Monday, November 19, 2001 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of Louis Riel Day
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, November 16 was Louis Riel Day. Louis Riel was a key figure in Canada's history and in the struggle for the rights of the Métis people. He led the resistance at Red River in 1869, was president of the provisional government that negotiated the terms of entry of Rupert's Land and the northwestern territory into Confederation and was the founder of the Province of Manitoba.
Called to lead his people in the resistance at Batoche, Saskatechewan in 1885, he surrendered to the Canadian military forces in May. He was charged and convicted of high treason and hanged at Regina, Saskatechewan on November 16, 1885.
Louis Riel was elected three times to represent the riding of Provencher, Manitoba in the House of Commons. Because of a $5,000 bounty by the Legislature of Ontario for his capture, he was never able to take his seat in the House. He did, on one occasion, secretly enter, although he did not stay, and at the House of Commons he signed a register as a Member of Parliament. Banished from the Red River, he lived in Montana where he taught school and became a U.S. citizen before being urged to return to Batoche in 1885.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
In recognition of National Addictions Awareness Week
Hon. Mr. Roberts: This is a tribute to National Addictions Awareness Week, from November 19 to 26. Just a few minutes ago, I returned and I was honoured to attend the opening ceremony of the 20th National Addictions Awareness Week. I would like to take this time to acknowledge people who are suffering with and people who work hard to recover from addictions.
Many of us have no idea of what it is like to have an addiction, but many families and addictions support workers do have an idea. The circle of light ceremony that just took place sets aside a time to celebrate and honour the individuals who have worked so hard over the past 20 years.
These individuals have organized community activities to keep each other and the community aware of the importance of being addictions free. They have kept the circle strong.
It was in 1981 that the Nechi Training, Research and Health Promotions Institute created a national addictions awareness week as a way of promoting addictions awareness.
It was in 1987 that a former Health minister, Jake Epp, proclaimed the third week in November each year as drug awareness week, to raise awareness of addictions that affect people across Canada.
In 1988, "Keep the circle strong" was chosen as the national theme for National Addictions Awareness Week.
I am confident that everyone in this House is aware of the symbol of the circle. It conveys the message that individuals, families, communities and nations have chosen healthy lifestyle free from addictions.
National Addictions Awareness Week is many different things to many different people. It serves many of us as a gentle reminder of how we need to continue to fight against addictions that harm so many of our people.
National Addictions Awareness Week demonstrates collaboration and cooperation. A wide variety of groups come together with a common goal, and in so doing, they strengthen the partnership that we need to fight the fight.
This week we all join hands to keep the circle strong.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Keenan: This week marks the 20th year that communities throughout Canada have been holding events to promote addictions awareness. Addictions affect people across Canada, they affect families, and addictions affect communities.
This week provides a dedicated opportunity for people, families and communities to come together and recognize what addictions are, how they impact each of us, and what we as individuals and communities can do to address these problems.
In addressing issues of addiction, it is also important to recognize and promote healthy lifestyles and, by providing a range of activities in our communities, we're encouraging choices that do not include the use of addictive substances. By being healthy role models, we show that one can be healthy, one can be happy and one can be productive.
National Addictions Awareness Week provides a recognized time to discuss what addictions are and how we can support those trying to break an addiction, and how addictions impact families and communities. It also provides us the opportunity to celebrate successes and a healthy addiction-free lifestyle.
Mr. Speaker, there might be individual demons, but certainly those individual demons have to be clubbed by community solutions. May we keep the circle strong.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus I also rise to pay tribute to National Addictions Awareness Week.
Since 1981, Canadians have been coordinating events to recognize and promote awareness about the risks associated with addictions, as well as proven ways of reducing those risks. Whether it is alcohol, drugs or gambling, addictions can be destructive to one's personal health, personal relationships and, as is often the case, can contribute to domestic violence. Here at home, alcohol and drug abuse are significant factors in health care costs to Yukon and are significant factors in the commission of crime. Misuse of alcohol during pregnancy is a particular cause for concern because of the disabilities that those persons suffering from FAS/FAE encounter and the widespread impact of those effects felt on our society.
This week presents an opportunity for Yukoners to realize the important role we all play in preventing addiction and developing healthy lifestyles. It provides an opportunity to focus on early intervention programs, to promote the development of healthy children, encourage community actions to promote healthy choices and presents an opportunity to celebrate our success in addictions awareness.
I am pleased to offer my support to this important initiative and would like to recognize those individuals throughout the Yukon Territory who contribute to making a difference in people's lives by providing effective and affordable addictions services.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: On November 16 each year, the Métis Nation hosts commemorative ceremonies at locations throughout Canada to honour Louis Riel's contribution to Canada and to his people, the Métis. In the audience today, we have joined with us Yvonne LePage, who is the president of the Yukon Métis Federation, and John Whalan, who's the vice-president of the Yukon Métis Federation.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I have for tabling a legislative return relating to costs associated with the takeover of group homes.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 48: French Text
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I am tabling a bill today that contains what I believe to be a true translation into French of the English text of Bill No. 48, entitled Wildlife Act.
Speaker: Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the Tourism ministry is one of the few bright spots in the Yukon's economy;
(2) tourism operators worldwide are facing grave economic uncertainty as a result of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001;
(3) the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon has asked the Yukon Liberal government to invest $1.5 million in new marketing intiatives to help stimulate travel to the territory next year, and this request has the support of the Yukon Chamber of Commerce and the British Columbia and Yukon Hotels' Association;
(4) the Minister of Tourism unilaterally decided that marketing efforts for the coming year should focus largely on the Ontario market and on recreational vehicle owners in particular, in spite of mounting evidence that tourists want to visit destinations closer to home in the aftermath of the September 11 tragedy;
(5) the Yukon Liberal government has a huge budget surplus of $99 million as of March 31, 2001, yet has shown no willingness to take concrete steps to help the territory's tourist industry;
(6) the human and other resources being consumed by the Yukon Liberal government for its so-called renewal process would be better spent addressing the serious problems facing the territory's economy; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to pay heed to the plight of the tourist industry by investing at least $1 million of new money this winter for aggressive marketing initiatives, targeted specifically at potential visitors in nearby jurisdictions such as Alaska, British Columbia, Alberta and the Pacific Northwest region of the United States.
Mr. McLachlan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the transmission line from Mayo to Dawson City will benefit the Yukon by:
(1) reducing the territory's dependence on diesel-generated electricity by 40 percent, which in turn will reduce the long-term rate stability that has been negatively impacted in the past by fluctuating diesel fuel prices;
(2) saving Yukon rate payers well over $100 million over the 40-year life of this project;
(3) decreasing the greenhouse gas emissions that greatly contribute to climate change by over 16,000 tonnes annually;
(4) producing significant business and employment opportunities for Yukoners during the construction phase of the project; and
(5) supporting regional economic development and diversification by providing a cost-effective renewable energy source for individual Yukoners, busineses and resource projects located near the construction corridor; and
THAT this House commends the Yukon Liberal government for doing what it said it would do by fulfilling its commitment to rebuilt the Yukon's infrastructure, and applauds the efforts of the Yukon Energy Corporation for proceeding with a project that provides substantial economic benefits for rural communities and rate payers without sacrificing the environment.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, this government continues to place the highest priority on air access and negotiations to improve Yukon's air service.
Today we publicly released an executive summary of the Yukon air access report. The summary highlights the air access study review results, industry developments and recommendations that we will utilize to proceed with our negotiations.
Furthermore, the Premier will be in Ottawa later this week to meet with Debra Ward, the independent transition observer for airline restructuring reporting directly to the federal Minister of Transportation, David Collenette. As well, she will meet with a senior vice-president of Air Canada to request an immediate meeting with Air Canada President Robert Milton regarding fair air access and treatment for the Yukon and its residents.
We are committed to establishing a level playing field for all air service operating in the territory and believe in the strong contribution this makes to our local economy.
The Yukon air access study report has undergone discussion and revision with our private sector partners on the Yukon Tourism Marketing Partnership Air Access Committee, the Edmonton Airport Authority and the City of Whitehorse - our partners.
They support the findings of the executive summary released today and our position to pursue further negotiations with Air Canada and other carriers.
As a result of the study, we have retained an experienced negotiator with expertise in this field. He is developing a comprehensive negotiation strategy to address the issues.
Communications with Air North continue to take place in our effort to improve air access for Yukoners and involves local participation in the business for additional local benefit.
We withheld the release of the executive summary for an additional three months so as not to jeopardize negotiations Air North undertook with Air Canada.
The devastation of September 11 on both the global and regional airline industry further prompted us to withhold its release.
When Mr. Joseph Sparling, President of Air North, proposed a business plan to provide new scheduled service from Whitehorse to Vancouver, he identified two areas in which he sought government support.
One concerned direct travel commitments, and the second requested our support in negotiation proceedings with Air Canada.
In response to those requests, a letter was sent to Mr. Sparling clearly stating that we would be unable to guarantee exclusive government travel to Air North. The government did support and fulfill the second request, however, with a letter from the Premier to Robert Milton introducing Mr. Sparling and Air North and recognizing the potential benefits associated with an alternate air service.
In late September, a senior Air Canada official notified Air North that the national airline was not prepared to share the route.
Since that time, with the demise of Canada 3000 and the resulting opportunity in the marketplace, Mr. Sparling has announced that he will pursue options for Air North flights from Whitehorse to Vancouver and a direct flight to an Alberta gateway, possibly Calgary. One reason for that is that 737s cost 40 percent of what they did four months ago, prior to September 11. This creates more of a feasible option for Air North to enter the market.
The air access study clearly shows that there is a strong business case for a direct route to Alberta.
The absence of Canada 3000 has left the Yukon short of capacity from May through October. This carrier provided the territory with a capacity of approximately 12,500 seats during those crucial summer months.
The government continues to endorse and base our travel arrangements on the best price, best schedule, best connections and best quality provided by air service carriers operating in the Yukon Territory. We wish to negotiate the best possible deal with airlines operating in the Yukon and, as a consequence, it would be inappropriate to divulge the full details of the air access study at this time without severely jeopardizing the process and results of those negotiations.
We are currently developing an airline strategy that will examine the actions that we will take to maximize -
Speaker: Order please. The minister's time is up.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: This is one of those occasions where I can agree, in theory at least, with the minister. However, the question remains: what is this government going to do to improve the situation regarding air access in our territory?
The Yukon recently has been faced with a monopoly in terms of air service outside on a regular basis. Air Canada has that monopoly and we all know how Yukoners feel about that.
We heard some of those complaints from what the public said to air complaints commissioner Bruce Hood on Saturday.
It's clear that customer service is not what it should be. Reduced inflight service, stranding customers through overbooking and hanging up on callers is proof of that.
In the past year, Air Canada has reduced service and increased customer fares through such actions as dropping its hot meal service on its Whitehorse to Vancouver route, charging its Aeroplan customers more points to fly, increasing air cargo rates, coordinating less with Yukon travel agents, and what about student standby fares? Obviously, Mr. Speaker, the minister's glowing words about her great relationship with Air Canada over the course of the past year has really paid big dividends for the Yukon. Shame on this Liberal government.
The air access study identifies several areas in need of improvement, such as direct discussions with Air Canada to encourage it to improve its schedule and offer better airfares and to encourage other carriers to initiate new services that will stimulate new business with competition that ensures price responsiveness.
On the first point, Mr. Speaker, it is somewhat disappointing to hear that the Premier has not arranged a meeting with Air Canada President, Robert Milton, nor does she have a meeting booked with Minister Collenette. Instead, she's meeting with underlings, and how far will that get us when the people at the top won't even give our Premier the courtesy of a meeting.
On the second point, what is this Yukon government going to do about encouraging a local carrier to enter the market?
I listened to Air North owner, Joe Sparling on Saturday at the TIA Roundup, and unfortunately his story is far from the done deal implied by the minister on her CBC radio interview on Friday morning. It's far from that.
What about this so-called level-playing-field approach, Mr. Speaker. What this is all about is serving up a piece of the government air travel pie, and the Liberals are against that in principle.
How can we expect smaller local businesses to compete with predatory-pricing giants like Air Canada, unless we give them a fair shake? I suggest evenly splitting government travel between outside carriers and local carriers would be a good starting point and establish a true level playing field, and one that is prerequisite to establishing a local business in this highly competitive market.
Now, Air Canada's predatory-pricing practices are designed to crush competitors. It recently refused to share its monopoly on government air travel. The government is just not getting that message.
Now, other Yukon communities need air access too. Perhaps some others watched CBC's "At the End" on Saturday night, when we heard Senator Pat Carney talk about the situation in Watson Lake and how people in that community have to drive for several hours just to get to an airport that flies out. That is another one of the cutbacks from Air Canada. So I urge this Liberal government to do more, to recognize local air businesses and let's get them started and let's create some competition in this territory.
Mr. Jenkins: September 11 was a milestone in the aviation world. Air access to Yukon was not good before September 11 and now, after that tragedy, it has become much worse. The demise of Canada 3000 has left Air Canada in a monopoly situation, and Yukoners know all too well what happens when Air Canada has a monopoly. Fifteen thousand air mile points were required to fly to Vancouver-Whitehorse return. That is no longer good enough. The new total, thought up overnight, becomes 25,000. Suddenly, the Whitehorse to Vancouver run becomes a long haul route - very interesting. Apparently Air Canada has the amazing ability not only to change airfares, but to change geographic distances.
Most Yukoners were not aware that the continental drift has widened. It is 963 air miles between Vancouver and Whitehorse. That hasn't changed. Air Canada is now quoting it's 1,100 air miles. They must circle Whitehorse before they land, Mr. Speaker.
There is only one way that Yukoners will be able to achieve comparable airfares to the rest of Canada, and that way is through competition. I welcome the news that the Yukon government has retained the service of an experienced negotiator with expertise in this field to develop a comprehensive strategy to address the issues.
Now, negotiating with Air Canada is going to be like negotiating with the Taliban. It will take months of intense effort before Air Canada gets the message that it should change its ways. I am encouraged by the news that Air North is contemplating purchasing a Boeing 737 to provide such competition, but it must be recognized, however, that in order for Air North to be successful, it must have support for a specific amount of their capacity from the Government of Yukon. The old government policy of government travel utilizing the air service that provides the most economic service will not work. Air Canada will simply lower its fares long enough to put the competitor out of business. So much for the level playing field that the minister spoke of.
The Government of Yukon has a big lever here, due to the fact that the Liberal Cabinet ministers alone could keep a whole fleet of 737s flying all over Canada. Mr. Speaker, I thought the NDP government was bad in doubling the outside travel costs of the previous Yukon Party government in their first year, but this current Liberal government has equalled the NDP government's outside travel costs in only six months. The title of the high-flying, champagne socialists must now go to the Liberals rather the NDP. These Liberals have earned it, Mr. Speaker.
The point I am making, Mr. Speaker, is that the Yukon government must now use its extensive outside travel budget to ensure that there is competition to Air Canada. The Government of Yukon has a big stick here, and I am encouraging them to use it.
Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank all those on the Air Access Committee who took the time and effort to work on the Yukon air access study report. They have done some good work and it's now up to this Yukon Liberal government to ensure that Yukoners have good air service outside at a reasonable cost. The ball is in the government's court and we are all anxious to see the Liberals level the playing field and get on with playing the game - let alone sit back and support the concept of competition. The ball is in your park, Liberals. Do what you have to do. We have spelled out the direction you should be taking. I encourage you to take this excellent advice.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: One thing we have not done is nothing. We went out and we created a business case to bring another airline into the Yukon Territory so that we could get the best price, the best connections, the best possible service to Yukon. Mr. Speaker, we went through a very extensive process with our private sector partners, developing that information. So we're not going to sit around and do nothing.
But the other solution, Mr. Speaker, is not to just give government travel to one airline because that's not enough. We need an awful lot more than that.
Mr. Speaker, we believe in a level playing field because a level playing field will bring competition and competition is what's going to give Yukoners much cheaper fares, better connections and better service.
Mr. Speaker, it's quite clear to me. I don't know why it's not clear to others.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Tourism marketing strategies
Mr. McRobb: Last week the Minister of Tourism claimed that 80 percent of all Yukon visitors were RVers. I think she now realizes that figure is for rubber-tire traffic only, not just RVers. At this weekend's TIA Roundup, speaker after speaker insisted new marketing efforts need to focus closer to the Yukon because travellers don't want to venture far from home.
Given that, Mr. Speaker, why is the minister personally insisting that marketing efforts be targeted on RVers from Ontario, five provinces away from the Yukon?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Okay, let's try to get things straight from the beginning.
First of all, I agree; I should have said "rubber tires" instead of "RVers". For once the Member for Kluane was right about something.
Now, let's go and talk about what we are doing. And now the Member for Kluane is representing that somehow or another we are bringing RVers from Ontario. The project that we put in for the Canadian Tourism Commission to get matching federal funds in Ontario was for cruise ships. The Alaska neighbours program was for RVers - Alaska.
We also put in for money to the Canadian Tourism Commission for a sales mission to Canada, because, yes, we get people from Canada, and they are more likely to travel within Canada this year. That's what all the research shows.
