Monday, April 9, 2001 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of Alex Van Bibber
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I rise today, as will my colleague, the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, and my colleague, the Member for Klondike, to pay tribute to Alex Van Bibber.
Alex turned 85 last week. On Saturday night, a few of his friends and relatives - there were at least 150 of us - gathered to celebrate. Alex's birthday cake set off the fire alarm at the Yukon Inn. He's an attention getter.
We were also celebrating Alex's 25 years as trapper education instructor with the Yukon Trappers Association. At a time when most men would have been thinking of retirement, Alex, at the age of 60, started a new career, to train Yukon trappers. Ted Geddes, uncle to the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, who will talk more about this aspect later, had recruited him for the job, and Alex was chief instructor and later program coordinator.
Most Yukon trappers and associate trappers went through at least one course taught by Alex. Even I took a trapper education course from him. I wasn't one of his better students but I certainly learned a lot.
I can't remember a time, Mr. Speaker, when I didn't know Alex Van Bibber. I grew up hearing Van Bibber stories from my dad, who was a great admirer of the way Ira and Eliza raised their family and the way they all worked together. It was certainly a thrill Saturday night to hear more stories, all about Alex, and to see how much everyone who was there and everyone who sent messages loves him. There were lots of stories and many gifts and a great deal of laughter.
Mr. Speaker, all too often we fail to pay tribute to people while they are still with us. We should be celebrating their lives and their contributions while they can share in the party. That's why we wanted to recognize Alex Van Bibber today. Alex certainly deserves the thanks of Yukoners for his hard work over the years, especially his work with trapping, which is so important to the Yukon as a lifestyle and as a non-polluting renewable resource. I'm proud to know Alex Van Bibber.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Keenan: I speak on behalf of the official opposition and, I would say, those 30,000 Yukoners out there - I am sure that most every one of us knows Alex or has heard of Alex - who would like to congratulate Alex on his birthday, and even moreso on Alex's presence in the Yukon Territory, if I could say it in that manner.
It says in Alex's brochure that Alex honed his skills under the tutelage of his parents and his brothers and sisters. He lived along the banks of the Pelly River underneath the McArthur Mountains. I had to point out at that time that I have never known Alex to be underneath anything. Alex has always been a leader and will continue to be a leader. Alex took a way of life and helped turn that way of life - trapping and living off the land - into the Yukon's oldest profession.
He did that through instruction and through role modelling. He did it with a lot of courage and excitement, if I could say it in that way, because he influenced many young people to enter into the woods and be able to live as a part of it - not as an outside part, but in harmony.
Saturday night was a wonderful evening. As the minister said, we celebrated his birthday and 85 years' worth of candles will make a fire alarm go off. Right through his 85th birthday, Alex supplied humour.
Alex has also done much more. I don't know of anyone else in the Yukon who has shot an albino moose or trapped a blue lynx. All these types of things are very unique to Alex. I'm so very proud to be able to stand on my feet and pay tribute to one heck of a good man.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party, I, too, am pleased to pay tribute to Alex Van Bibber, most recently for his 25 years of service as a trapper education instructor.
At 85 years young, Alex has become a familiar face in his many walks of life in the territory. Among his many achievements, however, Alex has become most noteworthy for his contributions as a trapping instructor to the development of the trapping industry. As an instructor and a member of the National Fur Institute since its inception, Alex Van Bibber has represented Canada in international fur forums as far away as Europe. At every given opportunity, Alex has taken a lead role in promoting trapping and the fur trade. Here at home, he has worked with Yukoners of all ages, has seen just about every square inch of the territory, and has had the opportunity to teach in just about every imaginable place.
Alex Van Bibber is indeed a pioneer of Yukoners' history. The veteran big-game outfitter, guide, trapper and dog musher has many stories to tell, and it has been a delight on my part to listen to many of them, Mr. Speaker.
I am pleased to pay tribute to Alex Van Bibber, a Yukoner with a heart of gold, here today.
In recognition of Wilderness Tourism Association's award
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to the Wilderness Tourism Association of the Yukon Territory and their recent announcement of being named runner-up for the Arctic Award for Linking Tourism and Conservation. The World Wildlife Fund made the announcement on February 24 in Juneau.
I was informed of the association's nomination for the award when I met with them last in January of this previous year. I have met with the association on a number of occasions and am aware of the contributions that this association makes to Yukon society.
Our tabling of the An Act to Amend the Fuel Tax Act today demonstrates once again our support for this important organization.
I will certainly continue to work with them while they grow this industry to its full potential.
Their counsel on issues of wilderness tourism and conservation are certainly welcomed.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: I also rise today to pay tribute to the Wilderness Tourism Association of the Yukon Territory. The association was recognized recently at an international level by the World Wildlife Fund at its annual conference held in Juneau, Alaska. The association was nominated by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society for the Arctic Award for Linking Tourism and Conservation.
We congratulate the Wilderness Tourism Association for topping out most of the competition and in winning the runner-up award.
I look forward to even greater achievements from the association in the future. As we all know, when you're number two, you try harder.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any introduction of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the 2001-02 business plan for the property management agency.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 43: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 43, entitled An Act to Amend the Fuel Oil Tax Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Premier that Bill No. 43, entitled An Act to Amend the Fuel Oil Tax Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 43 agreed to
Bill No. 44: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 44, entitled An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (No. 3), be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Premier that Bill No. 44, entitled An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (No. 3), be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 44 agreed to
Bill No. 37: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 37, entitled An Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 37, entitled An Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 37 agreed to
Bill No. 40: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 40, entitled An Act to Amend the Maintenance Enforcement Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 40, entitled An Act to Amend the Maintenance Enforcement Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 40 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Keenan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the Yukon Liberal Government has consistently refused to respond to calls for an independent inquiry into the serious issues surrounding children and youth in the government's care;
(2) the Minister of Health and Social Services has refused to release an independent report which criticized many of the actions of officials in his department with respect to children and youth in care; and
(3) during budget debate on the Health and Social Services department, the minister took advantage of his legislative immunity to make highly unprofessional, unsubstantiated and disparaging remarks about the author of that report and the former operator of a Whitehorse group home; and
THAT this House urges the Minister of Health and Social Services to apologize, without reservation, to the members of the public whose reputations he called into question, to release the Trujillo Report in its entirety without delay and to commission a full, public and independent inquiry into his department's treatment of children and youth in its care.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Any statements by ministers?
Yukon River salmon agreement
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I rise today to update members on the status of the Yukon Salmon Treaty negotiations. Specifically, I am pleased to inform members that, after 16 years of negotiations, an agreement was reached last week between Canada and the U.S. on the Yukon River annex to the Pacific Salmon Treaty. The negotiators have initialled the agreement and it will be applied as soon as practical, although formal sign-off is still required after review of the text in both Ottawa and Washington.
As members may be aware, the Canada/U.S. Pacific Salmon Treaty was completed on January 28, 1985, with many issues relating to the Yukon River left unresolved and still to be negotiated. At that time, Yukon objected to the treaty being signed in advance of the Yukon River details being worked out.
The Yukon River salmon negotiations have been ongoing for the past 16 years to resolve the outstanding points. Agreement was reached during that time on all substantive matters except catch share arrangements for the harvesting of chum and chinook salmon originating in Canada, and compensation due to Canada for the U.S.-harvested salmon originating in Canada.
The agreement reached at last week's round of Canada/U.S. negotiations here in Whitehorse will provide for the following: (1) a comprehensive, long-term agreement on the Yukon River salmon, including catch shares for chum and chinook salmon; (2) a restoration and enhancement fund; and, finally (3) the establishment of a Yukon River Panel to coordinate salmon management on the Yukon River in both countries and to administer the enhancement fund.
This agreement is good and fair for both countries. It ensures that both countries will share the conservation burdens in years of poor returns. It also ensures that Canada and the U.S. will equally share the future benefits of conservation, restoration and enhancement. The agreement has the support of all delegates representing national, state, territorial, and First Nation governments, the salmon committee established under land claims agreements, user organizations and interest groups.
Much of the credit for the agreement being reached at this time goes to aboriginal and subsistence fishers on both sides of the border. They agreed to the conservation measures, knowing that they will be required to make very significant sacrifices to their food fish harvest.
The catch sharing arrangements under the agreement provide for an average Canadian harvest of 23 percent of the total allowable catch of chinook salmon originating in Canada and 32 percent of the total allowable catch of chum salmon originating in this country. This will apply if the total allowable catch is less than 110,000 chinook or 120,000 chum. It will go to 50 percent of the total allowable catch if that is greater than 110,000 chinook or 120,000 chum fish.
The agreement will also see the United States providing $1.2 million U.S. a year into the restoration and enhancement fund to be administered by the Yukon River Panel. The fund is to be used for programs and activities on either side of the Alaska/Yukon border that will restore and enhance stocks originating in Canada, programs and projects to develop habitat and resource stewardship, and projects to maintain viable salmon fisheries in the Yukon River in Canada. This fund will start in the year 2002 with 50 percent of the fund being directed at the discretion of the Canadian portion of the panel, to projects in Canada, which, in this case, means the Yukon.
A third key component of the agreement is that it formally establishes the Yukon River Panel, which will now be known as the Yukon River Salmon Commission. It will consist of 12 members - six Canadians and six Americans - and the Canadian panel members will come from four Yukon Salmon Committee representatives as well as one representative from the Canadian government and one representative from the Yukon government.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I would again like to express my thanks to the negotiators and delegates who have concluded this agreement after their long years of work.
Mr. McRobb: I am pleased to rise in support of this new Yukon River salmon agreement. I would like to start by acknowledging all of the hard work that has gone into the negotiation of this treaty by the negotiators themselves and all others involved on both sides of the border. We in the official opposition recognize how important it is to do whatever we can to ensure the sustainability of this precious resource. We must endeavour to foster and develop good relations and sound bargaining in all future discussions with our Alaskan neighbours.
Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, we are bracing ourselves for another bad year of low numbers of returning salmon. In fact, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is predicting no improvement over last year, making this the fourth consecutive bad year - something never before reported in the Yukon Territory. This treaty will significantly impact the food fishery, the health of elders and children and the sports and commercial fishery. But regardless of borders, we all recognize that in order for long-term gain, there must be short-term pain. We especially recognize the sacrifices made by all involved, particularly First Nation people on both sides of the border. Having witnessed the cultural importance of this activity at places like Klukshu and Dalton Post, I personally congratulate and respect those who are making personal sacrifices for the good of this resource.
Now, some questions still remain. The chum fishery in Old Crow was affected. It represents a small amount of human food, but greatly supports the resurgence of dog team travel in that community. Where does the compensation come from - the treaty or money from an emergency fund like the Alaskans have instituted?
Perhaps when the minister is on his feet, he can respond to those questions.
That said, Mr. Speaker, this is not a ministerial statement, which is supposed to be a short, factual statement of policy of the Yukon territorial government. In fact, this ministerial statement contains not one such word on policy. The minister would have been better advised to treat it as a tribute at the start of the Order Paper, Mr. Speaker, instead of a ministerial statement. This statement is merely a background paper to a news release for the benefit of this government's Liberal cousins in Ottawa and is an abuse of the rules of this House. Further, if the minister is so concerned about this matter, why didn't he order a transcript of last Wednesday morning's CBC interview with Gord Zealand of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans?
Now, this treaty is the result of 16 years of hard and difficult negotiations, Mr. Speaker, between the federal government and the United States. I am pleased it offers more than the last agreement, the one where the federal government sold out the Yukon environment by trading away the funds to clean up abandoned U.S. military sites in our territory for a bunch of rusted tanks. This treaty should remind us, Mr. Speaker, in light of the current dispute with the U.S. around softwood lumber that we must always be vigilant to protect the interests of the territory. Let's remember that the Yukon is the spawning ground for what once was and what could be again the vast resource of salmon stocks. This government needs to remind their cousins in Ottawa at all times that we exist in the Yukon, we are entitled to our fair share, and should not be sold down the river.
Mr. Jenkins: I rise in response to what the minister referred to as a ministerial statement. It is not, Mr. Speaker. It is nothing more than a press release; but nevertheless, I wish to offer my congratulations on behalf of the Yukon Party to the negotiators on both sides of the border for finally reaching an agreement on Yukon River salmon that will be annexed to the Pacific Salmon Treaty.
Now, 16 years is a long time to reach an agreement but, put in perspective of negotiating the Yukon land claims, the Yukon River salmon agreement was reached in virtually half that time. Part of the reason why it has taken so long is because the Yukon River salmon were not treated as part of the Pacific Salmon Treaty and, indeed, this agreement is being added to an annex to that treaty. Better late than never.
I'm pleased to see that the negotiators have been able to reach an agreement while there are still a few salmon left to catch. I'm pleased to see that the United States will be providing $1.2 million. Those are in real dollars, Mr. Speaker. That money will go to a restoration and enhancement fund to restore and enhance stocks originating in Canada. I would hope, however, that the habitat and resource projects created by the funds do not add to the regulatory burden already confronting our resource extraction industry, which is now about as scarce as the salmon themselves.
It is my further hope that the Yukon River salmon stocks will rebound to their former plentiful number, so that this agreement will actually produce a more equal sharing of the harvest.
Now, while governments may argue over who gets what, it is Mother Nature herself who ultimately determines if there is, firstly, to be a harvest and, secondly, the size of that harvest.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, with all due respect to the member opposite's comments, I thought we were going to be on a positive roll this week, until they got into their politicizing of statements.
I really was recognizing, at the outset of the Member for Kluane's words, as did the Member for Klondike, that it has taken a long time. There were problems encountered, but it was through the tenacious activities of the negotiators that the agreement was reached. So, in essence, it is a ministerial statement and a statement of policy in how we now operate within international fisheries treaties.
It is true that the members opposite would like to personally take credit for some of this. However, I'd like to point out that the salmon negotiations have been in Hansard records since 1988. At that time, the NDP's hon. Dave Porter had expressed his pessimism about the agreement between Canada and the U.S. For five years, the NDP's Mr. Trevor Harding championed the cause of concluding the salmon negotiations, harping at the Yukon Party. He even offered to pair with the Yukon Party to get the job done.
It's interesting though that, once the NDP did take office, there was little or no attention paid to these negotiations, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Harding certainly wasn't at the negotiating table, as he had offered.
Mr. Speaker, let's give credit where credit is truly due, and that is to the negotiators, past and present, from all levels of government - Canada, Yukon and Alaska. They have all worked very hard over the past 16 years to get where we are now, and it is because of them, not the politicians, that this deal has been struck.
Mr. Speaker, I need to point out again that it is under this government that the job did get done. No one cut any ribbons or ate any cake, although I expect that some members opposite really missed that part of being part of government.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If there are no further statements by ministers, we will proceed then to Question Period.
Question re: Formula financing agreement, adjustment to
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Premier in her role as the Minister of Finance. If she can refrain from congratulating herself for just a few moments, I would like to explore a few issues around the $42-million windfall from the formula financing adjustment.
If we were to believe the minister, the first she heard about Ottawa's decision came in a letter from the federal Finance minister, dated March 28. In light of that, can the Premier explain why she told this House last November 22 that she expected "a substantial improvement in the transfer payment due to us from Canada under the formula financing agreement"? Why did she make that statement?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to address the member opposite's questions with respect to the formula financing adjustment. The member may not be aware, but the difficulties with the formula go back to 1993-94, and the escalator is one of the issues on the table.
The formula is a very, very complex document. There are a number of factors that can influence it. Just as it can be influenced to go up because of a variety of different economic factors, it can also go down. And it is incumbent upon us for something like a census adjustment. That has happened in the past.
My comments in November were directly attributable to the fact that I have been working on this issue since taking office on May 6 last year. My first meeting with respect to this was in August. I stated our case then. I restated it in March, and on March 28, in a letter received on April 2, the Finance minister has indicated that he has seen our point, conducted a thorough review and is prepared to render a decision on this.
Mr. Fairclough: The Finance minister said that was the first that she heard of it, that it was on March 28. She is saying two different things to the people of the Yukon.
As early as last October 10, during the federal election campaign, the minister took a swipe at the Canadian Alliance Party, and she said at that time that the provinces were working on another funding arrangement with Ottawa that, in her words, had "all province support." Will the Premier now set the record straight, that this $42-million windfall was already in the works and has very little to do with any special efforts on her part to convince Mr. Martin.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member's questions get more nonsensical by the day. The fact is that there are a number of factors to do with the formula. There is a long-outstanding dispute between Canada and the Yukon with regard to the formula financing that involves a number of factors - four, to be precise. I first raised those issues in August of last year and presented the case. There was no decision reached on them until March 28, by the Minister of Finance, which is the date of the letter, and it was received April 2.
