Tuesday, April 17, 2001 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the Kluane Region Tourism Plan Summary, December 2000.
Speaker: Are there any further 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
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that, on the first anniversary of being elected to office, the Liberal Government is continuing to deliver on its platform commitments; and
THAT this House urges the Liberal Government to continue to fulfil its vision of a territory where opportunity is built upon the strength of our land, the diversity of our people, and the openness of our government.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, we're still trying to figure out what the vision is.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the Yukon Liberal Government's proposed amendment to the Yukon Utilities Act is not necessary unless and until an Alaska Highway pipeline route is selected for a natural gas pipeline from Alaska to southern markets,
(2) at current market prices, propane is not a sufficiently attractive heating fuel to warrant the expenditure of millions of dollars on trunkline infrastructure to distribute propane to homes and businesses in the Whitehorse area,
(3) a central distribution system in Whitehorse could jeopardize the ability of independent distributors to remain in business serving consumers in other parts of the Yukon,
(4) the proposal by the Yukon Liberal Government to pursue a franchise agreement that could see a gas distribution system in the hands of a large company from outside the territory is not in the long-term interests of Yukon people,
(5) not only does the Municipal Act allow Yukon municipalities to own public utilities, but various Yukon First Nations governments have expressed an interest in participating in public ownership of utilities; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal Government not to proceed with its proposed amendment until after a northern natural gas pipeline route has been selected, and to do so only after consulting with Yukon municipalities, First Nations governments and Yukon people in general about public-ownership options that would ensure Yukon people the maximum benefit from any future gas distribution system.
Mr. Keenan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) like other Canadian jurisdictions, the Yukon faces a serious shortage of medical personnel, in both rural and urban communities,
(2) rural and remote communities, especially communities in northern Canada, have traditionally had a harder time attracting and keeping qualified medical personnel than larger urban centres in southern Canada,
(3) the Yukon faces stiff competition with other jurisdictions such as Alberta and the Northwest Territories in the effort to recruit and retain medical personnel, and
(4) with a healthy accumulated surplus and a recent infusion of $42 million from a formula financing adjustment, the Yukon Liberal Government has the resources to launch an aggressive campaign to attract new medical personnel to the territory; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal Government to allocate sufficient financial resources to allow the Yukon to compete on a level playing field with other jurisdictions in the effort to attract and retain the medical personnel necessary to maintain a high standard of health care for all Yukon people, regardless of where they live.
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should recognize the hunting, trapping and fishing rights of non-resident First Nations who have an aboriginal land claim in Yukon, but should not agree to grant the ownership of Yukon land in order to settle these transboundary claims.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
I will proceed then. Are there any statements by ministers?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I rise today to inform the House of a government policy that is near and dear to my heart. Mr. Speaker, I make my comments this afternoon, not only as the Minister of Health and Social Services, but also as a parent and a grandparent of four wonderful grandchildren. I wish to inform the House of this government's policy to legally recognize the very important role that grandparents play in raising children. Many Yukoners had the opportunity to gather with their friends and families this long weekend to celebrate Easter. Celebrations such as Easter are also an opportunity to reflect on the importance of families.
Mr. Speaker, as you can well appreciate, as someone who has four grandchildren yourself, grandparents are an integral and very important part of the family unit.
Over two years ago, my colleague, the Member for Riverdale South, tabled in this House, an Act to Amend the Children's Act.
Mr. Speaker, this legislation specifically recognizes grandparents as people who will be given a priority interest when custody decisions are being made about children whose parents are unable to care for them.
However, despite the unanimous endorsement of this House at the time, the bill was never enacted into law.
Well, Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to inform the House that this has now changed and the legislation has been officially proclaimed by order-in-council. With the adoption of this legislation, the Yukon is one of only a few jurisdictions in the country to recognize the rights of grandparents in this fashion. Previously, instead of being given a priority interest, grandparents were lumped together with all other people's interests in the child's welfare. I am sure I am speaking for all my colleagues on this side of the House when I say I am very proud to be able to do this for all the grandparents and grandchildren of the Yukon.
Although, Mr. Speaker, this is just a small amendment to the Children's Act, I believe it makes a strong statement about the respect the members on this side of the House have for seniors, children and the importance we place on family life.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Keenan: I also, as a grandparent and a parent and a very concerned Yukoner, rise today on behalf of the official opposition to respond to this ministerial statement.
It is a positive step - a very positive step - toward recognizing the role grandparents can play, both when families break up and when some parents cannot care for their children.
Grandparents have a very important role in the lives of their grandchildren. Ensuring that their relationship is maintained is good for children. It's good for families and it's good for communities. We are very pleased to see that this legislation has been proclaimed.
However, we would stress that the role that grandparents play is only one part of the equation for children who are dealing with changes to their family or have been removed from their parents' care. We would be pleased if this government would also call for debate of and support for a child, youth and family advocacy act to further ensure the welfare of all children and their families in their dealings with government.
We would also urge the government to call for a public inquiry into the issue of children in care. It is government's role to provide options that are in the child's best interests and that may also include recognizing the roles that grandparents play.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: I also rise in response to this announcement of a proclamation of an amendment to the Children's Act, recognizing grandparents as people who will be given a priority interest when custody decisions are being made about children whose parents are unable to care for them.
This is a wonderful statement in various meanings of the word. It is wonderful that the rights of grandparents are finally being recognized. It is also a wonder why a bill passed some two years ago has taken two years to be proclaimed.
I must give full credit for the amendment to the MLA for Riverdale South. However, one of the two years' delay in proclaiming this amendment can be directly attributed to this Yukon Liberal government. It has taken this novice Liberal government a year to recognize and give assent to this amendment. How long will it take this government to recognize and address the Yukon's desperate economic conditions?
When in opposition, the Liberals placed a high priority on the passage of this bill, but when in government, that high priority vanished. I'd like the minister in his response to explain why. Mr. Speaker, this was a bill that had unanimous support in this House. If there was one dissenter, how long would that amendment have taken? Every Yukoner recognizes that the government plods slowly and grinds along, but two years to proclaim a bill that had the unanimous support of this House - that's simply ludicrous. Perhaps the minister in his response can apologize to the House for this long delay - most of it attributed to his government.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: There are many people who worked very hard to get this legislation enacted. We pay tribute to those people, like the past president of the Grandparents' Rights Association of the Yukon and my colleague from Riverdale South. Even the past efforts of the previous government were appreciated. It's a good thing that we've all had a hand in this legislation. It's the right thing to do for the grandparents, and it's the right thing to do for children.
I agree with the Member for Klondike that two years is too long, and I appreciate the fact that, hopefully, in the future, this will not happen again. When an act has been supported by all members, it should be enacted immediately. I would hope that in the future we would not do that again, because I believe that if it's a good act and all of us are supporting it, then let's have it in play. We'll take those comments under advisement for the future.
I thank all members for being supportive, and hopefully we'll go on to protect even more of the children's rights.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Before proceeding with Question Period today, the Chair has a ruling from last Thursday.
A point of order was raised by the Member for Watson Lake during Question Period on April 12, 2001, respecting the remarks of the hon. Minister of Health and Social Services. The member raised a concern that the minister had, in responding to the questions of the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, contravened the rules of debate, and in particular the provisions of Standing Order 19(h).
That Standing Order states, "A member will be called to order by the Speaker if that member: (h) imputes false or unavowed motives to another member".
Having had an opportunity to review the Blues, the Chair finds that the remarks of the minister included the following statements: "The member opposite is great at innuendo, obviously just putting things out there without any substantial base. I would stress that there must be facts behind what the member is saying. Otherwise it is, once again, just fanning a fire that is just not there."
"If the member has some statements to make - some categorical statements - about some issues that are not going well, and the member opposite has specific incidents that the member can cite, lay them out here in the House, instead of working on innuendo.
"The member is famous for that. There's no fact behind it. Unless the member is willing to lay the facts out, how is one to deal with it? It's just another one of those smoke-and-mirrors issues that the member opposite is famous for."
Another quote is: "Another infactual approach toward trying to present an issue where probably there isn't one."
Following the raising of the point of order, the Chair finds that the hon. minister proceeded to make the following statements:
"It seems to me the time has come when the facts have to be presented; he can't just make innuendo comments."
"The members opposite keep fanning this issue like it doesn't want to go away. They don't want the issue to go away. For some reason, they don't want these children to heal."
"That's called political hay. It's not looking at helping children; it's not looking at helping the situation; it's looking at how we play politics."
"We have very professional staff who are working very hard at trying to heal, trying to get the youth on the path of correctness, but if this keeps going, they'll never get on the path because the members opposite want to make political hay."
In the context of those remarks, the Chair must remind the House of a fundamental truth: all members of this institution are honourable. Being honourable, all members are presumed to speak the truth as they see it. Honourable members do not, therefore, charge other members with uttering deliberate falsehoods. Honourable members do not ascribe to their colleagues' false or unavowed motives. Being honourable, all members are presumed to be speaking for and acting for the best interests of their constituents and Yukoners. It is for each member to determine how best to fulfill their responsibility within the context of the rules that govern this Assembly.
As is stated at page 503 of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, "One of the basic principles of parliamentary procedure is that proceedings in the House of Commons are conducted in terms of a free and civil discourse. In order that debate on matters of public policy be held in a civil manner, the House has adopted rules of order and decorum for the conduct of members towards each other and towards the institution as a whole. Members are to show respect for one another and for different viewpoints; offensive or rude behaviour or language is not tolerated. Emotions are to be expressed in words rather than acted out; opinions are to be expressed with civility and freely without fear of punishment or reprisal."
And at page 522 it is stated, "Remarks directed specifically at another member which question that member's integrity, honesty or character, are not in order."
Having reviewed the hon. minister's remarks, the Chair finds them to be, in their totality, troubling. While there is not a single instance of charging another member with falsehood, the pattern of the minister's remarks may well be interpreted as conveying that message, even while avoiding the direct use of language previously found to be unparliamentary. The Chair further finds that the minister's responses did, in fact, impute false or unavowed motives.
The Chair therefore cautions the hon. minister not to attempt to convey, either directly or indirectly, a message that the minister should well know would be ruled unparliamentary if uttered as a direct statement. The Chair further urges the minister to refrain from making personal observations on individual members that could be interpreted as questioning or disparaging a member's integrity or character.
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Hydrogen project, sole-source feasibility study
Mr. Fentie: My question today is for the Premier in her role as the Minister of Economic Development. For several days, we have been asking about an unfulfilled contract between the Yukon government and a Whitehorse company called Total Point Inc. I recognize this is an uncomfortable situation, but it's equally as important to get to the bottom of this issue. For the past two weeks, the government has been insisting that Total Point could not fulfill its obligations under a July 1997 contract because federal financing never materialized. Will the minister now set the record straight on this matter?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, here we go again. The NDP are continuing their flip-flop antics, trying to get at something that isn't there.
When they were in government, Mr. Speaker, the steps the contractor was taking to fulfill the agreement were not good enough. Now that we are in government, it seems like the same course is not good enough. I would suggest that they don't forget that the contract was signed by the opposition, and the contractor is fulfilling the obligations as we speak.
Mr. Fentie: Well, let me remind the side opposite that it was not this side of the House that used the excuse that federal financing is the reason why this contract has now been unfulfilled.
Last week, both the former Minister of Economic Development and a representative - a senior official of Industry Canada - in this region contradicted that very statement by the members opposite. This calls the government's answer to this question into question.
Can the Premier explain why members of her caucus and her political staff would say that the contract wasn't completed because federal money didn't come through when there is ample evidence that no federal money was ever committed to this project?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, it has not been definitively decided whether or not there has been a federal component to the agreement. There is not a paper trail - that's true. But there were discussions, as were outlined by the proponent himself. Again, the contractor has stated publicly that he is fulfilling the terms of the agreement.
Mr. Speaker, the members opposite really should put up or they should shut up. They continue to bring up these allegations in the House, on the floor of the House, day after day. Yet, they refuse to file a complaint with the conflicts commissioner. So, I say again to the members opposite, if they have allegations or suggestions, that they take them up with the conflicts commissioner and either put up or shut up.
As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, I have the conflicts commissioner's address, phone number and fax, and I would ask the page to take it over to the member, in case they choose to do that.
I will repeat again. If the new member, asking the new question on the same subject, has allegations, concerns or issues, I have sent the address of the conflicts commissioner over to the other side. If they have any issues, they should put up or shut up, Mr. Speaker, and contact the conflicts commissioner directly.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, the official opposition will not shut up until the government side puts up. We will not be muzzled on this side of the House - like the Premier has muzzled some of her ministers and backbenchers - until we get some answers.
According to some recent media reports, the former deputy minister has given certain information to the conflicts commissioner that relates to this subject. The former deputy minister also confirmed that this information pertained to directions he received from the Premier while he was still the deputy.
Is the Premier aware of the contents of that information and has she discussed it with the conflicts commissioner?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, the Premier has done absolutely nothing wrong. The issues the members opposite are referring to relates to the former deputy minister, who has apparently supplied information to the conflicts commissioner. That is up to the conflicts commissioner to evaluate the material supplied to him in that manner.
The Premier is respecting the conflicts commissioner's process, as we wish the members opposite would do if they have any serious allegations, concerns or commitments. I would challenge them, first, to make them outside of this House instead of using the protection afforded them in this House for their mud-slinging tactics.
Mr. Fairclough: I am sure that our listening audience is very interested in the answers given by this minister. If there is nothing to hide, why doesn't the Premier answer the question? And the minister did not answer the question. I'll give it another try.
This government talks about restoring public trust in government. The Liberals talk about being open and accountable, but all we get is one stonewall after another.
This is an opportunity for the Premier to answer the question and not hide. There is no need for hiding any more if there is nothing to hide from.
Is the Premier prepared to ask the conflicts commissioner to give her the information he received from the former deputy minister, and is she prepared to make that information public if he does?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The only thing correct that the member opposite said in that whole blathering, Mr. Speaker, was that - you're right - the Premier has nothing to hide. She respects the process with respect to the conflicts commissioner, and he has a process. So he will be evaluating the material that is supplied to him. It's not up to the Premier to be calling the conflicts commissioner and asking him to send documentation up here and that he gets up an evaluation process. It's just like the members opposite to suggest such a thing because they were experts at interfering anyway. They didn't care when, where or how. We have seen evidence of that in the past, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: First Nation transboundary claims
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Premier. One of the major issues blocking the settlement of the Kaska claim is the issue of transboundary claims. During his recent visit to Whitehorse, the DIAND minister passed that thorny issue over to the Premier, saying it was for the Yukon government to resolve. All previous Yukon governments were prepared to recognize hunting, trapping and fishing rights of non-resident First Nations with an aboriginal land claim in Yukon, but none were prepared to grant these non-resident First Nations the ownership of Yukon land.
