Wednesday, April 4, 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.
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have a legislative return relating to a matter outstanding from a discussion regarding the Department of Economic Development conducting a cost analysis on comparative fuel costs, including natural gas.
And, Mr. Speaker, I have a legislative return in response to a question from the Member for Kluane. The oral question was: which distributors have expressed interest in distributing natural gas customers to the Yukon?
And, Mr. Speaker, I have a legislative return in response to the leader of the official opposition asking an oral question on Hansard, page 1258, regarding the Yukon Government Fund Limited.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, I have two documents for tabling. I have the 2001-02 business plan for the Queen's Printer agency and the 2001-2002 business plan for the fleet vehicle agency.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Petition No. 2
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I have for presentation a petition that contains 196 signatures. The body of the petition reads as follows:
"To the Yukon Legislative Assembly:
The petition of the undersigned shows that the petitioners have a desire to have a public crematorium built in Whitehorse, Yukon. Therefore, the undersigned ask the Yukon Legislative Assembly to support the establishment of a cremation facility in Whitehorse, Yukon for the benefit of all Yukoners."
This has been a much discussed subject in the past, and I am pleased to present it to the House.
Speaker: Are there any further petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes:
(1) that the construction of the Alaska Highway Natural Gas Pipeline to transport the Alaskan gas to the southern U.S. states is facing major obstacles;
(2) that the President of the United States has spoken out in favour of obtaining natural gas from the Northwest Territories without mentioning the Alaska Highway Natural Gas Pipeline;
(3) that the program manager for the North American Natural Gas Pipeline Group, representing BP, Phillips and Exxon Mobil, stated in Whitehorse, on March 29, 2001, that pipeline construction, if it comes at all, is at least half a decade away; and
(4) that the Kaska Dena Nation is threatening to hold up construction of the Alaska Highway Natural Gas Pipeline until such time as their land claim is settled; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal Government to develop a contingency plan to sustain the Yukon economy based on the territory's more traditional economy of mining, forestry, construction and tourism, because the construction of the Alaska Highway Natural Gas Pipeline will come too late, if it comes at all, to provide jobs for Yukoners.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Sexual health book
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to the members of the House on a very positive initiative that has taken place over the last few years.
The health promotion unit in the Health and Social Services department has brought forward, with our partners, this new initiative. It speaks to the policy of this government, Mr. Speaker. It is this government's policy to consider aspects of prevention when we consider the health of individual Yukoners.
Prevention, the members will most likely agree, can be achieved through education and choice awareness. This recently published book clearly educates the reader on prevention through information and through individual choice and responsibility.
Mr. Speaker, this book is titled Style: Questions and Answers on Sexual Health. It is a prevention tool for better sexual health. This book is the result of a year's collaboration between hard-working individuals in the Department of Health and Social Services and the Yukon Medical Association. It is 132 pages of frequently asked questions about birth control, pregnancy, sexually-transmitted diseases, puberty, sexual orientation and community resources.
It is an extremely comprehensive book on sexual health, and we are pleased to have been able to work jointly with the Yukon Medical Association. We both believe that the more information we can get into the hands of the people who need it, the better off we all are. This book addresses prevention by means of education.
Health promotion and prevention form the strong basis for our efforts to educate Yukoners about sexual health. We want to empower individuals to prevent STDs, to prevent unwanted pregnancies and to generally keep safe sexually.
Our policy of prevention results in sexual and reproductive health education campaigns that help Yukoners ensure that pregnancies are as healthy as possible. Education campaigns and tools like this book can have the effect of reducing the number of women consuming alcohol during pregnancy. This new book is aimed at people of all ages, for those in their teen years to those in their senior years. This sexual health information is appropriate for all of these age groups.
When the book was first released to the public, the Yukon Medical Association said that it felt that the book was a good resource for people who are sexually active and for those who are thinking about becoming sexually active.
Mr. Speaker, I agree. I have read this book. I encourage all members of this House to read this book. We may learn a thing or two. Health promotion units, health practitioners and the general public across Canada may also benefit from this resource model and prevention tool. We are sharing our work with our colleagues across the country, as we continue to pursue health promotion and prevention strategies, networking and the coordination efforts.
I would like to take this time to thank the Council of Yukon First Nations, the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre, the Women's Directorate, the Yukon Pharmacy Association, the Yukon Public Legal Education Association and the Yukon Status of Women's Council for their efforts and input. It is a great book.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and all members of the House will be receiving one, so I would like to table this book for the House. We will be passing them out in the next few minutes.
Mr. Keenan: Based on yesterday's fiasco - the performance or maybe lack of performance - by the Liberal Party, I can see that there is definitely a need for some good news. But, Mr. Speaker, to simply make a rerun of the February 15 news release, which I have right here in my hand for all to see, is ridiculous.
Mr. Speaker, we support this book. As a matter of fact, it was under the New Democrat government in 1997 that we started these issues. They are announcing our policy so that they might pretend to have some good news to bring forth to the Yukon public. Really, it is simply just a rerun of a New Democrat initiative. We do support it.
What more can I say? I guess what I can say is add to what is missing from the minister's statement. The book is available in doctors' offices, nursing stations throughout the Yukon and health centres. It does provide an easy, accessible way of letting folks of all ages know about sexual health issues, which are very important. That is why the New Democrat government brought forward this whole awareness program, beginning in 1997.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: I rise to congratulate the authors of this new book on sexual health and all of the individuals within the Department of Health and Social Services and the Yukon Medical Association who have contributed to it.
But, Mr. Speaker, it must be pointed out that this ministerial statement is just another reannouncement of a prior news release. That being said, there can never be too much education and, as the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
While I congratulate all of the individuals, First Nations and associations that have helped put this book together, I would urge the Minister of Health and Social Services to spend more financial resources to deal with some of the major problems identified in the book, such as FAS/FAE.
FAS/FAE has long been Yukon's curse, and generations of Yukoners have suffered from this preventable disease for years and years, without it ever having been identified. The minister is currently spending $2.36 million setting up a new bureaucracy called the alcohol and drug secretariat, rather than spending any more new program money to contend with FAS/FAE. Mr. Speaker, this is equivalent to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic and doing nothing with the FAS/FAE iceberg.
By way of contrast during the last election, the Yukon Party proposed a five-point action plan to deal with FAS/FAE. The plan included the following: prevention programs to eliminate or reduce alcohol consumption of high risk parents in order to foster the birth of healthy babies; early diagnosis of FAS/FAE before the age of six; supporting people and families with FAS/FAE through a wide range of services, such as professional counselling and foster homes, in order to provide a stable, nurturing home environment for those afflicted with FAS/FAE, especially those between the ages of eight and 12; a team of professionals trained in psychology, personal counselling, social work and health to be formed to provide services to Yukon schools in order to provide support for FAS/FAE students and their families, and investigate the feasibility of establishing special group homes for adults with FAE/FAS.
Mr. Speaker, this new book will help to address only the first step of the five-step action plan proposed by the Yukon Party, and I would urge the minister in his response to address the other four steps immediately.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I appreciate the comments from the members opposite and, again, I would hope that we could see this in a spirit of cooperativeness. I never did state the fact that we invented the book, nor did we invent sex, Mr. Speaker. It would appear that the NDP believe that this is the first time that they have ever heard of the topic.
This book indeed reflects this government's policy of promoting individual health through steps of prevention. I am speaking about healthy, informed and active living. As you know, I am giving credit where credit is due. The Style campaign began in 1997 by the former government when the department introduced a public awareness campaign on chlamydia. In subsequent years under the previous government the campaign moved on, in 1998, to promote two forms of birth control to protect individuals against sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies, and then into emergency birth control in 1999. So, I appreciate the fact that the former government did begin the process and continue to try to build on it. We are still building on that same basic work that has been done.
In 2001, under this government, we are providing more information to people in the communities of the Yukon. We will provide copies to the members so that they can look through this. I would suggest that it is one of the better books that I have seen in my career. As a former principal, we spent a lot of time in our schools trying to share with communities about how we can improve by having more positive attitudes about sexuality.
I think the comments made by the Member for Klondike about the first step - I believe that before we can move on to steps two, three, four and five, we must have a first step. And I would hope that we can build on that. Rome wasn't built in a day. It's going to take time to get information across and look at how we as communities and we as government can work together. There are no simple solutions.
So, again, I appreciate the comments from the members opposite. I would hope that in the future we can continue to build on this, because obviously this is not going to solve our problems. It's just the beginning.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Yukon Utilities Board, propane distribution
Mr. Fentie: My question today, Mr. Speaker, is for the Premier in her capacity as Minister of Economic Development.
Yesterday, while mission control was in Houston, we seemed to have a faulty transmission from the acting minister, so I'll have to ask this Liberal Cabinet of one some of the same questions, Mr. Speaker.
On Monday, the minister issued a news release of the proposed amendments to the Yukon Public Utilities Act. The purpose of this amendment is to allow for a regulated utility to distribute propane to the Whitehorse market.
Has the Premier considered what impact this would have on existing propane suppliers, distributors, and on propane customers in rural Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for that question, and I thank the member opposite also for clearly stating the views of the NDP as being totally anti-business and anti-private sector investment in this territory, because that's exactly what they're saying with their opposition to this particular piece of legislation.
What has happened - as the member should be aware, had he done his research - is that there is private sector investment interested in a propane distribution franchise in Whitehorse. That was reported in the local media this summer, and it's certainly an area of interest that I'm certain the former Minister of Economic Development advised his colleagues of before he left.
The response by government to such a private sector interest in our economy, from this side of the House - the Liberal side - is one of welcoming. How can we facilitate this and how can we work with them? When we try to do this, the anti-business party truly stands on its feet and asks, "Why on earth would you consider doing this?" We do it because it is helpful to the business community and because it is working with the business community.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the rationale of the Premier's answer totally escapes me. We're not opposing business at all. We're asking questions about what the impacts will be in certain sectors of Yukon and to certain Yukoners, some of whom have invested their life savings and have staked their future on their propane distribution business.
What we're saying is that the government hasn't thought this through very well. With one regulated utility supplying propane to Whitehorse by pipe, and one supplier at the other end, there probably won't be enough market in rural Yukon to keep other distributors in business in order to serve rural Yukon.
I'm not saying that we should have the Liberal government oppose this, but will the minister stand this down until some economic impact analyses have been done in rural communities?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: First of all, the member opposite needs to be aware, as he should have been, had he done his homework, that the private sector investment interest is in Whitehorse. It is interest from outside of this territory wanting to spend millions of dollars in the territory. Unlike the members opposite, we happen to think that that is a good thing. We are interested in how that is regulated, how it's dealt with and how it's pursued in such a manner as to be fair to Yukoners, so that it can be logically dealt with as a proposal. That is the reason for making sure that, under the Yukon Public Utilities Act, the regulator who examines the very question the member opposite is asking can deal with this particular subject.
We are trying to facilitate business. We are trying to welcome it and encourage it in the territory. The members opposite are not asking questions; they are expressing an anti-business philosophy and the member should just admit it.
Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, here's the problem. The Premier and her department could have already been asking these questions before this amendment was brought forward. That's called doing your homework. We're saying that the members opposite and the Cabinet of one haven't done their homework on this issue.
There are many questions here. What happens if the Alaska Highway pipeline isn't built and a propane franchise is issued to some ATCO-type distributor from outside? How is a consumer in Pelly Crossing or Beaver Creek going to get his 25-pound barbecue bottle filled if the centralized distribution system pushes small, independent distributors out of the game? Will the minister agree to holding off on this amendment, at least until the route for a northern gas pipeline has been selected, which seems to be the driving force behind this amendment?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, for goodness sake. The only person in this House who hasn't done his homework is the member opposite. The member opposite hasn't done his research. If the member opposite had - and he seems to have some interesting sources for his questions - done his homework, he'd be aware that those are the very sorts of questions - some of them, others are awfully far-fetched and not in keeping with this particular discussion - that the Yukon Utilities Board deals with in a proposal before it.
The member opposite would have us slam the door in the faces of companies that are coming up and saying, "You know what? We'd like to invest several million dollars in the City of Whitehorse in this interesting proposal." And I might add, Mr. Speaker, that that interest was expressed long before discussion heated up around the transportation of North Slope gas to the North American market - long before.
The previous Minister of Economic Development met with some of these companies. The first step that has to be done in responding to their proposal and responding to their interest is making sure that we as a government can regulate this and can demand and ask the very things of proponents that Yukoners want us to ask. And, Mr. Speaker, this legislation paves the way for us to do that. It's a simple housekeeping matter, and I'm sure the member looks forward to debating it, and I look forward to his voting against it.
Question re: Yukon Utilities Board, propane distribution
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I have to say that the Premier's answers are complete nonsense. To ask those questions that the Premier just stood on her feet and said should be asked - there is no need to amend legislation - ask him, ask him now. The minister and the Premier haven't, the Liberals haven't, and so we are, on behalf of Yukoners.
There seems to be an awful rush to action on this issue, Mr. Speaker, and it's just not warranted. Can the Premier tell us how many outside utility companies have lobbied her government about a possible gas distribution franchise for the Whitehorse area?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite goes back through the local newspapers, he will be aware that one company has approached the City of Whitehorse. And the member opposite could or should be aware that, certainly, there are at least two that I am aware of that have approached the Government of Yukon.
The member opposite would have us take that type of private sector interest in the Yukon economy and say, "No, thanks", in a typical NDP, anti-business attitude. Or the member opposite would have us politically interfere, as the NDP so loves to do, and start awarding tenders or dealing with this subject.
The fact is that the Yukon Utilities Board is the body that regulates this. What the housekeeping amendment does is to ensure that the definition is clear enough that they have the legal authority to do this, so that there is a body that can ask the very questions on a terms of reference of project proponents that Yukoners want to have asked. That's what independent boards do.
Now, I appreciate that the member opposite has a number of questions. This government has examined those sorts of questions. We are doing this in a step-by-step, thoughtful and considered approach, that is accepting - indeed welcoming - the private sector investment in this territory.
Mr. Fentie: It is disturbing to realize that this minister who is sponsoring this amendment doesn't even know what it is saying. It is only defining propane and gas; it is not asking the questions that Yukoners are concerned about. That is what we are doing; we are asking those questions, as it is our job to do. It has got nothing to do with being anti-business or anti-investment in this territory. We can think of at least three companies, including B.C. Gas and Sask Gas, that are interested. Why is the minister even thinking about a private franchise at this time? How will Yukon interests be served by that thought at this time? The most recent overhaul of the Municipal Act expresses and allows municipalities to own public utilities. Has the Premier asked them about this? We know that some First Nation governments are very interested in this area because of long-term benefits for their people. Has the minister had any discussions with the City of Whitehorse or any First Nation about public ownership of a potential gas distribution utility?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite seems to think that if he stands on his feet and shouts his questions at me it makes them more right or more relevant somehow. I thought that when he sat on the back benches on this side that he learned something.
First of all, what is required for the Yukon government, on behalf of Yukoners, to be able to deal with the question put forward by the private sector is for the Yukon Utilities Board to be able to deal with it. In order for them to be able to deal with it, we have to define gas and propane. That had to be dealt with. Now what happens is that the questions are put before the Yukon Utilities Board, not in legislation. The question is put before them and that is what this housekeeping amendment does. That's what it allows us to do.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member opposite for truly stating the NDP mixed messages - their continual flip-flop. First they chastise us daily in this House for not moving fast enough, not responding to the business community, and now they are chastising us and telling us to put the brakes on. Which is it? Are they in favour of private sector development in this territory or aren't they?
Mr. Fentie: You bet we're in favour of private sector development in this territory, and we consider that development should maximize benefits for Yukoners first and foremost, not some outside company from who knows where. I would say this Premier is suffering from spontaneous combustion on this one, Mr. Speaker.
Another perfectly logical vehicle to ensure public control of gas distribution is our own corporation, the Yukon Development Corporation. It's already a regulated utility. It can ask those questions today, without this housekeeping legislation. It's already owned by Yukon people, and it's already in the business of energy distribution.
Will the minister, or the newly appointed minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation, provide an assurance that public ownership of gas distribution in the territory will be given fair and equal consideration along with any private franchise option? That's what we're asking.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the only member going down in flames in this House is the member opposite. The question put forward by the private sector: will the Government of the Yukon be able to respond - can they respond - to a legitimate interest on behalf of a number of private sector companies to invest in infrastructure in the territory, in a specific location, the City of Whitehorse? And the member opposite has made clear his dislike for the City of Whitehorse as well with his preamble to a number of his questions. We know the members opposite don't like Whitehorse.
The issue of how the government responds to a private sector initiative is through the Yukon Utilities Board. In order to enable the Yukon Utilities Board to hear this, we have to define "gas". We have to deal with the issue of propane - the definition, making it clear so that the Yukon Utilities Board can deal with it. That's the simple fact that the member does not seem to be able to grasp, Mr. Speaker, and I look forward to debating and finding out, really, whether or not the member supports this kind of investment in the territory. Clearly, he doesn't.
Question re: Economic sustainability
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development. Mining, forestry and road construction have all suffered heavily because of Liberal policies both here and in Ottawa. Tourism is barely holding its own. Even the Premier's hope for an Alaska Highway gas pipeline has been dashed. The President of the United States, who is an experienced oil man, having worked in Alaska, has spoken out in favour of a Northwest Territories pipeline. A spokesman for BP, Phillips and Exxon Mobil recently stated in Whitehorse that pipeline construction, if it should come at all, is at least a half a decade away. Now, the Kaska Dena are threatening to block the pipeline until their land claim is settled.