The member opposite can suggest all he likes that it had nothing to do with our efforts; however, with all due respect, I beg to differ. This government worked very hard on this particular issue. What's more, this government did what the previous two governments, represented by the members opposite, couldn't do. We delivered.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, the Premier knew that this adjustment money was in the works when she put this year's budget together. She knew it was coming the whole time her government was pleading poverty, such as during the contract dispute with the Yukon teachers and during the whole Mayo school issue. Why did the Premier table the budget that we have before us when she knew full well that it would be outdated within days of the new fiscal year starting?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite can try to spin this all he likes. The fact is that the budget was tabled February 22. The fact is that we got an answer, from an issue that we had been working on, on March 28. I spent almost August until March 28 working on this particular issue with the Minister of Finance.
The members opposite tried, when they were in government, and the Yukon Party tried, when they were in government, and they got nowhere. We worked for a number of months on this particular issue. We were notified on April 2, when we received the letter from the Minister of Finance, which includes the facts and figures.
Now, it might be the member opposite, given the NDP's practice of spending all kinds of money they don't have, but this government behaves prudently and responsibly. That's what we've done. When we were notified of the funding and the adjustment, we advised the public because - and perhaps the member opposite could examine the phrase, "material change" - it represented a change to our formula financing. That is what we announced to the public. What's more, we have announced the efforts of our hard work.
Question re: Yukon endowment fund
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I have another question for the Premier on the same topic. This House is in the middle of debating the largest budget in Yukon's history, yet the Premier insists on crying poverty. Now she's putting $15 million of this windfall into an accumulated surplus. And, using her own figure, this means the savings account going into next year will be at least $21 million, if they're using the $6 million that the Premier is saying, and there's probably much, much more than that if you include lapses from last year, to be added in.
Can the Premier explain why she decided to put so much of this windfall in a sock under the bed instead of putting it to work right now, creating jobs for Yukoners?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, clearly the member opposite didn't hear my earlier responses. The formula is a very sensitive document. Just as we can reach a resolution on some old, outstanding issues, we can receive a census adjustment, which would lower our formula and lower the amount we receive. It's incumbent upon us and it's very important that we maintain a savings account for and on behalf of Yukoners, that we manage money wisely. That's what we committed to do.
A few short weeks ago, the member opposite was worried sick about us drawing down the formula to $6 million. Now we have taken a long-outstanding issue and restored that surplus so that we are prepared to deal with any future difficulties, and the member is accusing us of doing that wrong, of hoarding it. The member can't have it both ways.
Why doesn't the member just stand on his feet and admit it? We're managing the money well.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, the Premier didn't answer the question. Why didn't you put the money toward creating jobs for Yukoners? It's a shame that the Premier cannot concentrate on the question. It sounds to me like the Liberals are putting together a big war chest.
The Premier and her Cabinet cobbled together a plan as quickly as they could in order to deal with this embarrassment of riches.
One of her ideas is something called the Yukon endowment fund, based on similar funds in Alaska and Alberta. Next door to us, the Alaska permanent fund yielded cheques in the order of $2,000 for every man, woman and child in the state this year. Even at 10-percent interest, the Premier's new endowment fund would be worth about $33.33 to each Yukon resident.
Does the Premier intend to put future oil and gas revenues or stumpage fees from forestry into this fund to keep it growing?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite likes to stand on his feet and accuse me of not hearing the questions, so let me repeat back to the member opposite what I heard him say: first of all, that this government is not creating jobs; and the second question was accusing us of building a war chest for a future election; and the third question was with regard to the endowment fund and our public consultation process.
So let me, in the short time I have, answer all three questions. First of all, with regard to creating jobs for Yukoners, that's what is already happening under the budget and under other funding we have managed to obtain, thanks to our good work with the federal Liberal government, including the 17 jobs in the Dawson City Airport, including the $35 million being put into road construction and jobs for Yukoners this summer, including jobs by Western Geco, Anderson Exploration - and many other seismic companies coming back to work in the oil and gas industry - and Expatriate's multi-million dollar expenditure in exploration. Those are all jobs that the member chooses to ignore.
The member wants to accuse me of calling an election or biding my time until the election. Well, the members opposite would be wise to get their own house in order before they start calling for an election and hold the leadership convention.
And as for the Yukon endowment fund, yes, this government intends to consult with the public, and I look forward to it.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, the Premier didn't answer the question again. Are you going to be putting oil and gas revenues or stumpage fees from the forest industry to keep this fund growing? She didn't answer the question. She got caught up in her own Liberal rhetoric that we hear every day.
$10 million is not much seed money for an endowment fund. The Premier is also setting aside $3 million for other endowment funds. Again, assuming a 10-percent interest, if that's even possible these days, that comes to about $300,000. So how many non-governmental organizations and groups does the Premier expect will get a piece of this pie? How will she avoid pitting one group against another for this money?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, first of all, this government listens to what Yukoners have to say, and we will consult and work with Yukoners on the construction of a permanent fund. That is what we are here to do. Furthermore, we have done something innovative that Yukoners have asked for. A suggestion that has come forward from Yukoners is to do this very thing. Unlike the previous NDP government, who spent many, many millions of dollars and has little to show for it but an audit report that demonstrates political interference at the highest of levels. This government is consulting and working with Yukoners around the structure of the permanent fund and we are working with our non-government organizations and institutions with respect to endowment funds, which they have also asked for.
Question re: Special Commission on the Yukon Act recommendations
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Premier. Last week on April 5, 2001, I received a briefing on the current status of devolution negotiations. While the officials did a very good job, it is obvious that two of the major issues are not even being addressed. Those two issues are the Yukon's offshore northern boundary and the Crown in right of Yukon, or the land ownership issue. Now, in the final report of the Special Commission on the Yukon Act, the commission stated in recommendation number eight that all of the political parties should reach consensus on these issues prior to presenting the Yukon Act amendments to the federal government. My question to the Premier is this: can the Premier advise the House why she is proceeding without even trying to reach a consensus on these two vitally important issues? What has she done to meet the other eight recommendations contained in the report, such as adding another year to a Yukon government's term of office?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to thank the member opposite for finally accepting and participating in this briefing. In terms of involving the other political parties in this Legislature, I have asked the leader of the third party, since I took office, to take part in such a briefing and be aware of the current status of negotiations with respect to devolution and the Yukon Act. I appreciate that that occurred just late last week.
With respect to the Crown in right of Yukon, the member opposite is persisting in a viewpoint - although I have, as leader of the official opposition and as Premier, tried to work with the member opposite, suggesting that this constitutional discussion has lawyers offering differing opinions, when the point for the average Yukoner is support for devolution and support for Yukon being able to manage our own affairs here at home, as opposed to Ottawa. For example, with respect to the discussion about the Crown in right of Yukon, I would remind the member opposite that the crown sits on top of the mace. So there is a representative of the Crown. That is one of the esoteric constitutional discussions. The member and I disagree on that point. I cannot say it any more plainly than that.
With regard to the offshore, the member has been advised that the committee is to meet this fall.
Mr. Jenkins: I would like to take the Premier's eyes and cast them on the crown at the end of the mace, because that's as close as she's ever going to come to obtaining the Crown in right of Yukon. It's not going to happen because the federal Liberal position is that it's not going to happen. The colonial masters have spoken.
The Premier appears to have ripped up the special commission's final report and thrown it in the garbage. So much for consultation and listening to Yukoners. Can the Premier advise the House why she is prepared to sell out Yukon's offshore boundaries, when her Liberal friends in Ottawa recognize Nunavut's offshore boundaries? Why are Yukoners being treated as a second-class colonial territory by the federal Liberal masters?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the only body in this House who sold anybody out is the member opposite, who sold out in terms of the faith of his constituents, in that he would ask reasonable questions and listen with an open mind, that he would make strong, sound and fair decisions on behalf of the people of Yukon. That's what being in this Legislature is about, and being in this Legislature is about working toward devolution, which is managing Yukon's affairs in Yukon. It's not about being subject to colonial masters. It's not about ripping up any agreements. It's about working for Yukoners.
The member and I and other constitutional experts have different opinions on that, and I would ask the member to respect that. Now, I'm not asking the member to agree. I'm asking him to respect the fact that there are other opinions with regard to the Crown in right of Yukon. Yukon is proceeding on the basis that has been outlined in the devolution briefing, on the fact that we will be masters, that we will be managers, and that's what we need to be in order to move the Yukon economy forward.
With regard to the offshore boundary, again, Mr. Speaker, the member and I and constitutional authorities differ on it. The fact is that we are working with Ottawa on that, and the committee working on that particular subject is scheduled to meet this fall.
I would just ask the member opposite to respect the fact that there are opinions other than his own.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I'm not just reflecting upon my own opinion. I'm reflecting upon the opinion that has been advanced by many, many, many other Yukoners and many other legal bodies. There are precedents galore and we are going to end up as a second-class colonial government, as caretakers over our land.
Will the Premier be prepared to subject this deal to a public referendum so that Yukoners can have a final say before her Liberal government mortgages our future? Will the Premier entertain that kind of a proposition?
Alternatively, will she submit this proposal to the courts for a reference on this matter?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The referendum that the member opposite seeks with respect to devolution was held last April 17, and Yukoners spoke in resounding numbers - 11 to be precise - with respect to the ability to negotiate and conclude devolution discussions. That is what we are doing. The member opposite wants to have a battle of duelling legal opinions and legal precedents. If the member opposite is so confident, table them. I will be pleased to review them. I have reviewed many of these arguments as leader of the official opposition and I reviewed them as Premier, and there are legal arguments other than those advanced by the member opposite. I believe that, to date, both as leader of the official opposition and as Premier, I have given devolution my full attention, examined this deal, I have examined the very questions that the member opposite asks and I have arrived at a different conclusion. If the member opposite wants to table documents, I would invite him to do so because I am anxious to re-review what he says exists.
Question re: Project Yukon, increase funding to
Mr. Fentie: My question today is for the Premier in her capacity as Minister of Finance. I would respectfully ask that the Premier tone down on the back-patting rhetoric and show a little recognition of the economic plight Yukoners find themselves in today. Now, the $42-million formula financing windfall is received as very good news by Yukon people who desperately need jobs, especially those in rural Yukon. One of the vehicles that this government has to provide jobs for those rural Yukoners, and indeed all Yukoners, is Project Yukon. Now the deadline has passed for applications. The uptake far exceeds the amount that this government has allocated for the fund. My question to the Premier is this: will the Premier agree to use some of this $42-million windfall, top up Project Yukon, at least to the level of the community development fund, as it was in the past, and help to create jobs and benefits for Yukoners, who so desperately need it today? Will she do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, we all know that the members opposite, when in government, spent some $16 million on the community development fund during their term and politically interfered with it on a number of opportunities.
This government has reviewed that, has audited the fund, put in place a number of different criteria - some really key innovations with regard to Project Yukon, making it focus on people, structure and places, Mr. Speaker. And that is what the fund will do.
The member opposite wants to discuss, in his heart, I suspect, the jobs and the Yukon economy and what is happening both within the boundaries of Whitehorse and outside of Whitehorse for jobs and what is forthcoming. I would just remind the member opposite that the construction of the Mayo-Dawson transmission line - something the Yukon Party opposes - creates up to 70 jobs over the next two years. With construction of the Mayo school, which is underway, 25 Yukoners are being employed there. Anderson Exploration is employing Yukoners this winter. A seismic company has announced to me in Calgary recently that they intend to return. Western Geco has hired 25 Yukoners. Just on Friday, the North Slope gas producers have awarded the first of the contracts. And, Mr. Speaker, I would remind the members opposite, who continually refer to my support for far-off pipe dreams, that those far-off pipe dreams translate into 40-plus jobs for Yukoners this summer, and I think that's important.
Mr. Fentie: Well, let the record show that the Premier refuses to recognize the plight that many Yukoners find themselves in because of the inaction of this Liberal government when it comes to our economy.
Another vehicle this government has to help Yukoners out in a time of need is the rural roads program. My question to the Premier is this: will she restore the funding in the rural roads program as it was last year to that amount to put some Yukoners to work, those who won't get jobs in the North Slope, those who won't be working for Anderson and on seismic because it's about finished, and those who have found themselves having a very difficult time to even put food on the table this year? Will the Premier top up the rural roads program to assist Yukoners - yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite must have missed this because he was too busy criticizing us, but the additional funding, which is $6 million, is not retroactive. It's $6 million for this fiscal year. Of that $6 million, we have set aside an additional $4 million for capital spending on highways and, as the member opposite should know, we are also anticipating an additional $4 million in operating and maintenance costs for the extended care facility. We have set aside half of that, $2 million, in this year's budget.
So, Mr. Speaker, yes, we have set aside money for highways spending capital projects. In fact, our government will spend about $35 million on highway construction in the coming year, reversing years of cuts to the highway construction budget by the NDP government.
Mr. Fentie: The Minister of Finance doesn't even understand the programs that this government has available to it. We're talking about Yukoners who won't go to work on highways because they can't. They have no chance to. Their option is things like the rural roads upgrade program that is a targeted expenditure to help those people in need now.
There's another vehicle that has been trumpeted as a very positive program by the Yukon government and it's called the fire smart program. It has been a very successful program in not only lowering the risk of wildfire in Yukon communities but it has put Yukoners to work.
This government has just received a $42-million windfall and yet this Premier shows little to no compassion for Yukoners who are in desperate need.
Will this Premier use some of that $42-million windfall, top up the fire smart program - at least double it - so Yukoners can go to work now? Will she do that - yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, it's amazing that the member opposite stands on his feet and tells me to tone down the rhetoric, as opposed to the belligerent "yes or no". It's more than a yes answer.
The member opposite criticized me personally, as Economic Development minister, and criticized our government for our far-off pipe dreams. Well, those far-off pipe dreams the member accused me of are promotion of the Alaska Highway pipeline project.
Thanks to our government's work, we're going to see in one of their requests for proposals alone - and there are others to be awarded this week - over 40 jobs for Yukoners. Thanks to oil and gas promotion work, we've seen Anderson working this winter, we've seen Western Geco and others - another seismic company - which are all employing Yukoners - well over 100 jobs in that particular sector alone. The member opposite criticizes us for responding when North American Tungsten calls. It is an initiative - the reopening of a mine - that is going to translate into 100 jobs for Yukoners.
The member opposite accuses us of not promoting mineral exploration enough. Expatriate announced that they are, in their exploration program this summer alone, spending over $3 million in the Yukon. That's all work for Yukoners. But no, that's not good enough for the member opposite. He also wants us to put money into fire smart. Well, we did that, in the budget.
The fire smart Ember report called for a 10-year program, which should have been a line item in the budget. But, under the NDP, no, they spent all of the fire smart money by politically interfering with the community development fund. This government has fire smart ...
Speaker: Order please.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: ... as a line item. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Arts fund
Mr. McRobb: What a bunch of hooey, Mr. Speaker. We all know that the previous government had more money than this government for the fire smart program.
Now, my question is for the Premier, also in her role as Minister of Finance.
Last week marked the passing of the first application deadline for the new arts fund. We understand that over $700,000 worth of applications were received in competition for only $400,000 worth of available funding. This is supposed to be the year of the festival, Mr. Speaker, but organizers of events such as the Alsek Music Festival don't know where they stand. Could the Premier use some of her $42-million windfall from the formula financing agreement to increase the amount available to Yukon arts groups through the arts fund?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Oh, Mr. Speaker. I knew that it was just a question of time until the side opposite started to say, "Well, let's put the money toward the way we want it spent." Well, the reality here is that when this side became government, this side started to make the decisions about where the money was to be allocated. Although I share the member opposite's concern about the very large number of applications for the arts fund, that doesn't mean to say that that is where all the dollars that we recently received in the windfall are going to go. That money will be wisely allocated among various interests of Yukon people.
I understand that the member opposite has a concern about one group that comes out of his riding, the Alsek Music Festival. I can understand that; it is his job, as the MLA for that area, to bring forward that concern. We certainly heard that concern during the budget consultations. That message has been heard by this side of the House; however, we do not politically interfere with the funds. I think that if the member opposite wants to interfere, perhaps he should talk to members of the board, although I would strongly advise him that that is not a good course of action.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I understand how the Minister of Tourism would like to feel like a player in the government, but I did ask the question of the Minister of Finance. Thank goodness she is not the Minister of Finance yet, Mr. Speaker. That would be the final nail in the Yukon's coffin.
