Thursday, April 5, 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?
Are there any reports of committees?
Petition 2 - received
Clerk: Mr. Speaker and hon. members of the Assembly: I have had the honour to review a petition, being Petition No. 2 of the Second Session of the Thirtieth Legislative Assembly, as presented by the Member for Mount Lorne on April 4, 2001. This petition meets the requirements as to form of the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Speaker: Petition No. 2 is accordingly deemed to be read and received.
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Notices of motion.
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the Premier and Minister of Renewable Resources should live up to the Liberal election commitments to be open and accountable as well as to model professional behaviour in the Legislature;
(2) refusing to answer questions and making personal attacks against opposition members asking questions in Question Period is not being open and accountable; and
(3) using demeaning language as well as misrepresenting the positions of opposition members and opposition parties in the Legislature is disrespectful of members, the electorate and the Legislature itself, and goes against their pledge to model professional behaviour in the Legislature;
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal Caucus to discipline the Premier and the Minister of Renewable Resources for their unprofessional behaviour in the Legislature; and
THAT this House direct the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges to give consideration to changing the name of Question Period in the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly to "Answer Period" and to adding a new rule to the Guidelines for Oral Question Period stating that ministers are to provide answers in the Legislature to the best of their ability rather than to make personal attacks against members asking questions.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Canada Winter Games bid for 2007
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform this House about a significant new policy of this government to support the 2007 Canada Winter Games coming to the Yukon.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: This government feels very strongly about promoting sport and recreation in the Yukon. This is also part of our ongoing commitment to working in cooperation with Yukon communities to promote active and healthy lives.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform this House that our government has approved an additional $12 million in funding for the Canada Winter Games. This funding will include an $8 million multi-year capital funding agreement with the City of Whitehorse that will go toward funding a new flexi-hall for the city. We are also committing an additional $2 million for games-related capital expenses. There will also be an additional $2 million allocated for operations and maintenance spending.
The total contribution of $12 million announced today will be in addition to the $9 million that had been allocated previously to the City of Whitehorse's aquatics centre. The combined amount for the funding announced today and the funding already allocated to the aquatics centre is $21 million.
The funding announced today will, of course, be contingent on significant contributions from the City of Whitehorse, the federal government and the Canada Games Host Society.
The Yukon government is confident that this bid will bring great benefits to Yukoners. These benefits will be in the form of access to new sports facilities, hosting and participating in the games themselves, the national exposure that will boost our tourism industry, all of the construction jobs that will be created by this significant infrastructure development and the long-term benefits of healthier lives for Yukoners.
Governments must be forward-thinking in their outlook, Mr. Speaker, in order to provide a better future for their constituents. The Canada Winter Games will benefit Yukoners for generations to come. Our young people will enjoy improved recreation facilities and exposure to national competition as a legacy to these games. Mr. Speaker, it is for the betterment of all Yukoners that we are pursuing these games today.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. McRobb: I am pleased to rise in support of this ministerial statement today and also would like to welcome the representatives from the games committee to the Legislature. I would ask all members to join me in welcoming them.
Mr. McRobb: Now, Mr. Speaker, this is not a new policy, because previous governments have supported the games as well. This announcement builds on the contributions made by previous governments toward the Canada Winter Games bid, which was successful. These games will make a significant contribution to our economy.
As we know, with any such games, it is very important to appreciate the many volunteers who make it a success. I would like to extend appreciation on behalf of the Legislature to the many volunteers who have participated so far and the many more who will participate in the future to make the games a success.
I would also like to thank the hard-working staff within the Department of Community and Transportation Services and other departments, who have facilitated the bid. It is appropriate that these games should take place in Whitehorse. Whitehorse is the largest community in the Yukon and there are facilities and infrastructure in place to make these games a success. There is also a spirit and excitement, not only in Whitehorse, but all over the territory, to make sure these games are a success, because these games are for us all.
Now, with this money for facilities here in Whitehorse, I would like to take this opportunity to ask the minister to remember that there is still a need for recreation facilities in the communities. Also, community venues do exist or have potential to exist by the time the games arrive. I would like to remind her about the Arctic Winter Games last year, in which the Village of Haines Junction participated with a venue, Mr. Speaker, which was highly successful. This kind of involvement of the communities is very much appreciated.
So, I'll be looking forward to hearing more about funding for the communities so that every person in the Yukon will have access to the best recreation opportunities that we can offer.
Mr. Jenkins: I also rise to thank the minister for an addition $12-million contribution to support Yukon's bid to host the 2007 Canada Winter Games.
Much of the credit for this initiative must be paid to a former Minister of Community and Transportation Services, Mr. Bill Brewster, who made the original pitch back in 1995 for Yukon to host the games and to establish an infrastructure fund to help build the necessary facilities.
Hosting the 2007 Canada Winter Games has been an all-party event, Mr. Speaker, with the previous NDP government also showing its support for the games. I commend the current Liberal government for continuing on with this all-party tradition.
Mr. Speaker, hosting the Canada Winter Games is a major undertaking and will stretch Yukon's resources to the fullest, but I believe we can do an excellent job.
Now, in the minister's response, I would like to ask the minister to advise the House what is the threshold of financial commitment from the other parties - namely the City of Whitehorse, the federal government and the Canada Winter Games host society - for the Yukon Liberal government contributions to be made, and what is the phasing for this $12-million contribution? Will it be in the form of a lump sum or will it be spread out over a number of years?
While this is welcome news, Mr. Speaker, I must inject a note of caution. Will the city and the Yukon government have enough funding available to cover the operating and maintenance costs of running the facilities when the games are over?
Mr. Speaker, by 2007 there will likely be a Yukon Party government in office to open the games and, accordingly, I would like to thank the current minister, as well as the previous ministers, for their hard work.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'm glad the Member for Klondike has his dreams to cling to, and I'm very glad that we have His Worship Mayor Bourassa, Councillor Austin, Doug Hnatiuk - and I can't really see her, but I think it's Cathy Carlyle there in the gallery with us. It's wonderful to have them here for this announcement.
Mr. Speaker, our commitment to the Canada Winter Games goes a long way toward achieving our goal of establishing a better quality of life for Yukoners. And, as I've said, supporting the Canada Winter Games supports our commitment to Yukoners to encourage active lifestyles.
The games will bring in a great deal of new economic activity to the territory. Construction jobs and jobs created by the games themselves will create an economic dividend that will keep Yukoners working, and that is a top priority for this government.
We are looking at this as a partnership with the federal government, the city, the games committee and ourselves. It is going to take all four parts of the puzzle to make the games work. By supporting the games, this government is continuing to actively address several of the priorities that we outlined for Yukoners in our throne speech of October 23, 2000: economic benefits to Yukoners, infrastucture development, and the support and promotion of healthy lifestyles.
I'm very proud that this government will play such a large part in this major event for the Yukon, and I do recognize the part that previous governments have had to play in this process as well.
Speaker: If there are no further statements by ministers, this then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Protected areas strategy
Mr. McRobb: My question today is for the Minister of Renewable Resources, regarding the Yukon protected areas strategy. This morning we heard that the coalition of resource and business groups known as the group of seven has again decided to walk away from the YPAS table. This is the second time that this group has chosen to boycott this minister's own process.
Can the minister tell us what his next steps will be to bring all the players of the YPAS process together?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate the question from the Member for Kluane, and I just learned this morning that the group of seven had changed their minds again, after committing to both the Premier and I that they would be there. This is a direct result of the legacy that we inherited with respect to YPAS and the abuse and interference by the politicos in the previous government that occurred in the implementation of the first exercise on the YPAS.
What are we doing, Mr. Speaker? We are listening to the PAC. They have been charged with the responsibility to forward recommendations directly to Cabinet, and that is exactly what we are doing. We are following through on our commitment.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister is out of touch, and he continues to finger point in this Legislature. When are this minister and this government going to stand up and take the responsibility of the government? They promised to fix the process. Instead, Mr. Speaker, they seem to have neutered the process.
Now, this Liberal government used YPAS as a political issue to get elected, and now they have a campaign debt to pay. They promised to fix the process; they promised to get the Chamber of Mines back to the table. The Liberals raised expectations. They politicized the process, and when they did that, they seriously jeopardized it. Is this minister still committed to unilateral action in order to live up to his promise to introduce YPAS legislation by this fall?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, the Member for Kluane recently admitted in the news that the former government had made mistakes regarding the designation of Fishing Branch. They admitted that, and we're trying to fix that. The Premier and I spent an hour and a half talking to the PAC members this morning, endorsing their efforts toward helping us fix a mess that we inherited, and we're going to continue to do that.
Unlike the previous government, Mr. Speaker, we have the courage to tackle the tough issues facing this territory. This government sees a territory where there is a balance between industry, tourism and the environment. We know that there can be balance, much more than the members opposite were aware. This government is showing leadership by attending these meetings, by being there, by answering questions, by helping wherever we can and wanting and respecting the consultation process to help us fix the process.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, when I decided today to wear my schizophrenic Liberal tie, I didn't realize it was going to have such a resounding effect. We see the minister switching from lap dog to pit bull. Who let the dogs out, Mr. Speaker?
The Liberals made a number of campaign commitments and now they are caught in a trap they made themselves. This is their process. From day one they have sent mixed messages. They have talked about preserving YPAS; they have talked about changing it; they have talked about getting the Chamber of Mines back to the table; they have talked about unilateral action. When is this minister going to sit down with his colleague, the Minister of Economic Development, so they can get their act together and the Yukon protected areas strategy can move forward?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I am glad the member acknowledged that he is wearing a schizophrenic tie, because it bears the bearer, as well.
I am following through on the commitment I made to my constituents when I was running for this post. It was brought up quite often, Mr. Speaker. People want the Yukon protected areas strategy in the territory. I will acknowledge the efforts of the members opposite when they did accept the protected areas strategy document. It is one of the best in the country, and everyone has acknowledged that, including the Whitehorse mining initiative.
So, we are fixing a process that was bungled. The ball was dropped by the former Minister of Renewable Resources when he didn't acknowledge that the process had been followed, when they weren't accountable, supportive or consultative. They missed steps, and people were ignored. We're fixing that, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Protected areas strategy
Mr. Fentie: I have a follow-up question to the Premier in her capacity as Minister of Economic Development, on the same issue.
There is a fundamental problem here, which is the reason why the business coalition has walked away from the table again. It bears in mind the fact that there are some deep divisions in this caucus across the floor and the departments related to this matter.
The Premier has made a commitment to the business coalition, and this Minister of Renewable Resources and his department have contradicted that commitment. The Premier is the boss. The buck stops at the Premier's desk.
Will this Premier commit to sit down with her colleague, the Minister of Renewable Resources, and their related deputies and iron out the differences among themselves, the long-outstanding differences between their departments, and let's get this territory back on track?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I am so eager to respond to these questions that I didn't let the Speaker acknowledge me. I apologize.
The member behind me, the Minister of Health and Social Services, has pointed out several times that the members opposite are excellent at putting forward smoke and mirrors. One of the smoke and mirrors that they are trying to conjure up is that there is a lack of cooperation between caucus and Cabinet, between Cabinet and caucus, and among Cabinet members and caucus members on this side.
Mr. Speaker, that couldn't be further from the truth. The Minister of Economic Development and I sit down on a constant basis, working out and acknowledging that the YPAS itself is a good thing. We are moving forward and being consultative and talking to industry. The Premier and I did sit down in the Cabinet room with those interests who walked away the first time, listened to the points, made absolutely no backroom deals, as the members opposite were so good at doing while they were in office, and we did work it out. We left the members to discuss the issue themselves. We came back into the room, and they committed to come back to the working group, Mr. Speaker, and we were expecting them today.
Mr. Fentie: I think the problem here is the backroom deal that the Premier cooked up with the business coalition has fallen apart, and they were clear. They have walked away from the process because what the Premier committed to do did not materialize, and this minister's own department contradicted that very commitment.
Let's try this another way. At the recent business summit, the business community was clear, very clear. This economy in this territory is in crisis, and this government is making it worse. One of the lightning rods in that regard is the Yukon protected areas strategy.
Now, the Premier stated today that she's a results-oriented person. Well, the business community wants results. It wants the Yukon protected areas strategy scrapped. Is this Premier's intention to scrap the protected areas strategy?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I just wish, Mr. Speaker, that the members opposite would have been in the room with the Premier and me, listening to the members of the public advisory committee this morning, Mr. Speaker, and they would have heard first-hand - not, just as suggested by the Member for Kluane, finger pointing. They pointed the finger directly at the previous government for the problems that we are trying to sort out now and acknowledged the good work that the Premier and I are doing in meeting with them and providing our best efforts to get them to agree.
I would encourage the Member for Klondike to encourage the group of seven, instead of continually espousing that there is no balance in the group. Well, if he is so concerned, why doesn't he encourage them to come to the public advisory committee with their direct input that is coming directly to Cabinet?
Mr. Fentie: It's probably unfortunate that we weren't in the same room with the Premier and the minister. We might have been able to help the situation and not be at this impasse, and it's creating a serious problem for certainty in this territory. This reeks of the incompetence of the members opposite. The coalition wants a number of conditions incorporated into YPAS. They are clear. The Premier committed to them that she would address that. This minister's department and this minister contradicted that.
I ask the Premier this: will she honour her commitment to the coalition and incorporate the conditions that they so desire, so that they will come back to the strategy and we can get this thing back on track and start building this territory as it should be?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The coalition, as we had met - both the Premier and I were in the room at the same time talking to the committee - they had committed themselves, Mr. Speaker, to come back directly and talk with the public advisory committee.
We are being open and accountable. That's something this government said it would do, and we are doing. The public advisory committee is an open and accountable process, Mr. Speaker, and the members opposite have no concept of openness and accountability. They have no concept of legitimizing and acknowledging ongoing processes. They do not understand the concept of consultation. So that is what we are doing on this side constantly. My fellow ministers, my fellow caucus members, are constantly being open and accountable.
Question re: Protected areas strategy, public advisory committee meetings
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Premier. Back on March 13 of this year, the Premier, in an address to the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, invited the group of seven coalition members representing industry leaders to return to the Yukon Protected Areas Strategy Public Advisory Committee meetings that are scheduled to resume today. This morning a spokesperson for the coalition of all the major industries in the Yukon issued a news release respectfully declining the Premier's invitation, stating that the meeting process, as it exists, will not allow any meaningful participation by economic development proponents.
Can the Premier explain to the House why, in view of the Yukon's devastated economy, she is refusing to honour her commitment to this broad coalition of industry leaders?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, the Premier is going full-tilt on honouring and fulfilling the commitments that she has made, not only to interest groups in the territory but to other locations in the territory as well. I'm glad the Member for Klondike did bring up the news release that was put out by the coalition. Right within the letter, it states, "The Yukon government has stated within the Yukon protected areas strategy that the Yukon government recognizes the importance of a resource base to the economic interest of Yukon people and respects the concepts of sustainable development."
Mr. Speaker, these members acknowledge that fact and the Premier has continually supported that notion and encourages those members to come back to the PAC to put their input directly in. If the member is so concerned, I again challenge the member to have contact with the group of seven and encourage them to include their voice in the public advisory committee process.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government might recognize these concerns but they're not doing anything with them or about them. The spokesperson for the coalition said today that the government is reluctant to guarantee that Yukoners' concerns will be addressed effectively at these meetings, and outlined eight issues for the government to consider.
The Yukon Party will go on record as supporting all eight issues and I would ask the Premier to go on record as to what issues her government supports, if any at all.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, if any one of the members of the coalition had attended, they would have heard directly from the Premier and I that we have not only reaffirmed our commitments to the process, but we have specifically stated that we are committed to a full and consultative process through the public advisory committee.
Mr. Speaker, another fact is that every time the coalition walks away, they increase the length of their list. We are encouraging them. There is still time to come back to the public advisory committee, and the doors are always open to any one or the whole of the group of seven to come back and directly put in to the process.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that's exactly the problem. The process set out by this Liberal government does not, will not and cannot address these issues. They're filtered down and vetted to nothing.
Now, this Liberal government prides itself on consultation; however, as the industry coalition has discovered, there is no guarantee that their issues or concerns will ever be considered by this government.
Can the Premier advise the House why she is catering totally to the environmentalist movement and not balancing their concerns with the legitimate concerns of business and industry, which are also struggling to keep the Yukon economy alive?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Representatives of the business community pride themselves on following through on commitments. They want the government to follow through and hold the government to following through on its commitments.
When the group of seven were discussing the issues with the Premier and me in the Cabinet room, they did present a list of five conditions at that time. The Premier was very clear that, through the open and accountable process, they were to directly submit their concerns to the YPAS Public Advisory Committee. In turn, those concerns would come directly to Cabinet.
