Wednesday, November 7, 2001 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I would like members of the House to join me in welcoming to the public gallery today Mr. John Firth, Mr. Rolf Hougen and His Worship, Mayor Ernie Bourassa, members of the Yukon Foundation, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further introductions of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the Yukon Liberal government's decision to freeze funding for community alcohol and drug treatment programming is a gross betrayal of the Yukon First Nations and Yukon communities in general;
(2) this decision is incompatible with the emphasis placed on substance abuse by the Minister of Health and Social Services as one of the top health issues of this territory;
(3) in the absence of community-based treatment options, Yukon people who are in the grip of alcohol and other addictive substances are effectively being denied the help that they need and deserve;
(4) family members of people with substance abuse problems continue to be at risk because effective treatment and support options are not available at the community level;
(5) this freeze is the direct result of the hasty and ill-considered decision by the minister to change the focus of alcohol and drug services in the Yukon to a costly, centralized and bureaucratic model that does not reflect the wishes and needs of Yukon communities for a system that is more responsive and sensitive to their needs; and
THAT this House condemns the Minister of Health and Social Services for permitting this lengthy and destructive freeze and urges the Government of Yukon to immediately restore full funding to community alcohol and drug treatment programs and to work directly with Yukon First Nation governments and Yukon communities to identify the most effective way of allocating resources to overcome the enormous social problems that result from the abuse of alcohol and other substances.
Speaker: Is there any further notices of motions?
Is there a ministerial statement?
Yukon Foundation, YTG contribution
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I rise today with pride to let the people of the Yukon know of yet another way our government is helping some Yukoners make their dreams a reality. This government is donating three-quarter of a million dollars to the Yukon Foundation, an umbrella organization that administers funds donated for scholarships, bursaries and projects.
The Yukon Foundation is a respected, established, independent community organization. It gives out annual awards to deserving Yukoners ranging from a couple of hundred dollars to a few thousand. These awards support the educational and cultural dreams of Yukoners who might not be receiving any other support or encouragement.
The foundation is a way for Yukoners to give other Yukoners a boost, some help along the way to realizing their goals, and in the process making this territory a better place to live - richer in spirit and knowledge.
The foundation was established in 1980, then in 1995 the Yukon Foundation Act was passed, which clearly outlines the purpose of the foundation. It states the objectives of the foundation, which are to promote educational advancement and scientific or medical research, to promote the cultural heritage of the territory and to provide support intended to contribute to the mental, cultural and physical well-being of Yukoners.
The Government of Yukon applauds and supports the objectives of the foundation. It is appropriate that we entrust these dedicated volunteers who serve the foundation with money to fulfill their goal of enriching life in the Yukon.
Last year, the Yukon Foundation's fund stood at $1.5 million. With the revenues from this fund, the foundation was able to disburse over 60 annual awards given in accordance with the terms set out by the donors. This endowment of $750,000 from our government will significantly increase the fund's capital and revenue. The Yukon government is working with the foundation to determine how the endowment will be used - perhaps to augment existing funds or to create a new fund.
This will, in turn, enable the foundation to give out even more awards and allow more Yukoners to pursue their dreams.
It should be noted, Mr. Speaker, that the Yukon Foundation is quite independent of government. There are up to 20 members appointed to the foundation's board and, by law, only one member may be appointed by the government. This ensures there can be no question about the independence of this community organization.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Foundation is a unique body in our community. It has a proven record of managing and administering funds on behalf of donors, individuals and organizations.
The foundation is one well known to Yukoners and respected for its diligence in awarding monies in a just and equitable fashion.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, I would like to note that this is the fifth contribution to an endowment fund announced recently by this government.
Earlier we committed a number of other funds: $436,000 to the Yukon historic resources fund; we set aside $250,000 for the creation of a new Youth Voices endowment fund, as well as $750,000 for the teacher mentoring endowment fund.
Earlier this week we unveiled our plans to create a new community recreation leadership endowment fund through a $750,000 contribution. And today we are announcing a $750,000 contribution to the Yukon Foundation.
Mr. Speaker, these endowments are a wise investment in the Yukon's most valuable resource - the people of the territory.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: I'd like to respond to this ministerial statement as presented by the Premier. We on this side of the House, the official opposition, support monies going into an organization like this. It goes toward promoting educational advancement and scientific and medical research, also culture and heritage. We certainly support that type of movement by this government.
What we would like to see, and what has been asked of us by the general public, is to make sure that these government monies going into a foundation like this are fair and equitable, like the Premier said, and that there's fair access and the process is fair to all students in the Yukon. If that's the case, Mr. Speaker, we on this side of the House certainly support this type of movement by the government.
I believe that this is a positive statement by the members opposite, by government, and should not be qualified with other things that are in the budget. I think this could be a stand-alone statement, just for the Premier's information.
Once again, we on this side of the House do support initiatives such as this.
Mr. Jenkins: The Yukon Party caucus is a strong supporter of the Yukon Foundation and all the good it has done in the past. The list of elected officers and directors of the foundation reads like the who's who list of the Yukon. The various funds that the Yukon Foundation administers bear the names of many distinguished Yukoners and Yukon families. The foundation's motto, "Serving Yukon's Future, Preserving Yukon's Past", could not be more fitting.
I welcome this $750,000 contribution from the Yukon government because, unlike the four other endowment funds that have recently been announced, this contribution really means something.
By adding $750,000 to the foundation's $1.5-million reserve fund, the interest earned that can be translated into scholarships and grants will be very significant. The Premier, in her statement, said that the Yukon government is working with the Yukon Foundation to determine how the endowment will be used, either to augment existing funds or to create a new fund. If the Premier will permit me a suggestion, I would recommend that the Yukon government leave the disposition of the three-quarter-of-a-million-dollar endowment up to the foundation itself. The Yukon Foundation has done a remarkable job in the past in distributing scholarships and grants and should be allowed to utilize the money as best it sees fit within its existing guidelines.
I wish to personally thank all the elected officials, officers and directors, both past and present, for their years of dedicated work, and to especially thank all the contributors and their families for their help in making the Yukon such a special place to live. Their generosity and love for the territory will never be forgotten.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I'd like to thank the members opposite for their expressions of support for the work of the Yukon Foundation and for this contribution by the Yukon government.
I would just like to respond to a couple of the points that the members opposite have made. I would note again that the foundation is very well known by Yukoners and very well-respected for its diligence in awarding monies in a just and equitable fashion.
The monies awarded are for far more than simply education, although that is an important facet of their work. We have, in the Yukon, an educated workforce, a thriving arts community, a rich First Nations heritage, and a spirit of energy that is unparalleled by any other place on earth, and the foundation's disbursements recognize all of that, Mr. Speaker. It's more than education.
I would also like to note that, in discussing this with the Yukon Foundation, the foundation expressed a desire to work with the Yukon government in terms of how the $750,000 would be put in care of the Yukon Foundation - whether there might be a new fund created and also there might be an opportunity to augment some of the existing funds. One of the directors noted to me that there are particular funds that have many, many, many more applicants than they are able to disburse. So perhaps augmenting some of those existing funds in recognition of those who have donated to the foundation would be an idea, as well, Mr. Speaker.
We believe that these endowments - this one today to the Yukon Foundation and those that have been mentioned earlier - help provide Yukoners with the means, Mr. Speaker, to follow their dreams. They are an investment in people, and they are an investment in our future, and this government has been proud and has enjoyed the opportunity to work with the community in terms of announcing them.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and again, thank you to the Yukon Foundation members present with us today.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Air Canada's treatment of Yukon travellers
Mr. McRobb: I have a question today for the Minister of Tourism. Like most Yukoners, I could recite a litany of ways that Air Canada has recently shafted the Yukon air traveller, cancelling the Yukon kitchen and on-flight meals, excessively high fares, a policy of 35-percent overbooking - which, Mr. Speaker, results in passengers being stranded in airports - reduced levels of service due to massive layoffs, and what about the student standby fares? Now we're getting shafted again, as Air Canada manipulates the point system. What is this minister doing to let Air Canada know how fed up Yukon consumers are becoming about being treated with such contempt by the national carrier?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I think it's important to realize that when we talk about Air Canada, we're not talking about the staff here in Whitehorse. They serve Yukoners well, they always have, and I presume they always will.
First of all, what our government is going to be doing about this is that we are going to be releasing on November 19 the air access study summary. In addition, prior to the release of that, we're going to be talking to our private sector partners through the Yukon tourism marketing partnership. In addition to that, the Premier is travelling to Ottawa to personally bring this issue and the way Air Canada and other airlines deal with the Yukon to the national table. That has happened in the past. I have brought that to the attention of Minister Tobin in the past, in the emergency meeting I held with three other ministers in September.
Now, Mr. Tobin is aware of this issue, and he knows that our problems with Air Canada predate September 11. He knows that those problems were only exacerbated. We have hired a professional negotiator. We are going to be negotiating with Air Canada and others in the extremely near future.
Mr. Speaker, this is an important issue to Yukoners. It's one of the highest economic drivers we have, and what it's doing now, in the status quo, is limiting our growth, and we think the Yukon can only grow.
Mr. McRobb: Let's hope the Premier is more successful than this minister in her discussions with Brian Tobin, after which she was interviewed and said that service to this territory would improve. We're seeing the opposite now.
The Yukon economy is in deep trouble. The Yukon government spends some $3.5 million of taxpayers' money each year on government travel from Whitehorse to points south. Unfortunately, a great deal of that money ends up at corporate headquarters in Montreal. Such leakage from our local economy is preventable, and it's something that this government can work to prevent. What does this government plan to do to encourage competition and help our economy - by doing something like supporting the emergence of a locally owned competitor to Air Canada?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I need to speak to the issue of Air North. Air North came to this government and said to us that they needed help to approach Air Canada to talk about sharing the route from Whitehorse to Vancouver. To that end, our air access study was put off by three months so that we could start to help Air North start those negotiations with Air Canada. In the process, Air Canada has said that they are not interested in sharing the route - that's not on. So what we have done in the meantime is looked at Air North, as well as every other airline coming into the Yukon, and said to them that we are interested in working with them, that we will have cooperative marketing efforts and that it is a level playing field, so that Yukoners get the best price, the best service and the best connections out of the Yukon Territory by air.
Mr. McRobb: We know this government has been having some negotiations with Air North, and that is good. We certainly support those efforts. Air North is a local company, and it has First Nation involvement, and it is seriously examining the possibility of providing competitive air services to Vancouver. This government has a responsibility to help.
Will the minister commit to asking her Cabinet colleagues to step up efforts with Air North and provide it with a guaranteed, equitable access to government business.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: That has always been the policy of this government. It was the policy of the previous government as well. Yukoners are entitled to the best price. If Air North offers the best price, that is where we are going to go. If any other airline offers the best price, we will go there as well. It is a level playing field, but we do not want to start getting into a process where we limit the economic growth of the Yukon. We are also interested in other gateways. We are interested in Calgary. We are interested in Edmonton, and those are opportunities that we are going to be exploring with a number of different airlines.
Question re: Economic stimulation
Mr. Fentie: I have a question today for the minister responsible for Economic Development. I find the Minister of Tourism's comments around Calgary, and the fact they're looking at Calgary because of the oil and gas work that's happening in the territory, as an option for air traffic.
My question to the minister is this: can the minister confirm that his government was advised last week that Anderson Resources, one of the biggest players in the oil and gas industry in the Yukon, does not plan to do any oil and gas exploration work in the Yukon this winter?
Hon. Mr. Kent: What I can confirm for the Member for Watson Lake is that I met with Devon officials approximately an hour ago. What they advise me is they're delaying the start of their seismic program this year in order to find a partner to share the costs and the risks associated with the Eagle Plains dispositions.
Mr. Fentie: Interesting, Mr. Speaker. Obviously why we have a Department of Economic Development in this territory is to promote economic development. We now have a situation in the oil and gas industry. The pipeline is years away. No oil and gas work this winter. Tourism is crashing. Forestry is in chaos, and this country is heading into negative growth economically.
My question to the minister is this: what immediate contingency plans is the minister working on to keep our economy from even a steeper nose-dive this winter?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I have to correct the member opposite in his statement that there would be no oil and gas activity this winter. What I said in my initial response is that Devon is delaying the start of their seismic program in order to find a partner to mitigate the costs and the risks associated with the Eagle Plains dispositions. We're quite confident and hopeful that they can do that before the time expires for them to get that done this winter.
There are a number of things we're doing with public spending to stimulate the economy this winter, including the continuing care facility, as well as work on the Whitehorse multiplex, Mayo school, the Mayo-Dawson transmission line and a number of other things.
Mr. Fentie: Obviously, when we look at the minister's answer, the window is closing rapidly for any oil and gas work this winter in the territory. To further compound this minister's problems, his Premier and government are lurching along on a renewal process that has the largest employee group in the territory worried about their jobs.
The Premier has taken her usual "Don't worry, be happy" approach, and in this minister's answers, it is evident that he has been virtually invisible in the economic development area since he has been handed the portfolio.
The Premier also says that retail sales are going up. But that is not telling the story, Mr. Speaker.
My question to the minister: has the minister taken a stroll down Main Street recently and asked business people how many government employees are telling them that they aren't making any big purchases this year because they don't know if they'll have a job in the very near future?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I haven't been invisible in the portfolio since I took over in June.
I have met with a number of businesses. I was up at the Yukon Chamber of Commerce meeting in Dawson this past weekend. Retail sales are up. Unemployment is down. We are making progress on the economy through a number of things, and the comments by the member opposite are quite unfair.
Question re: Forest industry
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, Mr. Speaker, this is a question for the Minister of Economic Development.
Now, during the autumn of 2000, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society released a newsletter featuring the future of southeast Yukon. Under the CPAWS plan, approximately 70 percent of the region is slated for preservation. On the industry side, loggers and mill operators in Watson Lake are becoming increasingly vocal, as their forestry operations suffer - well, they are suffering and they are suffering a slow death from the lack of timber.
After three years, the federal Liberal government promises that nothing has transpired to give Yukon foresters long-term access to appropriate volumes of timber. Yukon loggers are now claiming that government forestry planning has been taken over by groups such as CPAWS and the Yukon Conservation Society in order to provide certainty.
Can I ask the minister to advise the House whether he supports the loggers' requests for adequate volumes of THAs or does he support the creation of another no-development park in the LaBiche area of southeast Yukon? What is it? Is it resource development or parks? Which does the minister support?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, my department, in cooperation with the Department of Renewable Resources, is working on a number of issues to address the forestry problems in southeast Yukon and, indeed, in the Yukon as a whole. We are working on a new timber supply analysis. We are working with the Watson Lake community forest management planning process.
Mr. Speaker, this government, along with the federal government and the First Nations, are striving to ensure an economic and environmental balance in forest management and development in the territory.
Mr. Jenkins: Let the record reflect the minister failed to answer the question as to what he supports - resource development or parks. This is creating certainty here in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker.
Now, under the devolution transfer agreement, the Yukon Liberal government will take over responsibility for managing Yukon forests. Can the minister assure the people of Watson Lake that no park will be established in southeast Yukon until the long-term timber harvest agreements have been made available to that forestry industry? Can he at least provide that assurance, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, I can provide this House with the assurance that we're working very hard on a number of industries, forestry being one of them, and mining, and we're excited about the devolution transfer agreement and the control of the resources that will come with it.
As I said before, what we're doing is working toward ensuring that there's a balance between the economy and the environment when it comes to the forestry industry in the Yukon.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, still no answer to the question in spite of advice provided him by the Minister of Renewable Resources.
Now, let's go back to the 2000 election campaign. The Yukon Party proposed that a resource access road be planned in conjunction with the Town of Watson Lake and the Liard First Nation in southeast Yukon in order to open up this resource-rich area to forestry, to mining and to oil and gas. Does the minister support such a road or does he just support CPAWS in their initiative? Which is it?
Hon. Mr. Kent: With regard to the roads to resources initiative in the southeast Yukon, we've been working with the community of Watson Lake and the Liard First Nation to get the proper message from them as to the proper route for the road and what they want to see with the road.
Question re: Education Act review
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, I have a question today for the Minister of Education concerning the Education Act Review Steering Committee that was established December 1, 1999, just a little under two years ago.
Yesterday, the director of the Council of Yukon First Nations' education department said that her organization never walked away from the Education Act Review Steering Committee. They wanted to continue to provide input to that committee's final report.
That being the case, can the minister tell us why he chose to dissolve the steering committee?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Thank you very much, and I do appreciate the question from the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, Mr. Speaker.
First of all, it wasn't a choice that I made, Mr. Speaker, with respect to dissolving the committee. It was at the request of members who felt they could not further their work because there was no representation from the Council of Yukon First Nations there, and they identified that fact to me, and they themselves requested that the committee be dissolved.
Mr. Speaker, I think it's very important to state, as well, that I did contact the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations and specifically asked if the First Nations would be continuing their participation on the Education Act Review Steering Committee. And the Grand Chief said he couldn't advise me at that time and would get back to me later that day, Mr. Speaker. I still haven't heard back from the Grand Chief, and that is the fact on that matter, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Peter: Through his actions, the minister has created the impression that he assumed that the First Nations would back out of the process once the funding for their education department had been withdrawn. We know now that this is not the case. It appears that the minister did not even bother to confirm that the First Nations had withdrawn from the steering committee. Can the minister tell us why he did not extend this simple courtesy to the First Nation members of the review committee?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: A correction for the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin - the Yukon government did not fund the Council of Yukon First Nations' department of education. We specifically funded their participation within the Education Act Review Steering Committee.
As I indicated to the member opposite, I did hear that their department of education was shutting down. I did phone the Grand Chief to confirm that fact because I realized that if their education department did shut down, there wouldn't be participation by CYFN personnel within the Education Act Review Steering Committee.
Well, Mr. Speaker, the Grand Chief didn't get back to me, and the next day he formally announced the closure of their department of education. There was a meeting of the Education Act Review Steering Committee right after that, Mr. Speaker, on the Sunday, and there was no representation within that group. Under their terms of reference, the Education Act Review Steering Committee could not conduct business in a formal sense, as their terms of reference indicated that they had to have full partnership representation around the table, and the CYFN did not send anybody.
Mrs. Peter: Yesterday this minister told this House that the request to dissolve the review committee came from the remaining members. But now we know that the First Nations were ready and willing to continue to participate in the review committee. How is the minister going to fulfill his obligations under the Education Act review process and bring forward a final report when he has dissolved the steering committee before it could present a final report?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Again, I have to correct the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin. I only acted upon the request from the steering review committee members that the committee be dissolved. I respected their wish. I also respected their wish that they continue on in preparing an advisory report to me on the feedback they received on the draft recommendations, and I will await the outcome of that.
As a matter of fact, the schedule for meetings was well known in advance. Back in June, as a matter of fact, the members from the Council of Yukon First Nations were notified of the November meetings. Not only did I call the Grand Chief to request whether there would be direct participation within the review steering committee, I had also sent out correspondence directly, directly asking members, all members who had participated on the committee, to continue to participate. The members from the Council of Yukon First Nations chose not to attend and have not yet contacted me on the issue.