Now, last month, a lot of Yukoners were shaking their heads over this government's refusal to support a proposed TV series that would have created more than 100 jobs for Yukoners and injected more than $50 million into our economy. I understand that most of this would have taken place in communities such as in the Klondike region and the Kluane region. We all know that those dollars would have circulated throughout our territorial economy and back through Whitehorse, so it would have been spent several times over and would have been very beneficial to our economy.
Now, with the $42-million windfall, the Premier can't plead poverty any more. The teachers strike is long over. Will she now give the green light to increase the Yukon's film incentive program so that The Call of the Wild project isn't lost to some other jurisdiction?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, you know, time has moved on. Let's move the clock forward and go with it. First of all, The Call of the Wild production is still being considered by this government, along with other television productions.
I think the member opposite - well, he gave me the opportunity. We have a film being filmed right now in the Yukon Territory called Snowbound. We have a commercial starting in two weeks. We have up to eight more productions happening in the next four months. We have done our job. We have brought film to the Yukon Territory, and the member opposite thinks that's a terrible thing, but I think it's a wonderful thing, Mr. Speaker. The return on investment is 10 to 1. For every dollar the government spends, we get $10 back to the Yukon economy. It's a great thing, Mr. Speaker. I'm not too sure why the member opposite has a problem with it.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, here's another example of how the Liberals don't answer the questions and how they don't listen to us on this side. I'd like to remind the government that we represent the vast majority of rural Yukoners, and we bring their interests forward in this House. By ignoring us, this Liberal government is in effect saying no to rural Yukon, Mr. Speaker, and that's shameful.
Now, the short-sightedness of this government is amazing. We could list example after example of decisions that are moving the Yukon's economy back to the future, not forward. The Alaska ports option is one. The Liberals' wishy-washy approach to new technologies is another. The starkest example is how this Liberal government pretends to be such a friend of business and has completely walked away from the trade and investment strategy developed in consultation with Yukon business people and the previous territorial government.
Will the Premier agree to use some of her Ottawa windfall to restore the trade and investment fund and move trade and investment from the government's back burner up to the front burner?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the question is out of order. It's a new question.
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 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 2:15 p.m.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 2001-02 - continued
Department of Health and Social Services - continued
Chair: We will continue with general debate on Department of Health and Social Services on Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2001-02. I believe that Mr. Roberts has the floor.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I would like to begin today's debate by providing the Member for Klondike and members of the House with some concrete information on the Yukon government's child welfare casework process.
To begin with, there are three different child welfare scenarios that I will speak about: 1) treatment while the child is at home; 2) treatment when a child cannot be protected at home; and 3) treatment when reunification with the family is not possible, and the child needs a permanent home.
Mr. Chair, I will begin with the first child welfare scenario: treatment while a child is at home. The goal of the child welfare services is to maintain the child in his or her own home and ensure that he or she will be protected.
Thorough and individualized case assessments are done prior to developing or providing service interventions. This is a key to delivering quality child welfare services. The social worker conducts risk assessments to determine specific factors that have caused or contributed to the development of ongoing child maltreatment in the family. These factors include personal, interpersonal and environmental factors, family strength, and children's and parents' needs.
The assessment determines what needs to occur to ensure that the child can remain safely at home and what needs to occur to promote positive changes within the family. The social worker helps out with other assessments, such as psychological, psychiatric, educational, child development and/or medical. The social worker, with other government and community resources, provides a broad range of supportive and therapeutic services to address the situations that have led to the child and family to require child protection services.
These supportive and therapeutic services can include individual and/or family counselling, intensive home-based support services such as family support workers, parenting programs, respite services, day care services, early childhood programs, et cetera.
Assessment continues throughout the involvement with the child and family in order to determine if supportive and counselling services are meeting the needs of the child and family as well as ensuring the protection of the child. By providing services that strengthen families' abilities to care for their children, we reduce the need to remove and place children in care. The department is committed to intensive front-end service delivery in order to prevent removal of children from their families and to strengthen and maintain families.
The goal of child welfare services is to help the family make and maintain positive changes to ensure the safety of the child. Mr. Chair, the scenario of the child welfare casework process is to provide treatment for a child when he or she cannot be protected at home. This means placement in the director's care. If the result of the risk assessment is a recommendation that a child be removed from the parental home and placed in the director's care, the goal is to (1) reunify the parent and child as soon as possible, (2) maintain the parent and child relationship, and (3) meet the child's special needs.
The social worker, through the assessment and case planning process, establishes objectives with the family that will make the home safe for the child to return and to meet the special needs of the child. This is referred to as the case plan agreement.
I would like to take this time to ask the pages to pass the case plan forms used by the department's social workers to the Member for Klondike, as well as the Health and Social Services critic of the official opposition, and to provide one copy to the table. We have them right here.
To continue, the reassessment of the child and family happens throughout the time the child is in care. This happens at pre-set intervals. Psycho-social assessments are conducted by the social worker. These assessments include the child's history, needs, problems and strengths. Additional assessments of the special needs of the child include the following: developmental through public health, the Child Development Centre, and medical, psychological, psychiatric, intellectual.
As a result of the assessment planning process, a child-focused plan of care is developed. This is done in conjunction with the placement resource and, if the Member for Klondike wishes, he can review the plan-of-care forms I have provided.
The plan of care addresses the following areas and needs: physical, emotional, social, education, intellectual, spiritual and cultural.
The placement resource is actively involved in this assessment and case planning process. The resource has full access to all written child assessments and reports. I'm just going to repeat that. The placement resource is actively involved in this assessment and case planning. The resource has full access to all written child assessments and reports. The social worker meets regularly with the child and the placement resource, which could be a group home or whatever placement we are putting the child in in order to support and monitor and assess the ability of the resource to meet the child's needs.
Mr. Chair, I would like to move on to discuss another child welfare option where reunification of the child with their family is not possible. This is what is called "the child needs a permanent home".
If the child is not able to be reunified with his or her parents, the goal is for the child to be placed in a permanent home. All alternatives for a long and permanent placement of the child are considered. The psycho-social history, which includes the child's history, culture, behaviour, needs, problems and strengths is updated and reviewed on a regular basis. These are at pre-set times. They don't just happen by hazard. They happen on a regular, planned program.
Reassessments include psychological, psychiatric, educational, developmental and medical. Reassessments include all aspects of what was done initially. One has to remember that these are very troubled children; therefore, to do them on an ad hoc basis would not be in anyone's interests because of the process of therapy and rehabilitation.
If the child is placed in a residential group home or group care facility, the social worker and care facility worker or organization work closely together to ensure that the special and individual needs of the child are met. This is accomplished by the following: regular meetings of the social worker with the child, with the operator of the facility, with child care staff and with clinical advisors; monthly review meetings of all team members, to review the plan for care; written monthly progress reports by the residential facility; and incident reports, completed by the residential facility.
These are all reviewed on a regular basis, Mr. Chair.
I would like to continue this discussion and move on to how the Department of Health and Social Services accomplishes its monitoring of residential services. A comprehensive quality assurance review is a well-documented process and one that I would like to share with the Member for Klondike and the members of the opposition.
I would like to ask the page to please pass this document on to the Member for Klondike and to the critic of the official opposition and the table.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
To further explain this quality assurance review, some of the specifics of it are as follows: it is completed every second year for each residential resource; the review looks at the program from a quality point of view - for example, how well the program is delivering the services that we expect it to provide - it involves the completion of detailed questionnaires regarding the service; it involves the contractor, the administrator, staff, residents, social workers and families, and it can also involve former residents and staff. The review is conducted by the residential services coordinator.
The next question: who is the residential services coordinator? This person conducts on-site inspections on a regular basis throughout the year, for each residential facility. The inspection includes completeness of records, compliance with residential standards, safety of building and location.
The coordinator participates in various residential programs in order to observe children and staff interaction and level of programming provided. He or she coordinates and participates in site inspections by health and safety personnel. The coordinator reviews all incident reports on the individual children in residential facilities.
Mr. Chair, I also think that perhaps an explanation of the role of the social worker would help in this discussion. As we all know, the social worker is probably the closest person to that individual, other than his or her parents. The social worker conducts regular visits on a monthly basis but often more frequently to residential facilities. During these visits, the social worker will meet individually with the child, participate in monthly review meetings, meet with child care staff, operator and/or clinician regarding the child. The social worker also conducts the regular plan of care review meetings. The social worker also identifies any issues or risks to children in care to the supervisor and director.
Mr. Chair, the role of the casework supervisor is important to mention as well. This person reviews all incident reports of children in care, reviews all written social reviews and assessments, and reviews all clinical assessments. The casework supervisor also participates in the Placement Review Committee when recommending placement of a child in a residential resource.
The casework supervisor also participates in the annual reviews of the plan of care for children in care. The caseworker supervisor also participates in case conferences regarding any critical planning for children in care. The casework supervisor reviews individual case plans for children in care through regular individual and team supervision meetings. The casework supervisor identifies any issues of risks regarding the children in care to the director, the family, to the director of family and children's services.
Mr. Chair, I would like to take a bit of time here and proceed to how the Health and Social Services departmental referral process works with people who are promoted to residential care.
As a result of the assessment and case planning process, the social worker recommends the best care option to meet the needs of the child or youth. If the referral is to be made to a group home or treatment facility in or out of the Yukon, the social worker presents this recommendation to the Placement Review Committee.
I would like to at this time provide the Member for Klondike and the critic of the official opposition, and table with them, a copy of the terms and references of the Placement Review Committee. If the page would please come and seek these, then we'll distribute these documents. I would be grateful.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
When a specific residential resource is being considered for the placement of a child, the operator and clinical advisors are invited to the Placement Review Committee, where the social worker presents an overview of the child's history, needs, behaviour and legal status.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the Placement Review Committee makes a recommendation and referral to placement resources that best meet the needs of the individual child. This recommendation is followed by a written letter to the operator of the residential resource.
I would like to underline, Mr. Chair, that prior to the acceptance of the child in their resource, the operator or clinical advisor does the following: meets with the child, meets with the social worker, meets with the present placement resource - for example, a receiving home or foster home - and reviews all child and family files. I underline "and reviews all child and family files", which are in our possession. These files include the following: the social history; the psychological assessments of the child and family; residential assessment reports; placement history; reports from previous foster, residential or treatment facilities; psychiatric assessments; treatment reports, such as child abuse treatment services - CATS - or the youth sexual offender treatment program; child development reports; speech and occupational reports; case plan agreement with the family; plans of care specific to each child in care; social work daily contact notes; child review recordings; case conference minutes with respect to case planning; and legal and court documents, including all affidavits, which document history and reasons for the child being in care.
There are also educational documents, which include assessments, report cards, reports, correspondence to and from the school, individual education plans, young offender information, including probation orders, predisposition reports, incident reports from previous placements, medical, dental and optical assessments and reports and all correspondence with regard to this child and family.
The residential resource then replies, verbally and in writing, whether they will accept this child in their facility.
So you see, Mr. Chair, the Department of Health and Social Services has a well-defined referral process. Specifically, the prescribed format of protocol of the Placement Review Committee terms of reference was followed for each child referred to the 16 Klondike group home. All children referred to the 16 Klondike group home met the criteria within the public tender documents and contract. At this time I would like to provide the Member for Klondike and the critic from the official opposition and the table with a tendered document, the service contract for youth group home services. If the page would kindly come and receive these we would appreciate that.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
With respect to the referrals of the 16 Klondike Road group home program, all children referred to the 16 Klondike group home were in the permanent care and custody of the director of family and children's services. The group home contractor and/or their clinical advisor had the opportunity to and did review the departmental case file documentation on each referred child.
Extensive social work, psychological assessments and case planning had occurred for each child. All assessments and case planning documents were contained in the case files. The operator or contractor could request additional information on assessments to determine suitability, and this was done on several occasions. The operator or contractor, as per the contract agreement, had the right to refuse a referred child if they did not believe that the child fit the residential facility's criteria or could not meet their needs. Again, this was done on several occasions.
In addition to other clinical resources already mentioned, the budget of the Gibbs Group Homes for clinical services was a total of $141,800 for 2001-02 budget year. This included $49,400 for the 16 Klondike Road group home. So this was just the budget for clinical services, and about a third of it was for the 16 Klondike group home.
With that, Mr. Chair, I am going to sit down and listen to further questions that the members opposite may have.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to thank the minister for his overview of this area of this portfolio, Mr. Chair, but unfortunately it doesn't address anywhere near the number of concerns that I raised with the minister last Thursday.
In the interest of speeding up debate, I was very hopeful that the minister, upon reflecting on Hansard and consulting with his officials, would rise and correct the records where the information that the minister provided is not an accurate reflection of the sequence of events and what transpired. Is the minister willing to undertake that kind of commitment, correct the record and provide the information in a manner that outlines how the events progressed and what went wrong and what transpired with respect to the Gibbs Group Homes?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I believe, Mr. Chair, that I have been consistent with comments that I made last Thursday, and I'm being consistent today. What I have done today is clarify the process, because obviously some people sometimes don't understand the process, and it is as transparent as one is ever going to get, and there's no need for a correction because the facts are there.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm not referring specifically to the process. I am referring specifically to what went wrong with Gibbs Group Homes and why the contract was pulled from them as a consequence of the safety audit that was undertaken there.
Let me put forward my question to the minister, and I refer specifically to page 1616 of the Blues. I asked the minister: "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."
The minister responded by saying, "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."
Would the minister now like to correct the record?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: As I have mentioned on many occasions - and I don't know how many times I'm going to have to say it, but I'll keep saying it because the assessment process is in place. I have shared that with the members here. We followed the assessment process. We followed the response to whatever we feel, Mr. Chair, that I think the member opposite is trying to put words in people's mouths - that really we disagree with the bias of the report, and we have been very upfront about that. I'm not sure how much more one can say. It was the point of view of the person who did the report, with very little contact, if any, with the department.
So if one is going to submit a report presenting just one side of things and not presenting it all, then obviously we're not going to agree with it. Even if the report had been bad - if the department had been contacted, I would accept that. But the fact that we weren't contacted and weren't part of the input of the overall report, then obviously we can't support something when we didn't have a part to say in the process.
That's the real issue here, Mr. Chair, and I'm not backing off from that. Obviously, if you're going to do a good research project, you talk to all parties and come up with your opinions or your views, then you let people who are going to receive them make decisions based on that.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's stay with this safety audit of the Klondike group home of the Gibbs Group Homes, done by Gail Trujillo. The minister is taking exception to this report as not being a very good report, in that it did not have input from the Department of Health and Social Services.
Has the minister had an opportunity to review the terms of reference for this report? The terms of reference spelled out by the department when they commissioned the report - has the minister done so?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I know the Member for Klondike wants me to micromanage. I believe many of the questions I get from the Member for Klondike require micromanaging the department, or micromanaging whatever I do, and I don't do that, Mr. Chair. I'm quite capable of doing that. My former life led me to micromanage a lot of things, because that was the state of my job.
As far as being familiar with all terms of reference of every contract and how they're set up and where they go, that's an operational requirement. It's not one that I, as the minister, should be aware of and, at this point in time, I can let the member know very clearly that we disagreed with the fact that we weren't involved in any of the consultation, or very little of the consultation, when this report came out.
That's the issue and, therefore, not all the facts are what they appear to be. If one wants to read everything and believe everything one reads without sort of consulting all the forces out there, then obviously you're going to get a very slanted view. As I said earlier, I am quite open to people being critical, as long as they've done it thoroughly in trying to ensure that they have touched base with everyone. That's the whole process. That's what fairness is all about that. That's democracy.
Hopefully we can move on. This is the issue I've been given. I've given the whole ramblings of how the department sets up, how they go on, what they do. I agree with those principles, and these factors were followed.
Why do we want to keep on this? I'm not going to change my point of view about my observations of the report. So, that's the long and short of it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I don't suspect that I'll ever be able to change the minister's point of view, but I want to get on the record the facts and the accuracy of the information being provided by the minister, and point out where this independent audit came off the rails, according to the minister. Because the minister doesn't place much faith in this independent audit.
The starting point for review is right with the contract that was let from the Government of Yukon to Ms. Trujillo to undertake this audit - who her contacts were going to be and what their input was going to be to this initiative.