We have done a lot since September 11. For example, we started to work on a shop-Yukon project and that project is with Alaska, Mr. Speaker.
In addition to that, we've always had line funding for the Yukon Convention Bureau, and we expect that they are going to be getting more conventions from Alaska.
In addition to that, we've got a neighbours and friends program that we are now beginning to see might be the way to bring more people back to the Yukon. We will be talking to Yukoners about that over the next year - about ways that they can bring their friends and neighbours back to the Yukon.
In addition to that there is Call of the Wild - $4 million a year into the service industry in the Yukon Territory. Mr. Speaker, that's a lot.
Mr. McRobb: I don't know what to make of that, but this minister told the industry that the Yukon government is refusing to put new money into tourism promotion, at least until the spring budget. Yet, TIA, the B.C. and Yukon Hotels' Association and the Yukon Chamber of Commerce all say that operators need to know now how much new money there will be to assist marketing early in the new year.
Why won't the minister do the right thing and support the industry right now when the need is obvious?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, once again, the member on the other side has a very interesting way of not hearing what's being said to him. The member opposite said that there's no new money coming in for marketing the Yukon Territory, and I told him about three projects for which we have applied to the Canadian Tourism Commission for matching funds - the feds pay half, we pay half. In addition to that, I have also talked to the member opposite about the shop-Yukon project and that's with Yukon and Alaska. Mr. Speaker, those are matched dollars as well.
Mr. Speaker, there's an awful lot of new money coming into the Yukon Territory in marketing prior to the new budget being tabled, but I'm also going throughout the Yukon Territory talking to operators, where they work, about the way we should build the new budget and the new marketing dollars.
So we're doing both. We're putting in new money now and we're building an O&M budget with new marketing strategies starting on April 1.
Mr. McRobb: More gobbledegook, Mr. Speaker. We know that the federal government, the CTC, has not approved any of the applications yet, so the minister is talking about something that is not firm yet.
Furthermore, last week she said the Yukon is the only jurisdiction in Canada where tourism is the number one industry. Well, it's obvious that the minister's Cabinet colleagues have not heard that message or they might have shown up at the TIA Roundup. It seems that no one has given them the news that tourism is our sole remaining industry.
Will the minister go back to Cabinet and get a commitment for at least $1.5 million, as requested from TIA, for immediate marketing funds to be targeted specifically to adjacent jurisdictions like Alberta, Alaska and B.C?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The approvals for the Canadian Tourism Commission applications will be done in the first week in December. That's the first hint of information from the member opposite. The shop-Yukon project is being worked on right now. That money is available this year, prior to April 1.
Let's go back and talk about the TIA convention. Not every tourism operator in the Yukon Territory belongs to TIA. We go out as a caucus and talk to tourism operators all year long. We talk to them about what their concerns are. I am very concerned about the effects of September 11. That's why I'm going out on the road and talking to operators about what their concerns are and the ways that they think we can bring tourists to the Yukon next summer with the money that will be available to them on April 1.
Mr. Speaker, we are trying very hard to work with Alaska on the shop-Yukon project, on the Alaskan neighbour project. Mr. Speaker, we are trying very hard, and we're doing it with our private sector partners, and there is new money coming for tourism.
Question re: Government renewal process, cost
Mr. Fairclough: My question is for the Premier. The government's project downsize was a hot topic at the Yukon Federation of Labour convention this weekend. The Premier wouldn't know that, because she declined an invitation to speak at the convention, and so did the MLA for Whitehorse Centre, who was expected to take part in a panel discussion on renewal.
The Premier has told us how much is in the budget for project downsize, but that's only one fraction of the cost. Can the Premier give a more accurate estimate of the full cost of renewal by the time it's completed, both above-the-line and below-the-line costs?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The line item for renewal in the supplementary budget is $895,000 in the Executive Council Office department. That is the amount of money that is budgeted for renewal.
With respect to the Yukon Federation of Labour convention this weekend, the member is correct in that the Member for Whitehorse Centre and I were invited to attend. Unfortunately, neither of us were able to attend. We have, however, communicated with the Yukon Federation of Labour, both by phone and written to them, and invited them to make other arrangements. We would be happy to meet with them.
We of course also included the Yukon Federation of Labour with the launch of the discussion guide, and have yet to receive a response.
Mr. Fairclough: It's obvious that this government is too busy out there cutting ribbons and tasting wine, and have no time to spend on this important convention.
The renewal teams include a number of deputy ministers and senior management employees. Renewal groups at the departmental level have also been meeting for months. Programs and services are already being affected, and not in a good way.
Can the Premier tell us how many person hours, and at what salary levels, this ill-advised renewal process has used up so far?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I must respectfully disagree with the member opposite. Renewal is not ill advised. It's a necessary step in preparation for devolution. If the member would take the opportunity to review the some-300 pages of employee comments I have provided to him, he would discover there is a great deal of support for renewal.
Yes, it is a difficult time. It's a time of change, and that is difficult for some people. It also presents an opportunity. With respect to the number of person hours and dedicated time that has been spent on this particular process, that is part of the cost of renewal. It is included within the $895,000. The cost of staff time, by and large, is over and above their existing responsibilities, and that is part of their contribution to renewal, and it's not, in fact, an additional cost.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, we don't believe that to be the fact. The member just said that the cost was $895,000. The fact is that there was a $99-million surplus at the beginning of this year. And we've heard all kinds of excuses from the Liberal government about why they cannot fund certain projects and certain initiatives that are in the communities, yet we have this Premier telling the public that this is the cost of renewal - $895,000 - yet there are more costs that she also mentioned. She also said that to make this project work, they would have to spend down the surplus.
Why is the Premier keeping this from the public? And why is the Premier not up front about the government plans to spend down the surplus on this project?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I must advise the member opposite of two points. First of all, I would reference the media release of November 9, from the Association of Yukon Communities, that states, "There is a misconception that only government employees have had the opportunity to comment on government renewal. In fact, all Yukon municipal councils have been given the opportunity to provide input to the renewal consultations. As well, Premier Duncan, along with Mr. McLarnon, the Member for Whitehorse Centre, and the renewal staff attended the Association of Yukon Communities board of directors meeting to discuss renewal."
With respect to spending money, to date we have spent a portion of the $895,000 that is budgeted. Spending money is about making choices. It's how you tell one government from another.
The previous government spent millions of dollars on ports in Alaska, having their backbenchers appointed as Cabinet commissioners - those were their choices. We have chosen to increase our spending on economic stimulators such as the Yukon mining incentive program and increase spending on highways, and, yes, spending money on making government work better for the people of the Yukon.
Question re: Dawson City council, appointment of supervisor
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
On January 23, 2001, the Yukon Cabinet passed Order-in-Council 2001/04, pursuant to section 335 of the Municipal Act, appointing an official supervisor of the municipality of the City of Dawson. Clause 335(3) of the act states, "The municipality must submit to the supervisor, for approval, particulars of the following matters which constitute the program of the municipality:
Further, clause 335(4) states, "The municipality must comply with the directions of the supervisor, and the council must not finalize its program or pass any bylaw respecting it until the program has been approved, or revised and approved, by the supervisor."
Can the minister explain why she stated in this House, on October 29, that the role of the supervisor was merely to provide advice and assistance when the law clearly states that the directions given by the supervisor are binding on the Dawson City council? Why is the minister saying one thing and the law saying something completely different?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The supervisor's role is to provide advice and assistance to the city while it develops its financial plan. The supervisor does not take the place of council and he does not have the power to overrule council's decisions. He is not required to monitor the city's programs and services, and he is not directly involved in the development of the plan.
Mr. Jenkins: That is an amazing answer.
I want the minister to carefully consider her answer because she is not a law unto herself and has to act in accordance with the laws passed by this House, one of which is the Municipal Act. Will the minister advise the House what legislative authority allows her to ignore clauses 335(3) and 335(4) of the Municipal Act in relationship to the appointment of a supervisor for the City of Dawson?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I am not ignoring the Municipal Act. The supervisor is functioning within his role and according to the Municipal Act. The member opposite is wrong.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if the supervisor was functioning according to the way the minister has outlined to this House, the minister is breaking the law, Mr. Speaker. If the minister simply wants to appoint an advisor, she could have done so by policy rather than by utilizing section 335 of the Municipal Act, which is a very serious matter.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Order please. The government House leader, on a point of order.
Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Speaker, when the member accuses the Minister of Community and Transportation Services of breaking the law, he's imputing false or unavowed motives, and it's in violation of article 19(1)(g) of the Standing Orders. The member is well aware of that.
Speaker: Order please. I believe I heard that there was a condition laid down that if the minister did this, she would be breaking the law or the law would be broken. I don't believe it was the intention of the leader of the third party to accuse the minister of breaking the law. The condition was laid down there that if this happened, it would be a violation of the law.
I'll check Hansard, but based on what I believe I heard, I will rule there's no point of order and ask the member to continue.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thank you for a fair and reasonable ruling on this matter.
Mr. Speaker, if the minister simply wanted to appoint an advisor, she could have done so by policy rather than by utilizing section 335 of the Municipal Act, which is a very serious matter. Will the minister now admit that, with the appointment under the Municipal Act, the supervisor is in fact and in law responsible for approving all of the expenditure plans for the City of Dawson including the recreational centre project?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Now we get to the heart of the matter. The Member for Klondike has been trying to imply that the Yukon government is responsible for the Dawson City recreation centre. That is not the case, Mr. Speaker. It is absolutely not the case, and if the Member for Klondike would speak with the Dawson mayor and council, he would clearly understand that.
Question re: Government renewal process, layoffs
Mr. Fentie: I have a question today for the Minister for Economic Development. This is one minister on the Liberal government's benches who should be very concerned about project downsize/privatize, alias government renewal.
The loss of 175 jobs due to this project downsize is crucial to the territory's economy. We know that the Premier is in full control of this project. The Premier has set the template and the template shows the loss of 175 public sector jobs.
Can the minister explain to this House how much spending power will be taken out of the Yukon's economy due to the loss of 175 public sector jobs?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the template the member speaks of does not show a loss of jobs. The member is once again demonstrating his lack of understanding and lack of appreciation for the renewal project. There is not a target number. It simply does not exist.
Mr. Speaker, perhaps the member opposite would be more interested in a template that was released today, that I have spoken about in the House - the accountability framework, which I spent a good half-hour today explaining to the public at large, through the media, and to which there are in excess of 100 Yukoners working with two hardworking public servants and the accountability team in departmentally developing their accountability frameworks.
That's the sort of template, an exciting part of renewal, that the member opposite, I should think, would be very excited about - not the mythical number that the member is purporting as fact.
Mr. Fentie: Well, it's not this side of the House that has to be concerned about accountability. We are accountable to the public. It's the Liberal government across the floor that has shown time and time again that they just simply do not like to be accountable to the public.
Let me go about it this way. By the simplest of arithmetic, the loss of 175 jobs due to project downsize, will result in millions of dollars of cash flow and spending power ripped out of the Yukon economy - well in excess of $10 million.
This government has $99 million in surplus. I ask the Minister of Economic Development: what projects or options does the minister have in mind to restore the millions of dollars of spending power lost to the Yukon economy due to project downsize?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I am so excited to stand on my feet and speak about accountability with the member opposite, because the accountability framework that was released this morning truly is an exciting opportunity for all members of this Legislature. What it outlines is a new budget format that will better account to Yukon taxpayers for the dollars that are spent. It will set an outline for the public, an overall direction, a corporate plan and goals that are set by the department, by the public servants, by industry in consultation with the government, and signed off by the minister.
The government of the day, regardless of whether in the future it is us here or another party, the fact is that Yukoners will see the results of renewal and the results of accountability. They will know precisely, by questions the members are better able to ask through the accountability framework, how tax dollars are spent, how programs are meeting their goals, and what has been achieved by the choices made by the government.
Mr. Fentie: Let's look at the accountability news release. The government side is comparing this accountability framework to sexually transmitted diseases. I hardly find that very exciting at all.
Mr. Speaker, the point here is that government has undertaken a misguided process all from the corner office with no input at all, not only from the public but from the workers who are going to be most affected.
Let me look at it this way, Mr. Speaker, if I may. The renewal process is simply an exercise of navel-gazing by the Liberal government and spending money on itself.
Now, let's look at other losses here. Due to the loss of funding and program delivery and delivery of services to Yukoners, can the Premier or the Minister of Economic Development tell this House how much that is going to cost the Yukon economy? And before the Premier gets up on her feet and starts reciting retail sales, let me point out that those numbers are pre-loss of 175 jobs. It's the post-loss of 175 jobs that we're worried about.
Speaker: Order please. Will the member please conclude his question.
Mr. Fentie: Can the Premier tell us how much more it will cost the Yukon economy?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, for what feels like the millionth time, we're not talking about 175 jobs. There is no target, and $51 million is the correct figure for the surplus.
I'm amazed that the member opposite stood on his feet at the opening of his question, Mr. Speaker, and said the health of Yukoners isn't important. It's certainly important to us and it's certainly shown in our budget that we respect the health of Yukoners. And, yes, sexually transmitted diseases is one health indicator that we do need to keep track of.
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is also standing on his feet saying accountability isn't important. Well, could the member then explain why, in 1995, the Auditor General recommended that the Government of Yukon do this? This is the first government that has had the courage to act. Is the member suggesting that such goals as maintaining transportation infrastructure efficiently and doing things like accounting to Yukoners for BST on our roads isn't important? If it isn't important, perhaps he could tell the Member for Kluane, who continually asks questions about it.
The accountability framework is a good one; we're very proud of it and we're working with public servants, as we are on renewal.
Question re: Training trust funds
Mr. Fairclough: My question is for the Minister of Education. The upcoming capital budget shows that the community training fund has been decimated. A decrease of 72 percent is more than a substantial cut. It cuts the heart right out of this program. Will the minister identify which community training trust funds will continue to be funded through their contribution agreement?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Speaker, in the capital budget, which the members opposite are unwilling to debate in Committee because they know it's a good budget, Mr. Speaker - it speaks well for Yukoners, but they don't want to discuss that, Mr. Speaker.
With respect to the community trust funds, there are over $2 million in community trust funds being held by the government for existing programs, Mr. Speaker. I've been working with the college and will continue to work for the college and assist in using those funds in the most appropriate way.
So, Mr. Speaker, we are doing what we said we would do and we are assisting the college in educating our community members.
Mr. Fairclough: What the minister's not doing is listening to the question and answering the question that's being asked in this House.
The minister is on record supporting this very successful program. The training trust funds have supported communities and sectors while providing the Yukon with a trained workforce. Now, to the minister again, and listen carefully: will the minister identify which NGO training trust funds will continue to be funded through their contribution agreements?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, Mr. Speaker, I don't think it's necessary for the member opposite to holler across the House. We're not that far apart, and he does have a microphone and we can all hear the questions, so it's not really necessary for him to do that.
We are working with the college, we are working with the communities and being responsible on how we administer community trust funds, or any trust fund, for that matter. I know that the member opposite is alluding that we are short in the communities, and that's not correct. I am working with the college, and we are identifying clearly where monies are available - over $2 million - plus there are existing First Nation trust funds, Mr. Speaker, that we are also directing the college to look into, as well as ourselves.
So, we are acting responsibly, and we're very accountable to the Yukon public and very cognizant of how we spend their taxpayers' dollars.
Mr. Fairclough: One thing this minister is doing is skating hard from the question. Two questions and no answer yet. Now, let's see if the minister can answer this question.
Training trust funds not only provide a skilled workforce, but they also provide employment for those who are doing the training. Now, cuts of this magnitude will have a significant impact on those people who will have collateral impacts on the decrease of local spending.
Will the minister identify the impact that cuts of this magnitude will have on Yukon College?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, as I understand it, I answered that specific question in the first two answers I provided, but the member opposite likes to read from script and, unfortunately, doesn't understand that I have answered the question. So, I have been dialoguing; I have met with the college, and I'm going to meet with them again on how we can more efficiently look at where those dollars are right now, and assist them directly in securing those dollars to continue education programs, not only in the communities - which they are so concerned about - but also, yes, right here in Whitehorse. Our responsibility is to all Yukoners, not to specific ridings like the members opposite - where they say we are continually deficient. The fact of the matter is that all my colleagues have been out and about this past summer, talking to Yukoners, listening to Yukoners, and finding out exactly what they want.
But, Mr. Speaker, they don't want to hear that, because that's not good news to them, but we are acting responsibly and we are accountable to Yukoners.
Question re: Alcohol and drug program delivery
Mr. Keenan: I have a question for the Minister of Health today. Now, at a lunchtime ceremony, which I attended with the Minister of Health, the Minister of Health spoke about his community tour and how the number one priority from the minister's community tour was community alcohol and drug programs.
We know that programs that are developed locally and delivered locally are the very best for success in the communities, so I would like to ask this minister: what is this minister doing to ensure that communities are there to deliver their programs across the territory immediately?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: It has been such a long time since I've had a question from the member opposite that I've almost forgotten how to answer it. But I definitely have an answer for the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes.
