Monday, November 29, 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?
Tribute to Isabelle Rose Gow
Ms. Duncan: I rise on behalf of all members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly to pay tribute to the late Isabelle Gow.
Isabelle came to the Yukon as a retiree after a successful career as secretary to the Minister of Highways in Alberta and a pension counsellor with Alberta Government Telephone.
She came to the Yukon to volunteer in the Diocese of Yukon, living in the Old Log Church Rectory.
Isabelle, in her too short a time in the Yukon, was involved with the Needlearts Guild, the Yukon Council on Aging, the Ecumenical Counselling Society North and with the Girl Guides of Canada. It was fitting that she was selected as Whitehorse volunteer of the year in the spring of 1999.
Isabelle Gow is perhaps best remembered as a faithful and active member of the Christ Church Cathedral Parish. She was a licensed lay reader, a member of the choir and parish vestry. Isabelle assisted regularly with the Tuesday service at the Thomson Centre and was a frequent visitor to Macaulay Lodge where she was often present and prepared a Bible study.
At the service of thanksgiving for Isabelle's life, it was noted that she particularly enjoyed a January trip to Old Crow for the Bishop's School of Native Ministry. This weekend, a fellow Anglican, Marion Schafer, was ordained as a reverend deacon of the Anglican Church, and I know that Isabelle joined in that celebration in spirit.
Olive Storey offered the following prayers on Isabelle's passing, and I would just like to, with Olive's permission, offer part of that prayer. Olive asked a most merciful God to deal most graciously with those who mourn and to surround us with love so that we may not be overwhelmed by the loss of Isabelle, but have confidence and strength to meet the days ahead. "And Lord who has given us so much, give us one more thing: a grateful heart for having known her."
Olive Storey expressed those prayers on behalf of many, many Yukoners who knew Isabelle. On behalf of all members, our sympathy to Isabelle's family and her many friends and our best wishes to individuals like Marion who carry on with Isabelle's work in the Anglican Church in Old Crow.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
tabling returns and documents
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the crime prevention and victim services trust fund annual report for 1998-99.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
introduction of bills
Bill No. 93: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that Bill No. 93, entitled An Act to Amend the Supreme Court Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 93, entitled An Act to Amend the Supreme Court Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 93 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motions?
Unanimous consent requested for withdrawal of motions from Order Paper
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, based on an agreement among the House leaders, I would request the unanimous consent of the House to have the following motions withdrawn from the Order Paper. They are motions numbered 14, 15, 16, 17, 20, 23, 24, 25, 29, 33, 34, 35, 42, 43, 45, 46, 47, 48, 50, 53, 54, 57, 61, 66, 67, 70, 78, 81, 90, 91, 93, 98, 99, 114, 118, 119, 122, 126, 130, 134, 135, 140, 141, 142, 144, 147, 152, 154, 159, 167, 168, 173 and 175.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted. I would ask the Clerk to make changes to the Order Paper as directed by the House.
Speaker: Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board. The president of the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board gave a speech to the Yukon Medical Association a little while ago, and he was telling the doctors that he had inherited a largely dysfunctional organization. He started out by saying that it was an organization that was not moving forward, was rather entrenched, was not communicative, was not open, certainly was under a great deal of criticism and has continued to be under criticism. And then he went on to say that he, for one - and he didn't think anybody else in the room was going to stand up and say how wonderful government departments function, how reactive they are to the needs of the public they serve.
Does the minister share that view of the public departments in general and in particular the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board public department?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I have the utmost respect for public servants and the work they do on behalf of the public. The comments that were made have been referred to the board, to which the president is accountable, and they will be reviewing the issue and the matter.
Mr. Cable: The statement, Mr. Speaker, by the president certainly wasn't very reassuring. The Workers' Compensation Act amendments just passed had provision for an operational audit. They called it a "special examination". Now, that part of the audit relating to administration is to begin no later than six months after the amendments are proclaimed, but the part of the audit relating to resolving claims - that's injured workers' claims - for compensation, could take place over 10 years.
The opposition objected to this long timeline during debate, and offered an amendment shortening that period to two years, but the minister wouldn't have anything to do with it.
In view of the president's extraordinary statements about the needs of the public they serve - that's the public served by the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board - is the minister prepared to commit to this House for a much shorter timeline for reviewing how injured workers' claims are resolved?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I guess the first point I'll make, Mr. Speaker, is that the member opposite voted for this bill. It was passed unanimously in this House. I think the changes that we've made to the Workers' Compensation Act are fundamental, structural changes that'll help improve the system for workers, and for employers, and I think that we recognized in the act review, from listening to workers and from listening to business, that there should be some structured criteria for audits.
The operational audit that pertains to administration is already underway, and further audits will be following that in accordance with the legislation.
I can tell the member opposite that his interpretation of legislation with regard to the 10 years is not what I share in terms of my interpretation of the act, and I believe it'll happen much sooner than that.
Mr. Cable: The minister's not obliged to sit on his hands for 10 years. I was asking him to make a commitment that he would start that part of the review before 10 years, and he obviously didn't answer the question.
The minister wrote to me on November 1, confirming that the alternate chair and the president of the Workers' Compensation Board would appear before the Legislature in the fall session. It's now the end of November and all we're getting are coy reassurances that the board will appear.
Will the minister confirm that a date has been set with the chair and the president, and would he let us know that date?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, in terms of the audits, the board will work through the audits. The legislation is the commanding document, or the doctrine, that the board works under. They have certain parameters of responsibility and influence within the legislation. One of them is the audits that we, as the House, provided them as a tool for accountability.
In terms of the board coming before the House, I don't know what the member's referring to about the government being coy. We've actually put that criteria in the new act, so that it's in law, and my indication is that the date is December 13. My information, and maybe I'm not correct, is that that has been communicated to the opposition.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre, smoking policy
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, sometimes it's really hard to tell where reality leaves off here in the Legislature.
My question is for the Minister of Justice. At the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, inmates smoke throughout the building, and guards and staff go outside to smoke. In other jurisdictions, such as Saskatchewan and British Columbia, inmates are only allowed to smoke in restricted areas, such as their cells or in well-ventilated areas.
At the Whitehorse jail, all guards and other corrections staff have to smoke outside. The effects of second-hand smoke are well-known today. The health of the corrections staff is being affected by this second-hand smoke. They spend many hours a day inhaling that smoke. What is the minister's policy on inmates smoking at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, and why do corrections staff, and inmates who do not smoke, have to put up with the second-hand smoke?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: That is a subject that I would anticipate the occupational health and safety committee at Whitehorse Correctional Centre would deal with. I do not have the policy with me on that, and so I will look into the matter and bring an answer back for the member.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm glad that the minister is paying attention to that, because all other YTG staff have the privilege and the joy of being in a non-smoking environment in the workplace.
In Manitoba, at one correctional facility, inmates are separated into smoking and non-smoking living areas. In Manitoba, the effects of second-hand smoke are well-known and well-respected, unlike here in the Yukon. Inmates who are sentenced to this Manitoba jail do not necessarily get the possible death sentence of a non-smoking inmate or staff person at Whitehorse Correction Centre.
Has the minister considered zoning a portion of the Whitehorse jail as a non-smoking setting, putting that area aside for non-smoking staff and for inmates so that they don't have to put up with second-hand smoke any more?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I have indicated to the member that I'll look into the question and see if there are any recommendations that the occupational health and safety committee has worked on. I can come back for an answer.
Certainly, for the issue of a replacement for Whitehorse Correctional Centre in a new facility, we can look at ensuring that there is a smoke-free environment with access to a smoking facility for those people who do want to have a place to smoke where they can safely not contaminate other workers or other inmates.
Mrs. Edelman: I'm glad to hear that the minister is well aware of the problem, although I'm sure that the damage has already been done. This is a long-standing problem at the Whitehorse jail.
Mr. Speaker, the cigarettes that these inmates are smoking are paid for out of the inmates' welfare fund. Which Yukon government department is paying for these smokes? Is it coming from Health and Social Services, or is it coming out of the Department of Justice?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I will have to check the facts on how the inmates purchase their cigarettes, and I will come back to the member.
Question re: Social assistance loan to single mothers
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the minister responsible for Health and Social Services.
Last week I made two private representations to the minister, and my colleague from Riverdale North made one, on behalf of a single mother who has a job in Vancouver but doesn't have sufficient funds for her and her daughter to move there.
The single mother doesn't qualify for employment insurance and will likely end up on social assistance rolls here in the Yukon if she can't get to Vancouver.
I appealed to the minister's common sense, but I guess I erred in doing so. He would rather pay this single mother $1,500 or so a month to keep her and her daughter here on social assistance, rather than loan her the $1,700 she needs to get to Vancouver.
Does the minister not agree that the minister's department would save $18,000 in annual social service costs by loaning this single mother $1,700? Even using the NDP calculator, it sounds like a pretty good deal, and we'd have another happy Yukoner moving away to work somewhere else.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Speaker, the individual approached social assistance for the first time on Wednesday, and was advised of the current policy for schedule B benefits.
The individual was provided assistance under section 6(2) of the regulations, which provides for emergency assistance.
Since then, we have been attempting to refer that individual back. She has not gone back to social assistance, even though she was advised on Friday to do so, because there is provision under section 27(2)(vii) for a loan. However, it's pretty tough to make that opportunity available if the individual does not attend to social assistance.
Mr. Jenkins: What we're aiming at here is the inequalities in the system, Mr. Speaker. Last year, we had an individual whom the government attempted to evict from his lands, spent over $10,000 doing so, and, at the end of the day, the minister's department loaned this individual $3,000 at the drop of a hat in social assistance money to pay his back taxes and rescue that individual.
How does the minister justify the inequalities within the system when he won't do the same for a single mother who needs a short-term loan?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, the member really didn't hear what I said. I said that that opportunity was available; however, it's difficult to make that opportunity available to an individual when they have not attended at the social assistance office. On Friday, my assistant directed that person to social assistance and, as of this morning, the individual had not contacted social assistance to avail herself of section 27.
Now, I have to point out that the so-called "drop of a hat" was not done at the drop of a hat. In fact the Social Assistance Appeal Board directed us to do it.
So, Mr. Speaker, I'm afraid the member is mistaken. I would suggest that, if this individual does have a desire to avail themselves of section 27, it would behoove them to be in touch with the social assistance office.
Mr. Jenkins: That's certainly not the answer I got from this minister last week, when all the avenues were cut off and all he was going to do was offer her two bus tickets to get to Vancouver. That was the extent of his involvement.
Is the minister saying here today on the floor of the House that he is prepared to offer this individual the money she needs? Is that what the minister is saying? Or is he just looking at hiding behind some fancy rules and regulations when he knows he has the power to come around and offer this money?
Is the minister going to offer this money to this individual so she can move to Vancouver and go to work in her new position?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: There's almost a delicious irony in this one, because the last time the schedule B benefits were changed to make it more difficult for people to get moving assistance was under the previous Yukon Party government. The Yukon Party government changed the schedule B benefits. I'm afraid that strikes a little bit too close to home for the members there. They've gone through this epiphany, they've gone through this revelation where, all of a sudden they're concerned with not slashing people.
The member is parroting away, "Are you going to lend the money or not?" I expressed that section 27 does provide for that, and if the individual were to contact social assistance as they were advised, they would see that that option is clearly open to them. They have received emergency assistance under section 6; they've been offered some travel assistance and, as far as a loan for relocation, et cetera, that is available through section 27. I'm afraid the member is somewhat tender on this spot because of the previous, rather savage attitude of the Yukon Party government.
Question re: Teslin Community Correctional Centre
Mr. Phillips: I guess it's all about priorities. You know, if you're a delinquent taxpayer, the Department of Health and Social Services will bail you out but, if you're a single mother, you have to jump through all the hoops.
This is to the Minister of Justice - on November 8, I raised the issue of underutilization of the Teslin Community Correctional facility. This 25-bed minimal secure facility was the brainchild of the previous NDP government and basically has been underutilized since day one. In the week I raised the issue, there were only three inmates in the Teslin jail, and I wonder if the minister could advise the House how many inmates were in the facility last week.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm not aware of what the exact number of inmates was at the facility last week. I have been advised that three inmates will be moving to Teslin this week from the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
Mr. Phillips: I would have thought that the minister would be paying closer attention to the issue, in light of the fact that it is public knowledge that the facility has been underutilized. I know from my research that there was nobody in the facility last week, Mr. Speaker - no one, zero.
Can the minister explain why it was necessary, with no inmates in the facility, to bring a relief shift worker all the way from Whitehorse to guard the non-existent inmates? Perhaps the minister can bring that back to us as well.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, it seems that the opposition critic is trying to manage the staffing of the facility. I can assure the member that the Department of Justice is working with the staff at the Teslin Community Correctional Centre and, as well, with the community of Teslin. We're aware that there is a shortage of inmates at the facility. We're working with the Teslin Tlingit First Nation and with the community on potential changes in that facility. I understand that there are further inmates scheduled to go down to Teslin tomorrow.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, someone has to try and manage the facility; obviously the minister's not doing it. Mr. Speaker, there was no one in the facility last week, and they had to call out an extra employee - a shift worker, a relief shift worker - to drive all the way from Whitehorse to sit there all day long with no one in the facility. It just doesn't make economic sense.
Mr. Speaker, it's bitterly ironic that, while the Whitehorse Correctional Centre's in dire need of replacement, NDP governments have spent taxpayers' money on a modern correctional facility that isn't even being used, and the minister seems to be in some kind of a delay mode on what they're going to do with it.
I'd like to ask the minister, what kind of timeline does she have with respect to the Teslin jail, and will she move more quickly now that it's obvious that it's being very grossly underutilized - to the tune of about $1.5 million a year - and we had no one there last week, and we might have three people there this week? It's a gross expenditure, a poor expenditure, of the taxpayers' dollar with respect to justice. The money could be put to far better use in other areas, and the workers at the jail are extremely concerned about the future.
When is the minister going to make a decision?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, that member is well-known for coming into this House with his facts all wrong, and I'm certainly not going to respond to what he is saying the facts are without double-checking on the information.
Mr. Speaker, the Teslin Community Correctional facility had low inmate populations during the previous four years that the Yukon Party government was in office. It seems that the member is standing here today and suggesting that we should simply shut the facility down. We are going to maintain our commitments to the Teslin community and to the staff. We are working with the staff and the community on determining future uses of the facility at this time. We're going to take the time to do it right.
Question re: Vacation Guide
Ms. Buckway: I have some questions for the minister responsible for tourism.
I'm very pleased that the tourism summit over the weekend was so positive and that tourism operators are all fired up with enthusiasm. We need that in light of the economy. However, I have here a copy of the 2000 visitor guide. This guide is supposed to be an important marketing tool. It's supposed to show the Yukon in its best light. But this in an embarrassment, Mr. Speaker. Many of the photographs in this issue look like they were taken with a disposable camera: they're out of focus, they're dirty, they're poorly composed. Surely we can do better than this. Some very good photographers are being badly represented here.
I'm aware that Parallel, the company responsible for the design and production of this visitor guide, wanted larger-format photos. They wanted better quality, but they were overruled by the Department of Tourism. Why, Mr. Speaker? Can the minister tell us why he sacrificed quality photographs in the new visitor guide?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I do believe that that is not absolutely correct. I mean, the vacation guide has transferred into a 5.7-percent increase in numbers already this year to the Yukon Territory.
The Yukon Territory has always been on the cutting edge in leading tourism in Canada and, I might even say, elsewhere in the world. We're always looking forward to making issues better, to finding new ways to become attractive, to making the Yukon attractive to people, and we have converted interested parties from this document into being visitors to the Yukon Territory.
Can we make it better? Yes, Mr. Speaker, we can always make it better, and this department will continue to work toward making it better. We're looking at working much closer with the Tourism Industry Association through bringing together, as a part of the team, the association, us and others so that we might be able to continue with the fine work. And, again, there is a 5.7-increase this year. Phenomenal.
Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, there were complaints about the visitor guide last year in this House. I'd like to congratulate the minister on the improvements this year, but I can't, because this year's vacation planner is not an improvement. Furthermore, it was two months late. Will the minister explain why this year's vacation planner was two months late?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, this government has done and will continue to do things for tourism. We've got three flights coming in, including charter flights - scheduled flights coming in - a 5.7-percent increase, Mr. Speaker. I mean, God, this is phenomenal.
As I said, we can always do better. We're going to continue to do better, and certainly working with the vacation guide and the industry will be one of those steps forward to making it better.
What more can I say except that there has been a 5.7-percent increase, and we'll continue to work to that end with the industry, as partners?
Ms. Buckway: I'm glad the minister knows what's going on in his department. Here's why the planner is late.
Mr. Speaker, in the November 1999 issue of Equinox magazine, on page 59, there's an advertisement for the official Alaska State vacation planner and the Yukon official vacation guide. The cover photo on the Yukon guide in that advertisement is a bear's face. The department had to change the photo to the sweeping scenic shot I have here, with two people and a tent, because the minister failed to remember that the number-one story from the Yukon this summer was the unfortunate bear incident in Dawson. That's why the planner was two months late - the cover photo had to be redone.
How much did the mistake in the cover photos cost the Yukon taxpayer, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, it's not a question of how much it cost the taxpayer, it's what the government has allocated toward making the Yukon tourism business a much more vibrant business than it is. Certainly, the vacation guide is a very important tool. We'll always work to make it better; we'll always look to find new ways to encourage tourists to come to the Yukon Territory.
As to the exact cost of the vacation guide, I doubt that it's exceeded any more than it has in previous years, but I will get the information to the member.
Question re: Tour Yukon Web site
Ms. Duncan: My question is also for the Minister of Tourism, and it concerns the Tour Yukon Web site. This is the main Department of Tourism Web page.
There were a number of concerns with the French and German language sections of the Tourism Yukon Web site, and the concerns were first raised by industry in the spring of last year.
One of the concerns, Mr. Speaker, was that the French version of the Web site directed every inquiry about winter tourism to the Canadian Embassy in Paris, France. French-speaking North Americans should at least be directed to this continent.
In the spring of this year the Department of Tourism finally responded to the industry's concerns and did some slight repairs to the site. This weekend was the Tourism economic forum. A number of businesses that work with this Web site to make their businesses a success told me that nothing would impress them more than for the minister to stand up and say that the Web site now works.
Well, the minister was unable to do that. This problem has dragged on for 18 months. Does the Minister of Tourism find it acceptable that winter visitors from Quebec or Belgium are referred to the Canadian Embassy in Paris for information?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, our Web site has had more hits than Disney World - more hits than Disney World. I think that absolutely shows that our Web site is very popular. Again, can we make things better? Yes, we can make things better. We are in constant critique on how to do that. We're always reaching out to the industry; we're reaching out to people; we're strategizing on a new strategy. We're doing that by the involvement of people, and we will continue to do these things involving people. Yes, we will get to what we said we wanted to get to - a world-class destination - and this government is proving it by putting in the resources necessary to do that.
Ms. Duncan: So what the minister is saying is that he doesn't care where those people go, but hey, they visited the Web site. This problem in this day and age of computer linkages and e-commerce presents some real problems for Yukon businesses.
There's another example: the German version of the Tour Yukon Web site connects people looking for a Yukon vacation to German wholesalers. The concern that industry has is that this does not help the Yukon operators and, in some cases, it hurts them. Some of these wholesalers only carry about five percent Yukon product. Industry has asked the minister and asked the department that this be fixed and that more be done to direct potential visitors, visitors to the Web site, to Yukon companies. Why hasn't this happened? It's gone on for 18 months. When will this Web site be fixed?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Obviously the member wasn't spending her time at the conference as she should have been, because when I was at the conference all weekend people were telling me, "Thanks for the good work, continue to do good work, and can you look at these avenues to make things improve?" - and certainly we can and that's exactly what I told the industry.
Are you telling me that flights from Europe, new marketing agencies, new marketing initiatives, support for European marketing, heritage funding, expansion, tourism summits, is not a good thing? I believe it's absolutely the right thing. Since we've been a government there have been incremental increases, and we're working to keep those incremental increases here in the Yukon Territory. We can do that through marketing, we can do that through product development, and this government has done that. We've put together tourism marketing funds, we've put together trade and investment funds, all for the betterment of tourism and the industry. So will we continue to do so? Absolutely.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, the industry that has asked repeatedly for this government and for the minister's department to ensure that this Web site is fixed and fully functional and works for everyone involved was given a commitment and the answer this weekend, not by that minister, that the Web site would be fixed by January 15, 2000. Unfortunately, industry has given up. They don't believe that that deadline is going to be met.
The vacation planner mentioned by my colleague a moment ago, on one page alone, the back page, lists three different Government of Yukon Web sites for visitor information. Has the minister at least asked the department to ensure each site is fully functional and that the problems that were experienced by the Tour Yukon Web site have been or will be fully repaired, at least by January 2000?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, for an official opposition that won't put their initiative on the table of what they would do within the tourism industry, I find that absolutely appalling. This government has continued to work with the industry associations. We've core funded some of those associations. We've got a true partnership going. We do not dictate, we ask that they work with us. We're restructuring the Yukon Tourism Marketing Council so that they will have their input into it. It will include such things as air access. It will include the marketing initiatives. It will include where we're going into the future.
