification.
I can also say that most, if not all, of these obstacles are not related to the runway extension project, and most existed prior to the 1996 airport transfer to YTG.
I can also say that any of the structures that pre-existed the 1972 zoning regulations will be exempt.
We, the territorial government, expect that Transport Canada will certainly be reasonable, as they've proven to be in the past, and seek solutions to any of the issues identified within the obstacle survey.
The survey, of course, has not identified any major new structures that threaten the aircraft or the safety of aircraft or operations to or from the Whitehorse Airport.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, could the minister advise the House why this survey wasn't undertaken before we extended the runway? This isn't the first time we looked at a runway extension at the Whitehorse International Airport. It has been looked at numerous times previously by the federal government - by Transport Canada itself - and if my memory serves me right, it was suggested at one juncture that the runway could not be lengthened with any added benefit to Whitehorse, and that a move to relocate the Whitehorse International Airport out the valley to the west was the correct way to go, but that was pretty well discounted, Mr. Chair. I was just wondering why the minister's department didn't conduct this survey before they started construction.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, there really wasn't a need for a survey at the beginning. We had just finished the completion of the devolution process. That was, I believe, in September 1996. All things were put onto the table. There has always been a desire, certainly, by this government to be able to enhance the takeoff capabilities of the airport here so that we can then continue to open up the country for tourism, as it is our main objective.
It did become apparent with the issue of the NOTAM throughout the process that there were obstacles. I've been told that this is just a regular part of doing business. As these obstacles are identified - as they come up - they will be taken into consideration, and that's the issue that we've been having in chatting with the feds about it. They certainly seem to be amicable to work with us on the situation, but I've been told that that was certainly the issue.
Mr. Jenkins: Usually, before we go and expend the sums of dollars that we have spent on the runway extension, we go through a process, and that process is to see if we can get certification on the airport extension before we do it.
Now, that process is not unusual and unique to the Government of the Yukon. They've been through it before; they've been through it a couple of times before that I'm aware of, in the short history that I've been here. Faro is one example. When the airport was moved from up at the mine site to the area that it currently occupies, there was the issue of the runway extension and what had to take place before it could be certified, but all that was dealt with up front before the government spent any money on the runway extension in Faro. Before the money was spent, we knew that Transport Canada would certify the airport in the configuration that it had been designed for.
That was not the case with the Whitehorse International Airport runway extension. We're going and doing this study after the fact, knowing full well that the certification agency, Transport Canada, didn't and wouldn't certify it at the onset. Now, was it known to the minister at the beginning that Transport Canada would not certify the runway extension when we started construction?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As I've stated earlier in my remarks, we are working with Transport Canada on this. It wasn't an issue when they owned the airport. If I can take the member back to the beginning of the airport extension, I believe it was in the supplementary budget of last year, the department was put underneath the gun - and for a very worthwhile project. I don't think the Member for Klondike's arguing the merit of the project, or if the Member for Klondike is arguing the merit of the project, then he should say. If the member's arguing process, certainly.
So, as a part of the process, the department was asked to come up with figures. The department did come up with figures. Again, I reiterate, Transport Canada - when it was under their jurisdiction and even two years into our jurisdiction, it was not a problem at that point in time.
I'd like to say here, though, that the objective of the whole extension has always been to enhance the takeoff capability. The landing capability, I have been led to believe, has never been the problem; it's always been the takeoff capacity, even for a 737 - well, I doubt if we'll ever see 747s - and 767s, et cetera. That's been the process, and certainly we'll continue to work with it. It's been the process for others. I do believe that other airports that have been extended across the land have certainly run into these problems and it's just a very minor hiccup, if I can say it in that manner.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let the record reflect that the minister has failed to answer the question, and I'll repeat the question for the minister. Before we started construction, were the minister or his officials aware that Transport Canada would not certify the runway extension as it was designed at that juncture?
I want to make one other issue abundantly clear. Our party and this side of the House is in favour of the runway extension to enhance the visitor industry. That's not on the table for discussion; that's not an issue. I'm just looking at procedures.
Were the minister and his officials aware that Transport Canada wouldn't certify the runway extension as it was designed? Now, this is right at the onset.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: First of all, Mr. Chair, I'd like to take the member back to the supplementary process and, geez, I don't recall the member voting in support of this airport extension. As a matter of fact, I don't recall anybody on that side of the House voting in support of it, but it surely is nice to hear that the Member for Klondike is supportive of the runway as it comes down.
Again, I can explain - I've got to be certainly careful about how we talk to the member, but I can reiterate that this is not uncommon. I'm going to get accused of not answering the question. Were we aware? No, we were not aware, but again, this is not an uncommon process that we work within.
Again, I reiterate that the federal government, right up to that point, even with two years into our tenure, did not take it as a concern. Certainly, again, the NOTAM was issued. It was issued because of the problem, but again it is not a problem that we cannot find a way to work with.
So we are, and will continue to work with Transport Canada. Transport Canada has given us every indication that this can be overcome, most likely through zoning requirements.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm looking for an answer to my initial question, Mr. Chair. Were the minister, and his officials, aware from the onset that Transport Canada would not approve 13-right and its configuration as it was designed, before they started construction? At what point were they aware that Transport Canada would not certify it? Because the NOTAM came in after the PAPI lights were moved, and then subsequently moved back.
So what was the point that the minister and his department became aware? Because on a project of this magnitude, I'd suggest to the minister he was aware - and his officials certainly perhaps if the minister wasn't aware, his department officials were aware - of this issue right from the onset.
Now, if that was the case, can the minister just stand up and say, "Yes, we were."?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, if the Member for Klondike would look into my last response, I did answer the question. I said that no, we were not aware until the NOTAM was issued. Now, that's the answer right there, if you want to take it that short and that simple. Now, the member obviously has something up his sleeve, in his bag, whatever. If it's a sensational headline, I guess that's what we'll have to look at, but I will go back and say that the objective of the extension has always been to enhance the takeoff capabilities. It's never been a landing capacity. That's never been the concern. It has been the extension to take off. The member is a pilot. He knows this.
I have every confidence that they will certify. This is, as I have been told, just an everyday part of doing business. Again, I reiterate that it wasn't a problem under Transport Canada's tenure. It wasn't a problem under our tenure until we had proceeded along with the extension to be able to enhance the takeoff capabilities.
So, certainly, I would reiterate that this is just an everyday part and process of doing business, and again, I reiterate that this is one of the best things that could have ever happened to the Yukon Territory in terms of creating jobs, in terms of diversifying the economy, in terms of bringing more tourists over. I mean, these are all just issues.
Does it make it safer and better for the local pilot? You bet, it does.
Mr. Chair, I request that you report progress.
Motion agreed to
Mr. Fentie: 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.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I move 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. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:27 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled April 6, 1999:
DEW Line cleanup at Komakuk Beach, Yukon: letter dated March 30, 1999, to Hon. Art Eggleton, Minister of National Defence (Canada), from Hon. Trevor Harding, Minister of Economic Development (Yukon) (Harding)