Tuesday, May 14, 2002 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have a legislative return in response to an oral question from the Member for Klondike respecting Yukon government tax lien procedures, asked on Monday, April 15, 2002; and I also have a legislative return, again in response to an oral question by the Member for Klondike, respecting First Nations property taxes, asked on Monday, April 15, 2002.
Hon. Mr. Kent: I have for tabling the government air travel policy with the terms of reference and the anti-competition guidelines.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) members of this Assembly have an obligation to examine and debate government spending priorities and legislative initiatives in a thorough and expeditious manner;
(2) the government agenda for the current sitting includes several substantive legislative items that require scrutiny, as well as operations and capital spending plans for the fiscal year 2002-03;
(3) in each of the first four sittings of the 30th Legislature, the official opposition has consistently shown its ability to conclude discussion of the publicís business in the sitting time available;
(4) the 50-percent increase in the number of opposition members questioning the government makes it essential that both sides of this House be willing to cooperate and compromise in order to get through the legislative agenda in a timely manner; and
THAT this House calls upon the government House leader to work cooperatively with opposition House leaders to adopt a mutually agreeable schedule of House business that will permit members to conclude the current sitting by the scheduled end date of May 30, 2002.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that all members should work cooperatively to expedite the business of the House where a consensus on legislation has been achieved;
THAT this House recognizes that in the spirit of cooperation, the members of the third party are prepared to consider the following bills deemed to be read and carried:
(1) Bill No. 61, Electoral District Boundaries Act, 2002;
(2) Bill No. 64, Spousal Compensation Act;
(3) Bill No. 55, Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (No. 5);
(4) Bill 51, Official Tree Act; and
THAT this House urges the government, at the earliest opportunity, to call Bills 61, 64, 55, and 51 for consideration in Committee of the Whole and subsequently for third reading.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Roberts: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that
(1) the Yukon has been a leader in Canada for establishing a birth registry for all new births;
(2) Whitehorse has an active FAS/FAE working group that has recommended that a diagnostic assessment team be established in the Yukon; and
(3) the Yukon has a highly successful healthy family program; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to move forward to ensure that all rural communities are included in the FASD programs by providing funding for innovative community prevention and intervention programs.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Economic action plan
Mr. Fairclough: The Premier put out a news release today announcing that the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce is having her over for lunch tomorrow. Among other things, the release says the Premier will be discussing the future of the permanent fund, and this is very interesting, Mr. Speaker. As a matter of courtesy to this House and to the Yukon people, will the Premier give us a sneak preview of what she intends to tell the Chamber of Commerce about this pot of money?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, that is consistent with what I answered in the Legislature during general debate. I indicated earlier in this session that I would be discussing the permanent fund ó the Alaska and the Alberta models ó with Yukoners this coming summer, if and when it ever arrives, given the weather. The fact is that I had indicated in the Legislature that I would discuss the permanent fund this summer with Yukoners, and thatís what Iíll be doing tomorrow with the Chamber of Commerce.
Mr. Fairclough: Iíd like to remind the Premier again that itís not only the chambers of commerce that need to be consulted but all Yukoners, and hopefully this will take place.
The Premier is apparently looking forward to speaking with the business community about the territoryís financing and hearing their views first-hand.
Why has the Premier waited until the end of her second year in office to ask the business people for their views? Why after two years?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is wrong. The fact is I speak with chamber members on a regular basis both in round tables and at their regular monthly luncheons. I have spoken with them at Business After Hours, in their places of business; I have had numerous round tables in my former capacity as Minister of Economic Development. The fact is that this is yet another opportunity to hear first-hand from chamber members, something I enjoy doing.
Mr. Fairclough: The public has been asking the Premier to come to their communities and their groups and work with them when it comes to consultation about budgets, and in fact, Mr. Speaker, we believe that the Premier has not been doing that. Instead, she has been talking with basically her friends and very few people on the business side of things.
When will the Premier make a commitment to all Yukoners, all Yukon communities, and will she make the commitment to go there this summer and hold public consultation meetings before setting her 2003-04 capital budget? Will she do that? Because this hasnít been done yet by the Liberal government.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, it has. There has been consultation on budgets in the past, and I have already committed to the Yukon public that I will be travelling around this summer. I committed on the floor of this Legislature that I would be doing that, and I would like to thank the leader of the official opposition for recognizing that the Liberal government has friends in the business community ó much appreciated.
Question re: Economic action plan
Mr. Fairclough: I believe that they must have a friend or two out there, but I could tell you, Mr. Speaker, that a lot of people are turning away from this Liberal party and their government.
Now, since the Premier has accepted an invitation to discuss the economy, I will guarantee her a seat with her name on it at this eveningís meeting at the official opposition leaderís forum at the Whitehorse Library. We have presented many suggestions to the Premier on how to help fix the economy, and Iím sure we will hear many more suggestions tonight. Iím sure she will hear more tomorrow, if she is listening to the debate tonight.
At lunch tomorrow, will the Premier invite the business community to take part in a high-level, public/private sector delegation to go to Ottawa and get a comprehensive economic development agreement for the Yukon, which the federal Finance minister said we should have?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Thank you to the leader of the official opposition for asking me about the economy and the general state of the economy. I appreciate the opportunity to, once again, share with Yukoners that the unemployment rate for April was 8.9 percent, which is the lowest the unemployment rate has been in April for at least a decade, and the lowest it has been in any month since July of 1996.
There are more people in the Yukon labour force, and Iím sure thatís going to be a topic for discussion in both the address I am giving to the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce and, Iím sure, in any discussions the member opposite is having. There will be recognition of the work of this government in that unemployment rate reduction.
Mr. Fairclough: It is funny; when the official opposition brings up statistics, it is downplayed by the Liberal government, and when it is convenient for them they bring it forward. I could tell the Premier that things are not as rosy as she thinks, as Yukon people know. Let us take for example the tourism industry. Some hotels in Whitehorse are reporting a drop of some 40 percent in room rentals this year. That says things are not rosy.
Will the Premier be taking her own economic action plan to discuss this with the Chamber of Commerce tomorrow, or is she going with her own standard message that the government is running out of money, but the economy is doing fine?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: My address tomorrow to the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce membership which will also include, of course, a question-and-answer period ó the fact is I will be addressing a number of issues including the state of the territoryís finances; the permanent fund and the Alaska and Alberta models; the work of the Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture with regard to economic strategies, as well as the work of the Minister of Infrastructure and Energy, Mines and Resources in terms of resource development, a traditional part of the Yukon economy. I appreciate the memberís point that there are statistics and what Yukoners care about is the fact that they have a job, and the fact is that there were 700 more Yukoners working in April 2002 than April of last year.
Mr. Fairclough: We in the official opposition have made many suggestions to the government side on how to improve the economy, and good ideas are good ideas even if they come from this side of the House. The Premier, the Finance minister, should take that very seriously. The CDF, for example, was a good idea. It was so good that the government decided to change the name but keep the fund going. Trade and investment was a good idea and so was the fireweed fund. Public investment to create jobs in a time of economic slowdown is a good idea.
Does the Premier intend to tell the business community that she was wrong to turn her back on those good ideas, and that she is ready to turn over a new leaf in order to help the economy off its knees? Does she intend to do that with the business community?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, Iím speaking with all Yukoners and, most importantly, listening to what all Yukoners have to say. The fact is that thatís what this government has been doing and thatís what this government will continue to do.
I will be speaking with and listening not only to Chamber of Commerce members and their guests tomorrow at lunch time but all Yukoners throughout the summer, as all of our caucus will. We will be speaking not only about the economy and about the economic initiatives undertaken by this government; we are looking at the ideas, wherever they come from, whichever Yukoner chooses to propose them. The fact is that, on a number of the suggestions that the member opposite has raised time and time again, I have already responded.
Question re: Protected areas strategy
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I have a question today for the Minister of Environment. Itís about the Yukon protected areas strategy.
Now, it would appear that the tribute I paid to the Minister of Environment and the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources on April 24 in this House for deferring the identification of more protected areas under this seriously flawed YPAS process was very premature. The moratorium or deferment has been turned into a slowdown. While the machinery of government keeps grinding relentlessly on, $655,000 is being spent on protected area planning to identify future no-development parks with no consultation underway with stakeholders. Will the minister now admit that his news release of April 24 announcing the deferment of YPAS was just a smoke-and-mirrors tactic to take the protected areas strategy out of the political limelight so that the identification of these areas can continue in secret, undisturbed?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate the question from the Member for Klondike, but he is wrong. It is a slowdown. We have indicated publicly that it is a slowdown.
With respect to the $655,000 that the member is talking about, that is for the Department of Environmentís policy branch, the whole branch ó seven individuals who work within the branch, the majority of whom are working specifically on issues related to land claims.
The fact is that weíre working on special management areas within the land claims process. It dedicates specifically to settlement of land claims to working and having the four First Nations MOUs that were initialled moving toward ratification. It takes a team of dedicated individuals who are within the policy branch of Environment to do that, as well as work on legislation, as well as work on educational programs, as well as working on policy in many areas of the Department of Environment.
Itís not specific to the YPAS. The director does allocate some time to the YPAS process. The member is saying that weíre doing it in secret; that is incorrect as well. The fact of the matter is that we are ó
Speaker: Would the minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The fact is that we are continuing with assessment work for the process.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, but what we have here are the Liberal spin doctors working overtime, playing with words, trying to trick the Yukon public into believing the controversial Yukon protected areas strategy is put on hold when in fact the expenditure of some $655,000 reveals that park planning is proceeding and itís proceeding in secret behind closed doors.
Will the minister now honour his statement of April 24 and put a moratorium on YPAS? Will he do what he promised to do?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: First and foremost, we are following through on our commitment to settle land claims ó that is first and foremost. The Department of Environment works very hard at doing that. Itís obvious that the Member for Klondike does not agree with the settlement of land claims ó obviously.
So I am following through on what I said. It was a slowdown and we are working very hard on the settlement of the four land claims that are moving toward ratification.
Mr. Jenkins: Now letís look back to November 3, 2001, when the Liberal government signed an agreement with the business coalition for a balanced YPAS, promising them that the minister would not proceed unilaterally to establish protected areas. The expenditure of $655,000 clearly shows that park planning is proceeding and itís proceeding unilaterally.
Why did the minister authorize the signing of the agreement that he didnít intend to honour?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Again, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is definitely now and proving more and more to be against the settling of land claims. The fact of that matter is that we are working very diligently on the resolution and working cooperatively with the four First Nations in settling land claims. Thatís exactly what weíre doing, as well as working on changes to the Wildlife Act and many other initiatives. We are open and accountable and we are inviting members of the coalition at any time ó as a matter of fact, we have already started doing that.
So, itís obvious that the member is opposed to land claims, as in his statement that the department is working very diligently on that project, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Water quality
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, for several days now, the Minister of Community Services has intercepted questions regarding water safety that were directed to the Minister of Health. So today Iíd like to address a question to the minister.
Why did the Department of Community and Transportation Services fail ó again, fail ó to provide any input into the draft report on the City of Whitehorse water supply licence?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I keep attempting to make the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes understand that a safe water supply is something that the Yukon government takes very seriously. We meet the guidelines for Canadian drinking water quality set by Health Canada and we provide excellent quality potable water to the unincorporated communities in the territory. We monitor the maintenance of those systems and we attempt to convince the members opposite that a safe water supply is a priority for all Yukoners.
We have been involved in many aspects of safe water, Mr. Speaker, including offering training sessions, and we will continue to do so.
Mr. Keenan: The member says that she takes it seriously. Well, she should absolutely take it seriously. The Liberals are government. It should be taken very seriously. Iíd just like a few answers to these questions, and we would be able to move it. Iíd also like to point out, Mr. Speaker, that Renewable Resources didnít provide any input; Community and Transportation Services didnít provide any input. The only intervention that came from the Yukon territorial government came from the Department of Health and Social Services on September 20, 2001.
So much for the multi-departmental approach. Itís time for the right minister to take the lead. I would like to ask the Minister of Health this: will the minister table all correspondence between the Health department and DIAND relating to the water licence, as well as any scientific studies to back up the Health departmentís position?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is aware, my department has undertaken a review of municipal infrastructure. We are looking at water and sewer systems, among other things and, in conjunction with that, environmental health has undertaken a review of 24 community water systems. The work that environmental health is doing is becoming part of our work on infrastructure, and that study should be ready before too many months are out.
Mr. Keenan: I canít believe that this minister stood on the floor of this House and actually put water safety behind sewer systems. Mr. Speaker, thatís absolutely appalling.
Let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, whatís happening across the country. Across the country, deputy ministers of Health are very concerned about the erosion of the programs to ensure the safety of our food and of our water. The Canadian Medical Association is also very concerned, so I would like to ask the Premier, will she now instruct the Minister of Health to take the lead in guaranteeing safe drinking water in the Yukon? Will the Premier do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member once again seems more concerned with who is answering the question than he is with what the government is doing. The water supply in the Yukon is safe.
The member is shaking his head, but Iím sure that when he goes home, he drinks the water, the same as other Yukoners do.
We take the issue of safe water very seriously and are doing everything necessary to ensure that it remains safe.
Question re: Alcohol and drug abuse program delivery
Mr. Jim: My question is for the minister responsible for the alcohol and drug secretariat.
When options were being discussed for the location of the residential treatment centre, we heard two options. The first was in a location on the Mayo Road near Whitehorse; the second was in the Town of Faro. Each option was costed out and decisions were made based on this very narrow field of options. There is another facility that is less expensive, easily adaptable to an institutional role, has room for expansion and is available right now. This is the now-vacant Teslin community correctional facility.
We know that this government did not even consider this option. To prove our point, my question to the minister is this: will she table any research or cost estimates of situating the residential recovery facility in Teslin?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: First of all, the member opposite is out of date in his information. It has been quite awhile since he crossed the floor.
There are already residential programs being offered here in the Yukon, right in Whitehorse. That has been going on for some time. That was the option that was chosen again. The member opposite was not part of that decision-making process.
The alcohol and drug secretariat personnel have been speaking to a number of First Nations about a variety of alcohol and drug treatment programs, they have also spoken to Teslin, and that work is ongoing.
Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, I know that they havenít spoken to Teslin. This centre fit all criteria required for the centre yet wasnít considered. It is adjacent to an airport for emergency medevacs, yet it wasnít considered. It has a complete, modern nursing station within minutes, yet it wasnít considered. It is within a reasonable driving distance to Whitehorse, yet it wasnít considered. It is a turnkey operation that can accommodate a program such as this, yet it wasnít considered. The people of Teslin have been seeing this government spend less than $20,000 in capital spending in their community over two years. They now know that they have been overlooked once again. Both options considered for the centre are in Liberal-held ridings. Will the government open up location options to all ridings for the good of all Yukoners? Will this government do this?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The member is confused again. First of all, the already existing residential program is in Whitehorse Centre, which is supposedly an independent Liberal riding. The member opposite says that the Teslin proposal wasnít considered. He has no idea what he is talking about again on that issue. He doesnít know what was considered and what wasnít considered, because he wasnít a member of the caucus at the time. The member opposite wasnít part of the discussion so he doesnít know all the various criteria that were used to make the decision. I have told the member in the previous question that we are talking to three First Nations about a variety of alcohol and drug treatment programs in the Yukon. We have spoken to Teslin regardless of what the member opposite thinks.
Mr. Jim: This facility was built with the intention to help build capacity in Teslin and decentralize some of the Yukon government operations outside of Whitehorse area. This government has failed to recognize that this facility is more than just a building in Teslin. It represents two previous governmentsí commitments to help build economic activity in this community. It represents stability. The facility was purpose-built and is not easily adaptable to other uses. The residential treatment centre is one use that fits very well. The possibility of partnering with a First Nation also opens up other funding doors and would immediately start the partnership aspects of the plan that is so necessary for this strategy to work.