Will this government continue to do that? Yes, we will continue to do that.
Have we done it in the past? Well, with five percent increases and with 11 percent increases in tourism here, spreading out to the communities, endeavouring to help would-be entrepreneurs, reflecting cultural lifestyles of the Yukon into the tourism industry, yes. We will continue to do everything we can for tourism here in the Yukon Territory.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to 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 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. 19 - Third Appropriation Act, 1999-2000 - continued
Department of Economic Development - continued
Chair: Committee is dealing with the supplementary estimates. We are on the Department of Economic Development. Is there further general debate?
Mr. Cable: I have just a couple of questions for the minister.
I received a phone call a few weeks ago from a person who said he had been monitoring gas prices in Haines Junction and in Watson Lake, and had discovered that those prices were lower in both of those centres than in Whitehorse. It appears from the government's Internet site that that's so. They're not significantly different, but they are, in fact, lower.
Does the minister have any explanation of why that's the case?
Hon. Mr. Harding: No, I do not. I know that there are some strange things happening right across the country in terms of gas pricing. I saw that Newfoundland prices were actually up over 78 cents last week. The N.W.T. has skyrocketed. I do know that there are anomalies sometimes in the rural Yukon. I know Dawson, for example, is usually quite a bit higher than, for example, Carmacks and even Faro sometimes. I don't know the reason for that, but one can only speculate that it may be due to local competition issues. I'm not sure.
I do know, though, that, just from experience, the price in Haines Junction is usually as good as Whitehorse and sometimes even a little bit lower. I don't know if they bring any fuel in from Haines. They may, but I could maybe have some of the department people look at it and ask a couple of questions if the member wants.
Mr. Cable: Yes, I would appreciate that if the minister would do that, and I'll pass the answer on to the person that phoned me.
When the subject last came up on the advertising on the Internet site, I made the suggestion that the minister publish the highest and lowest prices, or at least the lowest prices I think it was. I noticed that that is not the case on the material that comes off the Internet site. Is there any reason why we're simply publishing the average prices rather than the lowest price? It would seem to me that if one published the lowest price, then that could make for better comparison shopping.
Hon. Mr. Harding: We had this debate some time ago, and I don't remember all the rationale that I got in terms of trying to keep track of all these prices, but my understanding from trying to - and it does take quite a bit of work just to come up with the average price. You know, you basically have someone working on this almost - well, I won't say full-time, but a considerable amount of hours. And it is felt that the average price would give consumers a good indication of the price ranges, so if they know what the average price is and they see in a station above the average that they've just seen, then they should also conversely know that there are other stations that have cheaper prices, and they might want to go there if they're inclined to do so.
But there were some reasons, and it had to do with trying to find the lowest price. Given the constant shifting, it would be very difficult to determine. The prices change quite a bit. The member opposite will know, I'm sure, as he drives home every night by a few stations that they do change quite a bit.
Chair: Order please. I would remind visitors in the gallery not to be disruptive.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I would like to say that, just from my discussion with some of the station owners, the competitions are very, very strong. I know some gas station owners drive around during the day and actually change their prices depending on what they see out there as well. So it does move around quite a bit.
Mr. Cable: There has been a lot of speculation that when the price of crude goes down, there are long, long waits until the price at the pump goes down, and that's actually been my experience, my recollection. Yet, when the price of crude goes up, as it has in the last few months, the price at the pumps goes up very quickly. Has the government ever looked at what the rationalization is for that seeming contradiction? I know the oil companies say, "Well, we have to clear out our old, high-priced inventory when the price is dropping," but it doesn't seem to be the same time span when the price is going up. One would think that they'd clear out their old, low-priced inventory at the same speed.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I am thankful that we're not in Newfoundland's shoes yet, in terms of prices - and some of the other jurisdictions. I was talking to someone the other day who said - I can't remember if it was Manitoba or northern Ontario - that the prices are higher, or at least as high as they are here in Whitehorse presently. Some of the communities in the Yukon are obviously more.
This is extremely difficult. As I'm sure the member in this non-partisan discussion will know, it's a very difficult question to answer, because he's quite right. When the pricing in relation to the oil cost goes down, they don't reflect very quickly at the pumps that changing circumstance. Usually at that time they say that it's the old inventories, and they also say that the price of the oil is only one component - somewhere around 15 to 20 percent of the actual price at the pumps. A lot of the other costs, such as the refining and all the other fixed costs, don't change, so you don't get these massive swings.
The problems that are local here and that make it even more difficult here are that we don't have the volumes in the sales that they have down south. While we have competition, some of the rural communities have very little, and in Whitehorse the level of competition and the volumes exacerbate the problem even further.
So, that is what I'm told. I'm not saying I agree with it, but there have been federal government MP task forces, there have been inquiries. The Ontario government just called an inquiry in Ontario, and it's interesting there. When the government calls an inquiry, the opposition calls it a sham and a waste of taxpayers' money, and here, when the government hasn't called one, the opposition asks for an inquiry. And when I go to mines or energy ministers' meetings, believe you me, there are provinces out there that feel the same - and territories, because the N.W.T. is actually more expensive than we are - pains as a result of this question.
We have pushed forward a number of initiatives to try to expose the matter, increase consumer awareness, put pressure on oil companies; the federal government has done it. I don't know how much effect it's having, frankly.
Mr. Cable: I think the stats that I have looked at show that the transportation component assumedly is much higher here than it is to the provinces - most of the provinces, anyway - but the tax regime here is much lower. So the fact that the price has gone up, reflecting the price of crude, doesn't give the whole explanation of why these prices are skyrocketing. They have gone up over 10 cents in the last few months.
Is the minister involved, in any way, with the Ontario inquiry?
Hon. Mr. Harding: No, although I am interested in what's happening. One of the focuses of the inquiry is in northern Ontario, but it has been done before.
The increase here, interestingly enough, is not as substantial as it has been in most cases in southern Canada. For example, Kelowna is higher right now - Newfoundland, a couple of other provinces. So where we have seen a 10-cent swing or so - I'm not sure if it's quite 10, and the member may be right - they have seen very dramatic increases.
In B.C., you know, just a few months ago, the price of gasoline at the pumps could hit 40 to 42 cents, and now most of it's up around 57, and some of it in more rural parts of B.C. than in the centres is up over 70 cents.
The member's quite right: we have the lowest gas taxes in the country - substantially lower. We're at six cents a litre; the next lowest is Alberta, and I think they're about 10 or 11 or 12 cents.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, just before we left off on Thursday, the minister and I were having a discussion regarding the ANGTS, or Alaskan Natural Gas Transportation System, and Foothills Pipe Lines. The minister had indicated some support on the part of government for that route. I would like to just explore this issue a little bit further with the minister.
The ANGTS system, according to the media release from Foothills, will provide significant national and regional economic benefits, particularly to Yukon, northern British Columbia and the Northwest Territories via pipeline along the Dempster Highway.
Now, it has been some years since Yukoners uttered the words "Foothills Pipelines" and thought about the pipeline along the Alaska Highway. Is it the intention of the minister and in the workplan for the Department of Economic Development that we simply dust off the old pipeline inquiry and extrapolate numbers to present-day, or is there any work being done in terms of research work by the Department of Economic Development?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, this is largely a private sector-led project. We have been having some meetings with Foothills. We have met with other pipelines companies, Foothills' partners, and we see this as obviously a better option than Mackenzie Delta. There are certain legal rights that are more than studies that Foothills presently holds, as the member knows. Those still exist, even though the studies were done some time ago on the Dempster lateral and the ANGTS Alaska Highway line.
Incidentally, I don't know what the Liberal position is - and I'm curious - on the Alaska Highway/Dempster lateral pipeline. Are they supportive of this?
Ms. Duncan: I'm so glad the minister asked. Yes, as a matter of fact, we are.
Chair: Is there further general debate?
Are there any questions on the revenue?
On Capital Expenditures
On Corporate Services
On Community Development Fund
Mr. Cable: We make this entreaty each time we have a budget debate, but has the minister given any further thought to isolating himself from decisions on the community development fund and putting that before an independent board, much the same as the old business development fund?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I don't think, first of all, that ever worked because, at the end of the day, the government ends up being politically accountable for the decisions. We have boards with all kinds of representatives in the trade investment funds, the tourism marketing funds but, still, there are concerns out there that some people receive funding and some don't. I don't think you can get away from that, frankly, no matter what structure is considered.
I think the CDF works well. The reports we get from the communities are that it works well. There are obviously people who don't like it when they don't receive funding, but there are also a lot of people out there whom the funds do help. We believe it works well, and I think people like the fact that there are political people involved, in terms of making sure things happen and get steered through the bureaucracy so they don't have huge delays in projects and whatnot.
Mr. Cable: Is the minister saying that an independent board would not be as efficient as the minister himself in dispensing this largesse?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I don't consider it largesse. I consider it a lot of good support for rural Yukon. I'm really proud of the projects that we have going on in Whitehorse. I'm proud of what has gone on in Faro, in Pelly Crossing - a new skating rink there. I look around Beaver Creek and what we did up at the Longfellows Hall in Dawson City. In Teslin we've done some good work, Carmacks. All over, in every corner of the Yukon. Youth programs - we've got an entrepreneurship program with Dana Naye Ventures, where we've allowed Yukon small business people that are young, entrepreneurs, to borrow money to start access to capital.
I think that the program is not largesse. I think it's a good investment in the Yukon, in particular in rural Yukon. So we think it works, we get tremendous reports from the communities on it. I hear very few complaints. I'm sure the opposition gets some from people who are not successful, but I do have lots of meetings with people, and I do hear good things. I do not believe that independent boards can't work, I just don't think that there's a reason in this case to do it.
Mr. Cable: The minister seems to be basing his proposition on the fact that if there were an independent board, like the one for the business development fund, then there'd be some complaints. I don't think that's the issue at all. The issue is that politicians dispensing significant funds of money without a lot of scrutiny are perceived to be dispensing it based on political reasons, and any number of these recipients, of course, I would personally be supportive of; that's not the issue - whether or not there are jobs created and whether or not these people are doing good things - the issue is who should be making the decision. I'm surprised that the minister doesn't see that there's a real perceptual problem with the minister up at the top dispensing funds without close legislative scrutiny.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Bingo. The member just said it. He said the issue isn't that there are jobs being created and that the people are doing good things; I disagree totally with him, I think that is the issue, and that's what's happening. So don't fix it if it ain't broke. And if the member wants to scrutinize me, I'm right here to be scrutinized, so lay it on me.
You know, got a problem with a project, bring it up. Don't like the way a community did something, bring it up. I'm here to be scrutinized, I think there's lots of scrutiny, I think the Yukon is the most scrutinized jurisdiction in the entire country, and I don't accept the member's thesis that there's not good scrutiny.
I don't think there is a real perception problem. I hear it almost only from the opposition. I think the program works, I like what's happening out there in rural Yukon, I love going to different communities and seeing the projects that the communities put forward - rural Yukon puts forward those projects to government. Those are applications done by people in Pelly or Dawson, or in Carmacks, or in Watson Lake, and they put the projects forward and we try and establish some criteria around them, and part of the criteria is to try and have some equalization throughout the different communities. I think the biggest benefactor of all rural Yukon has been Dawson City, which doesn't even have a government MLA.
So how can this argument of political gerrymandering hold up? But Dawson has put forward some great ideas, even though the member is usually a detriment to their cause because of his conduct. We never hold that against the citizens of Dawson. When they have good ideas, we fund them through CDF as much as we possibly can.
Mr. Cable: I take it then, at the end of the day, after this discussion, that the minister is on record as saying that the citizens board of the business development fund did not work. Was that his position?
Hon. Mr. Harding: No, I didn't say that at all. What I said was that there were still perception problems with that criteria, because some people got and some people didn't get, and whenever that happens, there are issues raised. Somebody in the public may say, "Well, we think that, even though the minister wasn't on the board, he had something to do with the application," or there was a thumbs-up given behind the scenes. All of that kind of stuff comes out. It's basically something that I do not think is avoidable when there is public monies involved. I think that with the CDF the issue is, is it creating jobs, and is it doing good work in rural Yukon and Whitehorse? And I think the answer is yes.
I mean, just last week, we funded the new ski hill - or made a major contribution to the ski hill society of $400,000 for work on a new snow-making machine for Mount Sima. When stuff like that happens, I think it's an excellent project. I hear no concerns about the process or anything else.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Options for Independent Living is another great project. We have got so many, and I think the issue is, is it working, and is it producing good things? And I think it is.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'd just like to ask the minister a question on this. Presumably there's some tracking done of the CDF, in terms of communities funded, projects funded, jobs created. Now, we could sift back through all of the photo ops and the press releases and dig out this information, but I'm sure the minister's staff already have it at their fingertips.
So I wonder if the minister would be so kind as to have his officials forward over that tracking information or summary information of the CDF.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I can provide some of that for the member, and she'll see that, right up there at the top in rural Yukon is Dawson City, which has been the major benefactor from this government of funding through the community development fund, but other communities, such as Watson Lake and Pelly Crossing and Faro and Dawson City and many others, have received funding, so I'll be happy to provide some information for the member.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, when information like that is contained in a database, it can depend upon the type of question asked, and I wonder if it's possible to ask where the CDF has supplemented departmental funding. The Minister of Health and Social Services talked about CDF funding Options for Independent Living.
I note that there was funding for the Oddfellows Hall in Dawson City. Presumably that may or may not have also come under the tourism and arts and recreation branch, so I wonder if I could have the information broken out in terms of where it supplemented a department.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, that's a very subjective analysis. We can try to do some of that, but that could be the subject of a lot of debate. Some of these are cross-departmental initiatives. Some of them may fall in the purview of a particular department. We'll try to do some analysis around that.
I know there are a lot of things that CDF funds do that could be considered as supplementing departmental funding, but I think that's one of the good things about CDF because, like it or not, we have excellent, hardworking public servants and they want to do good things, but when communities come in with ideas that perhaps weren't in their budget in the way they saw the year shaping up, sometimes to force something up through the system, so actually communities have put projects in to get something through, have a hard time.
What the CDF does is it allows us to support people priorities, not just the political priorities of the government and the priorities of different departments or different people in the bureaucracy.
Community Development Fund in the amount of $1,034,000 agreed to
On Corporate Policy
On Centennial Anniversaries Program
Centennial Anniversaries Program in the amount of $274,000 agreed to
On Capital Maintenance Faro Mine
Hon. Mr. Harding: This is part of the contribution that we made to the holding company that's set up to maintain some of the key assets of the Faro mine so that, hopefully, when prices reach a profitable level, somewhere around 57 cent zinc, an operator can come in and actually have something there to start work with. We did this because we think that the mine, whether all Yukoners like it or not, represents about 18 to 20 percent of the gross domestic product and about $300 million a year. When people say, "Well, it's only got five years left," they sometimes don't think about the fact that it represents $1.5 billion in economic activity in a territory this size. It's very substantial.
Cominco has an interest in the property through the holding company. As well, they hold Sa Dena Hes and they have recently been permitted on Kudz Ze Kayah, finally, by the federal government. They've got their water licence. And I know that that particular belt is squarely in their plans, should we see zinc prices come up off their levels of today. There's a good hope for that, but it is going to be dependant on price.
We did this also as well. We believe that there are a lot of things cooking in Faro in terms of desire to diversify the economy. There are over 100 home owners in that community now, who own their own home, just like any other Yukon community, and while we respect their efforts to diversify their economy and live in the Yukon, we also wanted to try and do what we could to ensure that the mine stayed together as much as possible. It was a difficult process, quite expensive in terms of lawyers' fees and negotiating with the federal government and Cominco, who were also part of the holding company. As well, some of the concerns from the workforce, the USWA and the Ross River Dena, were also factored into what we achieved here.
We have lost some of the key assets. However, there's a difference of opinion as to whether or not they were helpful or hurtful to the overall operation. We have mixed feelings about that.
We have had concerns with the receiver about the method of asset disposal. For example, the trucks were basically high grade and allowed to be by the federal government, meaning that the people who bought them for essentially a song took the wheels and the motors and left the boxes and tons of scrap there for a liability that, someday down the line, a company - but more likely the taxpayer - is going to have to pay for.
So, we have tried to resist the sell-off of piecemeal assets as much as possible. Of course, that comes at a price. In order to have a say, you have got to be a contributor, and we believe that's largely a federal government responsibility. Because of the significance to the territory, we felt we had to put something on the table to be an active and contributing player in this respect, and that's where this money comes from.
Mr. Ostashek: Is this company that has been set up the numbered company that has been referred to in the media lately as being involved in a court challenge in Toronto?
Hon. Mr. Harding: No, the former Government Leader will remember. I think that whole issue started back in his time. He has obviously read the articles, but it has to do with some transferring of assets and funds from Mr. Frame's days at the head of Curragh in their dying days as an organization, before they went bankrupt. This is the process of trying to recoup part of those funds. The argument of the government is that, because of the associated liabilities - what the government was owed as well as some other stakeholders - there is entitlement to the transfer of that asset, which was owned by certain directors, as I understand it, of Curragh. So, it's an old battle that goes right back to the days of 1993-94.
Mr. Ostashek: I wonder if the minister could enlighten me. Are there any other shareholders besides the territorial government in the numbered company?
Hon. Mr. Harding: If the member is referring to the numbered company that is involved in this challenge with the Greek mine, then I will get him that detailed information. It's quite a tangled web, but I'll try and provide something from the lawyers for him, if he'd like.
Mr. Ostashek: I appreciate that that's not in this budget that we're talking about and I don't want to continue debating it, I just had this simple question for the minister. Are there any other shareholders involved in the numbered company that the YTG has been alluded to as a shareholder in, that's in front of the courts?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'll get him that information.
Capital Maintenance Faro Mine in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
On Economic Planning
Ms. Duncan: I wonder if I could just ask a question in this line item with respect to United Keno Hill Mines and the mining property in Mayo. Is there any work being done by the minister's department with respect to that particular mine property and, if so, could the minister advise the House?
Mr. Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes, there is. The UKHM, or the Elsa mine, was a long-time contributor to the economy. It's been going through some very rough times, as many Yukoners know. If you go and talk to people in Tim Horton's or folks who have been around a long time, and you see them in the gym, or old Elsa people, or people involved in the mining industry here, a lot of money is owed. We'd like to see that mine sold as a going concern to somebody who is actually going to operate it. There are solid reserves there, the infrastructure is in place, the costs of operating it, at least in the studies we've seen, show that it could possibly or very probably be operated to some degree at a profit even in this present market, given the right plan and corporate structure.
So, we have asked the creditors to come together and to work with us. We'd be willing to help them market it and try to shop it around to somebody who would operate it. It's a question of the creditors deciding how they want to handle it, because they're obviously owed the biggest stake here.
I know that there's a lot of concern about receivership. There's not a lot of value in the assets if they were piecemealed, but if the property was put together and packaged well with a good plan, they could have a better shot of recouping some of the money they're owed, and ultimately the Yukon would see, with any luck, the mine back into production to some degree.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, certainly there are many people - many present in the House - who appreciate the long-standing contribution, not just by Elsa, but Calumet and Keno and all of that particular area - United Keno Hill - to the Yukon economy.
The minister said, "We'd like to see the mine operating" and outlined such initiatives as helping to market and working with the creditors. I wonder if the minister could be more specific. Is there an individual in the department who is assigned to work with the creditors on this specific property? Is it someone's file to be dealing with on a continuous basis, or is this just a general goodwill expressed by the minister?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, it's both. I have had discussion with some of the creditors; I've been approached on the street, formally in the office and through a number of venues. But what's important is that the government doesn't become involved formally until the creditors agree on how they want to proceed. We're not going to go in and force them to do something that they want to do - spend a bunch of money and then have it fall apart.
They have to have some agreement on direction, otherwise it's a house of cards, and one person could pull it down and force something into receivership. So, we're working with the mining facilitator. The member asked if there's a person on the file, and the person is the mining facilitator and his people, and we're trying to pull something together with them, and he's working on it.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'll just formally request, then, that our offices be kept apprised, as much as we can through the mining facilitator, on the details on this project.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I will allow that as much as possible, unless there is some confidentiality, of course, which the member would understand. We would like to give out as much information as possible. It's an important public issue.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, one of the great difficulties with the Elsa mine and putting it back into operation as is, is the potential environmental liability of 100 years of mining. Is the minister's department doing anything in that respect?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes, actually both in Faro and in Elsa. One of the reasons that Cominco was part of Trust Co. is that they're actually going to do some work on the environmental liability there. DIAND has thrown out big, huge, ballpark numbers but those can vary dramatically. For example, the Vangorda pit and its existing licence is to be put back to - I forget the wording but it's something like "natural state", which would never, ever occur. It just can't be done. The taxpayer sure wouldn't pay for that. So, there has to be a reassessment of that liability.
The same thing for Elsa. I'm told that the Elsa liability isn't that substantial, and I think we would have to quantify that. One of the ways that we would be willing to look at participating, should the creditors come up with something in terms of a unanimity of direction, is perhaps by trying to help them with that. The member is quite right, it's an inhibitor to investment - that big question mark out there. I've actually met with the brokers, and I have been questioned quite extensively on those issues. They're first and foremost in their minds as they are trying to raise money for the property.