Question re: Addictions funding
Mr. Keenan: Today I have a question for the Minister of Health. Yesterday the minister confirmed that funds for the community addiction program have been frozen since last April, while the new CEO comes up with a plan. Yet we know that there are communities with their own plans that need funding to help people in their communities now. There is an immediate need.
Now that the minister has had 24 hours to contemplate this, will the minister find a way to support individual communities, now, while we wait to a plan to materialize?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The government has taken steps to work with communities and First Nations in respect to alcohol and drug services. We have extended invitations for First Nation input into our new secretariat. We have been visiting First Nation villages and governments. We have been talking with them. We do know that cutting funds and closing Crossroads are not in the best interest of communities. They were convictions of the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes when they were the previous administration. So obviously, what happened then doesn't matter now; it's a different story. We can take our time and find out, with our new CEO, where we want to go with our partners, and that's what we're doing. We're sitting down with First Nations right now and talking to them about what their needs are and where we should go with a drug and alcohol program.
Mr. Keenan: I'm absolutely appalled at that answer. I asked the question on behalf of all Yukoners - a community Yukon problem, and this minister has dropped it at the feet of First Nations in the territory. I find that absolutely disgusting that the minister would categorize the native people of the Yukon in that manner - absolutely appalling.
This minister has $99 million in a bank account. It's sitting there; it can be opened up. There are no new programs and no new dollars in the supplementary budget, as it exists, as it sits here. Yet this government wishes to put all problems on freeze while the Minister of Health builds an empire.
What's next? Capital construction for a $3-million building so that we can do this in Whitehorse? Is the minister saying that communities and people who need help now will have to wait until next year, until the budget is passed - and the budget is passed and will not be kicked in until the summer? Do people have to wait another year?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Again, the member opposite is wrong. The surplus is actually - in this book here, it makes it very clear. In the budget book, it says "$51 million". That's the surplus - right here.
Also, the member opposite asked a question about the addictions fund. He specifically referred to First Nations not having access, and now he says that I responded castigating all First Nations. No, I was just responding to the fact that we were meeting with all Yukoners. But I was responding to his question, Mr. Speaker, and obviously the member opposite doesn't like what he hears. He doesn't like to hear the truth; he doesn't like to hear the facts.
We are looking forward to working with First Nations - all Yukoners - to help build this process. It's not going to be built overnight. It takes time to do this.
So for the member opposite to be completely exasperated and completely emotional about it - I think when they were government, they should have done the job then. We are trying to do the job with all the partners, and we are working very hard at it.
Mr. Keenan: Well, there is so much there that I could refute, but I find that it's obviously not going to work with this minister.
I find that the minister's language is terribly uncertain. He says that he is looking forward to working with First Nations. That tells me that he is not even working with any of the communities.
I would like to point out that this minister cannot freeze the world while he sits and contemplates the problems of the world.
The minister wants to believe in prevention models. Well, there are immediate needs - immediate needs now in the communities. If the minister would walk the streets of the communities, walk the streets with the people who need the help, then the minister would see what the problems are.
Two years, Mr. Speaker - and it's an enormously long time.
People and communities need help now. They need help immediately. They have programs that are ready to go; they simply need the resources.
So I would ask the minister: does the minister really believe that he can justify asking people who need help now to wait while the new CEO consults plans and hires staff to build the member's personal empire? How can the minister justify that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I have already made the comment that we're working with all Yukoners. We're not waiting to deliver programs. We have always been delivering programs. But in order to move ahead and deliver even better programs with our new leadership, that takes some time. We're still delivering programs. No one ever said that we had stopped delivering programs.
The member opposite made comments about walking the streets. I have walked the streets of every community, at least twice, if not three times, under my leadership here as Health minister. I haven't seen the member opposite walking the streets. I have walked them. I have talked to people. I have been in homes. I have discussed with people what their concerns are. I know what their concerns are, Mr. Speaker, and we're really very positive about where we're going. It's unfortunate - as the member opposite always espouses, to work together, to work in harmony. We're trying that, but the member opposite won't give us an opportunity. All the member opposite is looking for is fault.
Mr. Speaker, we are doing the job that we set out to do, and we're going to do a good job because this is what Yukoners want. We believe in Yukoners, and Yukoners believe in what we're doing, because right now they see progress, they see where we're going, and they are willing to wait a few months in order to put the whole process in complete operation. They are a lot more patient than the member opposite is or will ever be.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre funding
Mrs. Peter: My question is for the Minister of Justice.
Yesterday the Member for Faro tabled a motion applauding the Liberal government for honouring a campaign commitment to replace the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, yet the supplementary budget shows that the Liberals have removed $503,000 from this line.
Will the minister confirm that the $503,000 from WCC planning and engineering money is being removed from the supplementary budget?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, what the member is really asking is whether we've cut the budget for the new Whitehorse Correctional Centre, and we have not.
Mrs. Peter: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The NDP long-term plans for the 2000-01 budget had allocated more money toward the new facility than is currently in the 2001-02 budget, or in the 2002-03 budget, yet the member opposite wants to congratulate her own team for its wonderful work.
Will the minister give her guarantee that there will be no more money siphoned from the Whitehorse Correctional Centre building funds?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No money has been siphoned from the Whitehorse Correctional Centre building fund, and the staff have been working extremely hard on the plans for the new facility. I would like to commend them for that work, and plans are proceeding on time and as we had expected, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, the Liberals made another campaign promise to rebuild Grey Mountain School, despite the fact that this is a difficult promise to justify in terms of numbers of students and other priorities. It is coincidental that, at a time when $503,000 has been removed from the budget for Whitehorse Correctional Centre, $500,000 has been allocated to Grey Mountain in the 2002-03 capital budget.
Why is this minister allowing her colleagues from Riverdale South and Riverdale North to raid the Correctional Centre budget to fulfill their campaign promise to Grey Mountain School?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, there has been no money siphoned off from the new Whitehorse Correctional Centre budget. Let me make that very clear. The Member for Vuntut Gwitchin is incorrect.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Some Hon. Member: Question of privilege, Mr. Speaker.
Question of privilege
Speaker: The official opposition House leader, on a question of privilege.
Mr. Fentie: I rise today on a question of privilege pursuant to Standing Order 7(1), which states:
"A member wishing to raise a question of privilege shall
(a) following the Daily Routine and before the Orders of the Day are called, and
(b) after giving a written notice containing a brief statement of the question to the Speaker at least two hours before the opening of the sitting,
call attention to the alleged breach of privilege and explain the matter."
Mr. Speaker, my question of privilege is as follows. Given the ruling on points of order yesterday, there is an appearance of my right as a member of this Assembly to freedom of speech being compromised.
Secondly, there is confusion about my ability to rise on points of order and the expectation of consistent rulings being applied.
Mr. Speaker, to help me out with this matter, I am seeking clarification from you on three specific items. They are as follows. First, in light of your reminder in the context of the ruling you gave on November 5, that members should refer to a specific Standing Order or practice when rising on a point of order, why was my point of order held to a different standard than that of the Minister of Education, who also did not cite a specific Standing Order or practice? Secondly, what is the substantive difference between the term "cover-up" and the term "smear campaign" that makes one of them unparliamentary, on the grounds that it is an accusation and therefore could lead to disorder, while the other term, even though used in the same context, is not considered unparliamentary? Finally, if there is no substantive difference in these two terms in the context in which they were used yesterday, why then did you choose not to exercise the prerogative of the Chair to point out that the term "smear campaign" could be considered an accusation and therefore should be avoided, even if you believed I did not have a point of order because I had not given you, as the Chair, guidance as per your ruling of Monday, November 5?
Mr. Speaker, I just seek your findings on this matter to help me in clarifying my role in the Assembly.
Speaker's ruling on question of privilege
Speaker: Order please. The Chair is prepared to give a ruling on the question of privilege raised by the official opposition House leader.
The official opposition House leader met the notice requirement found in Standing Order 7(1)(b) by submitting a written notice to the Office of the Speaker by 11:00 a.m. on today's date.
Standing Order 7(4) states that the Speaker must rule on (a) whether there appears, on the face of it, to be a case of breach of privilege, and (b) whether the matter has been raised at the earliest opportunity.
The normal practice of this House has been that, to meet the "earliest opportunity" requirement, a question of privilege must be raised at the time the event occurred or on the next sitting day. In this matter, the event took place on Tuesday, November 6, 2001. It, therefore, meets the "earliest opportunity" requirement by being raised as a question of privilege today.
The question for the Chair to decide on, then, is whether the official opposition House leader has raised a question which appears, on the face of it, to be a breach of privilege.
The written notice from the official opposition House leader did not identify the basis of the breach of privilege that he was raising. Rather, he stated, "The purpose of my question will be to seek clarification of your rulings on Tuesday, November 6, during my question on the Whitehorse school busing contract, as reflected on pages 2520 and 2521 of the Blues." The official opposition House leader then went on in his written notice and, as he has explained to the House just now, to explain the specific points on which he was seeking clarification.
In reviewing the Standing Orders of this Assembly and the parliamentary authorities, including Beauchesne, the Chair has not found any basis for the matter raised by the official opposition House leader to be found a breach of privilege.
Rather, as stated by the official opposition House leader, he is seeking clarification of a Speaker's ruling. Although the Chair does plan to address the point raised by the official opposition House leader in a moment, the point needs to be made at the start that it should not be a normal practice of the House to seek clarification of Speaker's rulings under the guise of questions of privilege.
The primary privilege of members in the Assembly is freedom of speech. It is a well-established practice that a Speaker's ruling on language is not a violation of that privilege, even if the ruling is contentious or in error.
Standing Order 6(1) states, in reference to Speakers' decisions, that "No debate shall be permitted on any such decision, and no decision shall be subject to an appeal to the Assembly." Therefore, the normal way for members to deal with a Speaker's decision that they disagree with and want overturned is to move a substantive motion to that effect.
The Chair, in this case, though, will attempt to provide assistance to the House in dealing with the current matter without insisting that it go through such procedures.
The Chair, in reference to the events of yesterday, has reviewed the Blues and discussed this matter with our table officers. On reflection, the Chair feels the opposition House leader has made a legitimate point and that yesterday's decisions by the Chair could be seen to be inconsistent. The Chair would assure the official opposition House leader and all members of the House that any error in judgement by the Chair was not due to any bias; rather, it should be attributed to making a decision on the matter in haste.With regard to the specific issue raised by the official opposition House leader, he is quite right in arguing that, in the context they were used yesterday, the terms "smear campaign" and "cover-up" belong in the same category and both were equally deserving of being ruled unparliamentary. The official opposition House leader is also correct in questioning the need to cite any specific rule when raising a point of order about unparliamentary language. Doing so is helpful to the Chair but it is not essential when requesting a ruling on language.
I hope this will prove satisfactory to members in respect to the matters raised by the official opposition House leader.
The House will now proceed to the Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Motion No. 159
Mr. Clerk: Motion No. 159, standing in the name of Mr. Keenan.
Mr. Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the Child, Youth and Family Advocacy Act tabled almost a year ago as a private member's bill was designed to protect and advance the rights and interests of Yukon children, youths and their families relating to designated services;
(2) the Yukon Liberal government has had more than enough time to make changes it deems necessary in order to bring a bill forward for debate in the Legislative Assembly;
(3) in spite of the reluctance by the Minister of Health and Social Services to acknowledge ongoing problems in the area of children and youth in government care, the Liberal government did eventually undertake to commission a two-phase review of that issue; and
THAT this House urges the government to take its responsibilities to Yukon children, youth and families seriously and to bring forward a child, youth and family advocacy act for debate and passage by this House during the current legislative sitting.
Mr. Keenan: Indeed, it is a privilege to be able to stand here and speak to this most important motion. I certainly am looking forward to the passage of this motion here this afternoon. We made an offer this morning, Mr. Speaker - an offer of unanimous support - to put on the table, but it came back to that the minister did not want that unanimous support to happen in this House. And I feel that the reason why the minister did not want that to happen is probably because the minister wishes to stand on his feet and speak with eloquence about how he can support this motion and the time frames within which it will be put into this House this spring. I'm absolutely certain that that's why the Minister of Health and Social Services refused the unanimous offer of working together and creating a relationship of good governance.
It's about children. It's about children in care. And if it's about children and children in care, then obviously it's about families. It's about communities. In my philosophy, we can only be as strong as our weakest link, and we have to be able to work and put resources toward what we can identify as the weakest links to strengthen them. And I guess, Mr. Speaker, that that could be thought to be a slanderous remark but it's not. It's not.
Because even the weakest link deserves a chance, deserves the opportunity to be able to stand on their feet, to get an education, to feel protected. That's what my desire is here to see happen for these children. Mr. Speaker, this Minister of Health seems to want to do the right thing. It seems to me, Mr. Speaker, as I look at night, as I pray for guidance, as I reflect on the day and I think, how can I improve myself, that I give the minister the benefit of the doubt in most cases.
Now, Mr. Speaker, that might seem, after the tone in this House, and it has been said in the media that there might be not really a personal relationship between the minister and myself, I say that's politics. That's just politics. I am willing to give the minister the benefit of the doubt. It's unfortunate, though, Mr. Speaker, that I have to drag the minister kicking and screaming all the way through the process - all the way through the process. I have consistently, Mr. Speaker, worked to provide options that the caucus - and I surely hope it's the Liberal caucus that works with these ideas and works with these suggestions. I truly hope it's the Liberal caucus. I truly hope that it's not left into the hands of one man, one minister, to make the decisions that affect all of the peoples of the Yukon Territory, for we need our children in care to feel comfort.
Mr. Speaker, a lot of times they're running from abuses. Mr. Speaker, where do they have to run to? At this point in time, there are inadequate acts in place, or a lack of acts in place, to protect those children.
So, Mr. Speaker, they're running from one barbecue to another barbecue, from one fire pit to another fire pit. And between running and looking for shelter, those children are subjected to the streets of Whitehorse, to some of the streets of the communities and, on those streets, we're coming into 50-below weather, we're coming into inadequate resources to house them. They face violence, they face sexual molestation and mental molestation on a daily basis.
Mr. Speaker, it took all of last spring on the floor of this House, in Committee debate, on the streets and through petitions to get the minister to do the right thing. Now, that's terrible, because the minister should be able to say, "By golly, there is a problem out there because people are pointing it out to me, and this is what I'm going to do about it."
I have pointed out quite candidly - and I'm talking quite candidly about one person, the Minister of Health. I know that there is support on that side of the House for this problem, because it has been brought forth by the Member for Riverdale South most eloquently, many times in the past.
I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that if we were in government - the New Democratic caucus was in government - the Child, Youth and Family Advocacy Act would have been passed the very fall that we had formed government, because that is the commitment we gave to the Member for Riverdale South. Even though it was sponsored by that member, we saw it as truly different from political partisanship, the difference between personalities. And we know that there's not a conflict of personalities in this Legislature. We know that we wish to work toward the betterment of the children.
And it would have happened because we, the New Democrats, now the official opposition, as government would have taken that - the high road, with humility to do the right thing for the children. Well, I can tell you quite candidly that, after the refusal of the offer of unanimous help or support, I started to think, is this going to happen? Well, all I can say is that I truly hope that it doesn't, but I am starting to feel a little reluctance, because I do believe that this minister wishes to play politics over and above the issue that is before us - and that is children of care.
Because, if the minister wanted it to happen, it would have happened now. It would have been on the Legislative Assembly agenda. It would have been, if the minister wanted it to happen, because the minister is the Minister of Health. And the minister, through a collective brain-storming session, especially based on the minister's administrative experience in past, should be able to put things in place. If there was a will, there would have been a way to do it.
I am not saying, because I am not trying to be in a personal mode here, but I have examples. This is the minister who held up the CT scanner, because "I have to find a better way; maybe privatization is the better way." This is the minister who refuses to resource a diagnostic team for the FAS/FAE registry, yet wishes to take full credit for its success. Yet, I am not sure if there is a success there, and the people want to know if there is a success there, because this is another problem that is plaguing our communities. So, we should again quit playing politics with people's lives.
This is the minister who refuses to help people in poverty. This is the minister who took away just a small incremental dollar value, I guess, if I could say it in that manner, for the people who need it most - the people who are out of work.
The minister refuses to hold a forum that would bring people together, that would be able to help sew up the tear in the social fabric that this Liberal government has caused. The minister refuses to listen to that.
Mr. Speaker, I do not like standing on the floor of this House and speaking in this aggressive manner. But, Mr. Speaker, I have to speak in this aggressive manner because I want to put full hope - I want the minister to do the right thing. I know that the minister is going to come back with an amendment that would likely say, "not until I have finished this review."
Well, I want the minister to know that the minister cannot freeze the social problems or the economic problems, or any of the problems of the world.
These aren't super heroes where you just spray somebody and they're frozen in place and in time, and the problems are solved. This is not that. These are not comic-book heroes. These are serious social problems that exist within the Yukon Territory.
If the minister feels that he can freeze these social problems because the minister has such a value placed on prevention, then it's not going to happen.
Does the minister have an admirable goal? Absolutely. Prevention could and should be the absolute goal. But, Mr. Speaker, it's going to take many years for that to kick into place - many, many years. But God bless the minister, and I hope that it does proceed in that manner.
It was over a year ago - well over a year ago - that I brought this Child, Youth and Family Advocacy Act before the Legislature. It was on National Child Day that I tabled that. Mr. Speaker, that's just a couple short weeks away.
What did the minister say he was going to do? The minister said they'd look at it, they'd consult and, by golly, that they were going to move in that direction. Well, Mr. Speaker, this is a year now, and I don't see us moving in that direction. I wish I could look back, and I wish I could see the blazes on the trees that the minister has made that are going toward the achievement and for the benefit of the children I'm speaking about. I wish I could see that, or I wish I could look into the future and see a commitment from the minister that this was going to be on the legislative calendar - whenever, but preferably this fall. Preferably - we have the time; we have the commitment, and I'll offer - by golly, I'll even offer on behalf of the Yukon Party. It's that important to the Yukon Party because they, too, have a social conscience - as the New Democrats have a social conscience - to move forward with this most important act.
Is it going to happen? Well, I don't know. We'll have to hear what the minister says, because when the Liberals were in opposition there was clear support for a children's advocate - absolutely clear support. It was during the budget debate in April 1998 that the Member for Riverdale South questioned the minister, both justifying and requesting a children's advocate, and she linked that to the group home review taking place at that time.
In a tribute on National Child Day, November 18, 1999, the Member for Riverdale South said - this is a direct quote and a most elegant one - "Some day it's my hope that we will celebrate this day in the Legislature with the appointment of a child advocate or child ombudsman, so that gaps in services for children will be recognized and that children will stop falling between the cracks in the system."
Well, that was one heck of a statement from the Member for Riverdale South, because I remember the Minister of Health at the time, sitting to my right, listening carefully as we all did to what the Member for Riverdale South was saying. We listened carefully and we made a commitment at that time as a group to bring this forth in the next legislative sitting that would be available. We had done that as a caucus. We had put our caucus and our hopes and thoughts and aspirations behind the Member for Riverdale South, even though the Member for Riverdale South was of an opposite political party, because we rose above the political partisanship and looked at what the member was saying, and the member is now a minister, and I would expect that minister to be able to show full support.
