Wednesday, July 12, 2000 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will know call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Tribute to Pierre Berton
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of all members of the Legislature to offer a special birthday tribute to one of the Yukon's, and indeed one of Canada's, most famous sons, Pierre Berton. Today Mr. Berton is celebrating his 80th birthday.
As I am sure all Yukoners are aware, Pierre Berton was born in Dawson City in 1920 in the shadow of the Klondike Gold Rush. It is his first 12 years, which he spent in Dawson, that profoundly shaped his life. After leaving the Yukon, Pierre Berton embarked on a career as a writer, first as a newspaper editor, then as an author. He is a prolific writer, an author of more than 40 books, most of them about Canadian history. Many Canadians used to think the history of this country was boring, but, through his writing Pierre Berton has made it exciting and something for us all to be proud of.
His most famous book is call Klondike: a History of the Klondike Gold Rush, which won the Governor General's award for non-fiction in 1958. It's one of three such awards he has won for his books. Through this masterpiece, Pierre Berton has almost single-handedly made the word "Klondike" one that is recognized all over the world.
Although he now lives in Ontario, he has not forgotten his roots. In 1995, he purchased the house in Dawson City where he spent his childhood, and donated it to the Yukon Arts Council for their writer-in-residence program. He was chancellor of Yukon College from July 1988 to November 1993. In 1986, he was awarded the Order of Canada.
This weekend, family, friends and colleagues will gather at the Berton home in Kleinburg, Ontario to celebrate Pierre's 80th birthday. On behalf of all Yukoners, I wish him a very happy birthday and good health for many years to come.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Chair: Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have for tabling three legislative returns.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Education Act Review Steering Committee, appointment of chair
Mr. Fairclough: My question is to the Minister of Education. The Education Act Review Steering Committee includes representatives of school councils, First Nations, the Yukon Teachers Association and the Department of Education. Yesterday, the minister said he had "total confidence in the competency of the team as a whole and would respect the charge of duty that they have." Yet, the minister did not even consult with the team about appointing Ken Taylor to be a full-time, paid chair of their steering committee. Does the Minister of Education respect the consensus of the group, that the chair's position should rotate among the partners in education represented on the steering committee?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Taylor is very qualified to act as chair of the Education Act Review Steering Committee. He was qualified when the former NDP leader, Piers McDonald, chose him to assist with the draft of the Education Act, and he is certainly just as qualified now as he was then. And I believe that Mr. Taylor is incredibly competent to chair this committee and get the job done in a very prudent manner. It seems prudent to have a person with a teaching background assist with the review of the Education Act, a person with grassroots knowledge of how the education system works.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister is avoiding the question. I asked him whether he would respect the consensus of the group that the chair's position should rotate among the partners in education.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government claims to write the manual for public consultation. They say they consult. The Education Act Review Steering Committee was rotating the chair's position among the partners to avoid having the chair's position owned by only one of the partners in education.
Why didn't the Minister of Education show some respect and ask the Education Act Review Steering Committee whether they agree with the minister's decision to appoint Mr. Taylor without competition?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, the previous government had three and a half years to get the job done, and it chose not to do it. The committee was struck eight months ago and, due to the nature of the committee - the fact that the committee is spread throughout the territory, that they get together on an infrequent basis and have finally come together and are putting together a workplan for the review of the Education Act - I think it is incumbent upon this government to move, just as the government on the other side when they were in power didn't move, and to get the job done. By getting Mr. Taylor in there and with him acting as one of the team members, I'm pretty sure that the job will be done competently, expertly, with consultation with all Yukoners, so that the whole team can take credit for the accomplishment that they will have made in a year's time.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, the minister is struggling and he's avoiding the question.
Mr. Speaker, the former leader of the NDP did not appoint Mr. Taylor to totally review the Education Act 10 years ago, as the minister keeps saying. He is mistaken. Mr. Taylor was the president of the Yukon Teachers Association when the current Education Act was written. He represented one of the partners involved in creating the Education Act.
Mr. Speaker, we know of more competent former principals, former superintendents and even former ministers of education who may have been available to help on this project.
Can the Minister of Education tell the public why he decided to make a patronage appointment of Mr. Taylor to review the Education Act?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Taylor is eminently qualified to lead this team and chair this team in the review of the Education Act. The position is for one year. The NDP originally promised the commission they struck that they would finish the work in the year 2000. Well, we're in the year 2000, and they didn't get it done.
We are going to get it done. They continually stalled. Where was their concern for students and teachers then?
One of the other actions we have taken is to remove the perception of political influence by the Department of Education by moving the steering committee from that department. The steering committee will be part of the Executive Council Office and will be located in this building, as I stated yesterday.
Question re: Education Act Review Steering Committee, appointment of chair
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education about the hiring of the former Liberal Party leader to chair the Education Act review.
The minister himself told the House that he selected the chair without considering anyone else for the position and that Mr. Taylor will be reporting directly to the minister as a deputy minister would do. The minister also wrote a letter to the partners in education, telling them that Mr. Taylor will be providing full-time leadership to the staff currently assigned to this project - another deputy minister function.
Yesterday, the minister denied that this was a deputy minister level position, at a salary of up to $124,000 a year - the deputy minister's level. Can the minister tell us where the department will find $124,000, without making any cuts to programs or positions, for the salary of the recently appointed non-deputy minister?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Taylor's salary is between $82,000 and $124,000, not the $124,000 mark that the member opposite and his colleagues continually espouse. It's in the range. What Mr. Taylor makes specifically is his business, not my business, not Cabinet's business, and certainly not the member opposite's business.
Mr. Taylor is incredibly honourable and competent, and will do an appropriate job for the review of this Education Act, and I'm sure that he and his team of competent individuals from the communities will do an excellent job.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, $124,000 is a lot of money for departments. When the departments come together and plan how monies are to be spent, $1,000 is what is argued upon. $124,000 is a lot of money to find within the department, and it is the public's business. They are the taxpayers. They're taxpayers' dollars. Yesterday, the minister said that there would be no cuts to programs or positions to fund a new chair's position, but he can't tell us where the money will come from. School councils will like to know whether the government can fund an all-day meeting of school councils working group and pay an additional honorarium to the school council members on the committee. Has the minister directed his department to find more money within their budget for school councils?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, there is a line item within the budget for a school council working group that is contributing information back to the steering committee of the Education Act Review Steering Committee. There are funds already allocated to them, and Mr. Taylor is certainly aware of that and will be addressing the needs and concerns with respect to the school council working group.
I'd just like to remind the member opposite that the NDP spent over $219,000 on Conversations in Education, which really didn't accomplish a whole lot. Their delay in enacting this review did not provide Yukoners with any degree of certainty at all. Again, this government is fixing the NDP mistakes, and we are doing it as effectively and as efficiently as we can.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, that was budgeted for. The member opposite is bringing in $125,000 of new money, and won't tell us where he would make cuts or whether positions will be gone within the department. He wouldn't do that; he doesn't know where the money is; he doesn't know the salary that he's paying the person he just hired. It's an outrage, Mr. Speaker.
The minister said that he would respect the charge of duty that the steering committee has. He hasn't consulted with them. He has hired a partisan chair for their committee without discussing it with the group first, and he isn't supporting what the group is asking for. First Nations have also requested funding for consultation. Has the minister directed his department to find money within the budget for First Nations to do consultations that they believe are necessary with First Nation citizens and governments in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity to speak with the Grand Chief of CYFN, and we have started to address these needs and concerns of the First Nations with respect to education, their link, and we are making arrangements to have a meeting with the representative from CYFN. Unfortunately, having spent as much time as we have in the House, I haven't been able to find the time yet to sit down.
The Member for Watson Lake yesterday - I really don't want to go where I might be forced to go with this line of questioning, in that I'm certainly prepared to defend my appointment of Mr. Taylor as chair of the committee, but I really don't think the members opposite want me to go where they may be forcing me to go in the near future here.
Question re: Workers' Compensation Act review
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the minister responsible for the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.
Workers' Compensation has been the subject of considerable controversy both in this House and on the street. Now, many injured workers are not happy at all with the treatment they have received, and there is a large backlog of unresolved or contested claims. The workers' advocate office has been underfinanced and understaffed to deal with this large backlog. On the other side of the coin, WCB itself has exceedingly high administration costs. Much of the WCB controversy stems from the act itself and from the policies of the board. The previous NDP government took a piecemeal approach to amending both the act and its policies.
My question to the minister: is the minister prepared to commit to a review of the Workers' Compensation Act? I guess the caveat on that is, if the answer is yes, would he please ensure that it's not another political patronage appointment to the main person who is reviewing that act, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Thank you for the question from the Member for Klondike. Yes, I fully agree that there should be further work done in this area, and we are moving in that direction as we speak.
Mr. Jenkins: So I take that to mean that there is going to be a full review of the Workers' Compensation Act under this Liberal term of office.
Now the other area is the high administration costs that WCB currently has. Will the minister commit to conducting an operational audit of WCB? I'd like to remind the minister that this is a request of a long-standing Liberal member of this Legislature over quite a period of time, so can I anticipate also a positive response from this minister? An operational audit of WCB - will he commit to that, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, there are really two issues here. The first issue is what we call a review of the act, and that is to take place by 2003. That definitely has to take place; that's part of the legislation. The other part of the question is that of what we call a special examination, or, as you're referring to it, an audit.
Speaker: Order please. Would you refer to members opposite through the Chair?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The point that you're making is that we are committed to looking at the Workers' Compensation Board. We are committed to doing what the member opposite has made comment to, that we need to basically look at the whole issue of workers' compensation, and we are on that track right now, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, there is need for an operational audit. The premiums or assessments taken in now don't quite meet the cost of running Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, never mind paying out the claims. And the other very controversial area is the policy CL-35, which requires injured workers to divulge all of their information, and it basically dilutes their income over a longer period of time so that they end up with less money. That's not fair. Now, what does the minister plan to do with an operational audit and CL-35 retroactive after it's adjusted, and will he commit to an operational audit?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, there is the issue of what we call the special examination. The office of the Auditor General will be the lead in conducting the audit for the Workers' Compensation Board. The office of the Auditor General will provide a complete independent examination. In fact, the office of the Auditor General is legislated to act independent of any organization. In the past, audits that the board has done on its operations were discounted because they were considered to be not independent enough. So, the independence is a very key issue.
We are basically looking at the Auditor General because it is written in our legislation that they will do it. Besides that, it's one of those supports that the federal government can provide for us through our legislation. The fact that the Auditor General is an independent organization will provide us with what I think the member opposite is asking for - the audit that will give us, maybe, another springboard to move in the next direction. This is currently underway; we are in the process now of talking with our stakeholders, and we are hoping that over the next month or so we can have this special examination underway.
Question re: Education Act Review Steering Committee, appointment of chair
Mr. Fentie:My question is for the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. Yesterday, in his eagerness to defend this patronage appointment of the former Liberal leader to chair the Education Act review, the minister brushed aside a very serious concern. We raised that concern with good reason. I will spell it out again, and I would like an answer.
Mr. Taylor, along with his Liberal sidekick from the Yukon Teachers Association, took very clear positions on collective bargaining issues that they wanted to see in the Education Act. If Mr. Taylor returns to the classroom, after gobbling up his $124,000 political plum, could he stand to benefit directly from changes he helps bring about? What is the minister going to do to avoid any potential conflict of interest or appearance of conflict involving his hired Liberal gun?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I would be very careful with the questioning that's coming across from the members opposite on plums, patronage and questions of that nature - especially the questions from the snow white characters on the other side.
The question that the Member for Watson Lake just asked is hypothetical. It is something that I am not privileged with knowing at this time, so therefore I really can't answer his question at all.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I hope the minister's comments just now aren't a threat, and far be it for me to rain on this Liberal pork roast. It is the minister's job to know these consequences. This is a serious matter. The minister says that he acted alone in creating this position that no one even asked for, except the YTA or the Liberal backroom crowd. He said he did it because Education staff are swamped with work, but the minister had other options available, Mr. Speaker. There are many competent people in the education system and elsewhere in the public service with the skills to take on this very assignment.
Did the minister have any discussions with the Department of Education or the Public Service Commission about seconding qualified, neutral people to chair the Education Act review?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, no.
Mr. Fentie: Well, that begs the question: why not? That's part of the process. Mr. Speaker, the minister doesn't consult stakeholders, unlike his colleague, the Minister of Health and Services, who consults everybody. He has no confidence in his department personnel or the other public servants. He bypasses the normal hiring process - a very serious matter. He just dips into the Liberal membership and picks a familiar name to head up the Education Act review. No wonder people are concerned and disgusted with this pure-pork Liberal luau.
Mr. Speaker, just off the top of my head, I can think of a half-dozen competent people who could have taken on this assignment. Two of them are former ministers of the Department of Education; unfortunately, no Liberal membership card. Will the minister now admit he messed up, go back to the drawing board and cancel this Liberal payoff and consult with all the education partners about how they want to see the review process administered. Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, the two former ministers that the member opposite just mentioned did have three and a half years to do the job in the first place; why didn't they do it then?
The fact is that the NDP spent over $219,000, some of which went on coasters for cups and glasses - a wise expenditure of tax dollars. The members opposite are very familiar with the taste, and even the smell, of pork themselves and those little trotters, and I'm sure there's a whole field of them that the member is aware of. The NDP wasted millions of dollars on four Cabinet commissions; two of those commissions were overseen by two of the members opposite. How many of their NDP political friends were appointed to positions in those commissions? How many of these millions of dollars did the NDP give to their friends then?
Question re: Argus mall development, Chilkoot Centre
Mr. Fentie: A grand performance to be sure, Mr. Speaker. My question is for the Premier.
By now, people in Whitehorse have noticed that the activity at the Chilkoot Mall site has again commenced. Obviously the parrot is not dead and at least there's some life left. Will the Premier confirm that senior officials from the Yukon government and the City of Whitehorse are now in B.C., even as we speak, to negotiate with Argus officials about the future of the Argus mall?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I will confirm for the member opposite a number of things. First and foremost, the $750,000 allocated by the previous government for off-site infrastructure, through the City of Whitehorse at that site, still remains with that project and with the City of Whitehorse.
I will also confirm for the member opposite, as we stated repeatedly throughout the discussion and throughout the election campaign, we do not like the way this original agreement was negotiated; however, we don't rip up signed agreements. I will confirm, for the member, that the choice before us, as a government, was to ensure that the $750,000 stayed where it was for the purpose for which it was originally intended. Secondly, that we do not want a repeat of Taga Ku and we do not want to see Yukoners in court over this issue.
Mr. Fentie: The Liberals are very, very critical of this expenditure. I gather from the Premier now that they have completely changed their view. It was only a few days ago that the Premier was telling this House that the status of this contract was in city hands and the Liberal government was just a poor, helpless bystander with no say in the matter. It now appears that that's far from the case and YTG is at the table dealing the cards.
Will the Premier tell the House what position the Yukon government officials have been instructed to take with respect to these negotiations with Argus?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I will tell the member opposite again that his assessment is, once again, a premature evaluation. If the member had listened to my comments in response to these questions earlier, the member would be well aware that I have said that it is up to the city, according to the agreement - the agreement his colleague negotiated - to enforce the covenants of the agreement. Our role, and he should know this role, was to place $750,000 with the City of Whitehorse for off-site infrastructure.
The previous government did that. We have said that the money should stay there and that it should be used for the purpose for which it was intended. That's been this government's position. It has been the position consistently. The deal was done when we came to power and we do not rip up agreements with Yukoners. We have seen what happens when previous governments rip up agreements with Yukoners and we don't think that's a good use of taxpayers' money.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, the Premier is incorrect. The Liberals said that this money is corporate welfare. The Member for Whitehorse Centre, during the election, said when the money is taken back, then Argus can work on a level playing field. Those are the facts. Now the Premier's trying to hide behind an agreement that the former Minister of Economic Development negotiated. The case in point here is that there are Yukon government officials now negotiating, along with city officials, with Argus. That's what I'm asking.
Things, Mr. Speaker, seem to get curiouser and curiouser with this flip-flopping Liberal government. During the election, the Premier hated the Argus deal. As I pointed out, she called it corporate welfare. The Member for Whitehorse Centre said the Liberal government would rip it up. No mall - finished, kaput, schlemiel. But that was then and this is now.
My question for the Premier is this: as a party to these negotiations, if the Liberal government thinks Argus isn't living up to its end of the deal, will this Premier do what Liberal candidates told Whitehorse voters they would do and ask the city to return the $750,000 for off-site infrastructure?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, fact: the previous NDP government negotiated an agreement. That agreement provided for $750,000 for off-site infrastructure. That money is with the City of Whitehorse: second fact. Third fact: this Liberal Party and this Liberal government have said, from day one, that we do not rip up signed agreements with Yukoners, and we will not. We do not; we will not. What is in fact taking place is that the Government of Yukon, the City of Whitehorse and the project proponent are doing their level best to ensure we don't, and that no one ends up in a situation like Taga Ku, where there was a tremendous cost to Yukon taxpayers. That's what we are trying to avoid, and that's what we're going to avoid by ensuring that the Government of Yukon money is used for the purpose for which it was intended.
Question re: Rural roads upgrading program
Mr. McRobb: Many community-based and First Nation contractors have benefited from the rural roads upgrading program. One of the Community and Transportation Services officials said on the radio this morning that there has been no change in policy; however, this year, promises that local contractors would be used on road upgrades are being broken. Roads that need upgrading are being ignored. Roads that were never identified as priorities are being torn up without notice to residents. Can the minister explain why?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is referring to an official who was heard on the radio this morning. That official is quite correct; there has been no change in policy regarding the rural roads program.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, that didn't answer the question. That didn't answer the question about the examples I gave. Perhaps a half dozen Liberal handlers up in the gallery can coach the ministers to answer the questions properly before the end of this sitting, and they had better hurry up because tomorrow is the last day. Last year, several First Nation contractors received work under this program, but this year there is only one. Champagne-Aishihik First Nation was awarded the contract to upgrade kilometres 42 to 125 of the Aishihik Road but will have to compete for the kilometre zero to 42 section of the same road. Champagne-Aishihik First Nation applied to do the entire road for $100,000 but received only half the work this year. Why is the government making Champagne-Aishihik First Nation compete for a project that they worked on last year and expected to continue this year, especially when they did us such a good job last year?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I repeat that there has been no change in policy on the rural roads program.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, those handlers - there is an extra one now; there are eight handlers up there. Their work is really cut out for them. Maybe they are all in for overtime cheques this summer, coaching the ministers on how to answer the questions.
Now, the official on the radio this morning said that there is no change in policy, they just approve projects that make sense. But that doesn't explain why the government is not using a Ross River contractor for work on the north Canol Road. It doesn't explain why residents were not informed about work on the Policeman's Point Road, nor does it explain why many rural roads that were in dire need of upgrading were denied funding. Can the minister explain why it no longer make sense to listen to the rural needs of Yukoners, nor to use local contractors to provide much needed jobs for rural Yukoners?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, for the third time, there has been no change in policy with the rural roads program.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We'll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with line-by-line debate.
Bill No. 2 - First Appropriation Act, 2000-01 - continued
Chair: We will continue with line-by-line debate on Economic Development, mineral and oil and gas resources.