After we discussed all the details and issues, the group of seven unanimously committed to coming back to the public advisory committee. So, I am wondering, Mr. Speaker, who let whom down on this issue? The business sector honours and respects commitment. We fully expected them to be there, following through on their commitment to the Premier and me.
Question re: Hydrogen project, sole-source feasibility study
Mr. Fairclough: I have a question for the Premier, Mr. Speaker. I hate having to bring the subject up again, but the Premier's answer yesterday left a lot of questions to be answered.
And I would like to thank the Premier for finally getting the documents down to us that we asked for yesterday. In the future, I hope that the government members will demonstrate openness and accountability by not giving documents to the media without also providing them to the opposition.
I'd like to ask the Premier if she has personally read all the documents in that package distributed by her chief of staff, and is she familiar with the contents?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the members opposite were provided, out of courtesy - a courtesy that we often found lacking when they were on this side of the House - with information, as per a request yesterday in the House.
Now, the member opposite is clearly fishing or continuing his mudslinging expedition. If the member opposite believes he has a charge against me in some kind of a conflict, I would challenge the member opposite to put up or shut up. If the member opposite has an allegation to make, make it to Mr. Hughes. There is a process for accusing a member of conflict, and I invite the member to follow it.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, the only mudslinging that's happening in this House is from the Liberal side, and it's evident on camera and in the Blues, every day. It seems to me the Liberals are hiding something and cannot answer questions directly, and I don't know why the Premier persists in making things more difficult for herself. The conflicts commissioner told her on May 25 what she needed to do to avoid being in a conflict of interest, according to the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act and the Executive Council Office's Yukon Code of Ethics. Why did the Premier wait until November 7 to do what the conflicts commissioner told her she should do?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have fully complied with the conflicts commission and conflict legislation in this territory. If the member opposite has an allegation to make, I challenge him to make it instead of continuing the type of mudslinging accusations that they subjected other members in this House to. If the member has an accusation to make, there's a process to follow. It's outlined in legislation. I can send over a copy to the member opposite. If the member has an allegation, make it to Mr. Hughes.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, it's our right on this side of the House to ask questions of the ministers who are in charge of making decisions regarding public monies, and we will. We will continue to ask those questions.
The information the Premier's chief of staff handed out to the media included a briefing note from the acting deputy minister, which is also dated November 7, 2000. This briefing note provided background information about unfulfilled contracts between the department and Total Point.
Can the Premier tell the House if that November 7 briefing note marked the first exchange between her senior department officials and the minister regarding this unfulfilled commitment?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: If the member has an accusation to make about a conflict of interest, the member makes the accusation and makes the allegation to Mr. Hughes. That is the process to follow for conflict allegations, Mr. Speaker, and until such time as the member opposite is prepared to make such an allegation, the member should end his mudslinging and have the courage to make the accusation to Mr. Hughes. I challenge the member opposite. If the member opposite believes there has been a conflict, I challenge the member. Make the accusation to Mr. Hughes. I'm certain he'll provide the member with an answer.
Question re: Bullying in schools
Ms. Netro: My question is for the Minister of Education. This week, a conference on bullying is taking place. The issue of violence and intimidation is a concern for students, parents and teachers in Yukon communities and across Canada. Can the minister identify what the Department of Education is doing to eliminate bullying in Yukon schools?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, I very much appreciate the question from the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, as we both attended the evening events of last night. There was a very emotional presentation from the father of a student who was shot in the Taber school. It was very touching and gave us a lot of food for thought.
Bullying perpetrated the event that the presenter at the conference emotionally espoused. His son was a victim of a bullying victim. To answer the member, bullying and anxiety within school is not unique to the Yukon or unique to Canada or unique to the United States. It is a problem all over North America, and it is a problem that we are directly involved with here in the territory. Part of the bullying conference was to bring awareness and offer suggestions to remedy the situation, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Netro: The impacts of bullying on an individual range from anxiety to depression and suicide. Grades can drop, and a child may drop out of activities. Children who bully have often been bullied themselves. These children may not know other ways to relate to others. Other people may not take their threats very seriously.
Will the minister identify what specific policies are in place to help teachers ensure that they recognize and support children who are being bullied?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: There are programs and initiatives already occurring within our schools in the territory. A number of caregivers whom I talked to last night indicated to me that - as we're aware, as the Minister of Health and Social Services is aware - we do lack some financial resources, but we are making best efforts with the resources that we have. The Department of Education is certainly aware of this. We do have psychologists who provide assistance wherever and whenever they can. There are a number of initiatives that are in effect within most Yukon schools. It is a problem. We recognize it as a problem, and we are making best efforts to work around the problem, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Netro: Without clear support, some teachers may contribute to bullying by turning a blind eye to what's happening in their classes. What mechanism is in place to ensure that teachers have the skills, the mandate, and the support they need so that they are part of the solution and not part of the problem?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Again, Mr. Speaker, I thank the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin for bringing very poignant and concerned questions to the House, because they are certainly of concern to me. I am approached directly by parents whose children do suffer in one way, shape, or form from bullying, from physical to mental and, as the member had pointed out, where there may be a blind eye to an incident that has gone on in our schools. There are many, many faces to bullying, and it was even suggested to me that one of the greatest places for bullying, Mr. Speaker, is this Chamber. I think the point that was made was that bullying is not only just in our schools. It's in our homes; it's a part of our social fabric. It's part of what makes up our personal drives and ambitions and we sometimes overlook the care and giving that we should be providing to each other from time to time, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: School playground, Teslin
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the same minister, the Minister of Education, and I'm certainly looking forward to the minister making his best efforts in identifying a solution for this problem again.
Folks in Teslin have been working together - parents, teachers, children, community members at large - to ensure that their children are supervised and occupied during the whole day. You see a whole interaction of people coming to the school and participating, because we, in Teslin, are maybe suffering from some of those same initiatives. It was six weeks ago when the school council, chair requested from the department - and he did follow the process - that the playground be ploughed so that they might be able to have the children go out in more organized types of sports and let off some steam and do these different initiatives.
I'm wondering, will the minister now direct the department? Because the department is reluctant to do it, I understand. All the way from the bottom up to the top, there's agreement to do it, but when you get to somewhere in the top they say, "No, we can't do it."
So I'd like for the minister to ensure that that would happen.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I was unaware of that particular situation, but I do appreciate the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes bringing it to my attention. I will certainly look into it and will discuss it, if it requires discussion, with the Minister of Community and Transportation Services to see if we can accommodate and hopefully mitigate the circumstances that led to this as well.
Mr. Keenan: I appreciate that, Mr. Speaker, but there's a real sense of urgency to this. If we wait another six weeks - shucks, if we wait another two weeks, the way the sun is shining, there won't be a problem. The school does want to get to it.
So, I'd like to ask the minister if he could just be more focused and direct the department to do that, because, look, the sun is shining right now, the kids are getting full of energy, and sometimes they get cranky and bored. So I would very much like for the minister to ensure that this does happen. And, in the absence of it happening, would the minister then fund a contingency plan or something to find a safer place for the children to play so that, as a community, we can work together for the benefit of our children. The children are our future.
So, I would like for the minister to give me a more focused answer if possible.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, the Member for Watson Lake posed a question in a fashion that encourages cooperation. This happened earlier in the week. The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is posing a question in a very similar manner. So, I have no objection at all to responding in a forthright manner and making best efforts to accommodate the request that he has made across the floor of the House.
Question re: Protected areas strategy
Mr. Fentie: I have a follow-up question for the Premier, and I urge the Premier to stand on her feet, engage and answer the question. It's going back to the Yukon protected areas strategy issue.
The business coalition has made it very clear to the public that they were prepared to go back to the table, work this through and create a situation that will help bring certainty to this territory around the protected areas issue. They have stated that they walked away again because commitments made to them by the Premier have been contradicted by the Department of Renewable Resources, the department that the minister sitting next to her is in charge of.
Is the Premier saying that the business coalition's statements in public are not the facts?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Again the smoke and mirrors. They are very good at it; I won't deny that. There is no dissension between the Minister of Economic Development and the Minister of Renewable Resources. We work together very well. We work in a collaborative way.
When we met the coalition members, we did indicate, quite clearly - and we did receive a commitment from those members that they would honour the process that we had structured; namely, them forwarding their points and concerns through the public advisory committee. We took them at their word, Mr. Speaker. There is also a degree of respect and trust.
We are desperately trying to establish that respect and trust. I would hope that the coalition members - the group of seven - would respect the process to the public advisory committee; that they will respect those individuals who are now there forwarding those notions, ideas and suggestions that they have contained in their letter, even though they are not there. So, there are members of industry there, Mr. Speaker, speaking on their behalf, despite what is rather a disrespect for those members speaking on their behalf.
So we are getting the message, Mr. Speaker, and we will continue to listen and get the message.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, there is absolutely no smoke and mirrors in this regard. I'm merely stating on the floor of this Legislature what has already been stated clearly in the public.
By having this minister's department contradicting commitments made by the Premier to the business coalition is no way, in our minds on this side of the House, a building of trust and a constructive working relationship - I ask the Premier again and I urge the Premier to stand on her feet and bring clarity to the situation. Did the Premier commit to the business coalition, or did she not, that she would incorporate the seven conditions that the coalition wanted to see in the strategy? It's a yes-or-no question.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, it isn't a yes-or-no question, and the member opposite fully knows that.
The second point is that when the Premier and I did commit to the group of seven in the Cabinet room, collectively, in unison, and in full agreement with each other, there were only five points brought to our attention at that time. The Member for Klondike is talking about eight points now, and the Member for Watson Lake is back down to seven. Well, the true fact is, Mr. Speaker - and for the attention of the Member for Watson Lake - the group of seven presented five points in a letter, a copy of which I'm sure he has - five points. Together, the Premier and I committed that there would be no sweetheart backroom deals that got this whole process in trouble in the first place, and we did receive a full commitment from all members of the group of seven that they would be at the next public advisory committee meeting. Mr. Speaker, not only did they let us down, they let the members of the public advisory committee down.
Mr. Fentie: Well, it's very comforting to see that the minister knows that it was only five conditions and the group numbered seven people. That's a good start.
Also, I must warn the minister, the members opposite, the Liberal government, can't continue to blame people. They're now down to blaming people driving through the territory. They have blamed everybody else. They are in charge of this process. It's their process. They have completely dismantled it. It's going nowhere.
I ask the Premier again, does she have any intention of incorporating the five conditions that the business coalition wants to see, so that they can come back to the table and get this process back on the rails?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, the process is back on the rails. The public advisory committee is in their second set of meetings and we will be expecting, from the public advisory committee, not only the recommendations that come out of the committee but all the raw data will be delivered directly to my office and to the Premier's office. It will be presented to Cabinet in its entirety.
That's how this government operates, Mr. Speaker. I don't know to whom the member opposite was referring when he said "driving down the highway". Gee. Apollo 13, tune in. The thing is, Houston is grounded. Houston is here, and we know exactly what we're doing and where we're going. We will respect the advice and recommendations that we as Cabinet receive from the public advisory committee.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Good afternoon. I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will recess until 2:05 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We'll continue with general debate on the Department of Health and Social Services.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 2001-02 - continued
Department of Health and Social Services - continued
Chair: I believe Mr. Keenan has the floor.
Mr. Keenan: In Question Period, we were talking about something that was very serious to community development, to the future of the Yukon Territory and the world, and that's about school bullying. And the Minister of Education spoke about partnerships and coming together, and he suggested that there might be an active role, or some kind of a role, for the Department of Health and Social Services. I would appreciate if the minister could expand on what role the department would be playing there, in particular in the communities and if there's any functioning programming.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: As a former school administrator, as the member opposite knows, I spent 32 years in the schools, and that was always an issue, throughout my whole career. And I definitely do agree with the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes. I think all departments have to work on how we're going to beat this - I call it a bit of a major problem - in our communities.
I also believe, Mr. Chair, that it's very important that communities look at what they have to do, as partners. I'm hearing quite often from some people, "Well, what is the government going to do about it?" And I'm just saying to myself that government means everybody. I don't want parents telling me that the government must look after this problem. I want parents to sit down with us as government and come up with some creative solutions. So I really endorse what the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is saying, that we get together and work together on this very important issue.
It's just one of many, and I would like to support that.
Mr. Keenan: Well, I appreciate that, Mr. Speaker. I take it from the minister's answer that government is willing and able to work with partnerships. I also appreciate what the minister said about how it is simply not government that must take the lead. I am very proud and pleased to be able to say, right here on the floor of the Legislature, that the community of Teslin is very much taking aggressive action - well, maybe "aggressive" is the wrong word, but certainly they are taking proactive action, and they are very much focused on it. To see the partners involved - the parents and, in some cases, extended families, not just the immediate mother and father, but those types of partnerships. The Tlingit Tribal Council is involved, and the mayor and council are involved in support levels.
I very much appreciate that the government could help facilitate that and very much be able to find ways of how to do things, and I appreciate the departmental bureaucrats having the attitude of how we can accommodate versus why we cannot do something. The situation that I described in Question Period this afternoon, to which the Minister of Education said that he would look into it - it is deeply appreciated.
So if we were able to continue to facilitate this kind of community-driven action, I feel that we would be much further ahead in defining this problem. This is an old problem, and it's a territorial problem. I'm not sure if I really have anything more to say on that. Maybe I could move on here a bit.
I'd like to just go back. Yesterday, just toward the end of the debate, when the minister and I were talking about different initiatives, we were talking about the early childhood development initiative. There are a couple of situations here that I'd like to point out to the minister that have been brought to my attention.
Now, the minister said that the $300,000 is in the general budget for this year. I would encourage the department or the minister to get that money moved over to where it should be, because certainly this money is for a very worthwhile project. Here in front of me I have the letter from the Prime Minister, in which he talked about the early childhood development program. And it's unique.
Now, I think the minister might have misunderstood my question yesterday, because the minister said it has to be for new programming, and I understand that that is not necessarily so. It could be to look at existing programs, to strengthen community. It's for strengthening early childhood development and learning and care, improving parenting and family support, promoting healthy pregnancy, birth and infancy. So there's a program there.
I also understand that it's a five-year program that is going to be $300,000 to the Yukon for each year. Yesterday I think it was told to me that it would be for one to two years.
I understand there will be escalators built into the program, and I also understand that we're supposed to have some base programming or new programming in place for September, I believe. And I'd like to ask the minister if the minister would like to further clarify that situation, if I am indeed correct.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: For clarification, I think the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes has pretty well put the definition on the length of time. It is a five-year plan. This year it's $288,000 to the Yukon. My understanding is that it's based on a per capita allotment. There is an escalator built in it, as the member has said, and it will be a little over $300,000 next year and in subsequent years.
The objective again is to build on some of the initiatives that the federal government is trying to promote with provinces and territories on improving the lot of our zero- to six-year-old child. That's really the major objective here, and that philosophy has finally materialized into some concrete results in the fact that, if you put the resources at the beginning stages, hopefully you're going to be spending less at the other end, when they reach the teens and adulthood.
So, that is really the objective - to look at how we can better the lot of our pre-school and some of the children who are in school but at the very beginning stages, and how we can help families.
The member opposite has also defined some of the roles that we could be utilizing the resources with, and that's looking at how caregivers are provided support or how programming that's leading to better educational opportunities could be part of the process as well. It's wide open. It can be addressed to some of the continuing programs.
Although it also very much defines it, it also should be defined with new programs, as well. It is a real combination. They have not tied one's hands with the utilization of the resource, but I think it is one that we can really build on for the future. No decision has been made at this point in time, as this is just the beginning of this fiscal year. Over time, I'm sure we will be looking at where we want to go with this.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister himself - I believe it was in December on the floor of this Legislature - did put forth a concrete option for these funds. That commitment in December that the minister put forth was to put funds into the pockets of child care workers. That was a promise made on the floor of this Legislature, and I know that there were great expectations. I just heard the minister speak about the front-line workers - I guess we can say it in that way. I was wondering when these front-line workers will be able to see these benefits?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: That's another option. I believe that we wanted to ensure that we're addressing those very early years. That's one of the suggestions that has come forward. As I said, there have been no decisions made.
One of the problems that we've had with the whole issue of moving quickly on any kind of initiative is that the federal government will also be announcing ECD aboriginal programming. We are sort of waiting for those announcements to see how we might be able to work together. We've received very positive comments from First Nations. They want to work with us, because they realize that when their funding comes forward, they divide it into 14 piles and the piles are very small. There's not a lot they can do with that. They are hoping that, with a bigger pot, together we can come up with some real concrete approaches.
That is one of the reasons why we haven't gone lickety-split ahead of the game, because we believe that First Nations are very strong partners in the future of the Yukon, as well.
Mr. Keenan: Well, I thank the minister for that, but I'm not going to let the minister off the hook quite so easily. I understand what the minister's saying, and when we have multiple jurisdictions, I guess, if you want to look at it in that manner, it does complicate it, but it could provide a better service also, if we take the time to work together. So I appreciate that.