Can the Premier advise the House what contingency plan her government has developed to keep the Yukon economy on life support and sustain any semblance of a private sector workforce in the territory during the remaining tenure of her government's term in office?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I would like to thank the member opposite for declaring publicly how much he looks forward to the next three years this government will be in office. I would also like to thank the member for clearly stating his opposition to the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline. I would also like to thank the member opposite for stating his lack of support for Foothills - a strong corporate citizen in this territory - and for Yukon businesses and Yukon First Nations, who have come together to participate in work this summer for whoever is awarded the successful RFP. I would also like to thank him for expressing his opposition to the Council of Yukon First Nations and First Nation governments, who have stated quite clearly their desire to participate in opportunities.
The member has proven two points, once again. He has proved that he and his party of one do not support the Alaska Highway pipeline and he has also pointed out once again that he doesn't take the time to thoroughly do his research.
Mr. Jenkins: All that, Mr. Speaker, and no answer to the question. I suggest this amendment to the Oil and Gas Act be amended to include Liberal gas, because we need a definition and we need to regulate that.
What we have is that the Premier put all the Yukon's economic eggs in the pipeline basket. The handle is broken, and the eggs are all over the place. Can the Premier explain how Yukoners are supposed to make a living over the course of the next three years now that this government has helped destroy all of Yukon's major industries? Where is the contingency plan for economic development?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, where is the member opposite's support for an opportunity for Yukoners? Where is the member opposite's support for Yukoners who are actively pursuing opportunities, not only in oil and gas and exploration and development, but also in transportation, in pipeline projects, and, yes, in their support for the Alaska Highway natural gas transportation system, a Foothills pipeline down the Alaska Highway. Where is the member opposite's support for that? Clearly, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite doesn't support the Alaska Highway gas pipeline, does not support this Yukon government's efforts in that regard. Mr. Speaker, the member opposite clearly doesn't do his research.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, it should now be very, very clear to the Premier that the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline is facing major obstacles and cannot be relied upon to be the saviour of the Yukon economy. If it comes at all, it will come too late. The Premier's term of office will be after that.
Will the Premier now focus equal attention on the territory's more traditional resource-based economy and cease and desist in her efforts to turn the territory into one large park, along with her current minister of parks, Juri Peepre.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, will the member opposite quit giving us a shopping list of questions and focus on an issue at a time, as is expected in Question Period. I'd be more than happy to outline, once again, for the member opposite the economic efforts that our government is starting to see the results of already.
Let's talk about the number of people - the 25 people - working on the Mayo school this summer. Let's talk about Anderson Exploration - over 60 Yukoners employed this winter and more than $20 million spent on oil and gas exploration near Eagle Plains. Let's talk about the 25 people hired by Western Geco. Let's talk about being actively involved in the exploration business. Let's talk about those who are going to be hired by Akita Drilling this summer. And that's just oil and gas.
Let's talk about mining exploration and the mineral exploration tax credit, and the efforts with respect to United Keno Hill, North American Tungsten and others.
Mr. Speaker, this government has been working very actively on the economy. We have been working very hard on a number of key projects with respect to the private sector, not to mention our own government initiatives to ensure that capital dollars spent this summer - more than what has been spent previously in roads alone - will also generate work. And let's also talk about the fact that moving the capital budget to the fall has been very well-received by the private sector.
Question re: Opposition, provision of information to
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Premier. On Friday, at a news conference, the Premier made a number of intemperate statements about the opposition and the media. We are prepared to overlook her outburst, but there is a related matter that needs to be pursued.
At this news conference, the Premier's chief of staff handed out several documents to the media that have not been provided to the opposition. I'm sure the Premier meant no disrespect to the members on this side of the House, so I would like to ask her if she will provide copies of all that information to the opposition by the end of today?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, there was absolutely nothing intemperate about my remarks addressed to the media, and there has been nothing intemperate about my remarks here in the Legislature. Had the member opposite asked for the documents, I am certain that the chief of staff would have been able to and would have provided them. I am certain that, given the member opposite's public request, the chief of staff, who distributed the documents, will be happy to provide them.
Mr. Fairclough: We certainly understand the Premier's sensitivities in this area, but we should remind the Premier that it is her own actions that have created a great deal of confusion. She has not only put herself in an awkward position but she has created many difficulties for the private citizens that didn't need to exist.
Can the Premier tell us why she chose to ignore the advice given to her by the conflicts commissioner on May 25 for more than five months, until November 7 of last year? Can she tell us why she ignored that advice?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have not ignored advice given to me by the conflicts commissioner, nor would I. The member opposite is suggesting that I have somehow done something intemperate. The only people who have behaved intemperately are the members opposite, who do not have the courage to make such accusations outside of the floor of this House.
Mr. Fairclough: I hope that the Premier has nothing to hide. During the period before she finally took the advice that she asked Mr. Hughes for, the Crown corporation that she is directly responsible for signed the contract with a member of her family. We have no problem with that project. I am sure that it is a very interesting idea and a very good one. And we have no problem with the Crown corporation doing business with local entrepreneurs.
My supplementary is for the current minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation. Will the minister table a record of all meetings with federal government officials regarding possible partnerships or funding for this project from July 21, 2000 to the present?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Thank you for the question, Mr. Speaker. We'll take that under advisement and I'll get back to the members opposite whether that's possible.
Question re: Indian Affairs and Northern Development minister, visit to Yukon
Mr. Fairclough: The Premier just said that it has been handed out and we could simply ask for information like this, so I'm expecting that it will come our way.
I have another question for the Premier. Yesterday we learned that the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development will be paying a brief visit next week, and it's nice to see the Premier put out a welcome mat for Mr. Nault again.
Last year, the federal minister was pretty adamant that he wouldn't budge on the two major federal obstacles to settling outstanding land claims: loan repayment and taxation. Can the Premier tell us if Mr. Nault is coming with a new position on those two issues next week?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I was briefed by my officials when I returned to the Yukon this morning that the members opposite have finally taken advantage and agreed to participate in a briefing on devolution, some 11 months after it has been offered to them many, many, many times.
The member opposite is asking what announcements are going to be made, or not made, or the purpose of Minister Nault's visit. The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has responsibilities in the north, and in the Yukon in particular. My understanding is that he is planning to be here later next week. As to the substance of his discussions when he is here, ask the minister's office.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm surprised that the Premier does not know the answer to that, given the close relationship they have with the federal government.
Given the importance of land claims and self-government agreements to all Yukon people, I certainly hope that there is movement in that direction.
The Premier did not answer the previous question.
When the federal Finance minister was here last month, he told local media that he was meeting with the Premier to discuss economic development agreements.
Will the Premier and the Minister of DIAND be unveiling a new economic development agreement next week, and if so, does the Premier expect that that agreement would resolve either of the outstanding land claims issues that come under the federal jurisdiction?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite will be made aware of any discussions with Minister Nault, subsequent to them, when I advise members of the public. That's what governments do. Perhaps the member opposite missed this.
The role of government is to work with other governments, regardless of their political stripe, on key issues of importance to Yukoners. That's what we're doing. That's what we do when we meet with the Finance minister Paul Martin. I met with him in August and subsequent to that. That's what I do when I meet with Minister Collenette. That's what I do when I meet with the Prime Minister or with Minister Pettigrew - with all the ministers. We work on issues of concern to Yukoners - government matters.
Subsequent to those meetings, when we see the results of our work, we are quite honoured, pleased and happy to share them with members of the public. We will be pleased to do that with the member opposite in due course.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm surprised that the Premier has such little knowledge about Minister Nault's visit and what will take place. We certainly hope that Mr. Nault has something in his hands when he comes to the Yukon. The Yukon hasn't ranked very high on his priority list so far. Last week the House unanimously passed a resolution criticizing the way DIAND has bungled the management of Yukon forests. If the federal government is serious about economic development in the territory, it must do something about the need to create a stable, sustainable forest industry.
Has the Premier conveyed Yukon concerns to the federal minister since that motion was debated? Is she optimistic that the minister is prepared to address forest issues head-on?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I'm surprised that the member opposite has such very little knowledge of how government works and how governments can work together. But that's not all that surprising, given the lack of results from the previous government.
This government, in working with the federal government, has achieved a number of things: $22 million in additional funding in health care, $3.96 million for the Dawson City Airport. We are working with the federal government on a number of other issues, including the forestry issues, and we are continuing our work toward devolution, and pushing for land claim settlements and a host of other issues. I fully expect that Minister Nault will be prepared to answer questions of the media and public, subsequent to his visit, and will continue his efforts, when he is here in Whitehorse, to work with the Government of Yukon.
Thanks for the question.
Question re: Indian Affairs and Northern Development minister, visit to Yukon
Mr. Fairclough: Same minister, same subject, Mr. Speaker.
All we need to do is have our listeners and watchers watch Question Period all last week, in the media, and it goes to show how much this government knows how government works. There are so many Yukon issues that haven't been resolved. The federal minister should be here for weeks to address them, not just a few hours. Devolution is way behind schedule. The development assessment process is also way behind schedule. Mine reclamation and cleanup of contaminated sites are still very uncertain. Will the Premier make a commitment now to push the minister on all of those outstanding issues while he is here?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, same member, same answer, same question.
The member opposite, I'm sure, has heard from many of the viewers and many of the listeners around the Yukon, who are totally amazed by the lack of substance in the questions of the members opposite, not only in Question Period but in Committee of the Whole.
No, members are too busily focused on mud-slinging, as opposed to actually asking a question about the key issues of concern to Yukoners - like devolution, like settlement of land claims, like our health care, like the ability to continue to fund our strong health care and education systems, like rebuilding the Yukon economy.
Mr. Speaker, the members opposite haven't focused their time and attention on those questions. We, on the other hand, have, and we have focused a great deal of energy in terms of lobbying the federal ministers and others involved in these particular subjects. The member opposite is asking, "Where is it?" Well, Mr. Speaker, we're working on it.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, listen to the answers given by the Premier. They're non-answers. She hasn't answered the questions. Instead, she's skirting around, trying to move away from maybe a big announcement that could take place by this DIAND minister. Last year the minister didn't win any popularity contests with either First Nations or the mining industry. He said quite clearly that in his mind parks and mines don't belong together; yet last week his department gave the go-ahead for increased drilling activity in the Canadian United Minerals claims in Tombstone Park. Can the Premier tell us if the federal minister has made any commitment to buy out those claims, and has she specifically asked him to do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite raises an interesting point about popularity contests. The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development was re-elected, as was - perhaps the member opposite missed this - the Liberal government, with a substantial majority in the last election. And we're very pleased that there also happens to be a new Liberal Member of Parliament who has joined that significant majority.
The member opposite is suggesting that our efforts and our work with other governments has not borne fruit, so to speak. Well, where is it? Well, let's talk about $22 million in additional funding in health care. Let's talk about the $4 million for the Dawson City Airport. That money wasn't there without efforts from this government, efforts meeting with Minister Collenette, meeting with First Ministers, attendance at the annual premiers conferences, at western premiers conferences, and working with our colleagues.
If the member opposite is so interested in the minister's schedule while he was here - I know that he has research staff - why don't they ask his office?
Mr. Fairclough: The minister is coming to meet with the Yukon government, First Nations and so on. It is our right on this side of the House to ask those questions. That Liberal government is known for their travel. They like to travel, and of course they go all over the place to try to spread the messages but are not bringing very much home.
We have been getting very little out of this open and accountable Premier. She cannot answer the question. Maybe the minister's visit is just another Liberal love-in with a smaller dinner price and no check on delivery.
I will give the Premier one more chance to demonstrate how effective she has been as a lobbyist with her federal Liberal friends. The Yukon government has taken the position that we will participate in a feasibility study on the Alaska-Yukon railway if the federal government puts some money on the table. Has the Premier received any commitment from Minister Nault on that initiative?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I will give the member opposite one more chance. Call Minister Nault's office if the member opposite wants to know his schedule. I am not the appointment clerk for the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. I am working with the minister on a number of key, important issues related to the Yukon. And, with all due respect to the member opposite, with regard to railways, that is not Minister Nault's responsibility; it is Minister Collenette's responsibility. And we already had that discussion about what this government has done in that regard. The fact is that the American government has not asked the Canadian government or the Yukon government to participate in the feasibility study that is contained in Senator Murkowski's bill. If the member opposite is so interested in Minister Nault's schedule, I invite him again to -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, we are more than happy to continue to work with our counterparts in Ottawa on key issues of concern, and what's more, we're looking forward to continuing to deliver on the results to Yukoners, who will check against delivery three years from now.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed and we will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Good afternoon everyone. I now call Committee of the Whole to order. Do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute long recess.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 2001-02 - continued
Department of Health and Social Services - continued
Chair: We will continue with general debate, Department of Health and Social Services on First Appropriation Act, 2001-02. Mr. Jenkins, I believe you have the floor.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, when we left general debate yesterday, we were dealing with a very serious situation here in the Yukon, that of attracting, recruiting and retaining health care professionals, and not just doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners, but the whole gamut. We are experiencing a tremendous shortage in a lot of these areas. And, as I pointed out to the minister yesterday, the shortage in a number of areas is having a serious impact on other services provided by the Department of Health and Social Services, either directly or indirectly.
Mr. Chair, when we look at the package - if we want to deal specifically with doctors - currently being offered in other Canadian jurisdictions, never mind international jurisdictions, we notice a tremendous disparity in the benefit and wage package that is being offered vis-à-vis the best area, northern Ontario.
Northern Ontario has initially put money toward the travel costs for those individuals they are interviewing, to bring them to the area they want to practise in. Then, the Government of the Province of Ontario pays relocation costs, then retention fees after the first year and the second year. There's a kind of bonus at the end of the fiscal period. We're not even in the ballpark with respect to these initiatives, Mr. Chair.
When we look at a doctor today, graduating from university, I'm told that some of the recent graduates have debt loads exceeding $100,000. Now, that is a significant burden on your back to be going out into the workplace with, Mr. Chair. A hundred thousand dollars' worth of debt load. And it stands to reason that that individual is going to go out and select the best possible area with the best possible remuneration package.
You want to remove that debt burden from your back at your earliest convenience, Mr. Chair.
When we have a look at the Yukon as to what an individual can earn here on a fee-for-service basis or what the current contract doctors or salaried doctors are receiving from this government, and if you look at after-tax dollars, there is very little left.
So what is happening today in the Yukon? Do we want to just look at the shortage of doctors? It's becoming more and more acute.
Yes, we are managing to attract some doctors. They appear to be from other countries. They are choosing the Yukon because they can become licensed here with their existing qualifications, and they can gain the necessary experience here in the Yukon to qualify and then move on to other major Canadian centres.
So what kind of a service are we providing to Yukoners? It's a sad day indeed.
The minister yesterday went on at great lengths to say that when there's a doctor who is hired on a fee-for-service basis, this government does not interfere in recruitment. I pointed out to the minister that he is incorrect in that statement.
I'll send over the name of the individual within his department who sent contracts to the doctors, and the doctors were recruited by the doctors currently on a fee-for-service basis in Dawson, and the Hemmerichs came up and during that course of time did talk to the Yukon government, and they were subsequently sent two contracts, because both partners were medical doctors.
That's really not fair, and that dispels the myth that this government does not interfere, that when the fee-for-service doctors are recruiting, they won't interfere. We know they do; they have done. So let's level the playing field.
Mr. Chair, what it's going to take is for the minister to, figuratively speaking, jump outside the box and, instead of looking from within the box, get outside of the box and look back toward the box.
And it's his responsibility, Mr. Chair, to provide political direction. We cannot continue in the current manner and address the shortage of health care professionals here in the Yukon. We're going to have to take a new look at this whole venue, and we're going to have to come up with a wage and benefit package that's commensurate and, indeed, maybe enhanced from other jurisdictions, at least on par with northern Ontario. It's the only way we're going to succeed.
I asked the minister yesterday for a list of all the health care professionals across the Yukon when he came into office, and at March 31, and what the numbers were. Because we know we're losing health care professionals across a broad range of services - not just doctors, not just nurses, not just nurse practitioners. Mental health counsellors - we know there's a shortage there. We know there's a shortage in a lot of other areas, Mr. Chair.
And the only way that we are going to address this shortage is to come up with a fresh solution to the problem, and that fresh solution means more money, more benefits and probably enhanced working conditions. Yes, it is going to take more money.
Given that this ministry has spent some $137 million per year for the past four years, it has been the fastest rising department of the government - of any department, Mr. Chair. In the previous government it was constantly overspent, and I would suspect that we are going to see a supplementary again for this fall to address the additional cost overruns. But health care is not something that Canadians take for granted. That is just one of the problems: the shortage of health care professionals. The other serious problem that we are facing is an unlevel playing field with respect to the transfer of the respective responsibilities from the federal government to the Government of Yukon. The health transfer has taken place, and rural Yukon has come up on the short end of the stick but the Government of Yukon just moves merrily ahead. I refer specifically to the issue surrounding the downgrading of the rural hospitals in both Mayo and Dawson City to nursing stations.