Now, the minister has categorically stated, "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." How can the minister substantiate that position, Mr. Chair, when that is not the case? There were individuals from the department involved in the process. Going back to the terms of reference for this contract, awarded by his department, that can be ascertained.
Now, it just takes a simple amount of research on the minister's part, or by the minister's officials. If he is not prepared to do that, Mr. Chair, what is he trying to hide? What is the minister trying to hide? We have a serious problem here that is not being addressed, and the minister is hiding. He is not prepared to recognize and follow through with his responsibility. I want to know why. Why has the minister not gone back, seen the terms of reference for this contract, ascertained who, from his department, was involved with the process and confirmed it? Because that is all spelled out.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: True to form, Mr. Chair, the Member for Klondike likes to embellish, likes to blow up and blow out of proportion the real facts. The Member for Klondike is known for not listening to the facts. The Member for Klondike has a specific goal of making everything that the Member for Klondike asks about look bad. There is not anything that we do that is good - nothing. I would like to go back into the Hansard over the years and see if there has been anything, or very little, said about the goodness that past governments have done, including our own. Now, if that is the point, to make governments look bad at any cost, then I don't agree with the Member for Klondike.
Number one, Mr. Chair, we are not hiding anything. If anything, we have been upfront about all the issues. The report -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Again, of course, the members opposite, you know, can't listen because they have already made their minds up that they are not getting an answer. That is typical; we hear it all the time. Every time they ask a question, they never get the answer, and yet we give them the answer. They are looking for something that isn't there. They don't want to move on. They are playing political optics right now. That is big time, Mr. Chair.
Now, we have tabled a number of documents. The contract was tabled. The forms used were tabled. Maybe what the members opposite should do is read those materials. I can bet you that the members opposite will not read them because they are not interested in the facts. They are interested in hype, pretending that there is an issue or that we are hiding something. Why would we want to hide something when we know that we have an opposition like we have? We wouldn't want to hide anything because obviously it will come out somewhere, somehow and in some form. This is a small community. There is no way that we would ever want to move down that track - not like the former government in past years, which spent oodles of money on community development fund grants and had special favouritism for the ones they wanted. We don't do that, Mr. Chair.
And this issue - this is open; this is transparent; this is trying to respond to an issue that, by the way, Mr. Chair, was started under the last government when they had their first report done. And guess what, Mr. Chair, they did not follow through fully on a lot of those items, either. They followed through on some of them, but not all of them. Otherwise, the problem should have been solved. If everything had been done in that first report, then why are we back with a second report, with the workers' compensation report? And why are we back with many complaints from some of the individuals about the operation? Mr. Chair, I rest my case.
Mr. Jenkins: Let the record reflect, Mr. Chair, that the minister is wandering all over the place and he has failed to respond to the question; but let's move on. Let's explore with the minister some of his understanding of the situation surrounding the Gibbs Group Homes. Which came first, Mr. Chair, the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board audit or the Gail Trujillo safety audit?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: It's my understanding that the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board report was first, but I could be off by that, and the safety audit was done shortly thereafter. They were both done sort of in the same time frame, around the same months - I'm not saying the exact same months, but they were done in the same quarter, if you want to call it that. I don't have the exact dates. Again, Mr. Chair, I'm not a micromanager. I don't think it's important when they were done. They were done, and they were done exposing a very strong concern and some problems. Obviously we have to move on from there. We've made changes. We've obviously responded to those reports, and we've gone on. Why the members opposite want to stay there, I'm not sure. Well, I think I am sure, but I won't comment on that right now.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister's absolutely correct. The Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board safety audit was undertaken first, and then a contract was let by the Government of Yukon Health and Social Services for the safety audit that was performed by Gail Trujillo.
The terms of reference were set out. I'm just pointing this out for the minister's benefit, because what we have is a problem and, in order to address a problem, one has to be familiar with the series of events that took place leading up to that problem, and what steps were taken prior. That's a normal business procedure.
I don't know what the minister understands about business but, obviously, somewhere in his teaching career, he must have had a course in business. I would be very hopeful, because the minister has a tremendous amount of responsibility here.
Let's look at the Gail Trujillo safety audit. The terms of reference spelled out that it was to be an independent audit. The minister said it has to be a partnership. How can it be both independent and a partnership simultaneously? Could the minister provide an explanation?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I guess, for the member opposite, if I used the word "partnership", maybe the Member for Klondike is using it in its sort of whole, 100-percent approach. I think what you do when you have an independent audit, or an independent study, is at least you touch base. You know, with what I'm saying about partners, I mean partners in the process, and the Health and Social Services department is a partner in maintaining and sponsoring group homes or any kind of support that is needed in our SA programming.
That, to me, is a partnership.
Now, I don't think I implied - I hope I didn't imply - that we felt that the report or audit had to be done in full partnership, but we did feel that, when issues were being raised about concerns by the auditor or by the person doing the report, at least that person should have contacted the department and talked to people there to confirm that these were issues. But the person did not get their side of it, Mr. Chair, and I think that's the problem.
It's like a one-sided report. I mean, I can write one-sided reports all over the place. I've written lots of reports, Mr. Chair. It's very much like the previous government in their decision making when it came to community development grants. I mean, they just took one side of it and did their own thing.
We're not doing that, and it's the same thing with this as when you look at any kind of report. The least any kind of auditor, or any kind of reviewer, should do is ask the other side what the issues are here. We're not saying it had to prejudice the view. If that person agrees or disagrees with the department, fine, they can still do their own assessment and put their own comments in the report.
It doesn't mean that we're going to be influencing a change if there is no fact there. What you do is make a connection, you do talk to people. We disagree, Mr. Chair, with the outcome of the report because we were never involved. Never involved. And I think people have to be involved in whatever happens, particularly if we're paying the piper. If the Member for Klondike were sitting here - gosh, heaven forbid - that decision of accountability would be the foremost thing in that member's mind, that you just don't do things because it's there. You have to have accountability, and that's a form of accountability.
Mr. Jenkins: It sounds like the minister is making a good stab at covering up for some inadequacies that have taken place.
Mr. Chair, the issue is that the terms of reference for the contract with Gail Trujillo spelled out specifically that the report was to be an independent audit. That's why I asked the minister to go back to the contract and look at it. He'd also find out in that contract who the contacts were within the Department of Health and Social Services.
Then, when I asked the question of the minister in the House on April 5, his response was, "For the member's information, I have read the report and there are 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.
So, the question to the minister - let's try this on once again, Mr. Chair - is how can it be an independent audit and a partnership audit simultaneously? What you want is a hands-off, stand-alone, independent audit. That's what the department contracted with Ms. Trujillo for. That's what she was doing in fulfilling her obligations to the contract. Then, after she did so, it appears that the department went back to the individual and said, "We don't like it." Well, so much for the independency of an audit.
Could the minister now correct the record as to the sequence of events and what actually transpired? Was it an independent audit, or did the terms of reference for the contract spell out that it was a partnership audit? Which one was it? Both can't be right, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, once again, the member - I don't know what it is with the member opposite. He picks on words and reads them for their definition in its entirety. Partnership, as I explained to the member before, may have been too strong of a word to use, but it was meant to be that we, as the payers of whatever - be it the contract or be it services - have the right to at least be consulted. If that's what the member opposite is trying to uncover - that we should have some input into whatever happens. It still is an independent report. This person works outside of the government. It has always been an independent report, but any good reporter or any good auditor touches base with all parties and all partners.
So maybe in my exuberance to try and assure that we are all working together, the Member for Klondike is using the partnership as, well - in other words, it had to be written with the department. No, I have never said that. If that is what the member believes I am saying, I am not saying that. It still was an independent report. But the least that could have happened is that, before the final report came out, at least there should have been some discussion or concerns given to us, the department that pays for all these things, so that at least we could have given our side of the concerns. The person doing the report can still go out and write their report, but we were never contacted. We were not even talked to about it when it came to the final report. That's why we disagree, Mr. Chair. We had no input to it.
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, I will give the minister the opportunity to correct the record on this information. Will he do so or does he believe that what he said is an accurate reflection of this whole situation?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: What are you specifically referring to? I say a lot of things, Mr. Chair, and I want to make sure that what I am agreeing to is what the member opposite is asking for. I am not just going to give an open, blank cheque here to the member opposite. I would like to know what he wants me to reaffirm.
Mr. Jenkins: I just don't believe what I heard. Is the minister now saying that some of the information he gives out in the House is accurate and some of the information he gives out in the House is inaccurate? Is that what the minister is trying to say?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: That is what the member is great for. You know, he makes these wild accusations and then believes that people are actually going to buy it. Yukoners are on to the Member for Klondike. It is only for headlines, Mr. Chair, that's all. It has very little to do with the facts and the reality. If I were to say, "Yes, I agree with the member opposite, what I say in the House is all true" - hopefully. Mr. Chair, if I make a mistake, I am quite willing to correct it.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Chair: He is talking about himself.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I am talking about myself. I am being -
Chair: Order please. The member is referring and actually says that he speaks the truth. If he makes a mistake, he is certainly not talking about making a lie, he is saying he is making a mistake. He is referring to himself. There is no point of order here.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: It just demonstrates that the members opposite, you know, how they intend to proceed. It is always headlines and headhunting - never looking at the issues, but trying to make something out of nothing.
They've done this on many occasions. I said in previous comments that sometimes I do read the newspaper. It was interesting; I read the newspaper on Friday, the editorial there on "Put up or shut up." It was a very good article. Like I said, I don't read it often, but it's sometimes what should happen. If you've got an issue, put it on the table and let's get on with it, because I've answered all the questions. There is no cover-up. But the members opposite would like us to believe or the public to believe that there are cover-ups.
Yukoners are fed up with it. There is no cover-up. Decisions were made based on solid information, on facts, and if the members opposite want to make an issue out of something that is factual, then that's their business; it's not mine.
Mr. Jenkins: For the record, I asked the minister to agree with what he had said, not what I was saying. So the minister can't even do that, so that leads one to suggest that there is probably a measure of information that is not accurate versus a measure of information that is accurate in what the minister equates in the House, Mr. Chair.
But let's move on to the terms of reference of this Trujillo report. Now, the terms of reference set out a steering committee. Can the minister confirm that there were two members from his department on this steering committee - yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, there were two members on that team.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let me get this straight. There's a steering committee formed as part of the terms of reference of this contract awarded - the safety audit of Klondike group home - to Gail Trujillo. Sitting on the steering committee are two members from the Department of Health and Social Services.
Now, can the minister also confirm that the draft report was submitted to the steering committee on October 30, 2000? Now, the date might not be of consequence, but the fact that there was a draft report and that it was presented to the steering committee - can the minister just confirm that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes.
Mr. Jenkins: Now, given that the department is paying for the services, sets out the terms of reference, had two members on the steering committee, had the draft report submitted to the steering committee on time, as required in the contract, reviewed it, gave feedback to the official who was contracted to do the report, how can the minister say his department had no input?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The steering committee was put in place to ensure there was that type of input I had been referring to earlier. The steering committee was not used for that purpose at all.
Mr. Chair, the steering committee was presented the report in October, and that's exactly what happened - presented with the draft report. Period. There were no comments made or changes made to the report. It was a de facto policy - the author at that time presented the report and said, "Here's the report." That was it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I submit, Mr. Chair, that the minister has things kind of in focus, but he hasn't got the sequencing of them in the proper order. There was a draft report submitted to the steering committee. The steering committee had an opportunity to review the draft report. Changes were made to the draft report, and the final report was tabled.
Now, that's a very standard practice when working with a steering committee, and that procedure was clearly outlined in the terms of reference for this contract. The responsibility of the contractor to ensure that the steering committee members read the draft report isn't contained anywhere in this document.
So, whether they did read the draft report or whether they did not read the draft report, we don't know. But at the end of the day, it appears that the department was upset with the results contained in this independent safety audit of the Gibbs' group home, and, as a consequence, they want to slander the report and slander this individual's reputation.
The sequence of all of those events is spelled out firmly, Mr. Chair, in the terms of reference of the contract. They are very standard terms of reference. I don't think the minister can stand on his feet and say that the terms of reference weren't followed, because they clearly would have had to have been followed in order for the contractor to have been paid, because any time a contractor doesn't follow the terms of reference, they do not get paid or there's an adjustment made or a reduction made in their contract price. That wasn't the case. So obviously the steering committee that was set up under this contract had representation for the review of the preliminary report.
Is the minister saying now that the officials from his department didn't read the preliminary report and didn't carefully examine it? Is that what the minister is trying to say now?
Chair: Order please. Before we go any further, we have noticed that a word used in the last statement by the Member for Klondike was the word "slander". I'm going to ask the member to withdraw that. Slander is defined as a malicious, false, injurious statement spoken about a person; also, slander, legally, is a false oral defamation. This is clearly outside the bounds of the House and I'd ask the member to withdraw it.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Jenkins: I will retract the word "slander", but I'm sure that if the minister repeated the same remarks outside the House, he wouldn't have the privilege of the House with respect to those same remarks that he has made against this contractor, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Again, it wouldn't matter what one shared with the Member for Klondike about the facts, the Member for Klondike will put his own twist on what really has happened. The committee received the draft report and no comments were made. The report was then submitted, you know, to the department - as a matter of fact, it came up here in the House even before this side found out about the report even being released.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Well, Mr. Chair, the report came up as a comment in the last sitting, before we had even seen the report. So, I am not sure how that happened but it did happen.
The important part is that, from the auditor's point of view, the auditor did her report as she saw fit. We, as a department, disagreed with it. The auditor was paid, so what is the problem? We disagreed and we gave the reasons why we disagreed. Now, if the member opposite doesn't want to accept the reasons, that is the member's problem. Personally, I accept those reasons and they still stand; they haven't changed. Trying to make an issue out of it when it is already said and done and we are moving on with life - I mean, I believe in history but only in history in that you can improve things. I don't know what the member opposite is trying to improve because we made decisions and we have gone on. Now, if the member wants to continue on this line of questioning, fine. That is up to the member. But it isn't going to lead anywhere and there are going to be no different answers. The answers are going to be as consistent as they have been right from the beginning.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, this is a very, very important issue, and it's an issue that deserves a great deal of attention and examination, given that there have really been three reports on group homes that are of serious consequence and that point out that there are difficulties and problems with the system - the system that the minister so carefully outlined here and all of this information that he tabled recently in the House, and then spoke at length to.
What it points out is that (1) either the procedures are incorrect; or (2) the procedures are not being followed. Now, which one is it, Mr. Chair? Are the procedures incorrect that are outlined by the department, or are the procedures not being followed? It has to be one or the other, Mr. Chair, because we have a serious problem. Which one is it? Is there something wrong with the procedures, or is there something wrong with the procedures not having been followed?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, there are a couple of things here that I would like to clarify for the member opposite. The more time that the opposition spends talking about an issue - that the train has left the station already - the more there is the perception out there that there is something wrong here with some of the people involved.
I have to tell you very categorically that I have worked with the safety audit person on previous occasions, and this person is a very competent, qualified person to do whatever she has to do. But that doesn't mean, Mr. Chair, that just because I believe that, as a person in my former life, sometimes we have to agree with everything that somebody comes up with. That's the nature of the situation. If you don't agree with something, you have a right to say, "No, I don't agree with you." That's what this is all about. I don't agree with the Member for Klondike, and hopefully the Member for Klondike will understand that there are going to be differences of opinion, and I've tried to give the reasons why we have differed with the Member for Klondike and the opposition. If you don't accept them, that's, as I said before, the problem that you have.
Procedures are laid out as systems - I'll withdraw that word "you"; you're right, it's such a hard practice to get rid of, trying not to use that word. The issue of what we as a department do is what are called practices of many departments throughout Canada. They are processes and procedures that are in place because they tend to solve, or resolve, or work on the issues. Are they perfect? The answer is probably no. So, if there are some flaws in the process or the procedure, we're always more than willing to change them if it's for the betterment of the people we work with.
If the Member for Klondike or the official opposition have some ideas of how we can make it better, then please bring them forward. I'm always open. I've said on many occasions that working together provides better solutions.
Now, the Member for Watson Lake talks about resigning. Why would one want to resign when one is doing the job? Because there are some hard decisions here, and because we're laying out the facts, it tells you another message about how the opposition feels when they don't get their way. Their immediate response is, "Resign."