Can the Premier advise the House what position her Liberal government is taking in relation to the settlement of transboundary claims? Yukoners have a right to know, or is this just another secret being held by this so-called open and accountable government?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'll be glad to answer the member opposite's question. Unfortunately, the member opposite has couched the question in such a way that he is incorrect in a number of factors.
What I would provide the member opposite with is the following information: the biggest difficulty with respect to settlement of the Kaska transboundary claim has been the fact that the Kaska were in litigation with Canada. That has been the largest difficulty. There has been no table to negotiate at. That being said, last week, the Kaska have reached an abeyance agreement with Canada to set aside those court actions. What the minister and I, and what the Kaska and I, have discussed as the next step is to have the three negotiators sit down and determine how we proceed from here so there would be a work plan and a discussion around what is left to be negotiated.
Now, with respect to specific issues that the Kaska have put forward or that Yukon are putting forward or that Canada is putting forward, the member opposite knows that I don't discuss specific negotiating positions on the floor of the House.
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, the minister has failed to respond. The issue is what is the Liberal government's position on transboundary claims. The previous Yukon Party government blocked the settlement of the COPE claim in northern Yukon for eight years, until they gave up on its claim for the ownership of Yukon land, and a previous NDP government called an emergency session of this Legislature when the Government of Canada unilaterally granted the Tetlit Gwitchin of the Northwest Territories the ownership of 600 square miles of Yukon land.
So my question to the Premier is this: how much land is being requested in southern Yukon by non-resident First Nations? How much land are we looking at, and what is the Liberal position on transboundary claims?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to advise and respectfully request the member opposite to listen to the answer. I have explained that the reason there have not been negotiations with the Kaska was because there was a litigation process in place, but that has been set aside. The issue now, and what has to happen now, is that the three parties' negotiators have to sit at the table and discuss the various points to be negotiated. We have a lot of work to do with respect to the negotiation with the Kaska, as does Canada.
Now, with regard to specific points to be negotiated, the member opposite knows that it is not only inappropriate to discuss specific negotiating points on the floor of this House, but it is completely disrespectful to the other two parties at the table to be discussing specific aspects of a land claim under negotiation.
We know the member opposite's qualified support for the Ta'an Kwach'an land claim announcement last Thursday was - I'm at a loss, Mr. Speaker, as to how to describe how those comments were received. We believe that reaching a Ta'an Kwach'an land claim was a significant milestone and we are pleased to be back at the table with the Kaska Dena Tribal Council.
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, the Premier has failed to answer the question, Mr. Speaker. The Yukon Party had a position on transboundary claims. The NDP had a position on transboundary claims. What I want to know from the Premier is what is the Liberal government's position on transboundary claims. Just what is it? I'm not asking her to negotiate it on the floor of this Legislature. What is the Liberal position on transboundary claims?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the very fact that our negotiators are ready and prepared to sit down with the other two parties as soon as possible speaks for itself.
And the member opposite was asking about specific points that our negotiators will be dealing with. The member was asking.
The member somehow fails to hear when I give the member opposite not only one answer - the second answer was exactly the same, as will be the third answer to his supplementary questions. This government does not negotiate the specific details of land claims, transboundary or otherwise, on the floor of the Legislature. And the member opposite, had he any respect for the Legislature, would know that.
Question re: Klondike group home, safety issues
Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and I would also like to thank you for your observations on Thursday. I think that's a very good ruling and a very good description.
I would also like to ask the Minister of Health and Social Services if he had time to reflect. The minister spoke quite elegantly in the ministerial statement about children and grandchildren. I certainly agree with him and hope that, during the Easter break, the minister had a chance to reflect about it and get a deeper understanding.
On Thursday, we asked some very hard questions. We asked the minister to come with a public inquiry into the issue of children in government's care. The minister said that he needs to have substantial evidence before the minister could move and admit that there's a problem.
The minister might not want to take my word for it, but many people do feel that there is a problem. Again, this weekend, I have been spoken to about the nature of the problem.
Will the minister now call for an independent public inquiry, under the Public Inquiries Act, to look into this issue of how this government deals with children and youth in care?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, members of the community have raised these issues with me on many occasions. People do not only talk to the member opposite; they also talk to me.
I was informed of many of these issues when my colleague, the Member for Riverdale South, was in opposition. I sat in the gallery there, day after day, listening to the questions being asked by my colleague regarding this particular 16 Klondike - day after day. So I'm well-briefed and well-informed about the issue.
Upon taking office, I looked into these issues, Mr. Speaker, and I continue to look into these issues because they are very, very important issues to me.
The concerns that continue to be raised are concerns that I continue to have my department check into. It's obvious, if we have problems, we want to have answers. We have made significant changes by putting the home under the watch of the Health and Social Services department. Obviously, we acted within a year - a year today - we acted. We took action and we are moving along a track of healing. Hopefully the members opposite will understand that. That is a tough road to take, to make hard decisions and do it for the right reasons. We did it for the right reasons.
Mr. Keenan: Well, there is not an answer anywhere in there. I asked the minister to look into a public inquiry so that we can get to the bottom of this issue. I am asking the minister to show leadership. If there is a problem out there, we don't have to reiterate the problem in the House, we have to search and look for the solution. That is called "showing leadership" and that is what I am willing to be a part of with this minister. It would be terrible; it would be absolutely appalling if a tragedy happened here. In the Gove inquiry in British Columbia, that is exactly what happened. It took a tragedy in a rural northern community, where a 14-year-old boy lost his life, before government would move. I am not asking for that. I am being proactive with this and I am asking if the minister will do this now for the safety and the well being of the children and the youth in care and, of course, for the staff and the folks who work with them. It's essential that our children are well cared for. Again, I urge the minister to show some leadership. Will the minister now call for an independent inquiry under the Public Inquiries Act to look into this issue? Will the minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Definitely, Mr. Speaker, we always look at charges. We look at issues. We respond to them. We try to come up with solutions. I have already made the statement in the House here, on I don't know how many different occasions, that we will be reviewing our residential care homes. We will be doing that this year. And I don't know how many more times the member opposite wants to hear it, but we're committed to that. We investigate all reports to do with allegations of abuse and neglect of children, but particularly children in care of the director.
At this point in time, we have no major upsets or issues. No major ones. There are always issues. There are always upsets, Mr. Speaker, because that's the nature of why we are looking after so many children. They didn't come into our care because they didn't have issues. They do have issues.
Rules are being followed. Children are being protected. The problems that existed with the previous operation no longer exist, despite how many times one is trying to say that they do exist. There are still issues. I have said that over and over again. There will always be issues as long as we as a government have to look after children, because children in care need a lot of support that obviously families and communities are not able to provide. That's why governments intervene.
We continue to review our residential services as we have a growing number of children who require this type of care in the Yukon, and it's growing by leaps and bounds, Mr. Speaker. There are a number of teenagers right now, right across the nation, who exhibit very strong needs for support and intervention. So it's not just an issue here, Mr. Speaker. It's an issue right across the nation. And I have said on two occasions prior to this that we are committed to do some type of review, whatever we're going to call it, independent not -
Speaker: Order please. Would the minister please conclude his answer?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: It will be something that will reflect on how we can improve the issue. We are committed to that, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I think that if the minister reads the Blues or watches himself in Question Period on the television tonight, the minister is going to be as appalled as I am.
The minister just stood on his feet in this House and said that it's growing in leaps and bounds in Canada and the territory. This is the minister who says that government is here as a last resort. Well, I beg to differ. Government is not here as a last resort; government is here to show leadership. It was a year ago to the day that this government was brought in. I think that many people would be changing their minds based on that past year, Mr. Speaker.
I'm not asking for some type of review. I'm asking for a look under the Public Inquiries Act.
On Thursday and again today he said it was about cancelling a contract. Well, Mr. Speaker, I beg to differ. This is about children; this is about children in care. As we speak, there is a petition circulating the territory right now that is calling for a public inquiry. If we cannot make sure that our children are safe and if they're going in leaps and bounds, then what can we do as legislators?
So I will ask one last time: will the minister now call for an independent public inquiry under the Public Inquiries Act to look into the issue of children in care? If the minister will not do that, will the minister simply resign so that somebody else can do his job?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, the member is from the government of yesterday that, for three and a half years, never called for any inquiry - never called for a public inquiry - but now they're sitting on the other side, so let's expose all those big injuries that were there and had been there for a number of years.
Mr. Speaker, I have a request of the member opposite, and maybe the member opposite should listen to this. He knows as well as I do that by targeting a particular group or home or children in the public, this causes stress for both the youth staying there and for the staff caring for them.
My request is that if, at any time now or in the future, the member opposite has concerns, he come and speak to me directly about them so that we can try to get some answers. The way the member is going about it now, the answers are not going to be satisfying the member opposite, no matter what they are.
I have already said to the members opposite that we have made a commitment. We will be doing a review. I'm not going to put a label on it right now, but within the next few months, we're going to be looking at residential care. Whether it's a public inquiry or whether it's independent or whatever, we haven't come forward with that. We're not going to be guided by the members opposite.
They had three and a half years to fix the problem; they didn't fix it. They just sat back and let it happen. We are at least doing something. We are responding to the issue and we're trying to come forward with some good, positive answers, but we're not going to do it overnight.
Question re: Radiology services contract
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I beg to differ with the member opposite. This forum that we're in as MLAs and legislators is the forum for the questions and answers. If the minister does not know that, I ask this: what does the minister have to hide? What is the minister hiding from?
It was also the NDP, as a government, that listened to the Member for Riverdale South when she reached out and brought forth something that she thought was important, as we did. We acted on that, Mr. Speaker. That was truly an action government, not a defensive-mode government. We were an action-driven government.
I have another question for the Minister of Health and Social Services. I understand that the Whitehorse General Hospital has recently changed its contract for radiology services from Imaging Consulting in Edmonton to a firm in Comox, British Columbia. Now, apparently, hospital officials did this as a cost-saving measure.
Can the minister advise the House what impact this change by the Whitehorse Hospital has had on the rural communities?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Again, being that the Hospital Corporation is an arm's-length corporation, I don't micromanage it. They have a duly appointed board under a chair. They hire the CEO and they make their own decisions. Government provides them with the funds.
As to the issue that the member has raised, it will have nothing less than what is already being offered. That is my understanding. I am not a doctor and I'm not a micromanager, so that's all I can tell the member opposite. Obviously, they are looking for quality care. They are looking for quality of response. Hopefully, the hospital board has made that decision with that in mind.
Mr. Keenan: Arm's length, micromanagment - well, let me explain to the minister what the reality to the communities is - the Minister of Health and Social Services, I might point out. The reality is that this change is having considerable impact in some communities. The problem seems to stem from the fact that the labs won't accept X-rays in small batches. In Watson Lake, for example, some people who were recently referred to the hospital for X-rays could not get them. Two reasons were given: lack of staff and the new Whitehorse Hospital contract for radiographic services. One of those who was turned away had a possible broken bone and an X-ray was needed to confirm it. That X-ray, again, confirmed that the youth had a broken arm. Now, what steps have been taken to address this situation and what is the minister doing so that rural communities have access to X-ray services so that these X-rays can be processed in a timely manner?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I will discuss it with the Department of Health and, obviously, they will discuss it with the hospital. Hopefully we will confirm with the member opposite that we can follow and do the same kind of service and support that we did in the past. Otherwise, if we can't do that, I am not too sure that I wouldn't agree with the member opposite. Why would we change? Obviously we want the best service that we can provide.
Mr. Keenan: I have a suggestion that the minister should get briefed. If all issues of health have to be brought out in this forum, we are going to be very busy and we are going to have to expand upon Question Period.
Now, I understand that the department did take interim steps to ensure that urgent Watson Lake cases would be able to have access to X-ray services, but it was only done for a week - only for one week. Now that time has expired so right now, if rural X-rays had to be processed, the Whitehorse Hospital would only include them with its batch to process as a favour - simply as a favour. That means that people in rural communities still have regular access to these services - will they have that? When does this minister expect to have a long-term solution in place so that folks in rural Yukon can be assured of having access to X-ray services in the communities? When will that happen, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, again, if the member has concerns of that nature, we will respond to them. I do not micromanage the departments. I don't know every little detail. I can't micromanage the hospital. I mean, that's a duly elected, independent, arm's-distance board. If they have problems with what services they're delivering, then we have to respond to that. But I'm not too sure how we can -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Obviously the member doesn't want to listen to what I have to say. It doesn't matter what I say, so I don't know why the member asks the question in the first place.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of government private members' business
Ms. Tucker: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7), I would like to inform the House that the government private members do not wish to identify any items to be called on Wednesday, April 18, 2001, under the heading of government private members' business.
Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome back. I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will take a brief recess for 15 minutes.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate, Department of Justice, Vote 08, First Appropriation Act, 2001-02, Bill No. 4.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 2001-02 - continued
Department of Justice - continued
Chair: Before we continue, I believe I had a deferred Chair's ruling regarding a statement made last Thursday, when a point of order was raised as to whether there were unavowed motives. The remarks from Hansard from the Minister of Justice were that the members opposite were clearly looking for an excuse to break the memorandum of understanding and that they clearly had no intention of abiding by it.
Now, I'll read from Standing Order 19: "A member will be called to order by the Speaker if that member: (h) imputes false or unavowed motives to another member."
Members will know that, as stated by the Chair last meeting, the business before the House and before the Committee of the Whole does not include the memorandum of understanding, which is an agreement between leaders pertaining to such things as expected length of sittings and the likely order of business.
Since we are not discussing the memorandum of understanding in Committee of the Whole, the whole statement is irrelevant. I would also note that, since there has been no avowed motive from the opposition to break the memorandum of understanding, the minister's statement would break the Standing Order 19(h) of attributing an unavowed motive.
I would ask the Minister of Justice to withdraw the remark, and as soon as that happens, we can continue with debate.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Of course I will withdraw the remark.
Chair: Thank you very much. We will now continue with general debate. I believe Ms. Netro had the floor. Ms. Netro, you have approximately 19 minutes left.
Ms. Netro: When we left the debate on the Justice department last week, I had brought forward a few concerns about the Whitehorse Correctional Centre regarding the state of that building, concerns and issues around whether or not the staff received any type of training, whether or not they can receive experiences within the justice facilities from other parts of Canada. I also brought forward some suggestions for the minister on programming for the new facility, for the design of that new facility and with respect to FAS/FAE issues, for the safety of both the inmates and the staff.
I also mentioned that within the programming system and within the staffing in the institution, there are very few First Nation people involved. Because the majority of the inmates at the facility are of First Nation descent, I had asked the minister to provide me with some information regarding programming, cultural awareness, and the access to some of the community programs such as alcohol and drug awareness programs, anger management and health issues. I have yet to receive that information, and I look forward to when I do receive that information from the minister.