That in itself is cause for concern. But this is ground that the minister has failed to respond to, failed to answer any of the questions, Mr. Chair, and I am very, very disappointed. I guess the only thing we can say about the minister is he's never comfortable until he's uncomfortable. I'm sure he must be extremely uncomfortable, given the multitude of problems that he's experiencing within his Department of Health and Social Services and the lack of political direction to address the shortcomings.
Let's go back to some of the policy issues, Mr. Chair, and let's get on, one by one. I'd like to know from the minister if there are any changes to the structure of the department other than those changes associated with the alcohol and drug services and the recent announcement to establish an alcohol and drug secretariat. Are there any other changes in the overall structure of the department, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I appreciate the member's comments, particularly while the camera was rolling. These were the same questions and the same issues that were answered yesterday, but I guess for the member opposite I'll have to repeat the answers, because obviously the Member for Klondike did not hear the answers. So I gather the member opposite wants to re-read them in Hansard. I'll try to be succinct in my responses.
The members opposite go high and mighty on recruitment and retention.
My observation of that is that it's mainly because they don't have all the information. They would believe that I should, right here, give them all the information, and that's what they're really upset about. There have been no leaks with all this evaluation and the study that has been going on with our team, and that really frustrates the opposition. Obviously they are feeling the pain of not knowing what is going on. I am not going to share in a specific way what is in those agreements or the options paper. That will be forthcoming to caucus, Cabinet and Management Board.
But, just to repeat again for the members opposite, Cabinet recently approved the department's interim action plan, phase 1: to recruit and retain health care professionals in the Yukon. In addition to the benefits and incentives currently available to health care professionals, funding has been identified to develop the following: a continued nursing education fund; a physician relocation assistance program; a locum support program; a Yukon nursing advisory council; and a medical student bursary program. So those are a couple of things, Mr. Chair, that I think need to be repeated.
The Member for Klondike talked about signing bonuses, moving costs and all kinds of things that are happening in northern Ontario and other parts of the country. I agree that that is the reason why we, as a government, moved to phase 2. Phase 2 is shortly to come to caucus and Cabinet, as I've mentioned over and over again to both the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes and the Member for Klondike. I'm not sure how many times I will have to repeat it, but I guess I will keep doing so while they keep asking the question, comparing or cherry-picking, as sometimes the members opposite do. They pick out, "They pay more for signing bonuses," or "They pay more for this," or "They pay more for that." It is often like comparing apples and oranges. They are quite different.
You have to look at the total package and you have to look at the location. You have to look at what else pulls or draws people to an area besides just dollars.
Also, Mr. Chair, the member opposite talks about providing some contracts that the member has. If the member opposite wants to submit them to me, I would gladly receive them. I think it's very important that we put the facts on the table. From our observation, these contracts that were offered to these doctors - if that's the accusation that's being made, my understanding is that they were made long before - I'll maybe pull back the word "long" - but before any private offer was made.
Again, the Member for Klondike never has his facts straight, so I think it's important to put the facts on the table. If the member opposite wants a chronology of what happened, we're quite willing to provide that - not just wave it around and say we had these contracts and that proves that we were wrong, that we offered contracts before the private people offered whatever they were going to offer.
That's a distortion of the truth, I would think, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Order please. Upon reflection, any intention to impute falsehood is not acceptable in this House, and I would ask members to please be careful in how they speak and how they decide to present their case, because I actually do find that last statement out of order. A "distortion of the truth" is, in fact, calling something a lie, so I would ask you, Mr. Roberts, to withdraw that.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I'll replace it with "not have all the facts".
The interesting thing about what the member suggested is that we have a flood of health care people leaving the Yukon - almost, in a sense, suggesting that we, the government, are out there chasing them out of the territory. I'm not sure whether the member meant that, but that's what is coming across. I mean, good Lord, we have been working very hard at trying to work with our partners, not work against them.
The member opposite from Klondike has made this accusation on two or three occasions since I have been in this position. The member talks about the Department of Health being overspent. Now, either the Member for Klondike should document what the member feels has happened or cease from saying it any longer, because my understanding is that the department has been overspent once in the last five years. That's my understanding. So, if the member opposite wants to continue on this track or lead people to believe that the Health department is always overspent, then I'd like to see the facts on the table, rather than the member opposite just saying it every time or every chance he gets an opportunity to do that.
I think, Mr. Chair, the important part is - we can bring up and dig up a lot of stuff from the past and assume that this is going to help the future. I believe in history, and I believe in looking at it, but once it's there and you have done it once, why do we have to keep going over it all the time? Is it because we don't want to move on? I sense from the member opposite that quite often that tends to be the tack that is used, that we'll just dwell on history forever and never get on with it.
What I'm suggesting, Mr. Chair, is that it's important for us to try to build for the future, not try to look at how we're going to constantly dig up the past and not get on with the future.
We as a government have spent a lot of time trying to work toward, with our partners - and I will say it again: the partners are the real thrust here, because they are the ones who are giving us the ideas as to where we should go in recruitment. We are really anxious to come up with creative solutions.
Now, I'll get to the question - after the preamble, I'll get to the -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The Member for Klondike says, "It's about time," after the Member for Klondike spent 15 minutes going over stuff that we went over yesterday. I'm not too sure if I have spent a lot of time, or the member opposite forgets about how much time he spends.
The interesting thing is that we have made a couple of changes in the Health department, and what we have done is look at home care services. It's under long-term care. This is the home care. We've moved that department under long-term care. That was one move but it fits, so it wasn't a major shift in ideals or goals.
The adult services unit - it's not a reorganization, but what we've done is change the way the services are delivered. It's a business process. And of course the most obvious is we've pulled out the alcohol and drugs component, and it's going to be a sort of stand-alone secretariat. It's going to be a bit of a hybrid; it's going to be part of the Health department, but it'll stand alone under its own CEO.
So, those are probably three changes, the most significant being the alcohol and drugs one.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I couldn't help but feel the pain the minister is enduring, Mr. Chair. I guess I just have to reiterate that this minister is never comfortable until he's uncomfortable. The issue surrounding the recruitment of health care professionals, specifically doctors in my community, has been a bone of contention. The intervention taken by the Government of Yukon caused these two doctors to go elsewhere.
It contributed significantly to them going somewhere else. They didn't want to get into this never-never land and the problems associated with it. So, if the minister wants to provide a chronological overview of the events that took place, I would be happy to receive it and I would look forward to receiving it. If the offer is there, I will accept the offer, because we should ferret out the problems that have taken place in the past by looking backwards and looking at the past errors of our ways. We can always look forward and can spell out a new direction and a new way to go.
Because obviously what is currently happening here in the Yukon is that we are experiencing an exodus of health care professionals from all categories. Even trained technical people are moving elsewhere. And the minister can sit there and smirk all he wants, but the reality of the day is that - feeling the pain? No, they are not feeling the pain. It is Yukoners who are going to suffer as a consequence of this minister's lack of ability to handle his department and provide the political direction necessary to make it work, Mr. Chair.
Let's go on to the restructuring that we are experiencing here within the department. The executive director of the alcohol and drug secretariat - will that individual be reporting to the deputy minister of the department, or does that individual report directly to the minister? How is that going to function?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I guess, one more time - for the record, Mr. Chair, I want to correct the record. When the members opposite talk about us "smirking" or "laughing", it is almost like there's an insinuation there that we are laughing at the issue, and I want to correct that.
Mr. Chair, the important part here is that when that is said, it is almost like there is kind of a smoke-and-mirrors approach again to how we listen to these questions or how we respond to them.
It's almost like we have no other thoughts in mind except exactly what the member opposite is trying to direct. For the record, we know that recruitment and issues related to people's health is not a laughing or smirking matter, if that's what the member is trying to reflect.
I think that every time the member opposite makes those kinds of comments, I will respond to them, because I believe that that is being very unfair.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Once again, Mr. Chair, I have to recognize that the Member for Klondike yells out instead of waiting his turn. I don't know; it happens often.
The question is that the CEO or executive director for policy, for direction, for overall program direction - that will come from the minister. That person reports directly to me. That's what I meant about it being sort of a hybrid at this moment, because when it comes to administration and working with the administration, that person will be working very closely with the DM. We are using the same resources, so that we are not duplicating office resources at this point. That's hopefully how it will work.
The proof will be in the pudding after we set it up and structure it. We don't have any anticipation that it won't work, but obviously, when we're doing something new, we are going to have some ripples along the way. Hopefully, we can resolve these through dialogue and discussion.
Mr. Jenkins: It sounds like we're going into an initiative that hasn't been thoroughly discussed and analyzed to determine how we're going to proceed.
What I want to know from the minister is if this executive director of the alcohol and drug secretariat reports to the deputy minister? I can understand him reporting for policy direction, but does he report to the Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services, or does he report directly to the minister?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I guess if the Member for Klondike were looking for a job, he might have read the employment opportunity advertisement that says very clearly that the Government of Yukon is recruiting an executive director of alcohol and drug services secretariat. Serving at pleasure, this position reports directly to the Minister of Health and Social Services on program matters and to the Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services on administrative issues, and so this includes allocation of resources - financial, human, systems, communication. There it is. It's out there for the public to see. Everybody knows the role. Hopefully, this will help the member understand how it will be operating.
Mr. Jenkins: That's what I'm just pointing out. We have a road map as to how everything flows or is supposed to flow, and then we have a job application posting. Now, which takes precedence?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: There are two different forms in trying to present what is happening, and they're both consistent.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, a dotted line is one thing, and a solid line is another, and the minister is saying they're both consistent suggests that there are ways to interpret a flow chart. And the flow chart here doesn't conform to other areas. What the minister has created is a stand-alone alcohol and drug secretariat, but in the flow chart, it doesn't appear to be consistent with the job posting. I'd just like to point that out for the minister's benefit.
I do have some concerns, in that the whole format as to who within government will be reporting to the executive director of the alcohol and drug secretariat hasn't been fully determined. Or has it? And if it has, could the minister share that information with us?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I have the flow chart here and, to me - I don't why the Member for Klondike does not want to understand it. I guess if you don't want to understand anything, you don't, but it stands alone: executive director, alcohol and drug secretariat, with program coordinator, alcohol and drug secretariat, and the alcohol and drug services - all those resources that are currently in our drug and alcohol program. Those will all be working under the executive director of alcohol and drugs services. The dotted line refers to how office and administrative services and support will be provided. That's why it's dotted. Rather than set up a duplication of the other policy and planning and administration, or whatever we have there, we're trying to utilize the resources for both.
Whether it will work 100 percent, I couldn't say, Mr. Chair. We're hoping, but before we can actually find out, we have to try it. Nothing is ever written in stone and, when you try something new, you're going to find that sometimes you have to change it, and maybe at this time next year we might be coming back with another change because of what we have tried out.
So, I can't predict how it's going to finalize and how it will work. Obviously, nothing's ever final. Whenever you get things that are final, Mr. Chair, it means you have a problem. Everything evolves; everything changes as the needs present themselves.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, if the minister would care to peruse all the other departments in the budget book, he'll see that this is the only place where a dotted line exists. So, what that would mean is that there are three directors and their various agencies that have to report to two masters. When that occurs, it usually has difficulties associated with it and that's what I want to point out for the minister. There are three directors that report two ways, according to this flow chart. And it would appear, if the line from the executive director of the alcohol and drug secretariat and the line from the deputy minister were both solid, they would share equally, but one is a dotted line so obviously there is a distinction.
The end result is that these three directors are serving two masters.
Can the minister confirm that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I've made it very clear that the deputy minister is responsible for the Health department and for all its resources. When attempting to set up a new directorate - if you want to call it that, or a secretariat - as we're doing, we just felt, at this time, that rather than completely separating it from - it's maybe a slow withdrawal, if you want to call it that, rather than doing everything just stand-alone and starting to duplicate all our resources. We thought we would move in the direction of trying to find out if we needed to do that. If we don't try it, obviously we're not going to know.
The Member for Klondike shakes his head there, not even knowing the rationale for it. The rationale for it is because we don't know, at this point, if this will be the acceptable way for the future, but at least we're giving it a shot.
In the area of administration, in the job description, there are about three or four pages of the job description. It's not just a title.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister obviously is not conversant with flow charts and business techniques. I guess that after all his time in the teaching profession, it has been a very difficult transition.
Here we have the minister going again, laughing.
What you have, Mr. Chair, in this example in this flow chart of the departmental responsibilities, is a deputy minister and an executive director for alcohol and drug secretariat. They both appear to be on the same, equal level. Fine.
But what you don't want to have is a way where another deputy minister goes directly, internally into your department for a service or advice.
That should all be flowing from the top down. It might end up, for practical purposes, going directly, but for normal business and commonsense purposes, it has to flow through the deputy minister of that department and then downward in the department.
Now, this isn't a course in Business 101, Mr. Chair. It's just the commonsense approach to business. You can't have two individuals and a whole series of directors reporting equally to those two senior individuals. You have to flow or direct the information through one of the senior individuals and then over to the other. Therein lies the problem.
So, if some forethought had been given to the setting up of this organization and how it was going to function, rather than just leave it helter-skelter, and as the minister said, "We're going to have problems. They're going to have to be fixed. We might have to come back and change it." Well, these initiatives deserve attention, common sense and a practical approach. And you try to make it work from the onset - not have to go back and tinker and tinker and tinker. There is a reporting order and, for business purposes, there is really a chain-of-command order. But you can't have three directors equally serving two separate bosses. It hasn't worked in the past, and I doubt that this minister is going to make it work under the circumstances here.
So, the issue is an important one, because we are looking at the minister with the largest budget in the Government of Yukon.
I guess forewarned is forearmed. I am not going to get the minister to change his ways. He has got his head down on his bicycle and he is not looking ahead, I guess. Could I ask the minister when he anticipates the opening of the alcohol and drug secretariat?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I have a couple of clarifications. The member opposite mentioned about me laughing or smiling again, and I am going to respond to that. The reason that I may have been smiling or laughing is that when I hesitated the last time around it is because the member opposite was reading a book on the Yukon and not listening to my answer, so I sat down.
So, I think that, for the record, to clarify what the member is talking about - the member opposite seems to be preoccupied with flow charts. I guess this is what he dreams. Comparing one flow chart with another flow chart in different departments - they are all different. Every department does something different, so obviously they are not all going to be the same. If you are moving ahead with another initiative or another creative program, you are not going to have it solidly laid out, to ensure that you have crossed all the t's and dotted all the i's. That is the approach that we know comes with any new program.
Right here on this same page that the member opposite is trying to quote from, if the member looks at the bottom it says, "Note: Dark outlined boxes represent positions reporting directly to the Deputy Minister." Directly - there are not two masters there, Mr. Chair. "Other boxes represent programs." And there is a big difference, Mr. Chair. "Activities are listed below the programs. Programs identified as partial represent responsibility for the program being shared by two or more positions reporting directly to the Deputy Minister."
Now, teamwork is how all our departments work, Mr. Chair. And obviously, right in the four-page job description, I will again outline very clearly for the record what is stated here. "This position..." this is the executive director "...will report to the deputy minister of Health and Social Services on administrative matters, including the allocation and use of shared resources, policy and program development, communication systems, financial and human resource services."
It's very clear, Mr. Chair. We're not deceiving anybody. We're not leading anyone down a blind alley. We are obviously responding to the very issue that will hopefully take us over and beyond in our development and support in alcohol and drugs.
I think, hopefully, the issue is clear for the member opposite. We're not trying to feel that we have all the answers right at the beginning. We know that we're a little late in trying to get this position into place, but it takes time, as government always does. It is making sure we do the right things and do our homework.
This employment opportunity comes to an end on April 6 and then, shortly thereafter, we are going to be shortlisting and hopefully interviewing within the next couple of weeks. I would say that, in a month to six weeks, we will have someone in that position. That is our hope at this point.
Mr. Jenkins: Can the minister advise what he anticipates the O&M costs for the facility will be, when it's up and running?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: We are kind of into the line items, but I will quite willingly give it to the member opposite. It's $2,362,000. And there are 23.4 FTEs that are part of that secretariat, working in that capacity. These are currently people on staff. Then there is a whole breakdown of personnel and so on. I don't know if the member wants to follow up on that, but I think when we get into line-by-line, I will be quite willing to do that.
Mr. Jenkins: What I'd like to explore with the minister is how the secretariat is going to be set up and how it's going to function and what it's going to take in from within. Obviously, there is going to be a number of FTEs transferred to it. So I want to know what changes will be made to the current alcohol and drug services. Will they still exist, or will this branch be incorporated into the secretariat? And what are the changes in the FTEs that will be transferred internally into this secretariat from within the current branch?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The current alcohol and drug component of Health and Social Services has 22.4 FTEs. We have added one FTE, which will be the executive director, so that will be 23.4.
There is no anticipation at this point in time of adding more people, at least by me. That's why we want an executive director to sit down with his or her partners and try to develop where the program should go. I mean, there are some extra dollars in there. Hopefully, from our perspective, those will be front-line dollars, working with people in communities and trying to move the program with programs that are currently being offered and also into new directions. So I can't forecast what that's going to be. That would be micromanaging on my part. That's why we're hiring hopefully somebody with a lot of expertise in this area to bring all those other experts who work for the department into some kind of common direction.
