Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In remembrance of Sarah Simon
Mrs. Peter: I rise today on behalf of the official opposition to pay tribute to a friend and mentor to all Gwitchin people, Chitzoo Sarah Simon. Mrs. Simon passed away peacefully in Inuvik on November 2, 2001, at the age of 100 years old.
Chitzoo Sarah Simon was born at Fort McPherson on May 1, 1901, the daughter of Charlie and Martha Stewart. Her grandfather, Alexander Stewart, came from Scotland in the mid-1800s to work as the Hudson's Bay manager in Fort McPherson. He married a Gwitchin woman in 1859 and became fluent in the Gwitchin language and was a superb hunter and trapper.
Sarah's father, Charlie Stewart, was the guide who found "The Lost Patrol". These were members of the RNWMP, who became lost and perished on their way to Fort McPherson in 1918. Her mother, Martha, was from Old Crow area and Sarah has many, many relatives from my community.
In her 100 years with us, Chitzoo Sarah Simon witnessed and participated actively in a great deal of the Yukon's history. Without any help she personally delivered over 85 babies, many of whom she outlived. She was also one of the few witnesses who actually saw Albert Johnson, the infamous Mad Trapper of Rat River.
Sarah and her late husband, James Simon, were married in July 1920 in Fort McPherson. In 1959, they moved to Whitehorse where James was ordained Anglican Minister, a year later, in the Old Log Church, which today is called St. Simon's. Together they ministered throughout the Yukon, including Old Crow, Dawson City and in the Whitehorse area.
Sarah Simon dedicated her life to serving her people, the Gwitchin. Through her church work, and through her social and cultural knowledge, she encouraged us to speak our language and never forget it. As a young girl in Chitzoo Sarah's Sunday school class, I learned to say the Lord's Prayer and to sing "Jesus Loves Member" in Gwitchin. She also taught us to sew during our weekly junior auxiliary get-together.
Chitzoo Sarah was an amazing Gwitchin woman, who showed us leadership. She taught us to be proud of our culture, to hold on to our families as priority, and to always have faith in all that we do. She received many awards and presentations in recognition of her outstanding work and dedication, including the Order of Canada. She leaves behind a legacy that I will always use as my foundation.
Sarah Simon is survived by her sons Lawrence, John and Paul Simon, by her daughters Rebecca Francis, Doris Itsi and Sue Look, as well as many grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.
Throughout her life, she honoured us through her labours of love and her example of humble respect.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Liberal caucus echoes the words of the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin with respect to the late Sarah Simon. She was a great lady whom I had the privilege of knowing, and her passing is most worthy of note.
In remembrance of Charlotte Williams
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I rise also to pay tribute to Yukoner Charlotte Williams. Charlotte was born in the territory in May of 1910, and she died last Thursday in Whitehorse at age 91.
John Sandy MacPherson, Charlotte's father, first came to the Yukon during the gold rush. In 1909 he went back to Inverness, Scotland, to marry Charlotte's mother, Isabella, and bring her back to the Yukon.
Sandy worked as a blacksmith for the White Pass and Yukon Route. The MacPherson subdivision in Whitehorse is named after him.
Charlotte and her young family spent some time in Champagne before the Alaska Highway came. In the early 1930s, the Taylor and Drury company had a store there that her husband, Owen, ran.
Later, the growing family lived in Whitehorse, where Owen eventually became the Whitehorse work superintendent and a city councillor.
Charlotte had a beautiful, clear, soprano voice and it's in that context that I knew her. She loved to sing but was not permitted to join the senior choir at the Old Log Church until she was 12. The Wednesday after her 12th birthday, Charlotte was there for choir practice.
She was a faithful member of the choir at the Anglican cathedral from then on. She loved the old hymns, and I remember her in choir practice in much later years always making firm suggestions about which hymn tune should be used. She didn't care a great deal for the newer tunes, preferring the traditional ones with their wonderful harmonies.
Charlotte continued to sing with the choir in the Anglican cathedral until she could no longer walk without assistance. Then, for several years, she sat on a side aisle, and her clear voice became part of the congregation. I remember her 80th birthday party and the hymn tune we adapted with special words for her.
Charlotte and her husband had five children, 11 grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren, and the family has now produced its sixth generation of Yukoners with the arrival of a great-great grandchild.
Charlotte always remembered every birthday of her huge family, and she would share the news of the birth of each new baby in the family with enthusiasm.
Charlotte Williams was not one who sought the limelight. She was a wife and mother and homemaker, and she contributed much, in her quiet way, to the life of the Yukon. We will miss her.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I would like to ask all members to join me in welcoming Porter Creek Secondary grade 11 socials classes, accompanied by their teachers, Mr. Wes Sullivan and Mr. Mike Toews.
Mrs. Peter: I would like to ask that all members of the Legislature please help me make welcome family members of the late Sarah Simon. Those are Lawrence Simon and his twin sons Lawrence and Logan Simon, his daughter Suzanna Simon and her daughter Emily and Lawrence's daughter Sheena, and also Esther and Allan Dobbs.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'd like to acknowledge the presence in the visitors gallery of nine members of the family of the late Charlotte Williams. I know her whole family would have more than overflowed the gallery. Please help me make them welcome.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have a legislative return in response to an oral question from the Member for Klondike respecting ministerial and Cabinet staff travel asked on Thursday, November 1, 2001.
Mr. Speaker, I have a legislative return respecting a question asked on November 13, 2001, by the MLA for Watson Lake seeking the policy framework for workforce support initiatives for renewal.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I have for tabling, pursuant to the Environment Act, the 2000 Yukon state of the environment interim report.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Ms. Tucker: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the government has responded to requests from the Yukon's business community by tabling the capital budget in the fall session;
(2) this significant change in how the government works will provide industry with a better opportunity to plan for the upcoming construction season;
(3) this initiative clearly illustrates the Yukon Liberal government's commitment to accept constructive ideas on the effective and efficient operations of government;
(4) the Yukon Liberal government is eager and willing to implement ideas that will aid business in doing what they do best; and
THAT this House fully supports this initiative and urges the Yukon Liberal government to continue to implement initiatives that reflect the views of the general public and the business community.
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the Yukon protected areas strategy was the result of thousands of hours of work by Yukon people;
(2) that strategy fulfilled commitments made by two previous Yukon governments to set aside representative areas of each of the Yukon's distinctive ecoregions;
(3) that strategy was also consistent with the legal obligations of the Government of Yukon under the Yukon First Nations umbrella final agreement;
(4) during the last territorial election campaign, the Yukon Liberals promised to enshrine the Yukon protected areas strategy in law;
(5) the Parks and Land Certainty Act currently under debate has not had the benefit of public review and consultation, it fails to honour the Yukon Liberal government's commitment to enshrine the Yukon protected areas strategy in law, and it ascribes powers to the minister and Cabinet that are contrary to the intent of the Yukon protected areas strategy; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to honour its commitment to Yukon people by setting aside the Parks and Land Certainty Act until such time as the appropriate public consultation has taken place, and by bringing it forward for debate only when it is accompanied by separate, stand-alone legislation that clearly enshrines the Yukon protected areas strategy in law.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motions?
Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Land claims deadline, March 31, 2002
Mr. Fairclough: My question is to the Premier. The federal minister has graced the Yukon with his second visit. He was quite outspoken about the status of land claims negotiations. Does the Premier agree with the minister's assessment of those negotiations, particularly his observation about White River First Nation land claims?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: If the member opposite is asking if I support the settlement of outstanding land claims by March 31, I would say that yes, we do, and we are working very hard toward that goal. It has also been clearly expressed that it is doable to conclude land claims negotiations by March 31, and we are working hard to that end.
If the member opposite is referring to specific comments that were made this morning in the media by Minister Nault, I would be happy to address the specific comment if the member would tell me which one he is referring to.
Mr. Fairclough: All the Premier needs to do is listen to what is being said by the federal minister. The federal minister said what many Yukon people have been saying for quite awhile, that this Yukon Liberal government has been dragging its feet on settling outstanding land claims. Of course, the Premier is going to say one more time that she does not negotiate land claims on the floor of this Legislature but, Mr. Speaker, now that Mr. Nault has spoken up, she can't get off that easily.
What is the Premier doing to make sure that her negotiators have a clear mandate to resolve YTG issues in the outstanding land claims, including that of the White River First Nation?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I am not going to say what the member opposite suggested. What I am going to say, one more time, is that the member opposite is wrong. That is not what Minister Nault said in the media this morning. The transcripts are readily available, and what Minister Nault said with respect to White River is, "White River did not seem to give me the impression that they believe what we were offering as the Government of Canada, and I suspect from the same perspective of what YTG was offering, was not in the ballpark, and I had made it very clear that this isn't an exercise of threatening people."
Mr. Speaker, there is a complete transcript of Minister Nault's media interview and his comments. Minister Nault took the time and has travelled to Beaver Creek, Burwash, Ross River, Liard, Lower Post and has met with a number of First Nation chiefs, as well as other individuals interested in meeting with him on Indian Affairs and Northern Development issues, as well as with me.
Specifically on land claims - as I have said and as Minister Nault has said, March 31, 2002 - is the end of the federal mandate.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, it's clear that the federal minister did say that the Yukon government is dragging its feet in settling outstanding land claims, and the Premier cannot walk away from that. It's obvious that the Premier has not been doing what she said she would do. She has not made settling outstanding land claims her top priority. She was too busy rearranging the government deck chairs and plotting how to downsize government. That's attending to her number one priority. When will the Premier do what she said she would do and make land claims her top priority so that the federal minister does not have to do the job for her?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: With all due respect to the member opposite, that is not what Minister Nault has said. And, as the member opposite very well knows, the Government of Canada, the Government of Yukon and First Nations are all parties at the table.
Minister Nault has just travelled to the Yukon and has made very clear his position and the Government of Canada's position, as we have been very clear.
This government has been working very hard on the settlement of land claims. It is a top priority of our government, and we will continue to work very hard.
We are looking forward to even more results, such as we have seen recently in Ta'an Kwach'an.
Question re: Land claims deadline, March 31, 2002
Mr. Fairclough: At least the federal minister is doing his job. He came here and went to each First Nation whose land claims haven't been settled and he got a clear read of where things stand.
The reason Mr. Nault came to the Yukon was because YTG could not deliver on their promise, Mr. Speaker.
He went to the people, but the Premier was too busy going to places like Calgary.
We even forgave the minister - the Premier - for using some of her enormous travel budget to visit First Nations that haven't signed and worked out their outstanding claims, to also resolve the YTG issues.
When does the Premier plan to do what the federal minister did, and go to First Nations in person and not just through her negotiators?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: As the member opposite will realize when he examines the legislative return that I tabled today, this government - all members, as well as staff - have spent well over 200 travel days outside of Whitehorse within the Yukon Territory alone over the past year. We have all been doing that. As we have been doing that, we take the opportunity to meet with councils, and we also take the opportunity to meet with chiefs and councils.
I have met with chiefs both in my office and in theirs. Since being elected, I have met with them on many occasions - with those who have outstanding land claims yet to negotiate and those with land claims that we are working hard to implement.
The fact is, Mr. Speaker, this government is doing its job. And what is really bothering the member is that we're doing it well.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, when the Premier is not logging air miles outside the territory, she's huddling in the bunkers with her strategists.
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Nault came to the Yukon Territory because things weren't moving along, and there's a deadline that was put as March 31. That's the deadline, and it's a real deadline. He had to come here to make sure the claims are continuing and progressing. This minister's not doing the same thing, even though it's a top priority.
So when does the Premier plan to go to the communities, like the federal minister did, in person, rather than her negotiators?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, Minister Nault and the Government of Canada are one party at the land claims negotiating table. Mr. Nault, as a representative of that party, recently did what should be done. He met one on one with chief, council and interested members of the public in many situations and discussed the progress of land claims. It is the federal mandate that is set to expire on March 31, 2002. The minister was doing his job. Mr. Speaker, the minister was doing his job just as we have been doing our jobs. We have met and continued to meet not only negotiator to negotiator but chief to Premier, chief to minister. This government has a good working relationship with First Nations at the negotiating table and elsewhere.
Mr. Fairclough: It's not the words coming out of the Premier that are satisfying those out there trying and working hard on negotiations.
Mr. Speaker, the federal minister recognized that there were problems and there is a deadline. He recognized that and made a point of coming to the Yukon and going to every community and First Nation that hasn't ratified a land claim agreement.
That's a top priority of this Liberal government, and this Premier still has not done that, has not made the commitment, and has focused and been derailed by other issues such as devolution and so on.
When will the Premier do the right thing, go out to the communities and talk about how to resolve this issue quickly? The deadline is real; the federal minister said so. So when is this Premier going to do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite is right. The minister did his job. The minister came to the Yukon and heard first-hand from not only chief and council, but from negotiators as well.
This government has been doing its job, and we will continue to do our job. We meet with not only the negotiating teams, but I meet with chiefs on a regular basis - those with whom we are negotiating, and those with whom we have already reached settlements and are working hard to implement land claims.
This government is doing its job. We are very conscious of the fact that the federal deadline of March 31, 2002, is very real. We have heard that and, as a party at the land claims table, we are working very hard and believe that settlement of the land claims is doable within the time frame as outlined by the minister. With some hard work and political will, it can be done and, Mr. Speaker, we will do our part.
Question re: Protected areas strategy
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Minister of Economic Development on the non-existent Liberal economic agenda.
Now, Mr. Speaker, yesterday in Question Period we heard the Minister of Renewable Resources clearly spell out this Liberal government's environmental agenda by promising to create 13 new no-development parks in the Yukon. Now, on the economic side, however, it is abundantly clear that this Liberal government has no economic agenda. With 13 new parks, there will be no mining and there will be no forestry.
What the Liberals have created instead can be called the "Wal-Mart economy", wherein our rapidly dwindling population is now purchasing goods produced outside. Our minerals are not being mined, we have no timber to send to market, and the oil and gas sector - Devon, a large U.S. oil and gas consortium that purchased Anderson Exploration is telling Yukoners that their focus of attention will be on the Northwest Territories rather than on the Yukon.
Speaker: Order please. Will the member please get to the question?
Mr. Jenkins: Can the minister explain why he has failed to establish an economic agenda and is allowing the Minister of Renewable Resources to implement his grand environmental agenda at the expense of the Yukon economy?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, we are establishing a very strong economic agenda. Regarding the Member for Klondike's comments about Devon and its move toward the Northwest Territories, I'd remind the member that they are cutting back on their operations throughout the north and in northeastern British Columbia as well, based on the economics of the price of natural gas right now.
We are doing a number of things, Mr. Speaker, such as strengthening the resource sector, improving the infrastructure, diversifying the economy, addressing the concerns of devolution, and land claims. The unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in October since 1996. Retail sales are up, wholesale sales are up, and so are building permits.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much. That was an excellent briefing note, Mr. Speaker, prepared for the minister.
Now let's look at November 3. An agreement was reached with the business coalition, admitting that YPAS was not economically balanced and that the minister was quoted as saying that the next step in the process was to meet with the coalition.
Can the minister explain why the next step that was taken was that the Minister of Renewable Resources proceeded unilaterally with the YPAS legislation without making any changes to meet the concerns of business and industry and, to my knowledge, without any meeting taking place?
Why did the Minister of Economic Development let this happen?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The deal reached with the business coalition at the Yukon Chamber of Commerce meeting in Dawson City - from which the Member for Klondike was conspicuously absent - was done to address the concerns of all the sectors and stakeholders with regard to YPAS.
The Minister of Renewable Resources and I are excited that we are able to get back to the table with members of the business coalition.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the deal was made in private between an official from the business coalition and an official of the Government of the Yukon - that's where it was made, and no one was in attendance but those officials.
It's time for the minister to face the economic reality and accept his responsibility for promoting the economic interests of the territory, rather than to merely continue to parrot the anti-development agenda of the Minister of Renewable Resources.
When will this minister stand up to the Minister of Renewable Resources and insist that a proper balance be established between the economy and the environment?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the Member for Klondike that the official in question with regard to the meeting with the member of the business coalition in Dawson City was in constant contact with me and the Minister of Renewable Resources as the opportunity to get the business coalition back to the table unfolded.
I am working very closely with the Minister of Renewable Resources in ensuring that there is economic balance with the environment in the Yukon Territory.
Question re: Forestry responsibilities
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for whichever minister is speaking on forestry issues today.
Mr. Speaker, not only has the federal minister had to come here to try and rescue the land claim process - and if there is to be success in that area it will be in spite of this Liberal government - he has also now had to come and try to rescue the forestry process.
Now, this government, Mr. Speaker, stood on their feet in this House and informed the Yukon public that they had written to the federal minister stating that they were going to take the lead on forestry, and yet the minister has now spoken out clearly that he is taking over this file himself because of the fumbling of this Yukon Liberal government. What now is this Liberal government going to do in terms of representing and protecting Yukoners' interests in forestry now that the federal minister has taken this file back to Ottawa?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to answer the member opposite's question. Of course, we know how they deal with the facts. They're very selective, for one thing, or they ignore the facts that might contravene what they're espousing to be their interpretation of how things are going.
Mr. Speaker, for one fact, the responsibility for forestry - and we recognize that - still lies within the purview of the federal government. We are working very hard and very cooperatively with the federal government, with the folks in the DIAND offices here in Whitehorse, in setting up a strategy, setting up a policy - a strong policy - for the whole Yukon with respect to forest initiatives - something the previous government didn't do, in that they left a significant part of the Yukon population out of the equation.