No, Mr. Chair. There are a lot of issues out there, and you would think the government of yesterday would know that, that there are a lot of issues out there, and that they're not always easy. Mind you, if you always go the easy route, as the last government did, I guess you know where you sit, then.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the issue is an important one that we have on the floor for discussion, and the minister is not answering the questions. But let's go on the basis that all of the procedures spelled out as to the admission of an individual into a group home are well-advised, they're in good standing, and they're very thorough. It's a complete and thorough undertaking of what officials within the department must do.
Could the minister confirm that all the individuals placed in the Gibbs Group Homes conformed and had the complete assessment done as required before they were placed in the group home? Could the minister confirm that, before these individuals were placed in the group home, this all took place? Or was it like a great deal of things that happen this day under the minister's watch - they happen after the fact?
Which one is it, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Again, the Member for Klondike can't help but twist in the air that it's always done after the issue is raised. I can categorically say for the record, Mr. Chair, that these procedures were in place long before I walked into the position. But that, again, is the procedure that the members opposite like to use. The members opposite like to play on the negative. They never play on the positive because, obviously, playing on the positive would admit that things are going right.
Mr. Chair, I think it's very important to note that what we're trying to do is look at how we can improve our system. Being negative only helps if you're trying to give positive, constructive advice. As I shared with the members opposite in the long talk I gave here on process, in which I laid out all the issues and all the steps that take place, the really young people or any people staying in these sorts of extreme residential homes - that's almost like a third or fourth level in placement, so a lot of things have happened before they even arrive there. So all these steps have been more than fully covered, or they wouldn't be there. This is not done easily. They are not just ripped out of their homes and shoved into a home like 16 Klondike. There are a lot of things that have gone on - a lot of assessments have gone on - and I have a record of all those assessments from my own point of view, and there's not one; there are many assessments.
So, if one wants to challenge all the assessments and all the expertise that we have out there in our placement procedure, then good luck to you, because obviously we are doing our homework.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I'm somewhat disappointed that, once again, the minister failed to answer the question. The question to the minister, once again: given that we have a great deal of procedure and protocol to follow, which is great, can the minister confirm that the procedure and protocol was followed with respect to the placement of each and every individual in the Gibbs' group home - yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I thought I said that. To the best of our knowledge, yes.
Mr. Jenkins: If I were to suggest to the minister that a number of the assessments were done after the fact, what would his response be, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I guess the members opposite didn't hear what I said. Assessments are done on every child. There are always follow-up assessments. They are done on a regular basis. Some have more than one. Some have many. To suggest that no assessments were done, which I think the member opposite is trying to suggest, is not true.
I withdraw that, Mr. Chair. The fact is that we do assessments on every child. How are we going to make that determination as to where they should be placed? By wish? By golly? Pull it out of the sky?
Mr. Chair, I have worked with these children throughout my career. That's not the way we arrive at decisions. Are they perfect? Nothing is perfect. We are always open to suggestions as to how to improve it.
Mr. Jenkins: What I am getting at is that when you have a group home that is operated independently from the government, it is much easier for the department to monitor that group home and keep checks and balances on that group home. It is done in a multitude of ways, and it is done quite effectively. What we have seen, under this minister's watch, is that group homes have been taken in-house and operated by government itself.
The ability of the government to monitor itself is much more remote and removed from the government monitoring the private sector. It's very, very difficult and much harder to undertake and perform that task.
I want to go back to the last question to the minister. Now, one of the assessments that must be undertaken before an individual is placed in a group home, when it is warranted, is a psychological assessment. Can the minister confirm that all of those assessments of these individuals placed in the Gibbs' group homes were done prior to their being placed in the home?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The assessment process - I mean, knowing that there are many types of assessments. I have shared with the members opposite what some of those are. The assessments that are used are to respond to the needs or the perceived needs of the child. That is what the assessments are based on.
To say that every child needs a psychological assessment is not necessarily what is needed. They need many other things, so I could not support the fact that the member opposite is trying to suggest that they all need a psychological assessment. They all need an assessment, and a variety of those assessments bring out different things for different reasons, different purposes and different planning, but they all have received an assessment. I think that has to be the bottom line; otherwise they wouldn't be placed in those situations.
One must always remember that if you are contracting - and even if you are not contracting - the people who run these organizations or these homes have a right of refusal as well, and this has happened on a few of those occasions. They read the files as well as anybody else, so I am not sure where the member is going with this.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, the information that you glean from the assessment procedure determines whether you place the child in a group home or a foster home on occasion. That's where I'm going.
Perhaps the minister can help me out, Mr. Chair. How are decisions made to refer children to specialists for testing? How is that decision made?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Well, we're really getting into micromanaging at this point, and I'll have to pull on my history of working at a school and looking at what we do there, how we try to build with the department. The circumstances are fairly similar. You work with the parents, you work with the caregivers, you work with the social workers. You have what is called an assessment team. They sit down, and they meet, and they look at the problem and try to respond with all their knowledge and understanding of this particular person, and then come up with what is best for them. What do they think should happen? Should it be a psychological one, should it be an academic one, should it be a variety of psychiatric ones or whatever? It's a team of what you call ground-level people who know the child and who believe that this is the direction they should go. So I don't know if that helps, but that's the process and how it's started.
Mr. Jenkins: So it appears that family and children's services would have all the information and all the access to all of these reports and testing that has been undertaken to make a decision as to where that youth should be placed. Is that the case, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: It's really the assessment team. All these documents, as I shared earlier when I went through the process of what happens when a child comes into care, or is even staying at home, all these processes that were laid out take place. What happens is that those discussions, those ideas and those objectives - all the things that need to be looked at in the best interest of the child - are discussed. This is why we have some children who go outside, some children who go to different parts of the territory, some who stay here in Whitehorse. There are a variety of ways we try to respond to the needs.
These come about through that assessment team. It comes about through the working team, which is monitoring and maintaining it after that, and it's open to anybody who contracts with us. They have access to those same files. There's nothing that has been put away in a secret filing cabinet somewhere, because there would be no advantage to that. Obviously we want what's best for the child.
So all the records, all the facts and all the assessments are there for perusal and for making decisions on.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'd agree with the minister, as long as all these assessments and evaluations were done and undertaken but, in a great number of cases, they were done after the fact, after the individual is placed in a group home.
Let's just give the minister one more easy question, Mr. Chair, as to how the decision is made as to whether an individual goes into a foster home or a group home. What determines which way a youth at risk, or a youth in family and children's services, is treated?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I think one of the concerns is that - and again I'm drawing on my history and my background - every individual child exhibits very different kinds of characteristics in how they operate, how they think, what they do and how they do things. It's the same thing when these children exhibit the types of characteristics that are not acceptable, both in school and community and in family, obviously, when the Social Services department moves in to try to build and rebuild the family structure. There are different levels, obviously. I shared with the member earlier that the big objective here is to keep children with their families. If that doesn't work, then we'll try to work on the next stage of trying to build with those people. It may be temporary care for a short term, helping to build the parents' skills. Then, of course, the next level is where children can't show that they can maintain what is called an even keel or an even approach toward life, and they basically have to be removed from their home for a number of reasons. Some of those preferably - it's best if we could put them in foster homes. If that works and those foster parents know what and how or where things have to be, that's the most advantageous program, but there are some children where it will not work in foster homes, where you need very high-level maintenance. That's where the group home or the residential kind of residence becomes the plan.
And that's just the way it is, Mr. Chair. Some of those children don't even succeed here. They have to be sent elsewhere. So there's even another level. It's so different; it's so unique to each child. The best one is to keep them in their home and to try to provide the support there, but if they're not able to do that, there are a series of steps that take place in order to try to bring about rehabilitation.
There's no easy solution to any of it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I agree with the minister that there is no easy solution. I am not looking for easy solutions. I am looking at adjusting or repairing the system we currently have so that we don't go through these waters again, Mr. Chair.
Let's take the minister back to all of these procedures and assessments. Would the minister not agree with me that, for occupational health and safety to get involved in the examination of a group home, there is a serious safety issue? And for the department to further take it upon itself to go to tender for a contract for a safety audit of a group home, there are some serious problems. Does the minister agree with that statement?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Obviously, yes, when there are safety problems and concerns, obviously there are different segments of our government that can try to come to our rescue or at least give us some suggestions as to what we should do. Yes, at that time, there were safety issues, but there are no safety issues at this point in time.
Does it mean that we have solved all the problems? No, these are ongoing problems. If it flares up that we need to do it again, obviously we will do it again to bring in whomever we need to help build for the future. That's what happens.
In this situation, Mr. Chair, we're very pleased as to what we see happening at 16 Klondike. If the member opposite would like to visit 16 Klondike with me, I would extend that invitation to him or to the member opposite any time.
Mr. Jenkins: The issue that we have on the floor for discussion is a serious one, and for the minister to say that we don't have any current problems - I don't concur with his thoughts on that. The safety audit that was performed by Ms. Trujillo on the Klondike group home at 16 Klondike - it's very clear that the department wanted to control the contents of the report. But given the integrity of the individual who was hired to undertake the safety audit, they conformed to the terms of reference spelled out in the contract and they abided by them and they followed through. If the minister would take it for what it is worth, it was a very factual, direct and very succinct report and it specifically pointed out that the department was not following their own rules - that is what it pointed out, Mr. Chair.
There are some serious shortfalls within the department with respect to the operation of this branch. I would like to know from the minister what he is going to do to address these shortfalls and what area of the safety audit on the Klondike group home he has actually picked up on and is going to do something about, because there's a whole series of areas in there that spell out that the government erred in its ways. They were not following their own rules. What we see is the safety report - very factual, very accurate and very well done - done by following the terms of reference laid out by the department but, after the fact, the department didn't agree with it. I guess the answer is, "Oh well, just ignore the terms of reference in the contract; just give us the report that we want."
That's what I hear the minister saying indirectly, Mr. Chair, and I take exception to that approach, because the minister has a tremendous amount of responsibility looking after these individuals in his care and control, and they have some very serious problems. But all this safety audit was used as was a tool to cancel the contract, take the program in-house, when, even in-house, we're being made aware of serious problems today.
Mr. Chair, could the minister explain the difference between RYTS, the residential youth treatment services, and the Klondike group home? What's the difference between them?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I'm just going to comment a bit, Mr. Chair, on some of the comments that the Member for Klondike made. First of all, the advisory committee - and this includes department people who were to be part of this safety audit - was spoken to when the report was submitted to it. When the draft report was submitted to them in October, that's when the person who did the report actually spoke to them about the report and said, "There is the report."
The other point, Mr. Chair, is just a clarification here. This safety report was done on 16 Klondike only. It was not done on RYTS or any other program, because this was a private contract. Right now, both RYTS and 16 Klondike are for teenagers and for similar kinds of needs. The programs operate under the same philosophy and under the same network, and we believe right now that things are running very smoothly and we believe we're getting on with life, because obviously all the things that have happened in the past are history and it's time to move on. I would encourage the Member for Klondike to move on, because to dwell on things about which I've given all the facts and for him to still not agree with the facts, that's going to be a point of difference no matter how long we stay here.
The point is that I don't agree with the fact that we did not have some consultation with the advisory board or with our advisory committee, and that was the idea of setting the advisory committee in place in the first place, and that still wouldn't have jeopardized the independence of the person doing the audit.
So the issue here, Mr. Chair, is that we don't agree, because we could not even support the criticism. We weren't able to comment on the criticisms that were made, and it's important that, when you're doing a report, you make sure you're accurate in all your facts, very much like the members opposite. They're never accurate in all their facts. It's all smoke and mirrors. Obviously they're trying to make an issue where there is no issue.
So, I'm not sure how we can get around that but, if the members want to pursue it, I'm not going to change my responses because, obviously, there's a point of difference here. We don't agree. One believes that independence means that you do whatever you like and it's whatever you feel, even if you haven't touched base with what is really happening. I think that's important. A good researcher will do that and, this time, I believe that was not done.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister should look up three words: independent, safety and audit. There's a copy of the dictionary on the desk here that I can have the page deliver to the minister, Mr. Chair, so that he has an understanding of, number one, independence; number two, safety; and number three, audit - as to what they actually mean.
What I hear the minister saying is that his officials have convinced him that this whole safety audit - the independent safety audit - should have been vetted through the department first. If that was the case, Mr. Chair, why wasn't it spelled out in the terms of reference? It wasn't. There was a steering committee set up and it went forward. The draft report was provided to the steering committee at the end of October.
From there, the final report was sent ahead. That's the timing of the sequencing of this whole undertaking, Mr. Chair.
The minister is constantly saying, "Let's move ahead, let's move ahead." Well, in order to move ahead, one doesn't want to carry out and perform the same mistakes twice. One wants to learn from the errors that one has made in the past, and in this case, Mr. Chair, the minister has made an error, and that is sad. I don't want to see the same errors made again, because we are talking about the lives and the welfare of some of our youth. Yes, they are in difficulty, but there isn't anything to say that these youths can't be recovered from their difficulties and become very positive, contributing members to our society. That's the whole exercise.
I'd ask the minister, Mr. Chair, to go back and look at the sequencing of when the report was received by his department, when I raised the questions on the report in the Legislature, and how long the report was buried in-house because somebody was trying to figure out how to massage it or how to bury it or how to bring it forward so that the minister could be shed in a favourable light.
Because the contents of this safety audit, Mr. Chair, are rather scathing of the government. They're very scathing of the government not living up to its commitments, not living up to its procedures. That's what we're referring to there. Either the procedures aren't adequate or they're not being followed. Which one, we don't know. We can speculate.
Now that the program is being taken in-house, we will probably never know until the individuals are released from family and child custody, moved up the ladder, and until they appear over here in the adult court system.
So it would appear that the minister is only responsible for these individuals until they can get them into the adult court system, and the faster and sooner and the least cost they incur, the better. It's a sad day for the Yukon, Mr. Chair - a sad day indeed.
I have a question for the minister that he failed to answer with respect to the difference between RYTS and the Kondike group home, and he just kind of waffled around it in his usual manner, Mr. Chair. Could I ask him to go over, once again, what the actual difference is between RYTS and the Klondike group home?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The Member for Klondike has a lot to say. Inflammatory comments as usual - never factual, but just inflammatory.
Chair: Order please. I am finding that the debate is starting to digress. We are getting very close to calling people liars. Please watch the language throughout the rest of the day. There is no need for the debate to go any further now.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Thank you, Mr. Chair. To make the accusation that we are burying a report when the public dollar pays for it - I don't know how the Member for Klondike could get away with that. We don't bury things that the public pays for, but we do believe in presenting the facts as they are. If the member opposite does not believe in that, then that is a problem that I think the member has.
To also make a statement that we are preparing children for the courts, I think is very inflammatory when I look at the role of society. If that is what the member believes, which I think the member does, then why are we doing all that we can to ensure that we don't reach that level?
I really question that line of thinking, Mr. Chair. Now, the purpose of the audit - and this is the purpose of the audit. I'm going to go back just a little bit for the Member for Klondike.
There were some very specific reasons for this audit coming about - very specific reasons. And it wasn't one that was acceptable and is not acceptable to society. But another very good reason is that the staff of the group home had indicated that they do not feel safe in the workplace and have filed complaints to that effect with the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board. This has resulted in the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board ordering Gibbs Group Homes to hire additional staff and participate in the safety audit. So that was the real purpose, and you have to remember that the contract was a contract for the obvious reasons for why we had to set up a home of this nature. And all information was available to the contractor.
Another point on the advisory committee - the member, again, likes to cherry-pick little things and not really have it all there. The advisory committee was a combination of department people and the contractor and her assistant. It was to review the terms of reference - this was the contractor and the department - to assist the consultant in resolving issues throughout the course of the audit. I guess that's the real point that we want to underline, that that did not happen. There was very little the consultant did in that issue of working with the committee to receive ideas or advice or even directions. I mean, remember that the advisory council was made up of both the contractor and government.
And, finally, to review the draft report prior to the finalization by the consultant. That was the role. What really happened, I guess, was a review of the terms of reference, and the review of the draft report took place, and then to assist the consultant in resolving issues throughout the course did not take place.
So that's our point. We were not involved in at least making comments on some of the statements that were made in that report. We were not able to give the full picture of what those accusations were. From my perspective, being a person who likes to feel that I'm balanced most of the time, we would like to have the ideas from all people.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Well, some of us are in balance a lot of the time, some of us are in balance a little bit of the time, and some of us are in balance, you know, a tiny bit. I wouldn't want to put words in the member opposite's mouth as to where I think that member is coming from.