So, I have two questions. Does this mean that there is not a commitment now or the minister is not going to honour a commitment that he made on the floor of the Legislature, or is it going to be considered one of the options at this point in time? The other question I have for the minister is on the First Nation funding. I'd like to clarify if it was from DIAND, and when do we expect that on the floor?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Thank you. I appreciate the member's question. Again, I guess, when we were coming up with thoughts and ideas - I really want to be very upfront with the member opposite about the fact that we were looking at ideas and options. We did not commit ourselves to anything at this point, because it's not for me to make those commitments. It's up to the people who are on the front line who have come forward with ideas. That's hopefully where the recommendations will come from.
I suppose, as we speak, that's happening. You know, the groups out there are talking about different ways that this could be used.
The second part of that question is regarding the First Nations and when that announcement is to happen. Our department has been in touch with DIAND as recently as last week and we expect an announcement any time, but it hasn't been made yet. I'm sure the member opposite knows how long it takes sometimes for the feds to operate and how long it takes them to come up with their announcements.
Hopefully it will be soon, because we'd like to see this program start this year, and I think it's important for us. I'll probably find out in May. I'm going to a ministers meeting in Regina, I think it is. Hopefully there will be some announcement before then, but obviously there will be some discussion around this.
Mr. Keenan: I would like to encourage the minister, then, to - if we have the resources in general revenue - take the resources out of general revenue and put them where they belong in the Health department and to see if we can move interimly just a little bit with these dollars, because we do have the resources there now. I understand the concept of greater planning and working with partners, but the reality that is on the ground at this point in time - and again, I do take the minister back to the commitment that was made to put those funds into the place of those child care workers.
Maybe I could look at it in a different attitude. Has the minister done any number crunching as to what that cost would be on that commitment made in December?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I don't want to get into a sort of argument here about what ideas were floating out there in December. Ideas - that's what they were, Mr. Chair. They were looking at some possible ideas, looking at some ways that we could move ahead in this early childhood area. I guess my concern is that if we even came up with numbers at this point, the member opposite would say, "Well, you've already made a decision." And then the other argument would be, "Well, how come you're making a decision when you haven't really talked to the partners?"
So we're trying to keep it all sort of on an even playing field, so no decisions have been made. I think it was an idea to pursue. It wasn't meant to be, kind of, "That's the answer." It could be one of the answers and, when we move down that track, I would hope that all these partners would be making suggestions to us as to how we want to proceed.
I don't want to prejudge that, so I appreciate the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes coming up with looking at some specifics, but I cannot answer that at this point.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, many folks who work in the field out there are going to be disappointed when they hear that, because I remember people being ecstatic about this and people would stop me in the street and say, "Hey, look at what's happening." I do believe that, at that point in time, it was a very good thing, so I would appreciate if we could in the future be much more focused, if I could say it in that manner, so that we don't raise people's expectations.
There was a clear commitment on December 12, 2000, when the minister said - it goes on, and in the last sentence, the minister clarified and said that we're going to put the money in the pockets of those people who are most dear to our child care at this point, and they are the child care workers.
So, there has been a commitment. If the minister is reneging on that commitment at this point in time, I feel that we should have some type of communications strategy, I would say immediately, to get out to those people, so that you might be able to achieve a greater buy-in into the overall process. One of the segments the people started to think they were going to have and to receive is more or less not there at this point in time. Although there was a commitment made, it's not necessarily there at all. It's on to an option kind of thing, I guess.
So I will clarify that, in my mind and in the minds of a lot of others, there has been a clarification made or a commitment made by the minister and we will be talking about that later, I guess.
If I could move on a bit here. We talked earlier about diagnostic services for FAS and FAE and I certainly commend the department for moving in that direction and getting tools in place. But I was wondering, what is the minister really planning to do to address the need for that diagnostic service here in the Yukon? If I remember right, there is a two-year waiting list outside and, as we know, we have a great problem here with that.
So we have gone part of the way, and I was wondering when we could expect to go the rest.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, I would agree with the member opposite that FAS is a very serious problem in the north and in the Yukon. Hopefully, over time, it will be even less serious because of the actions of communities, NGO groups and, hopefully, government, which will reduce the need for those kinds of services in the future. I optimistically hope that this will be something that, in five years' time, we can say that we don't have any more FAS individuals. This is what is going to pay off.
We have a working group. And I think I shared with the member opposite who is included in that working group. It's a list about a page long. The working group is composed of people who are from the community and who work for government in different departments. The objective of the working group is to come up with ideas or thoughts or directions where we as a government should be going.
They are looking at this whole issue because of some of the work that has been done by some of our NGO groups in looking at what else we should do in our community in order to ensure that we are dealing with the problem. What they are looking at is how we can look at different diagnostic models. They are going to be coming up with, as I understand it, four or five options for us as a government. We will be reporting back with the options in early June, so I think that there's some very hard work going on right now.
I believe that, with all working groups, we have to challenge them to come up with some thoughts and ideas, and then we have to take the ideas and then look at what we as a government can do to make sure that there is progress on them. So, I am very pleased to share this with the member opposite. In the very near future, by June, we should have something at least out there for the public to look at as to what we can do for the future.
Mr. Keenan: Well, I take particular delight in hearing that. It seems to me that we are looking to identify the issue and how we can go to it to make it better, I guess. I was wondering, though, are there any training initiatives for doctors? Are local doctors going to be a part of those recommendations? Where does the minister put training into place at this point in time?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I thank you again, Mr. Chair, for the question. I think it's much like what we're trying to do with all the crises that we're having in our society regarding recruitment for nurses, doctors, and so on. We're in the same mode with FAS. There will be some short-term goals that we can work on immediately or are already doing. There will be some medium-sized goals that we can look at as to what we can do - if we do this or do that - and then there will be some long-term goals.
Obviously, educational and professional development for our professionals is very important. As you know, many of the doctors have taken on many of the professional development processes over the last few years in order to make themselves more aware of how to identify - and many doctors admit that they need more of this. So it would all be part of that package, although it doesn't mean that we're going to wait until the package comes before we do anything. I think things are happening right now, but we want to raise the temperature in that area. So hopefully we're going to see far more happening over the next while as to what we can do to ensure that we are prepared to deal with our problems.
Mr. Keenan: I appreciate that we have short-term, immediate, and long-term goals. That's very much appreciated.
Again, I guess I'd like to ask, now that we have the registry in place - of course, the registry is for FAS because it is a reportable condition, and it has been established - has training been planned to allow physicians to accurately use that registry, so that they do move together?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Thanks again for the question. I agree with the member opposite that this is ongoing. I think the registry, when it was first established - a protocol was put in place by our chief medical officer at that time, Dr. Timmermans, and Dr. Bousquet, who worked with Dr. Timmermans on it. They used that protocol to inform, or to give professional development to, all the doctors as to how and what the identification procedures would be.
Now, the educational process as to where you continue, that is the objective here of our working group, to work on that identification. That's for statistical purposes, and then work from the situation of knowing what our concerns are, and then how we build into our system the protections for, number one, preventing the problem, and number two, looking after the individuals who are already afflicted with this particular problem.
So I think a variety of things are happening, and this is what this working group is to do. It's to be kind of the guide so that we can move on and not just say, "We've done one thing and we're finished, so we don't have to do anything else."
It's kind of an ongoing process, and hopefully we're going to see new ideas and new thoughts come back to us all the time.
Mr. Keenan: I certainly appreciate the approach that the minister is taking on this, and talking about the working group and diagnosis, and having the immediate, the short term and the long term.
I'd like to ask the minister if the minister would be able to apply that same philosophy to what we were talking earlier, the early childhood development.
Now, there has been a commitment made on the floor of this Legislature. If we do have a process for initiatives within diagnosis in the working group, could we maybe apply that same philosophy of short term, immediate and long-term goals into early childhood development and put some of that money into the pockets where the minister said it should go?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I would expect that, if we have a five-year target here of support coming from the federal government, that would be the objective, to look at sort of the short term and the most immediate and then the medium and the long term, and then look at the end of the target.
As we well know, when the federal government does things and we don't prepare for it, then guess what? We are left holding the bag, I guess you would say - and you can literally use that - and it's not a bag of money either. It's often an empty bag. So, what we have to do is ensure that we are planning for the eventual resuscitation of any of these programs, if that is when their target time is, and not hope with our arms crossed and our fingers crossed that they are going to continue it. I think that a lot of things can happen in five years.
I would agree that that is a good move in looking at short-term, long-term and medium-sized goals. Hopefully those groups that will be bringing forth their recommendations - that is the kind of planning that they will be doing.
Mr. Keenan: Yes, I remember so often in my career of governance and - you know, I think that is going on close to 16 or 18 years that I have been involved in this. And for that number of years, I used to think that these pilot projects were great, such wonderful things, because they give you a chance to express yourself and look at new ways of doing things. I heard the minister speak of the Health minister, Allan Rock, and I will never forget Allan Rock, as the Justice minister at the time, telling me, as the chief representative as the Tlingit First Nation, along with the elders there, that we were the prototype of aboriginal justice. We were that ship and, "We are going to work with you." Well, that really didn't ever come about.
I started to take more of a negative look at it. I decided to take a different approach to issues, so that when the folks within the federal departments came and said, "We have the resources to do this," I tried to get them to step outside the box. I think the Member for Klondike talked yesterday about stepping outside the box. I encouraged them to step outside the box so that we didn't classify it as a pilot project, because I agree with what the minister is saying. The feds will promise; it's a lot of times politically driven on a situation that's immediate, and then they move on and leave us holding that bag.
I appreciate exactly what the minister is saying. I'd appreciate it if the minister could move forward on that process he's talking about. We know what the goals are but let's put it into a process of five years and I'm sure that, with good lobbying and me working with the minister to ensure that these things happen, we can make good things happen.
I think I heard the minister say in the House that we're going to be sending around 45 or 44 people, I can't remember how many, to the FAS conference that's coming up in April. I was wondering about the people attending. I'm hoping that there are physicians in that group, that there are front-line caregivers in that group and that there are professionals, and that it's not just driven by the department, if we have to reach outside.
Can the minister clarify that for me, please?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I appreciate that question. I will be attending that conference because, as the host next year, it's important for us to extend the invitation for them to come north.
We're very pleased to be able to do this as a government. We really believe that if we're going to involve and empower people in the future in this particular area of FAS, we must go to these conferences to learn new ideas. Some of the best people in Canada - some of the best possibly in North America - will be there to share their ideas and things that they're doing.
Also, we'll be sharing with the group some of the things we're doing that are probably fairly unique as well. So, it's a two-way street.
We have approximately over 40 at this point. The last count was 44. They are coming from the communities. Nobody is being invited. We're getting the information out there that they can get some kind of financial support. To my understanding, we have many applications coming from the communities and from the City of Whitehorse.
We hope doctors get involved and take part in this, as well. It's wide open. They have front-line workers, advocacy groups. It's really broad, and we can provide the member opposite a legislative return on it if the member so wishes. Obviously I think it's going to be rather exciting. I've even been asked to address it for a short time. So they're really showing partnership across western Canada.
Mr. Keenan: No, I don't think a legislative return is necessary. I think the minister has been answering the question.
I would just like to suggest to the minister, though, that I know we have processes that are out in the communities to enable people to come, and I was wondering if it is at all possible that the minister could just send a direct invitation to a doctor who is in the field, just to let them know that, "Hey, we're there with you, we understand what you do, we understand how you work, and doggone it, would you be able to come with us in this and to be able to learn?" Would the minister be able to look at that target so that we do have the right people in place? That's one question.
I do appreciate what the minister is saying about conferences. I know that conferences, if you have a ministry as large as the Health minister's and that of other ministers - there's a great deal of time spent going to conferences by ministers. I, for one, have always found them very worthwhile. I found them at times - well, who wants to leave the Yukon in the summer? Nobody, but I found them very worthwhile. I appreciate what the minister is saying, because I, too, was very successful as a minister in bringing conferences to the Yukon Territory to help share our initiatives and what we have. I guess I couldn't get any bragging rights for it, because I think what really drew people to the Yukon was the Yukon itself, not the minister's invitation.
But I would appreciate it if the minister would be able to offer that invitation. I know that within the department there are different folks who know. So would the minister be able to do that? And I see that we do have an armload of invitations going out the back door right now, so I appreciate that.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I'm meeting with the YMA executive next week, as a matter of fact, and I'll definitely underline that we would like to see some doctors attend. That would be very positive. Maybe there are some attending - I really don't know who is attending and who's not.
As far as trying to look at how we work together, I think it's going to take a lot of honest discussion and a lot of openness. If we're not doing things, hopefully through the working group we can come up with some better ways of trying to approach some of these problems.
Mr. Keenan: I accept the minister's direction on that.
Within Social Services we have a program objective, and I know you have the objectives in front of you. I did bring objectives forward to the Minister of C&TS, and I want to seek clarification.
Now, it says, "to ensure the provision of an integrated range of appropriate services to seniors, persons with disabilities, and the poor, so that they can achieve the greatest degree of independence, well-being and self-reliance as possible."
I guess I could ask the question of the minister: does he think the program objectives of this particular department are being met, and I'm sure that the minister is going to say, "Yes. Absolutely." But I would also like to think that an increase in social service rates would be supportive of these program objectives. Would the minister agree?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I really appreciate the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes pointing out the real objectives of the Yukon Liberal platform here. We underlined at least two issues here on income assistance to improve on what I believe is very important for people on SA, ensuring that we help the poor, that we provide the greatest degree of independence by providing additional support for those mothers, or those single fathers, who are home with children from the ages of zero to six - up until that change, it was zero to two.
So, hopefully that is going to give them some security about family rearing. Of course the real issue here is self-reliance and how we really believe that most people are on SA because it's a last resort for many people. They want to be self- reliant.
So that was the reason for additional dollars in the whole area of providing them with the opportunity to keep more money rather than having to forego it if they are out there looking for a job or if they are out there working. For singles, we added another $50 a month, and for families there is another $100 a month. So we are very pleased to be able to do that. Hopefully that addresses what the member opposite is asking.
If the members are asking across the board - I guess, from our perspective, we are trying to help that self-reliance, we are trying to help that independence. That is why we as a party and as a government responded in that way.
Mr. Keenan: What can I say? I guess we are not going to be meeting mutually on this, and I think that we could be meeting mutually on this because, certainly, the budget was adopted as is. You said that it was going to be implemented as is. Now I am talking of last year's budget, and we know that here in the House. Then it was okay to say something at one time, but when you have the chance to change it, we did. Now, I know that we are going to go back and forth on this, and I choose not to go back and forth on this. I think that the minister understands my point, and I understand the minister's point. I don't think we are so terribly far away, either.
So I have a question and I have an invitation. The question for the minister: would this increase - and we know what I am talking about - be reflected in a capital budget or an O&M budget?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I'm not totally clear, but I'll try to answer it. If I'm not giving the right answer, the member opposite can get back on his feet and ask again.
I believe that any SA rates are usually in the O&M and not the capital. That's sort of my response, but if I'm not answering the question, maybe the member could clarify that.
Mr. Keenan: No, thank you, Mr. Chair. That certainly answers the question, because the next statement is an invitation. Now, I know the minister likes to be out in a canoe. I, too, love to sit beside a singing paddle, hear it move and sing along with it. We all know that great spirits and great revelations can come to us at that point in time.
I just happened to run into the minister, the Commissioner and a couple of their buddies at Johnsons Crossing, nibbling on a cinnamon bun. They were off to enjoy my territory down there. They were going to Morley Bay. I gave them a couple of pointers, and the minister didn't need any pointers. Away they went and I think they had a heck of a good time.
I would invite the minister to come with me and take that type of a trip - just a day trip. We don't want to make it too long, but we want to make it an atmosphere of coming together, because I want to get into the minister's head and I want the minister to get into my head, because we both represent the people. We both absolutely do. Perhaps if we did that, at least I could get a deeper understanding.
I guess what I'm reaching for is a deeper understanding. Is that a point of Nirvana, because that is where I want to go.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Keenan: Well, we'll induce some of that oxygen through a paddle instead of through a bike or a jog.
So I would like the minister to do that, and maybe after that we will be able to have something that we can move forward on, because we will have a deep philosophical discussion. I know that. And we will respectfully listen to each other. I'm hoping that my influence will be enough so that we can ensure that this rate would be included in the O&M budget for next year. The reason I was asking is because the capital budget is coming in the fall. In that case, we would have to go paddling in June, but now we can go paddling any old time of the year. That's an invitation to the minister.
If the minister wants to answer that, well, he certainly can. If the minister doesn't want to answer that, he certainly can, also.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I know from the members opposite that there's a lot of room on that side, and if that's an invitation to join the other side, well, it's not in the cards, but thanks for the invite.