Mr. Fentie: Well, that is an interesting answer. The minister alludes to a strong policy given now that we have two lawsuits going on in the forestry sector and, secondly, a lot of inconsistencies by this Liberal government.
A year ago, this Liberal government's departments of Economic Development and Renewable Resources - signed by their deputy ministers, along with the regional director general - signed a letter that went to the former Member for Faro outlining what the THA process was. It is this big booklet here. Today the process is completely off the rails from what this government's commitment was to the Yukon public a year ago. That is why it is in total chaos. This government is inconsistent.
I ask the government again, this minister: what are they going to do to get back on track with the forest management planning process and represent and protect Yukoners' interests?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I am completely mystified at how the opposition is approaching this. In a motion stated in the House today by the Member for Kluane, he is strongly calling for more parks, parks, parks in the southeast Yukon. Now the Member for Watson Lake is saying that we have to cut down all the trees in southeast Yukon. Earlier in this session they voted against parks in Yukon so I am not sure where the members opposite are coming from on this issue.
And just to clear the fact on what the federal minister did say, and this is a fact: "Nault says he is considering ways to increase allotments of timber in the southeast Yukon, but he warns that loggers are not the only interests with a say in how Yukon forests are managed." And that is a fact that we are looking at - that we are managing forests for all Yukoners and we will continue to do so in a very responsible way.
Mr. Fentie: That's our point, Mr. Speaker. It's the federal minister saying those things. This government is inconsistent and silent on this matter. And when it comes to mystifying the minister, it seems to be pretty simple to mystify the minister on these issues - and that's the problem.
Now, there's a way for this Liberal government to address this issue and truly represent and protect Yukoners' interests. I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, that this Liberal government could immediately contact the federal minister, offer a partnership arrangement and put on the table some resources from that $99-million surplus they have. They could also request that the federal minister contribute in kind, that they bring in the expertise to this territory to get on with comprehensive forest management planning and that the federal government put on the table the necessary scientific data and inventory required for that planning.
Will this government now take the lead, as they promised all Yukoners they would do a year ago, and request that partnership with the federal government?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The members opposite are always a challenge to listen to because they are flip-flopping all over the place, and they can't be consistent in their messaging. As a matter of fact, the Member for Watson Lake is opposed to devolution, which would specifically allocate, under the control of the Yukon government, the management of the forest resource. But he's against devolution. They're against parks, yet in the motion today they say this government isn't respecting - that we're creating 13 parks.
Well, forgive me, Mr. Speaker. We promised Yukoners that we would move forward on that initiative, and we are. And we are entrenching it in the Parks and Land Certainty Act. But they're opposed to that. I'm not quite sure what they want because different questions from different members opposite - it's really confusing. They're not consistent in their questions, so we can hardly provide adequate answers to satisfy their needs.
Question re: Protected areas strategy
Mr. McRobb: Well, I can agree with the minister on that, Mr. Speaker - that they cannot provide adequate answers, and Hansard will speak for itself.
Now, yesterday, this same minister refused to answer my questions on the proposed Parks and Land Certainty Act. Before he stands up and unleashes his usual tirade about how the NDP botched the Yukon protected areas strategy, I'm asking the minister again: will he set aside this act until he has fulfilled the obligations under the Yukon protected areas strategy to consult with the public and is ready to bring forward stand-alone legislation that enshrines the complete YPAS in law?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: This is a prime example of what I just said. They don't want devolution; they don't want us to manage our resources.
Well, Mr. Speaker, we are going to have devolution and we are going to responsibly manage our resources. Now the member is saying that we haven't consulted properly. YPAS has been consulted to death - first by the previous government, which dropped the ball, not respecting the processes. The member is right that they don't like to be reminded that they dropped the ball, that they missed some of the processes that Yukoners provided them and encouraged them to follow. But they missed the process, Mr. Speaker. They dropped the ball.
It has taken 18 months. As the Minister of Economic Development just stated in the House, we are getting the business community back to the table and including them and their representations of Yukoners.
And we have fixed the YPAS, and we are going to move forward with the Parks and Land Certainty Act.
Mr. McRobb: Well, the fact is that there has been no consultation on this legislation. If the YPAS is dead, it suffered its fate in the backrooms of this Liberal government.
Now, I should remind the minister that YPAS is a product of the Yukon people. The hundreds of Yukoners who contributed to the process made it. It's theirs; it belongs to the Yukon people. But now this minister and this government have slammed the door on the Yukon people. They've abandoned commitment after commitment after commitment. They have abandoned the Yukon protected areas strategy.
Why is the minister afraid to consult? Is he afraid of the obligations imposed on him by the Yukon protected areas strategy? Why is he refusing to bring forward a separate act that makes YPAS law in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Speaker, in that long preamble, I do believe there's a glean of question with respect to YPAS, and I'll answer it.
He was right on one fact: the Yukon people did speak for two years prior to handing to the previous government the responsibility to implement YPAS. They didn't respect that process, Mr. Speaker, because they missed some of the steps that were so critical to be followed, and they violated a trust that had been created in the development of that YPAS by all Yukoners.
Well, Mr. Speaker, people walked away in disgust because the previous government did not follow the process. So we have, over the last 18 months, Mr. Speaker, gotten those folks back to the table, and we will act responsibly in hearing exactly what they have said, and we have worked on many positive things, Mr. Speaker, that the previous government dropped the ball on.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister insists on still fighting the last election. Mr. Speaker, I would suggest he had better concentrate on the next election, because he's in government now. It's up to him now; he's the minister. This is his baby and, from all sources, YPAS is dead. The people have not been consulted on this act.
Just last week, the Yukon people heard about this government's backroom deal with the critics of his very own backroom consultation process. Once again, these Liberals have proven that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Backroom deals are exactly what the YPAS process is designed to eliminate.
Will this minister now throw open the doors that he has slammed shut, fix this flawed Parks Act, and develop a separate YPAS act the right way, through public consultation?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The member is wrong, Mr. Speaker. Despite what he says about the last election, the fact of the matter is that the Member for Kluane himself acknowledged in the press that they did not follow the process of YPAS, and that they had to fix it. They said that themselves but, fortunately, this government was elected to pick up the ball, to get the people back to respect all the input that had been provided with respect to YPAS. We have moved forward, and we have respected the process, and we do have it in legislation now.
We did what we said we would do, and we do have coalition members willing to come back, and we will listen to what they have to say to make the YPAS stronger. So we do what we said we will do.
Question re: Tourism industry, government support for
Mr. McRobb: Well, we'll leave that judgement up to the people in the next election.
Now, many people in the tourism industry expected the Tourism minister to honour her word and bring forward a new accommodations act. Many of them were hoping a new bed tax would generate dollars to boost her department's marketing efforts.
Then someone whispered in the minister's ear, and the accommodations act review came to a screeching halt. Two weeks ago, the president of the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon said the industry needs the minister's help and asked for an additional $1.5 million for marketing - that's Yukon government money, Mr. Speaker.
When the minister attends the TIA roundup this weekend, will she bring forward the good news and her chequebook?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Where to start, where to start.
A former member of this House used to refer to the Legislature as a fact-free zone. Never has it been demonstrated so clearly as today.
The member opposite brought up a number of different subjects. Let's go back to the issue of the accommodations act. That issue is not dead, certainly not dead. There is a need in the territory to get a really good handle on how many visitors we have in the Yukon Territory, how many people stay here every night. We are the only jurisdiction in Canada that doesn't have that. So that is something that we are continuing to work on. We need numbers. We need numbers to back up our arguments about how much money we need to put into marketing, and marketing is a very important issue right now because of the events of September 11. The industry is hurting, and my understanding is that there has been new evidence to suggest that perhaps it might be a little bit worse than we thought it was going to be.
I am going to be going to the tourism roundup this weekend, talking about the new money that we have received, not only from the State of Alaska but also from the Government of Canada, to put toward marketing Yukon Territory. I am also going to be travelling to almost every Yukon community and speaking to tourism operators over the next two months about how best we can market the Yukon and how we should develop that O&M budget with those marketing dollars for next year. In the meantime, we have put pretty close to $1 million toward marketing in the Yukon government budget for this year, and that money was not the money being spent the way that we thought it was going to be prior to September 11.
Mr. McRobb: This Legislature might be a fact-free zone - that is an issue for debate - but it is also an answer-free zone because the minister didn't answer the question. And this gobbledegook about $1 million is not additional funding post-September 11.
It's no secret the hospitality industry is hurting badly, not just in the Yukon but everywhere. Airlines are collapsing, hotels are laying off literally millions of employees, and businesses are finding ways to conduct their meetings that don't involve travel. But where is this minister putting her marketing focus? On RV shows. That is not her department's priority; it is the minister's. RV owners aren't going to save the Yukon's hospitality industry. The minister will claim that RVers book into a hotel every three nights. Well she should check her own department's findings. RVers book into hotels once every 15 nights, not three nights.
What specific new marketing efforts has the minister undertaken since September 11 that are aimed directly at attracting travellers to stay in Yukon hotels, eat in Yukon restaurants and shop in Yukon stores?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite, who is the critic for the Tourism department, should perhaps get his facts straight. Every year, 300,000 people come to the Yukon Territory, and 80 percent of them are in RVs. What would happen if they didn't come? That would devastate our economy. Mr. Speaker, the member should at least know what he is talking about - 300,000 people, for the number one industry in the Yukon Territory. We need those RVers, and we haven't paid a lot of attention to them in the past.
I have personally gone out to RV shows. I have gone all over this continent, talking about the need to keep those RVers coming to the Yukon Territory. That is a priority because it needs to be a priority. Mr. Speaker, what would happen if they didn't come?
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister is asking my question with a similar question. It's up to her to provide the answer. Now, I suspect the minister is hoping the new Wal-Mart store will market the Yukon for her. As the leader of the third party said, "We're entering the Wal-Mart economy."
Now, 35 percent of U.S. companies have changed their travel policies since September 11. Half of them are restricting travel to essential travel, and a high percentage are directing their employees to use video-conferencing to replace travel.
The previous NDP government made a solid commitment to encourage convention trade and business incentive trade to come here during the shoulder and off-seasons. What is this minister doing right now to beef up the Yukon's efforts to attract convention and corporate incentive travel, and how is that reflected in the supplementary budget?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is not clear about the budget. He doesn't seem to have read it.
The previous government gave a certain amount of money to the Convention Bureau, but our government brought that amount of dollars up considerably. We gave almost a quarter of a million dollars to the Yukon Convention Bureau to continue the good work they do in the Yukon Territory, and they're doing a wonderful job.
Mr. Speaker, the events of September 11 have made people leery about travelling far from their houses. They want to stay close to home. And with that in mind, we've applied to the Yukon Tourism Commission for money to do a mail-out to Ontario for the cruise lines. We've also applied for money - and we are matching the dollars that we are hoping to get from the feds - for an RV neighbour-to-neighbourhood program. We've also got money coming from Alaska. We are also working on a shop-Yukon program with the State of Alaska.
Mr. Speaker, we're trying really hard, but, regardless, after the events of September 11, people don't want to go too far from home.
We support the Yukon Convention Bureau with a quarter of a million dollars a year.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed and we will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. McLachlan: I would like to draw the attention of the gallery to a Faro constituent, Mr. Shane Wilson, who is present in the top row and whose fine artwork often graces the Chambers upstairs.
Please welcome him.
Bill No. 45: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 45, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 45, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (No. 4), be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 45, entitled An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (No. 4), be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: This bill serves to implement a previously announced initiative. As members will know, the provinces and territories - aside from Quebec - are party to tax collection agreements with the federal government.
Under these agreements, the federal government collects provincial and territorial personal income taxes at the same time as it collects the federal tax. In other words, Mr. Speaker, we file our tax return and it includes both the Yukon and the federal section.
In the past, in order to have the federal government provide this service, it insisted that the provinces and territories state their tax as a percent of basic federal tax. In the case of the Yukon, this is 46 percent for the current fiscal year.
Doing it in this manner, Mr. Speaker, levying tax on the basis of another tax is awkward, and it makes it much more difficult to tailor tax policy to the specific needs of the province or the territory. Furthermore, it meant that provincial and territorial tax yields changed every time the federal government changed its tax rates. This was not a problem for the territories - Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut - because of the workings of the failsafe clauses in the formula agreements. It was a matter of concern to our provincial colleagues.
For a number of years, the provinces and the territories have lobbied the federal government in an effort to permit them to state their personal income tax rates as a percent of taxable income in order to overcome the limitations of the tax-on-tax regime. Ultimately, these lobbying efforts were successful, and by the 2001 tax year, all provinces have announced the adoption of a tax-on-income methodology. Only the three territories had not converted to this method, in part, Mr. Speaker, because of the cost of the conversion. It could be anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 to make this conversion. Also, the territories have opted to wait out the workings of any bugs that might have cropped up in the process.
The federal government has found it very difficult to maintain two systems of taxation, one for the provinces and one for the territories, so earlier this year, the federal government offered to cover the costs that I mentioned earlier, to convert the territories to the tax-on-income system. The offer was accepted by the Yukon and by the other two territories - the Northwest Territories and Nunavut - and the legislation I'm speaking about today is the consequence of that decision.
In accepting this offer, Mr. Speaker, I would advise the House that I certainly had discussions - of course, it was a decision of the government, our caucus and Cabinet. It was also a decision that I discussed with both leaders of the opposition parties in the House.
The bill will convert us to the new system effective January 1, 2001. There will be no change in the amount of tax any Yukoner pays as a result of this legislation, and that's a very important point. While the tax form will look different, there will not be any change in the amount of tax that any Yukoner pays as a result of this legislation.
Tax bills will be exactly the same as they would have been if we didn't do this. Only the method in the way we calculate the tax will change.
Initially we have adopted the federal brackets and simply applied rates to them to yield the same tax as would have been payable under the old system. It's generally conceded that basing tax rates on income, rather than on other tax, is more transparent and, on that basis alone, I believe this is a worthwhile measure.
In addition, there is a very real advantage to the Yukon of being able to more easily and readily target our tax policy to particular income groups by varying brackets and the rates that are applied to those brackets.
Again, Mr. Speaker, it's important to note that there is no change in the amount of tax any Yukoner pays as a result of this legislation.
I have no doubt, given the discussions I mentioned earlier, that all members of this House accept, as an article of faith and goodwill, that the transparency and the ability to manipulate your tax regime to the benefit of your citizens are goals for which we should all strive.
This legislation takes us a good way toward that goal, and I look forward to the support of all members who are sitting here today in the passage of this bill.
Mr. Speaker, I'd also like to express my thanks to the Government of Canada, which has, in asking us to examine this, paid the cost of drafting the legislation and worked very closely with our officials.
I'd also like to express my thanks to our own Government of Yukon Finance officials for their efforts in working through the numbers, double-checking and checking many times so that we were sure that there is, of course, absolutely no change in the amount of tax that any Yukoner pays as a result of this legislation. It's a very, very important point.
Certainly our tax forms will look differently, Mr. Speaker. And there is opportunity in this legislation in that there is the opportunity in the future. Of course, there is the greater transparency, but there is also the opportunity in the future to more readily target our tax policy, something the Minister of Economic Development and our caucus have spoken about on many occasions and, of course, also the Minister of Health and Social Services and others. The ability to target our tax policy to particular income groups by varying brackets and rates applied to those brackets also presents an opportunity for us.
Overall, Mr. Speaker, I look forward to the support of members of this House on this particular piece of legislation.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: We in the official opposition are in full support of this Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (No. 4). I believe it brings us in line with the rest of the provinces. It also makes it easier in the federal system to deal with only one system versus two.
Mr. Speaker, we will be in support of this act.
Mr. Jenkins: I rise in support of this act. The briefing I attended allayed any fears and concerns that I had. It is a very detailed piece of legislation. With that, Mr. Speaker, I move that this act be deemed read and carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 45 agreed to
Bill No. 53: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 53, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Roberts.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I move that Bill No. 53, entitled Canadian Council for Donation and Transplantation Indemnification Act, be now read for a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Health and Social Services that Bill No. 53, entitled Canadian Council for Donation and Transplantation Indemnification Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I am pleased to rise in this House to speak to this act today. There are many places and ways in our society where individuals contribute their expertise for the betterment of others. One such way is when a national council is created to provide practical advice about how best to coordinate some aspects of health care across this very large country of ours.
The Canadian Council for Donation and Transplantation, which is refereed to as CCDT, has been set up for just such a purpose. This advisory council is made up of medical people and people with an interest and expertise in organ and tissue donation and transplantation in Canada. The council reports to the conference of federal, provincial and territorial deputy ministers of health. The mandate of the council is to provide advice to governments about effective ways to coordinate and strengthen organ donation and transplantation for Canadians.
People providing expert advice on health matters can be at risk of having legal actions taken against them for the work that they do in good faith and to the best of their abilities.
It is becoming a frequent and common requirement for governments to ensure that these individuals are not personally at risk when they accept the responsibility to sit on an advisory group. Governments do this by indemnifying the members of the group and its working groups. In practical terms, indemnification of the CCDT means that the government will pay for the legal expenses, including litigation cost and settlement costs if legal action is taken against a member of the CCDT for work they have done in good faith for the council.
In this particular case, the CCDT will be required to buy $10 million of commercial insurance to draw on first if any legal actions against them take place. Indemnification will only be required for any cost not covered by that insurance. Risk managers estimate that the $10-million insurance should be adequate to cover any foreseeable legal costs for a purely advisory group such as the CCDT. Thus, the possible risk of having to pay out indemnification is very small.