Department of Economic Development - continued
Mineral and Oil and Gas Resources - continued
On Alaska Highway Pipeline Analysis - continued
Chair: The line is Alaska Highway pipeline analysis. Is there any further debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Chair. When we left this issue yesterday, the question was posed to the minister as to how this analysis qualifies as a capital expenditure. What we have is some $2.9 million in the capital side of the Economic Development portfolio that we cannot attribute in a large part to capital undertakings. A capital asset is a tangible asset, and these are reviews or assessment or kind of support programs. They are assembling information and reviewing detailed information. How do they qualify as a capital expenditure?
We had sort of the same situation surrounding the other initiative - the immigrant investor fund - Mr. Chair, where it was discovered that of the $19 million, $11 million of that was flowing to Northwestel as either a capital contribution or a gift to Northwestel. The debt servicing on that was being done through a line item in Government Services, and yet it was controlled by the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
So we have three different departments in the equation. I take the minister back to my original request as to how these expenditures qualify as a capital initiative. And is the government going to be reviewing what is defined currently as capital? Because we seem to be all over the wall in the various government departments. Some have reasons for qualifying under capital. Community and Transportation Services, if they paint a bridge, they qualify that as capital because they say it's only done every so many years, so it's capitalized; whereas, if you look at some of the other painting initiatives, they are not capitalized. You look at some of the initiatives under the capital of mineral and oil and gas resources. We're dealing with the Alaska Highway pipeline analysis; how does that qualify as a capital expenditure? It's an analysis; it's not a tangible asset.
So, is the government - this new Liberal way - going to change procedures and put a more definite way on defining capital and defining O&M costs?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I am pleased to rise and respond to the member's question. When we last left the debate, I had advised the member that yes, this government was prepared to look at - and was looking at - the very sort of issue the member raised. That is, what constitutes capital and what constitutes O&M expenditures? I raised that as a member of the opposition and I appreciate the member's comments, and I will again restate, as I have restated previously for the member opposite, that we will examine that issue and we will endeavour to ensure that the delineation is clear.
With respect to this specific line item, perhaps I could elaborate for the member opposite how this money was spent, and we may gain a greater understanding as to why the previous government labelled it capital. This money has been spent through the Commissioner's warrants and expenditures and so on - on legal and technical expertise, reviewing the materials associated with the Lysyk inquiry, previous legal opinions, previous environmental assessments. So, in the sense that it's intellectual property, I suppose, it might be an argument. I didn't say I agreed with it. I am searching for a reason why it may have been put that way, and I don't want to embark upon a lengthy debate with the member opposite as to what constitutes capital and what constitutes O&M.
I return to my original point, which I have made several times during our debate on Economic Development, and I am prepared to also make it in Finance. I know the Minister of Tourism has made it. We recognize and appreciate the concern of the member opposite. We have raised it ourselves as members of the opposition, and we will examine it as a government, certainly.
Mr. Jenkins: When can we look at a change in policy, and clear definitions coming out of this new Liberal government on defining capital and defining O&M? And will it be across all departments, or are we going to have specifics for various departments, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, we will certainly endeavour to standardize the procedure - or the delineation of capital versus O&M. Certainly, we would want a definition that applies across departments, and we would like to do that. That's an important point. I believe one of the other members has noted earlier that good food takes time. It takes time to accomplish everything we want to do. We will begin working on it, and I hope that we can start to reflect that in Liberal budgets that are tabled before the House.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on Alaska Highway pipeline analysis?
Alaska Highway Pipeline Analysis in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Capital Maintenance Faro Mine
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, this refers to the ongoing maintenance of the Faro mine site to keep it in its entirety so it could be sold as one lump sum, potentially, down the road. Just when is a decision going to be made? Because if you look at the futures on zinc and lead prices for the next foreseeable future, it doesn't look like anything is going to be happening.
There's also the environmental liability associated with the mine site and the tailings. Just where are we headed in that regard? I know the federal government plays an extremely big role in this matter and is ultimately responsible for the liability, but given that devolution is heading our way, given that we are one of three parties to this agreement, it's costing the Government of Yukon an ongoing $200,000 a year for the mine site alone.
When is a decision going to be made as to what we're going to do with the mine site? I know the lead agency is the federal government, but the Premier must have some information in that regard.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have not been apprised of any recent information, since taking office on May 6, in terms of the new communication from the federal government in this regard. I will indicate a detailed response to the member opposite by way of letter once the House has risen. If I am able to provide that information in a legislative return tomorrow, I will do that.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, those are the potential changes that may or may not have occurred. I am concerned also - we have been in this scenario for quite a number of years - about just how far into the future are we prepared to extend it? What are we doing about the environmental liability associated with the Faro mine?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is quite correct in that the federal government has a major role to play in this, certainly with respect to the environmental liability, and there have been discussions around that, as well.
There have been no new developments since this government took office. I appreciate that the member has suggested that there is an urgency and a time frame in which decisions must be made. I will advise the member in writing, either by legislative return or letter, of what the time frame is for decision making on this. I will get back to him on that and respond specifically to the questions the member opposite has just asked.
Chair: Is there any further debate on capital maintenance, Faro mine?
Capital Maintenance Faro Mine in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
On Infrastructure Support Programs: Yukon Industrial Support Policy
Infrastructure Support Programs: Yukon Industrial Support Policy in the amount of one dollar agreed to
On Infrastructure Support Programs: Energy Infrastructure Loans for Resource Development
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, this is a very good program. Unfortunately, to access it, it's quite difficult and time consuming. I just recently had a placer miner, who mines at the mouth of Hunker Creek, looking at accessing money through this program to extend three-phase power to his area. He ended up front-ending the money himself because of the problems associated with going through all of the hoops here.
Currently, the three-phase power is being extended, as I speak, from Bear Creek as far out as the mouth of Hunker, but to date the program is shut down. The crews are sitting there waiting. Why? He's gone through this program. He put his own money up front after he analyzed this program, because it would take too long to get okays and approvals. He came to the party and put up the necessary funds. They started the project. They got to within a very, very short distance of where he has his service entrance, and between this program in Economic Development - between the Minister of Community and Transportation Services and her portfolio - and somewhere else in this whole government organization, the project has come to a screaming halt. No one can find out why.
Is this the current business practice of this new Liberal government, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite raised this concern informally, and I took the opportunity this morning to speak with officials about the specific problem that the member has outlined. I can advise the member opposite that the supervising senior official for Yukon Energy in Dawson has spoken with the individual concerned. The Yukon Energy Corporation has encountered some unexpected difficulties with regard to this specific project. They are not of their doing; they are of other agencies but there are some problems that they have encountered. They have made substantial efforts to try and work with the individual and they are continuing to do so. As a concerned representative of his constituent, I appreciate the member's representations and I will advise him that I am also concerned as I appreciate efforts to represent our constituents and we will be following up on this and ensuring the matter is resolved as soon as practicable. We are making efforts.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, making efforts. Everyone has been making efforts for quite some time on this initiative.
Number one, this individual was looking at this program under Economic Development for basically assistance to extend the three-phase, because we're talking a considerable sum of money. We have basically 100 days in the operating season for placer mining. This individual put up the money necessary to make the extension and the service connection to his mining property, and it's right along the Klondike Highway at the mouth of Hunker. His tailing ponds are paralleling the Klondike Highway; he has got all his necessary permits in place; he has gone through all of the hoops and all of the appropriate agencies are there. The power line contractor is doing an excellent job. The individuals overseeing the project from Yukon Energy in Dawson are doing an excellent job, but somewhere along the line some agency of government has shut him down. We can't get an answer. Which agency of government shut this project down and why? When will the issue be resolved?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there are two sides to every story, as the member knows, and I appreciate that this individual has filed all the necessary applications and has invested a substantial sum of money. I am also certain, because the member just said it, that the member can appreciate that Yukon Energy officials are doing absolutely everything they can. The problem is with, as I understand it, two regulatory authorities, if you will, and that there is a problem not simply with an issue around Community and Transportation Services, but there is also a federal government issue. Yukon Energy officials are trying to resolve those; we have said we will assist however we can; we want to see the matter resolved; we are working on it. I also know that Yukon Energy officials have gone the extra mile with this individual, in terms of making adjustments to account for the fact that the constituent has done everything that they could have done. We are trying to resolve this matter; we are trying to resolve it very expeditiously. We all realize how short the summer mining season is and how important this power is.
The member advised me of this issue last night. I spoke with energy officials this morning, and I fully anticipate speaking with them later today to see how much progress we have made. We will resolve this matter as expeditiously as possible.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, well, the issue is a very, very important issue, and it brings home to roost how much government we have. We have layer, upon layer, upon layer of bureaucracy that is bringing projects to a screaming halt. It is probably the major reason why the economy of the Yukon today is where it is. Now, this was one of the last placer mining industry operations in Dawson, and the Klondike area is in dire condition. This individual is reasonably well-financed. He has gone and done everything by the book.
And Yukon Energy has gone and done everything by the book. Now these are not individuals who haven't built power lines before. They're extremely familiar with how power lines are constructed, where they are to be located, how many feet or metres off the centre line of the highway. They know full well their obligations from a safety standpoint, but I'd like to know from the Premier, Mr. Chair, which agency of government has shut down this operation, and what is it going to take to resolve it?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the issue, as I understand it, is not the expertise of the individuals involved who have put the power lines in place. The problem is that those individuals are dealing with new regulatory requirements from the federal government, and there was a minor question, as I understood it, from Community and Transportation Services.
And I would invite the member opposite - perhaps this would be the best way to resolve this, Mr. Chair. The member opposite and I are involved in House debate until 5:30 today. Perhaps I could ask that at 5:30 we meet with the Yukon Energy officials, and we can explain in detail to the member opposite the exact difficulties that we are trying to deal with and resolve, and see if we can't come to some date for speedy resolution. Beyond getting into a who-formulated-what regulation, which I do not have in front of me - I have had a conversation with energy officials, and they indicated to me in a cursory manner what the difficulty was and that they were working to resolve it. They are professionals. I respect that they are taking this Yukoner's concerns very seriously, and I would invite the member to join me in a meeting with them at 5:30 today to see if we can't resolve this. Perhaps that would be the most expeditious way of doing it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'll just take the Premier up on her offer; we'll see her at 5:30. But before we put this one to rest, there's still the issue of why Community and Transportation Services stopped this project, and I'm given to understand that it was Community and Transportation Services. There was another issue earlier on where the Water Board stepped in, and that one was resolved. The area that we're currently dealing with is an issue with the highways officials. Why can't we come to a resolution? This project has been at a standstill for some two weeks. Now, that's two weeks out of the mining season and it is just appalling. It has just been brought to my attention as to the severity of it. I was wondering why it had taken so long, because the project is extended out there; it has come to a screaming halt, and this individual is desperate to get power. He has gone out and purchased all electric motors - we're talking 100 horsepower electric pumps - we're talking about a good customer, Mr. Chair. He has abided by all the rules and everything, and the supply was supposed to be there; it's not. Community and Transportation Services, somewhere in their empire, have deemed fit to shut down the extension of this three-phasing of the line - an existing line, Mr. Chair - along the Klondike Highway. It's an existing right-of-way and it's an existing power line that was single-phased and it was upgraded to three-phase.
Now, to me, and to most who have some background or a little background in this field, it would be a simple exercise, but now this project has been shut down for some two weeks. I want to know why Community and Transportation Services has taken it upon themselves to do that. Why can't we have a speedier resolution than what we're having? I will take the Premier up on her offer to meet with officials at 5:30 p.m., but I'm looking for a resolution, a very quick one - a very definitive one - that will ensure that this individual will get his supply of electricity. Can the Premier assure the House that she'll pull out all the stops and we can get the electricity flowing to this individual in the next day or two?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would advise the member again that, as an MLA with responsibilities in this government, I have never forgotten and I will not forget that our first and foremost responsibility is to our constituents and to Yukoners.
I have said to the member opposite that the moment I learned of this, which was late yesterday evening, I had a meeting with officials this morning, and, in spite of the member's comments, it is not just Community and Transportation Services. And the negative comments about the hard-working public servants don't help us resolve these issues. There are two sides to every story, and I know that Yukon Energy officials have gone the extra mile and are working very hard to resolve this.
It's unfortunate that it has gone on for two weeks and that it didn't come to our attention immediately, either to the members opposite's or mine. I have said we will absolutely make best efforts to resolve this, and I think that actually meeting with the officials and finding out exactly what the problem is, rather than shrieking at me about it, would be the best method for resolving it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, no one's shrieking at the Premier. What I'm looking for is a speedy resolution of something that should be very simple and very much in the scope of the agencies of this government.
Now, the area that we're concerned with is a highway right-of-way. It's right at the mouth of Hunker Creek. There could be some potential mining claims there, but, at the end of the day, the mining industry is faced with more and more and more layers of bureaucracy, more layers of regulation, and it's becoming harder and harder to accomplish anything in the mining industry. That's probably one of the major reasons, Mr. Chair, why the mining industry is where it is today in the Yukon - an all-time low ever in the history of Yukon.
We only have to look to government regulations and government policies to see why this has happened.
Mr. Chair, we can look to the east, we can look to the west. The Northwest Territories and Alaska have tremendous mining activity, tremendous potential ongoing. Here we have very little. I'll take the minister up on her offer, meet with her at 5:30 p.m. and see if we can find out and get to the bottom of this, but I'd very much like to see a resolution and power supplied to this property within the next day or two. It's possible if instructions are given.
Infrastructure Support Programs: Energy Infrastructure Loans for Resource Development in the amount of one dollar agreed to
On Mining Environment Research Group
Mining Environment Research Group in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
Mineral and Oil and Gas Resources in the amount of $2,922,000 agreed to
On Trade and Investment
Chair: Is there any general debate?
On Trade and Investment Fund
Trade and Investment Fund in the amount of $750,000 agreed to
Trade and Investment in the amount of $750,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on recoveries? Are there any questions on transfer payments?
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Economic Development in the amount of $7,397,000 agreed to
Department of Economic Development agreed to
Department of Finance
Chair: Is there any general debate on the capital and O&M expenditures?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the Department of Finance is requesting under $3.8 million in O&M and $35,000 in capital for the current fiscal year. The operation and maintenance money being requested is 10 percent less than the forecast expenditure for last year. The decrease is the result of the previous year containing several one-time expenditures.
The department had been bearing the cost of Raghu Raghunathan's pre-retirement leave for some time. As some of you know, Mr. Raghunathan has retired. I am sure all members join me in wishing him well on his retirement. Certainly, we miss him in the Government of Yukon and his expertise. I am sad to see this particular expenditure cease.
The contribution of Raghu to the Yukon cannot be overstated, and his advice will be sorely missed. Other than that particular expenditure departments operations are unchanged from the previous year and the budget, too, is similar.
I will be pleased to entertain questions from the members opposite.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I have a few questions for the minister, and I would like to get the minister to maybe start with the hiring freeze that has been invoked into the public service. How long is it going to be, how much is saved, and why?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is referring to the staffing watch, and those questions are best directed to and should have been dealt with in the Public Service Commission debate. So, I would invite him to communicate with the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission on that question.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I thought it appropriate that while we do have the Premier, the minister of everything, on her feet, we could get an answer or even an allusion to an answer, and I would ask her to reconsider if she could just give me a general idea of how long and why it would be there.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, as I said, I am not the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. I will provide the member opposite with a written response to that question.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I accept that.
The other question I wanted to pursue with the minister was on distinguishing between O&M and capital, and I would appreciate just a written response on that, if I could. I know that it was answered in a previous debate, and I would just like it if you could do that for me. The minister is nodding her head and I'll take that as a confirmation.
I would also like to know at this point in time - I know that the minister has confirmed in this House that there is a $56.2-million surplus as of March 31, and I would like to know at this time how much has been lapsed.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The current financial picture of the Government of Yukon, since we have taken office - I would invite the member opposite to examine page S-2 of the supplementary budget, Supplementary Estimates No. 1. The estimated lapses at year-end for March 31, 2000, were, at that point in time, $14,000. The estimated revote of lapses is $13,000,000.
Mr. Keenan: I understand the pressure sometimes over there too, so I certainly know we're talking in the millions of dollars and not in the thousands. I would like to know if the minister feels that the current budget process is adequate in light of the devolution process, or does the minister have any other thoughts or ideas?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I appreciate where the member's coming from. The Government of Yukon is looking at taking on a great deal of responsibility with devolution and the transfer of the Northern Affairs program. In terms of accommodating the budget process - although government would be larger having taken on the Northern Affairs program role - I don't anticipate an actual change to the process at this point in time.
Mr. Keenan: This brings me to the question of the reprofiling, which I heard one of the ministers speak of in the House. I believe it was the Department of Tourism that was speaking of reprofiling, looking to sort out the differences between the O&M portion of the budget and the capital portion and maybe bringing them together. I would just like to know how widespread that is in government?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, this relates back to the earlier question asked about the distinction between O&M and capital, and asked by the member's colleague, the Member for Klondike.
There are two issues with respect to the discussion of capital. The first issue is what constitutes capital and what constitutes O&M, and the example that was just used was pipeline analysis. That's an O&M expenditure one would think, but it was on the capital side of the budget. There's also an issue around capitalization of assets, which also has a bearing on the financial picture of the government. This is something that I asked the then Government Leader about some years ago, because it's a recommendation of CCAA - it's an accounting recommendation - that other governments have followed.
So, it's something that we are considering. The Minister of Tourism has used the term "reprofiling". We are looking at, overall, in government two things: how do we accurately define capital; how do we accurately define O&M? We are working on that, and our time frame is within the Liberal budgets.
The second thing we are looking at is capitalization of assets, and that's something that is under discussion with the professionals in my department, as well as others outside of government, as to how we will deal with that issue.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you for clarifying that. It also doesn't quite answer the question I thought I had asked, so I'll just ask it again, if I could.
I understand the two objectives on the reprofiling. I guess my concern really - and I'll just lay it on the line here - is that the minister is not looking at restructuring government through this first initial step. So, reprofiling a department is not the first step to restructuring government and I see the minister shaking her head at this point in time, saying no, that is absolutely not the case. I'd very much like the minister to put that on the record.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, what I think the member really wants to ask me, if we're talking about laying it on the line - the Member for Riverdale North used to always stand up and ask during the Tourism debate if we were gong to move the Department of Tourism or if we were going to combine departments, or what we were doing. We have been speaking in this House strictly about how we account for expenditures. We have not been talking about an overall restructuring of government, so the answer, for the record, to the member opposite's question is, no.
Mr. Keenan:That is exactly what I was not talking about. I was not so much worried about the restructuring of government and gobbling up the Department of Tourism and Economic Development or anything like as such. I'll just lay it on the line again here, if I may. Restructuring government, reprofiling government - nasty people could use this process to single out people and move people out. I'm not trying to allude to or say that the government is nasty; it is just an opportunity when people could be moved and shuffled out of certain departments, and I just want to be assured that that is not going to be happening.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, no. This government has the utmost respect for the public servants who work for us. They have served all the governments, of every political stripe, ably and well, and we fully expect them to continue to be the professionals that they are and, likewise, we want to treat them with the respect they so richly deserve.