I have been on record before, stating that the alcohol and drug addiction is one of our seven priorities. We are committed as a government, as no other government in the history of the Yukon has been committed, to try to eradicate and try to build for the future.
In achieving this end, we have set up a secretariat and our executive director has been working diligently, has visited every community except Old Crow, which she will be doing in December. She has been on the job for two months and she has been discussing, dialoguing, working with communities, with all partners, in trying to come forward with suggestions and recommendations.
We are very excited about what we see coming down for the future.
I know, maybe the member opposite, as I am, is anxious to get moving, to get miles or kilometres behind us but, again, the CEO just started two months ago, and I believe we are on a good path at this point.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, let me point out that it has been many moons since I've had an answer from this minister - many, many moons.
Now, this government here is very good at throwing up smokescreens. I mean, the Minister of Education is an absolute pro at it, and it's testimony here in Question Period that it's happening today.
But what has to be clarified here is that, in the minister's own words, the minister agreed with me that the minister has frozen programs, that programs for addiction that should be implemented immediately are frozen until the empire's built. And, of course, we know that this is this minister's own personal empire.
So I'd like to ask the minister again, seeing that he's so excited about working with the issues that are at hand here, when is the minister going to ensure that communities are once again able to offer addictions programming? When? Will it be this week, next week or when the empire's built? Will the minister please explain that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: What smokescreen? I am not sure what the member opposite is talking about. I don't speak behind smokescreens, Mr. Speaker. I put the truth, the facts, on the table. If the members opposite choose not to listen to the facts, that's their problem, Mr. Speaker.
Empire built? I'm not sure, Mr. Speaker, that trying to rehabilitate, trying to work with addictions and trying to build for the future is empire building. I think it's responding to a need, and I am saddened that the member opposite thinks that it's an empire that we're building on the backs of people who are in the greatest need. I am really shocked that the member would use that tactic.
Mr. Speaker, we have never stopped working with alcohol and drug people, with people who have concerns, people who have needs, people who have problems. We are constantly working with these people in need, Mr. Speaker. The program just doesn't suddenly stop because we don't have a CEO. The program has always been carried on. What we're trying to do is to enhance it, to be more reflective, and to look at what communities have told us they need. This is what our CEO has been doing, Mr. Speaker, and she has been working very hard at this. And I would expect, in the next couple of months, what I call solid work will come forward, and I'm sure the member opposite will be more than pleased.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, it's getting close to Christmas and I'd like to speed up the excitement and I would like to know that communities that do have programs that are developed - and I can think of two or three communities right now that I have spoken to in the past week that have programs that are developed and ready to go. Those communities are offering an olive branch to the minister so that we might be able to now develop some immediate needs programming.
So, I'd like to ask this minister: when will this minister be able to implement some of those immediate needs programs and quit hiding behind the excuse that the minister keeps throwing up of a freeze. We're coming into a natural Yukon winter and we don't need the minister or this government adding on to that. We need immediate results.
Will the minister consider implementing results immediately?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: We have never stopped delivering programs. I don't know what the member is talking about. Communities have never stopped delivering programs, Mr. Speaker, and if programs are based on funding, solely on funding that we provide, then I think the member opposite needs to have a clear explanation of what programming is really going on.
Mr. Speaker, I would expect that all communities are delivering programs. They're delivering them very well; they're ongoing. What we're trying to do is to enhance, to build, to expand, and to provide more support for these programs. This is what the communities have asked us to do. They have asked us to help work with them in partnership, and that's what we're doing. I think our secretariat is doing a fine job in, first of all, finding out where these needs are needed. But we have a report that is eight months old, and a lot of the results of that report are where we're going in the future.
So, to say that we have stopped delivering programs, Mr. Speaker, I cannot agree with the member opposite. Programs are always being delivered. They may be delivered in a different way and with different support, but that's the whole process of hiring somebody who has expertise in the area. And we have to trust the fact that when we bring people in our government who have expertise for those reasons, then we must give them time to come forward with their views, working with the partners. I don't know how else we could do it. I don't have all the answers.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Clerk: Motion No. 165, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Buckway.
Motion No. 165
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly, pursuant to Section 16(1) of the Human Rights Act, reappoint Mary Kane to the Yukon Human Rights Commission.
Motion No. 165 agreed to
Clerk: Motion No. 166, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Buckway.
Motion No. 166
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly, pursuant to section 21 of the Human Rights Act, effective immediately:
(1) appoint Michael Dougherty, Barbara Evans, Claudia Lowry and reappoint Erwin Ordonez de Leon to the Yukon Human Rights Panel of Adjudicators; and,
(2) designate Barbara Evans as chief adjudicator.
Motion No. 166 agreed to
Unanimous consent re Motion No. 169
Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to an agreement between the House leaders, I would request unanimous consent for Motion No. 169, standing in the name of the Premier on today's Notice Paper, to be called at this time.
Further, in recognition of the length of the motion, I would request the unanimous consent of the House for the motion to be taken as having been read from the Chair and for it to appear in Hansard as having been read.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Pursuant to the direction of the House, Motion No. 169, standing in the name of the Premier, has been called and taken as having been read from the Chair. Is there any debate on Motion No. 169?
Text of Motion No. 169
THAT the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly be amended, effective immediately prior to the adjournment of the Assembly on the final sitting day of the 2001 fall Sitting, by:
(A) adding the following new Standing Orders:
[SPECIAL STANDING ORDERS RESULTING FROM
LEADERS' AGREEMENT OF
NOVEMBER 8, 2001]
SITTINGS OF THE ASSEMBLY
Giving two weeks' notice of Assembly being called into session
73. (1) Whenever the House stands adjourned for an indefinite or extended period of time and the Premier advises the Speaker that the public interest requires the House to meet or to meet at an earlier time than that established by motion of the House, the Speaker shall give notice that the House shall meet at that time and, thereupon, the House shall meet to transact its business as if it had been duly adjourned to that time.
(2) The Premier shall advise the Speaker under this Standing Order in sufficient time to allow the Speaker opportunity to give a minimum of two weeks' notice of the date on which the House shall meet.
(3) If the Premier advises that the House should meet due to a matter of urgent and pressing necessity without two weeks' notice being provided, and the Speaker is satisfied that at least one of the other leaders in the Assembly is in agreement as to the date of reconvening, the Speaker shall cause the House to meet with less than two weeks' notice.
Business when session of Assembly opens or is reconvened
74. When a session of the Assembly has opened or been reconvened, the government shall introduce all legislation, including appropriation bills, to be dealt with during that Sitting by the fifth sitting day.
Length of Sittings of the Assembly
75. (1) There shall be a maximum of 60 sitting days per calendar year.
(2) When the government has introduced all legislation, including appropriation bills, to be dealt with during a Sitting, the House leaders shall meet for the purpose of achieving agreement upon the number of sitting days for that Sitting. The minimum number of sitting days for any Sitting shall be 20. The maximum number of sitting days for any Sitting shall be 40.
(3) When, pursuant to Standing Order 75(2), an agreement cannot be reached between the government House leader and at least one other House leader representing a majority of the members of the Assembly, each of the spring and fall Sittings shall be a maximum of 30 sitting days.
(4) The government House leader shall inform the Assembly of the results of the House leaders meetings, held pursuant to Standing Order 75.(2), within two sitting days of all government legislation having been introduced.
(5) The government House leader, with notice, may move a motion to sit beyond the agreed upon number of sitting days in the spring Sitting or the fall Sitting. Such motion, which is subject to debate and amendment, shall specify the business to be dealt with during any additional sitting days.
(6) Sitting days added pursuant to Standing Order 75(5) shall be in addition to the maximum number of sitting days stipulated in Standing Order 75(1).
(7) The Standing Orders in this chapter do not apply to special Sittings of the Assembly that are called in addition to spring and fall Sittings.
(8) The maximum number of sitting days per calendar year or per Sitting may be adjusted in any year in which a general election takes place. In the absence of an agreement between House leaders, the maximum number of sitting days for any Sitting which takes place following a general election shall be 30 sitting days.
(9) When there is agreement respecting the maximum number of days in any Sitting, these Standing Orders do not preclude the House from sitting fewer days than the maximum specified in the agreement.
Procedures at conclusion of a Sitting
76. (1) On the day that the Assembly has reached the maximum number of days allocated for that Sitting pursuant to Standing Order 75, the Chair of the Committee of the Whole, if the Assembly is in Committee of the Whole at the time, shall interrupt proceedings at 5:00 p.m. and, with respect to each government bill before Committee that the government House leader directs to be called, shall:
(a) put the question on any amendment then before the Committee,
(b) put the question, without debate or amendment, on a motion moved by a minister that the bill, including all clauses, schedules, title and preamble, be deemed to be read and carried,
(c) put the question on a motion moved by a minister that the bill be reported to the Assembly, and
(d) when all bills have been dealt with, recall the Speaker to the Chair to report on the proceedings of the Committee.
(2) On the day that the Assembly has reached the maximum number of days allocated for that Sitting pursuant to Standing Order 75, the Speaker of the Assembly, when recalled to the Chair after the House has been in the Committee of the Whole, shall:
(a) call for the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole,
(b) put the question, in the usual fashion, on the motion to concur in the Chair's report on the proceedings of Committee of the Whole,
(c) with respect to each government bill on which debate has been adjourned at the second reading stage and designated to be called by the government House leader, put the question, without further debate, on the motion that the bill be read a second time, and, if that motion is carried, order that the bill stand immediately ordered for third reading, and
(d) with respect to each government bill standing on the Order Paper for third reading and designated to be called by the government House leader,
(i) receive a motion for third reading and passage of the bill, and
(ii) put the question, without debate or amendment, on that motion.
(3) On the day that the Assembly has reached the maximum number of days allocated for that Sitting pursuant to Standing Order 75, the Speaker of the Assembly, if in the Chair at the time, shall interrupt proceedings at 5:30 p.m. and shall:
(a) with respect to each government bill on which debate has been adjourned at the second reading stage and designated to be called by the government House leader, put the question, without further debate, on the motion that the bill be read a second time, and, if that motion is carried, order that the bill stand immediately ordered for third reading, and
(b) with respect to each government bill standing on the Order Paper for third reading and designated to be called by the government House leader,
(i) receive a motion for Third Reading and passage of the bill, and
(ii) put the question, without debate or amendment, on that motion.
(4) The Assembly shall then proceed with any routine business associated with the end of a Sitting including receiving the Commissioner to grant assent to bills and passing an end-of-Sitting adjournment motion.
(5) The normal time of adjournment shall not apply if it is reached during the course of the proceedings identified in this Standing Order. Further, a motion to adjourn the House shall not be permitted on the last day of a Sitting until such time as all business identified in this Standing Order has been completed.
(6) The provisions of this Standing Order shall apply in any situation in which this Standing Order may be found to be in conflict with any other Standing Order.
77. (1) Any reference to a position or office such as House leader shall, in these Standing Orders, be deemed, in the absence of the person occupying that position or office, to apply to the designate of the person holding that position or office.
(2) In these Standing Orders, "sitting" refers to a sitting day and "Sitting" refers to a block of sitting days with the common Sittings being the Spring Sitting and the Fall Sitting."
(B) deleting Standing Orders 2(7) and 45(3.5); and
(C) deleting Standing Order 45(3.1) and substituting the following:
"45(3.1) A Standing Committee on Appointments to Major Government Boards and Committees may be appointed."
Motion No. 169 agreed to
Unanimous consent re withdrawal of Motion No. 155
Mr. McLachlan: Based on the agreement of the Minister of Justice, in whose name Motion No. 155 stands on the Order Paper, and on an agreement between the House leaders, I would request unanimous consent for Motion No. 155 to be withdrawn from the Order Paper.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted.
I would ask the Clerk to make the change to the Order Paper, as directed by the House.
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: Good afternoon everyone, I now call Committee of the Whole to order. The Committee of the Whole will recess until 2:25.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We'll continue on general debate on Department of Health and Social Services, part of Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2001-02.
Bill No. 7 - Second Appropriation Act, 2001-02 - continued
Department of Health and Social Services - continued
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I have just a couple of things here I wanted to clarify. I think the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes asked about the Technical Review Committee. Basically, we were talking about the angiograms - cardiology. The member opposite was concerned about delivering some of these services here in the Yukon because of a lot of issues around the people who go outside and so on.
When we did look at this awhile back, the Technical Review Committee did review a list of conditions for which people were travelling out. There's a wide variation, and the Technical Review Committee could not identify any single service from which Yukoners would benefit if the service were available here. Although there are quite a few cases related to cardiology, cardiologists have a wide array of subspecialty areas, and there seems to be no subspecialty area for which there was sufficient volume to offer the service in the Yukon.
Dr. Frank Timmermans, who was our medical health officer for many years here and worked in Yukon for at least 20 years, who reviewed the list at the Technical Review Committee meeting just prior to his leaving, indicated that he could find no services with sufficient volume to justify further review at this time. But that doesn't mean the door is closed. We never close the door. These are being monitored all the time. So, we took some direction from the Technical Review Committee at that time, trying to offset some of the comments the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes made about costs and also stress, and those types of things. So, I can maybe provide the member with some written views on that, if he wishes.
Also, I have the terms of reference for the Technical Review Committee, which I am quite willing to pass over to the member opposite and, also, two letters that I wrote to the hon. Allan Rock regarding the CT scanner and which, by the way, as of today at 2:30 p.m., I still have no response. So, sometimes we count and sometimes we don't. I am willing to pass these on to the member opposite for his information as well.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, that special relationship that this Liberal government has with the federal Liberal government seems like it might be going through some stress itself and some hard times. Certainly, every relationship can be one that is up and down and around and back and forth, but I would just say to the minister that it was probably in 1993 that I spoke with Mr. Rock, and it's a good thing I haven't held my breath, too. Because in that room, it was great. We were moving, but the champion of justice at that time didn't come through.
I appreciate what the minister has said and what the minister has tabled here, and I would certainly appreciate, as the minister has volunteered to just put together - I don't know what you call it - maybe a message box or just a simple letter, because I have a lot in the Teslin and Tagish ridings where I am, I guess, the messenger of government, and I take it to be a serious job.
So could the minister please do that so I might be able to go out and explain to my clients what the government and the process that government has established and goes through is? And, of course, the minister said that he factored in the stress volume and that. So if I could have something that would just reflect that that I could take and say that this is where government is going and why government's going, it might bring some type of calm to the situation.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, I'm going to do that.
Mr. Keenan: We spoke a bit about social assistance rates and whatnot earlier in this session already, and I'm always trying to think and get out of the box, to go one step further, I guess, and a lot of folks are into social assistance because they are forced to go on to social assistance. If you take a working class hero who has been in the system for 20 years, and the whole focus of the economy has shifted, can the minister assure me that there are adequate training dollars within the social assistance program, so that people wishing to get out of the situation they're in will have adequate resources to do so, and are there criteria for it?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: We get a monthly social services printout on services and supports and where the Health department has been and where it's going, and I see no reductions here at all, and the deputy minister has advised me that there has been no concern about monies lapsing or monies not being adequate enough to provide these training programs. I look at a number of them here, like referrals for training programs - the monthly attendance and participation that takes place, on-the-job training like Head Start, again males, females - there doesn't seem to be any problem with the training programs. They are adequate funds there to maintain those programs.
Mr. Keenan: I would like to ask the minister if the minister would be able to table that - the historic value of what has been available within the program.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I will even go further than that, Mr. Chair. I will give the member a copy of the whole report that comes monthly, which, I think, might be very good reading for the member opposite.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, I think we can do that on a continual basis. We could send this on a continual basis. Sure.
Mr. Keenan: Well, now that the minister and I are getting a little closer together and the minister will even go further than I want him to, let's go all the way. Let's go ahead and do it here.
I appreciate what the minister is saying. I appreciate that the minister is going to table the information that has come up on training and whatnot.
I would like to talk about - of course, people who are on social assistance are in a situation, I guess, classified as poor. Yet you don't have to be on social assistance to be classified as poor. Some folks have two or three jobs. If I could speak for low-income families in the same manner that I'm speaking for social assistance individuals or families - and this is looking ahead, now. It's not immediate. But is the minister looking in any way, through tax breaks or program delivery or enhancement of anything, for the betterment of the low-income families and the social assistance folks? Is there a new idea that is coming about that the minister might like to share with me?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I guess you learn all kinds of new terms when you take on new roles, and I think that's what advanced learning is all about. I've always said that for me to be in this kind of a position or to have the opportunity to be an MLA is my undergraduate degree in politics, and so by the time I'm finished, I'll have had my degree. But you learn all kinds of terms.
The new one that I've learned over the last few years has been this issue of "welfare wall." It seems to be a wall like any wall; once you hit it, it kind of hurts if you run into it. So what we're trying to do is to look at what the wall is. And this is what I mentioned last day when I was on my feet talking about the social assistance review, and what we want to do for the future - as the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes hopes we're going to move down that path - is to look at what our program is currently doing. We want to make sure that we're looking at best practices. I think this is very important. These are taken from across the nation, not just what we're doing here but what they are doing in other jurisdictions that make them very successful.