But, as I say, Mr. Speaker, it's years later. It's years later, and we're still here. Now, it was just a year ago that the present Minister of Health - the Member for Porter Creek North, I believe - had said, and I quote, "We haven't formulated the legislation yet because we're still consulting. We're taking our time to ensure that we do it right. It is going to be there for the long term. We want to make sure of the right points and put the right support where it needs to be. So once again, we're working to do it right."
Well, Mr. Speaker, in the Yukon Territory here, we're coming into the winter season, and it seems that it's dark all the time, especially, I guess, for my colleague to the north, the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin. That's one example. But I can state in true retrospect that the whole Yukon Territory goes through this one long night of winter. So I would say to the minister that it can be achieved, it could have been achieved, and it should have been achieved, but it hasn't been achieved.
What's it going to take? Another long Yukon winter night for this member to - not consult, because the consultation has been done. The time for action is here. The time for action should be now. The - is it the Gove report? Off the top of my head I just can't quite remember, Mr. Speaker. It was triggered by a terribly unfortunate situation that happened in a group home in British Columbia. I believe it was in Prince George. It took the death of a child - and I don't think that child was more than 10 years old, and I bet that child lived a hard life and had some of the knocks and hard experiences in life that some people who are 40 or 50 years old have not felt. And I asked myself, after listening to many people of the Yukon Territory, having presentations from some of those children - Mr. Speaker, I know that in your previous life as an RCMP officer and others' previous lives of professionalism - when we work together hand-in-hand with some of those children. I'd take - maybe I shouldn't, but it would probably be personal responsibility for a death if a death was the trigger of this act, because I'd think that I hadn't worked hard enough, that I hadn't prayed hard enough, that I hadn't asked for enough guidance for these children in need, because I have heard children come in and talk about suicide.
Mr. Speaker, the minister obviously will ask, as the minister always points out to me, where my sources are. I'd be glad to share my sources. They are in group homes throughout the Yukon Territory at this point in time. That's where they are. Those people, those children, are who felt the comfort to be able to come to me and say, "I have a problem." And when those children and some of the people came, it wasn't in a mode of can-you-help-me. There were threats, there was violence, there was this horror of "Nobody can help me, and I have reached out and nobody can help me." Yet they thought, "Oh, I'm going to give this fellow a chance because I haven't chatted with this fellow." So they came in and talked to me.
Well, I have to tell you that my heart just dropped right through to my moccasins when I was sitting talking to those kids, because it was - well, it moved me emotionally, very emotionally - and I am an emotional person, because I am here for a reason and that reason is not monetary; that reason is to help, to be able to help the people of my riding and the people of the Yukon Territory. That is what I am here for and that is what I want to see. I want to see that we can stand together, that we can be united together for our children in care.
Mr. Speaker, best efforts just don't cut it. It just doesn't cut it. We can't sit and say that the problems are going to go away as we contemplate, as we consult. The time for consultation and contemplation is over.
The Liberals have been a government for nigh on 18 months. They have had the opportunity. They have had the chance. They have the capacity within their ranks. They have the Member for Riverdale South. They have the Member for Lake Laberge that has capacity and experience in this House. They have the Member for Porter Creek South, the Premier, who, at that time, agreed with it. I am going back to 1998. We are coming up to the eve of a new year, 2002, yet we still consistently seem to be searching for our moccasin rubber so we can walk that mile with the people who need it the most. But we are still trying to find the tools to go and consult. That time is over. We need action. We need to be able to protect the people.
I tabled an act in this House: the Child, Youth and Family Advocacy Act. It is a complete mirror of what has happened in British Columbia. Do I say that this is the answer? I say that this is the absolute basis of an answer and that the people - our people within government, our people outside of government, the NGOs - should be able to put together a cracker-jack, bang-up Child, Youth and Family Advocacy Act.
Because, what is it about? It's basically about protecting children in need. It's about ensuring greater openness. It's about ensuring accountability. It's about ensuring an ongoing commitment to improve service to children by government and by community.
Mr. Speaker, not once have I said in this House that this is the sole responsibility of government.
There is such a vast array - I could tell you that there are a lot of people out there who are willing to be partners and stakeholders on a government-to-government basis, on an NGO-to-government basis, on an individual-to-government basis. There are many people out there who would be able to do that.
I won't get on and describe the mechanics of it, but the intent is to protect and preserve the future of the Yukon Territory, the people of the Yukon Territory, the communities of the Yukon Territory.
In a nutshell, that's exactly what it's all about.
So I would like to ask this minister to stand on his feet now, and I will likely be the only speaker to this motion. I'd like to ask this minister to be able to stand on his feet in this House and to give concrete direction as to when it's going to be implemented and how it's going to be implemented. And, Mr. Speaker, if it's not going to be done in this legislative sitting, I would like to know when it is going to be done.
Mr. Speaker, I thank you for taking the time to listen to me. I very much appreciate talking and chatting with you and expressing my views in this House. I take it as not only an opportunity, but as a duty, to bring forth what I feel, in a very emotional sense, what the needs of the territory are. My grandchildren and my great-grandchildren will continue to inhabit this earth, and I want to see that done in a manner where everybody has an equal opportunity.
All of the children of the Yukon Territory, whether they're in trouble now - well, Mr. Speaker, I think I'm a living example of that - you can change. You can absolutely move forward.
I think there are many examples of success in this Legislature, and I think that we have the obligation, the duty - whether it's moral or legal - to do the right thing for the children of the Yukon Territory.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: In response to the comments by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, there are a few corrections I'd like to make first. One of the comments made by the member opposite was that decisions are made by sole people. I don't make decisions by myself, Mr. Speaker. Decisions are made by the Liberal team, and that is 11 elected MLAs. That's how decisions on this side are made, Mr. Speaker. We have worked as a team from the beginning; we continue to work as a team; and we will always work as a team, because that's what we believe in. We believe in the team concept of making decisions.
Also, Mr. Speaker, I know the member made a comment or an observation about reviews, the ones that are currently in place. The member opposite said something to the effect - and I'm not going to quote him specifically - that the issues around that were brought on by the opposition. The member opposite knows full well that, when decisions are made by a government, it takes time. They're not made overnight. Now maybe that's how the government of yesterday made decisions; they made them like that. Then obviously the fallout of it was something else. So to think that because they brought forward the - what I call the "petition", forcing us into something. That's not even in the cards, Mr. Speaker. We were doing this all along, but we were ensuring that we had all the facts before we jumped into something. So I wouldn't want the members opposite to think that they are taking full credit for us moving ahead with two major reviews that are now underway in the Yukon. This was brought about by our leadership as a Liberal government.
The other issue, I gather, that the member opposite had mentioned was the CT scanner, and I could elaborate on that all afternoon, Mr. Speaker, but I'll wait until, hopefully, this comes forward in another motion because, again, the facts should be presented as they were presented. But members opposite sometimes choose not to give all the facts.
The other comment that the member opposite made was that the diagnostic team that I have "refused to" - and those are the words I heard the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes say - that I refused to consider the diagnostic-team approach. I told the member just the other day that that report is still coming to me. How could I refuse something I haven't even seen the report on? So, for the member to make comments like that, Mr. Speaker - I find that just not acceptable. I really find it not acceptable.
Then the member opposite made a comment about taking away the dollar value for those most in need. What was the member referring to? I was scratching away here, trying to find out what program we reduced the funding for our people most in need. None, Mr. Speaker. If anything, we have put forward initiatives that are helping single moms. We now allow single moms to stay with their children until the age of five. That was an innovation for which, basically, we received so many pats on the back from our single moms that they believe we are the first coming. They really believe that we did what it takes to try to resolve some of those early problems with children. So that's one issue.
And the other issue we allowed in our legislation was to ensure that we increased the number of dollars for single moms so they could keep more of their wage earnings, rather than having to give it up because of the way the system has developed. So I don't know where the member was coming from with those kinds of comments that we lowered or took away money. We didn't.
Finally, just another correction here, just for the member opposite: the member opposite hasn't mentioned it, but the Children's Act itself, the Children's Act that we currently operate under has not been reviewed for 17 years. I find that scandalous, Mr. Speaker - 17 years that the most fundamental people of our society, the future of our society, that we haven't looked at our Children's Act for 17 years. And guess what, Mr. Speaker, we've been in government, as the member said, 18 months, and we've already highlighted that as a major concern of ours. The members opposite were in government many times during those 17 years, and not once did they look at the Children's Act. So for them to point fingers and say that we're not following through on what they have come forward with, this motion to have a child advocate, and then to point the finger at us as not doing anything, I think the member opposite should look at history a bit.
Now, to get to the real issue here, Mr. Speaker. I've just tried to correct some of what I think were issues here that I, from my perspective, didn't see as being the way I have seen them come down. So I just wanted to do that first.
What this motion does, it draws attention to, as I said before, the private member's bill titled the Children, Youth and Family Advocacy Act. Of course, it makes reference to children and youth in government care. First of all, we as a government, as the member opposite so eloquently said, are concerned about children. They are our future. We want to do the best job we can with our young people, and if we haven't got the power or the rules or the regulations or the laws to do it, then make sure that we do them. But, Mr. Speaker, there's a little proviso to that: let's make sure we do our homework that will lead up to making some of those changes.
Yes, in opposition, the Liberals stated very clearly, as the member has mentioned here, that we had supported the idea of having a child advocate, but I can tell the member right now that this government, at this point in time, will not put forward the private member's bill, and here are some of the reasons.
First of all, in the act - and the member said that - it mirrors what they took from B.C., but not only does it mirror that, it actually has stated in there that this makes reference to the provincial court of the Yukon. Guess what, Mr. Speaker? We don't have a province here. So, right there, is a problem. It's easy to cut and paste, but that's a major error. We couldn't support something like that. Again, that shows the lack of what I call research and effort put into this act. It's just thrown out there because, when they were government, they didn't do it.
As well, the official opposition, from our perspective - we have not seen what I would think is even more important - the whole effort being brought around at looking at the Children's Act itself, which is even probably more serious. Why would we want to layer on another aspect of the act when the Children's Act has not been looked at for 17 years. This would be another act standing out there, hopefully doing a very good thing - I wouldn't deny that - but the problem with it is that we have some major issues around the Children's Act itself.
It seems to me we should first go back to square one before we start fiddling with the act, fiddling with other acts, without sort of looking at the major emphasis that gives us the support and drive that we need in order to respond to children in need.
I don't know. I find it difficult to believe, Mr. Speaker, that the members opposite would be trying to score political points on the backs of children by throwing this advocacy act out there and then saying, "Well, just adopt it, because we never did when we were in government, but we want you to do it." It's not that I disagree with the idea, but why didn't they do it? Why are we, all of a sudden, the bad guys because we haven't done it in a year? They had three and a half years and they didn't do it.
Another reason why we will not support this act, Mr. Speaker, is because it has not been vetted with all our partners. This has not been discussed with the community. It has not been discussed with First Nations. It has not been discussed with NGO groups. The member opposite always points at us and says that we don't consult, and then on the other hand he will just throw this act in there and we're supposed to adopt it and get it going because, "We said it's good."
Mr. Speaker, we could not accept that. We have to work government to government. We believe in our partners. Again, as the member opposite said, this is a complete duplicate of the act coming out of B.C. This is not B.C. We're very different in many ways. We need to reflect what Yukoners are all about. We need to reflect what First Nations' needs are all about, and they're quite different from what they are in B.C., because they have very few land claim settlements there. We have progressed much further with this whole area of working government to government than B.C. has, so to say that we should just start with that one and go from there is, to me, a little presumptuous.
Of course, I should tell you, Mr. Speaker - and I've shared this on many occasions with the members opposite. I know they don't like to hear that I'm kind of a busy traveller, but even though they like to say that I don't travel, while in the territory I travel a lot. I really get to the communities and I really try to talk to people. I just mentioned that earlier in Question Period.
I talked to the chiefs. I talked to the village mayor and I talked to the people in the communities. In not one of these areas and not one of these discussions did I hear one of them mention anything about child advocacy - not one.
I'm not saying it isn't a good thing, I'm just saying it is not the time, at this point.
It has not even been suggested as a framework for future legislation by the people I have connected with. When I meet with First Nation governments, we discuss ways and means that we can work together. That's what we're trying to do. And we know that there are different jurisdictions. We have DIAND, we have YTG, we have First Nation governments, we have community governments. There are a lot of governments, and that means a meshing of ideas.
So it's not simple just to throw something on the legislative calendar - or a motion forward and say, "How come you haven't adopted it? How come you haven't done it?"
I think this brings me to a second aspect of this motion, which I find very difficult - not difficult, but I believe, from our perspective, and I shared this with you before - that we as a Liberal government have shown over and over again that we're committed to children.
If we put this motion forward the way it is, this would give us sort of an incorrect view of what that means, because the whole idea of us, as government, is to continue to serve children and to improve services for children in care.
We have started that, Mr. Speaker. We are doing our homework right now.
I guess the political will of the previous government, as we found out - or at least when I stepped into my shoes as Health minister - looked at what we call unfunded, what I call unorganized in many respects. You had all these unfunded positions all over the government, and they were not part of the regular budget, and my first question to my DM was, "Well, what is this unfunded? What do you mean it's unfunded?" They have been unfunded for years, and so there are all kinds of degrees of uncertainty given to employers, employees, because they are just casuals or auxiliaries.
Well, we turned that around and, if there are programs that have been in place for a number of years, then we offered them as permanent positions to give them security, to give them certainty. When we took on government we had a lot of these unfunded positions, so our budget, the real budget, went from close to a $7-million increase because of all the unfunded programs that were out there. There were actually programs that had been going on for years but, somehow, through smoke and mirrors, there was this idea that they weren't real programs, and yet they were.
I guess the other thing that we have looked at, and you know, continue to look at - there is a lot of research out there right now and the research is obviously to help us see where people are coming from and where people want to go and where the community wants to go. It was felt that we had to do some more, what I call little steps, before we could get into big steps in making changes and so that comes back to the reviews that we put in place. We hired a professor, a world-renowned professor in the area of child and youth care, to review our government's group home system. And his report - probably in the next week or two - I am probably going to get a copy of it, because he has finished his review - and we felt that was another step that had to be taken down the path at looking at what our needs are.
So that's kind of a building block. I call that a building block for the future. I had, on occasion, time to speak to this person. He has spoken to hundreds of people. My understanding is that he has even had an opportunity to speak to the member opposite, at least on one occasion that I know of - the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes - and I'm appreciative that he took this offer. I think that shows a good sign of trying to work together. I believe that's very positive.
I guess, from our perspective, we feel that when that report comes down, there are going to be some ideas and recommendations in there that are going to be fairly profound for the future of children in care. Again, it would be presumptuous of us to move ahead, to put an advocacy role in there at this point, when we have that component not yet complete. So that's another point - why we believe that the advocacy role has to wait.
And of course it's important for us that we continue to work with our partners. We've had a steering committee - a steering committee that was composed of, I think, five people - which we felt was a very strong advocacy group that worked with our person from Victoria. They provided the researcher with a lot of solid Yukon ideas and support. Our reviewer also had the opportunity to travel to the rural areas. Now, he didn't travel to every community, but he did travel to a number of them. He actually presented news on the media. He was very open to sharing what he was hearing, and I believe, when we get his report, we're going to again have another very important building block for helping our children, the future of the Yukon.
We didn't stop there, Mr. Speaker. We just said that this is not the end. I mean, here's a government, 18 months in office, and already doing some major decision making. First of all, we're reviewing the children who are in residential care - a fairly major job and not done by the previous government in the same way that we have done it. They did some reviews. I can remember they did a review on the Gibbs group home. That was obviously more specific, but this is a fairly general one.
Then we went beyond that. We contacted the Children's Welfare League of Canada and said, "We're going to do a technical review on all children in care." Now, that's currently underway. Of course, these are all reviews or advocacy issues. These people are advocates for the betterment of children in care, and therefore the betterment of children in general, because they are going to be looking at our act and at all our regulations, and they're going to be coming forward with their independent views of what we as a government should do and where we should go with children in residential establishments.
I think that report will not be due until probably the new year because, as I speak, they are currently - that's the second report, Mr. Speaker. The first report is done, but I haven't received it yet. The second report is now underway. So, just to get them in tandem like that is great because it's another building block.
I should tell you that that is the job of the Children's Welfare League of Canada. They just completed a review of the Guelph Children's Aid Society. They did the one in the Northwest Territories, I think, a year or two ago, and it's supposed to be one of the models in Canada. We believe we have some of the best people in Canada to do what we think is very important in helping us build for the future.
This is the Liberal government that is committed to children. We are committed to doing the best job that we can, Mr. Speaker. But we're doing our homework.
I know that the members opposite get really frustrated when I say "homework". Of course, that builds on my career in my past history as a school teacher and school principal, because I know sometimes that it is good to do kind of a knee-jerk reaction and just go do it. And then you say, "My gosh, did I do the right thing?"
I think if the member opposite - I know that he says he is very emotional and he can get very dramatic. I guess I can too. That's why he and I get along so well in the House. We're kind of similar characters. We can kind of respond and understand each other.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I'm not sure I'd go that far but -
So, I think as a government we are committed to the advocacy of children - committed.
Again, just to move this building stone and the building blocks even a little farther, we have just concluded a long discussion with the Council of Yukon First Nations on setting up the First Nation secretariat with Health and Social Services, so it's just imminent when we are going to put somebody in that position. That person will be located over at CYFN and they will work hand-in-hand, jointly under the leadership of the Health department and CYFN. So that's another building stone.
I think what we're doing here is really developing what I think we have to do for the future and really looking at the major issues that are going to be facing us as a society, and the ones that are now very, I would call, weak in the sense of our current Children's Act that we have now in place.
I can tell you, Yukoners have always made me feel welcome during their community visits. They believe I'm an honest soldier. Yes, I speak my mind. I don't always have the right answer. I don't always - maybe sometimes I'm so over-positive about doing things, sometimes I'm misquoted or I'm misunderstood. But I try not to be. I try to be very up front about where I'm coming from. When I meet with people, I definitely share with them my views of things. My views are not set in stone, Mr. Speaker. I would always like to think that I was a person who was open and could be influenced by good arguments, good discussions and good debate because, to me, that's what leadership's all about. It's not being set in stone and just doing what I want to do.
If that takes a little time to do, Mr. Speaker, then I guess that's what's happening right now. It's taking us a little time to put all these building blocks in place.
So we're very, very optimistic about how this secretariat is going to be set up. I've had a lot of discussions with the Grand Chief and his group, and they're very excited about setting up this secretariat. So we're very, very hopeful that we can do this in the very near future. It's ready to go. We're just waiting now for the various parties to get together and actually advertise for the position and move on with it. So that's another form of advocacy I can see, Mr. Speaker, for children, for families.