We have talked about the facility not being adequate - being very weak - and that the space and lighting within the area that is being used by the inmates are not adequate at all. We do not want to get into warehousing inmates at the facility in Whitehorse. It holds all the inmates of short- and long-term sentencing from throughout the Yukon Territory, and programming is one of the most important.
And I have suggested that, before the programming and design of the building are done, we consult with the people throughout the Yukon, because most of the people are from throughout the territory, from all the rural communities.
Where I left off with my questioning for the minister was in relation to the First Nation programs that are being offered at the correctional facility. I had asked the minister what types of training or what types of First Nation programs and accessibility to resources for traditional and cultural awareness are available for the inmates.
I would like to know what kinds of activities were happening today. And one of the questions that I did have was in the areas of cultural events, cultural activities or religious events, meaning the traditional ways that some of the inmates may practise with access to sweat lodges and with access to elders. Do they have readily available access to elders, and are there any concerns that might fall in the way of the elders coming into the facility when they are needed?
My question to the minister: are evening cultural activities and entertainers or events happening today, or can she see them happening in the near future?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Justice was up for debate in Committee of the Whole on Tuesday of last week and I was expecting at that point that we would continue on Thursday. I had indicated to the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin that I would have answers for her on Thursday. As we didn't continue with Justice on Thursday, I was unable to provide the information to the member until now. In regard to aboriginal staffing at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, we strive for a representative workforce. That is a government policy and that is our goal.
The facility houses many inmates throughout the year. The member had asked a question about that last Tuesday, looking for the most current statistics or numbers in that area. The daily count at the Correctional Centre for last Tuesday, April 10, was 51 inmates. There were 38 under sentence and 13 in remand. There were 50 males and one female.
In the fiscal year 1999-00, the Whitehorse Correctional Centre housed a total of 640 inmates. Of these, there were 444 aboriginal inmates, representing 69 percent of the total inmate population. Of these 444 aboriginal inmates, two were being held under federal sentences - one under a parole violation - 233 in remand, 207 under territorial sentence and two under Yukon Review Board status. There were 196 non-aboriginal inmates, representing 31 percent of the total inmate population.
Of these, three were being held under federal sentence, one was under an immigration hold, three were on parole violations, 92 were on remand, and 97 were under territorial sentence.
In terms of peak admission times, the data available from quarterly reports kept from April 1996 to February 2001 showed peak counts at Whitehorse Correctional Centre occurring most often in April, June and February.
The member had asked about cultural awareness. We have provided staff with training in the area of the effects and trauma of residential schools. All Whitehorse Correctional Centre staff have access to the regular public service training and workshops. Discussions are currently underway with the staff training branch of the Public Service Commission to offer cultural awareness training at the centre at times that will allow more employees, including shift workers, to attend.
The Member for Vuntut Gwitchin asked several specific questions about the programming provided at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, and I have answers to those questions, with a complete list of the programs currently being offered at the facility. Most correctional centres provide a range of programs, including training, work and recreation. The member had asked what kinds of activities are available for inmates on both short- and long-term sentences and programming for First Nation people. As I had indicated last Tuesday, we have contracted with Council of Yukon First Nations to provide us with a full-time liaison programming worker who works with all First Nation inmates, whether they are serving short- or long-term sentences. Elders attend the centre and provide talking circles, beading, carving and other craft-type and cultural programs for both short- and long-term sentences.
Inmates also attend circles in their home communities under escort from Whitehorse Correctional Centre staff. In partnership with the Council of Yukon First Nations' worker, we are working to establish sweats. Most recently, Kwanlin Dun has been conducting talking circles at the centre, and smudging practices are permitted at the centre.
The member had asked about access to community programs. Inmates have access to a variety of community programs in dealing with their alcohol and drug concerns and anger management. A variety of programs are offered during the day. The centre currently offers an in-house substance abuse program, and it offers anger management on-site, as well.
The centre provides a recreation program focused on physical sports. Yukon College provides upgrading, general equivalency diploma preparation and other courses. Yukon College and the Learning Disabilities Association of Yukon cooperate in offering literacy programming.
The CYFN liaison worker provides individual and group support for First Nation inmates, and a limited work program operates at the fish hatchery. Inmates can participate in off-site programs, including the sex offender risk management program and the assaultive spouses program, at the family violence prevention unit.
In addition, community groups offer ongoing Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and Christian fellowship. There are occasional programs, such as native theatre performances, which are offered from time to time.
Health promotion programs are operated by the Whitehorse Correctional Centre health unit and are supplemented by communicable diseases control and community health nurses.
There are some programs currently under development, including cognitive skills or problem solving, persistently violent offender program, living skills, parenting, and residential school trauma. In addition, the department has devised a series of screening tools that will permit us to thoroughly match offenders to programs.
These screening tools examine criminogenic factors, substance abuse, family violence, literacy and vocational needs, fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects, cognitive impairment in our offender population and mental health needs.
The member had asked what kinds of programs are available at present to address FAS and FAE needs today. The department is working with specialists to modify our existing programs and the staff-inmate model of interaction, so that our programs and the models we use are more understandable and effective for inmates with cognitive impairment.
As the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin so eloquently stated last Tuesday, a person with cognitive impairment and people with FAS/FAE are unable to process information in the usual way. This means they can't learn in the usual manner. They are impulsive, they don't learn from experience, they can't predict the outcome of their actions, and they are easily led, et cetera. Cognitive impairment can be the result of many things, such as maternal drinking during pregnancy, early childhood diseases such as fever or epilepsy, or actual physical injury to the brain from a fall or from being hit. This means that our offender population cannot benefit fully from the usual treatment programs because they are cognitively based. In order to help offenders change their criminal behaviour, we have to change how we offer our programs, and we are in the process of designing these changes at this time.
The member had asked what is available today for inmates with severe psychiatric problems. Currently, the support available at Whitehorse Correctional Centre for inmates with psychiatric problems includes the following: two community physicians coming to the centre on alternative weeks to see inmates; WCC has a full-time nurse and two auxiliary on-call nurses who are available on weekends; a psychiatrist attends the centre; if an inmate has or develops diagnosed mental illness, then the mental health services branch of the Department of Health and Social Services has committed to assist in providing mental health services, and we have had support for our inmates from a community mental health nurse. An inmate who is so severely ill that he or she could not be properly cared for at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre would be managed by the health system, and the care provided might include sending that person outside for treatment.
As we continue the work on the redevelopment of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, we will be considering whether the new centre should include an environment where mental health issues can begin to be addressed. This would be especially important for those individuals under the control of the Yukon Review Board and who require a safe, secure environment that cannot be provided in the community.
Ms. Netro: Most of my questions have been answered, and I appreciate that information.
I have a couple more questions regarding the Whitehorse Correctional Centre regarding visitors to the centre. I would like to know what kind of access the elders have to this centre, based on demand from the inmates, and what is the present policy regarding that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I will have to check on that - whether elder access is available outside normal visiting times or not. As I indicated, there are elders who are there for coursework, but I will have to check to see if they are available at other times.
Ms. Netro: Thank you.
My other question for the minister is on the use of traditional medicines and sacred goods for the inmates who practice those ways. I would like to know from the minister how these situations are handled and what the policy is regarding that.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I am not aware of any requests for traditional medicines. As I indicated to the member, smudging is permitted, but I can check further for her if she wishes.
Ms. Netro: Thank you. I would appreciate that information.
I will move on to another part of our justice system, which is the area of restorative justice. Based on the belief that all those afflicted by crime have unique roles in addressing the harm, the offender is responsible for the harm inflicted and should be held accountable, with the victim having the opportunity in a restorative process, on a voluntary basis, to express their needs and impact of the harm inflicted.
The process gives the victim, offender and community a chance to take responsibility and address concerns and issues while meeting everybody's needs. In order for this process to work, a justice committee is needed. Community members form this committee. My community of Old Crow has a committee, and the committee is dealing with pre-charge diversions. Most communities are in the process of working toward forming a justice committee, if they haven't already done so. Our communities have visions for a healthier environment for all areas of our lives. We would like to assist people to make positive life choices.
There was a restorative justice tour that was done a few years ago, and out of that tour I remember very clearly the meeting that was held in my community. There were 50 to 100 people who came to the meeting that day, and we had resources from various communities attending a justice conference at that same time. There was a lot of information that was passed to people involved in the tour, and it was a very positive move for my community, addressing the needs of the victims within the community, the offenders and people who are affected. When there is a crime that is committed in our community, whether it's a small situation or one of a very serious nature, everyone is affected, from the children right to the elders, and we take this very seriously.
The justice committee in my community is doing an excellent job. We know that they do those jobs on a voluntary basis, and they do these jobs because they care. They care about what happens to our people, they care about what happens, or what kind of role model we're providing for our children who are growing up in our community. Most of the situations that are before the courts are alcohol and drug related.
Since our community has a prohibition, that doesn't exempt us from problems. We have all the social problems, like any community throughout the Yukon Territory, and we do try to address these problems. We take it from a community responsibility.
There are many challenges in that area. We have very limited resources to work with, and most of the volunteers who come forward to try to help us address these concerns are the same ones who are sitting on five to seven other committees within our communities. So, we really do appreciate their time and effort, and we're very lucky in the community of Old Crow to have young family members and young community members who are concerned about justice in the community - to have them come out. We have members of the RCMP sitting on the justice committee. We have various other resource people who are on our justice committee.
That's how we see ourselves moving forward. As I mentioned, we have visions for a healthier environment in all areas of our lives for our community members and especially for those who are attending school right now, from kindergarten to grade 9, and for those who are in high school so that we can encourage them and try to be good role models for our younger generation so that we don't lose sight of what we value in our people.
I see that as a part of the restorative justice process that we can provide to communities like Old Crow, and that's speaking for every community in the Yukon.
I would like to hear from the minister how the restorative justice framework is currently being used.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the Department of Justice has incorporated the information it received from the report on the community consultations, which the member referred to, into its ongoing operations.
It would appear that community justice is having a positive and beneficial effect in the communities where it exists. We are currently negotiating the renewal of the various community justice agreements and we have budgeted for the continuation of the projects at the same funding levels, despite the fact that we have not concluded the negotiations.
I'm very supportive of community justice and look forward to these negotiations being concluded. It has made a difference in the justice system and I trust that it will continue to have a positive effect in the territory.
Ms. Netro: I would like to hear what the minister's vision is for restorative justice in the Yukon Territory.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: My vision for restorative justice would be that ultimately nobody will commit a crime. That is probably a bit simplistic but, with community support, my vision is that there will be less crime. My vision is that there will be less need for reference to the mainstream justice system. My vision is that the Yukon will be a safe place to live. I know that those are very broad statements, but that is what I feel.
Ms. Netro: Thank you. I would like to hear from the member opposite who has the responsibility for developing, implementing and monitoring the restorative justice framework.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: One of the assistant deputy ministers in the Department of Justice is charged with that responsibility.
Ms. Netro: Thank you. If the minister has any information regarding my last question, would she be able to forward that information to me in the near future?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I do have some information that I can make available to the member, yes.
Ms. Netro: Thank you. I would appreciate that.
I have a question for the minister about the Teslin Community Correctional Centre that is still standing empty. Would the minister tell us if there is a plan for TCCC and share that information with me, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin is aware, the Department of Justice has been in negotiation with the Teslin Tlingit Council discussing the future of the building that housed the former Teslin Community Correctional Centre. I'm not in a position to give her details of the discussion. I don't want to prejudice the negotiations, but I am hoping for a positive resolution to those negotiations.
When we talk about the Teslin Community Correctional Centre building, we need to remember that there is a memorandum of agreement between the Government of the Yukon and the Teslin Tlingit Council, dated 1993, with respect to the use of Teslin Tlingit Council settlement lands for the building and the former operation of the TCCC. It was temporarily closed on April 1, 2000. Late in October 2000, I had advised the Teslin Tlingit Council that we would not be using the facility as a community correctional facility, and that notification triggered the section of the MOU that states that the lease shall expire on termination of the use of the facility as a community correctional facility or after 15 years, whichever occurs first.
Under the MOU, when the lease expires, the ownership of the building becomes vested in the Teslin Tlingit Council. So the member, I'm sure, knows there's an option in the MOU that states that the Teslin Tlingit Council can, within a year of the expiry of the lease, require us to remove the facility from the parcel of land and to rehabilitate the grounds. We are hoping to avoid that, and the discussions with the Teslin Tlingit Council relating to the future of the building continue.
Ms. Netro: I appreciate that information on that correctional facility. I wouldn't want to jeopardize any negotiations that are going on with the First Nation in that area. I would appreciate any further information that the minister can provide for me, once an agreement has been decided upon with respect to the facility itself.
I have a number of questions for the minister regarding management services. The program objectives include maintaining and supporting a workers' advocate program that assists injured workers.
Could you tell us about this program?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The workers' advocate office is a three-person office that represents injured workers' claims before the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board. Their role is to assist injured workers, and this is an area that appears to be working very well. It's not an area that I'm going to micromanage. Because of the confidential nature of their work, it's not something where I've sat in their office and watched them work, as I'm sure the member will appreciate and as I've done in many other areas of my department.
Ms. Netro: I'm not talking about micromanaging any departments. I'm just looking for answers.
The other objective is to support appropriate and consistent policy and program delivery. How is this objective supported in justice?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The policy and communications unit in the Department of Justice supports the work of the workers' advocate office.
Ms. Netro: Regarding court services, the program objective states, "To enhance and facilitate the integrity and efficient operation of the court system." Is this program meeting its objective?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, it is.
Ms. Netro: Regarding legal services, it has an increase in funding. Would you explain the increase and how it supports the program objective?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That relates to increased work that the department has taken on due to cost for outside counsel contracts, which were formerly handled within the various departments of government. That is now being consolidated in the Department of Justice.
Ms. Netro: The program director has seen a significant increase. Could you explain this increase to us?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I think we are getting into areas that would be better served in line-by-line debate.
Ms. Netro: I need the answers to these questions in general debate. I have further questions regarding these areas in line-by-line. The increases within - the program director has an increase, and what I am asking for is just an explanation in that regard. If the minister is unable to provide that right now, then I will move on to another question.
The outside counsel that was mentioned earlier has also seen a significant increase in the budget. Would the minister please explain what is covered by outside counsel?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: With reference first to the program director, the increase is in contract services, collective agreement increases and salary benefit costs for the program director.
The outside counsel funding shows an increase to hire addition in-house legal staff for the Department of Justice. That is a direct reflection of the department's responsibility for managing outside counsel contracts for the government, as provided for in the Department of Justice act.