Also, we want to do a statistical analysis of present and past social assistance caseloads for the purpose of identifying the trends. Like, where are the issues? What is keeping people on welfare? So that's where you're looking at what I call the caseloads. They have to be identified as to why certain groups of people are not able to get out of SA. As we all know, SA is the last resort. It really is to help people who have no other choice. It's not meant to be a lifelong practice to be on SA, and so we have to really work hard. And I'm really pleased with the member's question about training programs, because I think that's the key in a lot of it in trying to build skills and capacity.
A couple of things that we did as well as a government was to extend the number of years that a single mom could stay home with her child. Before it used to be two years. We extended it to five, which I think is really wholesome for the child. So hopefully we'll have fewer family breakdowns, fewer family problems in the future.
The other part was to allow people on welfare to keep more of what I call their salary that they are earning so that they could at least have a little more positive approach toward purchasing things that they need. Because, as we know, living on welfare isn't a get-rich scheme at all. It is a very difficult one, a very tough one, but I think we have to look at all the issues.
I talked a little bit about focus groups. I know we got kind of hung up a bit on expanding focus groups to other NGO groups to see whether they could have input. Right now we are trying to do it kind of internally, talking to the clients, really ensuring that the clients are a part of the process. If they are our customers in the sense of how we must deliver services, it is important to hear from them. So, we are just doing that at this point. The report hasn't been finalized. I haven't seen it. They are still working on it. It takes a bit of time and I am sure there are going to be some recommendations in there for the future for us as a government, so I am very pleased in doing this. As I said last Thursday, I think 1993 was the last time that it was done, so I think it's timely.
Mr. Keenan: I thank the minister for that and I realize what the minister is going to say, because we did talk about it last week. I was wondering, specifically, if the minister could elaborate just in a motherhood sense on the issue of low-income families, ones that are maybe just one step ahead of social assistance, or maybe they are not even ahead of social assistance but they want to continue with it. Is there anything that might be targeted toward low-income families?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: One that the member opposite would be very familiar with is the child benefit program, which the government of yesterday started. I think that was a very positive thing to do for those working poor. We are definitely looking at that to see how we could enhance it, to build on it, because we know that those marginal people who want to work are sort of sometimes trapped by their own circumstances. We want to move them beyond that and get them into a situation where they don't have to always wonder who is going to be at the door looking for the last dollar they have. Another one is the children's drug and optical program, which I think is another very good program.
These are all being looked at as well, as to whether they're meeting the needs, and there are other initiatives that will be forthcoming. I would expect, within the next few months, we'll be coming forward with some other thoughts and ideas as to how we can help that particular category of people, because I believe they are probably our engine for a lot of what I call our middle- or low-income people who need some additional support. We can help them move from there to another wage bracket. So, it's not finished, but I'm hoping we can carry on that way.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I appreciate what the minister is saying. I appreciate that the minister treats it as an ongoing reality that we have to face here. I would once again suggest, though, that if the minister does wish to - I heard what the minister is saying and doing with the clients who are on social assistance and how the minister is reaching out to them, and I can appreciate that the minister is allowing folks who are in that situation maybe a private avenue also. I appreciate that. It's very important that we look after people's dignity for who they are so that they can move on.
I would suggest, though, that maybe the minister should reconsider the forum, or the town hall, which I was speaking of, so that we could maybe be inclusive with the low-income families and whatnot. That's a suggestion for the minister. If the minister would consider that, I'd greatly appreciate it, because I do believe that it could be a very valuable tool - a very valuable tool.
Seniors issues: the pioneer utility grant was raised as a one-time grant in previous years. Does the minister have any further thoughts on how the minister can improve the pioneer utility grant? And, if the minister wants to stand and just elaborate on seniors' services at this time, I'd appreciate that - not too long, though.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: As you know, the pioneer utility grant top-up was in response to the obvious factor of fuel prices going through the roof. We definitely made a point at that time that it would be a one-time top-up and that we would not continue it in subsequent years, but that doesn't mean that we've stopped there. We made that decision because, as the member opposite knows, whenever you are looking at long-term programs that have been in place, there is a certain expectation that they are going to be there forever. So, when you're looking at them and re-evaluating, we want to take our time - I know that the member is not going to like what I'm going to say here, but we have to do our homework around it.
We definitely would make sure that, if we're moving in any direction, we are going to do our homework around - whether it's the pioneer utility grant or anything else.
At this point, we have not taken this on as a major project, but we are considering looking at it, and I think there is a difference in doing something with it right now and looking at it. We believe that there are situations - probably many more than we would care to realize - that need more resources, rather than fewer. I think that's one of our concerns, particularly in the pioneer utility grant. We recognize it's a small stipend, but we also realize that it's kind of universally applied right now - everybody gets it. What we also know is that, within that group, there are some who probably need more. How can we meet those needs?
Hopefully the member opposite will agree with me that that is a very important issue - not the ones who already get it and don't necessarily need it. They get it because they're of the age, and it's universally applied right now.
I think, just thinking out, that we want to look at that for the future, but right now we are not studying this at this point. There are some issues around this that will take a bit of study and consultation.
As you know, I've had consultations with a number of seniors over the last year, and that was one of the areas that they pointed out, as seniors, that we should be looking at how that is applied.
So I'm not just kind of taking it off from my own thinking because, as you know, in another five years, I'm going to be 65 and then I'm entitled to the pioneer utility grant. I think some of those seniors were looking at it from that perspective. Do some people need it as much as others?
As far as other programs, we know that our population of seniors is growing - definitely eight to 10 percent a year - and that's a serious concern to us in the sense of cost, because we know that, as we get older, we need more care, we need more supports, we need more backup.
It's gratifying, in one way, that our wise element of our population is deciding to stay here, so maybe we as Yukoners will be much more capable of making better decisions in the future because we have many more mature people staying with us. At one time, they all left - or a good number of them left. So I think that is an issue that will be something we definitely have to look at.
Our extended care is on schedule, as I mentioned earlier. Already we believe that those rooms will pretty well be full when we open the door. We have some other issues in looking at our other extended care facilities, like Macaulay and also the Thomson Centre. We have to look at what we're going to do with those particular facilities in sort of catering to the future.
The issue of how we engage our seniors in very worthwhile activities - like what I call elder care, home care - is going to be a real challenge. We know that it's better to have our elders - if they're not feeling well, if they're sick, we believe it's better if they stay in their own home. To me, that is an activity right across the nation that is receiving a lot of support, but it takes resources for that as well. So we're definitely looking at how we can provide those resources.
Another very interesting issue with seniors is engaging them in very important activities that keep their minds and their bodies working.
The elder games - I don't want to brag too much about the elder games, but I think it's important for that element of seniors to have a place where they can pop in, drop in. You know, looking at those types of things - we know we have the Golden Age Society at this point. We know that those facilities are probably going to be challenged in the next few years by the numbers because it's not a big place. We all obviously know that there are some of those issues around how we support a lot of the seniors who are now staying in the Yukon. I think it's very gratifying to see this happen, but it also does present a lot of challenges to the government as to how we ensure that we look after their needs and their supports.
So I don't know if the member wants me to comment any more, but I think that, just generally, we're monitoring it very closely and trying to come up with some decisions over time here to make sure we support our seniors because we know there's a segment - particularly of seniors between 55 and 65 - who need what we call additional support. They don't have all the pension benefits that, sometimes when you hit 65 - I know you can apply for a pension at 60, but it's at a lower rate. So sometimes if you're a marginal - if you don't have any extra funds and you have no pension plan or anything like that - that could be a real challenge for some of those seniors. I think we have to look at ways for how we support them.
Mr. Keenan: I appreciate what the minister has said, although I have to say I do get tired of doing a little bit of homework here, because if you do the homework at the same speed the government moves, well, we're going to get into curriculum development, and the previous curriculum hasn't even been implemented yet. So there is an urgent need out there, as I can say. But I appreciate what the minister said, and I certainly appreciate the forward thinking.
I'd also like to think that maybe on the pioneer utility grant, it's more applicable to - well, it's not limited to just fuel oil. You know, I haven't seen the price of wood go down or anything, so maybe that might be a program that, if the minister is looking at it, the minister could look at indexing to inflation or something like that.
When the minister talks about maybe universality not being applied in some cases, I get terribly frightened. I do hope that the minister has a more long-range plan where we don't just start pulling out little necessities that are incremental to - maybe that's not the right word, but incrementally pulling the little necessities out of a program, and then all of a sudden the program collapses. We can make incremental movement toward revising a new program but it would certainly have to have the vision to be there and I'm hoping that the minister would share that with me. That's my thoughts on that.
I see that we have a senior services secretary liaison. Was that an advertised position?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I think what happened here is the particular individual who is now working in that area had been working in that area for a number of years, working with seniors. It's not an official title that we as government have adopted. I think it's just because that particular person has been doing a lot of that work.
We haven't really reviewed whether that's how we want it labelled, but if it's one of status and maybe looking at the future and sort of recognizing our seniors as a potential, I would agree that maybe it is something we could do. The person doing the job was doing seniors work. I think that's really all it's all about, and I think those labels have been attached.
I don't know what the member wants from that, but that seems to be my understanding of it.
Mr. Keenan: I certainly understand what the minister is saying because I can see the minister skating on some thin ice here, because the smell of pork is in the air. I'm standing in the dining room and I can smell it.
What I would like to know, in this particular position, is has it gone up in classification or down in classification, because I really do believe that any of these types of issues, whether they are reclassified, should be advertised. This is not about the person; this is about the position.
Could the minister answer that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Excuse me, Mr. Chair, I am not sure if we're talking about the same position. If we are, then there has been no categorization; there has been no up-ranging or down-ranging that we're aware of. There could be. That's an operation and maintenance thing, and I can find out for the member opposite from the Public Service Commission if that's what the member wishes. At this point, that's as much as I know about the intricate operation of the department. I don't get involved in those issues at all. I at least try to keep my hands out; that's something that the department works at.
Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, I can see that the minister is answering from the correct category, with the minister's position. But, certainly, it wasn't until I just leafed through the internal telephone book here that was issued in October, that I became aware that this new position had been filled in a manner.
I would appreciate if the minister could put together the process document for me as to how this came about. If not, I can certainly raise this question with the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission.
Certainly the minister is aware that I would like to have full disclosure on this. Of course, I reiterate that this isn't about the person, it's about the position.
If the minister would do that, I would appreciate it. If the minister is willing to give me a signal on that, I can move on.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I am looking at this - it might be the old telephone book. We need the blue one, I guess. Well, all I see down here from all the client services are case managers for everyone. So I guess if the member has something else in the new one - I'll have to check the new one, but we can find out from Public Service Commission what we can give the member opposite.
From what I understand, there has been a reorganization in the department, and I guess they just changed some of the names. Possibly that is maybe what the member is reading off there. But it hasn't changed the duties; it has changed neither the categorization nor where they are at in their position. It is just a reorganization of the department.
I think what we said before is that this particular person - if it is that person - already has those responsibilities for seniors, so maybe it was just trying to identify more clearly for people out there that this is the person you would like to talk to about seniors' issues.
So, I don't know if that is helpful for the member opposite but I can definitely get all the information for him from Public Service Commission and we can go from there.
Mr. Keenan: I would appreciate that, too. And I would appreciate seeing where the directive came from or just what is the - well, to tell you the truth, I always want to give the minister the benefit of the doubt, and if the minister is not aware that there is some type of restructuring going on within the department, then I think the minister should be aware that there is some type of restructuring.
So, if the minister would do that - what the minister committed to doing on the floor of the House, I would greatly appreciate it. I would also like to see a flow chart of the duties that were in place before the reorganization and how it flows now. And if the minister would do that and include that in the same legislative return, I would appreciate that. Can I have a nod from the minister that that would be okay?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I guess that just shows very clearly, Mr. Chair, that I don't get involved in how the department sets up its own organization. That's really not for me as a minister. I'm there to try to get the overall direction in the right place.
I can see from the new phone book why the member opposite is questioning that issue, but this is news to me, and really, for me to know or not to know, it wouldn't make any difference. I don't micromanage the department. What I'm trying to do, Mr. Chair, is to ensure that we have a clear direction in how we're going and developing our Health and Social Services supports out there.
But I'll definitely get to the member opposite some information on how or what the new job description is. I don't think it's a new one. I just think it's identifying the old one that has always been there, but I can see that maybe the member opposite thinks that we've added another position, and we haven't. It's the same situation - actually, it's the same person, but only maybe identifying and labelling it. But I'll get that information for him.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I think it's a good exercise for this young, energetic elder I have as a Minister of Health and Social Services here to keep him on his feet and keep him up there and running. And golly, when the gentleman's 65, he'll still continue to win gold medals. So I appreciate that. But in the meantime, I would also appreciate to have all that information there.
I just have a couple more questions for the minister, and I'd like to talk about water and E. coli, and I'd like to marry it to - or not maybe marry it to, but in the same conversation for the minister to understand that the septic system and the lack of adequate septic systems - and I'm not blaming the minister personally for any of this. I'm saying that we have a process out there, or do we have a process out there?
Can the minister specifically tell me, is there a community time frame schedule that the environmental health branch will be going and saying, "Look, we had better check this," in a general sense? Now, I know it specifically happened in a small northern town here, in Carmacks, but what about the folks who live in the hinterlands, who are outside the municipalities and the hamlets? Is there a number that they could call, a hotline within the department or anything like as such, to get a deeper breakdown on what is happening? And has the department experienced a rash of water treatment, or anything like as such, tests that have come forth since then?
What I need here is a feel-good message from the minister that I can take out to my constituents. I'll be going to Ross River this weekend, and that's going to come up because I know, as the previous Minister of C&TS, that there has always been a problem there with the community water supply, but it's going to escalate even more so now.
So, can the minister please tell me what has happened?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: This is a very important issue, as the member opposite has said. It's a very important issue for all Canadians, as we know. Water is becoming a very important commodity, if you want to call it that, across the world, and there are a lot of areas in the world that are looking at Canada, saying, "Look at all the water they have." I think it's paramount that we have the purest water we can find and the purest water we have for our own citizens.
And I agree with the member opposite that this is a very serious issue. It's one that we have to be constantly on. It's not one that we're going to drop and just assume - because all our waters are clear. A lot of pollution and a lot of the issues around water are not necessarily coming from our own ground. They could be coming from the air as well, through a variety of situations. We hear that pollution moves in many different ways.
What we are doing with environmental health services - as we have mentioned before, it has a regulatory role with respect to drinking water. Environmental health has standards, and compliance is by the water system, the owner. It's important that we all have parts to play in this and I think the member opposite is correct that there has to be a plan that citizens can support and rely on when they're in need.
Environmental health is requiring that municipalities must comply with clearly identifying sampling protocols. There is a plan set out that they have to follow. Sampling requirements vary from one community to another. It's based on the history of the supply and the number of users.
We have sent this out to all the municipalities, the unincorporated communities and the First Nation communities, to inform them of sampling requirements. I don't think we do it often enough. We have to make sure we do it often, so people don't file it somewhere, and then it's forgotten.
Environmental health has been doing presentations on water monitoring at the water and waste-water training sessions. This was held - actually, one will be taking place here in November, for water-delivery and water-works personnel throughout the Yukon. This is happening November 26 to November 28. Generally, all Yukon drinking water supplies currently meet the guidelines for the Canadian drinking water quality for bacteriological and chemical parameters. In some supplies, limits are exceeded for aesthetic parameters of taste and appearance, such as iron, magnesium, sulphide turbidity; however, the water is not a risk to human health.
As part of the plan to address water quality and ensure its safety, environmental health services retained an engineer to review 24 drinking water supplies. The final report will be completed by October 31 - it's a little late, at this point - and will include information as to where the infrastructure was built, the materials used, the water source, the possibility of contamination and training of operators. This review will provide information on how to improve any areas that may be weak and include recommendations to improve the system. When completed, this review will provide one centralized information resource.
An engineer retained by environmental health services has prepared draft bulk water delivery standards. There are currently none in place, and much of the Yukon's community water is trucked to consumers. This will include what trucks can be used, training of drivers, et cetera. These standards are under departmental review. On receiving Cabinet approval, it is anticipated the proposed standards will go to public consultation in the new year.
Environmental health has also purchased what they call a hedgehog database system for tracking program delivery in a number of areas, including drinking water. It is anticipated that the system will be operational in the new year. The database will allow recording of microbiology and chemical water results and facilitate monitoring and compliance activities.
The department is currently in the process of retaining a consultant to develop a quality assurance protocol for the environmental health services water lab. This will enhance service delivery and standardized lab procedures, thereby increasing competence in analysis results. It is also an important step toward seeking accreditation for the lab. The department is developing options for drinking water quality regulations that would have specific safe drinking water criteria.
Legislation in other jurisdictions is currently being researched as part of the development process. The options will be brought forward to Cabinet for their consideration. As you can tell from my briefing note here, it is very, very important that we take water seriously. And, with all the issues that are happening across Canada, we have never relented. These are issues that I think we have to continue with. And, even when we arrive at a certain plateau with what we are doing here, we have to continue analyzing and looking at our information, because we know there are always little micro-organisms out there and some are being created from whatever happens, so we can't stop there.