Mr. Speaker, as we have stated in opposition, we are not opposed to advocacy at all. I mean, as I pointed out to the members opposite, I've given you lots of things that we have done to promote the advocacy of families and children in the territory. Our hope is that, Mr. Speaker, we can build for even more work to be done in this whole area. As I said to the members opposite, Mr. Speaker, we will continue to dialogue with Yukoners. We will continue to work on our building blocks.
And, as I said as well, we don't have all the information from some of our building blocks - for example, the residential care component. I haven't received a report yet. I am hoping that by the end of November I will have that report. And then, of course, the children in care - our whole family and children's services review. That approach and that report will probably get to me by the middle of January. They are working on that right now.
So, as I mentioned, the fact that we have a few things in here like "provincial court" in this present model of an act - and I know it was an error on the part of the member opposite, but that is one very good reason why we couldn't adopt this motion at this point. And we have to really look at what this means for us as a government.
I would hope that this was a serious effort by the members opposite to really move ahead in trying to develop more support and more care for our children and our families. I am hoping that it is not scoring political points. I would hope that is not the reason they brought it forward. Because for members opposite to expect us in 18 months to suddenly come forward with this act and put it in place because they have brought it forward, and not do all the homework that leads to whatever we are going to do in the future, I think would be irresponsible on our part. We want to make sure that we are doing our homework.
And, of course, as I said earlie, we will not support the motion because it does not reflect the careful research or consultation that First Nations and community governments need. And I said to the members opposite many times that it has never been raised with me at any of these meetings. It doesn't mean that it isn't an issue. A lot of issues have been raised around children in care - definitely. And we are of course responding to that by having two major reviews and the third one by setting up a secretariat, which I think is going to be a real insight into working together, government to government. So we are really optimistic about that.
And of course we don't rule it out of hand that, in the future, hopefully, when we look at some of the more pressing needs, like the Children's Act, if that's the route we go - which hasn't been looked at for 17 years - then there are some things that have to come first. And I think that line-up of chronology I have presented to the House today will hopefully give the members opposite the rationale and reasons why we believe we can't support this motion at this point. We're not opposed to it, as far as the concept of advocacy, but we believe that some of the things we're doing right now are supporting that whole advocacy role in many ways.
Again, coming back to my bottom line here, we are doing our homework because we want to do it right. We know what's going to happen if, in the future, we move ahead and do a review of the Children's Act. That isn't going to be a simple matter, and the members opposite know that. Look at all the discussion we have around the Education Act. It has been under review for two and a half years.
You know, we want to make sure our homework is done. If we move down that path, we want to make sure we have prepared the way here. Initially, when the Education Act was brought forward, it wasn't our review in the first place. We adopted that as a government because the former government had brought it forward. By the example we see here, we want to make sure we get all our ducks in a row and our homework done, and then we'll move into the next stage. And this is why it takes some time.
So, we're not going to do a knee-jerk reaction here, Mr. Speaker. We will not be supporting this motion, but we will be moving toward building what I call the "overall umbrella" that is going to support children and families in the future and over the long term.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, what we have before the Legislature today is a motion in support of a child advocacy act. Given the number of problems we're seeing and experiencing with respect to the Minister of Health and Social Services' responsibilities, it's only fair and fitting that we go to the next step, because obviously, within the confines of the existing legislation, this minister is failing miserably to address his responsibilities.
I guess the editorial in today's Yukon News sums it up well, and the position taken by the author of the editorial is that the ministers, or the officials in this government, are very honest. No one's having a quarrel with that, Mr. Speaker, but it went on to say that they are very politically inept, and that, while it was only referring to one individual in this Liberal government, holds true for quite a number of individuals.
What we have is a series of legislation currently in place, and flowing from that legislation, Mr. Speaker, are regulations. The regulations can be changed at the whim of the minister responsible for that portfolio.
With just a simple letter, an order-in-council - it's a done deal. More and more, we are relying on regulations than we are on the legislation that governs these specific areas. That was started in Canada under one of those famous Prime Ministers, Mr. Trudeau. It subsequently appeared to be an easy and simple way for the government of the day to proceed - take more and more out of the legislation and put it into the regulations. We're seeing that time and time again.
When it comes to the forefront, and where we immediately recognize there's a problem, is in the area of our youth - our youth at risk and our youth in care. It's only because of the minister's failure to address his responsibilities in looking after these individuals and their well-being that we are in this dilemma.
I can understand why the official opposition tabled a child advocacy act in this Legislature. It's because of the tremendous degree of frustration with, primarily, the Minister of Health not being able to address his responsibilities with the youth in our society, the youth in care and the youth at risk.
I guess we can call it political bungling. We can't refer to it as anything else, Mr. Speaker.
We look at some of the initiatives underway by this government - this novice Liberal government. They are going to reorganize government, and one of the first initiatives was a drug and alcohol secretariat.
It appears that all that is taking place is that we're reshuffling the arrangement according to which the officials within the minister's department work, and moving them off arm's-length to an organization that the minister will be chastising, I'm sure, if this organization doesn't succeed.
He had all the tools at his disposal to operate the programs that currently exist to enhance them, and it would be his responsibility to ensure that they're working adequately to meet the needs of members of our society who are experiencing a problem or have a problem with drug and alcohol abuse.
Let's stand back and look at what the government has done on this initiative. They've formed a secretariat. They've eliminated any flow of funding to any of the organizations or community groups that dealt with this area. That was it. Then they sent the new principal who was hired to oversee the drug and alcohol secretariat around the Yukon to get a feel for the order of magnitude of the problem and to address it.
We haven't met the needs of any of the individuals afflicted by drugs and alcohol. Their cries are by and large going unheard today by the Government of the Yukon. That in itself is a shame, Mr. Speaker.
Now, the issue of children in care is a very, very delicate issue, Mr. Speaker, in that the Government of the Yukon is firmly vested with the responsibility to look after these Yukoners. It has a legal, a moral and an ethical obligation to look after these youth. Given the number of children who are entering into government care, even in our dwindling population, it's at an all-time high under this minister's watch, Mr. Speaker. But it's all dealt with behind closed doors, and it's all dealt with out of the public domain. The only time that the general public realizes there is a problem is when one of these individuals falls on troubled times or complains. The response of the current government of the day is that these individuals in government care are not permitted to speak to anyone. They're wards of this government, and we will tell them when they can speak with anyone or raise a concern or an alarm.
Now, is that fair, Mr. Speaker? These individuals are muzzled by this very minister.
This Child, Youth and Family Advocacy Act that we have before us will address that issue. And, furthermore, when I listened to the ramblings of the Minister of Health on this very important issue, the only fault that he could point out was that there was some mention of provincial courts in the act that was tabled, and he cited the official opposition for not doing their homework.
I can recall when this act was tabled. This House was told that this act was taken from the Province of British Columbia. Yes, there were probably a few areas where the reference to "provincial jurisdiction" should have been corrected to read "Yukon jurisdiction", but that can be easily done, Mr. Speaker, with a very, very simple amendment here on the floor. But no, that is thrown up by this minister as being one of the major impediments to this novice, little government not moving forward on this initiative - because there is some minute reference to "provincial court" versus "Yukon court". The minister went on at great length to say that any initiative that they undertake is done after careful research or consultation with Yukoners. Well, look at the track record of this careful research or consultation on acts to date, Mr. Speaker.
The one that comes quickly to mind is the Education Act. It's very, very interesting, now that the Minister of Education has cut off funding to CYFN for their input and initiative, they have to disband their whole working group - very, very interesting, Mr. Speaker.
So I'm sure, at the end of the day, the Minister of Education will say, "Yes, but we had careful research and consultation with Yukoners." Sure - reality appears to be somewhat different from what we are advised by the ministers responsible for these areas.
When we look at the other ministers, Mr. Speaker, and their respective areas, we have the Minister of Community and Transportation Services all over the wall with respect to what she charges Yukoners in various Yukon communities where the Government of Yukon is the taxing authority for the provision of water and sewer. But I have to give this government credit. There is one area where they're consistent across the whole Yukon Territory where they provide that service: a bottle of whiskey is the same price in Watson Lake and Whitehorse and all of the communities where they represent delivery of that service.
It would be nice if this government could do the same for the provision of water and sewer and other areas for which they are responsible. I think that would be much more important.
Mr. Speaker, this Child, Youth and Family Advocacy Act is before us - and let us not mistake the reason it's before us. It's because of the failure of this government and this Minister of Health and Social Services to address the problems he is experiencing within this area of his responsibilities. He hasn't been able to, nor does he appear able to.
I had a lot more hope for the Minister of Health and Social Services, and I'd like to commend the minister for attending a public meeting in my community early this summer. It wasn't well-advertised, but due to a tremendous campaign by a number of our residents, the six or seven chairs for those they anticipated would attend grew to some 40-odd. The minister sat there with his officials, taking notes.
The issues of concern that were discussed and relayed to the minister were the on-call fee for doctors and the fact that the women in our community are required to come to Whitehorse to await the birth of their child, primarily at their own expense, unless, of course, they are First Nation, in which case they are covered by their extended health care - uninsured health care program. So, we know full well there is a double standard in existence. We know full well that government has shut down the hospitals in Mayo and Dawson and required that the delivery of babies be done virtually in Whitehorse.
And then there was the issue surrounding a group home in Bear Creek or children in care or open custody - whatever you wanted to call it - the minister focused in that it wasn't that; it was something else. At the end of the day I think the message became clear to the minister that he had a problem on all these three fronts.
The minister said he would get back to the community, and he did, Mr. Speaker. This fall, the minister wrote to everyone in attendance at that public meeting in June and said he was encouraging them to form a health committee to look at the issues. It sounded like we were all at a different meeting, the minister at his own meeting and looking at himself in the mirror and being pleased with the reflection. But the community certainly wasn't - and hasn't been.
I guess the bottom line, Mr. Speaker, is this minister just can't listen to the concerns of the community. In spite of his government having a $99-million surplus, they are unable to address the health care needs of Yukoners. They are unable, and they're proving equally inept in all of the areas encompassing their responsibilities, save and except the few. Why, Mr. Speaker? One can only sum it up by saying that they're novice and they're politically inept.
This government - as have previous governments, and will bond future governments of Yukon - has a responsibility to the youth in our society.
They've muzzled them when they've come forward. And who better to ask when there is a problem than those being affected by that problem? Who is best to ask? Those individuals -
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes to conclude.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Who better to ask but the individuals who are affected?
This Child, Youth and Family Advocacy Act that is before us, Mr. Speaker, would allow that avenue and would allow that path. It would probably assist the minister, but no, he wants to carefully consult and research.
I know that the minister has spoken, and I doubt that any of the other Liberal backbenchers or Cabinet ministers will be speaking to this motion. They've probably been instructed not to, Mr. Speaker. But there is a wonderful opportunity here to deal with a very serious Yukon issue, and I would encourage them to explore this Child, Youth and Family Advocacy Act with more than just a cursory overview and, because it has been tabled by the official opposition, to discard it completely. It shouldn't be. It should be seriously looked at and contemplated. I would encourage this Liberal government to do so.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If the member now speaks he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the second opportunity to be able to speak to what I believe is a very critical motion. I will be brief, absolutely brief. I am terribly disappointed - terribly disappointed - that we would be - not we, pardon me, let me clarify that - that the government of the day would actually play politics and hide behind excuses - not one excuse, but a litany of excuses. There are so many excuses that the government can't remember all the excuses. And there seems to be another excuse come on the floor.
It is unfortunate that the Yukon territorial people have to be held hostage by this rookie government. It is terrible.
I offer an olive branch - it is not accepted. I put my heart on the line, which represents people's views and, in most cases, it is not accepted. Yet we can hide behind an excuse - the provincial court of the Yukon.
Well, I have been involved in a lot of legislation. I have been involved in putting together, on the legislative committee, the Yukon First Nations land claim and self-government agreements. Talk about complex. But, I do know that, within that process, there are processes called - I believe it is errata - where it is checked and cleaned up and clarified as to what the actual meaning is. And to be able to hide behind a statement like that when you know that there is a process of correction, well, by golly, it is a sad day for the Yukon Territory, and especially for the children in need in the Yukon Territory.
This government has had 18 months to be able to bring forth small changes, incremental changes, so we can get to the big picture, and to be able to do the right thing for the people who need it most. Yet this minister says he has gone to First Nations and, yes, in this case, a lot of the children affected - possibly 90 percent - are First Nation children. If this minister has gone into meetings with First Nation people, and they have not raised this issue with them, well, by golly, I would be a little worried about that. Folks will bring something forward, looking for concrete answers when they're given a direction and asked about a need. People have to show their leadership, as they were elected to and, when they don't, they back away.
There are two ways to look at that, Mr. Speaker. Now, I know that the minister is over there, huddling with his cronies and not paying attention. He's going to be reading Hansard tomorrow and finding out what I said after the fact. They have already made up their minds, Mr. Speaker, that they're not going to support it.
The minister goes on to say, "We're not the bad guys; it hasn't been discussed with communities," that it's a government-to-government relationship. It's so nice to hear those motherhood statements, Mr. Speaker, but contained within a motherhood statement must be an action plan. If you don't have an action plan and you're giving out a motherhood statement, you soon forget what you're talking about and you start to categorize people. In this case, members across the way have categorized government-to-government relationships as "those people".
Well, the speaker says the government is committed to children. I think that what the government is committed to is confusing the people of the Yukon Territory.
Because they'll say one thing to get elected, and it sounds so good, and the majority of the people went for it. And then they'll come up and say, "Well, that's what we said but that's not what we meant." That's exactly what it said in the election campaign, or that's exactly what this minister said in the street, but that's not what he meant. This is what he meant.
Well, I'll tell you, Mr. Speaker, I heard that from the Liberal ranks in Ottawa - senior levels, bureaucratic control.
What we need here is a willingness to move forward for the people, the people who need it the most. I know the minister likes to speak to prevention. That will eventually happen. I'm certain of that. All Yukon people want the same thing. There are only 30,000 of us and, by golly, if we can't work together then I'd better get out of politics.
The minister says the research - and I have to do my homework. Well, we can study the situation. We can study it and study it and study it, and we can do our homework, but at some point in time, Mr. Speaker, the test is going to come.
The minister can clarify that, and the minister can bring forth an advocacy act, but what does the minister do? The minister doesn't want to showcase the New Democrats. That is fine, because the New Democrats, as is the Yukon Party, are not here to showcase themselves - not here. If the minister wants to put his own touch, his own particular brand and his name on it, well, God bless the minister and I'll support the minister in that and I'll vote for that. That's not a problem.
If it's cosmetics and the minister wants to wear a different shade of lipstick than somebody else - well, the minister doesn't wear lipstick, pardon me. But if it's cosmetics and it's only cosmetics, well, then let's get over the cosmetics, Mr. Speaker. Let's quit hiding behind a Halloween mask, the masquerade of leadership.
Let's quit that. Let's just say we don't want to do it, and we ain't gonna do it because my name ain't out there on the marquee lights. For goodness' sake, the minister classified himself as an honest soldier. What does that make me, a dishonest warrior? I mean, let's give our heads a shake, and let's put the egos aside.
He says he's often misquoted. Mr. Speaker, I take delight in reading the quote to the House, because the minister isn't misquoted. The minister might wish he had been misquoted and didn't say that. Gosh, I've said that in this House here, too, or I got a spanking here last year for doing the same thing, and I haven't said it again. Well, I'm willing to spank the minister, if that's what it takes. If that's what it takes for the minister to hunker down and do the right thing, I can introduce him to my mother and she can give him that same spanking she gave me. And whether you're 49 and you get a spanking or you're 59, if you deserve it, you deserve it. So let's quit hiding behind the masquerades, the smokescreen. Let's quit saying we're doing the homework, because freezing the situation, freezing the time - Mr. Speaker, today I saw the invisible man on that side. I've seen Mr. Freeze on that side. I can say categorically that we have a cartoon situation happening here, and they're forgetting what it's all about. They're forgetting the people of the Yukon. I guarantee you, Mr. Speaker, I'm going to have a prediction for you.
With a $99-million surplus, I'd say we're going to implement the community's budgets, but we're hoarding it. That's going to backfire. That's definitely going to backfire, because people need immediate services. I do not want a child to die. I don't want a tragedy as a trigger so that we can all go boo-hoo in this House with the crocodile tears. I don't want that to happen.
Mr. Speaker, I'm absolutely astonished, and I'm absolutely appalled. But what I will say, Mr. Speaker, is that I'm not surprised. Nothing that happens at this point in time can surprise me. Even the inaction of some of the ministers does not surprise me - absolutely not. I mean, I have the Member for McIntyre-Takhini miming me on the opposite side of the floor. Well, Mr. Speaker, I have to say that's the most action and concrete direction I have seen from this minister in 18 months. It's a mime. We can move the lips but nothing comes out. Well, by golly, Mr. Speaker, I just have to point it out.
The minister stands on his feet and says, "We believe in consultation, and we're going to talk to people about consultation. And we're not only going to do that, but we're also going to go and consult." But Mr. Speaker, I understand that the First Nation child welfare council has been dissolved. So, now we have the Education Act folks being dissolved. We have the First Nation child welfare council being dissolved. Where in the heck are our partners or our consultation people? Where are they? Are they hidden behind a spruce tree in the deep forest? Is that where we do our consultation?
Because the minister says, "I haven't been in the communities." Well, Mr. Speaker, I met the minister one day, at a gas pump, for God's sake. I saw him coming across the bridge, and I saw his tail lights going down the road. Mr. Speaker, that was a self-serve gas pump. I wonder what kind of consultation took place there. I wonder.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I have been in the communities. I have been having coffee and tea with all the folks in my riding as much as possible. Would it be easy to get somebody to write a ghost letter and say, "Keenan ain't doing his job"? Shucks, it would be a piece of cake because I have not visited everybody. Have I attempted to? I can't even say that I have honestly attempted to visit everybody because I do my job - I listen, I work with the people, and I bring things forth.
The minister says, "We've filled casual positions" and "We've offered certainty to government employees."
God bless the government for building government. It's unfortunate that they are building it for themselves and they are not including partnerships in education, partnerships in child welfare - that's truly unfortunate, Mr. Speaker, especially when we have a $99-million surplus.
We could do the right thing. We could do it. We could offer certainty to the children who need it the most, instead of to a casual employee.
That even tells me that the minister is interfering in the Public Service Commission, and he shouldn't be interfering in the Public Service Commission - he shouldn't be.
Mr. Speaker, I've got to tell you - and I'll close now, because I think this is pathetic that we would use the children in need in the Yukon Territory as a political football. And I'll tell you, Mr. Speaker, that if that does happen, it won't work.
So, Mr. Speaker, I guess that we, on this side of the House, will be speaking in support of this, knowing that there are full processes for cleaning up the act, or Yukonizing the act, but I will also say that I am deeply troubled by the leaders of the Yukon at this point in time.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Disagree.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Disagree.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Disagree.
Mr. McLachlan: Disagree.
Ms. Tucker: Disagree.
Mr. McLarnon: Disagree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are five yea, 10 nay.
Speaker: The nays have it. I declare the motion defeated.
