Wednesday, March 28, 2001 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of National Social Work Week
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to National Social Work Week.
Mr. Speaker, it is important that we recognize this very important role that our social workers play in our community. More importantly, I wish to pay tribute to the men and women in the Yukon who spend their days and sometimes evenings and weekends working diligently to support others in need.
Generally, when one thinks of a social worker, one thinks immediately of a child in need of protection or someone needing financial assistance. We seldom realize that social workers are a diverse group of individuals who are working throughout society. They are in hospitals helping families cope with bad news or helping them to make plans for a life transition. They work in seniors facilities to support individuals and families there. They work with youth. They work with children who have been abused and children who need to leave their homes.
On a daily basis, many of them face the alcoholism, violence, abuse and poverty their clients bring to them. They see families breaking down, but they also keep families together. They counsel, mediate and support. Their successes are rarely known, but they assist so many people by helping to resolve their issues and move forward in positive ways. The invaluable work they do in preventing abuse or dysfunction is immeasurable. They do it with dignity and compassion.
We formally recognize the value of their service to our community as a whole and we appreciate all the energy they put into their communities, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have a legislative return for tabling. On February 28, 2001, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun asked an oral question, in Hansard, page 1086, regarding land claims implementation funding.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have for tabling the annual report, 1999-2000, of the crime prevention and victim services trust fund.
I have a legislative return for tabling. On March 14, the MLA for Klondike asked a question, on page 1328 and 1329 of Hansard, regarding subdivision development.
I have another legislative return. On March 14, the MLA for Klondike asked a question about land, on page 1335 and 1336 of Hansard.
I have a legislative return. On March 15, the MLA for Klondike asked a question, on page 1350 of Hansard, regarding the Top of the World Highway.
I also have a legislative return. On March 15, the MLA for Klondike asked a question, in Hansard, page 1363, regarding the differences between the Yukon and Alaska and the Yukon and B.C. with respect to road restrictions, axle loading and axle spacing.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If there are no further returns or documents for tabling we will proceed.
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?
Kluane land use working group final report
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I rise today to inform the House about the direction the Yukon government will take in responding to recommendations by the Kluane land use working group related to the Kluane land use plan.
By way of background, the working group was established in July 1999 to foster the local consensus necessary to address outstanding land use issues because the Kluane regional land use plan was never adopted by the previous governments. This working group of eight residents was able to reach consensus on two major land use issues: agriculture and rural residential. The group was able to resolve potential conflicts over how the land in the area should be allocated to these areas.
I would like to formally acknowledge the valuable work of this working group and advise the House that the final report of the working group has the full support of our planning partners. We received letters of endorsement from DIAND, Champagne-Aishihik First Nation, the Village of Haines Junction and the Alsek Renewable Resource Council. In fact, the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation, in its letter of support, said, "Chief and Council would like to applaud the process that was taken in developing such a plan, a process in which community members took ownership."
This government has taken steps to immediately implement 38 of the 42 recommendations set out in the working group's report. Most of the recommendations relate to the provisions of agriculture and rural residential lands. Following transfer of the lands from the federal government, we will be using the working group's recommendations to strike the balance of making land available for development while ensuring important habitat and sensitive areas are fully protected. Officials from the Department of Community and Transportation Services will be contacting the working group to discuss how their recommendations will be carried out and to ensure the government and the community continue to work together.
Of the 42 recommendations put forward by the working group, four cannot be immediately implemented and have been deferred. They are as follows: (1) to look at alternatives to lotteries as a means of disposing of land, (2) to take steps to prevent the conversion of cottage lots to full-time residential, (3) to require spot land applications to pay for land and resource assessments, and (4) to carry out further land and resource assessments along the Haines Road.
The first three of these cannot presently be implemented because they are either governed by regulation or they are outside the territorial government's jurisdiction. The last recommendation is something we are prepared to consider in the future, Mr. Speaker.
As with any land use plan, there may be individuals who oppose certain recommendations. Some may feel there is insufficient protection for the environment, while others may feel that all we should be concerned about is development.
It is this government's policy to balance economic development and the environment. I am pleased that the recommendations in the report are in tune with that policy. I am pleased with the level of local support, Mr. Speaker, and the recommendations this government is now implementing. The bulk of the credit for that goes to the land use working group.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and especially thank you to all members of the Kluane land use working group.
Mr. McRobb: I, too, would like to thank the members of the working group for their hard work and dedication in helping to resolve these long-standing, provocative and contentious issues that have prevented proper land use planning from taking effect in the Kluane region.
I've had the privilege of observing these dedicated members at work and can relate to all members today their dedication to resolving such conflicts and developing them into policy recommendations. For that, they deserve all of our appreciation.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the process that created the working group is also important. That was led by the Alsek Renewable Resources Council. I also had the opportunity to attend and participate in those meetings. Those people deserve credit, as well. In addition, let me not forget past members of the working group for their dedicated efforts.
That aside, this matter has not escaped the political arena. The land use planning in the Kluane region has been a very contentious matter over the years, since its origin 14 years ago, I believe. We will all recall how the Yukon Party, soon after coming into government in 1992, put the policy on the shelf, where it collected dust for about four years.
The previous NDP government took it off the shelf and upgraded the plan with the full intention of implementing it, with the support of people in the Kluane communities. Unfortunately, it was soon determined that that support was not there and there was considerable concern with the recommendations in the plan.
At closer look, it was discovered that some of the recommendations needed further upgrading and consultation. Had the previous government been a closed government and a heavy-handed government, it would have rammed these recommendations into place. But it did not do so, Mr. Speaker.
Instead, the previous government decided to take a step back and create and allow further process to develop the recommendations through good consensus work of the working group. From that, Mr. Speaker, I think we can all learn a lesson in this Legislature that for any policy to be worthy, it has to have the support of the community.
Now, the minister alluded to the failure of previous governments to adopt the plan. I think I have covered some of the history on that and, at the risk of back-patting, I would also invite members opposite to be a little more charitable in their remarks because, from the history, we are able to see that the previous government was instrumental in getting this process to where it is today.
But let's not let that take away from the good work done by the members of the working group. They are very dedicated individuals and deserve all the credit, for without them there would be no policy today.
Now, it is up to government to put into effect those policy recommendations. All too often we have seen good policy go stale by collecting dust sitting on the shelf. It is incumbent upon government to act upon good policy work. I would encourage this government to recognize that this is good policy work and to roll up its sleeves. Let's let this good policy work be put into action.
Mr. Jenkins: I rise in response to this ministerial statement on the Kluane land use plan working group final report. The original Kluane land use plan is more than a decade old and was steeped in controversy. When the previous NDP government indicated that it was reviving the plan in 1999, over 100 people met in Haines Junction on February 11 of that year to protest the plan. These residents believed that the plan was obsolete and would effectively shut down economic development in that region.
The previous Minister of Renewable Resources received 159 letters from the Kluane area, objecting to the implementation of the plan. A group called RED, Responsible Economic Development, was subsequently formed, comprised of citizens of the Yukon who insisted on promoting responsible economic growth and prosperity, especially in the private sector.
Accordingly, Mr. Speaker, I must reserve judgement on the minister's fine words here today, until such time as the citizens of Kluane have expressed their views. The minister states that the working group of eight residents was able to reach consensus on two major land use issues, agricultural and rural residential. It is all well and good that the eight people of the working group reflect the views of the people of Kluane. Consensus has been reached on issues in the plan, but what about all of the other issues raised by the plan?
I must therefore reserve judgement until such time as I have had the opportunity to review the working group's final report and review the 42 recommendations they are proposing. I would also like to hear from the majority of Kluane residents, who were in opposition to the plan previously, to determine if their concerns have been properly addressed.
As a result, Mr. Speaker, I wish to extend my congratulations to the working group. I must reserve my congratulations for the plan itself sine die. It is my fevered hope that all of the problems with the Kluane land use plan have finally been resolved, but the people of Kluane themselves must be the judge of that.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I would like to thank the members opposite for their praise and support for a long-awaited plan. As the members for Kluane and Klondike have indicated, it has been a long time coming, and it has, through successive governments, been worked on - each building on the work of the previous one.
I thought, in the House, that working together productively, we could have all acknowledged that we had input into the plan, as well as acknowledge that the work was done by many people in the area. The 149 letters mentioned went to the previous Minister of Renewable Resources, who then acted and amended the plan, along with the group that was formed.
So, really, this is a good news message.
Just as the Member for Kluane had indicated that the plan was first mentioned in this Legislature in 1989 by the Yukon Party member, Mr. Art Webster, wherein the Yukon Party sought a moratorium ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Oh, really? Okay, sorry. ...on placer mining in the Tatshenshini River area until a Kluane land use plan was completed, Mr. Speaker. In 1997, the NDP member, Mr. McDonald, expected it to be in position to adopt the greater Kluane land use plan so it would serve as a model for other areas in the territory. In 1998, our now Premier asked when the plan would be signed off by the previous government, and the NDP stated that they had a couple of concerns; they needed to make sure that they did it properly, to consult with the affected First Nations. It is surprising that it took nine years to realize that there were First Nations in that area and that they had concerns.
In 1999, the interim leader of the official opposition stated that there were some delays. The people in Haines Junction wanted more input. The opposition says that we don't listen. It was obvious in this case that the opposition wasn't sure who in the Kluane region should be consulted. The Yukon Party, although they started the process, suggested that the whole thing should be scrapped and started over. Well, Mr. Speaker, the very hard work, as we've all acknowledged in this House - did work hard at putting everything together, and we as a government are now bringing it forward with the exception of the four recommendations that won't be looked at at this particular time. So we are proud of the plan, Mr. Speaker. It is a good starting point, and perhaps it may be used as a basis for other land use planning exercises. It is my hope that the Teslin, north Yukon, Northern Tutchone regional land use planning commissions proceed in a balanced and cooperative way during their planning initiatives.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Member for Whitehorse Centre, status in caucus
Mr. Fentie: My question today is for the minister responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corporation, if the Premier has lifted her gag order.
Yesterday, the Premier skated all around a very direct question about whether or not a member of the government caucus had any direct contact with anybody from the Yukon Liquor Corporation.
So, I ask one more time: is the minister aware of any direct contact between the Member for Whitehorse Centre and any official of the Yukon Liquor Corporation about the suspension of a liquor licence in his riding, and if so, when and how did this matter come to her attention?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is asking if there has been any political interference by the Member for Whitehorse Centre. Mr. Speaker, I advised the member opposite yesterday that there has not, and I would advise the member opposite again today that there has not.
Now, the member opposite was on the radio this morning saying that this was an internal caucus matter and that it should be dealt with in that way. Mr. Speaker, that's exactly what we're doing, so I'd urge the Member for Watson Lake to take his own advice and treat it as an internal caucus matter, just as we have.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I didn't know that there has been a Cabinet shuffle, Mr. Speaker. Or the Premier is extremely concerned about what the minister responsible for the Liquor Corporation will say. Possibly, she might get to the facts of this matter.
Now, the Premier is in full cover-up mode on this issue. This is a public issue now because the members opposite made it so and the president of the Liquor Corporation spoke publicly about this matter through the media. The Member for Whitehorse Centre was so concerned about this issue that he went to the opposition parties. That also made it a public issue.
The members opposite seem to have mismanaged again another issue. The question here: can the minister responsible for the Liquor Corporation tell the House if she has had any discussions with the president about the MLA's concerns?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the only bodies who are in full cover-up mode are the members opposite, because they are covering up for their complete lack of questions. This has been a dud session for them, so they're trying to find some questions to ask.
The member was on the radio this morning saying this is an internal caucus matter and it should be dealt with in that way. That's exactly what we're doing.
Mr. Speaker, during the interview on the radio this morning, the Member for Watson Lake said that we should have covered this issue up. We should have done just what the NDP do and not speak publicly about the fact that the Member for Whitehorse Centre has had the political courage to admit that he did something that violated the trust of his other caucus members, even though there was no political interference. This is unlike the members opposite, who readily admit to political interference. With this government and the Member for Whitehorse Centre, there has been no political interference on this issue. The Member for Whitehorse Centre has had the political courage to deal with an internal caucus matter publicly and openly. That takes courage and I applaud him for it.
As for the member opposite's questions, he is covering up for the lack of them.
Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, the Premier has blown a wheel and hit the ditch on this one. It's the members opposite who have forced the Member for Whitehorse Centre to go public, as he did, with his so-called banishment from caucus. This Premier is trying to cover up a situation here. If there was no political interference and no contact made, how did the president of the corporation know, and state publicly, that the reason the Member for Whitehorse Centre was so exorcised was because of a licence suspension in the member's riding.
It's the Premier who has a problem here, and it's a problem of integrity. We are trying to get to the bottom of this matter. If the member hadn't brought this to the attention of the president and the minister hadn't, can the minister explain how the president could then state publicly what the member's concerns were?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite, Inspector Clouseau over there, is trying to search for some hidden issue, hidden motive. We are an open, public and accountable government, and we have behaved that way. And for the member opposite to chastize it for me just amazes me daily.
The Member for Watson Lake has said publicly on the radio this morning that this is an internal caucus matter and that is the way that it should have been dealt with. That is the way that we have dealt with it, as a caucus matter. The fact that the Member for Whitehorse Centre has had the political, public courage to stand up and say, "I made a mistake," is to be admired. It is not to be criticized.
Question re: Member for Whitehorse Centre, status in caucus
Mr. Fairclough: I have a question for the Premier. And before she puts up a smokescreen about internal caucus business, I want to make it perfectly clear that this is a question about government policy.
Yesterday I caught the Premier off guard when I referred to concerns that at least one of her MLAs has about sole-source regulations. Now, the Premier has had a chance to look into the matter, so she should be able to give a straight answer. Will the Premier tell the House what sole-source contract the MLA for Whitehorse Centre was so concerned about?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, let me make this perfectly clear for the member opposite. The MLA for Whitehorse Centre has publicly had the courage to admit that something he did violated the trust of his other caucus members, even though there was no political interference. Now, I don't know what is not crystal clear about that to the member opposite. The Member for Watson Lake said this morning on CBC - that went over how many breakfast tables this morning - that this is an internal caucus matter, and it is. There is not an issue of government public policy to be debated on the floor of this House.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, this Liberal Party made it, and this is all about public business. I'm talking about sole-source regulations, so I hope that the Premier can follow along with the question. The Premier cannot hide from that at all. The Member for Whitehorse Centre was so concerned that he went to the opposition parties, instead of his own colleagues. If the Premier would like, I can table the note that was sent to the Member for Kluane on March 14. He spoke to the Clerk of the Legislature, and he also spoke to the Liberal House leader, who is also on the Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments to set up a meeting.
Now, if the Premier has nothing to hide, why won't she simply tell us about the contract that got the government MLA so worked up?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Perhaps this will help the Member for Mayo-Tatchun follow the bouncing ball, as he has just suggested I do.
The Member for Whitehorse Centre has said publicly that he did something that violated the trust of his other caucus members. That action was calling a SCREP committee meeting with agenda items. How would I know about them? That's the mistake the Member for Whitehorse Centre admitted he made. That is very clearly what has happened.
I don't know why the member can't - as he put it - connect the dots on that issue. I don't know why the Member for Mayo-Tatchun isn't standing by his colleague and saying that this is an internal caucus matter. That's what the Member for Watson Lake said: "Why won't the Member for Mayo-Tatchun stand by his colleague?"
Mr. Fairclough: Well, the Premier has missed the question again, Mr. Speaker. Again, she has missed the question, and it's a shame. The Member for Whitehorse Centre at least had the courage to admit that he messed up and that he's prepared to serve a penalty that he gave himself.
Now, this Premier refuses to accept her responsibility to the Yukon people and to this House by trying to duck the question about government policy. So much for openness and so much for accountability. The Premier's refusal to answer speaks for itself, and I don't believe there is any point in me asking a second supplementary.
Question re: Yukon hydrogen project, sole-source feasibility study
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Premier.
The Premier divested herself of her ministerial responsibilities for the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation through Order-in-Council 2001-27, dated February 16 of this year. The order came into force on February 23 of this year.
Can the Premier advise the House if the reason for this divestiture had anything to do with what appears to be a sole-source Yukon feasibility study on the Yukon hydrogen project? The Yukon hydrogen project conceptual plan is to use the excess hydro capacity in Whitehorse to power production and storage facilities for hydrogen. The first phase of this project is over three years and will cost between $5 million to $7 million, while the second phase will take from two to five years and has an estimated cost of $3 million. Yukon Development Corporation is in partnership with GS Energy Systems Inc. on this multi-million dollar project. What is the Premier's involvement in this?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, absolutely nothing.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, fuel cell technology to create electricity is a very expensive technology to be involved in, and currently it involves some of the largest corporations in the world, such as Ballard Power, Ford, General Motors, Daimler-Benz, to name but a few.
Can the Premier explain why this multi-million-dollar Yukon hydrogen project has been kept secret, except for a select few individuals?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have absolutely nothing to do with this particular situation that the member is discussing, and I am not the minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation or its subsidiary, the Yukon Energy Corporation. The member opposite is trying to suggest that there is some issue with me, as a minister, and if the member opposite would care to assess the disclosure form that I filed, it's a public document and he's welcome to do so.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, the estimated cost of the two phases of the Yukon hydrogen project is likely to be a very low estimate of the actual cost. So I'd like to know the details of the agreement or contract Yukon Development Corporation has with GS Energy Systems on this multi-million dollar Yukon hydrogen project. Will the minister responsible for Yukon Development Corporation table a copy of this agreement or contract?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, being in an open and accountable government, transparent to all Yukoners, the answer is yes.
Question re: Member for Whitehorse Centre, status in caucus
Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Let's get to this open and accountable government. Yesterday we asked the Premier what a sole-source contract had to do with liquor regulations and why the Member for Whitehorse Centre was so exorcised about the sole-source contract to the point where he, along with the other Liberal member, wanted to convene the Committee on Statutory Instruments, which hasn't met since the 1980s. There is much more to this than what the Premier is letting on. That is not the sign of an open and accountable government. Why did not the Premier yesterday then say, when asked, what the sole-source contract was about? She knew then as she knows now. Why is that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, what I know is that the Member for Whitehorse Centre went outside of caucus and convened a SCREP meeting or attempted to suggest that he would like to call such a meeting. He also may or may not have suggested - and I would invite the members opposite, since they seem to have a note on this, to table it - what's in that? I repeat for the member opposite again that the Member for Whitehorse Centre went outside of his caucus. Hello? I'm part of that caucus.