So, we will have additional legal resources to enhance the department's ability to do its work and fulfil its role as legal advisor to the Yukon government. We expect that the hiring of in-house expertise will decrease the amount spent on outside legal contracts.
Ms. Netro: The consumer and commercial services branch has four program objectives and nine activities. Would the minister explain how the activities support the objectives?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The consumer and commercial services branch is there to encourage and maintain equitable and responsible employment practices; promote public interest in positive labour-management relations; encourage and maintain orderly and responsible commercial activity and professional services; protect consumer interests through education, information and enforcement; investigate all sudden and unnatural deaths; clarify the facts, focus attention on preventable deaths and protection of public health or safety; administer estates of Yukoners who die with or without wills where a legal representative hasn't assumed responsibility; act as trustee of estates of minor children, mentally incompetent persons and missing persons; and protect the rights and interests of minors. This is a very busy branch of the department, and they serve the public very well.
Ms. Netro: Mr. Chair, I'd also like to know what the annual contribution to Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board is, and is it here in this department?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we are no longer making a contribution to the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board. That's a mining safety issue, and it is best funded by Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board as opposed to Justice. The change does not mean that we don't support mine safety; we do. It simply means that the cost of mine safety programs is going to be paid for in the same way that all other occupational health and safety programming is covered in the Yukon.
The payment to Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board was a hold-over from 1992, when the responsibility for occupational health and safety, which included mine safety, was transferred from Justice to Workers' Compensation. Workers' Compensation is now responsible for the program and for budgeting for the program. There have been many years of discussion about this. I know the former minister was involved in those discussions as well.
Ms. Netro: I would like to know from the minister, has occupational health and safety been eliminated, and why?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, it hasn't. Just the funding has changed. It's being handled by the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.
Ms. Netro: I have a few more questions regarding restorative justice. Another of the program objectives is to provide programs and services for victims and offenders. Does the minister feel the emphasis should be on providing programs to one group or the other?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe in a balanced approach to justice. Victims and offenders are both important in the justice system.
Ms. Netro: Another question: are the supports in place right now adequate to provide the services that are needed?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We believe they are sufficient. We are providing some additional resources in the family violence prevention unit.
Ms. Netro: In the area of crime prevention and policing, the program objectives state, "To promote public awareness and safety, promote respect for the law through effective policing arrangements and community justice initiatives, and to promote safer communities and improved quality of life in the Yukon."
Would the minister explain how this department meets its program objectives?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Yukon government and the Department of Justice continue to support an approach to crime prevention that promotes investing in our children, young people and families - they are very important - and attempts to identify and address the social and economic causes of criminal activity and victimization. We believe that community involvement in prevention and local problem-solving are the best methods to achieve this.
We are aware that, in order to be safe, communities must be healthy, and prevention must therefore occur at several levels, from early intervention to healing. And we are continuing to work with communities to promote and support prevention and healing.
Ms. Netro: Are there currently community justice initiatives in each community in the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There aren't community justice initiatives in each community at this point. There is the following: in the Liard First Nation, the Dena Keh; the Haines Junction Justice Committee with the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation; the Kwanlin Dun; Southern Lakes Justice Committee Society for the Carcross-Southern Lakes area; the Teslin Tlingit Council has its Peacemaker Court; the Old Crow Justice Committee, as the member has indicated; the Ross River Dena Council has a justice committee; in Dawson there is the Dawson Community Group Conferencing Society; and Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation has a justice worker; and the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre is also involved in community justice.
Ms. Netro: How does the minister see this program improving the quality of life in the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I said some time ago, I believe that community justice is having a positive and beneficial effect. The member herself talked about the offenders taking responsibility for the harm they have done, and that it is important for the offender to then reconcile with the community. I hope the member isn't suggesting that community justice is not a desirable thing.
Ms. Netro: I would like to hear what the minister has to say about which initiatives promote public awareness and safety in the Yukon.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Within the Justice department's crime prevention branch, the family violence prevention unit and in the community - each community justice committee has its own initiatives and works on its own. They are not branches of the department. They are independent and, depending on the specific needs in a community, the justice committee in that community works accordingly.
Ms. Netro: How would you define an effective policing arrangement?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The offenders' rights must be looked after, as well as the victims' rights. And an effective police force - hopefully that doesn't have too much to do in an ideal world. It's a partnership between the police services, the Justice department, the community justice committees and, in general, everybody in the community. Justice and peacekeeping are everybody's responsibility, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Netro: I appreciate that answer. The reason I asked that question is that, in our communities, trying to take responsibility for providing a safer place to live for people who are involved and especially for our children and for our elders - we need effective policing within our communities.
We are very fortunate in my community to have auxiliary police in place. One of the members of the community is involved with the auxiliary policing, and that's very effective with helping to bridge that gap, for the RCMP members and the community. We need those auxiliary members in place in the communities to help the members of the RCMP in the communities, especially if they're new to our communities. We know that they have a big responsibility when they come to our communities from other areas of Canada, and they know very little about our people, our cultural and traditional background. And the auxiliary police person can assist our new members to become aware of what they need to learn about the community, about its people and about their culture and tradition, and I support this program.
I know that there is an arrangement that has been signed recently with the Council of Yukon First Nations, and I'm not aware of the particulars of that program or that agreement that has been signed. If the minister can provide me with any information about that agreement, I would appreciate it.
I have just a couple more questions for the minister. In going through the contract registry, a number of questions come to mind. Most contracts appear to be sole-sourced.
Would the minister explain why most of the contracts in the Justice department were sole-sourced?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: In the Justice department, the majority of contracts are for legal services, and they're not a part of the regular contract regulations. They're not subject to the same requirements. Many of our contracts are for less than $25,000 and, as such, they may be sole-sourced.
Ms. Netro: A number of the contracts are regarding legislation. Would the minister provide the terms of reference for contracts that are reviewing legislation?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That would fall under the provision of legal advice to the government and, as such, it's confidential, and I cannot provide that to the member.
Ms. Netro: Would the minister provide a complete list of ministerial travel paid for by the department?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That's a short list - there's none.
Ms. Netro: That's all the questions that I have. My colleague would like to ask a couple of questions.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I only have a few questions for the minister.
I was wondering whether, in this budget, there are any increases in FTEs.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, no net increase in FTEs.
Mr. Fairclough: I notice that there is a percentage increase in personnel of five percent. Is the member saying that there is no increase in FTEs in this department?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The increase is in salary and benefits. There is actually an 11.7 FTE decrease due to the closure of the Teslin Community Correctional Centre.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the minister tell me if there are any changes in the structure by which the department is set up - the reporting systems - from the previous year?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There were a couple of small changes. An ADM was transferred to the police services area. Community justice projects were transferred there as well, and a director was transferred to policy from police services.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the minister tell us what the rationale is behind those minor changes?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: To put more of an emphasis on community justice initiatives, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, can the minister tell us, in regard to the community justice system, in the minister's view, does it provide a fair service to all Yukoners?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Could the member be more clear in his question? Does what provide a fair service? The community justice committees that are presently functioning or the work of the Department of Justice?
Mr. Fairclough: What was once circle sentencing has evolved into community justice, and the community justice systems are now set up in some of the communities. Does she feel that this provides a fair service to all Yukoners?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the Member for Mayo-Tatchun well knows, that is a difficult question to answer as the community justice committees are independent and are not available in all communities, as yet. Insofar as is possible, I think they are providing a fair service to the people they serve.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the minister tell us, where those systems are set up in the communities, what problems is the department getting feedback on and experiencing?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: For the most part, the community justice committees are working well and when they ask us, we are working with them on problems they may experience.
Mr. Fairclough: I have just one final question. In the past, every department in government followed the initiatives of the energy commission - the points - and looked at energy efficiency and upgrading their buildings to a higher standard. Is this still being carried on this budget for any of the buildings that Justice may occupy, either here in Whitehorse or in other communities, in regard to putting in newer windows or better insulation or new light fixtures, and so on, like they have in the past?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Prospector Building is now occupied by the Justice department, and there were several energy-efficient initiatives undertaken as that building was being re-outfitted. The Law Centre is the responsibility of the Government Services department, and the new Whitehorse Correctional Centre will be designed with energy efficiency in mind, so far as is possible.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the minister tell us what more work needs to be done on the other buildings to bring them up to a standard that is acceptable by this government?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The existing Whitehorse Correctional Centre, as the member knows, is not up to standard. The new Whitehorse Correctional Centre will be, and I don't think the member wants to get into the problems in the Law Centre that resulted from a previous NDP government removing all the energy-efficient initiatives that had been planned for.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, I expect that the minister would have a little bit better answer for me than that. We have seen, even with the Minister of Education, how the cuts in the Mayo school cut energy efficiency out of that school by putting in insulation with less R-value than what existed in the past. So I'm wondering: is the minister, in building this facility in Whitehorse, going to stand solidly behind an energy-efficient building and not have the rest of Cabinet cut back on energy efficiency?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we are planning an energy-efficient facility as we are doing the planning work for the new Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
Mr. Jenkins: It's certainly enlightening to realize that the minister is going to do everything in an energy-efficient manner.
I'd like to start with the issue of circle sentencing. The Yukon Party supports circle sentencing, but we are in opposition to using circle sentencing for sexual or violent crimes.
I raised the question with the minister on two occasions, Mr. Chair, and the minister was all over the wall with respect to her response. On January 24 of this year, lo and behold, I received a three-page response from the minister. I really had to read the letter twice to digest it because, in the letter, the minister was pointing out that black was white and white was black, and she was all over the wall with respect to her position. The minister indicated she would check with the department and get back to me. I guess that was the purpose of this letter.
In this letter, Mr. Chair, the minister said, "I intend to follow up with the federal government to suggest they consider developing procedural guidelines for their own purposes and prosecution policies regarding circle sentencing."
Could the minister advise the House what has transpired since this letter of January 24, and if indeed the minister has followed up with the federal government to suggest they consider developing procedural guidelines? Just where are we at? What actually is this Liberal government's position on circle sentencing? They say they support it, but do they support it for sexual and violent crimes?
Now, the minister is going to hide behind the issue and say it's not in their bailiwick, that they're just one agency or one party to this initiative, that it's something that has to be discussed, that it's not solely their responsibility to make a determination. The bottom line: what input has the Liberal government had on this initiative? What is their position? And where have we moved with the ministerial follow-up to the federal government?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I will be having meetings on some of those matters early in the summer.
Circle sentencing, Mr. Chair, is one particular sentencing alternative. The judiciary has the final decision on whether a particular offence is appropriate for circle sentencing, and it is not this department's or this minister's place to be telling the judiciary what to do.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm still looking for, from the minister, what her position is on circle sentencing. What is her government's position on circle sentencing?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, if the Yukon government had responsibility for the criminal prosecution function, then I might have more to say on this. Circle sentencing is entirely appropriate to a community-based approach because it provides, in the process, an opportunity to address the underlying causes of criminal behaviour in the hope that these problems can be resolved with diligence, compassion and finality.
Circle sentencing is not necessarily appropriate for all crimes, but it's up to the judiciary to make that determination, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: While we're resolving these crimes with diligence, compassion and finality, could the minister just elaborate on the Liberal Government of Yukon's position on circle sentencing? Do they support the use of circle sentencing for sexual and violent crimes - yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the member isn't listening. The Criminal Code of Canada sets out the parameters for judicial sentencing. Judges have the discretion to take action as they see fit within those parameters. It is not up to this government. It is up to the judiciary.
Mr. Jenkins: As this is up to the judiciary, the minister doesn't have an opinion, one way or the other.
So let's go the other way. This Liberal government supports the use of circle sentencing for sexual and violent crimes. That is a true and accurate statement, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have already answered this question.
Mr. Jenkins: On the contrary, Mr. Chair, there has been no answer. All we have had is the minister hiding behind the process, passing it on to the judiciary and to the senior levels of government.
Now, the Department of Justice in the Yukon government is a party to this agreement. They have the ability to influence the direction that this circle sentencing will take.
I take the minister back to her letter of January 24. On page two, in the second paragraph, the minister says as follows: "The issues associated with the use of circle sentencing in the Yukon are not as simple as the black-and-white answers you appear to be asking for in the House." Why not? Because the minister wants to make it all different shades of grey. That's why it's not a simple yes or no.
All I want to know from the minister is this: does she support the use of circle sentencing for sexual and violent crimes?
And it says, "While our government does not support the use of circle sentencing for sexual and violence crimes, it is not solely our responsibility to make this determination. The judiciary, the federal Crown, the First Nations and communities are all key partners." So the minister said, in this letter, that she does not support it. She hasn't said it in this Legislature; she has hidden behind the issue.
The letter goes on to say that communities are the key partners in the community justice processes that have evolved in the Yukon and which serve as a framework for the use of circle sentencing.
The minister further went on to say that she was going to follow up with her federal government. What position will the Minister of Justice of the Yukon be taking to the federal government to suggest they consider developing procedural guidelines for their own purposes? What position has the Government of Yukon adopted?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: If I ventured an opinion on circle sentencing, the Member for Klondike would accuse me of interfering with the judiciary. He is quoting from my letter. Yes, while our government does not support the use of circle sentencing for sexual or violent crimes, it is not solely our responsibility to make this determination. The judiciary, the federal Crown, First Nations and communities are all key partners in the community justice processes that have evolved in the Yukon and which serve as the framework for the use of circle sentencing. It is one particular sentencing alternative, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: S, for the record, given that there are five parties in this process, what position will the Minister of Justice of the Yukon be bringing to the table?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we will be talking with the federal minister responsible about policies regarding circle sentencing and about criteria. As I have said, circle sentencing is not necessarily the best option for some crimes, as it says in my letter. Our government does not support the use of circle sentencing for sexual or violent crimes.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, it took a long time to get that on the record, but I thank the minister.
Let's move on, Mr. Chair, to the situation surrounding the increase in crime and vandalism here in the Yukon, and let's deal specifically with Whitehorse, for which the minister would have a greater understanding. We know that the statistics for break and enters in Whitehorse were at an all-time high for awhile. What are the current trends in this area? We still see a lot occurring in this area. What is it going to take to resolve the issue? Is it going to take more police officers, a higher level of involvement from the community, or does the community have to take ownership of this initiative because the Minister of Justice has failed to address it? Which way are we proceeding? What are the current trends, and which way are we headed, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Department of Justice does not, as the member knows, report crime statistics. At the national level, it's the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics that collects and reports such statistics. The local RCMP also release local crime numbers to the Yukon Bureau of Statistics.
The Member for Klondike is suggesting that crime is out of control. I do not believe that is the case, Mr. Chair. In general, the crime rate fluctuates from year to year and, in the Yukon with our small population, even a small change looks like an extreme change.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister failed to answer the question. I'm looking at what the current trends are. Does the minister not have that information with her?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We can provide the member opposite with the latest report. No, I don't have it with me, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: So could the minister confirm that this is another legislative return heading our way?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: If the member prefers to have his information in the form of a legislative return, rather than the many other options available to him, I can make it so.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd ask the minister to make it so. It appears to be the one area she is eminently qualified in addressing, and I would ask her to make it so.