Motion No. 159 negatived
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Ms. Tucker: I would like to introduce one of my constituents, Mr. Bill Barnie, who has joined us.
Motion No. 152
Mr. Clerk: Motion No. 152, standing in the name of Mr. Jenkins.
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Klondike
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Whitehorse trolley has helped preserve the railway history of the Whitehorse waterfront, because if it were not for the trolley, the railroad tracks would likely have been removed by now;
THAT this House recognizes that the White Pass and Yukon Route roundhouse, which currently houses the Whitehorse trolley, is now being threatened by demolition; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to work with the City of Whitehorse and the Miles Canyon Railway Society to preserve the White Pass and Yukon Route roundhouse and to expand the trolley service from the Wal-Mart site to Schwatka Lake.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I believe this motion that we have before the House today is a very important motion, and I am going to start off by saying I will be very brief and that I would like to see all members speak to this motion, see where they stand, and see whether they are going to support this motion, or whether the Liberal government has muzzled all of their backbenchers and their Cabinet ministers.
I want to start by thanking the Miles Canyon Historical Railway Society for all the work that they have done. I am convinced, Mr. Speaker, that if it weren't for the Whitehorse trolley, there would not likely be any railroad tracks along the Whitehorse waterfront today. The tracks would have been torn up and thrown away, as many miles of tracks actually were.
In this way, the Whitehorse trolley has already performed an invaluable service in helping to preserve the Whitehorse railroad's history and the Whitehorse waterfront.
Mr. Speaker, you only have to look at any major city in Canada, and virtually all cities in Canada were built along a watercourse, on an ocean or a river, and you can go from coast to coast in Canada today - St. John's, Newfoundland; Halifax, Nova Scotia; Montreal, Quebec; Toronto; Winnipeg - it goes on and on - Vancouver, Victoria. I have left out many, but the amount of effort these cities have put into recognizing their history and developing some infrastructure along their waterfront has been phenomenal.
In fact, in many cases, it has moved commerce back into that area. It has moved residents back into that area. It has done a lot to develop these cities. We only have to look at the potential we have in Whitehorse with the Whitehorse waterfront for that area to be the theme of this whole community, and there seems to be a determination by not only this Liberal government but by previous Yukon governments to tear it all down and replace it with new structures. Why? We have probably the most recognized asset in our waterfront here in Whitehorse that we're failing to address and we are failing to take the steps needed to bring it to be an economic engine driver of the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, we only have to look today at the economy of the Yukon. Under this Liberal government, it's in the toilet. Whether it be mining or mining exploration, it's non-existent; whether it be oil and gas exploration - that's all gone, and it was known as soon as Anderson was bought out that this would occur, Mr. Speaker. The message and the handwriting were on the wall. Forestry - where is this wonderful relationship that this Yukon Liberal government has with the federal Liberal government in Ottawa to develop forestry.
We haven't seen any sign of that. The last bastion and hope of economic strength in the Yukon is our visitor industry. After the events of September 11, that is in serious question and jeopardy, Mr. Speaker.
But let's look at September 11 and at what Yukon can do to capture the opportunities that are still out there. What it's going to take is, number one, a firm marketing initiative, direct targeting to attract individuals here. Then we are going to have to put in place as many attractions and events as we possibly can. And this railroad, this little trolley that toots down First Avenue - or adjacent to 1st Avenue - can become one of those added attractions, Mr. Speaker. And well it should be, because if you look back in the history of Whitehorse, it grew up along the watercourse. If you start looking at the potential for extending the trolley from Wal-Mart, down along the waterfront, right up into Miles Canyon, and even along the Alaska Highway to take in the Beringia Centre and the other museums - the Transportation Museum. This little railroad could be an economic engine that drives a major amount of business our way.
Why are we ignoring it? And the same goes for the infrastructure, the roundhouse on the waterfront that's slated for demolition. Tie all these initiatives together, and we will really have something. It was just a few short years ago that the White Pass and Yukon railroad was shut down, Mr. Speaker. And today, the White Pass and Yukon railroad, in its current matter and form, is one of the fastest growing visitor attractions - not in Yukon, sad to say - in the State of Alaska. That initiative has done a lot for Skagway. For a couple of years in a row, the White Pass and Yukon railroad's growth was astronomical, as far as the revenue it generated.
There is a mystique around railroads and steam engines, and there is a whole group who want to witness and experience that area of our history. Just look back at some of the successful initiatives in the small train area. Take a trip to Maui - and I'm sure, Mr. Speaker, if you want to explore it, just talk to the Minister of Economic Development, and he'll get you a ticket to visit Maui and explore with him the little railroad there, the Sugar Cane Train, that runs from Lahaina to the other end of Maui and takes the visitors from one centre to the other centre.
It's a wonderful initiative and, for all the good that this Liberal government is doing, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Economic Development might as well take his whole caucus to witness this. Maybe they'll come back with some positive ideas - a Cabinet tour to the Sugar Cane Train in Maui so that they can come back and do something with the trolley here in Whitehorse. Given the justification we're hearing in this Legislature for some of the initiatives, I'm sure this would be an easy sell.
Mr. Speaker, the Whitehorse waterfront used to be the primary area for business and commerce. Let's now move to other areas. The history of the Whitehorse waterfront is characterized by the history of the White Pass and Yukon Route and its related companies, one of which operated the fleet of paddlewheelers that used to grace the shoreline. Whitehorse should never lose sight of its historical roots, and the Whitehorse waterfront should be developed in such a way as to capitalize on its railroad and riverboat history.
A train and a paddlewheeler are proudly displayed on the flag of the City of Whitehorse, yet there's little left on the waterfront that represents this colourful history, Mr. Speaker.
Much has been lost. Engine No. 73 is now in Skagway rather than Whitehorse and, as I said earlier, that has developed into a major visitor attraction for Skagway. The Whitehorse and the Casca were lost to fire. Thank goodness we still have the Keno and the Klondike.
Now we see that the locomotive maintenance building, known as the roundhouse, is being threatened with demolition, Mr. Speaker.
Why can't we learn about what we have? Why do we have to tear it down first, before we recognize its value? Can you imagine the visitor attraction that the Whitehorse waterfront could be today if Whitehorse had some of the original steam engines still operating there? There is unbelievable, fantastic potential. We have all of the tools right at hand, Mr. Speaker, and yet we're failing miserably to realize the potential.
We could keep these old train engines running, all the tools that were utilized to construct the paddle wheelers and to maintain the trains - there's a whole other type of museum, a practical museum with a practical application that could be enhanced, developed, serve a transportation corridor, and not just for our visitor industry but for our citizens alike. It would contribute to the economic well-being of not only Whitehorse but Yukon, because what we need, Mr. Speaker, to develop our visitor industry, are more attractions.
Now, the minister stands up and touts the stay-another-day program. Well, that's great, but you still have to have a series of attractions. The more attractions, the better. We're missing the train on this initiative, Mr. Speaker; we're missing the train.
Now, under the previous Yukon Party government, under its centennial anniversaries program, there was offer made to the City of Whitehorse of $1.5 million to create a lasting visitor attraction on the waterfront.
And I guess the previous Whitehorse city council, with the concurrence of the previous NDP government, chose to use half the money to provide the water and sewer infrastructure to probably one of the largest corporations in Canada and the U.S.
Well, I raised the issue of misappropriation of funds while in opposition, but the Liberals just followed merrily along - the commitment - and they provided all the infrastructure to what, as I said earlier, is one of the largest corporations in the world.
Only in Yukon, you say? Pity.
Before the last election, the Liberals seemed to come down on the side of not supporting this initiative. We heard extensively from the Member for Whitehorse Centre, who was purported to be the next Minister of Tourism but this never happened. The project went ahead. It's opening next week. And then I had someone who is very familiar with the economics of Yukon explain to me what businesses were going to be closing. Rather than it being an enhancement and a generator for our economy, I think the contrary might be the case.
Let's get back to what we can do from here. That's a done deal. Let's look at this little railroad; let's look at its potential. Why not extend it right from Wal-Mart, right down along the waterfront, continue it along the waterfront, curve it up to the campground, take it up Miles Canyon, and extend it along the Alaska Highway and have it end up at the Beringia Centre and the Transportation Museum.
The only concern I have, Mr. Speaker, is that if this novice Liberal government made the determination that they were going to fund this tomorrow, by the time they studied it, it would take them longer to construct this initiative than it did for the White Pass railroad to be constructed from Skagway right through to Whitehorse.
But that was the determination of the people who founded the Yukon. We're the backbone of our industry and commerce here in the Yukon, for decades and decades and decades. Unfortunately, Yukon has given way to a mindset that the government must do everything and must pay for everything. And successive governments - this government and the previous government - have systematically curtailed mining, mining exploration, forestry, oil and gas exploration, and now they are attacking the visitor industry.
We haven't heard of any solid initiatives being made by this government with respect to the major issue of air transport - other than they're going to release a study on air access, which everyone knows about. It has been in the hopper for some time and it concludes that we are being overcharged by the main carrier in Canada - not by a factor of 50 percent, but I believe the factor is about 1.7 times the price of anywhere else.
Mr. Speaker, for the life of me, I can't imagine the tourist attraction that would have been created if the $1.5 million that the Yukon Party offered as a centennial initiative had been used by the Miles Canyon Historical Railway Society. Now, we're not going to get anywhere by exploring all the missed opportunities of the past. It's time to look at what we can do in the future, and that is the main purpose of this motion.
We have heard from the Minister of Tourism. She has implemented a stay-another-day campaign, and I commend the Minister of Tourism for that. In order for us to encourage our visitors to stay, we have to provide more things for them to see and do. It's pretty simple. Why not restore Canyon City? Land claims prevented it previously, but this restoration should proceed. Why not take the Whitehorse waterfront and restore some of its former self? All we're seeing is parkland and trail, Mr. Speaker.
I don't think anyone has a quarrel with parklands and trails. It's a necessary part of our social infrastructure today, as well as a necessary part of any municipal planning, but we have to have some initiatives that are going to attract and retain visitors to our area.
And we are going to have to start realizing a dollar from them coming into our area, rather than just parking their motor-homes and walking around. This initiative could do a lot for not only Whitehorse, it could do a lot for business trade and commerce here in the Whitehorse area. It would encourage the movement of people from one end of the community, around possibly through to our museums up by the airport. And all it is going to take is determination by this Liberal government to get on board and to move forward with the project. Unless they get on board, they are going to miss the train.
The roundhouse itself on the waterfront could also be turned into a tourist attraction through restoration. It could be combined with a steam engine restoration project. I would also propose that the trolley line next be extended from Canyon City to the Yukon Transportation Museum and the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre. This trolley track extension and these restoration projects would more than pay for themselves in a very short time. And I am sure it would significantly increase visitors' time that they remain right here in Whitehorse. That is the object of the exercise - to develop trade and commerce.
I would encourage these ministers responsible for the decision making and the back-bench Liberals to have a look at the waterfront initiatives that have taken place right across Canada. And while they have an opportunity to, Mr. Speaker, because they spend extensive amounts of time travelling all across Canada, indeed, all around the world, so the opportunity is there; the funding is there. Let's get on with the program. I would encourage these Liberal ministers, Mr. Speaker, when they're travelling, to look at what they're surrounded by and take back some of these initiatives, bring them back home and apply the same kind of thought process to it.
Now, I recognize that when they come back from Maui after visiting the Sugar Cane Train, we're not going to have palm trees, but we could have the same type of initiative, encourage the movement of passengers from one economic centre to another economic centre, to visit our other attractions, to spend more time, which translates into more money in the coffers of Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, I could go on very, very extensively about this initiative, but I really want to hear from all of the Liberals on this initiative. Unfortunately, they're probably only going to put up one speaker today because the backbenchers have all been muzzled.
Shame, Mr. Speaker. It is an initiative that should go ahead. It can be given all-party support, and it would take very little money out of this $99-million surplus to see it come to fruition.
Mr. Speaker, I believe this motion speaks for itself, and I would urge all members of this House to give it favourable consideration and passage. I look forward to the support, especially from the Yukon Liberal government and from the official opposition, that this motion needs for unanimous support.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, let's make a few things perfectly clear. First of all, the surplus is $51 million, not $99 million. Secondly, we're not going to Maui with the Member for Klondike.
The building that we're discussing today is not a roundhouse. It is a train shed or, even more correctly, it is a locomotive repair shed. The original roundhouse is located where the S.S. Klondike now sits today. It burned down, I think, just over 40 years ago.
The other issue to remember is that the decision to preserve the train shed or not is a municipal decision. The building is owned by the City of Whitehorse. Those are the facts. In fact, the City of Whitehorse Heritage Advisory Committee recommended to city council that the building be designated as a historical building, which is why I speak to this issue today, and that if it couldn't stay in its present location, then it should be moved to another location on the waterfront.
In January of 2000, Whitehorse city council chose not to designate the building at that time. The council recommended moving the structure. Since that time, Government Services has been gathering information and developing options concerning both the train shed specifically, and the trolley system in general.
Of course, Tourism Yukon and this government encourage the development of quality visitor attractions and infrastructure here in the Yukon Territory. We know how important the tourism industry is to the territorial economy. Right now, it is the number one industry in the Yukon Territory. Seventy percent of small business is tourism related.
We also recognize the importance of preserving our built heritage. This government has yet to complete an interdepartmental analysis of all the possible options concerning both the train shed and the trolley system. This may take some time, and we do encourage the city not to act too hastily and destroy the shed before those options can be examined and before those options can be discussed with the City of Whitehorse.
I am pleased to know that the Miles Canyon Historical Railway Society has successfully completed a second year of operation of the trolley. The trolley ran until September 4 of this year. Government Services intends to have the trolley operate for the 2002 season in the same manner as the past two seasons, through an operating agreement with the society. The trolley itself, though, is not historically relevant to the Yukon Territory. It does provide an attraction for the waterfront and probably does encourage tourists to stay downtown.
I do recognize that an expanded trolley system could become more than simply a tourist attraction. It would be an opportunity to move tourists and anyone else to and from distant points downtown.
That being said, I think it's important to talk about some of the things that will have to be considered before an expansion can go ahead. For instance, the trolley already is in need of extensive work to keep running. Government Services will repair its electrical system this fiscal year at the cost of $50,000. Other costs that would have to be considered if the system were to be expanded would include the purchase and maintenance of more trolley cars to make the system more efficient.
The track itself must be considered, or rather the land that the track is built upon. Not all of it is Yukon government land, so we have to talk about possible land purchases. We also have to talk to the Canadian Transportation Agency. None of this is impossible, but it will take time and it is going to take a great deal of money.
Concerning the long-term goal of extending the Whitehorse trolley service, this government is developing plans and investigating track-operating permissions. I think that we can all agree that the Government of Yukon, the City of Whitehorse and the Miles Canyon Historical Railway Society all have an interest in continuing the trolley service as a tourist attraction and as a waterfront commuter service.
At this time, Mr. Speaker, I would like to propose a friendly amendment to Motion No. 152. Mr. Speaker, it is not a substantial motion; it is merely to clarify the facts.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I move
THAT Motion No. 152 be amended by deleting the word "roundhouse" in the second and third paragraphs and substituting the words: "locomotive repair shed".
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Tourism
THAT Motion No. 152 be amended by deleting the word "roundhouse" in the second and third paragraphs and substituting the words: "locomotive repair shed".
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, we would be happy to support this motion as long as those words are changed, and I see that the Member for Klondike doesn't seem to have a problem with that. This side of the House sees the value in this particular operation and perhaps, once again, we have surprised everybody in the House, and we all agree that that is possible.
Mr. McRobb: I don't think we have much of a problem supporting this amendment. I do want to take this opportunity to put a couple of comments on record on what the member across the way has said so far, starting with her boasting about the success of the tourism industry in the territory. It's the number one industry, she said.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I would submit that that's by default. It's not because the tourism industry has really developed and leaped ahead of other industries as a whole in the Yukon. It's because of the demise of the mining industry. It's because the forestry industry is having difficulties. It's because the oil and gas sector - we heard today how it's facing significant difficulties.
Virtually every sector of our economy is down and, unfortunately, there are not too many bright lights out there. There was one announcement today about The Call of the Wild film production. There was an agreement in principle reached with the Yukon government, and I am very pleased that the hard work by the departmental staff on the film commission has finally paid off and that we, as a territory, were able to reach an agreement. I think there is a lot of potential for the film industry to develop in the territory.
With attractions like a trolley and a developed waterfront in downtown Whitehorse - these are all things that could join together in making the Yukon a better attraction.
With the film industry, it's a means of communicating what we have here to people outside the territory.
So everything goes hand in hand. But I just wanted to check the minister's claim about the success of the tourism industry. I'm certainly not taking away any credit it deserves or any accomplishments, but I wanted to point out that in context it's because of the other declining industries in the territory.
The second thing is on the stay-another-day program, Mr. Speaker, how can we encourage people to stay another day if there's nobody here to stay another day? And that's the direction we're heading in. The Yukon really has to reach out in its marketing efforts, especially in these rather perilous times, where the competition is very stiff in trying to attract the fewer tourists out there to various locations, and the Yukon is but one competitor in that very competitive field. Of course, we're quite remote in comparison to a lot of the major urban centres, and the cost of transportation here is considerable. So we need to develop attractions and make the Yukon a better place to visit. I think that's one of the main advantages to developing this trolley system.
I also want to say something else, Mr. Speaker, because I think it will help the debate as it progresses off the amendment back to the motion, and that is that this grander vision of the extended routing for the trolley is really nothing new. I know it's at least a few years old now. I can recall conversations with the former Tourism minister about this project, and I understood probably a couple of years ago at least how it was envisioned to extend to the Wal-Mart/Chilkoot Centre Mall and on the south end to Canyon City.
So I think that's all part of the grander project, and we certainly are supportive of a bigger project that can be a better attraction and work more efficiently with additional trains as well.
And something that maybe isn't too well known, Mr. Speaker, is that a lot of the controversy about the Chilkoot Centre downtown and how many people felt it would detract from the downtown culture in Whitehorse - part of the mitigative efforts that were planned included the extension of this trolley, because connecting this new centre with the downtown was a means for greater interaction and connectivity between people at either location. That's not something we hear too much about from this Liberal government. As a matter of fact, I'm a little surprised to hear the negative comments from the Tourism minister about this project when it's clear that the Yukon stands to benefit a whole lot by developing it further toward how it was originally intended - extending the rail on either side and adding more cars and so on.
So, Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to get those comments on record, and I'll look forward to the continuing debate on the main motion.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment?
Amendment to Motion No. 152 agreed to
Speaker: Is there any debate on the main motion as amended?
Mr. McRobb: That was quick, Mr. Speaker, and I think the people out there deserve to know why. None of the Liberals wanted to speak. They don't have anything to say. They have been muzzled. Shame on them. Not only are the backbenchers muzzled but everybody is muzzled. The Tourism minister came in with a prepared speech, which she put on the record before her amendment. Everything she said was read off the speech, and she criticized the whole purpose of the trolley and told us it wasn't a very good idea, essentially, and now none of the others are prepared to speak to this.