If the members are offering me to ride or have a paddle with the member opposite, right on, but it's reciprocal. I'll let you paddle in my canoe as well. I believe we can have some good sharing and I'm always open to that. I spend quite a bit of time - as much as I can - out in the wilds, if you want to call it that - actually, probably the wilds are more downtown here than they are out there. But I really appreciate that invitation and maybe I'll take the member up on that in the coming summer.
Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, I do believe that, with the exception of maybe three, four or five people in this room, this is very much a monument of Yukon wildlife. I'll agree with the minister on that.
Certainly I would like to do that with the minister. It doesn't matter whose boat I climb into as long as it's a good, safe boat and I get the chance to listen and to speak. That's good. So, I'll take the minister up on bringing his canoe down and we can do that. Maybe we can have a deeper understanding of the joy of getting to know each other a little more, but not simply that joy, but to exchange ideas for the people we represent.
Two in a canoe is fine, I believe, unless the Minister of Tourism wants to play lifeguard and wear her swimsuit, well, then, maybe that's a different option, but at this point in time, two will do.
If I may move on, I guess, again, it's to do with the program objectives, and it's the same objective. I don't want to read it again, but it speaks to integrating and assisting so that they can achieve the greatest degree of independence, well-being and self-reliance. I don't think that that has been achieved if we're housing people in a couple of our local drinking establishments here. I really don't think that that objective has been met. That's not a question. I guess I could phrase it as a question.
Does the minister believe that that objective is being met by putting folks in these drinking establishments? I spoke yesterday on this briefly, and the minister said that it's an open-ended contract. And I understand what the minister said when he said "open-ended." I understand, but I think to further meet that particular objective we should look at alternatives. Again, I'd like to see if the minister agrees.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, we tried to be very careful about - what the member opposite is inferring is that possibly they're drinking hotels. We're not interested in that, Mr Chair. We're interested in family hotels, hotels that many tourists and locals use.
The objective here is that we do have a year-long contract with these hotels, so it's a guarantee. As I shared with the member yesterday, it's not the answer. We know that, but, you know, the shelter wasn't the answer, either. So I think what this does is that it accelerates how we as a community have to put our heads around this and come up with some permanent solutions.
As I shared with the member opposite yesterday, as well, that's why the federal government has put some dollars into this, so that we can look at some long-term solutions. And this is going to really, I think, put the pressure on our homelessness group to really look at some long-term solutions. So that was the objective.
Even in the shelter, there was no drinking allowed there at all. I mean, if you were intoxicated, you weren't allowed in the shelter. So my understanding is that those were the rules. So when they come to ask for a voucher to go into the hotel, I'm sure the same conditions will be there. The objective here is not to create a reputation that we can't continue this with our hotels. If we have this kind of a problem, the hotels will not negotiate with us because they don't want those problems, either.
Mr. Keenan: It would be helpful if the minister would provide to me - and it doesn't have to be a legislative return, just a simple letter or something will do - through the mail, which establishments we are using, so I don't have to name the establishments here. I think that my information might be different from what the minister is saying. So if the minister could do that, I would appreciate that.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: We would be able to do that.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you, Mr. Chair. We all know that the NGOs do very important work on behalf of government. Government contracts these NGOs to provide the stable environment. What the NGOs need is to be able to provide stable funding to allow them to plan very effectively. So I would like to ask the minister if the NGOs have received their multi-year funding agreements and which ones?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, we have moved ahead on that, just as the past government did. We believe that that is the only way that NGOs can have sort of a guarantee of what their programming should be, at least for the next three years.
Mr. Keenan: I would sure appreciate it if the minister would be able to send, by mail, the list of the NGOs and the commitments. Is that possible?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, we can do that, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Keenan: The restructuring of services to persons with disabilities has resulted in respite and residential care becoming a responsibility of family and children's services, while the case management remains with the adult services. I'd like a report. Has this restructuring improved the delivery of the service to persons with disabilities, or is there a certain struggle for some folks? So the question is if this restructuring has improved the delivery of services to persons with disabilities?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: It's fairly early right now. The change was made six months ago, and the objective, again, was to provide better services for our clients. By moving the residential component over to family and children's services, it was to become more efficient in how we could provide services for those unique needs of many of our clients. Hopefully, at the next budget time, we'll be able to tell the member opposite whether that has improved our service. If it hasn't, then I don't know why we've done it, so I ask the same question but, obviously, that was the reason why we did it.
Mr. Keenan: I appreciate that, and we will get that information later on because, certainly, we're here to improve service to those who need it the most, and not to make it cumbersome.
I've been led to believe that it might be a bit cumbersome. If the minister could take that for what I've said and what it's worth, and look into it a bit, then maybe we can talk about it later in the fall, because, with any luck, we'll both survive our river trip and we'll both be here.
Yesterday I spoke about the plan to ensure that child care was available in the communities, and I might have confused the minister. It was getting late in the day there, but I am speaking about just child care. Several of the communities, again, rely on family day homes, and they may not have a backup option if the caregiver is ill, has an emergency or leaves the community.
Is there any plan to address those needs? It's very specific to that issue.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Seeing that this is a problem - particularly in small communities because they may only have one day home operator and if that person becomes sick, it is a private business. So for us as government to get involved, other than through the application of subsidies and so on that we provide for our day home and daycare people, I don't know how much more we could do.
I hear what the member is saying, but I'm not too sure how far we could get involved in that. We're open to suggestion, I suppose, and if it's practical, fine.
Mr. Keenan: If the department is open to suggestion on that, I'm sure we will be able to provide a suggestion after we talk to the folks who have been raising this issue with me. So we will be able to further clarify that for the minister.
Well, we're getting there. I have a couple more questions, and I appreciate how we can work effectively here.
In Health services, we do have program objectives. We don't have to immediately go flipping through the program objectives, but we do anyway.
It speaks about good health, and, as we know, it's a balance of prevention and treatment. And, as we know, prevention includes public education, active living, immunization, support for the individuals, support for the families. I mean, we have talked about that quite a bit here in the last couple of days.
Would the minister be able to identify the focus of his department's health prevention policies? Again, it's to identify the focus. If the minister is not prepared to stand on his feet in the House to do that, I would certainly accept information by way of letter and/or legislative return, but it's very important to us that we are able to get a deeper understanding of where the minister feels the minister would like to go. Is that possible?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I appreciate the Member for Ross River saying that we could give him a list of all of the things we are doing. Just to mention a few: healthy families - that is definitely a prevention program; the book that was tabled yesterday; the statement that we had about healthy sexualiy is a very important one. It is really a response to the high rate of chlamydia that we have in the territory. We have an accident/injury profile as well that is in the works. I suppose our report card is another way of trying to look at prevention. I guess my whole spiel, as the Member for Watson Lake likes to tell me from time to time, about running and hiking and all of these things, is great for the body. The active living model that the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes started is really one of our biggest thrusts in, hopefully, prevention. Hopefully we will spend more time in the next few years really profiling that particular issue. I will provide the member with a list.
And the FAS one - I think the most important one is the ads in the newspaper and on the TV about FAS/FAE where you have this fading in of the woman who is talking about how they shouldn't drink and have children, or if they are pregnant, they shouldn't be drinking. I think you might have seen it on TV. It is very powerful. I thought that was one of the best ones. As a matter of fact, it's being used in other parts of western Canada because it was so well done. It was done here in the Yukon. This is the FAS promotion on drinking and having children - you know, trying to ensure that if you are going to have children, don't drink. The Northwest Territories has a lot of incentives here too, so we try to share them back and forth.
We'll provide a return for the member, or a list of them.
Mr. Keenan: I very much appreciate that, because this is a very deep and profound subject when we start to talk about prevention. It's the government's policy priorities in Health, and I would also like the minister to inform us of how those policies support treatment services. It's the whole ball of wax, so if they could be included in there, I would certainly appreciate that.
For the physicians and nurses - they are essential in the early diagnosis and treatment of health problems. I certainly feel that $140,000 is not enough, based on the competition we have. We don't have to go too deeply into this. And I know he spoke of phase 2, but does the minister have the support of caucus to be able to - now that we've established a process and put some seed money into it, it is likely to be a good process - go to bat for more dollars, and does he have caucus support for this very important initiative?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I categorically would have to say yes. That's the reason why we're moving down that track right now, because we know the problems we're experiencing in our communities. We really want to try to get there before we have a major disaster. That's why we're moving it into phases. We had phase 1, and now we're in phase 2. There's going to be phase 3 and we will carry on and on, because I don't think this will stop until we've filled all the demand for health care people. That will take some time.
Mr. Keenan: Okay, so I take it that the answer is that it's subject to budgetary process and whatnot. I see the minister nod, yes. The minister did say that he has commitment from caucus or direction from caucus to move in that direction, so I eagerly look forward to debating the budget next year and talking about not only the process, but also the dollars and resources that are included in there.
Would the minister provide the terms of reference for the Yukon Nursing Advisory Committee, please?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Could the member please repeat that? I didn't quite hear.
Mr. Keenan: I'm sorry. Would the minister provide the terms of reference for the Yukon Nursing Advisory Committee?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Thanks. Yes, the YRNA are doing the terms of reference along with the health department, so as soon as they're complete, we'll make sure that the member gets a copy.
Mr. Keenan: I know that we've talked about the current plan for the next stage of recruitment and retaining medical personnel. That's phase 2, I take it? Okay. And we did speak a little bit about that yesterday. I do extend my olive branch to the minister - not in an all-party committee or anything like as such, but if the minister wishes any of my - I hate to use the word "expertise," but certainly my ideas and my knowledge, I'd be willing to work at that level. We've got to get this out of the politics and recognize that we're in competition with the world, and, yeah, the Yukon has much more to offer Malaysia, but some of these folks have already been to the Yukon and haven't been to Malaysia, so there's a drawing card. So I'd appreciate it if we could move in that direction.
Is there a plan in place to ensure that nurses who would like access to professional development can find someone to backfill their positions? Is that all part of the process?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Thanks again for the question. That is a problem, as the Member for Ross River shares. Because of the shortage, and, of course, we want to encourage professional development, and nurses want to take professional development because they want to be ready with the most modern and updated skills, yes, it is. There is no easy solution to that, but we're trying to encourage professional development; on the other hand, we don't want to abandon any of the health care position, either, because we know we're trying to juggle. It's a real hot ball either way. There's no immediate answer, but we're encouraging it. The idea is to get people who are willing to come north and spend some time here, maybe for two, three months, four months, and we do have people who want to do that. They'll come for two or three months and then head off and go somewhere else. We have a lot of these people who like moving around, and we're trying to attract them, as well.
Mr. Keenan: I thank the minister for that, and I recognize the challenge that the minister has in fulfilling the obligations. I'm just going to step laterally here a moment and talk about the doctors because of the situation I alerted the minister to, I think it was last week, about the impending shutdown of the surgical unit. It was a horrifically scary thing, I'm sure, for all of us in this room. I'm so glad that we've been able to move beyond that now, and we're doing things, I guess - and this is not to be offensive, but it's by a by-gosh and by-golly approach at this time.
I'm wondering if the minister - again, it's an idea, I guess. But when we get into our meeting with the Yukon Medical Association and the professionals - I say "we", but I mean the minister, and when the minister gets into that meeting - if we might be able to ask, or form a concerted approach, to move further down the planning road, I guess, of six months. The gentleman - I believe, a surgeon - who wished to take his holidays, he needed that holiday, obviously, to get away and to recuperate, and I'm thinking that, as an interim step, it might be possible to do that.
So would the minister be able to let all the professionals know that we wish to work with them, and that this might be one way - very short term - to move ahead. Would the minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, we know that these can be problems.
Spring in the Yukon is always a very interesting time, because sometimes little things become huge things. And, really, there were no things there. I've been living here long enough that I know that.
The members from a variety of parts of the Yukon know this very well. I don't know if it's the winter blues that are finally shaken off and we're getting into a little bit of sunshine, but we do have good connections and good relationships with our health care people.
Of course, they want to solve these problems as much as we do, because it reflects on them as well. We do have a schedule from our chief surgeon right now, and it is filled until next October. It's a full schedule. Sometimes you can have accidents, or people have emergencies and are not able to come in or something, and that may be a problem. So I wouldn't want to say it's absolutely guaranteed forever because anything can happen, especially in the specialist areas. As we know, these are very highly trained people and there are not a lot of them, so sometimes there could be a problem. But there doesn't seem to be a problem at the current time nor in the future, at this point. Everything seems to be working out well.
Mr. Keenan: I recognize the minister's challenge and I'd certainly be willing to do anything I can to help.
Many services are not available in the communities and they require trips to Whitehorse. Does the government have a support policy that will ensure equality of service for all Yukoners? If the government does not have this policy of support for equality of services, would the minister consider one?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: There are probably two phases here. Emergencies, of course, are dealt with immediately wherever they come from. I don't think it matters. As a matter of fact, that's why we have medevacs - if they're really emergencies. If it requires a specialist service that is non-emergency, then they are referred by their GP and they go on a list. Based on my understanding, if it's not an emergency, it's kind of a triage approach - again, that big word "triage", the one I learned when I first took on this position. It's a consultative approach, and if it means they need some help within a matter of months, then I'm sure they're upped on the list. If it's just a matter of needing an investigation or a look at, then obviously they go on the list and they have to take their turn like everybody else. Specialists come from outside. Some of them come every two or three months and stay for a week or 10 days. So there are various ways of doing it.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you for that, Mr. Chair, I understand what the minister is saying.
I'd like to move on to communicable diseases. They are predicted to certainly increase in all areas. I certainly understand that we do have a tool. I haven't had a chance to look at it. I would be a big fibber and full of beans - well, maybe "beans" isn't such a good word around here anymore. This is a tool for those type of diseases that are sexually oriented. Does the minister have a plan? What is the current plan to address the education, diagnosis and treatment for all communicable diseases, because we know that some diseases are coming back.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I think that we in the Yukon are very fortunate in having very highly competent people in our communicable disease unit. Because we come from many parts of the world in the Yukon - I think that you can talk to every second or third person and they could tell you that they come from a different part of Canada or a different part of the world. We are very fortunate to have a lot of people who come from a variety of places. So it is very important that, even with tourists and so on, that we are on top of all of these issues. They are very competent in sharing that nothing gets away on us.
I agree with the member opposite that there are some recurring diseases. For example, TB - so far, because of the hard work of our communicable disease unit, we have been able to keep that in sort of a reasonable check, I would think.
I don't know the specifics. I am just saying that we haven't heard anything major out there from our observations, and hopefully we never do. That means that our communicable disease people are working very hard to ensure that we are there before anything does happen. So, I don't know if that answers the question, but I am assured that we are on the right track.
Mr. Keenan: No, that certainly answers the question. I'm not on a fishing trip here or anything like that. I am just here to get information so that I can provide it to others and help promote what we're doing here in the Health department. That's how I see my job here, anyway. I like to keep it focused on that.
Yesterday, or the day before - I'm not quite sure - we were talking about regional services and the process of identification of a new and improved delivery of service in, say, Teslin, and whether there is a need for a health centre in Tagish and whatnot.
I would like to ask the minister if he would just give me that blurb again, because I just don't have it in my head here. It's not for anything other than to ensure that people do have a process they can use if they feel there is a weakness in a regional service.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I appreciate the opportunity to respond to that. I think this is a very proactive approach toward communities taking ownership. It's a very proactive program where communities are really looking at what their needs are. I would recommend and suggest that if there are communities out there that are looking at their health care and their particular circumstances for the future, they contact the government so they can sit down with the department and strategize on how they can pull the citizenry of that particular area together and look at where they want to go in the future. Because that, to me, is long-range planning. It's not a knee-jerk thing. It also gives government the chance and opportunity to prepare for the future.
So, I really encourage all members to get those messages out there. I think that developing a community plan is very important. We are currently doing that in Haines Junction. My understanding is that we've done one in Teslin. We've got one in Mayo. There might be one in Faro. We're not sure.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I think Teslin was done a year and a half ago. It had the same type of input. It was a community-driven activity with the department.
Every time we do a community plan, we learn something new and something different as to how to approach it for the next community, so we build on them. It's not like it's a set plan and we go in and imprint it on Mayo or we imprint it on Haines Junction. The one in Haines Junction will reflect the community of Haines Junction and try to look at what their long-term needs are.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you, I understand, and I will have a chat with the community about that, because I think maybe somebody got left out of the loop there, but it's nobody's fault, I don't think, other than that person or individual.
So, I'll take that information back, I'll let them know that there is a process and that they can talk directly to the minister, and if the minister would give me his private number, I'll ensure that they get it. I know the minister's not going to go for that one, so I'll move on.