My question to the minister: will she now contact the Teslin Tlingit Council and discuss costing and the possibilities of partnerships?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, letís go through it again. We have contacted First Nations and talked to them about alcohol and drug treatment programs. We are talking to one First Nation, the member knows well, about wilderness treatment. We are speaking to another about youth programs. All of these are opportunities that weíre exploring with First Nations. Now, the member opposite should be a little bit more clear about the building that heís referring to in Teslin. Thatís owned by the Teslin Tlingit Council. It is not owned by the government, so he needs to get up to date on his information. Now, there are a number of different factors that we looked at when we decided to keep the residential program here in Whitehorse Centre. After weighing all the pros and all the cons, it was decided, without the members opposite, that we would go with the program that is already existing in Whitehorse Centre in order to access staff and programs that are available only in Whitehorse.
Question re: Forestry funding
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, Iíd like to follow up on the YPAS issue with the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. The mixed message coming out of this Liberal government, led by the Minister of Environment, is having a devastating impact on our economy and on investor confidence in this territory. Mr. Speaker, the minister has a responsibility here for our economy and, contrary to what the Minister of Environment is saying, the governmentís machinery continues to motor along, planning protected areas, fuelled by $655,000. Will the minister now make a clear statement to investors and the Yukon public by asking the Minister of Environment and convincing his government to reallocate those funds to forest industry planning to help put Yukoners back to work? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Kent: In response to the Member for Watson Lakeís question, the Minister of Environment indicated that those policy and planning dollars were being used for, among other things, land claims.
The Department of Energy, Mines and Resources continues with resource assessments throughout the Yukon. Of course, the Yukon geology program has a number of initiatives planned for this summer. And I will remind the Member for Watson Lake, as he knows since he spent approximately four years in government as the forestry commissioner, that forest responsibility still lies with the federal government. We have negotiated devolution of that industry to the Yukon government for management and control of those resources as of April 1, 2003, and I look forward to that date. We are doing some planning and preparatory work toward that date regarding legislation for the forest industry and a number of other initiatives, and we look forward to the transfer of the forest resources to the Yukon territorial government on April 1, 2003.
Mr. Fentie: Iíd like to point out to the minister that the line item in this budget clearly states that the $655,000 is for Yukon protected areas planning. Am I to take it, then, that the government is tabling an erroneous document in the form of their budget? Come on, Mr. Speaker, letís get serious here.
The minister should be ashamed of himself in trying to cloak this secret planning process inside government by laying it at the feet of First Nations, which have stated clearly that they take a balanced approach to this issue and want to work on the economy also.
The minister can do something here by sending a clear message to the Yukon public, by reallocating those funds to forest industry planning, of which this Liberal government has done nothing in the two-plus years that they have been in office.
Will the minister take a stand on behalf of the Yukon economy and make sure his government reallocates those funds to forest industry planning to create jobs in this territory?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I mentioned in my previous answer, that particular line item, as mentioned by the Minister of Environment, has to do, among other things, with First Nations planning and land claims planning. Also, we too are committed to balance on the Yukon protected areas strategy. We ó the Minister of Environment and I ó have committed to a slowdown, not only to address the initialling of the MOUs and the settlement of outstanding land claims, but to also look at ways to improve the process, as it exists. Weíre constantly looking for ways to improve processes such as the oil and gas nomination process, and we are committed to the forest industry. I will again note that the Member for Watson Lake spent four years as forest commissioner, with little or no result for the industry.
So certainly, the fact that we have devolution initialled off is a very positive step, and I look forward to working with all stakeholders to make sure that forestry can become an integral economic player in the Yukon.
Mr. Fentie: I would point out for the ministerís benefit that the forest industry ceased to operate once this Liberal government took office. I wonder what resulted in that. It could be that the Liberals had no idea how to address the forest industry or the issues surrounding it.
Also, I would point out that I hope that land claims under this Liberal government will take a much higher precedent than a line item in the budget for parks and protected areas planning.
This government made a clear statement on April 24 to Yukoners. Itís high time they lived up to that statement and put protected areas planning on hold.
Will this minister ensure that his government honours that commitment to the business coalition, which is representative of a broad base of Yukon people who are seriously concerned about what is happening with our economy? Will this minister hold his Minister of Environment and his government to their commitment to the coalition? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I mentioned in my previous answer, the Minister of Environment and I have committed to a slowdown of the Yukon protected areas strategy. Weíve been working very hard to develop the economy, in the sectors of tourism as well as resource development, as well as infrastructure road building. There are a number of good, positive things that we are doing for the economy that are starting to be reflected in the employment statistics.
While the Member for Watson Lake was busy in opposition with an identity crisis of trying to figure out whether he should pull to the left or pull to the right, we were working hard on the economy and we continue to do so.
I note a press release from October 6, 2000, in which the Member for Watson Lake referred to the pipeline as a futuristic hope, far-off pipe dreams, and stated, "if a pipeline comes at all." Then, yesterday in Question Period, he started lobbying for that pipeline. He certainly flip-flopped on YPAS now, so as Iíve said, there is no identity crisis over here. Weíre Liberals and weíre working hard to restore the economy.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed and weíll proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. 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.
Committee of the Whole will recess until 2:00.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee of the Whole will continue with line-by-line debate on airports as part of Bill No. 9, Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03.
Bill No. 9 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03 ó continued
Department of Infrastructure ó continued
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures ó continued
On Transportation Division ó continued
On Aviation and Marine ó continued
Chair: Is there any further debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, when we left debate on this line item yesterday, on airports, one of the questions that was raised was dealing with this new government air travel policy. What it appears that we have before us is another Liberal attempt at smoke and mirrors, because what the government is going to probably eventually hang its hat on and hide behind is a committee that has yet to be implemented to deal with complaints and deal with the issue of government air travel policy.
Weíre dealing with a small Yukon-based business thatís going toe to toe with an international carrier based in Canada, specifically Air Canada ó which, I might add, has the ability to lose $1-billion-odd a year, which is probably comparable to the GDP here in the Yukon for an entire year.
When we look at the order of magnitude it is quite significant. This government air travel policy was supposed to provide some level playing field for all participants with respect to government business. But the fact of the matter is that unless the Yukon government is prepared to take the extra step and take a complaint forward to the federal government and to the Competition Commissioner with respect to air travel, nothing will happen. It is kind of like the dentist saying that your teeth are good but your gums have to come out. This government air travel policy lacks the ability to hold the teeth. There isnít any so they are just out there wandering around somewhere in space at the end of the day. It is another example of the Liberals being unable to govern and yet willing and wanting to put out a smoke-and-mirrors position that appears to make sense on the surface but under examination it does not. We only have to look at some of the other initiatives that this government has ventured into: the YPAS moratorium slowdown. Currently, it is being blamed on the First Nations and it is being suggested that all of us in opposition, including me, do not believe in land claims.
Mr. Chair, itís just a new attempt by the Liberal spin doctors to address something that they have missed the mark on, and they have missed the mark by a long shot. Yesterday, we asked extensive questions about the airport in Dawson City with respect to its medevac capacity and the need for medevacs, and itís because the Minister of Health in this government canít address her responsibilities, negotiate an on-call arrangement with the doctors in Dawson, and staff the nursing station to the level that is needed.
So, the nursing station will reluctantly admit anyone who is sick or injured, but very reluctantly. The instructions have gone out there: package and ship. What does that mean? We need an airport. We need an airport that is operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and Dawson is strictly a VFR airport, where theyíre going to tear up the runway and where, at the end of the day, theyíre not going to pave. Itís a tool of economic development. This government is spending more money on rearranging the deck chairs on the SS Liberal Titanic than they are addressing their responsibilities for the basic infrastructures.
The economy is built on a tripod: energy, transportation and communication. Those are the three legs of the tripod.
Now, I encourage the minister, if heís going to bring a policy forward like this government air travel policy, to ensure it hits the mark, ensure it has teeth, ensure it can do the job because, in all these areas, the impact comes to the other departments. The Department of Health and Social Services canít do its job; the minister there canít do her job, so thatís impacting on the Minister of Infrastructure and the need for the airports.
We have an airline here in the Yukon ó specifically, Air North ó thatís going toe to toe with the national carrier, and the governmentís air travel policy is supposed to protect them. Well, Mr. Chair, at the end of the day, the Liberals are going to stand up and say the committee has made a decision, and theyíll hide behind that committee.
Iíd like to hear from the minister how heís going to put teeth into this government air travel policy. How is he going to address his responsibility to ensure the airport in Dawson City is available for fire suppression, for medevacs and meets the needs as a tool of economic growth ó and when is it going to be paved? At the end of the day, all weíre really seeing is about $5 million spent on the airport in our community, and thatís just to bring it into compliance with Transport Canada regulations.
Thank you very much. I look forward to some positive answers, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Kent: During debate yesterday on this line item of aviation and marine in the Department of Infrastructure, I touched on a number of issues with the Member for Klondike surrounding air access, the air travel purchasing policy, the air travel committee, the Dawson airport and medevacs, some programs on federal funding, issues around the Mayo-Dawson transmission line, and a number of other initiatives that were brought forward by the Member for Klondike.
First of all, Iíd like to touch on the air travel policy that we instituted this year. Itís very important to let Yukoners know that this is the first policy of its kind in the country. Itís designed to protect airlines that are offering year-round service from the Yukon to the south against other airlines that exhibit anti-competitive or predatory pricing initiatives against once another.
The air travel committee can be called on an as-needed basis. Complaints can be lodged by Yukon businesses or Yukon consumers or, indeed, the Yukon government. The makeup of the committee will be a tribunal, Mr. Chair. There will be one representative of the Department of Infrastructure; there will be a representative of the Department of Business, Tourism and Culture as well as a representative from the public or the business community. Iíve recently found someone who is willing to participate from the business community. We look forward to finalizing the committee and having it up and running by the time Air North begins its scheduled service to Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver early in June, from what my understanding is from speaking with the president of Air North on a number of occasions recently.
Air North will be doing a celebration, I believe, in Calgary, in conjunction with an oil and gas show that I will be participating in down there as well as a number of other Yukon businesses and officials and department officials. We look forward to being able to go to Calgary to discuss the importance of the Alaska Highway pipeline. Indeed, an entire day has been dedicated at the Global Petroleum Show to the Alaska Highway pipeline and the international committee on pipelines chaired by Senator Torgerson, of which I and MLA Mark Hlady from Alberta are also members. There are a number of good, solid initiatives that we will be discussing there as related to the pipeline and, of course, using the service of Air North and celebrating the service that they will be providing to Alberta.
As I mentioned yesterday, I did speak to a group of oil executives in January at the Petroleum Club in Calgary, discussing the latest call for bids that the Yukon government had put out for oil and gas leases. At that opportunity, I also mentioned the prospects of Air North service to the Yukon and received a very favourable response from the business community in Calgary. I certainly hope that Air Northís service to the Yukon will not only give Yukon consumers a choice, but also the business travellers who come to the Yukon from Alberta to take part in pipeline discussions here with the Premier or me as well as Yukon businesses, but also to take part in discussions with First Nations and with all players interested in developing the oil and gas industry in the Yukon.
Specific to the air policy and the air travel purchasing policy that we announced in early April of this year, what we are seeking to do with this policy is correct some of the deficiencies in the current air travel options between Yukon and southern Canada by encouraging competition in the local market and supporting the existence of airline competition. The Yukon government believes that competition is the best way to achieve lower air travel prices, improved airline services and a greater choice of flight destinations.
We are looking forward to the economic development benefits that I mentioned earlier as a result of Air North entering the marketplace in early June. The policy will ensure that Yukon government travel money does not support the anti-competitive practices of an airline that attempts to eliminate fair competition in the Yukon marketplace.
Mr. Chair, weíre using a tool that is readily accessible to us as the Yukon government, which is our own spending habits as they apply to airline travel ó not only the medical side of airline travel but also the business side of airline travel ó as we head to destinations in southern Canada.
I believe the expenditures that we have for airline travel are in the neighbourhood of approximately $3 million to $4 million, some of which is mandated medical travel, other is business travel. And that is something that we can use as a tool to make sure that anti-competitive practices do not occur within the Yukon airline industry. Certainly itís something where we can react very quickly.
With regard to the federal governmentís initiatives of amending the Competition Act, respecting anti-competitive airline behaviour, the Yukon government is in full support of that, and the Yukon government particularly supports providing power to the Commissioner of Competition to issue temporary cease-and-desist orders in case of anti-competitive behaviour.
Chair: Is there any further debate?
Seeing no further debate, we will proceed right now.
Aviation and Marine in the amount of $5,268,000 agreed to
On Transport Services
Transport Services in the amount of $1,629,000 agreed to
Transportation Division in the amount of $40,199,000 agreed to
On Supply Services
On Finance and Administration
Finance and Administration in the amount of $314,000 agree to
On Materiel Management
Materiel Management in the amount of $925,000 agreed to
On Queenís Printer
Queenís Printer in the amount of $323,000 agreed to
On Transportation and Communication
Mr. McRobb: I am aware that this department is responsible for regulatory affairs. Would the minister confirm that? Is this the department that would intervene before the CRTC?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I believe that the department that would intervene with CRTC is Business, Tourism and Culture but I am willing to confirm that and get back to the Member for Kluane on that particular issue.
Transportation and Communication in the amount of $963,000 agreed to
Supply Services in the amount of $2,525,000 agreed to
On Property Management
On Realty Services
Realty Services in the amount of $12,825,000 agreed to
Property Management in the amount of $12,825,000 agreed to
On French Language Services
Administration in the amount of $1,446,000 agreed to
French Language Services in the amount of $1,446,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for Department of Infrastructure in the amount of $66,634,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Schedule A
Mr. Fairclough: I have a couple of questions in this regard. I thank the Premier for sending over the process and procedures that government went through to include this amount in the budget, a carry-over from one department to another. I have a couple of questions in regard to this.
We are looking at a $48-million line item here. Is this necessary to pass in order to continue on and give spending authority to the Department of Infrastructure?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I can answer that question. I answered it in a legislative return by laying out the relevant sections of the Financial Administration Act, but I can also say that what happened was that the fall appropriation act ó or the capital budget ó voted specific amounts of money to specific departments for specific program purposes.
Responsibility for some of the programs has been moved to different departments, so the naming of departments in the fall appropriation act is obsolete. There is no need and there is no desire to change the amounts and purposes, but the department name needs to change. There is no difference in the amounts; it is simply a difference in the department name. A special warrant was issued to allow the new departments to begin spending money on the capital projects for which they received responsibility through renewal. The Financial Administration Act, as I explained, requires special warrants be followed up in the Legislature with the act, so what happens is the piece of legislation before us includes a reallocation of previously voted money to new departments without changing the amounts or purposes. So basically, it is just a departmental name change. There is no difference in how the amounts have been previously voted by the Legislature. So the vote is on the new name.
Mr. Fairclough: That wasnít my question. I asked, if we voted for it, would it give spending authority to the new department? Is that the case? Do we need to vote in favour of this in order to give spending authority to the new department?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes and no. Yes in that it is a department name change. No in that you have already given the vote authority.
Mr. Fairclough: Then what we should be doing is changing the name, and scratching the number off because I believe that this is debatable. I mean it is a capital line item. It is $48 million we are talking about. It is a different amount of money than we voted for in the fall with Community and Transportation Services. Now money has been moved around to several different departments, and I would really like to know where the changes are at right now. It appears that there is a lot of debate that needs to take place if there are changes to this amount. Are there any changes to the combined amount with Community and Transportation Services that we see here in this line item? There is something like a $6-million difference that we see, and I know it is shuffled in the others. Can the Premier table those changes for us to have a look at before we continue on with this debate? We basically have asked for this and we havenít had it brought forward to us other than the procedures that the Premier has laid out in her legislative return.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, two things. First of all, I indicated to the member opposite that this was a cooperative exchange on the floor of the House. The member asked for the legal authority and the step-by-step in the act, and I provided that. What the member is asking for today is to show which department, where the differences are, and I can get that for him, and it is readily available. I can have it copied and I can file it in the House tomorrow.
But again, thereís no need to stand down this particular capital vote authority, because thereís no change in the amounts or the projects that were tabled and voted on in the fall. Thereís no change to those. Itís only a name change, so thereís no change.
If the member voted ó if the capital budget passed the House, and it had, for example, $6 million in graders in infrastructure under the old Department of Community and Transportation Services, itís still that $6 million, but itís under a new department name.