Economic Planning in the amount of $223,000 agreed to
On Trade and Investment
On Trade and Investment Fund
Hon. Mr. Harding: These are projects that we have carried out as a result of increased activity in trade missions, in oil and gas expenditures. I will provide the member with a detailed, itemized breakdown, if he would like. I don't have it at my fingertips.
Mr. Cable: I'd like that, and for the next line item as well.
Trade and Investment Fund in the amount of $451,000 agreed to
On Infrastructure Development
Infrastructure Development in the amount of $485,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Economic Development in the amount of $2,667,000 agreed to
Department of Economic Development agreed to
Department of Health and Social Services
Chair: Is there general debate?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, I'm pleased today to introduced the supplementary estimates for the Department of Health and Social Services for this fiscal year. With respect to the operation and maintenance expenditures, I am requesting an overall increase of $700,000 for the department. This is accompanied by a projected increase in recoveries of $178,000. Capital expenditures are projected to increase by $1,306,000 for this fiscal year, with modest increases in recoveries of $122,000.
With respect to the operation and maintenance expenditure increase, there are three highlights I wish to draw to your attention. The first is an increase in policy planning administration of $198,000. This increase is related to the successful health summit that was held in Whitehorse in October. This summit, the first of its kind in the Yukon, brought together a unique mix of health care providers, administrators and advisors, First Nation representatives, users of the health care system and members of the public, as well as key speakers, to address the topic of making health happen.
The estimated cost associated with this ambitious undertaking includes expenditures for facilities - $22,000; travel - $27,000; special guest speakers - $11,000; communications - $34,000; personnel costs for planning, management and chairing of the summit - $85,000.
Other services such as facilitation - $13,200. It's expected that the final costs will be less than the original projection of $198,000.
The second increase is in the area of Family and Children's Services, and is a result of a lifting of the moratorium on the childcare direct operating grant; $350,000 has been projected for this increase. In September of 1995, the waiting list for the direct operating grant was established. By early 1999, the number of licensed family day homes not receiving the grant exceeded the number that were receiving the grant. In July of this year, this inequity was addressed when waiting lists were abolished. This increase will also allow additional support to childcare operators, to enable them to care for special needs children and also provide for some minor enhancements to the childcare unit administration to improve the processing of payments.
The third main O&M increase that has been requested in this supplementary relates to the implementation of the new federal Youth Criminal Justice Act. In March of this year the federal government introduced a bill to replace the Young Offenders Act. While this bill has not yet passed through Parliament, it is expected to be finalized and implemented sometime during the year 2000. The federal government is providing implementation funding to assist in start-up costs required to implement the new features of this bill, and a total of $92,000 is allocated to the Yukon for this purpose in the 1999-2000 fiscal year.
Additional funding will be available over the subsequent five years. The $92,000 expenditure is fully recoverable. It will be used for policy and program development; review of existing manuals; staff training and orientation work with Yukon's criminal justice committees, to develop common policies and procedures for their role under the new act.
With respect to the capital expenditures, there are a number of revote items I wish to draw your attention to during detailed discussion of each branch of the department. Some of the highlights of the new, planned expenditures include the following: under policy planning and administration, we are requesting $100,000 for conducting a systems impact assessment as a result of the new Youth Criminal Justice Act. This cost is fully recoverable from the federal government and is intended to address the impact of new legislation on both the Department of Justice court registry information system and the Social Services young offenders information system.
Under the family and children's services, $60,000 for capital expenditures are requested for renovations to the St. Elias building to provide adult residential services, and $150,000 is planned as the department's capital contribution to the new youth centre.
Under Social Services, we are seeking a decrease in capital expenditures of $510,000 for the new long-term care facility for the current year, as a result of the changed cashflow of the project.
Capital requests for Health Services are all revotes for various projects underway, including completion of the First Nation healing room at Whitehorse General Hospital and the completion of three pilot projects on telemedicine. A $299,000 increase in community nursing revotes is requested for health care facilities in Mayo, Watson Lake, Dawson City, Old Crow and Beaver Creek. An additional revote of $296,000 is required to complete the design, specification documents and construction of the Teslin health centre. This multi-year project began in 1998-99 and is expected to be completed this fiscal year.
These are the highlights of the planned expenditure changes for Health and Social Services O&M and capital budgets for the fiscal year. I'd be pleased to answer any questions at this time.
Mrs. Edelman: One of the ongoing projects in the department is that of the midwifery project and perhaps the development of midwifery legislation at some point in the future. I wonder if the minister could update the House on that endeavour?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The midwifery planning group, comprised of community advocates for midwifery and representatives from professional and community organizations, has been working together on addressing a number of issues. These include the recommended model for midwifery services in the Yukon, regulations and standards required, and midwifery funding options. We'll be reviewing these. These issues are being addressed in a broader, reproductive health strategy being developed by Health and Social Services. Informal discussions with stakeholders under these items have taken place in order to develop policy. Recommendations with respect to the changes will be brought forward. There are a number of issues that have to be addressed, including such issues as safety, distance and recommendations in that regard.
The member will recall that, earlier, we had been asked by the group that was interested in midwifery to sort of hold back a little bit until some issues were addressed on a national front in terms of some similar issues around national standards on midwifery and so on.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Chair, as the minister knows, I actually sit on that committee. One of the things he has been talking about is policy and also the national policy, but he hasn't given me any timelines for legislation for the Yukon, and I'm wondering if he could be a little bit clearer on that issue?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Obviously, any feedback that we get would go into developing legislation on this topic. We'd be discussing a variety of things. There are a number of players here, including the YMA, YRNA, the various groups that are interested in midwifery as well as some of the women's reference groups. It would, I think, be extremely optimistic to see anything before the fall of 2000. As a matter of fact, I would suspect we would be probably into 2001 before we'd actually be at the point of developing any legislation around this.
Mrs. Edelman: I'm also very much aware that there's a representative from the Yukon Medical Association, as well as the Yukon Medical Council, on the committee that I also sit on.
The issue that came up at the last Yukon Council on Aging meeting, the minister gave a scintillating speech about some of the issues that he is dealing with in the department regarding seniors, and one of those - and it came out of the blue and as a total surprise to me, and actually everybody else at the meeting - was the issue of a seniors' advocate. The minister quickly mentioned that there may be a seniors' advocate appointed, and I did make a note of that from the meeting. I know that the seniors' social worker position has been eliminated, and now everybody just sort of gets whomever comes in. Is there going to be a seniors' advocate?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, there isn't anything going on right now with regard to a seniors' advocate. I think my reference there was that it was something that had been raised with me.
But no, there isn't currently a plan for a seniors' advocate at this point.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, as part of the reorganization in social assistance, we went from having specialty social workers - people who dealt with persons with disabilities, and people who were seniors or elders in our community and who had very specialized caseloads - and that changed. Is there any talk of evaluating that program, perhaps with a view to bringing back some of those specialty social worker positions?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think it's pretty early on in the game to be looking at doing changes. We have just brought about the reorganization there. I must say that the reorganization was an attempt by the department to look at moving away from the so-called silo kind of model, to move toward a single point of entry, to ensure that people don't fall between gaps if they're here for disabilities issues and there may be some other issues in terms of employability, and so on and so forth.
So, it was an attempt to move toward a client-centred approach. I think we're still pretty early on in the game, and I can't see, for example, us looking at major changes over the next little while.
We will be doing an evaluation, and we'll be seeing how it works, and we'll be doing follow-up with the people who are most impacted, who are clients.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, what sort of evaluation is this going to be? Is it going to be in house, or is it going to mean an independent evaluation?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We're looking at it primarily as an in-house evaluation, but there may be some issues where we involve client surveys and so on and so forth.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the other groups that are most affected by this tremendous change in the social assistance area were NGOs that also serviced the same clients, as well as the staff themselves, and I hope that there is going to be an effort made by the minister to include those two groups in the evaluation.
Also at the same Yukon Council on Aging meeting, there were two other issues. The first one is an issue that has been around for a long time. It's something I actually brought forward to the Health and Social Services department when I was working at the Yukon Council on Aging, almost 10 - perhaps 15 - years ago. And that was the issue of a referral service for senior citizens who were looking for handymen, and for people to clean in their houses.
The problem that seniors had at that time, and they still have exactly the same problem - because it came up at the Yukon Council on Aging meeting again last month - was the fact that people are concerned about hiring just anybody out of the paper. Many people, obviously, in their senior years, feel themselves to be vulnerable, and they don't want to just hire somebody out of the paper. They'd like to have some sort of list of potentially bondable people who will be coming in and working in their own homes. And I know that the minister is very interested in keeping people in their own homes, as opposed to putting them in seniors housing, or into seniors care facilities, because that's not what people want, number one, and number two, it's more expensive for our government and for Yukon taxpayers.
This is one way to keep people in their homes longer, and it's a long-standing request, and I wonder if the minister could talk about that.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can tell the member that I think that would be an ideal role for a group like the Council on Aging, or the Golden Age Society, to undertake with our support and cooperation.
This week - even though it's not specifically in my portfolio - the conference on Yukon seniors housing is beginning, and one of the issues that was addressed was the issue of minor repairs, work around the house, these kinds of things. These are some of the things that seniors, for example, had identified as being needs.
I was struck, in the initial report, by how many individuals first of all saw themselves remaining in their own homes for an extended period of time after retirement and well into their senior years, but one of the things they did identify was the need to have certain services done for them, or to access services, and I'm sure that's something that will be discussed in even greater detail this week. Certainly, it's something that we can work with seniors organizations on.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, speaking from experience, because I worked for those organizations for many years, there aren't the resources available and, once you do get people in, they get inundated by all the requests. For example, I have one friend who put a notice up at the Golden Age Society. Well, he took it down the next week because he had 35 calls. He had enough work to keep him going for almost a year, because these were clients who had been waiting for years for someone to come in and do these jobs in their homes. Everybody, it doesn't matter what age you are, always has little niggling things that need to be done around their own homes, and if you've been waiting for a long time, that list gets longer and longer and longer.
The problem with the Yukon Council on Aging, or else the Golden Age Society, taking on this role, and this has been discussed by them with the department a number of times, is that they don't have the ability to find out whether people are bondable or not, and that's an expensive proposition as well. That was why they've come to the department over and over and over again, looking at this very issue, and I was hoping that the minister was going to do a bit better than sort of fob it off on the seniors housing conference.
Has the minister's department looked at this issue closer?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, in general, issues of housing generally fall onto Yukon Housing, but one of the things we can do, I think, is work with Yukon Housing, perhaps even in concert with them and in concert with the seniors organizations, on the idea of putting out a registry or a guide or something of that nature. I think probably Yukon Housing would have a better sense of the availability of individuals who do home repairs, and so on and so forth, and we could work with them and the seniors organizations to perhaps put out something that might be available- a quick reference for seniors.
Mrs. Edelman: The minister also is aware that I'm talking about the issue of people coming in to clean houses as well, because certainly that's what they used to do in home care. There used to be somebody who would come in and clean, and that's not one of the primary focuses any more in home care, and that also allows people to stay in their own homes. If you can sit there and you can make a meal, but you're having trouble cleaning up afterward - you can't see where the dirt is - after awhile, things get a little tense, and the big jobs - like cleaning out cupboards or washing walls - are just absolutely impossible for some people to do, particularly if they're feeling vulnerable. Nobody - of any age, for that matter - wants to hang off a stool and try to clean the top of walls up by the ceiling.
Has the minister looked at that issue?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Certainly that's something that I'm quite aware of. As a matter of fact, my wife often indicates to me that my vision problems prevent me from seeing where the dirt actually lies on the counter, and I don't know if that's true. I don't know if it's a gender-specific issue or not.
The member's quite right in saying that home care does not normally cover those kinds of things. Home care is specifically based on, I guess, a more medical model, and its goal is to provide services that would not normally, ordinarily, be provided by family members and so on - changing dressings and some of those issues.
If the member is asking if we can include such things as house-cleaning services in any kind of list of services available to seniors, then sure, I can't see any problem in that regard.
Mrs. Edelman: That's interesting. It's a complete change of policy.
Mr. Chair, the other issues, of course, are taking care of the grounds at someone's house - snow removal, lawn and yard care. The minister, I'm sure, is very aware that that's a stressful, heavy exertion activity for many people, and that they're not supposed to be doing that, for example, if they have a heart condition - and that's very common in some of the seniors groups.
How are we going to deal with that issue?
This is a much bigger issue. It's handyman, it's housekeeping, it's snow removal, it's yard care, and it's mowing the lawn. It's anything to do with the driveway or having access to a person's home. It may not be home care per se, and it may not be a medical issue, but it's just as vital for people to stay in their own home, and it's also, I know, very, very expensive. A lot of people are willing to pay for it themselves; they don't have family members to do these things for them. They're willing to pay for it themselves; they just need to have reliable people to do those services. That's what they're looking for from the department.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I indicated that we could work in concert with the seniors organizations and with Yukon Housing to perhaps produce a list of individuals who were willing to do those kinds of services, and make that available through either a publication of the seniors organizations, or perhaps if we can work on something like that in concert, we can run it through Queen's Printer and produce a list or a registry of bondable, qualified people to do these things. We could make that list of services available to some of the seniors around town.
Mrs. Edelman: Thank you very much. That's something we've been asking for for many, many years. The other issue - I wonder if the minister can update us on the issue of a crematorium. Where do we sit with that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This is a burning issue. The crematorium has re-emerged periodically on an ongoing basis. We have seen this largely as a private-sector issue, and we've been waiting for a proposal that might come forward from the private sector. It would require some changes in legislation, in the Cemeteries and Burial Sites Act. Currently, we don't have the legislation in place. It's my understanding that Justice had completed an internal discussion paper in 1996.
To date, we haven't really seen anyone come forward from the private sector in this regard. It may be that, as the number of cremations increases in the territory, there may be actually a business case made for this, and someone may choose to go into that area. I would be loathe to commit the government to getting involved in a private sector area. There are, after all, a number of funeral services in town, and they might take exception to our being involved in such an issue.
Mrs. Edelman: There was a discussion paper put out in 1996 on this very issue. At that point the government was asked to take the lead. Is the government willing to take the lead on this issue if it becomes viable in a business sense, or what would it take for the government to take a lead in this particular issue?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Is the member asking us to build a crematorium?
Mrs. Edelman: Like other public/private partnerships, if there's something that's needed within the community, the government will often go out and ask for expressions of interest and see if there is a business case to be made for a particular endeavou. That's what we're asking for as far as the government taking a lead.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm sure if someone had a viable business proposal, they could go forward to seek funding either to develop the proposal through one of the various funds that has been established for that purpose; however, the Cemeteries and Burial Sites Act actually falls under Justice, and I would suggest that probably the department that might have some interest in this would be the Department of Justice.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, we tend to focus our efforts on the living.
Mrs. Edelman: There's also a very large section of the Public Health Act that deals with burying individuals who are dead - I'm sorry I had to specify that - Mr. Chair, the issue of a CAT scan has been brought up. Have we ever examined the idea of going through Juneau and having people do CAT scans there? Now when we went there on an exchange - I believe the minister was on that exchange as well as Mr. Chair - they had just bought themselves a brand-new CAT scan - it was an MRI. Pardon me. Have we looked at partnering with Juneau at all and sending people across there?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: If the member recalls when we spoke with the director of the hospital in Juneau, there was a rather startling difference between their charge-out rates and our daily rates. I think on an average they were somewhere between $3,000 and $5,000 - exclusive of physician fees, depending on the nature of the costs. Whereas ours are, I believe, around $700 and something. As well, the member recalls that, in the case of the MRI, they were running that machine somewhere around - I think they were doing a minimum of 10 procedures a day, at upwards of $1,600 per procedure. We have to remember that those were in American dollars, as well. We haven't looked at the idea of utilizing Juneau because, at this point, we have relationships with our friends in British Columbia and Alberta, where we've been able to get some of these services delivered.
With respect to a CT scanner, I think what has been gradually developing is the idea of a CT scanner being what could be properly called a standard of care for medicine. In the meeting I had with both the CEO, the chair of the hospital board and the chief of medical staff, this was the argument that came forward - the idea of a standard of care. At that point, we were working under a previous amount that had been submitted to us of well in excess of $2.5 million with, I believe, a $685,000 incremental O&M cost, if I recall it properly.
Subsequent to that, when we met with the hospital, they suggested that there may be ways in which they could do it for considerably less, both in capital and O&M. We've asked them to go back and refine their business case, if you will. We've also asked them to look at possible other sources of funding, the most likely one being WCB. WCB would be a major user of this because the type of technology that's being used now, the spiral computer tomography, is no longer exclusively used for head injuries. It's being used for more full-body kinds of injuries, traumas of different kinds.
We feel that there would be some positive outcome for WCB, so we've asked them to refine their numbers, come back to us, and we'll certainly discuss these.
I must also say that the CT scanner was one of six items that were brought forward by the hospital in terms of incremental cost, so we also asked them to identify priorities. We said, "Okay, quite obviously, you have got six fairly sizable items here - which is your priority?" And hopefully when they come back they'll be able to identify that.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, what were those other items?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Actually, if the member can just bear with me for a moment, I'll just grab this here.
One was the idea of pathology services. One was for lab services - medical director of lab services, triple marker screening, increase in mammography, increase in mental health services, social worker primarily for social worker services.
Mrs. Edelman: It's my understanding that the new mammography unit has already been ordered, yet we haven't reached the top of the meter as far as money being raised from the community. Where does the government sit on that? How much is going in?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, as the member is aware, we made the contribution of half the cost, and it's my understanding, from having talked with the hospital, that they are very, very close to their target. So obviously they've done it with enough confidence that they can order it.
I asked the same question. I asked where they were, and they said that they were very, very close to achieving their goal, so clearly they must feel confident.
Mrs. Edelman: Actually, I think they were about $60,000 short, and I'm sure if they had another fun run that was even half as successful as last year, they would easily raise that amount of money.
Mr. Chair, the minister also referred to a social worker. Is this for the mental health program up at the hospital? No - the minister's indicating no it's not. Why would they be needing a social worker at the hospital then?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We did fund a social worker - actually, this was in 1998-99, to establish and maintain the social work program access to non-First Nation patients. We have already assisted in terms of social work. In a similar way, we've committed more in terms of mental health services.
Mrs. Edelman: So the social worker the minister's talking about, is this someone who refers people in to the programs they are going to be needing, or the services they're going to be needing? For example, someone has to be medevaced out. Is this what the minister's talking about?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The services would be for individuals who are being referred home, and to make sure that the necessary support services are there. For example, say an individual gets referred home, and there may be a need for some special therapies, whether it's hydration therapies or whatever; to make that connection between the hospital, and say, the different support networks, be it home care service or be it perhaps services at the Whitehorse Health Centre and so on.
Mrs. Edelman: One of the problems that we have out in the outer areas - particularly the Marsh Lake-Tagish area, which is getting a larger and larger percentage of seniors who live there on a full-time basis - is that they're being sent out to their community without adequate services.
Is this the social worker that would be responsible for making sure that those services are available?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We do have services out in Marsh Lake, and the worker would presumably make those kinds of connections to ensure that, for example, a home care worker is visiting at the appropriate times. They would make sure that the necessary therapies are there, whether it's, perhaps, if the person has to get OT services or something of that nature. So they would ensure that those services are in place or at least make the connections.
Mrs. Edelman: One of the problems with the home care services offered out in the Marsh Lake-Tagish area is that the worker is coming out from Whitehorse, so there is travel time as well as the person working there and then travel back time. This becomes very expensive, and it is a lot of wear and tear on the person who is offering the service. Has there been any talk, again, about trying to have a home care worker out in that area?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We have not been overly successful in recruiting a worker out there. We do have home care workers in communities. Perhaps it's a little different in those communities where there's a little more distance, but we have made attempts in the past to locate a person who would be based out there, but we haven't been particularly successful.
Mrs. Edelman: Hep C - I've corresponded with the minister on this issue a number of times and, indeed, each time the budget comes up, I ask the minister for another update. Where are we as far as compensation for the victims here in the Yukon, and have there been any deaths reported?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We don't have any deaths reported that I'm particularly aware of. It's my understanding that the first cheques on the national program for hepatitis C will be sent out in January. That's my understanding there. There have been a number of last-minute glitches that have come along as the Hep C process has worked its way through courts, and so on and so forth. Even a situation that was resolved, the courts imposed some further conditions on things, which has resulted in further delays.
But my understanding is that, for the compensation program for people who were infected by the blood system between 1986 and July 1, 1990, the cheques will be coming out in January.
Mrs. Edelman: The demographics in Watson Lake are similar to the rest of the Yukon: the population is aging, and therefore the need for services is also increasing. What are we looking at as far as long-term needs assessments for a multi-level care facility in Watson Lake?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As the member is aware, last year we sent out our staff to do an assessment of extended care needs and, in fact, home care needs throughout the territory. We're aware of the demographics in Watson Lake. Considerable discussion went on. We have instead chosen to utilize our excess capacity at the hospital, and we have designated beds there for respite. We now have a nurse operating, delivering home care services on our behalf out of the hospital. We are looking at how we can utilize our food services for such things as Meals on Wheels, and so on.