Mr. Jenkins:Before we leave that subject, it's interesting to note that there are still five positions to be backfilled - senior positions - and some of them are order-in-council appointments, so we'll be most interested in watching where the Liberal supporters are going to pop up in various corridors of government in the next little while. It should be an interesting exercise to watch.
Mr. Chair, I would like to get a few questions and get answers on the record, dealing with Kassandra.
Now, the Premier has stated that it's a complicated issue but, upon analysis, it's quite a simple little business plan whereby, at the end of the day, someone's going to benefit. Now, who that someone may or may not be is going to be determined by the courts. Currently, we have this gold mine in Greece called Kassandra that's making payments to a company called 123 Incorporated, or 123 Inc. To date, they have received $1 million upon the signing, back on September 30, 1999, and they have received three quarterly payments for a total of $1.75 million, and that's U.S. dollars, Mr. Chair. In Canadian funds, at a normal conversion rate - and I'm sure the government can do better - it's about $2.625 million. There are three parties that benefit from this agreement: one being the Government of the Yukon, one being the federal government and the other one being certain lienholders. They have received a payout from this payment that was made to 123 Inc. and each one of the three parties has received $84,000-odd, the total amount being $245,000. That leaves $2.38 million that has been paid out currently for legal costs and disbursements.
My question to the minister is - I'm sure she's been brought up to speed on this issue - does she believe the Yukon lienholders are receiving fair value for their money from the legal entities that are pursuing this cause? Are the solicitors being paid on a normal solicitor-client basis, and is anyone other than the three parties to this agreement going to be benefiting above and beyond what they would normally benefit in a solicitor-client bases or otherwise?
The stakeholders in this entity are anonymous. I think we all have a very good idea as to who they are and why they were appointed as shareholders. Is there any subsequent agreement between the Government of Yukon and the shareholders as to how any amounts flowing into that company - that corporation - will be disbursed? There are a number of questions there, Mr. Chair. We can probably start with those.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member is quite correct; this is a large file. I would like to start with the first question regarding the calculations that the member opposite has made. The member has said that $1.75 million U.S. has been paid out, re: Kassandra, to 123 Inc. by TVX. Another payment of $250,000 U.S. was received by 123 Inc. on June 30. The total payments to date are $2 million U.S. The current exchange rate of 1.4839 equals $2,967,800 Canadian. Legal costs to date regarding Kassandra total $1,352,881.42.
The situation regarding Kassandra is as follows - and these are all in Canadian funds: for all parties to the arrangement - lienholders, YTG and Canada - the receipts total $2,967,800. The Government of Yukon's share of that is 26.19 percent, or $777,267. Legal fees, subtracted from the $2,967,800 leaves $1,352,881.
The Government of Yukon's share - and the member will recall that they had received $777,267. The 26.19-percent share of the legal fees is $354,320. The net, therefore, to all parties, which is the $2 million plus, minus the $1 million plus in legal fees, is $1,614,919. The sum of $422,947 is 26.19 percent of that. The $80,000 that the member opposite referred to was initial cash advance received by each of the parties. Remaining monies are being held by 123 Inc. and the Government of Yukon's share of the initial cash advance was $84,658.91, and this amount was included in the $422,947 figure I mentioned earlier. If the member would like to repeat his questions about legal fees, I would be happy to answer them.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, are there any subsequent agreements between the shareholders of 123 Inc. and Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, not that I am aware of.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, so what we have is 123 Inc. It has a sole officer and director, and the shareholders are anonymous because they are protected by the Ontario act where this company is registered. Majority shareholders give directions to the sole officer and directors of any corporation. How are we controlling 123 Inc.? We are a party to the arrangement; there are three parties to the arrangements. There are lienholders, Canada and Yukon. How are we controlling this corporation?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: There is a satellite agreement between 123 Inc. and the parties as to how 123 Inc. will be directed.
Mr. Jenkins: That was my earlier question, Mr. Chair. Is there any agreement between 123 Inc. and government, or the three parties to this agreement? I was responded to in the negative, which was no. But now I'm told there's a satellite agreement.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Oh, it's not a satellite agreement; it's a subsequent agreement. Just where are we at? There are three parties that have set up 123 Inc.: Canada, Yukon and specific lien holders. Now, the shareholders in 123 Inc. are anonymous. We all have a very good idea as to who they are. There's one officer and there's one director of this corporation.
How is this corporation being controlled by the three parties that have a vested interest in it? Or may I suggest to the Premier that there are actually more than three parties with a vested interest in it?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: When the member first began this line of questioning, he asked if there were any subsequent agreements. There are no subsequent agreements. There is one satellite agreement between the three parties, and that satellite agreement directs 123 Inc.
Mr. Jenkins: How is that direction being provided? Who formulates the direction, and how is it delivered via the satellite agreement? Where are the decisions being made that control this company? This satellite agreement is a de facto remote board of directors. It's a remote board of directors, Mr. Chair. Where does that sit? Who constitutes that remote board of directors? And how are the decisions being provided to the main entity?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the three parties make agreements by consensus. This is on behalf of the Government of Yukon. It was dealt with through the Department of Finance and it will continue to be dealt with through the Department of Finance and I, as minister, will have the responsibility.
Mr. Jenkins: So, on behalf of Yukon, the Premier herself is making decisions with respect to how this company proceeds? Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I will be in future, in my role as Minister of Finance. That's correct.
Mr. Jenkins: Who is representing Canada in this initiative and who is representing the certain lienholders?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the lienholders are represented - the member opposite has said everybody knows who represents them - by Murray Leitch. The Finance officials do not have knowledge of who represents Canada.
Mr. Jenkins: That's interesting. Here we have three parties that get together and provide information to 123 Inc, and yet the Yukon is not aware of who represents Canada on this initiative. There has to be someone in that maze called the Government of Canada, who provides ongoing liaison with Yukon, so that there's a consistent flow. Who is that individual, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, Canada is represented by DIAND. They have a variety of individuals who have acted as their solicitor and the name is not immediately at our fingertips as to who is currently the solicitor on their behalf. They have a number of different solicitors, so that's as much information as I can provide to the member.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what the Premier is saying, Mr. Chair, is that Canada is represented by DIAND, which is subsequently represented by many and various solicitors on this initiative. Is that the case?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes.
Mr. Jenkins: And the claimholders are represented by Murray Leitch, who is also the sole officer and director of 123 Inc. Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes.
Mr. Jenkins: At the end of the day, Mr. Chair, what do we hope to accomplish and who's going to benefit from this court challenge?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, at a minimum, the Government of Yukon would like to recover the balance owing by Curragh, which is $3,323,185.35 and legal fees, which have been incurred to date to our account.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the next thing we'll hear is perhaps a suggestion that there's an all-party committee being struck from this House to go and visit the assets in Greece. I'd caution the Premier about undertaking that, because there'd probably be too much enthusiasm for such an initiative.
Mr. Chair, currently, there has been a decision rendered in this case and it could go to trial, but it looks as if we're negotiating a way out of this situation. Is the minister prepared to provide some information as to how far along we are in the negotiations; whether they're going to come to fruition or whether we're going to end up in court again?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I do not want to speculate on that. The member opposite has talked about negotiations and the member knows that we do not negotiate on the floor of the House, and I don't want to speculate on the member's line of questioning.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Chair. All I was asking the Premier is how far along we are in the negotiations. Have we just begun? Have we been negotiating for a month or a week? How long have we been negotiating?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, my understanding is that they're very preliminary. I would advise the member that the Government of the Yukon is always working toward settlement.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I just hope the minister is a lot more fruitful in this undertaking than she is with the land claims situation, or a lot of the other initiatives that she's currently negotiating.
I'll be leaving this at this juncture. I have a lot more questions on this undertaking, but it's somewhat premature at this point to bring them forth. We'll leave it to the fall, Mr. Chair, and I will clear general debate.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I just want to advise the member opposite that the representative for Department of Indian and Northern Affairs and Northern Development in this matter, in response to an earlier question, is Robert Lauer and their solicitor firm is Me?.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on the Department of Finance? We will go through programs then.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Administration in the amount of $323,000 agreed to
On Financial Operations and Revenue Services
Financial Operations and Revenue Services in the amount of $1,739,000 agreed to
On Fiscal Relations and Management Board Secretariat
Fiscal Relations and Management Board Secretariat in the amount of $1,083,000 agreed to
On Banking Services
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, just on the banking contract, it appears that we are benefiting quite substantially from our current banking arrangements with one of the majors. How much longer do we have to go on the current contract?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I just signed that. It is for another four years.
Banking Services in the amount of $60,000 agreed to
On Public Utilities Income Tax Transfer
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, this is the income tax transfer from Yukon Electrical back to Government of Yukon. Are the feds a part of it?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I am advised that the federal government dropped their program. This is an estimate of the tax they pay to Yukon only.
Public Utilities Income Tax Transfer in the amount of $218,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments? Are there any questions on the statistics?
Treasury in the amount of $3,423,000 agreed to
On Workers Compensation Supplementary Benefits
Chair: Is there any general debate?
On Supplementary Pensions
Supplementary Pensions in the amount of $382,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments?
Workers Compensation Supplementary Benefits in the amount of $382,000 agreed to
On Bad Debts Expense
Chair: Are there any questions?
On Allowance for Bad Debts
Allowance for Bad Debts in the amount of $74,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on allotments?
Bad Debts Expense in the amount of $74,000 agreed to
On Prior Period Adjustments
Chair: Is there any debate?
Are there any questions on allotments?
Prior Period Adjustments in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the recoveries and revenues?
Are there any questions on the transfer payments?
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Finance in the amount of $3,879,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $35,000 agreed to
Treasury in the amount of $35,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Finance in the amount of $35,000 agreed to
Department of Finance agreed to
Loan Capital and Loan Amortization
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the expenditures in this vote are standardized and appear in our estimates every year. The loan capital expenditure of $5 million is the outside limit of the potential loans we may make to municipalities for the year.
In most years, these loan requests have not come anywhere close to the $5 million we vote. For instance, in the 1999-2000 fiscal year, only $1,360,000 was lent.
The recovery of $5 million is there simply to indicate that the loans are a receivable on our balance sheet, and not a charge to our surplus.
The loan amortization expenditure is the amount required by us to repay loans to third parties that we have taken out to re-loan to municipalities. We have not borrowed any money for this purpose for a number of years, instead choosing to finance municipal loans ourselves.
Page 17-3, shows the balance left to pay on old loans. The loan amortization recovery reflects the payments we receive from municipalities on outstanding loans we have made to them. The figure is less than the expenditure, because we have financed all recent loans from our own reserves, as I have mentioned.
Loan Capital and Loan Amortization in the amount of $2,470,000 agreed to
Department of Health and Social Services
Chair: Is there any general debate on Health and Social Services?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I rise to introduce the operation and maintenance and capital budgets for the Department of Health and Social Services.
It is no secret that health and social service costs continue to rise throughout the country. Just recently, in the paper we have right here, they are talking about the frustration of people going into the health profession. I think that tells you where we're at today. We have a challenge ahead of us, trying to maintain and develop services and programs that are aimed at improving the health and social well-being of all citizens in the Yukon. There are no instant solutions, but there are ways and means of resolving the issues we face. In the months ahead, we will be exploring options to deal with these challenges, and we will need the help of all Yukoners. We want to work as a team with communities, agencies, organizations and individuals to build a health and social network that meets the needs of all our residents.
For the fiscal year 2000-01, the department is projecting a one-percent increase in O&M funding for an overall budget of $115,184,000. Department initiatives include the provision of stable, ongoing funding in the amount of $30,000 for the food for learning program, and a commitment of $60,000 for the kids recreation fund.
These programs will now receive base funding, allowing them to continue assisting our children.
There has been $100,000 identified for further consultation with Yukoners on health and social issues. I will be meeting - actually I have met - with the chair of the health summit review to review the comments and concerns arising from the forum. I believe that health care is the responsibility of all Yukoners. It doesn't just belong with the government; it belongs with physicians, health care professionals and citizens.
We must look at moving toward health promotion, disease prevention, community-based care and active living. An additional $150,000 will be added to the healthy families initiative, as the program will continue to be developed in the 2000-01 fiscal year. We recognize that early intervention and care are the best way to ensure a brighter future for our children.
Social services will see an increase of $200,000 in their social assistance budget. The Yukon Liberals believe in providing incentives that will assist Yukon families to work their way back to self-sufficiency. An additional $30,000 will be provided to the City of Whitehorse to increase the funding for the Handy Bus contract. The funding will assist in providing extended services for the Handy Bus.
The Yukon Hospital Corporation will receive $400,000 for the operation and maintenance cost of the CT scan. The purchase of a CT scan will greatly enhance an accurate and timely diagnosis for patients in the Yukon, and support the medical community. It is essential that we look for way of attracting and retaining our health care professionals. We need to ensure that our physicians and nurses receive the support of their communities. We will need to be creative in finding solutions in recruiting and retaining our professional staff.
Scheduled medical travel will receive an increase of $200,000, and ambulance services will increase by $100,000. Enhancements from the Canada health and social transfer have allowed the department to provide increased funding to a number of programs such as the adult day program, home care, mental health, and hearing services.
The capital budget for the Department of Health and Social Services for the 2000-01 fiscal year is $10,195,00 - a 45-percent increase from the previous year.
This large increase is due to the start of the construction of a long-term care facility. $7.9 million has been allocated for construction this year. An additional $80,000 will go toward renovations and equipping the Thomson Centre.
At this time, I would like to say that the government is committed to the construction of a 96-bed continuing care facility. This building will provide support to those Yukoners needing a permanent care, residential care service. The new facility will also provide enhanced respite services for many clients and caregivers.
The Whitehorse Hospital Corporation will receive $1 million, as I mentioned earlier, to purchase a CT scanner. Health services will receive $280,000 for support and replacement of equipment in their various programs, such as chronic disease, extended health benefits, hearing services, Whitehorse Health Centre and community nursing.
Family and children's services will receive $220,000 toward renovations and equipment to group homes, the young offenders facility and the startup and the enhancement grants to childcare centres, family and day centres. $200,000 will go toward updating and replacing systems and computers, office furniture and operational equipment.
The Department of Health and Social Services will be facing many challenges in the months ahead. Health and Social Service costs continue to increase. Factors contributing to these increases are new and expensive technology, increased usage of new and expensive drug therapies, medical travel costs, an aging population, rural and urban service demands, youth and adults in more costly group homes and increased societal problems.
These are but some of the issues that my department will be confronting. With input from Yukoners, we will strive to provide the best and most appropriate health and social services possible.
Mr. McRobb:It gives me pleasure to rise today on behalf of the Member for Faro, who is the critic for this department, and question the minister on the expenditures of this very important department. I would also like to say that we, on this side of the House, certainly recognize the hard work, dedication and expertise shown by people in the Department of Health and Social Services and those in the corporations, like Whitehorse General Hospital, the nurses in the communities and Whitehorse, and so on.
I do have a few questions on a variety of issues that I would like the minister to address. In order to expedite the business of the House, I will try to raise them in general debate so that we can move through the line-by-line fairly quickly.
First, on the drug and alcohol commission, this was a big Liberal campaign promise. It was a little short on the facts, however, except that the minister asked the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission to help get this started. Can the minister explain where the funding for that advice appears?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The response to that question is that it doesn't appear on a line item because it is relatively inexpensive for us at this point. It will appear under the drug and alcohol mandate line. We are looking at the fact that the people who are coming up here, Mr. Chair, are coming for a very inexpensive review. They are not charging the big bucks that we are sometimes faced with from big consulting firms. They are just asking for basic operations, such as their hotel and living accommodations while they are here, and some possible out-of-pocket money if we have to pay salary by the time - we're not sure about that part of it. Basically, it's very inexpensive, probably in the range of $15,000 in total.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, it looks like we have - we're seeing more and more how the Liberals address their priorities. The drug and alcohol commission review is rather inexpensive. The review of the Yukon Liquor Act is inexpensive. But when it comes to political patronage and rewarding their friends, that's when they really dole out the money.
I'd like to continue by asking the minister how he sees administration for this independent commission working.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, one of our concerns, of course, is that we are not sure how this is going to operate. That's why we have asked the Alberta group to come up here and give us some advice, look at our program, reflect on where we're at and tell us all the positive things that we're doing with our program, and then suggest how we can move what we're doing in a positive way under the umbrella of a commission. That's the whole objective here - to bring in a very successful commission at this point to provide us with some advice.
We're not sure what that advice is going to be. I mean, this is our goal. If it doesn't work, then we're going to have to go back to, not square one but maybe square three, because we will have learned something from that process as well.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm sure the Liberal government will have lots to learn from various processes, and we expect to see some results in the very near future. As usual, everything's under review. They don't have any answers yet. It has already been three months and I would say quite a few Yukoners are becoming impatient with the lack of progress so far.
Can the minister tell us what kind of model he's thinking of? Will this be a Crown agency like the Yukon Development Corporation or something more like the Workers' Compensation Board?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: That is one of our concerns. We definitely want to do it right, and we want to do it right because we believe in 10-year plans, and so that's why we are taking time to do this.
There are also labour relations situations that we have to be very cognizant of. We do have employees who work very hard on their current mandate, so it's important that we include all aspects of what we are doing under drug and alcohol to ensure that we are going in the right direction. So we don't have the answers at this point. To be hypothetical at this point about what might happen - I don't have a vision at this point as to what I see happening. Yes, we have many models. These models are reflective of the various groups they represent - be it the hospital board or the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board. They are different and they respond to the needs that they have to address. So that's why we want some expertise to find out where we should go.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister stands there and tells us he wants to do it right. Last week, he stood there and told members in this Legislature that they want to do consultation right - not like the previous government, not like the NDP. The Liberals want to do it all right. He then declared that they have done more consultation in two months than the previous government did in four years, Mr. Chair. How ridiculous.
Now, earlier this week, we heard the Education minister reveal that he consulted only some of his Cabinet colleagues in appointing the former Liberal leader. That's not doing it right. That's not properly consulting, and when the minister stands there and tells us he wants to do it right, well, I don't think he has very much credibility with us on this side of the House, nor Yukoners, because they are wise to this government already.
They say one thing and they do another. Now, I would like to ask the minister if he has any idea at all or any vision on how this model will be governed. Will it have a regulatory role or a licensing role? Can he give us some information on how it will operate?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I guess that is one of the real concerns that we have. We currently have a model in place for alcohol and drugs. We know that it does respond to a certain segment of our population. We have some government employees who work very hard at making sure that what they are doing is successful. We definitely want to get out there and talk to all of the stakeholders. We want to talk to First Nations. Personally, I have talked to some of the First Nation people already who are looking at the direction that they want to go in with drugs and alcohol. We don't want a two-and-a-half-year or three-and-a-half-year plan, because we know what happens there. We want a long-range plan, and we are going to need the cooperation of all our stakeholders in order to make sure it works, because you have to make a plan that is flexible, a plan that can change with time and change with new technology and new ideas. So, that's the reason for bringing in a group with expertise in this area. We want to find out from the Alberta system why their system works so well. Can we apply that system here? So, we are hoping that we will have some good ideas after they have come and had a lot of discussion with the various stakeholders, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm not sure if the minister answered the question.