The second point is that the Member for Whitehorse Centre realizes he made an error, stood up and publicly apologized to his caucus, and in our true open and accountable fashion has publicly apologized. Now, the member opposite is on the radio at seven-something this morning saying that it's an internal caucus matter. By 1:30 in the afternoon, all of a sudden, Inspector Clousseau has some kind of a nefarious plot afoot. I honestly cannot figure out what the member is trying to get at, Mr. Speaker. It's an internal caucus matter; it has been dealt with. Let's get on with the business of Yukoners.
Mr. Fentie: Well, that's what we would hope this government would do, instead of washing their laundry in public.
The reason why there is a problem here is that there is dissension in the caucus of the Liberal government, and it's affecting their ability to make decisions.
Can I ask the Premier this: what does this hydrogen project have to do, in terms of a $5-million to $7-million expenditure, with sole-source?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Exactly. I have no idea what connection the member opposite is trying to make. Perhaps he could clarify what his question is. And, when he stands on his feet, maybe he can tell us who really speaks for the NDP in the public. Is it him, the House leader? Or is it the interim leader, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun? Who really speaks for the NDP? It certainly seems to be the member, in the public.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the Premier is really scrambling on this one. For the Premier's benefit, I'm the critic for the Yukon Liquor Corporation; therefore, I speak in that regard.
This matter began with a situation in the Yukon Liquor Corporation and included a situation of such concern to the members of the Premier's caucus that they wanted to convene the Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments.
Now, I ask the question: what does the Yukon hydrogen project have to do with sole-source? Is the Premier sole-sourcing the $5 million to $7 million on this project or not? I say that, because this Premier is on record saying that she would never, ever, circumvent the tendering process. What is the case?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: If the member is asking a question about the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation, then I didn't know he was that critic as well. I thought that that was the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes. If he is asking that, firstly, it is a new question. Secondly, if he has that question, why doesn't he ask the Development Corporation or ask the minister responsible? Why doesn't the member stick to his word that this issue, with respect to the Member for Whitehorse Centre convening the Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, an action outside of caucus, is an internal caucus matter? Why won't he stick to the standard and message that he started the day with?
Question re: Member for Whitehorse Centre, status in caucus
Mr. Fairclough: I have a question for the Premier about openness and accountability. Will the Premier tell the House what role her Cabinet communications advisor played in setting up a news conference given by the Member for Whitehorse Centre earlier this week?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: He was probably doing his job. The Member for Whitehorse Centre was convening a media conference, and the individual in question works with our caucus on media. That is his job. I would expect that that was exactly what he was doing and, I might say, doing it very well.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, this is interesting. A Cabinet employee paid through the Executive Council Office arranging the news conference for a backbencher who has been drummed out of the Liberal caucus - but that is not what we want to focus on, Mr. Speaker.
Is the Premier aware that her communications advisor told a senior member of the Yukon media that he was not allowed to attend this news conference?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I can't believe what the communications advisors of the members opposite are writing for them to read in this Legislature.
This is an open and accountable government. Mr. Speaker, this government and this caucus is committed to being open and accountable. We will certainly do what that previous government did not do, and we will openly and publicly have the courage to admit when we have made a mistake. We also do not politically interfere. And let me be absolutely clear for the member - again and again and again - that there has been no political interference.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, again the Premier did not listen to the question - did not listen. Was she aware that one of the senior media people in this town was not allowed to come to the news conference? Is that open and accountable - not to have the media at press conferences? This is the Premier's own Cabinet communications advisor saying which reporters the government finds acceptable and which it does not find acceptable, and then it makes a government policy.
This Liberal government is not open and refuses to be accountable to Yukon people. We don't expect the government to love every reporter, of course, and everything they report, but we do expect the freedom of the press. And it's not acceptable for elected officials to pick and choose whom they will and will not talk to.
My question: will the Premier now agree to advise her caucus members and their political staff that they should not discriminate against any legitimate member of the news media?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Oh, Mr. Speaker, first of all, let's talk about the divisions and the double standards emanating from the benches opposite. First of all, we have the Member for Watson Lake who says, in a CBC interview this morning, that this is an internal caucus matter and it should be dealt with in that way. Now, the sole source of their questions all day long has been this internal caucus matter.
During the interview on the radio this morning, the Member for Watson Lake said we should have covered this issue up entirely, just as the NDP did when they were in office. He suggested the Member for Whitehorse Centre should not have publicly admitted he made a mistake.
Now we have the division in the NDP caucus truly evident, because the Member for Watson Lake says one thing in the morning and the Member for Mayo-Tatchun has another story by 1:40 in the afternoon.
This government is open and accountable. The Member for Whitehorse Centre made a mistake. He publicly admitted it and he has publicly atoned for it.
The members opposite also, Mr. Speaker, have a double standard when it comes to political interference. It's all right from the benches opposite. It's not all right over here. We do not politically interfere, and we will not.
Question re: Member for Whitehorse Centre, status in caucus
Mr. Fentie: My question is now for the Premier, who keeps alluding to a CBC interview this morning. Furthermore, the Premier - and this is no joking matter; the members opposite are on dangerous ground here - has misquoted and misrepresented that interview. What we on this side of the House said and maintain is that there is dissension in the caucus. The Member for Whitehorse Centre only came forward after a severe spanking from the Premier. That's why he went public. We said issues like this should be dealt with in the appropriate manner at the caucus table, and let's get on with the issues that concern Yukoners. This government opposite is not capable of doing that. They are in trouble.
Now, why does the Premier not openly admit that, when animosity between members in her caucus spills out into the street, the Premier has a serious problem at the leadership level? Will she now admit that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, that's a stretch, a real stretch. For the information of the members opposite, there is not dissension on this side of the House. We know now, clearly, by their display of behaviour in Question Period today that the dissension is over there - very clearly. The Member for Watson Lake says one thing in the morning, and the Member for Mayo-Tatchun says another during Question Period. That is particularly evident.
If the member wants to get on with the issues that are of concern to Yukoners, let's talk about the Yukon economy. Let's talk about the fact that the unemployment rate in February was 12.2 percent under this government; it was 12.8 percent under the NDP government. That's 100 jobs, Mr. Speaker, and that's important to Yukoners.
Mr. Fentie: I am so glad that the minister responsible for Economic Development has brought up the issue of 12.8 versus 12.2 percent unemployment in this territory, because under this government, that percentage of unemployment reflects the fact that 500 fewer people are in the workforce in this territory today, and the 500 fewer people happen to be, for the most part, between the ages of 25 to 40. That's our workforce. So the Premier is simply totally out of touch with her own portfolio of Economic Development.
My question to the Premier is this: with all the dissension and animosity within caucus, when will there be a Cabinet shuffle to right this Liberal ship before it crashes on the rocks?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the only thing that's crashing on the rocks is the NDP, which can't even hold the leadership convention. They can't get that right.
Let's talk about the statistics. Let's talk about the fact that there are 100 more people working in February under the Yukon Liberal Party than there were under the NDP - same time as the previous year, 100 more people collecting a paycheque. And the number of people collecting unemployment insurance in February of this year was down almost 10 percent over last year under the NDP. That's not as far as we want to go in rebuilding Yukon's economy, but it's a darn good start.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the Minister of Economic Development is now proving that she's incompetent when it comes to running this department. She's making a claim that there are 10-percent fewer people on the unemployment line in the Yukon under the Liberal government. That's true, because 500 people have left the territory. They didn't even bother to stay around and go on unemployment.
This Premier has a serious problem when it comes to her portfolio of Economic Development. We have asked in the past that she hand this portfolio off to someone so that it can receive the focus it requires. We see the Minister of Tourism being isolated and not even being allowed to answer questions in regard to her own department. We see the Member for Whitehorse Centre being spanked and forced to go out publicly and admit that he did something wrong, when all he was doing was trying to represent a constituent, which is what he was elected to do.
This Premier owes an apology to the Yukon public -
Speaker: Order please. Will the member please get to the question.
Mr. Fentie: Will the Premier now apologize to the Yukon public for misleading them?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has accused me of misleading this House. That is a -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I would submit that the member opposite's statement was out of order and should be withdrawn. He has accused me of misleading, which is, in effect, lying.
Speaker: I think I will just continue with the Member for Kluane.
Question re: Rural roads upgrade program
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, on a different matter.
This Liberal government has cut back funding for the rural roads upgrade program to only $400,000 for the coming budget year. The previous NDP government routinely provided between one and one and a half million dollars a year for this important program.
The rural roads program is important for producing local jobs, as well as improving the territory's secondary roads. This government is trying to cry poverty as an excuse, even though they continue to sit on a huge surplus. In addition, this government has just received $317,000 as a recovery for the Burwash fire.
The minister has decided to spend $178,000 on unnecessary computer equipment. This adds up to about half a million dollars, or nearly enough -
Speaker: Order please. Will the member please get to the question.
Mr. McRobb: Will the minister consider putting these dollars into the rural roads upgrade program to provide jobs for Yukoners?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Well, that was interesting. The previous train wasn't going anywhere, so they decided to switch tracks with a new line of questioning.
It is interesting that the Member for Kluane says that they put a million, a million and a half dollars in the rural roads upgrade program. It's important to note that they neglected all of the other roads with a capital budget as low as $3.8 million for the roads. So, this is not exactly straight on the part of the member opposite. This year, the rural roads upgrade program sits at $400,000 because I moved the money into the Champagne program on the Alaska Highway in the member's own riding. I am amazed that he is suggesting that that wasn't an appropriate use of the funds.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, the minister is wrong, clearly wrong. We discovered yesterday afternoon that the Burwash fire reclamation is new money that wasn't spent on an existing project. These funds that we are asking for today are significant for both effecting the change in the budget and because this is the only opportunity in Question Period to ask this question to the minister before her department is cleared. I want to focus back on the question. Will this minister consider reappropriating the monies for the unessential computer equipment and the Burwash fire recovery into the rural roads upgrade program?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Kluane has plenty of time to ask questions about this department in general debate. I believe we're at 11 days now. The member has plenty of time to ask his question, and when we get to line-by-line debate he won't realize that he's not talking about non-essential computer equipment. The Burwash fire funds, as was explained to the member several times yesterday, are recoverable monies and are already spoken for.
Mr. McRobb: Again, more fiction. This is the minister's spin on this money. Clearly -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: The Minister of Community and Transportation Services, on a point of order.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe that the Member for Kluane's use of the word "fiction" is suggesting that I was lying to the House. That is clearly not true.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: No, it's not a dispute between members. I clearly heard the word "fiction", too, and I was debating in my mind whether it is as the minister would interpret it, or whether it was meant to be fictitious.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: No, I won't be taking it under advisement. I think I will go to 19(j), class it as language of a nature likely to create disorder and rule that it is out of order. I would ask the member to continue, please.
Mr. McRobb: It's getting very difficult in this Chamber to determine what language to use. The word was okay the other day, and the previous Chair ruled on that, so maybe we should get together and clarify the language.
Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I disagree with what the minister said. Clearly, the allocation for the highway work in the Kluane riding is very important, but that was assigned before the recovery was made. That's a significant point.
This is the only opportunity to ask the minister this question before her department clears, and I want to get it on record and I want people across the territory to see it. The minister refused to reassign this money for the program.
Once again, will she reappropriate the money to the rural roads upgrade program?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The rural roads upgrading program is a very important one. There has been no set amount of funding over the past few years. It has varied. This year it was necessary to set it at $400,000. It is my hope that, in the 2002-03 budget, I will be able to increase it. That is my hope, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Motion No. 93, standing in the name of Mr. Fentie.
Motion No. 93
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Watson Lake
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the development of a stable, sustainable forest industry in the Yukon could provide a major economic engine in the territory,
(2) the Yukon Forest Strategy was developed through extensive public consultation to serve as a made-in-Yukon model for the management of this important resource following devolution of the Northern Affairs program to the Yukon,
(3) the development of a stable, sustainable forest industry that respects the Yukon's environmental and social values has been severely impeded by ongoing mismanagement of the forest resource by the federal government,
(4) this mismanagement has recently been demonstrated again with the inappropriate issuance of timber permits in the LaBiche area of southeast Yukon, and
(5) the federal government's mismanagement of Yukon forest resources has hampered the territory's economic development, has failed to provide the necessary environmental safeguards, and has contributed to the delay in settling outstanding Yukon First Nations land claims; and
THAT this House urges the federal government not to proceed with any further forestry activity in the LaBiche area until the necessary resource assessments and required data are supplied by the federal government, so that the Yukon people can make informed decisions respecting the forest resource that are consistent with the principles of the Yukon Forest Strategy and acceptable to Yukon First Nations and stakeholders in the affected region.
Mr. Fentie: First, Mr. Speaker, I want to make it very clear that the official opposition brings forward this motion today in the context that we believe that this Legislature can send a very clear and strong message to the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development in regard to their handling of forest management in this territory.
It is we in this House, the elected people in this Legislature, who are duty bound to represent and protect Yukoners' interests when it comes to forestry in this territory. It is we - it is this Legislature - who must, on issues like this, set aside our partisan differences, set aside any animosities between ourselves, and focus on what is best for the Yukon public, Yukon forests and the Yukon's future.
The federal government - and I think we would find no argument throughout this territory - over the years has been consistently neglecting and/or mismanaging our forest resource, which first and foremost is compromising the Yukon's future.
The federal government has neglected, for decades, to apply and implement the necessary resources, initiatives and manpower to deal with forest management in this territory.
It is through that neglect that we experienced, in the mid-1990s, a serious problem that still impacts us today. Because the federal government neglected to focus on and make a concerted effort toward forest management in the Yukon Territory, they were caught during a peak rush for access to timber resources here in the Yukon. From that point, the federal government has reacted, and continues to do so to this day, to this issue. They do not manage our forests; they manage by crisis. Each time that one of these issues or crises arose, the federal government has got itself into deeper trouble. Each time, the impact on the Yukon has been severe. Each time, our abilities in this territory to properly manage our forests and have the federal government address Yukoners' concerns, desires and needs in forestry have been ignored.
Forestry in this territory - and I think we can all agree on this - is much more than simply managing fire and managing for access to timber. There are people in this territory who for generations have required the forest lands for their very existence and subsistence. The official opposition and, I'm sure, all of us in this House, recognize the diversity of values and interests in our forest lands. We can no longer continue to operate and manage those forest lands as we have been to this point in time.
I will be very frank about this; I have sought unanimous support of this motion, not only from the member of the third party, but I have discussed, with members opposite, the view that we on the official opposition take, in regard to this motion. We seek unanimous support so that we can send that clear and strong signal to the federal government that the time has come where Yukoners will no longer accept what the federal government is doing in regard to managing Yukon forest lands.
There are a number of points that I would like to make that will hopefully lay out some of the mismanagement and what effects and impacts that has here in the Yukon Territory, on our people and on our forests. And I must begin with land claims themselves. Every time the federal government mishandles an issue in forestry in this territory - specifically in areas where there are unsettled land claims - it sets us back, because it is the First Nations, who have a long, long history and link with forest lands, who require that environment for their very existence. Look at areas like the southeast Yukon, where the bulk of our forest resource lies, and we have an unsettled land claim. The Kaska people are not adverse to access to forest lands but they want to ensure that their rights and their needs are protected, addressed and looked after.
Just recently the federal government, in a very ill-advised attempt, about a year ago, while issuing access to timber in the LaBiche region of the southeast Yukon, has created what could be a major stumbling block in achieving a land claims agreement with the Kaska people. It was to the point where litigation was imminent. That, in itself, triggered the federal government to openly admit that they were outside the very bounds of law. That dictated that they provide compensation to proponents of potential timber permits in the southeast Yukon to the tune of $680,000 of Canadian taxpayers' money to compensate for the mistake, the mishandling and the mismanagement of that resource in the southeast Yukon.
Even - pardon me, Mr. Speaker, I hope I'm not keeping the Minister of Tourism awake. At any rate, even in the face of that $680,000 cost to taxpayers, the federal government is doing the same thing again, some 12 short months later, and it is triggering the same negative response.
The southeast Yukon, and particularly this area, is going to be immensely important to the future of this territory and its people, not only because of the diversity of what's on that land base, but for our economic development in the long term. The federal government cannot continue to ignore what we in this territory require for our future. We all agree that the development of a forest industry, done in a sustainable, viable manner, is a requirement for this territory now and into the future.
We all agree that protecting our forested lands is vital to that future. I think we can all agree that the federal government is not responsive to what Yukoners require and desire, and to what our needs in this territory are when it comes to our forested lands.
I ask that all the members of this House send that clear, strong signal to the federal government that it's time that they took us seriously. We in this Legislature can certainly do that. We in this Legislature have a role to play, and it's on issues like this where we can come together and fight the fight on behalf of all the people in this territory, regardless of what constituency we politically represent.
We are also, in the official opposition, prepared to accept and support any amendment coming from the opposite side that would strengthen what we are trying to achieve.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, I'm hopeful that all members in this House support what we're trying to do, and I'm hopeful that we can, from this day, send that signal to the federal government and, with a little luck, change how the federal government continues to manage our forests.
Our future is at stake, our forests are at stake, and our economy is being compromised because of the mismanagement by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. I ask, with all due respect, the members opposite and the member of the third party to come forward and support this motion. Let us take on the federal government when it comes to our forested lands.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has, in the tradition of this Legislature, proposed that all members unanimously support a motion to send a very powerful message to the Government of Canada in Ottawa. It's not without its history in this Legislature. The entire Legislature unanimously supported a motion that we brought forward when we were in opposition with respect to the payment of a long-outstanding invoice between the Government of Canada and the Government of Yukon with respect to health care payments.
The motion was unanimously supported by this House and it achieved its desired result. The Member for Watson Lake is hopeful that his motion today, should it receive unanimous support, will do the same, and I commend the member for his actions in that regard.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the importance of a sustainable and stable Yukon forest industry, including the issues raised by the member opposite. It's also important that this provides us with an opportunity to go on record and fully outline for the members of the public what this government has done, since taking office less than one year ago, toward the development of a healthy forestry industry. The DIAND Minister Nault and I have met on several occasions. We have also written on several occasions to the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development on ongoing forestry matters.
The Government of Yukon has participated in the federal THA development process. And we are active participants - indeed leaders - in forest management planning processes.
The Government of Yukon has continually advocated the need to develop an industry that is both stable and sustainable. Accordingly, we have been working with the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to promote forest management plans that define a secure timber base for the industry and to develop timber tenures that provide more long-term certainty for industry players and to promote timber harvest levels that are sustainable on a long-term basis and that consider other economic activities, such as trapping, outfitting and tourism.
A stable and sustainable forestry industry can provide increased economic benefits to many Yukon communities.