The minister has nodded agreement, and the record will reflect that a legislative return will be forthcoming on this area, Mr. Chair.
What are the current trends and status with respect to the use of legal aid in government, Mr. Chair? And this is one area where the minister deserves a bouquet for addressing the shortcomings in the legal aid funding. That has been done; it seems to be on an even keel. But I want to know from the minister what the current trends are, and what does it look like is occurring in Yukon with respect to the usage of legal aid?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Yukon Legal Services Society operates at arm's length from the department, so I don't keep in touch with them on a day-to-day basis. The department has had some information from them recently but it's not in final form, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, as a manager of a department, as the minister responsible, it's the minister's responsibility to find out what's going on in the various areas for which she has responsibility. I'm not asking her for a final report. I'm asking her what the trends are currently with respect to legal aid.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, there has been either no change or a slight decline in the number of cases over the last period of time. I can get more specific information for the member in the form of a legislative return if he so desires.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, since we're not getting very far with respect to questions and answers in this general debate, a legislative return appears to be the course of action. I would thank the minister for that once again.
Mr. Chair, it's usually the economy that occasionally or on a regular basis shows - or the downturn in the economy manifests itself in an increase in family violence. Could the minister tell me what the current trends are with respect to family violence here in the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The victim services and family violence prevention unit and the assaultive spouses program - the 2001-02 estimates show an increase. The direct service hours show an increase. The community assessments for Old Crow, Faro, Dawson and Watson Lake are the same as last year and down from 1999-00. The number of people participating in the group is estimated to be up slightly this year. The court or parolee referrals are up slightly this year. The number of women interviewed is up slightly this year. Friends and family members receiving counselling support is up by one person - 14 last year and estimated 15 this year. Number of appointments is up slightly and training to other service providers remains the same.
I have pages of statistics. How many does the member want?
Mr. Jenkins: It's not a case of wanting the statistics; it's a case of following the trends. The minister mentions that we're down in some areas, yet we're up in some areas since 1998. That should make alarm bells ring in the minister's office, given that our population is down by 4,000 to 5,000 individuals and we've had a very serious exodus of our workforce and a very serious exodus of those of working-class age, along with their children.
The population that remains here in the Yukon - if you look at the cross-section breakdown - consists of a lot of seniors, which we know do not contribute to break and entering. They are sometimes the victims of family violence, but, by and large, are the only sector of our society that appears to be increasing.
I do not share the minister's position that the trends are not changing significantly. When you factor in the decrease in population, I would say we have some serious problems that the minister is failing to recognize and failing to address, Mr. Chair. I would urge the minister to give more consideration to the weight placed on the statistics. They're a very telling tale and an extremely useful tool for management. That's what they're compiled for. They're not compiled for the sole, express purpose of the opposition to beat up on the government of the day. They're compiled as a tool to clearly demonstrate the trends and where we are experiencing difficulties of whatever nature, and it should bring forward the alarm bells for the minister to recognize what's occurring and to address those shortcomings. Does the minister not agree, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, I agree. We have provided additional resources in this budget to FTEs to work with assaultive spouses and a small amount of extra money to the family violence protection unit and a small amount of extra money to victim services.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to ask the minister to send over the statistics that are relevant. I don't need a whole pile of statistics, just the current trends on a year-to-year basis and a comparison to previous - whether you do it on a quarterly basis or an annual basis, it's immaterial, but as long as there's an adequate comparison for probably three or four quarters or three or four periods of running time, Mr. Chair. Could the minister do so, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'll have the page deliver it to you right now.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other issues that we went through at great length with the Minister of Health and Social Services was the issue surrounding group homes and children in custody and children in care of the Government of the Yukon. Sooner or later, the old clock ticks over and those same individuals no longer become a ward of the Government of the Yukon; they move up the ladder to become a ward of the adult judicial system.
Are there any trends that we're experiencing in this area? I know full well that some of the same individuals have entered into the justice system at a very young age. The justice system appears to not have been able to address their difficulties and reintegrate them back into society. It seems to be a matter of them waiting until they're elevated to adult court, and then they'll be dealt with accordingly.
Just what are we experiencing in this area, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We continue to work with the RCMP and Health and Social Services. The area that the member is referring to is nothing new. For generations, a certain percentage of young offenders have become adult offenders.
As part of the planning for the new facility, we are working with Health and Social Services on this area to make sure that these offenders are adequately planned for.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister advise what these new initiatives are that are going to be co-shared between Justice and Health and Social Services? Just what are we doing? Are there any new programs or any new initiatives? Or is this just window dressing on the minister's part to answer a question?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member loves being offensive. I guess that is in his nature and he can't change it. However, we have one staff member currently working full-time on planning for the new facility. This staff member started work approximately five weeks ago on this project, and I think it would be only fair to let the planning process develop before we start saying what is going to be found.
There is a great deal of planning to go on and I look forward to the outcome of it. It is not window dressing, despite what the Member for Klondike will say. He has received a fair bit of information from this department on the redevelopment of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
Mr. Jenkins: What I am looking at is this new initiative between Health and Social Services and the Department of Justice. The minister referred to it as a project. What is the project entitled? What are the terms of reference?
I am very comfortable that that is what the minister said: there is a new initiative underway between Health and Social Services and the Department of Justice. This project is underway. What is this project? What is it entitled? It might be a very worthwhile and beneficial project. We don't know. Because there is a problem with individuals entering into the justice system at a very young age and just becoming wards of the government all the way through until they reach the age of majority and then they transfer over to the Department of Justice and the adult judicial system. So I would welcome some sort of initiative in this area. I am not trying to deny the minister some flexibility, Mr. Chair.
I'd welcome a kind of approach in this area because it's sadly needed. Now, what is this project?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I said, as part of the planning process, we would be working with the Department of Health and Social Services. I did not say there was a specific project.
As part of the planning process, we are working with a number of government departments and other groups on all aspects of the new facility. One of the things we are doing with Health and Social Services is work on the young offenders computer system, the links between my department, the court registry and the young offenders facility, but there is no specific project, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess that begs this question: why isn't there a specific project, because the minister has clearly identified that there is a problem there and there is a problem that needs to be addressed? I don't think we're going to solve this problem by linking all the computers together, Mr. Chair.
Just where are we at and, other than this review in-house, what's going to take place?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, as I said, there is a staff member working full-time on the replacement of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. The member has been given all this information and work with Health and Social Services is a part of this. There is not a specific, separate project, because there does not need to be a specific, separate project. It is all a part of the main goal.
Mr. Jenkins: What is that stated goal?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the stated goal is the development of a new Whitehorse Correctional Centre that will provide justice for victims, offenders, communities and be energy efficient - all those other things that we have been talking about for the past day-and-a-half of Justice debate.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, I certainly have to disagree with the Minister of Justice. It sounds like the way it's going to be rigged up is that we're going to have an ultra-modern, energy-efficient correctional centre here in Whitehorse with a conveyor belt from the group homes to feed in the individuals as they reach the age of majority. That's only part of the equation. In Canada, it's becoming a smaller part of the equation with respect to justice as we move forward. Incarceration is an ultimate form of punishment, but it's not required and it's not going to benefit society in many, many cases.
I refer specifically to individuals who come in at a very young age. I guess you might as well call them young offenders in conflict with the law - the original paper that precipitated the Young Offenders Act. But from there, these same individuals move forward, spend all their time either in group homes or in custody and then just gravitate toward the adult justice system.
We know that the Minister of Health and Social Services is failing these individuals. We wouldn't want to point the finger at our current Minister of Justice as being responsible for the same kind of failure, although it seems to be more and more likely as we progress because the emphasis is on building a new energy-efficient correctional centre. That's just part of the equation.
So what kinds of initiatives are we undertaking that are separate from a new correctional centre to address the problems of our troubled youth, who go through the whole youth system and gravitate into the adult system? I'm specifically focusing on that area, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Well, somewhere in there, the member has managed to insult my staff member who is working on the redevelopment. I thank him very much for that. I wish he would stop insulting my staff in both my departments.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Mr. Jenkins: There's an implication that I'm providing falsehoods here. There is nothing that I have done to cast aspersions on the Justice department staff. I suggest there might be some aspersions cast on the Justice minister herself, Mr. Chair, by me, but none whatsoever on her staff.
Chair: On the point of order, I have to admit that I felt that there were no false or unavowed motives being imputed to the other member. There is no point of order. I do not feel that there was any point of order.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Thank you, Mr. Chair. As I have explained to the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin last week, and as I have explained several times in this House, the programming for the new Whitehorse Correctional Centre is going to drive the design. The member has heard this, and the programs are very important, because the goal is to keep people from becoming repeat offenders, and the staff involved in this planning are working on all these areas. What is specifically being planned for one area is something I can't tell the member at the moment, because the planning hasn't got to that stage, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: I'll take the minister back to some of the statistics she has provided to me. Let's look at one of the family violence problems, the statistics, page 14. The minister might want to refer to that. If we look at the actuals for 1999-00 and the forecast and at the estimates being provided, we see virtually an alarming increase in all of the categories.
Now, with the exception of one, community assessments - there were 105 done in 1999-00 actual, and we're projecting 85 for the last forecast period and this current estimate period. But all the other areas are up, and up considerably. Could the minister advise the House why the department believes that to be the case?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Sorry, Mr. Chair. I had sent over my copy of the statistics and had to look them up in the main estimates. Could he tell me which statistics he's referring to again?
Mr. Jenkins: Community and correction services statistics, victim services and family violence prevention unit, family violence prevention unit, Department of Justice, page 14.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I don't believe that the statistics I sent over are numbered the same as the ones in the main estimates.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, I'll be happy to get the page to photocopy this - we can move on to something else - and send them back to the minister so she fully understands where I'm headed.
Mr. Chair, there is a whole series of issues surrounding the poor economy and the impact it is having on our justice system. The statistics are bona fide proof as to the problems we expect or are anticipating within the Department of Justice. They are directly related to the poor economy. Furthermore, we have a shrinking population; we have lost 4,000 to 5,000 of our population. We are probably currently sitting right under 30,000. In fact, it is probably lower. We have a big problem on our hands and it is not going to be resolved by building a more energy-efficient jail with a conveyor belt to it. The first thing that the government should recognize and do something about is, number one, the economy. Usually a lot of these other problems will not occur.
Let's look at the current trends with respect to FAS/FAE and the justice system. What is transpiring there?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We have been working for a number of years with others to attempt to accurately identify the number of people affected by FAS and FAE so that appropriate services may be planned and provided for them. This will be an important part of the programming at the new facility. The member doesn't believe that energy efficiency is important either, so we will just set that one aside. But programming will be important and FAS is one of the areas that will be strongly considered.
Over the past year, the department has undertaken a preliminary screening for indicators of possible FAS, through a non-intrusive assessment of offender files. And we have begun implementing an FAS screening tool for all offenders, incarcerated or on probation.
Mr. Jenkins: The Department of Justice and the minister herself seem to be concentrating more on the programs that will be delivered in the new correctional centre, but what I want to know from the minister is - that's down the road a few years before this new centre is constructed. What are we going to be doing in the interim?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: If I may repeat what I said earlier this afternoon to the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, we are working with specialists to modify our existing programs and the staff/inmate model of interaction so that the programs and the models we use are more understandable and effective for inmates with FAS and FAE. They are unable to process information in the usual way; there are a number of reasons for that, and we have to change how we offer our programs in order to help offenders change their behaviour. We're in the process of designing these changes at this time.
There are a number of programs currently under development, including some that will deal with FAS and FAE. It has been known for a number of years, but we are still in the learning stages. We do not know all there is to know about FAS and FAE, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: If I could take the minister to the two pages of statistics that were photocopied, and I refer the minister specifically to pages 13 and 14. The estimated trends that the Department of Justice is anticipating for the next period are alarming, in that they appear to be going from wife assaults - around 100 to 150. Some of the other estimates are showing other alarming increases, Mr. Chair, on page 14.
Just what is the Department of Justice seeing that is driving these estimates to these levels? In previous years, if you want to look at wife assaults specifically, it is forecasted to be 100. This year - this fiscal period - it's 150. Now, something must drive these statistics, Mr. Chair. Is it the downturn in the economy? Can the minister confirm that or is it an unknown quantity? Obviously there is something there driving the experts in the Department of Justice to produce statistics that show alarming trends, especially given the downturn in our population.
What that means is that fewer and fewer individuals are creating more and more of the discomfort society is feeling today, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, in case the member hasn't noticed, under this Liberal government the economy is turning around.
As we provide more programming, more members of the community become aware of the services and take advantage of the programming - that is one reason. We are increasing the budget in this area to cope with the expected increase.
Mr. Jenkins: I don't know what the minister dreams at night, but to even begin to suggest that the economy is turning around here in the Yukon is rather disconcerting. Its trend is alarmingly downwards and has been for quite some time under the Liberal watch, Mr. Chair; and that's in spite of inheriting a $60-odd-million surplus and that being further augmented by another $42 million - over $100 million and they can't address the economic woes of the Yukon.
I have a couple of smaller issues for the minister, and one of them is surrounding Bill C-68 and the issue of Alaska aircraft entering Canada. There has recently been an initiative in the State of Alaska to seek an exemption in Canada from the provisions of Bill C-68 that would require the registration of survival firearms, which are mandatory on U.S.-based aircraft, even if they're entering Canada, flying through Canada on their way to the Lower 48, Mr. Chair. We've previously pointed out the problems surrounding C-68 and how it is applied to itinerant and charter aircraft entering Canada. Each time there is a new pilot, who hasn't received a permit, on the aircraft - be it a charter aircraft from the same company flying into a Yukon destination on a continuing basis - he has to file a complete new application for the survival firearm that's on board the aircraft. Mr. Chair, irrespective of the $50 fee and the time it takes to jump through all the Canadian hoops that we now have in place, the State of Alaska recently passed a request to Canada to exempt these aircraft. I'm sure that the Minister of Justice for the Yukon has been involved in lobbying Ottawa on this initiative, as the previous position of the Yukon Liberal government has been that it is a bad bill. I'd like to know what the Minister of Justice for the Yukon has done with this Alaskan initiative, whether she has taken up the challenge with the federal Minister of Justice or whether she has done anything whatsoever on this initiative.
It really detracts from our visitor industry, as well as itinerant aircraft entering Canada, Mr. Chair. What it means is that a lot of them are not even going to come into Canada, so the minister might suggest that the Yukon economy is turning around but, on the contrary, we're losing a lot of this trade that we had previously. That is in large part due to initiatives like this Liberal initiative, Bill C-68.
