Tuesday, April 10, 2001 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to introduce to the House a person who is well known to most of you, and that is my constituent, Mr. Ross Findlater, who is the chair of the Whitehorse Planning Group on Homelessness.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that:
(1) the Department of Health and Social Services is committed to the model of maintaining children in the family of origin at all cost;
(2) this model has led to multiple placements of children, some as much as 42 times, which has disrupted the normal bonding process between the child and primary caregiver and has created a condition identified as "attachment disorder":
(3) attachment-disordered children have many mental health and physical health problems that make them difficult to maintain in foster homes and cause them to grow up to be adults with physiological and psychological damage; and
(4) most other jurisdictions in Canada have now moved away from the philosophy of keeping children in the family at all costs and are focusing instead on the best needs of the child; and
THAT this House urges the Minister of Health and Social Services to conduct a review of the department's current philosophy of maintaining children in their family of origin at all cost.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Total Point Inc., contract with
Mr. Fentie: I have a question today for the Minister of Economic Development. Mr. Speaker, in July, 1997, the department entered into a financial agreement with a company called Total Point Inc. Recently the Premier's chief of staff provided some documents about this agreement, sometime after the media had received them. Those documents were provided to the official opposition. Some of the information provided and the interpretation put on it by the Cabinet staff have raised some questions and confusion. I am merely asking today if we can keep clarity.
Can the minister or whoever is speaking for the minister on this issue tell us why the contractor hasn't met the obligations under this agreement and what steps the department has taken to resolve this matter?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: With respect to the question offered by the member opposite, Total Point Incorporated and the Department of Economic Development provided a non-repayable $150,000 contribution in 1978 and 1979, under the previous government, to develop, manufacture and test Infopoint 2000 series FM transmitters. At the time, it was also planned that Industry Canada would contribute $150,000 as well. Industry Canada did not, in the end, take part in the project, and the member opposite would have to contact Industry Canada and ask why they rescinded on their offer.
Total Point's obligation was to provide eight transmitters and 12 field units. The eight transmitters were provided in October 1997. Only one of the 12 field units has been provided. The deadline in the agreement was June 30, 1999. Total Point currently does not have the resources to complete the other units and is currently seeking other partners to help them fulfill its obligations, Mr. Speaker.
The agreement does not provide recourse for YTG in the event that the units are not delivered. The NDP government allowed Total Point time to meet its obligations. Under the current government, the same approach has been taken.
The Premier has not been involved in any discussions in this matter with any officials. She has given -
Chair: Order please. Would the minister please conclude his answer?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: She has given no direction, verbal or written. The issue has not come up to Cabinet nor Management Board. If it did, the November 7 letter to Minister Pam Buckway would take effect and the Premier would excuse herself.
Mr. Fentie: One of the areas that we are seeking clarity in is the statement by the minister again today that the reason that this deal, this agreement, was not fulfilled by the proponent was because the federal government did not contribute its share.
I would ask the minister again, when he stands on his feet: is that the reason why the agreement and the delivery of the units did not take place? Is it because the federal government did not contribute their end to this arrangement - yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fentie: Herein lies a problem. It was under the former government that this agreement was reached. And during that time, the former Minister of Economic Development met with the proponent and the federal representative in this matter, and it was clear at that meeting that the federal government was not contributing to this arrangement. In fact, the only thing the federal government was interested in doing is that, at some point after manufacture, they may participate in marketing. But absolutely no monies were coming from the federal government on this agreement in terms of manufacturing the units.
I want the minister, then, Mr. Speaker, to correct the record and make it clear that this agreement and the obligations of the contractor were solely with the Yukon government. That obligation was to fulfill the delivery of the 20-some units, eight of the type -
Chair: Order please. Question please.
Mr. Fentie: Will the minister please correct the record and clarify that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: In respect to the question initially asked, I just provided a full and complete answer to the question. I will repeat that portion. As the Member for Watson Lake has just indicated, the former Minister of Economic Development did sit down with the parties involved, including the federal government. I would therefore ask the members opposite why they didn't resolve the issue, why they didn't ask the federal government, why they didn't hold them accountable for honouring the commitments in this agreement. In deference to not following through on that, the former NDP government then did allow time for Total Point to meet their obligations, Mr. Speaker. I had also indicated earlier that they are making best efforts to contact others to fulfill their obligations under the contract with the government. It is this government's position, just as the previous government's, that we are allowing time for that to happen, in a respectful manner, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Total Point Inc., contract with
Mr. Fentie: Well, that wasn't the question, Mr. Speaker. What we are trying to determine on this side of the House is how can the government say to the public that the reason that these units were not delivered is because the federal government did not contribute their share when, in fact, there was no such thing in this arrangement. We are merely seeking clarity. The question is why, then, did the government state, in their blaming fashion, that the reason the units were not delivered is because the federal government did not put in their share when that was not the case? Why is that, then? Will the minister answer that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I did answer the question. I don't know how much more clearly I can provide an answer.
The Member for Watson Lake just stood up and indicated that the former Minister of Economic Development did sit down with the parties, which included, as he admitted, the federal government. This was back in 1999, under their responsibility and under their efforts. They did make attempts to resolve it.
I would ask the member opposite why they did not get a commitment from the federal government at that time to live up to their contractual obligations to the party involved.
Mr. Speaker, they allowed the proponent time to conduct business afterward. We are just following through with that obligation. How much clearer can I possibly be?
Mr. Fentie: Well, let's try this again. We all know that the federal government wasn't to contribute to this arrangement. The members opposite - this government - stated to the public that the reason the taxpayers of this territory were not in receipt of the agreed-upon units is because the federal government didn't contribute. This, Mr. Speaker, amounts to doublespeak by the government. That simply is unacceptable. We want the minister and the government to correct the record on this issue. It is not the federal government's fault or the former government's fault that these radios have not been delivered.
Will the minister correct the record now and explain to the public and this Legislature that the government is mistaken in their point that it's the federal government's fault for not contributing their share? Will the minister correct the record here in the Legislature and for the public?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I can't believe that I'm going to be defending the members opposite while they were government.
The Economic Development department, the Economic Development minister of the day, provided a non-repayable $150,000 contribution to the proponent of this project.
I can only assume they did that because there was an obligatory statement made by the federal government to match those funds with the proponent.
Now, if the deal fell through, shouldn't the former government official, in order to safeguard their investment, have lobbied the federal government to owe up to their condition? They didn't, Mr. Speaker, and that was back in 1997. After two years of dithering, the member opposite and his colleague, the Economic Development minister of the day, decided to just throw their hands up and resign themselves to the fact that, okay, the proponent has made an offer to find other partners for this project. Their commitment to that idea was that they would just let it go and let the proponent find for himself, instead of supporting the project and lobbying the federal government to owe up to their commitment.
Mr. Fentie: The former government didn't expect any money from the federal government. In fact, we went ahead. The former minister went ahead with this project because we felt it was a valid one and there were merits to this project in helping Yukoners develop economically. There was no request to the federal government by the former government to contribute.
Now, the problem here is that under the former government, we expected delivery of certain units. Under this government, the delivery did not materialize and this government has used the federal government as a scapegoat, again blaming somebody else for their inability to manage an issue and a situation.
My question to the minister, since he will not clear the record and give the Yukon public the facts in this matter, is this: will he give the Yukon public the expected time of delivery for the remaining units? On what date will that take place?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, as my colleague, the Minister of Health and Social Services has repeatedly stated in this House, it's smoke and mirrors. They're digging again. I gave a very clear, concise answer the first time around. We're on the second go-round of questions. It's obvious that the members are digging and accusing the Premier of some kind of shenanigans. It's obvious that they're doing that, and I would challenge the members opposite to put up or shut up and to stop this type of accusation and innuendo.
Question re: Special commission on the Yukon Act recommendations
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Premier. Now, yesterday, the Premier stated that April 17, 2000, election day, was the referendum day for approving amendments to the Yukon Act, yet there is only one brief reference to devolution in the Liberal election platform and no mention whatsoever of the Yukon Act amendments. Now, one of the most controversial amendments being proposed is subsection 15(1), extending a government's term in office from the current four years to five years. Should the Yukon Act amendments be passed this summer containing this extension, in view of this government's rapidly diminishing public support, will the Premier then be arguing that she has another year added to the Liberal government's term of office before she has to go to the polls and face the wrath of the Yukon electorate?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, it's pretty clear that the members opposite have absolutely wasted their time in the last number of weeks, and now they're trying to make up for it and searching the bottom of the barrel for any possible question that they can dream up. That is the most ridiculous question I've ever heard. The member opposite knows very well that any Yukon Act amendments, such as extension of the term, would take effect after the next election. It has been clear from the very beginning in all of the Yukon Act and devolution discussions. The question is ridiculous.
Mr. Jenkins: Then, can the Premier provide any evidence that demonstrates that Yukoners now favour a five-year term for government, rather than the current four-year term? During the consultation period of the Yukon Act amendments by the previous NDP government, this message came out loud and clear. So when did public opinion on this issue change 180 degrees, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I will go back through the consultation and back through the notes. I know that several members of our caucus attended those consultations. I was doing a great deal of homework for the House at the time and only attended parts of them. I will go back and revisit those discussions. However, I do not doubt that the Yukon Act, should we be - and I anticipate being successful in discussions and so on. A five-year term is not unheard of or out of the ordinary; it's completely ordinary. Perhaps the member would like to discuss some other innovative constitutional ideas that have been put forward, such as fixed election dates or fixed sitting dates, and actually the opposition sticking to them.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister is trying to provide smoke and mirrors around this issue because she knows that the Yukon population, when they had an opportunity to speak to the special commission on the Yukon Act, weren't in support of the extension of the term from four years to five years. The special commission on the Yukon Act further stated that widespread support for amendments to the Yukon Act is required when the Government of the Yukon presents its final proposal to the Government of Canada - all-party support, in fact, Mr. Speaker. Currently these amendments do not enjoy that support, so why is the Premier now proceeding without that support?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Oh, Mr. Speaker, just because the member says it doesn't make it so.
The fact is that this government has been working very hard with our professional public service, and others, in negotiating a devolution transfer agreement, negotiating and working on issues surrounding the Yukon Act. The issues that are coming up at the negotiating and discussion table bear no resemblance to what the member opposite is suggesting are the issues. The fact is that the Yukon Act changes. That is our constitution. Certainly we will be looking forward to the views of Yukoners in that regard.
Now, the member opposite is suggesting that there is some kind of a nefarious plot afoot. The fact is that, last April, almost one year ago, Yukoners elected this government in resounding numbers. They elected us because they believed that we would do what we say we will do and because we are average, lifelong Yukoners with a strong degree of common sense. We are here trying to do the right thing and make, as the Speaker implores us to do, sound, fair and wise decisions on behalf of the people of Yukon.
That's what we're trying to do in this House. We are working with Yukoners on the process. I don't know why the member finds that so hard to understand.
Question re: Telephone service to Marsh Lake area
Mr. McRobb: Well, we're still waiting for sound, wise and fair decisions on this side of the House.
Last year, the Yukon government entered into a partnership agreement with Northwestel to provide telephone service to the Marsh Lake area. I don't intend to debate with the Minister of Community and Transportation Services whether or not that was part of Connect Yukon. I think we agree to disagree with each other on that. But there was a contract, Mr. Speaker, and with it came a number of legal obligations.
Is the minister satisfied that both partners in this arrangement have fulfilled all of their legal requirements?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member opposite is referring to the Marsh Lake local infrastructure build, which, indeed, was not a part of the Connect Yukon project but a separate project. And as a result of that project, on December 15, 2000, telephone service and local dial-up Internet became available to people living between Whitehorse and Marsh Lake, and as of the end of last year, 71 residents had been connected to the telephone network. Dial-up was available on time, and this project is essentially complete, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, let the record show that the minister did not answer the question: is she satisfied that both partners in this arrangement have fulfilled their legal obligations? Maybe she can answer that one along with the next question.
Now, the Yukon government's partner in this project, Northwestel, installed underground lines adjacent to the Alaska Highway. Those lines have apparently crossed a number of streams. Is the minister satisfied that the Yukon government's partner secured all of the necessary approvals before doing that work?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I am satisfied that the Yukon government has lived up to its obligations under the contract.
Mr. McRobb: Well, again, Mr. Speaker, that doesn't answer the question, and here's the problem. Let me spell it out for the minister. The money for this project came through the immigrant investor fund. This is money paid to the Receiver General of Canada by would-be immigrants. That makes it federal money. Under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, any development receiving federal funding must undergo an environmental assessment. Does the minister have any concerns about possible regulatory action by the federal government because a CEAA assessment was not conducted?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The members opposite are, indeed, digging way down to the bottom of the barrel for their questions at this point in the session.
As I said, I am satisfied that the Yukon government has lived up to its obligations in the Marsh Lake local infrastructure build contract.
Question re: School principals, turnover rate
Ms. Netro: My question is to the Minister of Education.
This is the time of year when schools are planning their staffing needs for the next school year. A key position in any school is that of principal. Recently, we have seen some advertisements from the Department of Education for next year. How much turnover in school principals is there already for this year, and how does that compare with previous years?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, that truly is certainly a worthwhile question and, unfortunately, I don't have those statistics with me at this time, but I would be more than willing to provide to the member opposite a response, either by legislative return or directly, whichever she chooses.
Ms. Netro: The government policy, at least under our government, was to advertise locally for two weeks to attract local teachers and then to advertise outside. While last week the department advertised two school principal positions locally, at the same time these positions were advertised in Vancouver.
Has the government policy changed, or is the department just ignoring it?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Throughout the 1990s, the Yukon emphasized recruitment within the territory because it is more cost effective and efficient and, more recently, under the local hire guidelines. As of October 25, the local pool of potential applications contains about 69 people, including the 22 in the local application inventory and those on the substitute teachers list. These numbers have been declining over the past two years, Mr. Speaker.
It is important to note that almost all of the applicants are generalists. They are based in Whitehorse, and few are willing to move outside into the communities. So we are following the current policy on hiring, making all attempts to hire within the territory. It is somewhat more difficult for senior administrative positions within the education system, so we are taking advantage of hiring from the outside as well.