The difference between RYTS and Klondike is that RYTS was set up as a diagnostic home for those very troubled teens. It was established to deal with our most severe teenagers who have difficulties, and to try to resolve and work with them. 16 Klondike is exactly of the same definition. They do the same thing, so there's no difference between them. They serve the same purpose, they work with the same types of children, and the only difference here was that the department ran RYTS whereas a contractor ran 16 Klondike.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it sounds to me like the minister doesn't have much trust in his own officials, when the steering committee, set up to oversee this process, had two representatives from Gibbs Group Homes - Sandra Gibbs and Dr. Janet Webster - and although the committee was set up originally with only Anne Mothersill and Charles Pugh. And Nancy Duesener was added to the steering committee, along with Rob McClure from WCB.
So, what the minister is saying is that, with four representatives from government, three from his own department and two from Gibbs Group Home, there was an imbalance in the report and YTG's position - the Department of Health and Social Services - wasn't accurately reflected. They didn't consult. That would lead me to conclude that the minister is saying to the House that the three members from his own department, that the minister doesn't have any faith in them doing their jobs and they didn't do their jobs. Is that what the minister is saying? Because, really, that's what it comes down to, Mr. Chair.
I'm not here to insult any of the employees in the department, Mr. Chair. I'll make it abundantly clear and point out that it's the minister who is doing so by interpreting things the way he has interpreted them on the floor of this Legislature. And that's a sad day, but that's what the minister has summed up and what he has concluded about this report. In spite of having a majority on this committee, he couldn't get his own way.
That's not really fair; that's not reasonable, and the expectations of Yukoners are much, much higher than that, Mr. Chair. What does the minister have to say?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I'm always amazed at how the Member for Klondike twists and turns, and how he twists and turns the issues to try to get what that member wants.
When the member reads the Blues tomorrow, I would hope the member will reflect on what the member just said. Here we are. The member is saying that we have four people on the committee and yet we didn't get our way.
Think about that. The obvious thing then is that we weren't running the show, were we? It wasn't our report. The report belongs to the consultant. Therefore, if we had the majority on the committee, it was an independent report. What we were suggesting is that it is up to the consultant to call the committee together. That is what was set up in the terms of reference, and that didn't happen. It wasn't the department going out there and saying, "You have to call the committee together so we can discuss your concerns." When they got the draft report, it was the first time they saw what the consultant had done. We disagree with what the consultant had said about many of those issues that the consultant raised.
I think if the member just thought about what he has said, we did not control this process at all. If anything, it was in the hands of the independent consultant.
By the way, we have very competent people working for the department. They are highly skilled. They have a lot of integrity. They believe in the right things for our youth. They are here to help. Obviously the Member for Klondike doesn't have that same belief. I really feel that that is something that one should be really clear about. The public service does an excellent job. Do they make mistakes? Like anyone else, yes. No mistakes were made in this situation. Process was followed. I think that the Member for Klondike is trying to find a mistake to suit whatever political agenda the member wants to find.
Mr. Jenkins: Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is what I'm trying to seek and trying to ascertain. It is very difficult, Mr. Chair.
I know I'm not allowed to make reference to the truth, which the minister has constantly made reference to. I would appreciate a little bit of flexibility or latitude in your ruling, but if you wish for me to withdraw the remark, I will withdraw the remark.
The bottom line is that we have an independent safety audit report that the minister initially didn't like because he said that it wasn't a partnership. Now it is twisted all around. He is massaging it to another degree that would lead one to conclude that he has a lot to hide. I think, after reading that audit report, one can conclude that the government failed to follow their own procedures and their own guidelines. That appears to be the case.
I have a considerable amount more on this issue, but the Member from Ross River-Southern Lakes has a number of questions and he has an appointment in a little while, so I would like to relinquish the floor.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Okay. I am sorry, I was misinformed. He has a whole series of questions in line-by-line.
Mr. Chair, if I could just take the minister back to the issue surrounding the RYTS group home - and I did receive an explanation from the minister as to how it differed - I would like the minister to explain the situation arising around the - I don't know what we want to refer to it as - the detention room or the room that the individuals are placed in, and how long they are supposed to be placed in that special room that has recently been constructed in the Klondike group home, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I guess maybe this is a question. I guess that we are not supposed to ask questions, but I will make a statement, then. It's a bit like the member opposite having access to some of this information before I even saw the information. Is this another one of those, Mr. Chair? I know nothing about a room being constructed. Maybe there is; I don't know. But I am not a micromanager. So if the member knows more about it, maybe the member could let the House know.
Mr. Jenkins: Either in RYTS or the Klondike group home there is a room that youth - I guess the easiest way to explain it is that there is a kind of padded room they're kept in. Now, how long can an individual be placed in this room? What's the duration of the placement of an individual in this room?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I guess, again, that's kind of a micromanagement question. I'm not a micromanager, and I'm sure I can get back to the member with some of that information, if that's what the member wants, but I suppose it's like any parent. When your child is out of control, his or her bedroom can be a time-out room for whatever time that takes. I've done it on many occasions when I was raising my children. So if that's what the member's referring to, I guess that's the normal procedure for most families. If it's more than that, then I'd be pleased to know.
Mr. Jenkins: We'll move into that area shortly, Mr. Chair, but before we do, there are a number of areas of a similar nature. Now that the programs have been taken in-house, the information regarding problems is not supposed to leak out but, sooner or later, the Yukon being a small place, Mr. Chair, it does, and there continues to be problems. Mr. Chair, I would submit that the only way to resolve the problems surrounding the group homes is for the minister to call and have an independent inquiry. Now, I'd like to ask the minister, in all sincerity, if he would attempt to get to the bottom of this. The only way I can see him doing so is in this manner - an independent inquiry - because it's extremely difficult if not impossible for government to monitor itself.
When something comes off the rails, it's very hard for anyone to blame any program or facility. We tend to go around in a big circle whereas, in the private sector, responsibility has to be vested somewhere. And, in this case, once again, to quote a very famous president, Harry S. Truman, the buck stops with the minister and right at his desk.
The only way I see of clearing the air, getting to the bottom of this, resolving it and bringing all the information to the forefront is to call an independent inquiry. Would the minister examine this area and, if his examination - I can't say "warrants it", because I know it's a foregone conclusion as to what it's going to be. I would urge the minister - and I'm seeking his decision here - to call an independent evaluation and examination of the group homes. Will the minister do so?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I believe that, with government spending taxpayers' dollars, it's very important that we're all accountable for what we do. For the member opposite to say that there are things at times that don't seem to be as transparent as they are, it's sometimes twisted that way by some people, because they don't want to see the facts, even though the facts are presented.
I think the opposition and the public become critics of what works and what doesn't work. Obviously that's the whole idea in trying to better things. There are cycles with NGO groups as to the kinds of dollars that we give them and what we expect of them.
Accountability is very much a part of delivering a program. We buy a service. The same thing applies to people who contract with the government. We buy a service, and if the service is not being delivered, then obviously other things have to be done.
I believe, as I have always believed, that we have to be accountable for what we do. To say that - we did a Gibbs report three or four years ago, if I recall. It was a major report. I remember sitting in the House here, in the gallery, listening to those issues about how we would want to carry on. And, of course, it's all part of a cycle, I would agree with the member opposite.
The group homes are reviewed, not every year in the sense of a full in-depth study, but they are evaluated all the time because we're delivering a service, and if we're not delivering it, then obviously we shouldn't be providing any kind of support for that. I would agree with the member opposite that this has to be done, but we're not going to do a knee-jerk thing here and just do it because the member opposite says we should do it right now. It's going to be part of our cycle and we will be reviewing our group homes. We will be reviewing all the programs that we offer. This government on this side is committed to doing that.
I know the members opposite get very upset when we mention CDF. That was part of the accountability of this government, so that we don't do the same thing. That's not what Yukoners want. There is never a secret in the Yukon. Even though we think there are secrets, there are none, so why we would hide things or why we would pretend that a problem doesn't exist - there's no such thing in the Yukon. Everything is transparent.
If the member opposite has some statements or allegations or whatever to present, concretely and can back the statements up with solid evidence, I'm more than willing to look at them - more than willing. I am not trying to defend things that don't work. I do defend what does work. If we have made a mistake or are on the wrong track, I'm quite willing to be corrected and try to get back on track, if that's where we're at, but at this point in time I don't think we are.
So, in a short answer to the member opposite, yes, I'm quite willing to move ahead in the near future on doing a review, but it's part of our cycle. It isn't going to be something that we're just doing because there's a concern here that we have a specific issue. We do this because that's called accountability.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, I thank the minister for his answer. I will look forward to this moving forward, but just for the record, I think we have to put in Hansard the highlights of the report. The audit of Gibbs Group Homes revealed it to be meeting all the necessary requirements of providing a safe environment for the youth included in the residential care standards of Health and Social Services, Yukon territorial government. However, even after meeting those requirements, staff and management have unresolved concerns about the group home being an unsafe living environment for some youth. In addition, some staff have been left with concerns regarding their personal safety. A physical safety audit stated that the current layout of the home creates difficulties for the proper supervision of the youth. Further details about the issues regarding the physical building that required immediate attention are identified in the body of the report. It goes on in great detail. This report was obtained by the Yukon News under the ATIPP request.
It goes on to say that an audit of the policy and procedures used by employees of Gibbs Group Homes revealed a breakdown of the system regarding referrals and placement criteria for youth. That should say something there - revealed a breakdown in the system regarding referrals and placement criteria for youth.
What I was asking from the minister was what went wrong? Was it the procedure, or following the procedure or system?
For the record, we have an answer. The management of Gibbs Group Homes has had concerns about the Department of Health and Social Services' role in the referral process. The concerns of Gibbs Group Homes include the high needs of the youth, the high rate and frequency of the referrals, and the gap between the existing skill levels of staff and the level of experience and training needed to adequately care for youth with such needs, although these factors have led to what Gibbs Group Homes considers to be inappropriate referrals and/or unsafe placements of some youth.
Gibbs Group Homes presented their concerns to the director of Health and Social Services but, to date, there has been no resolution of this situation. A third area identified through the audit as requiring greater attention by Gibbs Group Homes and the Department of Health and Social Services is that area of concern to the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board - workers' safety. At present, there are no policies and procedures in place that address workers' safety in the group home. A safety committee has been formulated, and work in this area has been started.
Now, they went on, "The following is a summary of the gaps identified for the specific issues that were reviewed. Areas requiring further exploration are also included." It went on, for the physical building, leadership, administration operations, human resources, resource utilization - it goes on at great length on background information.
Now, it is spelled out there, Mr. Chair, and it is spelled out in a manner that would make any minister uncomfortable and would make any minister aware that he is having some difficulties with that respective responsibility in his portfolio.
The occupational health and safety inspection report shows they were in compliance with the various orders. There were four orders issued on August 25, 2000, and the organization was in compliance. That leaves one with the question. The occupational health and safety report points out four areas of concern - they were in compliance; the independent safety audit conducted by Ms. Trujillo points out problems in the area that the minister has care and control of. Why was the contract cancelled with Gibbs Group Home?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The member went on and on there about so many things. I'll have to respond to each one of them, because, again, if some of them were to be left on the record, it would appear that they would not have what I call the facts attached to them.
The Member for Klondike mentioned the report having to be accessed through ATIPP. The member is exactly correct on that. Any time you have confidential information mentioning students or clients in any report, that is the only way a report can be accessed. It has to be through ATIPP, and then those names have to be removed. We cannot have people's names out there in a report.
So, I would agree with the member opposite. The complete report was not given out because it included personal information. Given the small number of children in the home, the severed information could easily link someone to those individual children and could result in damage to the children. I would hope the member is not criticizing the fact that it had to be through ATIPP, because I wouldn't want to see other people's names out there in the public once the report is out there. As I shared before, the member obviously had a copy of the report before I even got a copy, so the member brought this up long before I even knew about the report, so there were some things there happening that I don't think were acceptable.
The member talks about the workers' compensation issue and the fact that there was a safety committee. Mr. Chair, I think the member opposite would agree that when a contractor takes on this responsibility, it's not up to the department to set workers' compensation safety committees. That's up to the contractor. That's part of any employment strategy that you have in the Yukon. It's not up to the department to set that up. It's up to the contractor.
Why the Member for Klondike believes that that's up to the department to set up - I'm not sure where that member is coming from. Now that we fully run the home, we do have a safety committee in place. It's up and running, and staff and residents feel very safe with the situation.
I mean, it's obvious that it was needed before and, once you have it working, then it does resolve a lot of issues.
The member keeps going back to the issue of suggesting - and I'm not sure if the member opposite is suggesting it or trying to intimate that we had something to do with the final report, and I'm not sure what the member's trying to get at there. The member's trying to paint this brush that we interfered with the report and, on the other hand, the member's trying to say that it was an independent report. All we're saying is that, in the terms of reference, the advisory committee was asked to be part of the report, at least in one way, shape or form, in the sense of at least dialoguing with some of the findings during the process of the report. That didn't happen.
That is our objection, Mr. Chair.
The member from Dawson often talks about the judge and jury and the hanging all taking place in one swoop. That's exactly what happened with this report. We weren't able to even give our side of the story, and the report was done.
If we had had the opportunity to give our side of the report, and the report turned out the same way, that's perfectly all right from the point of view of the independence of the person who wrote the report, but at least the department would have been given an opportunity to refute or challenge some of those statements. The department wasn't given that opportunity. It was listening from only one side. It was a biased report in that sense, Mr. Chair.
So, we don't agree with the findings. And the member can read the whole report, and that wouldn't change my view about us being given an opportunity. Usually, in a court of law, Mr. Chair, you have the defence who can say their part and you have the other side, which basically presents both sides. We weren't even given that opportunity. To me, in a democracy, I think we should be given that opportunity. It shouldn't prejudice how the independent person who wrote the report comes out with the report. They can still do that. But at least they would have gone through the motions of saying that we have touched base with all the parties. And touching base doesn't mean giving them the draft report and saying that this is it, because there were no changes made in the report, even with that situation. No requests were made to ask for any comments on the report.
I guess we could spend all kinds of dollars on reports coming out of our endless copier machines, and I believe in them. I believe it's important to review where we have come from. If anything, Mr. Chair, I'm probably one of the biggest critics on this side of how we as government in the past have done things. I am probably one of the biggest critics. My colleagues would probably not nod, but inside I'm sure they're saying, "Yes, Don, you are."
So, I challenge almost all things that happen because of my past record and my history in working with the government. That's why I got involved in government, Mr. Chair - not to hide, not to smoke-screen, not to pretend that there's no problem. When I honestly -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I really take exception to the Member for Kluane making comments, "That's not what we heard."
I wouldn't trust anything that the Member for Klondike heard about anybody, because it's another one of those smoke-and-mirrors comments that the Member for Kluane makes all the time with no facts behind it - always. Never any facts. So I think the important part is that I, as a long-term Yukoner who has lived here throughout my whole career - I have no advantages here to get up on my feet and pretend that we're doing something that I don't believe in. That's why I got involved in politics, because I believe passionately in the truth; I believe in honesty, and I believe in doing it the right way. If we have made mistakes, then I say we correct them and get on with it. In this situation, Mr. Chair, we have not made any mistakes.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Standing Order 6(6), when a member is speaking no other member shall interrupt except to raise a point of order or a question of privilege. One of the reasons that I believe in this is because it does detract from the debate. The debate is on a difficult issue today, and I would ask that there be no more interjections brought forward. They certainly won't be entertained, and they will be disciplined.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, after listening to the last little bit of diatribe, I think it's probably prudent that we have a break. We've got the Member for Kluane mixed up with the member for Dawson and Member for Klondike, and the minister's starting to probably inaccurately reflect on what he's attempting to say.
I would move that we adjourn for a small break. The minister can recoup his senses and come back with some knowledgeable answers and direct them to the members in an appropriate manner.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that we take a brief recess.
Motion agreed to
Chair: We will recess until 4:45.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Mr. Jenkins: When we left general debate, the minister was going out to come to an understanding as to the difference between Klondike, Kluane and Dawson, and I would be very hopeful that he has gained that understanding.
One of the issues that we were exploring with the minister was the issue surrounding the real reason for the cancelling of the Gibbs Group Homes contract. The minister waffled and danced all around but failed to provide a response. Could the minister now tell us the real reason why the Gibbs Group Homes contract for 16 Klondike was cancelled?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I guess there are many reasons. There is never one little reason. There are many reasons why this contract was terminated, and it had to do with the service being delivered. And like any contract, if we're not getting what we paid for, then the contract is revoked. That's exactly what happened in this case, Mr. Chair.