Mr. Keenan: Yes, I understand what the minister is saying and I agree with all of the minister's comments on that.
What I am just a tad worried about here - and maybe the minister can rest my fears - is that not everybody is captured by municipal structure or First Nation or anything like or such. I could think of many, many places now and I would suggest that maybe they are in between. I would suggest that maybe if the minister could just assure me that anybody anywhere - The Yukon News is a community newspaper, CHON FM, CKRW, CBC, those types of things. Get the message out there so that folks can say, "Wow. Holy. This is it. This is the process". Would the minister consider doing that so that we are expanding to the Yukon public at large? Could the minister please do that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Very good. I think that's a very good idea. I will take that under advisement from the member opposite about expanding the knowledge base about water. I also would like to add that the Yukon is one of the few jurisdictions that actually test water for free, and that's not to change at this point.
So, I would again - if the member hadn't heard my comments. But we will take that under advisement. I think it's maybe a good idea.
Mr. Keenan: Well, by golly, then I have even more ideas here for the minister if the minister considers that. But I appreciate what the minister is doing.
I have just one more question in general debate here. The minister has a deputy minister beside him, so maybe we can work together through this.
I have seniors who are concerned about their medicare, and they have X amount of dollars for specific things - whether it's teeth or hearing aids or anything like as such - over, say, a course of three years.
What the seniors whom I have talked to - and there have been actually three of them who have come in the last six months and talked to me about this, so I guess it's even more than just an individual problem. They are worried that they have no way of tracking individually. If I'm allowed $500 for dental care and I've spent $250, they say, "Well, how do I know?" How do we know this?
So, I'm asking the minister: is there a way that the minister could individualize this so that there could be a checks and balances list on it? Is the minister willing to consider that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I think, first of all, just to clarify for the member opposite, these are what they call "non-insured services". They are not medicare but they are non-insured, but they are covered; they are extended benefits.
One of the agreements that I would certainly support is that it would be nice if we could do this with all our health care right across the board. I know this is one of the issues that we talk about at the Health ministers meetings - every year, every citizen of Canada receiving a statement of how or what services they have used of the health care system.
We technologically can't do that at this point, but I can see that it's being discussed across Canada. But you're right. I think it would provide a good reflection for each of us to look at - not to make people feel guilty or whatever, but maybe some of us, you know, definitely would sort of see it in a different light if we knew that this is what it was costing us. We would definitely, for the long future, I'm sure if we ever had extra dollars, like to move down that path. But we're not, but I do believe what they can do, as well, is seniors can call the Health department and ask for extended benefits, and they will give them a costing of how much they have left or how much they have used. So that's one way of doing it.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I have no further questions for the minister during general debate. I'll turn the debate over to my learned colleague from the Klondike, if I may.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, there's a whole series of issues out there that I would like to explore with the minister, but the amount of time that we have for this area is very limited, so I'll just hit on some of the high points, Mr. Chair.
I'd like to thank the minister for a copy of the legislative return on the cost associated with the takeover of group homes. But, when one analyzes the numbers that we have before us, it's pretty interesting as to what it suggests, when you start looking at the number of operating days for the total cost per the period. The Gibbs' group home was operated at $575,000 for 263 days, at a cost per patient or per child of $313; and under the Government of the Yukon, it costs $210,000 to operate for 101 days, at a cost of $294 per child per day.
What the minister is trying to get across is that there is a savings from taking it in-house. None of the other costs associated with the takeover are duly recognized, nor are they identified, Mr. Chair, as to the additional burden on the bureaucracy and the whole cost there, but we'll leave that for a later date and explore it with the minister.
One of the more serious issues facing us is the current shortage of health care professionals, Mr. Chair - doctors specifically. Current contracts are under negotiation. I understand their discussions aren't going all that well with the Government of the Yukon with respect to on-call service.
Would the minister care to just summarize where we're at and what the position of the government is, and I'm not asking him to negotiate the contract with the doctors on the floor of the House - just an overview from his vantage point, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: For the Member for Klondike, we met in spring. If the member remembers, we spent about three months with the department and the doctors working group, sitting down and looking at R&R, recruitment and retention. Then we were ready to go forward with negotiating a contract as part of the complete package because we knew that the issue of the complete contract would be open. And any time you open a contract, it's opening the contract. You can't just open a part of it and say, "Well, we didn't open the contract. This is R&R." R&R is opening the contract, so it was felt it would be more expedient for us and economically wise to move ahead and build the full contract for the next two or three years.
In February, when we looked at the phase 1 part of it, this was again to look at the short-term support for physician recruitment and retention while a more comprehensive package was being developed. Phase 1 provided the program funding for certain aspects of it, like locum support, resident support and relocation support. So those were the small times. The second phase was to build on that and expand it.
To look at the complete contract, one meeting was held sometime in May - I'm not sure of the exact month, but sometime in the spring - and the doctors felt, at that point, that they would rather leave it until the fall. So the first meeting with negotiating will be taking place here in December. So, as we currently know, the current Yukon Medical Association MOU expires at the end of this fiscal year, and plans are presently being made to enter into negotiations with the YMA, and that begins in December.
This has all been activated by the notification from the doctors to move ahead on this. I don't know if the member wants any more, but that's where we're at, at this point.
Mr. Jenkins: Has the minister done any comparison as to what costs he's incurring in-house for some of the nurse practitioners in rural Yukon, as to what they're earning totally, in light of their overtime? Some information I have, Mr. Chair, is that some of the nurse practitioners are currently earning more than the doctors, as a consequence of tremendous amounts of overtime.
Has this area been examined by the department?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, Mr. Chair, I know that this is an issue in all our rural communities, because of the demands that are sometimes placed on our nurse practitioners. To say that they earn more than doctors who work full time - no, not at all. If they earn more than doctors who work part time, yes, I would say that's probably true. Probably some nurse practitioners do earn more, but they're working full time and they're working anywhere from 50 to 75 hours a week for that overtime.
So it's not like they're not putting in a lot of time. I guess it depends on the demand of each community, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: I want to make it abundantly clear that a lot of these nurse practitioners are extremely dedicated and they are being called upon and are providing service above and beyond the call of duty. In many, many cases it's leading to burnout, and when examining the money that they are earning vis-à-vis what doctors are earning, given that the range of benefits for a nurse practitioner are quite an additional cost to the government vis-à-vis what a fee-for-service doctor is earning, it's quite the comparison, and I would urge the minister to have his officials analyze it in rural Yukon, because the bottom line is that we've downloaded the responsibility on to nurse practitioners, they're burning out at an alarming rate, they're very, very hard to attract and retain, and it's not fair to the nurse practitioners.
Responsibilities can be shared and we can provide a better service probably at less cost at the end of the day. So I would urge the minister to explore that.
Just with respect to the children in care, when are we going to see the results of the study that has been commissioned by the government? What is the deadline? Or is that going to be tabled after the Legislature rises, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I know from discussions with the department and also even with the researcher that we had here - on two occasions I had the opportunity to speak to our reviewer. I can tell you right now that there was a real heavy demand on his time, as far as consulting and doing consultation with a number of Yukoners who wanted to talk to him. As a matter of fact, our reviewer even took the time and the energy to phone a number of people just to make sure that they were on record and had their chance to speak to him. I would hope that everybody took advantage of that, because this person is world renowned for his work and the types of things that he comes up with as far as helping departments like ours to do even a better job.
We're expecting by - the first target was to be completed in December. I guess it is the timing that we have always set up as being the process. We are not trying to aim it for when the session rises. I mean, that is something that had nothing to do with Mr. Anglin doing his job. And it was really driven by our local steering group, which is made up of Yukoners. They basically provided the guidance and direction - there were regular meetings of the steering group. They were very pleased in working with this world-class reviewer, so it will be out there for the public to look at. If it arrives before the House rises, yes, I guess we could file it in the House.
A draft will be coming forward and then, from there, we will definitely be making this a public document. This is not going to be an in-house document.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, for the record, I want to state that I was approached by the reviewer, and I opted to stay arm's length from the process. I think, if the minister were to have a look at it, it is much, much better to be arm's length from this process if one is going to have to critique it ultimately. It lends more credibility to a critique from an arm's-length position than if one is involved in the process.
So I have chosen, deliberately, to opt out and stay neutral as to what is going on, and let this individual - who comes with an extremely reputable background and reputation - follow through, and not inject any political innuendo or whatever the minister wants to refer to it as, and then objectively review what this individual says about it.
At the end of the day, could the minister advise the House if the draft report is going to be made public, or is that just going to be an in-house document?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: That's my understanding, Mr. Chair, that it would be a public draft document. And the objective here, of course, is to tie it into a review of children in care that is being done by the Child Welfare League of Canada. Their report is due sometime in January. They're kind of like building blocks as to how our department is operating and where we see our strengths and where we need to do some work. I think that's the objective here. So they're all building on each other.
Mr. Jenkins: As long as the opposition is given a chance to receive a copy of the draft report, I don't have any quarrel, and I look forward to receiving it in due course, Mr. Chair.
The Government of the Yukon provides a number of health services to our First Nations and, subsequently, bills Indian Affairs for them. There's some controversy currently prevailing that some of the charges are being questioned, Mr. Chair. Could the minister provide the House with an overview of where Government of the Yukon is, what's the current status of our accounts receivable with Canada on behalf of First Nations, what's outstanding as of a certain date, where are we with the billing, and what are the current disputes that are ongoing that we're hearing about in the public, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I think, again, any time you're trying to negotiate long outstanding claims with the federal government or other provinces and so on, you know, it sometimes takes time to get all the ducks in a row. As of Friday, there was a misunderstanding before that. The member opposition was correct that there was some kind of misunderstanding as to what really had to be paid. But DIAND has agreed that they will pay what we have billed them for. So they are going to pay their bills; the Government of Canada is going to pay its bills.
This is as of Friday, just hot off the press, and actually I can give the member opposite sort of a spreadsheet on what that means. Before Friday. It won't have the $8 million in here but it does show and demonstrate that there was an outstanding bill of close to $8 million and, as of Friday, that is going to be paid in full. The Government of Canada said, "Yes, we pay our bills."
Mr. Jenkins: On that $8 million, could the minister just, for the record, indicate how long it has been outstanding?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Actually, I'll even do better than that. I'll provide the member a breakdown of what those outstandings are, year by year. It starts way back in 1993, under that member's former government, right through the last government, and finally the current government made the deal. I'll make sure you get a copy of this.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I guess the minister is suggesting he has lined up all the ducks, so we'll go forward from here and call him "the leader of the ducks".
Be that as it may, could the minister also confirm for the record that there is no interest being paid on these arrears?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The interesting thing about interest is, even if we were to get interest it would be clawed back through formula financing, so there was no reason to have interest attached. We would have lost it anyway, so there is no interest.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, one would beg to differ. There is interest and, when Indian Affairs has to pay money by way of interest for an indebtedness, it sends a very clear message, especially when it goes back that many years. To suggest that it would just be lost under the formula financing agreement with the federal government is probably very correct, but in the interest of proper accounting, costs associated - because there are carrying costs on this money. This department has at times been as high as almost $40 million in accounts receivable.
What is the current total accounts receivable, including this $8 million? Where do we stand?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Including the $8 million, it is $25,195,077. There are many other issues on this. Once you see the spreadsheet, you will see how it is broken down. It is broken down by all the programs that we cover - social assistance, home care, women's transition home, Dawson's women's shelter, Macaulay Lodge, McDonald Lodge, Thomson Centre. We have broken it down like that.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister advise the House what is the total cost to the Government of Yukon for looking after the First Nations' health care costs that we subsequently bill the federal government? How much is it each year on average?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I guess what I was giving the member was accumulative. But if you want to look at the current year - and this is children in care, if you want to look at that. This is how it is broken down. We bill Indian Affairs $8,192,000 and a few hundred dollars. That is how it is broken down. If you want the total for all those services, it would be $10,176,000. This is what we are billing DIAND for services that we provide for the year 2001.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that would be the fiscal year 2000 commencing April 1 to March 31 of the following 2001. Okay, the minister has nodded in agreement, Mr. Chair, and I would like the record to so indicate.
So it is a ballpark of about $10 million a year that the Government of Yukon invoices Indian Affairs for health care services for First Nations, and that is across all categories. Could the minister just confirm that figure? The number quoted by the minister was $10,176,000.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Just for clarification, these are all for social services; these are not health care. There's a difference - health care was negotiated under a different plateau, I gather. So these are for the social services that we provide for First Nations.
The member is correct, a little over $10 million - $10,176,000. I'm not sure if that is what the member wanted, but maybe he could restate his question and I will see if I can respond to it.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm looking across the whole department - all of the health care services provided to First Nation members that are subsequently billed to Indian Affairs. I'm looking for that total cost.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Again, just to reiterate, it is $10,176,000 for social services only, not health care. Actually, when the Yukon Party was government, back in 1993, 1994 - I'm not sure - 1992, in that area, health care was actually built into the base, and that was about $7 million at that time. So that is not a figure that is extracted out of these numbers; it's just part of the base funding that comes to the Yukon government on the per capita basis that we now receive through the formula financing. So it's not separate - health care factors and figures are not separate from the social services, because we don't bill anybody for those. That's all we bill. We bill only the federal government for social services support.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, under the phase 2 of the health care transfer, there were dollars that transferred to the Yukon on behalf of the First Nations. Could the minister elaborate as to whether the number of dollars being transferred does in fact cover the services being provided currently?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The last check - it's probably about five, six months old at this point, maybe eight months old. The understanding of the department is that we're on the plus side of that, as far as the transfer. So it's not costing us. We're actually making money on the process at this point - marginal, though.
Mr. Jenkins: Madam Chair, given that there's currently $25 million outstanding or due to Yukon from the Department of Indian Affairs on behalf of the provision of services to First Nations, and we've currently resolved $8 million and our annual billing is just over $10 million, there's kind of a gap in there. Now, what's happening to that gap? If we subtract $8 million from the $25 million, we still have a considerable sum of money. What kind of progress is the minister making with the leader of the ducks there?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Madam Chair, for the member opposite, just to kind of clarify the record, what we have come to an agreement with DIAND on is with children in care. That's the $8 million. That basically will cover off our costs over the last number of years. We are still working on a number of the other cases. For example, the next biggest one on here - once the member opposite receives a copy of the printout here, the member opposite will see what I'm talking about - is the Thomson Centre.
We have some outstanding with Thomson Centre, McDonald Lodge and Macaulay Lodge. This was part of the agreement. My understanding initially was that they would do each of these on a subsequent agreement. Once they arrived at one agreement, they would move to the next one. It hasn't resolved all of them. The only one that has been resolved at this point is the children-in-care component, because it was the biggest one. The next biggest one is the Thomson Centre, and we're very close on that one. It's hopefully going to be signed off within the next month or two, from what I gather. And then, if one looks at the outstanding sums, one will see what that means. So it's not like we're finished. We have just opened the door and the door is getting wider here, because we and the federal government realize that they owe for services that have been delivered by the territorial government.
It's not an easy one, as you know. Any time one tries to collect money, particularly off the federal government, they're not easy payers. Hopefully, we can continue to work on this. We're trying to do it on what we call goodwill and trying to get them to pay their bills. Obviously, we're really working hard at it, but there are many frustrations with it.
Again, it's progress. It's showing the intent of the federal government that they do want to pay their bills, but they want to know every little pocket. They want to know every i, they want to know every t, and they want to make sure that we're legitimately accounting for those costs. Remember, a lot of them were outstanding for seven years, eight years, so to go back in history - sometimes you lose the people who have been there for that long, so you don't always have the upgoing information all the time.
The important part is that we're not finished with this. If we're to recoup all that we have in line here - we only have, what, $8 million at this point. We're still looking for the rest of it.
Once they complete the compliance audit for 2001, that will also be the next - about $8 million in total.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, given that we've just collected $8 million out of $25 million, which appears to be the total outstanding amount - or is that $8 million on top of the $25 million?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: So it's part of that $25 million. It still leaves $17 million outstanding, Madam Chair, which is, in itself, a considerable sum of money. If you go back, it wasn't too many years ago when it was around $36 million and it was subsequently reduced. Does the minister have any timelines for a resolution of this matter?
While the minister is on his feet, every year the Auditor General examines the books of the Yukon, and every year the Auditor General twigs - and I've asked the Auditor General specifically about this amount, and they indicate that they cross-reference it to Indian and Northern Affairs. It appears to be a legitimate debt, and there has never been any question from the Auditor General's office that it is not due and payable. If there is a question about it, it would be qualified, but it never really has been. It has been pointed out and noted in management letters that you've got a problem here, but nothing further to that.
Is that not enough ammunition to take to Indian Affairs to get paid for this amount, that they have confirmed the amount to the Auditor General's office?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: It's very difficult trying to collect bills. I've never been in the private sector, and I'm sure that those who have would understand that sometimes collecting bills is a very difficult thing to do. I would agree with the member opposite. It says right there, "You owe the territorial government $25 million. Pay up." But, I guess, sometimes governments, and for that matter even private individuals, don't want to pay up for whatever reasons.