Ms. Netro: Teachers are expected to give notice by the end of May of their intent to leave. We can expect to see more postings in the coming months. Will the minister provide his assurance that Yukon residents will get first crack at these jobs?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Home show, partnership with Yukon Housing Corporation
Mr. Keenan: I have a question responsible for Yukon Housing Corporation today. One of the objectives of Yukon Housing is to play a lead role in dispensing information and transferring technology to the Yukon housing industry. It also says that a strong housing industry can have a very significant impact on our economy here in the Yukon Territory, and, of course, one of the ways that we have met these objectives in recent years was through the home show. So, I would like to ask now: why didn't the Yukon Housing Corporation work in partnership, as they did in the past, with the B.C./Yukon Home Builders Association to put on a home show this year?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, we did go to home shows in the past and we are working toward the trade show with the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, that is just a ridiculous answer. They talked about no questions. There are no answers.
I see the minister got last-minute instruction from the Premier on how to correctly answer this. Well, let me point out for the record that it was not answered.
Now, the home show was a great showcase for local home builders, expertise, energy conservation and all sorts of initiatives like that. It provided Yukon companies with the opportunity to showcase throughout the world. In the past, we have had our Yukon companies building in Chile. We've had increased uptake on our programs through our government. It was a very popular program with Yukon expertise and labour around the world.
What consultation took place by this minister with the business community before cancelling this show, and what events are being planned by this minister to showcase the Yukon housing industry technology now?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, we have been working on a number of showcases. Right now, we have a wider audience with the Lions Trade Show and it was felt that two shows competed with each other. It was decided that we would take the wider audience with the Lions Trade Show.
Mr. Keenan: Well, all I can say is thank God for the Lions, because they will continue to showcase what we have here. But that is not what I asked the minister.
We were led to believe that this government that we have now was pro-business. We thought this government was committed to fixing the economy and fighting climate change. Well, the home show addressed all of those objectives. Could the minister please provide any cost-benefit analysis done by the Yukon Housing Corporation before scrapping this initiative? Will the minister provide that?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, I don't have the figures in front of me right at the moment, but I'm pretty sure we can provide that for the member opposite.
Question re: Whistle-blower legislation
Mr. Fentie: My question is for the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission.
We have in the past, Mr. Speaker, asked this minister what the timelines are with regard to whistle-blower legislation.
Another issue that is extremely difficult to deal with in the workplace is harassment in the workplace. One of the ways to break that cycle, given the emotional upheaval and how this issue can really impact lives negatively, is the comfort level for people to come forward.
Can the minister again try to enlighten us on when he expects to get whistle-blower legislation on the books, and what is the estimated time for this legislation to be brought to the Assembly?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The members opposite are all over the map today, so it gives everybody an opportunity to contribute and hopefully in a constructive and positive way.
The Public Service Commission is reviewing the issues and applications of whistle-blower legislation. It is a very difficult exercise to enact in respecting issues of confidentiality and so on, but the fact of the matter, Mr. Speaker, is that currently there is no similar legislation in any other Canadian jurisdiction. However, there are certain court decisions that recognize the appropriateness of providing the public servant with protection when freedom of expression is invoked to public comment on the actions of the employer.
So, Mr. Speaker, the Public Service Commission is looking. We are also looking at jurisdictions for whistle-blower legislation in the States, in England and in Australia, to try and get a sense of how they're dealing with those aspects in other countries.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I'm sure Yukoners, especially those who have experienced this scourge in the workplace, will take exception to the minister's comments that we on this side of the House are all over the place. We're asking a question on behalf of Yukoners who have a great deal of concern about this issue. Furthermore, it's that government across the floor that committed to the Yukon public that they would draft whistle-blower legislation. So far, nothing has happened.
Let me ask the minister this: outside of talking to Australia and other places on the planet, why hasn't this minister instructed the DMRC to at least begin discussions on how to proceed with drafting this legislation? Why is that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I have already initiated that instruction, and I thank the member for catching up on his homework in asking me the question. I guess I could have provided the information earlier, had he asked.
There are consultations that are going on with many of the employees, both in the public and in other jurisdictions within the workforce here in the territory. It may be - a suggestion has come forth that it would be appropriate to have an independent authority review the issues of whistle-blower legislation, as there is no precedent legislation in Canada currently occurring.
Mr. Fentie: Again, I point out the fact that it is the members opposite who committed to do this. We on this side of the House are trying to ascertain when they plan to deliver this legislation that they committed to. Now, the minister has said that there are discussions going on and so on and so forth, within government here in the territory. Now that briefing notes are part of what is made public, given the package that was sent to the media in regard to another issue that we were talking about, will the minister table correspondence, briefing notes and any other matters pertinent to this issue so that we can understand better and pass on to our constituency an update on where this legislation is, and if, in fact, anything is even being done on it? Will the minister commit to doing that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I am fully committed to it. The member is right when we had indicated that it would be a party platform issue during the election, and we have pursued it. I have tried to respectfully answer the member opposite on how we are moving on the issue of whistle-blower legislation. I had also indicated to the member opposite that it is a very delicate thing and it does impact on others, both the proponent when using whistle-blower legislation and on the individual who is being targeted through the whistle-blower action. So it isn't something that we just scribble on a piece of paper and present to the House; it is taking thought. We are going through consultation and we are looking at other jurisdictions. We are being very careful about how this is constructed. It is not an easy exercise, Mr. Speaker, and we are making best efforts. I will contact the department to put together a summary of actions to date on how they have moved toward preparing - or what facts they have gathered - whistle-blower legislation and hand it over to the member opposite, if that would be adequate. I don't have any problem doing that at all, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of opposition private members' business
Mr. Jenkins: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the third party, to be called on Wednesday, April 11, 2001. They are Motion No. 96 and Motion No. 44.
Speaker: We will 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 1:55 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 are in general debate. I believe Mr. Jenkins has the floor.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, yesterday in general debate we spent a considerable amount of time dealing with group homes under family and children's services. We uncovered a number of difficulties that the minister is having with this area of his portfolio that are leading to children coming out of the system in a worse condition than when they go into the system, Mr. Chair.
We're looking specifically at the safety audit that was awarded by way of a Health and Social Services contract that was undertaken on the Klondike group home, operated by Sandra Gibbs. And at the end of the day, what the department's position is and what the minister's position was was that the safety audit led to the cancellation of the contract for the Gibbs' group home to continue in the format that they had at that time.
The government took the program in-house, Mr. Chair. What it further pointed out in the safety audit is that the government itself was at fault for the majority, if not all, of the problems arising in the safety audit.
The minister tried to circumvent us by saying that he didn't have any input into the terms and conditions of the contract, but Mr. Chair, that was incorrect in that the contract was awarded by his department.
Two officials and subsequently three officials from the department sat on the steering committee for this contract, along with an individual from the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board and two individuals from Gibbs Group Homes. The people from Gibbs Group Homes were outnumbered two to one. As for the terms of the contract, the draft was presented to the steering committee. Either the department failed to vet the draft report as they wanted to do, to eliminate all references to the deficiencies within the department, or they just accepted them - as they should have - as being bona fide, legitimate, valid concerns.
There is a whole process in place within the Department of Health and Social Services for analyzing individuals in family and children's services.
What this safety audit pointed out was that they were not being followed until after the fact. So, what has currently happened is that the program has now been taken in-house. By taking the program in-house, all that the minister is now doing is hiding the fact that he has failed to address the needs of these children in the care of the government. He is not helping the children in care but hindering and crippling their development.
The standard in Canada for a child in care from the age of birth forward, as to the number of placements in either group homes or foster homes, is four. We have occasion here in the Yukon where we have 10 times that number of placements - over 40 for some of the individuals. The government appears to have a policy of maintaining these youth with their parents. Current thinking is that that is not always the best way, given that sometimes the parents have gone through this very same system and have the very same problems that the government is passing on to their children.
So they're in a cycle, and that cycle must be broken. Now, it doesn't appear likely that the government will be able to solve this problem internally, and the problem is continuing to grow. The intake home is currently filled with individuals waiting for assessment and to be assigned into various group homes or into foster homes. Assessments aren't being completed. The problem is continuing to grow. The minister is destroying the lives of these youth and covering it up in-house by not addressing his responsibility.
I'm not asking the minister to be an expert in this matter; I'm asking him to provide direction, Mr. Chair. What I'm calling for is an independent inquiry to look at this very important issue and to help deal with the lives of these youth.
Now, the current thinking on this important area is that the more frequently a child is moved from foster home to other facilities, it usually results in more damage. And what is happening is that the parents, sometimes afflicted with various difficulties, recover their child, and the child moves back and forward.
Now, the position of the minister is that, at all costs, we must maintain the child with the birth parents.
That thinking today, Mr. Chair, has been subject to a lot of rethinking and research that has substantiated the claim that the best for the child is to remain with one caregiver for as long as possible - one caregiver who is adequate and addresses the needs of the child. Because ultimately, the child is there because they need and require protection, and the government has had to take that child from society, take that child away from the child's birth mother and maintain them.
The exercise is to provide them with as much opportunity to integrate them into society, not to hinder them and place more impediments before them, Mr. Chair. That appears to be where we're headed and what this minister is determined to do.
I'm very, very disappointed in the tack that the minister has taken. Yesterday, I suggested an independent inquiry. The minister kind of waffled back and forth in his usual Liberal manner, sitting on the fence saying, "Yes, in due course, we'll get to reviewing that." That's basically the position that the minister took.
Now, Mr. Chair, let's look at the reality of the situation of these children in care of the government. The most vulnerable children are aboriginal children, children with disabilities and abused and neglected children. That's the biggest group that we have to contend with.
It goes on and says that abused and neglected children continue to fall through the cracks in our child welfare system. They are, at an alarming pace, and I am hopeful that, after the debate today and the debate of the last few days, the minister will recognize this and recognize that he has a very, very important role to fulfill and will do so, Mr. Chair. And that important role is to provide political direction to his department, provide political direction to review the system and change the system to meet the needs - and not the needs of the minister but the needs of the children, because that is paramount, Mr. Chair.
The article that I speak from, Mr. Chair, went on to say that recent research in child maltreatment and abuse concluded that much is hidden, as Canada has no way of collecting national statistics. Without national statistics, it makes it very hard to know the extent of the problem or whether our provincial and territorial child welfare systems are fulfilling their mandate. Other researchers indicate that the highest priority, child protection, is being overshadowed by administrative and organizational concerns.
Mr. Chair, the conclusion is that the needs of the children take second place to the needs of the bureaucracy. We have an excellent example of that right here, with the Minister of Health and Social Services.
I'm very hopeful, Mr. Chair, that the minister will see his way clear to call an independent inquiry, not run around, cancel contracts with private sector group homes, take the programs in-house and then conclude that there isn't anything wrong with in-house. The issue then becomes "Who's watching the watchers" in the in-house group homes. No idea, Mr. Chair.
We've got a problem and the problem has been recognized for some time. The minister is sweeping this problem under the rug and not addressing his responsibilities.
Mr. Chair, children in care are under the authority of the bureaucracy. To what extent the bureaucracy makes decisions that are in the best interests of the child, especially when those interests might run counter to the self-interest of the bureaucracy, is indeed a question that begs an answer. What we have is a situation where the bureaucracy becomes more self-serving, when it's there to serve the children. We are not seeing that. We are seeing, more often than not, children in custody in group homes and foster homes just getting into a cycle. The only way they get out of that cycle is when they reach the age of majority. Then they have to be dealt with by another level of bureaucracy and, occasionally, at times, by our court system.
One can only conclude, Mr. Chair, that society is failing these individuals. The minister is responsible for this failure, and the minister is in a position where he can change the system, and he is failing to react to the much-needed changes that society will ultimately demand of him, Mr. Chair. Because we can only sweep this under the rug for so long. We can only go on for so long with this festering problem. It has to be addressed, Mr. Chair. It must be addressed.
What we need - in this article it says it quite well - is someone who will prick the consciences of our politicians, help them see beyond party politics and rally them to a cause that will benefit children. I urge the minister to take up the cause. He is very much in a position where he can undertake review. In fact, he could order a review tomorrow. I offer my support in establishing the terms of reference and any other assistance that the minister might entertain.
But, Mr. Chair, it is our responsibility to hold the government accountable. That's the role of opposition. In this case, this problem has been growing and growing and growing. This minister and the previous minister have failed to recognize the importance of the issue, the responsibility that we have to these children in custody and those we have control of, and failed to deal with them in a manner that is anywhere near what is considered to be adequate.
We must do more for our children, especially those we as a government have the responsibility for. And, Mr. Chair, if I didn't bring this forward in the manner in which I have brought it forward, I, too, would be remiss in addressing my responsibilities. I don't ever want to be accused of that.
The buck stands firmly in the minister's lap. Currently the position that he is taking with respect to these youth is resulting in the destruction of young lives, and it's being covered up. These youth can be integrated back into society. It will take effort and it will take a concerted effort by all parties, but the lead is the minister. The buck stops with the minister, to quote a very famous U.S. president. That's where the buck stops, right at the minister's desk.
Now, the minister has waffled around this whole issue. He has not adequately answered the majority of the questions posed to him. He has basically suggested that most of the responsibilities for this safety audit on the Gibbs' group home are really not in existence; there's not a problem there, other than there being a serious problem, but it has resulted in the cancellation of the contract with Gibbs Group Homes. And really, although we've organized the safety audit, established the terms of reference for the safety audit, hired the contractor - in fact, the contractor came highly recommended - and paid the contractor for the safety audit, we have some serious problems.
The minister said that the steering committee was put in place to ensure that there was the type of input I had been referring to earlier. Basically, what happened, Mr. Chair, is the minister didn't get an opportunity to vet the report and cut out those sections that he didn't agree with. He buried the report. Until I brought up in the House that this report did exist, and it was very, very pointed and very, very damaging as to the errors that were being made by the minister in this specific area, he didn't even know about the report. He didn't even know of its existence. That was last fall; this is now.
Well, Mr. Chair, the minister seems to have a very different interpretation of the terms of reference contained in the contract, and I'd like to point out for the minister's benefit that the steering committee did have input into the terms of reference. The terms of reference were initially drafted by the author of the safety audit, but that was per the committee's request. They were subsequently presented to the committee as a draft terms of reference. The proponent received feedback from the committee, and the suggested changes were made. That's the reality of the situation.
So, Mr. Chair, at the end of the day, the minister failed to recognize that he really had, through the steering committee, care and control of the whole process. In my opinion, the process was fair, reasonable and concluded rightly that the government had erred in the way they had treated the contractor and treated the individuals placed there. That's the problem.