So Iíll provide the detail the member wants. Iíll table it tomorrow, or I can walk it down to the memberís office tomorrow morning, if he wishes, and then Iíll just reassure him that, yes, everything has been done according to the Financial Administration Act and, again, it is only a department change. Itís not an amount change.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, thatís not entirely true with the Schedule A provided in the Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03, Bill No. 9. I say that because we have the Department of Finance, which hasnít had a name change. Itís still the Department of Finance, but thereís an increase in capital spending in the Department of Finance, even though those numbers are moved around.
So what we have before us is not giving a name change to a department so much as changing money around. Now, the same amount of money youíre asking for spending authority to increase in some departments ó and Department of Finance ó because people have moved around. Thatís my concern with this.
There is also a tremendous change in the amount of money that there is for infrastructure ó $6 million. It has moved around. Right now, with the changes, we on this side of the House would like to see where that money is going. I realize that the Premier is going to give us the numbers and the changes, but we would like to be able to see it before going on and passing this line item. I think itís important for the Premier to stand this down. If itís as simple as a name change, then we can go through and do a name change.
Schedule A of the appropriation act doesnít do that. It gives, basically, in my view, spending authority to that department, and that was reaffirmed by the Finance minister. Iím sure there are members upstairs who could quickly come down to show the types of changes that there are on this line item.
Also, if the Premier would like, we can take a break for even a couple of minutes to have a look at that. We on this side of the House would like to do that.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have asked for a couple of documents to come down, but let me explain to the member again and use the finance example that the member opposite uses. The member opposite will see that, in that Schedule A ó and I donít have it in front of me ó there is no longer a Department of Economic Development. Thatís a name change. But in the capital budget in the fall, we voted for a certain amount of capital money for Economic Development. That passed this House. That vote has gone through.
So, what has happened is that that money that was in Economic Development ó some of it has gone to Finance because the economic analysis unit has gone to Finance, some of it has gone to Business, Tourism and Culture. The document that is coming down will show, for example, in infrastructure, that X million dollars was voted under Community Services, this portion of it is under Community Services and this portion is under Infrastructure. Thatís what it will show.
All that Schedule A does is to balance out the new department names with the total amount of the capital. It is no different. The total amount of the capital has been voted and cleared this House. This only reallocates it to the new department names.
Now, I donít have copies. Iíll have to have photocopies made of this document but, for example, in the old Department of Community and Transportation Services, there are lines that show what went to Energy, Mines and Resources and to Infrastructure. The total amount that went to Infrastructure out of Community and Transportation Services is $42,215,000.
So that went to Infrastructure. From the old Department of Community and Transportation Services, $42 million went to Energy, Mines and Resources; and $12,113,000 went to the new Department of Community Services ó and these are gross expenditures.
I will have these photocopied and, again, with due respect to the member opposite, I have explained in the House how it has been done under the authority of the act, and I have also explained that the amounts are no different, which is why Iím asking they be voted on now, and we can then carry on with debate. I can give him these detailed documents so he can follow through and not have to write it down as Iím saying it in the House.
I only have one copy of it this afternoon. Iíll go and get them photocopied for the member opposite.
Mr. Fairclough: We would like to have a look at those numbers and the changes. The Premier did say to me, at an earlier date, that the problems we have with the capital amounts here are the changes of the amount of money that has been transferred over. The one change I did see here is in the Department of Finance. I realize things are moved over, but youíre giving spending authority to the Department of Finance. I know itís not a whole lot ó itís $250,000 ó but youíre giving the spending authority to that department to spend that amount of money, and we will ó and have to ó vote on that $250,000, whether thereís a name change in the department or not. Thatís why Iím saying this, in fact, is very much a debatable amount thatís written here. Itís not something that cannot be debated or be looked at in detail at all. It can be, and I donít want to go there, because itíll take us until the fall sitting ó itíll run into the fall sitting ó but I would like to know where the changes and where the shifts of money are before going ahead and approving this. Itís important for us to know where they go.
I know the member has a copy, and we would like to have a look at that, because we havenít seen exactly where theyíre going, and then weíll be prepared to move on with this line item.
Chair: Do you want a recess? Do you want to just propose a recess?
Mr. Fairclough: Can the Premier have the Clerk or staff here make copies for us on this side of the House for us to look at, and can we take a few minutes to have a look at those changes ó a few minutesí break?
Chair: Is it amenable to the House that we take a few minutes to get these copies out? Okay, then the House will recess for 10 minutes. Just wait for the bells to call you back, and then weíll know theyíre ready to distribute. So, wait for the bells.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to thank the Premier for the details that she has sent over. I asked the Premier about this line item and I would like to know if it is fully debatable.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: It is debated. We debated the capital budget in the fall so it is past tense.
Mr. Fairclough: I just asked whether or not it is debatable. I suppose that if a person can go through it line by line, is it debatable? I realize it was already debated. Is this debatable?
Chair: Since this is a question that would be better answered under the Standing Orders rather than opinions of members of the House we will seek clarification on this, but my initial impression is that all numbers in the budget are debatable. We are going to seek clarification because as far as this questioning is going this is a matter for Standing Orders. The Chair will take two minutes to seek clarification.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Just to explain the procedure, the numbers in the budget under Schedule A are, in fact, debatable and votable because in the previous budget, the departments were under old names. Now the previous departments are non-existent and these are now appropriations to the new departments so they are completely debatable under these departments. All departments not affected are appropriated under the old bill.
Mr. Fairclough: That just confirms what we said in the fall and Iíd like to move on.
Capital Expenditures in the amount of $48,123,000 agreed to
Department of Infrastructure agreed to
Department of Health and Social Services
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I am pleased today to introduce the operation and maintenance budget for Health and Social Services for the 2002-03 fiscal year. The five-percent increase contained in this budget reinforces this governmentís continued commitment to the priority of health care and to improving the programs and services that impact each and every citizen of the Yukon Territory.
I would like to draw your attention to some of the highlights that are planned priorities over the coming year. Of the $6.7-million increase, almost 65 percent of this new money will go toward the staffing and operating of the new Copper Ridge long-term care facility. This 72-bed facility is scheduled to open in June of this year. Itís a state-of-the-art facility that combines the best practices in residential care design and programming with a comfortable home-like living environment. The facility was built to be part of the community and to provide its residents with a high quality of care and life. It will be a safe and enjoyable working environment for the staff and an excellent living environment for the residents and for those who visit.
Supporting the staff who deliver programs to the public is important to this government, whether it is the staff in departments or staff in the many non-government organizations and agencies in our community.
Nearly $1 million of this yearís increase is a direct result of the collective agreement for government employees. Other collective agreement increases at the hospital and Child Development Centre account for an additional $650,000. These increases show our support for the valuable work of these many employees. Our communities are built on the dedication and commitment of those who work in grassroots organizations and groups. The work of non-government organizations is especially important to me as a minister. The government cannot and should not be the only ones who provide services in our communities.
Itís important to make sure that government and non-government organizations work well together to serve their clients in the best way possible. Having a good relationship means that everyone benefits ó the staff, the clients, the taxpayers and all the others who support the efforts of these organizations.
This government is committed to continuing our support to them, and in this budget, funding levels for non-government organizations have been maintained. In addition to the substantial increase to the Child Development Centre, we have also included increases that were brought in partway through last year for the Learning Disabilities Association, the Yukon Association for Community Living, the Yukon Council on Ageing, the Line of Life, and Teegatha'Oh Zheh.
Our health professionals are also very important to the delivery of quality health and social services in our community. We have worked hard with the nurses to bring in a recruitment and retention package that recognizes the value of their profession to our health care system.
I recently announced the members named to the Nursing Advisory Committee. Six registered nurses, one licensed practical nurse, and a First Nations representative have been selected to sit on the committee. This committee will provide valuable and respectful contributions in helping us with recruitment and retention initiatives in both the short term and the long term.
Recently we reached an agreement with the physicians on a variety of outstanding issues that will ensure we remain competitive and keep the high quality of physician services that we are proud of.
The department is closely monitoring the physician job action in British Columbia in order to assess any impacts that situation may have on the services Yukoners use in that province.
Recently we have also supported the physiotherapists by responding to their needs by passing legislation governing their profession. This session, I introduced amendments to the Dental Profession Act to make it easier for the territoryís dental therapists to do their work. As I mentioned earlier this session, I have asked the department to work with other unregulated health professionals, such as midwives, speech and language pathologists and audiologists so I can bring forward new legislation. This new legislation will provide a general framework to govern various health professions that are currently unregulated.
Mr. Chair, the work that many health professionals do in both the public and private sector must be recognized, respected and appreciated, and this governmentís approach is to support them wherever possible. In the health area, we are anticipating increases of nearly $1.8 million. This includes increases in our insured health programs, as well as our community nursing, emergency services and community health programs. These increases are largely price and volume driven and primarily affect our medical travel program.
Some of these increases are being offset by recoveries from non-insured health benefits for medical travel and reciprocal billings for hospital services.
In March of this year, I had the opportunity to unveil the Yukonís tele-health network. This state-of-the-art network will improve access to health services for Yukoners living in rural and remote communities, and develop a way for health care providers to talk to each other. It will also create opportunities for visits between hospitalized patients in Whitehorse with families and friends in rural Yukon.
Recently, Premier Duncan, Minister Tucker and I presented to Commissioner Roy Romanow of the federal health care review on the many challenges and ideas for our health care system from a Yukon perspective. We are expecting important work to emerge from this national process and we look forward to what Commissioner Romanow has to say in his final report expected later this year.
One of this governmentís platform commitments was to address the alcohol and drug problems in the Yukon through an independent structure. I am pleased that the alcohol and drug secretariat is now operating with its executive director reporting directly to me. Recently I announced an increase of $700,000 to the alcohol and drug secretariat to begin the expansion of prevention and treatment programming, including services to FASD clients, their families and caregivers. The funding for this year will allow for implementation beginning in the fall of a complete range of addiction services. Included in the expansion will be a total of 16 new positions in the areas of prevention and training, medical support to detoxification, outpatient and live-in treatment services, community outreach services in Dawson City, Haines Junction and Watson Lake and a halfway house to provide a more stable living situation for those who need it after completion of live-in treatment. An FASD counsellor and an FASD prevention consultant will form part of the new services. Together, these new positions will enhance existing services to those with FASD and their families. This will increase the focus that this government has on addressing FASD in the Yukon.
Negotiations are also proceeding with the federal government toward an alcohol and drug treatment and rehabilitation agreement. Funding is also being sought through other federal avenues.
A full range of Yukon-based detoxification, treatment, prevention and training services is the goal of a phased-in approach to services by the secretariat. This range of services will include medical support to detoxification and services to clients with both mental health and addictions issues, outreach workers, intensive gender-specific live-in treatment programs, a halfway house, and enhanced prevention services and an increased focus on FASD and training of professionals.
FASD continues to be a priority of this government, and the secretariat is increasing its efforts aimed at coordinating services and taking a more proactive approach. It has already implemented a school-based prevention program in this area, and public service announcements continue to educate the public. The FAS working group, chaired by the alcohol and drug secretariat, completed a report on FAS/FAE diagnosis and assessment. Before summer, I will hear from the interdepartmental committee regarding costing of an assessment and diagnostic team approach for the Yukon.
I would also like to acknowledge the very successful Prairie Northern Pacific Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Conference, hosted by the Yukon on May 8-10. This international event attracted more than 525 participants and was the largest conference to be hosted in the Yukon to date. I had the opportunity to meet with my ministerial colleagues from the western provinces and the Northwest Territories to discuss many of the FASD issues that are common to us all.
Other priorities planned for this year and addressed in this budget include expansion of our successful healthy families program and increased funding to stabilize our group home staffing. Considerable work will be done to assess and respond to the recommendations of the group home review. Mr. Chair, one of the suggestions for the group home review was to establish an advocate for children in the Yukon. This recommendation will be assessed, as well. I expect to be receiving the second part of the report of the child-in-care review from the Child Welfare League of Canada over the next few months.
The department is also planning for the implementation of the new federal Youth Criminal Justice Act and has negotiated federal funding to assist in this effort.
In Social Services, we have enhanced funding in our adult services unit by increasing our capacity in the supported independent living and vocational rehabilitation services area. Over the next year, I have asked the department to restart work on the anti-poverty strategy so that we can begin to look at some of the major issues facing the poorer members of our society.
I have also asked the department to work with the Department of Justice and with all the key stakeholders in developing supported and substitute decision-making legislation to bring forward next year.
Mr. Chair, these are some of the budget and policy highlights for the Department of Health and Social Services for the coming year, and I would be happy to take questions at this time.
Mr. Keenan: I appreciate the opportunity to work with the minister on the Department of Health and Social Services. Certainly, many changes have happened since renewal and it has affected the Department of Health also ó Iím not sure if itís renewal but certainly the accountability statements. It has been Liberalized, if I can say it in that manner.
As I have gone through the accountability statements, and, by golly, I have. Much of my life I have spent reading legalese, and different aspects of what youíre attempting to express and attempting to say ó I have to say that this very much confused me. It very, very much confused me, and each time I read it, I could go away with a different thought, and if I read it again the next day, Iíd have another thought, and then every day I read it, I had another thought. It doesnít seem clear, which certainly puts a bit of a fight within me because it was certainly this Liberal government that was looking to privatize services.
Fortunately that never proceeded in the manner it was going, and I said to myself, "Well, thatís good ó thatís good itís not moving in that manner." But I think, with vague accountability statements, the vision and the overview and whatnot, that it could certainly be tightened up.
Please donít get me wrong on this. I certainly admire when we have a strategic plan that would speak to the measurement needs of the objectives. It certainly could be a good thing.
Iíd like to read to the minister the section called the primary responsibilities, and itís on page 11A-2. It says: "The client-centred nature of service delivery within Health and Social Services has allowed us to conceptualize the delivery of services not from the perspective of how the department is organized to deliver service but in terms of the nature of the services provided to Yukoners." Holy moly, that says a lot.
I do have an interpretation or translation and, well, everybodyís used to me by this point in time ó six years in the House with my particular, elegant way of speaking. This is what this means to me. What I just read sort of says that delivering services to clients allows us to focus on the services themselves, rather than on how the department is organized to deliver them. Is that what the minister meant in the previous paragraph I spoke of?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The focus in the department is on the client. Whether that client is a child or an adult, that is the focus of the services that are delivered through the department. The member opposite made some point about privatizing services, and Iíd like to know what example he had of that particular process under this government.
The member opposite needs to know that there was no renewal that happened in the Department of Health and Social Services; however, we did produce accountability plans. This is the first year for the Yukon to ever have an accountability plan, and itís a work in progress. Every year they will improve. The way I would like to improve them next year, for example, is to have greater input from non-government organizations that provide a good portion of health and social services to Yukoners.
You know, hereís the balance. The accountability statements are for the government, yet theyíre not the only provider of those services. Itís my position, as a minister ó and Iíve been very clear about this in public, as well ó that weíre not the only ones who provide services, and we need to work with those organizations.
As a matter of fact, we have contracted a group to work with our non-government organization partners in the Department of Health and Social Services to look at developing a framework so we can talk to each other in a polite and respectful way and gain expertise from both sides of the service-providing arena.
What often happens is that you get into really confrontational relationships with NGOs, or this has been what has happened in the past, because the only time you ever talk to them is at funding time. By that time, thereís usually some crisis involved with the conversation, and itís only this one subject that one speaks of.
My vision for Health and Social Services is, first of all, itís beyond just health ó itís also social services ó and that has been something that has not been as highlighted in the past.
I think we need to talk to Yukoners who have been providing these services over the years, find out what they think beyond funding arrangements. There is a lot out there, and there is a lot of expertise. There is a lot of efficiencies, as well, but itís a better way of doing business, quite frankly, Mr. Chair. Like I say, next year, when we get these accountability statements ó and theyíll never be perfect, but when they get a little bit better than this ó next year theyíll be better ó there will be greater input from our non-governmental organizations.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, because I think thatís certainly the point that I was wanting to make with the minister. Thatís definitely the point. I did want to ask the minister, who helped the department put these accountability statements together. I think the minister certainly answered the question to say it was the department and the political will of the government, I would take it to say. So I would very much be encouraged if next year, when we go out to talk about accountability statements that we do do it on a broader sweep and bring the people in, the NGOs, et cetera, to talk about what we can do.