In some communities, this could potentially include a relatively large industry that exports manufactured wood products to markets outside of the Yukon. In other communities this may mean a smaller industry that is focused on meeting the needs of a local market. This Liberal government recognizes that the Yukon forest strategy was developed through considerable work and public consultation by the previous government. We also recognize, however, that the previous government was not successful, unfortunately, in obtaining the support of Yukon First Nations for the final strategy.
While we expect that many aspects of the Yukon forest strategy can and will be used by this government to develop a new approach to forest management and development in the territory, we are also committed to making increased efforts with Yukon First Nations to develop a strategy that all Yukon people can support.
The Yukon government recognizes that some of the territory's most valuable commercial timber resources are located in southeast Yukon. This includes the LaBiche area. It's in our long-term economic interest to manage and develop the forest resources of this area in a secure, stable and sustainable fashion. We also recognize that over the last several years, timber harvesting in the LaBiche area has been associated with much uncertainty and many conflicting interests and issues. These include unsettled land claims, forest health concerns, competing timber and conservation interests, an unfulfilled 1996 Canadian environmental assessment requirement to create a forest ecosystem network in the area, a lack of a clear forest management plan and threats of potential legal action. If these conditions continue, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to develop a secure and stable forest industry in the area.
To address these issues, the Liberal Government of Yukon told the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development that it should give high priority to initiating a forest management planning process in southeast Yukon and resolving outstanding CEAA commitment for the LaBiche area - CEAA being the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has agreed to initiate a forest management planning process for the southeast Yukon. The Yukon government believes that substantial progress should be made on these matters before there is any further timber harvesting in the area. It is our view that this will be the most effective way to create a stable operating environment for a long-term forest industry in southeast Yukon.
It is necessary for us to act now and to take the lead role in developing a long-term forest management and development strategy for the Yukon. The members opposite have encouraged us to do that. The Government of Yukon has embarked on a two-phased approach to developing such a strategy. The first phase included an internal round table with Government of the Yukon and the federal government to identify the key issues with current forest management and development in the Yukon. The second phase will include a public forest summit workshop on April 10, 11 and 12.
The purpose of the forest summit is to seek public input on key forest management and development issues in the Yukon, clarify public interests and identify common ground with regard to these issues and to work toward developing a coordinated approach for the management and development of Yukon forests. The summit will help define a vision for the Yukon timber industry, identify the types of timber tenures and allocations that will be needed to support the growth of this type of industry, and help define what stakeholders and governments can do to make this vision a reality. The summit will include presentations by recognized experts in the forest industry as well as group discussions led by facilitators. Participants at the summit will include representatives from the forest industry, business associations, tourism and wilderness operators, conservation groups, First Nations and mandated boards and councils - an open, accountable and inclusive process.
The results of the forest summit will be used to provide informed input to Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development on forestry matters on an ongoing basis and build a solid foundation for long-term Government of the Yukon forest policy development, in preparation for devolution.
Mr. Speaker, I would again like to thank the Member for Watson Lake who has brought this motion forward, and ask for the unanimous support of the House.
I would also like to commend and thank the member who has a keen interest in this area and who has expressed his views and willingness to work with the government with respect to a long-term forest strategy and, indeed, with respect to the forest summit.
This government is working on forestry issues and is working with and lobbying, writing, meeting with the federal minister in this regard. We appreciate the member bringing forward a motion that unanimously supports our efforts and urges us to continue them.
I look forward to further discussion on this motion later this afternoon.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: I'm pleased to rise today in favour of this motion and speak to the importance of resolving these outstanding concerns in the LaBiche area as well as the remainder of the territory.
The LaBiche area is a critical area of the Yukon. It's environmentally significant and very important to the future of the territory.
Since 1990, there have been problems with the way this area has been managed by federal officials and, Mr. Speaker, I don't intend to repeat much of what has been said today, which alluded to specifics of that. But in 1996, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act screening of a short-term timber harvest agreement in the area clearly stated that, before any further logging could occur in this area, a representative area of the LaBiche had to be set aside for protection.
Now, instead of living up to its legal responsibility, DIAND has not done much but create uncertainty in this region of the territory, and indeed in all areas of the territory.
I can recall, some four and a half years ago, shortly after being sworn in on the government side, attending a meeting in Haines Junction. Mr. Speaker, that meeting was also attended by about 130 others, mostly from the Village of Haines Junction. The issue that evening was forestry in the Kluane area. There were representatives of different sectors of the public there, as well as industry. There were plenty of political representatives there, including the former regional director general of DIAND.
I took extensive notes that night and listened carefully, especially when DIAND officials were speaking, and I heard promises made that were never fulfilled, promises relating to the development of forestry management plans in the territory that were never fulfilled. In fact, I recall one specific promise to the people at that meeting that, within a year, a forestry management plan for the Kluane area - or Y-O6, as it is known - would be undertaken. Prior to that, in the year hence, the forestry management planning process would be done in the Y-O1 area near Watson Lake.
Mr. Speaker, if people can't believe what they're told by senior officials and political representatives, who can they believe?
I think there's a lesson to be learned from this, and an important lesson. People who make the decisions and whose responsibility it is to provide information to Yukoners, on which they base their expectations of productivity, in terms of policy and action, must accept the responsibility and try to be as accurate as they can in what they tell the public.
Mr. Speaker, these are contentious issues, when we talk about forestry. It sometimes pits one sector of society against another, and, in some cases, it's multi-dimensional. You have industry, First Nations, residents, conservationists and business interests, all with competing interests sometimes.
Fundamental to resolving these concerns is something similar to what we alluded to in the ministerial statement today, and that is a coming together of all of the stakeholder groups in a working process that can resolve the outstanding concerns and put some development into good policy work. It's just as incumbent upon government to put into effect that good policy work and follow the guidelines.
Now, the territorial government has an opportunity to work with the senior level of government in the territory, the federal government, to ensure that there is a smooth process in place. We know that, with devolution, soon these responsibilities will be under the control of the territorial government. We have to look forward to that day, which is not far down the road, and try to do what is best for people in the territory, and try to avoid any significant concerns from erupting in the meantime. There is one way to go about that, and that is to try to develop a good process for forestry management planning.
Recently, 12 new permits were let in the LaBiche area under somewhat dubious circumstances. This is an indication that federal officials do not seem to have the ability to live up to their responsibility in this area. I'm speaking, of course, about the huge compensation settlement awarded to the people who were awarded permits, which were later taken away.
Now, we want to see a network of consultations begin soon, based on an ecosystem approach. We want to see a representative area of this region set aside for ecosystem protection. Mr. Speaker, if timber harvest agreements are to be let in this region in the future, we want to see the benefits go to Yukoners.
So, in summation, this is an area I think all members in this House can agree on. We all understand that there is some hard work still to be done. We all can believe in a good process, Mr. Speaker, so I would urge the government side in particular to do what it can to achieve those goals.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: This is one of the rare moments in this House where there appears to be unanimity. We have, on both sides of this House, extended offers and have indicated to the public at large that we can work together, cooperatively, on issues. This is one of those rare and extremely positive moments when that is happening. I feel good about it. I feel proud that there are a number of things that we can work on, Mr. Speaker, despite the objections from the Member for Klondike.
I do appreciate the opportunity to speak on a motion and outline where the Department of Renewable Resources is going on a number of forestry issues, including issues raised by the members opposite.
Most of the member's motion is quite correct, although I will be proposing two friendly amendments, which the official opposition have already agreed to. I will come back to these in a few minutes.
As the members are well aware, the Yukon government has for many years played a role of either an observer or a passive participant while the federal government managed our forests. It is time for that to change, Mr. Speaker. It has become increasingly clear from the feedback received on recent federal forest initiatives that all Yukoners want to see a new coordinated approach to forest management.
This government has embarked on a two-phased approach to developing a new forest management strategy for the Yukon. Our first step was taken earlier this year, when we explained the Yukon government's position on forest management matters to the federal government directly and advised them that we would be taking a much more proactive role. To that end, Premier Duncan wrote to the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, Minister Nault, in January to let him know that Yukon people are telling us that a new coordinated approach to forest resource management and development is vitally needed in the territory, and we also met with senior DIAND officials at internal round tables to identify the key issues we would be dealing with.
The Premier's note to Mr. Nault was very clear in laying out our position on a number of specific issues. For example, on DIAND's proposed timber harvest planning for the LaBiche forest management unit, we said that we do not support any increase in harvest levels at the present time. We also want to meet the more immediate timber needs of the forest industry. We told DIAND that we support giving a priority to timber harvest planning in other, more suitable areas, where timber can be made more readily available, such as in forest management unit areas Y-O2 and Y-O3.
We stressed that the need for DIAND to live up to its commitments, as the Member for Kluane had already alluded to earlier, to establish a consultation protocol and an MOU with the Liard First Nation to guide forest management decisions in the area. The Premier also indicated and reminded DIAND of its obligation to establish a forest ecosystem network, or as has been referred to, a FEN, as required in the 1996 Canadian Environmental Assessment Act screening report for the Liard First Nation timber harvest agreement. And we also stressed that the need to identify areas in the LaBiche forest management unit that should be removed from timber harvesting because of their non-timber values.
You can be sure that the federal government now knows and appreciates the leadership position taken by the Yukon government on forestry. Cooperation between our two governments is critically important because of our respective mandates for resource management and economic development and the anticipated devolution of forest management to the Yukon government. DIAND has agreed, for example, to provide us with feedback from consultations currently underway on their THA allocation process. That, in essence, was our first step. I will now outline the second phase of our approach on forest related initiatives and the steps we are taking toward a made-in-Yukon, fully completed forest management strategy. We have organized a three-day summit this coming April 10 to 11 in Whitehorse to kick-start that work, as has been mentioned by the Premier. And to repeat, this summit is to seek broad public input on key forest management and development issues in Yukon.
It is also to clarify public interests and identify common ground with regard to these issues and, finally, to work together in developing a coordinated approach for the management of Yukon forests.
The summit's four key focus areas will be: (1) forest management planning; (2) the role of government; (3) a vision for Yukon timber industry; and (4) basic timber tenure needs. This summit will build on the work already undertaken and presented in the current draft of the Yukon forest strategy, and we will use the feedback DIAND is receiving in their THA workshops. We hope to gain valuable input that we can immediately use to develop a coordinated Yukon position toward working with DIAND on a range of ongoing forestry matters, including the THA proposal. Most importantly, we hope to receive direction from stakeholders on the approach to be taken by the Yukon government when developing our own long-term forest management strategy.
I would now like to speak to some of the specific concerns the members opposite have raised in relation to the current situation in southeast Yukon. As members know, DIAND recently accepted and distributed 12 timber permit applications in the LaBiche area for review, prior to making a formal decision on the proposed forest ecosystem network. The Yukon government has - and I mentioned this earlier - stated on numerous occasions to DIAND that the federal government needs to fulfill its outstanding legal commitment before approving any further timber harvesting in the area.
When the Premier wrote to Minister Nault, we urged him to move forward on the proposed ecosystem network initiative and on several other outstanding commitments that forest resources had made in the past years related to activities in the LaBiche forest management unit.
So, Mr. Speaker, as I said in my opening remarks, I agree with the points the member has made in this motion. We are not happy with DIAND's management of the forest resource here in the Yukon. We have let them know that, and we have embarked on a program to ensure greater Yukon participation in the management of our resources to see that industry develops in a responsible, sustainable manner, something that Yukoners have told us they want and is desirable.
I mentioned earlier that I will be proposing two friendly amendments that I would like to make at this time.
In his preamble to the motion, the member opposite made reference to the Yukon forest strategy having been developed through extensive public consultation. I would like to remind the member, as I did earlier today, that there was only very limited, if any, but I do acknowledge consultation with First Nations but that ultimately the First Nations did not buy into the whole of the strategy.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I would like to move that Motion No. 93 be amended by inserting the following words: "which" and "is a good start" so that it reads as follows:
"the Yukon forest strategy which was developed through extensive public consultation to serve as a made-in-Yukon model for the management of this important resource following devolution of the Northern Affairs program to the Yukon is a good start".
I would also suggest that, given the lack of support by the First Nations for the forest strategy, we cannot agree with the idea of making decisions consistent -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Please continue.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I would also suggest that, given the total lack of support by First Nations for the forest strategy, we cannot agree with the idea of making decisions consistent with the principles of the forest strategy.
Mr. Speaker, I move
THAT motion No. 93 also be amended by deleting, where they appear in the second paragraph, the words, "that are consistent with the principles of the Yukon Forest Strategy and acceptable to Yukon First Nations and stakeholders in the affected region".
Again, I would like to indicate to the House that this is one of those rare moments where there is agreement - where we agree that we are moving in the same direction and have the same concerns - and where all members are in favour of this motion.
I would personally like to thank the Member for Watson Lake for bringing this motion forward.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: It has been moved by hon. Minister of Renewable Resources
THAT Motion No. 93 be amended by:
(1) deleting the second item in the first paragraph and substituting for it:
"the Yukon forest strategy which was developed through extensive public consultation to serve as a made-in-Yukon model for the management of this important resource following devolution of the Northern Affairs program to the Yukon is a good start,"; and
(2) deleting, where they appear in the second paragraph, the words "that are consistent with the principles of the Yukon Forest Strategy and acceptable to Yukon First Nations and stakeholders in the affected region".
Mr. Fentie: I want to, first of all, thank the members opposite for their support and for bringing their views forward on this matter. I also say, on behalf of the official opposition, that we are comfortable that the amendment that was brought forward by the minister will strengthen the motion as we tabled it. We the official opposition will be supporting the amendment and the motion as amended.
Mr. Jenkins: On the amendment, it seems to strengthen the original motion. It has our support, and we will be voting in favour of the motion as amended.
Mr. Speaker, when we look at Canada and at the wealth creators that have historically contributed the greatest to our economy, the forestry industry, for a great number of years, has been the greatest driver of our economy in Canada, from coast to coast. That includes the soft wood, the hard wood, the pulp and paper, and other related forestry products. So, the industry is well-known in Canada - how it can be managed, how we can produce the greatest amount of returns from the industry, and how we can maximize the benefits for Canadians.
Given that, we have ended up here in the Yukon in a more or less Catch-22 situation. We are into planning, meetings, reviews and summits.
We just keep going around in this big circle, Mr. Speaker. And the question that most Yukoners want answered is when can we go to work and make a living in the forestry sector?
Now, it's not just an issue of feeling good about the situation; it's using this renewable resource in an environmentally sound manner and maximizing the benefits for all Yukon. If we look at what is currently transpiring under the Liberal regime, they're going to have a forestry summit. When I heard of the list of participants in that forestry summit, I did have some concerns that there is going to be an imbalance between the environmental sector, which is going to be over-represented, and the resource sector, which is going to be under-represented.
One only has to attend a number of these initiatives before one realizes that the outcome is pretty well a foregone conclusion. The pendulum in the Yukon has swung completely in favour of the environmentalists and their movement. It doesn't matter if you're looking at forestry; it doesn't matter if you're looking at any of the areas - mining, any of the resource extraction areas, oil and gas. We were hoping that the Liberal government, when they came to power, Mr. Speaker, would enjoy a wonderful relationship with the federal Liberals in Ottawa, and that the results could be produced here in the Yukon in the benefits of putting Yukoners to work, but we have yet to realize any of those benefits, and it's indeed a very sad day.
History has a very sad way of repeating itself. And when we look at the recently issued permits - the 12 permits issued in the LaBiche area - by DIAND, and at its subsequent holdback on these permits and at the compensation paid after they were cancelled, we don't need to go through those kinds of exercises. We need a firm, consistent policy.
I'm hoping that the colonial masters of this government in Ottawa will see fit to pay heed to the advice offered to them by the Yukon Liberal government, and I'm hoping that we can bring some closure to the initiative of forestry here in the Yukon, some definite THAs and some definite access to timber. I do have concerns, when I look at the environmentalist movement and the map for southeast Yukon, as to what areas will be designated as park, in one form or another. The Yellowstone-to-Yukon park initiative is coming very much into focus.
That said, Mr. Speaker, this motion, as amended, is a very, very good way for this Legislature to unanimously endorse a position and send a very clear, succinct message to the Liberals in Ottawa, through their DIAND officials here in the Yukon, that we need this issue addressed - this issue of forestry - and we don't need to procrastinate. There really is no incentive for the DIAND officials here in Yukon to conclude any arrangement. They're not labouring under any time constraints. They're not labouring under any political demands from the people. They report to the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, who is responsible for Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
It is very hard for the minister to serve both the Indian Affairs part of the portfolio and Northern Development, simultaneously, Mr. Speaker. It is very, very difficult indeed. In fact, he is constantly in a conflict of interest with respect to serving both sides of his portfolios. I am hoping that after this motion, as amended, goes forward with the unanimous support of this House, the federal officials will take heed and will send a clear message to their officials here in Yukon and we might see some positive results. To achieve that end, I am in support of this motion as amended.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this motion as amended. There are several forestry-related businesses in my riding and they are valued by the community and are of value to the community. This government is on record as responsible and accountable to all Yukoners to ensure a sustainable and environmentally sound economy. Through ongoing consultation with federal and First Nation governments and forestry interests, we are working to implement sound forestry practices and economic viability. The devolution and land claims processes are moving forward, and I am confident that the ministers and all members of this Legislature will continue to diligently represent and address the interests of Yukoners in this regard.
I applaud the member opposite for his eloquent representation on this issue. This government is about rebuilding the economy and balancing the development of our resources while protecting the environment. Rural communities are important to us. Settlement of land claims and achieving devolution are priorities. The principles couched in this motion are eminently supportable.
I thank the MLA for Watson Lake for his continuing support on forestry issues.
Mr. Keenan: I, too, stand to support this motion as amended. I believe it's a good motion. I would also like to say that when this House wants to get together, we can get together. We can think and do things for all of the Yukon. I really believe that that is what government is all about. I guess we're not in government, but representing the people. It gives me pleasure to stand here today and talk about this motion.
I would like to speak from a geographical perspective about my riding. The Yukon has many ecoregions. There is much biodiversity throughout the Yukon Territory. I believe that, through this motion and others, the sooner we get on with enabling us - the Yukon people - to make the decisions on behalf of the Yukon people, in our government, we will be so much better off.
I have a mill in my hometown of Teslin. It employs approximately 20 people of native and non-native ancestry. People come together. It's an economic generator for the benefit of the community. It's great. But when that mill has to suffer because of inaction in letting out permits, it's not right.
There is over a million dollars' worth of capital tied up there, and they're waiting for paper to get into the bush. The way one logger said it was, "We just want to get our iron into the bush early." Those are things that are considered within this motion, and that's why I am very supportive of this motion.