I'm not sure if that's satisfactory, but the objective here is to have an executive director so that we can move, hopefully, much further along in that whole area of addressing this very important concern in our territory.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess that what I'm concerned with is, if you want to look at the population when it was at its highest in the Yukon, in 1997 - we currently have almost 5,000 fewer individuals - the O&M budget for Health and Social Services went from just under $100 million a year to basically a $31 million increase, and we're serving almost 4,000 to 5,000 less of a population base.
So that, in itself, is significant. Obviously we're not enjoying the efficiencies of scale, and we're obviously not accomplishing the delivery of health care in a proper format, given that we're losing a lot of our health care professionals from all walks of life in their respective communities and, to a great extent, here in Whitehorse.
But let's move on. Let's go into the continuing care facility. Just in general terms, when can we expect to see this facility open, and will all the beds be open initially, or will there be a phasing in? How is it anticipated that this will come into play?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Thank you again for the question. The goal was, as initially announced when the contract came through, that we would complete the facility with 96 beds. That doesn't mean that we're going to be filling all 96 beds. We're going to be moving ahead on the first - it'll be a gradual entry. There aren't going to suddenly be 74 people moving in tomorrow when it's finished, and it'll be finished in April 2002. Probably in the summer we'll start to see changes and the transfer of residents who are currently staying in some of our other facilities moved into the extended care.
So, it'll be a gradual entry because, obviously, changes like this are very traumatic for everybody, including the residents of these particular facilities. So all those things are now being looked at and how best to do it, not to traumatize these people, and to ensure that we're doing it appropriately with their care and their health in mind.
Mr. Jenkins: Can the minister advise how many new positions are being created at the continuing care facility, and what steps is the department taking to recruit health care professionals to serve in the new facility? Or, do we not anticipate an increase in staff? How are we going to dovetail Macaulay Lodge and the Thomson Centre into this new centre? How much of an increase in staff are we anticipating? Where are we going to find these health care professionals?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: From the observation of the member opposite, we have a year before we take occupation of the extended care facility, so this has given us some time to really look at how we best do that. There is a line item in there for $300,000 for additional increases in staff, to sort of build on that for the next year.
The member opposite is absolutely correct - we have to look at Macaulay Lodge and the Thomson Centre and look at how to make these changes incrementally. Again, that's not in my purview as the Health minister. I am aware of what's happening, but I couldn't give the member opposite the real facts and figures as to how that's going to be done. Obviously we could do it, I suppose, in a legislative return, if that's what the member wants.
At this point in time the planning is now taking place, and we know we have some dollars there to help with that planning process. It's like playing chess - there's one move, and then another move has to be made. It has to be done very carefully because we're dealing with very fragile people, and we want to ensure that we do it right, so that when the changes do come, it won't be something that's hugely traumatic for them.
Mr. Jenkins: I will take the minister up on his offer of a legislative return on this important initiative, and I'll look forward to receiving it in due course.
Could I ask the minister if the intentions of the department are still to transform the Thomson Centre into a level 1 and 2 care facility?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: My understanding, Mr. Chair, is that that hasn't changed. Thomson Centre will be a level 2-3. Again, the final decisions on what happens to Macaulay have not been made as to where it would fit in our health care system, but obviously there have to be some plans in the future for that as well so that we have sort of a connection with all of the extended care and support living facilities that we have.
Mr. Jenkins: So we're embarked on probably the largest initiative to build a continuing care facility, and the minister isn't aware and doesn't know how all of the other extended care facilities are going to plug into it and what's going to transpire, and he's going to send over a legislative return as to how this is going to happen, and it's an internal matter.
Mr. Chair, I don't have a great deal of comfort in that kind of a position taken by the minister. I would have thought he would have provided the initial political direction as to what was going to be the game plan overall, but that obviously isn't the case. It would appear that the political direction is non-existent, and the department is just going ahead, and the minister just acts as the mouthpiece for the department. I'm very, very disappointed.
Mr. Chair, we have the Thomson Centre; we have Macaulay Lodge; we have the new continuing care facility. Surely there has to be some sort of an understanding on the minister's part as to how these are all eventually going to work?
I would appreciate that policy direction given to the department from the minister, which should have been outlined at the onset in the House here today.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The member opposite likes to throw out comments, like "mouthpiece". On the other hand, the member opposite says, "Well, you're off on your own, doing your own thing." What is it with the member opposite? Is it on my own or as a mouthpiece? He can't have it both ways, Mr. Chair.
Obviously, in 11 months, to be able to solve all these very minute problems would be a very great deal to expect from all of us. I think the important issue is that the member opposite is always trying to present us as not knowing what we are doing. That seems to be the picture that the member opposite likes to paint. We know very clearly what we are doing. Maybe that is what disturbs the member opposite; we do have a plan.
The interesting thing about this is -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Once again, the Member for Klondike talks out of turn. He is not letting me finish.
The interesting part of it is that there is a year or so before we actually move into any new facility. I suppose, perhaps five months ago or five years ago, we should have planned all this to ensure we had everything in line, but things change. As I shared with the member opposite, that's what we're doing right now. We're in the planning stage right now as to how all this is going to unfold.
There are submissions being made to caucus and Cabinet as I speak. We have already had one submission made to us. There are three more to come. They are all based on how we are going to proceed with our extended care or subsidized living or whatever term you want to put to it - long-term care.
So obviously we are moving ahead, Mr. Chair.
I know the member opposite doesn't have all the information and he's searching for all the details. Personally, Mr. Chair, I'm not interested in the details. I'm not a micromanager; I don't go out and ask the department who hired this person and why did you hire that person. My job is to direct policy overviews as to where we're going, and that's exactly what's happening.
So there are submissions coming forth, and this will all be handled by the department. It will have staffing options, it will talk about Macaulay Lodge options, it will talk about the phase-in of the long-term. It will talk about the bed requirements. This is all coming to caucus and Cabinet over the next few months. Remember, we've got over a year before we actually move on.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I don't want to get the ire of the minister, Mr. Chair, but I am asking policy questions, which the minister has failed - and failed miserably - to answer. I must comment that I'm sure that the department knows what it wants and knows where it's heading. But what I'm asking are policy questions of the minister as to how all of these facilities are going to dovetail together and what each facility is going to be undertaking in the future. That's policy.
Now, could the minister kindly elaborate - I don't need the minister to get up and go on at great length about nothing; just a succinct answer - on the policy that the minister has developed with respect to these major facilities? What is it?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I'm not too sure what the member wants. He's talking about policy. And there are policies on lots of things. I guess maybe, just to reinforce what the previous government came forward with as far as how they envisaged a long-term care and extended care facilities being used, they, in their direction, saw the Thomson Centre being used as a level 2-3. If that's policy, I guess there it is again. The new facility would be a 3-4-5, I guess you would say. And Macaulay Lodge, right now, could be a supported unit.
If that's what the member wants, yes, those are some of the things that we have continued with, as far as the former government, in making those kinds of identifications, and we haven't changed that. I don't know if that's policy, but it is a direction that I think the Health department is moving in. As I said earlier, there are submissions now being made to caucus and Cabinet as to how all this will be unfolding - for example, staffing - and how we will move ahead with Macaulay, or what we will do with Macaulay.
I mean, remember that there are still people living in Macaulay. We're not going to do anything to Macaulay right now while there are people there, but there are discussions going on as to what we would like to do in the future. Those are all things that are unfolding.
We as a caucus and as a government have some general idea of where we want to go. To nail it right down that we're moving into Macaulay and doing certain things, that's still at the discussion stage right now with that, and that's why the submissions are being made to caucus and Cabinet so that we know when the year, plus a month or so, is up, we're ready to move.
But to have it all in place right now - for example, all the staffing at the extended care, knowing how many people are staying there. We know that we have 74; we know that we have 96. I've shared with the member opposite that we will be starting in phases. That's the best way to house our residents. I don't have the details on it.
But if that's what the member wants - I'm not sure what the member wants about policy, other than the fact that those are the guidelines that we're using right now in building on our extended care and our long-term care facilities.
Mr. Jenkins: For the minister's information, political direction given to the department is usually in the form of policy. But from what I have gathered from the minister, all that has occurred is that the previous NDP policies have been advanced without change or alteration by the Liberal government.
But what can we expect? We have seen that with respect to budgets - entire budgets for the whole fiscal year. We just adopted the previous NDP budget and, really, there has been no change in policy and no change in direction, other than that we are very determined to create in the Yukon one big park under the minister of parks, Juri Peepre, and we are very determined to get rid of any resource extraction industry we have here in the Yukon, whether it be forestry or mining. And we've got all of our broken eggs scattered all over the floor from this Liberal pipeline that may or may not occur. We know for certain that the pipeline won't occur during the watch of this government. At its earliest, it is about five years away.
Well, we're not going to get much out of a minister who doesn't understand the issues surrounding policy, so let's just go on to the pioneer utility grant. The deadline for submitting applications to receive the pioneer utility grant was March 31. I am sure that the minister has a total as to the number of applications that were received. I do recall hearing that only a very small portion of those eligible to apply have indeed applied. Can the minister confirm the number of individuals who have applied and what percentage that is of the total who are eligible?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I'm just going to clear up a few things about policy. I believe that the Member for Klondike doesn't really understand what policy means.
I already made the comment to the member opposite that the department, a few months ago, identified to our caucus and Cabinet that a number of submissions would be coming to caucus and Cabinet about extended care. What these submissions would do is to look at what is already in place, what will happen with new facilities, and where we should move in the future. Because we are a new government, caucus and Cabinet would then make decisions based on that information. That is how policy is made.
If the Member for Klondike doesn't believe that we need information to make those decisions, then that's the member's opinion. Now, to expect us to make these decisions on all these new directions months ago when, really, the important part is that they be made before we move along in changing our deliverance of services would be really presumptuous. So, I just wanted to clear that up, Mr. Chair.
There has been a policy in place, and we have been following it. To make innuendos that we don't know what we're doing, that we're incompetent, and that we're this and that - it has nothing to do with the issue of trying to look at where the future is. What we try to do is base our decisions on information.
So I just wanted to share that with the member opposite, that we are really at the beginning stages of looking at extended and long-term care and are going to use those things in our history that are working. We are going to be looking at the submissions, and then we're going to be making adjustments or accepting some of the recommendations - as what we have been doing in the past that worked. So, that is how policy is developed. It's based on sound information.
In the area of PUG grants, this is an area where we, in the Yukon, have a very unique program. For the year 2000-01, we budgeted $380,000 and we're looking at spending probably about $425,000. The estimate of the number of recipients is approximately 700. All those figures and facts are not conclusive at this point. As you know, the year ended just a few days ago, so obviously these will all be put into perspective and the real facts and the real figures will be there for the members opposite to see.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's just back up to some of the statements the minister just made, Mr. Chair, with respect to policy, because I'm extremely uncomfortable, as I'm sure anyone listening in would be, with what the minister said. He said we're at the beginning stages. Well, I would disagree with that statement.
With respect to continuing care, we're not. We have two facilities currently existing in Whitehorse and a third one under construction.
So, I'll accept the minister's position that they have adopted fully the policies of the previous NDP government as to how these three facilities are going to dovetail and how they're going to work. Let's leave it at that because, by the time this minister gets up to speed and makes a decision, I'm sure the government will be changing, Mr. Chair, and changing very quickly.
I only have to suggest to the minister that he reflect upon his own words when he throws out the word "incompetent", Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, there has been a one-time increase in the pioneer utility grant. Is it anticipated that this increase will remain for forthcoming years, or is this exactly what it was envisioned to be, a one-time increase? And given the cost of energy, given the uncertainty surrounding electrical rates here in the Yukon, and given the uncertainty surrounding fuel, oil, and all of these areas, I think it's a measure of comfort to our seniors here in the Yukon if some sort of certainty could be provided with respect to what they're going to be receiving in the future with respect to the pioneer utility grant. It's pretty tough for an individual on a fixed income, and any additional certainty that this minister could provide, I'm sure, would go a long way to enhancing the tarnished image of the Liberals and how they're dealing with the economy.
But let's leave it at that. Is there any anticipation of extending this pioneer utility grant increase?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The Member for Klondike always likes to go back on the last issues. The Member for Klondike likes to pick out words and then dwell on them. He picked on the word "beginning," and he was a bit shocked that we were talking about the beginning. I said, as a new government, this is where we are beginning to develop our policy. I didn't say that we were beginning all over. We're using what policies are in place at this point, until these submissions are in our hands with the information, so that we as a caucus and a Cabinet can reflect on how they meet our philosophical direction.
So, again, picking out words and trying to embellish them, once again, leaves the impression out there that the Member for Klondike is always trying to undermine what we're trying to do as a government.
Mr. Chair, we're right on track. We're working very hard trying to ensure that we're meeting Yukoners' needs.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The member again yells out, "When is it going to start?" It started 11 months ago.
Chair: Order please. I would remind members, when members are speaking, no member shall interrupt except to raise a point of order or privilege. I will now start enforcing that today.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, when this additional cost or the additional amount was announced, it was a one-time only, and we believed that it was necessary at the time. I guess I'm of the opinion sometimes that the members opposite don't ever want to talk about it, because I heard that from one of the members over there, because any time you talk about anything that has been in place for a long time, it's a holier-than-thou grail.
So, we are going to be talking about it in the future because, as the member from Dawson has already said, there is a problem and there is a concern about the use and the need of our seniors.
But, as far as this $100 additional grant, it's a one-time only, and it was mailed out to all those who had applied for the pioneer utility grant in the past. So, it was automatic. With no fanfare, everyone who had applied for it in the past got a $100 cheque in the mail.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, this pioneer utility grant was one of the legs of the Yukon Party platform, and it was our position that we were going to increase it and index it against inflation.
Now, I applaud the minister for adding money to the pot in this regard, but we are talking about individuals who are on fixed income, and the ever-escalating cost of energy here in the Yukon, of which, because of our climate, we use a great deal more than our neighbours to the south. It is a larger component of the disposable income than our neighbours to the south.
I think it is very, very important that this minister take up the challenge and look at increasing the pioneer utility grant - by $100? I don't know. Maybe more for the base grant and then indexing it against inflation. Will the minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: We are going to discuss it. We are going to discuss it with seniors. We have already discussed it with some seniors. We are going to continue discussing it and, hopefully over the next while, we will come up with some ideas and reviews as to where we want to go with it. And the member opposite will be maybe near the front line to find out where we are going to finally end up with it.
We believe that some of our seniors need this pioneer utility grant because, as the member opposite says, they are on a fixed income. We want to do what is right for Yukoners. So we will be reviewing it, but I am not giving any commitment at this point. That would be like saying I have got all the answers and we haven't even talked to all our partners.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the issue surrounding the pioneer utility grant is a very important one, Mr. Chair, and I would urge the minister to take up the challenge, increase its base amount and index it against inflation.
But I do have concerns with the way that the minister is going at this initiative. The options paper that was presented to the seniors contained a section dealing with a means test. Now, where did this come from - this requirement for a means test? Where is that from?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I guess, Mr. Chair, it is a term that was brought out - it is the member opposite who is making that comment. I have never made a comment about a means test. If it was in the paper, then these newspaper people do what they do. They make all kinds of comments and statements. If we believe everything that is in the newspaper, then, I guess - I don't. So, I guess if some other people do, that's their problem.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, if I heard the minister correctly, he has categorically denied that the Government of the Yukon is considering an assessment of the income that seniors have to determine their eligibility for the pioneer utility grant.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I'm categorically denying that I ever said - that was the question that was asked. Now the member is putting in that the government is again trying to cover something else. If a member of the government made a comment, that's maybe a personal comment, but it's not the government that's making that kind of a comment. I did not make that kind of a comment.
We know that some seniors have made those kinds of comments but, again, you know, newspapers report what they want to report.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess Harry S. Truman summed it up well when he said, "The buck stops here." And the buck stops with the minister at the minister's desk for what goes on in his department. Does the minister not believe in that premise?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: I guess, given the minister's inability to answer the question, he doesn't believe that he has the overall responsibility for his department, because that was the way the question was posed, and the minister failed to respond. He sat glued to his chair. That signifies a lot, Mr. Chair - that the ministerial responsibility that should exist does not exist. That leaves us with a lot of disappointment in this minister and his understanding of his role in this whole equation.
Mr. Chair, let's move on to another area. There was a $10,000 contribution announced in February toward establishing a Yukon nursing advisory council to advise the government on nursing issues. Has the council been struck as of yet and, if so, could the minister tell the House what issues have been identified as priority for action?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Again, I have to go back and comment about the Member for Klondike making the point that I stay glued to my chair. It's very obvious, Mr. Chair. When the question is asked about who's in charge, why would I have to get up and say that? I am in charge, so I don't have to tell everybody. If the member opposite is upset about that, I guess maybe the member opposite has to know that I'm in charge. If he's making other kinds of statements about that, that's the member's problem.
The YRNA - this is a contribution to the YRNA to help establish a working group with the YRNA. Again, they are taking the lead on this. Being that I'm not a micromanager, I would hope that we will be sitting down with them. I don't have all of the information on it, so I'm going to be up front about it, but the assumption is that we have been working with the YRNA on nursing strategies and recruitment activities, so I'm assuming that's going to be part of this group. I'm not saying that it's the identical group, but I would expect that they are working together in trying to build for the future. So, to say that they are doing anything more than that, I would not be able to tell the member at this point.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, one of the other areas that we explored with the minister yesterday - and I didn't receive an answer - is his position with respect to nurse practitioners taking over the dominant delivery of health care from medical doctors and the situation in rural Yukon specifically and in my community with respect to the number of seniors visiting our area and their frequency of heart attacks. The drug that is usually administered by the doctors is TPA. Nurse practitioners or nurses are not permitted to use this drug.