Could the minister advise the House what she has done with C-68 with respect to lobbying her federal counterpart, the Minister of Justice, on Alaska's position? Or is she even aware of it, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Certainly everybody in this Legislature is aware of it, as the Member for Klondike has brought it to our attention several times, and there has been discussion of it, but I don't have the paperwork relating to it with me at the moment, and I apologize.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to know from the minister, Mr. Chair, for the next legislative return, what involvement the Minister of Justice of Yukon has had in lobbying her federal counterpart on moving a change in position of the Government of Canada on Bill C-68 for Alaska-registered aircraft? As long as they have an N number and are either itinerant or just turning around in Whitehorse or Dawson - the two prime ports of entry. Something has to change on these initiatives.
I asked the minister if I was going to be receiving a legislative return on this - yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Sometimes he responds when I nod my head and sometimes he doesn't. He can have a legislative return.
Mr. Jenkins: Is the minister also aware that a lot of the internationally arriving aircraft carry firearms and that they are not required to register when they enter Canadian airspace or land in a Canadian international airport?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, I wasn't aware of that.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I would urge the minister to follow up on what standards apply to internationally arriving aircraft and aircraft from the U.S.
Now, there appears to be a different interpretation put on it by Canada. And for some time, the same rules were being applied to U.S. aircraft as to internationally arriving aircraft, but that no longer appears to be the case. Canada has clamped down primarily on Alaska-based aircraft that are just moving back and forth into Canada. It's a major bone of contention now, and it is serving as an impediment to the growth of our visitor industry. In fact, it is serving as a deterrent and we are moving backwards in our visitor industry as a consequence, in part, of this Canadian initiative.
So anything the minister can do to facilitate this would be gratefully appreciated. I am not looking for a legislative return on this. I am looking for the minister to report back to the Legislature in due course. Can the minister be suggestive as to an adequate time frame for her to look at this and consult with her federal colleagues?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I thank the Member for Klondike for bringing that to my attention. I will look into it and get back to the House as soon as I can.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I have another area where I'd like to know the minister's position, and it has been brought to my attention by an individual whose home has been broken into on not just one occasion but a couple of occasions. This individual writes, "I would also like you to advise me what my rights are if someone enters my home illegally. Can I shoot them with my registered firearm, or would I be told this is excessive force, as they only came to rob me not kill me? I would like to have my legal options spelled out by the minister." This is getting to be a more serious complaint all the time.
Does the minister have a position or is she going to say, "Go and consult somebody in the court system"?
Chair: Order please. Before the minister answers, the question the member just asked is asking the minister for a legal opinion. Ministers do not give legal opinions. The question is out of order.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Well, it's an area of grave concern that has been raised with me by quite a number of constituents and, while it may be a legal opinion that's being requested of the minister, it is an issue that she should be well aware of, because it's going to come back to haunt everyone in the justice system.
Let's move on to another area, Mr. Chair. Could the minister confirm that she has signed off on all contracts above the sole-source limit?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I can confirm that my department has adhered to the contracting guidelines. The deputy minister has signing authority up to a certain point, and beyond that, I do. I do not sign all contracts myself.
Mr. Jenkins: What I'm looking for from the minister is her assurance to the House that she has signed off on all sole-source contracts from where her limits begin. Can the minister just confirm that for the record - yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The way the member is asking that question makes me suspect that there's a barb at the end of the hook and that it's not a straightforward question, as one might hope.
As I have already said, my department adheres to the contracting guidelines. My deputy minister has signing authority up to a certain point and I do beyond that.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we're in the catch-and-release program today. We're using barbless hooks, so I would caution the minister that it shouldn't be cause for concern.
What I'm seeking from the minister is a yes or no answer as to whether the minister has signed off on all sole-source contracts from where her limit begins - only those sole-source contracts under her watch. I'm not going back to previous ministers. Just those under her watch, can the minister confirm that she has signed off on all those sole-source contracts from where her limit begins? Just a simple yes or no.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have signed off on all sole-source contracts above $80,000. I'm not so sure that we're playing catch-and-release. I think that there are barbs on the hooks.
Mr. Jenkins: I would ask the minister what the future use of the Teslin jail is going to be.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I indicated earlier to the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, the department is currently in negotiations with the Teslin Tlingit Council on the future of the former Teslin Community Correctional Centre. I would think it inappropriate to discuss details of that negotiation on the floor of the Legislature, so I will not, but we have been talking back and forth with the Teslin Tlingit Council about the future of the building.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister be more specific as to what the timelines are for something coming to fruition, or is this going to be a 10-year program before anything is done? The property eventually devolves to the Teslin Tlingit Council in due course. Is that what - we're just going to wait for the end of that period, and then send it over to them? Does the minister not believe that there could be something beneficial, and this facility could be put to other uses, with a little bit of forethought on the minister's part, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I had hoped that we would have concluded an agreement with the Teslin Tlingit Council by the beginning of April, but we are still in negotiations. I'm hopeful that we will have come to an agreement within the next couple of months. As we have no need for it as a correctional facility, my department needs to move the building into somebody else's care. Other departments were not interested in taking it over at this time, and the Teslin Tlingit Council had expressed some interest. So, we have been discussing it with them.
Mr. Jenkins: I have quite a few other questions in line-by-line, and I'd ask that we move into that area.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? Seeing no further general debate, we'll proceed directly to line-by-line debate.
On Management Services
On Management Services
Chair: Seeing no further general debate on Management Services, we'll go directly to expenditures.
Management Services in the amount of $2,249,000 agreed to
On Court Services
Chair: Seeing no general debate on Court Services, we'll go right to activities.
On Court Administration
Court Administration in the amount of $653,000 agreed to
On Court Operations
Mr. Jenkins: Does this also include the anticipated costs for the new pension plan because the previous pension for judges was written in haste, as the minister so aptly stated, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, it does, Mr. Chair.
Court Operations in the amount of $2,608,000 agreed to
Sheriff in the amount of $280,000 agreed to
On Maintenance Enforcement
Maintenance Enforcement in the amount of $290,000 agreed to
On Witness Administration
Witness Administration in the amount of $116,000 agreed to
On Yukon Review Board
Yukon Review Board in the amount of $48,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments?
Are there any questions on the statistics?
Court Services in the amount of $3,995,000 agreed to
On Management Services - revisited
Chair: I have made an error. We will return to Management Services. I have not cleared this department completely.
Were there any questions on the allotments?
Management Services in the amount of $2,249,000 agreed to
Chair: Now we are caught up. We will go right to legal services.
On Legal Services
Chair: Is there any general debate on legal services?
Seeing no general debate on legal services, we will go right to expenditures.
On Program Director
Program Director in the amount of $333,000 agreed to
On Solicitors Branch
Mr. Jenkins: During one of the last sessions, Mr. Chair, the new, novice Liberal government was going to refer all the requests for legal advice through the Department of Justice; they were going to farm it out to the various legal counsels, either internally or externally from the government. Could the minister just advise the House how that process is working?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, we are doing that now. The deputy has had meetings with most of the departments and it is going well. All of the legal work is now coming through the Department of Justice.
Solicitors Branch in the amount of $1,023,000 agreed to
On Legislative Counsel
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, here we have almost half a million dollars on legislative counsel, and some of the legislation that was drafted previously was drafted in haste, according to the Minister of Justice. How can we justify spending this much money if we're drafting in haste, or is that just the position of the Liberal lawyers who are advising the current Minister of Justice?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we are making some changes to the legislative process such that the drafters aren't required to be drafting legislation while the House is in session. That's one sure way to make things drafted in haste and make errors.
The legislative counsel budget is actually a 10-percent decrease from the 2000-01 forecast, and the member is once again insulting my staff and I wish he would stop it, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Order please. I found no avowed motive at all or imputed motive by the Member for Klondike. I would ask the minister to withdraw that. I really didn't find any insult in the question.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Very well, Mr. Chair, I withdraw it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, while we are on this initiative, why is it that the government has changed its policy and is drafting all these bits of legislation, such as these 11 acts that we have before us. Why can't they table them at the beginning of the session instead of half way through? If they're already drafted, is this some impediment to the flow of the business of the House? Is this legislation, as we know it to be, not housekeeping legislation?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I apologize for the late tabling of some of the legislation. The process of getting it all done before the session starts is not complete at this point. I apologize. It's my fault.
Mr. Jenkins: Now, I respect an individual who stands up and says that they made an error and apologizes for it, so let's move forward.
Can the minister also confirm that the delay that was caused in the drafting of a number of these bills that we have before us is because they were quite substantive bills?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair, that's not the case, as the members will find when they have their technical briefings tomorrow morning, I believe. They are, in my opinion, all housekeeping bills.
Mr. Jenkins: Can the minister advise the House if the Liberal government has a definition of what is a housekeeping bill?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I think that's a generally understood definition.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, what I'm looking for from the minister is a definition about what is a housekeeping bill. Does one exist within the department and can she provide it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It would be a bill that's not substantive in nature or doesn't indicate a change in policy. The understanding of "housekeeping" would not have changed over the past several governments, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I would agree with the minister up to the time that the Liberals took power, and then we appear to have a new definition, but we'll soon see. And, Mr. Chair, if there's anything I can do to encourage the Minister of Justice to attend these technical briefings and find out just how substantive some of the concerns are arising out of these acts that we originally had tabled, she'll have a more thorough understanding, instead of just an understanding of it from the in-house briefings that she has received to date, Mr. Chair. Because there are a lot of questions arising out of these acts that we still have for tabling, and it's duly recognized that the minister takes the responsibility for the late tabling, but, be that as it may, all of these remaining acts are very substantive in nature and will require a great deal of exploration on the floor of this Legislature before they move forward, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Is there any further debate?
Legislative Counsel in the amount of $458,000 agreed to
On Litigation Costs/Judgements
Litigation Costs/Judgements in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
On Outside Counsel
Outside Counsel in the amount of $529,000 agreed to
On Community Legal Support
Community Legal Support in the amount of $1,785,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments?
Legal Services in the amount of $4,138,000 agreed to
On Consumer and Commercial Services
On Program Director
Ms. Netro: Would you explain the increase of 1,167 percent under program director?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That was the hiring of one director for a position that had been vacant.
Program Director in the amount of $114,000 agreed to
On Consumer Services
Consumer Services in the amount of $456,000 agreed to
On Corporate Affairs
Corporate Affairs in the amount of $405,000 agreed to
On Labour Services
Labour Services in the amount of $488,000 agreed to
On Public Administrator
Public Administrator in the amount of $172,000 agreed to
On Land Titles
Mr. Jenkins: Can the minister advise the House how that wonderful computer system is working over there in that department?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The department is entering data into the system and hopes for it to soon be fully operational.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister give timelines for completion and compare it to the previous deadlines that were envisioned for this project?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The data entering is slightly behind schedule. We expect this to be completed in this fiscal year.
Mr. Jenkins: Just for the record, Mr. Chair, could the minister confirm that the system will be operational this fiscal year or that just the data will be entered this fiscal year?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Both, Mr. Chair. The data will be entered and will be operational.
Land Titles in the amount of $344,000 agreed to
On Chief Coroner
Ms. Netro: Would you explain the decrease of 20 percent under chief coroner?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There has been a decrease in the cost of coroner's inquests, partially offset by increased personnel costs, collective agreement increases and salary benefit costs.
Ms. Netro: Would the minister identify the prior year's activities decrease of $329,000?
Chair: Order please. We can cover that when we get to the line item.
Chief Coroner in the amount of $288,000 agreed to
On Yukon Utilities Board
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, given that there's going to be a GRA - a general rate application - anticipated, is this going to be enough funding?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, there will be additional resources required in this area and there may well be a revote as a result of the GRA.
Mr. Jenkins: Also, one of the substantive bills that we have before us for debate will expand the scope of the Utilities Board to look after gas distribution systems. Has the minister costed that into the equation? I'm sure that as soon as this act has passed - it might not be assented to right away, as it might take this government a couple of years to find it in their basement somewhere - there could be an application for a distribution system. That would require a Utilities Board ruling. Has that been factored into the equation?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, Mr. Chair, we are taking that into consideration. We didn't put it in the budget because the bill hasn't yet been passed.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister has recognized that we appear to be underestimated for the GRA for this fiscal period, and we appear to be not taking into consideration the cost associated for an application for a gas distribution system.
Could the minister give us some idea of the order of magnitude of cost associated with the Yukon Utilities Board hearings on such matters?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: First of all, the legislation isn't passed, so it would have been premature to put an item in the budget. The GRA hasn't gone forward. Once it has, then we will be bringing forward a request for additional funding, and it is all recoverable.
For the Yukon Utilities Board hearings, we have an estimate that could be anywhere from $300,000 to $600,000. It's hard to estimate.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, there is some urgency surrounding these initiatives. I will at least give the NDP credit - they were hard and fast that there would not be a GRA under their watch, and they instructed the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation accordingly. Not so for this new government - they appear to be sitting on the fence, and we know it will be forthcoming.
Mr. Chair, there is also the issue surrounding the subsidy - or the balancing for electrical rebates. The government is still up in the air as to where we're heading on that initiative also. There appears to be a total lack of political direction on these initiatives, but that's understandable, Mr. Chair.
There is also the issue surrounding this gas distribution system. Now, the only reason this act is before this Legislature is because there has been an approach made to the Government of Yukon by a private sector firm that is interested in it - probably more interested in obtaining a monopoly than anything else. Or, let's not call it a monopoly - let's call it a franchise.
So, there is a need for a considerable amount of money. The minister has given indications that this part of our budget is underestimated. Will she consider increasing this portion of her budget this cycle?
Chair: Order please. The time being 4:30 p.m., we'll take a 15-minute break.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with debate on Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2001-02. We are on Yukon Utilities Board, and I believe Ms. Buckway was about to answer a question.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Klondike asked, before the break, if I would consider increasing the departmental budget this cycle. The member opposite is prematurely articulating. The legislation hasn't been passed by the House. A general rate application hearing hasn't been set for this fiscal year and, indeed, it may not happen this fiscal year. A request for additional resources now would be premature.
If there is a need, I will bring a request before the House in the fall in the form of a supplementary and there will be an offsetting recovery, but that assumes the legislation will be passed and that a general rate application hearing will take place.
There was no basis on which to put funding for this in the budget, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: A perfectly scripted response - I thank the minister.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I'd just like to follow up on that, because I'm aware that sometimes a considerable amount of time lapses between the point at which the board sits, a hearing is scheduled, and when a request for a hearing schedule has been filed by the applicants. Can the minister indicate if the board has received any kind of an official request from either utility for a hearing to be held within the next fiscal year?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Not that the department is aware of, Mr. Chair.