It's not just from a logging perspective; it's also from the micro-mill perspective. I have a couple of micro-mills in the Teslin area, and there are others scattered throughout the regions of Ross River, Carcross and Tagish. We have loggers in the Teslin area who log with horses. I do believe that the sooner we can pass this motion and get on with the good things in life and doing our own governance, the better off we'll be. It gives me great pleasure to stand here and be able to speak to this motion and support it.
Mr. McRobb: I'll be very brief. I also speak in support of this amendment. I think it enhances and certainly updates the motion without affecting the intent of it, and I will echo the views of my colleague that it is an enjoyable change to all work together on something so important to Yukoners. I would certainly urge all sides to consider this example for further application in the future.
Speaker: Does any other member wish to be heard?
Are you prepared for the question on the amendment? Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I think the ayes have it. I declare the amendment carried.
Amendment to Motion No. 93 agreed to
Speaker: Is there any debate on the main motion as amended?
Mr. Fentie: If I speak, I will close debate.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Well, I want to extend first and foremost to the members opposite the official opposition's appreciation for how they have accepted our motion. I am looking forward to how we can now achieve some results with the federal government in this regard.
In listening to both the Premier and the minister responsible for Renewable Resources, I must agree wholeheartedly that they are correct that we have to somehow work with the federal government to ensure that our Yukon interests are dealt with through the decision-making that DIAND undertakes.
So, Mr. Speaker, I will close debate on this motion. I thank all the members of this House for accepting it as it was intended, and look forward to, now, this unanimous vote.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the motion as amended?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Agree.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Agree.
Ms. Tucker: Agree.
Mr. McLarnon: Agree.
Mr. Kent: Agree.
Mr. McLachlan: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Ms. Netro: Agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 16 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion, as amended, carried.
Motion No. 93 agreed to as amended
Clerk: Motion No. 31, standing in the name of Mr. Keenan.
Motion No. 31
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) like most parts of Canada, especially northern Canada, the Yukon is facing a possible shortage of doctors and other medical personnel; and
(2) such shortages could pose a serious hardship for Yukon people, both in the City of Whitehorse and in rural communities; and
(3) the recent departure of two doctors from Watson Lake makes it clear that this situation cannot be ignored and needs to be addressed without delay; and
(4) this is an issue that requires thoughtful, long-term planning that should not be limited by partisan political considerations; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Government to establish an all-party committee on a priority basis, to bring Members of the Legislative Assembly from both rural and urban Yukon together to examine options for solving the ongoing problem of recruiting and retaining medical personnel throughout the territory.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to stand on a motion day and be able to speak to a problem - not just a Yukon problem, but certainly a national problem. I guess we could go beyond that and say that it's an international problem. It's everywhere, Mr. Speaker.
As we sat as a caucus, we want to be part of a responsible Yukon government, and we want to see a healthy, vibrant and thriving community. The only way that you can have that type of healthy, vibrant community is to have the caretakers, the health care professionals, involved with us all the way.
As I said, this is an international problem. It plagues the world. You can't singularly point to any one individual, one group or one government and say that they have dropped the ball on this issue because it's everywhere. We have a growing population, an ageing population. Our health and medical needs are so much more now than they have been in the past, so there is a great urgency expressed within this motion.
I would like to commend the government for some of their health initiatives, for thinking to the future and continuing to talk of a vision of a 10-year plan - planning for the future. I believe that with good, solid planning, we can and will be able to overcome this problem we have.
So, I guess what I'm doing, Mr. Speaker, is extending an olive branch.
I'm extending my heart on my sleeve, I guess, saying that I believe strongly in this motion. I believe that I would like to see this motion accepted and amended, as it has to be, to fit the intent. But I would like to see it passed.
I think that, as we said just a few moments ago, as we just passed an extremely important motion to do with our natural resources and our economy and our Yukon, it's such a refreshing change and I would like to see us come together again on this. I, as others in the room was born and raised in the Yukon Territory, and I guess my age - I don't know quite how to say it, Mr. Speaker. I guess that I am just a little north of 40 and a little south of 50. So I guess I am in that bracket right now, Mr. Speaker, where I am going to be needing some of these services, probably sooner than later. And there are so many of us in this age bracket who are out there that we have to move on and do things.
But I guess, as I say, I can think back to the 1950s, and I think about the health situation, the doctors in the territory at that point in time. And I remember Mrs. Kitchen. I can never remember her first name because it was always, "Mrs. Kitchen". She was Tiny Kitchen's wife and she was a very elegant lady. She is a non-native lady. I remember with so much clarity because if you went to her - you know, if you had ripped jeans or whatever - she was like your mother, but more health-oriented than that. Well, she was Teslin's first nurse, and I don't think she was a licensed nurse, but she saw the need and she filled the hole. And as she progressed through her career, I guess - and she started this career when she was in her middle years, I guess, as I am at this point in time. She started a career then, and it was for community goodness and community health. When I think of Mrs. Kitchen, I think of nothing but good things, I guess. Some of them were hurtful, like when you are putting band-aids on and taking them off. But that was the start of the health care system in Teslin, and that was in, I think, the late 1950s and the early 1960s that that did happen.
I think back to all of the other people within the village - the Tlingit village in Teslin - and how there was so much practicality in using the land and using the herbs. All these issues. A lot of those, I guess, aren't relevant at this point in time. We've gone beyond that and we need trained physicians and we need trained doctors so that we can prescribe these drugs that have come out now. So things have shifted and moved on, but I thought it was very important to paint that scenario about nursing in my hometown and how it has evolved.
Nurses - I'll speak of nurses just for a few moments, here, I guess, and get to doctors somewhat later. Nurses are a vibrant part of the community - a very, very vibrant part of the community. Everything that you read about nurses and some from nurses, statements from professionals, statements from ministers, statements from me regarding nursing, we start to get a little detailed look into their lives, if I could. Because in a community of 350 to 400 or 500 people, we get to know each other on a daily basis, if you're ever at home, I guess. But you get to know each other on a daily basis, and you get to interact and see first-hand some of the challenges that a nurse has. Simply walking to work at some moment in some time, there's an emergency that happens and they have to go out of their way to go there. Even though there are other pressing matters that have been scheduled, it's an emergency. That can happen during the course of the day; it can happen any time during 24 hours. Mr. Speaker, they're the front-line workers. They're the only workers, in a lot of cases, that are there. They suffer greatly from burnout, and they need help.
In the communities, they deal with seniors, and we encourage our seniors to stay at home. Our Health minister is taking a different approach to health, I guess, if I could say - maybe not so much a different approach, but I like what's happening in the government at this point in time. When I was the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, we were working with active living and the program. The minister just made an announcement a few days ago about that and made a commitment to work. So we're talking more about prevention at this point in time.
We're not talking about, by gosh, here's a band-aid to put over a hole, or something. We're talking about prevention, so we're looking at it with a holistic approach. I think that's the way we should be looking at these issues.
Now, as we keep our seniors at home for the health of the community, their own personal health and the health of the family, there are needs of seniors, whether it's from a foot clinic, or whatever that particular need may be.
Now, I can think of - and again, I go back to my home town because I know it so well. But from the nursing station on the highway in Teslin - the nursing station services and serves the town of Teslin, anyone who passes through. Yet there are communities like Johnson's Crossing, and there are elders there, and there are elders scattered throughout the traditional territory. And these nurses, Mr. Speaker, take the time to go to those homes to alleviate some of the transportation problems, I guess, that the elders would encounter and those type of issues.
Again, a lot of that, people would say, "Well, they get paid for it, that's their job, and that's what they've chosen to do." But I think it goes far beyond that. They are dedicated professionals, and it takes a very special person to be a dedicated professional in the nursing field, because it's not all glory, especially there, Mr. Speaker. Not only do they deal with seniors, but there are shut-ins; there are people who are limited to their homes or limited to just the wheelchair that they sit in, and they move around their home. They can't get out. The nurses are there for them.
In some cases in the community, when the primary caregiver needs a break, needs just to go outside for a glass of apple juice, or a stroll around spruce trees and look for the swans coming, they need that break for their own mental health. And who is there to replace them, in some cases I know of, if other family members can't do it? The nurses are there.
So, that's over and above and beyond the call of duty. They deal with mentally challenged people - people who need their medication on a daily basis and on a very timely basis. They need it at such and such a time every day, and it helps to keep them on balance. Well, Mr. Speaker, every community has this kind of person, and I mean no disrespect when I say "mentally challenged" - I mean absolutely none.
But again, Mr. Speaker, explore the private world then. But who enters that private world? Again, it's primary caregivers, and they are the nurses on the front line.
Now, I've talked about shut-ins, and I've talked about seniors. Not only do they do home care and foot clinics but, in some cases, with FAS and FAE - maybe not so much on the diagnosis, but certainly on the treatment and prevention - the nurses are there. Again, the nurses are there.
I know, in some cases, where family violence, through liquor, anger or whatever initially - I guess this family violence springs up. Again, in some cases, it does so, not only in a band-aid-type mode, but in a therapeutic-type mode, they are there with their calmness and professionalism to bring people down - or, not to bring them down in that manner, but to calm them down, I guess I could say.
They are a vital link to the community. They work with other professionals within the community, such as the social service workers, the First Nations, the RCMP, and they play such a critical role in the communities. In some cases, we have non-government organizations, NGOs, that are in communities and Whitehorse, with tentacles into the outlying communities, that help to take away some of the burden or provide a service that maybe sometimes only a nurse or health care professional would make.
In some cases, we don't have those NGOs in the communities, because we have a wide variety of communities in the Yukon Territory, and you realize that, Mr. Speaker. We understand that there is a need in every community, and we have to fill that need. How do we fill that need? We have to look to the future.
There is distrust of this motion. We feel we have something to offer on this side of the House. I have spoken to the Yukon Party, and they feel like that they have something to offer - to sit down in an all-party committee and be able to collectively brainstorm together to bring forward good, concrete ideas on how we can improve, in a general sense, our health care system. We have to prioritize what our immediate needs are, what our intermediate needs would be and what our long-term vision needs are. We have to incorporate that thought into the future of our health system here in the Yukon. What better way to get a buy-in from, I guess, the 17 elected members of this House than to collectively sit down and brainstorm together for the benefit of the people who are in need.
Certainly, the only time you really appreciate a nurse or doctor is when they're helping you or when they're helping someone you love and care about - someone who is close to you. A lot of times, folks don't even know that they just passed the nurse in the street. They don't understand, because there is no visible difference. We have got to understand that, not only is there a shortage in the Yukon, but there is a shortage internationally.
What else do they do? Well, aside from a growing population and an ageing population in the Yukon Territory - well, I guess I will have to rephrase that. Aside from a growing older - not increasing the population in the territory, but certainly growing older - folks are staying here now, Mr. Speaker. You and others, your age and my age, don't plan on leaving the Yukon Territory. We're going to be here.
There are so many people in that mode, it's nice to see that now my traditional homeland is not being looked at as just a jump-start for a career from outside or something like as such, but it's a binding community that we have. We have arts, we have culture, and we have all those different things that big cities have, and we have it right here. So, our health care professionals become even more needed.
Mr. Speaker, I have heard and I have letters - letters to the editors that have been printed and have been speaking to different issues. It's amazing that, if you don't know nurses and then you start to read about them and see what they do, again, it does say here that we are the primary health caregivers. We're responsible for a wide range of services, including diagnosis, treatment of health problems, acute care, health promotion, and illness prevention. We're on call, health services, in the communities. We're on emergency call for 24-hours a day. And I know of one situation where the nurse worked a 12-hour shift and was called out during the course of that night three times for three separate emergencies and was expected to go in for another 12-hour shift.
Mr. Speaker, that does say that there is an emergency need out there. Right now, there's a hole and there's a need that we have to be able to fill, and to protect our nurses.
In some cases, Mr. Speaker, I know that in Teslin we have - I'm not so good with the big words at some points in time, but there's data on computers that we can send through our computers by telephone line right back to the hospital to get a diagnosis on some emergency in the community. We need that, but without a telephone in some places it's difficult. But again, the nurses are there, I guess, if I could say that.
Burnout is very, very big, Mr. Speaker, and high in the communities.
I was reading another letter to the editor that says that our per capita of doctors is approximately one in 700, yet the national average is one per 540.
Now, I'm not going to duke it out with the minister as to whether one in 700 is good for the Yukon, or if it's as good as one in 540. The Yukon has greatly different needs, just because of our geography. We have communities - some accessible by road, some not, and some large, some small, and some over here, some over there. We all know what I'm talking about. We have unique needs. It would be nice to be able to see a doctor in every community. That would be so nice to see, where the doctors and the nurses would get together, and they would put out their prevention programs and their counselling and their interaction in the community, much like other professionals do - the RCMP, the teachers, the preachers or priests in a community. It's that kind of community of people getting together and working together for the community.
But, as I said, in some cases we don't have nurses in communities, and I guess I should clarify that. The community I guess I'm talking about is the community of Tagish, when I say that. I believe most of the other communities are covered with nurses suffering high stress, high burnout. But in Tagish, we don't have a nurse there or a doctor there. The closest nursing station is in Carcross, yet Tagish has the highest number of seniors per capita in the Yukon Territory. Is there a need there?
I was asked about a year and a half ago about what the process was to identify the need for a nurse. I brought it up in the House, to no avail actually, I guess, Mr. Speaker. But it wasn't me who was saying there was a need. The people were saying, "What if this happens - and winter conditions - and I live out in Tagish Estates and the road's blown in. And I'm an elder, but I want to stay at home and be with my grandchildren and children, so I can be a part of the family and the educator in the family, but what if this happens?"
And there isn't a process in place, because it is purely, I guess, money-driven. So, I think that a committee of brainstorming - because this committee has to be focused. This committee will have political representation, but this will not be a political committee. It won't be, "I'm from the left and you're from the right and you're from the middle, and this is what I think." What we have to do is we have to focus primarily on who we are looking to provide a service for and who our competitors are.
Tourism is eventually, one day, going to make this a world-class destination, because it needs it. But why can't we become a world-class point of action that shows how we can collectively come together to bring nurses and doctors to the community to show them what a wonderful community we have to work in. That is exactly where I am coming from on this.
So, nurses, from HIV and AIDS, to hepatitis C, to mentally challenged people, to providing the services, to just sharing a hug sometimes - and I have seen them do that, lifting people up. They are critical, absolutely critical to where we want to go.
Now, as I have said, we are in competition. We are in competition with the world. We have - and I know that everybody here has seen it because we all read the newspapers and whatnot - advertisements somewhere in front of me here from Alberta, Klein-land, I guess you might call it. No income tax in a few years and high wages. Well, Mr. Speaker, we have to find a way to collectively win over that world.
It says it right here, "Alberta: we've got it and you want it. We've got the highest wages. We've got the lower taxes. We've got great opportunity. Our paediatric department is a great place to work. Enjoy the best of both worlds living and working in a community where urban and rural meet."
Well, Mr. Speaker, what are they doing, trying to take our health care professionals away? Because I think this is the best of both worlds, this community that we are living in. This is where urban and rural meet. Right here in the Yukon Territory. Again, I say that if we can't do it, nobody can. There's only 30,000 of us in this community, and I do believe that we can put our heads together, because we've got a challenge. Alberta wants our folks.
Mr. Speaker, a couple, three months ago or four, five months ago - within the last year anyway - I've got a lot more reading time now than I used to have in my previous life. So I do all this reading now. Some of our health care professionals here, if they're surfers, can wax down their surfboard and head right on down the road to Pasadena, because California wants them. New York wants them. They can take a bite out of the Big Apple. Mr. Speaker, we're talking about American dollars here. We're talking about incredible benefits for folks there. Not only do they get to go walk down Broadway, take in a play, but they make American money, probably equivalent to $50 an hour here in the Yukon or something like the such.
Well, I don't know if we'll ever be able to offer $50 an hour, but we can sure offer them spruce trees and scenic views and plays like that, too, here in the Yukon. But we have to be able to come together to be able to brainstorm collectively so that we can do what it is that we have to do.
Health care - our seniors, our youth, our Yukon people are of primary importance in the Yukon Territory. There is nothing more important than the people and we have to come together for the health of the people. So, again, I say in a non-political way, we must do things.
Now, I know that government has allocated $140,000 for health care professional recruitment and retention here, of which $50,000 is for Yukon nurses and continuing education, $10,000 is for the Yukon Nurses Advisory Council, $50,000 for locum support and programs, $10,000 for bursaries and $20,000 for residencies. Mr. Speaker, as said by Dr. Quong, I believe it is, "It's a good start." I agree. It's a good start.
Mr. Speaker, I am very much trying to express a tone that is non-confrontational because again I reiterate that this is beyond the political realm. This is back to the people and the health needs of the people. Yet, Mr. Speaker, the Northwest Territories - again, much larger than the Yukon Territory, and it has many more communities than the Yukon Territory - has allocated $3 million to this problem with four staff members in a bureaucracy, and they go out actively and recruit and develop programs so that they will retain medical personnel.
Well, it would be nice to have $3 million to be able to chuck away at the problem to do it. I don't know if the minister has $3 million in his back pocket to do that or not. Obviously, I guess we don't have $3 million, and I know that we don't have $3 million to be able to compete with the Northwest Territories. But what we do have is a collection of people and a land claims agreement that was started many moons ago. The originators of that land claims agreement have mostly left this world and are in the spirit world at this point in time.
The reason I mention land claims at this point in time is because it was divisive in the beginning. I was part of that process. And now look at what it does, Mr. Speaker: it guides us. The land claims agreements - the UFA and, in some cases, First Nation final agreements - are the guiding principles of Yukon.
If you look anywhere in those chapters, you'll find that it reflects every area of Yukon life. So, if our Yukon can get together and talk about land claims, talk about self-government and the empowering of the municipalities, the empowering of the people and the certainty that it brings - it's not over, but we've started and we're getting there - then why can we not simply come together for the benefit and betterment of health programs in the Yukon? It has to be done in a manner that would allow everybody to express themselves, but it also has to be done in a manner of folks, because we're here for one thing, and that's to improve health care in the Yukon.
Now, Mr. Speaker, again I say the government has gone out and put some resources into it. It's a good start. I think if we can collectively get together, we can reinforce that start and make it really work, because there's a heck of a need out there. The doctor from Watson Lake - I simply forget his name at this point in time.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Keenan: Dr. Said, he's a contract doctor - I guess that's how you say it - but he has gone out and he has recruited a couple of doctors. He has a couple of doctors. I'm sure the department has spoken to Dr. Said about his possibilities and his experience in getting folks in, dealing with these issues. But it can be done - that's the beauty of it; it can be done.
I certainly congratulate Dr. Said for being able to do that, and to hang in there when times are tough. I think a lot of our caregivers, whether it's a doctor or a nurse, do hang in when times are tough. We do need a bit of a break for them, to send them out on a sabbatical, or just a doggone Disneyland vacation, if that's what they need to get them up with their family and to get themselves back up, smiling and chuckling again.