What is the minister's position on this kind of situation, and what steps is he taking to provide the highest consistent level of health care here in rural Yukon that we can possibly see?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I guess, again, I've thrown out the - I would hope it's an advisory that one should always do one's homework before questions are asked. But we do do our homework, and facts and fiction are quite often the same for the member opposite.
The member talks about use of TPA by paramedics in Alaska and made some comments that, yes, it's well used there. I will give the member some real facts. In Tok, which is very close to Yukon, medevacs done by EMTs do not carry or administer TPA. So in other words, it's not available to clients in this area of Alaska. In Anchorage Providence, medevacs done by acute care nurses - they carry TPA and initiate treatment, but only with a physician's order. They follow a specific protocol. So that's in Anchorage Providence; that's one little locale. Paramedics in Alaska generally - we're waiting to hear back from someone in Alaska who knows generally who can administer TPA. We don't have that answer at this point. So that's just the reality, Mr. Chair.
Community nurse practitioners do not administer TPA. This is due to complications such as bleeding that can occur with the administration of this drug, and in the small communities, there are not the labs and medical expertise to deal with these complications should they occur.
Now, have nurse practitioners expressed interest in administering TPA? Community nurse practitioners in the Yukon have to work within their scope of practice, and because of the detailed assessment required and the attendant risks associated with the drug, TPA is recognized as a physician-administered drug all across Canada.
It is important to note that the overall issue is provision of this service to our population, including tourists. TPA is available to all people in the Yukon through the following process: the patient is seen at the health centre and assessed as a cardiac; medevac is initiated by the community nurse practitioner, who recognizes that the patient may need TPA and informs the medevac team of this; the community nurse practitioner readies the patient to receive TPA; the medevac team, which includes a physician, is able to administer TPA, arrives at the scene and begins TPA. Patients do not miss out on this drug if they need it.
Those are the facts as we know them. If the member opposite has more facts to add to this or delete from it, I'd be more than happy to have copies of that.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I have been in Alaska when the medevac plane came in from Anchorage, and I can tell the minister that what he outlined as being the procedure was not the procedure I witnessed or spoke about with the paramedics. One in fact may have been a doctor. I don't know, but the medevac aircraft, originating out of Anchorage, was extremely well equipped - to a much higher level than I've ever seen existing, other than the little jets the B.C. government uses. It's a phenomenal treatment facility that they use.
So that's what the general travelling population from the U.S. anticipates and expects - a very high level of health care. It doesn't exist in rural Yukon. The doctors there are dwindling in numbers. They're not on 24-hour call, and that's because of this minister's failure to address on-call service for doctors and his failure to attract doctors to rural Yukon. In fact, it is his failure to attract doctors to Whitehorse or any other place, and not just doctors, Mr. Chair, but nurse practitioners, nurses, the technical people, and all of the other health care professionals - the full gamut of health care professionals - necessary for a population of this size.
Let's explore with the minister the number of FTEs. Could the minister provide the number of FTEs in the department, what the increase has been - or is anticipated to be over the years - since the last fiscal period, and could he break it down by the various agencies?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I have just another comment on TPA - the Minister of Health in the Yukon has failed to provide TPA support for rural Yukon. I have just made a comment that it's not provided anywhere in rural Canada unless there is a doctor present. That is the whole bottom line. To make those kinds of statements that I am the reason there is no TPA is not correct. There has to be a doctor present. That is the bottom line.
The member also mentioned the member witnessing something in Alaska where TPA was given. The member also says, "Well, I don't know if there was a doctor there or not." So how can a person make those kinds of statements if you don't know the definition of all the people who are there? There obviously was probably a doctor there. So to make the assumption that there wasn't and then state, "Well, I don't know if there was" - it is misleading.
FTEs for the government, the number of people who work for Health and Social Services - we can do it in two ways: we can give all the information to the member by a legislative return, or we can read it into the record. I am open to what the member would like.
We're looking at the 2001-02 over 2000 using the supplementary budget. We have a total of 17.52 FTEs, and this includes staffing at 16 Klondike. It includes continuing care. It includes staff relations. There is one FTE for staff relations home care, 1.75 for child care administration, 1.35 for healthy families, one FTE for the youth criminal justice position, which is a recoverable from the federal government, and we have .6 for miscellaneous. That's makes a total 17.52.
If you want it from mains to mains, we also have it. Again, these are all funded positions, and again we have healthy families - it's the same sort of figures as when you look at the supplementary, and it's the total amount. It is 25.37. These are FTEs: 1.35 for healthy families, 1.75 for child care administration. These are not additional to the ones in the supplementary. They're the same people. In youth justice there is one FTE, and that's 100-percent fully recoverable from the federal government. Staffing of 16 Klondike is 7.75. Adult services is three. These are term positions. The disability liaison worker is 0.5. Continuing care - and this is the new facility, in order to open up the new facility - is four, communicable diseases is .65, and ambulance flight nurse is 2.25.
My understanding is that these were unfunded in the past, and they are now funded fully. They have been funded for the last six months. The staff inoculator - .7, and then a miscellaneous of 1.42, for a total of 25.37.
Mr. Jenkins: What's the total increase in FTEs, mains to mains?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mains is 25.37.
Mr. Jenkins: Issues surrounding - like the medevac nurses. We know there has always been a team in place in the past, since the contract for medevac service was awarded a number of years ago. There have always been nurses ready to go and a team in place. How was it previously funded, and what changed six months ago to fund it directly?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The difference with the flight nurses is that up until about a year ago - before a year ago, I guess, when the actual flight nurses came onstream as specific flight nurses, it was what they titled "unfunded", and they covered it through lapses or whatever. Now they are funded directly.
We as a government believe that everything should be funded if they are needed and required services. We are not interested in being in the unfunded position. We know that in the long run we are going to have to fund it anyway, so let's just make it a line item. That's what we have done.
Flight nurses also staff a second shift at the Whitehorse ambulance when they're not flying, so it's not like we just wait for the call. They actually do work at the ambulance centre, as well.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other areas surrounding FTEs is the recoverables from Canada for some of the initiatives, Mr. Chair. Are the individuals who fill these positions hired on the basis of a term, tied to the money flowing from Canada?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Currently, Mr. Chair, we have one person who is serving in that capacity with the new juvenile justice material that is coming down, and this is a secondment from the Ontario government, I think. So it's fully recoverable - 100 percent - from the federal government.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that wasn't the question. The money's fully recoverable from the federal government, but as for the position and the individual hired to fill that position, are they tied to the money, so that when the money lapses, their contracts are finished?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: It's a term position, in the sense of how long it lasts. So once the role is finished, the job goes, or the position goes, and that particular person would have to look for another position if that particular person wishes to stay here. Currently it's a secondment from Ontario.
Mr. Jenkins: The federal Liberal government is very, very good at funding these positions and sending money and setting up programs here, and then at the end of a fiscal period that money lapses, and the program is no longer in existence. The Government of Yukon pretty well has no way out but to continue with that service. Are there any examples of this that come to the minister's mind as possible additional costs to the department?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Not that we know of. I would just point out, again, that hopefully this is one of the positive initiatives that the federal government is doing by not trying to off-load programs that begin and then have no end, because they haven't consulted with the appropriate government. This is one where we are working directly with the federal government in the cost recovery to ensure that we're receiving a service and a support here that we need, in order to be ready for the changes that are going to take place in the juvenile justice area. So obviously we want to promote this type of approach.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, an example in point would be the program for expectant mothers in rural Yukon that is currently funded - was funded - to a certain level. The feds have backed out of it, and the government anticipated, or is hopeful, that the Government of Yukon will fill the void, but when are we going to hear from the minister on this important initiative?
We went around the mulberry bush yesterday with the minister on the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre, and no conclusions were arrived at, other than that there appears to be a lot of smoke and mirrors, Mr. Chair. But at the end of the day, because of this minister's failure to address his responsibilities, we have a lot of rural expectant mothers who will endure undue hardship in finding the time to come to Whitehorse. That in itself is a shame. It's a failure of the health care system to fulfill its obligation, seeing that it was the shutdown of a number of the hospitals in rural Yukon that made this situation inevitable.
So, it would appear that the Government of the Yukon got snookered in the federal health transfer. The playing field wasn't level, or as level as it was before.
Now, what steps is the minister taking to overcome this shortfall?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The Member for Klondike has just presented a marvellous example of how we as a government are proceeding when it comes to building policy. Rather than being a knee-jerk government and just throwing money at things that the federal government has started, we as a government are looking at all the information and then as a caucus and as a government will make a decision as to whether or not we want to make a policy on something that's going to impact on all Yukoners.
That's a wonderful example of where we don't want to go, instead of being accused of not quickly reacting to something that the federal government started in Dawson. There's a classic example, Mr. Chair, of why we don't want to go down that pathway, because there are huge consequences when you go down that pathway.
We are limited as a government, as you know, in the number of financial resources and the number of futures that we look at when we are developing programs. We just don't throw money at programs just because somebody out there is saying that we need it because somebody started it. We are looking at how that is going to impact on all Yukoners.
That is a wonderful model. I appreciate the Member for Klondike bringing that forward because, on one hand, the member is applauding us for not jumping into programs and ensuring that positions are not tied to bodies so we don't get snookered in the long term. If, in the past the government - and I say, "if" - got snookered on hospital transfers and all these things, then - I wasn't there, Mr. Chair.
What we are trying to do is ensure that we don't get snookered with offloaded programs from whomever. So I think this is marvellous. I had a headache up until now. Now I don't have one. The light has once again been cleared as to why we as a government want to make sure that when we make decisions and we look at long-term policy, they are good decisions and there will be good policy for the Yukon. That has been a good example of how we as a government don't want to just jump into things because people out there are jumping up and down about what the needs are. This is not to say that there aren't some legitimate needs, but we have to look at all the impacts.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, as the minister recognized, they are legitimate, bona fide needs, and governments in the past have addressed those needs. The federal government recognized that the responsibility is completely vested in the Government of the Yukon to provide the services that they provided. What we see is the minister abdicating his responsibility. Now, why he would do that, I do not know.
Yesterday we explored with the minister the initiative surrounding the health care and extended health care benefits, or uninsured health care benefits, provided to First Nations.
We never did get a response from the minister as to how much money was left on the table. What was the total amount of dollars left on the table in the negotiations with the feds? What was the write-off that the Government of the Yukon took on the bill outstanding from Canada on behalf of Yukon First Nations? What was the total amount of the write-off?
It was carefully couched in the presentation that the minister gave that it appears to be resolved and we appear to currently have a mechanism in place.
Could the minister advise the House on the total write-off that the Yukon government took on its recoveries from Canada?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, we seem to be covering material that we covered yesterday, but I guess repetition - we'll go through it again, and I'm willing to provide the member opposite a copy of what has happened and transpired. What has been written off over the years by a number of governments, to my understanding, dating right back to 1993 - it was approximately $8 million at that point, and it has been written off every year since. I'm quite willing to provide the member opposite a copy of this, if the member opposite so wishes.
Mr. Jenkins: Is the minister saying that each year we have written off $8 million, since 1993? I know some of the amounts that were recoverable from Canada go back to 1993. Is the total amount that has been written off, from 1993 to the present, $8 million? Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, Mr. Chair, exactly. I will table this and give the member a copy if the member so wishes at this point. It's from 1993 to the current time.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, was there ever any interest accrued to this accounts receivable?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: No.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the debt outstanding goes back to 1993. It was under negotiation that whole time, and never once during that time was any interest ever applied to these receivables. Could the minister just confirm that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The way the Yukon formula financing works is that if there were any interest accruing, it would have been taken off the transfer payments anyway, so there was no advantage to having interest attached to those outstanding debts, because that's the way the formula financing is set out. And there was no interest charged.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister is saying that it doesn't impact on the bottom line, that it just basically affects the cash flow. Can the minister confirm that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, what is the current position of the Government of Canada with respect to the First Nation health care payment? How current are they? What is the billing cycle currently?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, just a clarification that these outstanding claims were basically for child welfare and also for some of our seniors - not health. There was some Thomson Centre and some of the lodge costs in there, but these were for staying in the lodges. And we can provide the member opposite a copy of what it includes and all the issues that were involved - or the memorandum of agreement, if the member so wishes.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister for sending that over, but I would still like to know what the current position is with respect to the accounts receivable from the federal government and what the billing cycle is.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, again, I will provide a copy of the billing and payment procedures for the member opposite, if he so wishes. It is an agreement with DIAND and the Department of Health and Social Services.
Number one states here that, "Six weeks after the end of each month Health and Social Services will submit to DIAND an account for each eligible child for child welfare services rendered the previous month. This account will include all the specifics: name, registration, type of placement, notification, category number, days billed and the per diem rates." So, I will be able to provide a copy of that for the member opposite as well.
Mr. Jenkins: Basically, we're on a 75-day billing cycle from when the first services would be provided - 30 to 45 days thereafter. Could the minister also provide a summary listing of the accounts receivable with Indian and Northern Affairs for the various services provided by Health and Social Services on behalf of First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Just to respond to the one question here. DIAND will ensure payment to Health and Social Services within two to four weeks of requisition of the monthly cheque. So, this is the first time in our history that we now have a definite plan. We have a status as to how it's being done. Also on the return - on the member's table, the member will see what the receivables are, in total. They are all listed there.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm looking for the current ones, and what's the date on that statement the minister has in front of him, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The form the member has there is dated April 4, 2001, and it has the 2001 categories, as it's broken down under each of the headings there.
Mr. Keenan: I was so deep into the paper there that I'm just excited about having my turn again.
The good news for the minister is that we will be out of Health debate soon, and I just have a few more issues that I'd like to clear up.
As you know, I wasn't in a position yesterday to be active in the debate or a participant in the debate, but I took the time to read the Blues this morning. So I guess what I'm saying is that I'll try not to repeat things that have been said, but I do have some points.
Some interesting stuff came out of the Blues - holy moly. I think if I wanted to, Mr. Chair, I could go around those Blues for three or four days, but I don't think I'll choose to do that, but I will ask a few things.
First of all though, I've heard it said by different ministers here who have been through general debate now - the C&TS minister said it, the Health minister said it - and I want to clear it up.
General debate is exactly what is stated; it's general debate. We can go here, we can go there, we can ask a question here on a line as to how it reflects a policy, or maybe the absence or development of policy, or something like as such. So, general debate is wide open, in my mind, and I think that a wonderful little niche in this political life of ours is that we do have the opportunity to talk back and forth and to share ideas, and that's exactly what I am attempting to do.
So, if I'm told and if I'm asking a question that, in my mind, reflects the policy - and it goes back into a line - I would just appreciate the answer. And if the minister would not be snarky with me, I will not be snarky with the minister.
I say that quite outright because I don't want to be put down. I might have my own way of doing things that are not the minister's way of doing things. The minister is a professional educator. I am not a professional educator yet. I still have - well, I am elected and, by golly, that says it all. I am elected on the premise that I can put things together. I simply might do it differently. So now that we have that cleared up, I think, what general debate actually means - would the minister agree with me that that is what general debate means?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much. I appreciate that, Mr. Chair.
Positive Lives is on the news and the AIDS Yukon Alliance and I am deeply concerned about these issues. I just want to ask some questions regarding them.
I believe that this is correct that when funding comes from the federal government, there are certain criteria to it. I think one of the criteria is that you had to go and speak to the stakeholders or to the people who are affected. I think that is probably a good case, because if you look at the situation that we are in now with the hepatitis C victims and the HIV and AIDS victims, I really want to focus on them as being the people who we have to focus on. Now, as we focus on the diseases and not the duke-out of the organizations, I would like to know if the minister has had any discussions with any of the victims outside of the organzations that, I guess, control the services - or "provide" might be a better word - for those people. Has the minister done that or had representations from any of the folks who have been affected?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I agree with the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes that a good debate over policy is very important. This is what government is all about, and I'll try to be as straightforward as I always am with the answers.
I would like to very clearly make a point that I would not like to think that people who have HIV or hepatitis C are victims. I don't think they are victims. They have a disease, and the member made that comment. That's good. We agree on that. They have a disease.
Our concern is to ensure, as a government, as it was with former governments, delivery of a service to our clients. That's really the bottom line for us.
I was asked the question of if I have spoken to a number of people with these diseases. Over my career as a teacher and in my capacity as a politician, I have, on a number of occasions. So I understand some of the issues. I hopefully have a view that our main concern is to ensure that we are delivering a service to the people who need it.
Currently, we have two proposals, and we do have limited dollars, and we have a committee right now within the Health department that is sitting down and analyzing and assessing the proposals, and a recommendation is going to be made to us. So, I don't know how much fairer we can get. That seems to be the best way of going about it. We have expertise in these fields by a number of our resource people in our department and, in the final hours, the politicians are going to make a decision based on the recommendations that will come forth.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, certainly, in my language, in the beginning, it was never meant to hurt anybody. It's meant to look deeper and to find solutions for some of the problems. I guess you could say that they are victims of a disease, and so that's how I'm looking at it.