I just have a few more questions on the alcohol and drug secretariat here, so I guess I'm putting my folks on notice who are listening in the back rooms there that if there's anything further that should be addressed, it should be addressed quickly.
On the alcohol and drug secretariat, the minister spoke about the recruitment process, I think, on the floor here. I think it was just yesterday, but to reiterate, would the minister confirm that it could be possible that within the next month to six weeks we will have an executive director?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: We're very hopeful, Mr. Chair. We're very hopeful that this can happen. I believe, personally - this is my personal observation - that we should have done this six months ago, but then, again, we can't do everything at once. So, I would agree with the member opposite, the sooner, the better.
Mr. Keenan: So I take it that it could be within the next four to six weeks then? Okay, thank you. I see the minister nodding his head, yes.
Does the minister have the terms of reference and the mandate for the alcohol and drug secretariat at this point in time, and if so, may I have a copy, please?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I believe that there are two things that we could do. One is the job description. I think I shared that with the member yesterday. It's about a four-pager. I don't know if the member would like a copy of that, but it's very complete as to what our expectations are, so anyone who takes this job on knows exactly what we're expecting.
We also have the drug and alcohol report, which is going to be sort of the bible as to where we want to go in the future, and that's just, again, the opener to where we want to go. Obviously we're going to be working with communities, and hopefully the CEO, the executive director, will be sort of driving the road map of how we proceed.
So, that's sort of the backdrop of it. We don't want to be too ironclad as to, you know, dotting every i and crossing every t. There has to be a little bit of flexibility, but I think we've given a lot of guidance and a lot of direction there. So if the member opposite would like me to give him a copy, yes, I'll do that - make sure you get a copy, particularly of the advertisement, because it's very complete.
Mr. Keenan: Can I have one final question, because I don't see anybody stampeding into the House here for new information.
In Carcross - alcohol and drug services in the Yukon Territory, again, it's kind of an old situation where the feds came in with NNADAP programs, et cetera. In a lot of cases, it maybe just simply muddied the waters, or made it harder to focus. Then some folks get tools and initiatives, and some didn't, and there are expectations of sharing, and it just sort of goes around and around. This could be bringing some type of solidity to the process, so folks could know.
I'd like to speak about the Don't Fence Me In Society in Carcross. I've met with the proponents. I guess it kind of hurts me a little bit personally when I think of this, because one of the folks who worked in that was a former chief of the Kwanlin Dun, and she is no longer on this world, and she did so much good work out there, in terms of influencing young people and older people, because it's certainly not a problem that is an affliction of just an age group.
They have some good ideas and they have been out there struggling and working. I have sent them all the information I have. I have sent them different avenues where they might go, and what this Liberal government has put into place for those initiatives. They're working in partnership with the federal program. I can't quite remember the name of that federal program, but they're working in conjunction with the federal program. I think it's through the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, and the Aboriginal Healing Foundation might be able to provide - and it might be vice versa - the O&M and not the capital. They would be looking, I think, to the Yukon Territory to help provide the capital. And if they can do this, we could have something up and running as early as next year - a year, or 12 or 14 months away from now as I speak.
It's that type of coordination that's required for this partnership-driven process to be able to do that, and I would really like to see that happen in a light where - of course, it's partnership-driven, but it has to be driven in a light where it's facilitated a bit.
I was wondering if the department could - I'm not asking for the department to slam-dunk it either. I'm not asking that. But I'm asking the department to maybe work with some of those proponents or the new person from the ADS. Is that possible so that we might be able to not have anything lingering in limbo and be able to have it moved expeditiously? Could I get an answer from the minister on that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes has put his finger or his hand or both his hands on the problem that I have heard from community after community, from First Nations, from individuals here in Whitehorse. They are saying that we need to have a collective approach toward how we deal with drugs and alcohol. Of course, that was the whole objective of the review - to look at what we were doing as a department and then really try to address how we as a department can work with the community. I've heard from First Nations exactly what the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes talked about. They have said that NNADAP is kind of here and there and not there, and they're feeling very frustrated because there is no training program, it's not ongoing, it's inconsistent.
I believe that once we have this in place - I know that we put a lot of trust in and have expectations of this new CEO or this new executive director. But again, we are looking for somebody who can come up and work, or somebody within, if that is where they come from, who has some of those skills to really pull all of these partners together. We try to do this with every group or every committee or every NGO group. I mean, that is what our department is all about - trying to empower, to enhance, and to work with them.
I have had quite a few talks with the Champagne-Aishihik Healing Foundation proponents, trying to work with them and build together, because we know that the problems are common.
The real short answer to what the member is asking would be yes, that is really what we want. We want to collectively work together. If that is not the goal, then I think we are all going to fail again.
Mr. Keenan: Last statement: the program objective is to provide territory-wide leadership for alcohol and other drug addictions, prevention and treatment services for the health, safety and productivity of all Yukon residents. What a wonderful objective.
Whoever this new person is is going to have to hit the ground with Nikes on or running shoes, for sure, because there is definitely a lot of work that is out there. There are timeframes that are different from the federal programs and the territorial programs and there is a lot of coordination that has to be done.
So I appreciate what the minister has said. I would appreciate if the minister could pass on to the proponent, as they jump off the airplane or out of the bus or wherever they come from, that part of the marching orders would be to contact Shirley and Darrell Beattie of the Don't Fence Me In Society and find a way that we might be able to achieve greater goals for the people who are affected by this illness.
I have no further questions at this point in time for the minister, and I thank the minister for working with me in this manner.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, while we're on the issue of drugs and alcohol and the respective services, one of the initiatives that was very much supported by the Liberals in opposition was the Crossroads facility - in fact, so much so that they tabled a petition, wanting it to be brought back. Is this type of a facility - a long-term, extended care facility, in-house facility - being looked at again, or are we going to hide behind this new drug and alcohol secretariat? Just where are we going on this initiative?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, I think, again, the Member for Klondike has put his finger on a very important issue. The whole idea of the report was to look at those things that we were doing well and at the things that we weren't doing so well. We obviously know that that was one of the criticisms of the report, and I would expect that, once we've moved on with hopefully our new executive director, that's going to be a point to address, because we know that has also been a criticism within the community. So for me to say, well, yes, it's going to happen, that would be prejudging my own bias. But I think, obviously, there are some questions out there and some answers that are already coming to the table that are going to be areas that we want to work on.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's go about this a little bit differently. After the drug and alcohol secretariat is set up, will their mandate be to bring forward and address all the initiatives in the report that was done by the Alberta organization that was hired by this Liberal government to oversee this area in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, that's the whole objective. That was going to be sort of - I mean, we have a lot of good things in place already, a lot of good things work with alcohol and drug services. We're not going to be throwing out things that work. I mean, we have a very effective force doing very positive things.
We now are saying we need to take a little bit of a different direction, and we're going to utilize all those good things that work and build on them with some of the suggestions and recommendations, so that'll be coming to caucus and Cabinet.
We want the communities to be involved - we've said that all along. We want their involvement in this process because, if it doesn't come from the community and front-line people, it isn't going to work. We know that that has been the problem in the past with any kind of program. You impose a program, it's there for whatever time those people are there and, when those people are gone, the program leaves.
I've seen this in my career, over and over again, where, if it's not owned by the people who are driving it and who are sustaining it, then it won't carry on.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we're quite far along in the creation of the alcohol and drug secretariat, and there must be terms of reference established by the government as to how this arm's-length organization is going to function - there must be.
Could the minister table a copy of the terms of reference of this drug and alcohol secretariat, as to how it's going to function?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I just want to correct one thing - it's not an arm's-length secretariat. It's very much part of government, and we want to be very cautious about arm's-length groups at this point, because we really believe that we have to work with a wholesome attitude in looking at the problems. Yes, I'll be able to share with the member opposite, as I shared with the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, the advertisement and employment opportunity that's about four pages long. That's sort of a backdrop.
We also have the report that is providing the guidance - the frame of reference - specifically, that this person is going to do this and this. If that's what the member wants, definitely it'll be shared with everybody. That's the whole objective. We want people to be part of the process in solving these issues.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, we're setting up a whole new agency. Now, usually a statement as to the objectives of that agency or organization is the first thing that is established, then there are the terms of reference as to what they're going to accomplish and how they're to be accomplished. This, I'm sure, given that we're this far along - I'm not just looking for the job description or the advertisement placed in the respective news media to attract an individual to run this organization. I'm looking for the outline of how this organization is perceived by the government to run. There must be an organizational flow chart. There must be terms of reference as to what they're set out to do. Surely there has to be this much forethought given to this undertaking, Mr. Chair. That's what I'm looking for. Can the minister provide that, please?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Being that this is a public process, we supply everything to everyone. And I guess if the member opposite wants a kind of a plan that this is going to take place on day one, day two and day three - and I'm being very specific here - that isn't in place yet. We are still in the process of hiring a CEO. The objective here is to use our alcohol and drug report as sort of the guide aspect of our program for the future. Also, one of the parts of that report is to connect with communities as to what they as individuals would like to see us do in helping and supporting their concerns and their issues.
So those are not written down, because, first of all, we need the person who is going to be running the shop here to be in place. So some of these things will unfold. It doesn't mean the person comes in with a blank page. There are a lot of pages there from which that particular person can work. One of them, obviously, is FAS/FAE. We know what we're trying to do there; we want to integrate that into how we deliver services, as well. And the focus is to try to pull in all these issues that are wrapped around alcohol and drugs.
To say that we have a plan, yes, the plan is there. The report is the plan. That's the objective. Our scope is to work with all our partners in trying to build the plan even further. That's sort of the objective. I'm not sure if that's good enough for the member opposite, but that's where we're at at this point.
Once that person is in place - and this is the executive director - it will be their task to consult with key stakeholders and decide which, if any, of the many recommendations listed in the report are to be implemented. That's really our guide at this point in time. The report itself is the backdrop from where we move ahead. It's not the end. It's just the beginning.
Mr. Jenkins: Let me try to understand this. The outline of this organization is the report done by the drug and alcohol services branch from Alberta, but after we have hired the executive director or CEO or however we want to refer to him for this drug and alcohol secretariat, the first part of his undertaking is to consult with the public to see which components of this drug and alcohol study we're going to implement. Is that what the minister said?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I'm not into what I call micromanaging. In my former career, I was a micromanager. That's what I did.
As the minister, hopefully we just provide the broad theme or the broad philosophy as to the direction we want to go. We leave it up to the people who work for us to fill in the gaps - fill in the spots. My role when I went to a new school wasn't to just sit back and think about what I was going to do, but it was to sit down and think with my staff or with the group of people I was working with as to where they were at and what they're currently doing. For us, in this particular situation, we have a report that is going to help us look at where we might want to go, so we can sit down with staff again and look at how we can accomplish some of these goals, if they're not already being done.
It will also help us with how we're going to plan our venture into the communities and talk to people on the front lines - as to how and what input they will have - how we're going to share with our partners, and what kinds of things they're going to recommend that we do in the future.
So that, I would see, probably for the first six months, is going to be a big job in just pulling together all those resources and looking at a direction where we want to go. There are already things in place. It's not like we're starting all over here. So we utilize those resources that are working, and then we move on from there.
Leadership takes more than just hiring a person. It takes modelling, it takes example, and it takes doing things, and that's the objective here. For the first time, we are going to have a significant executive director with a very high profile, who is going to hopefully lead us into other pathways where we need to go in order to solve and resolve some of these very major concerns in our communities.
To say that I have written down exactly what the person's going to do - it's going to depend on that person, and we're going to take advice from that person, because that's the expertise of that person. I am not an alcohol and drug expert. I would expect that that's why we're hiring these people to come forward and provide us with their expertise.
I don't know if that helps. If it's not what the member wants, ask it again, and I'll see if I can come up with the answer. I may not be able to. I may give you the same answer because I am not micromanaging any of my departments. If that's what the member wants, I could probably not give him those details. It's going to be sort of unfolding as the person takes the position.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's try again, Mr. Chair. Let's look at this in the broad stroke. Let's put it in a context that the minister might be more apt to understand. Let's look at the big picture. That's what I'm looking at. I'm not suggesting the minister micromanage anything.
What I'm suggesting is for the minister, if we look at a school, to establish the courses that are going to be offered. I'm not asking to get into the specifics of the curriculum of each one of the courses, but the total picture - what is going to be provided under this umbrella? How many individuals are we going to be employing under this umbrella?
There has to be some political direction provided from the top as to what the shape of this organization is going to look like, what this drug and alcohol secretariat is going to be, what it's going to conform to.
Now, I'm not looking at the product that they're going to deliver or how it's going to be delivered at this juncture, Mr. Chair. I'm just looking at the overall direction being provided by the minister - the political direction and the policies established by his government - as to what this organization is going to look like, how it's going to function, and what its goals are. Are the goals for this organization that they're hoping to achieve been established?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Maybe I should ask a question. I won't at this point, but I'll give answers.
Right from the employment opportunity, clearly in the first paragraph, it says here, "This senior executive position will provide leadership to a team of professionals in the planning, development, management and delivery of policies, programs and services in the area of education, prevention, assessment, counselling and treatment to promote public awareness and reduce alcohol and drug abuse in the Yukon." Now, that's the main, if you want to call it, philosophical theme, if that's what the member from there is talking about. It's right here. Well, it's also what we are expecting of the person who's going to fill this role.
Now, if the member wants me to get into the specifics, that's why we had the alcohol and drug report commissioned. This report brought forward a lot of ideas. It provided us a framework as to where we have some needs, where our strengths were, and hopefully form what we're trying to build as another form of delivery. That, again - I know there's some trust here that we have to have in the person that is going to be filling this position. We're going to be using current staff at this point in time. As we build and develop and we have more needs out there, we have built into the budget some additional dollars that will hopefully provide us with some direction, so that we can do something more. So that was the objective here.
Of course, in the report - and I guess that was the question. If the member needs a copy of the report, I'll make sure he gets one, because the report outlines a proposed organizational structure, with flow charts and the whole thing.
So I will not get into the specifics because that, again, would be me micromanaging, but if I can answer the member with some broad kinds of responses, hopefully I'll do that. And I don't want to get into arguments with the member opposite. I just want to present what we believe is going to be the framework in which this new secretariat - which we're very excited about on this side because we believe it's going to involve more partners in the process, and we're hearing people out there saying, "Yes, we need more help, we need more support."
Mr. Jenkins: Given that we're only hiring one new individual and we're going to be assimilating a lot of other individuals from within the department, how is this transition going to take place? How is it envisioned to occur? The hardest thing to do is to set up a new series of objectives to achieve. Are all of these individuals going to be transferred over simultaneously? What's the date of that transition? When is this going to come into place, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Again, I can go back to my own skills. I went to five or six different schools here in Whitehorse, and every time to a different school, I was working with different people. My role was to pull people together. Together we went down the same track, trying to come up with how we were going to work as a team, and that's part of the leadership skills that I hope this person will have.
The whole secretariat - or the department now that works in alcohol and drug - will be moved once we have this executive director in place. It's not like they're moving to another building or to another place. That may happen down the pipe, but not at this point in time. That's why it's sort of a marriage with Health and Social Services at this point, and they will be working for the new executive director, as a team.
Staff, from my understanding, are very excited about this new venture, this new development. They believe that, for themselves, there needs to be some new direction, some new blood in the system, and they're very hopeful that, with all our partners in the communities - I know First Nations are very excited about what we're doing.
Yes, we want more input, but that's going to be the objective of the CEO, or the executive director, to poll these people. They're going to have to be very unique people. Most leaders, by the way, are very unique people. They can pull those things together, and they have a skill set of their own that sometimes, a lot of other people don't have, and that's hopefully how we're going to see this unfold.
Mr. Jenkins: I don't have a great measure of comfort from what I've heard from the minister as to his ability to provide policy direction to an organization, but I guess we'll give the minister the benefit of the doubt. I'm sure, given that he probably will be surrounded by individuals much more capable than himself, we might achieve the ends we hope to achieve.
I do have some concern, Mr. Chair, on one of the statements I just picked up on with respect to additional dollars for this initiative. The minister previously had stated that the only additional cost was going to be the cost of the individual hired to head up the drug and alcohol secretariat. Now, we're looking at additional costs.
What are those additional costs going to be, and what is the order of magnitude of these additional costs, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The budget itself shows very clearly that we've added $250,000 to the alcohol and drug budget. We were being - again, I'll have to stress, being very small "c" conservative - I've used that three times. I don't know, is that something - am I having a problem with that? I try to be Liberal most of the time, but the small "c" is all right.
The report itself suggests that there are a number of areas where we need more support, but we're not moving on these areas at all. We're just saying, "No, no, we're going to work with the people we have, and see what unfolds." We know from the report that we have a lot of needs out there, but we're not prejudging how the communities or how front-line people are going to respond to this. We want them to be part of the ship that's driving this thing, wherever we're going with it.