I understand what the member is saying, but I think we are on the path of collecting, and to me, that's much better than just having it there and saying, "We're not collecting and we're not going to pay you and it is just going to be an outstanding debt forever."
Out of the $25 million, we have already confirmed $8 million. As soon as the compliance audit is done, there will be another $8 million so we are already over half of the $25 million - almost two-thirds - and then we hope the Thomson Centre one, which is about $7,500,000, will also be complete. So there are some really bright horizons here to pay up these bills. So, right now that would make a total of $24 million if we received all those payables. I would agree with the member opposite. It would have been nice if they would have paid their bills right from 1993 on. Unfortunately they didn't, but at least they have come to a realization that it is time to pay their bills.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, given that we are making some progress, what steps are we taking to ensure that we don't allow Indian Affairs to fall into arrears on future services that are provided? What kind of an understanding have we reached with the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, and have the funds been forthcoming under the new arrangements for the services provided in the past fiscal period?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The member has put his finger right on it. We do have an ironclad agreement with DIAND to ensure that these payments flow on a regular basis, and they are for services delivered. That was the misunderstanding that the member brought forward to the House, that there seemed to be a hitch along the way here of DIAND paying their bills. Once it was shown to them in the agreed document between DIAND and YTG, there was no hesitation that they had to abide by the agreement. I think that makes it very clear for all of us that the agreement is a working document and hopefully we won't get into any difficulties. If we do, we just go back to the agreement and say, "Look, this is what you agreed to." That is what happened on Friday. It was made very clear to them that this is the agreement that we all came forward with. They were in non-compliance and they said, "All right. We accept that and we are going to pay our bills."
Mr. Jenkins: So for the record could the minister confirm that Indian Affairs is current and paid up, that there's nothing in arrears as per the current arrangement?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, Madam Chair, it's confirmed that, with the discussion and the agreement on Friday, children in care - that bill will be fully paid once the audit is complete, and that means we then start working on the other issues, like social assistance and home care and women's transition centre, McDonald Lodge, Macaulay Lodge and the Thomson Centre. So for children in care, once the audit is complete, that one is paid up right up until the current year. They'll pay all the pre-2000. They haven't paid that yet, but that will be - that is the original $8 million. So we'll be getting $16 million because part of it is the $8 million that comes from the history of this outstanding concern, and the current is for the cost for this past 2000-01 of $8 million. So there's a total of $16 million that would be forthcoming. We expect the cheque in the mail probably within the next week or so, once the compliance is done. The other part is done.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, could I ask the minister: who is undertaking the audit that he is referring to, and what are the terms of reference? Is this an outside audit firm that's auditing on behalf of Indian Affairs, or is it an in-house audit team, or what is the audit that the minister is referring to?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, what it is, very clearly, is that the - and it's part of the agreement that YTG and the federal government struck when they came forth with what we would call an automatic agreement for the future so we don't get caught with all these debts and arrears. The objective here is for DIAND to be able to do an audit of YTG billings to ensure that all the billings we have put forward are legitimate and are claimed based on the support that we provide them. So, it's part of the agreement, and it will be for the $8 million that is forthcoming in 2000-01. That is quite traditional, I guess. It is part of our agreement that they do an audit on all our - they don't have to do it, but I gather because it's $8 million they are going to do one, and it's their auditors. They do their own audit.
Mr. Jenkins: Is there any dispute surrounding the actual charge per day levied for the various services provided by YTG, or is it just that we're counting the number of individuals who were looked after under the various programs? What does the audit pertain to? Is there any question arising out of the cost for the daily service? Is that on the floor for discussion?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, my understanding is that, through the agreement, it was agreed that the charges that are levied daily are agreed on and those are - whenever rates increase or decrease, those are the rates that are in place, and DIAND has agreed to pay those rates. They're not disputing what those rates are. What they do is just an overall audit of the whole process, to ensure that the numbers and what we're billing them for the children in care matches what their books are stating. It's their audit anyway, and they pay for the audit.
Mr. Jenkins: Just for general information, I know the minister is in dialogue with his colleagues representing the other provincial and territorial jurisdictions, and I know that this matter of the payment by Indian Affairs for services provided by the respective provincial or territorial governments has been a bone of contention in the past.
Could the minister advise the House if his colleagues have indicated to him if any progress has been made on the national scene, and whether the Government of Canada has started to identify the payment of services provided by any jurisdiction to First Nations as a priority?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: For the Member for Klondike: this has not come up at my table - at the ministers' table - even though I have heard it mentioned, but we never discussed the details of it. But it has come up at the deputy ministers' table and, of course, notes are compared.
There have been settlements made throughout Canada in some jurisdictions, not all. It seems like each jurisdiction has a different deal or a different set of circumstances - it has to reflect, obviously, the cost of living in each of those areas, I'm sure. That's why they're different. You couldn't have a universal program on this right across the country because of different costs. Some deals are better; some deals are not as good as others. Our deal tends to follow the B.C. settlement - I guess, what they've agreed on - and that tends to be, in my understanding, one of the better deals in the country. So I think we've done fairly well.
Mr. Jenkins: I would like to thank the minister for his information, and I would encourage him to perhaps see that it does get on the national agenda, because this problem isn't going to go away. It's going to continue to rear its head. The exercise is to provide the best possible level of service to our citizens in Canada - it doesn't matter from whatever walk of life they are - but there is a fiduciary responsibility on the part of the Government of Canada to look after the cost incurred for our First Nations, and they appear to have, sadly, abdicated that responsibility.
We have pages and pages of areas to explore with the minister in general debate but, rather than getting into it at this time, I think it's important that we budget our time to the areas we want to concentrate on, and we'd like to go into line-by-line and deem the lines read and carried.
Unanimous consent re vote 15 deemed read and agreed to
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that we do now deem vote 15 read and carried. We need unanimous consent of the House for this. Do we have unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: There is unanimous consent that vote 15, Department of Health and Social Services, be deemed read and carried.
Department of Health and Social Services agreed to
Chair: We'll now proceed to the next department. We'll take a five-minute recess to allow officials to arrive.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with debate on Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2001-02.
Department of Justice
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The supplementary expenditures request of $1,501,000 is made up of the following items. Legal services - $100,000 was requested in a revote for the French language translation of the consolidated statutes. This project will be completed this year. The net increase to legal services is $100,000.
Consumer and commercial services - $100,000 was requested in a revote for the Yukon Utilities Board hearings that did not take place in 2000-01 but were rescheduled for 2001-02. In addition to this amount, an additional $700,000 was requested for hearings for franchising a propane-natural gas distribution pipeline. The total request of $800,000 is fully recoverable.
The coroner's office has moved from consumer and commercial services to crime prevention and policing. The $288,000 total budget for this program has moved to crime prevention and policing. The net increase to consumer and commercial services is $512,000.
And, moving on to crime prevention and policing, the coroner's office has moved from consumer and commercial services, and the $288,000 total budget for this program is now under crime prevention and policing.
The coroner's office is requesting an additional $25,000 for helicopter and related expenses for the inquest of deaths that occurred on a glacier, and $350,000 is requested for the increased cost of the RCMP contracts. These costs reflect collective agreement increases and other operating costs that have increased - specifically fuel, electrical, travel and repairs.
The net increase to crime prevention and policing is $663,000.
For human rights, a total of $226,000 is requested for the Yukon Human Rights Commission. Of this amount, $76,000 is for the replacement and upgrading of computer systems and staff training. The remaining $150,000 is to be applied against their accumulated operating deficit. The net increase to human rights is $226,000.
And the supplementary recoveries request of $860,000 is made up of the following items: legal services, $60,000 toward the self-government agreement on the implementation of the administration of justice programs under the Teslin Tlingit Council self-government agreement; consumer and commercial services, $800,000 is recoverable, as $100,000 toward the Yukon Utilities Board hearings that did not take place during the 2000-01 fiscal year, rescheduled for 2001-02. As well, the $700,000 for hearings for franchising the propane-natural gas distribution pipeline are 100-percent recoverable.
The capital supplementary reduction of $503,000 is made up of one item under community and correctional services. The capital reduction of $503,000 is to reflect the decrease in forecast expenditures that will occur in the year on the Whitehorse Correctional Centre project based on the planning, consultation and programming work this year.
The increased capital amount does not reduce the cost of the project but is merely reflective of the timing of the expenditures based on the work done to date.
If there are any questions, I would be pleased to answer them, Mr. Chair.
Mrs. Peter: I have a few questions for the minister, and my first one is on the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. With the planning that's taking place, are the design and the planning for the new facility on time and on budget?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, it is on time and on budget.
Mrs. Peter: Can the minister tell me where in the plan they're at right now?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We're in detailed discussion with the architects on the actual space planning.
Mrs. Peter: The programming - I had a few questions for the minister last session in regard to programming at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. Can the minister update me on some of the new programs that might have been implemented since that time?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No new programming has been implemented. That will be for the new facility, and we're now also in detailed discussion on the program planning.
Mrs. Peter: Maybe I didn't ask that question so that the minister can understand what I'm asking. I had asked the minister last session if they had any programming in regard to the First Nation inmates at the Correctional Centre, and if they had given access to elders within that facility without any problems.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It's my understanding that elders do have access to the facility and do participate in the current programming. We are redesigning the programming to ensure that the core programs are seamless and integrated, meaning that community-based clients and those who are incarcerated can have their needs assessed and can begin or finish the programs they need in either the community or the institution. It won't matter where they are; if they need a program, they will get it.
The core programs are those aimed at reducing criminal behaviour, such as drug and alcohol counselling, cognitive skills training like anger and emotions management, and so on. Currently two staff are dedicated to the task and they are compiling a profile of Whitehorse Correctional Centre clients to ensure that the new programming will match what offenders need.
Currently at Whitehorse Correctional Centre, a number of programs are being offered, including Yukon College literacy program, the toy program, family violence program, sexual offender program, fish hatchery program, wood shop program - which makes items for schools - kitchen work experience programs, and an alcohol and drug program is now in the second offering for this year.
Mrs. Peter: In regard to the elders being allowed into the facility, how often does that take place?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I will ask and get back to the member.
Mrs. Peter: Can the minister, while she's getting the information on that specific issue, also get information for me as to how often the inmates have access to their spiritual necessities that they do need if they do not have access to religious ministers or people who represent other religions?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, I can determine that for the member as well.
Mrs. Peter: I have a concern that was brought to my attention about some of the issues and concerns that women at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre are facing. In regard to programming, the minister already mentioned a few programs that are available at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. However, what are some of the specific programs that are available for women at the centre presently?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: All the programs I mentioned are available to women. Some of them are integrated with outside programming because of the numbers involved, and we are planning more programming for women in the new facility.
Mrs. Peter: In regard to programs for women, how often does that happen? Do they have weekly access to these programs, or is it once every month or once every year? What is the timeline on that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I will get back to the member on how often female inmates access the program.
Mrs. Peter: Thank you.
I would just like to also say that these are some of the questions that I had asked last session, and I have not received an answer to date. These are very, very serious concerns that have been brought to my attention, and I would like to receive answers to my questions in a specific time frame this time. So when can the minister make that commitment to me? Is it one week or two weeks from now?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I will endeavour to have the answers before the end of session, and I apologize that the member hasn't received answers to some of the questions she asked last session.
Mrs. Peter: For the programs at the Correctional Centre in regard to First Nation inmates, most of the inmates that are housed at the correctional facility are of First Nations descent, and that holds true for the rest of Canada. I'm just wondering if the minister knows of any programs that are specifically related to the First Nation inmates in the Whitehorse Correctional Centre that address their concerns of FAS/FAE? I'm not sure of the term that is used for that, but do they have access to those types of programs today?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Some of the programs I mentioned, like the cognitive ones, deal specifically with FAS/FAE, but we are looking at far more comprehensive programming for the new facility, Mr. Chair.
Mrs. Peter: Who is presently offering that type of service to the inmates?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As far as I know, Correctional Centre staff are offering the programming at the present time.
Mrs. Peter: Do they have a person who is qualified in that position, and specifically for that type of service at the facility right now?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The staff who are delivering the cognitive disability programming are qualified to do so, Mr. Chair.
Mrs. Peter: I'm not questioning the ability of the staff we have at the Correctional Centre. I know they do the very best that they can. I'm just not familiar with all the programs that are offered there. That's how come I'm asking these questions.
Another important question that I have in regard to communities - when we have inmates come into Whitehorse who stay at that facility for a length of time and then are released from the Correctional Centre, would the minister forward some information to me about the policy upon release of an inmate from a rural community? The reason I'm asking is that there were a few situations that came up recently with regard to that and there have been some questions asked of me.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Upon release, a person is returned to their home community if ordered to do so by the judge, but otherwise they are free persons - they've done their time and they can go wherever they wish.
Mrs. Peter: I guess I didn't ask that question in the way that the minister might understand me, also. The specific issue here is for an inmate who is being released from prison today and needs to go back to their community. If they have to travel by plane or by bus, or whatever means, and they don't have a vehicle waiting in Whitehorse for them, they need to get back home to their family.
It is, as far as I understand, the responsibility of the Department of Justice to get them home within a specific time frame. That's the information that I need right now.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I can get the member a written response on that, and that should be fairly quick.
Mrs. Peter: With the concern of the health and safety issue that we had at the correctional facility during the last session, can the minister update me as to what took place with the renovations that happened there?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: If the member's talking about the wall that fell over, that was repaired immediately afterwards.
Mrs. Peter: We also had some health concerns around not only the wall falling in but with the heating system and the status of some of the rooms that they had in there, and the windows. I just wondered if there was any work done in those areas?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I thank the member for bringing the heating system and the status of some of the rooms to my attention. I will check into it and get back to her.
Mrs. Peter: There has been a person hired for the community justice review. I just would like the minister to give me an update as to where that program is right now.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The person who is doing that work is out meeting with community people and gathering information at this point. She's continuing with the work as she is expected to be doing.
Mrs. Peter: What is the time frame of that work that she's doing? When does the minister expect a final report?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: She's expecting to have concluded the framework for the review by June of next year, I believe, and that will indicate some next steps. She's not doing the review; she's setting up the framework for the review, which will be next year.
Mrs. Peter: What is the final plan, after all this work is done? What does the minister seek from this review and all the planning that's happening with it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: What I'm looking for is an analysis of statistical information, the cost of community justice programs and the cost-savings as a result of community justice programs, and the effect that community justice has had on the mainstream justice system. We're asking a number of questions. Are we making a difference? What are the best practices? What crimes are appropriate to be dealt with by community justice committees? What are the accountability mechanisms between the community justice committee and the community they represent, and are they working? Do we have effective conflict resolution mechanisms? Are there gaps in service and overlaps in services? Are we meeting the needs of the community? Are victims ever re-victimized by the process, and are we helping offenders?
That's certainly not an exhaustive list of the things that we will be asking, and that's why we're involving the communities, as well as other stakeholders, in developing the review model.
Mrs. Peter: Can the minister please inform me of the Teslin correctional facility and what took place with the community taking over that facility?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Teslin Community Correctional Centre building was turned over to the Teslin Tlingit Council at, I believe, the beginning of October, following a period of negotiation. As the member knows, it had not been operating for some time, and the community and the Justice department talked about it and negotiated an agreement, and the community will be making use of the building as they see fit.
Mrs. Peter: Can the minister please inform me of the legal aid funding and the status of that program and where it is at right now?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We had increased the funding to legal aid previously, and it is my understanding that they are doing quite well at this point. The immediate financial issues are resolved and, at the end of September, we received a copy of the financial statement from the Yukon Legal Services Board disclosing that they have paid their debt, are operating at a surplus and have solved their financial and operational difficulties.
Mrs. Peter: I thank the minister for her answers, and that concludes my general debate.
Mr. Jenkins: I just have a couple of questions for the minister, Mr. Chair.
The propane air distribution system that is going to be going before the Yukon Utilities Board for a hearing - has the Government of Yukon established a position that they will be presenting at that hearing?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: My role is to support the Yukon Utilities Board in their hearings. That question is one that should be addressed to the Minister of Economic Development.
Mr. Jenkins: I can assure the minister that the Minister of Economic Development will probably be equally inept at responding or providing a response to that type of question as the Minister of Justice is.
Mr. Chair, circle sentencing for sexual or violent crimes - has the minister reached any conclusion as to what her position is on this type of circle sentencing? Will it be used or will it not be used?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Circle sentencing is one of the things we'll be looking at in the community justice review. As the Member for Klondike knows, the decision on whether or not to use a sentencing circle is up to the judge.
Mr. Jenkins: I want to know if the Minister of Justice here in the Yukon has a position - if she supports circle sentencing for sexual or violent crimes. Does she have a position or is she going to pass the buck on this question?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Klondike asks that every session. I expect he's hoping I'll give him a different answer from the one I gave him last time.