I'm not looking at how you contract the disease. I'm not looking at any of that type of issue. I'm looking at the victims of the disease. I hope that clarifies that. There is certainly no offence intended to anybody in the House or outside of the House in that statement.
But I am concerned, because I did hear the minister say that the politicians will make the decision. I appreciate that the politicians will make the decision based on departmental recommendations. But what I'm saying here is that we have one group with a proposal and we have another group with a proposal. They have a history together, and maybe it's not such a good history, because there are always conflicts that will arise.
So what I'm asking the minister - and I think the minister's starting to answer the question - is that, as we get beyond these two duke-out proposals, will the minister ensure that, however it works, we do have meaningful programs for hepatitis C sufferers, if that's better language, and HIV and AIDS sufferers, because that's where I want to see it go. If we have X amount - 350 or 400 - sufferers of one disease and then we have 35 of another, there has to be an issue of fairness. That's what I want to hear the minister say - that we're not going to let anything slip between the cracks for any other reason than trying to help the people who suffer from the diseases. Will the minister ensure that that happens?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I think the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes has put his finger right on the mark. It's really about providing services to clients. That's really our objective and our goal. It has been that right from the beginning, and we hope that that recommendation and that decision are obviously based on that. That's why we use people who are knowledgeable in the field to give us some expertise as to what their role is and how this should be played out in the future. It's like any other NGO group. There is an accountability factor.
When we as a government provide funds to NGO groups, we want to ensure that we're buying a service. Hopefully, that's what this is all about. It's not just giving the money and then forgetting about what the final outcome is. If that's the case, then we're on the wrong track. We have to remember, as we all know, that it's taxpayers' money, and if we're buying a service, then we want the service.
Mr. Keenan: I take some comfort in that because it is certainly, first and foremost, what we have to do - maybe not only to buy a service, but to ensure that the service is floated out and that petty politics - and this happens at every level in every organization - do not interfere with that. So, I thank the minister for that answer and for ensuring that those services will be provided.
I'll close with this comment - I think it is very important. And I would appreciate it if the minister would talk it over with the department and caucus and whomever else it has to be talked over with - that we are not losing anybody within this process. I have had very moving presentations from people who said that they would not go here because of the experience they have had, whether it was a personality experience, whether it was between the organizations or whether it was the personality of one of the people within who delivers the program. I guess that's what I'm saying.
I don't want to say that the world is going to be rosy, and we have got them here getting a service provided, when maybe the world isn't that rosy because there are 20 percent of those people. And if there are 20 percent of some of those victims, that could turn out to be as high as 80 people.
I understand that 400 is a low figure.
So, I put that on the record. The minister doesn't have to answer it, but I certainly put it on the record as something that I'm very concerned about.
I would like to ask the minister about the pregnant mom proposal that was delivered by the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre.
Now, you know, I got the biggest kick out of the minister and the Member for Klondike. And I did. I had to sit here and giggle, and I guess I have to explain this now, Mr. Chair, as to why I got the giggles. It was because on the Monday, the minister quite successfully orchestrated camera time, and then I thought, well, okay, we can let him get away with that, and that's the way it is. And then I read in the Blues, when the camera time was held by the minister the following day, that he didn't want to speak about what he was speaking about. The Member for Klondike - well, I kind of turned to my friend here, and I said, "What does a person like me, who is stuck between two ham bones, get called?" And I really wanted to know, because it's not about camera time; it's about achieving goals and aspirations for our people.
So, I'm going to ask, outside of camera time now, about this very important proposal. Now, the presentation that was made to me - it's a very bare-bones proposal. It's $15,000. I've read where the minister in the Blues said, "Well, it could be much more. It's too bare-bones, and we don't knee jerk, we don't put band-aids on." But, I'm here to - I guess, maybe not to represent, but to talk of the representation that was made to me by these folks here.
These folks said this is a bare-bones proposal because there's definitely a need for this service. And, as I said the other day, there are First Nation pregnant mothers who are looked after under one authority, I would say. And then there are pregnant mothers who, if they're an employee of the territorial government and under the union, are looked after there, but there were other pregnant mothers who were not being looked after.
So I asked the questions in the meeting, I guess, based a lot on my ministerial experience, based a lot on the past 10 years of my First Nations governance experience. I asked: how can we make it better, and how flexible are you folks here in doing these different things?
The intent is to provide the service for these folks from Dawson City? Oh, no, no. We are leading the charge, but there are folks from the rest of the Yukon Territory who are affected by it. So I am seeing very much a willingness to work and to participate with the department and I would appreciate if the minister would look at it in that light. Would the minister be able to expand on it a little more at this point in time?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: This has been a very emotional issue for the members on the opposite side. I guess the examples that the member gives about uninsured benefits that First Nations receive - it is not only pregnant mothers who receive uninsured benefits, all First Nation people who live in rural areas receive those benefits - anywhere in the Yukon. It's far more complicated than the member opposite presents.
We, as a caucus, are going to be looking at the information. We are looking at the information and we will be discussing it. We will hopefully then be making policy based on the information. That is where it is at this point. I am not going to prejudge what caucus is going to suggest. I am going to share with caucus the information and this will hopefully provide some direction for the future.
I appreciate the member's concern and comments about it. Yes, the representations have been made to us, as well. But, again, if we are looking at the question that the member brings up quite often - universality for all Yukoners - obviously we definitely want to take our time in making the right decision. Hopefully the members opposite will have patience in letting us come to some kind of an opportunity to discuss it and then make an opinion or a decision based on that information. That is happening shortly. That is all I ask of the members opposite at this point.
I am not trying to defend one or the other. I am just trying to present all of the facts out there. I know that one can be cast as being anti-this and anti-that by not making any decision, but if we are looking at a long-term policy here, we want to make sure we do it right.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I appreciate that we have to make sure we do things right.
On the First Nation issue of their medical programs, I can say that, when I participated at that level, they were being clawed back dramatically for all sorts of different reasons. Now, I haven't been properly briefed and I will take it upon myself to get a proper briefing to where they're at, but I know that the federal government just a few short years ago were working on these types of issues. I'll have to get completely briefed, but what we have to establish here is a process. The minister takes great pride in being open, accountable and transparent. We'll get into my view in a while, I guess, of how to make that better, but here's a start.
I understand that these folks from the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre - and I believe it might have been Monday morning when I spoke with them - had not heard back from the department or anybody from the minister's office as of yet. So when they came to me as the official critic of the Health and Social Services department, they were coming with some frustration, because I do believe that they came to me as a last resort. They didn't come to me at first because I'm a friend or anything like that. They came as a last resort and that was what they said - "They haven't even gotten back to us. They haven't."
So, that shows me that there is a lack of a defined process, and if the minister stands in this House and tells me these rosy, feel-good things about what he's doing, then I can attempt to buy into them, and I truly do attempt to buy into them as I bring up my concerns.
Well, Mr. Chair, I'm going to give the minister a chance to talk to me, to see what he's smiling and chuckling about, because he insists on doing that.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I'm a very happy person. I guess that to smile nowadays must be a crime. I was listening very carefully to what the member had to say, and I obviously want to answer the member's questions. And to constantly make comments about people on this side smiling or chuckling, when we know what happens on the other side - reading newspapers, talking to the neighbour, all these other things. We don't make a lot of reference to that, and yet it's quite easy for the members opposite to quickly jump and attack us when we're doing things that really don't seem to be in order. I guess we'll try our best. I'm not saying we don't read newspapers on this side. I'm just saying that I'm not reading a newspaper, and I'm listening.
I guess maybe just to correct a couple things that the member opposite - I mean, I'm trying to be cooperative. I'm trying to work with the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes because I believe we can get further ahead by doing that.
The member opposite talks about the Victoria Faulkner people not hearing from the department. Well, naturally they're not going to hear from the department because we haven't made a decision. Why are we going to be contacting the Victoria Faulkner group if we haven't made a decision? Just to put it in perspective, when I said I've been talking to people, I talked to a number of people. The Victoria Faulkner people have never come to see me about what their needs and wants are. Now, if they went to see the member opposite, Mr. Chair, then they've done something and haven't afforded me the same privilege. So I'm not concerned about that. I'm just saying that we're trying to make the best decisions for the future of the Yukon, and we want to make sure we do it with all the information. So hopefully that's helpful in coming to grips with where we want to go with this issue.
Mr. Keenan: I take exception to the minister's attitude and the minister's words actually because, Mr. Chair, they were smiling and chuckling over there. I do believe that was in direct reference to some of the things that I was saying on this side. I want to point that out to the 30,000 people who are glued to their radio right now, listening to this debate. They do not feel that it is serious enough and stand over there smiling and chuckling - well, body language, I think, is much more communicative in my world than words actually are.
So now that we have those 30,000 people in the Yukon Territory aware of this, I might be able to move on.
Of course smiling and chuckling is not a crime. I'm one of the happiest doggone people in this room, and I try to keep it that way because, with that attitude, you can move the world. You can change the world. It might take time, but you can do it, and it can be done.
So, I think it's an inner glow, you might say, because you're content with what you do, how you participate, how you work, and it transfers into a smile. Now, that's a big difference from a chuckle from a joke, and that's what has been happening over there - chuckling - nice, happy chuckles.
The minister had said, just a few short moments ago, that the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre afforded me a visit, but never afforded a visit to the minister, and the minister did not feel that it was relevant to call them, because they had not made a decision. But, as I've read the Blues, there was lots of concern from the minister's office about the proposal.
Would it not be wise to pick up the phone and say, "Hey Bruce, there might be a problem here, and do you think that we could have one of our technical people - one of our bureaucrats - go over and talk to those folks for the sake of clarification?"
I do believe, Mr. Chair, that that would have been the proper process to follow, instead of bringing it before the House, where we have to continually get a little "antsier", I guess, with one another to get anything.
So, Mr. Chair, I would encourage the minister and the minister's department to please contact the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre, and sit down with the folks who are attempting to make things better for the people who need it most, I guess. And in these cases, it's pregnant mothers who need it. I do believe that they are very flexible. They are not looking to make great heaps of money. That's not what they're in business for. They are providing services and would like to continue providing services.
So, could I ask the minister, in that light, if the minister would direct the department to go over to seek clarification and bring an attitude of - well, we can't do it because of this, but if we look at it in this light, we could do those things. So to look at it in the light of how we could achieve it, and not to deny it because it doesn't fit a policy - could the minister do that, please?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Well, I won't respond to the smiles or the chuckles because, as the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes knows, I'm a very happy person, as is the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes. Sometimes you smile at things, and sometimes you chuckle at things because you're happy with yourself. It's a great way to be, and I think we can achieve far more by being happy than by constantly throwing daggers at each other.
The interesting thing, Mr. Chair, is that the department, in the process of looking at what this proposal could be, has talked to the Victoria Faulkner people. But we haven't talked to the Victoria Faulkner people to make the decision. It's a much broader thing. We're looking at policy, and we're trying to come up with what we as a government want to do in the policy area. So that's where it's at now. It's at that level. The very point is trying to look at the broad picture with all of the information. We have the information now, and a decision will be made by caucus and Cabinet as to where we want to go with this, because there are implications.
I would hope that that is how we make all kinds of policy decisions. We gather the information, then discuss it and have a good debate over it. A decision is made and then we go forward. So, we are hopefully on track, as the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes suggests. But we have contacted the Victoria Faulkner people initially when this process was being done, but we haven't done it in the last week or two because we haven't made the policy yet. Whichever way the policy goes, obviously contact will be made.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I can hear the minister and I understand the minister. The minister is reluctant to move forward on a very critical issue. The minister might not agree with me that it is a critical issue, but it is a critical issue in my mind. If the minister doesn't agree with me, that's fine because that is not the issue. But the minister does not want to move forward in absence of a policy.
If I were anybody else, I could run away with that and get all sorts of good headlines out of it and whatnot, but I won't do that. I think what needs to be done here and needs to be defined - is there a backup? Is there a vehicle? Is there an avenue? Is it applicable to the Project Yukon? Is it applicable to the health investment fund? This initiative from the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre that I am talking about, is it applicable to any of those issues?
I would like to take the time right now to explain the community development fund and Project Yukon and the difference between them.
We in our wisdom as a government saw that we could not look at and project on - and I have said this in the House before - every issue that arises in the Yukon Territory. We couldn't do that, so we put an empowerment vehicle in place so that we could make the decisions based on those issues as they arose and then define them further. That's the goodness of some of those vehicles.
Does the minister have anything within his knowledge of government where these folks could go in absence of the development of that policy? That's one question. My second question: when does the minister expect the policy to be complete?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, groups, NGOs and communities do what they want to do, and I am not going to give them direction as to what they should do or not do.
The question is a hypothetical one. It's almost like there's an assumption that the decision has been made. I have just finished sharing with the members opposite that this is a discussion that is going to be taking place within our caucus, and a policy will be developed from that. I can't say any more than that at this point.
Mr. Keenan: Thanks for bringing that up. I appreciate that. I think he heard it, and I think he's got it.
Mr. Chair, when does the minister expect this policy to be done?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The Member for Watson Lake made a comment, something about not to go to the media. That was never said by me - not to go to the media. I know the Member for Watson Lake has opinions on everything, and if that's the twist that the members opposite want to present, then that's fine, but that wasn't what happened at all.
On the question of asking when the policy is done, the member opposite knows full well how government moves. And, you know, you have to have the discussion. I think that as a government for the past 11 months we have done a remarkable job on the decisions that we have made - a remarkable job. We have done things in 11 months that past governments took years to get their heads around and then obviously didn't do anything or didn't make any of these hard decisions. We made some of these hard decisions. So I would hope we can do it as soon as possible. I'm looking at timelines. We always like to put timelines on what we're doing. I would say definitely this year; I would definitely say that.
Chair: The time being 4:30, do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We'll take a 15-minute long recess.
Deputy Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will proceed with general debate on the Department of Health and Social Services.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and welcome to the Chair.
Mr. Chair, I would like to ask if the minister would, in the interim, be able to direct the proposal to - is there another authority or anything out there? I suggested the health investment fund and Project Yukon maybe. Is there anything else out there? Is there a contingency where we could maybe try and put this service into place? I know that services can be put into place and taken out of place. I know that. The federal government is famous for setting up other jurisdictions for pilot projects, and as soon as you meet the terms and conditions and it's providing a service, they download it or offload to you and then they're away from it. Is there another vehicle of any sort that the minister is aware of?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: To quote the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, we don't want to become famous for making these sort of same decisions, such as try it this way for awhile and then, if that runs out, you can go somewhere else. That's why, obviously, we want to make a good decision here. Hopefully that is the whole objective. I know it takes a little time. Groups can do what they want. They can apply for any funding situation in order to support what they're doing. If they can convince those funding agencies to provide them with support, that's really up to them. I think it has to be based on good, sound practices, and looking at how this can be helpful for Yukoners in the long term.
Mr. Keenan: I'm trying every which way to make myself understood. I think we're ships in the night, Mr. Chair, because we're getting closer to one another - we're close enough to be aware of one another out there - yet we're not communicating. I find that awful, to tell you the truth. I find that really disgusting. It's absolutely disgusting in my mind, because the minister says, "I can't give direction to the NGO."
Well, what we're trying to do with a non-government organization is provide a service for government, because we know that there's a need for a service.
We're talking about what somebody on that side today said was a "fragile situation" and I liked the words. When we have a pregnant mother, whether she's having a healthy pregnancy or it is an at-risk pregnancy, she has to be here in Whitehorse, for safety reasons, to deliver the baby. The minister knows all those situations. This is not only peculiar to the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre. This is peculiar to the people who need that service throughout the Yukon Territory.
I know the minister said that First Nation women are looked after. I pointed out that the women who are contained within the bargaining unit of the unions are looked after. So there is another group out there who is crying out for the service, and they have reached out to the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre because there was an ear there to listen.
What I'm asking the minister to do is apply his listening skills, because communication is a two-way street. The minister prides himself on being open, transparent and consultative. But from a deaf guy, who wears two of these things here, you have to listen. You have to work this way to listen. I call it showing leadership. It's not interference; it's showing leadership.
When people make these representations, it's not smoke and mirrors, as the minister said, or blowing a lot of smoke. It's not that. There is a definite need. We can find an interim way of doing something for the long term. We can do it.
I have asked the minister how long it is going to take, and I think I finally got a minister out of him. He said, "This year we could be looking at the advent of a policy."
I guess we are just starting a fiscal year, and the end of this calendar year is nine months away. I do believe that there are probably going to be quite a few babies delivered from rural Yukon and that there are mothers and families in this situation. I really ask the minister to look at it very seriously and, if there are no vehicles that would do that, then to just lend a guiding and helping hand to them at this point in time and point them in the right direction. I don't think they are asking for an absolute positive. That is not what I got out of him. And $15,000 a year to provide this service, to me, out of over a $500,000 budget - it seems that if I were sitting in that chair, I could squeeze it and I would. And I can say that.
So would the minister please look at it in that light?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Again, Mr. Chair, I appreciate the passion with which the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is speaking. I have the same passion and the same concerns, but I am one individual of a government that is trying to set policy for the future of the Yukon. That is where it is at, at this point.