In the event that any indemnification would need to be paid out, an agreement is in place among all federal, provincial and territorial governments that will mean that the Yukon portion of these costs would be just under 0.1 percent of the total indemnification cost, reflecting a per capita contribution. This risk is considered acceptable, particularly because of the expected benefits for having the CCDT in place and serving the interests of Canadians.
Close to 10 Yukoners we know of, and possibly more, have been organ recipients over the years. Some of their heartfelt stories and appreciation were highlighted in a media campaign that ran about a year ago, encouraging Yukoners to consider registering as organ donors. Organ donation is extremely valuable to the people whose life it has improved through a transplant.
The Canadian Council for Donation and Transplantation will play a role in making sure that donations and transplantations are managed to the best benefit of all Canadians.
This act is necessary for the Yukon to do its share to support having the Canadian Council for Donation and Transplantation in place to perform this role.
I invite you all to join me in supporting this piece of legislation.
Mr. Keenan: I rise in support of Bill No. 53, and I want to take a crack at this too - the Canadian Council for Donation and Transplantation Indemnification Act. The official opposition certainly recognizes the social benefit for all citizens and will be supporting this.
I would appreciate, though, if the minister would send over, by way of legislative return, the figure of the cost to the Yukon government. I know it's very minuscule; it's like 0.9 percent of the total, but I'd appreciate the figure, if the minister would do that.
In closing, we support the bill.
Mr. Jenkins: I rise in support of Bill No. 53, the Canadian Council for Donation and Transplantation Indemnification Act.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 53 agreed to
Mr. McLachlan: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. I understand that there's all-party commitment to promptly consider the bills that have just gone through second reading, so we will attempt to do that right now.
The House will now consider Bill No. 45, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (No. 4).
Unanimous consent re deeming clauses of Bill No. 45 read and agreed to
Mr. McLachlan: By agreement reached among the House leaders, I request unanimous consent for Bill No. 45 to be now deemed read.
Chair: This will require unanimous consent.
Do we have unanimous consent to deem Bill No. 45, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (No. 4), read?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Clauses 1 to 8 deemed to have been read and agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I move that Bill No. 45, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (No. 4), be reported out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Unanimous consent re deeming clauses of Bill No. 53 read and agreed to
Mr. McLachlan: By agreement reached between the House leaders, I request unanimous consent for Bill No. 53, entitled Canadian Council for Donation and Transplantation Indemnification Act, to be deemed read.
Chair: Is there unanimous consent for Bill No. 53, entitled Canadian Council for Donation and Transplantation Indemnification Act, to be deemed read.
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Clauses 1 to 4 deemed to have been read and agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I move that Bill No. 53, Canadian Council for Donation and Transplantation Indemnification Act, be reported out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: We will now take a brief recess and return at 2:25.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We will continue with general debate on Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2001-02.
Bill No. 7 - Second Appropriation Act, 2001-02 - continued
Department of Government Services - continued
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mrs. Peter: I have a question for the Minister of Government Services regarding telephone services in my riding. One of the subdivisions is on the other side of the airport, and access to that subdivision is quite a distance. My concern here is that the service is unavailable to residents in that area. They do not have access to telephone service, and that's a great concern to the people who live in that area. There are many young families living in that area.
With regard to safety concerns, I asked the minister if he is able to assist the people in accessing that service there.
Hon. Mr. Jim: By all means, I will look into the situation there and definitely get back to the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin.
Mrs. Peter: I would just like to have a commitment from the minister as to timelines for the response to my question.
Hon. Mr. Jim: I think within the next couple of weeks would be ample time.
Mr. Keenan: Yesterday we went through and we heard all about political ideology and all sorts of other things. I was told, in kind words, when I left here that if you argue with one, you start to resemble one and people can't tell the difference, so I will move on.
I would like to ask the minister: does the minister have a policy for locally made products? I am concerned maybe about the Mayo school and the furniture there. Can the minister confirm that it is locally made, and could the minister, by way of policy development or tabling a policy, show me the buy-local policy?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, Government Services seeks out Yukon manufacturers to be catalogued for use as suppliers when the government is contracting for goods and designing government buildings. Government Services, the supply services department, has assigned a purchasing officer to coordinate between government programs and local manufacturers in order to identify manufacturers and their products, assist manufacturers with gaining product standards approval from the appropriate agency, where necessary - for example, the Canadian Standards Association - inform manufacturers about government programs available to the system, and introduce manufacturers to contracting authorities in the government who may be interested in using their products, and work with government departments in facilitating the purchasing of Yukon-manufactured products for their operations.
To date, the purchasing officer has visited more than 60 manufacturers in Whitehorse, Dawson City, Haines Junction, Teslin and Watson Lake and, as a result, several manufacturers have bid on and won government contracts.
Mr. Keenan: Could the minister please confirm that the furniture, the desks, the tables and the chairs in the Mayo school are local Yukon products? That's one question. Would the minister care to answer that question?
Hon. Mr. Jim: During the past four years, the Department of Education has purchased students' and teachers' desks designed and produced by Yukon manufacturers for use in Yukon schools. Projects such as the Mayo school and Copper Ridge extended care facility are being targeted to ensure locally manufactured furnishings are maximized at these facilities. Last year, a line of computer desk systems for Yukon schools were designed and purchased.
Mr. Keenan: Just one further question on that. The process - is it all up to the purchasing officer to tour the Yukon, or is there a transparent public process within government somewhere, where somebody could phone up, say, the wonderful people on the front desk, who do such good work there, push some buttons and say this is a process, and it's an inclusive process that would happen 12 months of the year, and not like the fuel purchase process, where people do not know where to go? Is that the case in this situation?
Hon. Mr. Jim: This is on an as-needed basis, and it follows the contracting requirements for locally manufactured supplies.
Mr. Keenan: If we have a full-time equivalent position of a purchasing officer to canvass the territory and look at things, I would ask the minister if he would be able to find a way that it's not on an as-needed basis. There are probably people who are in the hinterlands, with a cottage industry, in the areas of Teslin. The minister said the purchasing officer has been to Teslin. I know three manufacturers within the Taku subdivision itself who would probably appreciate knowing there's a process for Yukon-made products.
The Department of Tourism has a logo - a snowflake, I believe it is - for locally made products, and that enhances the crafts and cultures of the Yukon Territory. The minister has the chance to duplicate something already within government to find a way to make the process very transparent. Will the minister consider that?
Hon. Mr. Jim: As I said earlier on, we do have a local manufacturing purchasing officer. And that's basically what their job is - to go around and inform the communities that there is a need for products to be supplied, designed and built by local manufacturers here in the Yukon.
Mr. Keenan: I haven't quite heard what I want to hear, and I'm not sure if I'm saying it in the right manner here. I guess I could ask two questions: how long has the purchasing officer been in place? And I commend government for finding a mechanism so that we would have it there. But what we have here is that, if there is a purchasing officer in place for years or half a year or whatever, then there is a slight hole that I am identifying on behalf of people who are in cottage-type industries.
Would it be possible, say, that I'm going to be in Tagish on March 31 between 7:00 and 9:00, and it's in the newspapers, et cetera, before I get there, because I know that there is some slippage there and I'm asking the minister to just tighten up that slippage. If the minister would consider that, it would be appreciated.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I understand that the process by which we inform the communities is at question here. I do believe that, yes, that is something we can look at, and that there are ways we can have the purchasing officer remind the communities that they will be in that community on such and such a date and time.
Mr. Keenan: I would certainly appreciate it if the minister would carry through and follow through on that. As I said yesterday or the day before that in the House, if unemployment is 10 percent here, it's 80 to 90 percent in the communities, and they need every assistance they can get. So I appreciate the minister going that far.
I'd like to talk about local hire at this point in time, if I could. Now, I asked the minister a question in Question Period about local hire, and the minister said he didn't know what I was talking about. It's there. "I'm not really clear on my question," he said to me. He said that it's there. Yet I have heard from highway jobs that we have two British Columbia dirt movers, and I'm sure there are as many dirt movers in this very room who have that experience.
I know that the Yukon has a wealth of, and plenty of capacity for, equipment operators, whether it's graders, buggy skinners or whatever. We have the capacity. When we have two operators who come from outside of the Yukon Territory, I get offended by that - very offended by that - because I have friends and relatives, as does everyone in this room, who have the capacity to do those types of jobs. And jobs are scarce in the Yukon at this time - very scarce. No matter how government wishes to put a spin on it, and no matter how much everyone sits in the back and agrees and says that retail sales are up and this is down, again I consider this to be bafflegab.
So, local jobs are very, very important. Can the minister please stand on his feet and describe now how the minister directs government at large, or does the minister direct government at large? Does the minister include it in the C&TS contracts, et cetera? So, could the minister please explain "local hire"?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, there are many facets to the Yukon hire or local hire. There is the hiring of government employees. This area of Yukon hire is the responsibility of the Public Service Commission. Although questions regarding the hiring of public servants should be directed to the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, I would point out to the member opposite that guideline 3 of the staffing manual contains policies regarding Yukon hire, including the definition of "Yukon resident." Guideline 3 is available to the general public in printed form from the Public Service Commission. There are also Yukon hire policies and regulations respecting government contracting, local purchasing, Yukon businesses and incentives for local businesses. This is the portion of Yukon hire for which the Department of Government Services takes responsibility.
The contracting regulations and contracting directive contain Yukon hire policies. They are available to the general public in both print form and on the government public Web site. The member opposite can simply click on "Departments" and choose the Department of Government Services. That site is very user-friendly. Information for local businesses wishing to sell to the Yukon government can be found on the Department of Government Services' public Web site. This includes incentives for Yukon businesses under the business incentive program, commonly known as BIP.
The Yukon contracting regulations, the contracting directive and the business incentive program are all designed to level the playing field for Yukon businesses who supply goods and services to the Yukon government. This allows more Yukon businesses to successfully bid on government contracts, and it allows Yukon businesses to employ more Yukoners.
The phrase "Yukon hire" is commonly used in this Assembly and in the community at large to describe the way in which government uses its resources to support Yukoners and to support our local economy.
The Yukon hire policy regime crosses many boundaries. It crosses the boundaries between the branches and work units. It crosses departmental boundaries. It affects public sector employees. It affects private sector businesses.
Yukon hire is a comprehensive set of policies, regulations, approaches and attitudes which foster strength in the local economy for all the sectors of the Yukon public.
The Yukon hire policies in place under this government are working, Mr. Chair.
The Public Service Commission is hiring Yukoners for Yukon jobs. We are buying locally sold and manufactured products. We are offering incentives to Yukon businesses. We are contracting with local companies.
Fully 89 percent of the contract dollars spent by government in the last fiscal year were spent on local contracts. That's in excess of $121 million circulating through our economy because of this government's approach to Yukon hire.
Does this government have a Yukon hire policy? Yes, we do, and it's working.
Mr. Keenan: Well, thank you, Mr. MacGillivray.
Chair: Order please.
There is no Mr. MacGillivray in the House, so I would ask the member to refer to members of the House in response.
Mr. Keenan: Absolutely. Thank you for that wonderful commercial interlude into a question that I had asked.
I would very much like to thank the author of that commercial interlude who happens to have an office upstairs in the corner here.
Does the minister recognize that there is a difference between a policy and an incentive?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Absolutely.
Mr. Keenan: I certainly appreciate that the minister has that depth of knowledge. I know, and it has been admitted in the House that two folks - now mind you this was just two, I am not beating anybody up here, I am pointing out something. Those two operators probably made, through the course of this season, $60,000 between them - $30,000 apiece - somewhere in that range, that is leaving the territory. I appreciate that we have a government-based economy at this point in time. Whatever we put into the economy through contracts - if it's $121 million - I would hope that 99 to 100 percent would stay here - not just 89 percent. That is the only economy we have at this point in time, so I will say good and best efforts. What I distinctly need to hear from this minister is that we do have a policy. We have a commitment and it crosses the different departments and reaches into the tentacles of the corporations that we have established, like the Yukon Energy Corporation and those types of corporations, that we have reached across, not only through incentive, but through policy - a need to hire Yukoners first. It is very important to everybody in this room that we have that type of clear, transparent policy. I want to point out that the business incentive policy is just that; it is just an incentive.
My question to the minister yesterday was this: did the minister get a hold of the gentleman from Ross River? Well, if the minister had got a hold of that gentleman - and maybe the minister got a hold of that gentleman last night after a little bit of pressure yesterday - but that was exactly what that gentleman wanted to talk to the minister about - local hire, local opportunities. How does that person actually help build capacity within that peculiar nook of the Yukon? That is what I am trying to get the minister to understand, that there is a need for a local hire policy, that there is a need for this minister to look for training trust funds or training initiatives so that we might be able to couple them with these different initiatives that come out of the department - those types of things.
Is the minister willing to look at that?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we've talked about some of the processes and some of the incentives and policies that the government provides for Yukon hire, for local hire.
In the beginning, my seat in government as Minister of Government Services - I've asked one of the local round tables for local hire to look at the wording and attempt to hire people locally and give best efforts toward hiring people locally. We asked that they look at the wording, and, to the comfort of the people in the round table, we're still trying to establish what the wording could be or should be in regard to - it's the round table for the continuing care facility.
It's very sensitive ground, in that we don't want to be violating any human rights or rights to Canadian citizens, but we still certainly try to maintain and look at the best efforts toward hiring residents of the Yukon. We cannot sole-source in any way to residents of the Yukon or any businesses, and where three or more Yukon businesses provide goods and services required, Government of the Yukon's invitational tenders are open to Yukon companies only. That's in the section 19 of the contracting directive.
Mr. Keenan: When we speak about the round table on a specific project, like the continuing care centre, I certainly realize now, at this point in time, why the minister is speaking as he is. There's probably a court case or something happening at this time, but that's not what I'm talking about. I won't strain your litigation, but now that the minister has brought it to the floor of the House, I can say - to use that as an example - that we should be trying to find a way and, if it's through specific projects, maybe we should be looking at tightening up those contracts, so that we can have at least our local capacity here done so that it's - just because you're a Yukoner, it doesn't mean that you can get 25 percent more. I don't believe that. Government has to - and I appreciate government, when they have a principle of making equitable buying power, if I can say it in that way. I appreciate that. I'm not going to argue with the minister about that.
But, what I would like the minister to recognize is that we do have, in this sense, the capacity, equipment operators, so that, maybe in work jobs like that, this is a different situation than I believe - was it the minister - I think I even have a quote here somewhere, doggone it. I'll just dig it up.
Sure we do. We have a quote from Mr. Eftoda. Mr. Eftoda says that he recognizes the need. I won't read it all, but he recognizes the need to, when you need skilled and qualified people to deliver essential services, waive the three-month requirement.
I'm not arguing with that. I understand that we need to have a good flow-through of services but, in this case, there is the capacity. There are lots of equipment operators in the Yukon. I bet there are three or four in this very room right now who have done it. They deserve a first crack at those jobs. That's what I'm saying. Let's keep the bucks here.
That's what I want the minister to understand I'm speaking about. On that situation, the minister can answer that in any way he cares to.
There's another question I'd put out, in terms of building that capacity, because the minister said we cannot sole-source on advice. I beg to differ. No, I ain't going to beg to differ. I'm just going to state that I do find that that's not correct - that's absolutely not correct.
If the minister will look at the different projects that have happened - the Carcross sewage treatment centre was through - we found a way to put it into the community to benefit the community, in training, jobs, et cetera, and the local dollars stayed there. The community wanted that. It's a completely legal process.
I'm asking the minister if he would be able to look at those types of issues, if the minister would keep it as a principle of philosophy - please - when looking at a contract, if it's a million-dollar contract, if we could look - and it can be done because I have done it - at putting it into two $500,000 contracts or something like as such, so that local people could do it.
There are two questions there. Could the minister please answer?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, as I stated earlier on, Government Services has to purchase about 89 percent of its purchases with local manufacturers and local retailers. It is our intent - and if 89 percent is not high enough, certainly we are always looking at ways we can keep, or looking at the number of different options available, or planning to look at a number of different options for keeping the dollars here with Yukon residents by way of employment or manufactured goods or services.
Mr. Keenan: Did I just hear the minister say yes, that he would be looking at that? Is that what the minister said - that they'd find ways or try to find ways, that 89 percent wasn't enough, and they wanted to take it to 100 percent?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I didn't say that we want to take it to 100 percent. When we say that 89 percent of the goods and services being purchased are from residents of the Yukon - we strive to look at a number of different ways that we try to keep the dollar with Yukon residents and local manufacturers of goods and services.
Yes, we will look once again at one of the number of different options as to how we might better provide more accessible opportunities for Yukoners in employment with the government.
Mr. Keenan: I thank the minister for that statement.
I was wondering if the minister would lead a discussion within caucus - or maybe not caucus, but within Cabinet, or whatever the process is - to see if maybe we could get that across government and not just within the Department of Government Services - with any of the departments that tender contracts. Would the minister make that commitment? Because it's a good idea.
Hon. Mr. Jim: As I said before, it's the intent of this government to make sure that local hire is optimum with respect to contracts and delivering or purchasing manufactured goods and services. I will certainly bring that forth to the rest of caucus, as they already know. The more and more that we converse and the more and more that we network with one another's ideas, the more and more that we have an improved and efficient government system that is providing good services to Yukoners.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I appreciate what the minister's saying, and I would appreciate it if the minister would do that. But I've got to say that I find it kind of - well, it might be challenging for the minister to get some of those rogue Cabinet ministers all on the same satellite or maybe in the same atmosphere. It might be difficult.