Iím not trying to make fun of anyone here. Iím just a plain-spoken individual, and generally people in the Yukon just like to hear what you have to say and not to elaborate so much on it, I guess. Iíd like to point out again that hereís another paragraph: "By envisioning Ďwhat we doí from the perspective of Ďwhat our primary responsibility isí and describing it in those terms we avoid the trap of describing Ďwhat we doí from the perspective of the Ďhow we are organizedí. This eliminates the artificial silos that at times inhibits the obtainment of a broader view of the part all of us can play in ensuring the core purpose of the department is accomplished."
Iíve got a translation. My translation is, "When we think about our responsibilities before our job titles, we have a better understanding of how to get the job done."
There are many interpretations ó many, many. So I would very much like to show the minister that I appreciate where the minister is coming from on that, and if the minister is willing to make the community consensus broader and to focus on a little plainer English, Iíd very much appreciate that. The minister is signalling me that that is not a problem. Thank you, I accept that.
I just want to close on that by saying that the accountability part of it is making sure that people understand exactly what youíre promising to do. So, if we build that bridge, weíre going to go so much further together.
The minister just asked me about, for an example, this government and privatization. I will answer that question but not at this point in time.
In Question Period the other day, the minister was duking it out with the Member for Porter Creek North and stated some issues within the emotion of Question Period. I would like to set the record straight regarding New Democrat Party initiatives to help children and families. We increased the funding to the CDC by $300,000; we started the healthy family program; we started the kids recreation fund; we increased the direct operating grant for child care programs; we provided money for toy lending libraries; and we increased the welfare rates in the 2000 budget, but of course that was not implemented.
So, Iím not terribly interested in going back and forth on those issues because those are the facts.
Letís just get some questions out of the way that are just normal questions. Could the minister please tell me what the cost of renewal is and the cost of ministerial travel?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: There was no renewal of the Department of Health and Social Services. What did happen is that Health and Social Services provided one human resource staff member for the period of July 12 to March 31 at a cost of approximately $69,000. There were no overtime costs incurred, and that staff member went toward the renewal initiative.
I need to go back to some of the comments made by the member opposite. The member has talked about his plain-speaking and I can certainly appreciate that. Staff in the Department of Health and Social Services have rewritten my letter so many times that they are really clear on the fact that I appreciate that as well and that is the way I speak.
The member opposite talked about the kids recreation fund. This fund came out as a recommendation from the anti-poverty strategy, if the member opposite will recall, and that is why I have restarted the anti-poverty strategy. Because it is an important initiative, it is a practical initiative, and they bring forth really practical options to look at individuals who are living in poverty.
The member opposite also talked about broadening the scope for the development of the accountability plans. I want to tell the member opposite that we are moving quite quickly on that, and we are actually having a meeting with non-government organizations in June, so this is moving along at a great rate.
I guess I am not too clear on the last question, other than the renewal cost because the department wasnít a part of that.
The member opposite was talking about ministerial travel and that is done through the Executive Council Office. I know that I didnít travel as the minister for renewal. And the member opposite was talking about ministerial travel, and I havenít gone anywhere, not since I have been minister.
Mr. Keenan: So, thank you very much, Mr. Chair. Through the costs of renewal within the department, I appreciate what the minister has said and I certainly will take that answer to heart.
The other day in Question Period, the minister ó and the minister touched on it just now ó talked about the anti-poverty strategy. Could the minister please just expand on that for me?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Under the previous government, the anti-poverty strategy was started and there was a series of public meetings. The member opposite will remember this because we were all part of that time in Health and Social Services. There were a number of groups that met ó largely a focus group that came forward and did a report, the anti-poverty strategy phase 1. Then the strategy was stopped in 2000 and then, since I became minister, Iíve restarted that strategy.
Again, what I need to do at this point, though, is ó although Iíve already talked to the Anti-Poverty Coalition, I havenít spoken to other groups. Well, Iíve spoken to them, but not about this issue. Iím going to have to go back and check with them again and see how willing they are to sit as members of a new strategy group. We did the policy work in the department that needed to be done in order to restart the process, and that was part of phase 2. What we need to do now is go back and speak to the stakeholders, in particular those who live in poverty.
Mr. Keenan: I would certainly like to thank the minister for acknowledging that this work did start under the New Democrat government and that we took it just as seriously as the minister of the day does and worked toward that end.
The minister spoke about, before entering into phase 2, doing the policy work. Can the minister please elaborate on some of that policy work and who was involved with the policy work development?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: There hasnít been an increase, for example, in social assistance rates for 11 years. There has been some debate about whether it has been 11 years or 12 years. There are options around social assistance, and one of those options was the change that we made as a government right after the election, being consistent with Yukon Liberal Party policy, saying there doesnít need to be a job search by individuals who have children under the age of six. Previous governments, over the years, had decided that ó I believe, actually, that was changed by the Yukon Party government ó a job search was only excused if you had children under the age of two, and we changed that to under the age of six. Other things need to be explored.
One of those things is that weíre one of the few jurisdictions in Canada that claws back the national child care benefit ó the NCCB ó so there needs to be some research and costing on that issue. Also, thereís a Liberal Party policy ó federally, as well as territorially ó on a guaranteed income, and there needed to be policy work done on that ó research as well as costing.
So all those things needed to be done, as well as a series of other pieces of work in relation to the Financial Administration Act and what we could and could not do, as well as checking with other jurisdictions on what was the state of the art as far as support for individuals living in poverty.
Mr. Keenan: Could the minister please elaborate on the guaranteed income? I heard the minister say that guaranteed income may be mirrored by the federal Liberal policy ó just any thoughts.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I think the federal policy ó if I remember, it was 1985 at the federal level, when the federal Liberal Party came up with a notion of having a guaranteed income for persons with disabilities ó I guess I didnít say that the first time. Thatís what the problem was ó persons with severe disabilities. There was a Liberal Party policy passed in 1995 by the local territorial Liberals, and thatís what weíre talking about ó for persons who shouldnít be doing a job search if they have severe disabilities.
Mr. Keenan: That was pertaining mostly to people with severe disabilities. Thank you very much for that. I appreciate that.
The minister was speaking about, in Question Period again ó will the minister please describe the clawback from the national child care benefit? When will that be stopped as indicated in Question Period?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: First of all, one of the things weíre doing that we spoke about before is that weíre restarting the anti-poverty strategy, and what Iím expecting from them is an examination of that option as well as the option of a guaranteed income. What I want that group to do, if itís agreeable to them, is to look at all the options.
Certainly, there hasnít been an increase in social assistance rates for 11 years, but there are other options out there in order to target the help to the groups that need it most ó for example, people with young children who are on social assistance. One of the options around the clawback of the national child care benefit is that that would target that group with the help they may need.
Iím not going to move forward until I get recommendations from the anti-poverty group or the coalition, whatever they happen to be, so weíre nowhere near that point and Iím not going to move forward until I hear from the community.
Mr. Keenan: Just in Question Period ó and I certainly realize and recognize the emotion of Question Period ó while I was just sitting back in my new corner office over here, in my corner here, listening very intently, I certainly caught that, so I appreciate where the minister is going on that and the involvement of the people the minister will be involving on that. The anti-poverty strategy folk are going to be looking at the clawback of the national benefit ó maybe, if not an increase in social assistance rates, maybe a minor one, maybe not, but youíre going to do it with those folks ó there would also be incentives built in in social assistance, and we might be looking at a guaranteed income for people with severe disabilities. Those are three that I picked up. Okay, thank you very much for that.
On the continuing care facility, has there been complete involvement with the staff and management as per the hours and the buildup and the makeup of the new building? I mean, we have a new energy there now, a whole new energy. Of course, we always want to have staff buy-in, especially the staff who work in those situations. They work in very stressful situations. Can the minister please elaborate just on the involvement of the folks there on setting the tone, the mission statement, value of life, whatever?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, we just finished negotiations with the union on Friday on that very issue of hours of work for all three facilities: for the Thomson Centre, for the continuing care facility, and for Macaulay Lodge, as well as involvement of the families in the daily routine at those facilities. Is that what the member was asking?
Mr. Keenan: I guess, in part, because I certainly know that the unions ó I have no right to stand on the floor of the House and negotiate with the minister, and thatís not really what I was asking. But certainly Iím very pleased that the government has been able to come to a consensus, I would hope, with the unions. I certainly appreciate it from this point of view, because Iím sure that we will be affected ó hopefully not for a long time ó by building such as that and the services that are provided. Certainly, I remember my own sweet papa, and he was in a situation as such, and I have never come to admire nurses and front-line workers more than in that moment. I just didnít ever come to appreciate really what they do, and they are family. So when we go into a new building like that, thereís a certain energy, thereís a certain dynamic, that would come, and thatís more or less what I was looking at, the buy-in. They are service providers. They must have to back each other up at times, and I do believe that staff are just as valuable as management and management is just as valuable as staff, and we have to work together. I think thatís the point of view I was speaking from. Could the minister elaborate on that?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The staff have been very involved in the process of setting up programming, looking at what has worked in those facilities and what hasnít worked, and what we want to transport to the new facility and what we donít want to bring with us. This is an opportunity for new beginnings. It is also an opportunity for us to forge a relationship between the families, clients, staff and the management of these facilities, and we are trying very hard to do that. There are regular staff meetings, of course, and that is ongoing work, as well as policy development work that is done in the facilityís unit.
Mr. Keenan: I would like to remind the minister, and I am sure that the minister will stand and say that she has already done it, but certainly there is ó I was going to say cultural divides, but I donít like to think of it as cultural divides. I would like to think of it as maybe bridges or relationships between cultures to work for the right thing. It doesnít matter if you are a First Nation person, Ukrainian person or whoever; we are all affected by family. Has the minister made that effort to reach out in that government process ó I sort of want to say self-government, but the recognition of the different people affected by it? Has it been reached out to that arm, and said to the politicians of the municipalities or anybody like as such that this is a team here, we are all affected by this and how can we make it better? Was that a part of the approach?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I can give a really concrete example of how the various communities have worked together, and that was in choosing the name for the continuing care facility: Copper Ridge Olivine Place. That was chosen by the two councils at Thomson Centre and Macaulay Lodge, and then it was sent up to the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, and there was agreement there as well that that was a name that was acceptable.
So thereís a very concrete example. There has been a series of open houses, one of which I attended when I was the critic, actually, when they were just in the design phase of the continuing care facility. There has been a series of ongoing open houses over time for the neighbourhood, and people have come in and given their opinion.
In addition to that, weíve been working with families who will be having residents living in the facility, and thatís ongoing. The relationship with the city, of course, has been pretty "meat and potatoes" at the city level. Weíve been talking to them about the transportation to bring people in for our day program, which will be moving from the Thomson Centre up to Copper Ridge, and weíve been talking to them about zoning, of course, and other issues around the official community plan. Thatís ongoing work thatís done with them, although Health and Social Services has now taken ownership of Copper Ridge. Previous relationships were with the Department of Community and Transportation Services and Government Services.
Mr. Keenan: That certainly helps. To name a bill I know might seem insignificant to some, but to get a consensus and working relationship with all will set a concrete example. Does that example reflect policy or the difference between my old pappy lying in there and his needs, and say another person of another origin or race, or whatever? Those are examples that probably happen on a daily basis just in that personís primary care. Would that be correct?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: It isnít primary care that happens at the continuing care facility. Itís not primary care; however, there is a residents council in place at Macaulay Lodge as well as at the Thomson Centre. There will also be a residents council at Copper Ridge. The member opposite has been very clear that there are a number of different care needs at that facility ó different levels of care, different age groups, not so much medical needs but different social needs for the individuals who will be living at Copper Ridge.
I would imagine that that residents council is going to be a pretty interesting place for at least the first couple of years, as many of these policy issues are discussed by the residents and then recommendations are made to the facility management. Thatís something that weíll all be working on together.
A lot of the policies that were developed for the other two facilities were developed over time because of physical plant problems. For example, one section of Macaulay Lodge couldnít be used because of fire issues and so there were policies that were developed around that. There have been policies around the Handy Bus that developed over time because people were coming up to the Thomson Centre. All these things have happened because of circumstance more than anything else. This is an opportunity for us to plan ahead, but there is also going to be a need to look at emerging issues at these two facilities as well.
Mr. Keenan: I think from the ministerís answers that I can take comfort in the fact that government is ensuring care on a case-by-case basis with an individual. I take very much comfort from that because, certainly, Canada ó and the Yukon is no different from the rest of Canada ó reflects multicultural diversity. Itís nice that when you get to be older and whatnot that you would be able to maybe have help in your original language, whether itís French or whatever. I appreciate what the ministerís saying.
Can the minister please just elaborate on what the plans for Macaulay Lodge might be? Is this not in the Health department? Itís over to somebody else now? Okay. Could the minister just stand on the floor and tell me who would be responsible for that so I might ask the appropriate person?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the facility still belongs to Health and Social Services. We are, however, working with Yukon Housing to access, we hope, some federal funds to do some renovations in the building. In keeping with the idea of working with non-government organizations, weíre also working with the Yukon Council on Ageing on that initiative, and they havenít reached any final agreements as yet. My understanding is that it will be the end of June before there is sort of a preliminary idea of where we might go.
Mr. Keenan: Iíd like to talk a little bit about the accountability statements again here. Within the vision statement for the department, it says that the department sees " Ö people demonstrate greater self-reliance and responsible management of their own health and wellness Ö" I guess I could ask the question, really, what does that mean, but I know what it means. I know exactly what it means. Itís in the vision statement for the department and, not trying to get whippy with the minister or anything like as such, those are very good, idealistic-type statements, the member having been the minister of sport at one point in time and working toward healthy families and whatnot, putting effort into getting programming together.
It also talks about the skills that are needed for responsible, healthy lifestyles, and Iíd like to know just who would be defining what "responsible" means. Does it mean that, if you smoke, youíre not responsible, or if you only smoke a little bit, that youíre only a little bit responsible? I know the former minister was very much into a mode of prevention, and I certainly appreciate that. I do believe that we can have healthy lives and, if we look around the examples of the world, we do have, in Asia, some very agile, healthy elderly people.
So, I was wondering, now that we have put these types of statements in there, does the minister have any ideas about programming or incentives to achieve them?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Of course, Mr. Chair. There are a couple of things. First of all, the member opposite talked about defining responsible behaviour. Self-destructive behaviour is not responsible; however, itís what people choose to do, nevertheless. So I think the reality is that people smoke if they want to. They also drink to excess and thatís their right as Canadians if they want to do that. What weíre trying to do is promote a different way of doing things. So the healthy family initiative, which has expanded into the rural areas, for example, is a good example of the expansion of prevention programs. In addition to that, weíve got the green prescription. The green prescription, as the former Minister of Health will recall, is basically a team of professionals working with an individual to help them lose weight and to have better living habits ó to help them quit smoking if they want to, to have better nutrition, to get better exercise, to look at the physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual health of that human being.
In the Yukon Health Act, thatís what we take as our focus ó the whole person. That sort of behaviour that is self-destructive doesnít speak to making sure that person is well and what weíre hoping is to change that behaviour in a way that makes it a better fit for Yukon health.
Iím sorry, the name of that program is the "green prescription" ó green, like green tree, prescription.
Mr. Keenan: I certainly support programs such as to lose weight, quit smoking, go hiking, eat a healthy meal. Iíve been looking for that for a long time, so I certainly can support what the minister is saying about that. Although at some point in time the incentive should always be to better yourself. There would be no repercussion if a person did smoke and could not smoke, et cetera.
There would be no repercussion on folks who didnít. I know recently of a doctor outside of the Yukon Territory who said that he would no longer accept anybody who smokes. Now I am not sure if that breaks the Canada Health Act or the code of ethics that doctors go by, or anything like as such. But I guess that is an example of what I mean by a repercussion.
Can the minister please elaborate?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: My understanding is that very issue has gone to the new committee set up by the Minister of Health at the federal level. We asked the federal government to do that so when we had disputes and couldnít figure out whether something was in keeping with the Canada Health Act or not, that there would be some sort of dispute resolution mechanism that the provinces and territories could come to, to make sure that would happen. So I think that issue about not treating people who smoke might be one of the issues that will be going to that mediation or dispute resolution committee.
The member opposite talks about preventive programs and the anti-smoking program. The anti-smoking campaign is rolling out this fall. That is one example. We have had various focuses for preventive health over the years, and this year it is anti-smoking.