Mr. Chair, this is an outrage. I would like to ask the minister once more why he will not call an independent public inquiry into this area.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I guess the camera is off now, so now we get down to the questions. Again, the Member for Klondike fabricates and blows up out of proportion what the real issues are. To actually say that I, the minister, am responsible for destroying so many children - I find it hard to believe that anybody in this House could say that about any of us. But knowing the Member for Klondike, I'm not surprised. The Member for Klondike believes that this will get some press somewhere.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The Member for Watson Lake says he already has it. Right. But it's the same thing. It's all negative. There's never any positive.
Mr. Chair, I agree with the member that these problems are very major. They're very major problems with our young people, and they're not specifically about group homes only. Yes, I would agree with the Member for Klondike - sometimes I do agree with the member - that we have a large number of children with emotional problems. A high percentage of children here have emotional problems. I think what we have to do is talk to teachers, talk to parents, talk to the communities. We have a growing number of these children.
I think we, as a community and as politicians, should think about why we have these problems. Maybe some of us contributed to some of them. Remember, these children come from homes, from parents and from communities. That is the big issue. How do we heal our communities?
What does government do? They are really the last resort. They are there to pick up the pieces and then, obviously, be responsible for all the things before we picked up the pieces. The Member for Klondike is very good at saying that the government caused all the problems, and specifically that I, as minister, caused all these problems. My gosh, in one year, what damage I have done. That's unbelievable. But then, again, the Member for Klondike is once again grandstaging, looking for the optics and the headline. It doesn't matter what the member says. Whatever comes into the mind of the member, he says it, whether it is right or wrong.
I think it's very important, Mr. Chair, that we look at the problems in the big context. It is a major problem. Good Lord, I worked in the area for many years. I know what the problem is all about.
The member talks about the advisory committee. I would agree with the member that the advisory committee did draw up the frame of reference. That was one of the reasons why the advisory committee was put in place, but it wasn't only to draw up the frame of reference. It was also there to assist the consultant in resolving issues throughout the course of the audit. That didn't happen and that is our argument with the report.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The Member for Klondike says that I'm -
Chair: Order please. I would remind members of the provisions of Standing Order 6(6): "When a member is speaking, no member shall interrupt, except to raise a point of order or a question of privilege." I will be enforcing this today.
The Member for Porter Creek North has the floor.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The member constantly says that I am hiding the issue. Why would I even dare hide an issue that is so public? The member is well-briefed on what one can hide or not hide. Would I hide anything from anybody? Why? It's a public process. We don't hide things.
By the way, I don't go scoop up children and bring them into care. Remember that we as government are a last resort. We are either requested by family or friends or, legally, we have to intervene. Those are the guidelines that are used for any child coming into care.
I would agree with the member opposite again - I have agreed with him a couple of times, which is a record for me - that moving children from parents is very damaging. I know that. But sometimes, Mr. Chair, we have no choice. We have to legally intervene. That is the nature of the game. Unfortunately, it is one of those issues that I wish we didn't have to do.
I think that one of the other areas of concern here is that I spent a good 25 or 30 minutes yesterday trying to explain to the member opposite the procedure of how children are brought into care, the fact that our first step is to keep children in their own homes. If that doesn't work, then they come into a group home. If that doesn't work - or they could be kept in their home or temporarily come out for times and then go back to their home. Or, then, permanently, they could become wards of the state. It is unfortunate that that has to happen, but remember that these are very troubled children by the time we get them in permanent care.
I guess the other point, Mr. Chair, from my perspective, is to try to work at solving the problem. I know the member opposite doesn't want to look for solutions. The member says that there are solutions, but I'm not hearing them from the member opposite. All the member can tell me is that he disagrees with the view that we as government wanted to vet the report. We don't vet reports; they're public reports, Mr. Chair. What we asked for is to have the confidential information taken out - confidential.
Remember, there are only eight children in this particular home, so any information can reflect on any one of them. We have to protect those people. The member may not buy that, but that's the member's problem, not mine.
I think the member also is forgetting that when we go to tender for a contract and all the issues are very clearly laid out as to what the contract is about, then we expect the contract to be honoured. I think that's very important, Mr. Chair. The objective here is to help children, so if we as government feel that the contractor can do the job and the contractor feels that they can do the job, we sign on the dotted line and hope the job is being done. When the job is not being done, that's when we as government have to intervene.
Now, if people don't accept the fact that we believe the job wasn't being done, then that's another point of view, and I guess one challenges the expertise of the people in our department or working for family and children's services who are making these observations.
Or we could challenge Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board for their report, as well, on the safety of people working there. So there are all kinds of reasons why contracts are cancelled. They're not done lightly; they're not done vindictively; they're done for a specific reason. So hopefully, Mr. Chair, I have cleared up a few of the issues.
The question that the member asks about doing an independent study or an independent review - I've already shared that with the member opposite. I'm not saying it's going to be independent. I'm not saying it's going to be anything at this point, but, as a matter of course, the department does review all its programs, and we are, again, as mentioned yesterday - when the first report was done in 1998, there was a commitment there that group homes would all be part of that cycle of review.
So, we're committed to doing that. We are going to be doing it, whether it's a review or a study or whatever. We haven't put our definition on it yet, but something will be done.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to thank the minister for indicating that something will be done. Something must be done.
Children in care - the minister went on at great length to say that it's requested of the department sometimes and, legally, they're required. That's fine, but when this occurs, the exercise is to do the job right, do the job in a manner that's best for the children. I submit that that currently is not the case.
What we have are some very troubled teens emerging from the system today, still in the system today, Mr. Chair, and they basically became wards of the government as infants.
So the government was responsible for their care and upbringing, either directly or indirectly, from the time they were infants until now when they are a teenagers, and currently they are very troubled teenagers.
Now, who is responsible in this case, Mr. Chair, when the government has been the sole guardian, either directly or indirectly, since the child was an infant?
Some of these infants, from the time of birth to their not even achieving adulthood, have gone through over 40 placements. Forty placements, Mr. Chair. That's the problem.
We have a system in place that is failing these youth today. Mr. Chair, these youth are the future of our territory and, indeed, Canada. The minister is ultimately responsible, and once again I am pleased that the minister is going to be conducting some sort of inquiry. Could he be more specific as to when this inquiry will start, if the terms of reference have been developed, or is this in the wishy-washy area of the 10-year or 20-year plan that the minister is always referring to?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I find it rather interesting again. The Member for Klondike cannot complete a question without adding his derogatory statements - wishy-washy. It's obvious that when the safety audit was done on 16 Klondike, the frame of reference was done. So why would we do that again? Why would we do something wishy-washy? Again, there is no basis for what the member is saying.
Now, we are committed to doing something within the year. We are also committed to having a frame of reference. We're also committed to sharing it with whomever. It's all part of the transparent approach that we use in government.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister for his response. There's just one other area I would like to get on the record before we leave this important area, Mr. Chair, and that is the fact that the safety audit on Gibbs' group home was used by the minister as a reason to cancel the contract with this group home operator because, to a large degree, the minister and his department were failing to follow the procedures or the procedures as spelled out were not adequate.
We never did get an answer from the minister as to whether the procedures were incorrect or inadequate or if the procedures were not followed. That question has not been answered. It appears that this safety audit was used as a principal reason for cancelling the contract with Gibbs Group Homes. They are being used as a scapegoat for the minister's lack of ability to address his responsibilities and his almost total failure in addressing his responsibilities with respect to family and children's services.
Mr. Chair, that is a very important issue and another important point. The minister has failed to respond either one way or the other as to whether the system broke down or the procedures weren't adhered to. Which one was it, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, there are really two issues here. There are two different stories. The safety audit was another aspect of 16 Klondike; to shut it down was completely different. That's part of the contract. We have a right to do that, and so they're not even related, even though the Member for Klondike would like to relate them.
These problems date back to 1998. Some of them were being worked on, some of them were hopefully resolved, some of them were not. So it's not like this was a new issue. This came around a long time before we ever got here.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the bottom line is the Gibbs' group home is being used as a scapegoat for the minister's own failures. That's the bottom line. One couldn't conclude anything otherwise after analyzing all the documentation and conducting a review of the parties involved. Now the programs have been brought in-house. Could the minister spell out how we're going to monitor these programs? When it's an outside agency, it is very easy to monitor that outside agency or contractor providing services to the government. Now the program has been brought in-house, buried. We know there is a multitude of problems surrounding this issue. We know that there is still a great number of children getting into trouble. In fact, it appears to be accelerating. We know the intake home is full.
That information, like the minister said, Mr. Chair, gets out. The Yukon is a very small place. We know about the programs being delivered in some of the outlying communities and the problems that they have encountered. It doesn't matter if we look at Old Crow, Mayo or Whitehorse, some of these programs are being delivered and contracted for by the Government of the Yukon Department of Health and Social Services, and a great deal of money is being expended.
But rather than fix the programs and fix the problem with these programs, it appears that we are taking all these programs in-house, creating more and more government. What is happening? What we are there to do is falling through the cracks. Those children at risk that are in the care of the government are falling through the cracks. Rather than being brought along and turned into contributing citizens in society, they're gaining more and more problems as they go through the government system, and they are becoming more and more difficult to handle.
That is the crux of the problem right there. The system is failing these youth. The minister is responsible for it. The buck stops with the minister. I would urge the minister not to start passing on the buck to all these other individuals involved in operating facilities for the youth, but to grab the bull by the horns, take on the responsibility he is vested with, address the problems and provide political direction.
That's what the minister is elected to do. Is the minister not capable of providing political direction? That appears to be the case, Mr. Chair.
I'd be hopeful that, at the end of the day, we will see a full and comprehensive review undertaken of this area of the minister's portfolio.
The minister has indicated that he's going to entertain that within the year. Have funds been budgeted within the existing fiscal year, Mr. Chair, to address this area?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, repetition is good. I have always found that by repeating oneself we learn. Hopefully, we're going to continue to learn.
A couple of comments that the Member for Klondike made were that the government has taken this in-house. Yes, the government had a contract with a contractor, with specific requirements. A problem was evident and has been evident for a long period of time. The problem wasn't resolved so the government acted. They took back the contract.
I don't know how much more clear we can be than that.
I'd like to know what question the member has. The member keeps throwing out this idea that the problems have gotten worse. I'd like the member to substantiate that with proof. It's very easy just to make a blanket statement and not have the proof, but then again, knowing the Member for Klondike, that happens quite often.
The assessment process is the same, whether it's a government contract or a government home. We use the same assessment. It doesn't change. We don't use one for one group and another for another group. It's all the same. I read that into the record yesterday - what the process is.
It's too bad that the Member for Klondike constantly sees these teens from 16 Klondike doing much worse than they did before, but that's not the evidence out there. The teens are doing very well at 16 Klondike right now.
If the member has other information that I don't have or that the papers don't have or that the radio doesn't have, then get it out there. Our program is running very well. We are very pleased with what we're doing right now. But one has to remember that these are very troubled youth. They can be up one day and down the next. Anything can happen. But right now, since we've taken on the program, it seems to be a well-run program.
Again, we are always vigilant, because anything can happen with children who are very troubled. That's why they are in care. If they were children who didn't have any problems, we wouldn't have them. They would be in their homes. Obviously, one is always open and expecting anything. Right now, we have staff who are working very hard at trying to be successful.
Mr. Keenan: I feel I must contribute to the discussion here so that I may be able to put the official opposition's points on record also. I asked this very same question when we were in Question Period on November 1, back at the beginning of the legislative agenda of last year.
The question wasn't answered at the time, and we're still here at this point in time, trying to get an answer to the question.
I'm not going to focus on getting an answer to the question because, as I was listening to the debate yesterday on the radio, I felt that a lot of the issues were being spoken of at that point in time.
I would like to remind all players here in the House that this is the correct forum, I guess you could say, for bringing forth these issues. These are very deeply emotional issues and of course this is a House of emotion also. There's not one of us in this House who does not take these issues seriously, but we all have different ways of expressing ourselves.
So, I try to listen between the lines, because I think what we have to remind ourselves of - remind myself, remind the minister, remind the leader of the third party and, again, those 28,000 Yukoners who are listening out there - is that this is about children. This is about the future of our society, and we must put children first.
I heard the Member for Klondike read, I take it it was from the Trujillo report, or from a report of sorts, that we must put the children first, and it is about children, and I reiterate that one more time. It's about children; it's about very troubled children.
I've been listening to the minister. The minister speaks about being proactive and I appreciate that. To be proactive in the middle of a serious problem, well, it's impossible. We can't. At that point in time, we have to react, and we do that through our tools, through our bureaucrats, through our policy initiatives.
I believe strongly that we have to do something for the children, and it has to be done for the benefit of the children. I heard the minister speak about, call it what you will, a review or whatever - names are not so important at this point in time, it's the intent. I did hear the minister say that he would be looking at doing it this year. I take it that would be this calendar year so, by the end of December, we would have a review and that would be an open, public and very transparent review.
I'd just like a simple answer - yes or no. Is my summation about correct?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Keenan: Well, I thank the minister very much for that. I'd also like to point out that it is our responsibility in this House to bring forth and to advocate change, to identify problems and bring forth the necessary changes that we have to do. And the minister does have the authority to advocate that change. I know that the past minister was put into the situation. Let's do this for the next minister - that the next minister will not be put into a reactive situation through this process, that we will bring forward all the players. I think the Yukon at large is a player.
I think, as we've gone through the debate here, I've had calls. I've had calls from First Nation folks. I've had calls from First Nation advisory committees. People want this to work. The minister has one heck of a large challenge on his hands, but he definitely wants it to work. I think that First Nation governments - because First Nation governments, I believe, under the section 17, chapter 24 initiatives in the PSTA stuff, have the authority to draw down these types of powers. Of course, First Nations, I don't think, at least when I was a part of - well, I still am a part of it, but not in the governance section. We're not necessarily looking to draw down - this is going to be tricky. We did not simply see to draw down a program because it was successful and working. There are other ways of looking at programs, and if you have to draw down a program to make it work better to a unique cultural situation, that could and should happen. If it could be done in a dovetail situation between partners - and partners are at large here - that could happen. I'd appreciate it if the minister, when he does this review this year, would be able to look at those meaningful types of partnerships, because certainly the communities suffer from these problems, as do the folks who work with and handle these problems in the community of Whitehorse. The communities want to be able to solve their own problems, and I think they've identified that through different accords with government, through self-government agreements. So there are a lot of partners who have to be put there.