Yukon Utilities Board in the amount of $191,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments? Are there any questions on the statistics?
Consumer and Commercial Services in the amount of $2,458,000 agreed to
On Community and Correctional Services
Chair: Is there any general debate on community and correctional services?
Seeing no further general debate on Community and Correctional Services, we will go right to activities.
On Program Director
Mr. Jenkins: Why is there such a big increase?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There was an increase of $106,000 over the 2000-01 forecast due to position transfers, collective agreement increases and salary benefit costs, and the consolidation of contract services costs in the unit.
Mr. Jenkins: Are we speaking of more than one individual in this capacity? It does say "Program Director". That is singular. Has the individual been bumped up a couple of ranges, Mr. Chair, to account for some 28-percent increase? The 1999-00 actuals amount was $301,000. If you look at the actual in 1999-00 and the 2001-02 estimate, that is a considerable jump - $178,000.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There was $6,000 for the program director's position, due to the collective agreement increases and the negotiated salary benefit costs, and $100,000 for increases in communication, travel, program services and the consolidation of contract service costs within the unit. They're all in that one place now.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister break out the $100,000 for contract service costs?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It's a number of small contracts, Mr. Chair. I don't believe we have the information here at the moment.
Mr. Jenkins: That accounts for $106,000. What about the difference?
From the 1999-00 actual, which was $301,000, to the $479,000, that's a $178,000 increase - $373,000 is only a forecast; it's not an actual.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The actual isn't known until the end of the fiscal year - but 373 from 479 is 106.
The contracts are a number of community contracts: Yukon Family Services, special needs sex offenders programs, psychiatric assessments for high risk offenders, Keeping Kids Safe program implementation, Keeping Kids Safe program evaluation, and court transcripts for risk and needs assessment.
Mr. Jenkins: With respect to the fiscal year-end, it has come and gone, and we're 17 days into our new fiscal cycle, so that information should be readily available. Can the minister provide it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, it's my understanding that the financial statements for the Government of Yukon don't close until late in June or early in July.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm not looking for the financial statements of the Government of Yukon. I'm just looking for this specific line item, to compare apples to apples.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I can't give the member opposite what I don't have. The $373,000 for the 2000-01 forecast is the latest figure available to me.
Mr. Jenkins: So much for ministerial accountability and understanding the portfolio, Mr. Chair, but we'll let the minister off lightly this time and we'll be a little bit more demanding of her knowledge and understanding of her department in the fall supplementary.
Program Director in the amount of $479,000 agreed to
On Community Corrections
Community Corrections in the amount of $943,000 agreed to
On Institutional Facilities
Ms. Netro: Would the minister explain the eight-percent decrease in institutional facilities?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That's due to the fact that the Teslin Community Correctional Centre is no longer operating as a correctional facility. It's partially offset by increased heating and utility costs at Whitehorse Correctional Centre and increased contribution agreement amounts.
Institutional Facilities in the amount of $5,791,000 agreed to
On Community Residential Centre
Mr. Jenkins: Can I have an explanation from the minister please, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There's an increase of $140,000 over the 2000-01 forecast because of an increase in demand for services at the community residential centre due to the fact that the Teslin Community Correctional Centre is no longer operating as a correctional facility. That has resulted in increased costs to the community residential centre.
Community Residential Centre in the amount of $316,000 agreed to
On Victim Services and Family Violence Prevention Unit
Victim Services and Family Violence Prevention Unit in the amount of $1,067,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments? Seeing none, are there any questions on the statistics?
Community and Correctional Services in the amount of $8,596,000 agreed to
On Crime Prevention and Policing
On Program Director
Program Director in the amount of $876,000 agreed to
On Police Services
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, what has triggered the reduction in our costs here?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, there were some decreases in RCMP-related costs for secondment of an RCMP liaison officer to the Department of Justice in the 2000-01 forecast budget, and minor decreases in escort of accused, auxiliary policing costs and the horse-and-rider program. The funds saved were transferred to the program director unit budget to fund the youth leadership program.
Police Services in the amount of $11,794,00 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments? Seeing no questions on the allotments, are there any questions on the statistics?
Crime Prevention and Policing in the amount of $12,670,000 agreed to
On Human Rights
Chair: Is there any general debate on the human rights line? Seeing no general debate on human rights, we'll go right on to the line-by-line.
On Human Rights Commission Grant
Human Rights Commission Grant in the amount of $254,000 agreed to
On Human Rights Adjudication Board
Human Rights Adjudication Board in the amount of $9,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments?
Human Rights in the amount of $263,000 agreed to
Chair: Before we go on to the general O&M budget, are there any questions on the recoveries and revenues? Seeing no questions on the recoveries and revenues, we'll go on. Are there any questions on the transfer payments?
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Justice in the amount of $34,369,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Chair: Shall we deem this to be read and carried?
It has been moved that we consider the entire capital budget for the Department of Justice read and carried.
Are we agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Motion agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Justice in the amount of $2,373,000 agreed to
Department of Justice agreed to
Chair: We'll take a five-minute recess.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will start off now with the Department of Government Services.
Department of Government Services
Chair: Is there any general debate on the Department of Government Services?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I am pleased to introduce today the Department of Government Services budget for 2001-02.
The operation and maintenance budget proposed for Government Services totals $24,973,000 - a decrease of two percent from the 2000-01 forecast. The decrease is primarily due to one-time funding received in 1999-00 for red tape and service initiative activities, participation at the CRTC hearings and new or additional contributions.
Other factors contributing to this decrease are reduced costs for the trolley operation and a reduction in the building maintenance costs.
The capital budget proposed for Government Services for 2001-02 totals $6,170,000. Overall, the 2001-02 capital estimates decreased by $1,752,000. This reduction is largely due to supplementary funding paid in 1999-00 to the l'Association des franco-yukonnais toward the construction of a building.
In addition, the three-year community access program was completed, as was the trolley track upgrade.
Further reductions are anticipated in energy conservation projects, space planning, and in building operations equipment purchases.
What has not been reduced is funding for information technology. We have begun restoration of funding to historical levels. For example, $800,000 is designated for the enhancement of corporate community information applications, including HRS, FMIS and the lands resource management systems. $449,000 will be dedicated to life-cycle upgrades and replacements of corporate information technology assets. $300,000 is allocated for contributions to technology partnerships. The contributions foster the development of information technology and will fund innovative technology projects in the Yukon.
Further information on departmental activity and an expenditures forecast are contained in the 2001-02 business plan for the property management agency, the fleet vehicle agency and the Queen's Printer agency.
This concludes my overview of the 2001-02 main estimates for Government Services. At this time, I would be pleased to address any questions that members may have.
Mr. Keenan: Thanks to the minister and the minister's staff for working with due diligence and working very, very hard. I understand from practical experience that preparation up to the budget - which takes months - is frustrating - maybe "frustrating" is not the right word but, certainly, much work is involved. So, my thanks to the staff who did that. I very much appreciate that.
Of course, we must recognize that Government Services is vital to government. It provides a very vital service and, in many ways, it keeps our infrastructure up and going. There isn't a day that goes by that you don't see a Government Services truck or van out there in the community somewhere. I have seen them at all hours of the day and night too, I could say. So they are a very hard-working, dedicated bunch of people, and it is my pleasure to be able to say that.
As for a compliment for the minister, absolutely. I do believe that this is the one department where overall operation and maintenance isn't going up. That is truly remarkable. Or is it? Or does it just mean that the minister doesn't have clout at the table or what? No, I'd like to think that it is truly remarkable, and that's good.
Of course, statistics certainly reveal that the economic downturn is affecting this department. Not only is the total value of contracts down, but also the total number of contracts is down. I guess it is really not all that hard to hold a line on operation and maintenance, as the Liberals love to say, when the economy is in the toilet, as they used to say with us. Well, I'd like to say at this point in time that the economy under the Liberals has gone right through the toilet and down into the sewer. I guess that is really the one reason why O&M hasn't gone up.
I just had to say that.
I would like to ask the minister about one thing, I guess. I would like a list of all departmental and ministerial travel that the minister has done and paid for under the department's auspices. Is that possible?
Hon. Mr. Jim: At this point, no travel has been made from this department.
Mr. Keenan: So for the past year, the minister has travelled and has not tapped the department for anything like that. So everything that the minister has done and travelled for has been out of Executive Council Office. Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Jim: That's basically correct.
Mr. Keenan: I heard that word "basically" before, Mr. Chair, coming from this minister. That word "basically" after I accepted it as "basically correct" turned out to be basically incorrect. I don't think that's out of line. So I guess it's a matter of judgement. When the minister says "basically", my antennae go up.
Can the minister say, categorically, that he has not done any travel, representing the Department of Government Services, that has come out of the department? All travel has come from Executive Council Office. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Jim: That is correct, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much. I was seeking clarification.
I would like to know if any of the departmental objectives have had a wording change or anything like that? Sometimes a wording change will mean a difference in objectives. Have any of the objectives been changed?
Hon. Mr. Jim: There have been a few changes to the objectives. We have incorporated the French languages program. We have made wording in the property management agency to accommodate the trolley system. Those are basically the only two changes we have made to the objectives.
Mr. Keenan: I appreciate the forthrightness of the minister.
We had the economic summit here just in the recent past. And I know that the minister will remember the picture of one of the proponents pulling tape out of his mouth and saying that that was the one obstacle about it, that there was still a lot of red tape there. I know this is a difficult thing at times to be able to do, because it certainly seems that when government does something to reduce red tape, the government is not readily recognized for that reduction of red tape. And I recall sitting in Management Board and Cabinet where we wrote off oodles and oodles of red tape and process that had historically been there. Of course, it seemed that you would never get recognition because it seems that some folks certainly want more and more and more. I think that's just in the nature of government. The Member for McIntyre-Takhini is the Minister of Government Services. So, in a nutshell - and it could be a great big nutshell, too - could I just get the minister to tell me what the minister has been doing about red-tape reduction?
Hon. Mr. Jim: In recent months, the focus of the red-tape reduction program has been shifting away from regulatory reform toward service improvement. This is in response to feedback from the businesses identifying service quality as a main source of red-tape concern.
The activities under the red-tape reduction program can be grouped as follows: one, the ongoing consultation. We're continuing to provide opportunities for businesses, the public and the government employees to make suggestions on where red tape can be cut and services improved. Number two, we are in training and education. We are working to develop a more service-oriented corporate culture in the Yukon government to sponsor opportunities for the public service to learn more about service innovations in other jurisdictions. Three, service improvement projects: we're implementing specific projects to enhance service to the public. To the extent possible, activities are undertaken in collaboration with other departments, other levels of government and private sector organizations. Collaboration allows for making optimal use of scarce resources.
Mr. Keenan: I thank the minister for that, and I appreciate what the minister said about moving from regulatory reform into service improvement. The minister goes on to talk about the YTG providing that service and changing the culture. I'm just wondering what initiatives, or what steps, the minister is taking to provide that culture of service improvement within the department. Is there a memorandum, or you just call everybody together and say, "Today we're going to give a little better service"?
Please don't get me wrong. I appreciate what the minister is saying, and I appreciate where the minister is going. What I would now appreciate, I guess, is how the minister is doing that.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, in response to concerns identified during the red-tape reduction consultations, we were offering training and education on how to make the government more service-oriented - for example, the service leadership program, a service-quality training course for government employees combined with a workshop designed to find concrete ways to improve public service. The goal is to come up with ideas for service improvements and to make the Yukon government's corporate culture more service-oriented. Three service leadership sessions have been held to date and, in partnership with the Public Service Commission, we held an open-windows conference on citizen-centred service delivery. In November 2000, in partnership with the federal government, we sponsored a conference on citizen-centred service delivery, featuring services-quality experts from the Ontario government and the federal Treasury Board. Numerous workshops were held to introduce the Yukon government employees to this topic.
We also held a government-on-line conference in March 2001. We've already had this conference. It brought experts from across Canada to Whitehorse to discuss how to provide government services on-line and how we can improve services, reduce costs and cut red tape.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you for that, and good luck. I think the initiative is a good initiative and I hope everybody buys into it.
Another instance here of the minister's words intriguing me was "ongoing consultation". Can the minister explain ongoing consultation - with whom and who might be sitting there? Is it just as simple as giving out your private line phone number and saying "Give me a call when you have a problem"?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Ongoing consultation could mean, at times, meeting the average Yukoner at the store or market - Food Fair or Extra Foods. Ongoing consultation could mean that if there were a new idea that came from employees to me, I would consult with the deputy minister about that and talk to him and suggest ways we could make recommendations to the department on red-tape reduction.
Mr. Keenan: Well, I certainly appreciate what the minister is saying, and I agree that it can be ongoing consultation. I would appreciate if the Minister of Government Services would speak to the Minister of Health at the next Cabinet meeting, so that the Minister of Health might understand that that is all a part of governing; that is how you listen to people and reach out to people. I appreciate what the minister is saying because, certainly, that is the type of ongoing consultation that I do on a daily basis. As a matter of fact, it's getting so bad here that a guy has to go home and hide out on the lake behind a microscope because people are starting to come to me to complain about this government quite a bit. I guess that's ongoing consultation.
Now, that happens, and that's a part of the political work, and I certainly appreciate that. Is there a more focused, concerted effort - I don't know - an ad hoc committee within DMRC or within the department itself or anything, made up of, say, municipal and First Nation governments, et cetera, et cetera? Is there a formal structure in place anywhere?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I'm not quite sure what - is the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes talking about the red-tape reduction and asking if there is a structure in place for red-tape reduction? Is that the question?
Mr. Keenan: The minister said "ongoing consultation". The minister stood on his feet and spoke about how ongoing consultation could mean meeting in Food Fair, it could mean meeting wherever you would meet, and listening to people. I appreciate that very much. We have a challenge ahead of us - the resource sector. I understand that we do not have jurisdiction over some of the resource sector at this point in time but we do have jurisdiction in other sectors. We have structures in place. We have chambers of commerce - we have two of them. We have localized chambers of commerce in the communities. We have those types of interested people - business people who strive toward the reduction of red tape. So, what I am asking the minister - and it can be as simple as a no answer, but the minister said "ongoing" and he described it politically. I am asking the minister, and I guess this is the question after the preamble: is there anything in place under DMRC - and DMRC is the Deputy Minister Policy Review Committee. That is our integral brain of government, and I appreciate the brainstorming and thinking that comes from that level. We have a very dedicated group of deputy ministers and assistant deputy ministers within -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Okay, Mr. Keenan.
Mr. Keenan: I just like people to - I try to give the courtesy of listening and looking. I guess that is because I am a visual person; I am very hard of hearing. So, if the minister wants to chat, I don't mind that; the minister may chat. But I would appreciate it if I could conclude my question.