But I appreciate the minister taking the opportunity to lead that cross-departmental discussion so that he might be able to focus on the real needs of the people. I'd never beat the minister up for focusing on the needs of the people. But I will wail away, I guess, if I have to. If there's a capacity that can be filled within the Yukon that has not been filled within the Yukon, well, then the minister's leading with his chin. But in this case, I will certainly give the minister the opportunity over the course of the winter to define it more and I'll question the minister on it in the future.
Could the minister please tell me what the minister has done about the youth hire and how the minister has categorized that or characterized that in any of the contracts?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, a 15-percent rebate is paid on wages to youth who are registered apprentices.
In terms of training, we look after some training. In terms of training, the Education department looks after some training as well. On-the-job training may be something on Community and Transportation Services' behalf. But the only provision that we do provide is that the 15-percent rebate is paid to wages to youth as registered apprentices.
Mr. Keenan: That sounds like it's mostly captured with an incentive. Can the minister table the policy as to this?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, not a problem.
Mr. Keenan: I guess in this new-fangled language, Mr. Chair, that "not a problem" is a "yes".
Hon. Mr. Jim: Yes, it is.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I have no problem with that.
Could the minister explain the responsibility of the Department of Government Services for telephones and communications? We're still somewhat mystified, on this side of the House, as to where the responsibility lies. I guess I could pull quotes out. As a matter of fact, I'll ask the staff right now to pull out those quotes, and I'll use them if I have to, but could the minister please explain the department's responsibility for telephones and communications?
Hon. Mr. Jim: As you know, Connect Yukon has been transferred over to Community and Transportation Services; however, we do provide services with different departments. The telecommunications policy is part of Government Services, and a number of CRTC broad bands are under our service as well, in that we are involved with the national broad-band task force.
Mr. Keenan: I was wondering if the minister might be able to inform me if there's a warm body - I don't know if we call them FTEs any more, but just a warm body, I guess, somebody in the technology and telecommunications branch who monitors the progress of the CRTC. Inadvertently, I guess I'm thinking about Northwestel's service improvement plan.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Yes, there is a person responsible for it. It would be the director of technology and telecommunications.
Mr. Keenan: How long has this person been in that position, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I have been advised that it may even be as much as two to three years.
Mr. Keenan: I am certainly pleased that the minister is becoming familiar with his department, because I asked this question the last session and I was told, "No, we have no responsibility", ta da da da da.
Now that the minister recognizes that there is a responsibility and we do have a warm body in the department who does that, is the minister - maybe the minister hasn't been briefed on this. If the minister hasn't been briefed, then please tell me so.
Is the minister pleased - I guess that might not be the right word - is the minister satisfied with the progress, I guess, the service improvement plan, at this point in time?
Hon. Mr. Jim: The Government of Yukon has put a great deal of effort into providing a northern perspective on national communications policy development.
Through our participation in recent CRTC hearings, we were successful in obtaining support for a four-year service improvement plan. Based on input from the Yukon, it was recognized that Northwestel has limited resources to upgrade services in the northern territories. We demonstrated that a southern subsidy was necessary to give our residents and businesses timely and affordable access to telecommunications.
We were successful in convincing the CRTC to provide $26 million in southern support to the Yukon.
That is $26 million of outside dollars being devoted to Yukon telecommunications infrastructure upgrades in addition to the normal yearly capital budget of Northwestel.
This massive expenditure will provide jobs over the next four years and improve telecommunications infrastructure to hundreds and hundreds of Yukoners. The program includes telephone service improvements to 1,700 residential lots. It includes infrastructure upgrades in the Dempster area and the area from Carmacks to Faro and Ross River. It includes switching upgrades in four communities and digital services to eight communities. Upgrading the telecommunications infrastructure throughout the north is a time-consuming and expensive undertaking. It is not possible to carry out a project of this magnitude in only one year.
Under the CRTC direction, large population areas are the first ones scheduled to receive upgrades. Tagish Estates, California Beach, Taku subdivision, Deep Creek area, Mendenhall Landing, Jackfish Bay, Grizzly, Ta'an, Horse Creek and the Takhini River area will receive services by the end of this year. This represents about 500 lots. Next year more work will be done to the Tagish area, as well as Carcross. Year three we will see service installation of the Teslin area, along Fish Lake Road and out on the Takhini River Road. Additional areas across the Yukon, including Faro and Ross River, will be picked up in year four.
All residential lots in under-serviced Yukon areas are covered by this program. Everyone will be offered an opportunity to upgrade. The millions of dollars in southern support made it possible for each residential telephone service applicant to access up to $25,000 in subsidy support. In most cases the subsidy will cover all but a $1,000 applicant contribution in upgrade costs.
The Department of Government Services, through the technology and telecommunications unit, is working with Northwestel to ensure programs are kept on track. This is a four-year program, which is progressing well. Thanks to the hard work of our officials, the Government of Yukon has established a presence and is recognized as an important participant in the Canadian telecommunications policy arenas.
This is an excellent example of our government working hard to meet the needs of rural Yukoners. And yes, Mr. Chair, I am pleased with the process that has taken place here with the Government of Yukon and telecommunications in the Yukon.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm glad the minister got around. I certainly find that the minister is wasting the time of the House. I asked a specific question. I know the service improvement plan. As a matter of fact, it was this side of the House that characterized the service improvement plan and the shortfalls the minister did not recognize. It was this side of the House that had to send the letter. So I'm pleased that the minister is satisfied with it.
Is the minister aware that Northwestel is having a special meeting in the community of Tagish and is going to be asking questions? Is the minister aware there is a problem there?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, once again, I have informed the member opposite about telecommunications in the communities. Again he says that we're wasting time in the House. So many times we have answered the questions of the members opposite. While the member may not have received the answer he was looking for, he clearly has had his questions answered. We are not wasting time in the House. We on this side of the House are merely trying to inform the members opposite as judiciously and accurately as possible. Certainly by no means are we wasting anybody's time here in the House.
In terms of the Tagish meeting, I was not informed and will be apprised of the situation. If there is a situation with the Tagish area, I would be more than pleased to invite the member opposite to apprise me of the situation.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, now that the minister has quit wasting the time of the House and has read the briefing note, I would say that the accuracy of the information is only as accurate as the briefing note is updated. I'm pointing out that there is. I'm also pointing out to the minister that when the minister stands up and says that he is the champion of rural Yukon and that he's creating jobs through the service improvement plan - ha. It's an outside company that's installing it - an outside company. How in the tarnation does the minister garner that some of those - well, they might have been Yukoners at some point in time, went outside to find employment and are back. Mr. Chair, let me clarify that.
And, yes, there is a special meeting coming up in Tagish regarding Northwestel. They've been knocking on doors. The community has been giving them maybe a slightly different reaction than what they've been expecting, and I'm absolutely surprised that this minister has not been apprised of that situation, because it has been there for some time. So I would ask the minister to, well, maybe do due diligence to the minister's job and find a way.
I have no further questions at this time, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I have a few questions for the minister with respect to tendering and some of the initiatives undertaken by this government, and I refer specifically to the wide range of fuel oil costs that are incurred by the various departments throughout the Yukon.
I guess we can start with Old Crow, Mr. Chair. The Department of Education, they pay $1.50 a litre for fuel oil. Community and Transportation Services pays $1.19. Why such a wide variance in what is paid? Most of these numbers are derived from the total amount of consumption and extrapolating the numbers from the respective departments, but it seems that there's quite a difference between the various agencies of government in what they pay in the respective communities.
Could the minister provide an explanation, seeing as how Government Services is the lead agency in tendering?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I don't have the information at hand right now at this moment, but I'd be certainly pleased to get back to the Member for Klondike on the fuel oil costs and purchasing.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, my concern is that, even within the government, there's such a wide range of prices. Government of Yukon and Community and Transportation Services have two supplies of fuel in Old Crow - one is the regular heating oil that's used for heating. The other supply is the sulphur-free that they recently supplied to the community for highway usage. Again, all the tendering comes out through Government Services or through the property management agency and is billed out to the respective agencies. But there's such a wide, wide range of prices, Mr. Chair, that one has to ask the question.
As I said earlier, the Department of Education, for the schools, pays $1.50 a litre, and Government Services' contract for Community and Transportation Services was $1.19 a litre. So that's a big gap.
Mr. Chair, can I expect this material by way of legislative return with an explanation? I'm more concerned about the explanation as to why there is such a wide range of prices in the communities. The price survey is provided on a regular basis, and that's the information I'm looking at as to why the wide range of prices.
Hon. Mr. Jim: We would be more than pleased to provide that information by way of legislative return.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister.
Could the minister outline the involvement of Government Services in the administration or overseeing of the construction of the Dawson recreation complex?
Hon. Mr. Jim: The Department of Government Services has been involved with the Dawson City arena project in an advisory capacity only.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister confirm that the project team reports directly to an official within Government Services who subsequently reports directly to the Deputy Minister of Government Services?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I believe that the mayor and council in Dawson City supported our position that we were just in an advisory capacity to this Dawson City arena.
There were some quotes that came out from Mayor Everitt, who expressed his opinion publicly on CBC radio, saying that Pam Buckway is doing an excellent job as Minister of Community and Transportation Services and is really working hard with the City of Dawson to share -
Chair: Order please. I would remind members to not use personal names in the House. Please refer to either ridings or ministries.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Okay, as you know, Mr. Chair, it's a quote that I was looking at here and I just -
Chair: It doesn't matter if it's a quote - you have to use ridings or ministries.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Anyway, it was stated that it was really working hard with the City of Dawson to share in our excitement in the projects that take place here.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the question, once again, to the minister is this: could the minister please confirm that the project team for the Dawson recreation centre reports directly to an official within Government Services, who reports directly to the Deputy Minister of Government Services? Could the minister confirm that for the record?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I can say no to that. They have not in any way interfered whatsoever in this project or taken ownership of this project in any way whatsoever. For example, the Member for Klondike makes reference to a project manager being hired that reports directly to the government. That is absolutely false and untrue. This is an employee of the City of Dawson, who reports directly to the project management team.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm asking the minister where the project management team reports. I'm asking the minister to confirm that the project management team reports directly to an official within Government Services, who subsequently reports to the Deputy Minister of Government Services. Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, the management team reports to the City of Dawson and does not report to the Government of Yukon.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister for the information, but the record speaks for itself, in that there is an order-in-council appointing a supervisor over the City of Dawson. That supervisor's responsibilities are spelled out very succinctly in the Municipal Act. Is the minister saying that the order-in-council appointing the supervisor and appointing the subsequent officials within Government Services to oversee this project do not exist? Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Jim: As I said, the Department of Government Services is acting only in an advisory capacity to Dawson City on the arena project, and I must say that the Yukon government concurs with the Mayor of Dawson.
Mr. Jenkins: To concur with an opinion is one thing, but the law is the law. I guess the analogy that we could use is it's like being a little bit pregnant - there is no such thing. It is either you are pregnant or you are not pregnant, and that is the analogy in the way it was explained to me by the references that I sought on this matter.
For the record, is the minister stating categorically that Government Services officials have no involvement and no responsibility for this project? Is that the case?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Once again, the Department of Government Services has been involved in the Dawson City arena project in an advisory capacity only. Dawson City has asked for help, and we have given them some advice.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister confirm that his department, in his opinion, has no responsibility for this project?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I believe I have answered the member opposite's question already. I believe I have explained clearly enough that the Department of Government Services has been involved with the Dawson City arena project in an advisory capacity only.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, let's ferret out who the advisory capacity is to. Now, the minister suggested it was to the City of Dawson. Would it not be to the supervisor overseeing the City of Dawson's financial affairs in finality?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I believe that Government Services played a role in an advisory capacity to both the City of Dawson mayor and council as well as the management team.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we're getting a little bit closer, Mr. Chair, but we're not quite there. I don't believe the minister is cognizant of the force and effect of the order-in-council that was passed appointing a supervisor over the community that I reside in. I don't believe that the minister is fully conversant with the involvement of his officials in the recreational centre and their direct responsibility. Given their involvement and given the position that they take on this matter, it appears that the Government of Yukon is firmly in the driver's seat and they are de facto in control of the direction these initiatives take. Argue as we might one way or the other, the order-in-council is very, very specific, Mr. Chair. I thank the minister for his information to date, and we'll see what shakes out on this matter. I think we're just at the beginning of it, and I think the involvement of all parties to this initiative will be shown to be quite significant. Unfortunately the citizens of my community will pay the ultimate price in the delay of this project for probably yet another year, and the ultimate cost overruns will, in all probability, be incurred.
I'm just disappointed that the minister can't see his way clear to seeing this project brought to a finalization and the contractor dealt with in a forthright manner. That does not appear to be the case whatsoever.
With that, Mr. Chair, I have no further questions in general debate for the minister at this time.
Mr. McRobb: I would like to follow up with this minister on the topic of discussion I had with the Minister of Community and Transportation Services regarding telecommunications infrastructure through the Yukon. And just to encapsulate it for the minister, I identified a number of concerns with respect to the lack of telecommunications along the Alaska Highway corridor, in particular. This concern is held by, not only residents who travel through the Yukon and businesses that are located in the communication gaps, but also to our tourism industry and our general economy, especially with what's happening in regard to tourism in the territory.
Just to bring the minister up to speed on that - we know that American tourists, in particular, want to be in touch with their families, they want to be within about a day's travel of their homes. In the Yukon that is not possible because, outside of the Whitehorse area, basically there is no cellular phone service.
So these tourists want to be able to spend time in the territory in comfort and knowing that, if there is an emergency back home, their cell phone in their vehicle will ring. However, that is not the case, because of the lack of communications in the territory.
Once they find this out - there are people who are concerned, including myself - they won't be staying another day in the territory; they will be hightailing it for Alaska or points south, where there is telecommunication service. So in my questions to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services - this concern is directed to this minister - I would like to know what he is doing to address this concern.
Hon. Mr. Jim: We are upgrading the telecommunications infrastructure throughout the north. I also pointed out that it is a time consuming and expensive undertaking. It is not possible to carry out a project of this magnitude in only one year. Under the CRTC's direction, larger population areas are the first ones scheduled to receive upgrades. I pointed out earlier on to the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes that Tagish Estates, California Beach, the Taku subdivision, the Deep Creek area, Mendenhall, Jackfish Bay, Grizzly, Ta'an Kwach'an, Horse Creek and Takhini River are all areas that will receive services by the end of this year. This represents about 500 lots.
Mr. McRobb: What is the minister talking about? I am talking about the need to upgrade the territory's infrastructure to eliminate the communication gaps in the territory primarily along the Alaska Highway corridor, which is our main transportation artery. From what I gather from the minister's response, I am not sure if we are on the same page as far as that issue goes. I think he got up and read some kind of a briefing note in relation to Connect Yukon scheduling.
Mr. Chair, this goes beyond Connect Yukon. As a matter of fact, I'm a little surprised the minister is not aware of the discussion I had only last week with the C&TS minister since she foisted it on to him. I was expecting him to be aware of the discussion we had, but apparently he's not, and I'm a bit disappointed.
Mr. Chair, I indicated the need for a government initiative, along the lines of Connect Yukon, phase 2, or something to that effect, that would produce the funds necessary to install the infrastructure required, such as cellular towers along the corridor. I indicated that I felt there was potential for partnering not only with the federal government, but also the Alaskan government - possibly the American government - as well as the private company, Northwestel, on this matter. Subsequently, I have also considered that B.C. would be a possible partner, as well, because I'm sure there are similar problems in northern B.C.
The Yukon government has the main role to play - it's our problem. It's our territory that is left out of the loop. Alaska doesn't have the problem because, apparently, once you get to Tok, there are cellular phone connections all the way to Anchorage and beyond. This is primarily a Yukon problem, and to resolve it the Yukon government is going to have to do something. I'm quite disappointed in what it has done so far. The minister doesn't even understand the question.
There is lots of potential for an initiative in this area. What is the minister doing in that regard?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I'm not so impressed with the member opposite's, as well, knowledge of CRTC hearings or the process by which telecommunications initiatives or incentives that are brought forth by the Yukon government. There are certain players that play a role in developing telecommunications in the communities of the Yukon. In large part, CRTC basically gives a schedule of events that need to take place in the development of telecommunications within the Yukon. To say that we can just go off and deliver telecommunications right straight down the Alaska Highway corridor - in large part, there are a lot of negotiations that need to take place with the CRTC and go with what the CRTC is directing.
Right now, the CRTC is giving us a schedule in which we will have Tagish Estates, California Beach, Taku subdivision and all those other places, which represent about 500 lots, serviced in this first year. They also said that it would not be possible to carry out the project. Under the CRTC directions, larger population areas are the first ones scheduled to receive these upgrades. Based on that directive from CRTC, we are going in accordance to what CRTC has given us.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm really wondering where the minister is at on this, because if he is waiting for the CRTC to move into the vacuum and solve the problems for him and his Liberal government, he is going to be waiting a very long time. It just won't happen.
Now, in order for something to be done to resolve this problem, the minister is going to have to take some initiative to probably build partnerships - this is one way to do it - build partnerships and get the necessary funding together.
I'm not going to end my line of questioning this afternoon until we get some facts and figures down here and know exactly what this minister is going to do, because it could be a very long time before I have another opportunity to follow up on this, and this discussion is critical. I'm not sure if the minister understands that.