Mr. Keenan: I would appreciate if the minister could pass on the pamphlet or whatever on the green prescription, just so I can get an awareness of it. I see the minister giving me a thumbs up on that, and I certainly appreciate that she could do that.
So we talked about the dispute resolution mechanism at the federal level, and whatnot. I guess I would just like to ask pointedly of this minister, who represents the Yukon territorial government in this matter, does this minister, or this government, have anything up her sleeve ó that might be a bad choice of words, but the minister knows ó for future thinking in terms of repercussion, or anything like as such? The focus will be on prevention. I have heard what was said from the federal level, and I would like to hear it from a territorial perspective.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I think thatís what is going to come out of the Romanow commission report thatís due at the end of November. In the preliminary report, as I read it, there were two focuses.
The first one was on prevention programs and people taking responsibility for their own health, and then all of the communities supporting that initiative by the individual.
The second part, as I read it, of the Romanow commission report ó and I donít think the final report will be that much different ó talks about the way we deal with health care professionals, and we call them more medical professions. I suppose the way Mr. Romanow put it ó and Iíll put it into laymanís terms, or my terms, or plain-spokenness, as the member opposite likes to say. We pay health professionals more money for having more patients come to them when theyíre sick. Maybe we need to look at a model with health professionals so that there is support for keeping patients healthy.
In the Yukon, with our doctors, for example, we have a real mish-mash. Itís not of how we pay our doctors, for example. Some are on contract; some are on fee-for-service; some of them sort of have a mixture of the two. Itís not like anywhere else in Canada. We do things differently up here, as people often say.
Down south, the fee-for-service notion with physicians, according to Romanow, is actually fostering a not-healthy health care system. Those were the two major changes that I think he is going to focus on in his final report. I hope that when he says these things, he gives us some examples of how we might do that. Thatís going to be our challenge.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I certainly appreciate what the minister has said and the work that is ongoing with Mr. Romanow across this country of ours. I can certainly wait for that. I think that is something that is very, very good and will be healthy for Yukoners in general in the future. I certainly want to see it that way.
I remember back in the 1960s, when it was said that the average 30-year-old Canadian was in as good a shape as the average 60-year-old Swede. That was a long time ago, and it probably motivated a lot of folks to get out and about, and maybe some even started at that point in time running, jogging, and they probably have never quit. But certainly I remember that, and itís that type of initiative that we have to use to get very proactive for health reasons.
I certainly like the idea of what the minister is talking about. Maybe it will be like the folks down on Fourth Avenue and healthy lifestyles or whatever you call those ó well, Iím not supposed to be giving plugs for people here anyway, and Iím not, but I certainly like that preventive aspect of it, and if we can start to incorporate that into our daily lives, it will be so much better.
Again, within the mission, it talks about a range of accessible, affordable services that will assist, and then it goes on. Does that start to allude to the fact that the department will not be taking responsibility for ensuring universal programs?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, in previous budgets, I believe ó because I recognize this line. This was the original line that was what the purpose of the department was. This is nothing new. This was just put under "mission", if you would, and the member opposite has twice asked me if I have something up my sleeve, and Iím wearing short sleeves to start off with, today, but something up my sleeve in terms of bringing in private health care, and thatís not in the books.
Over the years, there will be more questions about where we go with health care, because what Canadians also said to Mr. Romanow ó quite clearly ó was that we want to have a health care system in Canada but we canít afford the system that we have right now. So thatís going to be our challenge over time. The member opposite knows that St. Paulís Hospital in Vancouver now has a private CAT scan. I would imagine that thatís one of those issues that is eventually going to go to one of those dispute resolution committees set up by the federal Minister of Health.
There are going to be challenges over the next few years. Weíve been virtually untouched here in the Yukon, but down south as we know, because weíve all had relatives whoíve had to go Outside for treatment in the last few years, things have changed dramatically. Those issues are going to have to be addressed.
Mr. Keenan: I take comfort from the fact that the minister might be standing on the floor of this House saying that the minister doesnít have a list at this point in time for taking away the responsibility of a universal program. No matter what it is, there is not a list on there thatís targeted or anything.
Can I just get the minister on record to confirm that?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I think the member opposite is trying to find out whether weíre going to be cutting some sort of health care, and thatís not in the books in this ó thatís not what weíre trying to do here.
Mr. Keenan: But itís very important that I do get that on the record. I have folks out in the communities who are quite concerned about that. As the member knows, I represent different areas of the Yukon that have a very ó well, one of the areas that I represent in the Yukon has the highest percentage of seniors per capita. So, certainly itís a question that has to be asked and it has to be confirmed ó of course, itís Tagish.
We talk about responsible risk taking. I know I could just ask to borrow the dictionary off the table from the Clerks here, but could the minister define just what responsible risk taking might entail? What does that mean?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I suppose that each person defines that differently. Some people feel that leaving the house is taking a risk. Other people feel that going bungee jumping is a risk. I, personally, consider that a major risk. Itís up to the individual to define what that risk taking might be. But ultimately we have a jurisdiction that has more accidents than any other jurisdiction in Canada. So that sort of risk-taking behaviour that is common to older teenage boys, for example, and young adult men is at a time when people do take more risks and those are clearly defined risks. Thatís why we have, to a large extent, so many injuries.
Mr. Keenan: The minister will not find me jumping off the Johnsons Crossing bridge with a piece of rubber attached to my ankles. That just will not happen. So I have an understanding there.
Iíd like to talk about the pioneer utility grant just a bit here, and Iíd like to ask the minister if the minister would consider increasing the grant. Now, we ó I say "we" but I mean the Liberal government ó did increase the grant on a one-time basis. It was done by the previous Health minister, if I recollect, and it was done because the fuel prices were extremely high. Weíre into the same situation now, with fuel prices going extremely high, with the cold weather that weíre experiencing here on May 14. Usually, you donít have to have your fire going or your heater on at this point in time. So there is an increased hardship.
Iíd like to ask the minister this: has the minister considered that, or would the minister consider that at this point in time?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: No. Mr. Chair, we have had a substantial number of pressures on the department, increased cost of medical travel being not the least of those. We are not looking at increasing the pioneer utility grant at this time.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you, Mr. Chair, for the candid comment. I appreciate it.
Mr. Chair, on the pioneer utility grant, there seems to be a great deal of confusion within some of the First Nations about whether theyíre eligible or not. I know there are guidelines that are out there. Iíd like to ask the minister if the minister could approach, through the self-government forum that you have or anything like as such, to find a way that we might make it clear to the First Nation folks who live on those lands, because some can, some canít. And I found it very difficult to be able to say, "Well, you qualify but you donít" and they sort of live side-by-side.
Iím wondering if the minister would take that responsibility over. I made it sound like itís my responsibility. Itís not really, but itís certainly something that Iíve been working on to make sure that if thereís a program thatís existing, at least theyíd be able to take uptake to it. But would the minister consider approaching ó or I can have people approach the minister to find a way to clarify it and to make it more workable and accessible to all. Would the minister share her thoughts with me on that, please?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, this is a common problem, and Iím not too sure whether the problem has been rectified yet, but there are different application forms in different communities and they picked up at different places. There is a series of problems with the pioneer utility grant. Another problem is that itís not only individuals on First Nation land or First Nation housing that may or may not be eligible, but itís also people who live in Whitehorse housing or Yukon Housing who may or may not be eligible or who have different circumstances.
This is a problem. It is a real problem in communications more than anything else, and I will certainly undertake to work with Yukon First Nations to make sure that we have more information available. There is nothing wrong with more information available. That is a good thing. I hear the member oppositeís comments on that subject.
Mr. Keenan: I certainly concur with the minister; if we can become more descriptive and make it easier for folks, that is what we should be doing. The minister answered my question with certainty that she would talk to the First Nations, and I appreciate that. I appreciate what the minister has said, and it might be to get all partners at the table, the folks who live in Whitehorse in the different Yukon Housing scenarios and whatnot. If the minister would commit to undertaking that for next yearís uptake to make it clear, and to make it a one form or something like that. Maybe we canít go with filling out one form because of the different tenure aspects that might be involved between Whitehorse and the communities, First Nationsí land, fee simple or not. Have I summed that up fairly well for the minister, and is that what the minister is going to be able to do?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I will endeavour to work on that.
Mr. Keenan: I certainly appreciate what the minister has undertaken there.
Could the minister please describe the looking-after-children model? Does the minister have an analysis on that?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I wonder if the member opposite could tell me which part of the accountability plan ó or if this is what we are still talking about ó that the member is referencing?
Mr. Keenan: No, itís not only just a part of the accountability statement that the minister spoke about, weíre going to be having a model that would be looking after the children and itís the ministerís baby. Iím just wondering if the minister has any thoughts on it. Maybe itís the wrong choice of words. Certainly itís within the bailiwick of the minister here now. If the minister doesnít have an answer, thatís fine, I can move on and the minister can endeavour to get me that answer on the looking-after-children model. Would the minister be able to get me that information?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I still need more clarification from the member opposite. You know, we are working now on recommendations that came from the Anglin report as well as the future recommendations from the children-in-care review that is going to be given to me by the Child Welfare League of Canada. Thatís the children-in-care model, but weíre also looking at children who are in day cares, for example ó everything from the healthy families, which is actually prenatal work ó so thatís pre-birth ó through to young offenders and transition into adult services for children and youth with disabilities. So I need more clarification from the member opposite.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: So the member opposite is talking about the children in care? Okay.
So this is the plan. The plan is this: the department has been looking at the recommendations from the Anglin report and they have been doing a detailed analysis of them including costing of those recommendations. Some of those recommendations will work in the Yukon; some wonít.
This was a specialist who came from Outside and some of his recommendations may not work. So what weíre doing is seeing what can be done and in addition to that, we need to take the more technical results from the Child Welfare League report and integrate them into some sort of plan. Itís not going to be a plan for two or three months; this will be a plan for at least five or six or 10 or 15 years into the future.
It will have to be phased in over time so that we can improve services to our children in care. Clearly thatís what the need is, and clearly this government has recognized that that needs to be done. Those services need to be improved. What we also need to do is go out there and speak to our partners about that. Our partners are First Nations. Our partners are the staff working with these kids every day. Our partners are other levels of government who offer recreational opportunities, for example. Our partners are non-governmental organizations that offer services to those same children in care.
We also need to talk to other departments ó Education, Justice ó and that work is going to take a considerable amount of time. By and large, though, over the next six months, I hope to go out into the communities and talk to Yukon communities ó and in particular to Yukon First Nations ó about this issue. Itís going to take a long time, but Iíd like to see some short-term stuff done very quickly, within the next year. This is a need. This has to be done. The problem, of course, is going to be finding financial resources for that type of work. The Department of Health and Social Services is very lean. It doesnít have a lot of extra room. As a matter of fact, my Cabinet colleagues will not even make eye contact with me during the budget process. So itís a department that is always needing money, and there is an opportunity to go to federal coffers, for example, and we need to do the research on that, as well.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, Iím just here to tell you that Iím going to back up the minister. If you want me to come in and do a presentation to Cabinet, by golly, Iíll do it. But I donít think that will really work or ever happen. But could the minister please tell me ó the minister said that there was an outside consultant and some of the recommendations wonít work. Could the minister maybe just tell me what recommendations wonít work, and then we can move on?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Although we havenít got into a detailed analysis at this point of the things that arenít going to work, what I can tell the member opposite is that, even though it would be wonderful to have more foster homes in the Yukon, you canít force people to become foster parents. The model thatís being recommended by the Anglin report is basically almost all foster family care givers.
There are lots of solutions out there. We could increase what we pay to foster families but, quite frankly, Mr. Chair, if we have to pay people extra to become foster families, one wonders ó although they certainly deserve to be properly paid for their time and for their effort, one wonders about the conviction of those individuals, if theyíre doing it just for money. The foster families I know do it for far more than that. I mean, the benefits of being a foster family are quite phenomenal, particularly if one is fostering children who really need help and where you, in some way, help their lives become better. There are so many rewards.
So that would be one example of something that may not work. We canít force people to be foster families, and the need far outstrips what we have right now. A constant problem and a chronic problem in the Yukon Territory is trying to find more foster families. Also, finding culturally appropriate foster families is another example of things that may work. We may have foster families who want to come forward, but we need to also be looking at culturally appropriate foster families, as well. Like I say, you canít force people to become foster parents.
Mr. Keenan: I certainly appreciate what the minister has said and the candour. That was one example. Were there any other examples that come to mind?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The member opposite talks about some other areas where there might be some problems. One of the problems that we have in Canada is coming up with professionals who work in the social services field. Clearly there is a need to increase staffing in that area with social workers or with people who work in the social services field, but they are getting to be as hard to find as some of our nurse practitioners. So that will be a challenge that we are going to have to face. It is also the answer. We need to increase the staffing in that area, and that is what a large part of that expenditure is all about ó the $4.3 million.
The thing is that it is great to say that, yes, we need to do it, and here is the model that we are working on. But to actually get the people in place is going to be quite a phenomenal effort. It is the same recruitment problems that we are also having in the alcohol and drug secretariat. Professionals in the health and social services field are getting to be fewer and fewer, or they are doing other things than what they were trained to be. I know that, as our population grows, that problem will be exacerbated as the number of individuals coming into the workforce will be far less than those of us who are ageing in place, especially some days ó the baby boomers, like the member opposite and I, whose numbers are 50 percent of the population. There is just not enough people to support us professionally, and that is a problem and a challenge for our future.
Mr. Keenan: Those baby boomers are going to try to practice prevention, and then we wonít worry about it so much.
Okay, so thatís the only other example the minister can think of?
I appreciate what the minister is saying then.
Iíd like to talk about goal 3 a bit, and the analysis that comes out with the social assistance recipients. The minister spoke a little earlier about that, and talked about doing some type of analysis of the barriers of employment experienced by SA folks, building that bridge. Who is doing that work for government?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I suspect that the member opposite is referring to the fact that there will be at least two federal programs that will be finishing over the course of the summer. Those were the programs that many Yukoners ó almost 2,000 of them, in fact ó have used in order to re-enter the workforce. Thatís an area of concern. That was a very well-used program put on by the federal government, which they have now decided needs to be, in their words, reprofiled. Thatís a concern.
The whole aim of having people on social assistance ó unless they are severely disabled ó is to get them off, and there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about people who are on social assistance. Most people donít want to be on social assistance. Young women with children are the first to get off. Thatís a real misconception. Within six months, most of those individuals are off social assistance. Thatís what weíre going to be working on in the future.
Iím very concerned about the fact that these federal programs will be finishing in the summer ó very, very concerned about that.
Mr. Keenan: Certainly we on this side of the House are very concerned about that also. I just assumed that, through the ministerís comments earlier, the minister was looking to find a way to do an analysis on the barriers to employment that are experienced by those folks. Just who is doing that analysis? Iím not really talking about the federal program, but the analysis that the minister alluded to ó actually spoke about ó that would help break down those barriers. Is that a local company?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: That work has been done in the past. It has actually been done many times. I can tell you with my involvement in the past with the Challenge organization, for example, that that sort of research and work was done by them for government over a number of years. The information is out there; it doesnít need to be reinvented.
Mr. Keenan: Maybe, could I get the minister to describe ó itís still the same section ó the employment action plan and just what the parameters are?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The employment action plan, if my memory serves me ó quite often lately, it hasnít ó has to do with ó pardon me for just a moment, please.
The collective memory on this side of the House is that this is the one-to-one work that the social worker does with an individual who is on social assistance. So itís sitting down with a client and finding a plan so that that person can go out and start to reintegrate themselves into the workforce.
Mr. Keenan: In goal 4, and I certainly appreciate the minister talking about that in goal 3, and I understand, on a case-by-case basis, that we can work with the individuals. Would it be the same situation that would involve folks who fall under goal 4? Of course, goal 4 is to assist Yukoners with special needs, 11A-4.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, this is working with individuals, with people with disabilities who will have that in a permanent way. This is one of the reasons that I have asked, or I am going to ask, the anti-poverty strategy working group to look at the idea of guaranteed income. Thatís exactly where that would come from.