Earlier today, I referred to the half dozen or so handlers up in the gallery and how they're going to be working overtime this summer, helping to teach the minister to answer questions. But I'm not sure about that; maybe I had it wrong, Mr. Chair. Maybe they have been successful in teaching the ministers not to answer the questions. Maybe that was the objective.
I see the minister nodding his head, laughing over there. Obviously, we can agree on that one point. Now, Mr. Chair, the minister told us that he has good people in the department. We don't take issue with that; we know there are good people in the department. He said there are stakeholders with good ideas. Well, we don't argue with that, Mr. Chair. We know the stakeholders and members of the public have good ideas. This Liberal government had better hope they have ideas, because the government doesn't have any ideas of its own. That's clear from the answers we're getting on this and previous discussions.
They're bankrupt when it comes to a vision. You know, they hire this Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission to come up here to help them get started. Everything's up in the air. They don't have a vision of their own.
Now, I know the minister can stand on his feet and probably talk for hours about how they have a vision, they want to do it right, they've done more in two months than the previous government did in four years, and he can go on and on. But, Mr. Chair, when we look at the substance, it's not difficult to determine that there's very little substance to what the government is saying. Now, I asked the question on the regulatory or licensing role. Could the minister address that specific issue, as well as informing us what reporting lines he expects this to have - what lines there are to report to the government?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Thank you for the question, Mr. Chair. My problem at this point is knowing the difference between what is licensing versus what is regulatory. Maybe he could expand on that a little more.
Currently, we have models in our government that have different set-ups. For example, the Women's Directorate is set up as a directorate. We're currently working on a youth directorate or, at least, some form of that. Maybe it won't turn out to be that because, once again, we're consulting and ensuring that the stakeholders are involved in arriving at some final decisions.
What we would really like to do is ensure that we don't rush into things. I know the word "consult", "review", whatever, is kind of a bad word for the opposition, but unfortunately it's a word that's necessary, Mr. Chair, because it's important that we do it right. That's the reason why we get into problems when we rush off and do our thing and we have forgotten about the very people we're trying to serve.
When I went door to door, Mr. Chair, I heard from some of my constituents who were AA people, and they were very concerned about what happened over the last term. I think part of the problem there is that they weren't involved in the process. They want to be involved somewhere. That's the objective. To say that we're going to end up with this type of approach or that type of approach at this time, I could not prejudge that. That would be like saying I have all the answers, and I don't, Mr. Chair.
Who that group or body, or whatever it will be, will be answerable to, I would suggest it would be answerable to the legislators, whether that's the minister directly or whether that's Cabinet or whether that's caucus or whatever, but obviously there has to be an accountability. That's one of our main strengths as a party. We believe in accountability and we want to be accountable for anything that we set up, anything that we are organizing, anything that has something to do with taxpayers' dollars, because that's what we're here for, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I'd argue that we're here to hold them accountable for their actions and their vision. So far, we see very little action; we see no vision, and I'm trying to hold the minister accountable for progress they're doing in this area and it's very hard to nail them down when it comes to establishing just what shape this beast is going to take.
Rather than spin out on these issues, I would appreciate some more information. The minister knows what the questions were and he knows that we weren't given very much in response, but I would like to move on.
Does he plan to dedicate Yukon Liquor Corporation revenues to this purpose and, if not, how will it be funded, how much per year? Does he have any idea about this at all?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I don't think that's a question I can answer. I'm not the minister responsible for the Liquor Corporation, and if it's a direction or a change in policy, then that would be something that caucus and Cabinet and government would have to respond to.
Mr. McRobb: Well, what happened to the group hug?. I thought the four-letter word over there was "team".
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: "Team of what?" the Member for Klondike says - exactly.
Mr. Chair, this issue crosses departmental lines. It's something the Liberals raised in opposition, and it's something that is a question the minister should be able to answer rather than hide behind the restrictions of his department over another, because on any other given day, he will stand up and tell us that they all work together as a team. It's a big, group hug.
Now, I know the Member for Riverdale South was just over advising him on how he should respond to this. She was the former critic of the Yukon Liquor Corporation so I'd like to hear her answer through his mouth if we could.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: My understanding is that this is a discussion of the Health budget. I'll respond if there was a question there. I'm not sure what the question was.
But just to reinforce the fact that all revenues, from whatever department, go into general revenue, and then it's up to the government of the day to make those decisions as to where that money goes. Just a bit of advisement here - you end up with the fact that we spend far more money in Health and Social Services than we take in from the alcohol profits. I think it's important to recognize that that would be a small part of our process of trying to recover any of the problems that we have created through the other aspect of government.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister didn't tell me anything I didn't already know. I realize that more money is spent on alcohol and drug rehabilitation than the revenues through the Liquor Corporation; however, this would be a very symbolic move. It would also send a signal that money from the cause is being directed toward the cure, and it's something the Liberals argued for in opposition and now they're changing their minds. You know, our answer wasn't good enough for them then, but it is now. It's amazing what a difference three months makes; the answers have changed completely.
Now, can the minister tell us if there will be any money in the fall supplementary budget for this commission?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I guess, Mr. Chair, it's always the problem of trying to resolve issues that the opposition had three and a half years to resolve, and did not. And we are faced with hopefully trying to recover and build on what we already have in place, so the real question of trying to look at hypothetical situations is very presumptuous. We can't go that way, because we have to look at what the reality is.
Monies will not be in the fall budget because we - as I have mentioned earlier - have been able to fund the operation, if you want to call it that, or the review, if you want to call it that - I hate to use that word because it's almost becoming a four-letter word. The interesting part about that is that, in order to know where we're at, we have to have a review. We have to have it done by expertise that we don't necessarily have when it comes to the commission. If we go the drug commission route then we are going to have it from the experts. If we don't go the drug commission route, and go some other route, at least we have gone that direction to find out where the pros and cons are. So the short answer is: no money in the fall supplementary budget as far as drugs and alcohol. When the commission will be set up - if that's your next question - again, we need to have a thorough analysis of where we are at before we can move on, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Order please. I'd just remind members to refer their remarks through the Chair. That wasn't my question. I didn't ask it. It's always through the members.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'd like to move on now to FAS/FAE.
As the minister knows, the previous NDP government hired an FAS coordinator and increased funding for the Child Development Centre for kids at risk. We also introduced an act to make FAS a reportable disease.
Now, I'd like to ask the minister what new school-based programs for FAS/FAE kids should we be looking for in this budget?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, yes, the Liberal government is very much concerned about FAS and FAE. That's been a long-term concern right from the beginning of time, I think, for the Liberals, and we're very pleased to be able to respond to it.
There are initiatives in the budget for building on that. We actually have in place now a reporting process, whereby doctors can actually initially report a concern and then we can move from there. There are some other initiatives, like the healthy families initiative, that is also building on the strengths of families and trying to provide support for those kinds of things.
The actual plan as far as education, that probably is something that should be addressed through the Education minister, but we'll be working very closely together, because we are interrelated, whether we like it or not. We basically want to have a one-window approach toward support and delivery of programs to Yukoners and we definitely want to do it right. To deny there is a problem, as the former government did, wasn't the way to go. Like I said, it took them three years to find out there was a problem and to admit it. At least we're admitting it right from the beginning and hopefully are going to do something about it.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, the minister is right about one thing: the departments are interrelated. He is a member of Cabinet, as is the Minister of Education. He sits with him at the Cabinet table and, yes, they can discuss these types of issues, just like he can discuss with the minister responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corporation how the commission is going to be funded.
Now, I am not the regular Health critic, but the names of those new programs he mentioned seemed awfully familiar to me. Are they programs that I have read in pamphlets for previous NDP budgets, or are they new Liberal programs coming down the pipe?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, we always give credit where it's due. I wouldn't want to take the full credit for these programs. The point is that they were good ideas, they were begun with the right intention. My concern is that they began a little late, sort of in the last year of the last government's mandate, rather than at the beginning of their mandate, and we are very pleased to be able to take off from those initiatives, and we are going to improve on them.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, it's interesting. Things aren't advancing quick enough for the minister, and I noticed that he deviated from his opening speech to refer to tonight's Yukon News. Perhaps he didn't flip enough pages to get to the editorial to discover the criticism from the editor about how slow they are making progress on dialysis, but that's a question yet to come, and I would like to stay with FAS/FAE for the moment and ask him who is designing these new Liberal programs?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, as I've shared earlier, there are a number of initiatives in place for FAS/FAE, and I could list them all off if you want: the summer day camp, Child Development Centre programming, the Mountainridge residence, the Balsalm residents, the special needs child care, respite care, child care support, FAS family support worker, healthy family program, child abuse treatment services, psychological assessment, youth achievement centre, wilderness camps, fetal syndromes and planning model, the ACE treatment program, the FAS education kit, For baby's sake, don't drink, alcohol and unborn baby addictions, family violence and substance abuse, FAS working group, no safe dose of alcohol - so we have in place a number of programs.
But we don't stop there, Mr. Chair. We continue to build on the good work that has been done already. That's really what we're all about; we provide the support that is needed where the requests are. I know the FAS and FAE support groups are very anxious to sit down and look at the long term. They're looking at adult support, they're looking at long-term support, and I know, as a government, we are very interested in doing this as well, because we know that if we address these problems early, Mr. Chair, we end up having a better Yukon and we have a better way of dealing with all aspects of Yukoners' needs.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I'd like to reflect back on the minister's comments that the previous government did some things right and that the Liberal government is continuing all of these previous NDP programs.
I wonder how the minister can reconcile all that good work - based on good consultation with Yukoners - with his remarks that we didn't consult properly, that the Liberals already have done more consultation in two months than the previous government did in four years, how the Liberals are going to do it right when it comes to consulting - they're going to consult with everybody, Mr. Chair. I'm not asking him today, because I know that we won't get an answer today. But the day of reckoning will come at some point in this mandate, and he'll have to explain why he didn't do it right, why they didn't consult properly, why the programs are a failure and they're not as good as the ones that they had on the table when they came to government, how each successive budget of this government is inferior to the budget we're discussing today; which they've had handed to them , and that's a discussion for another day. So we have in place a number of programs.
Back to FAS/FAE. Can the minister indicate if funding is secure for all existing and new programs?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I think the fact that we delayed this Legislature for so long and the uncertainty that has been created because of the funding aspect of it - as far as we are concerned - is why we wanted this budget to get through, so people knew that there was certainty.
For all those programs that are currently listed, there is funding certainty. That has not changed. We're going to, over the next few years, add to the process. We want to do a better job. We want to really make sure that we are inclusive of all aspects of Yukon society.
Mr. McRobb: How do you get an answer out of that? The Liberals advocated - that's a nice word to use; advocated - for increased funding for these programs before they came into office. Can the minister indicate for us here today when we will be seeing the increased funding they advocated so many times for?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I thought I maybe gave that answer in my last response. We don't believe in doing everything in the last year of our mandate. We're doing everything right from the beginning. We're being open, we're being accountable, and we are definitely going to be looking at this whole issue of FAS/FAE.
In my job as an educator for 32 years, basically I came in contact with this day after day and I believe that we, as a team, will do the job that is needed. We have a good start and I'm giving credit for that, but we don't stop there. We have to continue. We're going to build on it and over the next three and a half or four years we're going to see more funds put into this area.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister says the Liberals don't believe in doing anything in their fourth year. We have discovered they don't believe in doing anything in their first year. Obviously, the term is like a Liberal sandwich - light and fluffy on the outside, and whether or not there's any meat on the inside, I guess we'll have to wait another couple of years to find out. But based on what we can see at this point, it's not very likely that there will be too much substance.
Now, I would like to switch, as indicated, to the kidney dialysis machine. The minister said he's going to bring in the kidney dialysis machine. He raised the expectations of Yukoners, including my constituents. He was trying to call them up while they were in medical care in Vancouver. He was going down, glad-handing with the fundraising organizers and the Carcross Road, saying all kinds of wonderful things, Mr. Chair, and we would like to know what he's going to do about it.
Members of the public, as mentioned, are already taking up collections to help pay for it. The minister knows the previous NDP government helped to fund the mammography unit and we provided both capital and O&M in this budget for the CT scanning unit.
Now, I'd like to deal with the CT scanning unit first. Can the minister confirm that the ongoing operation and maintenance costs for this unit will be covered in future budgets?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, as we indicated earlier, we are in full agreement with this budget, mainly because of the certainty that we want to make sure of, and it's what Yukoners want.
One of the items in there, as the member opposite has mentioned, is a CT scanner. We are supportive of a CT scanner. But we have asked the hospital to provide us with a number of responses to questions we have posed to them. We wanted to know a variety of things about the long term, the life of it, the cost of it, the operational cost of it, the training of the professionals who are going to be needed in order to make sure that this is an ongoing support, and that's where we're at at this point. We're in the process of making sure that all the t's have been crossed and all the i's have been dotted.
It's a huge sum of territorial money. It's a huge sum that we're going to have to be spending annually, and we want to make sure that all those things are in place before we move ahead with it.
It will be in the hands of - again, that's another reason why we wanted this budget to pass quickly, so that they could get on with the job. All these things take certainty and until the House passes the budget, there is uncertainty.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, what a bunch of bunk. I have been advised that about two-thirds of the budget has already been spent and, you know, that excuse by the Liberals just doesn't hold water. I know they like to use it on people in the communities and in town here who don't quite have the grasp that we do on this side of the House about how this budget works, and they might fall for it.
You know, there's pressure from the minister on the phone saying, "Well, you know, we can't give you the money, because that darned old NDP is holding us up in the Legislature debating a budget they created, and they're just trying to cause trouble and they're not being constructive." We know the side opposite is saying that. We are hearing it back; we are getting the feedback from Yukoners and there's no truth to those lines at all.
Two-thirds of the budget has been spent. They know they have the means to free up the capital any time they want, and that goes for the Health budget, it goes for the community development fund announcement earlier this week and for rural roads. The money is there.
Now, Mr. Chair, that dialysis machine is very important to many Yukoners. The incidence of kidney failure is increasing, especially among the senior population. And we all know. Mr. Chair, there's an increasing trend of seniors in the Yukon. Older people aren't moving out; they're staying. In addition, more older people are moving to the territory. It's going to require some vision by this Liberal government to acknowledge these facts. They're already spending half the cost of a dialysis machine here in sending people outside for treatment.
Now, the minister hasn't indicated whether they've explored the feasibility of expanding the potential of the treatment to include neighbouring jurisdictions. Instead, he just points a finger that they're still looking at it. Well, Mr. Chair, a month ago in this Legislature, they said they had all the information they needed to make a decision.
Now, when is the minister going to make a decision on this matter?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, it is always interesting to listen to the opposition about how simple things are. You just throw money at it and it's done; it's magic.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: That's right. Mr. Chair, I definitely agree - they were there for four years and they didn't buy a dialysis. I don't know why. You know, basically they had all the money. They say there is $60 million when really there is only $14 million, so the money was there but they didn't make that decision.
The question of buying or moving into technology or moving into any kind of health care initiatives, using a knee-jerk reaction, has to come to an end. We cannot do a knee-jerk reaction to everything that is out there. We cannot afford it. So, that is why it is not a simple task and the former government opposite should know that. They were there, but maybe their way of resolving the problem was just to throw a couple million at it and the problem was solved, not looking at the realities of what you have to give up in order to do that.
It is very important that you base decisions on scientific, good, solid, concrete information. You do that by connecting with your professionals, you do that by connecting with your specialists who are not here in the Yukon, and you do that by being honest with Yukoners about the real costs. You don't inflame their views and ride the horse when you are not here to make that decision. The important part here is that you have to make decisions that are proper and right for the right reasons. To do it on the basis of ensuring that we have everything, because they have it in St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, would be completely irresponsible.
We're not St. Paul's Hospital. You have to balance the cost. You have to balance the technology. You have to balance the training of our resource people. I have shared with you time and time again, in this paper - the one that the member opposite is holding up - there is an article about the fact that people are not going into the health care services because of the frustrations. We cannot put things in place and then find out a week down the road or a month down the road we have nobody to operate it. You have to have an economy of scale. One person; two people; 20 people - all these things have to be taken into consideration as to the needs you have. It's very important that you don't rush into these things. You do it right, because we know it's going to be there a long time. That's where we're at. We want to make sure we do it right.
Mr. McRobb: I am very, very, very troubled by what the minister said in response. I'm not going to belabour this issue and spend any more time on this, because I think he said it all in his response.
In saying it, it's obvious he has relegated himself to the role of a bean counter in the department. No offence to the people in the department, but that's what the minister's coming across as - a bean counter in the department, caring more about adding up the numbers than he does about carrying out the will of the people through the political level of government, as he was elected to do. Talk about a dereliction of duty. The minister ought to be ashamed of himself that he is not acting responsibly and carrying that will through the government. Instead, he wants to sit there and talk about the numbers. Another excuse not to take action.
Now, it didn't take them long to find the $125,000 for the former Liberal leader. You know, that decision was made overnight. Here we have a decision a month ago - I can point to the Hansard, I think it was June 7. The minister said he had all the information. Cabinet has all it needs to make the decision and do the right thing. What is today, July 12?
Mr. Chair, it's disappointing to discover now that the Liberal Cabinet ministers were in there deciding how they're going to appoint their former leader rather than spend the energy on their proper priorities - obviously they weren't theirs - of issues like the dialysis machine to keep Yukoners at home.
But, Mr. Chair, as I indicated at the outset, I'm not going to pursue this any further. We do want to expedite the business of the House, get through this department and wrap up tomorrow, consistent with the House leaders' agreement.
Can the minister tell us, back to the CT scan: has the scan been ordered and can he tell us when it will arrive at the Whitehorse General Hospital?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, that is one of the reasons why we have to provide time. When you're going into major investments, regardless of what they are, we have to make sure we do it right. As we all know, we're a northern community and we don't have access, as people in Vancouver would have, to the instant support that they would probably get if they went to St. Paul's or any major hospital.
The Whitehorse General Hospital has established a committee to develop criteria and protocols for the implementation of the CT scan program. This committee will make purchasing recommendations based on those criteria and protocols.
If we're spending a million dollars of taxpayers' money, we want to make sure, Mr. Chair, that we do it right. Of course, the other point is that the Whitehorse General Hospital is in the process of completing training of one of their staff as a technician. The course work has been completed; however, the individual must still write the exams and finish the internship. Now, this takes time, and this has been going on probably since the initial announcement back six months or a year ago. It's not something that can be done instantly.
I want to take this time to also support people out there in the communities who do what is right. They want to make sure that we have a good health care system and we invite them to be part of the solution.
We support them in what they do, and we appreciate what they do. To set it up like it's "we" and "they", that's not the way it is; it's "us". Because health care is something that we all have to respond to. I'm responsible for my own health; we are all responsible for our own health, Mr. Chair. It's important that we get that message across, that we appreciate what Yukoners are doing to maintain their health and to make sure that we have a good health system.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, let's hope we still have a good health system at the end of this Liberal term in office.
I'd like to move on to the matter of nurse and nurse-practioner recruitment. The minister will know the previous government took a number of steps to recruit and retain health care professionals, and to make sure the particular needs of rural Yukon were met in the face of the recognized nursing shortage across Canada. Will the minister be making any changes in these recruitment and retention programs and, if so, what are they, what's the cost and where does it show up in the budget?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I thank you for that observation and that question; it's a very good one. It's one that has come up time and time again.