We do have concerns about the use of circle sentencing for sexual and violent crimes, and that's one of the reasons that the community justice review is looking at it, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: So what the minister has said is that we do have concerns. But what I asked the minister is: does she have a position? Does the minister support the use of circle sentencing for sexual and violent crimes? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I said, the member asks this every time. I believe I have told him before that circle sentencing is one particular sentencing alternative. It's the rightful place of the judiciary to weigh the merits of each case within the guidelines set by the courts - guidelines that speak to the fundamental independence and impartiality that judges must have. I have explained that, at the present time, the judiciary has the final decision on whether a particular offence is appropriate for circle sentencing and also the mechanics of selecting the crime and the role of the victim.
The Criminal Code of Canada sets out the parameters for judicial sentencing, and judges have the discretion to take action as they see fit within those parameters. If the Yukon government had responsibility for the criminal prosecution function, a general policy might be formulated that could be advanced in open court.
Mr. Chair, circle sentencing is entirely appropriate to a community-based approach because it provides in the process an opportunity to address the underlying causes of criminal behaviour in the hope that these problems can be resolved with diligence, compassion and finality.
Mr. Chair, the member is looking for an opinion, which I'm not going to give him.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to thank the minister. That bodes well for her and her party. It's a contentious issue. Our party does have a firm position - that we do not support circle sentencing for sexual or violent crimes. But because the Minister of Justice is not so inclined - she likes things to be various shades of grey. She doesn't want to provide any finality to areas, such as Justice usually does, Mr. Chair.
Let's go on to another topic. I'd like to ask the minister, Mr. Chair, if, when she was asked by the Premier to take on the role of Minister of Justice, a briefing was provided as to the law and how the law works. Was that done for the minister?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Referring back to the previous question on circle sentencing, I'm not going to presume to tell the judges what to do. That would run counter to judicial independence.
As for briefings, all of the ministers were briefed on their departments, and I'm sure my briefing was somewhat different from the others because it did involve the Justice department. Do I have a law degree? No, Mr. Chair. Do I have advice available on various facets of the law? Yes, I do, and it's very good advice.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, I guess that part of that briefing wasn't duly recognized with respect to an interpretation of the law, and I guess that will come home to roost in due course. I could go on - I have pages and pages for the Minister of Justice in that capacity, but given the tone and tenor of the answers and the time that we have available, we're not going to get anywhere with this minister today. I believe that the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin has some further questions of this minister in general debate.
Mrs. Peter: I have one final question for the minister. It has to do with an amount that has been taken out of the new facility - the amount of $503,000. I would like the minister to explain to me why that money was moved out of that specific area and where was it moved to?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I explained in my opening remarks, the capital reduction of $503,000 is to reflect the decrease in forecast expenditures that will occur in the fiscal year on the Whitehorse Correctional Centre project. That does not reduce the cost of the project but is merely reflective of the timing of the expenditures based on the work done to date. We spent less than originally expected in one year, and we'll recover that money in another year. The money was not given to another department, Mr. Chair. It remains with the project.
Mrs. Peter: Can the minister please help me understand how this works? This is new to me, so I can't see why there would be that amount of money moved from planning and building a new facility and to know that, you know, hey, we don't need this amount of money so we're going to set it aside until we need it again. Can you please provide me with some information around that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We didn't spend it in one fiscal year, so we will spend it in another. I mean, it is not lost, it is not gone, it is still there. We spent less than expected and that is not unusual. The member seems concerned that the money has gone somewhere. It hasn't. It will still be used for the facility, just not in the 2001-02 fiscal year.
Mrs. Peter: The minister is assuming she knows what I am thinking. I am just trying to understand this amount and how come it is going out of that specific area, and the reason I am asking is I need to understand it for myself. So, would this $503,000 be reflected, or is it already reflected in the capital for next year, or is it going to be reflected in the capital expenditures for the following year?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I said, we spent less than expected on that area in this fiscal year, but the capital budget for this project that we will be getting to in-depth when we are finished with the supplementary budget involves beginning the two-year construction phase, and I believe there is somewhere around $3 million in the budget for next year and $7 million the year after that, and so forth, and so forth. The scope of the project has not changed, it is just that we didn't spend as much as expected on the planning phase in this fiscal year.
Mrs. Peter: Thank you. That's the end of my general debate, and I would like to move that the amount in the Justice department be deemed read and carried.
Unanimous consent re vote 8 deemed read and agreed to
Chair: We will need unanimous consent to have the budget for the Department of Justice deemed read and carried. Is there unanimous consent of the House?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: There is unanimous consent of the House.
Department of Justice agreed to
Chair: We will now take a 15-minute recess and return at 10 to 5:00 with the Department of Public Service Commission.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with debate on the Second Appropriation Act, 2001-02, Bill No. 7.
Vote 10, Public Service Commission.
Public Service Commission
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: It is my pleasure to introduce the supplementary budget for the Public Service Commission. This supplementary shows an increase in funding for the Public Service Commission of $665,000 for operation and maintenance expenditures. This increase results from a one-time cost of $187,000 for employees' related legal settlements and legal advice. It also includes funding of $339,000 for workers' compensation payments required for claims that were initiated prior to the government paying premiums.
Prior to our patriation of benefits, the federal government paid the employer portion of extended health benefits for retirees. The Yukon government has assumed responsibility for employee benefits and is required to cover the employer portion of the cost for retirees. The supplementary estimate for this is $54,000. The government also pays post-retirement life insurance for designated managers. The number of retirees is increasing. The estimated increase is $20,000.
The final amount requested is $65,000. This funding will be used for the long-service awards. The number of employees eligible for awards continues to increase. This year, we will be holding four award banquets to recognize the commitment of our learned long-term employees.
This concludes my comments for the supplementary for the Public Service Commission.
Mr. Fentie: The official opposite doesn't have a lot in regard to the Public Service Commission in this supplementary - some brief comments and, maybe when we get into line-by-line, just some breakdowns, such as on the workers' compensation fund and so on.
An interesting point to note here is that, given the very tight timelines the Premier has now undertaken toward the renewal project and the need to have job descriptions written for what may be the possibility of five new departments coming on stream, I'm just wondering why - and the minister can maybe enlighten us - there is no line item showing an increase in the budget to address the need for that work to be done. I would also just make a comment on the fact that, with the long-service awards, let's hope that renewal doesn't affect some of those people who are so close to getting that award and could be one of the unfortunates in the 175 or so layoffs.
Beyond that, I think it's more constructive if we expeditiously move this department along. With that, I will just await the minister to see if he can enlighten us on a couple of those comments.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: First and foremost, Mr. Chair, we have never indicated that there would be, nor are we going to indicate that there are 175 individuals within YTG who are going to suffer the consequence of renewal. We have never gone there, and we aren't going to go there, because that's not factually correct.
With respect to the other item that the Member for Watson Lake brought up, for job description purposes, I believe the budget for that is within Executive Council Office, and the Premier has already indicated that there is a portion of the capital amount that would look after that.
Chair: Seeing no further general debate, we will proceed with line-by-line debate.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Finance and Administration
Finance and Administration in the amount of $150,000 agreed to
On Pay and Benefits Management
Pay and Benefits Management in the amount of $86,000 agreed to
On Staff Relations
Mr. Fentie: Does this have anything to do with smoothing out ruffled feathers due to the renewal project?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: No, it doesn't, Mr. Chair. As a matter of fact, $65,000 of that is for long-service awards and $25,000 is for legal advice provided for the Education Act review.
Staff Relations in the amount of $90,000 agreed to
On Workers' Compensation Fund
Mr. Fentie: Could the minister just give us a breakdown on that increase and what it has to do with, please?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: As I indicated in my opening remarks, Mr. Chair, that is for old claims. This is a result of an increase to claims initiated prior to the government paying premiums. There have been three claims reactivated this year, which were not anticipated. So that's what those address. There's no specific breakdown for that.
Mr. Fentie: Is there any connection to these payouts that are happening from prior claims, given our situation where we no longer have the fund itself, is that correct? If I could get the minister to just answer that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Again, Mr. Chair, I'd like to indicate that these were claims prior to '93. So this is going back a considerable amount of time, addressing those outstanding claims.
Workers' Compensation Fund in the amount of $339,000 agreed to
Operations and Maintenance Expenditures for the Public Service Commission in the amount of $665,000 agreed to
Public Service Commission agreed to
Chair: We will now proceed to Department Renewable Resources. Will we need a couple minutes?
Department of Renewable Resources
Chair: We will then head on with the Department of Renewable Resources. Just out of interest of fairness, we will take a two-minute recess until we are able to start.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We'll continue with debate on Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2001-02, and now we are in the Department of Renewable Resources.
Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I would just like to take a few minutes for comments at the outset.
This supplementary adds a total of $176,000 to my department's O&M budget and $100,000 to capital. These additional expenditures in O&M are fully offset by additional recoveries.
The O&M variance covers a number of items, which were largely housekeeping. The manager of planning and resource policy, in the policy and planning branch, vacated through retirement, has been used to establish a second assistant deputy minister position, and $104,000 has been transferred from policy and planning to resource management to found that position.
This position was created as a result of a department-wide corporate planning exercise and will oversee a corporate affairs and external relations division comprised of a policy and planning branch, environmental protection and assessment branch, a lands branch and a department of communications functions. This position is also responsible for managing the implementation of directions from the deputy minister's task force on the Yukon protected areas strategy.
$76,000 will be recoverable from Agriculture Canada, as their contribution toward the cost of the hardship payment for farmers resulting from forage crop losses in 2000. The total cost of the program is expected to be about $127,000, and the remaining $51,000 is being funded from within the department's current budget.
$56,000 is the recoverable portion of this cost for this past spring's annual agriculture ministers conference, hosted right here in the Yukon. $30,000 is coming from Agriculture Canada and $26,000 from conference fees. Total cost of the conference was about $96,000, and the balance of $40,000 was funded from within the department's current budget. This conference was a huge success, as was evident by the fact that our agriculture branch was a recipient of the local hero's award for bringing this conference to Yukon.
$20,000 is the recoverable portion from a fresh water fisheries. $10,000 is coming from Yukon Energy Corporation and $10,000 from the Yukon Development Corporation. This agreement establishes a framework for industry and government cooperation on fresh water fisheries and aquatic management projects. The term of this agreement is five years, commencing April 1, 2001, and concluding March 31, 2006. The agreement allows the department to expand the scope of fisheries projects that have already been approved.
$14,000 will be recovered from Environment Canada as their contribution toward the project that will allow us to monitor the body condition of Porcupine caribou taken by hunters this fall. This will help to evaluate the continued population decline of the Porcupine caribou herd. An additional $10,000 will be spent in 2002-03 for contaminant analysis. In addition, $10,000 is recoverable from the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs under the Inuvialuit final agreement, through the application of the federal demand implicit price index or the FDIPI.
The capital vote in this supplementary is the result of the carry-forward underexpenditures from 2000-01 in the following projects, as well as a minor transfer between programs.
The transfer of $5,000 was made from campground facilities to operational equipment for the purchase of some needed sign-making equipment; $50,000 was revoted for the park system; $36,000 was revoted for resource assessment; and $14,000 was revoted for campground facilities.
I trust that these brief comments will help to clarify some of the items prior to debate.
Mr. McRobb: Yes, for the minister's information, they did help alleviate some of the concerns.
I would like to start by asking the minister where the responses are to the questions we raised in the briefing, which, I believe, took place on November 5, which was some time ago.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: They will be to the member opposite this coming week, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, it would have been nice to have the information before losing the opportunity here to question the minister on this department. I would urge the minister to get on with providing that information. I don't think we asked anything that was unreasonable or probably not too far from being close at hand. Anyway, I will proceed with some of the questions I have of the department at this time.
First of all, starting with agriculture, the department spent some $11,000 last year on this infrastructure feasibility study. Can the minister give us an update on that, please?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: With the Member for Kluane's indulgence, I would ask for further clarification on that question. Is the member asking specifically about the policy reviews that are going on with the department or the multi-year development plan?
Mr. McRobb: Well, I was hoping to get information on both, but we can start with the MYDP.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The member has just clarified that he would like information on the multi-year development plan, or the MYMPD - whatever. Now that we're all confused, I would like to inform the member that that multi-year development plan is still being worked on. I know that it, along with the grazing lease policy - and there was a third that was out for public review and we're just wrapping up the government's comments on those because we did release them for public review prior to the government itself commenting because those works were conducted by a consultant. So, we're just putting it all together, and I will be providing the member opposite with information as it becomes available.
Mr. McRobb: Maybe the other initiative was the agricultural lands review. I believe there was supposed to be a report done on that. Could the minister give us any information on that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Again, with all due respect to the member opposite, there were three documents that were out for public review. One was the multi-year development plan, one was the grazing lease policy and the third was for the agricultural policy. Again, I must mention that the government is just wrapping up its own internal comments on those three documents, and I know that they will be going out again for further consultation.
Mr. McRobb: I'd like to ask the minister: does he have any plans to proceed with a beef abattoir in the Whitehorse area? I know I've spoken to some constituents in the Ibex Valley area who have indicated that the number of cattle have increased significantly in the Whitehorse area and how the logistics of dealing with the one near Stewart Crossing are a bit difficult, and certainly with more cattle in this area, the need for this could be substantiated. Can the minister give us an idea of what's happening?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, nothing is happening. It's an interesting prospect, and I'll certainly take that back to the department for consideration, but there is no beef abattoir being considered for the Whitehorse area at this time.
Mr. McRobb: That's too bad, Mr. Chair. I was hoping to get an announcement out of the minister today on this so I can be there to help him eat the cake and cut the ribbon. But I guess I'll have to wait.
I'd like to go now to renewable resource councils and note that last year the funding was cut. I suppose that would be this year. Does the minister intend to restore funding to the councils?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I'm glad the member opposite brought up cutting ribbon and eating cake, Mr. Chair, because I noticed that we both went to the outfitters' banquet and it was great, and I noticed that the member very much enjoyed himself there, and I was very happy to see that - that we could share an event together. I thought that was very positive.
The member was asking why there was a reduction in renewable resource council funding, and I don't believe that there is. Each renewable resource council puts forward a budget and then they are given that budget. I am not aware that there has been any cut to funding, unless the member opposite can identify a specific renewable resource council.
Mr. McRobb: I can't name them all, Mr. Chair.
Anyway, I would like to thank the minister for acknowledging that we were both at the outfitters' banquet recently, and I noticed he had an enjoyable time as well, but I'm really disappointed that he didn't invite me to come out and camp with him this summer, especially after I see how much was spent to cover the cost of his camping excursion. I did make the offer back in the spring to sit down and have a discussion with the minister, so I really feel slighted now, in the fall, after seeing what the minister was up to all summer - going on all of these camping trips - and knowing I wasn't invited. The minister can talk about how it's nice to get together, but, you know, I have to question his sincerity in that.
Speaking about campgrounds, maybe it would be timely to go to that area now.
The minister extended the campground season this year, in the hopes of increasing the visitations and so on, and promoting the tourism industry. I would like to know what statistics there are to indicate what transpired. Can the minister illuminate us on that, please?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Actually, Mr Chair, the early openings that we conducted at campgrounds this year were to allow Yukoners, primarily, to take advantage before the rubber-tire traffic makes its way into the territory. We also extend the end of the season as well to allow and accommodate the same opportunity, primarily for Yukoners, as we know that all Yukoners - I'm sorry that the Member for Kluane is offended that I didn't invite him along to travel to the campground areas.
I know that I attempted, when I was in Haines Junction and other sectors up and down the road, to try and locate the member, but in all the travelling I did there, I didn't see the member once. So, I would have very much enjoyed having the member over for dinner had we bumped into each other. I'm sorry that I wouldn't have had cake for the member, but I'm sure I could have rustled up a little bit of that Yukon grub, that Yukon beef, and we could have partaken in and enjoyed meals on the road.
No, Mr. Chair, all of the places I visited in the member's community - Snag, Congdon, Pickhandle and Lake Creek campgrounds. I could name them all, but unfortunately, I didn't see the member anywhere.
Mr. McRobb: Well, that's really interesting, Mr. Chair. I guess we're kind of getting into reports on how we spent our summer here. I would submit that after listening to the minister go on about his travels that he would indeed be the keynote speaker next year at the Big Bull Night because I think he would excel in that area. Besides, that's another opportunity to eat cake, this time at the hosting of the Yukon Fish and Game Association.
So, I think maybe the minister and I should get our schedules together and plan to be there because I would like to hear his presentation.
Regarding his comments on where I was or where I wasn't, Mr. Chair, it's interesting to note from the member his criticism that he didn't see me, but I would point out it's a long, large riding, some 300 miles long and a couple of hundred miles wide. I know I am a big guy, but I can be missed from time to time. As a matter of fact, one night I did stay at the Snag Creek campground - it was about August 5, because I was on my way to Alaska where I toured with my family for two weeks - for the first time ever and it was a very educational experience for me. It certainly increased my understanding of the product and marketing available up there - the campgrounds and so on. So, it was very worthwhile.
I'd be interested in getting the statistics regarding any extra visitations that can indicate whether it was worthwhile or not, so I'll be pleased when that information arrives.