I think, as I indicated earlier, there was a proposal for what you have mistakenly described as a multi-level care facility, and, in reality, what was being proposed was closer to a seniors' housing kind of issue with perhaps some supervisory capacity when we began to probe into what was really being sought there.
One of the things that had happened and one of the things that is an irritant in Watson Lake is that at one point there had been a fourplex that was understood to be designated for seniors housing, but that was never utilized fully and, in fact, I believe, was used for other types of housing - social housing. And I'm not sure if staff housing was at one time in that complex or not, but I do know that that has been a point of irritation, and I was asked specifically about making representation to Yukon Housing in regard to having units designated for seniors in that community.
And we feel that probably that would likely meet the needs. I can go through some of the services that we are currently offering in Watson Lake. One of the things that we have done is we've increased the review, suggesting an increase in OT services to Watson Lake, and we have responded by having our occupational folks go out on a more frequent basis.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, this fourplex in Watson Lake: there were some problems with it. They were built for persons with disabilities, but they didn't meet the current standards as far as disability suites, and I know the minister's department, of course, keeps right up to date on what we need in that area, as does Yukon Housing.
Is the minister working with Yukon Housing on perhaps bringing that fourplex up to standard?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Following my visit to Watson Lake and following my discussions there, when it became clear that that was what they wanted, I made representation to my colleague in Yukon Housing. We have asked that they address the issue of trying to restore that building to seniors housing, and also to make the necessary changes to allow people to remain there.
Apparently, when I was there, I think only one individual, only one senior, was actually living in a building that had been designed specifically for seniors' needs.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, as the minister and I have spoken many times on this issue, he knows and I know that it wasn't just an issue of seniors. It was for people with high-level needs, or higher-level needs, I guess, than people who could stay in their own home in the Town of Watson Lake.
One of the issues I've been corresponding with the minister on quite a bit is the issue of day homes, and this is particularly the issue of adopting the CSA guidelines for playgrounds at day homes - not daycares but day homes.
Now, the minister has written the organization back and me, saying that he's going to go with the Ontario guidelines. The Ontario guidelines say that they don't keep, or that they are not using, CSA guidelines in day homes. They are using them in daycares. We went to great lengths to research this issue and, indeed, that's what they've decided. One of the big reasons they decided not to push that is that, number one, almost none of the playgrounds in Ontario meet CSA guidelines, and here in Yukon only three of our playgrounds, in the entire territory, meet CSA guidelines.
And during the winter they don't meet them at all, because as soon as the ground is frozen, it doesn't make any difference whether it's sand or it's grass or it's anything else, the impact is the same, because it's frozen ground.
So the minister is stubbornly holding on to this issue, that people have to fill their yards with sand - frozen sand in the winter - to meet these CSA guidelines, and it doesn't make an awful lot of sense. Eight months out of the year the ground is frozen here, and I'm wondering why the minister is stubbornly holding on to this CSA guideline for playgrounds in day homes here in the territory, especially because only three playgrounds in the entire Yukon meet those guidelines, and they're not in people's homes, and they don't meet the guidelines during the winter. It just doesn't make sense, Mr. Chair, and I wonder if the minister could try to explain it to me.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: One of the things that we have been doing is working with the Yukon Childcare Association in the City of Whitehorse to try to help them implement these standards. As well, we've been also working with the city staff, and it's my understanding that they've gone out to take a look at some things related to these standards, because they're fully aware of the fact that, with the new CSA standards, that becomes the standard at which liability is established.
Now, what we have done is we have suggested the following. The leading cause of playground injuries is basically falling off on to unsafe surfaces, and what we've suggested is - particularly with day homes - we're not interested in impacting on the aesthetics of the individual yards or anything like that. We've simply suggested that there may be some ways in which they can use different surfaces to reduce the possibility of impact, and some types of shock absorbing.
I might also point out that Health Canada recommends that play equipment have a protected surface, and Canadian paediatrics has basically suggested the same thing. As a matter of fact, the Canadian Paediatric Society has said that a child really only needs to fall about three feet to have a fatal head injury.
We've done a fairly detailed list. We have documentation of eight playground injuries sustained by children in licensed childcare programs: two broken wrists, two head injuries, one hurt elbow, another broken wrist from being bounced off an air mattress and falling on the grass, one cut head. So we are concerned about this.
We're not interested in trying to make things difficult for our day-home operators. It's just that existing equipment that is there, that can be left there, in terms of we're not going to insist that they tear it out or anything like that. What we have asked is that they look at the whole idea, that they look at the idea of putting in shock-absorbing surfaces. I might say that the Yukon Childcare Association is supportive of this. They feel that there is some need. We have also advised holders of licensed premises that they really do need to take a look at this for their own liability.
The fact is that if the CSA establishes certain standards, and an operator chooses, for whatever reason, not to adhere to those standards, there could be a liability issue. We have asked the individual childcares to check with their own insurance carriers, because, generally, the standard that the CSA has tends to become the standard at which liability is assessed. So, for example, one might argue very well that they had met a previous standard, and now, if a child were injured, a case could be made - and, I think, rather clearly - that the CSA has established a higher set of standards, and why didn't one adhere to that?
So we have been working with this. We have worked with the Child Care Board, and we have worked with the Childcare Association and are seeking some kind of compromise in this area. We have also advised people that there is financial assistance available to look at providing surfaces under slides, or whatever, in the backyards.
The issue is though, quite frankly - and the member has said that, with regard to some of the standards that the city, the playgrounds, are dealing with - the municipalities themselves may have to look at what they need to do with their own playgrounds to adhere to the CSA standards, because obviously those are liability issues.
Mrs. Edelman: The minister is talking about CSA guidelines as if they're the answer to eradicating accidents. Number one, you can't eradicate accidents. That's because they're accidents. It's impossible to eradicate accidents with children. For one thing, that's how they learn. You don't want them to learn the hard way by having head injuries, but unfortunately you cannot eradicate accidents, and you especially can't eradicate accidents if you think that adopting CSA guidelines is the way to go. CSA guidelines gave us such fabulous things as halogen lamps, shingles that burn, and PVC blinds that strangle children, and they have lead paint that poisons them.
CSA guidelines don't mean anything. CSA guidelines say that you should put sand underneath the swing. We put sand underneath the swing, and it doesn't matter if it's frozen. If it's frozen, then that's not going to reduce the impact any more than frozen grass. Frozen is frozen is frozen, and three-quarters of the year, it's frozen. And the CSA guideline doesn't make any sense.
And, adopting CSA guidelines doesn't deal with the issue of supervision. If a kid going back and forth on the swing reaches the top of the arc and, in a burst of intelligence, decides that they're going to jump and - I'll tell you there's probably nobody in this room who didn't decide to do that at some point in their lives - that's an issue of supervision. CSA guidelines are, number one, not going to eradicate all accidents. Number two, do we want to completely eradicate all accidents? And, number three, they don't make sense in the north. CSA guidelines don't mean that you eradicate accidents.
I suppose that maybe the minister thinks that that's possible, but the reality is - and he used to be an administrator at school - that it is absolutely impossible to do that, and adopting CSA guidelines for day homes is not going to do the trick. So, I'm wondering if the minister has something an awful lot better than that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm not suggesting that we can eliminate all accidents. What I am suggesting is that there are things that we can do to reduce harm. I mean, that's the principle behind such things as seat belts and all of the other aids, whether they are air bags or whatever, that have been developed over a number of years. That's why, for example, I think such things as personal flotation devices become a standard of boating safety. One can't reduce all accidents. I mean, no one can reduce accidents, but what one can do is try to reduce the harm.
When I was a principal, for example, even though we had swings and things like that, my personal feeling was that it was a bit of a hard lesson to put those swings on concrete. I know it's a learning experience and I know that probably someone from a Skinnerian background would say, well, if a kid lands on their head on concrete enough, I guess that'll teach them not to jump off the swings. However, I think there are probably some things that we can do to reduce harm, and the CSA guidelines are that. The CSA guidelines are some standards that are designed to reduce harm.
We have said that we will try to assist family day homes in the use of materials that are designed to absorb some shock, whether it's such things as chip foam rubber or whatever. I understand that we have some vagaries in terms of the frozen aspect, but I would imagine that childcare operators try to exercise the correct supervision over children to make sure that those children don't do things on any kind of equipment that would be unsafe, and particularly in the winter when surfaces do tend to get harder and more resistant, and the shock-absorbing capacity of such things, whether it's sand or pea gravel or whatever, is diminished.
So I think we have to also suggest that our childcare operators have enough common sense to exercise those kinds of care.
We're not doing this capriciously. Clearly, there are some issues of standards. There have been some things brought forward from the Canadian Paediatric Association and so on. We know that harm reduction has been one of the major reasons why deaths in children have been reduced over the last 20 years. I think the more things that we can do in terms of harm reduction - we know that kids are kids. Kids are going to do sometimes things that are dangerous, sometimes things that may be harmful to them, and that's the nature of being a child. But I think what we do have an obligation to do is to try to reduce the harm as much as possible.
And that's what these standards, or these guidelines, are designed to do. I think what we've sought is some way that we can work with the childcare community to bring these standards in, to reduce harm for children, without them being overly onerous on the operators themselves.
Mrs. Edelman: If the foam chips are frozen, or if the sand is frozen, it's just like landing on concrete. That's the reality of it. Bringing in CSA guidelines is not going to make any difference. What the minister has to move beyond is threatening people, to a certain extent, with liability from their insurance companies and look at further research on trying to reduce accidents at day homes. Filling people's yards with sand that becomes frozen and therefore becomes as hard as concrete in the winter is not the answer. The minister has to move beyond that position. I've given up today on trying to get him to do that.
Two more issues. One of the things that has come up recently on a national level is that when persons had what were felt to be mental deficiencies at the time, they were sterilized, meaning that they couldn't have children. Did that ever happen in the Yukon, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Not to the best of our knowledge. That isn't something that we have been aware of, and we certainly haven't had it brought to our attention.
With respect, however, to the member's previous question I would say that I have not threatened anyone with regard to liability. I have asked people to be aware of the liability issue, because the liability issue was brought up at a meeting of the Child Care Board, and we felt that we would be remiss if we didn't point it out to the operators, that it is something that they need to address. We advised them that what they should do is speak to their own insurance company and find out if, indeed, they felt that there was any liability issue.
So, we just brought it up as an information item, because it had been raised with us by a lawyer, and we felt that we needed to make people aware of that.
With respect to the idea of mentally challenged people being sterilized, not to the best of our knowledge has this occurred in the Yukon. As I've said, it has never been brought to our attention as an issue.
As the member is aware, we took over much of the medical services from the federal government. If something like that would have occurred, I suspect that it would have occurred when the federal government had control of such services. But we have never had it brought to our attention. So, I think we can certainly see if questions like that have ever been brought up, but not to the best of my knowledge.
Mrs. Edelman: Just briefly, Mr. Chair, what is the government's policy on student loans being assessed as income for social assistance? They're not considered income by either Revenue Canada or HRDC.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Any source of income is seen as one basis for assessing eligibility. Presumably a person receiving a student loan would be receiving a student loan to help them with their tuition and living expenses, and so on and so forth.
I know that, when I got my student loan, that and working basically supported us.
Loans, grants, bursaries, scholarships, training and education allowances to students are included, as are prizes, winnings, awards, et cetera.
Mrs. Edelman: The minister knows that, you know, we don't want to be just paying people unbelievable amounts of money if they're bringing in income in some other way. But I did have a concern about this particular issue, because Revenue Canada and HRDC don't consider it to be income, and usually we use their guidelines for income, and that's why I'm wondering why the deviation here.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: To the best of our knowledge, one cannot be on EI, which is HRDC, and receive a student loan. We would have to check with this further as to the legal status with regard to loans and things of that nature, but we do consider it, for our purposes, income.
Mrs. Edelman: I'll get back to the minister on a couple of other things in a minute.
Could the minister tell me a little bit more about the lack of interest in developing a children's ombudsman position?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It's not so much a lack of interest, so much as we feel that there's a considerable amount of advocacy work done on behalf of children, and behalf of families. Currently, we have a variety of ways in which children's rights are protected. An official guardian can be appointed under the Children's Act to act as a child advocate. The Yukon Advisory Council on First Nation Welfare was established under OIC. It provides advice on children's social service and young offenders systems as they impact on First Nation youth.
The Health and Social Services Council, I can tell the member that very frequently issues of children emerge there. The Yukon Ombudsman Act investigates concerns by any member of the public regarding government services, including services for children and youth, and then individual First Nations advocate on their behalf.
I think we have to realize that there are some issues around our size, and just how far we can actually stretch our resources. In the residential resource review in 1998, they recommended an annual oversight review of services for children, and we're attempting to move toward that annual review, looking at the advocacy available, the accessibility, effectiveness and appropriateness of services offered to children.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the issues that we explored at the previous meeting of this Legislature was the First Nations health care payments from the Government of Canada. Now, I understand there have been some strides made. Could the minister provide an age summary of the accounts receivable listing for this area by category?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, I can provide that for the member. We'll break it out under program area. The principal program areas are social assistance, home care, women's transition home, Dawson women's shelter, Macaulay Lodge, McDonald Lodge and the Thomson Centre. We have received a number of payments to date. Basically, I think, to the end of the 1998-99 fiscal year, we've received some $16,922,324, and we can provide this to the members for their perusal. We will have some copies made.
I'm sorry. My deputy has pointed out that the payments actually received are $27,982,066.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm sure we've cleaned up some of the prior years that were outstanding, going back to the early 1990s, Mr. Chair. Is that the case?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, we have cleared up some of the costs. There are still some outstanding costs that we're working through each year. What we do have in place now is a protocol with DIAND to address a number of these concerns that had emerged before.
I'm advised by my deputy that we're meeting this week on some further issues here.
One of the stumbling blocks has been a difference between what DIAND assesses they would pay and what our actual costs were, and we've had to reach an accommodation there.
I'll get the summary of the outstanding claims made up and send it to both opposition parties.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, in reaching this accommodation with Indian Affairs, could the minister also include in his summary or advise the House right now, Mr. Chair, how much the Government of the Yukon has written off for the prior year?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We don't write off anything. We chase every penny down, and that's our goal - to get everything that is owed to us.
I'm sure the member shares with me the repugnance of any group that would attempt to shirk their responsibilities to the Yukon taxpayer. And particularly reprehensible is when someone has not paid what is owed and the Yukon taxpayer has to carry that. So, we're not prepared to write off anything. We will pursue, to the last nickel, every penny that's owed to us.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, there could be reasons why the federal government has not paid, and it stems back to the arrangements that have or have not been reached on the various areas, and the cost that the federal government has agreed to pay for the specific areas.
Do we currently have in place an agreement between Yukon government and the Government of Canada - specifically Indian and Northern Affairs - on all the various categories as to how much is going to be paid, and the basis of payment? Is there currently an agreement in place on all of these areas?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The federal government has agreed to pay all the undisputed amounts. What I indicated earlier was that we are currently working with them, and we will be meeting this week. I'm trying to resolve the issue of the disputed amounts and an agreement. That is our ultimate goal to reach an accord on the disputed amounts, and that's what we're going to be working on in the future. We've managed to recover the monies that have been undisputed, and a lot of that was basically us going through methodically with the federal government what these amounts were paid for, and, I think to be fair, the local office here had some capacity problems. They did bring in some staff to assist in reaching accommodation on this. We'll be working right now on the disputed amounts.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that was looking back. Let's look ahead. My question of the minister is, Mr. Chair, do we have currently in place an agreement between the Government of Yukon and the Government of Canada - specifically Indian and Northern Affairs - as to how much is going to be paid for each one of the services the Government of Yukon provides to First Nation individuals, and for all the various categories?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, the current agreement that we've been working under, which is quite archaic, dates back to 1962, and as a matter of fact doesn't even cover many of the services that we have taken on and provided. So our goal is to get to an agreement in which the federal government recognizes their fiduciary responsibilities for aboriginal people, and to make appropriate restitution to the territorial government for expenses that we have paid out on behalf of First Nation citizens.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, what I see, Mr. Chair, is the Government of Yukon is providing more and more services to First Nations and delivering more and more programs.
Now, is there an arrangement in place on these new programs - the programs that we've taken on in the past, let's just go back three to four years. Is there an arrangement as to what the federal government is going to pay the Government of Yukon on these programs? How much, and under what terms and conditions?
It's my understanding, Mr. Chair, that a lot of these programs are being delivered without such an arrangement with the federal government. Is that the case?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, that is the case, and that is where we're attempting to resolve that whole outstanding issue of the nature of the programs - what is being paid for, the level at which we need to be compensated - because the federal government has its own view of what's fair, which does not necessarily reflect what our actual costs are. So that is what we are moving toward.
And if I can say, just as a side issue here, one of the things that is frequently coming to our attention in this territory - it was raised to me by First Nations, it was raised to me, as a matter of fact, as recently as last week, by a First Nation individual - has been the federal government, in a sense, stepping away from fiduciary responsibilities to First Nation individuals.
For example, there were changes within the non-insured benefits program, which have impacted on First Nation citizens and on First Nation governments. I think, in terms of such things as medical travel, optical-dental benefits, which have changed substantially in the last couple of years as the federal government has moved to contain costs in those areas. Increasingly, we are being approached by First Nation governments in this regard, most notably on medical travel. So, I think the entire issue of fiduciary responsibilities of the senior level of government here has to be brought back to the federal government again and again and again, and that's what we intend to do.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, could the minister advise the House just where we're at with achieving an arrangement with the federal government for all these new categories that the Government of the Yukon has assumed responsibility for, because that's how it appears. More and more often than not, the Government of Yukon - and not just the Government of Yukon, Mr. Chair, but all of the provincial governments across Canada are having to assume more and more of the responsibilities for delivering health care to First Nations. Like the minister said, the federal government is stepping away from the plate and is not honouring its fiduciary responsibilities.
Just where are we at in achieving some sort of an arrangement with the federal government on these issues? How far down the road are we going to be before we have a signed agreement with the federal government on these various areas?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It's our understanding that the federal government has hired a contractor in this regard to prepare a response, and we're hoping to see an actual, tangible proposal this week - by Thursday - as to what they're proposing. Then we can assess whether it meets our needs, where are we prepared to go with it, where are we prepared to discuss it?
The member is right when he says that this is a national issue. More accurately, I would say it's a western Canadian issue, though it is beginning to be recognized, for example, in Ontario, with the aboriginal population in northern Ontario. For example, the impact on Manitoba and Saskatchewan, far more in the social realm than the actual health realm, has been very substantial. This was raised at a recent meeting of social services ministers. It's going to be raised again on the 15th with aboriginal ministers in Ottawa, and then again on the 16th in Ottawa with the social services ministers for the social union framework. We're hoping to, as well - working with our First Nation partners, the national aboriginal leadership - get a consensus on this, working with provinces and territories.
Mr. Jenkins: Just before we leave this, earlier on in general debate the minister mentioned that his department had collected some $16,000. The outstanding amount was in the magnitude of about $36 million, $37 million or more. Could that not have been $16 million?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I actually misspoke myself. In terms of this, the actual amount collected was $27,982,066.
Mr. Jenkins: And just for the record, what is the amount that remains outstanding, other than the current year's portion?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: For child welfare, it's $9,903,775. With other payments, for example, social assistance, it's $629,000 - and I'm just giving rounded off numbers here - home care; women's transition costs, $883,000; Dawson women's shelter, $39,000; McDonald Lodge, $335,449; Thomson Centre, $4,984,000. The total comes to $16,922,324.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other areas that we explored in great detail previously was the issue of recruitment and retention of health care professionals of all categories, specifically for rural areas of Yukon. I'm referring to doctors and dentists. I'm referring to nurse practitioners and a number of the individuals who deliver our social programs in the outlying communities. Just where are we at? I've noticed a tremendous number of resignations arising out of the rural communities in some of the areas that the minister is responsible for - health care professionals and social service delivery people. Are we making any advances with the recruitment and retention program for these health care professionals?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, indeed, Mr. Chair, and I apologize for my alacrity. We have been making some good progress. We have been continuing our efforts in terms of recruitment. We have a recruitment advisor hired by community nursing to coordinate the staffing and recruitment. We had four newly hired CNPs and one long-term auxiliary CNP who completed the primary skills program at the University of Manitoba. We have some full-time positions vacant in Ross River - nurse practitioner in charge, Ross River community nurse practitioner - and an Old Crow community nurse practitioner. It's my understanding that these are being filled by auxiliaries in the interim. We are functioning within the community nurse practitioner staffing levels.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister advise the House how many positions in rural Yukon are still vacant of nurse practitioners and individuals who deliver SA programs?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: In terms of nurse practitioners, we have one nurse practitioner-in-charge position vacant at Ross River, one nurse practitioner at Ross River, and one in Old Crow. With respect to social services, I believe there's one in Ross River at this point and one that is being filled currently, almost immediately, in Carmacks.
Mr. Jenkins: Over the course of this summer, there have been quite a number of resignations occurring out of Ross River and one out of Carmacks. Ross River appears to be quite serious as to being able to fill the positions there.