Chair: Order please. Mr. Roberts, I'd ask you to refer your remarks through the Chair.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Sorry, Mr. Chair. I think the important part with that observation, Mr. Chair, is that it's necessary for all Yukoners to be involved. It's also necessary that we look at ways and means of retaining our health professionals. The difficulty we have is that we're competing with - not just Canada, Mr. Chair - we're competing with North America. So it's important that we look at all kinds of initiatives that are going to help bring health professionals to the Yukon.
Mr. Chair, we will do that by a variety of means. Right now, we see what the Northwest Territories is doing. They've got big advertisements in The Globe and in the National to bring health professionals to the Northwest Territories.
We have to move ahead in that area as well. We'll have to move ahead of it on the Web site. We already have a Web site that we have received a number of hits on already. People outside are interested in it. The important part is that that is going to be an ongoing program. We have not put anything in our current budget because we are going with the budget of the last government and, probably in the future, we will see some type of line item for this because it's going to take big dollars. When you put advertisements in the national magazines or national papers, those are big dollars, and currently we have no dollars in there, but we will be using what's already in there, as far as the public relations process.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, well, I can't believe it. You know, it's rather revealing to be on this side of the House and listen to these answers from this government. It's becoming apparent that their strategy over there is to defer anything that costs money out of the first year and to instead go out and consult on it, even though these issues might have been high-priority matters during the election campaign, high-priority matters during their platform. Now they want to go consult.
Mr. Chair, recruiting nurse practitioners and nurses is something that Yukoners want to do. They were elected on including that in their platform. Why do they need to go and involve others and talk about it and only delay putting the money down toward this? It doesn't seem to make sense.
Now, the Public Service Commission minister set a precedent by providing a multi-million dollar signing bonus to Yukon teachers on the rather questionable grounds of a pending teacher shortage. We know the nursing shortage is a reality confronting all of Canada and especially rural Yukon. Can the minister tell us if there is any money in this budget to provide similar signing bonuses to Yukon health care professionals?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I guess one of the problems that I always have with the opposition is that the words "consultation" has become a very dirty word with the opposition, and I think it's important that we use it as one of our mantras. We really believe in it. And when we consult with the YMA or the nursing association or the health professionals here in the Yukon, it's because we want their input. We believe in what they are doing. They are our professionals. They are the ones who are with us day and night, and it's important that we consult with them because they have some answers, they have some ideas, they have some views about where we should go, Mr. Chair. And so it's very, very important that we do that.
There are - I'm not sure of the term. But there is flexibility in the current Health budget, which the member opposite was a part of at one time, for what we call upper-range hires. It means that there can be inducements or financial support given to entice people to come north. Currently we are using some of those in the nursing area because we know the importance of our nursing care in the communities, our small communities, and we know the difficulty of getting these people. I think it's important that we look at other incentives as well. For example, holding rents rather than looking at high rent costs - we are holding them. It's not, as I said earlier in my maiden speech, the idea that financial remuneration is the only thing that health professionals are looking for. They are looking for respect. They are looking for acceptance. They are looking for the status of being an equal member in the community; and it's only communities that can do this. We can advise on that, and we know from our health professionals that they are in it not just for the dollars. They are in it because they believe in what they do. They believe in the commitment to the welfare and health of people.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister is getting paid to make decisions. He stands there and tells us, on one hand, they are listening, they are being advised. Now, they're advising somebody else. When is this government going to make a decision on these important matters they campaigned on?
He wasn't able to tell us if there are similar signing bonuses to Yukon health care professionals, but can he tell us if there will be money for this in the fall supplementary, Mr. Chair? They have indicated there is all kinds of money for other initiatives in the fall supplementary. Is there anything at all in the fall supplementary to help them resolve this very important problem?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, that's again a hypothetical question, but as I mentioned earlier, it's not just money that we're looking for. There are many other things that we, as Yukoners, can do to encourage and entice health professionals to come north. I extend that challenge to all of us to do what is right. I hear from the opposition that money seems to be the only cure, but really that isn't. Money isn't the only cure.
Mr. Chair, it's very important that we understand that our health professionals are dedicated, committed individuals who went into the field because of their desire to help other people. There's no amount of money that will retain people in a community if they're not treated with respect and understanding and appreciation.
So, I think, Mr. Chair, as far as saying that, in future budgets, we're going to be looking for big wads of money, I can't go there because that's not the real issue.
Mr. McRobb: Well, well, Mr. Chair. You know, the minister says it's not all about money. Didn't we hear that about the teacher negotiations, but what happened? The Liberal government bellied up to the bar with a million-dollar signing bonus.
Now, is he prepared to pay the same respect to the health care workers that his colleague, the Minister of Education, paid to the teachers' union, and provide them with a signing bonus, an incentive or a retention bonus? Is he prepared to do that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I'd like to clarify a statement made by the member opposite. They keep referring to it as a signing bonus. It wasn't a signing bonus. It was a retention bonus - retention. In other words, you have to put a year in before they could receive the funds. So, I think that's important.
It's a collective agreement point, Mr. Chair. It really is. I mean, I can't presume what might happen in future collective agreements, so we're not going to be presumptuous about saying what the fall is going to have as far as its budget when it comes to health professional salaries or incentives or whatever. That's something that's up to the negotiating group.
Mr. McRobb: According to the minister, governing is not about allocating money; it's not about making decisions. It would be interesting to see just what is in that Liberal sandwich at the end of this term. It's starting to look like it might not be more than mayonnaise. Maybe a bit of pork grease in there, too.
I want to switch to legislation and ask him about what the Liberals plan to do about midwifery legislation? Is the Liberal government still committed to doing this?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: There is a list of potential legislative aspects that we can look at in health care and, over the past number of years, a lot of them have not been addressed. We can't fix everything in two months. To answer his question - I'm sorry, Mr. Chair. To answer the question of the member opposite - I'll get this right yet - the important part is that when we make a commitment, we stick by our commitments and that basically is where we're at. We're going to stick by that commitment.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I don't know how we can extract an answer out of that, Mr. Chair. You know, the minister says they can't fix everything, but I'm sure the former Liberal leader would argue against that.
Now back to the midwifery legislation. Will it be on the fall legislative agenda? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: We haven't decided that. We are basically - there's that word, "basically". I'm trying to get off using that word, but I'll attempt it. The important part here is that we have four years to do what we have to do, and to say that this is going to happen in the fall would be again presumptuous. I think we as a team are going to be looking at our strategy regarding all the legislation that is going to be before us over the next four years. We are going to do it incrementally over the next four years, so we have four years to do the job. Hopefully, Mr. Chair, when we arrive at our calendar as to what we are going to do, we will definitely share it with the opposition.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, the contradictions are mounting. If I were a lawyer in a cross-examination right now, I'd be rubbing my pork chops together, because the minister says, on one hand, that they have four years to do everything they have to do. But a minute ago, he said, Mr. Chair, they don't want to leave everything for the last year. Then, a minute before that, it's, "We can't do anything in the first year." So, the question is, Mr. Chair, when are they going to do something? When in this legislative calendar? You know, when is it we can expect -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: I guess it's all about the future. That's code for, "Don't expect anything in this term."
It's years down the road. That's code. The Liberal insiders know what it means. It's all about the future. It means that some time in the future we'll be doing something, but don't expect it right away, don't expect it in year four, although they have all the rhetoric about how they can't do anything now, they can't do anything in year four.
Well, Mr. Chair, time will tell, and there will be another day when we can pinpoint some of these contradictions to the minister.
Now, has the minister made any plans for a review of the Mental Health Act?
Chair: Order please. The time being 4:30 p.m., do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We'll continue with general debate on Health and Social Services.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, before the break, I asked the minister if he made any plans for review of the Mental Health Act, and I would also like to know if the Liberals would conduct a review of this act in this term.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, to the first question, as far as the Mental Health Act review, the answer is no. As far as our mandate in looking at whether we would like to pursue this, at this point we have not discussed it as a caucus, but we're not a closed party, so anything is possible.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I'd like to thank the minister for his well-thought-out and complete answers to my line of questioning. Also, the principal can put away his strap now; I'm about to sit down and turn it over to my colleague from Klondike, but I also reserve the right to come back on Social Services questions.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, when we look at the Department of Health and Social Services, it is the largest budget within all of the departments of the Government of Yukon - some $115 million. When we factor in the capital for another $10 million, we are up at another $125 million per year. If we took normal accounting practices and accrued the accounts receivable due to the department from Indian and Northern Affairs, we could add in another $20 million a year as to what the department is costing and carrying. So we are up about $145 million a year, ballpark, as to what we have to deal with. You can contrast that to Education, which runs around just under $100 million and the department of highways, which runs right at the $100 million a year. If you subtract the Shakwak money from good old Uncle Sam, you are down considerably, just in the high 60s for the total department budget. So that said, Mr. Chair, this minister has a lot of money and a lot of responsibilities and a lot of issues to address.
What I have heard so far from this minister - if we contrast this minister with the previous Minister of Health and Social Services - we have one and the same. A lot of verbiage, a lot of posturing, but no substance. We just have a taller version of the previous Minister of Health and Social Services; that's it. So, in order to facilitate the business of the House, what I'm going to do is present my questions in a manner that they can be answered by a simple "yes" or "no". That could probably curtail the amount of time we have to spend in the department and in this budget debate.
I'd like to start first, Mr. Chair, with the issues surrounding open custody homes, custody facilities and the responsibility of the minister. My first question to the minister: when the courts order a young offender into this department, the responsibility for that young offender rests solely with the department? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, it is the responsibility of the director of family and children's services.
Mr. Jenkins: And flowing from that, the care and control of that individual in their custody is the responsibility of the department - yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I think what's happening here is that a bit of a trap being laid for us, but that's fine; we'll carry on. We'll give the information as we have in the past. Yes.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, we're fraying from the pattern of a yes or no answer already, so I can see where we could be into the debate on this department tomorrow instead of getting through at our earliest convenience. So, I urge the minister to consider his answers carefully and just say "yes" or "no".
My next question for the minister: when an open custody facility is established, it's established by the department and reports to, and is under the care and control of, ultimately, the department - yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, yes.
Mr. Jenkins: So, we now have that the individual, the young offender, is the responsibility of the superintendent - or however we want to refer to him within the department - and the government, this same department, is responsible for that open custody facility. And we have another category of facilities when we're talking about only one or two young offenders being placed. It's a care home, and the same conditions would apply to that care home, would they not, Mr. Chair? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I don't want to add to it, but there are two types of homes. There's the open custody group home and there's the open custody home. They are two different things, so I'm hoping I'm saying yes to what the member opposite has asked.
Mr. Jenkins: I was referring initially to the open custody group home and then the open custody home. I'm given to understand, Mr. Chair, that an open custody home can house up to two young offenders, and when it becomes more than two, it's an open custody group home. Am I correct - yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes.
Mr. Jenkins: So, now, Mr. Chair, for establishing either one of these open custody facilities, it would appear that there are two separate and distinct sets of policies. Is that the case? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, the answer to that question is, at this point, no.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what the minister is saying is that the same guidelines and conditions apply to the establishment of both these types of facilities - the establishment of an open custody home or an open custody group home. The same conditions, review and consultation applies similarly to both of these facilities - yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I am not absolutely sure, but I am quite willing to give the member opposite a note to this effect. We think yes, but I wouldn't want to be categorical on that.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, that's interesting. I take the minister back to the petition that I tabled in the House from the Bear Creek residents and the minister's response, and I am sure that his officials are finding his response. It was well and carefully scripted, and I pay respect to the crafters of the scripted response that the minister gave in this House. It distinctively laid out two separate processes for the establishment of a group home - an open custody group home, and an open custody home. It implied that there are two separate procedures.
Now, I don't know if the minister has had a chance to find that document, but it clearly concluded that that was the case. The establishment of an open custody facility anywhere in the Yukon, Mr. Chair, has been the subject of much debate in this House, and I take the minister back to November 1999, and Mr. Ostashek at that time was asking the minister about open custody facilities and open custody group homes, and Mr. Sloan, in his response, said that 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 expectations were, and that it was a matter of policy. He said that the policy was brought about as a way to address some of the concerns that were raised, and he thought that the member would be aware that the policy of open custody group home was brought in by his government. He said that the open custody caregiver network using private foster homes was established because of fairly low committals to open custody by the youth courts 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 serve 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 and address some of the concerns that were raised. I can get the member some further details. I don't have actual details on the actual policy.
So that would lead one to conclude, Mr. Chair, that there is a policy in place for the establishment of open custody group homes. Does the minister have a copy of that policy - yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, no.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I would urge the minister to consult that policy, because his officials appear to have deviated from it tremendously with respect to the establishment of an open custody home in the Bear Creek subdivision. No consultation took place before that facility was established. That policy requires consultation with the residents. At the meeting last night, it became abundantly clear and abundantly evident that no consultation had taken place. In fact, the proponent of the facility didn't know that she had to consult with the neighbours or that there was any consultation process necessary; this had never been conveyed to her by the department or by the department officials. I want to make it abundantly clear, and go on the record that I have the utmost respect for Peter and Margie Kormendy, who operate this facility. They have done an excellent job in addressing the need, but what I want to point out to the minister is that his officials failed, and failed miserably, in having the policy adhered to and this facility established according to the guidelines of this policy.
Now, that is very much the case, and two officials from Whitehorse attended the public meeting last night in Bear Creek - and for the minister's information, Bear Creek is outside the city limits of Dawson. The memo that was circulated for the residents of Dawson - I hope it is not subsequently construed that the public consultation was for the establishment of a group home entirely or anywhere in Dawson, because Bear Creek is outside of the city limits, and the Bear Creek residents are who have raised the concern. With exception, there were only four residents who did not sign the petition, and two of them were away on holidays, I'm given to understand, and one is the proponent and the other one has some involvement with the proponent. And while they were very concerned with the open custody facility or open custody home, they didn't want to sign it. So we pretty much had unanimous consent that this government didn't adhere to its own policy with this establishment.
Now, we are going to let the minister off the hook with a yes or no answer this time. I want to know why his department didn't adhere to the policy.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I appreciate the member opposite giving me the privilege to say something other than yes or no. I didn't realize that the member opposite was driving the ship at this point.
My department, as of today, has not designated property in the Bear Creek area as an open custody program. Open custody programs in the Yukon, as I've mentioned earlier, are not group homes. I think we have got that clear definition. And departmental policy, as I mentioned earlier, does not require broad public consultation, but as a new Liberal government, we believe in consultation.
I would hope that I can assure the member opposite, Mr. Chair, that we will do this in a timely fashion. We will not do a sort of a last-minute consultation approach. We want to give time to Yukoners to understand the issues and to be part of the solutions.
I don't know how much more I can say. I don't want to get into a we-or-they or a badgering debate here. I just want to share with the member opposite, Mr. Chair, that my final point is that the property in Bear Creek has not been designed as an open custody program. It has not.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, let's go at this from a little bit different tack, then. I'll go on the record as providing some information to the minister that might make him more aware of the circumstances surrounding this initiative.
The Bear Creek subdivision was established by the Government of Yukon. It's classified as a rural residential subdivision. That's its classification. Now, if the minister could sit down with the Minister of Community and Transportation Services and see what the permitted uses are in a rural residential subdivision and see what use an open care group home falls under, that falls under an institutional use, which is not a permitted use in a rural residential subdivision.
So, should the department establish this type of a group home in a rural residential subdivision, unless the regulations are changed, we'd be in conflict with the regulations, Mr. Chair.
Does the minister not agree with me?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The member opposite keeps talking about a group home. This is not a group home. This is an open custody home. It's not a group home and the member opposite has mentioned that at least three times in his last question. For the record, this is an open custody application.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm aware that there's a distinction to the rules that the department has. The bottom line is, if you establish the home first and it would go from two residents in that home to three, it no longer is an open custody home - it becomes a group home. It becomes an open custody group home. There's a different process and it's a different step.
That kind of a use is not permitted under rural residential subdivision rules currently in place under the Government of Yukon. That is an institutional use. I'm sure the minister will have a note from some of his officials very quickly in that regard. When we come to that conclusion and recognition of one government department violating the rules in another government department, we have a little bit of difficulty with it, because the implications are that we have the potential to devalue the properties in that neighbourhood.
And then who is responsible if the properties are devalued as a consequence of the establishment of either a group home or an open custody group home? If the properties are devalued as a consequence of the establishment of either one of these uses, who pays? Is the Government of Yukon ultimately responsible? I believe so. Would the minister not agree? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I would like to just clarify one point. In rural residential subdivisions, yes, you can have an open custody facility anywhere in the Yukon, as long as the bylaw permits it. If the bylaw doesn't permit it, then you can't have it. Again, the mention of a group home was brought up. We are not talking about a group home; we are talking about an open custody, maximum two people, two students. It's just like if you have foster children. You are allowed anywhere in the Yukon to have foster children if you have been approved. So, I'm not sure how much more I can correct that issue, but it's not a group home; it's an open custody and the maximum number of students and maximum number of participants you can have there is two.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, well, once again the minister is very capable of splitting hairs and if that subdivision were created inside an organized community, bylaws would apply, but outside an organized community, the original intent when it was established and what can be established in that subdivision applies. So, if this were inside the municipal limits of Dawson or Mayo or any other organized community, the bylaw would apply. The minister is absolutely correct, but this is outside of an organized community and what applies and what is the law is what was originally could be established in that subdivision when the land was sold.
The land was sold by the Yukon government as rural residential, not for institutional use. So, the establishment of a group home is not a permitted use, Mr. Chair.
I want to get the crux. The minister has admitted that the department is responsible for every individual placed in a group home and is responsible for any of their actions, so let's go to the extent of establishing the group home or the group facility, whether it be for one or 10 individuals.
In the event that a youth escapes or commits any sort of an act of aggression or mischief against a resident or neighbour, I would put it to the minister that the government is legally responsible for any liability caused by that young offender. Is that not the case?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: My first comment is that the policy for the Department of Health and Social Services in designating or investigating - if you want to use that term - has been followed to a "t". The Health department has done it right. The liability of a young offender for the government is one of those things that is really the responsibility of the young offender. To be hypothetical about who is responsible - I am sure that the courts would have their reaction and their direction as to where we should go with this. I could not state that we are responsible. I will leave it at that.
Again, if I'm incorrect on this, I'm open to correction. I don't have all the answers. I'm not a lawyer, and I don't pretend to be one. I'm just responding from my own experiences. And if we have to go another direction, then we will.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, last night at the meeting in Bear Creek, that was really the crux of one of the major problems. The officials from the minister's department advised the residents that if such an act of vandalism or aggression or malicious damage were undertaken by any youth in custody, then they would have recourse solely to that youth, that young offender.
Now, given that it's the Government of Yukon that is responsible for the care and control of that young offender, given that it is the Government of Yukon that is responsible for the placement of that individual in a secure location, wouldn't it stand to reason that if they put that young offender in an open custody facility, where he could come and go as he pleases and he subsequently commits another offence - he's under the age of majority, he's legally not responsible for his own actions - why would the government not be held responsible for any action that this young offender committed while in the custody, care and control of the Government of Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I guess my response is: where do parents come into play? Where does community come into play? I believe that we, as a community, have an obligation to respond and look for solutions. And, Mr. Chair, if we all took the attitude of the NIMBY approach, then we as a society would be in very tough straits.