Mr. Speaker, no matter how much money we put to relief doctors, if we don't have doctors to relieve doctors and nurses to relieve nurses, she ain't gonna work. It isn't going to work.
Again, I'm extending an olive branch to the government, saying that I would like to be part of a vibrant group that could sit and brainstorm, that could focus on issues. And I think my learned colleague from Klondike would also bring that type of energy to this committee so that we would be able to focus again on the issues.
In Seattle, wow - Mr. Speaker, maybe I ought to quit politics and get into caregiving, because in Seattle nurses get about $50 Canadian an hour, and they live right there on the beautiful coast. The Alberta nurses are not doing too bad, and they're getting lured out of the territory. We just had a team up here trying to lure them out of the territory. They got some super huge, big raises. They got a 22-percent wage increase.
Now, I'm not asking on behalf of the nurses and doctors for a 22 percent increase, but I'm painting the picture out there of people in other jurisdictions, whether provincial or Canadian or U.S. or anywhere in the world - well, we're in competition, Mr. Speaker, so we have to be innovative.
There's an article that just came out in the Maclean's magazine, and that article suggests that Canada needs 25,000 nurses. Well, I'm contributing to that, Mr. Speaker, because I have a daughter - Jodi is her name - and Jodi is taking nursing. Now, she's not taking it for the big bucks that they have in Alberta, because that's where she's going to school. She's taking it because she wants to share with her community, and I know there are many others out there who want to do that.
One of the ideas that we could possibly come up with in the communities is the community health representatives, the CHRs. I know that it is a program from the Department of Indian Affairs, I believe. It's federal money, yet the services - I don't believe, in the communities that I am thinking of, they don't simply provide the services to native people; they provide the services to communities, whether it is a sponge bath, a foot rub, whatever - elders have different needs.
Might we be able to develop programming that would be able to help the CHR build a bridge over whatever it is that is an education obstacle - I guess education isn't really an obstacle, but the education requirement - so that they might become more than what they - no, that's not good language either, but not more than what they are, but maybe to expand their horizons.
I know some CHRs who do wish to expand their horizons and, if there is a program there, it would help to alleviate. Because if Canada needs 25,000 and the Yukon needs 100, I am not sure if we could get 100 nurses to come to the Yukon. So, if we start to focus on our training requirements and initiatives and get a grasp about nurses and training and doctors, and encourage our young people, we will get there. We will get there, Mr. Speaker. And by the time that you and I are really old-timers and sitting there in front of the old-timer's house, twiddling our thumbs like this, we will be able to look back and say, "Is that Don Roberts over there? My God, he is the guy who helped do something here. He took the risk. He took the chance." That's where I am coming from with this.
I am trying to come with solid energy so that we can collectively come together as a group because, if New York wants them, if Malaysia wants them - I know people who have had job offers, professionals in the health care field and the education field, from the Asian countries. Oh, man, Mr. Speaker, could you imagine getting off shift at 4:00 in the afternoon? Sliding out to that white beach, somewhere in Tibet - or not Tibet, pardon me - somewhere on that beach out there that they have. Mr. Speaker, that is quite a bit - that's a lure. That is a lure that people will be taking. So, we have to start early and be able to work our way through it.
I do believe that if we do do it with a collective group that would include an all-party committee, that would include professionals, the doctors and nurses, I think we could be successful, because we know - we hear from CBC Northbeat, CHON-FM and CKRW. Mr. Speaker, you hear in the news of the stress and the suffering that the nurses do go through, and we have to be able to find ways around that. I think that we could do that through this vehicle that I'm speaking about, because health certainly doesn't affect one individual. If an individual has broken a leg, Mr. Speaker, that individual's suffering from a broken leg. Now, Mr. Speaker, the rest of the family's suffering, too. If that person is the primary caregiver, bringing in the bacon and eggs, then the family's suffering. Even if the primary caregiver has a broken leg and doesn't have a family, other people are suffering, because there's lost employment and those types of things. So it's not just an individual problem, it's a territorial focus and initiative that we have to be able to overcome.
So as I said, Mr. Speaker, there are good things that are contained within the minister's direction for health. We have to put a little more pressure on Ottawa, and I think we're doing that.
I've heard the minister report on his travels in the health care field. I know that the minister takes the job seriously and wants to do the right thing. Again, I'm offering my energy, my positive energy, to be able to be a part of that, because I do want to grow old in the Yukon Territory. I want the assurance, I think, that everybody else has at this point in time or wants at this point in time, that there will be something there for us. We don't need to have a doctor, maybe, in every community, but certainly we need doctors in communities that need them.
There are different factors and ratios and numbers that you would look at, but I think that if we work together and pulled our collective energy into one focus, well, doggone it, I think we could do it. I think we could.
So, that's why I speak in favour of this motion. I believe it's a good motion. I would like everybody to speak to this motion if they want to. If they have something to express in this motion, I would like them to say something, to bring it forth, to be able to say, "Drop the politics, and let's look at what needs to be done."
So, we're going to go in that mode, Mr. Speaker. That is what I'd like to do. We have a community here - Yukon. And we need representatives of rural Yukon and urban Yukon. We need people pulled together so we might be able to work together for the betterment of Yukon.
I'd like to ask the government if they would, in their wisdom, speak to the motion, to be able to find it in their hearts to support the motion and the intent of the motion.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I appreciate the comments from the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes and thank him for his kind words as to all the good things that we're doing. I really appreciate that. I appreciate the fact that the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes also wants to join up with us now and work with us on a very important issue. I believe that shows very good signals, as far as the good things that this government has been doing.
I believe, like the member opposite has suggested, that, collectively, we can do better things. We can work to try to harmonize our views and our ideas to come up with a better picture.
It's too bad we can't do this in all aspects of government.
Before we get into how we're going to do this or what we're going to do as joint parties - that's the message I'm hearing - I definitely want to talk about a number of things that we're already doing. And by the way, some of it started before I even assumed this office, so it's not like I'm taking credit for all of these things. I like to give credit where credit is due. There is no one person or one government that does everything and comes up with the final answer on any one issue. It's always a collection of people trying to present their views and ideas. I guess we, as politicians, have the privilege of trying to bring that to the surface.
Yes, Mr. Speaker, we're very aware of the shortage of health care professionals. We are obviously very aware. Just to give the member opposite some idea that not only does the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes have an intimate understanding of this issue, I also have a very intimate understanding of the issue of health care.
My wife has been a nurse in the Yukon system for over 30 years. I guess, for me, that was a school in itself. She worked at the hospital for all of those years and was one of those people who, I think you described as being a very caring and knowledgeable person about the needs of Yukoners. So, I was very aware and very open to the understanding of what health care has gone through here over a number of years.
I'm very fortunate at this point, too, to also have family - one of them is a doctor here. So, again, I sort of hear and see the other side and what those needs are, too. I think that's another part of my education, and it's ongoing.
The fact that I have not lived here quite as long as the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes but have for a fairly long time - I have known a lot of health care people over the years, and I have been very closely related to them in the sense of what the needs are. So, I believe that I have a little understanding. I would never like people to think I have all the information. I don't. I have a little, and I could never pretend that I know all the answers when it comes to health care.
I really believe in the collective ability of people to work together. It's very important for me to understand that I'm always on a learning curve. I don't think any of us have the final point of view or the final view on things. We do have some ideas.
We are aware that the issue of recruitment throughout Canada is a very difficult situation. My question all the time is, how did we get into this situation? Who made these decisions way back then? Obviously, they were probably politicians, because obviously they have cut back the delivery of health care at times in our short lives and, as a result, we are now paying the price of having shortages. Yet we have a lot of youth out there, a lot of young people who probably could have been steered into the health care business if we, as collective bodies, had been doing our work of ensuring that people knew there was a need there. The issue of people not going into the health care business is because a lot of people found that there was no job there so that's why they haven't gone in that area. So, it's more than just looking at the short term. We have a long-term problem here.
I think it's going to take all our wisdom throughout the territory, throughout Canada and throughout wherever to sort of bridge that gap, because it's serious.
Let's just take this time to think about what that would mean to form an all-party committee on medical and health care professionals. I spoke to some of my colleagues about it. We're always interested, and we've always invited ideas and thoughts. We have tried to look at how we could do this in a more meaningful way. We know that when the Yukon Party was in power, it rolled back the wages of nurses. And, of course, this kind of ideology, to an all-party committee - it might not have happened. We also know that the Yukon Party's change of the hospital design was not well-received by many Yukoners, including health care professionals, because there was no involvement of Yukoners in the change, whether they were right or whether they were wrong.
Governments can become very autocratic once they're in their position for any length of time, or even a short time. An all-party committee would include that kind of decision-making logic. We would have to look at not only how we bring more doctors here, how we bring more nurses here and how we bring more health care professionals here, but how we enhance our whole health care system.
I mean, we were talking about, just recently, the hospital here. Our Whitehorse hospital received very good reviews on their accreditation. Now, to maintain that, that means that we have to do a lot of work to ensure that we don't lose it. Accreditation, as we all know, Mr. Speaker, is the issue of standards, and Yukoners have been used to a very high standard. So, we have to think really way out of the box as to how we are going to maintain this.
Now, the previous NDP Minister of Health and Social Services believed - and he made this comment, and it unfortunately had created a lot of bad feelings between him and the doctors - that there were many part-time doctors. Yes, I would expect that is a fact, but that's a choice that they make, Mr. Speaker. They make those choices for very obvious reasons, because of the stress and because of the lifestyle.
I heard the member opposite talk about how people want to walk down Madison Avenue in New York City. Well, I guess there may be people who want to do this. I know the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes doesn't want to do this, maybe for a short - maybe a couple days, that's it. But that member is back in the Yukon like a shot once he has had that kind of experience, as well as I. I even go to Edmonton from time to time, Mr. Speaker, and I find that I am so anxious to get back here.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Well, the member said it. So it's quality of life that draws people to the North. We've got to find ways to build on that. The department, the government, and the Tourism department are really trying to build that package. The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes well knows how much people want to come here, being the former Minister of Tourism. So obviously we have a very attractive card there.
The important part for us is to ensure that message is getting out there. So I think it's what we say and what we do that encourages people to either be with us or against us.
So, Mr. Speaker, it's this kind of thought and input that we have to think about. We have to really look at how we respect our health care professional community, and it doesn't matter about us passing judgement. That is not for us to do. Professionals do what they do because those are the choices they make.
They may pass a lot of judgements on us as politicians but that is because we are in the political field. But as far as the kind of work that we do in our private life and in our private surroundings, I mean, that's really up to us.
The disservice that we sometimes provide to our health care professionals has been rather evident at times by past governments. We have to move away from that. Hopefully, if that means what the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is indicating - that they would like to work in a spirit of cooperation over trying to resolve major issues - I support that. Personally, I think that is a very good idea.
The Liberal government, since its first days in office, has been meeting with and working with the Yukon Medical Association, the Yukon Registered Nurses Association and the Yukon Hospital Corporation to address these very crucial issues. I believe that these professional groups feel that they want to be part of the solution. They know that we have a problem. We are working very closely with them. We have just put together what we would call "working groups" with our professionals. The objective of the working groups is to bring their ideas along with our ideas and then try to present them in a way that represents the reality of today.
And, of course, in February the department released the first phase of the recruitment and retention package. As I said at the time when that was released, it was just the beginning. This was just to cover the short-term support for recruitment and retention while we develop a more comprehensive package. We are in the very, sort of, midst of just about completing the second phase of that recruitment and retention policy, or at least a proposed retention and recruitment policy for the future.
This is to address the shortage and to encourage health care professionals to move to and stay in the Yukon. Of course, as we all know, we are experiencing shortages in a number of areas - general practitioners, nursing teams, mental health clinicians, nutritionists, emergency and diagnostic medical technicians, specialist positions, audiologists, mental health counsellors - and we can expect future shortages in physiotherapy, in the medical laboratory and the medical radiation technologist and pharmacists. We can expect that.
It behooves me, Mr. Speaker, as to what we, as a collective community can do, to ensure that our young people are seeing the opportunities there for them. Hopefully, through our education and the sharing of our concerns - our public profile - and through the whole issue of trying to build together, that message is getting out there.
Cabinet recently approved the department's interim action plan - that's phase 1 - to recruit and retain health care professionals in the Yukon. So we have already done that. It's being implemented now, with our partners. In addition to the benefits and incentives currently available to the health care professionals, we have done some of the following things.
We have developed, identified and are supporting continuing nursing education funds. We now have in place a Yukon Nurses Council. We have a physician relocation assistance program. We now have in place, for the first time, a medical student bursary program, and we also have a locum support program, which is in place for the first time.
I think that tells Yukoners and the medical people - by the way, the medical people are the ones who worked with us on these points. They were part of the team and came forward with some of these ideas. They weren't suddenly dreamed up in the offices here on the second floor or in the department's offices over there. It was a collaborative effort.
Phase 2 of the recruitment and retention strategy will provide a more comprehensive and long-term package, Mr. Speaker. This will not go away, and it's very important to understand that, at one time - even in the teaching field, one I was very familiar with - we didn't do much recruitment in the earlier days because we had teachers ready to take positions. Now that's becoming a problem, too, in the future. It seems like all our professional areas are feeling the same impact with the idea of younger people not replacing those who are leaving. So health care is one of those very crucial issues.
As the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes said, you don't realize the benefits or the need of health care people until you need them. Most of us just carry on like there's never going to be a problem. I would hope that the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes never has to use the health care people because, obviously, when you start doing that, then you know there's another path that we're leading down. Hopefully we can try to use some of the other aspects that the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes talked about, that of the active living strategy - moving ahead with what I call proactive activities.
Many jurisdictions are doing different things in Canada, Mr. Speaker. Sometimes bringing new ideas to a system or to a region or to an area is not always well accepted initially. We have a combination of what I would call programs in the Yukon that tend to utilize some of the new technology, some of the new processes, and some that are still relying on the older methodology in how we compensate doctors and how we compensate nurses and how we treat them as professionals in the partnership that we have here.
Now, many jurisdictions are converting to the use of alternate payment, which means utilizing, if you want to call it, contractual approaches. We do that here. We do that in two of our areas: Mayo and Faro. And we use what we call the front line nurse practitioner model in these jurisdictions, plus in all our nursing stations, Mr. Speaker.
The nurse practitioner, I believe, has been underutilized for years. These nurse practitioners are very, very capable, very, very knowledgeable. And the important part is that where these models are in place - and by the way, it's in many parts of Canada right now - the nurse practitioner is the first line of medical service. Those ideas are not necessarily new. They've been around for a long time, but larger hospitals are now adopting that approach, rather than having a doctor attend every situation. So we have to look at different ways of how we empower, enable, and give the kind of what I call support that is needed for our professionals.
Now, we're trying, in our recruitment package and in our recruitment future, to look at how we can do more of this. This takes two; we have to negotiate. We have to negotiate with our doctors, we have to negotiate with our nurses, and we have to come to some agreement that health care has different ways of being delivered. Of course, it's not easy to make comparisons. I'm very quick to try to make comparisons. I always say, "Well, why can't we do this and why can't they do that", because each situation and each area is different.
It doesn't mean that the current systems that we have in place are not appropriate; they are. For those people who are working with them, they're very appropriate. But there are other ways and other models of how we can present health care. And obviously if we're seeing a reduction in the number of professional people, particularly doctors, then we have to look at other ways of delivering.
The Department of Health and Social Services continues to monitor all these packages across Canada. So when I hear that the doctors in Alberta - by the way, I used to live in Alberta at one time; I come from that province. Thank God I came from there and that I'm not there now. I'm very happy to live right where I'm living, despite what you hear about Alberta. Somebody says that once they've pumped all the oil and all the gas out of the ground and torn down every tree, guess what? Alberta will be looking for handouts from the rest of Canada.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Well, they try not to, because they know what's going on.
The question, Mr. Speaker, is one of really trying to build together. In the Northwest Territories, they recently negotiated a major change in the way that they compensate physicians in Yellowknife. That was a major undertaking by that government. Those doctors felt that they wanted to do something different and, of course, it meant how they change the process. What the government did was purchase the capital assets of the physicians, hired the physicians' clinic staff, and they became government employees.
I know that one or two members on the opposite side - particularly one member - will say, "Growing government again." Well, I guess the Northwest Territories felt that if they were going to offer good health care in the future, it meant they had to do that.
So, unfortunately, there are a lot of ways of trying to accomplish the very message that we're trying to share with Yukoners.
The Yellowknife alternate payment packages were offered to all physicians, all family physicians.
To date, 15 out of 21 physicians have signed contracts. Only six remain as fee-for-service positions. That's a major shift from where they were, say, three years ago. Obviously, if you are looking at change and trying to deliver services and respond to the need, you have to change.
The Member for Klondike often says that there are ways of changing, but, unfortunately, if it's not the way that member wants it to change, then why change? So, obviously, when you are stuck in the trenches and never want to get out, you never see what is out there. So, it is very important that you look at what is around and what people want and what we need to do in order to make a system work.
The Yellowknife alternate payment packages range from $130,000 to $140,000 for a general practitioner at level 1. It goes to $180,000 to $200,000 for a general practitioner at level 6, depending on the years of experience and the level of expertise. Each level requires different levels of service. The highest level requires certification in an area of specialization, such as general practitioner, surgery and anaesthetics or emergency services. In recognition of the unique environment of each of the three territories, each develops physician compensation packages unique to its situation.
So here we are in the Yukon, where we have a bit of both: fee-for-service, contractual and trying to use primary care. This is mainly because we know that we have a problem with the area of attracting and keeping health care people and we have got to look at different ways of delivery. Every community would probably like to have a doctor, but we know that that is not a reality. We are not able to do that.
So we must look at how we plan for the long-term health care of Yukon residents. We must consider local and rural service issues. We must consider recently negotiated settlements. We must ensure that physicians are paid competitively and fairly for services rendered.
Mr. Speaker, I think that the recent example of what happened in Haines Junction, of how our government went about trying to meet the needs of the people from Haines Junction, is an example of how we operate. There was this idea somehow being parachuted out there that we were going to put a doctor in Haines Junction. However rumour moves about in the territory - spring, of course, is very good for rumours in the Yukon, but this was in the fall, so I'm not sure why it was so fierce and fast. The point is that we set up a committee, we had a moderator, we consulted with the community, the community made a decision, the decision was rendered to the department, the department responded, and there we are: a doctor was hired on a fee-for-service basis and will go out there just as they did in the past.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: They upped the number of visits that the doctor will make to that community. They'll have three doctors going there, at different times. They have given a major contract to one doctor. Obviously, we listened to the community, Mr. Speaker. We didn't have any agenda, despite what the Member for Kluane thinks was on his agenda.