In the case of First Nations, I know that there's a fiduciary obligation on behalf of the federal government. I have a technical question, so if the minister doesn't have an answer, he could provide an answer by way of legislative return or letter or however. Does the territorial government have the same type of fiduciary obligation for a First Nation child or non-First Nation child in custody of YTG?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I may not have the complete answer for the member opposite, but I am quite willing to get the complete answer. As a basic rule, we do have a responsibility for all children under the Children's Act, unless it's taken on by a First Nation or some arrangement is made through that process. Right now, it is the children in care.
I will get back to the member.
Mr. Keenan: I would appreciate that, because we are talking about our future and our children. I will be very blunt about this. A lot of those children are of aboriginal ancestry, so I have a very large stake in seeing our culture continue, and in some cases for our culture to be revived, promoted and moved forward. When I hear of a 16 year old having 42 placements in those short 16 years - unless this is a very unique, special child - I know we are setting this child up for a disturbing future and that disturbing future would not only be for the individual but for society as a whole.
At that point in time, it does start to cost government and society as a whole. It costs the court system. Some of the research that I have done is that early diagnosis - and I say "diagnosis" fully aware that there are a lot of issues that surround children in care - is critical. The first four or five years I believe are what the professionals say are the critical years, so we've got to really get away from the rhetoric and focus on the children first. We must find ways so that the next minister - which will likely be me - will not have these same types of problems.
So, Mr. Chair, those are some comments that I brought forth onto the record. I feel very strongly about it. This is not a bash on the bureaucrats who work within there, but it is certainly incumbent for the bureaucrats to pass on their direction to the political masters - if I could say it in that way - so that the political masters might be able to evolve with this ongoing problem so that we do not have a problem in the future.
I do believe that a helpful tool here would be for the tabling of the Trujillo report in its entirety and to do that without delay, as I have said in a motion. The minister has gone, I believe, the distance now, from what I understand of the minister, to be able to commission a full, public and independent review or inquiry, or whatever you would like to call it. But it is certainly for the children in care.
I guess just a general agreement from the minister - or if the minister would like to have any further discussion or dialogue with me on this, I would be pleased to continue the debate. But if the minister could, I guess, more or less say that he is moving in that direction, that would be accepted.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: We have some of the copies of the report here, the safety audit. I will pass those out if the members opposite would like to have copies. If the page would come and pick them up, please, we would appreciate that.
Yes, I agree with the member opposite. We gain much more by working together than trying to work against each other. Hopefully we can build on all of the positive things that we have in place. Is everything perfect? No, nothing ever is, when you are in the Health department or any department, because we wouldn't need people there to hopefully provide some direction. What we are trying to do is to work on trying to solve and resolve issues.
I appreciate the member's comments. We obviously have a lot of work in the future to keep building because we are not there yet.
Mr. Jenkins: Just before we leave this area, Mr. Chair, I just would like to put the minister on notice that a great deal of information has been requested of him on this important issue. I recognize that some of it is forthcoming and more is to be delivered, and if there hasn't been a visible improvement in this area by the fall session, we'll be exploring this area of this minister's portfolio in much greater detail than we have done over the last little while. It's an extremely important issue. The repercussions on our society, if the minister continues to fail in addressing his responsibility, will be such that we'll have a great additional burden on another section of government in the future.
So I would urge the minister to meet the challenge head-on and provide the necessary political direction to get this area of his portfolio back on track, to address the shortcomings and to deal with the matter at hand.
This minister, Mr. Chair, has the largest budget of any department in the Government of Yukon. If you factor in the capital, it's up at about $137 million. That's no small amount of money. And I'm certainly not questioning the money that is being spent on this area to address the minister's responsibilities. I'm questioning the way it is being spent and the results we're producing.
So, Mr. Chair, with that, I will be prepared to leave this and go into line-by-line, unless there are further questions from the official opposition.
Mr. Fairclough: I have a couple of quick questions before we get into lines. I'd like to thank my colleague from Ross River-Southern Lakes for questioning in this department. I think it was very useful in hearing answers about this department. And I also thank the Member for Klondike and his questions on this specific area.
I have a couple of quick questions with regard to doctors and nurses. For the community of Carmacks, over the past eight months I believe the community only had one permanent nurse in that community. If the minister doesn't have answers, he can send them over to me in writing. But I'm interested to know if the other positions are filled now or will be filled soon. Or what is going to take place? The community has been quite interested in having a permanent nurse - more than one permanent nurse - in the community, and not having to rely on it being filled from the Whitehorse positions and so on - to get to know that nurse a bit better.
I wonder if I can get an answer from the minister.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I agree with the member from Carmacks that, really, we have a serious problem with nursing, and community health nurses are one of them. It's a permanent position. The second position is permanent. Currently we have about nine positions in the Yukon that need to be filled, so it's not just Carmacks; it's many of our communities. It's systemic throughout Canada, and we're starting to feel that.
So hopefully, in the interim, we can at least try to have somebody there for the short term, if we can. That's what we're really working on, but we definitely want to fill those positions in a permanent way. So we're working very hard at that. We have our people fanning out across the country, trying to entice people to come north. We have a lot of work to do.
Mr. Fairclough: Obviously my constituents are asking these questions in a very serious way, because the amount of time the nurses are spending with emergencies and so on - and it's so overloaded right now.
With regard to doctors, can the minister tell me what the present situation is with regard to the Mayo doctor? There were rumours earlier that he was leaving and that the position would be vacant again. Is that correct, and if so, when will this position be filled?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: That could be the moccasin telegraph working long before us. I'm not sure, Mr. Chair, but we can get back to the member opposite if that is a fact. At this point, we do not know whether that is a fact.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? Mr. Jenkins.
Mr. Jenkins: I've had a chance to look at the Trujillo report, as tabled by the minister. And it would appear that there are basically only three pages that were blanked out - not even fully blanked out. Part of three pages were blanked out.
I can't understand why there was such a reluctance on the part of the minister to release this report prior to this time, and why it had to go through ATIPP to the extent that it did, and why it took so long to get through ATIPP. They even asked for an extension.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I definitely would agree with the Member for Klondike that even, I gather, when Liberals were in opposition, there was tremendous difficulty in retrieving reports that were done by the departments. And I'm making a very strong statement to the department that all reports done by the department will be released to the public, as long as the relevant information, if it has anything to do with personalities and so on, is purged. I believe that's the way it should be done. We shouldn't have to go through all these processes, but at this time, because of the way it was set up in the past, the request had to come through ATIPP before the report could be released. But I would agree with the member. I believe that these reports should be open and public, because they are paid for by the public.
Mr. Jenkins: Does the minister have a suggestion as to how he's going to improve upon the release of this information in the future? What steps is he going to take? Could he outline those for the House?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Well, the Member for Klondike has always been arguing about taking leadership and taking a firm hand as to where things are going. It's going to be through political direction from our government that this will happen.
Mr. Jenkins: On that positive note, I finally agree with the minister in one respect. Let's go into line-by-line.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Keenan: Not to prolong the action, but I didn't want to be called out of order at some point in time, but I was wondering if the minister would be able to provide a list of the ministerial travel that was paid for and included within the department. The minister could do that by mail.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Oh, yes, very much so. This is within the territory and outside the territory? What does the member want - all of it?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: We'll give it all.
Chair: We will proceed line by line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Policy, Planning and Administration
Administration in the amount of $3,948,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on allotments?
Policy, Planning and Administration in the amount of $3,948,000 agreed to
Chair: We're now up to family and children's services.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, could I have a minute just to change officials here, please?
Chair: By all means. We will recess for five minutes to allow the member to replace officials. So, we will reconvene at 10 minutes after three.
On Family and Children's Services
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate, family and children's services. Is there any general debate?
Seeing no further general debate, we will continue straight on to line-by-line.
On Program Management
Program Management in the amount of $3,051,000 agreed to
On Family and Children's Services
Family and Children's Services in the amount of $1,870,000 agreed to
On Placement and Support Services
Placement and Support Services in the amount of $3,681,000 agreed to
On Child Care Services
Child Care Services in the amount of $5,475,000 agreed to
On Youth Services
Youth Services in the amount of $3,556,000 agreed to
On Residential Services
Residential Services in the amount of $5,925,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments? The allotments clear.
Are there any questions on the statistics? No questions on the statistics.
Family and Children's Services in the amount of $23,558,000 agreed to
Chair: We will now proceed to social services.
On Social Services
Chair: Is there any general debate on social services?
Mr. Keenan: I was just wondering if this is the proper place to be speaking about the pioneer utility grant?
I appreciate that we have had the debate on the pioneer utility grant. I had a call from a constituent just this afternoon at lunch time and I said that I would raise the issue with the minister during debate today. The situation is that the lady has been a widow for the past year and a half. She is in her early 70s, I believe. The lady also cannot read or write; the lady is illiterate. For years past, the person I am speaking of has received and taken advantage of the pioneer utility grant. Of course, it was accessed by her late husband. I was wondering now - I had already asked the minister if he would be able to spread out a communication plan or anything. I was wondering if the minister could speak about that communication plan or how it reaches the communities and how we might be able to put some much-needed resources into this widow's hands. I think that this widow has a very unique situation.
There was a friend of the family who, upon hearing of the situation, had phoned the department, and the department had said, categorically, no, the cut-off line was January 31, and that is it. They asked to speak to the supervisor, and the supervisor reiterated the line of January 31, and that was it.
I was wondering if the minister could find some way that we might be able to - and I know we are into another fiscal year - put these resources into this lady's hands through such a unique situation as I described.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I believe that we need all the details, and we'll look at it. The regulations are regulations. But, again, I hear what the member opposite is saying, and we look at all individual cases and hopefully we can respond in a positive manner. But we'd have to know all the details first, so I would suggest that the member have that particular person or himself get the details to us.
Mr. Keenan: I will do that.
I have one further question to follow up on. I wonder if this regulation is captured in legislation, or is it in policy?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Regulations are approved by Cabinet. They're OICs.
Mr. Jenkins: I would just like to thank the minister at this juncture, with respect to his responsibilities for social assistance. I had a constituent of mine whom I brought to the minister's attention - a widowed mother of two, afflicted with hepatitis C - and she was cut off of social assistance some time ago and appealed extensively. Hers was a very peculiar case, in that there was a small inheritance received that she brought to the attention of her caseworker or social worker, and she was cut off from social assistance as a consequence.
She did call me today and advise me that her appeal had been successful. She has been reinstated and is being paid back retroactively. So I'd like to thank the minister specifically. He did write a couple of letters. We did correspond back and forth on this issue, and this kind of initiative is appreciated.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on social services? Seeing no further general debate, we'll proceed with line-by-line.
On Program Management
Program Management in the amount of $1,590,000 agreed to
On Adult Services Unit
Adult Services Unit in the amount of $11,713,000 agreed to
On Continuing Care
Continuing Care in the amount of $12,581,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments? Seeing no questions on the allotments, are there any questions on the statistics? No questions on the statistics.
Social Services in the amount of $25,884,000 agreed to
On Health Services
Chair: Is there any general debate on health services?
Mr. Jenkins: With respect to the Whitehorse General Hospital, just where are we at with the number of beds currently in operation? Have any been closed or any more added? Where are we anticipating going?
From time to time there has been a shortage of technical staff and medical staff. Is the hospital taking any steps above and beyond what the Government of Yukon is doing - actively recruiting - and is the government putting more money into the pot to bring the medical staff and the technical staff in line with the remuneration packages in other jurisdictions.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: As the member knows, the corporation is an independent corporation with a board. That's not news to the member, but I'm just starting from there. They are currently negotiating a collective agreement at this point in time. Obviously I can't prejudge what that's going to be.
From our knowledge, there has been no deletion nor addition of beds. There has been a chemo program that has been added or expanded upon. That means that rather than going outside, it can be done here now. We believe that that's probably much more efficient.
On recruitment, they have been working with us on a recruitment package. We work through the YRNA. They also have their own brochures and so on. We are dovetailing energies here, because we are sometimes after the same nurses. Hopefully we can do a better job by working together. I don't think it's deeply extensive that we are doing it all through one window now. That may be an eventual goal, but right now we're working together collaboratively.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the issues surrounding diagnostic equipment for the Whitehorse General Hospital came under some review. Just what is the current procedure that is being followed or set up with respect to the acquisition of major, diagnostic equipment?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: As the member knows, we have the Technical Review Committee that I think is going to give us some expertise. It is going to be hopefully providing us with some direction in the long term. I think that this is made up of hospital departments, doctors, nurses and so on, so it has a very broad scope of resource people, as well as outside experts when we need them. So I think that's the first part.
The second part is that the hospital is replacing equipment as needed. The mammography machine is being updated, as we all know. The new one is there. Some of it was through their own capital and some fundraising.
I have a letter on file right now that the hospital board is moving ahead on the inquiry into a CAT scan at this point.
So there is some movement there. It hasn't been purchased but they are moving ahead on it.
Mr. Jenkins: The previous NDP budget that was kind of taken over, that the Liberals put their footprint on the front of and their stamp of approval on, similar in context to this current Liberal/NDP budget, allowed for the purchase of a CAT scanner. Did that money just lapse, or what has transpired with respect to the budget that was approved and included the acquisition of a CAT scanner.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: If the purchase is made, that's out of our power at this point. The money will lapse for this year, but it will be revoted again by Management Board because it is a commitment both by the former government and us.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's look at it this way, Mr. Chair. The previous NDP government made a political decision to acquire this piece of diagnostic equipment. The new minister, the current minister, kind of pooh-poohed the idea and referred the matter to this newly established Technical Review Committee and, given the lead time on one of these units and the progress in the advancement in the technology of these units, just where are we slotted in and what is the anticipated acquisition period? Or is the minister saying that he is not responsible for making the decision on this acquisition? If so, could he outline the procedure as to how such an acquisition is made? Is there a request that comes from the hospital board to the minister and his officials for the purchase of such a piece of equipment? Could the minister just elaborate and tell us what goes on?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I don't want to get into a battle with the Member for Klondike but, if the member would refrain from making negative comments, I will not comment. I did not pooh-pooh the CT scan. There again, the member makes these accusations, and there's no proof to it.