Mr. Keenan: Could the minister please explain to me just what the federal primary health care transition fund is?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, thatís a federal fund that was negotiated with Canadian doctors, and itís basically to help with ó well, emerging technology is one area. There were actually three or four different criteria. Emerging technology is one; training is another. So, for example, local pharmacists donít have an on-line system ó weíre in the Dark Ages compared to the rest of Canada ó and this is where the department would go to look for funding, so that we could bring ourselves into this century as far as that program. Indeed, that is exactly where weíve made an application.
Chair: Mr. Keenan has asked for a two-minute break. Do we have permission from the House? We have permission from the House. The Chair will recess actually for five minutes but we will return at 15 minutes after 4:00.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We will continue with general debate ó Mr. Keenan.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I want to talk about water. This has been batted around in Question Period over the last three days. I think we have gone on to take 4. The Department of Health did make the presentation. The Department of Health does speak about the jurisdictions and the duties of water within the Health department. I ask these questions with sincerity to get a deeper understanding because we certainly have things that we can share with the minister in terms of preserving the water quality that we have.
I really find it frustrating when I attempt to speak to the Minister of Health in Question Period about these issues and get diverted to another minister of community services who does have jurisdiction over water but not the jurisdiction of which I am speaking.
The minister knows well of what Iím saying here at this point in time. Is this an issue that is decided upon in Cabinet, that there is only going to be one spokesperson even though there are different aspects of water jurisdiction? Please, I want to ask the right person the right question, but I want to be able to ask questions and get answers back.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: For the purpose of Question Period, our government has decided that there will be one spokesman on each topic. Like the member opposite, Iím sure, we all sit down before a session starts and decide who answers what.
Now, water quality spans many different departments. In the past, governments have been criticized for not coordinating their services to do with water quality.
Environmental health obviously has certain responsibilities. It also is interested in the federal government developing some national standards for water quality. It doesnít make sense of a little tiny jurisdiction like the Yukon to do that. It also doesnít make sense for us to have different standards in different jurisdictions in Canada. So thatís one of the things that weíre trying to do. Weíre going to monitor the development ó we hope but some day ó of the federal governmentís standards for drinking water.
But the problem is that there are many, many different aspects to water delivery in the Yukon. There is private water delivery; municipalities deliver water services to Yukoners, and thatís their job. Municipalities come under the Department of Community Services.
Environmental health has other responsibilities as well, but even Infrastructure ó yet another department ó has responsibilities as well. I mean, infrastructure is water and sewer. In unincorporated municipalities, they are the ones responsible for building that infrastucture.
To have an ultraviolet plant for drinking water in Beaver Creek ó does that make sense? That is why the three departments have to work together, and it is just an organizational issue as to who answers the questions in Question Period. It is good to have one minister who can coordinate all of those answers, and deliver the best she knows how, and she does a great job on those services to do with water quality. I can tell you that we have a list, before each session, and the Member for Porter Creek North can tell you about these lists. They are huge; where we go through and decide who answers what, because many, many areas cross many departments. That is how we organize it.
I know that different governments probably do it different ways, but that is how we do it. It makes a lot of sense. It sounds to me that the member seems to have a problem with us coordinating our activities around water. I donít think that is what the member means. I think that he is genuinely trying to figure out who answers the questions about environmental health standards to do with water. I can tell him that, in this budget debate, I will be the person to ask about the environmental health standards for water quality.
Mr. Keenan: Who is in charge of the development of regulation?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: All that we have are the Canadian drinking water guidelines. There arenít any standards, and the regulations are more to do with infrastructure than anything else ó that would be testing and how often you test. For example, we are working with the private sector on coming up with guidelines around water safety ó how often the water truck should be cleaned, for example. We know that, in one case, there was water delivered that wasnít safe, and they had just finished cleaning the tanks, so these are the sorts of things that we are learning as we go along. We are using the guidelines from the federal government in order to develop what we think is the best practice here in the Yukon Territory.
Mr. Keenan: I would think ó and I can even in part try to understand what the ministerís saying. If the minister is really desirous of having water coordinated, then I would think that it shouldnít be just for the purpose of a Question Period or shouldnít be a Cabinet spokesperson on water. It should be coordinated under one department. But no, itís not that way.
Now, the minister is pointing to the minister sitting behind her. That is not the way.
Iíve asked pointed questions in Question Period and have not received answers. I want answers. I asked questions such as, well, the report was flawed ó who analyzed it? The Health department was the one that made the presentation ó the Health department. It was the other minister who said it was flawed. So I would like to know: which part does the territorial government think is flawed? Can the minister please tell me that? Can the minister please table any of the correspondence between her department and whomever ó DIAND or whoever is in control of that? Thatís the information I need, and I will not go away on this situation. I will not go away.
So I want to know: which portion of the report is flawed? The presentation to government was the Health department. The communication that goes between DIAND and the Health department ó can the minister please supply me with those answers?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I believe the member opposite is talking about the CEAA report. Now, this report is a Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development report, and the report was based on some water testing that they later admitted was flawed. The water had sat around for close to a month, and it didnít give accurate results.
This has been a problem at the municipal level for many, many, many years, because sometimes the water sample gets bumped, or it gets frozen ó all sorts of terrible things happen to these water samples ó and we donít get an accurate reading on the safety of our water, and thatís wrong. When this devolves to the Yukon government, then that would probably be a good thing.
The CEAA report is a DIAND report and itís not up to me to table that report. We were given a courtesy copy of that report but itís not my report to give.
What I can do is send a letter to the member opposite ó Iím starting to feel that weíre pen pals and I know we will be by the end of this debate. Iíll send a letter to the member opposite about whom to contact in order to get that report, and then DIAND will have to make the decision as to what they want to do. Itís up to them.
I think itís important to remember, though, that the ultimate goal here is to provide good and safe drinking water to Yukoners, and weíre all interested in doing that. Sometimes itís hard to tell at the federal level, but we are interested in doing that as a territorial government. Part of that is coordinating our services around water quality, and that jurisdiction is in many different departments.
Now, the member opposite seems to have a problem with that, but this is just a decision that we make during Question Period and the Minister of Community Services ably and well answers questions.
The member opposite asked specifically about that flawed result, and the reason it was flawed was because it sat around in the lab down in Richmond for almost a month and it did not give accurate results. This is not an unusual occurrence.
I donít know what more I can say to the member opposite. I understand his frustration. He wants us all individually to answer questions but, quite frankly, that doesnít serve Yukoners well. We do have these activities coordinated. One spokesman makes for the best answers to peopleís questions. People are very concerned about water quality and one spokesman makes that message clear.
Mr. Keenan: The minister was speaking about the report and saying itís not her report. Who has ownership of that report?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Itís DIAND, actually. I have it with me.
Mr. Keenan: Would the minister accept DIANDís assertion that the Yukon territorial government has a primary responsibility for the regulation of drinking-water safety?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: What the territorial government has responsibility for is regulating. Part of our regulations is accepting the federal guidelines for drinking water.
Mr. Keenan: Would the minister be able to table the Yukon territorial governmentís intervention to the DIAND draft screening report?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The intervening report was done prior to the final report being prepared, so these were preliminary comments. These were not the final comments that came out in the DIAND report. So what I can do is ó because this wasnít final government policy ó give the member opposite, if he so desires, a briefing on what the preliminary report said. However, this is not the final report, and it is, therefore, not public knowledge. However, we are fully prepared to offer that information to the member opposite so the member opposite can see where things changed over time and where there were agreements made with the federal government, and how we work well together to serve Yukoners to the best of our abilities.
Mr. Keenan: I beg to differ with the minister, but I would say that the interim report, the preliminary report, is a public report, and I would ask that the minister please table it. Is that not what the minister is desirous of doing?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Our comments are part of the final report ó some of our comments are in there, but the initial comments that were made were part of a draft report, and they were only circulated internally. That is not public information, because it is a draft and interim report, and it wasnít actually a report to anybody ó they were just comments that were gathered together in order to prepare the final report, which is public information.
Itís not like weíre not willing to give information to the member opposite about where positions changed and where there were accommodations made, because we were fully prepared to give that information to the member opposite in a briefing, or in some method that is not a recognition that that was the governmentís final position.
Chair: Order please. The time being 4:30, the House will recess for 15 minutes.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate on the Department of Health and Social Services.
Mr. Keenan: Before we left for the break, we were talking about water quality in the Yukon Territory, and I would like to ask the minister ó and the minister has offered to give me a briefing. I will take the minister up on that briefing. I will leave it to the ministerís departmental officials to contact my departmental officials and ó I donít have departmental officials. Talk to my one, lonely little researcher in there and we will get some work done. Iíd appreciate that very much, if that can happen.
I would like to ask, though: is the preliminary report, whether itís a draft, whether itís an interim report or whatever, the report that was tabled by the Yukon territorial government Health and Social Services on September 20, 2001? Because I would like a copy of that intervention. That was presented on September 20 by the Department of Health. I would like a copy of that, if I may, and I would also like to have the briefing, if theyíre not one and the same.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, Iíd be happy to provide a copy of that to the member, and the briefing as well, and our official will speak to your official.
Mr. Keenan: Iíd certainly appreciate it if the minister could do that soonest. Iíd very much appreciate soonest, if I may, and then we would be able to move along on that issue.
I am always concerned about and looking forward to ó I know that the only constant is the constant of change, and that said by a very wise man many, many, many years ago, whom I did not know, but that is very much the truth. I understand what government is saying when government says that, at this point time, weíre not looking to privatize services or anything like as such; that we have already gone through the accountability statements and mission statements, et cetera.
So, I took it upon myself to wander over to the hearing aid specialist, and I know that the minister is aware of this, because the young lady I have been chatting with has told me that she has been chatting with the minister.
I wanted to know, rather than put the burden of proof on the minister in the House ó I decided to wander on over there and have a chat with the young lady.
It was a very good chat for me, and I understood where, as an entrepreneur, the Hearing Matters were coming from and I understand where, I believe, the government might be coming from on this situation. What government is doing, I guess, is getting out of the hardware business ó some of these things that I have stuck in my ear ó and I guess my concern, as I expressed to the lady from Hearing Matters, was will there be a created hole where some folks ó well, thank goodness that hearing aids are coming down in price at this point in time. I think that when I bought this hearing aid in my head, it was well over $1,000, digital, et cetera. I work for a living. I have opportunity for steady employment here at least for the next 30 days, whatever ó we donít know, okay. But what I am kind of concerned about is that hearing loss afflicts a lot of folk. You donít have to be within an ethnic group, and you donít have to be rich or poor; it just strikes people as it comes.
Programs ó does the minister have an idea of a program that might be like childrenís dental or something like as such that would capture people who slip through the cracks? Because I am very worried that people might slip through the cracks on the way we are moving here. Now, I donít have a problem with the way we are moving here if things are as has been said by the young lady from Hearing Matters; I donít have a problem with that. But what I would have a problem with is if government opts right out of the hearing aid retail business because government has a very good program when it comes to the purchase of hearing aids. I purchased my hearing aid under that program, and it was paid by the month, for a few months, until it was paid off.
I did that to get my hearing aid.
What is government going to do to enable people who might slip through the cracks to not slip through the cracks? Thereís a possibility that might happen.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: No decision has been made whatsoever. I think what the member opposite is alluding to is the fact that, in some ways, the Government of Yukon competes with the private sector in some areas. These are not primary health areas. For example, we donít have private hospitals here, but what we do have is a situation in one of our departments where we are competing with the private sector by offering our services or equipment at a far, far cheaper rate than what the private sector is able to offer those services for.
Now, hearing aids, for example, range in price from about $500 through to $3,000. The bottom range at hearing services where we offer hearing aids is about $600, and thatís what the pharmacare rate is ó $600.
Now, years ago, it was decided that hearing services would not offer batteries or accessories for sale there because that would be competing with the private sector. Nevertheless, we are still selling hearing aids at considerably less than what the private sector is able to offer them for to the general public and to the market.
We have made no decisions as to where weíre going to be going in this area. This is not a health care program. Itís a program that helps us define hearing losses that may be symptomatic of other things ó it may be as a result of accidents. Hearing losses of any sort are often treated with a hearing aid, as obviously the member opposite knows, but the payment for that comes from a number of different areas. It could come from a personís employee plan, it could come from the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board, it could come from DIAND ó it could come from any number of areas ó it could come from the territorial government through the pharmacare program.
The member opposite is talking about being concerned about people who would fall between the cracks if, for example, the government decided ó and the government has not decided ó to offer hearing aids at the same price as the private sector, in order to level the playing field and in order to not compete with the private sector.
Well, that, of course, would be a concern of government, were they to go down that route. Thatís not where we are, though. To be clear, we have not made any decisions about privatizing ó not privatizing, actually. What it would be is offering hearing aids at a cost similar to whatís available out in the private sector. There has been no decision made in that area whatsoever.
Mr. Keenan: I appreciate where the minister is coming from, because certainly I believe in the private sector also. I certainly do. And the private sector wasnít around because there wasnít a market, and I was very pleased that government would be able to fill the void, if I can say it in that manner. I understand about the hearing aid batteries, et cetera.
Iím very worried, though, that not all folks are captured as I am through a program that I can utilize to enable me to get a hearing aid.
Now, the member is absolutely correct. There are ranges between $500 and $2,500 for hearing aids. I wouldnít suggest that we should all be wandering around, driving Cadillacs when an Echo would do. Iím not saying that. Iím saying we can make do.
What Iím very worried about, though, is the quality of life for the people who are afflicted with a hearing impairment. Believe you me, I know about that quality of life and what it means. You can be called everything from very arrogant because you donít hear people to all sorts of issues that are not you ó the person you really are.
So this affliction that you cannot really see is a terrible affliction that people are affected with and that can affect the quality of life. So Iím coming from that point of view. If government does make the move to maybe get out of the hearing aid business or the selling of batteries or whatnot, would there be something, or would the minister consider something that would enable folks who are not covered by a program not to fall through the cracks?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Letís be clear, though. There hasnít been a decision made in any way. The concern is that, years ago, it was decided that the hearing service would not sell batteries and accessories because that would be competing with the private sector. In the meantime, there are at least one, actually two, private sector groups that offer services in the Yukon Territory and, because we offer our hearing aids at cost, we may be competing with them unfairly.
Now, if we were considering going to a situation where the government was not going to compete with the private sector, then of course there would be concerns about people who would fall between the cracks, and it would be up to the government to identify how many people were affected. It would also be up to the government to find ways to mitigate that impact, because there were reasons why the government originally went into selling hearing aids.
So, if a decision were to be made, then the government would definitely identify those people and find ways to mitigate the impact.
Mr. Keenan: Certainly, the memberís words, the ministerís words ó well, the minister is a member of the House, so I guess it works both ways. They do bring comfort, and I appreciate the fact that, if and when it does happen, if it ever does happen, the minister would be very concerned about people who would slip through the cracks. I take that as that we can agree on that one, and I certainly appreciate that.
During the election time, there is always a great hoopla about increasing ó if you need a doctor, youíre going to get a doctor; if you need a health care professional in your community, youíre going to get that. Now, I know that was then and this is now. I know that the Romanow commission is out and doing other issues, but there are probably many ways, through different ó well, look. We have the Internet and we have such a global village in the world right now of accessing health services ó does the minister have a plan on how to increase the percentage of rural Yukoners, and I guess Iím talking about not really rural, rural Yukoners, but ones who live in communities and have access to health care stations, et cetera. Not like myself ó the hinterlands of the Yukon Territory is where I live, but I live there by a conscious decision.
Does the minister have any ideas about how to increase the percentage of rural Yukonersí access to health care? Is anything in the wind or up the sleeve?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Actually, we just opened the tele-health program. It was the first health summit that talked about, for example, medical triage being one of the uses for the Internet. Itís an audio-visual interaction that happens over the Internet, and there would be an opportunity to do medical triage. Thereís also phone triage thatís done in northern Ontario. That was another opportunity. Even though people are in rural Yukon, they still have access to phones. So that was another thing that has been looked at. Weíre not there yet, but we are using the tele-health network for initial diagnosis of some skin ailments ó working with families, visiting with friends who are at the hospital ó over the net.
Work is also being done with mental health over the network because there is a serious shortage of mental health professionals in Canada.