Mr. Speaker, we talk about how we work together. It's always good to yell across the floor here about what should be or shouldn't be, but if we're talking about teamwork, if we're talking about cooperation, then obviously there are ways of doing that. Yelling it across the floor doesn't provide for any kind of teamwork.
I should tell you, Mr. Speaker, at this time that we are among the top three in Canada for per capita expenditure in health. We are one of the top three. Nunavut is number one, the Northwest Territories is number two, and the Yukon is number three. I would hope that we could retain that kind of health care for all Yukoners.
For the first time ever, our health care budget here in the Yukon is spending $125 million. This is for operation and maintenance and, of course, this has been one of our commitments - one of our commitments in the Cabinet room.
Maybe one day I'll take the members opposite for a visit into the Cabinet room, and I'll show the members opposite our commitments, our goals, up on the wall. They are all across the board. Health care is one of them. Very clearly, health care and the maintenance of health care are our goals.
We also mentioned one of our commitments to maintain stable funding for the Whitehorse General Hospital. We are transferring $19.5 million to the hospital at this point in time. I think it is very important to understand that these are big dollars for a small jurisdiction. I think that shows Yukoners our commitment.
Other areas of need in health care and social services are those of services to provide residences for children. We have increased our growing concern by providing another $300,000 to support other agencies in our community. Interestingly, Mr. Speaker, over the last four years and probably before that, prior to the government of yesterday, these various groups had not received any increases. We took this on as one of our responsibilities and provided additional support for the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre, the Yukon Indian Women's Association, the Yukon Status of Women Council, the Health and Hope Society in Watson Lake, and the Dawson shelter, and we've heard their needs for adequate funding. They needed more money, so we came forward.
We gave $100,000 to Kaushee's Place. It may not have been what they wanted, but obviously they hadn't received an increase for the last number of years. So, for our government, in times when our budget is stretched, we found, in our plan and our program, the means to provide them with additional funding.
We gave another $62,000 to Health and Hope in Watson Lake. And by the way, I have heard from some of the people in Watson Lake who have made it very clear - they have thanked us for considering them, even though the member from there, when he was in government the last time around - they didn't get an increase for three years.
We have also heard that we are increasing our resources for victim services and programming for abusive spouses. We have put $155,000 into those services. Our foster parents have not received increases in nine years. That's scandalous, Mr. Speaker - nine years. These foster parents, who go beyond the call of duty - I had them in my office here a couple or three months ago, and we were talking about this whole issue. I made a comment to them. I asked, "What would happen if you didn't get any money because we didn't have any?" All of them said that it wouldn't matter, that they'd still look after the children. They said, "We're just asking that you consider it in the future because the monies are now being drawn out of our pocket to look after our children." That tells you the commitment that our foster parents have for our youth, for our young people.
Many non-profit organizations have not received increases to reflect the increase in demand for their services. Teegatha'Oh Zheh - $50,000 to cover staff costs and training. Yukon Family Services Association will receive an additional $39,000. Hospice Yukon Society will receive $75,000 to provide services in rural communities. Our commitment to our priorities also includes our commitment to look at one of our other very important issues here in the Yukon, and that's alcohol and drug addictions.
We have, in our first budget for the alcohol and drug secretariat, put aside $2.36 million, and we have put in an additional quarter of a million dollars to ensure that we are offering services and support that will build on the issues of major concern here in the territory.
This Liberal government recognizes that we need to do a better job treating Yukoners with addictions. My gosh, Mr. Speaker, in 11 months - and I see what we have done as a government. I am just overjoyed with how our caucus has worked together as a team, has built for the future, and has looked at how we are going to help Yukoners. It's unbelievable, Mr. Speaker. I really think it's amazing how we, as a government of 11 months, have done so much.
I would also like to talk a little bit about what I have seen and what I have heard from many of the people in my constituency, and how they have seen what we are doing. I always hear from the members opposite that the people on the street are saying this, or the people on the street are saying that. Yes, I would admit, Mr. Speaker, that we have obviously made some little hiccups along the way. That's obvious. I mean, that's how we learn. You make mistakes, you learn from your mistakes, and you don't do them again.
So to say that we were squeaky clean, we've done everything right, and we're just so perfect in everything - we know we haven't been that. It's unfortunate that more of the media isn't sort of stressing the good things that we do versus the negative things. Mind you, I guess if they stressed the good things we do, they wouldn't be selling any papers. Newspaper people like to hear about all the negative things.
During my visits, I heard a lot of people say that this is the first time a minister has actually sat down with them and talked about some of the issues. The first time. Some people are telling us this. We are out in the community. We have gone to every community. We have sat down with people and listened to their concerns, despite the fact, Mr. Speaker, that the members opposite like to divide and conquer, saying that we don't care about the rural areas. If the concern is about our travel budget, then obviously they should look at why we are travelling. A lot of that travel is right here in Whitehorse, in the Yukon. It's moving about the territory, finding out what people's needs are, and to me, that's very important.
Last August, when we reviewed the government's alcohol and drug services, we knew that there were problems and we had to look at better ways of servicing this very important area. We came forward with a report. The report brought forward some ideas that we enacted, or at least we acted on a couple. By the way, it's just a beginning. We are now in the midst of advertising for an executive director. Hopefully, within the next couple of weeks, we will be interviewing and then we'll be making some decisions. We want to see this program move ahead. We know it's ongoing, but we do believe we need to have a real concerted effort to build a momentum to really try to address these issues.
When we have hired the executive director, this person will oversee the formation of alcohol and drug services. This will mean careful consideration to the recommendations of the review. That person then, with their team, will end up going throughout the communities, Mr. Speaker, trying to connect with all our partners in how we can do a better job in delivering services.
The structure of the secretariat, as we have emphasized, is the crucial importance of working with other government programs. I think that it is important that our goal is to be efficient, to be great and to be effective. Sometimes you have to praise yourself, since nobody else does it for you.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Thank you. Thank you.
The federal government and the First Nations program are integral factors in considering our future and developing the alcohol and drug secretariat. We are committed to uniting Yukoners in the healing of our communities and our families and friends. If it isn't clear, let me clarify that a quarter of a million dollars that we have added to alcohol and drug programs is a message that Yukoners should hear. We are planning on being effective and efficient and we are going to work with all levels of government. First Nation governments have made that a very important reality with everyone I have spoken to. They want to sit down with all governments to work together on this issue, because it is a major, major problem.
We have heard from many constituents and many communities that throwing money at a problem doesn't solve the problem. We know that. We have got to work to be more efficient and more effective. And if we don't do it together, then we will just fractionalize the population. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that we work together.
Of course, this moves into another pet peeve of mine, or, a pet project - I don't know if it is a pet peeve; it's however you want to describe it - which is how we move toward active living. I appreciate the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes for at least initiating the program. He got the program going. I was there when the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes anointed the program.
It was well done. It was in the medical building up there by the drugstore, wherever it is, on top of Hougens. It was a good move. I think it was an attempt again at trying to be proactive and not look at how we can buy more machinery and buy more equipment and more doctors and more nurses because people are not looking after themselves.
I really believe, Mr. Speaker, that this is one of our major initiatives as a collective government. That means the members opposite, and that means us. I think we have to be models. We have to show that we are committed to this by doing it ourselves. We have to really look at wellness and illness and try to build on how we prevent it.
This is not something new from me, Mr. Speaker. I've always felt this, right from the beginning of my career as a teacher. I don't know why. It may have a lot to do with a person we all know and respect, a person by the name of Father Mouchet, and the TEST program. I think the member from Old Crow would know Father Mouchet very well. He worked in Old Crow for 25 years, and he is up there right now, trying to build that whole issue. He was also a coach for many of the members on this side of the House, as well, in looking at that whole idea of active living and fitness.
It's important to look at lifestyle. I know this hurts for some members to talk about how we change to active living. It should be something that we should all embrace. We must use those models. Father Mouchet is back up in Old Crow right now, working with the Old Crow people, again trying to instill that model in the community, working with the community. But you know the key to success is not going to be what Father Mouchet does; it's going to be what the community does, because that's where health comes from. It doesn't come from individuals being soothsayers. They come out, and they will show you how, they will give you reasons why you should do it, and they'll even take you out to do it.
Mr. Speaker, it's going to take commitment from communities to turn this around, because we know we have some major problems.
Active living is a cornerstone to a prevention-based approach to community and to individuals. As my fellow colleague, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services said in her opening comments about the issue of active living, this is something that's long overdue. We must reduce the number of inactive Canadians by at least 10 percent over the next four years. If we do that, Mr. Speaker, we can have annual savings of $5 billion. The Yukon is part of this commitment.
The benefits of active living go beyond just our physical health. Active living also has an important role to play in individual well-being and the quality of life in our communities.
I guess people can argue - and I will argue, from time to time also - with the sort of the philosophy or motto that quite often is presented, in that we're moving away from the "no-pain, no-gain" approach to physical activity, recognizing that the experience of being physically active involves body, mind and spirit. Those are the very commonalities that some of what I would call the people who guide us in the communities are trying to tell us.
When I go for my run each morning at 6:00 on the Chadburn Lake road, I tell you, it is body, mind and spirit. I think it's very important that we work on what good health means for the future. We have an increasing number of seniors. We have an increasing number of people who are reaching that age where they become more inactive. What we're trying to promote is more activity.
We're not saying that you have to go out and run or bike or anything like that. If they want to do those things - fine. But there are lots of things that could be done. You could go walking, cycle, pick berries, hike, garden. There are so many things that can be done. Exercising takes many forms.
I think the important part is that we - I was at the Cancer Society meeting today. There was a very good showing there. I hope the members opposite were there. I didn't see them in the crowd, but I hope they were there. We were there in full force. But it's a known fact that there will be an increase of 70 percent in cancer cases in the population in the next few years - 70 percent. And they know that activity does delay the advent of cancer. There are some forms of cancer where it doesn't, but there is a massive study out there that tells us very clearly that we have to look at how we prevent it. Prevention is the key, Mr. Speaker.
We must take time out of our hectic days to really look at how we, as individuals, become active. I thank the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes for starting this project that was long overdue and should have happened 25 years ago. Now, we are hoping to get schools, individuals, communities and the workplace involved. I'm shocked, if you want to put it mildly, that there are no showers for employees in a building, like the government building here, to keep them active. I mean, if you're in this building all day, as we are, unless you get out for 10 or 15 minutes to do a little walking - I notice that some of the members opposite take their dogs out for a walk. That's good. You need that fresh air. I think it's important. It's very important to get that fresh air. We have no showers here.
I'm shocked that, in a building this size - and trying to encourage our employees to become active and to perform their best, because we have a very good working force - that we have no place where they can change. I think we have to really think about that, Mr. Speaker.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Deputy Speaker: I'm having a hard time hearing the member speaking. Please refrain from heckling.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Deputy Speaker: Order please.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The Department of Community and Transportation Services has worked closely with its partners in Health and Social Services, Education, the Public Service Commission, the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board and the Women's Directorate to determine how we best can do this. The result is a plan where our government has put forward $130,000 for this coming year, and, boy, that's just the beginning, Mr. Speaker.
We're going to be hiring an active living coordinator to help oversee the implementation of the Yukon active living strategy. I believe, Mr. Speaker, if we're spending $125 million on health care, we should probably be spending just as much on prevention. But, boy, wouldn't you hear the cries if we were saying we were going to spend $125 million? Then you wouldn't need the $125 million for health care. We might need half of that.
The important part is that quality of life is the key issue for all of us. If you're not feeling well or if you don't have complete physical mobility, then obviously you don't feel that you're doing what you want to do.
I think it's important that we try to look at the future. Yes, we have to have the health care for those who need it. Some people have no choices, and we know that, Mr. Speaker. We're going to develop an extensive community-based awareness program for the entire Yukon. We have moved ahead on a pilot project for a green prescription program, endorsed by the Yukon Medical Association and, also, the development of an extensive school-based active living awareness and education program in the Yukon schools.
This is really going to be the big challenge, Mr. Speaker. Some of us in the past - and in my former life - believed in this, already began those programs in the schools, because we believed that that's where it's at.
It is interesting when you are in a community how you can build with your partners, and what those partners will suggest they want for the future. It is the very thing that we are talking about here.
We don't have to reinvent the wheel. We have already been doing a lot of these things in the past and we just have to build on them, but we need more people to take part in them.
The Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute has undertaken a physical activity benchmark program for 1998 to 2003, on behalf of all provinces and territories. They sample 250 people in each jurisdiction to determine their physical activity levels. I think that it is important to know that when this report was released, it found and showed that 51 percent of Yukoners are not active enough to achieve health benefits. That's over half of our population. Do we have a problem? Yes. Should we be talking a lot about it? Yes. If we don't talk about it, people assume that there is no problem.
I also had the pleasure in my career to work with a number of people who are very committed. We are just coming to the end of one of these legacies of a person by the name of Mr. Hughes. Selwyn Hughes is a teacher at Selkirk School who has worked as a volunteer in the TEST program for 31 years. Many of our people on this side and maybe yourselves, have had him as a teacher, but that is called commitment.
Another person, Mr. Brian Hunt - his is a household name for a lot of students, especially in Riverdale. He has worked very hard at trying to build that long-term awareness. If you talk to any of those adults, those who are adults and had these two people as teachers back years ago, they will attribute what they did in schools to these teachers, with their kind of awareness and fitness. So that tells you what can be done when you get the collective forces working together.
It's very important. As my colleague says, "a healthy body, healthy mind".
We're really expecting, Mr. Speaker, to build for the future. The government is expecting the next progress report this fall from our sample of 250. We're hoping to see a change; we want to see more people active. These status reports are available from the sport and recreation branch, so it's not like I'm speaking about something that is not based on reality; they are.
I think another important issue here is the concern of FAS and FAE in our society. Our steps that we have included are going to part and are part of the alcohol and drug secretariat, which include a strong focus in this area. We are going to work with our partners, as we have been in the last number of months and years, I would say.
The working group on fetal alcohol syndrome is running strong with so many partners. Some of these are the alcohol and drug services, the Child Development Centre, FASSY, Kaushee's Place, Department of Education, family and children's services, Justice, Kwanlin Dun. We are going to be host to the Prairie-Northern Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Partnership Conference in 2002. The 2002 planning committee has met with the FASSY working group and the government departments that work with the same client group. The Department of Health and Social Services has agreed to work through the FAS working group as our primary planning partner for the conference for that reason, because they represent such a broad spectrum.
As well, we are working with Yukon College and the early intervention group who represent Yukon Family Services, the family day society, Learning Disabilities Association, Yukon Childcare Association, Yukon Learn, Yukon child care services, Yukon Association of Community Living, and early childhood development. We've also met with the Advisory Council on First Nations Child Welfare. I'd also like to point out that the Prairie-Northern Partnership is a working group made up of government representatives from the prairie provinces and the three northern regions.
It is not a public group but, rather, an administrative working group. The conference is the Prairie Northern Conference and it's paid for by the partners. While we're hosting the 2002 conference, it is not the Yukon government's conference. This is the one that the north will be hosting. It will be held here in Whitehorse and we will probably be the lead on it, but we'll be working with our other partners.
Also, Mr. Speaker, just for your information, we will be sponsoring or supporting 44 people who will be going to Regina this May to attend the conference there.
So, I think it's very important to know that we're very committed to trying to build with our partners.
Have we got all the answers, Mr. Speaker? No. Do we need help from our partners in the communities and with the members in opposition? Yes, we always want good ideas.
Mr. Speaker, when we were elected, we promised to build the Yukon economy, and I think we should spend just a few minutes talking about what we have done as a government in 11 months. This is probably going to take me at least an hour just to go through all these things, so we'll -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The members opposite - I'm glad to see that they're supporting my time here.
When we were elected, Mr. Speaker, the unemployment rate in February of this year was 12.2 percent. Last year, under the NDP government, it was 12.8 percent. So we have made a little increase there. During the NDP's reign, the unemployment rate reached a high of over 17 percent. We haven't even come close to that. StatsCan says that the number of people collecting unemployment insurance in February this year was down almost 10 percent over last year. StatsCan says that the value of building permits issued in January of this year increased by more than 85 percent over January of last year - 85 percent. I think that's remarkable. And StatsCan forecasts that Yukon will experience the second highest percentage growth in capital spending in all of Canada this year.
StatsCan - you know, the big group that looks after all of the stats for Canada, says that we're going to experience the second biggest growth.
The construction of the Mayo-Dawson transmission line, which was announced yesterday, will create up to 70 jobs over the next two years. Construction of the Mayo school will employ up to 25 Yukoners. Anderson Exploration is employing over 60 Yukoners and will spend more than $20 million on oil and gas near Eagle Plains.
Again, I give my compliments to the government of yesterday. They started the ball rolling and, guess what, we got it really rolling, because they like coming to a Yukon that has an open and transparent approach toward development.
We recently completed our second land sale in the Eagle Plains area, which will create more jobs for Yukoners. The North Slope gas producers - Chevron, Phillips, Exxon - are spending $75 million to study the feasibility.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Watson Lake, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: The mood in this House today has been very cooperative. I have to submit that the comments being made by the Minister of Health have absolutely nothing to do with the motion we are debating on health. The minister somehow - unless there has been a Cabinet shuffle this afternoon - has veered off into economic development. I would submit that that's simply not customary in motion debate, and that we stick to the motion as presented and that is before us today.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, economic development is about the health of the Yukon. They are inextricably linked together. I'm sure that the minister, at the conclusion of his speech, will tie them in and show the opposition the connection, which they have failed to grasp in the past.
Speaker: It's difficult for the Chair to determine whether there is, in fact, a point of order, but I trust that the minister will tie his comments in to the relative topic.
I might add, I ask the minister, maybe sooner rather than later. Would the minister please continue.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: It's too bad that the Member for Watson Lake doesn't understand that having a job is very healthy. If you don't have a job then, obviously, you're not feeling very good. So, obviously, it's very important that we realize that having jobs is very important. I would think the Member for Watson Lake would understand that.
We recently completed our second land sale in the Eagle Plains area, which will create more jobs for Yukoners. The $75 million - we just spoke about the feasibility of building a natural gas pipeline and, guess what, they're in town talking about it to local businesses. Tonight, there's a big - I don't know if it's a party, but there's a big open house for people who want to come in and see what they're doing. I would hope that members opposite - well, I'm not sure about the members opposite. They kind of flip-flop. One time they say, "No pipeline," then they say, "Pipeline." Then the Member for Kluane says, "We don't need whatever thing it is that they're going to build." So, obviously, Mr. Speaker, here's a chance to learn about what's coming down the pipe.