What we did was set up the Technical Review Committee, so that we could have the expertise of people within our community and experts outside, to see if we were on the right track. And guess what? The Technical Review Committee came forward with, "Yes, it might be a good idea for you to purchase a scanner, but don't purchase the one that was being budgeted for. You need something different."
So that's what we got from the Technical Review Committee. We got a better piece of equipment. That is not something that I pooh-poohed. Now, I take exception when the Member for Klondike makes those kinds of comments. But then I don't know why I should be frustrated, because that member does that all the time.
It was based on the criteria - it was obviously done last year, but it recommended what should be taken into account when looking at the purchase of a CT scan: the appropriateness and cost, the ability to upgrade equipment and extend the lifespan. Now, that's a key one, Mr. Chair, because if we had purchased the one-slicer, as they were going to, we would never have been able to upgrade it. It would have probably been redundant - it's redundant as we were making that decision. Of course, there was also the capacity to use other diagnostic tools, and the ease of use. The Technical Review Committee recommended that the following considerations be taken into account when making a decision regarding the implementation of the CT scan program: the availability of trained technicians, access to reliable radiology services, the availability of maintenance services, an information and communication infrastructure.
It's no easy matter, Mr. Chair.
So I would hope that we have done the right thing for the long term. So now when we get our CT scan, we can upgrade it, whereas we would not have been able to upgrade the first one. And it is well over; it's close to $2 million. So that is another reason why we wanted to take some time to make sure that we make the right decision. We are looking at potential delivery in January. Now that's the Hospital Corporation. I guess that is the time that it takes.
Mr. Jenkins: Let me just try to get my head around this, Mr. Chair. The minister didn't pooh-pooh the idea; he just didn't proceed with the acquisition of a CAT scan. Let's give credit where credit was due. The previous NDP government at least made a decision to budget for and acquire this piece of diagnostic equipment. The minister has pooh-poohed the idea, and the technical committee, which could have worked alongside of the acquisition committee, went out and recommended a different piece of equipment. Well, now that we have an idea as to what piece of diagnostic equipment we are going to be purchasing - and the minister provided the information that delivery would be next January - could the minister confirm that, in fact, a purchase order has been issued for the acquisition of this piece of equipment?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: My understanding is that the hospital is in discussions with two vendors, and I am sure that the hospital board will be making a decision as to the route they want to go.
Just as a bit of an overview of the dollars here, when we looked at the initial $1 million, that was just for the one-slice CT scan at that time, and we have added another $350,000 and then there is $500,000 that is coming from the federal infrastructure plan. We gave them half of the million dollars that was allocated to the Yukon. Those are not going to be the complete costs, but we are told that it will be around $2 million. I think we have done a wise thing in taking our time and making sure we get the right piece of equipment.
Yes, it has taken another year, but at least we're going to get something that will last much longer.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, using that analogy, Mr. Chair, we could probably wait another year, and there would be a newer and much more improved model on the market.
But let's move on. Mr. Chair, the issue is acquisition of adequate diagnostic equipment. And the other area that parallels this is the transmission of data to a centre where it can be read on a continuing basis, because it's obvious, Mr. Chair, that we're not going to have the qualified technical staff in place, and we're going to have to send the information to a diagnostic centre to actually read it and provide interpretation. Just how far along are we progressing, and what centre are we working with on this initiative, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Again, Mr. Chair, from our information - and I'm really trying to provide information from an arm's-distance board that makes its own decisions - my understanding is that there is some what they call technological money that the hospital has been a recipient of, along with the B.C.-Thompson region. It has something to do with this sort of transmission of data. That hasn't been firmed up or confirmed as to how it will take place. It wouldn't matter. Whatever happens with the CT scanner, we would have to transmit whatever we do here because we don't have radiologists here and these have to be read by radiologists. Until such time as we have a radiologist, then that's what's going to have to happen. It's going to have to happen outside somewhere. That's really in the hands of Mr. Brown, the chief executive officer, as to how he's setting that up.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it's an important area, Mr. Chair, because we're going to have to either uplink with one of those nice little dishes and tie into someone's diagnostic bank of officials somewhere else. I would like to know from the minister just whom we're working with on the other end as a diagnostic centre.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I could make sure that the member opposite gets a legislative return on this. I don't know the specifics of it.
Mr. Jenkins: While we're on this initiative, rural telemedicine may or may not be working, due to the speed of transmission to my community, for example. But hopefully, with the $25 million that the minister of towns and trucks has thrown at the problem and given to Northwestel, we will have high-speed access to Dawson in the not-too-distant future.
Could the minister outline for the House how telemedicine is progressing and if we've had success with it?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I think that the member raises a very good point. This is an area where I think hopefully that we are on the cutting edge, in terms of trying to build more capacity in communities. There was, I guess, what they call the CNARIE program, which was federal money but wasn't administered by the Health department. I think Dawson was part of it. I understand that it had some very positive outcomes, along with Teslin.
The issue is a much bigger one. I agree with the member opposite that this was what the federal government was putting forth last year, some huge dollars trying to build that kind of capacity. The technology, as the member knows, changes daily, hourly and probably even every minute, so we're not tied into any program at this point. We have made requests to the federal CHIP organization - the Canadian health information program - to receive some support. We are trying to do the same type of thing.
We don't have any money in our budget right now for that, but we recognize that it's an area we have to move into and move onward with, because it will maybe help all of our communities. So I would agree with the member. So we are pushing as hard as we can.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister outline for my knowledge and the House's knowledge how we're pushing ahead? What steps are we taking? Just what are we doing on this initiative? I agree with the minister, as he does with me, that it is a very important initiative and it could pay some very good benefits for rural Yukon, as could the same system linking the Whitehorse hospital to a diagnostic centre in the south. I believe these are important areas that we should be exploring.
Could the minister just elaborate as to what steps we're taking, other than maybe beating on our colonial masters in Ottawa for more money for this initiative, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, I definitely would agree that we have to do far more work on this. We now have an application in for telepsychiatry, which is for the CHIP organization, and we have received what we think is conditional approval at this point. We have to match those funds so we have to find the complement - anything with CHIP means it has to be balanced with our own input.
We are working on and have been working on kind of a triage approach with nurses, to provide them the same kind of support. A lot of these things for us are at the beginning stages. I have to admit that we have a lot more to do in this area and the member raises a very important issue that we have to look at much deeper as to how we can provide these supports.
If the member has any further suggestions as to how this can be done or what should be done, we're open to those recommendations.
Mr. Jenkins: Is the first step in this plan to aid and assist the Yukon Liberal caucus?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: It's a legitimate question, Mr. Chair. If we're going to have teleshrinks, what sector of our society is it earmarked for? I threw out a suggestion.
Chair: I'm going to actually rule that out of order. The Member for Klondike is insinuating that there's insanity on the side of the Yukon Liberal Party, and that is out of order.
Is there any further general debate?
Seeing no further general debate, we'll proceed with line-by-line.
On Program Management
Mr. Keenan: Pardon me, Mr. Chair, for sitting down. I got into that front-of-the-television mode there for a moment.
There's a 30-percent actual difference and I'm just wondering if the minister could provide a breakdown for that, and he could do it by a legislative return.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The highlights are that program management will increase by $137,000, or 37 percent, as the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes has said; 2001-02 was over forecast expenditure in 2000-01 of $369,000. These changes are for the following reasons: personnel, there's an increase of $53,000; $40,000 increase due to staffing position of the community nutritionist; a $6,000 increase due to superannuation. Oh, I'm sorry - this position was transferred from health programs - the community nutritionist. There is a $6,000 increase due to superannuation, YEU increases, and $7,000 was just for cost-of-living increases.
Other increases - $84,000, a $90,000 increase in contracts due to national diabetes surveillance survey. And this is an MOU signed in January 2000 with Health Canada to fund this strategy. The diabetes intervention strategy is to determine the prevalence of diabetes in the Yukon, to examine the cost of diabetes to the health care system, and to examine the effectiveness of the diabetes intervention program in the Yukon. This money is available annually for four years. The recovery of the resource is dependent on the Yukon spending the allocated amount: $90,000 each fiscal year. And that was given to us by our Liberal cousins. This was given to us by our Liberal cousins in Ottawa who keep helping and supporting us in our great ventures.
There was a $4,000 decrease in general contracts, and there was a $2,000 decrease in program materials.
Chair: Are there any further questions or debate on program management?
Program Management in the amount of $506,000 agreed to
On Health Insurance
Health Insurance in the amount of $27,766,000 agreed to
On Yukon Hospital Services
Yukon Hospital Services in the amount of $19,583,000 agreed to
On Vital Statistics
Vital Statistics in the amount of $70,000 agreed to
On Community Health
Community Health in the amount of $7,271,000 agreed to
On Community Nursing
Community Nursing in the amount of $9,168,000 agreed to
On Mental Health Services
Mental Health Services in the amount of $1,684,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments? Seeing no questions on the allotments, are there any questions on the statistics?
Health Services in the amount of $66,048,000 agreed to
On Regional Services
Chair: Is there any general debate on Regional Services? Seeing no further general debate, we will continue to line-by-line.
On Program Management
Program Management in the amount of $2,144,000 agreed to
On Family and Children's Services
Family and Children's Services in the amount of $716,000 agreed to
On Social Services
Social Services in the amount of $1,212,000 agreed to
On Juvenile Justice Services
Juvenile Justice Services in the amount of $17,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments? Are there any questions on the statistics?
Before we clear this, are there any questions on the recoveries and revenues of the department in general?
Seeing no questions on the recoveries and revenues, are there any questions on the transfer payments?
Mr. Jenkins: While we are on transfer payments from Canada, is there going to be a new agreement signed with Canada in total? I know that it is in a constant state of flux with respect to Health and Social Services, and the federal ministers keep coming back to the plate and anteing up more and more and more, but is there a new agreement underway that is going to capture everything that has transpired to date and we will go forward from there? Or are we just going to keep adding and adding to the original formula, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Could the Member for Klondike just give me some clarification? Is it CHST? Is it the DIAND payments or is it all of it?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: All of it.
I personally would agree with the Member for Klondike that there should be some kind of holistic approach to it, but at this point in time, I don't know of any movement to make it one package or one window. I would agree with the member, but I gather from Finance that that is the way they have to work at this point in time. Maybe that's a long-term goal - to have just one cheque, if that's what it's called - but money comes from so many different sources in government. I'm not too sure that that can be done, but it's something we could work toward.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, what I'm looking at is some sort of arrangement with Yukon and Canada, similar to what the Department of Finance has with formula financing. It is very hard to get a handle on where all the different monies flow. The programs are set for a one-year, two-year or five-year window. Some of them lapse. The feds are famous for bringing in programs and then cutting the legs out from under them after a very short period of time.
It would be a very worthwhile suggestion for the Minister of Health and Social Services to bring up with his colleagues at one of these meetings with the federal Minister of Health. Perhaps it's time to capture all these various programs and bring them under one agreement with the respective agency responsible for delivering the program. In Yukon's case - and the respective provinces - it is Canada. We can then get kind of an overview of where we are.
Could the minister ask his officials how many different sources of funding there are in existence from the federal government for transfers to the Yukon government just into this one umbrella? Just keeping track of when they go up and down or when they're cancelled, or tying them to the actual delivery of a specific project is amazing. So, it takes one full-time individual, I'm sure, just to keep abreast of all these programs and their subsequent changes.
So, this is probably a very, very good suggestion for the minister to take to the federal minister and his colleagues to have a one-delivery window for all the programs and summarize them and bring some certainty to a lot of these areas, Mr. Chair.
Is there any possibility of this coming about?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, Mr. Chair. Actually, I brought this up at some of the ministers meetings already, about how programs are delivered, and of course all the ministers agree that they come from many different pots and they are trans-department, they are trans-all-over-the-place, but the Member for Klondike is absolutely correct. We are still working very hard trying to come up with some way of doing it that would make sense to all of us rather than having all these different pots. That's something we have to keep pushing and I would continue to do that.
We are moving toward what we call a "wellness program". I think I talked about this before, where the federal Health department will look at a one-window approach toward programming for the north. That's still being worked on. This would be for all the north and it's the same type of thing that we talked about before where the federal government comes in, starts a program for two, three, four, five years, drops the program and then we're left in a sort of vacuum here trying to pick it up or not pick it up, and we get into all kinds of controversy. This has happened year after year to every government.
So, yes, I would hope that we can conclude that one in the fairly near future, because they want to use the north. My understanding is that the federal government would like to use the north as a model as to how it should be done, because the provinces are hit with the same kind of support or non-support whenever they pull a program. So I would agree with the member.
That's something that I will be going to the meetings with and trying to advance as hard as I can.
Mr. Fentie: I have just one quick question to the minister in that regard. Is the minister a little worried that, if we get into this one envelope of money for the north, the federal government then has the room to say, "Here's your envelope of money for three territories. You divide it up and share it"? Isn't there a little worry here that that case may happen, when it comes to the feds?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I would agree with the Member for Watson Lake that that's not what we envisage happening at all. And that won't happen, because it's a bit like looking at a number of programs - devolution is one of them. We're looking at something that's unique to the Yukon, because we are unique, as Nunavut is unique, as the Northwest Territories is unique.
But what we could do across the north would be looking at, as an example, smoking, and saying, "How can we work together in sort of delivering a common program to all the territories, using our uniqueness and, at the same time, trying to not triple our resources in trying to arrive there?" I think that's sort of the idea.
Mr. Keenan: I'd like to get the minister to give me a breakdown of why the child care operating grants are down by eight percent in the transfer payments. Is that where we're at?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The estimate for this current year is $1,648,000 for the grants, and for the child care subsidies it's $3,405,000.
Mr. Keenan: I was wondering if the minister could give me, on paper, the actual breakdown, because I asked specifically why the child care operating grants are down by eight percent. I was wondering if he could do it by legislative return. That would be fine.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, we can get the details, but the real reason is that there is less demand. The rates haven't been changed or altered; it's just that there are fewer people using it.
Chair: Are there any further questions on the transfer payments?
Mr. Jenkins: The minister previously agreed to send over an accounts receivable summary from Indian and Northern Affairs on behalf of the medical payments and the other programs delivered by Yukon to First Nations. I would also like a copy of the contract that the minister indicated is being signed with respect to the payments, Mr. Chair. Could the minister provide that at the same time?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, we can do that as soon as today.