Mr. Speaker, where is the Minister of Economic Development? Doesn't the Department of Economic Development appreciate the potential of this project? What about the Premier? Doesn't the Premier appreciate the efforts of the Miles Canyon Historical Railway Society and this vision that has been brought to the City of Whitehorse? What about the Cabinet members and caucus collectively? Don't they appreciate how this project would improve the City of Whitehorse and the Yukon as a whole? Doesn't the Liberal government understand how the Whitehorse waterfront stands to gain a whole lot from an improved trolley system? Don't the Liberals appreciate the efforts of Mr. Barnie, who is listening to the discussion this afternoon and who has been recognized?
Well, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education says yes, but where was he when it came time to stand up? He was nowhere to be seen and you were ready to close debate again with the mover of the motion.
So we get some nattering from the back benches and the front benches over there, but nobody is prepared to back it up by standing up and putting their comments on the record, and that is shameful.
Maybe during the time I have here some of them will think it over and muster up enough courage to approach the Premier and ask for permission to get up and speak to this motion.
So, Mr. Speaker, it's rather depressing to realize the Liberal government is against the trolley project, and is against the expansion project, and probably wants to close it down because of some electrical work that needs to be done and future repairs and, as the Tourism minister said, the cost of expanding the system and everything that goes with it.
Well, talk about being short-sighted.
Did they make this position known during the election campaign? Or is it another surprise like "project downsize" that is being inflicted on the public service.
We all know that "project downsize" wasn't in the election campaign. Was "project eliminate-the-trolley" in the election campaign? Of course not. It's another surprise.
You know, Mr. Speaker, every day there are, unfortunately, more parallels between this Liberal government and the one south of the border, because the people in B.C. didn't expect that the Liberal government down there would be doing a lot of the things they are doing either.
But we're getting used to it because, when you vote Liberal, you're prepared to throw your values out the window; you're prepared to forget everything you have heard, and hang on for the ride and expect darn near anything they'll throw at you, because the decisions will be made in the backroom with their backroom friends.
If you have a yearning to get your input plugged into a budget consultation process, Mr. Speaker, you'd better be prepared to buy the Liberal Party card, because that's the only way you're going to get in.
But that's not good government, and coming out with something like this against a trolley is not good government, either. So I really want to encourage the Liberals to rethink that position during my remaining few minutes here, to rethink that position and come around with some common sense and support this trolley project. Let's not only support it, let's think about ways it could be expanded, as proposed in the motion.
Now, the Tourism minister talks about the stay-another-day program. That's about all we can get out of here, to stay another day. You know, Mr. Speaker, last week in the Tourism briefing we asked for statistics to back up that program. Unfortunately, we haven't received them; we have not received that information. So I would really like to urge the minister to make sure we get them well before the time the department comes up in debate, which could be as early as tomorrow afternoon, because I would like an opportunity to review and proof out those statistics, because certainly there are a lot of questions around it. The minister likes to pump up that program as being highly successful, but there has been virtually no truthing of the figures she likes to use.
Speaker: Order please.
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to, in my own defence, point out that the word "truthing" is different from the root word "truth," used in this context.
Speaker: Order please. I think it's very clear that the way the word was used in "There's no truth in it" was that it would be an untruth or a falsehood, and I asked the member - I find that that word is completely out of order in the way it was used. To the Chair, "There's no truth in it" means it was a falsehood, and I would ask the member to please be judicious in his choice of words.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I'll try to be judicious.
In proving out those statistics to ensure they are viable and accurate, that is the purpose of needing time to review them ahead of time, and that was clearly the intent of what I was saying. That need is clearly there.
So, Mr. Speaker, this trolley is a good project. I want to take the time to thank all the volunteers and others who have helped make it a success and who will continue to do so in the future. I want to encourage all those who will try to work in the future toward its expansion and ultimate extension to other destinations to improve the project and make the Yukon a better place to visit.
Mr. Fairclough: I'd like to speak to this amendment and the motion very briefly.
Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of people who need to be thanked for this project - some had the political will to make this trolley happen - including the former government leader, Piers McDonald, and the minister at the time, Dave Sloan, for their hard work in this. Not only them - there are a lot of people who have done research and have gone out and looked at the possibility of bringing such a thing to Whitehorse.
There is something magic about water and riverfront that attracts people to it. It is not only in Whitehorse but in many of the communities, as the members well know. I think Whitehorse is fortunate to be able to get such a trolley as this. Others in the communities have seen improvements to things like boardwalks and so on, just to get people down onto the waterfront and looking at the community, and it is a very nice thing to do.
I would support this amendment and the motion together, but I would also like to go beyond what has been expressed in this motion. I think that this is like a phase that could happen but there is more potential to expand this little railway than what we have in this motion. I am sure that that could be years down the road and something the government looks at in the future. I will be in support of this motion.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Mr. Jenkins: I am pleased by the support shown this motion here today. I was going to have another section to this motion, with respect to the funding of this initiative, but I knew that would be very contentious and would probably see the defeat of this motion. I am very pleased that, from what I have seen to date, we do have all-party support for the trolley and the initiative along the Whitehorse waterfront. Although, for awhile, I was wondering if the Member for Kluane was on the same trolley as the rest of us, but be that as it may, we'll discover that in due course.
Mr. Speaker, railroads are playing a very, very important role in the economic well-being of the northern part of North America, as well as a major attraction to our visitor industry.
One only has to look at the Alaska railroad starting in Kenai and ending up in Fairbanks and the initiative that the major carriers of our visitor industry - Holland America and Princess - have done with their acquisition of railroad cars. They are on the Alaska railroad from mid-May to mid-September. They provide access to some of the most scenic areas of Alaska through the Denali Park. That, in itself, speaks well for the potential of a major railroad and, indeed, the smaller railroads.
We only have to look at a railroad that was recently closed in Skagway - the White Pass - as to what it's - it's just starting to realize its potential as not only a visitor attraction but a revenue generator.
The next railroad initiative north of 60 that will be taking place, Mr. Speaker, is over in the Wrangell-St. Elias area. A very good friend of mine, Ron Simpson, just completed a book on that initiative, on the Kennicott area and the involvement of his family on the railroad. There is tremendous potential in that area. It is going to be the next area that Alaska develops as a visitor destination.
All we are doing is standing back in awe of what is going on in neighbouring jurisdictions, when we have the same potential here. And while I recognize and appreciate the support the Minister of Tourism has provided this motion, I am concerned when I hear her say they're "developing options".
Well, Mr. Speaker, the options are well known; it's to move forward on those options. That's the next step in this process, now that support for this initiative is apparently unanimous here in this House. From here, it's going to be up to the Department of Economic Development and the Tourism department to go hand-in-hand - maybe even bring the Minister of Government Services to the table to throw a little money at repairs from time to time, repairs that are necessary, but will provide benefits.
Mr. Speaker, we have an opportunity here. Let's not lose it. Let's develop it. Let's realize the potential that this opportunity has.
In conclusion, I'd like to thank all of the members of the Miles Canyon Historical Railway Society for their tremendous lobbying and their foresight on this initiative. I'm hopeful that, in a matter of a couple of years, we can see this project enhanced to realize its great potential.
It's going to take a political decision to fund it by this Liberal government, and whether the surplus is $99 million or $51 million, I don't want to get arguing over the semantics of what the surplus may or may not be, Mr. Speaker. This government is well-funded to proceed with this initiative, and I would encourage them to look favourably on this initiative in the next round.
So, Mr. Speaker, I look forward to support, and I thank all members for the support for this motion. Thank you.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the motion as amended?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, would you please poll the House.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Agree.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Agree.
Mr. McLaughlin: Agree.
Ms. Tucker: Agree.
Mr. McLarnon: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Mr. Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 16 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion, as amended, carried.
Motion No. 152 agreed to as amended
Motion No. 153
Mr. Clerk: Motion No. 153 standing in the name of Mr. Jenkins.
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Klondike
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government, in particular the Minister of Health and Social Services, to utilize a small portion of the Yukon Liberal government's $99-million surplus to pay the full cost of acquiring a computerized axial tomography scanner for the Whitehorse General Hospital and forego the requirement for the Whitehorse General Hospital to contribute $150,000 through fundraising toward the cost of the purchase price in order to enable the CT scanner to be made operational sooner.
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, Mr. Speaker, I will be very brief in this motion in the hope and anticipation that the Liberal government of the day will see the light and support this motion, as well as the official opposition, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, I'm presenting this motion today in the hope that it will bring closure to the issue of the Yukon government acquiring a CT scanner for the Whitehorse General Hospital at the earliest possible date. The debates over the merits of acquiring a public versus private CT scanner should be over. They must be over, Mr. Speaker.
My, Mr. Speaker, how you've changed.
The Canada Health Act makes abundantly clear that a public CT scanner service must be made available before a private service can be brought on stream. To do otherwise would be illegal, Mr. Speaker. The people of the Yukon should not be forced to wait any longer for this essential, basic diagnostic tool that is a part of any modern Canadian hospital. The requirement for the Whitehorse General Hospital to contribute $150,000 toward the cost of a CT scanner cannot possibly be justified when the Yukon government is enjoying the large $99-million surplus.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I know that this issue of the surplus of $99 million is going to be somewhat contentious for this Yukon Liberal government, so I'd be prepared to accept a friendly motion that the $99 million as of the specific date that was reported by the Auditor General is what I'm referring to so that we make it abundantly clear.
So, without further ado there, I know the Liberals are uncomfortable with the tremendous amount of money they have in the bank and their inability to manage the finances of the Yukon and to develop economic activity. They appear to be more interested in funding their Liberal friends and supporters than looking after the business of government.
Now, the Minister of Health and Social Services' flirtation with acquiring a private sector CT scanner from some Liberal campaign workers was based on his claim that there was no government money available to establish a public sector service. Well, we know that that information is not accurate, and we know that it's not a correct reflection of the financial position of this Liberal government.
As soon as the Yukon public became aware of the Liberal government's surplus, this argument went out the window, along with that minister's political credibility, I might add, Mr. Speaker. What we have is the Minister of Health and Social Services forgetting the first law of holes, as it's defined. And that goes together with an overview of the first law of holes - when you're in one, stop digging.
This motion is designed to save that minister further political embarrassment. How the minister will be perceived if he continues to insist that the Yukon Hospital Corporation hold bake sales or whatever to raise $150,000 toward the full cost of purchasing a CT scanner, I don't know. The public is out there, Mr. Speaker.
We have a $60-million new hospital. We have all of the facilities incorporated in the design to house this initiative. We have the previous Yukon government announcing that one was going to be purchased, and then we have the Liberals announce that they're going to continue with all of the initiatives that the previous NDP government announced, and yet we see them waffling on a number of initiatives.
That's almost a political embarrassment. And the reason that they waffled on proceeding with the Mayo school and the CT scanner acquisition, we were told, was because they had no money, Mr. Speaker. Yet we watched as they proceeded with the twinning of Hamilton Boulevard, which went considerably overbudget. At the end of the day, one has to question the political direction that is being provided.
Given the Liberal government's large surplus, the minister's insistence that the hospital raise this money will be seen as nothing but vindictive, Mr. Speaker. He wants to make the hospital pay and, indeed, to make all Yukoners pay for the embarrassment that this issue has caused him. That will be the way that the public perceives this minister.
Why doesn't he just cut his losses, pay for the full cost of the CT scanner, and let's get on with it?
Now, the minister is in a political hole, and he has only himself to be held responsible for how deep he has dug it.
I am asking the minister to forgive the $150,000 contribution from the hospital in order that the CT scanner can be acquired sooner rather than later.
I urge all members to support this motion in the interest of promoting better health care in Yukon. One only has to look at our population, Mr. Speaker, and look at the number of CT scans that the medical profession calls for and look at the average across Canada. As Yukoners, we are not receiving the health care we should be because of this minister's decisions, and that's unfair to Yukoners. That's very unfair.
A CT scanner is a basic diagnostic tool in a modern hospital. We have a modern hospital. It was planned that the modern hospital would be equipped with a CT scanner. It was in the budget to be acquired, but this minister - I don't know if he caught a cold riding his bicycle and something happened, but the decision was made somewhere to not proceed. Mr. Speaker, the minister could have just taken the time to review and get on with the program and buy a CT scanner.
I look forward, Mr. Speaker, to hearing a positive response to this motion from the Minister of Health and Social Services as I can assure him his support will be well-received by all Yukoners, and I'm sure it would, at the end of the day, even enhance his political career, Mr. Speaker. I encourage all members of this Legislature to support this very positive and beneficial initiative that could result in the earlier acquisition of a CT scanner for the Whitehorse General Hospital.
Mr. Speaker, thank you.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Just to do a bit of correction here, first of all, the member opposite, even though the member tried to cage his comments about our surplus, he had to put a definition around what he was referring to about our $99-million surplus. If the member looks at the budget, he will see that the surplus is $51 million, not $99 million. The member forgets to include all the expenditures and all the commitments that the government has, so it's not like we have $99 million sitting in the bank. So, once again, I correct the member opposite; we have $51 million in the bank.
The member also made a comment about Health Canada saying it was illegal. Well, I guess the member opposite has information that we never did get from Health Canada. So I don't know how the member opposite could even say that. That was the very question we were asking. So at this point we have no information that tells us that this was illegal. So, again, Mr. Speaker, the information that the member was providing for the House is not what it would appear to be.
The member talks about an embarrassment. I'm not embarrassed at all, Mr. Speaker.
I brought this forward because that is one of our problems in the health care area. We're not talking about cost. We are just assuming that the taxpayer can keep absorbing all the cost, with Yukoners and Canadians not talking about it.
Our health care system is in dire straits right across the nation. This is what all ministers of Health are doing right now, Mr. Speaker - bringing it forward, bringing the topic up for discussion so that Yukoners and Canadians can look at health care, so that we can sustain it for the future.
I am not embarrassed. I am very proud that I have had an opportunity to be able to do this and be honest with Yukoners.
If not bringing it forward is being dishonest, then I'm glad I'm not in that area, because I believe that this is what we have to do as Canadians and as Yukoners.
The member opposite also talks about a political hole. I didn't get into politics to play politics; I got into it to do the right thing.
Now, if the members opposite want to play politics with what we are trying to do right that, again, is their problem, not mine.
I present facts, figures, ideas and answers as I know them. If I don't know them, I admit I don't know them and that I'll find out what the truth is or what the answer is. I don't pretend to have all the answers. I have said that many times, Mr. Speaker.
So I don't believe that I am in any type of political hole. I came here because I believe that we, as Yukoners, want honesty, transparency and people to be very up front about what our needs are, and I'm basically trying to respond to that in my own way, and I don't think that could be conceived as being in a political hole.
Canadians - Yukoners - maybe they don't want to hear what it costs to have our health care system. I don't know - I think they do. In my meetings - I have had a number of meetings with a number of people here in the Yukon. I have met with a lot of people, and they want to know what their health care costs are because they want to sustain it for the future. It's very important that we maintain the system, because if we don't maintain the system, then we're not going to have one for our children.
I also want to make a few corrections for the member. In the last discussion, the member was talking about why I went up to Dawson and seven chairs were put out for a meeting. Mr. Speaker, I set the chairs up - and guess what? I set up at least 25 chairs. So, for the member opposite to say that I was only expecting seven people, that is not correct, either.
The fact is, when I went to Dawson, I went there to present a health care message. I also went there to listen to the people. When I presented my health care message about the determinants of health care costs and did what I call my "little road show", presenting what is driving costs in the Yukon, I then entertained questions after, like those the member opposite brought up, about on-call fees, all those things. Those are negotiated things. I don't negotiate with doctors in Dawson. That's handled by the YMA. The same goes for the issue around mothers in need, mothers who are pregnant and need a place to stay in Whitehorse.
Mr. Speaker, I made my points very clearly, even at that meeting. We're not looking at just one segment of the population. All segments of the population have to be considered. So, at this point in time, we weren't pursuing finding a place for a residence just for mothers who are waiting for children.
Obviously, it's a much bigger question, so why the Member for Klondike believes that that's why I went up there and I didn't answer - what I did respond to, and I said it very clearly right there that I would take names down here and I would send back a letter to set up a committee to work on the health care needs of Dawson. That's what I committed myself to - nothing else, Mr. Speaker.
So, for the Member for Klondike to state that I committed to looking at doctors on call for pregnant ladies and so on - I did not do that, Mr. Speaker. I said I heard those comments. I heard those discussions, and I gave the reasons why and where we were going with them.
Now, I want to do something here that I think is very, very interesting, Mr. Speaker. Today I received a note on the e-mail. It comes from St. Paul's. The title of it is the "Vancouver hospital pioneer scans for cash: St. Paul's charges up to $995 for scans in a controversial bid to fight the deficit". I'm just going to read the first little part because, boy, I think it responds to the issue today. "A publicly funded Vancouver hospital has ventured into the full-body scan business, the latest in yuppie medicine where those with cash get a 3D peek at their clogged arteries, lung tumours or suspected lesions. By charging $995 for the package of computer, tomography, scans of the lungs, hearts and abdomens, St. Paul's Hospital has become the first in Canada to offer the controversial service in an attempt to offset its deficit. 'We're not trying to entice anyone,' Dr. Peter Cooperberg, St. Paul's chief radiologist, said in a telephone interview from Vancouver yesterday. Dr. Cooperberg stressed the hospital is not violating the Canada Health Act or any provincial laws because the screenings are not medically necessary and are therefore exempt.
Private CT scans are growing in popularity in the United States, and it's a disturbing sign of a growing private health care market in this country - one where a million-dollar diagnostic machine financed by taxpayers is being used to make money."
So there you have it, Mr. Speaker. What is happening in another part of the country. I know the members opposite would not want to hear this. I mean, here we were trying to explore, you know, trying to move down the path of seeing what we could do here in Canada or here in the Yukon, and all we got was "It violates the Canada Health Act." Here's one of the biggest hospitals in Vancouver offering private CT scans that are publicly sponsored.
By the way, this quote is in the Toronto Globe and Mail. So it's not like it's something that I fabricated. It's in The Globe and Mail.
So I think, very importantly, people are looking for other ways of trying to build their own health. It's maybe a prevention part, but it's obvious that something is happening in Canada. Gosh, were we so far behind in where we were trying to go with this? And here we find one of the biggest hospitals in Vancouver is offering private CT scans for a price. Here I hear from the opposition over and over and over again we're breaking the Canada Health Act. Well, I can tell you right now, according to this, it's not breaking any rules of the Canada Health Act.
Now, it's interesting that the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes tells me to sit down because he does not want to hear the facts. And it's not even his turn; it's my turn right now, Mr. Speaker.
For the record, Mr. Speaker - and I've already shared the idea that this whole process of how we look at how we fund for major purchases of equipment - I would recommend - and I not only would recommend it for the Member for Klondike, but I would recommend it for the members opposite, who are famous for coming up with ideas but don't check their sources, much like the discussion around the issue of the buses.
You know, they don't want to check with people who might give them another message.