We are going to be, in the next few days - possibly the next week - discussing this issue and we will come forward with some type of policy for the future of the Yukon. I am not going to make that decision alone because it impacts on all of us as taxpayers. We believe in equity. Hopefully that is what the bottom line here is.
To start projecting and pointing and raising people's hopes at this point - I mean, we didn't start the program to start with. And we've gone through this on many other initiatives in the past. I can remember the youth initiatives and when the federal government came along and provided all kinds of money to the territorial government - it was the NDP government in place at that time - and then they dropped it and the NDP government didn't pick it up.
It died, right there, and I was out there writing letters and doing all kinds of things to try to encourage this being carried forward, and it wasn't. So it's not the first time that we've had federal off-loaded programs forced onto the territorial government. So I guess we just want to make sure that we have a good discussion about it, we look at the ramifications, we look at the long term, and we do it for all Yukoners. And if the members opposite don't want to give us time to do that, then there's not much I can say about it. We are going to take the time to do it, we are going to discuss it as a caucus, and we're going to come forward with some type of decision. From there, our policy will be in place for all Yukoners.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I feel a little bit more comfort. I certainly understand the political process. But since the 15-minute break we adjourned for and I took my dog for a walk, the minister obviously did some work, because we've gone from this year to next week now. So I appreciate that. I appreciate that, because just before the break, it was maybe this year. I said would you at least do it this year? Maybe this year. Now, I've heard the minister say that he'll be looking at it with caucus maybe in the next couple of weeks, and he did say that. I take comfort in that, and I thank you very much for that.
Now, the minister took a couple of shots at people over here just before the break, saying they're very opinionated. One gentleman's opinionated. I'm very passionate. I'd like to know all the rest of the monikers that you have for the others around here, but if politics is not opinions and opinions are not based on what you hear from the constituents that you serve - and we do serve the constituents. From what you read, it is a global village right now and in some ways that's not good in my mind.
But in communications standards, it's good. It's absolutely good. When you look around the world and find different ways of doing things, better ways of doing things, you can bring the monetary value of some of these programs down by doing it differently and doing it better, and I really appreciate that. That brings forth an opinion.
So, yes, I don't think there's anybody on this side of the House who is not opinionated and doesn't have a good understanding of each of our respective portfolios. I have been fortunate to sit on that side of the House as a Cabinet minister, and I am fortunate to sit on this side of the House as a shadow Cabinet minister. I'm fortunate to do that. So I'm opinionated and I bring them forth, as everybody should.
If the Liberal caucus does not have opinions and bring things forth at their meetings, I don't know what goes on in those meetings then. I don't. Because that's how things are brought forth. That's how you bring forth issues. You take the issues that you hear and you bring them forth.
I don't simply, as a member, as a shadow minister - I like that term - sit there in my office and say, "Oh yes, you should be doing this and you can do that and we'd do this for you if we were in government." I don't do that, because I understand the fiscal reality. I understand the partnerships. I understand a lot of those issues.
So, yes, I can be passionate. Everybody can be opinionated. But I think it's just good, healthy life.
We talked about recruitment; we talked about retention. In words the minister said, "I again invite the opposition to be a part of our solution in trying to be more proactive in the area of recruitment." Then he goes on, Mr. Chair, "I'd really encourage the members opposite to be positive in trying to submit to us some of their ideas." He goes on, "We are not necessarily not interested in the all-party approach."
Well, Mr. Chair, to me that is smoke and mirrors.
That is smoke and mirrors, and if the minister would just say, "I don't give a rip what you say - I really don't give a rip - because I'm not listening to you," we'd probably have a week's session then. The session would last a week.
But the minister doesn't say that. The minister says, "Bring forth your ideas." He probably has some good ideas. The very opinionated fellow from Watson Lake - the Minister of Renewable Resources and the Minister of Economic Development are constantly asking him for his ideas and whatnot.
We can put forth motions in this House based on Yukon objectives in here. I don't like it when it's spoken from both sides, I guess, of the issue, and I have to point that out.
Again, the minister goes on to say that there's not a crisis in health care professionals. In nursing, we have some very big issues in terms of recruiting nurses, but right now, it's not in the crisis mode of the doctors.
Mr. Chair, the member himself is a very opinionated person. I know that. I sat in that chair and watched that minister - or that minister now - sit up there and, with a scowling look, look down on the children, I guess, within the Legislature, and that was one of the issues that he thought he should bring forth here.
Well, I think it's doggone reversed at this point in time, isn't it?
I'd also like to point out that, within the 30-day election window, the minister was very opinionated. The minister had an answer for everything. He had an opinion then. As a matter of fact, everybody had an opinion, as I recall at that point in time and now there are no opinions, because there is no policy.
I appreciate it when we get those raised eyebrows on the other side of the House. I appreciate that, because I know you're listening and, if you like passion, I'll give it to you. If you like opinions, I'll give them to you.
Chair: Order please. I like all those things, but you're supposed to be referring to the Chair.
Mr. Keenan: You don't like "you".
Chair: That's right.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you.
Mr. Keenan: Well pardon me for breaking that rule, Mr. Chair. Günilschish - it doesn't have a "you" in it. So, moving on. I do believe that we can be opinionated and we can work that way. That is what it's all about.
The minister goes on to say that they have communities that see their needs and respond to those needs. It's also on the cutting edge of moving ahead in the whole delivery of health service. I don't see any of those opinions that were expressed during the 30-day election window in any policy here, Mr. Chair. None, absolutely none. I find that appalling - absolutely appalling.
Now, the minister attempted to take some shots - I believe it was at my colleague, the Member for Klondike, and others on this side of the House, maybe folks here from Watson Lake - about how we are trying to open up the universality issue. Well, nothing is further from the truth. But what I am hearing here is that, during the election campaign, we protected our social programs. Universality was not on the table. I did not realize at that time that the Yukon Liberal Party was speaking on behalf of the federal Liberal Party. I bet there is a whole bunch of folks on that side of the House who didn't realize that either, at the time. Because now I have the minister standing in the House and saying, "You are wrong. We are talking about universality at the federal level."
So, does universality only apply to the federal system and not to the Yukon system? If that is the case, then I would like the minister to be able to, I guess, speak as to what would be on the table. And I don't mean for the minister to say everything, because the minister has already said that - everything is on the table.
Now, I asked my researchers for a little list of what that would be. And, holy moly, that's quite a bit. We have a lot of programs scattered throughout different departments that are, I guess, universal in nature to Yukon people. So, I would like to ask the minister, because the minister knows this, because I know the minister has a 10-year plan. He wouldn't shoot from the lip on something like that. I give the minister that respect of not shooting from the lip because the minister has a deep understanding of where he goes. He has a vision.
So, I would like for that minister to explain which Yukon grants and programs, I guess, are going to be critiqued in the beginning - at the first stage of this looking at the revamping of our Yukon grants and proposals, I guess. Which ones are being looked at?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The objective here for all Canadians - it's not just me who is raising these issues about how health care is presented, paid for, or what we want to do in the future. My wife returned from her travels afar yesterday, and she brought back a book from B.C., and I should have brought it here. It's a fairly thick book - a bit like our sexuality book here on human sexuality, except it's much thicker. Every household in B.C. was given one of these books. They're probably about $15 or $20 maybe.
Yes, and the objective of that book, from the B.C. point of view, was to encourage B.C. people to do self-help rather than going to a doctor and a nurse for every little thing that goes wrong with them. That's sort of part of that education process that we in the future have to start looking at, because our health care system can't bear all of the demands that are expected of it. So I just give that as an example.
Our report card is another example of trying to reflect back to Yukoners that this is where we're at in certain areas of our health care. I wouldn't want to say that there is one specific thing that we have looked at and we are really going to concentrate on. I think that it's looking at how we as Canadians can function with our system the way it is, and improve on it and still pay for it, when we know that we have a large group of seniors - the baby-boomers coming through that 45- to 60-year-old category - which means there is going to be a big bulge in another five to 10 years. Yes, there are those kinds of bulges, too, but hopefully we can keep those off.
The interesting thing about that is that it's the whole package. It's not just one thing; it's not just myself. When I go to the Health ministers meetings, those are the discussions that we're having - how do we get across to Canadians how we can pay for our system, because as we all know, it has its limits as to how far we can go. We're experiencing that right now with the way our pharmaceutical costs are going through the roof and with the way our medevacs are going through the roof.
Our local people here in Yukon also want to know what they can do in trying to deliver better services but trying to do it for fewer dollars. I would not sort of pick on one particular area at this point, although there is going to be a lot of discussion, I would suggest, over the next little while - probably the next 10 years - to offer a better system and how we can do it with partnerships, with all of us taking control of our own health. I'm not saying most people don't do that, but a lot of people don't, and that's why the system is overloaded at this point.
Mr. Keenan: I thank the minister again for providing a part of the vision. Of course, the minister did answer the question. I have to give that to the minister. In the closing statement he did answer the question. I appreciate that, and that's what I want to hear. I want to hear how the minister is moving and where the minister wants to move. I know now where the minister wants to move, and I appreciate what the minister is saying.
The B.C. prevention book - that's a good one. I was going to ask you about that, too. Is there a way that we could maybe do that? You took that question right away from me. But I would think that maybe we should do something like that, because I believe it's so terribly important to be able to tell the people what they're making decisions on.
As we go to the folks in a 30-day election - I'm starting to talk like Elmer Fudd, for goodness' sakes - election, it is not good. It is not good, Mr. Chair, because the Liberal Party said what they wanted to say and they became government, and they are government. Now people are asking me and others - I'm sure maybe they're even asking some of the folks in the Liberal Party and representatives of the MLAs in the different areas - what the Health minister is talking about when he says this and what does the acting Health minister mean by this. That is probably out there.
So I would suggest that maybe we should look at that type of a model. I don't know what the costs are, and it's something I know I would buy. I would definitely buy that, and it is probably a good gift for Christmas and other things like as such. But if we could get that out there so that we might be able to really achieve buy-in, and maybe we could achieve buy-in at every level. We might even be able to achieve buy-in at the municipal level, and the municipalities have no jurisdiction here at all. Well, they might have jurisdiction in their own models. I shouldn't say that. But it's that type of partnership hybrid that I think would be a very good educator, a very good tool, to let them know that, if we don't start to do this now, this is what could be affected. And we do have examples of the pioneer utility grant and other things like as such.
Would it be possible to ask the minister to be - I want to say "upfront", but that has connotations that are negative, and I don't mean to be negative. Could he tell the people what the problem is in the interim, what it ultimately could be by the time all baby-boomers get to this critical stage, and the impact it could have on it, and the message that we should try to be putting something aside for the children behind us so we might always have this beautiful, vibrant, very visible, envy of the world, health care system in Canada. Would the minister consider that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: After last evening's session, I had a phone call from Allan Rock, the federal Minister of Health, and this was arranged. He was calling me to share with me that the Prime Minister had commissioned the former Premier of Saskatchewan, Roy Romanow, to look at health care in Canada, because it is in crisis in many respects. It talks about some of the issues that we've talked about, and I was very pleased.
I had a good chat with him on the issue of health and the concerns that we have here in the Yukon, and some of the determinants that are raising our cost and the expectations that they're out there. He was very interested in what I had to say, so we were very pleased that Mr. Romanow is going to be able to do this. Hopefully this will get us a better understanding of what the long-term challenges are.
Many of us, including members of the opposition, are sometimes way ahead of the federal government. We're trying to alert and include people in the awareness package long before it happens. I'm sure Mr. Romanow is going to come to Whitehorse and sit down and talk to us as to what our concerns are, and that will be reflected in the report.
There's a time limit on the report. It's going to be produced within - I think it's 18 months. That's what I'm told by Mr. Rock. So they're not looking at this for 100 years. They want some quick action and some quick turnaround as to where they should go in the future.
Just a bit more commentary on what we were talking about before - I am pleased to hear that the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is aware of that booklet. It's one of many things that our government has been involved with. My understanding, in speaking to my official here, is that the B.C. intergovernmental people have met with our people, just last week, actually. They looked at the possibility of partnering on their recent health care initiatives - the health book being one of them, and how we could use it.
There's no point in reinventing the wheel. We'd like to share our booklet with them. We are going to. I'm going to ask the department to mail this book out to each of the health care people in the provinces, because we in Yukon also do some very good stuff. We don't always have to take. I think this may give them some support in what they're trying to do. Sometimes small jurisdictions can get their head around some issues that are very specific. So it's a two-way thing.
There are two other components to it. One is the Internet service - having the on-line access as well - that nowadays a lot of people have access to. And also the triage call, using a nurse at the other end where people can call in. We haven't moved in that direction, but we would like -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: A triage. Where somebody calls up, the nurse answers, and you can share with the nurse, as a consumer or a householder, saying, "Well, my child has this. Do you have any thoughts or ideas?" This is rather than rushing them down to the doctor. Or you may live in a rural area, where there are no doctors. So it's another possibility for us in trying to build for the future.
So we're not going to try to reinvent the wheel.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: It's called "triage" - t-r-i-a-g-e. It's a term that I learned also, which has some effect on health care. For me, it was something new, so I can understand why the member might ask what it means. It means connecting to health care people who can provide some advice and support.
Mr. Keenan: I appreciate what the minister has, and I'd just like to point out in a manner that communication is not all over the Yukon Territory here, as of yet. There is not Internet access at kilometre 1331 on the Alaska Highway. I know that because that's my home address. So I put that out to the minister for the minister to dwell on. If we're going to make these capable tools - and I appreciate what the minister is saying in this exchange and getting together with other jurisdictions to show what we have and to move forward. I very much appreciate that. And I also appreciate the fact that we're going to have to walk the dog more, be more active, all those things. There are a lot of issues happening right now, but there has to be total buy-in from the public, I believe.
And what is total buy-in? Is it 51 percent? That's not for me to define, but you can have 51 percent of the people saying yes, and 49 percent saying no, but if 49 percent are saying this, then we must show leadership for those people. So I guess what I'm saying is that I think it would be very good - and I haven't heard the minister say it yet. I heard the minister say, regarding the list of programs and issues, that everything is on the table, but we haven't really started a cherry-picking list or anything like as such. We're going to prevention mode. We have all these different partners, yet I would like to hear the minister, if the minister is willing to do it along with the department or to direct the department to do it, to put - a discussion paper, maybe. What are the stages? There are discussion papers and then white papers and green papers and finally a decision-making document? I'm sure I've got it wrong there, but I'm sure that other people know what I'm talking about. Would it be possible to achieve the ultimate buy-in for that initiative?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I agree with the member opposite that this is not going to be something coming down from on high, or from way down low. It's going to be working with everybody in the Yukon so however that's done, I take under advisement what the member is saying: there are different ways of doing it.
There's an interesting article here in Alive. It was pointed out to me by my colleague, Minister Jim, and it talks about an aboriginal approach to fighting cancer. It's kind of a two-page article. I think there's a lot of stuff out there that we, as consumers, need to absorb and look at how we can do a better job, because we know we have some very serious problems with cancer and how it's affecting many of our people.
So I would agree with the member opposite. After 11 months we've at least raised the awareness that there are some concerns and some issues out there, and we have to put together, as a caucus and a government, how we're going to proceed in the future, and having Yukoners buy into the future, because they really are the future. It's not up to us to make these decisions and then let everybody live by them. I think we have to make these decisions together.
Mr. Keenan: I take it that the minister will consider that, and it'll be on a caucus agenda somewhere. If the Chair were in caucus, I'd ask the member to really participate in that. So, when the Chair does make it back to caucus, I'd really appreciate the caucus looking at it, because it's something that's going to affect every one of us in this room, even our pages. Not for a long time, but it will affect every one of us.
So I appreciate that the minister would move ahead.
The minister said something I found ironic just a little while ago, and it was so ironic that I had to lean over here and, gosh, there's an opening. It was on bringing down travel costs so we can do that.
I'm going to the CAT scan, as you are probably already aware, because, as the minister said, that would be bringing down travel costs. I appreciate the balance that has to be there. So I was wondering if the minister would be able to tell me where the whole issue around the CAT scan is, and when it will be put in place to start driving down some of those out-of-territory travel costs - medevacs, I believe they're called.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I guess once again we're into a situation where we have an arm's-distance board that makes decisions with their CEO as to where they want to proceed, and of course this particular arm's-distance board receives all its funding from the government. So, our impact is probably trying to look at philosophical direction versus specific O&M.
The CAT scan item, as we all know, was an issue that was brought up with the last government when $1 million was put into the budget, but it wasn't enough to purchase the technology that was felt was necessary for today. So, with our Technical Review Committee composed of experts who have their understandings and knowledge around this, they came up with a recommendation to the hospital about what should be done in the future.
So we as a government have come forward with additional dollars to try to purchase the CAT scan, and have provided another $200,000 new money this coming year. Really, the decision is still the hospital board's.
One question I'm going to clear up for the member opposite - and I have probably talked about this before but, quite often, because we're trying to study so many issues, we don't always remember. I know I don't.
I know this for a fact, that the Technical Review Committee made a very clear point that it was their feeling, from looking at programs in Dawson Creek, Yellowknife and other similar jurisdictions, that it really wasn't going to save a lot of travel money. I know that always seems to come back. I am just repeating what the Technical Review Committee came back with.