Chair: Are there any further questions on the transfer payments?
Seeing no further questions, we will continue.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Just a clarification to make sure I am sending over the right item - I don't want the member to raise his arms and say he didn't get what he wanted. What I am going to be sending the members - both the official opposition and the Member for Klondike - is sort of a breakdown of a chart of how -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: That's not what you want? You've got that already? You want the contract?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Okay. We will do that. Thank you.
Chair: Seeing no further questions on transfer payments, we will continue then.
Mr. Jenkins: I just have one other issue that I would like to bring up. I would like some guidance from the minister as to how to pursue it.
Many, many of the requests of back-bench MLAs and opposition MLAs are to assist with obtaining the extended health care benefits or medical travel benefits or travel payments for people accompanying someone sent out of the territory for treatment or diagnosis. How would the minister like these requests to be directed to him? I know that today I sent over a memo to the minister, but what is the best way to get a speedy response from the minister on these kinds of initiatives?
It's usually kind of a last-minute undertaking, and it's usually a very serious family request. They've been to the department on occasions, and they've been denied access to that kind of facility. I know I've made direct approaches to the minister in the past, and he has provided the vehicle and has undertaken to provide the necessary vouchers for travel, especially when it's accompanying an elder or a senior or someone infirm to fly to Vancouver or Calgary for treatment. But what is the best way to direct these questions to the minister so that we can get a speedy response back?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I think the important part is to ensure that they have gone to the first place first, whether that's DIAND or it's the Health department, because there are actually two supports here. Then the next step would be straight up to my executive assistant. That way, at least, we can get some quick responses.
Mr. Jenkins: In a lot of cases, the uninsured health program from Indian and Northern Affairs covers it, but it covers it after the fact, and they usually have their travel vouchers issued by Yukon and then recover it somehow.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: My understanding, Mr. Chair, is that we're involved only in medevacs, and so hopefully that's the route it normally takes. But, you know, again, one can do what they do best and, you know, we're trying to follow policy and be what was called consistent. That's the whole objective.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm just asking how to proceed. Usually, these requests - I know that the request I sent over to the minister today is for an individual - an elder - who will be travelling next Monday. I'm hoping that I can get back to the individual very quickly, but I know that the minister has to follow policy and procedure. I'm not asking him to deviate from that. I'm just looking for a very quick turnaround time on these requests. That's basically the question.
I guess that if the minister is suggesting that the best way is to write to the minister, we will follow through on that procedure and await his response, Mr. Chair.
Regional Services in the amount of $4,089,000 agreed to
On Alcohol and Drug Secretariat
On Alcohol and Drug Services
Alcohol and Drug Services in the amount of $2,362,000 agreed to
Alcohol and Drug Secretariat in the amount of $2,362,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Health and Social Services in the amount of $125,889,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Chair: We'll start off line by line.
On Policy, Planning and Administration
On Office Furniture and Operational Equipment
Office Furniture and Operational Equipment in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Systems Development
Systems Development in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
Policy, Planning and Administration in the amount of $150,000 agreed to
On Family and Children's Services
On Foster Home Equipment
Foster Home Equipment in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Child Care Services Development
Mr. Keenan: I would like a breakdown on that, please.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, as part of the child care strategy, this program is designed to promote accessibility, affordability and quality child care for families throughout the Yukon. While the Yukon has a healthy child care sector, some stimulus is still required to encourage additional infant spaces, after-school and 24-hour programs as well as spaces in rural areas.
These funds are used to provide start-up and enhancement grants to Yukon child care centres and family day homes for the purchase of equipment or facility renovations, which are required to meet health and safety standards under the child care regulations that became effective April 1, 1994.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister indicate where he is going to plug in the $15,000 for the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre for renovating a couple of rooms for women from rural Yukon to stay in when they come to Whitehorse, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: There's no plug in at this point.
Mr. Jenkins: Where is this amount reflected in the budget?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: It's not. It's still under discussion with the caucus at this point.
Mr. Jenkins: That paltry sum of money certainly could be found within existing budgets, Mr. Chair. Can the minister identify where he's going to find the $15,000? Is he going to pluck it out of the O&M side or the capital side?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: There's a big "if", Mr. Chair, and if it were decided to go ahead, it would come out of Health and Social Services budget, O&M.
Child Care Services Development in the amount of $30,000 agreed to
On Young Offender Facilities - Renovations and Equipment
Young Offender Facilities - Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Residential Services - Renovations and Equipment
Residential Services - Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
Family and Children's Services in the amount of $150,000 agreed to
On Social Services
On Home Care - Operational Equipment
Home Care - Operational Equipment in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
On Thomson Centre - Renovations
Thomson Centre - Renovations in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Thomson Centre - Equipment
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister just outline what new equipment we're getting in there? Are we upping the number of beds, or what are we doing here?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: These funds are required for ongoing replacement, to maintain the program and resident care furniture and equipment at a level that properly accommodates program services to residents and satisfies national and municipal codes and standards. It's a planned purchase that includes electric beds, floatation mattresses and pumps, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and recreational therapy equipment and miscellaneous medical equipment. This equipment will be purchased from the federal medical equipment fund for 2001-02.
Thomson Centre - Equipment in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Continuing Care - New Facility
Mr. Jenkins: This is our major new initiative. Would the minister just provide us with an overview of what stage we are at, what the flow of funding has been on this initiative and undertaking, and when the determination is going to be made as to the level of care that is going to be provided across all the other facilities. We know what the new extended care facility level of care will be, but we don't know what function the Thomson Centre - where Macaulay Lodge is going to ultimately end up - is going to serve and what level of care there is going to be there. So, perhaps, just a broad stroke overview of where the new extended care facility is at and how these other facilities will be plugging into it.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: My understanding is that the new continuing care facility is on target. It is about 50 percent complete at this point. It's fully enclosed of course, and they are just starting to move into the completion of rooms and the areas where people will be living. Again, if the member would like to come on a tour with me - both the opposition and the Member for Klondike - please notify my office and we can arrange something.
It's a level 4-5. That's really the extent. And there will be a legislative return that has just been signed off. It will be in the member's possession here within a day or two.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I'd appreciate a copy of anything pertaining to a legislative return on this issue.
Continuing Care - New Facility in the amount of $8,969,000 agreed to
On Macaulay Lodge - Renovations
Macaulay Lodge - Renovations in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
On Macaulay Lodge - Equipment
Mr. Jenkins: Just a breakdown of what we're doing here, seeing that we don't know what Macaulay Lodge is going to be functioning as - what are we spending $100,000 on equipment for?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Again, whatever equipment is purchased for Macaulay Lodge will be movable. It will be moving to the new facility or to Thomson Centre, depending on the degree of need. The equipment purchases that are planned for the current year include beds, lifts and wheelchairs. All equipment purchased will be relocated when we move those particular people. So it's not like they're going to be boarded or thrown away.
Macaulay Lodge - Equipment in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On McDonald Lodge - Renovations and Equipment
Mr. Jenkins: Same question.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: These funds are required, again, to maintain the facility for resident care and to maintain furniture and equipment at a level adequate for the care and safety of residents. Renovations planned for 2001-02 include the replacement of exhaust fans and flooring. There is also a $35,000 allocation for medical equipment like bedroom furniture and beds.
McDonald Lodge - Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $70,000 agreed to
Social Services in the amount of $9,335,000 agreed to
On Health Services
On Hospital Road #2 and #4
Hospital Road #2 and #4 in the amount of $69,000 agreed to
On Chronic Disease Benefits - Equipment
Chronic Disease Benefits - Equipment in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
On Extended Health Benefits - Equipment
Extended Health Benefits - Equipment in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
On Yukon Hospital Corporation - Equipment
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister just provide a breakdown of this expenditure, please?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I will just read what the specifics are, because we don't tell the hospital what to buy, but I will read what items will be included here. These funds are required to allow the hospital to plan for and replace equipment. Some of it has come to the end of its cycle, beyond economic repair. Equipment will include program and patient care items including, again, beds, medi-lifts, wheelchairs, stretchers, housekeeping and kitchen equipment, an operating and lab table, and medical imaging equipment. Of course, these funds are annually provided to the hospital and are managed by the corporation.
The addition - $200,000 in this budget - is from the federal medical equipment fund, and it will be used specifically for the CT scan. That has been earmarked.
Yukon Hospital Corporation - Equipment in the amount of $600,000 agreed to
On Dental Health Services - Equipment
Dental Health Services - Equipment in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Hearing Services - Equipment
Mr. Keenan: Of course, I'd like a breakdown on that, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: This is new technology to screen newborns for hearing deficiencies and thus decrease developmental impacts from loss of hearing. Funding from the federal medical equipment fund will be used to purchase equipment to test the oto-acoustic emissions and auditory brain stem response. It's a brand new program for newborns.
Hearing Services - Equipment in the amount of $30,000 agreed to
On Whitehorse Health Centre - Equipment
Whitehorse Health Centre - Equipment in the amount of $7,000 agreed to
On Communicable Disease Unit - Equipment
Communicable Disease Unit - Equipment in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
On Ambulance Unit - Renovations
Ambulance Unit - Renovations in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
Ambulance Unit - Equipment
Ambulance Unit - Equipment in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
On Ambulance Unit - Vehicle Replacement
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister provide a breakdown of how many new ambulances, what type we have standardized on, if we're staying with the one-ton chassis? Or are we going to extend up into a larger dual-wheeled vehicle, or where are we headed with respect to ambulances these days?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The ambulance replacement, as I shared earlier with the members - the average age is 14 years per ambulance, so we definitely have to move ahead. Again, a lot of this money is coming from the federal medical equipment fund, so we're purchasing three of them. We maintain a fleet of 22 ambulances throughout the Yukon, and the unit cost per ambulance is $92,000. These are four-wheel drives.
I think if we're going to move ahead in some of these jurisdictions, especially in winters, and so on, I think we have to move with the first-class equipment, otherwise we're going to end up with even more trouble. So, we've been very lucky so far and, if we're going to get good equipment, then we might as well get the best to start with.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce another one of my constituents, who's visiting us today, and that would be Mr. Don Routledge, who is visiting us in the gallery, which means that the total number of visitors from my riding today has been - not only the other two ministers, the Minister of Renewable Resources and the Minister of Health and Social Services - Mr. Findlater from earlier today, and Mr. Routledge. It has been an extravaganza, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Since we're doing introductions, I'll introduce one of my constituents as well, Birgitte Hunter, so we'll all get into the welcoming. It's not often we have people coming, but we appreciate it.
Mr. Keenan: I was wondering, just as a matter of course, what happens to the old vehicles? Are they dispersed to the communities, or how are they looked after?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The ambulances, they're circulated. What we do is take the older ones off the road, the ones that have pretty well had it and, where these normally go are to the communities where there is the biggest need at this point. Then we relocate, if they have a better one, depending on the hierarchy. We're trying to keep them all, at least in every community, with a fairly first-class ambulance, so that they at least have immediate response. The older ones, of course, are kind of backup ambulances in a lot of the communities, and they're on a cycle, depending on the age and when they last got an ambulance.
That seems to be the structure that works at this point. If we could buy 10 more ambulances, I'm sure we would do it tomorrow, but we can't, so that's the cycle we use at this point.
Mr. Keenan: I would also like to take this opportunity to say that out there in radio land to a couple of my constituents, Steve and Randy, who are always listening to the radio. I would like to point out that they don't work for YTG.
Ambulance Unit - Vehicle Replacement in the amount of $276,000 agreed to
On Community Nursing - Equipment and Facilities
Mr. Jenkins: One of the largest impediments to retaining our health care practitioners in rural Yukon is the quality of the housing units that they are provided with and the money that they have to pay for it.
I know there is currently a moratorium on the amount that they are paying, but could the minister advise the House what steps his department is taking to provide a higher level of housing for nurses and nurse practitioners in rural Yukon?
Now, I know that sometimes the housing units have been acquired from the federal government. I know that in other cases, the staff housing managed by Yukon Housing comes into play. But in the majority of cases, the quality of housing is nowhere near commensurate with what it should be and that is becoming more and more clear as we move on.
Would the minister advise how much of this $504,000 is earmarked for housing, if any, and what steps he has taken to upgrade the housing that is provided in rural Yukon to health care individuals?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, the amount of $504,000 - nothing goes toward nursing, because Yukon Housing looks after all staff housing in the rural areas. And my official was just advising me that he just met in the last day or two with Yukon Housing again to look at the needs. We know this is a recruitment issue. We have to have good housing; otherwise we're not going to attract and keep nurses. So obviously it's very high on our priority list, and we're working very closely with Yukon Housing in order to fulfill that need, because if we don't have good housing, nurses won't stay.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, that's proving to be the case - very much so for nurses and very much so for a lot of our people in the education system. The standard for staff housing provided by the Yukon government has to be improved upon.
One only has to look at what the RCMP have done in rural Yukon with respect to their staff housing, and it might take a little while to get to that standard, but they've gone through the full cycle, from stick-built to modular homes with a very short life cycle back to stick-built with quite a longer life cycle. But we're still in the position where we have to live with what currently exists, and it doesn't bode well, Mr. Chair, when you have a housing unit provided by Yukon Housing to the social assistance side of the equation virtually next door or adjacent to, say, a schoolteacher or a principal.
The housing standards are virtually the same, and that is not conducive to the attraction, retention or even, indeed, the recruitment of these individuals. It has been a bone of contention for many years. I'm pleased to see that the minister has recognized the shortfalls there. I look forward to kind of a position paper on this in the not too distant future, because we're going to have to really improve upon the quality of housing units provided, either directly or through our agency, the Yukon Housing Corporation, before we're going to be able to recruit a lot of the health care professionals we need.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I would definitely agree wholeheartedly. As we speak, we have been talking about it and we've been doing even more of it, because we know it's an issue.
Community Nursing - Equipment and Facilities in the amount of $504,000 agreed to
Health Services in the amount of $1,591,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the recoveries? Are there any questions on the transfer payments? Are there any questions on the multi-year capital projects? We will go right to the total budget.
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Health and Social Services in the amount of $11,226,000 agreed to
Department of Health and Social Services agreed to
Chair: The time being approximately 4:25, and to allow the next department to be prepared, are we prepared for a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will recess until 4:45.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with debate on the budget. We are starting with the Department of Justice and we will go right into general debate. Is there any general debate?