So, let's start from square one. What jurisdiction does the minister feel the CRTC has over this matter?
Hon. Mr. Jim: We are working with the CRTC in attending their hearings and negotiating in their hearings as well. We were successful in obtaining support for a four-year service improvement plan and, based on the input from the Yukon, it was recognized that Northwestel had limited resources to upgrade services in the northern territories.
We are also participating with the national broadband task force. The federal government has established a national broadband taskforce to map out a strategy to make high-speed broadband Internet services available to businesses and residents in all Canadian communities by the year 2004. The draft report was produced June 18, 2001.
The Yukon government is working closely with Industry Canada on the broadband initiative to ensure that Yukon's needs and considerations are taken into account.
Yukon needs to ensure all its communities are connected. Connections within the communities must be considered; for example, the First Nations municipal networks. Yukon Internet link south is nearing capacity and will need to be upgraded, and Yukon is recognized and acknowledged as a frontrunner in broadband access to communities. The Government of Canada strategy will build on work already completed in the Yukon. High-speed access to northern and aboriginal communities is a priority, and training and development of Internet applications must take place.
Mr. McRobb: I think the minister is reading the wrong briefing note. My questions are not being answered in regard to what initiative this minister and this Liberal government are taking to resolve the problem of telecommunication gaps throughout the territory, especially along the main artery, the Alaska Highway. And the minister stands up and covers for Northwestel, saying it has limited resources to develop infrastructure. We know that.
If the minister was paying attention last week when we were discussing this, he would have known that I said at the time that, when in government, we met with Northwestel executives who informed us their capital plans were being reduced. We knew all that. Northwestel isn't primarily serving the Yukon. The Yukon is actually a small part of its entire coverage area. We saw the need for Connect Yukon. We took the initiative and developed the program in consultation with, and partners with, the relevant stakeholders. That is what it is all about.
This minister, however, is sitting back waiting for the CRTC to resolve the problem, saying that he attends hearings. Well, I remember the last hearing he attended about a year ago and the subsequent Liberal press release that was really a bunch of hooey. Let's expose the minister for that. The minister came in, in the final comment stage of the hearing, after rebuttals and everything. What that is, is smoke and mirrors.
What the minister said at the time could not be considered by any party because he didn't enter it into the process early enough for that evidence and information to be tested by the other parties. So I think everybody allowed him a little bit of leeway even to saying what he did at the time. It was certainly extraneous to the purpose of that hearing.
I'm afraid that today we are getting a similar type of meaningless participation from this minister because for him to stand up and say he's attending hearings, there's this four-year service improvement plan, blah blah blah, has absolutely nothing to do with the action that is required to resolve the problem.
The minister mentions this broadband task force and how it will be completed by the year 2004. Let me ask the minister straight out: by the year 2004, will the communication gaps in the Yukon be filled with whatever technology is appropriate to provide telecommunications, such as cellular telephones? Will this main concern I'm raising be gone in 2004?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, once again, the member opposite seems to be wasting taxpayers' time with his bafflegab.
I'd like to mention that cell phones have really not been looked at, at this point in time. What we are concerned about is connecting Yukon. That is what Connect Yukon is all about. At some point in time, when we do get to cell phones, unless you have a global satellite phone that you can use, that's about the height of cell phones right now in the Yukon.
But certainly, again, I have to say that we are one of the forerunners across Canada, in terms of connecting our infrastructure here in the Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, it was very difficult to make out practically everything the minister said. He's standing up, he's mumbling, and I'm not sure the microphone is even picking it up. It's very hard to tell. But I listened very hard. I listened very hard, but I did not hear an answer to the question. Instead, I head him babble something about Connect Yukon. This concern, Mr. Chair, has nothing to do with Connect Yukon. So, again, the minister's reading the wrong briefing note. I would plead with him, please get on the same page. We've got to move on here today, and I want to resolve this.
Will he answer straight out the question again, which was this: will this broadband task force provide, in the year 2004, a resolution to the problem of these communication gaps throughout the Yukon, especially along the Alaska Highway? In other words, will our tourists, residents and businesses have telecommunications along the Alaska Highway by 2004?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, once again, we've talked about infrastructure, the importance of connecting up Yukon. I'm not really quite clear, because Connect Yukon was transferred over to Community and Transportation Services. On this part here, I've been involved in the national broadband task force. We've been involved in trying to set up telecommunications in the community, and there are at this time no present plans that I'm aware of to offer cellular service in the rest of the territory. Any initiatives would have to come through Northwestel or another private provider, and the service improvement program is to provide basic services, not cellular service.
Mr. McRobb: This is not about Connect Yukon. I would ask the minister not to stand up and read the Connect Yukon briefing note.
Will the broadband task force bring communications along the Alaska Highway corridor in the year 2004?
Hon. Mr. Jim: The service improvement program is to provide basic service and that's all that it says.
Mr. McRobb: Where, Mr. Chair? I'm looking for the minister to back up what he said earlier about this broadband task force. I need something to bring back to my constituents and others who are very concerned about this.
The minister points a finger at this broadband task force and says that there will be all these wonderful things in 2004. Will he answer this simple question: in the year 2004, will these communication gaps be eliminated along the Alaska Highway, and will there be some sort of affordable, reliable telecommunications service for residents, businesses and tourists?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I'm pretty sure that this is a federal government program. The federal government has established a national broadband task force that maps out the high-speed Internet services available to the communities.
We're working closely with Industry Canada on the broadband initiative to ensure that Yukon's needs and considerations are taken into account.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair, I can see it is pointless for me to re-ask the questions or go on from here. The minister has demonstrated he'll get up and read other briefing notes. He is unable, for whatever reason - for whatever reason - to respond to the questions. I'm questioning him on something he gave us about this broadband task force. Obviously, this government is taking no initiative to resolve this problem. It is bankrupt of creative ideas, and bankrupt of any initiative of its own. It points its fingers at some federal regulatory body, which has only held one hearing in the Yukon in its entire existence, and this minister thinks it will be the saviour of this multi-million dollar problem for the Yukon.
Well, Mr. Chair, this is outrageously ridiculous.
Now, the low-cost serving areas proposal took years of hard work and it won't even respond to this problem. Now the minister just figures everything will automatically fall in place.
Well, again, it's pointless to expect anything of substance in reply to these questions, but I would like to ask the minister one final question. Where is the response to our questions from the C&TS briefing session about two or three weeks ago? We were told by the deputy minister that those questions would be sent over to Government Services. They pertain to this subject area, and we're still waiting for responses. When can we expect them?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I'd certainly be more than pleased to follow up on that right away.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, while the minister was attempting to answer the questions of the Member for Kluane, I made a telephone call and got some information that I might be able to share with the minister regarding the problem in Tagish. I'd appreciate if the minister would look at it as, "Holy, moly, we do have a problem and we have to find a solution to it."
If the minister will give me just a few minutes I will attempt to describe it, but it's going to take some footwork on the part of the minister and his staff to get to the bottom of it.
I do appreciate hearing the minister stand on his feet, even though the minister doesn't have the department that houses Connect Yukon. Because when the minister described Connect Yukon and what it's all about, that's why the New Democrat government created that. So, I thank the minister for recognizing a New Democrat initiative, bringing it to the floor of the House and speaking about the goodness of it.
Now, if you need time to clarify something with your official, please say so, and I'll sit down. If you don't, I'll carry on.
Chair: Order please. Mr. Keenan, I don't need any time to clarify anything with my official. Please refer your remarks through the Chair.
Mr. Keenan: Absolutely, Mr. Chair, and if the minister wishes time to clarify issues with his official, he just has to nod, and I'll sit down, because I do wish to have contact with the minister so that the minister understands what I'm talking about because we're cutting the minister a little slack at this point in time. Maybe the minister doesn't realize that, but he's getting cut some slack at this point in time. I'm attempting to point out matters, so I thank you for bringing that to my attention, Mr. Chair.
What we have here is Northwestel, which is at the public trough, with public dollars - whether they're Yukon dollars or dollars that have been garnered from across the country - attempting to implement the service improvement plan.
Now, I understand that in Tagish - and the minister is aware of this because he spoke about it already today - programs from one to three in the Taku subdivision were supposed to be hooked up, with a start date this year and with implementation this year. I understand that is not the case now. Implementation has been put off until next year.
I'd like the minister to find a way to watchdog and to find out - and I will likely be asking this question of the minister in Question Period: what has the minister found out? How can we go on that?
I also understand that we do have capacity within the territory that can do cabling, that can do hook-ups of these types of sorts. I can think of two companies in Whitehorse right now that have the capacity, that have the experience and the trained people to be able to do the cabling. What we have now is we have public dollars that have been put over to Northwestel, and it's kind of ironic that members on that side of the House had said, well, corporate welfare, we're putting public dollars to megacorporations, and this is just corporate welfare. Well, let me say that the government is continuing to feed - and to feed very well - these multinational companies, whether they're oil companies or telephone companies.
It has been requested of Northwestel to keep it local, to maybe look at training with the First Nations. There have been requests, and they've been denied. They have found a way to opt out of a process of local hire and to bring in an outside company - and the outside company's name is West Cantel - to do a job in the Yukon Territory. And if you can believe this, they're only doing the job on the weekends. They're doing it two days a week. They're commuting from Whitehorse. They're staying in hotel rooms in Whitehorse, commuting to Tagish and, on some days, the only thing that happens is a spool of cable goes from one end of Taku subdivision to the other end of Taku subdivision. But I've got to say that maybe there's some goodness to this, because they've hired local backhoe operators, et cetera, but that's the only thing they've done - the only thing.
So it's an outside company. We have in the Yukon established companies. We have established capacity in this area. We have cablers in this area. They're doing it on the weekends.
They are doing it on weekends and they are taking jobs and, if I can say this belligerently, food out of Yukon children's mouths. And maybe that isn't belligerent; maybe that is just a bold statement. But that is what we have here. We have a couple of folks - and it is going to get wrapped up.
Now that tells me a couple of things. Somebody is not watching what is going on here. We have people within the department who are paid - the minister has a responsibility to ensure that the public monies are spent wisely. I know that the minister just said he wants to improve on 89.9-percent average. In baseball, 500 percent is pretty good. I admire the minister for going beyond 89.9. I admire that, and that is why I am pointing this out. The minister has to check it out, because now we have a project that is off-track. The service improvement plan is off-track now, and we want to get it back on track for reasons of public safety. I have stood in this House and spoke with the Minister of Health about elders who live outside of the communities established, who need telephone access and who don't have telephone access, and those types of issues. So this is a safety factor.
Would the minister please check into this situation, find a way that we might be able to direct the Northwestel through due process to please hire Yukon people first and to employ the Yukon people as they should be attempting to do. Would the minister take on that commitment?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I can give you a basic response in saying that we will go to Government Services officials and look at what is judicious in terms of hiring practices and look at what it is that we can do in terms of hiring local people.
And the other point - I also said that I will strive to try to improve the 89.9-percent participation or the purchasing of Yukon-manufactured goods and services - that figure. I didn't say I was going to do it, but I will certainly strive to try and improve that figure.
In terms of the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, I would like to say that we will look into it in our department and see if there are some ways that we can address this situation or improve the situation.
Mr. Keenan: This is going to be the last question that I have in general debate and then we are going to go into line-by-line. So whomever out there needs to come running in here to ask their questions, this is their commercial break.
I appreciate what the minister said and what the minister has done. But I want the minister to make a commitment, please, to look into this issue with Northwestel - and I don't believe that I've mentioned it, but this West Cantel was not even put out through a process of bid. It was sole sourced and it was sole sourced through a third party. So if the minister would please look into why it was sole sourced, why it was sent to an outside company when we have the capacity, why the First Nation was refused any training or anybody to be put on to it - and there are local people who could have done it - I would very much appreciate it. The minister has given me his general commitment on that, I believe. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I said that I would certainly talk to my officials and look into the situation for sure, and see if there are some ways that we can bring up the hiring of Yukon residents. I can probably look into this within the next couple of weeks here.
Mr. Keenan: Well, I will - a couple of weeks is going to put us out of the Legislature likely. As the Member for Kluane has said, I'm still waiting for returns that I've asked for in the House here, and they haven't come. I need to ask these questions in Question Period, so I am going to ask this question of the minister sooner than later, and the minister is on notice that he should have an answer at that time.
I'm prepared to go into lines.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Seeing no further general debate, we will now proceed with line-by-line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Corporate Services
Corporate Services in the amount of $140,000 agreed to
On Information Services
Information Services in the amount of an underexpenditure of $42,000 agreed to
On Supply Services
Supply Services in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
On Property Management
Mr. Keenan: Where are we spending these buckos?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, the increase of $367,000 consists of $95,000 for building fuel oil costs.
Property Management in the amount of $367,000 agreed to
On French Language Services
French Language Services in the amount of an underexpenditure of $152,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the operation and maintenance recoveries?
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Government Services in the amount of $318,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Information Services
On Corporate Computer Equipment and Systems
Corporate Computer Equipment and Systems in the amount of $286,000 agreed to
On Technology and Telecommunications
On Technology Partnerships
Technology Partnerships in the amount of $53,000 agreed to
On Community Access Program
Mr. Keenan: Could he explain that to me, please, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, the community access program increase of $109,000 is the community access technology program project started by municipalities and non-government agencies in 1999-2000 and not completed. The majority is offset by a recovery from Industries Canada, the remainder of the lump sum of the three-year agreement.
Mr. Keenan: Does the minister have a breakdown of which communities? If the member wishes to send it by letter, that's fine.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Correct. I'll send a letter.
Community Access Program in the amount of $109,000 agreed to
On Property Management
On Capital Maintenance and Upgrade
Capital Maintenance and Upgrade in the amount of $476,000 agreed to
On Building Development Overhead
Building Development Overhead in the amount of $8,000 agreed to
On French Language Services
On Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems
Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems in the amount of $8,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the capital recoveries?
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Government Services in the amount of $940,000 agreed to
Department of Government Services agreed to
Chair: At this point, we will take a 15-minute recess to allow the next department to come on board. I believe the next department is Health and Social Services.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are now proceeding with the Department of Health and Social Services.
Department of Health and Social Services
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: This supplementary budget for Health and Social Services reflects the cost-drivers that continue to put pressure on the health care system and also reflects this government's spending priorities and commitments to social services for Yukoners. I would like to take a few minutes here, Mr. Chair, and sort of highlight some of these areas and concerns.
Before I do that, I just wanted to clarify - a couple of weeks ago, the Member for Watson Lake was making some comments, and I just wanted to clarify the record. It had to do with the statement made that we were privatizing the CT scanner and that this was in contravention of the Canada Health Act. I just wanted to clarify with the members opposite that that hadn't been stated by Health Canada at all.
We did not receive any comment nor any feedback that it had been in contravention. We, as a matter of fact, received no comment. I think the other point was that someone or some people were being denied scans here in the Yukon, and that again was not the case. We do not deny anybody scans if they're for diagnostic purposes. They come through the health care system, through the doctors who make the referrals.
Under policy and planning and administration, it is known that, for next May, the Yukon will be hosting the Prairie Northern partnership conference. This is a budget item in this year's supplementary, and maintenance costs for planning and preparations of this conference are obviously included. We are very proud to be committed to this very innovative approach to dealing with a very serious concern in our communities. And, on the capital side of the budgeting and policy administration, we again are investing our systems infrastructure with an increase in funding in systems development, be it small, because it isn't a great amount considering the age and the problems that we are currently experiencing with the system as it is.
In the area of family and children's services, we found that we had a lot of areas of concern in the past. We believe that we want to improve our services. We want to ensure that we're delivering the services that are needed in our communities. We are, as you know, reviewing and looking at areas of how we can do a better job in the future, so we have two major reviews in place right now.
We also did some increasing as far as some of the areas of support that we are giving, like in foster care and those areas. It's important that we understand that we are trying to improve the lot of our young people and of the people whom we serve.
Again, the number of children requiring group home treatment has increased dramatically over the last number of years. This is not a factor just for the Yukon; it's a factor right across the country. This puts an increased pressure on the department and on the health care budget. As we know, the older the students are and the older our people in care are, the more costs that we are going to have to absorb because their needs and demands are much higher.
This budget also reflects the cost of taking over programming and also the growing costs of providing care. We have initiated, as I said, a review, and I think, hopefully by the end of this month, we'll have the first report from that person from Victoria, Jim Anglin. We also are going to have to carefully analyze the results of this care, because my understanding is that Mr. Anglin reviewed - I think he had interviews with over 200 people, and that's a very conservative view of the number of people he has talked to.
In the meantime, we have still provided service to children and provided security and consistency. We've ensured that our staff are qualified, properly trained and properly equipped in our group homes. Are we the master plan for Canada as far as care for children? I don't think so. I think we have a lot of development in both now and in the future to ensure that we are ongoing in our training, in our programming, but we are working very hard at trying to ensure that our staff are well-prepared for the youth taken into care.
As I mentioned earlier, we have increased foster care rates as of April 1, 2001, and of course we have budgeted appropriately for these increases. This is the first increase in 10 years. It might even be longer, but 10 years sort of strikes in my mind. Maybe it's because I like 10 years. It's kind of a good omen. That's how long this government should be in place - 10 years - so maybe that's why that 10 years stands out.
I think the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes will understand that.
The government is committed to developing infrastructure to ensure that Yukoners have solid service and solid structure. Our capital expenditure in family and children's services reflects this commitment through the allocated funds for the young offenders facility to maintain the safety of the staff and youth. There are some upgrades that have to be done there, and this budget reflects that.