So, yes, it is going to be better for better diagnosis, it is going to be better for better care, and it is going to provide more safety and security for people here initially. And you have to weigh those out, but I wouldn't want to be on record saying that it is going to save us money in travel, because former experiences of other jurisdictions are that it doesn't. It's just a small thing.
I would hope that, from our knowledge, the Yukon Hospital Corporation is just about ready to make their decision, if they haven't made it already. My understanding is that it is a positive one, but, again, I think that I would not want to answer for them. I believe they have the funds for it. It is just a matter of them making their decision.
Mr. Keenan: I have two points. One is that any information - whether it is a legislative return or whether it is just a letter or whatever - that you are sending to the Member for Klondike, I would appreciate it if it would cross my desk also. I would appreciate if the minister would be able to share with me in writing, I guess, some of the reasons surrounding the Technical Review Committee's reason for why it wouldn't save travel costs. I guess I am very much interested in that - not to come back into Question Period and to thump around. I am very much interested in that for a backdrop of my own, because that will definitely be applicable to other jurisdictions where I might have influence, and that is the reason I am looking in that manner.
Now, I couldn't believe this one when I read it, but it was - oh, boy, here I go - a defibrillator. Now, would the minister mind if I wrote a letter to his wife? Yes. That was brought to the attention of the minister by his wife, and I appreciate that the minister has a wife that works in emergency or did work in emergency and you need those types of things, and I appreciate the minister has a son-in-law as a doctor, so the minister does have, you know, feelings or initiatives into the issues surrounding health care.
But when I read this, I thought, well, oh gosh. It seemed to me that it was - well, here are the exact words: "I thank the Member for Klondike. He was talking about an issue that was brought to my attention by my partner, my wife, who worked for many years in emergency...." Now, we go on to say, "But there's also the caution that even the defibrillator that's in our hospital has, by my understanding, been used on rare occasions ..." Then he goes on to say that, "We're purchasing these defibrillators that will be located in our communities," and I'm sure that they will be located in our ambulances that are attached to the hospital here? Okay, I thank you for that also. That was a positive nod from the minister and the deputy minister that that is working.
So it's a part of the federal government capital program, and came from that fund that I asked about the other day. Now he goes on to say, "I think it's a combination, Mr. Chair, of what the Member for Klondike is suggesting. It's the availability, and they have risen on the priority list."
I guess, to leave it like that, I find a slight contradiction in that term - slight. And I'm being very sensitive to the minister and his family. But I also think that the minister can take that right-on information from his wife, because she has worked there for many years. But the minister should also be able to take it from others, and that would include me and other people on the street. And I'm going to leave it alone from there. If the minister wants to make a comment, I will give him the opportunity now.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Just a clarification here - to go back a bit to the CT scanner. We are more than pleased to provide the Technical Review Committee review notes on that. That's not an issue at all. One of the points they identified on the CT scanner - and I'll read it verbatim here. It says, "Although a cost-benefit analysis did not indicate significant savings on out-of-territory medical travel" - approximately $100,000 - "the decision to include the funding in the departmental budget was initially based on support from the medical community to increase the accuracy of diagnoses, increase self-sufficiency, standard diagnostic tool in health care..." And there are a whole bunch of issues here that it was based on. I'm just suggesting that there could be a savings. We also have an additional O&M cost because of the scanner system that was being ordered.
Just to clarify - I know the member opposite talks often about his family and how the family has influenced him in a variety of situations and areas of concern. I have been very open about the fact that a lot of my knowledge in health care has come from living with a person for over 35 years who has been a nurse. She just returned from working in a hospital in Cambodia - one of these charity hospitals - and shared with me what they have to put up with there compared to what we expect here. It's like night and day.
The defibrillators were in the budget long before I arrived on the scene. It had very little to do with whether I believed it was a good thing or not. I could just reinforce what has already been said by the department, because they were in last year's budget. We basically didn't move on all of them so, this time around, with the extra dollars we got, we were able to promote it. I just used it as a point of promotion; that even people I know in the health care business are saying yes, they're good things to have. To say that we made a decision based on what might have been told to me by my wife or my son-in-law, or whomever, no, we don't make those kinds of decisions. They're based on, as we've said before, the need, the technical advice we get from the department, and from the Technical Review Committee. Hopefully, that's how we make good decisions.
I don't know if that helps clear up the issue, but if that was the inference the member opposite received, hopefully I've cleared it up for him.
Mr. Keenan: No, it was never a problem with me, but I had to point it out, because that's certainly where I get information from, and I want the minister and all government caucus to understand that.
When I'm going to bring my ideas to the House, I will say they're my ideas, and when I have other ideas, I'll say where I got those ideas from. I won't sometimes tell you the exact person, but I will say it came from the street, or wherever in the community.
So I appreciate that, and I encourage the minister to continue with that, not just listening to the family and to the department. The department has a major role in this. I understand that the department has a major role in these types of issues, but the department is not the lead. The minister is the lead, and the minister's philosophy is blended through.
I appreciate that if the minister can listen to family, the Liberal caucus and the department, he can certainly listen to the official opposition and the third party, because we certainly have many issues that we could share.
Now, I would like to carry on. I notice that the time is getting to 5:30 and this is always the time of day where everybody tries to out-ham bone everybody else and see how long winded we can get so that we can capture that magic camera time tomorrow. I am not that way. Like I said before - I am stuck between two ham bones, and I don't know what they call me: a bacon-and-egg sandwich or what?
What I am going to tell the minister is that I am going to carry on in the exact way I am. Whoever is speaking at five minutes to five can have the camera time, whether it is myself or not. I don't think that we can waste 25 minutes here of me just talking away. And I can do that as well as the minister can and as well as the Member for Klondike can. But that's not what it's all about - here I am going to start my 25-minute speech.
There was discussion - I know that we've talked about the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre proposal a bit, but out of that the minister spoke about the subsidization of an in-territory hotel, and it would provide a greater level, and then it goes on to say - I didn't say you - then the minister goes on to say that there might be costs, like different programs and everything.
I spoke a little bit about homelessness the other day and about the awful cartoon of smelly socks and how you sort of put homeless people in one category, and I don't necessarily agree with all that. I am not necessarily so sure that I agree with putting people into a hotel that, well, serves liquor - I guess that is the best way to say it. And some of these folks who have problems and whatnot, whether they are homeless or however it works out, are affected by alcoholism.
I guess what I wanted to ask the minister is if it is sort of like a by-gosh and by-golly, if there are empty rooms here, we are going to book a block of rooms in the Westmark, or we're going to book a block of rooms in the 202, or we're going to book a block of rooms in the old, whatever it's called, whatever hotel? So would the minister be able to elaborate on that? But not for 25 minutes - 20.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I just wanted to get my 25-minute papers ready in case.
Mr. Chair, we have negotiated with a couple of hotels as to how we want to address these needs. Hopefully we've based it on responding to those needs and ensuring that we have safety and security for those people who are in need. We have done it based on the usage of our former shelter, and it just made better sense to work in this direction.
It doesn't respond to the issue of homelessness throughout the territory or even in Whitehorse. Even having the shelter as we did wasn't responding to the problem. So, as you know, there are some major dollars coming from the federal government right now on homelessness. Hopefully that committee or that group will really look at trying to tackle the problem and getting some long-term answers versus patching the job. Hopefully that was our intention in taking part in this program with the federal government, and we just believe, at this point in time, that the way the transient centre was being used wasn't in our best interest. We want to ensure the safety, the security. We want to ensure that there are rules. Even with the shelter and the way it was set up, there were rules there that were very straightforward as far as who could utilize the shelter.
So the Sarah Steele Building is still being used for a detoxification centre, so that hasn't changed. As far as trying to look at the future, hopefully we're trying to, as we all know, build on our alcohol and drug programming, so that building could then be used in maybe another way, if that's the route that the new executive director wants to go. It was based on cost-effectiveness, and I think that was driving the decision. We just could not look at $500 per individual who used it. You know, we could put them up in the best hotel in Vancouver, and we just felt that it - at one time, there might have been some cost-effectiveness for it when it was first started, but those times have changed. So that's the reason why that decision was made.
Mr. Keenan: I'm encouraged and I'd like to ask the minister how long these contracts are in place with the hotels?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: These contracts are not written in stone forever. They are open-ended contracts, but we have guarantees of rooms or what we think our need will be, and this is over a period of time over the summer. So we're not going to be in the lurch there when tourists start coming up the highway. We wanted to make sure that we weren't going to be strapped for that kind of support, particularly during the summer, because we know hotels get very busy then.
So, we have guarantees there for our service.
Mr. Keenan: A suggestion - and, Mr. Chair, I appreciate what the minister is saying by tackling the program, because I don't think the minister will ever convince me - and the minister didn't try to convince me - that it would be a good social move. The minister did say that it's a great fiscal saving, and I appreciate the fiscal realities that we all have to live within.
The minister did say that he talked about the ADS. I think that might be a very good move, because a lot of these folks who are in these situations are folks who could be helped and need that type of help. If they were into more of a holistic approach, I guess, through whatever their culture might be and whatever their expectations as a citizen might be, whether it's a lifeskills program or things like that - and I know that's what the ADS person is going to be looking at. But if we could look at marrying those ideas, because I know that the money is coming. I believe it's coming to the Yukon Housing Corporation. Is that correct?
If that is correct, then I'd think the Yukon Housing Corporation could be a partner or a part of that. So I appreciate that the minister would be looking at that.
Does the minister have a time frame, or is this just something that we're throwing out on the floor of the House now, and the minister is going to say that, in the terms of reference of the new alcohol and drug initiative, this could be a part of it and that long-term thinking should flow into it. Is that how it's going to evolve or work out? I guess there are a lot of other partners that could be involved. DIAND could certainly be involved in it, and the Friendship Centre and those types of things.
Is that a suggestion that has merit?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I guess the member opposite has some interesting thoughts about what could happen, and I would expect that they're part of our ADS report, that came forward when we did our department review. And different things could come out of that, as far as how we build on the holistic approach, as the member opposite uses.
The whole issue of trying to look at what the Yukon Housing Corporation can do, and partnering with our partners here on this side, and looking at the homelessness concept for the whole territory, or at least particularly for Whitehorse - yes, we would like to see that come from the community. We believe that there could be some long-term objectives here. But, as long as we had the shelter, I don't know if it was really being addressed. I think it was a stop-gap measure. Now it's going to be addressed, because hopefully there's a need out there. And we'll try to lay out the concerns as to how we can build for the future.
I think there are all kinds of potential in what we could do. I'm not going to prejudge our new executive director as to where that particular person would take alcohol and drug services, but I know we have some umbrella philosophical views about where we want to go. And I think input is going to be very important - going back to the communities, and going back to the citizens, and working with that person's team.
Yes, I'm sure they're going to have a lot of input as to where we should go.
Mr. Keenan: I appreciate the minister saying that he's not a micromanager, and that it's up to them to bring forth recommendations. You know, we argue about that a little bit, but we don't have to in this case because I did hear the minister say - or, I believe I heard the minister say - that it's not some umbrella-type ideas or umbrella philosophy. Is that what I heard - that he was able to take them and transplant them into the alcohol and drug strategy? You're going to be making this thought that we're talking about on the floor of the Legislature known to those folks. Thank you very much. I very much appreciate that.
Okay, I have those issues. We're getting very close. How much time do I have to kill here?
No, I have issues here, and I will tell the minister that it's my objective to be out of Health debate this week - absolutely. I have talked to others about that. I appreciate that - but we don't necessarily have to be. There is all sorts of time. This is not a legislative agenda or session here, either. So, I mean, anything outside of the 35 days that's due to legislation. I see everybody is listening intently here. We could expand that. It's not a problem. So, this is how we're feeling, though - little remarks that fly back and forth. I have difficulty reading some people that don't sit high in their chair because I can't lip-read them.
I guess within family and children's services, if I could, I believe we had $300,000 flowing to us on April 1, just a couple of days ago. I understand that is the early child development initiative money, and I would like to know what the minister is planning to do with this money to support the expansion and development of these early childhood services.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, I understand that that's part of our budget, or part of our commitment, I guess, from the federal government, and we as a government will be asking the department to come forward with some thoughts and ideas as to how these dollars can be used. Our partners in the communities and so on will be, obviously, presenting some of their views and ideas as to what should happen, so we haven't set - some of these things are in place already - some small aspects that we've put in place - but not all of it.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I heard the minister say "communities," but does the minister have an idea that it would be divided fairly among all communities? It's for early childhood development funding, and I know we have representation of this initiative in, if not all the communities, certainly most of the communities. Could each of the communities expect to benefit?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I wouldn't want to prejudge the final decision, but the dollars are not necessarily in the Health budget at this point. They're in the promise from the federal government. They're dollars that have to be spent on new projects and new ideas. Obviously, all Yukoners will be considered in the process. It's not just earmarked, if that's the route that we're going to be going, so I am not into sort of coming up with the decisions as to what projects, if any, we're going to support at this point.
It may not be project based. It will probably be program based, but the door is not shut on any community or any Yukon initiative. We are just starting to come to grips with the process as to what we have to do to recognize these dollars. They have to be new programs, and the objective is to ensure that we're going to be spending it in the right places.
I wouldn't want to say it's all going to go to Whitehorse or it's all going to go to Teslin or it's all going to go to Old Crow. Right now, we're in the discussion phases as to what we want to do here in this area.
Mr. Keenan: Did I hear the minister say, though, that the funding is not here in our budget at this point in time? My information was that the funding is here, that the funding started flowing on April 1, that we put in interim supply provisions. Is that not correct?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, the dollars are flagged there as potential for early childhood, but there have been no decisions made as to what or how or when this is to be spent. We know we get it for one year and that there are funds coming in the following year. We haven't made decisions as to how or what or where or when -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Well, it's here. I mean, it's in the general budget, yes, as a revenue source, but it's not in the department. It's just in the general budget at this point.
Mr. Keenan: Where in the general budget, if the minister doesn't mind telling me where it's at? 111a
Hon. Mr. Roberts: All of these monies that we negotiated - if the member recalls, there has been a lot of concern on the other side that we did a lot of travelling outside to bring back megadollars, as we did with CHST, and so it is under that title. It is under CHST, and it's under the Department of Finance. So that's how those dollars will be flowing into the Yukon. They come under those titles.
Mr. Keenan: I am sure that when it gets to the Department of Finance, we will be asking questions on that. I appreciate what the minister is saying - by going out and talking with communities and finding out how we can put this into programming and make it better. I appreciate that.
Now, government took over a group home, and I would like to know where the increases to accommodate that takeover of the group home are, and how much did it cost?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, we did take that on because of need. We have a large number of teens right now throughout Canada who are in need of a lot of support. The question here is the cost. Obviously our costs are higher. I am not sure of the exact figure, but I could get that to the member opposite in a legislative return if that's okay.
Mr. Keenan: I'd appreciate that very much, Mr. Chair, if that could happen. I'd also like to hear about - as the minister said, this is a problem across the country, and it's a terrible problem for our youth, our future leaders, to be in some of these situations. So I was wondering what the strategy is that is being developed now to address these needs, and what stage is it at? Just what is the strategy? I'd like to ask that of the minister.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I appreciate that question, Mr. Chair. We have asked the department to come forward with a statement as to where we're at in this whole issue of our needs and what is driving our costs in the area of residential care for some of our young children and some of our older children. So the recognition by the department that it's of major concern is very obvious.
We're hoping to be able to - we're sort of waiting. On one hand, there is the issue of trying to respond to the concerns now, and then obviously looking at the bigger picture, because it's going to need more resources. We have far more youth that are in need and in crisis than we've ever had, particularly at the teenage level. For some very good but not obvious reasons, that seems to be a major problem.
So our costs are escalating dramatically. If you want to see a steep incline, it's in that area.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, in the communities - several of the communities rely on family day homes and, in the case of an illness or emergency, where the main caregiver gets ill or has to leave the community, there might not be a backup option. I was just wondering if this is going to be a part of the strategy, or are there any plans in place right now to address these needs?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, could I have some clarification? Is the member talking about family day homes, like where young children go when parents are working? Or, are we talking about children in crisis? Maybe the member could just clarify for me what he is requesting.
Mr. Keenan: I guess it's primarily on day homes, Mr. Chair, and how it affects those folks, but I know that, in some situations, there is a combination of - the person involved, the child, who in this situation of a family day home, but who has other problems, I guess I could say. And it's a combination of the two. You could have a case where you could have the two there, and in some situations - well, if little Davy has no caregiver here and little Davy has to go to his grandma's, he could. But in other situations here, where little Davy has his own particular problems, he has no place to go other than that. And in that light, that's how I'm asking the question.
So, I guess I could call for time.
I move that we do have closure to this terrific debate. I'd like to report progress and continue this way tomorrow with the minister, if we could.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Keenan that we do now report progress.
Motion agreed to
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Tucker that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2001-02, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Ms. Tucker: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:58 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled April 4, 2001:
Queen's Printer Agency: 2001/02 Business Plan (Jim)
Fleet Vehicle Agency: 2001/02 Business Plan (Jim)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled April 4, 2001:
Fuel costs: cost analysis on comparative costing including natural gas (Duncan)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1177
Piped energy distribution systems: information pertaining to interest to establishing system (Duncan)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1176
Yukon Government Fund Limited: information pertaining to (Duncan)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1258