Department of Justice
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'm pleased to present the Justice department's main estimates for the 2001-02 fiscal year.
The operations and maintenance budget for 2001-02 will total $34,369,000, representing a decrease of $233,000, or one percent, from the 2000-01 forecast.
The Department of Justice budget has remained relatively unchanged over a number of years.
Approximately 88 percent of the department's budget is spent on fixed costs. The contract with the RCMP for policing services, personnel costs, departmental communications and utility costs, contract services and grants and contributions remain the major expenditure for the Justice department.
The Department of Justice, Mr. Chair, has discretionary authority for less than 12 percent of its budget.
Since the Justice department does not have complete control over many costs associated with this budget, it is not always possible to anticipate demands and the resultant cost of transfer payments to arm's-length organizations, such as legal aid and the Human Rights Commission.
There are also many externally driven demands that the Department of Justice does its best to anticipate and meet in a responsible and accountable manner. Externally driven demands include such things as salary increases for RCMP officers, added judiciary costs, coroner inquests and autopsies, boards of inquiry into medical, insurance or other professional complaints, rate hearings with the Yukon Utilities Board and other items.
For the fiscal year 2001-02, the operation and maintenance budget for the Department of Justice is $34,369,000. Of the overall budgeted amount, $15,008,000, or 44 percent, covers personnel costs. This overall percentage is reduced by one percent from last year, despite increases resulting from collective bargaining, superannuation and increased benefits packages for employees.
The amount of $12,029,000, or 35 percent of the overall 2001-02 budget, will be spent on policing services in the Yukon. This represents a decrease of $204,000 from the 2000-01 forecast.
The remaining 21 percent, or $7,332,000, represents $2,926,000 in transfer payments to groups or individuals who deliver programs on behalf of the Justice department, and $4,406,000 for additional program costs.
The department's capital budget for this fiscal year is $2,373,000. This amount is for general capital expenditures of $373,000 and the remaining $2 million has been allocated for planning the redevelopment and to begin work on the schematic design phase of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
The operation and maintenance breakdown for each branch in the Justice department is as follows.
The management services branch is responsible for supporting departmental policy and program delivery through the provision of planning, analysis, communications, financial, human and physical resource management.
The management services budget for 2001-02 is $2,249,000, which is an increase of $203,000, or 10 percent, from the last fiscal year. This increase represents an additional $79,000 in salary and benefit increases, resulting from collective bargaining and additional administrative support in the policy unit. The balance of the increase is as a result of the consolidation of contract service costs for the maintenance of computer systems and software licences in the department and other general administrative costs.
The court services branch is responsible for the operation of the Yukon court system, which includes the salaries and operating budget for the judiciary. The branch also runs programs such as the maintenance enforcement program, child support guidelines, witness administration and the sheriff's office.
The total budgeted for court services is $3,995,000, representing a decrease of $295,000 from last year's forecast. This reflects a $177,000 reduction of funding under the child support guidelines program and other costs related to the maintenance enforcement program. This is a direct result of a reduction in federal funding for this initiative. Costs related to the child support guidelines program are fully recoverable from the federal government.
A decrease in the use of auxiliary court clerk services generated a savings to the branch, but this savings was offset by collective bargaining agreement increases. The remaining reduction in the court services budget is due to a reduction in court operation costs.
The legal services branch is responsible for prosecuting territorial and some criminal offences. It drafts legislation, litigates civil matters, is responsible for First Nation administration of justice negotiations, and provides legal advice to the Government of the Yukon. The branch also administers the native court worker program, legal aid, and public legal education and information programs under the access to justice agreement with the federal Department of Justice.
In this budget, legal services is allocated $4,138,000. This is an increase of 12 percent, or $445,000, from last year's budget forecast; $137,000 of this is due to increases in contract services, collective bargaining agreements and salary benefit costs.
A further increase of $329,000 will be used to hire additional in-house legal staff for the Department of Justice. Additional legal resources will enhance the Justice department's ability to fulfill its constitutional role as legal advisor to the Yukon government. This budgeted increase is the direct result of the department's expanded responsibility for managing outside counsel contracts for the Government of the Yukon. Ultimately, over time, the hiring of in-house expertise will decrease the amount spent on outside legal contracts.
Last year, the Legal Aid Society received $300,000 in additional funding from the Department of Justice. Of this amount, a one-time allotment of $100,000 was directed to meet the Legal Aid Society's deficit. This year, the Legal Aid Society does not have a heavy deficit burden. The Department of Justice is pleased to announce that it will again provide $300,000 in additional funding. Although the overall funding amount of $1,356,000 remains the same as last year's budget, without the $100,000 directed to their deficit, the Legal Aid Society will actually have an additional $100,000 in their operating budget. This new funding will provide the Legal Aid Society with the necessary resources to obtain new managerial and/or accounting expertise and to implement new initiatives and programs.
The consumer and commercial services branch is comprised of consumer services, corporate affairs, labour services, land titles, the public administrator and the coroner offices.
Through the administration of approximately 50 pieces of legislation, the consumer and commercial services branch encourages equitable and responsible employment practices, positive labour management relations and responsible commercial activity. The branch protects consumer interests through education, information and enforcement. It conducts coroner inquests to clarify facts and to focus attention on protection of public health and safety.
Consumer and commercial services operates and maintains the territorial land titles registration system, and it provides legal representation as estate trustees when needed.
The 2001-02 budget for consumer and commercial services will be $2,458,000, a decrease of $271,000 from the 2000-01 fiscal year. This decrease reflects a $329,000 decrease in contributions toward the mine safety program. The responsibility for this important program better fits the mandate of the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.
This budget reduction is partially offset by an increase of $105,000 added to the program director's budget for the hiring of a director of consumer and commercial services, collective bargaining agreements and increases in salary benefit costs.
The community and correctional services branch administers probation services for adult offenders, the victim services and family violence prevention unit as well as the territory's correctional facilities.
The community and correctional services budget for 2001-02 is $8,596,000, representing a decrease of two percent, or $163,000, in funding.
With the Teslin Correctional Centre not functioning at present, the branch has experienced a savings of $488,000 in operating and maintenance costs. However, various units of community and correctional services have experienced an increased demand for services and a concurrent increase in operating costs for the branch because of Teslin. As a result, an additional $140,000 has been allocated to the community residential centre run by the Salvation Army. Other services, including community corrections, the family violence prevention unit and victim services, have also been allocated $50,000 in additional funds.
The crime prevention and policing services branch administers programs directed at promoting public awareness and safety, promoting respect for the law through effective policing and community justice initiatives, and administering programs directed at crime prevention. The crime prevention and policing services budget for 2001-02 is $12,670,000.
In last year's budget, the Yukon government provided a one-time allotment to the Department of Justice of $197,000 to fund the youth leadership project. The Department of Justice believes that the youth leadership project is beneficial to Yukoners and has committed the necessary funds in the 2001-02 budget to continue this project.
Although there has been a one-percent reduction in the branch budget, the level of policing services in the territory remains unchanged. There are 115 regular RCMP officers in the Yukon and 18 civilian members. In addition, the RCMP have 30 employees who are members of the public service.
The transfer of dollars to the Human Rights Commission remains at $263,200. There is no change in allocation from the last fiscal year. A management and financial review of the Yukon Human Rights Commission is currently underway. The review may provide the Justice department with recommendations for future budgeting considerations.
Capital expenditures have increased by $373,000 for the 2001-02 budget. The Department of Justice is undertaking a project to better integrate with other maintenance enforcement systems across Canada, at a cost of $105,000. Fifty percent of this amount is recoverable from the federal government.
An additional $2 million will be spent in 2001-02 on the planning and schematic design phase for the redevelopment of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. The correctional reform facility planning and construction project is a four-phased, multi-year project.
Phase 1, which is currently underway, involves planning work that will lead to a decision about the kind of correctional facility that should be built. Phase 2 is for developing the schematic design for the facility. Phase 3 is the construction of the facility, and phase 4 is the installation of fixtures, equipment and furniture.
For the 2001-02 fiscal year, the Department of Justice is budgeting $2 million for the completion of phase 1 and the commencement and substantial completion of phase 2 of this project. The current cash flow estimate for the following two fiscal years is approximately $19 million. The tentative accounting estimate for this project is approximately $24 million. We will have a more accurate engineering estimate of actual project costs following the completion of the schematic design phase.
This budget reinforces the objectives of the Yukon Department of Justice for 2001-02. The goals of the department will serve to enhance public confidence and respect for the law and society by promoting an open, fair and accessible justice system to all Yukon citizens.
The department will continue to encourage responsible commercial activity and to protect the interests of the consumer.
Through the redevelopment of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, this government is working toward an effective and responsive correctional system that ensures public safety and promotes offender rehabilitation. The Department of Justice will ensure that the Government of Yukon continues to receive high-quality advice and services. The Justice department will promote effective policing, crime prevention and community justice initiatives throughout the Yukon, and will continue to encourage respect for the individual, society and human rights.
These goals will be achieved within a responsible and efficient budgetary framework.
Ms. Netro: When I think about justice, what comes to mind is equality, the protection of people involved, and the responsibility of persons involved, not only in institutions or larger centres with all the necessary services available, but in all Yukon communities.
There are many concerns and outstanding issues that need to be addressed. Also, number one is safety and respect for all people involved.
Whitehorse Correctional Centre was built in 1967. The current capacity is 81, but it has held as many as 110. WCC is the main reception centre for the Yukon, receiving all offenders on remand and other holding warrants. WCC operates within the larger correctional system in Canada. It is isolated from other jurisdictions in Canada. This isolation can make it difficult for staff and limit their opportunities to see how other facilities operate.
My question for the minister: are there any exchanges for experience for the staff with other jurisdictions in Canada?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Up until the present time, staff have done job trading internally within the Justice department. So far, there have not been job exchanges with other parts of the country. Should somebody bring me a proposal for such a thing, I would look at it.
Ms. Netro: Are there any current plans or any future plans for such experiences to take place? I know you just finished saying that if you receive a proposal to that effect, then would you go ahead and look at any type of experiences for your staff to travel to other jurisdictions within Canada?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would have to see a proposal in order to make a decision based upon it. I think the staff will find some new experiences as the new facility is developed and constructed.
Ms. Netro: What I'm looking for in that line of questioning right now is this: what kind of direction or leadership is the member opposite offering to people who are working at Whitehorse Correctional Centre, especially in the different roles that they have within that institution? So my question: what is her direction, or what type of leadership role is she playing in that area?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As part of the training that will be necessary for the new facility, there will be a certain amount of travel that staff will be able to take part in.
Ms. Netro: Would that be in other areas of Canada or is that just limited to the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There will be some travel to other areas of Canada to look at other facilities and see how they operate. That will be necessary to the staff for our new facility.
Ms. Netro: The facility houses many inmates throughout the year. The numbers fluctuate with highest numbers in the winter months and most of the inmates are of First Nation descent. Can the minister provide me with the most current statistics or numbers in that area?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I don't have the statistics available for how many inmates are there today and how many are in remand today, but I could have that information for Thursday.
Ms. Netro: Thank you, Mr. Chair, I would appreciate that - maybe within the last year to date - so that I can have that information.
Most correctional centres provide a range of programs including training, work and recreation. What kinds of activities are available to both short- and long-term sentences today?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I am pleased to advise the member that, as the planning proceeds for the new Whitehorse Correctional Centre, there will be improved programming. Details of that are still being worked out. The person who is in charge of developing the plan just started work a few weeks ago, and I should be meeting with that person before too long to see how things are progressing. But the programming for the new facility is an extremely important part of the facility, and that is why we are taking great care with the programming.
Ms. Netro: I agree with the member opposite that those programs are very important to Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
The inmate training program, such as educational upgrading for both men and women, right now - if it's available, it hasn't been readily available within the last year. Also, within the inmate training program, I believe that they should offer skills training and treatment programs for alcohol and drugs, anger management, and services that will be helpful to people who are in that institution, whether they be short-term or long-term stays.
Most of the inmates who are at WCC are of First Nation descent. I'm wondering what kinds of programs you have available for the First Nation people who are in the facility today?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'd be pleased to get back to the member with a complete list of programs that are currently being offered at the facility. One of the things about the programming is that it's optional and, in the new facility, we want to make the programming so attractive to the inmates that they will all take advantage of it.
We have had an instructor from Yukon College seconded in the past to run the educational program there, and that is going to be taking place again.
Ms. Netro: I'm also interested in knowing how many of the staff at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre are First Nations.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe that the number is very small. That's not for lack of trying to attract First Nation staff, but very few have taken up the offer of employment there.
Ms. Netro: I know the member opposite did say she would get back to me with what First Nation programs are available at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. In that information - I'm not sure if she's able to answer me right now, but if she can get the answer to me by Thursday, that would be great.
I wondered if they had traditional - for the First Nation people who are in the institution. Do they offer any services that are traditional to the people who are there and are familiar with their culture, wherever it is that they come from throughout the Yukon - whether it be northern or southern or whatever? Whichever community they come from, are any of those services offered to the inmates?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The main area where programming such as the member describes is available now is through the spiritual counselling that is available with a contract through the Council of Yukon First Nations. Programming relevant to the cultural background of the inmates is something that is important and something that we will be working on having in the new facility.
Ms. Netro: Do they have sweats available to the inmates if they need them or prefer to have them?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That is not programming that is currently offered at the facility.
Ms. Netro: We have talked about the staffing that is available up there and most of the inmates who are at WCC are of First Nation descent.
Does the member opposite offer cultural awareness for the staffing at WCC?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, that training is offered.
Ms. Netro: I would like to have details of some of that information, if that's possible.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, I can provide that.
Ms. Netro: The next area that I'm interested in is inmate advocacy. I believe, with some of the lack of services for the people who are in Whitehorse Correctional Centre - do they have access to someone who would advocate on their behalf?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The native courtworker program is available, and I know there are people in the community who are attempting to set up what I believe is called a John Howard Society.
Ms. Netro: Do the inmates at Whitehorse Correctional Centre have access to community programs in dealing with their alcohol and drug concerns, anger management? And do people have access to the institution? Can they go up there during the day and offer these courses during the day?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I know that the inmates have access to the programs offered by the family violence prevention unit, and I believe some of those programs can be offered at the facility in the daytime. But I will make sure that the member gets that information in the list that we'll compile for her.