We are a government that is doing what we said we would do. We believe that it's important that we follow through on our commitments. Do we have all the answers? I basically believe that we don't have all the answers - we never will. It's just part of the unfolding needs that are presented to us as government and to governments before us.
In social services, we promised Yukoners we would implement the budget of the previous government, and the continuing care facility that was part of that first budget when we began governing.
We have seen an increase in the funding for the continuing care facility, which again, because of the hurriedness of this facility, the way it was announced just before the election or just about before the last election, and the fact that all the planning wasn't in place, created some problems. This meant that costs increased. We also, rather than going with just the 74 beds, decided to go with the 96. That was a commitment by our government because we believed that there was a waiting list - not believed, we know there is a waiting list - if we went with just the 74 - so we feel it's very important to move with the full structure in its complete state.
Mr. Chair, we are again making our commitment to Yukoners by doing the right thing to ensure that Copper Ridge Place will meet the needs of Yukoners and, of course, this increase in funding helps to achieve this end.
In health services, many of the increases in this area have to do with the growing cost of medicines covered under the chronic disease program and pharmacare, as well as increased costs in hospital claims.
The budget entry in the health services area includes increases for equipment and the program implementation of extended benefits and chronic disease programs as well.
This government's commitment to recruitment and retention of nurses throughout the Yukon also contributes to an increase in the budgeted amount for health care.
To date, we have full staff in our community hospitals. There is advertising going on for a few positions in some of our rural communities, but it's not extreme like it was a year ago. I think the recruitment and retention bonus that was put forward by this government has helped soften the, I guess you would call it, "vacating" from our communities, also, the good working conditions that exist in many of our communities.
Many of the communities have first-class nursing stations. I've been to all of the stations, I know at least once, many of them twice, and some of them three times. I know we have very good facilities and I give credit to past governments and the current government for maintaining that quality.
So I think it's very important to know that we have a very good health care delivery system in our rural areas through our nurse practitioners and through the doctors who are serving in those rural areas.
It goes without saying that here in Whitehorse we have a very good service as well. As we know, in the capital of Yukon you have many more services being offered, so obviously we have those supports as well.
We're very proud of the work that we have done with our nurses and our health care professionals. We want to continue to work in the Yukon. This supplementary budget ultimately reflects this government's commitment to maintaining quality health care in the Yukon. We take our responsibilities very seriously, and I am going to cease my support at this point and ask for the members opposite to come forward with their views and their questions and their ideas on where we want to go.
Mr. Keenan: Well, you know I was going to stand down in general debate here because the minister had given such a good speech and painted such a rosy picture of what is going on in the Yukon, but then the minister qualified it and said that he had actually listened to some of the things that I had to say and so I have to stand on my feet and I have to talk and participate in general debate.
But I do appreciate the refreshing attitude from the minister opposite. If the minister opposite wishes to listen to me, then I will put forth what I think could be concrete action plans or participation or direction, and I welcome the change.
It was with interest that I listened to the minister speaking of, I guess, his special relationship with Mr. Allan Rock. Mr. Allan Rock has not responded to a letter the minister had sent to Mr. Rock regarding the privatization of the CT scan, I guess - and did it straight from the principles of the Canada Health Act.
I, too, have a special relationship with Mr. Rock. I have known Mr. Rock for many years and I can just let the minister know that the minister shouldn't be holding his breath - absolutely don't hold your breath for this one. You're not going to. But what I would appreciate, though, is if the minister would table the letter that he had sent to Mr. Rock on the Canada Health Act. Would the minister be able to do that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: At this point, I see no problem in doing that, and I'll make sure that this happens, unless there is something in there I can't recall. It was a very good letter because, any time I do anything, it's always very good. I have very good support, who make sure I do it right.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I'm trying to tell the minister there should be no paranoia in the room at this time. I would even invite the minister to ask his deputy minister to leave, because these are strictly policy-related questions I'll be conveying to the minister and, of course, my own personal direction. So, you can let the deputy minister go, if you so choose.
Okay, I appreciate that, and I would very much appreciate a copy of that letter. And if and when an answer comes through from the minister, I'd very much appreciate the answer from the minister.
On the CT scanner, I appreciated the minister last week, on Wednesday. I did, because the minister has given me so much through Question Period and Committee of the Whole - well, by golly, I think there are about six pages here. You can see there's a lot of highlighting there, too. But it was with particular interest that I noticed that the minister was speaking and quoting from The Globe and Mail. The minister takes particular delight in berating me and saying I am quoting out of context.
Well, that night - I go home every night, and I get my Whitehorse Star and my Yukon News because they are such thorough investigative journalists here that that's where I get a lot of my information from. I also pick up The Globe and Mail, The Daily Post and The Vancouver Sun, because I like to read.
I finished the article that the minister started, and I really admired the minister for sticking to the context of how the minister read that article, because as I read through the article, every watchdog group in the country is upset.
Every watchdog in the country is upset with what was going on. I can now point out that St. Paul's Hospital has closed its emergency room. That was just on the news today. That's what came to me today - lack of funding. So now they're put in a very difficult situation, too. They have to raise money. We're not in that situation in the Yukon Territory at this point in time. We might be, if the government continues to spend money on the processes, like they are doing, or hiding it somehow. But that's a completely different situation, and I want the minister to recognize that he did a fine job that Wednesday - wasted the whole day, pretty good.
But this is a Yukon situation. Vancouver is, I don't know, I understand it's 25,000 air points away from here now. It's that far away. What we have here in the Yukon Territory is a completely different scenario. This government woke up that day and said, "Holy, moly. We're government. What are we going to do?" And there was a frantic flay of fingers to the teeth, going, "Aaah, I don't know what to do. I know what we'll do. We'll adopt the New Democrat's budget in its entirety, and we'll make a good thing of it because - ". Why? Because it was consulted on. Not just the MLAs had input into it, but the Finance minister, the Government Leader, made a road show, as he always did.
That magical day when they went over to the hospital, the chairman said, "We need a CT scanner, and we need it now, and this is what we need."
Now, I know the government of the day had dug its feet in and said we were going to implement this, but we did our homework - all these buzzwords are floating around out there - we did our homework and whatnot, and you didn't.
Well, let me say that it was over the two-year period of dragging their feet that it became obsolete because, in the beginning, it was state of the art, absolutely state of the art, and I have looked at the paperwork and I have looked at the request.
Now, without carrying on, killing the clock and hogging it for TV time, which is only a mere hour and 25 minutes away, would the minister agree?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I guess I did such a wonderful job of instructing the House about what really happened with the CT scanner that the member opposite agrees with me, then, that obviously the state-of-the-art - that's what the member opposite is referring to - was what was being ordered. I mean, I suppose we could debate that until the cows come home, or for another hour and a half so that the television time is paramount here on Monday, but I'm not going to do that. Because when we set up a technical review committee, which was made up of the Hospital Corporation, the chief medical officer, a nurse, the Health department and an expert from outside when we needed them, and when they came to the conclusion that we weren't getting the state-of-the-art CT scanner, then obviously we listened.
And even at that time, when that first CT scanner appeared on the budget when we first came around - our first round at it - there could have been other models purchased. It wasn't just the one-slice that was in place. Right now, we have 16-slice, and I hear there's a 24-slice and a 32-slice. So technology is changing rapidly, but there was more than one slice at that time. But I suppose we could debate this back and forth, and I don't think it will achieve anything.
I know now that we're getting one of the best-for-our-money models at this point in time. It's going to be one that we can upgrade, which I think is what we wouldn't have been able to do with that first one. So I think that's very important for us as a very small population with fewer dollars. I mean, hopefully, rather than completely buying a new machine now, we're going to be able to upgrade it to wherever in the future. So I think that has been a good move, and I think we can all take credit for that.
The fact that it was on there as a purchase, as an idea for the future of the Yukon, and now that we're going ahead with it - we've had a good debate. I think it has shared a lot of questions and concerns out there in the community. The unfortunate part about it is that I don't think a lot of the information was there for some of the Yukoners to make those kinds of decisions about whether we were getting a good deal or not. But I think we've now had this, and I think it has been a good exercise.
We need to do this more, with many more of our health care expenditures in the future, because that's why you're hearing about St. Paul's closing down or you're hearing about what Alberta is attempting to do or what Ontario's attempting to do or what's happening in the east. There are lots of issues out there, and I think we need a good debate about what the issues are.
Mr. Keenan: Well, I'm certainly here to enter into the debate, but not to the level at this point in time because I'm going to let the process work.
I understand that there are major problems with the health care system of Canada and that the CCF - that good New Democratic initiative of health care in Canada as a whole has to be protected.
I very much appreciate that the Premier appointed a point person on there whom I have faith in and who can do the job. I appreciate that, too, so I'm going to let that roll.
I also appreciate that the minister somewhat admitted that I was correct - somewhat. Now, I know that the minister always thought that - minister, people don't run for government just to have a job. At least I don't assume they do - no, at least on this side we don't. We run because we feel. We're not like people who have 20 or 10 years or anything like as such. We have shorter tenures. But that might be a good thing, too. We might even be able to share it some ways. But, anyway, I'm off topic.
But the minister didn't want to admit that we needed a CT scanner here immediately because, you know, by dragging their feet for a few months and setting up a process - and I'm not saying it's a bad process. I'm saying that the technical review committee process could be a good process, and I'd like to see it even go further, because it's sort of like - I have heard my grandson say to me, "I'm like the little train that can - choo-choo, choo-choo." I admire him for that. I really do, because he's just a kid. If our government takes an initiative in the Health department to look to the same focus - that now that we have a CT scanner here and we have this in place, and even though we don't track or we say we don't track the cost-savings from outside medevac flights and that, it is going to pay for itself over the years. And it's something that the Yukon needs. The Yukon has value in it and we have value in our citizens and we need it.
Is the review committee looking to a next step or something so we can offset some of those outside costs and provide better services?
Is the review committee going to be looking at an angiogram? Forgive me if I'm not saying these words right, but the minister knows what I'm talking about. Is that going to be on the horizon of the review committee to discuss?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I think the objective of the committee - which I believe is going to, in the long run, give us better decisions around fairly expensive equipment and processes - is going to be more in line with what our need is here. And I would suggest that the committee is set up as a permanent group, which means that the members can change. I mean, obviously, if their roles change, that can change. But the idea of it being an ongoing review committee is very much in line with where I think we should have to go because, as you know, the technology changes in whatever - every couple of months, every couple of years - and there is new technology coming out, and it's important for us to have a good assessment of whom this is going to impact upon, can we afford it, is it going to save money, is it going to save lives - all of these things. That is when you have your technical review committee looking at this. That is the important part of ensuring that we make good decisions in the future.
It won't be just an idea that will come into my office, somebody off the street saying, "Well, I think we need this." Well, that could happen. Somebody could do that and I'll say, "Well, that's not a bad idea, but it is going to have to go to the technical review committee for their assessment and their analysis, and then they will bring back those reviews to myself and then to the caucus and then to the Cabinet, and then to the Management Board, if that is where it goes."
So I think it is a good process. It involves the professionals who know about these issues on a day-to-day basis, and I think it ensures that we are not going to be buying anything that comes along, and I think that is why it worked very well with the dialysis discussion we had when we first took office, and it worked very well with the CT scanner. The only problem with the CT scanner is it should have been done before it was put in the budget, but you know, be as it is, it took place after and so it was a huge public discussion, which I think has been positive. I don't see that as a negative thing, and it brought a lot of people into the awareness of what the real facts were.
I would agree with the member opposite. Hopefully, in the future we will see this as a very positive group in trying to build our infrastructure for the future.
Mr. Keenan: And now about the angiogram machine?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I guess - sorry for not answering that directly, but I just wanted to give you the overall view. The angiogram requires far more than just the equipment - it also requires a cardiologist, and those are in very short supply. Nobody has brought that forward to me or the Health department that this is where we should be going at this point.
It's an idea. I mean, we don't close the door. If that's a suggestion, yes, I think we'd run that by our technical review committee. It hasn't come forward yet at this point, but it's an idea.
Mr. Keenan: I usually get out of caucus at 9:45 a.m., and I'll be at the minister's office at 9:46 a.m., and that way I'll ask the minister if the minister could please look at getting the technical review committee to look at it in its entirety, including the offsets and whatnot. I trust the process the minister has established. I'm not in control, so I'll work with what's there.
But I do ask, and the reason I ask is that I appreciate when the minister says "prevention". I even appreciate that the minister would go out there and, by golly, win two gold medals in the senior Olympics. I appreciate that, but there's an immediate problem at this point in time. We can't hide behind established review committees for 18 months to two years. We cannot do that. There are immediate needs - now.
So, I'm addressing an immediate need with the minister, which I feel is worthwhile looking into. As I travel my constituency, and talk to many retired folks who live in the bedroom communities of Whitehorse and outside of my little home town of Teslin and whatnot and, holy moly, I'm absolutely surprised at the number of people who have to go out for these tests now. There is a whole series of complications with this, and I won't get into describing the complications, but they're - I guess being a hard-of-hearing person, I have to look directly at a person to understand that they're communicating. If the minister wants to talk to his deputy, I will allow that time. But as a communicator and because of my particular problem, I need that type of contact. So, if the minister wishes to speak to the deputy minister, if there's something to do with this question I'm going to ask, please go ahead, by all means.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Keenan: Absolutely. I have lots of general debate here. It's just that I want to be reassured that people are listening and not finding excuses to get away from it.
As I was saying, maybe not so eloquently, but I am an elected official here and I have constituents who need these types of things, these issues - some have been punted to Vancouver, punted over to Calgary, punted up to Edmonton and then punted back to Calgary, and the families are, needless to say, very distraught. There are no travel monies, per se, for the people - the victims - the victims' wives or whatever - maybe they're not victims but they're certainly patients. So I think there could be a case. I know of six just since this fall, since I started touring around again at the end of August, who have been in that particular situation.
I'm trying to paint a backdrop for the minister that there might be a need, and could the minister please maybe accept that as a case to bring before the committee?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I understand what the member opposite is talking about. I mean, some of us are into the senior area of maturity, if you want to call it that, and I know of people who also have the same problem. We, as a department, are always monitoring the demands. Obviously, when people have to go outside, these are done through our Health department, so we know what the costs are. We understand that it does affect the quality of where they have to go. We have to go where we have the place. We're not a Vancouver area, where we have cardiologists and all the specialists and equipment to offer that same service.
If the member opposite has a specific proposal that he would like to bring forward in order to build on the commentary that the member opposite has made, I think we're open to that as well. Yes, travel costs are very important but again, as I shared with the members opposite and I have shared it over and over again, just because we're going to have a CT scanner here doesn't mean that costs are going to be less.
And so any time we go into speciality areas and we're providing services or a part of services as we are in the CT scan area, you still need the specialist. And there is a cost-effectiveness to ensure that we are offering the best service in the best possible way.
It's one of those challenges of living in a rural community. We are only 30,000 people, and we can't expect the same services as Calgary, Vancouver or Edmonton. I mean, that's the hard reality. But again, if it could be done more cheaply here, with less stress and all those factors related, we definitely would move that on to looking at whether we could offer it here in the long run. But there's far more to it than just, you know, giving a few numbers, because this is monitored on a regular basis by the Health department. Again, we're open.
Mr. Keenan: I thank the minister for that. Is there anything that the minister could table as to the monitoring of the process? Are there any figures that he could show me that would make me a believer? I would very much appreciate having those figures.
I would also like the minister to know - and I'm very appreciative that the minister qualified it at the end. I'm very appreciative that he said stress is a factor in there, because there's so much more to just the price of a machine, whether it's a mammography machine or whatever type of machine it is; there's a community value to it. And I want that community value to be a part of this process, because I know we don't live outside. I know we don't live in the big centres. We live here by choice. There's a certain responsibility that bears on us as individual citizens, but there's certainly, I think, the evolution of government, the evolution of the Yukon, where government should and could take a look at these issues.
So I would ask for the minister to table a copy of that, if the minister would. And the minister asked me to put forth a proposal and then the minister said, "Well, maybe we could look at it." I'm asking the minister if the minister would look at it. I'm not asking the minister to agree with me, because if it's fundamentally unaffordable, I will support the minister in those decisions. Then we'll have to look for other reasons, how to tighten up, maybe put a little more muscle on Mr. Rock. Let's put a little more muscle on him.
Surely this Liberal government has a special relationship with Jean Chretién. I know that Premier Klein is absolutely disgusted with Mr. Rock and not seeing it his way. I am not going to enter into that jurisdictional duke-out. All I am pointing out here is that I think we have an opportunity to look at it, to do the right thing, to make a decision whether it is positive or negative, and would the minister consider this a proposal or would he like to buy me a coffee at 9:46 in the morning?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I guess if the member opposite wants, we could probably get him a list of travel by disease or medical issue. This may take a little time, but we are quite willing to do that. This is what we monitor and this is how decisions are made. The member opposite is correct in his assumption that if it is cost effective to do it here, including not only the cost effectiveness but also the physical and emotional wear and tear on people, then that is also part of the equation.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much. I would very much appreciate having that information. Would the minister consider those words that I have spoken as a proposal to direct the technical review committee to look into the need, if there is one or not? Because I have constituents out there whom I have spent much time with. Believe it or not, I was defending government, and saying we have to look at these things, maybe we can look at these things. I know the minister wants to consult, the minister wants to know these things. So, I need to go back and say the minister is going to work with us on this, I know the minister is not going to work on this, but I need to have that type of clarity, if I could.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I guess for the member opposite I would just like to state that I think we should look at the numbers, you know, look at the actual numbers that we are going to provide for the member opposite. I appreciate the fact that he believes that we just can't afford everything people want, because obviously, you know, we are a small jurisdiction, a very small population and we can't afford all the services that big centres offer. The pressure on health care - as the member opposite knows, when they were government - on the health care budget and on the health care department, is horrendous, and it is not moving downwards, it is moving upwards.