Of course, a decision on the Alaska Highway pipeline project is expected later this year. This, if approved, could mean up to $3 billion being spent in the Yukon. Now, if that isn't healthy, I don't know what is.
Just recently, from the Member for Watson Lake, North American Tungsten recently announced a commitment to reopen the Cantung mine. That should be good news - good health, for Watson Lake. The company will employ 60 people preparing the mine for start-up, and about 100 people once the mine is in operation. I expect that many of these people will come from Watson Lake.
The economic forecast that was released earlier this sitting said that the improvements that this Liberal government has made to the exploration tax credit and increased funding for the Yukon mining incentive program are expected to stem any further decrease in spending on mineral exploration. Our government will spend $30 million on highway construction in the coming year, reversing the years of cuts to the highway construction budget by both the NDP and the Yukon Party. I think that is marvellous. We believe in Yukoners. We believe in developing for the future.
It also forecast that the tourism industry will experience modest growth this year, and again, when you consider our times, it is obvious that the Yukon is a destination. The value of furs harvested by trappers increased by 33 percent last year and sales are expected to be similar this year. So rebuilding the Yukon economy is going to take some time, but we are starting to see results.
Yes, we are aware that we are short of health care professionals in North America. We are short of health care people in Canada; therefore, we must really look at how we can work together in trying to build for the future.
Now, what would this mean to form an all-party committee on medical and health care professionals? With a Yukon Party representative, it might mean rolling back wages of nurses; I don't know. It would mean undesirable, non-functional changes to the hospital design. I don't know if this reflects what Yukoners want. An all-party committee would include the kind of decision-making logic that, again, looks at the NDP record for health care. When you make comments about doctors working part-time, when really that is a choice that they make because they are professionals, that doesn't do much for encouraging our health care people to be respected as professionals.
We value our doctors and we value our nurses, Mr. Speaker. They are very important in the decision-making and in the future of health care in the Yukon. We need respectful, thoughtful and good input to address the issue of our health care professionals, and I believe that we, as a Liberal government, have moved down that track.
No, we're not there yet, Mr. Speaker. The destination is going to be ongoing and we cannot promote the kind of thinking that is reflected in the history books by the two previous governments, so I'm pleased to hear that the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes has had a vision about where we need to go. An all-party committee would do a disservice to the standards if we went by the history book. We have to move ahead.
In our first days in office, Mr. Speaker, we met with the Yukon Medical Association, with the nurses, and with the Hospital Corporation many times, soliciting their views and soliciting their ideas, looking at what is going to keep professionals here, and they feel that they are partners in this process.
Does it mean changing our health care system to something other than what it is today? I think that's ongoing, Mr. Speaker. I would suggest that, over the next little while, we are going to - the hospital, I understand, is going to be moving ahead on purchasing a CT scan. That's my understanding, and that's going to make a difference, as well. We had some challenges there. There wasn't enough money in the budget to buy the machine that we need today. I knew we couldn't do it within hours or within weeks or even within months because, as the members opposite know, finding those dollars and ensuring that we can sustain that kind of service means that we have to do our homework.
So I'm pleased to hear that that's the direction at this point that we're moving down. Now, it's not the commitment that, hopefully, we as Yukoners want to see. Is it going to save us money in the long run? I'm not sure about that, Mr. Speaker. There seems to be two sides to that coin. It will give our doctors here a better diagnostic tool.
When they did the accreditation, one of the comments that I heard - I haven't seen the report, but I've heard this from some of the accreditors who were up here doing it - they said, we should be advertising this hospital as one of the best-equipped hospitals in the country for its population. Those are reasons why medical health people come north. That's one of those reasons; it's not the only reason.
I think there are different ways we can involve our partners in this process. In my visits to the nursing stations, I heard from - I would like to think - almost every community health nurse. As a matter of fact, I spent more time with the community health nurses in these communities than I did with any other group, because they are so vital to these communities. And I heard from them, Mr. Speaker. Their major concern was how they're involved in the decision-making process for their communities. Their major concern was how they were treated by the communities, and in some communities, they do a marvellous job. They respect these health nurses. They respect them for what they do, for what they provide, for what they serve. Then I've heard from some communities that they can do a much better job.
I think that's the obligation of all of us as politicians, to reflect that back to the communities. Where you're doing a good job, say so; where we need to do some more work, that has to also be shared. There's no point shoving it under the rug and pretending that it isn't a problem.
So, Mr. Speaker, there are lots of things we can do as partners in the health care development.
I guess for me, in my travels as well, I really believe we have a very solid group of health care support people in our departments. Health care is not just directly nursing and doctoring. It's also social work, it's also home care, it's also our seniors homes, Thomson Centre, Macaulay Lodge, and looking after these very important people who have provided us with service beyond the years.
So, health care includes everyone. How we do it, as a committed group of people, and how we do it, as individuals who want to be part of the solution, means that we have to be open. So I appreciate the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes again extending that objective that we work together.
One of the problems I'm having is that, although we brought forward an all-party committee to look at boards and committees, that was rejected by the opposition. So why, all of a sudden, are we into, well, let's have another committee here to look at health care? I mean, boards and committees are just as important in our society as many things that we do in our society.
I have a little question mark there. Maybe the intention has changed. Maybe the members opposite want to work with us toward trying to build better representation on our boards and committees by using the all-party approach. I guess I'm a little suspicious that this particular concern at this point - I would hope it's for the right reasons that we want to get together. I really hope so.
I would really like to reflect on the fact that a Cabinet submission will be coming to Cabinet and caucus very shortly on our phase 2. It's very extensive, and I will be more than willing to share that with the members opposite, once we have approved it. I would again invite their contribution to how we could improve it. This was worked out with the doctors and nurses. It's very extensive, it's very long, and it responds to what we're feeling - the pressures that we have here in Canada right now - and it also responds to our needs, here in the Yukon.
In recruiting, particularly nurses, we have tried to look at compensation that reflects what is happening in other parts of Canada. We know that the B.C. nurses are now in the process of negotiating, and they're asking for a fairly hefty increase. I met with the nurses here last fall in an open forum at the Gold Rush Inn. We had a very good discussion about some of the issues and concerns they had about how we deliver health care in our hospital and community.
They want to meet again with me this coming fall, and I'm going to. I'm going to go back there, like a report card. I'm going to say, "Okay, here's what we have done, here's what we haven't done, and here's what we're working on." Because Mr. Speaker, if I can't be accountable for the role I play, then I guess there's a question about why I'm even here. So, that's why we have to go back. We have to go back and find out from the stakeholders how and why we're doing things.
I think the important part for me is looking at how we as a government are trying to reflect to Canadians, and particularly to Yukoners, the hard realities of our health care system. I have been meeting with a number of individuals over the last few months, and some of my caucus members have been doing that as well. We have been sharing with our seniors some of the realities of where health care is going.
You know, Mr. Speaker, you wouldn't believe it - I think you would, Mr. Speaker, because I think that you were involved in one of these. You would believe what the answers are that they are coming forward with about how we can offer a better system. The member from Dawson often talks about the tiered system of health care that we have. I don't know if it is referring to the tears coming out of his eyes or tiered in the sense that it is layered. I am not sure, Mr. Speaker. But it's obvious that we cannot offer Vancouver health care here in Whitehorse. We cannot offer Whitehorse health care in Dawson. It's the nature of the population, of the number of specialists that you have in each of these areas. If that is what is called "tiered", I sort of have to give up, Mr. Speaker. I don't know what you say about Old Crow, where they have nurse practitioners who offer first-class service in an isolated community. Do they believe that it is many tiered there? I think they believe that they have some of the best nurses going because their needs are being looked after. To provide a doctor for Old Crow could not be possible with the way that things are going now, even if we had lots of doctors. We have to look at what is reasonable.
It's interesting that - in my recent travels I went off to Cuba for a few weeks and did some biking there for a couple of weeks. I had a good opportunity there to speak to a lot of the locals. I was there on a health mission. I was physically active, and I also talked to a lot of the locals about their health care. They produce 1,000 surplus doctors a year. A thousand - and, Mr. Speaker, they have a very high quality health care system in that country. They export their doctors to other countries to help their balance of payments. So why did they get it right when it comes to health care people, and why did we get it wrong? I'm not saying, "Adopt their government system," but I would definitely state that there are some models out there that we have to look at.
099a I think it's important, Mr. Speaker, that we understand that the whole area of recruitment, the whole area of trying to bring people into the network of understanding this, doesn't rest just in here. We have to get the message out to Yukoners that health care is in jeopardy, and we must all work toward finding solutions. There are no magic solutions. I have tried to do this as the health minister. I have tried to do it in a way that empowers people to do something for themselves and for their community.
The important part, Mr. Speaker, is that if we carry on with the idea that it's unlimited - the resources, the financial support, and all those things that we have had in the past - then we have to realize those times have come to an end, and that's why the whole review of the health care system in Canada is now being undertaken.
That's why we decided to put together a report card and send it out to every Yukon home, and to look at what's happening in the rest of Canada and what's happening here. We have to do more of that, Mr. Speaker. We're not the only ones doing this, by the way. We're probably one of the first to do that type of thing. I sent copies to all the Health ministers across Canada. The Deputy Minister of Health took it with him on the DMs trip, when he was meeting with them, and they were impressed by what we had done, as a small jurisdiction.
We have to do more of what I call "accountability". We can't assume, Mr. Speaker, that we can just throw money at it. We cannot. Unfortunately, there is that false sense out there that people believe that the health care system is just going to carry on.
In our system, and I think the members opposite knew this when they were in government, it just takes one small major incident to throw the whole health care budget completely out of whack. The interesting thing about that -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: It's rather interesting - I hear the Member for Watson Lake say that we cut back in health care. I'm not sure, Mr. Speaker, that is something one can say under their breath, because this is the highest health care budget ever - $125 million.
So it's important that we, as Yukoners, understand that we believe in health care, but we cannot sustain that kind of cost, year after year. We have to look at better ways of trying to put people into their own mindset of doing what they should do to improve their own health. We have to, Mr. Speaker; we have no choice in the matter.
Some of the things at the nursing forum - as you know, Mr. Speaker, we do have problems with nursing supply and recruitment in our communities. I know that, from those members opposite from the rural communities - I'm sorry, Mr. Speaker, they're all from rural communities, that's right - they know very clearly what some of these issues are in trying to get nurses to staff their nursing stations. That is becoming very, very difficult, because the competition is fierce. What we're doing is having people going out to nursing fairs to encourage people to come north because of the climate, because of the environment, because of the lifestyle and because of the way communities treat their health care people.
You know, Mr. Speaker, that hasn't always been true. There are times when some of our health care people have not been treated very well. So they don't have to stay any more. They don't; they leave. So I think communities have to also look at how they take ownership. It's very, very important.
We have developed compensation packages that have looked at other jurisdictions. We have looked at community nursing on a 12-month recruitment plan, which includes going to a health job fair. This costs money, by the way, Mr. Speaker. When we have to go to Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, and St. John's, and some - not us, so far, but when other jurisdictions are going to the States to bring back and woo back our Canadian nurses, then obviously we've got a problem.
And I think it's very important that we try to build together and look at it from a very positive point of view. We have advertisements in almost every nursing journal, in all the newspapers, in all the health publications. We're working in partnership with our tourism partner to attract people here so that when they see the north and see some of the tourism attractions, they decide, "My gosh, I want to go there; this is Mecca."
We have a database now that contains at least 260 contacts to capture resumé information received through people who have come to our job fairs. We have to follow that up. That takes a lot of resources. We have a recruitment video and an attractive recruitment package. We have a mentorship program that has been developed to help facilitate the hiring of registered nurses who require some additional knowledge. We're looking at reclassifying. I think that was a big issue, Mr. Speaker, when the transfer took place.
We can't fix all these problems in 11 months, Mr. Speaker. I know there is some pressure from people to fix all the problems, which probably weren't even the main responsibility of even the last government. Those problems were created through the federal transfer. So I think trying to fix these problems - my understanding is it's not an easy task.
We have offered more clerk hours in some of these small nursing stations. In 1999, we initiated a rent freeze under the former government, and we have maintained it. The nursing educator job has been finalized, which means that this is to help nurses to become more functional in what they do and to have more support in what they do. We have given the YNA some professional development money, so they can manage that and support their nurses by doing their own thing, rather than it sort of being directed through other forums.
We have dollars within our own situation - within the Health department - to support the many nurses that we employ. We know that the hospital nurses also have PD opportunities. We have a one-week spring conference on clinical skills update. We have a nurse practitioner-in-charge conference every six months. We have access to the University of Victoria community health courses and also access to the University of Manitoba clinical skills. We have a lot of opportunities to attend workshops.
When I was visiting the communities of Dawson, I think Mayo was another one and Watson Lake, if I recall, nurses were upgrading their skills and moving toward master's programs, and they were doing it on-line. I think that is what we have to do. Our nurses want to be the best they can be. We have got to give them the opportunities to do that, because if we don't, they are going to go somewhere else.
Are we doing enough, Mr. Speaker? Probably not. We're trying to do as much as we can. We definitely want them as partners in our deliverance in the future. And Mr. Speaker, you're absolutely correct. The Member for Watson Lake says, "Is that a 10-year plan?" It's probably going to be much longer than that, because it's going to take an ongoing effort by all of us to really build on how we ensure that we have health care people in the future.
Is it a challenge? You had better believe it is, Mr. Speaker.
I think that one of the problems that we have is that we have to really understand that we are not the only jurisdiction suffering. The unfortunate thing is that there have been many failures in trying to do something. I always say, "If you are not trying something, then you are not going anywhere." I think that what we have to really look at is how we bring prosperity back to the Yukon. That, to me, is the key issue - through jobs. That is health care.
The Member for Watson Lake talked about economic development and whether that has anything to do with health. I think it has everything to do with health. In a recent study coming out of British Columbia, "The underlying cause of much of the economic malaise currently facing British Columbia is bad public policy," says the new study. "We must return the province to prosperity." And this was released by the Fraser report.
The consistent increases in government spending - for example, like the B.C. NDP have been doing, throwing money at things - fails to recognize that many of the problems in the current system, and particularly in health care, education and welfare, have little to do with the amount of money spent and more to do with how we deliver services. So just throwing money at a problem doesn't work. It's not a solution.
You know, Mr. Speaker, that is why I got involved in politics, because I saw previous governments throw money at things and not look at what is the underlying reason for these concerns. I believe that we are a government that wants to work with all Yukoners. We have to always do history lessons, because if we don't do history, we never learn. If some of the members opposite don't like the history lessons, that is not my fault. I am just presenting what I see as fact and what I see as my own personal observations over the many years of living here.
I think the important part for me, Mr. Speaker, is to ensure that we have long-term recruitment and retention policies for the long-term future. We have to reflect our ongoing commitment to address this shortage and encourage health care professionals to move to and stay in the Yukon. If we don't do that, we are going to have a problem.
Right now we have our professionals working with us. They are part of our team. We have our doctors working with us; we have our nurses working with us. Does that mean that everybody is going to get what they want? I think we'll have to look at that and relate it, economically, to what we can afford, but we also have to stay in the field, Mr. Speaker. We have to play with the big players out there, and sometimes comparing is very hard to do because there are balances in all the things that we do. With that, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to propose an amendment to Motion No. 31, and I have copies here.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I move that Motion No. 31 be amended by:
(2) replacing the words: "THAT this House urges the Yukon Government to establish an all-party committee on a priority basis, to bring Members of the Legislative Assembly from both rural and urban Yukon together to examine options for solving" with the words "THAT this House urges the Yukon Government to continue working to solve".
I'd like to replace the last part with the last part that I presented here.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Health and Social Services that Motion No. 31 be amended by:
(2) replacing the words: "THAT this House urges the Yukon Government to establish an all-party committee on a priority basis, to bring Members of the Legislative Assembly from both rural and urban Yukon together to examine options for solving" with the words "THAT this House urges the Yukon Government to continue working to solve".
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, the reason for the amendment is to - I'm not too sure what it means to say that the recent departure of two doctors from Watson Lake makes it clear that the situation cannot be ignored and needs to be addressed. I don't think that has anything to do with the intent of the motion. It may be an example, but it isn't germane to the motion. So I believe that it doesn't belong in the motion. I think the whole issue is continuing to work on the whole area of health care recruitment and how we build for the future.
The last part, I think, again - changing that to "continuing to work" - as I have outlined here for the last little while, we are continuing to work very hard, and the second phase of the recruitment package is about to be forthcoming, and we would be more than open to continue building with our partners, including the members from the opposite parties, and continue to work on how we build further. But I think that to actually say that we would like to do that at this point in time would not, from my point of view, reflect the fact that a lot of work has gone into this already.
I'm not adverse to working with partners. I've always said that right from the beginning, but I don't think it needs to be stated in the motion.
Mr. Jenkins: On the amendment to this motion, I have trouble accepting the deletion components from this motion, Mr. Speaker, in that if we look at the exercise that we are engaged in, we first have to recognize that we have a problem or we have a situation on our hands that must be addressed. And that becomes more emphasized when we point out what is going astray in the system. And you pretty well have to give examples as to the reason and the rationale for your decision in other areas.
Now, when we look at the whole purpose of this exercise, Mr. Speaker, it is to attract, recruit and retain health care professionals. The Minister of Health and Social Services has, over the course of his tenure in office, managed to create more of a two-tiered health care system in the Yukon than has ever existed before. The only way that that can be addressed is by bringing some certainty to the issue, by way of having a firm and definite policy of attracting, recruiting and retaining these health care professionals.
Now, when we look at what's happening in other jurisdictions, not just in Canada - not just on the national scene, but on the international scene - we are very much in a situation where we have to compete with many other jurisdictions. I have a nephew who is just graduating with his doctorate, and he has been recruited to move to Australia. That individual looked at all of the options in Canada and abroad, given that he is burdened with quite a number of dollars' worth of -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, on a point of order.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you for the opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to speak on a point of order. I can say, at this point in time, that we, as the official opposition, cannot accept this change at this point in time. And I do believe that it should be ruled out of order, because the amendment changes the entire body, or focus, of the motion. The entire focus is taken away at this point in time.
So, Mr. Speaker, I do believe it should be ruled out of order. This is another motion, but it has nothing to do with that motion.
Speaker: On the point of order, the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes has questioned whether the amendment moved by the Minister of Health and Social Services is in order. The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes didn't make it clear to the Chair why he thought the amendment to be out of order. The Chair has done a quick review of the Standing Orders and of Beauchesne, and cannot find any grounds for ruling this amendment out of order.