I would recommend to the members opposite that they meet with the CEO and the chair of the Hospital Corporation to provide the members financial advice on their ideas, instead of putting these erroneous thoughts into motions for debate in the Legislature. That's what they've done. This is a hospital initiative. They want to do this, Mr. Speaker. They want to have ownership of this CT scanner, much like they have ownership of the mammography machines.
They have basically gone out to the public, to the community, and have done fundraising on this.
So, very clearly, it's not something where the hospital is saying, "We don't want..." They have said to us that they do want it.
I think the debate over the CT scanner in the public domain has been good, despite the fact that a lot of the issues and a lot of the specifics weren't presented to the public. It has been a good exercise in what we have to do in the future in our health care. We have to look at what we can afford. We have to look at what we can build for the future.
Now, the interesting thing is that the Member for Kluane talks about damage control. I never brought this motion forward. The Member for Klondike brought this motion forward - and by the way, it was probably supported by our members opposite as well.
We're not in damage mode at all. We've done a very good thing by bringing very costly services and supports up for public discussion, because we know that past governments just threw it into the budget; they never did their homework.
So, what we tried to do was honour the budget. We tried to honour the budget that the last government put in place, and we find out that they didn't do their homework on the CT scanner.
That is shocking. That is scandalous - that you would put in the budget a $1-million piece of equipment and not do your homework. I can't believe it.
Now, it is interesting that the members opposite will always say that they had done it for the right reasons. I probably wouldn't deny that. We can do lots of things for the right reasons, but can we afford to do all these things. I think that is the real issue here, and that is why when we took government, we put in place a technical review committee, and this is a suggestion that came forward from our creative group of Liberal MLAs. What a wonderful way of looking at technology for the future, because the technical group did exactly what they had to do.
The first issue - and I think the Member for Kluane can remember that time after time he tried to hammer the government on this dialysis, hemodialysis. The Member for Kluane came back with this all the time suggesting we need this, we need this, we need this. So we put this to the technical review committee, and the technical review committee came back with their report. And by the way, the technical review committee is made up of the hospital CEO, the chief medical officer, the Health department, a nurse from the YRNA and also an expert from outside in each of the respective areas. They made the recommendation that we didn't need a hemodialysis machine at this point because they realized you need far more people who need these services, because what was happening here is that we had another approach toward resolving this problem - by using another way of dealing with dialysis. When you have a small population, we have to make sure we are doing this for the right reasons. If we would have gone down the hemodialysis route, as the Member for Kluane wanted us to do because one of his constituents was in need - well, that constituent is now being looked after by a very, very good way of doing it at home in her community, because that is the difference. When you have a hemodialysis, you have to do it in the hospital, whereas the current way of doing dialysis is done in their particular home.
So, the interesting thing about it, Mr. Speaker, when the technical review committee came down and said, "No, you're not ready for that," we as a government said, "Thank you. We appreciate that advice." And we took it, and we haven't heard a thing about it since. So, obviously, that technical review committee has a lot of credibility and we feel very good about what they come up with, because they're the experts. The same thing with the CT scan. We said, "Look, this is in the budget, in the last NDP budget," and we said, "Well, good Lord, the homework hasn't been done."
The important part for us is that we had to do the homework in the public sector. If the last government would have done their homework, they would have done this all before it reached the budget item. They would have, Mr. Speaker. But guess what? They didn't. They didn't.
That's what the technical review committee did. They looked at the appropriateness and cost, the capacity to reduce the use of other diagnostic tools, ability to upgrade the CT scan and expected technological lifespan and ease of use. This is what our technological committee looked at. Their recommendation for successful implementation of a CT scan was - and this is what they came up with - if you're going to have the availability of a trained technician for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, this is what you need to look at - an access to reliable radiology services via tele-radiology in a maximum of one hour for emergencies and 24 hours for elective procedures. You need the availability of maintenance service 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You need information and communication infrastructure in place.
So, what was taken by the committee was they went away, they evaluated, they assessed, they looked at, and they said, "Okay, here are some of the issues around this."
The problem is that it was a political commitment by the last government, and because we said we would honour their budget, we felt bound by that commitment. So, what we did was to go back and ask, "Okay, how can we do this in a different way?"
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Well, Mr. Speaker, the Member for Watson Lake says, "Privatize it." Well, guess what? We looked at out-of-the-box ideas, and looked for a good number of months. We wanted to make sure that we weren't compromising the five health care principles. Mr. Speaker, we had to make sure we weren't compromising those principles.
But you know, Mr. Speaker, that was something we had to work on with our health partners - that means Health Canada, our lawyers, our Health department and the Hospital Corporation. And the members opposite know how fast government works - and you know it takes time. Guess what, Mr. Speaker? It took time to do this.
What we found out - and this is for the clear record of all Yukoners and all Canadians - was that when we looked at purchasing this expensive support and diagnostic equipment, we found out that if we had gone ahead and purchased the item that was put in the budget when we first took office, it would have been a one-slice CT scanner. It would have been a one-slicer - a one-slice.
Now, if that doesn't mean anything to the members opposite, it means you can do very little with it. It's like buying the lowest end computer. The technical review committee came back and said, "You need to buy at least a four-slicer."
They looked at some relative comparisons. They went to Yellowknife and looked at what they did. Two years ago they bought a CT scanner. They bought a two-slicer. They spent approximately $1 million on that two-slicer. And you can't upgrade the one- or the two-slicer. Once you buy them, you can't upgrade them. You end up with a problem.
So, what they looked at and what we looked at - we said that, well, if we're going to buy this and have it at least for four years, let's buy something that we can upgrade. That's why the decision was to buy a four-slicer.
Now, CT technology lasts about two years. That's about it. That's a little longer than most computers. Computers last about maybe three months and then you have to buy a new one because they've upgraded it or whatever.
The important part here, Mr. Speaker, is that if we're going to make that million-dollar-plus investment, let's make sure that we're doing it the right way.
That was one recommendation that we definitely felt that the technical review committee was right on about.
I guess that another example with a CT scanner is if you look at what has happened to mammography machines. A few years ago the Yukon government bought a mammography machine, and then a couple of years later, they bought the most updated version - again, because of the technology. That's exactly what you end up doing. Mammography machines are very expensive but CT scanners are even more expensive. So if you're going to commit that kind of government money, we wanted to make sure we were getting our best dollar for what we were buying.
What we ended up with, when all the review had been done by the technical review committee, was that it wasn't going to cost us $1 million any more; we were up to close to $2 million. Now, $2 million for an item that the former government said was only going to cost $1 million is a big, hefty increase - and still not get the process of ensuring that we had the guarantees.
The other aspect that was found, and we're hoping that this will stay in line, is that we found that the operation and maintenance, from the technical review committee, would be closer to $600,000 rather than the $400,000 that is now budgeted and was budgeted by the previous government. The other point that they found out is that we would be doing, at the optimum, 1,500 scans a year. We do about 200 now, Mr. Speaker, and they all go out. Anybody who has an emergency gets a scan if they need a scan. They get it. They go outside, and they have a scan. But because you have your own machine here, you're going to have probably an increase on the usage of the CT scan, and so the prediction is that we would go up to 1,500.
And they based that on some facts and figures that they got from Yellowknife, because Yellowknife does about 1,200 a year, and they've had their machine for two years. So the other point - and this is the point that was brought up by the technical review committee, also by other people who know about CT scanners - they said purchasing a CT scanner will not necessarily - and this is, I think, a very important issue - will not save taxpayers' money. Most patients would still have to go outside because they need the specialist, like the cardiologist, radiologist, neurologist. Because when you have an emergency, Mr. Speaker, you need those specialists. All the machine will do is indicate what the problem is.
So there was the feeling from people who were supporting the "Just go out and buy it; just go out and buy it. I mean, you have lots of money. Just go out and buy it. It will save us money." Sorry, Mr. Speaker. The experts, our technical review committee, said no. Yellowknife said no. It's not going to save you money.
Now, again, Mr. Speaker, that has taken us time to do that. And I know from the members opposite we should have just bought it the first day we walked into office and bought the million-dollar one-slicer, and then two years later we'd have to buy another one.
I should tell you that, in Yellowknife, they do have a radiologist on staff, and the O&M on their CT scanner is about $750,000 because a radiologist costs anywhere from $300,000 to $450,000. If you're only doing - the real question is around numbers of scans. People say, "Well, it's good." I believe it's a diagnostic tool. It has a point, it has a purpose and a place in our health care system. The problem with 1,000 or 1,500 scans is that that's only about a month's work. So, our CT scanner will only be working for about one month of the year. Now, if it saves lives, I guess we can say, "Yes, it's worth it."
But those are some of the factors we have to look at. We're not living in Vancouver. We don't have MRIs; we don't have lots of equipment that Vancouver has. Now, if the members opposite are saying that we should have diagnostic services like St. Paul's has, then we're going to need many more millions of dollars to do that. This is the Yukon. This is the north. We don't even have the specialists to support all this equipment. That really is the crux of the matter, and this is coming from the experts.
Even our local doctors are very pleased about having a CT scanner. You know, that may help them in their diagnoses, but it's interesting that when they are going to need extra services and support, we're going to have to go outside for that. We don't have those specialists. I really have to underline that.
Now, that means that if we're going to spend $2 million - $600,000 on O&M - out of our budget, and if the $600,000 proves true - that's every year - that means that's less money for recreation complexes, less money for roads, less money for schools and less money for active living.
It could be used as a prevention thing. If the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, instead of condemning us for looking at ways to use the CT scanner here or - at St. Paul's, if the member missed it, they're doing that. They're doing that today. They're selling private CT scans in Vancouver, at St. Paul's Hospital, right now, today.
So, that's what we were trying to do. We were trying to look at how we could do it differently. Is there something wrong with being creative? I guess, for some people opposite, there is.
Of course, when we were doing that, our Health department worked very hard at trying to find all these answers. I had to say earlier that Health Canada was of no help. I can tell you that right now, and I have written a letter to Mr. Allan Rock, the Minister of Health, indicating to him that I believe Health Canada should be more supportive and helpful in finding solutions rather than giving us no answers. I still have not got a response to my letter I sent him two and a half months ago on this whole area of the CT scanner.
Research takes time and homework takes time, Mr. Speaker. And as I said before, what was happening is that not all the facts were laid out there. Even the media didn't follow all the facts. I think some of the media did. They tried. Some didn't.
So, I think it's very, very important, Mr. Speaker, that the facts get out there. I am a person who believes in all the facts, and then let people make their decisions. I have even phoned some people who are critical of the fact that we didn't purchase a CT scanner. When I gave them the facts, do you know what they said? They asked, "Why are we buying it? That's an expensive piece of equipment."
I had an 85-year-old senior at a public meeting, after she heard all the facts on the CT scanner as I have presented here, say to the group, "Why are we buying the CT scanner? We should put the money into something else - into prevention." But no, we can't discuss prevention. We can't discuss how we could use the CT scanner in another way. It has to be diagnostic. It can't be anything else. And then we find out - by the way, this is all new about St. Paul's. That came to me today - what a timely piece of news.
St Paul's Hospital offering private CT scans - that is what we were trying to do. We were on the cutting edge of something different here. Public debate is good. One way or the other, when it is all said and done, we will have a CT scanner. I am hoping that, when we get our CT scanner, we can do something different with it. I am encouraging the hospital to look at creative ways of using the CT scanner because, obviously, other hospitals are doing it. I am very encouraged to see that Yukoners want to participate in the discussions on the CT scanner.
Again, if we had quietly gone away and purchased this one-slice CT scanner and then ended up putting it in our hospital and only being able to do limited amounts of what we call diagnostic research, then there would have been a criticism of, "Well, why didn't you buy the four-slicer? Why didn't you buy the eight-slicer? Why didn't you buy the sixteen-slicer?" Well, at least now with the four-slicer, we can buy it and we can upgrade it and that is the beauty of the four-slicer. The one-slicer we cannot upgrade.
I am very proud of this government, of this Yukon Liberal government, on what we have done so far in a number of areas. I am particularly proud of my team and, when I say my team, I mean my collective colleagues, who have sat down with me and discussed these issues and come forward with decisions. I do not make decisions in isolation, despite what the opposition says. I am a team player. I believe if it is for the benefit of Yukoners, then it is important to have the dialogue from a variety of Yukoners.
We are very interested in investigating all the possibilities that do not jeopardize Yukon health care.
You know, Mr. Speaker, it's very important that we have in place, not the knee-jerk kind of reactions that we get when somebody says, "Well, I need this" and "I need that" and "I need everything". Can we afford it? It is very important that we do our homework. If we don't do our homework, then we end up doing something that we might regret down the tube.
We use other examples. We use what other jurisdictions our size have done.
Just to give sort of a clarification of the number of scans that a typical CT scanner will do - if you're looking at an eight-hour shift and one technician, in a year, they can do about 4,500 scans. That is what a typical CT scanner does. If you're working a nine-hour shift with two technicians, you can do about 9,000 scans. That's in a typical year.
We're going to do, at the most, 1,500. That gives you an idea of why we had to take some time on this issue. This was a very expensive piece of equipment. We had to make sure that we were making the right decision here.
Because we went out to try to see how we could do that - by the way, the idea of privatizing it was an idea that came to us from the private sector. I didn't go out searching for them. I mean, it wasn't even part of my repertoire, as far as understanding where this could come from, other than just from government. But the private sector came forward and asked, "Can we do it this way?" That's what we're investigating.
Now, I know that the members opposite are trying to make political affiliations. In a small community, you're going to get all kinds of political affiliations. If the members opposite could just recall all of the political affiliations that they have had over the years when they were in government - there were a lot of political affiliations.
And so to say that that's what we were going to do - we were going to sole-source this and give it to whomever. Whatever we would have come up with, Mr. Speaker, would have been out there for public contract. Nothing would be sole-sourced. We don't sole-source those kinds of services, Mr. Speaker. But we had to have a lot of answers to the questions we were being asked, and we weren't getting the answers from Health Canada.
Now, obviously, St. Paul's being a much bigger - they probably have as many people working for St. Paul's as there are people living in the Yukon, so obviously they have many more resources than we have. They've gone ahead and done it. They obviously believe that they're not breaking the Canada Health Act. That's what we were told - that we weren't and we probably wouldn't have been, but we weren't going to take that chance, Mr. Speaker. So that's why it took us some time to do the whole due diligence around how we could deliver CT scan services.
Now, if the members opposite think that they did their homework, then why did we come up with so many more thoughts and ideas and solutions to how the CT scanner could be dealt with? Because those weren't there on my desk when this issue was brought forward. There were so many unanswered questions that we felt that we had to give this back to the experts.
I guess that, for some people, maybe they don't like to talk about dollars and cents, like real dollars and cents of government. Maybe there are some people like that. Right now in Canada, we're going through some very trying times with budgets, very trying times about what the public can pay for, very trying times about what the taxpayer can pay for.
If the members opposite believe that talking about these is wrong, then I would suggest: how are you going to pay for all these services and supports that are out there, the expectations that are out there?
You know, people move up here from a variety of parts of Canada. They come from downtown Toronto, downtown Vancouver, downtown Edmonton, from the country of the north, Saskatchewan, wherever, and they all come with different expectations. If you always present the fact that, just because you believe people are going to say, "Oh, well, the government has lots of money. Just pay for it. You have a $51-million surplus. Buy it." It takes, Mr. Speaker, $45 million a month to run the government - $45 million a month. It wouldn't take much to blow that.
The important part, Mr. Speaker, is that we don't have a lot of room to look at costs. We have to really look at what we're trying to do here.
Since being sworn in I have really felt that the public had to know about these issues. They had to know the real costs of health care, and this is happening right across Canada. Just yesterday there was some discussion in Ontario about health care, and in Alberta and in B.C. We have never cut back on our health care delivery because we believe it's a very top priority, but it comes with a price, Mr. Speaker. That means there are going to be fewer roads paved, chipsealed, worked on, fewer recreation complexes. Those are all issues that we have to be very careful about. The cost of maintaining health care is rising rapidly.
So far, I still have friends on Management Board who believe that health care is very important but if the costs still rise at these rapid rates, it doesn't take long to lose friends even in Management Board, and this is happening right across the country. There is a question about how much health care is taking out of budgets.
Fifty percent of the Ontario budget is health care. Forty-four percent of the budget in British Columbia is health care. Ours is about thirty percent and rising rapidly. That is why you are getting the questions coming out of the provinces: can we afford to continue doing what we are doing, or do we re-look and work more on prevention?
Yes, technologies do improve health care, but they cost a pretty penny. Our advanced medicines are improving health care and they are also costing. Pharmaceuticals are just going through the roof, at such a rapid rate. I know some medicines that I am hearing about, for a very few people, are costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.
With those kinds of pressing realities, we as a government have to look at where we want to place our resources. It is very important to make sure that we do the right thing in building on this. This is not something that I alone am taking on as my personal mantra, you know, across Canada. All the Health ministers are doing it. They are raising awareness. They are raising issues. They are asking Yukoners. They are asking Canadians to take a look at their health care system. What can we do better? How can we be more efficient? How can we look after ourselves in a better way than we have in the past?
I had the opportunity this past September to go to the Health ministers conference in Newfoundland. And by the way, I really love Newfoundland. It is much like the Yukon in many ways. It has a lot of the down-home kind of people who, you know, say hello to you as you walk down the street.
They are interested in what you're doing. They are interested in who you are, and it doesn't matter who you are, they treat you as a person. I really appreciated my visit there.
We were there for a week to look at the whole issue of what is happening in health care in Canada. I can tell you, it was a very intense meeting.
One of the things that came out of it, just to quote one of the issues here: "Canadians will have publicly funded health services that provide quality health care and that promote the health and well-being of Canadians in a cost-effective and fair manner."
This is one of our main objectives, that we are going to ensure that health care is maintained in the system. But we're going to have to do a lot of discussing about it.
This speaks very clearly of our government's commitment to Yukoners as well. We, as a government, are committed to that, Mr. Speaker. We said that. If you come up to the Cabinet office, you'll see "health care" front and centre; prominent; one of our main seven themes - to maintain health care.
So we, as health care people and first ministers - these are the premiers and the people who lead our provinces and our territories - have spent many a meeting discussing health care. So that tells you the importance of health care with our first ministers.
Of course, they want to renew Canada's publicly funded health care system, and they have a vision that priorities shall be interpreted in full respect of each government's jurisdiction. So each government, each location, has to make decisions around what their priorities are.
So if we, in the Yukon, raise the issue of CT scans - because we're probably, along with Nunavut, one of the few areas in the country that doesn't have a CT scanner. But it comes at a price. I think Yukoners have to understand that and have the facts, Mr. Speaker.
And I believe, if we don't give them the facts, then we're deceiving the public. We have to make sure that they have the facts.
Since that September meeting, we have been working on intergovernmental collaboration, and this has resulted in significant advances on the action plan that the first ministers, the premiers, want us to respond to. We have made some advances on some of the issues. For example, pharmaceutical management - right now we have a situation in Canada where you have a formulary, which means that each jurisdiction sets up what's on their formulary for the dispensing of pharmaceuticals.