What steps is the minister's department taking to address this issue?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: One of the issues that has arisen in Ross River has been perhaps the unrealistic expectations and some of the things that went on in Ross River in terms of relationships. We brought in new staff there early on and, by the latter part of the summer, the staff had advised us that, due to a variety of reasons, primarily focused on relationships with the community, they were choosing to move on. We managed to relocate those staff elsewhere in the territory.
I've raised the issue with the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes. As well, we've raised the issue with the community itself. There are clearly some community expectations of the staff that led to some difficulties with the staff being retained. I travelled to Ross River. I met with some of the nursing staff myself to confirm what their issues were and what some of their frustrations were, and I got a good sense of that. I met with the representative from Ross River-Southern Lakes and raised this, and I know that he has had some private meetings with the community, chief and council on this particular issue.
This is an issue that is not exclusive to Ross River. I've heard similar issues sometimes raised in other communities where, perhaps, there is not an understanding that an individual who comes into a community does have a life outside of that clinic - for example, contacting the nurse at perhaps inappropriate times, failure to work cooperatively with the nurse on some of the programs that nurses are currently required to deliver, are some of the issues.
So, this is one of the problems. My deputy has reminded me that we are looking at the idea of a concept of a phone-in triage service, after hours, perhaps to reduce the impact on some of our nursing staff.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the issue is one of being expected to be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That is the problem that all of these health care professionals are facing, and facing it very acutely in places like Ross River, and that was exactly the issue that we were debating in the spring for on-call payments for doctors in rural Yukon, and the minister waffled all around that issue. It still hasn't been addressed and, until these areas are addressed, we're going to have a constant exodus from these communities of individuals delivering health care services, because they can't be expected to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week - and that's what the expectations are.
The expectations are that you can pick up a phone virtually any time and contact the nurse at the nursing station, or the doctor - that's the issue. And the burnout rate is extremely high, and these individuals deserve their own life, but when they haven't an opportunity to get away from the work conditions, they burn out, and they burn out very quickly, and they want out of those communities.
So, there are two ways of going about it: we can pay health care professionals a very high rate of pay for health care, we can put in many, many health care professionals, or we can rotate them around the communities on a more frequent basis, so that they don't burn out as frequently - especially in places like Ross River and, to a lesser extent, Pelly and Carmacks and Teslin and Dawson and Watson Lake, for that matter. They all have a high rate of burnout, and we're losing these individuals.
And, the other area is that the rate of pay being offered by the Government of Yukon for these nursing positions is not keeping pace with what is being offered in the rest of Canada.
There are other areas that are paying much higher, and these nurse practitioners are in very, very high demand. While the minister has kind of offered some loosey-goosey explanation as to what his department is doing, this issue has to be addressed head -n, because we are losing these kinds of individuals very quickly, very rapidly. The minister knows full well that they won't stay in these communities. Is there an overall game plan that the department is working on to attract and retain these types of health care professionals in rural Yukon, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, first of all, the member is, I think, making some generalizations that may not, in fact, be based on fact. The fact is that there are dynamics within certain communities, dynamics that, perhaps in some cases, can be related to the demands of being on call. Moreover, there are demands in terms of the relationships between the community and the individuals themselves, and I would suggest in the case of Ross River, that has been the latter. I am being somewhat circumspect, because there were confidences shared with me that I'm not at liberty to raise in this House. I have a little more concern for those things that were passed on to me than perhaps the member.
The member is somewhat off base. In general, in most of our communities, we do have a good retention rate. We have an ongoing recruitment matter. As far as rates of pay, the N.W.T. is slightly ahead of us but the N.W.T. has massive problems in terms of retention there. For example, Nunavut is even worse. Nunavut is bringing in Australian nurses at high premiums, and even at that, they have been obliged to shut down substantial portions of the Baffin Regional Hospital. As well, most of their nursing stations have emergency status only.
We have good retention. The member made reference to Watson Lake. I'm not sure if he's aware of the fact that Watson Lake operates as a hospital and, as such, operates under a different kind of operating mechanism. I can tell the member, having been there for a number of years and knowing many of the staff, that their retention is quite good.
The fact is that there are often circumstances within a community that impinge on a person's ability to stay there, or their desire to stay there, and we have been working to try and resolve those. We have also looked, on the longer term basis, at providing professional development opportunities for our Health and Social Services staff to develop themselves professionally and, hopefully, to remain. We have begun a nursing bursary program to encourage young people to go into the profession, and we are working actively on this.
This is also an issue of some national concern. The whole question of nurses has been one that has moved to the fore. Most recently, this summer, it was raised at the Charlottetown meeting, and we are working, on a national front, to try to resolve any of these issues.
Mr. Jenkins: I think it's fair for the minister to have a clear understanding of the turnover of staff in rural Yukon at nursing stations, so I'd ask the minister to assemble the following information and bring it back, Mr. Chair.
Since the devolution of health care from the federal government to the Government of the Yukon, at the transfer date, I'd like to know the total number of nurses based in rural Yukon, just in nursing stations, and the turnover rate to date. Let's just use to the end of this calendar year. And I'm sure, when the minister goes through nursing station by nursing station, he'll find the turnover approaches, in some cases, 400 and 500 percent, Mr. Chair.
And that in itself is alarming. At some of the nursing stations, and Ross River in particular, the nurse practitioners there have changed over at an alarming rate. In fact, it has been left without service from time to time, and the ambulance individuals from Whitehorse have been posted to Ross River to provide interim care. That in itself I find alarming.
But the issue, Mr. Chair, is one of the attraction to and retention of health care professionals in rural Yukon. Could the minister just apprise the House what has transpired since the spring with respect to payment to doctors in rural Yukon for on-call availability? Has anything more materialized in that area, or has the minister sat on his hands, also?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, since February 5 of 1999, there have been no fewer than six proposals made to physicians - and I assume he's talking about his friends in Dawson. There have been no fewer than six; they were April 12, June 4, July, September 7, October. There have been responses made, and we had hoped to resolve these at the YMA negotiations. We were unsuccessful. We've concluded an agreement with the YMA that's going to be signed off shortly, but the issue of physician costs have not been resolved.
Some of the proposals from the rural physicians have been extremely high. We have countered with proposals we feel are more workable, and we are continuing to try to reach an accord.
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 is dealing with the Department of Health and Social Services. Is there further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: As a consequence of the minister not being able to negotiate an on-call arrangement with doctors in rural Yukon, it would appear that the number of medevacs has risen alarmingly. And for the last fiscal period, the minister reported 44 medevacs, if we want to be specific, out of Dawson, and for the first six months of this fiscal period, the number of medevacs was also 44. This trend is occurring in spite of the fact that the population of Dawson is going down, the number of people employed in the hazardous industries - the mining construction - is down considerably, and yet the number of medevacs continues to rise.
Has the minister got an explanation for this other than the fact that the doctors are not always there to look at these individuals, and they're basically just given a cursory overview and then shipped to Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, I would hardly describe the work done by the nurse practitioner staff in Dawson as being cursory. I would suggest, in fact, that the nurse practitioners in Dawson are doing precisely what they're trained to do and I think they're doing it very well. I'm shocked that the member has such a dim view of people who are not only strong community members but his own constituents. He has so little regard for their abilities that he describes their work as a "cursory overview".
In effect, it's estimated that, of the 44 individuals, probably only four could be treated successfully in Dawson.
There were high demands in July, to be sure, but when we take a look at October, the number of medevacs has fallen to three, which is exactly the same number as in 1998.
When we take a look at the people medevaced, it appears that the majority of them who came in - actually 42 of the 47 - did spend some time in Whitehorse General Hospital, so I would hardly suggest that, as the member describes, the nurse practitioners there are doing a cursory overview. I would say that they are employing their medical skills to the fullest extent and doing a correct assessment of the risk to patients and doing a correct assessment of what they need to do and referring on as required.
I'm astonished that the member has such a negative view of nurse practitioners.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, for the minister's information and to set the record straight, I have the utmost respect for nurse practitioners and their work and their role. But I take the minister back to his remarks in this House last year when he said that, as a consequence of the change of our programming, we'd look upon the amount of medevacs originating out of Dawson to increase by 17 in the whole year. That's what the minister said last year. Now we're at the same amount of medevacs halfway through the year as we were last year for the entire year. Now, surely that explanation does not wash. Unless there's a drastic reduction from now until the end of the fiscal year, March 31, those trends will continue, as they're continuing, Mr. Chair, from all of rural Yukon and, indeed, from Whitehorse south. The number of medevacs that are occurring in the Yukon are up significantly all across the board. There must be some underlying reason for that.
Of the 44 out of Dawson City - I'm sure the minister's officials have done some analysis - did I hear the minister say that two of them were probably not quite justified, but the other 42 were completely justified? Is that what he said? Because the minister took issue with it and said there were two that didn't require very extensive hospitalization in Whitehorse but 42 did. What's the actual story, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: What I suggested was that most of those people who were referred in were actually kept in hospital - the vast majority was kept in hospital in Whitehorse.
Just by way of interest, I should point out that no fewer than 16 of those referrals were actually made while doctors were on duty in Dawson, and so I'm presuming that at least some of those were medical referrals by the physicians in Dawson.
Now, the member is saying that he wants to extrapolate from the situation in Dawson to suggest that other communities without resident physicians have somehow been impacted by the situation in Dawson because they have had an increase in medevacs. I would suggest that that is kind of a spurious argument, because why, for example, would another community like Pelly Crossing be impacted from the situation in Dawson? His logic does not follow.
What I can tell the member is that we are responding to some of the needs of rural communities, and, as a matter of fact, we have just had a meeting with the community of Mayo very recently to assess the need for a resident physician back in that community. We have begun a recruitment process, and we expect that we will be bringing in some physicians to take a look at the situation in Mayo, with an eye to locating there on a permanent basis.
We're also taking a look at other Yukon communities that have expressed an interest in rural placements - a permanent placement of a physician.
We have done some advertising in medical journals - The Medical Post, for example - and we have been quite gratified by the response that we had. We have been quite clear in indicating that, given the scale, given the size of some of these communities, what we are looking at are arrangements with physicians on contract, and we have been very clear in our advertising in that regard, and we have been quite gratified by the interest that has been shown by physicians and are bringing several in to take a look at the situation in rural communities.
We're interested in trying to place more medical professionals in communities, and we're going to be working with communities in that regard.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, could I ask the minister to bring back the stats on medevacs. Let's go back three years, do a comparison, and for the current year to date for all Yukon communities and for Whitehorse south. Could the minister provide that information? He can bring it back by legislative return or, if he has the information there, he can read it into the record, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I believe I sent that to the member. Has he not received it yet? I will ensure that he gets it, as well as the critic for the Liberal Party.
Mr. Jenkins: No, the minister has alluded to this wonderful letter that he signed off to me and sent my way some time ago, but it has yet to cross my desk, so I'd certainly appreciate it if he'd check with either the internal post or Canada Post to see what's taking so long. I'm sure it'll mysteriously appear after this Legislature rises, Mr. Chair.
What I'm seeking from the minister is the number of medevacs, by community, to Whitehorse or to, in the case of Old Crow, Inuvik for the last three years, and the number of medevacs from Whitehorse southbound. Can the minister provide that information?
Mr. Mr. Sloan: I understood that we were originally going to ask for information relating to Dawson. Now the member wants information out of Old Crow into Inuvik, and further, the gross numbers of medevacs out of Whitehorse - from Whitehorse General Hospital - to locations in the south. Is that what the member is seeking? Well, that will take some further analysis.
I should point out that in case of individuals in Whitehorse, many of those individuals are people who are assessed for extreme trauma or, perhaps, for services that cannot be provided here, so we'll have to provide those for the member. I can tell the member that in terms of out-of-territory scheduled flights for 1998-99, these are medical travel costs. In terms of in-territory charters, last year - 1998-99 - we were at 83 compared to 99 the previous year, and 88 the year before that, 1996-97. For out-of-territory charters, we were at 81 in 1998-99, which is up from 64 in 1997-98, which is down from the previous year, 1996-97, of 69. In terms of out-of-territory scheduled flights - and this makes reference to all medical referrals out. Those are individuals who were sent out to see a specialist at wherever. They are primarily ambulatory individuals, who are referred out for medical services. Last year, we had 1,063. That is down slightly from the previous year of 1997-98, which was 1,067, and is up about 100 from the previous year, 1996-97 of 968. So, perhaps that's of some use to the member.
Mr. Jenkins: It's of some use, but it's not addressing the question. What I want is the actual statistics on medevacs out of Yukon communities into Whitehorse and medevacs from Whitehorse southbound. That's the information I am seeking.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The number that I gave the member was for the medevacs out to Vancouver, and then the larger number was the number of people referred out medically.
The letter that I have sent the member contains some of the data there, so hopefully when he gets an opportunity to peruse it, that will satisfy his curiosity.
Mr. Jenkins: For the record, I will repeat my request of the minister. I'd like the statistics for the last three years on the number of medevacs from rural Yukon communities into Whitehorse, and the current numbers. That's the information I am seeking. Now, the minister has waffled all around the question. That is the information I am seeking of the minister, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, I can provide the member with the numbers, but I gave him the number of charters in, and we can certainly provide them out. We have got them broken out by community, and we can certainly provide that for the member. I gave the member some earlier information. Hopefully, he will have received some of this information in the letter that I have sent to him.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other tools that the minister made great fanfare about announcing was telemedicine.
Could the minister apprise the House as to just where this program is at, and how it's helping rural Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As I indicated earlier, we did try some pilot projects in terms of telemedicine. We did a telemedicine pilot project in Teslin, Ross River and Dawson City. We realized that this wasn't fully implementable, because we had some issues around telecommunications infrastructure, which impacted on this. We're hopeful that one of our goals with upgrading the telecommunications infrastructure is to allow for more - and more diverse - uses of telemedicine.
For example, we had consultations in Dawson City with a dermatologist based in Vancouver. We had orthopedic consultations from Teslin. Teslin and Dawson City nurse practitioners used telemedicine for rehab consults. There was some use in Ross River - not as much as what we would have liked, because of the issue of staffing there, and individuals have to be trained to use this. Dawson City continues to use the teledermatology, because it's the only one right now, interestingly enough, that meets the needs in terms of telecommunications infrastructure, but we would like to be able to bring in more and more sophisticated uses of telemedicine. We feel that, with the development in telecommunications infrastructure, that will allow for things such as more medical imaging, and so on and so forth, to be utilized.
I witnessed for myself some of the activities done in rehab consultation. As well, I met with a dermatologist who currently uses it in Vancouver, and he was impressed with the quality of the images, but even he feels that there are some things that we could even be going beyond there.
So we are interested in trying to expand this, and we think it has some potential along the line.
Mr. Jenkins: The issue is transmission. It's bandwidth from Whitehorse north into Dawson and over into Faro and Ross River. There is not adequate bandwidth on the communications system. But from Whitehorse south, Teslin and Watson Lake there's more than adequate bandwidth to support this telemedicine structure.
Could the minister elaborate as to what advantages it's having from Whitehorse south. Is it being used at the Whitehorse General Hospital to any degree? There's a lot of potential there. There's a lot of potential out of Watson Lake - the hospital there - as well as the nursing station in Teslin, where there're adequate transmission facilities. What steps is the department taking, since it appears to be a very workable tool, to use it more frequently in these areas, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I have had some discussions with the Whitehorse General Hospital on precisely this, and particularly in terms of medical imagery. One of the things that we discussed around the CT scanner, for example, was the idea of using a southern centre, because radiologists, for example, are a very difficult group of specialists to recruit. They're in short supply throughout the country. We discussed the difficulties around having a resident radiologist or a person capable of interpreting CT scans. One of the things that the hospital felt that they could do would be, by using telemedicine, to set up a linkage with a southern hospital for interpretation of medical imaging as need be. So we have had some discussions there with the hospital.
Watson Lake has recently come on with some high-speed data transmission. For example, they've just introduced some teleconferencing capability in that community that we think would assist in telemedicine.
So, we are exploring possibilities with the hospital, ways that we can use telemedicine to deliver service for people in the territory.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other issues that was explored just previously in this debate was the issue of a CAT scan for the Whitehorse General Hospital, and this is becoming more and more a standard tool for medical diagnosis in a hospital of this size. I'd like to know what the timelines are for making the decision to purchase such a useful tool for Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think, as I indicated earlier, we met with the hospital initially on this and, as I indicated earlier, they came forward with a particular financial proposal that we asked about. We asked about the ability - because, as I did say, it was a fairly pricey option. The initial outline that we had was $2.54 million - I'm sorry, I need to correct myself - $625,000 O&M, and we discussed with them some of the issues around this. There is, for example, a territorial teleradiology strategy going on, and we've taken a look at, as I indicated earlier, the telemedicine applications.
We've asked the hospital to go back. They have scaled down the proposal. There are some things that they feel they can do; there are some ways that they can economize on their proposal. We've asked, in a sense, that they do a bit of a business case.
In 1998-99, there were 238 CAT scans performed for Yukon residents, and we covered the travel for 132 through the Yukon government's medical travel program. The rest would have been individuals referred out for such things as First Nation health care, and so on.
The combined savings for medical travel and out-of-territory hospital costs would be approximately $100,000. We're suggesting that, if a case can be made, and some of the technical issues can be overcome, it is something that we would work with them on. We expect that they would come back with a proposal. We'll look at the proposal; we may ask for further refinement, but we're expecting that we would get something early in the new year, and we can look at it there for inclusion, if warranted, in the budgetary process.
Mr. Jenkins: Wow, a long way around to get a simple answer as to when it's going to be included in the budget process, Mr. Chair.
One of the other areas that is interesting to note is the number of recruitments that the department carries out in the course of the year. Most of these are vetted through the Public Service Commission, but when one looks through the contracts, one sees a considerable sum of money for developing print media advertising for various positions.
Does the department have a policy as to when they go in-house or why they would go outside the department and hire a contractor or a consultant to develop the print media and to place it, versus using the Public Service Commission? What necessitates us, given the small number of people that we recruit in the course of a year, from having to spend some $175,000 with outside consultants to develop the ads?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm not sure exactly what the member is suggesting, but if he has some specific examples, we could probably address them. We do have a policy that, whenever positions are advertised, we advertise them both locally and nationally. For example, we have advertised, as I made reference to earlier, in medical journals, The Medical Post, and we've advertised for nurse practitioners in national newspapers as well as local. We make a policy of advertising either initially here or concurrently, depending on the need.
If the member has some specifics, perhaps he can give me some examples and we can address those individually.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, what I'm referring to specifically, Mr. Chair, is that the Government of Yukon has the Public Service Commission that's responsible for hiring. In the past, it has developed the advertisements that go out in the various newspapers. In addition to that, the government - specifically the minister's own department - hires consultants to produce print advertising, and that's done to the tune of $175,000 in this last contract registry. Now, where is the dividing line? When would they use, in-house, the Public Service Commission to develop the print media, and why would they hire an outside consultant to that extent - the extent of $175,000?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We do all of our own print advertisements and use whole companies such as Aasman Design and others. Sometimes our needs are somewhat different from the Public Service Commission, and we advertise in different ways.
I'd be interested, if the member has some specifics, if he would like to bring them forward. He makes reference to outside consultants. When he says "outside consultants", is he referring to a consultant outside of the territory or a consultant outside of the purview of the Public Service Commission?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: In that case, we can respond and say that we do use local companies to do our designs and to do up our print ads, and those are the ones that we use for recruitment purposes. As well, I suspect, there's also a large number of those ads that are such things as child welfare, recruitment of foster homes and the like. I'd be interested in finding out which ones the member has specific concerns about.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm just asking the question as to why - and the minister hit one right on the head. Aasman did the signs. There's Leaf consultants. I'm not taking exception to us contracting out this service, but is it being done because we don't have the expertise in-house, within the government's own departments? Is that why this area is contracted out, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Our ads are sometimes very different. For example, they differ from the standard Public Service Commission's ads that describe the job, the qualifications, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, that run in the paper.
We do, for example, ads on everything from "Get your flu shot" to advertising the need for foster homes to a whole variety of public service advertisements. Our needs are somewhat different from the generic Public Service Commission advertising that is most often related to recruitment for positions. We have a variety of ads, everything from, as I said, inoculation workshops and so on.
So, if the member could give me some of the specifics, we can address those individually as to why we would employ a design agency in that regard, and we'd be quite happy to work on that.
We have, for example, designed a nurse recruitment brochure. We have designed nurse recruitment display boards and so on and so forth. So our needs are somewhat different. I suppose, in a way, it would be a little bit analogous to perhaps Tourism using an outside agency for their specific events. Ours aren't related exclusively to recruitment issues.
Mr. Jenkins: My question to the minister: is there not the expertise in-house, within the various departments, to develop these ads? Is that why we're going to these outside consulting firms - to the tune of $175,000 for these last contract regulations - to develop these ads? Is it because there's not the expertise in-house?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We don't have an in-house advertising department in Health and Social Services. Our public communications individual is an individual who, I think, does just a superb job in our public communications, but we have to recognize that she would be overtaxed because, obviously, things such as design and layout aren't her expertise. That's why we employ design firms and so on, and I suppose one of the benefits of that would be that we actually employ some creative individuals in the Yukon and try to direct some of our resources in that regard.