So, in concluding my question, is there a structure anywhere that reaches out to these different folks on an ongoing basis, that looks to critique the reduction of red tape? Does the minister have a goal of so much red tape? I understand what the minister said about improving a culture and whatnot, but is there a goal out there and how does the minister critique it? Is it through a structure, and if it is, can the minister describe it? And if there isn't, can the minister just say that?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we are trying to provide opportunities for business, the public and government employees to make suggestions on how red tape can be cut and services improved.
The government's commitment to establishing a better ideas program will be implemented by Government Services. This government will collect the ideas from front-line employees on how to improve the government operations and to make government more accessible to the public. Better ideas will complement the department's other consultation activities on red-tape reduction and service improvement.
Mr. Keenan: That is certainly interesting, and I would appreciate it if the minister could send me, as critic, an outline or a copy of the better ideas program.
There seem to be some folks missing from the minister's statement. The minister did say that it was comprised of business and government. We take our front-line workers and YTG employees and, through the auspices of the better ideas program, we get ideas out there.
I would like to put a suggestion to government, if I may, that the municipalities - and some of the municipalities understand, as we expanded their mandate through enabling legislation that was passed unanimously in this House, that they have the ability, through corporate structures, to go out and do business. I know that First Nations - and I understand that I'm talking to a minister who has worked with First Nations or corporations manned - or personned - by First Nations. So there are corporations under there and the minister has worked with that. There are players there, too. There are definite players from the First Nation groups.
So I would ask the minister if the minister would not have an exclusive club and if he would make it inclusive in that manner, as there are a lot of players out there. That may be captured under the better ideas program. If not, I would appreciate it if the minister could give me a positive response on that.
Hon. Mr. Jim: I will certainly make a note of this, and I will certainly take this under advisement and look forward to that.
Mr. Keenan: I appreciate that. Does the minister have anything relating to a one-stop shop? I know that scattered throughout government are different tentacles of Government Services, per se. That's a very general statement; I understand that. Is there a focus now?
Everybody goes to a one-stop shop. You know, it's easy, it's expedient for people who come from out of town. Instead of coming to the Liquor Corporation, to the Housing Corporation, to wherever, you know, they can go to the one-stop shop. Is there anything like that in the works?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, through our service improvement, we are looking toward adding a one-stop shop and amalgamating a one-stop shop, maybe with Community and Transportation Services or some other services. We see that as a good thing.
Mr. Keenan: I also see that as a good thing, and I think it would greatly lessen the burden on the person who wants to connect with government.
Certainly the minister can understand. The minister is from Whitehorse, but certainly the minister has tentacles to Champagne-Aishihik and Haines Junction and he can certainly understand that when you comes to town, generally a town trip would be a Friday because you have to do these things. You can imagine the frustration of having to run all over. And we're talking about a two-hour commute from Whitehorse. Can you imagine the folks from the Klondike, Dawson City, or the folks from Ross River, et cetera? So I would very much encourage the minister to look into that matter, and if the minister has any further developments in that regard, maybe he could bring to this House a ministerial statement about that one-stop shop or something to show what we're doing out there, because if you don't communicate it, it just gathers dust. So I'd appreciate it if the minister would do that. I see the minister nodding affirmatively, and that is fine for me.
Local hire seems to have disappeared from the Government Services Web site, and I'm wondering what steps the minister is taking to ensure that local hire remains a priority for this government.
Hon. Mr. Jim: That is one of the points that I look at as one of my personal challenges. I'd like to see more local hire. Again, I say that we have the round table on local hire committee for the communities, if there's any development happening. For instance, in Mayo, the Mayo school issue. We have a round table on local hire, a committee that is being formed there in the community, so that we talk about local hire; we talk about the issues of employment.
It seems to be going fairly well. We are looking at making improvements with the contract agreements. So, we are working at trying to improve local hire within communities.
Mr. Keenan: The round table on local hire, is that done on a per project basis?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Yes, it is.
Mr. Keenan: And the minister said something about making improvements to contracts on local hire. Would that pertain to, if there are certain journeymen for, say, a school project - carpenters, or like as such - that those folks in the community, if they were trained, would be offered those jobs first. Is that what that means?
Hon. Mr. Jim: In large part, in going through some of my community visits, I have gotten the reiteration of an outstanding issue, and that outstanding issue is that we have journeyman carpenters, we have journeyman tradesmen, but they have staggered working hours. There isn't a consistent hourly rate.
So, we look at that as a challenge for Government Services, how might we be able to improve, I guess, the contract agreement with the contractors, to ensure that we do have optimum local hire out there in the communities.
Mr. Keenan: I certainly appreciate that, Mr. Chair. And that works if there is capacity within the community. What happens if there is not capacity within the community? Is the minister prepared to look at training trust funds or anything like as such? Because certainly it's a good move. I appreciate what government is doing by putting the capital budget in the fall. I appreciate that. It gives time to look at it and to sharpen a pencil and to get those jobs out there when they should be out there. I appreciate that happening.
There's always going to be somebody falling through the cracks, and I think we have both been raised - you can't please everybody all the time, you have to do the right thing and you have to be able to move forward. But in order to do the right thing and to be able to move forward, you have to have good information about what's there in the community and you have to be able to project.
I know that, in communities - and I know the minister knows some of the folks as I do - those folks only need a dust-off in terms of pounding nails and carpentry. They could get a piece of paper fairly quickly. There is advanced education and there's apprenticeship training under the Minister of Education's program that give the ability to do that without upfront time that diminishes. What I'm cautioning the minister about here is that, while we're going ahead and we're doing something, please for goodness' sake let's not let things slip through the cracks because when things do slip through the cracks, it becomes a political point. I would rather see those issues taken care of proactively than have to raise those issues on the floor of this House, because that is not how I would like to do business.
So is there money set aside within your department or is it within another department - say the Department of Education - for training trust funds to help build capacity within communities, so that we don't have to bring in imports from other communities?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we provide services and program assistance; however, we don't have any training dollars or any programs with Government Services.
Mr. Keenan: I would ask, and I understand that. That's why I was saying that I believe the Minister of Education, under advanced education, would have that type of issue. I guess I'm trying to be proactive and help provide some leadership to the minister opposite in saying that some things can and will - we can qualify it. They will slip through the cracks. When it does, it's not for the community benefit. I don't mind coming into the House and raising community issues. That's what I get paid for, and that's what I like to do. I like to listen to people.
But by the time it hits the floor of the Legislature, it's too late. It's basically too late. We have reacted to a situation, and it can be emotional. And it is emotional. This is the house of emotion. So, I guess this is what I'm going to ask - and the minister doesn't have to answer, but I hope that the minister would answer it. At the Cabinet table, as you sit and you're doing these projects - you know you're going to build a school, a fire hall and a dog house, or something like as such, if I can say it in that manner.
You have identified the capital project. Could we make sure that if we look to it, if we examine the basic capacity of a community - I could ask for statistics, and each community might have 350 people in it. It's hard to find a qualified journeyman, to some extent - in some fields. Being proactive, if we have short-term goals over the winter, if the minister would use his clout at the Cabinet table to speak to his colleague, the Minister of Education, just to say, "Hey, we have to put something to this, so that we can keep this here." And away we go - the world would be a lot better for me, for you and the folks in the communities. So, would the minister commit to something like that?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I find no reason why not, because, as it stands, we already do that - I do that at the table, as do other caucus and Cabinet members.
Mr. Keenan: I appreciate the minister doing that. It will save a lot of grief here in the long run. It definitely will.
I would like to continue with local hire and speak specifically about Ross River. I've put government on notice, through a letter to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. And I do believe that the Minister of Community and Transportation Services answered that letter. The Minister of C&TS has, if this is the right word, defrayed or detracted somehow - I'm not trying to be derogatory - and said that some of these things are in the Minister of Government Services' bailiwick.
In my letter, I said, I believe, that there are seven positions in the government tentacles in the community of Ross River that are held by people who do not live in the community. They do not live in the community. The folks on the government side know who they are.
I have been told consistently since I started going to Ross River - and I know that the minister has been to Ross River and that he has, again, some of the same friends I have from Ross River, so we have that sharing of understanding, if I can say it that way.
There isn't a trip when I go to Ross River during which people do not say to me, "David, we are tired of living in Faro's shadow. We're just tired of it." I tried to explain to them - as I don't necessarily go to defend government, but I go there because I have something to say to them and I can share that with them. They say that they're tired of it.
Now, I know that there are different vehicles in the union and that people have different things to say. But it breaks my heart every time I hear them say that, because the last thing that was coming in my face was that with the municipal grants - and I know that's Community and Transportation Services - they are getting over a million dollars to run. They have an arena, a skating rink, a community centre, and this and that. They even have a school.
Yet capital expenditures show that Ross River has got its share of capital projects. Well, they got a school, and it was a much-needed school because you couldn't even open the door - that was to the delight of the students at times, but not to the delight of the community. So I don't count that; I don't count that. I understand, you know, what we just talked about - the minister and I - the training and improvements and social infrastucture that has developed with having a lunch bucket and having a job. But when you have all these different issues with people who live 50 or 60 miles away - whatever it is - and they travel every day, that's like rubbing salt into a wound. I've got to say that it gets quite volatile at times.
Is there anything under the minister's department that would start to alleviate that pressure point? I am choosing my words very carefully because I don't want to stand in the House one day and say that there was this unfortunate thing that happened between these two people because we weren't proactive.
Is there anything - lines in the sand, even - that the minister is thinking of that would help to bring this problem down? It is a local hire issue where a janitor is a janitor is a janitor - and that is no disrespect for a sanitary engineer, because they are very important. I have close, personal friends who are janitors. But one janitor with experience from one community is better than another janitor with experience from another community, yet that person has to travel 50 miles? I don't think so; I don't think so. So, the minister is starting to understand what I am saying now. That's at this level, and it goes right up to the highway foreman. Then it does get into lines in the sand, where there is a magic barrier here between the communities.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, in Ross River, they have what's called the round table. At this point in time, we've had two visits with Ross River - not Government Services but Yukon Housing, and also with the caucus. At this point in time, I will be going up and doing the community visits, and I will try and make arrangements with the round table and discuss with them their issues regarding local hire and see how Government Services might be able to accommodate them and provide a better service to that community.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I very much take delight in what the minister said. I very much do. I think it's a good thing that the minister would take time from a very busy schedule - I understand that - to go to the community and to talk to them.
I get a bit of a giggle out of his talking about the round table, because certainly the round table was my initiative. It was an initiative that took much work to pull together. Certainly, it is effective, but these issues that I am speaking of are coming from the round table at this point in time.
So we've identified the problem; we know that there's a problem. We really have to seek solutions for these local hire types of problems. So if I could ask the Minister of Government Services - and on behalf of the department, I accept what the minister's saying - but I would ask the Minister of Community and Transportation Services for some of the notes, the minutes that come from those meetings, to share them so that we might have a joint objective to clarify the local hire initiatives. If there's something that has to be spoken of and looked at - and I would say even through union negotiation - that we should be doing that at this point in time, because certainly 300 to 350 people living in Faro's shadow is enough. I have worked as a minister. I know the minister can stand on his feet now and say, "You had the opportunity." I appreciate the minister not doing that, because it's a long process. It's not just something that happens.
It doesn't happen that way. That's why I'm saying that maybe we should look at it in the light of the union negotiation and whatnot. I don't think you would have problems with them but, you know, there's always - trickiness, and that might not be the right word - negotiating skills and a negotiating level that have to be exercised and used. If government brought forth a point to the different players who are a part of that scenario, and if it said that the number one objective is to keep local jobs here and that we need training and some skills here - but we do have training. We have a wonderful education facility throughout the Yukon. We have the Internet and computers in the communities. There are just so many tools now that I don't think we can use those excuses any more. We have to say that this is our goal and, if we paint that goal, we might be able to get communities to buy in.
I'm asking the minister to speak, I guess, on behalf of government. Because it certainly touches Education, Renewable Resources, Government Services. It touches every department, with the exception of maybe the Women's Directorate. But I think it touches every department.
Would the minister take that forth to caucus and look at it in that light?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I look forward to my visit in Ross River, and for sure I will take this forth to caucus, once the results come from this visit to Ross River.
Mr. Keenan: Well, if the minister keeps this up, I'm going to get camera time tomorrow morning, Mr. Chair. That's not the goal here though, of course.
If the minister would like, I could meet the minister there during that community visit and, for quid pro quo - or however you say that - I'll even show the minister one of my favourite fishing holes. Then we can look at it.
So now I'm going canoeing with the Minister of Health and Social Services, and the Minister of Renewable Resources wants to jump in there as well. I'll show him a fishing hole too. I think that's the way things should be done, in that light, and I'd very much like to be part of the solution, not just identifying the problem.
What we have talked about are long-term solutions. Does the minister feel that there could be a short-term solution?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, at this point right now, if we knew the situation, there may or may not be a short-term solution. I would just wait until we do find out about the situation in Ross River. At this point, I can't really comment on a specific short-term solution. However, I can get back to the member opposite.
Mr. Keenan: Okay. Mr. Chair, what I'm saying is factual. I'm making absolutely factual statements here. I know that the minister is not saying that I didn't say something non-factual. It could be interpreted that way, but we're trying to do something for the benefit of the people, which we're both elected to do, and we both are elected.
This is a political decision. This is not necessarily a departmental decision. Ministers can put into effect policies and, of course, the policies have to take into consideration human factors and everything else. But it's a political decision, and I'd really like to see if we could buy in to, yes, we're going to do this, because this isn't just Ross River, this is Mayo, this is Champagne - every community in the Yukon is affected this way. We say that the unemployment statistics are 12, 13, 14 percent - I'm not sure what they are - and they fluctuate. Well, the minister and I know that in First Nation communities and in localized communities, the unemployment rate sometimes runs 50, 60 and 70 percent. It's worse.
So the problem is there, and I would appreciate it if the minister would look at it in that light. And I guess the first step would be to take it to your caucus and find out and have these types of chats, because there is probably no short-term solution. I was asking a little question of the minister there, and I appreciate what the minister is saying because you have to look at it in that light, but in the same light, we can say to the departments - they have a round table within DMRC also.
We can go back and say, "You group of brains, find a way to make this work." And they will. They definitely will. So, that's the type of statement I'm making, and I'm wondering if the minister has any more thoughts on it.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I see no problem with this at all. I think we can actually make a commitment to the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes by saying, "Yes, we will be talking to the DMRC, and we will be going up to Ross River to meet with the chief and council", in the long term. In hindsight, we are looking at improving services there between government and community.
The time being 6:00 p.m., I move that we report progress, Mr. Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jim that we do now 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: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2001-02, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:56 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled April 17, 2001
Kluane Region Tourism Plan Summary (December 2000)