There were many safety issues, many concerns that our expertise and staff - and I have to underline that we have a group of very highly competent people working for family and children's services. They are very skilled in understanding and knowing what issues are out there and what works and what doesn't. We listen to our public and civil servants when they bring forth issues that are going to create difficulties for the clients or the people we are serving.
So obviously there are many safety issues, and there has been a long record of concerns around this home over the last number of years. It was important for us as a government to say, "Look, I think we can do a better job of delivering services."
Mr. Jenkins: I'm very uncomfortable with that response, Mr. Chair, and I'm sure that the general public won't receive any reassurance from the responses given here, especially in light of the situation really not being repaired or improved upon as a consequence of this change in taking the program in-house.
Currently, we have a change in RYTS as to what it's being utilized for. The receiving home is still full of teenagers, and we have quite a staff turnover. We also have that special lock-down room or isolation room being used with ever-increasing frequency for longer and longer periods of time. So, the situation has not improved. In fact, it has probably deteriorated, Mr. Chair.
I want to know this from the minister: who is watching the watchers?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I guess the member opposite has asked these questions in as many different ways and forms as you can. I'm not sure who the member is trying to impress, but I'm sure, Mr. Chair, there must be a reason for this, because I've given the answers in many different ways, and I'll just have to continue giving them to the member opposite in some other creative ways.
First of all, there has been no change in RYTS. The program was offered as a diagnostic assessment centre, it still is, and so is 16 Klondike. They are the same type of children.
If the member opposite thinks that there is never going to be any problems because we're dealing with very troubled youth, then the Member for Klondike is dreaming in technicolor. These are very troubled youth, so you're always going to have problems.
But, since the government has taken on the responsibility of running the home, there have been fewer problems. There has been a stability in the staffing. There has not been a turnover, as the member opposite suggests - that there has been a turnover in staff. I'm not sure where the member is getting that from but, again, the Member for Klondike is very good at, you know, dreaming again that he wished that would happen, because it makes his story look even better.
There is stable programming, and so things are on that track - are trying to build. I guess that the longer the Member for Klondike continues this discussion and the more focus the member puts on this particular group home, in which people are trying to get their lives together - these are very troubled youth. I am not sure what the rationale is for the member in trying to do this. Is it to unsettle their lives even more? These are already very troubled youth.
I would hope that, with all the answers I have given to the members opposite - I know that they are never satisfied with the answer, because it's never the answer they have in their own mind. Those are the answers as I know them. They are the answers that the department has followed through on. We have discussed the process and the ways and means of how we can deal with this, both now and in the future.
I guess that I am not going to make any more comments in the future. I am just going to say yes and no, because obviously the member is fishing, trying to impress, rather than getting on with the business of the House. So far, we have spent four hours, just this afternoon, on this. That costs the taxpayers a tremendous amount of money for things that will not change how we do things. I have shared with the members opposite why we did things the way we did. I accept those rationales and those conclusions. The member opposite doesn't. We can continue on this forever, Mr. Chair, and it will not change the view I have.
If you have some other issues, substantiated concerns or allegations, as the Premier said last week, put up or shut up. It's one way or the other. Let's get on with it. We have the business of the House to worry about, and we are costing the taxpayers a horrendous amount of money because I am not giving the answers the member opposite wants.
I'm giving the answers as an honest person, as a person who believes in what we're doing. We have very competent people who work very hard, and I think the members opposite are questioning the integrity of our expert staff, who do the assessment. The member wanted to know who's watching the watchers. Well, we have very professional people, and I'm sure the member opposite will find out before anybody else does if there is a problem. The Member for Klondike has shown that before, that he gets reports long before even the government gets them, so let's face it, there are a lot of people out there watching.
Mr. Jenkins: That brings me back to the original question. Could the member outline for the House how the programs in the group home are currently being monitored? Previously, we had an arm's-length arrangement. We had an arm's-length arrangement with an outside contractor and, according to the minister, their service delivery was inadequate and there were safety issues. Well, rather than even giving them notice about the safety issues, which the minister probably wasn't even aware of until they were brought to his attention, and the service delivery points that were inadequate and putting them on notice that they would lose the contract, the contract was just terminated. So now we've taken the program in-house, Mr. Chair, and I'm going to tell the minister I believe the reason the program was taken in-house was because it wasn't working properly and these youth are not receiving the attention they require. It's not because we're not spending enough money. I'm sure that if you add up everything that's being spent, there is a considerable sum of money being spent there.
What I am suggesting is that the minister isn't spending it correctly, and we are not achieving the results that we should be achieving. The exercise is to assess these youth, treat them and integrate them back into society. But there has to be a process, an assessment, a judgement and a decision. We don't know when the assessments are coming. We don't know when the department is sometimes going to make a judgement call. And if the decision is made by an outside contractor, it can be readily addressed if the department doesn't agree to it. But now that it is in-house, we have got the same individual responsible for everything. Therein lies the problem, Mr. Chair.
I'll make the allegation in a very straightforward manner: I believe that because the minister couldn't address the shortcomings in Gibbs' group home at 16 Klondike, they cancelled that contract because it was easier to hide their shortcomings with an in-house program than it was with an outside contractor. That is the crux of the situation and the wheels are coming off the cart as we speak. So there is a cover-up and the only way that one can get to the bottom of this cover-up is a full, independent inquiry. Now, the minister has alluded that he might, in the course of action, entertain it or look at or do something with it. They didn't commit to it, but until such time as we can have this full inquiry, we are not going to see the crux of the problems and we are not going to be able to address them and we are not going to be able to fix them.
I'm not advocating this, Mr. Chair, because I want to see more money spent. I'm advocating this because I want to see proper delivery of services done and undertaken, and a proper opportunity for these youth to be integrated back into society. It's going to take that full independent inquiry to do so.
So, Mr. Chair, I have made the allegation. I believe it's well-founded. I believe the only way we can get to the bottom of this is with an inquiry. Why will the minister not entertain this course of action? I think we can complete this in a rather expeditious manner and within a reasonably short time frame.
I have just another question for the minister. This whole area of responsibility in his portfolio, including outside contracts - what does the department spend in a year? Because there are many facets to this, and there are many sole-source contracts issued for assessments of one form or other. There are a lot of outside treatments. I'm looking for the minister to put on the record the total amount spent by family and children's services for these initiatives.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I'm going to make a few more comments here, but after this, I'm going to just answer yes or no. I just believe we have to get on with the business of the House. We'll be here for weeks talking about the same thing.
A couple of things - the Member for Klondike asked about monitoring of residential services. How do we monitor? Well, I read into the record a whole list of processes that take place in monitoring how we assess, review, examine - whatever terms you want to use - all our programs.
I don't want to read it again because it's a comprehensive quality assurance review, it's a well-documented process, and it's one that has been used for a long time. It is upgraded as times and needs change. If the member wants to know how we watch the watchers, well, that's exactly what happens. It's a team effort, using very professional people. Hopefully, we come along with new ideas and new ways of doing things or continuing with ways that work. So I don't think there's any problem with that.
We have worked to try to fix many problems. Of course, we had the first Gibbs report in 1998, the group home review. A review of that has been ongoing with the contractor. The Member for Klondike makes the comment that we should be doing all of these things. Well, my gosh, what does a contractor do? Don't they know what they're buying? We have to know what we're buying. If the services are clearly laid out - by the way, I sign all of these contracts, so I go through them. They're that thick, so I know exactly - a lot of specifics are in there.
I'm not interested in micromanaging. I know the Member for Klondike wants me to micromanage - I have said that a number of times - but I'm not going to do that. But I can tell you one thing: the department and the contractor agree on services that are going to be bought or sold, in the case of the department. It's a matter of course that they be reviewed all the time. We have many contracts. I'm signing contracts at least two or three times a day on different issues - maybe not two or three times a day, but maybe three or four times a week, or at least one a day, anyway, of one sort or another. We contract with a lot of people.
The idea of the member opposite sort of making a veiled comment that we are going to have a review or maybe we won't - I already said that to the member opposite, but the member opposite chooses to pick information and re-emphasize only the things that member wants to re-emphasize.
We did make it very clear that there is a cycle for reviewing all our programs. Our residential homes and group homes are all part of that cycle. We are going to be doing that. It's not a kind of knee-jerk reaction that we're going to have because the Member for Klondike is asking us to do it, like yesterday. We will do it. We believe in doing it, because it is important. The government was doing it long before I stepped into the shoes. It's not something I initiated; it has always been there.
Perhaps if the Member for Klondike ever becomes government - heaven forbid - he might find out that there is some rhyme and reason to some of the things that government does. I suppose that when you're on the opposite side, you want to challenge that all the time. I know I do, I have and still do.
We can provide to the member and to the official opposition, if they so wish, a copy of all our contracts and their value. I don't know if we'll supply the names of the contractors. I suppose we could. Yes, we can supply the names and the costs of all our contracts, if that's what the member wants. If it's just the consulting he wants, we can do that or we can give him all of them. The government is very transparent. It's all public knowledge, so if that's what the member wants, we can get it to him.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, what I'm looking for from the minister - and I will give him the questions in a format so that he can answer yes or no - is the total value of all contracts, in dollars and cents, for the provision of services under this aspect of his portfolio. It is very difficult to go into the contract registry and dovetail the contract back.
I'm not looking for the specific contracts. I'm looking for the total dollars.
From my understanding of it, we're talking a considerable sum of money over the course of the year, and we are not talking thousands of youth.
Does the minister have at his fingertips the total number of youth who pass through group homes over the course of the year? I'm looking for the total dollars of all contracts, number one, and all government agencies involved in this area - total dollars - and, number two, total number of youth who have passed through group homes.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, we can do that. It'll be specific to the number of youth who are in care, if that's what the member wants, and the number of dollars in contract dollars.
Mr. Jenkins: I see us still being in this debate tomorrow, so I would be very hopeful that, at the start of Question Period tomorrow - or the start of general debate - we could have that information.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Sometimes I wonder where the Member for Klondike gets the idea government should come to a roaring halt because the member is always asking for just volumes of paper. If that's the most important issue for the Member for Klondike, we'll try our best. I'm not going to promise something that I'm not sure we can deliver, but he will receive them. Now, whether he receives it tomorrow, I cannot promise you, but I know for a fact that when the member asks for things, I'm not sure what happens to most of the things. I know nothing is used here with that material. It's just smoke and mirrors again.
So, I'm hoping there's some value out of this kind of exercise, because I've heard this over and over again. Every time we sit, the volume of paper that goes to the member opposite is huge, and the amount of time that's spent in doing it is extraordinary.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the option is for the minister to understand his department, have knowledge of these areas, and I'd be prepared to accept his verbal response to this question here today, Mr. Chair. Can the minister do so?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Again, the belittling comments from the Member for Klondike - the Member for Klondike is famous for it. If you don't have the information like that, the micromanager of the government, the Member for Klondike - I am not the micromanager for the Yukon. I believe in general principles. The department does its job. We'll make sure you get what you want, but I'm not going to promise them to you tomorrow.
Chair: Order please. I just remind members to refer their remarks to the Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I thought that the minister would gain control of this area during the break and have an understanding of who the Member for Kluane is and for Klondike is, and that remarks had to be addressed through the Chair, but it seems like he's going off base pretty quickly, Mr. Chair.
Just for the record, another area, Mr. Chair - could the minister confirm that he has signed off on all department sole-source contracts above the sole-source limit prior to the goods or service being delivered?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, to my knowledge I have.
Mr. Jenkins: I would urge the minister to reflect back on a number of the sole-source contracts and confirm that with his officials, that he indeed signed them off prior to the goods or services being delivered to the department, because, Mr. Chair, that is not the case. The department knows full well. I'm sure they'll give the minister a full and complete briefing on this, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: It just never ceases to amaze me what the Member for Klondike is digging for. If the contract is out with a contractor and the contract doesn't come back to the department in time for it to be signed off, I suppose we could shut down the group home, but we don't. We carry on services. I mean, there are a lot of reasons why that might happen. Now, if the member has something that he is looking for that means we did something that wasn't appropriate, then present it instead of fishing around the whole circumference of it. Present your facts and figures on the table here. I think that is very important. I just don't understand where the member is going with this.
Mr. Jenkins: What I was doing was attempting to expedite debate in the House. I was posing questions that the minister could answer with a simple yes or no, as he indicated that he was going to do. That thought process may be there, but unfortunately the transition from thought to public speaking hasn't occurred and we go all around the mulberry bush. The issue before us is one of ministerial accountability, given that next to Executive Council Office, the Department of Health and Social Services has the greatest number of sole-source contracts above the sole-source limits. We are talking of a considerable sum of money for those sole-source contracts above the sole-source limits. Is the minister aware of this abnormality in his department?
Now, there is an explanation for Executive Council Office - they are just doing what the heck they please when they want and give the contracts out to all their friends. There is that occurring, Mr. Chair. Patronage contracts - transition patronage contracts and the like, Mr. Chair.
The issue in Health and Social Services is that there are a great number of sole-sourced contracts. Ministerial accountability is that the minister must sign off above the sole-source limit. That's why the question.
I'm sure the minister has now had more of a briefing from his official, Mr. Chair, and has probably been made aware of a number of areas where we have deviated from the proper procedure. Perhaps the minister could share that at this juncture with the House?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, if the Member for Klondike knows the answer, why is the member asking the question? That seems to be the tenor of the debate that the Member for Klondike brings to this House. It has very little to do with facts and figures. It has a lot to do with impression and innuendo.
Mr. Chair, we're into multi-year contracts with many NGOs and with individuals, so these contracts carry over, even though they have to be signed every year. With NGOs, we're into a three-year cycle normally, and we have just signed off a number of NGO contracts that are over the three years. But each year they have to be re-administered and re-signed. The program carries on even though it's after the date or above the amount, and we're not going to stop programs when we know that the program is going to be delivered.
So if the member is looking for something here where there is nothing - I mean, it's a matter of process. It has very little to do with not delivering. It means delivering the program and having it ongoing. We're not going to shut down group homes or residential homes because the contract didn't come back in time for the actual timing. Sometimes, quite often, it comes in after. I have signed a number of them just recently, which means I suppose that we should have shut all these homes down with our contractors and said "No, we can't do anything until these are all signed." No, we don't. We carry on the program, because obviously we want to make sure that programs are delivered in an efficient and ongoing way.
I guess the problem is that before payment is made the contract has to be in place. I think that's number one. There are always changes to it - slight changes.
Well, things change and, of course, all NGO groups are sole-sourced. Every NGO group is sole-sourced because there are unique requests there. And of course, all of the contracts, regardless of what they are, must meet the government guidelines.
Now, if the member opposite is questioning the government guidelines, that's something else. I mean, I didn't set the guidelines specifically, but I'm sure I could have input if they have to be re-evaluated and looked at again. That's why government is here.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, there are a number of areas in other departments that function in a similar manner with NGOs and sole-sourced contracts. The only department where I see delays, when the contracts come up on the Web, are the ones with Health and Social Services. They appear to come in after the fact, and they're retroactive, Mr. Chair.
Now, I guess we can say that the minister has too much on his desk, and that he's micromanaging the affairs of his department, or something or other, and that's the reason why he's not signing off this contracts in an expeditious manner. But the bottom line is this: what assurances do these contractors have that the service is going to be contracted in a like manner to the previous year? Is there some letter of comfort in the interim period that's provided by the department to the contractors?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The Member for Klondike is on another fishing trip. The member won't state what the real concern is, and is looking at inconsistencies or whatever to prove the point that the member is trying to make.
The obvious factor is that in the lead-up to any kind of contract, there are consultations and discussions going on. That's the whole objective of arriving at a contract that is suitable to both sides.
Why would any contractor sign a contract if they haven't had any input into the contract? That's the obvious. So, I'm not sure what the member wants from this, but that seems to be what government process is. The contract, when it's signed by both parties, is agreeable to both parties, therefore a service is delivered.
Mr. Jenkins: Unless, of course, the contract has been altered by the minister prior to it being sent over to the contractor, even though it's the continuance of a contract over a number of years for an agreed period of time. There are questions from the contractor, reasons why the contractor doesn't sign the contract, and asks, "Hey, where did this come from all of a sudden? Why weren't we advised about it; why didn't something occur; why didn't some dialogue to address these changes take place between we the contractor and you the government in this interim period?" Then, after all is said and done, the contract is amended back to what it originally was, and then it goes back for the proper signatures.