Mr. Jenkins: The cornerstone system project, the assessment done by Documax Enterprises: could the minister apprise the House as to just how this program is working, where we're at with it and what the assessment that was recently done concluded?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It's my understanding that we're just doing the imaging right now, and we expect to have the system up and running by January. If the member can bear with us, we can grab more details. We did have a note on that, but I can check. Perhaps I've got it. I'll find out some further information and get back to the member on that in terms of details. I just can't locate it right now in my book.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd just like know further to that if we're on target, on budget, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm advised that we're on budget. We're a little bit behind schedule on it.
The critic for the Liberal Party has indicated, with wild gesticulation - I would hardly characterize them as gyrations - but rather flowing movements, that she would like a similar amount of information.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other areas that I'd like to explore with the minister is our drug and alcohol programs in the Yukon. It has been reported that there is a widespread cocaine problem here in the Yukon. It's growing, and IV drug use is up, and it has been said and suggested - and there's probably some merit to it - that the IV drug use, specifically the injection of cocaine, is up because of the availability of needles through the needle exchange.
Could the minister just advise the House what steps the department is taking, and is there some sort of an overview contemplated in this area? I know, in my community where I live, the incidence of IV drug use is up alarmingly this last couple of years. The economy is in the toilet, but the price of cocaine, I'm told, is probably at an all-time low. What steps is the department taking in regard to this very serious drug abuse problem we have in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: First of all, I wouldn't make a correlation between the needle exchange and an increase in injectable drug use. The pattern that we have up here is one of, I suppose, recreational drug use that tends to be indulged in by individuals who go south, most notably to Vancouver, and they become involved in the injectable-drugs scene in Vancouver, particularly with injectable cocaine.
Individuals who inject cocaine, surprising as it sounds, tend to be less discriminatory than heroin addicts. Individuals who use heroin tend to inject once or twice a day, and therefore tend to use clean needles. Heroin addicts have a somewhat better track record in terms of protecting themselves from some of the infections related to needle use.
Cocaine, because of its short duration, tends to be used in social situations. In other words, individuals will get on an injectable cocaine binge and will often go for two or three days. It tends to be, if one wants to characterize it, a party drug, and when people get into that situation, they become less discriminatory about their use of clean needles, and there tends to be much more sharing of needles. Just anecdotally, what we find is that individuals who go south and get involved in the cocaine scene down there - in Vancouver particularly - and become involved in injectable drugs tend to bring that back here.
We're aware that injectable drugs is a growing problem, not only here but elsewhere throughout the country, particularly cocaine. We feel that the needle exchange is one way to try and reduce the possibility of infection, and certainly the most notable issue here is the entire question of HIV, which is a major transmitter of disease.
What we are trying to do is work on such issues as trying to reduce the attraction of cocaine through education programs, but we're also trying to reduce the harm by making such things as needle exchanges available, to try to - if individuals are going to indulge in this - to be somewhat more discriminatory. The needle use in this case varies. We haven't seen a rapid increase in needle utilization in Whitehorse, either in adults or youth. The recent focus group with 100 Whitehorse and rural youth, ages 15 to 24, indicate that cocaine and heroin injection is more prevalent in the over-20 group. The utilization is directly linked to the quantity of drugs available in the territory.
Sometimes large number of needles are exchanged in some months, but this is largely due to the same group of users, who may use more drugs but are not reusing their needles; so this is the whole idea of harm reduction.
Our street nurse reports that she's meeting more people who formerly obtained needles elsewhere or shared them, and are now in fact using needle exchange programs. And needle exchanges are done through one street clinic and through the AIDS Yukon Alliance office. Basically an AIDS Yukon Alliance exchange means that users bring back their used needles to obtain new ones. At the Chilkoot Clinic, needles are exchanged for the most part - the emphasis is getting clean needles in the hands of users so that they don't have to share dirty needles.
Mr. Jenkins: Recreational drug use in the Yukon, Mr. Chair, used to always track the economy. As the economy went up, the amount of recreational drug use went up correspondingly. That is because of the high price of cocaine - that it was primarily snorted, I'm told - and the availability of marijuana and other drugs.
But one thing that has changed under this government is the amount of drug use is going up, and the economy is going down. Now, the drug use that is going up and going up alarmingly, Mr. Chair, is IV drug use here in the Yukon, as well as crack cocaine. There have been reports from law enforcement officials, making the position that making needles easily available to cocaine users has increased the number of IV drug users in Whitehorse.
Now, there are conflicting stories, but, from the information I have, cocaine is now currently being sold, and it's readily available, and it's already pre-packaged in a needle from the needle exchange program. I'm sure the minister has had this brought to his attention, and I'm sure the point that the minister wishes to make is that there has been some good work done with needle exchange programs, but the corresponding side of it is this other black side that is acting as a detriment to our society, and it's the IV use of cocaine. It leads, more often than not, to shared needles, which is increasing alarmingly in the Yukon.
Is the minister, or is the department, looking at any programs specifically to target this area?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, first of all, I would suggest that the jury is still out on this one, because I believe just last week Health Canada, specifically related to the whole issue of AIDS, released the results of a study that suggested that needle exchanges do not mean any increase in injectable drug use.
I guess it becomes a trade-off at many points. By supplying needles, certainly we're not endorsing or not condoning injectable drug use, but I think we have to be aware of the fact that, if we can reduce harm in any way, this is one of the things that we can do to hopefully save lives.
I don't know whether the member's suggesting that we do away with needle exchanges. I would be a little bit perturbed about doing that, because we know - and you know, we're coming up to World AIDS Day - that the problem of HIV and AIDS is not licked. There are some promising therapies, there may be some medical advances, but I'm not suggesting at all that we can let our guard down, or even get complacent about this, and I think that needle exchanges - we know that certain groups in society have adopted more responsible, perhaps, sexual practices, and so on and so forth.
The rate of HIV has dropped in certain select populations.
However, the one group that persists on being a problem is injectable drug users, and this now appears to be the largest growing group. We need to do whatever we can to reduce the chance of infection among this group.
I would suggest that we have not seen a rampant increase, as I said earlier, in the question of needle utilization in Whitehorse in either adults or youth, and I would be somewhat skeptical of the idea that we can draw a very close analogy between drug use and economics.
I would suggest that probably drug use is more of a function of the economics of drug availability. So, in other words, we've seen, for example, in Vancouver when very cheap heroin floods the market, the amount of use by individuals goes up dramatically and unfortunately, because cheap heroin becomes available, sometimes in lethal amounts, we see an unfortunate rise in the number of heroin-related deaths.
I would suggest that the economics of drug use tend to flow more with social trends. They tend to flow more with the actual economics of the availability of drugs.
I just read recently that cocaine is undergoing a major popularity boom in England, which, from all reports, has a rather flourishing economy at this point. It has become the drug of choice. It has become a drug that is seen as being a drug of affluence. Because of its cost, it's seen as something that can be used in a recreational manner. I think drug use tends to be more related to societal trends than any reflection on economics in any particular community.
Mr. Jenkins: I agree in part with the minister, but the problems in England are one thing. What we have is the issue and the problems here at home in the Yukon, Mr. Chair. That's what we have to deal with; that's what we have to contend with. More often than not, HIV transmission is not by sexual transmission, but by IV drug use. That is an alarming trend that is increasing in western Canada and that has been well documented. In fact, I'm given to understand the prime method of HIV transmission today is by IV drug users and drug use.
The availability of the product - cocaine, heroin, crack cocaine - is another area of tremendous concern. Has the minister or his officials gone to the RCMP to see what can be done to curtail the flow of these products into the Yukon? The price has dropped significantly in the last couple of years to the point where cocaine, which used to be sky high in price, is now readily available. Crack cocaine, at $5 and $10, is very inexpensive. It's a justice issue, but the effects of the use of these drugs are felt by Health and Social Services and, indeed, by all of society at large here in the Yukon. The minister's right in saying that the lowering of the price of the product gives rise to its additional use, but has this been conveyed to the RCMP and are they taking the appropriate action, or is it all quiet on the western front?
Chair: Order please. The time being about 5:30 p.m., Committee will recess until 7:30 p.m. tonight.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. The Committee is dealing with the Department of Health and Social Services. Is there further general debate?
Hon. Mr. Sloan:Before we left, the Member for Klondike was regaling us with his knowledge of current street prices of drugs. It was a veritable Dow Jones of illicit pharmacology, an expertise that caused me and my colleagues to say, "How does he know this stuff?"
But I believe the central issue was this: do we have any interaction with the RCMP on this? Well, not directly. In fact, I don't think we have to ask the RCMP to crack down on these. I think the RCMP is probably far more aware of the nature of the street drug problem than what any of us have a sense of, and I think they do a relatively good job of monitoring. From my understanding - and it is only from having spoken with some RCMP members on the subject - they have told me that the problem with the RCMP controlling the supply of drugs coming in here is that the border of the territory is relatively porous. In fact, with the flights in and people driving the highway, it becomes very difficult to monitor.
However, they have had some success, most notably in issues of cultivation up here, and they have had some success in some major street busts. So I think the RCMP are fairly aware of the nature of the problem, the degree of the problem, and we trust that they are doing all they can to control the illicit supply of drugs.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm pleased to note the minister is saying that the RCMP are controlling the supply of drugs into the Yukon. I don't know how they're doing so, but I'm very pleased that someone has a handle on something somewhere.
I'm concerned with the number of articles that have appeared recently in the newsprint, Mr. Chair, with respect to discussions between news media reporters and the Whitehorse Hospital, and I'll read verbatim for the minister. The hospital liaison nurse said: "Doctors and nurses working in the hospital emergency room have noticed a huge rise in the number of cocaine users in Whitehorse in the last two years, and especially over the last year." So this is information directly from the Whitehorse Hospital.
How is that information being correlated with the drug enforcement programs? Because, really, we see the effects on our health care system through attendance at the emergency ward at the Whitehorse Hospital, through an increase in HIV transmission, which is usually down the road before it comes to a head and is known. How is this information correlated back to the RCMP? Because we see the effects, and we bear the costs associated with the effects.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, quite clearly, I imagine the hospital, if they had incidents of an individual who was clearly under the effect of a drug like cocaine, and were able to determine it, I imagine that they would take necessary steps to contact the RCMP and bring the RCMP into the picture, if they deemed that was appropriate.
Certainly, hospital statistics in terms of drug admissions and so on and so forth would be relayed through our health care system on to the appropriate authorities.
I think what we're seeing is, perhaps, a shift in drugs. Various kinds of drugs go in fashion and out of fashion, and I think probably what we're seeing is more of a reflection of, as the member noted, a lower price of drugs, and perhaps that particular drug is more in fashion because of the price factors at this point.
But our job is to deal with the effects of drugs, and particularly the health effects of drugs, and I think the RCMP are probably well aware of the problem. They're probably well aware of the volume of drugs coming in - I imagine probably better than we. They have a better sense of who is dealing those drugs, and in what manner, so I think they probably have a fairly good handle on this.
Mr. Jenkins: Some of the other statements that concern me, Mr. Chair, is, for one, the statement to the effect that there seems to be a cultural shift, as the minister pointed out. And the article says that there seems to be a cultural shift now. Since needles are so readily available, people have accepted their use. And if people are accepting the use of needles, then they tend to use them. And, of course, when you use them, you end up sharing them, and then you spread the disease.
So, that's the underlying thrust of my questioning here in the House today. We have a problem. The problem is growing. The problem is compounded by a number of factors. The price of illicit drugs has dropped considerably on the market, and needles are readily available.
Is the minister going to be doing anything more than what he's currently doing to address this issue?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm not exactly sure of the member's thrust or the member's line of questioning. If I am taking it accurately, what the member seems to be suggesting is that by providing needles through a needle exchange, we are encouraging or contributing to the consumption of illicit injectable drugs in the territory. Is that the member's thrust?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, there are a number of factors that have occurred rather simultaneously. When you add them all up, it has compounded the problem. The biggest one, Mr. Chair, is that the price of illicit drugs has dropped on the open market by some 50 percent. That's the biggest issue.
Needles are readily available. That's another issue.
There is a wider public acceptance of IV drugs. That's another issue.
Now, when you wrap them all up, we have got a problem. We have got a growing problem in an area that could come back and be really, really costly to our health care system, when you look at the incidence of HIV transmission that is growing as a result of needles and cross-contamination through needle exchange.
Each one of these areas that I have outlined for the minister is not in itself a problem per se, but when you add them altogether, we have a problem.
Now, is the minister and his officials, who I am sure are very much aware of it, going to be addressing this problem head-on, or are we going to be adopting other programs that we have to address this, or what are we doing? Is it just the status quo with the existing programs?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I think one of the things we have to be aware of is that there are some issues around Canada's drug laws that have been questioned, and have been questioned both nationally and internationally. It has been suggested that perhaps part of the problem is the nature of Canada's drug laws, which may, in fact, force a measure of criminality on self-inflicted harm. For example, it has been suggested in some jurisdictions that decriminalization of drugs may be one of those solutions. I haven't really looked into this in any degree, but I can say that that's one of the things that has been suggested in certain areas. I think the chief medical officer in Vancouver went so far as to make some suggestions in that regard.
With respect to needles, by providing needles one of the things we're hoping to do is to cut down, as the member has said, on the incidence of people using needles among themselves causing contamination and infection. Certainly, HIV is a factor, but I can tell the member that one of the more dramatic problems is the problem of hepatitis C. That is a major contaminant. We are concerned about this. We will continue to work in the area of drug education. I think it would be extremely rash at this point for us to abandon the needle exchange as a public health measure. I would be more concerned about the possibility of, without access to clean needles, there may be more of a tendency for people to share needles and thereby share infections.
I think the whole question of drugs, particularly injectable drugs, particularly the so-called hard drugs, is one that this country is going to have to wrestle with, and it's going to have to wrestle with it in terms of drug laws. That, I think, is a debate that is, perhaps, beyond the scope of this Legislature.
The RCMP drug section works Yukon-wide for enforcement, and they do work with communities. I'm advised that all the detachments do have a drug plan, and the drug section is particularly effective, as we've seen with regard to some recent drug busts. So, I think all areas in the Justice department are working hard on this, as we are ourselves.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to thank the minister for his responses, but I don't share with him that the de-criminalization of the hard drugs is a way of solving our problem. It's probably just compounding it.
As long as the minister is aware that the costs that will be borne by the health care system will be significant as a consequence of this cultural shift to more and more IV drug use. We're talking about some very, very addictive drugs. Crack cocaine is one of the most addictive; the injection of heroin and cocaine itself are also extremely addictive; and society itself is going to pay horrendous costs unless we can get a handle on these areas, Mr. Chair.
So with that, I'll leave it with the minister to attempt to do something more than urge his colleague, the Minister of Justice, to decriminalize these areas, and hopefully we can move on.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Just for correction of the record, Mr. Speaker, I was not suggesting that decriminalization of drugs was something I was in favour of or encouraging. What I was suggesting is that, with some of the recent publicity around World AIDS Day, there has been some interest in experiments - notably some of the Australian experiments where they have taken more of a decriminalized attitude in an attempt to cut down on the spread of HIV. As a matter of fact, there have been some suggestions that, within Vancouver, which we are all aware has a very major injectable drug problem, there may be some rationale for trying to use other methods to approach the problem. I wasn't suggesting anything of the sort; I was merely suggesting that the entire discussion of drugs is one that has to be taken on a national front, because there are implications for the federal Criminal Code.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I think I need to go on the record here in talking about how the Yukon Liberal caucus definitely does not support the decriminalization of drugs. We do not support that, but we do accept the research that needle exchanges do not promote drug activity but in fact reduce the incidence of many drug-related diseases that are common in this particular group, and actually the use of drugs by intravenous drug users is on the rise, so it is something we have to pay attention to.
I want to go back to an earlier topic with the minister, and that is the issue of playgrounds. Can the minister tell us if school playgrounds in the Yukon meet the CSA guidelines?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: To the best of my ability, I will try to answer that. I have less familiarity with school playgrounds. From my experience with school playgrounds, they probably don't meet CSA guidelines right now.
Our particular interest has been in some of the city playgrounds that some of the daycares and the licensed day homes use. So, we've primarily had an interest in that, rather than the school playgrounds, because the school playgrounds tend to be utilized for school children during the same hours that daycares and day homes are in operation. So, our interest has been around the city and municipal playgrounds, and we are aware that they don't meet the standards. However, it is my understanding that the City of Whitehorse is looking at how to bring their standards up, and they've actually had a couple of people trained, I think, in CSA standards and how to make modifications. But that's an issue that the city is going to have to address because, quite frankly, I suspect that they might have the same issues of liability. If they continue to operate playgrounds that might not meet certain standards, then there could be an injury. If an injury occurs, then they could be liable with that higher standard of care. So, I could not tell the member right now about school playgrounds, but I'm certain that our friends in Education will be looking into that matter.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I'd like to suggest that very few, if any, school playgrounds in the Yukon meet those guidelines, and none of them meet those guidelines in the winter because the ground is frozen. I'd also point out to the minister that those school playgrounds are used, particularly in small communities, in the off-times when the kids aren't in school - on the various days that children aren't attending school and certainly all the way through the summer, although you don't have to worry about the frozen ground issue - usually - in the summer in the Yukon.
So, to move along, there was a commitment by the government - this is in the Health Act. It's under number 7, in chapter 36 of the Health Act. It says, "Budget for health promotion and preventative health: the proportion of the health budget appropriated for health promotion and preventative health shall be increased each year and by the beginning of the year 2000 an equivalent of five percent of the total health treatment budget of the territory shall be appropriated for preventative health and health promotion programs and services, consistent with prudent fiscal management."
How are we doing on that five percent there, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm advised that probably, when we roll in all our community health and things of that nature, we probably come fairly close to the five percent rather than a discreet amount in one particular compartment. If we roll across the entire health budget, probably around five percent - an approximation - would be about right.
I think it's pretty hard to highlight that this goes into health promotions when we've obviously got money in alcohol and drug issues; we've got money in public health kinds of information and so on and so forth. Diabetes education and all those kinds of things would roll into probably an equivalent of about five percent.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, one of the ways that we can promote preventative health in the Yukon is to have a reporting of injuries and an injuries registry, so to speak. Now, when we opened up the act so that we could have the reporting of fetal alcohol syndrome by medical doctors here in the Yukon, there was an opportunity at that time to also add to that act the reporting of injuries. I'm not talking about just reporting accidents on the playground; I'm talking about tracking individual children, much like what's going to happen with FAS, so that we'll know that you're not reporting the same kid over and over and over and over again with fetal alcohol syndrome. There will be a name attached to it, and that information, of course, will be kept confidential.
But the problem we have now with injuries is that a kid, who may be in care, for example, and is moving from community to community to community, won't be tracked. There will be a broken arm in Pelly; there'll be a skull injury in Dawson; there will be a broken leg perhaps in Whitehorse, and this is a pattern of abuse. Those kids are falling between the cracks because no one knows that it's the same kid.
Is there any interest at all on the part of the department to look at this issue at some point in the near future?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I can tell the member that Whitehorse General Hospital, for example, has been working on an outpatient record system to collect data - primarily accident and injury data - through the Meditech computer system, and hopefully this will give us a good baseline of information, and we expect the implementation of it to be completed next year. That information will be provided to the Canadian Institute of Health Information.
Up to now, the Whitehorse General Hospital hasn't maintained a database of injuries, unless a person is admitted, and that has been the problem. We haven't been tracking the outpatient. The people who show up in emergency are patched up and go home. The hospital has only been tracking people who are actually admitted, so this will allow that particular tracking to take place.
Just by way of interest, we have a hospital admission rate, that is, due to injuries and accidents, considerably higher. In the communities, we don't have a reporting system for injuries and accidents, but we do know, anecdotally, that there is a high number of accidents, primarily due to such things as woodcutting, hunting, and snowmobile and ATV accidents, and we are looking at some way to kind of correlate ideas, and I think the first step will be to get a good baseline from the outpatient record system that the hospital is bringing in.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, it's a good start. I didn't hear from the minister as to whether they are going to be tracking each child by name, or whether it's just the reporting of an actual injury. I wonder if the minister could be clearer on that.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, we have discussed this in some detail, and I know that we have had some suggestions from the medical officer of health about instituting an injury prevention/reduction strategy, and we will be working on that in the future.
Mrs. Edelman:I'm not getting through.
The issue of fetal alcohol syndrome - good first step, as I mentioned earlier in the debate, having fetal alcohol syndrome being reported by medical doctors here in the Yukon through to the chief medical officer, information that's kept strictly confidential.
What are we going to be doing about allocating resources to persons with fetal alcohol syndrome in their families, when we get some numbers? Is there a plan in place? Are we talking about coordination of services? And are we talking about increasing services to the rural areas in particular?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, we have increased our resources, and as a matter of fact today my colleague, the Minister of Justice, and I were over at the Options for Independent Living facility that has just been opened with the assistance and support of the government as a way to provide resources for individuals - adult individuals living with FAS. We have a whole list - and I can go through it again in some substantial detail - of some of the services that we do have for FAS.