This is one of the ways weíll be able to overcome the challenges we have in the future with those diminishing number of professionals and an ever-increasing population with increasing needs ó which would be us, the baby boomers. These are the sort of innovative solutions to which we need to pay attention.
We did have a federal partnership on this, and we have to give the federal government credit for that. That is the wave of the future. Thatís where weíre going. And there will be even more uses for tele-health in the future.
Mr. Keenan: Could the minister tell me which communities are affected by that and the time frame in which we would have all communities up and running?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I would be happy to provide that. At this very moment, for some reason, it has disappeared. It is somewhere in this book, but I would be happy to provide that to the member opposite.
Mr. Keenan: Yes, Iíd very much appreciate it if the minister could provide that with the time frames and how itís going to be implemented in the Yukon Territory and, if there were any other ideas in the works, I would be very much appreciative of that also. So, I would thank the minister for that.
We will move on to the alcohol and drug secretariat, if I may. The key strategy for goal 1 suggests partnering with the hospital and the RCMP in the delivery of services to pregnant women. Now, I understand the idea of partnership and whatnot, but I was just kind of wondering ó the RCMP, really what type of service ó does the RCMP provide a service now to pregnant women, or is this just kind of like a silent partner in a partnership that will evolve between the hospital, the RCMP and the department?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: These things make sense when you write them, but afterward it sort of fades a bit.
With a collective memory, there are three things I would like to talk about. The first thing is gender-specific treatment for individuals who need treatment for alcohol and drug substance abuse. The second thing I can think of is that there needs to be support for moms who are pregnant so that they donít drink and produce FAS and FAE children. Now, there is some federal Justice money, I believe, that is available to help support programs like that, so that could be where the RCMP come from.
Itís also to deal with all drug addictions, because a lot of times we get people referred to alcohol and drug treatment from the justice system, so thatís where some of that comes from.
In addition to that, thereís a need to support rural moms coming in from the communities. What Iíve done is ask the department to take a look at the old Victoria Faulkner Womenís Centre proposition, which spoke to the need to support moms who were coming in to have their babies, for example, in terms of accommodation. Thatís a long-term problem weíve had. There is usually lots of room left at Lupine Place up at the hospital, but thereís not a willingness to use that service. Perhaps there needs to be a service for pregnant moms that also speaks to support through addictions and the many services that are offered through the Victoria Faulkner Womenís Centre. That is something Iíve asked the department to look at again, and that may be something thatís happening in the future, although I donít know if the Womenís Centre is interested any more, at this point.
Mr. Keenan: I think that helps a little bit. I certainly have a great respect for the RCMP, both present and past members, if I may say it in that manner, and I certainly understand the concept of community policing, and I very much appreciate the concept the RCMP are using when it comes to community policing.
When I saw that in the statement, the way I interpreted it, it seemed to me that we might be using the RCMP as the club, as the Big Brother for pregnant women. I understand now that is not necessarily the enforcement arm of it. Itís done in a true partnership style where we might be able to work together and focus together, because they are very much a part of the community.
Is that generally correct?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: There are many, many players and many, many groups that work with us in alcohol and drug treatment. And once again, this goes back to the whole issue of paying attention to non-government organizations and what they have to offer us in service delivery. It also speaks to the issue of the cross-departmental work. And many of our referrals, now that I think about it, do come out of the justice system, so that is part of that issue.
It is my understanding that the RCMP work very cooperatively with the alcohol and drug secretariat, and detox as well, and of course we now have medical detox so we donít have to use the hospital services in the way that we have in the past. That has been a cost-saving and it has also been a savings to individuals who had to go back and forth, back and forth ó the hospital, detox, hospital, detox. The RCMP have often been the ones ferrying people back and forth in that process.
Mr. Keenan: So I take it that the minister agrees with me in that summation.
Okay, thank you. That is what I was looking for.
The minister was speaking about the RCMP and their involvement and whatnot, and she also spoke about the detoxification. Can the minister please tell me what the recommendations of the 2002 detoxification review are, or is it finished?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I donít think that all of the recommendations are available to be distributed. The reason for that is that it talks about security issues, but what I can say to the member opposite is that I will give him a synopsis of what some of the findings were. Clearly, one of the biggest problems we had in detox was the fact that we had to ferry people back and forth to the hospital. That didnít make any sense. So now we have instituted medical detox so that we have contracted with a medical doctor to come in and do that medical detox so that we donít have to send people back and forth. That was a real crack in the service. It was a real problem that we had, and that would be the biggest change that came out of the consultations around that report.
Mr. Keenan: Certainly, I would appreciate a synopsis on that, and very much would keep it within ó if itís something to do with privacy, then I donít want to detour into strange lands, if I can say it in that manner. But Iím very concerned about detoxification and detox issues. Just in the Yukon, we have had ó and Iím sure some members of this House know the people who have passed away through not being diagnosed, I guess. Would that be, or should it be and could it be, part of the recommendations that come out in how we can best see the difference between a person who is suffering withdrawal versus just straight drunk and passed out? There will be a mechanism, Iím sure.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, a lot of times it doesnít really matter what the person is high on, or whatever. What really matters is that there be somebody who can go there and supervise that withdrawal. What does matter is that that person can withdraw from whatever drug it is, whether itís alcohol or an intravenous drug, in a safe environment. Thatís the most important thing of all.
There are also other things that cloud those issues ó for example, a dual diagnosis. There are many, many cases where mental illness is also the case for people who have substance abuse or alcohol issues. So thatís one of the reasons why we have the individual assigned to the new model for alcohol and drug services, which works with dual diagnoses. It works with approximately 30 percent, and thatís my understanding from the last report I read. I read so many reports, though, that sometimes itís difficult to remember all the numbers, but I believe itís about 30 percent of people who have substance abuse problems of one sort or another who are also mentally ill.
That is one of the improvements we are making through the new model.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Deputy Chair. I certainly appreciate what the minister said, and I would appreciate receiving a copy of the recommendations to bring comfort, because folks have made representation to me, as the Health critic. If I could ask the questions on that so I feel comfort that the minister is not only going to be analyzing, I guess, the issues surrounding detoxification, but also the other examples of mental illness that the minister said. Another example would be the folks who are afflicted with diabetes and can go into comas and whatnot, and that would be looked after. People would be treated with more willingness to bring them out of what theyíre into, rather than just straight into incarceration. So I appreciate what the minister has said, and I will wait to get the recommendations.
Can the minister just tell me, was there a committee or a citizen committee that was involved with this, or was it done between the department and the Department of Justice?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I believe the memberís talking about the consultation process that the government went into prior to the development of the new model for alcohol and drug treatment services. I have to say that it was an exhaustive consultation process that went to every Yukon community. The executive directors pretty well spoke to just about everybody who was in the field. Fortunately, weíre a small jurisdiction. You can do that, particularly in the communities, as well as First Nation governments. This model is as a result of an exhaustive consultation process, and it took quite awhile to develop this continuum of services, or model, but I can tell the member opposite that it is the way we need to go, not just as a result of these consultations, but as a result of the political will over the years to address issues around alcohol and drug services.
Mr. Keenan: I just have a couple more questions for the minister. A report has come out of the fetal alcohol syndrome working group, and Iíd like to know what the recommendations of the report are. Could I have a copy of the report of the fetal alcohol syndrome working group? I believe a community-based model is to be implemented by the year 2003 on this, as the budget says. Iíd like to know at what stage the training needs and the assessment for training needs are on that.
There are three questions there, so if the minister would just like to get up and elaborate on that, I would very much appreciate it. If the minister canít, something written would suffice.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: There are a whole bunch of things I need to get clarified with the member opposite. So Iíll just keep saying stuff, and if the member opposite could shake his head to give me an indication as to whether Iím on or off the subject.
The first thing is that a fetal alcohol working group has been working on the development of a model for an assessment and diagnostic team for fetal alcohol syndrome. Now, this group has actually only met once. There has been a working group over the years but, on this issue, they have only met once. My understanding is that they decided, at that time, it doesnít make sense just to have an assessment and diagnostic team that goes out and diagnoses FAS. We need to look at the broader spectrum, so we need to look at diagnosing not just FAS, but autism or any of the other early childhood syndromes that show up and need to be diagnosed and assessed for services.
So, out of that, I went to that group, through the executive director of ADS, and said, "I need a costing on this. I need to have a reasonable expectation of who should be on the team, what weíd be looking for and what the approximate cost of operating the team would be." I donít have the costing yet. Itís supposed to be ready sometime in June or July. When I do get that, I will give it to the member opposite.
Now, this still may not be the way we go as a government. There may be other options out there that we havenít considered. As the alcohol and drug secretariat starts rolling along, and we hire more people, and particularly the two FAS positions, there may be other pieces of information weíre missing that will go into that model.
For example, just recently I was speaking to a member from the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society Yukon and she was suggesting to me ó and it was quite a reasonable suggestion, I felt ó that perhaps the person who does the diagnosis ó and this is basically off a form, or a checklist, if you will, of diagnosis for FAS ó doesnít necessarily need to be a doctor; it could be a nurse.
Those are the sort of pieces of information that come in to us daily, especially when we work with our non-government organization partners, that we need to put into the mix and need to make sure that we end up with the best Yukon-made solution that serves Yukoners to the best of our abilities.
Mr. Keenan: That has come up a couple of times in my riding. I certainly support what the minister is doing in terms of this affliction, if I could say it in that manner. I know itís a syndrome, et cetera, and an effect.
How is this going to help out in the communities and the schools? Because there are parents, people who are social workers, people who are alcohol workers ó people who are front-line workers, if I could say that. What is the plan to enable communities to access that working group? Is that totally within the merit and the bailiwick of the alcohol and drug secretariat? Is that within their purview and is it the ministerís intention to get the tools of diagnosis into the communities so that we can start right in the communities at early levels to diagnose? And maybe at some point in time ó weíre not just talking about children, we could be talking about very mature adults ó would that all be a part of it?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The diagnosis and assessment team model was for the entire Yukon. One of the differences between this model and previous models for alcohol and drug treatment in the Yukon was the outreach workers. For example, they are in Haines Junction, Dawson City and Watson Lake and that is where our focus needs to be ó not just in Whitehorse where obviously all the professionals are and where it is easy to access the other services that are related to the treatment. We also need to go out into the Yukon community in general and access the services that are available in the communities as well as offer the services that should be offered in those communities. The assessment and diagnostic team is not just meant for Whitehorse; it never was. It was to travel throughout the Yukon to do that important work.
I had a meeting on Saturday night at the retreat for the Yukon Association for Community Living, and it was very clear to me that it is so important to get a diagnosis, no matter what it is. Whether it is fetal alcohol syndrome or autism or whatever because, without that diagnosis, you are never going to access the services that you need in the education system or the justice system or anywhere else.
Mr. Keenan: I certainly appreciate the ministerís candour on that, and the minister answered my next question. I understand that Watson Lake, Haines Junction and Whitehorse are going to be pivotal in the delivery of services, both within and outside the community of Whitehorse. I appreciated what the minister said about the team travelling and hitting all the schools and the different organizations that are within the communities of Carcross, Ross River, Teslin and Old Crow and all those other communities that donít have it. Would that be done by request, and is it still within the bailiwick of the alcohol and drug secretariat, and when can we expect to see the implementation of said program?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The coordinating body would continue to be the alcohol and drug secretariat. However, this is a very expensive proposition. This is a hugely expensive proposition and, in many cases, today children and adults are sent Outside for that type of diagnosis work, and itís a very expensive proposition as well. There is some merit in doing the diagnosis in the Yukon, but itís not always clear ó because you do have to think of costs in these things ó whether there will always be an opportunity for the entire team to travel out to each of the communities.
We already do this, though. We already have a model, and thatís in the Child Development Centre. There is a diagnosis and assessment team that goes out with the Child Development Centre. And itís more than one person. Itís a number of different professionals: speech and language pathologists; there are nurses who work with the Child Development Centre; the child abuse treatment services professionals; social workers. These are the groups that go out and do that work already, early in a childís life.
The member opposite is quite correct. We also need to think about farther down the age line, and thatís something we will look at in the future. At some point, we will have to figure out at what point do we go out to the community and at what point do we ask the individual to come to, say, Whitehorse.
Mr. Keenan: That clears up any questions I have on that ó fetal alcohol syndrome and effect. I have information I can now pass on to folks and give them hope, because it certainly comes up a lot. And I think that any dollar we spend now on this, the rule of thumb or the standard, I guess, if I can say it in that manner, is ó well, we have a problem out there and we have to fix the doggone problem. I guess thatís what Iím saying.
There are other ways now, though, of reaching out to folks through problems that they have through alcohol and drug abuse, et cetera, and that was the bush camps and those wilderness retreats and whatnot. A lot of the communities accessed the pot of money that we had put together to enable them to do that, and I know from Champagne-Aishihik, the Teslin Tlingit, the Carcross First Nation ó as a matter of fact, there is even a private one out there, the Donít Fence Me In Society, that did deliver those services. It has been confusing over the last year for those folks I work with on that about who to go to for an action that will start to solve the problem ó not to be put off.
Last year, many of these folks were put off with the advent of the alcohol and drug secretariat. Is there a program within the ministerís reach that I can say to the different communities ó Selkirk had one out on one of their lakes. Is there a program now that we can direct those folks to for the implementation of those types of programs?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I believe the member oppositeís talking about the community addictions fund.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: He is indicating to me that he is.
The fund has been rolled into the alcohol and drug secretariat, and the executive director of the alcohol and drug secretariat is negotiating and speaking to individual First Nations about services that they may offer to the model, including wilderness treatment and youth services. That is ongoing work. We also, for example, have spoken to the Teslin Tlingit Council about opportunities, although at the time they werenít interested because they were speaking to the College about other opportunities.
There is definitely room for us in the Yukon Territory to look at different types of treatment models that fit in with what weíre already doing through the alcohol and drug secretariat, and that is part of what the continuum of care is all about. Itís everything from detox to aftercare. And somewhere in there are treatment programs that are a little bit different from the residential program in Whitehorse.
Mr. Keenan: Is there a program that communities can access for immediate needs?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, there are discussions happening already with the executive director for alcohol and drug services, and thatís where I would, if I were the member opposite, channel those inquiries, particularly as there is now funding available to the alcohol and drug secretariat that wasnít available prior to this.
Mr. Keenan: Okay, I will accept that but, unfortunately, some of these folks have been getting very frustrated. Theyíve been moving toward those ends and running into a brick wall.
I would very much appreciate if the minister could just let folks know that there are people out there who are looking for the long-range solutions but definitely have immediate needs. If the minister could please consider that, I would very much appreciate that.
Much like every member in this House, because weíre all politicians, I very much care deeply when we are talked to. Generally people donít necessarily bring their problems to a politician ó they generally wonít do that. As Iíve travelled around, though, and talked to different folks and folks who are living within my riding who suffer greatly from chronic disease ó itís a disease, and I wonít get into elaborating on the nature of the disease, because I am not a doctor and I couldnít even begin to understand. I could understand the decision-making process or what I think should be the decision-making process about the identification of what really is a chronic disease.
But I have a constituent who breaks my heart every time I think of that constituent, because this constituent is suffering from a very grave disease and has asked for that disease to be at least put through the process to see if it could be added to the chronic ó whatís it called? The chronic disease formulary, I believe it might be called. These persons have had to sell their kitchen tables and their chairs, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, just in order to survive and to have some type of quality of life. These persons are in the process of maybe even losing their homes now.
I always try to be oriented toward finding a solution. I know that resources are not always there where they could and should be at the time ó maybe through no fault of anyone in particular, but there should be a process in place that is very transparent.
Now, I know we have a doctor and a nurse, I believe, and a pharmacist on the chronic disease program there. Can the minister tell me if these folks are employees of government or is it citizen based ó that type of thing?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: They are either contractors or employees of the government ó one or the other. I think if the member opposite has a specific issue that I can help him with, for a specific constituent, Iíd be happy to discuss that with him after the break.
Mr. Keenan: Okay, well, Iíll even accept that from the minister because I have known the minister for quite a length of time, and the minister does have a can-do attitude within the parameters of fiscal responsibility. I can understand that.