Is that the way the minister is giving direction to his department to undertake the business of his department?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Heaven forbid that anybody make mistakes in government, I guess. Again, in fishing around, never reaching the issue, there's a specific point the member wants to make, but the member won't make it.
Mistakes are made and, if it means a mistake were made, then we correct it. We admit it. If that's what the member's talking about, that something was changed, whatever, without sort of the involvement of the parties involved, then obviously that was a mistake - if that's what the member is saying. I'm not sure what the member wants in this, but I would suggest a contract has to be agreed upon by both parties.
This minister does not change things in the contract. I am not a micromanager. I read them; I sign them. If there are things I want to question, I question them before I sign them, but I trust my officials. I trust the expertise that put these together. Does that mean that they don't make mistakes? Obviously not - we all do.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, once again, Mr. Chair, I just refer the minister back, and one of the examples that has been pointed out to me is the recent renewal of the contract with Gibbs Group Home. Why is this firm being singled out by the minister for preferential treatment? Why are they constantly being barraged with all of these areas and virtually harassed? They're there to provide a service to government, and from all reports, Mr. Chair, they're doing a good job. Unless the minister has something to suggest to the contrary, Mr. Chair, it would appear that somewhere there is a vendetta out to get rid of the Gibbs Group Homes operators and bring all the programs in-house so they can hide the problems they're experiencing and the difficulties they're having. That appears to be very much the case on the surface, when you examine it. Why?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Finally, Mr. Chair, we get to the real issue here. I don't know of anybody out there on a vendetta, other than the Member for Klondike, who seems to be on some type of vendetta of sorts to highlight issues that really don't have a lot of factual base to them.
I mean, I've shared with the member opposite all the facts. The member has yet to come up with anything that would deny what was said. Now, as I said earlier, if mistakes are made, mistakes are made. The people who are signing these contracts obviously won't sign them if they don't agree with them. So if those people sign the contracts and they agree that that's what should happen, then my understanding is that they've read it thoroughly. So I'm, again, not a micromanager. I'm not sure what happens to each lead-up to each specific contract. I know that discussion takes place, but as far as any kind of a vendetta, the only person on a vendetta or the only individual I know on a vendetta is the opposition.
And they are unrelenting on their vendetta, so they've raised more hype and inaccuracies on this whole issue than anyone I know of. We have come up and given the facts as they are and what was presented. They may not agree with them but that is what democracy is all about.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the system of accountability is part of democracy. Ministerial accountability for their respective departments is part of democracy, but we are not witnessing a very excellent or a very good example of that here today and we are certainly not witnessing that by this novice Liberal government. I guess that it is always someone else's responsibility and someone else's problem. Let's blame it on the previous government; let's blame it on the press; let's blame it on everybody else. The minister has responsibility for this department, and there is a whole series of issues here that stem from one group home operator, and it would appear that the department is on a personal vendetta to get rid of them. If you start with the safety audit of the Klondike group home and look through the areas that were blacked out - and the minister said they were blacked out because they didn't want to give reference to any individual in their custody or control. Well, that's incorrect, Mr. Chair. Nowhere in that document does the name of any individual in custody or control of the government appear. And just for the record, I just want a simple yes-or-no answer from the minister. Could the minister confirm that? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I'm always of the view here that the members opposite like to keep us accountable. I wonder who keeps the Member for Klondike accountable for all the innuendo and negative comments that the member makes about this government and about anybody else. I wonder. Possibly that will come in three years' time. That will be the accountability for the member opposite. The more he is exposed, the more people will realize what they really have.
The complete report - I have shared this with the member on at least two other occasions, but the member again does not want to listen. He's playing. The member opposite is obviously playing with something else. For some reason, the member doesn't want to get off this. I think there are obvious reasons why the member doesn't want to get off it. I think the member opposite believes there are political brownie points to be made here, and I'm telling the member right now that the member is down the wrong alley. It's a blind alley and there's nothing at the other end of it.
The complete report was not given out because it included personal information about the young people who resided in the home - personal information. It didn't necessarily give names. If the member wants to argue about that, then I guess we're going to be here for a long time. Personal information, when you only have a very few people staying in that residence, can be fairly well connected very quickly. That's why it was removed.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, it's interesting now how it has changed. It is now personal information. Before it was the names of the individuals. Such is not the case. The way the information is presented in this safety audit on the Klondike group home, one would be very, very hard put to conclude which individuals it refers to. It's very, very generic in overview and as to policies and the actual operation of the group home.
I appreciate the minister's remarks, Mr. Chair, after he had a heads-up from the Minister of Renewable Resources, but I can assure the Minister of Renewable Resources that he'll have his chance. He'll be thoroughly grilled on the Yukon protected areas strategy regarding its impact on the Yukon and the creation of one great, big Park Yukon, and the remainder population are the keepers of the gates, and that'll be it.
So, I would just remind the Minister of Renewable Resources that he'll have his opportunity, and it'll be coming very quickly, Mr. Chair.
I take the Minister of Health and Social Services back to the safety audit at Klondike group home.
Well, the minister isn't listening. I guess he's doing more to circumvent the system than provide responses.
Mr. Chair, would the minister entertain tabling a copy of the safety audit for the Klondike group home?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I don't see any problems in not doing that. It has gone through ATIPP already, so obviously I don't see a problem with that.
Chair: Mr. Roberts - er, Mr. Jenkins.
Mr. Jenkins: Gee, heaven forbid, Mr. Chair, that I'm confused with Mr. Roberts. I'm much more handsome, much more eloquent, and much more capable in addressing the debate here than the minister will ever be, but we'll leave that alone.
The other area that the minister has responsibility for is occupational health and safety, and there's an inspection report on the group home. I might as well compile all these together. I know the minister is going to stand up and say he's not answering for Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, but could the minister also table a copy of that inspection report?
I'm sure he has a copy of it in his files, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I'm always interested in comments that are made. I sometimes think that the Member for Klondike is disillusioned about what's going on, and even if the real facts are given, it's not good enough.
I'm not sure about that one, Mr. Chair. I'll have to find out whether I can do that. There may be reasons why we can't. Again, I'm not a micromanager. If we are able to submit the report to the member opposite, I'll be more than willing to do that. I'll find out and let the member know tomorrow.
Mr. Jenkins: For the record, the only contract I'm looking for is the current series of contracts with Gibbs Group Home, Mr. Chair. Would the minister agree to table these in their entirety?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, if the operator agrees, I would assume that wouldn't be a problem, either. I think it has to be with the permission of the contractor.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, what I'm looking at doing is assembling all the relevant information. I have quite a bit of it, and before one poses a question, one usually knows the answer to that question. That's usually the best way to proceed, and I'd like to have all of the information lined up and be fully versed in it, because I sincerely believe that there is a vendetta against this group home operator.
I don't have any political points to score here, Mr. Chair. The operators live outside of my riding. Their political persuasion is not Liberal, and it's certainly not currently Yukon Party. That's well known. So, given that, all I'm wanting to see is that operators here in the Yukon are treated in a forthright manner by this government, which, in this case, I don't believe to be the case. I want to see the best that we can possibly do for the youth who are going through troubled times.
Mr. Chair, I don't believe the minister is currently doing that. I believe that all that he has done with the cancellation of the Gibbs Group Homes contract is bring the problem in-house, where it will be very, very hard and difficult to identify with and to move forward on any initiatives to correct the problems.
Mr. Chair, that sums it up in a nutshell. There are problems. The minister is trying to bury them. He has his head in the sand, Mr. Chair, with respect to this issue, and I am of the opinion that his forward line of vision in this regard is extremely blurred - extremely blurred.
Mr. Chair, there are a number of other issues surrounding the group homes, now that they've been brought in-house, and I'd like to explore them with the minister. The minister indicated previously that there had been no change in the method of operation of the RYTS group home. Could the minister please check with his officials and get back tomorrow, after a thorough briefing on this area, as to what changes have indeed taken place, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I guess, if the member's correct and if there had been no problems and everything was running smoothly, there would have been no intervention, there would have been no re-examination of our mandate and our responsible accountability that we as a government have to perform. The member's absolutely correct. If everything was moving smoothly along, with no issues, we wouldn't be spending two days talking about this issue.
So, obviously, the member has put it very correctly. There have been issues, there have been problems, there have been concerns. The government took action, put in place alternate programming, set up security, developed what the contractor, according to my understanding, was contracted to do. We have done it. The program is running smoothly - I mean, as smoothly as any program will run when you have very troubled youth. But we have no issues, considering what has happened in the past. Now, I say that while touching a lot of wood because - who knows? I mean, as I said earlier, we are dealing with very troubled youth. The staff are happy. The young people in these homes are happy at this point. But again, they are up and down. That is the nature of the issue with children with a lot of major difficulties in life.
So I am hoping that we can move on and get on with the line-by-line so that we can start looking at continuing to deliver the services because the same answers will continue to come. I am not sure what else the member wants. We admit that in the past there have been problems, and there probably will be problems in the future, as there always are, but we are set up to, hopefully, deal with them. I am sure that the members opposite will make sure that we do deal with them if we don't respond to them. So obviously we have gone past that point. Let's get on with the issues of governing this territory, instead of doing what I call what I think it is right now, a witch hunt. And I am not sure what the hunt is for.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, there is no witch hunt on this part. If the minister is envisioning a witch hunt, he must be spending a lot of time in front of a mirror. That's the only thing I can conclude. The minister emphasized that his government is going to be looking seriously at a review on an ongoing basis. I suggested an independent inquiry into the group homes here in the Yukon. Can the minister give some idea as to the timelines for such an initiative?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: My understanding, Mr. Chair, back in 1998, I think it was, when the first report on the Gibbs programming was done, there was a commitment at that time to do regular reviews. My understanding at this point is that one will be done in the next year. Obviously we'll be looking at all the residential homes. This is a matter of course.
The member opposite is saying that we're going to do an in-house review. I'm not sure what the member is getting at. We will make a decision on how these reviews should take place. Obviously we want to make sure we're doing it in the best interests of everybody concerned, so that we can improve on programs, if that is what is needed.
We're open to whatever comes out of these reviews, as we always should be. The Gibbs report back in 1997-98 was that type of report, and that was done independently by somebody from outside - a couple of people, as a matter of fact. There were a number of recommendations that had to be put in place. My understanding is that a number of them were put in place. Hopefully, that will be the same. My suggestion is that that is probably the route we will go. I'm not going to forecast that at this point. I'm just saying that's probably one of the fairest ways of doing it.
Mr. Jenkins: Is this review budgeted for in the current fiscal cycle?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes.
Mr. Jenkins: I kind of have concerns as to why the minister was not more forthright in bringing forward this information that we're going to be conducting a review forward, that it's going to take place in the next fiscal cycle and that it's budgeted for. That would have been a solution to a lot of the questions posed here today, Mr. Chair.
If the minister wants to dance around the issues and try to make some political mileage and hay with non-answers, I guess that's what is going to take up time in debate.
The minister's presence in Hansard will probably be more evident than ever, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, there are a lot of issues currently. Could the minister advise the House - and I'm told that the receiving home is still very full. Could the minister confirm that information, and what steps has he taken? I'm further told that the assessment procedure at the group homes has been changed, contrary to the information that the minister has provided here in the House, and that there is a backlog. Before, it would appear that, prior to assessments being undertaken on these individuals, they were virtually forced upon the Gibbs Group Homes people and they were more or less required to take them. Assessments were done after the fact. But, I guess, now that we are more closely monitoring the situation, we appear to have a backlog at certain points.
Could the minister confirm that that is indeed the case, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, in response to the prior question about whether we're going to do a review and that I was dancing around it, the member opposite never asked the question. Why would I answer a question that wasn't asked? When the member asks a question, we give an answer.
The member also made a comment - and again the member opposite rolled into the commentary that the Gibbs Group Homes was forced into taking people and that the assessments were done after. Mr. Chair, that is not the correct information. The Gibbs Group Home, their people, could refuse, and it did on many occasions refuse to take certain individuals. To say that it was out there that they had to take everyone who came along and that the assessments were done after the fact is, from my point of view, not the right information.
I have here in my hand, Mr. Chair - it goes back to 1988 of assessments that were done on people in our care, and they're ongoing - assessments done over a number of years. So to say that assessments started after this issue is not the right information, Mr. Chair.
I think the whole issue of trying to look at how we work together is paramount in how we build together, and if it's to upstage or to trip up the government on specifics, I suppose it can be done all the time, because we're all human, and humans do make mistakes and, if they're mistakes that are not helping the people we work with, then obviously we want to correct those.
So I would hope from the member opposite that we can receive some very concrete questions about policies, about issues, and about how we want to proceed in the future, and then we can get on with what we're here for, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, for the record, I did ask the minister on numerous occasions initially whether there was going to be an independent inquiry, whether he'd consider holding one, and I asked him if he was going to have a review. So the question was posed to the minister on a number of occasions. I guess, once again, we have an error on the part of the minister. That's all I can conclude.
Mr. Chair, there is a very serious problem with the volume, and there appears to be a backlog at a certain point now, and I'll restate my position once again for the minister's benefit. Previously, the individuals were virtually forced upon the Gibbs Group Home. In a lot of cases, they went out of their way to tailor new programs for these individuals, recognizing some of their needs.
The department and the minister are responsible for assessments - and a multitude of assessments. In a lot of cases, those assessments took place after the fact. The amount of information that was readily available at the outset wasn't as complete and thorough as it could have been or should have been. That's the issue.
What do we see now, now that Gibbs Group Homes is out of the way? They have been thrown out of the equation at 16 Klondike. We see the program being brought in-house. Government owns the facility at 16 Klondike. So it's just another extension of the department to operate it. And operate it, indeed they have.
We know that the initial additional cost is going to be well in excess of $100,000 or $120,000, according to information released from the minister, on top of the initial contract with Gibbs for $483,620. So we're now up to $603,620, and that's just one group home - one group home. What we don't know now is whether this group home is serving the function for which it was intended. Therein lies some difficulty, and thus, my question to the minister is this: who is watching the watchers?
It is very, very difficult for government to critique itself. In fact, it has not been very successful at doing that, Mr. Chair. It never has and probably never will.
An arm's-length arrangement is usually the best. When we see an organization like this providing a service, we see an opportunity to basically stand back and examine how it's operating, whether it's fulfilling its mandate. And if it's not, the easiest step to do is to give the contractor notice that the contract that he has with the government is not being fulfilled in the proper manner, put them on notice as to the areas where they are remiss in fulfilling the contract, and follow up with subsequent examinations of these areas to ensure that the contractor fulfills the terms of their undertaking with the government agency. It's common sense, contract law. Then, in the event that the contractor fails to live up, you put them on notice that you're going to terminate - very, very simple.
But it would appear that, because there is a problem with either the procedures that the department has outlined in about an inch of paper as to how to establish the plan of care, how to do the assessment and how to follow up with the various assessments, that either there is a problem there, Mr. Chair, or there is a problem with the actual assessments that the minister wants to hide. And why he would want to hide, if there is a problem, I do not know, because the exercise of government is to provide the highest consistent level of service at the lowest cost to the end user. And you and I, Mr. Chair, are partly responsible for paying for those services - it's the taxpayer who pays. And the law is very, very specific with respect to children in care and what procedures have to be followed.
It appears that, when they go into a private group home, the required assessments come after the fact. It also appears that there is no follow-up after the assessments take place, Mr. Chair.
There is a whole series of problems, Mr. Chair. It appears that there is no protocol within Health and Social Services for how referrals are done for the assessments. There is also an apparent underestimation of the needs of these children or individuals in care, which would lead one to conclude that there is either a problem in the procedure or the procedure is not being followed. That's what I want to get through the minister's - I was going to say something derogatory but I can't say what I wanted to say, Mr. Chair. So, we wanted to get it through the minister's skull.
That is in order, but where I wanted to go first had an adjective before the noun, Mr. Chair, and you would have probably ruled it out of order. So at the end of the day, what we're left with are these programs being pulled back in-house, and we don't know how they're being monitored. We don't know how the watchers are being watched. We don't know.
Mr. Chair, seeing the time, I move that we report progress.
Speaker: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that we do now report progress.
Motion agreed to
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Speaker: 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 House has discussed Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2001-02, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the 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. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:55 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled April 9, 2001:
Property Management Agency: 2001/2002 Business Plan (Jim)