So hopefully they're the engines to a better program. So that's the objective here. We didn't want to throw $2 million or $3 million in here and say, "Well, it's wide open." We were trying to be very prudent in our approach here, using all the resources we have.
We may not need all those other resources once we find that the person who gets into this position looks at other creative ways of trying to build. So that's the reason we were trying to be very cautious in our future.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I have to agree with the minister that he might not need all the additional resources, given the tremendous job they're doing at devastating the Yukon economy and moving Yukoners elsewhere to find suitable employment. We're probably looking at a base of less than 30,000 individuals here in the Yukon very, very quickly, Mr. Chair.
Let's move on. I don't think we're going to find anything additional there, Mr. Chair. Let's look at the social assistance. Does the minister have available the SA figures for Yukon for the last fiscal period, since taking office? What I'd like to know is what they are and what the trends are.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, we can provide for the member opposite a copy of the social assistance profiles. But the one note I'd like to make is that the SA requests are down and have been for the last number of months. So yes, we can definitely get the member a copy of this.
Mr. Jenkins: Are there any more trends evident? They're down. To what extent and in which areas? Could the minister be more specific than just that the trends are down?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: We don't have that handy here, Mr. Chair, but I can get copies for him. It is broken down by specific area as to where and why and how it's decreasing.
Mr. Jenkins: While we're providing that information, Mr. Chair, yesterday the minister offered a legislative return during general debate when I was on the issue of FTEs, the minister, or he could read it into the record. I went through the information that the minister provided verbally in Hansard and I would ask that he further back that up. There seems to be a couple of omissions in the information provided. I would ask that he follow that up with a legislative return on that subject.
Would this information be forthcoming by way of legislative return or is he just going to table a summary of the SA issue?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, we can do both by legislative return.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister.
Mr. Chair, I'd like to know the current government's policy with respect to social assistance. There haven't been any major significant increases in social assistance for some time. It's been tweaked in a few areas, but has any direction been given with respect to a review of the rates paid? Are they going to be indexed? What is going to happen?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: There have been no changes since the member whose party was government last. There have been no changes since then - no significant changes. We've made some changes, as you know - the two most recent ones - and the department is now reviewing it. So obviously there will be some of that information coming forward to caucus and Cabinet and Management Board for future discussion.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, given the recently announced $42 million in additional federal money that has being transferred to the Government of Yukon, could not some of that be earmarked for an increase in social assistance? Is there a problem with that? I see there's going to be $2 million of that $42 million provided annually for the operation of the new extended care facility. So we've managed, in a very short period of time, to identify $2 million for that. That's going to be much needed. But, in addition to that, Mr. Chair, social assistance rates haven't changed for a considerable length of time. Yes, they have been tweaked.
When can we look at this review that the minister indicated was being undertaken by the department? When can we look at this review being completed? When can we see some results? And when can we see a policy decision made to increase them?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: What a wonderful day to be a Liberal - a wonderful day. I would suggest, Mr. Chair, that if it hadn't been a Liberal government here, you wouldn't be seeing $42 million come to the Yukon. What a wonderful day. I'm pleased that the member from Dawson has given me the opportunity to say that. We've been on a high here all day. It has just been unbelievable.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Well, a Liberal brings Liberal money. The money bag came, and we are very elated.
I know the spin that the member from Dawson is going to make of this. The Member for Klondike is going to say, "Well, let's just spend it wherever I want it spent." We have laid out here very clearly, Mr. Chair, where it's going to be spent. We're being very prudent, because we see a problem in the future with our budget. We're in a deficit budget kind of cycle, and we've got to correct that. The member opposite knows well about deficits. Being a private entrepreneur at one time, you don't want to be in a deficit for too long. Otherwise, something has to go. So, thank you for that opportunity to share the joy that we have on this side for being Liberals. You can see it.
What we can do for the member opposite is provide to him the trend lines as they are coming down. In 1998-99, our total expenditure in SA was $9,545,393 and we had 880 individuals on SA. In 1999-2000, we spent $9,328,264, and we had 817 people on SA. Up to December of this year - that's just up until December 2000 - we have spent $6,059,097, and we have 733 individuals on SA. That's just up until December. So the trend, you can see, is going down.
Looking at what we do in the future, obviously, is a big question, and it's one that we as a government will be looking at. I hope I didn't say review. I didn't mean review. I'm asking the department to look at those issues and bring back to caucus and Cabinet what the trends are and what the potential is for the future.
So, obviously, we're concerned like everybody else as to where we are presently at and where we're going with it. The good news is that there are fewer people on SA, and I think that's good. As we all know, SA is a program of last resort for Yukoners. It's one of the cornerstones of our society that is concerned about the well-being of its citizens. That's really what it is, and hopefully that's the very clear approach that we as a government want to ensure - that we provide assistance and support for those people who need it.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, that's exactly the issue. There hasn't been an increase of any significance or importance in SA for quite some time. The numbers are dropping, and I know of individuals around the Yukon who have been on SA and who have basically pulled up stakes and moved south. Just recently, I'm aware of a number in the Whitehorse area who moved south, and it's because of a number of factors. The biggest factor is that they didn't see any hope here of getting back into the workforce, because there are no opportunities.
So, if that's the way the minister is creating lower numbers in SA - by depressing the economy - those on SA have no other recourse, after they have looked at it and been on SA for a year or two, but to move elsewhere where there are greater opportunities. I guess that's one approach. It's certainly not the approach that I believe is conducive to creating a great society, but if that's the minister's and his Liberal Party's approach to the issue, so be it. I'm not going to chastise him for making a decision. He has finally made a decision as to how he's going to proceed: just depress the economy to such an extent that even those on social assistance can't afford to stay around, because there's no hope ever, and they move on.
But, Mr. Chair, this area deserves the attention of the minister, and this area deserves an increase. I would urge the minister to give very, very careful consideration to how he is spending this windfall of $42 million that the Liberals here in the Yukon have just received, because that doesn't just come from Liberals. It's primarily the taxes paid by corporations and individuals in the rest of Canada.
Very few of the dollars in that $42-million pot are derived from anything going on here in the Yukon, Mr. Chair, and that should be carefully pointed out to this welfare government, living in a welfare state that they're helping to create - living on the largesse of the rest of Canada. We have significantly reduced our dependency on our ability to generate our taxes here in the Yukon, and that trend is going downward at an alarming rate, and our dependency on Ottawa is increasing at a rapid rate - an ever-increasing rate.
So while the minister might welcome his win at the lotteries, the bottom line is that, if spent prudently, it can do something to create and stimulate the economy, and it can do something to enhance the lives of all Yukoners and not just, as they see it, put in place something that might allow them to win the next election. I don't think that's the exercise.
I'll look forward to receiving, in due course, an overview of the social assistance.
I'd like to explore with the minister the issues surrounding the transient shelter. We're going to have a net saving of X number of dollars after it's closed. Can the minister advise the House as to whether we're on target as to achieving that savings?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I guess, in my exuberance, I forgot to mention that $4 million was going to Dawson for their airport. I guess maybe we could pull that back, because the Member for Klondike believes that it's not needed.
I think the objective of SA is a last resort and, hopefully, when people are on SA and they don't find work, we have some very creative people. They're out looking for work. They're not going to stay on SA. The whole objective of SA is to get people off SA and, guess what, they went out and found work. I think it has achieved its goal.
Well, Rome wasn't built in a day, either. So I think the important part is to have patience. And I know the member opposite talks about - in all the great things, if that member were sitting on this side, that that member would do, I can promise you that that member wouldn't be doing even a little teeny bit of what we're doing, because I know the member well. Obviously what we're trying to do is to be fair and equitable to all Yukoners, and that is really our role.
It would only take the member to take a good-news story and turn it into a negative good-news story. Only the member opposite could do that. This is a windfall for all Yukoners. And why would anybody want to turn this into a negative story? It happens that we as Liberals were able to make sure that it happened, because Liberals in Ottawa agreed with us. They listened to us. They weren't listening before, but they were listening to us.
It states in here very clearly how these dollars are going to be used. It's not like this is going to be extra money added on top of our deficit budget that we have. We have some very extreme needs in the future, and we've got to ensure that we plan for the future, and we have done that. I think it's a great plan. So there are not extra dollars out there that we're going to pull off the tree and give away everywhere. One has to remember that social services is a program of last resort. It's a program there to help people in need so that they can move on to the next stage or the next step of their lives. It's not meant for them to stay on it forever, and hopefully that was one of our objectives.
Now, the transient shelter, Mr. Chair - we again made a very tough decision. That wasn't an easy decision to make, but our government made it because we definitely saw that the economics of that particular situation just didn't match. At the same time, we wanted to ensure that we guaranteed places for our people who need these kinds of resources.
We had heard, over time, that the shelter had been abused as well, in the way it was being used, so we had to bring that into check as well. We even heard that travellers from foreign countries were using it, and we're saying that's not what the shelter was set up for.
So there are a lot of reasons why that decision was made. I don't know if that was a question.
The program has just started. We're into our fifth day of moving toward the hotel - I'm sorry, we are still working the whole month of April, so it doesn't start till May 1, really. So, to project whether we're achieving our targets, we're probably not going to be able to do that for at least six months, I would think. I mean, in a month, we'll be able to see. We know that we're not going to be spending $450,000 as we were spending on the shelter, so hopefully this is trying to be more efficient and more practical in our delivery of programs.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, what I was exploring with the minister was whether we were still delivering the service and whether we're going to realize the cost savings that we had anticipated, because there was a great fanfare about the issue raised by the minister as to how they were proceeding. Fine. All I'm concerned with is delivering the service and realizing the cost saving that we're supposed to be realizing.
As a consequence of this change, are the individuals associated with the delivery of this program being absorbed in-house or laid off or by normal attrition? How is the personnel side of the equation being addressed, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Many of those positions, Mr. Chair, were term positions, and my understanding is that a good number of them have already found work elsewhere. Those who haven't found work - some of them have been working between the Sarah Steele Building program, as well as the shelter, so they'll still be doing that on an on-call basis. Obviously, with our potential here in our drug and alcohol programming, there's possibly some future in that, because we're going to probably - if that's one of the roles of the report, to extend our in-stay program, then that would probably provide some other avenues or so.
We're still pursuing other avenues with some of these employees. Some, as I said, are quite interested in looking at other ways that they could serve. So there is some potential there. They are being looked after as best as we can.
Mr. Jenkins: Given the movement of this whole program over to the hotels - we're just going to rent hotel space - and given the tremendous windfall of money that the government has just received, I must point out that the previous windfall of $30-odd million was received from the federal Liberals to the NDP government. Now we have a windfall of some $42 million, so there's a whole series of hotels in Whitehorse for sale. Maybe the minister could go out and buy one or two to house these individuals. Is that where we're heading next, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I guess the real issue is that it's not a windfall. I mean, under the NDP government, it was a windfall. One had better believe it was a windfall. But under our mandate here, it has been looking at the formula financing process, which will be built into the system forever. There will be additional dollars for the next number of years because of the hard work of our Finance people. It's going to be from the hard work that our Premier has done with Mr. Martin.
I think the member opposite remembers going to hear Mr. Martin when he was here in town, and I think he was inspired. Obviously what we have here is a member who is, I guess, almost considering moving over on this side, if there were room here, but I don't know if there's much room.
The question is one of looking at the shelter and really looking at delivering programs efficiently and effectively. That's the real crux. I think the member opposite knows what that's all about. I'm sure the member doesn't hire all kinds of extra staff in his establishment. The member opposite obviously has very efficient people. Well, we're trying to do the same thing with government. That's maybe a little more difficult, because you're dealing with a much broader group of people who have a lot of expectations.
We were looking at the costs when the program started back three or four years ago. It was about $328,000, and there was an occupancy rate of about 3.2 per day. That meant it cost about $280 a day, even at that time, to house those individuals in that particular place.
In this fiscal year, the estimated cost is approximately $400,000, but the occupancy rate has dropped to 1.9. which, from our costs, looks like this is $570 per person per night. Now, obviously the math is very clear. We had to make a decision. We couldn't sustain that type of support. I mean you could, as you say, buy the biggest hotel and have payments on them for the next number of years if we kept this up. So that was the rationale for moving ahead in this area.
Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, I couldn't help but, in picking up the paper this afternoon, see that big marvellous headline: $42-million windfall from the federal government. So I have a couple of comments to put on the record in that regard.
First of all, the Minister of Health's claim that somehow it was the hard work of this Liberal government that actually achieved this marvellous windfall is a bunch of bunk. We all know that the correction in the formula financing arrangement across this country was being worked on for quite some time. It just so happens that the Liberals here were fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time and that our slow-moving federal government has finally completed its work and passed on the monies due to each and every jurisdiction in this territory. So much for the Liberals' claim of their hard work. It was coming anyway.
But it certainly does diminish their claim of pleading poverty and keeping Yukoners starving all winter and causing all kinds of grief in this territory by making the claim that they have no money.
But now they do have money. And let me say to the minister, Mr. Chair, that the people of my community are now aware of this $42-million windfall. And the surveyors are out surveying and tying in corners, and the contractors have their tools ready and the seniors are designing their extended care facility at this very moment. So let me ask the minister this: when do we start construction?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Talk about sour grapes. My gosh, I guess I have to change the title here. The grand-staging has now been taken over by the Member for Watson Lake. I know there are some awards coming up pretty soon, and we might give you one and we might not.
The interesting thing about your comments about the extra dollars in the formula financing -
Chair: Order please. I'd ask members to remember to refer their remarks through the Chair.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The interesting thing about that is that, when the member was part of the former government, that Minister of Finance did not have one meeting with the federal Minister of Finance - not one. Our Minister of Finance - and Premier - has had innumerable meetings with the Minister of Finance. That's why we received these dollars, because we were able to present our case with our Finance people and the Minister of Finance, because we do have a good relationship with our cousins in Ottawa. It has paid off, and we're very proud of it. We knew we would deliver, and we did deliver.
I appreciate that the Member for Watson Lake constantly wants to move to this side of the Chamber - constantly. Now I can see the desperation of the member opposite. The member opposite is even more anxious to be over here, because the member now realizes what connections can do - really understands that.
For three and a half years, there was very little connection, other than like a lottery win, which they did get in their first year of mandate because of a fluke in the system of financing at that point, and we had to do some hard work to get this.
I'm sure the members opposite are going to spend lots of time on spinning how they could spend these extra dollars, not telling the Yukon public that we are in deficit budgets over the last couple of years, started by that government. In order to ensure that we don't continue down that track, our Finance minister has been very prudent as to how these monies were allocated.
Because we do need to have a contingency fund, the member opposite knows, for a lot of reasons. And then you can see $10 million for the endowment for a Yukon permanent fund, $8 million for the Canada Winter Games, $3 million for a one-time contribution to endowment funds, and $4 million for capital spending and $2 million for the operation of the extended care.
When the members opposite looked at the extended care and had the train start on that track, the O&M wasn't looked at. It wasn't even thought of. It wasn't even part of the original so-called decision. So there was no planning for the O&M of the extended care. So at least we've got some resources here and we've taken some of these extra dollars to put into that area. So we're very pleased about that.
So as far as building an extended care or multicare or whatever-you-want-to-call-it care in any of the communities right now, as I have shared with the members opposite, we want to go into community plans with communities, we want them to be part of the decision making. We invite community members to involve the department in this process. This is happening in Dawson. This is happening in Watson Lake, when our people go down there and share with the local people as to what they see coming in the future. So that's the route I see for planning for the future. We don't just say, "Well, we've got a few extra dollars, let's buy something". We have to be very prudent in how we use our resources. I think the member opposite knows that. We've got a $6-million surplus this year, and next year it's even less, and then the following year, if we carry on the path, we'd be in the hole, and you know very well we can't go into deficit budgeting at all.
I know the members would like us to go into deficit budgeting, because then an election has to be called - into debt, I'm sorry. We don't want to go into a debt.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: That's right. It's illegal; we can't do it. So we're being very prudent about how we manage our resources. I thank the Premier, and I thank all the people in her department for working so hard at demonstrating to the Liberals in Ottawa that we had a very strong case.
Mr. Fentie: I would like to point something out to the minister. It's not sour grapes at all. I'm elated. I'm excited, because now - I mean, the Liberals almost had me believing this, that we were broke, but we're not. We have a $42-million windfall.
Furthermore, the former government always had a $15-million contingency. The members opposite are who spent that down by buying pork chops for their friends. This is the biggest budget ever tabled in this territory - $535 million. So it is a good thing that the federal minister came to his senses and fixed the problems in the formula financing, and we received our share.
However, the minister has to realize that there are serious problems in this territory, across this territory, specifically in rural Yukon. And we notice by the press release that - and the minister makes the comment - prudently, the Minister of Finance has already allocated the funds.