The onus and responsibility is with all of us as individuals. Our law states very clearly that we as individuals are responsible.
The courts make that very clear when you appear before them, for whatever reason.
I think the important part here is to try to look at the positives; trying to build from where the negatives have taken a particular person. When we have people out there - Yukoners - who want to take this responsibility on and bring about, Mr. Chair, some positives to rebuild, then I applaud. I believe that this is what community is all about.
I do agree, Mr. Chair, that as community we have to be aware of what our responsibilities are and how we can play a part in rehabilitation. There are no quick answers out there. The courts don't always have the answers; they keep looking to community and here's an example, again, of how we can be community.
I do agree with the member opposite and I appreciate that he brings up these concerns, because what we can do is then request a community to be part of the solution. If we're not doing something that is appropriate, or in line of developing the proper information so that people can make those decisions, then I would agree: let's go back to square one and make sure that everybody is aware of what is happening. That, to me, is the important, fundamental concern here. We should not be rushed into making decisions. So, the important part is that we, as individuals, all have a part to play.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Well, I don't disagree with the minister, but that's a whole bunch of fluff, when you get right down to it. The bottom line is two issues: most people would accept an open custody home or an open custody group home in their area, if they had known about it. That's number one. In the event there's a problem with the youth, then they would have some recourse to the government, because a young offender is not responsible for his actions.
The minister mentioned parents, and usually when the courts deem it necessary to keep or retain a young offender in an open custody group home or an open custody home, the parents are not in the equation. The courts have deemed it necessary to take that young offender away from the parents and place them in a secure and controlled environment. Now, that environment is created by the Government of Yukon. The minister might take the time to review the Young Offenders Act, which he is responsible to a large part for implementing.
In Bear Creek, what the residents were told was that, although a community's concern about the open custody program will be heard and considered, the residents of the community have no legal means of preventing a facility from being established if it is the will of the government. That's what they were told by the department officials. That's a nice slap in the face.
Can you picture, Mr. Chair, someone going to the extent of wanting to reside in a rural residential setting, knowing all the individuals who reside in that neighbourhood, buying country residential raw land from the Government of Yukon under the guise that it's rural residential, spending the time and energy to establish their home, usually putting in their own septic field and well, which has another considerable cost associated with it, trying to get electricity from this government, and then, at the end of the day, a group home or a home is established next door to them, and they have no recourse?
They have no say. Sure, they can voice their concerns, and what the government is further saying, which adds insult to injury, is that if that young offender creates some offence while in that home or group home, the recourse of anyone who is so offended is to that young offender. Doesn't the minister recognize that what he has just stated doesn't hold any water? You can't sue a young offender. Your recourse to that young offender borders on zero, and the Young Offenders Act is sadly lacking in recourse. You might look at suing the parents or the guardian, but in this case the guardian is the Government of Yukon.
So, all that these residents of Bear Creek are looking for is a measure of comfort surrounding the establishment of the group home, that their views be taken into consideration, and that, if there is any recourse, the Government of Yukon backstop it as the guardian of this young offender. Now, to those whom I have spoken about this, it makes an abundant amount of sense, and all it takes is a policy change within the department to initiate that backstop. Will the minister undertake this initiative?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I thank the member opposite for being for so vigilant. I have also asked the department staff - and this is a concern that I have had from all my many years living in the Yukon, and when I had the opportunity to get into a position where I could actually make my points known, I believe very strongly, as the member opposite has suggested, in the whole area of the existing policy with respect to consultation prior to the destination of open custody caregivers. I believe in that.
I believe that we, as Yukoners, want to be part of any aspect, activity or solution - be it what it may - in any community. I believe Yukoners want to be a part of how we solve these issues.
The existing policy requires potential caregivers to speak personally to their immediate neighbours to determine if there are any concerns and also to inform neighbours about the nature of their program. I have asked the department to be vigilant about this in the future. I really believe that this is fundamental.
I think Yukoners, no matter where they live, be it in Bear Creek, Whitehorse or Haines Junction, want to be part of the solution. They know, as community people and as Yukoners, that we just can't put problems away in some distant area and expect them to be resolved. I think that attitude has to change, if it is an attitude. Now, I believe that attitude is changing. I believe that Yukoners want resolvable solutions, but before they want resolvable solutions, they want to be part of how to solve those solutions. They don't want to be told.
I would agree with the member opposite that being told that this can happen or that can happen would inflame the situation more than anything else. I definitely agree with the member opposite that we have to do more work in this area and we have to make it very open. We don't hide it away in a policy book that we don't look at. We use our media to ensure that this happens.
I think the department has, in the past, tried to do this. To a great extent, I think it's more of an issue with this whole idea that problems can be resolved in other jurisdictions and not in our own. I believe that each community can resolve and solve problems with all the resources they have there, because we are Yukoners and we want to do the right thing for our young people. I hope we're not shutting the door before we even open it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we are getting into more fluff. The issue before us is one that I'm seeking some direction from the minister on - a yes or no answer. The Government of Yukon is guardian of the young offenders in these care facilities and has a total responsibility for their care and control. Now, will the minister backstop any malicious or property damage that that young offender commits while in a group home? The bottom line is that the Young Offender Act establishes the department as the guardian of that young offender - or the courts do - so, after that, we have a couple of choices. We can basically incarcerate that young offender in a facility, or we can put that young offender in a group home or a group residence, or just a straight open custody home or an open custody group home. Now, I would suggest to the minister that I would concur that it's probably more advantageous for rehabilitation purposes if that individual be in a group home than incarcerated in an institution unless it's a very, very serious crime.
Be that as it may, the government is still responsible. All I want the minister to tell the House is that the department will backstop, as guardians of that individual, any act that the young offender may commit while in a home or group home. That should be a simple yes or no.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, if the world were that simple - yes or no - we would be living in very easy times. But it isn't. The liability of the government is a hypothetical situation. Anything could happen. How could I guarantee or even suggest what the government could guarantee support for. It's something I'm not prepared to comment on. I don't have a law degree. I shared that view with the member opposite. I would have to seek legal advice. It is something I am just not able to respond to with a simple yes or no.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what right does the government have to put these young offenders in an open custody home and jeopardize the whole neighbourhood if they're not prepared to backstop that individual's actions, because the government is the guardian of that individual, and guardians have the same role and responsibility as parents? If your child or my child who was underage did something wrong, the chances are that you or I would be sued. But what the minister's officials said at the meeting yesterday was that the only recourse was to the young offender. That's ludicrous, Mr. Chair. It doesn't provide any measure of comfort whatsoever to those residents in that subdivision who have probably invested the biggest amount of money that they will ever invest in their lives in their home and their land, and undertaken probably the biggest indebtedness that they'd ever incur in their lives, usually for a mortgage on that land and home.
Now, why is the minister not looking at it from the other side of the equation - from the residents' side of the equation? I did read into the records yesterday what "consult" actually means - it means, bottom line, that you can go out to talk to the people, listen to the people, but you really don't have to concur with what they have said. You can go ahead and proceed with what you want to do.
Now, the Bear Creek residents weren't forewarned, as it was so well put, that they were going to be guinea pigs for the department to learn from them what methods and queries needed to be included in the consultation process in establishing an open custody facility. There was obviously nothing in place and even the proponent of this home or group home wasn't even told that she had to notify the neighbours of the proposal of the open custody facility at her home. She wasn't, and she clearly stated that at the meeting last night. So, once again, the department officials failed - and failed miserably - to convey the proper procedure to a proponent.
Now that's the issue. And furthermore, Mr. Chair, the proponent of the home is under the distinct impression that she has been authorized to have individuals remain in her establishment in Bear Creek and has done so. Is the department aware of that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I have to come back to a statement I made about the fact that this home has not been designated as an open custody home, and the people in that home have been advised of the pros and the cons and the yes's and the no's. If the member opposite is saying that they have violated those comments, then that's something else. We'll probably have to investigate that, if that's really what happened, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Now I'm not saying that they violated anything. They had a letter from departmental officials certifying that they could use that area as a home. Now, I don't know who signed it or where it came from, but that letter was freely available. And furthermore, there have been individuals staying there this past winter and spring. Now, the minister clearly indicated that it's not authorized by his department, so where did this new type of licence or agreement come from, Mr. Chair?
Chair: Order please. The time being 5:30 p.m., the House will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate on Health and Social Services.
Mr. Jenkins: Before the dinner break, we were discussing the issues surrounding open custody homes and open custody group homes.
The concern that I had surrounds the establishment of these initiatives by the department and the process that is applied to their establishment. There does not appear to be a consistent application of these rules and, in fact, the actual procedures in the case of this group home in Bear Creek were not conveyed to the proponent and that, Mr. Chair, is very much cause for concern.
That came through abundantly clear at the meeting last night, dealing with this issue, in Rock Creek.
Let's go on to another area with respect to the establishment of a group home. All of the government officials, the superintendent of child welfare or whoever is charged by the courts with the responsibility of being the guardian of a young offender, are protected by the Government of Yukon should something occur. Should someone sue, for whatever reason, the YTG official is protected? Now, we'll keep it simple: yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I think the answer is rather obvious that, yes, I suppose we are responsible; we can also be sued, as a parent can be sued for negligence and that's a natural consequence of either your child or a charge in your care. I think it's a much longer answer than that but, from my limited knowledge of the legal situation, that's as much as I can say.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister for his answer, Mr. Chair. Now, in the event that a suit arises against the Government of Yukon, the superintendent in charge of this area or any official involved in a child custody situation, they are protected by the Government of Yukon. The Government of Yukon will pay their legal bills. Is that not correct? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I don't feel that there's a yes or no to this answer. It's one of those situations that depends on the circumstances. Once again, one is going to need a legal interpretation, and I think you need that kind of background to make those kinds of decisions.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I will help the minister. As long as the employee of the Government of Yukon is adhering to all of the policies and procedures, they would be well-protected. Any legal costs they incur would be advanced or paid for by the Government of Yukon. That is the case. They are fully protected.
That's a given, as long as the employee is not doing an illegal act. But the situation arises that if a young offender under government protection, where government is appointed by the courts as their guardian, commits an illegal act, in the event of someone trying to sue someone, if they are directly in charge of the Government of Yukon, it would be the Government of Yukon defending it and supporting it and paying for the legal bills. But in the case where the Government of Yukon has assigned their jurisdiction to a group home operator, an open custody home or an open custody group home, they can only obtain liability insurance for virtually everything except two types of occurrences - an illegal act committed by that young offender or an environmental liability. Those two areas are not covered by insurance.
So, there would be a great deal of protection afforded group home operators and open custody homes if the government were to backstop them by way of some sort of liability or some other type of insurance. As it currently stands, with the agreement signed with the Government of Yukon, these group home operators, or open custody facility operators, basically waive their rights to come after the Government of Yukon. And the right to establish any of these facilities in a neighbourhood rests solely with this minister's department, Mr. Chair. Even after we go through all the consultation process - it doesn't matter if everyone is in disagreement - that home can still be established. The operator of that home, even if they are prudent and diligent in their business manner and obtain the appropriate liability insurance for their undertaking, and that young offender in their custody goes out and commits an illegal act, the department is saying that the only recourse is through that young offender.
That's not fair. That's not reasonable. That discourages people from getting involved in this very necessary process.
So, I'd like to, number one, ask the minister to table the current policy that the department has for the establishment of open custody homes and open custody group homes. Will he do that - yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, there are guidelines and, yes, we can do that.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm confused. Mr. Chair, the previous minister said they were policy. The previous Minister of Health and Social Services in debate in Hansard on November 29, 1999 said that it was a matter of policy. This is the Hon. Mr. Sloan speaking: "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 it goes on, but the minister of the day said it was policy. I would like a copy of that policy.
What I'm hearing from the current minister is that it's not policy; they are just guidelines. Which is it? Is it policy or guidelines? Or, because of the change in government, have we downgraded it from policy to guidelines? Where are we at?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, it doesn't matter whether it's policy or guidelines, we will get a copy for the member opposite.
A lot of times we use the term, "as a matter of policy". Now, whether that was the interpretation by the former minister, I'm not sure. I know we do have the material. I'll make sure he gets a copy.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, government policy is a matter of record as to the procedures that are being adhered to and followed. Guidelines are guidelines. There's a difference between a guideline and a policy, Mr. Chair. Does the minister not agree with that statement?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, he may be correct in his interpretation of "policy".
Sorry, I'll retract that. Sorry, the interpretation of the definition of "policy" or the definition of "guidelines", for me, I'm not sure what the difference is at this point, but I'm quite willing to look into it further and make sure that the member opposite does get a copy. I'm sure we'll have further dialogue on this.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm looking for a copy of the policy that was referred to by the previous minister, which had been referred to on a number of occasions by the previous minister in this House.
It's a very important policy. Let's explore with the minister the issue of liability insurance in the event of an illegal act undertaken by a young offender in an open custody home or an open custody group home. Is the department willing to consider extending some kind of guarantee or insurance coverage? It will probably have to be in-house in the event that an illegal act does take place, and it is committed by a young offender. As the Government of Yukon is de facto guardian, as assigned to it by the courts - what is happening is whoever in the government is responsible and assigned that obligation is assigning, or reassigning or downloading or offloading that liability to whomever is in charge of that open custody home or open custody group home. They do not have the same resources, financial or otherwise, as the Government of Yukon and there's not the trust in that individual to obtain any kind of remedial satisfaction from anyone so aggrieved by an illegal act of a young offender. The recourse for a young offender is to the parent or guardian. In a lot of cases, the parent is out of the picture.
Why can't the government extend some sort of blanket policy to cover off this area? It would provide a great deal more comfort to people in residential areas when the government goes to establish an open custody group home or an open custody home.
I know the minister is not going to give an answer here tonight, but I would urge him to take it under advisement and, before he steps any further in establishing any more group homes or open custody homes, ensure that this area is analyzed and that something is put in place, because I can assure the minister that the residents of Bear Creek raised this as probably their second and biggest fear. Their number one concern was that they were not consulted until after the fact, and number two was: what would happen in the event that an illegal act took place and was caused by that young offender housed in this facility? Who is responsible? The department officials who attended that open meeting advised the residents that the young offender was. Now, that provides one with a tremendous degree of comfort, and that's the whole crux of this problem. It can be easily solved by: number one, consulting with the residents in a very formal straightforward manner, as I hope the policy that I receive will outline; consult with them before the establishment of such a facility, not after, as is currently the case; and provide that measure of comfort, that backstop comfort, by way of some sort of insurance that, in the event of an illegal act being committed, the government would step in to assist, because you can't obtain insurance in the private sector for an illegal act. It's exempt. It's one of the first areas that is exempted in any insurance policy - that and environmental liability. So, where do we go from here? What is the minister going to do?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, the Member for Klondike made two points, which are wrong. After the fact - there is no "after the fact". This home has not been made an open custody home. No decision has been made. I have made that statement a number of times and I will have to make it again. That statement was made twice by the member opposite. This home in Bear Creek is not an open custody home. It is not an open custody home.
The question of liability, as I mentioned before, Mr. Chair, is the responsibility of the individual. It is also in sync with what is expected by the courts. It is really the courts that have the full power to delegate, remediate and instruct. It's not up to the government.
The other part of the question is if we are willing to look at it. We are always willing to look at it. We will consult with our legal advisors and see where we can go with it. I don't know how much more I can do than that, but we will try to do the best job we can. But, we cannot go in the direction in which the member opposite is trying to take us, because it is complicated by the legal aspect, by our justices and by what our community and all of us in the Yukon expect.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister is wrong. The minister is very wrong. The facility in Bear Creek has been used as an open custody home. There have been individuals staying there, with the concurrence of department officials and with their knowledge.
I don't want the minister to stand up on his feet and say that the operators of this home are doing something incorrectly.
I know the Kormendys, and I know that they had the authority granted to them by the department. They have a letter to that effect, Mr. Chair. I'm sure that letter was made available to the department officials who attended a public meeting. Those individuals who are involved in this initiative are very sincere, dedicated, devoted and capable individuals. Both Pete and Margie Kormendy are very, very credible, and they had the assurance and concurrence of the department that they could operate in the manner in which they were operating.
Now, whether it was done by way of an extension of their licence from Ancient Voices Wilderness Camp or however it was done, the department was well aware of and understood what they were doing. That came through abundantly clear. So, for the minister to stand up and say that this open custody home doesn't exist, he's dreaming in Technicolor because that certainly isn't the case.
How does the minister propose to provide a measure of comfort to the residents of Bear Creek for any illegal act by the young offender in these facilities? How does he propose that some measure of comfort can be afforded the residents of that area to mediate any illegal act that might take place?
You know, what the department officials said at the meeting in Rock Creek was that the recourse was to the young offender. Mr. Chair, we know how fruitless that avenue is to pursue.
So, if we want to make this system work, which the minister should be pursuing, how to make it work and how to make it work for the better of all Yukoners and address this very important and critical area of his portfolio, he's going to have to get residents on side. And they're going to need a measure of assurance and comfort that the Government of Yukon is going to backstop the operator of these homes, whether they be open custody group homes or open custody homes, in the event of an illegal act being committed by these young offenders.
Now, how would the minister propose to do that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I would like the member opposite to file this letter, the phantom letter that he keeps floating around. We haven't got the letter that the member opposite keeps describing, and we would like him to file it so we can see it. I don't like talking about phantoms. I like to have the real thing.
I guess the question, again, is going to be responded to with the same answer: this is not a designated, open custody home. It's not a designated, open custody group home. Right now, it's just a home. So, I suppose, Mr. Chair, if you say it often enough, as the member opposite often does, you might even start to believe it after awhile, because I think the member opposite does believe it. The member opposite has said it so often that I really believe he believes that this is a designated home. I don't know what else to say, other than to just say once more - and I guess maybe we have to take count every now and then, and the member opposite brings us to the task of keeping count. I think the important part as well, Mr. Chair, is that if you visit the Kormendys, that's their privilege.
But to say that every youth who visits the Kormendys is a young offender - I'm sorry, but that would be very difficult to analyze from the point of view of the people who are making this application. I don't believe that that's what it is. I think they're entitled to have visits from whomever.
If there is an issue here and a problem, it's from the member opposite, not from us. We're being open, we're being transparent and we're being accountable, and hopefully we can work with the member opposite to develop better guidelines, more open guidelines and more realistic guidelines. That's really where we're at.
Mr. Jenkins: It sounds like more Liberal fluff, Mr. Chair.
This is a very serious issue and a very important one. The Kormendys provided that letter at the first open meeting that took place in Rock Creek. They've made the people there aware of it and they have shown it to a number of people. I have three written letters from three different individuals confirming that it does exist. I don't have a copy of the letter from the Government of the Yukon to the Kormendys, but I have three people here who have seen it.
Now, if the minister -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister can laugh, but it does exist, because the Kormendys have had young offenders stay with them in Bear Creek. Knowing the Kormendys, they wouldn't do anything that was illegal, Mr. Chair. They wouldn't do anything that contravened their arrangements with the Government of Yukon with respect to open custody.