Ms. Netro: I would appreciate that. The physical structure of Whitehorse Correctional Centre is poor and weak. I had a tour of that institution last spring, and I mentioned this before in this House and I'll mention it again. I walked away from that facility feeling very poor and weak myself.
The state of that building is not good, and as I walked around within that building, I noticed that space was not available. I noticed how the rooms were set up, and to me it's a very closed-in structure. As I was walking down the hall - we're talking about a place where freedom is very limited, but as I walked through that building, there was no sense of freedom, no sense of space, and very little lighting. It is very dark and gloomy.
The reason I'm bringing this up is because when I'm in a place like that, I think about how I would feel being in a place like that for any length of time and how that would affect my own physical being. I pay close attention to myself in that area and what comes up for me are health issues for the inmates that have to stay there over the long term or even a short term. Then they stay there throughout the different seasons. We are coming up to the summer months, and I'm sure that, in the summer, I've heard it mentioned before that that building is very hot. Being in a hot, closed-in space is definitely a health issue.
In the wintertime, the same areas are cold. You are not able to walk around even with a light sweater. You have to dress to keep yourself warm. With some of the states that the inmates are in there, it may be a problem. We're talking about the planning that's going on for the new facility. Those are some of the concerns that need to be addressed and looked at, particularly in terms of the heating, lighting and space that's available to the people who are in that institution.
The facility itself is not adequate right now to house the staff. I'm not sure of the number of staff who are there right now. And the number of inmates they get fluctuates from day to day, month to month. I had an opportunity to look at the staff room, and it's just a tiny little place.
Most of the places you see that are available to most staff in a large organization are adequate. It brings the people in the places a sense of peace, a place where they would like to go and, you know, spend some quality time on their coffee break, sit and have a nice cup of tea, and enjoy their work place, and that is a concern to me.
There's often overcrowding in that facility. As I mentioned before, the cell-block areas are small. So in the planning of that new building, is the member opposite thinking of getting input from people from the various communities into the planning stages of that building?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Vuntut Gwitchin has made some very astute observations, and my staff, who have embarked on the planning process, will be, I'm sure, pleased to read her remarks in Hansard and follow up on them.
Yes, we are planning consultation.
The new facility, as I envision it, will encompass some of those little freedoms that are not presently available - the heating, the lighting, the space, the mere fact of being in a new building, the fact of having new programming available. Yes, there will be consultation, and I thank the member for asking those questions.
Ms. Netro: A week or so ago, I had the opportunity to watch a TV program that was on over two evenings. In that program, they talked about correctional facilities all across Canada. I am not sure if the member opposite had an opportunity to watch that same program; however, it gave a lot of information that I was interested in. Being in this position and just learning about the institution, about the justice area, I found interesting some of the ways that they offered their programs and their facilities to inmates across Canada. Some of the institutions throughout the south do not have programs readily available to their inmates, and I was surprised by that. I thought all these institutions had programs to meet the needs of the people who were there, and that's not correct.
One of the things that stood out for me in the program shown on CBC was the overpopulation of these places throughout Canada and the way they referred to the overpopulation within these institutions. They used the word "warehousing". The warehousing of people, to me, is totally disgusting.
I believe that no matter what we do in life, we have to offer some respect and some equality, and to offer our fellow people protection. These places that I saw on TV were overcrowded by both men and women. Women were housed in the same institution, in one of the provinces, that was for men only. One of the ladies in the institution shared her concerns about being in there. They were supposed to be in that facility for only a few months, and this is their sixth year. Those are the issues that I don't want to see us face in the Yukon Territory.
We need to know that the people who are within the institutions do have issues to deal with - personal issues. I have personal issues to deal with. Everybody from every walk of life has issues to deal with. But when we are talking about a closed-in facility where they have to spend a certain length of time, I believe we need to have some respect for that and have those boundaries clearly taken care of, because some of the issues they have to deal with are too much for them.
I would like to see that addressed in the planning stages of the facility and the programs.
While we are talking about issues and concerns of inmates, there have been studies done. There is some information out there right now, and it's a really big concern to our communities to address this issue. Very recently, there was a ruling in one of the provinces in regard to FAS/FAE. A study was done and two-thirds of the inmate population within our prison systems are affected by FAS/FAE, and I know that, very recently, we passed, I believe, some regulations or legislation in the Yukon regarding FAS/FAE diagnosis.
I'm not aware of what the results of that program or service are to date. Does the minister have any indication of how that is working right now?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I've got no specific information on how permitting diagnosis of FAS/FAE has affected the justice system, but the member is quite correct that two-thirds of Whitehorse Correctional Centre offenders, as well, have some sort of cognitive impairment. That means we need to not only figure out what programs they need but we have to provide them at a level and in a way that is beneficial to this group of people.
Each inmate is an individual with individual needs, and I'm pleased to hear the member speaking about respect. Respect is an important component of any program. The idea is to, obviously, get people who are in there to not repeat their behaviour, and if you are treated with respect, like a human being, you are less likely to return.
The Justice department has a long relationship and interest in the issues affecting FAS individuals and their families. It affects people throughout the territory, and a number of government departments and service providers are involved. We have been working actively with others for a number of years to accurately identify the number of people affected by this disability so that appropriate services may be planned and provided.
Over the past year, there was a non-intrusive assessment of all offender files, which gave us a preliminary screening for indicators. I have, as yet, no results from that assessment.
We are working with - and going to be working with - other departments such as Health and Social Services as we continue to plan new programming for the new facility. It's a big undertaking, but it has to be done.
As I mentioned, we had Yukon College provided at WCC. There are literacy programs. At Christmas, there is the toy program, which many of the inmates take part in. I mentioned the family violence sexual offenders program. There are some other things that are going on at present. Some of the inmates work in the kitchen, which provides a useful set of skills. The wood shop turns out items for schools. I believe that there is a program involving the fish hatchery, but I would have to check that when I'm looking at the total list of things that I'm getting for the member.
Once again, I believe that there is an alcohol and drug program up and running in the Correctional Centre.
I agree with the member that warehousing is not the answer, and that people need to be treated as individuals and with respect.
Ms. Netro: In the planning and design of the new Correctional Centre, are there plans for a separate area for people who are dealing with FAS/FAE? In the programming dealing with FAS/FAE, would they have resource workers who will be there 24 hours a day, offering services that are needed by these people?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Those are all things that the planning people who are working on the design, which includes the programming for the new centre, are considering. There will be consultation. There will be opportunity for the member opposite to have input into the consultation as well, which would be a good thing. There are a number of factors that are being considered.
I can't say at this point that this will happen or that will happen, but there are a number of things being considered.
Ms. Netro: What kinds of programs are available at present to address those needs today?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I've said I will get back to the member with a list. I'm not aware of any specific programs, but I'm not aware of all the programs that are currently going on there, as they do change from time to time. FAS and FAE is an area that we do need to work on. The other area that the government at large needs to work on is the prevention in the first place because, if we could prevent FAS and FAE - and I think they are preventable - we would have made life better for a great many Yukoners.
Ms. Netro: In one of the articles that I read about FAS/FAE within the correctional facilities throughout Canada, it states that jail isn't always the cure for these cases. It says that the justice system completely fails the large percentage of its population with FAS.
People with FAS specifically should have a type of alternate sentencing process that provides them with the structure, support and supervision that they need, without focusing on punishment. People with FAS have difficulty learning from their mistakes, so punishment doesn't mean anything to them. They are also followers, easily picking up the habits and behaviours of their fellow prisoners while in jail. It's a good time for the study to come about - they are referring to a study that was done. They are thinking of building a new jail and that type of philosophy could be built into the new system. Another area that they touch on says that if you don't diagnose, then you don't know how to properly provide supports that are needed. If we don't provide the supports and structure that they need, then they break the law again, because they are impulsive and they don't understand the rules.
Some of these services that we need to provide to these people need to be delivered to smaller groups, one on one, because that is where these services will be more effective. Putting them in jail for five years and having them conform to the rules and do well, because it is a structured, supportive environment, doesn't mean that they are going to be able to maintain that afterwards without all sorts of similar support.
We have to remember that most of the people we talk about are from our rural communities. Once they have that structured support, they do well in there. When they have to come back home, we have very few resources for them to follow up on, or very few resources with enough information about FAS and FAE to offer any kind of constructive, meaningful, proper support for the inmates so that they are able to come back to our communities and live a more responsible lifestyle within our communities and be able to move forward in their own lives and live a healthier lifestyle.
I have this information, and I'm very concerned. I would encourage the minister that consultation be done and be heard from all the communities and people throughout the Yukon. This is going to affect people from every walk of life. It won't be only the First Nation communities, but all nations throughout our territory and throughout Canada. This is a very serious matter that needs to be addressed, and it is going to take time, whether it be planning the programs that are going to be offered - who will deliver those programs?
The people offering those programs need to have resources. Like it said in that news release, the people we are dealing with have to be separate from the general population within that institution.
I would like to hear from the minister if such plans are in the design of the building.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Again, the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin is making some very astute observations, and I thank her for them.
The programming for the new facility, it's my feeling, is going to help to determine the design of the facility and we want the core programs to be seamless and integrated. The core programs are those aimed at reducing criminal behaviour, such as drug and alcohol counselling, cognitive skills training, anger and emotions management is often a part of this, and so on.
Our community-based clients and those who are inmates at the facility will be able to get their needs assessed and start or finish programs they need either in the community or in the institution. It shouldn't matter where they are. If they need a program, it's my hope that they will get it.
We're still learning about FAS and FAE. We understand a lot more now than was available when the current Whitehorse Correctional Centre was built. The community justice programs that are currently in place, which are such a beneficial addition to the justice system, recognize the difficulties that people with FAS and FAE face in their daily lives.
That's why the planning for the new Whitehorse Correctional Centre is such a crucial thing and why there will be consultation. I am confident that we will have a result that all people in the Yukon can be proud of.
Ms. Netro: I would like to also know what is available today for the inmates with severe psychiatric problems at Whitehorse Correctional Centre?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That will be included in the information I bring back to the member, hopefully on Thursday.
Ms. Netro: Along with that answer, I would like to receive other information. If the people have severe problems in those areas, do they have access to mental health programs in the community of Whitehorse?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There are a number of programs available to these offenders. Some require supervision 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The staff at Whitehorse Correctional Centre, working with Health and Social Services a lot of the time, are doing their best to care for these accused.
In 1996, Whitehorse Correctional Centre was designated as a hospital, by way of a ministerial order in accordance with a section of the Criminal Code, to achieve the 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week supervision I talked about.
It's still a jail. Now that it's being redeveloped, officials from Justice will be working with Health and Social Services, as I mentioned, to ensure that the new facility can more ably meet the needs of the people with serious mental health problems.
Ms. Netro: I would like to go back to the relations with the First Nation community, whether it be in the Whitehorse area or with the rural communities throughout the Yukon. Since most of the inmates at WCC are of First Nation descent, I would think that the services that are made available at the institution would be geared in that way or in those areas. I am concerned that there are very few staff members available in that institution. I'm saying that from my own experience working in those areas throughout my life with different organizations.
I always feel more at ease and more willing to learn and move forward in my own life if I have some familiarity around me. I have faced some very challenging times and situations in my own life and people walked with me. There were people from my own family and friends whom I was familiar with, and that made it easier for me to say, "Yes, I can meet this challenge head-on, because someone does support me and someone believes in me."
That does make a difference. That does make a difference to people. The minister mentioned that they have tried to recruit people within the First Nation communities to fill positions within the institutions, and I know it's not an easy thing to do. The opportunities are there. However, I'm concerned about the population within the institution and the lack of services available with respect to the culture and traditions of most of the people who are in there.
I believe in an active lifestyle. I do beadwork, I love the outdoors, and most of the First Nation people who grew up in the Yukon Territory have grown up out on the land, and that's where we give our best. That's where the best comes out in us, and that's something that's familiar to who we are as a people.
Whether it be in the justice system or the education system, or in our environment right here, that is who we are. We're about the land, about the animals, and about us as a people.
And that is a proud tradition that we have in this territory, and the minister knows that; she grew up here, and we are able to share that. When we are in an environment such as an institution, that part of us needs to be taken care of and those services need to be made available to the people who are in that institution, whether it be for a short term or a long term. Sometimes we don't know if those services can make a difference. A short term within Whitehorse Correctional Centre with access to services would help me better my life, and when I walk out those doors, they might give me a little bit more hope, a little bit more courage, to say, "I don't want to go back to that place. I have learned from this resource that was available to me. I have learned from this elder who sat down with me and told me this story. I realize from sitting in this sweat lodge that I don't need to go down that road." There are choices available and we need to make sure that those services are available to the people in there because it will make a difference.
Programs that are in the planning stages right now need to address those issues.
Another area I wanted to touch on is the area of education. If there is a long-term sentence, then any type of training that would also help that individual to move forward in his or her life and that would help them to go into another educational facility after they walk out those doors again would really make a difference. Whether it be upgrading, being able to find where their interest lies, carpentry or other areas of skill training, they might find out what it is that they would really like to do.
They would be able to have that opportunity and that, again, would deter them from having to go back and spend their time or change their lifestyle, saying, "You know, I have a family to take care of, I don't need to be here. I need to be a better role model for my children." That can all come about in the programs that are made available to address the personal issues that they might have, that, "Hey, maybe I don't need to drink that much. Maybe I do have a problem in that area."
There are services available, and if they come from a community that's quite a distance away, then maybe, whether it be alcohol or drugs or whatever kind of issue they are dealing with, they can refer that person or make those services available - whether it be long distance or whether a person who is a counsellor in your community will be able to support you when you go back home.
Those are the kinds of programs that I'd like to see happen in the long term for that new facility and to meet the needs of these individuals, whether they're diagnosed with FAS/FAE or whether they have mental disabilities, or whether they have issues to deal with around any abuses that they may have suffered in their lives. That's the starting point. I needed a starting point in my life, and it helped me to move forward, and every person needs to have that place when they come to that crossroads in their lives and say, "I'll take that road this time."
I know what's on that road already, and I don't need to go back there.
Considering the time, Mr. Chair, I move that we report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Netro that we report progress.
Motion agreed to
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2001-02, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Ms. Tucker: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:59 p.m.