Well, what about those areas where there's great difficulty? Are they not Yukoners?
Are they not part of the Yukon Territory? There was a commitment in the election campaign from the Liberal candidate in Watson Lake that, if elected, there would be extended care in that community. You now have the money to do it. The community is waiting. They are ready to start construction. The seniors are excited. Everybody's excited about the fact that this government has received such a wonderful windfall.
Furthermore, the minister made the erroneous comment that our Minister of Finance, the former government leader, never ever met with the federal Minister of Finance. Well, let me point out to the member opposite that, instead of flying all over the country spending money, our Minister of Finance simply picked up the phone and phoned him. We got a $30-million contribution by a phone call. How much has it cost this territory to have the Premier flying all over the country, and what have we received? Twelve million more. Well, I guess there is an increase. I'll have to admit that.
Now, there's another point that I would like to make and that is that the minister has stated that I desperately want to be on that side of the House. I know that they need help and I know the members opposite are searching for assistance. I know that, but I can't. I am not capable of assisting in that situation. I am being very truthful and upfront. I cannot do it.
So, there's no hope of me coming over to help the members opposite. But let us think this through. This windfall - the member has stated that we're trying to spin it. Not true. It's the members opposite who are trying to spin it. And they have spun it already.
What I am pointing out is that there are some desperate needs out there. In the press release about this $42-million windfall, not one penny is going toward those areas that are so desperately in need. That's where this Liberal government's biggest downfall is. They do not see the forest for the trees.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Order please. The time being 4:30 p.m., do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue general debate, Department of Health and Social Services. Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to explore the issue surrounding group homes here, primarily in Whitehorse, Mr. Chair, and see what has transpired now that we have taken a number of these initiatives in-house.
A lot of concern arises around the assessment that is done of youth before they're placed in homes. Could the minister advise the House as to what steps and what improvements, if any, have taken place with respect to the assessment being provided by the department?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, we do assessments, as the Member for Klondike is saying. We would be more than willing to provide the member opposite with a copy of the protocol for assessments, and if there is anything more he wishes, he can let me know.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, what I am seeking from the minister is for him to outline what changes, if any, have taken place with respect to the assessment process. This has been a bone of contention, and it was the subject of a report issued on one of the group homes here in Whitehorse - that the assessments weren't being adequately done. That led to the placement of individuals in group homes who should not have been there.
Now, could the minister advise the House if there has been any change in the assessment process? Did we not follow the assessment process previously that got us into trouble, or has it been changed and altered to reflect the results of the report? I would hope that by now the minister has had an opportunity to read the report.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: For the member's information, I have read the report, and there were some inadequacies in the report. The report itself was to be a partnership report with the department, and that part of it - the partnership with the department - didn't take place. It was sort of a one-sided report, and obviously our objective was to work together on trying to resolve concerns and issues. If we're the main stakeholders in supporting these residential homes and so on, then we must be involved in how this is going to be done.
So I believe that we don't have the final answer, if that's what the member is saying. We don't have the squeaky-clean, one-model-will-cover-all approach. I think the objective here is to utilize those resources that we have in order to improve our situation, and if we're not able to do that, then we've got to continue to build on those resources so that we do an even better job in how we assess what the needs are in residential care that we provide.
Mr. Jenkins: I take exception to the minister's position that the report wasn't contributed to by all. It's my understanding that it certainly was. I guess the concern was that the minister didn't have an opportunity to vet the report before it was published in its final format, and that probably led to some concerns in-house that may or may not have been legitimate.
Given that we have a serious problem with the screening process done in-house, before these individuals are placed in group homes, and that there are problems with that, I want to know from the minister with respect to this issue: was there a problem with the procedure, or was there a problem with the procedure not being followed? Which one was it?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Well, the first thing is that I am going to correct the Member for Klondike. We don't have a problem with the placement process. That's the member's smoke-and-mirrors vision that the member always seems to bring up when the member doesn't get what that member wants.
The issue here is that we do have a protocol. That protocol is used in any assessments that are taking place in our facilities. The expectation is that, when we are doing assessments, they are done following the protocol. Obviously, there were some inadequacies in - I mean, that may be the member's view of what happened according to the information that that member is getting, but remember that there are always two sides to a story. There is never just one side. The member opposite should know that.
Obviously what we're trying to look at is to better the situation. That's why we don't have problems having independent resource people coming in and doing assessments. But there is a protocol to follow. That protocol is one that hopefully works for all people. If it's not acceptable or not appropriate, I think we have to look at the protocol. Right now, there's nothing wrong with the protocol.
Right now, the objective of assessments is to do a better job. That's what we really try to do. Hopefully, in trying to assess any kind of a situation, it means looking at the pros and cons and trying to look at a solution that is going to be a better one for everybody.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister confirm whether there has been any change in the assessment process since his watch started?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I will get back to the member on that, but to my knowledge that information hasn't been changed at this point. The understanding is that, usually, when we do - that's an operational kind of thing and obviously I'm not up to speed on all the operational parts of it. I would get back to the member with that kind of information.
Mr. Jenkins: Given that the deputy minister is seated right beside the minister and given the high profile that this issue took over quite a number of days, I thought that that information would be readily available.
Now, what's the minister trying to hide? With respect to the Klondike Road group home, when the contract was cancelled, either the process for assessment failed or the process for assessment wasn't being followed. Which was it?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I am always amazed at the member opposite for glamourizing or making an issue where there are no issues. And using what I call inflammatory kinds of words - "trying to hide". We don't hide anything. We are a public government. We are a transparent government. We don't try to hide things. Hiding things doesn't solve problems.
But maybe for the member opposite I will share some of the chronology and, I guess, that is the only way to maybe, sort of, resolve this issue. I thought the member had all of this information, but obviously the member doesn't. When this report was done by Gail Trujillo, who prepared the safety audit of the Klondike group home - by the way, this report was done long before the group home was taken over by the government. This wasn't connected to the group home. Again, the member may not believe that, but obviously that was not the case. The safety audit of the Klondike group home was part of the follow-up of the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board investigation of worker safety at the 16 Klondike group home. However, the audit was originally conceived as a way of examining child safety concerns identified by family and children's services in the same group home. So it was really a complaint by one of the employees that brought in the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.
Sandra Gibbs chose Gail Trujillo to carry out this audit. Funding for the audit was provided by family and children's services.
Now, if one were to read the report and believe everything in the report - it was very biased in favour of the Gibbs home, both in the manner in which the audit was carried out and the information that she chose to include in the audit report.
This bias was demonstrated in the following way: no input was sought from departmental staff about the issues examined and, in particular, about the various complaints recorded in the report about the department - no input from department people.
Second point - no comment on the draft report was sought by Ms. Trujillo from the departmental staff. While some unsolicited comment was provided by departmental staff, it was not incorporated in the final report.
Third point - despite having been asked by the department to carry out the audit in partnership with an experienced departmental staff, this was not done by Ms. Trujillo.
So, again, I think what we find is that those are some of the protocol processes that are in place.
Now, some of the specific issues, if you want to - I'll share with the member opposite some of the specific issues that were raised in the report. The department's May 2000 quality of care review of the Klondike group home expressly solicited the views of residents and staff regarding safety, and these views were recorded in the resulting quality of care documents. This is a reference on page 4 of the Trujillo report: "Sandra Gibbs did not meet with the director of family and children's services on April 6, 2000 to discuss the services needed by the youth referred to the Klondike group home. However, she did so in the context of presenting a proposal for a new contracted program that she would operate with Janet Webster. This proposal was not pursued by family and children's services, because any contract of this size would need to be established by way of a public tendering process." That's referenced on page 5 of the Trujillo report.
The 1998 children's residential resource review made three comments about the residential standards developed and applied by the department. Standards for a client complaint process are described as minimal, on page 17. Standards for the First Nations cultural programming are described as comprehensive, on page 44. The overall standards contained in the residential care manual are described as generally comprehensive and detailed, page 55.
These are accordingly the reference page 34 of the Trujillo report. That the 1998 reviewer found Yukon standards minimal is misleading, since the reviewers used this word only to describe Yukon's client complaint standards. The Trujillo report describes, on pages 36 through 41, Gibbs' concern about the process for referring youth to the group home. Gibbs believes that the family and children's services referral process led to safety issues for youth and staff.
During the 1998 review, Gibbs also raised concerns about the referral process, although at that time she did not allege that this process resulted in safety issues. The 1998 reviewers addressed her concerns by proposing some procedural refinements to ensure greater fairness and better information sharing with the group home. The 1998 reviewers went on to say that the presenting problems of the youth that Gibbs complained of as being inappropriately referred to her with the same presenting problems Gibbs claimed to be able to serve when she bid for the contract. The Klondike group home contract has been put to public tender once since the 1998 review. Gibbs was the successful bidder on this contract, once again proposing that she would provide residential care for eight youth experiencing the very problems she now is reluctant to serve.
The Trujillo report details Gibbs' complaints about the frequency of referrals to the Klondike group home. The department contracted with Gibbs for an eight-bed service and reasonably expected that it could make referrals whenever there were vacancies. Further, the majority of youth referred to this group home had extensive psychological assessments carried out during their young lives. These assessments were made available to Gibbs. So I think that hopefully that provides a backdrop to some of the issues around this particular report.
Mr. Jenkins: Same question, same minister looking for an answer still - what failed? Was it the process or the assessment?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I think the failure here - and, as far as we're concerned as a department, there was no failure. The failure came into being with the contractor who didn't follow the protocol. That's where the failure is - in being fair and open to all aspects of it. So that's where the failure comes about.
Mr. Jenkins: Just for the record, I'm referring to the assessment process that these individuals go through before they're placed in the home. What went wrong? Was the process not adequate, or did the assessment undertaken under that process fail or was it not adequate? Which was it?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: As mentioned in the report, assessments are done on all the youth who go into that home. These assessments were available to Mrs. Gibbs and her staff, and we're buying a service, Mr. Chair. And in buying a service, people who buy it have to make sure they know what they're buying, and if all the reports are there for their perusal, they as contractors should know what their services are going to be, or have to be, in order to meet the needs of these young people.
So, I guess you could point fingers at anybody, but people who are contracting have to read their own contracts and use their own resources that they're going to be utilizing in trying to meet some of those needs. Other than that, a person shouldn't be bidding on contracts that they know they can't deliver on, if that's part of the problem.
Mr. Jenkins: I have to disagree wholeheartedly with the minister, because I believe the Gibbs group home and the individuals running it and the calibre of the individuals hired there are of the highest order.
But let's look at the report itself. It summarizes by saying the government's failure to properly assess troubled youth jeopardizes the safety of residents and staff in the privately run Klondike Road group home.
What I want to know from the minister is this: what failed? Was it the assessment that was undertaken, or was it the process that is in place? Something went off the rails. Which was it? Let's not pass the buck to the contractor, as the minister is suggesting. Was it the assessment, or was it the procedure that was being followed? Which one was it?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: One of the problems I always have with the member opposite is that minutia become a preoccupation with that particular individual.
I read very clearly to the member opposite that every one of those youth was assessed, psychologically assessed. Those assessments were available to the contractor. Now, the contractor looks at them and says, "Yes, I can deliver a program," or "No, I can't deliver a program." The contractor bids on the contract, based on the knowledge they have about the people they're going to be working with, to provide a service.
So, if anything failed here, Mr. Chair, it has to be the contractor. As far as the report, if the member opposite is looking for some comments on the report, the person who did the report failed in not touching base with the department.
I think everybody has an opportunity to have input to reports if we are paying the piper. If we as government are paying the piper, then we should have some input into what the department's point of view is as well, and they were part of the terms of reference.
Mr. Jenkins: Same minister, same question. There is obviously a problem here. What I want to know from the minister is this: what failed? Was the assessment not properly undertaken on these youth or is the procedure flawed? Which one was it?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the minister on the floor that he has failed to answer. The question is a very simple one. What failed - the government's assessment or the government's procedure?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Same minister, same question. What failed in this case? We are talking about the youth in our society - troubled youth that the minister has a responsibility for. Now, obviously here he has failed to address his responsibility and I think it is imperative that we get to the root cause of what failed in this situation. Was it the procedure that the government has in place or was it the assessment that the government undertook? Which one was it that failed - the procedure or the assessment?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, this is an extremely important issue and the minister has laid the blame firmly at the contractor's feet. That is not what the report says. The report lays the blame firmly in the lap of the minister, Mr. Chair. In this case, the report firmly concludes that the government failed in their assessment. So the minister made a mistake that he is failing to recognize, and he is scurrying around looking for a place to hide.
Unfortunately, sooner or later, he's going to have to fess up and be responsible for the actions that were taking place, because this is a very serious issue. The issue is that the officials either failed in their assessment - the government's failure to properly assess troubled youth jeopardized the safety of residents and staff in the privately run Riverdale group home, the Klondike Road group home. That's the issue, and the minister has just danced and waltzed all around it, and he hasn't recognized that, along the line, he has made a mistake.
Now, I would like to know what the mistake was. Was it the procedure or not following the procedure that caused this error - this mistake that the minister made? Which one was it?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: We're not going to leave this one alone until the minister stands up.
Mr. Chair, the government's failure to properly assess troubled youth jeopardized the safety of residents and staff in a privately run Riverdale group home. This is one of the conclusions of an independent safety audit conducted last October on the eight-bed group home on Klondike Road. The government would not release the study. Why they wouldn't release the study, I do not know. You had to go through ATIPP to get a copy of the study. And there are some very serious allegations, Mr. Chair, in that study.
What the minister is saying is that, because his department didn't get a chance to vet that report before it was tabled, he doesn't think it warrants the time of day, and he lays all of the responsibility at the foot of the contractor. The minister is wrong, and he won't recognize that he's wrong and has made an error.
This is a very serious issue, Mr. Chair, in that we're dealing with youth here in Yukon and we're dealing with the assessment that must be undertaken. It speaks well, Mr. Chair, of the lack or the shortage of health care professionals in all categories here in the Yukon, Mr. Chair.
Why won't the minister look at this issue and answer? Either he is ashamed and won't answer or he can't answer, because he's between a rock and a hard place. Either answer is going to jeopardize the government, which in this case is very much at fault for the problems uncovered in this report.
Now, what has happened as a consequence? What we see is that the contract was cancelled with the group home provider. The program was taken in-house at some additional $120,000 annual cost, Mr. Chair. For the same eight beds, we're now up to $603,000 from $483,000. But that is not the issue.
Now, with the program in-house, the ability to monitor the program is very much removed. When it's an outside agency, it's very easy for the government to monitor it and place controls and restrictions and guidelines on its operation. When the program is brought in-house and operated by the government itself, it's extremely difficult and, in fact, in some cases it's almost impossible for the government to look inward and correct a deficiency in the system.
Even to bring it to light is very, very difficult. The Liberals in opposition promised whistle-blower legislation. Where's that? I haven't seen hide nor hair of that whistle-blower legislation, but what you have with an outside contractor, Mr. Chair, is an individual going and making a complaint and the government investigating - an agency of the government investigating. And, yes, there is fault there. The government commissions a study, and that study uncovers the fact that the government's failure to properly assess troubled youth jeopardized the safety of residents and staff in a privately run group home. That's what the study concluded.
So, at the end of the day, there's a failure one way or the other. There's a failure in the process that's outlined, or there's a failure in the assessment. What I'd like to know from the minister, Mr. Chair, is which failed, the assessment procedure or the actual assessment.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, the Member for Klondike - inflammatory words that the member uses to gain attention and to belittle others. The member is famous for that. I don't know if the member feels that that gives that member brownie points wherever that member goes. I'm not sure. Maybe that's why the member stands alone, the only Yukon Party member in the House. As far as I'm concerned, he will be the only member, at least for this round, and next time we have an election I don't know if the member will even be there, because all I hear from that member is negative. He's even negative about the $46 million that's coming to the Yukon because of the hard work of this Liberal Party.
I really find that difficult to believe.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: You know, if the Liberal Minister of Health can't even get his numbers correct - it's not $46 million; it's $42 million. At least he could get his numbers correct.
Chair: There is no point of order. It is a disagreement between members.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The member very conveniently forgets that an additional $4 million is going to the Dawson Airport - good Liberal money to the Dawson Airport. That's $46 million - 17 employees. That's called work, work, work.
The member is very good at trying to correct everybody else. I wish the member would correct himself from time to time.
The member does not want to listen to the truth, or the member does not want to listen to the other side. There's always only one side. The member keeps quoting from the report that this assessment person is the god of all assessments. It's like going to a court of law and being accused that somebody stole something. That means the person who stole something says, "Oh, yeah, I stole it," even though they may not have. They have no voice in the court of law. Everybody has a voice. But the Member for Klondike makes it very clear that it's "my way or the highway".