And I am only referring to individuals who have been assigned to their care, with respect to liability insurance. And the minister went off on a tirade about visitors to their place. Let's get to the point, Mr. Chair: I am only referring to young offenders placed in their care. The issue is that, if the young offender is placed in the Kormendys' care, the Kormendys cannot obtain liability insurance for any illegal act that that young offender may commit. It is not covered. The Kormendys are not afforded the same protection or coverage as any employee of the Yukon government acting in the same capacity would have. That's not fair.
Now, is the minister prepared to address this important issue and provide a measure of comfort to the operators of these group homes? It is very necessary, very much needed, because the residents in these residential subdivisions - and it has happened in a number of areas in Whitehorse. It doesn't matter what they say, what they do, what alarm bells they raise; at the end of the day the government can listen to them but doesn't really have to pay any heed to what they are saying. They can establish that open custody facility or that open custody group home without anyone's concurrence. In fact, they can establish it in total opposition to everyone in the neighbourhood, with the exception of the proponents of the initiative. So why can't the same measure of comfort be afforded operators in the case of liability arising out of an illegal act by a young offender in their care and custody.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I'm going to challenge the member opposite to produce the letter. This seems to be very important to the member opposite's case. I'm going to ask him a question: has he seen the letter? Has he read the letter?
Mr. Jenkins: I remind the minister, Mr. Chair, that I'm here to ask the questions, and the minister is here to answer them. We can't get any answers out of this minister. The contents of the letter were read to me over the phone. I have not seen the letter, but I have had three individuals who have written to me and they have indicated that they have seen the letter, and it's a letter from the minister's own officials. Mr. Chair, can the minister not get this information out of his own department? I'm at a loss. I don't know.
Here we have a brand new minister. I thought he would take the opportunity to get a handle on what is happening within his department. Obviously not. Obviously, he's buying into a lot of bafflegab, and it's not from the opposition.
Mr. Chair, the issue is a very important one. It's of extreme importance. I would urge the minister to consider some backstopping of the proponents of these open care facilities or open care homes, whether it be a group home or a home.
Will the minister do that? Yes or no? A simple answer.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I noticed again that the Member for Klondike did not answer my question. This is not question and answer, Mr. Chair. This is a debate. I can ask questions, as well. The famous letter, the phantom letter, the real letter or the three letters that the member opposite has - the letter - I would ask the member opposite to file them. As I've said before, I don't have all the answers, but I'm quite willing to listen to the member opposite and produce some of the answers. So far, I have not seen any of the answers. I've heard a lot of scare-mongering, and I've heard a lot of concern about how the department conducts its work.
I'm not saying the department does not make mistakes - it does, we're human - but I would suggest that in this situation, all things were in place. There is no designated home in Bear Creek.
By the way, Mr. Chair, the member opposite keeps referring to it as Rock Creek. I don't know. Is that confusion? Twice he has said Rock Creek so I'm not sure if it's the same place, but I'm sure the member opposite will tell me.
The point that I'm making here is that we seem to have a standoff here about the fact that it has been designated as an open custody home, and I'm standing here saying it has not.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if it has not, how are young offenders being housed there?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: We know of no youth who was housed there under the Young Offenders Act. There has been no designation. As I mentioned earlier, if a youth was visiting for whatever reason, does that now mean every visitor to this particular home is going to be classified by the member opposite?
I think, Mr. Chair, that the member opposite is walking on very thin ice. I believe that the issue has been blown out of proportion, not by the government, but by the member opposite, and he's trying to get out from under it because he's realizing that things have gone wrong and so he's trying to point the blame at us, when really the issue was a very simple one. There has been no designation and I still challenge the member opposite to produce the letter, and we will look at it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I do agree with the minister that something has gone wrong and something has gone wrong within his department. I am asking the minister to correct that.
I'm also asking the minister to follow procedures - the policy that I have yet to receive a copy of - with respect to the establishment of open custody homes and open custody group homes. We'll look forward to that.
For the minister's information, the Rock Creek fire hall is where the community meeting took place. The Bear Creek subdivision is on the other side of the highway and a little bit farther west. So, there are two distinct subdivisions under the care and control of the Government of Yukon, outside of the city limits of Dawson, and the hall that was used for the two meetings - the first meeting among the residents - was the Rock Creek fire hall. It was well-attended by the residents of Bear Creek. And the meeting last night was also held at the Rock Creek fire hall, and was attended by the minister's officials.
I would urge the minister, Mr. Chair, to get a handle on his department. I'm sure somewhere, perhaps in the archives, he'll find all this documentation with respect to how the Kormendys have managed to achieve the status where they can have young offenders stay in Bear Creek. They are licensed for their facility upriver from Dawson City, and what appears to have happened is that that licence was extended, one way or the other, so that they could house these individuals in Rock Creek, coming and going, or when they came into town for medical attention or some other reason.
Now, that's very much the case and that's how it was explained to me, and they have authorization from the department accordingly. So, that is de facto approval from the department to keep young offenders in this home, or group home, in Bear Creek.
It was done without the concurrence of the residents in that community, and it was done with the concurrence of the minister's own officials and with their approval, in spite of what the minister is saying to the contrary. I'm sure, somewhere in the deep archives of Health and Social Services, that authorization can be obtained. And I'm sure that our debate tonight, Mr. Chair, has pointed the minister in the correct direction. I would urge him to pursue this and gain more of an understanding of this issue than what he presently has. It's a very important issue; it's a very critical issue, and the hopes and aspirations of a lot of people are relying on this government and this minister to address their responsibilities in a rightful manner. That's the issue - to afford these individuals, the residents of Bear Creek, some kind of protection in the event that something goes wrong with any young offender, where the authority is transferred from government to the operator of this group home.
That's all I'm asking. That's primarily what the residents of Bear Creek are asking of this minister, but it fell on deaf ears at their meeting last night. I guess the biggest upset and the most upsetting part, as it was conveyed to me, is that official saying, "If any young offender in this established home committed any illegal act, they'd have to go after the young offender." Does the minister have any idea as to the recourse, or the possibility of recourse, to a young offender? Does the minister have any idea what the potential is to recover any losses?
Could he give us some idea, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I don't know how many different expressions I have to use to interpret the member opposite's comments.
The hearsay, fear-mongering, the speculation - all those very important definitions apply. If there is concern - and I'll underline "if" - from the residents of Bear Creek, as the member opposite describes, I would suggest that a lot of it's due to the member opposite because he doesn't understand the issue.
The member opposite talked about a letter, the phantom letter, the mystery letter and yet the letter is not produced. Again, I ask the member opposite to produce the letter. If it's such an important piece of evidence or material to the argument that the member presents, then we should have the letter.
We recognize, Mr. Chair, the importance of our caregivers. We want caregivers in all our communities because we don't want youth coming to Whitehorse if they live in Dawson or if they live in Watson Lake. We want them to stay as near to their family as possible.
Mr. Chair, because they've fallen off the track, we don't want to isolate them completely, and I feel that the member opposite is doing this. The member opposite wants the problems to go somewhere else and then creates this speculative scenario of a home that has been licensed, which is not the case, and it adds to the fire.
Unless there's a mystery department somewhere, from our point of view from our department, there is no letter, there is no authority to have an open custody home. I recognize the needs of youth in the territory; I recognize the needs of youth in our community. It is very important that we as a community pull together and work to rehabilitate our young people. We can't constantly point fingers at them and say these are the "baddies" of our society. They have fallen off the track, they need help, they need support. It is very important that the member opposite try to understand that so that we can work together. Because if we don't, the problems will grow.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I would like to thank the minister for that fluff. I will agree with the minister that it is a very important issue. It is a very serious issue and I urge the minister to address his responsibilities in this regard.
Let's move on to another area of concern in rural Yukon. Let's look at doctors in rural Yukon. Could the minister outline for the House doctors, nurse practitioners, and nurses, health care professionals - the ones primarily charged with serving rural Yukon? I am going to divide this into two sections because we have created, under this Liberal government, two Yukons. We have created Whitehorse and we have created TROY - the rest of Yukon. So let's deal with TROY first. What initiatives is this government undertaking to attract, retain health care professionals in rural Yukon? I am talking about doctors, dentists, nurse practitioners. They are the three main categories, and then nurses - not that they are any less required. Those are the main health care professionals that are needed; they are in very short supply. It is getting harder and harder to attract them and this government doesn't appear to have any policies in place. I don't want the minister to get up on his feet and say that we don't have money to put ads in The Globe and Mail.
There was $56.2 million left in the kitty when they came to office, Mr. Chair. I guess we're minus $124,000 for Ken Taylor's stipend over the next year, but that's pro-rated over the balance of the year. Then, after he finishes that job and is appointed Deputy Minister of Education, it'll go back up to another $124,000.
So, that's a side issue. But what are we doing to attract and retain health care professionals in rural Yukon? It's a very important issue, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I appreciate the concern of the Member for Klondike. I appreciate the fact that the Member for Klondike, Mr. Chair, has finally got the message that we are concerned, as Yukoners, about our health care people. I'm pleased to see that the Member for Klondike has also got that message.
Sometimes it's a very difficult issue because we are used to a traditional approach of having health care people come to the north because of the lure of the north and, Mr. Chair, now we find that's not necessarily the case any more because of the demand for health care people across the nation.
I have to say that the department has been very successful with the recruitment of nurse practitioners and public health nurses. We have currently 38 FTEs in the community nursing component, and we have 34 of those filled, which I think demonstrates the hard work of the department.
The department was very successful also in recruiting a doctor on contract for Mayo, and again that demonstrates the forward thinking of the department in trying to staff our rural towns and our communities because of the need.
We attend health fairs across western Canada. We share with as many people as we can at these functions that the lure of the north is still there and the adventure is still there. We're working with communities to help them identify ownership of their health people so when they take ownership and take responsibility for their health care people, so when these people arrive, they become partners in the community. They are seen as a very valuable resource. The department currently is working on an extensive resource in order to be ready for the future, currently now and the future, because we are having problems in speciality areas. The question came up about the CAT scan and training someone. You know there are big, attractive bonuses out there - if they want to call it that - from other jurisdictions attracting our professional people. So we have got to be competitive. So it's very important that we keep this whole process of recruitment and excitement about being in the north very high.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the issue is not just recruitment, it's the retention. If the minister were to look at his department's statistics for retention rates at nursing stations in rural Yukon, he'll find that it is somewhat appalling. I refer specifically to Ross River, Carmacks and Pelly Crossing as to the length of stay of a nurse practitioner in these facilities. Perhaps his officials can advise him how long the stay has been for nurse practitioners in these areas and he will find that, in some cases, it is extremely short.
In fact, last year the Whitehorse ambulance people were being sent out to the communities to cover off because there was no nurse practitioner in place. The retention rate for these areas, Mr. Chair, is still extremely low.
The minister might also want to look at the current vacancy rate for nurse practitioners. He might want to advise the House of two things: what is the staff complement for Dawson, and how many openings are there for nurse practitioners currently? We have some temporary individuals posted to the community, and if we want to look at Ross River, Pelly and Carmacks, how long have the nurse practitioners been in place, and what is the turnover rate?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Thanks for the concern from the member opposite. The Yukon is no exception to the turnover in health care professionals. It's Canada-wide. Again, as I shared earlier, the department is employing a number of recruitment strategies. If the member opposite has other ideas or suggestions, we're open to them. We need all the ideas we can get.
Currently in Dawson, there is a total complement of five nurse practitioners, and Dawson is now up to full complement, but not with full-time people. I think that's part of the problem. The stress of being in the health area is very paramount now with a lot of health professionals. As I shared earlier, Mr. Chair, in tonight's paper there is a concern about the number of people not going into health because of the stress, and we're no exception.
In Ross River, we have one vacancy. Old Crow has one vacancy, and Pelly Crossing has one vacancy at this point. We're hoping to have these filled by August 28. We have one in Mayo, as well, who is on disability leave. In Watson Lake, again, there is one missing there as well - half an FTE. We are hoping that, over the summer, we can bring stable staffing to all these areas.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, there's a two-pronged issue here. I am pleased to hear that the minister is taking steps to address the one issue, the recruitment. The other side of the equation is that, once we have recruited these individuals and located them in the communities or areas that they are hired for, what kind of incentives and program do we have in place to retain them? Because that's the area that's sadly lacking.
In the smaller communities, the burnout rate is atrocious. They can't keep up the pace. The quality of life just does not exist, because they are expected to be on call, as it was explained to me, eight days a week, 29 hours a day. That's impossible.
The minister might want to look at some of the paycheques that some of these individuals get. Their overtime well exceeds their base salary. You can't ask an individual to be on call for that amount of time and expect them not to burn out. It's not fair. That's part of the problem.
Now, what is the department doing to address this area, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I agree with the member opposite. All of the issues mentioned by the member opposite are valid, and it's a concern that we in government have as well.
One of the first things that we have to translate to all Yukoners is that we all have a responsibility to ensure that our health professionals are treated with the highest degree of respect.
A lot of times the burnout is caused from the overuse of our health professionals because we believe - whether it's right or wrong - that they have the answers to all cures. We, as individuals, can be very much apart in developing our own health. We have to do a lot as individuals as well.
Other strategies are, yes, monetary compensation. We have upgraded their salaries. Burnout, flexible working hours - definitely, that's one of the problems. We have some situations where some of our nurse practitioners get blocks of time off. This seems to be compensating for the long hours they put in when they're at work and we send in a replacement for that period of time.
Housing is definitely one of the other issues. Access to education and professional development is a very important factor. Some of those have been addressed already, but we're not finished with that yet. Others are participating in the workplace environment, involving the community, involving our health care specialists in that type of support in a community and looking at positive ways of building a positive community. Last but not least, and what I started with, is respect and recognition of the services they provide. Only a community can do that.
Many of our communities are working hard at encouraging their health professionals to stay and they have really done a lot of different things to encourage this. Dawson, for example, is one of them, where they have gone out of their way to ensure that their professionals are appreciated for what they do, and there are many communities that are doing this. We have to do more of that.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, could I ask the minister to send over this definitive - I hope it's a policy, as to what they're going to end up doing for the retention of health care professionals, specifically nurse practitioners, in the smaller communities. He mentioned housing and flex time off, so obviously they have developed quite a policy surrounding these individuals, recognizing the shortcomings in the respective communities they are sent out to serve.
So, there must currently be in place a set of guidelines or rules with respect to these individuals as to how they're to be treated, how they're to be accorded time off, and all of that. So, I'd appreciate a copy of that initiative. I have the minister's concurrence? I would take that as a yes, Mr. Chair.
The same holds true for doctors.
Currently, doctors operate basically 8:30 a.m. or 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in Dawson. They are not on call. That is a consequence of the failure of this government to negotiate on-call fees with the doctors. They are on a fee-for-service basis. All that it has done is drive our medevac costs right through the ceiling, because what we have are more medevacs out of Dawson than ever before. In fact, it's virtually doubled from what it was when doctors were on call just a few short years ago.
When the minister looks at the statistics for medevacs, let's just not break out the medevacs associated and paid for by Yukon health care, because the total number of medevacs is what we have to look at - those paid for by Indian and Northern Affairs, those paid by Yukon health care, those paid for by Workers' Compensation, and those paid for by the private sector or out-of-province individuals or even out-of-country individuals, because they all add up to a workload on the nursing station in Dawson, and that workload is there because of a consequence of this government's failure to negotiate on-call fees with the doctors, or standby fees. The doctors in Dawson are paid on a fee-for-service basis. The current doctors that the Government of Yukon has attracted are salaried doctors - the one in Faro and now the one in Mayo.
Currently, there's a move afoot by this government to go to salaried doctors. Mr. Chair, the same applies, because they have a standard workweek of so many hours and then usually they move somewhere else or take off from their respective community. Then, the medevac load increases.
The only thing going for these communities is that the population base is very small. The population base in Mayo is less than 500. The population of the area it serves is perhaps half again, Mr. Chair. The same holds true for Faro. But, in Dawson's situation, the population is holding around a couple of thousand. It virtually doubles in the summer. The workload goes right through the ceiling. The workload there doesn't just keep two doctors busy - it keeps three doctors busy in the summer.
So, when is this government going to sit down and negotiate on-call fees with the doctors in Dawson, so that the level of health care provided to the transient individuals and visitors to our communities is looked after? It's not just the residents who are suffering; it's everyone. The workload at the nursing station has gone through the ceiling. It's unfair and unreasonable. Mr. Chair, the buck stops with the minister.
The previous minister did not want to entertain any kind of a relationship with the doctors for on call. He had numbers there that would make one believe that the moon was made out of cheese.
That's not the case. I guess the next initiative is to put Pizza Hut up on the moon or up on the satellites. That's the latest initiative advertising-wise. But, be that as it may, the issue before us is one of fairness and reasonableness for these doctors who are resident in that community - fair treatment for them, so that they can enjoy a quality of life that the minister spoke of. Is the minister prepared to sit down and negotiate on-call service fees with these doctors, or are we just going to continue on our merry way?
Chair: The time being 8:30 p.m., do the members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We'll take a 10-minute recess.
Chair: I'll now call the Committee of the Whole to order. We continue with general debate on Health and Social Services.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The question of the Dawson physicians and the compensation for being on call, has been a major issue here for the last year - an issue long before I arrived in this House. I have to let the Member for Klondike know that I have met with the two doctors in question. We had a very cordial meeting, a good discussion about the issues, about the concerns, and I know he's going to hate to hear this word but, right now, because we have only been in government for going on our third month, it's under review and we will be submitting our suggestions and our recommendations to caucus and Cabinet for a decision. So, we haven't forgotten it; we are looking at it.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister for taking it upon himself to meet with the doctors. It's not just applicable to the doctors in Dawson; it's also applicable to Dr. Secerbegovic in Watson Lake. He's looking for additional remuneration for on-call services. He is a fee-for-service practitioner, and it's paramount around the Yukon with doctors on a fee-for-service basis. I don't believe the solution is to go to a salaried position for these individuals.
Mr. Chair, does the minister have the statistics with respect to medevacs from in and around the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, we do.
Mr. Jenkins: Perhaps he could just read them into the record as to where we are for the last fiscal period and year to date this fiscal period.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, could I have a clarification? Is this for the Yukon, for each community, by dollar amount or by number of trips?
Mr. Jenkins: It's from rural Yukon into Whitehorse; from all of the outlying communities into Whitehorse. Let's just go fiscal year to date. I would suspect that the minister would have it for March, April and May. He might not have June, but he should have March, April and May for the first quarter of this fiscal period and he should have it for the last year, from rural Yukon into Whitehorse.
Mr. Chair, I'm looking for all categories of medevacs. Now, it's broken down into medevacs that are paid for by Yukon health care, medevacs that are paid for by WCB and medevacs that are paid for by Indian and Northern Affairs. We subsequently bill these other agencies. There are also the medevacs for out-of-territory residents that are either assumed or billed.
What I'm trying to get at is the number of medevacs from rural Yukon into Whitehorse. It's going that way, Mr. Chair, as a consequence of the problems we're having with our health care professionals in rural Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I wonder if I could ask the indulgence of the member opposite to let me get this to him in writing. It's a very long process. I mean, we do have figures but they're not broken down the way the Member for Klondike would like them, and we would like to do that for the Member for Klondike.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'd have them already, Mr. Chair, but the previous minister muzzled the flight service people and the agency that you can normally obtain these statistics from - why, I do not know, but everything had to be referred to the department head or to the minister to get the information. I have a good idea, but I don't have the exact information.