The Chair therefore is going to allow debate on this amendment to continue, and I'd ask the Member for Klondike to please continue.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Probably the easiest solution for the Speaker would have been just to say it was a Liberal amendment, and let's rule it out of order, and we could move forward. But, failing that, I guess we'll have to speak to the amendment to this motion.
What we have is a motion, the intent of which is extremely honourable and extremely definitive in what it lays out for us to accomplish, and the whole purpose is to attract, recruit and retain health care professionals.
The Minister of Health and Social Services went on and on and on. Then he went on further. We learned about his trip to Cuba; we learned about the number of health care professionals in Cuba. It's kind of interesting what the minister failed to mention about Cuba - that the 11 provinces and the 30 million people there can't move between provinces without permission of the government, and they can't own their own home, unless it was pre-1959 - pre-revolution.
The state owns everything. They can't own their own vehicle unless it was a pre-1958 vehicle. That must be the Liberal way. Everybody ends up working for the government, so I'm pleased to hear that the Minister of Health and Social Services visited Cuba and has taken some lessons. And, yes, they have an excellent group of doctors, and on average a doctor there makes $25 U.S. a month. I must admit that Castro has one thing going for us that we should pick up on. He accepts nothing but U.S. dollars, Mr. Speaker - nothing but U.S. dollars. Mind you, he'll accept credit cards as long as they're not drawn on a U.S. bank and he will not accept American Express credit cards anywhere in Cuba.
So, the issue before us is not one of comparison, Mr. Speaker. It's what we in the Yukon are going to do to attract, recruit and retain health care professionals. The Minister of Health and Social Services has managed to put a very definite wedge between Whitehorse and rural Yukon in the provision of health care services. In fact, he has amplified the two-tier health care system, and it's another area where devolution has taken place in the health care transfer.
Just before the health care transfer, Mr. Speaker, the Mayo hospital was downgraded from a hospital status with 24-hour nurses and a doctor resident there to just a nursing station. Dawson preceded that. The only place in the Yukon where there was a fighting chance has been Watson Lake, and Doctor Said would love out of his practice, but he hasn't been able to recruit anyone to purchase his assets there.
So perhaps the minister's suggestion that, like the Northwest Territories, they buy out all the assets of these doctors and they just work for the state - he must be taking lessons from Castro.
Never mind the Northwest Territories. They have a similar dilemma, and they also have a problem attracting, recruiting and retaining health care professionals. They have spent considerably more money on the initiative than the Yukon government has ever, ever seen fit to spend.
And Mr. Speaker, I predict that the situation here in the Yukon is going to become more acute under this minister and that we are going to be taking a step backwards with the provision of health care, here in the Yukon. We are going to have difficulty retaining health care practitioners, especially in rural Yukon, given the treatment they receive from this government. We have only to look at rural doctors. If they are on a fee-for-service basis; there is no standby charge. They are in practice for themselves.
It appears that the only way this government wants to hire medical doctors in rural Yukon is on a contract or salaried basis. They would become employees of the government. When we look at the total amount being spent on health care, and we look at the tremendous deficits that the Department of Health and Social Services has had in the past, it is the largest component of the budget of Yukon today.
While I don't have a quarrel with that, I think there are better and wiser ways to spend our dollars than by creating more and more bureaucracy, taking more and more of the programs in-house, and running and operating them by government agencies, instead of leaving them in the private sector and allowing the NGOs to function in a manner that delivers the service and delivers it in a manner that is much more cost-effective than, it would appear, government can deliver that same service.
We only have to look at the Gibbs Group Homes situation, that were closed down and taken in-house.
Mr. Speaker, I haven't seen the final costs, but based on what we were spending previously and what we are spending currently, I would be of the opinion that we have probably doubled the cost to the government of delivering a service that we can't really monitor nearly as effectively in-house as we can when that service is provided in the private sector. Therein lies an inherent problem with the teachings that Castro has provided to the Minister of Health and Social Services on how to run his health care system here in the Yukon. It is amplified throughout the whole area and I have some serious and grave concerns.
Now, before I go on, I want to make it abundantly clear that we have some excellent health care providers in the Yukon and they have done a magnificent job, probably in spite of government intervention. Really, all they want to do is to be compensated on a fair and equitable basis for the service that they provide and be allowed to do their respective jobs.
We have some nurse practitioners who are providing some excellent service and can do an excellent job also, Mr. Speaker. But I take exception to the Minister of Health and Social Services' position that nurse practitioners are underutilized. In fact, in most cases in rural Yukon, they are taxed to the max by the community that they serve. And the tire-out rate or the rate at which they have to be on call and be available is virtually 110 percent of the time. And the duration of time that they want to spend in communities grows less and less.
That example is quite common in a number of the smaller rural Yukon communities, Mr. Speaker. I don't know why the minister can't recognize that problem and address it.
The other issue is that when you get into a larger community, everyone is more and more being shifted over to the nurse practitioner from the local doctors. In fact, they're being encouraged to go that way by this minister and his officials. It seems to be a dictate from the minister himself, Mr. Speaker.
So just how long do we expect these doctors in rural Yukon to remain there on a fee-for-service basis when you cut right from under them a lot of the individuals that usually visit them? They're being referred next door. That's not fair.
Dawson is the second largest community in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker, and it has a nursing station. Why? It was downgraded under the federal Liberals and then transferred over to the Yukon government, and we're seeing that more and more with devolution. Programs are being downgraded, funding is being cut to match the current level of service being provided, and then the programs are being transferred to the Government of Yukon with that funding, and they're expected to do everything. So there is a problem in this devolution process. And I would be hopeful, Mr. Speaker, that somebody in the Liberal caucus is not asleep at the switch but can recognize these shortcomings and address them head-on.
One of the other areas I'd like to commend the Minister of Health and Social Services for is the additional funding being provided to a number of NGOs. Mr. Speaker, there's not much else I can praise the minister for in the administration of his portfolio.
He has amplified the two-tier health care system, and he's moving it forward. He's moving forward the scenario of doctors in rural Yukon only being considered and worked with on contract or in a salaried position.
Mr. Speaker, I'm sure the lessons the Minister of Health and Social Services learned in Cuba were quite beneficial. You can't own your own home there - the state provides it - but, if you're really good, one week a year, you and your family is given one of these nice villas on the coast in a community, and you're given an added ration to go to the grocery store and buy a few more of the amenities. I guess what the minister failed to mention about Cuba is that the two most sought-after jobs in that country are, number one, a taxi driver and, number two, a waiter. That's after they get a command of a number of languages. After the Spanish-speaking countries visit Cuba, the next numbers come from Italy, then Germany, and then Canada. Over 200,000 Canadians visit Cuba a year.
I might suggest to the minister that there are some excellent investment opportunities in that country, as a consequence of the state of their economy and the type of government that they have. It might serve him well to spend more time in Cuba and pick up on some of these other initiatives.
It was the minister himself who chose to use this country as an example. The comparison is like night and day. You can't pick up and move from one province to the other, or even consider moving out of a jurisdiction.
Let's get back to the issue at hand. There are a number of examples, Mr. Speaker, of initiatives being taken by other jurisdictions to attract, recruit and retain health care professionals. We can sit around here in an all-party committee and reinvent the wheel, but all we have to really do is look at what other jurisdictions are doing, and we virtually have to compete in that same marketplace, that international marketplace for health care professionals.
When the minister is going to wake up and recognize this, I do not know. I urge him to give careful consideration to that area, Mr. Speaker, and to the initiative itself, because, in spite of having the largest health and social service budget ever and in spite of having a shrinking population, our costs are going one way and it's not always driven by the cost of the health care provider. One has to look at the intermediate cost of administration and the various agencies that we have now created in the government to provide all of these services.
We probably now have in place, under this minister, and are creating a bureaucracy that could serve a population of about 150,000, never mind the 15,000 that we'll probably soon have here in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker. Our population - and I think Stats Canada will accurately reflect it in the not-too-distant future - is probably going to be somewhere between 20,000 and 25,000, and shrinking. The only real advantage to be considered a Yukon resident is because health care is provided free of charge and the tracking mechanism is not the greatest.
A number of individuals have chosen that avenue. They work elsewhere, or are absent from the Yukon for a good part of the year. That's their lifestyle - their choice - but the Yukon health care system pays.
We only have to look at some of the ever-increasing costs, Mr. Speaker - the costs of medevacs and the costs of transportation. Then we have to look at what the minister's reaction is to a serious, serious shortcoming in his department - the provision of birthing in rural Yukon. It's non-existent, except for Watson Lake. Everyone is told that they have to go to Whitehorse. Pretty soon, the minister is going to hear from individuals who have to come to Whitehorse, and they'll be pitching a tent in the campground because they can't afford a hotel room and other costs to stay here for the one, two or three weeks that it might take to await the arrival of their child.
Speaker: Order please. The member has one minute to conclude.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, the intent of this motion, as put forward by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes was, in my opinion, very sincere and an olive branch was extended to the Liberal Party to pick up on it. Unless we address the shortcomings in our health care system, we are going to find that the costs are going to continue to escalate and the service delivery is going to continue to deteriorate, especially in rural Yukon.
So, I urge all parties to consider a further amendment that will right the wrongs and we'll get back on track with this motion.
Thank you very much.
Speaker: Does any other member wish to be heard on the amendment?
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I want to be brief, I just want to put my concerns on the record. This amendment clearly hijacks the intent of the motion. It removes the aspect of the all-party committee, and it is certainly not seen as something cooperative or constructive. I thought that we did establish that mood and behaviour earlier this afternoon, but obviously the Minister of Health has chosen to deviate from the high road.
Also, I would point out that the Minister of Health stood up and talked for well over an hour and a half, and considering that there are 16 MLAs in this Legislature besides yourself, Mr. Speaker, that is not a fair apportionment of the time allocation among all of the others here who would have liked to have had the opportunity to speak in favour of nurse retention and so on in their ridings. So, I will just leave it at that. I wanted to put these concerns on the record.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Agree.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Agree.
Ms. Tucker: Agree.
Mr. McLarnon: Agree.
Mr. Kent: Agree.
Mr. McLachlan: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Disagree.
Mr. Fentie: Disagree.
Mr. Keenan: Absolutely disagree.
Mr. McRobb: Disagree.
Ms. Netro: Disagree.
Mr. Jenkins: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are ten yea, six nay.
Speaker: The ayes have it. I declare the amendment carried.
Amendment to Motion No. 31 agreed to
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the motion as amended?
Mr. Fentie: Well, sadly, what started out this afternoon in private members' day to be a cooperative, productive approach to very important issues - actually, critical issues in this territory - has now been reduced to what we see before us in the form of this amendment.
I was thinking about the amendment as I read it over, trying to grasp what the minister was trying to do in terms of strengthening what really is a solid proactive approach through a motion, trying to tackle one of our major problems of health care in this territory - the recruitment and the retention of professional health caregivers.
We on this side of the House felt confident that an all-party committee could certainly help the situation by bringing to bear comments, knowledge and effort from a diversity of the people elected here in this Legislature. For some unknown reason, the minister responsible for the Department of Health and Social Services has decided that he can do all this on his own. He doesn't need people to bring forward their ideas.
By the way, Mr. Speaker, this is the minister who constantly maintains that he is seeking ideas, that he is seeking a cooperative approach, that he is seeking the opposition to join in and help the situation and be more productive.
Well, that is what we did today with this motion on health care and retaining health care professionals for this territory, and we learned a valuable lesson: the minister, from on high, has taken a serious negative approach to a very cooperative offer from the official opposition. Why? I ask myself why the minister would feel that he had to amend the motion to the extent that he did.
There could have been an amendment brought forward, or a number of amendments by the minister and the side opposite, that would have strengthened the motion. But the reality of the motion, as it was tabled, was to form the all-party committee to bring in that rural representation, and I want to explain for a moment an example of why that may be a good idea.
This minister and this government have yet to figure out how to go about recruiting and retaining health care professionals.
In a small community like Watson Lake, the doctor who has served that community for almost a quarter of a century, on his own accord and through his own efforts, recruits doctors to the community of Watson Lake. Earlier this winter, the minister himself was in the community and snubbed that doctor. He didn't even bother to go and talk to a doctor who intimately knows the health needs of a community, who is, on his own, recruiting doctors to come into the Yukon to a community like Watson Lake and deliver health care for the people there.
I say to myself, how can the minister ignore that fact? Why would a minister disallow and shut the door on what may provide some productive input, some insight and some ideas on how to tackle this problem? Is it because the minister jogs too much and has an overabundance of oxygen in the blood and is light-headed? We don't know, but this is a travesty, Mr. Speaker. It is not doing the Yukon public any good whatsoever when it comes to health care.
There's no reason to have amended the motion as the minister has, but there was every reason to bring forward amendments that would improve it and enhance what the motion itself was trying to accomplish.
I want to point out something else, Mr. Speaker. The members opposite, early on in this term, were constantly calling for all-party this, all-party that, and yet, when the offers are made and when the opposition broaches a vehicle and an avenue for an all-party forum, the Minister of Health - although I find it unlikely that he received much counsel or asked for any counsel from his colleagues - chose to ignore that offer.
That is not going to help the situation. And then, during the debate, the minister somehow went off on a tangent about the economy. In listening to the minister talk about the economy, he brought up the now famous unemployment rates in this territory. That really concerns me, because if the minister concludes, from what the statistics are pointing out, that somehow this Liberal government has improved the economic situation in this territory, we are lost. The statistics point out something altogether different and completely opposite from what the minister has just claimed on the floor of this House.
When the minister makes the claim that the unemployment numbers in this territory have dropped by 10 percent, he's inferring that the Liberal government has somehow created enough work so that there was a 10-percent drop in the unemployment rate. That's not the case. That's not the case at all. The 10-percent drop in the unemployment rate in this territory is because 500 people have left the workforce since this Liberal government has taken office. They didn't even stick around to go on unemployment. They left the territory, seeking work elsewhere - "My way or the highway," as the Premier puts it. And it's the highway to Alberta, the highway to Fort Nelson, B.C., and the highway to Fort Liard, Inuvik and the Mackenzie Delta. It's all an exodus of people from this territory.
So, the minister doesn't even grasp what the statistics are saying. So, now let's translate that into the minister's purview of health care. If the minister can't figure out the simple fact that a 10-percent drop in the unemployment rate is the result of 500 people leaving this territory and leaving the workforce, how is the minister going to get his head around how we are going to recruit and retain health care professionals?
How is this territory going to be able to compete on the national and, in fact, the international stage, for health care professionals? And yet, in one little town in the Yukon, one doctor on his own is managing to do that. The minister doesn't even understand these types of fundamentals and, yet, the minister turns down an opportunity to have some ideas presented to him - assistance, a productive pro-active approach to tackling this very difficult problem.
I wonder myself, Mr. Speaker, is it arrogance? What is the minister's problem with accepting advice and ideas from others? And how can the minister claim that he listens and that he consults and that he doesn't move until he listens to the public and the people, when the offer to do that very thing is ignored. To make matters worse, it is diminished by some frivolous amendment that basically destroys the intent of a motion by a private member in this Legislature to offer assistance in recruiting and retaining health care professionals for the Yukon and its people.
This is an outrage, Mr. Speaker, it is an outrage, and I think it is grounds for the Minister of Health and Social Services to resign. The minister should resign because he is not living up to the claims that he makes to the Yukon public.
The minister is not being open and accountable. The minister is not a minister that wants to consult with Yukon people. The minister ignores offers of help and positive approaches and productive and cooperative approaches - ignores them. The minister puts partisan politics ahead of Yukon people. This is all about politics to the minister.
Mr. Speaker, we in the official opposition are astounded that the minister chose this route. Earlier on this afternoon, we all came to a juncture where we agreed that this Legislature has a duty and a role to play on behalf of the Yukon public in protecting and representing their interests when it comes to forestry in this territory. We, through that process, will be able to send a very strong message to the federal government that it's high time they start listening to the Yukon public when it comes to forestry. Well, this is the same basic approach when it comes to retaining and recruiting health care professionals in this territory, and yet it has been ignored by the minister opposite.
Is this another rogue member of the caucus? Though the caucus, the Premier, the Cabinet and the government itself promote a cooperative approach, this minister, in rogue-like fashion, tromps all over that cooperative approach, that offering and that olive branch from the opposition - stashed it, and thrown it on the ground. It's an outrage, and it should not go unchallenged, and the Yukon public will challenge this minister when it comes to health care, because we are losing more and more health care professionals. Thanks to the Liberal government's inability to manage the economy, our social ills and our health ills are increasing. Our cost of delivering health care is increasing. Yet, we are losing our ability to deliver that health care, because we do not have the necessary professionals here in the territory, and the ones we do have are becoming overworked.
It's not fair to them, and it's not fair to the Yukon people who are in need.
Now, this is a government that has made a claim that they are balanced; that they take a balanced approach. Well, we have yet to see that balanced approach, Mr. Speaker, and this minister's response to the offer of assistance is certainly not a balanced approach at all.
It's a very arrogant and negative approach to an issue that affects us all, and there's no way one minister or one government or one agency is going to be able to successfully tackle this problem. It's simply not possible, and I would urge the Minister of Health and Social Services, if he does fail to resign his post - to do the right thing and resign - and tries to hang on, to accept these types of cooperative offers from the opposition.
How can the minister expect the Yukon public to have trust in this government and to be confident that they can deliver what they say they're going to deliver, if something as basic as this, here on the floor of this Legislature, in a cooperative approach, is ignored?
I say, Mr. Speaker, that this minister's caucus colleagues should sit him down and address with this minister his ignorance of the true facts in health care and the economy and possibly any number of other issues in this territory.
And I think that the rest of the caucus should scold this minister also, and he should be banished for 30 days, as the Member for Whitehorse Centre was. It's a deserving punishment. It's fitting for the actions of this minister today.
Mr. Speaker, I could go on and on and on, but I see by the time, it is now 6:00.
Debate on Motion No. 31 accordingly adjourned
Speaker: Order, please. The time being 6:00 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled March 28, 2001:
Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Fund Board Annual 1999/2000 Report
The following Legislative Returns were tabled March 28, 2001:
Budget expenditures for Cabinet and Management Support Branch and Land Claims Secretariat: explanation of (Duncan)
Oral, Hansard, 1086
Community and Transportation Services: response to questions asked on March 14, 2001 during debate on 2001/02 Estimates re subdivision development and costs (Buckway)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1328 & 1329
Whitehorse waterfront lands: status (Buckway)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1335 & 1336
Top of the World Highway: information pertaining to (Buckway)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1350
Road restrictions, axle loading, axle spacing: comparisons between Yukon and Alaska, and Yukon and British Columbia (Buckway)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1363