I would hope that the member opposite will take a look at these numbers, take a look at where the pressures are, and then we can sort of sit down and talk about how we would want to go about this.
The technical review committee is not just a group that sits by waiting for work. What we're trying to do is, first of all, identify where the need is, and this would provide us an opportunity to do that - to identify where the pressure is.
Mr. Keenan: That's quite an elaborate way of getting out of buying me a cup of coffee in the morning, but I will accept that.
I would ask the minister if the minister would be able to provide the figures by Christmastime, if I could. I understand that the departments get really busy during the Legislative Assembly and whatnot, but I wouldn't want to be receiving this the day before - as I have from the department on questions I asked last April and I got them just before the session started. This means something to me and I'm going to be making a constituency visit and I'm going to be speaking to those same people. So I will state what the minister said and I will go for that, but I would appreciate it if I could have it by Christmastime. Is that possible?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: We'll try to make it a gift to the member opposite.
Mr. Keenan: Well, we don't really exchange gifts here at Christmastime, whether it's a lump of coal or just a piece of fool's gold. What we don't do here is - we treat each other with respect, we treat each other with dignity and we work back and forth together, so it's not really a gift. If the minister wants to look at it as a gift, I can carry on and I can add to the wish list. But I know that's not going to work, so I appreciate the minister doing his duty.
I'd also like to point out that the CT scanner - that the minister saying he followed the process that the New Democrats established in going into partnership with the Hospital Corporation is wrong. The minister has said that the benchmark was the mammography machine. I would like to point out to the minister at this point in time that the first mammography machine was purchased in its entirety by government. When the Hospital Corporation desired a secondary one, it was based on a partnership.
Now, I know that the minister is going to stand up and wail away, but I've got that on record, and it's very important to me that I get that on record and it's very important that the minister hear that.
He says, "No comment", so I appreciate that very much. I have made my point.
I'd like to speak about the early childhood development initiative dollars. We have $285,000 or $295,000, or some such, from the feds, and I believe the minister said that he had put some of those monies into the hot lunch for family day home programs and into the healthy families initiatives. I was wondering whether the remainder of the funds have been allocated.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, this is another good opportunity for me to, once again, look at the creativity of our government. Just in the last little while, the last few months, we have set up what we call an ECD ministerial committee, made up of four ministers, and one of the major objectives of this committee is to ensure that we are not stove-piping programs and stove-piping delivery of services.
The ECD committee is made up of the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Education, the Minister of the Women's Directorate, and myself. We have had, I think, three meetings to date and will be having another meeting next week. We also have three individuals from the community NGO groups who would be part of our committee to make decisions around the whole issue of how we utilize our resources for ECD future and also how we can remove some of the stovepipes to delivery of programs. As we all know, Mr. Chair, the commonality of Health and Justice and Education and the Women's Directorate are mainly the same. We're working with the same people.
So, I'm very proud and very pleased to announce again to the House that this is an initiative that I think is going to be very positive in the future for trying to deliver cross-programs to our communities and to our citizens.
In June the government announced a $24,000 increase to support day homes. This was the lunch programming, and this will continue as an ongoing program through the child care services unit. Also, in the supplementary budget the government is providing enhanced support for the healthy families program, and this is an increase of $133,000 for the remainder of this fiscal year. In addition to that, there is a $77,000 increase that the healthy families program received through the main budget. It's strongly supported by the community and will continue to grow in the coming years.
It was interesting that when we sent out the letter of call to some of the NGO groups to ask them how some of these dollars should be used, almost every one of them demonstrated the belief and success that has been shown through the healthy families initiative. So, Mr. Chair, that's where we felt the dollars for this current year should go.
We'll be making some decisions next year in our ministerial committee about what should happen in the forthcoming year and looking at other ways we can build for the future. This is an investment. The remaining four years of the funding is based on the recommendations. The Health and Social Services Council has input into this. So do the NGO groups, the Child Development Centre and Yukon Family Services. A variety of groups have input.
So now we have a working committee that will sort of be on the front line, providing direction and guidance and utilizing the resources of all of the government departments and building together because we know it's not just one department's issue. It's an issue for all of us.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, not to belabour the debate here or anything, but the minister is very much into putting in committees and getting technical advice and reviews. I would encourage the minister to bring forth to this House a ministerial statement speaking of the different groups that he had put into place in the different departments so that I can have a thorough look. I figure that that might be a way of expediting the debate here, rather than asking the minister. Did the minister consider doing something like that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes. I'll take that under advisement. It seems like a good idea, and we'll pursue that.
Mr. Keenan: Okay. Well, I hope "under advisement" is just a guarded way of saying yes, because there's nothing wrong with sharing the goodness out there if you're involved in the community, too.
Is the minister afraid that if we bring it through a ministerial statement, I'll have something negative to say? I don't know, but that's just the name of the process. Maybe I won't have anything negative to say. Maybe I'd be able to point out something, but I'm looking forward - so I could have shared information. So I'll accept the minister's answer on that.
It was with a bit of a giggle behind my hand that I sat and listened to the minister speaking about the extended care facility, because I'd like to ask: is it on time and is it on budget? Now, I know the minister said - well, just in his opening comments, and I wrote it down here somewhere. What he had said about it was, well, maybe he could have done a little better. I would like to point out to the minister that it was the minister, the current Minister of Health and Social Services, who brought that forth from a two-year plan into a one-year plan. The minister qualified it, saying that there was an immediate need and that's why he did it. So the minister's going to get up and speak elaborately, I take it, on the continuing care facility. What I want to know is: when am I going to get there with my Polaroid camera to take a picture of the minister cutting the red tape? When am I going to do it, and is it on budget?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I guess if I had known then what I know now about a lot of things that we undertook, there would have been some delays in some of the projects that we undertook from the last government - I can tell you that right now - and one of them was the extended care, because all the plans aren't in place. With a lot of effort, a lot of energy - and, by the way, it was underfunded as well, right from the get-go - but as far as the project timing, it is on target as far as starting in June 2000 and finishing April 2002. The member opposite, I am sure, will be up there viewing, as we cut the ribbon to move into the facility.
But it was underfunded, so we have had to put more dollars into it, and that is because of poor planning - or I shouldn't say poor planning, but not all the plans were in place. That is really - this was a hurried, hurried project, mainly because it was connected to an election. And, I just believe that if we had known what we know now, we may be starting to build now instead of then, because then the plans would have all been fully in place, because there have been a lot of change orders on that particular facility. So we are very pleased that it is going to be complete, and I am sure that all the stakeholders that have been involved in the process, and I know all the stakeholders involved in the process are very pleased with what they see happening. Again, there are no easy solutions nor easy answers as to how you complete any project on time, but it would appear that this one is on time.
Mr. Keenan: Could the minister please elaborate on how much money has been spent and what the projections are to complete it?
I would also like to point out at this point in time that it wasn't poorly planned; it wasn't put in place for an election. It was planned over a two-year period. There were monies up front that were adequate to the planning stage, the first stage, and then to carry on into the next stage. That's a given. That's on record. I know it. Everybody on this side knows it.
Government can spin it any way they want. What I need to know now is how many buckos have been put through that project and what was the target?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: It's always interesting, Mr. Chair, when the members opposite say that they know exactly what was in place. Obviously, the members opposite set the pattern in place, so they knew what they had done. But, again, I have to reinforce the fact that all the plans - the complete plans - were not in place. The project was rushed for obvious reasons, Mr. Chair, and I will maintain that.
I think the department worked very hard - property management worked very hard at trying to meet those deadlines. But, again, there was great difficulty in trying to bring forward a major project like this in the short time span that they had.
The member opposite can spin it whatever way he wants to spin it, but those are the facts.
If everything were in place, then I wouldn't be complaining about it. Why would I complain about something that's smooth, efficient and working with no problem? I mean, I'm not here to bring up problems if there are no problems. There are enough problems in our society without bringing up more problems. But this was obviously a project that was rushed. Thanks to the hard work of the Health department and property management for controlling the process and at least bringing it to within its time element. So we're very pleased about that.
The actual total project cost was $20,328,876, and the budget was increased $798,000 to cover the increase in construction and design fees. So that alone tells you that the project wasn't fully designed when it was said to go ahead and build it. We had to increase our budget to ensure that we completed the design to the way that it was going to be most effective and most efficient, and those are the facts, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, in Question Period - I think a fact-free zone statement is coming into play here.
Let me say, Mr. Chair, that the Yukon Party successfully cooked the books in 1996. Books can be cooked. I don't know if they're steamed or how you cook them because I'm not of that mentality, but if the Yukon Party can cook books as they have at that stage of the game, then certainly the Liberal Party of the day can cook books.
So, if you are going to fake something - and it has been proven. I mean, we have already moved money around that should have gone someplace and it has gone to someplace else. Government can do that. That can happen. I would suggest, Mr. Chair, that those are the facts.
I'd like to move on, unless the minister cares to carry on with the continuing care facility, and he will have every opportunity to do so, but I'm going to move on to alcohol and drug services at this point in time.
Now, the minister in Question Period - and the minister will notice that I have let him go in Question Period this past week. I figured that the minister needed just a little bit of a break there. It's not going to last forever, so the minister should be taking this on advisement because I have to get to the bottom of the freezing of community treatment funds.
The minister says there is no freeze in place, yet the folks I have talked to say they cannot access it. As a matter of fact, the "F-word" came up - the fiduciary. Pardon me, that's what I mean by the F-word - the fiduciary obligation word came up. And the reason it came up in that context was because we have senior officials in this government - this government - who are going to different First Nation communities and saying, "I understand that. I know that there's a problem. I know that you guys have problems."
I have read the impassioned speech of one of the chiefs to Minister Nault while he was here, speaking about this. This is where I get the information from - that speech to the minister. The words of the messengers of the Yukon government - senior messengers - are, "We cannot do it for you because if we do it for you, we will have to do it for all of the First Nations in the territory, and it's the government's fiduciary obligation."
I spoke about this, Mr. Chair, when the Minister of C&TS brought this to the floor of the House and then took it back. I thought it was put to bed. But now I'm quite frightened that it hasn't been put to bed - that that fiduciary obligation word is still here in the Yukon Territory. I recognize - I have been a negotiator and a player in the claims and the self-government process. I recognize there is a fiduciary obligation and that we should be holding government accountable to that fiduciary obligation.
Yet, is not every person in the Yukon Territory worth $30,000, I believe, in a census or something like as such? Figure it in - each person is deserving of some service for those heads that are counted to bring those dollars into the territory. I strongly believe that the feds have a fiduciary obligation. I also believe very strongly in the development of Yukon and Yukon as a community - as a whole healthy community. And I can see it. I hope I live long enough to see it again. I can visualize it, but I can't see it, and I want to see it.
There is strength in the communities. There is strength between the native and non-native people and all of the people who live in those communities. There is such a great strength. What I want to see government do is to start to look at ways we can empower communities or capitalize on what communities need and have and deserve.
And that's maybe skating rinks, maybe swimming pools, maybe things within the health context, those types of issues, but for senior officials of alcohol and drug services to be going to a First Nation community and saying, "I recognize the need, but I'm sorry we can't do it because we have to do it for all." Is this a mixed message that I'm getting or that I'm giving here? I want the minister to stand on his feet and to explain the situation to me, if the minister would.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I really listened very intently to the member opposite's presentation, and I wholeheartedly agree with the member opposite. The vision is for Yukoners. I really have to underline that, as the member said, and I'm not going to repeat what the member said because I ditto exactly what the member opposite said about the issues of working together.
The whole issue of the addictions fund, which is, I think, what the member is really referring to - the issue is around the addictions fund that the member really wants me to respond to.
I think, as the member opposite knows, we have tried to move much farther down the path of having a much higher profile in the alcohol and drug area by separating it, at least technically, from the Health department. I mean, the CEO, I meet with her on a regular basis, as I meet with the DM of Health, and that raises the profile of what we expect to be done in this area.
Now, this has just begun, and if I were to take to full conclusion what the member was saying and suggest that we should be picking off one or two groups of people, or First Nation people or communities, who want additional funds for what they would like to do, that would be isolating the role, and that wouldn't be fair for all concerned.
I would hope that the members opposite would provide us with some time to have our CEO connect and review with the stakeholders and the partners in the communities and in the Yukon to come forward with a vision that hopefully will respond to what the Member for Ross River Southern Lakes has talked about. He talked about ensuring that we deliver services to all people and do it in a way that all of us are going to be supportive of. We know that in the past a lot of the things that have happened and maybe are even currently happening are not working, because the problem of drugs and alcohol is even more serious than it has ever been. I don't see it lessening in any of my visits to the community. I believe, like the member opposite believes, that we have really got to put a concerted effort into this area and I think we have to allow some time and some energy for our CEO to bring her expertise to what I call the overall plan, but the CEO is doing that with consultation in the communities. Traditionally we have done one thing, as the member opposite knows, and the member wants us to continue doing that particular traditional way of supporting programs, but that doesn't give us any opportunity to change.
So, what we are really trying to do is look at a distinct change in how we deliver, but we want to do it with our partners. I think it is very important that we allow a bit of time for this. Besides that, we have not put a call out for this fund being available. Usually what happens is, a call is made through the media that groups can apply to the fund. We did not do the call this time around because we wanted to give a bit of time to our CEO to put this into a context that would be involving our partners in the future of the alcohol and drug programming.
We really are looking at what I call "cross service", a variety of clientele. I talked a bit about the early childhood committee - this is really one of the tasks of these four ministers as well. That's one of the issues, because that affects Education, it affects Justice, it affects the Health and it affects many of our problems that exist with our women under the Women's Directorate.
That's why we are really trying to work in a more positive light in building for that future. If it means that some programs have been put on the backburner at this point because the funding is not there, I think our arguments are very solid in the reasons why we're doing this. As the member opposite has very eloquently said, we want to make sure that we treat everybody in the Yukon with fairness and equality.
Mr. Keenan: As the minister has pointed out, their view changed, but I think it changed for the better. Thank you.
Well, believe you me, I attempt to understand. I attempt to jump right into the minister's head and to look at it. I always attempt to step out of the box. If the minister does not recognize that, that's fine. But I attempt to step out of the box and into what? There seems to be a joke on that side, but I guess it won't be shared with me anyway.
What I want the minister to understand is that it's a noble idea. It's a good idea to put it at arm's length from government in some of these situations. It can be a good idea if it's made to work properly. I really do, at this point in time, consider it empire building - monuments - and I don't want to be able to do that. I would love to say after you lose the next election, "I worked with Mr. Roberts and he didn't lose that next election because he had the lack; he was just a bit confused."
I will be saying that. But it's an empire that we're building to a minister, and I don't think that is correct, because as we sit in this empire and look out of our glass windows, the harsh realities of alcohol abuse and drug abuse are still on the streets. They're still there.
I see the minister agreeing with me, and I agree with the minister. We cannot freeze or isolate those problems until we find a solution. We can't. We have to find an interim mechanism because the minister is going off to do what he wants to do. The minister has the authority to do that and the minister is going to do it, and I say God bless the minister, get at 'er. Do a good job because eventually it might transpire into something.
I will be extremely disappointed if I have to debate a $1.5 million or a $2.2 million or even a $750,000 or a $100,000 capital expenditure to build a capital structure to house the alcohol and drug strategy people. Because that's just going to take so much time and we're not putting those resources where we should be.
Now, I know of a First Nation that has made presentation to government and that is willing to move forward with government in partnership and in equity. What they need is the minister to say, "Let's do it." We can do this together.
I'm speaking of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation in Whitehorse here. The Kwanlin Dun First Nation is very desirous of providing a service of healing. This isn't just a recycling service that they're looking at to say, "Well, you're in for a 28-day program, and God bless you and I hope you do good. And generally we see you back in six months." No. They're looking at more of a life skills oriented basis program to move forward on.
They're ready. They're ready for the minister in the spirit of what the minister has painted out there; they're ready to do that.
Now, I know the minister does not want to do that at this point in time, because the minister is going to say, well, what I do for one I have to do for all. But I would like to point out that the opportunity is there, based on a partnership, based on plans that are already in place and accepted by the people of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. The people of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation represent many nations within the Yukon Territory. They're representative of all. Would the minister, in this unique situation, be able to find a way to provide some interim or bridge funding until the empire is built?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I've heard from the member many times about empire building. I am not into empire building. If we're building a building for workers or employees who are just going to be housed in this so-called building and they're not delivering programs where they need to be delivered, that's not part of my game. If that's where we're going, it's not going to be with my approval or my support.
As the member opposite knows, we don't need those kinds of supports. We need front-line supports. We need community supports. We need people out in the communities with the expertise and the ability to work with the community to build for the future, not for the 28 days but for the next 28 years. That's really what we need. Unfortunately, sometimes people have to go through 28-day programs many times, but if that's the way it has to be, then that's fine. I'm not interested in the empire building.