So we'll deal with this in the fall, but I would appreciate the exact statistics. And, depending on when he provides the information, could I have it to the end of the last month? I don't want the first quarter provided to me in September. I'd like it for as many months as we possibly can, Mr. Chair.
If that information is forthcoming in September - and let's use that as a timeline - I'd like it to at least the end of August, or the end of July anyway. Can we agree to that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, we can move on that right up to the most reasonable month, whether it's September of this year - that would be fine with us.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I am sure that the minister has a handle on the total number of medevacs today and the total number occurring out of rural Yukon, and what is his overview and opinion on it? They have gone up alarmingly. I would conclude that.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, the Member for Klondike is right. The medevacs have gone up. All of the medevacs have been hospitalized - not all, but most of them - so that tells you something else. A good percentage of them have gone into the hospital, which tells the Health department that they are legitimate medevacs, and I am not sure what we can deduct from that - whether our population is getting older, whether it's less healthy, whether we have to get into more active living, whether we have to take control of our own health. There are a lot of deductions that we could probably make from that, and hopefully when we do our visits to the communities, we can look with the communities as to some of the underlying reasons so we can maybe, as a group, as a community, as Yukoners, try to attack the problems that we have.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, there are a couple of side issues arising out of the medevacs and the increase in the number of them. I will give the minister an example. Recently a child in Dawson fell, had a very bad bruise, was medevac'd to Whitehorse, and it was diagnosed accordingly. It was a very bad bruise, and the child was taken into emergency after the medevac at 2:00 a.m. or 3:00 a.m. in the morning and was subsequently released almost immediately after the diagnosis. The airline returning to Dawson was booked for some three days. The taxi or the bus was booked, I believe, for three or four days, so they couldn't get back to the community.
This could have been addressed, as could a number of other issues, by having doctors readily available and on call in Dawson. The inconvenience to this family was unbelievable. Individuals are returned to the community in the most cost-effective way, which is by land. But, given the way they were stuck here for, I believe, three days, and on the fourth morning a plane ticket was finally purchased for this mother and daughter to return to Dawson.
There are other similar cases. Again, it's not fair. But, we are at the busy time of the year. It is hard enough obtaining or finding hotel accommodations. This individual was fortunate enough that she had relatives in the Whitehorse area she could stay with. But, I've had other cases brought to my attention in which it was virtually impossible to find a hotel room in the community.
Another area that is a problem is with expectant mothers who come to Whitehorse. They are virtually mandated to remain here for up to two weeks prior to the arrival of their offspring. Now, isn't there some initiative that the government can take, in concert with the Yukon Housing Corporation, similar to what is in place in the Northwest Territories, where Yukon Housing Corporation has some furnished apartments, with all the bells and whistles, where expectant mothers from rural Yukon can stay? This is all under the health care portfolio. I don't want the minister to pass the buck to the Yukon Housing Corporation, but it's an area that needs attention. To pay the expectant parent a small fee to stay in a hotel - number one, it's hard to find a hotel room in the summer here in Whitehorse and, number two, the duration of the stay is unknown. It's unlikely to be known. That is a very important area.
Now, is the department considering such an initiative and, if not, why not?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, the Member for Klondike raises a very important issue and one that we can always improve on. Currently, the hospital does have an apartment that is used for those situations. There is a variety of options there. The Rotary Club of Whitehorse also provides support for this kind of initiative.
I don't think, Mr. Chair, that we always feel we have the complete answer, and we're always looking for ways to improve. That could be an idea that we, as a caucus and government, can look at for the future. So, I wouldn't dismiss it at all.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the Northwest Territories has addressed this issue. They have addressed it by providing apartments in Yellowknife and some of the major centres where expectant mothers go to await the arrival of their children. So, there is one apartment available at the hospital. It is usually reserved for expectant parents who might have potential complications and are under the close watch of medical professionals. But the general rule of thumb is that expectant mothers are steered down to Whitehorse about two weeks before the arrival of their offspring. They are expected to remain in any type of accommodation they can obtain - usually a hotel room - and wait out this period. It's a lot of undue hardship and strain that is placed on these individuals, Mr. Chair.
So, I'd ask the minister to carefully consider an initiative - I would suggest that the vehicle be Yukon Housing Corporation - to put together a number of apartments or housing units, such as bachelor apartments and the like. They have quite substantial units in Yellowknife. I'm not suggesting we go to that degree, but certainly something more than a hotel room for these rural, expectant mothers. Will the minister do that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I thank the Member for Klondike once again for building on what is already in place. Like I said before, we don't have the complete answer, but, just for the information of the House and for the record, the Rotary House is a short-term accommodation and was started in 1993 by the Rotary Club. Of course, this is again open to people from the rural areas, and this is where the department will cover the net cost of accommodation through a contract with the hospitality house.
Also, there is the Whitehorse General Hospital Lupine Lodge. Again, that's an arrangement that has to be made through the hospital and it provides some support for people from the rural areas. We also have the Dawson City chapter of the CPNP, which has made special arrangements with the High Country Inn, which offers a winter rate for a kitchenette suite here in Whitehorse. So, that's another possibility, but I wouldn't stop there.
As I indicated before to the Member for Klondike, we're always looking for ways to improve, and we will take that under advisement and work with my colleagues to see what else we can do. That's a very good suggestion.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister for his support of this initiative.
Let's take the minister to the issue of the capital expenditure that seems to be on hold at the Whitehorse General Hospital, the CAT scan machine. We're on hold on this initiative. I understand it's a major undertaking, and the minister went on at great length about what it would cost, the O&M, training people, and the whole nine yards.
Mr. Chair, let's contrast Whitehorse to Juneau, Alaska. Juneau has virtually the same population as Whitehorse. Juneau has two CAT scans, and I believe they are obtaining an MRI. There is the same population, a different health care delivery system, very close proximity to us.
I'm at a loss as to why we don't access their facilities more often than what we currently do. We can gain immediate access to the facilities on the U.S. side. Everybody raises their eyebrows when costs are mentioned, but at the end of the day, I'm sure, we're not looking at any major cost increase over the lengthy delay we have if we want to use the same facility in Vancouver. What's the hangup? Under the previous government, this CAT scan was almost on order. Why is there now a delay under this new government?
I'm sure I'm going to get the pat answer that it's under review or they're going to look at it or they have to train all of their individuals. This unit is not something for which you pick up the phone and it's here tomorrow. It's not something that the manufacturer keeps on the shelf. They are custom made to each request. Perhaps the officials can give the minister a timeline - from the time of placing the order and how much time would lapse until its delivery and installation and be turned up. We're looking at more than a reasonable length of time, I would assume. What's the hangup on getting this machine ordered?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: It's my information that the first the hospital really knew that they were going to buy a CAT scan was when it was in the budget. So, like any major investment, any major purchase, we just make a knee-jerk reaction; we go through the steps to ensure that we are doing it right. The hospital has in place their own protocol as to what they do when they move into large expenditures, and they have established a committee to develop criteria for the implementation of the CAT scan program.
Of course, this committee is made up of the professionals, the specialists in the hospital, and they will be making the purchase recommendations based on that criteria.
When you're moving into a new program, regardless of what it is, Mr. Chair, it's very important that you have trained personnel. Having trained personnel takes time, and particularly if you want trained personnel who are Yukoners, because we know that if we can train Yukoners, they are going to stay and they know the situation. If that fails, then obviously we have to throw as wide a net as we can in order to attract somebody to the Yukon. So that's another part of the package. That's already in place. The training, as I mentioned earlier, is taking place and will be completed very shortly.
We have asked the question about the timeline, as the member opposite has requested. The member opposite has also made the point that these are not on the shelf. I would agree with that.
I guess, Mr. Chair, that that is one of the reasons why we wanted to see the speedy approval of this budget so that we could get on with the purchases. I mean, that's $1 million, and $1 million doesn't grow on trees either. We have to make sure that the process of, if you want to call it, appropriate purchasing is followed. This is what the hospital has done, and really, it's at arm's distance from the government. I mean, the last government approved the $1 million and we're following through with it. What we need to do is approve the budget so that we can get on with it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, a million doesn't come easily; I agree with the minister. The only time it does come easily is when the government's negotiating a contract with the teachers' union and they can throw a million dollars on to the table very, very quickly.
But this is an initiative for health care. Now, what's stopping the purchase order from going out, Mr. Chair? Has it been stopped at the request of this new Liberal government? Or is it a departmental initiative to stop the request from going out, or is it the hospital? Where? And has the money been transferred to the Hospital Corporation for the capital acquisition of this piece of equipment?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, the short answer is no; we have not stopped doing anything. The hospital is doing their due diligence. They are following through their protocol. As I shared earlier, the due diligence is to have their committee - not our committee nor any other arm of government's committee; it's the hospital committee - look at how they are going to proceed with this and what they are going to purchase.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, in the budget there is some $1 million for capital and there is some $400,000 for this O&M initiative. Two-thirds of the budget of the Yukon has been approved by way of warrants and by way of - just for the sake of the moment I can't think of the term - but it's approved by the House for additional spending. So we have got two-thirds of the total budget of the Yukon committed for this next fiscal period. Has the $1.4 million and $400,000 been transferred to the Hospital Corporation? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, the answer is no, because the hospital hasn't requested the money yet. They are not finished their process.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I think the minister has the cart before the horse. Now if the minister sent them the $1.4 million, don't you think that they would order it?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, how many times do I have to repeat myself? They are going through their process; they are identifying what their needs are. It is out of our hands; it's not in my hands; that's in the hospital's hands; that's in the hospital board's hands. I can't speed it up any more - if that is the speed that they are working at, then that is the speed they are working at. They are doing what they feel is right and when they request the money, if the budget is passed, they will get the money.
Mr. Jenkins: If the budget is passed - what a statement, Mr. Chair. Here we are, two-thirds of the budget committed, and the minister is suggesting this unit is not ordered because the Hospital Corporation hasn't requested the money. Yet, on the other side of the equation, the minister advises the House that the Hospital Corporation is training and doing their due diligence on this initiative. So, somewhere along the line, the Hospital Corporation must have some assurance from this government that these funds are going to flow. They have every indication of it, otherwise they wouldn't be undertaking training. So, what assurances have been provided to the Hospital Corporation that these funds are going to flow?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, if the assumption is that they were not going to get the money, they wouldn't be doing all the things they're doing. Basically, they're going through the training process because the assumption is that they're going to get the money because it's in the budget. They're doing all the things they have to do. And when they request the money, if the budget is passed, they will receive the funds they need.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister advise the House how the department flows money to the Hospital Corporation? Is it done on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, the normal train of events is that core funding is provided on an upfront basis. They are given their core money - the request they make initially - and that is transferred to them. When it's a special project, like the CAT scan, a special contribution agreement is written up with the hospital.
Mr. Jenkins: Usually, these special contribution agreements are written up by the department, not by the Hospital Corporation. Correct, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: That's correct.
Mr. Jenkins: The Hospital Corporation does not have to request these funds. Occasionally, when they're over budget and they need additional funds, they make a case to the department for additional funds and they come back in the fall for supplementaries, but the bottom line is that this purchase is stalled because of this new Liberal government. That's the bottom line, Mr. Chair.
Let's move on to the dialysis machines. The dialysis units are quite necessary and I was just wondering why the position of the minister has changed so dramatically from what he said during the election to what he is saying now, as minister responsible for this area, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, the question of the dialysis - personally, I didn't have any vision of the dialysis during the election. That was an issue that was on my desk when I took the position of Health minister. The last government did not deal with it. They just left it there, and of course we have gone through the steps and procedures to look at where we are going to go with this.
So, I don't know what the member opposite is referring to; that during the election we had some idea of it. That may have been an idea that the last government had, but they hid it, I suppose you could say. I don't know, but it became an issue upon taking office.
Mr. Jenkins: It sounds like we have the Liberals with no vision, so they have taken the NDP vision, and anything that goes wrong it's the previous government's or the previous minister's fault. The bottom line is that there are a number of individuals in Yukon who have kidney problems and require dialysis.
Now, what is the game plan to address this very important issue, Mr. Chair? What is the department suggesting, other than that we probably acquire a jet aircraft for the Premier to fly to her ongoing meetings in Calgary and Vancouver to see if we can get a pipeline or well drilled here for oil? We could also use it to justify it for the medevacs taking people to Vancouver for dialysis. You know, the strip in Haines Junction is pretty good, and we have residents scattered through rural Yukon. It's a nice plane ride in a turbo jet or small jet from Yukon direct to Vancouver. It's two and a half or just over three hours, depending on the type of aircraft. Just what is the game plan to address this need here in Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I would like to inform the member opposite that all citizens who need dialysis are receiving dialysis. I'm not sure what he's referring to when he says that services are not being provided. Services are being provided.
Mr. Jenkins: In case the minister didn't understand, the issue is where they are being provided this service. The preference is to provide this service right here in Yukon. The reason it can't be provided here in Yukon is because we don't have the equipment. Why don't we have the equipment? It's because this minister isn't doing his job. There is no political will. Why doesn't he have this political will? It's because he's still in a training mode. The honeymoon period is still on.
When is the decision going to be made to acquire this equipment and base it here in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, with the statement from the Member for Klondike, it is to be assumed that no one is receiving dialysis here in the Yukon. That is wrong. A majority of Yukoners who are on dialysis receive dialysis in the Yukon. In the Yukon - yes. In order to build that process of identifying how or what type of dialysis, there has to be a trip to a larger centre. We do not have the resources to develop the resources that are needed in order to build the dialysis program.
When people contract this ailment, they have to go to a larger centre. That's expected until they have the proper processes. This is where they come back to the Yukon and they are then on peritoneal dialysis. The Member for Klondike is partially right that we do not offer hemodialysis right now, but that's sort of under review right now. That's what all this investigation is all about. It's a major undertaking. It's like buying a CAT scan; you don't just go out to the corner store and buy one. You have to go through a number of steps, and you have to rely on your resource people to provide you with the background, and this is what we're doing.
Mr. Jenkins: That's just what everyone in the Yukon wants to hear - another review. I wonder which one of the known Liberals is going to be hired to conduct or undertake this review? Just what are the timelines for this review, and when do we expect to have a decision with respect to this additional equipment for dialysis?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: If the Yukon public were to listen to the member opposite, you would think that what we could do is just go down to the corner health store and buy the machine, and that's it, it's all over. That's a very simplistic approach. It's far more than that, Mr. Chair.
For Yukon residents to be even on peritoneal, it takes months for training, it takes months of guidance, it takes months of getting used to the process. It's like anything else. If I were to go out and buy a hotel, I just wouldn't go buy a hotel unseen. I would do a business plan to find out whether this is the appropriate approach - what kind of hotel, who am I serving, all of those things. Unless you have got lots of money and you don't really care.
But when you're spending taxpayers' dollars, it's very important that we spend them wisely. So, the important part, Mr. Chair, is to ensure that we do it right.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if the minister wants to go out and buy a hotel, he can probably have any one in the Yukon, given the state of the economy and the viability of the hotel industry here in the Yukon. But I'd suggest he stick to what his responsibilities are - and that's as Minister of Health and Social Services - and address the issues on his desk.
What are the timelines for this review, and when can we expect to see a decision coming forth from the department? Is it being undertaken in-house in the department, or is it being undertaken by the Yukon Hospital Corporation? Where is this review being done, and what are the timelines for it?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, as in any business plan or long-range purchase, because this is a long-range purchase, you consult with those people who are most familiar and affected by it. So, we had to consult with the YMA, the Hospital Corporation and with outside people. That takes time. It's not done just instantly. We have to put this into some type of framework. It then has to be brought to caucus and Cabinet with a number of options, and then we have to look at how we're going to achieve the goals with whatever option we take.
So, the timeline - I would suggest, over the next few months, definitely. You will definitely be seeing some action in this area. It's important that we try to ensure that we do this right. The problem that we have, Mr. Chair - it's one of those issues that I really applaud Yukoners for. I really do. I applaud Yukoners who see an issue and who want to respond. That shows you the spirit of Yukoners. It shows you the spirit of northerners in wanting to do the best thing. So, for all of those individuals in the Yukon who have raised this issue and who want to, in many ways, contribute to the issue, either financially or morally or whatever way, we are very appreciative of that.
We have to see more of that in the future, Mr. Chair. It's very important that we see more of this, because that is again health care being taken home by Yukoners. The expectation that we have of specialists to respond and react to our every need means that we, as Yukoners, want to be those specialists as well. We want to be involved in our own health care.
I think the timeline is that we must look at the long-term interest of all Yukoners. We know the whole area of diabetes - and diabetes is an issue throughout Canada and it's a major issue in many jurisdictions - and trying to find out the reasons for it is another difficult issue and we have to be ready to respond to those concerns, but we have to make sure we do it wisely.
We want to make sure we make the best decision for the Yukon population. If we don't, we end up making one of those decisions that, in the past, has cost the Yukon a great deal of money and we're not into that game. This government is not in the game of making quick decisions. Consultation - the process of working with Yukoners - takes time.
I know in three months we probably could have - as I shared earlier, we have done a great deal. As I have said before, we have probably done more in the three months than the last government did in the last three and a half years. Consultation takes time, so we don't have all the instant answers but in this issue of the dialysis, we as a government are concerned. We are concerned about doing the right thing and when you touch base with the experts, you have to really look at their viewpoints, and their viewpoints are competing interests. They basically see it, too. As you know, we have many interests in the Yukon. We are a small system. We are a system that has a lot of needs and if you just take the time to read the paper just today you'll see a number of health issues there. I went home for lunch with my wife - I see my wife every now and then since we have been in the House. We happened to see the Health minister from B.C. on the news concerning four different issues, so it's obvious that health care is in crisis across the nation.
That's why, if you keep hearing from me about the need for a community to work together, then it's not something I'm whistling in the dark. It's because there's a need there - a crisis - and we have to work on it.
I think the important part for all of us, Mr. Chair, is to throw our effort and our energies into convincing Yukoners that we all have a stake in health, and our health has to be one of working together.
The important part for me in this is that I'm a learner, Mr. Chair. I'm learning. Even though I'm a senior on this so-called Liberal team, I'm still learning. I think it's great to be a learner. Personally, I think when you stop learning, you stop living.
The challenge of fulfilling this role of Health minister is really a big challenge, and we need all Yukoners to work with us in trying to resolve the problems, and the solutions, I know, will come from all of us. Throwing money at it is not the answer.
I would like to report progress at this point.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Roberts that we do now report progress.
Motion agreed to
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Chair, 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. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 2, First Appropriation Act, 2000-01, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Ms. Tucker: 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 9:29 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled July 12, 2000:
Public Communications Services Branch: project list for 1998-99 fiscal year (Duncan)
Oral, Hansard p. 617
Transition: Public Policy Forum contract cost and consultant's qualifications (Duncan)
Oral, Hansard p. 610
Crown in right of Yukon: legal costs pertaining to (Duncan)
Oral, Hansard p. 609