I think the interesting thing about that is the twist that the member operates under. The full facts are never given. And for the Member for Klondike, the decision to terminate the contract for the Klondike group home was made prior to the completion of Mrs. Trujillo's report - prior. It wouldn't have made any difference if we had the report, even if it was after. So those are some facts.
The department does not agree with the report, Mr. Chair. It does not agree with the report because we were never consulted. We weren't even asked. It was a one-sided report.
At least present both sides, Mr. Chair. We did not have the opportunity to even respond to the allegations made. What court of law would allow that to happen in the western world? Maybe in the member's court of law - the Klondike member's court of law - it might be one-sided, but it won't be in the rest of the nation because there are always two sides to a story.
That is the reason why the department was very concerned and very upset about how this report came out, because we never had any input into it. What report only reports one side of it? There are always two sides. But knowing the Member for Klondike, the Member for Klondike never wants to hear the other side of what is going on. It is always the one-sided view.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we've just learned Minister Roberts' method of justice. Give 'em a fair trial and hang 'em. I don't think that's the way to go, Mr. Chair. I don't think that is the way to go at all.
The issue is that the minister has a responsibility to youth in trouble - youth with difficulties. When they are taken into the care of the Government of the Yukon, he has a tremendous amount of responsibility. That responsibility should not be taken lightly, Mr. Chair.
The issue surrounding this group home is a very important one. Now, if the minister has a report that is done in-house, which conflicts with the report done by Gail Trujillo from Kodiak, Alaska, could the minister perhaps table that report?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: There is no other report, Mr. Chair, and the member talks about Gail Trujillo being from Kodiak. Well, Gail Trujillo was a long-term resident of Whitehorse and the Yukon for many years. She has just moved to Alaska in the last few years. I know this person very well, so to give the idea that this person is some specialist foreign person who has come here to do this job and does not know the situation, that's not true. She knows the situation well.
The point, Mr. Chair, is that it's a one-sided report. That's what we disagreed with. I entered into the record all of the reasons why we as a department disagreed with the report. If the member opposite does not want to look at those ideas or those reasons, that's the member opposite's problem.
It's like all the member opposite can see is that this person said that our assessments were not correct. We're saying they were, but we were never consulted. Where can that happen in any part of our free society, where only one side - well, that sounds like a dictatorship, where you never listen to the other side. This is not a dictatorship.
We believe that if we're paying for the tune - at the least we could have been connected with. We could have been talked to. We have very competent professional people in our social programs. Is the member opposite saying that they're not competent in assessing what needs there are out there and what changes should be made? Is the member opposite also challenging the workers' compensation report - that those people don't know what they're doing? I think the member is, because the member wants to believe this one person, who comes from Kodiak, Alaska, as telling the gospel truth. That's what the Member for Klondike is saying.
We don't make these decisions lightly, Mr. Chair. These are very serious decisions. And to make the allegation that we're not serious about our responsibilities - I'm sorry, we are very serious about our responsibilities. That's why we make decisions that are going to protect our young and our youth. We have employees who are very happy and very positive about the change that has been made. We have youth who are very happy and very positive, as best they can be. These are very troubled youth. These are not easy-fix situations. We definitely have to look at the circumstances.
I don't know if the member opposite knows what kinds of problems and what kinds of serious concerns we have with youth who are very troubled. We do not make those decisions lightly, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: I want to make it abundantly clear that I'm not questioning the integrity of any of the officials within the department, or their competency or incompetency. The only incompetency I'm bringing into question is that of the minister responsible, because that's where the buck stops.
So I'm suggesting - well, I'm not suggesting. Obviously the minister is incompetent in this regard, Mr. Chair, if that's what we want to get to, because he's suggesting that I'm referring to the government agency here and the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board as being incompetent. That's not the case whatsoever.
There was an undertaking by Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board - an assessment done on the safety - and it became abundantly clear that there was an issue surrounding a number of the placements in the group home. Then that reflected back on the assessment that was undertaken by the department.
I take the minister back to the original question. Now, either one of two areas went off the rails. Either the assessment wasn't thorough and complete, which can happen from time to time, Mr. Chair, or the process has some problems. Obviously, in one form or another, the minister has some difficulties accepting the responsibility for this situation, but the buck firmly rests with the minister. The overall responsibility for everything that takes place within the department is at the minister's desk. That's where the buck stops.
This is a very, very important issue. It concerns some of the youth here in the Yukon, troubled youth, who have difficulties integrating into society. They have a range of difficulties that have made the system put them under the protection of the Government of the Yukon, the superintendent of child welfare. Now, that responsibility is vested completely with the minister, and once again I cannot but overemphasize, Mr. Chair, that that is a tremendous amount of responsibility.
Mr. Chair, the report fully amplifies and spells out in no uncertain terms that the government's failure to properly assess troubled youth jeopardized the safety of residents and staff in a privately run Riverdale group home.
Let's go at this a little bit differently. Now that the whole group home situation has been taken in-house, operated by the Government of the Yukon, how is it being monitored? Is there a constant reporting? Because obviously there's no whistle-blower legislation.
Individuals employed in the government-operated group home can't go outside of their chain of command and say, "Hey, look, there are some problems here," when their immediate supervisor says, "I don't believe so," or "There is none." In a private group home that is not the case. The employees in that private group home, if they go to their supervisor and their supervisor says that there is not a problem, they have all sorts of avenues of appeal open to them. And it is to government and government agencies, Mr. Chair, and rightly so, because there is an efficient system of checks and balances in the system.
When we bring a whole program in-house, those same sets of checks and balances on the employees no longer exist to the same extent and therein lies the problem.
Now, the minister has tried a multitude of spins on this to get himself out from the quagmire that he is currently in, but the issue is an important one. It's an issue that I don't feel I should let go until I have some very, very concrete answers around this important area. If the minister can't provide them, perhaps over the course of the next few days he can entertain receiving a briefing from his officials, so that he has a more thorough understanding of this area of his portfolio. I would urge the minister to accept a briefing from his officials so that he can have this more thorough understanding.
Now, there are three days coming up. I am sure that, during that time, there will be ample opportunity for the minister to come to a thorough and complete understanding - not just hit the high spots but understand what is going on with this area of his portfolio and understand his responsibility for these youth who are in the custody of the government.
Mr. Chair, the youth are our future and, from time to time, some of them go off the rails. That doesn't mean that, with a little help and assistance, they can't be integrated back into society and become very meaningful and beneficial contributors to society. But they have to be given a chance, and that chance seems to be taken away from them. There seems to be a decision made by the minister here with respect to how he is going to run things. Everybody is supposed to be heard, but I repeat, once again, that the approach the minister appears to be taking is, "We'll give them a fair trial, and then we'll hang them." Now, who benefits there?
Mr. Chair, when the investigation of this group home was undertaken by WCB, they uncovered a number of irregularities. The biggest one was that the safety of residents, and primarily staff, was being jeopardized. WCB are called in on a regular basis to do assessments and reviews as to the safety of the workplace. And this work place is exactly that - a work place, for a number of individuals who are employed by the operator of the group home. And they have the protection, should they become injured in the course of performing their duties, of being able to access WCB.
That's what it's set up for; that's what it's there for. And they're also there to examine working conditions. The review carried out made it abundantly clear that it was the government's failure to properly assess troubled youth who jeopardize the safety of residents and staff in a privately run Riverdale group home.
Now, Mr. Chair, stand back and look at this picture. What is wrong with this picture, Mr. Chair? It's either one of two things. We know the system failed these employees. The next step is to determine what part of the system failed. Was it the procedure that was set out for the examination and assessment of these individuals, Mr. Chair, or was it the actual assessment?
In order to move forward, it is sometimes very, very beneficial to look behind and to look at the problems we have had in the past. Now, what I hear from the minister is a whitewash job, a whitewash job on this whole situation, blaming no one, saying that they didn't have a chance to offer some input into the assessment that was conducted on this group home. They paid for it, but they didn't have an opportunity to - probably just vet it and eliminate those parts and components of the program and the report that they didn't feel comfortable with.
That's the whole crux of this problem. We have to find a better way of doing business, Mr. Chair. We have to find a better way of operating than currently is the case.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Now, it sounds like the minister had something humorous, not intelligent, to say, but so be it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: I'm amazed. It's being suggested that the minister had something intelligent to add. I'm very much amazed.
Mr. Chair, I still have not received an answer from the minister as to what went wrong in this situation. The fact that the department didn't have any input into this report is rather meaningless, especially at this juncture. The department could have countered it with their own internal report. That hasn't been done. The minister hasn't offered any kind of additional reports, because there isn't one. There's just an internal briefing note for the minister, which tells him how to attempt to stay out of the swirling waters that have come about of his own accord.
The issue before us is that the system has failed. I want to know from the minister what part of this system failed and what steps he has taken to change the system. Now, I'm very hopeful that the minister might have some sort of response on this important issue.
Mr. Chair, the other issue is why the government wouldn't release the report. I don't know why they wouldn't.
The report goes on to say that the minister's referral process was lacking in vital background information, such as intellectual functioning, current behaviour, academic achievement and complete psychiatric assessments. This report went on for 53 pages, Mr. Chair - 53 pages - pointing out primarily areas where the government has failed to meet its obligation. That I find very disconcerting.
It's interesting that the contract with the group home was subsequently cancelled because of concerns for the safety of the residents and staff. That was the reason given for the cancellation of the contract.
So, on the one hand, we have the government awarding a contract to this organization, doing the assessment on the individuals who go into the group home, erring in the way they either undertook the assessment or on the procedure the assessment is to follow. That's pointed out to the government. They don't take corrective action, and the whole can of worms ends up being the contractor's fault.
Sounds to me, Mr. Chair, that the minister is looking for a scapegoat, and he has found one in the private sector.
So, what we have is this government, Mr. Chair, chasing away virtually the entire private sector from the Yukon. There's not much left today.
This government has destroyed any semblance of mining activity, destroyed any semblance of forestry, destroyed any semblance of oil and gas production. We have some exploration, and our visitor industry is sitting there, just wobbling along, holding its own - thanks in a large part to the Minister of Tourism and her effective job and the previous Minister of Tourism's effective job. But nowhere else do you find that in this government or in the previous government. You just don't find it, Mr. Chair. What you find is a government in disarray, not doing anything with the economy, not doing anything to encourage economic development.
All we hear about is the hype surrounding the potential for an Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline. Well, maybe we should find a way to contain all of this Liberal gas and put it in the pipeline that may or may not come. I don't know where we are going to store it, but I am sure that somewhere we can find a place to store all of this Liberal gas.
No one is going to deny that the Government of the Yukon has a tremendous responsibility in the Department of Health and Social Services when a child is placed in their custody.
It's a tremendous amount of responsibility. Either an improper assessment was undertaken on a number of these individuals or the procedure failed. This shows that we have some serious problems with the classification of health care professionals.
Mr. Chair, I know of other cases of individuals in crisis, looking for a mental health counsellor. There aren't enough. You can't even get in to see them. Why? Because this government and this minister have failed to put in place a program that attracts, recruits and retains health care professionals here in the Yukon. They're going everywhere - they're not staying here. The opportunities are much, much greater outside our borders.
I think that bodes well for the Yukon, given this Liberal initiative to recreate the Yukon into one big park. The two lead ministers in the Liberal government, Juri Peepre, the minister of parks, and the other Minister of Renewable Resources, played a very pivotal role in seeing this occur by eliminating from the process all of the resource sectors. All of the resource sectors walked away, because there isn't a balance at the table. There isn't equal representation from the resource sector and from the environmental sector.
That bodes well for the Yukon becoming one big park. Now, all that has to be decided is where we're going to place Mount Trudeau, because that's probably coming in the next little while, if it hasn't happened already.
The issue is an important one, in that we have children in custody here in the Yukon, and the Minister of Health and Social Services has failed miserably in addressing his responsibilities, and he's blaming the contractor for not fulfilling the obligations that the contractor appeared to be fulfilling on a continual basis and doing a good job of.
The minister was responsible for the problems, and the buck ultimately stops at the minister's desk. That he can't deal with the issue is very, very serious. I hope that, over the course of the next three days, the Minister of Health and Social Services will undertake a thorough departmental briefing on this very important issue and come back to this House next week with a greater understanding of his responsibilities and where he failed to meet these responsibilities.
It's interesting that the minister has offered no way of monitoring the in-house group homes.
I don't even know if they have a program to monitor it. The hardest thing to do is to monitor yourself. That is very, very difficult to undertake - very difficult to undertake.
I was very hopeful that next week the minister would be able to table an outline of how the department monitors the in-house group homes. I am very hopeful that this kind of information will be forthcoming next week, Mr. Chair, because given the importance of this issue, I can see it being very, very beneficial to understand how the system currently works.
Previously, it was quite easy to monitor an outside agency. It was rather transparent. But when the whole system is brought in-house, it becomes much less so and more difficult to monitor, control and maximize the efficiencies and deliver the service. It's obvious that it's going to cost more. It's $120,000 more for this one example alone, and that's for this last fiscal period.
For the next fiscal period, given the increases in all the areas, we're probably looking at considerably more, Mr. Chair. I'm hopeful that we can see some beneficial remarks from the Minister of Health and Social Services and some concrete evidence and reports demonstrating and solidifying his position, because it's very, very liquid currently.
Mr. Chair, seeing the time, I move that we report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that we do now report progress. Are we agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Members: Disagreed.
Chair: The nays have it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, if they're hanging on our every word, let's go back over every word, and let's give them an opportunity.
Let's look at this wonderful initiative that the Minister of Health and Social Services stood up and took credit for - the $42-million windfall that he managed to manipulate into $46 million, Mr. Chair.
What the minister is failing to recognize - and I'm sure when he gets into a caucus briefing from the Minister of Finance, he'll find out - is that this windfall resulted from what transpired under the previous NDP watch and the previous Yukon Party watch.
The Premier of Ontario and the Premier of Alberta probably had more to do with the impact on the formula financing than any initiative undertaken by the Minister of Finance.
What we have here is an excellent example of the Department of Finance doing their job, and I'm sure this initiative of evaluating the formula financing has been underway for quite some time. The Department of Finance is a very excellent department and understands fully the intricacies of formula financing. It is indeed a necessary component of our day-to-day life, since this Liberal government has virtually destroyed all the industry here in the Yukon, from the mining and the forestry to the oil and gas industry. It has virtually destroyed all of these sectors, Mr. Chair. They really haven't done anything beneficial to encourage growth in our economy here. They just haven't undertaken any new, positive initiatives.
They're void of ideas. They're void of an understanding of what creates wealth. They're void of an understanding of virtually everything that drives an economy.
As a consequence, we are relying more and more on our colonial masters in Ottawa - those Liberal colonial masters that we bow to on a regular basis. It's interesting how the Yukon Liberals must continue to bow to their colonial masters in Ottawa, echo their requests and mimic their positions on a number of issues, Mr. Chair. Even though they might have the interests of more Yukoners in mind, they really can't go there or do anything.
It has been pointed out in Bill C-68, that wonderful federal Liberal initiative for gun control. What is it doing for the Yukon where a gun is by and large used by our First Nations as a tool? It has created a havoc of paperwork and all sorts of difficulties that are not beneficial whatsoever and will do little in the way of improving the safety here in Yukon.
Chair: Order please. The member has two minutes of his time remaining.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, if we look at the territory - the $42 million, what are we left with? We are left with a whole bunch of trust funds. Why can't we use that money to stimulate the economy and create wealth? What is going to be telling is what is going to transpire down the road, in a few years, with the formula financing, when the census adjustment comes into focus, and the reduction is going to take place. Then the clawback will take place. That is a serious thing.
Mr. Chair, let's go back to the minister and see if we can get some sort of a favourable response. What went off the rails? Was it the government's assessment procedure, or was it the assessment process itself, with respect to the government's failure to properly assess troubled youth, jeopardizing the safety of residents and staff in the Klondike Road group home? What went wrong? Which part of the equation went wrong?
Can we get a very succinct answer from the minister, or does the minister want to admit that he failed? I can understand that if you make a mistake, the best way is to correct the mistake and go forward. Has the mistake been corrected, or is the minister even going to admit that he has made a mistake? Which way is it?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: My gosh. I mean, if we had rails that were working here in the Yukon, the only member I know who is off the rails is that Member for Klondike - completely off the rail. I'm not even sure what rail that member is on. The kind of comments that the Member for Klondike uses - belittling comments. It's obvious, from the public's point of view, that people are tired of that kind of use of belittling. If I can provide any advice to the Member for Klondike, keeping on the high road is how you gain the confidence of the Yukon public.
That is hopefully a message I can leave with the Member for Klondike.
The time being close to 6:00, I'd like to report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Roberts that we 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, the 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 the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare that report carried.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, 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. Monday.
The House adjourned at 5:59 p.m.