I do want to say on public record here that I donít think itís working as well as it can work, and I do believe that we need to look with compassion at times. I know that everybody in this House probably does look at it with compassion at this point in time, but this particular individual is to the wall. To me, it seemed that it just shouldnít be in that manner. It just shouldnít be. I mean, this individual suffers ó suffers greatly ó and is probably in the process of losing their livelihood, their home, et cetera. So, I know we canít build in compassion, but we have to find some way to identify a solution so that we might be able to maintain a good quality of life for the individual Iím talking about. This individual, as we all do, very much deserves that.
I will speak to the minister after the break on that issue, and I thank the minister. I have no further questions at this time, and I thank the minister for her candour.
Mr. McRobb: I just have a question or two. The minister will recall our conference call late Friday afternoon with several people in Beaver Creek and Destruction Bay regarding community nursing, and specifically the lack of nurse practitioners in Yukon communities. I was notified about this in response to concerns from my constituents, and especially people in those communities. These nurses really need relief and they are not getting it as often as they should and, as a result, sometimes the communities are left without the nurse practitioners.
In the remote communities, like Beaver Creek, that are several hundred miles away from Whitehorse, this presents a unique circumstance that I believe deserves higher priority from the Yukon government. The call took about an hour and a quarter, and the minister indicated that this is a result of a worldwide shortage of these professionals and asked for ideas on what she could possibly do. Near the end of the call, I indicated that during the call I had been browsing Web sites in Alaska of nurse unions and so on, and I saw no links to the Yukonís Web site that advertises for recruiting nurses. There was no mention at all that the Yukon was in need of nurses. There were indications that there are nurses available for hire as close as Alaska. It was also identified during the call that it may be possible to recruit some nurses out of B.C. As we know the government down there is laying off several individuals and cutting back thousands of hospital beds.
So, Mr. Chair, since Friday evening, Iíve had occasion to browse some other sites, and I want to make sure the minister is aware of them. First of all, I visited one site called www.rnwanted.com, where it was apparent there were more than 450 nurse resumés posted, and many of these are RNs and nurse practitioners and qualified nurses with several years of experience. More than 100 of these people with resumes posted are willing to relocate to other areas. Again, Iím concerned there were no links to the Yukon Web site or any indication the Yukon is in need of nurses.
The second site I visited ó and from what I understand the Yukon government is starting to visit this site ó is called www.medhunters.com. There you will find hundreds of resume postings and, again, no Yukon links or any indication the Yukon is in need of nurses. The third site I visited is called www.workopolis.com, and there are several nurse resumés posted on the site, but whatís more interesting, when I searched for job postings, I found 12 listings for Yukon, indicating there were 12 jobs within the Yukon where employers were looking for people interested. Unfortunately, none of them were from the Health department or anybody indicating the Yukon is in need of nurses. What was surprising, Mr. Chair, is that one Public Service Commission position was advertised on the site and several employees wanted for private businesses downtown, but nothing from the Yukon government.
So, Mr. Chair, in this bit of homework I did ó I want to ensure the minister knows about this, and Iíd like to ask her what she plans to do about it.
Before I conclude, I want to also indicate that, in reviewing the governmentís own recruitment Web site, I think improvements are needed. In these days of convenient shopping, nobody really wants to fill out a form and submit it to anybody without really knowing what job opportunities are available, and that appears to be the case on the Yukon governmentís Web site. To find out what job postings are available, interested people have to supply all kinds of personal information and submit it, and I presume, at some later stage, they might be provided with information on opportunities. Thatís not a very convenient way to attract people, and itís not really a competitive way to deal with the global marketplace.
Mr. Chair, one more concern Iíve heard is that the Yukon can stand to improve its follow-up in contacting recruits who have either indicated an interest over the Internet, or who have been contacted by telephone by someone in the government. There needs to be more done to follow up on these interested people.
For example, I spoke with one nurse who indicated she had to call back several times in order to get the job posting in the Yukon, and she was someone who was extremely qualified and someone we were glad to have attracted once she was here. She specifically had the Yukon in mind as a destination, and itís rather disheartening to know that, in summary, there are people like that out there who just need to be contacted, who arenít being contacted. As a result, constituents in Beaver Creek and other communities in the territory have to go without nurses from time to time.
So, Mr. Chair, I wanted to ask the minister what she is doing about this and also ask for some more information on the committee that has been struck to deal with this ó if she can provide me with some information such as the terms of reference, and so on.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: First of all, Mr. Chair, Iíd be happy to provide those terms of reference to the member opposite for the Nursing Advisory Council, which is made up of LPNs and RNs and people who work in the communities as well as in Whitehorse.
The member opposite always comes up with great high-tech answers, and what Iím clearly hearing from him is that the Web site could be improved, that there need to be more links to other sites, and that makes sense.
Iím also hearing from the member opposite that there isnít enough follow-up for individuals who have indicated their interest either through the Internet or by phone, and Iím hearing that message quite clearly from the member opposite. I certainly heard it in the somewhat lengthy conversation we had on the phone.
What I do need to talk about, though, for the public record ó and the thing that most astonished me about that conference call was how little knowledge there is out there, even in Whitehorse, about what we are doing to recruit nurses. So I need to go through some of what we are doing. Clearly this is also a challenge for us. We need to tell people what we are doing in order to help Yukoners by getting good health professionals here in the Yukon Territory.
First of all, our research indicates that there are about 300 nurse practitioners in Canada, with 16 of them working in the Yukon. We have shortages in every community in the Yukon as far as nursing positions. However, you cannot take advantage of some of the moves in British Columbia in order to fill those needs, and the reason for that is that you canít take a downtown Vancouver emergency nurse and plunk her into Beaver Creek, for example. It doesnít make sense. You need to have nurse practitioners. And to that end, what this government is doing ó and I agree that itís something of a secret ó is that we are providing training and education opportunities for nurses who want to upgrade themselves to nurse practitioners.
We are doing that through the Watson Lake hospital, and right now we have three nurses who are currently on primary care skills-training courses, and we will be continuing that endeavour.
As for the issue of relief, that has always been a problem in the communities and we do need to address that. Itís important that once we get nurses here, we retain those nurses. Itís not just recruitment issues that the Nursing Advisory Council is working on; itís also retention issues. That is a huge problem. Thatís because people just donít get a break. They work endless hours and they donít get a break because we have a shortage of nurses.
The member opposite talked about Alaska and once again the links to the YTG recruiting. That makes a lot of sense; itís something we need to work on as well. Why not? Theyíre our biggest economic partners; it makes sense that we need talk to them about other issues as well.
One of the problems that we have in Canada is that the training qualifications in the States are inconsistent, so there would be this constant going through seeing whether this makes sense. But there has also been a problem identified by Yukon doctors that there is no consistency in Canada about who a nurse practitioner is and what the qualifications should be for a nurse practitioner, so thatís an ongoing challenge.
In general, here are some of the recruitment initiatives that the government has undertaken. And before I start going through the list, this is not in any way saying weíre doing everything we can; this is just saying what weíre doing. I clearly hear the member opposite and Iíve heard Yukoners say that we could be doing more, and we will do more. These are some of the things that we are doing, however.
We participate in 11 job fairs per year throughout Canada ó seven of those are in western Canada and four are in the east. We try to follow up referrals from other nurses, which we have found to be tremendously successful. Nurses give us nurses, and thatís exactly what we need. We do monthly advertisements in the Canadian Nurse magazine, which is one of the best sources for nurses for the Yukon Territory, we have found in the past. We also do a bimonthly advertisement in Healthbeat.
Participation in Medline, which is an on-line agency providing Internet addresses for nurses meeting the required qualifications. Medline, I think, was what the member opposite was speaking about prior to this.
We also go to other Internet sites, but what the member opposite is saying, and I hear him quite clearly, is that we need more links and that is something we will be working on. We have continuous competitions, and we have practicum placements for university and college nursing students, although that is a challenge with Whitehorse General Hospital and I am addressing that now.
We have a pool of 16 active community nurse practitioners, seven of whom are currently in the territory. There are out-of-territory nurses who are interested in short-term assignments, and we try to make sure that they get them. We have a number of permanent full-time float positions, which provide relief services. Nurses in these positions are usually the first qualified applicants for full-time positions and the positions that need constant replenishment. That goes back to the issue of retention.
There is a national and international shortage of nurses and nurse practitioners. We have introduced, as a government, a number of initiatives that helped us be competitive in that job market, which is very competitive. This includes a $6,000 per year recruitment and retention allowance for community-based nurse practitioners. This has helped stabilize the nursing services that have become available. Most jurisdictions that are reliant on the services of nurse practitioners are now offering equivalent or higher recruitment and retention packages, and we are very much aware of that.
Competitions that are currently underway are in just about every community in the Yukon. There are some critical shortages where coverage is getting to be a problem. Any suggestions that the members opposite have will be taken seriously, and we will work very hard with the member opposite, although I wonít be travelling with the member opposite to Beaver Creek. We talked about that on the conference call, but that is not a good way to get me out to Beaver Creek. I will be going out to Beaver Creek, probably in the first couple of weeks in June, and I will be endeavouring to go to all Yukon communities to go to the health stations and talk to them about this Yukon-wide problem.
The member opposite still wants to know what the terms of reference are, and that was my first comment, that I will be providing that to the member opposite under the Nursing Advisory Council. This is a group we need to work with. They seem to know what is going to work best with this community, and a lot of them have seen different ways of being recruited and hopefully they will give us good practical advice, and I know they will.
Mr. Roberts: Itís a pleasure to come forward and ask some questions of the minister. I probably have only about three or four days of questions, but Iím sure weíll be able to be very expeditious in our answers.
I guess, from my perspective, I see a lot of good things in the Health budget as well. There are some very positive initiatives there. I really believe that some of the initiatives are going to be very far-reaching, as far as the future of the Yukon ó particularly what the minister was just talking about, the area of nurse recruitment. Since I had a lot to do with that in my former life, I really believe that thatís one of the initiatives that is going to pay off big time. I think setting up the committee was a very good move by the government on the other side.
I believe that nurses are really the front-line people. They know whatís going on, and I agree with the minister that they have a lot of ideas about how to be creative. I think what we have to do is make sure they are allowed to use that creativity, and the government of the day has to implement that creativity because I know it works. Thatís where the action is. So I really support the minister in those comments she made about the nurses committee, because I really believe itís going to be a positive force.
I want to stick to some of the bigger issues. I have a lot of issues that I think are issues I had when I was over there, and I still question why weíre still asking the same questions year after year, year after year. One of them is the whole issue about what I call a big-picture process, and thatís the Childrenís Act. I guess itís going on 18 years that the Childrenís Act has not been reviewed, and I think itís rather obvious why this act should be reviewed.
And yet I find the government of the day ó a government that I was part of at one time ó that said, "Yes, I think this might be a good idea to go down that path because we have a lot of First Nation agreements that have been put in place" ó actually all of them except two ó "and this would be good preparatory work for the future." I am very concerned that weíre dealing with a lot of very important issues in health. Weíre dealing with a lot of what I call emergency responses to health, because thatís what health is all about, and yet I have not heard one peep from the members opposite nor the minister about what we are going to do with the Childrenís Act.
And I know itís going to be a controversial review. Children are.
And I believe that we get into government because we want to do the right thing. To me, that is one of the right things. Now, if the government is concerned that, well, itís going to be too controversial and weíre going into an election and, wow, we donít want this on our plate ó mind you, I can understand why the government would not want anything controversial at this point. For the past month, it has been very controversial and I donít think they want any more on their plate that is going to turn the public against them. So possibly I can understand why theyíre going to kind of bury this one, at least until the next election. But Iíd like to encourage the government to be brave, to take on the real issues that are going to have long-lasting results. To me, the Childrenís Act is one of those areas.
In my former life as a school administrator, we worked under that act for years and years and we were told we couldnít do this, we couldnít do that, because this is the act, this is what it is, and I know many First Nation people right now say the same thing. It doesnít reflect the reality.
I would hope that the minister and the government will take this on as a real, positive challenge, because I believe itís the right thing to do. Itís the right thing to do for our youth, itís a right thing to do for our children, and itís a right thing to do for our parents.
The excuse of, "Itís going to be too controversial; thatís the reason why we donít do it" ó Iím sorry, I donít buy that. I donít think we get into government to do non-controversial things. Mind you, if we did do that ó I guess the government of the day is having lots of difficulty and there seem to be a lot of controversial things that have come forward and then been reversed and turned around and hopefully responded to the positive direction that the people who elected us want us to go in.
I think we have to really look at how we build on the future, and that to me is the big picture ó that Childrenís Act. And Iím going to ask the minister some questions about that because I feel that the minister wants the same thing. Although the minister doesnít always like controversy, I suppose maybe I hope the minister will see the reasons why this should be undertaken. I have heard very few people talking about the Childrenís Act in the last few years. I think itís something that is very major, itís something that I think is going to affect all of us in this room, and I know it will affect a lot of people out there in the community.
When I roamed the communities as the former minister, that was one of the concerns that was brought up very often ó the Childrenís Act. Why was this not being reviewed? Seventeen years.
Iím going to chastise the former governments, because they also were part of the issue around not reviewing it, and I can see we have done this again, that we have to be brave in doing the right thing. I would hope that we can make that decision and try to build for the future.
Another very important issue for me is the health summit. The minister mentioned the health summits. The minister took part in them. I know for a fact that the minister took part in them. I took part in them. We have had two health summits and, right now, we havenít seen any kind of public reaction to the health summits, although I know thereís been a lot of ó I guess you could call it ó quiet movement on those summits. I know that for a fact, so Iím going to be asking the minister some questions about the health summit, because I believe thatís another area that needs to be reflected more in the future.
We have had two major ones ó one, a rural one. Weíve actually had two rural ones ó one in Ross River and one in Haines Junction ó and we had the major one here in Whitehorse a year or so before that.
I felt that that was really touching base with Yukoners, because Yukoners came out and said, "This is what we need to do." We heard that from a very broad spectrum of the population, all the way from Old Crow right to Watson Lake. I am giving the minister a forewarning of where Iím going to be going with some of my questions. Of course, I really feel very strongly about consultation. That has been my mantra. I used to say that all the time: consultation is the key to success. I suppose, Mr. Chair, it is one of those issues that some of us have a hard time learning. The fact that the Yukon government has in place a consultation protocol tells me that the government is very concerned. Previous governments or employees who work for the government are very concerned about consultation because they know what can come back and bite us as politicians. If you donít do the consultation, weíve seen examples of that in the past month, where there has been more than bites, so hopefully we can really look at how we build for the future.
The other area that I am going to be focusing on a lot will be the area of the reports, and I understand that the minister is not wanting to make too many commitments at this point. I find it rather ironic that the minister can come forward and say that it is going to cost $4 million or whatever, but we havenít really done the details. Well how did the minister come about with the fact that we were up that high, or even at that level? There has been a lot of work done already on the Anglin report, and probably just on the preliminary of the Child Welfare League of Canada report, so obviously there is far more information squirreled away in the department than we are being allowed to hear. I think I would like us to be more open about what the government of the day is going to do because I really believe the public wants to be involved. A lot of people were consulted in this whole area of trying to come forward with suggestions. Of course, one of the areas that I think that we, the three independents, take a lot of credit for ó maybe not all of it, but we will take some of it ó is the additional funds for drug and alcohol programming.
We believe that has been a major victory for everybody, not just for the three of us, but for every Yukoner, and I applaud the minister for coming forward with that. I really believe that thatís where itís at.
I hope itís not just a one-year shot. I do hope itís going to be ongoing because, once you start these programs, you canít stop them. Weíre looking at a 15- maybe a 20-year program here, and I hope no government in the future will see this as an area to cut because, if you can deal with those issues and come up with some very creative solutions in trying to help Yukoners, hopefully over that time weíre going to see a reduction in the cost that we pay in social welfare.
I move that we report progress at this time, Mr. Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Roberts that we do now report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: 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. 9, Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03, 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.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:59 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled May 14, 2002:
Air Travel, Yukon Government Committee: Anti-Competition Guidelines (dated March, 2002); Terms of Reference (dated March, 2002); (Kent)
Air Travel Policy, Government of Yukon (effective April 1, 2002) (Kent)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled May 14, 2002:
Tax lien procedure: information pertaining to (Buckway)
Oral, Hansard, p. 3149
Property tax administration for First Nations: explanation (Buckway) Oral, Hansard, p. 3150