I think one of the things that did come forward - and the member is aware as well as I - is that the medical officer of health has proposed the idea of diagnostic teams, and had submitted to me, just a bit over a week ago, some material from the Alberta clinical practices guidelines, which suggested the idea of developing diagnostic teams, and I have asked for some clarification as well as some suggestions as to how this could be implemented in the territory. I think that would be one way to pull together some of those related professionals, in the form of a diagnostic team, on a periodic basis to review cases and so on.
I can go through some substantial lists of how we're working with other departments on trying to reduce FAS. As a matter of fact, there was an interesting article that just appeared in today's Globe and Mail - I don't know if the member saw it - on the whole question of FAS, and, as a matter of fact, we were mentioned in there.
I suspect that it mentioned an opposition member's comments, so I suspect that the member has moved into the national realm. William Thorsell, look out.
So, I'll clip the article and send it over to the member.
Mrs. Edelman: Sometimes, one's nerves - when you hear about your comments being printed, perhaps correctly or not in a paper. All of that is wonderful stuff, and certainly the Options for Independent Living is a wonderful project. It's my understanding that that's a pilot project. Is that still the understanding of the department that this is a pilot project?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, yes, it is a pilot project this year. It just got started. As a matter of fact, some people have moved their furniture in, but I think the first occupants go in on Wednesday. They are looking at it as a pilot project, and they are looking at it on a three-year basis. Part of the reason that they are looking at it as a pilot project is that they want to examine if, in fact - and this is one of their goals - this type of living arrangement does make a positive impact on individuals living with FAS, if it improves their quality of life, if it improves, for example, their ability for job retention, and so on and so forth.
So, the group is not only looking at this as a service provider, but they're also looking at it from an information basis. They're also trying to find out how the model can be adapted, because ultimately, if this is successful, can it be adapted out to other arrangements? They have chosen to go with a multi-residential building in this case, rather than a sort of individual residence, believing that they can provide the services better for a group of people. But certainly, they're interested in getting the information back.
As a matter of fact, one of the directors of the group was saying today that this was going to be key - getting feedback, both formally and informally, by means of surveys, client interviews and so on - to find out how this has made an effect on individuals' lives. And then, of course, re-evaluating it after three years to see if, in fact, there are financial pressures or otherwise that they need to address.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the minister is aware that the number of people who are going to be in this home includes a very small number of the persons who are affected by fetal alcohol syndrome - adults who are affected by fetal alcohol syndrome. A large number of them also live in our rural areas, and those areas are somewhat underserviced with our programs for persons with fetal alcohol syndrome, particularly for adults with fetal alcohol syndrome. I noticed that, in the restorative justice report that just recently came out, there were four communities that raised the issue of FAE and FAS.
What sort of increased services are we putting toward our rural communities?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: One of the things, I guess, most recently is that we invested a higher degree of support to the Child Development Centre, and we did it expressly because we want to deliver more services out to rural communities. I believe that around 24 percent of the clientele of the CDC is directly attributable to FAS.
As well, we are approaching this from a larger perspective. We have recently become a member of the Western FAS Provincial Alliance, and one of the things that that will enable us to do is to gain access to the body of research and best practices from other jurisdictions - whether Manitoba, Saskatchewan or Alberta - and be able to get information. We'll also be able to participate in some of the telehealth experiments that they're doing in the whole realm of FAS, so we're approaching it both locally in terms of trying to provide more resources, trying to support people who have FAS, and also on a national and regional front.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, this is all very interesting information, but he didn't speak about the services that we're giving for adults who have fetal alcohol syndrome in the rural communities.
Another area where we're sadly lacking in resources being allocated is to youth in the communities who are suffering from drug addictions. Again, from this same restorative justice report, it says that six communities noted underage drinking and drug abuse is a concern with youth in their community.
Some of those comments about their communities are actually quite telling, particularly around alcohol.
Mr. Chair, the treatment worker for youth in Whitehorse, who only works in Whitehorse - is this a full-time position, five days a week of work?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The treatment position divides its time among the young offenders facility, the Youth Achievement Centre and F.H. Collins. At F.H. Collins, it's two afternoons a week. So that position would be, just by nature of how many areas, a full-time position.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I think I need to clarify this again. This is the treatment worker, and it's a full-time position, five days a week with a caseload of 56 youth at the present time.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That's true, and also there are families included, which brings the total to 77 if you count all the family members that that treatment position is interacting with.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I'm referring to the Substance Abuse Prevention and Yukon Tobacco Reduction Strategy Final Report: Community Solutions out of Yukon College, and this is another one of those many reports that are gathering dust on a shelf.
In it, they give recommendations. Recommendation number one was youth substance abuse prevention and treatment. It also talked, later in the document, about youth having a need for adult role models, especially for youth in the outlying communities, and the need for youth to have an impact or to have a say in programs that are developed for them.
This is a common theme. It's not just in this report; it's in many, many other reports that have been produced over the years. It doesn't make sense for us as adults to go out and develop a program that doesn't make any sense to these kids, particularly in the rural areas, which have a different culture from Whitehorse.
What are we doing about youth addictions in the rural areas?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, we have been trying to develop our tobacco prevention program in a fairly comprehensive way. We have got the tobacco school educator, and naturally that position has been focusing primarily on the high school quit program and developing that this fall, but we are planning on getting that individual out to some communities, working with community groups and schools to try to reduce tobacco use.
We are interested in trying to adapt programs to make them, I guess, more user-friendly or more relevant to young people. That was our approach with the STD program, and I think that's a model that can be taken out to other areas. We're interested in doing anything we can to reduce tobacco use by young people, particularly young women, which is a group that tends to use tobacco in increasing amounts and, I think, without a great deal of awareness of the impact on their health in the future. I think that's where we will be directing our efforts.
We have brought in our school tobacco educator position, and we would hope to see this expanded. We would hope to see the role developed out of Whitehorse. I have already made a commitment to get that individual into the community of Old Crow, where tobacco use is extremely high by all individuals.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I was still talking about the other drug, which is alcohol primarily, although I have no problem with the position of the educator in the schools around tobacco. I think it's a wonderful idea, and I'm glad to see that we're using those resources at an even younger age in the schools, because I think that's where we need to concentrate.
The objective was, under the Substance Abuse Prevention and Yukon Tobacco Reduction Strategy Final Report: Community Solutions, to find role models for youth, especially in the rural areas. Has the department done anything on this?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: By role models, do you mean trying to identify individuals in the community who do not use alcohol or drugs? I think we have tended to piggyback on national programs. I'm thinking in particular of some of the national aboriginal programs that do use the role model idea. We have tried to utilize programs that do provide some positive role models but, locally, no we haven't. It may be an area that we would want to investigate.
We have borrowed fairly freely from some material from B.C., which is pretty dramatic kind of stuff, particularly on tobacco. I think we would be interested in trying to see what else we could do in that regard.
With regard to some of the other things that are coming out of some other departments, there is a comprehensive counselling program, which works with a student advisory committee. There is a partnership, consisting of Education, RCMP, alcohol and drug services staff on substance abuse strategies and solutions. This is targeted not only toward school-age students, but also toward families. There is a drug awareness resource binder being put in every school staff room, so that teachers and counsellors have access to resources. We are working on pamphlets and booklets directed toward parents on how to deal with accurate information on drugs - for example, how to talk to your kids about drugs. As I said earlier, alcohol and drug services staff are working directly in the schools now.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I hope that the minister hasn't put all his eggs in one basket on this federal program. We were talking about modelling. That was the original topic, and the minister has gone off on another tangent.
But the issue that I was bringing up was role modelling. I originally brought up the fact that there's nothing for youth as far as alcohol treatment in the rural areas. Then, somehow or another, we ended up talking about totally different issues. Then I brought up the issue of role-modelling programs, and the minister went on and on and on - at some length - about how he was piggybacking with federal programs. And the minister has a bit of a problem with federal programs, because he takes advantage of the federal programs when they're here in the Yukon and then refuses to pick them up, no matter how good they are, when the funding expires, even though they're only pilot programs.
So I have a justifiable concern that we're not paying attention to this recommendation that came out in the restorative justice report and in this report as well.
Earlier in the debate we talked about the health summit, and the concern a number of people had - and I was there, and I heard the final recommendations, just like the minister did - was where do we go from here, as far as the health summit. And the concern was that it was going to end up being another report gathering dust upon the shelf.
And I just want to read to the minister from page 9 of the Substance Abuse Prevention and Yukon Tobacco Reduction Strategy Final Report: Community Solutions.
"There was much concern and fear that all of the work that has been done in this project will be shelved and forgotten. We are optimistic that the focus group that is being developed to work with the health promotion unit will be able to provide a link between past and future as it relates to this project."
Mr. Chair, this report is gathering dust on the shelf. None of the recommendations that I just spoke about with the minister have been followed. I hope that we do an awful lot better with the health summit report.
Mr. Chair, coordination of NGO - there has always been a concern that there are a number of NGOs that are developing service programs for the department as well as for the general populace here in the Yukon, that their activities are not being coordinated, and therefore there has been some duplication of services, and there has been a lack of a communication link between the department and these NGOs.
What are we doing about communicating with the various NGOs that provide services?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm not sure what the member is getting at. I know there has been some proposal for a volunteer bureau. Is that what she's referring to? Or is she speaking specifically of an NGO that has some difficulty communicating with the department? To the best of my knowledge, I've never really had that concern brought forward. I have NGOs communicate with me on an ongoing basis, and we've got to follow up on their concerns whenever we can. The entire question of communication does not seem to be a major issue.
I raised the question of a volunteer bureau. There has been some interest, I know, in a number of NGOs trying to look at pooling their resources, particularly around volunteers, and the idea perhaps of some kind of central volunteer bureau or volunteer agency has been one that has been floated on occasion. But to be very, very frank, I have not had a great deal of complaint about lack of communication between NGOs and us.
I think one of the things that probably has contributed to NGOs has been the fact of secure and stable funding. That seems to have been something that they were concerned about and, by providing stable funding over a longer period of time, we have sort of freed them of the idea of having to go through this ongoing cycle of justifying their budget each year. So, hopefully, that will contribute not only to the NGOs' effectiveness but also their ability to plan ahead on a longer term basis.
With some of the NGOs, we are aware that they may, from time to time, experience issues of changes of staff. They may, from time to time, experience a change of direction. But I can tell the member that we work very closely, especially with those departments that have ongoing interaction with a particular NGO, and I've never had the issue of communication raised with me. If the member has some examples, I'd certainly be interested, and we can see what kind of remedial action we can take to ameliorate the situation.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I think that's the problem. I don't think people want to have their problems brought out on the floor of the Legislature. I think they were expecting some sort of coordinator, perhaps, who worked outside of the arm of government, who can help coordinate between the NGOs that offer service to the department and the department itself. But the minister says that there are no problems from his perspective, so I'll accept that.
I wanted to go back to the issue again about the Sarah Steele Building and the alcohol and drug service program that's being offered there. I wonder if I could just get some information quickly. I could wait for the line, but I think that this is something that maybe the minister can get for me quite easily. Can the minister tell me what the numbers of people starting and completing each three-week program at the Sarah Steele Building are?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: If the member can bear with me, I'll just find it in my book. We do have those figures.
I can provide the member with some ADS figures for 1998-99. In 1998-99, in the emergency transient shelter, there were 1,496 people entering. From April 1 through August 31, 1999, there were 867 - that's in the emergency transient shelter. In detox, the 1998-99 figure is 1,535. To date, April 1 to August 31, the number is 579.
Under treatment counselling, the average number of cases per month handled by a counsellor in 1998-99 was 68, and to date, April 1 through August 31, 1999, it is 76. In youth counselling, in 1997-98, the youth counselling average number of cases seen per month by a counsellor was 46. In 1998-99, it was 34, and from April 1 through August 31, it was 24. The number of treatment clients in 1997-98 was 65. In 1998-99, there were 73, and to date, April 1 through August 31, there were 47.
In 1997-98, there were 971 total referrals to the former Crossroads and detox centre. In 1998-99, there were three times that number of referrals just into the shelter and detox centre. There were also 291 referrals made to the street nurse. There were 157 referrals for pre-treatment or referrals for treatment.
Is that of utility to the member?
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, actually it's wonderful information, and I'm glad the minister shared that with us, but what I'm wondering about is, every 30 days, there is an intake into the Sarah Steele Building alcohol and drug treatment program. That was the particular program that I was inquiring about, and I'm wondering if I could have a breakdown, say, over the last 12-month period of how many are coming in.
I suppose that if we got the average, it's not as indicative of actually how many are coming in, because what if the numbers are going up every month, or at certain times of the year they're higher, or whether the numbers are going down. That would be the sort of exacting information I'd like. And I am fine with waiting for that information if the minister could just return that to me at some point.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I could provide the member with details to that effect in a forum. Of course, our friend from Klondike would certainly like that information, and we'll make that available. We'll try to get the information as speedily as we can.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I have a couple of questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
The minister will recall, back in the spring of 1998, that I asked the minister some questions about safe homes in the City of Whitehorse, and I asked the minister to review the policy and see if we couldn't make the addresses of safe homes available to the public, as I understand they do in some other jurisdictions.
We had some back-and-forth debate on it in March and April of 1998, and basically it was left with the minister saying, "With regard to examining the policies, yes, I can go back and talk to our department. Perhaps there are some things that we can make some necessary changes to, I think. And any changes we would look at, we would also have to be reasonably sensitive to the needs of the children. Certainly, there are some things that I can look into and give the member my undertaking that I will discuss these with my department."
Mr. Chair, that was some 18 months ago, and I haven't heard from the minister and neither has anybody else. I would like to know from the minister today, did he go back and talk to his department and what was the outcome of those conversations?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Actually we did some research into this and we found out the only area that actually does publish addresses is the Northwest Territories where they are gazetted. When an open custody group home starts out, we require that the people who are proposing to undertake this have consultation with neighbours to make them aware of what is being proposed. I can tell the member that we do try to ensure that individuals who are placed in open custody group homes are not individuals who would pose a threat. Now, that being said, we do not always have control over whom the courts choose to place in that area. I believe the one the member was concerned about in the Porter Creek neighbourhood is no longer in existence as an open custody group home. We have four active open custody caregiver homes. Two of those are in rural settings and the other two are in urban settings. One criterion that is required now is that anyone proposing to be a caregiver in this regard must discuss it with their neighbours and discuss what is being proposed.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I don't think the minister has gone far enough. I don't see anything wrong with gazetting the addresses of safe homes. We are not asking any of the inmates in there to be identified. I think this is a reasonable request by my constituents. The fact that 77 Tamarack is no longer a safe home is irrelevant.
There's nothing to say that there won't be another one in that neighbourhood or some other neighbourhood in my constituency or somebody else's constituency.
The minister says now that it's mandatory that they consult with their neighbours - in how big an area? One block, two blocks, 10 blocks? What is the minister talking about, and is that policy written down somewhere where I can get a copy of it?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We can get the member that information, but we would seek that the individual who would be proposing to open one of these would certainly make people aware within the adjacent area and probably the neighbours on that block as to what was being proposed. As well, we also require that individuals who are proposing to undertake this - we would do such things as a detailed home study, check references, a criminal record check. We also require caregivers to participate in departmental training sessions on a whole variety of topics relevant to it, so it's not that we're just popping individuals in.
We are concerned about the question of public safety, and those are a principal concern. As I said, we don't place people who we feel would be a threat into a home. However, I have to say that sometimes the courts will overrule us, and we have been overruled in some cases.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, can the minister tell me, is there anything stopping his department from publishing the address of a safe home? Are there any legalities that say that they can't do it? Because it is done in the Northwest Territories. And if there isn't any legal reason why the minister can't, what is his philosophical reason that he's not doing it?
I think this is a very reasonable request by some reasonable citizens, who are not even against having the safe home in their neighbourhood. All they want to know is that there is one there, and they really would like to know if there's a known sex offender in it - not that they're saying that there shouldn't be. All they want to know is if there is, so they can take whatever actions they feel they are comfortable with, with their own children.
But what is stopping the minister from publishing the addresses of safe homes?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Chair, I don't know if people pay as much attention to the Gazette as they would to one of their neighbours coming in and saying, "I'm proposing to be an open custody home for young people."
I think actually informing one's neighbours in a personal way, getting some feedback from them as to what their concerns would be, would be a far more effective way of dealing with neighbourhood concerns, than simply publishing it in the Gazette.
Moreover, the member made an oblique reference to known sex offenders. That is not the kind of individual that we would look at putting in this type of home, and certainly not in a neighbourhood where there may be some threat to children. That is not how an individual with that kind of issue would be treated. Certainly, that wouldn't be our intent at all.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, if the minister will recall, this is what brought this whole issue to a head. There was an individual at 77 Tamarack who had had some difficulties in that respect. The minister said we wouldn't put anybody in there who is a threat to the neighbourhood, and I agree that the minister wouldn't, but I do believe that people living in a neighbourhood should have the information so that they can act accordingly. The minister says he feels more comfortable with the party who is applying for the open custody home notifying their neighbours, but the people who are staying in this open custody are in not only that neighbourhood, not only on that block, but if they're going to school, they're walking through other blocks and I believe that it's important that all people within a reasonable distance of the area know about it, and the best way I see to do that would be to gazette it.
If there is no legal reason why the minister can't do that, why won't he do it?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: With respect to the issue that the member is referring to, I should point out that, in that particular case, it was a court order. As I indicated, sometimes the courts perhaps don't have the same degree of sensitivity to communities that we do.
With respect to gazetting, I said that there was only one jurisdiction that we were aware of: the Northwest Territories. Other provinces do not use this method to publicize. I think a couple of reasons for that would be the issue of privacy - the need not to identify young offenders, which is something that appears also to be contained in the new Youth Criminal Justice Act.
I'm somewhat leery about getting into naming places and identifying places, because, I think, inherent in that is the expectation that when one identifies open custody group homes, one is, in effect, creating an expectation that some of these young people pose a threat when, in fact, that is not always the case. Certainly, we make every effort not to put anyone into an open custody situation if we don't feel it would be appropriate.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, we had this debate before. Nobody is accusing the minister or his department of acting recklessly.
The minister's taking the attitude that he knows what's best for the citizens of Whitehorse and they ought not to have the ability to make their own decisions. I can't accept that. I believe it would be far simpler if the minister would agree to gazette the addresses of the safe homes, and if the courts decide to put somebody there who has had some difficulties in whatever respect, I believe the neighbours ought to know about it so that they can act accordingly. Nobody asked anybody to be identified.
My constituents never asked that the people who were residents of the open custody be identified. They never asked that at all. All they wanted was a little bit of consideration so that they could make their own decisions as to how they acted with their own children, knowing that there was a safe home in the area, and that there may be some people who have had some circumstances which would deem them undesirable so that they could act accordingly.
And they didn't want anybody to be named. Nobody asked for anybody to be named. The minister keeps referring, "Well, we can't name people, we can't name people". We understand that. My constituents understand that. All they want is a little consideration in being allowed to make their own decisions as to how they act, and know what the circumstances are in their neighbourhood when there's a safe home there. And I don't think that's an unreasonable request.
I would ask the minister if he would reconsider gazetting the addresses of safe homes.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Chair, we have attempted to respond to this issue, and we feel that the best way, as part of the ongoing establishment of such homes, is that we require that the individual who is proposing to have such a home be in contact with the neighbourhood.
Now, it would be our understanding that if an individual was in any proximity to a school or something like that, it would be encumbent upon them to at least deal with the school. We feel that this is a better way to address the issue, to make the neighbours aware, because, as I said, I don't know if people really do follow the Gazette to any degree and so on, nor do I think many people understand what is meant by open custody as opposed to closed custody and so on and so forth.
So I think it's better if this is done face to face with the neighbours and discussed in detail. Community concerns and community objections can come forward. The individual then can make a decision as to whether they want to proceed with this or not. This, to us, seems to be a better way to actually address that problem.
Chair: Do members wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is dealing with the Department of Health and Social Services. Is there further general debate?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, just before the break, the minister was saying that he didn't think gazetting the address would be a good idea because nobody would know about it. I don't think that should be the minister's concern. If the address was gazetted, it would be up to people to find out if there was one in their neighbourhood or not.
I want to get on to the point that the minister made, that now anybody who wants to establish an open custody facility needs to consult with the neighbours. I want to know from the minister: is that in policy, or is that in the regulations? I also want to know from the minister: when was that change made? And it must be written in the policy or regulations as to how broad a consultation has to be, whether it's one block, two blocks. The minister said that if it were in the neighbourhood of a school, then he'd expect them to consult further. Who makes these decisions? Could the minister start on that, and we'll see where we go with it?
Hon. Mr. Sloan:Well, family and children's services would work with anyone who was proposing to have an open custody group home and advise them of what the expectation was.
It is a matter of policy. The policy was brought about as a way to address some of the concerns that were raised. I thought the member would be aware that the policy of open custody group homes was brought in by his government. The open custody caregiver network using private foster homes was established because of fairly low committals to open custody by the youth court in the early 1990s. And the staff of the open custody group home were deployed to young offenders facilities, now the Youth Achievement Centre. Since 1994, the open custody caregiver program and the Youth Achievement Centre together served the youth. So, we have been doing this.