Also, regarding the minister's travel, would he be able to provide us with a list of the campgrounds he visited, along with the dates? I know that, in order to claim the $5,600, he would have had to submit something. Can we get an itinerary of his travel?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: That's not a problem at all, Mr. Chair, and I'd be more than willing to share my notes with the member opposite on whom I visited in the communities. I'd be more than pleased to do that.
I would like to advise the member as well, there are really no statistics that we keep with respect to campground use. What we were responding to in extending the seasons was the general comments that we had heard from Yukoners - that they very much enjoy our campgrounds, and I'm very pleased to hear the member has spent at least one night at the Snag Creek campground. I hope he enjoyed his stay there, and I would ask the member: how do our campgrounds compare to the campgrounds in Alaska?
Mr. McRobb: Well, I'm glad the minister asked that, because I would say very favourably. And certainly, in regard to price, the Yukon is positioned very competitively in relation to Alaska, and the campgrounds here are really second to none. I think in certain areas more facilities can be added, and I think in some areas new campgrounds can be added. But, as far as commercial campgrounds, RV parks and so on, overall, I would say the Yukon is about half the price of what they charge in Alaska. So that's rather comforting. And I know the department, along with the departments of Tourism and Community and Transportation Services, have undertaken measures in recent years to close off gravel pits and so on to discourage dumping and illegal overnight parking and so on.
After my experience and seeing how reasonable our prices are, it really makes me wonder about the need for the American RVs - I say that because most of them are - to really save a few dollars by avoiding our RV parks here. I think the average price here is about $15, which is about $8 U.S., and in Alaska, the average cost is over $20 U.S. In one case, I paid $37 U.S. for a stall, complete with a phone.
Anyway, back to the department and the Yukon situation, can the minister indicate if he plans the construction of any new campgrounds?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, tomorrow I will be providing more enlightenment with respect to my tour of Yukon. I logged more than 4,000 kilometres, so I just didn't go and park in any one place and roast hot dogs and eat marshmallows. So I did move around, and I did make a relatively good assessment of our existing campgrounds. The member is right. There may be opportunities to look at our existing campground placement and maybe relocate one.
I still need to talk in more detail with the experienced folks at Renewable Resources and look at where we can be putting new campgrounds.
Mr. McRobb: All right, if the minister gets anything definite, it will be interesting to hear about it.
I believe I have asked him before about the Pine Lake campground. I know the Village of Haines Junction was interested in taking over at least the management of that facility. Can he update us on that, please?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, the Pine Lake campground is one of our more beautiful campgrounds. The Village of Haines Junction was approached about a year ago to consider this, but I do think that we haven't gone a whole lot further down that road but there is a possibility. I know that the community uses the campground facility quite extensively throughout the summer for special events and community picnics. I mean it is such a convenient area and one of the few lakes where we can go and enjoy a swim, so it is a well-utilized area and we could certainly consider that down the road.
Mr. McRobb: Does the minister have a proposal that he is currently looking at? What can we expect in this regard in the near future?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: There is nothing definitive right now. It was just a general discussion that occurred about a year ago just to see if the community was interested in taking over the responsibilities of Pine Lake campground, but nothing formal was done and nothing has been done.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. I would also add that one of the community events that takes place there is the Pine Lake regatta and, for the record, I didn't see the minister there last summer.
I'd like to ask the minister now about wildlife viewing stations. We have had a discussion on this previously, and I've made my views known that I think they are a very beneficial piece of infrastructure that certainly helps tourists to stay another day and appreciate the Yukon wilderness and its wildlife.
One of the questions I asked in the briefing was for the department to provide a list of the priorities of these stations that are being considered for development. I'm rather disappointed to see in recent budgets that the allotment in this regard has decreased.
I would like the minister to explain what he sees in store for wildlife viewing stations. How many are planned and when, and so on? Can he give us an idea of what to expect?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Chair, the member opposite is correct that we are putting together a fairly comprehensive plan on not only maintaining our existing wildlife viewing areas, but that we do have some others that are being proposed. So, as the member knows, as well, they are quite strategic in their placement, so we want to be sure that we are locating those wildlife viewing areas in the most appropriate place to take advantage of our vistas. I will provide that to the member when it has been completed by the department.
Mr. McRobb: In the area of trapping, there was an initiative to help the Trappers Association comply with humane trapping standards. Can the minister tell us how that project is going?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes. Soon after their AGM, which I believe happened about 10 months ago, if not longer, we agreed to help them along in promoting and looking after their existing traps and standards. The department did provide, in 2000-01, $10,000, and another $10,000 was provided in 2001-02 for the Yukon Trappers Association to purchase these new traps. This definitely was a commitment we made to the trappers that helped them out.
Mr. McRobb: What about the trappers compensation policy? Can the minister give us an update on that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The compensation issue is quite a broad exercise that the government is looking at in various departments, so we're seriously looking at coordinating the government's position on compensation throughout. It's a huge exercise. We're not looking at specific sectors, because the policy itself will be looking at the problem. The original policy, or the issue of policy, has come up, of course, during the land claims negotiations. There was a policy that was developed in 1988, but there were a number of weaknesses that had been identified in the policy.
It has generally served as a guide more than as an actual implementation aspect. So, in order that we do a very comprehensive compensation policy, there are a number of branches working on putting this together. It also involves Canada in these discussions. I'm hoping that we can move along a little more expeditiously and that devolution will hopefully prompt some of this on as well.
Mr. McRobb: All right. I want to ask the minister a few questions regarding wildlife. What does he see happening with regard to no-hunting corridors along our highways? Is this something he's moving toward or what, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Corridors are not carte blanche. You don't just have a corridor along all highways. It's premised quite a bit by conservation aspects of any species along any roadway, so it's quite specific to any section of highway and the wildlife in the area.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister enlighten us? Which highways have no-hunting corridors on them?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I would have to get back to the member on specifics because there aren't just whole highways that are exempt. There are sections where that might apply. So if the member would allow me, I'll get back to him with that information.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. In regard to bison hunts, were there any changes made to the program this year?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: No, there weren't, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Can I ask the minister why not? I think he acknowledged last time we discussed this that there were some problems and potential improvements he was looking at. Why did they stick with the previous program?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: There are a number of factors why the government has stayed the course. One is that there is a three-year agreement with two First Nations - the Aishihik, as well as the Pelly First Nation - that this agreement is in effect. Plus, there has been no radical change in the population of bison within the equation.
Mr. McRobb: Just on that, Mr. Chair, can the minister give us a few figures, starting with the total harvest last year, the population now, and the recruitment from this year? Can he give us those stats, please?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I don't have those numbers with me, Mr. Chair, but I'd be more than glad to give the member opposite that information.
Mr. McRobb: All right. Now, there has been some concern expressed about moose in the Whitehorse area, specifically the lack of moose in the Whitehorse area. Some people feel there has been an over-hunting of this species. Can the minister indicate what he is doing about this problem?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The member opposite is getting into very detailed questioning. I will certainly try to provide all the answers that I can at the moment, but I hope that he would also understand that I don't have all the facts and figures with me in the House. I'm sure he will express an understanding that I could get the information back to him.
The Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board working group developed operating principles and a list of issues. There was a workshop to address potential solutions to these issues and others raised by participants that was held in November and December last year.
The draft moose-harvest management framework resulting from this workshop was prepared to assist in further community consultations at local levels. So therefore there are public meetings along - a public meeting was held in Whitehorse in June of 2001 to discuss the draft framework, so we are still working on that framework. There are 14 members of the public that did attend and provide comments at that June meeting, and further community consultations were postponed due to the summer vacation period. We will be picking up on that exercise.
Mr. McRobb: All right, I am not disappointed with him having to get back to me with information at all. I am still disappointed that he didn't invite me along with him camping after spending $5,600 on wieners and cakes. I am still trying to get over that.
Regarding deer, can the minister indicate if he has any plans to open a deer-hunting season per se? I know that it has been suggested by the public.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, yes, Mr. Chair, the fact of the matter was that the motorhome that I had used this past summer really was quite small, so it wasn't - and there was another factor involved there. I mean, the department and myself were promoting the local economy, and I was on the road for the whole month of July.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I know the Member for Klondike is chirping in that it was at his expense. Well, I think it was the taxpayers' expense, Mr. Chair. It was a very worthwhile, informative trip, and I think that, even though our campgrounds are next to none in the whole of Canada, we can even make them better.
So that's where we are with the -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Oh, the deer, right - the deer and the antelope. No, there is no plan to open a hunt on deer.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. I would warn the minister to stay away from those aluminum pots, by the way, when he is out camping.
I want to ask him now about sheep, specifically in the Kluane area. This is a matter that I'm sure he has heard of, just like I have. There has been a public concern expressed about possible low numbers of sheep population in traditional areas. Can the minister indicate if there is a problem and what he is doing about this?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Chair. Again, I require the assistance of the member opposite to be a little more specific in his question. Are you talking about a specific area or are you talking generally about sheep populations in the whole of the territory?
Mr. McRobb: I indicated it was in the Kluane area. I know there are some sheep areas in the Burwash Landing area that have been the target of some public concern. This is not a new issue, so can the minister give us an update on that or come back with some information? Either way is fine.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I could come back with more detailed information. Yes, I'll bring the information back.
Mr. McRobb: That's fine.
Before we move off from this section, I want to ask him about the elk and also thank him for the Christmas present last year. I still have the little toy elk with the red fluorescent ribbon around its neck, and it's very helpful to me to remember that the problem still exists. But I have to doubt the minister's method for dealing with it, which was basically just to close his eyes and hope it goes away, because I know it is still a traffic hazard.
In the letter he wrote to one of my constituents, which by the way appeared in the Whitehorse Star along with my letter - and I want to put on record that I had nothing to do with the publication of those letters, nothing at all. So, someone sent it to the newspaper for publishing and it certainly wasn't me. Of course I would not do that on my own. We're talking about publishing a letter from a constituent to me. That would certainly be a breach of protocol and I think we all understand that in here. So I just wanted to put that on the record.
Anyway, I'm aware of other alternatives in other areas. I think Banff and Jasper might be included in that. It has been awhile since I have looked into this issue. Is the minister still not considering any options to deal with this, or can he give us an update on this, please?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, I'm certainly glad the Member for Kluane indicated that it wasn't he who put the letters in the paper. I appreciate it, and I'll take back all those thoughts that I had about the member on that specific issue, just move them out of my mind and trash them.
Mr. Chair, the member opposite has just asked me if I'd take him camping. I don't have a problem with that at all, and in the future I'll certainly consider that.
With respect to the elk problem, the member opposite was asking if there were any additional actions that the government could take with respect to the problem that some drivers have with our elk population. It's pretty much the same with all wildlife, Mr. Chair. It's pretty hard to corral them and to put little flashers on them. I know that would certainly be a consideration that could be made, but the fact of the matter is that we do post the highways for wildlife crossings that we're certainly aware of, and there is an obligation on our driving public to heed those signs, in that they're not put there for decoration, that there is a reason that they are there, that they be a little more diligent in driving, and that I think it would be - these animals migrate back and forth across the highway all the time, not only elk, but there's deer, there's moose. There used to be bison. I don't think that's much of a problem any more.
I think that we are doing all that we can do. Our situation in the territory here is not anywhere like in Banff and Jasper, where there is such a heavy concentration of elk that literally move into town for a good part of the year. We don't have quite that population here in the territory.
Mr. McRobb: Before leaving the ungulate section of wildlife, I'd like to ask him about caribou, and first about the Aishihik caribou herd. Can the minister give us an update on the numbers of the herd, please?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Again, that is a fairly detailed request, and I will get back to the member with numbers.
Mr. McRobb: Yes, that's fine.
Now, I note that the number of the Porcupine caribou herd is down by some 4,000. Can the minister give us an update on what he plans to do about this and what monitoring is in effect?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I'm sure the member opposite is very aware that this extensively is a study that is being conducted by Environment Canada, which is a federal responsibility. I can certainly get the information for the member.
I could give him a little bit of a backgrounder now, if he wishes.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, he's asking that I send it over. I can get more detailed and specific information for the member on the Porcupine caribou herd.
Mr. McRobb: Thanks, Mr. Chair, I think it is in everybody's interest to try and make some progress here, because we do want to get to that capital budget, despite what the government says.
Regarding endangered species, now I hate to bring this up, but I know that the Yukon government received an F on its report card and I had to ask about the peregrine falcon situation because of the concerns brought to everybody's attention by well-known Yukoner and biologist Dave Mossop. And, perhaps the minister can give us an update on what he is doing to help this bad situation.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, one thing that we are emphatically in disagreement with, and that was the rating that the Sierra Legal Defence Fund had allocated to the territory with respect to species at risk. We don't agree with their evaluation - as a matter of fact, the department did provide details to the Sierra Legal Defence Fund, who haven't even had the courtesy to come up here to find out the facts for themselves. And it is really quite disconcerting when outside agencies like this just arbitrarily assign grades without really understanding what governments are doing - not just this government but previous governments - with respect to protected areas and looking after our wildlife populations. I thought that was very irresponsible.
On the species at risk aspects, though, we are, as I had indicated, in our three-year approach to the review of the Wildlife Act. As a matter of fact, we are into consultation now on phase 2, which specifically deals with species at risk. We are being proactive on this initiative, and it is very unfortunate that the Sierra group didn't want to acknowledge that, even when they were informed and apprised of where we are moving on species at risk, specifically here in the territory. So, we are moving - that legislation will come forward next fall, specifically the species at risk.
But we do have two species at risk here in the territory: one is the wood bison and one is the peregrine falcon. There were population evaluations done this year, and there is a concern. I will get the definitive answer for the member opposite, but there was a concern that populations haven't shown the usual increase. Now, I don't want to say that we're losing populations, but I want to be a little clear - there is a concern.
Mr. McRobb: All right. Thank you, Mr. Chair. It's interesting to note that, while the minister can defend himself on the report card rating, in fact, the government got away pretty lightly earlier this year on its rating as far as protecting any land areas goes. I explained that in the spring. If not for the demise of the program that I think was sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund, which graded the progress of the Yukon government along with other governments in creating parks and protected areas and so on - if not for the cancellation of that program, this government would have probably received another F there. So that falls directly on the lack of progress from the Yukon government.
Let's hope the minister doesn't point the finger elsewhere on that. As a matter of fact, Mr. Chair, I want to talk for a minute about gradings of the government, because I just saw in the newspaper on Friday how one of our Yukoners, Mr. John Maissan with the Yukon Energy Corporation, won an award, received national recognition - or was it international, anyway - for the installation of the second wind turbine atop Haeckel Hill in Whitehorse. That, combined with a recent award for, what was it, energy savings that the minister for YEC, the Member for Porter Creek North, took credit for about two weeks ago, and as well there is the award that YEC and, I believe, the Yukon Housing Corporation shared about a year ago - all of these awards, not to compromise the ability of the people involved because they certainly deserve recognition - I'm not taking anything away - but all of these awards are the direct result of initiatives undertaken by the previous government.
I'm not here to pat myself on the back or re-fight the last election, but I do figure that this is worthwhile pointing out because of a few things. Number one, the Liberals in opposition and in government, I might add, continue to bash the commissions that were created by the previous government. In fact, we again just heard this afternoon how they accused us of wasting money on these commissions.
Well, Mr. Chair, it turns out that all of those awards were directly related to work of the energy commission, which I headed up. And the Yukon is still benefiting from that work. And I notice the minister is patting himself on the back. I know he feels deprived that he's not getting all the credit. I'm not trying to take any credit here, but I just want the record to show what happened in an accurate way, because without this, Mr. Chair, I'm afraid people might be misimpressioned to thinking that maybe this Liberal government isn't so bad after all, because look at all these awards they're getting. They must be doing something. Well, we know that's not the case.
That's very similar to all of those cake-and-ribbon shows they went to in the first six months. We know those projects that were opening up certainly weren't a result of this government.
The VRC in Beaver Creek is one that the Tourism minister will remember. It took place in May 2000. The place was already built, basically, at election time, but she was there cutting the ribbon and eating the cake. Did I even get an invitation? No, I did not get an invitation.
So I just thought it might be worthwhile to put this on the record, Mr. Chair, so people can establish their own opinions about the progress of this Liberal government, which, in reality, is highly questionable and is certainly not related to the recognition the territory is receiving for the good work that is simply a result of programs, policy work and financial expenditures undertaken by the previous government.
We know the wind turbine, for example, was the result of a significant financial contribution from the Yukon government.
I believe it was $2 million or $3 million for that. It didn't come from the rate payers' pocket; it came from the previous government. So I think this is worthwhile to put on the record because, all too often, such opportunity doesn't present itself.
Anyway, given the time, Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress.
Motion agreed to
Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. McLachlan that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: 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.
Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:59 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled November 19, 2001:
Wildlife Act (Bill No. 48): French text (Buckway)
The following Legislative Return was tabled November 19, 2001:
Group Home at 16 Klondike Road: cost of operation before and after government takeover in fiscal year 2000-01 (Roberts) Oral, Hansard, p. 1591