The member also referred to Kwanlin Dun. Well, from my perspective, that's news to me that they're requesting that we move down this path, because I have not heard that from the Kwanlin Dun group. Now, if they've been talking to the CEO, I would expect that I would have some knowledge of that, and I know for a fact that the CEO is very keen on working in partnership with any committee, with any group, with any jurisdiction, because she wants success. She comes from a program in Alberta that was very successful, probably the best program in the province, and so she knows what success is all about.
She has been in the game for a long time, and I am very supportive of how her expertise will hopefully help us to make some of those decisions that will be applicable to the Yukon situation. Because we know that northern Alberta is not the Yukon, and she knows that as well, and I know that she is more than keen and more than interested in working with anyone who comes forward with some thoughts or views or ideas about how they would like to see this plan unfold.
There has been no plan put in place at this point, but we are getting very close to putting in place some active programs with some of our partners, because again, as the member opposite has mentioned, some of them are at different stages in their development as far as providing programs. So I think it is important that we retain that momentum. We don't want to see it lost, and if that is where some of the various interest groups and partnerships are, then we want to take advantage of that. We don't want to lose that initiative, and I know that RCO will work very hard at ensuring that we build together for the future.
I support what the member is saying. Yes, let's take the initiative and let's go with it. If some people are ready to go at a faster pace than others then let's work with them to ensure that we don't lose that momentum.
Mr. Keenan: I take much heart from what the minister has said. I think that if the minister is willing to go forth with a First Nation that is ready, I think that is a good thing, because it is going to hopefully save some lives.
I think of some of my friends and, by golly, I wrote them off. I wrote them off, and I'll never do that again, because they were walking dead on the streets of Whitehorse and on the streets of Vancouver. They couldn't get any lower in their life, even in their own eyes, and yet they are walking the streets of Whitehorse today and some of them are doing very professional jobs, and I am so doggone proud of them. So everybody deserves a chance.
I do believe that Kwanlin Dun will welcome the opportunity to work with the department, and I will convey the message that the department is willing to sit and listen to them because there is an immediate need. If the minister would incrementally move along and work with the ones who are ready for it, then I very much appreciate the answer that the minister has given.
Could the minister give me an idea of when the CEO of the alcohol and drug strategy will be bringing forth the recommendations? What are the time frames? Will it be in time for the next fiscal year or post-Christmas?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Thank you again to the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes to give me this opportunity to share with him and the opposition that, as I speak, our CEO has been working very hard at trying to pull together a concrete plan that she, along with her cohorts and the partners, as well as the community visits that she has made, have suggested sort of a route that one would take. So, as I speak, she is preparing a Cabinet submission that will be forthcoming over the next month, and this will hopefully have some dramatic impact on some of our direction and our future.
As well, next week there is a leadership meeting with the chiefs here in Whitehorse, and I will be meeting with them on Thursday morning to lay out sort of a rough template that has been part of the discussion that has been brought about through the consultation by our CEO.
As I said, this is all coming down fairly quickly. It has taken us a few months to pull this all together, but one has to remember that our CEO started in September, and I think we have come a long way from the time of her appointment to where we're going to be in the next few months. So I'm very excited about what the future holds in this area. I know that when the rubber hits the road is when we see the action. The proof is in the pudding - I agree with that.
At least the roughing and the ideas are out there and the confirmation time is starting to come forward now from all our partners that this is the route we want to go.
So that's where we're at at this point.
Mr. Keenan: Well, I have heard that the rubber hits the road and that's all there in the proof of the pudding. I never did know what that meant, and maybe one day the minister and I can have a coffee and we can talk about what it means.
But did I hear the minister say that it is going to probably be within the next month? Is that - ?
I thank the minister for that. The minister has agreed with me on that, and I will certainly be conveying that to the Kwanlin Dun First Nation.
In the area of social assistance and the rates, I know the minister has gone out and looked and done the right thing. We have given $50 more spending power to single mothers and have allowed them to be home. Those are good things. I'm not arguing or saying that they're wrong or bad things but, in this tough economic time, people do suffer.
I have many elderly friends and I have many elderly relatives, and we speak about the Yukon and the depression in the '30s and the hard times. I guess then we never really suffered, because we had the ability, through a traditional economy, to trap, to hunt, to make a buck, and it was great, because that economy thrived. Not everybody has an access or even a desire any more to enter into that traditional type of economy. Is that a societal breakdown? I think it is. I really, truly think it is, and that if we start losing those basic life skills, who we are, our languages - and I'm not just speaking of native peoples. I'm speaking of all of us as Canadians, because we all have the opportunity to opt in - then we're losing something that's very much Canadian and is very much Yukon, if I can say it in that manner.
In these days now, I've said to the minister that - by golly, I think I did break out in tears and have a tear running down my eye when I saw a friend of mine crawling out of a dumpster there last spring. Here's a gentleman who does no drugs, who does no drinking, but he has to crawl out of this dumpster and do different things, and it was a shock. I went and talked to him and it was good. He was not ashamed. He was not ashamed. When I yacked to him about it, I said, "Well, God, you've got opportunities to do other things. Why don't you? Because you're just a young blade like me. You can be retrained, because you can teach an old dog new tricks."
I was wondering if the minister would be able to consider within the next budget process an increase maybe in the training proportion of the social assistance, or find a vehicle or mechanism that will allow people to live their lives with dignity and a choice. If a person chooses that they wish to live on social assistance or whatever, I guess that's that person's choice. But there are people who are in that situation and want to step out and need that help.
Would the minister look at providing a vehicle and resourcing that vehicle that would empower people in those situations? I hope I'm not speaking in a derogatory way to any people. If any people take this as a derogatory statement - because it's not. I know people who have worked - the working poor who work three jobs and they're still poor people, yet they're adamant that they wish to retain their dignity. So those folks, through training - or the disadvantaged, again, through training - will be able to lift themselves up. Would the minister consider resourcing a vehicle as such?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I really thank the member opposite for giving me these wonderful opportunities to share with the House the very positive, innovative, creative ways that we as a government are operating. I think it's really wonderful that the member's giving me this opportunity. Right now, the department is conducting an internal review of its present social assistance program. The intent is to determine what, if any, changes need to be made, or are required, and the response of the needs of the clients we serve, very much like the member is asking that, you know, there are some needs out there. Well, this is what the review is going to do.
Specifically, it's going to be looking at a cross-country jurisdictional review of trends and initiatives and look at best practices, what's happening in other parts of the country. We want to make sure that we're not out of the loop when it comes to how we provide support for those least able to help their own plight, and we have to support and try to build with them; a statistical analysis of the present and past social assistance caseloads for the purpose of identifying trends and changes in the characteristics and needs - I think that's another aspect - and we're going to be looking with focus groups, with clients, staff and others for the purpose of soliciting their opinions on what works and what doesn't work.
That's talking to the people the member opposite referred to and asking them what works with you, what doesn't work, are there things that we could do here to make a change. And we will be analyzing this information collected, as we said, in the previous steps, and we'll be coming forward with a series of recommendations, and we expect this review to be done by Christmas.
So, again, I think it responds to the question the member asked. Again, a very forward-looking government is trying to be on the cutting edge of ensuring that we don't end up not supporting those in most need.
Mr. Keenan: I would appreciate it if the minister would look at, as a part of that process for consultation, holding a public forum. It doesn't have to be a three-day boogie or anything like as such. It can certainly be a one-day town hall meeting because I know that those people need a chance to express their views. And, when I say "those people", I don't mean it in a derogatory sense. I mean that the people who are in those situations need a chance to express, and in some cases they need a chance to vent, and that is exactly what we are here for as a government - to be able to provide that avenue. Would the minister be able to consider holding a town hall meeting in the community of Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The last comprehensive review of social assistance took place in 1993, so I think it is rather important that we do this at this point.
What we are going to be doing, as I mentioned in my last preamble, is that we will be holding focus groups, and what will be brought forward will be discussions around what the issues are. There will be recommendations, and if those recommendations suggest that we should be doing more than what we currently are doing, or that we should have more discussion about it, then yes, I think that would be a very appropriate way of trying to respond to some of those issues out there. And it makes it very open and very transparent as well. I don't have any problems with that. I think the important part is to at least talk to the people it affects the most at this point and to have that open discussion.
I get calls, as the member opposite does, from a lot of people who support social assistance people, who are maybe not good on the verbal aspect of it and they need some extra support or words to be said to help make their situation a little easier, and I think that is what the idea of the focus groups is - to ensure that we capture people like that, people who are advocates and supporters of being who are in need.
The objective again then would be to look at the recommendations and say, "Do we need to do more than this? Do we need to have a far wider net in ensuring the feedback is coming to us with, I guess, recommendations for the future?"
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, let me reiterate. What I have heard from the minister is that the minister recognizes there is a problem out there. The minister says that we should be doing a review, and the minister is doing a review. The minister has a focus group that is set up to look at the review. Am I correct so far?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Keenan: Okay. Could I have the terms of reference for the focus group, and may I see who is on the focus group?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I guess focus groups - I think the member opposite was here when I talked about when we were looking at the whole issue of health care and what I was doing in the communities - trying to discuss and raise the profile of health care delivery. What I initially did was to have a focus group. I had a number of focus groups. I brought people in to sort of look at what the issues were, and what the pressing concerns were in health care. I didn't necessarily have a list of issues. I just said, "Well, we have some problems with medicare, we have some problems with pharmacare, we have some problems with travel - all of these things."
This is fairly wide open. We're looking at it being very open. But if there are any commentaries, questions or a guideline process, I'd be more than willing to share that with the member opposite. Again, these are going to be public, anyway, because we're going to be talking to the public. I have no problem doing that.
Mr. Keenan: I take it, when the minister concluded with his answer, that he had no problems in doing that - I'm sorry - was it that he had no problem providing the terms of reference for the focus group and who is on the focus group? Is that what the minister does not have a problem with?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: To be really specific, it has to do with whether there are any questions or any ideas or whatever that we're trying to engage with the clients and the people who support our clients. Those will be shared. I have no problems with that at all. You will get that information. Whatever we're using to engage in the discussion and the review, I will supply to the members opposite.
Mr. Keenan: I appreciate that. What I'd also appreciate is that we might be able to have maybe targeted folks. We have coalitions against poverty and we have - well, some very socially concerned citizens. By golly, I even think some of them are Liberals - poor misguided souls.
That's what I'm speaking about. Is the minister interested in entertaining a letter from the different groups? And I will do the footwork. I'll talk to these different groups and say the minister is interested in looking at it and the minister is interested in your comment and what you need to do, and this is the time frame. Would that be applicable to this situation and to this process?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, again, for the member opposite, what we try to do is to ensure that we engage in what I call open and transparent dialogue, and this is not to be taken - it's an internal review, as we have made very clear. It means that we're talking to clients. We're talking to people who support clients, people who have become advocates of clients.
We're talking to the issues around what works, what doesn't work, and there will be some recommendations coming forward. The recommendations are going to be giving us some idea of what we will do in the future. There may be more suggestions as to what we should do. This is just preliminary. This is a major issue.
As I said, the social services assistance hasn't been looked at since 1993, so we're taking one step at a time. I'm sure that that will be part of the bigger picture once we get there. I don't want to blow what we're doing out of proportion. I'm sure that many of those people are already involved in some of that discussion and some of those focus groups. The Health and Social Services Council will be involved in this, and, as the member opposite knows, the Health and Social Services Council represents Yukoners, and for me, it is a good advisory group about the issues in the Yukon. So, no, we're going to be very open about this.
I don't want to make it too formal at this point. I think what we're trying to do is come up with recommendations and then, from the recommendations, make our next decisions as to where we want to go with this.
Mr. Keenan: Well, by golly, you know, I don't want to throw a broken axe on to the woodpile, because it just doesn't get any production done at all. But this doesn't sound like an open and transparent public process. Maybe the minister could prove me wrong, and I hope that the minister does. But I hadn't heard that this was happening. Now, there are a lot of things that I don't hear; everybody knows that. But usually I am informed of these things by different people.
Has the minister specifically just notified the focus groups, or has the public at large been aware that there is a mini-review or a cursory review to maybe look at the next steps? Is that the process? Has the public been involved with this in a general sense?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I think the member opposite has to trust me in the process. I mean, just look at all of the wonderful things we've done over the last 17 months as government and, once again, we're coming forward with an initiative that hasn't been done since 1993. What we're doing here is really trying to engage those people who are most affected by the social assistance program right now, and that's where we want to start first.
We want to start with the people who are most affected, and then from that we're going to come forward with a number of recommendations, and this will provide me and the department with where we want to go with this next. Because it's more than just blowing it open wide at this point without, first of all, finding out what the issues are. And that's what we're doing, Mr. Chair. We're trying to find out what the issues are from the people who use the service. It will be a very positive experience, I'm sure, and I'm sure the people who are involved in the process want to be involved in how we can better the system. Maybe there are better ways of delivering the program.
Those are some of the issues that will come out. Maybe some past practices that we're doing are not practical any more. We're looking for best practices across the nation. We're looking for what works in the times that we live in, and maybe that will be different from the times that we lived in before September 11 to what we live in now.
As part of this process we did a client survey, which was done by the Bureau of Statistics, that independent bureau that sits out there, and again the results on that were very gratifying to see how our clients see the services that we deliver. And we will supply that for the member opposite, the results of the statistics survey. It was well done. As you know, our statistics department does an excellent job in those areas, and we will share those results. So, it is built partly on that - that is just part of the process.
Mr. Keenan: Well, let me clarify that. I trust the minister. I trust the minister believes he is doing the right thing. I trust the minister that the minister has his heart in the right place. But trust is not a part of this process. I am trying to understand what the process truly, truly is and to garner information from - please don't go to Ontario - please don't go to British Columbia - I mean, I am frightened, and I have deep reason to be frightened. And there is a heck of a difference between paranoia and pure fright, and I am frightened.
I want the minister to totally understand that the minister is going to do what the minister wants to do. The last time, the social assistance - 1993 I believe the minister said - was underneath the Yukon Party.
Well, all the Yukon Party did was want to claw back and build a road. There were no social services. There were clawbacks, and it was done unilaterally.
Now, what I'm asking is that the minister create a public process from the beginning - from the beginning. The minister has asked, "Is there a problem of our focus group?" And the focus group is going to look at it. Well, I beg to differ with the minister, but back here, at stage 2, we wouldn't be doing a review if we knew that there weren't slight adjustments, modifications or major problems. We know that there is a need to do this. We absolutely know that. I'm asking the minister to be open, accountable and transparent, right through the process, by bringing in - maybe start with that town hall. Maybe we're going to have to lead with our chin on this one, listen to the vent and then find a way.
This isn't about just putting more bucks into a politically correct or incorrect situation. This is about listening to the people and trying to build the bridges so that those people can find ways to come up and above what they want.
I differ with the minister about the process the minister is painting out. Will the minister reconsider the process to start with a public forum, and if the public forum says, "Yes, there is a problem", the minister can invite everyone to be a part of that focus group. But please don't bring Mr. Harris' attitudes into the Yukon Territory. Please do not do that. Establish an open and accountable public process. Will the minister consider doing that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, we, as a government, right from the beginning, want to know what the problems are before we launch off on some big public review, as the member opposite is trying to suggest. And that's why we're talking to the clients, the people who receive the service. We should be applauded for doing this, because the very people who are being affected are being asked what the problems are. We have just completed a survey and we basically found that, through the survey, many people who are clients are very positive about what we are doing - over 75 percent. Now, those are good signals, but we didn't stop there. We didn't just say, "Here's a survey for the public and everybody's happy so we'll just go away and not even consider what the real issues are." No, we're moving it further because, remember, this is the first time in the last eight years that we are doing this review. The last time it was done was 1993.
I would not want to say what the motivation of the last government or the government of that day was or what their reasons were for it. Our motivation is to provide and give better service.
That's why we're talking to the clients.
Now, the issue of trying to - and I know there are a lot of groups out there. I meet with these groups often, NGO groups, which are very concerned about these very issues, and I have spoken to many of them as groups, as individuals, and they're on the same wavelength that we are, but they also believe that we should first of all find out what these problems are.
And that's what we're doing, Mr. Chair. We believe that we do our homework - my constant word, do our homework - before we launch off into orbit with something that we don't know what we are launching off into for. What we're trying to do is to ensure that we're going to be reviewing and establishing a sort of future direction. If we do that, then we must talk to the people who are most affected by it.
So I appreciate the member opposite for his concern, and I agree that this is not a private backroom deal that's being done. We're talking to the members, the very people who receive assistance. I mean, if they're backroom boys or backroom girls, whatever you want to call it, then I suggest they're the ones we want to talk to.
They're the ones being affected by SA. There is not one focus group. There are many focus groups. You don't just talk to one group; you talk to many. These focus groups are going to be looking at what their needs are and what their processes are. I think it's very important that we try to give time for this to happen. If we need to go to the larger town hall, I'm all for that. I've had -
Chair: Order please. The time being 6:00, the Chair will now rise and report.
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 53, Canadian Council for Donation and Transplantation Indemnification Act, and has directed me to report it out of Committee without amendment.
Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 45, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (No. 4), and has directed me to report it out of Committee without amendment.
Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2001-02, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
The time being 6:00 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. Monday.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled November 15, 2001:
Yukon State of the Environment Interim Report (2000): An Update of Environmental Indicators (Eftoda)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled November 15, 2001:
Travel (Ministerial and Cabinet staff) in-territory and out-of-territory: detailed breakdown for period ending September 30, 2001 (Duncan)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2464 and 2465
Renewal Process: policy framework for workforce support initiatives (Duncan)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2620