The departmental staff undertook a program review of the open custody program in 1998, and we have brought this about as a policy to try to address some of the concerns that were raised. I can get the member some further details. I don't have further detail on the actual policy, but I can get the member some further detail on that.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, does this policy pertain specifically to open custody homes, or does it pertain to other facilities that Health and Social Services have, where they put other types of clientele, or is this specific to open custody?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It would be specific to open custody, not closed custody.
Mr. Ostashek: Can the minister just tell me the difference between closed custody and open custody? Is the minister saying that under closed custody, no one is allowed out without supervision, that they don't go to work or they don't go to school or anything else? Is that what he considers closed custody, or does being in the closed custody facilities just mean that there's somebody there 24 hours a day?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The only true closed custody facility that we have is the young offenders facility up the hill. There are some facilities - for example, the Mountainridge Residence that we have downtown, which serves young fellows with FAS. Those are individuals who, even though they go out in the community, are supervised 24 hours a day, one on one. They have a degree of disability that requires that they be supervised, so for example one of those individuals goes to work at one of our facilities, and they're supervised one on one in that particular setting.
Mr. Ostashek: Where is the Mountainridge facility located?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It's at Fifth, and I'm trying to remember the cross street. Hoge? Yes, Fifth and Hoge.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, the minister is going to give me a copy of the policy that states that people who wish to establish an open custody facility will have to consult with their neighbours. Will it say in that policy what it means by consulting with the neighbours? Is that the next-door neighbour? Is it the one across the street? Is it the one on the next block? That's a very broad statement to be put into policy. It doesn't give me much comfort, and I know it won't give my constituents much comfort unless the minister can elaborate on it.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We'll try to provide as much information as we can for the member.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the member for that, and if I'm not happy I guess I'll come back to him in Question Period.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Policy, Planning and Administration
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I wonder if we can have detail on these lines?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The increase of $198,000 for policy, planning and administration is a result of the expenditures related to the health summit held in October 1999, and I gave a breakout of those expenditures earlier in terms of facilities, travel, et cetera, et cetera.
Policy, Planning and Administration in the amount of $198,000 agreed to
On Family and Children's Services
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We appear to have a measure of distance here. The Member for Riverdale South has asked for some details. This results in a $10,000 decrease as a result of realigning the budget to reflect the negotiated rates for property management agreement. A $92,000 increase, 100 percent recoverable due to increases in youth justices expenditures. A $350,000 increase is as a result of the moratorium being lifted from the childcare direct operating grant.
Family and Children's Services in the amount of $432,000 agreed to
On Social Services
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This decrease results from two items. A $61,500 decrease results from the transfer of the Signpost Seniors contract to regional services and a $5,000 net decrease is as a result of realigning the budget to better reflect the negotiated rates of the property management agreement.
Social Services in the amount of an underexpenditure of $66,000 agreed to
On Health Services
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This results from $15,000 net increase as a result of realigning the budget to reflect the property management agreements for health programs. The $60,000 is 100 percent recoverable, due to the increase in clients, combined with the increase in the cost of hearing aids.
Health Services in the amount of $75,000 agreed to
On Regional Services
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This increase results from the transfer of administration of Signpost Seniors to regional services.
Regional Services in the amount of $61,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $700,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the recoveries?
Mr. Jenkins: I have just one question on the recoveries. In northern British Columbia and Lower Post, we provide some services to First Nations in that area and residents of British Columbia and bill the health care plan in that area as well as Indian and Northern Affairs. Could the minister tell me how we are being paid for the services we provide to First Nations in Lower Post and if it is the same situation as First Nations health care services in Yukon per se?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm advised that those recoveries come from Health Canada, as opposed to DIAND, and we haven't had any concerns with that. I can find out further details, but I'm advised that we recover from Health Canada.
Mr. Jenkins: The other question then is why would the recoveries come from Health Canada rather than from Indian and Northern Affairs, such as they do in the rest of the Canada? That's the way I'm given to understand that the health care programs for First Nations are delivered.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm advised that they are health services as opposed to social services, which tend to come out of the DIAND budget. Such things as the Thomson Centre and so on, are deemed to be social services as opposed to health services.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the increase in communication aids - is this because we're selling more hearing aids? If so, are we still selling them at cost?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, we are. There is an increase in the cost of hearing aids. The newer hearing aids now tend to be somewhat more sophisticated and digital in nature. I have to take the word of my colleague - he says they work better.
On Capital Expenditures
On Policy, Planning and Administration
On Systems Development
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The $604,000 increase in systems development is the result of revoting funds to offsetting contractual equipment to address the outstanding Y2K projects.
The $16,000 increase in integrated facilities is the result of revoting funds to cover renovation costs at H-2, insured health services. These renovations were the result of staff relocations after the health program transfer. A $100,000 increase was to conduct the systems impact assessment as a result of the new Youth Criminal Justice Act. This is fully recoverable.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, is there anything in here under systems development or the next line, integrated health and social services facilities, about the planning for the new nursing station in Whitehorse, hopefully to be built or developed downtown?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, this one was an interesting one, because when it was mentioned to me earlier, I thought, this is a new one on me, I hadn't heard of it before. But what happens is the lease on that property is coming up next year, and I think as things move toward the lease, there is always speculation that we're going to be building something, or moving people or something like that.
But right now there aren't any plans in that regard.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, one of the reasons that I'm asking is that in the midwifery group that the minister is very familiar with, there has been some conversation around developing a birthing centre at the new - perhaps, obviously virtual - health centre in the downtown area. So my understanding is this is something that's not in the immediate future.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That's news to us. We have heard some very positive things about the birthing rooms at the hospital, so possibly, I don't know, a downtown birthing centre could work. I guess you could get your groceries, and do a little shopping and give birth. I don't know. It seems like an awful concept to me.
I'm being encouraged in that sort of multi-tasking by my friend, the Minister of Justice.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, to be a lot clearer with the minister, I think we're talking about a midwifery centre. The practice of midwifery is much more than actually birthing a baby; it's mostly prenatal and post-natal care. The actual birthing of the baby is a very, very small part of that. And the discussions we're now having with the midwifery group are that those births would probably take place at the hospital, so that this would be more of a midwifery centre, I suppose. I need to be clearer with the minister that we're not talking about developing another birthing centre downtown, but rather for issues around birthing. So I just wanted to be clear with the minister that that wasn't - and I have no idea how he got to that - part of the discussion.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would defer to my colleague's obvious experience there. My participation in the entire process was brief and pleasurable. I thought I did rather a good job.
Systems Development in the amount of $604,000 agreed to
On Integrated Health and Social Services Facilities
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I thought I covered that. That was the increase in integrated facilities as a result of revotes for renovation costs at H-2, which is health insurance. We picked up staff under staff relocations as part of the health program transfer.
Integrated Health and Social Services Facilities in the amount of $16,000 agreed to
On Family and Children's Services
On Women's Shelters - Renovations and Equipment
Hon. Mr. Sloan: In family and children's services, there's actually a total of $308,000 increase: $54,000 for the young offenders facility as a result of revoted funds for the cabling to connect YOF to WCC, purchase and installation of walk-in freezer and upgrade control panel; $44,000 capital contributions as a result of transferring funds for minor renovations and equipment to the three women's shelters; $60,000 increase in funds for renovations to St. Elias Building to provide adult residential services, and $150,000 in capital contributions to the youth centre.
Women's Shelters - Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $44,000 agreed to
On Young Offender Facilities - Renovations and Equipment
Young Offender Facilities - Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $54,000 agreed to
On St. Elias Building - Renovations
St. Elias Building - Renovations in the amount of $60,000 agreed to
On Youth Centre
Youth Centre in the amount of $150,000 agreed to
On Social Services
On Social Services Operational Equipment and Renovations
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This is a $50,000 increase to the Social Services operational budget and renovations, representing a revote for moving costs and equipment replacements in the new facility.
Mrs. Edelman: During the big wind storm on Hallowe'en, there were a number of power lines, of course, that the minister is well aware were knocked down, particularly in the Riverdale area, and there are two seniors facilities in the Riverdale area, and there is also a seniors apartment building in the Riverdale area, and they went without power for a long period of time.
How are we doing as far as backup generators and backup systems? I am particularly interested now because we're coming up to the millennium, and I am wondering what we do have.
I know that in the Duke Street apartments, for example, in my riding that there were two problems. Number one is that there was no backup generator; and secondly, when there was a power surge or when the power came on, there were a number of appliances that were lost by the seniors living in that building, and they can't afford to replace them and they can't afford to use their insurance - if they have insurance - to buy new appliances, and that was a real problem for the people in that building.
What have we got going for the Thomson Centre and Macaulay Lodge?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The Thomson Centre is okay because it's on the hospital auxiliary backup. There is a line item in this for McDonald Lodge to complete design specifications for the purchase and installation of an emergency generator. I would have to check to see what the status is for Macaulay and find out what we are looking at there.
One of the things we have done is a very comprehensive embedded-chip evaluation in preparation for Y2K, so we're quite confident that our facilities will be compliant, and, if there is a failure - hopefully, there won't be - we feel fairly confident that, as far as our building systems go, we'll be well covered.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Chair, I hate to bring it up again, but they were quite confident that that was also the case at Selkirk School and the boiler went on, and there's a boiler system at Macaulay, but the fan didn't come on, so the heat was rising and people on the second floor were dying of the heat and freezing on the bottom floor. So, I'm wondering if that's one item that the minister might want to check, particularly.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We can certainly follow up on that and find out what the status is at Macaulay.
Social Services Operational Equipment and Renovations in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Thomson Centre - Renovations
Thomson Centre - Renovations in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
On Continuing Care - New Facility
Continuing Care - New Facility in an underexpenditure of $510,000 agreed to
On Macaulay Lodge - Renovations
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, is this for the elevator?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The $50,000 is for a revote to complete miscellaneous renovations related to health and safety issues. I don't have any further details on that. I don't think it is the elevator, though. It seems low.
Macaulay Lodge - Renovations in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On McDonald Lodge - Renovations and Equipment
McDonald Lodge - Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $4,000 agreed to
On Health Services
On Hospital Road #2 and #4
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The $8,000 increase represents funds revoted to complete installation and security system, exterior lights and flooring at #4 Hospital Road.
Hospital Road #2 and #4 in the amount of $8,000 agreed to
On Whitehorse Hospital Construction
Hon. Mr. Sloan: A $150,000 increase represents a revote for the completion of the First Nations' healing room and outstanding items related to the Whitehorse Hospital project.
Whitehorse Hospital Construction in the amount of $150,000 agreed to
On Ambulance Unit Equipment
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This represents an increase in ambulance unit equipment. These funds are expected to be fully recovered. I don't have any further details as to what it is. Apparently it's a donation from Watson Lake.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, this is a private donation. Now, are private donations a common occurrence in the department?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This is cash.
We do have donations frequently at a place like the Thomson Centre, and even with the new extended care facility, we've already had offers of donations. So, it's not uncommon. Certainly, I think it reflects well that people have that desire to give something.
Mrs. Edelman: Do we have a donation program? I know that, for example, at church you know what the priorities are. Are people given any idea about where a donation might be most useful?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, frequently people like to make donations, and they'll contact the particular department and ask what's needed. One of the most frequent things are things like jaws of life and stuff like that. People like to donate to that kind of equipment that they know will have utility and could possibly save someone's life.
Ambulance Unit Equipment in the amount of $7,000 agreed to
On Community Nursing - Equipment and Facilities
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This represents a revote to complete a number of projects for community nursing facilities, including electrical upgrade at the Mayo nursing station and HVAC upgrade at the Watson Lake Hospital and the Dawson City nursing station; siding installation at the Old Crow nursing station; and renovations to the new health centre in Beaver Creek.
Community Nursing - Equipment and Facilities in the amount of $299,000 agreed to
On Teslin Health Centre
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This is a revote to complete the design specification documents and construction of the health centre. It's expected to be completed this year.
Teslin Health Centre in the amount of $296,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This represents a revote to complete the three pilot projects in telemedicine. These were pilot projects initiated at Ross River health, Teslin health centre and Dawson City nursing station. The recoverable portion of this revote is $15,000.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, these are pilot projects. Are we talking about continuing with this program?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I had earlier spoken about this and had said that we were seeking to expand telemedicine and that we saw a number of opportunities in there. One of the things we think will be a major advantage will be the expansion of high-speed Internet and data capability, particularly up the north Klondike Highway, and we think that that's going to open up a lot of opportunities to expand telemedicine.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, for the record, where are we going to be recovering the costs for the telemedicine project? What's the name of the organization?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That's from a program called CANARIE, and it's a tiny bird - no, it's C-A-N-A-
R-I-E, and please don't ask me what the acronym stands for, but it is the CANARIE program.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, is this a federal government program, or is this a federal organization of some other sort?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This is from telecommunication - Telecom Canada, this is one of theirs.
Telemedicine in the amount of $18,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures in the amount of $1,306,000 agreed to
Department of Health and Social Services agreed to
Chair: Committee will now proceed to the Department of Department of Community and Transportation Services. We will recess for two minutes, and begin with general debate.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole back to order.
Department of Community and Transportation Services
Chair: We are now on the Department of Community and Transportation Services. Is there general debate?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The Department of Community and Transportation Services has tabled a supplementary budget request of $561,000 for O&M expenditures and $1,896,000 for capital expenditures.
These increases are partially offset by an increase in the operation and maintenance expenditure recovery of $301,000 and a capital expenditure recovery of $649,000.
The department's supplementary budget requirement is essentially associated with two factors: a requirement of $587,000 in operation and maintenance, and $398,000 in capital to deal with the recent Burwash forest fire emergency situation and to respond to the need of the community that has been affected by the incident.
$450,000 is an expenditure increase, recoverable from Emergency Preparedness Canada and DIAND, and a requirement of $1,516,000 capital revote for projects, the funding for which has been previously voted by the House.
I would be glad to answer and provide answers if the members have specific questions.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I have a few questions for the minister tonight and probably tomorrow.
On the issue of people using cell phones in their cars, some jurisdictions in Canada are now talking about regulating this practice. Are we examining the idea?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Chair, we have not been examining this issue.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, may I suggest that it's something that we do need to keep up to date on. There are jurisdictions in Canada that are going to be regulating cell phone use in vehicles very shortly. Indeed, it has actually been outlawed in some American jurisdictions to date and has apparently brought down the number of accidents.
A water-testing lab in the Yukon - have we had any expressions of interest from any private sector people here in the Yukon on developing a certified water testing laboratory that we could use?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Again, Mr. Chair, no. No entrepreneurs have come forward with a proposal at all.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the minister is aware that the Association of Yukon Communities has expressed an interest in us testing our water samples here in the Yukon. A feasibility study for this was also done in 1992, I believe, under the previous NDP government, suggesting that this was a very feasible option, even at that time. With devolution coming and, of course, with the increased need for water testing in the Yukon, it sounds like it's a real possibility. I note the local water testing facility is not certified, but it would probably take about $30,000 to bring that lab up to snuff. But there were other agencies at the time, in the late 1980s, that were doing local water testing that was suitable for DIAND purposes. That's Bondar-Clegg. I think the minister is familiar with that name. What are we doing about looking at this idea? I know the Association of Yukon Communities is very interested in it. How are we working toward making that happen here, in Yukon, and keeping that money here, in Yukon, rather than sending our water out to be tested in Richmond and the results not being accurate, and sending money outside of Yukon that doesn't have to be bled out of us?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, the AYC has not brought this forward. I've had a couple of meetings with them. No, the AYC has not brought this forward as an issue to me. Certainly, what I will endeavour to do is, in my ongoing dialogue with the Association of Yukon Communities, ask how they feel about it. The member is talking about how they feel about it. Certainly, they are the ones who predominantly trigger a lot of these tests for the labs. I would be more than willing to sit there and see how we could meet the needs and see if there is a demand for it in the Yukon Territory, so that the local folks could get certified through it. That's what I can endeavour to do.
Mrs. Edelman: Of course, that's one alternative. I'm sure other people have good ideas on how we can offer water testing here locally. I know that, during the budget discussions in some of the communities, it was certainly brought to the Government Leader's attention.
The Canada Winter Games - they're having a problem getting some money for their planning for the Canada Winter Games. The problem is that they can get money for travel, but in order to get the money for the travel, they have to put together these pre-plans on their training schedules, where they're going to stay, et cetera, et cetera. It costs money to develop those plans, and the money to develop those plans is not available through recreation, but travel is. Now, I know that if the sport is taking place at the municipal level, money is usually available from the local municipality. Indeed, most municipalities take on the role of funding local recreation. This isn't the same case for the Canada Winter Games because, obviously, we're sending Yukon-wide athletes.
What sort of financial support are we offering to Canada Winter Games athletes?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As you know, Mr. Chair, the governments are very supportive of Canada Games and any games that particularly focus on youth, et cetera. It's something that's very important to the fabric of the Yukon and to the fabric of the country. We can certainly again work as the department, my department and the recreation branch. There have been really no requests for what the member has asked for, but that certainly doesn't mean there's not something out there.
So, certainly, I will endeavour to talk to the department, Mr. Milner, the director, as you know, to find out what the thoughts were, if there have been any requests coming forward.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I'd certainly be happy to speak with the minister on the break about this issue. I do know that this is always the problem with Yukon-wide athletes - people who represent the Yukon. That money ahead of the event is hard to get, and you should be spending your time training as opposed to being out there fundraising, and these are people who will be representing us, I'm sure, very, very well on the national level.
The extension of the Five Finger Rapids pullout - this is one of these funny areas that is sort of half Renewable Resources and half C&TS. There was a commitment this year that Community and Transportation Services would do a traffic study to determine where we would extend the pullout and what the numbers were, coming down the hill - and I know the minister is familiar with this pullout. The concern is that, if you're a tourist and you're coming down that hill, all you can see is no place to park so you don't even try to get into the Five Finger pullout to go and look at the site, and that's an opportunity lost for some tourism.
I know that part of the jurisdiction here is Renewable Resources, but the traffic study was something that was going to be undertaken by Community and Transportation Services. Where do we stand with that traffic study, and what would be the progress on this project?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I don't have that information available at my fingertips, Mr. Chair, but certainly I will get an update on the traffic study at Five Finger Rapids. I can say that I have been talking with the Minister of Renewable Resources. There is cooperation between the two departments to find out what we could do in that situation to make it safe and let people enjoy the benefits of the Five Finger Rapids.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I wonder if at some point the minister could get back to me with that information. I know it is important to him as the Minister of Tourism as well. This is a wonderful site, and it is a shame that a traffic problem is preventing us from taking advantage of a good tourism opportunity. When we were discussing the last set of amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act, one of the discussions that dominated the House at that time was the issue of individuals being passengers in the back of a pickup truck. The answer was that people had to be sitting on the floor of the pickup truck. You can have people in the pickup truck box only if there is no room in the cab of the vehicle. Are we still continuing the discussion or consultation on this issue? I know that since we did talk about it in the Legislature, there were a number of people who brought this up with me again and felt that we could have gone a little bit further with that. Are these discussions continuing?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, the discussions are not continuing. The consultation process is over and the legislation was done last year, although I am always interested to hear what people have to say about these issues. I understand that some accidents happened where young people had been thrown from the back of a pickup - horrendous because that certainly is not what this House had attempted to legislate or to curb. We had attempted to legislate the Yukon cultural style activities for the rural communities where the life is somewhat different. We have gone through that process together here so no, I am always willing to listen to what the community has to say, and I thank the member for bringing it forward.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I think that the minister should be aware of what's happening in their jurisdictions. The Government of Alberta, for example, is now banning riding in the back of pickup trucks. There was a tremendous consultation paper that was done; they spoke to 800 Albertans who responded to the discussion paper, and 82 percent of them were in favour of banning riding in the truck box.
This is where they're going in other jurisdictions, and maybe it's time that we seriously looked at it again for our territory.
The Carmacks sewage system has come up a couple of times in the Legislature so far this session. The problem is that in about two years from now, they're going to have to come up with a new mechanical plant or some other type of sewage system. I know the minister and I have talked about this both inside the House and out of it. Where are we sitting as far as the planning dollars for this system, whatever it's going to be?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Was the question specifically where is the Village of Carmacks getting their planning dollars for the Carmacks mechanical treatment plant? Okay. Maybe what I'll do is I'll just give a brief history as to what is going on in there.
As I have said, we want to work with the communities, we'll continue to work with the communities and we certainly encourage the communities to bring their priorities forward. Certainly, their priority at this point in time has been the recreational complex.
Now, we also know, though, that there is a mechanical treatment plant there that is running out of its capacity. The current water licence, which expires on December 31, 2000, requested a comprehensive plan be submitted by September 30, indicating what improvements are required. In return, the village has submitted a water licence amendment application for a one-year postponement, to September 30, 2000, of the submission of the requested studies and renewal application, and the application is currently under review at this point in time. They have hired a consultant, and the consultant is presently carrying out what those initiatives will be. They would be the environmental investigations, conceptual and predesign studies, and they will all form a part of the water licence application.
They are then looking to improving their infrastructure in an attempt to optimize the current plant's operation, and they are doing that in conjunction with, of course, government, the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation and themselves.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 19.
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. 19, Third 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. Member: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Mr. Fentie: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:28 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled November 29, 1999:
Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Fund 1998-99 Annual Report (Moorcroft)