And each jurisdiction decides what they want on that list. Well, there's one in Saskatchewan, there's one in B.C., there's one in Alberta, one in Ontario, and one in Manitoba. So, rather than having eight, 10 or whatever number of formularies there are, the idea is to have one. So there are going to be some attempts at working on how to have a one-window approach toward what should be on this list of pharmaceuticals for the country. Right now, it differs from one end of the country to the other.
So that was a task that we, as Health ministers, have taken on, because we know that if we don't tackle the pharmaceutical area, we won't be able to afford our pharmaceuticals.
Another very important issue is addressing the supply and retention of health care professionals. We know that there is a serious concern in that area in Canada. Nurses, doctors, health care people, radiology technicians, lab technicians - all these people are in short supply. Very fortunately, this Liberal government, being proactive, made some very substantial moves in that area, and we offered the nurses in our system a $3,000 bonus and our nurse practitioners an additional $3,000 bonus, and have come forward with an R&R package that we worked out with the YRNA, the nurses association. We're not finished yet, but at least it's something to hopefully retain the nurses we have.
We've offered - and sat down with the doctors for at least a three-month period - an R&R package that was brought forward to the government, with the government working on it as well, and currently they're under negotiations. They're working with the doctors in coming to some kind of conclusion on YMA negotiations on this whole area of the whole structuring of how we pay our doctors. So that was very good work. We really appreciated the ability and the strength and the input of doctors, and now we have to come forward with an agreement on the whole area of R&R. And I think they're forward-looking; they're competitive with the best in the country.
The interesting thing right now is - I know there's sort of a waiting list for people who want to find a doctor, but I am told that we now have a drop-in clinic downtown here that people can drop in to. There is talk of another clinic opening up. Three doctors have started practices here in Whitehorse in the last few months. So I think we've moved in this whole area, even though there's not a settled contract at this point. We are able to recruit doctors because people like to come and live in the Yukon. There's a big difference between living in downtown Whitehorse, downtown Toronto and downtown Vancouver, and a lot of people are choosing to live in a smaller jurisdiction.
Right now we don't have any problems in our community health nursing staffing because they're all full. Yes, the rotation part may be a real challenge because we find that nurses and even doctors nowadays don't want to stay too long in one area, and they're moving around. So that creates a few changes in how we deliver services, but we are able to recruit them at this point. We know that we have an ageing nurses group at the hospital as well as in our communities, and an ageing doctors group as well. So we're not sitting still, Mr. Speaker, and expecting that we're satisfied now and everything is ready to go.
No, Mr. Speaker, that's not the case at all. We're still working on R&R. We're still going to work with our partners. We're still going to work with our professionals, because it's not only in those areas that we have problems. We have problems with radiology, with lab technicians, physiotherapists - all these issues are going to be in need in the future, so we have to work with our partners.
Another issue we talked about at the Newfoundland Health ministers meeting was the performance indicators. This is very important, Mr. Speaker, because people and Canadians and Yukoners need to know: are we providing the best service we can? We attempted to do some of this last year by sending out report cards on our health system in the Yukon. We sent out two report cards, and we published them in the papers, and we sent them to individual households to show how we were faring against the Canadian health care system. In some areas we're doing very well, and in some areas we're not doing very well, so that means we have to improve.
But we're not finished. We have to do more work in that area of indicators, more reporting back, more sharing with Canadians and Yukoners and private individuals what health care really costs.
We started some groundwork on a better integration of home care and community care into the health system. We know for a fact, Mr. Speaker, that home care is much better than hospital care in the sense of people wanting to stay in their own homes. We know that some people have to go to the hospital and need that care, but if we can keep them in their own homes, we're going to have a faster recovery. That has been proven over and over again.
This is a new phenomenon in the last few years, and it's very important that we continue to work down that path.
Again, what we also talked about, Mr. Speaker, is what is going to sustain our system.
How are we going to maintain the expected health care system that we have here in the Yukon? I should tell you that the health care system in the Yukon is probably one of the best in the country. The challenge is going to be if we can sustain it. And so, that is the challenge right across the nation.
I think it is important that we try to engage Yukoners in the discussion. I think it is very important that that discussion be a public discussion and, if we don't do it, we are going to end up with problems in the long run. So it is very important that we try to do that.
If it means treading on ground where we have never been before, so be it. This is not a private thing. This is a public thing. Health care is a public thing. It is not to be tucked away somewhere in a corner, and just keep throwing money at it. How can we do it better? How do we engage Yukoners and Canadians to take ownership for their own health?
The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes - he and I definitely do agree on active living, prevention and really getting in there before we have a health problem - I am really right on board with the member opposite. He is right on line there, and I think it is very important that the member is very positive about this. We are working together. Obviously we are working together, because we believe in some of the same principles that the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes believes in. I think it is very important to have those kinds of engagements. I appreciate the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes being supportive - very good - I am glad that we are right on stream there.
I think another thing that we should talk about is a very important incident that happened on September 11, one that changed the colour, the dynamics and the - I guess you would call it the reality of the world. I think it's very important to understand that that has affected us as a government, as a people. That shouldn't be taken lightly, Mr. Speaker. What happened in New York was unbelievable, and this has affected all of us as Canadians. I should tell the members opposite that we as a government, we as Yukoners, are not exempt from those kinds of happenings.
I find it rather interesting - and again, I guess, to correct the record, I've heard some comments from the members opposite that, when that day happened and we were having an emergency here in Whitehorse, we in government got up and ran out of the building. That's not the case at all. We were advised by the RCMP to leave the building, to pick up our children, to pick up our families and move out of the area. We did what we were told.
So, I personally think that for the members to make those kinds of statements in the House and to leave the impression with Yukoners that we just got out of here as quickly as we could without, sort of, responsibility and without some kind of respect for the roles we play is reaching far beyond what I think is reasonable, Mr. Speaker.
We are committed to maintaining vigilance, and we undertook to enhance and strengthen our prevention and detection and response capabilities. We know we had some problems. I think that September 11 provided us with some ideas about where our system worked very effectively and where we maybe need to build for the future. I mean, this has never happened before in the history of the Yukon, Canada or the world. So to expect to have all of the answers and to have it run perfectly, I mean, that would be like dreaming. Everything has a learning curve, and this is what we found with this issue.
I would see it as - thank the Lord, thank God, that nothing happened, that there were no problems at least here. But we can at least use it as a learning process for us. And that's the kind of approach that we as a government are taking.
I was in contact with Minister Rock's office and our medical officer of health just awhile back on the threat of biological warfare. Yes, Minister Rock called me personally - this little, faraway Yukon, with a small population. He found time to give me a call and say, "We're preparing for this. We're going to be doing some things." I was appreciative of the call and that he used his office to inform all of us about the concerns - and the fact that he respects us as a government, as a full-fledged government. As he told me on the phone, "We are in very serious times at this point and we should not make light of the events of the past."
I also took the opportunity to talk to Minister Rock about some of the trying times of small jurisdictions. I really hadn't had the opportunity to talk to him individually. Collectively, I think the north has presented a very strong message to the Health ministers of Canada and the Minister of Health for Canada that we have some other pressing needs here in the Yukon.
We need to look at how we respond to emergencies, how we enhance laboratory and diagnostic capacity, how we update stockpiles of necessary vaccines, and how we can utilize Health Canada to provide us with the support we need in order to be more creative in how we deliver health care.
I challenged - and I did it in a positive way with Minister Allan Rock. I said to him, "How can you help us?" We are a small jurisdiction facing the same demands that downtown Toronto faces, but we don't have the same kind of background support. We don't have armies of people to provide us with all the support and information and answer all the questions.
To this date, I sent him a letter responding to the degree that I hope the minister will find time in his schedule to talk to Health Canada and to the people who work for him that we've got to help the north. They need your help. Quit putting up roadblocks. Give them some answers so they can move on, because when they buy a CT scan, that's costing them $2 million in capital and another $400,000, $500,000, $600,000 in O&M. And we know the O&M never stops. That's forever. It's there forever. And we know that the CT scanner, once we've had it for three or four years, like the mammography, there will be a new version out there, and there will be pressure to buy another one because we'll need the most modern, updated equipment.
Well, for a small jurisdiction, Mr. Speaker, that is a heavy price to pay when we also have many other demands like roads, recreational complexes, schools, and recruitment and retention of just our health care people in itself.
My real reaction - I've been out there, knocking on doors, Mr. Speaker. I've spent the last two or three months -I've just about finished my riding, knocking on doors and asking Yukoners how they feel we're doing.
And they say to me, "Don, keep doing the job you're doing. You're raising the profile. You're asking Yukoners to think about some of the issues. You're asking them to engage in the discussion." That's really what it's all about. And they were very supportive of the fact that we had a good debate about a number of issues, but particularly the CT scanner. The problem they had was that they didn't get all the facts, and that is the sad problem we have, that we can't get all the facts out so that people can understand where we're going. I think it's very important, Mr. Speaker, that we attempt to have a discussion.
I have talked a little bit about pharmaceuticals, Mr. Speaker, and we're finding that these are one of the key cost drivers in the health system. When I did my road show going to the communities and talking to communities about health care costs, I had this chart that shows pharmaceuticals that have just shot off the chart just in the last two years, from where we used to buy drugs and now where we're supplying them. We have many more seniors staying here, which is great. I am one of those. I can say that I am a senior, although a young one, and I think I know a few more around who are seniors, and I'm very pleased to be able to retire here. And we have to have those guarantees there for our seniors but, again, we have to look at the realities.
When I have met with the seniors - I met with, not the ElderActive group, although I took part in that and won two gold medals. Again, I have to blow my own horn. Nobody will blow my horn.
I had a meeting with the Yukon Council on Ageing - both the Minister of Government Services and myself met with them and had a very good discussion with the seniors there.
I, again, showed them these charts, showed them the cost drivers, and their questions were, "Well, why are we doing this? Why are we spending money in areas when we should be spending it in other places?"
So, our seniors are very conscious. They come from a system where there was no health care; when they paid for it out of their own pocket. So they appreciate and respect the fact of what we've got today. And they want to maintain it for their children and their grandchildren. They know that, if we abuse it, it's going to be gone - or some of it is going to be gone, because we can't afford the system unless we look at how we develop it.
Another few points here, just on the Health ministers meeting and some of the things that we came out with. The pharmaceuticals - as I said, we are going to try to come up with just one type of formulary where we have one window, as far as deciding how or what drugs get on that list. This, hopefully, will save dollars and save money in the long run and give the kind of supports that our people need.
As well, there has been an initiative to support the best practices in drug prescribing and utilization. Doctors, pharmacists and patients all have a role in ensuring that the patient is receiving optimal drug therapy and that the health system is getting as much value as possible from prescription drugs that are paid for through the public funds.
We are also going to be looking at a national prescription drug utilization information system, where there can be a critical analysis of price, utilization and cost trends, so that Canada's health system has more comprehensive and accurate information on how prescription drugs are being used and the sources of cost increases. In addition, doctors and pharmacists would have better information from which to provide care to patients.
Now, these are the kinds of things that we as Health ministers are trying to look at. But we are going to need everybody's cooperation in doing this, including the members opposite. At the same time as Minister Rock updates his provincial and territorial counterparts on the Government of Canada's pursuit of an enhanced post-market assessment system, we need a monitoring system that looks at the safety and the efficacy after a drug has been approved for sale. Is it doing what it is supposed to be doing? Is it the best for that type of ailment? There doesn't seem to be a national process in place, so this is another thing that is coming forward over the next while.
We also came forward with, and approved the release of, a cost driver report that looked at patented medicine prices, and looked at, on behalf of the federal, provincial and territorial pharmaceutical issues, how we can look at better ways of delivering services in that area. So, you can see that, at the St. John's conference that I was at, there was a lot of emphasis around pharmaceuticals, because the costs are rising at such an alarming rate.
We also talked about home care, because we believe that that is important. We believe that the principles for home and community care and the way we have access to it means that we have to look at the public and privately funded health and support services that meet the needs of all Yukoners and all Canadians.
Another issue that we talked about when we had Senator Carstairs there is the palliative care. This is a very serious issue across Canada, Mr. Speaker. Palliative care is one of those areas that is sadly neglected in many parts of Canada, and there is a lot of emphasis around that because they're finding that people want to be in their homes on their final days on this earth. They don't want to be in a hospital. But it needs support.
We're very fortunate here, Mr. Speaker, in having the Hospice Society, which we as a government fund and which has been funded by past governments. And the Hospice Society does a lot of this palliative care support as well. So we are kind of a little ahead of the game, and that was very fortunate. Again, I could demonstrate to the group there that the Yukon can do some things that are very proactive, ahead of where the rest of the country is, and receive very high praise for it.
And it goes back to the CT scanner, again, Mr. Speaker - trying to look at a different way, how we could deliver this and make sure that we don't have the Yukon taxpayer on this huge financial hook. Is there some other way? And as I shared earlier, St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver is doing that. Now, where were our answers for two or three months? It seems like they just went ahead and did it, had all their research in place, and now are offering private CT scans out of St. Paul's Hospital. Yet we worked on this for the last three or four months, trying to come up with some solutions - with no answers.
That takes time, Mr. Speaker. I know the members opposite don't appreciate that, because we didn't purchase the one-slice CT scanner that they had in the budget. Thank God we didn't. Even the two-slice CT scanner would be outdated. We're purchasing a four-slice CT scanner, Mr. Speaker.
That's going to cost us at least $2 million, once it's all said and done, Mr. Speaker.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes says that if we had purchased the one-slicer, it would be an antique. I'm very pleased that he said that because that's why we didn't want to purchase it, because it would have been an antique by the time we got it - because it's an antique even from the point of view of having it on there as something you can buy because you can't upgrade it.
Mr. Speaker, I believe that we as a Health department and as a government are doing the right things. We're very lucky here to have excellent health care. We have an excellent resource of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals. We have a system in place, but how do we keep it? That's the question.
And I know the members opposite - at least the whole time I have been living in the Yukon, I have never heard that question asked by previous governments. It was, "Oh, no, we'll just throw it in there. The money just keeps coming. We'll just throw it in there and not question what we're doing - just do it because that's the way it is." We can't afford that, Mr. Speaker.
So when we take our time and energy to focus on doing homework, it's for a reason. It's not that we don't want that piece of equipment or that support or that kind of service - we have to make sure we can sustain it over the long term.
Mr. Speaker, I think we are moving down the path of trying to build for the future. It's obvious that our nursing strategy - we have made a small opening there by involving our nursing partners in recruitment and retention. We have just set up the nursing advisory council. This is something that this government did.
This government did it, Mr. Speaker. It wasn't even on deck with former governments. We respect our nurses, and they're going to be reporting directly to the Minister of Health. They'll be working with the Minister of Health. There are going to be some lay people put on that board as well. We think this is going to be a powerful tool in working together as partners. And this Liberal government did that, Mr. Speaker.
If you remember, I said that there was a nurse on our technical review committee. There is, because they play the front role. They do the front-line delivery. They are the people in our communities who are at front-line delivery, day after day, night after night. We respect our nurse practitioners and our nurses in our system. Whether they are providing home care, healthy families or hospital care, we respect these very top quality professionals that we have, and we're very lucky, Mr. Speaker. I know a lot of them personally. I have known them for years. They are true Yukoners. They do a job far superior to what I find sometimes in some of the outside hospitals, because they know you as a person. That's the advantage of having a community that is small.
Yes, there are some trying times, Mr. Speaker. We will have some trying times ahead of us with recruitment because, as we know, our medical people and our health people are getting older, just like the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes and myself. We're moving on, so we have to prepare the way. We have to encourage new recruitments. We have to find new people to replace the fine work that we have done - coming before.
I think, Mr. Speaker, when we set up our nurses advisory committee to advise us, we did a wonderful thing for the nurses. We empowered nurses. We empowered and respected the capabilities and quality of their expertise.
We are working as a team, Mr. Speaker, yes.
Do we have all the answers? The answer is no.
Do we have problems? Yes, Mr. Speaker, but let's get them front and centre. Let's get them out in the open. Let's have people be exposed to how we can work on these problems and how we can work together.
Yes, I invite the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes to work with us, collaboratively, positively, and try to get away from the personal attacks. Let's get on the issues, the policies, the programs - that's what we should be criticizing, not people. People are vulnerable; we're all vulnerable; we all make mistakes. I think the important part is to stay to the issue; stay on the high road; try to work for the common good of Yukoners.
Prevention - I've made a few comments about that. I don't say enough about prevention. I'll say even more. I think it's very important that we spend a little more time on prevention.
The prevention, as far as I'm concerned, is trying to inculcate a new, what I call "basic vision" that all of us came into the world with. Inculcate - that's a new word. The odd time I can say it, but sometimes I stumble over it as well.
The point that I am saying is that prevention is a philosophy that has to be embedded in our culture, in our society, because part of the problem right now is that, for many of us, we believe that once we reach young adulthood, we quit being fit, we quit being healthy.
Then you wonder why our system is having difficulties. We have to promote healthy lifestyles.
And I thank the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes for having the vision to provide that - if you want to call it program - to move ahead. I mean, we're putting it into action and actually we're making it work, but I thank the former minister of recreation for at least seeing it as something that could be very positive.
We have a lot of strategies around -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite asks what he did. Well, the idea just came forward, we're actually doing things about it.
We have a major problem in harm reduction right now, the tobacco strategy - very serious problem in our community, a very serious problem in the north and in the Yukon. Forty percent of our people smoke in the Yukon - 40 percent. In B.C., it's 20 percent. So those are some issues we have to look at.
We have a problem in harm associated with injected drug use. Again, Mr. Speaker, these are some challenges that we have. Drug use is on the rise. We hear our RCMP and our local police forces saying that this is serious. And, Mr. Speaker, another challenge that we took on is genetic testing. That's another issue that's very serious at this point - genetic testing and the whole genetic process that is now coming down the pipe.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, this motion put forward by the MLA for Klondike really speaks to the many issues that I just talked about.
I thank the member opposite from Klondike because I was able to give my report card on the health care message. Issues about cost drivers - examples show how we as Yukoners can prevent this cost from being passed on to taxpayers. We are looking at how we can prevent it. The Hospital Corporation came up with the idea of fundraising. The government accepted it, and we appreciated that. The member opposite's motion is incorrect in its assumptions, and this government is not supporting the motion.
Mr. Jenkins: I will be very, very brief -
Speaker: Pardon me, if the member speaks now he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Mr. Jenkins: I will be very, very brief. It is abundantly clear as to where this Yukon Liberal government is coming from with respect to all of the initiatives going on in the Yukon Territory. They have not demonstrated the ability to govern. They have not demonstrated any game plan as to how they are going to proceed on any of these initiatives, in spite of a big majority and a surplus of $99 million. I am just terribly disappointed.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Disagree.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Disagree.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Disagree.
Mr. McLachlan: Disagree.
Ms. Tucker: Disagree.
Mr. McLarnon: Disagree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Ms. Peter: Agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Mr. Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are six yea, 10 nay.
Speaker: The nays have it. I declare the motion defeated.
Motion No. 153 negatived
Mr. McLachlan: 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 5:59 p.m.